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University of Melbourne

Report: School leavers disadvantaged by university entrance system

As part of today’s Higher Education Summit as presented by The Australian Financial Review in Melbourne, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is expected to present a report that indicates students from poorer families may be disadvantaged by issues of clarity regarding university entrance.

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Originality in plot writing

The Quest for Originality – fun or folly?

Every author strives for originality. However, anyone who has ever tried to come up with a ‘new’ plot will know that it is not easy. Every plot seems to have been done before. Is it impossible to come up with something truly original or is a challenge worth pursuing?

Seven distinct story types

According to Christopher Booker, every story follows one of seven universal plot lines. In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, he gives a detailed outline of each story type as well as a wealth of examples from ancient myths, folk tales, plays and novels. Here is a summary of the seven story types with some examples from children’s literature.

  • Overcoming the Monster – The main character battles against the villain(s) or an evil force and eventually triumphs against all odds. For example, What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson.
  • Rags to Riches – The main character rises up from humble beginnings and gains everything they wanted before losing it and having to fight to get it back again. For example, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin.
  • Voyage and Return – The main character travels to an unfamiliar place where they meet new people and overcome difficulties before returning with a newfound wisdom. For example, Greetings from Sandy Beach by Bob Graham.
  • The Quest – The main character sets out to achieve a particular goal, but they must overcome a series of challenges to succeed. For example, The Big Fish by Pamela Allen.
  • Comedy – A humorous story that centres on some sort of misunderstanding or confusion which leads to conflict, but is eventually resolved. For example, Grandad’s Teeth by Rod Clement.
  • Tragedy – The main character’s actions set in motion a series of events that lead to their downfall or death. For example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Aesop.
  • Rebirth – The main character has flaws, but is shown the error of their ways and eventually redeems themselves. For example, The Swap by Jan Ormerod.

Some stories may vary slightly from these basic plot lines or combine multiple plot lines, but they still bear the hallmarks of these seven overarching themes. Challenge your students to think of a book, film or play that doesn’t fit one of these seven story types.

One basic story structure

As well as following one of these seven plot lines, all stories also have the same basic structure:

  • Sizzling Start™ – start with an action scene or at a moment of change.
  • Back fill – the Who, What, Why is filled in as the story unfolds.
  • Gradual build-up of tension – pebble, rock, boulder.
  • Action climax – the main character almost fails, but triumphs against all odds.
  • Character resolution – the character’s inner story is wrapped up.
Story type: comedy
Example of one of the seven plot archetypes in action. Click to enlarge.

This basic structure is covered in more detail in a recent Education Matters article: ‘Narratives – the pattern that authors use’. The Narrative Story Graph mentioned in the article is a visual representation of this story structure. To demonstrate how the seven universal story types, tie in with the basic story structure, two of the examples above have been plotted on the Story Graph template. Go to www.sevenstepswriting.com/samples/free-downloads/ to download these examples.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

While being faced with such limited options may seem to hinder creativity, in the quest for originality writers can use it to their advantage. Rather that wasting time reinventing the wheel, great writers put a new spin on tried and tested plot lines and structures.

Encourage students to do the same by familiarising them with the seven plot types and the Narrative Story Graph. Switching the focus from the basic plot line and structure to the actual content of the story will increase the alpha brain waves which boost students’ creativity. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

Related article: Narratives – the pattern that authors use

For more examples of completes story graphs become a Seven Steps Online member at www.sevenstepswriting.com/info-seven-steps-online/.

Sarah Bakker
Publishing and Content Manager at Seven Steps to Writing Success and a qualified primary teacher with over a decade of experience in creating educational resources.

Originality in plot writing

The Quest for Originality – fun or folly?

Seven distinct story types According to Christopher Booker, every story follows one of seven universal plot lines. In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, he gives a detailed outline of each story type as well as a wealth of examples from ancient myths, folk tales, plays and novels. Here is a summary of the seven story types with some examples from children’s literature.

  • Overcoming the Monster – The main character battles against the villain(s) or an evil force and eventually triumphs against all odds. For example, What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson.
  • Rags to Riches – The main character rises up from humble beginnings and gains everything they wanted before losing it and having to fight to get it back again. For example, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin.
  • Voyage and Return – The main character travels to an unfamiliar place where they meet new people and overcome difficulties before returning with a newfound wisdom. For example, Greetings from Sandy Beach by Bob Graham.
  • The Quest – The main character sets out to achieve a particular goal, but they must overcome a series of challenges to succeed. For example, The Big Fish by Pamela Allen.
  • Comedy – A humorous story that centres on some sort of misunderstanding or confusion which leads to conflict, but is eventually resolved. For example, Grandad’s Teeth by Rod Clement.
  • Tragedy – The main character’s actions set in motion a series of events that lead to their downfall or death. For example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Aesop.
  • Rebirth – The main character has flaws, but is shown the error of their ways and eventually redeems themselves. For example, The Swap by Jan Ormerod.
Some stories may vary slightly from these basic plot lines or combine multiple plot lines, but they still bear the hallmarks of these seven overarching themes. Challenge your students to think of a book, film or play that doesn’t fit one of these seven story types. One basic story structure As well as following one of these seven plot lines, all stories also have the same basic structure:
  • Sizzling Start™ – start with an action scene or at a moment of change.
  • Back fill – the Who, What, Why is filled in as the story unfolds.
  • Gradual build-up of tension – pebble, rock, boulder.
  • Action climax – the main character almost fails, but triumphs against all odds.
  • Character resolution – the character’s inner story is wrapped up.
[caption id="attachment_3100" align="alignright" width="300"]Story type: comedy Example of one of the seven plot archetypes in action. Click to enlarge.[/caption] This basic structure is covered in more detail in a recent Education Matters article: ‘Narratives – the pattern that authors use’. The Narrative Story Graph mentioned in the article is a visual representation of this story structure. To demonstrate how the seven universal story types, tie in with the basic story structure, two of the examples above have been plotted on the Story Graph template. Go to www.sevenstepswriting.com/samples/free-downloads/ to download these examples. Don’t reinvent the wheel While being faced with such limited options may seem to hinder creativity, in the quest for originality writers can use it to their advantage. Rather that wasting time reinventing the wheel, great writers put a new spin on tried and tested plot lines and structures. Encourage students to do the same by familiarising them with the seven plot types and the Narrative Story Graph. Switching the focus from the basic plot line and structure to the actual content of the story will increase the alpha brain waves which boost students’ creativity. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Related article: Narratives – the pattern that authors use For more examples of completes story graphs become a Seven Steps Online member at www.sevenstepswriting.com/info-seven-steps-online/. Sarah Bakker Publishing and Content Manager at Seven Steps to Writing Success and a qualified primary teacher with over a decade of experience in creating educational resources.]]>

NGV's new code learning initiative

Art gallery invites students to engage through code

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) will invite students to use code with a view to animate its famous Picasso beginning in term four this year.

NGV’s Digital Creatives initiative, developed in partnership with Telstra, combines the gallery’s art collection with digital technology in offering students alternative ways of understanding and engaging with art.

As part of the Digital Creatives offering, Art/Code/Create workshops will be held at the NGV’s education studios and gallery spaces, making use of the gallery’s consultation with non-profit organisation, Code Club Australia and Scratch – a program that teaches students the foundations of coding.

“Artists have used materials and tools in innovative ways to make art throughout history. Contemporary artists working today use a variety of technologies to create artworks, including virtual reality technology, 3D printing and robotics,” said Tony Ellwood, NGV’s Director.

“NGV Digital Creatives introduces students to computer code and digital technologies and prepares the next generation of Australian artists with new art making materials,” he said.

The initiative also offers a full-day coding workshop for teachers in order to help them build confidence in this area, which the NGV says is a part of its commitment to supporting the development of digital literacy in children.

Code Club Australia’s General Manager, Kelly Tagalan commented on the natural link between coding and art.

“Coding is the language of the 21st Century – and is increasingly becoming the canvas of artists around the world. Code Club is proud to have supported the development of NGV’s inaugural coding workshops, which will empower students through both art and technology,” Ms Tagalan said.

The NGV has a long history in offering interdisciplinary education programs, with NGV Education first established in 1950.

Online video games

Research: Online games boost student scores

A study from RMIT University reveals teenagers who regularly play video games online tend to receive higher school grades.

This contrasts with another finding: those visiting Facebook or chat-based websites every day are more likely to realise decreased performance in maths, reading and science.

The study used data collated by the internationally recognised Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was in turn analysed by Asasociate Professor Alberto Posso from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing.

Published in the International Journal of Communication, the paper provides a snapshot of some of the pressures placed on today’s teens in Australia.

PISA’s database included tests from more than 12,000 Australian 15-year-olds in maths, reading and science, alongside additional information on the students’ online activities.

Assoc. Prof. Posso found that students “who play online video games every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science”.

“When you play online games you’re solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you’ve been taught during the day,” he said.

As a result, the academic suggests educators consider how to incorporate popular video games into their teaching, “so long as they’re not violent ones”.

By comparison, students that regularly sent time on social media scored 20 points worse in maths than students who had never used those platforms, but Posso still recommends incorporating the technology as a method of assisting students who fall behind.

“Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage.”

The researcher also stresses that there could be other factors having major impacts that hamper teenager scholastic progress, and missing school could be as bad or worse as regularly using social media.

Students from minority ethnic or linguistic groups were also at increased risk of falling behind than those using Facebook or chat sites each day.

Fail card from Shutterstock.

Ever-lowering ATAR scores for new student teachers

Latest figures show more students with ATARs under 50 are being admitted to teaching degrees, raising questions about minimum entry standards from the Australian Education Union (AEU).

The rate of entrants with ATARs under 50 has nearly doubled since 2013, rising from 7.2 per cent to 14.3 per cent, which the AEU says indicates a failure by the Coalition to introduce means of addressing falling standards or an oversupply of graduates.

Ms. Correna Haythorpe, Federal President of the AEU, said the Government must impose minimum entry standards in order to maintain the future quality of Australia’s teaching body.

“Entry scores for teaching degrees have dropped steadily over the last decade, and are now significantly lower than for other courses.

“This is a far cry from successful school systems like Singapore which recruit teachers from the top 30 per cent of high school graduates,” she says.

Figures released by the Federal Education Department shows that 1062 students were admitted to teaching courses with ATARs under 50, up from 894 in 2015 and in 2016 over half of all teaching students admitted with an ATAR in 2016 had one of less than 70.

Ms. Haythorpe highlights the Government’s stated intention to put teacher quality ahead of funding, but as thus far failed to take meaningful steps in this direction.

“The Coalition wants to cut needs-based Gonski funding after 2017, and says they will focus on teacher quality ahead of resources. Yet they have failed to do anything to address this issue or limit the number of students entering teaching degrees.”

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