Monday, December 10, 2012

Update and reminder

A few eagle-eyed class members have pointed out to me that MLA is less than 100% clear on the subject of whether or not to put URL's in Works Cited entries (my position is that they are unnecessary, essentially what MLA says, but they don't say clearly NOT to do so). Also, since I didn't make a big deal about that distinction before the papers were due, it seems inappropriate to penalize writers a point for what I perhaps didn't make clear. Therefore I have adjusted a number of scores upward by a point.

Also, a reminder that an optional peer review session for papers is available on Wednesday, December 12 from 12 to 1:30 in my room. I will have editing sheets on hand for your use. Good luck this week.

And remember when you turn in your hard copy include any stamped drafts and editing sheets. Staple it together, final on top.

Finally, very important, turnitin must be done by 11 AM Thursday and hard copies submitted by that time unless you let me know that you are exercising your "far-away commuter" option, in which case you will drop off hard copy no later than Friday morning by 9AM and still complete turnitin by 11 Thursday.

AP--a few exam notes

Your semester exam will have 3 sections, weighted equally.

1. 30 or so multiple choice questions, approximately double the kinds of quizzes you have taken 5 times throughout the semester. Two passages with 15 or so questions each.

2. A prose passage or poem accompanied by an essay prompt. I haven't chosen the passage yet, but what they all have in common is that they challenge you to discuss the methods the author uses to achieve the desired effect. In other words, how do such elements as diction, imagery, selection of key details, use of figurative language, characterization, or irony help establish and control the narrative tone toward the subject matter of the passage? Your ability to recognize and describe tone and thoughtfully discuss the methods by which said tone is achieved is the crux of the matter.

3. A literary topic which I will ask you to apply to a work we have studied together, let's say, oh, Hamlet for example. "Literary" questions on past AP's have been based on such issues as technique (the use of two contrasting settings), characterization, (the presence and importance of a morally ambiguous character), or theme (the desire for power). I will select two or three options and ask you to choose one and identify how it applies to Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Final papers 2012

English IV & AP final paper
Fall 2012

Every civilization that develops literature incorporates monsters into its storytelling and mythology. From Greece to Egypt to Asia, the heroes of early literature prove themselves by overcoming monstrous beings. In later literature, monsters become more symbolic, ways for writers perhaps to represent new aspects of human nature, both in the monsters and in the human characters who confront them.

For your final paper of the semester, develop an argument around the issue of what monsters in literature teach us as readers and students of literature about being human. Your papers should be 5 – 7 pages in length (6 - 8 for AP) and are due Thursday December 13 at 9 AM (AP) or between 9 & 11 AM (English IV). (N.B. see special instructions on assignment schedule for English IV students who live far from campus.)

For English IV, incorporate references and ideas from THREE of the following: Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Frankenstein, Grendel, and Hamlet. You may add an optional piece of literature of your choosing if you wish. For AP, include three of the above plus Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. References to history, current events, or popular culture may reinforce your ideas but should never become the main focus. Here are some thoughts and quotations on the idea of monsters which I’ve gathered from a variety of sources and my own thinking to help get you started:

·      Symbols of humans’ deepest fears, as individuals and as a species.
·      “The Other”—forces to be feared and loathed as outsiders, inimical to human nature and human life.
·      An inverted reflection of the interests and values of a culture.
·      Obstacles to be removed, overcome, or eliminated by a hero.
·      “A horrendous presence that explodes our standards for harmony, order, and ethical conduct”—Joseph Campbell
·      The personification of our own inner demons—monsters can represent aspects of ourselves that must be shunned as socially or psychologically unacceptable.
·      Symbols of human vulnerability (i.e. monsters reveal to us our weaknesses).
·      Or, conversely, a means for us to discover our own strengths—“imagining how we will face an unstoppable, powerful, and inhuman threat” (Stephen T. Asma in the Chronicle of Higher Education, October 25, 2009).
·      “Inhuman threats are great reminders of our own humanity”—Asma.

Research for this assignment is optional (although I recommend you at least read the Asma essay referred to above). If you do look for ideas and information, be VERY certain to cite all ideas and language not your own in your paper.

Spend some time thinking about an approach you can use to link multiple works from our reading list. Then begin to develop a series of paragraphs interpreting the works you choose. Use whatever combination of comparison and contrast makes your ideas strongest. Your writing will be judged on the originality of your choice, your use of examples from the various texts, and the depth of your analysis.

