Friday, 30 January 2009
New week, new topic. This week: Native Americans. I really needed some activities this week which would make the students work without me hanging over their shoulders. I had promised them discussions in smaller groups this week (more discussion on Obama's inaugural address), and I could therefore not be in the classroom with the others all day. My solution was to provide various sources on Native Americans and to ask each student to make a glogster on a topic related to Native Americans. Returning to the classroom after approximately one hour, I found all the students busy creating their own digital posters; they were eager to share ideas about how to make interesting posters with pictures, text and videos, and asked for more time because it was funny. Running out of time and wanting to spend some time on factual texts and literature, too, I have therefore asked them to finish their glogsters at home and to publish them on their blogs. If you want to have a look at some of the results, you can visit Henrik and Caroline's blogs.
Working on Native Americans, we have also used a couple of text which we found on the internet. "The end of the Native American way of life" is a text from the BBC pages and tells about how the US government defeated the Indians, whereas in "Native American Voices" you can read about indigenous peoples in all parts of America.
I find it useful to use short stories or extracts from novels when teaching the various topics. This time we plan to use two short stories by William P. Kinsella, "The Bottle Queen" and "Panache". In between parent-teacher meetings, correcting papers and fighting the flu, I have not managed to get around to all the details on how to use these stories yet. It probably will not be all that revolutionary anyway, but hopefully both stories will provide food for thought and discussions with the students. Time will show.
Friday, 23 January 2009
"we asked the students to...", etc. This is not because I like to use the "royal we", but because I, 95% of the time, work in a team with my colleagues. This year there are four of us at my school who share the same course in English. We each have groups of 30 students, and we spend a considerable amount of time planning our lessons together, so that the students will be dealing with roughly the same things in the different groups. I really like this way of working. I am not left all to myself when it comes to coming up with ideas for project, texts and topics, and it is nice to know that there are other teachers around who can share their knowledge, experiences and thoughts. I do know that not everybody appreciates working in teams like we do, and I am aware of the fact that not all teams are working as well as ours. Therefore, I would like to say thanks a lot to my team mates this year and those I have worked with the previous years. I really appreciate our cooperation!
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Photo: "Love read"
Our next stop was with the Maori of New Zealand. Again we read a factual text about the people which we found online, and then we turned to the novel and the film Whale Rider. We have, in other words, watched two long film about indigenous people in this part of the world. Is that too much? Has my focus been wrong? Should more time have been spent on other indigenous people, on other parts of the curriculum? I am not sure. What I know is that very few of my students would have seen these film on their own, and I believe it is one of my tasks as a teacher to present to the students other films than just Hollywood-movies.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Saturday, 17 January 2009
Together with my colleagues we also decided to do a project on the two running presidential candidates, Obama and McCain. My two classes were both split into seven groups and each group got one key topic from the campaign that they were to present. The assignment was that the groups should find as much information as possible on these topics, and present the candidates' point of view. We also wanted them to tell why these issues were so central in the campaign, the historical background, etc. It was important to me that the presentations should be more than just a presentation of the two candidates, and I think most of the groups did quite well. I had also encouraged the groups to chose other ways of presenting their material than just using power point presentations. I must have done something wrong here, however, because only one of the 14 groups I listened to had chosen to do something different. This group had made a role play in which they had a television debate. This was entertaining and fun for the others to watch, too. I also found that they had managed to find quite a lot of material to present, and that they used a language that was adapted to the situation and to the audience. What about the other groups? 13 power point presentations, some quite good, others just boring... Anyway, at the end of the project I asked all of the students to write a closing argument for one of the candidates in which they commented on all of the seven topics that had been presented, and it turned out that most of the students had actually learned quite a lot from working on this project.
You can read Ingunn's reflections on this project here, where you also find some responses from the students. If you want to learn more about the project, have a look at this google document.
Thursday, 15 January 2009
The aim of my study was to highlight some of the differences between psychoanalytically and reader-response oriented readings of father-daughter relationships in Dickens's novels Dombey and Son, Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities. It makes sense to apply psychoanalysis to the study of literature, because the reader of a narrative can be seen as doing a job similar to that done by a psychoanalyst in the meeting with a patient: both reader and analyst have to make sense of experiences retrospectively. However, psychoanalysis has its limitations when it comes to the study of literature. It simply cannot be applied to all kinds of narratives. In my opinion, reader-response criticism is a more general applicable approach. This school focuses on the process of reading and on the psychology of the reader. Reader-response critics are also eager to highlight aspects in the texts which guide the reading experience.
Much of my study was a response to Dianne F.Sadoff's reading of the father-daughter relationships in the three novels mentioned above. Heavily influenced by Freudian psychonanalysis, Sadoff sees Florence Dombey as a "dangerous daughter" wishing for her father's death, and as a girl killing the people who love her with her love. Sadoff sees the father-daughter relationship in Little Dorrit as incestuous, claiming that Amy Dorrit's ministering to her father is an expression of sexual desire. I, on the other hand, see both Florence Dombey's struggle to win the love of her father, and the care Little Dorrit shows the "Father of the Marshalsea" as love. I also believe this love is what saves the fathers.
When it comes to A Tale of Two Cities and the relationship between Lucie and Alexandre Manette, Sadoff's reading did not differ radically from my own. This relationship is a less promising hunting ground for Freudian interpretations, and this fact seems to leave Sadoff with no theoretical underpinning at all. Her reading of A Tale is also an illustration that psychoanalysis cannot be applied successfully to all kinds of narratives.
So how is this useful for me in the classroom of 2009? One of the things I stress the most is that the students have to meet literary texts with an open mind, and that there is not one correct reading of literature. We all meet a short story, a novel or a poem with our own frame of reference, and therefore we also understand the texts in our own ways. This can cause debates and discussions in the classrooms, and that is what we want, is it not?
In September 2007 we were going to put focus on multiculturalism in England. As our point of departure we chose an extract from Hanif Kureishi's novel The Buddha of Suburbia. The text deals with clashes between different cultures in England, and also clashes between generations. As an appetiser to the text, we found a video with David Bowie's song from the TV series which also includes some glimpses of the protagonist of The Buddha, Karim. We also watched an interview with Hanif Kureshi that was given when the TV series was to be broadcasted in Britain. Unfortunately, I cannot find this interview on YouTube at the moment, this is of course a weakness of some of the resources you can find on the internet, but there are several other interviews and videos out there which can be used when introducing this text/topic. The students seemed to like the two videos because they gave them something visual that could be linked to the text, and I believe some were a bit curious too having seen Karim's father upside-down, in the nude, practising yoga...
Anyway, some of the students found the extract we had chosen for them to be quite difficult, and I believe an easier text could have presented the conflicts of this novel just as well . We therefore decided not to put this text on our reading list this year. Maybe the text would have worked better if the students were older, and also if we had read the whole novel, not just a few pages. Talking about The Buddha of Suburbia we also have to keep in mind that this novel portrays multicultural London in the 1970, and that a lot has happened since then. My point is, however, that using videos from for instance YouTube can serve as an introduction to various topics we all deal with when teaching a foreign language like English. I am 100% sure that the introduction to the novel that Hanif Kureishi gave in the interview mentioned above is a whole lot better than any introduction I could have given.