Contextualising life

Watching an episode of Modern Family had me thinking about the importance of being able to have a context for understanding of so many things we are confronted with on a daily basis. Cameron, the big gay guy, was wandering the streets looking for Stella, the lost dog Jay adores. As he shouts out ‘Stella’, he realises he is wearing a tshirt very like the one worn by Marlon Brando who played Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee William’s, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘. His cries for Stella become more impassioned as a result. For me, the joke was obvious, but my two children, having no context, had to ask why was I laughing.

Today, I was reading an answer on Quora, and it made mention of Alexander the Great and Bucephalus. I was immediately taken back to my obsession with all things Ancient Greek in my first year at Teacher’s College. But once again, it had me wondering. How many times a day do we not entirely grasp the full intentions of information we read or view, because we don’t have enough context to understand it in it’s entirety? How much does our formal education play a part in our general knowledge base, and is that determined by the teachers you had or your ability to ferret for information yourself?

In Victoria’s VCE English curriculum, Area of Study 2 requires students to study a central theme or idea, and be inspired to write from a variety of texts, be they print or visual. I’m teaching Year 10 English this year, and we are beginning our course with a thematic study in a similar vein to what the student’s will encounter in Area of Study 2 in VCE. In past years, students have created a hard copy folio of stimulas material, but this year, we are going to have our students use Storify for the same purpose. Storify is a fantastic curation tool, and is currently being used by individuals, corporations and news organisations around the world to report on current events.

I can’t help but think that the students with a broad general knowledge base have the advantage over others when it comes to formulating a response to Area of Study 2. Hopefully, the use of a tool like Storify will help our students comprehend the importance of reading widely and accessing a variety of sources to help formulate understanding.

I know that when I introduce this topic, I’ll be talking about the importance of being well read and able to contextualise life. School’s purpose is not just to get students through the final exams of year 12 with a decent enough ATAR score to get them into University courses. We’re helping to prepare these young people for the rest of their lives, and we want them to know how important it is to have context for understanding. I think I might just get Cam and Marlon to help me make my point.



2 Replies to “Contextualising life”

  1. How very true! So much of what we view echoes other texts, and with a better understanding of certain archetypes and structures students are able to make much richer connections, and draw deeper meaning. In my sixth grade class we were discussing the orphan boy’s transformation to hero in a number of texts, and students with broader experience were able to make more insightful comments. I think it is our role to provide context, but also to help students begin to identify connections on their own and search for other levels of meaning. What I find difficult is that much of the popular culture to which they are attracted is quite shallow, and the search for connection and meaning takes quiet a lot of perseverance.

  2. Hello I am Joy Eady . I am in EDM310 and will be commenting on two of your blog post and i will be sumbitting a summary to your blogs and my comments on my blog page.
    I agree with you as well. I think that many students do not fully take the time to really connect and understand the true meaning of something they have viewed or read. I do believe it is mostly because us students do not obtain enough context of the information to fully grasp and really make a connection with the things we encounter day to day. I believe that those tools would probably come in handy in helping the students learn more and become more understanding about the information they read.
    here are the links to my blogs:
    http://www.Joy Eady’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: