effective readers’ skills

English I Honors students looked at their first formal poetic form, the villanelle. We came up with a few rules for villanelles after looking at three of them, including a poem we’d already explored.

English 8 students read chapter 6 of Nightjohn and began reviewing for the coming test this week on effective readers’ skills, the novel, and our stems.

  • English 8 Studies: complete the work begun in class.
  • English I Honors: continue working on the short story project, due Wednesday.
Tonal Shift and Chapter Five

English 8 students continued working with Nightjohn, working through chapter five, the final long chapter.

English I Honors students began looking at Billy Collins’s “The Lanyard,” going over the homework and discovering a few new things.


Afterward, they got turned loose on their own with a new poem for complete analysis, Billy Collins’s “Forgetfulness.”

  • English 8 Studies: none.
  • English I Honors: complete the analysis of “Forgetfulness” by answering the following questions:
    • Where is the tonal shift?
    • What is the tone above the shift?
    • What is the tone below the shift?
    • What constitutes the epiphany of the lyric moment?

English 8 students began working on chapter four from Nightjohn. We’re having a final practice of effective readers’ skills before next week’s test.

English I Honors students began looking at the question of tone in a poem. We’ll move to tonal shift tomorrow as we begin looking for the lyric moment.

  • English 8 Studies: none.
  • English I Honors: complete the work with “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” from class.
Poetry and Finishing Chapter 3

English 8 students finished working on effective readers’ skills and chapter three from Nightjohn. We’ll be moving on to the next chapter tomorrow after we debrief today’s work.


English I Honors students began our new unit, which focuses on poetry. We started with “Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry.”

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

We’ll be looking at other poems through out the next weeks, applying the same process to increasingly difficult work.

  • English 8 Studies: none.
  • English I Honors: complete the paragraph on irony or symbolism analyzing “The Necklace” or “The Gift of the Magi.”
Socratic Planning and Effective Readers' Skills

English 8 students continued with their effective readers’ skills work for chapter three of Nightjohn.


English I Honors students had a Socratic Seminar to discuss the two stories students have to choose from for their final writing in the short story unit.

  • English 8 Studies: none.
  • English I Honors: write the final paragraph about irony or symbolism in either “The Necklace” or “The Gift of the Magi.”
Character and Effective Readers

ernest hemingway photo
Photo by The U.S. National Archives

English I Honors continued with their short stories unit by looking at the next story, “The Old Man on the Bridge” by Hemingway. English 8 students worked with effective readers’ skills.

  • English 8 Studies: complete today’s in-class work on slave codes and effective readers’ skills.
  • English I Honors: find three pieces of evidence in the text (download here) that the old man has lost his family and is caring for the animals because they’re all that’s left him.

English 8 students began a text on slave codes (available here) in anticipation of our first novel, Nightjohn. We also began our year-long use of effective readers’ skills (download here) with the slave codes text.

English I Honors students began their first online workshop experience via Moodle. Students will be assessing each other in order to provide future feedback.

  • English 8 Studies: work on the article of the week, due tomorrow, as necessary.
  • English I Honors: 
    • turn in your piece on “Harrison Bergeron” or “The Most Dangerous Game” at the Moodle site if you have not already (you have only until 5:00-ish this evening as it was to be done for class);
    • begin assessing (after 5:00 when the workshop phase has been switched back to “Assess”).

English 8 students worked on effective readers’ skills and text elements with a piece about the rise of anti-Semitism in contemporary Germany. Students in English I Honors worked on transitional elements between paragraphs.

  • English 8 Strategies: 
    • complete today’s text (1.9);
    • complete the article of the week.
  • English 8 Studies: 
    • complete today’s text;
    • complete the article of the week.
  • English I Honors: complete the article of the week.
Soliloquy and Text Structures

English 8 students completed the fourth signpost, the “Memory Moment” signpost. We applied it to the most recent scene we’d read in Diary of Anne Frank and then shifted our focus to informational texts for a little bit. We looked at text elements such as pull quotes and captions, and then we began applying the tried and true effective readers’ skills to the text, which was about the rise of anti-Semetism in Germany over the last few years.

English I Honors students looked closely at Juliet’s soliloquy just before she fakes her own death.

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Notes from Seventh Period
  • English 8 Strategies: 
    • complete number three from today’s in-class work (the text mentioned above);
    • continue working on the article of the week.
  • English 8 Studies: continue working on the article of the week.
  • English I Honors: 
    • draft some points you would make regarding the question of whether or not Juliet should have faked her death;
    • make sure you’ve completed the play;
    • continue working on the article of the week.
Class Notes

Notes for the day's classes are available here.

Please note that this is a composite file including notes from all classes, though occasionally it might only be one or two classes. I don't differentiate in the file; that is up to you to do.

Anne Frank and a Comparison

English Studies students (fifth period) looked at an actual diary entry from Anne’s diary that corresponds with what we’ve been reading in class. While they compared that with our play text, I had time to consult one-on-one with students regarding their classwork/homework from yesterday, which was actually to annotate the diary entry using our Effective Readers’ Skills. We went over our next focus skill, which is monitoring comprehension and fixing up problems by looking at one passage in the diary entry:

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English Strategies students (fourth period) worked on their first summary for Anne Frank.

Connotation Completion, Project Completion, and a Facebook Page

English Strategies students (fourth period) worked on some culminating work for Nightjohn by creating Facebook pages for various characters in the novel. It was a fun activity that made sure all students had a firm grasp on the plot, characters, and setting of the story.

English Studies students (fifth period) had a final day to work on projects.

English I Honors students finished up “Those Winter Sundays1-Fullscreen capture 10142015 33516 PM

We’ll be turning to sound devices and tone next week.

English I Honors continued with the poetry work, still focusing on connotations. Our poem for this has been Robert Hayden’s excellent “Those Winter Sundays.”

English Studies (fifth period) completed the comparison work with Nightjohn and the film version. We’ll be creating an argument about this tomorrow and in the first days back from fall break.

English Strategies (fourth period) worked on the final chapters of Nightjohn, still applying effective readers’ skills to the selections.


English Studies (fifth period) began looking at the film version of Nightjohn to compare it to the book. We’ll be working on this all week.

English Strategies (fourth period) completed chapter five, with a few comprehension questions and some more theme work.

English I Honors began looking at the role connotation plays in poetry by looking at Lorna Dee Cervantes’ poem “Starfish.”

They were lovely in the quartz and jasper sand
As if they had created terrariums with their bodies
On purpose; adding sprigs of seaweed, seashells,
white feathers, eel bones, miniature
mussels, a fish jaw. Hundreds; no-
thousands of baby stars. We touched them,
surprised to find them soft, pliant, almost
living in their attitudes. We would dry them, arrange them,
Form seascapes, geodesics…We gathered what we could
In the approaching darkness. then we left hundreds of
thousands of flawless five-fingered specimens sprawled
Along he beach as far as we could see, all massed
Together: little martyrs, soldiers, artless suicides
In lifelong liberation from the sea. So many
Splayed hands, the tide shoveled in.

We focused on the words “martyrs” and “shoveled” (bold in the poem above).

  • English 8 Strategies: none.
  • English 8 Studies: complete the themes project by Wednesday.
  • English I Honors: complete the poetry forum question for “Starfish” and then respond to three others’ replies.
Introduction, Project, and Summaries

English I Honors dug into Billy Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry.” We used some of the basic skills of poetic interpretation and came up with some really messily annotated papers.

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English Strategies (fourth period) students continued with Nightjohn and really got summarizing down, I believe. We’ll be having some more work on it throughout the end of this quarter, but it appears to be a skill that most of the students are close to mastering.

English Studies (fifth period) continued working on their Nightjohn theme projects.

  • English 8 Strategies: none.
  • English 8 Studies: record slide narration for project on your phone as needed.
  • English I Honors: continue working on the short stories project, which is due Friday.

English 8 Strategies (fourth period) did some work on summarizing as well as using specific effective readers’ skills. We’ll finish chapter five tomorrow.

English 8 Studies (fifth period) worked on their final project for Nightjohn.

English I Honors (sixth and seventh periods) tried their hand at interpreting a poem by Billy Collins:

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

We’ll finish up tomorrow.