Archive for April, 2015

With ANZAC Day looming and (sorry it has to be said) media over-saturation threatening to drown us in stories of the sacrifices made for us 100 years ago, I set my self a challenge to find a suitable activity for each of my classes next week.

In one of those weird moments of serendipity, a member of my always helpful twitter PLN shared a link to a collaborative powerpoint with a wealth of activities and tasks for a range of ages, although the focus is mainly primary. You’ll need a google account to sign in and view this. You should also feel free to add ideas – but be quick! I’m also happy to share any of the resources that I developed, just contact me via this site.

Year 9 – Watch the short New Zealand film Falling Sparrows by Murray Keane. One class will answer focus questions with an emphasis on symbolism, the other will write a personal response. Both classes will also watch Sons of Gallipoli by Chris Skinner and then use that as a springboard for reflective writing in their journals. One class is using Personal Best as their linking theme this term, the other Justice and Injustice so there are some clear links to be made.

Year 10Watch the clip by 15 year old Australian Faith Howells about the ANZACs. Use as a close listening activity where students will listen out for a series of facts and end with a more open ended reflective question. I’ve got a flat screen TV now in my room so can play the clip on the TV while the questions are projected on the Whiteboard nearby – helps to keep them focussed while listening. I’ll also pause the clip a few times so they don’t get too anxious!

Year 11 – Watch Tama Tu directed by Taika Waiti and answer a series of focus questions. Our connecting theme for the term is Courage so they can use this text if they like it for their AS1.8 Making Connections report. This class is also doing AS1.11 Close Viewing next term so the questions I developed attempt to revise some basic film techniques and help them think about how those techniques are used to express an idea.

Year 12 – Watch ANZAC Letters. Note down interesting words/phrases, discuss personal connections in groups. Then either write a letter to one of the soldiers give a 21st Century perspective on their sacrifice OR write narrative base don the day in a life of one of the soldiers featured. The following week, we’ll watch Field Punishment No 1. directed by Peter Burger and available via Lippy Pictures. Either write a letter home from one of the characters OT write a letter to the editor in support of or protesting against the treatment of conscientious objectors in WW1.

Most of these planned activities use a visual text as a starter. I find with less able students, this works best to get them thinking. Close listening is also a focus for me this year with my Year 10s  – not easy for some of them.

I’ve used falling Sparrows and Tama Tu previously and found they both work well. These arepart of the Ten and Elven short film compilations produced by Vislearn – highly recommend those plus if you’re feeling fliush, the supporting study guides.

So hopefully that’s something for everyone. Will let you know how that goes down too.

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I have a secret. Tucked away in a not-so-quiet corner of our school (due to current rebuild!) is my classroom. (That’s setting the scene – not the secret). And among the many students who come and go during the day, is a Year 9 class of keen writers. I can’t name them because a) that’s unprofessional and b) they are so clever, they may just read this.  So, let’s call them, Class x. Next week, Class x and I will continue our learning journey together. Having just marked 28 x 3 pieces of their NZ poetry assignment, I know it will be fun.

Now over the years, I’ve come across a vast array of wonderful online tools to assist with the creative writing process, which, as we know, isn’t always an easy one, even for clever people. In the spirit of tilting the classroom and, safe in the knowledge that these students always bring their best to the learning table, I’ve developed a writing lesson (actually give they’re not superhuman, probably lessons) using tools I think will develop their skills, challenge their thinking and (most importantly) enjoy.

Below are the exact instructions these guys will receive via the school’s LMS. The laptops are booked, the links work, the tools have been tested and I’m quietly confident they’ll love this one. I’ve given them options for both online and paper planning and intend to discuss and model mind mapping as most are stuck in the focus cloud rut. We also discussed plot structure and plot types at the end of last term.

These students are working at Level 4-6+ of the NZC so my intention was to keep things open-ended. I’ll let you know how they get on!


In this lesson, you will use an interactive online tool to select key elements of a practice story. Even better, this tool uses tried and trusted tropes (click to find out what a trope is) so in terms of engagement, you’re bound to do well! Our learning objective is for you to structure your writing so there is a clear beginning, middle and end.

Part one: Planning

1. Read this page

2. Add trope to your glossary of literary terms

3. Go to the periodic table of storytelling

4. Note that tropes are organised by column into different aspects of storytelling

5. Have a play – click on different elements (boxes) to find out more about the trope

6. Add any new words you encounter to the class glossary on the whiteboard in the relevant column – I will take a pic and upload to ultranet page for future reference 🙂

7.The discs at the bottom of the page show combinations of tropes for some well-known stories

8. Pick a minimum of four tropes from at least 3 columns to use in your story, read about them, note them down

9. Plan your story using the interactive planner or on paper

10. Print it or take a photo of it on your phone

Part two: Writing

1. Mind Map ideas – paper (see me for templates) or online (try bubblus, mindmup) Note: when mind mapping you are not simply dumping down ideas. The connections are important – especially for writing as your story must have a thread holding it all together in order to flow and be engaging.

2. Start writing – online or in your journal (whichever you prefer)

3. If you are writing online, copy and paste your finished work here , the Analyse This tool will give you a break down of sentence lengths and type, repeated words and phrases and punctuation usage. You can use these stats when editing.

Extra Reading: now or homework: These sites offer more tips on structure in writing, showing not telling and character development

1. Writing Forward – Show Don’t Tell

2. Writing Forward – Developing Characters

3. Helping writers become authors blog – 5 Elements of Story Structure

4. Christopher Brooker’s Seven Basic Plots

Word are like sunbeams, the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.  Robert Southey

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