Monday, March 31, 2008
Of course no celebration of poetry can commence without speaking about the two classic poems heralding the month of April. They are "The Prologue" from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales:
1 Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
2 The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
3 And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
4 Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5 Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
6 Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
7 The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
8 Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
9 And smale foweles maken melodye,
10 That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
11 So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-
12 Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
13 And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
14 To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
15 And specially, from every shires ende
and T.S. Eliot's opening lines from The Wasteland:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
April is the pagan month of birth or rebirth. It is the month we plant, the month we wake from winter, the month we sow our wild oats and seeds. Poetry is the language of the lover. I am reminded that Shakespeare was born and died in this month.
This is what a friend, Beffa Wyldemoon, does in another school to celebrate poetry in April:
The NPM theme this year is A POEM IN YOUR POCKET, and we are posting colored posters for APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH throughout the school that show an index card sticking out of the back pocket of denim jeans with the question in big letters: Do YOU have a POEM in YOUR pocket? And in the blurb underneath "Every day the POCKET-POETRY PATROL will be stopping students & staff to ask if they have a poem in their pockets. Each person who shares with them a poem will have her/his name entered in a drawing April 17th (which is the day before we go out on spring break) - for valuable gift cards to Borders. Be a BARD! Share a poem!"
It will be from my Poetry page that I will be writing this month's Blog posts.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Here is a review of why it was initially censored:
JOYCE, JAMES. Ulysses, London, Egoist Press, 1922.* (First English edition, printed in France). Twenty-three installments of Ulysses had already appeared in The Little Review (New York) before publication was stopped by action of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Two numbers were seized by the Post Office. Although the precise facts are not clear, many copies of the present edition were seized and some were destroyed at the U.S. Post Office. In 1923 another 500 copies were printed "to replace those destroyed in transit to the U.S.A." and it has been stated that 499 were seized by the English authorities. However, three of these 500 are known to exist. In the early 1930s a copy sent to Random House, N.Y., was intercepted. The firm brought suit and the book was permitted entry in a famous decision by Judge Woolsey, who ruled that the intent of the work bars it from the class of pornography. The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals and Random House printed the first American edition in 1934. Also on exhibit are the 1922 edition, the lawyer's brief on behalf of Ulysses, 1933, the decisions of Judge Woolsey and the Court of Appeals.
Of course one of the things one MUST do when in Dublin is follow Bloom's route and listen to it as well.
I forgot how beautiful the novel is. I forgot how musical the language is, how precise the imagery. It is a magnificent tale with so many fabulous nooks and crannies. The words leap out and massage the ear and tickle our fancy as we read. It is a glorious read. The voice I hear is Frank McCourt. The lilting Irish brogue, the staccato cadence of the short sentences, and the stream of conscienceness. The opening with Buck and images of Greece. The school. Then Bloom making breakfast and the description of the kidney, the buying of it, the cooking of it, the eating of it; scrumptious. The funeral procession through town and the coming together of the first circle when Bloom goes by Eccles street where he lives while on journey to the cemetery. The conversation among the men is classic. When we move to our first pub and the newspaper men we are entering a whole new world of literacy. The journey has begun as Bloom is off setting type for an ad and we join him on his day's meandering with purpose and determination. Now that is as far I have gotten.
I am noting place names; street addresses; and references to "circle" a theme methinks; and teaching references, another theme. I find the style interesting, too. He uses newspaper type headlines in the section involving the newsmen as headers to the next few paragraphs. What I'm absolutely in love with is the short sentences of one, two, three words, one after the next for pages. I am realizing why this is a brilliant tome. Oh I'm reminded of Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, another book I wish to revisit.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Where I was born and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.
We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us.
~ Virginia Satir ~An assignment I like to begin a year with is an I am assignment with a twist. The scholars read a selection from Awakening Genius by Thomas Armstrong. This is the first line: "Every student is a genius." He goes on to explain what he means by "genius." This definition is followed by "The Twelve Qualities of Genius." I have the scholars select any one of the twelve and use it to start defining their own genius. I want them to provide two examples, one from any time they have been in school and one from outside school. These examples should illustrate their genius via the word they chose. Throughout the year, about every three weeks, the scholars select another word and do the process all over again. By year end each scholar should have used all twelve words in a large essay titled "I am a Genius." This has a very positive affect on each scholar. This link will take you to their archived pages to find the "I am" assignment.
Words of encouragement fan the spark of genius into the flame of achievement.
Essentially there is so much we can do with "I am" lessons. They are crucial for our scholars to help them develop voice, to develop character, to develop identity.
I am out:)
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Exploring some research on the topic provides us with good ideas and tools. Many of the tools we use at our school provide us with information about our scholars. We are interested in information about differentiated instruction. Once we have assessed the MI learning styles of each scholar we can better inform our instruction. For example, if we discover our scholars find group work difficult and unproductive, we might find some good protocols to use to show them how group work should work. I discovered that those students who did not like group work, had never been provided rules or guidelines to conduct productive group work. I introduced them to a protocol and bang it worked and they loved it. We have used other protocols with great success. This is a simple example of how discovering learning styles prior to starting a cycle or semester will make the learning experiences more fruitful. I learned about them and that informed me about what tools I would need to overcome obstacles and to further existing skills.
I have also discovered that using both a webquest with very exact steps to accomplish the assignment and my own webpages which allow for the scholar to create hir own steps require different strategies on my part. For some scholars the webpage suits their style, while for others the webquest suits their style of learning. Having this prior knowledge of each scholar helps me help each of them through a process so that they become comfortable with it and a weakness becomes a strength. The same holds true when we work alone or in groups. Just because a scholar tells me s/he learns better one way and not another doesn't mean I shouldn't use all methods, because at some point in life after my class that scholar may/will be in a situation not comfortable for learning and will have to learn. With this prior knowledge it allows me to provide gentle, caring methods for each scholar to overcome difficulties in learning and to help them become the best they can be.
The more we learn about our scholars and how they learn the better our classes will be for them. Making learning relevant and personal makes for a better and safer learning environment.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
We all trust peer review journals. We know in the medical community, the peer reviewed journal rules. I began considering what scientists did in their labs for my own classroom. What I learned from the scientist was that if one scientist in a lab can do something and a scientist in another lab can do the same thing, then we have something worth doing. When I started CyberEnglish (CE) in 1993, I was curious if it could be done in other schools. I found that it could be. From that same notion comes peer review. The idea is that people who know as much if not more than me about a topic, review my work and comment on it, ask questions, and help me rework it. What peer review does is to let others know that something is viable and trustworthy.
As I developed CE, I was also emulating scholarship as it was done by PhD candidates. PhD candidates make their work public, engage in peer review, and pass it on. Well for my scholars, the second tenet of scholarship was crucial to justify their webpages. I needed a peer review protocol for this process. I called on my two student teachers to devise a peer review protocol based on their knowledge of peer review and current practice. They were in a Masters program at Teachers College. They came up with a brilliant process: I Heard, I Noticed, I Wondered.
Peer review in and of itself didn't really separate CE from any other class in the school. What really helped separate it and to raise it above other classes was telementoring. Telementoring was simply mentoring but done by people far from the school. We used email to communicate. Many telementors needed a guide, a protocol, to use when evaluating the scholars' webpages. The peer review protocol created by my student teachers became that guide. So we had common language in the class used by the scholars internally and with our external telementors.
In the world of scholarship, we have many examples of peer review. First Monday and Kairos are two such English journals that come to mind. Peer review verifies for the reader that what is being read has been reviewed by qualified readers. the content therefore is good. Teaching these practices in the English classroom is valuable and crucial for all teachers. It provides authenticity and value to what the scholars are doing. It makes it relevant and that is key for the scholars to justify their time in our classrooms and in school. In this form of assessment, the scholars are directly involved. They are on both ends of the assessment process. They are receiving and giving. When we are assessed and know the criteria by which we are being assessed then the assessment works and helps inform the learner about strengths and weaknesses.
In my own work I have found peer review crucial. As I have said, my CyberEnglish class has been peer reviewed by many teachers who have adapted CE in their own classes. So I have passed it on and so have they passed it on. That is the positive affect of peer review. Another time I have found peer review useful was a presentation I did for NCTE convention in Baltimore. It was a tough presentation about the events of 911 within 2 months of the event. Peer review was a crucial part of my developing that presentation. I had some reviewers in the audience and they read their reviews. It was powerful and again showed the positive aspects of peer review.
There are lots of websites that offer great information about peer review. Find some links on my peer review lesson.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Eric lived in Sconset and we met the year my parents rented a house there. We'd bike to town, 7 1/2 miles and use his Boston Whaler to fish and water ski. The next summer my parents rented another house in town, across the street from these two brothers, Greg and Chris. That summer, '66, Eric had obtained an old flying dutchman and we refit it and made it seaworthy. We spent that summer sailing about the harbor. What I remember most was having the souls of my feet on the gunwales and hanging out backwards over the water holding the line of the jib. The top of my head with my hair hanging down would skim the water as we raced along. Screaming loudly or laughing with joy, Eric would occasionally turn the rudder enough to dunk me. When I came up they'd be laughing. It was a joyous summer.
Over the winter Eric discovered there was a flying dutchman in Hyannis and one in Edgartown. He had arranged for the three of us to host races at each other's port that next summer. The summer of '67 we had 6 races two at each of the locations. We'd sail our dutchman along with an accompanying powerboat, supplies and a friend or two. The races stopped in '68 because I was in Vietnam. They didn't continue after that.
Eric was the photographer at my wedding in '71 on a Nantucket beach, while Greg was my best man. Greg was the godfather to my oldest child, Emily, born on Nantucket in 1972. Tragedy struck a few years later and I left Nantucket. Now it is just a memory.
When I heard of the FIGAWI race sponsored by Mount Gay, the rum I drink, I knew I needed one of the caps they give to racers. But I needed to be in the race to get the cap. So I went to EBAY, and there was a cap from the 2003 race available. 2003 was important for the 300 on the back representing the 300 years of production for Mount Gay Rum. As you see, I got the cap. It represents for me, those early years the three of us had our own FIGAWI regatta and where I am today. It helps me remember those halcyon days.
Monday, March 24, 2008
In our classrooms we have a few computer tools we can use to enhance our teaching oral skills. We can use Powerpoint, GarageBand, Audacity, and several recording devices.
The way I am using Powerpoint is to have students make a simple presentation which serves as a table of contents about their work. The first slide introduces themselves. The next slides are slides which introduce each of their subject classes with very brief descriptions. These descriptions can be lists of words, phrases, clauses that provide a brief idea of what is to be expected. They serve as prompts for the scholar in the presentation to further elaborate in further oral discussion and description. They further serve as links to the work mentioned so the reader can click and see the work. During a presentation, audience members with computers can go and read for themselves or view later. This makes the process both synchronous and asynchronous and therefore makes assessment more authentic. Finally the whole presentation can be published on the web. With the advance of technology video and audio clips can be added as well for the asynchronous presentation. The possibilities are endless and assessment therefore more authentic and universal.
GarageBand, a Mac tool, is fabulous. This program allows the user to record, edit, and save as an executable program. This is an ideal program for podcasting. Scholars create a script from which to work, compose, and create. They can then edit the recording, enhance it with sound effects, and publish it. Audacity is another popular software package for the PC that functions like GarageBand. Scholars can use the built in microphone of the computer or use USB microphones of all degree of sophistication.
A third option in speechifying in our classes is the use of iPods or mp3 players that have recording, editing, and playback capability. These files can be uploaded to the computer and the internet for universal access. For links to more on speech in the English classroom, visit my syllaweb lesson.
Friday, March 21, 2008
When I start my short story work in class I introduce the class to the Fact Sheet: (click on it to bigger image).
