"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Friday, July 11, 2014

NZATE CONFERENCE Keynote 4: Ted Dawe

Ted Dawe doesn't need any introduction to any NZ readers of this blog (does anyone read this blog?) but if you aren't aware of his work you can check out his website here: http://www.teddawe.com  or the Ted Dawe page on the Random House website: http://www.randomhouse.co.nz/authors/ted-dawe.aspx Ted's book Into the River won the 2013 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards Margaret Mahy Book of the Year.

Ted tells us he belongs to two vocational 'tribes': writers and English teachers, and that he regards the English teachers as the more important. At teachers' college he was told by Bernie Gadd that the new intake were the 'successes' of the education system and that they would spend their time trying to help the 'failures'. Ted found this challenging as he did not regard himself as a success and had gone to teachers' college for lack of anything better to do.

He spent his first two years teaching at Auckland Grammar and went to the UK intending never to teach again, but ended up supply teaching in London. Then relieved in Sydney for 3 years and came back to Auckland, teaching at Aorere College and then as HOD English at Dilworth. He is currently at a school for international students in a non-teaching role.

"It's a funny business being a writer." It wasn't until he went to England that he discovered what being a writer was about by writing to his grandmother. He had promised to write to her every week so every Sunday evening he sat down and did so. At first it was hard but after a while it got easier and he began to look forward to it and enjoy it. 

Now he says, "Not having a novel on the go is like being a bird trapped inside a room."

He began to write the kinds of books his students might like. He wanted an S.E. Hinton for NZ. His first book, Thunder Road, was written over the summer break one year. 42 days, 2000 words a day. "It's doable." Sometimes it didn't work, so I would go mow the lawns or something; the next day I would open the laptop and it would happen.  "I'll write till the day I die."

He made his students read chapters of his manuscript for homework and they gave him critiques (e.g. "You can't do a donut in a Mazda 323, it's front wheel drive, man! You need a Nissan Skyline.")

"When you carry a novel around in your head, you don't have a lot of space for anything else. Not enough RAM."

Captain Sailorbird and other stories - intended to address the question students always asked: "Where do your ideas come from?"

Ted told us about self-publishing Into the River - his publishers turned it down because it was too long. This story extended into the controversy about it and the eight pages of all the dirty bits, sex and drugs, from throughout the whole of the novel, which the NZ Herald published under a QR code, on the basis of which many people formed an opinion of the entire novel. Family First submitted it to the NZ Censor.  Ted explained that the previous book to be referred to the censor was 50 Shades of Grey, which passed with no conditions. Three of the four judges thought Into the River was fine, but one published a dissenting opinion and got it rated R14. This is an issue because of the way it is not displayed on public libraries shelves, for example. 

At this point I have to admit I have not read Into the River but I am about to go and do so and if it is any good whatsoever (which presumably it is, since it won the Children's Book of the year), then I am going to buy a class set!!!

You can buy it here! http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/Into-River-Ted-Dawe/9781775536048

Read about the controversy:

NZATE CONFERENCE Workshop 5 - Sian Evans: You Auteur Know Better...

Sian explained that she wants to give students a different experience of text from the same old film study they have been doing every year.

Possible ways of looking at film include:

  • Genre theory
  • Auteur theory
  • Narrative theory
  • Archetypal theory
Have a look in Sian's Looking Glass book for suggestions on the last two of these:

Genre theory 
Looking at the archetypes of the code structures that place the text within that genre. Looking at the set of codes, conventions and structures. You can introduce this nicely with the following youtube clip, "Trailer for every academy award winning movie, ever."

- research the genre
- compile a list of conventions using Chandler guidelines
- Get students to discuss the director's approach to each of these conventions: are they adhered to, subverted or ignored? What is the effect?

Sian shared a great idea for a lesson you can't be bothered planning: put an essay question on the board, tell them you will be writing the essay with them in the period, and that if they finish theirs, they can have yours. I love it!

Auteur theory

Is what makes a film recognisable as the work of a specific director, even across genres. To be an auteur the director has to be one who exercises control over all aspects of production.

A great way to introduce auteur theory is to use the following clip, which parodies the distinctive style of a variety of directors all on the same subject:

Sian uses Baz Luhrmann to teach auteur theory. She tells us that in some Hollywood circles, Luhrmann is known as the "anti-Kubrick". She uses one lesson to look at trailers for some of Kubrick's films (2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining) to introduce Kubrick's style.

