Tag Archives: resources

Alternative Assessments

If you’re reading this post, please know that I’ve moved the How to Teach a Novel blog to a new site. There you’ll find even more recent posts! Please change your bookmarks.

This is one of those posts where I simply point and say, “I saw something cool! Let’s go get it.”

A friend at Twitter (PageTurnersBlog, well worth following) retweeted that a post at Novel Novice features one YA Lit teacher’s alternative assessments as a download. A couple cool ideas I hadn’t thought of!

It’s nice to share good stuff!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites, Teaching Topics

Banned Books Beg to be Read!

If you’re reading this post, please know that I’ve moved the How to Teach a Novel blog to a new site. There you’ll find even more recent posts! Please change your bookmarks.

September 25−October 2, 2010 is Banned Books Week. No, my calendar isn’t broken, but I figure, what wait?

In my opinion, there’s no time like the present to thumb your nose at someone else’s supposed authority over your intellectual freedoms. Check out Amazon’s helpful compilation of banned books. You’ll be surprised what’s there! It’s actually a pretty decent list of must-reads.

Pretty amazing how easily some people can be led to self-righteous, passionate outrage over literary expression. I guess they don’t get out much.

1 Comment

Filed under Recommended Sites, Teaching Topics

Grammar Book Give-Away

I saw some interest in my post a week ago on Maupin House’s Giggles in the Middle: Caught Ya! Grammar with a Giggle for Middle School. Seems a lot of teachers have been struggling with the “how to teach grammar” and even the “should I teach grammar?” issues.

Maupin House just announced that they’ll give a copy of Giggles in the Middle: Caught Ya! Grammar with a Giggle for Middle School to one lucky winner. Just visit their site to see how to enter (so many ways to win!).

But Keith, I already bought the book! You said to! Well, in that case, Maupin House has generously agreed to let the winner choose any other book from their wide array of original titles for teachers. I’m thinking of grabbing a copy of Amazing Hands-on Literature Projects for Secondary Students and Razzle Dazzle Writing for myself .

All entries must be entered by Thursday, February 25th at 11:59 pm EST.

Good luck, folks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites

The Wind Beneath Their Wings

My corny and equally enigmatic title is meant to point out that even our most creative and original thinkers were in some way influenced by the work of others. How was Columbus influenced by the Bible? Who were Stephen King’s muses? In what way are Britney Spears and Alfred Hitchcock artistically connected?

Infloox is a website which attempts to show how influential people were influenced. While it’s still very much in its beta stage, you can see from its How It All Works page that the site relies upon reader contributions to connect influential people and works to the not only their influences, but to whom or what they’ve influenced.

So we learn that John F. Kennedy was influenced by Winston Churchill, alledgedly reading every word that the British Prime Minister had ever written (click on the detail link beside a person’s name to see the connection, versus a a new topic window for that person). Okay, that one’s not shocking.

But in another example, we learn that Beowulf was read by Tolkien, who was a close friend and University of Oxford colleague of C.S. Lewis, who in turn was an influence upon Sarah Palin. So ultimately Sarah Palin’s thinking is descended from an ill-smelling, obnoxious monster of the cold North whose fame came from eating men alive. Insert your own joke here.

Most influences are credited to their sources, and some are additionally linked to forums. The sources aren’t always easily checked, however, so I wouldn’t hang the hat of your dissertation on this site alone. When I tried to investigate both references to Treasure Island’s influence upon Steven Spielberg, for example, neither would yield a result. Others did, however, pan out.

So how to use this site?

  • First of all, it’s amusing to browse. Each page offers some browsing suggestions in a side bar to the right, and I found myself frittering away a surprising amount of time linking from one person and idea to the next.
  • Secondly, if you’re teaching any of these same famous persons, you might find a kernel of insight here to be explored in more depth. I taught The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for many years, so I knew of the Tolkien/Lewis connection, and I’d read quite a bit about their dialogues concerning their respective series (Lord of the Rings and Narnia). But this may be news to another teacher. C.S. Lewis was additionally influential to J.K.Rowling, and careful readers can pick up on specifics. The four Pevensie children, for example, are poster children for the four houses of Hogwarts; in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe they not only take on the charcteristics of the houses’ symbolic animals, but at some point in the novel they are each overtly linked to those animals. For those who teach this novel, check out the related note-taking chart.
  • Third, you might like your students to discuss why certain people in history may have been so influenced by one of their predecessors. For example, which single famous person influenced Cervantes, Einstein, Columbus, Napoleon, and Kissinger?

So check out Infloox and also take a gander at their blog. I’d love to hear your own thoughts for ways to use this site!

6 Comments

Filed under Authors and Illustrators, Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites

Under What Rock Have I Been Living?

Under what rock have I been living?

That’s a question I really need to ask myself if I’m just now discovering Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Yes, she’s an author, and I do recognize a couple of her titles (and the others look promising!). But somehow I missed that she has created this awesome site (absolutely no hyperbole intended) containing hundreds of original teaching guides for picture books, middle grade and YA books, and poetry. And yes, my fellow frugal teachers, they’re all there for free. All Tracie asks in return, if you like what you see, is that you buy a copy of her book. Trust me, even if you buy all of her books, you’re getting the better end of the deal! Free resources and her critically acclaimed titles for your own library.

So in an atypical move for me, I’ll shut up now. I’ll let Tracie’s web site speak for itself (and you can check out her blog as well). Thanks, Tracie, for your terrific resources!

1 Comment

Filed under Authors and Illustrators, Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites, Strategies and Structures

Lights! Cameras! Notes!

I’ve earned a reputation among my students. I never let them watch a video without good purpose, and I often require that notes be taken in some form.

Winn Dixie 

So here’s a pretty generic note-taking sheet that I’ve used in the past with Because of Winn Dixie. Email me if you’d prefer it in Word format; for some reason that didn’t translate well to the Scribd site.

You might also be interested in the Movie Worksheets web site, although at this point in time the resources there are sparse. If you’ve created any movie study sheets, feel free to add them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources

60 Second Recap

If you haven’t checked out 60 Second Recap, you’re in for a treat. 60 Second Recap is a collection of video clips covering the plots, characters, symbolism, and more of favorite classic literature for teens. But it’s not a dry, overly-academic examination. It’s a lively conversation hosted by a real-life, somewhat zany hostess named Jenny (you can find her on Twitter).

The site’s overview gives you a sense of the tongue-in-cheek humor that’s behind this great site:

“Eat your lima beans,” Mom used to say.

And now that you’re out on your own, honestly, are lima beans a staple of your culinary repertoire?

There, in a lima bean, lies the problem confronting the great works of literature. We’re all forced to read them in school so we can get good grades so we can go to a good college so we can get a good job so we can forget all about that literature they used to force us to read so we could get good grades.

The 60second Recap™ aims to break this cycle of canonical irrelevance. We want to help teens (yes, teens of all ages!) engage with literature. We want to help them see it not as some chore to be endured, but as — dare we say it? — the gift of a lifetime. How? Through the language of our time — the language of video. Video that’s focused, engaging, informative … and short enough to hold just about anyone’s attention.

Smirk if you must. Consider this yet another mile-marker on civilization’s road to perdition. But here’s the fact: You won’t get non-readers to read by forcing them to read more. You’ll get them to read by opening their eyes to the marvels awaiting them between the covers of that homework assignment.

With the 60second Recap™, teens finally have an alternative to the boring, text-based study guides that have burdened them for generations. And — who knows? — maybe that’s just what they’ll need to begin a love affair with literature, one that will last a lifetime.

In addition to the videos on classics such as Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies, and Hamlet, users will find a section called Recap Resource which includes a Dictionary of Terms (allegory, motifs, subtext, protagonist, etc.) and How to Write a Paper (that Won’t Put your Teacher to Sleep).  Again, these are presented in video form, which them much less intimidating for the average high school user.

The site also features an area for video responses from users, and another for users to request titles for recapping.

I highly recommend you visit the site and give it a look! I’m curious to see how it will change as it grows.

Know another great site for teachers working with novels? Find me on Twitter!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Resources, Recommended Sites