English I Honors students worked on Billy Collins’s poem “The Lanyard” as we finish up looking at tone, tonal shift, and the lyric moment.

English 8 students worked on completing Nightjohn and applying effective readers’ skills on their own.

  • English 8 Studies: complete chapter 7 and the epilogue “Words” as well as the effective readers’ skills “It Says/I Say” graphic organizer (as needed).
  • English I Honors: 
    • review for the parts of speech test next week;
    • determine the part of speech for the nonsensical words in bold italics and be prepared to explain your reasoning:
      • The big green flibbhie went down the road in a huff.
      • I don’t know what kind of kjbile student you think you are!

English I Honors continued with tone, looking at “My Papa’s Waltz” after finishing “Do Not Go Gently.”

English 8 students continued with Nightjohn — sprinting to the finish.

  • English 8 Studies: none.
  • English I Honors: 
    • determine tone of “My Papa’s Waltz”;
    • begin working on final project for short story unit.

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.

All classes were engaged today in lit circles in one form or another. The only exception was English Studies, which went over briefly how to determine tone in a poem:

  1. Look for repetitions.
  2. Determine the positive or negative nature of the repetitions.
  3. Look for more examples of the positive or negative images or words.
  4. Determine a descriptive category to fit all the words or image into.


  • English 8 Strategies: 
    • read the portion of the class novel decided upon by your literature circle;
    • continue working on the article of the week.
  • English 8 Studies: 
    • read the portion of the class novel decided upon by your literature circle;
    • continue working on the article of the week.
  • English I Honors: 
    • continue with the Mockingbird allusions work (on Moodle);
    • read chapters 5-8 of Mockingbird;
    • continue working on the article of the week.

Today in class we read “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”.We went over the tone of the poem and discussed what the poem was about.We learned that this poem was a Tonal Shift poem which is a poem that shifts its tone at a certain time in a poem.And also that is was a Lyric Moment which we will find out tomorrow in class

Here are today’s notes:

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Socratic Seminars and Lyric Moments

English 8 Strategies students had a discussion in the form of a Socratic seminar about topics related to our final project for the quarter, analytic paragraphs about the selections they are reading in literature class.

For Flowers for Algernon, discussion questions were:

  1. Our relationships with other people are more important than our achievements.
  2. It is better to accept your fate than to try to change it. (“Fate” means destiny.)
  3. It is important to have empathy for others. (“Empathy” means more than sympathy: it means not just feeling sorry for someone but feeling the same thing with someone.)
  4. Sometimes, it’s better to remain ignorant about certain things. (“Ignorant” doesn’t mean stupid; it just means you don’t know something.)

For The Outsiders, discussion questions were:

  1. We can often misunderstand people for a very long time, and when we find out the truth, it can be too late.
  2. Sometimes, people’s lives aren’t what they seem. People who seem happy and liked are in fact miserable.
  3. Some people are so bad that they cannot be saved. There are people who are “past the point of return” and can not be turned into good people.
  4. Sometimes when people are abused, they come to see it as normal. For them, it’s almost not abuse any more but it’s simply “how things are.”
Fifth period conducting their Socratic seminar
Fifth period conducting their Socratic seminar

English I Honors students finished up tone by looking at the lyric moment of a poem and how it relates to the tonal shift. We noticed three things:

  1. It’s the “ah-ha!” moment of the poem, when we see what it’s truly about.
  2. It often accompanies the tonal shift.
  3. It appears toward the end of the poem.

We also went over the final project for the poetry unit, which is a recitation and analysis oral project. Details, examples, and a rubric is available at the Moodle site.

Creative writing students, after a mini-lesson on how we will be editing each others’ work in Google Drive, continued with existing projects.

Verb Phrases and Tone

English I Honors began a couple of days working with tone in writing, specifically in poetry. We began by saying the same sentence in various tones of voice in order to see what “tone” means in terms of voice.

We returned to “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” for a first attempt at determining tone.

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Our second attempt dealt with last night’s homework, “My Papa’s Waltz.” It was less successful, but only because the poem has historically been so very misunderstood.

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Students also received a list of tone words to begin using in discussing tone.

English 8 Strategies returned to grammar today as it is Thursday. We returned to verb phrases as we move slowly toward our ultimate goal of active and passive voice and sentence variety.

Creative writing students continued with existing projects after a short mini-lesson on how to interview people.

  • English 8 Strategies: numbers 6-11 from the Sentence Type 8 practice are due next Wednesday, October 8.
  • English I Honors: reread the poem “The Lanyard” and mark for words with heavy connotation
  • Journalism: none.
Tone Continued and Comparing Media

Today in first and fourth periods we looked at tone again and evaluated some more of Billy Collins’ poems. We mostly looked at “The Lanyard” because of the tone change.

The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

We also watched Collins read a revised version of the play.

Second and seventh period, focusing on standard RL5: “Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.”

We compared the text in Anne’s originally published diary with what appears in the play:

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  • English 8 Strategies: Complete the comparison/contrast work from class as needed.
  • English I Honors: Look at the poems we’ve already read and try to find lyric moment (usually the place where the tone changes) on at least four of them.

