Tuesday, December 10, 2013

IB: Novels into Film - 2nd Semester

Here it is: your link to the list of novels that would make potentially outstanding oral presentations.

Remember that your outside book and movie for your oral presentation (which is due next semester during the 5th six-week grading period) is due on your exam day. I would recommend having a back-up book in case someone gets in line ahead of you and chooses "your" novel.

As always, if you question the validity of your book then you should probably choose another book. Furthermore, try to choose a book that you have not read before. It would be an awful shame to show up with beloved and weathered copy of Hunger Games only to have the class look down upon you with scorn and derision. (Choose a better book, Catnip.)

IB: Transgression and Redemption Final

  1. How does the city serve simultaneously as a symbol of society and of Raskolnikov's state of mind?
  2. Does Razumikhin serve as Raskolnikov's foil? Defend, challenge or qualify.
  3. What impact do the descriptions of the various apartments--including those of Raskolnikov, Alyona, Sonya, Luzhin, and Dunya and Pulcheria Alexandrovna--have on our understanding of the characters who inhabit them and the events that take place within them?
  4. What effect does having the murder occur at the very beginning of the novel have on the structure of the novel?
Prep all four; draw on exam day. You will use your prepped notes and your novel to answer the question you draw.

Friday, November 22, 2013

AP Exam Result Calculator

Working on your practice exams in class? Wondering what you might get if you took the results of your in-class essay and plugged them in?


AP Pass will take the results from your mock exam (or homework, or in-class essay, or lab work, or whatever you call it that you do in Calculus) and convert the results into an estimated AP score.

Remember that any score you put in there today will only be an estimate of how you might do today; it is not a prophecy nor is it gospel truth.

(You can also put in various scores to figure out the min/max for your AP Fantasy League stats. For example, my AP Fantasy Team is absolutely crushing the other teachers' at the moment.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

IB Questions for Candide

1. How does Voltaire design the opening chapter of Candide to be recognized as a parody of the Biblical story of the Fall, and why would Voltaire be doing this?

2. Compare how Voltaire has explored the themes of judgment and punishment, or disguise and deceit, or love and friendship, and with what effect.

3. If Candide is a satire, then what is the dominant vice or folly of society being criticized?

4. Interpret the last words of the short novel (in Robert M. Adams’ translation): “[…] we must cultivate our garden."
  • Exam on November 5 (the day before the Satire project is due)
  • You may have one side of one sheet of paper as prep notes for each essay
  • You will be asked to draw one essay on one topic from the essay question bucket on the day of the exam. The luck of the draw determines which essay you will write.
  • The exam will be open prep note, and open book (which means you will be expected to quote directly from the text.)
I will be available during my regular office hours for assistance with essay outlines.

AP Super Saturday Prep Session Reminder!!!

Attention AP (and IB students):

The deadline to sign up for the Super Saturday Prep Session Event on the 16th of November is Halloween.


Clickee for the link to the registration.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

IB Satirical Comic Book Project 2013

Due November 6, 2013
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 contemporary 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 6, 2013 at 4:30pm CST in one of the following manners:

  • A functioning link to the work online via email sent to pmcghee@dallasisd.org (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"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

File Under "Educational"

Take This Lollipop.

This is an exceptionally creepy little game that temporarily uses your Facebook info to create a short video on the dangers of social media. There is a write up about it here, just so you know it's not some kind of scam. It's a couple of years old, but well worth the watching.

It's kind of like "Scared Straight," but for the Internet.

IB: Questions on the Inferno

Three sets of questions to consider for Thursday:
  • What is the significance of the three symbolic beasts which Dante encounters before entering hell? What about the mountain which he is unable to climb? How do these symbols relate to the issues of responsibility for Dante's entrance into Hell?
  • Why is Dante allowed to enter the Underworld while he is still alive? Why does he suggest that he entered Hell "midway in our life's journey?" What may this imply regarding the character of the journey and its relation to the concepts of the first and second deaths? Are there any other "living" characters in Hell besides Dante? What does this imply regarding Dante's symbolism of Hell and damnation? When does one enter Hell? At what points is it still possible to get out? When does it become impossible to escape?
  • What is the symbolic significance of Cocytus, the frozen lake at the bottom of Hell? What about the figure of Satan himself, trapped at the center of the lake? Why is it surprising for the reader to discover that the bottom of Hell is frozen solid? What does the cold symbolize? In what way does the place affect Dante?
You do not need to address each question specifically or individually; rather, use the questions as a general guide for the direction of the essay you plan to write.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mini-School Night

Mini-School Night is coming up Monday, September 9th. While I will not have time to go over individual performance (each "class" is only ten minutes long), I would like to meet the folks and introduce the class. Mark your calendars!

