Archive | March, 2014

Variations on book reports

31 Mar

Due to the complexities of the timetable, I teach a year 7 class and a year 8 class each for two lessons a fortnight.  For the other five lessons per fortnight, students have their regular teachers.

The decision was made that I take students for the Premier’s Reading Challenge (‘PRC’).  This means that one lesson per class per fortnight is spent reading in the library.  The other lesson is spent recording that reading.  So far, we have completed an activity on character (it included the creation of a Facebook profile) and one which asked students to imagine what objects would be included in a time capsule that was aimed at encouraging someone to read the book that they had been reading for the PRC.

I stumbled upon a fantastic list of book review alternatives.  I think I am going to work my way through the list.  Next up, an art lesson!  I have gathered a supply of coloured paper, glue sticks, textas and coloured pencils and we will create new book jackets for the novels we have been reading.  In other words, students will be required to demonstrate an understanding of events and characters in artistic form.  I will also require the fast finishers to justify their choices, explaining what they chose and why.

Story Builder

30 Mar

I was introduced to Google Story Builder a while ago by a colleague.  To be honest, I don’t think I gave it much thought until my Year 10 students asked for some creative suggestions for the writing workshops that they are running in class.

If the app is not blocked (as it is at my school), it could be used to practice writing dialogue and/or conveying mood.

Friday Fictioneers #4

29 Mar

This is my Friday Fictioneers contribution for the week.  The prompt can be found here.

Inspired by my students who have been writing 100 word stories, I decided to try write a story instead of a poem.


Making light

I escape to the park, seeking refuge.  As if sensing my need, the trees seemingly scramble into position and stand sentry.

I search for spaces between shadows, the tunnels of low light created when leaves align imperfectly.

The trees sway gently.  An intricate mosaic patterns the ground and paves my passage.  In an act of benevolent protection, the trees sigh and shift position, erasing my already trodden path.

As I emerge at the other side of the park I turn and gently nod; a silent sign of gratitude.

I continue my journey.

Behind me, tree trunks contort in mirth.


Changed perspective

28 Mar

As noted previously, my Year 9 class was not enjoying their ‘Asian Perspectives’ unit.   In order to demonstrate that I am hearing their concerns, we shifted focus slightly.  We are now approaching this as an issues based unit.  Each lesson we will examine an issue/area of interest and consider how that issue is represented in different short texts.  Students will also write persuasive pieces that relate to these issues in order to practice for NAPLAN.

Our fist issue was disabilities.  We examined a poem and a YouTube clip.  Next lesson we will examine anti-smoking advertisements.  We will look at a campaign from the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and one from Australia.

We will also look at adoption (examining texts noted here and the ‘Approved for Adoption’ trailer), child welfare (using UNICEF campaign material) and genocide (‘I’ll never call you home again’ (Rwanda) and a poem about the experiences under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia).

What do you do when your students hate the unit of work?

26 Mar

I am currently teaching a unit entitled ‘Asian perspectives’.  The unit is part persuasive writing and part creative writing.  My Year 9 classes and I are a few lessons into the unit.

When I told them that we were studying Asian perspectives I got a lot of eye rolls and groans.  When we actually started studying it, opinions were more clearly and frequently articulated.

In a bid to encourage my students to get their negativity out of their systems, I set them a persuasive writing task which required them to write to the Minister for Education and explain their views about the inclusion of ‘Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia’ in the new English curriculum.  The students then posted their letter to Edmodo for feedback.

The underlying passion of many of the responses has shone through, with many students producing a better than usual quality of work.

While I think the experience was positive, I am now in a situation where I am fully aware of students’ viewpoints on this topic.  Accordingly, I have to respond by making some changes.

One way I am going to do this is to bring in some literary texts earlier than planned and also to broaden the scope a little beyond merely Asian texts.  Next lesson, for example, we will look at Lazola Pambo’s poem ‘The Man in a Wheelchair‘ (found at New Asian Writing).  We will examine this alongside my current favourite YouTube clip ‘Because who is perfect?‘  (a German clip).  Students will then be tasked with writing a letter in which they seek to persuade the principal of our school to include ONE of these texts (students pick the one they like best) in a special assembly marking International Day of People with a Disability.

A peer review activity will follow, thus allowing me to ascertain that they can write and  recognise persuasive features in other texts.


The power of language

25 Mar

My Year 10 students and I are a week into a creative writing and short story unit.  I have a really capable class, and I have given them the opportunity to run a series of workshops aimed at building the skills of their peers.

The discussion on the boards of their Edmodo groups is awesome.  I think I am in for a few weeks of fantastic lessons.  As a bonus, it will give me the opportunity to see what my students consider to be awesome English lessons, thus allowing me to better tailor my lessons to their interests.  Hopefully this will boost student engagement.

Today in class we kicked off the workshops with a lesson on the power of language.  I ran this one as a means of modeling another type of activity that could be tried.  As is clearly apparent from this blog, I LOVE Def Poetry.  Unsurprisingly, I chose a Def Poetry performance as my lesson stimulus.

The chosen poem was ‘Homeward‘ by Bassey Ikpi.  I chose her poem for the richness of her language and the way she uses that language to paint a picture that is deeper than her words would suggest.

It was really interesting to see my students respond to the different meanings of the poem.  I was particularly impressed when students took over the discussion, using evidence from the poem to support their interpretations.



Is Twitter the newest form of literature?

25 Mar

PBS Ideas tackles this question!

Once students have an appreciation of the formal characteristics of a short story, I will ask them to ascertain if those characteristics are common to other types of texts.

We will then discuss the idea that we can learn and borrow from non-conventional narratives in order to enhance our writing.

Literature Map

23 Mar

This is a cool site that allows readers to see the reading preferences of people who happen to share their favourite authors.

Interracial adoption

22 Mar

Recently there have been two interesting articles in Australian newspapers about interracial adoption.  Both articles explore experiences of Asian children who were adopted into Caucasian families.

The articles, ‘Growing up Asian in a white household‘ and ‘Adopted family subject to hurtful, insulting comments‘ offer very different experiences.  Students could be asked to compare and contrast experiences and identify the purposes of each article.  In doing so, they will have a greater sense of the complexities of identity.

Punny short stories

21 Mar

Here is a collection of punny short stories.

I want to use these in my year 10 class as part of a creative writing unit.  In particular, I am keen to have some class discussion around the idea of whether we would consider the short puns to meet the definition of an effective short story.