The Lieutenant

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Kate Grenville’s The Lieutenant. — A central idea in The Lieutenant is the role of language in how humans see, understand and interact with the world, particularly in relationships between individuals and broader relationships between cultures. This underlying theme reflects one of the dominant investigations of VCE English… Read More


Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Alistair MacLeod’s Island — I’ve never understood why short stories are sometimes maligned, even by a young readership who are, at least anecdotally, accustomed to the brief-attention-span-behaviour that technological modes and social media are said to encourage. Studying short stories at pre-tertiary level offers students such a valuable… Read More


One of the interesting parallels between ‘Tracks’ and ‘Into the Wild’ is that both texts represent what Davidson refers to in her postscript as an ‘extraordinary feat of remembering’. But what impact does other people’s ‘remembering’ have on the story? The inclusion of some of Rick Smolen’s photographs in the text certainly has an impact on the way readers imagine Davidson’s journey, but the images also raise interesting questions about how a ‘factual’ text can be constructed to represent different perspectives. Would readers feel differently about the story without the photographs? Suitable for Year 12.

Into the Wild

This week’s blog post explores Sean Penn’s representation of Christopher McCandless in the film ‘Into the Wild’. While Jon Krakauer’s book problematises the ‘journey of self-discovery in the wilderness’ myth, Penn’s vision of McCandless’s character arguably teeters on the brink of glorification. The post includes a downloadable sheet of questions and resources to assist in your planning for teaching the text in 2017. Suitable for Year 12.

Bard or Bot?

This week’s blog offers you a curated collection of sites that discuss non-human generated poetry. Some of the generators use algorithms to create poems, others use Google search terms or headlines from magazine editions. Examining this kind of poetry requires students to consider the bot-poet’s techniques and structures to evaluate whether their ‘work’ should be considered genuine ‘poetry’. It is also fun and a great opportunity to engage the talented coders in your class, who could create a program to generate poetry of their own. Suitable for Years 7-12.

True Stories for Context Studies

It can be difficult to find relevant, short, interesting, contemporary additional texts to accompany the study of your central texts for this Area of Study, especially when your time is limited. But sometimes allowing students to explore how a range of writers explore the ideas embedded in your Context study can help them to find their own authentic voice too. Perhaps, for the last ride around the Contexts carousel, you might be looking for some new inspiration to keep things fresh? If so, dip into SBS’s podcast series ‘True Stories’. Suitable for Year 12.

Are there really grammar ‘rules’?

This week, the Insight blog suggests some class activities using the popular and practical blog/podcast Grammar Girl’s ‘Quick and Dirty Tips’, by Mignon Fogarty. Grammar Girl discusses grammar conundrums, usage dilemmas and the fascinating ways that the English language is evolving. She also includes a lot of fun posts that are great for engaging younger students in language and inspiring classroom activities such as ‘Which celebrities have the best grammar?’ The podcast and blog are both suitable for Years 7–12, but the activities this week focus on national (and Victorian) curriculum outcomes for Years 7–10.

‘We have survived – and now we must thrive’ Dr Chris Sarra (NAIDOC Person of the Year, 2016)

This week’s post celebrates the start of a new term with a powerful and inspiring speech delivered by Dr Chris Sarra. Last Friday night, 8 July, Dr Sarra was named the 2016 NAIDOC Person of the Year. He is the founder and Chairman of the Stronger Smarter Institute, an organisation dedicated to improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students in Australia. His acceptance speech called for all Indigenous Australians to embrace the truth that ‘We are stronger than we believe. And smarter than we know.’ The piece is perfect for launching back into argument and persuasive language analysis for either Year 11 or Year 12 (Dr Sarra uses a range of persuasive techniques clearly and effectively), or to begin your Unit 4 Context ‘Exploring Issues of Identity and Belonging’. Beyond being a good classroom resource, it’s also a powerful, important speech. Suitable for Years 11 and 12.

Encouraging authentic voices

Each year, as US universities graduate another class of students, the internet starts to buzz with the big-name guests who are invited to share their wisdom at commencement ceremonies. The commencement season has always been a great source for inspiring, sometimes surprising, and always interesting speeches to use as in-class aural texts. But for me this year, I think my commencement prize goes to Donovan Livingston, a student speaker at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education Convocation Exercises. His speech, largely delivered in spoken word poetry, is a call to action, a call to study and a call to rise above apathy for students, and a timely mid-year reminder of the impact one teacher can have on the life and direction of a student.

Analysing the language of elections

There was nothing I loved more as an English teacher than persuasive language and argument analysis during an election period. All I had to do was go near a shopping strip on a Saturday morning and people would hand me piles of persuasive texts that were perfect for my students to analyse – for free! This week’s post looks at the language of elections and the way that candidates appeal to and position their audiences. Targeted at Years 9–11, but potentially suitable for Years 7–12.