Archive | February, 2014

The Light Between Oceans

28 Feb

Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans tells the story of a couple who man a lighthouse.  The wife has suffered several miscarriages.  Shortly after the last miscarriage a boat washes ashore.  In it is a dead man and a crying baby.  The wife feels a natural connection and, almost before the husband realises, a decision has been made to keep the baby.

The seclusion of the lighthouse allows for the baby’s reality to remain secret.  Secret, that is, until the husband realises that the baby’s biological mother is alive and grieving for an infant she presumes dead.  The husband then makes a decision which causes families to unravel.

The use of description, imagery and symbolism in this novel is superb.  In particular, the decision to name the island on which the lighthouse is situated ‘Janus’ is genius.  Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, has two faces; he looks forward and backwards.  This is appropriate as it is on the island that the child’s past and future are mapped.

This would be a great related text for Belonging or Discovery!

Summing it up in song

22 Feb

My students responded really positively to the Extension Activity that sought to tease out the connection between ‘I could be the one’ and quotes from Fahrenheit 451.

Their enthusiasm got me thinking about what other songs could be added to the F451 playlist.

Below are my thoughts thus far:

  • I’m glad you came’ by The Wanted: Montag thinking about the impact that Clarisse has had
  • Radioactive‘ by Imagine Dragons:  Montag approaches Faber with a plan to change the system
  • Time is on my side‘ by the Rolling Stones: Granger explains that they have to wait until society is ready for the knowledge contained in books (and now stored in their minds)

I think I might challenge my students to collaborate and create a playlist.

That is my song!

16 Feb

I have mentioned previously that I have a fantastic year 10 English class.  The are fantastic for a whole range of reasons, not least of all because they are participating in their online extension activities and offering meaningful feedback about the tasks they have been set.

My students have just completed a task focused on the type of freedom represented by Clarisse in Fahrenheit 451.  One student offered a suggestion for stimulus.  He suggested that I set the Avicii song ‘I could be the one‘ and ask students to comment on how it illuminates the concept of freedom.

I really like his suggestion, however I think it might be a bit too broad to elicit focused answers.  Instead, I want to provide students with the clip and the poem ‘Barter‘ and ask them to identify the character represented in these stimuli and provide a justification for their choice.

Another option would be to provide the song and two key quotes and ask the students to construct an essay using the provided information.  See, for example, HANDOUT – Extension task 4 (aka super extension).

Extension activities

13 Feb

I teach a number of selective classes at a partially selective high school.  In order to extend my strong students, and give extra opportunities for my weaker students to improve their skills, I set my selective students three extension tasks a fortnight.  I have made it clear to my students that it is not compulsory to complete ALL extension tasks.  The requirement is simply that they complete one per fortnight on top of their usual classwork and homework.

I am pleased to report that a number of students seem to have decided to take the challenge of completing every extension activity.  While the writing standard definitely varies, I am really proud of those students who are, in accordance with our class rules, taking the opportunity to maximise their learning opportunities.


Virtual excursions

11 Feb

Often, when we study literature, students’ understanding is hampered by an inability to imagine what the setting of their set text looks like.

Airpano may be the answer!  It offers an opportunity to electronically view 360 degree panoramas of some of the most famous places in the world!



Postmodern Jukebox

10 Feb

I recently stumbled upon Postmodern Jukebox on YouTube.  In essence, they take popular songs (such as those by Beiber, 1D and Pitbull), and re-imagine those songs in different musical genres.   A great example of what they do is their Doo Wop version of Pitbull’s ‘Timber.

As an introduction to appropriation, I would be keen to play the original version of one of the songs covered by Postmodern Jukebox, followed by the Postmodern Jukebox version.  After allowing the students to listen, I would explain that the second song is an appropriation of the first.  Students would then be challenged to come up with a definition of appropriation.

The impact of technology

9 Feb

As you have no doubt figured out by now, I am a HUGE fan of spoken word poetry.  So much so, I am on a mission to introduce as many students to it as possible.  As it turns out, many of the themes addressed through spoken word appear very relevant to Fahrenheit 451 (see, for example, this post and this post).

Today I found yet another spoken word poem that can be used in this unit!  The poem is entitled ‘Touchscreen‘ and it is written and presented by Marshall Soulful Jones.  I want to use this stimulus for a discussion activity about the role of technology in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  I am going to ask students to view the clip and note down key ideas.  We are then going to discuss some of the downsides of relying on technology and existing in a society where reliance on technology is the norm.

After this activity, students will be broken into small groups.  In those groups, they will discuss whether the technology in Fahrenheit 451 constrains or enhances freedom.

Importance of writing

9 Feb

I wrote earlier about a spoken word poetry performance that I wanted to show my year 10 class in order to help them understand the importance of reading.  I also want to show them the importance of writing and, in particular, the idea that writing can be transformative.

Again, I am turning to spoken word to illustrate those ideas.  The Twin Poets’ poem ‘Why I write‘, for example, emphasises that we should write to acknowledge society and fill gaps experienced in society.  As with the poem ‘I can’t read’, I would get my students to listen to the performance and write a reflective piece about the poem’s message.  I might also get students to reflect on whether or not they consider these valid reasons for writing, and if there are other reasons why writing is important.

Characters in court

9 Feb

Today I stumbled upon an interesting infographic which sought to assist students to understand villains and the consequences of villainous actions by asking them to charge storybook villains with a crime.  I kind of like this idea, but would take it one step further and get students to justify their position using examples from the text.

‘I can’t read’

8 Feb

My year 10 class is studying Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  As part of their study, they will be examining ideas about censorship, literacy and technology.

One of the ideas that I want students to understand is that reading opens doors; it is an essential skill.

In order to get them thinking about that idea, I want them to view Lamont Carey’s Def Poetry performance of ‘I can’t read‘.  Students will view the performance, and then write a short reflective piece on the importance of reading.