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!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Term 3 Year 8 - Week 3!

And another lovely session trying to get my head around the new Year 8 program...

Today wasn't the best. I had it planned out, the beginning of their iMovie presentation. I had the checklist of things they needed in it and the "how-to" sheet of making an iMovie on the school iPads and saving it into Public Share.

I had to wait for some to turn up. They had legitimate reasons, but it was not helpful. My best student didn't turn up at all; she was doing SRC work, involving going around to classes to take money for the SRC fundraising barbecue. She will catch up, if anyone does, but it interrupted my lesson. The students did tell me, though one thought she had gone to the wrong room(we were in the library). Another student had been in trouble and had to stay back to speak with the teacher. The two weakest students, who are not bad kids, spent the time giggling and chattering, interrupting me. By the time they were settled, I decided there was no point in trying to run the class as originally planned. Two students who had finished all their work so far were allowed to start collecting pictures for their presentations. The others were behind in the last piece of work, poems, so I sent them to the computers to complete. One, who had been absent that day, I sat down with and explained. She managed to complete an acrostic poem, on Koalas, by the end of the period.

I tried again after lunch. This worked somewhat better, though the SRC rep was still off collecting money. We went through the checklist sheet, discussing the tastes, smells, feel, sounds, sights of Australia. They did come up with some of each. Then I asked them to write down any words they might find helpful in looking for photos for the iMovie. I think that helped, but by then there were twenty minutes left, do I let them just start, telling them to save the jpegs into a folder with their name on it. Some seemed to have got the idea, but my two struggling students lost track

Not sure how I can deal with this. I need time to sit down with individual students, but those two keep me busy disciplining them, which takes time. And how much better are they? Well, one of them has actually written and finished something... But not today.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Term 3 Year 8 - Second Week

Okay, I had to do a session on "Listening". And "How good a listener are you?" I told my students it was because this term's theme is "Listening and speaking" (The others are "reading" and "Writing"). This may be the case, but I don't know for sure that was what was intended by those who wrote this unit. It didn't do them any harm, though, to be honest, it was more like the Pathways - homeroom - subject than English, while in this morning's Pathways, the kids were given journals in which they were supposed to write about the things that happen to them, something that has in the past been a part of English, to get them writing by doing something that was easy for them. The closest I've come was in the blog posts, though there really hasn't been time to do it regularly and I have mostly used it for getting their work in one place.

Still. We did it and the kids co-operated and might even have enjoyed it. They started off with a survey on "how good a listener are you?" which I asked them to be honest about. It was like one of those things they have in a magazine, where you give yourself a score. Some of them were more honest than others. The student I KNOW has the most trouble paying attention gave himself a higher score than he really should have.

We discussed it. I even admitted that I'm not a very good listener myself. I told them that when I phone my mother every night I have a tendency to be reading while I listen to her and then she will say irritably, "I asked you a question! Didn't you hear what I said?"

I wrote on the board some of the ways we could improve our listening skills, using student suggestions, and asked them to write them into their books.

We will have to follow up on it at some stage.

I'd still like to be sure of the reason for doing that particular lesson!

The unit required reading some Australian stories and poems. Some of those suggested were in a book called Growing Up Asian In Australia, which we don't have in the library. I did have it in ebook, but you can't print out from an ebook, so I bought a copy on the weekend.  I found one of the stories was just too long to photocopy for a class and would probably lose their interest before we'd finished reading it.

In the end, we just read some poems. I chose two by Oodgeroo Noonuccal aka Kath Walker, one by Sean Wright on the subject of a massacre of Indigenous Australians and a couple of classic traditional poems - "Clancy of the Overflow" and MacKellar's "My Country". The first two were "No More Boomerang" and "Battle Of The Totems", a wry tongue-in-cheek complaint about the changes in Indigenous life and a funny one about her father's totem carpet snake which her mother hated and eventually got revenge on.

I'd hoped to have them write something before the end of the period, but there was another class in the library watching a movie, so hard to focus, and a couple of my students had headaches. We couldn't go back to the classroom because I had the EAL class to look after, so we just finished the poems in an office off the main library, discussed them a little and I showed them a picture of  the painting "Collins St At Five PM" which made me think of the last part of "Clancy" and I played a YouTube video on my iPad in which the elderly Dorothea MacKellar read her poem, with appropriate accompanying pictures.

We will have to do some writing on Thursday afternoon instead.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Term 3 Year 8 - and Changes!

This year, our English co-ordinator retired and the new one decided that instead of gathering in groups according to year levels, each campus would be put in charge of working on the curriculum for a year level. Mine got Year 9. I contribute what I can, but I don't teach Year 9. The last time I did it was Year 9 ESL, about 2006-7. And that was different from now. Very different! However, not a lot of change was made here, just some work done on what is already being taught.

Another campus was put in charge of Year 8.

Now, we had planned out this year's program. In Term 3, we would spend part of the term doing Literature Circles. This is a program where students get into groups to read a book, depending on their reading levels, and the reading is followed by some writing, in our case a creative response to the text studied. It has worked very well - kids get to discuss and contribute and be marked on their contributions. We were also going to do plays - the last time I did that I ended up having to write a play, comparing it with the short story from which it was taken, followed by students doing podcasts of the play. The school hasn't got much in the way of class sets of plays and other campuses had borrowed the few we had. But it worked.

Then there is essay-writing or story-writing or both.

Not any more. The staff from the campus doing Year 8 completely rewrote the curriculum for this term. I mean, completely! And we first got to see it a few days before the end of last term. It involves "what it is to be Australian" and "how good are you at listening?" and preparing a presentation using something called Powtoon, to which the school has to subscribe(as far as I know, that hasn't happened yet). It involves the students preparing an animated presentation with their voices over, stating what being Australian means to them.

The problem is, apart from a two-week trial, there was no way to learn how to use it until the school subscribes, so I asked if I might, instead, use iMovie, which is easily available on the school's iPads, and which I know how to use and can teach the kids. It's not really much harder than PowerPoint and looks a lot more impressive. I was given permission, after making an iMovie and showing them.

But the people concerned have prepared an entire unit of work, complete with lesson plans and support material. You just have to teach it, it seems.

So I made a start on Monday. I fiddled a bit with the lesson plan, as I do with my Literacy classes, because not everything will work with every class and the unit's writers had forgotten that not everyone has access to an interactive whiteboard in every classroom, as they do at that campus. I had to book our interactive whiteboard room, which just doesn't have space, short of moving the tables and chairs around, to form a line from "Not at all Australian" to "Aussie, oy,oy,oy!" and then explain why you chose as you did. The thing is, I have a very small class and and, to be honest, while they would co-operate, most would cringe. I know the teacher who probably designed this bit and she could certainly get the kids going with her enthusiasm for it, but I don't think I could.

The kids did co-operate, did help me out with it, but I'm not sure how many of them enjoyed it.

I also found that not all the details fitted into one period. It involved showing them a Youtube video, doing some moving around, discussing, brainstorming and finishing with a written activity.

I managed to get most of it done, but not the written activity. There just wasn't time.

I was supposed to mark them on their speaking, but didn't have time for that either, and some of the rubric points were a bit puzzling. I mean - what do we mean when we are deciding if a student has spoken "sensitively"?

I really need to sit down with the whole unit and rewrite it so it will work for my students. That's going to take a lot of work!


Louise Rennison Is No More!

I just heard the news. ANOTHER terrific writer bites the dust - in the course of about three days!

I have no idea of the details. There are plenty of articles that say she's gone and talk about her life, but none of those I've read so far says how. I mean, Umberto Eco and Harper Lee were both in their eighties. Sad, but not unusual. It happens.

But this lady was only in her early sixties. Not an age for "natural causes", surely? If anyone reading this knows the details, please do let me know in the comments.

Louise Rennison was a British YA novelist who wrote funny books for girls. The best known is Angus, Things And Full Frontal Snogging, which I believe was made into a film(haven't seen it), but she wrote plenty, and I have several on my library shelves - the kids love them! There was a whole series about heroine Georgia Nicolson.

I'm currently reading Withering Tights, about Georgia's cousin Tallulah Casey, who has travelled north to Yorkshire to do a summer school on the arts. I'm only about a hundred pages in and Tallulah is already surrounded by a bunch of over-the-top characters, from her kind but zany host family to the  loopy woman who runs the school.

We'll have to have a chat about this at my lunchtime book club on Thursday.