Home School Helps

Home School Helps

Home School Helps provides insight and instruction for high school level courses in the Language Arts.  On this page are several pillars, in which you can find specific information in the form of blogs.

The Pillars
  • Literature: Poetry (Eternal and Modern) which will contain Figurative Language (inc. Symbols and Archetypes) [alphabetized]
  • Grammar/Usage/Mechanics, including the Grammar Monster blogs
  • Composition: writing composed essays and essays of various types
  • Using Technology to Assist Instruction

Literature

No literature study is complete without canonical literature.  The literary canon is filled with works that have enduring themes, protagonists we all still related to, and well-crafted writing.

POETRY/ eTERNAL AND mODERN

In my three decades of teaching high school Engiish, I discovered that my students were extremely resistant to poetry–unless I first engaged them with modern songs, the poems that they heard and sang without realizing they were poetry.  Intermingling canonical poems with modern songs can be challenging, so I offer this yearlong blog series.

Listed below, in alphabetical order of the literary term which focuses the explication in the blog.

  • Introduce easy metaphors and more with Rufus Wainwright’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother”, which also gives us a glimpse of the 4 Types of Love:  eros, storge, agape, and philia.
  • Allegories: The classical “Carmina Burana” by composer Carl Orff seems an odd beginning for the Eagles’ “Hotel California“, but once we see below the surface, the connections are powerful.
  • Allegories with riddling meanings is the focus of the famous “Tapestry” by Carole King (for a long time, one of M.A. Lee’s favorite songs)
  • While filled with allusions, T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” is merely presented in this blog about New Year’s Resolutions.  Anyone who knows Christ’s story, especially of the birth and crucifixion, will see the allusions.
  • An excellent example of the power of free verse to display visually the interconnections of ideas is e.e. cummings’ “i carry your heart with me”. This poem is an excellent contract to Sonnet 18, by William Shakespeare (see in this list at “sonnet”).  Both are highly structured but in completely different ways with completely different rules to the structure.  And both are very famous love poems.
  • Inference:  the power of suggesting meaning:  Cold Play’s “Clocks”
  • Metaphors fill excellent writing, and Sting is a master of the unusual extended metaphor, often known as a metaphysical conceit.  His “Fortress around your Heart” is the perfect conceit, in that it transforms the required object with an usual comparison and also develops the writer’s vanity (this time, in capturing the poem’s persona’s arrogance in this relationship).
  • Another metaphor and one of my favorite poems:  Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “First Fig”
  • Paradox with dream and reality:  One Republic’s “Counting Stars” .  I despise the video that accompanies this song:  some Hollywood director’s attempt to be edgy and cool by disrespecting religion–while the song has nothing to do with religion.
  • Sonnet 18, “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”, by William Shakespeare is considered one of the greatest love poems in the world.  In the highly structured sonnet, Shakespeare not only compliments his love with her undying rarity but also proves his devotion by flattering her intellect.
  • Symbols are a kind of shorthand for authors, just as allusions are a shorthand, a quick way to provide a lot of information very quickly.  Especially occurring in writing before the 1950s, canonical writers often play with symbols.
    • Color symbols are used most often, and knowledge of the symbolic meanings of colors can be revelatory: color symbols
    • Numbers can also be symbolic.  Once readers have a quick understanding of the basic meanings of number symbols, those meanings seem to expand an author’s information exponentially.
    • Symbolic numbers also structure Lynne Alvarez’s “She loved him all her life”, a perfect little free verse that will break your heart once you realize what happened.
  • Aristotle first expressed that literature should have three Unities:  time, place, and action.  The ancient philosopher was discussing necessities for dramas, but two famous modern poets played with the challenge of the 3 Unities: Robert Frost’s “Once by the Pacific” and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Time Does Not Bring Relief”  
  • Verse Types:  All poems are written one of three ways.  Most of us think that all poems have rhyme.  Two of the major forms of poetry–blank and free–have no rhyme at all.  In the following paired blogs [blank then free then pure], I first explain the basic elements of the verse type while in the second blog I present the MMO of Old Masters & New Masters in working within that verse type.
    • Blank Verse has 10 syllables in a metered line but no rhyme (the rhyme is “blank” or absent).  Robert Frost, Terrence Williams, and Seamus Heaney give us three examples.
    • Blank Verse: Means/Method/Opportunity ~ Macbeth’s famous speech,  a selection from William Cowper’s “Winter Morning Walk”, another selection from Robert Frost’s “Birches”, and Wallace Steven’s “Plain Sense of Things” (a poem I did not know before I researched for this blog.  I now think highly of this poem.)
    • Free Verse has neither rhyme nor rhythm.  George Herbert’s “Easter Wings” is one of the first examples of what we call shaped verse.  Walt Whitman is credited with developing the catalog, and his “Song of Myself 26” is a great example.  The simple free verse form that most of us are familiar with is best shown with two examples: Gwendolyn Brooks “We Real Cool” and Arcelis Girmay’s “Elegy” .
    • Free Verse: Means/Method/OpportunityShaped Verse = Roger McGough’s “40 Love” and Carolyn Forche’s “Ancapagari, Catalog = Walt Whitman “I Hear America Singing” and Maya Angelou’s “Women Work” and Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry”, Simple Form = Carl Sandburg’s “Bones” and Charles Simic’s “Stone”
    • Pure Verse has both rhyme and rhythm.  This explanation touches on Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, with a closer look at Sara Teasdale’s “Christmas Carol”
    • Pure Verse:  Means/Method/Opportunity ~ Wilfred Wilson Gibson’s “The Stone”, Vachel Lindsay’s “This Section is a Christmas Tree”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, Eugene Field’s “Jest `fore Christmas” and C.C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”.
4 Requirements of Song
  • Dolly Parton’s “Wildflower” begins our look at these 4 Requirements of any poetry
  • “Paper Cup” by Jimmy Webb (of the Fifth Dimension) continues to build on our understanding of the 4 Requirements
  • Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” adds final touches to the 4 Requirements for poetry

Occasional Poetry:  Lessons for Writers as well as Readers

  • Mother’s Day > Li-Young Lee’s “I Ask my Mother to Sing”, George Barker’s “Sonnet to my Mother”, and Judith Viorst’s “Some Advice from a Mother to her Married Son”
  • Father’s Day > Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”, Jan Beatty’s “My Father Teaches Me to Dream”, Cecil Day Lewis’ “Walking Away”, and Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift”
  • Patriotism (Memorial Day, Flag Day, Veteran’s Day) > Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”, Gwendolyn Brook’s “the sonnet-ballad”, and Carl Sandburg’s “Grass”
  • Independence DayWalt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn”, Wilfred Owen’s “From my Diary: July 1914”,  and Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics

  • Grammar Phobia vs. Grammar Snobbery:  The only reason for grammar is Clear Communication.  An editor at The Guardian newspaper in Great Britain shares her tirade about people with grammar snobbery creating people who have grammar phobia.  M.A. Lee shares her own 13 reasons that good grammar is essential for good communication.
  • Grammar Starters, handouts that serve as 5-to-15 minutes beginnings for instruction.
    • Grammar Starters, 1st 6 Lessons.  Use these as reminders of previous knowledge.
    • GS 2:  16 Lessons.  Reminders as well as gradual introduction of newer and/or harder concepts.
    • Mixing the Grammar Lessons with reading comprehension and figurative language–teaching through insightful quotations.  GS 3
Grammar Monster Blogs

Composition 

Sentence Structure Blogs  
  • Inversions:  Yoda Charm?  Not quite.  Switching words around in a sentence is a Star Wars gimmick, but writers have used inversions for centuries.  The official terms are anastrophe and chiasmus (one of my favorites.)
  • Creating Emphasis through Repetition: simple repetition, incremental repetition, auxesis (climatic ordering with sets of three), polysyndeton/asyndeton, and anaphora/epistrophe

Using Technology to Assist Instruction