Thursday, 16 June 2016

Collaboration in English - Thematic Y11 Programme

A couple of days ago a colleague from the English department asked if I could give her some ideas for the Y11 film study. We talked about what I do and how it all connects to be able to teach 1.8 properly - by using a thematic study of texts. I teach around the themes of corruption and control and Y11 and it continues to be super effective. (Still need to nail the Y12 programme.... heoi ano..) 
In Y11 we start with creative writing and two short texts: 'Harrison Bergeron' by Kurt Vonnegut and 'Examination Day' by Henry Slesar. This year we looked at the films for these too - very short films - which seemed to capture their understanding in even more depth. By term two, we're doing the novel study - this year they had a few options: 'The Giver' by Lois Lowry, 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness and 'Divergent' by Veronica Roth. Last year I had given them 'The Hunger Games' and 'Noughts and Crosses' too - but having so many options was crazy chaotic - although useful in some ways... This year it has been way more manageable and students have been able to identify with different texts more effectively. Having their formal writing assessment (where they wrote an essay about their novel) due right before their first exam was useful as well as it helped them achieve so much more effectively than ever before. Majority of Merits, smaller number of Achieved's and only a handful of Not Achieved's and one Excellence. In preparation for term three, where they do the 1.8 Connections assessment, we will be beginning to study 'V for Vendetta' directed by James McTeigue. In the 1.8 assessment, they have to write a report analysing four texts - three studied in class and one they've chosen on their own. All four texts need to be connected in some way - usually a main theme that is overarching. 
After explaining the 1.8 assessment a little bit with my colleague, we discussed possible options for films going from the themes in the short story 'Ka Kite Bro' by Willie Davis that they had previously studied this year. The themes of racism, culture, acceptance and self-identity run through it. I grabbed a few options from the dvd cupboard in class, and gave her Boy, The Blindside and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. We then started talking about the themes in other forms of possible media, like poetry and articles she'd done in class. I told her about the unit I used to do with the bi-lingual kids at Massey High and how we incorporated spoken word poetry and traditional poetry as well as short stories to create a thematic unit around overcoming racism and breaking stereotypes. I gave her a few post its with the stories I'd used and emailed a few of the ones I could find on Google Drive while she was still there. We talked a bit more and decided on Whale Rider for her film study, which I had a copy of at home.
Yesterday I created a shared folder with ALL of the texts that could possibly help and also created a Google Slide deck with spoken word poetry, traditional poetry and also the blogpost where I talked more about it a couple years ago. This slide deck will be incredibly useful when I need to use it again - possibly with the Y10 English class in a couple weeks time. 
This morning she told me how effective one of the poems was - a spoken word poem by Joshua Iosefo called 'Brown Brother'. I only heard about it myself because one of the bi-lingual students had brought it up in class one day - and from then on I've been hooked. The poem discusses institutionalised racism and the inherent stereotypes faced by people of colour. Particularly from his perspective as a Samoan teenager looking towards his future prospects. 
This kind of teaching is what I love the most - working with people to solve problems, identify shared issues and try to overcome them through resiliency and problem solving.
And... now on to more marking :D

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