Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Powerful writing

In year eight the students have been exploring writing and the power of language to convey strong emotion. We discussed powerful verbs and strong nouns (having previously looked at some poetry as well) and then we moved on to what issues they felt strongly enough about to research and then craft such a piece of powerful writing. We tossed around a few issues, and then Maddy spoke up. “I was watching something on Behind the News,” she said, “and I was so shocked.” It was the issue of the athletes from Sierra Leone who had gone missing from Melbourne during the Commonwealth Games. She told us what she had seen about the conditions in Sierra Leone. She spoke passionately to the class and we all listened. There was a hubbub when she had finished. There were questions and various points of view about what she had said. The discussion went on for some time and it became clear that we needed to find out more. Maddy had told us about the detention centres in Australia that had been mentioned on the program; an extract of the transcript of the program tells us: “While asylum seekers are waiting for their claims to be checked in Australia, they are often locked up in one of 7 detention centres. A lot of people who now live legally in Australia were once kept in detention centres while their details were being checked.” One of the students burst out with, “Well, where are these detention centres then?” So there was a time of research and then a time of writing and I am so pleased with the quality of the writing.

This is an extract of Zoe’s blog:

“When I heard about this, I said that these refugees don’t deserve to be punished like this. They are humans just like us! We happened to be born in Australia, and they happened to be born in Sierra Leone. What have they done wrong? They don’t deserve this. Think about it. What if it was you who was trying to enter Australia? If I lived in Sierra Leone, I would be trying everything I could to get out of that country. All I wanted was to live in another country, and I was told that I could not live in another country.”

And further on:

“We have luxuries here in Australia. We have fresh drinking water, computers, houses, jobs, education and television. We have more than we could expect, more than the basics. A family has extra cash. What do they do with it? They don’t think about those poor people like in Sierra Leone who a lot of them don’t have a house to live in or even enough food to eat! So what does that wealthy family do with their extra money? The go out and buy ANOTHER T.V. “One with a bigger screen,” they say. “Or a computer with a flat screen, or a lap-top that I can carry around with me.”
As you can tell, the whole blog post is very powerfully written.

But the students didn’t stop with the research and writing. They wanted to do something more. And so they decided to hold a cake stall to raise money to help the refugees in Australian detention centres. The students all participated. They did all the work themselves. And they were so proud when they raised over $200 in one lunchtime. This was largely as a result of their passionate concern for the well being of others. The students were very clear that they do not want this issue to be a transient one. They want to keep learning and keep acting. And they want to keep publishing their findings and their thoughts on the internet. Wow!


  1. This is brilliant Jo....Students reflecting on real issues with passion!

    Your class might like to check out some of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's resources:

    Info for Students is a good overview of HR Issues.

    Face the Facts: Some Questions and Answers about Refugees, Migrants and Indigenous Peoples is a great resource that can be used to explore the issues faced by refugees in Aus.

    There's also some Face the Facts teaching notes available.

    Note tho, that the refugee policy changes this week may render some of the info in Face the Facts out of date.

  2. This is learning that lasts! Bravo!

  3. What wonderful writing Maddy has done! It inspires me to keep working on the Blogging and writing of my Year 6s.
    I logged on to say well done on the Melbourne Age article and Maddy's writing was an unexpected bonus!

  4. Wow. What else can I say? Congratulations to your wonderful, socially aware and COMPASSIONATE students!

  5. adapter7:11 pm

    Jo, how well-resourced are the kids at your school in ICT facilities, or do they have to do their blogging at home? We find it hard to get into the computer labs given all the competition for the few spots that are not permanently assigned to the ICT and Accounting classes.

  6. Good question, adapter. We have 4 computer labs that are always timetabled. I have one class per fortnight in a lab. But this is not enough for blogging. So when I want to blog with students I will check who is timetabled into labs and ask around until I can find someone to swap with (as not all classes tt'ed into labs need them every time. Otherwise we have about five small pods with 8 or so computers each that are not tt'ed so I break up my class into these pods and circulate during the period to supervise. Or there is a half class set of laptops I can borrow and are wirelessly connected to the internet. So we are very well resourced, but it does take a bit of initiative. And the students do blog at home. Just this morning I had an excited email from a student who finally worked out how to blog from home (on a Saturday). I know not all schools are as well resourced which makes it hard.

  7. What an amazing experience! I'm a preservice teacher and read over your blogs and commented on your blog in mine! Thanks for sharing your experience!