Category Archives: Pop Culture

Teaching Fahrenheit 451

I just thought I’d throw out into cyberspace what I like to do when teaching Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

  1. First, we read Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” and talk about Bradbury’s views.
  2. I begin the next few days by sharing a number of statistics about television and media in general. Each day I provide 5-8 stats or statements by researchers about the effects of technology, television, and media on people. Then, I have the students compose a reaction which kickstarts a daily discussion. We do this for 3-4 days.
  3. Each of these 3-4 days I show a clip from I Love Lucy, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Honeymooners, and Leave It To Beaver to see what types of shows Bradbury may have seen on TV.
  4. I share the article “Hell Is Other I-Pods” with the students. First, we pull out the thesis statement, identify the evidence provided, and other essay elements. Then, the students discuss the article as part of a Socratic Seminar.
  5. I also shared this linked article this year. This interview with a neuroscientist fascinated my students.
  6. All the while I spread out the reading of Bradbury’s novel.
  7. Lastly, I show the students interviews with Ray Bradbury from his website.

My students told me this was their favorite unit of the year. Maybe it was all of the technology and TV use. 🙂

The Great Debate

Over at the Seattle Times a blog post from Ed Cetera has sparked some conversation around the water cooler in our English Department. In the posting Ed Cetera wonders why people love J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and then he mentions his love for Twain’s Huck Finn over Salinger’s Holden Caulfield.

I believe it’s a difficult comparison to make since the two novels are so vastly different. While Huck journeys south, Twain uses Huck’s experiences to comment on the inhumane treatment of humans, the need for human equality, and the importance of education. However, Salinger seems to want a young protagonist to point out how superficial and “phony” society has become. Holden searches for something real while Huck searches for a reason to remain in society; still, both seem to be looking for their places in the world.

Feel free to weigh in on here or on the comments section of the Seattle Times blog post. Either way, I’m curious to hear what you have to say.

Upcoming in January

I just finished planning for January, and I’m going to be teaching the following this month.

American Literature: First, we’ll review the Edgar Allan Poe writings (“The Raven” and “Masque of the Red Death” and “The Tell Tale Heart”) as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment.” I actually used an excerpt of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which is in our textbook, as an introduction to the Poe unit. King’s piece is great for explaining how people’s curiosity is virtually uncontrollable and how the unknown is the scariest of all scares. This was a fun unit, and the kids loved it. It was the most energetic and intrigued they had been all year.

In January we will be reading Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage and looking at Impressionism, Naturalism, and Realism. Then, we’ll follow that up with Nathaniel Hawnthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.”

Mythology: We almost finished our examination of Greek mythology but need to finish The Fall of Troy and the tales of Odysseus. That should take us the first week of the month.

Then, we’re going to read Beowulf, compare and contrast Norse Creation with the Greek version and then read some Norse tales. This will finish the semester. We completed our major project this semester, so we have a fun finish to the class. I will probably show a couple films after school and look at how the myths are changed for films (maybe Troy, the early 80s Clash of the Titans, The Odyssey, or the new animated Beowulf).  Sometimes I show the kids the documentary about the mythology of Star Wars if time permits. It’s one that the students like (especially when the film director Kevin Smith says “of course” Annakin is the perfect villain to ruin the universe since Annakin is “an emo kid”).

Sophomore Honors: We finished up Ender’s Game before the Winter Break, which the students really enjoyed. Most of the class went out and purchased or shared the sequel during the vacation time. I got a number of e-mails regarding the Ender and Bean books. It’s nice to see the kids inspired to read more.

This month we’re looking at classic fairy tales and then reading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. We’ll compare and contrast the film with the novel, and we’ll look at how Goldman satirizes fairy tales and contemporary society. We may even compose an ABC story which I’ve blogged about in the past.

That’s all for now. TTFN! 🙂

Avatar and the Classroom

I recently went to see James Cameron’s Avatar (in 3-D no less) and was visually awed. In my lifetime few movies made me feel like I had seen a change in cinema, but there have been a few: Star Wars, Aliens, Jurassic Park, and Lord of the Rings.

After watching Cameron’s groundbreaking movie, I reflected on themes that could be turned into lessons by using clips of Avatar. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  • the preservation of the planet,
  • the connectivity of all life on Earth,
  • imperialism,
  • the western expansion of the Americans into Native American territories,
  • the bully tactics of larger nations against smaller nations in acquiring desired resources,
  • word choices (in particular, the ore sought is called “unobtainium”),
  • the idea of the white savior aiding the people of color,
  • a dependence on technology versus a life living off of natural resources,
  • military and diplomatic tactics/solutions, and
  • how this film is actually a love story.

I’m sure there are more themes in the film, but these are my initial thoughts. Any ideas from the film that you think could be added to the list? Any ideas you think don’t work? Let me know.

Great but not the Greatest of the Day

Dallin Palmer had a great night against Kennewick: “Dallin Palmer rumbled for 300 yards and Stephen Garcia ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for another as Southridge pounded the Lions on the ground.”

300 yards rushing is a rarity in high school football, any level of football really, and Palmer should be proud and probably thought no one in the conference would match it. He would be the talk of the league for the week.

However, Jacob Sealby had an even bigger night, setting a single game and career rushing mark, with 322 yards rushing against Sunnyside: “Sealby ran for 322 yards on 26 carries, setting the school single-game mark, previously established by Nate Gowing (305 yards) in 2005 at Davis. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Sealby now has 1,312 yards rushing this season, giving him 2,175 for his career in purple and gold, eclipsing the mark of 2,088 set by Tyce Thomas in 2007.”

What an amazing night of football!

I tend to look at the stat lines in games, and I love looking for these types oddities. One player has a career game, which would normally be the highlight of the evening sports report, but another athlete in the same league (or even game sometimes) has a bigger one. Baseball is normally the arena where this happens most often, but it happens elsewhere as well.

Of course, my mind wandered right back to teaching and education in general. I sometimes see the stories in the newspaper or on television where a school is highlighted for its miraculous improvement in state test scores or the increase in the number of students taking AP courses, and I really wish there could be a regular segment of a news program or a section in the newspaper reserved for the greatness around us every day.

I want to hear about the incremental improvements over time in my local schools, to see the pictures and names of the kids who are the first in their families to earn a diploma, to read about the teacher who works with the most difficult populations without any accolades, to know about the teachers who work behind the scenes and put in boatloads of hours working to improve education for the kids, and so on.

The stories about individual greatness are fun, but I want the realities and the unsung heroes of my profession. Maybe I’m just channeling an old post–I don’t know–but I do respect those local greats who live without honors and awards and still do everything they can to help kids and colleagues.

WALL-E and the Classroom

My nephews are here, and we’re having movie night with WALL-E and popcorn.

Ever since I first saw this movie I thought that the first section of the film would be excellent for an environmental studies unit while the last section in space would be great for Self-Reliance and the theme of independence.

Of course, the space section could also be part of a technology unit or a health unit as well.

I’m guessing Ray Bradbury would have a commentary for us, especially if you’ve read his short story “The Pedestrian” or Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations.”

There’s just so much in this movie!

Obama Speaks to Kids

President Obama gave his speech to students today on C-SPAN, and I had not planned on having my students watch it since it’s not directly germane with the course of study; however, my students requested to watch it, and I let them.

Here is the transcript.

I don’t really understand the objections to Obama’s speech since his message was to become successful in school.

However as I heard today, if you play it backwards you can hear his Communist plan to indoctrinate our youth and to destroy America…or it’s simply the perfect cheesecake recipe. I can’t tell which. 🙂