Saturday, December 19, 2009

Important Announcement

Among my many wonderful experiences online, I've also had a few unpleasant ones recently. As a probably-unnecessary-but-simple measure of protection, I'd like to ask each of you to take your last names off your introduction on the sidebar of your portfolio blogs. I'd also like you to delete the "Click to see my complete profile" gadget, if you have it up. That way, your wonderful work will be available to your classmates and partners, but you will have some anonymity in the general internet world.

Ms. Potash

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wednesday, December 16th

Today, we...

Worked on a group project with many different options. If you were absent today, you need to choose one of the following three options that can be done independently from a group and turn it in when you get back:

Option #2: Creative Writing

Each member of your group, working alone, should choose one character from Song of Solomon and use him/her as the main character in a new short story.

End Product: Turn in your story.

Option #4: Architecture

On three different pieces of blank paper, design houses/apartment buildings for the Dead family, Pilate and Guitar based on what you know about them and their circumstances. Include a quote from the book on each page. Then, for each house, write a ½ page about how what you have drawn reflects the characters living within.

End Product:: Turn in all the work in a packet.

Option #5: College Essay

Each member of the group, working alone, should choose a college for Milkman to apply to. Then respond, in Milkman’s voice, to the application question: What influences have shaped you?

End Product: Turn in your essay.

HW: read through p. 186 and work on your portfolio (you might want to finish it over the break so you don't have to do it at the end of the term)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monday, December 14th

Today, we:

1. Took a reading quiz (can't be made up - it neither hurts nor helps you if you were absent)

2. Discussed important passages from the last two chapters and had a Harkness discussion

3. Split up and wrote either: Milkman's break-up letter to Hagar OR the letter you imagine Hagar might write back. If you were absent, choose one or the other and turn it in when you get back. It should be about 1/2 page written or typed double spaced.

HW: 113-151

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9th

Today we took a day off from Song of Solomon to study poetry.

You should print and complete the following exercise on an Elizabeth Bishop poem. Please turn it in when you get back.

Find it here.

HW: 90-112 + work on your electronic portfolio

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Reviews

If you'd like to read some book reviews to help you write your own, or just to find a good book to read, try the...

New York Times Book Review

or the

The Guardian Book Review

or the

Los Angeles Times Book Review


The Australian Books and Literary Review

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monday, December 7th

Today, we...

1. Heard the remaining allusion presentations - be sure to schedule a make-up for yourself if you missed yours.

2. Harknessed the first two chapters of SoS.

3. Went to the lab to work on portfolios.

4. (Comments were due - turn yours in when you get back)

5. HW: 56-89, work on your portfolio (3 more pieces left before end of semester)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday, December 2nd

Today, we...

1. Heard mini-presentations on allusions. Be sure to see the posters on the wall when you get back so you know the history behind the names in Song of Solomon. Also, if you missed your presentation today, you should be prepared to give it on Monday.

2. Worked on retelling chapter one through graphic novel exercises. Be sure you understand chapter one - see me with any questions.

HW: pages 31-55, ongoing mini-presentations, AND go to the blog listed under yours in your class, choose your favorite of the two most recently posted pieces, and write a one paragraph comment on that piece. Print the comment to turn in to me on Monday.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday, Nov. 30

2 new blog pieces due today - most of you did a wonderful job.

In class...

1. We discussed the film "O."
2. We practiced using the I.B. rubric to grade the passage analysis papers.
3. I collected the copies of Othello (bring yours ASAP) and passed out Song of Solomon (come get yours and sign up for it ASAP).
4. We discussed the meaning behind our names, in preparation for the symbolic names in the book.
5. We looked at the first sentence of the book (read the introduction for Toni Morrison's comments on this important first line).

HW: read pages 1-30 + research your allusion (find the assignment here)

Absent students/allusion assignments:
Evilian: Folklore / Myth of Flying Africans
Maria: Jim Crow
Vladimir: Jim Crow
Roman: Racial Profiling

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, November 23rd


1. We did an editing workshop on the drafts. If you were absent, you need to exchange with someone to get feedback. These are the questions we used:

A) Does the thesis tie the different categories together effectively? Does it take a specific stance?

B) So far, has the author done a good job of including plenty of quotes to prove his/her points? Are longer quotes introduced with quotation sandwiches? Are there also some shorter quotes just to demonstrate small points?

C) Is anything confusing that needs to be explained further?

D) Simplify / Cut Clutter – help your partner by suggesting alternate word choices for clarity or by cutting extra words

E) Which is the strongest part so far? Copy 1-3 lines and sign your name.

FINAL PAPER – 2 double spaced pages, original title, due upon return from Thanksgiving break.

2. Watched some clips on youtube of past Othello performances. Find them:
Here, here, here, and here.

HW: Final Draft + 2 pieces posted for the Monday after break (no homework for Wednesday)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 18th

Today, we...

1. Had our final discussion of Othello
2. Signed up for 10-20 line passages and began annotating them in preparation for the Passage Analysis due the day after Thanksgiving Break - you need to see me when you get back to get materials for this assignment and sign up for a passage

The Paper:
2 double spaced pages + a title page with the passage typed on it
should not incorporate any internet research
should cite the passage you have chosen, but no other passages from the play

Also, read the announcements posted below on the blog, especially the one regarding the UCAS application essay.

HW: 1-2 page typed double spaced draft of your passage analysis for Monday

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I like Othello

Some of you asked me if I like the play Othello, and I told you I got to liking it a lot this past summer when I researched the issue of race in performance. I thought you might be interested to see the paper I wrote about race in performances of the play. It is one example of how to incorporate research into your English papers, which you will need to start doing once you get to college.

To Activate It, Explode It, or Ignore It
Race in Othello Productions of the 20th Century

By Betsy Potash

Many different readings of race lie locked in the script of Shakespeare’s Othello. In one, race hardly matters, as a husband succumbs to jealousy and destroys his wife. In another, racism spreads insidiously from the character of Iago, infecting Brabantio, Roderigo, Emilia and Othello himself. In still another, Othello is simply different, perhaps proudly so, representing in some ways the history of millions of outsiders who try to join a homogenous community. Different generations, different directors, different actors all activate or deactivate race at different levels, depending on their personal and cultural contexts. When it comes to reading Othello, contemporary history is the most relevant factor in the interpretation of race on stage.

Read the rest here if you're interested.


I heard back from the College Guidance Office and you guys are right, they might search your essay and decide you have plagiarized it if they find it on your own portfolio. This is crazy, but we must respect it. For those of you who are applying only to the UK and do not have another kind of essay to post, you may substitute a 400 word paper that somehow relates to your own identity - tell a story of an important event in your life, describe an important relationship, etc. Label this "400 word college."

Just for Fun - graphics for your blog

A few fun things you can do for your blog, if you have EXTRA time.

If you'd like to add a map showing where in the world people have viewed your blog, check out:
Walk through the steps, copy the HTML, and then paste it into the "HTML" gadget you will find if you look under gadgets on the sidebar.

At this site you can manipulate images so that they fit with your writing.
You can create collages, add text to images, etc.

Monday, November 16th

Today we...

1. Discussed and turned in the news articles relating to Othello that you brought in.

2. Looked at a new writing tips sheet - Top 10 Reminders for Senior Papers.

3. Worked on the blog. You need TWO more pieces posted by the end of Thanksgiving vacation. Feel free to look around at what other people are doing and post comments on their work. Keep in mind ALL THE REQUIREMENTS that must be completed by the end of term - if you've forgotten, remember they are linked on the upper right side of this blog. Don't put off the major pieces until the end, start posting your college essays, book reviews, analytical papers, etc. early!

4. HW: read Act V, work on your blog (be sure you have labels up and your language set to English)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


To add labels to your posts, simply put your desired label into the box in the bottom right-hand corner of the post page. Use labels like "400 word essay", "poem", "book review." For extra work, that is not required for the portfolio, use the label "extra."

Once you begin labeling posts, you must also add "Labels" as a gadget on your sidebar. Remember, to input a gadget, simply click "customize" or "layout" and then add a gadget. Within the labels gadget, you may choose to add your labels as a drop down list, as Antoniya has done, or as a word cloud, as Deia has done.

Everyone MUST use labels to organize their final portfolio, so it's best to start now!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wednesday, November 4th

Today we...

1. Had a reading quiz. You cannot make this up, it neither hurts nor helps your grade.

2. Worked on a scavenger hunt for quotations. You need to find and copy lines from Othello that demonstrate these literary devices: dramatic irony, foreshadowing and a soliloquy that reveals evil. You also need to find and copy lines that reveal these character traits: Othello has been shaped by violence, Iago uses other people, Desdemona has a complete trust in Othello. Please turn this in to me when you return.

3. Worked on writing support paragraphs for a paper based on the idea that Iago is a perfect villain. Everyone had 30 minutes to write. We discussed the logical flow of a support paragraph: main point, transition, introduce situation of the quote, quote, analyze the quote to prove the main point. You should write a minimum of one page/two support paragraphs just as we did in class, and turn this in to me when you return.

HW: Act IV + find and bring in a news article somehow related to a theme from Othello, along with a paragraph explaining how the two are related

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monday, November 2nd


1. The blog response paragraphs to your partner are due.
2. We discussed the final assessment for Othello - an I.B. passage analysis of a speech in the play. Start looking out for the one you'd like to write about. Find the assignment description here.
3. Listened to several versions of Othello's "Oh My Fair Warrior" speech to Desdemona.
4. Acted p . 91-top of p. 97
5. Had a Harkness discussion, focusing in part on the questions: What makes Iago a good villain? What is his motivation? Cassio focuses on reputation - what is the role of reputation in the play? At ACS? What is the dramatic function of Act I? Act II?

HW: Read Act III

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday, October 29th


1. We looked carefully at Othello's speech to the senate in Act I. We listened to several actor's versions of it, translated it into modern English, and then practiced analyzing lines from it as if we were doing an I.B. passage analysis.

2. We went to the computer lab to write responses to our partners' work in Kentucky. You need to find your partner and write a one paragraph comment for each of the top two pieces in his/her portfolio. These comments should be written in Microsoft word first, then printed to turn in to me. Then cut and paste them into the "Comments" section listed under each blog entry. Put the paragraph that fits the piece into the appropriate comment area. Just click "comments", paste your comment, sign your name, and then go through the steps of giving your i.d. and verifying a word.

HW: First blog check is this weekend - everyone must have their first two pieces posted. This check is worth 50 points. Also, read Act II.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monday, October 26th

Happy week before Halloween!

Today, we introduced Othello in the following ways...

1. Reflective Writing: Write about the worst thing that a close friend has ever done to you. If no one has ever betrayed you, write a fictional story.

2. Partner discussion: What makes a villain a villain? List all the most famous villains from movies and books and then consider, what characteristics do these villains share? What makes them so frightening/evil?

3. Dramatic Reading: the first part of Act I

HW: read Act I of Othello

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wednesday, October 21st


1. The graffiti project was due

2. We took an in-class essay (you must arrange a 60 minute block to make it up)

3. Read and admired the short stories and then turned them in

4. Collected the Dubliners books - please get yours to me ASAP so that I can pass it along to the next class

5. HW: Remember you need to make 2 significant piece posts by October 31st

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 19th

Today, we...

1. Worked on a graffiti project for Ireland - due Wednesday. The assignment sheet involves relevant images that I cannot upload to Google Docs, so please drop by to pick it up.

2. Had our final discussion of Dubliners.

For Wed: Bring your book for the in-class essay and a hard final copy of your short story. Also, pick up and do the graffiti assignment from class.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 14th

Today, we...

1. Discussed "On Being Asked for A War Poem." In particular, we considered the questions - can writers influence or change history? Can history influence or change writers?

2. Went to the computer lab to work on the portfolios. Remember you should have two major pieces posted by the end of October, as well as any extras you may wish to include for the first portfolio check. Your intro and photo should be in the upper right, your sources cited (as necessary) should be in a text box on the sidebar, and you should be using labels to organize your pieces. Also, everyone should be using English as their blog language - you can switch to English on your sign-in page in the upper right corner.

HW: Read "A Painful Case" and "The Dead." Write five questions for our final discussion on Irish literature/culture/history, three of which should relate to "The Dead."

Next Wednesday - short stories are due, in-class essay will take place

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12th

The Troubles Video Collage

Today, we...

1. Heard the final presentations - focusing on Dublin, Yeats and The Troubles. (The video above comes from Roman and Mihaela's presentation on The Troubles)

2. Took a quiz. This one can't be made up, as it won't be a pop quiz for you any longer, so it just won't count toward your grade if you were absent.

3. Worked on Paralysis Theme Charts for a future essay on Dubliners. You need to print and fill out this worksheet for Wednesday. Find it here.

HW: Read Yeats poems (find them here) and make 5 annotations on each, plus complete the Dubliners theme chart

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wednesday, October 7th

Today we...

1. Discussed Seamus Heaney's Poems: Act of Union, Digging, Follower, Bogland

2. Went to the Computer Lab for a Portfolio Workshop - Check out our class blog sidebar for a reminder of what the portfolio requirements are. You should post your first piece in the next two weeks - a college essay, a 400 word free paper, poems, a short story, a book review... You should also be sure you have a sidebar photo with at least a 100 word caption describing yourself. Finally, all blogs should use English as their language of choice. When you sign in, you can choose your language in the upper righthand corner.

Your Kentucky partners are just starting to post their portfolio links on their class page. I have linked their page from ours - again, check out the sidebar on our class blog.

HW: read "Counterparts", "Grace", "After the Race", work on your short story

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday, October 5th

Today, we...

1. Heard presentations about Seamus Heaney, the I.R.A., and Irish Art. Do a bit of web research to familiarize yourself with the first two. If you were supposed to present today, be sure to talk to me when you get back to reschedule, unless you and your partner worked together and he/she presented for the both of you.

2. Did a short story editing workshop. Your short story draft should be 1-2 pages at this point. Consider trading with a friend to get some feedback.

3. Discussed the poem "Casualty" and the historical event of Bloody Sunday. Read what we read here:

4. Divided into groups, all of which will present back on a poem come Wednesday. You should just bring the Heaney poems with your annotations and listen to these presentations.

HW: B3 needs to do the I.B. passage analysis worksheet I passed out last Wed. on the passage of your choice (if you haven't already), everyone needs to send yourself (on e-mail, network, etc.) some of your writing to work on Wednesday when we go to the lab. Ideally you will post your first piece to your portfolio on Wednesday - a short story, a poem, a college essay, a 400 word paper, a book review, etc...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 30th

Today, we...

1. Introduced the discussion method Harkness, which we will be using this year. It's essentially a student-driven round table method, in which the teacher (me) suggests possible openings and then the students take over. We made a list of relevant discussion practices - being prepared, defending your points with evidence, making eye contact with your classmates and not just the teacher, respecting varied opinions, etc.

2. Had a Harkness discussion on "A Mother" and "A Boarding House"

3. Discussed the I.B. passage analysis, the exam format for semester one. Find and complete the passage analysis practice we did here:
Turn it in next time to receive full participation credit for today.

4. Looked at the letters from the students in our partner classroom in Kentucky, and then started writing back. You should pick up your letter as soon as possible, and e-mail me your letter of reply by Monday of next week. Rules for the letter: 3/4 page typed single spaced (e-mail it to me as an attachment), partner's name at the top, yours at the bottom, no references whatsoever to drinking or partying (these activities are illegal for your partners, and not appropriate to chat about with them)

HW: Read the 5 Assigned Seamus Heaney Poems (find them here - you can skip the last one called "Blackberry Picking"), bring in a 1-2 page short story draft, e-mail me your 3/4 page letter to your partner as an attachment

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monday, September 28th


1. We heard student presentations on Irish literature and culture.

2. Partners considered these three questions:
A) What kinds of paralysis exist in these two stories?
B) Each story ends with someone crying - what's the difference?
C) What do these specific characters' stories seem to represent about their societies? What issues do they bring to the forefront?

3. Everyone wrote a thesis relating to one or both of the stories, and then discussed them with a new partner, finding evidence to support the thesis and possible evidence against it.
Example Thesis: Joyce uses Little Chandler's doomed ambitions to explore the idea that Irish literature has become stereotyped in Academia.

4. We started work on short stories, completing a character workshop. You should print the assignment, complete the workshop, and start working on your story. Your first draft will be due next Monday. Find the assignment here:

HW: Read "The Boarding House" and "A Mother." Work on your short story.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday, September 23rd (Monday schedule)

Check out your classmates blogs linked on the right side bar of this page!

Remember to turn in your 400 word paper as soon as you come back on campus. If you like it a lot, you may want to do a final revision and then post it as the first element in your electronic portfolio.

Today we:
1. Signed up for presentations on Irish history and culture. Be sure to sign up when you return. Read about the assignment here:
2. Discussed Ireland's history, as its literature and history are significantly connected. Pick up a history packet when you return so you can create a timeline of 19th/early 20th century Ireland.
3. Discussed W.B. Yeats' poem "Easter, 1916." Look it up online and read it!
4. Passed out our new text, Dubliners, and listened to the first story "Eveline" on Audio. Be sure to pick up the text as soon as posssible. Download the theme chart you should be working on as we read here:

HW: Read "Araby" and "A Little Cloud" in Dubliners, complete Irish history timeline

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday, September 16th

Today was the first day of school, involving all the usual introductions and documents. Perhaps most importantly, we set up our portfolio blogs and I passed out two important handouts.

Handout #1: Blog Creation Steps. Find it here.

Handout #2: Activities and Homework schedule for the next six weeks. Find it here.

Some students have already sent me their blog URLS, and I have posted them here on our class web page.

HW: send me your blog URL when it's ready for viewing, and TYPE a 400 word paper on the topic of your choice

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Welcome to the Blog

Welcome to our class blog. This blog makes your life easier, and it makes my life easier.

After each lesson I give, I will come online and post a brief description of what we did, the homework, and also links to any handouts I have passed out. Your responsibility is to check the blog, print all handouts and do what you need to do for the next class. Since we only meet twice a week, this prevents you from getting way behind, and it means I don't have to keep a constant stack of old handouts around to dig through when people come to request them later.

Easier for you. Easier for me. Hurray for the internet.

I hope it's a great year. That will depend as much on you as on me, so let's do our best to keep things lively and interesting. Please drop by to see me anytime during lunch or my office hours to say hi, I'd love to get to know you. If I am too intimidating for you to come say hi to on your own, bring a friend!

The syllabus can be found at: