Archive for February, 2013

Classes start tomorrow!

The week we’ve all been waiting for, week one of the university semester, is finally here!

This semester, I will be focussing on the following areas of my English Curriculum Studies unit for development:

  • Building in more support for student reflective writing. The design of my lesson planning assignment last year included a tutorial presentation of the key teaching strategies, but it didn’t really work that well. So I plan to change this element of the assessment to a written reflection, and add two targeted activities to tutorials in mid-semester to more constructively scaffold the task.
  • Finding places to make connections between English curriculum studies content knowledge and other professional frameworks. In particular I want to ensure that students understand how the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers can be used to self-diagnose areas of strength and directions for further learning, and are knowledgable about the Productive Pedgagogies framework that is advocated by Education Queensland.
  • Registration. After three years of running this unit it will be time to write up the final unit design, as well as a ‘scope and sequence’, so that the unit is ready to be passed on. At school we called this ‘registration’ – when the Head Teacher would check out your unit plans at the end of the semester and ensure you met your learning objectives. Here at uni there are other other mechanisms in place, but the Head Teacher check isn’t one of them. And official changes are made so sllllloooowwwlyyyy. So, for my own piece of mind, I’m going to put my own unit through a final tick-and-flick, then prepare my reflections and field notes for scholarly publication and sharing.

I’ve included below another classroom poster I’ve made, a visual resource to support my students’ engagement with the Productive Pedagogies – feel free to use and share (though note that the values/opinions expressed on it about alignment with ‘prac’ are only my own POV!).

Now…deep breath!

And once more into the breach!

Productive Pedagogies for Prac (image by Kelli, CC-BY-SA)

Productive Pedagogies for Prac (image by Kelli, CC-BY-SA)

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Making content posters for my classroom walls

Over the years I have seen many creative and high utility wall displays in other people’s classrooms. Imelda Judge for example is wizard with cardboard and hot glue – sharing a classroom with her in 2009 was a wild apprenticeship in classroom decoration!

I say ‘other people’s classrooms’ because I haven’t had a lot of success with this kind of thing!

2008: One time, I thought I had made a pretty successful poster of quotes from King Lear for my Year 12s…but they never seemed to look at it:

king lear quotes

2009: Far more successful displays have tended to come out of students’ own work being put up, such as this display of lines of poetry after a lesson with Year 10:

10G epic poetry

2011: And the ‘tree of knowledge’ inspired display I’ve had in my uni teaching for the past 18 months was wrongly positioned at the back of the room, and a little haphazard to boot:

learning environment - blender board IMAG0501

Today: When I saw Bianca’s tweet today with a picture of her classroom wall painted with blackboard paint, I thought ‘how cool is that!?’

…which motivated me to start designing some posters to add to my classroom this semester.

I’m going for a digital look, rather than getting all crafty with the glitter and paint. I plan to print them out in colour A3 and get the students to decide where they think they should be put up in the room. Here is the first one – two of the key concepts I focus on in my English Curriculum Studies unit:

by me, Kelli McGraw (CC-BY-SA) free-to-use

by me, Kelli McGraw (CC-BY-SA) free-to-use

Mind you, the room I teach in has been a blu-tak free zone for the past two years, because it got a new paint job. This has been severely limiting. While it’s lovely on one hand to teach in a clean and modern space, it’s hard to use a room when you can’t put things up where you want. Teachers who don’t have a ‘home room’ will know the feeling!

The display I have been using so far, however, has been taking up one of the big green write-on groupwork boards in the room (to avoid having to blu-tak the wall). I don’t think I can keep using that board – I need it in my class, and other teachers must too.

So walls, you’ve had two years…the blu-tak is now a-comin 😉

If anyone else has electronic copies of pedagogy-inspired posters that they would be happy to share, I would love to see some more designs. And if you have any ideas for what else you think I should be flagging for 2nd year preservice English teachers, tell me all about that too!

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The cost of preparing for class

Each year before school goes back, teachers can be found out and about in stationery and bargain basement stores, stocking up on materials for the coming term or semester.

New diaries, pens, highlighters, stickers, desk organisers, poster cardboard, and more.

For most school teachers around Australia the first day back was a week ago, but being a university lecturer, my classes don’t start until the last week in February. This gives me a few more weeks up my sleeve to get to the shops and buy some new items to refresh my wall displays and writing workshop materials.

(By the way, awhile ago I read an article that said teachers, on average, spend about $350 per year on classroom supplies that aren’t provided by the school. Isn’t that heaps!! Did anyone see that article? I can’t find it again now…)

$10 spend
One thing I have to top up every semester is my store of paper and card that students use to make visual poetry in English Curriculum tutorials:
20130209-000312.jpg
These can be picked up cheaply at most Bargain stores, Reject Shops etc. I got mine on sale in Kmart, which I guess means they’d be in Big W etc as well.

I’m thankful that I have access to most basic supplies for teaching at uni – plain paper, lead pencils, glue sticks and scissors are there for the ordering and taking. I still have to buy my own special stuff – black textas, wall fastenings, posters and craft paper – but in my public school teaching days, we weren’t even allowed to take spare A4 paper out of the cupboard for class! You also got just 4 whiteboard markers at the start of the year, and you had to make em last…

Gonski that!

