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So… I had to teach a music class

29 Oct

As regular followers of this blog know, I am an English teacher.  Last week I had to take a one-off junior music class.

This class did not have sufficient work left to keep them occupied for the lesson.  I do not have any music knowledge.  So, in a blind panic, I created a new game: musical charades.  This game worked exactly like normal charades, except that students were confined to the categories of band, song title and instrument.  To my complete surprise the lesson worked beautifully – students were engaged and motivated!

The success of this activity got me thinking about whether I could adapt the game for use in a junior English class.  Perhaps the focus could be on book or film titles.

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Exciting new pairings!

23 Oct

My list of suggested textual pairings now includes over 140 options!

I have tried to incorporate texts that schools may have already, pairing them with new options to renew student and teacher interest.

I have also incorporated some texts that may not be classroom staples but, in my view, should be!

If you have any additional suggestions, or have tried some of these options in your classroom, please let me know!

No Safe Place

5 Aug

As part of a mission to revitalise the English Department’s Book Room I have been reading a lot of teen fiction, hoping to be able to make recommendations as to which texts we should purchase.  As part of this process, I recently read No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis.

I think this novel would be a fantastic choice for a Year 7 or 8 class, potentially as part of units engaging with identity, refugees, migrations, survival, relationships or choice.  It follows the experiences of a group of young people fleeing danger, war and abuse, and seeking safety in England.  The text weaves between past and present, allowing for a nuanced understanding of characters and their situations.

Have Your Say

15 Jul

It is important for students to hone their speaking skills and develop their confidence in contributing to class discussion.   To do this I have developed a scaffold that helps students to structure and organise their responses.

The scaffold requires students to address the following points:

  • Issue
  • Why is this issue important?
  • Reason #1 – Why is it important/relevant to you?
  • Reason #2 – Why is it important/relevant to your community/country?
  • Reason #3 – Why is it important/relevant to the world?

For weaker students, I can supplement this scaffold with relevant persuasive language and, possibly, sentence starters.

 

‘Refugee Boy’

12 Mar

I have just finished reading Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy.

Despite some initial concerns that Refugee Boy would be simply another variation on Boy Overboard or Girl Underground, I found myself hooked from the outset.  I think my interest was stimulated by the text’s opening – a short outline of a mixed-race family’s experiences in Ethiopia, followed by an almost identical incident, this time in Eritrea.  I found this to be a very effective way of illustrating the complexities of that family’s situation and in illustrating the challenges faced during times of war.

I think this would be an interesting text to study in Years 7 or 8 in a unit with a focus on identity.  Indeed, the text deals with the tensions between self-characterisation and social identification.

It would also be worthy of inclusion in a ‘Coming of Age’ unit as it charts both the protagonist’s growing awareness of his social surrounds as well as his community’s growing awareness of the political and social landscapes in which they exist.

It would also be interesting to study this text in a unit about migration or refugee experiences, perhaps in combination with Boy OverboardGirl UndergroundThe Arrival and/or some newspaper clippings.

‘Boys Without Names’

4 Mar

I recently read Kashmira Sheth’s Boys Without Names and loved it! I think it appealed as it is a narrative about resilience, strength, friendship and family.  In this text, Gopal is separated from his family and has to survive in challenging circumstances.  He also needs to be build relationships with a group of boys in the same predicament as himself.

I think this text would be particularly well suited to a Year 7 or 8 class.

‘Ha’penny’

1 Feb

I recently read Alan Paton’s short story ‘Ha’penny‘.  Although told simply, it is a profoundly moving narrative about a young boy’s desire for acceptance, belonging and a family of his own.

This would be an interesting text to study as part of a unit about identity; students could focus on how individuals construct themselves in relation to others.

It would also be interesting to study in relation to belonging.  There, the focus would be on the yearning for acceptance, the lengths gone to create connections and the circumstances in which belonging is achieved.

In addition, the text offers an interesting perspective on journeys, offering opportunities for students to explore the journeys of Ha’penny, the narrator and Mrs Maarman.

Speaking skills

27 Jan

A recent discussion regarding how to prepare for a public speaking competition got me thinking about the importance of being able to verbally communicate ideas with clarity.

With this in mind, I am toying with providing some of my junior classes with a speaking topic when they enter the class room.  They will have the first three minutes of the lesson to silently brainstorm ideas and map out a one minute speech.  I will then pick two students at random to present.

I think this activity will be valuable as a settling activity.  I also think it will be useful to help students build clarity and confidence in preparation for later speaking tasks and life in general.

 

Ping Pong Sales Pitch

20 Nov

One of my junior classes is about to embark on a unit in which they hone their persuasion skills.  As an opening activity I want to play a game that I have termed ‘Ping Pong Sales Pitch’.

In this game, students are provided with basic information about an exciting new product.  The first student standing is given 1 minute to use AT LEAST ONE persuasion technique to convince someone to buy the product.  The next student standing can extend that point, making their pitch using a different persuasive technique, or offer a new reason (supported by persuasive technique) as to why the product should be purchased.  This pattern continues until the pitch ideas are bouncing around the room like an out of control ping pong game.

This game would be a good follow up to a class discussion of Have I got a book for you!

‘CLICK, CLACK, MOO’

15 Nov

I have been on a picture book buying spree and happened upon an awesome text entitled CLICK, CLACK, MOO – Cows That Type.

The text begins with a group of cows who like to type.  They annoy the farmer by spending all their time at the typewriter.  They then start making requests.  These requests multiply, with the cows typing notes on behalf of their fellow animals.

I love this book!

I think it would be great as an introduction to Animal Farm as it explores ideas about agency.  For this same reason, it would be an interesting introduction to units exploring activism and identity.