Students listening in class.
Lesson

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Students address the essential question of the unit in a people's assembly, reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from An Inspector Calls.

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This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — UK

Grade

6–12

Duration

One 50-min class period
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights

Overview

About this Lesson

In the previous lesson, students explored the character of Eva Smith, considering the absence of her voice in the play and Priestley’s portrayal of her character through the words and actions of others. Such exploration enabled the students to consider the symbolic significance of Eva Smith and to think explicitly about the power of having a voice in society. 

In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to each find their own voice and share their ideas in a structured discussion format known as a people’s assembly. In groups of six to eight, they will address the essential question of the unit – What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others? – sharing their ideas and listening to the ideas of their peers. After having all shared their thoughts, they will then decide on two key ideas that they would like to share with the rest of the class. A people’s assembly is a powerful process as it gives those participating the control, the responsibility and the opportunity to be active, respectful listeners. It can be a transformative experience: the prioritisation of active listening and inclusivity means that it gives people the chance to be listened to in a way that may not be the norm. This short dialogic process can help students gain confidence in themselves and can assist with community building: it encourages students to value everyone’s contributions and to work together to collectively decide on what they will share with others.

This lesson is not only vital for students to process the message of the play, it is also incredibly useful for helping them engage with the play and connect with it on a personal level. As the research shows, personal engagement is a means of facilitating the retention of information, which is important given the fact that students will need to write about this text in a future exam setting. Moreover, having a discussion that concerns what the play can teach us about our individual and collective actions and decisions on others will help students identify the themes that exist within the play, whilst encouraging them to be conscientious individuals who are aware of their interconnectedness with other human beings. 

  • Critical Thinking (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Evaluation Skills (Lit-AO4/Lang-AO4)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3, Lang-AO1–4)
  • Knowledge of Content (Lit-AO1/AO3)
  • Spoken Language Skills (Lang-AO8, Lang-AO9)

In the People’s Assembly activity, students engage their critical thinking skills, alongside their evaluation skills, to assess the essential question and discuss what lessons we can learn from An Inspector Calls. The process of discussion encourages students to employ evidence-based reasoning as they must refer to the content of the text, whilst developing their spoken language skills. Additionally, the use of discussion and writing throughout gives students the opportunity to verbalise their thoughts and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

  • What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others? 
  • How can we apply these lessons to our school community and our own lives?
  • Students will participate in a people’s assembly to discuss the essential question of the unit.
  • Students will identify the main lessons that they have learnt from reading An Inspector Calls.

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-min class period and includes:

  • 4 activities
  • 2 teaching strategies
  • 1 PowerPoint
  • 1 extension activity

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

Before teaching this lesson, it is important to read the People’s Assembly strategy to understand how the process works and how it will be used in the classroom.

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Use these slides to help students discuss the essential question in a people's assembly, and consider what lessons we can learn from the play.

Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides.

The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson.

The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

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Lesson Plans

Activities

  • Inform students that they will be participating in an activity called a People’s Assembly to discuss 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?
  • To help students gather their thoughts, project the question and give students time to reflect on it individually in their journals. While it is important for students to write freely so they can explore the question in depth, encourage them to explore how the play helps them answer this question (without pausing to search for quotations).
  • Explain to students that they will now be participating in an activity known as a People’s Assembly, where they will have a structured discussion in groups. Explain to them that the assembly has three values at its core: 1
    • Inclusivity: Everyone’s voice is valued and everyone has the right to be heard. No one person dominates the discussion. The loudest voice is not always right: a people’s assembly is about sharing ideas and learning from each other. Everyone feels respected, and able to participate safely without fear of judgement or ridicule.
    • Active Listening: Everyone genuinely listens to what others are saying, and participants are not thinking in advance about what they are going to say. 
    • Trust: Everyone has belief in the assembly process, in the hand signals, in the facilitation, the note-taking, and in the sharing of ideas. Participants acknowledge that the process won’t be perfect, but it will only work if everyone trusts in the process and works together.
  • Before beginning the people’s assembly, ask the students to think about something or someone they are grateful for (they do not need to share this, just to think about it). This encourages them to be aware of their interconnectedness with others and gets them into the same mental space. You may want to give them your own example, before you invite them to think of their own. 
  • Next, tell students that they will be discussing the question they reflected on in their journals: What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others? 
  • Divide the students into groups of six to eight, outlining the roles and naming one facilitator and one note-taker for each group (or students can self-select).
  • Explain the hand signals and write them on the board. Request that students use them to communicate respectfully, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to speak. 
    • Clarification: If they do not understand something a peer has said, they make a ‘C’ symbol with their hand, which means clarification.
    • Point: If they want to add to what someone has said or they don’t agree with what has been said, they point a finger upwards. This means they have a point to make.
    • Round Up: If they want to encourage the person speaking to finish what they are saying, they make a circle with their hands. This means ‘round up’. 
  • Explain that the clarification sign gets priority: if someone uses the sign then the facilitator should allow them to speak as soon as it is polite, so that their confusion can be addressed and they can properly participate. Point signs, however, do not interrupt proceedings: the facilitator can invite a person making a point sign to speak when the time is right. Finally, the facilitator should use the round up sign when it is appropriate, to ensure that everyone has a chance to share their views.
  • Project the essential question and give the students fifteen minutes to discuss it in their groups, projecting it on the board. Circulate to get a sense of their understanding of the question and the process and to support the facilitators as needed. 
  • After fifteen minutes, give the groups five minutes to decide on two key points from their discussion that their note-taker will share with the rest of the class once the time is up. 
  • When the time is up, invite each note-taker to the front of the classroom and ask them to share their group’s two key points.
  • 1These values are based on those in Extinction Rebellion’s People’s Assembly Manual, https://rebellion.earth/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/XR-PeoplesManual.pdf.

