Archive | March, 2016

Pairs of texts

31 Mar

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about interesting textual pairings for study as part of a comparative unit.  Many of my ideas are not suitable for my school context or the ability levels of my classes.  However, I do think that, in the right contexts and with the right classes, all could form the basis of interesting and engaging units.

  1. A Lesson Before Dying (novel) & To Kill a Mockingbird (film)
  2. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Freedom Writers (film)
  3. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  4. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Schindler’s List (film)
  5. Americanah (novel) & selected episodes of Black-ish (television series)
  6. A Monster Calls (novel) & Boy (film)
  7. A Monster Calls (novel) & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)
  8. Anzac Girls (television series) & Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon (poetry)
  9. Bad Feminist (collection of essays) & For Colored Girls (film)
  10. Brave New World (novel) & The Crucible (play)
  11. Brave New World (novel) & Never Let Me Go (film)
  12. Brave New World (novel) & V for Vendetta (film)
  13. Briar Rose (novel) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  14. Briar Rose (novel) & Lion (film)
  15. Briar Rose (novel) & Night (autobiography)
  16. Briar Rose (novel) & Schindler’s List (film)
  17. Deadline (novel) & Dead Poets Society (film)
  18. Deadline (novel) & The Fault In Our Stars (film)
  19. Deadline (novel) & The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film)
  20. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  21. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Hairspray (film)
  22. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Invictus (film)
  23. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Remember the Titans (films)
  24. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  25. El Deafo (graphic novel) & The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel)
  26. Etiquette and Espionage (novel) & Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (film)
  27. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & After the Storm (film)
  28. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & 11’09’01 (collection of short films)
  29. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & Lion (film)
  30. Face (novel) & The Intouchables (film)
  31. Fahrenheit 451 (novel) & Persepolis (graphic novel or film)
  32. Fahrenheit 451 (novel) & V For Vendetta (film)
  33. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf (choreopoem) & Mustang (film)
  34. Frankenstein (novel) & Frankenweenie (film)
  35. Frankenstein (novel) & Never Let Me Go (film)
  36. Frankenstein (novel) & The Rocky Horror Picture Show (film)
  37. Girl Rising (film) & Poetry of Maya Angelou (poetry)
  38. Hamlet (play) & Nutshell (novel)
  39. Hiroshima (novel) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  40. Life of Pi (novel) & Castaway (film)
  41. Lord of the Flies (novel) & Where the Wild Things Are (film)
  42. Lord of the Flies (novel) & The Hunger Games (film)
  43. Macbeth (play) & Selected episodes of Designated Survivor (television series)
  44. Macbeth (play) & The Dressmaker (film)
  45. Macbeth (play) & The Gods of Wheat Street (television series)
  46. Maus (graphic novel) & A Long Way Gone (memoir)
  47. Maus (graphic novel) & Night (autobiography)
  48. Maus (graphic novel) & Schindler’s List (film)
  49. March (novel) & Little Wome(novel)
  50. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (novel) & The Fault in Our Stars (film)
  51. Night (autobiography) & A Long Way Gone (memoir)
  52. Night (autobiography) & Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography)
  53. Night (autobiography) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  54. Night (autobiography) & Schindler’s List (film)
  55. Night (autobiography) & The Seven Stages of Grieving (play)
  56. Nona and Me (novel) & Looking for Alibrandi (film)
  57. Nona and Me (novel) & September (film)
  58. Of Mice and Men (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  59. Othello (play) & V For Vendetta (film)
  60. Othello (play) & Gone Girl (film)
  61. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  62. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Lion (film)
  63. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Maus (graphic novel)
  64. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Night (autobiography)
  65. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Schindler’s List (film)
  66. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Bride and Prejudice (film)
  67. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Bridget Jones’s Diary (film)
  68. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Mustang (film)
  69. Refugee Boy (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  70. Refugee Boy (novel) & The African Doctor (film)
  71. Refugee Boy (novel) & The Arrival (picture book)
  72. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Alex and Eve (film)
  73. Romeo & Juliet (play) & A United Kingdom (film)
  74. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Freedom Writers (film)
  75. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Hairspray (film)
  76. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Meet the Patels (film)
  77. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Mustang (film)
  78. Romeo & Juliet (play) & My Big Fat Greek Wedding (film)
  79. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Tanna (film)
  80. Romeo & Juliet (play) & The Fault in Our Stars (film or novel)
  81. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Titanic (film)
  82. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Viceroy’s House (film)
  83. Romeo & Juliet (play) & West Side Story (film)
  84. Scattered Lives (play) & Americannah (novel)
  85. Scattered Lives (play) & Freedom Writers (film)
  86. Scattered Lives (play) & Looking for Alibrandi (novel)
  87. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Peter Skrzynecki (poetry)
  88. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Selina Nwulu (poetry)
  89. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Warsan Shire (poetry)
  90. Schindler’s Ark (novel) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  91. Speak (novel) & For Colored Girls (film)
  92. Stargirl (novel) & Wadjda (film)
  93. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  94. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (memoir) & Queen of Katwe (film)
  95. The Color Purple (novel) & For Colored Girls (film)
  96. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel) & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)
  97. The Dreamer (novel) & Billy Elliot (film)
  98. The First Third (novel) & Boy (film)
  99. The Fault in Our Stars (novel) & Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (film)
  100. The Help (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  101. The Help (novel) & Remember the Titans (film)
  102. The Help (novel) & The Blindside (film)
  103. The Outsiders (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  104. The Outsiders (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  105. The Outsiders (novel) & Yolngu Boy (film)
  106. The Rabbits (picture book) & Deadly, Unna? (novel)
  107. The Rabbits (picture book) & Poetry of Oodgeroo Noonuccal (poetry)
  108. The Rabbits (picture book) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  109. The Scarlet Letter (novel) & Easy A (film)
  110. The Skull Beneath the Skin (novel) & The Real Inspector Hound (play)
  111. The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  112. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (novel) & Hamlet (play or film)
  113. The Kite Runner (novel) & Big Fish (film)
  114. The Kite Runner (novel) & Boy (film)
  115. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  116. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Hairspray (film)
  117. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Poetry of Langston Hughes (poetry)
  118. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Remember the Titans (film)
  119. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  120. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & The Blindside (film)
  121. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & The Help (film)
  122. To This Day (graphic novel) & Wonder (novel)
  123. To This Day (graphic novel) & Face (novel)
  124. Vernon God Little (novel) & Elephant (film)
  125. Voices from Chernobyl (non-fiction) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  126. War Horse (film) & Poetry of Wilfred Owen (poetry).

