Friday, February 16, 2018

Reading Period 17: Feb 16-22: Lord of the Flies

Long Read:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, chapters 1-3

Short Read:

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

Creative Assignments:

Pretend you are one of the children on the island. You are at the first meeting under the palms, and you are holding the conch. Write a speech to your fellow castaways to inspire them to behave in the way you think is right. Will your speech prioritize survival? Virtue? Comforts? Rescue? What would you say if you had the conch, and the group was ready for words from a bold leader? Write at least 250 words.

OR

Create an illustration that plots the action of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. You can illustrate a traditional plot diagram like the one below, or you can come up with something different, or use a storyboard, or a comic with six cells. You must show the following elements: Exposition, Inciting Event, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Writing Assignment:

Choose one of the statements below and write a 250 word essay taking a clear position: true or false? You may define the terms of the statement, and explain your opinion, but you must make a decision one way or another, and not waffle around saying, "It depends."

Executions should be televised.
People should be allowed to kill themselves if they want to.
It is easier to know nothing than it is to know everything.
Humans are inherently good.
All human life is equally valuable.
Freedom is the most important thing in life.
No one should have authority over another person.

Quiz:

1. Why were all these children together on this plane? Where were they going?
2. What object designates who can be heard at the meeting?
3. What job will the choir boys perform and who will lead them?
4. Who goes on the exploring mission to see if they are on an island?
5. What dream or vision is bothering the younger boys?
6. What useful object does Piggy possess that no one else does?
7. What are the children eating to survive?
8. What is Ralph's priority and what is Jack's priority, in terms of what each boy believes they should spend time doing?
9. Who is missing after the fire?
10. What does Simon see at the end of chapter 3?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Reading Period 16: February 2-8: The Incredible Journey

Long Read: 

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, chapters 6-11

Short Read:

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain

Poem: 

"The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

Creative Assignments:

Using the human characters you created from the animal characters in The Incredible Journey, rewrite one of the scenes in the novel with dialogue. You could write the scene where Tao gets saved from the river, or the fight with the bear, or Tao's fight with the lynx, or the animals' interaction with the Mackenzie family. Choose an interesting scene and try to imagine how human dialogue would enhance it. Make sure you punctuate your dialogue correctly, and write at least 250 words. Here's a PDF to help you.

OR

The character of Bodger and the thrush in the Hardy poem have something in common: they are old and frail. Why does the song of the thrush seem more poignant, and Bodger's loyalty seem more intense, because these animals are old? Remember the story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings?" Write a poem in two parts: one which deals with the struggles and emotions of a young animal, and one which deals with the struggles and emotions of an older one. Your poem should show contrast and comparison -- some overlap and some diversion.

Writing Assignments:

Analyze Tao's fight with the Lynx and look for the words that identify the lynx as the enemy: cruel, malicious, venomous, etc. Now rewrite the scene to make Tao and the boy with the gun into the villains, and the lynx into the hero/victim. Choose your words carefully, to show the reader who to root for and who to despise. You could even use some of the same words that Burnford used on the lynx, to describe the cat. Write at least 250 words.

OR

In chapter 6, we find a story about how Siamese cats got a kink in the ends of their tails. (By the way, this is now considered a flaw and breeders try to get rid of it!) Write an alternate fable of at least 300 words that explains the bent tails in a different way. You may be able to explain the original of the tails pretty quickly, but you'll need to add some details and maybe some characters or dialogue to get to 250 words.

Quiz: 

Like last week, you're going to rewrite some lines from the novel using your own words to demonstrate that you understand the meaning of the vocabulary underlined. Do not just replace the word in question with a synonym from the Thesaurus. That often leaves you with a sentence that doesn't make sense.

1. They had tamed the bush, and in return it yielded them their food and their scant living from trap lines and wood lot.
2. She tucked him tenderly into an old wooden cradle, and he lay in sleepy contentment, his dark face incongruous against a doll's pillow.
3. The dog, for the first and last time in his life, capitulated.
4. Once they surprised a large fisher in the very act of dispatching a porcupine.
5. The heavier animal had fallen with more impetus and less agility; for a split second it remained where it was, slightly winded.
6. Across the valley, clearly discernible among the bare trees on the opposite slope, he saw two familiar and beloved golden and white figures.
7. A few curious farm cats were emboldened to approach the wood pile.
8. Mrs. Oakes was inconsolable.
9. Peter believed that Bodger was dead; Luath almost certainly so; and his conviction was steady and unalterable.
10. Longridge looked surrepticiously at his watch; it was time to go.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Reading Period 15: January 26 - February 1: The Incredible Journey

Long Read: 

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, chapters 1-5

Short Read:

"The Elephant's Child" by Rudyard Kipling

Poem: 

"A Dog Has Died" by Pablo Neruda

Creative Assignment:

The three main characters in this book are animals, but they have their own distinct personalities and characteristics. Imagine these three characters as humans, and then either write a paragraph for each OR create an illustration of each one. What would they look like? What would they wear? What would their favorite pastimes be, or their jobs, or their families? Where would they live? There are no right or wrong answers, but do give as much detail as you can as you create rounded human characters who reflect the traits of these animals. You can handle this either as a visual assignment or a written assignment, but next week you will be writing about them, either way.

Writing Assignments:

Mr. Longridge refers to the animals as Tao, Luath, and Bodger, as those are their names. However, once the pets take off down the road, the story doesn't call them by their names at all. Rudyard Kipling makes the same choice in his story, "The Elephant's Child," using terms like "the Crocodile" and "the Hippopotamus" instead. These stories, though, are very different, and the animals in them behave almost in opposite ways. Write an essay of at least 250 words comparing how the animals are portrayed in each of these stories. How do they behave toward each other? What is their function in the story? In which story are they more like animals and in which more like people? Use at least one example from the text of each story, and in the conclusion take your reader to a new place by writing about how the decision about how to portray the animals represents the authors' intent for the story.

OR

After reading the poem, "A Dog Has Died," decide which of the dogs in the story most resembles the dog in the poem, and write an essay of at least 250 words telling why. You must use at least two lines from the poem and at least two details from the story to support your choice.

Quiz:

The Incredible Journey is a short novel about animals, but some of the diction in the novel is not easy. In this quiz, I'll ask you to rewrite a sentence without the underlined word, to give the meaning of the word in your own way. You don't have to replace the word with another word -- you can rewrite the sentence more broadly. You just can't use the underlined word in your rewrite.

Here's an example:
Q: "I expect Mr. Longridge left them shut inside the house if he was leaving early," she consoled herself.
A: "I expect Mr. Longridge left them shut inside the house if he was leaving early," she told herself, to make herself feel better.

1. The man replaced the gun in sudden contrition, and the dog lay down again, his head turned away, his eyes miserable.
2. Longridge watched Elizabeth's face screw up in the prelude to tears.
3. She read through to where it said: "I will be taking the dogs (and Tao too of course!) ...", then looked for the remainder.
4. When it was obvious that the old dog was flagging, the Labrador turned off the quiet, graveled road and into the shade of a pinewood beside a clear, fast-running creek.
5. Sometimes they passed derelict buildings in rank, overgrown clearings.
6. The shadows lengthened across the deserted track, and the evening wind sighed down it to sweep a flurry of whispering leaves across the rut, their brown brittleness light as a bension as they drifted across the unheeding white form.
7. The effect was galvanizing: his muddied half-chewed tail stirred and he raised his shoulders, then hie forelegs, with a convulsive effort, like an old work horse getting up after a fall.
8. This sent the Indians into paroxysms of laughter, and he had to repeat his performance time and time again.
9. He skirted the camp, moving like a shadow through the trees on the hill behind, until he came out upon the lake's shore a quarter of a mile upwind of the camp. Then he barked sharply and imperatively several times.
10. He had been made welcome, fed, and succored: the omen would prove fortunate.
BONUS 1: Rewrite this whole sentence to give the same meaning in a simpler way, without any of the underlined words. Two gleaming lamps appeared in the darkness of the cat's face, and his tail swished in response, but he restrained himself in deference to his surroundings.
BONUS 2: Number 6 is pretty hard, and if you look it up you might not find this word. However, you might figure it out if you remember the answer to this question: What character in Macbeth said this word?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Reading Period 14: January 19-25: The Story of My Life

Long Read:

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, chapters 13-24

Poems:

Niagara
by José María Heredia (1825)

Please also read, on this page, about Heredia, his life, and his experience writing this poem while standing on a rock beside the falls on the Canadian side. For the poem, scroll down. There's another translation here.

Niagara
by Adelaide Crapsey (1915)

Creative Assignments

Read both the poems titled "Niagara" and think about the emotions represented in each one. Now, edit both of them, deleting everything that depends on visual imagery or aural imagery, that is on hearing or sight. Now write a short paragraph comparing the two -- how much does each one depend on its images, and what emotions remain when these are stripped away?

OR

Blindfold yourself completely, and stop up your ears as totally as you can, either with ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Stay this way for an hour. No sleeping! Don't endanger yourself, but do attempt to do some things. Maybe get a drink of water and make a sandwich, or create some art, or take a walk around the outside of your house. You'll need someone with you to take care of you, and also to tell you when the hour is over. When the hour is over, write a personal essay of 250 words or more, describing your experience. In your essay, avoid judgment words like "It was awful" or "It was great" and really try to communicate what happened, using descriptive words. Pay attention.


Writing Assignments

Often, people with disabilities are valued and made famous because they have overcome their disabilities to accomplish great things. They are held up to people without disabilities as a source of inspiration. You might have seen a poster or internet meme of a person with a disability being athletic or brave, with a caption like "What's your excuse?" or "The only disability in life is a bad attitude. What is the reason we read Helen Keller's book? Is it to be inspired by her accomplishments in the face of the adversity she had to overcome? Consider this quote from Helen Keller: "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." In an essay of 300 words, interpret this quote, in the context of our reading of her life story, and what we can take away.

OR

Helen visited the World's Fair and loved it. What is the World's Fair? Write a 300 word essay in which you give some context and history. In your introduction, talk about Helen Keller's visit and use examples to set the scene. Then move into some facts and information about it. Finally in your conclusion, take the reader to a new place by making a value judgment on whether you think it was a good thing or a bad thing, or maybe even whether it should be resurrected.

OR

Pretend you have never been to Niagara Falls, but you have only seen pictures. Now pretend you are a person without sight or hearing, who is standing next to the falls. Would you get more out of standing there physically, but unable to see or hear it, or looking at a picture on the internet or in a book? Take an experience you have had -- maybe going to the beach, or zip lining, or scuba diving, or walking in the woods. Now answer this question: would you know more about this place from being there without sight or hearing, or from looking at a picture?

OR

In chapter 14, Helen talked about what writing is like. Consider especially this quote: "It seems to me that the great difficulty of writing is to make the language of the educated mind express our confused ideas, half feelings, half thoughts, when we are little more than bundles of instinctive tendencies. Trying to write is very much like trying to put a Chinese puzzle together. We have a pattern in mind which we wish to work out in words; but the words will not fit the spaces, or, if they do, they will not match the design." Using this quote as a jumping off place, and the other reflections in the chapter, and your own analogies, write a 300 word essay about what writing is like for you.

Quiz:

1. What motivated Helen in wanting to learn to talk?
2. What was the title of the story that Helen supposedly plagiarized?
3. What president was inaugurated in 1893?
4. For what person was Tennyson's "In Memoriam" written and what are the sections of the poem called? (You'll have to look this one up!)
5. Was Helen's attempt to learn to speak a success?
6. Give one aspect of classroom life in the school at Cambridge that was hard for Helen.
7. In what subject did braille NOT work for Helen's exams?
8. What does this quote mean? Put it in your own words. "A potent force within me, stronger than the persuasion of my friends, stronger even than the pleadings of my heart, had impelled me to try my strength by the standards of those who see and hear."
9. What is a "bugbear"? The context sentence is this: "Examinations are the chief bugbears of my college life."
10. At what age did Helen read The Scarlet Letter?
11. How is Helen able to experience boating and love sailing and canoeing?
12. What was Helen's impression of Mark Twain?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Reading Period 13: January 12-18: The Story of My Life

Long Read: 

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, chapters 1-12 and also the letters in the third section, up to February 1889 (the first two years of her time with Anne Sullivan).

Short Read:

A biography of Helen Keller on the American Foundation for the Blind's web site.

Poem:

The Chambered Nautilus
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

When you read this poem, think about the meaning of this object, the nautilus shell, and all the "messages" it contains. We'll talk more about the meanings in objects next week.

Creative Assignments:

In the first chapter, Helen described the flowers in the gardens around her childhood home. Look up some pictures of clematis, jessamine, butterfly lilies, asphodels, and violets, and create a beautiful piece of art that reflects the joy and love that Helen clearly felt for these plants. If you read the paragraph that begins, "Even in the days before my teacher came..." you'll notice Helen does not use color to describe the garden. In your drawing, instead of colors use words, like "fragile" and "drooping" and "beautiful" and other non-sight-related words (cool, pure, heart-satisfying) that Helen used to describe what she experienced.

OR

Anne Sullivan taught Helen the word for water after she knew the meaning of water itself. But she learned the word for love before she knew the meaning of it, and in chapter 6 we saw that it was hard for her teacher to communicate the meaning of the word "love." Write a poem titled "What is Love?" in which you attempt to define this abstraction by using concrete words, things that can be smelled or touched, or experiences.

Writing Assignments:

Choose one of these quotes from Helen Keller and write a 300-word essay about it. In your essay, explain the quote in your own words, and then illustrate it with at least one example from your own life and at least one example from the book.

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt in the heart."

OR

"Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every teacher can make him learn. He will not work joyously unless he feels that liberty is his, whether he is busy or at rest; he must feel the flush of victory and the heart-sinking of disappointment before he takes with a will the tasks distasteful to him and resolves to dance his way bravely through the dull routine of textbooks."

Quiz:

Each question relates to the content of the chapter with the same number.

1. How old was Helen when she became ill and lost her sight and hearing?
2. Give an example of something naughty that Helen did.
3. What famous person did Helen meet when her father was trying to find some help for her?
4. What was the first word that Helen learned, and why was it not that significant?
5. Helen could neither see the sky nor understand weather, but through her description, what happened when Helen was in the cherry tree?
6. According to Helen what two missing elements make conversation difficult for deaf and blind people?
7. Give two examples of small physical objects that Helen's teacher uses to represent larger abstract concepts in this chapter.
8. What is Helen's favorite Christmas present?
9. Again, give two examples of physical objects or experiences that represent larger abstract concepts for Helen in this chapter.
10. What does Helen insist on bringing home from the beach?
11. What happened when Helen and Miss Sullivan and Mildred crossed the railroad trestle?
12. What was special for Helen about the bright light of winter?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Reading Period 12: December 8-14: Fahrenheit 451

Long Read: 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Part 3, "Burning Bright"

Short Read:

"The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges

Also check out this awesomely weird site, The Library of Babel. Just mouse over any of the words on the main index.

Poem:

"There is no Frigate Like a Book" by Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Creative Assignments:

This week's short story, "The Library of Babel," proposes the the universe is an infinite library composed of interlocking hexagons. Create a piece of art that shows something else composed of hexagons. A person composed of hexagons might have one hexagon for the heart, one for the stomach, another hexagon for emotions, and maybe one to stand on for each foot. A school composed of hexagons might have classrooms and offices of this shape. A pumpkin composed of hexagons? A dragon composed of hexagons?

OR

This week we're talking about literary analogies, or metaphors. Write a poem in which you compare a book to something else, like Emily Dickinson's poem "There is no Frigate like a Book." I'd also like you to imitate Dickinson's capitalization in your poem. You could say "There is no Spaceship like a Book" or "There is no River like a Book" or "There is no Wild Boar like a Book" or "There is no 1965 Shelby GT like a Book."

Writing Assignment:

While on the subway, Guy Montag felt that his life could be represented by a child shoveling sand into a sieve, helplessly watching as the sand poured through. Take a look at your list of "life" analogies from class. Life is a Coke machine. Life is a bagel. Life is a highway. Life is a stage. Write a 250 word essay in which you draw out an analogy for life. You'll need at least three ways that life is like the thing you choose.

Quiz:

Define these words from Fahrenheit 451 and use each one in a sentence. Don't find the sentence from the book -- make up your own.

1. Stolid
2. Olfactory
3. Stratum
4. Proclivity
5. Jargon
6. Cacophony
7. Dictum
8. Rationalize
9. Torrent
10. Bestial

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reading Period 11: Dec 1-7: Fahrenheit 451

Long Read: 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, "The Sieve and the Sand."

Short Read: 

"Exchange" by Ray Bradbury

Poem:

"Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Creative Assignments:

After reading the short story, "Exchange," think about what libraries mean to children and adults. The story is about how fascinating and important the character found the library as a child, and how that fascination and dependence faded with adulthood. While children often read voraciously, adults frequently get out of the habit, sometimes not reading for pleasure at all. After you've reflected on the story, the place of books in the world of Fahrenheit 451, and your own feelings, either write a 250 word personal essay about what a library means to you, or create a color illustration of a fantasy version of a library, including the most appealing elements you can imagine, with no regard for physics or financial constraints.

Writing Assignments:

Ray Bradbury was writing in a time before the internet, before Facebook and Twitter and blogs and the Huffington Post. In his time, the perceived threat to the practice reading books was the television. With the advent of movies and TV, our experience with stories changed forever. In a 250 word essay, give your thoughts on the experience of watching a show on TV compared to the experience of reading a book. How is it better or easier, or how is it not as good? You'll want an introductory paragraph, and then a paragraph on reading and a paragraph on watching TV. Then take your reader to a new place in the conclusion by making a value claim. Which is better?

OR

After reading the poem, "Dover Beach," consider how the poem made you feel. After reflecting on the class discussion about whether books that make you feel unhappy should be read anyway, write a 250 word essay giving your opinion on this topic. With specific quotes, use the poem as an example of something that would have been forbidden in the world of Fahrenheit 451, because it is scary or depressing. Do you think that this type of literature is important, even though it might make us sad? Why?

Quiz:

1. What is the "White Clown"?
2. Where did Guy originally meet Faber?
3. Why is Guy's copy of the Bible special?
4. As Guy is trying to read the Bible on the subway, what noise is competing for his attention?
5. Why are books hated and feared, according to Faber?
6. What is Guy Montag's plan for using the books to bring down the firemen?
7. How is Faber able to talk to Guy when they are apart?
8. How does Mildred try to cover up for the fact that Guy has a book?
9. Name two of the authors Beatty references when he's arguing with Guy.
10. Where does Beatty take the Salamander on Guy's last ride on it?