May 13

ELA B30: May 13 Extra essay-writing class time…

  1. Because of track and field in Watrous, many of the students were away. With the ten or so who were here, they were given an extra class to work on their essay due on Thursday. It was maybe helpful for some who got a little more personal attention and help. I hope you used it well!
  2. We’ll be watching the video Wednesday and Thursday this week. There’s no school on Friday, remember.
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May 12

ELA B30: May 12 Essay writing class 3 of 3…

  1. Since students will be away tomorrow, for track and field, our viewing of the movie Hamlet will have to be held off until Wednesday and Thursday. Students can plan for a light B30 work week, then, it seems!!
  2. Students were reminded that the essays are due on Thursday and are expected to be handed in in a certain order with the rubric attached at the top. A reminder was also given of my late assignment policy – you can hand in an assignment late “as long as”… I haven’t already marked the rest and returned them to the students. If I have marked them and returned then, you can no longer hand yours in and will have to start over with a new assignment / project. It may be very similar to the first or quite different. For this project, the essay, if you fail to hand it in and I hand the marked ones back, I will choose another essay question from the list of 36 and you will have to start over. This would not be fun. Do your work and finish your essay on time, please.
  3. For those who still have not acted out their Porphyria’s Lover performances, this project is no longer an option to you. Your new assignment, in its place, is to narrate by memory 20 lines of Hamlet. It can be from any of Hamlet or Claudius’s soliloques or it can be from the Ghost’s speech about the murder scene. You will be marked by your speaking pace, volume, inflection, and ability to create the proper mood. Here is an example of someone reciting some lines.  This link is to another person’s version of the same lines. Which do you prefer?
  4. I wrote out general descriptions of what an introductory and concluding paragraph need to be complete.
    1. An intro should have the following covered:
      1. An opening sentence – that hints at the topic in a unique or catchy way
      2. A sentence to link the opening statement to the literature (Hamlet)
      3. A few sentences to give general background information about the plot / characters of Hamlet. *Give the necessary information only.
      4. (optional background sentence)
      5. A sentence that introduces the more specific topic of the essay.
      6. The topic sentence with the three specific topics listed in one sentence in the order they appear in the essay.
      7. A transition sentence that sums up the introduction and leads to the beginning of the essay’s information.
    2. A concluding paragraph should have the following covered:
      1. A General sentence to restate the topic.
      2. Sentences that follow explaining why the topic is relevant to individuals / readers and their ordinary lives.
      3. (more of #2)
      4. (more of #2)
      5. Final sentence should be a well-worded sentence that leaves the reader with a satisfying ending. (Could possibly use a quote from the literature or popular phrase to end things with.)
  5. Students who are here tomorrow will be able to work on their essay. We’ll wait for the rest of the group to view the video.
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May 9

ELA B30: May 08/ 09 Final Unit exam / essay writing period…


  1. Students had a sub May 08, so it almost guaranteed a quiet, productive class to assign their Hamlet / Unit final for today.
  2. May 09, students were given the formal assignment handout that notified them of how their essay will be marked so they can ensure they meet all the requirements. It also is very clear and detailed regarding the order the essay’s parts should be compiled before handing in, such as Green rubric on the front, then final copy of essay, with brainstorming and drafts included at the end.
  3. On this handout, as well, it made it clear the proper format for citing references from the Shakespeare text. It is not as simple as giving a page number; you must include the Act and scene numbers, and the lines of the prose you are refering to. I wrote on the board for students the Roman Numeral chart so they can be sure they are citing the right Act or scene.
    I (1), II (2), III (3), IV (4), V (5)     Acts
    i (1), ii (2), iii (3), iv (4), v (5), vi (6), vii (7) scenes
    The handout included three examples of integrating the text smoothly into your own sentence, being sure to maintain the context and speaker.
  4. They’ll have another class to use for writing their essay and then, since they’re so eager to watch the film, we’ll spend a few classes and watch the Mel Gibson version of the play. You just can’t wait, can you!?!?
May 7

ELA B30: May 07 Themes and essay planning…

  1. Students worked on filling in their own responses yesterday in determining how several themes were relevant to the play of Hamlet. We discussed those today and students shared several of their examples.
  2. On the board, I spent some time this morning brainstorming for an essay of my own. Since we haven’t had any essay work since January, I wanted to be sure students had examples that reminded them of the process they have to follow in doing their major essay project. With the example on the board, there were five possible paragraph topics that suited my topic. With each, there were explanations of the topic and attached to each were two examples each of direct reference cited from the literature. From there, I was able to choose which three paragraphs I felt would be best for my essay, I organized them from good, better, and best in proving my argument, and then created topic sentences for each.
    I wrote a few topic sentences on the board for each of my paragraphs and asked students to analyze each to see if they were on topic of off topic. (Just because a sentence is close to the topic does not mean it’s the best sentence to prepare your reader for your topic.)
  3. From there, students had time to work independently on their project. There will be several class periods to work where students can get a little guidance in writing their essay. You will have to write a formal literary essay for your departmental on the Hamlet play. This is absolutely great practice.
  4. And… as announced last week and yesterday, there is a Hamlet / Unit Final exam tomorrow. You’ll do fine if you’ve been following along (or keeping up) as we’ve studied this crazy story!
  5. Reminder – when citing reference from Shakespeare, you have to cite it by Act, scene and line(s), such as (V, ii, 34-39).
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May 6

ELA B30: May 6 Thirty-five essay topics to choose from, Act V questions and some themes…

  1. Students started off today’s class with a handout on their desks that listed thirty-five different essay topics all related to the play of Hamlet. Everyone drew numbers and, going in the order of the numbers chosen, were allowed first pick at which essay topic they wanted to respond to. With everyone having their own essay to write, everyone will be responsible for doing their own work and investigation of the text. 🙂
  2. We discussed the questions for our final Act, Act V, although the chatter was a little more energized today. I am so pleased that everyone is so excited about Hamlet essays and the play itself! I told you Shakespeare would be fun!
  3. We began reading through the different themes that can be found in the play. For each theme listed, students just had to find the different ways that theme was relevant from the reading. With the excess talking, I gave the work load to the students to finish individually as an exit slip, meaning it was to be completed before they could leave the class. That got things quiet!
  4. We will continue discussing your answers tomorrow regarding the themes. Students will be given the handout defining the expectations for their major essay and its worth, and will be given some hints at what will be on Thursday’s Hamlet / Unit final. Study hard! (Remember, you were told about this upcoming test last week, too!)

Here’s a video to walk you through some of those themes…

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May 2

ELA B30: May 2 The end of Hamlet, both for us and for him!

  1. We got settled quickly and reviewed where we were. We reconsidered the mindset of both Hamlet and Laertes and were going to watch to see if the characters of the play were written to act “in character” or whether there seemed to be some inconsistencies in the writing or their actions in the play.
  2. We listened to the audio and read along. I was very proud to see that throughout our study of Hamlet, all but a few students followed intently in their play books. It was nice to see that they didn’t just sit back and listen, but that they followed and were “with me” through it all. That was great.
  3. We considered one question, a nagging one if you will: Near the end, when the duel has begun and Claudius offers Hamlet the drink from the poisoned cup, Laertes asks Claudius in an aside whether he should do it now, cut Hamlet and let the killing begin, but Claudius almost seems intent on being “the one” to usher Hamlet to death. The promise was given to Laertes, though, that he could be the hand that killed Hamlet. Does it seem like Claudius is a little too eager to be the one to kill, or did he just take advantage of a moment of opportunity?
    Another question is why Laertes backs off so suddenly! Hamlet is bound to die now that he has been cut by the poisoned sword, and Laertes himself has been cut so he will die as well. Why not die and spew hateful, vengeful words at Hamlet? Why not yell at him and flaunt the fact that “na na! You’re about to die and it’s because you killed my dad!”? Instead of this, though, Laertes immediately becomes weak of his purpose and confesses everything to Hamlet and tells on the King. Is this because the Queen and he, himself, are about to die and that wasn’t in the plan? Is it because he’s about to die and wants to die without sin on his hands? Why does Laertes confess and reach out for Hamlet’s forgiveness so quickly after purposefully cutting Hamlet with the sword to kill him. Inconsistent action or the result of his reasoned thinking?
  4. We watched five short video clips that an English student did for his teacher’s class and then posted on Youtube. He took the movie of Hamlet with Mel Gibson and condensed the two hour movie into half an hour. He did a fantastic job of breaking the movie apart so that each video has only the actions of each of the five Acts of Hamlet. He also did a wonderful job of maintaining the essential plot components to keep the story and tension in tact. What he did do, though, that is so unique is that he added modern elements to his voice over (like his constant criticism of Spiderman III being awful), added literary comments through the same dialogue about elements of the writing, such as major characters talking with minor ones. He also used some interesting voice choices but was able to record it all and have it sound very authentic, not like a student with a microphone. The students loved it!
    I will say that it was not without contemplation and professional judgement that I decided to show these videos in my classroom. I mentioned to the students that there was some language in them that I would choose to remove if possible, but that when weighing the benefits and negatives, I found the benefit much greater. I don’t purposefully show content that is more mature than my students, but in this instance, I felt it was alright to do so. So we watched the videos and it was a comprehensive review of all the essential parts of Hamlet that we have taken over the last month. Whew! What a great play!
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April 30

ELA B30: Ap 30 Act V… the end begins!

  1. We watched a short clip from the movie What About Bob. The doctor’s son is a very deep thinker and contemplates death and all sorts of dark things. He’s laying in bed at night and talking to Bob about death and the reality that “it’s inevitable. I am going to die. You… are going to die.” This is exactly where Hamlet is in the play currently. He is about to have a dark and humbling conversation with the gravedigger and comes to the realization that regardless of how you lived in life or what status you had, all people arrive at the same end – fragments of particles in the dirt.
  2. We followed along with the reading and audio. I stopped the audio for a second to ask the students what Hamlet’s mindset at this point should be. He’s just recently sent a snarky letter to Claudius, hinting that he’s on his way to “have a word with him”, giving readers the impression Hamlet is finally going to take action. Here, though, it seems as if he’s lost all energy, hope, determination, or anything else needed to care about his task.
    The question here is (and yes it’s a nagging question, Nicole!) is whether Hamlet’s actions / mindset seem inconsistent and just are more of the same putting off of his task or is this a gap in Shakespeare’s writing? Hard to say!
  3. We finished reading just at the point where Hamlet has agreed to participate in the dual planned. Students took note that Hamlet has now committed almost all of the same crimes he believes Claudius has committed and therefore is almost equally as guilty. Can Hamlet continue killing a man who acted as selfishly as he himself? We compared the death of Polonius (a rash act without thought but much consequence) and the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (which Hamlet carefully planned and had carried out). Whether he should hold guilt over Polonius’s death, the death of his friends is surely more proof of his own corrupting mind.
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April 29

ELA B30: Ap 29 Gravedigger comedy within Hamlet

  1. Today, the students came in half expecting a quiz and let’s just say they were not disappointed! They wrote a twenty question quiz that, for the most part, needed only single line responses.
  2. I had mentioned to them yesterday of the famous Arnold Schwartzeneggar version of Hamlet and said I would deliver it. I came through with that today. They were pretty impressed, as was I when I found the right version, and they’re considering sending letters to Cameron Crow to actually make the film this trailer advertises.

  3. 3 We discussed the Porter scene from Macbeth, for those who vaguely remembered it. Just prior to that scene, the murder of Duncan has already taken place, Macbeth is already regretting his deed, his wife has involved herself to make sure the blame doesn’t fall on them, and the young sons have run off in fear. All of this tension just occurs when Shakespeare takes a moment’s pause to stretch out that tension, in one way, and aleviate it in another. Instead of jumping into the final tragic events of the final Act of the play, Shakespeare wrote the part of the Porter who plays a comic, really, for the audience, speaking coyly and making fun about who possibly is knocking at the door. This same type of comic relief exists in Hamlet, again at the beginning of the final Act just before everything “goes down”, so to speak. In this play, instead of a Porter (or servant) again there is someone who speaks truths to Hamlet, though in round-about ways. In this particular part of the play, though, Hamlet faces the exact thing he has been avoiding for the whole play – Death. It seems to follow him around, with the death of his father, and deciding on how to act or whether to act at all in taking Claudius’s life, the death of Polonius and so on. Death is all around him, but he struggles with how he feels about it, overthinking as he goes along. Here, though, he is made to stop finally and face death, straight on, in the (former) face of his old friend Yorick, who was the King’s jester. Hamlet has to finally come to terms with his surroundings, the things that have happened, and the reality of what future most likely waits for him. There is a very helpful video that shows the Gravedigger scene but with the help of Cartoons it is explained. Check it out.

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April 28

ELA B30: Ap 28 Hamlet Act IV ends / questions…

  1. We reviewed a bit the question of where in the play Hamlet’s fate was sealed – was it at the death of Polonius or was it when he had opportunity to kill Claudius but fails to…. or was it way back when he followed the Ghost and was then tempted by a devil that has set him on this course to his death? Whoo.. too many possibilities!
  2. The students copied from the board the notes written there that label what each flower Ophelia passed around symbolized at the time. These flowers have meaning and show her true feelings towards the people int he play. This would be a really good exam question, hint hint!
  3. We tried to continue with reading / listening to our audio of the play but the speakers weren’t acting properly so we continued on with me doing the reading. I stop and explain, over and over as I read, so it is very unlikely that anyone can be lost at this point in the play… unless they are not on task during our classes. Following along and listening while you’re here is more important than just being here. To make this point clear, I told the students at the end of class that there may or may not be a quiz tomorrow to test their comprehension.
  4. We discussed the questions for this Act and will be able to move on to our final Act tomorrow.
April 24

ELA B30: Ap 24 Summary of Act III, the center of the play (literally and figuratively)…

  1. We got settled quickly and had just the shortest part of Act III sc iv to finish. We quickly did a recap, making sure everyone understood that Hamlet got the proof he was waiting on, decided to wait until Claudius has sin on his conscience to kill him, and goes to confront his mother and “speak[s] daggers to her, though [he uses] none”. There he reveals to his mother what is really going on. We questioned whether he killed whoever was behind the drapes out of a thoughtful plan (to kill Claudius) or out of panick and desperation to prove to himself that he was capable.
  2. We finished listening / reading the Act. We discussed the questions together, one of which was whether the possibility existed that Hamlet had created the Ghost in his head. I asked this and several said the Ghost could be just his imagination, but Brandon and a few others quickly pointed out that the guards had seen it first so it did exist. Nicole, then, swift and sly, added that Hamlet might be only imagining the Ghost right now, after the murder and in his agitated state of confronting his mother. Wowie, I am so impressed with how quickly some of you are with processing the events of this play! That’s just wonderful!
  3. We focused, then on two major parts: 1) The closet scene is the absolute climax of the play. Things change irrevocably from there. 2) We  also discusssed whether Hamlet is actually doomed, or damned, from this point, but whether we believe that it is what the character of Hamlet believes that is important. Is there any turning back? Is he in control, or does he just truly unwind and let things fall apart and just let it all sweep him away. Is he responsible for his actions or has he given up / given in to his fate?
  4. We watched a portion of the Ethan Hawke version of Hamlet. Some students explained later that they liked that version, while others were very opposed to it. That’s the beauty with variety, that you have those choices.