Archive | January, 2014

Class rules and expectations

30 Jan

Establishing rules and expectations is a necessary, but fairly boring, part of being a teacher.

To alleviate some of the boredom, I have come up with two acronyms for establishing expectations.  For years seven and eight, I demand that they come to class READY to learn, and for years nine to eleven, I provide them with a toolkit that will enable them to PIMP their English lessons.

In both instances, we brainstorm as a class what is meant by each of the rules.  For example, ‘punctuality’ might entail turning up to class on time and meeting deadlines, while ‘maximising learning opportunities’ might involve bringing all necessary equipment to class, not disrupting others and using class time productively.

Safer Sydney Ad Challenge

29 Jan

The Sydney Morning Herald is running a competition in which it asks members of the public to create advertisements that will deter people from drinking to excess, thus curbing the alcohol fueled violence.  Today, it published a selection of the poster entries submitted thus far.

A number of these posters would be great texts to examine in class.  Indeed, activities around both visual literacy and language could be developed.


What will the future hold?

29 Jan

Yet another set of images which can be used as a creative writing prompt and/or as a spark for discussion!

In these images, a baby girl is clothed in the ‘uniforms’ of a range of professions.  The costume changes symbolise the myriad career possibilities ahead of her.

It would be an interesting characterisation task for students to imagine each of the child’s possible futures and create a character profile reflecting the choice and the pathway to making each selection.

Dad retakes photos with his daughter

29 Jan

A series of photographs entitled in which a father retakes photos with his daughter in memory of his deceased wife provides another interesting creative writing prompt.

The photographs conjures images of family, the bittersweet intersection of grief and life, love, change, growth and memory.

If students are shown the pictures without the commentary, the images could also be used to spark discussion about the family’s history and the circumstances surrounding each set of photographs.

Equality in a dystopian world

28 Jan

Harrison Bergeron‘,  a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., presents us with a society in which equality is enforced by purposefully handicapping those people who have natural intellect or beauty that exceeds the lowest levels of these qualities in society.

Vonnegut’s short story would be a great companion text to Orwell’s Animal Farm, offering students an opportunity to think critically about abuses of power, the complexities of seeking to create an equal society, and, of course, the famous Animal Farm maxim that all are equal, but some are “more equal than others.”

Friday Fictioneers

28 Jan

I plan to challenge my year 11 students to a ‘creative reflection a week’ for the next term in a bid to encourage them to develop their written expression.  It is only fair that if they have to write one short piece a week, I should have to write one too.  I stumbled upon Friday Fictioneers and decided to use the weekly writing prompt as my stimulus for creative expression.   Below is my contribution for this week.

Eating my feelings

I sit upon my balcony

My hands rest against the rail

My eyes travel outwards

And flit across the silver shale


Rocks are strewn across the cliff-face like a jigsaw border not complete

They attempt to constrain the grass, but the grass has got them beat


My emotions are the grass; green, feral and out of control

My heart is like the eroding rocks; hard, but tears have taken their toll


I sit upon my balcony

My body framed by the roof

A triangle with steep pitch

Fork in hand

Of my feelings,

The body will be the proof.


Golden Oldies

27 Jan

Seniors at a German retirement village have been given the opportunity to recreate famous moments from old movies.  Their recreations have been photographed and made into a calendar.

These images would be an interesting creative writing prompt, potentially causing students to reflect on the connection between pop culture and the public, the power of film, costumes, disguises and the nexus between age and youth.

Let the internet help you write your story

26 Jan

Today Twitter alerted me to Storify.  Storify allows you to search the web for multimedia inspiration for a narrative.  You can then sequence these elements, adding your own text to contextualize the narrative.

If I were using it in class, I would be encouraging students to use it as a means of inspiring and illustrating images, similes, metaphors and comparisons.  See, for example, one that I created earlier linked to HSC AOS: Belonging.

Thug summaries

26 Jan

Narrative summaries provide a useful overview for students, helping them to understand key issues and chains of causation in texts.  However, it is often difficult to find engaging summaries.

Today I stumbled upon Thug Notes, which offers concise texts summaries gangsta style.  While I am not really a fan of the gratuitous profanities that accompany some of these summaries, I do appreciate the ways in which Thug Notes manages to distill key textual issues in relatively easy to follow ways.

In particular, I would give students the option of viewing the summary of component of the Thug Notes version of Animal Farm.  The straight talking coupled with the visuals render the general narrative arc relatively easy to follow.

Othello: The Remix

25 Jan

Tonight I saw an amazing adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello.  Entitled Othello: The Remix, the show is the brainchild of the Qbrothers and came to Sydney as part of the Sydney Festival.

Othello: The Remix is a modern day re-imagining of Othello in which Othello, Iago and Cassio are all rappers looking to make it big.  In keeping with this narrative, the entire production is presented in rap.  Yes, that is 90 minutes of rapping with no breaks!

For a taste of the performance, check out the clip below:

I would be keen to teach sections of this production as companion pieces to a critical study of Shakespeare’s Othello.  Such an approach would provide students with another way of accessing key themes while also helping them to understand concepts such as appropriation and enduring value.