The Life of Bon: What I wore + what we did in class, November 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I wore + what we did in class, November 2013

Picture #1:  Blouse: Gap Outlet (sold out), Skirt: Forever 21, Tights: Forever 21, Shoes: Forever Young, (not online, similar here.)
Picture #2:  Sweater: Chicnova, Pants: Wal-mart, Scarf: London, similar here. (When I went to London in 2011 I stalked up on scarves.)
Picture #3: Blouse: Forever 21, Scarf: London, Skirt: Eshatki, shoes: Gap Outlet.

A couple of notes on clothes:
* The sweater in the second picture is one of my very favorite sweaters this season.  It's sparkly and is perfect for fall and pre-Christmas.  You can find it here at a very reasonable price.
* The pants I am wearing in the second picture I found for $10 at Wal-mart in the spring. They are leggings/pants.  I bought a pair in black, white, gray, and yellow and they are absolutely my favorite pair of pants.
* I love the color of the skirt in picture #3 but the waistline is too high and the pockets are placed right at the hips so I always feel very large in it.  You've been warned.

And now, what we did!

Seniors:

We've been plowing through Hamlet the past couple of weeks.  Shakespeare is such a challenge and I do not wish it upon anyone.  Every year I start out with great ambitions to teach my senior classes two Shakespeare plays (So many great ones to choose from!  Macbeth! Othello! Hamlet! Taming of the Shrew!), but by the time I'm done with the first play I need a 6-12 month break from Shakespeare and teenagers so we never happen to get to the second one.  I love Shakespeare and I love teenagers but the two together are rough.  Seventeen year olds hate Shakespeare and it ain't hard to see why.  Half the words he uses we don't use anymore, half of the words he makes up himself.  So much of his writing is puns and metaphors and double meanings and it's just layers upon layers of text to dig through.  I think if I ever teach college I will absolutely thrive on teaching Shakespeare, but teaching it to regular Seniors is definitely a struggle.

That being said, I feel like all teens should leave high school with at least a few Shakespeare plays under their belt so I make sure to at least teach one for every year they are with me.  This year I am teaching Hamlet.  To make it more understandable for the tikes we have acted out a lot of the scenes.  I begged the drama teacher for access to the costume room and found a few hats and paraphernalia to dress up the parts.  The kids are pretty good about volunteering to read parts and although it's slow going, I do believe they are getting the gist of it.  A couple of especially juicy scenes I have had the students all act out in modern language and I also had them pantomime one of Hamlet's famous soliloquies- it was hilarious.  I have found that with high school students it's really amazing what they can do if you make them.


(All pictures of students are used with written permission from parent and student.)

Juniors:
My juniors just finished "reading" The Scarlet Letter.  The Scarlet Letter is a total beast and students typically hate it (Hawthorne- so wordy!  So many descriptions!) so to make it more manageable, I put the students in groups and assign each groups two or three chapters to read and present to the class.  This way the kids get a taste of Hawthorne, but don't have to endure the entirety of the book.  I'm considering scrapping Scarlet Letter all the way next year.  I just don't know if it's worth the trouble.  This year I had the least success of the four years I have taught it this way and I wonder if it's just time to let the old dog die.  I am struggling a bit with my junior class.  In the past I have taught either three or four classes of juniors and it has been my favorite grade to teach.  This year I am only teaching one class so I feel like I can hardly even get my crap figured out before the class is over and my only shot at the lesson is gone.  I tried to get my kids to discuss some of the big issues in the book like "who decides if something is right or wrong," "how does our society alienate groups or people" and "what kind of prejudice do you see then that relates to now."  They only kind of took the bait.

AP Literature:  This class was the toughest for me at the beginning of the year, but I find myself enjoying it the most now, mainly because the curriculum is so free and open.  Obviously I am supposed to be preparing them for the test in May but how I want to do that is totally up to me.  I wish I were given that freedom with my regular classes- "Here's the goal- do whatever you want to get there."  My AP students are still quiet and reserved and often times I will get better discussions from my regular students just because of the number of kids and the different personalities.  But my AP kids are silent geniuses (all eight of them!) and I find myself oddly attaching to them, quietly and slowly.  There are absolute no discipline problems.  (No tardies! No cell phones! No late work!) and they always have their homework in on the day it's due even when I forget to remind them.  Sheesh!  Sign me up for straight AP classes!

