Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “education”

Oh for the love of July


When the Julius Caesar unit rolls around in sophomore English I ask what students know about the famous (or infamous) Roman. Their lack of knowledge is deplorable. Most think answering “salad creator” is going to win them points. It doesn’t. They are surprised, and some students think I’m joking when I trot out the fact the month of July is named or rather renamed for Julius Caesar.

This
Not this

Originally July was known as Quintilis, which was Caesar’s birth month. Quintilis means “fifth month” in Latin and in the Roman calendar that is where this month found.

Caesar was a man of action. Gaul is one example. When he wasn’t conquering countries and people he set about improving Roman life. The calendar is an example. It did need attention. The early Roman calendar had a glitch. Once every two years a month lasting 27 or 28 days would be added after February 23 to help even out accrued time. Caesar straightened this out and today’s calendar is pretty much the one he formalized 2000 years ago.

Whether July was renamed as a tribute to his leadership or as a nod to inventing the calendar requires further Googling.

Happy July. Stay cool. Watch out for stray sparkler flickers. Hydrate and wear sunscreen.

July is a sparkly month

Bard Bits: Overcoming Shakespism


Up until teaching Shakespeare to my high school English students, my exposure and awareness of Stratford Upon Avon’s poet/playwright had been limited to the usual reference of Romeo and Juliet being a play about two teenagers who have a tragic romance. I saw it as a film in junior high. It was rated “M” for mature audiences (being a 13 year old counted as mature then). Certain scenes were embarrassing and I doubt we were mature enough to handle the morning after flesh flash of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. Plus, I had a really difficult time understanding what they were saying—were they speaking English?

That was then and this is now. At present I’m the resident Bardinator at school, being the advisor of the Students for Shakespeare Club and being known for my Shakespeare zeal. We’ve brought Shakesperience to the high school several times, I’ve helped with our own drama club’s version of Romeo and Juliet, designing sets and watching my son contribute his thespian skills, and I do my best to engage and interest students to embrace Shakespeare, nudging past groans when studying his works. My appreciation for Shakespeare has nudged me to leave my usual homebody mode to travel cross country to Washington DC to attend Folger’s week long Hamlet academy. I’ve gone beyond the usual Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar school curriculum offerings and have introduced students to Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, and provided background Bard Bits.

How and why did I go from a Shakespeare illiterate to Shakespeare informed?

First of all, I had to overcome the language barrier. Reading Shakespeare wasn’t working so well. Watching well-produced film adaptations, such as Kenneth Branagh’s Henry IV helped tremendously. Shakespeare is meant to be performed, not read.

Secondly, the more I taught Shakespeare (teaching the same material year after year does have an upside), the more I understood what I was teaching. And if I understand what I’m teaching I can teach the material better to my students.

Beyond teaching the plays, I began reading about the man who wrote them. Since there is so little solid biographical information about Shakespeare, I began researching and became more and more intrigued. Who was this guy and did he really write all these plays and what was theatre like in Renaissance England led to other aspects such as learning more about Queen Elizabeth I and other aspects of that time period.

And I branched out to other plays, learning all about one play before committing to another. The benefit being that Shakespeare’s language was no longer puzzling to my ear, it had become a melody of written expression.

My dream curriculum is to teach a course that is all Shakespeare. We would of course study selected plays and sonnets, but also play Bard Bingo (it’s fun, really), create Flash Mob scenes for the community (field trip!), stage fight (sword fights and Hamlet are a natural), and put on a Shakespeare night for the school—best scenes talent show. I think I would call the course, “Shakespeare Then and Now” or maybe “Shakespeare—the Undiscovered Country.” At least a dozen students would need to sign up to make it a go, then again it could become so popular two sections (or more) would be required as Shakespism transforms into Shakesthusiasm.

I can hope.

Do you suffer from Shakespism or are you a Bardinator or maybe somewhere in between.

