Monday, January 31, 2011

You're Such a Character: Creative Write


For this week's blog commentary, choose one of the following creative writing prompts below.  Remember to read the directions carefully and complete all parts of the prompt for full credit.

**Quality commentaries have been composed in a word document.  They have been proofread for CUPS, spelling, and grammatical errors.

Have fun!

1. What kind of cartoon show might appeal to the over-age-65 audience? Imagine the show. Then, in 100 words or less, describe the show and its main character.

2. Write an incredibly awesome paragraph about your absolute favorite actor, singer, or celebrity, using the most outstanding, excellent hyperbole in the whole, entire universe. (Hyperbole is extravagant exaggeration.)

3. Here’s what William Hopes:
He sincerely hopes that, with time and patience and firm but gentle guidance and love, his daughter Angelica, who has insisted upon being called “Cobra Girl” ever since she got the tattoo down the left side of her neck, will have someone besides the police escort her home sometimes. He hoped she might start volunteering at the nursing home again and maybe even get a job, using that high school diploma of hers for something bedsides a liner in her sock drawer.
Tell what Cobra Girl has in mind.

4. Write a short conversation that might take place between two people who are unlikely ever to meet. For example, you might have Brad Pitt talk to Benjamin Franklin or Michelle Obama talk to King Tut. You might write a conversation between your third grade teacher and Orlando Bloom, or Justin Beiber and the woman who you always see on the train.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How would you do in a "free school"?

This week's blog post is courtesy of the New York Times learning network.

At the Manhattan Free School, students “do not receive grades, take tests or have to do anything, really, that they do not feel like doing.” Teachers there believe that students learn best when they direct their own education, so though there are classes, students can play video games all day if they like. Would you want to attend a school like this? If not, why not? If so, what do you think you would do with your time? Do you agree that you learn best when you direct your own education? Why or why not?

In the column  “Play-Doh? Calculus? At the Manhattan Free School, Anything Goes,” Susan Dominus writes:
At the Manhattan Free School, which opened in 2008 and follows a model that first gained fame at A. S. Neill’s Summerhill School in England, educators believe that students learn best when they direct their own education. Classes are held, but if a student wants to play video games or model with Play-Doh all day, so be it — even if that student is, say, 17.
… “It comes down to trust,” Ms. Werner said, “the trust that given time, they’ll find their passions, and when they do, they’ll be eager to learn.”
Students and faculty members debate and vote on all matters of school policy, but the grown-ups are outnumbered: The school has two full-time teachers, and relies on parents and other volunteers who believe in the program to fill the gaps (including calculus, if a student were to want to learn it).
Students, for your blog commentary this week respond to the following questions:
  • How do you think you would do in a "free school"?  Would you like to attend a school like this?
  • If not, why not?  If so, what would you do all day?  
  • If you could learn about whatever you wanted, what would you choose to study?
  • Are you self-motivated?  Do you agree that you learn best when you direct your own education?
    **Quality commentaries are 2-3 paragraphs long.  Remember to compose your commentary in a word document before posting, and don't forget to proofread for CUPS.  

    Students, blog commentaries often take quite a bit of time.  If you know that you will not be able to finish your post in one sitting, make sure to save your writing in your email account or google docs so you don't lose your work!

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    What is a hero? ... Who is yours?

    Image: Shepard Fairey

    The My Hero Project is a not-for-profit website dedicated to celebrating the best of humanity "by sharing stories, art, and short films that illuminate heroes from all walks of life."  From artists and activists, to business leaders and even animals, the My Hero Project reminds us that everyday heroes are all around us.  This week on the My Hero Project website, Congressman John Lewis reflects on his lifelong hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Lewis writes: 

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is my hero. I became a different person, a different human being, as a result of this man and my association with him. When I was child growing up in rural Alabama, it was my responsibility to care for the chickens on my father's farm. I used to talk to those chickens, preach to them, even baptize them. If you were to look around my office in the U.S. House of Representatives today, you would see that I keep stuffed roosters and brass roosters and ceramic chickens everywhere to remind me of my beginnings. Because if it hadn't been for Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe that I would still be down there in rural Alabama preaching to those chickens.

    I was very young--just fifteen years old, in the 10th grade--when I first heard Dr. King's voice on the radio. His words spoke to my heart, to my very soul. In my religious tradition, people say that someone is "called" to the ministry. That means a voice, a spiritual voice, speaks to that person's soul and says, "You must do something. If you don't do it, no one will. You have to take a stand. You have to speak up. You have to speak out."

    That feeling of being called is the only way I can express what I felt that day when I first heard Dr. King on the radio. I felt that he was speaking directly to me--as if he was right in the room, looking me in the eye and using my name. He said that there were people in trouble, that the society was in trouble, and I heard his message of love and nonviolence as a very personal call.

