Congratulations on arriving to the last week of instruction of YOUR ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL CAREERS!! I'm so excited for you all!
Ummm... yeah so I made a lot of progress. I guess I kind of hit my knitting stride. Also, I turned out to be an accidental genius because knitting goes great with grading the recordings of your book club meetings, so... Here I am. In the very position of finishing something faster than I thought I would. I can't stress enough how this never happens in my life.
In my update a week ago, I had just finished the yoke and knitted about 12 inches or so total of the body of the sweater. This week I completely finished the body, all 25 some odd inches of it. I also knitted about 12 inches of one of the sleeves. In the first and second weeks of this project I knitted about 1 skein per week, which is 200 yards (400 yards total). This past week I knitted nearly two entire skeins in just a week, which means I accomplished almost exactly double the number of stitches.
When I started on the sleeves I switched over to the four 5 millimeter double-sided needles, which I think you'll agree are crazy looking. I'm also doing fancy stitches again: decreasing instead of increasing, and varying two different textures, the garter stitch and the stockinette stitch.
Yeah, so I'm updating my deadline by moving it up, WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I think I can have this sweater finished the by June 15th.
Skills, Obstacles, Mistakes
There have been mistakes (like the neckline mentioned in my first update), and detours (like finishing Bracken's coat as related in the second update), but more than anything else, I think I've learned a LOT. Also, kind of amazingly, the sweater is on track to be an actual wearable piece of clothing. As I discussed in my project proposal, this has not always been the case with past knitting projects.
Planning My Next Project
I've gotten really excited about planning my next project. I bought some new yarn with the idea of making a coat for Birdie so that she isn't so jealous of Bracken. BUT. I changed my mind. First of all, the yarn is super, super soft and such a crazy color.
Also, even though it's single ply like the roving yarn I used for Bracken's yellow sweater, it's a different weight. It's super bulky instead of bulky, which might make the jacket a bit trickier. So, I've decided I'm going to make myself the pinkest and longest scarf in the world.
I cooked up this crazy project idea because I wanted our last generative thing together to be something meaningful to each of us. And I was feeling the languishing, as I mentioned to you back in the intro post to the project. I designed my project to try to counteract the languishing and get back to a flourishing, as described by that New York Times article. As astonished as I am that things are going more quickly than I imagined, and that the thing twirling off my needles is taking a shape close to the one I was aiming for, I am even more amazed that planning and executing this weird knitting project actually did bring me closer to the flourishing end of the scale. I don't understand it, but I'm grateful. I hope that your experience with your own project brought you some sense of joy or satisfaction, as well.
The week of your AP Lit Exam has arrived! Good luck to you all :) I have a feeling you are all going to blow this test away. And now, my 2nd Progress Update Model Text:
Inch-wise, I've grown my green sweater from 7 inches to 12 inches. That's an additional five inches, which of course is less apparent progress than last week. However, because of the increases, I think I actually knitted more stitches than last week, or at least a comparable amount, judging by the small amount of yarn left in my second skein. I'll probably finish my second skein of yarn tomorrow. It's also definitely starting to look like sweater. You can see the neckline and each of the arm holes.
Week 1 vs Week 2 Progress
I'm happy with progress. I've finished all the black magic witchery of increases that turns a string of yarn into a seamless garment, and now I'm just knitting the body, by far the largest section of the sweater. It's also the simplest section of the sweater. For the next week at least (and probably for the next two weeks) it'll just be knit stitch after knit stitch after knit stitch after knit stitch. Since all the fancy needlework is behind me for now, I can zone out even more as I knit. This is a great section to knit as I watch shows in the evening with my husband. We've been rewatching Avatar the Last Airbender together for like the 20th time or so.
As you know, one of my intrinsic motivations for knitting a sweater was to feel that mindful calm that comes with the repeated motions of knitting. It's all been working: I've been feeling both the calm from the repetition (serotonin) and the joy of seeing something grow (dopamine). Now, you might very well ask, if you get so much joy out of knitting, why haven't you been doing it this whole time, Ms. Newton? I stopped knitting back in the beginning of the semester because I hit a roadblock of sorts. Allow me to explain...
Lessons and Obstacles
Back during the winter apocalypse, I learned that my dogs Birdie and Bracken loved romping in the snow. Bracken and Birdie both outgrew their dog coats, but Bracken's coat fits Birdie now. Poor Bracken was jacketless. I decided I would knit him a coat out of this mustard-colored roving yarn from Canada.
