Tag Archives: writing

English 9 Regents: Interpretation of Imagery in “The Cask of Amontillado”

cask of amontillado


Using adjective/adjective/noun combinations, 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 write three things they think about how the imagery of the painting re-creates a certain mood in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”


Students write three things they wonder about the painting represents some aspect of the short story.

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

Cask of Amontillado


Students will write a three chunk paragraph about how the imagery in the painting helps to re-create a specific mood in the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe.   Along with mentioning details from both paintings in their paragraphs, they must also cite correlating text from the short story as support for their claim.

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Regents, Visible Thinking

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 Regents: Part III- Organizing Evidence-Based Claims

The next part of the Evidence-Based Claims unit is Organizing Evidence-Based Claims.  As I looked over this particular worksheet, I noticed a similarity to work that I have done previously when we worked on the research papers.  The Organizing Evidence-Based Claims worksheet allows for an expanded claim that includes two points, and then the two points are separated out so that evidence may be given in support of each point.  This is like the thesis statements we created during the research project.  Students had to make a claim (take a position) about a topic, and then back it up with two reasons (signposts) why the reader should agree with them.

What I have here is the progression of two students from Forming EBCs, to Making EBCs, and finally Organizing EBCs.   You can see the growth in the train of thought as they worked through paragraphs 7-12 of Plato’s “Apology.”

Jessica’s progress: Forming EBCs

Jessie 1

I questioned Jess’s use of the word “unique” in her claim.  What was it she was really trying to say about Socrates at that point?  I also asked for pronoun clarification.  Who is the “they” she is referring to?

Jessica: Making EBCs

Jessie 2

While the first claim may be an improvement over “Socrates is unique…,”  the evidence she offers does not support her new claim.  Neither evidence #1 or #3 really support how people can “benefit from his teachings.”  I asked Jess to go back into the text to come up with stronger evidence if she still wanted to make that claim.  The second claim was confusing because of the spelling error (“believes” instead of “beliefs”).  I thought this was stronger than either of the original claims, so I asked her to think more deeply about Claim 2.

 Jessica: Organizing EBCs

Jessie 3

By the time Jessica got to this page, she had re-thought her claim and was able to come up with an expanded version that had to clear points that she could defend.   Her textual evidence is also stronger than it had been in the Forming EBC stage.  She is now ready to write.


Lauren’s Progression:  Forming EBCs

Lauren 1

Lauren’s claim is confusing because of the pronoun usage (“them” and “they”) and wordiness.   Her thinking and evidence are fine, but she needs to be more concise and precise in her claim.

Lauren: Making EBCs

Lauren 2

Lauren amended her claim in the first set, yet I encouraged her to use stronger diction than “killing him would not be a good idea.”   She obviously put a lot of thought into her second claim because you can see that she used WhiteOut to make changes.   This demonstrates that she is thinking and making adjustments as she is working.

Lauren: Organizing EBCs

Lauren 3

Lauren went a bit overboard and tried to incorporate everything from the Making EBC worksheet.  The result is a confusing, wordy claim.  I am asking her to trim down the wordiness and get to the heart of what it is that she wants to say.  I would still like her to rephrase “killing him would not be a good idea.”  Once she does that, then Lauren will be ready to write.


Once they have completed the Organizing EBC worksheets and revised them a bit from my feedback, the students went head-to-head with their partners in a dry run of what they intend to write in a paragraph.  I asked them to work in pairs, giving impromptu “speeches” to their partners using their claims as the thesis, and the points as signposts.  They had to attempt to convince their partner to agree with their claim.

The partners, while they were listening, had to decide whether or not they were convinced to agree with the speaker and then back that up with reasons why (or why not).  They had to refer to the textual evidence given as support for the argument to determine its strength and clarity.  They also had to critique the speaker’s argument for its logic and progression.  Finally, the listener had to write down three clarifying questions for the speaker.  The homework for the speaker , then, was to write a response to the three questions while also revisiting his/her argument in preparation for an essay.

The partners then reversed roles so that everyone left the room with three questions to answer.  When they come in next class, they will be permitted to use the worksheets, their question responses, and their text to write an essay in support of their chosen claim.

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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 Regents: Plato’s “Apology”

Odell LogoOdell Education has created model Making Evidence-Based Claims units for ELA grades 6-12.  For English 9, the chosen work of informational text is Plato’s “Apology.”  The link to the left will take you to the files for this particular unit, and I will be working with my English 9 Regents students on this piece in the 4th quarter.

The unit includes day-by-day lesson plans for close reading and is broken into five parts, each with a suggested number of classes for implementation:

Part I:  “Understanding Evidence-Based Claims”  (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Introduction to the unit

– Activity 2: Independent reading

– Activity 3: Read Aloud and Class Discussion

– Activity 4: Model Forming EBCs

Part II:  “Making Evidence-Based Claims” (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Independent reading and finding supportive evidence

– Activity 2: Read aloud and class discussion

– Activity 3: Find supporting evidence in pairs

– Activity 4: Class discussion of EBCs

– Activity 5: Forming EBCs in pairs

Part III:  “Organizing Evidence-Based Claims”  (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Independent reading and forming EBCs

– Activity 2: Read aloud

– Activity 3: Model organizing EBCs

– Activity 4: Organizing EBCs in pairs

– Activity 5: Class discussion of student EBCs

Part IV:  “Writing Evidence-Based Claims”   (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1:  Independent reading and making EBCs

– Activity 2:  Model writing EBCs

– Activity 3:  Writing EBCs in pairs

– Activity 4:  Class discussion of written EBCs

– Activity 5:  Read aloud and class discussion

– Activity 6:  Independent writing of EBCs

Part V:  “Evidence-Based Writing” (1-2 classes)

– Activity 1:  Independent reading and making EBCs

– Activity 2:  Class discussion of global EBCs

– Activity 3:  Pairs discuss their EBCs

– Activity 4:  Independent writing of the final piece

– Activity 5:  Class discussion of the final writing pieces

In all, the suggested unit length is 5-14 full classes focusing on a 17 paragraph passage.    I think this unit would be better served at the beginning of the year when I am targeting particular writing skills overall.  The skills are the key here, not this particular text selection.

One issue that I would like to address is that of spending 5-14 classes on one particular short passage.   While close reading is key and students need to pay attention to what they read, standardized testing does not reflect this practice.

According to test previews that we have been allowed to peruse, the upcoming exams look like they will be given in 90 minute increments over a three day period.  If the high school tests are going to be anything like the middle school tests being administered April 16-18, 2013, then the format looks as if it will be as follows:

Day 1:  (Test Book 1) reading followed by 42 multiple choice questions (I have heard, but it has not yet been confirmed, that the readings will be an excerpt from a novel, a poem, and an informational piece);

Day 2:  (Test Book 2) reading followed by 21 multiple choice questions AND (Test Book 3) reading and writing with three short-response questions and one extended-response question (I have not heard yet what the day 2 readings will be);

Day 3:  (Test Book 4) reading and writing five short-response questions and one extended response question (again, I have heard that the students will read five articles, respond to each, and then use information from the articles to write an essay… in other words, a Document Based Question (DBQ).

My concern is that with all the time being asked for close reading in the classroom (5-14 DAYS for “Apology”… I think 4-5 DAYS were set aside for Lincoln’s 278-word “Gettysburg Address” in the earlier model units), the students will come to expect that kind of time to spend on reading.  When they are faced with multiple passages in a 90 minute time frame, I am wondering how they will handle the time-added pressure on an already high stakes test.  While it is important to read closely, students also need to learn to read and comprehend in shorter time periods, mirroring testing situations.  To consistently do close reading at a snail’s pace gives students a false sense of how long they will have to complete tasks on standardized tests.   It seems as if we are sending mixed messages, and the students will be the ones who suffer from it.

Just my opinion.

However, I will try Odell’s unit and work with my Regents students on Plato’s “Apology” in an effort to enhance evidence-based writing skills.

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English 9 Regents: Critical Lens Essay- Irrational Hate (Romeo and Juliet)

Irrational Hate

In both William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet and Jerome Robbins’ musical West Side Story, two feuding groups display irrational hatred toward one another.  While all hatred may be considered “irrational”, there seems to be no known cause for the animosity other than one group simply does not like the other.

Your Task:  Provide a valid interpretation of the critical lens below, and demonstrate how both Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet and Jerome Robbins’ musical West Side Story support the main idea of the critical lens. How does the universal theme of irrational hate play an important role in the plot of both the tragedy and the musical?  How does Robbins carry this theme further in his presentation? How does irrational hate still play a role in real-life events today?

Critical Lens:            

“Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”      — Richard M. Nixon

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English 9 Regents: The Sirens

For this essay assignment, I have students RHA (read, highlight, and annotate) the song sung by the Sirens in The Odyssey and the Margaret Atwood poem “Siren Song” (I do not do this assignment with the Enriched students because “Siren Song” has been used as an AP poem in the past).   Students then have to look at the elements of persuasion used by the Sirens in each piece and then compare/contrast the attitudes and behaviors exhibited by the mythical creatures as part of their persuasive technique.

This fits in well with the PARCC framework and the Common Core Standards’ push toward examining persuasive writing and creating arguments.  The students have to explain how the Sirens attempted to persuade their victims in each piece.

As an opener, we also do a Visible Thinking Exercise using John Waterhouse’s painting, “Ulysses and The Sirens”:


Sirens Essay Assignment

Your Task: Select one point of comparison and two points of contrast regarding the behaviors and attitudes of the Sirens from the epic The Odyssey attributed to Homer and the poem “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood.


  1. Introduction-  what it means to be tempted by beauty or by a call of distress.  What is a Siren? Build to thesis statement.
  2. Body (remember to focus on behaviors and attitudes of the Sirens in each piece)
    1. Point of comparison between the two pieces (use two chunks)
    2. Point of contrast between the two pieces (use two chunks)
    3. A different point of contrast between the two pieces (use two chunks)

III.       Conclusion

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English 9 Enriched: Elegies of The Odyssey

In a effort to continue with learning about lyric poetry, the students wrote elegies for characters in The Odyssey.

Your Task:  Write an elegy to one of the characters from Homer’s The Odyssey.  Remember that an elegy, like an ode, has no set stanza structure or rhyme scheme, but elegies ARE usually meant to be set to music.  That means that there must be some kind of rhythm to the poem.

You may choose your structure (quatrains, cinquains, etc…) and you may choose to have a rhyme scheme.  Things to keep in mind about elegies:

  • Although they have no set structure, elegies do contain three sections that address the three stages of grief:

The Lament

The Praise (ode-ish)

The Consolation

  • The elegy most often does not give the person’s name in the poem… it is usually found in the title.
  • The poem most often characterizes the person being elegized.
  • You must have either: a) a number of stanzas divisible by three for each of the stages of loss (see “Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman), or b) three separate sections, each for the stages of loss (see “Elegy to W. B. Yeats” by W.H. Auden)

Student Examples 

“Elegy to Argos”  by Phoebe H.

I’m sorry, my dear companion!

For years you had no care.

Left in alone in manure with fleas in your hair,

Unfed, undeserving, tired and old

Unlike the companion I left long ago.

But now, companion, you’ve died of grief

Did you know? I’m sorry I could not greet you.

Just as my eyes met yours,

A final, last look,

And you’ve closed your eyes.

A final, last look,

I’ve said my goodbyes.

I remember, my dear ally!

You loved to run around.

Battle scars, memories, ever since you were young.

The best tracker, so quick and strong!

You followed me and never went wrong.

As others praised me, I would praise you.

Faithful, old friend, you knew me at once!

Forever my loyal ally,

You’d follow me,

To the ends of the earth.

You’d follow me,

Till your spirit fled earth.

Move on, my dear comrade!

The troubles are no more.

The careless maids and the haughty suitors,

Their lives were reaped, and set to roam.

Peace has now returned to our home.

You would have fought by my side.

We still will share the victory.

Let your spirit run free!

Rest in the afterlife,

You’ll be remembered.

Rest in the afterlife,

At peace, forever.


“Elegy to Agamemnon” by Jaime L.

A marriage should be filled with love, happiness, and compassion

And trust, above all, of any fashion

But instead, his was not meant to be

As the tale is here for all to see

A great victory beheld our lives in times of great sorrow

The men all eager to return home by tomorrow

But out great leader returns to doom

For his unfaithful wife has been wooed

Our great leader is dead, struck down by the lover of his unfaithful wife

No breath stirs his chest, his soul fleeing to the afterlife

A great warrior was he!

Fighting to the end, seeing the oncoming victory!

Aiding King Menelaus, his loving brother

He fought to end the war brought upon by the beautiful Helen’s lover

How strong was he, the great king of Argos!

But bear in mind

His great soul is fine

As it travels to Elysium

That great hero had done great deeds in life

A pity, for what happened with his wife

Though he will soon settle in an Eden

He was brave, cunning, and smart

And will live forever in our beating hearts

All right from the start.


“Elegy to Elpenor” by Trevor C.

For your death Princely Odysseus best accept the blame

As he unleashed Poseidon’s wrath that upon the crew trouble would rain

We know that you took the fall for Odysseus being big-headed

When we heard that the crew was to die, the journey home became dreaded

I will always mourn your powerful presence

But I hope the underworld will be for you, a great residence

You can be assured that you didn’t deserve this wicked plummet

Knowing that this could have been avoided makes me sick to my stomach

You were a loyal one to the crew as could be seen in your brotherly gaze

How were you to know your fate after being awoken and all a-dazed

The crew didn’t know what they had until they lost you, a major part of the crew’s puzzle

Why they tried to leave Circe’s island without you makes me befuddled

You were always a companion, a truly loyal fellow

But you had to fall to a death that was anything but mellow

We hope you rest easy, after all you have been selfless

But the death was partly your fault, no one is totally flawless

After your death, carrying on will be very hard to manage

We can try to push past all our emotional damage

Your crew will never be the same again, on them your personality was impressed

On the subject of your death the crew may also have to digress

Your family will eventually heal after being in total despair

Don’t feel grief about dying young, I know it may be unfair

Your body was treated and buried with great pride

As for the sea-god Poseidon, we all now greatly despise.


“Elegy to Anticlea” by Ryan H.

O Anticlea, beloved mother of mine

My heart swelled, dropped deep in decline

As I witnessed your being, unwhole

Dwelling in the land of dead souls

O what a terrible, unpleasant surprise

For still inside, my forsaken heart cries

For you, I  attempt so desperately to embrace

Yet, to no avail, I am without solace

Learning of your honorable demise, my morale upped

No matter that your demise was so abrupt

The fact that you perished of grief for me

Only heightens your unmitigated legacy

You were a providing, nurturing, and loving mother

In these traits you showed, you would never falter

You lived your life with honor and respect

Now that you’re gone, I must reflect

O father of mine, great Laertes

Hear me now, O hear me please

Do not grieve for too long

To do so would be so wrong

As our departed member would persist against it

Of that her humble soul would not permit

She would want us to be our boldest

And live our lives to their fullest


“Elegy to Achilles” by Alessandra P.

Our hearts are heavy

For we lost a great hero

All Achaeans mourn for you

You left us miserable and abandoned

The sky is now gray

The days are now dark

Now that you are gone we lost all hope

You led us through the battle of troy

You brought us victory and hope

You were brave and determined

You were a loyal friend

A fearless man and a strong leader

You were the greatest Greek warrior

and lived an honorable life

We know that you legacy will live on

What you did while alive will overcome your death

For not even death can conquer the hero that will live on forever

For you have given us the best of you

We are honored to have experienced what you had to offer

The hero that lived in you will spark the hero in all of us from generation to generation

It is time to lay down your sword and rest in peace

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English 9 Enriched: Ariadne’s Thread (aka The Critical Lens Essay)

Cultural mythologyOur approach to The Hero’s Journey in myth was in several phases.    I am a great believer in making posters to show student thinking.  By limiting what goes on each poster, students become more focused on what they need to take from the story.  It also makes for much easier cross-analysis.

Phase 1:  the whole class read the story of Hercules and we then analyzed it for the Hero’s Journey pattern.  Students identified the steps and outlined their ideas on group posters.  The groups worked as follows:

group 1: the Departure

The next four groups worked on the Initiation Stage.  They identified heroic traits in Hercules, as well as acknowledged any mentors/helpers who may have aided him in completing each task.

group 2: Labors 1-3

group 3: Labors 4-6

group 4: Labors 7-9

group 5: Labors 10-12

group 6: the Return Stage

Students shared their posters and we made a large list of traits that the Ancient Greeks seemed to admire in their heroes.  As students gave their list of attributes, they had to come up with a different trait for each labor.  In this way, we ended up with twelve for Hercules.

Phase 2:  The Hero’s Journey in other Cultures

Each group was given a story from another culture to analyze for the Hero’s Journey pattern.  Like we did with Hercules, the students made posters that showed the hero’s attributes.  The posters also had to depict the hero’s apotheosis.

Group 1: Prometheus

Group 2: Kutoyis

Group 3: Percival and Gawain

Group 4: Faust

Group 5: Pele. Hiiaku and Luhau

Group 6: Gilgamesh

Once again, when the groups shared their posters, everyone in the class made a list of the hero’s attributes.

Phase 3: Back to Greece

This time I collapsed the six groups into three, and each group read a full-length version of the stories of three Greek heroes: Theseus, Perseus, and Jason.  Like we did with the other stories, groups analyzed, made posters, and shared their findings.  Again, we made a list of heroic attributes for each.

Phase 4:  Ariadne’s Thread (the Critical Lens Essay)

Analysis Essay: Cultural Mythology Unit

Now that you have read a variety of myths and legends, and have generated a list of heroic attributes that reflect the values of the culture that presents the each story, it is time to show me what you have learned about the significance of cultural mythology.

For this essay, you will read, highlight and annotate the pages from the Mythic Journeys Study Guide provided to you.  You will then select one of the six quotations to be the focal point of your essay; however, group members must each choose different quotations.

All of the quotations have something to do with respecting and understanding the tales of other cultures beyond the one a person has been brought up in.   Although stories may differ, certain heroic attributes are common among cultures (remember, we have combed through each of these stories making lists of attributes… use that list now!).

This will be your introduction:

Once you have selected your quotation, you must explain what the speaker meant through his/her words.  What is the underlying message he/she is trying to get across?  How does that relate to the preservation of myth?  Think about a central theme/idea that runs throughout several of the stories that we have read in class that also supports the speaker’s message.   Once you have determined that common thread, you then have a focus for your thesis statement.

The focus in your thesis statement will be the thread that runs throughout the body of your essay (like Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth—be sure to follow it so that you don’t get lost!). 

There will be at least three body paragraphs (you are always welcome to expand on the topic by writing more, if you are so inclined):

  1. How does that thread run through the story of Hercules?
  2. How does that thread run through one of the tales we read in groups?  (Kutoyis, Pele/Hiaku, Percival/Gawain, Faust, Prometheus, or Gilgamesh—you may choose any of the stories, not just the one you read as a group)
  3. How does that thread run through the other Greek tales we read? (Perseus, Theseus, or Jason—again, you may choose any of the stories, not just the one you read in your group)

You must make sure that the stories you select not only relate to the quotation in some significant way, but also support the thread that you are leaving as a trail into the assignment.  You have lists of heroic attributes at your fingertips, as well as the stories themselves to use as reference.

Do not forget to embed quotations into your paragraphs as support for your thesis and CITE APPROPRIATELY!!  Do NOT summarize the tales; analyze how they support the main idea of the quotation you have selected.

For your conclusion, you must return to the quotation and the lessons that can be taken from it and from the preservation of the study of myth.

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