Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lesson: Adding Dialogue To Narrative Writing

Tomorrow, my students will be revising their narrative stories, and adding dialogue. Many students like to tell stories, but the problem is they just tell the story. Many, many times their writing is void of action and dialogue. That hinders the reader from being in the story.

The following are two clips that help to teach dialogue.


I am going to use the following rubric, which I have used before to grade the assignment. We will discuss tomorrow before writing.

My hope is that I can help them write narratives of quality, and not as the instructor states in the second video, "A lot of fluff!"

I believe that most English teachers would agree that no one wants to spend their weekend reading garbage, but I truly believe that that is what we will get if we don't explain to our students what we need, and take the time to work with them individually.

Tomorrow, I will be teacher and task master of narrative writing!

Happy Writing..

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Teachers: Why Blog?

Every week I ask myself, "Why do I blog?" I hold several conflicting feelings about it, positive and negative. Often, blogging makes me feel a bit naked and exposed. I will reference one of my favorite movies here... remember that scene in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle, when Meg Ryan says, "Do you know that dream when you're walking down the street naked, and everyone is looking at you?" Well, that is how I feel sometimes.

But, then I also think about my purposes as a writer, and who the audience should be first and foremost.

Stephen King, one of the most iconic American writers of our time suggests that writers should write for themselves first.

King suggests....
1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

So, with that in mind, the question still lingers, "Why do I blog?"

Teaching is an isolating experience in many ways. While in school, student teachers are made to work together in group projects, and collaborating is the norm. Students are forced to reflect on their work and turn those reflections in to their mentors where a dialogue takes place. That is not a requirement in the actual teaching field. Now, I'm not saying that it should be, but if you are very passionate about teaching, and like to share discoveries and research, it can be a tough transition from student teacher to teacher.

Blogging can save you from that isolation, because you are able to reach a wider audience. I can communicate with educators that are like minded, and passionate.

Blogging can also lead to further publications of your work. Recently, I was published in the Nerdy Book Club.
Check it out at:

The greatest advantage to being published was not that it increased traffic to my blog, or the glory of saying that I was published. The glory I found was that the publication helped me to begin conversations with more like minded educators. I didn't feel alone. I was apart of a wider community.

So, I'd recommend giving blogging a try, even for those introverts like me. You'll be surprised by how much you grow!

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Introducing the novel, Out of The Dust


Tomorrow, I will officially be introducing the book, Out of the Dust. It is from my favorite genre- historical fiction, and I love this book. It is also written in free verse poetry, so it aligns well with studying figurative language elements.
Today, I worked to build a little background knowledge on America's history. In one class we went from discovering the "new world" to times of The Great Depression. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, but I believe that I achieved my purpose. But, just to make sure, students use the document from the following link as a bellringer review from what we learned today, and I will pick up with The Great Depression.
Side note: I will keep the stations up for tomorrow, so the students can walk over and review them if necessary. We will spend no more than 15 minutes on this assignment.
 Check it out at:
Video: We will then watch a 5 minute video on the times of the Dust Bowl found on Discovery Streaming. The students will take notes, and write down 10 facts that they learn. We will discuss what they learned.
Group work: The students will move their desks into groups of four. I will have a table cloth, paper plates, paper cups, napkins, and a spoon for each group. They will have to listen to the description of how to set a table properly during the dust bowl. I will then offer each person some drink and snack. But then, just as they are getting excited about it, I will sprinkle sand from a bucket or container onto their snack and cup. I will have a secret helper from each group to help me with this. Then, we will discuss our appealing that drink or snack is, and how this experience compares to The Dust Bowl.
I will bring a broom!
I will then read the chapter, "Rules of Dining" on page 21 of Out of the Dust
We will discuss the differences between then and now. How can weather affect our lives? What would it been like to live in Oklahoma during that time?
I've never done this before, but it may be an interesting way to introduce Out of the Dust.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Building Background Knowledge to Deepen Comprehension of Texts

For students to get a greater depth in the understanding of a text, they must have background knowledge of the subject, or it will make absolutely no sense. I have found that in my short time of teaching that many of my 6th grade students have little understanding of their place in the world. They may know their address, but not really understand its relation to the rest of the country or the world. Furthermore, many do not know their nations history. This information is imperative in order to conquer heavier texts within the Common Core Standards.

Therefore, tomorrow will be a bit more of a history/geography lesson. We will use this lesson as the basis in understanding of future lessons concerning authors and their work. My hope is that it will create more understanding as we proceed throughout the school year, and that we will be able to reference back to the materials used.

This will also help me as I introduce the book, Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, on Tuesday, which is based on The Great Depression.

1. Bellringer: Students will respond to the following prompt.

What is the most significant event that you remember from our nations history? Please explain why it is significant to you, and include as many details as possible.

2. Geography:

Students will watch this video, and complete a blank map of the United States while watching it, they will have to write the states and the capitals.

 3 American History:

Each student will get a copy of the following outline to keep in their binder, but we will also use it as part of their lesson.

For the purposes of this lesson, we will highlight important dates that need to be understood for future text comprehension and lessons.

Students will receive the table below to fill out as they go through the various stations. All students will fill out the table. They will discuss the articles together and look up definitions.

Name:_____________________________________    Brief Look at United States History:

Task: Read each article. Look up and define 3 new vocabulary words from the article and write it on the butcher paper. On the diagram below write two pieces of significant textual evidence from the article, and summarize each article in one or two sentences.

                            Examples of textual evidence (1-2)       Sentence summarizing the text
Station 1
Station 2
Station 3
Station 4
Station 5
Station 6
Station 7


Station One:
Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
map of Louisiana
Map of Louisiana,
Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase
When the London Company sent out its first expedition to begin colonizing Virginia on December 20, 1606, it was by no means the first European attempt to exploit North America. In 1564, for example, French Protestants (Huguenots) built a colony near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. This intrusion did not go unnoticed by the Spanish, who had previously claimed the region. The next year, the Spanish established a military post at St. Augustine; Spanish troops soon wiped out the French interlopers residing but 40 miles away.
Meanwhile, Basque, English, and French fishing fleets became regular visitors to the coasts from Newfoundland to Cape Cod. Some of these fishing fleets even set up semi-permanent camps on the coasts to dry their catches and to trade with local Indians, exchanging furs for manufactured goods. For the next two decades, Europeans' presence in North America was limited to these semi-permanent incursions. Then in the 1580s, the English tried to plant a permanent colony on Roanoke Island (on the outer banks of present-day North Carolina), but their effort was short-lived.
In the early 1600s, in rapid succession, the English began a colony (Jamestown) in Chesapeake Bay in 1607, the French built Quebec in 1608, and the Dutch began their interest in the region that became present-day New York. Within another generation, the Plymouth Company (1620), the Massachusetts Bay Company (1629), the Company of New France (1627), and the Dutch West India Company (1621) began to send thousands of colonists, including families, to North America. Successful colonization was not inevitable. Rather, interest in North America was a halting, yet global, contest among European powers to exploit these lands.
There is another very important point to keep in mind: European colonization and settlement of North America (and other areas of the so-called "new world") was an invasion of territory controlled and settled for centuries by Native Americans. To be sure, Indian control and settlement of that land looked different to European, as compared to Indian, eyes. Nonetheless, Indian groups perceived the Europeans' arrival as an encroachment and they pursued any number of avenues to deal with that invasion. That the Indians were unsuccessful in the long run in resisting or in establishing a more favorable accommodation with the Europeans was as much the result of the impact on Indians of European diseases as superior force of arms. Moreover, to view the situation from Indian perspectives ("facing east from Indian country," in historian Daniel K. Richter's wonderful phrase) is essential in understanding the complex interaction of these very different peoples.
Finally, it is also important to keep in mind that yet a third group of people--in this case Africans--played an active role in the European invasion (or colonization) of the western hemisphere. From the very beginning, Europeans' attempts to establish colonies in the western hemisphere foundered on the lack of laborers to do the hard work of colony-building. The Spanish, for example, enslaved the Indians in regions under their control. The English struck upon the idea of indentured servitude to solve the labor problem in Virginia. Virtually all the European powers eventually turned to African slavery to provide labor on their islands in the West Indies. Slavery was eventually transferred to other colonies in both South and North America.
Because of the interactions of these very diverse peoples, the process of European colonization of the western hemisphere was a complex one, indeed. Individual members of each group confronted situations that were most often not of their own making or choosing. These individuals responded with the means available to them. For most, these means were not sufficient to prevail. Yet these people were not simply victims; they were active agents trying to shape their own destinies. That many of them failed should not detract from their efforts.


