Transcript of Core appreciation

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (19:26).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.

As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations People hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Advisor with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today's Think Tank episode is a chat between two dance teachers about revision techniques for the HSC core appreciation written exam. Please welcome Clare Johnson from Gymea Technology High School and Carla Cherrie from Kirrawee High School.

Hi Carla and Claire, thanks for joining me today. Before I hand over to you guys to have a chat, I just thought I'd give our listeners a little bit of context as to what we're doing here today. So, you are both dance teachers who have taught the HSC dance course before and Clare, you've been fortunate enough to escape not having to have a class in what has been this super crazy year.

Clare – Yes.

Jackie – But Carla, you do have a class?

Carla – Yes, I do. I've got three students or a nice small class.

Jackie – Fantastic. And during this time you've also both been working with us on some resources to help teachers improve their students’ writing for dance, which is probably going to be released at the end of the year or early next year. So that's why I've brought you together today to have a bit of a chat and I thought it best just to let you guys have a chat about some techniques and some tips for teachers to use in these final few weeks before the HSC dance exam and they've got a little bit longer now than they thought they originally had, which is really fantastic. But I thought I'd hand over to the dance experts and Clare as you don't have a class this year, I'm going to get you to ask questions and talk about some really fantastic ideas that I know you guys have employed this year and in previous years in preparing your students for the HSC core appreciation written exam.

Clare – Thank you, Jackie. Carla, considering the given climate with Covid 19 affecting the HSC for New South Wales students, how are you coping teaching the Dance Syllabus online whilst students are preparing for their written exam?

Carla – So it's definitely been a bit of a roller coaster. Lots of ups and downs. I am finding that the extra few weeks before the HSC and being on an online platform and at Kirrawee, we use google classroom, it's provided the students and I with both positives and negatives. I think the positive sides of the situation that we're in learning online, there's less, less chatter within, you know, classmates. I also find that I can give kind of live feedback, I can give it over google classroom using the doc to help the kids and kind of tap into their thought process and guide them back on track. So, if they do go off on a tangent, I can give them live feedback as they're typing, give them clear directions with their extended responses. I think too, it allows students to work to their own timeframe with no restraints of bells to interrupt their train of thought. So, working at home, they can spend their time producing better quality with more focused approach to the given task. And I find that they haven't got the restrictions of the like the lesson time frame, they can run their own race. And I mean, this isn't the case for all students, but I think where they're at at the moment in their education, you got an understanding but the onus is on them to work hard and achieve the best results that they can. So the other thing that I think is a big positive for students is that this situation is certainly it's certainly developing certain lifelong skills of time management, self-motivation, sustained focus and writing endurance and all these skills they're developing while they're working online and they’re, you know, super valuable for their future and their future education. For me personally I think a big plus for me is that I get to keep an eye on the kids’ work and you know, see what they haven't handed in and I can prompt them and remind them to finish off their work. And I think too the extra weeks that we've got between now and when the HSC starts allows us to utilize the time for more revision and we can brush up on our appreciation skills and just focus on appreciation now that you know, the performance side is finished.

Clare – So those extra weeks are really going to help you out there and having that focus on that core appreciation component. So, you've mentioned the positives, can you tell us a little bit more about the problems or the challenges that you're facing with teaching this content online?

Carla – Yeah, for sure. So, I definitely think some of the challenges are obviously related to the social aspects. You know, these year 12 kids that year 12, you know, they get certain privileges when they get into year 12 and unfortunately they're missing out on all of these things like their formals and presentations and just even the everyday social socialisation. They're missing out on time with their peers and I find that this has made the kids slightly unmotivated and disappointed within the lockdown situation. The other area that is more apparent and needs extra attention this year is definitely going from a digital world where we're in at the moment, back to handwriting and students will need to practice their handwriting skills within their essays as opposed to typing them and developing, they need to really work on developing their dexterity and their fine motor skills or that their work is legible when they go into that exam.

Clare – Yeah, that's very true though. They haven't spent that time in the classroom practicing writing those and it has been on this digital world. So yes, that is one aspect of their training that they need to keep a focus on in the lead up to this exam. So, have you found ways to keep your students motivated and if so, can you share with us some of the ways that you found that are effective in keeping them motivated during this time?

