Bunthorne's Blog

Stewart McGowan's blog

For those who asked: Ways into advertising

Have a look at the image below.

Gender in ads

I sourced this from the ‘Information Is Beautiful website’ about four years ago. It shows the frequency of words in ads for children’s toys aimed at boys; Hot Wheels, Nerf guns, Beyblades – those sort of ads. Yes, I know that wordle’s a bit old hat now but this is a good example of where it’s at its best. I started here, then asked students what they thought would be the biggest on the wordle for toys aimed at girls? If you’d like to know the answer, click here. gender in advertisements

What I then asked students to do was to choose a toy advertisers had aimed at one gender and swap it to the other. They had a choice of forms to present but a number chose video. Unfortunately the best video I have isn’t in an uploadable form! Hmm might be time for a video upgrade on this blog. But if I told you it was a skateboard aesthetic film about what boys liked, featured a lot of explosions and Zhu Zhu pets doing extreme stunts…


Speaking task alternatives.

This is part of a continuing series. Some might say an on-going saga. But I think it’s worth sharing the latest thinking in my staff on speaking tasks.

Here’s the one we’ve just finished writing: T1_Yr 10_Social_Justice_Asst_Notification_2014. Naturally it comes with a couple of extras, like a scaffold and a marking criteria: T1 Yr 10 Social Justice digital presentation Scaffold 2014, T1_Yr 10_Social_Justice_Marking_Criteria_2014

It’s our attempt to keep mixing it up when it comes to speaking tasks. We’re very happy with our Stage 6 tasks, where we have students reading their own creative writing aloud and reflecting on their own writing, with support from a visual presentation if desired. In case you’ve missed it previously, here’s one of them: 1. HSC_AoS_Assessment_Notification_2014

The great thing about this task in Stage 6 is that it formally values the creative side of the syllabus and encourages students to see it as an essential part of the course. And, of course, it values the part of English that a lot of us love – the creative and the imaginative. However, we didn’t want our Year 10 task to be a ‘lite’ version of the HSC task.

Year 10 have just finished their speaking task – it went over exceptionally well, probably because we did have an authentic audience in mind and encouraged students to speak directly about issues that matter to them. The opportunity to pre-record before presenting, or to present a digital video, was taken up by about thirty students and prevented a lot of the refusals and melt-downs we’ve seen in the past.

So we’re very happy with this one. Hopefully you’ll be able to use this to inform your own practice! If you’ve got a better alternative, please share!

Orwell’s 1984. Some Critical material

I’m following up on the ETA’s Module A day on the weekend and as promised, here’s some of the reading material I used to prepare my talk. I’ve also included some images. Here’s the Empire map!

Empire map

Now, I’ve attempted to scan these so they still work as a pdf but I may not have been completely successful. But here goes.

First off, here’s something Neal Endacott had tucked away from the 1970’s. It’s from an old Scoutline – those of a certain generation will remember Scoutlines – but it’s very quick and easy. It has a refreshing certainty to it, as well. ‘There he learnt to hate imperialism and pity the downtrodden and exploited’ – that kind of definitive statement that gives a good sense of how Orwell was perceived in a ’70’s context: Orwell Scoutline

Here’s a couple of interesting sources from on-line locations. I’ve included the url so you can track them down yourself. The first is from sfsite, one of my starting points for any sf texts. The second is from a University site. It has a very clear analysis of the ‘did Orwell predict the future?’ debate: Orwell Neil Walsh SF site

Now this is more just for interest. It’s an article from The Guardian about Orwell’s composition of 1984. Engaging and interesting: Orwell Guardian article

More stuff: here’s Ben Pimlott’s Introduction to 1984. This is the one in my edition but I know that it won’t be in everyone’s, and I particularly liked it: Orwell Intro Pimlott. And here’s some straightforward explanation of content: Orwell Storgaard

Understanding the complexities of Orwell’s politics can be a challenge, so here’s something on that:  Orwell Laurenson. Last of all, here’s an article that pushes out a few more challenging ideas: Orwell Donoghue

And just so I can show off, here’s the watch I used in the presentation. Pocket Watch

It’s my 1905 Waltham, an American movement in an English case. From the 1880’s, the US was making watch movements faster, cheaper and better than the English equivalent. If I’d thought of it, I would have included a picture of my roll-top desk from the same time – also American, because American mass production was producing faster, cheaper, better American Oak office furniture as well.

Macbeth Resources – for those who asked

I’ve had a couple of people ask about Macbeth resources recently, so I’m sharing some original stuff here. I have more on my shelves and in my bookmarks, of course. I’m particularly fond of my old copy of Brian Keyte’s Macmillan Shakespeare Macbeth but that’s been out of print for about ten years… and I never used all of it, just selected scenes and activities.

What I particularly like about it is its emphasis on stagecraft. Where should the Doctor and the Lady-in-Waiting be when they view Lady Macbeth? How can you stage this effectively? I find this to be a good way into the scenes – particularly as stagecraft choices reveal and are driven by the language.

But here’s some original resources. First off, a reader’s theatre script that I use when I’m introducing the play. Acting out Macbeth is the first part. Here’s the second half: Acting out Macbeth Part 2.

I also had fun searching various sources of images and crunched them together in this PowerPoint that follows up on the reader’s theatre. There’s a couple of activities on here – one is a ‘which scene is this?’ activity that asks students to identify from the image which part of the play has been photographed. The second is a compilation of ‘three witches’ images. There’s a huge variety of visual styles that can really drive students to think creatively about presenting Shakespeare. Macbeth in pictures! 

As usual, please acknowledge your sources if you use these activities – and if you improve upon them, please share!

Viewing Metropolis

The new restored version of Metropolis is a gem! I’ve been watching this as part of the Metropolis 1984 project and I can’t get my head around just how effective it is with its original orchestral score. MetropolisI’d only seen it in snippets before, or with the Moroder score in that fairly awful colourised version. With the full symphonic score it’s a real experience – recommended. I can see I’m going to have to find a big set of speakers and a decent viewing room for year 12 when we watch it – popcorn may be involved! Roll on, 2015. (For non-teachers I should explain that our prescribed text list in NSW has a new version that begins then.)

Oh, apparently the restored version is still available through all the big commercial DVD outlets – worth spending the $15 for the better sound quality, I reckon.

Sharing a noble failure

Okay, I’ve put about five hours into this but I don’t think it’s going to work.

 Krystal at Hunter Performing Arts bravely created the initial grid (and probably put in five hours herself as well) and I’ve been attempting the Stage 4 and Stage 5 extension of it.

 Here’s the problem: I don’t think it’s doing what people will want it to do. Have a look for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. HSPA K 10 Literacy Scope Draft

 There’s interesting things to be gained from the experience, though: 

  1. The Literacy Continuum doesn’t have enough detail for what we want with a scope and sequence
  2. The integrated language outcomes and content in the syllabus make deconstructing it for a scope extremely complex!
  3. If you start a project like this you need to perhaps stop and think about its purpose
  4. This purpose needs to be more specific than, ‘summarise the kind of language that we’ll use when we talk about literacy, grammar and language features.’

 There’s useful things here, too, but there needs to be a better pathway to using them. I know some teachers  are working similar projects as a wiki, I’m thinking that I’d love to get a staff working together, cutting things up and sticking them on a wall… Perhaps a grid system would work better? Something like this?

Stage: Whole text written/ spoken/ visual/ multimodal Paragraphs/ Sections Sentences/ Images Word/ Elements

I’ve got a couple of other projects on at the moment but I’d like to get back to this later in the term – so let me know if you’ve had more success than I have! In the meantime, why not pick what I’ve done apart? What needs work? What would work for you?

I’ll see (some of you) at ETA conference!

Students don’t answer the question because….

Answering the question is a hard thing to do!

I wrote about this in the last edition of mETAphor (if you’re an ETA member, here’s the link: http://www.englishteacher.com.au/Resources/mETAphor.aspx. If you’re not a member, sorry – I was paid for the article so I need to not republish it here for a while!)

But I thought it was worth adding something to what I’ve already written. I’ve been reading some work by English (Standard) students and I’ve been thinking through the issue of BOS verbs in particular.

When the HSC examiners set a question they intend for it to be accessible to all students. Unlike other subjects, where a question might be targeted at ‘Band 3’ or ‘Band 6’, in English questions are often targeted at ‘Bands 2-6’.

What this means is that the questions are written in such a way that only the very best students are going to be able to balance all of the elements. Think about this year’s HSC question on the poetry of Wilfred Owen, for example:

Owen’s poems present the reader with a powerful exploration of the impact of human cruelty on individuals.

How does Owen achieve this in his poems?

In your response, make detailed reference to your prescribed text.

Look at everything that students are being asked to address.  Students who were doing what their teachers told them to and circled the key terms in the question would need to address ‘powerful exploration’, ‘impact’, ‘human cruelty’, ‘individuals’, ‘how’ and ‘achieve’. That’s a lot to cover! It’s no wonder that some students, when they see a question like this, latch onto one thing they understand and centre their essay on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of students just dealt with the horrors of war Owen describes, for example.

What I’m noticing in particular, though, is that the BOS verbs fit very nicely with what students do: some students working at an elementary level can identify some features of the text. Then there’s those who can describe. A student who’s doing okay can explain – they might tell me about the horrors of war in Owen’s poems, with some details drawn from the poems. A better student can analyse, going beyond the content of the poems to their effect. And the best students can evaluate, talking about the differences between poems and their effect on the reader.

I was visiting at my old school last week and I wandered into a class and shared this observation with them, and encouraged them to work their way up from identifying and describing to explaining, analysing and evaluating – and they were shocked at the revelation that the BOS verbs were applicable to English! Of course, they are – but how often have we bothered to make this explicit? Or to incorporate it into our teaching? As a way of developing quality writing in senior students, it’s a nice little framework. It’s different from my ‘six point plan’ strategy but hey, there’s more than one way to get to your favourite coffee shop.

Somewhere in there, there’s an explicit literacy lesson! I’m working two jobs at the moment so I don’t have the alertness levels necessary to develop it – but perhaps someone out there might want to develop a nice little QT literacy lesson?

The Metropolis/ 1984 Project.

I’m starting work in the next few weeks on a major project for the new text lists in NSW. As part of a comparative study of texts and contexts, students for the 2015 HSC will be able to compare text and context for Lang’s Metropolis and Orwell’s 1984.

I’m going to use my blog as a collection point for resources I find useful or relevant to the project. This will need to be curated, I’m sure. there’s so much out there on both texts and not a lot of it is useful. But I figure it’s worth having a central point where I share the thoughts, ideas and resources as I go along. Eventually all of this will inform my work on the English Teachers’ Association’s writing team for the project and the lectures and so on I’ll be preparing.

 So here’s my first site that is worth a look: It’s from Michael Organ at the University of Wollongong. A nice, comprehensive republishing of reviews from 1927 along with a compendium of artwork and a lovely detailed referencing of other useful material. http://www.uow.edu.au/~morgan/metroa.htm.

This is my starting point. I’ll let you know how it all goes!

Jasper Fforde fans click here

If you’re considering teaching Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair in Extension 1 from 2015, or if you’re just a fan, this article is well worth your time. It’s from Erica Hateley – I referred to another of her articles in my last post – who works at QUT. It includes some lovely details about the book I’d forgotte – I read it a while ago, after all. And I missed that Thursday Next’s experiences in the novel mirror those of Jane in Jane Eyre. D’oh. End Eyre Affair Fforde

Wuthering High? Moby Clique?

They’re both book titles. I came across a reference to them in the latest English in Australia, that’s Volume 48, Number 2, and went browsing.

What I read of Cara Lockwood’s Wuthering High was engaging and clever. Not class set engaging and clever, but fun nonetheless.  Protagonist Miranda Tate, after a series of misdemeanours involving her father’s BMW convertible, is shipped off to Bard Academy. The school advertises itself as a place where ‘our students probe the classics in a solid academic tradition.’ It turns out that many of the teachers in the school are the ghosts of authors past. Ernest Hemingway teaches PE…

What a fabulous idea for a piece of young adult literature. Here’s a school where students get in touch with the great writers of the past – literally!  The article in English in Australia puts it like this:

Miranda and her fellow students are presumed to benefit from direct contact with dead authors, whether they have read those authors’ works or not.

I’ve always been a fan of Jasper Fforde’s ‘Eyre Affair’ series because of the way it plays with literature so I think I might have to give this one a read. I’d recommend the article in English in Australia, too: it’s Erica Hateley’s ‘Canon Fodder: Young Adult Literature as a Tool for Critiquing Canonicity.’ It’s an excellent summary recent thinking on the nature of the canon and its relationship to young adult literature. Wuthering High

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