Imagery was the focus of our explorations of Atwood’s poems this week. My colleague began with a guided relaxation exercise drawing students into considering the way imagery works in our minds and hearts. This was an innovative way to engage students in thinking about how imagery works and to shift them from the “picture in the mind” concept to considering the other elements of emotional association and response. This was followed with a discussion of seven types of imagery and a ‘scavenger hunt’ for the different types in the poems. A closer study of the nature of imagery – hard for any of us to define in the staffroom immediately preceding the lesson – was followed by some writing exercises where students began with an image and added something that moved the description from image to imagery. This was quite a challenging task but we both believe the path to understanding how a writer uses a device or technique is to make it yourself. We finished the week with teams creating drawings (not necessarily realistic) of the images they felt were central to the poems. Their justifications were as always entertaining and hilarious at times.
The real treasures from this week’s study of the poems were their assessment tasks and some creative writing we set last week. The writing task required kids to write back to the poems in some way. They could write their own poems, modelled on one of our set poems, write the back story, write the story from some other perspective, perhaps a voice that isn’t heard in the poems (like the voice of the sister in “Mourning in the Burned House”), write a response to the persona – no limits really. Their work was incredible. Many chose to write their own poems and we are both inspired by the work kids did. Their poems showed amazing insight and their use of the poetic form reveals some extraordinary talent – may be they are channeling Atwood? Those that chose recounts and story also showed amazing insights with one student researching the “Siren” and writing a story from the Siren’s point of view, weaving Atwood’s poem through her narrative with a deft hand. I am always struck by the way creative response tasks generate such depth in student’s thinking about texts.
The best is yet to come. The illuminated texts are magnificent. I have permission from one of my students to share his work with you: Enjoy!BrendanMorningintheburnedhouse
I played around with Wallwisher with my classes this week. It has been on my ‘things to do with laptops’ list for over a year but I kept forgetting the name! Finally had time to look it up and think about how to use it. My first attempt was: What do we already know about essay writing? This worked well in class, despite the number of kids who didn’t bring laptops on the first day of school or didn’t have them charged. After kids posted their notes we grouped the notes. Great tool for working out what the kids knew, misunderstood, thought was important and thought about the topic. My favourite note was the comment that we “write them in English”!
With year 10 I used it to get kids into our new unit on Young Adult Literature. Responding to a quote This time we worked in small teams (3 kids) who shared the availabe laptops. Kids were totally engaged and focused. Great example of what happens when you turn the lesson over to kids and laptops with a clear purpose.
I learnt that it works better if kids have think time; that it is a great way to get kids working in a small team and helps them stay focused when they are working in a team; that it is quick to set up on the spur of the moment in a lesson and you have to insist they use their names.
When using a new tool in the class room I try to use it in a number of different ways over a few lessons. I get better at knowing how I can use it and kids internalise how to use it. They use it more effectively after a few trial runs and then I can return to it periodically and it will work more smoothly.
Been back on twitter for the first time in ages. Besides amazing people online I found #ozenchat at paper.li. Interesting things to read within seconds and then clicked on “Figurative Language” discovering Jog the Web. What a cool tool for preparing lessons. Fast and fun and great with 1:1 laptops!
Paper.li is a site where you can create your own online newspapers. I wonder if it is blocked by DET? Could be fun to do as a class.
I’ve had a bit of time out this year. I had a simple fall early this year that caused a compression fracture in my left tibia. It is taking a long time to heal and I have had time off work. I’m back now, although still on crutches. These really slow me down! First week back has been busy with a great project I am working on with English teachers in our district. We are a rural district and our project is about improving outcomes for our top 25% of students. Distance, cost and access are real issues for us, despite the advantages of the internet. We had a very successful day on Friday, not least because we were able to meet each other and talk. We have lots of plans but our first need is to be able to continue our conversations in a way that is easy and allows for collaboration and sharing resources, both for students and teachers.
We have started an Edmodo group and I am really excited at the possibilities this will offer in terms of our own professional learning and for our students. Our teacher group has a range of skills and all our schools have video conferencing so we can meet in cyberspace for mentoring and collaborating on texts and teaching units. I think Edmodo will make it possible for the network of teachers to drive itself. I am also hoping that the opportunity to work through Edmodo with students in other schools will be seen by the students as a incentive to be more engaged and motivated to aim higher.
I’m sure other teachers are collaborating to improve outcomes for their students, perhaps through Edmodo, perhaps in other ways. I would be very interested in hearing how you went about it, the issues that came up and your solutions.
I haven’t blogged for a while and you probably didn’t notice. My husband and I are at the age where our parents’ health is an issue. Unfortunately my mother in law became ill and died recently and not long after my beloved Dad had a stoke. Life does go on. At the same time my beautiful daughter did her first prac as an English teacher and loved it, after doing many other things over the 12 years since she left school. We have had lots of great talks about teaching, what I do, how I do it and more importantly why I do things in certain ways and my teaching philosophy. She has certainly heard most of it before but until now hasn’t really understood the context. While I was away from my desk the wonderful team of teachers I work with pulled together and managed all sorts of difficult situations. I am so grateful to them and so proud of my team.
At this time of the year we are all reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and evaluating our programmes. I’ve been thinking about my first experience with laptops. I can see why some teachers might still be avoiding. They can be so frustrating. The issues around sites not working or kids not having their laptops multiplied throughout the year. Learning lots of new software programmes and trying to manage electronically “handed in” work, not to mention Moodle were all not highlights. Despite this I am still enthusiastic. Fantastic slideshows by students on all sorts of things and Edmodo.com are useful starting points for next year. I’m also rethinking blogs, wikis and how I introduce new programmes. Somehow mindmapping online is not so much fun as big sheets of paper and lots of coloured pens. What I have learned is to start slow, do one thing at a time and teach the software with lots of demonstration. I’d be interested in other people’s “first” impressions after our first full year of 1:1 laptops.
I discovered Edmodo last week and am in love with it already. What a great site! Perfect for working with 1:1 laptops and easy to join, for kids and teachers. I began by creating groups for my year 10 and year 11 classes and sent them a group email with the join codes. It doesn’t need kids to register with email addresses, you can keep it closed or make some posts public and is not blocked by DET!!!! I especially like the file sharing Library and that students can upload assignments. Another great feature is posting assignments and then as students upload their work it tells you how many have responded. Have you used it? Any advice for a first time user?
I had planned to ‘enrol’ kids in class time but as usual, a technical hitch. For some reason my IWB internet connection has gremlins. Very frustrating and after three service calls this week, no change. Despite this kids have been joining up – their wireless connection works fine!
We have a school Moodle but I think Edmodo is much easier to use – very simple to share files through the library and you don’t need to do a course to learn how to do it. I like to do a lot of my prep at home because I am too busy at school and get a bit tired of the amount of download I have to use to organise material with Moodle, not to mention how slow it is with satellite broadband.
One of my daughters is currently studying to be …. an English teacher. I have really enjoyed hearing her thoughts and ideas over the last few months and her questions have ‘tested’ my memory, assumptions and philosophies. Her questions about how I plan my lessons were a real test. After 30 years of teaching I don’t seem to write much down. I know I walk into the classroom prepared, knowing what I am going to teach and what I expect kids to get from the lesson and how I will do it – it just seems to be all in my head! I had offered her and some of her Uni friends some ‘work experience’ time, mainly because she had expressed her concerns about not knowing what to expect and not remembering much about the classroom because she is a ‘mature age student’!
Yesterday she and a friend visited our school for the day. I really enjoyed having them both in our staffroom and classrooms. They had some time in some classrooms, looked at resources, visited the Library to look at our new Senior Learning Centre and played with the IWB for a while. I made sure I ‘planned’ year 10’s lesson in a bit more detail than I usually do!
I think it is really valuable for potential teachers to ‘visit’ schools. I know they do a couple of pracs (professional experience and internships) but I think time spent ‘helping out’ in a school would be very useful and create a stronger teaching service in the future. They have so much insight and a different perspective and we older experienced teachers have much to ‘pass on’ that is lost when we retire. It’s like we keep reinventing the wheel. If you have a Uni nearby why not open your doors to some student teachers? Or maybe you are part of a programme already running?