Word Nerd: Kangaroo Words


Ah, words within words…

Kangaroo Word: A synonym within a word, like a little joey tucked away within the mama kangaroo.

alone=one

astound=stun

blossom =bloom

calumnies =lies

cavern=cave

contaminate=taint

dazzle=daze

enjoyment=joy

fabrication=fiction

honorable=noble

impair=mar

joviality =joy

lighted=lit

myself=me

nourished=nursed

observe=see

plagiarist=liar

quiescent =quiet

respite=rest

substandard=bad

A word within a word that reflects the host word—now that is a Word Nerd discovery of delight!

Word Nerd Confessions: Confused and Misused


Affect or effect? Is it all right or alright? Was it a blatant or flagrant mistake?

This month’s focus is from
100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses & Misuses (American Heritage Dictionary)

Using the right word correctly is part art and part science. Knowing the word’s definitions is a start.

Affect: transitive verb 1. simulate, as in “He affected a suave demeanor with his knowledge of lexicon usage.” 2. to show a liking for, as in “She affects huckleberry gelato.” 3. to tend by nature, as in “We read how the weather affects health.”4. to imitate or copy: “Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language (Ben Jonson, Timber) 5.to have an influence on as in “The rain affects the tourist economy.” 6. to attack or infect, as in “Pollen can affect allergies in spring.”

Affect: noun 1. feeling or emotion, as in “The music was selected for its thrill of affect.”2. obsolete

Now that affect is squared away, let’s get effect squared away:

Effect: noun 1. a result, as in “Every negative comment has a lasting effect on the final vote.” 2. influence, as in “The child’s laughter had an immediate effect on the crowd.” 3. advantage, as in “The teacher used the rainbow as a positive effect of the rainstorm.” 4. a scientific law 5. a condition on full force, as in “The hands free cell phone policy goes into effect July 1.” 6. creating an impression, as in “The tall ceiling effects the sense of dimension.” 7. basic meaning, as in “He said he would never return, or words to that effect.”

Why are affect and effect confused and misused? For one, they sound the same and are nearly spelled the same. However, affect is a primarily a verb, while effect is primarily a noun (it can be used as a verb as in producing a result: “The change is primarily effected by the mixing of breeds.”

No wonder there is confusion. Try to remember if it is an action (affect/verb) or a noun (effect), as in “The abundant harvest affected the workers in a way of relieving them of worry for the upcoming winter, which created an lasting effect of peace and assurance.”

Affect/effect is a major contender for the confused and misused category. Here are a few other entries:

All right/Alright. All right is the correct and accepted spelling, at least formally. Some confusion may arise since words like, altogether and already are in use and accepted, which seems to clear the usage of alright—but it’s not correct. We don’t say “meese” for the plural of moose because we say geese for the plural of goose.

Blatant/Flagrant. These are not interchangeable. Blatant means noisy or fail to hide while flagrant focuses on the intended wrongdoing. While blatant is often used to mean “obvious,” this is not an accepted usage. The sentence, “Sam admitted to his blatant lie” should be changed to “Sam admitted to his flagrant lie” since flagrant refers to being offensive rather than it being unpleasantly loud. Although if Sam screamed his lie at the top of his lungs maybe it is a case for being a blatantly flagrant fib.

Capital is the official recognized city government.

Capitol is a building where the state legislature convenes.

Complement completes, as in “The added mushrooms complements the stew ingredients.”

Compliment is to praise, as in “The diner complimented the chef’s ability to create a sumptuous lamb stew by adding mushrooms.

A council is an assembly of people who deliberate, while counsel is advice. I imagine those involved in the council receive counsel regarding their decisions.

Fewer/less. Ah, the quick checkout dilemma. Fewer is used when counting things, as in “There were fewer than five pizza slices.” Less is used in reference to mass of measurable content, as in “There is less than a quart of ice cream left.” So when at the grocery store and you are looking to quickly checkout with your handful of items, select the line that has the sign stating, “15 items or fewer.”

PET PEEVE ALERT

A. Hopefully it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”

B. “It’s hoped it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”

Which is the correct sentence? If you chose B you would please the lexiconical folk. If you selected A, you are among the majority. While A is most frequently used, it is not considered acceptable by grammarians—not really clear on why, but as in the way of most of our language. Note:once it becomes widely used it becomes accepted, just look at how “their” is now embraced as a singular pronoun instead of a plural one. I had to finally let my teacher red ink dry on that one.

