Tuesday, September 30, 2014

september 30

Since yesterday got (awesomely) hijacked by Nik, we're using yesterday's agenda today.

Monday, September 29, 2014

september 29

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "I've Just Seen a Face" by The Beatles; "Face Up" by Rush; "Face to Face" by Wayman Tisdale]

Last week we discussed using indirect characterization to establish a character.  Today, describe a face that tells the story of a life.  (Picture each feature as a brief, compelling chapter in a biography: Has that mark always been there?  What caused that scar?)

1. Journal
2. Lecture: Canterbury Tales
3. Fun with Dick and Jane (or whatever you named your characters)-- (1) meet up with a group of characters and share where you're going and why.

1. In a blog post entitled CHARACTER STUDY (III), use today's work to write your character into the emerging story you and your colleagues are creating.  By now, your narrative should include in/direct characterization, a destination, and the first elements of the hero's journey.
2. Peer review: literature analysis (please visit < 5 of your colleagues' blogs and comment/ask questions re: their literature analysis #1; also think about how best to organize everyone's work so you can find it easily.  Last year's cohort put them on a mindmap-- can you think of something better/easier to use?)


Check out Nik Koyama's (RHS Class of 2013) "Get This Kid Out of Here" (his website is here).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

september 24-26

First, I apologize for not posting yesterday.  I wound up having to spend most of the day with an MRI machine and a guy named Bob. 

The sub told me you all worked well anyway, so it turned out to be a good use case for the idea that you are perfectly capable of driving your own learning bus.  The sub also told me that you are awesome.  I agree.  I hope you picked something interesting to write about in your journal.  The topic for 9/24 is officially "Choose Your Own."

Here's the plan for today and tomorrow:

Please write in your journal in the voice of the character you invented for yourself in Monday's homework.

Please use your journal and your time in class to begin chronicling your character's adventure.  "What adventure?" you ask.  I have no idea-- it's your character.  But your character will be going on an adventure, and here are the initial criteria: 1. The character has to be called to adventure, this is not something s/he is seeking; 2. The adventure must be thrilling/challenging but not necessarily desirable; 3. The character must prepare and leave home with what's on his/her back (which may include a bag of stuff); 4. The character's departure must be vividly described; and 5. The character must meet up with at least one other character from class by Friday. 

You don't need to post any of this to your course blog yet, although you are welcome to as always, but you will need this material over the weekend, so please take your journals home with you on Friday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

september 23

Choose your own.  Relate it to the course or don't.  Take the opportunity to go all Montaigne and express your thoughts as they occur.

1. Journal
2. Working in a group of 3-5, select one of the Canterbury Tales & begin a character analysis.  Describe Chaucer's approach to characterization (direct? indirect? both? when/why?).  Describe Chaucer's tone with specific regard to the character's station in life, words/deeds, and integrity.  Describe Chaucer's use of humor.  Comment on anything else you find worthy of comment.  You may choose to divide the group into roles for these purpose, or everyone can hunt for everything as you read.

1. In a post entitled CANTERBURY TALES (II): WHAT A CHARACTER! please transcribe your written notes on your course blog.

canterbury tales

Here is a link to the full text in multiple formats. Also, here.

Additional resource (with thanks to Amara Sharp, Class of 2014): 


Monday, September 22, 2014

september 22

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett; "Strength, Courage & Wisdom" by India Arie]

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden observed, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."  Briefly describe your character and your reputation.  What similarities & differences do you see between the two?

1. Journal
2. Evolution, adaptation, and the Jonathan's #phonar lecture

5. Chaucer & Prologue to Canterbury Tales
6. You are such a character!

1. Create Netvibes dashboard, set as browser launch page, and describe in a post to your blog (title: MY DASHBOARD)-- Note: if this represents an unnecessary next step for you because your current organizational system effectively meets your needs, please write about it so we can learn from you!
2. In a post to your blog entitled CHARACTER STUDY (I), use in/direct characterization to write yourself as a fictional character.  The time is one year from now.  The place is the university of your choice.  Describe your journey to this moment.
3. In a post to your blog entitled CANTERBURY TALES (I), list any observations about the Prologue.  These may include questions, vocabulary, predictions, literary techniques, and quotes/elements that you found especially effective or memorable.  *Which character's story do you most want to read?

Friday, September 19, 2014

portfolio spreadsheet

Hey, thanks to the 17 people who posted the URLs for their qualifying blog posts.  Now for the other 66...?

please comment to big questions post

This weekend please remember to post your Big Question as a comment to the Big Question post so that I can share your Big Question with some pretty amazing people who have explored Big Questions of their own and like to meet and collaborate with people who have Big Questions.  If you need the Big Questions link you can find it here: Big Questions.

september 19

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson; "Moon Dreams" by Miles Davis; "La Traviata-Prelude" by Verdi]

Describe your favorite music--to a deaf person.

1. Journal
2. [Surprise!]

1. Please watch this video and buckle up for next week's exploration of Canterbury Tales. (Please Note: the password to open the video is phonar14.  Please Also Note: I haven't seen the whole thing, and Jonathan described it to me this morning as "rambling and nonlinear."  It's also chock full of what we need to know as we proceed.  Please post notes to your blog-- title PHONAR14 VIDEO-- and come to class Monday prepared to discuss in the context of Canterbury Tales.  If you don't see connections, please also come with questions.  Mahalo.)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

september 18

Make a plan.  How will you use your Big Question as a way to guide your study over the next grading period?

1. Journal
2. Bede/Canterbury Tales notes
3. Vocab
4. Literature Analysis reading/work

1. Review for vocab quiz tomorrow

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

september 17

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["You Learn" by Alanis Morissette; "Education" by Pearl Jam; "Think" by James Brown]

President Roosevelt visited nonagenarian Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the hospital and was surprised to discover Justice Holmes reading a book on Greek grammar. "Why are you reading Greek grammar?" the president asked. "To improve my mind," the justice replied. Many students rightly want to get out of school, but mistakenly believe that their learning ends when they drop out or graduate. What is the difference between learning and schooling?  What is the value of learning in your life? How long do you plan to keep it up?

1. Journal
2. Big Questions & Masterpieces
3. Vocab/lit analysis/think time/one-to-one meetings

1. Vocab
2. If you haven't already, please post your Big Question
3. Reflect on your Masterpiece.  Post when ready (MY MASTERPIECE 1).  This can change over time, so start dreaming now.  

literature analysis #2 sign-up

Please comment to this post with the book and author you chose.  Mahalo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

see you on the forums page

...which lives here.  Join conversations about Big Questions, scholarships, Masterpieces, games and more!

september 16

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Hello, I Love You," "Love Her Madly" & "Love Me Two Times" by The Doors]

Reification is rendering or considering an abstract concept as if it were concrete, or an inanimate object as if it were living.  Our discussions of theme frequently revolve around abstract concepts (love, death, or God, e.g.) that authors reify through literary techniques.  This morning I'm thinking back on Bukowski's "Laughing Heart" and how it communicates abstract, complicated ideas (inspiration, risk, independence, fulfillment, the meaning of life) in just a few lines.  How is it possible for something this short to convey as much meaning as a 700-page novel?  Describe the techniques Bukowski uses as you remember them. 

1. Journal
2. Wrap up discussion of thesis (& revisit your Beowulf essay to improve)
3. Evaluation/feedback
4. Vocab/begin one-to-one conversations

1. Since you weren't allowed to return the textbooks, let's take advantage of them one more time.  (I mean "one more time" literally.  Unless one of you sees something else of value, I won't mention them again, so please remember to turn them in when the library allows so you don't get charged at the end of the year.)  By Friday 9.19, please read the section on Bede (pp.74-82) & the Prologue to Canterbury Tales (pp.90-115).  Please take active reading notes on your blog or on paper, whichever helps you learn/remember most effectively.  (*If you take them on paper, please post highlights to your blog and offer to share the paper version with your colleagues.)
2. Nostalgia: in the past, I assigned an application packet (resume, personal statement,  >2 letters of rec) and made it due this week or next.  If this helps motivate you, do it.  If it's an added source of unhelpful pressure--and if you pinky swear me and your parents that you will get started on these elements this week--you don't have to turn anything in.  Please be aware that I reserve the right to bug you about this stuff until I'm satisfied that you've put yourself in a position to succeed, or until application season is over, or until you've graduated from college...
3. Find & begin book for Literature Analysis #2.  Please comment to the sign-up posts and bring to class on Thursday, 9.18.

screen shot solutions

How are you taking your screen shots, saving them, and emailing them as attachments?  (I use Skitch.)  Please describe the tools/commands you're using in a comment below.  These conversations are becoming especially important for those of us who are using phones for most of our work, and some are also using tablets, so please feel free to include ideas for different devices.

Monday, September 15, 2014

september 15

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun" by Julie Brown; "Delicious" by Jim Backus & Friend]

Texts in all media are often read differently by different readers. What is funny to one person can be offensive to another. One reader "gets the message" while another wonders, "What's the point?" How does the author of your literature analysis book use techniques such as figurative language, parody, satire, and allusion to encourage the reader to interpret the text?  Think of an example from anything you've read and describe how it can be interpreted in more than one way.  Is this more or less effective than coming right out and telling the reader everything s/he needs to know?  Explain your answer.

1. Journal
2. Status: personal statement & letters of recommendation
3. Big Questions, SMART goals, and Collaborative Working Groups
4. Applied mindfulness tools: dashboards and lists
5. Beowulf & thesis (add'l resources after the jump)

1. Post definitions and sentences/narrative for VOCABULARY #4
2. Update, monitor, and hack your TIP if you're into that sort of thing
3. Write your DECLARATION OF LEARNING INDEPENDENCE and post to your course blog 
4. Lit analysis #2 due Friday, October10

vocabulary: fall list 4

bete noire

links to last year's masterpieces

After last week's conversations about Big Questions (*please comment to that post if you haven't yet), several of you asked for links to last year's masterpieces.  Here you go:

Friday, September 12, 2014

osl chat: ted newcomb

Today we will be joined by Ted Newcomb for resources that will help you build your Personal Learning Network.  For the past 17 years Ted has been a co-host on The Well, one of the Internet's oldest virtual communities.  He recently retired from a 30-year career in hotel/resort management and facilitates some of Howard Rheingold's online courses and alumni groups.  Ted received master's degrees in philosophy and theology from Claremont Graduate University and Fuller Theological Seminary, respectively. Fun fact: Ted's grandfather invented sound for motion pictures and a couple years ago the family found a print of Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" in an attic.

september 12

JOURNAL: [today's tunes: "People In Your Neighborhood" by Sesame Street; "Why Can't We Be Friends" by War]

Today is all about your learning network.  If you could ask any living person any question/s that would help you develop your talent or seize the opportunity of your dreams, who would you talk to and what would you say?  How can you find them and invite them to spend 15-50 minutes with us online?

1. Journal
2. Networking
3. 5PH1NX
4. Ted Newcomb

1. Literature Analysis #1 due by Monday
2. If you haven't yet, please ask 5-7 people you respect for letters of recommendation

support suzel & avid

Suzel is raising funds for a worthy cause:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

september 11

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Twenty Questions" by The Beastie Boys; "Change of Ideas" by Bad Religion)

Yesterday you were asked to envision your ideal Time Investment Portfolio.  Today your work is up to you.  What aspects of self-direction do you find appealing, and what do you find difficult or intimidating?  How does it feel to be the author of your own life/learning story? 

1. Journal
2. Recap/Q&A from yesterday (& Relativity for p.6)
3. "Young Goodman Brown" and symbolism
4. Big Questions & Masterpieces

1. Reminder: vocab quiz Friday
2. Reminder: literature analysis #1 due by Monday, 9.15

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

september 10

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "We Ride (I See the Future)" by Mary J. Blige; "Future Shock" by Curtis Mayfield; "Better Things" by The Kinks]

What is your view of the future? What do you think the world and/or your life will be like in 5 years? 20? 50?