Carla – So I've tried to provide as many face to face zooms online as possible that way I feel that the kids can connect and they have a sense of belonging which gives them that chance to open up to have conversations, share their concerns, ask questions, not only of each other but of me as well. This also allows them to provide support for each other and it allows me as a teacher to provide support and they can share their similar experiences and discuss the ebbs and flows with their moods and their motivations and I think it also gives them that sense of not being alone and that they're in it together and they can share the experience together. I've also tried to incorporate some movement based lessons such as yoga and stretching and Pilates and even though that you know, they're not directly linked to the appreciation component, I think it's still important for their mental health to keep moving their bodies. They are dancers after all, and this reinforces the interrelated components of the Dance Syllabus whereby they still experience dance and appreciate it and it's also an outlet for them to express themselves. I've also incorporated some Kahoots, which is a fun and interactive app, but also a great revision tool and there are a bunch of related Kahoots to our prescribed works on their website, but you can also create your own as well. And I find the kids like it and then it's interactive, something different.

Clare – Yes. Some great ideas there to keep them motivated. Thank you. So now let's turn our focus to the actual core appreciation exam. In your experience, what's been the most difficult aspect of the core appreciation exam for your students?

Carla – So personally, I think the 30 minute time frame that they have to write the essay in is probably one of the most difficult parts getting the kids to be aware of their time management and making sure that they're completing the question within that time frame and as well as making sure that they're answering the question completely and they're not leaving things out. I also think it's hard to get the kids to break down the question and to brainstorm within that five minute reading time.

Clare – Yes, it's not a long time to gather their thoughts together is it? I've experienced that in the past they really need to learn how to use the five minutes wisely and they don't have that time during the exam to stop for a minute and consolidate their thoughts like they would perhaps in an exam that extends for a couple of hours. So, taking that focus just to 30 minutes is really important. So, what is it that they can do in the five minute reading time to make the following process of writing for only that 30 minutes on each question easier or more effective?

Carla – So I get my kids to ensure that they identify the keywords and the components from the syllabus within the question and then they're able to call on their knowledge and understanding to effectively address the question and the answer that is being asked well. Students have retained a lot of knowledge and information about the works we have studied, the difficult task is to only include the relevant information and deliver it in a succinct manner so that they can answer the question within that 30 minute time frame.

Clare – Yes, with just 30 minutes to write a response, there's not much time for waffling around. So, getting to the point a great tip there, that's excellent. So, Carla, what further tips and tricks can you share with us to encourage them to practice their writing for core appreciation?

Carla – So I'm lucky enough to be supported by a number of dance teachers within my local area and we have an ongoing dialogue of questions and suggestions. We’re constantly sharing resources and supporting each other because of changes to the HSC. We've obviously tapped into each other's ideas and strategies and we're constantly in contact and we've looked at how to effectively get through the past few weeks and the weeks ahead.

Clare – That's so fantastic to be part of a great network of dance teachers and we're very lucky in the subject and we're very grateful that we have great colleagues around us. So, I'd love for you to share some of those ideas that you've come up with your colleagues. So, what are some of the tips and tricks that you've come up with and that you'll implement in these weeks remaining?

Carla – So we've got a number of tips and tricks that we've all been sharing. So, this is a combination from ideas from all of the teachers I liaise with. One of them, and I think the most important one, is timed responses. So, getting students to actually sit down, set a timer on their phone for 30 minutes and then pick up a pen and start writing. I give my kids a list of unseen questions or a list of lots of different essay questions that they can choose. So basically, this is like a mock exam situation and it's giving them the experience of having to consolidate all of their ideas quite quickly and get it down in the 30 minutes. Another option is to get the students to mark each other's essays. Now, it depends on the cohort and whether the kids are comfortable with that, but this little task allows them to develop their own skills in the way that they're ensuring they’re reading the questions and they're making sure that the essays are answering the question. It's also good for them to share ideas this way.

I think it's also important for the students to practice a review and we haven't had a review question for some time. So, it's important that the students understand what’s included in a review and what a review looks like and what it means to take on the role of the critic in your writing. So, I give examples of different reviews for the kids to read and look over.

Lately I've been creating sample plans as a response to different practice questions. We do this over zoom and I find that when we work together, when I work together with the kids, you know, it gives them more confidence than to go away and do these plans by themselves. Within these plans, we just do dot points and we write what we, you know, how we might attack the question and we write down some examples and as I said, it just gives those kids that perhaps aren't as confident, it gives them an extra plan and then it gives them a strategy that they can take away and do their own plans.

Clare – That's a fantastic idea. I really imagine that that's a handy way to be using the online platforms and the communication tools that we have in this current environment and really getting them to immerse themselves in the process of planning and writing and all contributing at once. And that really emulates that classroom situation, doesn't it?

Carla – Yeah, for sure. And what I do is we all use the same doc and they can all write on the doc at the same time. So, it's just like being in the classroom, except we're just not face to face. I also remind my students to answer the question and I think that's another big tip. It might seem a little bit silly to say that, but you've got to remind the kids that they have to answer the question and like I said before, the students really need to get to the point and be succinct and not waffle. I also suggest that they be specific with their movement examples, describe in detail and always link it back to the question.

Another task that I do with my kids is I share with them the core appreciation syllabus areas of study, as well as the glossary of words and I get them to create their own essay questions. So, they just, you know, make the links and this is a good way for them to gather more understanding of the syllabus and it allows them then, once they've got the question then, they can create their plan and then potentially extend and write the whole essay from that.

Clare – Some great tips there Carla for the coming weeks. Thank you. And thanks to our wonderful network of teachers for some fabulous ideas there. Okay, let's talk about the actual exam day. Now, what are some last minute tips for the night before or the morning of the exam that we can share with our students?

Carla – So these probably sound pretty obvious, but when you're heading into your dance exam, there's lots of nerves and anxiety is happening. So, I like to remind the kids even though it is sounding obvious, sometimes they might overlook it. But firstly, they need to be prepared obviously and make sure that they're not cramming the night before. If they leave the work or the study to the last minute, then they can be tired and stressed and therefore they're going to feel flustered heading into the exam and they're not going to utilize that five minute reading time appropriately. Another thing is students need to be in a good mental space before they enter the exam and so they need to give themselves plenty of time to arrive and prepare before heading into the exam room. They're making sure that they are getting there maybe 20 minutes or half an hour before the exam to gather their thoughts so that when they do enter the exam, their mind is clear and free of stress. Another thing that I always remind them to do is have a good breakfast or lunch so that their brain can function. You don't want them going in there and being distracted by their grumbling bellies.

Clare – Yeah, that's right. And it's some pretty basic and simple ideas here but it's about getting teenagers to be thinking about these things in the lead up to the exam and just entering those exam situations as calmly and as clear as is possible and that plenty of time before the exam starting. And just that arrival time you talked about is really good, you don't want to be running late on the day of your exam and be stressed out and by the time you get there then you need some time to calm down. So just lots of time and lots of focus and prepare yourself for the exam.

So where now can you direct students for further assistance whilst they're preparing for their exam online, Carla?

Carla – I've sent my kids different links and told them to head to obviously the NESA website where they can go over the syllabus, especially the core appreciation part of the syllabus. I've also encouraged them to have a look at past HSC exam papers and take note of the guidelines to know what was required to answer the question at various levels. I've directed them to the standards material of the written exam paper, which is also on NESA and this allows them to look at some exemplary essays, and obviously sending them to the Bangarra website and the Kylian website so that they can gather some more information on our prescribed work.

Clare – Thanks Carla, such fabulous ideas of tips and tricks leading up to the core appreciation exam, things that we've worked on as dance teachers for many years. But in the environment like we've talked about, it's very different and you really do need to shift your focus and your approach to teaching online. So, there were some fantastic ideas. Thank you very much for that. Thanks for speaking with me today and sharing all those ideas, best wishes for you and your students and all the dance students of New South Wales.

Carla – Hopefully the teachers out there have found these tips useful.

Jackie – This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our statewide staff room through the link in the show notes, or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.

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