Archive for June 11, 2012

Summer Reflection

This summer we will be taking a bit of a reprieve from posting but will highlight some of the more popular posts throughout the year.  We are also taking time to rejuvenate and draft new posts to begin in August.  Some topics we are working on are:

  • Close Reading Skills/Text Complexity
  • Literacy and Rhetorical Devices
  • Research Skills
  • Vocabulary Acquisition
  • Cross-Curricular Projects (American Studies)
  • Using Multiple Sources With Students

Feel free to provide any suggestions of things you are looking for or any issues you are questioning over the summer.

Read, relax, and sleep in.

We’ll see you in August!

Summer Reflection: Year-Long Approach to Writing

Okay, here is one last thing for you to think about over the summer:

How will you approach writing? Read more

Summer Reflection: Integrating Complex Texts

You’re on summer break, a time for dreaming and believing.  Dreaming of the ideal classroom and believing that anything is possible.  While some believe that dreaming is futile, I think it is the place where real ideas are born.  Stop shushing your inner monologue and start to listen to it.  What does your dream classroom look like?  What texts are in your kids hands?  Just like yesterday, we recognize that there are a lot of constraints teachers can’t get around.  There are a lot of novels you are required to teach. There are a lot of pieces in a textbook you are told you must teach.  However, you still have quite a bit of freedom.  It is a matter of thinking about what you value the most as a teacher of reading.  Read more

Summer Reflection: Structuring the Year

One of the first and most challenging things to decide is how to structure your units and the year.  Most of us are tied to some type of a chronological progression (like Anglo Saxon, to Middle English, to the Elizabethan, to Romanticism).  However, we still have control over how to structure our year.  Often times it is better to select one area to focus on and fully integrate.  Below are several suggestions to consider when restructuring your program next year. Read more

Summer Reflection

You’ve done it.  You’ve made it to the end.  While kids get their report card valiantly displayed on the fridge, $5 for every “A,” or a gift for surviving the year, our gift is the summer.  The beautiful, glorious summer.  A time filled with sleeping in, relaxing, and finally getting to those doctor appointments we have put off until we had time. 

But let’s be honest.  Being a teacher is in our blood and we can’t just flip the switch and completely stop being a teacher.  So even though you might be on summer break relaxing, you’ll most likely also be reflecting.  Reflecting on what went well and what you would have changed.  You’ll begin thinking about what next year will look like and how you want to structure your class.  Will you try something new?  Will you just revise what you already have?  Will you completely re-haul your entire approach?  These are questions we all face as teachers and topics we will be exploring this week.  Instead of providing hands-on materials for use, we are going to pose questions and offer conceptual suggestions for next year. 

Always reflective, we hope that in your time to find yourself this summer you also take some time to find yourself as a teacher.  So settle in with an ice-cold lemonade and no bags under your eyes…it’s summer.

Summer Songs: Week in Review

           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to LMFAO vs. Foster the People.


1.  What value is there in examining trends, specifically music trends, in the English classroom?

What does Emily say?Emily:   I think they definitely serve to engage the students, but I’m not sure how much academic value there is.  I think it really depends on the complexity of the trend.  If studying music as a text it often isn’t rigorous enough to warrant replacing challenging pieces of literature.  However, I don’t think it is bad, I just question how much emphasis should be placed on trends.

Aubrey: I think studying trends of any kinds has a lot of classroom potential.  You do have to lead students.  They often look at these trends from very basic Is Aubrey right?levels and it’s not enough to simply say, “There’s always a summer which means we must like fun music.”  Maybe this is because I’ve read at least 300 articles about the art of the summer song but we have to help students discuss complexity and implication in pop culture.  They can’t get there alone.  

2.  What challenges present themselves when employing music in classroom lessons?

Emily: I know this is silly, but one challenge is balancing the time and the curriculum.  One thing I struggle with is how much time to devote to the music in the classroom and not the actual material.  Is it used only as a hook?  Does it play in the background when they are working? Do you play the 4-minute song and then analyze the song for 20 minutes? I think some teachers don’t know how to truly use songs in the classroom to aid student learning and instead devote too much time to songs because it aids student engagement.

Aubrey: It’s hard to find the time and often it makes me feel guilty.  And yes, a lot of us don’t actually do it well.  I remember using a lot of poorly chosen songs for hooks (i.e. The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to teach Transcendentalism).  Sometimes they just don’t work.  Novelty can’t be the sole motivation.  

3.  Name your favorite summer song of all time.  Provide context as to why this is the song.

What does Emily say?Emily: I might be dating myself, but the best summer song of all time is–without a doubt–Will Smith’s “Summertime.”  I know it is old, but it is good.  So good.  There is an unwritten rule that forces people to roll down the windows and turn the volume up every time the song is heard.

This was going to be my song.  Now I am mad because you took it from and clearly I am old too.  

4.  Of all the parodies of Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen which is best for classroom use?  Which one is your favorite?

Emily: This is tough because I love the artistry of the Gotye video, but I also love the catchiness of the Carly Rae Jepsen song.  I think for the classroom the Gotye video probably offers more opportunity for rich and deep analysis.  The song is rather complex because of the shifting viewpoints, but, more than anything else, the video represents a larger, more existential view of life.  I think it gives teachers more to work with.

Aubrey: Agreed.  Carly Rae is delightful but the Gotye video and parodies are the best.  I mean that bit about Puritans being boring from the College Humor video is hilarious even though I teach The Scarlet Letter and iambic pentameter.  

5.  Last summer, LMFAO or Foster the People?

Emily: Even though I would prefer Foster the People because I think the LMFAO guys are just so obnoxious, I think they probably took top prize because they just had so many songs on the radio.  Their hair is all kinds of horrible though.

Aubrey: You are wrong.  Foster the People stands alone.  Anybody that can make a song with semi-threatening lyrics seem catchy and singable is an evil genius.