Lesson Ideas


What is poetry?

When I considered this question, I realised that it is far from easy to answer. Imagine how much more difficult it might be for our learners who generally have far less experience with the genre that we have.

Categories: Lesson Ideas


Celebrate Women’s Day in your classroom

August brings us National Women’s Day in South Africa – a time when we are encouraged to remember and praise strong female role models who exude positivity, skill and courage.

With this in mind, I started to consider the important literary women in my life, both writers and characters. I thought back to my childhood and happily recalled Enid Blyton, the March sisters, Nancy Drew and Matilda; during my teenage years I was enthralled by Kate (‘Taming of the Shrew’), Jane Eyre and Lyndall (‘The Story an African Farm’); as I got older I appreciated the vision of Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer, and loved the world of Jane Austin and the Brontë sisters. The list can go on and on.

Categories: Lesson Ideas


The art of storytelling

‘Africa has a wonderfully rich store of folk tales that have been passed down from one generation to the next. There are stories about how the world came into being, stories that tell of the relationships between human beings and between man and his environment, and of the lessons to be learned from everyday experience … The Best of African Folklore takes the reader into an enchanted world where animals can talk and humans are often changed into different forms, where magic is commonplace and reality is turned delightfully on its head. Despite numerous setbacks, things usually turn out all right in the end. Wicked and greedy people (and animals) come off worst and the good receive their just rewards. The gods are stern but fair, and every story has a moral for those who are wise enough to see it.’
–  From the blurb of The Best of African Folklore by Phyllis Savory, published by Random Struik (2014).

Categories: Lesson Ideas


We all love Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is not only a classic, it is a genuine favourite for most of us, and I am sure we have inspired many teenagers to love the novel as much as we do.

Do you know that Harper Lee wrote another novel before To Kill a Mockingbird, but her editor suggested she take the character, Scout, and set it in the past, which resulted in the multi-million selling novel we know and love so well?

Categories: Lesson Ideas


When I read ...

For many of us, reading is a pleasure that we cannot always describe to others who do not have a similar appreciation. Imagine not being able to read, or not being allowed to read – what an awful existence!

Earlier this year I read a poem that excited me as it phrased exquisitely how I feel about reading. A little research revealed that Lillian Morrison was a well-respected librarian in USA who only started writing poetry as an adult. She died in January this year, aged 96.
I am sure her poetry inspired many, and I would like to share her poem with you.

When I read               Lillian Morrison

I’m a runner, a racer,
I’ve got a lot of speed.
I can sprint
from here to         there
with time to spare.                               5
But when I READ
Then I’m a diver!
I plunge
               in                                        10        
and until the story’s over
I don’t come up for air.
Then too I’m an explorer,
a tracker and a rover
and I always                                        15
find something
I didn’t know was there.

If you would like to share this poem with your learners, I have posted a worksheet – based on the poem – on our website. I hope you will enjoy using it in the classroom!


Categories: Lesson Ideas


Will you commemorate WWI in the classroom?

A colleague has suggested that as World War I will be commemorated during the period 2014 – 2018, it would be appropriate to bring some related literature into the classroom. Below are reviews of some of the titles she felt were worth exploring in the classroom.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave (John Boyne)
‘Stay Where You Are and Then Leave’ is beautifully written and enjoyable, but it does not shy away from the harshness of wartime and the effect the war had on the entire country.  Alfie is only nine years old, so he escapes battle, but what’s most heartbreaking to me is that he has no idea that he’ll be forced to experience exactly what Georgie has been through in 21 years time when World War II breaks out. ‘Stay Where You Are and Then Leave’ is almost a crash course in World War I history, weaving an emotional story with the reality of war, as well as an understanding of cultural attitudes. It is a wonderful novel that shares a very important part of our history, tough to read at times but incredibly rewarding.

Also by John Boyne, The Absolutist – the reviews are mixed:

‘The Absolutist’  is another wartime story, but this time it's the first world war. It depicts a relationship between two soldiers, Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft, the latter of who gravitates towards being the most extreme form of conscientious objector, refusing any role at all in the campaign: an absolutist. The story is narrated by Tristan, and we cut between his trepidatious (sic) visit to Will's older sister in Norwich in 1919, and his experience in the war. The book is neatly structured and effortlessly readable, perhaps by virtue of being too direct. Some moral ambiguity is imported by an enjoyably sensational finale, but I would have appreciated more along the way, and a slower burn as the relationship between the principals begins during training at Aldershot.
(The Guardian)

Another review says the following:
Even so, there is almost too much tragedy in this novel. Tristan, already cast out by his own family before the story starts, continues to despise himself for the rest of his life. Readable and well-written as his story is, there is still a certain relief when it is over. (The Independent)

John Boyne also wrote ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, the story of a young boy growing up during World War II. Macrat offers an excellent resource pack for Grade 8 or 9 that will guide your learners through this thought provoking and moving novel.

Categories: Lesson Ideas


Should digital literacy be taught in the classroom?

With many schools and learners using electronic devices for study and research, should ‘digital literacy’ be taught in school, and if so, how should it be taught?


Categories: Lesson Ideas


Promote the joy of reading

Philip Vahab started a ‘free library’ in his garden in the USA and now there are more than 10 000 similar book exchanges around the country. Please take a look at the worksheet (Promote reading in the classroom) based on his story. Even if you don’t use the worksheet, this story is inspirational and your classes could implement a similar system, either at school or at home.


Categories: Lesson Ideas

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