Archive | October, 2013

Knowledge jackpot

29 Oct

Today I was introduced to a new quiz creation tool.  I have talked about quizzes and polls before, but this one is different.  It is different because it appropriates the Who wants to be a Millionaire? format.

Here is an example that I created for my HSC students.  The focus is the poem ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ by Peter Skrzynecki.  My intention is to use this as a way of helping them become familiar with the poem.  However, quizzes could be adapted as introductory or plenary activities.

Collecting good writing

27 Oct

To become good writers, students need to have a sense of  what they consider good writing to be.  In other words, they need to be able to identify descriptions, imagery and turns of phrase that draw them into the narrative.

One approach is to furnish students with a table like the one below, asking them to collect examples of writing that effectively create pictures in their mind about key aspects of setting and character.

Students should also be given opportunities to reflect on HOW and WHY the impact of the language is created.















Society and Culture Revision

23 Oct

With the HSC Society & Culture exam fast approaching, it is time to review the arsenal of available study resources.

Society & Culture has a unique vocabulary.  One way to revise this is to create a Quizlet.  I have blogged about this previously, however, what I discovered 10 minutes ago is that Quizlet allows students to revise using games rather than just flash cards.  Next time you are revising, you might want to check out the ‘scatter’ or ‘space race’ function.  Here is an example Quizlet created with the assistance of an actual Society & Culture student.

I have mentioned Mentormob previously, and how I have used it to digitally collate concept-specific resources for my Society & Culture students.  For example, here are folios about Gender, Technology, Culture and Multiculturalism and Work and Leisure.

In conjunction with one of my Society & Culture students, a has been created (here).  The purpose of the timeline is to convey the changes to Rock ‘n’ Roll as a popular culture over time.  The timeline is pretty general at the moment, however it does provide a good general background to the case study of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Let’s create a quiz

23 Oct

Quizlet facilitates the creation of electronic flashcards that can used to supplement student study.  It can be used as a teacher-directed tool (teacher creates the flashcards) to test student knowledge, or as a student-directed tool in which students use the flashcards as an extension of their notes/a mechanism for testing their peers.

In English, Quizlet can be used to revise key ideas/quotations in poetry (see this example).  In History, it would be a great way of revising vocabulary, or checking knowledge of dates/key battles.  For Society & Culture students, this can be a ‘fun’ way to keep on top of subject specific terminology and definitions.

Quizlet can also serve as a way of introducing the concept of study skills to students.

Picture Perfect Poetry

23 Oct

Yesterday I blogged about electronically guided poetic composition; a tool which has great potential for classroom use when students are merely budding poets.  As students become more proficient, and/or more confident, they will need to graduate to a program which strips away some of the scaffolding and makes space for increased creativity.

One program that might appeal to students (and teachers) is PicLit.  PicLit provides a gallery of pictures which can provide creative inspiration, and a list of related words that can be used to annotate, describe or creatively add meaning to the picture.  The picture trains students to respond to a visual stimulus, while the word bank provides a vocabulary with which to articulate the response.  For weaker students, the word bank plugs gaps in language knowledge, while stronger students will benefit from the need to think creatively as their ideas can only be conveyed using the limited language provided.

This tool can be used in the classroom as part of a poetry unit, providing opportunities for creativity that are perhaps hampered by guided composition programs.

PicLit can also be used in the creation of flash/micro fiction (see previous posts here and here), as the visual image coupled with the limited space to write seemingly encourages conciseness.    Flash/micro fiction can stand on its own, or be utilised as inspiration for mapping a longer narrative.

Click through to see an example I created earlier.

Poll Position

22 Oct

Another ICT tool that was demonstrated as part of week 1 of the ICT show and tell was Poll Everywhere.

The teacher can assign a question (multiple choice/open format), and students can submit their response via the web box or via text.  Those responses are then collated as they come in, putting the teacher in pole position to gauge student participation and learning.

Below is an example of what your Poll Everywhere screen (with the code and sms number redacted) would like like as student responses began flowing in:

Poll Everywhere

The question posed is in the dark blue band at the top of the image.  Sample student responses are in the light blue bands beneath the instructions.  You may wish to click on the image to enlarge it.

Finding your poetic form

22 Oct

The next few weeks at university are structured as ICT sharing weeks, in which each prospective English teacher shares with the group an example of technology that can be used in the classroom.