Discussing Depression

28 Mar

As evident by my previous posts on issues such as domestic violence, gender inequality and sustainability, I feel that the English syllabus offers teachers and students unique opportunities to engage with real world issues that impact individuals and communities.

While looking for related material for an upcoming unit, I came across a short film entitled Terrance which explores an adolescent’s experience of post traumatic stress disorder and depression.  I’m not sure which of my existing units I could put this documentary in (I might have to come up with a new unit to teach next year), but I think my Year 10 students in particular would find the honesty and openness of Terrance’s account fascinating.  I also think it would pave the way for some meaningful and productive discussion about mental health issues within our community.

’32 Failed TV Pilots Based On Classic Poems’

27 Mar

While looking for material for a poetry unit for my juniors, I stumbled upon an awesome list entitled ‘32 Failed TV Pilots Based on Classic Poems‘.  As suggested by the title,  the list contains 32 examples of TV show titles/episode names cleverly linked to popular classic poems.

I am yet to come up with a good idea for using this list in the classroom, however it made me smile so I am sharing it here!

REVIEW: ‘The First Third’

26 Mar

Until recently, I had not heard of Will Kostakis.  In fact, my decision to read his novel The First Third was an ‘anti-boycott’, a response to a much publicised decision by a school to revoke an invitation for Kostakis to address their students in light of the coming out announcement made by Kostakis on his blog.  To me, the school’s decision made little sense.  After all, Kostakis was to address students about his novel not his private life.

I am very glad I was prompted to purchase and read The First Third because it is a fantastic book!  The novel is a coming of age text, following the experiences of Billy as he navigates the complexities of school, love, family and friendship.

In this text, Kostakis does a fantastic job of representing the diversity and complexity of our worlds: for example, Billy and his family are Greek, Billy’s best friend Lucas is gay and has cerebral palsy, and Billy’s mother is a single mum.  The text also features an opinionated grandmother, and a family divided by interests and distance. To me, this world seems far more ‘real’ than some of the cookie-cutter type families represented in YA fiction and, I suspect, will thus resonate better with my students.

Power, prejudice and social institutions

18 Mar

I am really struggling with how to help my students to appreciate the complexities of power as a concept.  I am particularly keen to help my students understand that power can be wielded by institutions and that the prejudices of a community can render particular individuals or groups powerless.

The obvious choice to prove this point would be Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  However, I cannot use extracts from this as a related text as other classes are studying it.  As such, I have been looking for an alternative.  At the moment, the best alternative I have found is an excerpt from A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.  As in To Kill a Mockingbird, institutionalised racism means that an African American man must pay (with his life) for a crime perpetrated against a white man.

The excerpt is also interesting as it engages with the power that fear (caused by circumstances and appreciation of social realities) can have over an individual.

 

Understanding strength

17 Mar

I think it is important that students come to understand that literature is not simply created by Westerners.  It is also important for students to learn to value literary texts that speak to experiences and places that are unfamiliar to them.

With these principles in mind, I want my students to read and discuss Chenjerai Hove’s poem ‘The Strength of the Republic‘.  The poem engages with the concept of strength, and seeks to shift the focus from strength as demonstrated in physical and violent terms.

This poem offers students an opportunity to reflect upon the notion that power can be measured in ways that have nothing to do with physicality.  Indeed, it is this kind of discussion that will help to make my students conceptual thinkers.

Talking about power

16 Mar

I want my Year 10 students to understand that power relationships are complex, that language has power, and that individuals can be empowered by the act of sharing their experiences.

To demonstrate this to them, I think I want to show them extracts of an interview with Hanna Jansen, author of Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You.   As noted previously on this blog, Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You is a text about the Rwandan genocide.   The depth of discussion that could be triggered by Jansen’s interview is epitomised in the quote below:

“She felt an urgent need to tell about her witnessing the murder of her mother and her brother, so she spoke about it again and again. It seemed to me as if she wanted to free herself from the terrible nightmares that drove her out of bed at night.”

In this quote, we learn about the deaths of a young girl’s mother and brother.  Here, the word “witnessing” positions the girl as weak, defenceless, powerless.  Indeed, she is characterised as a helpless spectator.  Yet, unlike her mother and brother, she is alive.  In this sense, she possesses power to memorialise and commemorate them.  Furthermore, it would be interesting to discuss the power the past has over the girl, and whether or not that power manifests in the same ways over the course of the girl’s life.

Voicing concerns about the environment

15 Mar

Selina Nwulu is London’s newest Young Poet Laureate and contributes a powerful voice to conversations about the relationship between climate change and race.

Of particular interest is Nwulu’s poem ‘Home is a Hostile Lover‘ which engages with the consequences of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta.

The first stanza, entitled ‘Remember’, includes a series of rhetorical questions, each reflecting upon the Delta waters prior to the discovery of oil; “Remember when our Delta waters were clean? / How we watched our faces in rivers / And chased fish with our bare hands?”  The stanza continues by personifying the Delta; “Remember before Delta had its throat slit / And bled its oily pipes into soil, / When we hummed words into the water / And it would laugh and sing back?”  In doing so, Nwulu renders the environment human and, in turn, characterises the oil companies as monstrous.

The poem is a haunting and evocative depiction of the scars – personal, social and environmental – caused by the actions of oil companies and, implicitly, those who rely on the oil without considering how the oil is sourced and produced.

 

 

REVIEW: ‘The House on Mango Street’

13 Mar

I recently read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  The House on Mango Street is an acclaimed coming of age novel that explores Esperanza Cordero’s experiences in her neighbourhood.  The text addresses the emotional spectrum of the coming of age journey, highlighting moments of joy, sadness, belonging and pain.

One of the things I found most interesting about this text was the way it showed that an individual’s coming of age journey does not occur in isolation.  Indeed, Esperanza’s journey intersects with those of others in her community.

Extracts of this text would be interesting to use as introductory material to a a ‘Coming of Age’ unit.  They could also be used as stimulus for creative writing, used as models for students to depict significant moments in their own coming of age journeys.

Representing racism

11 Mar

Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem ‘No Problem‘ offers an interesting and nuanced representation of how racism is demonstrated in our society.

At the most basic levels, racism is demonstrated through verbal slurs and physical actions.  This is evidenced when the persona notes that he is the victim “Of silly playground taunts / An racist stunts.”  I fully expect students to understand these methods of demonstrating racism.  Unfortunately, the reality of our world is that many of my culturally and religiously diverse students will have inevitably found themselves victims of racist comments and discriminatory actions.

It is important too for students to understand that racism can be demonstrated in other ways too.  Including, for example, limiting a person’s opportunities due to stereotyped understandings of that person’s race or culture.  This is apparent in the poem when the persona juxtaposes his intelligence, “I am a born academic,” and society’s assumption that he would make a good sportsman, “Now I am branded athletic.”   In this way, the poem teaches teenagers that relying upon stereotypes can result in the erosion of an individual’s identity and a denial of the characteristics that the individual wishes to privilege and nurture.