We watched the both trailers and identified:
  • symmetrical sets
  • classical, dramatic music
  • broad, sweeping establishing shots
  • a lot of long shots, distancing the audience from the subject
  • long single take slowly zooming in "creepy Kubrick zoom"
  • a lot of tracking shots
  • a lot of white - blank canvasses
  • naturalistic
Then you watch some extracts from the studied director and compare them -

e.g. Luhrmann's style (trailers for Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby):
  • frenetic pace - upbeat music, fast editing, cutting in time with the music
  • roller coaster of emotion
  • uses popular music of the day to tap into popular culture and emotion
  • cluttered mise en scene - colour, light
  • rapid zooms, rapid cuts
  • overt symbols - 'in your face'
  • context - uses modern zeitgeist type moments to connect us to a moment in history
  • fireworks
  • big party scene as exposition
  • Leonardo di Caprio
  • lots of closeups
Follow Sian on twitter @sianyarns  or email her at iamthesian@gmail.com

Awesome workshop, thanks Sian!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

NZATE CONFERENCE 2014 Workshop #4 Iain McGilchrist: Chicken Club

The first rule of Chicken Club is that you must talk about Chicken Club...

The aim of this workshop: to help us teach with more enjoyment by applying ideas from Iain's reading.

Hackschooling makes me happy - Logan LaPlante

Check out this amazing TED talk from a 13 year old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h11u3vtcpaY&feature=kp

As English teachers we are probably already better placed to do hack schooling than teachers in other subjects.

How do we help our students hack their education?  Go with their interests.

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat
ISBN 978-0-7336-2167-3

How can we help our students be happy? Providing choices, not being the font of all knowledge, giving them the confidence to try things and go with their own ideas.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything... - Ken Robinson 

Watch a one minute video introducing this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDhhIghXxfo

So we need to help students identify their passions, find their tribe, share their passions.

Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein

This book is by a couple of economists but can be applied to the English classroom.

Principles of nudging: maintain choices, choice architecture, setting sensible defaults, people go with the herd, people do not like to lose, positive norms.

Easy nudges: "All high achieving students write more that the minimum number of words."

"You'll miss out on M and E grades if you don't explicitly discuss the effects on the audience.

Flourish by Martin Seligman

  • Positive well-being
  • Engagement
  • Relationships - very little that is positive is solitary
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment
How can you practise experiencing positive emotions:
- kindness exercises (e.g. the 1c stamps); write a gratitude letter;  ask what went well today? What did you do that made it go well? Identify your signature strengths and use them.
- Losada ratio - 5:1 affirming to corrective.

With your class encourage random acts of kindness - we will be happier and they will be happier.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor for Kids by Thomas C Foster

Helping kids understand symbolism, structure, great ideas for both reading and creative writing.

Iain left us with the question of what will we take away to try next term. I am going to have to think about that but I have a lot of ideas and options. Probably the idea of nudge...  and I definitely want to read the Thomas Foster book. 

Great workshop, thanks, Iain!

Workshop #3 - Alison Cleary: The Whole Shebang... an integrated approach to Level 2

Programme rationale: disliked a 'piecemeal' approach around a series of assessments, wanted a more connected approach and an programme which could be run across two years. Alison is in a google school where they are using teacher dashboard.

Learners first: know the learner. Her class was a high achieving class who had all got Merit endorsements or above in Level 1. Half had been in extension classes since Year 9, the other half were selected on the basis of good results in Year 11. They do class profiles for all classes in all subjects, covering pastoral/health etc information as well as academic.

Focus at the start of the year on Analysis - what does analyse mean, look at the AOs from the curriculum. Introduction to Analysis - what, how and why?

Introduce the 'big theme' - Fate: is life predetermined or are we in control?

Run, Lola, Run!
Choice (from a small selection)
Independent study of an extended text.

Journal writing. Gave everyone an exercise book on first day for journal writing/writing portfolio. [She lets them take it home. Apparently they bring it back - novel concept for me!] Using writing as 'do now' twice a week, puts three topics on the board, usually one suggested from listening to student issues, one arising from textual study and one is always 'own choice'.

Once a fortnight the class is in a computer room for either connections or writing, and students can also work on their writing at home (on google docs).

One the aims is moving year 12s off the TEX/SEX essay model onto proposing a thesis statement and arguing it.

