Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Woodrow Wilson Summer Reading Explosaganza: 2014!!!

Here, collected in one nice, neat location are all of the summer reading assignments for the English Department at Woodrow Wilson High School for Summer 2014. As always, any unabridged copy you are able to pick up is perfectly fine, new or used, so don't be thrown off by differences in covers. Students are required to read the selected texts over the summer before school resumes in anticipation of the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

Incoming Freshmen: All freshmen should anticipate a graded discussion of the assigned novel(s) as well as a traditional written test.
  • On-level Freshmen (one novel):
    • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  • Pre-AP (two novels):
    •  The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
    • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Pre-IB: (three novels)
    • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
    • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Incoming Sophomores: All sophomores should anticipate a guided discussion of the text as well as a traditional written test on the material.
  • On-level sophomores: Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Pre-AP and Pre-IB: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Incoming Juniors:
Incoming Seniors:
  • On-level Seniors: To be announced next week
  • IB Literature IV: Incoming IB seniors should anticipate a guided discussion of the texts as well as a more traditional test on the material. Here is a link to Mr. Lundberg's website.
    • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd  ISBN 9781401208417
    • Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley  ISBN 9781570629136
  • IB Theory of Knowledge: TOK students should anticipate a graded Socratic seminar on the text.
    • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  • AP English Literature: AP Lit students should anticipate a graded Socratic seminar on the first novel and a more traditional test on the second one.
    • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
    • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Friday, May 16, 2014

IB Film: An Interesting Problem to Ponder

"Are Filmmakers Using Drones Illegally? Looks Like It" 

From All Tech Considered on NPR.org today. Considering that several schools around the nation and in the area are already using this technology for promos, games, etc, should Woodrow's film folks and Woodrow's robotics folks team up?

And take a look at this while you're at it. SkyCamUSA

Monday, May 5, 2014

AP English III Summer Reading 2014 - Updated: Now with IB !

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 AP and IB English juniors at Woodrow Wilson) should have both novels read and the assignment completed by the start of the fall semester 2014-2015; 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.


AP English III:

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.

From her website: "For 2,000 years, cadavers -- some willingly, some unwittingly -- have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem."

Stiff is a non-fiction piece, but it's pretty funny, very easy to read, and there is some very interesting writing going on in there. And yes, this really is about dead bodies and what happens to them when the original owners are no longer in need of them.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

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. It's an awful lot like The Great Gatsby, but Baz Luhrmann hasn't messed it up yet. Part-spy-thriller, part-romance, this story will make you think.

IB Literature III: 

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

You need this novel in your life right now, if you want to know the truth. Holden is muddling through a rough time right now. Holden is stressed out. Holden is having trouble handling school, relationships, family, graduation, and all that "Degrassi High" kind of crap. To put it another way, Holden is the poster-child for postmodern, disaffected youth in America. Read this. Love it. Buy multiple copies of it and horde them, for crying out loud. Wear your hat backwards, if you want to.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster

iro·ny   noun \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\

: the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny
: a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected

Did you know that there is actually a SparkNotes summary for this book--a book dedicated to teaching people how to read literature in an intelligent fashion without the need for over-simplified summaries like SparkNotes?


Incoming AP and IB juniors will write an original rhetorical precis for each of the novels they have read this summer.

What is a precis? 

A precis is a highly structured four sentence paragraph that records the essential elements of a unit of spoken or written discourse, including the name of the speaker/writer, the context of the delivery, the major assertion, the mode of development and/or support, the stated and/or apparent purpose, and the relationship established between the speaker/writer and the audience. Each of the four sentences requires specific information; students are also encouraged to use brief quotations to convey a sense of style and tone.

What is the format of a precis?

  1.  Name of author, [optional: a phrase describing author], genre and title of work date in parentheses (additional publishing information in parentheses or note); a rhetorically accurate verb (such as "assert," "argue," suggest," "imply," "claim," etc.); and a THAT clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work.
  2.  An explanation of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis, usually in chronological order.
  3.  A statement of the author's apparent purpose followed by an "in order" phrase.
  4.  A description of the intended audience and/or the relationship the author establishes with the audience.

Where can I find a decent explanation of how to write one of these things?
A really good place to go to find an explanation of how to write a rhetorical precis can be found HERE. A link will open to a .pdf file which explains in detail how to write one. In fact, you may notice that the same instructions I offered you above were taken from this .pdf. 

When is it due?
This assignment is due the Friday of the first week of school.

Questions, comments, or concerns?
Please feel free to drop me a line at pmcghee@dallasisd.org with your inquiry, and I will reply at my earliest convenience.

Friday, May 2, 2014

IB Film Summer Assignment *Updated*

Actually, a short series of assignments:
  1.  Please watch this short film about American Cinema and film criticism. This should give you a fairly straightforward account of the way we will view and comment upon film in our class. It will also give you a model for how to complete the reflections that will be required of you for this summer assignment. Pay close attention to the commentary--both what they care to observe and how they comment upon it.
  2. WATCH SOME MOVIES! You must watch a total of ten (10) films over the summer. This part of the assignment is more enjoyable if you actually watch them with other people, perhaps your fellow film students or even <gasp!> your parental units. You will need to watch the following:
  3. Written Assignment: You will turn in a 300-500 word reflection for each film you watch, written within two days of seeing the film. This reflection should include a (very) brief summary of the film, including the year of release, the director’s name and the main characters’ and actors’ names. The rest of the reflection should discuss your analytical, interpretive and evaluative thoughts about the film. (Again, watch the link above in #1 for an example of what I'm talking about.)
***(Ed.- I originally thought this went without saying, but try to watch movies that you have not seen before. I know it says that you can watch two films of your own free choice, but I was hoping that you might want to talk about films that have only recently been released. Ultimately, it's your option, but even if you sample something that you've tasted a thousand times, I hope that you'll look at it in a more critical light than that to which you are accustomed.)

The assignment will be due the Friday of the first week of school. Period. No exceptions, unless it is a REALLY good one, and even then I reserve the right to call shenanigans and say no.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Ask me! Feel free to comment with your questions, and I promise that I will reply. Or if you believe that your question is too radical or personal to ask publicly, feel free to drop me a line at:


Note: I will check my email and my blog often, but not necessarily more than daily (I do have things to do, after all). I promise to get back to you at my earliest convenience.

***There was an issue with the link to the video. The correct video should pop up now.***