So, what was up with this? I had been reading Catcher out-loud to the class for about 15 minutes this afternoon when I finally noticed the piercing hiss of the Ipod turned up to eardrum massacring levels. I managed to look up long enough to identify a student in the front row just sitting there, plugs in ears, staring back at me. Why the ‘tude? (That’s short for “attitude.” In case you’re old and don’t know, that’s how kids these days talk.) So I got immediately enraged, but for some reason instead of my usual incredulous and hurt yelling, I just calmly kicked the kid out and told him I would mark it a truancy and we’d talk tomorrow. Of course, I can’t mark a kid for sluffing if he’s there. I mean, I kicked him out. He wanted to be there, for some reason. But I keep wondering–what must the rest of the class think of my bizarrely calm show of force? I don’t like to be that way, and it goes against all my better instincts (and own attitude about school) to treat being in class as some sort of a “privilege,” but that’s what it must have seemed like this afternoon. Weird. Will this kid or anyone else push me like that again? Will my lack of apparent emotion make them think I don’t care? I guess I think the appearance of calm, combined with the relative severity of kicking a kid out, is freakier than a mere show of anger.

My inclination is to believe that that this kid’s behavior is a reaction to something crappy going on that probably has nothing to do with me. As a teacher, is it wise for me to add the embarrassment of getting kicked out of class to all the other crap the kid might be experiencing? Or could it be that this kid is simply an attention-starved jerk?

Well, what can I say. I was mad. I get mad sometimes. I’ll apologize and ask for an apology tomorrow. At least there were only three minutes of class left when all this went down. Ha–some punishment! Being forced to leave class three minutes early… Pitiful. (My discipline regime, that is.)


Today was all about “voice.”

Okay, we did spend 5 minutes reviewing parts of speech–see last week’s posts for that info. That stuff was SO last week. Except that we’re having a quiz on it tomorrow. Know your parts of speech!

But we spent most of our time talking about actual voices, listening to several different songs, and discussing several aspects of voice, including:

  • Pitch (high or low?)
  • Texture (rough or smooth?)
  • Rhythm (fast or slow?)
  • Volume (loud or soft?)
  • Tone (does ithave tone?; is it simple or complex, “poly-tonal”?)

We listened to a wide variety of music, each song featuring a singer with a highly distinctive voice. Here are a few of the songs we listened to:

“A Rose for Emily,” by The Zombies

“Unison,” by Bjork

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys

“Between the Bars,” by Elliott Smith

“Hoboken” by Operation Ivy

“No Surprises,” by Radiohead

“Lowside of the Road,” by Tom Waits

For each of these songs, we analyzed the voice for the qualities listed above, and tried to answer the questions: What emotion or message is the singer trying to convey with their voice? How do pitch, texture, rhythm, volume, and tone affect the emotional content?

Then we started to connect these aspects of literal voice to the figurative sense of voice each writer has in their writing. Whether young writers know it or not, they all have a voice, and can use some of the tools listed above to control the emotion and message of their writing.

The Catcher in the Rye is famous for its strong sense of voice, coming from its author, J.D. Salinger, through his protagonist, Holden Caulfield. We’ll be analyzing Holden’s voice as we read it, starting tomorrow when we make a list of “Holdenisms”: words, phrases, structures that Holden uses again and again in his narration. With that list in hand, we’ll all be able to write like little Holdens. Hopefully by imitating another voice, we’ll learn something about our own authentic voices.

FYI, we read to page 32.


Quote of the day: “Would you like to leave?” Matt Thomas

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