There are a lot of cool books on the shelves of the bookcase at the back of the room. Most are separated to fit their best course or genre that they relate to, but it can be deceiving, since many overlap and fit a number of high school ELA courses.
To help you see what your options are and decide, I’ve created online shelves in GoodReads. At the link below, you can skim through and read summaries to every book on my shelf and get a sense of its topic, rather than judging by colour.
There are types of learning strengths, did you know? You’re going to take the online test to determine which areas you’re strongest in. We’ll see, then, how you compare with other students in Grades 9 – 12!
Take the test here. You’ll get an image of your results. Keep a copy and email the results to me directly.
You lucky few used to contribute work examples to a personal blog a few years ago, so you have the benefit of a collection of your work being available to review. You’re going to take some time today to read some of your previous writing samples and reflect on whether you feel you’ve grown in confidence or abilities with your written work.
We’ve been reading the novel together by reading aloud, though some people are getting into the novel and reading ahead. So you can go at your own pace, you’re going to continue reading on your own, but some people still enjoy the experience of reading a book as it’s read aloud. I have a treat for you, then!
This is a playlist of the audio of the novel, read by a man with a German accent so it takes on the narrative of our young male character that much more closely. If you’re on page 58, you can start listening at Playlist Part 9 @ 4:02 minutes in. It begins at the top of page 58, where Elie is about to be whipped in the warehouse.
It was understandably difficult for the class to really settle in and focus today; it’s their last day of English (ever, for some!) and they were all leaving in fifty minutes to go bowling for the day. How can English compete with that?! We did get things settled, though, and were able to have a fairly productive class.
I gave students a handout with two poems on it. We have already studied / analyzed these poems but they weren’t given a copy at the time. (We looked at them using the projector and they wrote out their responses / phrases on their sheet.) Both of the poems given (though one was not the one I intended to give them) can be used for either of the two parts for this course. Finding literature that will be able to adapt to either possible theme will be of value to them.
I also gave them a handout that had essay questions from the last three years of Dept exams. The benefit of this, I think, is that they should get a Reheheally good idea of the kinds of questions they’ll be asked and prepare them better for what to expect and how to plan to respond.
For example, we read through six different possible questions they may be asked for the One Paragraph Personal Response question. For each question, we discussed possible responses as a class. I made it emphatically clear that they ‘must’ refer to a personal issue being sure to use the words “I” and “my” etc.
For the first of the two Five Paragraph Formal Literary Essays, they can only refer to small literature selections. This was made absolutely clear to them!! We read through the six essay questions and roughly pieced together which stories / essays / poems we could use in answering.
The same was done with the last Five Paragraph Formal Literary Essay. They have to decide (maybe even before going into the final) which major story they are most comfortable with – Night, Hamlet, or Animal Farm. Their entire essay must only refer to ONE of these.
We wrapped things up after a few sporatic questions. We reviewed quickly the Tips for Exam Writing that I had shared with them back in January. Bring a drink (keeps you motivated and your stamina to keep writing is extended), chew gun (maintains a greater focus on your task / fewer distractions), and bring a snack of some sort that won’t make a lot of noise to open.
I’ve done my best to make sure you all are as prepared for this exam as possible. Beyond that, though, I’ve done all I could to make this class interesting, create an engaging environment where you felt like you “wanted” to participate, and tried to give you assignments and projects that had some real value. It’s been a great six months getting to know you and work with you. I wish you all the best of luck out there in the “real world”. Don’t feel shy about looking me up, please. I’d love to hear how you’re doing out there or lend an ear.
Here’s a treat for you that goes along the lines of writing exams. lol You’ll enjoy it!
We reviewed to start the last sub-unit we studied regarding “Ambition, Power, and the Common Good”. We watched the movie Blood Diamond in relation to that and also read and discussed the novel Animal Farm. It is a fairly clear example of the problems and difficulties that arise from the struggle for Power and trying to determine what the Common Good actually is.
The last sub-unit to quickly discuss and consider for the course is one that looks at Social Criticism – those in society who conform and “go with the flow” versus those who “think outside the box” and look at common practices with a fresh perspective and offer different ideas.We discussed the reality that, since we are shaped by our surroundings so much, it is difficult to see clearly what is around us. We’re so used to different things that we can’t understand why others would want to change them. The reality, though, is that we should still attempt to look at things fresh and question why we do or believe things. Without questioning our actions, we’re not being responsible. I gave students two examples from my personal experience:
Lately, especially, I’ve been questioning what is considered a common practice, in small communities at least, where parents “pull beer” for their kids. I have no comment on young people drinking but dislike the reality that buying the beer for people underage sets a certain example for young people – that you should obey only certain laws. How surprising is it, then, when these kids so often risk themselves by drinking and driving. Closer to home, a woman I have known for years, since her children were just small, bought alcohol for her son on a Friday night and put it directly into the back of his truck. There was a major accident that night involving his truck that ended in the fatality of one boy and serious brain injury of another. “Parents Pull… and kids die” is a new S.A.D.D. or M.A.D.D. slogan I’d like to suggest. I question what is a common practice – I don’t conform to that standard.
Another example I could share with the students was the work a former Gr 8 Social class did last year. A tragic “accident” happened in Calgary last year where a mother left her two children in her vehicle, left running, while she stopped to pick up party supplies for the next day. While she was in the store, her three-year old daughter woke and was upset in the car seat in the back, the young boy undid her buckle and the girl proceeded to roll down the window to climb out. While she was in the process of this, though, her feet stepped on the window controls causing the window to come up and strangled her. Someone else drove up the parking lot, found this child choking in the window, struggled to get her out and tried to revive her. Unable to do so, he ran into the building to have someone call 9-11. Meanwhile, the mother returned to her vehicle and drove away, unaware that her daughter was unconscious in the backseat. The ambulance arrived only to find that the van was gone and the chilling reality was that the mother only found that her daughter had died when she finally stopped later.I ask – “Should we have a law that makes it illegal to leave a child in a running vehicle unattended?” The Gr 8’s polled people in their community and had a mostly positive reaction, except for a few parents who thought it would cause more problems, having to drag kids in and out of vehicles. We asked the question, though. We looked at what is a common practice in our country and asked whether something should be changed. Being aware of our social laws and behaviors is important, but also being aware of why they exist is equally important.
We briefly talked about Cultural Relativity – the belief that individuals cannot criticize a group or culture from outside that same culture (you can only be critical of actions/ beliefs if you have been raised in that culture and understand the meaning behind those actions). An example of this is the practice of Female Circumcision, which is practiced widely in many Eastern countries. Fathers expect this of their daughters at a certain age and consider it a necessity while being quite affectionate of their daughters. It is to protect their marriages from adultery, is one of their beliefs. Someone from outside that culture could easily be very critical, but the idea behind Social Relativity is that unless you understand it from the inside, you have no right to question it sincerely. It is a concept of Sociology, but does not mean you have to agree with it.
We read a story called “Kaffir Boy” about a man from South Africa. He recounts the day when it became clear to him what going to school would actually mean for his life and the desperation his mother went through in being sure he had the opportunity. We identified those who conformed to popular beliefs, and those who resisted. It was a somewhat rushed discussion of this unit, but that always seems to be the case at the end of a class in June.
The final is on Monday. We’ll begin reviews tomorrow and Thursday will be reserved for studying and individual help. I’m sure you’ll all do quite well. Just remind yourselves of the literature that will be most adaptable for the exam questions.
I reminded the students that their poem / paragraph assignment was due last Thursday but will still be accepted until the last day of school, this Thursday.
To direct their focus as we listen to the end of Animal Farm, I wrote several themes or topics related to the novel in our unit of study. The topics were as follows:
Consider how easily people in societies can be persuaded / manipulated / motivated.
Leaders and followers – there are always natural leaders and natural followers
Common good – what does it mean / who decides what it is / someone always loses out
Social responsibility – our conscience / intuition inform us in our decisions
Self doubt – people still do things despite uneasy feelings (ie: follow)
People do what they believe is right
Power – does power always lead to corruption?
Students finished listening / reading the novel Animal Farm. We discussed it a bit at the end but will continue tomorrow.
I also handed back the practice Dept exams the students started last week. Whether they use them as practice or to study the format for the exam or not is up to them. There is also a answer key they can use to check their responses for the first few sections of it.
In regards to the format for their final next Monday, I reminded them that they will have to write two formal literary essays – one that only refers to any three of the shorter literature (stories, essays, poems) and one that refers to only one of the major pieces of literature we have studied (Hamlet, Night or Animal Farm). I had written on the board the essay question options from last June’s B30 dept exam. The questions will obviously be different ones but looking at these allows them to gather a better idea of the types of questions they may be asked.
Formal essay options referencing three shorter pieces:
With reference to three selections, show how characters strive to be accepted or admired.
With reference to three selections, show how characters’ reactions to challenges illustrate their true identity.
Formal essay options referencing only one major piece:
Show how unrealistic expectations established by the main character(s) lead to disappointment.
Show how characters attempt but fail to remedy the injustices of society around them.
Here is a link to another year’s ELA B30 departmental exam with answer key attached. Try it out.
There’s a pretty great movie made based on the novel Animal Farm. They did a great job with the movements of the animals. What do you think?
The reminder was written on the board (with today’s plan) that the Poem or Paragraph assignment was due today. (Students had the option of choosing to write a poem or formal body paragraph for the assignment.)
I wasn’t here yesterday so students had an opportunity to ask any clarifying questions, talk about anything they are uncertain about regarding the story. I focused their attention to several key themes they should watch for evident in the novel, such as Ambition, Power, the idea of the Common Good, and the subject of Responsibility, whether individual or group. We discussed the Final Essay Question from the Departmental exam example that asked the student to prove with reference to a large piece of literature that “People only do what they believe is right”. Using the novel Animal Farm as the reference, I asked them to briefly consider whether they would be able to respond, based on the storyline so far.
Then they read – students settled quickly and wasted no time in getting right back into the novel. I mentioned that the novel is so engaging and such an interesting story that it is easy to stay interested with it, whether you have a book or not, but I have to say in particular that these students are doing a fantastic job of staying on that task themselves. When you listen to something for almost an entire class, it might seem easy to find ways to lose interest or focus, but these students are proving the opposite. I’m pleased with that. Of course, too, it doesn’t hurt that the person narrating the audio actually sings the songs and bleets out the sheep’s parts! lol
Graduation is tomorrow. I hope all the Grade twelves have a wonderful day getting ready. Hope it’s what you were waiting for! See you tomorrow!
This painting is titled “Blame Snowball”. Interesting interpretation, don’t you think?!
Students had a great start to our simple reading of the novel Animal Farm yesterday. Today, being well into it already, they just continued reading / listening along. They were directed to listen for the details of the story, what the animals begin doing and who is responsible for things. Understanding that the story changes, or is altered, by the propagandist Squealer later gave students a strong purpose for listening to those details.
Tomorrow is the day before Grad. I hope everyone can maintain a little focus one more day this week.
The class had about ten minutes left of their movie to finish from last week. It is interesting that they were so captivated by the movie that it didn’t seem at all like their last viewing of it was three days ago. Once the movie was finished, we discussed it as it related to the several themes we have studied in each sub-unit of this course. For each of the themes, I asked the class to give me examples of how it was represented in the movie. For one story to fit so perfectly into all of the categories, it is unfortunate they cannot refer to it on the final! The benefit, though, in having watched the video and discussed it is to have an object for discussion that so clearly links all these ideas together.
From that discussion, it seemed to be the obvious next step to discuss the Russian Revolution. (Say what?!) We have little time left but they are going to read / listen to a short novel yet this week. The story is written so cleverly that it is quite enjoyable to read. They have already studied two large pieces of writing intensely (Night and Hamlet) so now they can relax and “enjoy” a piece of literature for it’s listening pleasure but still be able to refer to it on their final.
Before reading / listening to it though, in order for them to understand the story within the story, they had to have a quick lesson in history. They didn’t take their World History (20 course) so for nearly all of them the story of Karl Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and his assassination order by Stalin and all the rest of it were completely new. We created a character concept map, to show the links between characters, and then with each they wrote in brackets the novel character who represents the real historical figures. Click here for another summary.
Tomorrow we’ll begin reading. You’ll enjoy this story, I promise!