English teachers looking for a film to use to help students understand and critically analyse documentaries should consider Spellbound. Below you can download a copy of an article I have written on how to approach Spellbound in the classroom.
'The Inchcape Rock' is a narrative poem based on a Scottish legend. In it a pirate inadvertently brings about his own death. It can be used to teach the concept of theme and of the need for readers to fill the gaps in narratives. Below you can download a lesson plan for 'The Inchcape Rock' and a copy of the poem.
Lewis Carroll's poem 'Jabberwocky' is a perennial favourite and works with students of all ages. It appears in the novella Through the Looking Glass. Alice finds the poem in a book in the looking-glass house. At first she thinks it is in some language she does not know, but then realises it must be a looking-glass book, in which the writing is backwards. When she holds the book up to a mirror, Alice finds she can read the poem.
'Jabberwocky' is a great poem for teaching the role of intertextuality and decoding skills in comprehension.
' The Monkey's Paw' is a classic horror story which both challenges and entertains students. Below you can download a lesson plan for 'The Monkey's Paw' and a copy of the story. There is also an amazing number of video versions of the story available on YouTube. Two of the better ones are 'The Monkey's Paw' and 'The Curse of the Monkey's Paw'.
Looking for a narrative poem which will engage students in Years 7 to 10? 'Flannan Isle' is based on an incident in 1900 when three men mysteriously disappeared without trace from a lighthouse off the coast of Scotland.
Told from the point of view of one of the discoverers of the disappearance, this 'spooky' poem is open-ended, leaving it up to the reader to come up with a solution to the mystery. Great for generating discussion and teaching the skill of inferential reading.
Below you can download a lesson plan for 'Flannan Isle', teachers background notes and a copy of the poem itself.
Managing student behaviour while writing on the whiteboard can sometimes be a challenge for teachers. Every time you take your eyes off the students, some take it as a signal to have a chat or misbehave.
I saw a clever solution to this problem while observing a student teacher today. The teacher put some headings on the board before the lesson. But when it came to adding points arising from student contributions under the headings, the teacher orchestrated the discussion while using a student as her scribe to add the points to the board. This allowed the teacher to keep her eyes on the class more of the time and thus manage behaviour more effectively.
It also added a nice extra touch of student participation to the lesson.
I doubt if she's the first teacher to use this tactic, but it was the first time I'd seen it used. Definitely worth trying.
At the annual state conference of the English Teachers Association of Western Australia in May 2008 I delivered a presentation on teaching students to be writers. Click the links below to view or download a copy of the powerpoint slideshow which accompanied my presentation and the handout I distributed.
Eaglestone, Robert (2000). Doing English: A Guide for Literature Students. Routledge: London. ISBN 0-415-19136-X.
Written by a lecturer in English at the University of London, Doing English was produced specifically for students commencing undergraduate studies in English Literature at British universities. Its aim is ‘to bridge the often daunting gap between traditional approaches to literature, still dominant in [British] schools and the new world of literary theory which dominates university English.’
Although English teachers are not the target audience for this book, they will find it an invaluable resource. Here in Australia, schools are less locked into traditional approaches to literature than British schools apparently are, and contemporary literary theories are given greater recognition in official syllabuses. But many teachers are still struggling to come to grips with these theories and often find it difficult to align them with the ‘common sense’ understandings of literature they learnt at school.
Doing English outlines the development of English as a subject since the nineteenth century and charts the changes in thinking about English in a succinct, accessible manner. It is refreshingly free of the jargon, polysyllabic vocabulary and convoluted syntax that characterise many works on literary theory. It explains abstract ideas in concrete terms and one is left feeling that what had previously seemed to be strange, obtuse approaches to literature actually make a lot of sense.
This book is useful not just for teachers of literature in the senior secondary years, but all English teachers. If you read only one book about English teaching this year, make it this one. To buy a copy of Doing English in Australia click on the image below.