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Archive for the tag “HSC”

Countdown 2015! The Improving Writing presentation

Jasper m beastI’m presenting tomorrow at the English Teachers’ Association’s Annual Conference. The presentation is an update of my work as a literacy consultant. For those who’ve seen it before, my presentation is based on a course I developed for an across KLA audience but I have adapted it several times for different KLA’s, student audiences, different contexts and different delivery timeframes.
Previously with English teachers I’ve used John Foulcher’s ‘Summer Rain’ as a related text but I’ve moved to The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, which is better suited to discovery.
The presentation’s meant to cover a number of bases. It’s meant to in the first case provide information and strategies for teachers who are less familiar with grammar and literacy within English. It’s also meant to give teachers in schools who have to work as part of literacy committees some information that will help them move their schools away from narrow, NAPLAN-based approaches to literacy. Finally it’s designed to continue the conversation. I’ve suggested a range of practical strategies designed to improve students’ writing and outlined a framework that structures the process. But I know that others will take this in their own directions; I encourage you to do so.
The PowerPoint for Friday’s presentation is here: Improving Writing ETA Nov 14 v4
The handout I prepared included my article from last year’s mETAphor, Issue 3. Members can download this from the ETA’s website.
I also included some sample paragraphs to start the conversation. These are here: jasper morello paragraphs v5
Elsewhere on the blog you’ll find previous versions of this course should you wish. Or you can just get in touch. I’ll see a large group of you at conference tomorrow, I’m sure.


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!

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!

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.

Othello Resources – for those who asked

My favourite Shakespeare book is Norrie Epstein’s The Friendly Shakespeare. It’s amusing, readable, comprehensive… exactly the sort of book I wish I had at university when I was studying Shakespeare. Here’s a little sample: epstein_othello[1].

It’s a while since I taught Othello but I think that for Preliminary it’s worth going with the dramatic approach. I have trouble staying away from reader’s theatre with Shakespeare. For Macbeth I have a whole PowerPoint of production images that I’ve sourced from the net. They tell the story in pictures from a range of productions. Great for initially reinforcing plot and character but then it builds into an activity about meaning and interpretation.

I’ve always enjoyed teaching Shakespeare but I’m not a fan of the idea that he’s ‘timeless’. The explanations that take account of his very different appeals to audiences across time are more to my liking. I think I heard John Bell put it this way: ‘Shakespeare’s plays survive only if they can speak to us in ways that other plays cannot.’ That may not be the exact quote – but it’s still a good starting point!

Improving Students’ Extended Writing – the Work So Far

This is largely a rehash of what I’ve written about elsewhere in the blog but it’s worth going over, mainly because I’ve had a few requests lately for resources.

A big part of my work as a consultant has been to work on later years literacy. The course I put together as part of this work is called ‘Improving Students’ Writing in your KLA’ – it’s designed to be relevant acros a range of subject areas.

It’s built around some key ideas in literacy. The really central one is that students’ writing won’t improve unless we explicitly teach writing. Sounds like a no-brainer but in the context of the HSC, with busy people intent on delivering content, it’s easy to lose sight of the need to build on what students can do and show them where to go next.

Central to the course is the idea of feedback. If you know Karen Yager’s work, or you’ve read John Hattie, you’ll know how powerful feedback is – but what does effective feedback look like? I’ve proposed a structure based around a six-point diagram that’s designed to give teachers a framework for providing feedback. I’ve borrowed from Karen the idea of feedback and ‘feed forward’ throughout. Telling students what they can already do, then where they need to go next, is a key strategy.

In short, when we’re looking at a student’s extended writing, we typically find a range of problems that we want to ‘feed forward’ to them about, including:

  • that they really don’t know the content well enough
  • that their writing is unstructured
  • that they aren’t writing enough
  • that their writing lacks complexity
  • that they’re not ‘answering the question’ in a precise way
  • that they’re not dealing with the big ideas

In the course, I suggest that these six points are points on a cycle. If we build knowledge, then structure, then elaboration, then complexity, then cohesion, then concept – then we’ve built quality writing. I came up with this approach in particular because, while everyone uses high-end work samples, there’s not to my mind much teaching about the steps on the way to composing high-end, academic, conceptual writing of the kind valued in the HSC.

Here’s the diagram that I use as the centre of the course:

The Writing Cycle

Try it out: have a look at a few work samples and see if you can ‘track’ the sample to the diagram. It’s supposed to help make the ‘feed forward’ conversation with the student easier: ‘Look, you clearly know your texts well, your essay’s well organised and you’re writing a longer response, but let’s work on your sentences to see if we can get more complex ideas into your response.’ That kind of thing.

