Posts Tagged narrative

The medium is the message

The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. (from Wikipedia)

The more I think about this issue of medium, the more unsatisfied I am with the way that medium of production is dealt with in the English curriculum.

While English teachers continue to be led by debate over the definition and role of Literature in English, and over the best way to teach language, questions of medium have been significantly sidelined.

      iTeach Inanimate Alice

It also seems clearer to me now why subjects like Drama and Media (content areas that technically sit under the umbrella of English, if you accept that English is a study of how meaning is made through language and texts) go off and take up their own space in many curriculum.  It’s not just because those fields have their own traditions and pedagogies that need space, or because they have industries that create an economic drive for the subjects to continue.  It’s also because those field require keen attention to production elements, including issues of medium.

Little wonder that Drama, which often deals with live performance of language, dies a slow death in English classrooms where the curriculum is still dominated by print literacy.

Little wonder that we still can reconcile the gulf between ‘literary’ and ‘digital/electronic’ texts in the Australian curriculum (medium is not a genre!)

To move anywhere with this line of thinking will require some careful thought about the overlap between the words:

  • media as-in-the-artisitic-means-of-production and
  • Media as-in-the-field-of-media-studies.

Thanks to carolyn for stimulating my thinking on this.  Connecting the concept of medium back to the concept of narrative helped the penny drop today!

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Evolution of storytelling

I just came across this excellent illustration posted by Dan Sellars of the way that storytelling traditions  have evlolved over time to reflect and utilise the technology available:

If you like that, you will no doubt also like another image he posted (in 2009) ‘Characters for an Epic Tale’.  Check it out!



Ave Narrative…

OK, so I’m not Catholic.

But I feel Ave Maria is an apt musical choice today with ACARA’s announcement that the writing style to be tested in NAPLAN will no longer be Narrative, but Persuasive.

You can get the information here:

Let me say straight up that I love persuasive writing.  I love essays, I love speeches, I love editorials.  I love persuasive language.  One of my favourite units to teach is our Year 11 unit ‘Voices of Protest’ where students explore persuasive writing forms and techniques through a close study of a speech and related protest poems.

What I don’t love is the way that Stage 6 English buries imaginative writing within an Area of Study and Modules that are in reality oriented toward responding to the texts of others.

I also don’t love the fact that in the HSC, students in the mandatory 2 unit English are only examined on imaginative writing in any form in ONE out of the SIX exam sections.  The way I see it, both in my teaching and through everything I have researched so far, doing so constitutes a ‘hidden curriculum’ that devalues student imagination and decreases the time teachers can spend on creative language skills.

At least we had NAPLAN, eh?

At least it was there as an externally managed assessment of student literacy and language that signalled the importance of the creative.  The importance of imagination.  The importance of the lyrical, the figurative and of imagining other worlds.

Not any more.

And so the message is clearer than ever – essays rule the roost.  Get your kids started early on perfecting their persuasive writing, lest they struggle with HSC exams!

I challenge anyone from ACARA, or any of the Education Ministers who were at that MCEECDYA meeting where Narrative got the boot to explain that this decision had anything to do with ‘just mixing things up’.  Anything whatsoever to do with providing a balance between persuasive and narrative writing in the assessment of curriculum.  Because if they really do think so…well, it’s gotta be time to review the balance in the HSC, no?



Third 12 Word Story

I was so excited to catch my third 12 word story displayed on the 12Words homepage!  All stories appear there briefly, I think, but I never saw my first two go up.  Thought this one would be especially good to share, as I think it’s something with which many teacher-types will identify with – if not the smoking or coffee, at least the sentiment!

12words3Let me know if you are using this with your students, or if you are writing for this project too.  I made a handout for students in my class (click to download), using information lifted straight from the 12Words website – why don’t you make a few copies and hand them out in class?  Or in a Faculty meeting 🙂



12Words: kmcg2375

Using the same username as I do on Twitter, I have been posting my own ’12 word stories’ to the 12Words website, which was launched at the start of the month.

The objective is to use 12 words or less to “tell a story, convey a mood, or give a glimpse at a person”.  You can only submit one story per week.  These are the two I have submitted so far:

12wordskmcg2375Yeah, I’m hoping to refine my skill over time 😛

My suggestion to other teachers in my faculty is going to be that we:

  1. All English teachers write a 12 words story, and students vote for favourite
  2. All students write a 12 words story, and these are collected end of each day and put up on a noticeboard for all to read
  3. Depending on interest, we could also offer book prizes for best student stories, judged by Head Teacher!

I just love this idea, and am going to promote it to all of my classes 🙂

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Video Games and Storytelling

Came across this excellent animated lecture by Daniel Floyd on  Perfect for an introduction to narrative in videogames for my Year 9 class.  I think I’ll make a listening task for it – will post it up if I do.



Narrative Unit: Texts

An update on how things are coming together for my unit of work on Narrative, which combined more mainstream print and visual texts with ‘new technology’ texts.

The texts I have selected to study are:

  1. The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe (poem)
  2. And antoher thing – Anthony Dennis (Sunday Life opinion article)
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (novel)
  4. Fairytale and fable selection, possibly using a webquest
  5. Fox – Margaret Wild (picture book)
  6. Inanimate Alice (multimedia)
  7. and, if time permits, The Castle – Working Dog / Sitch (film)

After/while studying these texts, students will be creating their own narrative compostions:

  1. An individual digital story on the theme ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ (term 2)
  2. A group drama enacting a fairytale of students own choosing (term 2)
  3. A short story using hypertext to link to flashbacks in the story (term 3 – using new laptops)

I’m loving teaching this unit – so far we’ve looked at the poem and the magazine article, and are now reading Curious Incident…if we finish looking at the book by the end of week 5, that will leave plenty of time to look at the other texts (not a ‘close study’ – just exploring select aspects of narrative) and do some work on the assessment projects.

More updates to come!


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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.


David Griffin on how photography connects us | Video on

Another TEDtalk that I’ll be using in my Year 9 unit on digital storytelling.

The photo director for National Geographic, David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a talk filled with glorious images, he talks about how we all use photos to tell our stories.

more about “David Griffin on how photography conn…“, posted with vodpod

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