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Picturing the past

11 Nov

I mentioned a while ago my plan for year 10 students to get to know historical figure Charles Perkins by creating a Facebook page for him.  Although skeptical at first, the students largely enjoyed the novel approach to summarising, with many creating status updates and shared links that showed a deep understanding of who Charles Perkins was and what he cared about.

A recent review of that activity got me thinking about other ways in which I could leverage students’ interests to get them to engage with the past.  One approach that appealed was to get students thinking about what would happen if history took a selfie.  In other words, if selfies had been a craze way back when, what moments in time would key historical figures wish to memorialise with a selfie and why?  This activity appeals because it causes students to think critically about perspectives; as this is a selfie, the historical figure him/herself would have to consider that moment significant.

If I/my students had the relevant tech skills, I would encourage them to represent their selected selfies visually by doctoring an existing photograph.  The ideal end result would look something like the images in this gallery.

Infographics made easel.ly

5 Nov

I have spent the last couple of days test-driving free infographics creators, hoping to find one that is easy and intuitive to use.

One platform that I tried was easel.ly.  I selected a template that would allow me to create a fancy looking mind map.  While I think could have created something similar on PowerPoint in half the time, the drag and drop approach to creating infographics is quite appealing for classroom use.  Students will enjoy the fact that creating something that is professional looking is relatively straightforward.

The other inforgraphic creation tool that I quite liked was infogr.am.  This one seemed a bit better suited to numerically inspired presentations, and in this sense does not really fit well with the types of thinking and material that is common in English classrooms.  That said, I think it could be an interesting tool to use in a History or Society & Culture class when students need to represent quantitative data such as population statistics, access to socially valued resources or primary research findings.

Crash Course

21 Oct

I get excited when I find resources relevant to BOTH the English and History classroom.  Once such resource is John Green’s Crash Course channel on Youtube.  On this channel, he provides succinct, and often humorous, summaries of key texts in English Literature and events in US History and World History.  There are also videos about key concepts in Chemistry, Ecology and Biology for  those with an interest in science.

What I like about the Crash Course videos is that they are short, humorous and pitched at high school students.  I also like how humor, asides and graphics are used as memory triggers for students, working together to help students to identify and sequence core personalities and events.

I see potential for the History videos, for example, to be used in year 7 and 9 classrooms next year as a means of providing a historical overview of particular periods as mandated by the New Syllabus.  They also have potential as introductions to units of study, the basis of flipped learning activities and also as a means of review.

Communities of learning

19 Oct

In the clip below, John Green, author of beloved teen fiction including Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska, talks about the importance of learning communities as a mechanism for supporting, facilitating and encouraging learning.

 

While this TEDx Talk was not necessarily directed at teachers and educators, I think we can nonetheless learn from it.  In particular, we should be thinking about ways of creating dynamic learning environments and fostering communities of learning which encourage students to explore their interests and bring that learning back to the classroom community for discussion and debate.

 

Time to map history

22 Sep

Today I was playing around on Myhistro, and began creating a timeline about Leni Riefenstahl for the Personality Study component of the HSC Modern History course.

What I liked about Myhistro is that it allowed me to include text, link video, create event pictures and map Riefenstahl’s movements over time.

I think this would have application in a History classroom as an ongoing project.  Students could update their timelines as they acquire new knowledge.  These timelines could then be used for personal revision or as the basis of a presentation to the class.

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (written by Meg Wiviott and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon)

21 Sep

Summary

The eponymous protagonist of Benno and the Night of Broken Glass is a neighbourhood cat who spends his time visiting different people in his neighbourhood in Berlin.  He observes and interacts with Jewish people as well as non-German people. Life is great until, restrictions on Jewish people and businesses mean things “began to change.”  “[O]ne night in Berlin,” the Night of Broken Glass, the Nazis arrived and “changed everything.”

 

As flagged, this picture book tells the story of life in Berlin in the 1930s, charting changes in social interactions and attitudes as anti-Semitic laws are created and enforced.  The climax of the narrative is the Night of Broken Glasss (Kristallnacht) during which the Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses, homes and possessions, while inflicting bodily harm and even death on Jewish proprietors and people.

