Monthly Archives: May 2014

Think about it

In my Year 12 English class we have been studying the war poetry of Wilfred Owen. original computer

In VCE English they need to see the connections between the poems, to be able to talk about the big ideas. The students struggled with the concentrated language of poetry and  I think I confused them a little by introducing Literature language to describe poetry structure.

We used basic reading strategies like looking for words we don’t know and then attempting to find images and emotions, but I was really struggling to get them to see the connections and identify themes. The other issue with English is ultimately in the exam students need to remember quotes to back up their ideas (unlike Literature where they are given passages to respond to).

It’s an oldie but a goodie to use the butcher’s paper brainstorm task but it got them working together in small groups and slowly, slowly their confidence at unpacking the poetry began to grow.

The next problem I faced was actually getting them to then translate this into a cohesive and sustained piece of writing in response to a prompt. This group seem extremely reluctant to write!

Talking to a colleague we nutted out the problems I was facing and tried to come up with solutions. I am at a new school and still coming to terms with the differences in resourcing. I have been used to 1:1 programs with students having anywhere anytime access to technology but that is not the case in this school. Due to the difficulty with access I tend to forget about the activities I may have used in the past. This professional conversation reminded me that a brainstorming program (like inspiration or might offer a solution.

If you consider SAMR   models all I was doing was essentially using technology to replace the same activity we did on butcher’s paper but by asking the students to look at the group brainstorm and then produce their own (we ended up using Inspiration) it has re-engaged them with the thinking I need them to do.

owen brainstormThey can make their diagrams look pretty by colour coding ideas, poems and quotes … They can move and delete ideas rather than crossing out … They can print or convert the diagram to word … They can easily check spelling or synonyms.

Just these few manipulations, that aren’t as easily done with textas on butcher’s paper, have allowed students to organise their thinking to the point that most of them have been able to make the jump to writing. I was able to get them to see that once they had followed an idea along a number of branches and added some quotes they were ready to move to writing … you kind of reach a critical mass where suddenly enough ideas add up to a paragraph.

In this case the difference the use of technology made was simply doing the same task a little more easily and, I suspect, using a computer rather than a pen just feels more natural to this generation.

Of course, it fell apart today when we couldn’t access the laptops … but that is another story!!!


How do you get your students to show their thinking?