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 B10: Final exam “Equality unit”…

  1. Students did a great job of focusing during their final exam for this unit. They worked intently and as silent as the grave!
  2. Once finished, those who had some time left over in class elected to read or finish up typing their essay due today.
  3. Their essay,  obviously lol, was due today. I will accept them until the end of the day. (I will continue to accept them after this but today is the deadline.)
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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 B10: Ap 28 History lesson continued… time to study…

  1. An attempt was made to continue the history lesson that looked at many different groups in Canada’s history that were dealt with unfairly. This turned into something unproductive, though, and I have to admit I gave in and quit. This likely says something about my character. Tt is hard to fight ignorance and hatred and I can’t even say it is any one particular person’s fault for that, it is the belief that a whole country has come to maintain and perpetuate. So how does a person end that, even for a few? I don’t know.
  2. These lucky kids, then, after defeating their teacher with a barrage of questions, were allowed the rest of class to continue finishing their essay that is due tomorrow or studying for their final they will write tomorrow. A list of possible questions / topics was on the board for them to prepare by.
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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 25

ELA B10: Ap 25 Heart-to-heart about hatred…

I had a pretty personal and important talk with the class today. They were scheduled to write their unit final, but I’ve set it aside until next week for now. In reading through and checking the student blogs last night, I came across one blog entry that included hateful comments about a group of people. Because this blogging process is one which requires a fair amount of independence on the part of the student and trust on my part, this was something I knew could happen. I have been really pleased that the other students have hate.jpgbeen mature and reasponsible in their blogging, but this was overtly rude writing that was done with intention. I have talked with that student and consequences will follow.

For the class, though, I was reading in their posts that, for the most part, they didn’t learn anything new about Equality but enjoyed reading new stories of people who suffer from intolerance or discrimination. The discussions have been good and they’ve had the time to think their way through their perspective but they haven’t been moved to any new sense of duty or responsiblity when it comes to equality and judging others. I don’t feel that I’ve done a good enough job of challenging them on this issue. It would be easy to move on to other things, but after this particular incident, with a student writing hateful material, I think we can all benefit from a little lesson in history, so that’s what I did, I taught a history class today.

 I was a History teacher in my previous position so I enjoyed sharing this side of the curriculum with them in an English context. It is somewhat unfortunate that some of our country’s history isn’t taught until students are in Grade twelve. By that point, a lot of their personal ideas and perspectives are somewhat solid by then. We’ve all been guilty of this at times, though, of thinking we know something without actually having much information or experience.

 We will continue on Monday and I hope the students who were here today will think on this all a bit. It’s too important to not make sure they understand.

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April 25

ELA B30: Ap 25 Act IV sc i – v… things unravel quickly!

  1. Today was the due date for the blog entries. Students were asked to hand in their check list so I will have a record of whose blog entries they left comments on. Stephanie (I think) was the one to bring up the fact that some people have left comments that were not yet approved by the blog owners, so I asked that everyone, at some point in the day, check for comments and approve them.
  2. We discussed, also, the fact that the video embedding tool is no longer on the toolbar for edublog users, though it is still there with the learnerblog posts. Instead of embedding, then, if it’s not possible for now, you can link your videos, though that still would count as a video and not a link.
  3. I let students know that Hamlet will soon be over and, once a final assignment is completed, they’ll have a unit final exam and then we’ll begin the second half of our course.
  4. And then it began – Act IV. I had students look at a sheet in their handout package that gives locations of all the scenes of each act. Looking at the plot structure of an Elizabethan play, where all the tension should really come to a high point in the third act, we see there were more scenes devoted to developing the problem in Act I, a quick two scenes in Act II, four scenes in Act III, where things can never be reversed, but there are seven scenes, yes Seven!, in this Act of Hamlet. This is where things begin the tragic unwinding that can only result in the death of nearly all. To add to that tension, as well, are quickly read-through scenes that seem as if to pick up speed and create real emotion for the reader. It gets so good from here!!
  5. Nagging questions: It seems we’ve developed a bit of a routine in each class; there are always one or two questions that I end up posing to the class and leave it for them to ponder in their own minds. There is no definitive answer for many of the questions. Scholars have studied this play and the works of Shakespeare (whoever he truly was) for decades. If they cannot come to a conclusion, then I can hardly ask you to! But… I do want you to consider it and come to your own response based on what you interpret from the play.
    Today’s nagging question was whether, when Gertrude in distress shares with her new husband that Hamlet has killed the “old man” Polonius, and she grieves that nothing good will ever be the same, is she faking really well or is she truly concerned that Hamlet has snapped? Hamlet only told her not to tell the King about the murder of the old King or Hamlet’s pretend madness, but he was talking to the air so she was left confused. Do you think she’s playing up the distress, helping to keep the King distracted from Hamlet’s awareness of his villainous deed, or is she honestly fearful for their lives thinking that Hamlet has gone insane and will be of harm to them? You decide.
  6. Lots of things happen in this Act and these scenes. The best to advise for those missing is to read your scene summaries. The students predicted, based on our knowledge of what has just happened to this point, that the children of Polonius will have to grieve for their father, but how is yet unknown. Ophelia is the young, virginal maiden who goes mad as well. They were reminded that in Elizabethan theatre, there was always a young lady who went insane. The cool thing is that in our audio version of the play, the actress portraying Ophelia actually sings the parts from the play!
  7. And then there was Laertes! Without being too long-winded, we made the direct comparison that Laertes hears of his father’s death, hears little of it, but runs to his revenge and heads straight towards the wrong guy but with passion and conviction. He said “to hell with allegiance [and dared] damnation” in his quest. He was aiming his hatred towards the wrong guy though.
    Then readers are taken again to follow Hamlet’s journey towards England where they come across an army of men, waiting and eager to fight for their leader, Young Fortenbras, for a “little patch of ground” that has no value. Hamlet, again, chides himself for being a coward and envies the determination and courge of the men who go to die on the battleground. He reafirms his conviction that he must get to his purpose already, but this is the same type of soliloque he has repeated over and over, finding comparisons with people who have not half the reason for vengeance as him but all the more action to do it.
  8. Laertes acts rashly without thinking. (Problematic)
    Hamlet thinks only and never acts. (Problematic)
    Which son follows through with the right type of action? (Starts with an F? lol)
    (We related it to the story of Goldilocks: one was too hot, one was too cold, but the other was jussstt right!)
  9. We’ll continue next week!
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April 24

ELA B10: Ap 24 Last blog class / prep time for tomorrow’s unit final…

  1. Some students worked in the classroom who needed more immediate attention from me in working on their blogs. Others, who were either finished or near finished, were able to work more independently in the main lab. (That’s a privilege that is earned, so they can be pleased they’ve earned that right.)
  2. The blogs will be checked for completion tomorrow and then I will do the actual evaluation of your posts on the weekend. Thank goodness for blog feeds! It makes it so easy to see exactly what you accomplish from day to day. Cool, hmm?
  3. Tomorrow you have a unit final. We really only studied the novel and essays (and all things essay related) after your midterm, so that is what you can expect for your exam. With such intense study of how to properly do something, you’ll be expected to show your understanding of that for the exam.
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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.