Recently I was sent some links, and some I have already seen. I am not liable for the reliability and content of the links, nor any copyrights. Have a gander as you see best fit. Or not. I’m sharing because a few need checking later.
Raymond Briggs (18/1/1934 – 9/8/2022) was a multi-award winning author and cartoonist. The Snowman and Father Christmas have long been his well-known creations. When the Wind Blows and Fungus the Bogeyman are two lesser celebrated pieces of brilliance. The artwork by Briggs has often appeared grainy and drained of brightness, yet his style has been both eye-catching and bold.
“Books are not missiles, you don’t aim them at anybody.” – Raymond Briggs
Raymond Briggs created an arsenal of characters, both loveable and relatable. His touch of magic in their stories shines as an inspiration to readers and writers alike. Powerful messages and gentle love whistled from the pages. The 1982 adaptation of The Snowman has been an iconic piece of animation that has blessed many children over the years. The introduction by David Bowie and the soundtrack are equally iconic.
“The UK is struck by a devastating nuclear attack. Cities and communication systems are destroyed, roads melted, the earth and air poisoned and ravaged. All seen through the eyes of Mr and Mrs Bloggs living alone in the countryside, who are a bit peeved the milkman hasn’t came yet.” – When The Wind Blows, Raymond Briggs
Passing away at 88 years of age, the widower Raymond Briggs CBE leaves behind no children. He does however leave behind dreams and magic that few authors have matched. Those dreamy pencil colours that delivered sadness and hope will hopefully be visited and revisited by generation after generation at storytime.
““I don’t think about what children want. You get an idea and you just do it.” – Raymond Briggs, BBC interview 2017.
“Freedom!!!!”, shouted William Wallace as they drew the axe over his head. But what exactly is freedom, and how do we express it? Are freedom of speech and freedom of speech two different matters? What should we class as hate speech? How fine a line is the difference between abusive expression and creativity? How should be express ourselves to each other? Did Lenin come down the chimney at Christmas, for Marxists?
The 21st century is a time of flux for humankind. Was this any different for previous generations? Perhaps not. Civilisations have come and gone. Manners have been taught and unlearned. Nations have grown together and drifted apart. Wars have torn the fabric of perceived time and conscience into pieces, only for peaces and treaties to reaffirm calmness. Humankind’s communities and their individual personal breadth of histories have delivered humanity to a lens unique in time. Those discoveries, explorations, migrations and have led to a wider acceptance of expression. Gone are the chains of slavery, mostly.
The relationship to others through interconnectedness of individuals and civilisations offers both a global and local perspective of humanity’s varied interpretation of freedom of expression. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘the power or right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty.’
Freedom differs from place to place. As does expression. The homes and journeys an artist in Beijing, Tehran or Moscow may differ to that of an artist in Berlin, Paris or Manchester. Many so-called free countries such as U.S.A. will argue freedom is quashed in China, Iran, or Russia. Censorship to protect ideals, culture and people or nations is not a new thing. The word treason finds its origins in Latin. The Latin equivalent is traditio, from tradere (a verb meaning ‘to hand over’ or ‘betray’). Every empire or organised culture, since the dawn of mankind living in groups, has perhaps experienced the handing over of something to a rival tribe or clan. This was not a word invented for the two 20th century World Wars.
Democracy allows freedom of expression to grow and develop. Society can flourish based on access of information and hold those in power to account. From Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragette movements to the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) laws, rules and legal systems have evolved to support voices. The systems and cultures surrounding criticism and opinion needs to be an environment supportive to a voice. There must be the right to assemble, gather and share. Libraries and print go hand in hand with allowing debate and discussion. Some western and civil countries, like Australia and the U.K., threaten the rights of protest and questioning. To remove the ability to stand together against something a person truly believes in, is not seen as democratic, yet democratic countries are doing just that. Football manager Sir Alex Ferguson frequently banned journalists who asked questions relating to footballer Ryan Giggs concerning a court injunction and his reported affairs. That was his right, in a democratic society. But, was that withheld information something that people should have had the right to talk and express opinions upon?
In 1982, the Chinese government passed a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. They also have clauses to cover ‘subversion of state power’ and ‘protection of state secrets’ with imprisonment a tangible possibility for such threats to their state. Many find difficulties with China’s image of their interpretation. But, are democratic nations perfect in their treatment of freedom of expression. The UK has a long-standing tradition of censoring theatre, movies, and the press. Reporters Without Borders, an international independent non-governmental organisation that safeguards freedom of speech, added the UK in the top 24 of global nations. The British Broadcasting Corporation prides itself on being impartial, yet many criticise the corporation for a growing list of bias.
“The free expression of opinion—even of opposition opinion, I do not know if you are prepared yet for that much freedom here.” – H.G. Wells, having met Joseph Stalin in 1934.
“Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) is a term that has caused division in France and the wider world. Charlie Hebdo‘s magazine headquarters were attacked by extremists. The mass shooting on January 7th in 2015, by al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch perpetrators killed 12 and injured 11. They objected to the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah being drawn in cartoon style alongside a phrase translating to ‘all is forgiven’. The ripples of time gave rise to much attention including South Park influencing the ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day‘, and countless pieces of journalism that could raise questions about the safety of journalists.
Liberalism allows movies such as The Whistleblower be filmed, based upon true stories like that of Kathy Bolkovac to be told. The rights of the individual, their liberty and consent allow equality before law. The Nobel Peace Prize is nominated and awarded for such things. The continued debate of Confucianism philosophy keeps Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔子) relevantly rock and roll. Liberal thought continues to influence freedom of expression and finds its niche welcoming for continued proliferation.
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobe – Star Wars: A New Hope
Censorship in media can take many forms. It could be substantial or partial. Whether it’s blocking Premier League football from copyright infringement or Tunisia hacking an individual’s Facebook account. Pervasive overseeing of the world wide web may require the use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Social media can often be a hotbed of freedom of expression and sharing of materials. The internet is full of information. Disinformation, misinformation (fake news) and malinformation can be used to cause harm or detriment to others. Much like putting your faith into a higher power, the believers, armed with false information may not intend to cause harm, but may muddy the waters and cause it nevertheless. Leaks, harassment and hate speech could follow.
“If you open a window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” – Dèng Xiǎo Píng (邓小平), reported by Torfox.
World War One and its poorly organised sequel World War Two saw a huge rise in hate speech between nations. Races of people were referred to as cockroaches. Something that history repeated in Rwanda, the Yugoslavian wars and probably happened long before The Great War was born. Discrimination has been around a long time, and sadly in the 21st century it does not appear to be disappearing anytime soon. Race (or colour) division: Kick it out. National origin is dividing. Age. Gender. Disability and ability. Religion. Sexual orientation. Animosity and disparagement has been targeting individuals and groups for as long as humanity has disagreed. Freedom of speech arms and disarms both sides of the divide. That’s where responsibility could glue together these problems.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Voltaire A.K.A. François-Marie Arouet [not just Spider-Man]
Nazi flags belong in museums as an example of what was, what went wrong and an alarm bell for the future. Students should be reflective – and caring enough to want to change the future, to avoid the negative history from repeating itself. Whether students at Tungwah International School (TWIS) or Chapel Street Primary School, or any other educational institution, the environment of learning is important. The right to seek information should be nurtured and encouraged in positive ways. Inquirers work towards being knowledgeable. Ideas can be received and expressed freely in the classroom. Thinkers should become communicators. They should remain principled and open-minded when doing so. Expression can allow balanced students to become risk-taking, by showing different shapes and forms. Likewise those who study should feel privacy keeps them from harm. Their freedom to learn must be a safe haven.
The street artist Banksy has been awarded great artistic freedom. Negatives of expression his work includes dissent towards his work. Peckham Rock was placed into the British Museum. Like all matters concerning freedom of expression and speech, the world is full of examples and sources to both support and offer facts about the subject. In explaining the subject briefly, a simple conclusion can be drawn. The debate of freedom of expression is open to interpretation and can be supported or argued against through varied means and ways. Research and examples can only stretch do far.
The notion of freedom of speech should be a fundamental global goal, both in democratic or autocratic societies, in order for change. The world is constantly changing and over a great period of time, evolution to adapt to ever-mobile conditions is a necessity. The mind must also progress. The Great Pyramid of Giza forms part of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World‘, factoring in a small region of the Earth. It completely ignores the far east, the northern areas of Europe, huge sections of Africa and countless other world places. There are examples globally of other wonder-worthy titles, yet these other ancient advances and constructs make a varied and broad set of cultural lists. Politics and idealistic perspectives shape views. Views need to be expressed. Expression is a tool of progress.
The ability to say no, or to filter our Twitter retweet opportunities is something embedded within our personal philosophy. We can each ask questions, perform reasoning and impart information and knowledge whilst taking into account values, the mind and the existence of others. Whether you aspire to be Malala standing up to the Taliban for education equality or Emily Davison jumping before a horse to raise a voice for women’s voices or Pepe Julian Onziema fighting for sexual minorities, freedom of expression will act as a tool for freedom of speech.
I read a few chapters before bed. I carry a book in my pocket almost religiously. I aim to have books on my desks and near my bedside. The bookshelf I have is full to bursting despite attempts to forever re-home unwanted texts. If I can read on a walk, at lunch or between classes, I do. It has always been my way. Reading is a lifelong pleasure and habit. It helps me to feel relaxed and whenever I have felt tired, alone or under the weather, reading has been my medicine and friend.
Having a to do list is seen as normal in many households. Why not create a list of texts and books to read? Mine keeps getting longer. It never reduces. That’s the joy of reading: there’s always something new to expand your horizons. I find my television and movie viewing list also remains quite lengthy. By being balanced and principled, I can reduce my screen time in favour of reading. I often use TV as a reward for completing a reading target.
“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.: – Carl Sagan (Scientist)
I recall the joy of Mum and occasionally my Dad reading to me when I was a child. Those bonds and memories never fade. As a child I listened to it as we shared a reading habit development together! Such quality time is essential for reading habits. I recall how my Mum used to log when I would start and end a book. There was a list of great books we read together, those I picked up at school and some I had read all alone. Reading can instill self-esteem.
“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo
The library was a weekly excursion. It was a few hours outside of the house to explore new worlds from the pages. And, on occasion, Mum would ensure I had a special trip to buy secondhand books or new books from stalls at Manchester Victoria railway station. There, I’d often find books that gripped my attention and make me want to read. Not everything read must be a masterpiece. Those books would make for a wonderful day or hour here and there. Having a day, every month set aside just for reading has become a way to slow the pace of life down and enjoy new works. Mum gave me lots of choices for reading. That’s important. What interests me may not interest you. You can recommend reading materials but giving a child a chance to pick will always work best.
“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” – Roald Dahl
The below is a huge draft that will be edited and chopped probably into less than 150 words, or maybe just a handful of sugar, or likely whichever earns me the most coffee cups. It all started when Miss Hannah in marketing asked me to create something for social media in relation to holiday reading. I immediately wanted to share Roald Dahl. Then, I thought about international mindedness, books with messages and genres that leave your heart tickling. Of course, there are many mainstream examples and some are quite well-known, but that’s the magic of a good book – it cannot stay shut! It fails to remain quietly shut in a dark corner of a room. Books cry out for attention. They’re living breathing monsters that grip you, hug you and leave sloppy kisses on your cheeks. So, that’s the introduction to the opener below.
“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” – C.S. Lewis
Do you remember the first time you opened a book and it truly grabbed your attention? Perhaps that text took you away to a whole new world. Maybe that story whisked you off on a never ending story. Certainly the protagonist had your attention. You were hooked! You find yourself nose-deep in the book, living and feeling the words! Breathing in a rollercoaster ride or feeling the love from the rows and rows of the word beneath. Importantly, age groupings are never always accurate. Students read and write at various levels of ability across age and year groups. It’s important to differentiate to an appropriate reading level. It is worth noting that opening new books may not prove too challenging, however, it can always awaken a part of a new imagination.
“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Whether you’re an avid reader or a book guru, books such as The Animals of Farthing Wood (Colin Dann) can stick with you for life. Reading about characters such as Tintin and adventures such as The Lord of The Rings can shape our expectations of movies or provide us with hours of conversations amongst thinkers and friends. As we reflect in life, we’re often granted opportunities to communicate our recommendations. Here are a few books to get you going.
Emerging readers: Kindergarten & PYP levels 1-2 / grades 1-2 / UK nursery school or years 1-2 (5-7 years)
Books at this level should be packed full of sight words, colour and invention. A trio of examples shall follow. The Reverend W. Awdry wrote Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. His 26 stories were aimed at his child Christopher. It must have worked because later on, son followed father, adding a further collection to the series! Eric Carle was a colourful writer, creating a list of books as long as my arms and legs (which are very long indeed). The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an iconic place to start reading his works: “One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry.” Janet and Allan Ahlberg are no strangers to children’s fiction. This married couple worked together for over two decades. Funny Bones, Mr Biff the Boxer, and Kicking a Ball.
“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!” – Betty Smith
At these ages students are now working out how to segment words using phonics and recognising an increasing number of sight words. They’re differentiating homonyms whilst learning to love books. Read daily and often with your kids now and they should develop at their fastest! To that mind look up the following books: All Join In (Quentin Blake – one of the greatest and most distinctive illustrators of all time); Peace at Last (Jill Murphy); The Runaway Wok (Ying Chang Compestine); Mr Wolf’s Pancakes (Jan Fearnley); Owl Babies (Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson); Suddenly (Colin McNaughton); Grumpy Frog (Ed Vere); Oi Frog! (Kes Gray & Jim Field); The Squirrels Who Squabbled (Rachel Bright & Jim Field); Flotsam (David Wiesner); Guess How Much I Love You? (Sam McBratney); Slow Loris (Alexis Deacon); I Want My Potty! (Tony Ross); Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell); Meg and Mog (Helen Nichol and Jan Pienkowski) and so many more… (further inspiration can be sourced here).
PYP 3-5 / grade 3-5 / UK years 3-5 (7-9 years)
Flat Stanley, penned by Jeff Brown, tells the story of a boy squashed by a bulletin board. His newfound flatness allows him to slip under doors like a piece of mail. He can even fly like a kite! This story series has been around for more than fifty years. The authors six original stories have inspired a catalogue of stories by other authors. There is also the Flat Stanley Project which brings together an awful lot of people around the world. Jackie Chan approves of it.
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket
Anything from the collections of Dr Seuss, A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh), Astrid Lindgren (PippiLongstocking) and Roald Dahl should capture attention at this age. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo‘s Asterix the Gaulseries can open up new frames as to how a story can appear. I would recommend this following group too. The Nothing to See Here Hotel (Steven Butler); The Bee is not Afraid of Me (Fran Long & Isabel Galleymore); King Kong (Anthony Browne); Dilly the Dinosaur (Tony Bradman); The Diary of a Cat Killer (Anne Fine); Mrs Cockle’s Cat (Philippa Pearce); The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (Jill Tomlinson); Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak); Mr Majeika (Humphrey Carpenter); How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell); The Sheep-Pig (Dick King Smith’s book was made into the movie Babe); Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White); The Iron Man (Ted Hughes) Cliffhanger (Jaqueline Wilson); Peter in Peril (Helen Bate); Coming to England (Floella Benjamin) and other great books for PYP3, PYP4 and PYP5.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
MYP 1/2 / grades 6-7 / UK years 5-6 (9-11 years)
“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” – Descartes
After developing imagination and experiencing adventure, books tend to favour realistic fiction and serious topics for older students. At this age, books open doors into many new worlds and offer insights into many other cultures. Encyclopedia-style texts lure in the curious and student inquirers. Hard-hitting and dark stories sit between classics and familiar friends of the literature world. Look up: The Boy At the Back of The Class (Onjali Rauf); Illegal (Eoin Colfer – think Artemis Fowl); Abomination (Robert Swindells); The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien); What Katy Did (Susan Coolidge); The Chronicles of Narnia(C.S. Lewis); The Borrowers (Mary Norton); Silverfin (Charlie Higson’s young James Bond series) and so on.
“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place, you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” – Roald Dahl
MYP 3/4 / grades 8-9 / UK years 7-8 (11-13 years)
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx
Recently the language and literature class tackled Bridge to Terabithia by China-born Katherine Paterson. This novel became a Disney-adaptation. Few students favoured the movie over the book. Books have often been adapted for the silver screen, the television or the stage. A great checklist to read and then watch can include the following: Madame Doubtfire (Anne Fine); The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton); The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon); The Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes); The Plague Dogs (Richard Adams); The Woman in Black (Susan Hill); Watership Down (Richard Adams); and The Giver (Lois Lowry).
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn
MYP 5/DP / grades 10+ / UK years 9+ (13+ years)
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin
At this age level, the vocabulary is expanding with new words dropping down like rain. Students are better armed to scaffold and learn these familiar unfamiliar phrases and terms. Using their decoding techniques they can swiftly move through lengthy text. The classic The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Maus by Art Spiegelman are fine examples of texts that would sit well on a student’s bookshelf. Students who watch movies such as Dune and Jurassic Park, should at this point, now be lifting the text that inspired these movies. The respected authors Frank Herbert and Michael Crichton have sizable and diverse reading catalogues suitable for those who claim to be knowledgeable. Writers and readers alike should explore diverse texts, such as: This Book is Cruelty Free (Linda Newbery); Atonement (Ian McEwan); Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela);Touching My Father’s Soul (Jamling Tenzing Norgay). I would also thoroughly recommend Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha by Roddy Doyle and William Golding’s Lord of The Flies because by now a rounded reader is a communicator of text. Just ask the students of language and literature at TWIS. Further reading suggestions can be found here and there.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis
Tired of heavy paper books? Do your children favour electronic devices? Try a popular e-reader like Kindle or Kobo. They may be devices that are limited, but that’s the beauty of it. Why worry about bad eyesight or distractions? There are stacks of available titles, some free and many can be read from .PDF documents. Many are portable. The anti-glare screens and lack of blue light make most devices unobtrusive to eyesight. Some even have onboard dictionary features.
Consult your librarian or find a suitable booklist, then check off or list how many books you have read! Be principled!
Many of us are traditional and favour paper because of the smells and textures, as well as the tangible aspect. We like to touch things. Make sure the next thing your son or daughter touches is one that reaches back and captures their heart. On top of that, books exercise brains, and to quote Roald Dahl, “If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” There you have it. Read it. Read it all. Read everything! I read everything. I read every little thing. That’s not true. I wish I did. I’m still working on it.
Whisterpoop. Verb. A small smack to the upside of the head.
How much giving did you give this last year? Did you your all? I gave as much as I could but I still feel that there’s more to give. Give or take. This year though, I feel it is harder and harder to hit my next gear, let alone my top gear! Extra energy and motivation are needed.
A student, Chael, asked me if I was leaving TWIS (Tungwah International School) in summer. Even if I was, I could not answer it clearly. It was a little shocking. As my language and literature students tucked into pizza, viewed Jurassic Park and finalised their presentations, I questioned Chael on where his question came from. He said that he read it on my blog. I told him, truthfully, that I will visit family and friends in summer – but returning to China, at the minute, is close to impossible due to the costs. Hopefully things will change to allow people to return to China from the U.K. Still, it is pleasing to know that students don’t want you to leave.
Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are neuropharmacological substances that we release. This trifecta dose produced happiness. The brace of Lauren’s pizzas and snacks accompanying class were short-lasting blasts of happiness after a hard week, with online curriculum in action video audiences (as parents) and other bits and bobs, adding to a tiresome environment, swamped by local COVID-19 outbreak worries and demands. Other ways to produce the trio of neuropharmacology releases include holding a door open, giving a gift to a friend or volunteering. Giving time to others or a cause is so often underrated.
I am receiving the radio show Wordaholics from the year 2012 via BBC Sounds. The distinctive and linguistic voice of writer Gyles Brandreth has been on TV and radio for years and I long hope he continues. We all need a veteran to learn from! As I study classroom management skills to try to get those pesky grade 7 and 6 students into better order, I find the sound of radio quite relaxing. That and some select poetry between the reading. Beats thinking about the next COVID-19 test!
March 2020: arrival in China at Guangzhou International Airport
3 [nose (both nostrils & throat)]
risk or reason
March 2020: Xihu, Dongguan, quarantine
6 (on arrival, day 1, day 3, day 7, day 10, day 14)
March 2020: arrival to Changping, Dongguan
relocation to community
The times between April 2020-May 2021:
4 (21st December; 5th & 8th April; 25th May;)
collect passport in GZ; visit SZ
4 (21st; 20th; 9th; 7th)
1 (13th @Zhangye station)
travel: Shaanxi; Shanxi; Ningxia; Gansu; Yunnan.
2 (5th; 3rd;)
return to school
admitted to hospital/unrelated to pandemic
4 (7th; 12th; 18th; 25th)
2 (17th; 4th)
2 (28th>; 26th*; 25th>)
4 (8th>; 9th>; 11th>; 12th*; 13th>; 14th>;)
outbreaks in Dalang, Changping & Humen, Songshan areas of Dongguan
NAT Tests log – to date [* gardens/> at school]
Which is better? Giving, or receiving? In the case of having the NAT (Nucleic Acid Test), I can’t imagine shoving the swab into thousands of people a day to be any good. It certainly is no fun to receive. One test this week caused some light bleeding to my throat. I didn’t have a sore throat before, but afterwards for two days, I had a tender throat. Bloody COVID-19!
The notion of time need to go. That’s how author Paulo Coelho answered Laura Sheahan for a Beliefnet.com interview. Everything is eternal and there is no time. He said that “time is another of these things that help us go through life”. Professor Stephen Hawking would have been proud. This was the closest I’d got to understanding anything written by the great professor, and it wasn’t through deep science.
Instead the vessel of discovering enlightenment came through a multifaceted faith-crossover text, The Alchemist. Since Qiezi (茄子) gifted me this novel, I’ve had to read it twice. Time on a hospital bed granted me a third visit to the pages. Actually, visiting this book again was like embracing an old friend. A welcome return to the familiar. And like all good friends, there’s always something new to encounter together.
Whoever is the Fatima of my Personal Legend and wherever the pyramids are that I seek, perhaps today in this hospital I’m encountering my own crystal glass shop. The cliche-heavy book is relatable in many senses and my biggest take home is change. We must always adapt and accept that very few things remain constant. If one day you can’t breathe easily, then the next you may improve (or not).
The simplicity of the book, through protagonist Santiago, tells a sweet take about keeping faith and discovering your destiny, despite the challenges set before you. Now Santiago’s visions set him on a journey that teaches more and gives plenty whilst indulging you and I as a reader in the do more, see more, be more mantra of life. If it was a Coldplay song it’d be about opening up your eyes.
The short read delves deep into fate and manifestations with a strong sense that the universe is pushing your path in front of you. Rich in symbolism, folklore and spirituality, Paulo Coelho has made me want to explore every other text he’s written since the Brazilian started publishing in 1974 (in his late twenties). His Portuguese books have spread globally and been aided by translation. Popularity has been earned. Now, which students can I put the Chinese and English editions into their hands? I’ve been gifted these words. It’s time to share this world.
Lately it has been a manic period of hustle and bustle at Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS). Also, in my free time, I’ve been heavily hard at work procrastinating and doing the things I enjoy doing, whenever I feel they’re necessary. Whoever said a lack of responsibility was easy, lied. Cappuccino has been close to hand. Almost as luxury as the pair of Ravemen CR900 cycling lights. An upgrade from the N900 models. Remote controls and battery level monitors were too tempting.
The Diploma Programme team have been working solidly under great leadership. The application and candidate status has become approved. Not bad for a school without any current high school students! Now we’re gunning, pedal to the metal, for the completion of MYP’s International Bachelorette status.
The uncertainty of when travel to the U.K. hangs over my head like a Titanic-sized Goliath of scrapped metal. At times it feels like it may drop and make my noggin more squishy than nature intended. At other times, the optimism factory is producing positive vibes and sending them out in Olympic-sized swimming pool proportions. With every passing news article, input by experts, advice of Olympians going to Beijing 2022 and chilling in quarantine for twenty-one days prior to the Winter Olympics. Nothing is certain.
For two of our Language and Literature class groups, students selected Lord of The Flies and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Exams have been prepared for the former and the latter shall be assessed by essay. In the meantime, the second units are in full preparation. As are units three to five. The school year map is freshly under way. And that’s before looking at Science classes with grades 6 to 8. Hopefully the weather will drop below thirty degrees Celsius to allow some extra evening preparation motivation.
I recently caught up with Shenzhen Blues, Katherine and Stephen in Shenzhen. A fantastic Turkish meal at Mevlana (#154 Zhenxing Road, Huaqiangbei, Futian) with a witty Pakistani waitress made for a fun afternoon. Shenzhen is a city with great food and a fantastic place to recover after hiking. And matter about City’s impressive draw at Anfield.
The relentless and ferocious Guangdong heat has tested my mind and body, and ruined my balcony garden. The grape vines perished in the inexorable sunlight and the numerous passion fruit plants became single digits. The uncompromising sunshine has dried my daisies and ruthlessly culled my apparently less than shaded herb garden. The harsh weather has seldom given way to rain, typhoons or monsoons this summer. It’s dogged single-minded unyielding approach to the environment has been cooking and drying for too long. Today hit 34 degrees Celsius and that was a cool part of this last week!
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Four – Individual Oral Assessment
IB Course Creator Tim Pruzinsky started his introduction video by saying this final module would be unique and no easy task. Armed with a floppy left arm (following my second installment of the COVID-19 jab yesterday) and a nausea (last weekend’s sickness has caused my appetite since to be largely under the requirements of a half-giant), I set on my studies. To baldly go… (shiny-headed pun intended)
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Assessing the Higher Level Essay
What is a 4?What is a 5? The line between the two is foggy and at times completely a blur. So, here, I use the benefit of the doubt. My reasoning is simple. The overall piece was well written, clearly thought of in detail and delivered in an informative way. I still had some question. So, I went looking. I found that Calvin and Hobbes ran from 18/11/1985 to 31/12/1995 as a daily comic strip in the U.S.A. and across the world. I’ve certainly never stumbled on this strip, despite it landing in over 2400 newspapers! Humour, satire, politics, and family life mix well with philosophy and judging by the Wikipedia write-up, a dozen of so academics have touched on it too.
Understanding & Interpretation
Broad understanding of Calvin & Hobbes. Strong appearance and understanding. Clear persuasive interpretation. Some focus on satire shows deeper interpretation. Implications of text explained well bit could have had more detail. Demonstrates a passion for the text. Reference use is strong. Portrays the comic’s intent and purpose well. Line of inquiry allows for development &/or relevant/focus. Some openness of interpretation may be conveyed from the chosen language features of the student’s works. Who, when, what and how answered. The why is a little under-supported.
Analysis & Evaluation
Graphic aspects needed a little further contextual depth. Would have benefitted from more language analysis. Consistent flow with convincing analysis. Insightful analysis of the text. Is the reader intended to be active or an observer? Clear that: Language + style + technique = meaning. Evaluation of author’s choice clear & concise. Further development of points possible. Accurate use of technical terminology.
Focus & Organization
Organised/cohesive, but a little complex. Integrated example usage. Adequate development of a line of inquiry. Paragraphs clear and linear, however some back and forth to the appendix is needed.
