Monday, November 21, 2011

Artists in Action

It's that time again - paper mache masks!  We're spending a couple of weeks writing essays and diving into creative projects before we start our next novel.  The masks were molded last week and now kids are in the process of decorating them.  The slideshow of the initial stages is here.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tribes and Trials

Whew.  We're just about done with Okonkwo and his tribe.  I must say, its a bit of a dry book but this year I tried to connect it more to our world and I think it worked a little.  Through class discussions about themes - hospitality, kingship, courage, and achievements - we were able to see how the Ibo people value these elements as do Americans.  We analyzed Okonkwo's faults - and they found several - and then I challenged the kids to turn those faults to virtues.  Good stuff came out of that discussion too.  So I don't know that they are loving this book, but I hope it is decent anyway.  And little do my students know that all of this is priming them for the next round of work:  masks, building villages, culture research, and analytical paper to name a few!  Stay tuned for those assignments and photos.

Click here for a link to novel resources.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


It's official.  The seniors already want out.  We worked in our newly established GRAD room today to update educational plans and resumes.  The classroom is home to banners, viewbooks, pennants, posters, and paraphrenalia from virtually all Michigan colleges and universities as well as the armed services, and ACT information.  We'll host college admission representatives here and today, seniors were exposed to the room and its decor as they updated their information. 

As the year goes on, it is our goal to get every senior applied and/or accepted to at least one college, university, trade school, military branch, or technical institute.  Some are already ahead of the game and others need some coaxing but we'll get there.  Thanks, counselors, for your diligence and assistance.

Check out photos of the kids in action today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quiet Inspiration

When I picked up the book from the "adult reading" table at my daughter's school book sale last year, I had no intention of finding the time to read it between work, home, school, and all that comes with it. But one quiet evening I read the first few pages and was immediately drawn to the simplicity and sincerity of the author's memoir. Suddenly, I couldn't put it down. And over the next few days I found myself smiling, wondering, crying, dreaming, and simply enjoying this woman's journey and her amazing family. As a mother, woman, teacher, daughter, and wife there are so many things I took away from this book and quickly found it's predecessor. Here, I share with you "The Gift of an Ordinary Day" by Katrina Kenison. I'm due for another dose and just might read it again

The gift of an ordinary day

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Words, Words, Words, I'm So Sick of Words!

"Why do we have to read?" 

"I've never read a book on my own!" 

"This one has too many pages." 

And as Eliza Doolittle sang, "I'm so sick of words!"

In the life of an English teacher, these words are heartbreaking.  To think that lots of teens these days do not consider reading as something to do in their spare time, voluntarily, saddens me.  Even the advent of          e-readers (love my nook!) doesn't seem to bridge that gap between paper and electronic books.  Regardless, while they're stuck with me, my students will read and hopefully some will get turned on to the idea that books really aren't as bad as they seem to be.

In addition to at least four novels read as part of the class curriculum, I'm having my seniors read an additional two books of their (guided) choice.  From a stack of pre-determined novels, they chose one to read for each semester and then will do an analytical paper of sorts about it.  So I feel a bit better about my kids' exposure to classic and contemporary literature if only in the confines of MHS!

But, there is a huge push in the education world to get our kids reading well at an early age and then keep up that skill as they get older.  Somewhere around middle school it seems it drops off and in this age of state assessments, there is a need to light that fire again in high school so students can practice basic reading and comprehension skills.  Don't get me wrong, there are just as many avid readers as non-readers so all is not lost.  We just need to keep enforcing the importance of good reading skills and the idea that reading for pleasure is not dorky.

The MEA has partnered with the Detroit Red Wings to promote reading this fall and winter.  Students can earn discount tickets for a Wings game if they register with the program and read five books by March 2012.  I'm going to look into it for my second-grade daughter.  I'll keep things posted as to how it goes.

Michigan Reads Registration

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Required Reading

I came across this article this morning and thought I would share it. Glancing through the list, there are several we read here at MHS - nice to see we're at least exposing our kids to what the world still considers important reading! So curl up with your favorite this fall and you'd be surprised at how cultured you will feel! 10 books you really should have read in high school

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Autumn Activities

We are well into our novel and have settled into a routine as fall approaches.  It is my favorite season - I've already decorated my house and my classroom!  My family has plans to attend Halloween events at the Detroit Zoo and Greenfield Village.  My daughter's 7th birthday is fast approaching as is the birth of my nephew.  Such a busy, beautiful time of year!

As for our class, Janie has been through her second husband now and is loving her freedom.  She's come to grips with the fact that she hasn't found the love and relationship she so desired with her husbands so she is going to live life her way for a while.  Students seem to be doing well as we move through this book.  Comprehension is good, writing skills are decent.  I still love using the audio book read by Ruby Dee. 

As we continue, we'll have another quiz on Friday and then another chunk of chapters.  And there should be paper assignment coming up soon...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September Sanity

Another year has officially begun at MHS. After a wonderful summer of family vacations and day trips around the state I must say I am loving the routine again!  This week will get us started with classroom setup and then Hurston's novel is the first one we dive into.  I brought home a Florida state map and marked the novel's locations so that will be fun (for me!) to reference.  Wish I would have thought to actually visit Eatonville while we were in Orlando, but maybe next time. 

