Posts Tagged english

Inspiring PBL unit outlines from #CLP409 students!

This semester I modified my unit planning assessment for CLP409 (Secondary English Curriculum Studies 2) based on the outline developed by Bianca Hewes. You can see the 40 fantastic project outlines by her fabulous #EDMT5500 students on her blog.

Bianca developed her ‘Inquire, Create, Share’ model for project-based learning (PBL) units after finding that planning PBL units needed to involve more visible teaching and explicit structure to ensure students learned required knowledge and collaboration skills.

As I see it, this approach is a variation of existing models that suggest units of work be designed around phases of ‘Orientate, Enhance, Synthesise’. These particular verbs are popular in Queensland Schools, and can be found as one of two recommended unit planning frameworks on the QSA website.

The two things that I love about the unit framework that Bianca has developed are:

  1. It provides a structure for PBL units that takes on the narrative flow I find so natural in teaching – there is a clear beginning, middle and end in these units.
  2. The shift in verbs used to drive learning activity is important; activities to ‘Orientate, Enhance and Synthesise’ could still be very teacher-centered but ‘Inquire, Create, Share’ and similar verbs deliver an imperative to engage student-centered learning and project sharing.

Following Bianca’s lead I am posting my Assignment Task Sheet here for all to see, and below you will find some of my students’ finished products, reproduced with their permission.

CLP409 2013 Assignment 1 Task Sheet

Task sheet for CLP409 Assignment 1

Please notice that I used the same Driving Question as Bianca, ‘How can I create a project for English that will help my students own their learning?’, and that I retained some of the structure of her original project as well. Some things I did a bit differently were: adding an essay writing component where students justified their choices using scholarly and professional literature; requiring students to refer to Australian Curriculum elements rather than ISTE NETS and professional standards; providing models of other assignments.

Of course, I could only provide my class with models of assignments because Bianca’s students had been willing to publicly share their work in the first place. So a big THANK YOU to those fabulous (and generous) #EDMT5500 students, and to the University of Sydney, for making their work available to the world :)

Sam Mason:

Sam Mason CLP409 Unit Plan 1

Chloe McIntosh:

Chloe McIntosh CLP409 Poster1

Ben Niland-Rowe:

Ben Niland-Rowe CLP409 poster

Emma McVittie:

Emma McVittie CLP409 A1_poster

Toni Petersen:

Toni Petersen CLP409

Miranda Clignett:

Miranda Clignett Final poster image

 

Sarah Smith:

Sarah Smith Macbeth unit poster 2013

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Spoken Word Poem: Mathematics

I love this spoken word poem by Hollie McNish!

Uploaded in February this year, a colleague shared it with me today. It has been viewed over 665,000 times.

As well as being a stand out piece of speech, this poem would be useful for English teachers looking for texts to explore issues of immigration and racism (arguably with links to ‘numeracy’ capabilities as well!)

Press Play. Sit Back. Enjoy:

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Twitter #hashtags for English teachers to follow

Are you a teacher? An English teacher, perhaps? Trying to find where the good chats are on Twitter? Look no further! Start by searching for these three English-curriculum-related hashtags and you’ll be on your way to finding and conversing with other teachers just like you!

#ozengchat (weekly)

If you search for this hashtag on Tuesday nights, you’ll find Australian English teachers talking about their craft, ideas and resources.

The #ozengchat group also has a page on Edmodo, which is where voting for the weekly topic takes place (a group code for Edmodo can be obtained by tweeting @vivimat78). Vivian, who convenes the chat, also collects our chat tweets in a weekly online storyline using ‘Storify’.

#ozengchat officially takes place on Tuesday from 8.30pm – 9.30pm, Australian EDST (i.e. GMT +11)

australia-map-flag-olga - Flickr image by lednichenkoolga (CC-BY-2.0)

australia-map-flag-olga – Flickr image by lednichenkoolga (CC-BY-2.0)

#engchat (weekly)

As well as a special hashtag for Australian folk, there is also a more general #engchat hashtag that is coordinated for a more global chat.

Currently the #engchat tag seems to be heavily used by teachers in the US – as a result you can see some interesting discussion taking place there now about the implementation of ‘Common Core Standards’ across their states. And of course also a lot of resources being shared that we otherwise might not stumble across through our own local networks!

#engchat takes place at 7pm in the States (EST) every Monday, which is 10am – 12pm on Tuesdays in Australia (Eastern time).

The Globe (78 / 365) - Flickr image by somegeekintn (CC-BY-2.0)

The Globe (78 / 365) – Flickr image by somegeekintn (CC-BY-2.0)

#literacies (bi-monthly)

You can follow the #literacies hashtag on the 1st and 3rd Thursday every month. The convenors are based in the US, so the chat happens on Thursday night for them, which is Friday lunch-time in Australia.

This chat is supported by a very up-to-date and informative blog, where a record is kept of the chats and upcoming topics.

The #literacies tag can be added to your tweets at any time, but Friday 12pm – 1pm (Eastern time) is when you’ll see it live in Australia (i.e. Thursday night 8-9pm in the US).

Literacy mountain - Flickr image by dougbelshaw (CC-BY-2.0)

Literacy mountain – Flickr image by dougbelshaw (CC-BY-2.0)

A tip for non-tweeters:

If you want to check out these tags, but don’t really want to get involved in Twitter or create your own account, never fear!

You can search for these tags any time by going to the Twitter homepage and typing the hashtag (complete with its ‘#’ at the start) into the search bubble. You will need to make your own account to reply with your own tweets, but until then there’s no harm in lurking and learning from afar ;)

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Building up my Pinterest resources

I wrote a little while ago about my venturing into the world of Pinterest. My first board was a collection of images and links relating to ‘Indigenous Studies‘.

This post is just an update on what else I’ve been pinning that other teachers might like to check out.

English teaching - Pinterest board

English teaching – Pinterest board

On my board for English teaching I have links to professional associations, related groups and institutions, magazines and journals, classroom resources for English, and other stuff I think an English teacher might like.

Pinterest board - Learning

Pinterest board – Learning

When I started finding resources for learning in general that weren’t specifically about English, I created this board for pins about Learning. There are some especially good things up to re-pin from Edutopia and Edudemic.

Pinterest board - Brisbane

Pinterest board – Brisbane

Finally, so that this post isn’t ALL work and no play, here is a link to the board I use to collect links to cool things to see and do in Brisbane. This board is great for when people come up here to visit, it means we always have a good list of things to do and see :)

If you’ve never used Pinterest before…

  • Don’t stress out about missing out. I don’t see it as one of those “you absolutely GOTTA have an account!” tools. Anyone can go and browse my Pinterest boards, which I’ve invested time in because I like to curate, and also because I think my students enjoy the visual layout of  links they would otherwise ignore in a reading list.
  • My ‘addiction’ (read – compulsion to add pins!) to this tool waned after about four weeks, but I still find myself coming back to it and liking it five months after signing up.
  • If you do decide after reading this post to go and make some Pinterest pin boards, ENJOY! I’ve really dug finding new resources this way, as well as thinking more carefully about how an icon or image ‘pin’ can represent an idea, association or resource.

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Arts and Sciences not seperate #TED

In this TED talk Mae Jemison makes some very poetic and logical arguments for teaching the Arts and the Sciences in a more integrated way, and about the importance of promoting human creativity, which she explains is found in both the Arts and Sciences:

The talk was interesting in itself, but the reason why I found this Ted talk so appealing was that it again got me thinking about the inter-related nature of the acts of reading and writing, and of what our English syllabus in NSW calls responding (reading, listening and viewing) and composing (writing, speaking, and visually representing).  You might already have spotted a problem with these divisions – although the syllabus names reading as an act of responding (because it involves thinking about and having a response to what is read), one can also write or speak a ‘response’, yet those acts are names as acts of composing.  Do you follow? ;)

The distinction being made in the syllabus however, is not really between the acts of reading and writing (for example), but between acts that involve responsive or comprehensive thought processes, and acts that involve original or creative thought processes.

Jemison is critical of the way we have been taugh to regard ‘intuitive’ and ‘analytical’ thought processes as seperate – to see ourselves and others as ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’; ‘artists’ or ‘scientists’; ‘destructors’ or ‘constructors’.  While it may be handy for working out assessment task weightings to distinguish between acts such as listening and writing (although we will often test listening by getting kids to write down what they understood!), it is one way in which we reinforce the artificial binary of intuition and analysis.

One must be intuitive to be truly analytical.  One may work very methodically to acheive originality or create art.  Good English teachers understand this, and continue to promote creativity in all its forms.

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Shakespeare Searched

Thanks to @heyjudeonline for the link to a site called Shakespeare Searched.   The database is helped by the Folger Shakespeare Library, and you can use it to search for words or themes by play or by character.  You can search within plays, or search through all of the Bards works.

Here is an image from my screen after searching for Macbeth, then browsing through quotes containing the word traitor:

shakespeare-searched-macbeth

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Online Pedagogy

In today’s conference workshop I will be exploring four important issues relating to learning and teaching strategies for using online tools:

  1. How the purpose of your site relates to its form
  2. The intended teacher-student dynamic online
  3. Students and internet safety
  4. Getting students involved and monitoring contributions

Please respond with comments to this post if you have any questions, information or anecdotes from your own teaching context.

(DET Interim Guidelines for using blogs and wikis)

(from the ETA Annual Conference @ UNSW )

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Twilight

I wanted to like Twilight.  I really did.  But seven chapters in (about one third of the book) and I’m still waiting for it to give me something to like.  Anything.

I don’t know about any of you reading this blog, but at my school you can’t pry the students away from their Twilight books.  The girls especially!  Some have been banned from reading it by their parents, so are reading their contraband at school, keeping it in their friend’s lockers.  The school librarians are even making students in years 7 & 8 bring in a note before they are allowed to borrow Twilight, such is the hype around this book.

I volunteered to read Twilight, if for no other reason than to see if we really need to be getting permission notes for lending it, but also because I love a good YA fiction series.  But so far the writing is so dreadfully bland, and the plot has barely moved.  Here is a rough idea of what is covered in the first 7 chapters of the book, told through they eyes of female protagonist Isabella (Bella) Swan:

  • She has moved to live with her Dad – the town is small, boring and cold
  • There is a boy at school called Edward Cullen. He is mysterious, and very good looking
  • Many other boys like Bella. she doesn’t see why, but is happy to use them
  • Sometimes Edward talks to her, and sometimes he doesn’t…boy, he is mysterious!
  • Sometimes Edward’s eyes are black, sometimes they are ‘honey coloured’…this is a mystery
  • Sometimes Edward is at school, and sometimes he is away. This is agonising. And mysterious.
  • …did I mention that Edward is good looking, and the town is cold?

Paragraph after paragraph of this.  ARGH!  And because it’s told in first-person (and because Bella is so boring and such a bad storyteller), we aren’t finding much out about any character other than her.

It is excruciatingly like being trapped in the mind of a love crazed 16 year old girl.

It’s like Mills and Boon for teenagers.

IT IS TRASH!

(seriously…have ANY adults read and liked Twilight?  Can ANYTHING redeem seven straight chapters of tripe?)

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Proposed HSC changes

I cannot stress enough the importance of responding to the NSW Board of Studies proposed changes to HSC examinations and school assessment.

When you look at what they are proposing, it’s hard to see how they can possibly be genuine about their aim of “reducing unnecessary stress and workload for students and teachers”.

The 8-page Background Paper is an easy read, and explains the general changes that are proposed for all HSC courses:

  1. A mandated number of FOUR in-school assessment tasks for each 2 unit course
    • How the BOS thinks that running LESS assessment (making each task worth MORE) is beyond me.  Schools will get around this by making tasks bigger and more involved, perhaps by running ‘one’ task with multiple ‘parts’.
    • If you plan to have one assessment for AOS, and another three for the three Modules…where does the Trial fit?
  2. A removal of the limits of how much in-school assessment can come from test and exam tasks (!!)
    • This is OUTRAGEOUS.  It will certainly lead to schools assigning a greater weighting of marks to exam-type tasks.  At the Forums I have been to on the proposed changes, BOS reps argue (with a straight face) that they don’t think schools would want to do more exams…how naive.
  3. Each 2 unit course to have a single 3 hour exam including 10 mins reading/planning time
    • Obviously this is a big change for English.  What is going to be cut out of our exam to make it fit?  The logical answer is that creative writing (at least) will disappear entirely.
    • Why not just make the 10 mins reading time extra?  This policy is blatantly linked to a cost-cutting agenda, not to reducing student stress!
  4. Advice will be provided on expected length (number of pages etc.) of written exam responses
    • This looks oppressive, but BOS have argued this is only intended to stop those 30 page exam responses…which is OK by me as long as students aren’t heavily penalised for going a little over any prscribed length.
  5. A review of specifications to reduce the amount of time spent on major projects and performances
    • Wow!  Lucky students!  I think this is great, only…does this mean that the BOS will also be LOWERING THE STANDARDS?  Students currently work hard on major projects because the acheivement descriptors require it for students to get a Band 5 or 6.
    • What would make more sense is lowering the number of units that students had to study from 10 to 8, and giving them free periods at school for project work.
  6. School assessment to be based on clusters of outcomes, NOT on topics (e.g. Area of Study, Modules)
    • This is ridiculous.  This is clearly how they think they can get away with reducing the number of assessment tasks to FOUR.  To assess how well a student has understood an elective, you need to assess that elective.  Unless the BOS want to change the syllabus…hmm, seems they are subversively trying to do just that.
  7. Written exams to contain a mix of ‘objective response’, ‘short response’ and ‘extended response’ items
    • Multiple choice questions in Stage 6 English?  In an exam that’s worth 50% of their mark?  Of the mark they are using to try and get into Uni??  Don’t make me slap you.

The BOS has provided a feedback form for people and organisations to respond to these proposals.  The consultation period has been extended to the 28th October, and I encourage English teachers to send in their feedback!

The implications of these changes for English are huge. For those of you wondering how on earth we would fit our current two paper/four hour exam into a single three hour exam, here are the Board’s specific proposals for Advanced English (specific proposals for all of the courses can be found here).

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NSW syllabus gets some good press!

Thank you David Dale, for your refreshing column in this week’s Who We Are column in the Sun Herald “Better living through English”.

Dale describes his reading of the NSW 7-10 English syllabus, and finds “that it doesn’t just give students tools for communicating clearly in adult life, but it actually wants to turn them into decent people.”  He also was surprised to find such a high level of rigour in the syllabus, observing that in contrast: “In my day, the teacher was happy if you left school able to quote a bit of Shakespeare and tell the difference between a metaphor and a simile.”

One element that Dale praised especially was the fact that English is “not just about books any more. The syllabus uses the word ‘text’ to cover movies, TV shows, articles, books, plays and even video games.”

This column made such a nice change from the usual (misinformed) bile that we see from the likes of Donnelly and Devine.  Nice to start the teaching break on a positive note…it sure has been awhile!

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