Clear and well-chosen. Appropriate register (effective/concise). Vocabulary strong and supportive. Literary terms deployed. Grammar usage largely accurate. Some sentence structure errors.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Added Extras (Extended Essay)
Firstly, the score weighting is different to previously marked papers, so it allows for flexibility in awarding a final mark. Deciding between a score from four or five is tougher than that of one from six or twelve. An in depth extended essay offers more chance to digest and deconstruct before reviewing and offering feedback. Overall, it is much more demanding. However, for candidate and examiner the process is more exacting and testing. It isn’t a short time task! A cup of steaming cappuccino was required!
Focus & Method (a reader should see the beginning to the end)
Effective speech chosen. Culture/context/target language show connection. In depth analysis versus that of a broader range of speeches. Good usage of secondary sources as way of support. Displays good intelligence.
Knowledge & Understanding (a reader should be informed)
Social/political understanding of the speech fully demonstrated. Subject-specific terminology deployed. Primary and secondary sources support context. No digression. Public opinions over-generalised?
Critical Thinking (a reader should see thoughts)
Research, analysis and evaluation evident and of a high value. Exploration of the speech could have been furthered more accordingly (to gain full marks). Concentrating their interpretation would be of more benefit to the writer.
Presentation (a reader needs it to be clear)
Clear. Some over-general citation use.
Engagement (a reader should be engaged)
Initial topic starts and is abandoned. Further two topics engage deeply. Candidate’s voice lacks full bite.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Reflection
How can you use the assessment components, the learner portfolio, and more, to help achieve the IB mission?
Papers one and two offer opportunities for student encouragement and development. Each offers skillsets for life. The IB learner profiles can be explored and reinforced. The issues of identity, culture, class, environment and representation, amongst other matters can be explored through non-literary and literary study. Literature is a rich vein for exploration. It offers voices and opportunity to use effectively the approaches to learning skills. Drawing a connection beyond the non-literary and literary gives rise to language exposure and expansion.
Through paper one students can explore global issues across a broad range and bring them to the classroom for debate. Global thinking inquiring minds can be founded within the realm of paper one.
Paper two has a traditional feel to deliver in a form of written communication. That. construct must include balanced analysis, evaluation and be organised in a way that shows complete organisation through good time management and and thorough language use.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Reviewing Examiner Marked Papers
Understanding & Interpretation
Demonstrates full literal understanding. Insightful interpretation. Fully supported/referenced to text.
Analysis & Evaluation
Convinced analysis of textual/visual features. Supports how features/choices shape meaning. Effective use of website provision.
Focus & Organization
Coherent organisation of analysis. Growth shown from writing’s beginning to end. Conclusion is strong. Supports itself.
Clear/carefully selected language. Adequate register/style. Accuracy in vocabulary, grammar and structure. Ideas expressed clearly enough, but could benefit from more oomph. Some grammatical endings likely prevented full marks.
Understanding & Interpretation
Demonstrates full understanding of literal text, when combined with visual text elements. Individual aspects highlighted.
Analysis & Evaluation
Conveys meaning & evaluation of features. Highlights choice of word use; drawing details; story development; character choice.
Focus & Organization
No focus on the story’s moral. Paragraphing very clear.
Appropriate use of terminology for graphic novel/comic strip formats. Notes inconsistencies. Some tough misuse of punctuation. Tenses/clauses incorrectly used.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Marking Rewards Content
Before tackling this, I hate red pens. I refuse to use red pens. I like to highlight in sky blue, what needs to be praised. I use orange (or pencil) to draw attention to something that needs reflection and evaluation. I use pencil where corrections can be made. So, my marking is looking to reward what happens to stare outwards and not what is missing. Marking should encourage students and not destroy their confidence.
Knowledge, understanding & Interpretation
Shows knowledge about works. Evidence of narration. Experience of characters evident. Comparatives used. Contrasts clear. Evident connection. Linked clearly to the question. Generalisation overpowers specific areas of closer comparison.
Analysis & Evaluation
Includes textual features. Analysis connects technical features to texts. Analysis shows connection of different perspectives. Evaluates the chosen text. Encourage use of explicit answers. Encourage analytical terminology.
Focus & Organisation
Not very smooth in flow. Few conjunctions in use. Focus seems to lack sharpness. Overall Conclusion: vague. Sentence length and structure needs revision. What exactly is etc?
Some repetition of key points. Some repetition of key points. Register appropriate. Some spelling, punctuation and grammar faults. Proofreading would have removed these errors. Encourage a wider range of vocabulary and terminology. Lacks evaluation voice.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Wiki
Notes: It is important to use questions: WHO / WHEN / WHAT / WHY / HOW / WHICH / DO / DID / etc.
Identity Who is Boris Johnson? What was his political background? How did he rise to power? What roles did he have? How do you measure his success? Based on your analysis of several magazine and newspaper covers, is it possible for you to comment on his character? To what extent do these covers reflect his identity? Has he stylised his approach to that of Sir Winston Churchill? Communication Political parties and their members need communicationmethods. A voice within a newspaper column can have a great effect on the potential electorate. Every word is carefully written, edited, drafted and calculated. How do people remember words from speeches? How do people see written text and compare this to spoken dialogue through various sources? Culture Negative campaigns and advertisements are characteristic of certain cultures. Some cultures take these techniques much further than others. § How do texts in this unit compare to the election & political culture in your country? § Are they more negative or less negative than what you are used to seeing? § How are trends in negative advertising changed over the years in your country? Why is this?
Political landscape – battles of power
Area of Exploration
Readers, writers, texts What are the different ways in which people are affected by texts and their attached imagery? Time and space What is the influence of cultural contexts on how texts are written and received? Intertextuality: connecting texts Which diverse texts have features in common?
How are notions of political power constructed by the media? (Local, regional or international influence?) How do newspapers play a role in shaping public opinion? (Or, to try to remain unbiased?) How do politicians use language to persuade voters? (Or to dissuade?) What kinds of debate techniques and argumentation fallacies are common in televised and political debates? (Is it civil? Or, closer to that of a talk show? Or, akin to that of Jerry Springer?) In what ways do politicians use language to tear down their rivals? Is it respectful to the viewing audience’s collective maturity and intelligence? Respond to non-literary texts to demonstrate an understanding and develop a personal interpretation (Paper 1)
1. Gather ten political figures on different magazine or newspaper covers. Review the presentation, first impressions and back-up their opinion using the material evidence. 2. Observe a debate video. Discuss their answer. Refer to their arguments. Discuss fairness and tactical language usage.
What aspects of this activity resonated strongest with you? How could I have improved this Non-Literary Unit of Study inquiry? Has anything changed the way you look at the world? How important is it to know what is fair or unfair? Is there an aspect you would like to explore further? Why?
Created by: Ahmed, Acton, and Olivia. Published at: INSERT LINK Submitted to: IB PD website on 21st JUNE 2021
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Reflection
“How did your thoughts about what you might teach change based on the TOK debate?”
The debate opened up new avenues of exploration, exposure to other influences shared by other teachers around the globe and created a wider lens to look at teaching options. The wider the scope of texts, the broader the issues that can be covered in comparative assignments.
“What is your role in creating an internationally minded literature syllabus?”
Turning negatives into positives, examples of adversity can be shown to create inspirational and deep characters. I believe I can highlight equality and inequality as a stepping stone from their comfort zones to the wider world around them, using relatable issues and examples. Trying to make students feel part of something or connect is a challenge and one that needs to be handled compassionately with complete empathy, and not through a patronising lens. We’re not trying to feel sorry for others. We can relate and encourage critical thinking and higher order thinking that seeks change for the better. We don’t want every issue or problem to overshadow the mood and emotion of study.
“Do you believe it is more important to teach canonical works or a diverse set of texts? Why?”
Diverse foods create good tongues. Diverse music taste influences good listening skills and music knowledge. Diversity in reading creates a reader that can handle texts from numerous countries, cultures and backgrounds.
“And finally, what are you most excited about teaching and why?”
I am most excited to get students lifting new unfamiliar texts, through their own choice and confidence. In turn, I want to see each student set unique challenges and bring their own interests, choices to the classroom.
creativity: how does the listener understand the meaning of a song and its lyrics; How are we affected by texts in varied ways?
literary text: music lyrics
time & space
Free choice 2: Tash Aw
why & how do we study language and literature?
literary text: prose fiction/novel
non-literary text: websites
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
non-literary text: opinion columns
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
non-literary text: magazine and newspaper covers
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
pre-21st century; 20th century
non-literary text: public information texts
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
pre-21st century; 20th century
non-literary text: propaganda pamphlets
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
pre-21st century; 20th century
non-literary text: advertisements
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
non-literary text: blogs
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
non-literary text: self-help guides
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
non-literary text: photography
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
various (some translated)
non-literary text: speeches
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
various (some translated)
non-literary text: quotations
readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
The Levellers were chosen for their breadth and depth of lyrics. I absolutely agree that I would be focusing on an exploration of the lyrics (as a form of poetry) more than any other aspect. The subculture of music videos, album art, posters, and instruments representing voices would supplement a non-literary body of work.
“Your daddy, well he died in the Falklands; Fighting for another man’s cause; And your brother he was killed in the last war; Now your mother’s, well she’s lying home alone” – Another Man’s Cause, The Levellers
There are songs within their 12 (or so) album catalogue that cover topics like human rights (food roof family), refugees (The Shame), peace (Exodus), anti-war (The Recruiting Sergeant), the 1917 Étaples Mutiny (Mutiny), homelessness (Cardboard Box City), identity (England My Home), nuclear trouble (Belaruse), being human (Julie), inequality (Dirty Davey), class and humanity (This Garden), a dived world (Generation Fear) and huge range of emotions, personalities and periods of time. There are many songs that mark a journey and an exploration of the individual. Some are simple. Some are deep.
“My father when I was younger; Took me up on to the hill; That looked down on the city smog; Above the factory spill” – One Way, The Levellers
The indie folk rock genre that The Levellers have inhabited for over three decades. They formed their own festival in opposition to the increasing numbers of festivals of a highly commercial nature. At first I was thinking about bands that are highly accessible like Coldplay and U2, but then I thought why not go off the beaten track?!
“The year is 1991, it seems that freedom’s dead and gone; The power of the rich is held by few; Keep the young ones paralysed, educated by your lies” – Sell Out, The Levellers
The Levellers were formed in the 1990s and were not afraid to speak and sing the truth. They’ve been on a musical revolution for over three decades. They edged on the fringes of pop in their early days but have found their home more across genres than any other British band. They have likely influenced more musicians disillusioned by the commercial and closed state of the music industry. Their lyrics have been heard by musicians, writers and poets. The alternative scene to as establishment has a voice that can echo far. This is a band named after a political movement during the 17th century, formed in the years of the late William Shakespeare’s growing influence (on the English language).
“They’re sending in the elite, complete with guns; To advertise the way to go; Faxing through the fax to make it clear; That they’re the ones who know” – Liberty Song,The Levellers\
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Theory of Knowledge
Canonmeaning (1): a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged. Or meaning (2): the writings or other works that are generally agreed to be good, important, and worth studying. (Meanings interpreted from the Collins, Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries)
Module 2 mission:
I: theory of knowledge debate about the canon, the prescribed book list, and international-mindedness. Before building the course: What do you believe? Note: conceptual/flexible/international-mindedness core values (IB mission; allows freedom and exploration). Must be a connection between course of TOK and Language & Literacy.
Questions that spring to mind are:
Is there a difference to gaining knowledge from literacy, language or other methods of learning?
What do we actually learn through the study of text?
Is there a scientific method to language and literacy study?
What is the purpose of non-literary text and why is it often compared to fuller literary text types? How is it best to interpret these different forms? Any clinical ways to explore them?
Who understands and comprehends a text best?
Do clashes exist in interpretive strategies? How can you review such diverse viewpoints?
The word canon brings to mind William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, or Mark Twain. Homer, Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney and many others make up a largely male list. Jane Austen, the Brontë family, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Gaskell often make the list to offer a feminine perspective. Gwendolyn Brooks is the only writer of a different racial group that I recall reading in secondary school. That was because Mr Mack, my year 9 English teacher, loved poetry and wanted us as students to understand the world beyond England.
Western writers always appear elevated over often-so-called new world, African, Asian or other regional writers. I have found myself in China, reading translated pieces by Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔夫子) or as he is known globally, Confucius and trying to follow Sūnzǐ (孫子) or Sun Tzu, so I can relate to Chinese students trying to master Shakespeare or other works set and written in a different world! For me, text without Confucius and Sun Tzu needs to be accompanied by the interpretation of other writers. Canon writers are predominantly the popular and classical writers that A-Levels and GCSEs have covered. Those modelled courses and their American and Australian equivalents have travelled through international schools to far flung places and huge populations like India and China. It surprised me on arriving here in Dongguan, China to see Jack London’s Call of The Wild and O. Henry’s The Gift of Magi. The latter is on my reading list but struggling to find its way off it. I found it odd that English classics had more perspective than translated versions of domestic Chinese literature. Surely, writing an essay on such relatable matters would boost comprehension of western writing interpretation?
IB curriculum schools open doors to places around the globe lesser known. I wandered into a class earlier this year themed around Persepolis. Inspired by this choice in MYP, I found a transcript of writer Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums translated from French to English. I introduced the lesser graphic edit to my PYP Grade 4 students. Later, one of the students advised they had seen the movie and didn’t know there was a book! We were there and then led to Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (Doris Pilkington AKA Nugi Garimara), and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner – under slight edits to remove scenes unsuitable for ten year old students! A unit of inquiry about migration, refugees and where we are in place and time had been connected, all because of one literature piece’s indirect influence.
I’m a firm believer in diversity and multicultural integration. I’ve seen first-hand the horrors of divide, but also the beauty and magic of inclusion and togetherness. Access and exposure to literacy and language has the power to close divide and bring people closer. It can open discussion and encourage dialogue or understanding. Remake a Shakespeare play as a movie or live action theatre by all means, but make sure those watching know their stories and the stories that are relevant today.
