July 2015 Wrap Up

Highlights of the Month

Top Posts

Top 5 Posts of July:

5.  What is Your Reading Style?

4.  Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

3.  How to Begin your PrePlanning

2.  Planning Tools

1.  The Reading I Didn’t Do and Classroom Bootcamp 

Books I’ve Read:

Classroom FYI:


Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

With the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and other states that have implemented parallel standards of their own, the English department has been given the task of supporting students’ growth in understanding texts, fiction and nonfiction, in a deeper and more analytical manner.  An inch-deep, mile-wide approach to reading analysis is no longer acceptable.  Teachers must wrap their minds around teaching skills as opposed to texts.  This means that we must change the way in which we teach students to approach reading.

1.  Close Reading

Essential Aspects of Close Reading:

  • A close reading is a careful and purposeful reading AND rereading.
  • Students really focus on what
    • the author had to say
    • the author’s purpose was
    • the words mean
    • structure of the text tells us
  • A transaction between the reader and the text
  • Getting what the author had to say and bringing some of your own ideas to bear on that text.

“Close Reading and the CCSS, Part 1.” – Common Core State Standards TOOLBOX. Web. 29 July 2015.

Some Close Reading strategies:


It seems as though there are a thousand-and-one resources available for reading and analyzing literature.  You can purchase entire unit plans complete with daily assignments, guided reading questions, collaborative activities, assessments, and powerpoint presentations!  They are a new teacher’s savior and an experienced teacher’s rejuvenation.  When I started teaching AP Language and Composition, I searched for nonfiction text analysis resources, and while I found some wonderful lessons, I felt empty-handed.  I was given just enough information and guidance to be able to meander through my first year, but I knew that it would become my objective to really customize those materials to best support both my students and myself.

2.  SOAPSTone

Any AP English teacher can tell you that the go-to strategy for analyzing any nonfiction text is the SOAPSTone method:

After reading a nonfiction text, a student would analyze the piece to identify each of the SOAPSTone elements.  This allows them to gain a greater understanding of the text, make connections, and therefore use a more critical eye while evaluating the efficacy of the piece.  For example, if a student was unaware of the political background or historical impact of a piece, they may view its argument in a much different way than what was intended.  Additionally, the tone plays a major role in how a piece is interpreted.  A sarcastic, humorous tone will lead the reader in a much different direction than a didactic one.


Thanks to the wonderful resource, and foundational element of my Pre-AP English course last year, The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English, I was able to identify another text analysis method: SIFT

  • Symbol: Examine the title and text for symbols
  • Images: Identify images and sensory details
  • Figures of Speech: analyze figurative language and other devices
  • Tone and Theme: Discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme


4.  Fourfold Method

analysis of drama, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction

  1. Literal or historical level: the things that are happening in the story are literally happening on a surface level
  2. Political level: the level on which human beings relate to others in a community and in the world
  3. Moral or psychological level: the way in which the self relates to the realm of ethics
  4. Spiritual level: the universal level on which a persona relates to the cosmos, the way of the pilgrim soul

5.  Aristotelian Theory




  • Cornerstone of critical theory
  • Poetics laid out the basis for traditional analysis of drama (dramatic fiction)
  • “the imitation of an action; a writer’s attempt to represent reality or truth in artistic form”
  • Structure and purpose of tragedy is:
    • Unity of Action:
      • tragic plots must have a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • action should be ordered and continuous
      • cause and effect process
    • Catharsis:
      • events should inspire pity and terror
      • vicarious experience to attain emotional purgation, moral purification, or clarity of intellectual viewpoint
    • Tragedy
      • reversal of fortune/fall from greatness brought on by error or frailty
      • hamartia inner weakness or inherent error
        • usually through excessive pride or hubris
        • reversal of fortune is characterized by “reversal of situation” and “recognition”
      • “Scene of Suffering”     

The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English. 2nd ed. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 2002. Print.

Book Polygamy Day Seven: It’s Ok to Change Your Mind

Notice anything new about my Goodreads’ “Currently Reading” list?

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 2.08.43 PM

The truth is, I’m really enjoying the pacing and experience of diving into all these different settings and plot lines, creating connections and opinions about characters that if I don’t feel it with a new book, I don’t really want to spend the time I would rather devote to another.  Sounds shallow, right?  Thank goodness my Reading personality isn’t the same as my approach to relationships.

I think I’ve also learned that I don’t want a lot of turnover all at once.  When I finished As You Wish and Haunted, it was only a day or so later that I also finished The Dinner and A Game of Thrones.  I admit that I was much more invested with the latter duo than the former, so maybe it was easier to fill in the literary void.  Now I’ve started on the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings, so I’m carrying that forward.  But my other three titles need to step it up!


Longbourn19486412I can’t tell you what it was about Longbourn that made me stop, but it just wasn’t what I had been hoping for.  I wanted to be grabbed within the first chapter, and frankly it didn’t happen.  On paper (pardon the pun) it should have been an instant connection, but frankly I was bored and distracted.  It was my “Sweatpants” choice, so I’ve decided to switch over to Big Little Lies, a title that’s been on my Kindle for quite some time and deserves to be given a chance.


CanterburySense-and-SensibilityI’ve mentioned before that I am rereading The Canterbury Tales in preparation for my English IV’s 1st quarter, as it is the anchor text.  Well, when you’ve read and studied a text as many time as I have, you don’t need to spend a great deal of time doing a close read.  Needless to say, I was able to quickly go over the Prologue, The Knight’s Tale, The Wife of Bath’s Tale, and the Pardoner’s Tale.  In it’s place, I’ve decided not to completely give up the Jane Austen ship and read Sense and Sensibility for the first time.  I may even treat myself to watching the movie.

In Other Reading News

Clash of KingsA Clash of Kings has started out just as strongly as A Game of Thrones left off.  If you hadn’t been able to make a timely transition from the first to second book, Martin does a great job of recapping the important plot points necessary for carrying on.  The pacing is good and I found myself wanting to continue turning page after page, yet I knew that I would need to stop and take a break for real life responsibilities.

Man UpBut, once I was done being an adult, I started reading Man Up! by Ross Matthews.  It’s just as hilarious and endearing as the man who wrote it himself.  I can hear Ross’ voice narrating his memoir and it makes it even more enjoyable!