Dystopia with an environmental focus: World Shaker and The Lorax study (Part 1)

Art activities: word wall. Handprints : the Earth is in your hands

I made blackboards to hang at the back of the classroom for illustrated quotes and word walls. I bought exercise books for students to use as journals that were kept in the classroom.

Encourage students to scribble down their ideas, do independent research and think deeply to form their own opinions – then, develop persuasive techniques.

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Consumption was the subject of one lesson and developed arguments for and against technology using a thumbs up/thumbs down template.

“Show me you and the universe” is an activity from a book about teaching gifted children but it proves entertaining and insightful with students generally in English or Humanities.

Students work in small groups or pairs to devise a representation of themselves and the universe. They may choose to express their idea in any form: drama, text, drawing, spoken word … it is a lovely way to connect the personal to the big picture. Explore the connections between part and the whole, microcosms and macrocosms. Often their presentations are delightful and insightful.

Resource: “World Shaker” spelling list.



Dystopia unit : Study of World Shaker (Part 2)

Week 2: lesson goals focus on assessment task, illustration introducing novel, student quote

Student quote: Even if we give our opinion, nobody listens. What good does it do?

Content previewed by link study of “The Lorax” – watched movie and read book.

Incorporating homework into the illustration: research deforestation, find three facts and write them into your journal. Copy the illustration into your journal or create your own.


Grammar worksheet: Close reading of a paragraph from “World Shaker”(PDF, 66KB).

Students’ questions.

Week 3-4: Source questions from students on post-it stickies

After explicit instruction on definitions of dystopia and utopia, the social, political and technological changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution, source essential questions from the class. Collect post-its and read them out. Class votes for Best Question prize (bookmark) and the winner picks several others for prizes to celebrate success. The questions guide inquiry for the rest of the unit.

Society has always rejected new ideas and change – exploring novel characters

Worksheet: Cloze reading of passage from “The Blessed Unrest”, by Paul Hawken. (PDF, 37KB).

Skulz word game – build the board

skulz-scrabble (pdf)

Numeracy into literacy

I made this alphabet resourceem0-2 to reinforce spelling in a Year 8 unit on digital media.

I randomly distributed the letters to the Year 8s and gave them a vocabulary list. Their job was to mingle amongst themselves until they could spell a word on the list.

More recently, my Year 7 and 9 students played more traditional Scrabble-like games on desks. However, as the board expands as needed using the emoticons as spaces, it might be easier to play this on the floor.

I introduce the concept of letter values by asking students to add up the value of their own names using the table provided.

Download Skulz alphabet


Elizabethan Idol – 2006 mini docs

Elizabethan Idol followed high school students auditioning for acting and production roles in Cinergy’s short film festival for the Shakespearean World Congress held in Brisbane in 2006-2007

I made a digital media package of mini-docs on the making of the short films from auditions to the final product…

Wordplay Cowboys – teaching Shakespeare

Wordplay Cowboys is a learning activity based on transforming Shakespearean language into cowboy slang from Hollywood Westerns.

First read and summarize the play.

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Students write scene summaries in groups and then share on the board.

Moving onto the Student Scribe activity, start by giving students an example. Make the example interactive. Here they are introduced to the activity and asked, as a class, to offer up verbally some possible dialog. First they must identify the scene.

This is a nice way of reinforcing students’ understanding of wordplay and checking for understanding of plot and character.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.53.23 amStudents then divide into groups with a handout on cowboy slang and the script for the scene they must translate. To make it easier, choose a well-known scene – The Balcony Scene. If they are confident, they may choose their own scene.

Suggested scaffold – list of cowboy slang:

* reload gunslinger * pilgrim * hit the trail gringo * fancypants * Hell of thing, killin’ a man

* burnin’ daylight * we deal in lead, friend * deed to the ranch * will, coffin, grave, grace

* dead in the dust * Bounty, Reward, Price on yer head * meltin’ cowboy’s heart * coddle

* Pretty as a picture * fancypants * cinch * We may not get out alive * humdinger

* like spittin’ in yer eye * cowboy up or bleed * yep * Howdy partner * what’s that stranger?

* Easy gal * I’m gonna blow yer head off * there’s right and there’s wrong * God dang

Students may be daunted from the start, however, it is a reasonably good formative activity to coax their performance and language abilities out before assessment tasks requiring these skills.

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