I finished it a few weeks after I started it, but I my cast-off was too tight to fit around Bracken. I put the whole project in a pile and just decided to fix it later. I didn't want to start a new project, because I had an unfinished dog coat, and I didn't want to finish the dog coat because I didn't know how. And this was my obstacle.
But, as you know, we're all starting projects together, so I started an entirely new thing: my green sweater. And somehow, somewhere in all the pleasant mind-wandering I've been doing as I've knitted my green sweater, I started figuring out ways to undo the mistake and try again. The next time I tried, the cast-off was still too tight. So I put it aside again and kept knitting the green sweater. Eventually, almost by accident I had yet another idea. AND IT WORKED.
So the take-away lesson here for me is a reminder that one of the strongest strategies for overcoming creative obstacles is to start a new project and let my subconscious simmer away until solutions materialize. I like how the first solution didn't work. Then I shelved the thing again, and in my mind said something like, "Well, I'll get back to this in another five months or so," but I had another idea almost immediately. Brains are weird.
Hopefully by the time I've published this, we all have submitted (or resubmitted) our project proposals and had them approved by me. We have so many different types of projects: gardens, cooking, building, engineering, making, songwriting, song learning, short story writing, language learning, physical challenges. It's going to be a good month.
Project Update #1
In my experience, the yarn usually comes before the project. There’s this super weird store in Houston called Texas Art Asylum. It’s like a thrift store designed for artists. You can buy yarn there, and it was from this higgledy piggledy stash of donated yarn that I first found and worked with Cloudborn. It’s a Peruvian Highland worsted weight. Nothing super special, although nicer than the yarn you can find at Hobby Lobby and places like that. I love the texture of the wool, and the way the stitches look when they come together. Last December, I saw that Cloudborn was discontinuing their product line, so I bought some more worsted for myself online, enough for green sweater (Moss) and a variegated blue sweater (Delphinium.) One of my favorite essayists these days writes essays on color and culture for the Paris Review. Her name is Katy Kelleher, and one of her essays is on Hooker’s Green, which is basically the color of my sweater.
I’ll also be using 5mm bamboo Takumi circular needles and 4mm and 5mm double-pointed wooden needles for the sleeves. The most important notions for this project (the name for the little things) are the multi-colored plastic stitch markers that tell me when to change or add stitches. (Isn’t notions a great word for this?)
I began knitting my sweater last Monday, May 3rd. In the beginning my sweater didn’t exist except as six balls of yarn. This is my progress as of Monday May 10th.
This is a top-down sweater, so as you can see, I’ve knitted 7 inches of the yoke. I’m just a couple of inches shy of the place where I will separate the sleeves from the body of the sweater.
I’ve done three different types of stitches so far: ribbing, stockinette, and garter stitch. I’ve also done increases in a triangular raglan pattern to shape the neckline.
The different parts of the sweater take varying amounts of time. The body, for instance, will take much more time than the yoke or a sleeve. Instead of using my progress on my sweater to estimate my remaining time, I’m going to use the total yardage. It took me about a week to knit one 200 yard skein’s worth of sweater. My finished sweater will be composed of a little less than 6 skeins of yarn. So, factoring in some travel I have scheduled for June, my hard deadline for my completed sweater will be Monday, July 5th.
New Skills, Obstacles, Mistakes
I never had to just increase a round without any specific guidance or spacing before. It took a tutorial and some low level math, but I figured it out in the end. And, although I’ve knitted front and back (Kfb) before with increases, I do not consider this a stitch that I completely understand, so I consulted YouTube. I made some mistakes in the initial ribbing and created something that looks like a moss stitch. Even though it departs from the pattern, this is an example of a mistake that I like to make. It looks cool and I learned something.
Hey class! Below is my model text for the personal project proposal. If you want to check out the descriptions of the different sections of the proposal, you can find them here. I can't wait to see what you guys chose to work on!
Annilee Newton Personal Project Proposal, May 2021
For my project, I’ve chosen to knit a green sweater. I’ve knit before, but I am definitely still a beginner, maybe an advanced beginner if you are grading on a curve. When I was very little, my mom taught me how to crochet, and ever since then I’ve been drawn to making things with yarn. For a long time, knitting seemed like the scary, unachievable, almost mystical side of the craft. (I mean what are those needles even doing? How can it be possible to make a sweater with no seams?) I started to teach myself to knit in 2019, and knit a bit more through the early bits of 2020. I’ve knit several scarfs, mittens, a cardigan that was stitched together and a purple sweater top-down sweater that was a humbling and humorous failure. So this will be my third sweater knitting attempt, and hopefully my first successful no seams pullover sweater.
For me, the biggest benefits of knitting come from the process. Having a product is nice, but it is almost like an afterthought. The process of choosing the yarn, selecting and decoding the pattern, and gathering supplies is the dreaming visionary phase when creativity and fun come into play. In the case of this particular project, I bought the yarn and chose the pattern about 6 months ago.
At the beginning of the execution of the project, problem solving is a big deal as I begin to turn the pattern into reality. There’s eventually a lot of soothing repetition, which feels like a form of meditation to me. And then comes the low-key ever present wonder of watching a two-dimensional string turn into a three dimensional (sometimes) functional piece of clothing. The product itself becomes almost an artifact of the process, not the point. So for me, the personal benefits come from the mindfulness aspect of the project and the dopamine that comes from seeing something grow tangibly in response to effort.
Our time is a limited resource. There are many projects I’d like to do (many, many projects) and time limitations have always been the most important problem when it comes to choosing a project. After deciding that we would all collectively use our remaining class time together to invest in personal projects that are meaningful to each of us, it took me a while to settle on one. I chose this one for the intrinsic reasons mentioned above, but it will also have extrinsic benefits. As a model project for students, the sweater will give visual information of my progress. The mindfulness aspects of knitting benefit me, of course, but being more mindful always has benefits to my relationships with others. Sympathy, understanding, and wisdom have a better chance of surviving the onslaught of life when my mind is calm.
My deliverable will be my progress on the sweater itself. As evidence of my deliverable, I will be including photos with my weekly progress updates.
5. Success Criteria
So, I thought about making the success criteria product-based, something like “I will knit a sweater in a month.” But the stress of product-based deadlines kind of nullifies the process-based benefits of my project. So, a month from now, I will know I have been successful if I have grown my sweater every day. If I spend the equivalent of 25 minutes knitting every day, and I have visual progress of my sweater at the end of each week, I will consider myself successful. However, I also have to finish the sweater. Clearly written, here are the two concrete aspects by which I will judge the success of the project:
7. Time Budget
On the weekdays, I will knit in the afternoons, after teaching morning classes. If an afternoon doesn’t work for some reason, I will knit in the evenings while watching old reruns of Alias or listening to records.
Weekends, I’ll use knitting as a mind-preparation tool for writing. So, I’ll knit before I start drafting my work for my writing workshop in the mornings. If I ever hit a snag in my writing, I’ll pick up the knitting again, and vice versa.
If I can’t knit for a day because I get too busy or I go camping or something, then I’ll knit another 25 minutes the next day. I want to average at least 3.5 hours of work on my project per week.
Let's go through a quick explanation of what the book clubs will entail. This week, you'll be meeting with your group (either during content hour or an alternate time) to structure and set-up the remaining three meetings. You will decide on meeting times/days and figure out how many pages to read for each meeting. In the rest of this uncharacteristically short blog post, I'll be talking about how to prepare for your book club discussions to make sure they are successful.
As you read, you'll need to leave breadcrumbs for yourself along the words so that you can find the most interesting bits to talk about with your group. You can't underline/highlight the book itself, or you can right little notes in a notebook as you read. Point is, you are in charge of directing the attention of the group for ten to fifteen minutes. To help you with this, you'll each be turning in 100 words of "discussion notes" before each meeting. These will be independently submitted to me in the HUB.
A Possibly Helpful List of Stuff You Can Talk About
For the most part, you guys know how to talk about a book. Or a song, or the news, or whatever interests you. I usually suspect the best stuff happens in our class when I shut up and students start talking with each other. BUT, just in case, here's a list of things that can be fruitful to pay attention to as you read because they usually have the potential to lead to interesting discussions.