Inflammable/flammable both mean easily ignited. Nonflammable indicates not being able to catch on fire. Don’t let the “in” prefix fool you.

Irregardless—don’t go there. This is a blunder. It might be a blend of irrespective and regardless but it is nonstandard, so walk away. Stay with regardless.

UPDATE: Webster’s Dictionary has acquiesced and has recently added irregardless to the dictionary—I wonder if usage or peer pressure is the deciding factor.

Lay/Lie. Quick and easy: lay is a transitive verb and takes a direct object (noun) (think what was laid)—“He laid the letter (what) on the desk.”

Lies is an intransitive verb and does not take a direct object, as in “Auntie lies down after working in the garden.” There is no noun, direct object—lie is the stated verb of action. *Sigh* I’m still working on this one.

PET PEEVE ALERT

“I could literally scream until I am red in the face the way people pop literally into their sentences.“

Nope. Literally used as an intensive is incorrect since it means to be taken in truth. If I screamed until my face turned red I best be heading to the ER for a possible heart attack commencing, because that is a fairly intense reaction. I should be using virtually or figuratively instead. The next time you hear a sentence like, “I laughed so hard I literally thought my insides would burst” I suggest one of the above substitutes or maybe a dust pan.

And last of all is the old favorite: A principle is a statement or belief of truth and a principal is the leader of the school—think of him as your pal, who wants to impart truths while you are at school.

Hopefully this cleared up some of the confusion; irregardless if I muddled up the explanations, I literally tried so hard to make it clear that my brains nearly fried.

I wouldn’t lay, um, lie about my intended affect on your attaining greater knowledge.

[Ha—Wordpress has yet to perfect their auto correct].

Word Nerd Confessions: June hi


This month we shall partake in enjoying learning about words that are about words or using words.

1. conlang: an artificially constructed language used by a group of speakers, as opposed to one that has naturally evolved–for example Klingon.

2. linguaphile: a language and word lover.

3. polysemy: a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation. For example, cleave means to separate and it can mean bring together. [semantics can be tricky on polysemic words]

4. sesquipededalian: given to long words.

5. epiphonema: a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said.

6. contramine: a word that has opposite or nearly opposite meanings–let’s return to cleave, how it can mean “split” or “put together.”

7. breviloquent: speaking or expressed in a concise or terse style; brevity of speech.

8. quidnunc: a person who is eager to know the latest news and gossip; a gossip or busybody.

9. voluble: characterized by a ready and continuos flow of words.

10. lacuna: a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument.

Words about words. I love how sesquipededalian is the manifestation of its derivative. And what about quidnuc? Why doesn’t that one pop up more in more English village novels? I can’t help but be amused that breviloquent is not brief in formation. Definitely not a descriptive of Polonius. It’s also such a score to provide one exemplar twice, as in contramine and polysemy.

Which word is a standout for you?

Looking Forward to Looking Backward


A backwards glance takes a back seat for now

Today is the last day for the 2019-2020 school year and I officially begin my summer break. Usually I stay in “teacher mode” and work on lesson plans and revise units while it’s all fresh in my mind. I do this until June 30th and then allow myself to take July off and slowly ease back into school mode around the middle of August.

That’s the plan, anyway. This year the usual has changed. I am ready to embrace summer break without any hesitation, and will not give school much thought until August rolls around.

This year beginning mid-March business as usual changed. We scrambled to create distance learning curriculum and adjusted and adjusted some more as we rode out the school year. Who would have thought two months could feel like a lifetime.

School officially ended May 29th for our school district. Graduation took place in the school parking lot with families in cars and grads socially distanced. There was a reduction in pomp due to our circumstances. The ceremony ended minutes prior to a spring rain storm. How fitting.

I spent Sunday posting my grades from home and Monday will be spent wrapping up my classroom for the summer. I usually celebrate the end of the school year with reflective euphoria. I dwell on victories and successes of teaching and tuck away the ritual of student farewells.

