Tag Archives: Social issues

Have Your Say

15 Jul

It is important for students to hone their speaking skills and develop their confidence in contributing to class discussion.   To do this I have developed a scaffold that helps students to structure and organise their responses.

The scaffold requires students to address the following points:

  • Issue
  • Why is this issue important?
  • Reason #1 – Why is it important/relevant to you?
  • Reason #2 – Why is it important/relevant to your community/country?
  • Reason #3 – Why is it important/relevant to the world?

For weaker students, I can supplement this scaffold with relevant persuasive language and, possibly, sentence starters.

 

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‘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.

‘Invictus’

12 Dec

Invictus, a film about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team, has potential as AOS Discovery related material.

The film is set after apartheid when the ANC is in power.  It is a time of division and a time of uncertainty.  Mandela, the new President, needs to unite the nation.  He seizes upon the Springboks (the South African rugby team) and the upcoming world cup as a means for all South Africans, regardless of race, to come together for a common goal.

In this film, characters discover the limitations and dangers of prejudice.  They also learn about the freedom, support and confidence that comes from having barriers and misunderstanding removed.  Additionally, South Africans begin to discover a new way of living.

It would be an interesting text to pair with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries and even, potentially, some of Frost or Gray’s poems.

‘CLICK, CLACK, MOO’

15 Nov

I have been on a picture book buying spree and happened upon an awesome text entitled CLICK, CLACK, MOO – Cows That Type.

The text begins with a group of cows who like to type.  They annoy the farmer by spending all their time at the typewriter.  They then start making requests.  These requests multiply, with the cows typing notes on behalf of their fellow animals.

I love this book!

I think it would be great as an introduction to Animal Farm as it explores ideas about agency.  For this same reason, it would be an interesting introduction to units exploring activism and identity.

‘Australia, I love you. But…’

20 Jun

While exploring Spoken Word poetry online I happened upon a collection of Spokhen Word performances gathered together under the heading ‘Australia, I love you.  But…’  As flagged in the title, the poetry flags issues that ordinary, culturally diverse Australians have with the nation.  Rather than complaints, these poems come across as pleas for the nation to do better.

In particular, I found Troy Wong’s contribution interesting.  In his poem, he explored the experience of being an Asian male in Australia.  I was also interested in the contributions of Sarah Saleh and Imran Etri.  Saleh and Etri spoke about their experiences of being Muslim women in Australia.  In doing so, they touched upon the idea of being doubly oppressed by gender and culture.

Poetry about grief

13 Jun

Today I was reminded of a poem I read a while ago, Sophie Hannah’s ‘Your Dad Did What?‘  In that poem, a student seeks to express his grief regarding his experiences during the school holidays.  At first, his teacher does not recognise the sorrow, the anger, the pain.  It is only in the last stanza that the realisation occurs.

This poem is simple but powerful.  I love the wordplay, and I love the way the emotional tenor changes as the poem progresses.

Thinking about ‘Your Dad Did What?’ also reminded me of Rob Gibsun’s spoke word poem entitled ‘On Grief & Healing‘.  This poem would make an interesting comparative text for ‘Your Dad Did What?’ as it, unlike Hannah’s poem, cycles through the range of emotions experienced after the death of a loved one.

Friday Fictioneers: ‘Walking the Black Dog’

29 May

It is Friday Fictioneer time again!  As per usual, bloggers are tasked with creating a 100 word story in response to a photo prompt provided by Rochelle on her blog.  My contribution is below.

‘Walking the Black Dog’

Her dog liked to walk near the cliffs.

The sodden, shiny rocks beyond the fence excited him, and he greeted each with enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm that was contagious.  More often than not she followed him, beyond the barricade, her bare feet maintaining a tenuous grip on the slippery, sleeping hunks of stone.

These night-time walks became frequent and, under the cloak of darkness, her inhibitions were dulled.   When nudged by the dog, his muzzle on her shin, she

stepped

slipped

leapt

into the water and was swallowed by the waves.

They searched, but found only her black dog amongst the stones.

Intersections of race, culture and gender

24 May

I have written a lot about poetry as a form of advocacy, as an outlet for opinions, and as a means of helping young people to engage with and express opinions about the world.  I have also written about poetry as a powerful means of engaging young people with ideas and perspectives that, although sometimes outside students’ own realms of experience, are nonetheless important and worth discussing.

Another poem that I think students should hear is Mary Black’s ‘Quiet‘.  In this poem, Black, an Indigenous woman, explores her people’s experiences.  She also rails against the expectation that Indigenous women remain quiet, arguing in favour of advocacy, opinion, and articulating experiences.

Further exploration of race and racism

23 May

One of my junior classes and I have spent a lot of time recently studying how racism and responses to racism are represented in poetic form.  As part of this unit, students have had opportunities to analyse poetry, engage critically with social issues, and to make connections to the realities of their own worlds.

I have been really impressed by how well my students have engaged with the ideas raised as part of this unit, and how willing they have been to present their opinions, engage with the views of others, and even revised their views when presented with particularly persuasive opinions by their peers.

Although the unit is almost over, and the poems have long been set, I cannot help but think about all the other amazing poems that could have been included.  For example, I would have loved to have taught Nate Marshall’s ‘When the Officer Caught Me‘ which begins with the quote “What is the age when a black boy learns he is scary?”  I think this would be a great companion poem to Maxine Beneba Clarke’s ‘Even if it gets to 104 degrees’ which explores the shooting of Tamir Rice by the police.  It would also have been interesting to allow students to explore Lia Incognita’s ‘Floodgates‘ – a poem about Australia’s refugee policy and governmental attitudes towards difference.  I think it would have been particularly interesting to study alongside newspaper articles on the subject

Debating in the classroom

26 Apr

A recent presentation that I made at school has got me thinking about ways to incorporate interactive debating-style activities in the classroom.  Below are the ideas that are going through my head at the moment:

  1. A traditional debate.  Here, students are provided with a high modality statement relevant to what is being studied, divided into teams, and asked to research the topic.  One team argues in favour of the proposition, the other against it.  This could be an interesting mode of formative assessment, perhaps in the early stages of an AOS unit.  After building the field, a debate could be used to test students’ knowledge of the core concept.  Potentially, this activity could be revisited at the end of the unit in order to ascertain how well students can apply their knowledge of texts studied to ‘prove’ viewpoints about the focus concept.  I think this activity would work particularly well in a strong Year 10 class, or a strong Years 11 or 12 Advanced English class.
  2. A stakeholder debate.  As in a traditional debate, students are provided with a high modality statement relevant to what is being studied in class.  However, instead of attacking the statement from TWO sides, the statement can be engaged with from the perspectives of relevant stakeholders.  Each stakeholder is allocated time to present his or her opinion.  After all key opinions have been aired, each stakeholder receives another opportunity to speak.  At this point, s/he must engage with the ideas and allegations made by other stakeholders.  For stronger classes, there is also an opportunity for stakeholders (or an audience) to ask each other questions to clarify viewpoints.  This type of activity would work particularly well in a junior class (years 7, 8 or 9) where the topic covered relates to issues of social or community importance.
  3. Ping Pong Debate.  In this debate, ideas bounce around the room like a ping pong ball does during a game.  Here, the teacher throws a potentially controversial statement to the class.  The first student standing responds to that statement, either endorsing it or refuting it.  Once that student’s allocated time expires, the next student standing gets an opportunity to respond.  This time, the student can extend the response of the previous speaker or make a counter-claim.  When I use this activity in my class, I encourage students to structure their responses using the PEEL format (Point, Example, Explanation, Link).  If I were doing this activity with weaker classes, I would write the acronym on the board and appoint a student as ‘Captain PEEL’, tasking him/her with redirecting the speaker to address any missed elements.  This debate works well as part of a building the field activity when learning about a new concept.  It can also work well at the end of a unit if students are also required to utilise their knowledge of a text studied in their responses.  My stronger Years 9 and 10 classes in the past have previously enjoyed this activity immensely.
  4. Room for debate.   In this debate, students are required to move around the class room.  The teacher provides a topic for discussion.   Upon first hearing the topic, students have to move to one of three signs which have been posted around the room: agree, disagree, not sure.  The teacher then asks one student who agrees with the statement to provide a reason for his/her position.  Encourage students to use the PEEL structure when formulating their response.  As they listen to the student’s argument, students who are convinced can leave their positions and move to the ‘agree’ group.  Repeat, this time allowing a student in the ‘disagree’ group to speak.  Then, a student in the ‘not sure’ group has the opportunity to ask a question, one student from each of the ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’ groups must respond to that question.  The ‘not sure’ student must then move to the group whose answer was most convincing.  The aim of the game is to stop students from ‘fence sitting’ and encourage them to commit to a position.