Engaging the Middle School in Comparing Texts

Published article: https://www.vate.org.au/idiom

Engaging the Middle School in Comparing Texts:

A creative approach to The Giver/The Truman Show, and When Michael Met Mina/Freedom Stories

 

When we think of ‘The Middle Years,’ we think of enriching the lives of young people with innovative pedagogy, creative engagement and development of life long skills. We also need to be attuned to the fact that modernity is becoming increasingly demanding of its’ workers, in terms of the vast range of attributes they require, and our task as educators is to prepare our students for this future world. The modern citizen must be adaptable, creative, and capable of working both independently, and with others. Educators have a responsibility to bolster their students with the equipment necessary to succeed in this contemporary era of technology, team-based learning and interaction. In their study of Middle Years students, Donna Pendegrast, et al, (2005) commented on the “importance of encouraging and sustaining young people’s effective engagement with learning”. Hence the grand task for Middle School instructors, is set. We must continue to encourage and challenge our students so that they graduate from our care as competent and resilient adults, armed with the skills necessary to deal with the exigencies of life.

The Middle School has always been a place of diversity. It presents an opportunity for teachers to harness the natural curiosity and enthusiasm of children in this age group, capture their interest and build creative curriculum to suit the needs of these innovators. Schools nationwide understand the unique possibilities offered in these Middle Years, and as such they structure programs and build spaces designed to invigorate such learning experiences. At Strathcona, we have a separate Year 9 campus on the leafy banks of the Yarra river, where our girls are given a place to thrive, and where they are challenged with engaging course design. Here, they continue to develop as learners, humanitarians, and as young women in our everchanging world. Other schools in our neighbouring communities have built on-site facilities, such as the state of the art ‘Middle School Enhancement’ complex at Luther College, in Melbourne’s outer East. Here, the building has been designed with ‘future students’ in mind; adaptable spaces that can be used for any amount of dynamic teaching and learning practice. In these two instances, the pedagogy delivered to these Middle Schoolers has fundamentally had to shift and change, along with the space, in order to best serve their students and prepare them for life outside the walls and ceilings of their classroom.

The question then presents itself: how to engage creatively in English? And furthermore, how to engage creatively in Comparing Texts, a modern iteration of the VCE English study design. As skilled practitioners we may appreciate that the Middle School does not necessarily need to be the tail of the dog, being wagged by all that she encounters. However, we would also be doing our students a disservice if we were to lead them through the wonderous exploration of the Middle Years, but drastically underprepare them for the demands that await in the Senior Years and beyond. In particular, we need to up-skill their abilities when it comes to reading, by teaching them to compare their thoughts and understandings of progressive texts.

The current VCE English study design has some extremely exciting, innovative and challenging texts on offer, as part of both the Reading and Creating, and Reading and Comparing, components of the syllabus. Emily St John Mandel’s (2014) dystopic and post-apocalyptic analysis of life, art and love, set amidst the dangerous wilderness of re-emerging humanity, Station Eleven, makes comment on the value we place on humanity and relationships. Similarly, Kazuo Ishiguro’s (2005) futuristic dip into a life possible of human cloning, Never Let Me Go, quantifies human existence and the narrative inevitably leads to adolescent discovery, love and finally acceptance of the rule of the law, challenging our perception of modern society. This latter text is in fact paired with Anna Funder’s evocative and gripping account of life in East Germany, Stasiland, (2002), which then presents a pairing keenly focused on speculating over the heavy surveillance of its’ citizens. Looking at the VCE and considering the content, messages and skills that it requires in the Senior School classroom, we must also then consider the choices that we provide our Middle School. We want students who approach these senior years to appreciate not only the ways in which they will read, consider, analyse and interpret texts on offer, but also to be more aware of the genre common to some of these Senior works.

The distinctly post-apocalyptic and dystopic themes of both Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go provide an interesting launching pad for our Middle School curriculum and opens the scope for invigorating and engaging text selection. At Strathcona, we begin teaching dystopic fiction from as early as Year 7, with local author Meg McKinlay’s (2015) A Single Stone, as the first immersion for students into this style. This text charts the journey of a civilisation living after a natural disaster, ‘Rockfall,’ in a matriarchal society apparently designed to support girls, but instead these same girls are deliberately controlled and suppressed. Towards the end of Year 7 we also introduce Comparing Texts to our cohort, through a brief poetry analysis task. Here, we find the students receptive to both the material and content provided, and we instruct them clearly at this base level analysis to set them up long term for the requirements of the English course in each succeeding year level.

Moving further into the Middle School, at Year 8 we have chosen a strong and widely acclaimed dystopic vision of a future world as our text of study; Lois Lowry’s (1993) The Giver, which on the surface appears to be the picture of utopia, but underneath, deceit and control prove civilisation a far more dystopic place. We pair this with Peter Weir’s (1998) cult classic, The Truman Show, which lends itself to some neat comparison when it comes to the concepts of control, surveillance and the power of the media.

We see Year 9 as an opportunity to really stretch and challenge our students with ideas beyond themselves and their own context, and as a result choose to change the shift of their thinking for this twelve-month period, away from the dystopic and very much towards their own Australian community. Here, we have paired Randa Abdel-Fattah’s (2016) sharp and powerful, When Michael Met Mina, which explores the challenging notions of diversity, race relations and the refugee crisis; with Steve Thomas’ (2015) Freedom Stories, the documentary glimpse into Australia’s ‘boat people’. Once students return to the main campus of Strathcona in Year 10, they are presented with a broad range of impressive electives which are designed to further enhance and extend their critical literacy skills and understandings. The remainder of this paper will provide an exploration into our Middle School Comparing Texts units, focusing on the Year 8 and Year 9 curricular.

Firstly, to the astute and engaging The Giver, in harmony with The Truman Show:

‘Hook’ Task:

To begin our analysis of this pairing, we teach Lowry’s (1993) powerfully dystopic The Giver and launch with an engaging ‘hook’ task, designed to invite the students to consider some of the broader ideas of the novel without actually decoding these themes. We invite the students to stand and place themselves on a continuum, based on where they believe their standpoint to be when presented with the following prompts. For instance, one side of the room will be ‘Agree’, whereas the other will be, ‘Disagree’. The questions that may be posed for discussion can include:

  • We are better off without choice.
  • I like having decisions made for me.
  • I would prefer to have no feelings, rather than feel pain.
  • Conflicts begin when there is inequity.
  • Society would be better off without the weak.
  • Without colour, everyone would be equal.

It is constructive to quiz the students at each rotation: why have you placed yourself in that position? Can you think of some examples in life to support your perspective? This approach typically sparks much heated discussion and debate, as students quite enjoy giving their opinions on topical and sometimes personal perspectives.

The Giver – Thematic Outline:

Following this lesson, we teach The Giver by identifying its key themes, and later connect these to The Truman Show. Some themes to consider may be:

  • The role of the individual
  • The importance of memory
  • The value of human love and relationships
  • Privacy and what is made public
  • The role of the media and censorship

It is worth unpacking each of these ideas with your class. For instance, Lowry suggests that the role of the individual is not particularly highly valued, but rather the part that each person plays within the context of the community, is given greater importance. Furthermore, memory is viewed as a parasite destined to destroy humanity, and so it is controlled and confined as tightly as possible. Love and interpersonal connections are seen as obsolete, and in fact, the family unit is engineered as a purely functional way of organizing people. Individual’s “apply” for a spouse, when they reach a certain age, and the ruling Elders deem these applications worthy or disallowed. By the same token, nothing is left private in Lowry’s dystopic world, not even dreams, which is indicative of the absolute power, control and surveillance of those at the top of the social hierarchy. Already, some natural comparison’s to Weir’s 1998 film, The Truman Show, begin to materialize.

