Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's a busy life!

Sorry for the hiatus in posts - so much else keeping me busy! 

Had great fun yesterday working with Year 11 extension English students in a double period.  The teacher and I wanted them to think about how novels begin, so I put together a document with the beginnings of about twenty-two novels, from Ludlum to Atwood to Novik to Shan to a variety of teenlit authors.  The students could look at the book covers only (not blurbs, not open them) and had to work out which beginning went with which book, just using clues from the text and the covers.  They started off thinking it was an IMPOSSIBLE task.  Love setting impossible tasks and watching students find they're do-able...  I told them that if they got it out, I would shout them a hot chocolate (I'd stocked up with a pot of Choc-o-latte that morning).

About six were guessed fast because one or other student had read them.  They had to think, and consult each other (it was an all or nothing competition, they had to collectively arrive at their choices).  Discussion went on about what covers were signifying, and what the words of various beginnings implied - chicklit, thriller, fantasy and so forth.  Students would say, I think this cover is for this beginning, and would then have to justify their choice and see if others agreed.  If they got it right, and all agreed, and had justified their answer, I took the book from the long table at which they were all sitting, so they could see what was left to match up.

And they got it out.  And were not only very pleased with themselves for solving the 'impossible task', but pleased with the hot chocolate (I like random/intermittent rewards like this - but not the every-lesson lollipop, which seems unduly expensive and seems also to lead to whining kids).  We're part way through going around the group and asking them which three beginnings they like best - the next stage of this is looking in greater detail at writing techniques, comparing, contrasting, considering what they can find to add to and improve their own writing.  Interestingly enough, as we tally favourites, the Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale, one of my favourite book beginnings - everything is there in that first chapter about the gymnasium) is proving to be popular with the students, too.

They're coming back in a fortnight for their next double.  More fun to be had!

I've been working with some Year 7 English classes on a biography assignment too (which is called, "Who are they and why should we care?") in which they have to think of ways to present their information in an interesting way - eg. in a model.  They've been enjoying that.  At the end, they get 10 votes each to give to other students in their class - only one vote per colleague - and this is taken into account as part of the marking.  A certain amount of friend-voting goes on, but the outstanding ones draw votes from friends and colleagues.

With Year 11 Visual Design, on a longer term assessment task on picture books, we're at the beginnings - illustration techniques, writing techniques and so forth - they have to produce their own picture book.  The Vis Arts teacher and I selected a bunch of picture books to show them - it was fascinating to see our overlapping but not identical focus, me a tad more on words, she a tad more on images/techniques/artwork.

And so it goes, and so it goes.  That's just some of the iceberg keeping my workdays happy and occupied.  I'm sure yours are the same!



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