Deliberately Difficult

‘It turns out that making it more difficult for students to learn means that they actually learn more.‘ (David Didau)

Teachers often talk about making lessons deliberately difficult. What they mean is lessons that really make the girls think hard. At Clarence House Preparatory School, we believe that lessons should have a degree of ‘deliberate’ difficulty, genuine challenge, so that our girls experience a sense of accomplishment when they succeed.

Our pioneer Clarence House class has begun our four-year preparation programme for 11+ external entrance examinations, with this week’s English lessons focusing on how writers deliberately vary sentence lengths.

You may have seen something like this online:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous.
Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.

Year Three were challenged to write about their weekend — but they were only allowed to use sentences of exactly five words. We then wrote about a party, alternating three-word and five-word sentences, e.g. What a party! It was held at Hiba’s house. I brought sandwiches. (Have a go yourself. It isn’t easy).

The girls succeeded, but it provoked a great deal of head scratching, with one muttering the magic words: “This is hard!”

“Fantastic!” I replied. “Learning only happens when you have to think hard.”

Nick Hitchen