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Stewart McGowan's blog

Archive for the tag “Science fiction”

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!

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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!

Better writing in Extension English

dune_frank_herbert

 

What I’ve collected here is something that I’ve been working on with Denise McKinna from Dungog High. We were looking for a strong work sample for students studying Science Fiction – and ended up collaborating on this project

Below is one student’s response written for a trial examination. It’s been transcribed but it was originally written in around an hour. If you’re familiar with the Notes from the Marking Centre, you’ll spot straight away that this is an average sort of answer.

What I’ve done here is to write the ‘feedback/ feed forward’ notes after several of the early paragraphs, then re-write the paragraphs in a way that I think would demonstrate a higher range answer.

This is intended to be a resource for students and teachers studying the Science Fiction elective. I haven’t worked through the whole essay, but if you’d like to work on a paragraph with your class and send me your version… I may return to this if i get some time and work on the Neuromancer paragraphs but I’d need to do a significant re-read first. There’s people out there better qualified than me to work on this.

Imp writing sample ext SF v2

Oh, while I was digging around, I found this interesting site: http://io9.com/books/. A good popular culture style site for people still new to the genre.

SF Formative fun

SF formative fun image

Bianca Hewes, in her blog, set the challenge:

“… there are the usual ways of getting students to do a quiz, answer a question or two in a discussion or write a brief reflection on learning in a learning journal. These are great but can become monotonous for students and for teachers. Variety forces people to think in new ways and fall out of over-used patterns of thought.”

Here’s my response: I’ve been working on a new syllabus unit for Year 9, based around Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, looking particularly at cyborgs in SF. The emphasis is on understanding the constructed nature of the genre. So here’s my high-interest formative activity that gives students a chance to play with constructing an image then checks out their ability to discuss some of the central ideas.
See what you think. The activity is here: SF formative fun

Details of the source of the article are in the link.

Teaching SF

I’m working over the next couple of weeks on drafting up a couple of ‘new syllabus’ units.

 The first one I’m working on is based around Marissa Meyer’s book Cinder. It’s a Cinderella style cyborg love story, so naturally I’m re-working a genre unit. I’d like this to be contemporary, edgy, funky… engaging in other words. I mean yes, I love Ray Bradbury, but there are only so many times that I can teach ‘There will come soft rains.’

 So I’m looking for good ideas. Where would you all go with this?

 It’d be nice if the Borad of Studies  interactive programming tool was available, but we have to wait until day 1 next year for that. And right now, I have a bit of time on my hands. Naturally I’ll be sharing the final product so if you’ve got a moment, let me know your thoughts.

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