Increasingly there is an element of pick and mix to reading texts. Newspapers, online media, word of mouth, social media and movie adaptations are highlighting international writers, giving readers chance to develop international mindedness. With that young learners are blessed to have education bodies and influencers that can modernise and expand Prescribed Reading Lists. Context that can easily get lost to the wrong audience should not be overlooked or ignored. It should be connected and explained.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Learning Engagement
“What are the three things you want to make sure you do when you design your own course?”
Having reviewed the concepts that underpin the syllabus content, I began to unpack the course syllabus. Below is a work in progress. I am creating my tailored course outline to reflect the flexible nature of IB teaching and learning. Through freedom of design and under continual improvement, I hope to have a course outline ready for use and continued modification to enhance my learners and their learning experiences. I want to ensure that students can connect through their own identities, cultures and find a suitable perspective. The students must be offered a place to display their creative talents and all texts must represent both popular and obscure examples. In short, trio of design demands must engage, inform and educate in a natural flow.
CONCEPTS (underpin syllabus content)
Reading a text, for a student, or by a student, will see them make their own narrative and perspective. They may imagine the voices and characters, each in differing ways. They may imagine a deeper backstory or be influenced by movie or television adaptations. They may connect the characters to previously explored texts. This is normal. The writer and the reader each place part of their identity within the story. Sometimes the author doesn’t make reading easy to follow or understand. Their identity can bend, shift, change and be quite complicated. This complexity can make an understanding difficult to follow. Reading across texts may even deepen that mystery – or paint a clearer picture. Reading texts by James Herriot or Colin Dann gives a reasonable interpretation and insight into the writer’s background. The World War II fighter pilot, Roald Dahl, may be clear in some of his closer autobiographical books, but his children’s texts are far further from his life experiences. Or, are they not? Readers will have their own interpretation and it’s important to know that diverse responses to perspectives are possible.
JRR Tolkien penned the epic ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’ books. These works and his other compendium of titles reflected his life story in some shape and form. He was born in an independent nation the Orange Free State (now part of South Africa). The landscape of the African continent was complex and difficult. Family circumstance saw his widowed mother move to England. Place names from his upbringing, a spider bite, the tragedy of World War I and countless other stages of his life influenced his writings. Here was a man propelled into his first job at the Oxford English Dictionary and fell in love with language. His translation of ‘Beowulf’ showed considerable international mindedness, a theme that slips in and out of his Middle Earth adventures. Beliefs, values and attitudes shape a writer. They target an audience willing to lift open the pages. Quite often the writing follows a similar style to that read in the years before it. A connection between the familiar and the new is important for a reader. Does text reflect where it was formed and when? The place and time of a text can often be acknowledged from the feel of the text.
Imagination is key. Creating something and engaging it has to be in reach of the reader. The writer’s role within a text is to paint a canvas vividly enough to make the words leap from the page. The often written cliche about transporting the reader to another place is important. Interpretations can take multiple forms and transcend that of a simple text. The writer and the text will be heavily original in ideas, shapes and forms. Originality will make a work stand out.
Both non-literary and literary text have the problem of getting their message across loud and clear. Does the writing aim to convey a message to the reader? How can the writer know that the reader will see the message? The audience must be assumed to be in on the writer’s previous works, or of a particular kind that can easily access the text. Some readers may struggle to follow the messages hidden or directly thrown at them from the text. Some may ignore the bias of a message and value their own views more highly. Cooperative readers may follow more closely, but even so, text meaning is not always definitive.
Authors can also write in ways that do not follow their views in any shape or form. They may take the role of devil’s advocate just to sell more books, or open a debate. This is one example of literacy devices available to writers that readers may or may not be aware is being used on their perception of a text. The reader may or may not bring their own complete perception which clashes with the views in the text. Before you know it, there’s critical thinking, attention and a discussion as the reader tries to interpret the text. What will the end result be? Will it influence the reader or not?
Intertextuality: the connection and relationship across texts, especially that of literary ones. One text can lead to a heavy influence on the next text. Sometimes it is the creation of new ideas from one text to another. Some texts may follow one another, across authors, or not. Some may be reimagining or taking elements of a story into their own works. C.S Lewis penned ‘Perelandra’ which is often cited to be a reworking of John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and the biblical ‘Book of Genesis’. Some texts will influence a reader changing their perception of reality. Reading Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’ as a teenager opened my mind drastically to interspecies communication and in later years whilst volunteering at a zoo, I found myself communicating with an orangutan, like you do. Potentially, personal interpretations can be hugely transformative.
Some texts are abstract. Some are relatable to reality. Some are every step between. Accurate reflections of reality, potential futures, to artistic imaginings are central to a reader connecting the text to meaning. The form and structure of the story must connect between both the author and the reader. The largely popular space soap opera epic ‘Star Wars’ started out under the pen of George Lucas. His dog, an Alaskan breed would find itself as a relatable humanoid representation in that of the character, Chewbacca. Throughout his writing he represented characters using human touches.
With the above in mind, the course can be further dissected and placed in the required syllabus areas of explorations. They can be supplemented by the Prescribed Reading List.
AREA OF EXPLORATIONS
readers, writers text
#0.1 Why do we study language and literature? #0.2 How do we study language and literature? #0.3 How does text affect us? [Use real world examples] #0.4 How does text affect us? [Use variety] #0.5 Meaning: constructed, negotiated, expressed and interpreting #0.6 language use variation: text types/form/genre #0.7 Building confidence through structure #0.8 Non-literary and literary differences #0.9 Language & literature: an introduction. #1 Breaking down the complex #1.1 Text type: style & structure – the affect on meaning #2 Investigate texts, the various forms & types – pay close attention #3 What choices do writers make to communicate meaning? (e.g. images, sounds and words) #3.1 Texts: an insight? Form a response #3.2 Texts: a challenge? #3.3 Personal vs. academic responses #3.3. expand your response #3.4 metacognitive awareness #4 What role do readers make to understand meaning? (e.g. images, sounds and words) #5 The role of creative language. #6 How does creative language relate through literature? #7 The power of texts/perspectives #8 Linguistic and literary messages: what are the authors communicating?
time and space
#A social capacity: connect to community, culture & history (advertisements, poems, etc) #B variety of cultural contexts (places, cultures, times; insights?) #C Do texts reflect or refract our world? (Is there a social or political agenda? How do we approach older texts? Still relevant or obsolete?) #D How do cultural conditions affect language? (Any representation of social, political and cultural concerns? Do meanings and impacts change over time?) #E How are cultural conditions a product of language? (Bound by societal framework and the implications? Do they represent cultural practices?) #F How is identity and culture influential to how text is received? #G Explore cultural and historical perspectives (Open, plural or cosmopolitan?) #H The role of text to oneself, local and global connections (Does it provoke influence of raise questions?) #I Is a text complex or dynamic? (Is there a hidden story of reality?) #J An exploration of the author’s background (historical events, narratives in terms of critical reception; is it important?) #K Who is the author’s audience? Obvious or unapparent? #L The intricacies of relatable places and times across generations and boundaries (Is a society or identity represented reflected in language use?)
Relate: past to present. Engage: literary & linguistic traditions. #i Connections between text and audience (ideas and traditions in respect of diversity; is a classic text still valid?) #ii Making a comparative (deeper appreciation; how can different perspectives highlight an issue, topic ore theme? Can a comparative and an interpretation be transformative?) #iii Unique characteristics and complex systems as a connection (Similarities & differences? Can diverse texts share points of similarity?) #iv How to and when to openly discuss your interpretations (create a critical lens; expand on a meaning; question it; what’s your view? How does a system of reference evolve over time?) #v Mode & genre of text, literary form, chronological development, topic or concept, debate or theoretical perspective. Do texts deviate from literary forms and genre? Why? How?
“What two principles of course design spoke to you personally, why, and how will you use that to design your syllabus?”
Integration and variety will enhance interest. I believe as a teacher our heaviest influence sits in these two areas. Students are mostly familiar with autonomy and accountability. These should be well-trod paths across IB subject areas.
COURSE DESIGN PRINCIPLES
Students can connect, compare and contrast across multiple texts. This can include translated texts and those in an original target language. The traditional canon and the voices of emerging voices can strike a balance to form a varifocal view of the world at large. The bigger the lens, the deeper the understanding? The text students are exposed to should reflect global society, local society and multiple cultures. The protection and preservation of texts should be side by side with literary forms, places times and most importantly voices. Is less more? Or, is in terms of literary form more diversity essential for diverse understanding? Linguistic and language evolution is ongoing, and tied to literary developments. Students must understand that they are the master of their own exploration. Their individual selection of texts will open new doors for others within the classroom cohort. “Variety is the spice of life” – William Cowper, British poet.
A learner profile needs more than reflection. How can a student look at each current and previous text to form a connection? Do students need to form spider webs and mind maps to draw and illustrate connections? Will as Minecraft-style virtual map help relate and show their connections? Lines can be drawn across areas of exploration and through the seven concepts. Organisation skills will be needed throughout.
Everything should connect. Compartmentalisation has little value to complimenting the study of multiple texts. Inherent, context-related and comparative text studies should be integrated to demonstrate to students that references from outside of the classroom cohort’s own research are relevant and supplementary to their development.
Why is integration important? Oral assessment / Paper 2 – meaning elaboration required.
“Integration happens when all your parts of your being are in harmony.” Amy Leigh Mercree, author.
Students must be empowered. They’re the keepers of their destiny. They prepare their likely routes of study individually. They work towards assessment, formative (self-assessment and peer-assessment will encourage evaluation skills) and summative. They must make decisions with care. They will need pushing through positive encouragement. A variety of materials and access to research tools, the right syllabus components, how an assessment is made, and full scaffolding support (in the case of students new to the IB or international schooling). A teacher’s role is to guide and ensure texts are appropriate to the short-term and long-term study at hand. Is the text connected to the concept or issue? “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” – Rumi, Persian poet
Academic honesty. Whole class awareness of the course requirements. A plan of action that is clear and achievable: the pathway to assessments. Individual assessment components must be used on a sole occasion, keeping it fresh and balanced. “Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” – Eric Carle, author and illustrator
“What one question do you still have about the philosophy or the practicalities of designing a course syllabus?”
I want to think mainly in terms of reflection:
Is my course fit for purpose? Are all the outcomes specific, attainable and measurable? Does the content and method match the outcome? How well can students achieve the necessary outcome? How can I make the course a better fit for the differentiated learner? Are my course syllabus learning outcomes reasonable in relation to the contextual issues? Are all the outcomes going to be theory-based or will it be possible to draw on transdisciplinary skills to highlight skill-based outcomes?
I should hope any student on the course has a level of English that’s appropriate but I’m willing (as is the school) to intervene and develop that level. The level of interest is something I half-worry about. Parent power in China is strong. Some students may feel pushed into the more traditional areas of education and lose sight of their personal interest. A student studying English, here in Dongguan (China), is often a source of pride to family and face. Developing and maintaining an interest in era heavily flooded with video game, social networking and other distractions takes time and patience. As a teacher we must adapt and evolve with the times. Discouraging a student will only create a barrier. How can we integrate their other interests to reinforce interests in literature and language?
“How did your thoughts about what you might teach change based on the TOK debate?” The understanding that knowledge is a reconstructed or constructed representation as opposed to a perfectly symmetrical mirror image of life and reality.
“What are you most excited about teaching and why?” Engaging students in their time and place and uncovering their viewpoints. Watching as they evolve confidence in understanding the viewpoints of others. I’m excited to help our learners at TWIS develop inquiry and critical thinking skills alongside literature and language. I hope that they can recognise the value of reflection, transferring their skills into other disciplines. Explorations should be shared. Are we told by the author to read their text in a certain way? Can we choose to interpret their work in terms of our own cultural assumptions? How do communities of students, academics, teachers or other groups view a text? The same? Differently? Constructing knowledge around text will be enjoyable. Meanings shared are often enlightening.
As a teacher the challenge is monumental. Explaining things sometimes lost in translation will be challenging. Exploring how a text may have been written for a completely different audience (ethnicity, location, time etc) will determine how open-minded a learner can be. Perhaps, there will be absence of an international viewpoint that can be explored. Charlie Hebdo,a French publication known for satire have experienced extreme examples of how an approach to place and time could be considered divisive and unhelpful in international outlooks and mindfulness. Poets, bloggers, cartoonists, and journalists must all take careful approaches. The learner too. They are each subject to their interpretation techniques.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module One reflection
Is the learner profile relevant?
help teachers build rapport
deepen a teacher’s professional relationship with their learner(s)
connect support levels and buddy peers
allow informed planning
allow a teacher to observe a student’s perspective more closely
allow for suitable timetabling
allow teachers the chance to create a relevant scaffolding of learning
determine classroom layout
develop tutoring support through differentiation
allow group and class participation
Information is not static. It moves. The student’s profile is a record and guidance for new teachers.
Pertinent information such as interests can be aligned to teaching.
Highlight strengths and needs
Allows supply and cover teachers a fairer insight into the individual
it can be a document, a portfolio, a combination of digital and traditional forms
Formal or informal
Can contain conversations, questionnaires, video interviews etc
A place for their aspirations & passions
To inform discussions between teaching staff, parents and guardians
Insert things they dislike and wish to avoid
Document life experiences, people, pets, moments of inspiration or importance
Highlight what they do when help is needed
Exemplars selected from other sources that guide the student
Select appropriate curriculum material/support
Help develop maximum engagement
Provide assessment data
Explore the profile’s purpose
Review snd evaluate the profile format
Two-way process between the teacher & the learner
A chance to show inclusion of all in the learning journey
How does the individual adapt?
What tools and/or techiniques and/or technologies do they favour?
A chance to express themselves
Have their own say
To I.B., or not to I.B.?
There are numerous forms of education systems and curricula out there. The University Admissions Officers Report 2017 may argue that A-Levels are in-depth looks at specific avenues. Many will have you look at US, Australian, or British curricula. The International Primary Curriculum is reportedly the fastest growing primary school system on Earth. So, as a teacher, a parent or a potential student, it pays to do your homework in the form of research. Which methods best fit you? Differentiation in learning is also about knowing when a system of study will or will not suit your learning style or method. Cost, demand, class size, location, and a plethora of other factors need to be taken into account. If a student or parent aspires to have holistic, rounded, international minds after primary, middle years and diploma years, then IB is the way to go. A range of skills as opposed to the ability to answer exams may help.
Native and foreign languages are encouraged with IB formats. Whereas, a language must be chosen separately in the AS- or A-Level formats. Students usually opt for 3 to 4 A-levels, but can take more. Obviously more subjects will equate to more homework and class time. That could also create more clashes in a timetable. The base AS-Level can serve as a foundation, paving the way for the A-2 Level which give the final result and grade. Their grading ranges from A* down to E.
The IB system is comprised of six subjects. There are academic cores (TOK: Theory of Knowledge), Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Action & Service (CAS). Optional subjects are plentiful and the opportunity to attempt Higher Level study is available. Points win prizes and diplomas are issued based on overall points gained. University entry, e.g. UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) in the U.K. requires a number of points earned. Overall, feedback via independent websites and student reviews indicates that students feel they’re better equipped at university. One student’s experience of course differs to another student’s feel. Perspective is key.
Close language analysis: what’s the point?
Words matter. Phrases matter. How you teach it and convey the comprehension of all text matters. Writers convey and highlight messages in their text. How your comprehension interprets this message matters. Figures of speech, idioms, sentence structures, tone of voice, choice of words and other techniques need to be clear. Literacy and language need good communication to avoid messages losing meaning or creating problems! We, as analytical thinkers, must decode and reconstruct the meaning. We must be able to say what it is about and the possible effects of the text.
To make all students and teachers aware that interpretation of knowledge is important. It is fundamental to ideological thinking. It is key to understanding bias, valid or not. It offers the chance to retain, revise or reject bias. Critical reflection is encouraged. Knowledge and knowing are there to be questioned and explored. With knowledge and exploration, it allows students a chance to apply it to real-world scenarios. The whole subject must be passed. Without it, then no certificate of diploma can be awarded.
An introduction to the curriculum/framework of primary (those 3-12 years old) years programmes within the I.B. schooling systems.
dominant vs oppositional reading
highly dominant first page spread; second page is dominant also, with a slightly toned-down aggression
TOK (Theory of Knowledge) is assessed through an essay (1600 words) & by an oral presentation. It’s a broad spectrum reflection on what knowledge is, how it happens and why we know is what we know. It must argue how we know what we state to know. It’s a mandatory test within the I.B. Diploma Programme (D.P.) central core. As a student, you will need a broader mind. Arguments are presented to teachers.
Question and answer style format. Adopted the role of interviewer and interviewee. Some bullet points and linked sources included to break down the monotony of paragraphed answers. Highlights I.B.’s interweaving style of teaching and emphasis
words or phrases have a highly charged connotation/ the effect on the reader
“Theory of knowledge guide intended to guide the planning, teaching and assessment of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) Theory of knowledge (TOK) course.”
curiosity, creativity, ability to reflect, stimulating, challenging, nurture, foster a lifelong love of learning (also smooth alliteration), transdisciplinary, investigating big ideas, gifted, special,
words or phrases demonstrate the ideological perspective of this text
“Theory of knowledge guide TOK teachers are the primary audience, although it is expected that teachers will also use the information in this guide to inform students and parents about the subject.”
Aimed at parents and guardians.
Bertrand Russell (1926) invented the term Theory of Knowledge. The 8 areas of knowledge are mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Close textual analysis of the I.B.
I.B. Mission Statement:
“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” (Source: https://ibo.org/ accessed June 2021)
#1 “What ideological biases exist in the IB mission statement and how do you know this as a reader?“
Is education equally accessible to all? Do the elite get independent and private teaching with more ease? How many governments support IB teaching? Do regional governments back the IB system and methods? Is the IB system open to all, or to the few?
The notion that the target market is those classified as young. There is an assumption that people want to make peace. Some cultures and societies do not want other teaching methods placed to their population. The statement refers to international organisations, notably governments and schools. It implies that other systems of assessment and international education are less challenging, however, it acknowledges that other ways of life and education may also be right. These other methods of learning are other ways and means to continue life-long learning. The statement that it ‘encourages students across the world…’ is bold and clearly implies the IB backs its words up with statistical analysis. Social, intellectual and cultural bias could be implied from the first and third sentences of the statement. Similar to some countries not wanting an external influence on domestic education, it could be said that tolerance or understanding may also be subject to different perspectives. Marginalised and threatened social groups may not be treated equally within one kingdom. The paragraph on the whole highlights that nations and continents are connected, and more than ever, we as a race of people need to communicate and get along. Yes, there are many ideals, but aspiring to be better for everyone is a very human trait.
Cognitive verbs form the first half before the latter becomes less preachy, more clinical. The persuasion blends into intrigue and overlooks nationalism in favour of internationalism. The standing of populism, separatism and divide from internationalism shows this debate has plenty of room for the IB system. Isn’t together as a species for the preservation of the planet a better way to be than selfish ways?
Preferred (or Dominant) Reading
An audience follows the direction of the media or writing in a way that was pre-calculated by the writer.
The viewer or reader must make their own decision, be it in whole or partial agreement to the message of the writer. It is quite often a partial agreement.
The audience are not expected to swing their views in favour of the writer or the message of the produced text/material. Complete disagreement is expected.
e.g. An advertisement in a magazine triggers the reader to use a discount voucher or follow social media channels
A documentary, TV programme or show, or a movie.
A political broadcast aimed at one party’s members but not the opposition following.
#2 “What is the dominant reading of this text and what might be an oppositional reading of the IB learner profile?“
Looking objectively through eyes that imagine that I have never encountered the IB system, I can see a few cases against IB learning. An oppositional reading may be one whereby a student or parent has been sold A.P., IGCSE, Cambridge Pre-U, or the BTEC National Schemes. The traditional AS- and A-Levels of the U.K. may be favoured due to their longevity and global usage. Advanced Apprenticeships, NVQs and T-Levels are other such alternatives. The world is fluid and these days, more than ever, with global uncertainty in the shadow of COVID-19 and political disagreements, mean that IB faces a challenge, like all education methods. Online teaching, isolation, illness and worry are barriers that prevent smooth collaboration and transition without dedication and focus. Education attitudes change and idealising every problem is far from, erm, ideal. And, as the semester crack on, there are stories of IB students weighed down by too many essays, from too many subjects. Are students reflecting too often and in too much detail on too many common sense matters? Should students and parents ultimately share their perspective of the IB system and its benefits, rather than the IB itself?
Dominant wording such as ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’, ’empathy’, and ‘compassion’ are qualities that many people aspire towards. These hard-selling words sit alongside people’s curiosity. We’re a species that asks questions, over and over again. And when we get answers, we seek more questions. For many questions start to fade, but there’s always a group of people asking more and more questions, continuing through their lives. We develop. We grow. We exercise our minds. We expand our knowledge. We express ourselves. We think about how the world works. We explore who we are and where we are in space and time. Consciousness gives us appreciation and we use it in empathic ways. The IB school appears to be a garden and source of higher learning. It shows a student who is an ideal: the champion of learning. A student who is hungry to excel, has drive and uses resilience to battle through studies. The IB method can’t create a ‘Super Student’ in a red cape with a blue suit, but it can stand students in the right position to know which tools to use, and when. Each will then be capable to use their best qualities and maintain their learning efforts throughout life.
#3 “What is the tone created in the aims and assessment objectives, how does the author create it, and why?”
Aims are presented clearly. They’re fed to the reader as a list. The assessment objectives are clear and again placed in a bullet-point list to allow clarity when reading. It has a dynamic shift using active words. Engage. Develop. Communicate. Foster. Collaborate. It screams of hands-on learning. Key skills are set out, and with that the scaffolding of the student’s eventual endgame assessments. Target acquired?Lock on and engage.
For a young learner it allows imagination and gives meaningful descriptive words to appeal to those who likely have at least one of the 10 IB learner profiles, even before they’ve encountered such things. There’s an emphasis on motivating a keen student, that shows at some stage they must ‘analyse and evaluate’ their own studies. Great responsibility awaits the learner seeking independence. A student can develop their own journey of learning.
#4 “What words or phrases have a highly charged connotation and what is the effect on the reader?“
All throughout you can celebrate learning. Who doesn’t like a celebration?! Did somebody mention learning? This key word appears in phrases throughout the text. Learning celebrates meaning. Learning means an open and inclusive classroom. Learning is for life. Learning processes are cyclic. Learning is a doctrine to develop purpose, culture and the environment of the classroom. These paraphrases give various simultaneous overtones and undertones, e.g. that of lifelong learning/It brings people together/be part of it.
The word democratic empowers people and perhaps those in more closed systems may be sold on the idea of governing themselves or bringing revolution to learning. It also implies that the teacher is not the be all, end all autocrat of traditional classroom environments. It says to the reader that they can command their own seas, and a voyage is possible (on the way to a pre-guided syllabus assessment). The student, however, will feel empowered.
#5 “What words or phrases demonstrate the ideological perspective of this text?“
The phrases allow creative minds to wander and focus. There’s an emphasis on connecting whilst taking responsibility. They allow outside the box thinking to dream of situations beyond the walls of a learner’s classroom or school. They encourage community, caring and service to others in active ways. It is an open invitation to think bigger than a page in a writing book. Inevitably there will often be students who carry causes or concerns to the classroom. The word empowers returns again. It gives them a chance to think of a way to rectify or influence change, even if it’s simply drawing attention to a concern that is lesser talked about. The examples serve to inspire and tap into the emotional level of a reader. It introduces projects as being possible and plausible. Contextualising opportunities gives ample opportunity for educational analysis, in a way that students participate. How can the learner create a more superior world? Can they start that process in their early days of the IB?
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): ATL (Approaches to Teaching)
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”Find pages 60-66. Read them, digest them and share them in a way that has meaning. “What is your criterion behind some having a higher or lower priority?“
The below positions can be interchangeable dependent on a student’s needs. It’s important to differentiate and tailor tasks to a student’s needs. A student will be better equipped for inquiry work, if supported by peers and collaboration. This will iron out any doubt in a student’s mind. Inquiry can lead to putting those questions into a context (locally, regionally and globally) through real examples and exemplars. From that a conceptual understanding can form. Finally assessment should follow, whether formative or summative. All areas of approaches to teaching and learning are essential but to knock down any barriers to learning is a sounder starting point. Remove the barrier and forward progress can be made. Leave the barrier and growth will not come.
Teaching designed to remove barriers to learning.
Teaching based on effective teamwork and collaboration.
Teaching based on inquiry.
Teaching developed in local and global contexts.
Teaching focused on conceptual understanding.
Teaching informed by assessment.
Further thoughts: The weight of importance in all six aspects are near equal, but in reality little is equal. So, I believe they are better thought of the form of a mode continuum (Gibbons 2003). This popular profiling can help us to show the understanding and needs of students, with respect to their development and targeted progression.
Additional thoughts: Following my own look and thoughts of this challenge, I found that other students on the course had similar ideas but also preferences on their own take of the ATL positioning. Perhaps a central title with arms spread equally and outwardly like a starfish is more appropriate. There’s a bigger picture at play in context, conceptual understanding and assessment. However, the removal of barriers, creation of teamwork and direction of assessment need to be in place for the latter three aspects.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): ATL (Approaches to Learning)
“What is your order of importance for the approaches to learning?“
From the beginning of any course, students may or may not be new to one another. Communication is key to a smooth study. They must be able to talk with, e-mail or write to one another, or their teachers. Ineffective communication may lack social skills. The two are very closely related. Likewise, self-management links to thinking and research. Can all truly be prioritised over others? Not really, due to the fact they’re interactive and they’re dynamic. Essential agreements between students mean that they set their boundaries and regulations for study. Without that there would be an unclear pathway of communication. Social skills allow good communication, but good communication takes social skills. Holistic learning systems are like a dessert jelly. They shift and wobble to the needs of the learner. Self-management requires prior learning and knowledge. Not every student comes from the same background. The social and communication skills of a class allow self-management to filter through. With this skill in place, then thinking and research has a firm base to take part. Basic thinking is a natural skill, to take it further it needs inquiry and research. Research, like in real world scenarios (e.g. vaccine makers and pandemic preventers) takes the thinking of others and combination of all of the above skills.
“Thanks, Acton. As we proceed in the workshop, you’ll come to appreciate how fundamental visual literacy is to our course. Your choice to incorporate a visual interpretation when you respond is a good model for others — and will be a valuable practice in your teaching. Students are invariably familiar with the maxim “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but that’s a very superficial starting point to the broader examination of the interplay of image and text, how one can complement the other, or offer a nuanced interpretation of a single point etc. The authorial / creative choices behind the creation of an image is something we’ll explore often with our students (in photos, ads, documentaries, films, tv shows etc).” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma Teacher
“Thanks John. I like the idea of using this as an icebreaker early on … something you might share with students at the end of Week 1 or 2, after you’ve gone over various components of the course. It’s a good way for students to focus in on areas where there still may be uncertainty, questions outstanding, etc. Also a good prompt to have students consider ‘why did Mr Acton use this (or that) particular symbol or icon here?’ (discussions pertaining to authorial choices are always fundamental to our study of any text).” – Marie Baird
1. Begin by writing a bit about yourself: where do you teach? What’s unique about your IB situation? Let others get to know you. Write whatever you want others to know about you.
I joined the I.B. candidacy school of TWIS in Dongguan, against the run of traffic. As I sat in quarantine, having returned to China (on the last possible day before a border closure in March 2020), I figured my job interview was not going to happen. It was due three weeks prior and there had been no response, because everyone had bigger things to worry about. So, I dropped one last e-mail & WeChat message to the principal of TWIS. Video interviews followed. The ball was rolling again. I was excited because the opportunity allowed for holistic teaching methods.
After transfer from my previous school, I realised that I was in a school facing the candidacy process and with many teachers stranded in other countries. Immediately, online meetings and collaborations allowed us as a team to perform effectively and deliver a clear near-uninterrupted school year of teaching. We’re less worried by a nearby outbreak in the city of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, because we know we can adapt and perform during this new norm.
2. What is the most pressing question you have about the Language A: language and literature course?
Actually, two matters arise that I wish to address:
How has this course managed to remain in touch with technology and changing social attitudes to literature and language?
How can the course better support those who require an English intervention programme to better enrich their comprehension and vocabulary skills?
3. How can you develop positive online professional relationships for the workshop and beyond?
We’re each more linked than ever through LinkedIn/Facebook/Weibo/Twitter and so on. Many channels like Xoom allows video calls. E-mails are simple enough. They’re the hassle-free electronic pen pal of the world right now. Meeting teachers at seminars face-to-face and via online courses can be invaluable. I remain in contact with university friends, first aid class companions, teaching colleagues and my door is firmly open. I read somewhere that teachers teach teachers. I couldn’t agree more.
4. What does a successful outcome look like for you after this workshop? List three things you want to achieve.
Diverse literature syllabus. Balanced literature and language course formation (creative v analytical. Enhanced teaching method strategies, specific to this course.
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Portfolio worksheets
“Thanks John. There’s lots going on here, and at first it felt a little confusing, but when viewed in tandem with your “learner portfolio template” it all makes good sense. I’ve not seen a blog suggested before as an LP format, and I’m not sure if it would be the most appropriate of platforms for the demands of the Learner Portfolio (given the need to offer substantial organisational capabilities for 2 years). But in other respects the blog format accomplishes a great deal, particularly in terms of introducing students to their teacher as an individual, and as a means to demonstrate how organic our thinking and learning can be.” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher
“By encouraging teachers to explore the widest possible array of text types, authors/creators, issues. You’ll see in Module 2 as we take our first look at the syllabus, that no (or very few) restrictions are placed on us in terms of course design — rather we are invited to design a course that takes into account our context, our students’ capabilities and interests, and invites and welcomes multiple interpretations and perspectives.” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (6/6/2021)
“Thanks John. I like the idea of using this as an icebreaker early on … something you might share with students at the end of Week 1 or 2, after you’ve gone over various components of the course. It’s a good way for students to focus in on areas where there still may be uncertainty, questions outstanding, etc. Also a good prompt to have students consider ‘why did Mr Acton use this (or that) particular symbol or icon here?’ (discussions pertaining to authorial choices are always fundamental to our study of any text).” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (5/6/2021)
“Thanks Acton. All good here. Just one query to note — in your IO you used The Levellers as a non-literary text (if I’ve understood correctly) – ie their music video. Here though you seem to be including them as a literary work (ie as lyricists – with a study of their lyrics only). Either of these options is possible (as they are not PRL and therefore designated as ‘literary’). However, you would need to make the choice clear to students. If they are studied as multi-modal texts, then they are non-lit (a BOW). If they are studied only as lyrics (a sub group of poetry) then they are a literary choice. And with that, you’ve completed the requirements for our Cat 1 workshop. All the best as you implement your course — I hope the candidacy phase is nearing completion and you can put your plans into action soon!” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (29/6/2021)
“I too like your concept questions, Acton. I have been considering for a while this ideas of teaching texts as part of an inquiry. The questions you have included give me a better idea on how to do this. Thank you!” – Amy Climpson, teacher (15/6/2021)
“Hi Acton, When I think about the questions you will focus on, I saw once again how well the works you chose fit the criteria. Thank you” – Banu ÇELİKEL Yildiz, teacher (15/6/2021)
“Hi John, I found your text choices really interesting – so many are unknown to me but it seems a versatile choice offering a lot of unique perspectives which is great! I also like the idea of a unit that explores language change, especially through Shakespeare. This really could open students’ eyes to how we as humans create meaning and are in control of language: a great foundation for all kinds of analysis. I think it would be interesting to see an overall topic for each unit (perhaps this is something you have in mind already!) to better understand the links between texts and also the types of GI your students might consider for the IO.” – Erica Inman, teacher (29/6/2021)
“I’m really impressed by the amount of thought and energy you have put into coming up with a meaningful topic. The detail, especially regarding the press reviews and further reading are useful springboards to encourage students to flesh out their knowledge and this approach could very well make a positive difference to the final mark. However the non-literary text, although chosen from a BOW still has to focus on a single piece i.e. one video, picture, set of lyrics. You are referencing the whole Levellers BOW and from what I understand, I don’t think that’s possible. I wish you would hone down that aspect and focus one just one, then I think it would make an excellent IO. In the 10 points, it might be useful to make a few explicit references to the GI too. cheers Neville” – Neville Attree, teacher (29/6/2021)
“Thanks, Acton. As you’ll have noted I try to focus on one or two elements in each person’s contribution here (different elements, as much as I can) — so that there’s maximum learning from others’ work. Your post is quite comprehensive but I’ll limit my comments.
GI is clear – perhaps a further focus – representations of displaced persons – artists using their art as a vehicle for protest
Extracts — you’ve provided the non-lit (music video) perfectly — lyrics and screen grabs. (The lyrics run to 43 lines, and we have a 40-line limit, but here’s an example where discretion tells us it’s wise to run to 43. Remember to tell students to add line numbers: SO much value in terms of time saved in the presentation and follow-up discussion.)” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (30/6/2021)
“The intention of having the extracts is so that students don’t have to memorize quotes — they have the text right before them (and before the teacher, too). Thus, it’s not necessary for the student to use valuable bullets in quoting from extracts (which are there in hand). Perhaps you did this so that we here in the workshop could follow your thinking? if so, thank you. But tell your students to use their bullets for content, key vocab, shifts / way points.
You’ve provided a wealth of other resources you’d use for contextualization etc. We can make double use of this kind of resource if we use the review (for example) as well to study it as a non-literary text type (a text type students might well encounter on their Paper 1). Have students look at 2 or 3 reviews of the same subject (eg The Levellers new album) and consider how bias, voice, intended audience etc shape meaning. (This all has relevance for Paper 1 success.) You’ve included another possible music video (by a different group / performer?). Why not use this for trial IO practice (giving students the chance to work with the form — multi modal text / music video — and thus ‘protecting’ your Levellers BOW for the authentic IO).
Thanks for a good pairing and all your thinking — this BOW seems ready to go!” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (30/6/2021)
Anything else goes below here:
English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): General notes
The course is available for students at both standard and higher levels. The higher level is a study of 6 works and lasts about 240 class hours. The standard is 90 hours and two works less in length. The material works must be broad in spectrum, representing literary forms, time periods and places.
“What are your key expectations for this workshop?”Language changes. Literature evolves in meaning and interpretation. It keeps us on our toes, thinking and learning. I expect to enhance my personal critical thinking; collaborate and develop my personal appreciation of literature (and the surrounding language). I expect to encounter a variety of aesthetic or stylistic forms. I expect to find ways to unlock cultural differences to help deliver a deeper appreciation to young learners in the near future.
To support study on this course, students will encounter non-literary text. These bodies of work will include a wide variation in format. Students are to be enabled to deep think, use higher order thinking skills to give an analysis that is critical, shows understanding of culture and context. They must determine a meaning. What is the purpose of the text to the audience? The students will take their assessments through formal examinations, oral and written coursework and other spoken activities. Two essay papers will be taken: A comparative response to two previously studied texts; and then one analysis of a previously unseen, and unto that point, unknown text. Transferring those study techniques will come into action at that stage. Practice to performance. The inevitable coursework for higher level students features a 1200-1500 word essay on a previously studied text.
“How familiar are you with the subject of this workshop?” Language covers all forms of expression that allow communication. It can be written or verbal. Literature is the written form of language. It’s the words to painting in an art gallery. If a song has lyrics and they’re written down, then it sits alongside poetry. Unlike language, literature is always written.
Students are attending this online course from as far afield as Russia, Canada, the U.K., the U.S.A. and China. That’s one heck of a lot of land surface, and a fair old electronic journey. All connected students. Each together on a journey. The COVID-19 pandemic allows opportunity. We can’t stand still. We each must remain engaged, involved and collaborate from offices, school and apartments. At this moment I’m typing in a tent. A Friday night wander into Dalingshan Forest Park (Dongguan, China) seemed like a wise move.
“How would you describe yourself as a learner? What helps you to learn best?“ I like to read, survey varied sources, research using a selection of articles and books before hitting the interweb for accountable sources and also gap-fillers.
To allow storage and to manage this I.B. exploration via a home page, I have a link for Announcementsand one for the Resource Library. There’s an interactive forum too. Tomorrow, I’ll print off the Language A: Language and Literature Guide, first exams 2021. Blue, purple and yellow highlighters at the ready. Then, I’ll swing by the downloadable samples and have a gander at them. I am just reading THE ROADMAP for a more clear pathway to complete and collaborate my way to the end of June. Any questions, I can drop here at Burning Questions. Where else?!
I watched a video by Tim Pruzinsky and followed his designed workshop first steps. The take home being that I am a student and I need to create exemplars. Time to test my approaches to teaching and learning (ATL).
Exploration (make connections between texts?; reflect on their own responses; practice; preparation area; early introduction; increases in importance; evidence – think academic integrity; reports; experimentation; with creative writing; form, media and technology; insights; record of responses; create guiding questions)
Transdisciplinary learning (beyond the classroom investigation); diverse; monitored; created independently; students can use digital or old-fashioned paper (choice); orally: link global issues, representation of different or similar perspectives;
Portfolio allows self-assessment of skills that lack confidence; keeps a running record; which text types will be a challenge? Monitor progression of Paper One/Two attempts. Reflect on challenges posed by essay writing.
Grouping of common themes; explore similarities and/or differences (build an awareness of the multiplicity); any significance; record references and quotations. Which works match the questions they may face?
224 words shaped so many bedtime reading sessions. Bedrooms around the world were greeted with a heart-warming tale of growth, albeit through humour and a spot of seemingly obesity. The story has radiated like the light from the moon, from pages in over 60 languages to beaming eyes looking at the colourful intricate nature of the tale.
“That’s something I learned in art school. I studied graphic design in Germany, and my professor emphasized the responsibility that designers and illustrators have towards the people they create things for.” – Eric Carle
Eric Carle didn’t just write that one book of course. His designs, illustrations and words have appeared in numerous texts. Having dropped his first drawings in 1965, Aesop’s Fables for Modern Readers (Peter Pauper Press), the new-to-the-scene and relatively young illustrator was spotted by educator and author Bill Martin Jr. One red lobster in an advertisement led to a lifetime of colour and creation.
“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.” – Eric Carle
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was an award-winning book collaboration with the late author Bill Martin Jr. Thereafter cardboard editions, die-cut holes, inflatables, plastic pockets and multiple versions of artwork with words began to grow and filter from Eric Carle to the world. Countless children have lived and learned through rhyming picture books and used string in one of his many creations.
“One day I think it’s the greatest idea ever that I’m working on. The next day I think it’s the worst that I’ve ever worked on – and I swing between that a lot. Some days I’m very happy with what I’m doing, and the next day I am desperate – it’s not working out!” – Eric Carle
The story of the story-teller is ever more remarkable. This was a man, who his wife Barbara Morrison, strongly believed had held a form of post traumatic stress disorder. He’d dug trenches on the dreaded Siegfried Line of a World War II battlefield. He’d seen death at first hand, aged only around 15 years of age. But then, darkness turned to light over the years: “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” Okay, it wouldn’t have been that simple, but Eric Carle refused to bow down and give in. Years of toil brought his mind to a place where writing was permitted. An audience was earned. From Germany in World War II, he returned to his country of birth, the U.S.A. and found his way from Syracuse to the New York Times as a graphic artist.
“Let’s put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.” – Eric Carle
Via stints back in Germany, for the U.S. Army (during the Korean War) he went on to be an art director at an advertising agency. His collage techniques, rich in hand-painted paper, featured layers and slices of vivid imagination set out as tiny pieces of artwork. Nature and wonder have set tones throughout his simple stories. These stories have been warm and inviting, and give hope to children, especially those new to schooling and education.
Papa, please get the moon for me is a tale of great importance in my opinion. It shows us that imagination is wonderful, even if it is breaking something seen as impossible. Whoever told me that Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny weren’t real, or anybody for that matter, that breaks the dreams of a child, deserves a good long look at themselves. Reality and imagination can sit side by side, otherwise Neil Armstrong, or Elon Musk or Celine Dion would not be around. Ability and knowledge need the company of spark and dream – and that’s where imagination grows.
“They are deceptively simple. I admit that. But for me, all my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them.” – Eric Carle
As I sit typing words and reading about Eric Carle’s history, I recall flicking through glossy covers of his books, and the joy as my face beamed when I discovered a translated copy in Hengli, Dongguan. That beautiful familiar white cover with a caterpillar and a red apple missing a mouthful, all slightly imbalanced, as if to say, and to appeal, that things aren’t always neat and tidy. One day when COVID-19 passes and the world is a little more tidy, I dream to fly to Amherst, Massachusetts to see the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. That would be as good as finding another Uroballus carleion a trip to Hong Kong. The Caterpillar Jumping Spider’s Latin name is testament to the reach and pull of a world class picture book writer.
