As part of our English activities we’ve just begun using Meccano in the classroom. Meccano is such a fabulous tool with a huge educational value. Besides helping the students develop their problem solving skills and their construction skills, it is also great for their literacy development. The students are having to cooperate in pairs as they attempt to read, decipher and follow the fairly complex instructions. As well as requiring good reading skills, the students have to use clear, polite and constructive conversation skills to overcome any difficulties they encounter. When finished they should have a great model with battery operated, working parts.
It’s been a few weeks since Rii Rii’s last podcast (her amazing interview with Ms Sveinbjornsson), but she’s back with her second episode and it’s equally as interesting. This time Rii Rii interviewed our incredibly talented music teacher, Mr Millar and found out some information we never knew about him. Once again, Rii Rii proves what a wonderful interviewer she is and also how our podcasts can be both educational and fun. Podcasts are a great way of allowing students to demonstrate their language skills in a way that doesn’t usually get heard and Rii Rii certainly does that.
This term we’ve been busily working through our new novel study, Mr Stink by David Walliams (see my bookshelf on the right). We’ve been using an audiobook to listen to the chapters which are read, very entertainingly, by David Walliams himself and Matt Lucas, both of Little Britain tv fame. The audiobook means that all students, regardless of reading ability, can work together at the same time on their studies to help develop their comprehension skills. We listen to two chapters per week and I’ve created questions and activities, thoroughly researched, which we work with after every listening. Recently, the students were required to create a diorama of one of the scenes, either a scene of the characters in a coffee shop or of the characters in a shed. The students seemed to really enjoy this creative task and a couple of their examples can be seen below.
Our 2014 photographic exhibition is now on display in our library. Each year we have a different theme to concentrate on and this year’s was “The Secret Me”. The students had to think about the type of person they are behind closed doors, what they’re like when no one else is watching them. Okay, this was a little personal, though no one had to do anything they felt uncomfortable with. It was also a bit of a contradiction, after all, by showing your secret side to the world it’s no longer secret!
Deciding on a photo that would show their secret side was quite a challenge for the students and involved a lot of thought and planning. However, that wasn’t the end of it. “The Secret Me” is a depiction of how we change once behind closed doors, the side of our personality we keep more private, so the students had to take a second photo that would act as their “door”, a symbol of privacy like a “Keep Out” sign. Yes, this was even trickier! The two images were then combined using different layers and different degrees of opacity so the finished image gave the impression to the viewer of seeing through the “door” to the private person hiding behind.
To complement their photos the students wrote a free verse poem. We looked at alliteration, personification, simile and metaphor, onomatopoeia, line length and punctuation. The poems could only be short so the students had to get their emotions and feelings across quickly and efficiently. Despite this the results were quite exceptional and totally complemented the photos. Check out these two from Demi and Kianne.
I feel Impatient (Surrounded)
It surrounds me,
in it’s slimy fingers.
But I can’t get out of
it’s locked clasp.
Which one shall it be this time.
I’m getting used to the pain now.
It almost seems funny.
I Feel Angry
No one knows.
Chains surround me,
trying to get my soul.
Anger comes out
from my mind,
trying to break it.
Tried and tried,
but it’s too strong.
I can’t breathe,
it’s too hard!
What have I done?
What did I do wrong
that made people scared
to help me with this
Doctor Who, glass art, the conflicts in the Ukraine, teenage self image, computer games, family visits and cricket. Who said the youth of today hasn’t the depth or quality of previous generations? If this sample of week 1 blog topics are anything to go by then the students of LA19 have got their collective fingers firmly on the pulse. In contrast, this latest blogging task is a bit of fun.
Some song lyrics, for whatever reason, strike a chord in our minds and end up having an impact, or at least stay in our memory. This line from Big Country’s hit In A Big Country has always stayed in my mind:
“I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the dessert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.”
I’ve never been a particular fan of their music, but when I first heard these lines they just made such an impact they’re still in my mind. Maybe it was because they convey a message that I can totally relate to, almost like a personal, laid back philosophy (it feels like I should have ended that sentence with, “man”). Other songs have stuck, too, but these lyrics are more meaningful than most. The task for LA19 this time is to tell the world about a song or some lines from a song that, for whatever reason, have stayed with you. What are the words? What do they mean to you?
I look forward to your completed tasks.
As part of our studies from the excellent My Place television series we’ve been looking at the Vietnam War, particularly the causes of the war and Australia’s involvement. The episode entitled Lily looks at the 1970s and features a character who is an asylum seeker from Vietnam. The programme has allowed us to look at different styles of government, such as communism and democracy, and how different perspectives and interpretations of situations can lead nations into conflict. We also had the opportunity to investigate the differences between asylum seekers and refugees and discovered how events after the war led to an increase in the Vietnamese population in Australia. This topic enabled us to look at Australia’s not so rosy past, in particular the White Australia Policy, and from this we developed our knowledge of the current offshore policies of recent governments.
Last year I was able to spend some time traveling in Vietnam and discovered an amazing country with fabulous, friendly people. The photos below show some of the military hardware left over from the war and myself descending into one of the tunnels used by troops from the then communist North Vietnam.
Our studies on the excellent ABC programme, “My Place” are going extremely well. Not only has it lent itself to some great work with our English studies, but it has also enabled us to begin working backwards through a timeline of Australian historical and social events. So far we have studied the “Stolen Generation”, cricket (in particular Shane Warne’s “Bowl of the Century”), equality and discrimination, the Vietnam War and refugees and asylum seekers. Whilst an in depth study of all these issues and events is impractical, the students are developing a solid background knowledge of how we evolved into the Australia in which we now live.
This semester we’ll be viewing the excellent ABC children’s drama My Place. The programme follows the life of a house over a period of over 100 years. Various families come and go and we witness their trials and experiences along the way. The house welcomes Aboriginal families, refugees and war veterans, amongst many others, and we experience their challenges and their successes in the context of the unfolding history of Australia. My Place is an excellent, integrated programme for English, history and social studies. Hopefully the students will have lots to blog about from their studies.
During first term the students of LA19 listened to the audiobook version of Boom, by Mark Haddon. The listenings were broken up into manageable chunks of around 20 – 30 minutes, then the students had novel study type activities to complete on what they had just heard. Now we are in the process of writing letters to the author. My class last year did something similar with David Walliams, the author of Mr Stink, and we had a fabulous response from him. This year we are hoping for the same, though we won’t be disappointed if we don’t get a response as we still enjoyed the book and have learned so much from it.
However, I would like the students to post a copy of their letter on their blogs as we don’t have much school work posted as yet. Just remember our safety rules and change addresses to made up ones.