English 9 Regents: Using Music to Tell a Story (“The Most Dangerous Game”)

Stories are not only told with words; they can be told through a variety of media, including music.

This is a Visible Thinking activity relating to the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell (but the idea could be used with any story).   For this activity, students were to analyze the story being told in a piece of music (in this case, “Path” by Apocalyptica), and then relate that music to something we read (in this case, the short story).

The class first listened to “Path” by Apocalyptica to try to hear the “story” being told through the music.  Like authors who use devices such as imagery, characterization, or symbolism, composers tell their stories through their own devices, for example:

–         choice of instruments

–         time signature

–         tempo

–         style of music

–         shifts/changes in the music

–         crescendo / decrescendo

Those who make music videos must interpret the music that they hear to create a compelling story in their visual art.  The visuals must reflect what the music provides.

Students heard the piece twice; first just listening, and the second time with the video.  As they listened, they had to write ten things they HEAR in the music that helps to tell a story.   I then turned on the video and they had to write ten things they SEE in the video that helps to tell the story of the music.


Click on the picture to see the video.

Once they had ten things they heard and ten things they saw, students had to find a partner and share their observations.  After sharing (and putting a checkmark next to ideas they had in common), they had to write three things the THINK about the story that the music is trying to tell, and then three things they WONDER about the story that the music is trying to tell.

Students then receive a Post-It note (four colors: See, Hear, Think, Wonder), and we share their ideas.

Path and Most Dangerous Game

Writing Prompt

Pretend that you are making a film of Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” and you have selected “Path” by Apocalyptica to help “tell” a portion of the story.  Explain HOW you might apply the music to parts of the story, and fully explain WHY the music would fit that particular action of the story.

This will be a three-chunk paragraph.  Think about what needs to be in the topic sentence (TS) for this assignment.  Your concrete details (CDs) will be references to both the music and the plot of the short story, your commentary (CMs) will be the explanation of how the music fits the action of the plot.  Don’t forget a closing sentence (CS).


English 9 Enriched: Introducing The Hero’s Journey

journey suitcase

Every year we begin the second quarter with an introduction to The Hero’s Journey as outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell.   The students then begin what I have called “The Sixty Day Sojourn” through the Hero’s Journey online, and they respond to writing prompts each day. You can click on the suitcase to be taken to our website; however, it is not a public site.  If you wish to be a member to see the work we do (AND NOT FOR SPAMMING…SPAMMERS GET REMOVED IMMEDIATELY), you must respond to some questions about why you want to join the site.  I then determine who’s “safe” to be there (until that person proves him/herself to be otherwise).  I maintain the site and pay for it out of my own money because I so strongly believe that this work is truly important.

In 2012, I was invited to participate in an international Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California where I shared the work that I do with students that surrounds mythology and the work of Joseph Campbell.  As part of my presentation, I asked former students to speak about what studying the Hero’s Journey has meant to them, and I (with much help from Dan DeWitte in the A/V department) created a DVD to show at the Symposium.

The video is called “We’re All in Myth Together”:

As part of our introduction to the coursework (which, by the way, is fully aligned with the Common Core), I have the students watch the video and do a Visible Thinking Exercise with what they see and hear.

all in myth together vt

We then read an excerpt from a documentary study of the film Mythic Journeys about the importance of storytelling.  Students RHA the text, and then each shares (in a Visible Thinking exercise) their thoughts about “What’s the big deal about storytelling?”


Storytelling3 Storytelling2

Finally, we begin a discussion about identifying the steps of the Hero’s Journey pattern in film.  The link below is a PowerPoint presentation I use over the next couple of classes in our discussion of the Hero’s Journey:

The Hero’s Journey

English 9 Regents: What did the oracle REALLY say to Socrates?

When the students were reading Plato’s “Apology,” many seemed to struggle with the oracle’s message and how that managed to get Socrates into trouble.  In an effort to clarify, we did some role playing.  In preparation, I gave each student a blank Post-It note.

To begin, I asked a student from each of my Regents classes if they were willing to be used as an example ahead of time.  I didn’t tell them what we were going to do, but I said that I’d need to use a picture on the overhead.  All that I asked agreed.