English has not been compulsory at year 12 for them for 2 years, but it has had little impact on numbers. Students are still choosing to take English, but they don't have to deal with those who really don't want to and are only doing it because the school makes them.

Literary models: Alison showed us a great poem a student wrote based on a trigger which was a paragraph from Tim O'Brien's story The Things They Carried, as an example of writing using a textual trigger.

Close reading tasks are all broken down into the 4 AOs (the aspects) so they have questions about ideas, structure, purpose and audience and style.

The question was asked as to which standards they assess: close viewing with film in term 1, writing portfolio and connections. Speech is optional. A couple have asked to do the reading instead of the writing portfolio. Students do two or three of the externals, they encourage them to do only two but some students want to do three.

Overall this was a very interesting programme although, as another participant commented, it was perhaps giving me more ideas for my level 3 programme than my level 2, given the fact that it was pitched at a high ability year 12 class.

NZATE CONFERENCE 2014 Keynote #3 - Michael Pryor: Five Kinds of Magic

Michael told us about the magic he discovered in the library, where the first book he ever took out was CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew

The second kind of magic was when he went to a course on how to do magic tricks. This involved a funny story and Michael pulling a bunch of flowers out of his sleeve.

He tells us that writing fantasy fiction has its challenges. Fantasy writers are dreamers. Part of the magic of writing fantasy is that while we do everything other writers do we also have to do world-building.

[By this stage I have no idea which of the five kinds of magic we are on but I am enjoying this! I have stopped secretly checking the Slytherin House pro boards site news on another tab... ]

Planning, researching and devising the world before you start can pay off. Michael told us about someone who had spent 5 years on 'the map' before he started! "I think this was a little obsessive. It's a spectrum," he explains to general laughter.

Some of the things Michael sees as important to know before he starts writing:

  • climate
  • topography
  • food
  • clothing
  • language/diction
He tells us, iff you want to know the difference between language and diction you go back to Tolkien - "Every fantasy writer in the modern era has a debt to Tolkien."

  • currency
  • government
  • religion
  • architecture
  • history (your world will have a back story)
  • science and technology
  • flora and fauna
  • measurement
  • weapons and armour
  • travel
  • communication
  • time (how do you measure?)
"Magic is one of the things that make fantasy, fantasy." But it can ruin a story. If it is powerful enough it can destroy the story by destroying all tension and solving all problems. The way to get around this is to put limitations on magic. e.g. Magic can only be done by females. Or magic can only be done by people under the age of 16.

Fourth kind of magic: research. "I love the splendid things I stumble across when I am supposed to be researching." One of these was discovering The Boy's Own Paper. This leads us into the idea of steam punk as a fusion of The Boy's Own Paper world and the world of cyber punk, and into Michael's series The Laws of Magic.  He talked about how his characters began acting in a way they weren't supposed to. Romance entered in and he tried to force it out but the characters kept coming back to it so he had to listen to them.

Check out his webpage here: http://www.michaelpryor.com.au/laws-of-magic/ 

I think the fifth kind of magic was the writing part! Michael finished by saying: "I write fantasy because I love it and because it's MAGIC."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NZATE CONFERENCE 2014 Workshop #2 - Through the Lens: Visual Language - production and close viewing at Level 3

Presenters: Helaina Coote and Tamara Yuill Proctor

Helaina has been developing this course over a number of years - an English course with a visual focus. In terms of assessment they offer 3.9 Close reading visual text, 3.7 Connections and 3.6 Produce visual text, 3.5 Produce oral text (seminar) and one external, 3.2 Visual Text. The course is called English and is different from the English Literature class, which sits 3.1 and 3.2. 

Close Viewing Strategies - 3.9

- Text studies (making meaning strand) are connected to the production activities (creating meaning strand).

- Developing an overarching theme. They had two classes doing genre studies using the James Bond franchise, and one doing a thematic study around the idea of marginalisation.

- Explicitly teach the skill of responding critically.

- Create a context for your text and access secondary material.

- Exemplify: have annotated exemplars to show the students what is required.

- Create scaffolds and checklists for the students.

Produce Visual Text Strategies - 3.6

- Keep the brief open and see what emerges.

Although this standard encountered the most initial resistance from students it was also the one that they enjoyed the most. Students from the other course were asking if they could do it.

We saw some amazing samples of student work, some based on studied text and others on issues of the student's own choice.

