Teaching An Inspector Calls | Facing History & Ourselves
Facing History & Ourselves
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Unit

Teaching An Inspector Calls

Use this unit to transform how you teach J.B. Priestley's play and support your students in becoming effective writers, critical thinkers, and socially responsible citizens, who excel in their GCSEs.

Published:

This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

Unit

Language

English — UK

Duration

Multiple weeks
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights

Overview

About this Unit

“We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. “

—Inspector Goole, An Inspector Calls

J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is a popular GCSE exam text in the United Kingdom: it is read by more than one hundred thousand pupils each year and has featured on the curriculum for generations. Despite having been written over seventy years ago, its focus on social responsibility and its message that we are ‘members of one body’ remain relevant, particularly in the light of the polarised politics and divisive rhetoric of current global trends.

Facing History & Ourselves has created a scheme of work to align the GCSE specification with our pedagogical approach, which balances intellectual rigour with ethical reflection and emotional engagement. By doing so, we hope to refresh the way teachers engage with this titan of texts and to help prepare students for their public examinations, whilst nurturing them to be socially responsible citizens, who consider the needs of others. 

    There are twenty-three lessons in this unit, designed for use in GCSE English lessons. In addition to facilitating in-depth study of An Inspector Calls and preparing students for the demands of the English Literature GCSE, this unit also prepares students for the English Language GCSE (for more on how the unit fulfils GCSE requirements see Alignment with the GCSE Specification), and also assists schools in fulfilling a range of requirements as outlined by Ofsted (more on Alignment with Ofsted Requirements here).

    These lessons also take students through themes that are central to the mission of Facing History & Ourselves and at the heart of the process of bringing about a more humane, just, and compassionate society rooted in democratic values:

    1. The Individual and Society: To prepare students to read the play, they reflect on the relationship between the individual and society, and how that relationship is both influenced by and influences our identity: Societal institutions, our experiences within them, and other people’s perceptions of who we are directly impact our identity, while at the same time our experiences and our identity directly impact our behaviour and how we relate to those in the world around us. Gaining such understanding will assist students in reflecting on and learning from the behaviour of the characters. 
    2. We and They: When reading the play and assessing the characters’ behaviour, students grapple with the ways we tend to divide ourselves in society, focusing on what role difference plays in our treatment of others and whose needs we consider as important. Students also consider how power dynamics and social systems influence our interactions. Such consideration is vital if they are to challenge injustice and overcome divisions in society. 
    3. Understanding Justice: Students participate in a mock court trial to consider each character’s responsibility for the death of Eva Smith. This process, alongside their consideration of Eva Smith, her voicelessness and what she symbolises, allows students to reflect on the message of the play and its call for a more socially just society. 
    4. Choosing to Participate: In the final lessons, students make connections between the play and modern society, focusing on the lessons that they can learn from its content, as well as considering the power of their voices and actions in shaping their society. In these lessons, they respond to the essential question: What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

    Suicide is central to the plot of An Inspector Calls. Priestley presents Eva Smith/Daisy Renton’s death by suicide as directly related to the Birlings’ and Gerald’s treatment of her: they are depicted as responsible for her death. Whilst this depiction helps Priestley deliver a message on the importance of social responsibility, it can be problematic if it is used to understand suicide in real life.

    To introduce the topic of suicide to students, and to help them discuss the suicide in An Inspector Calls in a way that differentiates between the play and real life, please see our suggested approaches on Discussing Suicide in An Inspector Calls.

    This unit is designed to fit into multiple weeks and includes:

    • 23 lessons 
    • 23 PowerPoints
    • 1 overview grid
    • 1 Alignment with Ofsted Requirements
    • 5 GCSE Supplements

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    Handout
    An Inspector Calls: Unit Overview
    This unit overview gives you a brief summary of all of the lessons in the unit and lists the materials needed alongside the main activities.

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    Handout
    An Inspector Calls: Unit Overview
    This unit overview gives you a brief summary of all of the lessons in the unit and lists the materials needed alongside the main activities.

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    Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

    Using the strategies from Facing History is almost like an awakening.
    — Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif