A Practice of Gratitude: Three Things Thursday

I saw this link up posted in one of the comments on a post of Ally’s, and since I was on my third mini-breakdown of the week that day, I figured it might be a good thing for me to participate.

Three Things Thursday
More info at Nerd in the Brain

Here are three things I’m grateful for this week, all work-related:

Continue reading “A Practice of Gratitude: Three Things Thursday”

It’s Monday & I survived Hurricane Matthew

In fact, we didn’t get much more than some wind (highest was 55mph, according to the weather peeps) and rain. We didn’t even lose power this time! So that was nice. I’m genuinely saddened by the devastation and death in Haiti as well as the towns in Florida that did get destroyed in pretty significant ways, though.

Today, I’m reflecting on what I’m going to do differently next semester. I realized that we have done too much Cinderella stuff. Next time, I’ll use Cinderella for the example but assign a different fairy/folk tale for the students’ assignments. I’m also going to just do one whole class novel instead of letting the students pick from three. That way, we can have an actual in-depth discussion as a class.

Then, if I teach this class again in the fall, I’m totally doing censorship. TOTALLY.

On to the books.

Continue reading “It’s Monday & I survived Hurricane Matthew”

It’s Monday! What are you reading? (3/28/16)

This past week, I finished:

The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeleine, #2)The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jaclyn Moriarty is a genius. This book. THIS BOOK. Love. Love, love, love.

Also, I have a deeper appreciation for the first book, which I obviously need to reread now.

3/27/16: Okay, I love this book EVEN MORE now than the first time. Of course because I picked up things I didn’t pick up on the first time but also because I fell super in love with the characters in a way I didn’t the first go around. I knew Princess Ko was pretty amazing, yes. And, oh, my heart aches for Jupiter so much (SO MUCH). But also Samuel is pretty great and Keira, too. Plus everything with Belle.

So, basically, this book is pretty great, and I still 100% recommend it and the first one in the series. I am suuuuuuper excited for the final book in the trilogy.

View all my reviews

 

I also decided to sign up for:

A to Z 2016

I’ll be blogging about fannish pursuits (aka things I’m a fan of or have strong feelings about). You can read my sign up post here.

 

As of today, I’m reading:

I’m still plugging away at Silver Sparrow and Necessary Endings. I’m actually almost done with the former. We’ll see how long it takes me to get through the latter. I hope to be finished this week, though.

My hold for The Magicians by Lev Grossman finally came in, which is terrible timing because (a) it’s an e-book, which means that I only have 21 days to read it, and (b) my copy of Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty (the final book in The Colors of Madeleine trilogy) should be here tomorrow (!!!). Obviously, after the above review, you can see which book will take precedence. Also, The Magicians hasn’t really grabbed me yet and it’s kind of bleak so far, which may not be what I’m in the mood for. So, we shall see how it goes for that one.

 

In other book news:

Our department sent out the call for our fall textbook orders today, and I went into a bit of a panic because I still haven’t decided which novels I want to use for my ENC 1102 (research writing) class. The deadline is April 7. And it’s a hard deadline, too. So I kind of had a mini-freakout, basically.

Right now I’m thinking Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gareth Hind’s Romeo & Juliet, and possibly Cinder or The Hunger Games. It’s those two possibles that have me on edge. WHAT IF I MAKE THE WRONG CHOICE? WHAT IF I THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE BETTER? Etc.

For my creative writing class, I’m 99.9% sure I’m going to use Stephen King’s On Writing. Oh, and I need to pick a textbook for my LIT 1000 (Lit Appreciation) class.

So I’m not at all prepared for that very, very close deadline is what I’m saying. And I am also open to suggestions. The general theme I’m working with for the research class is protest art or art activism. Or at least that’s what I want the last paper to be about. Which means I am also considering something like Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. Catch-22 might also be good. You can see how those last two novels become ever more important then and why it’s also so hard for me to choose, right? Right.

Happy reading, everyone!

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts &  Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.
Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Lesson Plan Friday: The Power of Poetry

Lesson Plan Friday @ The EnglishistI have a confession. I was terrified to teach poetry. As part of the Writing about Literature course at my school, there are three units: fiction, drama, and poetry. I have a creative writing degree…in fiction. I have taken screenwriting/drama classes. But poetry? Of course, I’ve encountered poetry throughout all of my many, many years of schooling. But I’m not a poetry expert, you know?

So my first time out, I thought for sure it would be a disaster.

Add to that the fact that most of my students also have an aversion to poetry. They don’t understand it, they think it’s stupid, and, of course, most of their experience with poetry was how it means something besides what they think it means.

However, in terms of student engagement, student response, and student interest, the poetry unit has wound up being the best.

I think the main reason the unit works so well is that poetry isn’t a trick: it’s all about word choice and word order.

