Tag Archives: Growing Up

‘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.

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Post-it note conceptual mapping

26 Jul

I teach a number of mid to lower ability classes in which students struggle to understand nuances of the concepts and ideas that we explore as part of the English course.

To help students think critically and creatively about a topic, I want to implement a new approach to creating concept maps.  I plan to provide students with a concept and a set of post-it notes.  Working individually, students are going to write down words and phrases associated with that concept.  Then, students will work in small groups, pool their post-it notes and discuss the words and phrases they consider relevant.  They might also add additional words and phrases to the mix if required.  A class discussion will follow.  Students will then work in their groups to organise their post it notes so that the most important words/phrases or in the middle and the least important are on the margins.  In their groups they will have to discuss, agree and justify their criteria for importance.   The concept maps and reasoning behind them will then be shared with the class.

I am hoping that the ‘thinking pauses’ and discussions built in to this activity will help students to develop their reasoning skills and ability to engage critically with concepts studied.

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) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  4. A Long Way Gone (memoir) & Schindler’s List (film)
  5. Americanah (novel) & selected episodes of Black-ish (television series)
  6. A Monster Calls (novel) & Boy (film)
  7. A Monster Calls (novel) & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)
  8. A Monster Calls (novel/film) & Frankenstein (novel)
  9. Anzac Girls (television series) & Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon (poetry)
  10. Bad Feminist (collection of essays) & For Colored Girls (film)
  11. Becoming Kirrali Lewis (novel) & Boy (film)
  12. Becoming Kirrali Lewis (novel) & The Kite Runner (graphic novel)
  13. Brave New World (novel) & The Crucible (play)
  14. Brave New World (novel) & Never Let Me Go (film)
  15. Brave New World (novel) & V for Vendetta (film)
  16. Briar Rose (novel) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  17. Briar Rose (novel) & Lion (film)
  18. Briar Rose (novel) & Night (autobiography)
  19. Briar Rose (novel) & Schindler’s List (film)
  20. Deadline (novel) & Dead Poets Society (film)
  21. Deadline (novel) & The Fault In Our Stars (film)
  22. Deadline (novel) & The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film)
  23. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  24. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Hairspray (film)
  25. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Invictus (film)
  26. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Remember the Titans (films)
  27. Deadly, Unna? (novel) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  28. El Deafo (graphic novel) & The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel)
  29. Etiquette and Espionage (novel) & Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (film)
  30. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & After the Storm (film)
  31. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & 11’09’01 (collection of short films)
  32. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (novel) & Lion (film)
  33. Face (novel) & The Intouchables (film)
  34. Fahrenheit 451 (novel) & Persepolis (graphic novel or film)
  35. Fahrenheit 451 (novel) & V For Vendetta (film)
  36. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf (choreopoem) & Mustang (film)
  37. Frankenstein (novel) & Frankenweenie (film)
  38. Frankenstein (novel) & Never Let Me Go (film)
  39. Frankenstein (novel) & The Rocky Horror Picture Show (film)
  40. Girl Rising (film) & Poetry of Maya Angelou (poetry)
  41. Hamlet (play) & Nutshell (novel)
  42. Hiroshima (novel) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  43. Life of Pi (novel) & Castaway (film)
  44. Lord of the Flies (novel) & Where the Wild Things Are (film)
  45. Lord of the Flies (novel) & The Hunger Games (film)
  46. Macbeth (play) & Selected episodes of Designated Survivor (television series)
  47. Macbeth (play) & The Dressmaker (film)
  48. Macbeth (play) & The Gods of Wheat Street (television series)
  49. Maus (graphic novel) & A Long Way Gone (memoir)
  50. Maus (graphic novel) & Night (autobiography)
  51. Maus (graphic novel) & Schindler’s List (film)
  52. March (novel) & Little Wome(novel)
  53. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (novel) & The Fault in Our Stars (film)
  54. Night (autobiography) & A Long Way Gone (memoir)
  55. Night (autobiography) & Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography)
  56. Night (autobiography) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  57. Night (autobiography) & Schindler’s List (film)
  58. Night (autobiography) & The Seven Stages of Grieving (play)
  59. Nona and Me (novel) & Looking for Alibrandi (film)
  60. Nona and Me (novel) & September (film)
  61. Of Mice and Men (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  62. Othello (play) & Desdemona (play)
  63. Othello (play) & Gone Girl (film)
  64. Othello (play) & New Boy (novel)
  65. Othello (play) & V For Vendetta (film)
  66. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  67. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Lion (film)
  68. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Maus (graphic novel)
  69. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Night (autobiography)
  70. Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You (biography) & Schindler’s List (film)
  71. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Bride and Prejudice (film)
  72. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Bridget Jones’s Diary (film)
  73. Pride & Prejudice (novel) & Mustang (film)
  74. Refugee Boy (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  75. Refugee Boy (novel) & The African Doctor (film)
  76. Refugee Boy (novel) & The Arrival (picture book)
  77. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Alex and Eve (film)
  78. Romeo & Juliet (play) & A United Kingdom (film)
  79. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Freedom Writers (film)
  80. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Hairspray (film)
  81. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Meet the Patels (film)
  82. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Mustang (film)
  83. Romeo & Juliet (play) & My Big Fat Greek Wedding (film)
  84. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Tanna (film)
  85. Romeo & Juliet (play) & The Fault in Our Stars (film or novel)
  86. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Titanic (film)
  87. Romeo & Juliet (play) & Viceroy’s House (film)
  88. Romeo & Juliet (play) & West Side Story (film)
  89. Scattered Lives (play) & Americannah (novel)
  90. Scattered Lives (play) & Freedom Writers (film)
  91. Scattered Lives (play) & Looking for Alibrandi (novel)
  92. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Peter Skrzynecki (poetry)
  93. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Selina Nwulu (poetry)
  94. Scattered Lives (play) & Poetry of Warsan Shire (poetry)
  95. Schindler’s Ark (novel) & Hotel Rwanda (film)
  96. Speak (novel) & For Colored Girls (film)
  97. Stargirl (novel) & Wadjda (film)
  98. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  99. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (memoir) & Queen of Katwe (film)
  100. The Color Purple (novel) & For Colored Girls (film)
  101. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel) & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)
  102. The Dreamer (novel) & Billy Elliot (film)
  103. The First Third (novel) & Boy (film)
  104. The Fault in Our Stars (novel) & Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (film)
  105. The Help (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  106. The Help (novel) & Remember the Titans (film)
  107. The Help (novel) & The Blindside (film)
  108. The Outsiders (novel) & Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)
  109. The Outsiders (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  110. The Outsiders (novel) & Yolngu Boy (film)
  111. The Rabbits (picture book) & Deadly, Unna? (novel)
  112. The Rabbits (picture book) & Poetry of Oodgeroo Noonuccal (poetry)
  113. The Rabbits (picture book) & Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)
  114. The Scarlet Letter (novel) & Easy A (film)
  115. The Skull Beneath the Skin (novel) & The Real Inspector Hound (play)
  116. The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman (novel) & Freedom Writers (film)
  117. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (novel) & Hamlet (play or film)
  118. The Kite Runner (novel) & Big Fish (film)
  119. The Kite Runner (novel) & Boy (film)
  120. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & A United Kingdom (film)
  121. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Hairspray (film)
  122. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Poetry of Langston Hughes (poetry)
  123. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Remember the Titans (film)
  124. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & Selected episodes of Redfern Now (television series)
  125. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & The Blindside (film)
  126. To Kill a Mockingbird (novel) & The Help (film)
  127. To This Day (graphic novel) & Wonder (novel)
  128. To This Day (graphic novel) & Face (novel)
  129. Vernon God Little (novel) & Elephant (film)
  130. Voices from Chernobyl (non-fiction) & Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  131. War Horse (film) & Poetry of Siegfried Sassoon (poetry)
  132. War Horse (film) & Poetry of Wilfred Owen (poetry)

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.

REVIEW: ‘The House on Mango Street’

13 Mar

I recently read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  The House on Mango Street is an acclaimed coming of age novel that explores Esperanza Cordero’s experiences in her neighbourhood.  The text addresses the emotional spectrum of the coming of age journey, highlighting moments of joy, sadness, belonging and pain.

One of the things I found most interesting about this text was the way it showed that an individual’s coming of age journey does not occur in isolation.  Indeed, Esperanza’s journey intersects with those of others in her community.

Extracts of this text would be interesting to use as introductory material to a a ‘Coming of Age’ unit.  They could also be used as stimulus for creative writing, used as models for students to depict significant moments in their own coming of age journeys.

Experiences of growing up

5 Mar

I have written previously about texts that engage with the concept of coming of age.  I have since found a few more that I think could be relevant (in whole or in part).

The first text I want to show my students is the lyrics to Lukas Graham’s song ‘7 Years‘.  This song is about a coming of age journey and the challenges and experiences at each turn.  It is interesting in the way that it looks backwards and forwards, and thus both reflects and anticipates.

Another relevant text is an article entitled ‘Casualties of War‘.   Through engaging with this text, students will learn about how a parent’s experiences can shape a child’s experience as s/he grows up.

Yet another interesting text is Benjamin Law’s article ‘A Will to be Weird’.  In this text, the author reflects (sometimes with humour) on the challenges and responsibilities associated with being grown up.

Challenges of growing up

29 Feb

My Year 9 students are currently midway through a concept study about Coming of Age.  As part of this unit, I want them to understand that while the coming of age journey does not look exactly the same for everyone, there are interesting points of commonality.

