At the University of Sydney, I am now teaching a class called Teaching English 2. It’s the second of three curriculum methodology units designed to equip students to teach secondary English. Since the previous class focused on teaching in Stage 4 (Years 7-8) and Stage 5 (Years 9-10), this semester we examine Stage 6 (Years 11-12). In New South Wales, this means that we focus on the Stage 6 Syllabus to prepare our pre-service teachers to teach Standard and Advanced English as well as English as a Second Language and English Studies.
Since Stage 6 English is pretty involved, I need to cover both the course requirements as well as literacy pedagogy across the secondary curriculum. This semester, pre-service teachers have to create a resource portfolio and a unit of work that they could readily implement in a Year 12 Standard or Advanced English class. Because I emphasise new literacies and digital tools, I asked them to design a digital text as part of their resource portfolio. At the outset, I recognise that tools and spaces are always changing. Rather than asking them to all create a digital story or all contribute to a blog, I instead asked them to create a digital text related to the Area of Study. Year 12 students currently spend 40% of their HSC English class focusing on the Area of Study, which is belonging. Consequently, I asked my pre-service teachers to decide what technologies and related activities they could design related to the concept of belonging, their prescribed text, or their related texts. They could also choose to work on their own or in a small group.
I think it’s so important to allow our students to have choice in their work. If the point of assessments is to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge, then shouldn’t they have some agency in relation to the content, the mode, and the purpose? In this activity, which is worth 5% of their class grade, students had the opportunity to show me how they conceptualised the Area of Study, how they could choose a specific digital tool to complement their pedagogy, and how they synthesised their understanding of the English Syllabus’ prescriptions and outcomes. Students then shared their work on our class’ eLearning site, so they had an authentic audience. I was delighted to see what they came up with: Animoto book trailers for prescribed texts, Prezis related to the concept of belonging, Voicethreads that focused on related texts, Tumblrs of multimodal resources, and original short films. Here are some of them!
Gerard, Daniel, and Trent created ‘First Day,’ a film about the first day of university. It draws on their own experiences and explores three different perspectives on belonging.
‘Insection‘ was created by Jake, Jessica, and Zoe, which draws on a piece of Jake’s creative writing from Year 12. It considers how our identity shapes our conceptualisations of belonging.
Esther’s ‘Belonging‘ offers a compilation of quotes from various prescribed and related texts, including Breath, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Farragut North, and the Crucible.
Photo by eliseq31