$5 spend
20130209-001100.jpg
Because I teach older students, you would think that most could be relied on to bring their own books and pens to class. Not so!

The $5 spend on spare books and pens for students that turn up to class without these things in week one is a habit that most teachers of disadvantaged students pick up in their career. I am no exception, and I can attest that even at university, some students are doing it financially tough.

(I can just hear the TV ad voiceover: “For just 32 cents, one of these exercise books will get a disorganised student off to the right start for a whole year…”)

I picked these up at Woolies on an impulse buy – I know 48 page exercise books can be picked up elsewhere for as little as 9 cents a book though.

What do you regularly buy for your classroom?
I won’t be rude and ask people to confirm or deny whether they think they spend the average $350 a year on their class. Partly because I can’t even be sure that figure is right…but also because I’d rather know WHAT you choose to spend on.

How about it – are you a crafty practitioner? Or perhaps your annual spend went toward a personal data projector, or other tecchy toys for your class. Did you have to pay to subscribe to a website for them to use? Do you personally shell out to get their assignments printed in the library?

And if not…why not?

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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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Hottest 100 – a record for Troy

I was glad a few weeks ago when my mate Troy reminded me to vote in the Hottest 100 music poll. He asked me what I’d be voting for, which I hadn’t even started thinking about at the time. To me this was one of those years where there were a lot of good driving/chilling out songs, but not so much killer music left on my mind.

Anyway, I shamefully FORGOT to vote in the Triple J radio poll. So awful – I mean, not really, it’s not like it really matters. But I confess, it does make me feel youthful and ‘withit’ when I usually place my votes in January. Ah well.

So, sorry I never replied Troy, but now you know … I was a slacker and didn’t vote!

For the record though, if I had’ve voted, here is what I would have nominated for my top ten. It’s in order (favourite song first) and I’ve included the actual place it came in on the Hottest 100 chart.

OK, here we go…!

:::

1. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love {Ft. Mary Lambert} [15]

This is such a beautiful song, if you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favour and press play! The filmclip does an excellent job of building on the narrative of the song, which is about homophobia and marriage laws. I was proud to see people had voted this up to number 15 on the countdown, but for me it was number 1!

“no freedom til we’re equal, damn right I support it”

2. Django Django – Default [28]

This is a kick-ass pop song in the sense that it is really upbeat, but the lyrics are defiant. A scottish band, this was a staple driving-to-work song for me in 2012!

“we just lit the fire and now you want to put it out”

3. Tame Impala – Elephant [7]

Viva la psychedelic rock … Tame Impala’s 2010 album Innerspeaker was so, so, so good and I still play it all the time. They are an Australian band and their second album was just as good (I just don’t have it yet).  Elephant – such a funky song, enjoy!

4. Illy – Heard It All [76]

Ahhh, Aussie hip hop. I love it! There was more hip hop I could have voted for, but when it comes to genres, I like to spread the love around!

Although I am a grunge girl at heart, there is something about hip hop, and especially Aussie hip hop, that also speaks to me. Where grunge reflected the despair of our lives in the 90s, I feel like hip hop gives us a glimpse of hope at the end of all that. Where Nirvana screamed “here we are now entertain us”, hip hop flips the bird and says “f- you, I bought some spray paint, I’ll entertain myself”.

This song by Illy makes me smile, because it taps into that idea that nothing is really ‘original’, but that we are creative people who can share perspectives nonetheless.

“producers made beats before you could spell ‘drum kits'” LOL, indeed Illy, indeed.

5. Regina Spektor – All The Rowboats [72]

This song is pretty, and clever, and poetic and Regina’s voice gives the whole thing s perfectly haunted tone. It’s a song about museums and art galleries…and about how the artefacts are all trapped in there. Spooky!

“masterpieces serving maximum sentences, it’s their own fault for being timeless, there’s a price to pay and a consequence…”

6. Skrillex – Bangarang {Ft. Sirah} [25]

Not everyone loves dubstep, I realise. But you can’t deny that this year has seen a surge in popularity for this genre in Australia, and whether you think Skrillex represents that genre well or not, for many radio listeners he has been the face of the scene. I have no idea why, but I like it!

YouTube link (watch)

7. Grimes – Genesis [65]

OK, for the life of me I could not pick up the lyrics to this song, and had to look them up in the end. But it’s not the lyrics I love about this song, it’s the cute, ethereal sound of the track and Grimes’ gentle, siren-like vocals. The filmclip is pretty cool too, with lots of flaming swords and wild costuming. Lots to think about there!

YouTube link (watch)

8. The Presets – Ghosts [52]

Maybe it’s because I live near a river now, but I’m noticing a sea-faring theme with my music taste this year. This song has that ‘heave-ho’ sailor tune to it. A shanty? Someone help me out here…

“lost my mind in streets of neon, now coming on home…”

9. Of Monsters And Men – Little Talks [2]

Everyone loves a good duet, and this one is lots of fun 🙂 This is the other big sone with ship/sea references in it this year that I liked.

“cause while the truth may vary this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore”

10. Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune {Ft. Christine Hoberg} [17]

It’s always tricky picking number ten in a list, because you know how many other songs are being bumped off the list in the process! I was a sucker for this song because I am a sucker for the classical piece Clair De Lune, so that was that 😉 At 7 mins 44 secs it’s a nice indulgent listen, too.

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