31 December 2007

Our laptops, our situation, and our responsibility

We have been blessed in F14 - and at Branford High - to have access to plenty of the latest computer technology to enhance our learning. As you know, this year is the first year using a portable laptop cart to provide easy, in-class computer access for each student.

And as you also know, not everything has gone perfectly. We've had problems accessing the Internet or even just signing on. Glitches in the computers have surfaced, making our work sometimes difficult, sometimes frustrating. Maybe we haven't completely tapped into the full potential of these machines. However, with a new year, I got to thinking that despite any minor malfunctions, just how fortunate we are. Not everybody in the world is so fortunate.

This lead me to consider about just how powerful a tool a computer can be for our learning. Maybe we haven't fully tapped into the full potential of these machines, but trust me, there are limitless possibilities for what we can do. So why not do something productive, something that reaches beyond the walls of the classroom, and this school, to make a difference somewhere else.
I stumbled across the One Laptop Per Child project, which ships inexpensive computers to children in third world countries who have minimal resources for learning. For $200, an XO Laptop - designed to be durable, easy-to-use, and accessible to the Internet - can be shipped to a student in a third world country. See more details here.

Don't we have a responsibility to help those out who are less fortunate? How could we get involved in something like this? What could we do to help? Are we capable of collaborating as a class and coming up with ideas to make this happen? Can we make it happen? Can we raise at least $200 to purchase a laptop?

From now until February break I'd like to find out. I'd love to hear your ideas.

20 December 2007

Learning vocabulary and feeding the world

Learning new vocabulary words is an important component of our class this year, and it's a skill that will help you in your writing and reading comprehension. So far this year, we've compiled a list of 52 new words from the literature we've read. In addition, students pursuing the honors option will have a separate vocabulary component, this one modeled on a sample SAT-type vocabulary test. One way to prepare for the midterm is to review all the quizzes you've taken this year. All the words and definitions are there.

But wouldn't it be great if you could improve your vocabulary AND help defeat world hunger? Well you can. Here is an online vocabulary quiz that raises money for the hungry – This unusual website – http://freerice.com/ - has a multiple-choice vocabulary test with instant feedback (words get harder if you are more successful, easier if you get words wrong). For every word you get correct, ten grains of rice are donated to the world’s needy through the United Nations.

Any site that can promises both an improved vocabulary and feeding the hungry is worth a try. If you do, I'd like to hear what you think. Post a comment if you'd like.

18 December 2007

Just what kind of mother is Beatrice? - Gamma Rays post #5

This is the 5th, and final homework blog posting of Gamma Rays... Have you completed them all to earn full credit?

Now that we've gotten to see Mrs. Beatrice Hunsdorfer in the play, how would you categorize her as a mother? Go back and re-read the article on dysfunctional families that we studied in an earlier post. Using information from the article, decide what type of parent category Beatrice fits into. In what way will her parenting style affect her children, either now or in the future? Explain your reasoning by pointing to specific examples from the play.

16 December 2007

More dreams - Gamma Rays post #4

This is the fourth homework blog posting for Gamma Rays. The calendar says it's due Monday, but we'll extend it to before class on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

Langston Hughes, the poet who wrote "Dreams" from an earlier post, also wrote "A Dream Deferred." In both poems Hughes address the power of dreams. Likewise, Zindel's play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds deals with the impact dreams have on human beings, both for the power they have to instill hope and the emotional havoc wrought by broken dreams. Now that we've read most of Gamma Rays, read "A Dream Deferred." Which character do you think this poem speaks to the most in the play? Hughes uses several evocative similes. Choose some lines that you can connect to incidents and events from the play. Explain the connections.

A Dream Deferred*

What happens to a dream deferred*?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

by Langston Hughes

* deferred = to put off action, to delay

13 December 2007

Assignment: Submitting an essay from MyAccess

Twice this semester, we have used the MyAccess writing program to write, submit, and revise an essay assignment. Both essays that we completed - An Important Change and A Lesson Learned - are now part of your portfolio in MyAccess. You are required to have both of those essays submitted to the MyAccess online scoring program.

In addition, you are required to hand in one of the essays to be graded outside the online scoring program. To do this, you need to print out your essay. Select the one essays you like the best and make any final revisions and submissions. I expect that what you submit will be final essay qualilty work. Use the feedback from MyAccess to help you achieve that. Once you are done editing, print it out from MyAccess and turn it in.

For printing, the best way to do it is to select the publish icon from the My Portfolio screen. See diagram below. Once you select publish, you will be given a choice on the layout you'd like.

A copy of your printed essay from MyAccess is due in class on Tuesday, Dec. 18. You will not be given class time to print. If you have problems accessing MyAccess and printing your essay, please let me know BEFORE the day it's due.

12 December 2007

Dreams and the Hunsdorfers - Gamma Rays post #3

This is the third homework blog posting and it is due before class starts on Thursday, Dec. 13

So far in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, we have been introduced to the Hunsdorfer family - Tillie, Beatrice, and Ruth. Tillie is working on a science project, which has gained her some attention at school. Read the following poem by Langston Hughes. Who in the play do you think this poem speaks to the most - Tillie, Beatrice, or Ruth? Who has dreams? What line or lines stand out that seem to speak directly to her situation? Make specific references to incidents in the play and explain your connections.


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

- by Langston Hughes

11 December 2007

Why marigolds? - Gamma Rays post #2

This is the second homework blog posting... Did you already complete the post on good literature?

It is due before class starts on Wednesday, Dec. 12

In The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Tillie conducts an unusual science project. She subjects three different batches of marigolds to the potentially damaging effects of gamma rays - a topic we addressed in a previous blog post. But why did the play's author, Paul Zindel, choose marigolds as the flower to use in the science experiment? Check out some information on marigolds at wikipedia and this information site on growing marigolds. Focus on the characteristics of the flower and how they grow... Then post your ideas about the use of marigolds in the story. What makes marigolds unique? When do marigolds bloom? How might the characteristics or qualities of this particular flower be a symbol that connects to important ideas in the play? Why might have Zindel used marigolds as the flower?
photo credit: Marigold by Floridapfe on flickr.com

09 December 2007

What is good literature? - Gamma Rays post #1

This posting is due before class starts on Tuesday, Dec. 11

One of the most difficult questions you are asked in an English class is "What makes this a good piece of literature?" As we read The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, we will ask ourselves that on a regular basis. There will also be an in class essay quiz that asks you to evaluate the quality of the play.

However, before you can come up with a good answer, you should have clear ideas for a definition of good literature. For this assignment, I'd like you to define the characteristics of good literature. Remember to avoid meaningless reasons like "it keeps me interested" or the like. Good literature, by definition, should keep you interested - you have to point out just what the author does to make it interesting. Think about the literary terms we studied with previous literature we've read. If possible, use some of them to help you craft a concise, clear definition. Once you have your definition, tell us your favorite piece of literature that we've read in class this year. Evaluate your selection using your criteria.

07 December 2007

Vocabulary for Gamma Rays unit

We are beginning a new unit on the play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. The play, with it's long, strange name, tells the story of the Hunsdorfer family. At times disturbing and hilarious, Gamma Rays shows us just how fragile human beings can be.

In anticipation for the unit, there are 12 vocabulary words assigned. There will be a quiz Friday, Dec. 14. A cumulative list of the words is linked here.

Some of the definitions are linked below; the rest you are responsible for looking up the definitions.

chronic - continuing a long time or recurring frequently
omission -
sterile - lacking imagination, creativity, or vitality.
precedence - priority in preference or order
convulse -
balustrade -
debark -
oblivious -
pervade -
explicit -
gargantuan -
saccharine - exaggeratedly sweet or sentimental

05 December 2007

Making connections between Gamma Rays and dysfunctional families

In preparation for the play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, we've read about two starkly different subjects: we looked at a brief summary of Gamma Rays and a psychological perspective on the different types of dysfunctional families.

On the surface, it appears we are dealing with two entirely different topics, and it might seem like neither of them have anything to do with one another. But what if we went out of our way to come up with a connection, anything? Can we do it? Maybe we need to think about it beyond a literal level. What can we come up with if we stretch our minds and look for any connections? What are the parallels we can draw?

Working with your partner, please post your findings in the comment section...

For your reference, here is the article on the different types of dysfunctional families. There were two articles on Gamma Rays, one a NASA brief linked here, and the other adapted from a Wikipedia entry here.

26 November 2007

What does it mean to grow up?

The question of growing up has been central to much of the literature we've read in class this year. Now, I'm asking you, to illustrate just what you think it means to grow up. Create a multimedia presentation that does just that. All the details you need are right here.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know, either in person, via e-mail, or in the comment box.

20 November 2007

Miller's English pre-Thanksgiving Day Survey

With Thanksgiving upon us, I have begun to think about just what I'm thankful for this year. Aside from the getting to know a brand new batch of sophomores, I am thankful for the opportunity to experiment with a classroom set of laptops and other digital learning tools. I hope it's helped strengthen the learning in this class.

However, I'd like to know more from you about what you think. Would you please complete the following survey? The results will be confidential, unless you want to leave your name. Good luck.

Click here to take survey

28 October 2007

How would you describe a good group discussion?

This blog posting is due Wednesday, Oct. 31 before class starts.

Throughout our study of A Separate Peace, we have spent several class periods discussing ideas from the book in small Literature Circle groups. Often, members of each group are responsible for coming up with the topics worth discussing in groups. While you've discussed, I've been listening and watching.

Now I want to hear from you. How would you describe a good group discussion? What should it look like from a teacher's perspective in the classroom? In the comment section, record some descriptions and characteristics of a good Literature Circle discussion. In your posting, consider what you think the teacher should see, what the teacher should hear, what students should be expected to be doing and saying?

25 October 2007

Quizzical and compelling quotes related to A Separate Peace

There are two options for this assignment...

(A) Find passages from A Separate Peace that show just what type of person either Gene or Finny is. Look for quotes that seem to illustrate either one of the boy's personality, character traits, and/or major motivations.

(B) Find a passage from The Kite Runner which illustrates a significant connection to large ideas and themes from A Separate Peace.

Post your selected passage here, using proper MLA format for quotes, like this: "...blah, blah, blah text of quote blah blah blah" (34).

Your passage should be long enough to be generally understood out of context, but not more than a paragraph at the most. When we're finished, we should have a good resource of possible quotes to use for the upcoming paper. Good luck.

22 October 2007

Are people naturally good or evil?

This writing assignment is due before class starts on Thursday, Oct. 25

One of the more complex and perplexing questions raised throughout history concerns the true nature of humankind. Philosophers have debated whether people are naturally good or are they instinctively capable of evil. Some of the novels you may have read in 9th grade, including Lord of the Flies, Night, Animal Farm, and/or Ishmael have grappled with that very same topic. In A Separate Peace, that idea is also raised as Gene struggles with his own actions and the realization of his true inner feelings.

What do you think? Do you think people tend to be naturally good or naturally evil? Are we all born with the capability to commit evil, or is it something we learn as we grow up? There is no easy answer to this question, but you should try anyway in the comment section. In addition to your own opinion, your answer should include a specific reference to a piece of literature as part of the evidence to support your opinion. It could be A Separate Peace, or it could be something else you've read.

The F14 laptop policy

During the first month of school, we spent time in class and online talking about how best to use the laptops in class. With the privilege of having the computers available to us in class, comes a responsibility to use them appropriately. Many of you came up with some solid ideas about what our F14 policy should be.

It's been a long time coming, but based on your suggestions, I have compiled a draft policy for appropriate use of the laptops in F14. Thank you for the thoughtfulness and maturity you have shown so far in this process.

  • Use of the laptops, which includes use of any programs and/or accessing the Internet, should only be for class work and assignments in English 10.

  • The computers should not leave the classroom.

  • Laptops should be handled with care and should always be carefully and neatly removed and returned to the cart.

  • During class, the teacher will be responsible for monitoring what student use of the computers.

  • Students are responsible for the laptops assigned to them, and they are responsible for any damage that is done to them, which includes any modifications, alterations, or vandalism to the computers.

  • Students should only use the laptops assigned to them.

  • Any student caught vandalizing, breaking, altering, modifying, installing programs, or using the laptop inappropriately will be responsible for the damages and can be subject to having their privileges to the laptops be suspended.

  • Students will not access any inappropriate content, from the Internet or other sources, that violates the acceptable use policy as spelled out in The Guide.

  • Fod or drinks should not be consumed when using the laptops.

As with anything, it's possible that we may need to revisit these ideas throughout the year as new challenges arise.

18 October 2007

What kind of friend would Gene or Finny make?

This writing assignment is due Monday Oct. 22 before class starts.

Throughout the first several chapters of A Separate Peace, Gene struggles with his relationship to Finny. Finny, athletic and outgoing, is quite a contrast to Gene's moody and introverted personality. Author John Knowles spends a considerable portion of his novel exploring the friendship between the two teens.

If you were classmates with Gene and Finny at the Devon school in the 1940s, who would you be friends with? Knowing what you know of Finny and Gene so far, which of the two do you think would make a better friend for you? Point to specific incidents from the novel to make your decision. Your response should be 150 or so words long and should focus on evidence from the novel to answer the central question.

08 October 2007

The first chapter of A Separate Peace

This assignment is due Monday, Oct. 15 before class starts.

With the opening pages of A Separate Peace, John Knowles sets the scene for the rest of the story. The novel opens with Gene Forrester returning to his high school - the exclusive private boarding school Devon - and recalling the events of the summer 15 years earlier.

As we have discussed in class, the narrator - Gene - is telling the story from the perspective as an adult. Most of the novel is told in a flashback, and chapter one is where the flashback begins on page 14. Authors often drop hints in the opening chapters about the larger thematic ideas of the novel. A Separate Peace is no different.

Your assignment is to record a significant passage from the first chapter and write a 100 to 150 word response to in the comment section of this blog posting. Post your passage - it should be at least a sentence and most likely a little more. Here are some possible ideas to help you write your response: Why did you choose it? What ideas may ti relate to in the book? How does the setting come into play so far? What hints is the author providing about significant character traits or events in the novel? Does it remind you of any other stories or works of literature?

Cite your passage with the page number like so - "Words and sentences from the first chapter, blah, blah, blah..." (12)

17 September 2007

Finalizing our F14 laptop policy

This assignment is due Monday, Sept. 24 before class starts.

Earlier this month, all of you contributed ideas about how we should best utilize our laptops in F14. I've had a chance to read your responses, and now I want you to take a second look at what your classmates wrote.

Begin by reading through your classmates' comments from Getting Started with Classroom Laptops. Our goal will be to generate a list of guidelines that will help make our use of laptops a rewarding experience. Your assignment is to select the best ideas from your classmates. Write your answer in the comment section of this posting, and please use the following guidelines.

  • First, complete this sentence stem. "I really liked the comment(s) from _________________ because... (Note at least two)"

  • Next, finish this sentence stem. "The following guidelines should become part of our Laptop Etiquette Policy in F14: (Suggest at least three)..."
Remember, no last names. Put your own first name, last initial, and class period on the posting to earn credit.

16 September 2007

Writing an impromptu essay

Our next unit is devoted to discussing several short stories, and during that time we will examine the difficulties faced by several of the characters in those stories. In several instances, those difficulties are caused by poor decisions made by the main character. It is something we can all relate to. Your first assignment, then, is to examine a decision from your own life which you regret. Read the following prompt and write a well-formed, thoughtful essay.

Each person has been in trouble at one time or another because he or she did something bad or said something wrong. Write a multi-paragraph essay describing an instance when you did something wrong you later regretted and the lesson you learned in the process.

Before writing, you should:

  • brainstorm your thoughts or create an idea web
  • Select a topic worthy of writing about
  • Sketch out a rough organization for your essay

The essay is due Tuesday, Sept. 18

To complete this writing assignment, open up a Microsoft Word document and write it there. You will be given class time, but will also likely need to work on it outside class. You will hand in an electronic copy of the assignment.

13 September 2007

New Vocabulary

The following ten (10) words have been assigned as vocabulary in connection with the unit on The Moustache. You can find definitions for all of them at Dictionary.com. You'll notice at that site that there are different definitions. Use the ones from the American Heritage Dictionary.

There will be a quiz on Sept. 21. Check the calendar to the right for the latest due dates.


Throughout the semester, all the vocabulary will be compiled in anticipation for the midterm, which will include all the words. You can find the cumulative list here.

06 September 2007

Crafting a Laptop Etiquette Policy

Complete this task after you have posted comments on how we should best use our laptops in this class.

As we finish up our responses to our Getting Started with Laptops topic, I'd like you to next read through your classmates comments. Our goal will be to generate a list of guidelines that will help make our use of laptops a rewarding experience in this class. Please open up a MS Word file and type notes for the following statements below as you read through the comments from your classmates. In additionn to our class, Ms. Baker's English 10 classes have also weighed in on the issue. Read their ideas here.

We will use what you write as part of a class discussion.

From your classmates' ideas, please suggest at least three guidelines that should become part of our Laptop Etiquite Policy in F14.

02 September 2007

Getting started with classroom laptops

As you may have noticed in the front of our classroom sits a big metal box. Inside are 25 laptops, purchased for use in this classroom. Having such technology at our fingertips provides a wonderful opportunity to utilize the latest technology as we learn 21st Century literacy skills and concepts.

However, it is more than simply putting laptops in a classroom. Some schools across the country who have experimented with laptops have reconsidered their decision. In Liverpool, N.Y., officials have decided to phase out the laptops in their school starting this year. Their decision made the front page of the New York Times in May. It also prompted many people in education to think harder about the best way to use laptops in the classroom. In response to Liverpool's decision, one educator criticized schools for giving up on technology so easily.

I want you to think about the issue and help us craft a set of classroom guidelines for the use of our laptops. Click on the two links from the above paragraph and read the first page of both articles. Then, as a writing assignment, make suggestions about what we can do in F14 to get the best use out of the laptops. How should we use them in class? What should we be using them to learn? What guidelines do we need? What would you suggest the teacher do to make the most out of the laptops?

Post your response in the comment section of the blog. Write your answer in a few paragraphs, using complete sentences and proper grammar. An honors-level answer will properly make reference to one of the articles. Sign your first name (no last names) and class period after your posting.

10 June 2007

Grammar final exam review

Part of the final exam in English 10 involves the English department's grammar test. As you know, we have used a list of 20 common writing errors as a resource to focus our grammar instruction. The sophomore final exam will cover the first 15 of the common errors.

One common error is misplaced or dangling modifiers, which is #15 on the list of 20. Below is some necessary information to help you review the concept and two quizzes that will help assess your understanding of it, all of which will prepare you for the final exam. Your assignment is to review the material and take the quizzes during class, and then show Mr. Miller you have fully completed them.

To review the concept of misplaced or dangling modifiers, here is some information. Click on this page and read it, focusing on misplaced and dangling modifiers. When you are done, take the two quizzes below.

Quiz #1
Quiz #2

When you are done with those quizzes, review your understanding of error #9 with the following quiz:

Pronoun agreement error

After you have taken the two quizzes, use the rest of class time to review for the final exam. Click on the following page to find links to numerous quizzes and exercises that you can use to review for the kinds of questions you can expect to encounter.

27 May 2007

End of year assignments

The end of the year is fast upon us, which means it is important you keep track of the expectations and assignments for the 4th quarter and final exam. You should have completed all six blog entries for your novel - 1984 or Fahrenheit 451. That is spelled out here.

What I'm noticing as I read your entries is that many of you have spelling, grammatical, or mechanical mistakes in your postings. Treat your blogs like a final essay - proofread and edit. Even published items can be revised. Do it.

The following information should be helpful to you in keeping track what is expected of you to wrap up English 10 this year. All of this is also listed on the class calendar, which should be visible on the right side of this page.

4th quarter assignments:

Final exam assignments:
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions. Either leave a comment, send me an e-mail, or simply come up to me in class and talk to me.

24 May 2007

Final blog checklist

To keep track of where you stand on the assignments for 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, use the following checklist. By Friday, you should have completed:

  • Six blog entries - initial thoughts on the novel, safe blogging, thoughts from your discussion, important ideas from the novel, and two postings of your choice. One option could also be from the one posted below about "How do they not know?"
  • Four comments on classmates' blogs
  • One blog entry that references and links to another classmate's blog. Put in a hyperlink like this. This entry could be one of the postings of your choice from above.
With all blogs, you will be graded on...
  • Originality of ideas based on the novel
  • Development of ideas with support from the novel
  • Focus
  • Grammar/mechnanics

23 May 2007

How do they not know?

One question that seems to have come up during the discussions of your novels is wondering how the people in 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 could be so unaware of the reality of their society. That's a good question and one worth completing a blog entry on.

How could they not know? What is it about their daily existence that makes it so they don't know? How is the government in the novel able to make it so the common citizens don't know? What is the most effective method they utilize?

Post your comments on your blog. To earn full credit for your response, you must provide a logical answer and use a quote from the text in your answer. Remember, this is a writing assignment so your quotes should be incorporated into your writing.

In all postings, you need to remember the following:

  1. Come up with an interesting title - or headline - that relates to what you are writing about.
  2. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. These are school assignments and should be treated as such, with proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
  3. Write more than one paragraph.
  4. In your first paragraph, include a sentence that states clearly what it is you are writing about.

20 May 2007

Commenting on each other's work

One powerful features of a blog is the ability to leave comments on postings written by someone else. We have done this for class assignments, when you submitted your answers via the comment section of the class blog. Now, I'd like you to read several of your classmates' blog postings and respond to their ideas. The purpose of this assignment is to promote conversation from your blogs which we can hopefully use as part of a class discussion Wednesday.

There is no one way to comment on a blog. For our class purposes, however, it is important that we make the most out of our reading and commenting. Our comments will be more effective if we follow several guidelines.

First, begin your comment by mentioning something interesting/powerful/positive from the blog posting you have just read. It may help to even repeat and quote from the posting. This way, the response is focused on the ideas in the posting.

Next, provide some transition from what the blog writer is saying and the ideas or points you'd like to make. This is where you could politely disagree or find a place to expand upon the thinking by making a connection.

Finally, end your comment with a strong idea, or clincher. It could be a question or a powerful restatement of the ideas raised in the blog. Think of these like questions or comments you might use during a discussion to keep the conversation going.

Some sentence starters to assist you could include:

  • I agree with you when you say "blah, blah, blah..." and I think _____
  • In your post you say "blah, blah, blah..." but I wonder if ______
  • You write in your post "blah, blah, blah..." and that reminds me of _____
  • In your post you mention from the book "blah, blah, blah..." and I'd like to add _____

18 May 2007

Another blog posting

This assignment is due before class starts on Monday, May 21

Please post your thoughts or ideas that arise from your reading to your blogs. This could be pointing out a significant quote or idea from the story; or you could reflect on larger ideas you encounter; or raise an important question that you also attempt to answer.

In all postings, you need to remember the following:

  1. Come up with an interesting title - or headline - that relates to what you are writing about.
  2. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. These are school assignments and should be treated as such, with proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
  3. Write more than one paragraph.
  4. In your first paragraph, include a sentence that states clearly what it is you are writing about.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.

15 May 2007

English 10 Blog assignment

This assignment is due on your individual blogs Wednesday, May 16.

By now, you all should be familiar with how to compose and publish a blog posting on your own blogs. (Look for your listing at the bottom right of this page) And all of you should have published at least two entries - one on your initial thoughts about the novel and one about responsible blogging.

For your next posting, you have several options:

  • Take one of the non-numbered questions I have given you and expand upon one of those in a blog entry. Make references to specific portions of the text.
  • Pull out an important idea that you discussed in class and explain how or why it is significant to larger ideas in your novel. Make references to specific portions of the text.
  • Use one of the thought questions or journal prompts on the question sheet as a starter to write your blog entry. Make references to specific portions of the text.
  • Come up with something on your own related to ideas in the novel. Make references to specific portions of the text.
No matter which option you choose, please remember to do the following:
  1. Come up with an interesting title - or headline - that relates to what you are writing about.
  2. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. These are school assignments and should be treated as such, with proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
  3. Write more than one paragraph.
  4. In your first paragraph, include a sentence that states clearly what it is you are writing about.

14 May 2007

Responsible blogging

Hello English 10 students...

I have read and reviewed your postings from Monday's assignment. There were many great ideas brought forth from your blog postings, and I have compiled them here as part of our new classroom policy on blogging. Several of you referred to the blog policy of Mr. Hunt in Colorado, which we used as a guideline in drafting ours.

From reading your postings, it seems like we agree on the following general guidelines:

  • No personal information (last names, contact information, pictures, etc...) should be included anywhere in your blog. This parallels what the school district's policy is regarding these matters. Even e-mail addresses should not be made public on the blog.
  • Information and ideas on the blog should only be on school-related topics. More specifically, your blogs should deal with ideas related to the novels you are reading. These blogs are not places to socialize or meet other people.
  • All students - and teachers - should be careful and conscious about what they write because their blog exists on the internet, which is a public place. Only post what you want the world to know. This means that all writing should be school-appropriate, respectful, and free from harmful, hateful, or offensive language.
  • Students and teachers have the right to delete any comments posted by someone else on their blogs that they do not feel comfortable with. Students can also restrict the settings on their blog to prevent comments if they feel it is necessary.

In addition to the policies, many of you posted some valuable ideas and thoughts about our work blogging. Here are some excerpts that I thought might be of interest:

Tori mentioned a concern that is relevant to a lot of things when it comes to technology, whether it's computers or video games. She writes, "Another danger that was not discussed is the fact that some teens get so involved with their pages, that they spend all their time inside on the computer."

John wrote about how there are dangers in a lot of activities, but that doesn't mean we should ban them, only that we need to be safe about it. He writes, "I like in the 2ND text, how they say bad thing happen [in other activities for example]. "You could get hurt in a sport, whats the difference with the online thing" the teacher explains. Some good rules would be to consistently check your blog, and if any comments come up that you don't know who they are, report it to a teacher right away."

Shane writes, "Also you want to make sure that anything you write in a blog or link to your blog is something that you understand and want to be associated with."

Morgan writes, "On a website I recently read, it said that you should be sure that anything you write you are proud of, it can and will come back to get you if you don't. I found this very interesting, but right. In the future, if you were to be looking for a job, it might be possible for an employer to discover some immature things posted when you were younger. I'm sure that nobody would want this to happen, but it will if unnecessary things are written."

And finally, George writes, "One shouldn't try to make friends as if it were myspace, attracting the wrong type of people. The key to safe blogging is to use your own good judgement in what you say or do."

I agree. Thank you for your efforts and in class, and please let me know if you have any comments, concerns, or suggestions.

13 May 2007

What does it mean to blog responsibly?

This posting is an assignment to be completed IN CLASS on Monday, May 14

As we get started using our class blogs for posting our writing and ideas, it is important to fully understand the medium we are using. Many of you may be familiar with such technology if you've used sites such as MySpace or Facebook. Those, typically, are geared towards social networking and meeting friends. Our purpose here is to use a blog as a learning tool first, not a place to socialize.

With that in mind, your first task today should be to make sure there is no personal information on your blog or blog profile. Make sure you do not show your e-mail address on your profile. I would recommend also that you name your blog and give it a description that easily identifies it as a school assignment blog.

Once you do that, you are ready for today's lesson. By the end of class today, students should recognize the potential dangers of irresponsible blogging, and contribute to an "acceptable blog use" policy for English 10.

Your assignment is to read the following texts:
Schools grapple with policing students' online journals from USA Today.
"More on Safety" from teacher Mr. Hunt in Colorado
"Student blogging handbook" from Mr. Hunt's class
After reading them, write a post on your blog that explores the following questions:

What are some of the potential dangers of blogging discussed in these texts? Which of these concerns are legitimate? Why or why not? What other dangers are there in blogging that were not discussed in the texts? What should students keep in mind in order to practice responsible blogging? Suggest 2-3 rules you think would be appropriate for the class to follow as part of a blog policy.

Start your own post by linking back to this posting via a hyperlink like this.

When you are done, I will compile your responses from your posts.

09 May 2007

Beginning a new venture to write online

As we begin our new unit with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, we will also be undertaking a new venture to do more of our writing and responding to the texts online. In the past, we have used this blog as a way for me to post a prompt and for you to respond to it in the comment section. However, that method limited your ability to revise your writing and to comment on one another's ideas. That, to me, are two important components of an English classroom.

For this unit, you will create your own personal blog. You will be in charge of regularly posting ideas and thoughts related to the novels. This space - Miller's English 10 Homework blog - will become the area you will receive your assignments and information.

With a blog, you can post your thoughts and responses to the novels, allowing your classmates to read what you've written and to build on your ideas. Likewise, you will read the writing of your classmates and be able to connect to their thinking and ideas. On a more individual note, the blog will become the primary area where you will maintain a record of your thinking and writing. In a sense it will become an online notebook that will be graded, both for content and writing quality.

Like almost everything we've done this year, I ask you to keep an open mind. It may be foreign to you at first, but do not give up. One skill that's going to make you successful in this world is the ability to adapt and adjust to new situations. Maybe this is one of them.

To get started, click the "create blog" link in the upper right hand corner of this page. If you already have a Google log-in (for example if you have a g-mail account) use that to sign in and name your blog. If not, use your school e-mail address and create a free account. The name of your blog should be something you can remember and I can easily identify as yours.

Once you create your blog, cut and paste the address into the comment section of this post so I can begin compiling all the student blogs in one place. Good luck.

23 April 2007

Midsummer Post #6: "This weak and idle theme..."

This is the 6th and final Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Thursday, April 26.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare presents us with an unusual and fantastic series of events as fairies and mortals mix in the mysterious woods just outside Athens. The four lovers and the mechanicals each undergo their own experience with the fairy world. However, different characters provide varying takes on the night's strange happenings. Consider the following three reactions/explanations by different characters:

  • Nick Bottom awakes from his dream, his "most rare vision," and offers one explanation at the end of Act IV, scene 1.

  • At the beginning Act V, Duke Theseus explains to Hippolyta what he thinks of the situation in the woods.

  • And finally, Puck re-appears with his own suggestion for the audience in the closing lines of Act V.

Of the three reactions/explanations, choose one that you believe the most significant or closest to how you might try to explain what happened in the woods. Whom do you believe the most? Bottom, Theseus, or Puck? Why? Point to specific lines from the play to help make your point.

photo credit: Midsummer Night's Dream by taichi UK on flickr

15 April 2007

Midsummer Post #5: 'Lord what fools these mortals be!'

This is the fifth Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Thursday, April 19.

In the middle of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the four Athenian lovers have found themselves all mixed up due to the love spell two of them are under. As a result, they bicker, beg, fight, plead for love, and do many seemingly "crazy" things all in the name of their love. During it all, Oberon and Puck watch the mayhem their love spell has created. Puck tells Oberon, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" He's referring to the lovers, of course, but Shakespeare also seems to be making a point that humans in general are capable of doing and saying some crazy things because of love. The lovers don't notice it, but for any outside observer - like the fairies who take on the role of an audience in this scene - the foolishness is readily apparent.

So far in the play, what do you think has been the most "foolish" thing one of the lovers has said or done? Now think about people you know in your life: is the Midsummer lover's "foolish" action realistic for someone under the spell of love? How is the lover's action like or not like people you know? What does Shakespeare seem to be saying about the power of love?

30 March 2007

Some thoughts about the 21st Century

This blog posting is a little different than what we've done - meant mainly to make you think. It also involves watching a video on Windows Media Player. It's due before vacation starts.

You may think that what we do here is confined to our school, or even just to the community of Branford. That's not true. The other day, I came across the following blog posting which mentioned some of the work we have been doing with this blog. The reference was posted on the blog Shakespeare Teacher, which is maintained by Bill, a teacher with a computer and an affinity for Shakespeare. Read what he said about our blog here. His entry also includes a thought-provoking video worth seeing. You can also view it by clicking here - make sure you turn up the sound and be patient through the first few moments, which deals with another high school.

Reading Bill's post and watching the video got me thinking about how important it is for us to realize the potential of some of the digital tools we have begun using in English 10. Our world is changing immensely, things are shifting. What we write and post here can be read by people all over the world. They, in turn, can post their own ideas in response, creating opportunities to expand our ideas and influence well beyond F14. Are we taking full advantage of this technology?

After viewing this video, consider this: Web technology is transforming how we communicate, and it is opening up countless opportunities for the collaboration, discussion, and sharing of ideas. Our own example is only a small scale, but the potential is almost limitless. Such social networking has powerful potential and will be a major part of the world that you will be living and working in. We need to be ready to survive and thrive in that world. How can educators, like me, better prepare you for such a future? What kinds of skills will you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world like this?

Midsummer Post #4: Describing one of the characters

This is the fourth Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Tuesday, April 3.

Shakespeare created numerous memorable characters, who exhibit the human traits that people still have today. A Midsummer Night's Dream is no different. In this play, there are both human characters (mortals) and fairies, and all of them are unique.

Choose one of the characters we've met so far and describe what makes them unique. As part of your answer, choose a line or two of dialogue that the character speaks and use it to help explain that character's personality. Think of descriptive words and phrases to help illustrate just what kind of personality traits your chosen character has. Choose some lines of dialogue that accurately and clearly illustrate his or her personality.

Remember, when you cite dialoge from the play, follow this format: "Full of vexation come I, with complaint/Against my child, my daughter Hermia." (Act I, sc.1, lines 22- 23)

Good luck...

photo credit: Robert Huskisson. The Midsummer Night's Fairies, 1847.

27 March 2007

Midsummer Post #3: To whom would you give advice?

This is the third Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Friday, March 30.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, we encounter four lovers. Each has a unique dilemma, some more serious than others. There's Hermia and Lysander, who love each other but can't be together. There's Helena, desperate for Demetrius's love and willing to do almost anything. And there's Demetrius, who has Helena's love, but would rather have Hermia's.

Imagine for a moment these four characters are regulars in the BHS commons. You are their friend, and they need your advice about what to do with their love life. Who would you give advice to, and what would you tell them? Choose one of the four lovers and write a note to them with your best friendly advice about their situation.

Start your letter, "Dear ____" ...

Don't hold back. The person you are giving advice to relies on you for being honest and upfront with them.

22 March 2007

Midsummer Post #2: Shakespeare and sitcoms

This is the second Midsummer post and is due before class starts on Wednesday, March 28.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy, which is something that today's television viewers should know a little something about.

According to Scholastic Scope magazine, Shakespeare wrote about three kinds of classic mix-ups: 1) mistaken identity, 2) love triangles, and 3) strange coincidences. Each of these classic mix-ups are staples on 21st Century sitcoms. The next time you watch your favorite sitcom or re-run, look for one of those classic mix-ups involving the characters.

For your assignment, select one (1) of the classic mix-ups from above and find an example of it from a popular sitcom you watch. First, describe the mix-up from the sitcom, and then explain how the humor of the mixed-up situation helps increase your enjoyment and appreciation of the show. What makes it funny?

As with all of these assignments, it is a good practice to write your response in a word processing program like Microsoft Word so you can better edit and proofread your entry before submitting it. It also makes sense to save a copy of your response in case you have problems posting.

20 March 2007

Midsummer Post #1: Creative ending assignment

This post is due before class starts Thur., March 22

The first thing we tackled when starting A Midsummer Night's Dream is the twisted, complex plot. You have been given a basic summary of the storyline of the play, all the way up to the end of Act III. For your reference, there is a version of the summary here.

Your assignment now is to take this mixed-up love mess and bring it to a conclusion with a happy ending. As it stands right now, everything is messed up and needs resolution. Assume the role of a narrator and finish the story. This is your chance to predict how this all turns out in the real play.

A couple things to remember before completing your posting: 1) your story must have a happy ending, just like a Shakespearean comedy would. 2) you must come up with a way to solve the problems of a majority of the characters. 3) your creative ending must be in the form of a story, continuing the storyline you've been given. Try to be creative and come up with an original, even outrageous, way to wrap up this storyline.

As with all entries, you might consider writing on a word processing program first so you can proofread, edit, and continuously save before your final posting. Saving it in a word processing program will also cover you in case there's a problem posting.

Photo credit: Bottom with the Faires in a costume sketch from Charles Kean's scrapbook for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shelfmark ART Vol. d48. from the Folger Shakespeare Library.

19 March 2007

Extra credit offered for English 10

Several of you have asked about extra credit in the past, and I have always said no, I don't offer it. One reason is because we have the revision policy, which allows you to re-submit an essay for a better grade. To me what we do in class is should be about learning, so if you want to get extra "credit" then you need to show me that you are doing extra learning. It's not about padding numbers for a grade point average bottom line.

However, I've begun to revise my thinking on this in light of several factors. For one, some of the writing we've done the last unit was not all of a traditional essay variety. We have begun to experiment with blogs and wikis - with mixed success. And of course it should always be about your learning. With all this in mind, I am going to offer extra opportunity to extend your learning. For those of you who want to improve your grade (say a C to a B or a B to an A), I suggest taking me up on this. For those of you satisfied with your grade (say you already have an A), I can offer you two things: a real opportunity to challenge yourself in preparation for future learning and the chance to bump your grade up to an A+.

I've come up with several ideas to demonstrate extra learning. Since we are in the 21st century and I want to prepare you for the skills of tomorrow's workplace, all of the choices involve technology. If you need technical assistance, please ask. But remember, part of this involves you learning more about the technology to maximize its potential. In all cases, if you want the extra credit, you must talk to me about what you'd like to do beforehand.

Below are some suggestions I came up with. Choose one or talk to me about your own idea.

  • Take your Literature Circle wiki page and organize the information on it. Put the ideas, passages, responses, and any other information into a coherent final product. This will mean re-arranging, editing, deleting, modifying etc. If someone else in your group wants to do it, then work with them. As part of this you will need to set up a free account and profile with wikispaces.
  • Work with someone from one of the other classes who read the same book as you and combine your pages into an organized final product. As part of this, you may have to create a whole new page with all the combined and edited information. You will also need to set up a free account and profile with wikispaces.
  • Create your own personal blog using Blogger.com or another free online program and post regular entries over an extended period of time. It doesn't have to be all about what we're reading, but more about what your interested in. As long as it's your thinking and writing. Post several times a week to earn the credit.
  • Work with a partner or a small group (doesn't have to be from your class period) to create and maintain a wiki resource on A Midsummer Night's Dream that includes information on the characters, themes, and some literary devices in the play. Set up a page in wikispaces or pbwiki and continually add to it. You won't earn credit just for setting it up, but rather for maintaining it by continuously adding and revising the information to it. If you do this right, it could become a great resource for you when you write a paper about the play later in the unit.
  • My wild card suggestion: Create something English class-related with Flickr. This is a photo sharing site that allows you to do many interesting things with digital pictures. Be creative. Learn something about how to use it for an English class, do it, and then show me.
  • Do you have any suggestions?

Important note: As with anything you do for school, you must abide by the Branford Public School's acceptable use policy for computers and the Internet.

05 March 2007

Literature Circles Post #6

This will be the final wiki posting for this unit. It is due before class starts on Thursday, March 8.

By now, you should be finished with your novel - Black Boy, The Color of Water, or Frankenstein. Your wiki page also should contain numerous quotes, themes, and personal responses from your novel that were posted by you and your classmates. It is likely that there is little formal organization to your group's wiki page, but rather a collection of ideas and thoughts.

For this assignment, post some closing thoughts about an important theme or broad topic that has been discussed already on the wiki, and identify a passage from the fourth part of the book that connects to your ideas.

Record your response on your group's wiki page - click here to access the wiki. Select a passage from the fourth part of the book that somehow illustrates how that idea or broad theme has evolved during the novel. Discuss how that relates to important ideas that have been raised throughout the novel. What happens at the end of the novel to resolve a major conflict related to the theme?

Write about 100-120 words to explain your ideas.

Remember to put your first name after your posting, so I can keep track of it.

13 February 2007

Literature Circles Post #5

This post is due before class starts on Thursday, Feb. 15.
This post is due before class starts on Monday, Feb. 26.

Now that we've gotten at least halfway through our books - either Frankenstein, Black Boy, or The Color of Water - many themes and ideas have come out through your discussions and the postings on the class wiki.

  1. Select a theme that has been discussed on your wiki page already. (Or, if you'd like, from the page of another group reading the same book)

  2. Record that theme on your group's wiki page - click here to access the wiki.

  3. Select a passage from the second part of the book that somehow illustrates an aspect of the theme. Write about 100-120 words that explain how the theme is shown and how it is progressing in the book so far.

  4. Remember to put your first name after your posting, so I can keep track of it.

08 February 2007

Literature Circles Post #4

This post is due before class starts on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

You should be almost halfway through with your books, and it should be apparent that there are some important themes - or large ideas - that stand out.

Review the ideas and opinions posted on your group's wiki and select what you think has been a predominant theme so far. In literature, the central theme is typically revealed through the conflicts in the book. Your assignment is to write a posting that explores one or more recurring conflicts in the book. How does the conflict help illustrate the complex ideas involved in the theme? How has the author developed the theme through different events and conflicts in the book? What does the conflict show about people in general?

Record your work on your group's wiki page - click here to access the English 10 wiki.

Remember to put your first name after your posting, so I can keep track of it.

06 February 2007

Literature Circles Post #3

This post is due before class starts on Thursday, Feb. 8

For this assignment, you are asked to review the Post-it notes you have made for yourself in your book. Select the two (2) best Post-its and record them on your group's wiki page.

On your group's wiki page, record what you wrote on the Post-it and explain where you put it in the book. Be as specific as possible.

In choosing the best Post-its, you may want to consider the following:
-examples of thinking shown
-a good discussion question raised
-important conflicts or other story elements noted
-insightful analysis of the novel's themes
-other relevant ideas

01 February 2007

Literature Circles Post #2

This post is due before class starts on Tuesday, Feb. 6

Now that you have begun familiarize yourselves with the English 10 class wiki, this next assignment will ask you to take it a step further. Read what some of your classmates are posting and then post your own response to their ideas. Your homework response will go on the wiki, not on the comments section here.


  1. Click on the wiki and search through the groups in the other class who are reading the same book as you. Read what those group members have been posting.
  2. Post a response to an idea from a classmate - from any class period.
  3. Post your response (100-200 words) right on the other group's page by clicking Edit Page. Be sure to leave you name and to be respectful of one another.
Some possible ideas for responding to a classmate's idea...
  • Ask a follow up question and provide some of your own thoughts...
  • Answer a question or questions posed by someone...
  • Add further comments to someone else's thoughts to help them extend the depth of their ideas...
  • Make a connection to someone's ideas...

28 January 2007

Literature Circles Post #1

This post is due before class starts on Thursday, Feb. 1.

Now that you've had a chance to get started on your book - either Frankenstein, Black Boy, or The Color of Water - you should be thinking about some of the important themes or big ideas that are starting to emerge.

  1. Select one of the themes listed below, or identify your own.

  2. Record that theme on your group's wiki page - click here to access the wiki.

  3. Write about 100-120 words that explain how the theme is shown in the book so far, and point out an important event that helps illustrate this theme.

  4. Remember to put your first name after your posting, so I can keep track of it.
Some possible themes:
racism, isolation, alienation, hunger, family, perseverance, the search for identity

To earn credit, evidence of your work needs to be on the class
wiki. If you have questions or problems, please use the comments section.

02 January 2007

Pulling out a passage from the excerpts

This blog posting is due before class starts Monday, Jan. 8. Good luck...

We read three novel excerpts - Frankenstein, The Color of Water, & Black Boy - and you've been asked to highlight passages that made you stop and think, and those that raised questions, and those that provoked a strong reaction. If you're reading carefully and thoughtfully you should have no problem encountering such passages.

Here's your chance to share one of them with your classmates. Your assignment is to post your passage - it should be at least a sentence and most likely a little more. Write a 100-150 word response about why you chose it, what ideas it may raise about the book, how you may connect it to something significant outside the text... or other related thoughts about it.

Cite your passage with the title of the novel and page number like so - "Words and sentences from the book, blah, blah, blah..." (Book title, 12)