When I’m working individually with students I often take them around this cycle in an effort to build a quality paragraph. There’s an example of this at the back of the course handout.

Now I mentioned earlier that improving writing should be explicit – and that’s what else is in the handout that you can download here: Improving Writing Support booklet. In it are a range of strategies that I’ve used in English and other KLA’s to explicitly build students’ writing skills. There’s activities that encourage students to learn about what they’re studying through writing, scaffolding proformas, suggestions for encouraging elaboration, activities on building complexity through sentence-based activities, passages that demonstrate high-level cohesion and suggestions for building complexity.

I thought of editing this all back so that it only included English examples but I’ve left the other KLA examples in there just to make the point: every KLA is responsible for the specific, subject-based literacies in their own area.

I’m hoping this is useful for the people who asked. Some of you will no doubt be sick of the mantra – ‘explicit, systematic, balanced, integrated’ – but there’s a solid, practical focus in this.

Ultimately, academic writing is no easy thing and many of our students will need help to get there. This is my model for doing that.

The Justice Game continued

I was speaking to Year 12 students at my school on Wednesday so I put together a new presentation on Representation and Text, Conflicting Perspectives, The Justice Game. Here it is: Rep text justice lecture jul 13

I’m particularly fond of the ‘Andrew Johns’ slide in here. It’s meant to solve a problem for those who study The Justice Game and relates to the way Robertson positions his audience. Putting it simply, if you pick up Andrew Johns’ autobiography, what are your expectations? (Okay, let’s leave out the one that says he probably didn’t write it himself.) Is it going to give a personal perspective about a career in football? Is it going to give us new insights into memorable characters and events? Will it present a particular version of key conflicts on and off the field?

These, then, are our expectations of this particular medium of production. Of course I’m not suggesting we use AJ’s memoirs as a related text – it’s just a way into understanding our expectations of this textual form. What this does do is get around the problem of students who think Robertson’s work is ‘biased’ because ‘it only gives us his point of view.’ And yes, I have seen more than one student write this.

A reminder that this work is my intellectual property. You are welcome to use it for instructional purposes provided you recognise my rights as the creator. Including my name on any slide you use is sufficient! It’d also be nice to know if this helps with your teaching of TJG. I’m interested in your comments.

The Justice Game

There’s been a bit of action on the ETA facebook page recently around Geoffrey Robertson’s The Justice Game for Module C, Advanced. So this post is just about resource sharing. I’ll attach what’s in my files, with a few comments. Here’s my introductory lecture on the concept of representation that looks at the Boggs banknote, the Peters Projection world map and the Trials of Oz. Intro lecture Rep Justice Game

The PowerPoint that goes with this lecture is here. There’s some good images of Oz magazine in here if you don’t have them already. Intro Lecture Rep Justice Game

Here’s a language analysis grid, designed to focus students in on the language techniques that are central to Robertson’s construction of his conflicting perspectives: justice game lang. And here’s a detailed breakdown of Prisoner of Venda: Justice Game – The Prisoner of Venda

One of my favourite related texts for this module is Kenneth Slessor’s ‘The Vesper-Song of the Reverend Samuel Marsden’. Slessor makes his Marsden an overblown, sadistic hypocrite. (The poem is also fun if you’re fond of high-volume, stump-thumping readings…. just saying) There’s obvious content links with The justice Game but there’s also the conflict within the text (between Marsden and convict society) and within its context – what does it say about the relationship between the practitioners of law and our society? There’s a full break down of the vocabulary and a sample paragraph in the PowerPoint: Rep text Marsden lecture update 11

I’m also fond of this poem, Kelly the Murderer. Again, it benefits from high rhetorical delivery. But it’s very interesting: it was published in The Bulletin on the 6th of November, 1880 and gives a real insight into the conflicting views of Kelly and his crimes that were present at the time of his execution. The poem is so damning of Kelly, it’s shocking – there’s the very detailed imagining of his hanging, and the line ‘a bushel of quicklime is all that he’s worth!’ (Oh, bodies buried in unhallowed ground were often limed to make them decompose more quickly.) Kelly the murderer 

So there you go: I hope this is of some help to those who are teaching The Justice Game. As a final insight, I was working with a student just the other day and found that looking at how theatrical ”The Trials of Oz’ are is a great way in. Even looking at the way it’s written, with its pieces of dialogue, makes it obvious that it’s legal theatre – farcical legal theatre at that.

Good luck!

Improving Writing 2013

I’ve been running the Improving Writing in your KLA course again this week – for about the nineteenth time. Last week I ran the students’version that I put together for Hunter River again as well – this time in Maitland. Naturally I can’t avoid tinkering with this course and of course it’s going to change according to audience but here’s the latest version of the PowerPoint Improving Writing in Your KLA May 2013 and the course handout Improving Writing in Your KLA May 2013 Improving Writing May 2013 Handout.

For those who haven’t seen these before, please note that I’m happy for you to use them – but please respect copyright by acknowledging the creators. That’d be the consultants who contributed to the project – and me.

Given the way that the Improving Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership initiative suddenly consumed my time in the first couple of weeks, it was nice to get back onto familiar ground. I particularly enjoyed working with the students at Muswellbrook. Maybe I’m starting to miss the classroom!

Fresh approaches to Blade Runner and Frankenstein, Part Two


This is an addition to my earlier post about a top ten screenshot-based approach to Blade Runner. I was working collaboratively with one of my students and together we came up with this personal commentary on this shot. I’ve left our notes in so you can see how we’ve moved from them to the personal commentary. The next step is to take this writing towards an exam-style paragraph – hopefully one with a personalised academic voice!

I like what this activity does for students. It gives them a step on the way towards the formal essay, one that values their voice. It gives them permission to use original thoughts and observations, humour and pop culture knowledge in exploring their texts.

I’ll attach something else, too. This is really just a revision activity, so keep it to one side for the day you know you’re going to be away. It’s match the character to the description, then make the links to Frankenstein. It can lead to interesting discussions: where is Elizabeth in Blade Runner, for example? Rachel? Zhora? Here’s this one: Blade Runner character activity

And now, the notes and commentary.

Discussion Notes

  • Shows that no matter what they were made for, replicants wanted to be different – they wanted to establish their own identities away from their designation. Zhora is designated as a combat model but in this scene she is only ever the victim.
  • Purity of the fake white snow and the redness of the blood
  • Like any normal human, she’s trying to protect her head.
  • Crashing through a glass window is a Hollywood cliché.
  • Filmed at night. Neon lights dominate the background.
  • “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” (Rousseau) In this scene it is the mannequins who are ‘chained’ by the rope lights.
  • The different deaths – every replicant dies in a unique way – reinforces their individual humanity.
  • Zhora takes longer to die than every other replicant. She’s the only one who runs.


First Draft Commentary

‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.’ The mannequin on the right of the shot is chained by the rope light. Earlier in the scene, other mannequins have worn ‘slave collar’ neon chokers. It’s the filmmaker’s way of reminding us about the place of replicants in this society. They do the dirty work, they don’t get paid and they have the life expectancy of a Star Trek character in a red shirt.

Zhora takes longer to die than any of the other replicants. There is a chase scene, she crashes through two sheets of glass and she is shot three times by Deckard before she dies. It all makes us feel sympathy for Zhora, something Scott highlights further when he shows Zhora kneeling in the broken glass, her hands bleeding, shortly before this point in the film.

This is different from the deaths of other replicants. Leon dies instantly after being shot in the head. Pris is shot twice in the stomach and dies in a manic, convulsive fit. Roy ceases to be with the release of a convenient dove. It’s another way of reinforcing one of Scott’s key ideas – that the replicants are ‘more human than human’.

Crashing through a glass window is, of course, a Hollywood movie cliché. But there’s something different about this particular window, and that’s the fake snow. It’s a reminder of what is missing in this society: religious belief has atrophied and with it has gone any celebration of living. The snow is the last remnant of an absent Christmas.

Mind you, when it comes to clichés, Elizabeth’s death on her wedding night is making use of every narrative trick in the book. How much foreshadowing can one reader take? It’s Shelley’s way of building our sense of the tragedy of the death – and there’s the link with Blade Runner. For Scott, it’s film techniques: the chaos of the chase scene, the broken glass, the final close-up on the face of Zhora…

Zhora’s is a very human death. In this shot she is protecting her head, the most important part of a human body. And her death will enrage Leon and cause him to act rashly – which will lead to his death, too. In the film, it isn’t the ‘real’ humans who have meaningful relationships. It’s the replicants. Their very real deaths reinforce this point.

(394 words)

Here’s the whole thing as a word document, too: Fresh Approaches to Blade Runner Part 2

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