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Issue No.9 - New Fields, New Light

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.   
- Robert Frost



Seeing it all from a slower perspective.

Reconfiguring figures

Exercise Book
Rediscovering past learning

Taking the seriousness out of language

Time Capsule
Exploring the buried now

The Insect
An insect’s point of view

Putting on a doctor’s spin

Checking for clues

Building the hot goss

Surviving the challenges

Plotting your subject

Mixing and matching ideas

Catching the eye

Sourcing the source

End of Man
Rediscovering spirit

Welcome to Issue #9 of The Creative Teaching Space. I have emerged from a break, which included a lovely holiday in New Zealand, and look forward to another year in which we can explore creative teaching strategies.

As I will be spending three days a week this year (2004) writing resources for the Education Department here in Tasmania, I will still endeavour to publish several editions of The Creative Teaching Space – even if this means even more time leaning over a computer.

I hope that this is a valuable resource and look forward to networking even more extensively with readers.

There are many fascinating teaching strategies to be found and I am all the time hearing of interesting ideas that assist people in their learning.

Learning should be about moving beyond the stereotypes and experiencing concepts that are felt. It should also be an experience that sensitizes and makes the world a richer place. The Creative Teaching Space welcomes ideas that help us see fields in a new light; experiencing new locations that motivate us to return.

This is the joy of having learned, let alone the joy of learning. It is seeing an area in a new way and never dismissing that area again. Let me use an example: I will never dismiss or stereotype the country of Iran having seen so many enriching Iranian films. I will always respect the arts in New Zealand having read so many fantastic poets of late. Learning is like that. Next time that I hear of Iranian or New Zealand culture I will raise an ear. I will listen. I will hope to be moved once again. This adds even more dimensions to my life. I hope to never be bored. There is always somewhere to turn.

At what is Oscar time I have been thinking about Michael Moore’s courageous speech at last year’s event. He spoke about violence begetting violence. Knee-jerk responses only diminish us as people and leave us as the jerks. True hope and faith in the human spirit comes when people use their creativity to break the cycles. We can never underestimate our creativity and ability to find new ways – even beyond the cynics – and learning should come in this form. It should arrive as a new way, a true movement, where one has surprise and delight in the capacity of individuals or groups to overcome. It should be a space in which we relish our humanity and capacity to invent.

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves ...
Don't search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke

And now we move towards some teaching and learning strategies ….


Imagine a world in which everything is slower. Is it really slower or do we just perceive it that way? Take an area of study and see how it looks as if it is slowed down.

The racing writing is read very slowly. New sounds or meanings start to emerge. Pauses punctuate the text we are reading. Everything is much slower, reflective, at a pace similar to that in which it may have been conceived. Consider the fact that many created things are slow and laboured: the poem that took months to write, the physics equation that took years to develop.

How do other creatures see the world? Is a fly that only lives days experiencing the world at a much faster pace? How do older people perceive the world? Is time racing or slowing? How can time seem to us when we are absorbed or bored? Explore the many possibilities of how we see the world.

What if we simply stop, meditate and reflect upon what we are seeing? Can we see more detail? Does this tell us something about how we can live our lives?

What is one seeing when a film is slowed? I can recall a fascinating moment in a Jean-Luc Godard film – Every Man for Himself (1979) – in which a scene is shown in slow motion. The characters look as if they are intimately hugging. In being sped up it becomes apparent to the viewer that the couple are in fact fighting. Your students may like to use a video to record movement. Watch it back in slow motion. Perform scenarios from a text, or from an area such as science, e.g. physical forces, in slow motion. What can this perspective alert us to?

David Bodanis captures this in his text The Secret Family:

Slowly, with the gravest of deliberations, the father’s eyes start rotating to the sound source, sloshing in the lubricated eye sockets of his skull as six miniature muscle cables hooked into his socket bones start to pull. About twenty-five more aerial shock waves batter into the kitchen, and then, with their slightly slower reflexes, the wife and son begin the eye rotation, too. A moment later the baby’s eyes start to respond, but by now the father, the comparative high speed marvel, is gearing up to an actual body twist. Soon all the family’s tendons are cranking and creaking, as they pull on their skeletons in order to get their heads and then their whole upper limbs to follow. In under half a second - a mere 250 repetitions of bell thumped airwaves from the first sound pounding in - the operation is done: all heads are tilted towards the source. Data streams of location, time, vehicle noise, and even door knocker banging can finally enter conscious awareness.

p. 61, The Secret Family, David Bodanis, Simon and Schuster, 1997.

Perhaps your students can write or rewrite an event in this slowed down form. How do we know these slow scientific truths? What equipment allows us to measure very slow forces? Imagine how Eadweard Muybridge must have felt when he saw still images of movement for the first time. Investigate this website exploring the art of walking or animations of Muybridge’s photos.

Look at still images of milk droplets taken by Harold Edgerton. What do viewers think and feel when they see still or slowed images of death in photographs or documentaries? What about slow motion images of plants growing or fruit decaying? Think about the impact of slow motion replays and of our perception of sport. Has anyone ever been to a live sporting match and been struck by the speed and immediacy? Has anyone ever looked towards a scoreboard for that telling slow replay?

And one must not always assume that other creatures – or even aliens – perceive time how we perceive it. Read about the Tralfamadorean perception of time in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

This world can be very much one of ‘race, race, race.’ As education can be very much one of ‘pace, pace, pace.’ What happens if we slow down the pace of learning? What happens if we allow room for peace, quiet and reflection? Why do we so often surround ourselves with pace? Is there something subversive in going slow?

Look towards the fable of the tortoise and the hare. How is travel different when experienced on a bike, a boat or a plane? Watch avant garde films for the ways in which they challenge our expectations of time, eg. Michael Snow’s Wavelength.

Even better – make your own!

Go slow, slow, slow. How do things change? How can the area of learning be transformed?


Ask your students to see the subject from the perspective of ratios or other statistics. How much of the human body is skin, how much blood? How many people in the world have access to a phone, how many don’t? What are the ethnic mixes of students and teachers at your school? How many words "the" are there on an average page of the text you are studying? How many characters are there in the novel – what percentage of them are good characters, full characters or incidental characters? You can ask questions like these and many more, encouraging your students to gather overall figures and break information down into ratios or percentages. These don’t have to be done only in mathematics!

Measure each other’s face. What ratios exist? There are some people who believe that our perceptions of human beauty conform to facial ratios regardless of cross-cultural divides.

It is through ratios or percentages that we can get new insights? We are used to seeing these in cricket or other sporting telecasts. How can they be reapplied to other forms of knowledge?

This is the type of information that can be found in the New Internationalist – a magazine that covers world issues and can present much sobering information. One only has to look at the information on countries listed at the back of the magazine to see the variations throughout the world.

You could even build up very fascinating ratios of your school population introducing students to statistics and surveying.

Your students may even like to create ratio narratives like the one below. Then again you may like to take the following example with a grain of salt. A fascinating rebuff can be found at the Snopes website. Check out the sources from which statistics are available e.g. food statistics.

Perhaps the figures below can be changed? And here is the example that may hopefully inspire your students to transform information into a statistical narrative:

"If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:
57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south,
8 Africans,
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
70 would be non Christian
30 would be Christian
89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death
1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer
When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for both acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent."
The following is also something to ponder... If you woke up this morning with more health than are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If your parents are still alive and still married ... you are very rare, even in the United States and Canada. If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

The game Real Lives is also worth exploring – free subscription trial for a week. It is a simulation game based on the statistics of survival in differing countries. A character is created and you follow that person’s life. You could be born in Ghana or the United States. What could happen to you? All this is based on statistics. It humanizes well-recognized facts and brings them home to the player. It is a great example of statistics being felt.

Statistics can be brought to life. Many subject areas provide us with fascinating facts. Use your imagination and find what can be analysed. Introduce learners to research yet also introduce them to numbers that reveal unnerving truths.

And of course if you are reading this consider that you can obviously read, have a probable degree and access to a costly computer. What small percentage of the world's population does that put you into? And we talk of the impact of the computer age! Follow the statistics and one would probably find that the statistical truth of a currently young world population, coupled with large populations in developing countries, and threats such as the Aids epidemic, may make us think twice about how we see everything in such a First World centric way.

Exercise Book

I came across a really fascinating exercise book a year or two ago after I had bought a box of books from an auction. Deep at its base was a student’s exercise book from 1942. Written by a twelve-year-old girl in the Ballarat region in Victoria it contained handwritten poems and anthems of Commonwealth countries – it was wartime – and cartoons and cut-outs from the girl’s favorite magazines. There were also maths and English exercises. Your students may like to create a similar exercise book of students from the past. Choose your area of study, or create a generic textbook, in which the reader gets a sense of the era and the personality of the student. This will require much imagination, even discussions with parents. Imagine the schooldays, the psychology of the time, and the personality of the student. These can combine to create a snapshot of an era – ideologies and all.

And look around. See what you can find at auctions.


Consider nonsense as being a literary style. Draw upon the poems of Spike Milligan, the Goons or the writings of Lewis Carroll to explore how nonsense, such as riddles, can be very entertaining. Explore the creation of nonsense words. Let your students read Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll and realize that nonsense words can have a real power when mixed with everyday words. Explore how Lewis Carroll plays with the sound of words – they are nonsense yet are placed in such a way as to sound like adjectives, verbs and nouns:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

`Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'

Chapter One, Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Let your students create nonsense words and place them carefully within sentences to make them sound like obscure and fantastic words. Students can create stories, poems, drawings or plays from the nonsense poems that they create. Relate this back to Harry Potter and how J.K. Rowling uses strange and evocative words e.g. quidditch, just like Lewis Carroll. Your students may even like to listen to tapes of the Goon Show – an excellent insight into the power of nonsense and sounds.

You can even get students communicating using nonsense words. You may be familiar with the British film Rhubarb, Rhubarb in which all characters speak using the word ‘rhubarb’. There are so many ways in which the context changes the way the word can be used – ‘rhubarb’ as ‘amen’ at a church service or as an insult after a traffic accident. Let students create their own nonsense scripts using only one or a limited number of words. Use this as an exercise to show how we can still communicate meaning by the way in which we say a word – a practice experienced by foreigners who can’t speak a language. Choose a nonsense word e.g. – ‘boogoo’ – and let groups of students assign skits and scenes in which this word must be used. A scene can secretly be chosen by a group – others have to guess the setting in which the word is being used.

Ladles and Jellyspoons

Ladles and Jellyspoons,
I come before you, to stand behind you,
To tell you something I know nothing about.
Next Thursday, which is Good Friday,
There will be a mothers' meeting for fathers only.
Admission is free, pay at the door,
Pull up a seat and sit on the floor.
We will be discussing the four corners of the round table.


Let students find obscure words within a dictionary and build a script that is accurate yet sounds like nonsense to our modern ear.

Explore obscure words. A really old and large dictionary will usually have the word abacinate on the first page. Meaning the application of red-hot pokers to the eyes – a medieval torture word – this is a good test for the age and depth of a dictionary.

Time Capsule

I can recall as a child burying a time capsule in the form of an ice-cream container. I put in papers and toys. Little did I know at that age that it would rot in the ground. I tried to dig it up a few years later yet could not find it.

At more sophisticated level time capsules are buried in specific places and are specially sealed so that they can be preserved and opened at a later date. A ceremony and plaque accompanies the capsule. Some even indicate when they need to be opened. Read details from the Smithsonian institute on archival protection of a time capsule.

Included in time capsules are introductory letters, photographs, newspapers of the day and any other items that may be topical and of potential historic interest. Just getting students to consider what goes into a capsule can be an interesting exercise! NASA faced a similar problem when it launched the Voyager Spacecraft in 1977. Included in the craft was a disc and needle that could play the sounds of Beethoven, a dog’s bark, world music, the sound of footsteps, etc.

What would your students put into a satellite that would return in 50,000 years? Write the story of its return and society at that time.

Schools often create time capsules. Is there one at your school or at a local park? Time capsules are often linked to historic dates. I can imagine that a number were created and opened at the turn of the millennium. I was involved in a theatre piece with the disabilities theatre group called Brrrr Theatre Group in Ballarat at the time of Australia’s Federation. One group of us were punks in 2001 involved in digging up a time capsule laid at 1901. The other actors were dignitaries from Ballarat burying the time capsule. We brought these two groups together in a confused moment in time to show the enormous difference in dress, personality, attitude, etc.

Your students may even like to create a story about discovering a time capsule in the back garden. Will they dig it up? What does it contain? To even mock up an old time capsule could be very interesting. Old micro-fisched newspapers could be photocopied and documents could be made to look old. What would be in such a capsule? Here is a great opportunity to explore the history of your region. Your students could even imagine what might have been in a time capsule planted by a famous scientist, actor, or general. Link the idea of a time capsule back to your area of study. What would you put in a time capsule to record your childhood or adolescence? If you could send information and objects into space what would they be? What would you include in a time capsule if you could send it back in time?

The following organization documents and studies the phenomenon of time capsules:

In 1878 a time capsule was placed beneath Cleopatra’s Needle in London, after its relocation from Egypt. It contained items such as:

A box of cigars
Bibles- various languages
A razor
Iron ropes
Baby bottle
British currency
An Engineering magazine
Map of London
Portrait of Queen Victoria

Source: DK Factastic Book of 1001 Lists, Russell Ash, Dorling Kindersley, 1998

The Insect

What would the world look like from an insect’s perspective – an entomological viewpoint?

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

What has happened to me? he thought. It was no dream.

Franz Kafka Metamorphosis

I am angry, I am ill, and I am as ugly as sin
My irritability keeps me alive and kicking
I know the meaning of life, it doesn't help me a bit
I know beauty, and I know a good thing when I see it

This is a song from under the floorboards
This is a song from where the wall is cracked
My force of habit, I am an insect
I have to confess I'm proud as hell of that

I know the highest and the best
I accord them all due respect
But the brightest jewel inside of me
Glows with pleasure at my own stupidity….

Magazine - Song from Under the Floorboards


How can an area of study be seen from a medical perspective? Here one could look for causes and symptoms and ways to prevent the illness. Construct a diagnosis. What is the cure?

A volcano could be seen as sick. Students, in the role of doctors, could identify what is happening. A medical report could be created, and the template filled for your area of study.

It does not matter whether the object is human. Inanimate objects could be diagnosed as if they were a patient – imagine giving an aircraft a medical examination prior to its maiden flight. The principles of flight could be analyzed from a different perspective.

An aeroplane has had a poor landing. It has been damaged. Students could interview the plane, as if they are doctors, identifying symptoms and causes. This could be very challenging and stimulating. It enables students to operate in a lateral framework. Solutions could also be given as if a prescription for the illness.

Analyse a maths or physics problem. A student could play the role of the formula. He or she is interviewed to find out the cause of the problems. What are the symptoms? What could be the possible causes? This could be a fun way of exploring difficulties and processes in mathematics.

Does the character in the text have physical problems? Perform a diagnosis. How could ailments be prevented? Let your students look at the area of study from a medical perspective so as to identify the chain between prevention, illness and cure. This can translate into how an organization runs - the difference between a sick and healthy organization.

Explore the language of illness and how it, and its metaphors, impact upon daily language: tired, sick, and crook. Look at the names of phobias and use this as an introduction to the use of Latin in common English. Explore very strange phobias. Someone at some time had to name each word. Explore the stories beneath these words.

What medical breakthroughs have occurred through scientific analysis? How might one’s medical condition affect judgment? Modern analyses have looked at the conditions of famous people and how they may have affected world events. What diseases have been named after people? Who were these people? Even Oscar Wilde's father coined a term called Wilde’s Ear.

You may also like to look at the area of study from an alternative holistic perspective. How can the causes or symptoms be explained from a broader or other perspective? Are there clear answers? Are situations instead a compounding of factors? This later belief is well argued by the writer M. Scott Peck.


The area of study can be seen from the perspective of a forensic examination. Here students can play the roles of forensic examiners looking for details "So, a volcano has exploded with considerable death to the population. Let us examine the evidence surrounding this explosion. How may it have been caused? What evidence do we have on the site that may lead to answers?" Students can compile a list of evidence and explore how a conclusion was reached.

How do detectives solve crime? See the situation as a crime scene and try to identify the causes. This may lead to an answer. It may also lead to little evidence. Here students can see that your area of study is not an open and closed case – what better way to introduce students to grey areas? Mystery surrounds us. Even in the sciences solutions are not always found i.e. was there a big bang?

Sometimes forensic medicine requires educated guesses as to how a person may have died. These are important questions. They introduce students to the value of intuition and educated guess work.

A piece of equipment has been damaged in a workplace. Detectives explore the evidence that has lead to the injury of a worker. By playing the role of detectives, and thinking from a forensic point of view – analyzing all the immediate evidence – students may get a very clear understanding of the value of occupational health and safety.

Students will bring lots of ideas to this approach. Some will have a good grasp of detective work, and forensics, from television or books. Bring these to bear so that many creative understandings develop.

Think of all the things that can be referred to in a forensic analysis and its report: photos, X-rays, microscopic evidence, DNA, fingerprints, psychological evidence, eyewitnesses and blood groupings. The forensic perspective may just throw new light on the novel, the film or the concept that you and your students are exploring.


Derryn Hinch

I was interested to hear recently a breakdown on the history of talkback radio. In response to better sounding FM radio stations, AM stations found that they had to create formats with lesser reliance on music. They chose talkback because it was unique, topical and was of great interest to the public – after all, you could potentially hear your neighbour espousing an opinion.

In a classic moment of talkback radio the Australian comedian Barry Humphries apparently rang into a radio show when the issue concerned him. Humphries put on a female voice and pretended to be a friend of his mother’s. His mother was never a great fan of his comedy and Humphries mentioned this fact, in role.

Talkback is a most varied radio format. One only has to listen to the ‘shockjocks’ who cut off speakers to the more structured formats – ‘we are inviting listeners to phone in to ask the Prime Minister questions’ – to realize that there is great variety in the format. Even late night talkback is fascinating. Here there is more of a community feel. Regular listeners phone in. Jack might recite a poem, Mavis sing her favorite Scottish song. One also hears night shift workers or the faint echoes of problems – depression, alcoholism, insomnia and mental illness.

As a format talkback is extremely interesting. It captures community response. Media agencies record the data and political analysts and political advisers tune in. What better way to capture the response to an issue? Radio stations know this and talkback radio has increasingly become a form of surveying the masses – much cheaper than commissioning a call-centre survey.

You can ask your students to create their own talkback structure. One person is the host and a series of listeners phone in to give comment. Students can listen to talkback at home, take notes and report back the following day on the gist of the arguments. You can also record or listen to live sessions. Some radio stations are increasingly making radio broadcasts available through live streaming and archives on the Internet.

Listen to the comments and discuss the arguments. How well do they hold up? How does power operate? Do people really have a chance to state their opinion? What style of language is being used? Listen to the slang. Your students may even like to explore and report back what happens if they phone in – a waiting list and vetting.

Look at the format of talkback radio through the lens of your area of study. Soldiers from Napoleon's army phone in to talk about the recent campaign. Listeners have the opportunity of asking Einstein a few questions. A maths or computer expert listens and answers questions. A filmmaker or author talks about meanings in his or her most recent film or book.

Your students may even like to analyze talkback from a broader sociological or cultural perspective. Is this a form of modern day gossip? Are people stating truths or perpetuating myths? What role does the media have in this process?

Your students may like to watch the Clint Eastwood thriller Play Misty for Me. What would it be like to be a radio host? See if you can interview a host. Community radio might be a good start. What systems are in place? Let your students discover and explore issues such as slander and the role of recording and the five-second delay. How does this work? This is a great opportunity for technology students to explore modern media systems!

Your students can even explore the power issues concerning radio hosts. Much of this has been explored in the Australian media over the last two years. How much are hosts paid? What questions do they ask? Are they easier on some opinions than others? To what extent are they open to corruption e.g. promoting issues or organisations for bribes? To what extent are they regulated by legislation? Your students may be able to find Statutes that govern the roles of independent and/or government radio stations. It may also be worth word searching through Hansard Australia – much government and parliamentary information is now archived online. What happens if you type in the name of a radio host? When and where were they mentioned?


One of the media forms that has really taken off in recent years has been that of lifestyle television and magazines. There is even a pay television station called The Lifestyle Channel.

‘Lifestyle’ in the media covers a wide range of material yet usually pertains to practices that we do at home whether it is cooking, building, craft related or health related. By asking your students to look at the area of study from this perspective your students will be able to identify many connections with the everyday.

I recently watched a television show called Rough Science which had taken science and placed it very much into the everyday. In one episode a group of science lecturers and commentators had been placed on an isolated island and were given the task to create an insect repellant from local materials, build a radio and identify the latitude and longitude of the location. It was an interesting challenge – successfully completed – that took science off the page and into a survival mode – a mode that is seen in famous survival stories.

Your students can create their own lifestyle show. It can include interviews or show how something is made. Imagine a science experiment dressed in the style of a fun cooking show, or a gardening show done from a scientific perspective. Your students could explore the garden or home of a famous character, in history or within a text, and create new insights. Your students should have a very good grasp of what is out there in the media. They should be able to pool resources to give a fun and interesting presentation.


How can the area of study be represented by a film format? Your students may like to write a plot synopsis, or a trailer outline for a film based on the area of study. They may like to write a review of the film or present a review in the form of a television movie show.

Students may like to write short fifty-word reviews – a la the Time Out Film Guide – in which they create their own titles, dates, lead characters and plot outlines. Who should play the roles of Einstein, Nelson Mandela or Bill Gates in modern screen adaptations?

Take a scene from a text and storyboard it as a film scene. What scenes would you include in a film? What would you delete? Explore films based on works of literature. Do a mock interview with the actor from the film. What detail did he or she go into as a means of giving the best portrayal of the person?

What elements within the story or text lend themselves to being filmed? How would it be filmed – narration, point of view of a character? How should the film end? What should be the opening scene? Draw a film poster. What songs should be on the soundtrack? How should it be promoted? Explore famous film promotions such as Alien – " In space no one can hear you scream". Take advantage of internet access to the Internet Movie Database to get your students familiar with the elements and issues of film.

Who should direct the movie? How may this affect what is included within the film? Let your students imagine that a famous historical figure is in fact a movie star. What is his or her filmography? What were the films called? What were they about?

Explore the relationships between film and the real world. Look at science as it is portrayed in films – see my Creatively Teaching Science in the Middle Years text. Look at the following websites to explore how physics and other scientific truths are explored in film: Movie Physics; Bad Astronomy; the Sci-Fi Science Blunders Hall of Infamy.

