Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Welcome MSSM!

As you watch the video above by spoken-word artist Prince Ea ("Can We Autocorrect Humanity?"), comment on anything that seems important to you, familiar, or something you might do yourself. If you can make connections with the images we looked at from Eric Pickersgill, that would be especially great, and I know you will see them!

Remember: there are no right or wrong answers! The idea is to make observations and think about what has meaning to us.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of "Live Tweeting," it looks something like this:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

AP English Croquet Party!

Be there, or be square!
—Your Super Cool English Teacher, Dr. B.

Green Bean Casserole by Timothy Farrelly

Tim's Green Bean Casserole (taken in class, Thursday, June 15th!). Great job Tim!
It’s a chilly Thanksgiving evening on Vinalhaven, Maine, and my family and I are around the dining room table. My mom and others have just finished cooking dinner, and Green Bean Casserole will be served. Of course the other common Thanksgiving foods will be served as well: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and more, but the Green Bean Casserole is my chief focus. Baked Green Bean Casserole with French cut green beans and French’s Fried Onions is ready when the creamy mushroom sauce bubbles.

I’m not sure how I came to like this dish so much, nor can I remember the first time I had it. There was probably a time, when I was younger, that I thought it was gross by the mixture of the green and brown colors. Now I know having bright green in a dish is a good thing because it means it is healthy and fresh.

However I do remember the first time I helped make it. My mom and I were in our kitchen and she walked me through the steps as I did them. “Don’t use that many onions!” she instructed. Through my mom’s guidance, I realized cooking meals like Green Bean Casserole is not too hard.

Green Bean Casserole
  • 1 (14 oz) bag of French cut green beans
  • 1 (10.5 oz) can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • ⅓ cup of milk
  • 1 dash of black pepper
  • 1 (16 oz) can of French’s Fried Onions

How to make it
  1. Place the frozen beans into a bowl to thaw.
  2. Combine the cream of mushroom soup, milk, black pepper, and half of the French’s fried onions into a separate bowl; mix with the green beans when they’re thawed.
  3. Spray 9x9-in. baking dish with cooking spray and fill with green bean mixture.
  4. Top with remaining French’s onions and bake in oven at 350℉ for 30 minutes. Serve when onions are brown and sauce is bubbling.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

AP English: Maurice Sendak (Part 2)

In yesterday's class, we worked on the first two parts of our creative writing project: steps 2 and 3 of our children's book assignment, here.  You selected your conflict (step 2) and organized your plot (step 3). Many of you also posted step 4, which was to identify your main characters.

For today, we will begin class by finishing Stephen Colbert's 2012 interview with literary giant Maurice Sendak (here) and I will show you my own copy of I Am a Pole (and So Can You!).

When we are finished, please get with your partners and jump into steps 4 and 5. Step 5 is now the most important: Write a rough draft. Make sure to confine yourself to twenty pages (see the back of your assignment sheet) and let me know if you have any questions.  When you are done, please post your answers to steps 4 and 5 in the comments section below.

English Essentials: Topic Sentences

As we continue our work this week revising and workshopping your papers on Chris Kyle, I thought it would be a good idea to review Topic Sentences.

Now, a lot of you know what a topic sentence is: it's the first sentence of each of your body paragraphs that says what your paragraph will discuss. Topic sentences, however, are not just that simple! They involve a very clear set of characteristics that we will discuss and check in our papers today.

For today, please watch the video above and in the comments section below write the topic sentence for one of your body paragraphs. Be sure to identify your important parts: Topic and Main Point. For example, if I looked at my first body paragraph in the paper I wrote in class, this is what I would post:

Topic Sentence 1: In order to understand how Kyle changes over the course of American Sniper, readers must first understand the Christian values instilled in him by his father and his mother: to help others and to protect members of their community.

