Unit

Teaching An Inspector Calls

Introduction

“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 and 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 and 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?

 

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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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Lessons

Introduction
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Get Prepared to Teach this Scheme of Work in Your Classroom

Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Building a Classroom Community

Students work together to create a contract with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, which is conducive to learning and sharing.

Lesson 2 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Where I'm From

Students prepare for reading the play by considering the relationship between the individual and society, and by reflecting on identity. After discussing a poem about identity, they write their own.

Lesson 3 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Social Inequality

Students explore social inequality in the UK, discussing how an individual’s background can impact their opportunities before examining graphs that display social inequality and employment trends.

Lesson 4 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Priestley's World and the World of the Play

Students learn about important events that occurred during Priestley’s lifetime, completing a human timeline to understand their chronology, and are introduced to the concepts of socialism and capitalism.

Lesson 5 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Treatment of Edwardian Women

Students examine various resources, including excerpts from Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, to gain an understanding of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society.

Lesson 6 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Entering the World of the Play

Students begin reading the play, having applied what they have learnt about Priestley and the relevant sociohistorical context to make predictions about its content.

Lesson 7 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Class

Students explore class, status, etiquette and hierarchy to deepen their knowledge of the social expectations and values which guide the world in which the characters live.

Lesson 8 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Developing Character Inferences

Students are introduced to the concept of inferencing; they draw inferences from the opening scene of the play, and consider what messages Priestley sends through the language, character and setting.

Lesson 9 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mr Birling

Students study the character of Mr Birling, critically assessing Priestley’s presentation of him, before using the character to reflect on how identity can influence people's views and behaviour.

Lesson 10 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Cost of Labour

Students explore the moral codes of the world of the play, before being introduced to the concept of a universe of obligation and participating in a debate on workers’ rights.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to Parliament

Students write a persuasive letter to Parliament concerning the gig economy, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model letter.

Lesson 11 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Sheila

Students use the character of Sheila to further understand the interplay between identity and choices, before going on to analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One.

Lesson 12 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

Lesson 13 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

Lesson 14 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analysing Gerald’s Character

Students develop their understanding of the character Gerald, exploring the differences between his treatment of Eva/Daisy and Sheila, whilst reflecting on Edwardian gender expectations.

Lesson 15 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mrs Birling

Students consider what factors impacted Mrs Birling’s treatment of Eva Smith, and create a universe of obligation graphic representation for her character.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

Students write an analytical paragraph on character having generated claims, selected evidence and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 16 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Eric's Decisions and Consent

Students consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters, focusing on the relationship between Eric and Eva, before discussing consent.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Speech about Consent

Students write a persuasive speech for sixth-form students on the importance of consent, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 17 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.

Lesson 18 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Social Systems and Individual Agency

Students identify the parts, people, and interactions of various social systems, thinking about what bearing they have on character choices and behaviour, before considering responses to injustice.

Lesson 19 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Putting the Characters on Trial

Students finish reading the play and participate in a court trial to decide which character is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.

Lesson 20 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

Students reflect on Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and consider the symbolism of having a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: The GCSE Character Essay

Students write an essay on character having generated claims, selected and annotated evidence, and read a model essay.

Lesson 21 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

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.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.

Lesson 22 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Recurring Themes in the Play

Students prepare to write an essay on theme by identifying and analysing the themes explored in the play.

Lesson 23 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Theatre as a Call to Action

Students consider theatre as a call to action, discussing its power and limitations to spark real social change, before plotting their own play inspired by An Inspector Calls.

Requirements
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with Ofsted Requirements

Read about how this unit assists teachers and schools in fulfilling a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements as outlined in the 2019 Ofsted inspection handbook.

Requirements
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

Read about how this unit is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs.

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