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The English Classroom And CfE

May 9, 2009

A general chat with some other English teachers on Twitter last night has lead to the setting up of an English Curriculum for Excellence wiki to look at and discuss the practicalities of implementing Curriculum for Excellence in the classroom. I’ve started the ball rolling with some ideas that my own department are kicking around, which I’ve reproduced here…

cfe-eng-logoWe are planning on trying some (for us) new ideas next year. I’ll be posting some of them on the wiki as they become fleshed out, but at the moment here’s a quick general guide to some of the things my own department are investigating and considering. (BTW: You are very welcome — nay, cordially invited — to join the wiki if you’d like to talk about your plans for implementing CfE in the English classroom)

Reading

I recently posted some thoughts on reading on my blog. In essence, I’d like to see more time devoted to reading in the classroom. I’m also of the opinion that we shouldn’t have to have a summative assignment after everything we read… or at least, not unless we want to turn every kid into a non-reader! To this end, we are planning on introducing a reading period for all S1 classes. This will involve giving the pupils one period of the week where the sole task will be to read… and the teacher should be modelling good practice by doing the same.

“Rich Tasks”

The other ‘innovation’ we are going to try is to give one period a week over to some ‘rich tasks’ in line with Curriculum for Excellence. The idea is to take a period where there is more than one class in the department and allow the teachers and pupils to choose projects they’d like to do (with some kind of literary/literature/reporting bent). We will be allowing pupils to work with whichever teacher/project is on offer at their period.

As well as the obvious ones — Comic Life/Games Based Learning/wiki projects/creative writing (for fun and (possibly!) profit)/Podcasting/creating books for sharing with our associated Primary schools and Fairview — I’m hoping the staff will use some of their expertise in other areas to introduce interesting and rewarding learning opportunities (Off the top of my head, I have a teacher who used to work in publishing, one who lived and worked for the Scottish Tourist Board in London, and another who performs at the MOD — I’m hoping they’ll be able to use this knowledge to create blocks of work).

deadliestcatchI’ve been lucky enough in the past to work for Radio Tay, and in many, many theatres across Scotland as a musician and as a fly-man, so of course, I want to put together a block based on The Deadliest Catch — no, seriously, it’s my only ‘must see’ TV programme and it has lots of potential for some form of project.

Other ideas I’m toying around with (at the moment) for projects include:

  • media/film studies
  • song lyrics
  • Presentation Zen (yes… it’s time to show the pupils how to do a GOOD presentation!)
  • Debating/public speaking
  • GlowMeets on suitable topics and with other ‘experts’ and/or schools
  • plus a hundred other daft and impractical ideas!

I know that these are often taught as part of the day to day life of the classroom, but I’m hoping that by taking them out of the ‘normal’, we can make them even more engaging and relevant… but I’m also aware that we could come a cropper! Still, we only learn from our mistakes!

We are only just starting to sort out ideas at the moment, and I know that we’ve lots of work to do, but I’m really glad my department are willing to give it a try. We are all looking for ways to get as much enjoyment for ourselves and our pupils as we can while still making sure we cover all the ‘basics’ of teaching and learning in an English classroom. We hope that we can help make a difference, and we hope that we don’t make too many mistakes, but either way I’ll keep posting our progress on the wiki so that you can share the ideas and hopefully suggest some of your own.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2009 10:03 pm

    Hi Neil,

    Just came across this piece on the use of storytelling in video games http://www.strangehorizons.com/2009/20090504/newheiser-a.shtml, via Soulskill on Slashdot.

    It led to a couple of stray neurons firing somewhere in my brain which connected it to your post above. I started to wonder if games might provide an engaging context for storytelling, especially if there was the prospect of mocking up the result in a game-like software environment such as http://www.xtranormal.com? If so, please lob it into your project ideas pile.

    BTW, as something of a a punctuation pedant, I just love the way that xtranormal.com reads your text exactly as you’ve punctuated it. That’s got to be a better form of feedback than marking – comment-only or not – can ever provide.

  2. May 9, 2009 10:31 pm

    David,
    Thaks a million for the xtranormal.com link! What a fantastic piece of kit… and you’re right. I can think of a load of uses for it already…

    I’ll add it to the melting pot!

    (And you are right… computing and English have much in common, not least the requirement for good punctuation!)

  3. May 10, 2009 12:13 am

    Presentation Zen? Oh yes! I keep hamering at mine that they don’t HAVE to do a PowerPoint for their talks etc but if so then I always remind them of the values of Pecha Kucha – 20 images 20 seconds per slide or we go one stage further and have 6 slides with a total of 6 words OR 6 images. They then use the slides as reminders or focus whilst they rattle off the additional info from their notecards or whatever. We even set up a autocue using my tablet, mini projector shining onto the lectern and a darkened room! I also hammer home that a picture is worth a thousand words and that the best presentation has only images. Obama should ask my S3 for advice – we’ve had some great talks etc!

  4. May 10, 2009 12:34 am

    David

    Thanks also for the xtranormal link – already done a mini movie to say welcome, here’s what we’re doing in the last lesson of the year to my S5 class for Monday!

  5. May 10, 2009 8:46 am

    @Dave T: he other one to use is Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule…

    …the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

    Read more: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html#ixzz0F5jXh3Wc&B

  6. May 10, 2009 2:24 pm

    And Mr Motorcycle of course…..how could I forget him. 😎

  7. Dorothy Coe permalink
    May 10, 2009 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the link to xtranormal. Great potential for use in class.

  8. May 11, 2009 7:51 am

    I only discovered http://xtranormal.com last week when mvass tweeted about it. I should have credited her with the discovery, and for sharing it; not that she has complained, of course.

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  1. Learning, Teaching and ICT » Xtranormal.com

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