Station Two:

The American Revolution
declaration of independence
Detail, Rough Draft of the
Declaration of Independence
American Treasures
Until the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, few colonists in British North America objected to their place in the British Empire. Colonists in British America reaped many benefits from the British imperial system and bore few costs for those benefits. Indeed, until the early 1760s, the British mostly left their American colonies alone. The Seven Years' War (known in America as the French and Indian War) changed everything. Although Britain eventually achieved victory over France and its allies, victory had come at great cost. A staggering war debt influenced many British policies over the next decade. Attempts to raise money by reforming colonial administration, enforcing tax laws, and placing troops in America led directly to conflict with colonists. By the mid-1770s, relations between Americans and the British administration had become strained and acrimonious.
The first shots of what would become the war for American independence were fired in April 1775. For some months before that clash at Lexington and Concord, patriots had been gathering arms and powder and had been training to fight the British if that became necessary. General Thomas Gage, commander of British forces around Boston, had been cautious; he did not wish to provoke the Americans. In April, however, Gage received orders to arrest several patriot leaders, rumored to be around Lexington. Gage sent his troops out on the night of April 18, hoping to catch the colonists by surprise and thus to avoid bloodshed. When the British arrived in Lexington, however, colonial militia awaited them. A fire fight soon ensued. Even so, it was not obvious that this clash would lead to war. American opinion was split. Some wanted to declare independence immediately; others hoped for a quick reconciliation. The majority of Americans remained undecided but watching and waiting.
In June 1775, the Continental Congress created, on paper, a Continental Army and appointed George Washington as Commander. Washington's first task, when he arrived in Boston to take charge of the ragtag militia assembled there, was to create an army in fact. It was a daunting task with no end of problems: recruitment, retention, training and discipline, supply, and payment for soldiers' services were among those problems. Nevertheless, Washington realized that keeping an army in the field was his single most important objective.
During the first two years of the Revolutionary War, most of the fighting between the patriots and British took place in the north. At first, the British generally had their way because of their far superior sea power. Despite Washington's daring victories at Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey, in late 1776 and early 1777, the British still retained the initiative. Indeed, had British efforts been better coordinated, they probably could have put down the rebellion in 1777. But such was not to be. Patriot forces, commanded by General Horatio Gates, achieved a significant victory at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777. Within months, this victory induced France to sign treaties of alliance and commerce with the United States. In retrospect, French involvement was the turning point of the war, although that was not obvious at the time.
Between 1778 and 1781, British military operations focused on the south because the British assumed a large percentage of Southerners were loyalists who could help them subdue the patriots. The British were successful in most conventional battles fought in that region, especially in areas close to their points of supply on the Atlantic coast. Even so, American generals Nathanael Greene and Daniel Morgan turned to guerrilla and hit-and-run warfare that eventually stymied the British. By 1781, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis was ordered to march into Virginia to await resupply near Chesapeake Bay. The Americans and their French allies pounced on Cornwallis and forced his surrender.
Yorktown was a signal victory for the patriots, but two years of sporadic warfare, continued military preparations, and diplomatic negotiations still lay ahead. The Americans and British signed a preliminary peace treaty on November 30, 1782; they signed the final treaty, known as the Peace of Paris, on September 10, 1783. The treaty was generally quite favorable to the United States in terms of national boundaries and other concessions. Even so, British violations of the agreement would become an almost constant source of irritation between the two nations far into the future.

Station Three:

Join, or Die, Artist unknown,
1754. LC-USZ62-9701
At the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War with Great Britain in 1783, an American could look back and reflect on the truly revolutionary events that had occurred in the preceding three decades. In that period American colonists had first helped the British win a global struggle with France. Soon, however, troubles surfaced as Britain began to assert tighter control of its North American colonies. Eventually, these troubles led to a struggle in which American colonists severed their colonial ties with Great Britain. Meanwhile, Americans began to experiment with new forms of self-government. This movement occurred in both the Continental Congress during the Revolution and at the local and state levels.
After winning their independence, Americans continued to experiment with how to govern themselves under the Articles of Confederation. Over time, some influential groups--and these by no means reflected the sentiments of all Americans--found the Confederation government inadequate. Representatives of these groups came together in Philadelphia to explore the creation of yet another, newer form of government. The result was a new constitution. Not all Americans embraced this new Constitution, however, and ratification of the document produced many disagreements. Even so, the Constitution was ratified, and with a new constitution in place, Americans once again turned to George Washington for leadership, this time as President of the new republic.
Although Washington proved to be personally popular and respected, conflict over the proper functions and locus of governmental power dominated his two terms as president. These disputes soon led to the formation of factions and then political parties that were deeply divided over the nature and purposes of the federal government, over foreign affairs, and over the very future of the new nation. Events during the single term of John Adams, our second president, made these divisions even worse and they continued into the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809).
Even so, President Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the new nation by purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France. This purchase also led Jefferson to form the Lewis and Clark expedition to discover just what was contained in the new land. Jefferson's successor as President, James Madison (1809-1817)--one of authors of the constitution--led the new nation through another war with Great Britain. This, of course, was the unpopular War of 1812. This war ended in 1815 and if nothing else it convinced Britain that the United States was on the map to stay. Meanwhile, Americans began to develop a culture and way of life that was truly their own and no longer that of mere colonials.

Station Three:
6-pdr. Field Gun,
between 1860 and 1865.
Civil War
In 1861, the United States faced its greatest crisis to that time. The northern and southern states had become less and less alike--socially, economically, politically. The North had become increasingly industrial and commercial while the South had remained largely agricultural. More important than these differences, however, was African-American slavery. The "peculiar institution," more than any other single thing, separated the South from the North. Northerners generally wanted to limit the spread of slavery; some wanted to abolish it altogether. Southerners generally wanted to maintain and even expand the institution. Thus, slavery became the focal point of a political crisis.
Following the 1860 election to the presidency of Republican Abraham Lincoln, 11 southern states eventually seceded from the Federal Union in 1861. They sought to establish an independent Confederacy of states in which slavery would be protected. Northern Unionists, on the other hand, insisted that secession was not only unconstitutional but unthinkable as well. They were willing to use military force to keep the South in the Union. Even Southerners who owned no slaves opposed threatened Federal coercion. The result was a costly and bloody civil war. Almost as many Americans were killed in the Civil War as in all the nation's other wars combined.
After four years of fighting, the Union was restored through the force of arms. The problems of reconstructing the Union were just as difficult as fighting the war had been. Because most of the war was fought in the South, the region was devastated physically and economically. Helping freedmen (ex-slaves) and creating state governments loyal to the Union also presented difficult problems that would take years to resolve.

Station Four:
Timeline Home Page
Rise of Industrial America
International Stock Food Factory,
between 1900 and 1910
Detroit Publishing Company
In the decades following the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial giant. Old industries expanded and many new ones, including petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, and electrical power, emerged. Railroads expanded significantly, bringing even remote parts of the country into a national market economy.
Industrial growth transformed American society. It produced a new class of wealthy industrialists and a prosperous middle class. It also produced a vastly expanded blue collar working class. The labor force that made industrialization possible was made up of millions of newly arrived immigrants and even larger numbers of migrants from rural areas. American society became more diverse than ever before.
Not everyone shared in the economic prosperity of this period. Many workers were typically unemployed at least part of the year, and their wages were relatively low when they did work. This situation led many workers to support and join labor unions. Meanwhile, farmers also faced hard times as technology and increasing production led to more competition and falling prices for farm products. Hard times on farms led many young people to move to the city in search of better job opportunities.
Americans who were born in the 1840s and 1850s would experience enormous changes in their lifetimes. Some of these changes resulted from a sweeping technological revolution. Their major source of light, for example, would change from candles, to kerosene lamps, and then to electric light bulbs. They would see their transportation evolve from walking and horse power to steam-powered locomotives, to electric trolley cars, to gasoline-powered automobiles. Born into a society in which the vast majority of people were involved in agriculture, they experienced an industrial revolution that radically changed the ways millions of people worked and where they lived. They would experience the migration of millions of people from rural America to the nation's rapidly growing cities.
Station Five:
Timeline Home Page
Progressive Era to New Era

Woman in Red Cross Nurse's
,between 1900 and 1915
Detroit Publishing Company
The early 20th century was an era of business expansion and progressive reform in the United States. The progressives, as they called themselves, worked to make American society a better and safer place in which to live. They tried to make big business more responsible through regulations of various kinds. They worked to clean up corrupt city governments, to improve working conditions in factories, and to better living conditions for those who lived in slum areas, a large number of whom were recent immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Many progressives were also concerned with the environment and conservation of resources.
This generation of Americans also hoped to make the world a more democratic place. At home, this meant expanding the right to vote to women and a number of election reforms such as the recall, referendum, and direct election of Senators. Abroad, it meant trying to make the world safe for democracy. In 1917, the United States joined Great Britain and France--two democratic nations--in their war against autocratic Germany and Austria-Hungary. Soon after the Great War, the majority of Americans turned away from concern about foreign affairs, adopting an attitude of live and let live.
The 1920s, also known as the "roaring twenties" and as "the new era," were similar to the Progressive Era in that America continued its economic growth and prosperity. The incomes of working people increased along with those of middle class and wealthier Americans. The major growth industry was automobile manufacturing. Americans fell in love with the automobile, which radically changed their way of life. On the other hand, the 1920s saw the decline of many reform activities that had been so widespread after 1900.

Station 6:

Timeline Home Page
Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945
migrant worker
Wife of a Migratory Laborer,
1938 Farm Security Administration
/Office of War Information
Black-and-White Negatives
The widespread prosperity of the 1920s ended abruptly with the stock market crash in October 1929 and the great economic depression that followed. The depression threatened people's jobs, savings, and even their homes and farms. At the depths of the depression, over one-quarter of the American workforce was out of work. For many Americans, these were hard times.
The New Deal, as the first two terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency were called, became a time of hope and optimism. Although the economic depression continued throughout the New Deal era, the darkest hours of despair seemed to have passed. In part, this was the result of FDR himself. In his first inaugural address, FDR asserted his "firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror." As FDR provided leadership, most Americans placed great confidence in him.
The economic troubles of the 1930s were worldwide in scope and effect. Economic instability led to political instability in many parts of the world. Political chaos, in turn, gave rise to dictatorial regimes such as Adolf Hitler's in Germany and the military's in Japan. (Totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and Italy predated the depression.) These regimes pushed the world ever-closer to war in the 1930s. When world war finally broke out in both Europe and Asia, the United States tried to avoid being drawn into the conflict. But so powerful and influential a nation as the United States could scarcely avoid involvement for long.
When Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the United States found itself in the war it had sought to avoid for more than two years. Mobilizing the economy for world war finally cured the depression. Millions of men and women joined the armed forces, and even larger numbers went to work in well-paying defense jobs. World War Two affected the world and the United States profoundly; it continues to influence us even today.

Station Seven:
Timeline Home Page
The Postwar United States
march on washington

March on Washington,
African American Odyssey
The entry of the United States into World War II caused vast changes in virtually every aspect of American life. Millions of men and women entered military service and saw parts of the world they would likely never have seen otherwise. The labor demands of war industries caused millions more Americans to move--largely to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts where most defense plants located. When World War II ended, the United States was in better economic condition than any other country in the world. Even the 300,000 combat deaths suffered by Americans paled in comparison to any other major belligerent.
Building on the economic base left after the war, American society became more affluent in the postwar years than most Americans could have imagined in their wildest dreams before or during the war. Public policy, like the so-called GI Bill of Rights passed in 1944, provided money for veterans to attend college, to purchase homes, and to buy farms. The overall impact of such public policies was almost incalculable, but it certainly aided returning veterans to better themselves and to begin forming families and having children in unprecedented numbers.
Not all Americans participated equally in these expanding life opportunities and in the growing economic prosperity. The image and reality of overall economic prosperity--and the upward mobility it provided for many white Americans--was not lost on those who had largely been excluded from the full meaning of the American Dream, both before and after the war. As a consequence, such groups as African Americans, Hispano Americans, and American women became more aggressive in trying to win their full freedoms and civil rights as guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution during the postwar era.
The postwar world also presented Americans with a number of problems and issues. Flushed with their success against Germany and Japan in 1945, most Americans initially viewed their place in the postwar world with optimism and confidence. But within two years of the end of the war, new challenges and perceived threats had arisen to erode that confidence. By 1948, a new form of international tension had emerged--Cold War--between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies. In the next 20 years, the Cold War spawned many tensions between the two superpowers abroad and fears of Communist subversion gripped domestic politics at home.
In the twenty years following 1945, there was a broad political consensus concerning the Cold War and anti-Communism. Usually there was bipartisan support for most US foreign policy initiatives. After the United States intervened militarily in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, however, this political consensus began to break down. By 1968, strident debate among American about the Vietnam War signified that the Cold War consensus had shattered, perhaps beyond repair.

My goal and hope is to build a deeper background knowledge of America's history as we proceed to read through various texts.

Edgar Allen Poe: Halloween Idea for 6th grade ELA

Looking for a fun and creepy way to celebrate Halloween with your students? Yes! Me, too. First, I'll be honest Halloween is not my favorite holiday. I'm really not a fan of creepy things that scare you in the night, but I know that my students will be excited about it, so I might as well make a day of it.

The setting of my room will be dark, with only a few Christmas lights. I will have some decorations around the room--not sure what yet. I will also have my fog machine going as the kids enter the room. Students will be given a flashlight and a copy of Poe's autobiography. They will have to read and annotate using only their flashlight.

Once, they are finished they will discuss Poe's life (still in the darkened room) with a partner and write down three significant facts about his life.

Edgar Allan Poe

On January 19, 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe's father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the University when Allan refused to pay his gambling debts.

Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt, Mrs. Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He brought his aunt and twelve-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm, with him to Richmond. He married Virginia in 1836. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Graham's Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short-story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems including "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Raven." After Virginia's death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe's life-long struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of "acute congestion of the brain." Evidence by medical practitioners who re-opened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from Rabies.

Poe's work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the "architect" of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of the style and of the structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the "art for art's sake" movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.

Selected Bibliography


Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827)
Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems (1829)
Poems (1831)
The Raven and Other Poems (1845)
Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848)


Berenice (1835)
Ligeia (1838)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)
Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1939)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
The Black Cat (1843)
The Tell-Tale Heart (1843)
The Purloined Letter (1845)
The Cask of Amontillado (1846)
The Oval Portrait (1850) The Narrative of Arthut Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1850)

Then, we will discuss, and I will show a quick clip of Poe's life and work.

Students will then read, "The Tell Tale Heart" and watch the film version.
We will look for poetic elements such as tone, mood, and figurative language. The students will fill in a chart with examples of these elements.


by Edgar Allan Poe

TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story. It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept. Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily. I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?" I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall. Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence of my head within the room. When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye. It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness --all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot. And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage. But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eve would trouble me no more. If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye --not even his --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! ha! When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises. I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim. The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: --It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness --until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears. No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! "Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"


I will break them into groups.
They will read and perform Reader's Theatre in their groups.I will choose one group to perform it for the class. I will work to find props for the students who are performing for the class.

I'll review this lesson as it gets closer to Halloween this week, but I've got a good start here, and I think the kids will learn about Poe in a fun way using the Common Core Standards.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nature and the Transcendentalist Movement: Lesson Plan Middle Grades

Going out of town is good, and it is bad, especially if you are a teacher and a mom, oh...and did I mention a wife, too-yes-that has it's very own category! ha ha :-)

So, anyway, all kidding aside, I have some work to do.

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the north Georgia mountains with my family. I love the mountains, and I think I could possibly live there. It is so peaceful and beautiful. We stayed at the Unicoi State Lodge, which I highly recommend. Our room had two beds and a loft room for the kids, which they loved. The lodge held nightly concerts, mostly folk music, which only made me more determined to play in a folk band at some point in my life. Love--love--love folk music. I'm thinking a guitar might be a great Christmas present, so I could learn a few songs for my students before the year ends. Hmmm...I like this idea.

Ok...I still need to get to, as my principal likes to say, "the meat and potatoes." My experiences in nature this weekend, brought to my mind several poets who wrote about their love of the outdoors. My thought is to introduce these poets to my students, and conduct a surprise field trip outside, where we can make discoveries about nature, and then write a poem from our observations.

I believe that this lesson may take 2 days.


EQ: Define the transcendentalist movement and describe how it applies to you today?

RL.6.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text
RL.6.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text.
RL.6.6: Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

Bellringer: Students will write a response to the following:
What is autumn to you? Think about shapes, colors, and the feel of fall. Think about seasonal celebrations like football games, the World Series, Halloween, Thanksgiving, hay-rack rides, etc.

Introduce transcendentalist or idealism movement.
  1. The students will read, annotate, and summarize the following piece on the Transcendentalist movement. They will also look up and write down any new vocabulary.
CCRL.6.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

The American Renaissance and the Transcendentalist Movement
The following is a great link on the poets of this era, and what the transcendentalist movement was about.

2. I will have a variety of clips on hand to further illustrate the poets that make up the "idealist" or "transcendentalist" movement.




3. Secondly, students will be grouped in fours. They will be assigned specific roles: speaker, note taker, reader, task master. Then each group will rotate around 7 stations in the classroom. Each station will introduce the group to a new transcendentalist poet. Each station will include a picture and article of a poet from that period. The students will look for elements of poetry from their work and write it on large butcher paper hanging on the wall. The elements will be different depending on the station: figurative language: metaphors, similes, personification, theme, conflicts, plot, resolution.

They may also answer questions such as:
Explain how a particular stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and how it contributes to the theme or plot.

How does the plot unfold within the poem?

What is the central idea of the poem?

Poets will include Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, the Alcotts, Walt Whitman in Brooklyn or Emily Dickinson

3. Students will come back to their groups and report their findings. We will also discuss what we would look for or observe in nature from the transcendentalist poet perspective.

4. Students will go outside for some nature time. They will continue to work in their groups. They will be allowed to take pictures on their iPhone of observations.

-Group one observes animals, clues and signs of their presence. They make a list of everything they find and use their camera.

-Group two observes plants and makes a list of everything they find and use their digital camera. They need to name as many of the plants as possible.

-Group three observes evidence of insects, rocks, or landscapes and they make a list of everything they find and use their digital camera.

Each group will write a single journal based on their observations and experiences while observing. They also need to review their photos.

The groups come together and compare findings. How do animals, plants and humans affect each other? What are the positive and negative effects? What can we do to ensure that nature is persevered? How does nature affect our well being?


    "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds...A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."
With this fiery challenge Ralph Waldo Emerson concluded his 1837 Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Address, THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR. As his words were received with great enthusiasm, Emerson argued not only for a new American culture, freed from European bondage, but also for a rebirth of an intellectual and artistic life that was inextricably bound up with the life of the spirit. Before long, Emerson and his circle of writers, reformers, and artists would christen those ideals which governed the spirit "Transcendentalism."
The Old Manse in Concord, MA
The Old Manse in Concord, MA.
The Transcendentalists stood at the heart of The American Renaissance-- the flowering of our nation's thought in literature, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music in the period roughly designated from 1835-1880. Concentrated in Boston and Concord, MA, the home of many of the literary members such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, the Alcotts, Theodore Parker, Jones Very, George Ripley, the Peabody Sisters, and the Channings, Transcendentalism was far broader than a geographical phenomenon or a select club membership--though Ripley and Emerson had founded the Transcendental Club in 1836. Rather it was a faith shared by such diverse minds and such diverse places as those of Walt Whitman in Brooklyn or Emily Dickinson in Amherst or the Hudson River School of painters in New York; it was a visionary bent, a way of, as the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth had once described his mission, "of seeing into the life of things" that permeated the best of American thought and art throughout much of the 19th century. Even those artists of the American Renaissance who would find difficulty with the optimism of the Transcendentalists--Hawthorne and Melville among them--would be forced to focus on and respond to the existential issues the movement raised.

American Transcendentalism The term Transcendentalism was derived from the philosopher Kant, who called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects." The roots of the American philosophy ran deep into German and English Romanticism. From German philosophers such as Fichte and Herder, it received its mystic impulse; from Goethe, Novalis, Jean-Paul, Heine, and the other great German Romantic poets it acquired its imagistic language and themes. Acquaintance with German thought, by and large, filtered through English translations--Coleridge and Carlyle's among the best--and acquaintance with these and the work of other English Romantics such as Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and Byron enriched the Americans' perspectives as well.
Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman in 1891.
In his 1841 address delivered at Boston's Masonic Temple , which was later reprinted in THE DIAL, Emerson attempted to define the philosophy in simple terms as "What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism; Idealism as it appears in 1842." In reality it was far more complex collection of beliefs: that the spark of divinity lies within man; that everything in the world is a microcosm of existence; that the individual soul is identical to the world soul, or Over-Soul, as Emerson called it. This belief in the Inner Light led to an emphasis on the authority of the Self--to Walt Whitman's I , to the Emersonian doctrine of Self-Reliance, to Thoreau's civil disobedience, and to the Utopian communities at Brook Farm and Fruitlands. By meditation, by communing with nature, through work and art, man could transcend his senses and attain an understanding of beauty and goodness and truth. Transcendentalism dominated the thinking of the American Renaissance, and its resonances reverberated through American life well into the 20th century. In one way or another our most creative minds were drawn into its thrall, attracted not only to its practicable messages of confident self-identity, spiritual progress and social justice, but also by its aesthetics, which celebrated, in landscape and mindscape, the immense grandeur of the American soul.