Topic: how Kyle changes over the course of American Sniper.
Main Point: the Christian values instilled in him by his father and mother: to help others and to protect members of their community.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

AP English: Writing Your Own Children's Book

Part 1 of my favorite 2012 interview with Maurice Sendak (author of Where the Wild Things Are) with Stephen Colbert.

My lovely AP students, I was so moved yesterday when we went down to the library, pulled out some children's book and began to read. It felt like that day in elementary school and when your teacher says, "We're going to the library!" and every kid jumps up from their desk and says, "Yay!" As I looked around the library yesterday, you were all laughing and excited about the stories you were reading, and something suddenly became clear: some of our favorite books are not long, three-volume Victorian novels, but those written for children.

Today, we will be finishing step two of our Children's Book Project (assignment sheet here), making an outline of the story. I encourage you all to also finish step three, characters, so you are ready to jump into the rough draft tomorrow.

For today, we will warm-up by watching this 7-minute interview (Part 1) of Stephen Colbert's interview with children's book author Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, which was first published in 1963, and very much like Lewis Carroll's Alice stories, still resonates with us today.

When we are done, get with your partner and complete step 2 (and 3 if you can) from your assignment sheet. Post your answers in the comments section below to turn in your assignment.

Standard/Rubric for this Assignment (here)
W3, "I can write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences."

Monday, June 5, 2017

Coach Carter Writing Prompts (11/12 English)

In Friday's class, a very persuasive young man convinced me to let us watch more of the 2005 movie Coach Carter so that we would have lots to write about in our next writing prompt. First, bravo for showing me your persuasive speaking and listening skills! I love how you showed our class we were part of a team making a group decision.

Now the time has come to discuss what we've learned in our most recent viewing. Please pick one of the following prompts and answer in your journals. If you finish early, please go back and answer my most recent questions, or pick another prompt!

1) Why does Coach Carter ask, "What's your deepest fear?" to his athletes? Does this motivate them? Why or why not?

2) Is a Coach's job just "to win basketball games" like Carter's principal suggests?

3) How does a Coach know to give a player a second chance?

4) What does it mean to act like winners? Cruz: "Coach, we undefeated; we won the Championship. Isn't that what you wanted? Winners?"

AP English: Adaptations of the Croquet Match in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Writing Prompt:
As we close in on the end of our discussion of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it is time for us to look at my (Dr. Brigman's) favorite scene: the croquet match with the Queen of Hearts that goes incredibly wrong. 

As time changes, so do the characters in the stories we tell, and I find the changes to Alice's foreboding, hot-headed queen some of the most interesting! I have often thought Carroll (and his illustrator, John Tenniel), based her off of the most famous queen of their Day: Queen Victoria.

Do you see the similarity between the image (above) and the one Tenniel illustrated (below)?

Clip from the 1951 Disney animated feature, Alice in Wonderland.

2010 Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland featuring Helena Bonham Carter (Tim Burton's wife!) as the Queen of Hearts.

Questions for Discussion:
1) In your opinion, which Queen of Hearts is the most like the one that appears in Chapter 8, "The Queen's Croquet Ground" (60-67)? Please use specific textual evidence.

2) Vice versa, which Queen of Hearts is the least like the one that appears in Chapter 8?

3) Pick one of the two Queen of Hearts we saw today and discuss appropriation. Remember: appropriation means, "to take something and make it your own." What was the creator (either Tim Burton or Walt Disney) taking? What were they making their own? What do you think the creator was trying to accomplish with this version? 

4) Lastly, why a Queen of Hearts?

English Essentials: Writing Workshop

Writing Prompt:
All of last week, we participated in an intensive, collaborative writing workshop. Each of you put copies of your rough draft up on the projector and we discussed your thesis statements, topic sentences, evidence, and ideas.

For today, we will do something a little bit different.  I want you to spend 20 minutes doing the following:

1) Write down your answer to the question, "How does Chris Kyle change?"

Your answer should look like this: "Chris Kyle changes through ___, ___, and ___." Each blank will be one of the arguments you make your body paragraphs.

For example:

Chris Kyle changes through the lessons his father teaches him about protecting those who are weaker than himself, the lessons he learns as the number one sniper for the US military, and the discovery that he can still be a sheepdog protecting his family and military veterans at home.

2) Then, spend the next 15-20 minutes writing quietly. You should focus on making sure you explain how the evidence in each paragraph answers this question.

After your quiet writing, we'll pick a volunteer and put your answers on the board, workshopping for the rest of class.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

AP English: Cheshire Cat

Hands down, the Cheshire Cat remains one of the most iconic images from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He speaks in riddles, floats through the air, and grins without stopping. What makes him so interesting is often hard to describe, and there are many ways to read this magical, mysterious, and curious character.

For today, watch the following clips and answer the discussion questions in the comments section below. Pay close attention to how the Cheshire Cat is characterized and how he is like/unlike the one represented in our books.

1951 scene from Disney's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton's 2010 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

1999 Cheshire Cat scene from the made-for-TV movie Alice in Wonderland

Questions for Discussion:
1) In your opinion, which cat (from the above adaptations) is most like the one that appears in Chapter VI of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Please use specific textual evidence to support your ideas.

2) Which cat is the least like Carroll's Cheshire cat? Why?

3) Pick your favorite Cheshire Cat quote. Explain the nonsense and the logic behind it.

4) Lastly, why a Cheshire cat?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

9/10 English: You Are the Heroes

Last week, we began our Freedom Writers narrative writing experience, looking back at the experiences of the students in Room 203 in Mrs. Gruwell's English class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles.  One of the scenes that has always stood out to me is the moment in which Miep Gies, the woman who housed Anne Frank during World War II, tells the students: "You are the heroes."

Today, we will rewatch this powerful scene (along with the Anne Frank scenes before it). Then, we will answer the questions below.

1) Pick one or two similarities between the lives of the students in Mrs. G's classroom and Anne Frank. Explain how those experiences are similar (at least three sentences).
2) Think about the following quote from Miep Gies. What does she mean by "turn on a small light in a dark room?"

3) Think about Miep Gies's quote: "You are the heroes." How does she define hero?

A Very "Unbirthday Party": Appropriations of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Last week, we looked at a number of adaptations of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (here).  Iconic scenes like the journey through the rabbit hole and the caterpillar's inquisitive remarks, "Who are you," tell us a lot about the world Alice envisions whether she is underground or above it.

For today, we will look at one of the most famous: the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Please watch the following clips and answer the discussions questions in the comments section below. You may wish to reference your notes from last week on child logic, nonsense, and storytelling.

1951 Disney adaptation, Alice in Wonderland.

2010 Tim Burton adaptation, Alice in Wonderland

A lesser-known made-for-TV movie adaptation from 1999, Alice in Wonderland featuring Tina Majorino, Whoopi Goldberg, and Martin Short as the Mad Hatter.

1) Pick an illustration from our Norton Editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. What visual similarities do you see between the John Tenniel's illustrations and one of the adaptations from above? (e.g., Disney's 1951, Tim Burton's 2010, or 1999 TV movie)

2) In your opinion, which adaptation follows the storyline the closest? What is kept the same, and therefore, stays true to the story? Why would the creators keep this part of the story?

3) Vice versa, in your opinion, which adaptation is the farthest from the original storyline? What is made to be different, and therefore, changes the story? Why would the creators have changed this part of the original story? What might be their aim?

4) Lastly, why a tea party?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Business Writing: Ann Taylor Pittman's "Mississippi Chinese Lady Goes Home to Korea"

In Friday's class, we handed out copies of Ann Taylor Pittman's 2013 James Beard Award-Winning article, "Mississippi Chinese Lady Goes Home to Korea."  One of the topics we discussed was how recipes tell stories--some, more than others. When authors write recipes, a magical process occurs in which they become part of the recipe's story and the recipe itself.

As we will look at the article more closely, here are some of the questions I want us to discuss:

1) What is Pittman's relationship to the South? Where did she grow up?
2) What does she mean when she defines herself as a "southerner?"
3) What does Pittman mean when she says, "I love the South, long for Mississippi, feel the South ever-present in my blood and soul?"
4) How do the places we grow up influence our relationship to food?
5) Compared to the South, how is Seoul characterized?
6) Why does Pittman feel like an outsider and an insider in Korea?

Homework for tonight:
Create a story for the recipe you have chosen as your summative assessment. If it was given to you by a family member, think about the family story your recipe tells.  If it's one you got online, think about how the recipe ties into the food your family makes. 

For example, my mother always made Louisiana recipes that were amazing--red beans and rice, blackened fish--but she wasn't much of a baker. If I were to craft a recipe for homemade cupcakes, I wouldn't be able to use her as an example, but I could use what she was really good at making: "a talented chef, Rebecca Brigman had a knack for spicy, Cajun cooking, but never baked from scratch. The only cakes she ever made came out of a box."

Do you see how I don't have a family story about baking, but I do have a story? Take a shot at it! I can't wait to see what you bring in tomorrow!
-Dr. B.

11/12 English: The Coaches that Inspire Us

Writing Prompt:
Over the last couple of weeks, I've really enjoyed getting to read your journals from the Freedom Writers activity.  I've learned a lot about each of you, and one thing has become pretty apparent: some of the most influential people in your lives are teachers and coaches.

For the next week, we will be exploring this topic--the importance and impact coaches have on us--and looking into the ways you have been motivated and inspired to do your best.

While you can write any anything about the scenes we saw from the movie today, here are two writing prompts to get you started. Please pick one of the following and write in your personal journals.

1) Compare Coach Carter with one of your coaches (e.g., basketball, baseball, soccer).

2) Why does Coach Carter's players do what he says? They're resistant at first, but begin to follow his rules and instructions. Why is that?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Writing Workshop with Dr. B.: "A Mind at Work"

For today's class, we are going to do something a little bit different. Rather than have you do the writing, Dr. B. is going to show you how she would outline and write an essay on complex characterization.  Your job for today is to watch the process that unfolds as she

1) reads through the prompt,
2) identifies the question that needs to be answered,
3) breaks down the passages she selects, and
4) answers the question.

In the comments section below, comment on anything you notice or find important in Dr. Brigman's technique.  Some questions you might consider are the following: how does she break down the question? How does she jump into the writing task? What can you do during class tomorrow and all of this week exam that will involve the same strategies?

You might also consider Amanda Vickery's advice, "a mind at work." What does Dr. B. do that shows you (and readers) her mind is "at work" while answering the question?

For help with Live Commenting as a workshop strategy, please see previous examples from Dr. B's period 2 English class here.

Update 5/24/17: Here is the rough draft of the essay Dr. B. did in class yesterday.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole: Adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

1951 opening credits to Disney's Alice in Wonderland.
Writing Activity:
For today's class, we will be falling down the rabbit hole with Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  I want us to begin by looking at the opening credits of the 1951 Disney animated feature, Alice in Wonderland, and discussing the ways Disney has appropriated Carroll's story.  When we are finished, please answer the following questions in the comments section below.

1) What visual similarities do you see between Carroll's (and illustrator John Tenniel's) Alice and Disney's Alice?
2) Does the movie follow the story, characterization, and dialogue closely? Why or why not?

2010 opening credits from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (Disney).

3) What major changes does Tim Burton make to Alice's journey down the rabbit hole?
4) What is lost and what is gained by these changes?
5) Lastly, why a rabbit hole?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Getting to Know Lewis and Alice: Who Was Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell?

