Tag Archives: English 9 Enriched

English 9 Enriched: “The Lady of Shalott”

This is the same exercise we did with Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” using “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

These were the painting choices:

William Maw Egley

William Maw Egley (1858)

Arthur Hughes

Arthur Hughes (1873)

Atkinson Grimshaw

Atkinson Grimshaw (1878)

John W Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse (1894)

John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse (1916)

JW Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse (1888)

William Holman Hunt

William Holman Hunt (1886-1905)

We repeated the Visible Thinking routine:

Visible Thinking Shalott

And as they were writing, I played this video/song by Loreena McKennitt:

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English 9 Enriched: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

The students read and analyzed John Keats’ poem, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and we then did a Visible Thinking exercise using artwork that was inspired by Keats’ poem.

They had their choice from the following paintings:

Walter Crane

Walter Crane (1865)

Arthur Hughes

Arthur Hughes (1861-63)

Frank Cadogan Cowper

Frank Cadogan Cowper (1926)

Henry Maynell Rheam

Henry Meynell Rheam (1901)

JW Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse (1893)

Robert Anning Bell

Robert Anning Bell

Sir Frank Dicksee

Sir Frank Dicksee (1902)

Once the class voted on the painting they wished to work with, we did a See/Think/Wonder exercise in which they had to focus on how the painting reflected specific imagery in Keats’ poem.  We share their responses using Post-Its and then wrote a three-chunk paragraph analyzing the painting using textual support from the poem.

Visible Thinking Belle Dame

While the students were writing, we listened to the following musical interpretation of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” as performed by Jesse Ferguson.

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English 9 Enriched: Frankenstein and Paradise Lost

Paradise LostStudents read a synopsis of each chapter of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and RHA’d it for content relating to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  The class was then divided into three groups for this assignment.

Three groups: God, Satan, and Adam


Each group has to find five pairs of quotations that correlate between the chosen character from Paradise Lost (God, Satan, or Adam) and either Victor or the Creature from Frankenstein.


Groups each choose the strongest pair of quotations that act as a correlation and state what they think about that correlation.


For the same pair of lines, state what they wonder about the correlation.

Students each get one Post-It Note.  One color for each: See, Think, or Wonder.  Students then share Post-It Notes.



Students will write a three chunk paragraph correlating God, Satan, or Adam to either Victor or the Creature.   They must use their pairs of lines as textual support for their claims.

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English 9 Enriched: Frankenstein and the Sublime in Art

This Visible Thinking activity is done with a twist.  Instead of merely sharing something simple that they see, think, or wonder, students must stretch to use adjective/noun combinations for what they see, similes for what they think, and metaphors for what they wonder… all relating to the sublime.

I let the classes select one of the following paintings:


The Arcadian or Pastoral State by Thomas Cole


The Savage State by Thomas Cole


Il Penseroso by Thomas Cole (inspired by “L’Allegro,” a poem by John Milton)


Peace at Sunset by Thomas Cole

Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits by Asher Brown Durand (depicting painter Thomas Cole and poet William Cullen Bryant)



Students list ten very specific details they see in the painting, and then share their list with a partner.  Any details that they have in common are marked with a checkmark (so that less obvious details stand out to them for later).


Students put three things they think about the painting represents the sublime.


Students put three things they wonder about the painting represents the sublime.

Students each get one Post-It Note.  One color for each: See, Think, or Wonder. 

For those with the color for SEE, they have to use an adjective/adjective/noun combination to describe something they see that represents the sublime.

For those with the color for THINK, they have to create a simile about how they think something in the painting represents the sublime.

For those with the color for WONDER, they have to create a metaphor for what they wonder about how the artist created the sublime on canvas.

Students then share Post-It Notes on the front board.

2013-05-10 09.13.17


Students will write a three chunk paragraph about how the painting is a representation of the sublime, much like Victor’s escape to nature after the deaths of William and Justine.  Be sure to define and explain “sublime” as it relates to both the painting and the novel.

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English 9 Enriched: 2013 Short Story Anthology

        My Enriched students just published their short story anthology, Under the Same Skies under the collective name of Sentries of the Past.
        Sentries of the Past is a group of 9th grade students at Webster Schroeder High School who spent six months researching the Hero’s Journey pattern as outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell. From there, the students explored how the pattern is part of the human condition and how it can be used as a tool to examine their own livUnder the Same Skies Coveres.
        For 60 days, my 9th graders reflected and shared insights as they explored the archetypal hero within. After completing The Sixty Day Sojourn and after reading a book of forensic anthropology, Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw, each student selected one of the four hominids studied in the work and “put flesh on the bones,” so to speak.
        In order to incorporate the research component of the CCSS, they researched the regions where the bones were found, as well as the cultures of the people who have lived in that area.  From there, they were able to create hypotheses regarding the lives of their chosen hominid.  While the stories are still a work of fiction, they have been based on historical and cultural facts.  They also still incorporate Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey pattern.
You may click on the picture to link to the publication page.
Here are the students and their story titles (in no particular order):
Katie Ramsey:  “The Lion Heart”
Abigail Rettew:  “Sacrifice”
Myuri Arujunan:  “The Road to Destiny”
Alexis Duggan:  “Wayfaring Towards Danger”
Haley Guidice:  “Marco’s Tools”
Karina Rzepa: “Shadows of the Night”
Julia Deacon:  “Veritas Vos Liberabit”
Xilin Zhou:  “Fallen”
Elizabeth Geiser:  “Simi’s Mountain”
Phoebe Huang:  “Flight”
Thomas Ambalavanar:  “Vladavina od Vatra”
Ben VanderStouw:  “The Bones of Alsem”
Matina Chanthavongsay:  “Let Them Live”
Christina Ambalavanar:  “The Silent Warrior”
Ishitri Bandyopadhyay:  “Hunted By Amber Eyes”
Jamie Lai:  “Godling”
Student books


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English 9 Enriched: Parody- Young Frankenstein

How could I ignore Mel Brooks’ classic parody?

Similar to what we did with the creation scenes from the 1931 Universal film and the 1994 Kenneth Branagh version, we watched two video clips, did a SEE/THINK/WONDER for each one, discussed comparisons/contrasts, and then had a short writing assignment.

These are the two clips from Young Frankenstein (1974).

The first depicts Gene Wilder (as Victor Frankenstein) and Peter Boyle (as the Creature) doing a tap dance to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”  What I want the students to see is the parody of how people become afraid of the creature and also how the creature comes to loathe people who treat him badly.

The second clip is when the Creature (Peter Boyle) comes upon the house of a blind priest (Gene Hackman), and the priest unsuccessfully tries to offer his guest some hospitality.   I want students to make the connection to the blind man in the hovel where the creature has been spying on and learning from the family that lives there.


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English 9 Enriched: Visible Thinking- Frankenstein’s Creation

Students will be evaluating film techniques as well as comparing and contrasting film to text.  for the Visible Thinking part of the exercise, we will watch two different film interpretations of the creation scene in Frankenstein.    They will be looking for a total of ten things they notice (See) in each clip; however, they have to find two in each of the following categories: Characterization, Lighting, Set Design, Sound/Music, Costumes/Make-Up.

The first is from the Universal Films 1931 production starring Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein (notice the name change) and Boris Karloff as the creature (on a side note, Boris Karloff’s– whose real name was William Henry  Pratt– great grand-nephew lives here in Rochester).

NOTE: the YouTube link is to one person’s channel, and the videos all play when going to this link.  The one I used in class is the four minute piece at clip 3.  I am saving Gene Wilder for when we do parody!

The second is from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as Victor Frankenstein, with Robert De Niro as the Creature.

After watching both clips, students shared what they saw in each of the five categories with a partner.  They then went on to write three things they THINK about how the clips reflect events in the novel, followed by three things they WONDER about how the clips reflect the events in the novel.  They must keep in mind as they write what they think and wonder that they are going to be asked to write a comparison/contrast piece for the film clips and the novel.

Students were then given two different colored Post-Its for SEE/THINK/WONDER; one color that related to the Universal film, and another for the Branagh version.   We then shared aloud and posted them in the front of the room on a large poster paper.  Once all students had the opportunity to share, we discussed the major similarities and differences between Hollywood and Shelley’s work.  They then went on to work on their writing pieces.


