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Home: The Toast

pretty in ink*Unfortunately, the school has exceeded its annual book budget so you will need to purchase your own copy. See buying options on Ms. Palmer’s web site… Please support your local bookstore, or if you buy on Amazon, please do so Tuesday at 5 p.m. so Ms. Palmer’s sales rank will spike. Thanks! :)

Day 1, Aim: How can we begin to learn about Pretty in Ink and its major themes?

Do Now: Turn in your Othello papers analyzing Iago’s true motive for his actions.

Activity 1: Intro to novel. At the request of many of you, our next unit will be on my very own debut novel, Pretty in Ink! [Pause for applause.] The book is “a lighthearted gambol through the ever-changing world of women’s magazine publishing [that] contains the authenticity of experience and the salacious story snippets fans of The Devil Wears Prada will appreciate,” or so says Booklist. Not yet sold? Well, Publishers Weekly has touted it as “an indulgent roll in the mud filled with juicy gossip and outrageous office politics.” [Pause for questions. If students ask how this book will help them earn a 5 on the A.P. exam, distract class with more dazzling reviews, i.e. from Cupcake Blogger Girl and emails from Mom.] 

Activity 2: Anticipation guide. For each of the following statements, pick whether you Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. Then we’ll debate!

  • Conformity is key to success.
  • Power, by its nature, is corruptive.
  • To be a great leader, it is more important to be feared than loved. 
  • A women-only workplace is more competitive than a mixed-gender workplace. 
  • The publishing industry is in major trouble; despite savvy innovations, new Tablet technology, and adaptable editors willing to wear multiple hats, the widespread availability of free, high-quality content online and an increasingly splintered and distracted readership spell print magazines’ obsolescence within the next 5 years.
  • Penning a novel that seems perfect for the big screen but then failing to hear from any movie producers doesn’t mean you are a failure. [Ms. Palmer note to self—relevant? cut?]

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapter 1.

Common Core State Standard Addressed: SL.11-12.1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

Day 2, Aim: How might point-of-view affect our understanding of “truth”?

Do Now: In your notebooks, jot down the POV of Chapter 1, and its effect. [Answer: Leah, 1st person; we hear about the firing of Hers magazine’s editor-in-chief through the lens of the executive editor who’s a mom of 3, i.e. someone in a precarious position with a lot at stake.] 

Activity 1: Mini-lecture on POV. [Ms. Palmer note to self—Refresh memory on limited vs. omniscient 3rd person; messed this up last year and the kids were not very nice about it.]

Activity 2: Rewrite a paragraph from Chapter 1 in another character’s POV. Discuss differences between book and your rewriting and what this says about “truth.” 

FYI, Chapter 2 will take on the POV of Jane, associate editor. Why, you ask? Well, Booklist says, “With different chapters devoted to different POVs, the politics of the magazine industry find full display in this deliciously delectable read.” [Ms. Palmer note to self—Students will probably make connection between POVs in Pretty in Ink and Wide Sargasso Sea’s retelling of Jane Eyre. If not, prompt them to note similarities in works of Brontë, Rhys, and Palmer.]

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapter 2. Extra credit: Tweet out your favorite character, supporting your opinion with textual evidence!

Common Core State Standard Addressed: W.11-12.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Day 3, Aim: Which vocabulary words will deepen our understanding of the novel? 

Do Now: Jot down a response to the following: What is a magazine? If you have no idea, please make an educated guess. Share out with class. [Ms. Palmer note to self—Don’t let Annie, i.e. Tavi Gevinson-wannabe, dominate discussion.]

Activity 1: Look up definitions to the following words, and then use each one in a sentence.

  • Coverline
  • Lede
  • Beauty closet sale
  • Copy Chief
  • Associate Online Fashion & Lifestyle Editor

Activity 2: Pictionary! Come up with a team name (no expletives—I’m looking at you, Todd and Jonah!), then we’ll play. Winners will receive Pretty in Ink-flavored lip gloss!

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapters 3 and 4. Set up Goodreads account and add Pretty in Ink to your “Currently Reading” shelf. 

Common Core State Standard Addressed: L.11-12.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases.

Day 4, Aim: How might we utilize varying definitions of “success” to understand characterization?

Do Now: Record an instance when you experienced success, and ID the factors that contributed to your success. Share out. [Ms. Palmer note to self—If anyone IDs “access to the answer key” or “ability to pick Ms. Palmer’s lock” or anything else related to the midterm cheating incident, shut down conversation ASAP.]

Activity 1: I will assign you a character, as well as a list of traits that could contribute to success. You will rank the traits, most to least important, according to your character’s understanding of what leads to success. Find a quote from the text to support your choices!

Characters: Leah, executive editor. Jane, associate editor. Victoria, new executive editor. Louisa, fired editor in chief. Mimi, new editor in chief. Deborah, recipe creator. Drew, photo editor

Traits: perseverance, intelligence, resilience, strong moral code, innate talent, experience, popularity, competitiveness, great hair, propensity to gossip, BMI<20, willingness to throw a coworker under the bus, eagerness to relinquish ideals for sake of company, ability to pull off a romper in an office setting, ability to hold one’s liquor, expert knowledge of reality TV. 

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapters 5 and 6. Post a Pretty in Ink selfie to Instagram (#prettyininkaplit).

Common Core State Standard Addressed: RL.11-12.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what text says explicitly as well as inferences.

Day 5, Aim: How can we identify a variety of literary elements through close reading?

Do Now: Review the following terms from your literary elements packet: figurative language, irony (verbal, situational, dramatic), sensory imagery, metonymy, anaphora. Reminder: Replacement packets will cost you 50 cents to the classroom fund! [Ms. Palmer note to self—Consider upping cost to $1; would help support mani-pedi addiction.] 

Activity 1: Find excerpts from the text that utilize each literary element. See examples:

  • Figurative language, from Liz, after returning from maternity leave: “I escape to the supply closet with my pump, where I set about squeezing my breasts into ugly, unnatural shapes. A sob escapes my chest. Then I’m breaking down into tears, thinking, I’m milking myself like a cow. I am a cow. A cow in a supply closet” (106).
  • Anaphora, from Mimi, dissing her employee’s sex and marriage stories in the magazine: “Oh Jane, I think the reader is bored to death of hearing how to spice things up with her slob of a husband, bored to death of how she should buy lingerie to impress him, and bored to death of how she needs to schedule sex to stay intimate” (18).

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapters 7 and 8. Post one of today’s excerpts to your Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, vlog [Ms. Palmer note to self—Is this really a thing? Look into.], or other social media network. 

Common Core State Standard Addressed: L.11-12.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Day 6, Aim: How can we show that we are closely reading and comprehending the novel?

Do Now: Pop quiz! Answer the following questions:

  1. What is the new dress code Mimi imposes upon the office, and which employee protests?
  2. Which two coworkers are enmeshed in a secret affair, and which one ends up fired?
  3. Who suggests whom has gotten fat, and which insults does the former sling at the latter?

Review answers. [Ms. Palmer note to self—Pull students aside who haven’t been keeping up with the reading. If they offer excuses, such as “Chess Nationals” or “college applications are due this weekend,” deliver lecture on importance of personal responsibility and prioritizing.]

Activity 1: Review Department of Education Emergency Readiness Safety Procedures in Case of Lockdown (Soft vs. Hard). [Ms. Palmer note to self—Check with admin. about whether this can happen in Math class, since we’ve already sacrificed English instructional time for students to take surveys on school lunch preferences, to vote on prom themes, and to attend assemblies in appreciation of every goddamn cultural group in NYC. Why is it always English?! Why, GODDAMNIT!?!? Okay, deep breaths.]

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapters 10, 11&12. Update your progress on Goodreads.

Common Core State Standard Addressed: RL.11-12.2: Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text.

Day 7, Aim: What are marketing and public relations, and why are they important?

Do Now: Using the sample press releases I’ve left on your desks, choose one aspect of our school that you think is promotion-worthy and jot down ideas for a press release. Share out. 

Activity 1: Brief lecture on marketing and P.R., and related jobs: publicist, market analyst, etc.

Activity 2: Now, work in groups to write a press release for Pretty in Ink. [Ms. Palmer note to self—Let them pick own groups? Pro: less whining. Con: Jonny and Caleb’s inevitable fart-related puns.]

Activity 3: Present press releases. Class will vote on best one, and winners will have theirs sent out with the novel’s next printing [Ms. Palmer note to self—Fingers crossed!!! Also, clear this with lawyer.]

[Ms. Palmer note to self—Remember to mention to Administration today’s inclusion of informational texts, i.e. prove English’s worth so they don’t eliminate subject in favor of computer coding double-period, as proposed by PTA. Relatedly: Enroll in summer course on “Coding for People with Dying Careers.”]

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapters 13, 14&15. Extra Credit: Photocopy your Pretty in Ink press release and flyer your neighborhood. 

Common Core State Standard Addressed: L.11-12.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Day 8, Aim: How can we understand the interplay between text and subtext?

Do Now: Six students will say the sentence, “I’m thrilled you’re working here now,” each one stressing a different word. Class will identify subtext for each sentence. Debrief about subtext.

Activity 1: In pairs, you will be assigned a subtext and then be responsible for performing the following lines according to that subtext. Utilize intonation, stress, pauses, body language, hair pulling, bitchy eye rolling, etc. Afterward, class will guess your subtext: 

Tiffany: I understand we have Isabel to thank for this.

Vanessa: Yes, she did it all by herself.

Tiffany: It’s really just like her.

Vanessa: I understand she’s a friend of yours.

Tiffany: Oh, I wouldn’t say that.

Subtext options:

  • Isabel, the new editor in chief, has thrown a party for the staff and everyone is happy.
  • Isabel, the new editor in chief, has delivered pink slips to the entire old staff, including to Tiffany, even though Isabel and Tiffany worked together in the early aughts at Modern Bride and Tiffany thought they were friends, a fact she’s been citing to cubicle-mate Vanessa as evidence that she probably wouldn’t get fired. The firings are effective immediately and everyone’s health benefits will run out on Friday.
  • Isabel, a summer intern, has treated the whole staff to cold-pressed juice, and Tiffany, who hired the girl despite Vanessa’s reluctance due to a heinous interview outfit, feels modestly proud; she prays Isabel has remembered her ginger kale drink preference.
  • Isabel, a new editorial assistant hired to replace Tiffany and Vanessa’s fired friend, has messed up the photocopies, disastrously cutting off the ends of lines so that the editor in chief’s name reads as “Ho” instead of “Holly”; Tiffany and Vanessa gloat at the girl’s incompetence and plan to place bets on how long until she gets the axe.

Homework: Read Pretty in Ink, Chapters 16, 17&18. ID the subtext of a conversation in the text and analyze whether or not you would break down and cry if you found yourself in that situation. 

Common Core State Standard Addressed: RL.11-12.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings.

Day 9, Aim: How can we prepare for the free-response essay on the A.P. Literature exam?

Do Now: Let’s review the 2014 A.P. Lit exam’s free-response question: “It has often been said that what we value can be determined only by what we sacrifice. Select a character from a novel or play that has deliberately sacrificed, surrendered, or forfeited something in a way that highlights that character’s values. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the particular sacrifice illuminates the character’s values and provides a deeper understanding of the meaning of the work as a whole.”

Activity 1: Create an essay outline based upon our reading of Pretty of Ink. See sample thesis:

Thesis: In Ms. Palmer’s Pretty in Ink, beauty editor Liz Walker sacrifices her glamorous job, rife with fun perks, swanky events, and free Botox, in order to become a stay-at-home mom; Walker’s sacrifice not only illuminates how her maternal devotion supersedes her career ambition, but also illustrates the novel’s poignant message that each woman must ultimately devise her own definition of what makes for a successful and fulfilling life.

Now, devise topic sentences and supporting evidence for three body paragraphs.

Activity 2: Mini-lesson on counterargument and rebuttal. Let’s devise a counterargument in order to strengthen our essay. Example:

  • Counterargument: Since Liz maneuvers to get laid off and therefore receive a generous severance package, some may claim that her so-called sacrifice for the love of her daughter is in fact just a crafty move to get compensated without having to work. 
  • Rebuttal: But this assertion is false, because although her severance pay clearly could fund childcare, Liz plans to fire her nanny and care for the baby herself. Hence, her desire to be laid off is motivated not by a desire for easy money but by a love for her new baby.

Homework: Finish Pretty in Ink. On Goodreads, move book to your “Read” shelf. [Ms. Palmer note to self—Require students to write online reviews, or have them first turn them in, then only encourage 4- and 5-star reviews to post on Goodreads and Amazon?]

Common Core State Standard Addressed: W.11-12.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Day 10, Aim: How can we examine setting’s effects on a novel’s characters?

Do Now: Take notes on a mini-lecture on settings’ different levels (microsystem, mesosystem, macrosystem) and dimensions (physical, temporal, social and psychological).

Activity 2: In pairs, fill out a chart on levels and dimensions of setting in Pretty in Ink. Next, pick a setting from another book we’ve read; compare and contrast to Pretty in Ink’s setting. Options:

  • The mental institution in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • The Breedloves’ home in The Bluest Eye
  • The Vietnam War battlefield in The Things They Carried

[Ms. Palmer note to self—Perhaps ask class which setting is strongest; if needed, prompt them with the tidbit that “the world of women’s magazines is the real main character of Pretty in Ink,” or at least that’s what Women’s Health said.]

Homework: Write an essay based on Pretty in Ink in response to the 2013 A.P. Lit exam open-response question: “Choose a novel or play in which cultural, physical, or geographical surroundings shape psychological or moral traits in a character. Then write an essay in which you analyze how surroundings affect this character and illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole.”

Common Core State Standard Addressed: RL.11-12.3: Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama.

Day 11, Aim: How can we reflect upon our experience studying Ms. Palmer’s Pretty in Ink?

Do Now: Please turn in your essays, and fill out the following unit reflection:

  • How much did you enjoy Ms. Palmer’s novel? (Circle your answer.) 

A fair amount.

A lot.

It was the best book I’ve ever read!

  • How many people will you recommend the book to? (Circle your answer.)



Everyone I know!

  • Which sentence in the novel most brilliantly showcases Ms. Palmer’s talent for writing? (Copy it down here.)
  • List some ideas for Ms. Palmer’s next book-related event. Please think outside the box!
  • Outline an idea for a sequel to Pretty in Ink. Note: Anything you turn in will become the sole and exclusive property of Ms. Palmer. [Ms. Palmer note to self—Finesse wording with lawyer.]

No Homework! Tomorrow we’ll begin a unit on James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man!

Common Core State Standard Addressed: L.11-12.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Lindsey J. Palmer was an editor at Glamour, Redbook, and Self, and now she teaches AP Literature and Creative Writing at a high school in Manhattan. Her first novel, Pretty in Ink, came out this year--and no, she has no plans to teach it in her classes. Find Lindsey on Twitter and Facebook.

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