Archive for March, 2009


Just beginning a Year 11 unit on Macbeth (comparing Shakespeare’s play to a film version). Going through my resources I would have to say that I find the following three online resources provide all the material my students will need to supplement their reading:

  1. Royal Shakespeare Company resources for Macbeth, in particular the online play guide
  2. The No Fear Shakespeare ‘translation’ of Shakespeare’s play into modern English
  3. Notes on Macbeth from the new literature website Shmoop (still in Beta)

These sites don’t take a ‘cheat sheet’ approach to the play, but instead help students to cut through the language and think more deeply about the play in production, which in turn helps them to find meanng in the play.  Are there any ‘must see’ sites that you would add?  Of course all the big Shakespearean plays have a million online summaries, but would you add anything from those to my best of list above?

I would LOVE to get more adventurous and use Angela Thomas’ Second Life Virtual Macbeth island, but the machines at school would seriously not cope (on so many levels!)  I might see later in the unit if the students would be willing to explore this from home.


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Narrative and technology project

The lesson sequence that I am working on for the New Technologies, New Stories project will see students working toward a Digital Storytelling assessment to explore ideas about what makes a good story.  In particular they will be focussing on how images and audio elements can be combined to enhance meaning in narrative.

The Lessons:

Aimed at Stage 5 (years 9 and 10) this lesson sequence will see students analysing a range of fiction and non-fiction narrative texts to devise a set of class criteria for a ‘good story’.  In my year 8 unit on Newspapers I teach students the criteria for ‘newsworthiness, but it occurred to me that I don’t teach any similar guidelines for ‘story-worthiness’.  I wanted to design lessons that got students thinking about how to craft a story that is engaging to readers, and to demonstrate narrative skill across a range of modes.

Key Learning Ideas:

1. Writing stories that are more than a recount of events.

I often find that in Stage 5 students have learned a range of skills for building an effective narrative – they are well versed in character development and imagery, for example – but are still missing that ‘knack’ for writing a story that engages readers (and avoids clichés and stereotypes).  In particular I have found my students struggle to move from narratives that describe a sequence of events to using symbolic and figurative representations in their work.

2. Using voice, image and written text to create narrative.

When making Digital Stories with Year 9 for the first time last year, I was struck that most either chose poor images to reflect their story, or lost any sense of story because the chosen images weren’t used to build a narrative.  This was surprising – it hadn’t occurred to me that their choices in written imagery weren’t dull because of their writing, but because of their poor choice of imagery to reflect or contrast with the story.  I’m hoping that asking students to focus on building a narrative using a range of modes will help them to focus on the meaning and ‘flow’ of their stories, not just the technical skills and tools required to tell them.


Before (and while) students begin composing their own digital stories, they will be engaging with a range of texts to explore the question ‘what makes a good story’.  To do this we will be:

…I’d love to hear of any more suggestions for stories I could use with the students.  As you can see I am lacking some good non-fiction and poetry texts.


Students will make their own 2-3 minute Digital Story.

They must nominate 2-3 of the class developed criteria for ‘story-worthiness’ to showcase, and they will be peer assessed on how well they meet the nominated criteria.

Possible addition – Students transform their digital story into written form and write a reflection on the different language skills/tools needed to create the same narrative in different modes.  Written stories could be stored on a class wiki, with digital versions uploaded as well.


New Technologies, New Stories

I am feeling very invigorated after today’s briefing meeting for the New Technologies, New Stories project that is being run by the English folks over at the DET Curriculum Directorate.

And why wouldn’t I?  The focus of the project is the development of teaching resources and lesson sequences to support the integration of ICT into English curriculum – right down my alley 🙂  What I love most about this is that the emphasis is on using ICT as a tool to enrich the curriculum that we are already familiar with, rather than treating technology as an ‘add-on’.

The other thing I love about this project is that we won’t be building resources for applying ICT generally, but instead we are targeting NARRATIVE, and exploring how ICT can be used to enrich the teaching of narrative.  I believe English teachers are going to love this.  I have run many a workshop now, intorducing general ICT and Web 2.0 tools, and teachers always leave feeling like they have learned someinteresting new things, but not neccessarily with a clear direction for applying their new skills.  By placing the teaching of narrative first in this approach teachers will see a strong connection between the technology and the teaching that they already do.

I’ll post again soon with some notes about the sequence of lessons that I am planning for this project.  In the meantime, does anyone want to add a comment about how they are using (or would like to use) technology in the teaching of narrative?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.