Lesson 8 of 23
Duration:
One 50-minute class period

Developing Character Inferences

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 is the inferencing process and how can it help us better understand a character’s values, motivations, and choices?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be introduced to the concept of inferencing and will make character inferences using evidence from the play.
  • Students will summarise their learning by creating a found poem using lines from the play to support their thinking.

Overview

In the previous lesson, students explored class and social hierarchy in Edwardian England by reading and discussing etiquette manuals and, in An Inspector Calls, by ordering the characters according to their social rank in the Victorian and Edwardian class system. This enquiry not only gave students the opportunity to engage with challenging non-fiction texts and apply contextual information to the content of the play, it also paved the way for reflection about modern social norms and their impact on opportunities, choices, and values. Whilst the value placed on class has diminished somewhat, it still exists. Acknowledging this sometimes invisible societal structure is important as it adds complexity to students’ examination of the relationship between the individual and society. 

In this lesson, students will turn their focus back to the content of the play and to developing effective analytical skills. They will be introduced to the concept of inferencing and will begin making inferences about the characters and setting in the opening scene of the play, considering what messages Priestley sends to the audience through his use of language, characterisation and development of setting. This will not only prepare students to analyse the play, it will also enable them to think about how they make connections between what they read and hear and the world around them. Explicitly explaining the process of inferencing can be a very empowering process as it helps students reflect on how their minds work when they are reading a text or encountering new information.

The activities in this lesson refer to pages 1–5 of the Heinemann edition of An Inspector Calls.

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

  • Application of Contextual Information (Lit-AO3)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Knowledge of Subject Terminology (Lit-AO2, Lang-AO2)
  • Reading Comprehension (Lit-AO1, Lang-AO1)
  • Summarising and Synthesising Skills (Lang-AO1)

Students are introduced to and practise inferencing, which is a necessary foundation for analytical writing. Inferencing relies on prior knowledge, whilst developing student skills in reading comprehension, the application of contextual information, and evidence-based reasoning. It also encourages students to look beyond the explicit and access the implicit information and ideas contained within the text. In the creation of a found poem, students summarise and synthesise their learning by picking out key quotations relevant to the theme they are exploring. 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. Teaching Students How to Infer

    In order to be able to interpret and analyse a text in a meaningful fashion, students need to be able to draw connections between what they are reading and their background knowledge. This background knowledge could be as small as understanding the definition of words, or something larger like personal expertise in a subject. In some ways, when students are inferring texts, they are looking for clues linked to what they know and understand about the world, which will help them unlock its meaning. Sometimes, however, students need assistance in moving beyond the literal meaning to make inferences about the significance of any language and/or content. It is, therefore, helpful to give them guided opportunities to practise their inferencing skills. Have a read of our Learning to Infer teaching strategy to find out more.

  2. 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.

Developing Character Inferences

PowerPoint
Developing Character Inferences

This PowerPoint for Lesson 8 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. Introduce Inferencing
    • Explain to students in this lesson that they will be thinking about what Priestley’s portrayal of characters in the opening pages of the play tells us about them and their values. To be able to do this work, students need to learn how to infer. When introducing this concept, it can help students if you start by giving them real-world examples, such as the ones suggested on the Learning to Infer teaching strategy page, that require them to infer, but do not immediately name inferencing as a concept. 
    • Follow the Procedure in the Learning to Infer teaching strategy to introduce inferencing to your students.
  2. Make Character Inferences
    • Give students the opportunity to develop their understanding of the characters and setting in the opening pages of the play by asking them to fill in the Making Literary Inferences Grid handout with references to the text. Ask them to make at least one inference for each character they have met thus far. To differentiate this activity, you can provide students who need more assistance with a partially completed grid.
    • First, project the PowerPoint slide with the ‘It Says/I Say/And So’ grid from the Making Literary Inferences Grid handout and model the first example by doing a ‘think aloud’ to guide students through the steps of the process. Your ‘think aloud’ might sound something like this:
      • ‘I’m going to think about Mrs Birling first. A quotation from the text that I find interesting is at the bottom of page 2 when Mrs Birling says to Mr Birling: “(reproachfully) Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things—”. Since this is what Mrs Birling literally says, I am going to write the quotation with its page number in the first column. I am including the page number because I might want to use this quotation later in an essay, and having the page number here will make it easier to find in my book.’ 
      • ‘Next, I am going to consider how my background knowledge can help me understand Mrs Birling: I know that she is a married woman who is well off because of how the stage directions describe the suburban home and family. So in the next box, I will write “Mrs Birling is a married woman and the family is wealthy.” I also know from the stage directions that Mrs Birling is “her husband’s social superior” (p. 1). From what I have learnt about women in Edwardian England, I also know that she would have been considered socially inferior to the men in the room, so I will write: “Mrs Birling is a woman – she is viewed as socially inferior to men by society.” I also know that “social etiquette is important in Edwardian England”. The text says that she is speaking “reproachfully” to her husband. This means that she disapproves of what Mr Birling said and lets him know.’ 
      • ‘Finally, I will put this information together to form an inference about Mrs Birling. I can infer that: Mrs Birling knows rules of etiquette that her husband doesn’t; otherwise she would not have to tell him off (or she values them more) and that Mrs Birling views social etiquette concerning manners as more important than social etiquette concerning gender: she tells Mr Birling off when his manners are not up to scratch, despite the fact that she is a woman and they have a guest.’
    • Give students fifteen minutes to work through the sheet independently. Circulate to help any students who might be struggling to get started or who might need individualised attention and support.
    • Then give students ten minutes to share their grids using the Think, Pair, Share strategy with a partner. 
  3. Create a Found Poem
    • Encourage students to reflect on and synthesise what they have learnt about the Birling household, its inhabitants and the world of the play in recent lessons by selecting key quotations that stand out to them.
    • As a final activity or for homework, have students select 5–10 short phrases or words from the first five pages of the play and rearrange them into a found poem on one of the following themes:
      • ‘Social Etiquette in An Inspector Calls
      • ‘Class in An Inspector Calls
      • ‘Gender in An Inspector Calls
    • If students finish their found poems in class, they can share them in pairs or small groups, or a few volunteers can read their poems aloud to the class. Alternatively, students can craft their poems at home and share them as a warm-up in the next lesson.

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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