Teaching Silas Marner at KS3/ Y9

Teaching George Eliot at secondary school level can be quite a challenge. Working with our partners the George Eliot Fellowship and local English teachers in the Midlands we’ve co-designed 12 lessons on George Eliot’s Silas Marner aimed at Y9 (13yr olds).

Our focus – thanks to the input of beacon teacher Wendy Lennon – is an enquiry question: ‘What is Community?’ Project Teaching and Research Associate, Colette Ramuz (an experienced secondary school head of English) has led the development of resources. The pack has been designed to build KS3 students’ analysis skills, to foster communication skills and, more specifically, to help prepare your students for GCSE English Literature Papers 1 and Paper 2. There are cross-curricular links with Art, History, Geography, RE and PSHE. The lessons have been designed with depth and detail to challenge top sets but are readily adaptable with alternative tasks for lower sets.

   Individual lesson folders contains a 1 page outline Scheme of Work, a slide show for the class, and extracts from the text which form the focus of close work each session. Lesson 1 comes with a package of background notes on Eliot, her novella Silas Marner, and its contexts.

Thanks to the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, these resources are all free and open to reuse. We would also like to thank Simon Winterman, Allisha Miller, Wendy Lennon, Roberta Gillum, and the George Eliot Fellowship as well as Teacher Hub at the Department of English at Royal Holloway, University of London, for all their support.

We welcome feedback on these resources, how you plan to use them and what changes they make to how you approach teaching texts of this period. We will send a free copy of the DVD of the 1985 BBC adaptation starring Sir Ben Kingsley to the first 10 users who answer these four brief questions by email to colette.ramuz@rhul.ac.uk. We are also happy to share a single zip file for the scheme of work on request which we can’t do on WordPress – hence the multiple downloads!

  • How do you intend to use these resources?
  • Has this set of resources changed your thinking about approaching this text?
  • What might you do differently as a result of looking at these resources?
  • Will the approach taken in these resources change your teaching practice/planned teaching in any way?

Lesson 1: What is Community? Introducing George Eliot’s Silas Marner

Lesson 2: Silas’s Communities

Lesson 3: Money

Lesson 4: Family

Lesson 5: Objects

Lesson 6: Speech and Accent

Lesson 7: Gender

Lesson 8: Community and Change

Lesson 9: Loneliness and Secrets

Lesson 10: The Ending

Lesson 11: Courtroom Drama: Eppie’s Community

Lesson 12: Assessment

Illuminating the ordinary: exploring the work of George Eliot

Here you can read a piece I wrote for the project sponsors, the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It was great to have a chance to thank all the excellent partners I’ve been lucky to work with in Nuneaton.

Arts and minds

In the bicentenary year of writer George Eliot, Professor Ruth Livesey, AHRC Leadership Fellow 2019-20 Provincialism: Literature & Cultural Politics, explores how Eliot was shaped by the education and experience she received while living in the Midlands, and how she believed ‘art had a responsibility to show a provincial life could be just as full of insight and moral courage as one on the great world stage.’

How do we judge success in life? Should we look to its legacy at the end, which is so often, as the case of the heroine Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871), ‘incalculably diffusive’; or would a better understanding of what it is to be human come from looking at life in the middle and how we try to live a good life in the tangle of the ordinary and every day?

The writer, George Eliot – 200 this year – asks…

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This is the home page for the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century Britain’. During 2019-2020 the project team will be exploring how nineteenth-century writers defined English provincialism. We will be walking and mapping the countryside around Nuneaton, in North Warwickshire: a place made famous in the novels of provincial life by George Eliot. We will bringing new readers and writers to the legacy of George Eliot in her bicentenary year through talks, workshops, courses, and teaching packs. An associated seminar series ‘Provincialism at Large’ will feature literary scholars, political theorists, and art historians, working with graduate students to explore what provincialism and the depiction of provincial life meant to the Victorians in an age of imperialism.