Pre-AP Homework Reminder

Tonight you need to complete your first attempt at a soapsTONE. This should be done for either Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” or Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?”. If you were absent today you may choose which one you want to do; otherwise, stick with the one you were assigned in class. Happy soapsTONE-ing!

If you’d like to watch the YouTube video of Alice Walker bringing Sojourner Truth’s speech to life again, here’s a link to it: .



Literary Theory Basics for AP Lit

If you’d like a little more information on what we’ve been studying in class this week, Purdue’s OWL offers reasonably concise overviews of each school of criticism we’ve investigated:

Vocabulary List #1: Vocabulary from The Canterbury Tales

1.) pilgrimage (n.) – a journey of religious or spiritual significance

2.)  palmer (n.) – a specific kind of pilgrim a person who travels to the Holy Land and brings back palm fronds as a souvenir.

3.) engender (v.) – to bring about or make happen (think generate)

4.) sundry (adj.) – various, diverse, varied.

5.) yeoman (n.) – a person who’s job is to defend land or a specific person

6.) motley (n.) – a very colorful and loud material, often worn by jesters or other farcical characters

7.) friar (n.) – a man who works for the church by begging from door to door.

8.) accrue (v.) – to build up or acquire over time

9.) sanguine (adj.) – RED – red-faced in a happy, cheerful sort of way; bloodthirsty, etc.

10.) entreaty (n.) – serious, honest question (verb: to entreat)

11.) parley (v. or n.) – to have a talk or conference

12.) castigate (v.) – to harshly or severely punish

13.) crone (n.) – an old woman, esp. an unattractive or witch-like one

14.) temporal (adj.) – worldly (the opposite of spiritual) (temporary)

15.) rebuke (n. or v.) – to argue against and prove wrong

16.) superfluities (n. pl.) – extra unnecessary things (adj.: superfluous)

superfluity (n. sing.)

17.) bequeath (v.) – to leave something for posterity, esp. in a wil

AP Lit Homework schedule adjustments for September

The changes aren’t toobig, but you’ll want to take note of them: Adjusted AP Lit September 2013 Calendar

Books to read BEFORE the movie versions are released

We’ve all had the horrible experience of seeing a beloved novel or comic book absolutely destroyed by a filmmaker. On the other hand, most of us have also had the satisfying experience of seeing a beloved novel or comic book come to life beautifully on screen. Whichever scenario happens to you more often, the important thing is that you DO read the print version so you can fully participate in the discussion of whether or not the movie fairly represents the book.

A foot-high pile of my favorite young adult books written over the past several years are currently being made into movies. While I try to maintain optimism about this, my tendency towards cynicism is still nagging me: what if the movies are terrible? What if none of my students read the book once the movie comes out? How will their lives be different having never been exposed to the insights that, despite being pervasive in the book version, simply could not be translated accurately and completely in the movie version?

As we embark on our first installment of required independent reading for the year, please consider reading one (or all!) of the following books:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Part of a trilogy; book #2 is called Insurgent and book #3 will be released this fall)

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (part of a saga that does not necessarily have to be read in order as long as this one is read first)

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (The first in a trilogy; the second book is called The Scorch Trials and the third is The Death Cure. There is also a prequel called The Kill Order that was released after the entire trilogy had been published.)

I have copies of each of them in my room that I am happy to share with you, and the public library has additional copies available. I assure you that I’m not the only one who loves these books — I’ve had many students read and love each of them!

Beowulf Unit Notes

These two documents contain a summary of terms, names, and other things we’ve gone over during the Beowulf unit:

Epic-Beowulf-Anglo-Saxon basic notes


You’ll also want to think about class activities and discussions we had, because as you know those are also fair game for the test. The big ideas are just as important as the small details in this case!

Your test will be on Wednesday, September 4th. As of the moment I am writing this, that gives us two more class days and three days on your own to prepare.

Senior Year Pep Talk #1 (of many surely to follow)

Time for a pep talk, everyone.

As with every other bit of class material I present you with, you ultimately have a choice: to ignore it, to skim through it, to read it looking for the right answers, or to read it to learn something new; to wipe it from your memory right after the test to make room for something else, or to let it sink in and think about how it connects to new material long after the unit is over. Also as with every other bit of class material I present you with, I do my best to make it accessible and relevant to each and every one of you so that it will be worth your time if you do choose to follow through with the level of work I expect from you.

