Re-igniting MY Curiosity … Day 2

The opening keynote today: “Ignorance Killed the Cat: What’s Left Out of Literacy Research and Policy, and the Implications for Teachers’ Knowledge and Practice” was presented by Peter Freebody.

It puts things in perspective to realise that “780 million adults worldwide can’t read or write” and that “2/3 of them are women.” Seeing a 4000 year old cuneiform tablet artefact with a note from a parent:

My little son opened his hand and you allowed wisdom to come into it – you showed him the art of writing.

I sit in the privileged space of being able to read and write, AND have the skills to pass this ability on to others.

This left me wondering how do you/I “allow wisdom”in the classroom. How do you/I “attempt to create the conditions in which they can learn?” (Albert Einstein).

We should also be more critical about how much trust we place in the research we are presented with. How do we apply our practical wisdom to the theoretical wisdom we are presented with?

I stayed on in the Royal Theatre for the workshop presentation: “Reading Australia for Secondary Schools”

This was part of the launch strategy for this website which will make it much easier for teachers to choose Australian stories for the classroom. I am a Literature teacher, as well as an English teacher, and I am as guilty as the next person of literary snobbery. I have my favourite classics – written by ‘dead white people’. However, I do believe we have some fantastic Australian literature we should be championing. This website, funded by the copyright agency, has support for teachers across a wide range of text types.

The next keynote: “Responding Creatively: Considerations for Supporting Children as Authors of Digital Multimodal Literary Texts” by Jessica Mantei.

We looked at what students need to do to be able to read literary and non-literary texts. If non-literary print texts are confusing how can readers even begin to navigate online/multimodal texts?

We then looked at some interesting films made by students in response to “The Lost Thing” – a short film and PSB by Shaun Tan. Students used elements such as characters and themes to create their own stories using puppetpals (iPad app). It was good to see some not quite so successful pieces.

I left wondering how I can encourage my students to include more visuals in their work. I would love to do more multimodal work but at the moment resources are a challenge. May be next year, when we go BYOD, I could explore how to over come this challenge.

Dr Noella Mackenzie’s workshop “Nurturing future wordsmiths: A focus on Vocabulary” was a full house. She gave practical activities that could be used across the full spectrum of education to promote passion for wordsmithing (not sure if that is a real word!!!)

word_clineStudents need access to the meaning of words used by teachers. We should use ‘big’ words, we should be exposing them to a wider vocabulary but it is no good if they can’t make sense of what we are saying. We don’t need to dumb it down but do need to be aware of how we introduce new words. Telling students to ‘look it up in a dictionary’ is not really a helpful solution. Dictionaries vary in quality and words can have more than one meaning depending on context.

Word clines promote higher order thinking and call on a wide vocabulary to create. Our attempt was brief and possibly inaccurate but promoted lots of discussion about words.

Students can understand spoken language at a higher level than they can write (this is exactly the problem I was having with that senior EAL student I mentioned in yesterday’s post!). We should be reading to them, out loud, every day. This poses a problem for a secondary environment – I began to wonder if instead of the ideal of reading a class novel over time, maybe a complete package each lesson would still achieve the goals of stimulating vocabulary. How could I encourage other staff across subjects to do the same? 10 minutes read aloud in each lesson of the day at my school would give students 40 mins of exposure.

After lunch the keynote I chose was presented by Dr Anita Heiss : “Nurturing creativity while embedding Indigenous Studies into the National Curriculum”

Every time I have heard Anita speak I walk away thinking I’ve learnt so much but actually know so little about Indigenous culture. Today was no different.

We started with an Indigenous IQ Test (a pop quiz of Indigenous culture). I failed dismally, but it proved the point nicely about how easy it is to overlook and build in recognition of successful Indigenous Australians in to the curriculum (let alone the point how ridiculously culturally biased IQ tests really are). I began to wonder about creating a few slides for my games day quizzes to rectify the obvious imbalance and ignorance I was showing.

I have used Austlit and the specialist subset resource BlackWords on and off. It is a resource I am still exploring but has certainly increased my knowledge and confidence in teaching Indigenous Lit (such as “Swallow the Air” by Tara June Winch).

The biggest message I took away is that we need to stop the segregation between Aboriginal History and Australian History …. IT’S ALL AUSTRALIAN HISTORY!! Indigenous studies may well look at the invasion of Australia in 1788 differently to a European perspective but the history of our country started well before the Europeans arrived.

My final session was a workshop I chose as it was specifically aimed at senior students. “The Creative Mind: A Writing Workshop on Responding to Literary Texts in the Senior Secondary Classroom” run by Madeleine Coulombe. It was another packed room (which felt claustrophobic) but we were soon dispossessed of those senses as Madeleine got us do some of the writing tasks she does with students. Using texts as springboards for creative writing forces the students to get to know the texts very well. I particularly liked the activity where students create book covers for imaginary books written on the context (in the Victorian Certificate of Education students connect two specific texts and other text connections to a theme. eg Encountering Conflict.)

I walked away wondering how I can create more time for my students to write? and, more importantly with my particular rabble, how I can get them to realise the value of silent writing?

The day ended with what seriously felt like an intimate fireside chat with Gary Crew and Graeme Base. Lots of anecdotes and some sage advice. I was impressed with Graeme’s passion for championing the importance of his chosen punctuation in his work and will use this as evidence in my own crusade with my students … and, Gary, your secret is safe with us 😉

… and that was just day two!

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Posted on July 6, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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