"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 10, 2015

NZATE Capital Letters 2015: Day 2

Day 2 was great, but I did not feel moved to write a lot of notes. Here's what I did jot down.


Workshop 3 was Emily McHalick and Susanne Richardson from Heretaunga College, talking about how they have changed their English programme so that students chose their courses by the learning context. It sounds quite exciting but I am not sure how feasible it would be in a college our size. They have a Y11 cohort of around 170, whereas ours is about 70. That has got to impact on how many different options we could offer. We want to go back and talk to the change team about it and maybe do a visit to observe and talk to their SMT about some of the timetabling implications. Emily and Susanne's powerpoint is not up on the conference drive yet but I will add the link here when it is.

Keynote: Bernard Beckett

Bernard was quite simply brilliant, and I tweeted a few of his quotable moments, but his talk is hard to sum up. Essentially, he was talking about how exam results and compliance culture aren't what English is all about - that our job is getting kids to think about ideas and try on identities via texts.

"If your idea of your job is to get good grades for your students it is, I think, soul-withering.""There is so much that is incredibly valuable and rich that only the English teacher does."Variance studies: Bernard explaining how people misinterpret them, focussing on the variable that shows greatest change, and mistaking this for the most important factor. His analogy: oxygen would probably show little variance in terms of impact on educational outcome. But without it? Outcomes would probably not be that hot...Beckett re the premise behind his new novel Lullaby: "Totally medically unrealistic but narratively convenient!"

Workshop 4: Louise Munro - Flipped Classroom for Year 11 Novel Study

Louise was talking about running a novel study on Dystopic fiction where the students could choose their own novel.  It was an interesting approach and I can see it working for some classes I have had, especially at Year 12. This year when the students voted on their novel there was a 50:50 split and I suggested a choice - students were reluctant. They said they thought it was easier all doing the same novel, but several of those who had voted the other way never finished the chosen novel - I think the choice may have worked better. We shall see!

Louise's powerpoint is here.

Iain McGilchrist - John McGlashan College - 24 Lies Per Second

photoshop friday - note to self: check it out!

Iain's resources at at: tiny url.com/24liespersecond

They are awesome, so go and look at them if you are teaching film.

Close Reading: Ten Practical Tactics

1. Circle the full stops, question marks and exclamation marks.
Read the poem only stopping when you hit those. Don't stop if there isn't one. Poets write in sentences and the lines don't necessarily match them.
2. Circle key conjunctions - but, and, so
They may signal a turning point.
3. Juxtaposition underpins everything.
Look for things that are opposites - contrasts. If you see 'dark' then look for 'light.' Then ask: which does the poet prefer?
4. Pronouns
5. Substitution
Ask: 'Why didn't the poet use the word ________ instead?'
6. Sound patterns are secondary
Alliteration is easy to identify but it is difficult to explain why it has been used. Usually to enhance the meaning of words and the connections between them.
7. Skip the parenthetical.
On first reading you can cut to the chase a bit more.
8. Examine pairs and three-of-a-kind. (The 'Poker' rule)
Crescendo effect to increase the intensity. Parallel constructions intensify the point the poet is making.
9. Read poems aloud.
10. Give the tyres a good kick before you read in-depth.
or 'approach it like a Christmas present' - shake, poke, prod, guess, predict.
Pre-reading skills:
  • title and author
  • stanzas or paragraphs
  • full stops
  • key words
  • opposites

I was interested to see how many of the above are things I have found I have to teach students when reading Shakespeare. Many have great difficulty decoding, because they do not observe the punctuation - seeming to think that the line end signifies the end of whatever clause they happen to be on. For many, just teaching them this simple thing is a revelation which then opens the language up to them. 'Skip the parenthetical' is also a very useful one for Shakespeare.

I can see the above are going to be very helpful in teaching unfamiliar texts - thanks, Iain!

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