Monday, October 28, 2013

Next time we meet...

Please paraphrase your sonnet in writing on the blog. What does your poem mean in your own words?

You will write it from memory (correct spelling and punctuation counts). 

Then perform your sonnet from memory! 

E Block - In Class today!

1. Go to 

2. Read and record your Sonnet. 

3. Embed the link to your blog post - use HTML.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Class Friday - Day 11

1st period - E Block Room 203 Computer Lab

2nd period - D Block Middle School Computer Lab

POST THE FOLLOWING to the student showcase:

(the objective is to research and crowd-source points of interest...)

1. Select and post a sonnet by a British poet that you wish to memorize for next week:
E Block Tuesday - D Block Wednesday

2. Research an interesting point about the biography of Chaucer - the man, the myth, the poet.
Include an embedded link to your source.

3. Research an interesting article or video (and embed it to the blog) about one of the three tales we've read.

Be search to include a few sentences about all of the above as to why you posted your selection.
Explain why it is blog worthy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pardoner's Tale to Wife of Bath's Tale

HWK for Tues. read Wife of Bath through page 280 (to "Words between the Summoner and the Friar")

And work on your short stories...due Wednesday. 

Start thinking of a British Sonnet that you will memorize for next week.

Plus a few thoughts...

When Death is personified in the Pardoner's Tale, I thought of John Donne's sonnet "Death, Be Not Proud" about which, once upon a time, I had to write an essay... but that's another story. I also thought of Shakespeare's Sonnet 146... that I had once memorized because I liked the morbid yet liberating theme. Then today, I happened to check in on my old friend Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac - I have neglected him this year (I used to listen to him daily and often share with my classes at the start as students trickled in...but this year's been different, new preps and a new schedule with 40 minute classes have me crunched for time. But today, I want to share these. As a well as scene from Wit.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Finish the Pardoner's Tale! And write...

Finish reading the Pardoner's Tale.  

And write your two stories - one true, one false. Two pages each. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Write a Story - and (Re)Read the Miller's Tale 86-106!

Check this video out (not quite Thug Notes):

For Friday, write one of your two stories!

Both are due Wednesday. You will bring a hard copy and post your stories to the showcase blog.
Remember, you will write two - 2 page stories (4 pages total); One true, one false.

Also bring your text to class tomorrow; we will begin "The Pardoner's Tale" in class.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

If you missed class today, or fell asleep...

A. Watch Episode 2: Adventures in English - see previous blog post for youtube.

B. Answer questions for Episode 2 of The Adventure of English DVD
1. What are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles?
2. How did the marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine affect the evolution of the English language?
3. What is chivalry?  What does it include?
4. What system defined social relationships?
5. What happened to English words when French words came in?
6. Why didn’t French engulf English? 
7. What happened in 1348 that decimated the English population?  Who survived? 
8. When did English replace Latin and French as the language of state in England?
9. What made Chaucer well placed to become English’s literary champion in the late 14th century?
10. What was so extraordinary about The Canterbury Tales?
11. Relay the story of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

C. FINISH reading the Prologue - begin filling out this handout: 

Link to Google Spreadsheet:

Just for fun: Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Monday, October 7, 2013

Canterbury Tales: Read Prologue 3-14 (To the Doctor)

HWK: Read pages 3-14 in the General Prologue (up to A Doctor - line 421 online)

Start thinking about the Contest: Two stories - one true and one lie.
More details to follow.

If you missed class today, see the Showcase - you need to...

1. Post your film review
2. Comment on 2 or 3 of the reviews of your peers.
3. Post your Heaney poem (video, text, and link to text) - use HTML to embed the video
4. Your list of 10 if you haven't done so already!

The next episode...

For what it's worth, what do you think of a project my cousin did with two classmates for her Brit. Lit. class?

Friday, October 4, 2013

TGIF 10.4.13

Thanks for sharing your thoughts today on

Check this out:

REVIEW DUE MONDAY: 3 - 4 pages
For Monday, you must bring a paper copy - stapled - and a digital copy to post to the Showcase blog.

Today we will do the following...buckle up.

1. First 12 minutes: Watch RSA video by Sir Ken Robinson and respond in real time using your respective "Room" in

A. Sign in: your first name AND first initial.

B. Everyone must make at least three posts - comments, questions, thoughts, quotes, epiphanies etc.

On-line conversation about the video between students is the goal.

We will talk more about this on Monday.
Do not spam on

3. Finally for the rest of class,  work on your review - due Monday.

On Monday, in class we will post reviews to the Student Showcase plus

Post your favorite Seamus Heaney poem - text and video - to Student Showase.

You will learn how to embed HTML and create hyperlinks - it's easier than you can imagine.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happiness, Outliers, and Finding Your Voice

For class, Friday, October 4th, we will meet in the MS Computer lab! 

Be ready to write your review - due Monday; however, please have a digital copy of your latest draft available.

Today in class, we broke from Beowulf to talk about big questions about education, the internet, and happiness. More on this later - in the meantime - check out my tweets @kob14 for what's been on my mind lately. One of the notions that has me thinking is how can we go beyond the generic five paragraph essay? What if we taught students to find their voice as writers? What if we turned students lose on the internet and embrace the information (including Sparknotes analysis) and move beyond plot summary? What if we stopped the charade that the internet didn't exist?

I want to learn with students and share my intellectual curiosity by modeling intellectual curiosity by confessing that I google everything. It's almost an affliction of sorts - I want to know the biography of the writer, hear his voice read his work, watch the documentary on her life, read that analysis of scholars as well as bloggers, and then arrive at my own conclusion - and appreciation of why study the writer. I find the study of literature fascinating because I find stories, history, writers, poets, critics, documentaries, films, life... all fascinating.

I want to sit at the Harkness table and feast on knowledge and insights like a pot-luck dinner where students bring their special dishes to the table. Some from grand mom, some from Harold Bloom, and yes even some from Schmoop. Let's get real. Let's stop playing games for little points. Let's be honest. Let's learn from one anther. And let's have fun doing it.

Forgive the Jerry Maguire mission statement-esque rant, but this has been percolating since I started teaching twelve years ago. At a new school, with many new observations, I want to grow as a teacher and inspire students and spark creativity and intellectual curiosity - not stress them and judge them. Let's continue this conversation.

So. Students, what do you think? I really want to know.

P.S. With gratitude, I want to thank all of you for your candid comments. I don't want this course to be a waste of your our time. I want you us to be happy and learn together. And yes, I want you to care about Beowulf and Jane Eyre, Virginia Woolf and South Park, or even South Park Grendel...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Developing Your Voice as Movie Reviewer: FYI - REVIEW due MONDAY (pushed from Friday)

Since the SAT is Saturday, and it's been a busy week...

I will push the REVIEW'S DUE DATE to MONDAY for both sections. 

I will see you tomorrow - please read the following:

In an effort to give you more direction, and hopefully inspiration, I discovered some helpful links and wish to share my own thoughts on the writing process. 
Ultimately, you're finding your voice as a writer. And that can take a lifetime.

A movie review allows you to share your insights as well as your personality. Consider the reviews that you have read and how the writers used diction, punctuation, and tone as well as humor to convey their opinions of the film.

A few words about my thinking behind today's quiz...

By dividing the reviews into three sections - in essence, the beginning, middle,  and end - I wanted to see if you could identify the voice of each writer. It is interesting to note the allusions and diction for the respective audiences of the NY Times, USA Today, and Roger Ebert. In Part II, I wanted to see if you could begin the writing process for your review. I think it is valuable time to begin by writing in hand, so we are not able to delete and edit as quickly plus the physical writing of filling a page can be gratifying. I also wanted you to write to write freely without being critically assessed; instead, I gave you a time frame to stretch yourself to fill a page (or more) with words that may or may not end up in your final review. (Having reread the reviews closely and written about them to some extent, please be ready to discuss your insights tomorrow in class.)

For many writers (and students), beginning the writing process can be daunting and a blank computer screen can be intimidating to say the least. When I was in grad school, I had a tremendous break through in my writing when I read Anne Lamott's enlightening essay, "Shitty First Drafts" that offers priceless advice on the writing process based on her own experience: 
          Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something -- anything -- down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft -- you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft -- you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it's loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy. 
To be inside the mind of a writer like Anne Lamott, I no longer felt alone with my fears and anxiety around writing. In writing more in the early process - maybe twice as much more - the next draft that you will write and revise becomes... easier.

Again, the hardest part is starting the process and avoiding the procrastination pitfall. I hope these reviews and this quiz gives you some momentum with your review.

Great Advice from K.M. Stockton:
The Golden Rule of Writing Successful Movie Reviews This is the one, unbreakable rule of writing a successful movie review that you absolutely must follow every single time in every single movie review: do not summarize the movie in your review. 
Why? Quite simply, the reader isn't reading your movie to learn what the movie is about; they are reading your movie review because they want to know whether that movie is worth watching or if it would be a waste of their time.But, if you shouldn't include summary, what, then, should you include in your movie review? 
Things to Include in Your Successful Movie Review Acting or voice talentsThe directorProducers or producing companiesSequels and prequelsMemorable quotesRelease dateRatingA short (extremely short) amount of synopsis that does not reveal plot twists or the endingAnd most importantly, you need to include: 
Your opinion

Outline of a Movie Review The following outline will show you the sort of bare-bones skeleton of a successful movie review that was mentioned previously.
          TITLE (Includes the movie title.)
SUBTITLE (Optional, but this is a good place for that catchy, clever title you were thinking of using.)
OPENING HOOK (Here you can tease the reader with a quote, a question, a bit of tantalizing summary, etc., without actually mentioning the movie. You just need to get the attention of the reader.)
BODY-Synopsis-Facts-Opinion (Work in the facts as you give your opinion on the movie. This is also the place to weave in a little bit of summary, but keep it short and broken up. Remember, the reader wants your opinion.)
CONCLUSION (You can recommend it - or not - to anyone, everyone, only so-and-so, etc.)

Develop Your Voice

Understand the difference between voice and tone and how it translates to the page.

Check out these links:

Grammar Girl's "Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing"

Steve Erickson: Do you think cinephilia is more stigmatized for women than other kinds of ‘geeky’ pursuits, like following science fiction or particular TV shows? Looking at online film discussion groups, this often seems to be the case.
Manohla Dargis: I find the gender divide puzzling, and exasperating. I wish there were more women – as well as more black, Asian and other non-white male critics writing about film in this country – not because of some “politically correct” imperative but because it makes the discussion more interesting. It’s unbelievably tedious how similar in voice and thought many American film writers are, no matter what clique, school of thought or dead film critic to which they adhere.
Frankly, I am pretty bored with most of the film criticism I read, to the point that I am beginning to think we need to start re-examining what it is and what it’s good for, if anything. Of course, most of what’s out there isn’t really criticism but a degraded form of reviewing – just thumbs up, thumbs down, with a heavy dose of plot synopsis. Even reviewers who are somewhat more ambitious than the average hack tend to write about movies as if they’re reviewing books. They pay very little if any attention to the specifics of the medium, to how a film makes meaning with images – with framing, editing, mise en scène, with the way an actor moves his body in front of the camera. To read most film critics in the United States you wouldn’t know that film is a visual medium.
There is smart writing on movies out there – Film Comment and Sight and Sound are two oases – but there is a wearying homogeneity nonetheless. I’m not really sure where it comes from or why it exists. All I know is that there are received ideas about how to look and write about movies, and that not many critics deviate from those received ideas. (And frankly, it can be hard to do so when you’re on deadline and when you’re writing a lot. I’m still figuring out how to get out of the box.) At least some of it, I think, is due to the phenomenon of critics who absorb the ideas and voice of other critics. Although I’m sure it would horrify Hoberman to hear this, there are writers who now slavishly write in imitation of Jim’s style, much as an older generation imitates the late Pauline Kael in voice and prejudice. The thing is that although Jim’s imitators can, to a modest degree, approximate his style they’re simply nowhere as smart. They also don’t get that he has a definite worldview and that his style dovetails with that worldview.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reading Quiz on Wednesday on the Reviews (Review Due Friday)

Looking ahead...

Finish watching the film in class
Reading Quiz on Wednesday on the Reviews - followed by discussion.
Discussion on Thursday - plus time to write (bring your computer if you wish).
3-4 page Review Due Friday

"Do these reviews need to be creative?" 

Anytime you write, whether it be creative or analytical, you are persuading your reader to buy your story or believe your argument.

Anytime you put words to paper your creative, so yes, this creative.

In incorporating the other reviews, your creating your own opinion by differentiating your insights from theirs.

So be creative in your take on the film and take inspiration from the reviews.

With that in mind, use the three views I posted - NY Times's Manohla Dargis, Roger Ebert, and USA Today's Claudia Puig - consider each writer's distinct voice. Note the difference in tone, attitude, subtle humor, and aesthetic sensibility.

Read more reviews if you wish for your review, but for the sake of your quiz WEDNESDAY be able to identify the three authors of the reviews in the selected quotes that I will give you; then, agree or disagree with the points made in the quotes.

Yes, this quiz holds you accountable for the reading, but also prepares you for your essay as you dig into the reviews in writing.

Highly recommended viewing:

                    "I learned to write by writing."

                                              Neil Gaiman, co-screenwriter of Beowulf

Published on May 23, 2012
Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012
One of the best commencement speeches. A must watch for any artist and everyone who hopes to be creative and successful.
Make Good Art.