Tag Archives: Lesson idea

How do we enter literary worlds?

9 Nov

The new Extension English HSC course requires students to engage with a common module entitled ‘Literary Worlds’.   One of the questions that I think students should consider is: How do we enter literary worlds?

In order to answer this question, I think it is important for students to engage with a range of texts, exploring how their introductions in particular constitute an invitation to responders to step outside their known universe and immerse themselves in someone else’s fictional creation.

Toni Morrison’s Beloved, for example, begins with the following lines:

“124 was spiteful.  Full of baby’s venom.  The women in the house knew it and so did the children.  For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims.”

Here, the invitation is made through the information missing and the questions which, like the occupying presence, demand to be heard and answered.

Isabel Allende’s ‘And of Clay Are We Created‘, in contrast, demands our involvement through the emotive and evocative imagery:

“They discovered the girl’s head protruding from the mudpit, eyes wide open, calling soundlessly.”

I think it could be helpful to students to engage with a range of literature, unpacking how these appeals are made (in the opening lines) and strengthened as the texts continue.

I also think students could find it interesting to explore how composers transition from one world to another within a text, changing setting or emotional state.  A text that would be interesting to look at in this regard is Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West.  In this text, doorways are literalised as pathways into new worlds, and metaphors of birth are leveraged to communicate the significance of these transitions.

Reading as a gateway to empathy and solidarity

9 Oct

There is an emphasis in the new senior English syllabus on why people read and how what we read helps us to better understand the world, human experiences, and ourselves.  With this in mind, I am thinking of asking my students to read ‘How to be a good man: what I learned from a month reading the feminist classics‘.  As suggested by the title, the article explores how the reading of feminist classics can help a man to demonstrate solidarity in the era of #metoo and also begin to better understand the complexity of women’s experiences.

I think it would be an interesting activity for students to craft their own list of texts that should be read if someone wishes to better understand a particular issue, idea or group.  I would be inclined to broaden the task out, allowing students to identify (and later read) novels, short stories and poetry.  I would also be inclined to ask students to read as many texts as they can, developing a system for evaluating what they have read in order to make meaningful recommendations.

How do narratives shape our world?

30 Aug

As part of the new year 11 Advanced module ‘Narratives that shape our world’ students need to explore how and why narratives matter.

When asked ‘How do narratives shape our world?’ my students flagged a number of interesting ideas:

  • Narratives offer a way of organising and understanding the complexity of human existence; structure, cause and effect, motivation and character allow us to relive and understand significant experiences.
  • Narratives offer windows into the worlds of others.  Here, narrative devices help to develop the reader’s empathy and compassion.
  • Narratives enable us to understand how universal human experiences are re-imagined across time and space.
  • Narratives prevent us from feeling alone; by being exposed to the experiences (fictional or otherwise) of others, the perception that someone is different, ‘other’, or isolated dissolves.

 

Re-imagining the Past

24 Jul

Yesterday I posted about the possibility of students creating a play script in which they fictionally re-imagine or extend the life of an individual whose story is explored in ‘How Far We’ve Come’.  Additional resources that could be useful include the overview of migrants’ experiences at Immigration Place and the Australian National Maritime Museum.

In a variation of the previously outlined activity, the teacher could, without telling students, provide each with a different section of the profile.  Students could then share their fictional re-imaginings, trying to find the kernel of truth that inspired each of them.  Then, with all the information provided, students could evaluate the plausibility of events represented in the play scripts.

‘How Far We’ve Come’

23 Jul

I am a big fan of SBS interactives, and love using them in the classroom.

I’ve recently been exploring ‘How Far We’ve Come‘ and am keen to use it as the basis for an extension activity.  In particular, I want to offer students the opportunity to explore the experiences described in the interactive and then create a play script that offers a fictional re-imagining or extension of the life of the chosen individual.  This activity would require students to transfer and extend the knowledge gleaned through close study of a dramatic text.

Dramatising One’s Own Story

13 Jul

As part of an upcoming drama study, I am keen for students to demonstrate knowledge of the dramatic conventions set for study by creating an additional act for Sally Mackenzie’s Scattered Lives in which they document a migrant experience drawn from their own family history.

To glean relevant information students will be set the task of interviewing parents or grandparents, thus building cross-generational connections.

Additionally, students will have to storyboard the experiences, and then put themselves in the position of director to decide how to best and most powerfully stage the experiences.

I think it would also be interesting to have students type, edit and refine their work so that it can be collated as a second edition of Scattered Lives that, perhaps, could even be displayed in the library or made available as an e-book for students to share with their families.

Dramatising Australian Stories

12 Jul

I am hoping to study Sally Mackenzie’s Scattered Lives with one of my junior classes next term.  Her play explores a range of migrant experiences.

As part of this unit I also want to show my students Africa to Australia, an interactive website exploring the experiences of African Australians.   I want my students to select one of the stories presented and re-imagine it as an additional act in Scattered Lives.  Through this activity, students will be able to broaden their understanding of the Australian experience while also demonstrating their knowledge of dramatic conventions.

Write the Script

9 Jul

An article entitled ‘#PlaneBae: Alaska Airlines Passangers’ Flight Romance Goes Viral on Twitter‘ has got me thinking about unexpected ways in which the real world provides inspiration for narratives.  The article details how a chance encounter and perceived burgeoning love story was live tweeted by another passenger.

It could be fun homework for students to eavesdrop on a stranger’s conversation, using the few lines gathered as stimulus for a short drama script.  Alternatively, students could be asked to select from a list of genres, creatively re-imagining their overheard conversation so that it embodies the characteristics of a particular genre.

I am an Immigrant

7 Jul

A few years ago (Almost) Infinite ELT Ideas posted an image of a selection of crowd-funded displayed in the London Underground to combat racism and xenophobia.  This image was followed with the question, ‘What would you do with these posters in your classroom?’

I know I am a few years late to the party, but I would ask students to adapt this idea, creating their own posters with an image of an immigrant whose story we have studied in class.  Their posters could document the contributions of these figures (as the stimulus posters do), or they could be modified to reflect what we learn through those people’s stories.

This activity could work particularly well in a unit about Sally Mackenzie’s Scattered Lives which documents refugee stories, or perhaps connected to an interactive like Africa to Australia.

Extension Activity #5

5 Jul

Yet another potential extension activity is to have students create a series of short narratives that respond to a shared event or experience.  Students could work collaboratively to decide the defining event/experience and characters.  Each student could then work individually to write a short narrative from the perspective of their chosen characters.  Students could then come together, engaging in peer review and editing activities to enable the different narratives to connect together into a coherent whole.