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English 9 Enriched: Defending Evidence Based Claims and Elevating Diction

My enriched kids are taking the Evidence Based Claims worksheets further than what we are currently doing in 9 Regents.  In this exercise, I put the following on the overhead:

Forming Evidence Based Claims for Frankenstein, Chapters 1-3

Each pair of rows will have one of the three chapters.  For each chapter, there will be students forming Evidence Based Claims about TWO of the following aspects of the narrative (one from column 1 and one from column 2):

Column 1: Characters                          Column 2:  other aspects

Victor’s character (Ch 1-3)                                 The setting in Geneva  (Ch 2)

Victor’s mother’s character (Ch 1-2)              Victor’s family life (Ch 1-2)

Victor’s father’s character  (Ch 1-2)               Victor’s early education (Ch 1-2)

Elizabeth’s character (Ch 2-3)                          Victor’s parents’ visit to the Lake of Como (Ch 1)

Henry Clerval’s character (Ch 2-3)                The effect of the lightning storm on Victor (Ch 2)

Mr. Krempe’s character (Ch 3)                         Victor’s mother’s death (Ch 3)

Mr. Waldman’s character (Ch 3)                      Victor’s ambitions  (Ch 1-3)

Victor’s university education (Ch3)                                                                                                                                                                           The university at Ingolstadt  (Ch 3)


First, I assigned a chapter to each pair of rows.  I gave each pair of students two Forming Evidence Based Claims worksheets, and then I drew class cards so that each student could choose a topic that related to their assigned chapter.  One partner chose from Column 1 for a character in their assigned chapter, and the other chose from Column 2 for some other aspect relating to their chapter.

Once the pairs had their two topics, I set them to work finding textual evidence for the top boxes of their Forming EBC worksheets first.  I told them that claims about characters would involve character traits, and the other claims would be about the significance of the aspect to the novel (either so far or as an element of foreshadowing).  They were to remember the overall setting of the novel: Victor is, throughout the entire book, telling his tale to Robert Walton aboard his ship that is stuck in the ice.  All these are details that Victor has chosen to relate to the captain; WHY are they significant enough for him to mention?

One stipulation, though, was that all claims had to be made using elevated vocabulary.  Since the book we are using contains a huge glossary in the back, and the packet I gave them also includes a vast glossary, they must find stronger, more precise words than “loving”, “caring” (a personal abhorrence), and “nice” (a word the belongs on the Dead List of character traits).  This is a skill we are still working on improving, and I am trying to get them to become more precise in their diction.

Student examples:

Matina Fr 1-3 Victor's Character

Matina attempted to use “vehement” to characterize Victor Frankenstein in Chapter 2.  The class talked about the word choice and thought about whether or not that was a word that really fit Victor’s personality.  We examined her choice of details as well as the claim she was making, and she finally came to choose the word “obsessive” in relation to this work.  I agreed with her choice because that word carried the negative connotation that would go along with the violent outbursts she describes.


James Fr 1-3 Victor's ambition

In order to make a claim about Victor’s ambitions in chapter 2, James used a character trait (“his curiosity”) to formulate his point.  He embedded a quotation from the text as support right in his claim, and his final statement sums up his position well.  What was missing, though, was use of elevated vocabulary.  While I do see that he was getting right to the point of his claim, I would like to have James practice using higher diction that reflects Shelley’s word choices.


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English 9 Enriched: Frankenstein- Forming Evidence-Based Claims

Because of how the Forming EBC worksheets seemed to be helping my Regents kids better organize their ideas (as opposed to how we had been doing the same activity earlier in the year in a journal…they must prefer worksheets), I decided to see the sheets might work with my Enriched kids and Frankenstein.

I had the kids read the four letter from Robert Walton at the beginning of the novel.  I then listed on the overhead several ideas surrounding Walton:  his dream, his willingness to sacrifice for others, his doubts, his education, his relationship with his sister, his relationship with others (besides his sister), his financial background, his resolve, and his loneliness.   These were from Prestwick House’s Activity Pack for Frankenstein.

I then instructed the kids to “go head to head” with their partner…or in one case, a group of three because we had an odd number (meaning that they had to turn their desks to face the person across the row from them so that they could talk face to face).   Once they were in place, I drew names for them to choose which of the ideas about Walton each pair wanted to work with.   The catch was that once a topic was chosen, it was off limits for the next pair.  In one class, we started at the beginning once all eight had been selected by the first groups.  That gave the kids in that particular class who were drawn last an opportunity to have some choice instead of being “stuck” like most last groups are.

Alpha 1 Forming EBC

Using a Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet (like those in the Regents classes with Plato’s “Apology”), the partners had to argue and agree on what three pieces of textual evidence they were going to use to best support the idea they’d chosen.  Once they had their textual support, they had to explain why that detail was important to the topic.  Finally, they had to make a claim about Robert Walton’s character based on the evidence.

Delta 1 Forming EBC

These are some examples of student work:


Katie Fr Letters 1-4 EBC

In this, Katie is making the claim that Robert Walton is curious.  She also extends her claim with several points (signposts).  This is a very strong response.


Brittany Fr Letters 1-4 EBC

Brittany is making the claim that Robert Walton is wealthy.  This is situational for the character, not a character trait (which is what was assigned).   She and her partner will have to go head-to-head once more to come up with a trait that is specific to Walton’s character based on the fact that he was a wealthy man.  She does state that “wealth wasn’t an important thing in his life,” so I will ask her and her partner to dig more into that idea.


Melissa Fr Letters 1-4 EBC

Melissa claims that Robert Walton is compassionate and a loyal friend when she and her partner examined Robert Walton’s relationships with others.   She sites Robert Walton’s interactions with the stranger that has boarded his ship in the middle of the tundra.  She also offers points (signposts) to explain her claim.


Next class, the students will use the information from these worksheets to write a paragraph characterizing one aspect of Robert Walton.  The “Claim” sentences will serve as the topic sentences for the paragraphs, the quotations will be the concrete details (CDs), and the “Connecting the Details” responses will serve as part of their commentary (CMs).

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2012 International Symposium on Mythology

We’re All In Myth Together

Symposium for the Study of Mythology, August 2012

Pacifica Graduate Institute

Santa Barbara, California

Susan R. Woodward


“Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, the myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind.  It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.”

–          Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces


In August 2012, I had the privilege of presenting at the International Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California.  For four days, teachers, authors, story-tellers, and mythologists from more than half a dozen countries shared their experience, knowledge, and talents within the realm of myth.  I was fortunate enough to be selected, along with co-presenter Michael Lambert from Long Island, New York, to share our experiences with students in the classroom.  We worked as “bookend” teachers, me with freshmen and Michael with seniors.  We had them coming and going within the realm of high school.


The following outlines the topics I addressed in my part of the presentation as how I incorporate mythology into my curriculum:



When we read Great Expectations or The Hunger Games, we examine the individuation process of Pip and Katniss Everdeen.   As these characters grow and change, we also follow the growth of Theseus, Cuchulainn, Seigfried, David and Joan of Arc.


While tracking the trials along the journeys of Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days, Odysseus in The Odyssey, and The Hobbit’s Bilbo Baggins, we also examine the character traits exhibited by Hercules, Kutoyis, Gilgamesh, Quetzalcoatl and Faust as they go through their own trials.  How these characters overcome their obstacles speaks of the values of the culture embodied by these heroes.


When Odysseus descends into the Land of the Dead, we also examine the descent of Innana, Wanjiru, KuanYin, Hermodor & Balder, and Izanagi & Izanami.   Students look for common motifs in the tales that demonstrate how the various cultures honor the dead through the performance of certain rites.

In each case with these stories, students create posters to share their findings.


The connection of these motifs in literature to the world of myth allows students to compare and contrast the heroes of old to their more modern counterparts.  We also break down each story into the culture’s values and beliefs that shine through, and students realize that these core beliefs actually permeate their own experience.  Values like courage, honesty, cleverness, honoring the dead, and overcoming obstacles speaks as much to their own lives as it does to both mythic and modern literary characters.


