literature


nerdlutiont555I’m struggling again to create a literature unit plan for my high school students. We MUST read The Great Gatsby. I WANT my students to read The Great Gatsby. But they will take too much time, I won’t be able to incorporate writing or test-prep, and they will just tell me that they don’t understand this book. How do I know these things? Because this is how they roll!

I’ve worked all day trying to figure out strategies they can use to read and understand this book. I’m drawing/sketching, using Notice & Note language, and writing in the margins of the book. I’m learning more about the book — this  is only the 2nd time I’ve taught the book — but this process is so labor intensive that I really don’t think my 17 y/olds will persist with me. And if we have to read this whole thing out loud, they will DEFINITELY bolt!

So, I’m stuck. Everything is so slow with this group, and I don’t feel like I’m being very structured in my lessons. Stopping the whining now and getting back to reading and notetaking…

Wish me luck

#nerdlution #2

  1. March 7, 2010 4:04:46 PM EST
  2. I really don’t want my peeps to feel this way! #nooffense
  3. Just finished reading a scene from Julius Caesar. GOD I HATE ENGLISH CLASS.
    December 1, 2011 9:26:23 PM EST
  4. RT @haileymontague: Thank you Julius Caesar for not letting me go to bed right now. 😦
    December 1, 2011 7:43:20 PM EST
  5. At least this:
  6. Almost done reading Julius Caesar play, well ACT 4 of it lol smh. It’s so boring but it’s actually getting kinda interesting right now! :O
    December 1, 2011 9:26:18 PM EST
  7. I actually enjoy reading Julius Caesar #muchbetterthanromeoandjuliet
    December 1, 2011 7:18:19 PM EST
  8. When Ange and I make jokes related to Julius Caesar oh #shakespeare look what you’ve done to us. et tu brutei?
    December 1, 2011 7:51:30 PM EST
  9. WHAT?? haha…I wonder if my peeps can relate?? 😉
  10. I finished my Julius Caesar essay and it ended up being 4.5 pages. #OverAchiever
    December 1, 2011 6:47:24 PM EST
  11. The play in a nutshell….(Well, I mean with Legos and action figures, of course!)
  12. The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
    October 19, 2006 1:12:18 AM EDT
  13. Some quick quotes
  14. No fear… “I love the name of honor, more than I fear death.” – Julius Caesar
    December 1, 2011 9:52:32 PM EST
  15. In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes. – Julius Caesar
    December 1, 2011 9:38:03 PM EST
  16. As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can. -Julius Caesar
    December 1, 2011 8:15:56 PM EST
  17. #FamousMisrememberedMovieQuotes “I came, I saw, I got assassinated by my best friend.” Julius Caesar.
    December 1, 2011 6:30:41 PM EST
  18. Fun facts #evenoldteacherscanlearnsomething!!   (btw…the publisher of this page is Pearson Education–semi-professional). 
  19. The Impact of Julius Caesar on Modern Day Society
    December 1, 2011 10:24:30 PM EST
  20. Listen for themes in Julius Caesar — I think it will help you understand the play.
  21. HSC English Julius Caesar preview
    June 7, 2011 7:48:48 PM EDT
  22. For your enjoyment!
  23. Season 3 Episode 25 – Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)
    January 11, 2008 3:24:45 PM EST

For some reason, independent reading is under fire in my high school English class (well, actually, down the hall, too). So, here are 13 responses for when I’m asked:

Reading: What’s It Good For? (13 Reasons)

1) Independent reading “humanizes” us –we can walk in other people’s shoes (Kylene Beers: http://bit.ly/f79ziP)

2) Because the more you read, the more you know, & the more you know, the more places you’ll go (Dr. Seuss)

3) It’s fun to get out of yourself (from a student blog today)

4) Students gain confidence in several different types of texts (American Library Association: http://tinyurl.com/dx5buc)

5) Increased vocabulary, word knowledge, & general knowledge  (Janet Allen)

6) Recreational reading correlates with higher test scores–and college/work readiness  (Kelly Gallagher: Reading Reasons)

7) When students read nonfiction, they begin to understand the world they live in (NCTE)

8 ) One of the critical skills employers want is employees who can comprehend and communicate — choosing your own reading material teaches you to think outside the box (10 Things Employers Want)

9) You’ll learn how to survive a zombie attack!! (http://tinyurl.com/28yq4x) –Hey, it could happen!

10) It’s important to learn to clear away the fluff in elections, or you end up with government officials who try to shut down the government, or blame state employees/teachers for the downfall of the American economy…or, with a Congress who doesn’t know what’s in the health care bill…or cuts to education…

11) Because then you know:  The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. — Mark Twain

12) The Duke University basketball team was able to win the ACC tournament not because they could guess the correct answers from a multiple choice test Coach K gave them on how to beat Virgina Tech and UNC, but because they practiced every single day–to get better. Why would we expect students to be better readers just because they can say the alphabet? (Kelly Gallagher, Reading Reasons & Readicide)

13) Ummm…I’m an ENGLISH teacher….it’s MY JOB!!!!! I’m here to build that stamina that will let a kid get into a flow (Jeffrey Wilhelm & Michael Smith) and get caught up in a story about someone his or her age who’s dying of mad cow disease (Going Bovine) or of cancer (Deadline) or caught between life and death (Before I Fall; If I Stay) or learn about love (An Abundance of Katherines) or about discrimination (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) and bullying (Absolute Brightness) or not accepting the way things appear, but believing in magic (Harry Potter) or  the ability to find something wonderful about another person you shouldn’t probably be with (Twilight; Red-Riding Hood) or how to deal with a friend’s teen pregancy (Someone Like You) or surviving a plane crash in the middle of nowhere (Hatchet) or helping a friend cope with being abducted (The Tension of Opposites). Or, God-forbid, figure out how to survive in outer space (Across the Universe) or how do deal with life when society tells you how and whento do everything–and the adults are MIA (Matched; The Knife of Never Letting Go; Maze Runner).

Wow! I’m set, I think. Let me also say that I am more than tired of people who do not understand teaching but think they should have an opinion on what I’m doing in my classroom. I don’t want to be in charge of anything except the reading and writing lives of my students.  One of my heroes, Penny Kittle, says that to “combat Readicide (systematic killing of reading): give them books they love, help them set reasonable goals for improvement, fire them up every day with a book talk, and then give them 10 minutes of class time a day to fall into a love of language. Expect every kid to become a reader; make it happen.” (from English Companion site). This is my job…my calling.
I’ll end with my favorite quote from one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

(What he said…) The Case for Teaching Literature


what should a teacher do when a colleague undermines one’s hard work? i understand this happens more often than not; however, it doesn’t usually happen to  me because i keep to myself. i’ve become very good at staying away from the teacher’s lounge, cafeteria (when i don’t have duty, of course), and hallway gossip sessions (as much as possible!). what i’m trying to say is i stay away from back-biting and gossip; not that i don’t hear it, but i just choose not to spread it.

so imagine my surprise when i found out from a student today that another teacher told her today that she should not be reading the book she has (the lake house by james patterson) because it is “not literary enough” –yes, a TEACHER said this. and my favorite part? the person is an ENGLISH TEACHER!!!

now, maybe the student misunderstood the teacher, and maybe protected sex means getting a burglar alarm (sorry glee writers!)…i am almost positive that this statement was directed at our conversation last week when we argued about appropriate literature in high school. in this teacher’s mind, all reading should be “classics” while in my mind, students need to explore texts that help them learn something ab0ut themselves. i have had so much more success this year than in the last 3 because i have turned more toward self-selection and short texts. i like to think i meet the students where they are developmentally, and try to  move them along as much as possible.

i feel sorry for my students who may have this teacher next year–they will lose something by not being pushed to choose their texts. but i also feel sorry for the teacher who will NEVER hear 3 classes a day yell for 30 more minutes to read!! to me, this is the greatest achievement of my career.

The Inferno is a difficult piece of literature, and one of only 2 “old” texts i teach–oedipus rex being the other one. i’m not sure what it is about these stories, but all i want to do is have students see their relevance to our times. people don’t change (and according to dante, neither do the sins! ).

in the spirit of connections, this is my powerpoint for the different levels; so, if you’re reading this but haven’t read the inferno, here’s your chance to learn about it. maybe you recognize someone you  know has characteristics of a  certain level,  and you’ll get to send them to hell–figuratively of course!!

Inferno — tour of hell

but, if you’re interested in what level YOU would go to, just go here and take this test…if you take it, send a comment and let me know what level you land in. i’m on level 5. of course, i can’t understand why!!! ha

http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-test.mv

Tomorrow begins my yearly decent toward summer–YEA!! spring break is over, and teachers & students are supposed to be well-rested and on their way toward the end of the semester.

Why not stick a little Dante into the mix of happiness, just to bring us all back to reality??? haha!!

I love  teaching Dante’s Inferno; not because I understand all the allusions or literary concepts, but precisely because I don’t. Dante began a new style of writing back in Italy during the middle ages–he wrote in the vernacular, or the “people’s” language. this might not seem important to us today, but back then, it was BIG news! most writing was done in Latin or “professional” Italian (the dialect of the ruling class). but Dante saw the future (umm…i think that is on level 8!)–he wrote for the people in the language that they spoke (Florentine, i think). of course, all his work was for naught–he was banished from his country for his political beliefs–but that’s another post.

No, Dante is lovely because he expresses the fears of us all from the opening sentences:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straight forward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

See how hard he sees his life? he’s lost his way and is trying desparately to find it. but, like for most of us at one time or another, our way is blocked {in dante’s case, it’s blocked by a leopard (fraud), a lion (ambition), and a she-wolf (greed)–all “sins” he struggled with}. i like to think that dante knew his readers would come up with their own animals to represent their sins.

so what do i tell my students about my sins tomorrow? well, i took a “which level of hell should you be on” test earlier, and it put me on level 5 — wrath and sullenness. and guess what–it is TOTALLY correct. i am all about being mad and jealous about stupid stuff. just ask Jake—he tells me every day: “what doesn’t make you mad, mom?” EVERY DAY!! so, i have to deal with that, cuz i sure don’t want to be stuck on 5!

But Dante is relevant to high schoolers, too. They are on their way to becoming adults–a way that seems dark and foreboding. they will have to either battle their animal sins or retreat. but, like Dante, they need a guide (for him, it was the Greek poet, Virgil) and a goal (Dante missed his true love, Beatrice–he gets to see her in Paradise–Heaven). Although this tale is more than 400 years old, I haven’t really ever had a problem selling it to students. They can all relate to being at a crossroads in their lives or having a difficult decision to make. They have all needed someone older and wiser to help them through it. And they have all had a person who they didn’t want to dissapoint.

If they just didn’t get all upset over the poetry!!

i’ve just finished the most amazing book: monkeytown, by ronald kidd. it’s about 15 year-old  francis who is in love with john scopes, of the scopes monkey trial. it’s based on the true story of francis’s father who was on the school board and a community leader –he apparently helped come up with the idea to “try” john scopes for teaching evolution, in hopes of getting publicity for the town of dayton, tennessee (i think that’s the right town).

i loved this because i’m not normally a history reader, but i couldn’t put it down. poor francis began to question everything: her religion, her ideas about the world, and, most importantly, her father. all the main characters of the scopes trial are characters in the book (i.e. charles darrow & william jennings bryan, etc). johnny scopes came across as an unwilling participant in the trial, although he at first agreed to what amounted to a scam. i’m not sure how much of that is historically accurate, although in his note, the author alluded to the truth of the conspiracy (may be too strong of a word!).

my favorite line: (pg 220) “no one is all bad although they may appear that way at first. but no one is all good either.” isn’t that just….smart? i can count the number of times i’ve tried to say the same thing about a character (oedipus, gatsby, etc) OR a student!!!

next up on  my reading agenda: someone like you by sarah dessen. I LOVE YOUNG ADULT LIT!! 🙂

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