Archive | July, 2014

A newsworthy find!

28 Jul

I wish I had stumbled upon this article about A Midsummer Night’s Dream sooner!  It would have been a perfect addition to my text type unit.

Had I found this earlier I would have given it to students and asked them to annotate it, identifying the key elements of a newspaper article.  As an added bonus I could also have used it as a source for identifying language techniques.

The importance of basic literacy

26 Jul

Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘Word Crimes‘ is the latest in a long line of ‘Blurred Lines’ parodies.  However, this is the first I have seen that is appropriate for high school students.  It is a timely, and entertaining, reminder of why achieving a basic standard of literacy is important.


UNIT IDEA: Poetry as social commentary

14 Jul

I would like to run a poetry unit for my Year 9 classes that explores the role of poetry in commenting on society.

The first lesson would focus on social issues.  In particular, we would need to define what this means and then come up with some examples.  Students would then be asked to identify things in society that they take issue with/are unhappy about.  I would steer students towards big topic issues, perhaps those related to sustainability and climate change, animal rights, GLBTIQ rights, multiculturalism, refugees’ rights and the like.  We would create a list of these on the board, discussing each as we go.   Using one as an example, we would work together to complete an ALARM literacy table identify that area and teasing out why it matters and is important.  Students would then work individually to complete a second ALARM literacy table, this time using a different issue.  We would then discuss the responses.

The following lesson would involve a discussion about how people might go about addressing these perceived issues in society.  This would hook into a discussion about the role of poetry in voicing social discontent.  We would then revise the ways that poets craft their messages (techniques).

The next lesson will require students to engage with a poem.  We would read the poem together/I would read aloud, and students would be taught to code the poem to identify what they know, what they don’t understand and any questions they have.  We would discuss and then move into analysis.  The depth and rigour of analysis would likely differ between my classes.  This process will be repeated another one or two times with new poems (these poems would relate to ideas raised by students in the early stages of the unit).

Assessment for this unit would have two components.  The first will involve students selecting ONE of the poems and identifying how that poem raises an important issue and how effective it is in engaging with that issue.  The second will require students to reflect on why their chosen poem and the issue that is conveyed therein resonates with them personally.  I might embed within that second component a requirement for students to consider how they can further draw attention to their chosen cause/issue, thus prompting potential community engagement.

AOS Belonging questions

13 Jul

Below is a list of sample  AOS: Belonging questions.  Questions are not arranged in any particular order.  The list will be updated as I come up with new questions.

  1. How is belonging represented in your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing?
  2. Perceptions of belonging are products of personal, cultural and social contexts.  To what extent do you agree with this statement?  In your response, refer to your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing.
  3. The strongest sense of belonging emerges from interpersonal relationships.  To what extent do you agree with this statement?  In your response, refer to your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing.
  4. A person’s relationships of belonging reveal much about his or her identity.  How is this shown in your set text and ONE related text of your own choosing?
  5. A person learns about his or her world through the relationships of belonging formed with people and place.  To what extent do you agree with this proposition?  In your response, refer to your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing.
  6. Attitudes to belonging change over time.  How is this shown in your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing?
  7. The same experiences that shape one’s identity are the foundation of relationships of belonging.  How is this shown in your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing?
  8. Relationships of belonging and not belonging do not exist in isolation.  How is this shown in your set text and ONE related text of your own choosing?
  9. By enriching one relationship of belonging a person may have to damage another.  To what extent do you agree with this proposition?  In your response, refer to your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing.
  10. How do composers construct perceptions and ideas of belonging in their texts?  In your response, refer to your set text and at least ONE related text of your own choosing.

Unit idea: Ballads

10 Jul

For their poetry unit, my Year 7 students will study ballads.

I will begin the unit by introducing them to some examples of ballads (‘Clancy of the Overflow‘, ‘The Highwayman‘, and ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew‘).  Using a provided graphic organiser, students will work in small groups to read each of these poems and note down key characteristics (rhyme scheme, stanza length, subject matter, etc).  They will then try find points of commonality between the texts in order to ascertain the conventions of this particular form of writing.

This will be followed by a class discussion in which students share their thoughts and create a master list of conventions.

Next, we will pick one the poems and go through it in detail, noting and discussing the effect of identified features.  To help students appreciate that the poem tells a story, students will create a storyboard of the key ideas in the narrative.