They just finished reading Hamlet and for their final test I am making them act out a scene.  The scene has to be 8-10 minutes and has to have exact lines from the play.  I'm even hardcore enough that I am making them memorize their lines from the scene and practice with costumes, a set, the whole shebang.  They have been practicing the last three class periods.  Today it was so cute to see them rehearse- they had all come with their lines memorized and were blocking and acting and quoting Shakespeare and I tried to not look too stupidly proud of them.  Final performances are on Thursday.  I can hardly wait.

33 comments:

  1. Your so beautiful Bonnie! I love your outfits and your style!

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    1. thank you doll! You are so sweet!

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  2. I love your post and your blog! I, too, am an English teacher. Your class sounds like loads of fun! Great ideas! So jealous of the discipline-free class.

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    1. I know, right? It's once in a blue moon you get a class that is that great. I am spoiled with them and trying to not get used to it as it certainly is not the norm!

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  3. From someone who went through the rigorous International Baccalaureate program (similar to the AP system of testing, but not exact) I found that the best thing a teacher could do for me was ask for feedback. This is especially crucial in the month leading up to the exam: ask if they need more practice tests (always. and ALWAYS time them), ask if they want to go over a work again (sometimes I found just discussing a work from Oct with my teacher helped loads), ask if they just want time to study (this is entirely possible, and we, at least, always used the time). You look like you're doing brilliantly, I always love reading these posts!!!

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    1. FANTASTIC suggestions. Thank you so much- I love the idea of reviewing works from earlier in the year because I am worried that the books we read now will be totally forgotten by the time the exam hits. Right now I try to give my students a practice test with 10-13 questions every other week, but I imagine I will be upping this as test time gets closer. Also love the idea of letting them study in class. You are a genius.

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  4. Its funny reading about your struggles with Shakespeare - here in the UK we start young on shakepeare - I studied it from the age of 13 through to 18 - its mandatory. SO I got the delights of Midsummers Night Dream, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Much Ado..... I think there was a lot of love for him though and I remember our classes always seemed to respond to him well (and trust me there werent taught in half as fun a way as your classes are). Maybe it's a brit thing - we are pretty proud but I was feel that although the langiage is difficult his influence on the English language even today is imense! And his themes are still so relevent today - deciet, betrayal, love triangles, affairs etc. I'm not really sure what my point is here I guess it's that some teenagers love Shakespeare and that love carries through.

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    1. I totally agree with you on the importance and relevance of Shakespeare. It's hard to "sell" that on students though, as anything that is extremely challenging like Shakespeare they immediately balk at. I wish we started them younger, like you said, and I wish there were set Shakespeare plays they were required to do with each grade. Now some teachers don't want to deal with Shakespeare so they just don't which makes it that much harder for those of us who do think it's important. I guess I should move to the UK?

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  5. Ah, I remember being one of those Hamlet haters in high school. It was so dry, my teacher was awful. . .I still don't appreciate it. I liked Shakespeare much better when I read it on my own (admittedly, I haven't read many of his works). Taming of the Shrew, Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night might go over well in classes.

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    1. Yes, I think the comedies would for sure be more fun with them. I've taught Midsummer Night's Dream several years to sophomores and they always enjoy it. I wish we had Taming of the Shrew to do- that would be a riot!

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  6. "When we read the declaration of independence and identified the "rhetoric" in the piece today it was cruel and unusual punishment for all of us."

    Although I agree with everything you say at a given with the What We Did In Class posts, this one sentence within its paragraph iced the cake completely for me when it normally comes after reading the entire post. For me, I hate to say, but the government really needs to step out of teaching the new generations simply due to the fact that teenagers only want to learn about the world, not about how to be a drone like those who have to endure life sentences in prisons or on active duty with a drill sergeant down their neck. Students need to learn and grow, so how are they going to do it when they have to be forced into reading something that they can care less about (especially when it concerns governmental issues)? They want to read about LIFE! At least I know I did whenever I was in middle and high school

    Common core will only make students hate learning and school, especially if they have to do busy work after busy work after busy work. Its called hands on for a reason if a school wants each and every child to succeed. I mean granted, I love a mean argumentative essay every now and then along with a packet to just not listen to other students (at least when I was in school), but not each and every day. Another reason I cannot support the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing.

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    1. I agree- there are many problems with the core. To be honest with you, I am not that opposed to it overall and in many aspects I love it. I love that it is challenging and rigorous and will encourage teachers to do even more with students. There is definitely a gap right now from students leaving high school to being ready for college level writing and the goal is that with the core that gap will shrink. My problem with the core is when every aspect of it is "mandatory" and when they start dictating what you need to study and teach. I guess I got too used to my freedom at my old school and have missed being able to be more creative and put my own touch on things.

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  7. Call me crazy, but I think reading the D of I and the Constitution in English class would be kind of call. But that's because I like history. Maybe you could present it in some sort of context to get them interested. I REALLY loved McCullough's John Adams and he has a whole section in there about the D of I, maybe you could read it. It's awesome. Or watch the HBO movie, but it's best to read that part of the book first. Jefferson was an amazing writer. Anyway, kudos to you for teaching the yunguns Shakespeare. DO NOT give up on them because they might not learn to appreciate it until later in life. Teach 'em now, they'll appreciate it later. Just like so many things Mom and Dad tauhgt us, that we rolled our eyes at, and now those teachings and examples are totally part of who we are. You are making more of a difference than you think and I love the costumes and acting it out… how fun! They'll always remember that.

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    1. I think my problem with teaching the D of I is that I am "forced" to teach it and so I act just like any teenager would- I automatically don't like it merely because it's mandatory. I feel like there are so many documents and speeches that are more exciting that we could teach that would get the kids more involved. That's not to say that we should skip the D of I altogether- I believe it certainly has its place and should be taught in schools- I just don't like that they made that the job of the English teachers. History teachers are already accountable for so little (no core, no yearly testing) that it doesn't seem quite fair to thrust that on English teachers.

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  8. cool, not call, obviously.

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  9. I love your posts about your classroom lessons. I'm sorry your district is being such a pain. :(

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  10. Um. Not joking at all when I say that those jeggings from Walmart are my favorite to wear. I own like four different colors now and even thought I avoid shopping at Wallyworld like the plague, I still go in once in a while just to see if they have more for me. It's sad but they're so comfortable!!

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  11. I'm gonna be real blunt:

    10th grade teaches the following books

    1. To Kill a Mockingbird
    2. Julius Caesar (Shakespeare!)
    3. Fahrenheit 451
    4. Count of Monte Cristo
    5. 12 Angry Men
    6. 3 week poetry unit. No, not a book, but definitely literature.

    Additionally, I really love the articles and primary source documents they read in that grade, they read about censorship, free speech, justice and equal rights. That curriculum allows them to see how beautiful literature can make them better and responsible citizens. I truly believe that just literature is not enough, they need those articles on current events to relate the text to themselves, they need to see how other people interpret texts. I'm also a history teacher, and I love using Primary Source documents because it actually allows us to know what people were thinking. Have you ever wondered why Nathaniel Hawthorne hated the Puritans? Read "City on a Hill." Primary sources and literature working together, not against each other in teaching students to love literature.

    Juniors read:

    1. The Scarlet Letter OR The Crucible. I don't like the Scarlet Letter either, so I only teach snippets. Which is an idea totally advocated for in the core.
    2. Huck Finn, which I love. Maybe you don't, but it doesn't make it boring to me or my students. I make that novel come alive because I'm a Huck in a world of kind-hearted Aunt Sallys.
    3. Great Gatsby
    4. Of Mice and Men
    5. Old Man and the Sea OR Much Ado about Nothing. The current core gives us a choice. Shakespeare is great, but he's just one author. I made a choice to focus on someone I consider a hero of modern literature.

    12th Grade

    1. 1984
    2. Lord of the Flies
    3. Grapes of Wrath
    4. Macbeth
    5. Taming of the Shrew
    6. Night







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  12. Looks like our kids are reading way more than the three or four novels you threw out. And if a teacher is only reading three or four, maybe it is because they want to teach something equally relevant and applicable instead. I grow weary of your posts throwing all of us under the bus like mindless district-approved robots who don't love literature as much as you do. Your co-workers, and your students, are not blog fodder. We didn't sign up to have an online presence as the villains and side-kicks in your online play. (Well, I guess your students did, so fine.) :)

    Furthermore, I came and talked to you about how I didn't like the unit on Rhetoric. I offered to collaborate with you to make it better using the core because there is potential in the core to develop creative and engaging lessons. I agree with you, our district it a pain, but I feel like the department has spent a lot of time reaching out to you to make it better and more engaging, and more conducive to your teaching style, and instead I read post after post complaining about how the district won't let you do anything. You don't have to teach the Declaration with regular students. In my class we watched campaign commercials from the last campaign, we looked at rhetoric from movies as well as literature. Yes, I taught Common Sense, but we did a great activity where we wrote our own "common sense" arguments. I was fun and engaging, and guess what, teachers can come up with great stuff even with a difficult district and a complex new core.

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  13. You want to teach Othello? How many times has our department chair offered to buy us any book we wanted, especially since the district hasn't finalized their approved books yet, so we have basically free-range. Yes, this year you might have to teach Hamlet, but that's just this year.

    I've complained to you about the district but I've also talked about how to work within the system to make it better. It is really hard to see a curriculum I helped write and a program I helped create bashed after I've worked really hard to see the flaws and make it better. I hate how our department is reduced to stereotypes like "loud hippie" and "snarky feminist" who just go along with the core because we aren't "creative" or we don't "love literature" like you do.

    I don't think you mean to come across this way, but words have meaning. I know you are frustrated. I'm frustrated too. Public Education is such a beautiful idea that is often so poorly executed. I wish things were different. BUT the core curriculum isn't going anywhere, and I also think it has a lot of good. I like the focus on writing skills, and I like offering my non-novel loving students a variety of literature. I am focusing on seeing the good I can do, working hard to change the crap, and fighting for my right to teach the core to the best of MY knowledge, not some minion at the district's. And I do it without slamming teachers who "don't like reading" or "only teach 3 or 4 novels" or whatever way a teacher utilizes the curriculum differently than me.

    It is my fault for finding your blog, and it is my fault for accidentally alerting the department to it. But we read here. And in wondering why members of our department seem less than willing to reach out, I'd take a look at some of your posts through their eyes.

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  14. I know you mentioned loving E when she blogged more, so it should be a great compliment to you that your written voice is so reminiscent of hers! Maybe for those boring Shakes days you can supplement with those twitter feeds of modern-day translations of what they're saying. Those get me every time, and you get an idea of the characters' personalities more. No?

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    1. The highest of compliments. Thank you so much!

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  15. For what it's worth, my junior year English teacher divided the class up into a few groups and had us each present a few chapters of The Scarlet Letter one another. Granted, that was ten years ago, but I say go for it!

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    1. Perfect! The exact validation that I needed! :)

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  16. High school English class was definitely one of the best parts about high school. I think it's because I was obsessed with my junior year teacher (we still get lunch when I go home now!) - but also because I too am an English nerd... not too big on Shakespeare, but I was actually one of the few weird ones who found Scarlet Letter fascinating (although the one thing I remember extremely clearly from that lesson was that Taylor Swift completely referenced it wrong in Love Story, ha!)

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  17. These are my favorite posts of yours Bonnie! I LOVED highschool english and history classes, so reading whats being taught and discussions being had makes my heart happy :)

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  18. You sound like a pretty awesome teacher! I was a drama nerd who loved Shakespeare in high school (I read Romeo & Juliet at age 11 simply because I found a cheap copy at a used bookstore and was "curious."). Even though I loved the assigned Shakespeare reading, many of my classmates did not and my teachers never made it nearly as interesting as you've done. I can see how a lot of my fellow classmates would've been into it had the class been more interactive (and had our teachers pointed out the sexy time parts). :)

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    1. Wow! I'm impressed! I can't believe you read R & J so young. Did you understand it? Amazing!

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  19. I always enjoy reading what you do in class. They are some of my favorite posts. :) And also your clothing choices. So, today was a bonus because there were both in one post! :D

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    1. Ha! Thank you! I like to wear clothes but I hate taking pictures of them so they don't make the blog too often! :)

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  20. I know you get a million comments a day and you may not even see mine, but I went to Hillcrest High School, right up the road. My junior English teacher started out teaching the Scarlet letter by having us write down a sin we have committed on a identical pieces of paper (so you couldn't tell who's was who's) and we put them all in a basket. She read every slip of paper no matter what it said. It was an eye opening exercise that really started the book off with an understanding of what we were getting into. I love it and I will never forget it. It's what everyone talks about in remember her class. :)

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    1. Katie I love this idea so much! I wish that I had seen it before I started the unit. I will definitely be stowing this idea away for later use. Such a great way to put the whole thing into perspective.

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  21. My charter school, Navigator Pointe Academy, starts Shakespeare in 4th grade (Romeo and Juliet) (5th--Midsummer Night's Dream, 6th--Julius Caesar). My 7th graders are currently reading Twelfth Night and they absolutely LOVE drunk Uncle Toby and Sir Andrew. (They are also enjoying all the innuendos I am pointing out to them and the pantomiming I do for the characters.) They all race to raise their hands to volunteer to read parts. I love the enthusiasm they have for it (and not to toot my own horn, but it's because of how fun I'm making it). My 8th graders have finished Macbeth and my 9th graders will tackle Hamlet next semester. It'll be so interesting to see how they handle it as it is challenging to Seniors! But, it's part of the required curriculum here.
    Our Fairy Tale

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