No.3 - The Everyday as a Starting Point
On Friday the eleventh of April, 2003, very sad news came through that Guy "Badger" Fairnie had passed away in Ballarat, Victoria. Badger had faced a short battle with cancer. The arts community in Ballarat was deeply affected and many people will remember Badger with great fondness indeed.
I worked with Badger in Brrrr Theatre Group in Ballarat and Badger took on a senior role after Barb and I moved to Tasmania. Badger was a great and fun member of the group. He developed a close relationship with all the participants and I will never forget the fun handshakes he would conduct with Steve and John. These were very strange and comical and it left Steve and John beaming. Whether it was his dance and acting performances at The Awakenings Festival in Horsham, and the fact that his house was very much an open house for the Ballarat arts community, Badger had a unique ability to bring out the best in people. This was very evident at the large funeral service. Badger had made many connections within the community and his life was a celebration of the inclusive nature of community art.
I had great fun in working with Badger in the rock group Brrrr created called RPM45. We played a few gigs and Badger and I were the guitarists. Badger brought his own songs to the group and was very influential in encouraging Steve on drums and making our short lived performing life ‘rock’. I will never forget the irony when we were about to walk on stage at the Awakenings Festival. Badger turned to me and said that his hearing aid battery was flat. He was scrambling in his pocket to see if he could find another. He found the spare and looked at me with a sigh and a mixture of irony. What a moment for it to happen. I also remember a fantastic comedy routine Badger had created about his boarding school life. He also did a wonderful Butoh Dance to Penderecki’s Threnody (52 Stringed Instruments) at Awakenings. Badger also webmastered the Brrrr Website.
Like all memories it is often the small things that we remember and these will continue to echo in my mind. Brrrr Theatre Group, all those involved in the Awakenings Festival, and all your other friends will miss you greatly Badger. It was fun to have you for the ride. Turn your hearing aid up mate; you are in our words and in our thoughts. And keep rocking.
the First Day of School
Creative Teaching or Creative Training isn’t concerned with models or approaches that systematically define learning. To be creative means that one moves through teaching and learning strategies, exploring, experimenting, and adapting approaches to your needs and to those of your learners.
Education is about being open – as the teacher, as the teacher as learner, as the learner, as the learner as teacher.
Do not copy. Beware of preachers. Go with those faint echoes in your heart.
Maybe we learn best from those who are true to themselves – those whose learning is reflected in their teaching.
Don’t do what I do – please.
Follow that instinctive truth that you know will open learning. Be wary of those who define and judge – especially those who define people. They are only defining what they think is learning – more than not they are telling us, "my learning has stopped." Remain open to the mysteries in education.
Here is a strategy that may be of use when exploring values. A good starting point is the recognition, by students, that opinions are not always black and white. They come in degrees of passion or interest.
Let your students create a series of questions that can be answered by degrees: sitting on the fence, agree, disagree, strongly disagree and strongly agree.
"Should schools have stronger connections to the community?"
Simply set up a line across the room. Place ‘yes’ on a piece of paper at one side of the room and ‘no’ at the other. The middle of this scale is a neutral territory in which students do not have a focus either way. Get each student to ask a question and the respondents have to choose a position along the created line or scale.
Students should stand along the line at a point that demonstrates their strength of opinion. It is important to emphasise that students should be honest in this activity and should not be judgmental if a student chooses to stand on his or her own. Students will get to see others opinions, groupings and isolated stances. Patterns will slowly start to emerge.
You could even chart each response on a bar or line graph. You could even compare the results to the same question(s) at the end of a topic to see what changes have occurred once students have seen more complexity in the issue – not simply the black and white responses that can emerge at the beginning of a topic. You could even conduct a secret ballot to see how the responses to questions vary when conducted anonymously.You could use this as a starting point in a discussion about peer pressure.
Remember to give lots of time for students to create their own questions. This is an exercise with lots of learning to be gained about how one frames questions and how responses can vary.
What are values?
What do we value most in life?
Do our values change as we get older?
How do we express our values?
Explore the concept of "balance". How can people show their values in everyday life?
Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant
would like to be that elderly Chinese gentleman.
Here are some strategies that can be of use in generating discussions about how we communicate.
