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Subverting Fairy Tales

28 Oct

I have recently read Kissing the Witch (Emma Donoghue), a collection of interlinked short stories which subvert well known fairy tales.

I wish I had read this a little earlier as one of these stories would have been a good addition to a recent lesson sequence about subverting fairy tales.  Inspired by the three tales told by the monster in The Monster Calls, I decided to examine texts that incorporate some fairy tale elements but subvert or challenge others.

To illustrate the point, we engaged with a picture book retelling of The Three Little Pigs and a FANTASTIC short story entitled ‘There Was Once’ by Margaret Atwood.  After this discussing these and making connections to A Monster Calls, I asked students to select a fairy tale and subvert it.

Together we brainstormed some amazing ideas, framing our potential points of challenge or subversion as a series of interlinked questions.

  • What if the bears trespassed in the home owned by Goldilocks?  What if she was home?  What if she had a gun?  New bear skin rug?
  • What if Belle has taken the Beast from the wild?  What if the animal rights advocates found out?
  • What if Pinocchio was a real boy?  And a minority?  And he lied to the police?
  • What if Snow White’s experience of a poisoned apple prompted her to pursue an organic farming venture?
  • What if the witch in Hansel and Gretel was involved in human trafficking?
  • What if Cinderella was told from the perspective of one of the stepsisters?
  • What if Aladdin needed a visa to travel to a whole new world?
  • What if the Emperor was arrested after engaging in public nudity?
  • What if the Princess in The Princess and the Pea did not discover a pea beneath her many mattresses?  What if she discovered a handgun, or drugs?  What if she was undercover detective?
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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!

Debating in the Classroom

22 Oct

I have been working to engage my students in meaningful learning activities when their interest in traditional reading, writing and discussion is waning.

I recently tried to engage my Year 8 students in a modified debate around issues relevant to their genre study.  It worked!

I provided students with the topic and then divided them into two teams, affirmative and negative.  Students used a scaffold to organise their information, working first individually and then coming together as a team.  They then decided on the speaking order.

The two teams faced off against one another, with each student required to rebut one point previously made and to advance one of their own.  As the debate progressed, I wrote these points on the board, crossing off the points that had been successfully demolished by the opposing team.  This helped students to focus their argument.

Although my students were not keen initially, I found that their competitive sides soon kicked in.  It was fantastic to watch stronger students supporting weaker ones and to see everyone, even reluctant public speakers, giving it a red hot go!

‘Racism needs your help’

29 Sep

I was watching Gruen the other day and was introduced to an amazing public service announcement by New Zealand director Taika Watiti.  In this short clip he aims to raise awareness about racism.

I think this would be a great clip to use as an introduction to a unit about discrimination, inequality, racism or social advocacy.

It could also be a good tool to teach students about irony.

Getting creative!

22 Sep

I am trying to get students to think outside their known universe when writing.  To do this, I want to show them images depicting scenes from various countries and get them to write descriptively about what they see.  I am keen to help them move beyond the mere visual similes and metaphors and, as such, I am asking them to focus on texture and movement.

The Merchant of Venice

5 Sep

I am experiencing difficulty engaging one of my junior classes.  These students don’t really want to discuss ideas raised in texts and they don’t want to write about what they have read.

To address this problem, I decided to begin my The Merchant of Venice unit with a moral dilemma, namely the trolley car problem posed by Michael Sandel in his ‘Justice’ series of lectures.  I hoped that this would get my students thinking and talking about the relationship between justice and morality, and that I could use this as foundation for understanding some of the issues in The Merchant of Venice.

Strangely enough it worked!  My kids articulated perspectives, justified their viewpoints, and proposed changes to the scenarios to make connections to real world experiences.

‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’

7 Aug

I have also recently read Becoming Kirrali Lewis.  I read this text, hoping to discover a great Australian text that I could use in Year 9 instead of Deadly, Unna? which is not universally adored by students.

The text explores the experiences of Kirrali Lewis, an Aboriginal girl adopted into a white family, and her experiences during her first year of law school in the city.  The raised a number of important issues about identity, conflict and relationships which I think would interest some students.  However, the scope of experiences and short length of the book meant that these issues were, at times, left unexplored or not fully developed.

While I’m not sure my current Year 9 class would love this book, it is nonetheless something I would be interested in teaching.  With this in mind, I think it would be well placed as part of a textual pairing, perhaps with Taika Waititi’s film Boy.  Both texts explore the complexities of family relationships and the impact absent and found parents have on identity.

Representations of Youth

31 Jul

I am always interested in new ways of engaging my students in Shakespearean texts.  I am also always interested in new ways of teaching these texts.

This year, extending an idea raised by a colleague, my students studied Romeo & Juliet through the lens of representations of youth.  We engaged with key scenes, sought to identify how youth were portrayed and to understand how these representations were constructed.

I began the unit by showing students a number of trailers for Romeo & Juliet appropriations.  For each trailer, students had to identify and account for the characteristics of youth, explain which representations had continued resonance, and explain why particular representations frustrated/angered them.  They also had to identify and explain continuity and change in terms of representation across the trailers.

I found this to be an interesting way of understanding the depth and detail of students’ thought processes.  Some students, for example, saw only the demonstration of romantic passion and suggested it was not an accurate representation of youth today as young people do not fall in love so quickly today.  Others however, looked at romantic passion and saw, instead, young people’s abilities to throw themselves into projects with enthusiasm and commitment, often in service of causes they believe in.  For these students, the representation of passion was then both accurate and as relevant in Romeo and Juliet as in contemporary society.

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.

 

‘Viceroy’s House’

11 Jun

I recently watched Viceroy’s House, a film about the transition of British India to independence.  The film was beautifully made, utilising the difficulties of a love between a Hindu (Jeet Kumar) and Muslim (Aalia Noor) to represent the divisions in a nation that will need to be partitioned in order to realise dreams of independence.

I think the film could be an interesting partner for a study of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  This pairing would be a particularly useful way of exploring how the relationship between protagonists illuminates broader social tensions.

It would also be a good related text for Year 11 AOS Journeys or Change.  In both instances, students would be able to analyse the experiences of characters and then connect this to journeys or change on a national scale.