seth m via Compfight

I like what (most) educators mean when they say RIGOR (and OF COURSE I love love love the bojangles out of relevance, which typically leads to engagement) but truth be told, the word rigor just makes me think of stiff corpses …

<tenting hands à la cartoon villain>  … You’re thinking about them now … aren’t you? …

Unfortunately (for me and anyone like me), any time you get a bunch of dorks together to talk about curriculum the dead body word comes up, every stinkin’ time. It’s been in use for a good long while now too, so I think it’s outlived the buzzword phase. We’re probably stuck with it. However, after typing rigor into thesaurus. com, I’ve curated a brief collection of of alternatives for the aforementioned word that I would very much like to avoid, if possible, when discussing anything but the state of a cadaver from this point forward:

AUSTERITY –> After all, standards should be of a stern and unwavering nature, no? (Curriculum should not be austere; standards should be.)

FIRMNESS or RIGIDITY  –> Standards should be unmoving, stationary targets. (Again: The curriculum should be fluid, adaptable, and ever-evolving to best meet and exceed standards, but the standards themselves should usually stay put–until we discover a problem. Then they should be altered immediately.)

PRECISION –> Of course standards should be clearly defined and exact–so should curriculum.

ASPERITY –> This one means harshness or sharpness, which is way worse than THE WORD THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED’s definition, but as a word, it is much more auditorily pleasing.

TRADITIONALISM or CONVENTIONALISM –> These are, after all, qualities that curriculum and standards sometimes take on if rigor’s intended meaning is misconstrued. Maybe, if we called it one or all of these things, it could serve as a warning to people when they started getting away from academically or intellectually challenging (the definition I use for rigor) curricula to stale, inflexible, stoutly traditional or boringly conventional curricula. (There’s nothing wrong with some traditional or conventional methods, so please don’t slay me with your words, dearest readers who favor traditional or conventional methods in education. I just firmly believe that educators need to stay fresh and open to the idea that there is always a possibility of something better out there as we continually learn more about learning.) In other words, when we are dealing with a rigorous curriculum–cool. When we are dealing with a stale, unwaveringly, boring, traditional-for-the-sake-of-tradition curriculum we can say … Whoa, slow down there, doggy. We’re getting into the realm of inflexible traditionalist conventionalism and we’re going to need to shorten your leash a little.

OBDURACY –> This means unmoving, stubborn, unyielding … When you get down to it, standards should be these things, but the people who write them shouldn’t be. WE, the keepers of the curricula, have to be flexible enough to see when something that was “set in stone” needs to be sandblasted.

PUNCTILIOUSNESS –> This is my favorite. It is more in line with what I think of when I think of what curriculum and standards should be, but is also just a cool words that does not conjure up any morbid thoughts for me. It feels pleasant on the tongue and sounds lovely in the air. Punctiliousness is an attentiveness to detail. Isn’t that agreeable? Maybe even … charming? Okay … that’s probably taking it too far, but it’s a heckuva lot better than corpses … frozen, immalleable, ossified corpses. (Shut up! I’m closing out of the thesaurus.com tab right now …)

None of the words on the above list mean fun things–not that education ALWAYS has to be a circus of entertainment. (Though wouldn’t it be cool if we actually included a standard for fun? Then again, any attempt to standardize fun would probably make it less fun … so, never mind.) Education should be fun when it CAN be, but it can’t always be. Curriculum should be suitably challenging, even difficult at times (not that fun and challenge are mutually exclusive). And again, I think that rigor (gag!) as it is usually intended in curricular discussions IS a good thing. I just wish we could agree on a more palatable* way to say it.

*I thought up the word palatable without the assistance of thesaurus.com.

Serial Podcast Dialogue for Episodes 1-6 #phsCONlit

Graphic Conversation

Marc Wathieu via Compfight

NOTE: If you are here from somewhere other than Mrs. Morgenson’s Contemporary Literature and Writing class, know that the comments after this post have spoilers for Episodes 1-6 of the Serial podcast.

Hello #phsCONlit students,

This blog post is for you. Here is where we will have a dialogue about the Season 1 Serial Podcast. By the time you post any ideas here, you should have listened to at least the first SIX episodes of the podcast AND completed the examination of evidence presented in Episode Six.

At this point, what is your stance on this case? Was Adnan faultily convicted or is he where he needs to be (in jail)? (Explain your position.)

Remember that in the United States, in a court of law, to be found guilty a jury must find the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, they are not supposed to convict based on a hunch, their feelings, their own experiences or anything else other than the facts presented at trial. (Does this always happen? No. Of course not. Any time human beings are involved in decision-making, there is room for personal judgement/baggage/opinions/experience to influence a decision. That’s why there are 12 people assigned to a jury. The hope is that they will balance each other out somehow. That’s also why there is a jury selection process–so anyone with obvious biases will be “weeded out” of the jury pool.) So, when you are answering the above question think about the following options …

  • You believe Adnan is probably guilty, but you don’t think there is enough evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You believe Adnan is guilty, and there is enough evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You believe that Adnan was involved in Hae’s murder somehow, but he probably didn’t kill her.
  • You believe that Adnan is innocent and deserves to be set free.
  • Another option that I’m not thinking of right now …?
  • Bonus: If you believe Adnan is innocent, who do you think killed Hae?

I also want you to consider how Sarah Koenig presented the evidence. Do you believe she is biased in her reporting, or is she balanced? Do you believe her opinion is evident, or does she have a good “poker face” or in this case, “poker voice”? Does her presentation of the evidence affect your opinion regarding Adnan’s guilt or innocence?

Respond in the comments below BEFORE you read your classmates’ responses.

Once you’ve posted, read through your classmates’ comments and respond to their comments–particularly those you disagree with. (Keep it civil!) Extend one another’s thinking in this matter. Try to convince each other that your stance is the right stance. Work on persuading one another to sway each other to your point of view. If someone legitimately sways your opinion, say so and say why. Everyone needs to interact with other commenters.


  1. Answer the question posed above (before reading your classmates’ comments).
  2. After you have posted your comment, respond to at least FIVE other commenters with reasons why you agree or disagree with their stances. (The most interesting dialogue most likely will come from the people with whom you disagree.)
  3. If someone responds to your original comment, you should reply back to that commenter to further extend the dialogue until it comes to a satisfying close.
  4. Review the section of  THIS POST about posting quality comments (scroll down), if you need a refresher on what that entails.
  5. You will be graded on the quantity of your comments (at least 5), the quality of your comments (see #4, if you need a refresher), and the responsiveness you demonstrate to fellow commenters (including me. I will jump in and play devil’s advocate from time to time, if I see the conversation getting stale).

Graphic Conversation

Marc Wathieu via Compfight

How to Submit an Assignment to Mrs. M., Digitally, Using GoodNotes or Pages

Screenshot 2015-01-08 17.13.39

Using GoodNotes:

1. When you receive an assignment via your class’s Google Drive, open it in GoodNotes. This will allow you to write directly on the document.


3. Click on the title of the document to change the name of your document to …

(+ FIRST INITIAL, if someone else has the same last name in your class period)




4. Once you’ve completed your assignment go back to the main screen in GoodNotes and click on EDIT.

5. Choose your assignment, so that it is highlighted.

6. Click on EXPORT.

7. Another prompt will appear. Click on EXPORT.

8. Many options will appear. Choose EXTERNAL APPS.

9. Choose GOOGLE DRIVE. This will launch Google Drive.

10. Google Drive will ask you “Would you like to upload this document to Drive?” Choose UPLOAD.

11. Click on the “i” (in a little circle) on the right-hand, next to the document title.

12. This will pull up the DETAILS menu. Choose the “MOVE TO” option.


14. Click on “MOVE HERE.”

15. Google Drive will prompt you with the message “Move: Document will be shared in Folder”. Choose MOVE.

Now your document should be available to both of us. Hurray!

Screenshot 2015-01-08 17.13.49

Using Pages:

1. Create the document in Pages.


3. Go back to the DOCUMENT screen to change the name of your document. Click on the title to change it to …

(+ FIRST INITIAL, if someone else has the same last name in your class period)




4. Complete the assignment.

5. Go back to the DOCUMENTS screen in Pages.

6. Click on the box with an upward pointing arrow in the top left-hand corner of the screen.


8. Select the assignment document.

9. Choose PDF.

10. Click on CHOOSE APP.

11. Choose OPEN IN DRIVE. This will launch Google Drive.

12. Google Drive will ask you “Would you like to upload this document to Drive?” Choose UPLOAD.

13. Click on the “i” (in a little circle) on the right-hand, next to the document title.

14. This will pull up the DETAILS menu. Choose the “MOVE TO” option.


16. Click on “MOVE HERE.”

17. Google Drive will prompt you with the message “Move: Document will be shared in Folder”. Choose MOVE.

Now your document should be available to both of us. Huzzah!

Kindness Ripples through @phsKINDNESS


Some time ago, I assigned my very small (but mighty) Contemporary Literature (#phsCONlit) class their cornerstone assessment, which was designed to have them identify a social problem that they encountered in one or more of the texts (novels, articles, movies) we read throughout the duration of the semester. After reading countless articles about domestic abuse, teen suicide and bullying as well as novels Winter’s Bone by Daniel Wooddrell, Stitches by David Small, and Saint Iggy by K.L. Going, (and surmising that one of the root problems for the main characters in each of these books could be bullying behavior by both peers and adults) and viewing the documentary Bully (which was more straightforward in presenting bullying as a social problem), the six students (who prefer to remain anonymous) centered on bullying as their focal issue and narrowed that focus to cyberbullying, because it was a problem that they had ALL witnessed, been the recipient of, or participated in directly. (These were not easy conversations and it took a lot of trust.) The assessment tasked them with finding a possible solution for this problem. I pointed out to them that I noticed that I often see students tweeting (and retweeting) negative or unkind things, but that I couldn’t necessarily say the same thing for kind tweets. As a result of the assessment and the dialogue that occurred during the formulation stages of the project, they decided, as a group, to create a Twitter account that tweeted and retweeted nothing but kind words. And @phsKINDNESS was born.

Ironically, at the same time, an anonymous student (but maybe NOT so anonymous because students talk!) from our school created a Twitter account that posted nothing but unkind things. The six students in my class agreed that they would not follow it and that they would not “FAVORITE” or retweet anything that THAT account posted. (A couple of them were following the account and they realized that this was hypocritical and unfollowed it after our conversation.) For the record, the unkind account was deleted not too terribly long after its creation. Ours is still going strong. (One other remarkable moment in this process was when one of the students pulled out his cell phone and told us that he was then and there going to delete and block his ex-girlfriend’s phone number from his phone because all they did was bully each other and he was tired of it. I was so proud of him.)

Once the account was established, they began searching for kindness on Twitter and found it! We tweeted kind things; we retweeted kind things; we followed kind people. And then people started following us. The account quickly had 100 followers, mostly from our community and the Twitter education community. As of the creation of this blog post, we have 236 followers, which, for a non-celebrity account, is not too shabby, though, wouldn’t it be awesome if kindness received some celebrity? We also established an email address (phskindness@gmail.com) to encourage people to submit quotes about kindness and instances of kindness that they have witnessed on Twitter.

In 2014, two students (who were NOT part of the Contemp Lit class that created @phsKINDNESS) and I attended the Wicked Anti-Bullying Summit at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, NE. The students who created the account graduated in 2014, but because of my attendance to The Summit, I have continued the account, with the assistance of those who pass along kindness via Twitter and our email account.  I also submitted our project to the The Summit’s project contest and it was selected as a winner. As a result, in either March or April, I get to take 100 students and teacher to a show at either The Orpheum Theatre or the Holland Performing Arts Center. I am going to invite the six students who started @phsKINDNESS, but I don’t know if they want to “out” themselves just yet. They are proud of what they did, but one thing we discussed is doing kind things for the sake of kindness rather than “getting credit.” In essence, whether they come or not, their kindness is being rewarded by paying it forward to the current students of PHS.

In a roundtable discussion with invited members of our school community, our principal asked the students how they planned to sustain this project after their graduation. As a group, we came to the conclusion that they would do so by the way they live. My hope is that they are doing just that, and I suspect that they are. The small but mighty group was an unlikely group of friends who had just the right synergy to pull off the project. My belief and my hope is that they will pay it forward with a lifetime of kindness. They know they have the power to do so.

Here’s a news report by local station WOWT, Channel 6

I am pro-digging for explanations about anti as a preposition.

Digging in the Dark
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Wessex Archaeology via Compfight

Prior to recently, I have only ever thought of anti as a prefix. However, it recently showed up on a list of “frequently used prepositions” for my AP English and Literature students. One of my students noticed it hanging out in the “A” section of the list and asked, “Is anti really a preposition?” I told her that I hadn’t ever used it as a preposition, but that I would look into it.

We were right in the middle of my model grammar lesson–the one I alluded to in my post about how grammar instruction is a big fat challenge for me–so we carried on with the lesson. The problem was that I couldn’t really think of an example of how I might use anti as a preposition. Call it a brain fart. Call it a knowledge block. Call it a lapse in the thinks. Whatever you want to call it, I couldn’t, at that moment, think of it in those terms. So, I turned to a web search. It didn’t take long to come up with a basic definition and an example sentence for how to use anti. I must sheepishly admit that it was the first entry that popped up in my search.

I sent my students this email at the end of the school day:

One of you asked about the preposition anti … I had never thought of it as a preposition before, so I did some digging. (I didn’t have to dig very far.) I found this via our friend Google –>
preposition: anti
opposed to; against.

Example: “I’m anti the abuse of drink and the hassle that it causes.”

To me this seems like an awkward say that “I’m against the abuse of drink and the hassle it causes,” but I suppose some people may use this as a way to add variety to their phrasing.

My student responded later that evening with the following message:

Interesting, thanks for looking into it! However, I am still confused on how is it a preposition. If you take that part of the sentence out, it doesn’t make sense.

I felt like she was right, until I thought about it for a while. (Here is where diagramming MAY have come in handy …) I also realized my explanation was too … first-entry-on-Google-searchish, so I responded with this:

Actually … now that I’ve pondered this a little longer I realized that it actually does (technically) make sense … I’m anti the abuse of drink and the hassle that it causes.

Really the sentence I’m … or I am can stand alone. Technically “anti the abuse …” modifies (describes) what “I am.”

For instance, look at this sentence … I’m under the table.

The subject is I and the verb is am. The prepositional phrase is under the table. It modifies where I am … Does that make sense?

I did research this further after your observation though and it seems that anti is more of a British preposition than an American one … which probably why it sounds weird to us.

My hope is that, henceforward, if you, dear reader, are ever confused about why anti is on a list of frequently used prepositions that this post will pop up on a web search and that you will dig deeply enough to find it.

The Lament (and Plea) of a High School Grammar Teacher


When I was in high school, I diagrammed exactly ZERO sentences. In fact, I didn’t even know what diagramming was until college, when I took a Linguistics class well after declaring secondary language arts as my major. I remember doing grammar worksheets in elementary school, junior high, and high school. I remember learning tricks like FANBOYS (which maybe isn’t even a thing anymore???) and being confused by when to use commas. I also know that until I became an English teacher and researched it on my own, the semicolon was an enigma. (Now it’s my favorite.)

I also remember learning more about grammar in French class than in English class. I, without a doubt, learned more about how to apply grammar to my writing as a school newspaper staffer than I ever did in any English class. Newspaper staff is where I learned how to use a style guide too. Even though it was the AP Style Guide, it still set the foundation for using MLA and APA in college in the sense that it was a place to go when I wasn’t sure about something.

I’ve also sort of been blessed with excellent grammar genetics. I’m a good speller and have a good gut for the rules. Reading was a big deal in my household growing up too, so I’m certain I picked up on the rules of Standard English Grammar because of how much reading I did as a child and young adult. (Thanks for setting that foundation for me, Mom.)

During my language arts methods classes in college, we didn’t learn any techniques for teaching grammar explicitly. We were told that students should learn grammar through their own writing and that we should address grammar issues prescriptively. In other words, when we noticed an ailment, we should offer the student a cure at that time, rather than taking preventative measures, because discrete grammar instruction was supposedly ineffective.

So, it should come as no surprise that I really don’t know the best way to teach grammar. There. I admitted it.