The only thing in that list that I want to elaborate on is the first item: emotions. I remember good old Dr. Hauer (You all have heard of him before: History of English Language and Shakespeare prof.) telling us to pay attention to how we felt as we read King Lear. This felt revolutionary to me on some level. When it came to literature, especially Shakespeare, on some level I felt as if I had always been told to prostrate myself before THE CLASSICS. So classical, so lofty, so inhuman. In the same class, Dr. Hauer accidentally gave me permission to hate works of ESTEEMED LITERATURE when he told me hated Francis Bacon, a writer anthologized in our big old Norton Anthology. A weird thing to have to have permission for, I guess, but I've certainly never looked back. (I hate Bukowski and Kerouac, in case you're interested.) Real classics are classic BECAUSE they are human. Real literature makes us feel. So always pay attention to how you feel when you read, or if you even feel anything at all.
Here we go, guys. I can already tell this post is going to be long, so here's a rundown of the topics I'm covering:
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
Why do we do the things that we do? As you think back on your academic career, ask yourself, how much of your motivation came from outside factors like grades? How much came from your own interests? I suspect that quite a lot of your motivation came extrinsically. You know, like grades. Such is the nature of school.
As you shift from high school to college, you will find that you have more opportunity to choose where you invest your time and energy. You will get to select your classes, your major, and eventually, your career. Now is a good time to start thinking about questions like:
Languishing to Flourishing
I've been thinking a lot about motivation. And, ever since reading this article in the NY Times, I've been thinking a lot about languishing versus flourishing. According to the author Adam Grant:
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
Grant also says that the antidote to languishing is something called flow.
Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow.
Your work for the 6th cycle has been designed to take into account all of this. I wanted to give you a genuine opportunity to experience intrinsic motivation here at the end of the year. You will basically be doing two things:
For now, let's focus on the personal project. Choose something that you want to work on, and work on it. Create a plan (see the project proposal below) and do it. This project doesn't have to have anything to do with English Literature. I'll be selecting something to work on as well, and I'll be writing and implementing my own project proposal to provide you with model texts. At first I was thinking about learning about and practicing the guitar, but now I'm wondering if I would rather knit a pullover sweater. I bought some green wool yarn from the Andes last Christmas, but I haven't gotten around to even starting the project. Maybe now is the time.
How to Write Your Personal Project Proposal
3.You will be writing a project proposal that outlines and designs a project of your own choosing. Any project of your own choosing. Can be literature related, astronomy related, skateboarding related, whatever related. Your whole proposal will be between 500-1000 words.
Here’s a list of the steps required in your project proposal:
Now let’s look at each of these sections in more depth.
WHAT are you starting with? In this section, you will explain your personal context for tackling this project. For example, if you are learning a musical instrument, what musical experience are you bringing to the project? What are your qualifications for executing this project? Perhaps, like me, you are coming to your project as a beginner. Do you have experience as a self-driven learner?
WHY do you want to undertake this challenge? What are your intrinsic motivations? Here you will explain your reasoning for selecting this project out of all the infinite possible projects out there in the world. Some things to think about as you address this section are:
WHY should we invest in this project? You need to convince me, your teacher (a role to be played in the future by your supervisor), that this project is a valuable use of our limited resources: time. Whereas in “Challenge” you define your personal intrinsic motivations, for “Benefits” you need to undergo some research to find extrinsic motivation. Use those AP Lang persuasion skills. I want to see your logos.
WHAT concrete results will you have at the end of this project? Will you have a website, a song, a certain level of fluency in code? How will both of us know that your project has yielded some level of success? What will you have at the end of the project that you don’t have now? Your deliverable(s) must be concrete and measurable. Something you can show me. Each of your deliverables should also come with 500 words of written progress feedback/commentary. The register for your progress feedback updates can be casual, conversational, blog-like.
5. Success Criteria
WHAT is your personal goal? I will judge you based on your deliverable stated in the previous section, but how will you judge yourself? Start thinking about that all important question and keep thinking about it forever: what does success mean to you?
WHEN will the deliverables be, well, delivered? This document, your project proposal is due Friday, May 7. You will also have the following deadlines to submit three deliverables and progress updates:
7. Time Budget
Now that you have your deadlines sorted out, WHEN will you invest in your deliverables on a practical, micro level? Now it's time to look at the time that you have. Just like a money budget, take stock of what time you have that you isn't specifically dedicated to other tasks. Then spend some of your time on this project. It can be a little or it can be a lot, but the time you invest needs to be specific. For example, because I learned to time budget with the Pomodoro Method, I will be knitting my sweater at least 25 minutes in the afternoons, every day. So each week I will spend around 3 hours knitting. (Probably more if my dad keeps wanting to have long phone conversations about his upcoming tomato crop.)
Hello class! As I discussed on Tuesday, in today's blogpost I'll be sharing and commenting on student examples of thesis statements and conclusions. Hopefully, you'll find these helpful as you begin drafting your next Essay 3 on Thursday. The number one thing we struggled with was integrating thematic elements into our essays. So, let's get into it.
Strong Student Example #1
Caliban’s mysterious origins alienate him from the people around him, suggesting that cultural differences are often impassable obstacles that keep different groups of people from accepting one another.
Above, I've made the concrete plot analysis blue and the abstract thematic analysis red. A thesis statement can set you up for success by including the impact of the plot analysis on the theme of the work. In this student example, the writer very clearly and cleverly added the thematic analysis on with the word "suggesting." I hereby grant you all permission to magpie this word. If you are struggling to come up with theme, see what happens when you stick the word "suggesting" on the end of your thesis.
In The Tempest, Caliban’s origins as the son of Sycorax and a native of the island have only done him a disservice. Caliban has lived on the island for longer than anyone else yet has no control over his home or his life. He was enslaved by Prospero, which was justified by societal standards, and exploited by Stephano and Trinculo. This is similar to how the Native Americans were treated by European Colonists during colonial times. Natives were forced off their lands and many who stayed were enslaved or killed. The colonists justified the mistreatment of the natives by portraying and viewing the natives as “savages.” This mindset persisted in American society for many years and served as justification for more discrimination against the natives. Even with the passing of many generations, many of these atrocities haven’t been forgotten and the relationship between the Americans and Natives has struggled to be resolved. Through Caliban’s character arc, Shakespeare condemned the actions of early European settlers and illustrated the grave social consequences that are caused by racism.
Besides the thesis, the other big opportunity you have to expand the plot of the work into theme is your conclusion. Here, the student writer has included previous knowledge of history to bring the implications of the plot onto the world stage. When you broaden the implications of the plot to include the real world, you are creating thematic analysis.
Strong Student Example #2
After his upper class community excludes and even vilifies Heathcliff for his mysterious origins, he becomes vindictive and abusive, which underscores the novel’s premise that strict social hierarchies only serve to further antagonize people of different backgrounds.
Again, the student writer has included a plot analysis that responds to the prompt in the thesis, as well as a thematic analysis drawn from the plot. On a syntactical level, this writer accomplished the feat with the phrase: "which underscores the novel's premise that..." Magpie?
Heathcliff’s unknown background causes him to be ostracized by the elite, which results in his descent into insanity and rage. In this way, Bronte manages to provide social commentary on the pitfalls of social class, showing how the strict traditions of the upper class outrage lower-class laborers. Heathcliff is the ideal vehicle for this message, because his unknown background allows him to be treated as lower-class by much of the elite, while still being partially accepted into upper class society due to the work of Mr. Earnshaw. The transformation of the protagonist into the villain also subverts the reader’s expectations of a usual rags-to-riches story, where the peasant finds wealth, status, and happiness; instead, Heathcliff manages to become rich but also increasingly unhappy as a result of his pursuit of that wealth. In this way, Bronte notes how even the existence of social hierarchies at all makes people unhappy, as they continually try -- and oftentimes fail -- to scale the social ladder.
Another example of using the conclusion to make effective thematic analysis.
Almost There Student Example #3
However, it becomes clear this is but a façade and that Dracula has a malicious intent that he unearths as his scheme for vengeance and power is revealed to Johnathan Harker and the other protagonists.
This is good stuff, strong plot analysis. But the student didn't include any thematic elements in the thesis. As you can see, the conclusion is also just plot analysis:
In conclusion, Dracula’s mysterious history, intent, and aura lead directly to the main conflict of the novel. That is both the need to stop Dracula’s plan for power and realizing that he is in fact a vampire. Only after the protagonists are able to locate Dracula and find out his weaknesses are they even able to stand a chance as they split up and trap him. Exposing Dracula’s mysteriousness was the way the protagonists were able to beat him.
So what if this student revised his/her thesis to include another clause after the word "suggesting?"
Let's try it:
However, it becomes clear this is but a façade and that Dracula has a malicious intent that he unearths as his scheme for vengeance and power is revealed to Johnathan Harker and the other protagonists, suggesting that truth is the strongest tool humans have in the battle against evil.
Sum it Up, Sum it Up
Just remember: plot is concrete, theme is abstract. In the thematic analysis I added above, the specific characters "Jonathan Harker and other protagonists" becomes the more generalized "humans." "Dracula" becomes "evil." We are moving up the ladder of abstraction.
Hello class! Spring Break is on the horizon. My biggest hope for all you is that you can take a spring break from your screens, or unpleasant information funnels as I've started to think of them. Sunshine, greenery, fresh air, schedule-less days... that's what I see on our horizons.
In this blog post, probably the last before spring break, I want to take a step back and share with you the cognitive theory and reasoning for your revision projects. We'll do a little bit of metacognitive work by looking at and reflecting on four anonymous student summative responses on the rewriting experience. Here's the first one:
Student Response #1
Looking over not only my own work, but also my group’s work, I was able to find missing holes and inconsistences my essay had. I realized throughout to add more details and information to my essay to provide better clarity. I learned to push myself in the realm of understanding a bit further rather than skimming the surface.
This student's experience reveals something foundational to the science behind writing instruction: we learn how to write, and how to write better, by reading. Just like we learned how to speak by listening. First, our brains absorb, then our brains can create. Maybe I've already talked about mirror neurons, but I'll mention them again: when we see something doing a task, there are neurons in our brains that fire as though we ourselves are performing the task.
All this to say, we learn by reading from the exemplary student examples provided by the College Board. But we also learn from reading each other's work. At my MFA program, my mentors repeatedly said this before workshops, during workshops: writers get a large benefit from looking critically at the work of others, possibly as much benefit as they reap from having their own work looked at. Neurologically, I think this has to do with the way our brains process and apply information, specifically how our brains transfer information and apply it to new contexts. So, there's a selfish reason for workshopping your peers: it makes you a better writer.
Student Response #2
Woah! I initially thought that writing this second draft would be relatively simple. I had the impression that I would just make the edits and call it a day. I did not foresee that as I wrote, my ideas about the narrator changed. Something I thought a lot about during the workshop was the narrator’s purpose for criticising the gentlefolk. I asked, “why would the narrator go out of their way to criticise people they don’t even like, and who is the narrator’s intended audience?” That opened up the idea of the narrator being jealous of the gentlefolk’s carefree life, and then that idea seemed to take off for me. I didn’t know where I would incorporate the idea because it felt like everything I previously said built up to this idea, that’s why I talked about jealousy in the conclusion.
Student Response #3
I had no idea how much my thinking could change over the course of writing a second draft. This taught me when writing this essay to dig deeper and ask questions about the characters’ motivations and intended audiences in the context of the story.
Students two and three stumbled upon a truth that all writers know: writing isn't just a pathway to a product (like an essay, a book, whatever). Writing is also a tool for thinking. When you revise a piece of writing, you are rethinking it. But this time you are starting from a deeper vantage point than you did before. As I've said in the past, I think of it as excavating meaning. In the first draft, you dig into some kind of meaning or other. If you keep digging in the second draft, you have the opportunity to unearth the really good stuff, the Indiana Jones type artifacts. The gems. I know this from experience. By the time my essay "Oranges" was published by the Sierra Nevada Review, I had revised it at least 5 times, deep excavation type revisions.
Student Response #4
In the process of revision I realized I made a major mistake. I kept implying Collin’s was the speaker, which he is not. I fixed that mistake, and revised my sentences for grammar and clarity.
YES!! No matter how many times I say in class, "the narrator and the author are different," these words are floating around in the ether, completely separated from concrete examples. This "speaker's perspective" objective is a big one on the AP Lit exam, and now is the best time in the world to make this mistake. I don't think of it as a mistake, I think of it as a learning opportunity. Because me saying "the narrator and author are different" doesn't necessarily mean learning is happening. This student experienced the difference between the narrator and author in her own writing. Learning is for sure happening here.
Hello, classes! It was wonderful to see everyone again. It sounds like things are getting back to normal-ish for all of us. An observation stolen from a student: in 2020 "normal" was The Walking Dead. In 2021, "normal" is Mad Max. It made me laugh, and laughing seems like a wise thing to do, maybe the wisest thing to do these days. Check out this top tier TikTok satirist. Every time I visit the HEB, I look for Jedidiah, but still no sign.