Today in first and fourth periods we evaluated “My Papa’s Waltz” and started on “Forgetfulness”. We also talked about and learned to identify tone and mood in a poem.

Second and fourth periods began reading the dramatization of Anne Frank’s diary, looking at the specific textual elements of drama.

  • English 8 Strategies: none.
  • English I Honors: 
    • Look at “Forgetfulness” and identify what is forgotten, the connection between them, and fill out the poem’s section on the chart.
    • Start on Quarter 2 Project with stems.
    • Start on “tone vocabulary.”
Final Argument and voice

Today in first and fourth periods we worked on identifying clues that tell us that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is written in a Southern voice. We looked at style attributes and content issues that indicate a Southern style.

Style Issues Topical Issues
  1. Long sentences
  2. Diversions
  3. Dated language
  4. Folksy-sounding language
  5. Exaggeration/embellishment
  6. Understatement/deprecation
  1. Importance of family,
  2. Sense of community,
  3. Importance of religion,
  4. Importance of time, place, and the past

Second and seventh periods went through another Socratic Seminar, working out the mystery of Amy LaTour’s death.

Picture1We will return to Nightjohn tomorrow.


  • English 8 Strategies: none.
  • English I Honors: 
    • Identify the clues (at least one of each) in the second half of the handout from today (see notes).
    • Read chapters 5-8 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Wednesday.
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.

Tone and Gifts

First period began act one, scene five of The Diary of Anne Frank. As fifth period did Friday, we examined the gifts Anne gives the various inhabitants of the Secret Annex.

First period's initial notes
First period’s initial notes

Second and fourth periods continued looking at the question of tone in a poem. We looked at two poems by Billy Collins:

  • “Forgetfulness”
  • “The Lanyard”

Additionally, we looked at the tonal shift that often occurs in a poem and which generally corresponds with the poem’s lyric moment.

Final lines of "The Lanyard"
Final lines of “The Lanyard” annotated

Fifth period finished up act one from The Diary of Anne Frank; they’re one day ahead of first period.

  • First period: none.
  • Second and fourth periods:
    • complete the tone chart for “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”
    • continue working on poetry anthology project. (Please note: a rubric has been added.)
  • Fifth period:
    • finish reading act one (there’s only one page remaining);
    • answer questions 1-6 on page 832
Second and fourth period's notes on tone

First period read a bit about Hanukkah in preparation for the final scene of The Diary of Anne Frank, which we will begin on Monday.

Second and fourth periods, after a quick overview of what the “lyric moment” of a poem is, began examining one of the most challenging aspects of writing: tone. First, I covered how tone is determined: it relies on the connotation of words. We began examining four poems (three of them new poems) to determine their tone.

Second and fourth period's notes on tone
Second and fourth period’s notes on tone

Fifth period began working on the final scene in the first act of The Diary of Anne Frank. We worked in groups as we performed a close reading on the portion of the text that describes everyone’s Hanukkah gifts.

  • First period: study for vocabulary quiz Monday.
  • Second and fourth periods: continue with the poetry anthology project.
  • Fifth period: none.

Semester Exam Study Guide

The semester exam study guide is available now.

Improving Your Tone Quiz Score

English I students who are unhappy with the results of their tone word quizzes will have the option to increase their grades by completing the following work:

  1. Choose five shorter selections we’ve read this year.
  2. Determine the tone of each selection.
  3. Choose words from two different sections of the selections that you will use to back up your tone assertion.
  4. Be prepared to deliver this information to me orally after the break.

I had initially said this was an option only for students with D’s or F’s on the quiz, but I’m opening it to all students. The amount your grade will increase will be a topic for teacher-student negotiation.

Test, The Highwayman, and Tone Shifts

First and sixth periods took a test on the short stories unit. We’ll begin the poetry unit tomorrow.

Second and fourth periods looked at tonal shifts in poetry. We examined two poems by Billy Collins (“Forgetfulness,” available here, and “The Lanyard,” available here) and “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (available here).

Seventh period completed “The Highwayman” (available here), looking at all the ways the poem is similar to a short story. We’ll read one more narrative poem tomorrow.

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The Highwayman Inn - (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
  • First and sixth periods: none.
  • Second and fourth: read “The Road Not Taken” and determine the location of the tonal shift and identify the contrasted tones.
  • Seventh period: none.
Seventh Period's Notes

First and sixth periods had a review for the test. We used the “Someone Wanted But So” engagement as a way both to review select stories and to provide a gauge of understanding for tonight’s studying.

Second and fourth periods worked on tone in poetry. We went over a few tone words and then re-examined some poems from earlier in the unit to determine their tone.

Seventh period began reading the famous “The Highwayman” after doing some vocabulary review and an anticipatory exercise for this famous poem. As we read it, we were keeping track of the elements of the piece that were like poetry and the elements that were more like a short story.

Seventh Period's Notes
Seventh Period's Notes
  • First and sixth periods: study for tomorrow’s test.
  • Second and fourth:
    • complete the tone exercise for Billy Collin’s “Forgetfulness”;
    • begin reviewing tone words for quiz next Monday.
  • Seventh period: make two predictions about “The Highwayman” based on what we’ve read so far.