Literature Circles: How to Study Novels in a Group Setting

From Evernote:

Literature Circles: How to Study Novels in a Group Setting

Clipped from:

What is a "Literature Circle"?

I'm sure at some point in your educational upbringing you were subjected to the torturous practice of reading a novel aloud in class. Either you had to listen to your peers read aloud like a robot, or better yet you had to listen to your English teacher read aloud who didn't attempt to hide his/her own boredom with the novel they have been teaching for thirty years! Literature Circles are an excellent way to spice up the way you teach and analyze novels by encouraging students to actively discuss and break down the literary works.

Assign Groups

Many teachers shy away from group work, because they feel it creates classroom management issues. This could be the case if your group work is not organized, but if you follow the Literature Circle steps below, you will find this to be your most pleasant group work experience! Having smaller, teacher-selected groups also help control the mayhem. You need to comb your roster and create groups of students that not only work well together, but who will also complement the other’s learning styles. Especially at the middle school level, it is essential that teachers assign the groups if you want Literature Circles to be successful in your classroom.

Assign Jobs

Doesn’t everyone function more efficiently when they understand their role in a group? Predetermine the “jobs” that each group member must perform. If you type “Literature Circles” into google, you will find tons of suggestions on how to set up a literature circle and different responsibilities to assign to each member. I usually assign a discussion director, vocabulary guru, illustrator, and summarizer for groups of four. After reading the assigned text, this is what each group member is responsible for completing in their Literature Circles:

  • Discussion Director – this group leader is in charge of formulating questions to discuss at the end of the reading. While the discussion director is reading the text, they jot down possible topics the group can discuss as a whole. The discussion director should formulate three or four questions to share with the group.
  • Vocabulary Guru – The guru identifies words that might cause other readers difficulty while they read the text. Selecting five to ten words (depending on the length of the assigned reading), the group will formulate definitions for the words by analyzing them within the context of the sentence.
  • Illustrator – The illustrator draws one or two symbolic pictures that represent the events occurring in the reading. As a group, students discuss the drawings and decipher the illustrator’s deeper meaning behind the drawings.
  • Summarizer – In one or two paragraphs, the Summarizer will do exactly what its job title entails – summarizes what they read. The group reviews the summary and adjusts or adds any details it sees fit.

Hold Groups Accountable

In order for any type of group work activity to be productive, you must hold students accountable for their activities. You can grade them based on participation, or print up individual job sheets that the groups fill out during each session and turn in for a grade. If students know that their job will be graded, they will actually do it according to your specifications. Group work is futile and pointless if you do not maintain some sort of accountability.

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address: Text and Audio

Here is Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, accompanied by my reading of it, which you can hear now or download as an mp3 file using the gizmo below.

Many consider this the greatest political speech ever given.  The Civil War cost 600,000 lives, counting both sides, more than in all other U.S. conflicts combined. Lincoln's main purpose was to preserve the Union (the Nation). He had hoped to avoid a war, but he was also determined to prevent the spread of slavery to the Missouri Territories as they became states. He hoped that the evil institution would come to an end as the Nation developed. 

Ben Franklin on Scottish Music

A letter from Franklin on the subject of Scottish Music.

The following section of this message contains a file attachment
prepared for transmission using the Internet MIME message format.
If you are using Pegasus Mail, or any other MIME-compliant system,
you should be able to save it or view it from within your mailer.
If you cannot, please ask your system administrator for assistance.

---- File information -----------
File: Benjamin Franklin on Scottish Music.pdf
Date: 10 Jan 2011, 22:56
Size: 24368 bytes.
Type: Unknown

Hijacking the Rampage Narrative

From Evernote:

Hijacking the Rampage Narrative

Clipped from:
The shootings of a United States Congresswoman and several citizens by a deranged man yesterday has led to a predictable flurry of editorial comments about the dangers of intemperate rhetoric. And there is something to this. It seems to me that the deranged young man was a magnet for talks-show ideas (the virtues of the gold standard, how media and college elites are indoctrinating our youth, etc.)  He took these conservative criticisms of modern mores and added his paranoia and we see the result.

Have we not met such people before?  The fervid true-believers and "useful Idiots" who drone on and on from a closed system that explains everything and nothing.  A John Bircher, the village atheist, and the overgrown delinquent smashing in a store window in the name of freedom are "of imagination all compact."

My guess is that when all the videos are viewed, we will be left with a pathetic whiner.

She here is how the New York Times describes his thinking:

Among other complaints, Mr. Loughner’s social networking pages suggest that he had grievances against Pima Community College, that he felt cheated in some way.

“If I’m not receiving the purchase from a payment then I’m a victim of fraud,” he wrote, referencing the school, in one of his many confusing phrases posted in his videos.