1. Journal
2. Satisfaction as function of time & effort
3. Cottle's circles test: past, present & future
3. Einstein's theory of relativity & magic wands
4. Meaning, signs & symbols in "Young Goodman Brown"
5. Beowulf meets Thesis in a showdown for the ages

1. Start TIP (if it's a meaningful and worthwhile investment in time)
2. Read "Young Goodman Brown" and "Two Dogs & The Human Nature of Stories."  Please comment to the "Two Dogs" post with an observation about YGB that relates to your learning experience in American Literature and what you wish you'd discovered about school and your own success earlier in life.
4. Reminder: vocab
5. Reminder: Literature Analysis

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

personal statement suggestions

Off the top of my head.  Feel free to adopt, adapt, improve, ignore, fold, spindle, or mutilate.

1. Be YOU, not the version of you that you imagine will impress an admissions committee.

2. Start with a vignette, a small moment, something that appeals to the senses and brings the reader into your life.

3. Remember that everyone has some positive attributes, and everyone has dealt with what they perceive to be obstacles.  If your essay focuses on your positive attributes, make sure that they are really #$%! AWESOME and describe them boldly.  If your essay focuses on obstacles, be sure to emphasize how you responded and turned them into lessons/strengths.

More soonly.

september 9

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Time" by Pink Floyd; "Time" by The Alan Parsons Project]

What do you think of when you think of time?

1. Journal
2. What's the big idea?
3. Young Goodman Brown?
3. How to have the time of your life

1. Start your Time Investment Portfolio
2. Read five Beowulf essays and comment on the author's thesis
3. Reminder: vocab
4. Reminder: Literature Analysis

personal statement resource

From Mrs. Dirkes:


young goodman brown?

Given what I learned yesterday about your experiences in reading American Literature, I'm leaning toward spending some time on "Young Goodman Brown" with you this week because: a) it's WAY more accessible than Beowulf & gives us a piece of literature to chew on without learning a new language; and b) I've always liked it, but felt like an English teacher/geek about that fact until I wrote the essay below for my American Literature students this past weekend.  That's when I read the Wikipedia entry about it and learned that Stephen King called it "one of the 10 best stories written by an American."


What do you say?

Monday, September 8, 2014

september 8

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Chidori No Kyoku" by Satomi Saeki & Alcvin Takegawa Ramos]

Most of the time your attention is focused outward: on classes, sports, jobs, other people, and the 101 things you have to do in order to get through the day. For a moment, see if you can forget all that. Let your mind grow quiet. Listen to yourself breathe and consider this definition of mindfulness: "focusing one's complete attention on the present moment." Today, rather than responding to a specific topic, simply write down the information that occurs to you right now. This may include thoughts, feelings, sounds/sights, memories-- or even just sensations of how your fingers feel on the pen or how your toes feel in your shoes.  Please be sure to record your stress level when you begin writing and when you finish (on a scale from 1-10, 1 being least stressed and 10 being most stressed).

1. Journal
2. Status: return work, college/scholarship portfolio notes, Beowulf essays, preview of coming attractions
3. Vocabulary #3

1. Post definitions & sentences/narratives for VOCAB #3
2. Reminder: Literature Analysis #1 due Monday (9.15)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

vocabulary: fall list 3

sub rosa

this just in

Breanna just posted a homework assignment tool on her blog.  I'd explain it here, but then you'd miss the cool Tolstoy quote on her home page.  This is exactly the sort of thing you can discuss on the Open Source Learning 2014 Forum.  It might be just the thing, or one tool among several you can use to save you organizing time and boost your collaborative/achievement IQ.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

class forum-- there's an app for that

In a previous post I shared a link to the forum that Joey and Jacob created.  This is a great way to start conversations with colleagues about everything from coursework to collaboration.  Since so many of us access the Internet on the go, Joey sent me this email to make it easier for you to log in from your mobile devices (he also posted this on his blog):

Friday, September 5, 2014

beowulf essay prompt

And the winner is...

