The class I will be taking for my three lessons contains 25 grade 9 students. Of these students there is 15 girls and 10 boys. 12 of these students are currently working at the average literacy level for grade 9 students. There are 8 students working at an above average level, and 5 students at a below average level. Of these 5 students, 2 boys have behavioural issues, and struggle to stay attentive for long periods. Twice a week there is a Teacher’s Aid available to work with small groups for up to 2 hours.
This 2 hour period is often used to help break up lessons for the 2 boys with behavioural problems, or occasionally separate them if the need arises. Throughout these literacy lessons the Teacher’s Aid will be available to help the 5 students who are currently below average literacy levels, as well as prompt deeper discussion around the chosen text, with other students in the class. The chosen text for this literacy unit is the song ‘Imagine’, originally written and performed by John Lennon. Over a period of 3 lessons this text will be explored and examined through the three receptive modes of listening, reading and viewing.
The text ‘Imagine’ provides a range of relevant literacy demands for grade 9 students. It is an excellent example of literature that is well structured by an author, for a specific purpose and effect. As stated by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2011), “By the end of year nine students analyse the ways that text structures can be manipulated for effect”. Some of the literacy demands that can be explored by students in this text include language for interaction, text structure, expressing and developing ideas.
These opportunities are provided by the written content and theme of John Lennon’s song. He uses certain devices, such as metaphor and sentence structure, to suggest the world could be a better place without religion, ownership, war and possibly cultural differences. By analysing the written text, students will have the opportunity to analyse and reflect on how the author has put these messages across. It is also a goal for year 9 students to be able to discuss the content and appeal of an author’s literary style (ACARA, 2011).
Other literacy demands that are prominent for this text are examining and responding to literature, as well as interacting with others. Lines in the text, such as “No people below us, above us only sky”, offers students the opportunity to evaluate and discuss their own ideas on the meaning, and intent of the author. Some students may find the comprehension of these tasks easier than others. This can be due to some students having less prior knowledge in specific areas, and therefore may be working at a lower level of literacy (Emmitt, Komesaroff & Pollock, 2006).
In this case I as a teacher, as well as the Teacher’s Aid, will be there to support and facilitate learning. Visual and auditory features of this text are also significant to the literacy content. The film clip for the song contains Mr Lennon playing a piano and singing in a large empty house, with a woman sitting with him. This provides students with an opportunity to analyse the message of the video clip by itself, and in relation to the written lyrics. The ability for students to make connections between the lyrics and clip will be encouraged.
Contradictions, such as John playing a beautiful piano inside of a mansion whilst singing about no possessions, will also be looked for in students understanding of the text. The melody of the song is uplifting and enjoyable, and provides another aspect of literacy that students can identify with the authors use of text to cause effect. With the aim of providing an effective literacy environment, as well as rich opportunities for literacy to take place, a variety of learning practicing will be implemented. This text allows learning practices such as discussion, group work and presentation.
It will be important for me as a teacher to use differentiation whilst providing questions for students, to evoke interest and learning . As suggested by Camborne’s 7 conditions of learning, engagement in crucial in producing an optimal learning environment. Open class discussions involving all students can be used to generate this engagement as well as immerse students into the text (Campbell & Green, 2006). Group work will provide another environment where certain students may be more comfortable participating and allow diversity in all student’s learning.
The variation provided by the text allows the use of video clips and audio tapes as a form of diversity, which is important in stimulating and motivating students (Campbell & Green, 2006). Another key to maintaining motivation in students is encouragement and feedback. This is an important practice throughout any unit and links to Camborne’s learning condition of response. This condition advises feedback from not only teachers but also peers, in both formal and informal settings. It is important that feedback is offered in a constructive and in a positive environment (Westwood, 1999).
The strategy I will implement throughout my three lessons with be based around a combination of verbal and written tasks. This will provide students with numerous opportunities to discuss and engage with the text. It will also allow me as a teacher to guide students towards specific learning outcomes related to my context of health. Using the selected strategy, students will be guided towards ‘exploring and reflecting on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters from texts’.
This is drawn from the grade 9 literacy strand within ACARA 2011. This learning outcome strongly relates to health and wellbeing in society, and provides students with the opportunity to discuss their own thoughts and feelings on such topics. As the lessons progress students will be able to analyse the world, and human health related issues of the text. The selected strategy will permit activities such as linking the general theme of the song to other famous text. The uplifting message of the text ‘Imagine’ suggests that if people work together, the world can become a better place.
Other texts such as ‘I have a dream’ by Martin Luther King Junior, have strong links to this message and can be used to strengthen students understanding of the chosen learning outcome. Demonstrating how to make links between different texts by me as the teacher will be important in providing students the opportunity to observe learning occurring (Wing Jan, 2009). Another important aspect of my lessons will be making sure I cater for all students when setting tasks. Support from the Teacher’s Aid, and myself, as well as a variation in difficulty levels required in tasks, will help students achieve the chosen learning outcome.
When teaching literacy to grade 9 students in this context it will be important to structure lessons and strategies used to guide students in a clear and precise manner*. I have found Camborne’s 7 conditions of learning an effective theory to use when planning for the literacy demands of a text, as well as literacy practices to be implemented into the classroom. It is also important to use scaffolding through a unit of work, especially when the intended learning outcome is at a level students have not previously achieved (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2006).
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a good example of how to scaffold correctly and create rich learning opportunities. Bloom’s Taxonomy also links to Camborne’s conditions. The condition of ‘Use’ for example, where students use their knowledge through their everyday lives, links with the later stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Scaffolding should be guided by the strategies chosen by the teacher to engage students in each lesson of the unit (Campbell & Green, 2006).