Bell Work Resources

I like to start classes with students analyzing or responding to a question, provocative quote, poem, piece of visual art, song, etc. Here are some of the resources I use to come up with engaging class activity hooks and writing prompts through the use of culturally and historically significant dynamic mediums.

Opinion Essays/Informational Articles



Library of Congress Collections



Cantaria Folk Song Archive

American Folklife Center

Poetry 180: A Poem A Day for American High Schools

The Full National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress


100 Years of Illustration

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Allusion A Day

The Doc, one of my favorite English teacher bloggers (see The Doc is In, blogroll on right), recently posted about how he addresses the declining cultural literacy of current high school students. He introduces his students to cultural literacy using E.D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know  and projects a daily comic, political cartoon, Internet meme, or other digital media piece intended to familiarize students with allusions and the cultural events, figures, or objects to which they refer. In a fun and low-stakes way, students see if they can understand and try to explain the allusion and its meaning.

Posted in Classroom Management, Community Building, Cultural Literacy, Differentiation, Education, English Education, Secondary Education, Viewing, Visual Arts | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Illustrations for Educational/Presentational Uses

Howard PyleWhenever creating a presentation, I  always spend too much time locating visuals I feel comfortable using to accompany my presentations’ main talking points. The central challenge here usually lies in finding something both high-quality enough and free. My current project, coding a CSS designed web site from the ground up, required I spend some time looking through fantastic nineteenth century (read copyright-free) illustrations. Even as I attempt to enhance my digital skills, I retain some partiality for art originally designed by hand in some material form. In my search, I became reacquainted with the works of the illustrious (heh) artist Howard Pyle, best known for retelling, with striking illustrations, many traditional fairy tales and legends, among them those concerning Robin Hood and King Arthur. Though Pyle’s art sometimes represented scenes from American history, the Middle Ages seem to have been a favorite time period of study (though he did not burden himself much with nailing historical accuracy). Howard Pyle - The Buccaneer was a Picaresque Fellow Pyle’s depictions of pirates also gave us the iconic Gypsy-like attire American pop culture now associates with the pirate.

This rediscovery led me to discover an invaluable treasury at ClipArt ETC, a free resource, hosted by the University of South Florida, of nearly 70,000 compelling copyright-free illustrations made available for educational use by teachers and students. Some of the illustration categories: Arts and Architecture, American History and Government, Ancient and Medieval History, Animals, … Literature …. and it goes on and on. I can’t imagine any educator who would have no use for such a resource. And, if illustrations aren’t your thing, USF’s Florida Center for Instructional Technology also offers ClipPixETC, a gallery of photographs, Presentations ETC, dedicated to presentational elements from styled letters and numerals to nineteenth century paper people, and Maps ETC, a database of scanned maps from around the world and many, many time periods.

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Teaching: Antigone

Nikiforos Lytras - Antigone in front of the dead Polynices (1865)Introduction to Greek Theatre & Antigone:

Tufts University’s Perseus Digital Library “The Development of Athenian Tragedy,” excerpted from Thomas R. Martin’s An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander.

Dr. Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Professor of Classics at Temple University’s Greek Theater and Society Course page.

Glossary of important terms, worksheet guides to Greek plays, including Sophocles’ Antigone, and useful links to other sites.

Emory University – Overview of Greek Drama

Contains maps of Greece, drawings of Greek theater layout, historical timelines, and other relevant pictures of Athenian Acropolis, artistic depictions of Athenian actors and Greek drama.

Unit Plans:

DrPezz’s Antigone Unit and Study Guide

WebEnglish Teacher links to study guides, units, and individual Antigone lessons.

Georgia Standards plan created by Cynde Snider for teaching 10th Grade Lit/Comp or World Literature Greek Tragedy Unit. Focus is on Oedipus Rex, but the vocabulary and some activities would work equally well in teaching Antigone.

Lesson Ideas:

EdSitement’s Sophocles’ Antigone: Ancient Greek Theatre, Live from Antiquity

Adapting Antigone for Modern Movie-going Audience assignment

Supplemental Readings:

Carson, Anne. “The ‘Ode to Man’ from Sophocles’ Antigone.The New Yorker.

