Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reflections on Heifer International

Last week the 7th grade visited Heifer International's Overlook Farm.  Led by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of education and farm volunteers, students learned about Heifer's mission to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth through games, discussion, work on the farm, and global problem-solving simulations.  Assigned to country groups by lottery, students also learned how to light and cook over an open fire, barter for food in a market, and work together to solve critical incidents based on real-life problems that individuals in each assigned country can face.  As a teacher I was incredibly proud to see so many of our students step outside of their comfort zones and work together to meet these fun, but also challenging situations, head on with (mostly) positive attitudes and patience.

Students, for this week's blog post please respond to the following questions about your Heifer experience in 2-3 paragraphs.  As always, please make sure that your paragraphs and sentences are complete (use TAGGS!) and descriptive - please write more than one sentence.  Use the following questions to guide your commentary:

  • What country were you assigned to in the global village?  How did the quality of life compare to the standard of living in the country you were assigned?  Remember, quality of life refers to individuals' levels of happiness and fulfillment, while standard of living refers to the resources available like food, shelter, and general physical comforts.  As we discussed at Heifer, an individual's standard of living might be fairly low, for example, while at the same time their quality of life and overall happiness could be generally high. 
  • What surprised or impressed you about your overnight in the global village?
  • What is one highlight from the experience that you will always remember? 
  • What is one thing you learned during our group discussions or activities about fighting hunger and poverty?
  • What is one thing you can do to contribute to Heifer's mission to fight hunger and poverty in your school or community?

Monday, May 16, 2011

These are a few of our favorite...READS!

 Alice, A Mad Tea Party by Su Blackwell

Check out more book art here!

It's been a while since we've reflected on our independent reading!

For this week's blog post, please think back to an independent reading book you have read this year that you think is deserving of a spot on the New York Times best seller list.  The next step: pretend that you are a young adult book critic and tell us (your readers - and your editor) about the book you have chosen and why you think it should be on the list for teens.  Please be wary of giving away any plot twists and turns; ideally, these are books that your classmates will want to read.

In your commentary, please make sure to include the following elements:
  • Title of book and author's full name (spelled correctly!)
  • Describe the characters. Is the main character developed well? What is it about the character that you like so much?
  • The setting: When and where does the story take place and how does it affect the characters?
  • What is the main conflict or problem of the plot? Did it keep you reading? Were you not able to put the book down? Why?
  • What is it about this book that you like so much and think it should be a must read for teens?
Remember, you are selling this book as one of the best young adult literature books.  Why should your editor include it on the bestseller list; better yet, why should your classmates pick it up off the shelf?

Convince us if you can...

**Quality Commentaries are 2-3 fully developed paragraphs in length.  They have been composed in a google doc and proofread for CUPS before posting!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Surfaces serve their own purposes...

A stereotype is an oversimplified, but widely held view of what a whole group of people is like, or a characteristic that they have.
Because it is a view that is so simplified, and can often often hurtful, stereotyping can lead to assumptions, as well as bias. Bias is a preconceived opinion that is not based on actual experience or is based on limited experience.

For this week's blog prompt, please respond to the following questions on the topic of stereotypes.  As always, answer each question in complete sentences, and in separate paragraphs (skip a line to show new paragraphs).  This week's post calls on you to REVIEW, WATCH, READ, and CONNECT.  Please do all three thoroughly, and answer all parts of each question for full credit! 

**As always, don't forget to compose in a google document and proofread for CUPS before posting!

1.  Review our reading so far in American Born Chinese.  Find and describe an incident that Jin goes through that illustrates a form of stereotyping.

2.  Watch the video, "I Have To Deal With Stereotypes" below and react to the following questions.
  • Give examples of the Asian stereotypes that bother and amuse Kevin.  
  • What evidence does Kevin offer that combats these stereotypes?

3.  Read the Wikipedia entry on East Asian Stereotypes (click here) and respond to the following questions:
  • Describe and react to at least two of the stereotypes described.  What is the stereotype and what does it make you feel, think, wonder...?).
4.  Bonus Question:  Have you ever had to deal with stereotypes?  If so, describe the stereotypes you have faced, and perhaps, combated. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." ~ Anton Chekov

Writing teachers often repeat the above well-worn piece of advice condensed into a simple phrase: "show, don't tell" to emphasize the importance of descriptive detail in "good" writing.  Although in grade schools, our teachers may have encouraged us to do both inviting us to select objects or stories to bring in from home to share with our classmates in the familiar activity "Show And Tell," when it comes to writing most people agree: showing beats telling hands down.

What do I mean by showing and telling in writing?  Let's take a look at some examples.  Here a writer presents the facts of the story by "telling":

"When I was seventeen, I moved out of my house in Mora and went to St. Paul. I lived with my sister near Frogtown. She moved there for the same reasons I did: our parents were too controlling. They wouldn't let us have our own lives."

The above "telling" example is not yet a story; it is a summary of a story.  We don't know what the characters look like.  We don't see them in a scene, or see them in action.  In order to see them in action we need action verbs, and we need to hear the kinds of things these characters might say.

Now, let's take a look at the same story this time presented with action, description, and dialogue:

"At seventeen, I ran out the front door of my parents' house, jumped into my car and drove from Mora to Frogtown in St. Paul in one hour, my red Firebird skidding to a halt in the gravel driveway of my older sister's house. I climbed from the car, raced across the lawn and pounded on her door. "Open up, Mary,” I yelled. “I can't live with those people anymore."

Here the reader is not told how the character feels about her parents, but is instead shown through the character's actions and speech.  By driving away fast from her parents' house, and banging on her sister's door, we can see that the narrator does not get along with her parents and needs to escape.  Showing, rather than telling, gives your readers the opportunity to draw their own conclusions

This week, as we revise our fairy tale "remixes" and conduct peer conferences, all the while working steadily towards publication, I'd like you to work on showing rather than telling by completing one of the following creative writing prompts below (choose one).

As always, don't forget to proofread for CUPS and do your best to write in complete sentences!

Image Source: http://ippaonline.com/ippa/2006/08/

Choose One

1.  Object Description. Go and look at some object rarely paid attention to, like a spider web or a dust ball or a pile of dirty socks, and write about its details. Describe with many senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, sound), and let your words suggest further words until a bigger theme, or idea cracks open.  Don’t think. Write. Stuff happens.

2.  Someone's got a secret.  Write a dialogue between two people who both have a secret they're keeping.  Do not reveal the secrets, but let your reader guess at them through the characters' words and actions.  For example, the dialogue might be between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Lois Lane has a secret crush on Superman, and Clark Kent is Superman.  Remember, action is an important part of dialogue.  Sometimes we look away instead of answering.

3.  The murderous lake. Describe a lake as seen by a young person who has just committed murder.  Do not mention the murder.

4.  Describe a simple action.  Describe a simple action (sharpening a pencil, tying your shoelaces, making a lay-up shot) in detail using all four senses.  Make it interesting to read.

The above exercises were adapted from John Gardner's The Art of Fiction.