Archive | June, 2014

Language and gender

30 Jun

Language is powerful.  This notion is beautifully illustrated in the Verizon Commercial which suggests that the way we talk about girls shapes their character and expectations.

This would be an interesting companion piece to put alongside some of the other texts about gender that I have blogged about previously (see here, here and here, for example).

“Is this a camera which I see before me?”

29 Jun

I stumbled across this fantastic reimagining of Macbeth’s famous “Is this a dagger…” soliloquy.

This monologue borrows the form and rhythm of Macbeth’s soliloquy and links it to the modern age.

I have no idea how I would incorporate it into a lesson, but I do love it!

Create your own connected text

28 Jun

Year 10 and I have been spending a lot of time exploring sections of Macbeth and then seeing how those ideas are represented differently in select examples of related material.

Inspired by the success of my Year 9 lesson the other day, I gave my Year 10 students the opportunity to create their own related text.  As the moment for comparison was Macbeth’s “Is this a dagger…?” soliloquy, students will need to translate the ideas contained therein into an alternate form.  My suggestions included: confessional blog post, short psychiatric report, series of tweets or Facebook status updates.

Students then had to post their related text to our class Edmodo page.  To demonstrate engagement with the work of others, students then had to select a related text created by another student and use that as part of an integrated paragraph with Macbeth.

Understanding the message

27 Jun

With the end of term upon us it is time to reward those students who are still turning up with some fun activities.

In my Year 9 class, for example, the lesson focus was the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.   Students discussed big ideas, literary and dramatic techniques and connected texts as part of their literature circles.

As is the format for all literature circle lessons, students were then given an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.  Inspired by the Romeo and Juliet in text message form idea that I blogged about the other day, I asked students to write their own version of the balcony scene in text message form.

The results were hilarious and highly educational.  For example, I learnt that loving someone ‘5eva’ is better than loving them forever.  It is, apparently, a whole new category of eternal affection!

Picturing poems

26 Jun

My Year 11 Standard English students sometimes struggle to articulate the reasons behind their thinking.  As such, their essays often lack depth and sophistication.

In order to help them articulate their reasons, I have devised a simple activity that will (hopefully) cause them to reflect on the Sleessor poems that they have studied thus far.

I will provide students with a number of images.  Students have to sort through the images a figure out which images belong to which poem.  Students then have to justify their decision by linking back to the text.

Once they have mastered this basic step, I will make it more complicated.  I will ask them to identify a section of ONE of the poems that creates a particularly clear image in their mind.  Then, I will ask them to decide what image(s) should represent that moment.  Again they will have to justify their reasoning, linking it back to the text.  We will continue on in this way, canvassing songs/sounds and colours alongside pictures.

Take a stand against bullying

22 Jun

I think that it is really important for students to realise that texts are often composed with the intention to cause people to reflect on, and change, their behaviours.  A great way to illustrate this is to show students texts that have a subject matter that they can relate to.

If my chosen subject matter was bullying, the first text that I would show my kids is this song by Bars & Melody (song starts at 2:32).  Written by two kids, the song was performed on Britain’s Got Talent.  I like this is a really empowering thing to show kids because it shows that you don’t have to be an adult to speak out and effect change.

The second text that I would should my kids is Shane Koyczan’s spoken word poem, ‘To This Day‘.   This is a phenomenal animated spoken word performance which explores the effect of language in shaping self-perception.  Not only is the poem rich in language techniques and a great source of discussion for developing visual literacy, but it also signals how powerful words can be.

Unpacking Macbeth

21 Jun

My Year 10 students are currently studying Macbeth.  While not nearly as enthusiastic about Shakespeare as my Year 7 kids, they are not entirely resistant to the idea.  However, a number of them are understandably having a little difficulty unpacking the text and identifying techniques.  In order to assist them I have put together some guided analysis activities.  Examples for Act 1, Scene 5 (part 1 and part 2) are linked.  Much like the ‘William Street’ activity used with my Year 11 kids, the aim is to guide the analysis but allow students an opportunity to think for themselves.

Poetry and the environment

20 Jun

I have been toying, for a while, with how to create an engaging and relevant unit that explores issues associated with the environment and sustainability (see here).

As part of any unit on sustainability and the environment I want to show my students some of Jeannie Baker’s picture books (see, for example, here, and here).  However, that is not enough to sustain a unit in and of itself.  Accordingly, I have been on the hunt for some more resources.  Today I stumbled upon this series of haikus.  I like that they have a visual aspect (and can thus be linked to Baker’s books) and the fact that the author has taken an information report and transformed it into poetic form.

I also found a poem entitled ‘One world down the drain’ by Simon Rae which explores the impact of climate change.

Now that I have some basic texts, I have to decide how I am going to link them together in a unit.  Any ideas?



‘William Street’

19 Jun

My Year 11 students have just begun a unit that seeks to closely analyse Kenneth Slessor’s poetry.  In order to assist them to pull apart his poems, I am going to create a analysis map for each of the poems set for study.

Here is the example for ‘William Street’ (HANDOUT – Analysis questions ‘William Street’).  As some of my students work on laptops/ipads, I decided to colour code in order to help them to better visualise the link between quotes and techniques.

More alternatives to book reports

18 Jun

This week I am road-testing yet another book report alternative.

Each student will imagine that s/he is a character from a book that s/he has recently read.  That character has been invited to appear on a talk show.  Students have to:

  • Reflect on which talk show the character will appear on and why
  • Articulate which issues and experiences the character will discuss while on the show
  • Write the initial correspondence between the producer and the character in which the producer extends an invitation to appear and the character accepts
  • Write a sample list of questions that the interviewer might ask to help illuminate key issues
  • Respond to those questions
  • Write a diary entry reflecting on the experience of appearing on a talk show.

Below are some of the relevant resources:

This activity was inspired by one of the entries in an article entitled ‘Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report‘ by Diana Mitchell.