Archive | September, 2014

Living life offline

30 Sep

My Year 10 students will be studying The Secret Life of Walter Mitty as their set text next term.  One of the issues that the film raises is the relationship between life online and living life.

To illustrate this tension, I want to show my students the Virgin Australian ad featuring Jane Lynch.  Students will be tasked with identifying film techniques, key issues, and how those issues are represented.

‘Three and a half seconds about life’

29 Sep

Three and a half seconds about life is a short animation by Yoav Brill, Shay Yosef and Eran Hilleli.  The animation flits from one moment to the next, chronicling the deaths of birds.

Students could use this as a related text, discussing the discoveries made by the responder after viewing the animation.  Stronger students in particular may be able to explore the tensions between industry and nature, leisure and nature, for example.

This could also be used as a writing prompt, with students exploring some of the issues raised by the short film.

For other Discovery related text ideas, click here.

100 books

28 Sep

Blogger and author Jessie Ansons has set a challenge to read (and, I presume, review) 100 must read books.  The list can be found here.  Skimming the selection got me thinking about the books that I think are missing from that list.

For example, I would love to see Toni Morrison’s Beloved on that list.  Morrison’s text showcases the complex interplay of past, present and future, and the difficult decisions which reverberate across time and space.

I would also like to see the much beloved John Green represented in the list.  My vote would be for Paper Towns or The Fault in our Stars, however I would be happy to see any of his works make the list.  Green has this uncanny ability to consistently craft engaging adolescent voices and it is for this, as much his story telling ability, that should earn him a place on the list.

Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper should also make the list.  Perlman’s knitting together of separate histories makes for compelling reading.

If I were tailoring this list for Australian audiences I would also include a few more Australian classics.  Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, Eleanor Dark’s Return to Coolami, or Such is Life by Joseph Furphy (pen name Tom Collins) would all be viable options.  That said, I suspect Picnic at Hanging Rock is probably the most readable.

I would also be keen to see a few picture books make the cut.  Fox by Margaret Wild, Mirror by Jeanne Baker, or The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan would all be good options.  I have chosen these as I think they resonate with older and younger readers alike.

I noticed on the list that Rushdie is already represented.  However, I think Haroun and the Sea of Stories is also worthy of consideration.  The text contains beautiful imagery, humour, and a selection of compelling relationships.

Also missing from the list are texts by Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and/or Edwidge Danticat.  If I were to select just one text by each of these authors I would pick Things Fall ApartHalf of a Yellow Sun (although I did love Americanah) and Krik? Krak!  (again, I love so many of the books that Danticat has written).

Do you agree with these additions?  Do you have some of your own?  Also, which texts would you boot off the list in order to make space for your favourites?

Friday Fictioneers #16

27 Sep

Another week, another Friday Fictioneers prompt, and another selection of 100 word stories to enjoy!  Here is mine.

100 Bottles

After dinner, the game begins.

“It’s your fault,” she asserts, the liquid loosening her tongue and filling her with false bravado.  “You took him to the pub to celebrate his eighteenth birthday.”

“It’s your fault,” I slur, my defensive instincts bogged down by the amber waves that swirl around my tongue and teeth.  “You allowed him to sip wine while underage.”

“It’s your fault,” she counters sloppily, her words fighting the relentless red river that drowns coherency.  “You taught him the ‘100 bottles of beer’ song.”


Did I teach him that?

I hum as I scan my memory.

Like this story?  Check out the others.

REVIEW: Home and Away

19 Sep

Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley offers an accessible entry into the complexities of the experience of being a refugee.

Students could trace the protagonist’s experiences, commenting on what he discovers about himself, his family and his priorities in a new country.

There is also scope for students to supplement this discussion by reflecting upon what we, as responders, discover as a result of reading the text.

When analysing, students should note the changes in the colour of the double page spreads as the colour scheme reflects and creates mood.

REVIEW: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

18 Sep

This text is for the English student who wishes to demonstrate sophistication in his/her understanding of discovery.

The author provides a series of pictures which function as mysteries unsolved within the bounds of the text.  Accordingly, the onus is on us, the responders, to use our imaginations and discover meaning.  The openness of the images mean that the possibilities are endless and the process of discovery is ongoing.

The illustrations within this book are beautiful, and are easily interpreted by students once students have been given a vocabulary for decoding a visual text.  More capable students will marry the visuals with the words, noting humour and tone, using the language choices to enrich their interpretations.

Friday Fictioneers #15

17 Sep

My Friday Fictioneers post today is inspired by a conversation with a student.  His mother is very involved in his education and has mapped out an academic plan for him.  She has decided his career goal and the path he will take to get there.  Everything is planned.  The only problem is that my student does not quite share his mother’s vision.

Let me know what you think!

I wonder…

Represented geometrically, my life – past, present and future – resembles a grid.  Each side, each section, each milestone, sits flush against those around it.  The tyranny of this tessellation is that there is no space to breathe, to think, to be.

Circles would be okay.  They are still regular, still ordered.  Yet, they come with built-in breathing space.

In the gaps between the circles, my mind could meander, accumulating experiences with the steadfast determination of a dog rounding up sheep.

In these open spaces I could enact my preferred reality.

I wonder what it would be like

to wander


Discovering new related texts

17 Sep

I am on a mission to compile a list of related material for AOS Discovery that will engage my Standard English class.  My observation is that they respond better to texts they can see and hear  than they do to written ones.  Accordingly, I am focusing on short films and spoken word poetry.

Below are the examples I have identified so far and accompanying explanation:

  1. Out of Bounds‘ (animated short): This text tells the story of a man who experiences OCD and social anxiety.  As responders, we discover what life is like for people like him, and how relationships (in whatever form they take) can transform behaviour.  The man similarly discovers the power of relationships to transform behaviour, and the benefits that flow from taking risks.
  2. Origami‘ (animated short): In this story, the boy discovers within himself the transformative power of tradition and perseverance.
  3. Uri‘ (animated short): Not all discoveries are positive.  In this animation, the protagonist discovers what it is like to be lost and alone.
  4. Approved for Adoption‘ (film trailer): Discoveries about the self, others and the world.  Also canvases how these discoveries can lead to self-doubt and confusion.
  5. Brain divided‘ (animated short): Viewers gain insight into the minds of the characters, while the male character discovers the equilibrium between his two extremes of behaviour.
  6. Changing batteries‘ (animated short): Characters discover empathy and the accompanying range of emotions.

Any other suggestions for my class?

REVIEW: The Graveyard Book

15 Sep

I picked up Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book in a bid to find a novel that might appeal to my male students in Years 7 and 8.  I looked at the title, read the blurb, and resigned myself to the fact that I probably would not enjoy the book.

As it turns out, I was wrong.  I really enjoyed it!

The novel tells the story of a child who escapes the scene of a murder and seeks refuge in the local graveyard.  There he is adopted by the inhabitants of the graveyard who protect him against the man who murdered his family.

While the novel does allude to murder, death and the supernatural (all of which will appeal to my boys), Gaiman also does a superb job of weaving a tale filled with rich emotions and complex relationships.

Much like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I am using this novel to further my objective of encouraging my junior students to read more broadly (QUESTIONS – The Graveyard Book).

REVIEW: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

14 Sep

Sherman Alexie’s ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ is one of my favourite Young Adult texts.

The novel shares the experiences of Arthur Spirit Jr (aka ‘Junior’) on and beyond the Spokane Indian Reservation.  In doing so, it canvasses issues surrounding parenting, friendships, complex family dynamics, bullying, acceptance, risks and race.  Not only does this get students talking about these issues, but it will have them critically reflecting on their own circumstances and those of their friends.

Junior is an endearing protagonist with an engaging sense of humour.  It is impossible not to be sucked in by his frank narration style and the humorous accompanying cartoons.

My school does not have a class set of this novel and, as such, I have not had the opportunity to teach it.  However, I have used the first chapter as part of my personal crusade to convince my Years 7 and 8 students to read more widely (QUESTIONS – The Absolutely True Diary ).  Several of my students subsequently borrowed the book from the library.  All who read it loved it!