Working from a Description
Take any description that is quite technical. You can find descriptions in textbooks, in glossaries or on the web. Remove some words. Give the written descriptions to students – or even teachers to show how hard it can be to learn and remember instructions.
Ask your students to draw e.g. an object or an animal. It could be an object e.g. from a science laboratory or an animal like that listed below. Conduct the task and have a discussion about how difficult it is to follow written instructions. You could then open a discussion on how people felt when doing this task. Is there a better way of giving and receiving instructions?
Draw this animal. What animal is it?
The hide is grey-brown, with a sparse covering of coarse, yellowish hair. The short, stocky body has a high arch in the back and is supported by powerful legs which are covered with dark fur. The four-toed forefeet and five-toed rear feet are equipped with long, claw like nails. The head is long and slender, terminating with a tubular, pig-like nose with numerous white hairs. The ears are large and rabbit-like, tapering to a point at the tips. The strong, muscular tail is kangaroo-like, tapering to a point. The most unique feature (of the ------) is its teeth, which in adults are found only in the back of the jaw. The actual teeth are not anchored in the jaw and grow continuously throughout the animal's lifetime. Instead of being covered with enamel, these teeth have only a layer of cement.
The body is stout, with arched back; the limbs are short and stout, armed with strong, blunt claws: the ears long: the tail thick at the base and tapering gradually. The elongated head is set on a short thick neck, and at the extremity of the snout is a disc in which the nostrils open. The mouth is small and tubular, furnished with a long extensile tongue. A large individual measured 6 feet 8 inches. In colour it is pale sandy or yellow, the hair being scanty and allowing the skin to show.
Hello Ethel. (click to realise the type of animal described)
Here is another example of how a vague description can be generated. Your students may even like to generate their own examples. Others then have to draw and guess the animal.
The (platypus) (Greek (platys), "broad"; (pous) "foot"), also duckbill, is a semiaquatic, egg-laying mammal native to Tasmania and southern and eastern Australia. The animal has a bill that resembles a duck bill but is actually an elongated snout covered with soft, moist, leathery skin and sensitive nerve endings. The body of the (platypus) is 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 in) long; the flattened tail measures 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) in length. The feet are webbed. The body and tail are covered with a thick, soft, woolly layer of fur, from which long, flat hairs protrude. The most conspicuous feature of the small head is the bill, which is about 6 cm (about 2.5 in) long and 5 cm (2 in) wide and which the animal uses for detecting prey and stirring up mud at the bottom of rivers in order to uncover the insects, worms, and shellfish on which it feeds. The head is joined directly to the body without an apparent neck. The (platypus) eyes are small, and it has no external ears, but it has keen senses of sight and hearing. Young (platypus) have rudimentary teeth; in adults the teeth are replaced by a few plates. Adult males have a hollow, spur on the inner side of the hind leg, from which a toxic fluid is ejected and which may be used as a weapon of defense. The call of the platypus is a low growl.
Putting on a jacket: the shape of assumptions.
Ask a friend to tell you how to put on a jacket. They can’t show you but can only tell. Whenever they say ‘left’ or ‘right’ or ‘up’ or ‘down’ or any named part of the jacket act confused. See what happens. Exaggerate your misunderstanding. What does this tell us about giving and receiving instructions? Make it a fun classroom performance.
How language programs us and carries meaning.
A student at the front of the room is interviewed and must say ‘sausage’ or cannot say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This is a very difficult exercise that shows us just how controlled we are by our use of language.
Out of context.
Simply show an abstract video without introducing it. Discuss the response. What does this tell us about our emotional response and how we take in information? What does it tell us about not placing information in context? I like to show foreign art house films.
Communicating in Groups.
Carry on a conversation around the circle. The teacher starts by holding onto an end of a ball of wool and throws it to the person who next speaks. The wool is held onto and the ball of wool is passed to every new person who speaks. This will create a communications map. What does this tell us about communications within a group?
We all know this activity yet you can play it a number of ways. Pass a sentence down the line and explore how meaning can change with many carriers. Likewise explore how meaning changes by passing a mimed action down the line. By passing a physical movement down the line you are opening an awareness of how well we read others actions – how we use our senses.
A line – In the correct sequence.
Ask students to stand in a line in the correct order of height, then birth dates and then e.g. in the alphabetical order of the football teams they support. Limit the use of speech – no talking. The limiting of speech will show how well we can communicate by using other forms e.g. sign language – discuss these.
Obscure dictionary word (Balderdash)
Get a group of four students to find an obscure dictionary word and convey four meanings – one truthful and three false. What does this show us about how we convey information? You can find obscure words in dictionaries or at Forthright's Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources. I love the very old word for a teacher – "Flaybottomist". Also see my article on Ending the Years Blues for other examples of obscure words. I’ll let you in on a secret. I suffer from Polkamania. Please keep me away from accordions and over-excited buskers!
Two groups of four students are to face each other. Each group is given a secret word that they have to make the other team say. The term for one team – A – might be ‘bucket’. They then have to ask a question to the other team – B. Team B has to respond without using the word ‘bucket’. Of course, if the question is too direct Team B will realise that they cannot say the word ‘bucket.’ Similarly Team B must ask an alternating question to make Team A say a specific word. A great way to show the calculations and manipulations in everyday language i.e. leading questions.
Build a discussion on how technology has affected how we communicate.
Explore the many positives as well as negatives. Here is a good example from the lecture series "The Future of Work" by Robert Theobald:
How can you use a chair within the room? I am a great advocate of using objects within the room as stimuli. After all one can't always afford expensive resources and if we want to encourage creativity then we don’t necessarily need the most expensive laptop or text.
Take for example the simple chair. You possibly have two dozen of these within the room. Think about all the possible uses that a chair can be put to.
A simple activity is to put a chair at the front of the room and to ask students to use it in a variety of ways. Others have to guess what the student is doing. A bit like a mime this becomes an even more interesting activity if you get your students to draw out the use of the chair. In an example that I use I approach the chair, eye it, walk around it and grab (mime) what looks like a stick, before I careful make a pool shot. Of course then the students guess that the chair has become a pool table.
There are innumerable uses that a chair can be put to and these are limited only by the imagination of your students. Take for example the idea of turning the chair upside down or sideways. This opens even more opportunities. Your students should at some point begin to realise that the chair could be used in an even wider variety of ways. You could even place two or three chairs together and a series of actions could be performed by students to build a sense of a location. The location could be e.g. a bus stop or a hairdresser.
Chairs could also represent items being studied within your curriculum. How a chair is spoken to can reveal which character it is from the text you are studying. Let students try to guess the character. Again this could be made somewhat obscure and be extended to draw the students in. A chair(s) could be a scientific instrument or represent, by being moved, a chemical reaction. Who has sat in this chair? Follow its history. Where has it been? Where did it come from? Who made it? Interview it. Identify it. Let everyone speak for it.
I particularly like the possibilities of how you can place chairs in relation to each other. Get two chairs and have them facing each other. This can represent communication. Turn one to face the other way and this can represent ‘not listening’. Chairs can be arranged in many ways to represent a feeling of how people may be communicating – I have seen up to a dozen shapes. You can arrange the chairs to represent even the relationships between characters at different stages in a play or a novel.
Another very interesting technique is that of arranging several chairs in relation to each other to represent either a specific feeling or just to create a shape with its own feel. I have seen this done when a group of students arranged chairs and the rest of the class re-entered the room. Almost like an art installation this can be explored for literal or abstract meanings. You can even get the students to add other objects for meaning, or you can limit the installation to a series of objects. I have always been amazed what by what students can create when left to their fertile imaginations.
Whenever you explore anything abstract it is always worthwhile to ask students not what they think but how they feel when they see the sculpture. I can remember an instance in which a friend and a couple of other actors were taking a group of students through an art gallery. They were acting as colours within the paintings.
At one point the students were asked to look closely at one painting. One troublesome student, who rarely participated, was asked how he felt when he looked at the painting. Because he could not be wrong, and because his opinion was being valued within a trusting context, this student was won over. He participated from then on. The absence of the ‘what’ which implies a correct or incorrect answer had been replaced with an open how. This was an important insight – too often we construct contexts of right or wrong in schools without realising that feeling is an important value that can be introduced at all points in learning.
