Tag Archives: Poetry

Multicultural and Polyvocal Society

10 Jul

We have been studying the ways in which poetry expresses Australian voices.  Through our study we have moved from voices who seek to speak for all of Australia, to contemporary examples of marginalised voices.  Inherent in this shift has been a recognition that an increasingly multicultural society is also a polyvocal society.

What happens then when students are asked to listen to a speech in which a contemporary figure seeks to speak on behalf of the nation?  Some students start thinking about the pieces of the ‘Australian narrative’ that are missing, wondering why the speaker has glossed over them.  Others wonder whether the glaring omissions matter; after all, this speaker is really one of many voices that are woven together to express our identity.  A final group wonders why a contemporary figure has more in common with Paterson who, in the late 1800s, was a vocal contributor to the view that the epicentre of Australian identity is the outback, than with the advocates who proliferate the contemporary poetic landscape.

It was really exciting to see students engaging with this level of depth and insight!

A Daring Suggestion

3 Jul

I recently stumbled upon an interesting blog post by The Daring English Teacher about poetry pairings.  I loved the idea of pairing classic poems with contemporary pop songs, using the newer material as a means of drawing students in to explore enduring values, ideas and experiences.

It could also be interesting to add a contemporary poem to the mix, such that students are making connections across three texts, perhaps a classic poem, a contemporary slam poem and a song.  This would allow students to develop their comparative skills while also meaningfully exploring the role of textual form and medium in shaping meaning.

This activity, in the form of pairings as proposed by The Daring English Teacher, could be used as a pre-testing activity.  Alternatively, with the additional text included, it could form the basis of an extension activity for a particularly able or engaged student.

Voices

1 Jul

My year 9 students are finishing a unit about Australian voices.  We have, as part of this unit, discussed the myriad voices that shape and construct Australian identity.  I recently read an article about Candy Royalle, a spoken word poet, who recently passed away.  The following section of the article stood out to me:

“‘I think this is the most powerful thing about poetry,’ she said. ‘Everyone has a voice, and yet not all those voices have an avenue or a platform. Poetry is a tool to give those voices power, a place to channel trauma (and joy), a platform to be heard in a world that is often deaf to marginalised voices – those voices we actually need to hear most from.'”

I think this sentiment is one that my year 9 students did not quite understand.  When discussing the shifting landscape of Australian identity we need to appreciate that the ability to access/hear varied Australian voices is significant.  Indeed, the voices that speak to us today are not those who would have been publicised or given a platform 100 years ago.  The more voices we hear, the more able we are to accurately map who we are as a people and what we value.

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?

 

‘The Exile’

19 Jun

My Year 8 class recently looked at ‘The Exile‘ by Michael Wasson as part of a unit exploring Indigenous rights and experiences.

Students were given the opportunity to unpack the poem in small groups before we examined it together as a class.  As they engaged with this process, I could not help but be impressed by the sophistication of their insights.  A summary version of some of their questions and comments is captured below:

  • Does the intermittent inclusion of the speaker’s native language symbolise the fragmented identity of the speaker?  Is he torn between two worlds?
  • How can the speaker be exiled but also present?  Is it a metaphor for not belonging?  It is a comment on Native Americans’ experiences in society – they are physically present but do not feel part of the broader American community?
  • The translations are included at the conclusion of the text as a means of helping us navigate the poem.  As English speakers, the poem challenges us and makes us feel disconnected in a way that mirrors the troubled relationship between Native Americans and American society.

It was super exciting to see my Year 8 students grapple with some of these big ideas, and passionately advocate for their understanding in a small group setting.

I am also excited to see how they might draw connections between this poem and poetry about the Aboriginal experience.  Will they see a certain universality of experience?  Will they recognise the voice of the marginalised?

 

Engaging the disengaged

9 Apr

I am hoping to be able to spend some time this year developing more engaging and innovative learning activities for some of my more disengaged students.  Here are some of my ideas thus far:

  • Create the pitch for a musical adaptation of the Shakespearean text we have been studying.  Which elements of the text would you retain, which would you change?  Who would you cast and why?  Write the song for a key scene in the play.  Create a storyboard outlining the plot.  Produce a costume for one of the main characters.
  • Write the next chapter of the novel we have been studying.
  • Re-write a section of the text from the perspective of a secondary character.
  • Re-imagine the poem we have studied as a narrative/conversation/feature article/persuasive speech.
  • Transform the poem we have been studying into a spoken word poem.  Justify your performance choices.

If you have any other good ideas I’d love to hear them!

Drawing out connections between texts

8 Apr

I have just commenced a comparative study with one of my classes.  Many students in this class are a bit disengaged, preferring to have the answers given to them rather than thinking for themselves.  To address this issue, I decided to take it upon myself to build their confidence in, and capacity to, interpret texts independently.

To do this, I gave them two columns of information.  The first column included extracts from a Shakespearean text, and the second quotes from the collection of poems that was to form the comparison.  Without further information, and without the aid of Google, students had to work in pairs to read the quotes and make educated guesses about the potential points of thematic connection.

During class discussion, students them had to support their responses with evidence from the quotes.  We did this using a thinking routine called ‘what makes you say that?’  As suggested by the name, kids who gave responses unsupported by evidence where asked ‘what makes you say that?’ as a means of prompting critical and analytical engagement.

It was a really successful activity, with students teasing out all the key ideas I had planned to canvass in the unit and more.

Mapping Australian Poetry

7 Apr

I am in the process of putting together a unit of work that explores changes in the Australian voice over time.  This unit will require students to explore key examples of Australian poetry and to understand how these poems are shaped by social, political and cultural contexts.

I think it will be helpful for my students to have an understanding of Australian history (in broad and general terms).  As such, I want to show them this interactive timeline.  Hopefully students can use this as a reference point, along with specific information about the poets whose work we study, to develop their capacity to discuss the contextual frameworks that inspire and inform texts.

Getting creative!

22 Sep

I am trying to get students to think outside their known universe when writing.  To do this, I want to show them images depicting scenes from various countries and get them to write descriptively about what they see.  I am keen to help them move beyond the mere visual similes and metaphors and, as such, I am asking them to focus on texture and movement.

Monsters

21 Sep

I have recently re-read A Monster Calls and, as a result, I can’t get thoughts of monsters out my head!  In particular, I cannot stop thinking about a unit about personal, social and political monsters in which A Monster Calls keeps company with FrankensteinThe Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and maybe even ‘Monsters‘ by Poetri.

As suggested by the unit title, the unit would examine monsters in various manifestations, viewing them as vehicles for personal, social and political commentary.