Monday, February 14, 2011

Beginning the year poetically!

I have always believed that poetry is the best way to begin any senior English programme. The reasons for this include - I love poetry (which ensures my delivery will be enthusiastic), poetry is usually fairly compact (which allows for easy digestion after a long hot summer out of the classroom), and most importantly it is a form of literature that combines language techniques, theme and structural devices very "explicitly", meaning that you have to engage with the mechanics of literature if you are to discuss it at any length.

Films and novels can be discussed for eons and students haven't even moved past the plot, where as poetry demands you pay closer attention! There is a sense of it possessing an exoskeleton - the bones and the organs that make it come to life are there for all to see. I believe if you can get a student dissecting a poem in the first week, you are going to set them up with the skills they need for dismembering larger texts later in the year.

Below are two versions of a particular favourite - Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. If you have students who fear poetry begin with Ben Harper's version, then introduce Angelou's. To me it provides just enough complexity to get students to really tackle the use of language and structural techniques and to stress the the importance having an understanding of the social and historical context, but still being straight forward enough that the students can "get it". Rich...but easy on the stomach!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Getting to know the learner

My first task I am setting for each of my classes is getting them to answer 20 Questions. The aim of this questionnaire is to get to know some key things about my learners. Questions range from queries about languages spoken, favourite texts, preferences in relation to technology and the setting learning goals for the school year.

My main challenge will actually be doing something meaningful with the information. One thing I plan to do is some simple 'so what?' analysis by identifying one thing I should note about each student, and actively considering how I should use it to influence my planning of topics, text choices or strategies used. Will see how that goes...

Ideally I would probably get the students to complete this as an online questionnaire using a Google Form - this at least would mean the results are easily collated. The use of pen and paper will have it's purpose though, as the answers will double as a record of student writing which will be filed away for authenticity purposes later in the year.

The Virtual Classroom 2011

This year I have decided to develop a blog that is completely focused on my classroom! This year I am teaching three English classes - Year 11 English, Year 12 Foundation English and Year 13 English. The purpose of the blog will be providing a place for reflecting on my teaching and sharing ideas and resources.

I am also hoping to encourage 100 other educators in joining me in a year of reflection and sharing! 101 English Bloggers! I will set up a separate blog about this....