Another activity is one in which you get the students to sell the chair according to the particular area of study. The chair can then become something useful in digestion – an antacid tablet, the mouth or a chemical in the stomach. Students can hold up the chair or react to it as if it is the important digestive aid. I can remember when conducting a workshop with a group of teachers how the chair had to be sold as if it pertained to the area of secondary teaching. To the art teachers it became an art installation, to the physical education teachers it was explored for its ergonomic capacity, the maths teachers talked about its angles while the science teachers spoke about the forces at work. The representation I most remember was the humanities teachers representing history. While sitting on the chair he swiveled and spoke about revolutions. As it was moved up and down he spoke about the rise and fall of empires.
There is no limit to what you can do within a classroom with simple objects such as a chair. Even the most basic of objects, when freed from their traditional role, can take on a variety of meanings limited only by your students’ imaginations and the framework of the curriculum. At the base of a chair your students may even find the gum that Einstein was chewing when he first envisaged the E equals MC squared formula. Your students could then conduct a mock auction of this chewing gum having empowered the gum with the story behind the discovery.
Explore the word "chair." Divide into groups, or as a whole, and list as many words as possible that contain the word "chair". Discuss the many meanings raised. List and discuss the many uses for a chair within daily life. In groups list "101 uses for a chair." Reward extra points for the most outlandish uses.
Explore how chairs can represent a special place, whether they are situated within a house or at a table.
Explore the significance of an empty chair. Who sat in it? What emotions can it create? Van Gogh has painted an empty chair.
Let students explore the painting of chairs within artwork. Even surrealists have created installations using chairs.
Write a story or a poem exploring the life of a chair.
Ask a student to take on the role of a pen or a pencil. Interview him or her. How does the pen or the pencil describe itself? Where has it come from? Who has used it in the past? How was it made? What has it drawn? What has it written? Follow the journey of this pen or pencil. There are many objects within a room. Explore how these can be used as stimuli for learning. Even the most insignificant object has a history. It has been crafted and has a journey that can be followed.
Write a story describing a pen or pencil’s journey.
Check out The Pencil Pages!, exploring many facts about pencils: ‘The typical pencil can draw a line 35 miles long!’
Can one have a room without windows? Why do we have windows? What sorts of windows do we have? What can a window symbolise? What e.g. does a window represent to a man in prison?
Students should find a window and describe in detail what they see through the window. What does the frame reveal or conceal? What can one see by looking in windows? What does this say about how we view privacy? Write a story about what a person sees from his or her window. Write a story about what a person sees by looking into windows. This was very much the premise of the Hitchcock film Rear Window.
A window is broken. How?
Tree At My Window
at my window, window tree,
are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
T. S. Eliot
What is this window sill dreaming about?
The Desk Lid
looked at the desk lid in wonder;
Fay Lawrenson aged 11, Family and School, David Jackson, Penguin Education, 1974.
Explore how we can use desks. What can they tell us about the people who use them? Interview the desk upon which a famous text was written. Explore the history of a desk following its journey from being made to the end of its life.
"Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk." - Anonymous
Barb Olsen is a Drama/Disabilities specialist living and working out of Hobart, Tasmania. I first came across Barb in her outstanding work with Brrrr Theatre Group and ‘Acting Up’ in Ballarat, Victoria. Barb has a unique and deeply human way of working with people with a disability. Her approaches work directly with the spirit and the strength of individuals. Her ideas easily translate into other teaching areas.
GAMES: These are an excellent tool in teaching acting and stage discipline. At the beginning of every drama session, use a gentle warm-up comprising stretching exercises to alert the body into action and then use games to alert the brain as to the meaning of the session. A person with an intellectual disability will often only move within their own "safety zone" and the games will encourage them to move away from that area.
Before you start spatial exercises, it is imperative that you establish a control factor. I encourage students to respond to the word "freeze" and when I feel that all students have a total grasp of the command, only then do I move onto other exercises. Most students are familiar with the command "1, 2, 3, Go". Use this familiarity in starting exercises – "At the count of 3, I want you to walk around the space – 1, 2, 3" (stress the 3). Make sure that all the students are comfortable with this before proceeding further.
