Senior Skills: Informed Discussions and Socratic Seminars

As you’ve practiced being active listeners and effective communicators in your small groups the past week, you’ve received feedback on how to improve the discussions you’ve been having. Now it is time to actively work towards having informed, academic discussions in the form of Socratic seminars.

What is a Socratic seminar? Informed by the teaching of Socrates, a Socratic seminar is much easier that its name suggests – it is a discussion that encourages participants to rely on questioning techniques to examine a topic or issue.  There are three types of questions I’m looking for in our discussions:

Literal Questions: Literal questions are at the very beginning of a seminar to ensure comprehension of the text. These questions can be answered directly from the text. The answers are contained within the text and are stated clearly. These are very basic questions and should only be used at the beginning of a discussion. Sample literal questions might ask for an important text detail, fact, or quote. Example: “Where does Thoreau actually mention the bean-rows in Walden?”

Interpretive Questions: These questions ask students to interpret the text. They should be genuine questions – ones that you are also interested in. No single right answer exists, but arguments can be made to support different positions. Students need to make their points using passages from the text to answer these questions. Example: “What do you think was the reasons the author alluded to [outside text] on page 334 in his novel?

Evaluative Questions: Evaluative questions are sometimes used at the very end of a seminar, to allow students to share their own positions and opinions. Answers to evaluative questions rely on student’s own experiences – either personal first person experience, a connection to another text or media consumed, or a connection to a historical event – not on the text itself. Students will not need to cite particular passages to answer these questions. Sample evaluative questions might ask for student opinions about the author’s position, or how the ideas in the text relate to their own lives. Example: “When MLK discussed the ‘Other America’ in his speech, it reminded me of actual lines from Childish Gambino’s song ‘This is America’, and I wondered if he was making a direct reference to King because…”

 

Click here for a worksheet to practice brainstorming questions before the seminar.

If ‘literal’, ‘evaluative’ and ‘interpretive’ is confusing, you can also think of the questions you need to ask in these context

 

When we conduct seminars in class, you’ll first work in your small groups. During this time you will be responsible for the duties of your ‘role’ – see the post about active listening and effective communication if you don’t remember what your role is. You will need to take this seriously and keep track of your group member’s performance with this checklist. Being diligent in keeping your group communicating effectively will make the next step in seminar much easier –

After small groups you will move on to whole class discussion. Look back at the questions that sparked the most debate or conversation in your small groups – which of those would you like to pose to the whole class? You will receive a grade for how often your group participates in the whole class discussion. Please see the guidelines below.
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12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

In Chaucer’s time the church was the established cultural center of British life, and the power and importance of the church outranked even the monarchy. Towns and villages that once grew around lords providing protection now grew up around church and cathedrals. Worshipers traveled to receive sacraments and to indulgences, and to see the relics of holy saints. Men gained social status and education through working their way up through the clergy, and the church provided guidance to the people on all moral and spiritual matters.

At the same time, British society was changing – a new merchant middle class meant that upward mobility was possible for a greater number of people, as was societal influence.

Chaucer’s famous work, The Canterbury Tales, comments on these societal changes. Throughout the text we see the relationship between the classes and their expected behavior, the role of women in medieval society, the importance (and sometimes corruption) of the church through the stories of 29 individuals who are going in a pilgrimage to the cathedral at Canterbury.

Watch the video below for information on how Chaucer used language to make this social commentary.

Click here to access the stories from class with interlinear translations.

You have each been given one of four tales: The Prioress’ Tale, the prologue to the Pardoner’s Tale, the Miller’s Tale and the Reeves’ Tale. Watch the videos below for background information on each tale you’ve been assigned. Then click here to access your project over the tale from The Canterbury Tales. 

The Prioress

The Pardoner

 

The Reeve

The Miller

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

From ‘Old’ to ‘Middle’ English

As we move away from the warrior culture and oral tradition of Beowulf and “The Dream of the Rood”, and into the established British culture of the middle ages, we will also look at how English changed form ‘Old’ to ‘Middle.

