English 9 Regents: Forming Evidence-Based Claims (Steinbeck/Migrant Workers)

Students had to RHA (read/highlight/annotate) a short biography of John Steinbeck from eNotes, as well as an article entitled “The Migrant Experience” by Robin A. Fanslow.  Click on the links for the text.

John Steinbeck bio

The Migrant Experience

Students had to ONLY select three quotes PER PAGE, and their annotations had to be an explanation of WHY that particular selection was particularly important.  I am trying to get them to be more discerning about what they choose to highlight and why.

Once they had three per page, it was time to begin the Forming Evidence-Based Claims form.  They worked with their partners in selecting which topic/text they wanted to work with of the two:

Focus on a specific TRAIT of John Steinbeck based on evidence from the biographical article


Focus on one ASPECT of the life of a migrant worker based on evidence from “The Migrant Experience” text

kids 3 kids 1 kids 2

Here are some student samples using the biographical material:

Machayla EBC Steinbeck bio

Tyler EBC Steinbeck bio

These examples use “The Migrant Experience”:

Brandan EBC Migrant

Katelyn EBC Migrant

Noah EBC Migrant

After completing the Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet, the students then used it to write a three-chunk paragraph on their chosen topic.

After having done many of these exercises throughout the first half of the school year, many of the students were able to complete both the worksheet AND the paragraph within one class period (55 minutes).  The remaining students were permitted to finish them for homework.


English 9 Regents: “The Migrant Experience” (VT)

Today’s Visible Thinking Exercise was a photograph of some migrant workers from the 1930’s.  Student had to write down ten things they saw, but they had to use non-alliterative adjective/adjective/noun combinations.  We are working on becoming more thoughtful and/or insightful in describing details so as to move beyond the obvious.  The idea is that this will help them focus on choosing stronger details in text as well.

Of Mice and Men Migrant WorkersThey had to focus on details that showed something about the setting of the photograph as well as about the men they saw.

Students then shared with a partner what they saw in the photograph, being sure to comment on the use of adjective/adjective/noun combinations.

After they shared, they returned to their seats and wrote three things they THINK about the picture.  The catch was the ONE of them had to be something they thought about the setting and why, the second had to be about what they thought about one of the men in the picture and why, and then the third was something different they thought about one of the other men.

They then had to write three things they WONDER about the picture, following the same instructions for the THINK category.  In this way, they opened their focus to include two “characters” as well as the setting.

We then followed with our usual routing of using three colored Post-Its for See/Think/Wonder and the students shared what they had written.


VT Migrant Experience

After they were done sharing, they had to write a paragraph about what the lives of migrant workers were like, based on the photograph.  We will do the same writing exercise using text in an upcoming class.

English 9 Enriched: Gulliver’s Travels in Lilliput

As students prepare to write a variety of satirical materials, I asked them to make a list of things they find ridiculous in our society.   I asked them to use the following format:

I think ____________ is ridiculous because _________________.

These are some of the things they came up with:

1. I think boy bands are ridiculous because of their temper tantrums and overpriced concert tickets.

2. I think the reality show Honey Boo Boo is ridiculous because they publicly humiliate themselves.

3. I think Justin Bieber is ridiculous because he had fame but then became irresponsible and felt he could do anything he wanted.

4. I think that people’s priorities are ridiculous because many seem to value unimportant ideas more than one that matter.

5.  I think teen romance novels are ridiculous because they all have the same basic story line and are often written badly.

“What if…?”

Once they had a core idea of something they thought was ridiculous, I asked them to create some “What if…?” questions to try to flush out some creativity.

Before doing this, we looked at Jonathan Swift’s “What if…?” questions from Gulliver’s Travels.

1.  What if I suddenly found myself in a place filled with people only six inches high?

2.  What if I suddenly found myself in a place filled with giants?

3.  What if I suddenly found myself in a place where horses were the ruling creatures and humans were wild animals?

Since today we were speaking specifically about Lilliput, I placed the following exercise on the overhead:

What if I suddenly found myself in a place filled with people only 6 inches high?

–          I would definitely _________________ (two CREATIVE responses)

–          I could possibly ____________________ (three CREATIVE responses)

–          Identify three things/events that might be considered ridiculous about Gulliver’s adventures in the Land of Lilliput (what could be seen as satirical).  I do NOT want you to think about the HISTORY of England at this time.  You will have an opportunity to do that later.  I want you to consider what might be a ridiculous aspect of mankind in general that is satirical in this situation.

We ended up with some interesting discussions:

Gulliver’s submission to the Lilliputians was ridiculous because of his great size.  They compared this to people giving in to others too easily: parents giving into kids throwing a tantrum, women giving in to controlling men, kids giving in to bullies that they could easily deal with if they only stood up for themselves.

