Posts Tagged english
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.
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:
In today’s conference workshop I will be exploring four important issues relating to learning and teaching strategies for using online tools:
- How the purpose of your site relates to its form
- The intended teacher-student dynamic online
- Students and internet safety
- 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.
(from the ETA Annual Conference @ UNSW )
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?)
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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!