Lesson Plan Friday: The Power of Poetry

Lesson Plan Friday @ The EnglishistI have a confession. I was terrified to teach poetry. As part of the Writing about Literature course at my school, there are three units: fiction, drama, and poetry. I have a creative writing degree…in fiction. I have taken screenwriting/drama classes. But poetry? Of course, I’ve encountered poetry throughout all of my many, many years of schooling. But I’m not a poetry expert, you know?

So my first time out, I thought for sure it would be a disaster.

Add to that the fact that most of my students also have an aversion to poetry. They don’t understand it, they think it’s stupid, and, of course, most of their experience with poetry was how it means something besides what they think it means.

However, in terms of student engagement, student response, and student interest, the poetry unit has wound up being the best.

I think the main reason the unit works so well is that poetry isn’t a trick: it’s all about word choice and word order.

I cannot tell you how many of my students feel super smart because they can explain a poem, and it’s all based on “Well, in line 4, the author uses ‘x word’ which means ‘this,’ so the poem is about ‘y.’”

Poetry solved!

The other thing that helps is our final poetry assignment***. My students have to write their own poems and then explain their choices. And then we have a poetry slam where they read their poems aloud.

The effect of that assignment?

  • I had a student who “didn’t read” before my class and was a math/engineering guy so was only taking the class because it’s required. He wrote so many poems that he didn’t know which one to choose for his final paper. He worked in retail and would write poems on the back of receipt paper at work. Any chance he got, he was scribbling poems.
  • They come to office hours because they have too many ideas and don’t know which one to pick.
  • They figure out inventive ways to do picture poems (one in the form of a broken heart, another in the form of a dancer, yet another in the form of a quadratic equation).
  • This past semester, my students were so proud of their poems that they told me I should make future classes analyze their poems like we did to the ones in the books.

This is huge. My students tend to have notoriously low confidence in their writing. But they recognized and felt that their poetry was as worthy of being analyzed as the poetry in the textbook.

Poems aside, their explanations*** (which is what they’re really graded on) are fantastic. They know and understand the terminology; they know and understand the inspiration poems or poetic forms. Their papers are a joy to read.

THEIR PAPERS ARE A JOY TO READ. (!!!!!)

So, yes. Poetry. It’s amazing.

***Here’s the assignment:

Part I: The Paper

Length: no word count (poem) / 500-750 words (explanation)

You have two options for this paper.

Option 1: Write a poem that imitates or is inspired by a poem that appears in any of the assigned reading on our syllabus. Then, explain the choices you made writing your poem, focusing on how it matches the original. Use the correct vocabulary when explaining the poems and their similarities.

You are using the original poem as inspiration, which means you can write a parody (humorous imitation) or something more serious on whatever topic you wish.

Option 2: Write a fixed form poem (sonnet, villanelle, sestina, limerick, or haiku) on the topic of your choice. Then, explain the choices you made while writing your poem, focusing on how it fits the chosen form and why you chose that particular form. Use the correct vocabulary when explaining your choices.

In order to successfully complete this paper, you must first understand the features of the poetic form and how to properly implement them. Only then will you be able to craft your poem.

Part II: The Final

Our poetry final will be an in-class poetry slam held during the assigned finals time. You will read/recite your poem to the class.

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This work by Akilah @ The Englishist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Top Ten Favorite TV Shows & Movies

So, I vowed to myself that my next post would be actual content (I have read books and taught classes and I have thoughts about them!) and not a Top Ten Tuesday post. I did! And then I saw the topic for the week was favorite shows/movies, and I succumbed. My next post will be a real post. I PROMISE.

I couldn’t pick between TV shows or movies, so, you know, I did both.

Favorite TV shows (with YouTubery)

1. The Cosby Show (Theo sings the blues)

Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: #YesAllWomen

“I know how things can be—for women. I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing.”

My contribution to #YesAllWomen [find out more here] was a quote from Trifles by Susan Glaspell, so I can pretty safely say that I process difficult topics through media. Since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie topic, and #YesAllWomen and the incident that spurred it are forefront in my mind, I figured I’d do a top ten list featuring books/plays that highlight some of the “harassment, discrimination or worse” (as stated in the article) that women face.

Links either go to my reviews, official websites, or (forgive me) Wikipedia. Also, forgive the lack of description and pictures, but it’s late, and I’m trying to get it posted before midnight.

So, my list of top ten books that support the claims made in #YesAllWomen.

