OATE Update (Otago)


Our annual OATE ‘Big Day Out’ was a great success and enjoyed by an enthusiastic 90-odd members, as a well anticipated and timely catch up in what was certainly an eventful year.

Held in the last week of school for the year, we enjoyed an engaging keynote address from Professor Liam McIlvanney, Director of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, bestselling and award-winning crime novelist and postgraduate creative writing supervisor in the English Department at Otago. Liam led us through a gripping plot development masterclass. There were plenty of practical ‘take away’ ideas for creative writing inspiration and crime fiction text studies in our programmes across all levels. We also appreciated the odd ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘The Godfather’ references!

After plenty of time to catch up over great coffee and a scrumptious catered lunch, our day was punctuated with some stunning workshop sessions by generous presenters who shared their expertise and successes in the classroom with us. These included some great Junior English foci such as:

– Inter-GREAT-ed studies: The strengths of co-curricular learning, the triumphs and tragedies,
– Tips and tricks of a multi-text study to encourage student engagement and foster independence,
– Teaching decoding, reading, and spelling strategies,
– Experimenting using the gaming programme CLASSCRAFT to stimulate greater engagement in a Yr10 independent reading unit.

The Senior tailored sessions included:

– Kicking off with ‘More Bang for Your Bard’ – tricks to making Shakespeare more relevant,
– Using genre study as an alternative approach to designing and implementing a senior English course,
– A lively HOD discussion forum about the upcoming new Level 1 changes
– ‘Screams From Tha Old Plantation’ – A Palagi Parleys with Pasifika Poetry – charting a course from Katherine Mansfield to Tusiata Avia, with a particular focus on how the 2020 Arts Foundation Laureate’s poetry can be used to illuminate discussions of gender and race in the classroom, then morphing in to the “the future of hip hop,” with analysis of SWIDT’s music videos, which highlight social issues both in our own backyard and further afield.
– Finally, we were fascinated by a wonderful seminar that looked at examples of works that used psychologist John Bradshaw term “dysfunctional family.” He then listed the roles that most often make up such a system including Narcissist, Co-dependent or Enabler, Golden Child, Scapegoat, Lost Child, Mascot archetypes as part of their structural framework and most often as a reflection upon society. It also examined how to use these concepts to engage students and encourage a deeper connection to such texts as “Lord of the Flies”, “Stand By Me” and parts of “Great Expectations.” and Katherine Mansfield’s “Prelude”.

At our AGM on the day, we scheduled our next catch up at Taieri High School in Week 8 of Term 1 and started a valuable discussion with our rural high school colleagues about we can better support them by sharing resources, identifying their needs in their respective English Departments and having regular korero. OATE is certainly in great heart for 2021.

Ella Murdoch
Chair OATE