Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Yesterday Janmarie and I presented at the Utah Charter Schools Convention. Our presentation was titled: Engaging Modern Students in Classic Literature. I created both the handout and the blog site for the presentation. I worked very hard coming up with ideas to share that I thought would benefit my fellow teachers. Janmarie mentioned that teachers don't really want to hear theory; they want ideas they can take and use it their classrooms. This is what I came up with:

  • Music Test – Romanticism and The Enlightenment
  • Music and Transcendentalism
  • Music and Satire – Phil Otts
Essential Questions
  • Essential questions allow us to explore what knowledge is, how it came to be, and how it has changed through human history. Exploring essential question together gives students a sense of community and broadens their views.
  • (Chaucer, Ballads, etc) Is there still a real purpose for storytelling in our modern world? Why and how do the stories we tell reflect ourselves and our values? (Wife of Bath)
  • The Crucible "Why is power such a powerful motivator for people?"
Creation and Performance
  • Occupation Romeo
  • Beowulf Virus Movie
  • Singing and performing ballads
  • Snowbound Storytelling - Chaucer
Art - Viewing and Creating
  • Picture Review – Symbols – Save the Last Word for Me
  • Cartoons - Transcendentalism
Pairing Young Adult Literature with Classics
  • R. E. Probst - Literature “should not be approached with awe and handled with kid gloves. Most secondary English programs require students to read difficult classic texts that have little to do with adolescent life, and as a result, many students are “turned off” of reading. Unless the students are able to relate to the texts on a more personal level, they will not get much out of the reading.”
  • Fairytales
  • Enter Three Witches with Macbeth
  • Journey stories such as The True Adventure of Charlotte Doyle with The Odyssey
  • Sherman Alexie’s “Leaving Phoenix, AZ” pairing with Native American literature
  • Best thing – it allows you to introduce women, multiculturalism, and modern interest into the world of mostly dead white men.
  • Dramatic Monologues
  • Script Writing
  • Blog – Pros and Cons
  • We need to use this technology before we have our students try it, so we will know what it is capable of.
I was incredibly nervous about presenting, but it seemed to go over pretty well, and the people who came to the workshop seemed to enjoy it. I did forget to mention some things that I was going to talk about (dramatic monologues and scripting).

Of course, there were some bumps along the way. We were a little shaky about the agenda, and I had a few technical glitches. I couldn't play a student produced movie, and some of my sound files didn't work. My husband says this is due to "The Law of Demos" which is that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, most likely one minute before the presentation starts.

Anyway, I think that this experience has stretched me as both an educator and as a person. After the workshop, Janmarie and I had to fill out an evaluation. One of the questions was whether we would be willing to present again next year. I told Janmarie that that was like asking a mother if she wants to have another baby minutes after giving birth.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


As I have spent the last month preparing to present with Janmarie at the Charter School Conference, I have thought a lot about improving the clarity and validity of some of my assignments. I have had some great ideas.
  1. For my interview project at the beginning of the year, I have decided to tie it in more completely with the storytelling/oral tradition feel of the unit by having the students write and perform it as an introduction with an anecdote rather than as a newspaper article. We will see how it goes.
  2. I loved my American Transcendentalism mini-unit last year, but Walt felt like he was a tag-a-long to the party. I have decided to add him to the free writes by opening with the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" Then after we read "I Hear America Singing" and whatever else I am in the mood for, I will have the students freewrite a page on the prompt:
    Considering all that we have read and talked about transcendentalism, why do you think that it is such a uniquely American phenomenon?