One text which I want to show them is an article entitled ‘Boys Behind Bars‘.  This article touches upon the circumstances that cause children to find themselves in juvenile detention and explores, in greater depth, what it is like to grow up behind bars.  I think students will find it interesting to be exposed to (what I hope) is an unfamiliar environment, while also coming to appreciate the points of similarity and difference between the boys’ experiences and their own.

I also want my students to listen to Cyrus Bezyan’s ‘What’s in a name?‘ podcast in which he explores the way in which personal and cultural identity impacted his experience of growing up in Australia.  I have a fairly multicultural class, and I think Bezyan’s experiences will prompt some interesting reflections by my students on their own lives and experiences.

Another interesting text is Benjamin Law’s article ‘What is Cool?‘  In this text, Law reflects on his adolescence, the importance of ‘being cool’ and the changes he now sees in himself and society when he reflects from the vantage of adulthood.

Through engaging with these texts, I am hopeful that my students will come to appreciate that coming of age/growing up is associated with the gleaning of knowledge and understanding.  I am also hopeful that they will recognise that growing up involves facing and overcoming challenges.

REVIEW: ‘Fangirl’

8 Jul

My students are huge John Green fans!  I had a library lesson with my Year 7 class and 9 out of 28 kids were reading John Green books, 13 out of the remaining 19 had read one or more already, and/or were waiting for one to become available at the library.

One of the boys mentioned that he had recently read a book recommended by John Green.  That book was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  I had also read it, and loved it.  We started talking about Rowell’s novel, and about Green’s novels, and what it was that made them so appealing.  We decided that both authors crafted really interesting characters; characters that you could invest in wholeheartedly.  I’ve read enough John Green novels to know that this is something he does consistently across his novels.  However, I had not yet read anything else by Rainbow Rowell.

Earlier this week I was at the bookstore and stumbled upon another Rowell novel, Fangirl.  I started reading it when I got home and got completely suckered in.

The novel tells the story of twins and how they adjust to college.  The one twin, Wren, is keen for her independence.  The other, Cather, is scared to venture out on her own.  In fact, Cather is, in many respects, the antithesis to Wren; Wren likes to party, Cather would prefer to stay in the dorm and write fan fiction.  In this sense, the story is also about how Cather learns to exists in the real world as well as the fictional one.

Rowell’s novel weaves in sections of Cather’s fanfiction and also the series of books that it is based on.  This preoccupation with another author’s work reminded me a bit about Hazel Grace in Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.  However, where Hazel Grace is obsessed with the story and the author, Cather is interested in reimagining that world, moving the characters around and creating different plots and relationships.

While that similarity did irk me a bit, I soon become too invested in the characters to think about it that much.  That process of investment was aided by humour, well drawn characters, and interesting relationships.

Use in the classroom

I would recommend this novel to students who loved the John Green books.  If kids are mature enough to read The Fault in Our Stars then they should be fine with Fangirl.

I also think this has potential as an AOS related text.  For AOS Belonging, students should focus on the varying strengths of Cather’s connections, noting that they change in response to her circumstances.  For AOS Discover, students should consider what it is that the characters discover about themselves, their relationships and their world.

As the text is about Cather’s experiences growing up and going to college, it would also be an appropriate text for a Year 11 unit that explores growing up or coming of age.

REVIEW: ‘Life: An Exploded Diagram’

3 Jul

I have been on the hunt for good writing that is accessible to my students.  During my search I stumbled upon Mal Peet’s novel, Life: An Exploded Diagram.  I am so glad that I did!

To be honest, I was not sure about this story when I first picked it up.  Indeed, on the surface it seems like just another reworking of Romeo and Juliet.  However, instead of the young lovers coming from warring families, they come from different social classes.

However, this initial hesitation did not last long.  In large part this is because of the narrator; the narrator had a certain honesty that was both endearing and intriguing.  This did not mean that Clem, in either his young or older form, was always like-able.  He was not.  In fact, sometimes he was downright frustrating!  However, you could forgive that because he without these moments he was not ‘real’; without these moments the seeming honesty of his commentary would have been rendered false.

This novel contains all the typical elements that you would expect from a coming of age story: there is young love, idealism, obstacles and ingenious solutions, hurt and healing.  It is this coming of age aspect that would make it a good related text for Year 11 students studying ‘Growing up’ as an AOS.

Furthermore, the main characters discover much about themselves and each other and we, as the readers, get to discover them.  For these reasons this novel would make a nice related text for HSC students studying AOS: Discovery in the coming years.

AOS: Growing Up

3 Feb

My year eleven class is awesome; they are mostly engaged, they participate well in class discussions and they have great senses of humour.

Due to the varied levels of ability in my class, I sometimes find it difficult to assist those who are working slower while also going fast enough for those who need to be extended.

My solution is a website with tasks and resources built-in.  This means that the students who need to be extended can simply work their way through the tasks, and I can free myself up to offer assistance as required.  The other benefit is that it keeps most resources in the same place, thus also addressing the difficulty experienced by some of  my students in keeping track of all their handouts.