Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. — As a reader, I often struggle with nonfiction and, as a student, I used to find it difficult to apply the kinds of analyses I’d learned working with novels – discussions of character, themes, even structure – to nonfiction texts. Katherine… Read More


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are respectfully advised that this blog contains names of deceased people. Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Rachel Perkins’ 2012 film Mabo — Rachel Perkins’ 2012 film Mabo tells a deeply important Australian story: of an individual battle; of a family who struggle to hold together through difficult times;… Read More

The Thing Around Your Neck

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck — Sometimes students can be intimidated by texts that closely examine or are set in other cultures, so at first glance Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s postcolonial collection of stories, revolving around Africa and Africans living in America, might seem like it’s going… Read More

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.