One of the cool examples shared today was a poetry creation website.  In essence, it facilitates guided poetry writing.  Students fill in the blanks in a template and, in doing so, create a poem.  One way of looking at it would be as electronically aided guided construction.

For example, students can create an emotional animal poem (see here for template).  The finished product looks something like:


is a forlorn lamb

blindly bleating for his absent mother,

stumbling in circles

tracking tears into the grass.

Crash Course

21 Oct

I get excited when I find resources relevant to BOTH the English and History classroom.  Once such resource is John Green’s Crash Course channel on Youtube.  On this channel, he provides succinct, and often humorous, summaries of key texts in English Literature and events in US History and World History.  There are also videos about key concepts in Chemistry, Ecology and Biology for  those with an interest in science.

What I like about the Crash Course videos is that they are short, humorous and pitched at high school students.  I also like how humor, asides and graphics are used as memory triggers for students, working together to help students to identify and sequence core personalities and events.

I see potential for the History videos, for example, to be used in year 7 and 9 classrooms next year as a means of providing a historical overview of particular periods as mandated by the New Syllabus.  They also have potential as introductions to units of study, the basis of flipped learning activities and also as a means of review.

New ways to write stories

20 Oct

I am a huge fan of TED talks.  I consider TED to be akin to a university, except that (a) my ‘subject’ selection is not limited by the parameters of my degree, and (b) I do not have to write assessments about what I learn (I can talk and blog about it instead).  TED supplements my formal education, allowing me to access knowledge, opinions and perspectives that would otherwise have been hidden from me forever.

One of the more interesting TED Talks I have viewed recently was by Andrew Fitzgerald.  He spoke about the ways in which Twitter is introducing new and interesting ways of writing and reading fiction.

Although not explicitly directed at educators, Fitzgerald’s talk got me thinking about ways to incorporate Twitter into the classroom.

The most obvious approach is to appropriate @Bellshakespeare’s Macbeth Experiment, which I discussed previously.  In this model, Twitter accounts would be established for key characters, with students invited to retell key moments of the story in short Tweets.  By extending/altering the task so that characters had to respond to contemporary events, students would have to get into the minds of their allocated character and really understand that character’s attitudes, motivations and values.

Another approach would be to release a short introductory sentence, and get  students to contribute a sentence in turn, until a short story has been jointly constructed.

Yet another approach would be to use Twitter as a platform for writing and sharing flash or micro fiction.  Using only the 140 characters of a Tweet, students must tell a story (see previous reference to Hemingway’s 6 word story).  Depending on your unit objectives, students can be guided through the process of transforming this micro story into an extended piece of creative writing.

Twitter could also be used in a variation of the Overheard creative writing activity discussed in a previous post.  Instead of asking students to listen in on playground or bus stop discussions, students would be given key terms/hashtags/Twitter handles to search on Twitter.  The task would be for students to craft a narrative that links these the content of those tweets together.

Texts about courage

19 Oct

When asking students to think critically and creatively about a concept, it is important to provide a number of examples which can be used to trigger thoughts and provoke conversation.   In keeping with this notion, below is a list of texts that could be used in a year 10 classroom to get students thinking about the depth and breadth of the term COURAGE.

  • A life lesson from a volunteer fire fighter’, a TED Talk by Mark Bezos
  • A story of mixed emoticons’, a TED Talk by Rives
  • Escape from Slavery, a series of five true narratives about the Underground Railroad.  Written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Charles Lilly.
  • Escaping the Khmer Rouge’, a TED Talk by Sophal Ear
  • Fox, a picture book written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Ron Brooks
  • Freedom on the Menu, a picture book written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
  • Martin’s Big Words, a picture book written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, a picture book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Quentin Blake
  • My father the forger‘, a TED Talk by Sarah Kaminsky
  • My immigration story’, a TED Talk by Tan Le
  • One Boy’s War, a picture book written by Lynn Huggins-Cooper and illustrated by Ian Benfold Haywood
  • Rose Blanche, a picture book written by Roberto Innocenti and illustrated by Ian McEwan
  • The Harmonica, a picture book written Tony Johnston and illustrated by Ron Mazellan
  • The opportunity of adversity‘, a TED Talk by Aimee Mullins
  • The Other Side, a picture book written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis
  • Woolvs in the Sitee, a picture book written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Anne Spudvilas.