Archive | March, 2015

Related text: ‘A search for one boy’

30 Mar

I am finding National Geographic to be a bit of a rabbit hole; I visit the site to find one thing and, 14 clicks later, 2 hours of my life have vanished.  I am not suggesting that this is a waste of time, it is not, however I think I do need to be conscious of my fascination with the articles and perhaps not visit the site while on a break from a task that has a strict deadline!

As part of my meandering, I found an interesting article entitled ‘Why my photo from Guinea sparked a soccer star’s search for one boy‘.  Like most articles in National Geographic, this one includes both words and pictures.  Much like the article I found yesterday, it is also suitable as a related text for Area of Studies in Years 11 and 12.

AOS Belonging (Year 11)

This text explores belonging to place, community, and family.  It explore represents these ideas through language and visuals.

As an interesting addition to the typical representation of belonging, the article discusses the way in which an image sparked a connection with a reader and how that reader is now trying to build a formal and helpful relationship of belonging with the community.

AOS Change (Year 11)

The article explores the changes (physical and emotional) that the community has undergone.  It also highlights the possibility of change in the future through partnership with individuals and organisations who wish to provide goods and support to the community.

The notion that an outside influence can change the trajectory of one’s life or the nature of one’s experience flags a possible point of connection with Looking for Alibrandi; in that text, three generations of women had their lives changed through the intervention of people outside their immediate communities.

AOS Discovery (Year 12)

The text enables readers to discover place and relationships.  The idea that discovery is linked to observation flags a possible point of connection to a number of Robert Gray’s poems (for example, ‘Late Ferry’).  Furthermore, the notion that discovery might facilitate change in the future links this text to Gray’s ‘Flames and Dangling Wire’; in both it is clear that some kind of intervention is necessary if trajectories are to be reversed.

Portraits of Strength

29 Mar

I stumbled upon this amazing series of photographs while looking for related texts for AOS Discovery to include in an unseen texts activity.  The photographs and blurbs that accompany them were so compelling that I could not help but brainstorm ways of using these in the classroom.

AOS Discovery (Year 12)

These images and the accompanying text can be used to explore the ways in which audiences are invited to make discoveries about people and communities. Students could, for example, explore the ways in which the framing and composition of the images help us to understand/discover the key characteristics of these women.  They could also then explore how language is used to tease out/explain those discoveries further.

For other AOS Discovery related text ideas click here.

Distinctively Visual (Standard, Year 12)

The photographs are particularly evocative of strength and culture.  This, coupled with the accessible language of the accompanying text, makes this a choice worth considering for a Standard English class.  This text lends itself particularly well to comparison with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; both texts explore gender, power and the way these concepts intersect with culture.

For other Distinctively Visual resources click here and here.

AOS Belonging  (Year 11)

The photographs indicate the significance of an individual to the photographer, while the text expands upon that connection and the connection (or disconnection) experienced by the photographic subject in relation to her community.

For other AOS Belonging related text ideas click here and here.

A unit on gender representation (Year 9 or 10)

I have long wanted to run a unit on the representation of women in literature and images.  I would be interested, for example, to show these images which celebrate women alongside texts which denigrate them, thus flagging the different attitudes towards women.  I would also be interested in looking at the language and having a discussion about the ways women are described and characterised.  In this article, for example, women are described as strong.  Students could then explore what this means and whether this term has different connotations when describing men.

For other resources on gender click herehere and here.

RELATED TEXT: ‘Yearbook’

25 Mar

I recently viewed an enlightening short film entitled ‘Yearbook‘.  The film details the experiences of a man who is trusted to chronicle human experience for all time.  The focus is on the names and faces that the protagonist elects to remember, and those which he is required to exclude from the record.

This film raises some interesting ideas about discovery.  In particular, it causes us to critically evaluate how discoveries are framed and represented, and to ask whether the discoveries we make are, in fact, complete or authentic.

It is also offers some interesting ideas about belonging.  Notably, I found myself asking: Who decided who belongs?  What criteria establishes belonging?  Why does one person belong but another doesn’t?

There are references in the film to change too, not least of all the idea that the significance (or relative significance) of a person changes in response to circumstances.

Prejudice as portrayed in pop culture

23 Mar

In their AOS Prejudice unit, my Year 10 students have focused their discussion on racism.  This is because racism is the form of prejudice that is most clearly demonstrated in Deadly, Unna?

However, I think it is important for students to understand that prejudice is not limited to race.  To illustrate this I want to show them a clip from the television show Empire.   This clip represents Jamal’s official coming out as juxtaposed with flashbacks depicting his father’s homophobic attitude.

Short story inspiration #4

14 Mar

The article which is inspiring today’s ‘Short story inspiration’ post is about the shortage of classrooms in NSW primary schools.

How could a student use this article as inspiration for an AOS Belonging story?

In a school environment students form a sense of belonging with their peers.  These relationships are often forged in the classroom.  Some classes becomes like families, others like soldiers in an army.  This got me thinking about how the relationships might tie in with common tropes in literature, film and television,  As such, inspired by this article, I would write a narrative in which students view a film/television show or read a book in class and humorously fail to recognise themselves reflected in the text.  This approach to the narrative has the benefit of presenting a complex portrait of belonging; we see the belonging within the classroom, the belonging within the viewed/read text, and the failure for the students to achieve a sense of belonging with their stimulus text.  Furthermore, if written well, the narrative also has the potential to offer a broader comment on the relationships between texts and responders.

How could a student use this article as inspiration for an AOS Change story?

This article had me wondering where students would learn if no more classrooms could be made available.  Would students be having outdoor lessons?  Would they be skyping in from separate campuses?  These questions got me thinking about a story which might explore how changes in learning environment caused changes in approaches to how students learn.  This narrative could be structured as a series of interconnected scenes which chart these changes.

How could a student use this article as inspiration for an AOS Discovery story?

If our current schools cannot physically accommodate the projected influx of students, then maybe the educational solution for the future is yet to be discovered.  How would we discover it?  What would it look like?  Who would be involved?

An alternate approach would be to use the school setting as the catalyst for discovery, following the journey of a student who discovers something amazing and/or life changing.

For other short story ideas see here, here and here.

‘The Silo’

11 Mar

I have stumbled upon another flash fiction challenge.  This one is called ‘Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers‘.  The word limit here is a bit longer and more flexible than ‘Friday Fictioneers’, but hopefully the quality of the feedback is just as good.  Below is the visual prompt followed by my 175 word story.



The Silo

Architects’ Digest called it a “masterpiece, a triumph of modern engineering, the embodiment of luxury.”

Us locals didn’t read Architects’ Digest.

Our local paper dubbed it the wheat silo.  Most of us thought this was a bit generous.  After all, wheat silos are useful, they store grain for a community.  This building did nothing useful.  It gave nothing back.  The owners didn’t even hire the locals to clean the silo’s overabundance of windows.

Yet, the name stuck.  We might not have been swayed by fancy words in Architects’ Digest, but the opinions expressed in the Gazette held weight.  Probably because these opinions were our own.

The Gazette was the voice of the town.  It spoke both for us and to us.  Thus, when Max’s boy wrote that we should boycott the silo we did so.

Ten years later and the silo remains perched on the jetty.  Now, the windows are caked in grime and the paint is cracked.

A ‘For Sale’ sign hangs out front.

Rumour has it that Max’s boy will make an offer.


Friday Fictioneers # 23

10 Mar

It is Friday Fictioneers time again!  I think I am just sneaking in before the deadline.  As per usual, the prompt can be found on Rochelle’s blog, and my contribution is below.  Enjoy!


Other couples whisper their pet names, intimately, affectionately.

Not us.

‘Honey’ denotes sweetness, ‘Pearl’ the colour of a smile.  ‘Sexy’ wears its message like a badge, as does ‘Gorgeous’.

He wants to be original

He calls me ‘Mushroom’.

It isn’t a comment on the shape of my bottom, an elaboration of my sentimental or mushy nature. It bears no correlation to my given name.

When he says it his voice deepens in warning, his tongue curls around the word, he spits out the syllables as if expelling a bad taste.

That bad taste is me.  I am fungus.  Says he.

REVIEW: Milkweed

10 Mar

I recently finished reading Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.  I read it with a view to recommending it to my Year 7 students who wanted to read more fiction about the Holocaust to supplement their study of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Generally speaking, I am a fan of Spinelli’s work.  There is a sparseness to his writing that adds an unexpected emotional punch.   In Milkweed he did not disappoint!

Milkweed tells the story of a young boy who lives in Warsaw during WWII.  This boy is presumed to be orphaned and has been surviving as a thief.  One day he falls in with a group of Jewish orphans who live in abandoned buildings, steal in order to eat, and must constantly avoid the Nazis.  It is from these children that the boy learns about Jews.

Fundamentally, this is a narrative about identity; a particularly poignant theme as in Nazi controlled Poland, it was identity that determined whether a person lived or died.  Over the course of the text we see the protagonist’s identity change – he begins as an orphaned thief, briefly takes on the identity of a gypsy, and then becomes all kinds of things to all kinds of people (I don’t want to be more specific as I don’t want to ruin the story).

I think this would be a great novel for my Year 7 students to read as it offers a very different (albeit still child-like) view of the Holocaust.  I would be especially interested to see how my students react to the protagonist’s naivety given their strong and incredibly negative view of Bruno’s naivety in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Short story inspiration #3

5 Mar

A little while ago I read an interesting article in The Australian about Sydney’s (allegedly) most notorious public housing block.  The article painted a shocking portrait of life in public housing, highlighting the violence, crime, and despair associated with that environment.  There were also allusions to small rays of hope for the future.

Consistently with my project to kick-start my students’ creative thinking by providing story starters, I have taken this article and come up with some suggestions for how it could be used as inspiration for short stories in a selection of different Areas of Study.

How could a student use this article as inspiration for an AOS Belonging story?

There is a tendency for students to assume that belonging is always positive and beneficial.  This article could be used as inspiration for exploring the darker side of belonging.  Perhaps the narrative could start with a depiction of a drug deal occurring in the shadowy corners of the block, positioning belonging as a transaction fueled by money and addiction.  The narrative could then spiral out, shedding a light on the different relationships of belonging facilitated (or thwarted) by the players in the original transaction.

How could a student use this article as inspiration for an AOS Change story?

The article suggests that the experience of people in this particular public housing block has not always been as bad as it is now.  Perhaps, then, a student could craft a narrative in which the changes in that particular block (both in terms of experiences and relationships) are charted through the experiences of multiple generations of the same family  or a series of tenants in the same apartment.  In that sense, the experiences of the individuals are used as a barometer for measuring community or social changes.

REVIEW: Number the Stars

4 Mar

My Year 7 class is studying The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and, as part of that unit, we have been discussing the Holocaust as well as actions taken to support the genocidal intentions of the Nazis and actions/attitudes which demonstrated hope and humanity.

Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars would be a great companion text to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, offering another perspective on the ways that people demonstrate humanity and bravery during one of the darkest periods in human history.

I loved the Lowry’s novel was told with a noticeable simplicity and clarity of language.  This ‘honest’ storytelling allows readers to focus on emotions and experiences.  In turn, this helps them to better understand the text.

I would like to give my Year 7 class an extract from this text and ask them to compare narrative voice and themes with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.  I think this will help them to clarify some of the peculiarities of their set text while also gaining a broader understanding of the Holocaust.