Blackout Poetry with The Book Thief

In The Book Thief, Max takes Hitler’s memoir Mein Kampf, white washes the pages and from that creates something beautiful.  Through this lesson plan, students have the opportunity to do the same.

As my roommate said as we were doing this together, “I’m taking Hitler’s words, reducing it down to 10%, and now it’s so much better!”

Mine’s about zombies. Teehee.

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Lesson plan after the jump.

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Hunger Games – Classical Allusions Poster

I saw Catching Fire yesterday. Ohmygoodness, so good. I highly recommend it. Team Peeta all the way.

That got me in the mood to create a poster that highlights some (of many) Classical allusions that can be found in the books and movies.

Hunger Games

I got the text here, at slate.com, and the article has even more examples of Classical allusions in character names. They even explain the etymology of other names, Classical or no.

Downloads after the jump.

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Kriss Kross, part II

I can’t believe I forgot to put this up here. I made another crossword puzzle a few weeks ago, something to keep kids busy while I was subbing for middle school study hall.

On one side of the page I copied a handout on the 12 (but really 14) Olympians. I forgot to include Hestia, dernnit. Maybe I’ll update it at some point to include her. On the other was the crossword. For some reason, middle schoolers really love crosswords. Go figure. Downloads after the jump.

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All hail the almighty quote burger!

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An oldie but a goodie. Using a burger as a symbol for how to effectively integrate a direct quote in an essay, we discussed today how to:

  1. give context to a quote (top bun),
  2. quote the original work (burger patty),
  3. cite correctly (bacon, because it ain’t worth nuttin without the bacon!),
  4. and relate the quote back to the topic sentence of the paragraph and thesis statement of the paper (bottom bun, without which the whole thing falls apart).

I stole a thesis statement from SparkNotes, and paired it with a quote from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (which they recently read), and we put the two together as a class.

It took some prodding but we got a nice end product:

Initially a means of alleviating the pain of war and private grief, their affair continues to serve the very practical purpose of masking life’s difficulties. As Henry and Catherine are in the Milan hospital, they discuss past relationships. Henry lies about it, but Catherine doesn’t mind. She says, “It’s all right. Keep right on lying to me. That’s what I want you to do. Were they pretty?” (91). She lets him lie to her in order to suppress memories of her late fiance and potentially harmful knowledge of her present lover.

Not perfect, but not bad for rising 8th and 9th graders, eh?

Student Project on Founding Figures

I’ve been looking more and more at comparative mythology lately – the similarities between the myths of various cultures. Many believe that most myths have at least an original basis in some form of truth, and for that reason many mythical archetypes transfer beyond one single mythology. This in turn expands to modern mythologies; we still look to gods, heroes and god-like heroes for inspiration.

In this assessment I created for a grad school project, students will explore the ancient-modern connection more thoroughly though an in-depth look at the Aeneas myth and mythical foundation figures in general. The Latin textbook Ecce Romani introduces the myth of Aeneas early on in the first text of the series, and many teachers love to bring in Vergil’s Aeneid for more advanced students to read in translation. For younger readers, a simplified version of the epic by Emily Frenkel and Simon Weller could be used.

In Part I of the project, they will compare two mythical founders to discover what traits are found in the archetype, and write up the similarities and differences in an essay form. I gave the following as choices for their comparisons:

  • Gilgamesh (Iraq)
  • Rurik (Russia)
  • Arthur (England)
  • Jimmu (Japan)

These of course could be added to as seen fit. The variety of cultures seen here, each with a founding figure that shares traits with the others, speaks to the power of this particular archetype.

In Part II of the project, they will create their own founding myth, putting a creative spin on it and making the archetype their own. Because I am based in Chicago, I ask them to create a founding figure for this troubled city.

By looking at Aeneas, the typified Roman hero, as well as other such figures from around the world, they will discover what traits they find in those they look up to. Downloads after the jump.

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Jason and the Golden Trivia

The 4-6th graders I’m working with were asked to read a condensed version of the Apollonius’ Argonautica. The book of choice was Jason and the Golden Fleece by James Riordan (no relation to Rick), with illustrations by Jason Cockcroft.

The book is well-written and the illustrations are gorgeous. Some liberties are taken with the myth, of course, particularly with Medea. According to the story, she and Jason live happily ever after until she dies peacefully of old age. Um, yeah… A bit off. But a good read for the 3-5th grade level.

To test their comprehension of the reading, we played a trivia game. Because these kids are obsessed with mythology, the questions are for the most part more advanced. A copy for the questions as well as a link to the book are after the jump.

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Whap! Biff! Ka-POW!

For Christmas this year, I gave my 13-year-old cousin a series of Spider-Man comic books. He’s never been much of a reader, but he DEVOURED those few issues in a matter of hours. Got me thinking. Comic books and graphic novels are often regarded as lesser forms of literature, but if it gets a kid reading who normally dreads the task, how can that be a bad thing?

Adam West Batman is the best Batman.

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Desdemona has been poked by Iago.

The omnipresence of social media in our students’ lives is simply a reality. No use denying it. Might as well take advantage of that to help them connect with literature by putting it in a context they are already quite familiar with!

Come on, admit it. You’ve seen them. Those funny fake Facebook profiles and conversations between fictional or historical people. You’ve seen them and chuckled at them. Well, your students have seen them, too. Might as well make ’em learn something from it.

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