I haven’t seen the majority of my students since March 18th and briefly said good-bye to a handful of seniors who ventured into my classroom. Sans hugs, I wished them a masked farewell.

This has been a weird end to a school year that started out with such promise. I look forward to looking backward on the 2019-2020 school year. Right now I am numb, weary, and a bit heartsick at not only how the school ended but how our nation is troubled by the pandemic and violent protests.

I usually spend part of my summer break traveling and visiting friends and family. That won’t be happening. This saddens me greatly.

I am blessed to live in a small town, a tourist town. And yet, that brings its own set of concerns as the outside will permeate our little bubble dome of safe haven and possibly bring infection to our fair city.

With all the closures, hard times, and scary events clouding my daily life, I do have something to look forward to: the good news is the library is opening up a day after my birthday. Best present ever!

Any other teachers, parents, or students have reflections on the end of the school year?

What good news do you have that brings some sunshine to your cloudy days?

NPM: The Hand


April is National Poetry Month and my plan of sharing poems of significance to me fell to the wayside as life happened (or didn’t happen).

Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a Thing of Feathers” was the first post, and now I am ending the month with Mary Ruefle’s “The Hand” as a tribute to students, teachers, the general education community. I miss being in the classroom.

The Hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

This poem is a poster that I place prominently in my classroom, to remind me, and to remind my students, that we all have something to share, yet if we don’t make that effort to speak out no one will know what we had to offer.

This poem has even greater meaning for me since I am now separated from my students and I am unable to hear their voices and we are unable to share our ideas with one another. Distance teaching provides learning, yet it’s in a vacuum since I am unable to interact with my students. They might be gaining knowledge through the lessons I send out to them; however, how are they receiving that knowledge, what it means to them is somewhat lost. Electronic response is not the same as seeing that hand raise and hearing their voice.

Yes, I miss being in the classroom. I miss my students.

Word Nerd Confessions: August


August—I barely got to know July. August is the wind down month of summer. July is mostly vacationing and relaxing and reading and visiting–lots of ongoing “ing” things in July.

August whispers “school” a little bit louder as each calendar day flips by. I like school, teaching, my students–I just like summer vacation to last a bit longer.

This month’s words represent an assortment of ideas related to the last month of summer.

ken: knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perceptions (I have a ken that school is starting sooner than later at this point of summer).

tub-thump: to promote something or express opinions vociferously (There are those who tub-thump whether school should start in August or in September).

velitation: a minor dispute or contest (See above concerning school start times).

grok: to understand thoroughly and intuitively (This is from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein–I grok that summer is special due to its ephemeral nature).

ferly: something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror (The August fair usually has a ferly–like those weird vegetables that show up in displays–you know, the zucchini that resembles Richard Nixon or the monstrously large rabbit in the 4H competition).

mump: to mumble; mutter (I’m trying not to mump about summer dissipating).

brontide: a rumbling noise heard occasionally in some parts of the world, probably caused by seismic activity (A brontide was reported last August on the 31 as families stampeded Walmart to purchase school supplies before started after Labor Day).

makebate: a person who causes contention or discord (Who wants to be the makebate who meets people in the store and says, “Only 9 days until our first staff meeting).

calescent: growing warm; increasing in heat (The first week of school usually produces calescent classrooms due to the school not bothering to install air conditioning because heat exhaustion helps retain information. At least that’s what the theory must have been when they built the school).

littoral: or or relating to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean (This is not to be confused with “literally,” as in “I will literally be littoral, grabbing last minute beach time before school starts).

prima facie: plain or clear; self-evident; obvious (Yes, my denial of the inevitability of school starting soon smacks of prima facie realization).

ineluctable: incapable of being evaded; inescapable (The ineluctable red calender circles indicate the end of summer and the start of staff meetings).

fillip: anything that tends to rouse, excite, or revive; a stimulus (Labor Day weekend is definitely a fillip, in terms of celebrating one last weekend without grading essays).

rutilant: glowing or glittering with ruddy or golden light (those rutilant summer evenings after the last rays of the sun radiates through the trees–*sigh*).

totsiens: until we meet again; goodbye (See ya, summer–totsiens, for now).

And what summer-flavored word might have been your favorite? Pick two or three…

Word Nerd Confessions: May


It is the month of Maying. Flowers blooming, warm weather, longer days, one month until summer break. Yes, there is much to like about May. Since May is full of color, warmth, and anticipatory of summer, I thought a smorgasbord of words would be appreciated for this month’s Word Nerd Confessions:

1. ergate: worker ant

2. dorp: village

3. paladin: defender of a noble cause

4. kibitzer: giver of unwanted advice

5. ululate: to complain loudly; to howl as a dog might

6. banausic: to serve a mechanical or practical purpose only

7. incogitant: thoughtless; inconsiderate

8. antinome: something that is contradictory

9.polyhistor: someone of great and varied learning

10. tittle: a small mark in punctuation as in the dot over the “i”

11. aggiornamento: bringing something up to date for current needs

12. thimblerig: the sleight of hand game to fool someone as in the pea under the cups

13. nocent: harmful; injurious

14. cruciverbalist: a designer or aficionado of crossword puzzles

15. hypogeal: underground; subterranean

 

What three words caught your fancy this month?
I’m partial to antinome. I’m gonna throw that one at Mike during a Debatable. Ssh, don’t tell him. Nocent and paladin could also be appropriate for a Debatable.

What two words did you not realize that there existed such a word of explanation?
Didn’t know a cruciverbalist is what you call people who create crossword puzzles. I just thought they had more time and talent than me. Worker ants are ergates–I had no idea.

Image result for worker ant

What word do you simply like because of the way it sounds?
Tittle, of course. It tickles the tongue and makes me want to laugh. That little dot is a tittle. Tee hee.

Shakespeare Celeb:As You May Like It


As this tribute to Shakespeare winds up, I’m wondering how Shakespeare best fits in your life. Yes, your life. You are either reading this post because you are interested in Shakespeare or because you are a Cricket Muse follower and are tolerating these  incessant Bard posts because they automatically pop up in your feed. Or perhaps it’s what Star Lord said:

Image result for guardians of the galaxy a bit of both

How do you like your Shakespeare?

Plays? These come in the variety of Globe traditional, high school productions, professional troupes, creative adventuresome adaptations:

Image result for globe theatre Image result for high school shakespeare

Image result for royal shakespeare company           Image result for creative shakespeare play adaptations

Film adaptations? These appear in Branagh style with polish and high production value, or campy or modernized or foreign or really, really so bad, or really, really so good.

shakespeare adaptations

No comments on what I consider to be the good, bad, or ugly. Everyone has their own tastes in film.

How about reading the play? Shakespeare didn’t publish his plays to be read. He didn’t even have scripts for his players,* for fear of having his plays stolen and presented elsewhere (no copyright laws then). Today we have the opportunity to study Shakespeare through a vast choice of quick online summaries that make Shakespeare almost painless to understand (though the music of his language is definitely stilled by transposing it to modern comprehensibility). There are scholarly publications, first hand discovery accounts, guided tours for students. Even graphic novels.

No fear Shakespeare is available online and in book form at barnesandnoble.com.

Image result for shakespeare bloom critiques Image result for shakespeare saved my life

Image result for shakespeare for students  Graphic Shakespeare

Do you perhaps browse the internet looking for enlightening approaches to Shakespeare?

If you are still thinking Shakespeare is “meh” then maybe David Tennant can convince you otherwise:

*Historical interjection: they were called “players” because they were “playing” the part, usually a young boy playing the part of a girl, which stems from Greek theatre when men played females. This also go with the line from As You Like It when Jacques says in his speech “all the world’s a stage and the men and women are merely players.” It would have been different if he had said “actors” wouldn’t it?

I hope this month of dedicated Shakespeare has enlightened you to his amazingness, that it has at least entertained you, or has swayed you to joining the ranks of becoming a Bardinator. Adieu, adieu, for now until next month…

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: