Monday, March 6, 2023

How Do I Love Thee?

Today is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday.  She is known almost as much for love letters as she is for her poetry.  For those of you who need a refresher, Elizabeth (and her ten siblings) was forbidden by her father to ever marry and have children.  When Robert Browning read her poetry, he fell in love with her and began to write her.  Between the two of them, they wrote 570 letters to each other before they ran away and eloped.  They both kept all the love letters and the door to the Barrett house which half of those letters came through, was saved before the house was torn down.  I believe it is kept at Wellesley College Library and was a popular place for college students to slip Valentine cards until it was sealed shut.

So why did Elizabeth's father want to stop his bloodline?  Well, according to one scholar, Julia Markus, in her book Dared and Done, It might be because either her grandfather or gear grandfather has a child with a Jamaican slave. Either he was such a racist that he did not want his bloodline tainted or, being an abolitionist, he was ashamed of his white bloodline and wished to end it.

Either way, it was the reason for Elizabeth and Robert's secrecy.  Her father never forgave her for running off and getting married and having a child.  She wrote to him often and he always returned her letters unopened.

Here is a reading comprehension practice for her poem "How Do I Love Thee?"

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Teaching the Graphic Novel to Struggling Readers

Want to skip to the lesson idea?  Jump down to the picture and start reading from there!

Comics have a bad reputation.  That stems all the way back to the late '50s when a guy named Dr. Frederick Wertham wrote a book called Seduction of the Innocent.  It details how comic books cause kids to be violent, disruptive, anxious, and homosexual.  It caused quite the stir and I could go on and on about it, but I will spare you today.  There were senate hearings and self-imposed censorship on it. Comics almost went out of business because of it and if it were not for the Marvel surge led by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko, they may just have disappeared.  

Several generations have passed since then and each generation has been more open to comics as a legitimate genre, but even so, many teachers think it is good only for students who struggle.  "Well, reading comics is better than nothing..." is a phrase thrown about quite often.  True, there are some low-brow comics out there, just as there are some low-brow novels, stories, movies, poems, etc.  However, there are also quite a bit of complex stories being told.  Maus and Persepolis are two that have broken the ranks.  Classical Comics does and EXCELLENT job adapting Shakespeare (and you can get them with the full text).  A good comic does more than illustrate the story - like a movie, the images should assist in telling the story, so that the words and images blend.  One without the other is no good.

One problem I've encountered with teaching Persepolis to struggling readers is that they often have trouble following which word balloon to read next and following along with who is actually speaking.  To combat this, for some of the chapters we are reading, I photocopy the pages and highlight the parts and let them read it like a play.  This way they get to model how to read and are able to focus on the story being told.  We don't do this for all chapters, but with the group I have now, I will probably do it for just under half of the chapters. 

If you are interested in discussing with your class the history of the CCA and Dr. Wertham's book, you can use my presentation.  I have basic notes on it because I was not setting it up for others, but it should be enough for you to spark some discussion.

By the way, what is the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel?  Well, technically graphic novels tend to be longer and self-contained, but in reality "graphic novel" is often used by those who are embarrassed to be reading comics and want to make them sound more "literary".

Monday, February 27, 2023

Toughest Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are fun for using as grammar practice sentences or for teaching literary terms like alliteration, consonance, and assonance.  I found a two contenders for the title of toughest tongue twister in the English language.  

Researchers at MIT created this to be the hardest:

Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.

The Guinness Book of World Records says that last one is the hardest.  

The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick.

The official Extreme English Teacher position is that the 'Sheik' one is far tougher than the MIT one.

Got a favorite to share or want to weigh in on these?  Leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Similes and Supervillains

Most students know that a simile is a comparison using "like" or "as", but we more enlightened teachers also know that the comparison can be made using "than".  Most of us don't teach "than" with similes because they are not as obvious or common as the other two.

I bring this up only because I ran across on in a book recently.

"I was stiller than the men who got an eyeful of Medusa."

The phrasing is done that way because this is a crime noir novel.  In fact, if you are a superhero fan and a crime noir fan, I have a book for you!

For a guy like me, who can shrug off bullets and lift seven tons, there's no better profession than powered crime, and no greater burg to practice it in than Gold Coast City. But after ten years of tossing Buicks at heroes I wised up, took the black cape off my back, and hung out a shingle. Only instead of Dark Deeds Done Daily, this one reads Dane Curse, PI. Now I work cases for the dark denizens I was once counted among. The problems they got aren't the kind that cops care about, so I do what I can, because sometimes even the unjust deserve a little justice.  

I do not know Matt Abraham, nor get any kick back for promoting his book.  I just enjoyed the book for some fun reading. Here it is on Amazon.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Moon the Size of a Pixel

One of the problems with students who are on the ball is what do you do with them when you are letting the other kids catch up?

I have a slew of activities that I use for extra credit that I pull out when students get a day to get caught up.  One of them is The Moon the Size of a Pixel.

The site is pretty neat.  It is a spacial map of the solar system putting the moon the size of one pixel and showing how much empty space is between the two.  As you scroll, he will fill in some of the space with comments, usually about how much space there is.

Eventually you pass all the planets (there is a cheat scroll at the top to jump from planet to planet).

So, what does this have to do with English?  Well, the assignment for those go getters is to scroll until they find the Shakespeare quote.  Then they are to email me the quote and what Shakespeare play it comes from.  I do not tell them where the quote is (that would take the fun away from it), but I will tell you.  You'll find it between Saturn and Uranus (closer to Uranus).  

I love how this blends with his science lesson.  The sayings that come beforehand talk about how it is impossible for us to comprehend some things such as the amount of space between objects in space.

I like this activity since it keeps students busy while others are working, it blends science and literature, and it practices research skills since the student will need to look up the quote to find which of Shakespeare's plays it comes from.  This is even better if you choose to teach this play later on.

Have a time filler you like to use?  Let us know in the comments!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Two Fun Test/Quiz Ideas

 I saw this on Facebook, so I cannot take credit for it.  I have also lost it on Facebook and cannot give credit to where it is due.  :(  

But the ideas are too interesting to pass up, so here they are:

This first one allows students to pick the number of points allotted for each question.  No question can be zero and you can set a limit on how much one question can be worth.  This gives the students a feeling of power over their performance and it gives the teacher a snapshot of where class confidence it (especially if the class overwhelmingly picks one question to low ball).    For my regular ed kids who will only see this as a nightmare to figure out mathematically, I am thinking about giving them some cheap stickers and they can put a certain amount on questions that they want to boos the worth of.  I am also thinking of using a variation of this on my next AP test.  I'll have a page with three short answer questions and they can pick one to be worth 3 points, one to be worth 5 points, and one to be worth 7 points (or something like that).

The other one is:

In this version, a student brings up their test/quiz and I look it over and tell them how many they got incorrect.  I do not tell them which ones are incorrect, though.  The student can then go back to their seat and try to figure out which ones they get wrong.  This works best with easy to grade questions like multiple choice.

I'm excited to try these out.  It will bring a bit of variety to the class and allow students a chance to showcase their skills and learn from their mistakes.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Things Women in Literature Have Died From

 You may have seen this around on the Internet:

I've been searching to find where these are from.  I have found the following based on what I have read and what I have found other people's attempts to answer it:

cold hands - La Boheme
beautiful face - I saw some say "The Lady of Shallot", but I think "The Birth-Mark" might be more accurate
missing slippers - ???
wrist fevers - Beth from Little Women tends to be the go to for several of these.  I have not read it, so I am not sure.
night brain - Anna Karenina
going outside at night in Italy - Daisy Miller
shawl insufficiency - Beth from Little Women again
too many pillows - Desdemona from Othello??
garden troubles - "Rapaccini's Daughter"
someone said "No" very loudly while they were in the room - ???
letter reading fits - ???
drawing room anguish - ???
not enough pillows - Wuthering Heights??
haven't seen the sea in a long time - Lord of the Rings (Boromir's mother) and "The Awakening"
too many novels - Madam Bovery
pony exhaustion - Gone with the Wind
strolling congestion - ???
sherry served too cold - ???
ship infidelity - Far Side of the World
spent more than a month in London after growing up in Yorkshire - ???
clergyman's dropsy - ???
flirting headaches - ???
river unhappiness - Hamlet
general bummers - Tess of the Dubervilles ???
knitting needles too heavy - Beth from Little Women again
mmmf - didn't know what this meant until I started looking for answers to this
beautiful chestnut hair - "The Adventures of the Crooked Man" (Sherlock Holmes story)
spinal degeneration as a result of pride - ???
parents too happy - ???
the unpleasantness - ???

So now, I need your help - what are the rest of them?  Any thoughts?  I am also trying to track down the origin of the image.  If I can, I may be able to get the originator's thoughts on it.