Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If you're interested in reading it for yourself

Here's the text for "How I Met My Husband."  It wasn't available when I last searched for it, I guess.

Fun with emoticons!

From Amy Scott...

A cute--but not entirely accurate--animated synopsis of the deaths in Hamlet.

Who knew dying smileys could be so Shakespearean?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Life and Times of Edith Jones

I hope you were paying attention to the last Ethan Frome lecture, for obvious reasons. I don't usually have a prompt that so perfectly matches up with the reading that precedes it, so it seems particularly fortuitous that everyone was present in class on Thursday. Now I can see who actually listens and retains information.

For a fuller understanding of Wharton, check out these links:

Full text of "New Year's Day."

An article about her transformative affair by her biographer, R.W.B. Lewis.

Some of the things I was looking for in your essays:

1. Narrator not only flashes back to his childhood, but even to the era of his grandparents, a clear and obvious way to compare distant past, near past and present. Not just two, but THREE time periods are evoked in this short passage.

2. Use of detail to show old age and infirmity (mother's spectacles, Sillerton's "china set"...false teeth), sets narrator up in opposition to their weak old-fashioned values. The excessive attention paid to fabrics also draws attention to the fashions of a bygone era (the extensive footnotes indicate just how archaic this knowledge is).

3. The specificity of locations were of much more interest to the older generation: not just any hotel, but "the Fifth Avenue Hotel;" the sharp demarcation of the Thirtieth Streets as the outer limits of acceptable addresses; city v. country houses. Metaphorically, this is because place matters deeply to them...everyone and everything has its proper place, and to violate those boundaries shakes up their ordered world.

4. As New York grew and neighborhoods blurred into each other, the residents also blurred their lives together. The new generation was comfortable with this melding of classes and cultures, but their parents resisted, clinging to their harsh judgments of anyone who broke their rigid codes of acceptable conduct. (bonus points if you could relate this to the multicultural ethos we have today, or the current controversy over gay marriage).

5. Edith Wharton's own life, the judgment she endured from her own people, obviously informs her portrayal of those who are quick and eager to judge, or care too much about being fashionable. The mother's malevolent gossip, old Sillerton's affectations, make them pathetic characters. If you actually read the entire story, you will see how their judgments arise out of ignorance, and the true story behind Lizzie Hazeldean and Henry Prest's affair is far more complex than this short passage would indicate...but you might've guessed this just from what we've talked about this week, between Edith's affair with Morton Fullerton and the romance between Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Teasdale & Rossetti

I'm working on your 4.A essays, should have them back to you tomorrow. They're generally pretty good, but so far, no nines.

Some things I was looking for:

The trek up/over the hill as a metaphor for one's journey through life: death at the top in Rossetti; death at the bottom of the other side in Teasdale. (Without this central idea, you could not score higher than a 5.)

Rossetti's poem is a conversation between two people of indeterminate gender, in the 2nd person, that takes place before the journey commences. The questioner is hesitant, anxious; the responder is confident, reassuring, experienced. No specific obstacles are mentioned, although the questioner's anxiety hints that the journey may not be without difficulty.

Teasdale's poem is told from a woman's 1st person perspective, past the climax of the journey, approaching the end. The tone leans towards a resigned, yet resolute attitude, possibly relieved that the rest of the journey will be easier, or else with a feeling of "it's all downhill from here." Either way, the speaker continues moving forward, as there's no purpose in going back. Brambles have consistently made her journey difficult, although not impossible, and distracted from any pleasure she would've experienced.

It was a pretty simple comparative task...take a look at some more samples:

A blog entry on Hill poems. Not really AP analysis, just an interesting perspective from the POV of a cancer patient.

Sample essay below: This would be scored a low 5 for AP work.

The journey of life can be described in many different types of literature; poems are the choice of many writers. Sara Teasdale’s poem “The Long Hill” and Christina Rossetti’s poem “Uphill” reflects their views on the journey of life. Although both poets write about the journey of life, Teasdale approaches the topic on a more pessimistic note describing life as a hill where nothing good comes from the way down, whereas Rossetti presents her thoughts in an optimistic tone showing life as a journey where a person looks forward to finding the end.

One difference in Teasdale and Rossetti’s poems is the way they were written. Teasdale writes using a stream on consciousness, this enables the reader to relate to what is going on in the poets mind, and decide if they feel this way. Rossetti however writes using conversation between two people, creating a story line which is easier to follow than the Teasdale poem.

Another difference in these poems is the use of imagery. Rossetti brings imagery into her poem by using such lines as “A roof for when the slow dark hours begin” and “May not the darkness hide it from my face”. Imagery creates a setting for the reader to relate to. Teasdale doesn’t use much imagery, she instead lets the reader use their imagination.

Perhaps the biggest difference in these poems is the outlooks on life that they present. Teasdale has a more negative approach to life then Rossetti has. Teasdale describes the journey as long in her title. She uses a line “Now I am going down—Strange to have crossed the crest and not to know” that shows that nothing good is to come from life after you have past the crest. She writes her poem in first person which says that the journey will be lonely with no one to help along the way. She ends with, “But it’s no use now to think of turning back, The rest of the way will be only going down” saying that its to late to enjoy anything she will live in sadness. Rossetti however chooses to use a more positive approach. She believes that she is traveling with people, “Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Those who have gone before.” She asks, “Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak” this shows her curiosity for what is to come. She ends her poem by saying “Yea, beds for all who come” this shows that when the journey is completed she will get to be comfortable and relaxed with everyone else who is already there.

Teasdale and Rossetti’s poems are written about the same topic, however portray a different meaning. They differ from the way they were written. Rossetti uses imagery to get her point across whereas Teasdale chooses to let the reader use their imagination. Rossetti uses an optimistic approach in her journey of life, whereas Teasdale uses a pessimistic approach.

Monday, December 08, 2008

So much for the future

With the conclusion of Brazil, we also arrive at the conclusion of our dystopian future unit. Here are your discussion prompts:

1. Compare the physical environments presented in our three dystopian texts. Compare the social structures (government systems, cultural values, etc...). What are the most salient features? What do they have in common? How do the differences reflect Huxley's, Orwell's and Gilliam's personal worldviews?

2. In all three texts, consumer products make repeated appearances (cigarettes and gin in 1984, Malthusian belts in Brave New World, the "executive toy" in Brazil). Consider what the detailed descriptions of these products convey about the world they come from.

3. At the heart of each story is a romantic/love relationship. Why? What message do you think the creators intended by centering the conflict around the love a man has for a woman? What do the outcomes of these relationships have in common? What does that say about love?

4. How are each of the protagonists (in Brave New World, let's assume that Bernard Marx is the protagonist in the first half of the novel, and shifts to John the Savage in the second half) complicit in his own oppression, even as he strives to subvert society's rules?

5. Consider the timelines of these three texts: Brave New World in 1932; 1984 in 1948; Brazil in 1985. Can you connect historical events from each era to the text? What do you think informed the author's choices?

