Archive for August, 2015

Summer Reading

Posted: August 30, 2015 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about summer reading. I set myself a goal of 12 books this summer, I think. I can’t find the paper with my various goals on it…

I made it.

I thought I would just share what I read. Here they are,  in the order in which I read them.

Sweetness in the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

The Crossover by Kwamé Alexander. This is the 2015 Newbery Award winner and I plan to use it in my YA literature class. Told in verse.

Anagrams by Lorrie Moore

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivit by Reif Larson

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne Valente

Paper Towns by John Green

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Man Booker Prize winner 2002.

Fishing in the Sloe-Black River by Colum McCann

My favorite reads of the summer were Everything I Never Told You and The Art of Fielding, no question. (Life of Pi was a reread, but it was probably next.) A number of the YA books I read were only ok, with the notable exception of The Crossover, which was excellent.

In addition, I am part way through The Good Lord Bird by James McBride which I picked up after rereading The Color of Water in the spring. Also, I read part of The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater , Brenna Yovanoff, and Tessa Gratton. I got it from a library while on vacation and didn’t have time to read it all before I had to return it, but I will be getting back to it.

I still have a few calling to me. They are getting kind of loud and pushy, but the new course I am teaching is also calling, and it sounds more nervous, like I might really need to pay some attention or things could get ugly fast.

With official faculty meetings starting tomorrow, it’s time to admit I will have to return The Luminaries  by Eleanor Catton, My Name is Red by Orphan Pamuk, and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald to the library unread.

Well, maybe I’ll renew one of them another time…

So, what was your favorite summer read?

So, I’ve been thinking about teaching writing. This coming school year I will be teaching some 12th grade English electives, each a semester long. And, this past summer I attended a fantastic 4 morning workshop on teaching writing. Now I’m in planning mode and thinking how will I put into action all the great ideas and information I learned.

First of all, one of our sessions was led by a retired teacher who taught in a public school system, 5 sections of 30ish students and each year he had his high school seniors writing the following:

  • 28 in class writings
  • 32 poetry papers (some in class I think)
  • 6 process papers (multiple drafts)

And they read 3 novels, 3 plays, and 50 some poems.

flickr photo by lamusa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

flickr photo by lamusa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Holy grading nightmare, Batman! We were all blown away by the sheer volume of writing the students did. Lots of the student writing was “holistically graded” using the AP scoring rubric. He contends that students get better at writing by writing, not as much by teachers giving a million edits and comments on a handful of multiple draft big papers. I would say I definitely saw that when I taught 5th grade. The years that I had students writing short responses to all sorts of things on our class blog, I saw student writing get better and students become more comfortable sitting down to write. It became less intimidating.

So, back to my goals for my seniors. I’m certainly not ready to leap to our presenter’s expert level in one go. He stressed the critical skill of being able to grade holistically quickly, consistently, and effectively. Something to work towards. However, I am looking at my schedule and trying to plan writing opportunities every week or rotation. Of course, I also had already planned all sorts of other things. For example, I want to have students doing more leading of discussions, which takes class time to practice. Plus, I think I’m going to do some of the writing in an online forum format. The addition of an audience, even if only classmates, is powerful. As I think about how to balance writing and grading, I plan to have students choose some of these short writings to edit a bit and then submit for more formal grading, and some will remain as ungraded, but not necessarily unread or reviewed. I’ve got a rubric ready for feedback for forum posts. I’ve got the AP scoring guide ready to share as well.

Here are the other items I already in the course in terms of writing. We will be writing one significant analytical paper, multiple drafts, longer length. I also have planned a podcast project for the end of the course.

So, how much should I have students writing in class, online, at home? Any thoughts are welcome.



Make Cycle 2-Remediation of text

Posted: August 12, 2015 in clmooc
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So, I can’t stop thinking about all the possibilities for remediating. I’ve loved seeing the work of others participating in CLMOOC. I have always been interested in taking a particular art form and applying it to somewhere else. .

I created some work like this many moons ago when I had hobbies. (Notice I even had hobbies plural then.) An idea that I’ve been tossing around more recently is that of starting from text, a favorite sentence in a book, a blackout poem, and using that as the inspiration for a work in another format. (Well, it turns out I had also been thinking about this idea way back when I had hobbies. I was doing some long overdue clean up and organizing of my art supplies and found lots of other favorite sentences clipped to linoleum prints and other patterned this and that.  Surely it was all part of some larger plan once upon a time. Sigh.)

So, I’m at it again, it turns out. Here are some sentences from the marvelous book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherine M. Valente that I have saved recently.

Hats change everything. September knew this with all her being, deep in they place where she knew her own name, that her mother would still love her even thought she hadn’t waved goodbye. For one day, her father had put on a hat with golden things on it and suddenly he hadn’t been her father anymore, he had been a soldier, and he had left. Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else. ~p26

I love hats personally, so that one speaks to me for lots of reasons.

“This is for washing your wishes, September,” said Lye. . . “For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes  get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets. The trouble is, not everyone can tell when they ought to launder their wishes. Even when one finds oneself in Fairlyand and not at home at all, it is not always so easy to remember to catch the world in its changing and change with it.  ~p61

This one resonates with me in terms of change and adaptation, key factors for teachers. I have mentioned it is a post before this one, that’s how much I like it. Finally, this one (which I also mentioned before)…

“You know my… my wrench?”

“Of course I know it. It was not a wrench when we were last acquainted, but one’s friends may change clothes and still one knows them.” ~p117

With this final quote, I was thinking about change and being recognizable. So here’s my math equation for the image I want to create:

   1 René Magritte’s painting

   1 image of a wrench

+ 1 oval shaped frame/matte (like the kind around old-fashioned portraits)


 Wendy’s “ceçi n’est pas un wrench” image.


It would be better as a painting rather than a description or math problem, but only if I were a painter. Alas, I am not, so enjoy that description while I learn to paint.

Then I also thought about how to highlight the idea of change by combining an image of a wrench with that of a needle (the form the wrench took ‘when we were last acquainted’). My first attempt involved printing images of a needle and a wrench on vellum, slicing each into strips, and then weaving the two together. When you see it straight on it’s a little blah, but if you are looking form the side, it’s pretty cool.


Of course, I have big plans to try out other options, but I though I better  get something out here while I learn to paints, try out a dozen more ways to make this idea come to life, and then in the mean time do my job and get ready for the new classes I will be teaching in the comings year.

Ideas, ideas, ideas.