Friday, December 11, 2015

Reading Period 12: December 12 - 18: A Christmas Carol

Class meeting: December 18
Due date: December 17, 7pm

Long read:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Stave 5

Short read:

"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," an editorial from the New York Sun, September 21, 1897.

Poem: 

"The Children's Friend" by Arthur J. Stansbury, 1821. (Flip through digitized book with illustrations here.)
"Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clark Moore, 1823.

Creative Assignment:

The poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was incredibly influential in establishing our ideas about Santa Claus and Christmas Eve! But the illustrated poem "The Children's Friend" in 1821 was even more original. From these two works we learned that Santa has a sleigh and reindeer, that he comes on Christmas Eve, and that he gives presents to good children and punishments to bad children. Before the 19th century, celebrating Christmas with presents and parties was seen as kind of naughty in America, as people believed it was a religious holiday only. (You can read more about that here if you like.) So if you ever wondered whether a poem can change the world, ask yourself if Santa comes down the chimney carrying a naughty/nice list, after parking his reindeer on the roof! Your task is to read these two poems, and then write an alternate poem about Santa Claus in which you invent much different Christmas tradition. Maybe your Santa will drive a Maserati and only bring presents for dogs and cats. Maybe your Santa comes on the first good beach day and brings fresh tuna fillets. Maybe he wears a three piece suit and children hang briefcases by the fireplace to be filled with money. Go crazy! Make your own Christmas tradition.

OR

Create two illustrations for the last stave of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You have all been doing a great job with this series of assignments -- keep it up! Remember to use specific details from the text to illustrate the story.

Writing Assignment:



Take a look at the handout you received in class: Elements of a Short Story. Keeping in mind the five old school elements (character, setting, plot, conflict, theme) and the new school element we talked about (mood rather than theme, beginning middle and end rather than plot, change rather than conflict) write a story about our role-playing adventure from yesterday's class. Your story should be at least 300 words long. Post it to the Google+ community and let's see what details different people remember! You can choose to write it in first person (using the word "I" and telling your own story) or third person (using "they" or "he" and "she") and telling your character's story or the group's story.



OR

If you weren't in class on Friday, here's your alternate assignment: Both Sara Crewe and Ebenezer Scrooge go through traumatizing experiences that teach life lessons. Write a short essay (100 words) comparing the transformations in the two stories.

Quiz:

"Bring me the biggest turkey ever!"
1. How does Ebenezer Scrooge find out what day it is, when he wakes up in his own bed?
2. What magical time-bending feat have the spirits accomplished?
3. What does Scrooge order from the poulterer's and where does he have it sent?
4. When Scrooge says the sound of "Merry Christmas" was the blithest sound he'd ever heard, what does that mean?
5. In the street, Scrooge runs into the old gentleman who came looking for charitable contributions for the poor on Christmas Eve. What does Scrooge say into the old gentleman's ear?
6. Whose house does Scrooge then visit to celebrate Christmas?
7. What rule does Bob Crachit break when he comes to work on the day after Christmas?
8. What does Scrooge say he will do, as a result of this infraction of the rules?
9. What was one prediction of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that turned out to be wrong?
10. There's no right or wrong answer here: Do you think the spirits were real? Or was the visitation all a dream?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Reading Period 11: December 5 - 11: A Christmas Carol

That's CHUCK DICKENS to you, ya whippersnapper!
Class meeting: December 11
Due date: December 10, 7pm

Long read:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Staves 3 and 4.

Short read:

"The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen

Poem:

"Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Creative Assignment:

Create an illustration of the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Use whatever medium you like, but please use unlined paper so that your scans or photographs are easier to see on the computer. Use details from the story to create a physical representation of the characters. You guys did a great job last week with Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past! Keep it coming.

OR

In Longfellow's poem, "Christmas Bells," he interprets the chiming of the bells as a message: peace on earth and good will to men. Write a poem in which you interpret some sound without words as a message. It could be the horn of a car, or the song of a bird, or the beeping of the microwave, or the sound of wind in the trees. Before you write your poem, examine Longfellow's rhyme scheme and rhythm -- it's very specific. How many beats in each line? Which lines rhyme with each other? What line is repeated throughout the poem? Now copy that form as closely as you can in your own poem.

OR

Using this sheet music (or any other you find that you like) play "Christmas Bells" on the instrument of your choice. Create a recording and post it.

Writing Assignment:

Read this article about Charles Dickens. Also watch the two-minute video embedded in the page. Now write a 100 word essay about Charles Dickens' life, focusing on that part of his life which may have influenced his writing about the poor: his experiences with working in a factory while his father was in prison. How do you think that affected his later writing? If he hadn't had these experiences as a child, do you think he would have had the same desire to write about and expose the hardships of the poor in Victorian England?

