Discovering Discovery

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By English Teachers Association Administrator on 29/08/2013 2:32 PM


Discovering discovery

by Mel Dixon

I haven’t blogged for a while - disheartened by the lack of comments but given the new NSW HSC prescriptions I decided this was the place to share comments on discovery.

The rubric is big and will mean covering a lot of territory with students.  It’s a bit like journey - why did you set off, what did you find, what were the results? For discovery it’s: What necessitated the search? What kind of discovery emerged and What was the impact of that discovery? It’s personal, social, historical and cultural. It’s emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual, but also confronting, transformative and provocative. It gets daunting when you start listing the adjectives that appear in the rubric – we find that we have a great deal to consider.  The main thing is to raise the bar to go beyond the simple and literal.

And this is where the quality of texts comes into play. The hard thing will be to choose from the text list. The earliest text, The Tempest certainly establishes the complexity of the ideas behind discovery. I know a lot of teachers are excited by Life of Pi, the film, which will certainly invite some creative thinking which in turn, I hope, will lead to better imaginative writing – but then the documentary on Hurley and the Go back to Where you came from series are going to open up some new areas of analysis, requiring a different kind of reading.

 Kate Chopin’s short stories will need context but once that is done you have a strong female voice finding out about herself and the restrictions of her life – looking out the window – literally and metaphorically in many of the stories. The poetry is all good with two Australian poets and one American to choose from but whether you choose Dobson, Frost or Gray, you will be dealing with fine poetry. We know Swallow the Air from its previous incarnation in Belonging but it fits much more comfortably with this concept.  The chaos of the opening is beautifully balanced with the sense of having learnt something by the end. Great to see Bryson there, offering us a different view of the world through language and then The Motorcycle Diaries with its strong political purpose.

The purpose of the author is going to be important in this study, as it will be the guide to the structure and meaning of the text. Form will need to be thought of carefully – how does the form lend itself to the sense of discovery? Is the visual more powerful? We can’t seem to get away from Shaun Tan’s Arrival as a good related text – it really allows students to consider how form drives meaning.

These are just my initial thoughts and I haven’t included all the books- I just want to open up the discussion. What’s your school thinking about for texts? Let’s talk about Discovery in this blog and I’ll go through the Modules in other blogs. Make a comment and start the ball rolling.  

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