Tag Archives: focus question

Inside Poetry: Getting At The Poem’s Basic Meaning & Technique

Ask yourself the following questions that apply to your focus question. Make notes as you go, and you will find it easier to organize your thoughts for the first draft.

  • The poem’s basic content
    1. What is the context of the poem? Identify the speaker(s) and any background information that would help explain the poem’s basic message.
    2. How are the thoughts organized?
    3. Does the poet contrast any ideas? Does he/she juxtapose any for effect?
    4. What feelings does the speaker reveal? How are the feelings communicated?
    5. What meaning does the poem have on the literal level?
  • The poem’s figurative level
    1. Does the poet use any emotionally charged words? What effect do they have?
    2. What images stand out? How do the images help to convey the poem’s main idea?
    3. Are any of the images used as symbols? What do they represent?
    4. Are any of the actions described in the poem intended to be viewed as symbolic? What do they represent?
    5. Is the poem limited to a specific situation, or does it comment on life in general? What comment does it make?
    6. What is the significance of the poem’s thoughts or theme?
  • The poem’s main purpose
    1. Is the poem mostly concerned with communicating thoughts?
    2. Does the poem tell a story or present a dramatic situation? Does it amuse or entertain? Does it succeed?
    3. Is the poem an explanation or exploration of feelings?
    4. Does it aim at persuading the reader to believe something? What?
    5. Does the poem attempt to shock the reader into a realization? Is it effective?
    6. Is the poem commenting on a problem in our society? What is it saying?
  • The poem’s tone
    1. What feelings is the speaker expressing?
    2. What words or images convey those feelings best? Why?
    3. Are there any sounds in the poem that help to communicate the speaker’s attitude? Which? How do they help?
    4. Does the poem’s rhythm relate to the feelings being expressed? How? What is the effect?
    5. Have the details of the poem been especially selected to convey the speaker’s attitude? How have they been limited? Is it effective?
  • The poem’s use of words, sounds and rhythm
    1. Which words are repeated? Why?
    2. Have any words been isolated or given special emphasis? What effect was the poet trying to achieve?
    3. What use does the poet make of imagery? What patterns link the images together?
    4. Does the author give any special emphasis to any single image? Which one? Why?
    5. Are there symbols in the poem? Where? What do they mean?
    6. How do the images and symbols help to establish the poem’s meaning?
    7. What use does the poet make of sounds? How do the sounds in the poem add to its meaning?
    8. How would you describe the poem’s rhythm? Does the rhythm slow down, speed up, or change at any point? Why?
  • The poem’s structure
    1. What type of poem is this? Why did the poet choose this type?
    2. What pattern of rhyme did the poet use? How does the pattern of rhymes add to the impact of the poem?
    3. Are the lines of the poem arranged in a special pattern? What purpose did the poet have in choosing that pattern?
    4. Does the poem have a consistent meter? What type of meter? How many feet are in each line?
    5. What rhyme scheme, if any, did the poet use?

This exercise will enable you to organize your thoughts and gather some preliminary notes on your subject.

Big changes in the Mac Lab

The new MacPro server is set up and ready to go and each new iMac is lit up and rolling. Still a couple install bugs I have to sort out: like naming each computer(minor error at startup as Leopard assigns its own name). They should get you to the net and back.

I’ve spent far more time than I wanted setting everything up, but I know the value of an automagic, autonomous Mac lab. Each iMac has the standard out of the box Mac stuff, iTunes, Garageband, Safari. But I’ve added the usual favourites as well: Firefox and Microsoft Office. No Adobe applications yet as there was a mix up somewhere and it hasn’t arrived. The new cameras and their bell’s and whistles should be here soon. I still have to order more audio gear(keyboard and mixer) and other odds and ends. The Comtech blog will have details as they unfold.

The iblogs have been updated, again. Little surprises, mostly. New themes, better support for tagging. Recall how we had to add code to align an image in a post, you’ll like the automagic stuff there too. Trackbacks still do what trackbacks do, but we’ll use Pingbacks from here on in.

Post tagging will be emphasized(3-5 tags per post is enough) which means a post should only need to be in one category. This summer I added tags to all my old posts, but in the process deleted all my categories, so I have new work to do there someday :grrr

I’ve added a new blog devoted to tags called iblog.stjschool.org/tags/. It updates on the fly when any post is published at iblogs.stjschool.org. I’ve written a couple widgets to support the rollout of the sitewide tags blog too.

Reminders about blogging at STJ: abide your signed “Computer Use Agreement.” Set your privacy and comment moderation settings to whatever level is comfortable to you (Private blogs do not appear in the tags blog/widgets, though). Don’t forget to update your blogroll and refresh your tagline.

If you are looking for ideas for your first post, my Random Idea Generator, Focus Question Generator, Critical Thinking Generator, Learning Log Generator are all now plugins you need to activate in order to add them to the Edit Post form. Or you could browse Snowflakes, or Ideas won’t keep.

If you want to boast, help, cry, complain, or belly-ache about something about the site go to the Forums. I need some help, again, choosing the course focus questions . . . hint-hint.

Course Outlines and Reading lists for Language Arts 9, English 10, and English 20.

In 2008/9, each CTS student I teach must earn 2 credits in Information Processing before moving on to the ComTech modules. At least one credit must be in Keyboarding, if you can’t get a second keyboarding credit I recommend Information Highway 2. What Comtech modules will be ready will depend on circumstances in and beyond my control. I have some very interested “Industry Partners” willing to share in our efforts in ComTech.

My son Malcolm took this last image, I like the surreal blur as I puzzle over the Leopard Server install manual in microprint. Notice the 14 inch monitor(circa 1996) The cinema display has since arrived via China–>Alaska–>Ontario–>Calgary–>Edmonton…

Short Story Study

Students will listen, speak, read, write, view, and represent to:

  1. Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
  2. Comprehend literature and other texts in oral, print, visual, and multimedia forms, and respond personally, critically, and creatively.
  3. Manage ideas and information
    • determine inquiry or research requirements
    • follow a plan of inquiry
  4. Create oral, print, visual, and multimedia texts, and enhance the clarity and artistry of communication
  5. Respect, support, and collaborate with others

Specific Outcomes:

  1. Students will produce a study guide in response to 3 stories.
  2. Students will internalize focus questions.
  3. Students will infuse ICT outcomes.
  4. Students will write 3 creative/personal responses
  5. Students will write a 5 Paragraph Critical Response Essay Exam in response to a teacher selected focus question.
  6. Students will improve their “TIC” (Technique, Insight, Communication)
  7. Student writing skills will emphasize an increase in personal voice and a decrease in X=X errors

Learning Activities and Strategies:

  • Group A: ___,___,___,___
  • Group B: ___,___,___,___
  • Group C: ___,___,___,___
  • Group D: ___,___,___,___
  • Group E: ___,___,___,___
  • Group F: ___,___,___,___

Students will plan a reading/response strategy.

  • consider focus questions
  • map out a response/reading plan to produce 3 creative/personal responses
  • must be approved by a group leader and teacher.
  • consider features in the texts/blogs for response ideas

Resources and Materials:


  • 33% 3 Study Guides – 40 points each
  • 33% 3 Creative/personal response submissions
  • 34% Exam (1 critical response essay)

Timeline 10-A:

  • April 15: first creative/personal response submission
  • April 21: second creative/personal response submission
  • April ___: final creative/personal response submission
  • April ___: critical response essay exam

Timeline 10-B:

  • April 15: first creative/personal response submission
  • April 21: creative/personal response second submission
  • May 4: creative/personal response final submission
  • May ___: critical response essay exam


  • smaller groups should yield an increase in on-time/on-task behaviours
  • peer support should emphasize development of voice in error-free writing


Novel Study

Students will listen, speak, read, write, view, and represent to: 

