Category Archives: Literature

Teaching Everything Using the Scientific Method

Mmkay. So, I had this epiphany (it’s like the last thing I wrote) a few weeks ago about how pretty much everything is learned through the Scientific Method:

  1. Background Information/Observation,
  2. Hypothesis,
  3. Design and Conduct the Experiment,
  4. Evaluate the Data,
  5. Draw a Conclusion

In other words, think up a question (Why is the sky blue? What year was the Declaration of Independence signed?), offer a hypothesis (Because it is. 1776.), Design and Conduct the Experiment (I will look in my textbook(s)), Evaluate the data (do I agree with my textbook? Can I verify this information using another source?), and Draw a conclusion (The sky is blue due to the angle of sunlight hitting water molecules in the atmosphere, 1776 because I saw a real copy of the Declaration in the UVA library).

I wish I had realized this earlier while I was reading through the Language Acquisition and Reading (Creating Literacy Instruction; Pearson 2016) textbook. Even though they have used various different terms, pretty much every strategy for teachers to use has boiled down to the Scientific Method as described above.

Here’s the latest example:

Mini-lessons used as a part of a Reading Workshop for lessons using Independent Reading. These mini-lessons have 5 basic parts (I have block quoted them to make them easier to read, but the analysis is mine alone):

1. Connection (Background information and Hypothesis)

2/3. Teaching and Active Involvement (Conducting the Experiment)

4. Link (Evaluate)

5. Follow up (Conclusion)

I have to create 3 different lesson plans for the class, due Dec. 3rd. My hope is to have them comply with my theory of universally utilizing the Scientific Method, but honestly my first goal will be ensuring that they meet any and all requirements that my professor has for the assignment (because I’d prefer to pass the class since I don’t have real students to test my lesson plans on). However, once the class is over, I’m thinking about creating some of these lesson plans over winter break. Of course I’ll post them here unless and until I decide to use them for a future class and aren’t allowed to plagiarize myself.

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Reading Journals

This week in my class on Language Acquisition and Reading, our lesson is on Reading. The first section was on reading for content classes (science, history, etc) and the second section is on reading literature.

I wish, I wish, I WISH the teachers I had in school had simply done a better job explaining what we were doing! I’m recognizing a lot of things I did in English classes for analyzing literature and I vaguely remember it being called “Close Reading”, but I seem to have missed the memo on “Close Reading” being a specific way of reading literature. I mean, I knew it had a set structure, but I never understood why it was WRONG to pay too much attention to just getting lost in the story!

Had they done a simple compare and contrast of “Close Reading” (paying attention primarily to the structure of the story) v. “Reader Response” (paying attention primarily to ideas the story evokes), I think I would have enjoyed English a little bit more. Because as it was, I hated English because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to just enjoy books and I really didn’t understand why it was so important to look at the structures used by the author since I have no desire to be a professional literary writer.

Now that I understand why it’s important to learn about structure as much as content, I’d be fine with analyzing a piece of literature based on it’s structure! It’s not that one way of looking at literature is better or worse (which I thought back in high school), but that they are different.

Especially with poetry.

I don’t like poetry because you can’t read poetry. I mean, you can, but it has to be read aloud. Which is fine if you like reading aloud! But I like seeing a story and I can’t see a story if I’m stumbling over pronunciations and making sure that I’m pausing in all the right places (which are never at the end of a line even though the lines don’t take up the entire width of the page….WHY?!?!?!). It bugs the crap out of me.

Ooh! Brainstorm! Whenever I have to deal with poetry in my future classroom, I will always prep for the class by re-writing the poems! I will write them out as though prose (except without the distracting /s) and use ellipses (…) as necessary. Though, I’m pretty darn good at pausing at the commas! Haha. This way I can read them as they are meant to be read (and continue to wonder why the heck they’re structured stupidly to start with!).

Anyway, Bitching about poetry wasn’t the reason I started writing this  post. I’m supposed to be writing about Reading Journals.

There are 4 types:

  1. Response Journals: where the student reflects after each chapter, usually in response to a prompt given by the teacher, though they can be free-written.
  2. Literary: the student pretends to be one of the characters and reflects from that POV.
  3. Double Entry: where the left side of the page is a quotation and the right side is a question or reflection (I remember doing this for Pride and Prejudice, an assignment I actually enjoyed).
  4. Dialogue Journals: where the student and teacher (or two students) have a written discussion about the book within the confines of a journal.

As a letter writer, I think I will rely heavily on Dialogue Journals! I’m 1000x more confident on paper than vocally and I feel much more comfortable writing to my professors than I do speaking to them, especially when I have a question. I imagine this is true for many students who do not want to look silly in front of the class.

Thinking about the Double-Entry Journal we did for Pride and Prejudice, I felt self-conscious about my teacher reading it because I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track about things. I knew that I was getting graded for my work in it and the feedback was always about creating a correct Journal and making the right kinds of connections/inferences, not about specific things that I’d written. Not a conversation about the book and my ideas on it. An actual conversation about it would have been really nice, since I rarely talked in class.

I’m sure a lot of the questions I wrote in that Journal never got answered. I assume that my way of approaching a book hasn’t changed much, so many of the quotes I questioned or reflected on were things that made me laugh or made me cringe. The journal is long, long gone, but I know it would have been nice if it’d had some dialogue with my teacher in it where she gave her opinions on the book and my thoughts rather than simply “that’s interesting” and “good insights” or whatever other generic statements she could make. There was nothing that made me want to dive deeper into what I’d already written about in the journal. Why go back to a previous chapter when the next chapter’s reflections are due this week?

Probably one of the best responses I ever got from a teacher on an assignment was in the Environments of Lewis and Clark course in college where on a homework assignment we were asked to list 3 uses of water in the home. One of mine was “watering the cats and dogs” (because I couldn’t figure out a better way to word this particular chore). The professor drew a little picture of a cat with a watering can over it’s head that let me know that she had smiled at my terminology. I felt like we were on the same page about the question and that we were cool. It let me know that she’d read my answer and had a personal response to it. That meant a lot.

Since I’m an avid reader, I hope to have read many of the books that my students will read so that I can have a real conversation with them about their books in their Journals. I’d treat it like a mini, private book club where the students are free to share even their wildest ideas about the books because everyone is entitled to have any reaction they want to a particular book.

And if we’re learning about the structure of literary works (which is important!), I will make sure that my students understand that analyzing structure is different from having merely an aesthetic response to a book. Because there are a lot of crappy books being written today which lack even a semblance of literary structure and that’s not cool!

As Architects say, “Form Follows Function”. In reading as many sources of news that I do, it’s critical to realize when a form exists for a very specific reason (poetry be damned).

Okay. I relent: A haiku exists only as a form: meaning has nothing to do with it’s structure. I think?

Question: How often to homeschooling parents “grade” their children’s reading journals? Do many curriculum require that children keep such journals?

Teaching Consent Before It Was Cool

Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite fairy tale. I haven’t met a version that I don’t adore and am re-watching the new Disney live-action edition tonight.

It was during the scene where Beast let’s Belle go to save her father that I had a revelation. As the past two weeks has brought #metoo to to the forefront and people are openly talking about how being harassed and abused by someone in a position of power makes people less likely to report that harassment and abuse, I have never realized how no matter what edition of Beauty and the Beast I have read or watched, include what I think is one of the first publications of the story, the Beast always let’s Belle go as a proof of his love.

…Okay. After further research, I hadn’t read the original by Madame De Villeneuve, but am reading it now :-).

Classic, haha.

I feel like most of the rest of the “Disney Princesses” don’t get much of an opinion about their lives. Cinderella gets bullied by her step-family until she takes the first ticket out of Dodge. Snow White is equally bullied and takes whatever help she can get. Sleeping Beauty is loved, but lied to and, well, who’s going to argue with true love’s kiss?

But Beauty has the choice to refuse to go to the Beast’s castle. She feels free to tell him that she won’t marry him (or otherwise denies his requests). Even after he falls in love with her, she’s freely allowed to essentially do her own thing. It is her choice to love or not to love, though I prefer versions of the story where the Beast isn’t so actively bribing Belle and her family.

Even though the Beast is holding Belle prisoner and though he needs her love to re-become human, he cannot force her to love him. He may act cruel and heartless, but unlike in real life, Belle never feels pressured to pretend to love him or even pretend to like him. She doesn’t have to smile at his bad jokes. She doesn’t have to stroke his ego.

She has the freedom to be 100% herself and fall in love with him on her own terms.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

“Miss Jenkyns wore a cravat, and a little bonnet like a jockey-cap, and altogether had the appearance of a strong-minded woman; although she would have despised the modern idea of women being equal to men.  Equal, indeed! she knew they were superior.”

 I picked this one up to satisfy my continued need for period pieces written in the period as well as it being the novel a TV show I watched was based on. It’s a nice tale, a stream of consciousness view of life in small town England with all it’s quirks. I’m still not sure what to think about the husband who wrote to their son that his wife had sprained her ankle and therefore wasn’t able to hold a pen. Considering her note on the back of the page, I guess the pain in her foot didn’t affect her hand that much. I don’t know whether to laugh at the obsurdity or to suspect that something more sinister was amiss.

I wouldn’t consider this a special piece of literature per se, but it’s definitely a good introduction to social history and viewing historical figures as they viewed themselves.

Flapper in a Feathered Turban
Flapper in a Feathered Turban by hermoines
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If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Ugh. I have a headache now from all the crying I did while reading this book. I still rated it a 5, but it was just so dang depressing for a Kristan Higgins novel! Spoiler alert (it’s in the blurb) one of the husbands is a cheater.

I’m not sure exactly what made me cry so much. They were the leaky tears that you don’t even notice until they either roll down your cheeks or make it difficult to see the page. I suspect my BF’s smoking played a roll in my tears because it’s our “other woman”. BF won’t lie about it, but he certainly isn’t as forthcoming as he should be and there are a lot of the same “I’m weak” comments. Grr.

My mom came out here to spend half the day with him since she had the day off and with two full grown children her compulsive shopping addiction has gotten out of control (she’s depressed). He took her out to lunch, drove her around the county on all his favorite back roads, showed her a Fort we found, took her to get a car with the tow truck, and at some point brought up the idea of marrying me. She gave her blessing, of course (she’s had us hitched since she first found out we were a couple). He told her that it won’t happen until he’s been smoke free for 2 months, but there’s still the Feb 29th deadline looming. And I came home yesterday to him in the backyard smoking a pathetic looking butt that he wouldn’t but out until he’d gotten one last drag on it. So yeah…while I don’t have to worry about another woman catching his eye, I still have to contend with the siren’s call that can be triggered by nothing more than a neighbor asking if he has a cigarette to spare. By the way, he’s been telling me for a week that he’s only been getting drags, rather than whole cigarettes from his friends–how did he end up with something smokable in his pocket?

Wedding Love Postage
Wedding Love Postage by allweddingproducts
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Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

“If every young vandal was forced to do his rounds without pants on, the world would be a safer place.” –Fletcher Moon

I picked this book up because I’ve adored the Artemis Fowl series as well as Airman. Again we have an intrepid youth who takes matters into his own hands when the parental units aren’t willing to bend a few rules in order to find out the truth.

Fletcher “Half-Moon” Moon is a 12 year old (or so) detective with the badge to prove it. While trying to solve one mystery he finds himself in the middle of a much bigger case.

What I liked most about this book is that it really makes you think about judging people guilty before all the facts are gathered. Sometimes the guilty party is the person you’d least expect and sometimes the person who is easiest to blame is completely innocent. It’s a lesson everyone needs to take to heart.

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In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Sigh. This is one of those wonderfully depressing stories that leaves you crying at 3 am because you can’t put it down. I read it purely on a whim because it was advertised as a “Big Library Read Book” this month on my library’s ebook site (a book which isn’t limited in checkouts by the number of copies the library owns). It’s one I highly recommend.

It’s set in 1918, during the last months of WWI and the Spanish Influenza pandemic. Lot’s of death, lots of sorrow. And yet, finishing it has left me hopeful rather than depressed, which is how the best books are (in my opinion).

The last book I read on Spiritualism was set in WWII Britain (The Strange Case of Hellish Nell) so we know that this phenomenon (I mean the act of believing in spirits) lasted a long time. This book paints a very realistic view of life during this period–no white washing.

WWI Propaganda
WWI Propaganda by Dividenda
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Are you 100% American? Buy Bonds
Are you 100% American? Buy Bonds by parrow1978
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Beat Back the Hun
Beat Back the Hun by Dividenda
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Northanger Abbey

I’m very glad that I’ve decided to finally tackle the works of Jane Austen. The more I read of her, the more a fan I become.

Northanger Abbey started out kind of slow, which I expected when the introduction implied it was the first novel she’d written even though it was only published after her death. It starts out sounding very much like a rant against society, which I think is common amongst young writers. I know that my one attempt at writing a novel gets a C- from me simply because I spent too much time ranting. Of course, Ms. Austen had the skill that I lacked which is in her ability to reign it in, or at least when it’s viewed from 2015, these rants would have been shared by all of us modern women, so we sympathize instead of condemning her “youth”.

This is definitely a book that a lot of teenage girls today would still find relevant, especially when it comes to the “friends” who are self-centered and conniving. I could only groan at the comments that Catherine used to be so easy to persuade and that it’s her fault that their trip would be ruined because she has other plans. There are plenty of women in therapy now because of the guilt laid upon them by “friends” who are actually abusive users.

I also found the conversation between Catherine and Henry on the definition of matrimony as relative to a country dance. They end up with such a complex definition of what it means to be married, I’m surprised that just 2 weeks ago another debate was hashed out in our court system that a marriage can be so easily defined as “between a man and a woman”. Goodness: if that’s all it takes to make a marriage last, why on Earth does divorce exist?!? Of course, in today’s world, most people would agree that there is also more to a marriage than a man supporting his wife  and the wife making “an agreeable home”. ‘Course, I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable if they proscribed way to find a husband (a woman’s only duty, of course) was for her to hide every scrap of intelligence she has, or to not be intelligent to begin with.

“Yes, I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.” I’ve always been the “smart” one of the group, but I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve been appreciated for not being pretentious. I do not like people using a “5 dollar word” as a measure of intelligence especially since many who do use such words incorrectly. I have had to say on a few occasions: “I’m not sure the word you just used means what you think it means” and I admit it’s difficult to do with a straight face. Luckily, most don’t mean any harm by it, they’re simply trying to sound smart, but I like to think that smart is something you do, not something you say.

I was listening to an interview on NPR with researchers who want to promote physical intelligence instead of merely mental intelligence in US society (the action of creating something rather than the mental processes of thinking about stuff). I disagreed with the whole notion that a single individual can excel at both ways of learning because I don’t think it’s probable for all humans to be geared towards the exact same way of learning: kinetic vs. listening vs. optical. Yes, US society looks down upon the individuals who lack “book knowledge”, but watching my BF load and unload a car Friday night shows me that there is a considerable amount of intelligence that goes into physical labor! My brother would also tell you that it IS a skill to be able to load a trailer properly–he’d been the unfortunate victim of one such person too many times when he quit his job loading them because the other person’s “walls” kept falling on him.

My only complaint is that when Catherine realized the error of her ways in making assumptions about the General based on her experience with romantic novels, she was only able to extend her miss-assumptions to those who live within her general area (or at least this is how I read this passage)–people in the far east and west would still be like the villains and heroes of her novels: either good or evil and nothing in between.

On that note, I anxiously await my next Blogging for Books request: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and as Warning. I’ve heard that it relates to the xenophobia we’re now seeing with the refugee crisis in Europe. Something doesn’t sit right with me when doctors, lawyers, and teachers are treated like vermin simply because they’ve been forced to take sketchy boats, trucks or just walk to cross borders  just to get away from oppression in their home countries.

P.S. Does anyone know why this book was originally called “Susan” by Ms. Austen? I’m pretty sure that there is no one called by that name in this novel!

The Princess and the Pea: A Very Short Tale

This is essentially just an extended joke with a single punchline. It’s not very different from the original and is indeed a VERY short story.

I can only wonder whether I’d be able to feel the pea if I were the “princess” because at work there are always holes all over the floor (from the hole punch) and they’re not flat pieces of paper. I can feel them through my boots and it’s quite uncomfortable.

Getting Old is Criminal (Gladdy Gold #3)

More than just a murder mystery, Getting Old is Criminal deals with many of the realities of getting old. I laughed, I (almost) cried, and if I hadn’t already been a fan of this series, I would have become one. These books just keep getting better!

From the back of the book: “Gladdy Gold had reached a golden moment. There she was, soaking in a hot tub with a man she adored, far from Fort Lauderdale and her nosy neighbors…until an urgent message sent her running home. Now her exotic vacation is a memory, Gladdy’s would-be beau, Jack, is furious, and not only are the girls of the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency all alive and well—they’re onto a hot new murder case.

Is a retirement-home Romeo to blame for the mysterious deaths in Florida’s most luxurious communities? Gladdy and her curious kibitzers will have to go undercover to find out—covering themselves with as many fancy-schmancy airs as possible. But with Gladdy’s drama queen sister Evvie playing the role of a Palm Beach flirt, their fun and games turn deadly. For by the time the girls ID their perp, Evvie is in the arms of a killer—and loving it.…”

Vintage Retro Style Woman iPhone 5 Case
Vintage Retro Style Woman iPhone 5 Case by SassySues
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