Archive | August, 2014

Visualise the story

27 Aug

As noted yesterday and the day before, both my Year 9 classes will be studying the Gothic.

In my lower ability class, our short story focus will be ‘Doomed’ by Ernest Favenc.  It is an example of the colonial Australian Gothic but will not be studied as such.

To help students understand the story, I have sourced a number of images relevant to the narrative. I will cut them up and give each student an envelope.  As they listen to the story students will work to put the images in order in order to create a pictorial version of the narrative.  The aim is to give my weaker readers and those that struggle with large chunks of text another way to access the plot.

After the reading of the story, we will check the order, with students asked to justify their choices.  This justification part of the discussion can be spearheaded by my stronger students.

As a follow up activity, I will ask students if they think any images are missing/if sections of the story have not been represented in pictures.  This will help me to ascertain how well the students actually understood the narrative.

Sounds of the Gothic

26 Aug

As noted yesterday, one of my Year 9 classes will be looking at distinctively Australian Gothic texts.  In order to help them to better understand that idea of an Australian influence, I am keen to give them an opportunity to create a distinctively Gothic soundscape.  They would need to create a Gothic base, and then add ONE quintessentially Australian element to make create an Australian Gothic sound.  That sound might be the rustling of gum leaves, the rhythmic thud of a bouncing kangaroo, the wail of a didgeridoo – it is their choice.  Once the soundscape is created students must justify their choices and explain why the completed soundscape is representative of the Australian Gothic.

Friday Fictioneers #14

25 Aug

I have been staring at the prompt for Friday Fictioneers for the better part of a week.  The prompt image did not speak to me and I could not come up with a story.  However, I did not want the week to end without me writing something, so I decided to write the punchline and allow you to imagine the story.  Please let me know what you think!

The Ivy League Education

High powered.

Always on call.

We are both experts in our fields.

She has three degrees; three consecutively, in turn.

I have five, in turn.

No, wait… I mean I can do a five point turn

Don’t snigger.  Only five separate steps to turn a two tonne vehicle… that is skill!

Well, it is a skill.

A different skill to hers.  She stitches things together.  I pull them apart.

That is the difference between surgeons and tow truck drivers.

That and the education.

She has an Ivy League education.

I have an ivy leaves education.

Now that is a story…

Distinctively Australian Gothic

25 Aug

In Year 9 students are given an opportunity to engage in a genre study.  I have chosen to explore the Gothic with my Year 9 classes.  My lower ability class will explore the genre generally, having the opportunity to explore a short story or two and some film excerpts.  My more able class will be exploring the Gothic through a distinctively Australian lens.

To assist students to understand how a genre can have a particularly Australian flavour, students need to understand how our landscape, self-perception and reality was different from that of Europe or America at the time the relevant texts were composed.  I want to give them a whole lot of words and images and have them group them into continent based categories.  This will help them to visualise the differences.

I also want to take this as an opportunity to introduce them to some literary criticism.  Accordingly, I will take some snippets out of critical articles and have students hypothesise how the provided conceptions of Australia might shape the writing produced by Australians.

Poetic Techniques Bingo

18 Aug

Both my Year 7 and Year 9 class respond well to learning through games.

Accordingly, I have spent a decent amount of my weekend putting together some ‘Poetic Techniques Bingo Boards’.

My Year 7 students are very capable.  As such, I elected to test their knowledge by having them identify techniques in extracts from a range of unseen texts.  My Year 9 class is a lower ability/ESL class, and as such I included some definitions and used only extracts from texts we have studied.

Copies of the bingo boards can be found below:


17 Aug

Lillie McFerrin is the person behind ‘5 sentence fiction’.  Lillie offers up a prompt each week, and issues a challenge to compose a 5 sentence narrative that responds to the prompt.  The prompt this week? MAPS.  Below is my attempt to compose a story that responds to this prompt.


It is history class, and twenty four students reach into their bags for their maps; photocopied images of countries and cities, towns and terrain, battles lost and won.

One student sits staring at her hands.

Venomous words drip from the teacher’s tongue, each phrase lamenting the student’s disorganisation, berating her lack of application, expounding upon her lack of respect.

Melting beneath the teacher’s glare her words tumble from her lips in a rush:  “I too am a sovereign nation, with borders that ought to be secure but instead seem permeable; I too am a victim of war, my natural resources drained by an unwanted and unwelcome trespasser; I too am an aggressor, the battle lines etched into skin like trenches in fields; I too pray for peace but fear that it may not come.”

“We may not be able to change the past,” murmurs the teacher kindly, her eyes welling with tears, “but history teaches us that by knowing the past we can alter the future.”


‘Totally like whatever, you know’

17 Aug

When we ask students to deliver speeches we grade them on both manner and matter.  Matter, of course, refers to subject matter.  Manner is about presentation.

This spoken word poem by Taylor Mali is a great way to introduce students to the idea of speaking with conviction.

Friday Fictioneers #13

16 Aug

I really struggled with Friday Fictioneers this week.  The prompt can be found here, and below is the best I could muster!


Dear Nancy,

I received your letter.  I appreciate that it was not addressed to me, but I was thrilled nonetheless.  It made for compelling reading!

Congratulations on the birth of your grandson.  Please don’t panic, many newborns resemble elderly relatives.  In my experience, they grow out of it (and later back into it).

Placing the blame on your daughter-in-law’s genes is unfair.  Why?  Because the baby resembles YOUR relative!

Kind regards,


PS. I have included my email address and Skype details so that our continued friendship is not subject to the whims and inaccuracies of the postal delivery service.


IDENTITY: Introductory activities

14 Aug

I am hoping to study Hinton’s The Outsiders with my Year 10 class.  The unit focus will be ‘Identity’.

In this unit, I want students to be able to appreciate and explain how identity is formed within the world of The Outsiders and a range of related material.

To get students thinking about identity, I want them to read some Sydney Morning Herald articles which explore adolescent cliques and identities (here and here).  In particular, I want to use these articles as prompts for students to explore how individuals identify, how that identity/those identities are broadcast to the world at large, and the way that relationships and outward signifiers of identity may cause external parties to make particular assumptions.

An alternate activity would be to place students in groups and provide each group with an object or image.  Students would then have to use that object or image as the basis of guessing/constructing their identity.

NEW Story ideas

12 Aug

My Year 11 students need to learn how to write a short story.  However, before we do that, I need to get them thinking creatively.

I plan to get them thinking about characters by considering some of the submissions to MX Overheard.  Mx Overheard publishes amusing snippets of conversations.  My students will read some of these and use them as the basis of (a) building a character, and (b) honing their dialogue crafting skills.

I also plan to show my students a number of ‘weird news’ stories (examples 1, 2, and 3).  Students will then consider the various perspectives/parties involves and rewrite events from these different viewpoints.