Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poetry Unit, Day 4: Ekphrasis

Day 4 of the Poetry Unit went . . . okay. Students did not enjoy discussing ekphrasis nearly as much as they enjoyed Beautiful Corpse Poetry, but the discussions we had were good.

To begin, we discussed a very brief history of ekphrasis and ekphrastic poetry, using this information as a guide.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"That" Is the New Comma

From student papers to correspondence with teachers to directions on tests to my own writing, I have notice the word "that" cropping up in unnecessary places. And let me tell you: it is driving me INSANE. It's like "that" is the new comma.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Alt Shift X's GoT Fan Theories

I am a huge fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, also known as Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. Love it. Back before I really even realized fantasy/scifi were genres all to themselves (really, even, before I realized how drawn I was to such storytelling, even though my favorite books for years had technically been fantasy/scifi), I found the ASOIAF series and fell in book-lust with the way Martin crafts his epic tale.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Poetry Unit, Day 3: Slam Competition/Reading Donika Ross

Our Slam Competition went really well. We pitted the boys against the girls, and each group stood in front of the class and read their poems.

A lot of the students were heavily influenced by the videos we watched the previous day, with many students embodying the idea of love and shyness.

I was exceptionally proud of how students were utilizing the various patterns or forms that we saw in the slam videos, e.g. "the way lovers love loving" and "I am a boy, not a toy, so don't play with my emotions."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poetry Unit, Day 2: Slam Poetry

We started off the day with a five minute activity: Write down everything you think about, everything that pops into your head. Students wrote down things as diverse and ridiculous as One Direction, Cheetos, what if toenails were tacos, my chap stick is tasty, etc. After the five minutes, I collected students' thoughts and turned to the next part of the lesson.

I wanted students to see how poems could be recited with emotion and feeling. To help them understand what I meant, we watched the following slam poems.

"beautiful biology" by Will Evans

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poetry Unit, Day 1: Beautiful Corpse Poetry

I started off my 7th and 8th Grade poetry unit with a session of Beautiful Corpse Poetry. I told my students that we were going to be pulling out parts of our brains and putting them on the page to make this new, beautiful thing. When I explained to them that writing Beautiful Corpse Poetry was kind of like being zombies, they were all about trying it.

Photo courtesy of VelmaGiggleWink at

Thursday, April 16, 2015

7 Easy Tricks To Make Your Writing Look More Advanced

Have you ever written a paper and known your ideas were good, but your writing just didn't cut it? Yeah, we have all been there. The rotten thing is that it is so difficult to look at your own writing, something you have spent days or even weeks on, and find ways to make it look more professional. Well, below are seven tricks I learned in college that helped me gussy up my writing and create a finished product with which I could be proud.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

PARCC Prep: Research-Simulation Task

This time last week, I did a post on the Literary Analysis task for PARCC.

After the hardship that was literary analyses, my students and I moved on to the research-simulation task. Because I had been told that students had written research papers in the past, I actually hadn't budgeted that much time for lessons on research writing. The PARCC was four weeks away when I asked my students to tell me what they knew about research papers.

Imagine my surprise when utter silence was the only response they could give me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why We Need More Authors of Color Writing YA Fiction, Pt. 1

A lot of my students read the Bluford High and Denim Diaries series, both of which focus on the lives and struggles of urban teens, and while I love the fact that there are entire series out there devoted to appealing to racial minorities, I wish the books were more scholastically-inclined and grade appropriate.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Free Copy of Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh!

I found myself in possession of an additional copy of Adam Sternbergh's Near Enemy,* and thought it would be fun to share this great novel with you guys!

Review: Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

A terrorist, a nurse, and a garbageman walk into an apartment complex in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The setup is the ending of a great novel, not the beginning of an awful joke.

Near Enemy* is Adam Sternbergh's second novel featuring Spademan, an ex-garbageman, ex-limn junkie turned hitman. Throughout the story, Spademan follows half-clues and his instincts to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Lesser, one of the techie prodigies who created the virtual reality limnosphere and worked on the off-the-books project "Near Enemy."

See,  an anonymous woman phones Spademan and hires him to kill Lesser. When Spademan gets to Lesser's apartment, however, plans change.

Spademan . . . invites himself . . . into the apartment and instructs Moore, the "nurse" Lesser has monitoring his vitals while he is sedated and hooked up to the limnosphere, to bring Lesser back to the "real-time" world. Lesser jerks awake and loses his mind. He tells Spademan and Moore that something horrible, something impossible, happened in the limnosphere: someone was murdered. For real.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Southern Arkansas University Writing Festival 2015

First-year teacher pride moment: I took twenty of my students on a field trip today to Southern Arkansas University's 2015 Writing Festival (first field trip milestone!), and FOUR OF MY STUDENTS PLACED!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Not Literally

I have been finding great YouTube channels lately. ThugNotes and CrashCourse are on the more educational side of the spectrum, but I have come across some fun ones too. Take Not Literally, for example.

Originally founded by Ginny DiGuiseppi, Dana Ritterbusch, and Erik Tande in 2011, Not Literally is a music and comedy production company that does everything from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones parodies of popular songs to behind-the-scenes, reality type skits like "Ask Westeros" and "Ask Dr. Who."

Detailed Literary Analysis Layout

This following information is meant to be an explanation of the PARCC literary analysis layout I devised for my 7th and 8th grade ELA students.

Literary Analysis
General Outline

PARCC Prep: Literary Analysis Task

Students living in PARCC-testing states have probably heard a lot about "Literary Analyses." For those of you that do not know, PARCC, or "Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers," is a new standardized test for those states teaching under Common Core. In such states, the PARCC has replaced Benchmark and other similar exams in key areas like English and Math, and grades kindergarten through 11th are required* to take the PARCC.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

5 Songs to Listen to While Writing

I frequently listen to music while I write, and each type of writing has its own type of music. For example, when I am writing fiction, I prefer very chill and mellow music (often instrumental). Another great audio for me is ambient noise, like the sound of rain, wind, or a fire place.

Ambient noises are especially helpful when I am trying to "set the mood" for a scene; hearing rain sounds and thunder while I am writing a storm scene helps me utilize multiple sensory details that I might not have otherwise considered. My favorite source for ambient noise is A Soft Murmur.