So based on my last entry, it’s pretty evident that I am all about adapting unusual mediums of English to education. Not only does it relate more to the culture of the students and therefore enhance interest, it also eliminates that feeling of stagnation and boredom we sometimes get while having to repeat the same activities over and over, class after class. So just for fun, here are three examples for three different areas that I think could be adapted to an educational setting and how I would use them.
For an Introduction/ Light Reading Analysis Activity:
All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen & Jory John
I know we’ve all seen this either online or in a book store and giggled at it, but this could actually be fun to teach. The text is an illustrated humour book showcasing different characters talking about the downside of being what they are (a dinosaurs friends are dead, a pirates friends have scurvy) as well as their view on life, death and other things (like friendship) dying.
The themes explored are the importance of friendship and the common issues we face within them, as well as the stereotypes of friendship seen in our society. This is done using metaphors. Another theme is aspects of loneliness and isolation demonstrated through the use of irony, as they characters complain about friends throughout the book but the moral of the story is their need for them.
I would use it because it includes topics which kids see as their priority, while outlining how friends in our society see each other and what they say and think about them. The age middle year’s age group, while friendship obsessed, is also one of feeling lonely and isolated at times, so they can also relate to that topic. All middle schooling pedagogies say that student engagement is more likely if the text relates to their lives, so the fact that the topic is culturally popular and relates to their mindset ensures engagement. Also, they could easily be familiar with it because it has been included in popular culture and the internet, so you’re scaffolding and building on prior knowledge and understandings. I would also use it because it humorous, which I have found will keep the students attention rather than something focusing on a negative. It is a good starting text to introduce the class to English as it is entertaining and simple. Because it is short, they can also focus on the main message and not get distracted.
As stated earlier, I would teach it as a beginning text to a new class of year eights or nines to break the ice and make them see that English doesn’t have to be full of old texts with complicated language. I would put them into groups with a copy to read along with each other, as they illustrations can be seen better this way. I would ask how they see the book, e.g. themes, and start a discussion with the class on how these themes are displayed, and get them to answer questions on their ideas of friendship and what it means to them. If you’re feeling gutsy, maybe even get them to create and illustrate their own and explain their reasoning behind it. After this, I would get them to have a class discussion on the importance of English to display feelings in our society.
Poetry by Henry Rollins (Website)
Henry Rollins is best known for his Black Flag and Rollins Band fame, as well as his spoken word. He is also a complete bad ass and a published author and poet. This site offers a large selection of his most well known work while being simple and clear to navigate. The fact that is it also a website rather than a book could make it seem more modern and relatable to students through the use of technology they use everyday outside of school.
Rollins poetry focuses on the aspects of growing up, love, being comfortable in your own skin, the fear of failure, being honest, hard work and change. While some poems can be somewhat forward and do have swearing (but there are plenty you can pick which don’t contain swearing), they all offer a modern view on current social issues children in the middle years are facing daily (specifically years nine and ten). In a time period where children are going through so much growth and self confidence issues, teaching these texts would directly relate to their lives and offer them advice on how to get through this difficult time. It also helps that he is a modern day respected musician, creating instant appeal to a generation who respect musicians.
Rollins also presents poetry in many different formats; from long, almost rambling and repetitive; to short, rhyming and metaphorical. He offers an array to teach the same ideas using different methods. While it would be easy to do a comparative essay with old and new poets, I would like to teach this unit in associate with students relating it back to their own lives and ending in the assessment of them creating their own poems about their lives and feelings based on Rollins works. It gives them a time to be creative, but relates back to their own society and gives them choice, both of which are key in middle years pedagogies in terms of engaging student interest and work output. This could even be integrated into music, as Rollins is an extremely accomplished musician, and every 16 year old student, in my opinion, needs to experience angst filled music at some stage in adolescence.
For Editing (Students and Teachers)
WAGmob English Grammar Smartphone App
I know a lot of teachers hate phones in class, but they could actually become a friend rather than a foe. This Smartphone or tablet application is a guide to grammar from a basic to advanced level. For example, it starts with nouns, adjectives and verbs and scaffolds this information to include phrasal verbs, commas, modals, idioms, tenses, voices and even commonly confused words. It does this by giving definitions and examples in an easy to read and basic application that uses simple English. In order to understand the program which is designed in an easy to use format, there are tutorials and introductions to each section. There are also quizzes and flash card games for each category. I found this app easy to navigate and good to use during the marking of work, so I would use it then. Because it is an app, it is also great for storage and availability, as it is always on your phone. Because students respond well to technology, I would also let them use it in class and project it onto a larger screen to do the quiz and flashcard activities together, as well as to go through the different headings and examples. I would use the information as a guide to creating grammar worksheets, activities and definitions, as the ones included give great examples and are easy to follow. This would be great as a reference for all year levels, as all students encounter grammar issues in all English year levels. For younger years such as years eight and nine, I would go through the pages with the class and create work based on this app. The only issues I would have are that some students aren’t familiar with smart phones. Actually, who am I kidding?! They all probably have one!