Here are six great articles and books I’ve read recently, by subject area.
1. Skelton, Sheri. (2006). Finding a place for poetry in the classroom every day. The English Journal 96,(1). 25-29.
English teacher Skelton highlights how she and her students in a remote and impoverished Eskimo village school in Alaska brought the poetry of their unique and beautiful natural landscape into the classroom in a variety of poetic forms, kindling student-teacher connections and a dynamic and deeply creative learning environment.
This highly descriptive article voices Skelton’s own personal observations of the transformational nature of poetry in the classroom, and outlines the many, varied and very accessible poetry teaching approaches and activities in which Skelton and her class engaged. The resultant poetry is highlighted and esteemed throughout this article, underlining Skelton’s philosophy and practice of embracing the poetic of the everyday.
This thoughtful article encourages teachers to find the poetry in even the most seemingly inhospitable settings, and offers practical examples of activities that encourage young people to explore and experiment with newfound poetic forms. It also promotes poetry teaching as a way for teachers to build shared experiences with students, especially when teachers may not share the same cultural heritage as their student cohort.
Classroom spaces as a multimodal text
1. Thornburg, D. (2007) Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st century.
2. Mills, K. (2011). ‘New Social Spaces’ in The multiliteracies classroom, Multilingual matters: Tornonto,15-31.
Thornburg’s article, an edited update on his original paper, proposes that contemporary classroom design/spatial negotiations – even with the growth and incorporation of learning technologies – recall ancient archetypes (universally accepted representations) of community, ie the cave, the watering hole, the campfire, and their relation to practice in life.
Mills’s chapter echoes Thornburg’s assertion of the classroom as a social product (and social constructor), showcasing how re-designing and redesignating spaces within a classroom signify not only new purposes but new relationships (students with students, students with teachers, and students with objects).
Thornburg’s work draws upon eclectic schema, from the folkloric to the philosophical, and offers a rich symbology of classroom physical space and classroom virtual spaces. Examples of mythology in action are very relevant in the second part of the paper, which specifically examines cyberspace and its role in replacing the campfire of old. Thornburg refreshingly challenges the myth of interactivity, in which old typical interactions are simply ‘digitised’ in new media, rather than transformed and reinterpreted through the affordances of that media.
Mills cites key sources to explore the concept of the class as a social space, and a multimodal text in its own right. These references are used through to support Mills’ categories of dialogic, bodily, embodied, and architectonic and screen spaces.
Both the Thornburg and Mills’ readings are thought provoking, although Thornburg’s paper is a more colourfully descriptive article. Thornburg’s analogies of ICTs to mythic primitive spaces like watering holes are vivid, however, even with editing, his study of ICTs in this space appear a little dated. Thornburg’s paper’s strengths are in its challenge of the blind replication of traditional learning and teaching arrangements through ICT, thereby promoting teachers to deliberately select how they will use and bring ICTs into the learning environment to enhance the mythic spaces.
Project Based Learning
1. Hallerman, S. (2012, February 10). PBL and Authentic Literacy [Video file]. Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRPi1xceK34&lr=1&user=biepbl
National faculty Member of Buckmaster Institute of Education (BIE), Hallerman presents this webinar on PBL (Project Based Learning) as a vehicle for authentic literacy experiences, heightening comprehension and writing, and offering students a structured approach to inquiry that is wanted and needed by real-life audiences. The webinar focuses on six key steps to make the existing eight-stepped PBL relevant to literacy experiences and activities.
The six-sided framework for an Authentic Literacy project aligns with, and even streamlines the PBL eight facets to focus on the literacy arena. The examples in the webinar are illustrative of the key points, and are drawn from the real-life project at King Middle School, US.
Illustrated with diagrammatical slides, key thoughts and photographs throughout, this webinar is highly practical and structured and written in an instruction/discussion manner. This resource in itself offers a sound framework for teachers to start introducing PBL in their English class projects, although a basic understanding of the principles of PBL, and prior familiarity with some of the PBL methodology are required to derive the most from this webinar.
The 6 steps are: 1: Students must produce a Written product (real world products). 2. The Product must meet a real need. 3. Students must generate authentic inquiry questions, not only respond to the driving question. 4. Students use authentic sources. 5. Student products must be critiqued by an expert or the product recipient. 6. Students must have an opportunity to present their work to the actual intended recipient.
English Teacher Identity and Pedagogical Ideology
1. Cole, D. (2009). The power of emotional factors in English teaching. Power and Education. 1(1), 57-70.
This 2009 article outlines the results of a research conducted using pre-service teachers as researchers to interview inservice English teachers to examine the latter’s perceptions and reactions to recent curriculum changes (Essential Learnings) in Tasmania, through discourse analysis of various teacher ‘types’. Teacher identity types are arranged as polarities in respect to their reaction to: a) the Essential Learning introduced in Tasmanian English school studies b)their reaction to the increasing interdisciplinary situation of English studies c)their view on critical literacy as a now-dominant pedagogy. The teacher typology is further examined in relation to the emotional and affective elements of teacher’s daily work.
The paper’s abstract and overt organising theme on ‘power and emotions’ in English teaching seems at first read somewhat disjointed from the emerging thesis of English teacher identity construction. However, the paper offers a fascinating insight of polarities in English teacher identity, and how this defines their pedagogy and their reception (or rejection) of the new, critical literacy-focused curriculum. The paper cites student-led research with their inservice peers, and therefore acknowledges that the frame of the typology may be attributable (at least in part) to the way the latter represent themselves to junior peers. Teacher types are arranged around teachers’ level of embracing or resistance to the critical literacy pedagogy framework of the Essential Learnings introduced across Tasmanian schools. For example, Essential Learners, embracing the curricula change at one end of the scale and ‘Defenders of the Canon’ are at the other. Polarities and oscillations of English teacher identity and pedagogical slant are represented diagrammatically.
This article is a fascinating and considered piece of research, and though a reflection on the curriculum change in Tasmania at the time, is immediately relevant to all pre-service and inservice teachers in their self-reflective professional practice. Teaching students may find this article assists them to identify positions, perspectives that align – or challenge -their own.
Niche Interest – Fan Fiction
1. Jenkins, H. (2008). How fan fiction can teach us a new way to read Moby Dick (part one). Retrieved 24 April 2012, from http://henryjenkins.org/2008/08/how_fan_fiction_can_teach_us_a.html
This blog post by self-described ‘aca-fan’ Henry Jenkins, the Provost Professor of Communications, Journalism and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California, proposes the key arguments of a work-in-progress chapter from a resource Teacher’s Strategy Guide on ‘Reading in a Participatory Culture’, a guide to explain to teachers what Fan Fiction is, and how it might inform their classroom reading activities. The article provides examples of how Fan Fiction used in various educational settings have enhanced student motivation to read, and prompted deeper readings of set texts.
The article outlines how teachers can apply an adaptation of the Five Core Concepts of critical media literacy studies to the teaching of Fan Fiction in their class, emphasising the key area of ‘omissions’ (gaps and silences) from the original or source text as a framing point to discussions about Fan Fiction. Jenkins highlights that Fan Fiction and other collaborative media provides students and critical readers of texts with agency to respond (change or extend) to their dissatisfaction with the text, an affordance that could not previously be granted by other forms of texts. Jenkins advances the case for recreating participatory cultures in classrooms, thereby melding students world of pleasure media interactions and the classroom culture.
The article is written in clear, engaging and accessible language, well structured, and provides a strong case for the use of Fan Fiction in a classroom. The article is a thoughtful introduction to Fan Fiction as a genre, but more importantly, its role in enhancing reading for pleasure for students who may be reluctant readers and writers.