Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Extension Activity #2

29 Jun

Another possible extension activity is to have students create a writing portfolio in response to a text studied in class.  They might, for example, a letter to the editor to defend particular language/textual choices, create a travel brochure related to the novel’s setting, and also write a series of diary entries that enable examination of characters’ innermost thoughts.

A suite of writing would allow students to express themselves in different forms, thus adding interest.  Additionally, it would allow me to differentiate, easily, thus enhancing the capacity of each student to express him/herself.

The ‘Good Bloke’ Narrative

14 May

A recent conversation with students about Othello raised an interesting question:  If we view Othello as offering a window into the protagonist’s domestic world, then do we also (given the play’s ending) have to view Othello as a perpetrator of domestic violence?

The question is a good one in that it demonstrates critical engagement with the text studied.  It should also be valued as a way of grappling with the play’s continued relevance.  Another way of asking this question might be: Do we value Othello for the way it sheds light on the problems plaguing domestic relationships?

This understanding of Othello as an abusive husband was almost immediately countered by another student who, instead, perceived Othello as a ‘good guy’ corrupted by the machinations of Iago.  Othello may have killed his wife, argued this student, but it wasn’t really his fault as his rage was fuelled by Iago’s manipulative conduct.

The ensuing discussion, I feel, could really have benefited from students reading Clementine Ford’s article ‘The problem with the “good bloke” narrative’.  In this article Ford discusses the inadequacy of a system where males who murder their loved ones are cast as ‘good blokes’ and, in doing so, the gravity of their conduct is diminished.  In the words of Ford:

“Turning murderers into ‘Good Blokes’ only reinforces an underlying community belief that there are circumstances in which men (and it’s always men, because nobody defends women who murder children or describes them as ‘awesome’) can be driven to this kind of response. That indeed the pressures of being a man can be so intense and suffocating that they feel they have no choice but to end the lives of everyone they’re ‘responsible’ for.”

In light of this article, I have a number of questions for my students:

  • Does/how does the characterisation of Othello as a ‘Good Bloke’ devalue women?
  • Is Othello an anti-feminist play?  Why?
  • Is Othello an anti-male play?  Why?
  • What is Shakespeare seeking to achieve through his representation of men and women?
  • What narratives about masculinity and femininity is Shakespeare offering in Othello?
  • Why is it acceptable to perceive a literary domestic abuser, but not a real life domestic violence perpetrator, as a ‘Good Bloke’?
  • At what point does/should personal responsibility begin?

‘Killing Kennedy’

17 Jan

I recently stumbled upon an engaging interactive site about the life and death of JFK.  I think this text could function as a pathway to exploring JFK, his life and his presidency in the history class room.   Given the split focus on JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald (who later went on to assassinate JFK), it would also be an interesting means of introducing perspectives and showcasing how different individuals can interact within a multi-modal framework.

‘A Long Way Gone’ and ‘Freedom Writers’

16 Nov

For a while now I have been posting text pairings on my blog.  I tend to update it once I read or watch something new, hoping that one day I can draw from the list and teach something really exciting, engaging and thought-provoking.

I wanted to take some time out from adding to the list, instead explaining why I think particular texts would work well together.  Some of these options I have tried in my own classroom, others I aspire to teach one day but have not yet had to right class with which to test them.  I hope by explaining my thought process other teachers may have the right class with which to take the leap and might be inspired to try something new.

A Long Way Gone  is the autobiography of Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.  This book explores mature content but in a reasonably accessible way, making it the perfect choice for a mainstream Year 10 class.

Freedom Writers is a film that explores the power of relationships both within and outside of gang culture.  It highlights the role of education and strong relations to change the trajectory of lives.  Again, the content is mature but the presentation is accessible, making it a good film to pair with A Long Way Gone.

You could engage with both the texts around the idea of relationships and the forces that inspire/compel loyalty.  It would interesting to make comparisons between the experiences of child soldiers and those of gang members.  This particular comparison also enables meaningful engagement with notions of innocence and responsibility as well as charting courses towards redemption in various forms.

Reading to Write

4 Sep

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the new stage 6 English syllabus.  In particular, I have found myself unable to stop thinking about the new Year 11 unit ‘Reading to Write’.   In this unit students are offered opportunities to “undertake the intensive and close reading of quality texts,” using these to “develop the skills and knowledge necessary to appreciate, understand, analyse and evaluate how and why texts convey complex ideas, relationships, endeavours and scenarios” (Stage-6 Advanced English syllabus document).

Below are a selection of texts which I think could offer some interesting opportunities for engagement.  I will add to the list as I come up with more ideas.

‘Our Stories’

8 Dec

As noted previously, I had hopes of putting together a documentaries unit that engaged with a range of shorter texts.

One of the texts that my students explored was ‘Tattooed Lawyer‘ from the SBS series ‘Our Stories.’  We used this text as a means of discussing the type of content that can be included in a documentary.  We also discussed the role played by voice overs, location shots, action shots and direct-to-camera narration in conveying an individual’s experiences and identity.

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).

Documentaries with a twist

1 Oct

I am keen to help my Years 9 and 10 students to broaden their knowledge of the world.  To do this, I hope to run a unit about documentaries.

However, instead of selecting one documentary which we will study as a class, I hope to put together a selection of short documentaries which students can engage with.  In doing so, I hope to be able to showcase a variety of perspectives, cultures and religions and thus help me students to understand the true multicultural nature of our nation.

By showing a selection of shorter documentaries, I am also hopeful that I can create opportunities to discuss with my students different ways of representing experiences.  This, in turn, will enable discussions of editorial and production choices, thus engaging students critically in how texts are constructed.

Civil Rights

13 Jul

I recently watched an episode of Foreign Correspondent about the Black Lives Matter movement.  It was really interesting to learn about the movement and to see it framed as an extension of the Civil Rights movement.

I think it would be interesting to study this episode alongside other texts spanning from the Civil Rights movement to today.  In particular, it would be interesting for students to make comparisons with Martin’s Big Words (a picture book), ‘Diallo’ (spoken word poem), ‘Even if it gets to 104 degrees’ (poem), and ‘I Have a Dream’ (speech).  Students could also source newspaper articles and documentaries of their own.

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)