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Reading to Write

4 Sep

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the new stage 6 English syllabus.  In particular, I have found myself unable to stop thinking about the new Year 11 unit ‘Reading to Write’.   In this unit students are offered opportunities to “undertake the intensive and close reading of quality texts,” using these to “develop the skills and knowledge necessary to appreciate, understand, analyse and evaluate how and why texts convey complex ideas, relationships, endeavours and scenarios” (Stage-6 Advanced English syllabus document).

Below are a selection of texts which I think could offer some interesting opportunities for engagement.  I will add to the list as I come up with more ideas.

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‘New Boy’

2 Sep

I have just finished reading Tracy Chevalier’s novel New Boy, it is an appropriation of Othello and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series that also includes Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.

Like OthelloNew Boy explores jealousy, manipulation and choices that cannot be unmade.  Interestingly, New Boy sets the action in a school playground, perhaps alluding to the notion that the manipulation engineered by Ian (the Iago character) is just another childish game.  This setting also allows the easy manipulation of Oesi (the Othello character) to seem more plausible; it makes more sense to me that a child, rather than an adult soldier, may not have the resilience or savvy to withstand the tactics of a manipulator.

Another interesting choice made by the author is the title.  Unlike Shakespeare who named his text directly after his protagonist, Chevalier has chosen to title hers New Boy,  I think this raises some interesting questions:  Does using the protagonist’s name honour  the protagonist or publicly call out his conduct? Is referencing a status rather than a name a statement of universal applicability or does it buy in to the very prejudice that is described in the text?  Do these choices honour victims or name perpetrators?  Why does the manipulator not have his name or his title plastered across the front of the cover?

I think New Boy could be a really interesting text to teach alongside Othello in Year 11 Advanced, perhaps functioning as a precursor to an HSC study of The Tempest and Hag-Seed.

 

‘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.

‘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.

Pairs of text everywhere!

5 Mar

Recent updates mean that my list of paired texts now has over 100 options!

New additions include:

  • After the Storm (film)
  • A Monster Calls (novel)
  • A United Kingdom (film)
  • Boy (film)
  • Face (novel)
  • Lion (film)
  • Queen of Katwe (film)
  • Tanna (film)
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (film)
  • The Intouchables (film).

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.

Picturing comparisons

7 Dec

Students often find it difficult to make meaningful connections between texts.  Indeed, this is the case for my senior classes.  To assist them I want to print a series of stills from the film they have been studying.  Then, I want students to trawl through their notes and find quotes from their novel which could provide interesting points of comparison.  Students can link through shared ideas, catalysts, consequences, similarities in terms of characters and the like.

 

Show rather than tell

26 Aug

We constantly tell our students that, when writing, they must show rather than tell.  I have finally found the perfect video to explain what that looks like!

I want to show this clip to my students, offering them opportunities to find examples of ‘showing’ in a range of short story extracts.  I then want to provide them with examples of ‘telling’ (ideally from earlier drafts of their own writing) and have them transform the ‘telling’ into ‘showing’.

Comparing sample responses

18 Aug

I am a huge fan of deconstructing sample responses with my students in class.  I think it is really helpful for them to be able to understand and apply the criteria to a piece of writing.  Sometimes I provide my students with A-range responses and, in doing so, give them something to aim towards.  However, on other occasions I provide them with weaker responses and we work together to improve them.

Typically the samples I provide are paragraph extracts. I have observed, however, that students struggle with creating introductions that meaningfully engage with the question.  As such, I think this time I will provide my students with a selection of introductions, all responding to the same question.  One of these introductions will be A-range, and the others B, C and D-range.  Students will be required to annotate the introductions according to a provided set of a criteria and, based on their annotations, order the introductions from A to D range.

 

90 second thesis

4 Aug

I am on a mission to find creative ways of helping my students to develop requisite skills and revise knowledge.  It is now halfway through the year and I think it is time to up my game in terms of the learning activities that I offer my students.

One activity that I am keen to try is a game entitled ’90 second thesis’.  Here, students listen to 90s music while moving around the room.  When the music stops, students grab a pen, pad of paper and partner and work together to write a thesis statement that responds to an essay question.  In keeping with the 90s theme, students have only 90 seconds to write their thesis statements.  After the 90 seconds have expired, students share their thesis statements with the class.

I think this activity would be valuable as it would help build students’ confidence regarding (a) the composition of thesis statements and (b) to compose said thesis statements quickly, as would be required under exam conditions.