Teaching Hemingway as a Travel Companion

If you’ve every wanted to teach Hemingway, or plan to in the near future, then this post may give you some ideas for teaching his works set in Africa. The original blog I used for this lesson is here, and still has all the comments from my students. If you’d like the detailed lessons that I used for teaching the essay that came after the readings, just comment here or send me an email.

The best way to use the information in this post is to have your students read it before reading the Hemingway stories mentioned. By reading through my experiences and watching the videos of my pictures, students will build background knowledge about the setting of the stories and be introduced to some of the major themes. I also pose questions throughout this blog post that elicit more critical thinking about the topics I cover, and I have my students write out their answers or respond on the blog as part of the process.

“Now, being in Africa, I was hungry for more of it, the changes of the seasons, the rains with no need to travel, the discomforts that you paid to make it real, the names of the trees, of the small animals, and all the birds, to know the language and have time to be in it and to move slowly.”
Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa

Some Context…

Thanks to a grant I was awarded in 2010 from Fund for Teachers, I traveled to Tanzania, Africa, to retrace a portion of Ernest Hemingway’s 1933 safari that inspired some of his greatest works: two short stories, “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” as well as his nonfiction book The Green Hills of Africa. I set off to try and figure out what the setting of Africa had to offer Hemingway, giving his works common themes such as the perseverance of the human spirit and facing our greatest fears.

But the trip gave me so much more perspective about the stories than simply the theme. As I interacted with the people of Africa and enjoyed the wildlife and landscape the country had to offer, I picked up on the subtle hints of respect Hemingway conveyed in his writing that I would have otherwise overlooked had I not experienced Tanzania myself.

Day 1 – N’Gresi

tanzania-mapMy wife and I both agree that our first day in Africa was the best day of the trip.  Dominique, our driver for the week, drove us out to a small village just outside of Arusha called N’Gresi.  Henry came along for the ride as our village guide.  He lived in the village next to N’Gresi and knew the landscape and the people well.  Henry first took us to the chief of the village who spoke with us about their agricultural production and means of education over a cup of coffee.  The cost of our visit went to the building of schools, and he explained that after lunch we could donate more money to the cause.

After coffee with the chief, we set off for our 3-hour hike through the hills of N’Gresi.  As you walk down the dirt road carved out of the lush green landscape, you can’t help but notice the sense of organization to the rolling green hills.  While much of the beauty felt untouched, a closer look revealed plots of land dedicated to coffee trees, peas, potatoes, bananas, and other produce.  The view was rugged, yet hinted at civilization without taking away from the natural beauty of Africa.  The hints didn’t come in an occasional car, either.  I never saw anything powered by gas, nor did I see much that needed electricity.  Instead, the hints came from parked bicycles, clothes-lines, and unique differences that made up the homes which varied in style and size.tanzania

While some homes seemed more modern than others, there wasn’t a poor area and wealthy area.  Huts made of mud and cow dung sat in plots of land right next to homes made of brick.  The idea of social classes takes on a new perspective in villages such as this.  People don’t unintentionally identify themselves as rich or poor as a way of grouping.  Instead, they lived in a way that showed solidarity.  They showed understanding of each other’s situations through living.  No matter the size of their crops, or the amount of their livestock, the people never revealed a sense of social hierarchy.  They only revealed a sense of survival that made them all equal.  And not the type of survival that comes from fear of death, but the kind that comes from a need to do what’s right for your family or else life isn’t worth living.

This type of survival wasn’t felt in the landscape, but instead felt in the interaction with the people.  The enthusiasm of the children was contagious, and the generosity and sincerity of the men and women was envious.  At times, it was embarrassing to think of our own social hierarchy and our own definition of survival, which seems to include a price tag.  Thinking of this gave me a feeling of inferiority and shame. In N’Gresi, America’s class system is meaningless, and as I learned in the following days, much of this meaninglessness is prevalent throughout Africa.

In N’Gresi, America’s class system is meaningless.  Much of this meaninglessness is prevalent throughout Africa.  What about the video makes this evident? Comment on how the differences in Tanzania are different from where you live.

Day 2 – Lake Maynara 


Yours truly up early

Never have I seen the sun more perfect than during a sunrise at Lake Maynara.  As part of the Rift Valley, which is the setting for Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, Lake Maynara is set between a valley of mountains on either side.  We had our first game drives here, seeing giraffes, elephants, zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, and buffalo in the wild for the first time in our lives.


Hemingway with Kudo antlers

In Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway hunts kudu, which are mainly found in the forests higher up the valley than where we were; therefore, we didn’t get to see any that day, so I’ll let Hemingway describe them: “In the five days I saw a dozen or more kudu cows and one young bull with a string of cows. The cows were big, gray, striped-flanked antelope with ridiculously small heads, big ears, and a soft, fast-rushing gait that moved them in big-bellied panic through the trees” (Hemingway 101).

Day 3 and 4 – Serengeti

A young Hemingway on his 1933 safari

A young Hemingway on his 1933 safari

We spent 2 days on the Serengeti, and it showed us the most wildlife of all the places we visited.  Here is where we saw our first lion, which is the animal responsible for Macomber’s act of cowardice in “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”  I have to admit, the first time a lion walked up to the car, I got a little worried.  It doesn’t take long before you realize how vulnerable you are on safari, and if any of these animals really wanted to, all they would need to do is jump up on the car and your only option would be prayer.  This gave me only a glimpse of fear that was in Hemingway when he shot his first lion and had to go into the long brush, gun drawn, to make sure it was dead.  And if the lion wasn’t, then a precise, second shot was needed while 500 pounds charges with only the thought of killing you for having put it in such a position.  Because Hemingway felt so strongly about writing what you know, I’m sure he empathizes with Francis Macomber.

