What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?
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.
Alignment with the GCSE Specification
- 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.
Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification.
The 'Be Kinder' Challenge
- 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
|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.