Mr. Surridge's English Classes
Newsletter #2 - December 2015
Tenth-Grade Bible Verse for To Kill a Mockingbird
"If you had been on that jury, son, and eleven other boys like you, Tom would be a free man" - Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Parent-Teacher Conferences and Candy Voting Results
Frequently, I asked parents a particular question: "What should I know about your child that I don't already know?" I hope it goes without saying that the lines of communication remain open on this and any other topic of conversation should we ever need to chat. My contact information is at the end of this newsletter.
During our conferences, I asked you to vote in my candy polling station, specifically in response to the question: "What creative project would you like your child to do in English class?"
Here are the delicious results:
I'm excited to share that our principal, Dr. Kevin Kaemingk, and I have been brainstorming a potential service-learning opportunity next semester, which will give students a chance to write about a memory of theirs and listen to the stories of others in our community. Hopefully, you'll enjoy reading their memory-writing experience. More information to follow in the New Year.
Student Artwork from English Class
Writing and Research - Sophomore - Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Periods
To Kill a Mockingbird ends with a sobering lesson for young Jem, the son of heroic lawyer Atticus Finch in Depression-era Alabama. The father tells his distraught child that the racial injustice seen in the courtroom would never have took place if children like him and his sister Scout had sat on the all-white, all-male jury. It reminded me of the words of Jesus and how we all should seek to more like children every day, a verse which I shared with the students and can be read at the top of this newsletter.
Honors Writing and Research - Sophomores - Third Period
All sophomores also keep a journal in which they write periodically on certain subjects and share their thoughts with me. It's been exciting to read about how Life of Pi has reawakened within many of them a love for reading. I thought I would anonymously share one student's response:
Student 1: "The books that you have in your curriculum I have really actually enjoyed. I had tried reading Life of Pi but this time was different. I am now hooked on the book and struggle not to read ahead."
More recently we have worked with a list of poetic techniques as we study examples of poems, and create our own. Life of Pi features strong Christian themes, such as the inclusion of a sacrificial Christ figure who dies to save others. This lesson in literary symbolism allowed our class to discuss broader ideas, beyond the pages of the book, like how does God reveal himself in our world? And how can Jesus serve as an inspiration in our life?
Our work is far from finished though as we close our unit with a look at how patterns (motifs) provided foreshadowing throughout the book, in a kind of before-and-after plot recipe. Another five-paragraph analytical essay will follow after Christmas break. Thank you for encouraging your children. I'm confident they will go on to do great things.
American Literature - Juniors - Seventh Period
A major piece of our unit was a research paper that your child just finished writing last week. Each student chose two different topics--from subjects as diverse as the World Series, alcoholism, car accidents, and New York City--and produced an essay wherein they utilized advanced grammar concepts like semicolons with conjunctive adverbs, hyphenated adjective compounds, and advanced appositives. Along with their exploration of primary and secondary sources, inclusion of paragraph transitions and bibliographies, the research paper provides a comprehensive way to tackle many different curriculum objectives, and places each student into the 1920s in an interactive way.
In addition to our lessons on symbolism, irony, and the First World War, The Great Gatsby gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk about one of my favorite literary devices: Christ figures. Jay Gatsby himself serves as a reminder of Jesus in the story: a mysterious stranger who suffers in place of another, takes the blame for a sin he did not commit, and pursues those he loves with dogged determination. It's not a one-to-one analogy-- Gatsby was a bootlegger after all--but like all Christ figures in literature, it serves to remind us of the greatest example of selfless sacrifice the world has ever known.