But what really impressed me about the Serengeti was the experience of nature as an observer.  There are no cages, no one to feed these animals, no one to help them if they’re injured or sick.  The only governing law is the law of nature, and it is cruel at times.  Here, survival is truly survival.  It’s not measured by happiness, or wealth; it’s measured by staying alive.  Death looms over the plains for some like the umbrella trees scattered across the landscape, while life remains the only reward.  Animals on the lower rung of the chain move with an attentiveness that is restrictive.  Ostriches approach water points with the reluctance of a scared child, and gazelles walk with a delicate timidity that looks ready to run at all times.

This constant fear throughout the country seemed to be something that the animals lived with, but not in a way that seemed helpless, nor did it create compassion, as if we were all so cruel for not wanting to save a gazelle from becoming a lion’s dinner. Of course there’s a tinge of sympathy for the dying animals, but if they didn’t die, then what would become of those animals that rely on their death to live?

What are your thoughts on “the survival of the fittest”? How does this concept apply to America? How does America’s concept of survival of the fittest differ from Tanzania’s? How are they alike?

Day 5 – Masai Village

The visit of the Masai Village was the most unique part of the trip.  The Masai people are found throughout east Africa, and they tend to live on the most infertile of areas. They are semi-nomadic, and tend to herd goats and cattle. As you drive through northern Tanzania, you see young and old Masai tending to their herds, and almost every one of them will wave at you as you pass by.  I was nervous about the visit of the village, but came away feeling ashamed that I didn’t remember what Hemingway had written about the people:

“This was the finest country I had seen but we went on, winding along through the big trees over the softly rolling grass. Then ahead and to the right we saw the high stockage of a Masai village. It was a very large village and out of it came running long-legged, brown, smooth-moving men who all seemed to be of the same age and who wore their hair in a heavy club-like queue that swung against their shoulders as they ran. They came up to the car and surrounded it, all laughing and smiling and talking. They all were tall, their teeth were white and good, and their hair was stained a red brown and arranged in a looped fringe on their foreheads. They carried spears and they were very handsome and extremely jolly, not sullen, nor contemptuous like the northern Masai, and they wanted to know what we were going to do…

…We were moving and they were running again now. The Masai stooped and put the rabbit on the ground and as he ran free they all laughed. M’Cola shook his head. We were all very impressed by these Masai….Seeing them running and so damned handsome and so happy made us all happy. I had never seen such quick disinterested friendliness, nor such fine looking people….They certainly were our friends though. They had that attitude that makes brothers, that unexpressed but instant and complete acceptance that you must be Masai wherever it is you come from. That attitude you only get from the best of the English, the best of the Hungarians, and the very best Spaniards; the thing that used to be the most clear distinctions of nobility when there was nobility. It is an ignorant attitude and the people who have it do not survive, but very few pleasanter things ever happen to you than the encountering of it.” (Hemingway 123)

The idea “that you must be Masai” is exactly how I felt when I met the Masai people. They were charming, friendly, and incredibly hospitable. Never once did I feel like I was intruding, and here I was taking pictures of them as if they were some sort of show. I don’t feel I could describe the Masai people as well as Heminway does above, but I left truly understanding what he meant when he talks about “an ignorant attitude and the people who have it do not survive.”

What is the “attitude” that Hemingway is referring to? Describe it in your own words.


Facilitating a More Analytical Connection to Literature

As teachers, we talk an awful lot about “making connections” with what we read. However, how often do we direct our students to make connections that are more universal than simple experiences? For example, if you’re teaching A Farewell to Arms or The Great Gatsby, your students, more than likely, don’t have the experience of World War I or the wastefulness of the elite in the 1920s. Therefore, asking them to “make connections to a personal experience” can make the reader response exercise futile. It’s not that asking students to connect with experiences is wrong, but I do think we need to be more specific sometimes. While students can surely connect to some isolated experiences in the novel, meaningful connections that remind us we are all human beings and facilitate a deeper appreciation of the work need more direction at times.

If you’re looking for a more fruitful approach to getting your students to respond to literature, then I suggest reading my latest article on page 106 of the most current issue of Texas Journal of Literacy Education titled “Connecting Students with the Human Dimensions in Literature: Using Bruner’s Modes of Thought to Deepen Literary Appreciation.” Complete with students samples, this article will describe the steps in a unit that will help your students make connections to internal conflicts in the literature they read, then show you how to facilitate a literary analysis of their chosen conflict development. If you like, you can continue with the lesson by having the students write a personal essay that explores the development of their own internal conflicts, which is also explained in the article with student examples.

If you don’t want to read all the theory (and I don’t blame you), then read the intro on page 106, then skip to page 110 to “Putting this into Practice.”

If you implement the lesson, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re in the Binghamton area and would like me to visit and help plan a unit, just email me or respond to this post.



Teaching Kids to Eat Dogs and Love Vampires

Teenagers speak in sarcasm, yet have a very difficult time recognizing and analyzing it in a text. (What’s that called?) And with the holidays coming up, I know teachers are always looking for something a little more engaging since kids are more distracted than usual this time of the year. Therefore, I thought I’d share two pieces that I’ve used to teach satire that I’ve found to be engaging for teens. (If you’d like an electronic copy of these works complete with images and footnotes as a Word document, just email me or leave your email in the comments.)

The essay is by Steve Martin, and the short story is by Woody Allen. I’ve also included questions at the end of each piece to help you with guiding your students’ thinking of the works. These texts and the questions that follow are good for introducing verbal irony, situational irony, and getting your students to utilize the text to support their answers.

Poodles … Great Eating (1979)

By Steve Martin

These days it’s hard to look at a poodle without thinking what a great meal he would make. This newest American delicacy, once considered “taboo1,” is now being enjoyed more and more by the average hamburger-buying housewife, as well as the experienced gourmet.

