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‘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.

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.

Post-it note conceptual mapping

26 Jul

I teach a number of mid to lower ability classes in which students struggle to understand nuances of the concepts and ideas that we explore as part of the English course.

To help students think critically and creatively about a topic, I want to implement a new approach to creating concept maps.  I plan to provide students with a concept and a set of post-it notes.  Working individually, students are going to write down words and phrases associated with that concept.  Then, students will work in small groups, pool their post-it notes and discuss the words and phrases they consider relevant.  They might also add additional words and phrases to the mix if required.  A class discussion will follow.  Students will then work in their groups to organise their post it notes so that the most important words/phrases or in the middle and the least important are on the margins.  In their groups they will have to discuss, agree and justify their criteria for importance.   The concept maps and reasoning behind them will then be shared with the class.

I am hoping that the ‘thinking pauses’ and discussions built in to this activity will help students to develop their reasoning skills and ability to engage critically with concepts studied.

AOS Journeys

8 Jul

A number of schools are looking to revitalise their Year 10 and Year 11 courses by introducing Areas of Studies that better prepare their students for AOS Discovery in Year 12.  A popular choice seems to be AOS Journeys.  With this in mind, I have compiled a list of texts which could be used as related material for a unit with ‘Journeys’ as the conceptual focus.  The list is not arranged in any particular order, and I will continue adding to it over time.

  1. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (novel)
  2. The Ultimate Safari by Nadine Gordimer (short story)
  3. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (novel)
  4. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen (biography)
  5. ‘I am an African’ by Thabo Mbeki (speech)
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (novel)
  7. ‘I Have a Dream’ by Martin Luther King Jnr (speech)
  8. ‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage (poem)
  9. ‘Refugee Blues’ by W.H. Auden (poem)
  10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (autobiography)
  11. ‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou (poem)
  12. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (novel) (or the film adaptation)
  13. September, directed by Peter Carstairs (film)
  14. Selected The Gods of Wheat Street episodes (television drama)
  15. The Secret Life of Walter Mittydirected by Ben Stiller (film)
  16. Cartography for Beginners‘ by Emily Hasler (poem)
  17. ‘Journey to the Interior’ by Margaret Atwood (poem)
  18. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (novel)
  19. ‘And of Clay We Are Created’ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  20. Cool Runnings, directed by Jon Turteltaub (film)
  21. For Colored Girls, directed by Tyler Perry (film)
  22. The Second Bakery Attack‘ by Haruki Murakami (short story)
  23. Americannah by Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie (novel)
  24. All That I Am by Anna Funder (novel)
  25. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (novel) (or the film aedaptation)
  26. Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata (film)
  27. A Mighty Heart, directed by Michael Winterbottom (film)
  28. Girl Rising, directed by Richard E. Robbins (film)
  29. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (play)
  30. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (play)
  31. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (novel)
  32. Anzac Girls (television series)
  33. Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis (novel)
  34. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (novel)
  35. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (novel)
  36. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (novel)
  37. Meet the Patels, directed by Ravi and Geeta Patel (film)
  38. Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen (film)
  39. The Testimony, directed by Vanessa Block (documentary)
  40. The Lie‘ by T. Coraghessan Boyle (short story)
  41. Lion, directed by Garth Davis (film)
  42. A Sheltered Woman‘ by Yiyun Li (short story)
  43. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (novel)
  44. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (memoir)
  45. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (memoir)
  46. ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire (poem)
  47. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (film or graphic novel)
  48. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (novel)
  49. Freedom Writers, directed by Richard LaGravenese (film)
  50. The African Doctor, directed by Julien Rambaldi (film)

Debating in the classroom

26 Apr

A recent presentation that I made at school has got me thinking about ways to incorporate interactive debating-style activities in the classroom.  Below are the ideas that are going through my head at the moment:

  1. A traditional debate.  Here, students are provided with a high modality statement relevant to what is being studied, divided into teams, and asked to research the topic.  One team argues in favour of the proposition, the other against it.  This could be an interesting mode of formative assessment, perhaps in the early stages of an AOS unit.  After building the field, a debate could be used to test students’ knowledge of the core concept.  Potentially, this activity could be revisited at the end of the unit in order to ascertain how well students can apply their knowledge of texts studied to ‘prove’ viewpoints about the focus concept.  I think this activity would work particularly well in a strong Year 10 class, or a strong Years 11 or 12 Advanced English class.
  2. A stakeholder debate.  As in a traditional debate, students are provided with a high modality statement relevant to what is being studied in class.  However, instead of attacking the statement from TWO sides, the statement can be engaged with from the perspectives of relevant stakeholders.  Each stakeholder is allocated time to present his or her opinion.  After all key opinions have been aired, each stakeholder receives another opportunity to speak.  At this point, s/he must engage with the ideas and allegations made by other stakeholders.  For stronger classes, there is also an opportunity for stakeholders (or an audience) to ask each other questions to clarify viewpoints.  This type of activity would work particularly well in a junior class (years 7, 8 or 9) where the topic covered relates to issues of social or community importance.
  3. Ping Pong Debate.  In this debate, ideas bounce around the room like a ping pong ball does during a game.  Here, the teacher throws a potentially controversial statement to the class.  The first student standing responds to that statement, either endorsing it or refuting it.  Once that student’s allocated time expires, the next student standing gets an opportunity to respond.  This time, the student can extend the response of the previous speaker or make a counter-claim.  When I use this activity in my class, I encourage students to structure their responses using the PEEL format (Point, Example, Explanation, Link).  If I were doing this activity with weaker classes, I would write the acronym on the board and appoint a student as ‘Captain PEEL’, tasking him/her with redirecting the speaker to address any missed elements.  This debate works well as part of a building the field activity when learning about a new concept.  It can also work well at the end of a unit if students are also required to utilise their knowledge of a text studied in their responses.  My stronger Years 9 and 10 classes in the past have previously enjoyed this activity immensely.
  4. Room for debate.   In this debate, students are required to move around the class room.  The teacher provides a topic for discussion.   Upon first hearing the topic, students have to move to one of three signs which have been posted around the room: agree, disagree, not sure.  The teacher then asks one student who agrees with the statement to provide a reason for his/her position.  Encourage students to use the PEEL structure when formulating their response.  As they listen to the student’s argument, students who are convinced can leave their positions and move to the ‘agree’ group.  Repeat, this time allowing a student in the ‘disagree’ group to speak.  Then, a student in the ‘not sure’ group has the opportunity to ask a question, one student from each of the ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’ groups must respond to that question.  The ‘not sure’ student must then move to the group whose answer was most convincing.  The aim of the game is to stop students from ‘fence sitting’ and encourage them to commit to a position.