Sunday, October 16, 2016

Year 8 And The Hero's Journey

This week I gave my students a break from Australian Identity, which really needs to be finished, but has been rather dragging on. The kids are pretty good, but I'd rather have them doing something because they're interested than because it's compulsory. And we haven't done much writing this term - some, but not a lot. And I had to sneak it into the Identity thing.

So I decided to try The Hero's Journey, which worked quite well with a previous class. Last Thursday I gathered them in the Interactive Whiteboard Room, where we show film texts and documentaries, do presentations and such, and began by an explanation of what The Hero's Journey is - a simplified explanation, basically that a guy called Joseph Campbell said that most adventures boil down to the same story outline. We watched trailers for a number of movies that fitted the bill. I asked them if they could think of any, but only one of them came up with something that fitted. I began to wonder if I should do the follow-up, but thought, no, I had told them that today they would be doing some writing and they were going to do it! Otherwise, we might as well just go back to the unit of work we were having to do.

Today, I printed out and enlarged the template I've prepared, with elements of the Journey, simplified because I want them to be able to use it. The whole point is to write a story, with the outline to help.

I also found an example online of how you can use the Hero's Journey even for as simple and silly a story as a boy going out at night to find his lost cat and getting it down from a tree.

We spent the whole of our first session working together on the board, using our film text, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, as the example. They got the idea and answered how various elements of the film fitted into the elements of the Journey.

This afternoon, at our second session, I handed out templates and asked them to work in groups to come up with a story outline using them. I assured them that I didn't mind how silly the stories were, as long as they used the elements of the template.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that they really had got the hang of it. It's a small class and four boys worked together to produce a very silly story outline about Hillary Clinton and a Mexican boy who helped her win the Presidency. But it fulfilled the requirements and I told the boys well done.

The girls came up with something a bit more serious, which convinced me that when they have to do a proper story on their own, they will be able to do it.

I did one myself, but hadn't had the chance to read it when the bell went for their next class. Hopefully, Thursday they will be able to create a basic story each. Fingers crossed!

I have also handed out their class magazine, which was put together from the work they did in Term 2 and some of last term. It was not too bad, considering all the fiddling around we had to do, and that I had to make the cover and table of contents. I asked them not to take a copy unless they actually wanted it - I really don't want to find crumpled pages lying around the schoolyard. But everybody took one, so that was nice.

I haven't found any crumpled pages yet!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

8B's Aussie Identity

Last week, we went to the computer room and I asked all the students to write a blog post which would begin with "I remember..." It should have something in their memories about Australia and their place in it.

I figured that at the very least they could always write about "I remember..." - something I discovered in a book about writing by Kate Grenville. If you find yourself with writer's block there's one area where you can always get ideas and that's writing about yourself.

But just in case, I wrote a page about my own memories, to give them some idea of what I had in mind.

All but two of them wrote a decent-length piece; of the others, one was absent and the other kept changing his mind and ended up,with three lines. He was capable of doing better. I know; I've read his other work. I guess he just wasn't in the mood - and not planning on doing the "h" word either!

The rest of my class delighted me with their choice of memory. My favourite was the boy of Maltese background who was remembering his first taste of Australian breakfast foods at a school "pyjama day." And his first taste of sausages on the same day. And his reaction to mustard! With a little editing, that one is fully publishable.

Another one described the aroma of meat on the family barbecue, and the pleasure of going shopping for it with his father.

 It was a shortish piece, but said what the author wanted to say. I did edit it a little, but the rewrite he did yesterday was not quite as good as I'd hoped. Still, the boy is a good writer and I won't harass him for more.

The two boys who hadn't written their pieces were there when I took the class yesterday. One wrote his own piece about barbecues, which needs work, the other was not well and shouldn't have been at school. However, I asked him to read some of the other pieces to get some idea of what I had in mind and he said afterwards that he had an idea as a result. I will have to give him a little time on Monday to finish; he won't do it at home and really needs me to sit with him and encourage, being the weakest in the class. With help, he produced a nice recipe for hamburger in the class magazine.

Monday we need to work on "the stolen children" and "indigenous contributions to the language." But I'll try to find time!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Week 7- 8 - Year 8 Again!

Last week's two sessions worked well enough. We presented the complete iMovies in our interactive whiteboard room in the library. They were, to be honest, the best.

