Sunday, June 28, 2015

IB Film: Something Else Interesting to Watch

File this under "Discussions to Have at the Beginning of the Year." Biased to be sure, but his take on computers manufacturing mise en scene is worthy of a class argument at a later date.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Woodrow Wilson Summer Reading Explosaganza 2015!!!

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 2015. 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 2015-2016 school year.

Incoming Freshmen: All freshmen should anticipate a graded discussion of the assigned novel(s) as well as a traditional written test. All freshmen will read:

Pre-AP/Pre-IB Freshmen will read Davis' Spare Parts AND one of the following:

  • An Abundance of Katherines,  by John Green
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,  by Mark Haddon
  • Deadline,  by Chris Crutcher
  • Mexican White Boy,  by Matt de la Pena
  • Stupid Fast,  by Geoff Herbach

Incoming Sophomores: All sophomores should anticipate a guided discussion of the text as well as a traditional written test on the material. Mr. Maddox's website with the summer assignment can be accessed by clicking here. All sophomores will read:


Pre-AP/Pre-IB Sophomores will read Hillenbrand's Unbroken AND one of the following
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Sun also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Tess of d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

Incoming Juniors:

On-level Juniors:

IB English 3:

AP English 3:

IB Film Juniors:

Incoming Seniors:

AP English 4:
  • AP Lit students should anticipate a graded Socratic seminar on the first novel and a more traditional test on the second one. Mr. Black's website can be found by clicking here.

IB English 4:
  • Both of these works must be read in their entirety when you come back in August. Expect a Socratic Seminar or two (with the possibility of a more traditional reading-check test). Mr. Lundberg's website can be found by clicking here.

IB Film Seniors:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

AP English III Summer Reading 2015 ***Updated***

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 English juniors at Woodrow Wilson) should have both novels read and the assignment completed by the start of the fall semester 2015-2016; 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:

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

This is O'Brien's third book about his experiences in the Vietnam War. A collection of short stories, this book blurs the line between "story truth" and "happening truth." It is an extraordinary book that will really get into your head and make you ponder the nature of war, heroism, cowardice, and value of humanity.
One of these short stories has been made into a movie, but it's a Kiefer Sutherland film, and that may or may not turn you off. If you really like the idea of telling the truth of the matter vs. telling the fact of the matter, then you really need to watch Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon. It's an amazing pairing with this book, really.

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.



Incoming AP 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.
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 with your inquiry, and I will reply at my earliest convenience.

I have been asked about providing an example of a precis. Oregon State has a pretty good one, and it can be found by clicking here; however, an entire world of examples can be found by clicking here. Good luck!

IB Film Summer Assignment 2015

  1. WATCH SOME MOVIES! Keep a journal on everything you watch. No, really, every movie. Not just the ones you go to an actual movie theater but also ones you might watch at home. If it's the first time you've seen that movie, journal it. Log the title, date, director, principal talent, and anything else that strikes you about the movie from a filmmaking point of view. While you're at it, review this short interview in terms of formatting your journal.
    • up to 7 minutes of dialogue and action
    • needs to be formatted as a script, not as a short story
    • will be "pitched" by you to the whole class during the first week of school
    • subject matter to be determined by you, but it must fit within the parameters of the final IB Film project

Your script will be due the first day 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.


Actually, a short series of assignments:
  1.  Please read this short interview 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 250-300 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, read 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 only recently had 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.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Blade Runner: Anatomy of a Classic

This is for the IB Film crew and (by extension) for the IB English 3 students. The site explains the movie more than the novel, but the coverage of the tension between the director and the author over the meaning of the author's novel is pretty interesting. If you're struggling over meaning, and you have that feeling like you're drinking from the fire hose, then this site is for you.

Click here.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Donors Choose Link    

Howdy, true believers. Above is the link to my Donors Choose page where, thanks to the generous offer made by the Morgridge Family Foundation, we're already half way toward receiving some cool new gear that the film program badly needs.

However, it's one of those challenge grant things like on NPR, meaning that their offer expires if folks don't donate in time. So please donate. And spread the word, and get them to donate. I would be much obliged, and I further solemnly promise and swear I will make sure that all donors get mentioned in the film credits and at the film festival next spring.

Thank you!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

AP English and IB Film: Free "Selma" Tickets

Dallas business and community leaders have generously donated 11,500 tickets for seventh through 12th grade Dallas ISD students to view the movie “Selma” at no charge.
Students must show a current student ID or report card at the box office of the theaters listed below for free admission while tickets last.
Participating theaters are as follows:
AMC Northpark
AMC Firewheel
Cinemark 14
Cinemark Webb Chapel
City Cinemas Angelika
Studio Movie Grill (NW Hwy)
The Extra Credit Assignment
As if the opportunity to see an Oscar-nominated film for FREE wasn't enough, here is a further opportunity to get extra credit for doing so.
Write a one-page, typed, reflective essay wherein you establish your take on the film as a whole. Be sure to cite specific reasons ( reference to the film itself) to justify your reaction. You may comment upon:
  • the cinematic quality of the film (direction, acting, style, etc)
  • the historical quality of the film (plot, veracity, anachronisms, etc)
  • the film's effect on you personally (how you grew as a human being as a direct result of watching this film)
Due date: before we leave for Spring Break 2015.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

IB Film: 10 Coolest Tracking Shots

We were talking about this the other day. Here is a very compelling list of the coolest tracking shots in film history. The link is to

If we expand the definition of film to include made for television movies, then I would HIGHLY recommend adding the six minute continuous long take from HBO's "True Detective." The scene actually goes over walls.

(For some reason, YouTube will not let me embed the video, so here is the link:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Congrats to the Woodrow Debate Team!

Congratulations to Woodrow Debate for sweeping UIL District!
Gabriel Jankovsky and Mac Murchison received 1st Place
and Kadrian Oliver and Roberto Hairston came in 2nd Place at district.
Both teams will be going to STATE! Way to go guys!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Registering for AP Exams (AP and IB Students)

(From the email that was sent to all Woodrow students...)
This is a reminder that AP registration has begun at Woodrow Wilson High School. Please make sure that you son/daughter is registered by the deadline date.  
Below is important need to know information regarding Advanced Placement (AP) that was emailed in December:
1. All students will be responsible for registering for their AP exams online.  Registration will be open as of Monday, December 8, 2014 & will end March 6, 2015 at 10:00pm.
2. Website for AP registration:
3. Students that registered last year:
  1. Student can use their same login information from last year to register for AP exams this year. If a student does not remember their login information, once at the registration site please click the tab that says “forgot password” and directions will be sent to the email used last year when registering.
  2. New students registering will need to create a new account.
  3. Students and parents will receive an email shortly after this email from the total registration website that will give you the email address that was used last year.
4. Students who are taking Pre-AP courses do not need to register for AP exams.
5. Fees for registration:
  1. Enrolled in AP Class: $0.00
  2. IB, Retakes and non AP students: Free/Reduced Lunch - $0.00, Non Free/Reduced Lunch-$0.00
  3. Late Exam Ordering – $45.00 for all students; Free/Reduced included so please encourage students to register by March 6, 2015.
6. SPED or 504 students with Accommodations:
  1. Being in the SPED or 504 program at Woodrow does not automatically allow students to have accommodations on the AP exams. Students must register with College Board SSD program to receive accommodations. The last day to submit is by Friday, February 20, 2015. The College Board must receive your request for accommodations and supporting documentation (if needed) by Feb. 20. (This date is seven weeks before the ordering deadline for AP Exams because it takes approximately seven weeks from the receipt of all necessary documentation for the College Board to determine your eligibility for accommodations. If requests are submitted after this date, there is no guarantee that accommodations will be approved and appropriate exam materials will be shipped in time for the test.)
  2. Student/parents can register by contacting Mrs. Odeski who is the SSD coordinator for our campus. 
  3. Attached is the parent consent form for SSD that can be brought to Mrs. Odeski in the counseling office. If your student has previously registered with SSD for PSAT or SAT testing, they do not need to resubmit.
  4. Attached is the AP exam dates and Late Testing dates.
Any further questions or concerns please feel free to contact Mrs. Demetrich Herford, Mrs. Tamara Whitfield, AP Manager/Coordinator, or Mrs. Chiquita Prudhomme, Assistant Principal – AP, .

Monday, January 5, 2015

AP/IB: HoD Character Mandala Project

This mandala project is due Wednesday, February 4, 2015.

 Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning center and circle. It conveys the notion that any center is tied to its circumference and any circumference is always determined by its center. Together they represent wholeness. The character mandala project represents the student's analysis of the whole character in The Heart of Darkness.

After choosing your character, consider what traits that character displays and what happens to him/her in the story. Using the color symbolism chart, color the mandala according to the characteristics you have determined about your character. Whichever traits/characteristics are the most important or most evident should be represented by the corresponding colors from the chart and be dominant on the mandala. Any character you choose should have at least three characteristics and/or traits, and those colors should be evident on your mandala. Under the mandala, write the name of your character. On a separate page, type one paragraph about your character by first introducing him/her, followed by an explanation of what each color represents, the significance of their placement, and textual evidence and personal commentary for support of each characteristic you displayed. Conclude your paragraph with a theme statement of the selection. Be prepared to present your finished product to the class. Yes, you will have to read your paragraph.

The completed project should meet these criteria:
  1. a choice of characteristics appropriate to the character showing careful, close reading,
  2. a pattern of colors that are pleasing to the eye (or meaningfully harsh) and represent the characteristics the colors symbolize,
  3. effective paragraph organization, sentence fluency, word choice, and attention to conventions,
  4. and appropriate evidence correctly notated.

AP/IB: HoD Graphic Project

The summative project for the Heart of Darkness unit is a graphic project.

The student will select one quote from the novella which encapsulates one of the themes. Then the student will find an image (from the Internet or a book, et cetera) that he or she feels illustrates the quote from the novella; center the image and caption it with the selected quote from the novella. On the back of the page, the student will properly cite the source of the image  as well as the quote from the novella (MLA format).

Students will present their graphic projects to the class on Thursday, February 5, 2015.

An example is below:

"We live as we dream... alone."

AP: HoD Elements of Style

AP Students, this project is due Tuesday, February 10, 2015. Each student will write five (5) essays on elements of style found in The Heart of Darkness:
  • allusion
  • atmosphere
  • connotation
  • details (concrete or abstract)
  • diction
  • figurative language
  • figures of speech
  • imagery
  • irony
  • metaphor
  • mood
  • narrative devices
  • point of view
  • stylistic devices
  • symbols/symbolism
  • syntax
  • theme
  • tone
  • voice
You will need to make sure that you clearly distinguish and define the elements that you choose.

Each essay must be a minimum of one typewritten, double-spaced, no-larger-than-12-font-sized, page long. Begin your essay with the definition of the element; then apply this definition in a general sense to the novel. The rest of the essay consists of specific details, quotations, plot and character references from the novella to prove your point about the particular element of style. Document internally citing chapter and page number. This essay is NOT to be written in a standard introduction-body-conclusion format. You are essentially writing several EXCELLENT paragraphs of commentary on the element. (This is good preparation for the Big Exam in May because you will need to focus on body paragraphs more intently than on flowery introductory and concluding paragraphs.) You will need to make brief introductory and concluding statements within each paragraph.

You will need to have a title page and a table of contents for your elements. Full credit is achieved in two areas: completion and content. Completion is based on having all five elements covered, each page written clearly and without errors in syntax, spelling, or grammar. The second grade is based on being able to defend clearly the assertions about the elements. For example, if you do not clearly define an element, or your thesis is unproved in your paper, you lose points. Incomplete projects will not be graded.

Fair warning:
  • Do not use Cliff's Notes or Sparknotes.
  • Do not leave this until the night before.
  • Do not use first person or other forbidden elements (consult an MLA guide as necessary).
An example:
      Diction is the author's distinct word choice used to establish an idea within the work. Conrad uses diction in Heart of Darkness to portray the nature of death and mystery in the Congo. In the jungles of Africa, one can find "...death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush..."(Signet 69). "Skulking" denotes death merely lying in hiding; however, its connotation depicts a more active role, waiting to seize its victims. By nature, death "lurks" in dark corners to conceal its "hidden evil" (Signet 105). It creeps up on its victims without being seen or anticipated. This "concealed" image of death depicted by Conrad's diction serves to intensify the fear of death and establish death's role in the novel. In the sunshine, "pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief" (Signet 139). In the daylight, evil is "uncomplicated;" this connotes a simple danger known to all. It is a "relief" to know that the potential hazards are visible and are not going to be a surprise. Conrad also uses mysterious diction throughout the novel: "It had ceased to be... a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness." The "white" connotes a blank space for the imagination to run. However...

Get the picture?

AP/IB: HoD Final Essay Exam

The final exam for our Heart of Darkness unit is scheduled for Thursday, February 12, 2015. Students will prepare to respond to one of the four essay prompts below. On the day of the exam, students will be allowed to use their book and one handwritten sheet of notebook paper's worth of notes. Students are advised to prepare one notebook page for each essay and to bring them all on test day where they will draw one of the essay topics randomly.

These are the questions:
  1. In many pieces of literature, the setting plays an important symbolic role in the thematic development. Explain the roles the settings play in developing one of the themes in Heart of Darkness.
  2. Authors often grapple with the essential questions of what leads people to commit evil and whether evil is inherent in all people. Explain Conrad's implications about the nature of evil in Heart of Darkness.
  3. When we come to the end of a novel or play, a consistent mood should have altered or intensified our consciousness of certain aspects of life. Discuss the mood of Heart of Darkness and point out ways in which it has intensified or altered your consciousness of history and/or certain aspects of modern reality.
  4. One definition of madness is "mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it." But Emily Dickenson writes, "Much madness is divinest Sense--/ To a discerning Eye--." Novelists and playwrights have often seen madness with "a discerning Eye." Consider how a character's apparent madness or irrational behavior plays an important role in Heart of Darkness. Then write a well-organized essay in which you argue the extent to which this behavior is delusional or eccentric and how it might be judged reasonable. Explain the significance of the "madness" to the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

AP/IB: Extra Credit Opportunities

The Subjects: Here they are: the movies to watch for extra credit for the 4th Six Week Grading Period. They are all exceptionally good and exceptionally relevant to the material in Heart of Darkness.
 *Warning: these last two are harsh. Very harsh.

The Assignment:
Write a one page, double-spaced, twelve font position paper on the issues raised in any one of the films. Be sure to cite specific examples from that film to justify your stance on the subject. Your aim is to convince your audience 1) that you are knowledgeable about the film, and 2) that your response is the most rationale stance to take.

This assignment is repeatable (i.e. you can do four separate papers on four separate films for four separate extra credit opportunities.

Please turn in all extra credit work by Wednesday of the last week of the six week grading period.