Wednesday, May 25, 2016

IB English III Summer Reading: 2016

Howdy. It is with great fanfare and drum and the shofar that I present the summer reading assignment for IB English 3 for 2016. Two books--one to read over the summer and one to have ready for the fall semester:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Yes, the original. This book is an exceptionally simple read. It was, after all, written for children; however, there is a lot more going on. You know how Animal Farm is an allegory for the rise of Soviet socialism in Russia, and Harry Potter is an allegory for the global "War on Terror"? This novel is a detailed snapshot of politics in the late 19th century in America.

Yes, really. I'm dead serious. This will also give you a fairly reasonable idea of how we're going to look at not only the art of the writing but also the context of the novel.

Your version of this cover may vary, but you need to pick up the UNABRIDGED version. You do not need to pick up the version with Denslow's original illustrations, but it's pleasant to have.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

We will use this book as a framework for the exploration and explication of the novels and other readings for our IB Literature A class. The text is actually kind of interesting, if academic, so feel free to read ahead if you like. HtRLLaP is on quite a few short lists of books for successful college and IB students alike

There may be some incoming seniors and/or graduating seniors who may be willing to part with their copy if you are particularly persuasive, and some of them were really good about keeping notes in the margins....

Both of these books can be found online from and the like, but they can also be found at Half-Price Books and Lucky Dog Books locally.

Please note that students (ie, incoming IB English juniors at Woodrow Wilson) should possess both books and have the novel read by the start of the fall semester 2016-2017; 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.

Have a great summer. If you need to contact me with any questions, feel free to drop me a line at:

Monday, May 23, 2016

AP English III: Summer Reading 2016

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 2016-2017; 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 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

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, apparently there's a newer version out, too.
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.

And there's a really cool independent film version of this novel, but it's a pretty radical departure from the book. 



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.

Editor's Note
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!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

IB Film: 2016 Summer Assignments

  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. (By the way, I will be doing the same thing, too, watching and writing about movies. We'll compare notes.)
    • 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 five (5) 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:
    • a Film Noir from the 1940s - 50s;
    • a Sci Fi classic from the 1930s - 60s;
    • a Western;
    • a film by a foreign director such as: Pedro Almodovar, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Jean Paul Melville, Masaki Kobayashi, Werner Herzog, Akira Kurosawa, John Woo, or Francois Truffaut;
    • and another movie from the genre or era or country of your choice.
  3. Written Assignment: You will turn in a 3x5 reflection card for each film you watch, written within two days of seeing the film. 
    • Side A of this reflection card should include:
      1. Title and year of release.
      2. Director's name
      3. Principle actors' names
      4. Production company's name (e.g.Warner Bros., Toho, Universal, etc.)
      5. Country of origin
    •  Side B (the lined side) is where you BRIEFLY 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.)
I originally thought this went without saying, but try to watch movies that you have not seen before. I know it doesn't' say specifically what you have to watch; ultimately, it's your option. However, 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.

There are a number of decent websites with "must see" lists of films for film students. Here are a couple I would recommend:

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.

Not sure what's coming out? Try checking out this list of upcoming movies in 2016.

AP English: When Will I Get My Scores?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016, at 7:00am CDT...

students in Texas can access their 2016 AP scores online. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

NMSI Student Incentive Payment Registration (AP English)

AP English students,

In an effort to expedite student incentive payments, NMSI needs to collect information from AP math, science, and English students at Woodrow before they leave for summer.

Go here:

Students only need to complete the link one time, regardless of the number of AP exams they are taking (they will have the option to select that they are taking multiple exams).  It will only take a minute for students to complete this information.  The link is accessible from smartphones and tablets. 

The link will not be available after May 20, 2016.