Archive for category english

Project based learning in EUN121 – third iteration

I’m just going to jump right back into blogging after a hiatus with some very complicated (or not, I hope?) project-based learning planning.

This is the third time I have lead the English Teaching Area for the MTeach unit EUN121 at my uni. I’m also the unit co-ordinator, and the second assignment in the unit allows me to get the English group planning an “inquiry task”, which in my class means “PBL”.

Students who are becoming secondary English teachers have four weeks (!) to plan their first ever PBL unit of work for English, submitting a project flyer and 2-page project calendar outline.

The first two times I taught this unit, I knew how to teach PBL. I set Bianca & Lee’s book as the textbook, gave students lots of example project flyers and plenty of direction in creating their driving questions. We had peer feedback opportunities, we used a planning template and gallery walk feedback method that I had already had success with in previous undergrad PBL unit. But when it came to making the “English stuff” visible in a project calendar, many struggled to see how a text study and a project could be done alongside each other. Questions persisted and I didn’t always know how to answer:

  • Do you study the text completely first, before starting the project?
  • How early can you start the Create phase?
  • Can the Discover and Create phases overlap? If so, by how much?
  • Is the the project product the summative assessment task?
  • Can you have more than one summative assessment task?
  • How do you assess process?
  • Can I get them to write a reflection as well? Should I mark reflective writing? Do I mark it for content only, or also the quality of writing? (i.e. is a written reflection an assessment of writing, or process?)

I can share my knowledge about assessing process, and we look at the related rubrics from PBLworks to get an idea of this. But how to make the English ‘content’ visible? How to plan for text response and text production?

I think I finally have some ideas.

A couple of weeks ago I offered this planning grid to some colleagues on twitter for feedback, explaining that:

Tweet screenshot

The grid that I designed tries to capture two distinctly different (though infuriatingly overlapping) cycles of learning in an English unit – the cycle of responding to texts, and the cycle of producing new texts. I also wanted to draw explicit attention to the need for clear ‘project milestones’, so that got a column too:

Basic planning grid

It needed a bit of explaining, which I found difficult to do without an example. I was able to show the two MTeach class examples that had lead me down this road – we’d been co-constructing a map of a term-long inquiry into poetry, playing around to answer the question of how to handle multiple assessment tasks, and how to make a text study overlap meaningfully with new text creation. But because the MTeach class example didn’t use the three PBL phases (we weren’t ‘there yet’), it’s explanatory power was limited:

Original MTeach co-constructed poetry learning plan

So, there has only been one thing for it, and that is to trial the planning grid with my own MTeach PBL sequence. Here is the project flyer that I launched on Thursday (two days ago):

EUN121 PBL project flyer, 2020

And here is my first draft of a plan that uses the basic grid design to attend to BOTH:

  • text response and text production cycles, aligning to the English curriculum
  • three phases of PBL (discover, create, share).

Plan for PBL over 4-weeks in EUN121

I believe the strength of the planning grid is that it allows a visual map to be formed, showing where the discover, create, share phases may overlap differently for text response and text production. In English, this could contribute a key resource for managing the mushy middle of a project by ensuring a realistic balance of directed learning and product creation can be achieved.

Another strength is the possibility for seeing PBL in English as consisting of two inquiry-driven ‘genre curriculum cycles’, where mastery of the assessment genre is attended to as closely as mastery of the texts studied.

I’ve teased out ‘project milestones’ and ‘assessment of process and product’ into two columns (the yellow and purple) after finding that trying to combine this information didn’t work out. Milestones are for planning, not for feedback.

The real road test will be in class. If the MTeach students find the planning grid useful, then we may finally be on to a winner for explaining the complexity of planning behind a unit of work in English.

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April poetry

The careful art of lawn maintenance

As good as mining blocks on a screen

Or thumbing an endless scroll

The pastime of encouraging grass to grow

In a suburban lawn plagued by weeds.

 

You may have heard there are a range of eco-friendly

solutions to the sprawling clover.

Something to do with vinegar and hot water

As so many solutions to contemporary problems involve.

 

If I took any of this seriously

I would have looked more carefully into the names

(characteristics and behaviours) of each weed by now.

Instead I non-methodically pry at tendrils and leaf unfurling through the blades

 

Elicit their reaching roots from the soil or

Snap their creeping stalks at the base.

Five major types at least stand out

As especially ambitious:

  1. Dark green leafy creeper, spreads close to the ground with thick, white roots spreading out in long runners under the soil. Pulling a thread up by the underlying white root is a deeply satisfying reward.
  2. Mini clover, spreading in patches via spindly stalks, criss-crossing between and around blades of grass. Can carefully be pulled up as a net, most successfully if edges are first unpicked.
  3. Sprouting grass: invasive. At first looks like healthy grass filling in a bare patch so it has been allowed to spread unchecked. May in fact be a weed. Pull up by individual tufts – tedious but high success rate with roots quick to relent. Evolving suspicion of an underlying rhizome.
  4. Spreading grass: invasive. Thin slender blades that form feather-soft patches of ‘maybe we should give up and let this grass take over’. Looks likely to burn in summer.
  5. Some kind of broadleaf weed. Starts as small, inconspicuous bursts nestled among healthy lawn. As it grows leaves spread wide out over grass, stealing sunshine and water for itself. Most likely to snap at the base when pulled. Roots plunge down in a tough spear as if clinging to hell.

 

My neighbour reliably tells me

We were sporting healthy Sir Walter buffalo

When we first moved in three years ago.

It must have been new turf, at the time.

 

Since then, the local mowing service has brought seeds

From corrupted yards far and wide

And a succession of resident bush turkeys have raked muck

From every neighbour higher on the hill, down through the low chicken wire fences.

 

But now we have our eye on you

And all the time in the world to invent

Runner breaks, cultivate watering routines,

Stage patch tests, chase the shade.

Images by author.

 

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Developing your knack

I created these slides to use next year in my English curriculum teaching. The idea I am using them to underpin is that an English teacher is expected to have ‘superpowers’ across a range of canonical/literary types of text (the traditional categories of study: poetry, prose, drama) as well as newer textual fields that have come up since that initial period (film, tv and other screen texts, media and new media).

possible superpowers to foster, in canonical curriculum categories

possible superpowers to foster, in late-20th and 21st century curriculum text categories

At the same time as finishing these slides, I am audio-reading Wundersmith: The calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. It is Book 2 in the Nevermoor series. I love it and would love my pre-service teachers to think about what their ‘knack’ is, in terms of studying or creating texts, so they can focus on developing it during their degree.

Whether you want to think about textual expertise as a superpower or a knack

English teachers – how many knacks do you consider you have?

Everyone – how many text areas from the graphics above would you say is desirable for an English teacher’s expertise to cover? 

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Why #edutube?

Blog reader, welcome to the Next Thing that is pulling me back inexorably into a research space concerned with online learning.

In my last post I talked about/to the most excellent Sayraphim Lothian, who is on the verge of beginning a research degree at my uni (hopefully with me as the supervisor). Sayraphim is slaying the write up of the research ‘prologue’ over on the blog sayraphimlothian.com. We have both caught the #edutube fever, wanting to explore education/educational YouTube videos/creators etc. …you know, #edutube?

And I mean, that’s the problem-slash-wonderful thing about exploring YouTube that is being created and viewed in educational ways. To even pin down what I mean by that involves myriad semantic considerations. The ‘on YouTube’ bit is concisely defined and establishes one clear boundary. Excellent. But as for the rest…

When I say ‘edutube’ a typical question cascade sounds like this:

  • Are you meaning professional teachers who make videos, or anyone who is aiming to teach others through a video?
  • Does the education have to be intentional – what about when something is learned from a video on YouTube but the creator didn’t intend it, and maybe could not have anticipated it?
  • What is the difference between education and learning anyway?
  • Isn’t everything a potential learning experience? So are attempts to define what is ‘educational’ just exercises in gate-keeping?
  • By the way, schools are such gatekeepers, they are really bureaucratic and restrict learning in a lot of ways, don’t you think? Down with schools! YouTube has tutorials for everything!
  • jk. Platform capitalism might be a concern – do you think platforms like YouTube might be trying to create a global education market?
  • In what ways might professional teachers’ work be intersecting with new education markets?
  • Have you heard of flipped learning?
  • In what ways might we be productively redefining teaching and learning? Perhaps as personal and community practices, not only professional and institutional ones?
  • Can anyone be a teacher? What defines a teacher?
  • Is a teacher the same as an educator?
  • How is ‘education’ different to ‘educational’? Does that distinction provide a helpful boundary?
  • Will anyone be asking the students about any of this? #studentvoice

There is a striation that commonly interrupts this kind of question cascade: who owns teachers’ IP; what are the conflict of interest issues; who stands to profit from a hidden global curriculum that is defined by a corporation; have you heard the saying ‘if it’s free then you’re the product’? Technical and practical questions about legislation, policy and money. Interesting questions, ones that also interest me. But they aren’t as helpful for defining ‘edutube’.

