As the leaves yellow and fall, the days tighten and the temperature wanes. Term 2 often sees us retreat inside, seeking refuge, warmth and comfort as we enter the winter months. Many think of this as the literary season – the time to curl up with a good book, throw ourselves into a different world and let the imagination wander. Hopefully, our Language and Literature students have found the same solace this term, delving into the works of Hinton, Vonnegut, Coleman, Beckett and Adiche: traversing the globe, finding themselves in different time periods, speculative worlds, and in the case of Slaughterhouse-Five’s Billy Pilgrim – all of time at once!
This term has also seen students explore their creativity, producing picture story books, YA fiction and podcasts, while senior students have rolled up their sleeves and explored global issues, philosophy and literary theory and the ability for these approaches to open up texts and shape meaning.
Beginning secondary school can be daunting, finding yourself in a new environment, surrounded by new people and new ways of doing things. Literature affords us the ability to identify with other people’s experiences and act as a ‘guide to life,’ helping us understand and cope with change. Hence, our Year 7s started the year exploring how authors such as Shaun Tan and Maxine Beneba Clarke present these concepts through ‘Stories of Survival.’ Looking at concepts of change and migration, students explored how text and images can convey these large concepts. We teamed up with the Art faculty to complete an Interdisciplinary Unit, producing stories that explored students’ own experiences of change and survival.
Throughout Term 2, students looked at how authors examine social cliques and coming-of-age through a study of SE Hinton’s The Outsiders, a literary classic that gives students the opportunity to develop their analytical skills.
This term, Year 8 has been inspired by the short story The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. This story opened our eyes to the selfless good deeds that are done every day by unsung heroes around the world.
We started using our inquiry skills and looked up a myriad of good deeds to choose one to write a Podcast about.
We called our Podcast “Making a Difference” and we all wrote our scripts to a template, so all our Podcasts had a similar format. To make sure they sounded ‘professional and entertaining’ we got our Podcasts professionally produced by Ben Wasley!
This capped off our learning about how we can use Podcasts to broadcast a good message, and hopefully, this made us reflect on what we listen to and what we should be listening to, so we can grow our hearts and minds and become great citizens.
Last term Year 8 dove into the world of Young Adult Fiction. We took an excursion to Readings (Hawthorn) and each student got the opportunity to choose their own young adult fiction book for our unit! Each student then studied the conventions of Young Adult Fiction to write the first chapter of their own novel. What creative kids we have!
In Term 1, our Year 9 students in L&L studied the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Students learned about the conventions of graphic novels as well as the metalanguage needed to discuss them in academic writing. Students explored the events that led to the Iranian/Islamic revolution of 1979, as well as the history and events of Iran in the early 1980s. Students explored the ideas of multiple perspectives, the roles of women in a cultural revolution as well as the danger and complexity of cultural and political upheaval. The summative assessment for this unit was a text response essay responding to either a chosen or negotiated essay question.
In Term 2, students undertook a unit exploring genre and race through the study of short stories by first nations writers. Most of the stories studied were selected from a First Nations anthology This All Come Back Now. Students also looked at other First Nations art such as sections of the Australian TV show Cleverman. Throughout the unit, students explored the analysis of language and symbolism within texts and produced an analytical response to one of the short stories studied. Students then were asked to creatively respond to the concepts covered in the unit by producing their own short story in the style of speculative fiction.
In Term 1, we completed our first text study of the year exploring Art Spieglemen’s, Maus. It was a joy to watch the students engage with the complex issues within the text and see their understanding of both the horrors of war as well as the key English skills of textual analysis develop over the term. This unit was run in parallel with the I&S Unit that looked into The Holocaust and we felt that the students worked really well to draw connections across the subjects. The student reflections highlighted how well the Year 10s took on the opportunities offered to them. To finish the Semester, we are now heading to Tralfamador where we are joining the students on a wild ride into the works of Kurt Vonnegut. Students are now looking into themes that are presented in the novel Slaughterhouse-Five and working on finding evidence to support their ideas in preparing for their examinations and creative responses.
Year 11 students have begun their DP journey with excitement and rigour, exploring a range of socio-historical contexts, global issues, and delving into the world of literary theory, all-the-while considering how authors construct texts to convey meaning.
Students travelled back to Enlightenment Ireland, considering the ethical proposition of eating babies to solve the problem of poverty. An obvious provocation, Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal introduced the concept of satire as a means of social critique, a concept traced across time through a study on Bong Joon-Ho’s film Snowpiercer and even through to Betoota Advocate and The Onion.
As an introduction to the study of ‘literature’ at large, students were introduced to literary theories, with a focus on postcolonialism in a study of Claire G Coleman’s speculative fiction novel Terra Nullius. This text is used side-by-side with Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck. Recognising that senior students become more independent in their learning, students were asked to take on the role of teacher, leading guided discussions on different short stories of the collection. One group even prepared tea – a symbol of connection in one of the stories – to share with the class!
It’s been a big year for our 12s, beginning their first round of official IB assessment! Students are asked to examine a global issue of their choice through two works – one literary and one non-literary. The exciting thing about this task, and the DP course as a whole, is that students are free to choose their own texts and shape their own assessments. Students explored issues of cultural erasure, impacts of colonisation, wealth inequality and climate change through novels, speeches, films, articles and essays. They presented their analysis through a ten-minute oral presentation, with a five-minute thesis-defence-style Q&A at the end – a daunting task for any student!
Bookending this, we have explored Jean Rhys’ postcolonial writeback to Jane Eyre: Wide Sargasso Sea and Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece Waiting for Godot. As a break from the rigour of the DP, students have enjoyed stuffing their pockets with potatoes and seeing the MTC’s adaption of Beckett’s Happy Days at The Sumner Theatre.