Remember, you can address all or some of the questions using all or some of the texts. Try to be as analytical as possible, citing textual evidence to support your assertions...it's just a good habit to develop. Engage each other in discussion, respond to other people's ideas, either building on what is already said or offering an opposing viewpoint. Be civil and use your name in all postings.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The morning found me miles away...

With still a million things to say.

Isn't that always the case?  I'm always worried that I've forgotten to tell you guys something important.  But this IS important, so pay attention...

I don't know how many of you have seen Brazil already (it was on cable a couple of weeks ago), but if you have, PLEASE DON'T GIVE AWAY THE ENDING!!!

This is the only text that I don't want you to finish reading BEFORE we discuss it in class...but I'm going to link the script below so those who have already seen it can review it.  If you DO read it without seeing it, DON'T READ THE LAST PAGE.

Link to Brazil script.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vocab Reminder

So, just in case anyone has forgotten that there is a vocab test on Monday, I'm reminding you that it's OPEN-NOTE, but the notes have to be handwritten.  AND you'll be required to attach your notes to the test for credit.  Don't forget!

Also, thanks to Daniel (who sent me an interesting Disney-is-evil link), I found an excellent sample essay, linked below:

Sample essay

Although this essay is comparative in nature, juxtaposing two texts rather than focusing on one, you can still see how it applies a close analysis of ONE scene in each film ("When I see an Elephant Fly" from Dumbo and "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book, if you are unfamiliar with either of these songs, I suggest you look up a clip on YouTube so you understand what the writer is saying) to a larger critique of the film as a whole.

Notice how in addition to a detailed discussion of the specific scenes, there is reference to key elements from the rest of the text (ie. Dumbo and Timothy's accidental inebriation leading to "Pink Elephants on Parade"), the creator's personal life (Walt Disney's growing empire distracting him from supervising the filmmaking) and the historical context (African-American jazz culture of the 1930s-40s).  See how these layers add complexity to the analysis?

Finally, this essay uses a fair number of external sources, but doesn't cite them parenthetically.  Instead, the writer attributes all direct quotes, and then provides a comprehensive bibliography at the end of his essay.  I personally find this technique offers a much more fluid and engaging read than the usual clunky MLA format, but you may use either, as you see fit.

You should have a solid thesis for your essay by the time we have our next writing workshop if you want to stay on track.  If you're having difficulty, use this essay as an example...break it down so you understand what it does.  Identify the thesis.  How does the writer support it with evidence from the text?  Is it effective?  Why?  Then ask yourself how you can apply the same principles to your essay.

Good luck, enjoy the weekend, I'll see you on Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Historical Event

This is a rant.  It has nothing to do with class, other than that it is ostensibly about the English language (and I suppose it may tie into Pygmalion, when we get around to it). But it has to be said, so I'm saying it.

For the last few months, newspeople and other commentators have been going on and on about how this was "an historical election."  If you heard that, I hope you flinched.  I did, repeatedly.

Yeah, we all know that you use "an" in front of "hour," which also begins with an "H" (which, as you'll notice, is also preceded by "an" instead of "a"). BUT, since when do we, red-blooded Americans that we are, drop the "H" in "historical?"  So what the bleepity-blip-boop are these seemingly erudite pundits going on about?  

It'sItalic "a historical election" by any measure of standard American English.  Have the sixties become "an hippified era?"  Is Iran now "an hostile nation?" Do Mexican restaurants serve their food on "an hot plate?" 

No!  NO NO NO!

Sorry, I just channeled Ted Stevens for a moment. 

But seriously, what kind of pretentious weeniehead reporter does this?  It looks wrong, sounds wrong, plainly IS wrong and yet this error is saturating the airwaves.  Doesn't anyone check their work before going on the air? Even the AP Stylebook--theoretically "the journalist's bible"--says it's wrong, "We use the article "a" before consonant sounds."  Yeah, last I checked, the "H" in "historical" wasn't silent.  That makes it a consonant sound, doesn't it?

So...when legions of journalists don't follow the rules set forth by the organization they have designated as their own authority in how to use language, the media has totally lost all credibility as serious professionals.  How sad is that?

The next thing you know, they'll all be saying "nucular," too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A couple of pre-Thanksgiving Break announcements

First of all, I hope you all will remember that you have a vocab test on the Monday you come back, December 1st.  It'll be IN-CLASS this time, and open-note (Yeah, I've given up on the online testing for now...but it might come back).  If you don't remember to bring HANDWRITTEN NOTES, you're out of luck.  And yes, I'll be collecting the notes this time...I'm not thrilled with the degree of preparation demonstrated in the last test.  Just because it's a take-home test doesn't mean that you can wing it, you know.  You're going to have a 50 question test in a 48 minute period.  The better your notes are, and the more familiar you are with the words, the easier it'll be for you.

UPDATE: Just so you know, I administered the vocab test to myself on Friday, sans notes.  It took about 25 minutes and I scored 47/50.  That should give you some idea of what to expect.

You will also have a sub that day, it should be Mr. Suri again.  Things seemed to go pretty smoothly last time, so I've requested him for the two other days I'm out this year as well.  Please be on your best behavior and treat him with the respect he deserves.

Secondly, I'm announcing the last extra credit assignment of the semester.  For TEN points, you can bring in a NEW, gift-quality children's book to donate to the Tales for Tots Holiday Drive.  It doesn't have to be expensive, but it has to be shiny and clean...there should be no wear or tear, and they shouldn't be obvious freebies (you know how many times I've had to say no to copies of The Foot Book?  You know, the one with the letter in front saying "we hope you'll enjoy this free copy of...").

All told, this'll make 65 possible extra credit points out of roughly 1200 points in the semester.  If you took advantage of every opportunity, it should help you a lot.

Finally, if you didn't grow up watching the Muppets, it's not too late to start.  In fact, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

Here's the most hapless carnivore ever, attempting to prepare a turkey dish:

This is Google's Swedish Chef interface.  Don't ask.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vocabulary Test 51-100 Key

ALL ANSWERS SHOULD BE COMPLETE SENTENCES!!! You will receive no credit if the sentence does not have a subject AND predicate. Also, no credit if each answer isn't numbered and on its own line. My TAs were instructed to grade brutally, as I warned you they would be.

1. Why is Bill Maher opposed to certitude?
Bill Maher opposes certitude because he believes there is value in doubt, and faith is just an opinion.

2. What is the film La Chagrin et la Pitie (1971) about? Is it an appropriate title for the subject?
La Chagrin et la Pitie is a documentary about the Nazi occupation of a French village, the title is very appropriate.

3. Why did the writer of the new film, The Changeling, originally think he should change the title?
J. Michael Straczynski was not sure the supernatural connotations of changeling was appropriate for the film.

4. Look at these two pages of choleric personality traits:
Would you like to work for a choleric boss? Why?
Most people would not like to work for a choleric boss because they would be very driven and rigid, but they would also be highly productive, strong leaders...if you like that sort of thing.

5. Would you enjoy your visit to the circumlocution office?
No one would enjoy visiting the circumlocution office because you would never get a straight answer to your question.

6. In this article:
is being circumspect considered a positive trait? Why or why not?
No, being circumspect is presented as a negative trait, slightly cowardly, lacking a passion for life, etc...

7. Is this blog entry appropriately titled? Why or why not?
No, the blogger is not being very succinct in describing her life...understandable, seeing how complex her life has become, but that doesn't change the fact that the word is used incorrectly.

8. Why might Dan Johnson's life be without compunction?
Dan Johnson spends his life spreading the word of god, so he feels no guilt or anxiety.

9. Does this article recommend concomitant use of ibuprofen and low-dose aspirin? What is its position?
The article spends a lot of time and words to arrive at no concrete recommendation about taking both ibuprofen and aspirin, only an observation that the timing of the dosages has to be carefully monitored.

10. What 'condescension' is Peter Craven referring to in this article?
Craven is referring to the dumbing down of the literary curriculum to reflect texts that are easily relatable as opposed to having transcendent humanistic value.

11. According to this article, which parts of the brain are involved in confabulatory states?
The frontal and parietal lobes in the right hemisphere of the brain appear to be involved in confabulatory states.

12. Read this short story. Explain why the conflagration was 'imperfect.'
The conflagration did not destroy the evidence as intended.

13. Is this painting appropriately named?
Yes, this painting appears to depict two brothers, so Confrere makes sense as a title.

14. What kind of trial is the CONSORT Statement designed to report?
The CONSORT Statement is designed to report medical trials.

15. Why would the flower arrangement cause consternation?
The arrangement caused consternation because it resembled a swastika.

16. Do you agree with this writer about the Red Sox? Why or why not?
Since the Red Sox won, despite the odds against them, the headline is appropriate.

17. What is the focus of this theater company's work?
Point of Contention seeks to illuminate the human experience.

18. After reading this article, answer the questions in the last paragraph.
Although the questions seek an opinion, for a student in AP English, there can only be one answer: Newspapers SHOULD seek to challenge their audience by using higher level vocabulary. (If an AP student doesn't value vocabulary growth, they don't belong in AP English.)

19. What native North American mammals are crepuscular? Name at least two.
There are a LOT: rabbits, foxes, possums, deer, etc... Most likely, any answers given are correct, BUT make sure the animals named are MAMMALS...no birds or reptiles.

20. What is the cuckold's name in Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale?"
The cuckold's name in "The Miller's Tale" is John.

21. Read the poem, explain what Whitman's describing.
Whitman is describing eagles mating in mid-air.

22. Which vocabulary word best describes the first picture?
The vocabulary word that best describes this picture is corpulence.

23. What happens in the denouement of Brave New World?
John the Savage hangs himself in the denouement of Brave New World.

24. What kind of music can you deduce this band plays?
Deride apparently plays some sort of death metal/thrash/punk...something aggro.

25. What is the common name for desiccated cow flesh?
The common name for desiccated cow flesh is beef jerky.

26. Who runs this website? How can you tell?
No one appears to operate this site because none of the links actually DO anything.

27. Is this a good name for the game? Why?
Yes, Desolation is a good name for a post-apocalyptic video game.

28. Does this man's life really seem desultory? How?
Yes, this man's life is desultory, he bounces from one random job to another, with no real plan. (While this site appears to have been deleted by aol on 10/31, the original vocab test was due on 10/27 and I announced the extended deadline on 10/30, so if you missed that window, it's on you.)

29. Is this a good name for this site? Why?
Yes, Detritus is a good name for a site that "recycles culture."

30. Is the title of this painting appropriate? Why?
Evolve to Devolve is an appropriate title for this painting because it depicts two sources of power, wind and oil. One is considered primitive, but is also the wave of the future. The other brought about much of our current technological advances, but is non-renewable and thus, not a viable source of future power. If we want to survive, as a society, we must evolve...yet in this case, evolution requires that we go backward, to a simpler source of power.

31. Do you agree with the author about refusing to accept the dichotomies imposed by our society?
I would hope that everyone would refuse to accept the limiting labels that society imposes on us.

32. What is the legal definition of "DICTUM" (or, in its singular form, "DICTA")?
Dicta are judicial opinions expressed by the judges on points that do not necessarily arise in the case.

33. What reason does this person give for choosing the name of his farm?
He "liked the idea of using a mythological place as a herd name because it gave me such a huge selection of names to chose from when naming my animals."

34. Copy the first stanza of Carroll's parody.
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
(This one was tricky...most people copied Watt's original poem, not Carroll's parody. Always read instructions carefully.)

35. Is Rob Fishman complimenting Cornell's diffidence in this article? Why or why not?
No, Rob Fishman is saying that Cornell should be more proactive about offering financial aid, like the other Ivy League schools mentioned.

36. Would you say the creators of this site have been dilatory?
Yes, the creators of dilatory.org have done absolutely NOTHING with the site, lazybutts.

37. Do you agree or disagree with the disapprobation theory presented in this comment? Why?
This question should have open-ended answers, but the reasons given ought to make sense.

38. Which definition of effete is this headline invoking?
http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2008/08/21/now_whos_ effete/
This article is referring to the meaning "Marked by self-indulgence, triviality, or decadence."

39. Based on this information, give an example of a dissolution we encounter in everyday life.
We may encounter sugar water, salt water, or any number of other dissolutions in everyday life.

40. Listen to a few of the sample tracks on this site. Do you agree with the characterization of Midge's voice as "dulcet?"
The answer may agree or disagree, this one's wide open. But again, the answers should make sense.

41. Is this a good example of duplicity?
http://crooksandliars.com/2008/09/18/jon-stewart-rips-mccain-gop-duplicity-on-off- shore-drilling
Yes, this is an excellent example of duplicity.

42.  Which vocabulary word best describes the person's expression in the second picture?
This person's expression is best described as doleful.

43. Who composed this thought-provoking aphorism?
"It is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane." --George Orwell

Identify which parts of speech these two words are, and identify the root word:

44. Efficacious : Adjective

45. Efficacy : Noun

The root word for both of these is effect.

46. Would a solution of mustard and warm water work as an emetic?
Yes, apparently mustard and warm water will make you puke.

47. What is the cognitive dissonance implicit in this product?
Sound coming out of speakers that look like eyeballs is cognitively dissonant because they are evoking the wrong sensory organ.

48. Read these two entries in Jeff Goldstein's blog, does he actually elucidate his haiku for the concerned reader?
Yes, Jeff Goldstein does elucidate his haiku for the concerned reader, although that doesn't make it any more logical.

49. Find a product or service that is named "Elan." Copy and paste the link, and explain whether the company named itself appropriately or not.
Again, answers may vary greatly...and again, it's the EXPLANATION that counts. If it sounds logical, give them credit.

50. Identify at least THREE types of effusion and identify their location on the human body.
Pleural: Lungs/Chest cavity
Pericardial: Heart
Parapneumatic: Lungs (inside)
Subdural: Brain
Tympanic/Otitus Media: Ear
Joint: Various Joints

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Helpful Hints

Now that the first quarter is over, I’m sure everyone is either very relieved or very anxious about how it went. As I’ve mentioned, within the last month or so, your test scores are starting to split into two distinct groups: those who are showing obvious improvement, and those who are stagnating.

If you feel you’re not improving, here are some ideas that may help you boost your scores in the coming months...

1. Get a prep book! Use it! Regularly. I don’t make this a “requirement” for the class, since there’s no way I can enforce it without wasting a lot of time playing cop, but it’s quite clear who has--and who has not--been taking additional practice tests on their own. The strongest students in previous years are the ones who prepare for the in-class tests by taking a test at home the night before. It’s a good idea, even if it’s not an assignment.

If a prep book is not available to you, there are many websites that offer bits and pieces of AP prep materials. Google books has a few, as well. There’s no reason you can’t find stuff if you try. Be proactive. Success is your responsibility, not mine.

2. Study the list of literary terms. The one I posted is not necessarily the best one, it’s just what was available online. There should be a list in every prep book, too. Knowing these terms is a key part of building a vocabulary with which you can intelligently discuss any literary work.

3. Know how to scan a poem. I’ve posted a website on the blog that discusses this in detail, but again, a prep book should also cover this basic skill (you can also google “scan a poem” and TONS of sites pop up). It is useful on both the MC poetry passages and the poetry essay prompt.

4. Do the assigned readings ON TIME! I can tell that a fair number of you aren’t staying caught up on the readings. You tend to be completely quiet and avoid eye-contact during lectures. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same students who sheepishly avoid looking at me and never have anything to say are often also the ones who score low on tests. Cause and effect, people...it’s simple.

The readings aren’t capriciously assigned. I chose these texts for very specific reasons, and I genuinely believe they will help you do well on the AP test. If you don’t read them BEFORE the assigned dates, then you are simply not getting everything you can from the lectures because I am going on the assumption that you’ve done the reading.

5. Refer to the blog regularly. Subscribe to it if you can (it may require a Gmail account...I like Gmail in general, it works. And no, I don’t get a kickback from Google). I post a lot of information on the blog, if you don’t bother keeping up with it, it’s like being absent from class. Because our time is so tight, I use the blog to disseminate materials and review administrative details. It is an INTEGRAL part of the class, you cannot afford to ignore it.

6. If your exam scores are stagnating, work extra hard to boost your grade on the essays and vocabulary tests. Honestly, folks--and I hope I’m not being mean here--not everyone came into the class with the same skill levels or prior knowledge. Some students are simply less well prepared than others for the challenge of rigorous AP-level critical reading. But that doesn’t mean those students are weaker writers, or less capable in vocabulary development. If you feel that you’re in over your head on the practice tests, apply your energies towards doing your absolute BEST on the other elements of the class. They will carry you through even if you continue to struggle with the exams.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


As of this moment, I am DONE commenting on your college essays.

Between now and the day they are all passed back to you--on average it's going to take two weeks, three at the outside--I will not discuss ANY college essay with ANYONE.

You can still see me about your AP Practice Essays (and some of you really SHOULD), or other aspects of the class, but I will not talk about a paper that is in the process of being graded. I hope you can understand why that would be unfair. If you can't, ask someone who does.

Also, after much discussion and thought, I've decided that the vocabulary test should basically be retaken. I looked through the responses and was disappointed at how few were able to finish, not to mention how many were STILL sloppy and didn't follow directions after my repeated instructions. I said I wouldn't grade those, and I'm not joking.

So...here's the deal: EVERYONE will have until class time next MONDAY 11/3/08 to complete the vocab test. BUT...and I do mean BUT...you're going to have to print out your answers and bring them to class. This will no longer be an online test submission.


Because I'm not grading these. My TAs will. And since the tests are now being graded by TAs, who are instructed to simply follow the key, if your answer diverges significantly from the one on the key, it's just wrong...period. I certainly won't be giving you the benefit of the doubt. And yeah, they will also be instructed to grade brutally on sloppiness.

And if any answers are verbatim, the people who turned in the identical answers will be sent down for admin review. If you don't have the good sense to at least rewrite an answer you copied, you deserve to be nailed to the wall.

I'm very, VERY disappointed that some people didn't approach the task with honesty and integrity. But like I said, I believe in karma. If you do things dishonorably, at some point it WILL come back and bite you in the ass. Believe it. I've seen it.

If you haven't gotten the test yet, you can download it below:


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Personal Statement Portfolios Due on Thursday

I've commented on the 27 personal statements I've received. There were two As, five A-minuses. Those seven students should not resubmit their finals, but they do need to turn in all their prior drafts with stamps for full credit.

The other 20 can resubmit on Thursday unless they're content with their grade. And there really is nothing wrong with a B...this can be a tough essay, not everyone is going to be able to pull off an A. It won't necessarily affect your college admissions, the essay is only one part of the equation.

EVERYONE should have EVERYTHING ready to turn in on Thursday. That means EVERY stamp, and a CLEAN final draft. CLEAN means typed, double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point font. I don't care about MLA formatting, in fact, I prefer that your name be on the top right corner.

I hope you all do understand that as flexible as I can be about some things, I am completely unswayable on the subject of portfolio deadlines. This is a non-negotiable point, so have your stuff or take a zero.

And yeah, we're going to have to figure something out about the Vocab test, it was a different type of disaster this time around, wasn't it? Try to come up with some ideas, would you? I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vocabulary Test 1-50 Stats and Key

Finally! I'm done grading the first vocab test. It took WAY longer than it should have, which is why I've implemented a set of STRICT RULES with the second test.

1. I will only accept answers as direct responses to the test email.  DO NOT ATTACH WORD DOCUMENTS!!! Just write your answers DIRECTLY IN THE EMAIL!! This will speed up my grading considerably as I won't have to download, open and convert the files (I don't have Word on my computers, I refuse to buy Microsoft products).

2. I will no longer try to decipher answers that are incomplete sentences and match them up to the question. If you don't indicate in your answer what the question was, it's going to be marked incorrect.  Period.

3. I will no longer try to decipher unnumbered, or otherwise sloppy tests. It takes forever...if you don't care enough about your grade to be neat, then I don't see that it's my job to compensate for your carelessness. Do it right. (Helpful hint: the Answer Key below offers a pretty good example of what your test response ought to look like...look it over and emulate the formatting as best you can.)

Stats on the tests:

2nd period- High score: 35 Average: 20.4 (58.3%)
3rd period-- High score: 38 Average: 22.4 (58.9%)
6th period- High score: 32 Average: 18 (56%)

This is not encouraging. I'm hoping these poor results are because the testing environment was so chaotic and distracting, which is why I hope the at-home test will be good for everyone. Quarter grades will be due in another two weeks. Time is getting short.

REMINDER: If you aren't able to do the test at home on Monday morning, you MUST let me know VIA EMAIL asap!!!

The Answer Key is below:

1. Does this article suggest that "assiduous string saving" is a valuable writing technique?
Yes, the article says that good writers save strings assiduously to help stimulate ideas.

2. Is the title of this blog an oxymoron?
Yes, the title of the blog is an oxymoron.

3. Can you aver that you handwrote your vocabulary notes?
Yes, you should be able to swear that your notes are handwritten.