 

In the History classroom:

Reading this book as a class would be a great introductory activity in a lesson about Kristallnacht.  It would be particularly beneficial for students without prior knowledge, low literacy skills and visual learners.

 

In the English classroom:

Fantastic related text for Module C: History and Memory.  Students need to understand that a historical event is being preserved in acts of personal (Benno) and public (the picture book) memory.  Students should include, as part of their analysis, reference to the explanatory author’s note.

 

This is an interesting text to examine as part of a unit on perspective and/or narrative voice.  The nuances of perspective and voice, and the impact these have on narrative, would be particularly evident if thus text was examined alongside another text on the same subject matter.

Music in the classroom

18 Sep

My interest in using music in the classroom stems from my tendency to create a ‘soundtrack’in my head  to whatever it is that I am studying.  Sometimes song selection is made based on word association; thus, ‘Ice, ice baby’ would work equally well for studying Antarctica in Geography as it would for revising the effects of various drugs for PDHPE.  Other times, the connection is a bit less tenuous.  A case in point is  the activity I have planned for my year 10 students tomorrow.

One of my year 10 classes is learning about human rights as a way of wrapping up their study of Changing Rights and Freedoms.  Our focus for tomorrow is on refugees.  One of the things we will be doing (alongside creating mind maps and posters) is listening to Corneille’s song ‘I’ll never call you home again‘.  After listening, students will note down what they think the song is about.  We will then discuss as a class.  After that discussion, I will give them some background information on Corneille and the Rwandan genocide (I am drawing the background on the Rwandan genocide from this source) – Corneille fled the Rwandan genocide.  I will then ask students to reflect on how that new information changes/enhances their understanding of the song.

Graphic depictions of The 9/11 Report

15 Sep

In Modern History, my year eleven students and I have been talking a lot about the factors that shape representations of particular historical events (see, for example, my previous posts here, here and here).

With the end of term fast approaching, I had to make some harsh decisions about what to show my students.  This resource, The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation, is one of those things I unfortunately will not get to show my students.  It is really interesting as it seeks to mediate the dense language of a report written about 9/11 by translating that report into a graphic novel.  On the one hand, this makes the report accessible, but it also seems (at times) a tad irreverent.

Audience, purpose and representation

15 Sep

Representation of events is shaped by intended audience, purpose and perspectives.

It was this idea that I hoped to convey to my year 11 Modern History students in a recent lessons.  In order to illustrate this point we first read an extract from a book designed for primary school students (September 11 by Mary Englar).  We discussed how that text was constructed (tone, language, objectivity, emotion etc), how this construction was influenced by the intended audience and how the author’s purpose was apparent in the method of construction .  We then watched a documentary called 102 Minutes that Changed America.  This documentary cobbles together eye-witness footage, thus capturing reactions as well as images of the destruction (see previous post: Real terror in reel time).   By comparing these we were clearly able to see how audience and purpose shaped representation and editorial choices.

 

For a lower literacy class, Englar’s text could have been been substituted with this short video.  Unlike 102 Minutes which is often explicit in capturing every detail of the attacks, the video is careful to describe events leading up to the planes hitting the towers, omit depictions of the planes hitting the towers, and to show only the smoke billowing from the towers after the attack.

 

Studying History through film

11 Sep

Some other September 11 films that seem to have potential include:

All these films would need to be contextualised.

In relation to The Falling Man, for example, I would first show my students the famous photograph.  I would give them a few minutes to write about what they see and how they feel when they see it.  We would discuss.  I would then give them extracts from The Falling Man’ essay, using those as stimulus for a discussion about the different ways in which people perceive the decision to jump from the towers.

For Remembering 9/11, I would be inclined to situate that film as part of a lesson sequence focusing on the different ways of remembering and acknowledging the past.  I would be interested in beginning the unit with a series of shorter stimulus, for example: looking at the artistic responses to 9/11, and also the poem ‘The Names’ which was written by the United States Poet Laureate after the attacks.