Friday, May 4, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 14 (May 3)


We are on our final book, the 1915 espionage/thriller The 39 Steps by John Buchan.  The class seems to like the book.  Not only is it shorter, it has an engaging plot and feels more contemporary in its style.  In class we discussed the the questions that each student brought to class.

If students are interested, they might want to watch excerpts from a 2008 BBC version of the book or a scene from a stage play.  The movies made from this book follow the serious, dangerous tone found in the book while the plays are more farcical.   We will finish the book for the last week in class.

This week, our final week together, we will finish our discussion of The 39 Steps and will also have a final exam. This exam will look more like a game of Jeopardy.  No studying will be required; on the other hand, students have mentioned that treat would be nice, so they may bring something to share with the class.

Finally, I have one writing assignment for this class.  I've so enjoyed our discussions and love the dynamic of thinking as a group about a piece of literature and haven't assigned any writing connected to our reading.  However, I do want them to take some time and reflect back on the semester and write a short Reflection Paper.  This doesn't need to be long, or perfectly written, but I want them to take some time and think about what and how they have learned this year.  (I wrote a blog post a few years ago, "The Value of Reflection Papers" that might be helpful to read.)  For these papers, students should include the following
Paragraph #1 -- Answer the question, "What have you learned this year?"  (They can do this with a mix of sentences and lists.)
Paragraph #2 -- Answer the question, "What have you learned about yourself as a student/writer this year?"
Paragraph #3 -- Answer the question, "What did you like or not like in the class?  What worked well for you and what didn't?"
Extra Credit -- Draw a picture of anything that will remind me of the class or of you!

Assignments for this week:
-- Finish The 39 Steps
-- Reflection Paper

Links for this week:
Class Notes
Background to 39 Steps 

Looking forward to our class,
Mrs. Prichard

Thursday, April 26, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 13 (April 26)


We enjoyed another good discussion about our literature this week.  We've reached the end of a classic from the turn of the century, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.  As we read  quality works, we not only discuss themes, character development, and plots as they appear in the literature, but we also talk about the same ideas and how we see them reflected in our own lives.

I appreciate the discussion questions that they bring to class.  Every week, each one of them has a good set of insightful questions that promotes our lively discussions and helps us unpack our reading selection.

We are beginning our final book for this class:  The Thirty-Nine Steps.  This adventure novel written by Scottish author, John Buchan, is one of the first espionage thrillers.  His main character, Richard Hannay, has been described as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and James Bond.  It first appeared in 1915 as a serial in Blackwood's Magazine.  According to one commentary, this book would not have been a success "without Buchan's brisk characterization, loving evocation of Scottish landscape and his switchblade prose."    

I forgot to mention in class that for the last week I will be assigning the students a reflection paper.  This is their only writing assignment for the semester.  Also, we will have a final test on the last day.  But no worries, it will be in the form of a game!

Assignment for Next Week:
-- Read p. 1 - 42
-- Write 3 Discussion Questions

Links for this week:
Class Notes

Have a great weekend!
Mrs. Prichard

Thursday, April 19, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 12 (April 19)


We are once again in the realm of drama, reading George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.  The title of the play is taken from the Greek myth about the Pygmalion, a man who hated women.  However, he found himself lonely, so he carved a statue of a woman.  Then, he fell in love with the statue and whined to Venus to give the statue life.  Venus did, and Pygmalion and his lady statue lived happily ever after.

For this week we read the first three acts of the drama.  Unlike Shakespeare, Shaw includes lots of stage directions and editorial commentary.  Our discussion questions had us talking about what changes might happen to Eliza and what Higgins was like.  We read aloud a number of passages.  For next week, we'll read the the rest of the play.

Assignments for Next Week:
-- Read Acts IV and V
-- Read the ending, p. 72 - 82.
-- Write 3 Discussion Questions

Friday, April 13, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 11 (April 12)


This week in British Literature is one of my favorites for a number of reasons:  I love talking about poetry, we talk about one of my favorite poems, "The Lady of Shalott," and students spend part of the class time illustrating the poem, coming up with their own unique renditions.

Tennyson's poem, "The Lady of Shalott" is about a woman confined to a tower on a small island in a river that runs towards Camelot.  She can't directly look out of the window, but she watches the world go by via a mirror.  She weaves what she sees into a tapestry.  Finally, she "tires of shadows" and looks out the window.  (You'll have the read the poem or ask your student to find out what happens.)

For our class period, each student took a  portion of the poem to illustrate.  


This marks the end of our poetry section, and we are on to our next book, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.  If you are familiar with the musical My Fair Lady, then you will know this story.  They are to read the first half of the play for next week.

Assignments for next week:
-- Read Acts I, II, and III
-- Bring 3 discussion questions to class

Links for this week:
-- Class Notes
Have a great weekend!
Mrs. Prichard

Sunday, April 8, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 10 (April 5)


We had a good class discussion this week.  Every week, the ability to analyze the literature (prose and poetry) and the comfort level in the class increases, resulting in great insights and discussions.

This week students read poetry from the Romantic period, and in class we focused on four poems:  "The Chimney-Sweeper" from Songs of Innocence and "The Chimney-Sweeper" from Songs of Experience (both by William Blake); "She Walks in Beauty" (Lord Byron); and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (John Keats). 

I love talking about the Keats poem because it has some good visual images but it also challenges the readers to contemplate
art within art
real time vs. slow'frozen time
the consequences of an action the never stops or never happens
What is art?  the urn, the poem, or our imagination?

Next week, we will be discussing Victorian poetry.  As with last week, studnets should read all of the poems but concentrate on the following ones:  
The Lady of Shalott (Tennyson)
My Last Duchess (Browning)
God's Grandeur (Hopkins)

Links this Week
Class Notes

Have a great week!
Mrs. Prichard

Friday, March 23, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 9 (March 22)


Well, we've done it.  We've finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  Everyone should always pat themselves on the back when they finish a Dickens book.  These books are long and complicated, and readers need to be committed and work hard to get to the end.  We started our conversation with a discussion of the themes.  I've included a picture of the board with our list and comments.  (Note:  Every week we fill the white board with our discussion questions and make notes of our answers and comments.)

Now that we've finished this thick piece of fiction, we're on to writing that intentionally uses fewer words to express ideas -- poetry.  Our first poetry readings are from the Romantic period.  No, this does not mean that all of the poems are love poems.  The Romantic period literature was more idealistic and took a more sensory view of life. 

I don't have a book for this section but have instead put together a collection of poems that I feel are representative.  Attached is the handout, in addition to some information about reading poetry and about Romantic poetry. 

Students can read all of the poetry, but the ones I've selected to discuss are as follows:
Blake's 2 Chimney Sweeper poems
Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
Byron's "She Walks in Beauty"
Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

A note about discussion questions:  Because this is a discussion-based class, not a lecture-based class, these questions serve as the basis of our class time.  They help us think about and analyze the literature.  Make sure you come to class with questions prepared.

Assignments for April 5
-- Read the poems listed above
-- Read the information about poetry and the Romantic Period
-- Write 1 discussion question per poem

Links for This Week
Class Notes

Have a WONDERFUL Spring Break!
Mrs. Prichard

Monday, March 12, 2018

British Literature Class Notes -- Week 7 (March 8)

Hopefully by this time in the week students have been plugging away with their reading.  Because Great Expectations is such a long book and the pages are fairly dense reading, it's best to do a little every day.  Sitting down and reading almost a hundred pages in a day would be very overwhelming
Last week our reading took us from Pip as a young boy to a Pip as a young man who has suddenly come into some money, his "great expectations."  We figuratively traveled with him from the forge to the city of London.  While our discussion last week centered a lot on the unusual family of the Pockets, we also noted Pip's attitude towards Joe and Biddy and met some new characters:  Mr. Jaggers, Mr. Wemmick, Bentley Drummle, and Herbert Pocket.  This week's reading will continue to add more information about these characters.  (Mr. Wemmick is one of my favorites!)
For those who have been including some audio versions of the book into their reading, continue to do so. 
Our discussion leader for next week is Caleb.

Assignments for Next Week:
-- Read pages 191 to 286
-- Write 3 discussion questions

Have a great week!
Mrs. Prichard