With the Norman Conquest in 1066AD, French became the language of the royals, the court, and the legal system, while Latin was still the language of the Catholic Church. With the introduction of French, ‘Old English’ began to change, losing the special endings off of adverbs and adjectives, introducing

Tyndale Bible

‘softer’ sounds and the upward inflecting vowel at the end of words. Over 10,000 words were also introduced into English from French during this time, though were distinctions existed French was still preferred. Despite these changes, English was still the language of the ‘common people’.

Once the black plague decimated the population and the working-merchant class grew (1340-1360)  – once the British took back over the monarchy from France (1453) – and once the Bible was translated into English by WilliamTyndale (1534), English began to take its place as a language with more power in British culture.


12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Leading Through Language – Analysis of Modern Traits of Leadership Through Language Use

As we’ve analyzed the speeches in Beowulf and discussed how they illustrate the traits of leadership that were prized during that time period, it is important to consider what traits of leadership we expect in modern leaders, and how we expect them to convey these traits to us through their use of language.

In class you read excerpts from a variety of different leaders over the past 60 years. In each of these speeches you identified leadership qualities you believed were important:

  • Compassion and empathy for one’s fellow man.
  • Humility.
  • A focus on bringing others together.
  • Wisdom through experience.
  • Education and intelligence.
  • Reliability and trustworthiness.
  • Strong moral or ethical convictions.
  • Being able to relate to others or “real”.

Many of these speeches utilized the same techniques in language to express these traits of leadership – here is the list of most common techniques from our notes in class:

  • Allusions to other great leaders to cement education, moral and ethical convictions and credibility.
  • Repetition of third person pronouns such as ‘we’ and ‘us’  to bring the audience and speaker together and unify them behind a common cause.
  • Descriptions of lived experiences to illustrate wisdom through experience and to humanize the speaker and appeal to pathos.
  • Diction that contained strong, assertive language to illustrate a speaker’s seriousness and sincerity, their morals and ethics, or their willingness to fight for their cause and selflessness in giving up their own life/time for that cause.
  • Parallelism to reinforce the speaker’s beliefs, or to show they are confident that they have the authority to make repeated requests of higher authorities (or the audience).

While we only read one page excerpts from each of these speeches, you can find the full version of them below. I encourage you to watch them and continue your analysis of these speakers’ language use, and how they use language to demonstrate they possess the traits we desire of our leaders. Also, examine how they use their body language – though we haven’t discussed this yet in class, it is important to remember that speeches are a verbal/visual experience…though we read the text of these speeches and analyze their language use, the speaker’s physical presentation is just as important.

Click here to read the excerpt from class, or what the videos below.

The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding by John Wooden

Nelson Mandela, 1964 ‘I am prepared to die’

Malala Yousafzai addresses United Nations Youth Assembly

Martin Luther King Jr. at Stanford University – The Other America

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech

Barack Obama’s Presidential Announcement

 

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Old English – The Dream of the Rood

So far in the course we’ve focused heavily on the depiction of the Anglo Saxon warrior culture and the comitatus – the relationship between a warrior and his lord is the focus of the poem “The Wanderer”, and a key part to understanding characters and motivations in “Beowulf”.

In our reading of the poem “The Dream of the Rood”, we will see a clearer example of how the early Anglo Saxon culture blended with the introduction of Christianity to the British Isles. Be sure to pay attention to how this text works to very different ideas – the violent, warrior culture of the Anglo-Saxon’s with the mild and forgiving culture of Christianity.

The poem comes to us from engravings on a large cross from the 8th century (700’s AD) – in fact, this version of the story is older than any of the manuscript versions that still survive. The story of “The Dream of the Rood” is engraved on the surface of the cross, and would have served the purpose of telling the story of Christ to those who could not read (because they were illiterate in general, or in Latin). The Ruthwell Cross was also created during the period of ‘The Cult of the Cross’, where the crucifixes roll as an important symbol is Christian religion was born. During this period the role and worship of the cross as a physical manifestation of Christ was common, with stories of crucifixes coming to life to protect the churches they houses in from invaders being common.

The cross was destroyed during the early 17th century (1600’s AD) during a period when Protestants rejected the praise of icon/iconography in the church. It was reassembled in the 19th century.

For more background on “The Dream of the Rood” and the Ruthwell Cross on which the oldest remaining copy of the poem exists, please watch the videos below (note: the audio on the background video about the Ruthwell Cross is very poor – apologies).

 

Click here to access a copy of the poem, if you have lost your own copy from class.

The poem of “The Dream of the Rood” also give us the chance to examine the narrative technique of ‘framing’.

The poem itself is the recounting of a dream by a monk – he opens up the poem by describing going to sleep and being awoken by a brilliant ‘tree of glory’, and from there the tree itself tells us the story of his journey to become the cross that Christ was crucified on, before the narrative returns to the monk finishing up his retelling.

The frame narrative is used often to highlight the mystical, fantastic or magical nature of the ‘inner story’. By first presenting the reader/listener with a ‘normal’ set of characters and actions, it make the interior story seemed even more removed and distant, thus heightening how fantastical the actions of the story are view.

In “The Princess Bride”, a grandfather tells his sick grandson the tale of Princess Buttercup and the Pirate Wesley. The frequent interruptions by his grandson into the story remind the viewer of the framing device, and heighten the absurdity of the story.

Forrest Gump is actually sitting on a park bench, telling each new stranger the story of his life. By cutting back to the framing device bench and finding a seemingly new person/listener each time, the also unbelievable and fantastic events of his life are broken up. This means the accepting reactions of the individuals on the bench make it easier for the viewer to accept the reality that Gump is presenting.

cruc62

In “The Dream of the Rood”, the visitation of the ‘tree of glory’ that Christ was crucified on heightens the mystical, supernatural power of God in the poem. The fact that it is a Monk, a man of God, that see the cross in a dream reinforces this idea. The supernatural elements of the tale would also appeal to the recently converted Anglo Saxons.

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Senior Skills: Communicating through Speaking AND Listening

Being able to communicate with others verbally is one of the most important skills you can learn, and can improve your outcomes in all areas of life – personal, academic and career oriented. Though we live in the 21st century, with a smartphone in every pocket, you will not be able to get by in life through your mastery of text-messages, emails and DM’s (sorry guys).

But being a successful communicator isn’t just about learning how to talk to others – it is also about learning how to listen. 

Over the course of the semester we’ll be building your skills as a public speaker and an active listener. You’ll be assessing each other as we go along as well, and providing feedback to classmates (as well as receiving feedback from me). You will eventually be graded on your performance as a speaker and active listener based on your ability to demonstrate 16 key skills:

  1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  2. Come to discussions prepared having read and researched material under study and draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  3. Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  4. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that engage others’ reasoning and evidence and ensures that you are hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue.
  5. Clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions of others in a respectful manner that promote divergent and creative perspectives.
  6. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives by synthesizing comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue.
  7. Work together to resolve contradictions in information when possible and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task/discussion.
  8. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems.
  9. Evaluate the credibility and accuracy of all sources and note any discrepancies among the data.
  10. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, connection among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
  11. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, so that listeners can follow the line of reasoning.
  12. Address perspectives that are alternative or opposed to your own, and do so in a counter argument where the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience.
  13. Make strategic use of digital media (textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
  14. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
  15. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  16. Vary syntax for effect, consulting references for guidance as needed; apply an understanding of syntax to the study of complex texts when reading.

Before you are assessed though, you’ll need to learn how to do these things and practice. 🙂 Working in your groups, you need to watch the following videos and answer two questions:

What makes a ‘good’/active listener?

What makes a ‘good’/effective communicator’?

Then, you’ll need to work on step 3 above – “Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.” Establish who will fulfill the following roles for your group:

The ‘Eyes’ of the group works to look for resources to be used in discussion – they conduct research and are responsible for sharing documents and information with the group. If something needs to be found to improve discussion or arguments, they look for it. They are also responsible for keeping their ‘eye’ on all group members to ensure they are fully engaged, and reports any lack of engagement to the other group members and the teacher.

The ‘Ears’ of the group are in charge of assessing if active listening is taking place, and redirecting group members when it becomes clear that it is not. They report any group members that are not actively listening to the other members and the teacher. They have an important role in ensuring true communication is taking place. These students also are responsible for actively listening to other groups and the teacher, and relaying that information back to their group.