OR

Check your spinning wheel at the door, ladies!
Between 1750 and 1830, the Industrial Revolution transformed England from a mostly rural population living in villages and on farms to a town and city-centered society with a focus on factory labor and manufacturing. People moved to towns when their cottage industry was made irrelevant by factory machines. Read more about the Industrial Revolution here. Now write a 100 word essay telling how the Industrial Revolution was a positive or a negative change for England. Pick one! Even if you can see both sides of the topic, choose to either talk about the positive impact or the negative impact.

Quiz:

This week's quiz is a vocabulary word. I'll give you the word and the sentence it is found in. You tell me what you think it means from the context, and then look it up and see if you're right. So your quiz should look like this:

1. Prodigiously. "Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One."
Answer: I think it means intimidatingly big. The dictionary says it means impressively great in size, force, or extent; enormous. 

There, I did the first one for you! Now here's your quiz:

1. Prodigiously. "Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One."
2. Capacious. "This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice."
3. Ubiquitous. "Master Peter, and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession."
4. Penitence. "Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief."
5. Indignantly. "“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly. "
6. Imperceptibly. "Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart, that he would have pledged the unconscious company in return, and thanked them in an inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him time."
7. Shrouded. "It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand."
8. Liberal. "“I always give too much to ladies. It’s a weakness of mine, and that’s the way I ruin myself,” said old Joe. “That’s your account. If you asked me for another penny, and made it an open question, I’d repent of being so liberal and knock off half-a-crown.”"
9. Foremost. "He thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts?"
10. Intercedes. "“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”"

Super mega ultra bonus: Pendulous excrescence. "“What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Reading Period 10: November 21 - December 4: A Christmas Carol

Class meeting: December 4
Due date: December 3, 7pm

Long read:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Staves 1 and 2.

Short read:

"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry.

Poem:

"The Child is Father To the Man" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
"Christmas in the Workhouse" by George R. Sims

If you've been doing NaNoWriMo all through November, your vacation from creative and writing assignments is officially over! Congratulations on writing 5000 words of a novel! Now get back to work! 

Creative Assignment:

Draw two pictures: one of Marley's ghost and one of the ghost of Christmas past. Use specific details from the story to inform your drawings. Next week there will be an assignment to draw the ghosts of Christmas present and Christmas yet to come, so if you're interested in those, choose a medium that you can sustain to make four really good portraits.

OR

Our poem today is an argument that Gerard Manley Hopkins, a British poet, is having with William Wordsworth, the British poet who wrote "My Heart Leaps Up." He doesn't understand one of Wordsworth's lines, or else he has a big problem with it, philosophically. Write a dialogue between these two poets. They never met in life -- in fact Hopkins was only six when Wordsworth died. In the spirit of our Dickens story, pretend the ghost of Wordsworth visits Hopkins and has a conversation with him. What would they say to each other? Why do you think Hopkins had such a hard time with Wordsworth's line "The Child is Father To the Man"?

Writing Assignment:

Ebenezer Scrooge suggests that as long as there are workhouses for the poor to live in, he doesn't need to give to charity. But what are workhouses? We don't have them today. Learn about the Victorian workhouses by visiting these pages: Workhouse food, Workhouse rules and punishment, Workhouse labor. Write an essay of at least 100 words about workhouses -- what are they, who goes there, and what happens there?

OR

Read the poem, "Christmas in the Workhouse" by George R. Sims. Sims was a journalist who wanted to expose and protest the awful conditions in workhouses, so this poem is meant to be a protest poem. Write 100 words summarizing the story the poem tells, and explaining why the man in the poem doesn't want to eat the Christmas pudding that's been provided for him by the rich visitors.

Quiz:

This quiz is about finding evidence in the text to support an idea.

1. In Stave One, the story opens by telling us about the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Find two specific physical details the author gives us about Scrooge to establish that he is a nasty, bitter person.
2. Find two specific lines of description that support the idea that the weather was cold and gloomy.
3. Find two specific lines of dialogue that show Scrooge does not like Christmas.

4. In Stave Two, Scrooge sees himself in his old school, the only child left there at Christmas. Find a line that gives evidence Scrooge once had a boyish imagination.
5. Find a specific line of dialogue that shows the reader Scrooge is reconsidering his behavior in his current life, after looking at scenes from the past.
6. Find a line in the scene where Scrooge sees himself talking with his fiance that shows he had already begun to turn into a money-loving miser, even in the past.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reading Period 9: November 14 - 20: A Little Princess

Class meeting: November 20
Due date: November 19, 7pm

Long read:

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, chapters 15-19

Short read:

"Rikki Tikki Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling
Make sure you read this! We're going to act it out in class.

