Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Your Ideal School!

What do a research experiment cone in February of this year and an allegory composed in 450 BC have in common? The short answer is: a lot! Today, we crafted a compare and contrast chart on our board to analyze the similarities and differences between Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" (which, we know really entailed a story from Socrates!) and some recent research on what makes a meaningful life.

I loved hearing your ideas!

We then pushed forward and began thinking about our IDEAL SCHOOL project. For this project, you are in charge! Let your wildest imaginings come to fruition! Think outside of what we are used to, and consider what kind of school you would create if anything were possible.

How would the days run? Who would lead? How would decisions be made? Would subjects be taught together? Would students teach one another? Would classes be bigger or smaller? Would "school" be a forest or a museum or an ongoing field trip?

As you brainstorm and plan your ideas tonight, be thinking about connections to the "Allegory of the Cave" and also to our novel, Nothing but the Truth.

Here is the link to the IDEAL SCHOOL project in case you need another copy, or in case you want to print out a copy on which to draw a thousand hearts and laminate it and then frame it and then put it right next to your bathroom mirror. 

Our word of the day today is ADVOCATE (verb) which means to support a person or a cause. And our word of the day from yesterday was ALLEGORY (noun) which means a story that illustrates an important life message or symbolizes a greater truth.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Seeing Past Shadows

Today was downright riveting. Awesome. Fabulous. I absolutely loved working through "Plato's Allegory of the Cave" with you all. Though it's a difficult text, you did a great job or connecting the ideas from the allegory to our own lives, and now we will push forward!

Tomorrow, we will discuss how the novel Nothing But the Truth by Avi, and "Plato's Allegory of the Cave" apply to a highly creative project. Your challenge will be to do what Socrates suggests and get beyond shadows and think widely about what is possible.

You will use our texts as a springboard and then leap into your own ideas about what learning is really all about. Here is a link to our project on the ideal school. We will discuss it tomorrow and then have a workshop feel for two of our classes this week, in the library.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Socratic Seminar!



Wow! I had so much fun today listening in to you all in our Socratic Seminar. You each shared some powerful ideas, many times using support from the text, connections to your own lives, and also by imagining the possibilities. You used Avi's Nothing but the Truth as a springboard and you also explored key ideas about effective education, forgiveness, thinking outside the box, and the media.

I loved being able to watch you all take initiative, and it was so hard to bite my tongue so much, as your insightful ideas made me want to chime in, too!

For tomorrow, be sure to review our five fabulous words from the week: SOLILOQUY, SOLIPSISM, DORMANT, SOCRATES,  and DIVERSITY.

Thanks for a fabulous time today!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stand and Deliver!

Today, you shared your symbols for the characters within Nothing but the Truth. Symbols like: fire, snapping turtles, storms, cooking pots, slippery slides, and many more filled your artistic pages and I loved hearing your ideas and your analysis of why these characters could be symbolized so.

Then, we dove into Chapter 16 of our novel and found that Miss Narwin is getting a whole host of hate mail--much of it containing half-truths.

For tonight, be sure to read up to the start of Chapter 17 in the novel (for most versions of the book, this will be page 200).

After you read, share your insights on this question: How can people hold onto what they know to be true in the face of hatred or anger from many others? And how do people know when to change their ideas or stick to them?

Consider the characters in our novel, and why they choose to stand firm or else change their ideas. How do they determine which is the right course to take. How do YOU?

Our word for the day was DORMANT, which is an adjective that means 'a state of being at rest, but possessing the capability for action. And example of the word in a line is: Sometimes, we all possess the capacity to love deeply, but it lies dormant due to fear or hurt.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Symbolizing a Character...

Today, we read aloud in pairs from our novel, Nothing but the Truth, and then created artistic symbols to represent a character of our choice from the novel. From the fiery talk show host, Jake Barlow, to the quiet, confused Miss Narwin, each pair chose a character and crafted a symbol that would represent that character. Then, you explored the novel to find three supporting quotes that reflect your choice of symbol.

To push us further, how can symbols work to both show who people are, but also to hide who people are? In other words, does one symbol ever really characterize who we are as people? Are there times when one symbol would fully define us, but then we change, grow, and learn, and that symbol no longer applies?

Powerful stories show us how characters change--and show us, too, how we can change. While symbols can reveal parts of ourselves--and parts of the characters about whom we read--they never reveal the full picture, since we are always growing and learning!