The ‘Nose’ of the group is responsible for sniffing out the accuracy and honesty of statements and resources being used. They check for bias and reliability in all resources and documents the group decides to reference. They also work to give feedback to group members when their communication seems bias or disingenuous. Any use of plagiarism or overly bias/disrespectful communication is identified by the nose and reported to the group and teacher. When debating with other groups, they are responsible for checking the opponents’ credibility.

The ‘Mouth’ is the group member who checks that others are using effective verbal communication. They must assess if others are demonstrating the seven traits of effective speakers, and give feedback based on their performance. Group members that consistently cannot improve verbal communication are reported to the teacher by the mouth. When conversing with other groups, they are the first member to speak on behalf of their party.

 

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Senior Skills – How To Take Effective Notes

Throughout this first week of class we have covered a lot of content – your summer reading novel, the early history of English in the Anglo Saxon period and the differences between modern and Old English, Anglo Saxon poems “The Wanderer”, Beowulf, and the story of “The Dream of the Rood”. With your first test coming up, you need to ask yourself – am I taking enough notes? Am I taking ‘good’ notes?

As seniors you will probably realize that reading over assignments or texts once will not be enough – likewise, jotting things down in class and reading over them once will also probably not be sufficient to get the grade you desire. Below you will find a few helpful tips for note-taking that will (hopefully) help you out this semester.

1.Write things down in class, but know that these are not ‘notes’. Good notetakers re-write their messy notes.

You’re probably thinking “Wait, what?”, but yes – your messy, jotted down notes from class are not actually good ‘study notes’. Rewriting these notes for legibility does two things – one, it gives you a better copy to study from in the future and two, is a form of studying and reinforcing the information as you have to read the text (visual/cognitive) and rewrite the text (knesthetic/cognitive). See the student examples of messy class notes, and rewritten notes below.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Find a method of notetaking that works for you – yes, there are different ways to take notes!

Simply writing everything your teacher says in a long list is not effective note-taking. You need to find a way of organizing your notes that works for you, whether its a formal style like Cornell Notes or the Outline Method (this works great for textbook note-taking), or even the Doodle Method (yes, drawing pictures helps!). Maybe you have a system of using highlighted sections, color coding, or diagrams. Whatever it is, find the method that works for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Don’t try to write everything down in class.

As seniors you hopefully know by now that trying to copy everything down word for word from a powerpoint, or that your teacher says, is a fruitless endeavor. You need to focus on getting just the key facts down, and doing so in your own voice. Re-reading my technical, dry powerpoint text later isn’t as effective as reading your own voice and natural word choice. Additionally, when you rewrite your notes (see #1 above) you can also go back and add in extra detail that you didn’t have a chance to get in class. Moreover, you will have the benefit of having the entire class to ruminate on, and all the additional connections you made to integrate and add to your notes later.

 

4. You can also RECORD your notes!

Are you an auditory learner? You may want to consider downloading a free sound recording app on your phone (voice memo for ISO is terrible you guys…) and recording yourself reading these notes. I am a strong auditory learner – because of this I use up most of my data on audiobooks and podcasts – and I remember the things I hear. This also means that for big projects, or when I attend a conference and have ideas I’d like to work on or get back to later, I record myself discussing these ideas outloud. Later, I can play them back to jog my memory, or to transcribe in any written or typed notes I take. Or, you can read your written notes aloud and listen to that sound file when its time to study. There are all kinds of new apps coming out for auditory note-takers, but if you don’t want to pay for them, just get a free sound recording app and try it out.

 

5. You might use a variety of note-taking styles.

I listen to auditory notes and podcasts and audiobooks. I jot quick notes on sheets of paper or handouts or napkins or whatever I have around. I rewrite my notes to look ‘neat’ and usable long into the future. I highlight, underline, use different colored highlights. I use everything I need to have effective notes that help me remember the content so I can put it to use and learn it – and so I can refer back to it whenever I need a refresher. Know that you may use a combination of lots of different styles until you find what works for you! Below you’ll see an example of notes I took FIVE YEARS AGO that I STILL USE. In them I employed a variety of styles of notetaking… how many styles will work for you?

 

 

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018