For English IV, this paper replaces a final exam and is weighted 25% of the semester grade. For AP students, the paper is weighted 15% and the sit-down portion of the final 10%.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Word search papers: final reminders

1. Give parenthetical citations keyed to a Works Cited page for all source references in your paper. Be certain to distinguish between print and online sources. If you claim to have used an obscure 14th century manuscript, I'll need to see it to believe it.

2. Instructions for binders/folders are on the original assignment document; briefly, it's final draft, first draft with two editing sheets, source material, neatly organized and annotated.

3. When you refer to a word as a word, and not as its meaning, italicize.

4. Yes, for the hundredth time, first person is appropriate for key parts of this assignment.

5. Don't forget turnitin. I-Search a Word 2012. Deadline 3 PM Tuesday November 20th, whether you plan to be at school that day or not. No extensions on this deadline.

6. For other heading, format, and style tips, look here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Organizing your paper


I-Search a Word: Outline template

I.  The Beginning 

 Why I chose my word 

 What it means to me as I begin to search 

II.  The Middle

  History and major meanings


  Original (oldest) meanings

  Evolution over time, significant use in Shakespeare, Bible etc

  Major changes, added meanings over time

  Contemporary use and meanings

     Most common modern dictionary definition(s)

     Related words, major (most interesting) combining forms



  Occurrences in art, music, journalism, fashion, politics, famous sayings, etc

  Information that was brand new to me or even surprising; discoveries made along the way 

III. The Ending

  Most important, interesting things I learned

  How my search expanded my understanding of a single word 

N.B. I hope this template proves useful. Don’t follow it slavishly as a formula; adapt it creatively and individually to fit the larger patterns of meaning you have learned and the discoveries you have made along the way. If you are genuinely interested in what you are learning, the paper you write will be more interesting as a result.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Online resources for word search papers

Here is a link to several good websites. A Bible concordance and a Shakespeare concordance are required to at least consult, while the others are recommended and should give you a broader understanding of your word's full range of meaning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Word list for paper #3

Here is the link to the list. It is possible to add words if they fit the criteria outlined in the assignment.

Biography of a word 2012

English IV & AP November 2012 “I-Search a Word” assignment (paper #3)
Assignment: Write a paper of 6 to 8 pages containing an extended definition of a single word, a commonly used word, but one with an abstract or intangible quality to its meaning. In your paper you will make full reference to the sources you have consulted, but the style of the paper will be a first-person account of your search for the word’s ultimate meaning and an analysis of what you learn along the way.
Sources: Consult the following sources to include all the necessary information in your paper:
1. The Oxford English Dictionary in our library—what are the earliest uses and contexts for your word recorded in the English language. Does the OED mention the word occurring in either Sir Gawain or Beowulf? What meanings have evolved over time?
2. A good unabridged or international dictionary—what key definitions does the dictionary give for the word?
3. A print or online thesaurus—what are the most important synonyms for your word? Include a list from the thesaurus in the sources section of your folder.
4. A Concordance to Shakespeare—in which plays does the word occur? Copy key speeches containing the word and the plays in which they are found. Give an example of an interesting or original way in which Shakespeare uses the word.
5. A Concordance to the Bible—list the verses containing the word and copy these verses onto a page in your sources section. How do they help you understand the full significance of your word? Refer specifically to the KJV (King James Version) and the Revised Standard (RSV) or New American Standard.
6. A statement of what the word means to you, both before and after you conduct your research.
7. For AP students, two of the following: a poem in which the word occurs, a citation from an online quotations list, a work of art or music, a book about words and language, a work of history, a newspaper article, cartoon, television show, or movie. (One such source is optional for English IV.)
Process: Gather your findings in a binder. The first thing in the binder you submit will be the final copy of your paper, then your draft, edited by two peers and one other person (optional--a third peer, a parent, a friend), and a section containing the printouts of all your research materials with sources clearly indicated in full MLA format. Be sure to distinguish between print and online sources.
Rationale: According to Edward Jenkinson and Donald Seybold, “it is extremely difficult for anyone to define a word that does not have objective [meaning]. Yet the ideas, feelings, and emotions that are most significant in our lives are conveyed [by such words]. . . .Everyone who uses such words as freedom, rich, or love has slightly different notions about what those words mean, [yet] we frequently act as if we are talking about the same thing when we use such words.” Thus, this assignment is to sift through our assumptions about one abstract word to find relevant historical information about its uses and meanings throughout the history of the English language.
· Have your word chosen and approved by me by the beginning of class 29 (November 6 & 7. (Everyone must have a different word.)
· We will spend parts of two classes in the library looking at the OED and other source material.
· Your blog for class 30 will include your previous understanding of the word along with a brief statement of why you chose the word. It may be incorporated in some fashion into your draft later.
· Class 33 & 34, depending on section (November 16 & 19), bring your drafts to class, five pages minimum to earn credit for this part of the assignment.
· Binders are due in my classroom by 3PM, Tuesday, November 20 for all sections.. Final drafts must also be submitted by that time to (assignment title: I-Search a Word).
Style: Write your paper as a first-person account of your search for the ultimate meaning of your word. Use your sources to make your analysis of the word credible, but connect those sources to your personal quest for the word’s meaning, your previous understanding of the word, and what you learned along the way, both about the word and the research process. You should both summarize and analyze the information you gather from your sources in the body of the paper. Information should be cited parenthetically, linked to a list of Works Cited at the end of your paper.

