BestScienceFictionStories

They don’t seem to be updating anymore, but BestScienceFictionStories is a really useful collection of info. It’s very searchable and well-tagged. Each entry tells you where the story can be found, either for free or for purchase. Someday, I want to have a classroom library of this stuff.

You can never have enough Bradbury. When I was teaching in Alaska, we used Holt’s “Elements of Literature” curriculum, which – at least at that time – featured some Bradbury stories, especially in its 2nd course (8th grade.) I think it’s great that Farenheit 451 has become a staple of secondary-school classrooms, but I think people forget that he was primarily a short fiction writer – an incredibly prolific short fiction writer. He left behind hundreds of short stories. In fact, many of the sci-fi grandmasters were really prolific in short fiction formats. Asimov, especially comes to mind; Anderson, Le Guin, Heinlein, Clark, Linebarger and others to a greater or lesser extent.

The Game of Rat and Dragon – Cordwainer Smith (A.K.A. Linebarger) A tragically underrated writer.  Linebarger is the best of the best.

The Last Question – Asimov. I would love to teach this one sometime.

To be honest, this is the kind of thing that is dangerous for me. My love for certain things (like classic sci-fi, Hemingway, the romantic poets, Lewis, Beowulf, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name a few) is really disproportionate. If I had my way, kids would come out of high school knowing more about Nicholas Van Rijn than algebra, the renaissance, or how to write a resume.

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Tradebook Review: What If?

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Now we know what the sarlacc eats when there aren’t any jedi prisoners to munch on.

I had to do 4 of these tradebook reviews for class, and I wanted one of them to be something that could be taught in two different content-area classrooms at once. The first thing that came to my mind was some kind of historical fiction (social-studies/language arts) but then I noticed “What If: Serious Scientific answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” sitting on my bookshelf (science/language arts.)

“What If” is written by Randall Munroe, the guy who does XKCD, and his book is very much in the same spirit as his webcomics. I love XKCD. It’s sweet, sad, hilarious, philosophical, and educational. I just had to figure out how to work some of that magic into the classroom. So, here’s the review below the jump. Again, it’s in template form.

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Tradebook Review: Citizen of the Galaxy

citizenofthegalaxy_6926I’ve been writing some tradebook reviews for class, and I wanted to share a couple of them. I was complaining to a friend of mine about how hard it is for me to find books for students that satisfy all the different mundane considerations that have to be taken into account, but are still – you know – good literature. He recommended “Citizen of the Galaxy.” It’s perfect, and that’s kind of thrilling, because how often do you get to introduce classic sci-fi into the classroom? Not often enough!

Here it is below the jump. I’ve left it in review template form, more or less the way I turned it in.

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Textbook Scavenger Hunt

slide1I put this together recently for my literacy class. I’m posting here mainly because I there’s quite a variety of questions that can be asked in a textbook scavenger hunt. I think I did a pretty good job of covering a wide range of potential questions and having them available in the future should speed up the process. The textbook I used is one of the books required for my literacy class, so it’s not exactly representative of a book you might use in a high-school classroom, but the principals are the same

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An answer to the very difficult question of “What for?”

Why teach literature at all?  I easily develop an anxious attitude about the difficulty of demonstrating specific value and utility for things like literature that are hard to evaluate. I feel an unconscious responsibility to have an exact answer about things that I love. As usual, I find John Gardner’s take on the question really gratifying and liberating. Literature brings me joy. For almost any purpose, that is enough of an answer. The details are less important. I’ll let him explain

The business of education is to give the student both useful information and life enhancing experience, one largely measurable, the other not; and since the life-enhancing value of a course is difficult to measure – since, moreover, many people in a position to put pressure on educational programs have no real experience in or feeling for the arts – it is often tempting to treat life-enhancement courses as courses in useful information, putting them on the same “objective” level as courses in civics, geometry or elementary physics.

So it comes about that books are taught (officially, at least) not because they give joy, the incomparably rich experience that we ask and expect of all true art, but because, as a curriculum committee might put it, they “illustrate major themes in American literature,” or “present a clearly stated point of view and can thus serve as a vehicle for such curriculum objectives as (1) demonstrating an awareness of the author’s purpose and (2) reading critically, and (3) identifying organizational patterns in literary selections used to support a point of view.” One cannot exactly say that such teaching in pernicious, but to treat great works of literature in this way seems a little like arguing for the preservation of dolphins, whales, chimps, and gorillas solely on the grounds of preserving ecological balance.

John Gardner’s “The Art of Fiction” is the best book on the difficult task of fiction-writing I have ever read. I have only read a few such books, but I would bet money that Gardner’s is one of the very best.

Do you have to cite things on a blog? Probably not….? Here’s the APA citation just in case.

Gardner, J. (1991). The art of fiction. New York: Vintage Books. Pg. 40-41

Tags and Catagories

Since I want to use blogging in my classroom, and since I am baffled by many of the finer points of blogging, including tags and categories, I found this article  from the “Elegant Themes” blog very helpful and I think students would too. It’s a basic primer that very clearly and simply describes their intended uses and how they differ. It skirts around the deeper implications, like SEO optimization without ignoring them or pretending they’re not important.

Discmix/AltPwrPnch

When you’re in the car on the way to work, fighting off negative self-talk, what are you listening to on your fancy headphones that you sometimes wear when you’re driving even though you really shouldn’t? Something energetic, but you don’t want to oversell it; not too upbeat then, probably. Something just right.

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Make something everyday – even if it’s just a playlist