Tuesday, March 17, 2015

First Line Scavenger Hunt!

I had so much fun yesterday exploring how creativity functions in our lives and in our writing. And we officially began our ANTHOLOGY PROJECT! Here is the link to the project overview in case you need it online...

Today, we are going to be meeting in the library to do an online scavenger hunt. And, since it is now today, we are here, meeting in the library. Right now. If you look up from your computers, you'll see me smiling that goofy, silly, overly happy Mr. Reynolds smile.

Ah! I see you looking up at me! Yup, hello! I am right here, looking back at you. Yes! Alright, now that we've looked at one another, shall we begin?

What's that? You really wish you had a huge loaf of garlic bread to eat right now, before we begin our scavenger hunt? I hear you. I empathize with you. I wish that very same thing, in fact. (And imagine if, next to that loaf of garlic bread, we had a massive glass of orange juice, and next to that glass of orange juice, we had a big stack of the latest middle grade novels published, and next to that stack of novels we had--okay, let's not get carried away.)

So, for TODAY, it is First Line Scavenger Hunt time!

As we think about the twenty ideas we created yesterday for our possible anthology pieces, let's see how other authors translate ideas into action. In other words, how do authors begin their pieces--whether poetry, essays, or short stories? Today, we'll explore a fabulous website called TEEN INK and read a variety of stories, essays, and poetry. Or, you can explore another very cool website called Stone Soup to read short fiction pieces. (Or, you can use both of these websites to find some very powerful lines.)

If you go with Teen Ink, at the top of the page, you'll see drop down menus to choose your genre (type of writing) and subject, such as Nonfiction--Love, or Poetry--Bullying, or Fiction--Sci-Fi, etc. Explore through the various genres and subjects, and find pieces that excite you.

As you read, keep a Word document (or a Google Doc) open in another window on your computer. Each time that you find a first line that absolutely floors you, or knocks your socks off, or makes your eyebrows climb to the ceiling (come back down, Eyebrows! We need you!) write that first line down on your document, then include the author and title.

Before we finish our class session today, aim for seven lines that move, shock, inspire, or touch you in some way. What we are looking for here is: possibility, modeling, motivation, and power. By finding lines that excite and wow us, we will be better able to craft our own as we begin work on the anthology.

Before leaving the library, e-mail me your document (or if it's a Google doc, share it with me) at: LReynolds@psharvard.org. OR, if e-mailing or sharing terrifies you like a terribly terrifying nightmare, then copy and paste your lines and publish them right in the "Comments" section below on this post.

In other words: be sure to share your lines with me in some way so that I can be moved and excited and wowed and so that my eyebrows can also climb to the--get back here Eyebrows!

Alright? Let's do it!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ode to Joy...Rhythm & Retention!

Today, we explored how music and literature work together. Both can create MOOD (the atmosphere of a composition), and both can share a MESSAGE (a view or opinion of an author / creator).

We began today's class by listening to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and doing a Quick Write while we heard the music. We tried to record the ideas, emotions, and events that came to our minds while we listened.

Then, we broke into groups to begin working on a two-day project called Rhythm & Retention. Here is the link to the project in case you need another copy, were absent today, or would like to gaze at this project in electronic format.

Tomorrow, we will begin the Rhythm part of our project, and you'll be able to experiment with some of the percussion instruments as well as create the rhythms for each of the sections of the novel.


Our word for the day today was PERPETUAL, which means continuing forever. An example of the word in a sentence is: My love of writing feels perpetual

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Desperate Hope

Thank you for your wonderful reading aloud and discussion today in our class. We have reached the most intense part of THE BREADWINNER, and we now see the desperate hope Parvana has about her family.

After hearing Homa's story about the violence in Mazar, all that Parvana can do is desperately hope that her siblings and her mother are safe. Mrs. Weera encourages Parvana not to think of the worst, and reminds Parvana's that, " 'We must believe they are alive. We must not give up hope!'" (152).

As we think about facing seemingly insurmountable challenges and problems, we wonder if Parvana will find a way to hope.

In your life, when facing challenges, what helps you to hope?

Share your ideas below! Tomorrow, we will find out if Parvana's hope bears fruit.

Our word for the day today is MERCURIAL, which means a rapid, unpredictable change in mood.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Different Vision for Boredom

when we think of the word BOREDOM, what comes to mind? Do we think of sitting on a couch, having nothing to do? Do we think of having no friends to interact with? Do we think of requirements  that are not fun but need to be completed?

Do we think of school?


Did you say yes to that last question!?

Are you serious!?


Are you SERIOUS?!

Phew, Yerevan just joking. Thankfully. I began to hear numerous marching bands carrying (and booming) drums of doom inside my ears, and these drums of doom echoed inside of my heart, and then...and then...