Let us see if the pundits conclude that it is the fault of the community colleges that the Congresswoman was attacked.  After all, they KNEW he was dangerous and could only reject him.

Bloom's Taxonmy of Educational Objectives


From Bloom, et al., 1956

As teachers we tend to ask questions in the "knowledge" category 80% to 90% of the time. These questions are not bad, but using them all the time is. Try to utilize higher order level of questions. These questions require much more "brain power" and a more extensive and elaborate answer. Below are the six question categories as defined by Bloom.

    • remembering;
    • memorizing;
    • recognizing;
    • recalling identification and
    • recall of information
      • Who, what, when, where, how ...?
      • Describe
    • interpreting;
    • translating from one medium to another;
    • describing in one's own words;
    • organization and selection of facts and ideas
      • Retell...
    • problem solving;
    • applying information to produce some result;
    • use of facts, rules and principles
      • How example of...?
      • How is...related to...?
      • Why is...significant?
    • subdividing something to show how it is put together;
    • finding the underlying structure of a communication;
    • identifying motives;
    • separation of a whole into component parts
      • What are the parts or features of...?
      • Classify...according to...
      • Outline/diagram...
      • How with...?
      • What evidence can you list for...?
    • creating a unique, original product that may be in verbal form or may be a physical object;
    • combination of ideas to form a new whole
      • What would you predict/infer from...?
      • What ideas can you add to...?
      • How would you create/design a new...?
      • What might happen if you combined...?
      • What solutions would you suggest for...?
    • making value decisions about issues;
    • resolving controversies or differences of opinion;
    • development of opinions, judgements or decisions
      • Do you agree...?
      • What do you think about...?
      • What is the most important...?
      • Place the following in order of priority...
      • How would you decide about...?
      • What criteria would you use to assess...?

Return to Questioning Menu
Return to Faculty Development Teaching Guidebook Introduction
Return to Faculty Development Document Guide Menu
Jerry Cerny,


Book review: The Enlightened Economy -

A Revolution Of the Mind

The Industrial Enlightenment put knowledge in the service of production, changing the course of history.


In the coming days and weeks, the Hamptons, the Vineyard and all the other August escapes from workaday life will likely see a bull market in pessimism as financiers and powerbrokers reach into their summer book bags to relive the recession or look ahead to even greater disaster. "Lofty geo- globaloney tomes on the future of the world" is how the economist Nouriel Roubini has described his summer reading list. Alan Greenspan has said that he will delve into "Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World," which sounds more like a penance than poolside pleasure.

Which is why summer demands some more hopeful fare and why a last-minute claim for room in any escape should be allowed for Joel Mokyr's "The Enlightened Economy." A former editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History, Mr. Mokyr sets out to answer what, on the face of it, is an old question: Why did Britain have an industrial revolution first? Why not France or the Netherlands, given their economic power in the 17th century and, at the time, the increasingly free market in ideas between Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and London?

Mr. Mokyr's answer—articulated in densely packed but gratifyingly lucid prose—is that in Britain ideas interacted vigorously with business interests in "a positive feedback loop that created the greatest sea change in economic history since the advent of culture."

Reduced to a thumbnail sketch, liberty and natural philosophy—a catch-all term for the study of "useful" knowledge— begat prosperity, which begat more liberty and useful knowledge, which in turn spread through Europe and the Americas.

Mr. Mokyr is well aware that marrying economics to intellectual history has little appeal for many economists who, he says, share a decidedly ironic affinity with Marx for some variant of historical materialism. Economic events are thus explained by the economic decisions that realize profit. But as historical explanation, this is thin gruel.

It ignores changing cultural values and the power of persuasion, not least by dint of appealing to reason. What Mr. Mokyr calls the "Industrial Enlightenment"—to distinguish it from the specifics of the French Enlightenment—was animated, he argues, by a belief "that material progress and economic growth could be achieved through increasing human knowledge of natural phenomena and making this knowledge accessible to those who could make use of it in production."

The goal was betterment, prosperity, personal happiness—the constellation of intellectual goods that came to dethrone salvation as the reason for human existence. Practical problems acquired a philosophical urgency, and where once innovation was "an efflorescence rather than a continuous process," nature came to be seen as something that could be controlled and exploited through inductive and experimental methods.

The Enlightened Economy

By Joel Mokyr
Yale, 564 pages, $45

But the power of knowledge would not, by itself, have given Britain its formidable economic edge; the Continent, too, had an array of scientific genius as brilliant as any in Scotland and England. (Think only of the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier.) The reason for Britain's exceptionalism, Mr. Mokyr says, lies in the increasing hostility to rent-seeking—the use of political power to redistribute rather than create wealth—among the country's most important intellectuals in the second half of the 18th century. Indeed, a host of liberal ideas, in the classic sense, took hold: the rejection of mercantilism's closed markets, the weakening of guilds and the expansion of internal free trade, and robust physical and intellectual property rights all put Britain far ahead of France, where violent revolution was needed to disrupt the privileges of the old regime.

