Macrat Musings


Is this for real?

The DBE has announced the new grade 12 prescribed lists for 2016, and the announcement has been met with varied reactions.

One teacher that I know still believes it is an extended April Fool’s Day joke. I would love to hear what you think – please leave your comments below.

The controversial choice for the novel is The Life of Pi or The Picture of Dorian Gray. Unfortunately I don’t have fond memories of either novel: I couldn’t get beyond the first chapter of The Life of Pi, and my student-days recollections of Dorian Gray are bleak, gothic and undefined. My friend, Mr Google, has provided some thought-provoking comments which I thought I would share with you. I am now very keen to read both novels.

But for now, see what others have said about the titles:

Categories: Macrat Musings


Force-feeding history on reluctant teenagers

‘History may be made compulsory in all South African schools’

I read with interest – and some concern – an article entitled ‘History may be made compulsory in all South African schools’ in The Sunday Times (5/4/2015). As a history teacher who has taught more history lessons than I care to remember, I wondered at the wisdom of this decision. Don’t get me wrong – I think everyone should study history and that we can all benefit from an understanding of the past. However, I would far rather learners chose to study history than have it forced on them by educational authorities who think that it will somehow make them more patriotic.

Categories: Macrat Musings


Digital natives prefer reading in print.

Yes, you read that right, and I feel joyous that I haven’t been a dreary naysayer without reason. I know times are a-changing; I understand the benefits of technology and using handheld devices, but one solution doesn’t fit all. Take workbooks for example, where learners make notes and mindmaps in order to fix information – is it as effective when doing it digitally?  It seems not.

Categories: Macrat Musings


What’s in a face?

I recently attended a production of Othello at the Maynardville Open-air Theatre in Cape Town.

When I saw the poster advertising the production, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, no! That doesn’t look like Othello!’ (See top left-hand photo in the collage.) While he certainly looked strong of character, and fearless, to me he didn’t seem handsome enough to have wooed Desdemona. Trying to pinpoint and vocalise my doubts was difficult, but it is important to question one’s ‘gut’ reactions.

Macrat collage Othello

Categories: Macrat Musings


Celebrating Lewis Carroll

Did you know that ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is rated one of the top novels?

According to an article in The Guardian, the story is ranked 18 in a list of the 100 best novels. While the novel was first published in 1865, it has never been out of print and has been translated into about 100 languages.

We would like to celebrate the 150th year of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and encourage you to take another trip with Alice for the memorable escapades and unforgettable characters you may meet.

We have all taught and had fun in the classroom with Carroll’s poem, ‘Jabberwocky’ which comes from the  sequel, ‘Through The Looking Glass’ . It might be ‘nonsense’ but it conjures up fantastic images, encourages creative thought and is ideal for teaching internal rhyme.

Do you remember?

   ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
   All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.
   “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
   The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
   Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
   The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Bring fun to the classroom and celebrate Lewis Carroll’s genius:
You can download a fabulous worksheet from our website that refers to Lewis Carroll’s various characters. Once your learners have completed the worksheet you can celebrate his extraordinary talent by having a Mad Hatter’s Tea party!

High School teachers:
You will find more excellent worksheets and fun activities like this in our Ratpack which is published quarterly. Read more about the Ratpack and join our band of happy subscribers for 2015!

Primary School teachers:
You will find similarly inspiring worksheets in our Mac-7 series. The series aims to highlight aspects of the CAPS and provide ready-to-use resources that cover these aspects in a creative and interesting way. The resources for Grade 7 English provide excellent value for money and are photocopiable for learners at your school.
Read more and order today!


Categories: Macrat Musings


Facing failure head-on

With the recent discussions in the press about the best way to publish learners’ results, I started thinking about those learners who do not pass.

While most learners are optimistic about passing their matric exams, some may have doubts about their success or failure, and a handful might receive news of their failure like an unexpected slap in the face. How can we help learners deal with what they might perceive as the end of the world?

Categories: Macrat Musings


Should we ditch Shakespeare?

I recently attended a presentation at the University of Johannesburg by Chris Thurman, Associate Professor at Wits University. His talk focused on the relevance of teaching Shakespeare in a South African context. It raised an important question: Why do we continue to teach Shakespeare to a population that has difficulty understanding modern English – never mind Elizabethan English?

Categories: Macrat Musings


Who should be a columnist?

I think it is true to say that most of us like to be heard, but some people are more determined than others, and in an effort to pursue their mission, they write columns or blogs. It is also true that not everyone who writes a blog writes well … which brings me to the purpose of these musings: Barry Ronge, the legendary columnist, has retired, and I am really missing his quirky insights and personal observations.

I can’t even begin to express what I consider a good columnist to be, so I will leave it to Barry to say it for me: Columnists, however, have the luxury of working with the more pliable clay of opinion, the very essence of which is subjectivity. It’s not so staccato and urgent and it allows the readers to think around assumptions and ideas that are interesting but they are not yet a hard fact. [Extract from his final column.]

In honour of Barry Ronge’s long career as a columnist, we have compiled a worksheet based on a tribute to him written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey. You will find a copy of the worksheet on our website (‘Free Worksheet High School’). Enjoy!


Categories: Macrat Musings

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