Life in Squares


I’m a massive social media geek. Whilst I’m actually pretty bored of Facebook and – as a teacher – pretty terrified of its shifting privacy settings which have sometimes escaped my attention (CHECK REGULARLY, PEOPLE!) I can’t quite leave it in case I miss out on a birth announcement/charity campaign of interest/member of my family’s birthday – thanks, FB.

I do however, genuinely love Twitter and Instagram. My Twitter feed enables me to keep up with world events, engage in lots of pedagogical chat and message 6 Music/Lauren Laverne on a regular basis.

My Instagram feed, by my own admission, is ridiculous. In my defence, my ‘bio’ is ‘Life through my phone: cropped and filtered.’ I like to think that this is a token nod to the self-awareness that my ‘artful’ pictures of the perfect latte, the perkiest bunch of tulips or the insta-cliche stunning sunset, DO NOT feature the plates on the side ready to go in the dishwasher, the dead daffs from the living room I meant to chuck away days ago or indeed, the view from the living room when it’s wanging down with rain outside. It’s an edited, curated and carefully focused snapshot of life that ignores the daily gubbins that are part of a much more (realistic) picture.

Where am I going with this then? Well, a while ago, I stumbled upon a teaching activity on Twitter which seemed to tap into this trend of cropping, zoning and deliberately focusing the eye on small but important detail to encourage students’ creative skills. I’d been teaching Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ (a novel which, in my opinion, would benefit from a little cropping and filtering) and we’d completed the reading assessment and were moving on to a writing assessment which was to be linked to the novel. I decided that for my group, writing an extra chapter, a character’s back story or indeed in the style of Dickens, might simply be too much of a sprawling and unwieldy task. And then I found this…



Despite my best efforts, I cannot trace the resource back to its creator, so if any of you in the Twittersphere are actually reading this, please let me know so I can credit you (and thank you!). My starting points were some iPad based research on life in Victorian England, a documentary which recreated a Victorian slum and some thesaurus work to expand students’ vocabularies. They then had to use this to create a variety of sentence structures.

Finally, we explored each section of the picture, with students confidently creating backstories because the creative process was cropped down into manageable chunks.

The results? A mixed bag (just like my class) but some confident, clearly structured and consciously crafted narratives.

The lesson? Whilst we naturally break down tasks into smaller sections, I’m not always sure how clearly students can see how these then feed in to the bigger picture and ultimately give them more confidence in tackling a bigger and potentially overwhelming task.

That, and perhaps it is cool to be square.

Katy Wayne, English.

How could this approach be used or adapted in your subject area?

How has social media influenced your planning for teaching and learning?



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