Archive | May, 2015

“Being a man is more than being male”

30 May

I mentioned in my previous post that one of the things that I like about Tupac’s ‘Dear Mama’ is that the son’s admiration for his mother reveals a softer, more perceptive side of masculinity than is usually showcased in pop culture.

In my ‘Poetic representations of gender’ unit I want to follow ‘Dear Mama’ with Amir  Sulaiman’s spoken word poem ‘She said‘ (see also here).  In this poem, the male speaker shows great empathy for the female experience, admiration for his mother’s sacrifices when raising him, and insight into the role of men in our society.  As flagged by the title of the this post, I am particularly taken by the line in which the poet proclaims “I know being a man is more than being male, and I’m focused on doing it right.”  The idea that men have important roles to play in relationships, families and society is a message that students should hear and internalize.

Gender across generations

29 May

As you know, I have been working on putting together a unit which explores poetic representations of gender (see here, here and here).  After searching for ages, I am finally starting to make headway on the final section of poems.

After exploring Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman,’ I am going to introduce students to ‘Mother to Son‘ by Langston Hughes.  As suggested by the name, the poem explores a mother’s message to her son.  The mother has had a difficult life but has persevered, she exhorts her son to do the same.   The central metaphor of the poem is sufficiently sophisticated to interest my students, but not so complex that they don’t understand it.  In terms of gender, it also reveals that women are resilient and strong.

Upon the suggestion of a colleague, I am considering teaching Tupac’s ‘Dear Mama‘ (video clip) alongside ‘Mother to Son’.  Again, the focus is on the relationship between mother and son.   Again, the mother in the poem has had a difficult life.  Tupac’s admiration is clear, once again emphasising that women are strong and able to overcome adversity.  As an added benefit, my showcasing the son’s admiration, we also see a softer side to masculinity.

Scattered Lives

23 May

I recently came across a play entitled Scattered Lives by Sally McKenzie.  The play presents the stories of refugees who seek refuge in Australia, and explores the reasons and circumstances which cause people to flee their homes and settle in Australia.

The play is written in simple and clear language which makes it particularly suitable for a lower ability class, and it would allow students to get their heads around dramatic techniques without being confused by overly complex story lines.

Ideally, I would like to teach this play to a lower ability Year 10 class.  In this imagined world, this text would be the focal point of the unit, with selected pieces of related material chosen to illuminate ideas and reinforce the idea that texts are studied in connection with others.

However, as this is a text that is not one we currently have at school, I think I would likely be forced to select just one scene or story and incorporate it into a different unit.  In this sense, the extract from Scattered Lives would become related material.  While this would reduce students’ access to a rich text, it is not necessarily a bad thing.  Indeed, I could see an extract being a valuable addition to my unit entitled ‘Visions of Australia‘.

Feminist poets

20 May

Further to earlier posts about searching for poems for a Year 10 poetry unit about poetic representations of gender, I recently came across a list outlining 10 important feminist poets and their key contributions to the field of poetry.   I was relieved to see that Maya Angelou and her poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’ make this list.  As noted in a previous post, I am seriously considering teaching this poem to my Year 10 class, and I am glad to have my belief in its relevance to the unit confirmed.

Introduction to literary techniques

15 May

In order to write analytical essays, students must be able to identify literary techniques and explain the effect of composer’s decision to utilise techniques.

HANDOUT – Identifying techniques is intended to introduce students to the relationship between techniques and meaning.  The format and premise of this worksheet is adaptable to any type of text, any topic and any age group.  This particular sheet was constructed for capable junior classes who completed it individually, in small groups or as part of a whole class discussion depending on need and familiarity with literary techniques.

‘Phenomenal Woman’

14 May

I think I have found the first poem to include in my Poetic Representations of Gender unit for Year 10.  What is it?  Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman‘.

This poem would be a great one to use at the start of the unit.  First, the language is accessible.  This is particularly important given the composition and demonstrated ability levels of students in my class.  Secondly, there is easily identifiable poetic techniques (including rhyme) which will enable my weaker students to participate, and thirdly there is sufficient depth to the poem that my stronger students can engage more deeply through guided extension activities.

In terms of gender representation, I like that the poem presents us with an empowered female speaker.  In my male dominated Year 10 class, I think it is particularly important that my female students see an empowered representation of womanhood, and that (many of) my male students have their perceptions of femininity challenged.

Poems that pack a serious feminist punch

13 May

While searching for poetry with a feminist stance, I stumbled upon this Huffington Post article (‘I think she was a she,’ which I mentioned yesterday, rates a mention).  While many of these poems are not suitable for classroom use, they are nonetheless an interesting resource to have up one’s sleeve when guiding students to think critically and creatively about what feminist poetry might look and sound like.

Hip Hop or Shakespeare? (answer keys)

12 May

I was recently asked for an answer key to my ‘Hip Hop or Shakespeare?’ worksheets.  Those answer keys are attached below:

Representations of Gender in Poetry

12 May

I am keen to explore poetic representations of gender with my Year 10 class.   I am particularly keen to explore representations of women in poetry, not least of all because we have spent much of the year thus far learning about male characters in texts composed by men.

However, I am finding it difficult to select poems that offer interesting representations of gender without touching on subjects that are either not considered to be age appropriate, or would be seen by parents as pushing an agenda contrary to the religious/cultural/community beliefs of my students’ families.  For example, I would love to show my class ‘I think she was a she‘ by Leyla Josephine, pairing it with ‘The Mother‘ by Gwendolyn Brooks’.  However, I am not convinced, given what I know about my students’ backgrounds, that parents would be comfortable with their 15 and 16 years old children studying poetry that explores abortion.

As such, and as much as it limits my ability to encourage students to engage with a broad range of gendered perspectives and experiences, I think I am going to need to keep looking.

Differentiated instruction

11 May

As we all know, it is important to differentiate instruction to ensure that all students can access course content.  Sometimes differentiation involves simply sitting with a student and explaining the task differently.  Other times, it involves a separate set of worksheets.  See, for example, HANDOUT – Connecting paragraphs.

In the example above, most students complete the first handout (Handout 06) with various amounts of assistance.  My weaker students and some of my ESL students complete the second handout (Handout 06A).  My strongest students complete the first handout and then build on their knowledge from previous extension activities by completing the third handout (Handout 06B).