Romeo and Juliet with Emoticons

OK, the inspiration for this post can be found here, but I loved the idea so much that I wanted to try it with a work of literature I know well.

Act I, Scene 1

[Enter Sampson and Gregory]

Sampson: 

Gregory:

[Enter Abram]

Sampson:

Abram:

[Enter Benvolio]

Benvolio:

[Enter Tybalt]

Tybalt:

Citizens of Verona:

[Enter Montague and Capulet and their Ladies]

Capulet:

Montague:

Lady Montague:

[Enter Prince]

Prince:

Lady Montague:

Montague:

[Enter Romeo]

Benvolio:

Romeo:

Benvolio:

Romeo:

Benvolio:

Act I, Scene 2

[Enter Paris and Capulet]

Paris:

Capulet:

Paris:

[Elsewhere]

Romeo:

Benvolio:

Servant:

Benvolio:

Romeo:

Act I, Scene 3

[Enter Lady Capulet, Juliet, and Nurse]

Lady Capulet:

Nurse:

Juliet:

Nurse:

Juliet:

Lady Capulet:

Nurse:

Lady Capulet:

Juliet:

Nurse:

Lady Capulet:

Juliet:

Act I, Scene 4

[Enter Mercutio, Benvolio, Romeo, and torchbearers]

Romeo:

Mercutio:

Benvolio:

Romeo:

Act I, Scene 5

[Enter almost everyone. It's a party! Woo!]

Capulet:

Romeo:

Tybalt:

Capulet:

Tybalt:

Romeo:

Juliet:

Nurse:

Romeo:

Nurse:

Romeo:

Capulet:

Romeo:

Juliet:

Nurse:

Juliet:

Stay tuned for Act II…

By the way, this exercise reminds of something Jim Burke said recently about teacher brains. Wouldn’t this be a great activity for students in order to summarize information? It’s time consuming, but I think I might try it. I can already hear them asking me how many emoticons they’ll need to use. Chorus with me: “As many as it takes.” Sheesh.

Related posts:

Frankenstein

One thing I share with my department chair is a geeky love of planning assignments. I should probably have been grading papers today, but instead I finished my Frankenstein unit and created a performance task based on an out-of-date (and apparently no longer used/updated) WebQuest. I did think the ideas were sound, but I also thought that some of the websites in the WebQuest were somewhat biased, and I wanted to present a bit more of a neutral view. I think it’s a solid assignment, however, and I just wanted to tweak it.

You can view my UbD unit for Frankenstein here. The WebQuest, with some major overhaul, is located here.

Update, 12/29/09: I have created a Google Earth tour based on the travels of Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein that you can download. I am submitting it to Google Lit. Trips and will let you know if they decide to publish it as well.

Related posts:

UbD Educators Wiki

I recently posed a question for discussion on the UbD Educators wiki. At this point, the wiki has over 100 members, and one would think it would be more active, but to get down to brass tacks, I’m the most active member of the wiki. The wiki is not closed to lurkers, so if all you wanted to do was get ideas for teaching, you wouldn’t need to join. Lurkers cannot edit pages or join discussions, however. I am interested to know what can be done to make the wiki more of a true repository of UbD units and discussion. I use the wiki when I am planning a new major unit, and I have found the two templates, the UbD Filter and the UbD Unit, to be helpful when planning units. The feedback at the start was very good, but member involvement has declined somewhat.

I spent some time today tagging pages in the hopes that the information might be easier to find. As always, I encourage members to join up and contribute. We have no math, science, fine arts, foreign language, physical education, or special education units, and we have only one (one!!!) technology education unit and one social studies unit. I suspect a lot of members teach these subjects, and often when people join up, they tell me they are doing so because their school or district is encouraging or requiring UbD; therefore, we ought to have more units in those areas, I should think.

UbD is something I strongly believe in. I have seen it bring more transfer, coherence, and, well, understanding to my own teaching. Planning using UbD guidelines makes me think about all aspects of what I teach and helps me plan more authentic lessons. One compliment I received from a student is that I always “try to make [learning] relevant to our lives.” Creating more authentic audiences for writing tasks has been a goal of mine this year, too, and planning using UbD has helped. I truly feel that this wiki could be an excellent tool, but I admit that right now I feel a bit like I’m in an echo chamber over there.

Related posts:

Image Grammar

I have been on the lookout for books, websites, and other materials to help me teach grammar. If you have some good ideas for resources, please leave them in the comments.

A couple of things I have been trying with my students seem to be working fairly well. I used the Sentence Opening Strategy activity shared by Carol Sanders on the EC Ning to teach sentence variety. My students were fairly reflective about their writing in this activity. I also pulled out my copy of Spelling and Grammar: The Daily Spark, along with Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Devotional and have been posting grammar and writing puzzles on the SMARTBoard as a sort of journaling/opening activity while I take attendance and do other housekeeping. The students really like the grammar puzzles, and I found it sort of flexes their brains for writing.

Still, teaching grammar, and what I mean by that is correctness and variety (because everyone seems to disagree about what grammar is), is just hard. I want my students to be more fluent and fluid writers, and I want them to communicate clearly. Based on this goal, it would seem Harry Noden’s Image Grammar is an excellent choice.

I’ve read one chapter, and I like the way Noden organizes different writing techniques, such as using participles, as “brush strokes.” The accompanying CD has some good material, but in my opinion, the CD should probably be updated. The material on the CD is organized into HTML files, and they look a little archaic (think Geocities or Angelfire), but the material is solid. Noden also references a website that is no longer working—ah the joys of the Internet—as a source of images for writing prompts, but the Web does not lack examples of image sites that can be used to spark writing.

What I like best about the book so far is that Noden shows how to teach grammatical structures in a way that students will see their relevance to their own writing. I have had students who knew a great deal about grammatical structures out of context but could not apply these structures to make their own writing better. I have had students tell me that I taught them how to write well, but it’s an area in which I would like to improve.

Related posts:

Next Semester

It looks like I will be teaching five classes next semester. Five different preps. Now, two are British Literature, and two are ninth grade, but the courses are at two different levels, so though the preps are similar, they’re not the same. I’m not going to complain except to wonder aloud how I will manage with a difficult grad school course on the horizon (to be honest, I’m not sure my second grad school course is difficult or not: could be). I am lucky in that I’ve taught all the courses before. I already reflect here too little because of all the constraints on my time, and it bothers me. I don’t post. I don’t have any time to do everything I need to do, and I stay busy. Wish me luck.

Related posts:

The English Companion Ning’s First Anniversary

On December 5, 2009, the English Companion Ning will turn one year old. Jim Burke, excited about the possibilities of Web. 2.0 technologies after last year’s NCTE Conference and its focus on technology and tools of the future, created the EC Ning, which would later be described as “the world’s largest English department.” If you’re not already a member, I encourage you to visit the Ning and join. It’s easy: just click on the link that says “Sign Up” in the right-hand sidebar, and follow the instructions on the screen. Be sure to look for me there. With grad school, I haven’t been as active as I’d like, but the Ning is a vibrant community, and I have truly enjoyed the conversations and ideas shared.

Related posts:

Dissecting Trolls

Most readers of this blog probably know that in Internet parlance, a troll is a person, usually partly or completely anonymous, who posts off-topic and usually really vicious or mean comments. Karl Fisch tweeted yesterday about the depressing nature of the comments left on a recent Huffington Post article about his influential “Did You Know?” video. I responded that I created a writing assignment based on some poor argumentation I found in YouTube.

I was looking for videos to share with my Hero with a Thousand Faces course students, and the first video I came across was one in which Tolkien discusses how he began writing The Hobbit. Essentially, a poor argument (on both sides) has developed in the comments on that video that Star Wars is a ripoff of Tolkien’s work. I read through most of them, and while I don’t advocate actually responding to comments of this sort, I did find that the argument on both sides was essentially composed of a series of ad hominem attacks. Neither side offered any support for their argument, and I kept reading to see if someone—anyone—would mention that the similarities that exist can be attributed to the fact that both stories involve heroic journeys and can be analyzed using Joseph Campbell’s theories regarding the monomyth. No one said any such thing. My own students have already studied Star Wars. They are currently reading The Hobbit. I knew that any one of them could explain the similarities between the stories based on solid evidence, which is something the commenters on YouTube either can’t or won’t do.

I created a writing assignment based on this idea, and I have full confidence that my students will be able to argue their points better than Internet trolls, but I cautioned them not to actually try it. Real Internet trolls don’t listen to reason. Or much of anything really.

Related posts:

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Using an idea from Chris Renino in Shakespeare Set Free and Chris Shamburg, my students created a radio play of Macbeth 4.1, in which the witches prepare the “hell broth.” Take a listen:

Download Macbeth 4.1

Nuts and bolts:

  • We used GarageBand on my Mac. One of my students knew how to produce the echo effect. I think Audacity would work, too, but I’m not sure if it has all the effects GarageBand has.
  • We did two run-throughs without recording before we did the recording. We were happy with our first recording, so we used it as our final.
  • The crunching leaves were created by potato chips in a bowl.
  • We used a large vase with water to make the cauldron noises.
  • Students created the howling winds and dogs.

It was totally awesome! The students loved it, I loved it, and we had fun.

Update: 11/12/09 at 7:29 P.M.: I am adding the podcast created by my other British Lit. class. This particular podcast was created by only four students (as opposed to the other, which was created by 17 students). Considering their small numbers, I think it turned out extremely well. We had to use multiple tracks and do more cutting and editing, both of which made this particular recording more of a challenge.

Download Macbeth 4.1

Related posts:

Catching Up: Folger Education

English Journal September 2009I have been trying all week to finish the last English Journal so I can gush about all the Folger goodness, but I haven’t had a chance. Lest I let too much more time slip by, I’ll discuss the articles I have had a chance to read. Mike LoMonico, as usual, is on target with his suggestions for teaching Shakespeare in his editorial. The Shakespeare Set Free series taught me a great deal about how to teach Shakespeare, but participating in the the Folger Teaching Shakespeare Institute in Decatur last year transformed how I approach not just Shakespeare, but everything I do.

I also read my friend Joe Scotese’s editorial about reading Shakespeare’s text as opposed to easy versions with “translations.” Joe’s description of the words as the tools of Shakespeare’s art (Stephen Booth) was beautiful, and I have had the occasion to bring it up twice in the last couple of weeks during teaching. Thanks for the timely imagery, Joe!

I read Peggy O’Brien’s and Robert Young’s discussions of the history of Folger’s work with teachers (and students) and its present and future. I began reading Susan Biondo-Hench’s article “Shakespeare Troupe: An Adventure in Words, Fluid Text, and Comedy.” You might recall that Susan Biondo-Hench wrote the Romeo and Juliet unit in the first volume of Shakespeare Set Free.

Several of my friends have articles in this issue. Chris Shamburg and Cari Craighead collaborated on “Shakespeare, Our Digital Native.” Cari and I were in the same TSI, and Chris and I connected at NCTE and online. I also met Chris Renino, author of the Macbeth unit in SSF and the EJ article “‘Who’s There?’: Shakespeare and the Dragon of Autism,” at NCTE last year. Chris and I both have autistic children, and though mine are younger, I am obviously excited to read his article for personal reasons as well as professional ones. Christy Desmet, who wrote “Teaching Shakespeare with YouTube,” and I have a long history together. She teaches at my alma mater, UGA, and we worked together about 12 years ago in an online cohort of new teachers, professors, mentor teachers, and aspiring teachers. Our conversations were so helpful to me as a new teacher. We reconnected at the Folger TSI in Decatur last year.

I really wanted to submit an article for this issue, but I was struggling with new roles as department chair and graduate school student, among other duties. I just didn’t have time to do it. And now I’m kicking myself because I would have loved to have been a part of this issue.

In related news, Folger has a new blog: Making a Scene: Shakespeare in the Classroom. Definitely check it out! I’m really excited about it.

I want to talk about all of these articles and blog posts in more detail when I have a chance, but the weeks have been ticking by, and I didn’t want too much time to elapse before I brought your attention to these resources (if you didn’t know about them already).

In other news, I am not able to go to NCTE this year. I knew it was a long shot because I went last year, and the economy being what it is, well, let’s just say I was fairly sure it wouldn’t happen. I do wish I could go, however, because I really wanted to meet up with some friends (not to mention the learning!). I am planning to go to GCTE and possibly ISTE. ISTE takes place in Denver this year, and school will be out, so it would be a good opportunity for me to visit family in addition to attending my first ever technology education conference, so I would like to try to go.

Related posts:

Interactive Notebooks: Professional Development Goal

My school has an interesting professional development program. The first year of the program involves exploration of a topic, and choices include educational research and reflection, general teaching practices, and career and leadership development. During the second year of the program, we can either 1) write one or two goals based on Charlotte Danielson’s domains as described in Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching or 2) work on a project that relates directly to an improvement in instruction of our students. In year three, the focus is on teacher observation and evaluation based on Danielson’s Framework and especially focused on instruction (Domain 3).

I decided that my goal would be to increase students’ critical thinking and engagement through Interactive Notebooks. It seemed a worthy goal because I am already using the notebooks, and now I will be collecting data and analyzing their effectiveness. I have collected all my students’ notebooks for the first time over the last couple of weeks with the following observations:

  • My students in British Literature and Composition (juniors) are really getting the idea behind the notebooks. They are naturally a pretty organized group, and they remind me if I haven’t told them that I need to indicate which section items go in and whether the assignments should be on the left or right. Thus, I was pleased with what I saw when I examined their notebooks. I still need to remind students about fleshing out the left with their own ideas.
  • My ninth grade students had major confusion about the notebooks. They are not as naturally organized as my juniors, so it stands to reason they will need more help, and if I am honest with myself, I haven’t given them all the help I think they need after looking at their first notebook checks as a baseline. I would like them to make more connections, but they need more help. I am also not giving them enough assigned left-hand side work.
  • My seniors seem to understand what to do, but many of them didn’t do it. I don’t think I have buy-in with that group because they have all, except for one student, had my class before, and they liked the notebook checks I used to do. I think they liked them because it did involve a little bit less work for them. They didn’t need to make the left-hand side connections. I had assigned a reading journal for the left-hand side for this time, and only a few students completed it. I think they just weren’t reading. It’s an elective class, and I hate to go the reading quiz route, but I may have to. Seniors are kind of a different animal in terms of engagement, and I suppose I can expect they won’t necessarily be invested in trying something new.

What I need to do to improve is give my ninth graders more opportunities for connection and reflection on the left and work with my elective students to convince them of the value of the notebooks. I could supply models from my juniors so that they could see the notebooks at work. Models actually wouldn’t hurt my ninth graders either. Even with my juniors, who are doing well, I can improve by suggesting ideas and opportunities so that the notebooks, particularly the left-hand side, are on their minds as a natural part of learning.

Related posts: