Tag Archives: Community

No Safe Place

5 Aug

As part of a mission to revitalise the English Department’s Book Room I have been reading a lot of teen fiction, hoping to be able to make recommendations as to which texts we should purchase.  As part of this process, I recently read No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis.

I think this novel would be a fantastic choice for a Year 7 or 8 class, potentially as part of units engaging with identity, refugees, migrations, survival, relationships or choice.  It follows the experiences of a group of young people fleeing danger, war and abuse, and seeking safety in England.  The text weaves between past and present, allowing for a nuanced understanding of characters and their situations.


‘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.

‘Refugee Boy’

12 Mar

I have just finished reading Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy.

Despite some initial concerns that Refugee Boy would be simply another variation on Boy Overboard or Girl Underground, I found myself hooked from the outset.  I think my interest was stimulated by the text’s opening – a short outline of a mixed-race family’s experiences in Ethiopia, followed by an almost identical incident, this time in Eritrea.  I found this to be a very effective way of illustrating the complexities of that family’s situation and in illustrating the challenges faced during times of war.

I think this would be an interesting text to study in Years 7 or 8 in a unit with a focus on identity.  Indeed, the text deals with the tensions between self-characterisation and social identification.

It would also be worthy of inclusion in a ‘Coming of Age’ unit as it charts both the protagonist’s growing awareness of his social surrounds as well as his community’s growing awareness of the political and social landscapes in which they exist.

It would also be interesting to study this text in a unit about migration or refugee experiences, perhaps in combination with Boy OverboardGirl UndergroundThe Arrival and/or some newspaper clippings.

Poetry about grief

13 Jun

Today I was reminded of a poem I read a while ago, Sophie Hannah’s ‘Your Dad Did What?‘  In that poem, a student seeks to express his grief regarding his experiences during the school holidays.  At first, his teacher does not recognise the sorrow, the anger, the pain.  It is only in the last stanza that the realisation occurs.

This poem is simple but powerful.  I love the wordplay, and I love the way the emotional tenor changes as the poem progresses.

Thinking about ‘Your Dad Did What?’ also reminded me of Rob Gibsun’s spoke word poem entitled ‘On Grief & Healing‘.  This poem would make an interesting comparative text for ‘Your Dad Did What?’ as it, unlike Hannah’s poem, cycles through the range of emotions experienced after the death of a loved one.

Art and advocacy

25 Apr

I recently read an article in The Huffington Post entitled ‘Yemeni Street Artist Covers the Ruins of War in Colours and Memories’.  The article details the attempts by a politically active street artist to (a) unite communities who have been scarred by war, and (b) to offer visual commentary on the continuing violence and political unrest in the region.

I think this would be a great article to show students when seeking to explain the power of artistic expression.

I also think this article has potential to inspire some interesting AOS Discovery short stories.  For example, students could write from the perspective of an ordinary citizen who comes to know a conflict through art.  In this story, each artwork would have the potential to spark meaningful and transformative discoveries.  Alternatively, students could write about one man’s desire to express his beliefs.  Here, students would need to move beyond the information in the article and explore how the protagonist tried a range of methods of expression, none of which allowed him to accurately convey his views.  Ultimately, the protagonist would discover the capacity of art to touch the hearts and mind of the populace.

Inequality and injustice

12 Apr

One of my junior classes is currently learning about representations of racism in poetry.  As part of this unit they will be studying a poem inspired by the death of Tamir Rice.

While searching for some background on the Tamir Rice shooting to help my students understand the context, I came across this interesting opinion piece by a 13 years old activist and writer.  Entitled ‘I Could Be the Next Tamir Rice’, the young author explains how his life, and that of other boys like him, have been changed by the death of Tamir and how, by extension, there is a perception within the community that all African American boys are particularly vulnerable and endangered.  I am keen to show my students this article as a companion piece to the poem they are studying in a bid to help them to better understand how events shape public and private actions.


Pairs of texts

31 Mar

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about interesting textual pairings for study as part of a comparative unit.  Many of my ideas are not suitable for my school context or the ability levels of my classes.  However, I do think that, in the right contexts and with the right classes, all could form the basis of interesting and engaging units.

  1. A Lesson Before Dying (novel) & To Kill a Mockingbird (film)
  2. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Freedom Writers (film)
  3. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Girl At War (novel)
  4. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  5. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Schindler’s List (film)
  6. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon (poetry)
  7. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Poetry of Wilfred Owen (poetry)
  8. Americanah (novel) & selected episodes of Black-ish (television series)
  9. A Monster Calls (novel) & Boy (film)
  10. A Monster Calls (novel) & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)
  11. A Monster Calls (novel/film) & Frankenstein (novel)
  12. And Then There Were None (novel) & Selected episodes of Trapped (television series)
  13. Animal Farm (novel) & Selection of episodes of House of Cards (television series)
  14. Anzac Girls (television series) & Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon (poetry)
  15. Bad Feminist (collection of essays) & For Colored Girls (film)
  16. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  17. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (novel) & The Dreamer (novel)
  18. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (novel) & The Kite Runner (film or graphic novel)
  19. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (novel) & Wadjda (film)
  20. Becoming Kirrali Lewis (novel) & Boy (film)
  21. Becoming Kirrali Lewis (novel) & The Kite Runner (graphic novel)
  22. Boy, Snow, Bird (novel) & Americanah (novel)
  23. Boy, Snow, Bird (novel) & Selected short stories of Chinua Achebe (short stories)
  24. Boy, Snow, Bird (novel) & Desdemona (play)
  25. Boy, Snow, Bird (novel) & God Help the Child (novel)
  26. Boy, Snow, Bird (novel) & Kissing the Witch (novel)
  27. Brave New World (novel) & The Crucible (play)
  28. Brave New World (novel) & Never Let Me Go (film)
  29. Brave New World (novel) & V for Vendetta (film)
  30. Briar Rose (novel) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  31. Briar Rose (novel) & Lion (film)
  32. Briar Rose (novel) & Night (autobiography)
  33. Briar Rose (novel) & Schindler’s List (film)
  34. Deadline (novel) & Dead Poets Society (film)
  35. Deadline (novel) & The Fault In Our Stars (film)
  36. Deadline (novel) & The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film)
  37. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  38. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Hairspray (film)
  39. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Invictus (film)
  40. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Remember the Titans (films)
  41. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  42. El Deafo (graphic novel) & The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel)
  43. Etiquette and Espionage (novel) & Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (film)
  44. Exit West (novel) & Romeo and Juliet (play)
  45. Exit West (novel) & The poetry of Selina Nwulu (poetry)
  46. Exit West (novel) & The poetry of Warsan Shire (poetry)
  47. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & After the Storm (film)
  48. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & 11’09’01 (collection of short films)
  49. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & Lion (film)
  50. Face (novel) & The Intouchables (film)
  51. Fahrenheit 451 (novel) & Persepolis (graphic novel or film)
  52. Fahrenheit 451 (novel) & V For Vendetta (film)
  53. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf (choreopoem) & Mustang (film)
  54. Frankenstein (novel) & Boy, Snow, Bird (novel)
  55. Frankenstein (novel) & Frankenweenie (film)
  56. Frankenstein (novel) & The Iron Giant (film)
  57. Frankenstein (novel) & Metropolis (film)
  58. Frankenstein (novel) & Never Let Me Go (film)
  59. Frankenstein (novel) & The Rocky Horror Picture Show (film)
  60. Frankenstein (novel) & The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (novel)
  61. Girl Rising (film) & Poetry of Maya Angelou (poetry)
  62. Hamlet (play) & A Monster Calls (novel/film)
  63. Hamlet (play) & Nutshell (novel)
  64. Hamlet (play) & The Lion King (film)
  65. Hiroshima (novel) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  66. King Henry IV, Part I (play) & Selected episodes of House of Cards (television show)
  67. King Henry IV, Part I (play) & Selected episodes of Scandal (television show)
  68. King Richard II (play) & Selected episodes of House of Cards (television show)
  69. Life of Pi (novel) & Castaway (film)
  70. Lord of the Flies (novel) & Where the Wild Things Are (film)
  71. Lord of the Flies (novel) & The Hunger Games (film)
  72. Macbeth (play) & Selected episodes of Designated Survivor (television series)
  73. Macbeth (play) & The Dressmaker (film)
  74. Macbeth (play) & The Gods of Wheat Street (television series)
  75. Macbeth (play) & The Kite Runner (graphic novel, novel or film)
  76. Macbeth (play) & Selected episodes of House of Cards (television series)
  77. Macbeth (play) & Selected episodes of Scandal (television series)
  78. Maus (graphic novel) & A Long Way Gone (memoir)
  79. Maus (graphic novel) & Night (autobiography)
  80. Maus (graphic novel) & Schindler’s List (film)
  81. March (novel) & Little Wome(novel)
  82. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (novel) & The Fault in Our Stars (film)
  83. Night (autobiography) & A Long Way Gone (memoir)
  84. Night (autobiography) & Girl At War (novel)
  85. Night (autobiography) & Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography)
  86. Night (autobiography) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  87. Night (autobiography) & Schindler’s List (film)
  88. Night (autobiography) & The Seven Stages of Grieving (play)
  89. Nona and Me (novel) & Looking for Alibrandi (film)
  90. Nona and Me (novel) & September (film)
  91. Of Mice and Men (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  92. Othello (play) & Boy Snow Bird (novel)
  93. Othello (play) & Desdemona (play)
  94. Othello (play) & Gone Girl (film)
  95. Othello (play) & New Boy (novel)
  96. Othello (play) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  97. Othello (play) & V For Vendetta (film)
  98. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Girl At War (novel)