  1. Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences
  2. Comprehend literature and other texts in oral, print, visual, and multimedia forms, and respond personally, critically, and creatively.
  3. Manage ideas and information
    • determine inquiry or research requirements
    • follow a plan of inquiry
  4.  Create oral, print, visual, and multimedia texts, and enhance the clarity and artistry of communication 
  5.  Respect, support, and collaborate with others

Specific Outcomes:

  1. Students will produce a body of evidence in response to 2 novels.(see Random Idea Generator)
  2. Students will internalize focus questions.
  3. Students will infuse ICT outcomes.
  4. Students will produce one “Outside the Box” response.
  5. Students will write a 5 Paragraph Argumentative Essay Exam in response to a teacher selected focus question.
  6. Students will improve their “TIC” (Technique, Insight, Communication)

Learning Activities and Strategies: 

  • Group A: JP, BC, AP, JB, BG
  • Group B: JC, CA, MM, CM, APr
  • Group C: AN, JPo, MP, TS, SdJ
  • Group D: NC, KW, CS, JM, SG
  • Group E: DL, BR, OH, KY

Students will plan a reading/response strategy. 

  • select 2 texts
  • select focus questions
  • map out a response/reading plan to produce a body of evidence
  • determine their “Outside the Box” activity. 
  • must be approved by a group leader and teacher.

Resources and Materials:

  • Of Mice and Men
  • Why Shoot the Teacher
  • The Education of Little Tree
  • Never Cry Wolf
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Chrysalids 


  • 25% Group Process
  • 25% Body of Evidence
  • 25% “Outside the Box”
  • 25% Exam


  • 3 weeks


  • rubric.png 

Novel Study Preflight Checklist

Read a Novel from the Reading List:

Tracback a “map” of your response here.

Prepare for English Language Arts Finals

For those in the midst, or looking ahead at finals in my LA classes(9, 10-1, 20-1, 20-2, 30-1, 30-2).

Consider the outcomes we’ve tried to achieve.

Enhancing the artistry of communication has been a strong technical focus. Skills mastered include using online blogging tools, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, even graphical enhancements using Photoshop or audio/video podcasting tools have been included where time permitted and initiative taken. Participation on an online forum has generated a myriad of useful tips/reminders, questions/answers. There will be no speadsheets on the final, the use of Word will be necessary for English 30.

Each course has been structured around Focus Questions and related questions: English 10, English 9.

Emphasis on social networking, peer review/support/criticism has been critical for developing critical thought and reflection for writers defending an idea.

Each course has a reading list: English 10, English 30. Not every title has been studied intensively(or at all), but the proportion of attention paid to those pieces that were studied in class deserve the same level of attention on the final. Of course, those who choose additional literature from the list to focus on in the final deserve to have that initiative rewarded as well. If you choose to focus on Shakespeare, your audience gets tougher, I’ve noticed.

An English 30 paper looking at how the images/symbols/archetypes of Sophocles and Kingsolver relate to personal freedom to would be intriguing. Why not an English 10 paper discussing the threat of fanaticism by comparing the speeches of Mark Antony, Joseph Strorm, and Eamon De valera? What does Søren Kierkegaard have to do with every page you’ve ever read or written?

Extras, everyone should be able to link to Wikipedia for literary terms, difficult vocabulary, or just the odd or eccentric idea; can anyone incorporate the Hayflick Limit into their paper? Everyone has seen video and heard an mp3, but are any daring enough to Podcast their final essay? A carefully edited U2 mp3 snip, an embedded flash video of Ophelia Simpson, a slideshow?

rubric.pngThe only limit is to abide the first line of every rubric you’ve ever attached to any assignment:

I _________________ honestly declare that the work is what I have done. In circumstances when I have quoted a certain authority, I have clearly indicated what is a quote and the author. 

A Blogger’s Code of Ethics contains truths far older than the phenomenon of blogging.

English 30s will have no access to internet, filesharing, etc etc. English 10s can have it all.