4. What is the main root word in "amanuensis," and why?
"Manu" means "by hand," which is how a secretary used to write.

5. In this article, is the phenomenon of online avatar usage given a positive or negative spin?
Avatars are presented as a positive alternative to revealing one's actual identity online.

6. Explain why the headline of this article is a painful pun
"Ashen-faced" mourners when urns full of ashes are stolen? Yuck.

7. Does this site live up to its name? Why?
Yes, the website is dark and foreboding.

8. Is the name of this software appropriate for its purpose?
Yes, bookkeeping is generally tedious, repetitive work.

9. Does this roller coaster live up to its name?
Yes, it sure is a very large rollercoaster.

10. If you google "Kennedy assignation," what do you get? Why?
You get all these pages on the Kennedy ASSASSINATION because stupid
conspiracy theorists don't know how to spell.

11. From this article, what can we deduce about Heather MacDonald's position on the question?
Presumably, based on this response, Heather MacDonald does NOT think God is beneficent.

12. Why might Miss Prism require a capacious handbag for her manuscript?
Since it is manuscript for a three-volume novel, it must be pretty big.

13. Which vocabulary word best describes this photograph?
Carapace. It's a turtle...duh.

14. Based on the information given here:
what is the result of the aberration in spherical mirrors?
The image is blurry and unfocused.

15. Is this a good name for this company?
Yes, the guitars are quite ornate.

16. Which two publishers collaborated to create Amalgam Comics?
Marvel & DC created Amalgam Comics.

17. Why would one name a coffeehouse "Anodyne?"
It's not a bad name for a coffeehouse because coffee is a kind of anodyne, it kills the pain of mornings.

18. When Henry Higgins compares Eliza Doolittle to a "bilious pigeon," which personal characteristic is he referring to? Is it complimentary?
Higgins is saying her voice or manner of speech sounds like a pigeon throwing up so, no...that is not a compliment.

19. Based on the logo at http://www.amplitude.com/ what can you assume they do?
The soundwaves on the logo indicates the company does something with sound, speakers, probably.

20. How are the literal and metaphoric meanings of "canard"
illustrated on this website? http://www.canardenchaine.com/
There is an actual picture of a duck--a literal canard--and the stories are apparently fake.

21. How do the creators of
subvert the common meaning of the word?
Instead of avoiding or denouncing unacceptable ideas, they pursue/embrace them.

22. In photography, does a wider aperture make your photograph sharper or softer?
A wider aperture should make your photograph softer as the light is less tightly focused.

23. Why is this an odd name for this restaurant?
Since it is a fancy restaurant in a fancy hotel, it's unlikely that too many people go there on a whim.

24. Look at the crest, what connection can you make between the esquire helm and the name?
The crest implies that the Benison family was knighted at some point in its history, knighting is a type of blessing from the king.

25. What has Frost lost?
Frost has lost everything except his faith.

26. Go to
and read the synopsis. Based on the description, explain the title of the movie.
Presumably, the "traumatizing rite of passage" the protagonist suffered in his childhood involved some sort of slaughter/bloodshed.

27. What genre of music does this band most likely play?
The name "Acrid" implies that the band's music is harsh and discordant, probably metal, punk, or some other heavy rock.

28. Explain the painful irony of this article and its headline:
The story tells how, in the lead-up to Hitler's invasion of Poland, the US was open to helping Jewish refugees. But we know that in actuality, the US did very little to help Jews escaping Nazi oppression at that time.

29. Is assimilation assumed to be a desirable phenomenon in this article? Why?
Assimilation is assumed to be desireable because conventional wisdom expects everyone to want to "belong."

30. Go to http://www.amorphous.net/main.htm and explain what the company does.
It's hard to tell what this company does, as the descriptions appear to be deliberately amorphous.

31. Find a real-life example of atavism, describe it.
Some people are born with a little tail...cute. But since this characteristic is a throwback to a prior stage of evolution, it is atavistic.

32. Why might the title of the movie have confused the writer of the comment here:
Are you confused by it? Can you offer a plausible interpretation?
It is a really stupid name for a zombie movie, but it implies that the zombies are created through some sort of transfusion from a non-thinking yet independently active being. The comments indicate, however, that that explanation is not supported by the movie, so, yeah, I'm confused, too.

33. What is the legal definition of "bifurcate," as it relates to a trial?
To bifurcate legally means to separate the penalty phase of a trial
from the verdict.

34. Is http://www.abstemious.org/ appropriately named? Why?
Abstemious is a very appropriate name for a rehab clinic website,
since recovering addicts should abstain.

35. Was this a successful billet assignment?
Yes, this assignment seems successful because the soldier and the
little old lady seemed to get along very well.

36. Do you agree with the letter writer or the columnist?
I would hope that everyone in AP English will agree with the
columnist, because "bucolic" is not a terribly high level vocabulary

37. According to http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/a/alchemy.htm
why was alchemical theory destined to fail?
Because science simply does not support alchemica theory, which is
more like magic.

38. Who coined this aphorism?
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a
revolutionary act."
-George Orwell.

39. Does this blogger use "bibulous" correctly with relation to the
subject of his entry?
No, the entry has nothing to do with drinking, just the bible.

40. Why might http://www.argot.org/ be completely empty?
Because the website's creator never finished it. (This is kind of a
trick question...but the answer is kind of OBVIOUS, isn't it?)

41. Which vocabulary word best describes this nose?
Bulbous...a big blobby bulbous bloated bumpy buffoonish schnoz.

42. Why do you think Lightspeed blocks the Cacophony Society's website?
Because the Cacophony Society promotes subversive, adult-themed pranks.

43. Is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vj38gVSn9gA an example of
antiphonous music?
Yes, Billy Idol and the chorus call back and forth during the refrain.

44. Is this article generally positive or negative in its description
of Premier Wen?
It seems generally positive about Premier Wen, but some criticisms are voiced.

45. Read the summary at
and explain which daughter the title refers to.
It looks like it could refer to either of the daughters, as one has
come back from years of being "missing" and the other has a disability
that makes her difficult to understand.

46. Take a look at the questions at:
http://www.severe-social-anxiety.com/Agoraphobia_Online_Test.html .
Would an agoraphobic answer "yes" or "no" to most of them?
Most agoraphobics would probably answer "yes" to most of the questions
on the site.

47. Does this scientific research have a practical application?
It may be useful in determining mining techniques and weather research.

48. Is the "rising antipathy" reported on in this article considered
a positive or negative development?
Given the state of world affairs, more prejudice and distrust between
religious groups is not a positive development.

49. Does the headline use "avuncular" literally or metaphorically?
It is literal, the author is addressing his niece and nephew.

50. According to
what is our antipode?
Our antipode is somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brave New World on celluloid

So, I think I mentioned this to 6th period, but forgot to tell 2nd and 3rd...but I will be showing part one of the 4 hour mini-series of Brave New World after school on Thursday. You're probably not going to be able to find this anywhere else, at least I can't get it on Netflix, and the copy on eBay is a bootleg (like mine). I got it from some guy in England who offers free copies to educators...who knows, maybe he's the one selling them on eBay. Some IMDB info:

This is the 1980 4 hour mini-series that has Bud Cort (from Harold and Maude) as Bernard Marx. Good casting. Other than that, no recognizable names in the cast. The sets are SO cheesy, it's hilarious. If anyone is a MST3K fan, you'd have a field day with this one.

