I am a big proponent of learning quotations by rote. If students can memorise albums full of song lyrics, they can learn quotations! My students have been explicitly learning quotations throughout their GCSE course, but they still suffer from a lack of confidence when it comes to feeling like they really know their texts.
I do regular retrieval activities, such as:
- Brain Dump – write down everything you know about the text!
- Specific Retrieval – e.g. write down everything you remember about Lady Macbeth; events, personality traits, quotations, EVERYTHING!
- Spelling tests – spell character and author names, and key literary terms and words related to context…
- Quotation recall, including gap fills
- Emoji texts – students get a set of emojis which represent a text, a section of a text or a character. They have to use their memory to solve the puzzle and say what the emojis represent. Here’s an example of one of those from my book:
I wrote more extensively about memory and recall strategies in a blog here.
I have recently adapted my quotation recall activity by doing the following:
1. Students divide their A4 page into quarters.
2. They write their set text titles into each quarter (e.g. Romeo and Juliet, Lord of the Flies, A Christmas Carol, Power and Conflict Poetry)
3. In each section, they try to write down TEN QUOTATIONS for each text (ten in total for all the poems, not ten for each poem!). This must be done FROM MEMORY! Remember, a single word can be a quotation…
Students are often really nervous about this, but they usually surprise themselves – they know more than they think!
4. When they have ten in each (or as many as they managed to remember), they go through each list and highlight the ‘best’ quotation and the ‘worst’ quotation from each list. This means finding the best one for analysis, i.e. the ‘juiciest’ one which could be used to make lots of analytical points, and the worst one which they feel they would most struggle to analyse.
5. They justify each one – e.g. WHY is this the ‘best’ and this the ‘worst’? You could do this as a piece of metacognitive writing, or as a paired or group discussion. I have done it where we have a class discussion and write up a list of our ‘worst’ quotations on the board.
6. Students take their worst quotations from each section, and they find THREE things to say about each one. I did this very recently, and a student had chosen ‘tears augmenting the fresh morning dew’ from Romeo and Juliet. Apart from saying that Romeo is crying, she wasn’t sure what else to do with that line. Through group discussion and some input from me, we came up with:
- It establishes Romeo’s character early on as an emotional one who acts impulsively and struggles to contain his feelings – this is important for events later in the novel.
- We could ZOOM in on the word ‘morning’ because it suggests something about the structure of the play – it starts in the morning and finishes in the evening. Perhaps this suggests that new love and hope are at the start (the morning representing new things), and death and sleep are at the end (the evening symbolises endings).
- This image of Romeo crying sets him apart from many of the other men in the play who all appear to be aggressive and tend to seek out violence. Romeo does not do this, and actively seeks to avoid conflict.
If students have found something to say about even their ‘worst’ quotations, they might feel more confident – even in a worst case scenario, they could still pull out some developed analysis!
For more on ‘juicy quotations’, see this extract from my book below:
If you’d like to read more, you can find my book here.