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Day 36: then/than, Odyssey verb charades October 14, 2009

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Today was an early release day, so on the shortened schedule we stuck to the more formal aspects of English: spelling and vocab.

1. Then/Than Notes. Students took the following notes:

then = used for time

memory trick: then = next = time

then, next, and time all have “e”s. You can usually replace “then” with “next.”

For example, “Then I went to bed” -> “Next I went to bed.”

than = used for comparisons

memory trick: than = compare

than and compare both have “a”s. Only use “than” when you are comparing two things.

For example, the lyric “I can do anything better than you,” compares what I can do with what you can do.

2. Odyssey verb charades. Because students typically think of verbs as “action words” like “run” and “jump,” we started by listing verbs that can’t be seen. Some of these verbs are hope, wish, want, think, be, and feel. Then, students drew infinitive verbs from a box to act out for the class. One or two students acted out the verb in front of the entire class. Then, each team of 3 – 5 students guessed what verb the team was trying to show and wrote it in the infinitive form on their team’s small whiteboard. For an extra point, teams wrote sentences using the word with a character from The Odyssey. Some sentences were: “Odysseus escaped from Polyphemus’ cave under the ewes,” and “Calypso seduced Odysseus.”

HW: Read “The Enchantress Circe,” p. 673-674 by Friday and take reading notes on stickies, at least 2 stickies per page. Bring textbook/The Odyssey to class tomorrow. We will continue working on “The Cyclops” episode.


Day 35: it’s/its, WordSkills, “The Cyclops” October 13, 2009

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  1. Notes on homonym it’s/its. Absent students should add this to their writing notes: “it’s” is always used to mean “it is,” since the apostrophe (‘) stands in for the missing “i” in “is.” Think of the apostrophe as a mini “i” as you read a sentence back to yourself. You see, “It’s sunny out,” and you read “It is sunny out.” That makes sense, so the apostrophe is in the right place. You use “its” without an apostrophe as a possessive pronoun (like his, her, or their). For instance, “The dog chased its tail,” or “I like its color.” When you read these sentences back to yourself it wouldn’t sound right to add in an “is.” Listen: “The dog chased it is tail,” doesn’t work. Nor does, “I like it is color.” So don’t add an apostrophe unless you want to say “it is.”
  2. WordSkills 2.6-2.10. Quiz yourself on these word parts to see if you remember: demi, dys, ex, ec, ef, eu, fore. Parents/siblings/students: try to remember the meaning of the words demigod, dysfunction, eccentric, eulogy, atrophy, and forefather.
  3. The Cyclops Episode. Students will be analyzing this episode of The Odyssey throughout the week. Today we discussed why Odysseus decided to trouble with the cyclops Polyphemous (poly-FEE-mus) in the first place. It’s probably because he’s still following the Heroic Code of a Soldier. Soldiers at this time valued: 1) stuff, like treasure and loot, 2) women, either the women of the enemies or goddesses, and 3) killing, as their main goal on the battlefield was to kill the enemy. As a former soldier, Odysseus thinks mainly of his honor and how he can prove it. Therefore, he takes any opportunity to display this honor and strength… For instance, he decides to show the Cyclops who’s boss. Many students said they thought of Odysseus as stupid or hard-headed for calling back to Polyphemous and bragging after his ship left the island. However, since he’s following the Heroic Code, we know this is just the way he’s been trained to think. He’s trying to show strength and honor. Some classes began listening to the lead-up to the Cyclops episode that was cut from the textbook. We will finish listening tomorrow or on Thursday. Ian McKellan has recorded an excellent version of the Fagles translation available for purchase. I listen to it every day in the car…

HW: Read “The Enchantress Circe,” p. 673-674 by Friday. Read “The Land of the Dead,” p. 675-677 by Tuesday. Take notes on stickies. You do not need to bring your textbook on Wednesday. It is an early release day. Bring your book on Thursday and Friday.

Day 34: Test/Quiz corrections, spelling, and verbs October 12, 2009

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Today we did a number of random but meaningful tasks.

  1. Passbacks: WordSkills Test and Noun Quiz. Please ask your student what grade they received on these two important evaluations. Many students performed below average, so we went over the procedure for doing test and quiz corrections. My policy allows students to reanswer any questions they got wrong on any evaluation for up to half the points back. Two elements must be present in the correction: 1) the correct answer and 2) an explanation of why the original answer was wrong or an explanation of why the new answer is right. Students must come in to my classroom to do test corrections on their own time. I am available before school, after school, and at lunch (A or C). There is no reason any student should fail their first quarter because they did not come in for test corrections. I went over with students 6 different examples of test corrections so everyone knows how to do them.
  2. Impromptu spelling quiz. In order to allow students to succeed in the workplace and in college applications without being judged prematurely, I would like all students to be able to spell certain commonly misspelled words. Often times our writing is the first thing people see of us (emails, cover letters, resumes) and they judge us accordingly. If you have a misspelled word in a cover letter, it is likely the employer will simply move onto another applicant. I want my students to be judged by the quality of their character, not by their spelling. Therefore, spelling must be perfect. I conducted an oral pretest on the following spelling words: it’s, its, than, then, their, they’re, there, definitely, judgment, a lot, traveling, refrigerator. Could you spell all of these words? In the future, students who got 5 of these words wrong today will only have to spell those 5 words on the next test, etc.
  3. Verbs charades. A verb is an action or state of being. Students gave examples of verbs and then (in some classes) we played charades with verbs related to The Odyssey.

HW: Read “The Cyclops” p. 660-670. Take notes on stickies in the margins. 2 stickies per page at least. Bring textbook. Bring WordSkills poster if it’s your day to present.

Absent students: Set up a time with me to take the spelling pretest. Come in to see me about your grade for the vocab test and nouns quiz.

Fagles Translation October 11, 2009

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fagles cover 1fagles cover 2…..If you’re reading the Robert Fagles translation of The Odyssey and are wondering what to read in the book, here is the translation concordance (match-up) for you to download. On Monday, you can ask me for the bookmark version of it. Click here: Fagles Translation Concordance Bookmarks

Day 33: Noun quiz and more reading notes October 9, 2009

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Today we took a quiz on nouns and then looked at the beginning of the “I Am Laertes’ Son” section of The Odyssey.

  1. Quiz. 10 questions. Nouns, pronouns, possessive pronouns, antecedents.
  2. Reading the Odyssey. We went over how students’ sticky note annotations should look. Here’s an example:

Picture 2

HW: Read “The Cyclops” by Tuesday. p. 660-670 in Elements of Literature. Or p. 211-229 in Fagles translation.

You don’t need to bring your textbook on Monday.

I will return WordSkills tests on Monday.

Day 32: Reading the Odyssey October 8, 2009

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Today we started WordSkills Unit 2 and learned how to read The Odyssey using sticky notes.

  1. The Simpsons. To start class, we watched 6 minutes of The Simpsons so students would know the general story before we started reading. Not only does this give students a concrete example of the term “allusion,” but it also allows them to experience The Odyssey the same way its original listeners did: as an audience familiar with the plot before the first line was even spoken. Because this was an orally delivered poem and based on historical events, The Iliad and The Odyssey were commonly known stories. Therefore, it is crucial students have some understanding of the arc of the story, even if it is cursory (as it was for many audience members as well, only told to them by a family member or friend). I hope this is adequate justification for those of you who may be a bit skeptical. Students are always welcome to excuse themselves from any viewing they are not comfortable watching.
  2. WordSkills 2.1-2.5. If you were absent you need to get notes from a friend on the first five prefixes. They are also posted under the WordSkills tab.
  3. How to Take Reading Notes using Stickies. Any absent students need to download this form (How to Take Sticky Notes Web), which explains how to do the homework. In class we practiced taking notes using the first page of The Odyssey, p. 651 in the textbook. Because The Odyssey is a difficult and dense text, I need everyone to slow down while reading it. On each page of your book, you need to summarize what happened, point out any important lines (with arrows on your sticky), write down any questions, and add a thought about characterization (What are this character’s motives? Desires? Strengths? Weaknesses? point out the lines that tell you so).

HW: Read “I Am Laertes’ Son” p. 656-658. Take notes on stickies. Use at least 2-3 stickies per page. Follow the directions on the “How to Take Reading Notes on Stickies” for ideas. If you have your own copy of The Odyssey, you do not need to use sticky notes. You may write directly in your margins.

Please, if you have your own copy of the book… Please, please, please, feel free to read ahead and read much more than what we are reading in class. I highly encourage all Honors students to obtain their own copies of the book, translated by Robert Fagles, and read it straight through. I will be overjoyed if you bring up things that we haven’t talked about in class.

I would also like to draw your attention to the free audio version of The Odyssey available under the Resources tab.

Day 31: Nouns, Pronouns, Antecedents October 7, 2009

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Today we discussed parts of speech, antecedents, and some brief background on The Odyssey. Tomorrow we will start our WordSkills Unit 2 vocabulary.

  1. Parts of speech review. Students located nouns, pronouns, and any antecedents in the first 2 sentences of The Odyssey. Absent students should download and complete this handout: Nouns Review Odyssey.
  2. Background of Odyssey. This was a very brief discussion. The main point is that The Odyssey is actually a Part II. The Iliad is Part I. So, while we are not reading The Iliad in class, we do need to consider its events in order to correctly interpret the characters and plot of The Odyssey. The Iliad is the story of the Trojan War, in which Odysseus was a war hero. Having won the war, Odysseus tries to make his way home in The Odyssey. Therefore, we need to consider Odysseus as we would any war veteran. He has many of the same problems: his wife and son do not know him anymore, his wife may have been approached by other men to remarry, his son has no father, he may still act like he is in war (by acting hyper-macho), and more than likely he suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which is common among soldiers today coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In some classes we started watching this great clip from The Simpsons:


(Watch 2:00 – 8:50)

HW: Read “Tell the Story” (p. 651) and bring book tomorrow.

Day 30: Progress Reports and Hero’s Journey October 6, 2009

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Today students received progress reports for the second 3 weeks of school. These need to be signed and returned by next Tuesday. Students also received textbooks that they should bring to class tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday this week. I will be giving out a calendar this week of the other days to bring the textbook.

  1. Passbacks and Progress Reports.
  2. Book distribution.
  3. Finish Hero’s Journey Posters.

HW: Bring textbook/The Odyssey and sticky notes tomorrow.

If you have your own copy of The Odyssey to read, you do NOT have to lug around your textbook! :)

Day 29: WordSkills Unit 1 Test October 5, 2009

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Today students took the unit 1 test on the first 25 words in the WordSkills program. This will count as a test grade, but will not appear on the progress report for most students.

No homework.

If you haven’t finished the test, you have until the end of the day tomorrow to make it up. Otherwise, it will be graded as is.

Progress Reports… October 3, 2009

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will be issued on Tuesday!