Thursday, December 13, 2012

Extra-Credit Opportunity

From a friend of mine:

"My ten-year-old niece, Rosalind, has started a petition at to ask [The Big Bang Theory], who routinely has cameos from smart guys--scientists, astronomers, etc.--to bring on some smart women. To date, the lady cameos have all been mostly models (she tells me. I don't watch the show).

"Here's the link: The Big Bang Theory--Bring Women Scientists on the Show.

"Would you be kind enough to take about 30 seconds and sign the petition?  I know it's far from your agenda today, but it would make a  budding community organizer's holiday season. And maybe make TV a little more aspirational for our daughters/sisters/cousins...

"She needs 25 more signatures to get it to the next level on their site....

"I really appreciate it."

So, there you have it, true believers. Let's put it this way: it took a 10-year-old girl to point out what I should have recognized; I will be signing, and I hope you do, too.

IB Novels Into Film Project Redux

Remember that post a little while back, "IB: Classic Novels Made Into Films"?

Yes? Cool. It's been updated to reflect the novels that can be found in Woodrow's Library.

Reminder: I need to know what your novel and film will be by 4:30pm, December 21, 2012.

Yes, I know the world ends that day, but humor an old man and tell me which novel and film you would do if the world continued to whirl away into the cold, dark void that we call the Universe.

Thank you. Carry on with your end of the world preparations.

AP/IB: PSAT Scores

From Ms. Odeski:
PSAT scores from the October testing will be handed out at the Parent Meeting, Tuesday evening, 6:00-7:00pm in the Auditorium. This affects 9-11 grades.

At the meeting, the counselors will present information on how to use these scores for college match and selection. Financial aid for college will also be on the agenda.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, PSAT score reports will be handed out in the cafeteria during lunch on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 19 and 20.

There is a PSAT score report explanation on the website under Guidance and college tabs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

IB Crime and Punishment Topics

  1. Which character(s) serve(s) as Raskolnikov's foil?
  2. What impact do the descriptions of the various apartments--including those of Raskolnikov, Alyona, Sonya, Luzhin, and Dunya and Pulcheria--have on the reader's understanding of the characters who inhabit them and the events that take place within them?
  3. What effect does having the murder occur at the very beginning have on the structure of the novel?
  4. What is the relation between transgression and redemption in Crime and Punishment?
  5. Discuss the role of suffering in the lives of Dostoevsky's characters. What, if anything, do tormented souls like Katerina Ivanovna and Sonya gain by enduring their pain?
  6. How should the reader reconcile Svidrigailov's charitable gestures at the end of the novel with his violent confrontation of Dunya during the same time frame, and does his eventual suicide affect the response?

Monday, November 5, 2012

IB Satire Project 2012

Due November 30, 2012
Now that you've finished reading Candide and are familiar with satire and the techniques used to create it, you now have the chance to be a modern satirist, like Voltaire, using humor to criticize human vice and folly in order to effect change. You have an open opportunity to make fun of society in order to change it!

The world is yours to mock!

Any and all of the taboo subjects are available for your mocking. I challenge you to create a Satirical Comic Book that clearly and effectively mocks some aspect of your world.

Your Satirical Comic Book must include clear and properly executed examples of:

  • Allusion
  • Situational and/or dramatic irony
  • Verbal Irony in the form of sarcasm
  • Understatement and/or exaggeration (Litotes and/or Hyperbole)
  • Pun or oxymoron
  • Humorous metaphor or simile
  • Parody
  • Caricature and/or Burlesque

Remember, the point of satire is to call the readers attention to some problem in order to change it; therefore, it should also do the following:

  • It should clearly mock something—society in general, school, government, teachers, parents, etc.
  • It should be long enough to effectively mock the thing in question.
  • It should use original photos, drawings, or other art to demonstrate creativity and originality.
  • It can use a program such as Comic Life, ToonDo, Xtranormal, or any other computer program you like. Or you can do an "old school" comic if you prefer (strip or book).

It must be submitted by November 30, 2012 at 4:30pm CST in one of the following manners:

  • A link to the work online via email sent to (be certain to verify that I have received it by the assigned date and time)
  • A thumb-drive/memory stick/DVD/portable data-saving device containing a copy of the project
  • A full-color, frame by frame printout of the comic in hard-copy format
  • An old-school “funny book”

Friday, October 26, 2012

IB: Classic Novels Made Into Films *Updated*

Attention, IB students!

Now would be an outstanding time to decide what novel and film you might like to read and report upon for next semester's project. More details about the project later; for now, you really do need to start your outside reading early because--let's face it--you guys are busy.

Here is a list of some novels that have been made into fairly decent films. It goes without saying that this list is hardly exhaustive:

Highlighted titles are available in the Woodrow Library!

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Journey to the Interior of the Earth by Jules Verne
Adventure by Jack London
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Terms of  Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Horseman Pass By by Larry McMurtry
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
<enter title here> by William Shakespeare
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Washington Square by Henry James
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

TL;DR: Pick a novel and its film (or films), and run it by me ASAP. I don't to find out on the day your project is due that you chose The Cat in the Hat.

FYI: If you were wondering what novels make it on to the AP Literature exam, here is a great site that not only lists them but tells you the number of times they have appeared.

Monday, October 8, 2012

IB Presentation Topics: Candide

Choose one:
  1. Voltaire's biography (Due Oct. 15)
  2. The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake (Due Oct. 15)
  3. Gottfried Leibniz and Theodicy (Due Oct. 16)
  4. What's in a Name? (The Meaning of the Names in Candide) (Due Oct. 16)
  5. The Intellectual Backgrounds of Candide (Due Oct. 18)
  6. Thumbs Down: Candide's Critical Reception (Due Oct. 18)
  7. "Bien, Tout est Bien" or Voltaire's Skeptical Rationalism (Due Oct. 19)
  • Yes, this allows for only a one week turnaround.
  • Yes, there is a hard time limit of 15 minutes per presentation (though some will not use all of their time).
  • No, there's nothing due on the 17th because that's the PSAT date.
  • Yes, the presentations get more difficult depending on how much time you get to prepare.
  • Yes, I will help your group, but you have to meet me before or after school this week, or Friday morning between 9am and high noon.
  • Yes, Joseph Decreux was alive when Candide was published, but did not, himself become famous until later. I just liked the painting.
Reading Due Dates:
 (Note: All reading assignments assume that you will read to the end of the last chapter listed.)
  • Chapters 1-10: October 15
  • Chapters 11-20: October 22
  • Chapters 21-30: October 29

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Achtung, Baby!

"The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs."

In other words, if you are interested in a college major and/or career based on languages, and you like the idea of maybe working for the government in some capacity, this might be--no, this IS--something you should look into today.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

AP Texts for Rhetoric

The following are links to the texts we will be using in class for the next few weeks or so. Make sure you download and/or print out a copy of the text for class discussion. We will be hitting the first text Tuesday, Sept. 11.

The titles, in order, are:

Henry's Speech at the Virginia Convention
The Crisis
The Declaration of Independence
Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley
The Gettysburg Address
Letter to Mrs. Bixby
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
Kennedy's Inaugural Address
Statement by Alabama Clergymen
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I Have a Dream
People Get Ready
Ballad of Birmingham
Eulogy for the Martyred Children
RFK's Eulogy for MLK
The Ballot or the Bullet

We may add more at a later date, but that will be announced well in advance of using any additional texts in class or on a quiz.

AP/IB Extra Credit Opportunity

WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines from Vaquera Films on Vimeo.

It's going to be at the at the Dallas Video Festival Saturday, Sept. 29, 9:30 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Art. Alternatively, the film will also be screening again on Oct. 16 at the Dallas Chick Flick Festival. More information about that will appear on their site during the next few weeks. Show me a ticket stub from either, and I'll give you extra credit on one grade of your choice (except the final 6-wk grade). More info can be found at their website:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


"Mr. McGhee, what kind of supplies do we need for this class?"

I get asked this a lot, and my normal answer is, "Pens, paper, hi-lighters, brain." However, that's not very specific, and (truth be told) I normally get asked this as I'm walking to or from one place or another, deep in thought and totally unprepared to deal with human beings in a rational manner.

Here are the supplies you actually will need as soon as possible in the course of this school year:

Each student should have:
  • A large (1 ½ or 2 inch) 3-ring binder for class notes, handouts, etc. 
    • (you will not be required to hand in this notebook as you may be required in other classes, so save money here and split this binder with another class)
  • Tab separators for sections in the binder 
    • (notes, handouts, drafts, etc)
  • 3x5 inch note cards 
    • (400 will carry you to the end of the year if you can get them on sale)
  •  A box or other containment system for the note cards 
    • (a quart-sized Ziploc bag is mighty economic; just sayin'...)
  • Three highlighters of different colors 
    • (no preference, just three different colors)
  • Pens (black or blue ink only), pencils, and plenty of loose leaf notebook paper for notes and writing assignments

The following items are optional, but it would be a good idea to have:
  • A good college dictionary 
  • A style manual that contains the guidelines for MLA and APA 
    • (for example, A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker contains formatting and grammar guides for writing academic papers)
  • A pocket calendar or appointment planner 
    • (again, not exclusive to this class, so put all of your classes' assignments in this)
The good news is that there really isn't anything terribly esoteric in my supply list, and odds are you were already planning to pick this stuff up in the first place.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Just Achieve It! XBOX 260 Achievement Generator

Congratulations are in order for everyone who passed the AP English Language exam. Good job; now, get back to Mr. Black's summer reading.

(If for some reason you haven't received your scores yet, don't panic. The US Mail is slow but faithful. You may find it satisfying to check out the College Board's AP Scores & Reporting Service for alternatives to access your results.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Woodrow Summer Reading, 2012: An Overview

Sometimes things aren't as clear as we believe them to be, so here is the summer reading list one more time, all together, in one location:

NOTE: Acquire the novels at the least personal expense possible. The edition matters little as long as it is the full, unabridged edition. You may pick up a copy at a retail, wholesale, or re-sale outlet--real or online--or even a public library; just be sure to have the books read and available for use on day one when the new school year begins.

Incoming 12th Graders
  • AP Literature
    • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
    • Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  • IB Literature
    • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
    • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Incoming 11th Graders
  • AP Language & IB Literarture
    • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
    • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Incoming 10th Graders
  • On-level 10th Grade
    • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Pre-AP
    •  Night by Elie Wiesel
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Pre-IB
    •  Night by Elie Wiesel
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • The Once and Future King by T. H. White
All Incoming 9th Graders (go here for the assignment)
  •  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Monday, May 14, 2012

Woodrow Summer Reading, 2012: 11th Grade

The following books are the assigned summer reading for incoming 11th graders at Woodrow Wilson:

For AP English Language and Composition or 11th Grade IB Literature (doesn't matter which, you're reading the same two):

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the second novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid, and it is not the story you anticipate. I will fully admit that I was skeptical upon opening the book, but I was quickly disabused of any concerns--in fact, I couldn't put it down. A political thriller, this novella is a classic story of post-9/11 disillusionment with the American Dream and all its wretched excess. Part-spy-thriller, part-romance, this story will make you think.

 First of all, Into the Wild is non-fiction written by a regular contributor for Outside Magazine. Second, there is a movie, but I don't advise watching it at all. You don't need it. Third, don't read this book in an enclosed area, especially if the A/C is on high. This book reveals right on the cover that the subject of the book, a young man fresh out of college, died doing this; in spite of this spoiler, the book is riveting and will make you reconsider your camping plans.

Woodrow Summer Reading, 2012: 12th Graders

The following books are the assigned summer reading for incoming 12th graders at Woodrow Wilson:

Mr. Black's AP English Literature and Composition classes:


Ms. Kaiser's IB Literature class:


Woodrow Summer Reading, 2012: 10th Grade

The following books are the assigned summer reading for incoming 10th graders at Woodrow Wilson:

 On-level 10th graders:

Pre-AP 10th Graders: Night by Elie Wiesel, and...

Pre-IB 10th Graders: Wiesel's Night, Orwell's Animal Farm, and...

Woodrow Summer Reading, 2012: 9th Grade

The following books are the assigned summer reading for incoming 9th graders at Woodrow Wilson:

Your assignment will be to complete a summer reading response journal and be prepared to give an oral presentation (specific assignment will be given to you on the first day of school).

Summer Reading Response Journal Directions:
This journal is due on the first FRIDAY of class. It will seriously affect your grade if you do not put much thought into it, if you do not complete it, or if you fail to turn it in.

Interesting/Valuable Quotes and Reading Response Journal
  • Find at least 5 (five) significant quotes (no more than one in any chapter).
  • Quotes can be phrases, clauses, sentences, or passages that you feel represent some universal or important statement that the novel makes. Include page numbers for all quotes and explain WHY you find the quotes interesting or valuable (give extended commentary analysis of at least 1 developed paragraph in length for each quote, as opposed to a few hastily written sentences).

Friday, February 17, 2012

AP/IB Research Project Due Dates

In the next six-week grading period, we will have a research paper due in various stages. I am posting the dates now so that you will have plenty of time to work this in to your busy schedule.

Note: Even though AP and IB are going in different directions this next grading period, the assignment and the due dates are the same.

Each student will choose a modern controversial issue in an emerging nation to research. The issue must be the result of American and/or European imperialism/colonialism, and by "modern" I mean on-going issues continuing into the 2oth and 21st centuries, or issues that have arisen as a result of past "first-world" intervention.

  • Each paper will cite a minimum of three (3) legitimate sources
  • Each paper will be between three and seven typed pages in length (or 6-14 handwritten pages)
  • Each final paper will be typed in MLA format (12 font, Times New Roman, 1" margins, etc)

Due Dates (all dates have a cut-off of 4:15pm CST):
  • March 2 - Topic
  • March 9 - Four (4) legitimate sources (print-outs or photocopies)
  • March 23 - Rough Draft (hand-written or typed)
  • March 20-28 and April 2-5 - individual appointments before or after school to review rough drafts
  • April 6 - Final Draft due

Note: March 29 through April 1 is the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh; therefore, I will be out of town and unable to help you unless you drive to the reenactment site in Tennessee and find me. Even then, I will be in the 19th century and unable to help you with events that have yet to occur; I may actually arm you and make you fight for whichever side I'm on at the moment. Or I might have you shot as a spy. Either way, it's your risk.

We will discuss the parameters in further detail in class, but it's a good idea to start thinking about it now since the paper does, in essence, stem from our reading of Heart of Darkness.

Monday, February 6, 2012

AP Exam Registration!!!


Register ASAP for the Advanced Placement exams you plan to take in May. The deadline to register without incurring a $50 late fee is March 30.

Because of the grants we get to help defray costs, there are two tiers of expense: grant-assisted and full-price. If you are on the free or reduced lunch program, then you are eligible for a further decrease in the overall cost of your exams (again, thank you, grants).

Science, math, and English exams all qualify for the reduced cost of $31 for each exam. This means if you are in my AP or IB English class, you only need to pay $31 for the AP English Language and Composition exam. (If you are on the lunch program, then it's only $13. Not free, but close.)

Psych, arts, music, foreign languages, and all of the social studies exams are $87 each. Yes, it's pricey, but we don't get breaks to help defray these costs--much to my chagrin. (And if you are on the lunch program, then the cost is $27. Again, not free, but not too bad.)

The forms are coming to class in the next day or so. You can also get a copy of the form from Ms. Porter up in the testing room on the second floor.


The Mostest Importantest Test Date of Your Whole Life

is May 16, 2012

at 8:00 am CST!!!!!!1!!!!one!!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Heart of Darkness

Some background information for you as we take a look at Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and as you prepare for your research paper due in mid-February: