Lesson 20 of 23
Duration:
One 50-minute class period

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

From the Unit:

Essential Questions

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

Guiding Questions

  • What does it mean to have a voice? 
  • Why do you think Priestley chose not to have Eva Smith speak or appear on stage, and what is the impact of that choice?
  • Why is it important to bear witness to what happened to Eva Smith by giving her a voice in the story?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will discuss and analyse Priestley’s choices in his portrayal of Eva Smith.
  • Students will consider what Eva Smith symbolises and what her experiences suggest about Edwardian society.

Overview

In the previous lesson, students finished reading An Inspector Calls and participated in a mock court trial that saw each character ‘put on trial’ for their role in the death of Eva Smith. This process enabled students not only to engage with the content of the play, but also to develop their understanding of the power of justice and of social responsibility. 

However, there is one voice that was missing from the trial and from the play as a whole, and that is the voice of Eva Smith. In this lesson, students will explore the character of Eva Smith, looking at how she has been depicted throughout the play and considering the symbolism of Priestley’s choice to create a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand. It is important for students to consider her character and explicitly acknowledge her voice as absent as it can help them reflect on the fact that many people lack the ability to speak out in cases of injustice, and, conversely, on the power of having a voice. Such reflections are important if they are to stand up to injustice in the world beyond school and are to view themselves as individuals with agency. 

Finally, students will have an opportunity to adopt Eva Smith’s perspective in a creative writing task for homework, which will help bring the character and her experiences to life. 

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

  • Creative Writing (Lang-AO5, Lang-AO6)
  • Critical Reading (Lit-AO1/AO3, Lang-AO1/AO4)
  • Critical Thinking (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4) 
  • Knowledge of Content (Lit-AO1/AO3)
  • Spoken Language Skills (Lang-AO8, Lang-AO9)
  • Summarising and Synthesising Skills (Lang-AO1)

After considering what it means to be voiceless and its ramifications for society, students examine Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith, working in ‘expert’ groups and rereading an assigned section of the play to identify significant quotations that can be analysed in depth. This reading process strengthens their knowledge of the play’s content and develops their critical reading skills. Students then share their findings in ‘teaching’ groups, developing their spoken language skills whilst summarising and synthesising their ideas. Additionally, students reconsider the notion of voicelessness, employing critical thought to consider how it is relevant to Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and what she symbolises. The use of discussion and writing throughout gives students the opportunity to develop and verbalise their thoughts and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.

Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification.

Notes to Teacher

  1. Classroom-ready PowerPoint Slides

    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.

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

PowerPoint
Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

This PowerPoint for Lesson 20 of the Teaching Inspector Calls unit comes complete with student-facing slides and teaching notes, and is ready to use in the classroom.

Materials

Activities

  1. Reflect on Having a Voice
    • Explain to students that today they will be exploring the character of Eva Smith, considering Priestley’s representation of her and what it symbolises. First, they will consider what it means to feel voiceless.
    • Ask students to journal on the following prompts:
      • Have you ever felt voiceless, like you had no say in a matter or your needs were not being considered? If so, what happened to make you feel this way? What were the consequences? 
      • Are you aware of people in your community or society not having a voice? If so, what is making them voiceless? What are the consequences? 
    • Before having students apply the Think, Pair, Share strategy with a partner, acknowledge that it can be hard to share our ideas with others, and then model risk-taking by sharing something from your journal reflection with the class. Then lead a short class discussion in which students share their ideas about what it means to be voiceless.
  2. Assess the Portrayal of Eva Smith
    • In this part of this activity, you will be using the Jigsaw teaching strategy. Explain to students that they will be divided into groups and will be allocated a different section of the text to explore in relation to Eva Smith.  
    • Begin by dividing the class into five ‘expert’ groups and assign each group one of the following sections of the play:
      • Group One: Focus on the section of the text that runs from ‘The Inspector enters’ (top of p. 11) to the Inspector, ‘dingy little back bedrooms’ (top of p. 20).
      • Group Two: Focus on the section of the text that runs from Sheila, ‘Yes, I expect it would’ (top of p. 20) to ‘Now Mrs Birling enters, briskly and self-confidently’ (mid p. 29).
      • Group Three: Focus on the section of the text that runs from ‘Mrs Birling enters, briskly and self-confidently’ (mid p. 29) to ‘We hear the front door slam’ (bottom of p. 40).
      • Group Four: Focus on the section of the text that runs from ‘We hear the front door slam’ (bottom of p. 40) to the end of Act Two (p. 49).
      • Group Five: Focus on the section of the text that runs from the start of Act Three (top of p. 50) to ‘there is a ring at the front door’ (top of p. 61).
    • Then, explain to students that they will have five minutes to review their assigned section of the play before responding to a series of prompts that you will project. As they review their section, they should mark or take note of moments where characters refer to Eva Smith/Daisy Renton.
    • Next, project the following prompts and tell students that they have ten minutes for this part of the task:
      • Review all the quotations that refer to Eva Smith in your section of the text and choose two rich and significant ones that help you understand her character – her personality, values, choices, and/or feelings. 
      • Discuss what each of the two quotations suggests about Eva Smith’s:
        • Personality
        • Situation
        • Feelings
        • Place in society
      • Choose one key quotation you will share with others in the ‘teaching’ groups and discuss what it reveals about Eva Smith’s gender and/or social class. Note this information in your book to share with your ‘teaching’ group.
    • Describe in 1–2 sentences how Priestley portrays Eva Smith in this section of the play. Note this information in your book to share with your ‘teaching’ group.
    • Then, divide the class into new ‘teaching’ groups. All of the members of each ‘teaching’ group should have read a different reading in their ‘expert’ groups.
    • Instruct each student to briefly summarise their ‘expert’ group’s findings about how Priestley portrays Eva Smith in this section of the play for the ‘teaching’ group. If time allows, ask the ‘experts’ to share one of their key quotations.
    • Next, project the following questions for students to discuss in their ‘teaching’ groups:
      • What new, different, or deeper understanding have you gained of Eva Smith? 
      • How, if at all, did Eva Smith exhibit the roles of perpetrator, victim, bystander, and upstander in the play? What internal and external factors impacted her being forced into or choosing one or more of these roles? 
      • Why do you think Priestley chose to keep Eva Smith’s voice and perspective missing from the narrative?
      • Why is it important to take time to focus on Eva Smith’s story?
      • Who in society today might lack the power to have their voices heard? What do you think can be done to help those who are ‘voiceless’ in society have their voices heard?
  3. Reflect on the Significance of Eva Smith
    • Ask students to journal on the following prompts to reflect on the lesson and what they have learnt:
    • What can be done to help those who are ‘voiceless’ in society have their voices heard?
    • Why is it an important thing to do? 
    • Is there anything that would make you feel like you had more of a ‘voice’ in society?

Homework Suggestion

Write a Monologue

For homework or for an additional activity in class, ask students to write a monologue from the point of view of Eva Smith to give her character a voice. They can write it linked to a point in her life discussed in the narrative, or something which they imagine themselves. If needed, give students these possible options:

  • Eva after she has been dismissed from Birling & Company
  • Eva after she has been dismissed from Milwards
  • Eva after Gerald has broken up with her
  • Eva after Eric stayed having ‘threatened to make a row’
  • Eva after she discovered Eric’s money was stolen
  • Eva after she was turned away by Mrs Birling
  • Eva when she decides that she is going to buy and drink disinfectant
  • Eva’s ghost appearing from the grave after death

Encourage students to write in the first person, to base their pieces on ideas from the text and to consider these questions as they write:

  • How has the incident made you feel?
  • What would you change if you could?
  • How do you feel about your social status? Why? 
  • What will you do next? 

Consider having students share their monologues with a partner or have volunteers share with the class at the start of the next lesson before collecting or checking them for completion. 

Each time that students complete a piece of writing, it is important to review their work, giving them feedback if necessary to ensure that they do not develop inaccurate writing habits. When doing so, consider using the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy to give in-depth feedback and to boost student engagement with marking.

Unit

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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