I have some ideas, but I’ve been using the prescriptive method for nearly 15 years now and I’m not convinced it’s the right way to go about it. However, drill and kill doesn’t sit quite right with me either.

It is also less than unexpected that when I seek advice on best practices for teaching grammar from other teachers via social media that I get a whole bunch of cricket chirps in response. I have also done some poking around on the web and there are some good lessons out there … creative, engaging, helpful … but they are few and far between, and random. There isn’t that much stuff out there to help teachers teach grammar (in an engaging way). For example, when you type in “Romeo and Juliet Lesson Plans” in a search engine, something in the neighborhood of six magjillion lesson plans come up and a good number of them are effective. Not so with a search of “high school grammar lesson plans.”

Hear my cry, internet!

How do you approach grammar in your high school English classrooms?

I tried something new in the grammar department today and the lesson will continue tomorrow. (It may bleed into next week for all I know) … and I will document the experiment here.

What I really want to create is a bank of awesomely engaging lessons that teach something that is not usually categorized as “awesome” or “engaging” (in the eyes of most students anyway). If you have an awesomely engaging grammar lesson for high school students, will you share? Please?

Also, if you would, please share this post and respond in the comments below. (Please don’t share this with any crickets though.)

Two-Sentence Horror: A Quick, Fun, Challenging Writing Assignment for High School Students on Halloween

Premade BG 96
Photo Credit: Brenda Clarke via Compfight

Right before Halloween, one of my sixth grade teachers sent me a post on Facebook leading me to an aggregation of two-sentence horror stories. She still teaches sixth grade and thought that while these stories might be a little too much for sixth-graders, as a high school English teacher, I could have some fun sharing these with my students. And I agree with her. So I did.

Screenshot 2014-11-02 18.05.01

I told them how I came to find these stories and some of them commented on how neat it was that I stayed in touch with my sixth grade teacher still and that it was sort of cool and sort of creepy that she would send me a link to such scary stories. After I read through one of them, my drama students insisted that we turn the lights off. With my AP English students, we just went ahead and turned them off from the outset. The reactions to the stories were pretty good in that I think some of them legitimately creeped out some of the students, which was, after all, at least partially, the goal.

The other goals were to practice brevity in writing. How can we deliver a power-packed story with only two sentences? Which word choices will give the most bang for the buck? Which would be more effective-short sentences? long ons? a combo of both? We had an opportunity to analyze some of the sentences’ grammatical structure. Are some of these run-ons? comma splices? long, grammatically correct sentences? We also talked about formula. Was there a trick to making a short horror story work? Was there a pattern that tied all nine stories together? Which stories were the scariest? Why were they scary?

After reading through all nine of the stories, and having a wee discussion comprised of the aforementioned questions and their responses, I gave the students time to compose their own two-sentence stories. Then we shared them aloud in Drama class. (We had other things to do in AP English, so they just submitted them to me to be shared on a another day.) Oh, and I wrote one too! You will see some of the results below.

from Morgan Z.

That creep was still standing by the bus stop the next day. Even after running him over twice the day before, there he was, standing there.

from Hannah C.

He woke up from a nightmare in which a creature was in his bedroom. He drifted off, while staring at two yellow lights outside his window, except they weren’t lights …

from our foreign exchange student from Holland

De donkere nacht is nog maer net begonnen. Er tyn al 10 lyken geuonden …

(If you read Dutch, you are probably really scared right now…)

from Shaylee M.

I walk down the hallway toward the bathroom, only to see a light coming from a crack under the door. I slowly open the door, but I see no one there … until I turn around …

I woke in the middle of the night and heard a girl singing beautifully. I follow her voice to a pond outside, but all I can see is my demonic reflection.

from Jax C.

Marry had a little lamb; it’s fleece was white as snow. Now Mary’s dead and the lamb’s fleece is red as blood.

I couldn’t move as thousands of their little legs crawled up my arms, legs and into my moth. I screamed, waking my self up only to feel the little legs crawling up my neck.

from Sophia V.

He whispered, “Go to sleep.”  So I did … forever.

I was walking though the forest as the sun was going down.  I saw a tall man with a white face and now all I can give you are signs from my own blood to stay away.

She was only four years old and dressed in white.  But she managed to kill me anyway.

from Tanner P.

One day I came home from school and had a hankering for some oreos. When I opened the package, it was empty.

I was walking through the forest, hopelessly lost, and my phone was dead. Then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted him: Shia Labeuof.

It is a tough job being a mortician nowadays. It is getting harder and harder to hide the claw marks inside the coffins.

Supper is the one time that my family all comes together. The only bad part is the main course will not stop screaming.

from Maria B.

Every night, the old woman would say goodnight to her dead husband before crawling into bed. One night, a scratchy, dark voice responded from under her covers, saying, “He’s not here anymore.”

As they lowered my little sister into the ground, i just wanted the funeral to be over. I couldn’t help but wonder if the coffin would supress the screams that were sure to start at any moment.

from Devin N.

It was Halloween night and it was pitch black outside when out of the corner of my eye I saw something on the ground. To my horror it was a person tearing the flesh from a dead rotting corpse and as I looked closer I said, “Mom!?”

And finally … MINE:

“Lullaby, and goodnight,” she sang in her raspy coo to the children. “When did Fluffy learn to sing?” said the boy to his little sister.

Playing with Beowulf

This assignment was featured in an episode of “Learning World” on Euronews. Check it out! Our portion begins at the 6 min. 30 sec. mark. –> Learning World

the beastie prowls
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: jason via Compfight

“Playing” and “Beowulf” don’t typically appear in close conjunction with one another. Really “playing” and English class don’t go hand in hand often enough, in my opinion. This assignment is designed to combat the perceived stuffiness associated with old texts. Through play, we can find and make meaning–even when we’re beyond the age usually affiliated with “playing”.

What is one thing the big kids like to play with? Social media! In this assignment I ask my students to celebrate and showcase the language of Beowulf (in translation) through the currently popular Vine app. In doing so, they will be zeroing in on and mastering a tiny portion of a text that can otherwise seem daunting to a reader–especially a young one–and thereby providing a stepping stone upon which they can launch into deeper understanding of this text as well as other similarly difficult ones that they will inevitably encounter in this class and beyond. What follows are the instructions I provided my students and an example Vine that a student and I created.


This assignment is designed not only to look at the text “under a microscope” for greater understanding of it, but also to celebrate the language and story of Beowulf, the oldest written English-language story in existence. For this assignment, we will use the Burton Raffel translation from our textbook.


THINK. What was the most engaging part or aspect of the story? Who was your favorite character, and why? Are there any words or lines that especially stand out to you? What were some examples of kennings and alliteration the author/translator used?

CHOOSE. Identify a line or lines from the text on which you’d like to focus.

PLAN YOUR VINE. How can you bring this line of text to life in a creative, celebratory fun manner in 6 seconds or less? Will you use a costume? an accent? props? Will you need to recruit friends to be a part of your video?

TIPS. Use the following checklist to guide your planning.

Make sure …
… you know how to pronounce all of the words in your chosen line(s).
… to speak clearly and enunciate each word, so it is easy for your audience to understand you (especially if you decide to use an accent).
… to project your voice and speak loudly enough that the camera picks up your voice (without overpowering the microphone and speakers).
… to use a costume, props or “special effects”. It will make it more fun for you and your audience.
… experiment with different ways to deliver the line(s).
… practice it BEFORE you commit it to video.

Your final product should show evidence of planning and celebration! Have fun playing with Beowulf and friends.



UPDATE: Here are some of the results from this year’s group (2013-14 semester 2)

Here are some quote choices. You are welcome to pick others, but these are some of the ones I thought would lend themselves well for Vining.

page 40

The corners of the earth were made lovely with trees and leaves …

So Hrothgar’s men lived happy in his hall/Till the monster stirred, that demon! that fiend! Grendel!

page 42

He was spawned in that slime, conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain.

The Almighty drove those demons out, and their exile was bitter, shut away from men.

The monster’s/Thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws.

At daybreak, with the sun’s first light, they saw/How well he had worked …

page 43

So Grendel rules, fought with the righteous/One against many, and won …

So mankind’s enemy continued his crimes/Killing as often as he could, coming/Alone, bloodthirsty and horrible.