For tonight, be sure to read up to the start of Chapter 16 in Nothing but the Truth.

Our word for the day was diversity, which means the state of being different and varied. An example of the word in a line is this: What makes life both beautiful and fascinating (and sometimes challenging) is that we all bring a diversity of perspectives to events and ideas.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Twisting the Truth...

Today, we acted out scenes from our novel, Nothing but the Truth, and we are beginning to see how the truth can be slowly, slowly, slowly TWISTED! What begins as a small disruption in a homeroom English class is becoming a huge catastrophe.

As we think about our own lives, we can see, too, how seemingly tiny problems can become huge conflicts. Like the characters in our novel, we all have different views and perspectives. And when problems occur, these different views can either be expressed in kindness and with understanding, or with bitterness and resentment.

Share your thoughts about this question, belowIf you were Philip Malloy, right at this moment in the novel, what would or could you do to make the situation better?  AND Do you ever feel like Philip?

Our word for the day is SOLILOQUY (noun) which is a dramatic speech given in a play by one character, with no others present; OR the act of talking to oneself. An example of the word in a line would be: Hamlet, in Shakespeare's play of the same name, gives a famous soliloquy when he wonders about the value of his life. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Should We Beware of Solipsism?

Today, we used our five vocabulary words to craft narratives about a mission to Mars, and explored how that mission showed us a whole host of zany possibilities.

After this narrative quiz, we dove back into our novel, Nothing But the Truth and contemplated how our word of the day, SOLIPSISM, pertains to the way different characters view the unfolding events of the novel.

In Jerry Spinelli's novel, Smiles to Go, one of the characters warns, "Beware of solipsism." In our current novel, we are investigating whether Phillip Malloy, Miss Narwin, Dr. Palleni, and the other characters are guilty of solipsism. It can be defined as the belief that the self is all that matters.

For tonight, be sure to read up to the start of Chapter 13 in our class novel, Nothing but the Truth. (This is page 104 in the tan-cover version of the book.)

On our blog, share your insights on the following question: do we all practice solipsism just by being human? It is possible to limit solipsism in our lives? Why or why not? How?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stumbling Over the Truth

Today in class, we explored Winston Churchill's famous line, "[People] stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and run off, as if nothing ever happened." We connected this notion to our novel, Nothing but the Truth, and discussed how finding something that is deeply true can also be deeply, well...scary.

We did  a Quick Write on a prompt based on this idea--what truth have you stumbled over in your life, and how did it feel?

For tonight, be sure to study our five vocab words for the week: LOQUACIOUS, IMPERTINENT, IRONY, RENAISSANCE, and RESPLENDENT (so bright it positively glows!).

Yesterday, we read in pairs from Avi's Nothing but the Truth and watched a brief clip about the Asch Conformity Experiment, then connected the experiment to our reading.

Have a fabulous evening!

Peace, Mr. R.

Monday, December 1, 2014

How Do We Find the Truth?

Welcome back from the November break! A new month greets us today, and so does a new class novel. This month, we will explore the key question: how do we find the truth? When there are multiple versions of an event, and multiple points of view, how do we discern what "really" happened?

In other words: put on your ultra-forceful, deep-sea diving suits because we are heading to the bottom of the iceberg. On the surface of of new novel, a ninth-grader named Phillip Malloy is just singing along the the National Anthem in his homeroom class in a public high school in Harrison, New Hampshire. His homeroom teacher, Miss Narwin, and the Assistant Principal, Dr. Palleni, discipline Phillip and ultimately suspend him from school.

What!? What happened!?

If you are asking those questions, then it's a great place to begin our reading of Nothing But the Truth, by Avi.

What else is going on below the surface? What motivates each of the characters? How do we find the truth?

Tonight, be sure to read through page 30 of the novel. Afterwards, share your response to this question: Do you think most people are quick to make judgments and assume they know the truth? Or do you think most people look at all sides and perspectives? Why or why not?

Our word of the day today is IRONY, which means: when expressed words do not match the real meaning of what is being said; OR when an audience (or reader) knows more than the performers (or characters); OR when a result or event is at great odds with the expected result or outcome. An example is: The fact that Fiddlesticks was floating on an ocean of water, yet was dying of thirst, was deeply ironic--and incredibly tragic. 

Our previous two words of the day were: IMPERTINENT (which means rude) and LOQUACIOUS (which means talkative).