Friday, August 23, 2013

2013-2014 Nuts and Bolts

AP Students!!!

There are two AP English Language and Composition teachers: McGhee (room P10) and Kaiser (room P5). Remember, 10 is the new 2, and 5 is the new 139. In other words, McGhee is still in the same place he was (old P2), and Ms. Kaiser is in the same place she originally was (the old P139). Got it? Good.

All of the handouts for AP regardless of with whom you attend class are the same. The syllabus attached here with McGhee's name is the same syllabus as Ms. Kaiser's.

Even their very tutoring hours are the same.

AP and IB Supplies!!!

Each student should have:
·         A large (1 ½ or 2 inch) 3-ring binder for class notes, handouts, etc.
·         Tab separators for sections in the binder
·         3x5 inch note cards (400 will carry you to the end of the year)
·         A box or other containment system for the note cards
·         Three highlighters of 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 (for example, A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker contains formatting and grammar guides for writing academic papers)
·         A pocket calendar or appointment planner

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ivy League Liberal Arts Education: Was $499, Now Free!

Okay, Woodrones, you really want to be smart? You really want a good education? Well, here's the link.

During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. The publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to assemble the right collection of works. The result was a 51-volume series published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf. Later it would simply be called The Harvard Classics.
 This is very Gatsby-esque, by the way. Good luck.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Reading for Incoming Woodrow Seniors

Class of 2014, your summer reading books for Mr. Black's AP English IV (AP Literature and Composition) are as follows:

Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

...and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Both of these books will instantaneously and immeasurably increase your coolness quotient. Just purchasing these books may cause the sales clerk to inquire as to what you may be doing later that evening. You have been warned.

Incoming IB folks, you will need to pick up:

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

...and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I would highly advise AGAINST watching the movie version of Atwood's classic. Really. While it will not necessarily literally scar you, it may very well drive you to ritually scar yourself, and that would be a pity, really, because you have such nice skin. Wear sunscreen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wretched Excess: AP/IB Summer Reading 2013

My personal and professional opinion of assigned summer reading is that it should be a lot like summer romance: short and sweet, and maybe just a little bit torrid. The selected texts were chosen specifically because they meet these criteria, and because I like them.

Please note that students (ie, incoming IB and AP English juniors at Woodrow Wilson) should have both novels read by the start of the fall semester 2013-2014; students should further anticipate that there will be a diagnostic exam based on the material for the purpose of figuring out approximately your skill level and potential needs.

The following books are the "official" summer reading books for both IB and AP Language:

The Great Gatsby is the classic "Lost Generation" novel of post-WWI disillusionment with the American Dream and all its wretched excess. Yes, there is a famous classic movie for this one, but no, I would not bother watching it in spite of its cinematic heritage. This book has gangsters, rum-runners, war-heroes, flappers, golfers, debutantes, Old and New Money... You can only aspire to be as cool as the people in this novel.

Oh, and apparently there's a newer version out, too, in cinemas.

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.

Somehow, I missed this in the theaters, but I hope to change this soon.

And, while you are reading, consider the following questions, any of which would make an excellent essay question for the summer reading test on the first week of class (hint, hint):
  1. Both Fitzgerald and Hamid offer a dim view of the archetypal American Dream by the end of their novels. If Gatsby's 'rags to riches' story reflects the idea that any kid from Middle America, no matter how poor, can aspire to wealth while Changez' version reflects the same story from the immigrant's perspective, then what are these authors ultimately saying about the American Dream? Do these authors view it as dead, or do they offer some hope for it? Discuss the state of the American Dream as presented in The Great Gatsby and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
  2. Over the course of his monologue, Changez delivers more than a few critical appraisals of American life, culture, society, values, and politics. Is it fair to say that these criticisms grow sharper—or cut deeper—as the story progresses? Why or why not? Identify a few such criticisms, explaining why you do or don’t agree with them.
  3. Who is most responsible for Gatsby's death: Tom, Daisy, Myrtle, or Gatsby himself? Using examples from the text, present a case which establishes not only the moral responsibility of the guilty party but exonerates the other characters.

IB: The Wisdom of Philip K. Dick

For your consideration, food for thought, conversation fodder, etc:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

IB Blade Runner Movie Project

Students shall demonstrate the ability to interpret and evaluate complex works of literature by:
  • describing the elements and structure of literature, the artistic intent, and the historical, cultural, and social background of the selected literature;
  • applying specific critical criteria to interpret and analyze the selected literature;
  • describing how particular effects are produced by the artist's use of the elements of literature; and
  • communicating an informed interpretation using the vocabulary of literature.
  • Students must use evidence from the film to support their claims. (No less than 3 pieces of evidence must be supplied.)
  • The essay's length should be no less than 600 words and no longer than 900 words typed.
Possible Essay Ideas:
  1. How is imagery used throughout the film to achieve the themes of the film? Elements you may want to consider are:
    1.  Discussion of the image of the eye. What might it symbolize?
    2. How is rain used in the film, and what is its significance?
    3. How is light used throughout the film? What does this achieve?
  2. Discussion of the environment and architecture.
    1. How and where do most people live?
    2. Advertisements, lights, and everyday things.
    3. Compare where Tyrell lives to where J. F. Sebastian lives.
  3. In Blade Runner, replicants are suppsoed to be neither free nor equal to man; however, when replicants were created, there were given the ability to reason and a conscience. Are replicants human?
    1. What rights should they be given?
    2. Is it just that replicants have killed to save their own lives?
    3. Should replicants be "retired" simply because they want to exist for longer than 4 years?
  4. Who is the hero in this story?
    1. Is Deckard on a hero quest or simply a little person doing his job?
    2. Is Roy Batty a hero?
  5. What are the Biblical images and themes in Blade Runner, and how do they relate to the themes of the film?
    1. Can Tyrell be seen as a man trying to play God? How is he punished? Is this ironic?
    2. Can Roy and Pris be seen as a futuristic Adam and Eve? Compare their fall from life to the story of Genesis and the Fall from Grace.
    3. What is the significance of Miss Salome (Zhora) dancing with her snake?
    4. Can Roy be seen as a Christ figure? Is he paying for the sins of humanity?
Any outside topic must be approved no less than one week in advance of the due date by Mr. McGhee.

No exceptions.
(This means you.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

FINAL Revised IB Presentation Schedule

Newly revised to reflect changes in people's schedules and testing.


March 19

Janet and Max
March 20

Shannon and Herron
March 21
Alex and Laura
Kyle and Harrison

March 26
Megan and Farley
Marcel and Gage
March 27
Evelyn and Jack

Kate P. and Chase
March 28

April 2

Audrey and Brandon

April 3

Stephanie and Robert
April 4

Hector and Kris
April 5

Early Release
April 8

Jose and Michaela D.
April 9
Jamilex and Brittany
Madeline and Maddison
Nancy and Joy
April 10

India and Daniel
April 11
Jesus and Agnes
Allison and Issac
April 12

WILSON! and Kortny
April 15
Jamerra and Alycia

Victoria and Gabby
April 16
Luke and Matt

Erin and Javier
April 17
Mexihca and Ethan

Alister and Karissa
April 18
Zane and Oksana

Solina and Collette
April 19

Abby Q and Maria
April 22

Lorena and Clarissa
April 23


April 24


April 25


April 26
Final Reflection
Final Reflection
Final Reflection

NOTE: I cannot accommodate any more changes in class. Any changes or absences will result in either a grade of zero (0), or you will have to present before or after school to me (at my discretion, subject to my availability, not yours) and whomever happens to be in the room.

Hugs and kisses,