I cannot tell you how many of my students feel super smart because they can explain a poem, and it’s all based on “Well, in line 4, the author uses ‘x word’ which means ‘this,’ so the poem is about ‘y.’”

Poetry solved!

The other thing that helps is our final poetry assignment***. My students have to write their own poems and then explain their choices. And then we have a poetry slam where they read their poems aloud.

The effect of that assignment?

  • I had a student who “didn’t read” before my class and was a math/engineering guy so was only taking the class because it’s required. He wrote so many poems that he didn’t know which one to choose for his final paper. He worked in retail and would write poems on the back of receipt paper at work. Any chance he got, he was scribbling poems.
  • They come to office hours because they have too many ideas and don’t know which one to pick.
  • They figure out inventive ways to do picture poems (one in the form of a broken heart, another in the form of a dancer, yet another in the form of a quadratic equation).
  • This past semester, my students were so proud of their poems that they told me I should make future classes analyze their poems like we did to the ones in the books.

This is huge. My students tend to have notoriously low confidence in their writing. But they recognized and felt that their poetry was as worthy of being analyzed as the poetry in the textbook.

Poems aside, their explanations*** (which is what they’re really graded on) are fantastic. They know and understand the terminology; they know and understand the inspiration poems or poetic forms. Their papers are a joy to read.

THEIR PAPERS ARE A JOY TO READ. (!!!!!)

So, yes. Poetry. It’s amazing.

***Here’s the assignment:

Part I: The Paper

Length: no word count (poem) / 500-750 words (explanation)

You have two options for this paper.

Option 1: Write a poem that imitates or is inspired by a poem that appears in any of the assigned reading on our syllabus. Then, explain the choices you made writing your poem, focusing on how it matches the original. Use the correct vocabulary when explaining the poems and their similarities.

You are using the original poem as inspiration, which means you can write a parody (humorous imitation) or something more serious on whatever topic you wish.

Option 2: Write a fixed form poem (sonnet, villanelle, sestina, limerick, or haiku) on the topic of your choice. Then, explain the choices you made while writing your poem, focusing on how it fits the chosen form and why you chose that particular form. Use the correct vocabulary when explaining your choices.

In order to successfully complete this paper, you must first understand the features of the poetic form and how to properly implement them. Only then will you be able to craft your poem.

Part II: The Final

Our poetry final will be an in-class poetry slam held during the assigned finals time. You will read/recite your poem to the class.

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This work by Akilah @ The Englishist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Lesson Plan Friday: Identifying Character Traits

Lesson Plan Friday @ The EnglishistI actually got the idea for this activity from The Bedford Introduction to Literature (10th edition) edited by Michael Meyer. One of the creative response assignment suggestions is to have students write an obituary for the character of Penny from the play Dead Right by Elaine Jarvik.

In order to have students complete the obituary and to understand both characters, I had them do this little activity, which I think I’m going to use to introduce/explore characterization from now on. This activity is much more effective than asking the students to “characterize” a specific character or to describe the character’s traits. It teaches them how, exactly, to do that and where they get the information to characterize the characters.

In the book, Dead Right is a short play that covers four pages. I assigned the students one of the four pages to read. I then broke down the activity in the following steps.

1. Write down the facts the audience is given about Penny and the facts the audience is given about Bill. (I remind them that facts cannot be argued. Some of my students also think that they can remember everything they read, so I tell them that they have to actually write the facts down.)

2. Now, write down how you would describe each of their personalities (in other words,  their character traits) and what words/quotes from the play help you characterize them that way.

3. Then, we went over the facts and character traits, starting with the facts about a character before moving onto their traits. I put the lists up on the projector. This was an excellent way to reinforce the difference between facts (or details) and character traits. While doing the facts, students would sometimes say that a character was, say, “self-centered” or “rude” and I was able to say, “Well, that can be argued, so you’re moving into character traits. We’re doing facts now. Hold onto that for a minute.”

4. During the character traits discussion, I would always ask what made them describe the character that particular way and, most of the time, they referred back to the facts on the board or details from their assigned page.

5. Once our discussion was over, they were assigned to write Penny’s obituary as she herself would write it or as her husband Bill would write it. (I assigned them to either Penny or Bill.)

That last bit is also a little bit of a test in reading comprehension since Penny says exactly how she wants her obituary written. I always ask my students to share if they’re willing. If they’re not, I ask them what they did, so we can discuss their choices and why they made those particular choices. Students usually think they just come up with details in their writing out of their heads, so I use those moments as an opportunity to show them how they use details from the text in their own writing or how the details from the text inform their writing.

As I said, though, this can be easily adapted for another play or with different characters. My plan is to use this activity (minus the obituary) with a short story. That should be particularly interesting because that story is told with a first-person narrator. We’ll see how it goes.

Creative Commons License
This work by Akilah @ The Englishist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.