Make the games as much fun as possible. Try Funny Walks: Ask the students to walk around the space in all directions. Encourage them not to go in circles as the circle is usually within their safety zone as they follow the person in front of them. Make sure they are not bumping into each other. Keep the pace even and safe. Spatial awareness will grow. When they are moving around comfortably, "Freeze" them then suggest, "At the count of 3, I want you to move around like an elephant, 1, 2, 3." Until all the students are moving around safely, keep the suggested animals/birds to an upright creature as crawling introduces another dynamic that can be addressed later.
Observe the students. If you note anyone with a difficulty in gauging the difference between heavy and light, you might like to consider the helpers that I have used to establish this concept. I drew two characters, which displayed the differences. One was a chicken which was running and flapping its wings, and the other a large dog with droopy ears, eyes and wearing a hat with a droopy feather. I caricatured the drawings to make them more interesting and memorable. I then got the students to name them. We discussed how we thought the two might move until we decided that "Droopy Dog" would move slow and heavy and that "Quickly Kate" would move quick and light. When we were then developing movements of animals/birds/human characters, I was able to refer the students to the drawings to assist them in understanding how the elephant/mouse/old or young person might move. Try it – it works!
More on spatial and bodily awareness next time…..Barb.
.... Betty Hart
(Extract from text Essence of the Experience.)
Who didn’t as a child has some secret place in which they hid things? I had a box in a cupboard and secret spots under drawers. I would even remove the plastic covers of doorstops. Here you could place money or notes. I sometimes wonder if I went back to the home of my childhood whether some objects would still be in these places.
What secret places have your students had? What was kept in them? What does a secret place mean? Literature is full of examples like The Secret Garden. Bridge to Terabithia is a lovely and sensitive novel that covers this issue.
What secret places do we have as we get older. What do they mean for us? Men often talk of lofts or sheds and their opportunities for seclusion. The English writer Roald Dahl would set himself up in a shed in an armchair with a writing board on his knee. This was the space in which he wrote most of his work – a ritualistic pattern that probably had as much of a mental as well as physical relocation. What special places do women have? How may these differ from men?
Secrecy implies the hidden. It also implies privacy. How do we view secrecy and privacy in our society? Do we live in a world that demands exposure? These and many issues can be explored within this strategy. Secrecy can also imply eccentricity. I can recall visiting Snowshill Manor in England, an amazing mansion owned by the collector Charles Wade. Besides a room of samurai armour, and a room with many bicycles suspended from the ceiling, he had lots of secret panels in walls and floorboard. Each had little creatures or objects in them – a magical and mysterious place.
What secret places do you think famous people have? Your students may like to narrate a story in which we hear the thoughts of a famous person in their secret place. Winston Churchill in the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall had a broom closet that was in fact a hot line to the President of the United States.
Imagine the thoughts of a person – Einstein quietly in his study deliberating over the fact that his ideas have contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. How may this have affected his conscience?
A very famous hiding place is that of Anne Frank. How would your students feel if they went into hiding? Why are they hiding? What would they do? Where would they hide? Perhaps your students can be inspired by the story of Anne Frank, or others throughout history, who have had to go into hiding to escape authorities or even the media. Write a story to explore what would be done. Utilise the story of Anne Frank as an entry point.
Another perspective is that of asking your students to take on a childlike perspective. There is probably no better way into this than reading children’s books. Young children’s books often capture the curiosity and innocence of childhood. What can seem ordinary to us – a fire or a leaking tap – can be quite extraordinary to a child. They can take on almost lifelike qualities: a dancing fire creature or the water that builds to create its own shapes and movements. Experience can dull perceptions. Childrens’ literature can be a very good starting point.
2B or not 2B
I was small and five
Spike Milligan Hidden Words Penguin 1993 (A beautiful book containing many of Spike’s much under-recognised serious poetry.)
An alternative is of course talking about childhood misperceptions and funny incidents. Your students should have lots of stories that happened to them as children. An alternative is observing children, whether younger brothers or sisters, or the option of visiting a kindergarten or crèche.
I can remember a story told by a friend. He was at a house where the child seemed to be thoroughly bored. He can remember putting his hand near to a light and making shadow puppets on the wall. The child was amazed and sat there transfixed. From that point on the child would always spark up whenever he visited.
Children’s television can capture an essence of childhood in particular pre-school programs. You may even like to dip into poetry – Seamus Heaney and Dylan Thomas refer to childhood in quite delightful ways.
If your area of study was that of plant structures imagine what these would look like to a child looking through a microscope for the first time – a new microscopic world is revealed full of wonder. This may be an interesting way into the topic. After all many scientists’ autobiographies are full of these moments of wonder whether it was looking at the stars or seeing the energy within an ants' nest.
Once the childlike perspective has been explored look for answers and use the childlike perspective to generate naive questions. Ask "why, why, why?" like so many young children do.
Here is a beautiful extract from a speech by Seamus Heaney. Here we move into an understanding that childhood is not always romantic and that there can be differences between the world of imagination and play. Discuss this with your students.
What does being a child mean? Discuss this with your students. How has the attitude to children changed throughout the ages? Explore the role of children in the labour force, and, the British Acts of Parliament, the Factories Act and Mines Act and how they were influential in creating new conditions for children leading to compulsory schooling.
Of course we mustn’t forget that child labour is still present in many countries.
For anyone who doubts the strange and mystifying logic of childhood here is an example that happened to me a few weeks ago.
I was walking the dog along a track and a father and a son were approaching. The boy, who was about five had a Superman t-shirt on. I said, "Oh look, don't worry about my dog. He won't hurt you - anyway you're Superman."
The boy looked at me, stopped and said, "No, its only a t-shirt. But I can fly."
Here is a lovely blooper example from Karen, a cousin in the U.K.
We were having a maths lesson from a teacher who was rather eccentric. He found it very hard to control the class, especially the boys. Anyway, he started one particular lesson by taking about circles. He told us it had once been said that if you could draw a perfect circle freehand, it proves that you are indeed mad! He proceeded to draw a large circle on the blackboard. The whole class started laughing and as he stood back to admire his work, he realised that he had drawn a circle that did look perfect. His answer to this was to get the blackboard rubber, erase part of the circle and re-draw that part of the circle therefore creating an imperfect circle. Needless to say, the class laughed even louder!
Here is another example from my father’s schooldays.
Imagine a 1940s North Yorkshire school. The formal Headmaster is addressing the assembly. Much to his chagrin he keeps on hearing a ‘whooo, whooo’ as he continues his speech. The students find this hilarious. No one can locate where the noise is coming from. It certainly isn’t coming from the students in the hall.
Unbeknownst to the headmaster a friend of my Dad’s, Headley, had climbed into a wooden horse (vaulting box) on the stage prior to the assembly. Headley was making the noises to the side of the stage.
The most bizarre fact was that Headley soon got bored. So he lit a cigarette. Hundreds of students, and eventually the teachers, saw smoke drifting from the side handles on the wooden horse. Naturally Headley was caught but it must have been an incredible sight gag.
Strangely enough my father was in North Yorkshire several years ago and he walked past his old school. It was being demolished. He came back the following day and prized a brass door handle from the front door of the school. It was the handle he and many others had opened hundreds of times. This handle is now polished and pride of place at his home in Melbourne, Australia.
I once conducted a class in which a group of year four students introduced their bedroom to the rest of the class. The presenter was asked to walk us through his or her bedroom. We then had the option of asking questions for more detail.
This is a very interesting method. It has room for great depth and is rarely a challenge for students – after all they know their room only too well and are likely to be able to present it in detail as they live in it so much of the time. In fact it is quite extraordinary what detail students can come up with. I have even had instances of students remembering every compact disc in their rack and the order of books in their bookshelves.
I start this activity by drawing the dimensions of a rectangular room and by asking the observing students to sit on chairs around the edges of the wall. When the student introduces his or her room they are asked to show and enter from the door and to reveal everything from memory i.e. location of desks, wardrobes and the bed. When asking questions the other students can ask about posters on walls or what is in the desk.
In the activity with the grade four class I asked a girl to mime what she did within the room when she usually listened to music. I asked her what her favourite CD was and having a computer and internet access within the room I went to the cdnow site and programmed this CD into play. We were able to listen to a thirty second sample of her favourite song as she walked around the room, combed her hair and sorted objects. I then asked the class to explain what had been done.
