Bunthorne's Blog

Stewart McGowan's blog

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

This’ll never work!

Sometimes in this job I come across the most unadulterated, impractical, radical ideas.

Like this one:

Imagine being a Year 7 parent, and turning up for a parent/ teacher interview. And the first think a teacher says to you is, ‘What can you tell me about your child?’ And then listens to what you have to say. And writes notes!

What kind of a fantasy land is this, where parents and teachers communicate about children? When I think about my own school, and the poorly attended parent/ teacher evenings, I can see that such a radical move could only discourage parents from attending. I mean, isn’t the purpose of parent/ teacher evenings that teachers lecture parents, telling them what they’ve already read in their children’s reports?

Unworkable, unsustainable. Where do these ridiculous ideas come from?


Gilligan’s Ancient Mariner Gang

This is just for fun. I ran a workshop at the Literacy/ Numeracy consultants’ day that was based on an idea I picked up at ETA conference. Apparently, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the Gilligan’s Island theme and the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight are all written in the same stanza pattern – 4,3,4,3 rhymed abab. Okay, Sugarhill gang breaks away from that but it’s still a great idea!

 I’ve added in some skip hop from Butterfingers as well – thanks Alison Byrne for suggesting this. I had the lyrics cut up and stuck onto A5 card to make them easier to use.

 So here’s some selected lyrics and stanzas ready for a mash-up. I did it with just some improvised instruments – bottles, cans, an old tennis racquet, a bucket ‘drum’…. Keep the beat at a walking pace, don’t overdo the instruments. With a good class you can even get to the point of improvising lyrics.

 And just for fun, try singing


IT is an ancient Mariner,

  And he stoppeth one of three.

  ‘By thy long beard and glittering eye,

 Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?’


to the tune of Gilligan’s Island. Bet you won’t get that out of your head today….


Pass this straight on to your drama capable folks if it’s not your style. But if I were looking for a fun, end-of-year poetry lesson with years 7-9, I reckon I’d be going here! Here’s the link: Coleridge Rappers Delight Lyrics

Creative writing workshop. All the resources

One of my projects this term has been working on a GATS  writing program for primary schools. Like all things, it’s evolving, but here it all is.

My basic approach is that over the day participants will write four pieces for their ‘writer’s journal’, an ad, a poem, a short story and a 150 word persuasive speech. Because I’ve been seeing some really effective connections between primary and secondary schools, I thought I might encourage this as well, so I created an edmodo group with a mentor training program, which is here: GATS mentor training. I’ve got mentors coming to my event next week so I’ll be interested to hear what they thought!

The local primary GATS committee had set up the event as a ‘wicked writers’ day, so I went with this theme. Here’s my PowerPoint. As usual, please acknowledge copyright if you plan to use it. Wicked Writers no video. Hmm. WordPress doesn’t like my version of this with the video in it. Okay, here’s the video as a separate file. Or not. I don’t have it in a format wordpress likes.

The students in the workshops were late Year 4 and I found after the first one that they needed a bit more structure than I’d built in, so I made up a few worksheets before the second. They’re rough and ready but they helped get the organisation happening. GATS writing resources 

If you’re in a school where you don’t have a close connection with your primary, I’d say give a project like this a go. I could give you the data on why this is a good idea but I think it’s better to go with the more obvious: this kind of thing is good for everyone involved. The primary students were so impressed that they were doing ‘high school’ work, it’s great for the mentors, it breaks down the barriers between primary and high schools…. What’s not to like?

Just for history teachers

I’ve been working with history teachers in one of my schools to develop resources that fit with the new 6-10 Literacy Continuum, which is due for release in a couple of weeks. The one I’ve attached is a visual literacy activity based around images of Pauline Hanson. It’s a nice contrast: I used the image of Pauline wrapped in the flag and contrasted it with a more recent cartoon where she’s just used as a shorthand for racist Australians.

The activity’s intended to support anyone who teaches an Australian people and events style of unit in year 10, so feel free to pass it on to any history teachers you know! Continuum Teaching Ideas History.

The raft, the river and the rainbow

Prue Greene recommended this site in her last curriculum newsletter. I’m preparing a creative writing workshop at the moment so I thought I’d have a look.

It really is quite an amazing piece of work. Focused on the creative side of writing but in a detailed and accessible way. I’ve been playing around with the idea that writing and creative writing are like housepainting and landscape art – they may use similar materials but the process is very different. This site fits right in with this concept. I think I’ll try it out at the workshop. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The raft, the river and the rainbow is the work of Lizzie Chase and Gina Harrowell.

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