Archive | May, 2014

Describe that character

26 May

My junior students often find it difficult to describe a character; that is, use language that does more than simply recount facts.

In order to get them to do more than recount, I am going to spend tomorrow playing a game I have called ‘Describe that character’.

Inspired by a celebrity heads style game suggested by one of my  teacher friends, each student will be given a ‘character’.  Information about that character will be noted on a sticker.  Each student will be given a sticker that should be placed on his/her forehead.

Students then need to meander around the room asking questions that require other people to provide descriptive answers.  Students must note down the answers given as these answers will later be used by students to figure out which ‘character’ they were allocated.

A copy of the handout can be found here [GAME – Describe that character].

Better understanding character

24 May

In term 4 this year, my Year 11 Standard English students will start Year 12.  This means that we start a whole new set of texts.  One of the texts that we will study is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The narrative is told from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  As the experience of having Asperger’s Syndrome fundamentally shapes the boy’s perspective, modus operandi and method of storytelling, it is essential that students have an understanding of what that entails.

Today I stumbled upon this video in which a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome interviews his mother about what it is like to raise a child like him.  The questions from the child, the mother’s responses as well as the interaction between the two offer valuable insight into how Asperger’s Syndrome shapes personalities and lives.

Mapping Macbeth

21 May

A discussion with my Year 10 class today revealed that they did not want to experience the story of Macbeth unfolding.  Instead, they wanted to understand the narrative before unpacking the text.  Accordingly, next lesson I will work on familiarising them with the story and characters.

To familiarise them with the narrative, I will run a variation of this activity.  I will get students to explore the language of the play and then situate their quotations in the narrative.

Then, I will provide students with some information about the characters in Macbeth, and get them to map out the relationships within the play.  I will encourage my students to use as it gives them flexibility to add to their mind map as the unit progresses.  Here is an example (incomplete) mind map about the characters in Macbeth and how they interrelate. I think I will allow students to work in pairs, thus enabling them to bounce ideas off each other.

Orientations and complications

20 May

My Year 7 students are part way through a creative writing unit.  We have painstakingly practiced hooks and descriptive writing, and students are familiar with the elements of a narrative.  Accordingly, it is now time for students to start putting that information together into a story.

Ordinarily I would create an example orientation with my class and then divide students into groups and give each a scenario, challenging them to come up with strong narratives.  However, I will miss my next Year 7 class and it is not fair to require another teacher to model the skill.  It is also not fair to subject another teacher to the noise levels produced by my students when they do group work.

Accordingly, I have pre-prepared an orientation and complication that responds to one of the scenarios that I have set for my students.  It is attached here.

Macbeth the musical

19 May

When my year 10 students and I explored Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 I set a series of extension activities that sought to link key moments in the novel with unrelated songs (see here).  Many of my students really enjoyed it.  So much so, I am keen to do the same thing, this time with Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The problem is, I am struggling to come up with a list of songs that relate to the play.  The list so far is below.  If you have any other suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

The list thus far:

  • ‘I knew you were trouble’ by Taylor Swift – Macbeth thinking about the consequences of sharing the prophecies with Lady Macbeth.
  • ‘I want it all’ by Queen – Lady Macbeth as she outlines her reasons for killing King Duncan.

(W)rapping up Macbeth

18 May

Want a fun way to wrap up the story of Macbeth and test students’ understanding?  Try this YouTube clip!

As an added bonus, the fact that it is a rap is a nice link back to the ‘Hip Hop or Shakespeare?‘ game.

Shaking up Shakespeare

17 May

I have mentioned previously that I teach students who are not overly enthused by the prospect of studying Shakespeare’s plays.  Accordingly, I am making it my mission to change their minds.

Years ago I discovered this gem; it is the story of Hamlet told in the style of Facebook news feed.  I always show this to the HSC students that I tutor as a way of helping them to understand the chronology of the play.

I recently stumbled upon a FANTASTIC Macbeth related resource on the same site.  Amusing entitled ‘Macbeth and Macduff get into an argument over semantics‘, it presents a conversation between Macbeth and Macduff that explores the last of the witches’ prophecies.  In this humorous exchange, Macbeth argues that Macduff cannot kill him as he was “born of woman,” while Macduff argues that he was “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb and therefore not “born of woman” in the technical sense.

I would like to use this exchange as a way of getting students to better understand the significance of language choices in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

I would also be keen to appropriate this idea, getting students to pinpoint parts of the play where meaning is debatable or unclear, and asking them to invent an imagined conversation between characters as they seek to clarify meaning.

Frozen in horror

12 May

Want students to understand the conventions of the horror genre?  One way to help students understand conventions is to doctor a text that they are already familiar with.  A good example is this re-imagining of Frozen.

A sporting chance

11 May

My students won their first debate!  It is now time to prepare for their second.  The topic is sport.  This is problematic as my students have minimal sporting knowledge, and I have none.

In light of this, our first job is to research.  Each student can bring in an article and discuss it.  That way, we can share knowledge.

Our second job is to practice generating arguments.  Below is a list of suggested topics:

  • That betting on sporting matches should not be allowed.
  • That an athlete’s proven drug use should result in their permanent exclusion from sporting competition.
  • That sportspeople accused of illegal conduct should be suspended from competition until a verdict of not guilty is handed down.
  • That Australia overemphasises the importance of sport.
  • That sportspeople are good role models.
  •  That morality clauses should be standard in the contracts of all professional sportspeople.


Friday Fictioneers #10

10 May

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


On show

Grandpa tended to broadcast his daily activities in real time.  “Breakfast!  Hmmm… toast or cereal?  Cereal aids digestion.  Toast can be drenched in butter.  I’m walking to the cupboard to get the bread.”

This commentary, delivered at uniform pace and volume, was occasionally disrupted by commands. His favourite, and one directed at politicians and family members alike, was “show some mettle!”

My response was to locate a fork or paperclip.  For this, I was rewarded with a smile and an affectionate hair tousle.

In his memory, I now work with metal.

My metal towers dot the landscape, always on show.