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Student re-engagement with Jekyll and Hyde

How do you re-engage a student with a complex text when they've already built one of those unscalable, invisible walls in their mind and are convinced that they know nothing about it, don't understand it, and won't be persuaded otherwise? 

I don't believe there is any single solution to this, as with any student based dilemma, but here's what I'm currently working on.

Student A assured me during our first meeting that they knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Jekyll and Hyde. Of course that isn't the case. They've been able to recall key characters - and their characteristics - and key events. The last thing I wanted to do was a rehash of the things their teacher had likely been doing in class, so I had to get my thinking cap on. 

Currently, my solution is based in the arts. Puppets seem to have taken up more of my time over the last academic year than I ever thought they would, but for good reason. 

Firstly, we made hand puppets to represent some of the main characters in Jekyll and Hyde. The focus was less on creative skill and significantly more on symbolic choices such as colour. Whilst making these decisions we have been able to have some detailed conversations about appearance and characterisation that have been rooted in the text. One thing I do think is almost always applicable when trying to re-engage a student, or when working with a student with very low self-confidence, is to mask the learning and skills that they have already put a barrier up against. 

With Jekyll, Hyde, Lanyon and Utterson ready made - and rather lacking in colour! - we have now begun phase two of our project. Commence collage. We are now at a point where Student A can be tempted into a skim read of the text; they have looked only through chapter 1 and identified evidence about the setting, which I've copied down (see below) and asked targeted questions about. Then Student A has trawled the internet for images that link to some of the key descriptions in the chapter and using prepositions from the text, we worked together to create a collage that is representative of the setting. 

What's next? We are going to continue to recap the text, select evidence about settings and develop our collection of visuals, before using both our collages and puppets to make a storyboard of the plot. I am hoping that by this stage, Student A will have the confidence to revisit the text independently and collect key quotations to add to the storyboard.

Often, it is the learning episodes that are 'out of the ordinary' and truly personalised that stick in the mind. Here's hoping that in May, when Student A needs to recall detailed information about the text, their mind will flood with the unusual approach we have taken together. 




Setting in Chapter 1: ‘Story of the Door’

  • ‘bystreet’
  • ‘busy quarter of London’
  • ‘small’
  • ‘quiet’
  • ‘the street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like a fire in the forest’
  • ‘freshly painted shutters’
  • ‘well-polished brasses’
  • ‘thrust forward its gable on the street’
  • ‘nothing but a door’
  • ‘discoloured’
  • ‘showed no window’
  • ‘the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence’
  • ‘neither bell nor knocker’
  • ‘blistered’
  • ‘three o’ clock of a black winter morning’
  • ‘literally nothing to be seen but lamps’
  • ‘no other door’
  • ‘three windows looking out on the court on the first floor; none below; the windows are always shut but they’re clean.’
  • ‘chimney which is generally smoking’
  • ‘the buildings are so packed together about that court, that it’s hard to say where one ends and another begins’