#Let’s Create – ETA Annual Conference bursting with creativity

Such a wonderful way to finish the professional development calendar with the English Teachers Association annual conference! This year, we took the 200 year anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as our starting point in developing the conference theme.

Friday began with the entertaining Professor Michael Anderson, University of Sydney,  delivering the Ken Watson Address on ‘Creativity in the English Classroom: beyond the false dichotomies’ based on his

research and teaching focusses on how schools can transform through creativity, collaboration, critical reflection and communication.

I look forward to re-visiting these ideas in the January summer break: my work-related reading list begins …

Following in this theme, I was fortunate to introduce the celebration of three writing teachers who each shared their work:

  • Peter Ramm read ‘Canvas’ and outlined his life with arthritis as inspiration for his poem. Peter’s work is also featured in The Red Room Company’s Poems to Share II

  • David Leys read from his novel, and outlined his fascination with science, while

  • Amy Hughes brought the house down with two performance poems: ‘Esoteric Splat’ and ‘Not Cool Anymore’. She is a veteran of the Bankstown Poetry Slam which is the biggest slam poetry event in the southern hemisphere.

After morning tea, I hosted Candace Fennell’s presentation ‘Exploring Creativity with Multimodal Texts’ that revisited the value of teaching interactive narratives and multimodal texts with clear syllabus links to Contemporary Possibilities, the Year 11 Standard English Module. She discussed a range of introductory activities and resources, including the Cannes Lion Award-winning ‘Three Little Pigs’ advertisement, and Nicola Osborne’s ‘What does your digital footprint say about you?’ . We considered a comparative refugee perspective via The Boat and the music video for Missy Higgins’ O Canada. Candace also highlighted The Guardian’s interactive documentary site The Seven Deadly Sins the Amnesty International website and outlined relevant teaching and learning strategies, including assessment tasks.

Next, I was mesmerised by the energetic duo of Lisa Muller and Jenna Hancock who shared innovative and authentic Stage 4 and 5 assessment samples and rubrics to engage and build necessary skills for students in Stage 6. This presentation was truly inspiring, with readily adaptable strategies for all participants, including:

  • pocket films and The 60 Second Film Festival 
  • imaginative writing and cafe storybombing, and
  • persuasive writing: nominate a song for the Shakespeare- inspired playlist ‘Billy Shaker’s Hot Hits’ hosted by 2NUR FM

I was very pleased to host, and thank, these novice presenters.

Saturday was another beautiful sunny, and much less chaotic, day with a relaxed atmosphere and time for the Frankenstein-mountain themed photo booth and traditional after lunch prize draws. 

Either side of lunch, I attended Michael Murray’s two part ‘Focus on Writing’. I introduced him as practical, knowledgable and wonderful, stating that I always found time to be part of his workshops at conferences. I wasn’t disappointed.

Michael delivered an overview of data revealing the declining writing results in NSW and Australia, and suggested possible reasons for this dangerous downwards trend. He then stepped us through his Writing Hive program, refined over the last three years in his work with a variety of primary and secondary schools in both urban and regional settings. The ‘hive’ offers a systematic method for encouraging whole school participation in developing student writing by utilising the experts ie. English teachers to de-code important syllabus references to literacy in all KLAs. We considered how assessment tasks, for any faculty, could be written to include the teaching of relevant and specific literacy skills. Ever practical, Michael closed his informative and inspiring presentation with a suggested 3-4 year plan that could be effectively embedded within a typical school plan.


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