Explore the representation of history in the movies by looking at films such as Spartacus, Gladiator, Black Robe, Aguirre the Wrath of God, The Alamo, Bonnie and Clyde, The Grapes of Wrath, The Longest Day, JFK, Gandhi, Gallipoli or Apollo 13. See the text ‘Past imperfect: History according to the Movies’; Carnes Henry Holt and Company 1996.

See the website Modern History in the Movies for an excellent overview of movies based on historical periods.

Watch films from the angle of your area of study. How are characters communicating? Explore the language. What mathematical facts can be discerned? Your students may even like to explore the length of scenes, the ratio of film size and screen and other technical facts that connect with technology. How are films made? How are special effects created? How is business or family life portrayed? I have even, despite it being a television series, had students watching John Cleese in Fawlty Towers to explore the wrongs of customer service.

What do movies tell us about our own psychology? Let students watch thrillers. How did it affect them? What psychological processes are occurring? What do they tell us about our expectations and desire? You can even look at comedies such as Buster Keaton films – The General – or the Roadrunner cartoons to explore the physical properties of objects and how our knowledge shapes our expectations and surprise when events are unpredictable. I love the scene in the Jerry Lewis film called The Ladies Man in which he opens a case of displayed butterflies. Unexpectedly they fly away. This comes as a surprise. It is even stranger when Jerry whistles and they return to the case. He quickly closes the lid.

There is no terror in a bang only in the anticipation of it: Alfred Hitchcock.

For detailed examples of high quality Film Criticism let your students read Senses of Cinema. Writing on cinema is not only about giving 5 star ratings.

You may even like to get your students thinking about world events in terms of movie scripts.

Arafat and Sharon walk off set of 'Israel' – Temperamental stars say they're tired of playing dogmatic jerks.

Sources on the set of 'Israel', history's longest-running drama, say irascible stars Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat angrily walked off the set today, complaining that the show's scriptwriters continually make their characters say and do stupid things.

'I'm supposed to be the Prime Minister of a country that's embroiled in this terrible conflict where diplomacy and tact and wisdom should be important, but you people always have me playing this great, pompous prat', Sharon reportedly shouted before throwing his script on the ground and storming off to his trailer.

He added, 'I swear if you hacks have me bulldozing one more Palestinian village, or making one more asinine, inflammatory comment, I'm filing a complaint with Actors' Equity.'

Arafat was allegedly no less piqued at the way recent treatments have depicted the gruff, unlovable Palestinian chief he portrays. 'A few seasons ago my character was an influential creep, but now the script calls for everyone, even my own people, to treat me like a neutered creep', grumbled Arafat as he sulked off to the small tent he's allowed to occupy on the remote outskirts of the set. He added, 'I'm starting to think they want to write me out of the series for next season.'

Los Angeles 'Times' TV critic James Baldini said, 'It's like in a horror movie when one of the characters is about to do something dumb, like open a closet door, or look under the bed, and you're watching, and you want to scream "No, don't do it!" Well, that's what they've done with the Sharon character: you're watching, and you say, "Oh God, don't say that", but he always does.

Baldini also said the writing on the show has definitely gone downhill, since the popular Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat were in the cast. He added, 'A perfect example is that episode a couple of weeks back when Sharon said he wished he had killed Arafat 20 years ago. I mean, come on, why would a Head of State publicly say something so incendiary and stupid?'

Viewers also expressed disappointment: Peter Calimo of Chicago, rolled his eyes over a particularly absurd January instalment. He said, 'In previous episodes, they had set it up so Arafat has this great opportunity to make the world feel sorry for his people's cause, and maybe put pressure on Israel. But then they have his character blow it by secretly buying a big old arms shipment from Iran, so he comes off looking like a total lying conniving jerk. It's a basic rule of fiction.' Calimo added, 'you have to make at least one of the main characters, if not likeable, then at least a sympathetic figure. You'd think these writers would know that.'

According to agent Lennie Waldman, who represents both Sharon and Arafat, the show staff is also making a mistake by not letting the two characters evolve. 'Israel's' writers, Waldman said, should take their cue from 'America, the Series'. He said, 'The cool thing about 'America' is they let the actors grow into the roles, like the George W. Bush character. Remember how early in the season he started out really bumbling, but then they let his character develop until in that one climactic scene, the whole US Senate officially declares him no longer goofy. Now that is compelling television.'

'Israel's' head writer, Kent Loring, denied rumours that in the season finale, Sharon will turn out to be Arafat's long-lost brother. However he did say the final episode would be explosive.

See the Background Briefing transcript at the ABC Australia website for further details.


Buster Keaton

We have all seen montage sequences in films. All of a sudden the action changes. Time compresses and events hurry by in a scurry of images: scrolling newspaper headlines, quick shots of the character at many places, images merging in a frenzy of picture and sound.

Montage sequences accelerate action and propel a film forward. They are a visual feast – more common in older films – in which we move to new locations and possibilities within the story. Montage sequences were once a specialized art form. Double exposure was only one of many techniques planned to move a film forward. Nowadays the most common example of such techniques is in film trailers or video clips. It is ironic that much of the great technical prowess in film, such as editing, now has a greater role in adverts, video clips and film trailers.

Let your students watch film trailers, adverts, video clips and montage sequences from films to identify ways of progressing action. Explore how this can be reapplied to the area of study. Take any segment from a novel. Accelerate the action forward. What images and sound could you include in a montage sequence? Here students can identify the specifics of a text and develop a greater sensitivity to the choices actually made by authors, editors or filmmakers. No story is consistently linear, choices are always made as to what to include and discard.

Imagine a time in history. One has to progress forward one hundred years. Let your students plan an outline of a montage sequence that details the events in the hundred years leading up to this date.

Your students may even be able to make their own montage sequence with the aid of a video and or a computer-editing program. While montage sequences can be very serious – early Russian filmmakers saw them as a means of changing public opinion – others can be very funny. In the great Buster Keaton film Sherlock Junior, in which as a projectionist Buster jumps into the movie screen, we see a very fast montage sequence: a marriage proposal, children, aging and two grave stones. A life is over in seconds. A comic device that sends up life as well as film form.


Take your area of study and explore the newspaper headlines that can be created.

These can be those at the front of the newspaper or as page headlines. What language will you use? What words will you use to capture the attention of the reader? Your students could explore how events are packaged by news organizations and even governments into a style that carries emotional value and appeal: ‘war on terror’, ‘the gulf war’. Even people are likewise packaged – Elvis’ death being stated in the words "The King is Dead". Your student could then write the body to the article. They may even like to create their own headlines that use puns. I can remember a great headline in a Melbourne newspaper from the 1980s when Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl at tennis. The headline read Cash rolls Dud Czech.


We often see bibliographies in the back of books. Many other texts become apparent. You may like to get your students exploring bibliographies and reading linked texts. I can recall when studying media how the titles of many texts reflected the patterns and growth in film culture e.g. – ‘Film as Art’, ‘Film as Film.’ What patterns can your students see in the titles of texts? When were these texts written? What seems to be the main gist of the approach?

Students may also like to invent their own bibliographies. This is an opportunity for students to invent book titles and take these even further with chapter headings that show structure and knowledge. What could the titles of potential books be within an area of study? What texts have been written on volcanoes? How do these vary? One does not have read everything to pick up these patterns – simple scans can be very helpful in identifying patterns. A simple browse through the shelves of a library, or a bibliography whether it is in a text, on the Internet, or in a catalogue, can be very helpful.

End of Man

William Faulkner

Here is a speech from William Faulkner needing nothing other than its own words:

William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, Sweden
December 10, 1950.

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Darron Davies

© Copyright In Clued - Ed 2009


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