When we began, I said to the class that there was a student who wanted to know how he was doing in English 9 so far, but he was afraid to come to see me for himself.  I asked that person (Tanner was one of the “volunteers” I’d asked in advance) to select a friend to send to see me to ask how he was doing.  Before the “friend” came forward though, I made sure to tell the class that they had to be of the mind that Ms Woodward cannot tell a lie, and that everything she says is the absolute truth.  After some snickering, they agreed that Ms Woodward always tells the truth and cannot lie.  Then the “friend” came forward to ask his question.

This person came up to my desk and asked how, in this case, Tanner was doing in English class.  As I sat at my desk, playing my best Whoopie Goldberg from Ghost, I turned on the overhead projector.  When it finally came into focus, this is what the class saw:


The “friend” was then instructed to tell Tanner what Ms Woodward had said.  When Tanner was told what his friend had heard, I asked Tanner what he thought about my message.  Tanner, like most of my volunteers, said he was confused, so I told him to write down why he was confused on the Post-It I’d given him.  He had to hang on to it till later.

Since the class is currently divided into four groups, I had Tanner turn to his group members and say, “Ms Woodward says there’s no one smarter than me!”  I asked each of his group members to write down their reactions to the news.  Tanner then was sent to another group with the same pronouncement, and they also had to write their reactions on the Post-Its.  He went to each group in turn until all students had written down their reaction to Tanner’s news that there was no one smarter than him.  (It was fun that one of our administrators happened to walk into the room in the middle of this activity, so I had the same pronouncement made to him).

We then shared what each person had to say:


close up posts 1 close up posts 2

As you can see, not all comments were complimentary.  (The volunteers were good sports about it all, though.)  I asked the class what they thought of Ms Woodward’s words, assuming that the words were true and that Ms Woodward could not lie.  It seemed that most were offended and harbored negative feelings toward Tanner.

I then asked them to explain what I’d MEANT when I said, “There is no one smarter than Tanner.”  Most agreed that I’d said Tanner was the smartest of them all.  Then I asked them to think by using these two illustrations:

Wiser 1

Did I (as the Oracle) mean that Tanner (as Socrates) was the smartest of all…?

Wiser 2

…or did I mean that all are  equally smart?

That’s when light bulbs went on!  We turned the discussion to Socrates and his reactions to the Oracle’s words.  They were better able to understand how people had turned against Socrates based on his interpretation of that the Oracle had said.

English 9 Regents: Plato’s “Apology”/Visible Thinking

Using the Odell module, I combined it with our Visible Thinking routine that we have been establishing in class.  Students had  read and paraphrased paragraphs 4-9 of the latest translation from Odell (a much simplified version of Plato’s report).  From here we used Forming Evidence-Based claims forms to organize their thoughts about what they’d read.  They worked with partners in a group to make their Evidence-Based Claims.





While they were sharing their forms with a partner, I gave each student a Post-It note (one of three possible colors).  Each color was either for 1) a specific detail (quote) they saw in the reading; 2) something they thought about a particular quote from the reading; or 3) their claim they’d made about the reading.  This information all came from their worksheets.






When they had their Post-Its ready, we shared aloud so that students could hear what others noticed in the text, particularly if some quotes were repeated.

Apology 4-9

This activity was an effort to help them strengthen the claims they’d made on their Forming Evidence-Based Claims sheets.

English 9 Regents: Paragraph Writing Jane Schaffer Style

We began paragraph writing a la Jane Schaffer with a Visible Thinking exercise about what they saw in the classroom.  Students had to write down ten things they noticed in the room, followed by three things they thought about English 9 (based on what they saw) as well as three things they wonder about the course (based on what they saw in the room).

After we shared what they saw, thought and wondered (using Post-It notes), we began putting the paragraphs together.

Intro to VT

I told them that what they SAW in the room translated into Concrete Details (CDs) that they would use in their writing.  What they THOUGHT or WONDERED about the course based on what they saw became their commentary (CMs).

In Schaffer paragraphs, the recipe is: 1CD:2CM for each “chunk.”  I asked students to compose a three-chunk paragraph about what they might be able to expect in English 9 based on what they see in the room (CDs).  They had to be able to deduce and make inferences in order to make sufficient commentary (CMs).

