Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Henry J. Mulhern Scholarship Fund

My father, who passed on April 12th, 2014, was a man who believed in supporting teachers and schools. He was the son of Irish immigrants, the first person in his family to achieve a college degree. He taught all of his children that education was one of the most important gifts we could give ourselves. My dad spent his life giving to others, especially through his support of educational initiatives for students who did not have access to the same financial resources as their peers.

In his memory, and as a testament to his legacy, my siblings and I have started the Henry J. Mulhern Scholarship Fund for young people.

If you would like to donate to this scholarship, see the address below. Thank you for your kindness in helping others to achieve their dreams.

Ms. Marie Adams
The Henry J. Mulhern Scholarship
Atlantic Technical Center
4700 Coconut Creek Parkway
Coconut Creek, FL 33063

All checks should be written out to Atlantic Technical Center with the scholarship's title on the check. Thank you.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lessons My Father Taught Me

For My Father, Henry J. Mulhern, One of the Finest Men I Know

My father turned 77 years wise on September 24th, 2013. He has been one of my greatest teachers. I always tell my students that you learn most from those who have lived long.  

I share these lessons with my students and ask them to think about what lessons the people in their own lives have taught them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Excellent Resource for Tolerance Research Paper (see post below)

Ms. Rohrbach, the Media Specialist at Atlantic Technical Center Magnet High School, created a fantastic website for students to use as they write research papers on tolerance. Ms. Rohrbach has graciously given me permission to post her link on this blog. You will be amazed. Check it out, especially those teachers in Broward County who are trying to incorporate this month's character education trait, tolerance, into their lesson plans. Thank you Ms. Rohrbach!

Tolerance Research Paper Website

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Research Paper on Tolerance--Assignment, Sample Introductory Paragraph with Ideas for Body of Essay, Teacher Modeling of the Writing Process, Sample Timeline

Scholars: A central theme of this course is Tolerance.  Whenever we read and discuss something in class, you should keep this theme in mind.  Ask yourself:  How can I relate the ideas in this text or discussion to the theme of Tolerance?  Write down key quotes and ideas throughout the semester.  Cite page numbers where you find your information.  In your notes, write a large "T" in the margin next to the "Tolerance" ideas. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Teaching Moments

Each week I remember important teaching moments and chronicle them in a journal. Occasionally on this blog I will post some of those entries.  I wrote the following entry several years ago, when I was teaching a famous essay by Langston Hughes entitled "Salvation."

I believe the universe is joyful, more magical, and playful than most of us realize.  We are simply too distracted to see the goodness, to enjoy the game, to decipher the

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Free PDF for Broward Students Taking the AP English Language and Composition Exam

Some parents have emailed me because they would like to purchase the Guide for Free Response Essays for their children who do not own Kindles. Unfortunately, the Guide is not available in hard copy. If you are a student in Broward County, or a parent or teacher of a student in Broward County, email me and I will gladly send you a free PDF of the Guide for Free Response Essays. Simply tell me what school the student attends and how you heard about the publication. Thank you.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Common Core Exemplar: Teaching Native American Literature--High School Unit Plan

© 2013 James Mulhern,

In the Broward County Public School district, we use The Language of Literature textbook series published by McDougal Littell for English classes.  The opening unit of the grade 11 textbook contains the Native American stories "The World on the Turtle's Back," "Coyote and the Buffalo," and "Fox and Coyote and Whale."

Rationale for this Unit Plan:
 “The Literature Task plays an important role in honing students’ ability to read a complex text closely, a skill that research reveals as the most significant factor differentiating college-ready from non-college-ready readers. This task will ask students to carefully consider literature worthy of close study and compose an analytic essay” (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the developer of the assessment for the Common Core).

Standards Addressed: RI.11-12.1, RI.11-12.2, RI.11-12.3, RI.11-12.4, RI.11-12.5, RI.11-12.6, RI.11-12.7, RI.11-12.8, RI.11-12.9, RI.11-12.10, W.11-12.1, W.11-12.2, W.11-12.4, W.11-12.5, W.11-12.9, SL.11-12.4, SL.11-12.6.

I have found that students enjoy these stories, especially when I help them make links to "stories" and "myths" from other cultures.

Below is a list of the activities I use to teach this unit.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Common Core Exemplar: Analysis of Walden by Thoreau, a Seminal US Text

Lesson/Unit Plan (Common Core)
(Also Appropriate for Advanced Placement English Language and Composition)

© 2013 James Mulhern,

Walden Text Used: Excerpts within The Language of Literature, American Literature, McDougal Littell (381-393)

Rationale for this Unit Plan

“The Literature Task plays an important role in honing students’ ability to read a complex text closely, a skill that research reveals as the most significant factor differentiating college-ready from non-college-ready readers. This task will ask students to carefully consider literature worthy of close study and compose an analytic essay” (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the developer of the assessment for the Common Core).

Globalization Links

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Caring Teacher: The Brain's Best Friend

"Teacher-student attunement isn’t a “nice addition” to the learning experience, but a core requirement [emphasis mine]. This is especially true in cases where children come to class with social, emotional, or intellectual challenges." 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Global Connections in Education

BEST SITE—Building Educator Skills for Today: Synthesizing Ideas and Transforming Education.

