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.

Slang in schools? … Whatevs

Do you or should you correct students’ use of slang or colloquial phrases in class? Is standardising the English language leading to a loss of its history, colour and variety in expression? This week’s post explores the place of regional dialects, code-switching, slang and colloquial language in schools. Is enforcing a standardised form of English a means to social mobility for the disenfranchised, or is it helping to further marginalise those who already feel silenced and disempowered? Suitable for Years 7–12.

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.

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.

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.

Multimodal short story: ‘These Memories Won’t Last’

This week’s link is to a beautifully realised, multimodal short story by Australian illustrator, interactive designer and writer, Sutu (Stuart Campbell). ‘These Memories Won’t Last’ explores the fragility of the human mind, changing family relationships and the impact of dementia by using the story interface to replicate the vanishing of memory over time. As you scroll through the images and read the panels, they gently fade away; there is no scrolling back, so readers are at the mercy of their own memories as the cells dissolve. It’s a great story to promote discussion of the way we tell stories, the fleeting nature of memories and the influence of interactivity and technology on storytelling. Suitable for Years 9–12.

Stan Grant, Australia Day and Indigenous identity

An interesting thing happened just before Australia Day 2016: a speech on the topic ‘Racism is destroying the Australian dream’ delivered by Stan Grant, almost three months earlier, went viral. You may have seen the coverage and watched Grant’s speech, but you may not have heard him explore the ideas he addressed at length. The Guardian Australia’s Token Podcast, which explores issues of race and cultural identity in Australia, featured Grant on 16 December 2015, expanding on the issues that he raised in his speech the month prior. Not only does Grant’s powerful voice offer a passionate and articulate point of view, his speech and its belated media coverage raise issues about the role that timing and context can have on the apparent media-worthy nature of a text, event or person. Suitable for Years 10–12.

Bad banter: the gendered language of students

The first resource we’d like to discuss this year is an opinion piece published in The Age this January: ‘Young men learn boundaries in well-prepared schools’. Written by secondary school teacher Emily Hehir, it discusses the gender discrimination she has experienced from male students, and the wider social implications of this behaviour. It raises pertinent questions about respect and authority by describing situations that will be familiar to both teachers and students. Suitable for Years 10–12.