As a way of self-check for whether or not they were truly writing in “chunks,” I had them color code their paragraphs with highlighters:

Topic Sentences (TS) were highlighted green (if they had a solid topic sentence, they had the “go ahead” to continue with the paragraph).

Concrete Details (CDs) were highlighted pink, while Commentary (CMs) were blue.  They needed to demonstrate (through their color coding) that they knew the difference between CDs and CMs.  Also, they needed to be able to see if they had the correct ratio…visually they would be able to see twice as many blue sentences as pink if they did it correctly.

Finally, Concluding Sentences (CS) were highlighted yellow.

Chunk 1

In this first example, I can automatically see that we need to continue with practicing how to write in chunk format.  It is not clear that the student knows the difference between a concrete detail and commentary yet.  At this point, I am only looking at the structure of the paragraph.  There is much work yet to be done with language use and mechanics.

Chunk 2

This second example is a bit closer to what I need to see structurally.  We still need to work on selecting significant details as opposed to obvious ones (such as the chalkboard), but the concept of chunks is becoming evident.

English 9 Enriched: Deductions in Every Bone Tells a Story

The second part of the discussion of any of the hominins in Every Bone Tells a Story is deductions that were made based on each discovery.  To better understand how scientists were able to come to certain conclusions about each find, the class began doing work with deductive reasoning and logic.  This will also prepare them for creating arguments and writing persuasive essays as we progress throughout the year.

First, we took a comedic look at deductive reasoning from the television show, The Big Bang Theory in which Sheldon has a logical “conversation” with Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock:

We then moved on to the master of deduction, Sherlock Holmes, and his observations about a hat:

We will also be reading Sherlock Holmes tales in class.

After a discussion about observing specific details and making meaning from them, we connected to other crime scene investigators and detectives.  In particular, we had a discussion about how Dexter Morgan is able to deduce certain aspects about a killer based on the blood spatter patterns at a crime scene (no…we didn’t watch an episode of Dexter in class…).

We also looked at the consequences of faulty reasoning such as the witch “trial” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

We talked about the faulty logic that was used to determine the woman’s guilt, and how faulty logic in any argument or persuasive essay that they write would not be in their favor.

As a way to sharpen their deductive reasoning skills to prepare for these kinds of writing assignments, I passed out a logic puzzle for them to work on in groups:

Nine men play the positions on a baseball team. Their names are Brown, White, Adams, Miller, Green, Hunter, Knight, Smith and Jones. Determine from the following information the position played by each man.

1. Brown and Smith each won $10 playing poker with the pitcher.
2. Hunter is taller than Knight, and shorter than White, but each weighs more that the first baseman.
3. The third baseman lives across the corridor from Jones in the same apartment house.
4. Miller and the oufielders play bridge in their spare time.
5. White, Miller, Brown the right fielder and center fielder are bacheloros. The rest are married.
6. Of Adams and Knight one plays an outfield position.
7. The right fielder is shorter than the center fielder.
8/ The third baseman is a brother of the pitcher’s wife.
9. Green is taller than the infielders and the battery (the pitcher and the catcher), except for Jones, Smith and Adams
10. The second baseman beat Jones, Brown, Hunter, and the catcher at cards.
11. The third baseman, the shortstop and Hunter made $150 each speculating in General Motors stock.
12. The second baseman is engaged to Miller’s sister.
13. Adams lives in the same house as his sister but dislikes the catcher.
14. Adams, Brown and the shortstop lost $200 each speculating on wheat futures.
15. The catcher has three daughters, the third baseman has two sons, but Green is being sued for divorce.

All of this was to prepare them for richer discussions surrounding the deductions made about the hominid discoveries in Every Bone Tells a Story.

English 9 Enriched: Kenya (Every Bone Tells a Story)


Turkana Boy, also occasionally, Nariokotome Boy is the common name of fossil KNM-WT 15000, a nearly complete skeleton of a hominid who died in the early Pleisticene. This specimen is the most complete early human skeleton ever found. It is 1.5 million years old. Once thought to be a member of the species Homo erectus; after much heated debate, it was recently classified as Homo ergaster.

His age has been estimated from 7 years six months to as old as 15 years. The most recent scientific review suggests 8 years of age.  It was initially suggested that he would have grown into 1.85 m tall adult but the most recent analysis argues for the much shorter stature of 1.63 m. The reason for this shift has been research showing that his growth maturation differed from that of modern humans in that he would have had a shorter and smaller adolescent growth spurt.

The skeleton was discovered in 1984 by Kamoya Kimeu, a member of a team led by Richard Leakey, at Nariokotome near Lake Turkana in Kenya.

source: Wikipedia (click picture for link)

Delta Class:


Click on the map to see a Prezi by Maddy about the religion of the Dorobo Tribe in Kenya.


Click on the picture to see a Prezi by Kali

This is a video that was shared by Jackson

Sigma Class:


Power Point: SRI Turkana Boy Presentation

English 9 Enriched: The Alps (Every Bone Tells a Story)

OtziÖtzi (pronounced [ˈœtsi] ( listen), also called Ötzi the Iceman, the Similaun Man, the Man from Hauslabjoch, Homo tyrolensis, and the Hauslabjoch mummy) is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 3,300 BC. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Otztal Alps, hence Ötzi, near the Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy.  He is Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy.

Source: Wikipedia (click picture for link)

Delta Class:


Power Point: NICK Group English Presentation


Sigma Class:



English 9 Enriched: Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest (Every Bone Tells a Story)


Kennewick Man is the name for the skeletal remains of a prehistoric man found on a bank of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, USA, on July 28, 1996.  It is one of the most complete ancient skeletons ever found; bone tests have shown it to date from 7300 to 7600 B.C.  A stone projectile was found lodged in the man’s hip bone. His anatomical features were quite different from those of modern Native Americans and his relationship to other ancient people is uncertain.

The finding of the skeleton triggered a nine-year legal clash between scientists, the American government and Native American tribes who claim Kennewick Man as one of their ancestors. In February 2004, the  United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a cultural link between any of the Native American tribes and the Kennewick Man was not genetically justified, allowing scientific study of the remains to continue.

In July 2005, a team of scientists from around the United States convened in Seattle for ten days to study the remains in detail.

Source: Wikipedia (click picture for link)

Delta Class:


Power Point:  LUCAS Nez Perce

Tribal map wolfWind Sucker creation

Sigma Class:



To see a Prezi by Meghan, click the map.

Power Point: ALEXIS Kennewick Man Clothing


English 9 Enriched: Lapedo Valley, Portugal (Every Bone Tells a Story)

Lapedo Child

The Lapedo child is a complete prehistorical skeleton found in Portugal.

In 1998, this discovery of an early Upper Paleolithic human burial at Abrigo do Lagar Velho, by the team led by pre-history archeologist João Zilhão, provided evidence of early modern humans from the west of the Iberian Peninsula. The remains, the largely complete skeleton of an approximately 4-year-old child, buried with pierced shell and red ochre, is dated to ca. 24,500 years BP. The cranium, mandible, dentition, and postcrania present a mosaic of European early modern human and Neanderthal features.

This (morphological) mosaic indicates admixture between late archaic and early modern humans in Iberia, refuting hypotheses of complete replacement of the Neanderthals by early modern humans and underlining the complexities of the cultural and biological processes and events that were involved in modern human emergence.

This is contested by several scientists including Prof. Dr. C.P.E. Zollikofer of the University of Zurich who concluded the skeleton does not reveal Neanderthal affinities. Genetic work from a decade later have shown that there has indeed been instances of admixture between Neanderthals and modern humans, bringing the hybrid hypothesis back within the realm of the possible.

A replica of the skeleton and a reconstruction of the boy’s face, made by American anthropologist Brian Pierson, can be seen in the Interpretation Centre of the Lagar Velho. There are plans to build a museum of archeology at the Convent of St. Augustine, the city of Leiria, which houses the original skeleton.

Source: Wikipedia (click picture for link)

Delta Class:


Celtic ruins Portugal

For a Prezi about the social organization of the Ancient Celts by Emily, click the picture of the Celtic ruins in Portugal.

Power Point Presentation:  ALEJANDRO Ancient Celts Work

food and clothing


social organization

Sigma Class:


Power Point: EVA geography of Lapedo Valley