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Archive for the tag “Creative writing”

An Area of Study quickie

I’ve written about this before. At my place, we do a task where students read aloud 300 words of their own writing then relate it to ideas about Discovery and their texts.

Here’s the latest version of our task: HSC_AoS_Task_One_Asst_Notification_2016

There’s a couple of differences from our past task. Most notably, we’ve built in some concepts, some possible visual stimuli and insisted on third person writing. I’ve left this in Word so that people can make adaptations for their own context. I know that there are other people out there using other models – the viva voce, for example – but this is the one we’ve settled on here. Because it values the creative we think it’s a worthwhile addition to the course as a whole.

And would this be a good time to mention that getting rid of the Area of Study might not be the best idea in the world?


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!

Dodging the ‘essay on legs’. The speaking task question.

I’ve stolen the phrase ‘essay on legs’ from Sam Schroder, who used the term on the ETA facebook page. I like it because it’s a great summary of the problem: since the introduction of the new senior syllabus at the turn of the century we’ve been looking for decent alternatives to the highly formalised, analytical speaking task.  

Even as someone who has spent a lot of their career as a public speaking and debating coach, I have to say that I’m glad to see teachers looking for a range of engaging and relevant ways of delivering speaking tasks. I don’t have all the answers here. I see value in the live presentation and in the recorded one, the one with audiovisual support and the one without, the collaborative and the individual…

What I can do, though, is share my school’s response to the speaking task question. At our place, the speaking task is part of the Area of Study. This gives us the opportunity to assess the formal presentation at the end of Term 4, when there’s more flexibility in the timetable.

The task we do gets students to read out three hundred words of their original writing and then comment on how it reflects their learning about ‘Belonging’ It’s a common task across Advanced and Standard, delivered in panels of about eight students. Visual presentations – PowerPoints, Prezis – are recommended as a strategy to increase audience engagement. Students not only get the task, they get a model presentation. Here’s the task: AoS Speech Belonging Creative HSPA

How do they go? Well, here’s a sample. English sample AoS creative speech. This student chose to do a PowerPoint with their speech and it was a particularly good one. It’s here: Imp writing Belonging speech pp. Lastly, when I worked with this student we talked about what he needed to do to lift this work towards a top band response, so here’s some ‘feed forward’ work: Feed forward practical example English. (This was written with a view to working with staff so it includes a copy of the task and my notes as well as the improved response.)

I’m looking forward to Sam’s presentation at ETA to see what else is happening out there in terms of moving speaking tasks into this century. But in the meantime, there for your consideration is what we do. We have found this much more engaging than the former ‘essay on legs’ practice – and much more engaging. Students seem to enjoy hearing each other’s writing! Who would have thought, eh?

It’s okay, you can thank me later…

I’m getting a workshop together on Section 2 of paper 1, so I’ve been writing a practice question. I soon realised that the question always happens as part of the context of the paper as a whole, so I’ve chosen a theme and grabbed a few unseen texts to give the question some context. The result is attached. Feel free to use it as you wish. AoS Section 2 Practice.

 And if you have another, similar activity, please share! My goal in the workshop is to get students to follow Tony Britten’s advice and develop an additional scenario that may be of use in their exam. I’ll let you know how it goes.

‘Feed forward’ in practice.

At the end of last year I was visiting my school to talk about plans for 2013. While I was there, the staff were dealing with appeals on the just-completed Year 12 speaking task.  I took the opportunity to deal with one appeal, from a conscientious student who’d received a high B but thought his speech deserved an A.

If we’re serious about student voice, then we have to see appeals as being a legitimate part of the process; annoying as they are, they are a part of our communication with students and should be seen as an opportunity to build relationships. So, in consultation with the staff, I put some time into preparing some very detailed feedback/ feed forward for the student. 

I’ve included everything from the assessment task through to the feedback/ feed forward here. That’s partly because I’m particularly fond of this task. Krystal Bevin at HSPA had a big hand in re-designing the old speaking task so that we had one that valued students’ creative writing. But it’s also in the interests of transparency: here is the entire context. Depending on your own context, you’re likely to find different points of interest.

Here’s the original assessment task: AoS Speech Belonging Creative HSPA

Here’s the document with the example and response: Feed forward practical example English

Here’s the student’s PowerPoint: Imp writing Belonging speech pp


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?

Crime Writing Masterclass

I know some people are over crime writing as an elective but I’m still a big fan. But I’ve been thinking about the best way to deliver it to Extension English while I’ve been at conference.

There’s some innovative ideas out there. Yesterday I saw Bianca Hewes talking about her project based learning approach to Extension. Exciting! She had her two main assessment tasks both based on collaboration: a novella and a website on romanticism. The website is here: http://lastromantics.weebly.com/. It’s really worth a look, especially if you’re feeling a bit jaded with Extension. I think I may use this approach with crime, and direct students to this site as an example.

The masterclass on Tuesday also threw up a range of ideas. The power of the object in writing – I got to hold one of the razors used by the razor gang! – and the power of place is something I think we brush over. The photo will do, too hard to get there…. So yes, the Justice and Police Museum tour is definitely worth the effort.

What I’m thinking about is how to get students in Extension to write more often and more effectively, working in collaboration with others, commenting on each others’ work. My first thoughts were that I could use an edmodo driven ‘ten pieces in ten weeks’ approach, with a mixture of critical and creative writing. This needs work, though. How do I encourage students to take control? How do I make it about learning, not just hack work? How do I keep it ‘low stakes’, so that students feel comfortable about sharing their writing, while also thinking of ‘high expectations’, so that students can learn more about themselves as writers? How do I make it multimodal?

Okay, too many questions. But at least this is a starting point.

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