My goals this year are to include much more technology with my students including blog posts, videos, phone polls, and some new online study tools we have available.  I'll be introducing the social issue research paper to my seniors after a 5 year hiatus and I admit I'm excited about that, as only and English teacher can be!  And in addition to the class novels, kids will be responsible for two additional novels from a given list of classics so I'm sure that will prove to be challenging as well. 

Needless to say, my ambitions are high and my calendar is laid out.  So here we go again!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Farms, Finally!

Just a quick note to show that the farm replicas are finished!  Well done, kids.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Farms and Fights

The people and the history surrounding the Russian Revolution are fascinating.  A czar and his family in power for more than three centuries.  A public fed up with their pitiful, poor lives while the royals live in luxury.  A massive overthrow of the government which, as perhaps its most ghastly event, includes the kidnapping and assassination of the czar, the czarina and their five children. 

Well, four children for sure.  As legend has it, the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas Romanov may have escaped.  Anastasia's remains were never identified and women claiming to be her surfaced many times through the years.  Documentaries and animated films have been made about her and her family, including the conspiracy theories and escape ideas.  While the world may never know for certain if she lived a peaceful life, of sorts, after the death of her family, it is a piece of history that is fascinating.

Orwell's Animal Farm directly parallels the people and events of that period in time. And though his focus is on Russia, one can argue (and my students did!) that the political structure set up in the book mimics other countries as well, even the USA.  The link below connects to slideshows previous students did about these parallels. 

Russion Revolution Slideshows

In class, students will view a number of these documents, analyze them for structure and content, and then write about their new knowledge. Then they will also post a comment about this or previous posts.  Should be an insightful day, provided all of the elements come together seamlessly - computers power on and connect quickly, kids know their passwords, links on this page work, sites don't crash, slideshows play flawlessly, students bring paper and pens to class, copy machine doesn't run out of toner or get jammed, no surprise fire drills, my tolerance holds out on a Friday...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And so it continues...

Well, the structures are more definite and the animals are glued on.  But these perfectionist students of mine insist on "one more day" to finish their farms.  But they are looking good.  Again, pictures will be posted soon! 

Since this is a direct comparison by Orwell of the Russian Revolution, we'll be looking at those parallels in class later this week.  Kids will view a number of student created slideshows about the historical event and analyze them for effectiveness and content. Should be interesting.  In addition, we're going to do some critical reading of two political speeches - one by Patrick Henry and one by Old Major. 

Students, consider:
  1. How was your farm building experience?  Did you learn anything about trial and error?  Teamwork?  Construction and artistic representation?
  2. Is this a worthwhile project?  Should I keep it in the study of this book?
  3. What would you improve about the things we did as we read and analyzed the book?  Any suggestions for me that would be worthwhile for future students?
  4. What do you anticipate about reading the next book by Orwell, 1984?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Old MacOrwell Had a Farm

It's that time again. Replica farms are taking shape as we've finished Animal Farm. Kids are gluing animals, fences, shrubbery, barns, and rocks as they put together their displays.  I've never seens so many craft sticks in one place!  And it's interesting to observe the varied approaches to this project.  Some groups insist on creating every structure from scratch.  Others use prefabricated plastic toys and have raided the local dollar stores for plastic everything.  Still other students argue about the animals and farm implements not being to scale.  Whatever they decide, it is a unique experience in team work, construction, and trial and error. 

Stay tuned for pictures.  In the meantime, we're also planning to attend a local stage production of The Secret Life of Bees.  I just finished this book and it was amazing.  I cannot wait to read it to the kids and then see the show. 

Students, for your comments, consider:
  1. How's your farm building experience going?
  2. What are your lingering thoughts about the novel?
  3. Did you learn anything insightful?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Napoleon vs Snowball

Animal Farm is prospering.  Despite some setbacks with animals trying to use human implements, they are harvesting, planning, meeting, and living quite well. Looking at some of the student comments, seems like they are enjoying this novel for the most part, despite the personification of the farm animals.  It is rather creepy to imagine pigs sleeping in beds and horses discussing farm politics. 

Nonetheless, we're about halfway through the book already and should be building replicas of the farms as early as next week.  Dollar stores, beware!  We usually clean them out of craft sticks and plastic animals.

  • Do Napoleon and Snowball resemble current or historical political leaders?
  • Are the pigs effective leaders?
  • Are you satisfied with the reactions of the other animals to recent events?
  • Can you draw any parallels between leadership styles and tactics in the novel and your life or our world at large?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is the nature of this life of ours?

Routine. I love it.  Though the holiday season of 2010 was wonderful, I am glad to be back into the routine of home, work, and school.  While sleep was a luxury and we enjoyed unscheduled hours, I thrive on the rituals of my days.  And, I admit, I enjoy my students so the days are pleasant for the most part.

That said, we're well into Animal Farm and corresponding work including speeches about leaders the kids know and preparations for midterm exams.  This is a fun book and the students quickly get into the story, voicing opinions about the pigs and how they are running things, drawing connections to historical and contemporary politics, and writing about leadership strategies and being followers.  All in all, it's pretty good.  And we'll be building models of animal farms as well.  More hot glue!

So, students, consider this and post your comments:
  • What are your initial impressions of this story?
  • What political and historical connections can you make?
  • Are the pigs good leaders, regardless of what you think of their style?
  • Which of the farm animals can you identify with and why?
And the midterm information is here:  Midterm Preparation January 2011