Steve Martin

Steve Martin

The dog-eating experience began in Arkansas, August, 1959, when Earl Tauntree, looking for      something to do said, “Let’s cook the dog.” It was from these ethnic beginnings that the “smell of the  poodle roasting” captured the upper register of restaurants in New York and Miami. Now, restaurant  chefs once reluctant to allow anyone but themselves to select the meat are permitting patrons to  bring in their own dogs for cooking on the spot. Of course, the big question is, is this just a culinary2     fad, or has America opened her palates3 to a new eating discovery that can perhaps give new meaning  to the old expression “hot-dog?” No one but time can answer the question, but I tell you one thing,    you can save the wishbone for me!

1.  What evidence do you have that this selection might not be entirely serious?

  1. Steve Martin writes this “article” as if it were a serious news item when it is clearly not. How could this be an example of verbal irony?

[1] rule that makes something forbidden from social custom or emotional aversion
[2] related to cooking

Count Dracula (1971)

By Woody Allen

Inverness Cape

Somewhere in Transylvania, Dracula the monster lies sleeping in his coffin, waiting for night to fall. As exposure to the sun’s rays would surely cause him to perish, he stays protected in the satin-lined chamber bearing his family name in silver. Then the moment of darkness comes, and through some miraculous instinct the fiend emerges from the safety of his hiding place and, assuming the hideous forms of the bat or the wolf, he prowls the countryside, drinking the blood of his victims. Finally, before the first rays of his archenemy, the sun, announce a new day, he hurries back to the safety of his hidden coffin and sleeps, as the cycle begins anew.

Now he starts to stir. The fluttering of his eyelids is a response to some age-old, unexplainable instinct that the sun is nearly down and his time is near. Tonight, he is particularly hungry and as he lies there, fully awake now, in red-lined Inverness cape and tails, waiting to feel with uncanny perception the precise moment of darkness be­fore opening the lid and emerging, he decides who this evening’s victims will be. The baker and his wife, he thinks to himself. Succulent3, available, and unsuspecting. The thought of the unwary couple whose trust he has carefully cultivated excites his blood lust to a fever pitch, and he can barely hold back these last seconds before climbing out of the coffin to seek his prey.

Suddenly he knows the sun is down. Like an angel of hell, he rises swiftly, and changing into a bat, flies pell-mell to the cottage of his

Woodytantalizing4 victims.
“Why, Count Dracula, what a nice surprise,” the baker’s wife says, opening the door to admit him.(He has once again assumed human form, as he enters their home, charmingly concealing his rapaciousgoal.)
“What brings you here so early?” the baker asks.
“Our dinner date,” the Count answers. “I hope I haven’t made an error. You did invite me for tonight, didn’t you?”
“Yes, tonight, but that’s not for seven hours.”
“Pardon me?” Dracula queries, looking around the room puzzled.
“Or did you come by to watch the eclipse6 with us?”
“Yes. Today’s the total eclipse.”
“A few moments of darkness from noon until two minutes after. Look out the window.”

Sun Image


“Uh-oh– I’m in big trouble.”
“And now if you’ll excuse me…”
“What, Count Dracula?”
“Must be going– aha– oh, god…” Frantically he fumbles for the door knob.
“Going? You just came.”
“Yes– but– I think I blew it very badly…”
“Count Dracula, you’re pale.”
“Am I? I need a little fresh air. It was nice seeing you…”
“Come. Sit down. We’ll have a drink.”
“Drink? No, I must run. Er– you’re stepping on my cape.”
“Sure. Relax. Some wine.”
“Wine? Oh no, gave it up– liver and all that, you know. And now I really must buzz off. I just remembered, I left the lights on at my castle– bills’ll be enormous…”
“Please,” the baker says, his arm around the Count in firm friendship. “You’re not intruding. Don’t be so polite. So you’re early.”

Transylvania, the legendary home of Count Dracula, lies in present-day Romania

Transylvania, the legendary home of Count Dracula, lies in present-day Romania

“Really, I’d like to stay but there’s a meeting of old Roumanian Counts across town and I’m responsible for the cold cuts.”
“Rush, rush, rush. It’s a wonder you don’t get a heart attack.”
“Yes, right– and now–”
“I’m making Chicken Pilaf tonight,” the baker’s wife chimes in. “I hope you like it.”
“Wonderful, wonderful,” the Count says, with a smile, as he pushes her aside into some laundry. Then, opening a closet door by mistake, he walks in. “Christ, where’s the goddamn front door?”
“Ach,” laughs the baker’s wife, “such a funny man, the Count.”
“I knew you’d like that,” Dracula says, forcing a chuckle, “now get out of my way.” At last he opens the front door but time has run out on him.
“Oh, look, mama,” says the baker, “the eclipse must be over. The sun is coming out again.”
“Right,” says Dracula, slamming the front door. “I’ve decided to stay. Pull down the window shades quickly– quickly! Let’s move it!”
“What window shades?” asks the baker.
“There are none, right? Figures. You got a basement in this joint?”
“No,” says the wife affably, “I’m always telling Jarslov to build one but he never listens. That’s some Jarslov, my husband.”
“I’m all choked up. Where’s the closet?”
“You did that one already, Count Dracula. Unt mama and I laughed at it.”
“Ach– such a funny man, the Count.”
“Look, I’ll be in the closet. Knock at seven-thirty.” And with that, the Count steps inside the closet and slams the door.
“Hee-hee– he is so funny, Jarslov.”
“Oh, Count. Come out of the closet. Stop being a big silly.” From inside the closet comes the muffled voice of Dracula.
“Can’t– please– take my word for it. Just let me stay here. I’m fine. Really.”
“Count Dracula, stop the fooling. We’re already helpless with laughter.”
“Can I tell you, I love this closet.”
“Yes, but…”
“I know, I know… it seems strange, and yet here I am, having a ball. I was just saying to Mrs. Hess the other day, give me a good closet and I can stand in it for hours. Sweet woman, Mrs. Hess. Fat but sweet… Now, why don’t you run along and check back with me at sunset. Oh, Ramona, la da da de da da de, Ramona…”
Now the Mayor and his wife, Katia, arrive. They are passing by and have decided to pay a call on their good friends, the baker and his wife.
“Hello, Jarslov. I hope Katia and I are not intruding?”
“Of course not, Mr. Mayor. Come out, Count Dracula! We have company!”
“Is the Count here?” asks the Mayor, surprised.
“Yes, and you’ll never guess where,” says the baker’s wife.
“It’s so rare to see him around this early. In fact I can’t ever remember seeing him around in the daytime.”
“Well, he’s here. Come out, Count Dracula!”
“Where is he?” Katia asks, not knowing whether to laugh or not.
“Come on out now! Let’s go!” The baker’s wife is get­ting impatient.
“He’s in the closet,” says the baker, apologetically.
“Really?” asks the Mayor.
“Let’s go,” says the baker with mock good humor as he knocks on the closet door. “Enough is enough. The Mayor’s here.”
“Come on out, Dracula,” His Honor shouts, “let’s have a drink.”
“No, go ahead. I’ve got some business in here.”
“In the closet?”
“Yes, don’t let me spoil your day. I can hear what you’re saying. I’ll join in if I have anything to add.”
Everyone looks at one another and shrugs. Wine is poured and they all drink.
“Some eclipse today,” the Mayor says, sipping from his glass.
“Yes,” the baker agrees. “Incredible.”
“Yeah. Thrilling,” says a voice from the closet
“What, Dracula?”
“Nothing, nothing. Let it go.”

And so the time passes, until the Mayor can stand it no longer and forcing open the door to the closet, he shouts, “Come on, Dracula. I always thought you were a mature man. Stop this craziness.”

The daylight streams in, causing the evil monster to shriek and slowly dissolve to a skeleton and then to dust before the eyes of the four people present. Leaning down to the pile of white ash on the closet floor, the baker’s wife shouts, “Does this mean dinner’s off tonight?”



1. Tone is the spirit: of something– the general atmosphere and the effect that it has on people. In writing we say the tone is the quality that reveals the attitudes of the author about a subject.

Woody Allen sets up “Count Dracula” as a completely serious vampire story (reread the first three paragraphs if you don’t believe me) but quickly changes to a more comic tone as the action becomes more and more ridiculous. How could the way he relates a silly story in a completely serious way be an example of verbal irony?

2. What is ironic (situational) about the way Count Dracula’s plans are spoiled in the story? Use evidence from the text in support of your answer.

Your answer should include a discussion of what is expected (in context of the story and vampire stories in general) and what really happens over the course of Allen’s version of the vampire legend.


  • Situational irony is when there is a gap between what is expected and what actually occurs (a reversal)
  • Verbal irony is when someone says or writes one thing but means something else (a double meaning)

[3] enjoyable, juicy
[4] arousing desire or expectation
[5] excessively greedy and grasping
[6] a temporary darkening of the sun caused by the passing of the moon between the sun and the earth

Teaching Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Sorry, teachers, for not posting any lessons the past few weeks. (That’s to all 3 of my followers.) However, I’ve been swamped with researching David Coleman’s impact on reading. In doing so, I’m reminded of his lesson on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and his insistence that we should consider “far longer amounts of classroom time spent on text worth reading and rereading carefully, a kind of diligent close attention” (Coleman, 2011, p.16). To emphasize his point, Coleman (2011) created an exemplar lesson for Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” that “is for three days of instruction on those three paragraphs and that is not by bringing in other resources yet. That’s by focusing on the text itself” (p. 16). Three days? My kids would hate me and Lincoln by day two.

However, I do think that Lincoln’s speeches are worth looking at rhetorically, and having the students question the text in ways that deepen their understanding of argument and persuasion is essential. (You really only need one day, though, and I recommend creating some context for the students, another big no-no by Coleman–a guy, mind you, who has never seen the inside of a k-12 classroom.)

So I give you Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, as it is prompted in the 2002 AP exam. I’ve also included my own analysis below, from which the questions in the lesson came. I recommend analyzing the speech yourself so that you can write your own questions, which will allow you to be better prepared for the class discussion. However, if your reading of the speech matches mine, then all the work is below. Enjoy.

The Lesson:

Content Objective: Today we will analyze the rhetoric within Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address by working through text dependent questions in small groups.


  • Hook/Context: Read aloud “War is Kind” by Stephen Crane (see below) and ask students to respond in their writer’s notebook for 2-3 minutes. Lead a discussion about how Crane feels about war.
  • Introduce students to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address by discussing the context given in the AP prompt–Lincoln “contemplated the effects of the Civil War and offers his vision of the future of the nation.”
  • Read the speech aloud all the way through, asking students to simply read along.
  • Read the speech again, asking students to note parts of the speech that they wish to discuss.
  • Lead a whole class discussion on what students noted.
  • Break class into small groups, and ask them to go through the following questions:
    • How does Lincoln present himself?
    • What intended impact would the use of “great contest” instead of “war” and “interest” in place of “slavery” have on the audience?
    • What does the parallel structure attempt to distinguish?
    • How does the use of personification help in understanding that the war will end?
  • From here, you can facilitate a whole class discussion, and then ask that students respond individually to one of the questions in writing as a ticket out.