‘Line-Up’ Debate:

However, before we make these comparisons, it is worth considering whether our main protagonist Jonas’ world presents us with a utopian rather than dystopian viewpoint. Accordingly, we invite our students to participate in a ‘line up debate’, in response to the topic:

Living in a Utopia would be better than living in a dystopia.

The rules of the debate are as follows:

  • Split the class into two teams – half affirmative, half negative. Have them face their opposition in a line.
  • Students need to formulate arguments, depending on their position.
  • Take turns in presenting their arguments, as in a debate.
  • Rebuttals are allowed. Students must not say ‘um’, ‘ah’, or ‘like’ out of context.
  • Teams gain a member of the opposition for a sound argument or lose a player for a mistake.
  • The winning team will have the majority of the class on side, by the end of the game.

This activity proves an interactive and engaging way for students to articulate their thoughts, connect evidence from both the text and their own life experience, and explore the themes of the novel within a broader scope.

Once we have read, understood and discussed The Giver, it is time to move into the study of Weir’s (1998) The Truman Show. While watching the film, invite the students to critically consider what the text suggests in relation to the following:

The Truman Show – Thematic Outline:

  • The concept of reality – what is real? False?
  • Privacy and what is made public: who is authentic in this text?
  • What value is placed on human love and relationships?
  • What is the role of the media and censorship: commercialism?
  • What is suggested through Truman’s rebellion?
  • What comment is made of the potentially archaic world view, ‘The American Dream’?

When these ideas are considered, some clear contrasts between our two texts of study begin to show themselves. First, consider some of the ideas raised by this film: Truman by name is the only ‘true’, and authentic element of his entire biodome. It is fundamentally Christof, who is ‘Of Christ’, as his name suggests, who formulates and articulates every waking detail of Truman’s existence. As a result, human love and relationships are not real in this world; Truman’s family and friends are mere actors, and Truman is the pawn in this life-like ‘re-creation’. This is similar to Lowry’s The Giver, where individual love no longer exists, and adolescents begin to take a Pill to dull their ‘stirrings’ and thwart interpersonal love.

Christof’s absolute power, his total control to be able to ‘cue the sun’ in order to bring light from darkness, asserts that the media is at the centre of all that we do. Similarly, Meryl’s frequent product placement, such as the ‘Chef’s Pal’, the “dicer, grater, peeler, all in one!” indicates that commercialism has largely taken over and is dictating our lives. This level of regulation is also evident in The Giver, as the townspeople are forever under surveillance. Jonas could not even take an apple, which he wanted to check for ‘colour’ after he noticed the shape ‘change’, without being sanctioned by the all-knowing Elders.

Similarly, Truman’s rebellion provides viewers with the suggestion that perhaps not all is lost. Perhaps intrinsic human desire for authentic connection will break through, and possibly even shatter the archaic and restrictive limitations placed on individuals by the classic, ‘American Dream’.

Synthesis:

Once these ideas have been unpacked, we are able to bring together the comparisons raised by the two texts. Here, we return to our original analysis:

  • The role of the individual: in both The Giver and The Truman Show, individualism is shelved, while the communal vision is paramount.
  • The importance of memory: The Giver particularly, is suggestive of the dangerous nature of remembering the past, whereas The Truman Show depends on lies and deceit to maintain control of Truman.
  • The value of human love and relationships: both texts indicate that these elements of the human condition are obsolete and in fact, dysfunctional.
  • Privacy and what is made public: both texts expose the private sphere as readily available for public consumption.
  • The role of the media and censorship: both texts advocate that those in power rule absolutely; that is, Christof is a metaphor for the media in The Truman Show; as are the Elders of The Giver, who monitor the citizens of Jonas’ community at all times.

