English Teachers of My Youth: Mr. Campbell

That final year of high school, we all died. We were going to face that shadow guard to our IB certificate (or diploma), that infamous man, Mr. Campbell.
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Using Semisonic and The Lumineers to Teach High School Poetry

Whenever I introduce a poetry unit to my high school students, I always begin by reviewing a list of literary terms, with an example song (usually “Colorblind” by Counting Crows) that uses many devices. I then have them identify as many literary terms as they can in a song they select on their own. I trick them into admitting that they like poetry…as long as it’s mostly rhyme and rhythm accompanied by music.
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Refuse Avenue (new poem—an homage to Dylan)

[The following poem is a Dylanesque homage, and is most certainly a nod to “Desolation Row”. But it is also intended to stand on its own.]

Refuse Avenue

I hear they’re making it into a movie
From the book based off of the trial
The pearl stilettos auctioned off
The blood run down the aisle
Enter the captive jury
On the brink of a crucial vote
To whom our hearts belong this week
And who must jump the boat
The picketers collide in the cross-hairs
The gutters are starting to brew
As the boys and I spend a penny
Down on Refuse Avenue
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When It’s OK to Cover a Song

Let’s settle it for all time.  When considering whether you should record a cover of another artist’s song for your new single or album, there is a list of principles to follow.

The criteria for when to cover a song:

  1. Your version is going to be nearly as good, if not as good or better than, the original.
  2. Your version will differ significantly enough to be a cover and not a discount replica.
  3. Your version is one the original artist would be proud to have heard.
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Introducing the Crucible with A Satire Blues Song

How do you introduce The Crucible to students?  How do you cover McCarthyism and satire in a mini-lesson?  How do you treat students to some good music in the process?  I came up with a way to sneak a Bob Dylan song in.

I used “The Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” to demonstrate satire, cover the flaws of McCarthyism, and pair with The Crucible.


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