After each note-taker has shared their group’s two main points, facilitate a class discussion that draws from the following questions:

  • What new, different, or deeper understanding of 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? – do you have after participating in the people’s assembly?
  • What in your opinion are the most valuable lessons we can learn from An Inspector Calls
  • What was it like participating in a people’s assembly? 
  • How did using the hand signals feel?
  • How easy or difficult was it to be an active listener? 
  • How easy or difficult was it to trust in the process? 
  • What, if anything, made this process feel inclusive? What, if anything, made this process feel exclusive? What could you do or the group do to make the process more inclusive for everyone?

Ask students to reflect on the play and its connection to modern society and themselves in a journal response or for homework:

  • What in your opinion are the most valuable lessons we can learn from An Inspector Calls
  • How can we ensure that present-day and future ‘Eva Smiths’ are protected? 
  • How has reading the play challenged you to consider your role in creating a fair and just society?

Extension Activity

  • To help students apply the lessons they have learnt from the play to their own school community, embark on a ‘Be Kinder’ challenge over the next few weeks. Start by asking students to respond to the following questions in their journals and debrief in pairs: 
    • Where do you see examples of students being kinder than expected at your school?
    • Where do you see examples of students not choosing kindness at your school?
  • Then, have students work in groups to brainstorm a list of ways that they can be kinder than expected at their school. Students should discuss how each idea could be difficult to practise as well as how each could positively impact individuals, groups, or the entire school community. To help students organise their ideas, create a handout like the one below, which also models a possible response.

 

|   Ways to be a little kinder than expected.  |
|   Challenges  |
|   Impact         |

|    Sit with someone at lunch who is sitting alone.     |
|    My friends might tell me not to sit there or tease me if I do.
      My friends might ask questions about what I am doing and make me              feel uncomfortable. |
|    The student who is alone has someone to talk to and feels less isolated.         I meet someone new. The lunch hall is a nicer place to be because                   everyone has someone to talk to.  |

  • Generate one idea as a class, or use the model above. Ideas could include actions such as the following: invite someone to sit with me at lunch, sit down with someone who is alone at lunch, pick someone who is not a friend for my team or group, ‘like’ someone’s social media post, smile and say hi to someone I don’t know, offer words of support in the moment or in private to someone being teased, respond positively to someone’s idea in class, leave a positive note on someone’s locker, help someone if they drop something or trip and fall, and choose not to laugh if someone makes a mistake or falls. 
  • Challenge groups to come up with at least five new ideas for how they can be a little kinder at school. After they have completed their charts, groups can present their ideas to the class.
  • There are a number of ways that your students can use the information they gathered in their brainstorm. While they probably have their own ideas, here are some suggestions for a ‘Be Kinder’ challenge: 
    • Write each idea that students generated in the ‘Be Kinder’ brainstorm on an index card and put the index cards into a box. Decorate or invite students to decorate the box to help it stand out and to create buy-in from the class. Then, at the end of the first lesson of the week, ask a student to pick one of the index cards from the box and read it out loud to the class.
    • Write the ‘Be Kinder’ idea on the board and keep it there for the week.
    • Challenge each student to implement the idea at least once.
  • At the end of the week, budget time for personal reflections and discussion. Use the following routine for a journal response:
    • Outline what this week’s ‘Be Kinder’ challenge was.
    • If you implemented the idea, what did you do? How did you feel?
    • How did your actions impact another student, group of students, or the school community?
    • If you didn’t implement the idea, why not? What prevented you from doing so?
  • Debrief the journal responses in pairs or as a class. When your class runs out of index cards, either put them all back in the box and start again or repeat the ‘Be Kinder’ brainstorm to come up with a new set of ideas.

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Facing History and 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.

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