NZATE CONFERENCE 2014: Keynote #2: Dame Fiona Kidman

Childhood reading - Arthur Ransome taught her that children weren't necessarily powerless, JRR Tolkien introduced her to the world of fantasy. She admits she no longer reads fantasy. She feels that the fantasy stories that work are anchored in reality.

She spoke about her school experiences, the 3 years she had at high school (travelling from Kerikeri to Kaikohe by bus every day) and the teacher who introduced her to Gerard Manley Hopkins, especially Pied Beauty:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;        5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        10
                  Praise him.

In Rotorua she met Jean Batten, who came to the library where Fiona was working. She spoke of Jean Batten and the magic and myth surrounding her.

Fiona also talked about the story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. After several diversions via her own romantic story she returned to Maori legend and story to say that she hoped that we taught the work of modern Maori writers.

Suggestions for writing: trigger points - a piece of jewellery,  a special meal, a car breakdown etc. Asks people to pick one they can relate to, get in pairs and tell their story, then immediately write it down.

Workshop 1: Tanya Phillips - Handing over the control: Maori Student Voice in the English Classroom

Tanya pointed out that Maori students are a diverse group and we need to be conscious of the needs of our own learners.

She started what she was doing because she thought they were doing okay at her school but then was dismayed when she surveyed other schools. She repeated the survey at her own school and was really depressed by the results.

How are we measuring success? We are measuring it by achievement in a Pakeha education system.

The Ka Hikitia model is the way to go: Maori achieving success as Maori.

Recognising effort put in is a huge thing. Students tend to like their teachers as people but dislike English as a subject. They know they have to put in more work to get the same number of credits they could get more easily in another subject. They like having choice.

"Most of the stuff is being done to us."

They like having both their efforts and their work praised.

Some students mentioned studying black civil rights in America and wondered why, obviously the links to NZ were not being made.

Schools need change at every level to encourage Te Ao Maori. We need to more beyond tokenism. McFarlane: "When schools fail to promote Maori identity, there is a corresponding decline in Maori achievement." 

We need to teach behaviour the same way we teach the curriculum.

How do we fix the bad feedback:

1. Relationships. Positive relationships that are learning focussed. Humour, trust, fairness, honesty, compassion, high expectations. (Read Culture Counts). Whanau, kanohi ki te kanohi.

2. Curriculum. Teaches through rather than about culture, looking at the whole child. Focussing on the front end of the curriculum, not just the learning objectives in the back.

Ako: The collaborative and reciprocal nature of the learning process.
Tuakana/teina relationship: reciprocal teaching and learning.

Positive Maori roll models. Check out maorifuturemakers.com

How would I know this is a NZ classroom?

3. Pedagogy: mana motuhake, mana tu, mana Ōkaipo (sense of place) and mana Tangatarua.

NZATE CONFERENCE 2014: Keynote #1 Joe Bennett

Well, here I am again at conference. Sometimes I think this is weird way to spend my holiday, and it is also my birthday today...

The powhiri is over and we were given a warm welcome by a group of students here at John Paul College in Rotorua.

Joe Bennett

You might be surprised to know that he was a teacher once upon a time. At one stage he taught in Canada for three years. During this time an inspector asked to see the planning of a colleague, Bren. He said no. After he had said no three times the inspector was unhappy, so he offered to show him where he did his planning. Bren walked the inspector across the whole school and into the English Department, along the corridor and stopped about a meters from his classroom door. He said, "About here, usually."  Joe said that he was with Bren, and that he had stopped teaching when they got into modes and divided English up into things you could teach and things that you were't allowed to teach. He also mentioned "Double Gina on Friday afternoon," something I think we can all relate to as we all have a Gina in our teaching lives.

Joe proceeded to amuse us all by describing a lesson in which he said nothing and only shrugged when the students asked if he was planning on teaching them. He did some great imitations of parents at teacher-parent interviews. 

Then Joe told us how he it was that he became a teacher. A friend of his applied for a job on his behalf and he ended up teaching English in Spain. After that we spent too much time laughing for me to care about writing notes.

Joe told us about the teacher who influenced him: Jack. Jack read King Lear to them in sixth form and did all the parts himself because he wasn't going to let them mangle it. After a lot of very funny stuff, Joe then nearly made us all cry by telling us about visiting Jack when he was ill. 

So, we laughed a lot, nearly cried, and were told that English was about teaching everything and nothing. 

It was all true.