  99. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  100. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Lion (film)
  101. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Maus (graphic novel)
  102. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Night (autobiography)
  103. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Schindler’s List (film)
  104. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Bride and Prejudice (film)
  105. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Bridget Jones’s Diary (film)
  106. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Mustang (film)
  107. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & The Wedding Plan (film)
  108. Refugee Boy (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  109. Refugee Boy (novel) & The African Doctor (film)
  110. Refugee Boy (novel) & The Arrival (picture book)
  111. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Alex and Eve (film)
  112. Romeo & Juliet (play) & A United Kingdom (film)
  113. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Freedom Writers (film)
  114. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Hairspray (film)
  115. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Meet the Patels (film)
  116. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Mustang (film)
  117. Romeo & Juliet (play) & My Big Fat Greek Wedding (film)
  118. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Tanna (film)
  119. Romeo & Juliet (play) & The Fault in Our Stars (film or novel)
  120. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Titanic (film)
  121. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Viceroy’s House (film)
  122. Romeo & Juliet (play) & West Side Story (film)
  123. Safana and Aunt Sarrinah (play) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television show)
  124. Safana and Aunt Sarrinah (play) & The Green Bicycle (novel)
  125. Safana and Aunt Sarrinah (play) & The Kite Runner (novel or graphic novel)
  126. Safana and Aunt Sarrinah (play) & Wadjda (film)
  127. Safana and Aunt Sarrinah (play) & Poetry of Warsan Shire (poetry)
  128. Scattered Lives (play) & Americannah (novel)
  129. Scattered Lives (play) & Freedom Writers (film)
  130. Scattered Lives (play) & Looking for Alibrandi (novel)
  131. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Peter Skrzynecki (poetry)
  132. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Selina Nwulu (poetry)
  133. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Warsan Shire (poetry)
  134. Schindler’s Ark (novel) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  135. Speak (novel) & For Colored Girls (film)
  136. Speak (novel) & The Scarlet Letter (novel)
  137. Stargirl (novel) & Wadjda (film)
  138. Station Eleven (novel) & A Midsummer Night’s Dream (play)
  139. Station Eleven (novel) & Hag-Seed (novel)
  140. Station Eleven (novel) & Never Let Me Go (novel or film)
  141. Station Eleven (novel) & The Tempest (play)
  142. Stolen (play) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  143. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  144. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (memoir) & Queen of Katwe (film)
  145. The Color Purple (novel) & For Colored Girls (film)
  146. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel) & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)
  147. The Dreamer (novel) & Billy Elliot (film)
  148. The Drover’s Wife (play) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series).
  149. The First Third (novel) & Boy (film)
  150. The Fault in Our Stars (novel) & Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (film)
  151. The Handmaid’s Tale (novel/television series) & Never Let me Go (novel/film)
  152. The Help (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  153. The Help (novel) & Remember the Titans (film)
  154. The Help (novel) & The Blindside (film)
  155. The Outsiders (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  156. The Outsiders (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  157. The Outsiders (novel) & Yolngu Boy (film)
  158. The Rabbits (picture book) & Deadly, Unna? (novel)
  159. The Rabbits (picture book) & Poetry of Oodgeroo Noonuccal (poetry)
  160. The Rabbits (picture book) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  161. The Real Inspector Hound (play) & Selected episodes of Trapped (television series)
  162. The Real Inspector Hound (play) & And Then There Were None (novel)
  163. The Scarlet Letter (novel) & Easy A (film)
  164. The Skull Beneath the Skin (novel) & The Real Inspector Hound (play)
  165. The Skull Beneath the Skin (novel) & Selected episodes of Trapped (television series)
  166. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (novel) & The Drover’s Wife (play)
  167. The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  168. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (novel) & Hamlet (play or film)
  169. The Kite Runner (novel) & Big Fish (film)
  170. The Kite Runner (novel) & Boy (film)
  171. The Queue (novel) & Animal Farm (novel)
  172. The Queue (novel) & Brave New World (novel)
  173. The Queue (novel) & Fahrenheit 451 (novel/film)
  174. The Queue (novel) & Nineteen Eighty-Four (novel)
  175. The Queue (novel) & Persepolis (film/graphic novel)
  176. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  177. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Hairspray (film)
  178. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Poetry of Langston Hughes (poetry)
  179. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Remember the Titans (film)
  180. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  181. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & The Blindside (film)
  182. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & The Help (film)
  183. To This Day (graphic novel) & Wonder (novel)
  184. To This Day (graphic novel) & Face (novel)
  185. Vernon God Little (novel) & Elephant (film)
  186. Vinegar Girl (novel) & The Taming of the Shrew (play)
  187. Vinegar Girl (novel) & 10 Things I Hate About You (film)
  188. Voices from Chernobyl (non-fiction) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  189. War Horse (film) & Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon (poetry)
  190. War Horse (film) & Poetry of Wilfred Owen (poetry)

