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Best Books

4 Jul

I was reading Laura Randazzo‘s post entitled ‘The Best Book Ever?‘ in which she discusses America’s best-loved novels.  After reading the list included in her post, I couldn’t help but feel that there were some books which I would not have included, and others that appear to be missing.   This got me thinking: do others feel the same way?

I would like to ask this question of students in the school’s Book Club, asking them to work collaboratively to come up with a list of their top 50 books.  Perhaps, we could then work towards reviewing each of these books for the blog they are working on.  Additionally, we could use this as a way of gauging students’ interests, perhaps better tailoring our recommendations for reluctant readers.

A number of the students in Book Club are genre readers.  A spin off project could involve them compiling a list of the top 20 fantasy books, for example.  We could then combine this list with an illustration and make a collection of book marks that could be distributed to students with the next books they read in English class, thus encouraging wide reading.  In fact, students could even work on subject specific lists (sci-fi for science, books about the environment for geography etc), thus allowing other faculties to build students’ love of literature.

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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).

‘The Disappearing’

14 Jul

The Disappearing is an interactive website which offers a means of poetically representing places and experiences which are disappearing.  These places and experiences are sometimes disappearing due to the passage of time,  other times due to environmental factors, and sometimes due to urbanisation.

I think this would be an interesting related text to use alongside Go Back to Where You Came From for HSC AOS Discovery.   Go Back explores individuals renewed perceptions of self and world.  It takes individuals on a journey which causes them to confront their prejudices and beliefs and to potentially alter their engagement with the world as a result.  The Disappearing similarly invites individuals to reconsider their perceptions of the world they live in.  However, where discoveries in Go Back are largely emotional and social, discoveries prompted by The Disappearing relate first and foremost to man’s relationship with the natural world.

‘The African Doctor’

25 Mar

I recently watched The African Doctor.  This film explores the experiences of a recently arrived family of Congolese descent as they seek to find their place in a rural village in France.

Although overly simplistic at times, the text engages with ideas of tolerance, acceptance, identity and communal action.  For these reasons, I think the text has the potential to engage students.

That said, I think I would be reluctant to study this text in isolation.  I think it would work best either as part of a comparative unit, or as a related text for AOS Journey or Discovery.

‘Brown Brother’

2 Feb

Brown Brother‘ is an inspiring spoken word poem delivered by high school student Joshua Iosefo.  It is a profound and emotional examination (and later rejection) of stereotypes; a reminder that honouring one’s heritage and conforming to limiting stereotypes are not the same things.

This would be a great text to study as related material in Distinctive Voices, an elective that is part of the HSC Standard English Course.  Students could engage with the ways in which gestures, tone, occasion and audience enhance the distinctiveness of the voice.

It would also be interesting to include as part of a study about identity, or perhaps as a suite of poetry engaging with the construction and representation of self.  Students could even be challenged to write their own shorter-form spoken word poem about themselves, applicable stereotypes and responses to these.

Familiar environments

30 Jan

Alice Eather’s poem ‘My Story Is Your Story‘ is a powerful poem about the different ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people view Aboriginal land.  Through a series of haunting contrasts Eather is able to communicate the tension between connection to land and destruction for profit.

This would be an interesting text to study as part of a unit about Australian identity as it highlights the fundamental disconnect between viewpoints and, in turn, flags the callous disregard corporations can have for established and entrenched cultural connections.

It would also be an interesting text to study in AOS Discovery for HSC.  Considered alongside The Tempest, for example, it could be used to highlight how perspectives shape discovery.  Considered alongside Go Back to Where You Came From, it could be used to enrich a discussion regarding discovery, Australian identity, racism and responsibility.

The text could also be used as part of a junior AOS with a focus on change, belonging or journeys.  Here, focus would need to be on the role of context in shaping representation and value.

Eather’s poem could also be studied alongside, or as part of a suite of poetry which includes, Selina Nwulu’s ‘Home is a Hostile Lover‘. Together, the poems offer interesting representations of connection to place and the role of corporations in threatening the physicality and sacredness of place.

 

More Updates!

26 Jan

I am continuing updating some of the lists that I have posted previously.

I am pleased to report that I have now updated the Distinctive Voices related text list.  There are now over 30 examples of Distinctive Voices related texts.

I have also updated my Pairs of Texts post.  It now contains over 90 suggested text pairings for a range of different high school grades and contexts.

I would love to hear in the comments sections if any of these texts have worked for you or your students.  I would also love to hear if you have any additional suggestions for me to add to the lists.

‘Healthy Start’

25 Jan

I think I am on a short story kick!  I have read Etgar Keret’s ‘Healthy Start‘ and cannot help but think it would make a great related text for AOS Discovery.

The text centres upon a change meeting and mistaken identity.  Sitting in a cafe, our protagonist is approached by a man who presumes he is someone else.  Our protagonist does not correct him.

I like this narrative as it explores how chance encounters can lead to discoveries about self and the world.

 

Distinctively Visual Related Texts

24 Jan

Below is a list of possible related material for the Standard English Module A elective ‘Distinctively Visual’.

  1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (novel)
  2. And of Clay We Are Created‘ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  3. Approved For Adoption directed by Laurent Boileau & Jung Henin (film)
  4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (play)
  5. Because who is perfect?‘ (advertisement)
  6. Ernest and Celestine directed by Benjamin Renner (film)
  7. Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  8. ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire (poem)
  9. Lion directed by Garth Davis (film)
  10. Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (picture book)
  11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (novel)
  12. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (film or graphic novel)
  13. Scattered Lives by Sally McKenzie (play)
  14. Terrible Things by Eve Bunting (picture book)
  15. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  16. The Boat by Nam Le (adapted as an SBS interactive) (interactive graphic novel)
  17. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (picture book)
  18. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (novel)
  19. The Rabbits by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by Ben Stiller (film)
  21. To This Day by Shane Koyczan (graphic novel or spoken word poem).

‘A Ride Out Of Phrao’

23 Jan

Dina Nayeri’s ‘A Ride Out Of Phrao‘ is an interesting narrative about a woman who joins the Peace Corps and moves to Thailand in order to escape the embarrassment of her life in America.

If using this as a related text for AOS Discovery, students should explore the interlinked nature of discoveries about self, others and the world as Shirin, the protagonist, establishes herself in Thailand.  Students should also consider the possibility that the move to Thailand and the establishment of a life there offers Shirin an opportunity to rediscover herself as well as the values and relationships she holds dear.

This short story could make an interesting partner to Go Back to Where You Came From as it engages with discoveries made while journeying and exploring unfamiliar cultural contexts.  It could also pair well with some of Frost’s or Gray’s poetry, particularly in terms of discovering through reflection and experience as well as engagement with place.

For other related material ideas please click here.