He never/Dared to touch King Hrothgar’s glorious Throne, protected by God–God,/whose love Grendel could not know.

page 44

Beowulf, Higlac’s/Follower and the strongest of the Geats … /Heard how Grendel filled nights with horror.

None of the wise ones regretted his going, much/As he was loved by the Geats: the omens were good …

So Beowulf/Chose the mightiest men he could find, the bravest and best of the Geats, fourteen/In all

page 45

“Whose soldiers are you,/You who’ve been carried in your deep-keeled ship/Across the sea-road to this country of mine? …”

page 46

“Nor have I ever seen,/Out of all the men on earth, on greater/than has come with you …”
“… No commoner carries/Such weapons, unless his appearance, and his beauty/Are both lies …”

“You! Tell me your name,/And your father’s name; no spies go further onto Danish/Soil than you’ve already come …”

“We are Geats/Men who follow Higlac. My father was a famous soldier, known far and wide/As a leader of men.”

“A soldier should know the difference between words/And deeds, and keep that knowledge clear/In his brain.”

“I believe your words. I trust in your friendship. Go forward, weapons and armor/And all, on into Denmark.”

page 47

They marched, Beowulf and his men/ … until they could see the gables/Of Herot, covered with hammered gold/And glowing in the sun …

“Hail Hrothgar!/Higlac is my cousin and my king; the days/Of my youth have been filled with glory.”

“Now Grendel’s/Name has echoed in our land: sailors/Have brought us stories of Herot, the best of all mead-halls, deserted and useless …”

“My people have said, the wisest, most knowing/And best of them, that my duty was to go to the Danes’/Great king.”

“They have seen my strength for themselves,/Have watched me rise from the darkness of war,/Dripping with my enemies blood.”

page 48

“I swam/In the blackness of night, hunting monsters/Out of the ocean, and killing them one/By one … /Now Grendel and I are called/Together, and I’ve come”

“Grant me, then,/Lord and protector of this noble place,/A single request!”

“I have come so far,/O shelterer of warriors and your people’s loved friend …”

“…I alone and with the help of my men,/May purge all evil from this hall.”

“I have heard/Too that the monster’s scorn of men/Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears non.”

“My lord Higlac/Might think less of me if I let my sword/Go where my feet were afraid to …”

“… my hands/Alone shall fight for me, struggle for life/Against the monster.”

“God must decide/Who will be given to death’s cold grip.”

page 49

Out from the marsh, rom the foot of misty/Hills and bogs, bearing God’s hatred, Grendel came …

He journeyed, forever joyless,/Straight to the door, then snapped it open …

By morning, the monster’s mind was hot/With the thought of food and the feasting his belly/Would soon know.

But fate, that night, intended/Grendel to gnaw the broken bones/Of his last human supper.

And Grendel’s great teeth came together/Snapping life shut.

page 50

The infamous killer fought/For his freedom, wanting no flesh but retreat,/Desiring nothing but escape.

That trip to Herot/Was a miserable journey for the writhing monster!

The high hall rang, its roof boards swayed,/And Danes shook with terror.

That mighty protector of men/Leaped out, knowing the fiend was no use/To anyone in Denmark.

… the sharpest and hardest iron/Could not scratch at his skin, for that sin-stained demon/Had bewitched all men’s weapons …

page 51

The monster’s hatred rose higher/But his power had gone. He twisted in pain/And the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder/Snapped …

The battle was over. Beowulf/Had been granted new glory.

Grendel escaped/But wounded as he was could flee to his den … Only to die

He, who had come to them from across the sea/Bold and strong-minded, had driven affliction/Off, purged Herot clean.

… the Danes/Had been served as he’d boasted he’d serve them …

Beowulf,/A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel/Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering/Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people/By a bloodthirsty fiend.

No Dane doubted/The victory, for the proof, hanging high/From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster’s/Arm, claw and shoulder and all.

Why School? (as inspired by Mrs. Ripp’s 5th graders)



Dear #phsCONlit students,

Today, we are going to be reading some of Pernille Ripp’s 5th graders’ blog post about this question: WHY SCHOOL?

1. Think about your own answer to this question (Why school?) and the follow-ups that are easily derived. (What has it done for you? Is it important? Is it for everyone? What alternatives are there? What works well? What could be better?) Answer these questions either mentally, on paper, or in your own blog.

2. Then … (and only after you’ve given it some significant thought) read what the 5th graders had to say. There are links to their blogs below.

3. Respond to their blog posts in the comments.

4. Remember: Comments need to be high quality. Here are some guidelines to follow when posting.

The best kinds of comments are …

A. questions that extend the conversation

Why do you believe the unicameral is such a positive thing?
Do you believe that this will change the way we do business in America?

B. observations about the content or style of the post

I noticed that you are very passionate about aliens!
I’d never thought about deer habitats from the perspective of a deer before I read your post.

C. counter-points to a position (done respectfully)

As someone who has experienced hunger first-hand, I disagree with your stance on welfare.

D. personal or observational connections you made to their post

This reminds me of the time I made my teacher laugh so hard, she cried.
Your writing reminds me of David Sedaris’s!

Mix up your response types too. READ the OTHER COMMENTS already posted and try to add something NEW to the conversation.



I have a favorite author today because he made my students feel important.


a typical interaction between someone else and me about favorite books—>

PERSON: So, who is your favorite author?

ME: I can’t pick one favorite author. I have many favorites.

PERSON: Well, if you HAD to pick one, who would you pick?

ME: I CAN’T! There are too many books. Too many writers. There is so much good writing in the world.

PERSON: Just pick one.

ME: Would you ever demand that I choose a favorite child?

PERSON: Seriously. Just pick one.

ME (shrieking): I TOLD YOU. I CAN’T PICK JUST ONE!!! (At this point, I turn into a werewolf and devour everyone in sight.)

However, today, if you asked me who my favorite author was, I would, without hesitation say, “Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone.” (Winter’s Bone was made into a movie that starred Jennifer Lawrence pre-Hunger Games.)

 Last week, I got it in my head that I wanted to tell Daniel Woodrell about the inspired work my students were doing after reading Winter’s Bone. I searched for and maybe even found his home address (but I wasn’t 100% sure). After some thought, I decided that would be creepy of me to send him a letter to his home anyway (and maybe a waste of time because it might not have even been the right David Woodrell), so I searched for an email address. Nothing came up for him, but when I searched “contact Daniel Woodrell”, I found his literary agent’s assistant’s email address and decided that this would be the most professional way to approach an author with whom I am personally unacquainted.

On Friday, I sent an email to David’s agent’s assistant that explained the project and provided a link for them to go take a look-see.

To give you some background, Winter’s Bone is about Ree Dolly, a 16-year-old girl taxed with looking after her mentally ill mother, and two young brothers, on next to nothing, after her dad goes out one day and doesn’t return. The family lives in the Missouri Ozarks and the action begins when the local sheriff rolls onto Ree’s property to inform her that her father put their house and land up for bail the last time he was arrested (for cooking meth). If he doesn’t show up for court, the house and land will be sold to the highest bidder and Ree and the rest of her family will be living in a cave. Ree has no choice but to go looking for her dad, and in doing so, must face family members who live very rough lives, by some very harsh rules, and one of those rules is that you best be minding your own business, if you know what’s good for yougirl <insert chest poke here> so this poses a challenge for someone who needs information.


In the assignment, the students found Dolly Family Rules either stated outright or inferred from characters’ dialogue and actions in the text. They each selected one rule and took a picture that somehow represented that rule. Then, using the Aviary app, they overlaid the text with the rules (or the text and the inferred rule) on the photo. They sent the finished products to me and I posted it to an Instagram account I created specifically for this purpose.

Today, I was very pleased and surprised to see that Daniel Woodrell sent us an email!

Today, I was very pleased and surprised to see that Daniel Woodrell sent us an email! He told us that he loved to know that his lonely words found companions in us. He also said that he likes the project and complimented my students’ photography. Then, he revealed that he spent some time in Nebraska back in the 70’s. He even made mention of Aksarben. Needless to say, this simple 6-sentence note that Daniel took the time to sent made ten students and one teacher very happy today. <Swoon.>

Here is my Contemporary Literature class’s Instagram account: DOLLY FAMILY RULES.