Cartledge, Paul. “Greeks: The Democratic Experiment.” BBC History.

Yeats, William Butler, “From The ‘Antigone’

Posted in English Education, English Teachers, Lesson Ideas, Lesson Plans, Planning, Secondary Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Organization: Notebook Checks

No doubt because of my perpetual struggles to remain organized, I believe we owe it to our students to teach organization skills. Long after they have left us and likely forgotten 90% of the particulars of our disciplinary subject matter, they will, hopefully, know how to organize their work materials.

I have seen teachers hand students a sheet detailing the specific notes and handouts they expected to find in their notebooks as well as how to organize these components. I have known some teachers to collect these heavy artifacts once or twice a semester. Well, that all seems like way too much work for the teacher with not enough responsibility falling to the student. Dana Huff, over at HuffEnglish, though, offers the best approach to notebook checks I’ve come across, thus far: creating short (10 questions based on notes/handouts/writing responses from a specific class date) notebook quizzes and allowing students to organize their notebooks using a system that works. It seems to have the added benefit of making students responsible for catching up on missed work and notes.

I would try to arrange a notebook quiz once a month.

Posted in Assessment, Classroom Management, Design, English Education, English Teachers, Planning, Secondary Education | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lesson Idea: Art and The Odyssey

Romare Bearden - PoseidonI could have put this in the “Teaching the Odyssey” post, but this delightful discovery (new to me!) warrants its own space. From reading Sophocles, I jumped to August Wilson these past couple days. From there I ran into his “four B’s” of inspiration: Jorge Luis Borges, Romare Bearden, Amiri Baraka, and the blues (apparently he later added James Baldwin and Ed Bullins). Then, investigating the work of Romare Bearden, a black American artist and writer, known especially for his collage work and engagement with themes dealing with African American culture and equal rights,  I became aware of his series of work on Homer’s Odyssey.

I would first and foremost recommend the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s great multimedia Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey exhibit containing works from Bearden’s Odyssey series as well as works inspired by The Illiad and depicting the Fall of Troy. The site features The National Gallery of Art offers a mini-lesson comparing Bearden’s The Return of Odysseus ( (1977), depicting Odysseus’ arrival at his palace disguised as an old man, with Pintoricchio’s Penelope with the Suitors (1509). Here are some additional question possibilities concerning Bearden’s painting and the Art Institute of Chicago’s introduction to the painting.

At DC Moore Gallery features a large thumbnail slideshow of the other mostly papered collage pieces from the series featuring other scenes from The Odyssey: Circe’s Domain, Realm of the Shades, Odysseus Leaves Nausicaa, Battle with Cicones, Circe Turns a Companion of Odysseus into a Swine, and Scylla and Charybdis.

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Review: To the Heart of the Storm by Will Eisner

Eisner, Will. To the Heart of the Storm. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. I present another graphic memoir deservedly bound for the classroom shelf. The “grand old man of comics” and creator of such legendary comics as The Spirit and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Will Eisner, himself, turns to his own life to tell a story of coming of age in New York, an American Jewish boy, in the period sandwiched between the two World Wars. Against the backdrop of his father’s memories of Europe and his parents’ continued struggles for financial stability in America, Eisner dramatizes his own struggles to fit into a world often hostile to his Jewish identity.

From his denial of Jewish prejudice in America to his determination to escape a cultural stereotype by choosing to fight in World War II, Eisner’s story feels familiar and overlooked. This book comes highly recommended for its high quality narrative and illustrations, as well as the reminder it serves about America’s own history and legacy of continued discrimination during a time period when history books still too often overemphasize the country’s blameless and heroic character.


Great for considering alongside Wiesel’s Night or Spiegelman’s Maus, in a unit on social discrimination or World War II/The Holocaust. Even outside the context of a teaching unit, this history-filled memoir, served up by the legendary graphic novel pioneer, merits a place on every teacher’s shelf. Especially, one serious about multi-disciplinary and visual learning.

Posted in Book Review, English Education, Graphic Literature, Visual Arts, YA Literature, YA Literature Resources | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment