'Language is never neutral but carries within it, within in the cultural and attitudinal meanings embedded, a way of seeing the world.'
'Language is not a transparent medium in which we simply name and describe reality, but is influential in constructing our attitudes to the world.'
I am taking a break from Owen to prepare a 'Discovery' PD workshop for staff in Parramatta early next term. They will be studying Frost and want to begin early in preparing for Term 4.
Language appreciation underpins all the course modules in HSC English, for whether Advanced or Standard or ESL, there is a strong imperative for 'how' meaning is communicated. This has been made even more apparent to me while writing this fourth round of textbooks for Senior English. As I move from one module elective to the next, it is the langauge usage that needs to be understood and appreciated. If students are unable to voice this within their responses, then their analytical evaluation has been too shallow.
Teachers valiantly try to convey this during class but many students still respond with commentary or a superficial listing of methods and techniques without demonstrating real assessment of the resultant impact of such methods.
An acronym I always found useful in trying to get this across to my students was to spend some time discussing what is meant by a composer's style. General discussion usually throws up some basic ideas but it seemed to be easier for them to understand using my acronym:
S-structure, form, medium
T-techniques, devices, medium specific conventions
Y-your impressions, responses, reactions (specific & why)
L-language use - diction, emotive, persuasive, tone, mood, recurring characteristics
E-effect, impact, shaping and/or clarifying of interpretation,meaning and audience response
A really easy way to impress this on students is to show the accompanying clip from YouTube. It always stimulates discussion - whether it is a Year 9 or senior class. I think the most important thing I have realised by writing about Standard Modules texts at present, is that the role played by language must be more emphasised. As such, teaching this current round of HSC texts has proven the need to foreground this in the classroom delivery of texts.
Though several of the texts for the next round have been drawn from current HSC texts, the way I will deal with them this time around will be much more focused on who the composers use language within their chosen medium, to connect with audiences.
I have never liked study guide type questions - because they often focus on the 'what' within a text, when it is far more important to examine the 'why' a text works.
I am now working on Wilfred Owen - always a moving study of lost hopes and disillusionment. The layered complexity of the new poems for the 2015 run will pose some difficulties
with students. I commented about this to a close teaching friend recently and she made a really valid point - the first time around with 'Mental Cases' was equally difficult but teachers managed it. That observation just proves how we always somehow rise to the challenge.