Tag Archives: Distinctive Voices

Understanding Voice

5 Jan

What does it mean to use one’s voice?

Why is one’s voice powerful?

How do we recognise our own voice or that of someone else?


The questions above are important ones for students to answer in the junior years as they move towards a senior syllabus that increasingly demands that they demonstrate a personal voice and perspective in their writing.

To encourage students to engage with these ideas I want to show them an extract from Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, using it as stimulus for class discussion.


‘Do the other kids make fun of you? For how you talk?’


‘So why don’t you do something about it?  You could learn to talk differently, you know.’

‘But this is my voice.  How would you be able to tell when I was talking?’



‘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.

Selecting examples

14 Aug

During my recent bout of Year 12 marking I noticed that many students in our cohort are having difficulties selecting examples that are relevant to the question.  To help these students I want create a mix and match activity: quotes will be printed in one colour and questions in another, students have to work in pairs to find the SIX BEST quotes for each question.  After each round, students will have to complete a grid in which they list and justify their chosen quotes.

Youth Week

16 Apr

In celebration of Youth Week, SBS recently featured a selection of short films (1 minute in length) about the experiences of young people in Australia.

One film, entitled ‘Stephanie’s Film‘, showcases the experience of a young Muslim girl as she strives to overcome negative comments and become the first Australian ballerina to wear a hijab while dancing professionally.  The juxtaposition between the ugly negatively of the comments and the beauty of her dancing is striking.

Another film, entitled ‘Taz’s Film‘ offers insights into the experiences and emotions of an Indigenous brotherboy as he discusses his struggle with gender identity.  Here, the images of him boxing provide a powerful metaphor for both his inner turmoil and strength.

These short films could be used as part of units exploring Australian literature and experience, identity, youth experiences, and/or autobiography.  They could also be utilised in an introduction to the Year 12 Standard English module on ‘Distinctive Voices’ to help students to understand the ways in which experience and representation shapes voice and the messages conveyed by distinctive voices.

Rising voices

12 Jan

As noted in yesterday’s blog post, I recently viewed Girl Rising.  It occurred to me that the film has value beyond the 7 – 10 English curriculum.  In particular, I think it would be a really interesting choice as related material for the Standard English ‘Distinctive Voices’ module.

When students write about ‘Distinctive Voices’, they write about why voices are distinctive, how distinctiveness is constructed, and the power or purpose of distinctive voices.  In Girl Rising, the voices are positioned as distinctive in that they represent the personal experiences of girls in nine different countries. In many instances, the voices are distinctive as they are of those who are marginalised; marginalised by gender and socio-economic status.  Furthermore, as the girls are representative of nations whose narratives are often excluded from the classroom, the voices are particularly distinctive.

The construction of these voices is interesting too.  The girls’ stories are written by renowned authors from each of the countries from which the girls originate.  The voices are thus representative of girls’ experiences as filtered through literary lenses and the personal experiences of the authors.

I think this film would be particularly interesting to study alongside a set text in which the voices are distinctive because they espouse ideals, values and aspirations.  Indeed, each of the girls in the film share their values, ideals and aspirations while also serving as activists for the overriding wish to see all girls educate.

Creating distinctive voices

1 Nov

Students often find it difficult to pin down exactly what it is that makes voices distinctive.  To assist in identifying the source(s) of distinctiveness, I think I would like my students to read ‘The Speechmaker: Australian Politicians Have Lost the Power of Speech‘ and discuss key ideas contained within.  Then, I will provide them with a series of political speeches and have them work in groups to analyse and isolate the source(s) of distinctiveness.  Students could then use these speeches as related material.

New Aussie texts

17 Oct

When we think of Australian texts, it is very easy to veer towards the classics: Furphy’s Such is Life, Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and poetry by Paterson.

However, as flagged previously (here and here), it is so much more than that.  As part of a year of Australian texts, I would like to introduce my students to at least one web series.  One web series I could show students is ‘Black As‘.  Like Bush Mechanics, it is about a journey through the outback in a worse for wear ute.

‘Black As’ also has potential has a related text for Distinctive Voices.  In this text, Indigenous languages are used, and subtitled in English.  This choice symbolises the improvements in terms of society’s willingness to engage with Aboriginal voices.

Understanding distinctiveness

16 Oct

I am keen for my students to have a well-rounded understanding of what is meant by ‘distinctive voices’.  As my class has, historically, struggled to discuss conceptual ideas in the abstract, I want to provide some stimulus material to kick-start their thinking.

With this in mind, I am thinking of showing them ‘How to talk Australians‘.   ‘How to talk Australians’ is a YouTube series set in a language school in India.  At this language school, Indian teachers attempt to teach Indian students how to talk like Australians.  As the lessons are heavily reliant on often outdated slang, colloquialisms and stereotypes, the short episodes tend to be quite humourous.

These short episodes are good examples of distinctive voices in that they highlight the interplay between identity and language.  In other words, the language school is predicated on the notion that assimilation, cultural understanding, and national identity are, somehow, contingent upon being able to use the language fluently and with confidence.

A second layer of distinctiveness is revealed when one realises that these alleged Australian voices are coloured by the cultural backgrounds of those who adopt the voices.  This is humourously evident when one of the teachers mispronounces one of the slang words during her lesson.