BEST SITE on a school level would enable teachers to collaborate virtually (online), since it is often difficult to schedule common planning times for educators. The collaboration could be as simple as posting content, themes, lessons, syllabi, calendars, vocabulary from individual disciplines, lists of future unit plans (bulleted lists, outlines, brainstorming of ideas; nothing formal, unless the teacher is so inclined). Then colleagues (of their own volition; not micromanaged or mandated) could check the BEST SITE to see what their peers (who share students) are doing in their respective curriculums. Connections could be made by all teachers in that school without even meeting.

Schools Need to Teach Students about Memory and the Brain Now

I know these experiences have happened to you.
  • You teach a lesson, and during that class it seems students are learning.  You ask questions, and the students, for the most part, answer correctly.  The next day you ask questions about yesterday's lesson, and very few students can recall the correct answers. They shout out anything that pops into their heads; at times, nonsensical gobbledygook.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Great Articles/Resources from The College Board, The New York Times, and Khan Academy About the Revised SAT (Spring 2016)

Check out these helpful links to understand/prepare for the revised SAT:

Link about Remembering What is Read

Check out this brief article highlighting three important steps to remember what is read: Impression, Association, Repetition. (Mnemonic Device--I Am a Reader) These habits work well with anything that needs to be remembered--vocabulary, for example. It is a good idea to review these simple techniques with students.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Requests for Analysis Lessons

I am working on a series of writing projects--analysis essays on famous texts. I am curious which texts my fellow AP English Language and Composition teachers would like to see analyzed for use in their classes. So I am asking for your help in suggesting those texts. If you feel like passing along your suggestions, I would appreciate it. You can email me or leave your comments here. As I complete the analysis lessons, I will gladly share them with Broward AP English Language and Composition teachers. I have also begun posting examples of analytical writing on the blog I use for my classes. Feel free to direct your students to those posts: 

Monday, March 3, 2014

INSIGHT Activity for Advanced Placement English Language and Composition Class--Argumentative Texts

INSIGHT--Interconnecting Numerous Sources Inspires Great Higher Thinking

In this lesson, two scholars (term I use for my students) facilitate a class discussion among groups. Each group has been assigned a reading to review and reteach for the class. The list of texts includes selections we, as a class, have read, discussed, and taken notes on. I explain to scholars the need for review of our readings at spaced intervals of time to reinforce learning and inspire additional novel insights. Our learning should focus on the higher-level thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and argumentation, I tell them.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Specificity is Key": How to Improve Writing Through Specificity and Elaboration

I use the exercise at the bottom of this post to help students improve their writing through specificity and elaboration. When I use this exercise, I sometimes pair students, group them, or have them work individually.  Often, I give them the choice to work with their peers or alone.  After the students complete the writing task (see below), we read the pieces aloud, and the class as a whole provides positive feedback.  I also guide students to suggest ways that the paragraphs that their peers have written could be even more specific, concrete, and elaborative.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Learning Network: Teaching and Learning With The New York Times--The Best Online Site for Teachers

In my humble opinion, The Learning Network, the education blog for The New York Times is the best online site for teachers and students. With its lesson plans, unit plans, and relevant news topics connected to all disciplines, it is a trove of excellent ideas. Check it out today and every day:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Plymouth Plantation" Discussion Questions

“Of Plymouth Plantation” Close Reading Questions (See page 82 in the yellow textbook—McDougal Little, The Language of Literature Series, American Literature, Grade 11)

1. Count the number of references to the Bible, scripture, religion, special providence, God, etc.  What types of allusions and references do Americans often make and hear in our own mediums of discourse--music, media, movies, and everyday life?  What do these references indicate about modern American ideals and values?  Do you like the particular references that are so prevalent in our society?  Why or why not?  Are there ways that we can be more reflective about the allusions/references we make?  How do allusions/references shape a people's culture and worldview?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Using Models to Help Students Write Better Analysis and Elaboration (Analysis of MLK's "I Have a Dream" Speech)

I often use models of my own analytical writing to help students understand that writing is a process that can always be improved upon. The original and revision paragraphs below are from a published analysis that I wrote. I explain to students that I am constantly revising and rewriting my own analytical essays. Helping students to understand that you, as a teacher, struggle to constantly improve your own writing gives students a greater understanding that writing is a process and requires hard work.

Obama's Speech on the Death of Bin Laden--Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions (Always cite words/language to prove your points.)

1.  What is President Obama’s primary purpose in this speech?
2.  Why does President Obama use the words, “killed,” “murder,” “thousands of innocent men, women, and children”? (Paragraph 1)
3.  How is the imagery in Paragraph 2 effective?  Cite specific words or phrases and explain the mood that is created by the language that you have cited. 
4.  In Paragraph 3, President Obama uses a different set of images. What is the difference in the types of images he presents in Paragraph 2 and Paragraph 3?  Why is this contrast in image type effective?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tolerance as a Pivotal Strand in the Reading and Discussion of Literature

I believe that one of the greatest American values is tolerance.  I begin every year by explaining this defining principle of our democracy to my students.  When we seem to be witnessing such growth of intolerance on both the national and international stage (and this fact is also due in great part to the rapidity, repetition, and over-exposure to negative news in the digital world), it is especially important that we as educators help our children to understand and to respect the idea of tolerance.  The essay below is something I assign after reading and discussing literature that illustrates America's racist and intolerant past, but I am "frontloading" the activity on this site now, so that others might consider incorporating Tolerance as a strand in all the literature taught during the year: