Magazine article NATE Classroom

Hard to Teach ... the Rest of the Story

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Hard to Teach ... the Rest of the Story

Article excerpt

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In the previous issue of Classroom, we looked at some of the innovative ways teachers had used ICT to tackle 'Hard to Teach' topics. That was less than half of the story ...

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Podding along: making literary texts accessible

Radio is fashionable again, it seems. At least, making short programmes, or podcasts, for students to share or broadcast on the Internet has suddenly taken off in English classrooms. Three case studies concentrated on podcasting, another including it amongst a range of activities--and a fifth went the next step, with students making their own films. The activity itself isn't new, but digital technology now makes sound recording, editing and broadcasting accessible with modest equipment and basic skills. All that's needed is standard computer or laptop, microphone, software (often free), a relatively quiet location--and some ideas.

The classroom challenge the teachers were addressing in all but one of these activities was how to make literary texts accessible. Using the free sound recorder program Audacity, Kate Roberts, at Batley Girls' High School, developed a structured series of lessons focusing on the language of poetry through their own recordings. Students' conversations as they compiled their scripts revealed detailed consideration of the language of the poems; Kate concludes that the process was important as well as the final podcast.

Phillip Lloyd knew that his class at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College in Bradford found the concept of 'culture' alien and struggled with the 'other cultures' of the AQA anthology. Podcasting offered a focused way to address this and examinations taken shortly afterwards demonstrated that students had a good grasp of the poems, which could at least in part be attributed to the activity. As a bonus they also had a collection of recordings they could return to later for revision purposes. Both teachers provide worksheets on using Audacity useful to anyone interested in experimenting with podcasting.

Carrie McMillan's classes, at Kingsmead Community School in Somerset, were given the added stimulus of knowing the broadcasts would have a real audience on the local radio station. Pupils talked engagingly, enjoyably and knowledgeably about poetry--often with the increased awareness of language that Carrie was seeking. Carrie noted different outcomes from Years 10 and 11; the older students explored the poetry in a tentative and sensitive way that was beyond her expectations; the younger group showed a clearer understanding of how media products target their audience than with how poets use language for effect. The second group took much greater pains over the scripting and editing of their programmes, using Apple Garage Band software this time. Carrie concludes, 'It further emphasises what English teachers know already, that students regard speaking for a real audience as motivating.'

Sam Custance's audiences at Holsworthy Community College, Devon were two groups including that crucial ingredient for league tables, C/D borderline students for GCSE. Just at the time you want them to concentrate the most, they lose interest. Through a range of websites and strategies, many game-based and using an interactive whiteboard, Sam made revision an opportunity for students to build confidence and a positive approach to their examinations--and have some fun. Not content with outlining a range of revision strategies, including podcasts made by the teacher, Sam asked if she could write an extra case study about how the introduction of an interactive whiteboard to her classroom helped students with their problems in refining and presenting information, including 50 teaching and learning ideas when using SMART software.

Working with resources that makes some colleagues green with envy and others blanch in terror, Angus Weir at Ninestiles School, Birmingham asked his Year 9 students to produce short trailers for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. …

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