This activity was taken even further in one case when a boy showed us his room and also what he did at specified times. As in all cases discretion was taken in the questions being asked and I emphasised that respect had to be shown, as the bedroom is a private space. In some cases students shared their rooms with brothers or sisters or had unusual items or pets. All this revealed a lot about the students. To physicalise this activity is far more interesting than just getting students to draw their room. They can even cover other rooms in the house or the room they feel most comfortable in – e.g. at their grandmothers.
You can even do this with the rooms of characters in a novel or from history. These can even further be brought to life by students actually making mock ups of rooms, or parts of rooms, like museum exhibits – if limited for space or time then just do the designs. It is interesting how some exhibits of rooms are very lifelike – I can imagine this happening increasingly with fiction such as Harry Potter’s room at a theme park. Similarly there is the interesting case of Captain Cook’s cottage having been brought out from North Yorkshire in England to the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne. Looking completely out of place this building is a complete mock up of Cook’s day. Of course usually in these mock-ups the desk is a sacrosanct area as if the person’s spirit is there and could return again. I can imagine the same scenario for famous Artists’ studios.
Just think of how the following words have changed in meaning and have been re-appropriated by the world of computers. Explore when these words first came into use. The word ‘mouse’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary was first used as early as 1965. I guess that this was the first recorded written use – in a computing manual.
Explore these words: Spam, Surfing, Ram, Bytes.
This website gives a very comprehensive overview of the history of the use of the word SPAM. I always thought that it was an acronym. I never realized that it evolved from Monty Python. So we can add this to the other word "pythonesque" that has entered the lexicon. Do you know of any other Monty Python words, or comedian’s words in general, that have entered the language?
And so again we return to aardvarks. I can never think of an Aardvark without thinking of that famous Monty Python sketch called The Bookshop.
Here it is in its entirety. You may like to get your students to write their own skits where a person goes into a store and cannot buy what they want. He or she is offered all sorts of strange items.
Look at an issue or a subject from a much broader perspective. How does it relate to our planet? Think of the possible connections even if you are dealing with maths, science or characters in a novel. Surely there must be an impact on their surrounding world. Perhaps other characters are disturbed. How will this affect others? An angry person can cause all types of ripples within a family spreading into the outside world. We tend to carry our anxieties with us. What connections can be found to the surrounding environment?
Think of the world as a system. If all things are connected then there are lots of connections to explore. This will move the students from perceptions that isolate people and events. Even something two generations ago can have a ripple effect through a family or a community. Think of how events from hundreds of years ago are still being played out.
Ecological footprint – use this site as an introduction to systems theory as well as an insight into environmental issues.
A great way to initiate learning is to get students to translate a story into another form, or even to another audience. Here is a great example from the Australian Poet C.J. Dennis.
It is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ explained in a particular Australian way. Perhaps your students can rewrite information via the use of slang. When I lived and worked at a school in England I read this piece. I came across the occasional odd remark that it was unusual for an Australian to be teaching Shakespeare. This was a good response. Mind you I can’t forget the story a friend told about the Australian fellow who jumped up at a Philosophy conference and asked the most incisive question. He was wearing a t-shirt and board shorts at the time. A little confronting for the rather dapper dressed fellows in the room.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke
by C.J. Dennis
V. The Play
in a name?" she sez...An' then she sighs,
an' me, we bin to see a show--
be yonder moon I swear!" sez 'e.
in a name?" she sez. 'Struth, I dunno.
sweeter, dearer sound I never 'eard;
Romeo 'e's lurkin' wiv a crew--
in a name? Wot's in a string o' words?
jist plain stoush wiv us, right 'ere to-day,
Juli-et, she gives 'er boy the tip.
smooge some more at that. Ar, strike me blue!
day 'e words a gorspil cove about
but'e makes me sick! A fair gazob!
Fate me foot! Instid of slopin' soon
tug named Tyball (cousin to the skirt)
natchril, Romeo gits wet as 'ell.
Romeo, 'e dunno wot to do.
this 'ere gorspil bloke's a fair shrewd 'ead.
things gits mixed a treat an' starts to whirl.
Juli-et wakes up an' sees 'im there,
Here is an extract, and a link, to a current overview of time by the Australian commentator Barry Jones. It raises many questions worth exploring.
school is where they grind the grain of thought,
Let us not forget what it is like to learn what we now take for granted.
© Copyright In Clued - Ed 2009