Archive | September, 2013

What’s up witches?

28 Sep

Today I found an an awesome rap introduction to Macbeth.


Sometimes the words on the screen come up a little after they have been rapped.  However, that is a small price to pay for an otherwise engaging rap.  Also, given Shakespeare has gone gangsta, I kind of wish that the line “what’s up witches” appeared… but alas, it does not.

wRAPping up figurative language

27 Sep

I posted a coupled of days ago about an awesome TED-Ed video that explained metaphors to students.  I have since discovered another short video which explains, and provides examples of, figurative language to students.

Aside from the humorous attempt to de-nerdify figurative language by rapping about it, I like the use of images, colour and language to articulate and highlight examples.  This video has great potential as a lesson hook, and as a way of reminding kids that figurative language is (a) not as complicated as it sounds, and (b) something they encounter in everyday life.

If I were using this as a lesson opener, I would give the students a graphic organiser with four columns (term, definition, example from video and own example) and ask them to view the video and create a list of the figurative language terms that were mentioned.  They could then discuss in small groups.  We would then watch the video again, this time aiming to note down some of the examples given in the video.  Again, they would be given an opportunity to discuss in small groups.  If required, I would screen the video one more time so that students could double check their responses.  In their groups, students would then need to try come up with definitions for each of the terms, using the examples for guidance.  A class discussion and clarification of definitions would follow.   The next task would be, in their small group, to come up with examples that were NOT mentioned in the video.  If I was teaching a lower ability class, I would likely give them a list of examples from the text(s) they had been studying (or would be studying) and get them to match those examples to the terms/definitions.  For the stronger students, an additional challenge could be to create some examples of their own or to identify them in a longer section of text.

Getting connecTED

26 Sep

I am really loving the usability of TED-Ed as a lesson flipping tool.  So much so, I have created another lesson.  Unlike the flipped lesson created yesterday, which aimed to use the video as the starting point of a student-centred search for related material, the lesson created today is very text specific.  Indeed, the aim is to get students thinking about the way the way a set text (‘Ancestors’ by Peter Skrzynecki) engages with the key tenets of the current HSC Area of Study (Belonging).

My observation is that the poem showcased in my flipped lesson is one of the more challenging of the Skrzynecki poems set for study.  With this in mind I have  selected a visual representation of the poem for student consideration, giving the students an additional source of information about meaning.  Hopefully, this will help them make connections.  I have also created highly structured activities.  This is in keeping with the aim of reinforcing students’ gathering and organisational skills.

Not nearly as flipping complicated as anticipated!

25 Sep

It turns out that TED-Ed provides educators with the facility to flip their lessons.  I had expected this process to be complicated and time consuming.  In fact, the process was relatively straight forward and the most time consuming aspects were deciding which video to use, and then watching it often enough to be able to formulate intelligent questions for students.  If you want to check out the finished product, it is linked here.

A story of mixed emoticons

25 Sep

When encouraging students to compose a piece of creative writing, one of the most powerful things you can show  them is that stories take different forms and can be communicated in different ways.

One way to flag diversity is to show students a range of extremely short stories.  The famous example is Hemingway’s six word narrative:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Other great examples can be found at Wired.

Using these as examples, students could then create their own very short story, or use one of these very short stories as inspiration for a longer piece of writing.

The other story that students should be shown is A story of mixed emotions, performed by Rives.

While many English teachers lament the invention of emoticons and abbreviations, arguing that they are killing the English language, Rives takes this method of communication and crafts a compelling story.

I also love that Mixed Emoticons  metaphorises the notion that story writing is a process of encoding, and that reading involves decoding.  You need to be understand the language, and how it works, to effectively create meaning.

Fresh poetry

24 Sep

Today I attended a presentation on getting boys interested in reading.  During the course of the presentation, the speaker offered a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for getting  teenage boys interested in reading: tell them that reading is useful for picking up girls.

Leaving comments on the ethics and appropriateness of this statement aside, it did remind me of the episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air when Will joins the poetry club.  The relevant section is below.

There is potential to use this clip in class.  Not as a advertisement for the benefits of studying poetry/engaging in literary pursuits, but rather as an example of how poetry can be inspired by objects as well as people.


Carried away on the currents of story

23 Sep

In my TED-Ed travels, I came across a TED-Ed Talk entitled ‘How fiction can change reality’.

It is one of those TED-Ed Talks that has application in a range of different English classroom situations.

Teaching about archetypes?  This is the TED-Ed Talk for you as it flags the similar characteristics of heroes across the ages.

Teaching about context?  You can use this TED-Ed Talk to begin a discussion about the ways in which texts can challenge the norms and values of their context.

Want to introduce students to key literary themes and messages?  Use this TED-Ed Talk to trigger a discussion about the key messages and ideas in texts that you have set for study.

Need students to understand that stories can change the world?  This TED-Ed Talk explains that fiction is often the catalyst for wide-ranging social discussion.

The art of metaphor

23 Sep

Another great TED-Ed talk is ‘The art of metaphor’.

This TED-Ed talk is great because it:

  • Explains what a metaphor is
  • Differentiates between a simile and a metaphor
  • Provides examples of metaphors
  • Visually represents those examples so that students can clearly understand the image intended through the metaphor.

The video is also awesome as the title is punny – the art of creating powerful metaphors and representing metaphor through art!

Commenting on commas

23 Sep

Grammar is not the easiest thing to understand.  It is also not the simplest or most exciting thing to teach.  Yet, with the new explicit emphasis on grammar in the new English syllabus, teachers are going to have to find ways not only to understand, but to teach it in interesting ways so that their students can understand it too.

This TED-Ed talk below is one way in which grammar can be made more memorable.

Time to map history

22 Sep

Today I was playing around on Myhistro, and began creating a timeline about Leni Riefenstahl for the Personality Study component of the HSC Modern History course.

What I liked about Myhistro is that it allowed me to include text, link video, create event pictures and map Riefenstahl’s movements over time.

I think this would have application in a History classroom as an ongoing project.  Students could update their timelines as they acquire new knowledge.  These timelines could then be used for personal revision or as the basis of a presentation to the class.