The Sixty Day Sojourn:

From November 1 through December 31, students participate in the online Sixty Day Sojourn that I created for them.  During The 60 Day Sojourn, we work through each of the steps of the Hero’s Journey a few days at a time.  In 9th grade, I provide a step-by-step approach as an introduction into the work of Joseph Campbell in the hope that they will continue on their own in the future.  My website, Sharing in the Journey of the Hero, can be found at http://herosjourney.ning.com

In class, students build a bulletin board that remains up for the remainder of the year as a point of reference.

The first day a step is discussed, I share examples from movies, television, mythology, poetry, novels, etc. These are listed in the Forum where students join in the discussion and respond with examples of their own. The idea is to create a vast pool of examples to draw from when we move on to the next phase.

The second day offers a quotation from Joseph Campbell and a guided visualization that is intended to lead students to discover specific examples from their own lives.  This is also in the Forum where they are able to share their experiences with the guided imagery. The Forum discussions are meant to be a sharing of examples that came to mind while reading or listening.


The third day is for the blogs. I ask introspective questions so that students can examine where they are on their own journey and share their insights with the community. As we are all the heroes of our own life stories, these stories deserve to be heard. The more we share, the more we will see how much we all have in common.


The 60 Day Sojourn is an effort to draw people of various nations, cultures, ages, and genders together to examine the things that make us similar. So much effort is spent on diversity (which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong) that we are more conscious of how we are different from one another than of how we are alike.


The New York Odyssey:

Students mirror the journey of Odysseus in a modernized version of a haphazard voyage from Troy, New York to Ithaca, New York while making various misadventured pitstops to five New York towns.  Students must use maps and must research the various towns in order to add local color to their writing as they re-work the tales of five of the places that Odysseus visited on his long journey home.  Students work in cooperative groups to create a compiled travel journal.  Each team must begin with a logical reason for why the group is in Troy, New York and why they must return to Ithaca.  Each member writes one leg of the journey, modernizing Homer’s original, and all the tales must work together to create a cohesive whole.  Students must work together to map out the entire journey and make logical transitions from one adventure to the next.   At the end of the project, each group must submit a travel journal that includes each student’s submission, as well as pictures and maps that outline the journey.  Then, in the spirit of Homer’s oral tradition, the groups tell their tales.


The Creative Writing Project:

Students write their own myths that utilize the Hero’s Journey pattern.  Each year, I choose a piece of literature that we have read in class and then create the prompt that will inspire their stories.  All students work through the writing process online and receive feedback from other students.  At the end of the project, the students vote on the top stories and those are published in a short story anthology.

inthefootstepscoverWhen, in 2009, we read a series stories of true life heroes, we were inspired by the then-popular television show Heroes.  Students selected one of the real life heroes, and then created a modern superhero character complete with superpowers.  Those stories became the anthology, In the Footsteps…



weremembercoverThe following year, we read Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul in which humans created immortal characters through their stories, but once the humans started to forget about the immortals they created, the immortals (who could not die) were forced into an invisible existence such as the homeless on the streets.  Their task was to create a near-forgotten immortal character and then tell his/her story so as to give him/her a purpose to exist.  The tales of these immortals can be found in We Remember…

Altered Reflections cover RESIZED

AForgedThroughTrialsCoverfter reading The Hobbit in 2011, students created their own stories of journeys and trials in Forged Through Trials.  And in the current spirit of modernizing myths, legends, and fairy tales, this year’s project was to modernize a fairy tale or myth.  We read The Hunger Games and compared certain aspects of the plot to the trials of Theseus, as well as analyzing the film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief alongside the tales of Perseus.  The result was Altered Reflections.


This year, with the introduction of informational texts mandated by the Common Core State Standards, we read Every Bone Tells a Story.  Students have selected one of the hominin discoveries and have been researching the cultures that once lived in the areas where each was found.  Using their research findings, students will attempt to put flesh on the ancient bones and tell a story about their selected hominin.  Two of the finds, Turkana Boy and Lapedo Child, are of young boys, so some students have elected to write tales that include rites of passage and individuation.   Kennewick Man has inspired tales of the long journey.  As for The Ice Man, the world’s earliest known murder mystery, a couple of students are creating tales of the Land of the Dead.   Although the project is still considered creative writing, it is steeped in research and so meets the standards of the Common Core.

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