The fact sheet provides guides to the important information of the piece of fiction being read, a short story or a novel. Within the fact sheet I have provided links to the page of literary terms that will helpful in better understanding the parts of the short story. Immediately, we see how the computer technology has aided me in short story instruction by having links to and access to a fact sheet and websites to help with the literary tools. Access to these tools promotes further scholarship.
The next part is to select short stories. Again, the Internet is an excellent resource for me and my scholars. I have access to the classic short stories as well as those modern short stories that may become classics and to short stories being introduced to the world right now. I haver access to traditional sort stories as well as more unconventional hypertext short stories. I maintain a collection of short stories on my website as well as linking to many more on the Internet. I will start with a short story we read as a class, to show how the fact sheet works and to develop methods of study the scholars will use when they read their own selected short story. Once the scholars begin selecting their own short story to read, I find an interesting occurrence happens. Scholars will sometimes complain the short story is boring. "Sorry," I say and suggest they select another. They do. On other occasions they may not like the short story they began and will select another. Sometimes they read a short story and are not satisfied with it enough to write about it, so they read another one. The bottom line here is when they have choice they oftentimes read more than when I do the selecting.
The writing exercises can be the traditional print paper or the electronic webpages with hypertext links to the short story and any secondary research resources they want to use or even graphics that will enhance the report. They can do a Blog entry or even a wiki entry and invite classmates to participate in discussing the short story. The key is to provide an environment in which the scholars produce something and feel ownership of that product.
A final project can be to have the scholars write their own short story that they publish in print or on the web. They can even engage in a wiki kind of short story writing project that involves their classmates or invited guests from outside school.
Short stories are a valuable literature for teachers to introduce elements of fiction and to introduce the scholars to our great novelists through their short stories. I still agree with what I wrote a number of years ago about using the short story in the classroom.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
There are a number of reasons the WebQuest is so valuable. WebQuests are made by teachers or student teachers. They are realistic lessons made by actual teachers in the classroom who use them before publishing them. They follow a plan found on the WebQuest website. They are adaptable by teachers in other states very easily. They augment what is being done in the classroom. They provide good lessons for schools when scholars or teachers are going to be absent for a given period of time. They are project oriented, require collaboration, and provide good research skills. Teachers can log on to the WebQuest.org website and begin using a WebQuest by using the search features. This provides the teacher a practical example and of how the WebQuest works. After using a number of WebQuests, the site has a great tool to help the teacher create hir own WebQuest and to add it to the library for others to use. The process is fantastic. The WebQuest also serves as a possible foundation for a national curriculum because it is teacher generated and peer reviewed, rather than textbook corporation directed. Oh and the WebQuest is free.
I use the WebQuest now for our school's CyberSchool. Teachers have come to find good WebQuests in their discipline that we can use in our CyberSchool. Some teachers have ventured to experiment in creating their own WebQuest. Because they are web based, scholars can access them outside of school. The WebQuest is an excellent example of how to use the Internet in the classroom.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Now we have morning meetings at our school or spend an afternoon speaking about how MI is used in our classrooms. NOT how can it be used, but how it is being used. Teachers talk about their strategies, about what they have learned about their learners from various surveys, checklists, or tests. Teachers use this information to inform their instruction. This information answers many observations made by the teacher of the scholar. I know this because I hear teachers say: "Oh that is why s/he behaves that way." or "That explains why one method works in this class and another does not." Getting to how scholars learn is crucial for all teachers. Computer Technology has been very helpful in this regard.
Not only does computer technology help us access all of this material and to administer it, it also helps us employ software and web applications to realize the intelligences or genius of each of our scholars. Pacing is key in learning and the computer technology lets our scholars work at hir own pace and not at the pace of the class or teacher. Scholars can spend time on an application, repeat it, and select hir own order in which to proceed. Not all scholars work at the same pace, nor do they all work on a project in the same way. Computer technology has allowed the teacher to provide a lesson and then the scholar can proceed through it in hir own way.