“My father used to take me for walks in the woods. He would peel back the bark of a tree and show me the creatures who lived there. I have very fond memories of these special times with my father and in a way I honor him with my books and my interest in animals and insects.” – Eric Carle
The Cafe Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment and Instruction, by self titled sisters Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, attracted me in library. Or because of the literacy element. Nor so that of instruction. The word cafe stood out. Its abstraction and my liking of coffee met perfectly.
Hoisting the 204 paved softback down, I noticed the bump in the cover. A CD-ROM. I haven’t used a DVD or CD for so long. The Tungwah Wenze International School staff-issued iMac doesn’t come with a drive. I don’t have one on my personal laptop. The TVs at school, my TV at home and all the smart board systems at school don’t have a place for discs. Printed in 2009, I started to wonder if the contents would have dated as fast as the technology they employed. The longevity of books however remains stalwart.
Seven sturdy chapters opened before me. I skim read the acknowledgements, unable to connect to the names on the page, but fully aware such matters as teaching and writing needs a cast of many. Last Friday, Grade 4 had a COLA (Celebration of Learning Achievement). Mr Jaime, Mr Richard and Miss Aria with support from Miss Keats and Miss Belinda set our class on a good course.
Chapter one asks why and what are assessment systems. It refers heavily back to the authors and their previous book, Daily Five. The general idea being: students read to self, read to someone else, write something, use word work and then listen to reading. In an ideal and disciplined world, it makes a big difference. The appendix of the book I had in my hand though made more sense. I could see how CAFE system could be of use to the busiest of teachers. It is simple.
Notebooks are often overlooked in these times of electronic record keeping. These can be filled by simple strategy forms. Students set their goals and post to a classroom chart. Small group work is encouraged, much like what I’m trying, time and time again. Whole group instructions and flip charts caught my attention. I’ve neglected flip chart paper for far too long.
By the time I’d reached chapter two, the key details that came across were that teachers want to do more; the importance of scaffolding; and teachers take offence to be told to follow a set template. They want to find their own ways to adjust the scaffolding needs of individuals. Can’t say that I disagree.
The evolution of a calendar from post it notes and scribbles on paper has certainly met all the best teachers. Our methods evolve and practices adapt. Reading literacy takes time for monitoring. Tabs, pages and menus of reading form. A bulletin board showing comprehension, fluency, accuracy and expanded vocabulary certainly feels like it should be at home in every classroom. Just like a daily ongoing story book. A chapter and day helps work, rest and play.
To get students to know their target, classes often need exemplars. These set a clear visual goal for their work ahead. The CAFE book covers familiar grounds of observation, encouragement, tracking and how to push interest. It develops wall display ideas and recommends strategies to develop readers. There are bucket loads of suggested reading books, group activities and then reference forms. Before the evening expired, I had read the book cover to cover. Ideas will have sank in. But, first, just one chocolate Hobnob biscuit…
Eck and Timu, otherwise known as Echo and the late Tim Mileson, can be found in a book just shy of sixty glossy pages. The compact pocketbook is presented through poetry and story alike. It is conventional and yet unconventional. Interpretation is a skill you can choose to use, or just float on the muse.
Sandwiched between Tim’s personal writing, Eck explores emotions such as loss, belonging and echoes nature throughout. Cute eye-catching illustrations using a variety of sketching styles follow an imaginative route to deliver a peaceful and loving tribute in the form of a poetic manuscript.
There are lines throughout that transport the reader, catch them, hold them and bring them downward. There are uplifting words, moments of hope and flashes of light. It’s a sweet little book deserving of a wider audience. The book comes in both Chinese and English editions. My grade four students at Tungwah Wenze International School greeted that with joy. Next up they’ll interview the author…
or maybe passed on from brother, to sister to brother or cousin or read by many a dozen.
They may become forgotten in time;
or triggered memories by one rhyme.
There are 14 of them, plus two and two more. Two for over there too. For Kitty. For Harry. For Jim and Kim. For Jimmy and Marline. For Alex, Sofia, Alice and Jerry. For Angela also. Not forgetting Amir and Owen. And last but not least Lucy.
One for me. One for the library.
Either way, I wish their echoes go on. And on. And on. And on and on. Ripples in a pool.
The Little Picture Book: Lost and Found arrived. Thank you Echo. Tomorrow I’ll sit in a tree by Songshan Lake or a cafe (if it rains) and soak up all the words, with illustrations. I can smell the spirit of Tim Mileson and the lively love of Echo. Mr Bee is happy.
A student stood up my class one day. She smiled as she asked a bold question. Her little voice was quivering but audible, “How many words can you write?” To my mind, I could not answer her. We began a class task, searching books, dictionaries (Cambridge and Oxford English), newspapers, everything and anything we could lay our hands on. The task followed each student and I from the classroom. It became an obsession. As time changed our research became simpler. Yet words expanded and multiplied. Eventually journals, magazines, compendiums and the internet came along, and how it grew and grew. We pooled our tasks together. The list for the student grew, even as she did not.
That first tough question was in the year 1948. I was a young teacher then. Just twenty five years of age. It’s now 2022. I’m still writing the list of words. I hope to be finished this decade. I fear our work will never be complete.
*…Walsh, Gündoğan, Sheron, Creaney, Wright-Phillips, Benarbia, Fowler, Barton, Geovanni, Pizarro, Nasri… and all those other wonderful Manchester City numbers 8s.
These are the voyages of the starship TESMC. Its nine-module mission: to explore strange new words. To seek out almost new teaching methods and relatively new vocabulary. The bold crew of the giant starship explores the excitement of strange uncharted dictogloss things, and exotic uninhabited refined writing.Imagine it – thousands of noun groups at our fingertips…To boldly go where few teachers have gone before!
“Navigation was always a difficult art, Though with only one ship and one bell: And he feared he must really decline, for his part, Undertaking another as well.” – The Hunting Of The Snark, a poem by Lewis Carroll
During TESMC classes we have focused on language in learning across the curriculum. Here’s a recap (to build on the 7th instalment), at the Using English for Academic Purposes website, of nominal groups, structures and examples with exercises. There’s two links here and there for dictogloss activities. Look at this website called The Up-Goer Five Text Editor. It expects you to type a complex idea only using words from a list of 1000 common use words. That’s that, done!
[Now, an important announcement] Lemma: a word family, e.g. running, run, ran; blue, bluer, bluest, blueish, blues, etc. [Announcement ends]
Another vocabulary test website was pointed my way. Cheers ears! You know who you are. VocabularySize.com is a tool to create customized and test vocabulary tests for students. It was created by the University of Wellington, in New Zealand. Their School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies worked with School of Engineering and Computer Science. Language acquisition takes time, patience and exposure. Those students in an international school such as Tungwah Wenzel International School, surrounded by numerous international teachers, are most likely to increase their vocabulary than students in Inner Mongolia without a foreign teacher or access to YouTube. To them English will be as Scottish as a suntan.
Judgement value calls shouldn’t be drawn from memory. Responsive attitudes towards data collection over time carries more merit and significance. By showing a daily goal, we set a part of a bigger picture. The bigger picture should come from steps and aims. Those goals need organising. Rubrics are familiar territory that often get overlooked. I know, from my experience, that I have often favoured an in-head calculation over pencil, pen or paper. That’s not fair. Formative and summative assessments need clarity, not just for the teacher or the parent. The student should have the goalposts set early on. They must know what the task entails and how to achieve maximum marks.
“When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.” – Robert E. Stake, Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Illinois
Having a summative assessment that resembles activities earlier on is key too. If you use formative pieces that have multiple choice questions and then for the finale you switch to an all-singing, all-dancing 2000-word essay, then that’s totally not playing cricket with your students. English as a Second Language (ESL) students need modelled methods that allow them to switch between multiple forms. To do it without preparation is unfair. Failure or success depends on students and their experience. To think outside of the box without the necessary scaffolding is not easy. One activity that I found useful was to assign half the class the activity of being the teacher. The other half had to follow the instructions given by the teacher. Afterwards peer review of the followers revealed that some students gave clear instructions. Others did not. Some students improvised where instruction was lacking. Many students competed to give the better and clearer instructions. Positive peer pressure gives chance for evaluation and reflection. Using a checklist or rubric over the top of that student’s activity gives a more meaningful insight to the activity and assessment. The teacher can play the role of referee or judge. The peers become the jury. Hopefully no executioner needs assigning. That being said we’ve all had that one student who never does homework… [It’s gallows humour, relax]
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” – Alfred Mercier
Student age gives us an idea of where to set our expectations. Within an age group, each student’s experience and exposure to English needs to be factored in. Then there’s nationality, multilingualism, academic performance in their native language(s), and so on… or what they ate for breakfast. Classrooms are living breathing jelly-like places that seldom remain constant. One gargantuan factor to take into consideration is that of student behaviour. Special needs and cares need to be taken into account. Not every student has the level of focus that we desire. To give confidence, informal formative assessments and their analysis will benefit the teacher and student. In the long run, reforming practices to unlock their true productive potential using a variety of interactive assessments will become a most valuable teaching tool.
“I never teach my pupils. I can only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein
Formative assessments can guide a teacher to how a student is or is not progressing. It can allow the teacher to amend their methods or tailor an individual student’s needs much more fluidly. John Polias, of Lexis Education, describes it as:
assessment of learning;
assessment for learning;
assessment as learning.
I read that in the style of Pep Guardiola as an intense football manager. He, like many great football managers, uses coaching of football in the game, after game analysis and during the game. The game is the test. The game is also a time to test new formations and tactics. The game is something to reflect on and to understand new learnings. This can also be said within our classroom. This should also be applied to our students. Assessment as learning is a real chance give appropriate and frequent feedback – in order to modify learning activities. It’s proactive and not reactive. Assessment of learning, the summative part, is reactive. It’s done, it’s dusted. Game over, almost. Assessment for learning also allows us scope to work away from the traditional unit test and external testing of old. Here in assessment for learning and assessment as learning we allow magic to happen. Students can express themselves. There’s self-assessment, self-monitoring and peer-assessment time. Students can create or make their own checklists or rubrics. With that, they can be employed for the purpose of learning. They allow students incentive, a drive, a spur on to get to a much more useful end. Therefore, Making Assessment Supportive focuses on how we can devote adequate time to making a type of assessment that makes sense for our students – and being able to use it at varied points of instruction. At points along the teaching cycle allows us to make assessment more fruitful. Lorna Earl’s Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximise Student Learning further strengthens this material showing a host of judgements about placement, promotion, credentials, etc to fit with other students. It shows information for teacher instructional decisions to meet external standards and expectations. It shows self-monitoring, self-correction and adjustment to reach personal and external goals.
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” – Kahlil Gibran
So, with all that, I ask you, teacher or not, what does the assessment pyramid look like? Identify how your school, current or old, had their pyramid. Where would you place the below? Top, middle or bottom?
assessment of learning;
assessment for learning;
assessment as learning.
Let’s each analyse samples of assessment tasks being used in our schools. Are they devised to be assessment of, for, or as learning? How can we incorporate a more overlapped approaches to assessments within teaching? What’s the understanding from students within our classes about the kinds of assessments that we do?
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King, musician
“Ben told the class that nouns are sexy. I couldn’t agree more.” – Mr Lee, 2020/21 cohort, TESMC, TWIS
Noun groups are everywhere. ESL (English as a Second Language) learners may find ordering tough, whereas a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, may find that their description of the fictional Scottish public and private boarding school of magic for students aged eleven to eighteen child’s play. The British magical community’s Ministry of Magic may not be an ideal place to start an exploration of noun groups, that most specific to English topic, but we can begin here with a dabble into the magical realm of TESMC class with Mr Ben. It’s our seventh class, hence the title.
“Many a man has a treasure in his hoard that he knows not the worth of. (Sellic Spell)” – Beowulf, J.R.R. Tolkien
Perspectives on Vocabulary by John Polias, Nominalisation, meaning making in the written realm by Brian Dare, and How accessible are the texts we use by John Polias made for riveting reading. They kept me up into the wee hours and on my toes. Why? They made me question my teaching and my selection of textbooks. Hugely. I’ve always been a fan of a DK Board game called Very Silly Sentences. This game helps to expand the vocabulary and manipulates verbs, adjectives and nouns. The idea of manipulating the nominal group needs base knowledge. That is to know the density of meaning slapped together inside a written text by giving numbers to nominalization per clause. Heavy stuff. Really heavy packed stuff. As a teacher we want to see the evolution of a student’s writing. It must go from: ‘It is a cat.’ We’re aiming to add weight to the sentence. Students, like adults, should be spouting Shakespearian cat descriptive pieces.
“foul night-waking cat” – The Rape of Lucrece, Sir William Shakespeare
If we sit our student’s first grade work alongside the same student’s work as they enter their early teenage years, you will see progress. The same can be done if we take week two work, week ten and week 17 work. Analysis is easy because it is reactive. Our job is much more proactive though. We’re targeting an end product. The factory assembly line of our classes must be targeted to show our desired outcomes of language learning. The crux of the matter is vocabulary extension: It’s a pretty cat. John Polias makes some strong cases for playing detective and taking visuals aside for as good old interrogation.
Fellow hair-challenged Brian Dare points out the pros and cons of refined writing. The high end of the mode continuum gets a fair treatment. He points out that suddenly students are less likely to be thinking on their toes. Students should be encouraged to both rewrite spoken text and speak in different ways about written text. It has to be bidirectional and the transpositions should become the tools of meaning-making in language. Going back and forwards, inverting, flipping it a bit, and relocating words here and there will provide the necessitous scaffolding. Do you remember the joys of messing with words and creating something clean and trim? The mode continuum gives our students something to blend and bend as a way to develop knowledge about language.
