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Archive for the tag “English”

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?

Dystopian SF revised, with activities

I’ve made some small revisions to Come Unto These Yellow Sands. The new version is here: Come unto these yellow sands revised
I also had a request for a version without f-words. Yes, I know, there were only two. But fair enough. So here’s the no f-word version: Come unto these yellow sands no fs
Lastly, just because I’m planning to use it with my Year 9, I went ahead and put together some Literature Circle activities to support group reading and responses. I’ll leave this in word rather than pdf’ing it so that it can be more easily chopped about – but please respect the copyright on this. Yellow sands activities
I’ve had some really interesting responses to the play – that’s where a couple of the changes came from – and it’s good to see it getting some use. Have fun. Let me know how it goes!

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!

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!

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!

An Unguarded Moment of On-line Panic

Troy Martin, an education writer from Educational Experience, asked me if I’d like to write something about a couple of questions:

  • What advice would you give to teachers planning to create live sites for their students to publish creative writing?
  • What challenges may teachers’ face when moving students’ learning online?

Um, er… yikes!  Okay, here’s what I wrote.

I have to admit that when I read your questions I went into a bit of a panic. ‘I don’t know anything about sharing work on-line… I don’t know if I’m doing this well…. I’ll bet my staff or someone on-line has better ideas than me…

 Yes – classic teacher-centred panic when faced with the on-line environment. So the first thing that I have to do here is get over myself. What’s the worst that can happen here? Someone could have a better idea and I might learn something.

 So here goes: this is what I think. Correspondence gladly entered into.

 Because I’m a Teacher of a Certain Age, I make sense of on-line spaces by thinking back to what I know from pre-digital times. I used to do a task with seniors where each group had to contribute a page to a class summary that would then be photocopied and distributed. Today that’s what I use a wikispace for.

 Similarly, I’ve always used anthologies, getting students to publish their works as part of a literary magazine or something similar. In the past, students would work with their peers on paper. Today that’s all digital. An edmodo group as an editing circle, graphic software to create the pages for publication, publication on a blog as well as on paper.

 This is one where I’m happy to take advice. I’ve invested a lot of time into staying up-to-date on Microsoft Publisher – but I see others using programs like Fireworks with great results. I’ve been reading a lot about ‘fan fiction’ projects, too – and I’m wondering if there’s something better than a blog for sharing these.  When I get some time, I’m planning to check out Weebly to see what’s possible there. A quick side note: I’ve just noticed that someone else I know is using weebly like a wiki as well – and it looks better than what I’ve done in the past.

 The presentation to the class, formally spoken with palm cards, is something I used frequently – last century. This century, I’ve moved towards digitally enhanced or delivered presentations. The PowerPoint, Prezi or Slideshare particularly. I’m still a fan of the live voice if we’re talking senior assessment tasks but really, I would much rather watch a well-constructed short film than an essay on legs.

 Real audiences are important in all this, too. In the past, I’ve been involved in activities where my class has written letters or exchanged work with others in a far-flung, distant land. Nebraska, for example. Skype, Adobe Connect, edmodo all make this exchange more immediate and positive.

 So there’s my thoughts. I’ll stress again that I’m not the expert. But I am going to post this on my blog and send it to someone who’s more expert. Alison Byrne, what do you reckon?

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?

Advice on first entering into study of the science fiction genre

I was asked about teaching science fiction on the ETA facebook page by someone who was teaching it for the first time so I put together this reply. I’m thinking others might find it useful, too, so I’m publishing it here.

Dear Santhe,

I’m assuming you’ve already seen Barbara Stanners’ Exploring Genre Science Fiction book. If you haven’t, here’s the link to Phoenix Ed who publish this: http://www.phoenixeduc.com/shop/item/exploring-genre-science-fiction

 I’m a big genre fan so I read a lot of Australian Science Fiction and Crime. The SF can be a little harder to find but it’s out there. A good starting point is the Australian Science Fiction Society’s Ditmar Awards. All the winners are on Wikipedia. What can be particularly interesting here is the criticism. For example, this is the winning article from the 2013 awards: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/12/historically-authentic-sexism-in-fantasy-lets-unpack-that. This is Tansy Rainer Roberts’ look at ideas of history and sexism in fantasy – but the issues are very much the same for the science fiction genre.

