When it comes to writing with style a lot of students defer to clichéd topics.
They might write about a first love and use sweeping language. They might write about a time when they felt defeated (like from being cut from a sports team) and have a piece rife with hyperbole. Or they might describe their favorite holiday and use a sentimental (aka sappy and underdeveloped) tone. However, I don’t blame the students. Many times the reason for maudlin writing is because of the prompts we provide them. In their defense, it is challenging to write about a favorite memory without sounding contrived or unsophisticated. Give them a more meaningful reason for writing and it will become more purposeful. Having students write opening and closing arguments for existing court cases is a great way to get students more engaged in their writing because they are writing to save someone’s life. Read more
Tag Archive for Romeo and Juliet
When it comes to writing with style a lot of students defer to clichéd topics.
Students think they know arguments. However, just like when they read fiction, students have a hard time moving beyond a superficial reading of a text. If anything, I sometimes think they are worse at extracting an argument from a persuasive essay because of the personal nature of it. Students think that, since it is their own opinion they don’t need to develop it. Common saying: “This is it. This is my argument. This is all I intended it to be. Don’t read into it.” But that isn’t good enough. To be taken seriously as a rhetorician students need to finely craft their argument and make sure it is multi-layered. This comes through reading and studying arguments extensively, but it is a skill that can be taught through practice. Read more
I love the unpredictability of a class discussion. However, I don’t love the varying degrees of participation. I have tried every gimmick in the book to ensure equal participation. Yet, it never fails: some students blend into the background and fail to make a comment in class because they are shy or are unable to overpower the more dominant voices in the discussion. Having your students create and record their own podcast is a great way to solve all of these problems. Read more
As teachers, we love trivia nights, teen Jeopardy, and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, because, let’s be honest, we are smarter than fifth graders. We build up these insignificant factoids about authors and texts in the hope that one day we will find ourselves plagued with an obscure question that no one really cares about, yet we feel compelled to give an answer because we are English teachers and these are literature questions. In an effort to help, I’m going to provide a little known fact that might prove worthy the next time you watch a little Trebek. Where did the band Aerosmith get their name? In their autobiography a band member described how he was drawn to a title that incorporated the idea of an “aero” but, upon thinking of the name Aerosmith, had to convince his fellow band members it had nothing to do with the Upton Sinclair novel they had read (and apparently hated) in high school called Arrowsmith. I’ll take “awesome” for $300, Alex. Read more
Two Favorite Educators
As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about end of the novel projects.
1. Why do we need to have end of novel or unit assignments? Why can’t we just let things go?
Emily: For me, I like to see them comprehend how individual portions of a book correlate to the whole. Just because a student comprehends chapter one of The Great Gatsby doesn’t mean that they actually understand the whole novel.
Aubrey: I, too, want them to see how all the threads of our study fit together. I want them to be engaged in their own education, research, critical thought, peer evaluation, etc. I also want to see if they bring something different to the text than I do. That’s always the best part of this grueling gig.
Emily: You have a great point about having the students being engaged in their education, but for that to happen students have to be reflective. I think the best projects are the ones that allow students choice and control, not ones with 1,000 steps and directives from teachers. However, some students are so burnt out with a novel that the only reflection I get from them is “I hate Holden.”
2. Did you create anything particularly meaningful in an end of novel/unit project?
Emily: I know I’ve created a lot of videos reenacting scenes from a novel. The funniest is when I read the book about Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army then and created a video in my friend’s wooded backyard.
Aubrey: Patty Hearst?! Once again I have to say 9th grade English and Romeo and Juliet. I feel as if those weeks probably were the most memorable of my high school career. We were given a choice for our end of unit assignment. Construct a cookbook of recipes that Romeo would have enjoyed. Rewrite the play as a children’s book. Write a letter to the editor of “weekly newspaper” discussing your dismay at the violence in Verona. Now honestly, even at this tender age I knew that there was something wrong in those choices. A children’s book? Recipes? No. I knew what I wanted to be was a journalist. A serious journalist for the Verona Evening News. I can’t remember what I said. I can’t remember how long I spoke. What can I remember? The cream colored turtleneck I wore complimented by a vest that looked like a floral tapestry.
Emily: A cookbook? Hmm…I wonder what Romeo and Juliet’s last meal would be!
3. In light of Aubrey’s shameless Charlie Sheen reference on Thursday, what are your thoughts about his current status?
Emily: Okay, I’m so glad you referenced something from Hollywood. I feel like our blog is remiss to not mention Arby’s or some celebrity action. I love Ashton Kutcher and have a hard time hiding myself from all the Ashton hype. Yeah, I’m a fair-weather fan. But between his potential divorce from Demi Moore and his addition to Two and Half Men I can’t get enough news about him. I can’t even focus of Charlie Sheen, who is now the poor man’s Ashton.
Aubrey: Well Ashton Kutcher is no Charlie Sheen but is Charlie Sheen really Charlie Sheen anymore? I think I read that Two and Half Men still has way too many viewers for the quality of the show and that his TV show Anger Mangagement was still in the works. Where did I get all of this great information? Well from TMZ of course. And Forbes. Some of the most important sources in the known universe for information.
Friday Dialogue from Your Two Favorite Educators
As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about anticipation guides. And bangs. And Toad the Wet Sprocket. Don’t worry it works.
1. Identify and describe in great detail your earliest memory of anticipation guides and their role in your formative education. How did they improve your desire to religiously learn all things literary?
Aubrey: I remember one specifically from 9th grade English in preparation for reading Romeo and Juliet. Personally, this was a bad time for me. I was wearing navy blue Guess jeans with a green silk shirt and spending an inordinate amount of time curling my bangs. I also spent a lot of time singing the lyrics to “Walk on the Ocean” by Toad the Wet Sprocket. Things did not look good for Romeo and Juliet and my literary education from the start. You can see how the anticipation guide was inconsequential. I couldn’t tell you a single question that was on it but I can vividly see myself circling the yes or no questions while humming the refrain to that song.
Emily: I don’t know what is more depressing: navy blue Guess jeans (presumably with a triangle tag on the pocket), silk shirt, Toad the Wet Sprocket, or the curled bangs. I’m lying. I know what is the most depressing: the curled bangs. Seriously? I would pay your parents money to find a picture of you as a freshman with curled bangs. Can we get bangs on your avatar?
Aubrey: You joke but my bangs were a work of art. An Aqua Net work of art.