Tag Archives: Gender

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).
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Language and Gender

2 Oct

As you have no doubt gathered as a result of reading this blog, I have a particular interest in the relationship between language, representation and gender.  For this reason, were I offered an opportunity to teach Extension 1, I would be keen to select the elective entitled ‘Language and Gender’ in the ‘Languages and Values’ module.

While the set texts have some appeal, what particularly interests me is the potential for diverse and exciting related material.  I would love, for example, to introduce my students to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah in which a woman grapples with her identity personally and through the prisms of culture and country.  I would also love to introduce students to the novels of Toni Morrison, particularly Beloved and The Bluest Eye.  In the former text a conflict in terms of the construction of gender identity is conveyed: is it written by the individual, society or by one’s master?  In The Bluest Eye, we see an exploration of beauty and the way in which gender expectation intersect with race.

An uphill battle

9 Aug

In Billy Elliot the titular protagonist faces a number of challenges during his journey of transition. In particular, he faces significant disapproval from his father when he seeks to escape the confines of traditional masculinity and pursue ballet dancing.

One of my particularly attentive students noted that when these challenges are most acute Billy is typically shown to be running or travelling uphill.  The student wondered if this was deliberate and, if so, if it could be read as a metaphor for the obstacles that Billy must overcome during his period of transition.  The student is now tracking this across the text, hoping to use changes in the inclines and trajectories of Billy as a means of mapping the complexities and nuances of his transition.

 

 

‘This is what a feminist looks like’

7 Aug

President Barack Obama recently penned an essay for Glamour Magazine in which he discussed feminism; what it is, why it is important, and why men should be feminists too.

I think this would be a great text to use as part of a unit about gender and identity as it challenges the perception that a prerequisite for identifying as a feminist is being a woman.

Language that resonates

28 Jul

A while ago I wrote a post entitled ‘The Power of ONE‘.  In that post, I discussed a strategy in which students had to read a section of text and isolate ONE sentence, ONE phrase and ONE word that resonated with them and was relevant to the text’s overall message.  They then had to justify their choices.

I recently used this activity with a junior class in relation to an excerpt from a Shakespearean text which we are studying.  The results were really interesting in that they reflected students’ own interests and priorities.

The more vocal feminists in my class isolated sentences, phrases and words that pertained to the treatment of women in the text and, more particularly, what they perceived as normalised or institutionalised portrayal of women as limited or inferior.

My students who are experiencing their first crushes and are beginning to embark on their first relationships were far more attuned to the sentences, phrases and words that offered advice about love and relationships.  In many instances, the sentences, phrases and words resonated because of the perceived usefulness or uselessness of the advice offered.

Other students were variously incensed or entertained by the disconnect between appearance and reality, and focused on these ideas.  These students often chose sentences, phrases and words which were susceptible to multiple interpretations.

This activity was great as it allowed me to get to know my students better.  It also offered students an opportunity to articulate and reflect upon their thought processes and, in many instances, model this thinking for students who were struggling to engage with the text.

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)

Institutionalised inequality

19 Jun

Maxine Beneba Clarke wrote a poem in 2014 in response to the shooting of Tamir Rice at the hands of police.  In this poem, entitled ‘Even if it gets to 104 degrees’, a mother speaks to her son and reminds him of the special burden placed on African American boys to behave in ways that overtly respectful and suspicion.  She remind him that many of the things other boys can do, he cannot.  Why? Because “black boys got shot for less.”

I would love to teach this poem alongside Blythe Baird’s ‘Pocket-sized Feminism‘, a spoken word poem in which the poem eloquently and powerfully explores gendered expectations and perceptions.   Through this poem it is implied that being a woman is accompanied by extra burdens – social norms which determine behaviour and dictate responses.

I think this poems would pair well as both discuss the notion that identity does not exist in a vacuum divorced from social norms and expectations.

 

‘Decadence’

25 May

I recently stumbled upon Ed Carlyon’s Spoken Word poem ‘Decadence’, and I think it would be a great addition to a unit about poetic representations of gender.  I think it would be a particularly interesting companion text to Harry Baker’s poem ‘Real Men‘.

Carlyon’s poem begins with the confronting observation that he has “seen more men binge drink than [he’s]…  seen cry and that don’t make sense.” In this opening statement, Carlyon powerfully links drinking culture to a peculiarly Australian masculinity.  As he continues, a distinct binary becomes apparent, with certain behaviours implicitly deemed manly and others as weak.  The depth of emotion conveyed in this poem is impressive and capable of sparking interesting discussion amongst students.

Intersections of race, culture and gender

24 May

I have written a lot about poetry as a form of advocacy, as an outlet for opinions, and as a means of helping young people to engage with and express opinions about the world.  I have also written about poetry as a powerful means of engaging young people with ideas and perspectives that, although sometimes outside students’ own realms of experience, are nonetheless important and worth discussing.

Another poem that I think students should hear is Mary Black’s ‘Quiet‘.  In this poem, Black, an Indigenous woman, explores her people’s experiences.  She also rails against the expectation that Indigenous women remain quiet, arguing in favour of advocacy, opinion, and articulating experiences.

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.