    I was open to this message of change. You see, growing up in rural Alabama, I was what Martin Luther King Jr., used to call "maladjusted to the problems and conditions" of that day. I had tasted the bitter fruits of segregation and racial discrimination, and I didn’t like it. It took Martin Luther King Jr., to make me understand that being maladjusted was a good thing, a necessary thing. As a small child, when my family visited the little town of Troy, Alabama, ten miles away from our home, I saw the signs that said, "White Men," "Colored Men," "White Women," "Colored Women," "White Waiting," "Colored Waiting." I would go downtown to the little theaters from time to time, and all of us little black children had to go upstairs to the balcony, and all of the white children went downstairs on the first floor. I would come home confused and upset and ask my mother, ask my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, "Why segregation? Why racial discrimination?" And they would say, "That's the way it is. Don't get in trouble. Don't get in the way.” 

    But when I heard Martin Luther King, Jr.'s voice on the radio that day, I heard a very different message. He was saying, "John Lewis, you need to find a way to get in the way." In the Old Testament, there's a story that says the way a prophet stirs things up is just like they way a mother eagle stirs up the nest to give the little birds the courage to get out and test their wings. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words on the radio that day agitated me to move, to get out there and stretch my wings. I was being called to get into trouble--good trouble, necessary trouble--and I've been getting in trouble ever since.

    This week, using Martin Luther King Day as an inspiration, I'd like you to think about a personal hero you admire who is not honored with a holiday.  This person may be famous or obscure, but try your best to choose someone other than a parent or guardian - think outside the box!  If you don't have a hero, or can't think of one, use the My Hero Project website to do some research on individuals who inspire you.  Then, complete the following assignment for your blog commentary:

    Imagine that you have been chosen to create a holiday for your personal hero and answer the following questions:  
    • What is your definition of a hero?
    • How does the hero you chose to honor fit your definition?
    • Other details to include in your commentary:
      • Title of holiday
      • Date of holiday
      • Songs or music for the holiday
      • Specific foods for the holiday
      • Holiday colors or decorations
      • Other rituals? 
    Visit the My Hero Project directory of heroes:

    **Quality commentaries are 2-3 paragraphs long.  They have been proofread for spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation errors.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Writing Buffet: Which Prompts Will You Choose?

    (Image Source:
    Students, for this week's blog prompt choose three of the writing prompts from the list below  and write a one paragraph response for each.  Completed commentaries this week will be three paragraphs long.  Please skip a space between paragraphs.

    (ideas courtesy of Plinky)

    1. You get one hour in a time machine. Where to?

    2. If you had to listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

    3. Is it always better to know the truth, even when it hurts?

    4. Describe what your laugh sounds like.

    5. How do you define the word “friend?”

    6. Do you believe everything happens for a reason? Why or why not?

    7. What’s one piece of technology you can’t live without and why?

    8. You only get three crayons to draw your picture. Which do you choose and why?

    9. If you could be a character from any book you’ve read, who would you be and why?

    10. If you could choose any other name for yourself, what would it be and why?

    **As always, make sure to spell check and proofread your work before clicking submit!  

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    It's 2011: What will you do and be?

    The Summer Day

    Mary Oliver

    Who made the world?
    Who made the swan, and the black bear?
    Who made the grasshopper?
    This grasshopper, I mean-
    the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
    I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
    which is what I have been doing all day.
    Tell me, what else should I have done?
    Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    For the past six years, I have rung in the New Year with friends in Vermont.  It's become something of a winter tradition.  We leave the day after Christmas, abandoning the leftovers, and taking only a few choice presents to the mountains where the only options are to play cards, eat, and ski.  I love this time spent outdoors with friends.  It gives me much needed time to recharge my batteries, reflect on the past year, and begin to dream about and set goals for the year to come.  This New Year, I've been overflowing with hopes and dreams, both for myself and for all of you.  Many of my goals have to do with continuing all of the hard work we started in the fall.  I hope to continue to have the lively discussions that have made me excited to come to school and also read our blog.  I also hope to help each and every one of you find books that you are excited to read and share.  And lastly, I'm looking forward to making room for more writing in class to discover the stories within us that are waiting to be told.  

    In this week's blog commentary, I'd like you to write about your hopes and dreams for the New Year.  

    • What are your hopes and dreams for this New Year? (Be specific).
    • If you could sum up your hopes and dreams in one word, which word would you choose and why?
    • What gets in your way of realizing your hopes and dreams?
    • Is there anything this year you hope to accomplish?

    As Mary Oliver writes: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"