What word interests you sufficiently to spend two weeks researching and writing about its history and most important meanings? After we review this assignment during class 28, November 2 & 5, I will accept email requests for words beginning Monday, November 5  at 1:30 PM. By class 29 (November 6 & 7), everyone must have selected a word to work with.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Strategies That Worked

"Tell me something that you mean, not just what comes to mind."-- Lyle Lovett

Unsuccessful college essays, in my view, are unsuccessful largely because the writer doesn't "mean" what he or she says. This sad state of affairs results from choosing a topic ("what comes to mind") for the wrong reasons, usually from a misguided attempt to write what the writer falsely thinks the admission officer will consider an "important" topic. Hence the astounding number of badly written essays on Gandhi, Jesus, MLK, my grandmother, and why I think diversity is the most important thing I will experience in college.

Saying "something that you mean," on the other hand, involves selecting from those events and experiences that have meant the most to you, that have been most memorable, that represent the people and memories and projects and causes that you cherish most. Don't write about your summer vacation/community service trip to Spain unless that really is one of the most important events in your life.

 Although very different in subject matter, the sample essays from Connecticut College have at least four things in common, qualities that, for me at least, make them "work" as personal statements. ( I am referring to essays by James W, Sophia M, and Benjamin B which may be found here).

  1. Hook. Each writer grabs the reader's immediate attention by starting in the middle of the story. The lights went out. We rumbled up a goat path for three hours. The phone rang. Simple, vivid opening sentences—no gimmicks, no weird stuff—create interest. College admissions officers read hundreds or thousands of these statements. You have maybe three minutes of their time; don't waste any of it with a long, drawn out opening.
  2. Detail. Lots of specific concrete detail. The smell of the lady's french fries on the subway. Contents of drawers in great-grandmother's house. The movies John and Ben watched together, the games they played. Readers want to be able to see, hear, and smell what you're talking about. General language won't do that. Details will.
  3. Narrative. Each of these writers has a story to tell. It doesn't have to be a unique or life-altering story. It just has to be your story. Tell it truthfully, and someone else will want to read it.
  4. Reflection. Especially near the end of each of these pieces, the writers explain why this story is important, what the experience means to them, how it affected them, how it illustrates something about their personalities. James Walsh knew he had just become global. This was not merely an old house in the mountains, it was home distilled. If it weren't for my friendship with John, I wouldn't have gotten beyond my first impression of Matt to start a conversation with him. Make sure you are telling your story for a reason.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chalant, ept, and kempt

A propos our discussion of "unpaired words" yesterday, I found this poem on the internet.

A very Descript Man .... J H Parker

I am such a dolent man,
I eptly work each day;
My acts are all becilic,
I've just ane things to say.
My nerves are strung, my hair is kempt,
I'm gusting and I'm span:
I look with dain on everyone
And am a pudent man.
I travel cognito and make
A delible impression:
I overcome a slight chalance,
With gruntled self-possession.
My dignation would be great
If I should digent be:
I trust my vagance will bring
An astrous life for me.

And if you want to read the rest of the story "How I Met My Wife", here is the link.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Notes on Romance and Courtly Love

Follow this link to material adapted from Loyola University of New Orleans and Cal Poly University.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Paper #2

English IV & AP
Paper #2 assignment: Beowulf and Grendel
Mr. L. Coon
October, 2012

A few of you asked for a little advance notice about the next paper assignment. While I will post more complete details in a few days, here is what I know so far.

Length: 600-750 words (2-3 pages)

Goal: Narrow and deep. Repeat after me: narrow and deep. That’s your mantra for this assignment. Write a concise opening paragraph, clearly identifying your key point in the form of a provable thesis, then develop that point in 3-4 further paragraphs. Maintain a tight focus on the central idea throughout; no extraneous comparisons or digressions. Offer a few ESSENTIAL pieces of evidence and draw the most specific conclusions you can about their importance.

  • What is Grendel’s “arc” as a character in the novel Grendel? In what important ways does he grow, change, or develop?
  • Gardner suggests that the Danes are unhappy with the arrival of the Geats. Take a close look at the passage in Beowulf describing their arrival and reception. On what does Gardner base his interpretation?
  • Look at the character of Wealhtheow in both versions, especially chapter 7 of Grendel and the celebratory banquet after the slaying of Grendel’s mother in Beowulf? What are the key features of her character? Are the two portrayals consistent? Is there more to her than meets the eye?
  • What does it mean to be a hero?
  • What is glory? Why is it important?
  • Put the two versions of Beowulf’s argument with Unferth side by side. Then consider the most important differences. How do those differences give that scene two very different meanings?
  • Contrast Grendel’s view of Beowulf to that of the Beowulf poet? What effect does Gardner create by giving such a different view of Grendel’s killer?
  • Several of you noted similarities between Grendel and Frankenstein’s creature. How far do those similarities go? Are there essential differences in their roles in these two novels?

Serious caveat: there is way too much information available online on some of these questions. My very strong advice to you is to do no online research whatsoever. You will only run the risk of inadvertently or deliberately plagiarizing that material. Think about your interpretation of the question and go from there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blog assignment--creative piece

As you finish reading Grendel, choose one of the following options for your next blog post. Write a piece of at least two paragraphs, let's say around 400 words, on one of the following "creative" options:

Write a "survivor's" account of one of Grendel's attacks, from the point of view of someone who was there and lived to tell about it. (Keep the blood and gore within bounds on this one, and concentrate on the experience and emotions of the survivor). Alternative version of this piece: write a newspaper reporter's account of the attack, after having interviewed a couple of the survivors.

Create an internal monologue for Wealtheow about her new life as Hrothgar's wife, using some of the hints Grendel gives us in his thoughts about her. (an internal monolog is a character's unspoken thoughts)

What would Unferth write in his diary (assuming a strapping young warrior such as he has one) after having met Grendel and Beowulf within a few weeks of each other?

Write 20 or so lines of the Shaper's poetic account of the final battle between Grendel and Beowulf. (Remember, 4 or so strong beats per line, some alliteration in each line, no rhyme.)

Due for class 19, Thursday October 4 or Friday, October 5, depending on section. Team members will write comments once these pieces are posted. Don't be late.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Response journal --Grendel as a literary character

What are the most important things we know so far about Grendel? Try to discuss 2 or 3 of the following and give a specific example or brief passage as part of your answer. In other words, as you give your answer to a question, also answer the question, "how do you know?"

·      A key personality trait
·      A key experience and its effect on him
·      What does he value most?
·      What does he want?
·      What does he want to know or understand?
·      How does he think?
·      What bothers or confuses him most?

Friday, September 14, 2012

AP English Assignments

Class 28 (April 1 & 2) Poetry exercise TBA

Class 29 (April 3) Heart of Darkness, part 1; bookmark

Class 30 (April 5) Heart of Darkness, part 2; bookmark; poetry exercise compare-contrast; vocab books lessons 25-26

Class 31 (April 9)—Heart of Darkness, part 3; bookmark; prose style, Middlemarch; vocab quiz 25 & 26

Class 32 (April 10 & 11)—Selected backgrounds and criticism; Blog entry with 3-5 bullet points of importance; poem of the day

Class 33 (April 12 & 15)—Read selected novels; poem of the day; finish discussion of Heart of Darkness essays

Class 34 (April 16)—Read selected novels; in-class essay poetry.

Class 35 (April 18)—Multiple choice AP practice exam

Class 36 (April 19 & 22)—Read selected novels; introduce vocab lessons 27 & 28

Class 37 (April 23 & 24)—vocab quiz lessons 27 & 28; read novels

Class 38 (April 25)—Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1; bookmark

Class 39 (April 29)—Earnest, act 2; bookmark

Class 40 (April 30 & May 1)—Earnest, act 3; bookmark

Class 41 (May 2 & 3)—papers due on selected novels

Class 42 (May 6)—review exercises

Class 43 (May 7 & 8)—review continues

May 9, Thursday, 7:45 AM—AP English Literature exam

Class 44 (Wednesday, May 15)—vocab quiz 29 & 30; Read Oure Faire Englische Tung, chapters 6 & 7; Free Rice semi-final competition between classes; return papers and cards

Class 45 (Friday, May 17)—Free Rice final round; Final day parting ceremony

Thursday, September 6, 2012


See this link for the bookmark instructions I showed you in class.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Several of you have had difficulty "enrolling" in the class through turnitin. Try this:

For AP, use the course ID 4223549 listed in the syllabus, but make sure you use all lower case for the password, apeng.

For English IV, the ID should be 1875359 and the password engIV (the roman numeral in caps, the first 3 letters lower case).

Apparently, the password is quite sensitve (case-sensitive, that is).

Hope this helps. My apologies if I entered this incorrectly on the syllabus.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Handing in your Papers--a few reminders

Your essays on the ethical considerations of a scene or action in Frankenstein are due in class at the beginning of class #7.

Please give me the final draft, the editing draft, and the two peer review worksheets from your teammates.

Also, remember to submit your paper electronically to If you haven't yet "enrolled" in the class, the instructions are on the syllabus on my blog (Part VII).

Citations to the text should be made parenthetically using page numbers, and the edition you consulted should be given in a single Work Cited at the end of the paper (Kindle page numbers may be found by pressing the "menu" button at the relevant passage).

Finally, here is a brief document regarding formatting and headings.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ethics 101

Use these ideas to help you analyze and evaluate the ethical implications of the decision you have chosen for your paper. Your goal is to discuss the values behind the action, the justification or authority of those values, and to what extent the decision is or is not an ethical one.

Ethics: A few basic principles and terminology


Definition: Broadly, ethics is “the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment.” More specifically, the idea of ethical behavior involves the ability to apply moral values of principles of right and wrong to determine human choices and proper courses of action. The discussion of ethical choice therefore involves identifying a moral code to serve as a basis for action and establishing the authority of those principles.


Traditional bases of moral values:

1.              Divine Law—In this view, moral laws are given by God to human beings (E.g. the Ten Commandments, the teachings of Jesus, etc). The authority of Divine Law issues from God’s supremacy over human beings. In the Western tradition, this is the Judeo-Christian view of ethics.

2.              Universal Law—Moral principles are laws—or, as Kant called them, imperatives) that we give to ourselves as rational beings. Theses laws then are part of our humanity and have as their authority the dictates of pure reason. Since we wish to be reasonable human beings, we submit our actions to these imperatives.

3.              Social Contract—Here, moral principles derive from ideals of social cooperation (e.g. Locke, Rousseau, etc). The authority of the social contract is the desire to live peacefully and productively with other human beings and with our environment.

4.              Promotion of happiness—Moral principles are codes of conduct which simultaneously promote one’s own happiness—ethical egoism—and the happiness of humanity—utilitarianism. The most ethical choice is that which best balances these two sometimes opposing goals.

5.              Physical Superiority—In a democracy, the majority sets the dominant moral values simply because based on physically outnumbering the minority. In international or inter-tribal conflict, the more powerful group often imposes its values and will on the less powerful group. Often oversimplified as “might makes right,” the physical dimension of ethical justice requires careful consideration when used as a justification for action.


Evaluating ethical considerations: In order to discuss and evaluate the ethical ramifications of a decision or situation, we do the following:

1.              Identify the values or principles at stake in the action, weighing their importance against one another if there is a conflict between them;

2.              Choose the course of action most consistent with the highest of these values;

3.              Assess responsibility—does the person choosing or performing the action accept full responsibility for the choice and its consequences?

N.B. This view of the ethical dimension of an action or decision assumes a measure of free will in the individual performing the action or making the decision. The ability to choose actions based on values—or its opposite, acting in ways that betray fundamental values—all presuppose the freedom of the individual to choose among competing claims or moral authorities .


Monday, August 20, 2012

Blog assignment #1

1. Use this link to find instructions to set up your blog

2. Use this link for instructions about writing your first entry.

English IV/AP syllabus

English IV & AP

Syllabus: Major British Authors I

Mr. Coon; Fall 2012

I. Goals

            The goal of this course is to develop students’ ability to read, write, and create meanings from a series of related pieces of literature drawn from over 1000 years of British literary history. Our work will center around the following series of questions; all texts, assignments, projects, and discussions will help develop our answers to these questions.

1.          What are the essential qualities of a good story? Are they different from the requirements for a great story? Why do some stories have a shelf life of 6 months while others last 1000 years?
2.          What value do historical texts have for our lives today? Are “old” stories less meaningful or more boring just because they’re old? Or do they still contain relevant meanings for the 21st centuruy?
3.          What are the ethical challenges and conflicts faced by characters both human and monstrous? How do authors use these ethical dilemmas to illustrate their views of human values and morality?
4.           What qualities other than super-powers make a character heroic? For instance, what is honor? What is integrity? What is courage? What is personal responsibility? How do characters hold onto or lose their honor, courage, or integrity?

II. Materials and Course Requirements

            This fall-semester course examines the origins of literature in English and traces the development of the English language from its Germanic roots to the eighteenth century. Readings include the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, the medieval romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, John Gardner’s novel Grendel, and shorter pieces of poetry. A supplemental text develops a historical understanding of the growth and development of the English language.
Some students in the course have the AP designation attached to their enrollment. These students, chosen on the basis of their interest, prior achievements, and motivation level, supported by the department’s recommendation, are expected to meet slightly higher academic standards. AP students write slightly longer papers, and take occasional quizzes based on practice materials drawn from previous AP English Literature examinations. Also, students enrolled with AP designation are required to take the second half of the Major British Authors sequence in the spring semester and sit for the AP exam in English Literature and Composition in May.

III. Texts

1.     Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
2.     Beowulf,  Seamus Heaney (trans)
3.     Grendel, John Gardner
4.     Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Simon Armitage (trans)
5.     Hamlet, William Shakespeare

IV. Additional texts

1.              Vocabulary for Achievement, 6th course
2.              Oure Faire Englische Tung: A Brief History of the English Language
3.              Selected novels for summer reading

V. The Daily Book

An essential part of the class is the regular use of your daily book. The daily book is a 7½ by 9 ¾ notebook in which you record all the writing you do during class sessions. The daily book, which never leaves the room except with my personal permission, will contain examples of the following kinds of written work:

·      Daily check-ins (inside the front cover of your daily book), giving yourself credit for arriving in class on time, bringing your textbook and writing utensil, and doing the reading or other daily assignment.
·      Take Fives (short 3-5 minute writings) done as you come in the door while I am taking attendance and organizing that day’s materials. A Take Five is a mental check-in, often beginning with a sentence like “Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about . . .” or “I’ve been wondering why. . .” and containing content which may or may not be directly related to the content of English class.
·      Passages of the day—brief answers to questions about short passages of poetry or prose, first written in your daily books, then shared with the members of your team in round-robin style.
·      Response journals—see instructions below—the alternative to pop quizzes as a means for you to show your level of engagement with the assigned reading and help yourself interact with that reading on a deeper level. RJ entries will be shared with teammates, used as discussion items, and form the basis for short critical essays posted to your blogs.
·      Closers—2-3 minutes at the end of class, time for you to process and reflect upon what happened in that day’s class: what was the most interesting or important thing you learned today? What do you need to remember from today’s class? What left you feeling confused or with a sense of incompleteness? What should we be sure to do next time we meet?
Since your daily book never leaves the room, any notes you wish to take about our discussions or new material should be kept in a notebook of your own or on your laptop.

Daily books will receive a “process” grade; this grade complements your work in your discussion teams as the “participation” component of your performance in the class. I will check your daily books approximately every seven days.

Daily book grades are based on both quantity and quality:
• Quantity: all entries are present (if you are absent from class it’s your responsibility to come in during a free and make up the Response Journal entry), and entries show the effort to answer the questions thoroughly (rather than writing a single sentence, saying “I’m done” and sitting there while others write).
•Quality: Content shows a sincere effort to take the questions seriously and write thoughtful answers which are responsive to the assigned readings.

Take Five starters:
Lately I’ve been thinking about . . .
I’ve been wondering why . . .
(Monday) The best/worst thing about this weekend was . . .
(Friday) I’m looking forward to/worried about this weekend because . . .
(Morning class) Today should be a really good/bad day because . . .
(Afternoon class) Today has been a really good/bad day because . . .
I’m looking forward to/dreading                                      because . . .
The best movie I’ve seen lately was . . . .
Lately I’ve been really enjoying the time I spend . . .
So far I think the new longer periods are good/bad because . . .
My favorite thing to do outside of school is                     because . . .
I will read whatever you write, so don’t describe the fight you had with your mother/boyfriend/best friend last night unless that’s something you want me to know about. And of course my confidentiality is limited by law not to include anything you say that sounds dangerous, harmful to yourself or others, or illegal.

Response Journals
We often use reader response journals as in-class activities to accompany our study of literature. There are a number of different topics you can use in a reading response journal:
  • Copy down a quote from a character and tell why you think it’s meaningful.
  • Ask questions about things that confuse you or that you wonder about.
  • Describe your feelings about the events.
  • Describe your feelings about characters.
  • Copy down a brief passage and tell why you think it’s important.
  • Describe your favorite part.
  • Make a prediction about what will happen next.
  • Tell how you would react if you were one of the characters in the story.
  • Describe a part that surprised you.
  • Does the author use any strong imagery in the story (similes, metaphors, etc.)? Give examples.
  • Write down interesting vocabulary words, look them up, say how they add to the passage.
  • Talk to the author or a character (or one write of them a letter).
  • Draw pictures or create graphic organizers.

Below is a list of prompt starters:
General Observations
  • I noticed…
  • I was really surprised…
  • What I found interesting…
  • The author is saying…
  • I like the way…
  • I didn’t/don’t like…
  • My favorite part…
Element of the Text is Unclear
  • I didn’t understand…
  • A question I have…
  • I’m guessing that…
  • Something new I learned…
  • I felt _______ when…
Discuss Surprising Element
  • I couldn’t believe…
  • I never thought…
Hypothetical Thinking and Predictions
  • If I were [character]…
  • What I think will happen is…
  • What I thought would happen was…
  • I think _____ will become important because…
  • I began to think…
  • I predict…
Personal Connection to Past Experience
  • This reminds me of…
  • I began to think of…
  • I know the feeling…
  • I can picture…
  • I can imagine…

Purposes and Rules
Response journals serve two important and related purposes. They allow you to experience the readings for yourself, ask your own questions, and search for your own meanings rather than attend classes where I tell you what the text means to me while you write it down. They also allow me to see the evidence that you are reading the assigned texts and thinking about what you read. Therefore, there are two very specific, non-negotiable rules for a response journal entry. 1. Entries must include specific references to pages, lines, numbers, and passages covering the whole text assigned. 2. Entries that contain only general comments or plot summary without specific questions, quotes, and references will be assumed to be the product of Spark-note thinking and are therefore not acceptable and will not receive passing grades.  Finally, for safe-keeping, your response journals are part of your daily books and therefore never leave the classroom.

Reader response journals will be written for at least 5 minutes each day a reading assignment is due. They will be shared, round-robin fashion, with the other members of your class team. They may also be used to respond to passages I have chosen for the class to discuss. From there, RJ (response journal) entries can be used to generate Discussion Items (DI’s) for either your team or the class as a whole. Finally, RJ entries can become the basis of short individual critical essays on aspects of the literature. These essays (approximately 300-500 words depending on your level of ambition) are posted on your blogs and will receive specific written comments from your teammates and from me. Thus reading and writing become entwined as basic learning activities. You read, you write, you discuss, you choose a piece to refine, and you write further.

We will also use daily books to record our responses to the passage of the day or the question of the day, to record our thoughts about the meaning of a short poem, an example of a literary technique, or to think about poetic or prose style analysis. These brief responses will be shared in your teams.

(Thanks to Mr. Scott at Hughes Academy  for his list of journal starters and to Dan Kirby and Tom Liner, authors of Inside Out and my mentors on the use of class journals.)





VI. Blogs

Aside from your daily book, the primary forum for sharing short critical essays and content for oral presentations is your blog. Instructions for starting your blog may be found on and will be reviewed in class. I will occasionally ask you to select an entry from your Response Journal to be revised and expanded into a short critical essay (the equivalent of 1 to 2 typed pages). These revised journal entries will be read for content by members of your discussion teams and by me. We will look for ways to make your writing clearer, more specific, and more informative. Some of these blog posts will be further revised to be turned in as papers. Your ability to keep your blog current and thorough is another important component of your “process” grade.

In addition, you will each be asked to post the results of short research assignments on topics related to our literature study and the history of English. This information will be shared orally in class. Whether individually or with a partner, you will present two of these assignments each semester.


In addition to submitting hard copies of your papers this year, you are required to submit electronic copies of all papers to These instructions will help you submit your papers. Use your PCDS e-mail address and the same password for that you use for your account at
            On your web browser, go to Register as a new user or login to the personal home page you created last year. You must give your PCDS e-mail address and a personal password which contains both letters and numbers to register. Click “student” as your user type. Give whatever other information may be necessary as you move through the required fields.
            When you reach your personal home page, click “join new class.” Then enter a class ID and a class enrollment password. For AP students, the class ID is 4223549 and the password “APeng”; for World Literature students (non-AP) the class ID is 1875359 and the password is “engIV”. Click “submit” when you finish. N.B: You only need to complete this step once.
            Then submit your paper. When you click on the class title, you will go to the class history page. Click on the word “submit” in the middle navigation bar. Enter the title of your paper and select the assignment with the correct date from the pull down menu. Assignments are listed by the title of the work and the date an assignment is due.
            After entering your title and selecting the correct assignment, paste your essay into the box marked “main text.” (In my experience, the copy and paste method works better than the upload method. You may, of course, find otherwise). You may ignore the boxes marked abstract and bibliography unless otherwise instructed. When your paper has been pasted into the “main text” box, click “submit.”
            Remember to put your digital receipt number on the assignment before you give it to me. Otherwise your assignment will be marked late and penalized accordingly.

VIII. Participation and attendance

            Class participation is a crucial part of the course. Therefore, it is imperative that we all treat one another with respect and behave in such a way as to contribute to, not disrupt, an atmosphere conducive to maximum learning.
            Participation in class is mandatory. I understand that the introverts have difficulty speaking in front of your peers and me; nevertheless, I expect you to contribute meaningfully to class activities and discussions. Often, these contributions take forms other than speaking in front of the entire class. For example, the entries in your daily book are one important way for you to show your engagement with the material and willingness to exert yourself. Another important factor is the quality of your contributions to your team activities. In these ways and through your oral presentations, you show that you have come to class having done the reading assigned and are prepared to discuss the material, answer questions, venture informed opinions, and articulate personal responses.
            Participation grades are assigned as follows and account for 20% of your grade in the class: "A" students are fully engaged, on time for class with the necessary books and supplies. They display obvious enthusiasm for the tasks of the class: reading, talking, listening, working in a group, thinking about a problem. Their daily books are thorough, thoughtful, and always kept up to date. They participate in all team activities and remain on task throughout class. "B" students' engagement varies slightly, sometimes at "A" level, sometimes not. "C" students are generally involved but with noticeable lapses. They may arrive late to class or frequently forget materials. They spend time on things other than the work at hand: chatting with friends, doing homework for another class, catching up on sleep, or staring off in space. "D" students exhibit these behaviors to an even greater degree, becoming a distraction to the work of the class, having a negative impact on the group's ability to get its work done, regularly coming to class unprepared.
            Absences and lateness will have detrimental effects on performance and grades. With longer breaks between classes, I expect you to tend to personal business—going to the bathroom, finding your backpack, picking up a paper from the printer in the lab, and so on—on your own time. Be in class at the beginning of the block and don’t leave. Lateness will also be reported to the Dean of Students for detention.

IX. Vocabulary

            Two new lessons in the vocabulary book are assigned for quizzing every fifth class (5, 10, 15, etc). We will look briefly at the new words two classes prior to the quiz (#s 3, 8, 13, and so on), so please bring your books to that session. Quizzes will take place the first 10 minutes of class after “check-in” on sessions which are multiples of 5 unless otherwise notified.
            For first semester, we will cover lessons 1-14; for the second, lessons 15-30. Quizzes will contain all 20 words from the two lessons. There may be occasional cumulative quizzes as well containing selected words from a larger number of lessons.
            Missed vocabulary quizzes must be made up at your earliest possible convenience. After three class days, barring extraordinary circumstances, missing scores will be entered as zeroes.

X. Grading policy

            Grades are determined on a point system in which each assignment is weighted by the number of points it contains. Points will be totaled at the end of each quarter and semester and grades determined in accordance with the percentages contained in your student handbook.
            Grades from individual assignments fall into categories weighted approximately as follows: daily books and blogs (30%), papers and projects (40%), vocabulary and quizzes (20%), participation and attendance (10%).
            Assignments are due at the beginning of class. Written work turned in during or after class is considered late and will be penalized. Late work is eligible for a score no higher than 75%, depending on the quality of the assignment and the degree of lateness. If you are absent the day an assignment is due, either have a classmate turn it in or fax the assignment to the Upper School office (602-224-6177).
            Students who miss quizzes or tests because of excused absence must make arrangements for make-up immediately upon returning to school. Missing work (quizzes or assignments never turned in or made up) will result in an incomplete grade for the quarter or semester.
            Any student who establishes a clear pattern of failing to complete the assigned reading according to the prescribed schedule will receive a semester grade of D or F, regardless of that student’s scores on other assignments. Repeated missing or poor written work, response journal entries which cannot be distinguished from SparkNotes summaries, or the inability to respond to  basic factual information in class will be taken as signs of not reading.
            All assignments must be completed in accordance with the school’s honesty policy. See your handbook for details and be certain you know the difference between plagiarism and acceptable use of source material.

XI. Contact information
• In person—room 311. Stop by to talk or ask a question anytime I’m free.  My schedule is posted on the door of my classroom. To make up a quiz, go over an assignment, a speech draft, or a college essay, please make an appointment first.
• By voice-mail—602-956-0253 x4296
• By fax—602-224-6177