Archive | June, 2018

Extension Activity #3

30 Jun

It is important for students to have a keen awareness of purpose and audience.  As such, it could be interesting to have students re-imagine their set text in a different form for a new audience.  What would Romeo and Juliet look like, for example, as a suite of poetry for a teenage audience?  What would The Dreamer look like as a picture book designed for a year 1 student?


Extension Activity #2

29 Jun

Another possible extension activity is to have students create a writing portfolio in response to a text studied in class.  They might, for example, a letter to the editor to defend particular language/textual choices, create a travel brochure related to the novel’s setting, and also write a series of diary entries that enable examination of characters’ innermost thoughts.

A suite of writing would allow students to express themselves in different forms, thus adding interest.  Additionally, it would allow me to differentiate, easily, thus enhancing the capacity of each student to express him/herself.

Extension Activity #1

28 Jun

I teach a number of talented junior students who are in need of extension.  As such, I am making it my mission to devise some interesting activities that will help them to hone their skills and continue to foster their love of English.

One possibility is to have students script and record a serialised radio play/podcast linked to the text we are studying in class.  Students could, for example, re-imagine the text from a new perspective, branch off into the experiences of a secondary character or create the prequel.

This activity has the benefit of being a sustained project, something that can play out (pun intended) over the course of a semester and be presented to the class as an end of term activity.  It also has the potential to foster collaboration, with students working together to script and voice the various characters.


King Henry IV

27 Jun

Teaching King Henry IV, Part 1?  If so, you might find this Youtube overview a good way to introduce the landscape of the text to your students!

Textual Interventions

24 Jun

I am looking to introduce the concept of textual interventions to my senior students.  In essence, a textual intervention is a form of tweaking or re-imagining of an element of a narrative and then critically reflecting on the choices made.  It may, for example, involve identifying a gap, silence or absence, or shifting context, genre or perspective.

As a way in, I thought I would show students this article entitled ‘Classic Horror Films Remade as Rom-Coms.’  I think this might be useful and fun way to show how a text’s core ideas can be re-imagined in new context to reveal new understandings of the world.


20 Jun

I have been reading a lot of book reviews recently.  It struck me that the point of a review is to offer enough information to entice one to read the text, but not so much information that the entire plot is explained.  This got me thinking, could I use this as a tool to trigger students’ creativity?  Could they re-view or re-imagine the original text by exploiting the gaps in the plot left when a text is reviewed? For example, could I use extracts from this review of Colm Toibin’s ‘Sleep’ to as stimulus for students’ gothic compositions?

I am excited to give this a go!

‘The Exile’

19 Jun

My Year 8 class recently looked at ‘The Exile‘ by Michael Wasson as part of a unit exploring Indigenous rights and experiences.

Students were given the opportunity to unpack the poem in small groups before we examined it together as a class.  As they engaged with this process, I could not help but be impressed by the sophistication of their insights.  A summary version of some of their questions and comments is captured below:

  • Does the intermittent inclusion of the speaker’s native language symbolise the fragmented identity of the speaker?  Is he torn between two worlds?
  • How can the speaker be exiled but also present?  Is it a metaphor for not belonging?  It is a comment on Native Americans’ experiences in society – they are physically present but do not feel part of the broader American community?
  • The translations are included at the conclusion of the text as a means of helping us navigate the poem.  As English speakers, the poem challenges us and makes us feel disconnected in a way that mirrors the troubled relationship between Native Americans and American society.

It was super exciting to see my Year 8 students grapple with some of these big ideas, and passionately advocate for their understanding in a small group setting.

I am also excited to see how they might draw connections between this poem and poetry about the Aboriginal experience.  Will they see a certain universality of experience?  Will they recognise the voice of the marginalised?


Representing Tasks

9 Jun

One of the modes typically assessed in the English classroom is representing.  Recent discussions regarding assessments at school have started me thinking about creative, engaging and meaningful ways to have students represent their understanding of texts and concepts set for study.  Some ideas are below:

  • Students select four small props or symbols representative of the key ideas in a text.  These are used as the focal point of a speech/tutorial presentation.  One prop selected by a student studying Othello, for example, might be a pair of reading glasses.  This could be used to flag discussion of Othello’s desire for “ocular proof” of his wife’s alleged infidelity, a punning allusion to Othello’s inability to ‘see’ Iago for who he truly is, and/or a link to how the omniscient audience ‘sees’ and understands Othello’s downfall.
  • Students create a poster advocating for the social change desired by the poets/authors whose texts have been studied during the unit.  Students then present their poster, explaining how the poster (a) responds to the texts and issues set for study, and (b) demonstrates their own commitment to the focus issue.
  • Students invent and pitch a product to represent their knowledge of persuasive devices and advertising techniques.
  • Students craft a metaphor or simile to explain and represent a concept set for study.  Then, they create a presentation explaining how that metaphor or simile can be used to explore their set text(s).

Getting Creative

2 Jun

While I am realistic that not all my students will love my subject, I nonetheless work hard to try maximise the number of students who leave my class with an interest in reading, writing and learning.  To this end I have been getting creative when trying to engage students, validate their skills, and make them feel valued.

For some of my students, I recommend their participation in a particular activity or competition because I think their talents make them likely to succeed.  Others I encourage to participate as I want to help them develop confidence, and some students just have so much enthusiasm for reading and writing that every opportunity to display their knowledge and engage creatively is welcomed.

Thus far, I have had students compete in external poetry and prose writing competitions and a poetry slam.  I have also seen some students create blogs and participate in Friday Fictioneers, write reviews for the blog run by the school book club, participate in debating competitions and demonstrate the courage to share their writing with their peers.  It has been so exciting to be a witness to their enthusiasm!