Friday, October 14, 2011

The writer, not the candy bar--and Alanis Morissette

So today in the middle of O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation," right when we get to the part where Jimmy gets engaged,
the kids start to talk to the story like some people talk to characters in a horror movie: "Oh no!" "She's a banker's daughter and he is a thief but she doesn't know it!" "Don't do it!" It is perfect because I am teaching them about different types of irony. Clearly they are grasping dramatic irony--when the readers know something the characters don't.

...and then they collectively gasp when little Agatha gets locked in the safe and Jimmy's fiancee asks if he can help--situational drama. (One girl makes fists and shakes her arms back and forth the same way hungry newborns do.) And after the last line is read, about five kids applaud, ten exhale audibly, and all 32 have smiles wreathing their faces.

And then they got EXCITED about their assignment: draw cartoons depicting the three types of ironies, either alone or in pairs. Oh, the buzz! They couldn't wait to get started, they couldn't wait to differentiate between the types of ironies, and they couldn't wait to show me some of their ideas: A love-struck girl is unaware of the big knife in her lover's hand; a plastic surgery seeker becomes the guest speaker at the national "Love Yourself the Way You Are" convention; a homeless man checks his homepage on Facebook, only to get an "Error 404" sign; a man calls an exterminator, unaware that the exterminator is himself a giant cockroach...

(One of my favorite moments was revealing the irony of the character's name--"Jimmy" means to pry something open--juxtapose that with "Valentine"???)

As for Alanis, CLICK HERE FOR A LINK to a post that analyzes her hit song, "Isn't it Ironic" to see if her examples are actually ironic. And CLICK HERE for a smile.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Senator Kehoe

A state senator--
coming to speak to our kids!
Hope she is upright...

Hope she reaches them,
sticks to the Constitution
and doesn't grandstand

Hope she interests them--
holds their fickle attention
and challenges them

I love that she chose
a middle school--most speakers
shun this strange age group

May her risky choice
be rewarded by a most
fascinated crowd.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It might be happening!!

This just may be the magical, the kids have been so good that there has been no need for Saturday School (where evil children do hard time)....almost all my students are doing all their homework...the normal distribution of grades in each class is abnormally skewed in the happy direction...and last Monday I got spontaneous and straight-up raucous applause from my Seminar class that had no idea what I meant!

All I said was, "Today will be our first Stupid M. Play-" and whoooo, boy, they just about woke the dead! A former student is doing some volunteer hours with me before she leaves to teach English in Korea, and I am so glad I had a witness. These are kids who want to be involved, jump in, learn! HUZZAH!

(I should add that to the magical year list--someone actually volunteering in a middle school classroom for nothing more than a diet Dr Pepper and the warm sense of satisfaction from helping others--)

Anyway, the only nonmagic is my study skills class. I had visions of transforming them, but really, my vision is much more literal now: come in, get to work, be productive. So far, they come in. The other two steps are next!

But I may have to call Disney: This year has the makings of a feel-good hit!