This is the 1998 TV movie that has Peter Gallagher as Bernard Marx...very odd casting, since he's definitely leading man material. But Leonard Nimoy as Mustapha Mond is pretty cool. They update the technology pretty well, it looks like Sex and the City, cocktail parties and beautiful shallow people galore.

I hear there's another movie coming out in 2011 with Leonardo DiCaprio (not as Bernard Marx, I hope...more like John the Savage) and directed by Ridley Scott. This one might actually be good, if they can work around the anachronisms.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Last THREE emails

I'm getting worried about the last three folks who have not sent me emails, since MONDAY is the next vocab test, and they won't get it if I don't have their email addresses. We're down to the last week.

So...if you know:

Nick Fudenna
Allison Gower
Anna Liang

please remind them to email me ASAP. I figure if they get a dozen texts or chats or whatever it is you guys use these days telling them to do it, it might actually get done. Heaven knows me reminding them during class isn't doing anything. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Discussion time!

Now that we've completed the first "unit" of the year, it's time to look at some of the underlying themes and connections in the texts so far. Remember that your participation grade is worth 100 points, that's roughly 8-10% of your semester grade, so it's not something you can blow off without consequence.

If you're one of those who never say anything in class, this is a chance to show that you are actually engaged in the readings. If you do speak up, that's great, but contributing to the online discussion couldn't hurt, either. Make sure your contributions are thoughtful and well-written. Don't incite arguments, be civil when you disagree with each other. Try to come up with something new and interesting, rather than posting a bunch of posts that only say "that was a great point, I totally agree." You may talk about all the texts and all the topics, or just pick a few that grab your interest.

I will be tracking your contributions, especially if you're absent on lecture days.

The texts under discussion this time are:

The Oresteia
Mourning Becomes Electra
A Rose for Emily
Sweeney Todd
A Modest Proposal


1. Vengeance: most of the plays we've read so far have centered around revenge...a crime was committed against the protagonist(s), and getting back at the perpetrator is a key motivation for his actions. In every case, the process of taking vengeance ends up costing the protagonist something else he treasured. Discuss--in some detail--whether the vengeance was justified; what the underlying message of these revenge dramas might be; how to reconcile our sympathy for the protagonist with our intellectual understanding of his failings.

2. Fathers: until very recently in human history, the role of a father was unclear. Before we understood how conception worked, the idea of "paternity" simply didn't exist. For millenia, before DNA was codified, fathers were defined legally as simply the mother's husband (hence the stigma of illegitimacy). Right now, we're actually undergoing a transitional period as issues like surrogacy, sperm donation and same-sex parents affect the traditional ways "fathers" were viewed (see link below for a policy-making perspective on this issue).

Government Document

How do the fathers in our texts affect their offspring? What makes them "good" or "bad" parents? Does being a bad parent make them bad people? Seeing as all the texts were written by men, what can you deduce about the ideas of "fatherhood" that inform their work?

3. Taboos: Murder, incest, rape, cannibalism...historically, humans have avoided speaking openly about such things. These days, with tabloidism running rampant, we're less squeamish about media stories that touch on taboo subjects, but we still don't like to deal with them in our real lives. They still make us uncomfortable when they hit too close to home. What is the purpose of taboo? Why would people be conditioned to not talk about important issues that affect them? Is it in our best interest to bring such things into the open, or should they stay in the shadows?

Prose 2.B Rubric and Sample

First of all, here is the full text for "Dry September," you should read it and see if your understanding of the passage in the test changes once you know the whole story:


Now, with that background filled in, take a look at this Cliff Notes analysis of the passage:


Things I was looking for as I scored your essays (I didn't expect to see every point addressed, even in the highest scoring essays, but the more the better):

-Minnie's inability to let go of a "glorious" past (bonus if you could draw parallels to the South clinging to antebellum past).
-Townsfolk's glee at her downfall, false sympathy, schadenfreude, her decline reinforces their own superiority.
-Faulkner's diction deals almost exclusively with external details, you must infer feeling from fact.
-Contrasting "bright" and "haggard," implies deep emotional conflict in Minnie, trying very hard to keep a mask on, denial of her true situation, etc...
-Class issues, Minnie's aspirations are above her, but she's unwilling to settle for less until it's too late (like Emily Grierson). Ultimately, she's rejected even by those she ought to be "better" than.
-Idle, useless lifestyle implies that Minnie isn't able to DO anything, her value lay only in her attractiveness and as that fades, she has nothing left to offer. The bank cashier is so uninterested in her once the affair ends that he doesn't even visit her when he returns to town.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Duelling Scene from Hamlet & other stuff

Here's an ARTICLE that explains the sword-switch scene in Hamlet.

On Colbert last week, he had Professor Stephen Greenblatt on to discuss the Shakespearean aspects of the presidential campaign...Greenblatt was my Shakespeare professor when I was at Cal (he moved to Harvard a couple of years later), and is probably the single most brilliant living Shakespearean scholar today. Here's the interview:

Here's an ARTICLE Greenblatt wrote about the circumstances behind Hamlet's creation. I recommend you read this thoroughly, especially if you had difficulties with Hamlet. The recusant theory is a particularly interesting aspect of Shakespearean interpretation, if anyone watches The Tudors on Showtime, you know why the idea of being a secret Catholic during the Elizabethan era is so powerful.

Finally, here's the Animaniac's rendering of Hamlet's "Alas poor Yorick" speech:

About that Personal Statement...

Here is the LINK for the Personal Statement Guidelines. Sorry it's taken me awhile to post it, just slipped my mind entirely that it wasn't included in the online syllabus.

As you can see, you have TWO more weeks to work on the rough draft in class...although I would recommend that those who are serious about college apps have a rough completed before then so I can give it a more thorough review. It's always best to let a draft sit for a few days between revisions. You have a fresher eye so you can see it more clearly.

By OCTOBER 20th, EVERYONE needs to have a completed rough draft. You then get a bit more than a week to type and revise. Final drafts due on 10/30/08.

So far, I've seen about eight completed essays. Out of 83 students. Not great. Step it up, folks.

Materials on Poetry Exam 2.A

First of all, the E.E. Cummings poem is technically untitled, but often referred to as america or the first line is used as the title. Here's some background info on Cummings, for those who did not know him previously:

Slate article about his influence on American Poetry.

Academic review article about his name.

Textbook page about the poem.

Blog page with essay on poem. This essay is good, but not great. A pretty basic 5 or 6.

One of the more surprising results of the test, to me, was that no one has--so far (I've read about half of the essays)--noted that the poem is a sonnet. You know, 14 lines, rhyming couplets (mostly, "beaut" and "slaughter" breaks the pattern), and the last two lines are distinct? It's not a conventional sonnet, by any means, but the bones of the form are there. And I'm POSITIVE most of you have had a passing knowledge of sonnets in your English classes up to now, poetic forms are big in the junior high curriculum. You need to be tapping into more of what you already know.