I have mentioned to most of my seniors already that one of the best things they can do for themselves this year is to hone their study skills — an important one of which is reading independently and taking notes on the material. Some of you are lucky enough to be naturally good at this, and others have been formally taught how to do it effectively (s/o to those Cornell notes from middle school!). But how many of you DO it habitually and consistently?

Here’s a good way to put it in perspective: talk to your friends and siblings who started college over the past week or two. Ask them how much reading they’ve already been assigned — you will probably be shocked. Better yet, a few weeks from now check in with them again and ask how much of it the professor actually covered in class (probably not much) and how much of it ended up on the test (probably most of it). With their responses in mind, consider how important it is to work NOW on developing the focus and self-discipline necessary stay afloat in the future. Trust me, it won’t just magically appear after high school. Wherever you are, you can be better by the end of this year.

This brings me to a statement I hear frequently from my students, either directly during class discussions or indirectly in other situations: you feel that throughout high school you are collectively babied and thus not ready for college or the real world upon graduation. This evokes two very different responses in me as an adult who cares about you: first, I feel proud of you because the statement indicates that you realize the importance of independence and self-sufficiency in adult life. Aside from that, however, I feel frustrated by how this statement seems to be increasingly used as a crutch by some high school students who feel that just showing up is enough to pass a class.

How so? Well, it all comes back to the choice I mentioned earlier. We teachers provide you with hundreds of challenging assignments over the course of your high school career, but YOU choose what you do and don’t do with each of them. Do you complete the homework yourself, struggling through the tough parts, or do you copy someone else’s answers during study hall? Do you read the actual book actively and inquisitively, or do you skim through Spark Notes and assume it will be enough to make you sound like you know what you’re talking about in class? Do you participate in class discussions by asking questions, offering insights, and taking notes, or do you sit idly by, assuming that that other kid will always raise his or her hand?  It’s your choice, and there are logical outcomes of each.

Time to invoke a well-worn saying:  you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. A funny image, yes, but it applies perfectly to the situation I’m trying to help you understand. High school can’t GIVE or DENY you college and career skills; it can only present you with repeated challenges that help you DEVELOP them over time.  I assure you that this year you’ll be provided with ample opportunity to think, grow, and prepare yourself for the future  — but caution  you that if you don’t take us up on the opportunities you won’t get much out of them. It’s your choice.

Senior Project Follow-Up


Apologies in advance if I get a little mushy here: but wow. I just watched about 15 senior project presentations, and to say I am impressed is an understatement. Not only were they professionally done, but the projects themselves consisted of meaningful work without a hint of slacking off. I actually feel a little bad that I was surprised by that — but after some slacking off that has been done at the end of this year by many seniors, I’m sure you can understand. I think you may have redeemed yourselves.

I was thrilled to see how enthusiastic the project participants were, and hope you all maintain that enthusiasm and passion throughout the next several years of arduous work it will take to reach stated career goals. I know when I get frustrated as a teacher sometimes I look back to things I wrote and did on the way to becoming a teacher, and it always helps. You must remember why you get into a career in the first place, and tap into that original enthusiasm often so you don’t lose your spark.

Oh, and YES, I caught the 1984 reference in one of your presentations! You know who you are! 🙂 That made my day.

Back to work for me now — I just needed to make sure you all know how much of an impact you just had on me today. Thank you.

Class of 2013 Exit Surveys

SENIORS! I must make one last request of you before you graduate: please select the appropriate link below and spend about 10-15 minutes providing feedback on your experiences in English class this year. Your responses to these questions help me plan for future classes, so I sincerely appreciate your honesty and thoroughness!

AP Lit students:

English IV students: 

PARENTS: I am currently working on two surveys for you — one for those of you whose kids were in any of my classes THIS year, and one for those of you whose kids will be in any of my classes NEXT year. Stay posted for updates!

7th Per. Homework Reminder

Your job for this weekend, my dear 8th graders, is this:

Revise the creative writing you did in class yesterday (and had returned to you today) to make your sentences flow better. You can do this in various ways that will all show evidence of what you’ve learned this year, and I encourage you to use as many as possible. However, your points on this assignment will come from being able to demonstrate in class on Tuesday at least TWO places where you COMBINED sentences using the punctuation marks we’ve learned about, a conjunction, or both. 

Your revised copy must be TYPED in a 12-point font, double-spaced, and be stapled on top of your original handwritten copy. Don’t forget to put your name in the top left corner.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with! Have a fun and safe long* weekend.



(* I intentionally didn’t put a comma between “safe” and “long” because “long weekend” is a compound noun; thus, the rule about two adjectives describing the same noun needing a comma is trumped.)