Mr. Scott

Figurative Language Completion and Hospitality

Everyone, once again, was working on poetry today.

First period finished looking at figurative language today. We ended by adding a poem to the poetry project list of required poems: a poem about urban and/or rural life. (All three poems we read for figurative language dealt with the city.)

One of the poems we read, “Harlem Night Song,” was by Langston Hughes.

Langston Hughes in 1936 Carl Van Vechten
Langston Hughes in 1936, photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Second period looked in depth at the question of hospitality in the opening sections of the second part of the Odyssey. Specifically, students discussed in groups the hospitality shown in Eumaeus’s tent as well as the role hospitality plays in Penelope’s continued patience with her suitors. Students worked on materials for their response journals.

From John Flaxman's illustrations for Odyssey
From John Flaxman's illustrations for Odyssey

Fourth and sixth also continued working on figurative language. Fourth period finished up “Concrete Mixers” and took a quiz, ending the day by looking at personification in “The City is So Big.” Sixth period completed “Concrete Mixers.” Both fourth and sixth periods went over the tests from yesterday as well.

  • First period: write first draft of city poem.
    • Second period:
    • read “Death in the Palace”;
    • possible quiz tomorrow on the reading.
  • Fourth period:
    • read “Harlem Night Song”;
    • find one example of figurative language in the poem;
    • write first draft of city poem.
  • Sixth period:
    • study for vocab quiz (words from “Concrete Mixers”);
    • write first draft of city poem.
Poetry and Homeric Similes

First period finished up the mini-unit on sound devices and moved on to figurative language:

  • simile,
  • metaphor, and
  • personification.

We began by looking at one poem (“Concrete Mixers”) in pairs for examples of all three forms of figurative language.

First period at work
First period at work

We’ll be having a quiz tomorrow on the vocabulary terms in “Concrete Mixers”.

Second period worked on Homeric similes before starting with the second part of the Odyssey. Students discussed examples from the text; afterward, students worked in pairs to create their own examples.

Discussing Homeric Similes
Discussing Homeric Similes

Fourth and sixth periods had short tests on sound devices. After the test, we began working on figurative language.

  • First period: vocabulary quiz tomorrow on “Concrete Mixer” terms.
  • Second period: complete Homeric similes.
  • Fourth period: vocabulary quiz tomorrow on “Concrete Mixer” terms.
  • Sixth periods: none.

No update yesterday as I was at home sick.

Today, fourth and sixth periods went over a review of sound devices and the three poems we used to learn about them.

Second period reviewed the first part of the Odyssey.

Scylla, Charybdis, and Sound Devices

odysseyscyllacharybdisSecond period read one of the most famous episodes in the entire Odyssey: the Sirens, and the passage between Scylla and Charybdis.

First period continued working on sound devices. We also switched at the end of class from examining the language of the poems to examining more carefully the meaning of the poems.

Fourth and sixth periods are continuing with sound devices as well.

  • First period: complete the paraphrase of “Ring Out, Wild Bells!”
  • Second period:
    • complete part one of the Odyssey;
    • prepare outline for discussion (see for details).
  • Fourth and sixth periods: revise your poem about your favorite animal in order to include three of the following four sound devices:
    • alliteration
    • onomatopoeia
    • rhyme
    • rhythm

Images from Wiki Commons

Poetry, the Odyssey, and a Mistaken Allusion

First things first: I made a blunder during second period. We were looking at Odysseus’s journey to the underworld and his meeting with Tiresias. I mentioned the two famous victims of the underworld, Tantalus and Sisyphus; I elaborated on Sisyphus and the 20th-century French philosopher who designated him an “absurd hero.” I attributed this to Jean Paul Sartre.

551px-punishment_sisyphSisifo, olio su tela di Tiziano Vecellio

Sartre?! What was I thinking? Sartre is the heavily analytic, dense existentialist; it’s the man that wrote L’Être et le Néant (Being and Nothingness) — not exactly the easiest read in the world.

It was Camus who was more literary in his presentation of existenialism.

412px-johann_heinrich_fussli_063Johann Heinrich Füssli
Theresias erscheint dem Ulysseus während der Opferung

Naturally this is an oversimplification. Sartre wrote plays — No Exit and Nausea come to mind — as well as philosophical monographs. He wrote literature, but he wasn’t quite as literary as Camus.

All that aside, I wanted to make the correction. I’m sure Sartre would be flattered, but my philosophy professor from college would be horrified.

First period continued with sound devices; fourth and sixth periods began working with sound devices. All three periods working with sound devices are doing group work, and quite successfully, I might add.

  • First period: vocabulary handout.
  • Second period: five-panel storyboard of your vision of the meeting with Tiresias.
  • Fourth and sixth periods: write poem about your favorite animal.

First period worked on poetry. Specifically, we finished up the selections by Jacqueline Woodson and began the next collection of three poems.

Second period spent some time in the library doing research for their cyclops poem and project.

Fourth and sixth periods looked at a second poem by Jacqueline Woodson, “Almost a Summer Sky.” We used this to examine:

  • simile,
  • repetition,
  • and free verse.
  • First period: complete reading the three poems from class (roughly 600-606).
  • Second period: none specifically for tomorrow (standing assignment: cyclops poem/project)
  • Fourth and sixth periods: answer questions on pages 227-229 in workbook.

First, fourth, and sixth periods worked on poetry, specifically Jacqueline Woodson’s “Describe Someone.” We practiced as a class revising lines to add alliteration and consonance. Students will be doing the same to their own poems for homework.

Second period went over the Cyclops episode in the Odyssey.

  • First period:
    • read “Summer Sky”;
    • answer questions on pages 227-229 in workbook.
  • Second period:
    • semi-long term assignments (part of reader response journals for Odyssey):
      • a poem from the cyclop’s point of view;
      • read page 809 then work on the question of hospitality as it’s presented throughout the Odyssey;
    • for Monday: read “The Witches’ Circle”
  • Fourth and sixth periods: work on adding consonance and alliteration to your poem.

Second period began looking at the elements of the Coen brothers’ film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? that are taken directly from the Odyssey. We’ll be watching five scenes, and we began today with the Coen brothers’ take on the Lotus Eaters.

First period worked on a rather lengthy quiz, then created signs in Microsoft Publisher for our bulletin board on poetry.

Fourth and sixth periods began poetry by looking at consonance and alliteration, two sound devices used in our first poems. Then we watched a short video in which a poet, Jacqueline Woodson, described her work as a poet.

  • First period: none.
  • Second period: read the section on the cyclops.
  • Fourth and sixth periods:
    • write a poem that describes someone;
    • complete “Works Cited” page (to be turned in tomorrow)
Poetry, Poetry, Poetry Everywhere

All classes are working on poetry. First period has spent a couple of days doing a refresher on the basic elements of poetry. We’ll have a quiz tomorrow.

Fourth and sixth periods began poetry today. We took a leisurely time discussing poetry and what it is for us personally.

Second period is working on the poem, the foundation of Western literature: the Odyssey. Today we finished up Odysseus’s adventures with Calypso, comparing what we read in the epic with Suzanne Vega’s song “Calypso.” I would quote the relevant portions, but this is what I got when I went to find the lyrics online:


You can find the lyrics here.

  • First period: quiz tomorrow on basic terms.
  • Second period: complete reading “I am Laertes’ son.”
  • Fourth and sixth periods: none.

First period began the poetry unit by looking at several elements of poetry, including:

  • consonnance
  • assonance
  • alliteration
  • simile
  • metaphor
  • personification

Second period began reading the Odyssey after we had a quiz on it.

Fourth and sixth periods completed their work on their “Works Cited” page.

No homework for any classes today.

First period completed a second round of MAP testing. We were unable to do anything else today.

Second period began the Odyssey. We looked at elements of the epic form and discussed the background to the Odyssey.

Fourth and sixth periods worked on creating “Works Cited” pages.

  • First period: none
  • Second period:
    • vocabulary work;
    • study for quiz.
  • Fourth period: create “Works Cited” page for research project (project due Monday 8 December).
  • Sixth period: none.

First period had a class meeting, as did fourth. We also did some self-evaulations.

  • First period: complete final draft of research paper, complete with “Works Cited” page.

Today’s starter had puns and possessive phrases; several students asked, “What’s a pun?” and others were confused about ‘s versus s’, so we did a quick lesson on puns and apostrophes in first period. This meant a change in lesson plans, and it meant the EQ didn’t really match up with the work we actually did.

  • First period: complete “Works Cited” page

First period began revising their research papers. Fourth and sixth periods applied yesterday’s lesson to their own papers.

EQs were the same as yesterday.

No homework.

The Mountain

1It seemed we would never reach the top. The winding mountain road in central Slovakia would pose no problem to a motorized vehicle, but after seventy miles on a bike, I was wondering whether we could make it. My wife — then only my girlfriend — probably felt the same way. The journey, even if we made it to the top, couldn’t be considered a success; it was a question of brute survival.

We’d started off in the morning in Poland. The plan was to ride through Slovakia, into Hungary, and spend several days in Budapest. We were a little behind schedule due to rain and an unexpected break as we waited out the cloud burst. For most of the day, though, the road had been easy going: fairly flat, some downhill portions, a climb or two. Nothing serious.

That was before we hit the mountain. It sneaked up on us, really: we felt a gradually increasing incline, and like two frogs in boiling water, we were in danger before we realized danger was approaching.

On two packed bikes, we were struggling fairly quickly after the realization that we were riding up a mountain, not a hill. Each pedal stroke became a battle, and the veins in our temples bulged and quivered as they tried to carry our blood at the furious pace our heart was beating. Our lungs began to burn, then simply went numb as the heavy, post-rain, damp air practically strangled us. Our legs followed suit: first a tingle, then a burn, followed by flames and complete numbness.

2With every switch-back, we were sure it had to be the last; time and time again, we were almost knocked off our bikes by the sight of another uphill stretch concluding with another switch-back. “Maybe that one is the last one,” I said to my girlfriend. When it wasn’t, I’d repeat the speculation on the next one, often following it with a skeptical laugh.

What we both knew we couldn’t do was stop. It wasn’t some kind of macho, push through the pain nonsense. No — the simple truth of the matter is that stopping only makes it worse. Muscles cool down and the pedaling becomes more painful after the break. There’s only one thing to do: be macho and push through the pain.

After a while, though, cyclists climbing seemingly endless inclines stop thinking about reaching the top. Goals become short term: “Just make it to that twig that’s lying in the road twenty-five meters in front of me.” The instant disappearance of pain when stopping is tempting, but one makes an honest effort to go a little further: “Before I can possibly consider stopping, I have to make it to that tree.” And once the goal is accomplished, one thinks, “well, perhaps a little further.”

3At that point, a strange thing happens: the pain becomes enjoyable. There are all kinds of physiological explanations for the euphoria athletes feel when the pain becomes pleasure, but at least part of it is mental. The surety of completing short-term goals and the realization of how many such goals have already been reached transforms the pain into a sure sign — symbol, if one wants to get metaphysical — of one’s ability and a confirmation that one’s self-confidence is not misplaced.

It’s something we can apply to life: a series of short-term goals adds up to a large accomplishment. Focusing on the here and now, concentrating on getting through the present pain, we find ourselves enjoying even pain.

We finally made it to the top, and just to the right was a hotel. “We’re staying here,” I said, knowing we were still fifteen miles from our planned stopping point. “I know,” said a voice behind me.

If you’d asked me that night, I would have said that success is indeed a destination. Success is finally lying down on a bed after climbing a seemingly endless mountain. Two days after that, I would have said that success is finally walking down a street in Budapest, looking for a cheap restaurant.

But when I recall the whole trip, I think back to that mountain, and how some part of me wanted it never to end.