Tag Archives: cryptic crossword

Year 12 and… what?

Half term is almost with us, hurrah, and I, for one, can’t wait. Lots of sleep lined up.

Whenever I’m planning a lesson, I always like to think of the opening, the lure, the hook. After all, the students are coming in from break, from lunch, from registration, with all kinds of distractions and probably the last thing they’re thinking of is Biology. I want to grab their attention as quickly as possible, get them on task and get them thinking. Projecting an SEM image of an embryo on a pin point – what’s this a picture of? The World War 1 shell casing – anyone know what this is? And so on.

See what you think of this introduction to a Year 12 lesson.

I start by asking if any of them like crosswords. Yes, no, not really. What about cryptic crosswords? Ugh, yuck, no. OK, try this. I project the clue “Beautiful girl in crimson rose(8)”. Huh? What? Don’t get it. So I talk them through how a cryptic clue work and ask leading questions so that they eventually see why the answer is, “rebelled” (8 letters, “belle” inside “red” meaning “rose”). Lovely, elegant clue, with classic misdirection in the defining part. But where’s it going?

Then I say that I’m going to show them my favourite ever cryptic crossword clue, and that they’re going to solve it, and feel really pleased with themselves. It’s HIJKLMNO (5). Bafflement. Consternation. What the…? But they also want to know the answer, they’re intrigued. Suggestions? It’s the alphabet. What, all of it? No, only the middle bit. Describe it. 8 letters in the middle of the alphabet. Which letters? HIJKLMNO. Describe it more succinctly. It’s the bit that starts with H and ends with O. More succinctly than that….

Everyone got it? You will. And that moment of transformation, from utter bewilderment and feeling stupid to understanding the answer is great.

I then switch to the cover of “Aliens Love Underpants”. If you’ve not come across this children’s book, I’d highly recommend it. It’s based on the premise that aliens are here, among us, and they are driven by the urge to steal our underwear. It’s why you can never find a matching pair of sock and why pants go mysteriously missing. When a giant asteroid is heading for earth, the aliens, distraught at the prospect of losing their pants supply, steal a zillion pants, stitch them together in a single gigantic pair of Y-fronts, and ping the asteroid back into space using the elastic power of all that underwear.

Then I show them a picture of Earth flanked by Mars and Venus. If you were an alien, exploring a new solar system in search of a new pants supply, which planet would you choose, and why? They get it. Pants means life. You head for the blue planet, you head for the water. And there’s the key question – why is water essential for life?

I’ve attached the pictures that go with this – I’ve also attached my Water Circus and associated homework assignment. My Water Speed Dating Party, where you constantly mingle and meet a new and rather attractive molecule that you feel a definite attraction to every nano-second, I’ll leave you to imagine…

Have a great half term. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.


Aliens love underpants

Water Circus revised Sept 2013