I have the pleasure of teaching the HSC English Extension class this year. It is so much fun teaching this class because I get to work with six wonderful young people who are always eager to discuss literature. That might night sound like you’re idea of fun, but it gets me thinking hard and giggling every Tuesday morning. I always look forward to the class even though I’m usually a bit tired from having stayed up late preparing for our discussions!
Another cool thing about Extension English is that it is a split divide with critical and creative. Students in this course are assessed 50% critical thinking about the literature & ways of thinking set for study and then 50% creative writing using the conventions of the literature and reflecting the ways of thinking set for study. I love that divide.
Right now my students are working towards developing their creative writing skills so as that they can reflect the Romantic style and ways of thinking through narrative form and language. For their next assessment they will be assessed on these skills. The blank page is a cruel, cruel thing for most young writers and I know that this is the case for my current students. They love to write once they get going, but starting really is ‘like a bout of some painful illness’. As a sort of poulitce to their pain I have designed an assessment task that means the writing will be collaborative – if we write together we can share the burden! The task is to write a collaborative novella – each student is responsible for up to 2000 words in the form of two ‘chapters’. I will be one of the writers on the project – and this means I can support them in the planning stage as well as modelling best practice when it comes to drafting, editing and rewriting. I’m so excited that I get to write. Oh, and the best part is that we will be entering the novella into a competition using a pseudonym. They are SO excited about that.
Here is the assessment outline given to the students. It essentially functions as a project (PBL) with a driving question, investigation, product and presentation. If you look closely you will see that I have incorporated formative and summative assessment – as well as speaking elements so students must present/defend their work.
Yesterday we spent the double period in our ‘waterhole’ learning space. We had the tables arranged in a ‘boardroom meeting’ configuration and we spent two hours planning characters, plot, setting and considering what paradigms would be evidenced/explored in each scene. It was delightful to see their ideas come whooshing forth – young people are so wonderfully, crazily creative when given the confidence to take risks and share.
I have been cast as The Philosopher – a madman and a drunkard who talks to a horse named Doyle. I have one week to write the first draft of my two chapters. Excited!!