The Analysis:

Lincoln begins his second inaugural address by creating himself as a trustworthy and humble speaker. He concedes to his audience repeatedly, sharing that he understands they do not want to listen to a lengthy self righteous speech at this point, he cannot give them any new information, and “with high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.” By showing great understanding and sympathy for his audience, he lets them know he is on their side and will not lead them astray. If he were to predict outcomes the audience would be well aware that the war had not proceeded as any of them had predicted. Making claims such as this could make him easily lose his credibility, which would be detrimental at the beginning of his speech. Lincoln is hoping to end the war and convince his listeners to extend a nonjudgemental and forgiving hand to their Southern brethren to help reunite the country. By calming his audience and making them feel they are in trustworthy hands, he is setting them up to hear his logic and do as he wishes.

Throughout the speech Lincoln carefully chooses his words. He does not want to begin his speech using negative words or to openly and radically condemn the South. He uses the term “great contest” instead of war. The word war has many negative connotations that drum up fear, anger, and apprehension. Lincoln in no way wants to foster these feelings in his audience. His argument is logical, so he wants his audience thinking as logically as possible. A “contest” has relatively neutral connotations, so he is not fueling the already strained emotions of the crowd. While speaking of the past and present Lincoln again uses milder terms to not incite more anger in his audience.

In the 3rd paragraph he admits slavery was indeed a main factor causing the war, “these slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.” He then continues to repeat the word “interest” instead of slavery. The term slavery, as the term war, has many negative connotations and would easily rehash the highly emotional topic of slavery. Since many in the audience did not consider slavery to be the exact cause of the war, but the economic importance of the cheap work force, Lincoln acknowledges that the true issue was the interest, not human rights exactly. But again he trades the highly negative term for a neutral one in order to keep his audience listening with a discerning ear, instead of an irrationally emotional one. Lincoln also refers to the Southerners as “insurgents.” Not the whole South or all Southerners. Insurgent is a negative term, but it is used for a similar purpose. He does not condemn all of the South, he specifies the insurgents. He must acknowledge that Southerners did attempt to work against the government in order to retain credibility, but the crowd hears that “insurgents” did this, not the South. He does not condemn the whole South because this would again only foster hate and anger. Again, Lincoln is hoping to end the war and convince his listeners to extend a nonjudgemental and forgiving hand to their Southern brethren to help reunite the country. His careful use of diction helps him do just that.

Lincoln conceded that “both parties deprecated war,” but then parallels the statements “but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.” While this shows the south as the aggressor, the parallel structure gives a sense of responsibility to both sides, since the north “would accept war.” Lincoln also personifies the war and the nation by claiming that one side “let the nation survive,” and then ending the statement with “the war came.” The personification here gives the war and the nation a quality of mortality and ability to heal. The idea that the “war came” suggests that the war had a mind of its own, and that the nation had no choice. Moreover, this sense of mortality allows the audience to believe in its end, or the death of the war. Lincoln concludes the speech by asking the audience to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” referring again to this mortality and the ability to heal.

***You can also get student samples here from College Board.

from War is Kind

By Stephen Crane


Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted1 steed2 ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment3,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom —
A field where a thousand corpses5 lie.

 Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

 Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest6 of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

 Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud7 of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.


  1. frightened
  2. horse
  3. army unit
  4. train in the military
  5. dead bodies
  6. unique insignia or design used by some group (originally crests decorated shields and helmets)
  7. burial garment in which a corpse is wrapped

The Best Close Reading Strategy There Is

Close reading is the buzz word up here in New York (and any other state implementing the Common Core State Standards). EngageNY is surely not at a loss for lessons that help teachers with close reading strategies. And if there is one thing they all have in common, it’s that before we ask students to “closely read” a text, we must first model it.

But how authentically do we model an approach to reading? I know we do a lot of modeling, but how authentic is it? One of the best ways teachers can model their approach to grappling with literature is to read a piece in front of the class for the first time. That’s right, a cold read in front of a group of students.  Probst (2004) suggests that by doing this, it forces you “to rely on the very processes you are espousing for your students” and “gives you the opportunity to model some of the behavior you hope to elicit from them” (p. 67).

This is a great lesson to start the year. I’ve done this for years, and without fail two things happen when I do: 1. Increase in active participation; and 2. Allows the student to see the teacher struggle.

The biggest problem we have as English teachers is that students have been trained to wait for the answer. Every kid sitting in your classroom at some point in his or her English education has waited long enough for the teacher to tell them what the theme of the novel is. They might have a few ideas floating in their heads, but why chance being wrong when the teacher is eventually going to tell them? After all, the teacher has already studied this poem and knows what the theme is, so eventually he’ll tell me, right? Unfortunately, this is all too common.

Reading a piece cold in front of the kids eliminates the fear that a student’s thoughts will not align with some preconceived teacher-answer. Students think to themselves, “hey, if this guy doesn’t know, why don’t I chime in?” As I read through a piece for the first time with kids and think aloud my annotations on the overhead, students blurt out what they’re thinking. Because I’ve made myself vulnerable in the process, the students feel more comfortable in challenging me or sometimes simply pointing out details that agree with where my analysis may be going.

This also allows students to see that closely reading a piece of literature is difficult. As teachers, we spend hours developing lessons, and much of that time is spent reading and rereading a text so that we can be prepared to teach it properly. The kids don’t see this, and think we’ve effortlessly analyzed a specific element within a piece. Because of the difficulty students have with literary analysis, this only frustrates them since it suggests that it should be easier than it really is. A cold read can let them know that it’s not supposed to be easy.

So give it shot. Have another teacher make some copies of a text and put them in an envelope. (I just ask my neighboring teacher to make X copies of a specific genre, usually asking that it be within a certain length. And yes, you’ll need one for each class, so you’ll want to find a teacher who really likes you.) As you take the copies out of the envelope, tell the kids that you’ve never seen the poem/essay/short story before that you’re about to read, and that you want to show them how you analyze a text for (pick one):

  • theme or purpose
  • comprehension of a complex text
  • an author’s craft
  • how you want them to utilize a specific reading strategy

Then put the text on the overhead or smartboard and model the process. I guarantee will be authentic.

Good luck and be sure to email me or come back to the blog and let me know how it went.


NOTE: If you’re on a grade level team, have each teacher on the team make copies, place them in envelopes, and trade with each other.


Teaching Rhetorical Appeals

Hello teachers. As promised, here’s the second installment of lessons I’ll be posting weekly this fall. Nonfiction seems to be the big topic, so I thought I’d provide a lesson on rhetorical appeals in persuasion.

What  follows is everything you need to write an effective lesson plan on the impact of rhetorical appeals, which will include the content objective, language objective, the standards covered (both CCLS for my New York friends and TEKS for my Texas friends), along with a detailed description of the full lesson cycle. At the end of the lesson, I’ve also included all the resources.

This lesson would come after an introductory to the rhetorical appeals, so students must have a working definition of the appeals before they can start “Engage and Connect.” While I have it listed in the standards as a 9-10 grade level, it could easily be used for other grade levels depending on the depth of analysis. I’ve also included my notes on the “Organization Pattern” of the piece and “Sentence Stems Addressing Authors Purpose (Informative/Persuasive)” (both below), which can be used to help students with comprehension and expanding on the standards covered, as well as using academic language effectively.

Don’t forget to email me with topics or standards that you’d like to see covered in a lesson and I’ll post one on ETP@B. My email is mmconn@binghamton.edu

Essential Understanding:
How do specific appeals impact an audience?

Content Objective: Today we will analyze a persuasive text by explaining the impact specific appeals have on the audience. (CCLS: RI.9-10.6 (this is the central CCLS covered, but you could list more depending on how you tweak the lesson) TEKS: 19B, 10.B

Language Objective: Today we will utilize academic language effectively by using given sentence stems to discuss impact on the audience. (Academic Language: Appeal to logos/pathos/ethos, impact, audience, purpose.) CCLS: SL.9-10.1; ELPS: C.3j

Engage and Connect ( 10 min):The following can be found in an ad for toothpaste. Identify which appeal is created in the following sentences:

  1. I have been a dentist for 20 years, so I know clean teeth when I see them.
  2. Four out of five dentists recommend…
  3. Think of the children! (Image of children brushing their teeth)
Monitor student responses. Randomize and have a student share their responses (sentence stem). Ask if students missed any and help clarify any confusion.Use the following sentence stem: This sentence creates an appeal to ________ because/by…
Introduce New Learning (10 min): (Note: Students need to have an understanding of rhetorical appeals before the begin this lesson.)
Impact on audience – How do these appeals impact the audience and how does it relate to the author’s purpose? Have students answer the following questions as they relate to the warm-up. (appeals have been introduced prior to this lesson, but the word impact might be new)
Ethos – How does credibility help an argument?
Logos – How does the author present evidence in a way that leads or misleads you into a certain way of thinking?
Pathos – What are some common emotions that are created through certain words and images?
Think/Pair/ShareGive students a couple of minutes to think about the questions as they relate to the warm up. Have the students pair up and share their answers. Randomize and have students share their thoughts.



Lead Guided and Independent Practice ( 30 min):
Guided Practice ( 15 min):Introduce the three column journal with examples using the warm-up. (resource below)
Discuss the aspects of the journal.

Think aloud pre-reading strategies for the persuasive text “Abolishing the Penny Makes Good Sense” by Alan Blinder.

  • Look at pictures, headings
  • Make predictions

Read the selection aloud, checking for comprehension periodically.

After reading, have students think/pair/share purpose statement

Have groups share purpose statements and write one that the class thinks is the best on an anchor chart.

Start from the beginning of the piece, and choose a quote to think aloud as you complete a journal entry (see example below). Be sure to incorporate the purpose statement decided on by the class.

Depending on your students, you can continue to think aloud, or have them work in groups with various levels of scaffolding.

  • Give groups quotes to complete the journal entries; OR
  • Allow groups to choose quotes within certain sections of the piece; OR
  • Assign different appeals to groups and have them write journal entries that cover assigned appeal

Have groups share their journal entries and discuss with the class.



Independent Practice (15 min):

Have students choose a quote and discuss the impact with a partner. Again, you can:

  • Assign a quote; OR
  • Allow students to pick from various quotes; OR
  • Allow students to pick a quote from a specific part of the text.








While reading aloud, randomize as you question students about the text to ensure comprehension and engagement.



Monitor group work as students complete their entries.

Asses the group work as they are being presented. Ask students to contribute to the groups entries to make them stronger.




Have students share their analyses.


Close the Lesson and Assess Mastery (10 min):

  1. Review the lesson and remind students of the connection between impact and purpose.
  2. Have students write a journal entry for their chosen/assigned quote that they discussed with their partner.




This will be there ticket out.


DIFFERENTIATION: How will I scaffold and/or accelerate learning? For whom? How will I group my students?

SCAFFOLD: Students who struggle with finding quotes can choose from teacher-preselected quotes. Students who need help writing/discussing about purpose/appeal can use the sentence stem.

ACCELERATE: Students who feel they can write a journal entry about their own quotes can choose their own.

What materials, resources, and technology will I need to prepare and arrange? (All are included below.)