What I used to say when I first worked with computers in a networked lab, was that I felt like a brain surgeon. I could observe, without my scholars knowing it, how they worked, thought, wrote. I could drop in and watch from my computer across the room from a scholar and watch hir edit and write. S/he would type, stop, backspace, move the cursor to another part of the sentence insert or delete a word and on and on. It was amazing. I was watching the brain of one of my scholars work. This of course provided me a need to better understand the brain. MI and computer technology had been the tools I used to get to brain research. And I was a mere teacher. I was blown away. In a very short period of time Brain awareness has become a valuable derivative of computer technology and MI. This research has become so precise, we now have Reading Brain research.
So now as we move into yet another decade of computer technology use in the classroom, building on the work of Gardner and brain researchers, we have begun to study the work of Robert J. Sternberg and contemplating assessing what matters. Computer Technology has raised the bar in what teachers can do in the classroom on a practical side as informed by the theory of Gardner, Sternberg, and brain researchers.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
How do I comprise that vocabulary list for the class? I have found I use a couple of vocabulary lists. I always use VETY, a list of 300 words, Latin and Greek, root words. My VETY lesson provides my scholars with an understanding about the family of words. I found by providing this context, vocabulary study became more meaningful than vocabulary lessons based on lists of words based on their part of speech or randomly selected SAT words. VETY showed them how words that used the same root, had a relationship and that by looking at the parts of words, they came to understand the whole word. For example, once the scholar knew that "auto" meant "self," all words with "auto" in it had "self" as part of the meaning. Here are some lists of words I use for quizzes. They may help you in better understanding VETY.
Another important aspect of VETY in the English class is that it transfers to the scholars' other classes like math, science, history. VETY helps the scholar breakdown new large unfamiliar words by analyzing the parts of the word. For example: "autobiography" is made up of three root words: "auto," "bio," and "graphy." This ability to be able to see the parts of the word and to know those parts, helps the scholar define the new word encountered.
Finding a good print dictionary isn't hard. It is more of a matter of being able to afford a class set of good dictionaries. I buy my dictionaries only if the entry contains the Etymology information of the word.
If I have a choice of computers to use, the Mac or a PC, I use the Mac. The Mac has a superb Dictionary built in. Click on the image below to see the entry from the Mac Dictionary for "annihilate." "Nihil" is the first word on the VETY list. The entire presentation of the word is very pleasing and thorough. I am most concerned with the Origin part that appears towards the bottom of the definition. As the scholar reads the Origin section, s/he will find the meaning of the root word "nihil" towards the end. "Nihil" means nothing. Now the scholar records this information and knows that any word that has "nihil" as part of it, the word will have "nothing" as part of its meaning.
Now if I must work on a PC, I may have a dictionary loaded from a CD that was included with the purchase of a print dictionary like Merriam-Webster. With an Internet connection on a Mac or PC, many good online dictionaries can be used that provide the etymology of the word. I have a collection of online dictionaries and find the Online Etymology Dictionary very useful.
As I have said, I use a couple of vocabulary lists. VETY is my foundation. Another vocabulary lists comes from our readings. Another source that is always fun is a list of eponyms. Eponyms are fun because these words have interesting stories behind them. The reading of the stories augments reading and writing skills while concentrating on vocabulary acquisition. A fun exercise is to ask the scholars what the meaning of a word derived from their name would mean.
Maintaining the vocabulary lists, scholars can use index cards (one index card for each root word), a composition book/notebook, electronic tools. Technology provides some interesting and useful tools as well. Scholars can create a website where they post their vocabulary. This will not be interactive, so try a blog or even a wiki. With a blog the scholar can get feedback from others. On a wiki, the scholar can allow others to edit the page, much like wikipedia. Starting a class wiki could be a very dynamic project for VETY or any vocabulary lesson.
Vocabulary is the foundation for any subject taught. I hope this page has provided some ideas about how to use the technology available today to enhance vocabulary lessons. In 1992, I was called an iconoclast in an article in the New York Times for doing this lesson.