English 9 Enriched: The Importance of Storytelling

This falls into the preparation for selecting a topic for their research paper seeded in storytelling.  Students have already read two articles in preparation: “Learning Through Narratives: The Impact of Digital Storytelling on Intergenerational Relationships” by Kim Flottemesch and “The Inside Story” by Peter Guber

We also watched the following video by Jay O’Callahan called “The Power of Storytelling”:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/14806071″>Jay O’Callahan: The Power of Storytelling</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/99u”>99U</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

While watching the video, we did a Visible Thinking Exercise in order to brainstorm more ideas for possible research topics.

Power of Storytelling VT

Students shared what they heard, thought, and wondered about the Power of Storytelling based on the video.

As the students work through this project, we will also be watching and discussing the Mythic Journeys documentary.  Mythic Journeys

We will, in particular, be examining the corpse’s riddles related to the stories in “The Bone Orchard” segments.   The class will be broken into five groups, one for each of the following tales:

– “The Three Brahmin”

– “The Stupid Brothers”

– “The Noble Emperor”

– “Jacob and Isaac”

– “The African Kin”

Student groups will have to argue whether or not they agree with the King’s answer to the riddle in their assigned tale, and they must support their position with logic and textual evidence.   I will be having the other groups play “devil’s advocate” and counter the presenting group’s position about the King’s response for each story.   This will give them practice for creating arguments for their research papers.


English 9 Enriched: Elegies for Characters in The Odyssey

The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.

The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace.

We not only watched a couple of videos that are modern elegies, we analyzed some text as well.

We first started off with Elton John’s “Goodbye, England’s Rose” for Princess Diana:


This was followed by a tribute to Keith Moon written by Roger Daltry (the video is a cover of the piece):


The students then worked in pairs to Analyze “Oh, Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman and “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” by W.H. Auden (you can click on the links to see the poems).

Each was examined both the song lyrics and the printed poems for style and how each demonstrated the three stages of loss as described above.

Students then had to show they understood the elegy by writing one for a character in The Odyssey.  Examples of student work is as follows:


“The Gem of My Past” (An Elegy to Anticleia)

by Caitlyn

My mother, so gentle, with a smile that glows,

I wish to not have seen you in a place so dark.

My heart is in pieces fore your face has appeared,

In this land of death we now must part.

The tears shall drip like sweet-honeyed wine,

For I cannot bare to think your hands are so cold.

The day that you passed is frigid and unforgiving,

And the land you have left will be so bleak to uphold.

Now, my bright mother, you are at rest,

In a place so far and apart from me.

I wish I could have gave one last embrace,

Oh mother, your death has been untimely.

Oh Anticleia, the gem of my past,

Your great memory shines through your eyes,

These moments we share will not be fast.

Your dove soft hands tended the poor,

You made all unwelcome feel loved,

To help all of Greece, you swore.

The gleaming smile you gave had made all feel brave,

And all those you have touched will honor you,

With prayers and wishes by your grave.

My mother, so sweet, please do not cry,

Although we part and must say our goodbyes.

I must warn you of the pain and sorrow I will feel,

But don’t worry for me, I must learn to deal.

The lessons you have taught must live on,

And the memories you left shall not be gone.

I, your son, will return to our land,

And I will cry for you upon the Ithaca’s glowing sand.

Laertes will rest and cry upon my arm,

He will return to the kingdom without any harm.

Your lessons of life will live on,

And all of Ithaca will praise with your song.

So Mother, my love, please sleep and rest,

You have taught me all to pass the test.

I will never live to forget your sensitive face,

Oh Anticleia, I will see you again, with time, in this place


“The Soldier” (An elegy from Odysseus to Agamemnon)

by Kyle

Oh soldier, my comrade who fought alongside,

A soldier whose heart was punctured by his bride

Bravery and valor can no longer help thee

When mischief is in the air, something no one can see

Oh soldier, my beloved comrade

Words cannot describe your heroism

The leadership that only a solider can provide

For many you are a father, including magnificent Greece

Hearken! For many this soldier is still alive

Oh soldier! My comrade,

Immortal in every aspect, exempting physicality

For you songs are sung, hands are raised

Many Achaean men and women,

Still bow down to you and loudly praise

A solider who returns home,

Murdered in his home all bloody and red,

A soldier who can now finally rest

For now he knows that his legacy was never dead

A solider who knows that he has anchored Greece

So that it and its children are safe and sound,

A solider who was a man of men

A solider who is a solider renowned


“Farewell to the Sun” (An Elegy from Melantho to Eurymachus)

by Emily


A noble prince this world has lost to the bite of cold sharp steel.

Trapped in a cage of cruel stone, your skin grew as cold as the walls that kept you from me.

My sun has dimmed, the sky is dark, and the rosy dawn shall never come.

Today has been the blackest day because my love has gone.

Like footprints in sand you were washed away by the furious tide.

As gentle dew on leaves of green dispels before the day, you were gone.

King of the youths, the pride of Ithaca, how can it be that one so mighty could be felled so easily?

As I sit and watch your still form stain stones vivid red, my heart aches and I cry, “My love has gone!”

Oh inky black! Cruelest color, you are all my waking eyes see.

The night is long when the light is gone, for the stars have all faded.

I shake and scream and curse the heavens, for I have no more to lose.

How can the birds sing and the women rejoice with this empty hole in the world from which my love has gone?


How can it be that the immortal gods on high allowed such beauty to be born?

For you, a mortal, may stand among them, shining with pride like the sun.

And all those who look upon you will weep as I do now.

Beautiful immortal! Mighty prince! Where are you?

Alas, an immortal you are not, and your light has gone out.


Hermes, God of the golden wand, what a precious soul you lead to Hades.

Step lightly on your way, lead well, for my love must not be lost.

Towards salvation he must go, for where else would such a hero belong?

Please wait for me, prince of my heart, for I shall be with you soon.

Your path is lined with the light that had once filled the sky because, like me, it cannot bear to be without you.

Even in death, your spirit must glow, and all others will follow your illuminated steps.

Build a home on the Isles of the Blessed to withstand time, and wait for me on the gentle shores.

I shall kiss you soon.

Year by year the earth will age and the rocks will weather away.

But your memory is as immortal as the gods in the hearts of men.

Noble prince who succumbed to a blade,

Wait, I shall hold you soon.


“My Indefatigable Partner” (Odysseus to Argus)

      Upon arrival to a day of judgment,

For my dog, found moribund, caught my eye.

This emaciated heap, to no one’s clement,

Hadn’t been treated, as his body should imply.

Switching gaze to what he had become,

Was much too painful to endure alone.

For just to pat his head, I abstained from.

He wagged his tail, displaying that; indeed his time was a loan,

And was quickly terminated.

You were no less than a brother to thee,

Frolicking in the fields, and hunting as needful.

Skill and speed outmatched; unhindered by the biggest flea,

Your spirit was calm and peaceful.

To loyally wait for your master,

No one more is needed from a companion.

And later in heaven, we shall repeat the past ; we will run faster.

Along rivers and plains; along mountains and canyons.

To those who neglected you, I shall condemn,

For it’s the least I can do, my brother.

I hope that you shall return to be peaceful once again,

While today, they will feel my wrath, my thunder.

Farewell, my friend.

English 9 Enriched: Odes to Characters in The Odyssey

As part of our understanding of various poetic styles, we are examining types of lyric poetry.  One style we are working with is the ode:

“Ode” comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning to sing or chant, and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present (Wikipedia).

After reading a Pindaric Ode (“Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho) and a Horatian Ode (“The Ship of State” by Horace), students examined the structure of the poems, as well as their elevated language.

They had to choose a character from The Odyssey who was deserving of praise and create an ode to that character.   They had to choose their speaker (not themselves/the poet) from other characters who might sing that particular song of praise. 

These are some examples:


“Ode to Odysseus”

by Sir Kevin

Oh utmost cunning and tenacious Odysseus,

Thou must adopt thy charisma no longer

For thou hath mesmerized me manifold!

            For that, thou shall triumph!


Although I blundered to undertake your itinerary,

I hath inclined my aid at opportune times;

Had thou been void of my cooperation,

            Downfall was certain.


Illustration of such is shown in Ithaca,

Here, I feigned thou as an unkempt man

Then, thou majestically went to the seer,

            Thou hath much spirit.


But there is an additional case of thine spirit.

Such as the hour in which you kept harmonious

While the suitor, Antinous, barrages thee.

            Again, thine spirit was strong.


Without inquiry, thou were successful.

I am beaming to have cognized with you,

And I am convinced others will recognize that.

            Have a superb life!


“Ode to Poseidon”

by Kyle


Oh illustrious and mighty Poseidon,

Earth-shaking and strapping thou art,

Take mercy upon us vacuous boatmen

   For we have ferried our last


Now stands here your steadfast people,

With  trepidation how they shake,

Gazing at the ship aground,

    That now sits in stone


Have we not been staunch subjects?

Committed to your unerring name,

Vouchsafe us an erroneous prophesy

   Let us live!


Oh impeccable, immaculate Poseidon

High in Olympus thy reign

Look upon us and say,

  “I shan’t destroy”


Exculpate your noble sea-farers

Allow us to see more than a lofty mound

Accept our hecatombs, nonpareil one

    Save our souls!


“Ode to Penelope”

by Caitlyn


They call you the sweet Princess of Greece,

But you are the golden empress of all mortals.

Delicate Ithaca bows down to you tender feet.

Beauteous flower, you are.

Oh Penelope, amiable above all fair maidens,

Your exquisite presence wins the sight of men.

You are a magnificent dream to all who dare sleep.

Marvelous star, you are.

You long for your bold husband Odysseus,

Who has for many years been lost at the dark sea.

A mournful broken heart must be healed for peace.

Tortured by him, you are.

They say that you, lambent queen, will sit somber,

Waiting for her great man until the end of the stars.

I am here to ask your fair heart to rest in amity.

Upset from time, you are.

Great Penelope, why must you overlook my heart,

Which has grown in fondness of your radiant presence.

As my luminous wife, the sun will intense with brilliancy.

Glistening bride, you are.

Oh tender empress of the cordial land,

For a gratifying life, give your gentle heart to me.

Harm will never come to my one and true love.

Guarded from pain, you are.

Sweet lady of Ithaca, the brightest stone in this land, 

you glisten amongst the stars like a goddess of the night.

Lovely as a flower upon the unbroken ground.

A sightly gem, you are.


“Ode to Calypso”

by Emily


Radiant nymph, forsaken in the sea,

What shall never be, you are doomed to desire.

As you yearn for me, I yearn for my home,

            Free me from this coercion!


Oh, everlasting goddess, refined, wreathed in light,

Which god on high, immortal in the heavens, 

Did you scorn to bring this poignant providence upon yourself,

            To lust for one you cannot procure?


For in the halls of imperial Ithaca fair Penelope awaits

My return, if you would only release me, desirous nymph,

Who, enthroned by the gods, shines with a light to rival the stars.

            No mortal can compare to you.


Yet my anguish runs deep, poisoning my heart and weakening my limbs.

Your hallowed halls bring me naught but sorrow, and your kisses, only aching.

Home calls me, heavenly creature. Can you not hear it?

            Will you not let me answer?


Oh shining Calypso, alone in the waters,

I would bring you the brightest star in the sky,

If it would only bring you the joy my favor would.

But alas, I can not love you! 


“Ode to Polyphemus”

by Lucas


 Oh great and tall one-eyed one,
Without sight now, and cursing,
He, the bragging Achaean,
Of whom you once were warned.

Scorned though you were, understood,
Prophecy should come to pass,
Your father’s wrath not needed,
Your hand was all but forced.

For even through acceptance,
And call for camarad’rie,
He made you act in anger,
And beg Earth-shaker’s help.

You were a simple giant,
Not peaceful, though acting just,
The Achaean–intruder;
Thought only of himself.

Your eye taken, but your sight
Remained; you saw all wrongs done,
And sought punishment that fit.
Polyphemus, blinded;

It was meant to be, you knew,
Had no qualms t’ward circumstance;
Attitude the only thing,
That angered you at all.

Oh just and mighty cyclops,
Know your actions were correct,
A decade more of homeward
Travel; Achaean crew wrecked.


“Ode to Poseidon”

by Emilie


Hearken, oh Poseidon! Great Land-shaker of the sea!

Joy bringest you upon me!

Cynical, criminal Odysseus Deprived me of sight,

then he had fled, deterred by thy might.


Churning oceans, malicious creatures galore

Shall I support forever more!

Summon thy thunder, exuberant, charismatic lightening shall crack!

Send nefarious Odysseus expeditiously back!


Oh father, Oh idol who swarms in violent seas

Thy hast set my tortured soul at ease!

Praise you oh empathetic, selfless god,

Send his ship askew, force it abroad!


He pertains to himself as “hero”,

Though compared to you, accomplishments zero!

Oh godly, deathless father

Send forth thy tidal wave, send forth thy bother.


Lord, distinguish it! Sense his ruthless demeanor!

Surely there are swine in excrement cleaner,

Than horrendous Odysseus, taken by surprise

Plot alongside me father, plot his demise.

English 9 Regents: Posing Inquiry Questions

The next step was for the kids to formulate possible inquiry questions.  They already had some ideas of what area they might like to explore, so I asked them to go through everything they did in the Visible Thinking exercises, look over their RHA of the seed text, and to re-examine their Thought Clouds so that they could come up with four possible questions for exploration.   They then looked over the Posing Inquiry Questions handout provided by the Odell module.

The only catch to creating their questions was that the questions had to be set up in such a way so that the answer would either be “Yes” or “No.”

Once they had four possibilities, I asked them to put a star next to the one that was really calling to them the most.  I collected a copy of their four questions (students made two copies for homework: one for me, one for themselves).

Then it became interactive.

I wanted the students to have a visual of how effectively their chosen question could be argued.   I drew a question at random and had that person sit at the front desk with me, pen in hand.   Because I have a loud voice (I needed it once we got rolling), I read the student’s question out loud.  Everyone in class either had to gravitate toward one side of the room if they agreed with the question, or to the other side if they disagreed.  In this way, the writer could see if their were any opponents who would argue with them.  If all students went to one side of the room, chances are that the question was too one-sided.  We tried to edit the question to see if a stronger argument could be made at that time, but most wanted time to go back to think about how to revise their question.

Some tried one of their other four questions and had more success in getting kids on both sides of the room.  When that happened, I chose students at random to tell me WHY they’d gone to that particular side of the room (I asked at least two on each side).  This was to help the writer come up with ideas for how their question might be challenged by an opponent.  It was to allow them to acknowledge the other side, but then come up with ideas of how to refute the opponent.

One thing I notices was that often, as we got rolling on specific reasons for agreeing/disagreeing with any question, some students moved to the other side of the room.  I pointed that out to the writer to say, “See?  They changed their minds because of a convincing argument.”

This was to prepare them to be more focused on what they will be looking for when we go to the library the next two classes to search for sources to use to create their arguments.  They will need a total of eight sources that includes both pro and con sides of their question.

English 9 Regents: Visible Thinking and Seed Text

To begin brainstorming for the research paper tied to the topic of “Music,” we first watched two videos to get the creative juices going.

The first is a TED talk about the mental and emotional effects of music:

Students wrote down five things they heard the man say about the mental and emotional effects of music/sound.   They then had an opportunity to share with another student what they heard in the video clip.

After that, I played another clip about how music can change the mood of a film:

Students had to write down five things they noticed about how the change of music seemed to change the mood of the scene.  They then shared their ideas with another person in the room.

Once they returned to their seats after discussing what they SEE/HEAR, they then had to write three things they THINK about the emotional and mental effects of music based on both pieces.  They also had to write down three questions they WONDERED about as they listened.   I passed out colored Post-Its (4 colors this time: one for SEE/HEAR in the TED Talk, one for SEE/HEAR in the Pirates of the Caribbean clip, one for THINK, and one for WONDER), and we then shared their ideas.

STW music videos

This was to help generate ideas for a possible research topic about music.

Another day, we further tried to generate more ideas, so we used a “seed text” that all the students Read, Highlighted, and Annotated (RHA).  They were to highlight only 4 quotes per page (it was a two page article entitled “Why Your Brain Craves Music” by Michael D. Lemonick).   In this way, they had to be more discerning about what they highlighted instead of just highlighting willy-nilly (it gave them a purpose).  When they got to the annotations, they had to write one thing they THINK about EACH of the quotes highlighted, as well as one questions they WONDER about for each quote.  In this way, they have eight total concrete details, as well as (hopefully) significant commentary to work with.  We then shared what they SAW, THOUGHT, and WONDERED.

You can download the seed text here:

Why Your Brain Craves Music

RHA Music text

Again, we are generating more ideas for possible research topics.

Students then filled out a Thought Cloud worksheet… 8 possible ideas they might like to research about music.  You can download the worksheet here:

Inquiry Thought Cloud MUSIC

Once everyone had an opportunity to share, they were ready for the next step: Posing Inquiry Questions.