Celebrating 400+ years of Shakespeare

Tomorrow, Saturday 23 April, will mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death and, according to some historians, the 452nd anniversary of his birth. This week's post is a little different. Instead of providing you with guided activities and questions, we're directing you to some of the brilliant resources already available for schools that have been prepared specifically for that 400th anniversary. Suitable for Years 7 to 12.

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Talk to me: developing discussion skills

Discussion skills are embedded in the VCE English Study Design and the Australian Curriculum: students are required to take turns, actively listen, check for understanding and 'apply the conventions of discussion'. But what are the conventions of discussion? If media interviews, YouTube videos and online conversations are any guide, ‘blurt, blather and bombard’ seem to be widely accepted discussion techniques. This week's blog features American journalist and radio broadcaster Celeste Headlee's TED talk from May 2015, ‘10 ways to have a better conversation’, a clear and concise exploration of the lessons she has learnt about good discussions. This talk could be the central focus of a very practical class or unit designed to build speaking and listening skills. Headlee's simple rules are suitable for Years 7 to 12.

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Analysing radio interviews: Neil Mitchell cuts off anti-halal protester

In the wake of violent clashes between groups of protesters at a halal food festival in Ascot Vale on 3 April, 3AW's Neil Mitchell interviewed Nick Folkes, who was at the festival protesting against halal practices. The language and attempts at persuasive argument in the interview are not subtle, and it isn't comfortable listening, but the discussion offers a valuable opportunity to teach or revise the fundamentals of language and argument analysis.

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The Science of Frankenstein

If you Google ‘Frankenstein’ you return about 43,800,000 results. It can be hard, with such a famous text that has been so widely written about, to know where to begin. This week's post focuses on two relatively recent resources that discuss the influence on and representation of science in 'Frankenstein'. We have also included a range of additional resources to help engage students in the text. Suitable for Year 12 English.

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Reflective writing: add a little humour

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an English teacher in possession of a pile of reflective writing assignments must eventually encounter the phrase ‘silence and darkness’. This week's post is aimed at helping you inject a little humour into students' reflective writing with comic storytelling techniques. Suitable for Years 10–12.

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‘Brooklyn’ and the emigrant experience

The release of the film adaptation of 'Brooklyn', and its nomination for three Academy Awards, certainly seems to have reinvigorated interest in the novel. Using film adaptations to 'lure' students into a text is not always helpful, but viewing excerpts of films and hearing writers and actors discuss an adaptation can often help students understand a world or culture that is very different from their own. If you are not teaching 'Brooklyn', the two radio shows (also online as podcasts) mentioned in this post are still worth a visit because they have probably featured some of the writers or texts that you are currently teaching. This post is primarily relevant to Year 12 English/EAL studies of 'Brooklyn', but the radio show archives would generally be suitable for Years 10–12.

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Bonus post: Value-laden language in the dictionary

This bonus resource, primarily for English Language teachers, is an article published in The New Yorker on 23 February 2016. It discusses gender bias in dictionary example phrases, and the Twitter furor inadvertently started by a US anthropologist when he suggested the OED should update their example phrase for the term ‘rabid’.

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/should-dictionaries-do-more-to-confront-sexism

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Analysing TV news: The Project

If there is one thing that every student can relate to it’s the stress of being required to demonstrate their expertise under pressure. Respected Melbourne academic Dr Benjamin Habib experienced the full force of that potentially debilitating pressure this month, when he had a panic attack during a live interview on ABC’s 'News Breakfast'. This week's blog post will help students to analyse a segment from Channel Ten's 'The Project' that discusses Dr Habib's experience and potential strategies to combat anxiety. Suitable for Years 10–12.

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Listen up: life-changing literature

The Wheeler Centre's 'The book that changed me' series features prominent Australians discussing the books that changed their lives or their outlook. The most recent podcast in this series features Kon Karapanagiotidis, the CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, discussing Martin Luther King Jnr's 'Strength to Love'. This genuinely engaging talk will be useful for text studies involving issues such as overcoming discrimination and creating social change; coming-of-age stories, such as 'To Kill a Mockingbird'; developing EAL listening skills; oral presentation skills; and language analysis. Suitable for Years 9–12.

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