Sunday, December 28, 2014

GPA Calculator

Our Tech Department doesn't have the Skyward GPA calculator incorporated yet. I know many of you need to see that. I ran across this GPA Calculator on Google Sheets. To use it, 
  1. Click the link below. 
  2. Off the File menu, choose "Make a copy..." and it will create a copy you can edit. 
  3. Input your classes and grades.
Voila! Your GPA!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Eating Poetry

Eating Poetry

by Mark Strand
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry. 
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress. 
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up. 
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep. 
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams. 
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Why are we talking about eating poetry? Well, I have found that one of the best ways to sink into words is to make them yours. To ingest them. To memorize them.

Remember how we ended first semester last year with presentations? Well this year is going to be no different in that respect, except that you don't have to write anything. You will be memorizing at least 50 lines of poetry (no children's poetry -- something from our book or approved by yours truly) and reciting it in front of the class during finals week. 

I let you know now because this can take time as those of you who have been in theater well know. It's not much, though. Miss Scrooge is going to kill this. So will you. Start thinking. I know there's a lot to eat over Christmas Winter Break, but save some room for eating poetry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Next book

The next book we'll be reading is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? We should be able to fit in in before the end of the semester. We have some copies in the library, but if you want to buy your own we're using ISBN # 0-451-15871-7.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Their Eyes Were Watching God

You will shortly should already be writing a literary analysis on Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. The paper will be 650-750 words in length, in MLA format. Pick one of the following questions to begin your analysis. Whichever prompting question you choose to drive the topic of your analysis essay, you must first identify the what & why behind it. What devices does Hurston use within the topic of the question? WHY? What theme and/meaning is behind her choice of device?
  • What is the meaning of the title Their Eyes Were Watching God? Why did Hurston choose this title? Analyze the recurring theme of God in the novel. 
  • The pear trees, bees, and (especially) the horizon occur in several instances throughout Their Eyes Were Watching God. In Hurston’s autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, she describes the horizon as the place “where the heroine contemplates, explores and achieves the horizon.” Discuss the significance of these symbols in the novel. 
  • Throughout Janie's life, she searches for true, unconditional love. In her search, she experiences different kinds of love. Describe the types of love she experiences. Which type of love has the most impact on her life? In the end, has Janie experienced true love, and, if so, has it changed her? 
  • In her marriage to Jody, Janie is dominated by his power. At several points, however, it is obvious that he feels threatened by her. Why does Jody need to be in control of everyone around him? How does Janie threaten Jody and his sense of control? 
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God is concerned with issues of speech and how speech is both a mechanism of control and a vehicle for freedom. Yet Janie remains silent during key moments in her life. Discuss the theme of silence in the book and how that theme changes throughout the novel. 
  • In 1937, Richard Wright reviewed Their Eyes Were Watching God and objected to the novel’s discussion of race and use of black dialect. Why might Wright have objected to Their Eyes Were Watching God? Do you agree or disagree with Wright’s interpretation of the novel? 
  • Discuss the role of community in Their Eyes Were Watching God. What purpose does the community, namely the porchsitters, serve throughout the novel? 
  • The opening of the novel tells about men’s and women’s motivations, actions, and dreams. Write an essay commenting on the significance of the first two paragraphs as they relate to the rest of the novel.
Due January 4th by 11:59 PM on Turnitin. Upload both in Google Classroom and in Turnitin. We can use Turnitin for formal peer reviews, and for both you and I to check papers for plagiarism and grammar. Based on my experience with the JFK papers and the feedback from AP 11, it's better to grade the actual papers on Google Docs as the feedback is so much easier to read and process (it's oddly kind of messy in Turnitin).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Congratulations Seniors!

Some well-deserved crazy celebration after a convincing win to erase your Cabbage Patch history.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Buying books

I mentioned in the summer assignment post below, which you may not have gotten to as it is sooooo long, that I HIGHLY recommend buying your books. I also said I would let you know what to buy at the beginning of August. Well, here it is.

The first book you should buy is The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature 8th Edition (ISBN # 978-0-312-47411-9). It's available through Amazon at the link above for very cheap (Starting at $0.01 plus $3.99 shipping!)

We will use this beginning the first week of school, the second at the latest depending on what the first day is like this year (you ASB people probably know already--if it's like last year, maybe Monday of the the second week). This will be where most of our short stories and poetry come from, and maybe one of our plays time permitting. It also has a figurative ton of extra helps and explanations in it that many of you will find very useful. It's very likely you'll be able to sell them back to next year's AP Lit students as well. :)

The rest will be scattered throughout the year and are Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Things Fall Apart, Pride and Prejudice, Oryx & Crake, Death of a Salesman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and 1984 or Brave New World. 

Now, we likely won't get to all of these books. We won't sacrifice depth for breadth, but we'll get to most of them. They can all be picked up cheaply at used book stores and Amazon. Abe Books is a conglomeration of used bookstores online and may be a good place to look as well. It will likely be easier to work on he Shakespeare plays from copies, so don't worry about those.

If you only buy one now, buy The Compact Bedford Introduction Literature 8th Edition.

Filling out the following form from either here or the Google Classroom page will help me plan for our first unit. Thank you!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Summer Assignment and a few thoughts

Note: On the 2nd or 3rd day of class, you will be asked to share some of the insights you made in re-reading a novel you'd studied in a previous class.
Also, there is a new thing Google has developed called Google Classroom. Me being me, we're trying it out this year. If you were registered as of August 16th, you should have an invitation to the AP Lit class in your school email. There are 34 students currently signed up for AP lit in one section. Should be interesting. I'm hoping we can fit Caitlyn and Bella on the windowsill. ;) 

See you guys soon!!!

A Few Thoughts
Welcome to AP English Literature and Composition! This is the capstone class of your study of English (reading and writing) at Fife. It will attempt to bring together all that you've learned along the way, celebrating humanity's attempt to describe, explore, and chronicle what it means to be human. Of course, we'll also be prepping our skills for the AP test in May, but I trust that won't get in the way too much.

As in AP English Language and Composition, we will endeavor to reach and master the AP College Board standards. Those of you who've been in the program your first two years at FHS should be well on your way to doing so already. The summer assignment is simply a means to shake off the summer doldrums and re-sharpen our academic prowess. It's not a test. Don't obsess. Be thoughtful, but don't obsess.

Summer Assignment
Step one: read good books*
  • Re-read Gatsby, Huck Finn, or a book you read for Pre-AP: Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Old Man and the Sea, Kite Runner/Power of One, or Lord of the Flies
  • Read one other good book. If you need help distinguishing "good books," pick one from this list: The books we read in class this year will be taken from that list as well. If you happen to pick one we will read, no harm done. If you'd rather read something we won't, this is the likely list (subject to adjustment, and it is highly likely we won't get to all of these): The Crucible, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Things Fall Apart, Pride and Prejudice, Oryx & Crake, Death of a Salesman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and 1984 or Brave New World
Step two: a) write about the books as you read them, and b) write a nice substantive piece (300 words +) about each book once you finish reading it.

Further details on step two: annotate in the margins, open yourself to the ideas of the book and elaborate on them in your own reading journals. If you would like more formal writing practice, try to break down a few of the key devices the author uses (symbolism, imagery, dialog, foreshadowing, narrative structure, etc) to convey certain themes (unrequited love, the inexorable passage of time, the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of human existence, etc). Don't stress about the details of "What does he want? Oh my gosh, what am I supposed to write? What does he mean when he says to write about the books?!" Just start a conversation with the book. Pretend the book is your buddy and you have some questions to ask it and comments to make to it. Nothing formal is required, but try not to be boring and waste everyone's time by making this writing portion busywork. Be evocative. If you'd like, you can be creative. You can "interview" one of the characters and make up the responses yourself. Write a poem inspired by the book and write about the connections you made. Ask yourself through writing why you chose this book and what you think of it as a piece of literature. How did the book impact you? What questions do the characters, situations and themes raise in your mind? Did you like it? If you do not have anything to say in response to these or any other questions, you did not actually read the book. You may have run your eyes over the pages, and even experienced a bit of story, but you didn't read it.**

Further, further details about step two: For the re-read (Gatsby, Huck Finn, Mockingbird, Great Expectations, Macbeth, Old Man and the Sea, Kite Runner/Power of One, or Lord of the Flies), focus your journaling on your new understandings, noticings, and insights into the novel. Literature is greater than just a novel largely because they yield up additional rewards upon repeated reading. This is your opportunity to begin to experience that.

Step three:
  • If you did not take my AP Lang class last year, email a brief introduction of yourself that includes your full name, why you're taking this class, the books you're reading for the summer assignment, and a bit about yourself as a learner to  
  • If you did take my course last year, still write to me (I've missed you!). In your email, talk about why you're taking this course and what you hope to get from it. Talk about how you think you may have grown over this summer as a person and a learner. Also, let me know the books you're reading for the summer assignment. 
Highly Recommended: If you aren't very familiar with the biblical stories, you might want to take care of that. Biblical allusions are important to much of western literature, of which we will read a fair bit. Good news is that it's pretty easy to shore that up. I highly recommend reading the books Genesis, Exodus, and one of the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) in the Bible. Some of you may have your favorite translation(s), but we aren't reading the Bible for devotional reasons, but academic ones. It would benefit you most to read those three books in the King James Version (not the New King James) in order to help you pick up the vocabulary and cadences of 16th/17th century language.

Deadline: Wednesday, 3 September 2014 bring a hard copy of your books and all of your writing on the books to class.

Buying Books: Many of you will want to buy your own novels and possibly anthology. I'm evaluating some anthologies we'd be able to get online for super cheap (a $70 book for under $10 with shipping) because they are an edition or two behind the current one. I'll keep you posted on what to buy as school gets closer (ideally by the beginning of August).

Any questions? Just want to chat about books? About the class? Email
No really, you can email me about (almost) anything you'd like. Fear not young padawan. ;)

See you in September!
As Fitzgerald once wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

* Steps for the summer assignment adapted from my esteemed colleague Ms. Robison.
** Remember not to obsess. I know some of you just thought to yourselves, "Hmmm, I wonder if I should just do all of the suggestions just to be on the safe side." Stop it. Focus, but be thoughtful and just engage with the books.