ICT OPTION: Once the key ‘plot points’ have been identified and mapped, each group will be allocated one plot point to focus on.  Using the technology available at the time, students will create a visual and (if desired) aural representation of their allocated plot idea.  These can then be strung together in a PowerPoint presentation/Mentormob playlist to present a multimedia representation of the poem.

The point of this unit is to (a) familiarize students with the conventions of this particular poetic form, and (b) get them writing their own ballads.  Inspired by this lesson sequence, I will then show students a series of short animations (maybe this one, and this one).  We will work on breaking down these animations into key plot points (much like was done with the poem).

Then, I will divide students into groups, allocate each one of the animations, and explain that they will be writing a ballad that conveys the story of the animated short.  To assist, I will give each group a starter stanza.

For their assessment, students will be required to (a) produce the ballad, and (b) write a reflective statement which summarises what they learned about ballads and what it was like working in a group.

At the end of the unit we will have a presentation day in which students present their ballads to the class.


Discovery related texts

9 Jul

Below is my continually evolving list of possible AOS Discovery related texts.  The list is intended to be ordered alphabetically by name of text.

Your choice of related text should be informed by the rubric for the AOS and your set text.

  1. A Mighty Heart (film)
  2. After Ever After – Disney Parody’ (parody video)
  3. Americannah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (novel)
  4. ‘And of clay we are created’ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  5. ‘An Origin Story’ by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye (Spoken Word poetry)
  6. Approved for Adoption directed by Laurent Boileau and Jung (film  – English subtitles)
  7. ‘A Ride Out Of Phrao’ by Dina Nayeri (short story)
  8. Bran Nue Dae (film)
  9. Because who is perfect?‘ (video clip)
  10. Belonging by Jeannie Baker (picture book)
  11. Beloved by Toni Morrison (novel)
  12. Calico Joe by John Grisham (novel)
  13. Cool Runnings (film)
  14. Dead Poets Society directed by Peter Weir (film)
  15. El Deafo by Cece Bell (graphic novel)
  16. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (novel)
  17. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (film)
  18. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (novel)
  19. Fox by Margaret Wild (picture book)
  20. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (novel)
  21. Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  22. Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley (picture book)
  23. Hotel Rwanda (film)
  24. How to Make It to the Promised Land directed by Sam Zalutzky (short film)
  25. I am Sam (film)
  26. Invictus (film)
  27. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (novel)
  28. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (novel)
  29. Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet (novel)
  30. Like a Girl‘ (promotion, video clip)
  31. Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende (novel)
  32. Meet the Superhumans‘ (promotion, video clip)
  33. Mirror (picture book)
  34. Nutshell by Ian McEwan (novel)
  35. New Boy directed by Steph Green (short film)
  36. Paper Towns by John Green (novel)
  37. Persepolis by Marjan Satrapi (graphic novel)
  38. Running (Unstoppable)‘ by the Canadian Paralympic Committee (promotion, video clip)
  39. Selma (film)
  40. ‘Spelling Father’ by Marshall Jones (Spoken Word poetry)
  41. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  42. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (novel)
  43. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (novel)
  44. The Door‘ by Miroslav Holub (poem)
  45. The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons (novel)
  46. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (novel)
  47. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (novel)
  48. ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson (short story)
  49. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris van Allsburg (picture book)
  50. The Penalty by Mal Peet (novel)
  51. The Princess Bride (film)
  52. The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (picture book)
  53. The Right Word‘ by Imtiaz Dharker (poem)
  54. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (novel)
  55. The Sapphires (film)
  56. The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman (novel)
  57. The Terrible Thing by Eve Bunting (picture book)
  58. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (novel)
  59. To This Day‘ by Shane Koyczan (Spoken Word poetry or graphic novel)
  60. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film).

See also this post which identifies some relevant animated shorts.

REVIEW: ‘Fangirl’

8 Jul

My students are huge John Green fans!  I had a library lesson with my Year 7 class and 9 out of 28 kids were reading John Green books, 13 out of the remaining 19 had read one or more already, and/or were waiting for one to become available at the library.

One of the boys mentioned that he had recently read a book recommended by John Green.  That book was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  I had also read it, and loved it.  We started talking about Rowell’s novel, and about Green’s novels, and what it was that made them so appealing.  We decided that both authors crafted really interesting characters; characters that you could invest in wholeheartedly.  I’ve read enough John Green novels to know that this is something he does consistently across his novels.  However, I had not yet read anything else by Rainbow Rowell.

Earlier this week I was at the bookstore and stumbled upon another Rowell novel, Fangirl.  I started reading it when I got home and got completely suckered in.

The novel tells the story of twins and how they adjust to college.  The one twin, Wren, is keen for her independence.  The other, Cather, is scared to venture out on her own.  In fact, Cather is, in many respects, the antithesis to Wren; Wren likes to party, Cather would prefer to stay in the dorm and write fan fiction.  In this sense, the story is also about how Cather learns to exists in the real world as well as the fictional one.

Rowell’s novel weaves in sections of Cather’s fanfiction and also the series of books that it is based on.  This preoccupation with another author’s work reminded me a bit about Hazel Grace in Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.  However, where Hazel Grace is obsessed with the story and the author, Cather is interested in reimagining that world, moving the characters around and creating different plots and relationships.

While that similarity did irk me a bit, I soon become too invested in the characters to think about it that much.  That process of investment was aided by humour, well drawn characters, and interesting relationships.

Use in the classroom

I would recommend this novel to students who loved the John Green books.  If kids are mature enough to read The Fault in Our Stars then they should be fine with Fangirl.

I also think this has potential as an AOS related text.  For AOS Belonging, students should focus on the varying strengths of Cather’s connections, noting that they change in response to her circumstances.  For AOS Discover, students should consider what it is that the characters discover about themselves, their relationships and their world.

As the text is about Cather’s experiences growing up and going to college, it would also be an appropriate text for a Year 11 unit that explores growing up or coming of age.

Clarity is key!

7 Jul

Often students write passages/responses that are so verbose or peculiarly phrased that the meaning is unintentionally obscured.

This article, which shows an interview with the Immigration Minister, seems like a great example of a situation in which language is used to obscure not illuminate.

An interesting activity would be to have students read the interview extract and write down what they think it means.  Then, after a class discussion, students could rephrase the message to maximise clarity.

An alternate activity would be to use this interview extract as stimulus for a discussion about the different purposes for which people use language.

Helena’s interview

6 Jul

As mentioned previously (here and here), I am using my Year 7 A Midsummer Night’s Dream unit to teach my kids about different types of texts.

So far, we have looked at a news paper article.

I plan to start next term exploring interviews.  For the purposes of learning  the skills, we will focus on the argument between Hermia and Helena while in the woods.  We will spend our first lesson exploring the form.  Ideally, I will have  students read some example transcripts and try come up with a list of conventions themselves.  Then, I will explain that they are going to work in pairs.  One person will pretend to be Helena, and the other will be the interviewer.  Together, they will brainstorm some possible questions and answers.

For the second lesson I will take them to a computer room.  There, they will use Google Story Builder to create a transcript of the interview.  Here is an example that I created earlier.

My kids have demonstrated a decent ability to work collaboratively (some do function better in same gender groups) and they have responded well previously to computer tasks.  The only challenge will be finding an available computer room!

Hamlet (Module B) questions

5 Jul

Below is a list of sample  Module B: Hamlet questions.  Questions are not arranged in any particular order.  The list will be updated as I come up with new questions.

  1. Hamlet is, in essence, a play about obligations.  To what extent do you agree with this proposition?
  2. Hamlet is about more than conflict.  To what extent do you agree with this proposition?
  3. Hamlet is a play about unmet expectations.  To what extent do you agree with this proposition?
  4. Characters in Hamlet are preoccupied with the past.  How does your personal response to the play support this proposition?
  5. It has been suggested that Hamlet is not the most important character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Assuming that this is correct, who do you think is the most important character in the play and why?
  6. The appeal of Hamlet transcends time and space.  In what ways is this true?
  7. Is the assertion that Hamlet is about “carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, / … accidental judgments, casual slaughters, / [and]… deaths put on by cunning” accurate?  Justify your view through close analysis of Shakespeare’s play.
  8. Is Hamlet’s ability to avenge his father’s death accidental or the product of planning?  Justify your response through close analysis of the language, structure, characterisation and dramatic features of Shakespeare’s play.
  9. Hamlet’s tendency to think is central to the development of the play’s plot.  To what extent do you agree with this proposition?
  10. Explore how ideas about sickness and healing are used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet to shape how audiences understand Hamlet’s character.