Archive | October, 2014

Tempting students to study The Tempest

31 Oct

As all English teachers know, many students find it difficult to understand and engage with Shakespeare’s plays.

One way to ease students into the study is to show them trailers for various productions of the text, encouraging them to identify key characters and themes.

For students studying The Tempest as part of AOS Discovery, an exploration of selected film trailers (here and here, for example) with an emphasis on setting, lighting and music, might help them to critically engage with the text and some of the more obvious elements of discovery.

Abstract portraits

29 Oct

As noted previously, my Year 7 students are looking at heroes, heroism, and how heroic qualities are represented. In order to stimulate their creativity and prompt some deep thinking, I posed this quest as their settling/’do now’ activity:  Imagine that you were creating an abstract portrait of a hero in The Princess Bride, what colours, textures and shapes would you include and why? The idea is that students reflect on the way qualities can be represented through different media.

Friday Fictioneers #18

28 Oct

It took me ages to come up with an idea for the prompt!  I’m still not convinced that it works.  Let me know what you think!


Images tumble onto my screen daily.  With each ‘like’ my life intertwines with another.

I know you didn’t approve.  But I know of no other way.

When you left there was no wall on which I could type my grief, no timeline which chronicled your existence.

So, I made you one.

Offline, of course.

A series of photographs, arranged in a chronology of your life, now sit on a low wall at your favourite spot.  Each is captioned, dated, and accompanied by commentary written by friends.  Over time, others have added their observations.

If you were here, you’d like it.

Remember the order

28 Oct

Both my Year 9 classes are viewing Remember the Titans.

Often my lower ability class gets so engrossed in any film that we watch that they lose any sense of chronology.  In order to assist them, I typically give them a series of stills from the film and ask them to (1) identify what happened in each still, and (2) place them in the correct order.

For the stronger students, I also ask them to identify any key events that they think are missing and place those events in the appropriate places in the chronology.

This activity also lends itself to a film techniques focus.  For weaker students, ask them to match the name of a camera angle, the definition and the still.  For stronger students, simply provide a list of camera angles and tell students that some angles will be used more than once and others not at all.


REVIEW: Theodore Boone

27 Oct

I am a huge fan of John Grisham’s novels.  In fact, it was his legal thrillers (in conjunction with John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey books) that inspired my childhood desire to be a lawyer.

While I often recommend Grisham’s novels to my older students, the language and themes of his texts are often a bit much for my junior students.  The exception, of course, is Grisham’s Theodore Boone series which was written for younger readers.

In response to a request for ‘something with a boy main character’, I am introducing my Year 7 students to the first of Grisham’s Theodore Boone series.  As per usual (see, for example, herehere, and here), I am going to test drive this novel on my students by giving them the first chapter and an accompanying set of questions (QUESTIONS – Theodore Boone).

Musical heroes

26 Oct

My Year 7 class is studying a unit entitled ‘Heroes’.  As part of this unit they are watching The Princess Bride.

For their assessment, they  will select ONE character from the film that they view as heroic and create a short (30 second to 2 minute) piece of music that represents the heroic qualities of their chosen characters.  They will then be required to explain how their composition represents the heroism of their chosen character.

The hope is that my students will be forced to critically reflect on how one represents heroic qualities.

Diagramming experiences

14 Oct

My Year 10 class is about to commence a unit with ‘experiences’ as the conceptual focus.

As part of our first class, we will discuss the idea that one’s experiences in the world can be represented and reflected in a range of ways.  Students will be tasked with identifying these modes and representing them diagrammatically.  The complexity of conveying these ideas in diagram form will be amplified by requiring students to acknowledge the relationships between these modes of representation and reflection.

REVIEW: Etiquette and Espionage

13 Oct

I recently read Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger.  I selected it as it struck me as an example of a book with a strong and inquisitive female protagonist.  I was not disappointed!

The story follows the life of adventurous and curious Sophronia who is sent off to finishing school.  Her mother presumes that finishing school will turn Sophronia into a young lady.  She is completely unaware that it will furnish Sophronia with a set of far more exciting skills!

As per usual (see, for example, here and here), I am going to test drive this novel on my students by giving them the first chapter and an accompanying set of questions (QUESTIONS – Etiquette and Espionage).

Friday Fictioneers #17

12 Oct

It is Friday Fictioneers time  again!  The prompt can be found here, and my contribution can be found below.


For years the filing cabinet sat awkwardly in the space.  My skirt caught on the corners as I walked by, my chair scraped the metal surface when I sat to play the piano.

I wondered what was in it, but never asked; the contents were his to share.

He never did.

I considered jimmying the lock.

I never did.

One day he left; wedding band and key on the table.

That day I sat on the floor of the music room, back to the filing cabinet and cried.  The cymbals sat in my line of vision.

It struck me.

Parts of speech

12 Oct

My Year 7 class is about to start a unit entitled ‘Heroes’.  Our focus text is the film version of The Princess Bride, however I hope to supplement it with some picture books and non-fiction texts.

Before we view the film, it is important that my students have an understanding of heroes and what they do.  As a starter activity, I am going to ask them to participate in a think, pair and share.  This is no ordinary think, pair and share!  Instead of simply listing what they know about heroes, students will be required to organise their ideas according to the parts of speech.  Accordingly, they will need to find nouns, verbs and adjectives that relate to heroes.  In this way, they will build a vocab for discussing heroes and heroic behaviour over the course of our unit.