But other students completed their work and presented just to me. In the afternoon, we were in the classroom. My reluctant speaker went into an empty classroom to record her voice and the music. It was satisfactory, if not inspiring, and I told her she had passed the assignment and saved it into Public Share, then into my own files, because I've known nasty kids to delete others' work, not to mention mine. It was easier when we had to ask for students to be allowed to save to Public Share!

There were still two students to finish, who were absent on Monday, so on Thursday we went to the library's computer room, where those who had finished all their work went to the web site, which gives ten grains of rice to charity for every vocabulary question you get right. One of them, bless him, tried to do some calculations as to just how much his 2000-odd grains would add up to in a bowl.

Of the last two students, the girl finished her work in one of the library offices. She declined to use music, probably wise of her as her voice would have been drowned out, like her classmate's.

The boy must be truly reluctant, because he made every excuse he could think of to procrastinate.

Today, he will have to finish it! I'll send him somewhere quiet, no further excuses!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Week 6 - Year 8 iMovies

Here we are in Week 6 and we still haven't completed - quite - the iMovie task. On Monday, I was down to four students! Some were absent, some were on bin duty - the ones who weren't there were the ones for whom I had allowed some extra time to complete the task. One girl had started the Thursday before, then been called out of class by the Year Level Co-ordinator - "Can I see so-and-so for a few minutes?" - and not returned until the end of the session, to pick up her books. Monday she wasn't there. I had hoped to have some of the students who had finished help those who hadn't, but it wasn't to be.

Another student has begun, but needs more slides and to record her voice. She had been reluctant to do the iMovie - I had offered her the option of doing PowerPoint, on the understanding she would have to present live, because the task is about "listening and speaking", which she accepted, but changed her mind. I think there are about 21 seconds so far, and she really hasn't done what I asked, which was to prepare a script.

Another student absent on Monday - and today! - has finished, except that he had added a silly comment to the end of the presentation and had no idea how to fix it, short of re-recording. Neither do I, at this stage. I don't think the girl he called beautiful will be offended, but it's not appropriate for this, and it might be a bit embarrassing for both of them.  Probably not a good idea to show it in his absence. I need to speak to both of them. It's a pity, because it's otherwise quite good. I have saved a copy to USB stick, though, because knowing him, he may otherwise just delete the whole thing and have nothing to hand in.

The girl who was the object of his admiration has finished, but her soft, gentle voice was pretty much drowned out by the music and I have no idea how to change it for a quieter tune, though I've experimented. It will have to do as is. I will be asking a staff member from another campus for his help; I'm told he knows it better than the technician, who doesn't use iMovie.

The others have done quite well and checked their rubric to make sure they included all the senses in their "Australia means to me..." iMovie.

This afternoon I hope to do their presentations, such as they are, and ask them to assess their own listening skills - perhaps if I hand them that sheet before we begin, they will pay attention. It's a sort of follow-up to the listening survey we did tight back at the beginning.

But I still have some unfinished work from three students and not sure what to do with the others while they complete it. I can't give it to them as homework, because it's being done on iPad.

On Monday afternoon, with so few students, we just sat down with a couple of short stories - Rocket And Sparky by Edwina Harvey, from World's Next Door, and Hot And Spicy by Oliver Phommavanh, from Growing Up Asian In Australia. I hadn't realised that his novel Thai-Riffic was based on the short story, with a boy whose family run a Thai restaurant in Sydney. In this story, he has to take some Thai food to school for a multicultural day, but as far as Albert Yip is concerned, it's all embarrassing and he'd rather be eating Aussie foods like pies and chips. Even worse, to school has ordered food from his parents for the celebration. So he decides to do a bit of sabotage on the food so that it won't happen again... In the other story, a pony-loving girl is stuck out in the desert with her father, little brother and a camel - then they find an egg too big to be an emu egg. It's a dragon egg.

I invited the students to look at these two views of Australia and discuss the differences. And because none of them was Anglo, we talked about the food they had at home - and I added the European food I grew up with.

They were polite and co-operative, but dud they enjoy the stories? I don't know. Nobody smiled, though my volunteer seemed to be having fun reading aloud from Rocket and Sparky.

Still a few weeks to go and I haven't finished the it. Kids do take longer than you might think to finish things. And with a curriculum day tomorrow and a meeting today there is very little time to put together the group magazine we finished earlier this term.

Sigh! Teaching is fun!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Week 5 - Year 8

Today I did two more periods of the required program on "Australian Identity."

The kids are working on their iMovies. They're at all different levels and today two students were absent - one not at school, one doing bin duty, so they will be behind everyone else anyway.