 Here’s a good pop culture sf site that your students might enjoy exploring – I know I do: http://io9.com/tag/books. For example, there’s a very interesting article on one of the favourite talking points about science fiction – predicting the future – here: http://io9.com/how-to-measure-the-power-of-a-science-fiction-story-1334642372. This is Annalee Neewitz’s take on this. Here’s her conclusion:

 Predicting the future is a cheap parlor trick. Giving people a way to understand their lives is the true gift of the storyteller. The better we understand our world, the easier it is to think beyond the confines of the present and change the future.

 Nice. I can see an activity that involves just exploring this site and tor.com to find key contemporary ideas about genre.

 Now, something specific: I worked with Denise McKinna at Dungog High on this: https://stewartmcgowandet.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/better-writing-in-extension-english/. This is the reference to my blog post where I published the results of our work. The challenge here was to take a fairly average piece of work and make it better so this is a good practical activity for later in the course.

 Anyway, there’s my thoughts. Hope this helps. If you see or find anything else that’s fabulous, please pass it on!

Towards a grammar scope and sequence

Why is it that English teachers, when they get hold of a ‘reading visual texts’ resource are happy to play with it, talk about vectors and salience and gaze, in a way that they won’t with grammar?

I mean, if I were to say that I prefer the term ‘focal point’ to ‘salient features’people might not agree with me but it’s not going to cause a ruckus. But if we move from a visual grammar like this to a grammar of English…

I think it’s about time we re-imagined grammar. There’s still too much of the old ‘what are the rules’ thinking rather than the ‘how is meaning being made here’ thinking. I had this point driven home when I was visiting my old school on Friday. We were working with the primary staff on a secondary scope and sequence that’s designed to make sure that we are up to speed on the language outcomes in the new syllabus. And I kept running into people who found the very idea of grammar frightening. A DP with an English background who’d marked NAPLAN, Primary exec, other English teachers, all looking like rabbits in the headlights at the very mention of the G word.

Time to get over it, I reckon. Time to say, ‘anytime I’m talking about how meaning is being made, that’s a part of grammar.’ Vectors and salient features? That’s a grammar of visual text. Motifs, use of performance space, taking focus? That’s a grammar of performance.

Mel Dixon’s got a great quote in one of her workshops about how we need to see grammar not as something distant and unteachable but as a resource for the creation of meaning, a metacognitive strategy that can assist our students – and us – to do what we do with text in a more considered and effective way.

I’ll be doing some more work on this during the week and I’ll post the details here. The goal is to get English teachers used to the idea that we are confident and capable users of language and that we can happily ignore any latinate nonsense that doesn’t help us understand what is is that we do. An update soon!

Revising Area of Study Section 2

Yesterday I was working with a school revising Paper 1,Section 2 of the HSC. In the presentation I tried to address the particular problem that students don’t know specifically what to do to ‘study’ for this section. I’ve put all the resources from the workshop into this post

There’s ideas from a range of sources in here. Tony Britten is big on building scenarios, so I’ve included that as a preparation strategy. Lizzie Chase’s Raft, River, Rainbow resource (available here: http://www.raftriverandrainbow.com/) is intended for junior years but I’ve found that it’s excellent for explicitly reinforcing knowledge about the craft of writing with Year 12. The graphic is from the Whitlam Institute’s What Matters site.

For the workshop, I prepared a practice paper that had texts but no Section 1 questions. It’s here: AoS Section 2 Practice

Here’s the PowerPoint: AoS Writing Workshop Regular readers will notice that it’s adapted from ones I’ve delivered in the past. This one’s specifically AoS focused.

Just to make life a little easier, here’s the Writing Craft cards from Lizzie Chase’s Raft, River, Rainbow resource.  Raftriver Writing craft

As usual, I’m putting what I do out there so that it can be used and improved. Let me know how it goes.

Have fun!

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