Such political upheaval in Europe, notes Mr. Mokyr, disrupted trade, fostered uncertainty, and may well have created all kinds of knock-on social disincentives for technological and scientific innovation and collaboration with business. Much as we might deplore too many of our brightest students going into law rather than chemistry or engineering, it is not unreasonable to think that many of France's brightest thinkers were diverted by brute events into political rather than scientific activism (or chastened by poor Lavoisier's beheading during the Revolution).

Thus Montesquieu may have advocated free trade as passionately as Adam Smith, but Smith's "Wealth of Nations"—the canonical text of the Industrial Enlightenment—fell upon a society primed to judge and implement it as an operating system. Evangelical and liberal alike shared in the vision of "frugal" government, as Mr. Mokyr puts it. In the opening decades of the 19th century, Parliament took an ax to itself, pruning the books of what were now seen as harmfully restrictive laws.

It is impossible to do justice to the subtlety and detail of "The Enlightened Economy"; it is the product of a lifetime of research and thought, and stands as a landmark work of history; but more to the point, its perceptive examination of the birth of economic prosperity holds many arresting insights for our fraught economic times, where freedom is increasingly associated with government regulation and politicians appear all too-willing to accommodate new varieties of rent seeking.

It is also refreshing, and possibly redemptive, to be reminded of a time when scientists composed poetry—as Charles Darwin's polymathic grandfather, Erasmus, did praise of steel—and when the idea that agronomy and geology and metallurgy were as vital and as exciting as any of the arts.

Mr. Butterworth is the editor of and a columnist for



Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit

More In Books

Good background information for the period.

The Savant and the Puritan: Benjamin Franklin and Cotton Mather

From Evernote:

No. 1611: Benjamin Franklin and Cotton Mather

Clipped from:

No. 1611:

by John H. Lienhard

Click here for audio of Episode 1611.

Today, Benjamin Franklin and Cotton Mather. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

Benjamin Franklin was Colonial America's famous liberal rebel. Cotton Mather was the archetypical conservative Puritan leader. Like Mather, Franklin started out in Boston. They made unlikely bedfellows, yet when Franklin was eleven, he read Mather's book, Essays to Do Good. It had a lasting impact on him, and through his vast influence it has, ultimately, touched us as well.

Ben Franklin's older brother James was a printer and the publisher of the New England Courant. James went after Mather on many issues -- most stridently during a 1721 smallpox epidemic. Mather was promoting the unheard-of practice of inoculation, which he'd learned from his African servant. (The idea of averting disease by subjecting yourself to it was a very hard sell.)

Ben had served as James' apprentice during those times. Then, at seventeen, he found work as a journeyman printer in Philadelphia. He's been associated with that city ever since. After a year he returned to Boston for a visit, and the first thing he did was a surprise. He went to visit Cotton Mather.

Mather made no mention of the earlier attacks by James, and he received Ben graciously. Historian I.B. Cohen tells how, as Franklin was leaving, Mather shouted at him, "Stoop, stoop!"

Too late! Franklin struck his head on the low doorjamb, and Mather intoned: "You are young, and have the world before you; stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps." Franklin did not miss the point. Later he said, "I often think of [Mather's words] when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high."

The clergyman Mather also influenced Franklin the scientist. He wrote about spontaneous hybridization in plants. He wrote a treatise on medicine. Mather was an empiricist who called "the incomparable Sir Isaac Newton" his guide in science.

And so young Ben Franklin worked out his ethics by turning Mather's advice into the more compact and secular language of Poor Richard's Almanac. In an exhortation on service to the kingdom of God, Mather said that it means redressing "the miseries under which mankind is languishing." Poor Richard summarized that one in the words: "Serving God is doing good to man, but praying is thought an easier service, and therefore more generally chosen."

But Franklin didn't just preach. He followed Mather's advice and acted as well. In 1751, a Dr. Thomas Bond said that Philadelphia needed a hospital. That was radical. The Colonies had never seen a hospital. Franklin combined his skill as a printer, his passion as a social activist, and the guile of a superb fundraiser. He gave America its first hospital.

There's a wonderful lesson here. Franklin and Mather were stereotypical opposites, yet the best of each is woven into America. They are a wonderful reminder that we all need to keep weighing, sifting, and reassessing our own indignations.

