Tag Archives: Visions of Australia

REVIEW: Nona & Me

5 Jan

The most recent novel on my long list of ‘books to read during the school holidays’ was Nona & Me by Clare Adkins.

Nona & Me is about two girls who grew up together.  One girl is white and the other is Aboriginal.  Nonetheless, they consider themselves sisters.  Or, more accurately, did consider themselves sisters.

When Nona turns up at Rosie’s high school after the two have been separated for a number of years, Nona expects a warm welcome.  Instead, she is given the cold shoulder.  The resulting estrangement causes Rosie to reflect upon her values, community and identity.

Despite its reliance upon some stock characters and clichéd occurrences, the novel was an interesting read.  However, I am not sure if my interest derived from knowledge of the political events and personalities referenced in the text, or from the text itself.  I suspect it was a bit of both.  For these reasons, I would want to teach some of the historical background prior to commencing the novel, thus allowing students to engage with the novel as both a work of literature and a social commentary.

REVIEW: Soldier Boy

4 Jan

As part of my holiday reading binge I have also read Anthony Hill’s Soldier Boy.  This text is based on the true story of Australia’s youngest ANZAC, Jim Martin.

The text itself was interesting, charting the experiences and emotions of a boy (pretending to be a man) during war.  Also interesting were the primary sources included in the text.  However, the text often presented as a recount, making it difficult to completely immerse oneself the wartime setting or the perspectives of those mentioned in the texts.

In summary, this text would be an interesting way in to a unit on war poetry or life writing for a junior class.  However, I am not sure I would teach it as a stand alone text in another context.

Refugee Poets

12 Oct

I wrote recently about my desire to create a Year 9 program which explores Australian literature.  With this goal in mind, I have been on the hunt for interesting texts which explore the various faces, facets and voices of Australia.   As part of my search I came across this article, which introduces a number of refugee Spoken Word poets.  I feel that YouTube versions of some of these poets’ poems would add interest and diversity to a poetry unit.

Scattered Lives

23 May

I recently came across a play entitled Scattered Lives by Sally McKenzie.  The play presents the stories of refugees who seek refuge in Australia, and explores the reasons and circumstances which cause people to flee their homes and settle in Australia.

The play is written in simple and clear language which makes it particularly suitable for a lower ability class, and it would allow students to get their heads around dramatic techniques without being confused by overly complex story lines.

Ideally, I would like to teach this play to a lower ability Year 10 class.  In this imagined world, this text would be the focal point of the unit, with selected pieces of related material chosen to illuminate ideas and reinforce the idea that texts are studied in connection with others.

However, as this is a text that is not one we currently have at school, I think I would likely be forced to select just one scene or story and incorporate it into a different unit.  In this sense, the extract from Scattered Lives would become related material.  While this would reduce students’ access to a rich text, it is not necessarily a bad thing.  Indeed, I could see an extract being a valuable addition to my unit entitled ‘Visions of Australia‘.

Opera in the English classroom

9 May

As part of the introduction to my Year 10 ‘Visions of Australia‘ unit I asked students to explain how images were created in written text, a double-page spread of a picture book and an opera.  All three texts engaged with a series of quotations from Marsden and Tan’s The Rabbits.  The idea was that they would recognise how different types of texts create images in different ways.

On the whole, students came up with perceptive responses.  They noted, for example, that the rhetorical questions in the original text example created a sense of loss, that the high-pitched voice in the musical clip suggested pain, and that the overwhelming use of black in the double-page spread might represent the absence of something.

Analysing ‘The Rabbits’

7 May

Learning how to analyse texts and display that knowledge in clear paragraphs is the focus skill for my Year 10 class.  In order to assist them to organise their information I have given them a paragraph proforma that we use each time we write a paragraph.

Typically, we complete the first paragraph together as a class, which can then be used as a model.  Students must then complete the other two examples by themselves with varying levels of assistance. An example handout can be found here: HANDOUT – The Rabbits analysis table.

Visions of Australia

14 Apr

My Year 1o class is awesome.  However, they have a long way to go if they want to be properly prepared for Standard English in Years 11 and 12.  As part of my campaign to prepare them for senior school I am in the process of creating an ‘Introduction to Distinctively Visual’ unit for them.

The focus if this unit will be representations of Australia. Why? Well, it flows well from our novel study, building on some of the themes flagged there and answering some of the questions that students had at the end of that unit.  It also engages with ideas that may well have personal resonance for my class; all members of my class are either first generation Australians or were born overseas.  It is my observation that my classes much prefers topics that have some application to their own lives and experiences (either directly or through representation in media that they engage with).

I would like to begin this unit with a brief exploration of The Rabbits, a picture book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan.  This text is an allegory for Australia’s colonisation, representing these ideas in distinctively visual ways.  In particular, I am keen for students to discuss colour, positioning, juxtaposition, and salience as they apply to the text.  I also think that, as a text type, a picture book represents an accessible starting point for my ESL and lower ability students.

I would like to follow The Rabbits with something from Growing up Asian in Australia.  By comparing these texts, I hope to spark in depth discussion about identity, marginalisation, community and cross-cultural interactions.