A Guest Post by Carolyn Newall from We Teach Well
For those of us who are dedicated teachers of English and literature, literacy has always meant more than the ability to read words on a page. Literacy is the ability to make meaning from those words. To read them, evaluate them, use them, create content with them, understand and make meaning from them.
Literacy is a current buzzword in Education, nowhere more so than when it is attached to words like media and digital. Media literacy and digital literacy are not exactly the same as normal literacy, but neither are they completely unconnected.
Just as normal literacy concerned itself with making meaning out of written texts, media and digital literacy concern themselves with making meaning out of media and digital texts. As such, English teachers can not afford to be elitists and ignore them.
English teachers do not have a specific body of content to impart. They have a never ending wealth of content with which to teach a variety of skills and abilities. The most advanced being the ability to understand and make meaning from the world we live in. And make no mistake, for our students it is a digital world and we need to get ahead of it.
I have been particularly concerned for some time with the importance of cultural signifiers in reading comprehension. That is to say, are there cultural references in the text that make it inaccessible for a student who does not know that cultural context. Indigenous educators across the world have done really important work in this area and created more equitable contexts for their students.
Just as we need to be aware of cultural content we need to be aware of cultural modes of transmission. To create the best outcomes for our students we need to allow them access to modes that they are familiar with. Modes that allow them to display their understandings in new and different ways.
For my own son who suffered from dyslexia but had a visual memory that still astounds me, this would have been a game changer. Despite A grades for all spoken and media presentations, his written work was always poor and consequently his overall score for English was not good. Had he been allowed to make movies, record a podcast, create a social media profile, he could have demonstrated his understanding and analytical prowess far more successfully.
Teaching English is about teaching students to make meaning and communicate it to their audience. Writing essays can not be the only way we judge their prowess. The digital world is not going anywhere and we need to keep up.
On a side note, digital modes are opening up ways for teachers to have far greater impact and to earn extra income as well. But that is a topic for another day.
For now I have provided a complimentary copy, only for readers of the Wingaru Education Blog, of our presentation Teaching Film as Text.
Also If anyone is interested you will find some of our resources, including our free ebook, So You Want Them To Read, for teaching film at our TES store. https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/WeTeachWell
We Teach Well
Over the last week we have been honouring Black Diggers for their service. I am overwhelmed by the response! Every single person who has served for this country deserves the highest respect and I have seen that this week. The pride the Aboriginal community has for our soldiers is heartwarming. It is great to see Black Diggers getting the recognition they deserve.
I have learnt a lot and been privileged to hear the stories of great people. I hope schools start to include Aboriginal soldiers in their ANZAC lessons and am proud of the resources we offer to support this.
I am fortunate enough to call Uncle Ken Canning a friend and am excited to share, with his blessing, one of his poems. You can download a printable version at the bottom of this post.
You will find more of Uncle Ken's work at https://vagabondpress.net/products/ken-canning-burraga-gutya-yimbama.
Author Burraga Gutya (Ken Canning)
Hail!! You brave men.
You gave your all,
Not for King or Queen
but for country.
in your heart.
All wars all battles,
the strong Black Diggers
stood tall proud
and gave honour
to all Peoples
of this land.
Fires of war
some came home
to be shunned
your fought for,
the brave Black Digger,
as brave as those
in our frontier wars.
You once more
were cast out by
a callous country.
allowed to speak
to those you fought
so valiantly beside.
humble Black Digger,
we your Peoples,
still amongst us,
stand tall in honour.
For at the going down
of every sun,
we shall always
BRAVE BLACK DIGGERS.
Burraga Gutya (Ken Canning)
One of the visions I have for Wingaru is that we are able support people to consider Aboriginal perspectives in a new way. By making information more accessible and providing complete packages of resources that support a range of learning outcomes, Aboriginal perspectives can easily be included regularly and not just limited to the designated ‘Aboriginal unit’ or ‘Aboriginal week’ that a lot of schools have delivered in the past.
I feel very strongly that we need this change. Many kids are still leaving school with little education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, culture or history. They are going unprepared into a world that now requires them to have an understanding of these issues. As a society we are stuck in conversations that should be over. But this progression can’t happen without the development of a shared knowledge base and for this to develop we need to make a concerted effort to include Aboriginal perspectives in the classroom regularly.
I love it when teachers tell me that they are including more Aboriginal content in their classrooms and not just being limited to standard designated topics. An easy example is including a lesson on how Aboriginal People used astronomy in a unit about planets or including information about Aboriginal Diggers in lessons about ANZAC day or looking at traditional Aboriginal toys as part of a STEAM activity. The possibilities are endless and Wingaru Kids is here to make this easier.
Easter activities are underway in many classrooms around the country and this is a great opportunity to take a different approach and include an Aboriginal perspective. While Aboriginal People did not celebrate Easter, eggs were an important part of customary life – diet, art and ceremony - and all this talk of eggs is a great time to look at how Aboriginal people used eggs. Here are some free resources to help get you started.
Our Closing the Gap activity is a free resource for primary school teachers to promote discussions on the issues surrounding National Closing the Gap Day. By facilitating a role playing activity students will gain a greater understanding of the importance of the commitments made by the Australian Government, whilst brainstorming their own solutions.
I love the excitement in the air at this time of year as teachers and students start to make their way back to school, ready for a year of learning. The possibilities of new skills, relationships and information are endless and as a parent, watching my kids come home with new knowledge to share is something I really look forward to.
Last year, I got to experience this from another perspective, that of an educator. I loved watching kids learn about Aboriginal culture and the struggle Aboriginal people have faced since colonisation all those years ago. It’s amazing how quickly young minds with keen senses of justice form opinions and seek information about how they can make a difference. I received emails from both teachers and parents sharing questions of kids who thought outside the box and were hungry for more information. I could see the impact of Wingaru Kids in changing the way we as a society think about Aboriginal people and the beginnings of the next generation having access to information that previous generations did not have. As Kev Carmody says, from little things, big things grow!
This time of year also means the ‘Australia Day debate’ is at a peak. Social media and homes around Australia are filled with strong opinions about whether or not it is appropriate to celebrate our great nation on a day that signifies the beginning of loss for our First Nations.
The debate gets heated and I feel the intent of the ‘change the date movement’ gets lost in political agendas and the passion that Aussies feel for our country. There is a lot of misinformation, making a complex issue even more confusing for kids who are hearing these conversations and trying to work out what it is all about.
Like most contemporary issues, the debate often makes its way to the classroom, leaving teachers to help kids sort through the issue and support them to form their own opinions about the day. Kids will likely join the debate mirroring their parents’ views without understanding the issue or why we are even debating the issue so strongly. After all, to many people, especially young minds, Australia Day is just about having a BBQ with our friends, isn’t it?
Wingaru Kids has a lesson to support teachers discuss this issue with their classes. Like all our lessons, there is a curriculum linked lesson plan, video, digital activities and classroom printables to help classes explore the issue, consider both sides of the debate and develop informed opinions about the issue.
We also have this free fact sheet to help sort the facts from the media hype and help students and teachers discuss the issue.
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.