So why edutube for me, why now?

Biographically, the answer is that it is a very natural progression for me in terms of my ongoing interest in social media and digital cultures. I was a teacher in the thick of the Digital Education Revolution and we lived and breathed this challenge: what can you do with these screens? We found out quickly the limits of that world, and how contingent those limitations were on things including: the state you taught in, the sector, the goals of the Regional Director, the attitudes of the school community (especially the Boss)… not to mention the damn battery life and lack of internet connection.

As far as I can tell, from my position in Brisbane, Australia at least, is that the answer to the challenge ‘what can you do with these screens?’ in education – both schools and higher education – is ‘take it slowly’. The hyper-connected PLN/PLE learning culture that we thought could be around the corner remains stymied by over-crowded curriculum and a culture that is fixated on standardised (you say ‘high standards‘, I say ‘one size fits all‘) pedagogy and assessment.

But I can’t help it – I’m still interested in screens.

One of the most popular screen media in my house is YouTube, I am already a participant in the culture. I’ve been making video for my own teaching for a long time, uploading my first (unlisted) teaching video to YouTube in 2012 – it was an assignment Q&A – and now maintaining a public-facing channel with a few uploads a year. I am a ‘creator’!

A creator. Look, here is another different word for teacher. Or would a better word for that be author? Wait I think I remember something about the medium being the message? Now we’re talking! My screen-based, education and English teacher worlds collide!

I’m only just piecing together the parts of my own research design. I won’t write the ethics application until next year after January break, but I think I want to start by looking at Australian teachers who make YouTube with the purpose of educating others. Just a few case studies, maybe alongside a wider survey?

If you want to keep talking about this, or just have an idea, reference or link to throw my way, drop by in the comments. I’d love to hear responses to any element of this post no matter how random.

Or… subscribe?

😉

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FIND! Australian education vocabularies

I thought I knew the Australian Curriculum for English almost inside out, but recently discovered a whole new box I had been leaving un-ticked.

It was the ScOT box.

What does ScOT stand for, you ask?

Schools Online Thesaurus.

If you go to their homepage (http://scot.curriculum.edu.au/) you can search for a relevant term to your field and see what you get. I searched for ‘literature’ and was directed to this:

Schools Online Thesaurus: http://scot.curriculum.edu.au/

…you can see some of the rabbit holes I’ve been down from there already.

I found such useful things in the thesaurus for the work I’m doing this week.

I also found the other data sets available in the Australian education vocabularies list:

aev

Australian education vocabularies: http://vocabulary.curriculum.edu.au/

For the English teachers still playing along – see ‘language modes’ in the list? Kinda specific thing to make a vocabulary about, I thought.

I clicked though and interestingly, the entry does not reflect all six language modes in the Australian Curriculum.

‘Creating’ has been left out.

aev lang modes

Australian education vocabularies – language modes: http://vocabulary.curriculum.edu.au/languageModes.html

Creating has been left out, despite being there plain as day in the Achievement Standards, the Aim, and the Glossary entry for ‘mode’ in English.

And there ends the list of all the things I needed to stop and show you.

Who I do I write to, to point this out?

Enjoy the thesaurus!

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Poet resource collection: Ali Alizadeh

Ali Alizadeh is a poet listed on the prescribed text list for the senior English/EAL courses in Queensland from 2019-2021.

He is an Iranian-Australian (Persian-Australian? would appreciate any correction in comments), currently living in Melbourne and working at Monash university.

Both my creative writing and my literary scholarship interrogate the collisions between the political, the personal and the historical. Radical subjectivity, philosophies of history and theories of art are of particular interest to me. (Alizadeh’s bio, July 2018)

I searched for some preliminary resources for teachers wanting to learn about Ali Alizadeh, and here is what I found:

I read in his uni bio that he has written three volumes of poetry, but the one that comes up consistently when searching his name is Ashes in the air (UQP, 2011):

The earlier two volumes are called:

eliXir: a story in poetry, Grendon Press, Mont Albert, 2002
Eyes in Times of War, Salt Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 2006

A sample of Alizadeh’s poetry (poem extract):

Yes, I understand
your language. I’ve been learning

the lexicon of my inferiority
from behind the bars. I now know

how to spell and pronounce
the terms of my slavery. Your shackles

are called Security; your war
Operation Freedom; your cluster bombs

food parcels for my children. O master,
I understand

(extract from ‘Your terrorist’ (2006) on Poetry International Web: https://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poem/item/14577)

An extract from Mokhtari’s Overland article:

What really does it for me about Alizadeh’s poetry is that his subject matter is important. These poems are unlikely to bore a reader who shies away from the overtly political because they also engage in everyday scenarios and experiences. Alizadeh’s poems about cultural displacement take a different approach from many other Australian poets who write on the same theme but tend to dwell in the realm of sentimentalism (a natural, valid treatment of the theme, but one which may risk alienating un-empathetic readers). It’s as though these poems have ‘gotten over it’ just enough to allow a more sophisticated depth of knowing and exploration of the subject through everyday representations, without compromising emotion.

If you know of other resources that would interest Queensland English teachers who are considering Alizadeh’s poetry for QCE study, please consider sharing your links/info in comments below. Thank you!

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Announcing: Book project!

English for Queensland (OUP) – Book cover and preview

After many months of sweat, sleepless nights and tears, I am excited to announce that a book I have co-authored with Lindsay Williams and Sophie Johnson will be out later this year through Oxford University Press. English for Queensland Units 1 & 2.

Book 1 this year is a student workbook for Units 1 and 2 (year 11) of the English senior syllabus in Queensland.

Book 2 next year will be for Units 3 and 4 (year 12).

(I know, I’m not supposed to say year 11 and year 12, but I’m not ready to give them up!)

It’s always a bit funny to publish work for a profit when you are so used to giving things away, as a rule. The good news is that I have so many resource and planning ‘offcuts’ from this book project that I still have plenty to share freely in the network!

No reflection other than that. Just a proud-moment post for a project that took a lot of creative energy and is edging toward ‘tangible product’ stage!

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Products and projects in QLD senior English

I have cause today to be trawling through the glossary in the new Queensland senior English syllabus, and these two terms caught my eye:

Screenshot remix using QCAA senior syllabus glossary

Making a note here, to remind me I have these terms in place to talk with senior English teachers about project based learning.

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The QLD Year 12 Text Lists are Out!

Prescribed Text Lists have been created for the first time in Queensland year 12 English, to specify texts for study that have been deemed to have “merit in genre and style”. The lists have this week been made available to the public, after a week of being available to only QLD teachers and QCAA approved users (a contrast to how NSW HSC lists were released earlier this year to media in advance of teachers).

There are two texts lists for:

These lists correspond with syllabuses for the three ‘general’ (i.e. leading to an ATAR) courses. The syllabuses were finalised this year for use starting with with year 11 in 2019:

I recorded my initial responses to the text lists in this vlog, with more analysis to come in the next few weeks:

NB. Extension English syllabus and text list are on a later development round and yet to be finalised. Essential English is an ‘applied’ (non-ATAR) subject, and will not have an associated text prescriptions list.

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What does poetry mean to me? #PBL unit

This semester I am attempting to demonstrate project based learning (PBL) in action by giving both of my classes an extra-curricular project to work on.

(More about whether these projects are in-or-extra to ‘the curriculum’ in an upcoming post…)

Pre-service teachers in my 3rd year English curriculum studies class are themselves focusing on how to use a PBL approach to design learning for junior secondary English. Their final assignment involves working in groups of 3-4 to create a PBL unit of work and assessment task/criteria sheets.

So, while we are learning about PBL, we are also doing PBL. And here is the project flyer:

image: created by Kelli McGraw, produced using Canva.com

We’re in Week 6 of a 9-week semester, and I already know that exploring ‘ways of speaking poetry’ is going to get squeezed out. That’s OK. My original goal of using the explore phase to offer a ‘smorgasbord’ of experiences has been usurped by getting to know the students and their needs – and they need to spend time going deeper into ways of reading and writing poetry. That’s cool – one of the things I am proud to model for my PSTs is they way plans have to change once real humans are involved. This need to teach in a responsive, agile way is understandably one of the things that new teachers find confronting, but ultimately it’s what effective teaching requires.

I’m at that critical stage of the project where I’m looking at the number of lessons left vs work that needs to get done to complete the project – eek!

My original plan was to get enough poetry artefacts to fill an entire display cabinet, but thankfully the cabinet has SHELVES, so our new goal is to fill 1-2 shelves only. Not a bad result it turns out, as it gives me space to run this project again next year and fill the cabinet progressively instead of all at once.

image: hallway cabinet near my office

The whole project is supposed to take 6 weeks. By the second week I wished I had twice as much time! But that’s how teaching rolls, eh – PBL or no.

Will post pics of the finished cabinet display at the end of semester 🙂

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