Tag Archives: Distinctively Visual

Distinctively Visual Related Texts

24 Jan

Below is a list of possible related material for the Standard English Module A elective ‘Distinctively Visual’.

  1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (novel)
  2. And of Clay We Are Created‘ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  3. Approved For Adoption directed by Laurent Boileau & Jung Henin (film)
  4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (play)
  5. Because who is perfect?‘ (advertisement)
  6. Ernest and Celestine directed by Benjamin Renner (film)
  7. Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  8. ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire (poem)
  9. Lion directed by Garth Davis (film)
  10. Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (picture book)
  11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (novel)
  12. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (film or graphic novel)
  13. Scattered Lives by Sally McKenzie (play)
  14. Terrible Things by Eve Bunting (picture book)
  15. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  16. The Boat by Nam Le (adapted as an SBS interactive) (interactive graphic novel)
  17. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (picture book)
  18. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (novel)
  19. The Rabbits by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by Ben Stiller (film)
  21. To This Day by Shane Koyczan (graphic novel or spoken word poem).

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.

The purpose of texts

10 Mar

A recent discussion with a Standard English student studying John Misto’s play The Shoe-Horn Sonata made me think critically about the purposes of texts and how important an understanding of purpose is for students.

This particular student was looking for a related text and was hoping to find one which thematically connected to Shoe-Horn.  He had found a number of war poems, however he was finding it difficult to link any of them to his set text.  In particular, he observed that any links he made were superficial.

I invited the student to think about why Shoe-Horn had been written and, perhaps, use that understanding of purpose as a starting point for sourcing related material.  Together, the student and I formulated a statement about WHY Misto penned Shoe-Horn.  We noted, for example, that Misto was keen to explore the experiences of marginalised individuals and to give voice to those that society and history had, in effect, rendered voiceless.

With these ideas in mind, we then discussed other groups who might be marginalised or voiceless, and the texts that had been created to empower and/or commemorate these people.  From there, we created a list of possible texts and the student was tasked with reading the relevant poems, short stories and picture books to ascertain (a) which ones resonated best with him, and (b) how well each used the distinctively visual to communicate ideas.

Visions of Australia

14 Apr

My Year 1o class is awesome.  However, they have a long way to go if they want to be properly prepared for Standard English in Years 11 and 12.  As part of my campaign to prepare them for senior school I am in the process of creating an ‘Introduction to Distinctively Visual’ unit for them.

The focus if this unit will be representations of Australia. Why? Well, it flows well from our novel study, building on some of the themes flagged there and answering some of the questions that students had at the end of that unit.  It also engages with ideas that may well have personal resonance for my class; all members of my class are either first generation Australians or were born overseas.  It is my observation that my classes much prefers topics that have some application to their own lives and experiences (either directly or through representation in media that they engage with).

I would like to begin this unit with a brief exploration of The Rabbits, a picture book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan.  This text is an allegory for Australia’s colonisation, representing these ideas in distinctively visual ways.  In particular, I am keen for students to discuss colour, positioning, juxtaposition, and salience as they apply to the text.  I also think that, as a text type, a picture book represents an accessible starting point for my ESL and lower ability students.

I would like to follow The Rabbits with something from Growing up Asian in Australia.  By comparing these texts, I hope to spark in depth discussion about identity, marginalisation, community and cross-cultural interactions.

Portraits of Strength

29 Mar

I stumbled upon this amazing series of photographs while looking for related texts for AOS Discovery to include in an unseen texts activity.  The photographs and blurbs that accompany them were so compelling that I could not help but brainstorm ways of using these in the classroom.

AOS Discovery (Year 12)

These images and the accompanying text can be used to explore the ways in which audiences are invited to make discoveries about people and communities. Students could, for example, explore the ways in which the framing and composition of the images help us to understand/discover the key characteristics of these women.  They could also then explore how language is used to tease out/explain those discoveries further.

For other AOS Discovery related text ideas click here.

Distinctively Visual (Standard, Year 12)

The photographs are particularly evocative of strength and culture.  This, coupled with the accessible language of the accompanying text, makes this a choice worth considering for a Standard English class.  This text lends itself particularly well to comparison with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; both texts explore gender, power and the way these concepts intersect with culture.

For other Distinctively Visual resources click here and here.

AOS Belonging  (Year 11)

The photographs indicate the significance of an individual to the photographer, while the text expands upon that connection and the connection (or disconnection) experienced by the photographic subject in relation to her community.

For other AOS Belonging related text ideas click here and here.