Before we fall down the metaphorical "rabbit hole" with Alice, we must first learn a little bit about the life of Lewis Carroll and who the infamous Alice Liddell was that inspired Carroll to write Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

For today, watch 5-10 minutes of The Secret Life of Lewis Carroll. Then, listen as Dr. B. explains a few theories about Carroll's relationships with children, stammering, and storytelling. (Video on stammering, here.)

When we are done, answer all of the discussion questions below.

1) Who was Alice Liddell?
2) How did Carroll and Liddell meet?
3) What drew Carroll to Alice?
4) What made Alice different from the other children?
5) According to scholars in The Secret Life of Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is the "third most-quoted book after the Bible and Shakespeare."  Do you agree with this claim? Why or why not (be specific)?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Narrative Writing: Reimagining The Hobbit

This weekend, I got to thinking about the story of The Hobbit, and how it would be different if it was told from the perspective of one of the story's other characters (i.e., Gandalf, Gollum, Bombur, Thorin, you name it).  As the main character, Bilbo plays an important role in how the story is told: we are sympathetic to him, understand his logic, and find his "hobbitness" incredibly endearing and heroic.  But how would Bilbo look if Bombur described him? Would he be the same hero Tolkien describes? Or, would he seem frustrating, small, and furry if told from the perspective of an elegant elf or a burly dwarf?

For all of this week, you and a partner will be writing an imaginative piece of literature in which you re-write the story of The Hobbit from the perspective of one of the book's other characters.  Your story may be as long or as short you like and discuss any part of the book.

Please use dialogue, specific details, and setting.  Your character's perspective should be believable and give your reader a new perspective on the same story.


VHS.11-12.W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Download here.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

English Essentials: Understanding How Characters Change

In yesterday's class, we discussed some of the ways Chris Kyle has changed over the course of the book (and movie).  Because round characters can be seen from all sides, we get a sense of the emotions they experience as they go through major life changes.  For example, when Kyle's wife says that his "hands feel different" after his first tour of Iraq, the audience is getting a clue that Kyle is not the same man that went off to war.  His physical change represents his actual change as a soldier (and sniper).  This change is further emphasized when Kyle becomes a father only a few minutes later in the movie.

Writing Activity:
For today, find a specific example of how Kyle changes in the book American Sniper and explain how he has changed from the man he was before that incident took place. Make sure to use a quote, cite your page number, and discuss the way Kyle changes in the quote.  Give your reader an explicit explanation ("word for word") and an  implicit explanation (implied meaning in the quote).

When you have explained Kyle's change, compare it to the movie. How is this change represented in the movie? Is it different (or the same) in any important ways?

Post your response in the comments section below. Be sure to check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar.  You will receive a summative score for L1 (rubric here) and RL3 (rubric here).

Then, respond to your classmates with a specific and meaningful comment.

Monday, May 8, 2017

11/12 English: Freedom Writers Journaling Activities

As we continue to discuss the work Erin Gruwell has done with Freedom Writers, I am increasingly interested in what stories you have to tell. For each day this week, you are going to keep a journal that gives me some idea about the story of your lives.

Pick one of the following prompts and write in the journals I gave you today.  Please leave them in my classroom in the box I have set aside.  No one will see these but me!

Writing Prompts:
  1. Write about a time when you made a snap-judgment about someone, thinking they were different than who they actually were.  Discuss who you thought they were and who they ended up being when you got to know them. Think: Mrs. Gruwell before her students understood her—who did they think she was before they go to know her? Who did they think she was after they saw the real Mrs. Gruwell?
  2. Consider some interaction you have had with a person from the “wrong” race, religion, or part of society. Tell a story about your interaction. Stretch your imagination and try to tell the same story from their point of view.
  3. Write about a period in your life when you felt stuck behind a façade (an outward appearance that was hiding who you really were), in which others saw you differently than you saw yourself. Write a story about taking off that mask.
  4. Write a story about a person who made a difference in your life.
  5. Write a story about an event that made a difference in your life.