Friday Five: Reasons for Mixtapes in the Classroom

Yes, I know, they don’t call them mixtapes, they call them playlists–but there’s still many reasons to have students think about the types of songs characters might listen to and might tell other characters to listen to depending on the situation.

  1. You see the type of music your students like.  On top of that, it always is a happy surprise when I see students like the music I used to listen to when I was their age.
  2. Students feel genuinely excited to talk about music and it engages them.  Sometimes there are interesting arguments about why a certain song would be an appropriate one to choose.
  3. It seems easier for students to quote song lyrics than quote a book.  I find with songs, since they are short like poems, students are more likely to integrate quotations into their arguments.
  4. Tying music to a text makes students practice making inferences, something our Keystone tests ask students to do a number of times.
  5. I always learn about new ways of listening and accessing music.  This year, students have schooled me in Spotify.f54d1bfe955d989ab212cf13a9de1251.jpg

 

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

Friday Five: Reasons for Mixtapes in the Classroom

A poem for your seniors…and other students, but mostly seniors.

Today I’d like to share a poem I recently shared with my seniors. It seems to capture the desire students have to “get out” of their hometowns. As I read it to them, many were nodding along with different parts of it.

Saturday at the Canal
Gary Soto

I was hoping to be happy by seventeen.
School was a sharp check mark in the roll book,
An obnoxious tuba playing at noon because our team
Was going to win at night. The teachers were
Too close to dying to understand. The hallways
Stank of poor grades and unwashed hair. Thus,
A friend and I sat watching the water on Saturday,
Neither of us talking much, just warming ourselves
By hurling large rocks at the dusty ground
And feeling awful because San Francisco was a postcard
On a bedroom wall. We wanted to go there,
Hitchhike under the last migrating birds
And be with people who knew more than three chords
On a guitar. We didn’t drink or smoke,
But our hair was shoulder length, wild when
The wind picked up and the shadows of
This loneliness gripped loose dirt. By bus or car,
By the sway of train over a long bridge,
We wanted to get out. The years froze
As we sat on the bank. Our eyes followed the water,
White -tipped but dark underneath, racing out of town.

“Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto from Home Course in Religion. © Chronicle Books, 1991.

gary-soto Poet Gary Soto.  Photo from Poetry Out Loud website.

 

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

A poem for your seniors…and other students, but mostly seniors.

Eligible–A Pride & Prejudice Retelling

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, is part of the Austen Project, where modern authors retell Jane Austen’s famous stories in modern day (the other books include Sense and Sensibility  by Joanna Trollope, Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith). I read this book in just one sitting, as I was in need of some quiet, alone time after a particularly taxing social day, and it was exactly what I needed.

While I adored this retelling (Liz was sufficiently annoying about hating Darcy when we all know she was making a big mistake and too many assumptions), Ursula K. LeGuin’s review in the The Guardian was fairly scathing.  I guess I can see how some hardcore Austen fans might not love this retelling, but honestly, I think Sittenfeld captured with verisimilitude what the Bennet family would be like today, if they grew up in Cincinnati. Jane, the oldest, teaches yoga in New York City, and Liz, a magazine writer, also lives in New York, while Mary stays in her room back home and works toward a third online degree, and Lydia and Kitty do crossfit all day while still living at home as well. While I was a little taken aback at the crassness of Lydia and Kitty, I realized that’s exactly how those young women would act in today’s world–faces glued to phones and social media, and completely oblivious to manners and decorum.

I’m a fan of Sittenfeld’s other novels, Prep, American Wife, Sisterland, and The Man of My Dreams and I also thought this novel captured what it meant to be human–and particularly what it meant to be a single working woman close to forty in today’s world.

Here are a few of my favorite passages from the reading.  I particularly like Sittenfeld’s use of metaphors.

  • “It occurred to Liz one day, as she waited on hold for an estimate from a yard service, that her parents’ home was like an extremely obese person who could no longer see, touch, or maintain jurisdiction over all of his body; there was simply too much of it, and he—they—had grown weary and inflexible.”
  • “There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you–that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree.  There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.”
  • “Such compliments–they were thrilling but almost impossible to absorb in this quantity, at this pace.  It was like she was being pelted with magnificent hail, and she wished she could save the individual stones to examine later, but they’d exist with such potency only now, in this moment.”

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary of PCTELA

Eligible–A Pride & Prejudice Retelling

Mourning Shakespeare’s Death 400 Years Later

Today marks 400 years since William Shakespeare left this world.  Internationally, people will celebrate the famous playwright & poet in a variety of ways.

Take a look at Lego’s tribute, which recreates scenes from Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

If you’re not sure how to honor the bard, check out this list of 14 ways to celebrate compiled by Bustle.

Close to home for me, Penn State Theatre will hold a free performance of various scenes from various plays, and the event is titled Deathapalooza.

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Mourning Shakespeare’s Death 400 Years Later

For Poetry Month: 5 Poems by Amit Majmudar

Amit Majmudar has been a favorite poet of mine since I read his poems in The New Yorker (half the reason I subscribe is for the poetry!). He’s just published his latest poetry book, Dothead, and his poems are just wonderful to teach.  My students love his work, and in particular, when I teach forms like the Ode, they really enjoy “To the Hyphenated Poets.”

  1. “To the Hyphenated Poets”(and below for your reading pleasure)
  2. “Ode to a Drone”
  3. “T.S.A”
  4. “A Pedestrian” Audio here
  5. “Dothead”

amit-mujmudarjpg-e242ea2ae1f18ac8.jpg____________________________

To The Hypenated Poets

Richer than mother’s milk
is half-and-half.
Friends of two minds,
redouble your craft.

Our shelves our hives, our selves
a royal jelly,
may we at Benares and Boston,
Philly and Delhi
collect our birthright nectar.
No swarm our own,
we must be industrious, both
queen and drone.

Being two beings requires
a rage for rigor,
rewritable memory,
hybrid vigor.

English herself is a crossbred
mother mutt,
primly promiscuous
and hot to rut.

Oneness? Pure chimera.
Splendor is spliced.
Make your halves into something
twice your size,

your tongue a hyphen joining
nation to nation.
Recombine, become a thing
of your own creation,

a many-minded mongrel,
the line’s renewal,
self-made and twofold,
soul and dual.

 

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

For Poetry Month: 5 Poems by Amit Majmudar

The Play’s the Thing: Pulitzer-Prize Winner Disgraced

I keep saying people should read more plays–well here’s a specific suggestion for you: Ayad Akhtar’s play Disgraced, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. The play is a powerful examination of politics and religion in post-9/11 New York City.  You have a non-practicing Muslim who practices law, his white artist wife, a Jewish gallery owner, his African-American lawyer wife–in other words, a room full of people with a history of oppression and stereotypes forced upon them by society at large.  The tension in the room becomes palpable as emotions rise. Needless to say, the play captures much of the tension between and among various groups of people who have to negotiate stereotypes regularly. This summary of course, is reductive, and cannot possible capture the complexity that this play presents, so you’ll just have to go read the play yourself.

What is also phenomenal about Disgraced, though, is the essay Akhtar includes about reading plays as the introduction.  He begins by saying “Plays on the page are neither fish nor fowl. A play is seldom meant to be read. It is meant to be pored over, interrogated, dissected, obeyed.” You should find this play for this essay “On Reading Plays” alone–I immediately read this essay to my seniors as we were studying modern plays.

Additionally, the publishers included an interview with the author at the end, and that’s another great reason to find this book.  He talks about the function of plays, that they can be a “portal”.  He says “Look, at the end of the day, art’s capacity to change the world is profoundly limited.  But what it can do is change the way we see things individually.  I aspired to accomplish with this structure a kind of shattering of the audience, after which they have to find some way to put themselves back together.”  I really like how he phrased this, and how later on the same page he says again to his interviewer: “the events of the play have provided access to the present–to things as they are. That’s the only way we can change anything, the only way we can change ourselves.  The only way we can change the world is by recognizing what it is, now.” I think this framework for approaching plays is perfect–they provide a portal to how the present was at the time they were written.

And now, of course, I’m determined to find a venue performing this piece. If you know anywhere this is being performed, let me know in the comments!

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary of PCTELA

The Play’s the Thing: Pulitzer-Prize Winner Disgraced

PCTELA Call for Positions (Join Us!)

Have you been wanting more meaningful professional development?  Have you been thinking about connecting with colleagues across the state? Have you been wondering how you can share ideas with other like-minded educators?

Now you can do all those things!  Apply to be a part of the PCTELA Board of Directors. Four positions are opening up this fall:

  • Vice President for Elementary
  • Vice President for Secondary
  • Membership Secretary
  • Advocacy Chair

See here for descriptions of each position. If you are interested, please send your letter of interest and CV/resume to PCTELA Executive Director Allison Irwin at ae_irwin@hotmail.com.  

Deadline to submit resume: June 1, 2016. 

PCTELA Call for Positions (Join Us!)