Tag Archives: reading

Ideas for next year: Learn a book with the students

Next year I am going to read a book with my students without ever having read a word of it.

We will study and discuss it chapter by chapter together. Whenever I finish a chapter I will podcast my notes and thoughts.  That way I can show them how I think about literature as we progress through it.  I will have them do the same via their blogs (which I am requiring on their school-supply list for next year).

Doing this will give them a model of how I think about literature.  It will also show them how I make connections with other pieces of literature (text to world, text to text, and text to self).  I will also be modeling questioning progressive character analysis.  In the end we will look back at my “errors” (perhaps I should say misinterpretations) to see where I went astray.

This idea came to me when I saw my copy of the book that is pictured above on my bookshelf.  I would love to know if any of you have done anything like this.

Please leave a comment below.

Levels of Symbolism

I still have a few students who have a difficult time verbalizing deeper examples of symbolism. This pedagogical conundrum made me start thinking about levels of symbolic representation. If Bloom has levels of thinking, why can’t there be levels of symbolism.

I think pointing out examples of these levels may help some of the students understand how to explain them.

I realize that there is probably 982 (give or take a few) books already on this subject, but here is the list I came up with (the ones in BLUE were suggested by colleagues):

Types of Symbols

symbcoll.jpgAesthetic Symbolism- appearance of something contains symbolic qualities
Colors – Red for love
Yellow for decay or money
Green for money or jealousy
Texture- Sharpness of a thorn

Object Symbolism- an object is symbolic
The green light on Daisy’s dock serves as a beacon of hope just as with flame of the statue of Liberty.

Iconic-dealing with an icon
Cross, infinity symbol, a fist raised in the air, peace sign

Linguistic Symbolism- this involves the symbolism that innately occur in certain words. (Thanks, Candy)
NAMES- Dimsdale from The Scarlet Letter
DUPLICITY- “Put out the light, and then put out the light.” (Othello V, ii) (I know this last example is more metaphor than symbol, but they are kissing cousins)

Action/Event Symbolism- an action or event implies a subliminal symbolism
Tom’s violent/domineering personality is symbolized in the way he slams the windows in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby.
Starks will not let Janie let her hair down in public. This is symbolic of his control over her, which is fueled by his jealousy.

Cognitive Symbolism- thoughts that pop into the characters’ heads that represent internal struggle or emotional conflicts. (Thanks, Brigid)
Gatsby realizes that Daisy’s voice is full of money as he moves towards realizing that she picked Tom for reasons other than just a good option.

While looking for pictures to add to this post, I found the PDF of a list of color symbolism.

As always, please add any suggestions for this list in my comments.

Class Reading List for 2009-2010

I have been giving a lot of thought to my reading list for next year.  I know the major works I want to cover during the first semester, but I really want to add some amazing works to my list.  I would love any suggestions.  Also, I would love to know what YOU plan to teach next year.    Please leave any suggestions/lists in the comments below.

Here is my list thus far:                                            (p)= assigned paper
(I plan to teach the selections in this order.)
(I have listed some of the short stories I plan to teach, but I would love your suggestions from the American Lit 1900 to the present cannon.)

Winter Dreams
The Great Gatsby (P)
Of Mice and Men
Two Hurston short stories
Their Eyes were Watching God (P)
Wagner Matinee
Modernist Poetry
Pinker’s The Language Instinct
The Things They Carried
A Raisin in the Sun
Sonny’s Blues
Catcher in the Rye
Big Fish


Symbolism of Flowers

I discovered this list from the Santa Cruz Public Library.  I thought it might make for some interesting discussions in conjunction with literature.  Click the link above for the source.

  • Amaranth – Immortality
  • Anemone – Anticipation, Frailty
  • Apple Blossom – Admiration
  • Aspen Leaf – Fear
  • Asphodel – Death, Memorial sorrow
  • Bay – The poet’s crown
  • Begonia – Dark thoughts.
  • Blue violet – Faithfulness
  • Buttercup – Wealth
  • Calla – Magnificent beauty, pride
  • Camelia, White – Innate worth
  • Candytuft – Indifference
  • Cardinal Flower – Distinction
  • Chrysanthemum – Cheerfulness and optimism.
  • Cornflower – Delicacy
  • Cowslip – Youthful Beauty
  • Crocus – Good cheer
  • Cyclamen – Diffidence
  • Cypress – Mourning
  • Daffodil – Unrequited love
  • Daisy – Fidelity and innocence; simplicity
  • Dandelion – multiple meanings: grief and bitterness; symbol of the sun; symbol of coquetry; used by Flemish and German painters to symbolize the suffering of Christ.
  • Everlastings – Unfading love
  • Fern – Sincerity
  • Fir Tree – Time
  • Forget-me-not – True love; Friendship and fidelity as well as remembrance.
  • Four-leafed Clover – Good luck
  • Foxglove – Insincerity
  • Gentian – Virgin pride
  • Geranium – Gentility
  • Goldenrod – Encouragement
  • Heather – Loneliness
  • Heather, White – Good fortune
  • Heliotrope – Devotion
  • Hepatica – Anger
  • Hollyhock – Ambition
  • Honeysuckle – Friendship
  • Hyacinth – Sorrow
  • Ivy – Truthfulness, Wedded love
  • Larkspur – Lightness, laughter
  • Laurel – Fame
  • Lavender – Purity; Silence
  • Lilac – Fastidiousness
  • Lily, White – Purity
  • Lotus – Forgetfulness, estranged love
  • Lunaria – Prosperity, honesty
  • Marigolds – Happiness
  • Marjoram and Lily of the valley – Love; purity;happiness
  • Morning Glory – Symbol of the transience of man’s life.
  • Myrtle – Beauty’s crown, wedded love
  • Narcissus – Vanity
  • Oak Leaf – Patriotism, Hospitality
  • Olive Branch – Peace
  • Orange Blossom – Marriage
  • Oxalis – Pangs of regret
  • Palm Leaf – Victory
  • Pansy – Symbol of the loved one, memories, loving thoughts and souvenirs.
  • Phlox – Symbol of sweet dreams and implies a proposal of marriage.
  • Pink Carnation – I’ll never forget you.
  • Poppy, White – Oblivion
  • Primrose – Youth
  • Red Carnation – I’m carrying a torch for you.
  • Rose – Love
  • Rosebuds – Pure and lovely
  • Rosemary – Rememberance
  • Sage – Domestic bliss
  • Shamrock – Loyalty
  • Snowdrop – Friend in Need
  • Sting Nettle – Slander
  • Sweet William – Gallantry
  • Thyme – Courage, energy
  • Tulip – in Persia the tulip is the symbol of love
  • Violet – Modesty
  • Water Lily – Purity of heart

Jim Burke has created an English Companion Ning

Visit English CompanionJim Burke, author of numerous Language Arts books, has created a network via ning.com. I would encourage you to join. In addition to offering an avenue for conversations with other professionals, this network gives you access to countless resources as well as big-name authors.

So come join in the fun at englishcompanion.ning.com today.

Blog in your classroom PART 2 of 2

For more directions about establishing classroom blogging communities, see the first part of this post.

Here are the settings I had my students use for their blogs.  These settings apply to blogs created on blogspot.com  (a.k.a. blogger.com).

Once you have created your blog, follow the settings instructions below.  Be sure to follow them exactly.   Your grade will depend on it.

  1. click CUSTOMIZE
  2. Then click the SETTINGS tab.

Click BASIC under the SETTINGS tab.

  1. Type in the TITLE of your blog. (Remember, your name cannot appear ANYWHERE on this blog.)
  2. Next to COMMENTS click SHOW.
  3. Answer NO to all of the questions except these:
    1. Show Quick Editing on your Blog?
    2. Show Email Post links?
    3. Show Compose Mode for all your blogs?
  4. Then click SAVE SETTINGS.

Click COMMENTS under the SETTINGS tab

  1. Select the option to SHOW your comments. (Sometimes I will post a grade directly to your blog entry, so you want your grade to remain private.)
  2. Select the option to give Users with Google Accounts the ability to comment.
  3. Select the option to EMBED COMMENTS BELOW POST.
  4. HIDE backlinks.
  5. Scroll down to the “Comment Moderation” option and select ALWAYS.
  6. Next to “Show word verification for comments?” select YES.
  7. Next to “Show profile images on comments?” select NO.
  8. Then, in the box labeled “Comment Notification Email,” type in your email address.
  9. And click SAVE SETTINGS.

Blogging in your classroom PART 1 of 2

Part 2 of this blog can be found here.

Let me begin by saying that doing this is time consuming. It will require about 10 hours of your own time. However, you will quickly see that it save so much more time than that once implemented.

Over the past few weeks I have been working on getting all of my students (98 in all) blogging. There have been inquiries into student access to computers; and there have been hours devoted to figuring out how I would manage all of these blogs; but most importantly, there have been sleepless nights pondering the safety of my students. I started by having parents sign a form giving permission for their student to create a blog. Then I created a blog of my own. Then I walked them through both making their own and adding my blog to their reading list. You can read more about these steps below.

First, I created my form:

Get your ownOpen publication

This form (as you can see when you click on it) explains how to set a blog up in the first place. I did that so that my students who know their way around the keyboard would go ahead and create theirs. Then, they become my helpers in the classroom. And, as you have probably found, it doesn’t really matter how computer savvy the teacher is. Once you show them something, they take it and make it ten times better.

I gave them a week to bring the signed permission slips back to me. Then we spent the week with the computers. However, each day I had a literature-relevant prompt to get them writing.

Here is why:
1.) They are more likely to remember their passwords later if they are submerged in it.
2.) They become attached to it because they get time to personalize it.
3.) They immediately begin getting feedback from their peers.
4.) Then they immediately realized that they are writing for an audience that expects quality writing.
5.) All the kinks will get worked out in the submersion period (I will list a few I discovered below).

Give them content relevant prompts, but also allow them to express themselves about other topics. (You can see a list of prompts for younger students and another set for older students in the links embedded in this sentence.)

Be sure to do this. When you have all of their emails, it save a lot of time. I went through and “followed” my students’ blogs once they followed mine. However, because they couldn’t use their real names, I didn’t always know who each blog belonged to until they each emailed me their URL and username. Then, I went to the dashboard of my google reader (which comes with the blogs made at blogger.com) and searched for each students’ blog address. Once I found it, I quickly changed their username as it appeared in my google reader to their real name. That helps when you are trying to give a grade for blog posts.

Forcing them to comment on other students’ blogs will open the dialogue they need to 1.) feel like they are writers, 2.) know that they have an audience, and 3.) open dialogue that forces them to use academic language in “regular” conversation. They would not use this type of language with friends on facebook, but they would use it in the typical college classroom or English class.

Make sure you have a discussion about appropriate conversations via the internet. I know I have had a number of near altercations from students who were quick to whip out unacceptable commentary in emails to me. Expect that they will do that to their peers as well because it will happen if you don’t talk about it from the start.

*BE SURE to have them mark the setting for comments that force the owner of the blog to screen the comments. Then it is the owner’s fault if something inappropriate gets posted. That will make each blogger your front line of defense.
*If you don’t have an iphone or blackberry, and you don’t want to grade while walking the halls, then you can have your students print out their posts (with their comments) to turn in to you.
*Tell them that they must post by a certain date and time for it to count. Most students will be able to post from their cell phones, so they can do it on the bus or math class (no offense, math teachers).

To create an account via blogger (or blogspot), students need their own email address. If they already have an gmail account, they are good to go. If they have their own email address (that is not a gmail account) they CAN just use that.If they need an email account, but you worry about them having their own, check out this post written a while back by Kevin (the post is also referenced in the comments below). However, you may find that guerillamail.com may not work with some blogging sites.

RSS MIXER for your viewing pleasure

It has been a while since I have posted here at TeachEng.Us because I have been focusing on teaching them (my students).  During my time away, I have discovered a number of useful sites that can be useful in the classroom.  One of these is called RSS Mixer, which is in its alpha right now.  I am thinking this will catch on because it allows you to take RSS feeds and to put them all together with just a few clicks.  Then you can change the feed into a widget (for Apple or Yahoo!), a mobile phone application, or even–my favorite–HTML code.  This would allow you to have a constant feed on your website of current events or information from other classroom-relevant websites.

Here is an example of a list I created from some of my favorite teacher blogs:

Other Teacher Blogs I Like on RSS Mixer

If you have students read current events, have students write blog responses for you, or use RSSable websites for your classroom, I would give this a try.

Again, they are in their alpha stage, which means they are testing and working out the kinks, but I think this could prove very useful for personalized RSS widgets that are easily embeddable into websites or blogs.