Poem A Day:

Today, we are watching a lot of music videos! We are gearing up for the final project of the year! 

This is a wonderful music video and a wonderful song- it ties into the same themes (and visual motifs!) of the videos we have watched/literature we have read so far in this unit, and the video is a great example of visual storytelling.




For the final project this year, students will work in groups to make a music video that captures a main theme of American Born Chinese and incorporates Gene Luen Yang’s story-telling techniques.

  • They must choose a song or write an original song that conveys their chosen theme.
  • Their video must tell a three-pronged narrative that each convey one, central theme in their own way. These narratives should be simple, original, and capture their, unique experience of coming-of-age in New Milford 2017.
  • Their video must incorporate symbolism.

For the next several days in class, each mini lesson will focus on one aspect of the music video project, so that students can plan appropriately and create the best product possible.

Today we recalled the first episode of “Fresh of the Boat” we watched in the last class. We discussed how there were multiple plot lines that all conveyed one central theme of the episode. We connected this to the three-pronged plot structure of American Born Chinese.

Then we discussed ways to translate this same storytelling structure to a music video, with no spoken dialogue (other than the lyrics).

The answer: simplicity and symbolism. Use things that will be easy to record and capture, but that can represent bigger ideas.

We watched several videos and discussed the strategies the directors used including:

This video is cool and has some interesting techniques I think the kids could pull off.

This is not my favorite song, but the video is cool, and cmon! An Asian woman with a mask of paint slowly being removed- couldn’t find a better fit for this unit.

Active Engagement:

Students worked in their groups to choose a song, and begin planning their three narratives for their video. I conferenced with each group and offered feedback and guidance.

They used this planning sheet and this “storyboard” chart I made for them.



Students submitted a timeline for the rest of the year- a plan for completing the project and a list of materials they will need.


Poem A Day:

I chose this song for today because the themes are applicable to today’s lesson. There are political views in this song but I made a disclaimer that they do not necessarily represent my views- and when we discussed the song, I focused on the themes that the song shares with American Born Chinese.
This verse is particularly applicable to today’s lesson:


“Sometimes I speak and I feel like it ain’t my words

Like I’m just a vessel channeling inside this universe

I feel my ancestors arrested inside of me

It’s like they want me to shoot my chance and change society

But how do I go about it? Tell me where I start?

My destiny rerouted when I chose to follow heart

You told to follow suit, but tell me what it do for you?

Except weigh you down, now you trapped inside the cubicle they built for us

The first step in the change is to take notice”


Today we read Kevin Wong’s blog “The Realest Comic About Growing Up Asian American, And Hating Yourself.”

We discussed Kevin’s methods of literary analysis and tied his thoughts to the ones students recorded about the book in our last class. 

Next, we watched this Op-Doc “A Conversation with Asian Americans on Race”.

I summarized this podcast for students and I am posting it here for them to listen to for extension.

Finally, we watched the first episode of “Fresh of the Boat.” 

Active Engagement:

Students worked in groups to make posters comparing American Born Chinese to “Fresh off the Boat.” They could also pull in any other text we have read this year to extend their discussion of the themes of these stories/characters.


We shared posters and wrapped up our discussion of American Born Chinese. 


Poem A Day:

This song comes off of an album by Arcade Fire called The Suburbs. The entire album is fitting, and it was hard to choose just one song. I chose this one because the music video is pretty cool and captures the same themes as American Born Chinese, and central to this unit about being yourself, in its own weird way. Also, the lyrics capture life in the suburbs.


Today we finished reading American Born Chinese. Then I asked students to get into groups of three-four and go through the book again, from start to finish, trying to find all of the literary elements Yang used to deliver his theme of being true to yourself.

Active Engagement:

This book uses a lot of neat strategies for delivering this theme, and they are pretty heavy-handed and obvious., I think students will feel another boost of confidence as they are able to easily identify some symbols and plot structure techniques and discuss how these come together to teach a lesson.


Share out responses and I record their observations. Of course, I will post those here once they happen.



Poem A Day:

This is a perfect song for kicking of a unit about staying true to who you are and what you believe. The students loved the lyrics and it kind of blew their mind despite its simplicity.


We defined the term “suburbs” and I checked their prior knowledge. We got on the same page about what the suburbs are like

Active Engagement:


Today we read the first 163 pages together, out loud, of Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese. Students found the book to be hilarious, and to make them feel really uncomfortable about how hilarious they found it. We just read today- the book is wildly entertaining, and students were bummed when we ran out of time.


I asked students to finish the sentence in their notebooks:

So far, I think the main theme of this book will be

Students nailed this on the head and it was cool to see how confident they were in their ability to find themes after writing their Macbeth essays and also reflecting on their growth this year.


Poem A Day:



Today, I really wanted students to be able to see the improvement I saw during our writing conferences. So, they engaged in this reflection activity which called on them to read four of their major essays this year. Listening to them as they read their earliest work was priceless. The growth was immediately apparent to them.

Active Engagement:

Students got onto chromebooks and began working on their reflections- nearly all students were on task. Their answers made me get all misty-eyed. They have come so far this year!


Celebrated our successes!

Here are some great quotes from this reflection:


How has your writing changed this year, specifically? Compare and contrast the papers from the beginning of the year versus the end of the year. What changes can you see? How did those changes come about? What does that tell you about yourself and how you learn?

My first paper, I have to admit, I went on to this website to find a list of themes, and I found one that most suited my poem. Now my last paper, It was the book and me that came up with the ideas. (Of course some of the ideas came from the seminar). These changes came about when I started to look at the text, and essentially think about the text with my mind. I used to filter my ideas through the teacher (Ms. Minto) instead of just going with my gut. It tells me that I lost most of my “writing insecurities” and learned to love what I put down on the paper.

What have you learned about writing this year?

I have learned that writing is the most comprehensive, analytical, complex form of “language” there is. We can interpret life a million different ways in our brains. But, when we put that pen to the paper and use our dialect to make words and stuff, it’s able to penetrate someone’s thoughts. Then using your thoughts, and their own. They themselves can make a new text, and it’s the endless cycle of like amazingness.


How has your writing changed this year, specifically? Compare and contrast the papers from the beginning of the year versus the end of the year. What changes can you see? How did those changes come about? What does that tell you about yourself and how you learn?


Throughout the course of this year, my writing has completely transformed. From my first assignment about the song “Wings,” that contained many incomplete sentences, spelling errors, and unfinished ideas, to my final paper about Macbeth with multiple complete paragraphs, in depth ideas, and hardly any errors in punctuation or spelling. These changes came about because as the year went on, I learned many ways to improve my thoughts and not just write them down. I learned to then take those ideas and make them into something greater. To let them flourish and let each idea lead me to a whole new understanding. This tells me that I learn through repetition and creative thinking. Ms. Minto, you took unusual assignments and fun concepts, and tied them in with whatever lesson we were learning at the time. You made us learn without realizing we were learning. You made it possible to have a successful year that didn’t mentally, physically, or emotionally drain me.

What have you learned about writing this year?

This year I’ve learned that writing isn’t a chore. It isn’t a punishment. It’s something used as a tool to make you a better and smarter as a human being. If you put effort into each and every paper you write, you’ll get the results you want.


From the mouths of babes! Wonderful progress this year. I am too happy.