Sunday, October 21, 2012

Curriculum Ideas for Food Day, October 24

Lesson for Food Day, October 24

I thought the following poem, one of my favorites, could be coupled with the following video, introduced to me by my talented colleague, Mrs. Ahuva Mantell. The video was made by Chipotle and is called "Back to the Start":

God's Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;        5
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;        10
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I'm also planning to ask my AP English Language students to debate whether food manufacturers have a responsibility to let consumers know if food is genetically modified.

Speaking of the AP English Language exam, here's a link to an AP English Language exam essay question on locavores and sample essays in response to that question:

Finally, here's a link to a New York Times blog about some ideas for a better food label:

Happy Food Day! Remember to tweet your #eatreal ideas and to check out for more information about what food day is all about!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Greeks, Qohelet and the Importance of Beginning Again

Zeno,  Founder of Stoicism
Epicure, espouser of aesthetic appreciation

This integration unit is for my AP English Literature class, which will cover the Western literary tradition. We're beginning with Medea and excerpts from the Odyssey (older posts include assignments the class is already undertaking). Below is the first of a series of comparisons the class will be making between the Torah and works from the Western canon. Many of the ideas in the comparison are taken from Harold Fisch's wonderful book, Poetry with a Purpose: Biblical Poetics and Interpretation, which Professor Simeon Chavel recommended.

After students read the following paper, they'll be asked to look for prayers in any weekday or holiday liturgy that raise consciousness of the fact that God is creator and asks us to participate in creation with him by exhorting us to build a more just and good world. Students can look for that theme in the arrangement of prayers or for the leitmotif words we studied in the unit below and analyze how those words are used to remind one of the covenantal agreement.
Greeks, Qohelet and Genesis

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Writing Tips

I'm going to give my students the following list, as well as the list of common grammar mistakes I posted today, and have them own their own writing errors by choosing the three most common grammar mistakes and three most common writing errors they feel they have. I'll ask them to revise those six mistakes in the latest essay they wrote and look out for them, proofreading for those errors specifically, in the next assignment they have in my class. Using the grammar and writing section on the school's wiki, students will also be able to access PowerPoints on grammar problems that I've found on the internet as well as other helpful grammar websites I've linked to the wiki. 

I'm toying with having the students write about their progress in writing. I've had one class this year do some writing about their revision process and am wondering if students improve their writing by writing about writing. I like the skills such an assignment develops: students get another opportunity to write in English class, students have to focus on closely on grammar and grapple with it in a way that's concrete and relevant, and students are engaged in meta-cognitive thinking. The added benefit with this assignment is that it is also personalized; students are writing about their own grammar demons. 

As the year progresses, I'll add additional and more complex grammar and writing concepts for those students who are ready for them. Everyone can advance at his/her own pace. 

Mrs. Wiener’s Writing Tips

Topic sentences and transitional words: Each paragraph should have a clear topic sentence, and topic sentences in paragraphs in the essay body should have transitional words. Transitional words should also be used to move from one idea to the next within paragraphs.

Paragraph length: Paragraphs should be a consistent length throughout an essay and should be 5-8 sentences.

Point of view: Stay in third-person point of view throughout a formal essay. Don’t use you in a formal essay.

Punctuation of citations and quotations: Look up MLA style for these. Make sure you begin all quotations with a dialogue tag. Here is one of my favorite sites for writing and for proper MLA citation:

Simplify: Don’t bog yourself down in words. Make sure your thesis, the arguments you use to back it up and the specific details from the text you’re using in your arguments are all explained clearly. Worry about improving vocabulary once you know you’ve made your points clearly and have enough proof from the text.

Usage of terms: Are you using terms correctly? Check with me to make sure.

Identify characters and establish context: Make sure you treat your reader with courtesy and introduce characters when you first mention them, explaining who they are and how they fit into the work. Also be sure to explain the background of the story, otherwise known as the context. Treat your reader as if he/she hasn’t read the work you’re discussing in your essay. Ask yourself what details need to be included to give your reader an accurate understanding of the point you want to prove.

Top Student Grammar Mistakes

Top Grammar Mistakes (Or if Mrs. Wiener had a dime for every time she saw one of these doozies, she'd be retired and living in Rome by now)

t – error in tense shift
       For literature, we use simple present tense (Dorian does not age; Daniel Sempere seeks the identity of Lain Courbet).
       For history, we use past tense (The causes of the American Revolution were . . .).

ref – reference error
       The pronoun doesn’t refer to a noun or the correct noun (the pronoun’s antecedent).

mm/dm – misplaced modifier/dangling modifier
       A group of words describing a noun in the sentence are not near the noun or are not describing a noun that even appears in the sentence.
Misplaced modifier: Flying overhead, the audience in the stadium watched the plane.
Dangling modifier: Walking down the street, my wallet fell out of my pocket.

agr – agreement
       Pronoun and antecedent don’t agree in number or subject and pronoun don’t agree in number (student errors are usually the former).
Example: The writer shows that a person has to mend their ways.

ss – sentence structure
This one is tricky, I’ll grant you that, because what ss means is that the sentence is written poorly, and it could have been done so in many ways. You could have been writing as you would speak, you could have a run-on with a fragment (I’ve seen this!), you could simply have no control of the language. You have to begin to notice when your writing sounds awful and when it sounds like something your teacher, not just the 472 people you text with, would agree is written in English.

d – diction, which means word choice
You’re not using a word correctly.

ww – wrong word
You’re using the wrong word: loose for lose, or two for too or to

wdy – wordy
More is not better. Actually, being brief and simple falls under the category of good grammar. Being brief doesn’t mean you should eschew the use of good vocabulary words (did you see what I just did there? I put a good vocabulary word into that sentence). It means you should be speaking in a clear, straightforward manner, making your points sharply and succinctly, including the details you need and omitting whatever you don’t.

coll – colloquialism
You should not use colloquialisms, words or expressions from everyday language. The word kid should never appear in a formal essay, for example.

r-o/frag – run-on sentence/fragment
Do you still have problems with these? See a grammar book immediately!

p – punctuation
Italicize (underline in handwritten works) names of books and plays. Put short story and poem titles in quotation marks.

Cite page numbers according to MLA standards (This information is easy to find on the internet).

cap – capitalization
Errors in capitalization are getting worse each year because of texting. Yes, texting isn’t only dangerous when you drive. It’s also dangerous to your essay writing. It’s making you oblivious to the rules of capitalization, for one.
Examples: 1) Capitalize all important words of a title. Always! Not just the first time you cite the title.
2) Why am I seeing random common nouns capitalized? Are you Emily Dickinson? (I don’t expect you to understand that reference. Maybe Wikipedia can help.) Unless you are a famous poet, please capitalize proper nouns and don’t capitalize common nouns. What are proper and common nouns? Dust off those notes from second grade and review.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Top Eleven Similarities between the Odyssey and Cold Mountain

New and improved comparison between the Odyssey and Cold Mountain, though I suspect I can spend the rest of my life comparing the two books and not be done. I also include comparisons between Cold Mountain and works from American literature. I'm going to have my students use the following document as a jumping off point for a comparison they want to make between Cold Mountain and a work that it is clearly referencing. Students who enjoy Greek literature can use the Odyssey, while those who favor American works can use those for their analyses.

Top Ten Similarities Between Cold Mountain and the Odyssey

Anyone interested can read this amazing article that compares Cold Mountain with the Odyssey:

Emily A. McDermott's comparison of the Greek epic with Cold Mountain

The Epic: The Odyssey

The Epic

Wily Odysseus blinding the suitors in front of his wife, prudent Penelope

Epic Conventions

Epic Conventions

Epic Conventions 2

The Epic via the Odyssey

Link to more epithets in Homer:

Homeric Epithets

Student assignment:

Student assignment: Select a book in The Odyssey and dissect it for its epic conventions. Then compare that book with the treatment of the epic and quest in a chapter of Cold Mountain.