A unit on gender representation (Year 9 or 10)

I have long wanted to run a unit on the representation of women in literature and images.  I would be interested, for example, to show these images which celebrate women alongside texts which denigrate them, thus flagging the different attitudes towards women.  I would also be interested in looking at the language and having a discussion about the ways women are described and characterised.  In this article, for example, women are described as strong.  Students could then explore what this means and whether this term has different connotations when describing men.

For other resources on gender click herehere and here.

A sign!

24 Jan

When we think about distinctively visual texts, we tend to think of texts with particularly evocative images or language.  While these are undoubtedly important, and arguably form the basis of most of the texts studied in English, it seems to me that it is possible for a text to be distinctively visual even without these elements.

A case in point is ‘Sign Language‘, a Spoken Word poem by Rives.  In this poem, Rives shares some of the poems and experiences of students at a high school for deaf people.   As such, interspersed between his explanation and translation are beautiful moments of animated silence.  What do I mean by this?  Well, the moments when his hands sign stories, and the emotion on his face and the simplicity of the gestures create in the minds of the audience a clear visual of both the substance of the narrative and the emotion that inspired it.

Distinctively Visual Poetry

23 Jan

The HSC Standard English elective entitled Distinctively Visual requires students to locate and analyse a range of related texts which help them to understand how form, features and language create, affect interpretation and shape meaning in distinctively visual ways.

For many students, and less well read Standard English students in particular, finding related texts is quite difficult.  As such, I am compiling a list of poems which can be used by students who are studying, as a prescribed text, a text that is not a poem.  Each of the examples is accompanied by a short section of analysis.

  • Spelling Father‘ is a beautifully evocative Spoken Word poem by Marshall Jones.  Unlike films, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, mean in a Spoken Word poem is a product of language, tone and pace.  ‘Spelling Father’ is no different.  In that poem, Jones’s words seemingly tumble into and trip over each other as they seek to convey an image of a mother who performs her own role and that of an absent father.  As the pace increases, a strong image of the always busy, always juggling mother is created; the words accentuate her burdens but also echo her capacity to continue functioning, supporting and nurturing.
  • If I should have a daughter‘ by Sarah Kay is another spectacular Spoken Word poem.  Unlike ‘Spelling Father’ where images are largely contingent on pace, Kay’s  images are reliant on language.  For example, she begins the poem by explain that is she “should have a daughter, instead of mum, she is going to call.. [Sarah] point B,” using this as a metaphor to explain the connection between mother and daughter.  This opening line forms the first half of a rhyme, with Sarah noting this will enable her daughter to “always find her way back to me.”  The rhyme reinforces the connection, assisting us (the responders) to visualise the certainty of the connection.
  • You Move Me‘ by Gina Loring is yet another phenomenally moving Spoken Word poem that engages with the themes of love and family.  In Loring’s poem, the visuals are created through similes and associations.  Indeed, Loring piles simile on top of simile on top of simile, building associations between emotions and famous figures in a bid to articulate the strength of her feelings.

Basic comparative essays

14 Jun

My students have done a lot of work this term on incorporating quotes and techniques into paragraphs.  In order to focus on those skills, essay writing was put on the back-burner.  Now, as the unit draws to a close, it is time to write a comparative essay.

In order to assist my students I create a simple comparative essay handout tailored to the demands of the current unit.  To cater to the range of abilities in my class I have incorporated examples with significant difference in language difficulty.  I have used different colours to flag these difficulties, thus aiding my visual learners.  As students have previously responded well to scaffolds and tables I have tried to incorporate that element as well.


13 Jun

My Year 11 students are studying a unit which requires them to make connections between their set texts and other texts of their own choosing.  I have learnt, through experience, that many of my students do not respond well to written texts.  I have also noticed that my kids are better able to imagine things when they hear them.  For example, when studying ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ they asked me to read sections of the text to them.  When they could hear how the words sounded they were better able to articulate the effect of the author’s language choices.

With all this in mind, I showed my students Poetri’s spoken word performance entitled ‘Monsters‘.   My students responded really positively.  One even told me that it was a ‘sick’ text (apparently ‘sick’ is a good thing these days).

I allowed my students to listen to it once to appreciate the message.  Then, I gave them a minute or two to jot down anything they remembered.  I then asked them to listen again, this time focusing on a particular section with a view to them selecting quotes that ‘spoke’ to them.  We followed this up with whole class analysis and discussion of the quotes sourced by students.

The next lesson was used to create a comparative table that noted the connections between our two set texts (‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’) and ‘Monsters’.  I was so impressed with the ideas that my students came up with!  Not only did they come up with great categories for comparison, but they articulated really perceptive points of connection between the texts.

Powerful images

18 Mar

My year 11 students are about to commence Module A: Distinctively Visual.

By way of introduction, I am going to show students a series of provocative UNICEF ads:

The plan is to use these to start a conversation about the power of an image.