So, during our one day of class this week, we dipped our toes into our next poetry unit with "Poetry" by Marianne Moore. We also used this as an opportunity to begin to wrap our minds around Modernist Poetry, and how Modernism differs from Romanticism.
There are many things that I like about about this poem, including the three discussion points I suggested in class today:
But my reason for choosing this as our post-winterpocalyse first poem of the unit because of the argument it presents. Marianne Moore seems to believe that life is important, and poetry can be helpful when it creates an accurate reflection of life as it is in all its complexity. Beauty mixed with ugliness. Reality. According to Moore, imaginary gardens of airbrushed reality that edit out the frogs are "trivial," and it's hard for me to disagree with her when I think of the half-true realities created through social media.
It's especially interesting to read Moore's poem with an idea of the context in which she wrote it. Above is a slightly boring 10 minute video that gives a much more coherent idea of the Modernist movement in poetry than the one that I zipped through in class. Basically, I think of most of human artistic evolution as growth, gradual change and progression. But not here: the difference between Romantic literature and Modern literature is more like a schism, a fault line, or a trench. This fracturing came from the trauma and large scale global suffering of social unrest, the Great Depression, and, above all, World War I. The dissonance created by her line breaks (enjambment) mirrors the dissonance of Modern concert musicians like Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.
Wheeewww! End of January finals over, in the bag, behind us. CONGRATULATIONS TO US ALL!! And here we are, at the end of the first week of the second semester of the strangest, longest year. This will probably be a short post, but I wanted to give you general feedback and thoughts that I had while rating your essays for your final while they are still sort of fresh in our minds. We'll be revisiting all this when we hit Unit 9 and build on our Essay #3 skills.
1. You must respond to the prompt.
This observation gets at the heart of why Essay #3 is the most challenging. Many of us used The Tempest as our literary work: so far, so good. But some of our arguments got hijacked by our other observations of the text, mostly notably the theme of revenge. Since the AP prompt asked you to craft an argument about cultural collision, this is a big problem. You could write the best essay in the world on revenge, your essay could win you the Nobel Prize in Literature, and you wouldn't meet the objective for this essay. Having thoughts about a piece of literature is good, certainly encouraged all around, but this essay is testing your ability to organize your thoughts in response to a certain question. You don't get to ask and answer the question here. It's not like memorizing the lines and then acting them out during the exam administration. It's more like improv.
2. The Ethical Problem of Putting Thoughts and Words into the Minds and Mouths of Phantom People
Guys, I think it's best to avoid sentences that begin with "Many people will argue that..." I know you learned all about the strength of concession in rhetoric back in AP Lang, and possibly also for the English 2 STAAR, but I'm going to push back against that here, for this essay. The effect of bringing in invisible people whose opinions you are filling in like imaginary puppets can be kind of gross. "Some people say this, but I SAY THIS." In debate class, sure, because you have an actual real opponent next to you. But in Essay 3, you are making up opponents (strawman anybody?) and it's eating away at the integrity of your own argument. In AP Lang terms, you are damaging your ethos, your authorial credibility. Consider the difference between these two sentences:
Many people will argue that Caliban is evil, but I believe he is good.
Caliban's relationship to Prospero mirrors the complexity of real life relationships between the colonized and the colonizer.
See what I mean? Sentences that begin "Many people will argue..." usually end in both the phantom puppet "many people" and the author of the essay being wrong, because the texts that we analyze as literature are rarely so black and white. Your writing and your logical reasoning and your score on Essay #3 will improve dramatically if you treat complexity within a text for what it is and get rid of the people you invented to argue with. It's vastly preferable for YOU to be capable of seeing the complexity of the text with all its many sides. Just you.
3. Action Verbs are Your Best Friend (As Per Usual)
I think of this as "the missed active verb opportunity." Let me show you what I'm talking about with two anonymous student examples:
"The cultural conflict is religious in nature."
"This conflict between staying true to their Chinese heritage and being American is a consistent conflict throughout the book."
These two statements are not strong defensible arguments, but they are both so close. All they need is an action verb and a predicate, and then these students will actually be saying something. Consider these revisions:
The cultural conflict forced Alonso to challenge his religious faith.
This conflict between staying true to their Chinese heritage and being American created a rift between Waverly and her mother that drove Waverly's choice to compete."
That's the ticket. Now we've got an argument that can go somewhere. All we needed were some action verbs.