Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Year 11 English Study Design

This term we have been trialling aspects of the new study design which becomes mandatory next year. The normal features of English study persist; “Reading and Responding” to texts in Area of Study 1 (AOS 1) which has the regular study of texts like novels, films, plays, short stories and poetry that you would expect in an English study. The new Area of Study that has been added is called “Creating and Presenting” (AOS 2). This means the students are to create texts of different forms for different purposes, audiences and contexts and to:

* examine the effects of these elements on the creator’s choice of structure and language
* engage in a creating process which includes planning reviewing and editing.

This is obviously a development of the old writing folio but integrated both with texts and with metalanguage and critical literacy. Because the range of texts that the students use is based on a context such as “Exploring and Presenting themes and ideas”, “Exploring technology and communication”, and “Exploring workplace communication”, some teachers I have heard have dismissed this new way of looking at text and composition with “it’s the old themes resurrected again”, but this is to overlook what is new, and the opportunities given by the study of critical literacy in the 21st century when so much of our literacy has to be media savvy literacy. And to complete the study the third are of study is “Using language to persuade” (AOS 3). In this area of study, students focus on the use of language to present a point of view. This too is much broader than the current study design and looks at sound effects, colour, association, symbols, gesture as well as what was studied in the past such as rhetorical language devices.

And so I was really excited when my friend and fellow VATE council member Janet McCurry presented a unit of work and invited us to trial it. What is interesting about this unit is that, in her own words, Janet chooses “to see AOS 2 an integrating link between AOS 1 and AOS 3 i.e. between text response and analysis of the way the features of a text combine to construct meaning and to position the audience to take a particular point of view.” The unit starts with a study of the film text Gattaca, which is then followed by an examination of texts such as news items sourced on the Internet e.g. “Could genetic screening work?”, “The Human Ova Business” and cloning. In the last few weeks there has been a lot in the daily press about stem cell research and the debates in parliament over the ethics and desirability of therapeutic cloning. This has led to lots of interesting discussion and debate. The students are also required to (as Janet says) “write a commentary about their own texts commenting on the ways in its context, audience and purpose helped to shape it. This will mean that the student needs to have a vocabulary with which to describe linguistic structures and features, contextual considerations and available strategies. This vocabulary or metalanguage is relevant to all three AOS and can be developed throughout the study.” This segues beautifully into Area of Study 3, which is much enriched by the work that the students have done in analysing websites such as the League for Life in Manitoba, Repromed and XytexOvations. This was engaging work and integrated well into what some of the students were learning about in Biology.

Overall, I don’t think we did the unit full justice. Here was much that had to be left out due to lack of time as we juggled both the old and new study designs and next time I teach this unit I would like to use more of the resources that Janet put together. It’s given us a lot to think about, students and teachers alike.

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