Imagery in Lord of the Flies

I’m going through Lord of the Flies with my class right now, so I thought I’d write about it a little for this post.

Whenever I teach this novel, I face my students’ frustrations with the language. Golding uses very dense, descriptive language throughout most of the book. Students find this confusing and even annoying. I freely admit that I sometimes am tempted to zone out when I’m reading his descriptions too. However, I tell them that Golding does not spend so much time on strong descriptions just for the heck of it. From the beginning of the novel, I ask them to consider why Golding uses imagery the way he does.

This semester, we began the novel with a passage from Chapter 1 that is particularly descriptive. After I read it, I had the students draw whatever they could remember. They then compared their drawings to other group members. Finally, I had them go back to the passage we read and pinpoint the particular lines that were most influential on their drawings. In this way I called attention to the power Golding’s description has. There was not one student who said “I don’t know what to draw,” because Golding’s images do stick in your head.

Last week we read the first two pages in Chapter Three out loud. These pages are devoted to describing the character Jack as he is hunting in the jungle. We pointed out the imagery used, including how Jack is likened to a dog and an ape, and then I asked them what the point was. Rather quickly a student responded that Golding was showing that Jack is becoming a little savage, and describing Jack as an animal helps to further that idea.

A little later in the novel, when things started getting particularly nasty on the island, I am going to do an activity where half of the class notes all the imagery describing the island they can find in the 1st chapter. The other half will note all the imagery they see in a later chapter. When we compare the descriptions we will see pretty clearly that in the beginning of the novel the island is described as a beautiful paradise, but by the near end of the novel the presence of the boys and their descent into savage behavior has destroyed this paradise. The island becomes menacing, terrible, and literally destroyed. When I have done this activity before, students have been struck by this.

I think these activities help to get students to understand that authors choose their words carefully. Description is not just pretty; it has a purpose. In the case of Lord of the Flies, the imagery directly correlates with some of the major themes of the book.

All of these activities with my students help me as a reader too. I am much more interested in characters and ideas than setting descriptions. It’s just how I am. But by finding a purpose for description I gain a new appreciation of authors and what they are trying to do.

One thing I love about being a teacher is that I learn right along with my students. And what fun to keep learning about one of my greatest passions: reading!

A Good Sign

79 out of 82 rough drafts turned in on time. Not too shabby!

I just have to mention how impressed I am with my freshmen so far this year. We had a rough draft of our paper due last week, and 79 out of my 82 students turned the draft in on time.

I did stress how important it was to me that they took the writing process seriously and took advantage of the benefits of editing from their peers and myself. Apparently these students took it to heart, because they definitely had their papers ready to go. Hardly any of the papers were shabbily thrown together or incomplete.

This says a lot for the work ethic of our freshman class. I am very impressed, and I am even more excited now for the semester.

My Blog so Far

I have set up my class blog to hopefully be a place my students can go for help, and I’m also going to be doing discussions with one of my classes online.

So far, I have had one class, the class who will be using the forum later, post one comment on my blog. This didn’t go too badly; some students even figured out how to sign in too. It took a long time for me to be able to make usernames for all of them; edublogs was moving at a very sluggish pace. But I’m looking forward to starting the forum next week and seeing how it goes.

I have received some good feedback about my blog already. One student told me yesterday that he checked my blog because he forgot when something was due, and he thought my blog was “cool.” So I’ve helped one student! Another student commented that she thought my website was a helpful and fun idea. I’m hoping other students will also gain something from the work I’m putting in.

I think that sometimes students, as technological as they are, view any electronic assignments that teachers give them as too much work and trouble. Has anyone else noticed that at all? But I think it is still our duty as teachers to expose them to the academic benefits of the online world; in college they will be doing everything online!

I’m feeling good about what I’ve done this week. Now I just have to make sure I keep it up!

Attitude Adjustment – The First Three Days

The words “attitude adjustment” perfectly describe what I’ve been going through in these first few days of school.

Day 1: I was not quite the happy camper. Why? There was absolutely no reason except that I just had a bad attitude. I had this dread of standing up in front of people all day, and by 3rd hour I was thinking I needed a new profession because this one was just too stressful.

This attitude had nothing to do with my students. It was the first day; there were no problems. I was just having a problem getting into the swing of things and being a real person again.

Luckily I’m a fabulous actress, so my attitude did NOT overflow into my treatment of my new students. I was charming as always. I was just secretly angry.

Days 2 and 3: Slowly, slowly, I am getting into the swing of things. I am enjoying myself more in class and not dreading being in front of people.

It all boils down to this: I love people. My love for people is why I’m a teacher, and now that I’m surrounding with 100’s of people who, for 45 minutes, depend on me, I am rising to the occasion. More than any piddly laziness on my part, I want to give my students the best possible learning experience that I can. Yes, this means hard work for me. But if I can benefit their lives in some way, it’s worth it.

It doesn’t hurt to have former students shouting hello and asking me about my wedding and clearly being happy to see me. Again, I feel so much more like a part of a community. Being surrounded by people, whether they love me, hate me, or don’t know me, reminds me that this is exactly where I am meant to be. My attitude has been adjusted.

Course Learning Teams and Late-Start Mondays

I’m excited about the year to come in my school district. The past couple days have been Institute-type days. On Thursday we met as a district and as a school later, and the focus of both meetings was the idea that this year we are focusing on improving instruction. For a few years now the district has been putting together curriculum maps (which I greatly benefited from last year) and putting new software like Mastery Manager into place. Now, most maps are made, and we can focus on making those maps work in the classroom.

The biggest change in our district for this year is directly related to improving instruction. Every Monday we are going to start an hour late, and we are going to have meetings. Often our meetings will be in Course Learning Teams, groups of teachers who teach the same class. In these teams we will be attempting to discuss what we do in the classroom, and how it needs to change to help our students. We are going to use Mastery Manager to analyze data, share ideas and strategies, and come up with specific goals for our team.

If people take this seriously and are committed to the process, I think course learning teams could be very beneficial. I would love to get ideas from people and come up with specific plans that we want to try. I like the idea of analyzing data so we can help a greater number of our students succeed. I took a class on course learning teams this summer through the district, and they outlined clear steps that we can take to accomplish what we want to accomplish. It will be a big change, and I think I personally could benefit like crazy from such a reflective and goal-oriented process.

I’m a little worried people might not take it seriously, and our meetings might end up being just gabbing sessions. I don’t want that to happen. Even though I am just a second-year teacher, I’m really going to try to stop that as best I can. I’m fairly tactful, so maybe I’ll be able to redirect conversation in a friendly way. I just don’t want to waste this opportunity we’ve been given to get better at what we do.

I’m not a 1st year teacher!

Today the second year teachers came in to school and had a panel session with the incoming first years. We answered their questions and gave advice, all without administrators in the room.

We had some good advice, including take time for yourself, don’t do work all the time, ask people for help, don’t be afraid of administrators or department chairs, talk to people, and of course, stay organized (I should have followed that tip a little more last year). I think the 1st year teachers appreciated hearing from us. I know I appreciated it last year.

This meeting made me realize that I am really, truly, officially, not a first year teacher. What a weird feeling! Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed as I’ve been researching AP English information and getting nervous about teaching that class. I have a severe case of inadequacy; I want to make sure these students get great opportunities, but I am still learning myself. So, it was actually a good feeling to realize that I do have a year of experience. I have ideas that are backed up by actual moments in the classroom. I am not completely inadequate.

Going back to school and saying hello to all the friendly faces reminds me that now I am really a member of the community, not a new person in the community. It’s nice to be welcomed back by students and teachers and to feel like I belong. I’ve started to set some roots down.

Of course, this realization does not take away my feeling that I have so much to learn. It just makes me realize that as I begin a new year and take on a new prep, I have a foundation to start from.

A foundation is a wonderful thing to have.

Time

Last year in my first year teaching I spent all of my time working on school. All of it. My poor then-fiance was incredibly understanding with my tendency to not speak to him a lot. First semester especially, I really worked from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed. It was crazy. Second semester I got better, partly because I was planning a wedding and had a lot of extracurricular responsiblities to deal with.

My fear for this year is that I will revert to my workaholic ways. That’s fine, but I also want to make sure I spend time with my now-husband. It’s been so nice really spending time with him this summer. Second semester I really didn’t feel anymore behind than first, even though I was doing less work. So that means I shouldn’t have to do work all the time, right? It helps that I know the ropes a little more now. But, I also know that I am a perfectionist. I get bogged down in details, and I can’t let go of things if they aren’t done.

I’m really hoping to maintain a better balance, because it makes me a happier person. Are there any secret tips that other educators have to manage time? I wonder.

Syllabi

I went through a lot of debate this summer about my syllabus. What should it look like? How extensive should it be? What should it cover? I did research and looked at examples from other people. I’m just not yet sure about what I want my Syllabus to look like, as well as what some of my class rules should be.

Last year I was so frustrated by the students in my first semester classes simply not knowing anything that was on in my Syllabus at all. I also hated taking time going through with it and getting those blank looks from everyone.

My “solution” (ha) second semester was to give a quiz on my Syllabus the day after the first day of class. That went really well…. It didn’t help at all; I’m not sure what I was thinking.

I changed my syllabus a lot for this school year, which starts the 25th of August. I’m relatively satisfied with the final result, at least right now.

Changes I’ve made:

-I’ve toned down my considerable rambling and taken out a section about “My Goals for this class.”
-I’ve taken out the overview of the semester, with specifics on each unit, that I had last year.
-I’ve really reduced my Class Rules. The only personal one I have now is “Respect,” which I plan to go into more detail about in class.
-I’m only making freshman parents sign it, rather than the parents of all my students.

Problems I think my Syllabus still has:

-I don’t spend a lot of time going into details of my expectations for random situations – like getting up to throw away something, sharpening pencils, eating a four-couse meal, etc. Should I be going into detail on all those possible situations as an avoid the problem before it occurs tactic? My syllabus would be five years long then I fear.

-I don’t give a class calendar or go into major specifics on assignments. Should I?

-I’m planning on trying to go over this briefly on the first day of class. My fear, of course, is that anything I don’t go over will be unknown to my students. That’s probably why I did the quiz thing last semester. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. I hate those glazed looks; I want to get them active.

Here is my syllabus for the sophomores. I’d love suggestions or comments.

syllabus210

Of course, I am always curious about policies for late/missing work and things of that nature. I spent time researching that as well. Really, all class procedures are still a work-in-progress for me, since I have only had two semesters to try different things. Comments on those ideas are appreciated too.

How to organize classes

One of the aspects of my blog I am unsure of is how I should separate my different classes so that they can easily access what they need to. Here are my options:

Catergories – I read the edublogger’s explanation of pages and posts (which was written the day before my wedding!) and got the idea to use Categories. It was helpful to see Mr. Riggans’ Science Blog, which was linked in the post. I saw how he made sure to Categorize each post with the class it applied to.

Pages – I noticed that the Room 838 blog Mrs. Breaux uses pages to separate handouts, and then writes one post with bullet points for each of her classes. I was planning on making handouts available right in the post, so I guess it would take more time to copy a handout in twice. On the other hand, it would take less time to make just one post instead of having to make three posts each day for each of my three preps. Hmm…

For right now, I’m going to go with the categories idea. I like the way it looks, and I like that students can see all of their class posts together. However, if I get energy I may do the handouts on different pages thing. I like that.

Notice that I have chosen to do the things that take up more time…very typical of me.