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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I encountered the first technical difficulties with blogging our last time here. was down and not accepting posts. It was relatively easy to resolve. Most of the students merely copied and pasted their entry into Word and saved it to the server.

I am also still having some students forget their login and password. During the regular school year I will most likely have to create a directory of not only the URL for each student's blog, but also a seperate one for logins and passwords. When we first signed up I asked the students to use the same login and password that they use to get into the server, but of course this request was ignored.

I also asked the the URL they use was the same as their login, in this case the first three letters of their first name and their last name. Again with this edict in place I still got blogs at and Oh well.


In the last few days we have been talking about point of view. Mostly first person and third person limited. We focussed mainly on mysteries. We read Agatha Christies Witness for the Prosecution in which our trust of the barrister narrator. By creating the trusted narrator Christie lulls the reader into a false sense of security. This security causes us to gloss over minor incrongruities. Modern television detective dramas do the same thing. Law & Order, Cold Case, and CSI all create relatively two dimensional characters for the detectives yet we trust their knowledge and skill. In constast Frank, the lawyer in Sidney Lumet's Verdict, is a down on his luck alchoholic and we can't trust his judgement. In fact it is this lack of good judgement that leads him to being betrayed. Without the limited narrator plot twists would be impossible.

In Poe's Pit and the Pendulum we are dealing with a first person narrator. Anytime a story is told in first person the reliability of the narrator should be drawn into question. In the case of TPATP the narrator is most likely swooned into a delerium. There is even some question that the narrator is still alive.

So as for the blogs I hope that some of them turn out like what I have written above. If the students show any understanding of how POV can aid in their understanding of the plot and hence the theme I will be happy.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Apathy has a overcome my students like the blob. I don't even have any Steve McQueens to save the town. I strongly suspect that today's blogs will overwhelmingly support my theory. I have ask the students what they have learned thus far and I strongly suspect that many of them will say nothing. I think that some of this may come from the fact that we are focusing more on reading skills than story content, but it could be that they just haven't learned anything.

We have been doing some 30 second mysteries to start off class. They are kind of ironically named because it usually take the class about 15 min. to finish them. The mysteries are usually about a paragraph long and involve deliberately misleading word choices. It plays on improper schema activation. The key to solving them is to eleminate the instinctual choice and go with a second or third guess. After solving the mystery we discuss which words activated the wrong schema. For example the mystery today used the phrase "downed seven drinks in three hours." This would lead most readers to believe that the person in question was imbibing alcohol. At the end of the paragraph we find out that his blood alcohol level was zero. Some students thought that the test was innacurate, but after a couple of clues we realize that the driver wrecked the care because he was under age not because he was intoxicated.

I'm hoping that learning is going on even if they don't realize it.

We have also been discussing how setting affects character. I am hoping that someone at least mentions that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Second Session

I have a new and smaller group of kids this session. Hopefully, I have enough to keep the class going. They are definitely a less talkative bunch. Some people might see this as a good thing, but I find it relatively boring. They don't have any opinions. My teaching style is base on challenging preconcieved notions, but if student doesn't have any this is rather difficult. I am always leary of creating the notions because I do not want to create intellectual clones of myself. Though this would insure them of great success and popularity I feel it would ultimately be detrimental to their cognitive growth.

I have been giving them questions to answer on the blog in hopes of stimulating a decent response. This week I have them analyzing the difference between boring and fun text. Why are some works easy to read and others are not. I am hoping that they talk about vocabulary, sentence structure, interest, and prior knowledge (schema). I also ask them to make these same connections with other media. We can then springboard into how to be "media literate." This afternoon we will be watching Whale Rider. I will attempt to teach them how to read a movie covering the basic such as establishing shot, and camera angles.

As for the blogs, I have decided that when I do this during the regular school year I will make a directory of the blogs so that students, teachers, and parents can access the students' comments and reply to them. My dream of a Utopian educational community is surfacing again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Last Day of First Session

The blogs have gotten weaker as the session has gone on. Student apathy sets in quickly. Early signs of the disease include three sentence paragraphs, one or more skipped short answer questions, and forgetting essential school supplies. It rapidly progresses to entire missing paragraphs, lost homework, and sporadic napping. In its final stages mental faculties are severely diminished to the point that they create false memories of turning in work or have paranoid delusions that teachers intentionally lose their work. For now there is no known cure. The disease can be managed with innovative lessons, occasional movies, and a Snicker bar.

With the limited resources of summer school I am not having a lot of luck in stemming the tide. The novelty of blog writing isn't enough in and of itself. Some of the students have been derisively referring to it as the "blogger" either from a misinterpretation of the website or ridicule.

Today I provided them with a list of questions to guide their comments. I need to do some research into how to stimulate metacognition. I think cognition is pretty good. I was pleased with the results when they blogged from the point of view of one of the characters in Fences, but am still looking for that big breakthough in insight into and analyses of their own thoughts.

We will see what we get today.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Reviews Are In

I am still dissappointed in the quality of the blogs. Most of them still seem to be a list of what happened in the class. I probably need to create a model, though this is difficult given the time constraints of summer school. I should definitely have one when I start the regular school year.

Some of the blogs are offer a little more in depth analysis of the assignments and my teaching style. Overall the reviews have been good. Other than a couple of "hella dumbs" most of the students have been saying that the class is sufficiently challenging and the assignments are interesting.

I feel frustrated because I don't have all of my resources. Though I have access to the internet I don't have a printer or easy access to copies. I don't have my usual stack of print resources either. I am a spontaneous teacher, but ironically this requires a lot of preparaton and resources. The class has become too much of a routine. READ DISCUSS WRITE READ DISCUSS WRITE READ DISCUSS WRITE.

Yesterday we were talking about parenting and the differences between love, like, like and responsible. Fortiutously, a parent came by at that time to check on a students grade. I invited her in to discuss parenting. Luckily, she supported everything that I had said to the students earlier. Though I think her child was slightly embarrassed, I think the experiment went well.

Today I am having the students blog from the point of view of a character in fences. I am excited to read them.

I would like to take this time to apologize for the stream of concious nature of this blog. I have to constantly get up on monitor the progress of the students, which does not allow time for me to compose and organize my thoughts.