Monthly Archives: December 2013

Mid-Vacation Post

blue pink
I miss you guys! And I know, you have probably been counting the days until you can return to school and go to English class.

But until we meet again, I wanted to share something cool I found. Here is an artist who did some work relating to how media shapes our perception of what different genders are supposed to be.

Isn’t that crazy?

Holy Shamoley, This is a Good Book

Actually, it’s a series of graphic novels (I’ve read the first three in the past week), and it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. It’s about a family with three kids that moves into a haunted house, where they discover keys that open different magical doors – doors that change your gender, doors that turn you into a ghost, etc. The first book was TERRIFYING, in a really good way. Oh, and I recently learned that Joe Hill, the writer of this series, is Stephen King’s son, so I guess it makes sense that he would be a talented horror author.

So one of the things that I didn’t get a chance to mention in class is that I hope that you will read over the winter break. Choose something you like and get lost in it. I have about 10 books I’m meaning to plow through.

And just because a number of you mentioned that you like horror and were looking for something scary to read, this is probably my #1 horror book:


The Passage is about a bioweaponry experiment gone wrong – the test subjects (all convicted murders sentenced to death row) are turned into vampire-like-creatures (but not Twilight/Dracula vampires, gross/disgusting vampires), and human beings have to live in tiny colonies to survive. I lost hours and hours of sleep to this book (and its sequel), and that hasn’t happened in years.

On a lighter note, this guy is probably my favorite author:


His books will make you snort out loud in a public place and embarrass yourself. Pretty much everything he writes is briliant and hilarious, but my favorites (in order) are: Lamb, Fluke, Sacre Bleu, Fool. And then he has about six others. Also apparently one called The Stupidest Angel, which I have not read, but I which I think has something to do with the holiday season.

Just be forewarned that all of these have varying degrees of mature content, so talk with your parents about what you would like to read.

Okay, a few more recommendations –

If you have not yet read Ender’s Game, run out the door and immediately get a copy. Seriously, you will not be disappointed. I waited until I was 22 to read this book – I had heard about it for years, and never thought it was for me – and boy, I wish I had read it sooner. It’s one of those books that is totally absorbing and will change the way that you think about the world.


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a classic of sci-fi and humor, and is so much better than the move. If you have any aspirations towards nerdery whatsoever, you need to have read this book. If you tell me that you are a nerd and you have not read HGG, I will not believe you.




Monday, December 16

Don’t we all wish this were the case.

Today we finished Malcolm Gladwell presentations (I’ll post your grades tomorrow morning) and, in some classes, watched a bit of the Odyssey movie. It was our last day of the semester, so the next time I see you will be your final, and the time after that will be in the New Year!

Three short announcements:

1. Some of you mentioned that the earlier vocabulary lists weren’t posted under the vocabulary tab. I’ve added those (or at least, I think I have – if they’re not displaying for some reason, please let me know). The majority of those words will be appearing on the test.

2. The study guide for the final is posted under one the days from last week, if you have misplaced your paper copy.

3. Here is the finals schedule for the week (sorry for the funky formatting! I’ve been trying to fix it, but can’t seem to get it right):

Tuesday                               8:00   – 10:00        Period 2 Final Examination
December 17                     10:00 – 10:30                       Passing
                                                10:30 – 12:30                       Period 5 Final Examination
                                                12:30                                     Lunch
Wednesday                        8:00 – 10:00                        Period 3 Final Examination
December 18                     10:00   – 10:30                       Passing
                                                10:30   – 12:30                       Period 7   Final Examination
                                                12:30                                     Lunch
Thursday                             8:00   – 10:00                         Period 4   Final Examination
December 19                     10:00 – 10:30                       Passing
                                                  10:30 – 12:30                       Period 6   Final   Examination
                                                  12:30                                     Lunch
Friday                                   8:00 – 10:00                         Period 1 Final Examination
December 20                     10:00   – 10:30                       Passing
                                                10:30 – 12:30                       Period 8 Final Examination
                                                  12:30                                     Lunch

Friday, December 13

We continued Malcolm Gladwell presentations yesterday. It’s hard to believe just one more day, and then no more classes for the semester!

And as promised, here are the instructions for the “redemption assignment,” which you can turn in on Monday to replace any homework or daily grade:

Read this article from the BBC on a super-cool recent scientific discovery. Then write a short-short story (400-600 words) based on the implications of that study. (To be clear – a story, not an essay!)

Even if you don’t do the redemption assignment, I hope you will read that article, because it’s amazing!


Thursday, December 12


Today we started our Malcolm Gladwell book presentations! I was very impressed with most of them – it sounds like you’ve learned some cool things from your readings. We’ll continue with the presentations on Friday and Monday. Just a note – please make sure that your group is not going over 12 minutes or so (especially in third and fourth periods, as those classes are larger).



And I’ve mentioned this in class, but I am adjusting grades based on individual group members’ contributions. Some of you have expressed some mild frustration with your peers’ work ethics, and I completely understand how frustrating that can be! However, I think learning to deal with that dilemma is actually a very worthwhile lesson – unfortunately, I think that’s going to be a challenge that you encounter on through your careers. But I’m really going to try to make your grades for this assignment as fair as possible!

Wednesday, December 11

Today we finished the Odyssey (we concluded by reading Book 23 outloud), and then we moved on to some selections from Margaret Atwood’s excellent novella, The Penelopiad. The Penelopiad tells the story of the Odyssey from Penelope’s and the maids’ perspectives. One of the things that I really like about this piece is that it not only provides a critical lens with regard to gender, it also critiques the traditional story of the Odyssey in terms of class – Penelope and the maids aren’t exactly united, in large part because of the tensions between the ruling and the servant classes.


I’d like to get your opinions on what we read, so if you have time, would you answer these polls?



And for extra credit (in my heart), leave a comment under this post about what you thought of the whole Odyssey. Things you could mention include which adventure was your favorite, what you were most upset/surprised about, what you think happens between Odysseus and Penelope after the book ends, etc.

Tuesday, December 10

Today in class, we…

1. Talked about our last set of Odyssey vocabulary words. (See the vocabulary section of the website if you misplaced your list.)

2. Discussed the review for the final exam. Here’s an electronic copy. NOTE: For Pre-AP students, you also need to be comfortable with Aristotle’s appeals of rhetoric (ethos, logos, and pathos), especially as they are used in the Count of Monte Cristo.

Fall Final Exam Review 2013

3. Worked on the Malcolm Gladwell projects in small groups. Students produced an outline of their final presentation. Remember – you must email your PowerPoint to me no later than Thursday at 8:00 AM. No flash drives allowed!

Monday, December 9


Today we took the written portion of your final exam. Hurray! Woohoo! (Well, at least you can be excited that it’s over with.)

Tomorrow, I’ll give you a review sheet for your final exam, which will be some day next week, depending on which class period you are in. In the meantime, please be working on your Malcolm Gladwell presentations (you’ll get time for that tomorrow too).

Thursday, December 5 and Friday, December 6

On Thursday I was out, feeling a little under-the-weather! Students read books 16, 17, and 21 from the Odyssey and answered questions about those readings.

Today, students prepared for our final exam essay on Monday. Here is the pre-writing that we did – if you were absent, please make sure to complete it before you come to school on Monday so that you can write the strongest essay possible:

Pre-writing for fall Final exam essay 2013

If you are having trouble thinking of which hero you might like to write about, I recommend this list. You can take whatever notes you want to and bring them in to use on your essay.

We also watched this video biography of Nelson Mandela to begin thinking about heroes:

Students also had time to work with their Malcolm Gladwell groups – I asked you to make a list of tasks that still needed to be completed, figure out who is responsible for what, and exchange contact information

Wednesday, December 4

Gladwell Bear
“Rawr! I am a bear!” – Malcolm Gladwell

Today in class, students worked on their Malcolm Gladwell group projects. Students are designing a presentation to be delivered next Thursday and Friday on life lessons for high school students from their Malcolm Gladwell books and the Odyssey. Here is the project information sheet:

Gladwell Book Presentation Project

Today, students took notes on the questions in their book’s row (see the project info sheet). If you were absent, please ask your group members to catch you up on their progress!

Also, for homework students are to read Books 16 and 17 of the Odyssey from the textbook (pages 1242-9). Here is an electronic version:

Odyssey Textbook – Part 2

Please make sure you have read this, as you will need to know what happened for tomorrow. There could be a reading check!