Okay, let's return to our normal discussion of boredom. So: we all think of different experiences and events when it comes to boredom. And yet, in Chapter 12 of THE BREADWINNER by Deborah Ellis, we hear Parvana's inner hopes: "She wanted to sit in a classroom and be bored by a geography lesson. She wanted to be with her friends and talk about homework and games and what to do on school holidays. She didn't want to know any more about death or blood or pain," (130).

This inner desire of Pravan shows us a different view of BOREDOM--one that is safe, stable, and absolutely joyful.

We all have different experiences, and while very few of us may have endured the kind of deep trauma and tragedy that Parvana does, we all bring our past experiences into the ways we view school.

So, now that we know Parvana's feelings about school--it's safety and stability--what are yours? In other words: how do yo view school and what does SCHOOL symbolize for you?

Share your ideas below!

And our word of the day today is ARDUOUS, which is an adjective that means extremely difficult, as in this example: Climbing Mt. Washington may be arduous, but reaching the peaks and viewing the world from there is stunning and worth the work. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Beyond Fear and Into Hope

Today, we explored the hardest chapter in Deborah Ellis's novel, The Breadwinner. As we used a reader's theater approach to act out the scenes from Chapter 11, we saw how the threat of great physical harm is used in the soccer stadium. For Parvana and Shauzia, this is their first expose to this kind of performance-based punishment, and they are both shocked and horrified.

Fear as a form of motivation is based on the threat of bad things that could happen, and we discussed whether fear works as a motivator--using examples from our book, but also examples from other areas of life. Does fear genuinely help people to follow laws, rules, and grow?

Many of you shared powerful perceptions from your own lives, and connected back to current events and other novels.

I appreciate you comments and ideas greatly.

We also did a Quick Write with this prompt as a starting point, and then segued into other areas to consider.

Our word of the day today was PANACEA, which is a noun that means a cure-all, or a big solution to try to fix everything. An example of the word in a line is this: The politician presented a plan for trying to fix the system, but many people thought it was only a weak panacea.

Our word from last Friday was RESILIENCE, which means the ability to face great challenges and obstacles yet keep moving foward. We read the amazing picture book SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klasses to talk about the opposite of resilience, and we watched scenes from Class Dismissed, a documentary about Malala and her family in Pakistan to show authentic resilience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hidden Disobedience

Our novel, The Breadwinner, is getting intense. In chapter 6, we see the courageous (and dangerous) thing Parvana is asked to do by Mrs. Weera and her mother. Even though Parvana will be breaking the laws of the Taliban if she goes ahead with their plan, she will be accomplishing a greater good for her family.

This act of disobeying an unjust law is called CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. In American history, many brave people have participated in civil disobedience, including Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks.

As you watch Parvana begin her disobedience--which we might actually call hidden disobedience, since her goal is actually for NO ONE to find out except her family--do you think it will make a difference?

And furthermore: do you think acts of civil or hidden disobedience can change the world? For example, when people disobey unjust laws, do you think that changes actual society and laws? Why or why not? Share your ideas below!

(And our word of the day today is IRK, which means to annoy, as in this example: It irks many people when loud trumpet blasts are blown into their ears as they are trying to eat dinner.)

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Day of Fours!

Today, we experienced an awful lot of fours. I only wish we had four massive cakes that we could have eaten while we explored so many fours...for instance...

First we shared aloud our own Chapter 4 from The Breadwinner, in which you each chose a character from whose perspective to write what YOU thought was going to happen in Chapter 4 of the novel.

Then, we read the real Chapter 4 aloud, to see how close we came in our guesses and own own fictional narratives.

We read and shared and guessed in groups of--yup: four.

And Chapter 4 from our novel begins on page 44.

(And one last, inconsequential note: my favorite number is actually four. It's a beautiful number--not too much, not too little, but just about right. I think if I could choose any number of any things, I would choose 4. Unless, of course, you asked me to choose how many dog bites I would like to receive, in which case, I would definitely choose ZERO.)

For tonight, be sure to study for our vocab quiz tomorrow. To help you study, use the notes and examples below along with your own notes:

1. EMBARK -- to begin (as in a quest or journey). Example: Though the sky loom heavy, we will embark upon our quest to find an ice cream stand that is open. 

2. OBFUSCATE -- to confuse, or to hide / hinder. Example: When the laughing bear pointed towards the waterfall, he only obfuscated the real direction of the treasure, which was on the grassy plain.

3. ASTUTE -- clever, perspicacious, observant. Example: As the student shared her ideas about the novel, many others students took notes, because they could see she was being astute in her insights.

4. NEFARIOUS -- evil; wicked. Example: The family arrived back home to find all of their belongings stole. "Those nefarious robbers!" roared the mother.

5. TACITURN -- silent; habitually quiet. Example: Even though most of the class hooted with reckless joy at the mention of no homework, one boy remained taciturn. 

And our word of the day today was SERENDIPITY, which means unexpected awesome luck.

I appreciate your insights into The Breadwinner, and I am looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow!


Mr. R