Tag Archive for Edgar Allan Poe

Poetry and Visual Literacy: Extending the “Draw a Poem” Lesson

Poems are such a great resource to incorporate into the English classroom because, since they are usually fairly short, they pack a wallop of literary and poetic devices.  One such device that many teachers capitalize on is imagery. Read more

Non-fiction: Letters of Note for Literature & History

As overviewed yesterday, this week’s goal is to easily implement non-fiction in the classroom with resources from the website Letters of Note. One of the best things about Letters of Note is the simplicity of the website itself.  Letters are presented in their original copy as well as typed for easier reading.

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The archive on the site is also incredibly straightforward.  You can search by correspondence type, year of publication, topic categories, author and so on.  For a teacher these choices are incredibly helpful.  Say I’m teaching how satire and humor create distinctive voice.  I click the “Humorous” link under “categories” and immediately I’m taken to a series of letters that range from Mark Twain to the Simpsons.

Finding letters that supplement your preexisting units of study is so easy you might even become slightly giddy.  I know I did when I realized that Shaun Usher, the site curator, had posted a Fitzgerald letter that referred directly to The Great Gatsby

One of the most charming is Mark Twain’s letter to a burglar who broke into his home.  I’ve included some areas of focus for possible implementation.

Twain’s “To the Next Burglar

Consider using this if you’ve taught some of Twain’s shorter pieces such as “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” or “How to Tell a Story.”  If not wait until you’ve taught them Twain’s style of humor via The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  You’ll want to have them examine the drawings as well in the letter since they add whimsy.  Pull up on your SmartBoard or have them examine on computers, tablets or SmartPhones.

Possible Areas of Focus

  1. Read and SOAPSTone the letter.
  2. Identify 3 elements of humor that Twain employs.  Discuss their impact.
  3. Examine the images Twain includes in the margins.  How does this add to the humor of the piece?
  4. Examine Twain’s sentence structure and language.  What tone does he produce as a direct result?
  5. Clearly, there is a limited chance that a burglar, any burglar would actually read this, let alone follow its “instructions.”   In that case, what is the purpose.

Below I’ve included a list of letters that would work fit perfectly into novel-to-time period studies.  While it would be quite simple to have students simply SOAPSTone these letters, you can choose to implement them as texts to respond to in student journals or as a means to understanding style.  These are of course just a few of the letters that would work in any classroom.

Federalism/Revolutionary War

Abigail Adams, “Remember the ladies

Ben Franklin, “You are now my enemy

Civil War/Slavery

Abraham Lincoln, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong

Frederick Douglass, “I am your fellow man, but not your slave

Jourdan Anderson, “To my old master

Sullivan Ballou, “I shall always be near you

American Authors

Mark Twain to Walt Whitman, “What great births you have witnessed

Jack Kerouac to Marlon Brando, “Common on now Marlon put your dukes up

Issac Assmiov, “ A library is many things

Ernest Hemingway, “For your future information

Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five

Harper Lee, “Advice from Harper Lee

British Authors

Thomas Pynchon, “In defense of Ian McEwan and Atonement

Charles Dickens, “Happy Birthday, Dickens

Poets

John Keats to Fanny Brawne, “If I cannot live with you, I will live alone

Sigfried Sasson, “Finished with war

Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman, “ I greet you at the beginning

Brain Pickings: Posts about Authors

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One of the things that draws me to Brain Pickings is the website’s constant focus on authors.  Each week, posts examine unusual and unexpected aspects of those writers that I “spend” much of my time teaching.  Featured in letters, illustrations, stop motion, book reviews, etc., these posts enrich and supplement daily lessons.

Calling upon text, images and video, these posts do more than merely disseminate information.  They are miniature pieces of “clickable” art.  They can serve to simply improve the daily grind of being a classroom teacher and brighten some of your more difficult days.  However, it is easy for students to see literature as simply a number of chapters due on any given day.  These posts remind both teacher and student that literature is something more than reading quiz followed by class discussion.

Consider using Brain Pickings in two ways: as an extension or supplement to a lesson on a specific text or literary term and as a way to have students write/discuss how we view the writers.  Below I’ve highlighted one post to show how to implement written response, classroom discussion and small group collaboration.

Writer’s Houses Illustrated

Questions to consider after reading/exploring:

  1. Why are we fascinated with where “creators create?”  What about their homes and personal lives would be of interest to us?
  2. Why would this project start with these authors’ homes?  What argument is made by illustrating these homes?
  3. What value is there is a project of this type.

Small Group Project: After examining this project, have students create an author driven project that they will pursue.  Encourage them to highlight at least 2-3 of the authors you studied thus far.  Ask that students work in small groups and create a working proposal that they “pitch” to you before they proceed.  Consider this to be part research paper, part cross-curricular learning and part creative presentation.  Steer clear of PowerPoint, Posters or other expected/tired assignment formats.  Give them guidelines but also challenge them to construct an outcome unlike their peers.

The project should identify the following:

  • An argument about writers in popular culture both past and present
  • A creative means via technology, art, social media, etc. to display this project.

Two other posts that can serve as powerful resources for discussing writer’s on their own craft are “From Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury Iconic Writers on Truth vs. Fiction” and “Advice on Writing From Modernity’s Greatest Writers.” Consider using the author statements in these posts as the basis for creating essay prompts.

Novel & Unit Projects: Day One

Ah, the dreaded end of the novel or unit conundrum.  It’s as if I believe F. Scott Fitzgerald himself is watching me to determine if I do justice to the end of The Great Gatsby or if I cop out and just quickly talk about the importance of being “ceaselessly born back into the past” while mouths yawn and eyes roll.  Should I give them a full-length multiple-choice test?  A culminating project?  Oral presentation?  Chances are that by the time anyone gets to the end of a novel, they’ve tired (at least a bit) of teaching the text.  Does that mean quickly tie up loose ends and move on?

Most of us feel compelled to come up with some type of “fitting” conclusion when we finish teaching a book.  It seems appropriate, as if we do a disservice to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chinua Achebe or Ian McEwan if we bow out with a brief in-class discussion.  I often feel as though I owe it to that all knowing THEM.  But do I?  Or is it all in my head?  Then there’s always the trouble with how “big” the project shoul be? How much class time should it usurp?  Should it be creative or rigorous?  Or both?

It should be clear, simply by the awful rhetorical questions, how plagued I feel by this issue.   And guilty.  I cop out, too.

Prep work for end of novel projects begins well before you even start passing out the books.  That means that even if I plan on teaching All the King’s Men two months from now, it would be helpful to figure out my “angle” now.  The first thing to do is considering making a list of all the books or “units” you plan on covering for the year.  Decide which ones need a culminating activity.  My argument this week is not to suggest that all novels must end with a bang.  Even great final projects can be wearying to students and educators if overdone.

And it’s not Fitzgerald’s disapproval that should worry me.  I mean come on.  If anything I should probably be more concerned about Edgar Allan Poe’s power from behind the grave.   Or maybe not.