Quote/Device Impact – (leads/misleads thinking; makes you feel; gives credibility) Purpose
I have been a dentist for 20 years, so I know clean teeth…  The ad creates an appeal to ethos because he is showing his experience as a dentist. By claiming that he has been practicing dentistry for 20 years, it makes the audience more open to accepting his preference. This is intended to get people to buy the suggested toothpaste since that is the preferred toothpaste of an experienced dentist.
Four out of five dentists recommend…  The ad creates an appeal to logos by citing a statistic. This leads the audience to think that a majority of experts in the field agree with using the toothpaste; therefore, the audience should come to the same conclusion. This is intended to get the audience to logically conclude that the toothpaste is the best and that they should buy what the majority of experts would choose.
Think of the children! (Image of children brushing their teeth)  The ad creates an appeal to pathos by showing/mentioning children. Referring to children instills a sense of fear and urgency in the audience because we want the best for our children, which means we don’t want them to have issues with their teeth. This is intended to appeal to our protective nature of children. We want our children to be safe and grow up with strong teeth; therefore, the ad attempts to convince the audience that the toothpaste is best for kids.

Sentence Stems Addressing Authors Purpose (Informative/Persuasive)

  • The author includes paragraph [X] to explain ______.
  • What is the primary purpose of [detail from the passage] in paragraph [X]?
  • What is the primary purpose of paragraph [X]?
  • What purpose does the reference to ______ in paragraph [X] serve?
  • By addressing [detail from the selection] as _____, [the author] ______.
  • In paragraph [X], [the author] refers to [detail from the selection] to support his/her argument that ______.
  • To make his/her case, [the author] relies mainly on ______.
  • In paragraph [X], [the author] refers to [detail from the selection] to support his/her argument that ______.
  • To make his/her case, [the author] relies mainly on ______.
  • Why does the author conclude ______ with a [rhetorical device]?
  • Why does the author list ______?
  • In paragraph [X], the author writes [detail from the text] to suggest ______.
  • Which of the following best summarizes the author’s argument?
  • In this selection, the author uses the example of [detail from the text] to ______.
  • In this selection, the author poses questions in order to ______.

Examples for “Abolishing the Penny Makes Good Sense”


Quote/Device Impact – (leads/misleads thinking; makes you feel; gives credibility) Purpose
“An economist rarely has the opportunity to recommend a policy change that benefits 200 million people, imposes costs on virtually no one, and saves the government money to boot.” (p. 648, para 1) The author, Blinder, is an economist, and sets up the beginning of the essay by referencing his profession.   This creates an appeal to ethos because as an economist, the author is knowledgeable on the subject. Moreover, since he follows up his profession with a suggestion that promises to help most of the population in America, the reader is left with a sense of trust in the author’s thoughts that follow. This allows the reader to be more accepting of Binder’s position that the penny should be abolished.
“Pennies get in the way when we make change. They add unwanted weight to our pockets and purses. Few people nowadays even bend down to pick a penny off the sidewalk. Doesn’t that prove that mining and minting copper into pennies is wasteful?” (p. 648, para 2) listing issues – rhetorical question By listing issues with the penny and ending in a rhetorical question, the author leads the reader into thinking about how “the penny has outlived its usefulness.” The details are included as a series to set the reader up for a forced conclusion that comes from the question. This leads the reader to a better understanding of how wasteful the penny is and, therefore, needs to be taken out of circulation.
“Today, if it rained pennies from heaven, only a fool would turn his umbrella upside down: The money caught would be worth less than the ruined umbrella.” (p. 648, para 2) figurative language, imagery, word choice. The author creates a humorous image that is intended to shame those who still think the penny is worth keeping. The very idea of raining money is usually associated with a fantastical wish come true. However, Blinder calls those who would take advantage of “raining pennies” a fool, and even further insults them by pointing out the cost. This humor is intended to place shame onto those who still feel the penny is worth having in circulation, and to convince them that it is not worth what they might think it is.


Organization Pattern

Paragraphs 1: Sets up the reader with an understanding of who he is and why his argument is important. The author ends the paragraph with a clear call to action.

Paragraphs 2-3: These paragraphs are intended to show the ridiculousness of the penny. The author uses humor to instill a sense of shame into those who do not share his position.

Paragraphs 4-7: These paragraphs address the “numbers” of the argument. Each paragraph takes on the following different counterargument and uses factual statistics to refute each claim: para 4 = amount of time wasted; para 5 = cost to tax payers; para 6 = inflation; para 7 = sales tax.

Paragraph 8-9: These paragraphs take on the biggest argument for keeping the penny: sentimental value. However, the author cites nations with more tradition than the US have gone the way of abolishing their smallest unit of money.

Paragraphs 10-11: The author concedes to the sentimental value, but also offers up solutions for keeping the “sentiment” somewhat valuable. He then closes with an overstatement that is intended to shame those who have the power to abolish the penny.



Teaching Literary Analysis: Reading More, Not Less

As English teachers, we are conditioned to think that reading less more critically can get us the results we are looking for when it comes to analyzing and evaluating literature. “Less texts, more depth” is the rallying cry for those who support the ELA Common Core Standards. However, while the majority of research on extensive reading focuses on motivation and comprehension, there is research that tells us reading more is also as effective as intensive, close reading for developing the ability to analyze and evaluate literature.

But the purpose of this post is not to document the research and make claims about different approaches to teaching reading. Instead, as the 2014-2015 school year begins and teachers finalize their curriculum maps and lessons plans, I want to offer teachers extensive reading approaches that attempt to enhance students’ ability to analyze and evaluate.

When we want students to analyze specific elements in a text, we tend to implement close, analytical reading strategies, which means trudging through a single text for a few days, sometimes weeks. However, conventional wisdom should tell us that the more students see the specific element within literature, the easier time they’ll have evaluating and analyzing said element. If I want my students to analyze imagery in poetry, then I might want them to see a variety of ways imagery is utilized, instead of asking them to belabor the use of imagery in a single poem.

Let’s say I would like my students to analyze how Stephan Crane utilizes imagery to develop conflict in his poetry. A traditional approach might be the following lesson:

Closely read the poem “Supposing that I should have the courage” by Stephen Crane. Then, in groups of four, complete and discuss the questions that follow:

1. Draw a picture of what you see when you read the poem.
2. Compare drawings with your group and discuss the similarities and differences.
3. What associations do you make with the words “red sword,” “castle,” and “kingdom”?
4. How does the denotative meaning of the word “sinful” help convey meaning? (Use your phone to look up the word.)
5. How does the denotative meaning of the word “virtue” help convey meaning? (Use your phone to look up the word.)
6. What associations are made with the picture Crane is painting in this poem?
7. Considering everything you’ve discussed with your group, how does Crane utilize imagery to develop conflict in     “Supposing that I should have the courage”?

*I have included all the poems mentioned at the end of the post.

This lesson would end with groups sharing their discussions whole class, maybe putting them on butcher paper and facilitating a gallery walk, and closing with independent work on a separate poem by Crane.

But I think this approach, if done too often, leaves out opportunities for students to be exposed to more poetry and more uses of imagery. Here is an extensive approach to the same question:

 Read the following six poems by Stephen Crane. Then, in groups of four, discuss how Crane utilizes imagery to develop conflict in his poetry.

“Supposing that I should have the courage”
“Little Birds of the Night”
“A Slant of Sun on Dull Brown Walls”
“A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;”
“I saw a man pursuing the horizon”

**Don’t forget, these poems are all included at the end.

Again, this lesson might end with a whole class discussion, and an assessment of student learning would need to be implemented. But having students read good poetry that demonstrates the use of imagery versus questioning the use of imagery in a single poem is at the heart of what makes the extensive approach more effective. Moreover, when I teach literature extensively, I find that students enjoy the time in class more.  Above all, students are exposed to more texts and are given more opportunities to see how great writers craft their work.

As a profession, we don’t seem to give enough credit to the act of reading great literature as a way for honing critical thinking and analytical skills. Instead, we feel it is necessary to stop and point out the elements and give the students “text-dependent questions” to grapple with every ten minutes. So next time you want to teach students how to analyze specific elements within literature, try having them spend the class time reading many texts instead of questioning the text.



***Below, I’ve also included another lesson that shows the differences in approaches using William Carlos Williams because, well, he’s one of my favorites.

Crane’s Poems

Supposing that I should have the courage

Supposing that I should have the courage
To let a red sword of virtue
Plunge into my heart,
Letting to the weeds of the ground
My sinful blood,
What can you offer me?
A gardened castle?
A flowery kingdom?

What? A hope?
Then hence with your red sword of virtue.

Little Birds of the Night

LITTLE birds of the night
Aye, they have much to tell
Perching there in rows
Blinking at me with their serious eyes
Recounting of flowers they have seen and loved
Of meadows and groves of the distance
And pale sands at the foot of the sea
And breezes that fly in the leaves.
They are vast in experience
These little birds that come in the night

A Slant of Sun on Dull Brown Walls

A slant of sun on dull brown walls,
A forgotten sky of bashful blue.

Toward God a mighty hymn,
A song of collisions and cries,
Rumbling wheels, hoof-beats, bells,
Welcomes, farewells, love-calls, final moans,
Voices of joy, idiocy, warning, despair,
The unknown appeals of brutes,
The chanting of flowers,
The screams of cut trees,
The senseless babble of hens and wise men –
A cluttered incoherency that says at the stars:
‘O God, save us!’


A youth in apparel that glittered
Went to walk in grim forest.
There he met an assassin
Attired all in garb of old days;
He, scowling through the thickets,
And dagger poised quivering,
Rushed upon the youth.
‘Sir,’ said this latter,
‘I am enchanted, believe me,
To die, thus,
In this medieval fashion,
According to the best legends;
Ah, what joy!’
Then took he the wound, smiling,
And died, content.

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it.
And eventually he achieved it –
It was clay.

Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.

I saw a man pursuing the horizon

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never –“

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.


William Carlos Williams Lesson

Intensive Approach

 Read the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams. Then, in groups of four, complete and discuss the questions that follow:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

  1. Draw a picture of what you see when you read the poem.
  2. Compare drawings with your group and discuss the similarities and differences.
  3. What associations do you make with the colors used in the poem?
  4. How does the denotative meaning of the word “depends” help convey meaning? (Use your phone to look up the word.)
  5. How does the denotative meaning of the word “glazed” help convey meaning? (Use your phone to look up the word.)
  6. What associations are made with the picture Williams is painting in this poem?
  7. Considering everything you’ve discussed with your group, how does Williams utilize imagery to show the importance of the ordinary in “The Red Wheelbarrow”?

Extensive Approach

Read the following six poems by William Carlos Williams. Then, in groups of four, discuss how Williams utilizes imagery to show the importance of the ordinary in his poetry.

 The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

The Term

A rumpled sheet
Of brown paper
About the length

And apparent bulk
Of a man was
Rolling with the

Wind slowly over
And over in
The street as

A car drove down
Upon it and
Crushed it to

The ground. Unlike
A man it rose
Again rolling

With the wind over
And over to be as
It was before.

The Thinker

My wife’s new pink slippers
have gay pompons.
There is not a spot or stain
on their satin toes or their sides.
All night they lie together
under her bed’s edge.
Shivering I catch sight of them
and smile, in the morning.
Later I watch them
descending the stair,
hurrying through the doors
and round the table,
moving stiffly
with a shake of their gay pompons!
And I talk to them
in my secret mind
out of pure happiness.

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

To A Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her