Beowulf exemplifies the heroic traits and the literary techniques of its time.  Analyze this in the context of our class discussion and the commentary you read, and compare with a contemporary hero and the way his/her story is told. 
Extension (you can do this as a separate piece, or you can do this within the framework you establish in response to the above prompt, but this idea was too good to let go even if its authors did :)

How would Beowulf be different if the story was told from a feminist perspective?

Thanks for all your ideas!  Looking forward to reading your work.

september 5

Write an outlandish fake absence excuse using as many of this week's vocabulary words as you can.

1. Journal
2. Vocab quiz/correct
3. Discuss & work on Literature Analysis #1
4. Discuss & plan Beowulf essay

1. Beowulf essay (post to course blog-- title BEOWULF ESSAY-- by Monday 9.8)
2. Work on Literature Analysis #1 (due by Monday, 9.15)
3. Post to your blog with any thinking you've been doing about your Big Question & your Masterpiece (title: MASTERPIECE IN PROGRESS)
4. Prep for one-to-one evaluation interviews next week 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

joey wants you on the forum

This just in:

You can find it here.

where is there a list of all the assignments we're supposed to have on our blogs?

Unless you go through all the posts here on the course blog, there isn't one.  But there could be.

Several students have asked if they can create a resource like last year's Random Absence Mentoring blog, which was designed by Lisa Malins and friends as a way to distill the essentials and stay organized as life got more hectic during the semester.

My answer: DO IT!!!

How cool would it be for you to have an easy reference like this:

 With a list of assignments like this:
All you need to do is say, "I'm in" and we'll have a lunch meeting for those people who want to set it up.  I'll help create it, and Lisa may be available too.

family/community mentorship

Whether you and/or your families can make it to Hack to School Night or not, everyone you know is an extension of our learning network. Any time they want to learn something from us or share an expertise with us they are welcome. 

This may be a new concept to you because high school traditionally emphasizes subject-by-subject specialization in closed classrooms.  You should know, however, that this practice isn't all that unusual in a world where collaboration and interdependence are essential factors for success.  For example, my daughter's elementary school just sent home this notice:

See you tonight!

september 4

JOURNAL TOPIC: ("Face Value" by Phil Collins; "Shock Value" by Timbaland)
When you say something is "valuable" what exactly do you mean? Do you define value in terms of money?  Emotion?  Scarcity?  What the marketplace thinks?  Or do you have a different standard? What is the value of your work in school?  What is the value of this moment and the thinking/writing you're doing right now?  (*Bonus question: Does it seem ridiculous or legitimate to compare your bildungsroman/hero's journey to Beowulf's exploits?  Why/not?)

1. Journal
2. Review vocabulary definitions & usage
3. Discuss Beowulf essay topics & writing strategies

1. Vocab vocab vocab
2. Schedule your work so as to finish Lit Analysis #1 by Monday, September 15

**Looking forward to seeing you & meeting important people in your lives this evening.**

suggested beowulf essay topics

Here is a list of the essay topics you created based on your careful reading of previous AP essay prompts, your analysis of the text and a brief lecture, and your imaginative collaboration in yesterday's conversations.  Please provide feedback in the comments, we'll decide on one (or a combination) by Friday.

  • Using Beowulf as an example, explain the definition of an epic.  Include an analysis of theme, historical context/background, and language.
  • Do Beowulf's character traits truly embody the ideal hero?  Is there anything lacking in his character?
  • How do modern representations of honorable heroes differ from the ideal portrayed in Beowulf?
  • How would Beowulf and its protagonist be perceived by modern readers?
  • Is Beowulf's extreme desire to vanquish his enemies a positive or negative attribute?
  • Is the static character of Beowulf a signal that it lacks realism or reinforces ideals?
  • When does confidence become arrogance? 
  • Why do we strive for honor?
  • What does Grendel's character reveal about what society perceives as evil?
  • How do gender roles in Beowulf compare with those of other great works?  Select one or two of "comparable literary merit" and compare.
  • How does Beowulf's view of honor compare with that of other heroes? 
  • Compare and contrast Beowulf's character with that of Odysseus.  What can you infer about the societies from which they came?
  • Analyze the structure and literary techniques in Beowulf that portray the deeper meanings of the text.
  • How do Beowulf's acts of heroism create and/or confirm his fate?
  • What qualities distinguish Beowulf as a hero, in comparison to a "mere mortal" or a god?
  • Are Beowulf's superhuman qualities a reflection of the author's/public's aspirations?
  • How are external forces such as fate or God represented in Beowulf?
  • Is Beowulf a static or dynamic character?  How does his consistency and/or development define him as a hero?
  • Select a modern text that may be regarded as an epic in our culture.  How is it similar to or different from Beowulf?
  • How does Beowulf's setting influence the plot?
  • What makes Beowulf the Original Hero?  Why has this story endured for so long?
  • How would Beowulf be different if it were told from a feminist perspective?
  • Is Beowulf's confidence cocky or arrogant?  Is this an objective character trait, or is seeing this as a positive/negative really just a subjective judgement of his/our culture?
  • How has society's standard of what makes a hero changed over time?  Is it easier or harder to be a hero today?
  • How does Beowulf fit Joseph Campbell's idea of the monomyth?
  • Describe the main theme/s of Beowulf and explain the literary techniques that portray these ideas.
  • In what ways do Beowulf's weaknesses make him a hero?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

september 3

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "History Lesson" by Dave Grusin; "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones; "History Lesson-Part II" (slightly abridged) by the Minutemen]

As George Santayana and Edmund Burke (among others) have observed, those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. However, our culture focuses on the modern, the "new and improved." In this day and age, is there a point to looking backward? Why bother studying the etymology of words and the history of language? How can understanding the past help us prepare for (or even shape) the future?

1. Journal
2. Old English & Beowulf wrap-up; essay prompt brainstorm
3. Vocab
4. Literature analysis #1 status

1. Vocab vocab vocab
2. Find a scholarship worth applying for and report on the scholarship (or the temporary futility of your search) in a blog post entitled WILL STUDY FOR FOOD.  In the post, explain what you need scholarship $ for and how much you hope/intend to earn.  If you haven't yet, this is a good time to start analyzing costs of school and living in order to determine where to set your fundraising bar. 

how do I embed a video?

There are a variety of ways to embed videos on your blog, and-- since I am an expert in none of them-- here are two strategies I hope will help:

1. Find a blogger in the Member Blogs who has figured it out and ask him/her how;
2. If you are one of those people who has succeeded, please share your method in a comment below.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

this sums it up

Today I asked what you learned last week when I was in London.  We learn all sorts of things from our environment when we're open to the experience, and often they're more important than what we get in a course curriculum.  For example: on the plane I took a break from reading and writing to watch the movie Chef, and got a powerful lesson in creative integrity and passion:

"I get to touch people's lives with what I do.  And it keeps me going and I love it.  And I think if you give it a shot you might love it too."

You could apply this to the pursuit of anything meaningful.  It sums up how I feel about teaching and learning.  It's good to be back.

Monday, September 1, 2014

we are born learners

So sez I, here.

the hero's journey

There are many, many resources with information about Joseph Campbell and the monomyth (hero's journey).  A couple years ago, Dulce contributed a link which I (can't find anymore but) particularly liked because of an opening paragraph that said, "I assumed everyone who has taken High School English would know the steps of the journey..."  This is one of those boxes people check when they privately ask themselves whether the person in front of them is educated/learned/wise.  Since Dulce also did us the favor of distilling the elements of the cycle (here), I copied/pasted her version after the jump.  (Thanks, Dulce!)  We'll be working with this on and off throughout the year, so if you find a resource worth consulting please include it (with link) in a comment to this post.  Thanks!

september 2

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley & The Wailers)
This is a quick write: Describe what you learned in this course last week.  If you need inspiration, listen to the song and/or consider the picture.

1. Journal
2. Course notes: checking in, portfolios, Hack to School Night
3. The Hero's Journey
4. Beowulf: historical context & literary technique

1. Definitions & sentences for vocab #2
2. Brainstorm Beowulf essay prompts for discussion tomorrow

vocabulary: fall list 2