Poem: 

"First Fig"
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

Creative Assignment:

Read this article about diamond mining. Take another stab at creating an open pit diamond mine in Minecraft, as realistic as you can make it. Use dynamite to create your crater.

OR

Create a video in which you recite "My Heart Leaps Up" by William Wordsworth and "Dreams" by Langston Hughes and "First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay. You may want to use the same strategy to memorize "First Fig" that we used to memorize the first two poems. After you've made your video, post it! You must be looking right at the camera during the video -- we'll know if you're sneaking peeks at the words!

Writing Assignment:

Let's practice the art of summarizing! When your words are limited, you have to choose carefully what to include and what to leave out of a shortened version of a story. You may have to leave out dialogue, but if you leave out too much sensory detail, you lose the idea of the story. Experiment with one of the options below.

Write a 200 word summary of the story of Rikki Tikki Tavi. Try to include all the salient points of the story in your summary while keeping it short. What must you include, and what can you leave out? How short can you make your introduction? You must not go over 200 words.

OR

Write a 200 word summary of the episode where Sara finds the fourpence and buys the buns, which we practiced summarizing in class. Try to make it exactly 200 words! What details must you include, to commmunicate the meaning of the episode, and what can you leave out?

Quiz:

1. What makes the inconquerable Sara cry?
2. Who tattled on the girls in the attic to Miss Minchin?
3. How does Sara know she is not dreaming after the Magic transforms the attic?
4. What was Sara's punishment supposed to be after her interrupted feast with Ermengarde?
5. How does Sara send a communication to the person who is sending the gifts?
6. Why is Mr. Carrisford disappointed with Mr. Carmichael's report?
7. Why does Sara come to the house of the Indian gentleman?
8. What does Miss Minchin want when she hears Sara's fortune is restored?
9. Who calls Miss Minchin a "hard, selfish, worldly woman"?
10. What happened to Becky and the beggar child outside the bakery?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Reading Period 8: November 7 - 13: A Little Princess

Class meeting: November 13
Due date: November 12, 7pm

Long read: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, chapters 8-14

Short read: "Thank You Ma'am" by Langston Hughes

Poem: "Dreams" by Langston Hughes

Creative Assignment:

Draw/paint/color/create a picture of Melchisedec's family behind the wall, as Sara might imagine them. Do you think she would imagine them in stark circumstances, like her attic room, or in luxury, like she used to enjoy? Include some significant details in your drawing so that we can tell exactly what kind of like Sara pictures the rats experience. It's okay to dress them in human clothes and give them furniture and whatnot -- after all, this is the world of the imagination!

OR

Click through this slideshow of images from India. Make sure you read the descriptions of each picture. If you want to see more pictures, try this video. Imagine you are Ram Dass, the Indian manservant that lives in the next house to Sara. When Sara observes him watching the sunset, she imagines he is thinking of his home in India. Write a poem from his point of view about how much he misses his home, and what colors, sounds, sights, and feelings he is missing.

Writing Assignment:

Write a short essay comparing and contrasting Sara's life before and after the news comes about her father's death and her poverty. Remember that comparing means telling about the things that are the same, and contrasting means telling about the things that are different, so you need to do both things in your essay. You'll want to talk about external things (like her room, her food, her activities) and internal things (like her attitude, her mind, her voice).

OR

Sara pretends she is a prisoner in the Bastille. Learn about the Bastille on the internet, and write a short essay telling about what it is. You can start with this article which is very short and this Wikipedia entry which is very long. If you're interested in the terrible conditions Sara describes the prisoners enduring, you may be disappointed, as it seems that our Sara has been a victim of prison reform propaganda. Try this out for an explanation. Note for Googlers: I'm talking about the prison, not the band!

Quiz:

In this quiz you'll once again be finding evidence in the text to support an idea. Please provide a quotation from the novel that proves each of the statements below.

1. Sara still has an active imagination, even after her troubles begin.
2. Sara is able to identify positive things about her attic room.
3. It bothers Sara to accept charity.
4. Sara makes Ram Dass happy.
5. Mr. Carmichael is looking for Sara Crewe.
6. Sara's pretends don't always help.
7. It was hard for Sara to give away the buns.
8. Sara inspires goodness in other people.
9. Ram Dass knows a lot about Sara.
10. Ram Dass had already started in on his plan, before bringing the secretary to the attic.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Reading Period 7: October 31 - November 6: A Little Princess

Class meeting: November 6
Due date: November 5, 7pm

Long read:

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, chapters 1-7

Short read:

"The Open Window" by Saki (H.H. Munro)

Poem:

"The Rainbow" by William Wordsworth

Creative Assignment:

Sara thinks of writing a poem called "The Last Doll" but she doesn't do it. So YOU write a poem called "The Last Doll." You can write it in Sara's voice, as you imagine she might have written it, or you can write it as you would write it yourself, if you feel you are reaching a point in your life where you're too old for dolls. It might be interesting to write the poem as Sara might have felt at the end of chapter 7.

OR

The diamond mines are never shown to us in the novel. It's questionable whether they were real or whether they were just a fantasy among men hungry for wealth. Create a picture of what you imagine these fantasy diamond mines would look like. You can do this in any way you want, including using screenshots from a scene you create in Minecraft!

Writing Assignment:

Read this quote from the book:
"Things happen to people by accident," she used to say. "A lot of nice accidents have happened to me. It just HAPPENED that I always liked lessons and books, and could remember things when I learned them. It just happened that I was born with a father who was beautiful and nice and clever, and could give me everything I liked. Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? I don't know"—looking quite serious—"how I shall ever find out whether I am really a nice child or a horrid one. Perhaps I'm a HIDEOUS child, and no one will ever know, just because I never have any trials."
"Lavinia has no trials," said Ermengarde, stolidly, "and she is horrid enough."
Do you agree with Sara or Ermengarde? Are people's characters developed by the things that have happened to them, or by some inner identity that would be the same regardless of circumstances? Often people's bad behavior is explained or forgiven because they have had a terrible life or a difficult childhood. Is it fair that some children are born into such wealth and ease, as Sara is, and some have trouble getting enough to eat or finding a place to sleep?

OR

Sara says she has "scattered largess" to the populace just like a real princess after she feeds Becky and tells her a story. What is scattering largess? Can you figure it out from the context? You migth also want to look it up. Think about things that you might do to "scatter largess." Maybe you are already doing some things like this -- if so list them, and add a few more things you can think of to be more "royal" in this respect, in your daily life.

Quiz: Find the Evidence

This quiz is all about finding evidence in the story to support an idea. I will give you an idea about the story or characters, and you'll find me a line from the book that supports that idea, and quote the line.

1. Sara Crewe is very young.
2. Sara's father loves her very much.
3. Sara has a kind heart.
4. Sara has a strong imagination.
5. Becky has a miserable life.
6. Becky and Sara are similar.
7. Sara has a temper.
8. Miss Minchin does not think of Becky as a person.
9. Lavinia and Jessie began to make fun of Becky when she was still rich.
10. Sara takes the news of her father calmly.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Reading Period 6: October 10 - 30: The Once and Future King

Class meeting: October 30
Due date: October 29, 7pm

Long read:

The Once and Future King, Books 2-4
The Queen of Air and Darkness
The Ill-Made Knight
The Candle in the Wind

Poetry:

"The Passing of Arthur" from Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

You might also want to look over "The Lady of Shalott" which we read in class last week, from the same book by the same author.

Creative Assignment:

The poem we read in class, "The Lady of Shalott," is one of the most often illustrated poems around! Create your own illustration of this poem. If you want, you can model it on an existing painting, like this famous one by John William Waterhouse:


Or you can go to this web site to see a huge list of a number of different illustrations of different parts of the poem -- the lady in her tower, in her boat, etc. Use whatever medium you like, but please use unlined paper and some kind of color in your work.

OR

Create an internet personality quiz based on the The Once and Future King. You may have seen quizzes like this around Facebook -- like this one: "Which Harry Potter Character Are You?" To keep it simple, choose four characters to be your results. Then write some questions with multiple choice answers, associating each of the answers with one of your results. Try not to make it obvious which character each answer is connected to, so your quiz-taker has suspense about his or her results! If you want to, you can use an online quizmaker to bring your quiz to life! Or you can just post it in the Google+ community and let us enjoy taking it there. (This assignment was Sadie's idea!)


Writing Assignment:

In the early part of Arthur's reign, there are a lot of wars and chaos as other rulers challenge his position on the throne, and also battle each other. Arthur says that Merlyn is helping him win battles, even though battles are wrong, so that he can put the world to rights. What does he see that's wrong in the world, and how can he fix it? The discussion of this point can be found in Book 2 chapters 2, 3, 4, and 6. Include in your discussion the idea that "might makes right" and present Arthur's alternate solution to resolving conflict. If you like, you can give your opinion too. Do you think that might makes right? Do you think battles are a solution? Write at least 100 words.

OR

The character of Arthur changes significantly from the beginning of The Once and Future King to the end. He goes from a carefree boy with hopes for the future to a tired old king, looking at the passing of his kingdom. Even if you haven't finished the novel, take some time to read the very last chapter of the whole book: Book 4, chapter 14. Would you say that the story of King Arthur was a sad story or a glad story? Is it a story of triumph or failure? This is one of the most important and widespread myths in Western Civilization. Do you feel, in the end, that King Arthur's round table was a failed experiment or a grand example? Ultimately, is this story a tragedy? Write at least 100 words giving your opinion.


Quiz:

Choose ten of these characters from the Arthurian legend that T.H. White interprets in the three sections of the book you read for this week. For each character, give a short description of their role in the book, the part they play in the story. Number your quiz from one to ten. If you haven't read enough of the novel to find ten of these, you can look them up.

Morgause
Gawaine
Gareth
Agravaine
Galahad
Tristram
Percival
Bedivere
Nimue
King Lot of Orkney
Lancelot
Guenever
Bors
Mordred



Friday, October 2, 2015

Reading Period 5: October 3 - 9: The Once and Future King

Coronation of King Arthur, from "Flores Historiarum,"
by Matthew Paris, c.1250-52.
Class meeting: October 9
Due date for assignments and quiz: October 8, 7pm

Long read:

The Once and Future King by T.H. White, Book One "The Sword in the Stone" chapters 13-24.

Poetry:

"I Syng of a Mayden", 15th Century Anonymous

This was one of the songs sung at Sir Ector's castle on Christmas night. Here it is in middle English and modern English:

Middle English

I syng of a mayden
That is makeles,
king of alle kinges
to here sone che chees.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dew in Aprylle,
That fallyt on the gras.

He cam also stille
To his modres bowr
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the flowr.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder lay
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the spray.

Moder & mayden
Was nevere noon but she:
Well may swich a lady
Godes moder be.

Modern English:

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.

He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
There was never, ever one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

Here are two different musical interpretations of this song:





Creative Assignment:

The geese have a lot of wonderful songs for singing in different situations. Write a new song, for any bird you like: pigeons, geese, owls, hawks, etc. You don't have to include music, but you could! Try to imagine what your chosen bird would sing about. For example, a woodpecker might sing to the delicious bugs hiding in a tree.

OR

Illustrate the climactic scene in chapter 23 when Wart pulls the sword from the stone. Include as many details as you can, from the real scene and from Wart's imagination. I would love to see some of the advisors in your picture, the animals who help Wart with the task of pulling it out. Please use unlined paper so we can clearly see your work.

The Grey People
Writing Assignment:

Our story is set after the Norman Conquest of England. The nobility like Sir Ector and Uther Pendragon are Normans, while the regular people are Saxons. Read about the Norman Conquest here, then write a short essay (100 words) containing the following facts: When did it happen? Where were the Normans from? Who was their leader? Who was the leader of England? What was the battle that launched the invasion?

OR

When Wart is sighing over his low station in life, Merlin said, "Only fools want to be great." In this case, "great" doesn't mean "extra good" but instead means "important" or "famous" or "powerful." Merlin seems to be saying that being an important powerful person like a knight or a king is not necessarily a good goal. What can this possibly mean? Doesn't everyone want to be famous? Write 100 words giving your opinion.

Quiz:

The quiz is over The Once and Future King, Book 1, chapters 13-24. The numbers reflect the chapters in which the questions can be found.

13. What are the only two adjectives in ant language?
14. In the letter from the king, what does Uther Pendragon say that Sir Ector must do?
15. At the feast, what do we learn about King Pellinore and Sir Grummore?
16. What has happened to the questing beast?
17. According to Merlin, where does the language of birds come from?
18. What object does Wart eat to transform into an owl?
19. What do the geese do while they are flying, to express themselves and pass the time?
20. What does Wart say he would pray for if he were to make a knightly vigil?
21. What are the two things the badger can teach Wart?
22. When King Pellinore says that Uther Pendragon had no heir, what does he mean?
23. What lie does Kay tell after Wart gives him the sword from the stone?
24. What secrets does Merlin reveal at last about Wart's birth?

BONUS: What is the thing that only ants and humans do?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Reading Period 4: September 26 - October 2: The Once and Future King

Class meeting: October 2
Due date for assignments and quiz: October 1, 7pm

Long read:

The Once and Future King by T.H. White, Book 1, "The Sword and the Stone," chapters 1-12

Poetry:

"Sumer is Icumen In" by Anonymous.

This is a medieval poem from around the time the book is set. This is how people really would have talked in the 12th century! Here is the poem, in what we now call Middle English:

Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed
and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu

Awe bleteþ after lomb
lhouþ after calue cu
Bulluc sterteþ
bucke uerteþ

murie sing cuccu
Cuccu cuccu
Wel singes þu cuccu
ne swik þu nauer nu

Sing cuccu nu • Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu • Sing cuccu nu

Take a look here for a side by side translation in modern English.

Here is a video of people singing it:



Here is some sheet music so you can try it yourself. The first four lines are the melody, and the bottom two lines are the counterpoint parts, to be sung or played at the same time, as a harmony.

Creative Assignment:

Choose one and post to the Google+ Community!

In the first twelve chapters, Wart becomes a fish and a bird. Write a short scene where Wart becomes a different animal. What lessons can Merlyn teach by turning his pupil into a giraffe? A butterfly? A honey badger?

OR

Create an illustration of a scene from the story. You might choose one of the following:
1. A scene from Merlyn's house, like maybe an aerial view of Merlyn's table, featuring the famous mustard pot.
2. The different birds tethered or loose in the mews.
3. The griffon on his perch.
Or whatever else you like! Please choose unlined paper for your artwork.

The Castle of the Forest Sauvage?

The Castle of the Forest Sauvage?

Writing Assignment:

Choose one and post to the Google+ Community!

The education that Merlyn gives the Wart is hardly normal. Part of this is because in the twelfth century, they didn't have math workbooks -- in fact most people didn't even have books! So maybe this kind of thing worked for medieval times, but let's be honest: the Wart was missing out on grammar, drilling the multiplication table, learning historical facts, and writing short essays, for example. Write a short essay (100 words) in which you say whether you think Merlyn would be a good teacher today. Would you be able to get away with an "eddication" such as Merlyn provides? Would you want him as a teacher?

OR

Let's talk about Robin Hood, who the Wart meets in chapter 10. Robin Hood in stories is an outlaw (or criminal) who lives in the forest and robs from the rich to give to the poor. His nemesis is the Sherriff of Nottingham who works for the bad King John. Was there a real Robin Hood? (Or Robin Wood?) Watch this video on The History Channel's web site, which is three minutes long, or if you are interested in a bit more depth, watch this longer video, an episode of Real or Fact. Then write a short essay (100 words) giving your opinion on whether Robin Hood was a real person or just a myth, and whether or not it matters.

OR

When Wart enters the mews and becomes a bird, he gets an inside take on the medieval sport of falconry. Read more about falconry here. Write a short essay (100 words) and tell your reader whether you think falconry is a good sport or if it's cruel to animals. Use specific examples from the reading to support your position. Is this something that people should still be doing today?

Quiz:

The quiz is over chapters 1-12 of The Once and Future King

1. Who decided whether to fly Cully or not?
2. What does the Wart offer to King Pellinore, in exchange for his help?
3. What is special about the way time passes for Merlyn?
4. Why is Sir Ector proud of the Wart?
5. Who does Merlin summon, to turn the Wart into a fish, and tahw sdrow seod eh yas ot nommus siht nosrep?
6. What happened to the arrow Wart shot into the sky?
7. Give one piece of advice or instruction to someone who is going to try jousting.
8. Who is the leader of all the birds in the mews?
9. Why is Kay upset?
10. What skill must Kay and Wart demonstrate to Robin Wood, in order to prove they're worthy to come on the adventure?
11. Of what building material is the Castle Chariot made?
12. What does Kay take home from the adventure and what does Wart take home?

BONUS: Wart encounters the same unnerving situation in both the fish episode and the bird episode. What is it?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reading Period 3: September 19 - 25: Watership Down

Class meeting: September 25

Long read:

Watership Down, chapters 30-50

Poetry:

Hyzenthlay's poem from Watership Down, chapter 35.
"Prospice" by Robert Browning
"Two Fusiliers" by Robert Graves

Creative Assignment:

Post your assignment to the Google+ community so your classmates can comment. Choose one:

Create a map to illustrate some or all of the story. You could map out the warren Efrafa if you want, or the new one based around the Honeycomb, or Cowslip's warren. Or you could pull the camera out to a long view, and map the whole story. Use color, paint, pencils, graph paper, or whatever medium you like.

OR

Write a poem celebrating a heroic act in this section of the book. Maybe it's Hazel chewing through the dog's rope, or maybe it's Bigwig holding of Woundwort. Maybe it's Kehaar helping the rabbits under the bridge, or Hyzenthlay leading the does out of Efrafa. Imagine rabbits repeating your poem in great burrows for generations to come, to commemorate the hero you choose to honor.


Writing Assignment:

Post your assignment to the Google+ community so your classmates can comment. Choose one:

We discussed how the thorn in Pipkin's leg foreshadowed the peg that held the snare trapping Bigwig. Think about the boat escape scene on the Test River. What earlier scene foreshadowed this event? Write a 150 word essay explaining what foreshadowing is, using this pair of scenes as an example.

OR

Write a constitution for Hazel's new warren. What are the rules and how will it operate? What are the most important ideas and goals? What is the role of the Owsla? How will resources be handled? What about safety? Will criminals be punished? What should be done with newcomers? Try to imagine how Hazel and his friends would want to write down their policies, if they could hold a pencil. Create their founding documents.

Quiz:

This quiz covers Watership Down chapters 30-50. Remember you can use your book to answer the questions. Send me an email with the subject header STICKYBEAK QUIZ.

Black Rabbit of Inle, Art by Sleyf
1. What is a wide patrol?
2. Does the Black Rabbit of Inle remind you of anyone in Greek or Roman mythology? Or any figures in popular culture?
3. What is the "Iron Road"?
4. How do the rabbits get across the river this this time?
5. How did Woundwort treat the human that saved his life?
6. Why is Blackavar brought up to silflay if he's not allowed to eat?
7. Who is Bigwig's ally inside Efrafa?
8. Bigwig makes an excuse to General Woundwort to explain why he was talking to Kehaar. What does he give as a reason?
9. What natural occurrence happens just as Bigwig is loudly denouncing General Woundwort in the field?
10. Who is the first to demonstrate how to swim under the bridge and away from the boat?
11. Who warns the rabbits of the danger of foxes when they want to make camp?
12. What does El-arairah use to imitate a dog's nose and trick Rowsby Woof?
13. Who warns Hazel of the approach of the Efrafan rabbits?
14. What is Hazel's suggestion to General Woundwort to avoid war?
15. When Hazel leaves for the farm, who does he leave in charge of holding off the Efrafans?
16. What is Hazel's plan to defeat the Efrafans?
17. What is the Efrafan strategy for defeating Hazel's warren?
18.  What does Vervain realize about General Woundwort when he comes out of the hole?
19. Who saves Hazel's life this time?
20. The first thing Bigwig says to Hazel after nearly dying is a joke. Why is it funny?
21. Who became the new chief rabbit of Efrafa?
22. What vision of Hazel's was made a reality between the two warrens?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Reading Period 2: September 12 - 18: Watership Down

Did you enjoy the carrots I left for you?
Class meeting: September 18

Long read:

Watership Down, chapters 18-29

Short read:

The Lady and the Tiger by Frank Stockton

Poetry:

"The Pilgrim" by Walter de la Mare (excerpted in the epigraph for chapter 28) Here is a link to just the poem but this page has some ads. Here is a link to the poetry collection where it can be found -- scroll down about a third of the way through the book to find "The Pilgrim."

Creative Assignment:

Choose one:

Many artists have taken on illustrating the rabbits of Watership Down. But what if these characters were people? Draw an illustration of five of the main characters of Watership Down, but draw the characters as if they were humans, not rabbits. What would they wear? Who would be tallest, strongest? How would they wear their hair? Who would have glasses or wear flip flops or have a derpy expression or be carrying a sword? You can draw these characters yourself, or if you are a movie fan, you can cast a movie version of this story, with human actors. Try this list of young actors for ideas -- who could best play your five chosen characters? When you post your assignment to the Google+ Community, try to post once and put additional info in the comments. You can upload multiple drawings/images in one post if needed.

OR

Watership Down is written in third person point of view, meaning the characters are referred to by name by a separate narrator, and called "he" and "she." Choose one of the following characters and situations, and write a short piece from the first person point of view, that is speaking in that character's voice and using the pronoun "I." Tell from that character's perspective how he is feeling and what he is thinking. Here are your choices:
1. Hazel in the ditch after being shot and climbing down the hole. This would could sound very serious, and might even read disjointed and confused. He is in a "dark, ebbing stupor."
2. Kehaar when he is staying underground being fed by rabbits. This one could sound really funny. Try your hand at writing in Kehaar's dialect. It's based on a Norwegian accent -- watch this video to get in the mood. Here's a clip from the animated show -- someone's approximation of Kehaar's accent.

Writing Assignment:

Choose one:

Just another elil behind door #2.
Write a 150 word essay explaining what you think the correct answer is to the question at the end of "The Lady and the Tiger." There are no wrong answers! Just explain the reasoning behind your opinion.

OR

Is the warren called Efrafa an example of a good idea gone too far? Think about the practices and policies of Efrafa. Are any of them wise, or at least based on wisdom? Imagine General Woundwort evaporates into thin air and you are made Chief Rabbit of Efrafa. Write a 150 word essay telling what you would change and what parts of their society you would keep in place.

Quiz:

Use your book and look back over what you read to answer these questions. Send me your quiz in an email with the subject header STICKYBEAK QUIZ. Copy and paste the questions into the email, then write the answers.

1. What rabbit came away from Cowslip's warren with Hazel?
2. What is a hlessi?
3. What is Bluebell's personality like?
4. Who killed Pimpernel?
5. How does the mouse help the rabbits, in exchange for Hazel saving his life?
6. How are Hazel and Kehaar able to communicate with each other, when Kehaar can't speak lapine?
7. Why does Hazel choose Pipkin to go to Nuthanger Farm with him?
8. Why is Hazel okay with letting the men take Laurel back to the hutch?
9. The man in Fiver's dream tells him the difference between men and rabbits, why men kill rabbits when they have a mind to. What's the difference?
10. In Efrafa, what is a "Mark"?
11. What does Kehaar know about being shot with a gun, that the rabbits don't know, that saves Hazel's leg?
12. What is Kehaar eating in chapter 29, and where did it come from?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Period 1: August 28 - September 11: Watership Down

Class meeting: September 11, 12:00-1:30 pm, Pretlow Library 2nd Floor Conference Room.

Long read:

Watership Down by Richard Adams, chapters 1-17

Short read:

"The Two Brothers" by Leo Tolstoy

Poetry: 

Silverweed's Poem from Watership Down chapter 16.

Creative Assignment: 

Choose one of the two creative assignments below. When you've finished your assignment, post it to the Google+ Community. If you choose the art option, this will mean scanning in or photographing your project. Part of your assignment is checking out everyone else's work, and commenting on it if you like. Here are your two assignments to choose from!

In Cowslip's warren, Hazel sees a "shape" on the wall, made of stones pressed into the dirt. Although he's unable to understand the concept of art, and how a picture can represent something real, Strawberry explains to him that the picture shows El-arairah stealing the king's lettuce. Create your own picture illustrating the story of the king's lettuce. If you want to make it look like stones in a wall, you can, or you can use whatever style you choose.

OR

Write a poem from the point of view of a rabbit in Hazel's group. You can write about food, or escaping from owls, or crossing a road, a stream, anything in the rabbit's experience. Try to use as many rabbit vocabulary as you can: elil, silflay, hrududu, even hraka.

"Shining Wire" by Lady Fiszi
Writing Assignment:

Choose one of the two writing assignments below. When you've finished your assignment, post it to the Google+ Community. Part of your assignment is checking out everyone else's work, and commenting on it if you like. Here are your two assignments to choose from!

Each chapter in Watership Down begins with an epigraph, or a short quote or saying at the beginning of the chapter, meant to express the chapter's theme in some way. Choose any chapter we've read, and explain how the epigraph connects to the contents of the chapter. This will involve looking up the work from which the quote is excerpted (like the opera Cosi fan Tutte or the novel Le Morte d'Arthur) and for at least one of them it may mean translating the quote to English. Your explanation should be at least 100 words.

OR

In a short essay of at least 100 words, explain why the rabbits of Cowslip's warren were able to make art and poetry, instead of focusing on survival and the old tales of rabbit trickery and wit.

Quiz:

You may use your book to answer the questions in this quiz! There is one question for each chapter you read. Email your answers to me with the subject header STICKYBEAK QUIZ. You can either copy and paste the questions into an email, and answer them there, or you can create another document in Google Drive and copy and paste the questions there to answer. Either way, make sure your questions and answers are in the body of the email you send. I look forward to reading your work!

1. Based on the notice board, what is going to happen to the land around the Sandleford Warren?
2. Where does the chief rabbit get his lettuce?
3. Which rabbit in the Owsla surprises Hazel by wanting to join him and Fiver?
4. What does fu Inle mean?
5. Why is it hard for a rabbit to go at a medium speed for a long time? What are their natural gaits?
6. What blessing does Frith give to El-arairah?
7. Based on the evidence in the story, what animal is a Lendri, do you think?
8. What innovation does Blackberry devise for getting the smaller rabbits across the river?
9. How does Hazel help out Pipkin with a problem in this chapter?
10. Why is the road more dangerous at night?
11. In this chapter, Hazel is compared to a general. What is a general, and why is this a good comparison?
12. Who normally does the digging of burrows, in rabbit culture?
13. Tell one unusual thing the rabbits notice right away about Cowslip's warren.
14. Fiver compares the rabbits in Cowslip's warren to trees in November. What does he mean?
15. El-arairah tricks the king into giving the rabbits lettuce in Dandelion's story. How do the rabbits of Cowslip's warren get lettuce and carrots from the human?
16. Silverweed says that rabbits don't need tricks. What does he say they need?
17. How does Pipkin help out Bigwig with a problem in this chapter? Foreshadowing means when one smaller event in a novel gives a hint about or predicts a bigger event. What smaller event in chapter 9 foreshadowed the big event in chapter 17?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Welcome!

We're looking down the road to a fantastic year of reading for middle school students! Here's what you need to do right now:

1. Get a Gmail address.

2. Get a Google+ profile.

3. Email me and send me links to both, so I can invite you to the Google+ community.

You can check out the books we'll be reading on our reading schedule, and if you want to get a head start on any of those titles, you're welcome to do that! Especially if you know that there will be a month here or there where you'll have a lot of travel or intense other activities, maybe jump on those novels this summer, so you'll be in "review only" mode when we get there.