Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"You mustn't take everything so literally."

This is a quote from A Farewell to Arms by Ernst Hemingway. My juniors are being a new unit on Modernism and WWI, so I am beginning a new push for blogging. Here are my new guidelines. The goal is to get them reflecting about the book and the writing style and connecting to their own lives/world. We have tackled a short story by Hemingway so far and identified his propensity to leave out important information thus the need to work hard as a close reader and the ambiguous ending. Using blogs and actively commenting on each others' blogs could be a great way to help each other uncover important themes and techniques, important not because I lecture and say it is but because they identify with some universal idea and find writing techniques that they can begin to employ in their own writings.

So, here is my first blog:
I am rereading this book WITHOUT a pencil in my hand, and it's killing me! I have already marked it up in three different colors, so what more could I need to mark. Well, I came across two quotes that struck me as meaningful, not only for this novel, but also for us as readers and "interpreters" (thanks Stephen Crane) of it.
The first quote is my title, "You mustn't take everything so literally" (21). This is spoken by Ferguson, friend of Catherine. On the one hand this is so true for reading fiction; writers want us to think beyond initial reactions and identify meaningful, figurative ideas that we can apply to our own lives. On the other hand, much of this book so far is SO literal: pebbles in a river bed, the sounds of a gun battery waking Henry up in the morning, the green of new spring. So, why all the literal, Hemingway? That's one question I hope we can answer in our class discussions.
My second quote is (not required, but short) "Anybody can crack" (20). Catherine says this to Henry on the first day that they meet. I think that it's safe to say that we can all relate to the truth of this statement and add "under pressure." Whether that pressure is grading papers in a timely fashion :), taking tests and writing those lovely papers, or participating in or witnessing war-not all equally weighty experiences-but all pressure situations, nonetheless. I agree with you, Catherine, though from this point you get a little kooky. So, my second question is: what's up with Catherine?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Using the Tools for your Own Goals

I liked this idea from Jenny Luca:
We have to start thinking about the tools we can use that are going to extend the thinking of our students and help them make some connection to the idea that they can make use of these tools for their educational benefit.
I think that I have really gotten to this stage. I am not planning lessons around tools but vice versa. I am thinking about ways to use online resources to enhance learning goals. Right now I am most excited about the work on my seniors in The Novel elective. As we study the development of the novel through time, we have started writing our own class novel. The students are beginning to have fun with their characters and to realize that writing is entertaining for the writer too.

My goal all along has been to publish their book at the end of the semester. I have no idea how close we will get to this, but one of my students talked on Friday about making money from our venture. I was so excited about that because my non-AP students are beginning to see themselves as writers, and they may never have felt that confident about their writing before.

So, where are the tools? We have a class wiki where students take turn taking the notes for the day. This is also where I post topics and information and link to each of our blogs, where we reflect on the big ideas of each reading. We also have a page for the class novel and can use the discussion board to leave notes and ideas about the developing plot of our own work. I made a working timeline on TimeGlider of some significant dates as our characters began to develop and interact with each other. Students have written character descriptions and dialogues, which they have posted to www.turnitin.com so that they can peer review each others' work. Finally, we'll self publish on a site like this. Or some other that we find before May. Do you have any ideas or other resources that we could use?

Final learning goal: my students will know first hand what a novel is by writing and publishing one of their own collaboratively.

And, I don't see how that would have been possible before.