I was hoping to be ready for presentation, but it wasn't to be. The two students I thought were going to take about fifteen minutes out of two periods to finish took the entire double period and there is still a small amount of work to do, but they're pretty much there. I gave them all a rubric to follow and young Dylan must have taken a good look at it, judging by the variations of voice he did.

I asked him and Allan, the other lad, to make their scripts more personal, because the idea was "what does Australia mean to me?" . Dylan's was a travelogue, complete with shrimps on the barbie, and Allan's was a mini-documentary. They did rewrite a bit and I can't ask much more of them.Small as my class is - and it's tiny - I found myself having to look after the two students who were making the most noise instead of those who were not making a fuss.

In the end, I ignored them and went over to help the young lady who had done what I asked and needed help finding her way into the school's network; when I returned, one of the boys had actually gone as far as putting the photos on the iMovie and recording his voice. He still needs to write text on it, but his voice over the pictures sounded good. - I told him so, but pointed out that there would have been fewer "ums" and "ers" if he'd written it down. His friend, however, who had done as I asked and printed out the pictures and put them in order, hadn't gotten any further.

The rubrics had to be simplified, because the ones I had been given, for the three levels, were too elaborate. Kids need something they can follow.

Wait till they find out they have a rubric for listening. Also complicated and needing a rewrite.

Oh, dear.

Is it working? Well, we'll have to see. Someone else has written the lesson plans; in theory, all I have to do is teach them. But it's not quite working for me.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Week 4 - "Being Australian" iMovies - not yet!

Despite all my efforts to get the kids to understand why I want them to collect the photos they need in their Public Share folders for the time being, before attempting to make their iMovies, I had one who insisted on going straight to the iPad, another couple who said they had made a start and there were specific iPads with their pictures on them and others who decided to write their scripts without actually having collected any photos yet. Fortunately, we had one of the iPads that had someone's photos on it - they're not supposed to save them there, but he had done a test run for me when I wanted to see if my instruction sheet was able to be followed. And it was unlikely anyone else would play with the photos, but it would have been safer in the class folder on Public Share.

And the one who insisted that his "being Australian" video would have to be all about beaches. Yes, I told him, beaches are very much a part of Australian life, but - is that all? And how do you go about thinking of sound, smell, taste, feel?

He argued that there was the taste of the salty water, the smells of the sea, the feel of the water, the sound of the waves... I sighed and ended up agreeing, provided that his voice track used all that. It wasn't a dumb thing to say, but I am likely to have to sit down with him and talk him through making the film yet again.

I am glad it's such a small class, because I may have to sit down with all of them when it gets to the point where they have to save their iMovies to Public Share. Some of them got the hang of it when they did the test run, but not all.

Tomorrow I have had to book a computer room because the library is unavailable. If any of them are ready to record their voices, I'll need to send them to a corner where it's quiet.

When I did my annual review the other day and showed my own iMovies as "modelling" and "exemplar work" the Vice Principal said he'd love to see the students' work when it was done. Hopefully there will be something good to show him,at least with some of them!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fun And Games With Scholarship Applications

My boys Simon and Loc have received their well-deserved scholarship renewals, so I decided to nominate another couple of students. They're wonderful girls, whom I'm nominating for their leadership abilities. Both of them have stacks of award certificates, no problem there.

When I first discussed the matter with them, one wanted to be an events organiser, the other hadn't made up her mind.

Now the girl who hadn't decided wants to become a social worker. Her choices are mostly straightforward, though she has now decided to do Maths and Psychology, both expensive subjects. History would have cost $63 for the textbook. Maths will cost $88 plus, possibly a $200 calculator - I'm checking whether she needs the special one for General Maths. I may be able to arrange for tutoring if WC has some reconditioned computers, which they didn't have last year, but might have this year - the lady told me they were speaking to some potential donors. But she doesn't need Internet support, as her guardian has it bundled with the phone bill. Psych will cost $108 for the textbook and student book.

But her application is manageable.

The young events organiser has decided to become a secondary teacher, possibly a Foods teacher. So she's chosen the Hospitality subject, which will cost a bundle. I've emailed the Hospitality teacher to confirm. And Psychology. And Maths. Thank heavens the English books shouldn't be too dear. I was going to ask for help with the home Internet connection, but may have to drop that.

I am going to have to do some serious juggling here! There's a limit to how much you can ask. The charity relies on donations. So far so good, but I have to be reasonable.

Fingers crossed!