We're getting settled in to class now, yes? In these past four weeks, I've be so excited and encouraged by how much y'all are willing to dig in, to talk to one another and to me, and to begin peeling back the layers of what it takes to become better, stronger readers, writers, thinkers, speakers, and listeners.
Here's a brief(ish) rundown for each class:
- English 11 Honors:
We began this week by reading "Affrilachia" by Frank X Walker and an essay featured in TIME magazine, "Growing Up in a Sundown town" by Silas House. I'm not sure you knew what to expect from these opening texts, but it didn't take you long to realize that in this unit, you will examine texts and media that subvert and challenge Appalachia's "single story" -- that of the shoeless, toothless, uneducated hillbilly.
We also took a look at Roger May's Looking At Appalachia project. What's exciting for me to see is the slow churn of ideas and realizations about audience and purpose and how you have a voice and perspective that is a part of this Appalachian region. Remember that by next Friday you are "making" your own picture, creating a short, imagined narrative for Call and Response, OR writing a straight up analysis essay on a photo you choose and arguing whether or not it fulfills the mission of LAA.
As always, links and task sheets and texts are posted to Google Classroom. And if you're logged into your BCS Google Drive, you can access daily agendas here.
We ended the week strong, and I am so excited to see the pictures you make and the stories you tell. My pro tip for you while you contemplate and begin working on your Looking At Appalachia extension project:
Look around, there's so much beauty.
- English 11
Real footage of an English 11 student drafting a This I Believe essay this week:
You guys did a FANTASTIC job focusing in, telling your stories, and sitting down to conference with me, Mrs. Hutchinson, or...The Lead Cardinal. That's right, Mr. Myers helped out with writing conferences in 7th period, and several of you had the opportunity to learn from your principal, which was really cool collaboration.
Essays are due Monday, and then we're moving on y'all.
I can't tell you how proud I am of your work, your courage, and your authenticity in your writing. But I can try...I'm proud of you. Keep up the (thoughtful and honest and) great work!
- AP Lit
We read like readers and we read like writers.
This week's playlist included, Clint Smith's "There is a Lake Here", Jamaal May's "There Are Birds Here", and if you're in 6th period "Dinosaurs in the Hood" by Danez Smith and "Left" by Nikky Finney.
And here's the thing I love about teaching this course (besides all of you). It is Advanced Placement Literature AND Composition. So, my job is not only to help you become more careful readers, it is to help you become stronger writers. But it ain't easy. Almost all of you come into AP Lit having deeply internalized and mastered the mechanics of sentence and paragraph structure. You know the parts of sentences and of essays, and you can identify the characteristics of great writing. Chances are, by now, you've even made some great writing of your own.
So here's how I try to help my AP Literature AND Composition students: by challenging you to find your voice. The real one...not the SAT one. The voice that is solely and uniquely yours -- the one that will tell stories and express ideas in a way that no one else in the world can or will because this voice and these ideas belong only to you.
As (over)stated in class, I am a major fan of the work of Hanif Abdurraqib. And just like we all have a taste in music, we do in writing as well, and well, his work is up my alley. It's smart, observant, funny, moving, challenging, compelling, experimental, and...real. He's a writer I read and say I want to write like that.
My hope for us this year is that we use his (generously donated and for which I am inexpressibly grateful) collection of essays They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us as monthly mentor texts for deep analysis, intention, and style and voice. We will supplement this collection with other essays from periodicals like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and other places publishing smart analysis that can guide and inspire our writing, and we will study these too to find our voices and become stronger writers.
Nothing to it, right?
As you're drafting your poetry blogs for publishing tomorrow, consider a "move" Abdurraqib makes in the first essay we tackled "A Night in Bruce Springsteen's America".
Now, here are some pictures from class I love:
I'm looking forward to another meaningful week with each and every one of you.
All the best,
Ok, AP Lit kids, here's the deal. You want the good news or bad news first?
Let's start with the good.
I love your blogs. There's something so uniquely you about each of them -- the layouts you've chosen, the quotes and quips you've included, the photos you've uploaded, the ways you've made these digital spaces your own. It's really neat to see this extension of you and your personalities, and it's gratifying how you take care in your work and share it with me and other students across the country. I love your curiosity and your creativity, and I more than appreciate your "down-ness." (Like, seriously, you have no idea.)
And now, because I know you're wanting me to get on with it, the not so good news.
Understand that I'm now speaking in generalities. What I'm seeing GENERALLY in your blogs is writing and analysis that is too brief, only skims the surface, and is underdeveloped. It seems like some of the poems you've chosen are random and not exactly works you connect to or have any desire to explore. In a wide-open assignment, 25 books, and The Internet at your disposal, that should not be.
I also notice that your analyses tend to read like READER RESPONSE, which isn't entirely bad, but isn't entirely good either. I'd like to see a blend of reader response and critical response. If we can strike that balance now and here in this space, we'll strike gold come May. (Sorry, that was lame.) But for real -- that's the goal here -- USING YOUR AUTHENTIC VOICE TO EXPLORE AND ANALYZE CONTEMPORARY POETRY. 'Tis no easy task.
For now, it'd be a good idea to revisit the assignment. So, here it is. Review away.
Long story short -- I'm looking for a minimum of 3 DEVELOPED paragraphs, and work that includes the title, author, and embedded quotations.
And it'd also be a good idea to check out these blogs for analysis inspiration:
Keep in mind that your blog has readers, and we still have some URL issues or some plain old blank pages. So here's the really real stuff: not posting is not an option. It looks bad on you and it looks bad on us.
Let's give these other AP Lit kids in Michigan and Georgia and Virginia and Southern West Virginia and Texas and North Carolina something they can sink their teeth into! You owe it to yourselves to take as much away from this experience as you can. Also, I think you guys are special. So for whatever that's worth...
Keep at it. Keep working hard, thinking hard, and being fearless and creative and authentic.
All the best,