cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Josef Grunig

I am excited at the prospect of teaching Year 10 English next year; the first time since 2006.

The NSW Board of Studies has been instructed to abolish the School Certificate and there are great opportunities for teachers, with the extra time suddenly available, to be innovative in their approaches to programming for the 2012 cohort. The English faculty at our school will continue to meet in coming weeks and we are keen to try some new approaches. Already – via my email list of English teachers, Twitter and Facebook – excellent programs and units are being shared by enthusiastic, connected colleagues.

This post roughly sketches some ideas needing development in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully, with your assistance, we can share resources and develop ideas.

Perhaps our classes can connect?

Boys currently in Year 9 have an opportunity to volunteer for my class. They will be briefed re: the ideas outlined in the rest of this post so they will know what they are stepping up to do. I am the deputy principal responsible for this cohort and have been sounding out some students about what would really interest them. Jamaine is enthusiastic about making machinima, Tarak is keen on exploring game-based learning and virtual worlds; several other students are prepared to take the risk, in ‘the deputy’s class’, as we have gotten to know each other well over the last few years (in my office) 😉

Each student will have a laptop, wireless access and a favourite micro-blogging tool throughout the course. Every boy will have a blog, as will the teacher, with a class blogroll. We will write often, learn about creative commons and how to create and share images. The philosophy at the heart of Project Based Learning will be an approach this class will explore. MOODLE is our school LMS and may be used as a repository (if needed).

We will use WordPress, Edmodo , BlogEd, Microsoft and Adobe software. Adobe Captivate is a preferred way to have students share expertise, teach, learn, assess – it is a great metacognitive tool. I will evaluate the potential of Minecraft (+ reality of the filter) over the holidays.

Rough ideas for new units include:

  • ‘Can Cyborgs Write Poetry?’ (poetry; poetic techniques; philosophy; short stories; machinima; film)
  • Telling the Truth? (critical literacy; media; bias; sensationalism; conspiracy theories; authority; perspective; opinion; sources; HSC AMOW; telling ‘shit from clay’; lyrics, documentaries; news; film-making)
  • Genre (horror, fantasy and science fiction) including contributing to fan fiction sites
  • Personal Interest Project (negotiated and personalised learning)

I particularly like Bianca Hewes‘ unit, inspired by Dean Groom, ‘Can Cyborgs Write Poetry?’ and thank her for sharing. I have no need of the excellent content but the title is just golden, helping me frame a range of other ideas that were lacking a skeleton. I have read most of Philip K Dicks’ novels and philosophic musings and feel sure Year 10 will get a taste of these, very likely enjoying, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ and Blade Runner.

Our set novel is likely to be Cory Doctorow’s, ‘Little Brother‘, freely available in a huge number of formats under a creative commons license. However, one of the goals for the course is that students read much more passionately – and often – in genres of their own interest. DailyLit is a great resource.

What do you think about the idea of running all these units simultaneously? This will potentially enable a more personalised program as boys focus on composing and creating in the area they feel most stimulated. We could really negotiate some personal learning space. Is it your experience too, that a well-sequenced and explained programming can be deadly dull for boys, as they work their way throughout text-types and tests, assessments and schedules? Of course, being organised, is an absolutely essential life skill and one that 15 year old boys are, stereotypically, not likely to possess. I can smell opportunity in this approach with a fair degree of danger to be wary of too.

Students still need to be graded based on the ‘descriptors‘ and online portfolio of the students creative output will be an important indicator of their achievement. A variation on Pechakucha will give an opportunity for students demonstrate both their oral skills and powers of visual representation in an assessment situation.

I am passionate in insisting on students producing polished writing. Spelling and punctuation are essential, especially as much of their work will be published online for authentic audiences. Students will have the opportunities to compose essays; book, film and game reviews; machinima; blog posts; documentary films; game walkthroughs; traditional and new poetic forms; short fiction pieces; fan fiction and videos.

This award-winning, machinima version, of WB Yeats, ‘An Irish Airman Forsees his Death’ in many ways sums up the kind of learning I would like to occur in our class next year. I want students to create, to be stimulated and be able to access traditional literary experiences in new ways. Lost Generation is another example of the poet adapting their ideas to new forms for new audiences. I thought I might open the year with it. What do you think?

What ideas are you/your faculty pursuing in the Post-SC world? Do you want to collaborate?