Finally, I am posting a sample essay below, this is NOT an AP essay, but it touches on many of the same points that a good AP essay would have. It scored a 5/5 on a different rubric, so would have scored at least an 8 or 9 on an AP rubric:

Values Without Knowledge

In his poem “next to of course god america i,” e.e. cummings takes what some would say about the values of patriotism and the tradition of fighting for the Untied States and shows his perspectives on these concepts. Cummings wrote this poem in 1926 during his disillusioned years after serving in World War I. Using unusual conventions along with assonance, diction and allusions to portray the irony of the speaker’s patriotism, cummings twists one man’s positive words about war into his negative feelings about it.

Making the main 13 lines of the poem entirely lowercase and using little punctuation portrays that cummings feels the speaker is unknowledgeable and hasn’t thought about what he is saying. No capitalization shows that the speaker does not know what he is talking about. He never saw the “heroic happy dead / who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter,” that he calls so beautiful. Cummings did see this and seems to have disrespect for the speaker’s words. Lack of punctuation makes the poem run together and go very quickly. This gives a sense of ranting and raving. Cummings is showing that the speaker has never thought about what he is saying and is only rambling on and on about what he does not know.

Cummings uses diction and assonance to further support his portrayal of the speaker’s foolish patriotism and let his own feelings show through. The first line of the poem clearly sets up the speaker’s priorities, “next to god america i.” God is number one and the sequence of the line follows his priorities. America and then himself. While the beginning of the poem has this articulation as the poem continues the word choice makes the speaker sound less and less serious, almost silly. “by gorry, by jingo, by gee, by gosh, by gum” The beginning of this line almost sounds serious but as the speaker finishes with “by gum,” it only supports that he is ranting because at this point he is speaking nonsense. Cummings also mocks the speaker’s word choice by dividing the word beautiful between two lines to represent that it really isn’t beautiful.

Assonance gives an unserious feeling to the poem with words such as oh and go, i and my, and dead and instead.
Allusions are another device cummings uses to mock the speaker’s thoughts. The speaker quotes famous patriotic songs in the beginning of the poem. “oh / say can you see by the dawn’s early my / country ‘tis of.’ This does show the speaker is patriotic. Rut the speaker only quotes the most popular lines of these songs. Cummings, again, shows that this patriotic speaker doesn’t really know what he’s saying; he doesn’t really know these songs.

Throughout “next to of course god america i,” cummings mocks the typical American patriot during post World War 1. He shows in many different ways the irony of what a patriot would say about these values that he is unknowledgeable of.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Literary Terms handout & Poetic Meter website

This is the list of Literary Terms that I mentioned in class. If you review these regularly, especially before the multiple choice tests, your performance should improve steadily.

This is the comprehensive site on Poetic Meter as discussed. Again, review throughout the year, you should be all set.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Practice Essay 1.2 coming back at you

You'll be getting these back on Wednesday...take a look at the rubric, commentary and sample essays. See me if you don't understand the score you received.





'Tis the Season for Personal Statements and other miscellaneous things

Some helpful sites to get you started, or improve what you have:

This is from Cal, it walks you through the process pretty much step by step:


From Santa Barbara, a worksheet to help you brainstorm and develop ideas:


Remember, on Monday 9/22, you will need to be prepared to WRITE during class. You can bring in a rough draft to share, but if you want me to look at it, you'll need to bring in a SECOND copy to leave with me while you peer edit with your classmates. In any case, you need to make sure to get a stamp for the day's work if you want full credit on the portfolio.

PLEASE NOTE: It was brought to my attention that some people are reading the novelization of Sweeney Todd based on the Johnny Depp movie. That is NOT the text that we're working with in class. We are going to read the book* for the Sondheim version, by Hugh Wheeler. See the link below:


I will have xerox copies available next week, but if you could find your own copy, even to share amongst yourselves, that would be very, VERY helpful.

*'The book of a musical refers to the "play" or story of the show – in effect its spoken (not sung) lines; however, "book" can also refer to the dialogue and lyrics together, which are sometimes referred to (as in opera) as the libretto (Italian for “little book”). The music and lyrics together form the score of the musical.' (from Wikipedia)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Email check & Essay rubric

The following 56 people are on the emergency email list. If your name is NOT here, I strongly, STRONGLY suggest you send me an email before the end of the week. I will probably never need to use it, but IF a situation ever arose where I needed to contact you urgently via email, it could make a tremendous difference. My philosophy is that it's always best to be prepared for all possibilities. (There's more stuff beneath the list, make sure you read it.)

Aieman Zehra
Alex Ho
Alex Kwon
Alexandria Smith
Amber Serpa
Amy Dunford
Amy Scott
Anne Tran
Bharathi Ramachandran
Brian McMahon
Britt Higgins
Christy Bauer
Dave Kwong
David Hoang
Disha Gandhi
Elise Bandy
Elizabeth Tse
Eric Yang
Felicia Chow
Geoffrey Liou
Himanshi Arora
Holly Burgess
Ilham Awad
Jackie Eugster
James Ching
Jennifer Hudiono
Johnny Li
Josh Yim
Kavyashree Thota
Kristina Schenck
Lane Prescott
Lydia Cuarezma
Martha Perez
Mary Wheeler
Michelle Griffith
Patrick Flynn
Quanisha Smith
Rabell Afridi
Rachel Geyer
Raymond Kyaw
Rebecca Kennedy
Robert Pipes
Sai Devana
Saloni Shah
Samantha Ho
Saranya Nandagopal
Sergio Puno
Shelby Steadman
Shelley Lai
Shikha Sheth
Stephanie Tung
Stevie Walsh
Vanathi Ganesh
Veniamin Meyerzon
Vivian Zhang
Willie Du

The multiple choice diagnostic has been scored, and you all did much better than I had hoped. Of the 90 people who took the MC, only 17 did not score above 50% (26/51). If you are one of those 17, please come see me on Monday to discuss whether you want to remain in the class.

I want to emphasize that a low diagnostic score does NOT mean that you should drop the class, just that you have to be prepared to work a lot harder to catch up on skills and confidence if you want to pass the exam in May. We have plenty of time for a committed, hardworking student to improve enough to score at least a 3...but if you don't want to work that hard, say so (and I won't judge you if you don't, we all have different priorities in life, I promise I won't be insulted if you decide that you'd rather spend your time and energy somewhere else). You have to be honest about it, though...don't tell me you want to do it if you don't. Don't tell me you just had a bad day if you're simply not prepared. Don't bs me, it wastes your time and mine.

In 2004, I had a student who scored very poorly on the diagnostic--well below 50%, like less than 20%--and he wanted to drop the class. Fortunately, because he had been in my college prep sophomore class, he talked to me about it before he went to see the counselor, and I was able to convince him to stay. This kid was amazing...he'd come to the U.S. in the middle of his freshman year with virtually NO English. In my sophomore class, he earned a C for first semester (understandable, being here for less than a year) but by June, he was a solid A student. 18 months in the United States, and he was outperforming most of the native English speakers in his classes.

I promised him that if he came to me whenever he felt like he was struggling, I would help him pass that exam. And he did...I reviewed his exams with him a few times, gave him a couple of extra writing exercises...and he PASSED, with a 3. I think that was an incredible accomplishment...when he took the AP exam, he'd been in the U.S. for just over three years!

You know what he's doing now? He graduated from college in 3.5 years, got married this summer (to his high school sweetheart) and is now a first year Ph.D student in Chemistry at UCLA. Pretty impressive, don't you think?

So, my point is, you can do it if you want to, but you have to really want to.

Finally, I'm working on your diagnostic essays this weekend, but I can't promise they'll be done by Monday. I am going to post the rubric I'm using to score them below, so you understand why you got the score you did. Please review the criteria, and think honestly about where your essay would've fallen on the rubric. I hope you won't be unpleasantly surprised.

The first link is the overview page, you can click on "Scoring Guidelines," "Scoring Commentary," and "Sample Responses Q1," but I am also pasting in the individual links below:





Hope your weekend is restful and rejuvenating...we have a busy week ahead.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First day details

It was great to finally meet you all today. Thank you for a smooth and painless opening for what looks to be a terrific year.

Here's a quick recap of the stuff we went over, since we had to rush it:

1. Get the parent signature page turned in asap, due BY next Thursday, 9/11.

2. Write an intro letter. My apologies to 3rd period, I think I forgot to tell you about this, but it's due on Friday, so you have plenty of time.

3. Subscribe to the blog: scroll down to the VERY BOTTOM, and click on the "Subscribe to posts" link. You will need to choose an application/server through which to receive updates.

4. If you haven't yet, SEND ME AN EMAIL!!! I have a contacts list for all AP English students with 55 names so far...if you want to receive emergency notices, you need to give me your email address.

5. Field trip on Wednesday 9/17, pick up a permission slip if you're interested. See links below for more information:



Incidentally, if this trip is a success, I'd love to take you to see _Peter and Jerry_ at the end of the year.


6. Special notice to those in 3rd & 6th periods: If there's ANY way you can move to 2nd period, I suggest you put in a request to do so as soon as possible. Because the classes are SO imbalanced, they will almost DEFINITELY be moving people in the next few weeks. If you voluntarily move, you may be able to make some choices that you will NOT be able to make if they decide to move you. Be proactive and protect your interests.

7. Finally, you have a diagnostic multiple choice exam tomorrow: come to class ready to start IMMEDIATELY! The test is designed for 60 minutes, we only have 53 in a class period. Every minute counts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The fattest doc you'll ever get in high school

So...some of you have been asking about how we're going to get the texts we're using in class. Some of them are going to be delivered as usual, like in your previous English classes, Hamlet for example, as we're the only class in the school that reads it (English 12A teachers tend to use Macbeth instead). But since we're going to be reading 20 major texts, it would be very unfair to Mrs. Mitchell to ask her to haul them all over campus, she'd be working twice as hard to serve us as any other class in the school.

I keep a few texts in the classroom. These tend to be xeroxed copies of the shorter plays, which I've pulled out of anthologies. I will distribute these one or two weeks before the lectures are scheduled. If you think you need more time than that to read a short play, you may want to reconsider your readiness for the rigors of AP.

But most of the texts are available to you right now, at the link to your left labeled "AP Reader (550 pages)." Yes, that is five HUNDRED and fifty pages. You can understand why I won't be passing these out in class. Seven of the major works, and 10 of the minor pieces are compiled in a pdf document. I'd suggest you print it out, but I understand that it will take more than an entire ream of paper and god knows how much ink to do so, so I won't require it. But it's still a good idea, maybe print out 50-some pages at a time over weeks?

Finally, our very first text is available here:
The Oresteia

Enjoy your last week of summer!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


The syllabus and calendar for next year has been finalized. These are the two most important documents you will need to succeed in this class, here are the links:

AP English Syllabus

AP English Calendar

You need to print them both out and BRING THE PARENT SIGNATURE PAGE TO CLASS ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. You should keep both documents on hand throughout the year, I will be referring to them on the first day, and frequently beyond that.

This is your first homework assignment, worth 10 very easy points. That is, if you're paying attention. I'm trying to impress upon all of you from the very beginning: when it comes to this class, you snooze, you lose.

Good luck.


Friday, June 06, 2008


I know that there are a lot of students who are perhaps confused or upset as to why they are not on the AP English enrollment list when they signed up for the class during registration. Even though most of them won't be checking this blog, I'm assuming many will have friends who are enrolled, so if you would please share this information, I would appreciate it.

First of all, let me assure you, it was not about grades, intelligence, abilities, or how much your teachers liked you. A number of very good students who made honor roll and get As in English were culled from the list because of two simple factors: they don't read and they don't talk.

Some of you may have noticed that there are quite a few students on the list who aren't conventionally high-achieving. They are there because they read, and they are active participants in discussions.

Reading is really the key to success in AP English...students who do the reading have intelligent contributions to make during the discussions and are therefore fully engaged. They're able to keep up with the themes and ideas under discussion, other people's comments make sense to them, and they will have better recall of the information, which will help them perform better on the exam.

Students who don't read (or don't keep up with the reading, playing catch-up all year), sit quietly during discussions, trying to piece together what's going on while others who have done the reading talk animatedly about the text. Even those who go and read the text after the lecture don't have as firm a grasp of the material, so when test time rolls around their mastery of the content will be fuzzier. They just don't get as much out of the class.

Now, having said all that, I know that the culling process is not perfect, we may well have removed students who are active readers and perhaps just didn't demonstrate their engagement as clearly as they could have. If you feel that is your situation, you still have one option: do the summer reading, then come see me in September. We can have a nice thoughtful discussion of the summer texts, and assuming you demonstrate that you are a good candidate for AP work, I will add you to the class, space allowing.

Also, if you are on the list and are now having second thoughts (or start to have them over the summer as you plow through the texts), let me or your counselor know as soon as possible so that we can figure out the number of open spaces available to interested students. Remember, moving to English 12A can be problematic in September. This year, it took almost a month before a new section was opened to accommodate all the level changes. You don't want to be in English limbo for the first month of school, it's not a good way to start your senior year.

Finally, I do want to thank everyone for their interest in AP, misguided or not. It has the potential to be an amazing learning experience for the truly engaged and invested student. I hope that's you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Summer Reading Reminder (click here for list of texts)

For all the incoming seniors who are enrolled in AP English, I have one very important reminder:

The summer reading is highly, highly recommended, even if it's not technically required.

We are going to begin the year with a two day diagnostic exam, which may strongly affect your grade. As you know, English is a graduation requirement, so if you aren't on top of things, you risk not walking in June.

Even if you scrape by with a C or D, college admissions and scholarships may be lost due to your not meeting minimum GPA requirements.

You have a lot at stake. Please make wise choices. If you decide to stay in the class, you must commit yourself to doing the reading, which begins with the summer list. Remember, the reason I recommend the summer reading is to make your life easier during the school year. If you choose not to benefit from my advice, the consequences are all on you.