Archive | December, 2015

Human sentences

31 Dec

The syllabus requires us to engage in explicit teaching of grammar.  While I am reasonably confident integrating these skills and discussing then in relation to the texts we explore in class, I am also aware that some of my classes require additional assistance and instruction.  I am also aware that many of my classes who do need this kind of instruction are also classes that do not learn best when they are sitting on their bottoms facing the whiteboard.  As such, I am always on the lookout for interesting grammar games.

I know interesting grammar games sounds like it should be an oxymoron, but it does not have to be.  I have high hopes, for example, for grammar and punctuation bingo, and also for verbs and adverbs charades.  I am also interested in exploring an activity I discovered regarding the construction of human sentences.  In essence, this activity requires various coloured cards, each with the name of a part of speech or a visual representation of punctuation.  Using their cards to guide the audience, students begin by acting out a subject and verb combo.  The audience ‘reads’ the people.  From there, multiple subject and verb combos can be linked together using punctuation and conjunctions, allowing students to understand the relationship between clauses.

If I were using this in my class I would coordinate the colours of the cards to those students have in their pencil cases, allowing us to visually map what we embody and see on paper.  I would then use the same colour sequence as part of comprehension activities and when students are peer and self reviewing work.

Panel discussions

30 Dec

I have blogged previously about the ‘Circle of Viewpoints‘ activity and the possibility of using this activity to help students to understand the various perspectives and stakeholders relevant to a particular text or AOS.

Another approach is to have students participate in a panel discussion, assuming the roles of characters, interest groups or particular audiences.  While the circle of viewpoints works well when all students want to participate, a panel discussion might work better for a quieter class as it allows confident and outgoing students to act and the quieter students to listen.

Engaging with social and community concerns

29 Dec

Next year, one of my junior classes will explore how a selected social issue is represented in poetry and speeches.  I am keen to begin the unit by encouraging students to build their knowledge of this issue and engage with real world events.  To do this, I am going to provide students with a selection of newspaper articles about the chosen issue. Each student will select ONE article.  Each will then create a poem using only the language of the article, blacking out the words that are not relevant to their poem.

A variation on this activity is to furnish each table group with a selection of articles, scissors and glue, allowing students to cut out words from the articles and arrange them in the form of a poem.  This option would allow students to re-jig the order of language while also providing opportunities for students to meaningfully engage with the positioning of language on the page and the symbolic or aesthetic significance of font and colour.  Unlike the first option, this activity would also allow students greater freedom as it would not confine them to one specific event or situation.

‘Walk in my shoes’

28 Dec

I have been on the lookout for texts about empathy, understanding and walking in someone else’s shoes to build the field for a unit focussing on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  As part of my search I stumbled upon a collection of autobiographical reflections written by Muslim women.  The short reflections will hopefully help students to develop their abilities to see events/experiences from the perspectives of others.

Charades (verbs and adverbs edition)

27 Dec

I stumbled upon a fantastic idea for teaching verbs and adverbs.  In essence, after briefly defining verbs and adverbs, students participate in a game of charades.  The first benefit is that students have multiple opportunities to identify verbs and adverbs.  Other benefits include students building their vocabulary of verbs and adverbs, boosting their ability to identify these in other texts, and improving their ability to comment on the impact of the use of verbs and adverbs in familiar and unfamiliar texts.

Rules for an ideal community

26 Dec

A number of the texts that I am thinking about teaching next year engage with the interaction between individuals and their communities.  In order to understand that relationship, students will need to understand what a community is, how a community functions, and the benefits and detriments of belonging to a community.

To help students engage with this idea, I plan to encourage my students to think of the class as a small community.  As part of that process, students will have to assign roles to each other based on the needs of our learning community, and come up with a set of rules that will ensure the productive functioning of the learning community.

Pitch your own sitcom

25 Dec

In order to assist my students to articulate their knowledge of sitcoms as a genre, I am planning on asking them to compose letters to the Director of Programming of a major television network asking him/her to consider funding a new sitcom idea.  As part of their letter, students will have to identify the title of their sitcom, outline the premise and key characters, identify the purpose and intended, and explain how the component parts of the sitcom will serve the identified purpose and engage the identified audience.

Grammar and Punctuation Bingo

24 Dec

I am always on the lookout for ‘fun’ grammar and punctuation activities.  One such activity is grammar and punctuation bingo.  In essence, the teacher creates sets of bingo cards which direct students to locate certain grammatical features in a provided text.  This activity could be differentiated by providing each student/group of students with a different source text, thus allowing the teacher to adjust the complexity or length of the text.

REVIEW: Girl Underground

23 Dec

Girl Underground is the sequel to Morris Gleitzman’s novel Boy Overboard.  The novel explores the experiences of Bridget, a girl from a ‘criminal’ family who has recently started at a prestigious boarding school.  While at the school, Bridget befriends Menzies, the son of a government minister and a strong opponent of immigration detention policies.  Together, they hatch a plan to free Jamal and Bibi (the protagonists of Boy Overboard) from immigration detention.

This novel would be a great inclusion in a unit about identity, allowing students to explore how circumstances and experiences shape the way individuals self-represent and the ways others perceive them.

It would also be an interesting inclusion in a unit exploring community issues and advocacy.



Migrant voices and experiences

22 Dec

I am looking to collate a selection of resources for a Year 8 or 9 class about then migrant experience.  I am keen to begin our study with extracts from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, and then to follow-up with some non-fiction extracts.  In particular I am keen to have them listen to some audio accounts of arriving in and experiencing Australia. Then, in order to help them recognise that challenges and triumphs are not peculiar to the Australian experience, I might ask students to read accounts pertaining to British migrants.