Tag Archives: Novel Study

Commandments

13 Jan

Animal Farm demonstrates, in part, the power of language to invite conformity and obedience.  Indeed, the animals are offered a series of commandments that are intended to guide (and later, normalise) behaviour.  I think it would be interesting to have students compare the commandments in Animal Farm (at any stage of the text) and the ten commandments of biblical fame, exploring the language to understand the linguistic power of the proclamations.  Then, as extension, students could craft their own set of commandments, perhaps ones that would be appropriate in a dystopian world of their own creation.

‘Animal Farm’ as Writing Stimulus

11 Jan

I recently read Margaret Atwood’s article entitled ‘Why Animal Farm Changed My Life‘ and was inspired by Atwood’s discussion of her perception of the gendered nature of dystopian fiction.  Using an extract of the article for stimulus, I want to invite students to reimagine and adapt Animal Farm for the modern day, offering a new perspective.  Hopefully, this will allow students to demonstrate knowledge of the conventions of dystopian fiction while also encouraging them to be creative and innovative in their own writing.

Introduction to ‘Animal Farm’

3 Jan

I am about to teach George Orwell’s Animal Farm to a class that comprises a number of disengaged students.  With this in mind, I am keen to provide opportunities for students to participate in discussion and demonstrate knowledge of the text.

I recently happened upon a slide show in which students were provided with the opening of a cartoon strip about Animal Farm and encouraged to complete the cartoon strip as a means of demonstrating their knowledge of the first chapter of the novel.  I like this activity, but would probably elect to broaden it further.  For example, I might ask students to also identify key quotes for each panel of their cartoon strip.  I might also be inclined to ask students to reflect upon the different ways language (chosen quotations) and visual cause them to receive/understand/appreciate the ideas of Animal Farm.

Extension Activity #3

30 Jun

It is important for students to have a keen awareness of purpose and audience.  As such, it could be interesting to have students re-imagine their set text in a different form for a new audience.  What would Romeo and Juliet look like, for example, as a suite of poetry for a teenage audience?  What would The Dreamer look like as a picture book designed for a year 1 student?

 

‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’

7 Aug

I have also recently read Becoming Kirrali Lewis.  I read this text, hoping to discover a great Australian text that I could use in Year 9 instead of Deadly, Unna? which is not universally adored by students.

The text explores the experiences of Kirrali Lewis, an Aboriginal girl adopted into a white family, and her experiences during her first year of law school in the city.  The raised a number of important issues about identity, conflict and relationships which I think would interest some students.  However, the scope of experiences and short length of the book meant that these issues were, at times, left unexplored or not fully developed.

While I’m not sure my current Year 9 class would love this book, it is nonetheless something I would be interested in teaching.  With this in mind, I think it would be well placed as part of a textual pairing, perhaps with Taika Waititi’s film Boy.  Both texts explore the complexities of family relationships and the impact absent and found parents have on identity.

No Safe Place

5 Aug

As part of a mission to revitalise the English Department’s Book Room I have been reading a lot of teen fiction, hoping to be able to make recommendations as to which texts we should purchase.  As part of this process, I recently read No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis.

I think this novel would be a fantastic choice for a Year 7 or 8 class, potentially as part of units engaging with identity, refugees, migrations, survival, relationships or choice.  It follows the experiences of a group of young people fleeing danger, war and abuse, and seeking safety in England.  The text weaves between past and present, allowing for a nuanced understanding of characters and their situations.

‘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.

Pairs of text everywhere!

5 Mar

Recent updates mean that my list of paired texts now has over 100 options!

New additions include:

  • After the Storm (film)
  • A Monster Calls (novel)
  • A United Kingdom (film)
  • Boy (film)
  • Face (novel)
  • Lion (film)
  • Queen of Katwe (film)
  • Tanna (film)
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (film)
  • The Intouchables (film).

‘See, Think, Wonder and Represent’

1 Sep

I had a lot of success recently using a ‘Hear, Think, Wonder‘ routine (an adaptation of the ‘See, Think, Wonder’ Visible Thinking routine) in one of my classes.  My students really responded well to the stimulus, listening intently and engaging with the language and sounds of the poetry.

With this in mind, I am keen to test drive my latest variation to the tried and tested ‘See, Think, Wonder’ routine.  This time I will be using the routine with a junior class and adding an additional element, represent, as a fourth step in the routine.  The stimulus for this task will be the cover of a novel that students will study.

The first three steps of the routine will play out as per usual: students will list what they see, interpret these elements and note down what they think the text is about and what they think the illustrator is attempting to communicate, and write down all the questions they have.  The final step will require students to give consideration to (a) how they would represent the cover in musical form, and (b) how they would construct a collage to represent the cover of the text.  In relation to (a) students would consider and describe pace, pitch, volume, beat, instruments etc and justify their choices.  In relation to (b) students would consider the materials used with a particular emphasis on the colours and textures needed to replicate/emphasise the key meanings they draw from the cover.

I am hoping that this activity will help students to think critically about representation, providing a perfect lead in for me to discuss the interaction of language, ideas and form in their set text.

Comparing sample responses

18 Aug

I am a huge fan of deconstructing sample responses with my students in class.  I think it is really helpful for them to be able to understand and apply the criteria to a piece of writing.  Sometimes I provide my students with A-range responses and, in doing so, give them something to aim towards.  However, on other occasions I provide them with weaker responses and we work together to improve them.

Typically the samples I provide are paragraph extracts. I have observed, however, that students struggle with creating introductions that meaningfully engage with the question.  As such, I think this time I will provide my students with a selection of introductions, all responding to the same question.  One of these introductions will be A-range, and the others B, C and D-range.  Students will be required to annotate the introductions according to a provided set of a criteria and, based on their annotations, order the introductions from A to D range.