Explain these terms to a student without using the terms: common noun, proper noun, abstract noun, concrete noun, countable noun, uncountable noun, compound noun, collective noun, singular noun and plural noun. Respective examples could include window, Manchester, love, house, bike and bikes, rice, textbook, crowd, monkey, and babies. Easy enough, right? Now explain the function and use of a noun group. A noun group is a group of words relating to, or building on, a noun. There may be a pointer (a, an, this, that, these, those, my, your, his, her, its, our, dad’s, Mr Ben’s), one or more adverbs and adjectives. Before and after the main noun. The pre-modifier and the post-modifier offer ample opportunity for exploration. Referring back and forwards, within a sentence is a highly useful skill and tool for an up-and-coming writer. Adding weight and detail to the noun expands the information about the noun itself. It offers a clearer mental image. With these skills, our students can tell us much more about a cat. It’s a pretty fluffy cat with a wonderful temperament. The students are now armed with magic wands to cast spells on their noun structures. Effective writers need detail. Expanding the nominal group should be a weapon of choice.
Note: Nominal means as planned, or as named, or as written (in the mission plan). It does not mean normal.
Synonyms and antonyms are keys and tools to create colourful and abstract language. They’re also ideal for adding dimension to concrete dialogue and reports. One of my earliest English class memories was at Clayton Brook Primary School in Manchester. I, under ten years of age, and my peers were tasked with finding as many synonym words for the words good and bad. Many students talked about it. Some sought books. The tall loner in the corner dived like goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and grabbed something useful. The dictionary fell into my lap. I was hooked. My personal vocabulary grew from word hunts, games, and reading. Mr Jones, class 5AJ, at Chapel Street Primary School, where I later attended, had me constantly finding words, or even searching for made up words, which made me look up similar words. These strange games certainly gave me reasons to live amongst the pages of discovery.
Here on vocabulary played a part. Even to this day, I enjoy expressions, terminologies, and styles of writing because the words within are shouting at me like conversations and whisperings that I must hear. According to TestYourVocab.com, most adult native test-takers range from 20,000-35,000. The average 8-year-old native speaker already knows about 10,000 words. Foreign test-takers tend to hit 2,500-9,000 words – and even by living overseas that only tends to hit 10,000 words. As I slotted my answers into tick-boxes and scored an estimated 32,700 words for my vocabulary size, I realized how few of the 300,000 entries into the Oxford English Dictionary that I probably know. In reality knowing one word from the 20,000 printed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary isn’t all that bad (and in truth, just 35,000 are useful). Are the website’s findings accurate? Well, entering your data is based on honesty and over two million surveys doesn’t accurately reflect a global population of umpteen billion people. Also, who uses the internet?! Their website’s methodology, the nitty-gritty argues that their accuracy is around ±10%, so in my instance, I could be closer to 35,970 or 29,430 words. Either way, it’s a curious little tool of play. I’m not showing off. Not at all. It gives me a good reflection on how many words I have yet to experience or learn. The bad news, however, is that their findings say middle age is where vocabulary retention tends to end. The best reading I found on their website related to reading habits. They found that reading habits directly increases vocabulary growth. It may sound like, as my Dad would put it, “stating the bleeding obvious” but it goes a long way to reinforcing the habit of reading at an early age. This website is part of an independent American-Brazilian research project. The decade-old findings of China show that the average vocabulary size here for English as a Second Language users was 6,636 words. Now, considering the education boom in China, that could be higher now. The website is an indication but not a science. It made me think about how many base words we need to learn a language. But, then how often do we use the words and do we lose the words? Who do we talk with that make us use new words? Are some words specific to some scenarios? Oh, the endless questions! Where on Earth is Anglesey?
“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilising or it will die.”- Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, writer (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966)
Textbooks need selection. Most of us read reviews and even more of us get handed a reading list and stack of books tall enough to paralyse a student’s passion for reading. Trying not to overwhelm a young kids with a stack of books is a good start. As John Polias points out we need to support the students. If I throw the Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch at you and say read it. With that name of the Welsh village just over the Menai Bridge, you can unlock the language of Welsh, possibly. Possibly not. That’s where teachers must support every textbook handed to a student. A book without support may scare away passion for reading.
“Our song escapes, on little silver discs; Our love is plastic, we’ll break it to bits” – Reflektor – Arcade Fire
Too long, didn’t read? Well, that’s half the problem. If reading isn’t for you, how can reading be for someone else? And if reading isn’t a habit, how can writing be a skill? I haven’t read any of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Am I a sinner? Maybe. It just never grasped my attention. So, now, I believe that I must read it. I won’t read it alone though. I’ll make it my personal mission to read it with each and every student of my grade four class. Maybe they have read it in Chinese. Maybe in English. But, how did they enjoy it? I’m sure we can enjoy the magical journey as one. If you don’t have one of the Harry Potter books to hand and you want to dig on into the wider world of English, check out the below sites:
The Economist (Johnson blog: named after Samuel Johnson, who made dictionaries. This blog is all about the use and misuse of language, with its ripple effects)
FreeRice.com teaches and tests vocabulary whilst donating 5 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme.
Language Log. Simply put, Mark Liberman, at the University of Pennsylvania, is a linguist with love of words. His Language Log website is a ticker-tape of blogs, posts and news all relating to language. Expect popular culture, controversy and history.
Dictogloss: a language learning technique. Used to teach grammatical structures. The teacher prepares text examples that need to be studied. The teacher reads it. The students just listen. No pens allowed. Next the students lift up their pens. Notes must be taken. By forming small groups, students can work together to reconstruct the text example using their knowledge, notes and teamwork. Afterwards reflection comes as students compare their various versions. With respect to my Grade 4 class, they tried this task twice and each time, they sailed the rough seas. Grade 4 are very capable sailors when the going gets tough. For extra experience, add a Powerpoint presentation whereby the words (and phrases) that you feel need noting pop up as you read it. It can reinforce student ability. After students become familiar with the dictogloss methods, take away the option of teamwork. First try paired working and then ask the students to work solo. This can also promote confidence.
“Fate goes ever as fate must.” – Beowulf, Seamus Heaney
As students move through schooling they will encounter different registers with full expectation to engage them accordingly. The use of nominal groups to enhance and even make complex text can be explained and shown to be more than useful. The dictogloss is there to be used as a tool, but not for exactitude. How many things change through new interpretation and retelling? Language and writing, like speaking can all be about exploration. As teachers we are captains of ships and we must wake our hypnopompic students with a sparge of word play. Our fuliginous fluffy funambulist of a feline with a wonderful temperament must exercise its vibrissae to avoid any pother as it balances on the tenebrous tightrope of life. With that, I end my braggadocio writing.
“Fate will unwind as it must!” – Beowulf, Burton Raffel
It has started. We are too close to the door to close it now. The wind is too strong now to wind the sail. Anthony Horowitz gave empowerment to five. Enid Blyton made the number famous. Swordsman Miyamoto Musashi wrote a book about five rings. The Olympic games use five rings representing inhabited continents. Five-a-side football isn’t a bad game. In rugby a try gets you five points. “Give me five”, praises someone as you high five. Quintessence is essential to water, earth, fire and air. The five-second rule used to be applicable but then COVID-19 came along. UK pop band 5ive are best forgotten, just like the notes taken from the fifth TESMC module.
Words like dynamic and dynasty be so mellifluous. Pleasing to the ears. They make me all aquiver when tied to descriptive texts, like the bombinating of a bumblebee briskly buzzing by. Sometimes the words themselves are so ineffable that no words do them justice. These moments can appear ethereal like the petrichor (the sometimes pleasant fragrance of earth that follows rain). Try laying supine, facing the sky, closing your eyes and listening to the things around you. What sounds pleased? Which make a horrendous hum? Yesterday was the memorial day of the Nanjing massacre in China and at some stage a sonorous sound shrieked out from a siren. On the quieter side, there has been bird song and on opening my eyes, spheres danced in my vision, the phosphenes from the rubbing of my eyes.
Hiraeth [hiːrai̯θ] is here. A longing for home. The home of yesterday has changed. The world has changed. I cannot go back as easily as before. It’s a Welsh word. Pure beauty in meaning, a pining for nostalgia. A desire for home and an epoch gone by. I find myself as a somnambulist. I miss second-hand bookshops too. The kind of bookshop which is so full that it had to refuse more refuse. That vellichor. The fragrance and strangeness of so many gathered histories. The insurance has long been invalid for the invalid books.
A teacher must know words. Words are friends. Words need sharing. Words need to be entrusted and explained. How can we intimate this to our most intimate student friends? Students from ESL (English as a Second Language) backgrounds need new words. New words can help develop a love for language. Without these tiptoe steps into a world thesaurus and dictionary, what will a student learn? Are we sometimes guilty of assuming students can’t pick up new words? What are the ramifications of low expectations? Surely, if a student has been set low standards or an activity without a challenge then they will wither and fade like an autumn flower as winter arrives. Speaking of word play, congratulations to my mate Gerry on his third marathon finish. If he was a drummer, he could paint a bass fish on the head of the bass drum. Wordplay.
Ongoing and meaningful preparations are a must. You can’t make Christmas cards easily without card, colouring pencils or pens, and materials to stick onto the card. You may have the words to write ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ but they’re null and void without a place to affix them. Now, you have prepared well, and now it is time for explicit and timely support – by teachers and their assistants. These key tools of learning are essential to educating ESL students. Think omnipresence. Even at a later stage a teacher should be guiding through support and reassurance, or corrective guidance, when and where appropriate. Give an ESL student supportive confidence and they’ll fly. No more wilting flowers.
Practice alone won’t hone writing as a skill. It needs companionship. Reading, a variety of examples, experimentation and bravery aren’t bad starting points. Encouragement and explicit guidance by all teachers will go far. Repetition may help an ESL student with handwriting or to spell a few words but it won’t do much more without a careful eye and a hand on the shoulder. Teachers are the Jedi masters of the classroom. They must be open-minded, flexible and experimental in teaching strategies to encourage students to adopt the same mindset. Practice is important, however, to get better a structured and reflective approach, of a clear nature is of greater benefit. What a teacher wants from a class should be discussed and explained clearly. The teacher has the task of progressively conveying their expectations in ways that don’t confuse or blur the outcome. Every opportunity for a student to write should be a chance to seek clarification and guidance. Perhaps like now, it is Christmas and the task is to write Christmas cards. Careful wording helps build a basic familiarity. If not worded correctly your Christmas card workshop class could easily become a paper aeroplane and origami showroom. In my classroom, anything is possible. Perhaps, they’d create a Picasso-style masterpiece then rip it up. Upon seeing the tears in their painting I would shed a tear or two.
Writing processes must be clear, with the genre of the task apparent from the off. The specificities of the genre will make the register of the writing task transparent and relevant. Joint construction, modelling, then independent construction each have different demands on both the student and the teacher. Here the right language choices can be made. They offer the chance to have a running dialogue between the teacher and the student. The activity of writing is integral to learning in many educational contexts. It is not simply to show what has been learned. Far from it! One piece of text could be construed by one reader as a different thing to another reader. The writer interacts with their audience via the text. Various semiotic systems make this possible. They could be multimodal, interactive and often they have meanings or interpretations that change over time or from culture to culture or from prior knowledge or even contextual factors. Society and culture changes. Technology changes. Word meanings evolve or fade away. Who knows what literacy skills we’ll need for the next century?!
Pariseetomol sounds like paracetamol. Whilst one is headache-reducing, the former could be headache inducing. Part of the text is below. Is it a hybrid of Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl, or JRR Tolkien or Lewis Caroll? Perhaps Shakespeare has made a comeback tour like all good big-haired 80s artists do (1580s, obviously). Anyway for more on the below, look at it first and then I’ll share something just after the below text:
“Pariseetomol ossildates the senses, demanding to be looged, hoshed, plessed, misted and spolt. From plooking along the Seine to scarbarsters on merse-sized canvases to the pick-an-ism dupers in cafes parlandering on the mis of garlic or the perster kolecks of Jerry Lewis, Pariseetomol is the embiffers of all things French. Morzel simplurously at its brousal boulevards, pressim monuments, highstopper works of art and larly lippers. Savour its gourmet stoop of premble, jasmerse, dorsims and marebits. Feel the rosset in your doppel as you glerglack through Bastille, or a wergle of frompt and plossule atop the Eiffel Toppletipper.” – Is this gibberish? See below.
Google and other search engines can ruin a mystery, as can Ben Greuter, ace TESMC instructor. Without giving anything away, here’s a link to explain the above Lonely Planet piece. In the classroom we were asked to answer some questions. Again, see below.
1. What does Pariseetomol do to the senses?
2. How is one advised to morzel?
3. When are you likely to feel the rosset in your doppel?
4. Why might you have felt a wergle of frompt and plossule atop the Eiffel Toppletipper?
5. What is the writer’s view of Pariseetomol?
Now, where and how do you begin to answer that. The bandage was wound around the wound. That’s where I’d begin. Much of what we read in English is about context and prior knowledge. Many authors can skip the obvious in a series of novels, but pick up the latest Jack Reachernovel and you may need a few back-publications to fully follow the brutal ex-military officer created by Lee Child. His mind was used to produce produce. He polished his character with the odd Polish trip. I’m sure one novel has the main character deciding to desert his dessert in the desert. And, Jack Reacher definitely took aim at a dove which dove into the bushes, which he could lead others to do if he would get the lead out.
On returning from lunch I seethere is no time like the present. Someone thought it was time to present the Christmas present. I do not object to this secret object. Now, who sent it? I shall subject the mysterious subject to a series of tests. I have a package with neat folds, level taping and handwriting that appears feminine. The colour scheme is light and cheery. After, “Hey John” there is “~” which is quite common to signify affection or warmth. The contents will remain secret until Friday when I open it at the staff gathering. I guess from the feel that it is a pin badge, a keyring or earrings. I shall pontificate in my best Sherlock Holmes fashion without sweat. Maybe i could watch a documentary about an Australian marsupial, let’s say the wombat. It eats roots, shoots, and leaves. I’ll get my coat…