Tag Archives: Diversity

‘Invictus’

12 Dec

Invictus, a film about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team, has potential as AOS Discovery related material.

The film is set after apartheid when the ANC is in power.  It is a time of division and a time of uncertainty.  Mandela, the new President, needs to unite the nation.  He seizes upon the Springboks (the South African rugby team) and the upcoming world cup as a means for all South Africans, regardless of race, to come together for a common goal.

In this film, characters discover the limitations and dangers of prejudice.  They also learn about the freedom, support and confidence that comes from having barriers and misunderstanding removed.  Additionally, South Africans begin to discover a new way of living.

It would be an interesting text to pair with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries and even, potentially, some of Frost or Gray’s poems.

A Fresh Take on Social Issues

18 Nov

It came as a surprise to my students that sitcoms, such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, can convey important social messages.

To get my students critically engaging, we played a game of ‘Agree/Strongly Agree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree’ in which students had to move to the side of the classroom that best described their response to a set of deliberately provocative statements.

Statements included:

  • The sole purpose of a sitcom is to entertain.
  • It is impossible to communicate perspectives about important social issues in 22 minutes.
  • Sitcoms serve important social purposes.

It was great to see students engaging with their wider knowledge when defending their viewpoints.  It was also great to see students changing positions as they became convinced by the arguments of their peers.

After the game we watched a selection of Fresh Prince episodes, stopping after each one to revisit and explore the questions in light of what we had watched.

So, I’ve been watching a lot of television…

4 Oct

It is the school holidays and I am watching more television than usual.  As I am a teacher, I cannot help but make connections between what I am watching and what I have seen before and, to think about how I could use these texts in the classroom.

I have caught a few episodes of Black-ish.  It occurred to me as I watched this show that it should really be studied alongside some episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  Why?  Well, both shows seek to engage with the intersections of race, class and identity.

Now, if only I could find space in the program to explore this further with one of my classes!

Language and Gender related material

3 Oct

I cannot stop thinking about the different types of texts I would introduce students to as part of the ‘Language and Gender’ elective in Extension 1 English.  As such, I have started to compile a list (see below).  I plan to keep revisiting and updating this list as new ideas come to me.

  1. The Bluest Eye (novel)
  2. Beloved (novel)
  3. Americanah (novel)
  4. ‘Girl’ (short story)
  5. The visual album accompanying Beyonce’s Lemonade
  6.  Girl Rising (film)
  7. Poetry of Maya Angelou
  8. Poetry of Warsan Shire
  9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (autobiography)
  10. Bad Feminist (collection of essays)
  11. The Twyborn Affair (novel)
  12. Annie John (novel)
  13. Quiet‘ (spoken word poem)
  14. Anzac Girls (television series)
  15. Call the Midwife (television series)
  16. The Help (film and novel)
  17. Love Child (television series)
  18. House Husbands (television series)
  19. Black Eye‘ (spoken word poem)
  20. Spear‘ (spoken word poem)
  21. I think she was a she‘ (spoken word poem)
  22. Real Men‘ (spoken word poem)
  23. She Said‘ (spoken word poem)
  24. Macbeth (play)
  25. ‘One Word’ (short story)
  26. The Color Purple (novel)
  27. Mr Selfridge (television series)
  28. Scandal (television series)
  29. Bush Mechanics (television series).

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.

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.

Understanding Autism

15 Apr

I recently stumbled upon a short video in which a young woman tries to explain what life is like for people who live on the spectrum.  I think this would be a valuable video to show students as part of an introduction to studying Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as it would help them to better understand how Christopher’s brain works and, by extension, how this shapes his interactions with the world.

A new perspective

14 Apr

A recent conversation with a student reminded me of the power of literature.

The student and I were discussing Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  I remarked that I loved the novel because it allowed me to view the world from someone else’s perspective.  The student listened politely for a little while as I rambled on, only to interrupt after a while to observe that he liked the novel because it was the first time he had read a book in which the character saw the world like he did.  His view was that everyone should read the book as, by understanding Christopher, it would help other people to understand him.

In that moment I realised that the book did far more than I had ever given it credit for.  It wasn’t simply about offering a window into another world for readers who were not on the spectrum.  It was also a way for readers on the spectrum to have their lives and their understanding of the world represented in literature and, by extension, to have those experiences validated and valued.

REVIEW: Clancy of the Undertow

11 Apr

I recently ready Christopher Currie’s Clancy of the Undertow, an Australian coming of age story that has received positive reviews online.

I purchased the novel largely because of the name.  As a play on Banjo Paterson’s ‘Clancy of the Overflow’, I was expecting a story that followed the logic of Paterson’s poem, perhaps depicting an individual who wished for an opportunity to live a different life.  As per the poem, I expected Clancy’s life to be the one that was desired.

As it turns out, only some of what I expected was delivered.  While the novel definitely dealt with desire, aspiration and reflection on the status quo, there was not always a clear delineation between what was happening to characters and what they hoped would happen to them.  I found this ‘messiness’ appealing, and definitely reflective of reality.

I also thought the text dealt sensitively with a bullying, identity, and interpersonal relationships.