Discussing Depression

28 Mar

As evident by my previous posts on issues such as domestic violence, gender inequality and sustainability, I feel that the English syllabus offers teachers and students unique opportunities to engage with real world issues that impact individuals and communities.

While looking for related material for an upcoming unit, I came across a short film entitled Terrance which explores an adolescent’s experience of post traumatic stress disorder and depression.  I’m not sure which of my existing units I could put this documentary in (I might have to come up with a new unit to teach next year), but I think my Year 10 students in particular would find the honesty and openness of Terrance’s account fascinating.  I also think it would pave the way for some meaningful and productive discussion about mental health issues within our community.

REVIEW: ‘The First Third’

26 Mar

Until recently, I had not heard of Will Kostakis.  In fact, my decision to read his novel The First Third was an ‘anti-boycott’, a response to a much publicised decision by a school to revoke an invitation for Kostakis to address their students in light of the coming out announcement made by Kostakis on his blog.  To me, the school’s decision made little sense.  After all, Kostakis was to address students about his novel not his private life.

I am very glad I was prompted to purchase and read The First Third because it is a fantastic book!  The novel is a coming of age text, following the experiences of Billy as he navigates the complexities of school, love, family and friendship.

In this text, Kostakis does a fantastic job of representing the diversity and complexity of our worlds: for example, Billy and his family are Greek, Billy’s best friend Lucas is gay and has cerebral palsy, and Billy’s mother is a single mum.  The text also features an opinionated grandmother, and a family divided by interests and distance. To me, this world seems far more ‘real’ than some of the cookie-cutter type families represented in YA fiction and, I suspect, will thus resonate better with my students.

Representing racism

11 Mar

Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem ‘No Problem‘ offers an interesting and nuanced representation of how racism is demonstrated in our society.

At the most basic levels, racism is demonstrated through verbal slurs and physical actions.  This is evidenced when the persona notes that he is the victim “Of silly playground taunts / An racist stunts.”  I fully expect students to understand these methods of demonstrating racism.  Unfortunately, the reality of our world is that many of my culturally and religiously diverse students will have inevitably found themselves victims of racist comments and discriminatory actions.

It is important too for students to understand that racism can be demonstrated in other ways too.  Including, for example, limiting a person’s opportunities due to stereotyped understandings of that person’s race or culture.  This is apparent in the poem when the persona juxtaposes his intelligence, “I am a born academic,” and society’s assumption that he would make a good sportsman, “Now I am branded athletic.”   In this way, the poem teaches teenagers that relying upon stereotypes can result in the erosion of an individual’s identity and a denial of the characteristics that the individual wishes to privilege and nurture.