Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good question

Robert asked a question on Tuesday that I feel deserved a more thorough answer. See link below:

Olde English Pronunciation

Wikipedia adds (with regards to the specific example of "knight"):

Generally, all letters in Middle English words were pronounced. (Silent letters in Modern English come from pronunciation shifts, which can no longer be reflected by the written form because of fixed spelling constraints imposed by the invention of dictionaries and printing.) Therefore 'knight' was pronounced /ˈknɪçt/ (with a pronounced K and a 'gh' as the 'ch' in German 'Knecht'), not /ˈnaɪt/ as in Modern English.

Also, on the subject of spelling constraints, take a look at some of the European language academies that regulate their languages:

Academie Francais
Swedish Academy
Real Academia Espanola

And look at the list of global language regulators...which one stands out as having "no regulator?"

Wikipedia list

Imagine how different (and rigid and less fun) English would be if we had one of these governing bodies telling us exactly how to use our words. Yay for the hodge podge mess of a language that is our mother tongue!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ooooh, pretty colors!

Next week we tackle one of the most bizarre and fascinating English poets, ever.  Not only was he a bold and unique person, William Blake's work broke new ground and has never been replicated.  I can't really think of a modern poet/artist that combined words and images in such a mind-blowing way like Blake did.

His poems tend to be reprinted textually, which really misses the point.  Blake's illuminated works are meant to be seen as a complete piece of art, not as black letters on a white page.

To better understand the power of Blake's poetry, you need to go to this site on William Blake and scroll down to see The Songs of Innocence and Experience in full color (it wouldn't hurt if you read the introduction and learned something about Blake while you're at it).  

Friday, February 13, 2009


I know it's a new semester, a new grading period, and with a fresh start, many people feel that it's OK to slack off a bit since there's still plenty of time to pull a low grade up. So many folks started off the year with C's and D's but went up to A's and B's, so maybe they think they can do that again in the spring.

Here's the thing...there are WAY fewer practice tests in the second semester. You're in the middle of the SIXTH cycle out of EIGHT. That means the opportunity to raise your grade in the second semester is very limited.

Other than the AP Exam itself, for which I give you an absurdly easy 100 points just to take it, there is NO built-in point padding for the spring semester. You NEED to step up on the essays, especially if you're still scoring below the 60% mark on the multiple choice. If you're still falling below 50% on the MC, you need to be prepping yourself on your own...the practice tests in class aren't going to be enough.

These last two rounds of essays have been noticeably weaker than what I saw in January...most people aren't even trying to hit page three.

And next week is another open-ended. If you haven't made a cram sheet yet, you should!

Pick it up, folks!

Friday, February 06, 2009

AP Exam Sign-up

It's February, and nearly time to sign-up for the exams in May. If you've never taken an AP exam before, you need to plan for it EARLY rather than last minute. The exams need to be ordered from the College Board, so if you wait til the last minute, you simply cannot take the test.

First, it will cost somewhere around $90. I believe it was $88 last year, but I can't be 100% sure. Be prepared, you may put down a deposit, or pay in full. If your parents' income levels qualify, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver. Ask Mrs. Jung (the accounts clerk in the counseling office).

Secondly, the deadline for signing up will be in mid-March. Listen to the bulletin for more information. DON'T MISS THE DEADLINE!!!

Third...if you haven't already, MAKE YOUR CRAM SHEET! That's the list of ALL the books you've read that may be useful on the open-ended essay test. Review the characters, settings, and basic plot points, so you don't make the embarrassing mistakes that I saw on this last batch of open-ended essays. It's TOM Buchanan, not Dave, not John (not Dick or Harry, either). Romeo and Juliet lived in Verona, not Venice. At no point in the Importance of Being Earnest did Gwendolyn actually get a tattoo...that was added in just the film, NEVER in the original text. Those kinds of errors just make you look careless and silly. And don't be lazy...just because you can't "study" for this exam doesn't mean you can't PREPARE.

Those of you who are still unable to reach a THIRD page on the essay tests need to step it up. Very rarely will a two-pager do all the things an AP essay needs to do, analyze, articulate, demonstrate understanding and control. Push yourselves to get MORE out of your brain and onto the page.

We only have TWO (and a half) sets of tests before the big day. If you're not showing any improvement, in any section of the practice tests, you need to seriously ask yourself why...Why aren't you improving? Why are you taking the test? Why are you really in the class?

Good luck.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dropping scores

I've finished grading everything that's going into the first semester for AP. If you have access to iParent, you can check your final grade. Each period has a slightly different point total due to curving: 2nd period=1410; 3rd=1480; 6th=1469.

Now, if you have an A--that's anything above 89.5%--don't bother asking me to throw out your lowest test. I won't bother. You have a frickin' A! Pluses and minuses don't show up on your transcript, aren't factored into your GPA, so don't waste my time bugging me to boost your 93% to a 96%. That will just annoy me. You know I'm not fond of grade grubbers.

If your grade falls in the lower ranges of each letter grade, dropping your lowest grade may not change anything. If you have an 82%, for example, dropping a 50 point vocab test that you bombed is NOT going to bump you up 8% into A range. In these cases, don't waste my time asking to drop your lowest grade just so you go from an 82% to an 85%. That will annoy me, too.

This is not a good time of year to annoy me. Winter makes me cranky enough as it is, slapping grading deadlines on top of that can trigger my bite-your-head-off response. Grrr.

The main folks who should be looking carefully at their test scores are those who are close enough to the next grade range to benefit. If this is you, turn in a piece of paper with the test you want dropped CLEARLY WRITTEN on it, e.g., "Practice Essay 2.A," "Vocab 51-100," "Multiple Choice 6." Be careful, I am not going to check that this IS your lowest score, so if you give me the wrong test name, you may be hurting yourself.

Rough estimate of percentages: an essay test is piddly, worth about 1%, most people shouldn't even bother dropping one, it won't make enough of a difference to matter, unless you're within 1% of the next grade. Most of the multiple choice and vocab tests will be worth around 3%, take a good look at these and figure out what's in your best interest. The last vocab test was 100 points...if your grade is higher than your score on Vocab test 151-200, you should probably drop it.

OK...grades are going in tomorrow afternoon. I hope no one is surprised by what they have.