Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Weirdo" & "Something Else" by Miles Davis]
Culture is organized to exclude; that is, social order requires determining what is "outside" the realm of the human, or the real, or the legal, or the acceptable. Monsters, miracles, and anti-social human tendencies fall into these categories. How does the social order depicted in Beowulf do this? What is the attitude/tone toward that which is "outside" of culture/social order? How does it control the forces that threaten social stability within the hall?

1. Journal
2. Group discussions on Beowulf essay topics: literary elements, characterization, themes (with thanks to M. Siekmeier of

HW: Continue working on your resume (word to the wise-- don't procrastinate, and don't rush through it like an average school assignment...)

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 30

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm" by Cyril Smith; "The Old Sow Song" by Cyril Smith w/ Rudy Vallee; "I Won't Go Huntin' With You Jake (But I'll Go Chasin' Women)" by Stuart Hamblen]

Today's journal topic & tunes are in honor of my grandfather, who passed away August 21. (The picture below is from our last visit on August 5.) He loved music and telling/writing stories about the events and people in his life. Write a story about a special family member or friend that brings that person a little closer in your memory, and enjoy listening to some tunes that Grandpa sang to put a smile on more than a few faces.

1. Journal
2. Smile for the camera: school pics
3. Resume feedback/clarification/revision
4. Begin discussing Beowulf with partner/group to ensure complete comprehension notes

HW: Work on your resume

resume template

Here is an ancient, shoddy copy of a resume template. If you miss the class discussion about it make sure to check with a friend-- or post your questions here-- so that yours doesn't wind up looking like it's from a 1973 film strip.

***UPDATE*** Please Note: Your resume will ultimately tailored to the opportunity you're using it for, so keep in mind that you will tweak it accordingly for each scholarship and job application. I don't want to confuse anyone, so please remember that our current priority is higher education scholarship applications. Begin with the senior resume worksheet and structure (which you can see here) for your primary outline. I gave today's information on the functional resume in order to: 1)Discuss mechanics, and 2)Provide ways of making the resume a more specific, personal reflection of your accomplishments. If at this point you're not sure which formatting elements to use, wait until tomorrow when I return your first effort and discuss it with you personally.

sample resume -

August 29

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Early Morning Wake Up Call" by The Hives; "Early in the Morning" by Ray Charles]

Today is the first "early out" on our calendar. Some say this is a bad idea, given all the demands on our already-crowded learning time. Others say this is a good idea, given that they'd rather be anywhere else in the universe besides school. What is your opinion of early outs? What will you do with the extra time?

1. Journal/collect Beowulf HW
2. Vocabulary/have you recited "Laughing Heart"?
3. Notes on resume

1. Revise/resubmit resume Friday, September 2
2. Blogger search function feedback (optional)

Vocabulary: Fall List #3

sub rosa

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Please do NOT post your assignments as comments to the blog. Please bring hard copies (either handwritten or typed is fine) to class on Monday, August 29. Thanks.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Following are some resources to help introduce you to Beowulf. Please read/listen/read some more, then answer the comprehension questions at the bottom of the post. [*You may want to read these first.]

The Norton Anthology of English Literature is an outstanding reference work-- but we don't have copies on campus, so I am embedding pieces here.

First, an introduction that provides some historical context.

beowulf commentary from norton anthology


[These are cut/pasted with gratitude from the following URL with thanks to Prof. Boyer and St. Xavier University of Chicago:

The best beginning procedure is always to read the assignment all the way through, keeping track of characters, so that you know what's happening. If possible, read the whole work first. Try to get the big picture of the book (or section, or chapter) before getting bogged down in details. Read through, then go back and clear up details. Then you're ready to read the work closely with these questions in mind. (In the discussion below, page numbers in parentheses refer to the translation by Seamus Heaney in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 7th ed., vol. 1 [2000] unless otherwise indicated.)

Beowulf and Grendel (lines 1-1250)
Beowulf and Grendel's Mother (lines 1251-2199)
Beowulf and the Dragon (lines 2200-3182)

Important Characters

Beowulf, a Geat
Hygelac, King of the Geats
Hygd, Hygelac's Queen

Hrothgar, King of the Danes
Wealhtheow, his Queen

Wiglaf, a kinsman of Beowulf

Grendel's mother

a dragon
BEOWULF AND GRENDEL (lines 1-1250, pp. 32-60)

[Prologue: The Rise of the Danish Nation] (lines 1-85, pp. 33-34)

1.Realize that this prologue introduces the Danes, not Beowulf or his people the Geats. What was unusual about the way Shield came to be ruler of the Danes? What was his funeral like? What relation is Hrothgar to Shield?

[Heorot is Attacked] (lines 86-188, pp. 34-36)

1.What magnificent work did Hrothgar undertake? Who attacked it, and with what result? How long did the attacks last? What was the response of the Danes?

[The Hero Comes to Heorot] (lines 189-490, pp. 36-42)

1. What does Beowulf do when he hears of Hrothgar's problems with Grendel?
2. Whom do the Geats first meet when they arrive in Denmark? What does he do, and what do they do?
3. They next meet Hrothgar's herald. Who is he? What does he tell them? What does he tell Hrothgar? What does Hrothgar respond? Are you surprised that Hrothgar knows Beowulf so well?
4.What does Beowulf tell Hrothgar when he enters? What did Hrothgar do for Beowulf's father?

[Feast at Heorot] (lines 491-661, pp. 42-46)

1. What does Unferth accuse Beowulf of? How does Beowulf answer him? How is this episode relevant to the poem as a whole? What does Beowulf accuse Unferth of?
2. What is Queen Wealhtheow doing during the feasting?

[The Fight with Grendel] (lines 662-835, pp. 46-49)

1.Heroic poetry normally has a scene in which the hero arms for battle. What is different about Beowulf's preparations for his fight with Grendel?
2.What happens when Grendel enters Heorot? How does Beowulf fight with him? What happens when Grendel tries to leave? Does Grendel escape? What does he leave behind?

[Celebration at Heorot] (lines 836-1250, pp. 49-60)

1.When the Danes and Geats return from following Grendel's tracks to the mere, someone sings in Beowulf's presence, comparing him to Sigemund and saying that he was not like Heremod (lines 883-914). How is Beowulf like Sigemund? How is he not like Heremod? (Be alert for inserted stories such as this one. Beowulf contains many of them, most much more complex that this one.)
2.How does Hrothgar respond to Beowulf's deed? What does he offer to do for him? What does Unferth have to say now?
3.The singer sings of Finn during the feasting (lines 1070-1158). The exact details of the Finn story are not clear, but in general, what happens? What does it suggest about the wisdom of using a woman as bride to heal enmity between tribes?
4.When the feasting resumes, what does Wealhtheow ask Hrothgar not to do?
5.Wealhtheow gives Beowulf a large, broad necklace. What later happens to it? What does Wealhtheow ask Beowulf to do?
6.Why do so many men remain in the beer hall to sleep? Why is it a mistake?

BEOWULF AND GRENDEL'S MOTHER (lines 1251-2199, pp. 60-79)

[Another Attack] (lines 1251-1382, pp. 60-62)

1.Why has Grendel's mother come to Heorot? Is it the same reason Grendel had?
2.What is Hrothgar's response? Whom has Grendel's mother killed?
3.What sort of place is the mere?

[Beowulf Fights Grendel's Mother] (lines 1383-1650, pp. 63-68)

1.How does Beowulf tell Hrothgar to respond?
2.What happens at the mere before Beowulf enters it?
3.How does Beowulf prepare for the battle? What sword does he take with him?
4.What happens when Beowulf enters the mere? What is surprising about where Grendel and his mother live in the mere?
5.What happens to the sword Beowulf borrowed from Unferth?
6.At one point Beowulf is on the floor, with Grendel's mother sitting on him and drawing her knife. How does Beowulf escape?
7.How does Beowulf kill Grendel's mother? What weapon does he use? What happens when she dies? What does Beowulf take with him from her home? What happens to the sword he used to kill her?
8.What happens when Beowulf returns to the surface? Did his men expect him to return?

[Further Celebration at Heorot] (lines 1651-1798, pp. 68-71)

1.What does Beowulf give to Hrothgar?
2.What message does Hrothgar have for Beowulf? What and why does he tell us about Heremod? Why and how did Heremod die? What lesson does Hrothgar teach with the Heremod example?
3.What does Beowulf give to Unferth as he leaves?

[Beowulf Returns Home] (lines 1799-2199, pp. 71-79)

1.What future does Hrothgar predict for Beowulf?
2.Who is Hygd and why is she not like Modthryth?
3.Beowulf reports to Hygelac that Hrothgar may marry his daughter Freawaru to Ingeld. Why does he plan to do that? What does Beowulf expect the result will be? (Remember the Finn story, lines 1070-1158.) How does Beowulf think the peace will be broken? Is this the type of report we expected from the hero Beowulf, or are we seeing a new side of him?
4.How does Beowulf report about his own adventures? Does he report accurately?
5.What does Beowulf do with the treasure he was given? What does Hygelac give him?

BEOWULF AND THE DRAGON (lines 2200-3182, pp. 79-99)

[The Dragon Wakes] (lines 2200-2509, pp. 79-86)

1.How much later does Part 2 take place? What kings have died in the meanwhile? What danger now exists?
2.Why is the dragon angry? Why did the man take a cup? How did the treasure come to be there in the first place? (The speech of the lone survivor, the one who put the gold in the barrow, is in a typically Old English elegiac tone.
3.What did the dragon destroy that evening?
4.Why does Beowulf think his home was burnt? Why does he order a new shield? How will he fight this battle? What will happen to him?
5.How did Hygelac die? (The description in lines 2354-2379 begins one of several versions of Geatish history and Hygelac's death we will get.) What did Beowulf do after Hygelac's death? What happened when he returned home? Did he accept Hygd's offer to become king?
6. What happened to Hygelac's son Heardred? (That's the story in lines 2380-2390.) How did Beowulf plan to revenge Heardred's death (lines 2391-2396)?
7.How many men accompany Beowulf as he goes to meet the dragon?
8.What happened to Hygelac's oldest brother Herebeald? Who killed him? What did this do to his father King Hrethel? (This passage, lines 2425-2509, is the second account of Geatish history and of the death of Hygelac.) What happened between the Swedes and Geats after Hrethel's death? What happened to Haethcyn? How die Beowulf revenge Hygelac's death?

[Beowulf Attacks the Dragon] (lines 2510-2820, pp. 86-92)

1.What does Beowulf tell his companions to do?
2.What happens the first time Beowulf and the dragon fight? What do his companions do? How is Wiglaf different? What does he tell the others? What does he then do?
3.What happens the second time Beowulf meets the dragon? What happens to Beowulf? Who kills the dragon?
4.What does the dying Beowulf ask Wiglaf to do? What happens when Beowulf sees the gold? How does Beowulf want to be buried?

[Beowulf's Funeral] (lines 2821-3182, pp. 92-99)

1.What happens when the companions return? What does Wiglaf say to him? What does he expect will happen in the future?
2.What does the messenger tell the city? (This passage, lines 2900-3027, is the third account of the history of the Geats and the death of Hygelac. These are the enemies that will attack the Geats when they learn of Beowulf's death.) What happened overnight in Ravenswood after Ongentheow killed Haethcyn? What happened the next morning? What happened to Ongentheow? What does the messenger say to do with the gold? What is the final image (animal) of the messenger's speech?
3. What does Wiglaf tell the crowd that comes to see the dragon and Beowulf?
4.What happens to the dragon?
5.What happens during and after the funeral celebration?
6.What did the Geats say about Beowulf in the last three lines of the poem? Are these the terms one would expect to be used to describe a military hero?

August 26

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "St. George and the Dragon" by Stan Freberg, "Knights of the Round Table" and "The Knights Who Say Ni!" by Monty Python, and "Knight Rider" (TV theme) by Glen A. Larson]

How do modern representations of knights and honor differ from ancient/traditional ones? What do modern portrayals of knights and honor suggest about the culture(s) that produced them?

1. Journal
2. Vocabulary quiz/correct/discuss
3. A proper introduction to Beowulf

1. Study Beowulf by reviewing the resources under the Beowulf post and answering the comprehension questions. Post questions and comments to begin the discussion over the weekend, and be prepared to continue live on Monday, August 29.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Communication Breakdown" by Led Zeppelin, "Hanging on the Telephone" by Blondie, and "Where is the Love" by Black Eyed Peas)

Describe your experience in doing last night's homework.

1. Journal
2. Essay exam

1. Read Beowulf in the textbook (pp.39-60) and bring your reading notes to class Friday, August 26 (tomorrow)
2. Prepare for tomorrow's quiz: vocabulary + decision fatigue (and maybe Beowulf)
3. Make sure sure your artifact photo is submitted by Friday, August 25.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Celluloid Heroes" by The Kinks, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" by Warren Zevon, and --depending on time-- "Heroes" by David Bowie]

What does it mean to be a hero? How are heroes depicted in modern movies and literature? How do you think these portrayals are different from classic and ancient ideas of heroes?

1. Journal
2. Discuss yesterday's experiment/readings on concentration
3. Heroes in literature

1. Begin reading here; read the first section of the modern text (Prologue-Chapter X) and take reading notes
***UPDATE 5:32 PM*** YIKES!!! The link is broken. In order not to waste the day please read the excerpts in your textbook (pp.31-60) and take notes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Freedom of Choice" by Devo; "Freewill" by Rush]

We use phrases like "pay attention" and "make a decision" all the time-- what do each of these mean to you? How would you teach a child to do either, and how might you improve your own abilities in these areas?

1. Journal
2. 1987 AP Exam feedback from partner
3. An experiment in concentration

1. Read the articles linked to the Decision Fatigue post and answer questions by commenting to the post. If you have trouble publishing your comment please email it to Dr. Preston and bring a hard copy to class Wednesday, August 24.
2. Photograph your personal artifact and email/bring to class Wednesday, August 24.

Decision Fatigue: Fact or Perception?

Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured this article* [*this link is inconsistent and sometimes directs to NYT sign-in page; if it doesn't display the article, see the text below questions] about the effects of decision-making and it got me thinking about how students take exams. I read a little deeper and began to think that ego depletion may have physical foundations; then I read this Stanford study and found myself wondering whether decision fatigue is really in our heads, or whether it's all in our heads, if you know what I mean. When you add modern technology and the concept of multi-tasking (courtesy of this article, which I learned about through a link on, 21st century concentration becomes a rather complex topic. Comment to this post with answers to the following four questions:

1. Based on your personal experience, these readings and our in-class study, do you think decision fatigue is a self-fulfilling prophecy (i.e., an outcome created by an expectation of the outcome) or a physiological condition? Is technology enabling you to achieve your goals or just distracting you from them? Make sure to support your ideas with reasons/evidence (one point from each article, and at least one point from your own experience.
2. On a scale from 1-10 (1 being least able and 10 being most able), how able are you to concentrate for long periods of time on tasks you don't really want to do in the first place?
3. Are you prepared for the possibility that you may be able to concentrate much more effectively than you previously believed?
4. How can you use what you've learned to increase your capacity for concentrating over an extended period of time?


Text OF NY Times article:

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?
Published: August 17, 2011

Three men doing time in Israeli prisons recently appeared before a parole board consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker. The three prisoners had completed at least two-thirds of their sentences, but the parole board granted freedom to only one of them. Guess which one:

Monday, August 22, 2011

AP Doc: 2011 Eng Lit Scoring Guidelines

Use the following AP scoring guidelines (from last year's test) to evaluate your partner's essay. Substitute the ideas from our questions for the novels/concepts referenced here.


Vocabulary: Fall List #2


August 22

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Learning to Fly" performed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and "Learning to Fly" performed by Pink Floyd)

What did you learn in this class last week?

1. Return journals/last week's vocabulary quiz/PWB reading quiz
2. Observations/feedback on journals & assignments so far
3. Vocabulary/on demand poetry
4. Preview of coming attractions

1. Read your partner's 1987 AP essays and evaluate according to the AP Scoring Guidelines.
2. Bring an artifact (or a photo of one) that holds personal meaning/significance for you.
3. Finish the sentence: "I concentrate best when..."
4. Finish the sentence: "I have a hard time concentrating when..."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Senior Resume Worksheet

Here is the senior resume worksheet I mentioned in class (also courtesy of our College Counseling Office), and I hereby take back what I said about starting from scratch. If you have the resume you created in our World Lit course, simply update it with your recent accomplishments-- and be mindful that your objective has changed. If you weren't in that course, you can either borrow the format from someone who was or use this worksheet to begin. However you go about this, bring a document that promotes you to class on Monday, August 22.

senior resume worksheet

UCSB Personal Statement Worksheet

Hi everyone, the following comes to us courtesy of the College Counseling Office. Please read and be prepared to think on paper next week.

ucsb personal statement worksheet

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Little Know It All" by Iggy Pop and "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" by Neil Young]

Consider the following image (courtesy of the fine folks at What issues/problems/challenges in your life once seemed HUGE but got smaller as you gained a greater perspective on things?

1. Journal/turn in
2. Vocabulary quiz/correct
3. Preview of coming attractions

1. Poetry #1 due Monday
2. Read The Personal Statement Worksheet (courtesy of UCSB and our own College Counseling Office) and complete the Senior Resume Worksheet, due Monday
3. Take the 1987 AP Exam and write yourself notes about which questions you found easy, which questions you found challenging, and which questions will haunt your dreams until you pass the exam. Exam answers and notes due Monday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: Fela Kuti's "Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense"]

How would you go about writing a satire of The Poisonwood Bible? Would you focus on the same issues/themes as Barbara Kingsolver? What techniques would you use to draw the reader in and cause him/her to think differently?

1. Journal (or use the time to review summer reading notes for the essay)
2. Essay exam on The Poisonwood Bible

1. Quiz tomorrow on Vocabulary #1 & The Right to Your Opinion
2. Make sure to submit Poetry Assignment #1 and memorize the poem by Monday, August 22

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Right to Your Opinion

It's such a simple way to end an argument: "Well, I'm entitled to my opinion."

Not according to logic. As author Jamie Whyte points out, one person's entitlement creates another's obligation. Think about it: if you are entitled to cross the street safely, I am obligated to not run you over in my car. But what if you're wrong in your thinking? What if we're in London, about to cross the street, and you look the wrong way and think the coast is clear? Am I obligated to watch you step off the curb and get crushed? Comprehension questions will accompany the vocabulary quiz Friday, August 19.

The Right to Your Opinion -

August 17

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: Mozart's Symphony #25 in G Minor]

There is a story about Thomas Edison in which one of his assistants said something like, "We've tried this a thousand ways and it doesn't work! We've accomplished nothing!" Edison reportedly replied, "Nonsense. We've learned a thousand ways it doesn't work." What's the moral of the story, and what is your perspective on the idea?

1. Journal/ collect hard copies of latin phrase from students who didn't comment to the blog (with explanation of why not)
2. Reading quiz: Poisonwood Bible
3. Textbook check-out from library (if you don't have your ID, get a copy of your program from the business office)
4. Vocabulary #1

1. Define/study vocabulary [quiz Friday 8/19]
2. Read "The Right to Your Opinion" [questions may accompany vocab on Friday's quiz]
3. Poetry assignment [due Monday 8/22]

Vocabulary: Fall List #1

Be ready to define/conjugate/contextualize these words by Friday, Aug. 19:

faux pas

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Poetry: Assignment #1

This commercial below was recently produced by Levi's (and then pulled from the airwaves in the UK due to the image of the young person staring down riot police), and it raises questions. Here are the ones you are required to answer by Monday, August 22 (please post your responses to #1-4 here on the blog, after you get instructions how in class-- #5 will, natch, be a live performance):

1. What poem does this commercial borrow from (without credit), and who wrote the poem?
2. Why might the use of this poem by a corporation be considered ironic?
3. Does the poem reflect the reputation of the author? Why/why not?
4. How did you find the answers to #1 & #3? Describe your research process and your sources in detail.
5. MEMORIZE the poem and be prepared to recite it on demand.

Week 1

Is anyone besides me excited about the first day of school? I'm teaching a new class, I've got a bagful of new ideas, and I can't wait. Reading this blog, however, is like a scene from one of those old westerns where the sheriff slowly walks down the empty main street and mutters, "It's quiet. Too quiet."

On Tuesday we'll begin a conversation about how to make this blog (and other e-tools) work for you, so that we can contribute, exchange ideas and work together in new ways. In the meantime, the following tips will help prepare you for the first week IRL:

1. Get to class as early as you can. We'll need every second.
2. Bring a spiral notebook or comp book in addition to your binder (returning students will recognize this as the infamous journal).
3. Bring your summer reading notes and be prepared to turn them in. I will return them Wednesday so that you can use them on the in-class essay. (Oh, by the way: we're having an in-class essay on Wednesday).
4. Make sure you're in the right class. I don't mean according to your program, I mean according to your own heart and mind. This course demands intellectual courage and intestinal fortitude, and AP is not for everyone. Be honest with yourself.
5. The following posts (which you'll probably see before this if you're not checking the blog every hour) will provide vocabulary and poetry assignments for Week 1. There will be a vocabulary quiz on Friday, August 19, and you must have the poem memorized by Monday, August 22.

Hope you had a great summer. I look forward to exchanging ideas about the reading, and embarking together on a memorable journey. See you Tuesday.