Even though Gulliver saved the palace from being burned to the ground by urinating on it, he was charged with treason for public urination.  They compared this to someone who used the Heimlich Maneuver to save someone’s life only to get sued by the person he saved because the rescuer accidentally broke one of the choking victim’s ribs in the process.

The bickering over low and high heels is like the bickering between the social classes today.  They even made mention of the bickering between the Democrats and Republicans, even though both are American political parties.

They also brought up the ludicrous fighting over which end to break when eating an egg.  They compared that to the Protestants and the Catholics killing each other in Ireland even though both are Christian groups.  They used the same reference to other religions.

The Lilliputians immediately judged  Gulliver as something evil and tied him up the minute they saw him.  They said this was like making judgments  against anything/anyone that is new and very different from what is commonly known.


English 9 Enriched: Parody, Satire, and Gulliver’s Travels


We will begin our study of satire and parody with Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.  While we discuss various aspects of the novel, we will also examine modern forms of satire and parody, including:

– the editorial/political cartoon (including drawing one themselves)

– song parodies (Weird Al Yankovic and then writing their own)

– early television satire and parody (Saturday Night Live)

– satirical animated television (students will select their own episodes from YouTube to analyze)

– satirical “news” shows (The Daily Show, The Colbert Report)
We will begin with a Visible Thinking exercise using the following video (click image to go to the link):
Students will also select a social/political issue that they wish to satirize.  Research on the issue is required in order to understand what is going on before attempting to create satire or parody.  This will be the basis for the satirical short story that they will be composing for our annual short story project.Student-selected entries will be published in an anthology that will be available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble’s online store.

English 9 Enriched: Mythic Journeys (Pt 2)

Mythic JourneysPreparation:  Each group needs to discuss the King’s response to the riddle and predict what the Corpse may have entered as a counter if he hadn’t simply gone back to the tree.  Do not simply offer that there is another side to the story; be prepared to explain the other side.  You will also have to, as the King, attempt to refute the Corpse’s alternate explanation (he IS a King after all!).

Each group will also briefly look over the other group’s stories so as to be familiar enough with them to play the Corpse when their “King” gets up to present his answer.

Sharing:  Share the King’s response to the Corpse’s riddle for your story, and explain what makes the King believe this is the correct answer (be sure to offer at least two pieces of evidence from the text as support for his answer).

Countering:  Other groups will listen to what the King has to say, but will then play the role of the Corpse (if he hadn’t simply gone back to the tree) and offer an alternate answer to the riddle, also offering textual evidence.  Let’s see how many alternate responses you can come up with!

Refuting: The King will then attempt to prove why the Corpse’s response is not the best answer and to re-affirm his original answer.

THEN the Corpse would jump back to the tree because the King’s argument, while logical, is not the ONLY answer.

That’s the point of the argument; the King has always presented his answers as THE answer, not AN answer (at least, not until after “African Kin”).  His response was too one-sided, and a solid argument has to acknowledge BOTH sides.

Writing:  Your group’s argument will be presented in the form of a four-chunk paragraph and shared online by Friday (one per group, so find a secretary); however, you are ALL responsible for the content of the paragraph and must work together on its creation.

Some Group Responses:

Background/Overview: In “The Bone Orchard” one story told by the corpse is the story of the Three Brahmin. This story tells of a maiden who dies, and three people who loved her in life and how they helped resurrect her. The Corpse asks the King “Whom should the maid take as her husband?”.

The King answers: “The one who protected her ashes and committed his life to honoring her demonstrated a husband’s devotion” (The Three Brahmin 49) and so he chooses this Brahmin over the others. The King is correct in his answer because this Brahmin cared for and looked over her ashes, while the others left to do something else.  This Brahmin “Constructed a sanctuary over her ashes” (The Three Brahmin 48) and remained there with her.  The King said that this Brahmin showed the most husband-like attributes. He constructed the sanctuary which shows love, care, compassion, and dedication. Additionally, these actions were done in “devout worship of his love” (The Three Brahmin 48) towards his departed love. These characteristics are found in good husbands, which prove that this Brahmin should be the maiden’s spouse. This, however, is not the only option as to whom the maiden should marry.   If the Corpse hadn’t gone back to the tree he might have argued that the second Brahmin should marry the maiden because he was a key person in bringing her back to life. This Brahmin “stumbled upon a magic book (The Three Brahmin 48) that had the ability to bring back life. He was essential in resurrecting the woman. He then hurried back to the cremation site, and helped bring back his love.   This statement could be true, but this is slightly problematic. The passage clearly states the Brahmin “stumbled upon a magic book” (The Three Brahmin 48) when he was drifting aimlessly through the world. This indicates that the Brahmin wasn’t searching for the book, but happened upon it by chance. He dropped out of society and was wandering the world as a beggar. He had given up on the woman and had no hopes of reviving her. He only found it by chance, and utterly giving up on something, even if it seems hopeless, is not a quality of a good husband.


Perspective plays an important role throughout storytelling, because each perspective gives a different solution. In each of the riddles of the “Bone Orchard”, the King attempts to correctly answer the riddles of the corpse. For “The Stupid Brothers” the corpse asks “Who is the stupidest of these brothers?” (The Stupid Brothers 50) and the King responds with “The brother who filled the bear with life is the most stupid of the four. In spite of his learning, he did not have the common sense to know that a living bear could be dangerous. Only a stupid person will bring a dead bear back to life” (The Stupid Brothers 50). This is logical because the first brother harmlessly puts the flesh and bones together, while the second brother is the one who physically gives the bear life. Although the corpse returns to the tree upon the king’s wrong answer, he could counter his response by arguing that the two brothers are equally stupid. The corpse’s probable counterargument could be legitimate because just as the first brother is stupid for putting the flesh and bones together, the second brother is stupid for “awakening the spirit of the animal” (The Stupid Brothers 50). The flesh and bones would have been useless without life, and the bear would have been nothing without the flesh and bones. However, some could argue that the first brother is the more foolish of the two because he “magically fused the bones together in the anatomy of a bear” (The Stupid Brothers 50). Without this act, the second brother may not decide to take the process a step further. Also, the brothers may rethink the idea to use their magic to impress their father by some other method. Despite these arguments, others may take a standpoint supporting the King, such that the second brother is still the more foolish. After all, he makes the decision to give the bear life, while the other brother merely sets its contents in place. It is his action alone that causes the bear to rise and kill the brothers, “tearing them limb from limb until they were all quite dead” (The Stupid Brothers 50). Although there may be many different arguments about exactly which brother is at fault, the result of those debates depend on the perspective from which the story is analyzed. 


In the story of Jacob and Isaac, the King comes to the conclusion that Isaac must have known the son that he eventually blessed was Jacob, and that the blessing was given nonetheless due to Isaac’s admiration for his son’s ambition. While he intended to give the blessing to his favorite son, Esau, after he prepared him a meal, Jacob entered Isaac’s room in a disguise of fur on his hands (mimicking Esau’s hairiness) with the meal in order to take on the blessing. However, he was reluctant; before he went through with this plan, he states that Isaac will know he is “a deceiver and will curse [him]” (53). This, therefore, may serve as proof that Isaac knew it was Jacob that came for the blessing, and simply gave it to him anyway; Isaac did not want to curse his own son. He obviously must have loved all of his children, even if he loved Esau most, and as such would have preferred to go along with the lie and give the blessing as opposed to exposing Jacob and having his hand forced into cursing a beloved son. Further proof of Isaac’s awareness of his son’s true identity is the fact that he questions who had entered his room, and, after receiving an answer, says that he recognizes “the voice of Jacob” (53). This demonstrates that Isaac was aware enough of his surroundings and the identity of his son that he could easily distinguish them. There is no way, no matter what deception Jacob put forth after, that Isaac could have been convinced that it was truly Esau rather than Jacob in his room.

Yeah, but what about those gloves, the fur covering Jacob’s hands? Isaac even says that despite hearing Jacob’s voice, “the hands [were] that of Esau” (53). It can’t be for certain that Isaac truly knew it wasn’t Esau, especially after so clearly having been deceived. Even though a father must always know his sons, a sick and dying man is not always the most sound of judgement, nor the type of person with a reliable memory.

If awareness is the problem, you need look no further than the fact that he asks once more after the first time if “[Jacob is] really Esau” (53). This continued suspicion shows that Isaac was aware enough of his surroundings and children to know that he may be in the midst of a trick. The gloves, while certainly providing doubt, only served to sharpen Isaac’s idea that the son who came to him was not truly Esau. This being established, Isaac could not have been ignorant of the fact that it was truly Jacob who had come to him.


English 9 Enriched: Mythic Journeys (Pt 1)


Mythic Journeys

We watched the riddle/storytelling portion of “The Bone Orchard” from the film Mythic Journeys.  In this section of the film, a corpse tells the King a series of stories (five are actually told, but 24 are referenced), each ending in a riddle for the King to answer.

The stories were: “The Three Brahmin,” “The Stupid Brothers,” “The Noble Emperor,” “Jacob and Isaac,” and “African Kin.”

For each group, they first had to discuss the King’s answer and present to the class why they believe the King thought it to be a plausible response.  Other groups have to then counter with why the Corpse did not accept the King’s answer, as well as compiling varying responses that COULD have been possible.

Ultimately, each group had to be sure to explain WHY there is no absolutely correct answer in each case.

After the groups presented to the class, we watched the King’s meeting with the Sorcerer in the Bone Orchard.