Thursday, February 19, 2009

Eugenia Collier, Shakespeare, and Buying a House

Overwhelmed is an understatement. Buying a new house (I've decided on one), deciding on a mortgage (haven't decided on one), with the start of baseball season (and an end to any time at all) staring me down in my face, coming on Feb. 28... it's all been a lot. I've been leaving every day at around 3 o'clock, to look at houses and meet with mortgage people, and the work at school is piling up. I'm trying not to collect as much - I ordered a customized stamp and have been stamping homework, then having them turn it in at the end of a larger assignment.

I pour everything into planning during times like this. My King Lear unit is turning into one of my favorite of all time. I'm using the TSI Shakespeare stuff a whole lot. For the last two classes, I divided the class of ~30 into three groups, and they're each putting on their own rendition of Act 3.7, which is the big Gloucester eye-gouging scene. It's probably the most horrific and violent scene written in literature, or close to it (longtime readers will know why I'm so sensitive about scenes with eyes), and it's fun seeing the kids wrap their minds around it. I set the three directors, and it's fun to see them work through it. Groups were assigned on Tuesday, and students were expected to know their characters very well, as well as the scene, and today I overheard a director telling a group, "Could y'all just please read this scene and make sure you understand it before we meet again because this isn't working?" and it's so nice for students to hear that from a fellow student and not me. Performances are Monday.

With the 9th graders, I'm doing a little coming-of-age short story unit. This week, we read Eugenia Collier's "Marigolds," one of my favorite stories. I know Ms. Collier - I've had her visit my classes before - and I know the story like the back of my hand. Today, I had my students work on writing a commentary about a passage from the story. She does so much with sound, it's pretty cool and such a wonderful little story. Next week, we're doing James Hurst's "The Scarlet Ibis," which is a similarly really, really sad story, this one even sadder than "Marigolds."

While we're reading the textbooks in class, students are writing a personal essay at home. With our study of To Kill a Mockingbird we focused on three main questions: First, how do people learn about others different from themselves? Secondly, what lessons should fathers (or adult male characters) teach their children, and what lessons should adult female characters teach children? And third, what moments in a person's life make them grow up? Students wrote on one of those three topics in a literary essay, and now they're choosing one of them to turn it back on themselves. They are writing about a time in their life when they learned to see the world from someone different's perspective, or about an older mentor who helped guide them somehow, or about a coming-of-age moment in their life.

Students are basically doing one part of the writing process at home most nights, and I am trying to remember how one should teach a personal essay. It's been a while. I've spent most of my writing assignments in recent years on analysis instead of personal essays, and have sort of forgotten. The assignment is kind of creating itself as I go, but that's okay; the kids are into it and I'm trying to help them create good products.

That's life in the world of Bmoreteach right now.

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