    • Renee G

    • 12 years ago

    All sounds very exciting, Darcy! It makes me jealous that I won’t have Year 10 next year. But similarly, I will be teaching a Year 9 class, for boys. I look forward to engaging them in a similar manner. I currently trolling for exciting resources that will motivate and have them working in a connected, collaborative manner. I am enthusiastically waiting to connect with other teachers, anxious as to what they are doing. My first unit is looking likely to be centred around Skate Culture – a documentary looking like a likely product! Looking for a zippy unit title…I’m a bit dull – all I can see is Sk8….something about Create….and then I go blank!!!!

      • Anthony

      • 12 years ago

      Drop in at your local skate park and ask. I don’t think S8 will cut it with skaters.

        • Roberta Von Heupt

        • 12 years ago

        Find out why kids skate? You could name the unit after the buz word eg Alive Fear or Alive or Adrenaline Junkie? Or conversely what do they think about people who don’t skate or people who hate skaters? Perhaps you could incorpoate a concept noun with NOT at the front. I love making titles-it is the rest of it that is daunting!!! Your students are lucky!

      • cmem

      • 12 years ago

      ‘Sk8Scape’ maybe? ‘Sk8Scope’?….just throwing out ideas

    • Jane Sherlock

    • 12 years ago

    Sounds wonderful Darcy- I wish I was going to be in your class. What about creating a text like The Waste Land which is an app for Ipads. Not the content but the concept. Each group could take a poem or poet or novel or play and have a few elements to the digital text eg dramatisation th visuals, different perspectives, a reading, info about the composer. Just a thought……….Jane Sherlock

    • Elly Connolly

    • 12 years ago

    Sounds great! I’m not sure yet what our “faculty plan” is for Term 4 2012, but I would really like to look at Corey Doctorow’s Little Brother with my class too! Am thinking about a PBL unit revolving around it, but it’s still very much in my head and not on paper yet. Will keep you updated as it develops 🙂 Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

    • Troy

    • 12 years ago

    I want to be in this class.

    • Alysha Patrick

    • 12 years ago

    I really like the ideas you have created for year 10 next year. I was just thinking with your telling the truth unit and the use of lyrics- you could maybe use the video clips of the songs and get them to determine whether they relate to the words, add an extra “truth” to the song or are purely for entertainment purposes. I am also interested in the personal learning project and how you are going to run it. Sounds like you are going to have a fun class!! 🙂

    • Sandy

    • 12 years ago

    Darcy this all sounds great. I am so jealous. I have been asked to teach some English next year for the first time in ages and was excited until I found that the focus of my lessons will be the grammar/spelling booklets printed for each year group that I am pretty sure would’ve been ‘old’ when I was in high school. Thanks for the “Lost Generation” link though – love it!

      • Roberta Von Heupt

      • 12 years ago

      You could maybe twist the focus to Writing Powerfully? Essentially all those spelling and grammar tricks are to help us be powerful,eridite, clear communicators. Humourous you tube clips or print out where errors have befuddled communication could be engaging and still make your point. In their wtiting show them hoe to put the subject at the front of the sentence etc mixed in with most relevant grammar rule. On Youtube there are also some great teacher videos to help with writing. A tough gig for you though…

        • Roberta Von Heupt

        • 12 years ago

        Just saw a clip on Ellen Bad tatoos with very public, permanent spelling errors…

    • Nola Galagher

    • 12 years ago

    I just love the machinima version of the W.B. Yeats poem — thanks for sharing it, Darcy — we’ll definitely use it with our Year 10 students.
    It occurred to me that within your ‘Telling the Truth’ unit you might find it interesting to use ‘the Pitch’ segment from The Gruen Transfer (conveniently collected in Youtube) — great for discussion, but also may stimulate students’ own production of adverts which distort/manipulate the truth.
    Nola Galagher

    • Karen Yager

    • 12 years ago

    I also love the machinima version! We are doing a PBL approach for year 10 at Knox next year. It will be a cross-discipline task based on the boys’ passion and interest.

    We are in the middle of trialling an integrated assessment task for year 8 where the boys are designing a low energy city using Minecraft. They are sent daily quests designed by teachers in the core subjects. It is amazing to watch them work! No teacher needed – just creative ideas, the flip learning approach through a Virtual Knox site with interesting and informative links, research material and articles provided for the boys and a task that is well structured.

  1. […] My Year 10 English class interviewed, Jeremy Ray, the presenter of ’5 Inch Floppy’, about an episode of his online video game review show exploring ‘unethical game design‘. I was pleased with the quality of the interview and my class were definitely stimulated by the experience of connecting with the presenter, as a follow-up to our original lesson and as part of our ‘Connected?’ unit. Twitter and Skype were useful tools and we recorded using Screenflow, uploaded to YouTube and the class blog. […]

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