It is necessary to consider the ways in which Lowry’s dystopic society is constructed. For example, children are allocated to ‘Family Units’ once an “application [has] been approved”. This, in contrast to the opening sequence of The Truman Show, exposes the careful construction of Christof’s ‘project’, and we as the audience see through a camera lens. These two scenes can be used to draw instant comparison, and students are readily able to make these connections and see the similarities between the two mediums.

Sample Task:

In drawing the unit to a close, we actively teach both the Integrated approach, which is an essay sectioned by ‘big ideas’; and then the Block style, which is the method broken into a text-based and more sequential analysis, of a Comparative Essay. We use an accessible prompt, such as:

Write a comparative response to the topic below. You must plan your response carefully and your ideas must be supported by appropriate, specific references from both texts.

Prompt:

Both ‘The Giver’ and ‘The Truman Show’ explore how individuals are controlled by society.

As this is the student’s first attempt at a Comparative Essay, at this Year 8 level we heavily scaffold the ideas and structure with students, for them to feel confident and successful in their response. A suggested approach may be as follows.

Integrated Approach:

            The integrated approach would break the texts down into it’s ‘big ideas’ in response to the topic and incorporate both texts into each discussion. A possible structure can be seen below:

Big Idea One: both texts show that individuals are controlled socially. The Giver arranges families into groups with intention, and similarly, The Truman Show does not present authentic families, but rather paid actors are featured on the ‘show’ of Truman.

Big Idea Two: the communities presented are shown as being under careful surveillance of those in power, and Christof in fact reminds us that “(he) is the Creator” of all that we see. Similarly, the Elders of The Giver have the power to provide messages over the public announcement system, such as when Lily forgot to tie her hair ribbons, or Jonas took the apple to check for something strange; the colour that he had recognised.

Big Idea Three: both texts give a world view that is devoid of personal choice. Both communities assign individuals to a particular job, and furthermore, Truman’s community is nothing but a sea of paid actors. The citizens of Jonas’ world are ‘assigned’ positions when they “become a twelve”, and this then restricts them to that given role, for life.

Block Style:

The Block approach to a Comparative Essay takes each text separately and breaks the topic down from here. A suggestion may be:

Paragraph One: The Giver shows us how individuals are controlled by society on a social level. Jonas’ community is arranged into families, and people are assigned professions.

Paragraph Two: Lowry presents a world ruled by structure, and this relies heavily on surveillance and compliance.  The Elders are able to make “announcements” over the public speaker system, in order to provide behavioural reminders to the community as a form of control.

Paragraph Three: Similarly, The Truman Show exposes a world devoid of personal choice, and in fact Truman is so heavily manipulated that he is completely unaware that he “is the star” of his own life’s show.

We have found that students predominantly engage with some complex thinking in connection to this textual pairing, and the unit provides a strong platform from which our Middle Schoolers can launch their craft of writing when Comparing Texts in their Senior years.

Over the course of Year 9, our girls move away from our Canterbury campus and commute daily to our Hawthorn site, Tay Creggan, where they are the sole year level on location. Here, our students expand their horizons, both physically and metaphorically, as they undergo the Envision program; a stimulating and often practical way to engage our girls with the world outside and beyond their comfortable boundaries. We place utmost value in preparing the students for life beyond themselves and have found that the connections between When Michael Met Mina, (2016) and Freedom Stories, (2015) encourage our charges to consider life from a different perspective. These texts generate empathy and compassion as they highlight the inhumanity of the refugee crisis and of the often hostile journey of assimilation into Australian society. This humanitarian characteristic of this text pairing has seen the students rise to the call of service, and in fact led them to pack meals for the FORaMEAL Emergency Food Relief initiative for the Canterbury Rotary Club.

The “TC” experience is a journey. The Envision program harnesses the opportunity to develop real life learning and enhance life-ready skills on campus where the girls take complete ownership of the beautiful historical grounds. It is their ‘home away from home’ and whilst they may be physically separated from the Main Campus, they are utilising the space to spread their wings to grow independently as individual young women with supportive teachers who deliver lessons focusing on practical skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and resilience.

This is where the Comparing Texts unit fits so neatly. Skills of comparing and contrasting are not just refined to the four walls of a classroom; they are skills that move beyond this, and students are given the opportunity to see how these dynamic processes of analysis are appropriate aids for the outside world and can be utilised for much more than just essay writing and assessment.

The Comparative Essay challenges learners to critically identify and examine one text, and then another. The introduction of the second text ultimately enhances the meaning of the first, and so the central focus for learners is identifying the meaningful connections between the issues, themes and ideas, and to be able to discuss the similarities and the differences between the texts, making use of evidence to support this comparative analysis.

Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina, (2016)  is a postmodernist novel that exposes students to an array of authorial intentions, from wanting to personalise and humanise the text’s prominent issues surrounding asylum seekers, to expose racism and to inspire hope and action for a better outcome for those who come to Australia seeking safety. This text, with its relatable characters, uses frequent references to popular culture and Australian discourse to broaden its appeal and is attractive to Middle Years readers. Upon their first reading of the text, our students see this novel predominantly as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. It is not, however, until Steve Thomas’ Freedom Stories (2015) is introduced that the deeper themes and ideas shine. The introduction of the second text helps students to view the first text in a richer and more meaningful way.

‘Hook’ Task:

We begin our first investigation of our coupling of texts at Year 9 by inviting students to examine what is fact and what is opinion, in order to consider how this subtle difference can cause division. It also exposes students to the overarching issues of our texts.  

Fact Versus Opinion:

This task is designed to break down stereotypes and encourage independent thinking.

In When Michael Met Mina, (2016) Michael shares deeply with the reader, ‘But the thing is, I wear my politics like hand-me-down clothes: some bits feel like they don’t fit properly, but I expect I’ll grow into them, trusting that because they’re from my parents they’ve come from a good source.’ Often the thoughts, values and ideals we possess are generated by the messages we receive from family and friends; those whom we love and trust from the inner circle of our lives. However, these messages are also absorbed from other external sources such as the media and these may be internalised without questioning them for ourselves.

When Michael Met Mina, (2016)  invites the reader to closely consider their own set of values and belief systems and to question whether they too have simply ‘inherited’ these beliefs or if it is what they truly and deeply feel. Michael’s growth is admirable and aspirational, ‘How do I explain to him that I went along with everything my parents said because it never occurred to me that they could be wrong? I never dared to think I could question them until I met Mina.’ Michael represents change and growth and the independent questioning that is vital in developing leaders, not followers.

Considering both texts, students are asked to brainstorm a list of stereotypes and commonly held community beliefs about refugees, asylum seekers and assimilation. Ideas generated often encompass the following thoughts:

  • Boat people are illegal
  • Australia is full and cannot accept any more asylum seekers
  • “If you came by boat you’ve jumped the queue”
  • Refugees take the place of hard-working Australians in education and employment
  • Muslim refugees are terrorists
  • Mandatory detention is not a breach of human rights but necessary to protect our borders
  • “Halal meat funds terrorism”

Considering these misconceptions, the students are then asked to discuss the following questions in pairs and explain their responses to the class:

  • What is the danger of accepting an opinion without question?
  • In a world where people are faced with information from so many sources – parents, friends and the media – how is it possible to form your own opinion?
  • Make a list of ways to ‘test’ an opinion. Consider:
  • Can it be supported by facts?
  • Is the opinion based on a stereotype?
  • Is the opinion based on a generalisation?
  • How convincing is the counter-argument?

As these lively discussions unfold, what becomes most interesting is the natural way students begin to use one text to assert ideas about the other and thus it becomes evident that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

It is often much less challenging for students to highlight the similarities between texts rather than their differences. Given the nature of the selection of our texts, chosen carefully to offer the students rich discussion and writing opportunities, it is important to ascertain the ways in which they differ in genre and construction. These differences expose vibrant discussion about converging and diverging authorial intent, the didactic nature of the texts and how ultimately the fictional and non-fiction elements serve the audience differently.

Comparing Text Types – Fictional and Non-fiction Genres:

Steve Thomas’ documentary is both harrowing and uplifting. It is deceptively complex and exudes humanism through the participants whose stories are as saddening as they are inspiring. Thomas condemns mainstream ignorance of, and disinterest in, the suffering of asylum seekers by showcasing chronicles of people who are “so keen to contribute to Australian life and Australian society…. they are model citizens and the kind of people we should encourage to be here”. Thomas’ sympathetic documentary was politically timely, agitating for increased discourse and a revised approach to those seeking asylum in Australia.

Venn Diagram for Analysis:

Utilising a simple but effective tool of comparison, the Venn diagram, invite students to identify how the two texts diverge and converge in the following elements: their characterisation and character development, symbols and motifs, narrative voices, the texts’ settings, how they position the audience to relate to their subject matter, and the authorial intent through the construction of their respective genres.

We use the outer parts of the circles of the Venn diagram to highlight how each text is different, and the overlapping centre is indicative of similarities. What emerges is a significant assortment of ideas for writing.

Students are able to identify that in Abdel-Fattah’s fictional text the author has crafted a story that can appeal to young people; a ‘faction’ story that is relatable in some ways through the use of teenage characters but also in a way that encourages them to think about the mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

The narrative voice is manufactured to show how there is more than one perspective – Mina’s deeply personal and confronting story of seeking refuge in Australia with her family, and Michael’s parents and their “Aussie Values” political organisation who think they are doing something worthwhile when they passively advocate racist hate speech to “stop the boats”. Abdel-Fattah creates characters who are hard to dislike in Michael’s parents, but it is also clear that their views are racist, “It’s hard to accept that nice people can be racist too”. Including positive change and personal growth in the protagonists, Abdel-Fattah evokes feelings of hope and leaves the reader with a happy ending. This perhaps is the biggest difference between the genre of the two texts; that whilst authors of fiction can manipulate their plot and characters to ensure readers are left feeling warm and fuzzy, ultimately happy endings do not always form part of real-life human stories. Freedom Stories presents the confronting nature of true stories. Thomas’ ability to physically invite his audience to see signs of trauma on these people’s faces and hear it in their voices has a different impact than Abdel-Fattah’s novel. The documentary takes fiction to the next level and shows audiences that these “stories”, Mina’s and other people’s, are in fact real and true and that these horrifying journeys have actually happened and remain to occur on our sun-drenched shores. This is designed to evoke strong empathy from viewers and inspire change.

Sample Task:

Prompt:

Compare and contrast the way ‘When Michael Met Mina’ and ‘Freedom Stories’ present the idea of fighting against injustice from a fictional and non-fiction standpoint.

Both the Integrated essay structure and Block approach that we introduce at Year 8 are re-examined at Year 9 and further developed. We build on students’ comparative essay writing skills by introducing the cohort to an array of analytic verbs, designed to elevate their metalanguage and strengthen their analysis of comparison. The importance of expressive language is affirmed in classes, and strategies to achieve this are practiced in each lesson. To write an effective essay, each paragraph must open with a key idea that compares or contrasts both texts. Perhaps the most overused word in comparative writing is that of, similarly. To avoid this trap, providing a varied list of transition words and phrases equips students with the ability to explore their language choices. As such, some alternatives may include those outlined in the below word banks:

The power of verbs: The text and authors echo….

  • mirror
  • connect
  • unite
  • parallel
  • illuminate
  • applaud
  • share
  • separate
  • lament
  • diverge
  • contrast
  • reject
  • pleads for
  • merge
  • contrast
  • are alike in
  • differ

Connecting and Contrasting Words and Phrases:

  • moreover
  • furthermore
  • however
  • yet
  • although
  • while
  • on the one hand
  • likewise
  • unlike
  • in comparison
  • in contrast
  • conversely
  • viewed together
  • placed alongside each other
  • providing a point of contrast
  • providing a further point of similarity is
  • mirroring
  • paralleling this
  • appearing on the surface as similar, but
  • in fact quite different, is
  • departing from
  • diverging from
  • offering a (different/similar)
  • creating a (different/similar)
  • corresponding to this
  • starkly contrasting this
  • further to this
  • in addition to this
  • this…is mirrored by/through/with
  • this…is paralleled b/through/with

Concluding Words and Phrases:

  • in the final analysis
  • ultimately
  • in the end
  • fundamentally
  • in essence
  • at their core

Analytic Verbs:

  • imagine, create, envisage, construct, express
  • articulate, demonstrate, convey, caution, warn
  • advocate, point out, highlight, underline, emphasise
  • provide, give the reader

Perspective Phrases:

  • yet what
  • yet what most importantly
  • underling both texts
  • connecting each text
  • throughout both texts
  • separating the texts
  • differentiating the texts
  • the essential point of difference
  • but perhaps the most important

Exposure to these analytical and expressive language choices, combined with the opportunity to practice embedding them into their own work, is one way to encourage written responses that do more than just have the student write about one text and then another, joining them with ‘similarly’. These banks of words and phrases encourage the constant comparison of the texts, and the end result is ultimately rich, diverse and analytical writing that is comparative-centred rather than simply reading as embedded text response essays. The writing reveals complex thinking about the central issues, themes and ideas.

Some student samples to highlight this are reproduced here with permission:

Both ‘When Michael Met Mina’ and ‘Freedom Stories’ highlight numerous displays of racism, however they both also inspire hope with the ways in which they fight this injustice.

While both ‘When Michael Met Mina’ and ‘Freedom Stories’ present injustices faced by refugees based on real accounts, ‘When Michael Met Mina’ consists of fabricated and specifically constructed characters to highlight this, while ‘Freedom Stories’ illuminates the chronicles of genuine people.

Despite both ‘When Michael Met Mina’ and ‘Freedom Stories’ displaying numerous accounts of racism, they converge in their messages of hope in the way in which they fight this injustice.

Both Abdel-Fattah and Thomas present the unjust loss of family and loved ones when seeking refuge. Furthermore, the texts similarly suggest the injustice of losing family and displays the contrasting ways each individual deals with their loss. However, they diverge in the way they present these ideas and the effect it has on the audience.

As passionate teachers of the Middle Years, we believe that these two units of work offer opportunities for good thinking, critical analysis, and above all, positive engagement with the English curriculum and indeed the world around us. At Strathcona, we strive to provide our students with the best possible pedagogy, and deliver it through the best possible practice. We have ‘tried and tested’ these units with our Year 8 and 9 Middle Schoolers, and have found the students to be receptive, interested and stronger in thought and ideas by their conclusion.  Happy teaching!

Mrs Miranda Gazis and Mrs Rhiannon Ward

Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School

 

 

References:

Abdul-Fatteh, R., When Michael Met Mina (published by Pan Macmillan, 2016)

Funder, A., Stasiland (published by Text Publishing, 2002)

Ishiguro, K., Never Let Me Go (published by Vintage Books, 2005)

Lowry, L., The Giver (published by Houghton Griffin, 1993)

Luther College website: https://www.luther.vic.edu.au Accessed 02.06.19

Macmillan, Pan Macmillan Australia website: https://panmacmillan.com.au Accessed 21.06.19

McKinlay, M., A Single Stone (published by Walker Books, 2015)

Pendergast D., et al. Developing Lifelong Learners in the Middle Years of Schooling (published online, 2005)

St John Mandel, E., Station Eleven (published by Knopf, 2014)

Thomas, S., Freedom Stories (screened by Ronin Films, 2015)

Weir, P., The Truman Show, (1998)

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