I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

(Theme music)

Cohen, I. B., Benjamin Franklin's Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990. Chapter 10.

The Engines of Our Ingenuity is Copyright © 1988-2000 by John H. Lienhard.

The Dead of Night

November 23rd, 2010 11:53 am

The Dead of the Night

One big story that hasn’t yet made it across the Spanish-English divide is the epic of Don Alejo Garza, an elderly farmer who fought a one-man stand against a drug gang.  When they gave him a deadline to leave his property or else, Garza sent his ranch hands home and armed himself. There he waited. When the gang came in the dead of the night he met them with a fusilade and killed four and wounded two before the numerically superior drug enforcers finally took him out with gunfire and hand-grenades. The Mexican Marines arrived on the scene to find  bodies all over and an old man at the center of it all.


Sounds like the making of a Hollywood movie. Now this was a Don!

Closed market’s valediction ironically explains its failure

Closed market’s valediction ironically explains its failure

posted at 11:36 am on November 12, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

There are few things more annoying than people blaming their failures on others.  There are few things more ironically humorous than watching a clueless person publicly scold people and in the process reveal his or her own ignorance.  And since examples of both at the same time come along so rarely, we have to take a good look at the Boston Herald’s report on the closing of Don Otto’s Market, a niche food market in Boston’s South End, where the management briefly posted a tirade against its customers for failing to buy what the owners demanded:

The manager of Don Otto’s – a recently shuttered food market in the South End – is blaming neighborhood patrons for its untimely demise, cooking up an angry message to fair-weather fans of the Tremont Street eatery.

“Don Otto’s Market wants to say we had few customers that understood customer loyalty and its importance to our business,” a message on its Web site reads, later adding: “If you came in only for baguettes, the occasional piece of cheese, the occasional dinner . . . you can not tell yourself you were a supporter of our market.”

The scalding remonstrance was written by Erin McLaughlin, 28, who ran the shop and is engaged to the owner, Michael Otto, 31.

“It was quite frank,” she acknowledged yesterday. “People don’t understand their purchases make a difference, and that by buying something that wasn’t exactly what you want, it gets you closer to what you want. It’s an investment.”

Actually, it was more revealing than McLaughlin realizes.  Perhaps she has spent too much time in Barney Frank’s district (he was a customer), but businesses don’t succeed by telling customers what they should want to buy.  Customers have this annoying tendency to know how they want to spend their own money, and businesses succeed by adapting to demand, not demanding that customers adapt to the owner’s own tastes in supply.  And if people wanted to “invest” in Don Otto’s, they would have bought stock in it rather than food they don’t want at prices that discouraged sales.

In a way, though, this is an allegory of elitism in general.  McLaughlin couldn’t pass laws to make sure that people could only buy her $28-per-pound steak, but she certainly sounds as if she would have done so if given the opportunity.  Her contempt for her customers is not dissimilar to the contempt shown by those in political office who pass laws barring restaurants from using saturated fats in their cooking, who ban Happy Meals, and who overhaul entire economic sectors because they believe people can’t make their own choices.

It looks as though McLaughlin at least learned that blaming customers for not surrendering to her diktats in the name of “investment” makes for bad public relations.  The valediction has disappeared from the website, replaced by a simple notice that Don Otto’s is closed.

Update: It looks as though arrogance really was the business plan, and it only took six months to fail.  Lee Doren sent over a Boston Globe story from May reporting on the new ownership and its goals:

Prepared foods include duck leg confit and a popular veggie lasagna. Otto and Lundberg are continuing to smoke bacon in house. All of the meats sold at the shop are local; prices are high but Otto says customers are coming in regularly with weekly meat orders that top $400.

Otto’s mission is to help shift people’s thinking about what food should cost, especially non-manufactured, non-processed foods. Although pricey eggs may not be for everyone, salsa, made in nearby Jamaica Plain, is a bit more accessible for the everyday shopper. The same goes for a jar of cider jelly from Springfield, Vt., that Lundberg has incorporated into pork dishes.

Eggs, from free-range chickens, are $8.50 a dozen. When asked whether people will balk at the cost, Otto shrugs and explains these chickens’ laying routine. “Their lay cycles rely on the sun, not on artificial lamps that distort production,’’ he says.

And customers’ shopping habits rely on how much things cost in relation to value as they perceive it, a lesson Otto learned the hard way.  There is nothing wrong with trying a business model and failing; that’s how innovation works.  But it’s beyond arrogant to blame customers for not paying exorbitant amounts of money for items they didn’t perceive as valuable just to support a failing business model.

This story brought out the free-market types to make fun of the social engineering types. Why should I have to "support" a market? If it sells what I want, it will make money from me. If not, I will go elsewhere. Not that hard to understand...