1. Trifles by Susan GlaspellTop Ten Tuesday

2. A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

6. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

7. I’ll Pass for Your Comrade by Anita Silvey

8. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

9. Draw the Line by Nicole Grey

10. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

This list is by no means comprehensive, nor is it even, really, complete. There’s just too much great literature out there for me to put into a top ten list. These are, however, ten of the books that immediately came to mind when the idea bounced into in my head. I mean, oh my gosh, The Color Purple! And on and on this list would go. So now I stop because I really do need to get to bed.

Top Ten Bookish Things I Want (Image Heavy)

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is basically asking me to share my Pinterest with you. I wasn’t going to do this one at first, but, well, my birthday IS coming up soon. So, you know.

1. Thumb Thing / Book Weight

thumbplate

 

2. Laptop case / Kindle cover

covers

 

3. All the posters. Every one.

posters

4. Necklace, necklace, bracelet, ring, ring.

jewels

5. Coasters

coaster

6. Leggings? Yes, if they feature Shakespeare.

leggings

7. Library card catalog. Library should also be included.

catalog

8. Polly. This will keep going on every wishlist I have until I get it.

9. This cake (or its equivalent), if I ever get married. Or for my next milestone birthday. I’m looking at you, 40.

cake

10. Plates because I am a grown-up now.

plates

Also, please note that this list is nowhere near exhaustive. That’s what Pinterest is for, bless its heart.

Lesson Plan Friday: Identifying Character Traits

Lesson Plan Friday @ The EnglishistI actually got the idea for this activity from The Bedford Introduction to Literature (10th edition) edited by Michael Meyer. One of the creative response assignment suggestions is to have students write an obituary for the character of Penny from the play Dead Right by Elaine Jarvik.

In order to have students complete the obituary and to understand both characters, I had them do this little activity, which I think I’m going to use to introduce/explore characterization from now on. This activity is much more effective than asking the students to “characterize” a specific character or to describe the character’s traits. It teaches them how, exactly, to do that and where they get the information to characterize the characters.

In the book, Dead Right is a short play that covers four pages. I assigned the students one of the four pages to read. I then broke down the activity in the following steps.

1. Write down the facts the audience is given about Penny and the facts the audience is given about Bill. (I remind them that facts cannot be argued. Some of my students also think that they can remember everything they read, so I tell them that they have to actually write the facts down.)

2. Now, write down how you would describe each of their personalities (in other words,  their character traits) and what words/quotes from the play help you characterize them that way.

3. Then, we went over the facts and character traits, starting with the facts about a character before moving onto their traits. I put the lists up on the projector. This was an excellent way to reinforce the difference between facts (or details) and character traits. While doing the facts, students would sometimes say that a character was, say, “self-centered” or “rude” and I was able to say, “Well, that can be argued, so you’re moving into character traits. We’re doing facts now. Hold onto that for a minute.”

4. During the character traits discussion, I would always ask what made them describe the character that particular way and, most of the time, they referred back to the facts on the board or details from their assigned page.

5. Once our discussion was over, they were assigned to write Penny’s obituary as she herself would write it or as her husband Bill would write it. (I assigned them to either Penny or Bill.)

That last bit is also a little bit of a test in reading comprehension since Penny says exactly how she wants her obituary written. I always ask my students to share if they’re willing. If they’re not, I ask them what they did, so we can discuss their choices and why they made those particular choices. Students usually think they just come up with details in their writing out of their heads, so I use those moments as an opportunity to show them how they use details from the text in their own writing or how the details from the text inform their writing.

As I said, though, this can be easily adapted for another play or with different characters. My plan is to use this activity (minus the obituary) with a short story. That should be particularly interesting because that story is told with a first-person narrator. We’ll see how it goes.

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This work by Akilah @ The Englishist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Book Rants: Something Real

Something Real by Heather Demetrios | Reviewed at The EnglishistHere’s the thing. I liked a lot about Something Real by Heather Demetrios. The book follows a girl–Chloe Baker, now seventeen–who grew up on a reality TV show. Think Jon & Kate Plus 8. Yes, exactly. Only her family is Baker’s Dozen. So, her family is off TV, and she’s trying to lead a normal life. The fallout from growing up on reality TV and the impact it has on the family relationships are all well-handled and interesting.

But.

BUT.

The boy stuff.

Oh my god, the boy stuff.

My two big issues with the boy are:

  1. She sacrifices the best friends at the altar of the boyfriend.
  2. The character and the boyfriend fall in instalove.

The boyfriend is also perfect in every way, which compounds issues one and two.

I think my biggest issue here is that the narrative didn’t support either of the decisions the author made.

What follows contains mild spoilers for the book, but, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t give away any major plot points.

Let’s start with the best friend stuff, shall we?

In the story, Chloe has been at her current school for a year and a half. In that time, she has made two best friends. She doesn’t want them to know about her past life, so she never invites them over and when she’s stressed out, says she has “family stuff” going on. She talks to them every day and hangs out with them most weekends.

She has a crush on this boy Patrick who sits behind her in government class (“gov” in the book), and they engage in some heavy flirting.

So, of course, when Chloe’s secret comes out, Tessa and Meredith (her best friends for the past year and a half) avoid her because they are angry and betrayed. Patrick, the boy she went on one date with, totally doesn’t care and just wants to be with her because he really, really likes her and none of that fame stuff matters. And he goes out of his way to see her privately just to tell her how little it matters and how much he likes her.

Best friends = year and a half.

Boy = one date.

Both best friends are mad, btw. Both of them avoid her. Neither of them reaches out to her or makes an effort to pull her aside to find out why she felt she couldn’t trust them or to reassure her that it’s weird, but they’ll, you know, figure it out. One of them gives her a “WTF?” in the hallway and then fades into the background.

Instead we get an entire chapter of new boy saying how okay this all is and, like, a one or two paragraph make up session with her friends.

 

does not compute

I don’t get it either, Andrew. (Source)

And so it continues throughout the book. It isn’t long before Patrick and Chloe are declaring their love for each other. The tabloids come around and he’s totally fine with all of that. Because he loves her. All of their fights are about how she doesn’t trust him, and he just wants to be with her and he doesn’t care about the fame stuff! He really doesn’t! Why can’t she believe that?

Somewhere in the narrative, Demetrios points out that Chloe has been burned before by people only wanting to be close to her because of the show.

And I found myself thinking that the novel would have been much more believable if Patrick had ALREADY BEEN her longtime boyfriend. Like, why did it have to be new boy who she just met? Then, at least, his annoyance at her lack of trust would make sense. Then, at least, his frustration at her constantly pushing him away with this big news would make sense. But don’t sell me this remarkable love story about this girl who just started dating this dude, and now they’re in love and he’s totally fine risking his privacy for a girl he just started dating.

If they had been dating when the story started and it was established that they had been in this relationship, and then he found out she was the girl from the TV show, and he was willing to stand by her, I would have found that a much more compelling and believable love story. Since the structure of the novel (and the cover) are prizing this as a love story,  I think that’s more emotionally honest than having the boy the main character is crushing on be this amazing and unflappable boy even though they barely know each other.

It also would have been much more respectful of the teen audience.

And it would have been much more respectful of Chloe’s relationship with her best friends.

It’s also especially annoying because everything else about the book was so good. Sigh.

Source: Library

Lesson Plan Friday: Works Cited Page

Lesson Plan FridayI don’t know about anybody else, but teaching my students how to do a Works Cited page can be tedious at best. If I go over it in class, it’s like they don’t hear me. I tell them where to find the information in their book to make sure they’re doing it right–they do what they want.

Worst of all, they want to use citation websites like EasyBib and Citation Machine.

I don’t have a problem with those sites in general. My issue is that the sites always miss information or put the information in the wrong place. I tell my students if they use the sites to still double check because the citations might be wrong.

They don’t.

So! This semester I decided to do a different type of citation activity. I took them to the campus computer lab and gave them the following activity. This activity concentrates on formatting the works cited page as well as finding information of web sources to do citations.

From working with my students and my work in the Writing Lab, I’ve learned that a lot of times, students’ citations are incomplete because they don’t know where to look for the information to complete their citations, so they don’t take the time to do so.

For this assignment, students need computers with internet access. They also need their assigned handbook. My class used The Bedford Handbook (8th Edition), so any page numbers referenced are from that. The Practical Argument referenced is the 2nd edition. (Again, whichever book they use is fine. It should just have a sample works cited page and a section on how to do citations.) I always have students who come unprepared to class, so I also used The Purdue Owl.

The sites below were all chosen randomly. I tried to get a good mix of blogs, news sites, and sites with no author since my students could use a small number of non-scholarly internet sources for their forthcoming paper. I present the links as numbers because I didn’t want to give them any information about the sites. I wanted them to find all the information on their own.

I start with explicit formatting instructions because Microsoft Word has that new default that automatically adds space when you hit enter, even if a document is single-spaced.

Our lab has all Windows computers that run Office 2013.

Directions for the activity:

  1. Open Microsoft Word.
  2. Click on the Page Layout tab. Click on Margins. Select Normal.
  3. Click on the Home tab. Change the font to Times New Roman and the font size to 12.
  4. Click on the Home tab, go to Paragraph and click the little arrow in the bottom right corner. Under Spacing, set the After to 0 pt.
  5. Put a heading on your paper. Hit enter.
  6. Press Ctrl + E.
  7. Type Works Cited in plain text (do not bold or italicize or make larger). Press enter.
  8. Press Ctrl + L.
  9. Save your document to the desktop or to your flash/jump drive.

For this assignment, you will type up citations for the links given below.

On pg. 550 of the Bedford Handbook is a sample web page with information on how to find the information needed for an online citation. Refer to that as you complete your assignment. You should also refer to pgs. 548-557 for how to cite the various types of online sources you may encounter.

If you do not have your handbook, you should refer to pgs. 338-341 in Practical Argument.

If you do not have either book, go here.

 

Use the following links to complete your citations and SAVE YOUR WORK OFTEN as you go:

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Now that you have finished typing up your citations, you need to properly format your document.

  1. Put the list in alphabetical order (see pg. 572 in BH and pg. 530 in PA for directions).
  2. Properly indent your citations.
    1. In Microsoft Word, click on the Home tab, go to Paragraph and click the little arrow in the bottom right corner.
    2. Under Indentation, set the Special dropdown to Hanging.
  3. Double space your document.
    1. Press Ctrl + A to highlight the entire document.
    2. Click on the Home tab, go to Paragraph and click the little arrow in the bottom right corner.
    3. Under Spacing, set the Line Spacing dropdown to Double.
  4. Check that your list of citations looks like the sample on pg. 588 in BH, pg. 349 in PA, or this one.
  5. Double check your citations to make sure they are complete.
  6. Submit your assignment to Canvas. You may work quietly on other assignments until you are given further instruction.

And that’s it!

As a follow up, I tell them that they are allowed to use the citation generators (because they will anyway) but that they need to make sure to refer to their book or The Owl to make sure the citations are complete and correctly formatted. And since they have to do that anyway, they may as well just type up the citations themselves since I think it’s faster and less work. But, you know, do what you want, I say.

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This work by Akilah @ The Englishist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Bloggiesta!

So, I decided at the last minute to sign up for and participate in Bloggiesta. I have no plans for this weekend, so the timing is perfect.

My planned to-do list:Bloggiesta Spring 2014

  • participate in the PicMonkey challenge to make some buttons for my new/ongoing features
  • update my 2014 challenges list with books read
  • update my reviews by author page so that it’s current
  • write four or five posts I have swirling around in my head
  • participate in the Blog Post Bingo challenge
  • update my about page
  • do something about my layout–not sure what yet
  • investigate a different hosting service since hosting w/Wordpress limits what I can do with my blog

That list is a little insane, and I realize I probably won’t complete all of those items, but I should make a pretty healthy dent.

Excitement!

Finish line update:

  • I wrote two posts, not four or five. I’m still calling that complete.
  • I think I found a solution to my layout problem, so that’s a plus. Looking at getting a theme from Creative Whim when I switch my hosting
  • I’m still not sure what hosting service I’ll use yet. I need to get more feeedback from some trusted peeps on that one.

And that’s that. All in all, a rather successful weekend. I was also able to participate in the last Twitter chat, which was a lot of fun. Thanks so much to Suey and Danielle for all their hard work in organizing and hosting such a great event!

Book Review: Intuitive Eating

The more satisfied you are when eating, the less you will think about food when you are not hungry–you will no longer be on the prowl.

I’m going to give a little background for why, exactly, I read this book just to give an idea of why it impacted me so much. I don’t normally get this personal on the blog, so bear with me.

I was doing a lot of compulsive, emotional eating and, when I stopped doing that, I realized that I had a lot of fear around food—about eating the right food or about eating too much or not enough. In fact, I felt like I was constantly undereating and misjudging how much food I needed. I would pack what I thought was a good lunch only to get to work and realize that one small porkchop and one sweet potato were somehow, surprisingly, not enough to get me through the rest of the day. And that was happening more often than I would like. In my quest not to overeat, I had gone a little bit too much the other way and was at a loss for how to make sure I was getting enough food.

Intuitive Eating by by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Tracking my food (through all the various means) makes me crazy and kind of obsessive, so I knew I needed a professional. Hence, I contacted a dietitian.

During our first session, she told me that she promotes permissive eating and told me to read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. So I did. And I can honestly say this book changed my life.

(Note: I read the second edition of the book. There’s a new third edition available.)

Let me say up front that I had heard the phrase “intuitive eating” before, but it never occurred to me that there might be a book on it or that it had a basis in anything other than some idea of what/how people should eat. I mean, it just sounds like the sort of thing that makes sense. Of course I need to eat intuitively! So I would say that and not really understand what it meant.

Basically, the point of intuitive eating is that you stop relying on external cues for hunger/fullness, and you start learning and listening to your body’s cues for hunger/fullness. It moves everything from your head (i.e., I should/shouldn’t eat x, y, z) to your actual body.

In other words, stop dieting. But they don’t just say “stop dieting.” They also give research that shows the effects of dieting on physical and mental health. And they show you exactly how intuitive eating works and how to start doing it.

(They also don’t refer to sweets as “junk food” but instead as “play food.” Junk = bad, see? Ah, the power of language.)

So how did this book change my life?

  • I have stopped having guilt around when/how I eat. (Although I never thought of food as “good” or “bad,” I kept feeling bad if I got hungry before a certain amount of time.)
  • My relationship to the gym has completely changed. Because—just like with food—if I  move the focus to how exercising makes my body feel instead of the fact that I should be doing it, then I can focus on doing it because I want to. For example, I recently added in resistance training with the weight machines again because I remembered that I liked how strong I felt when I did it–and not because that’s what you’re supposed to do to lose weight (which is why I did it in the past). I have stopped thinking so much about losing weight and more about what makes me feel good.
  • I am still working with the dietitian to recognize my hunger cues and to learn how to tell I’ve had enough food for the activities I have scheduled for any given day. (None of these methods include counting calories.)

Some other thoughts:

My mom has diabetes and wants to read this book, so I was thinking about how this book would apply to her situation. I think the general principle is the same even with the restrictions diabetes (or another health condition) brings. Because if I know a food makes me feel physically bad when I eat it, then I figure out either how I can have that food without it making me feel physically bad or I find something else I want to eat. (Geneen Roth tried to make this point in Women Food and God, but she used a lot of foofy language to do so.)

Also, if someone has a serious eating disorder, the book offers lots of resources for finding help and support.

In conclusion: I recommend the book, definitely. The book is super accessible, easy to  read, and, most importantly, practical.

Some other reviews:

Source: Library

Lesson Plan Friday: Clothes and Character

Or costumes and character. Whichever is your pleasure.

Welcome to my new feature! I’m going to start blogging about teaching here since (a) I hate having two blogs and (b) academia is part of what makes me an Englishist. My plan is to post a lesson plan or assignment idea every other week.

I used this particular activity in my Writing about Literature class the Friday before spring break. My students and I didn’t feel like doing much work, so they (of course) opted for watching something. I told them we don’t just watch stuff for funsies. If we were going to watch something, they had to do some work. This activity could also easily be turned into a paper or short assignment to further explore character or used to discuss visual argument in a non-literature course.

I used the television show Parks & Recreation for this activity, but any TV show or movie will do. Our class meets for 50 minutes, so a 22-minute episode was the perfect length for watching and discussing. 

I have three lit classes, so I chose three different episodes of the show (one for each class). I used:

  • “Greg Pikitis” (Season 2, Episode 7)
  • “Ron & Tammy: Part Two” (Season 3, Episode 4)
  • “The Fight” (Season 3, Episode 13)

In order to do this lesson, students should already have a firm grasp on the literary elements, particularly plot, character, and setting. A familiarity with irony is also important.

Before watching the episode, I went over the purpose of costumes in drama. Students were then instructed to watch the episode, paying special attention to the characters’ clothing.

During our discussion we talked about how clothing related to character traits. Since the “Greg Pikitis” episode takes place on Halloween, we were also able to discuss what the Halloween costumes revealed about the characters.

Since Parks & Recreation mostly takes place in an office, we discussed how the characters felt about their jobs, what their duties might be, and how seriously they took their jobs based on their clothing. We were also able to explore what the clothing revealed about a character’s economic status.

We also talked about how clothing was related to the action of the plot (this can be done using the plot pyramid) and to the conflict. 

If I do the activity again, I will probably assign students to track a specific character throughout the episode to better focus their analysis. Since some characters feature more prominently than others, assigning specific characters will give students a chance to pay attention to the minor characters as well as the main characters.

A good companion activity would be for students to then take a character from a play and decide on a costume for him or her based on the text.

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