#16stubc Australia: What We THINK We Know…


Pixabay CC0

Pixabay CC0

Recently, we’ve received visitors from Mrs. Flannery’s class in Australia.  How cool is that?! We’re excited to be sharing our ideas with students in another part of the world.

Today we put together a list of what we think we know about Australia.  No iPads allowed…this is what we came up with without using the internet:

  • lots of kangaroos!
  • lots of scary, deadly animals live in Australia
  • more plains than mountain ranges
  • many tourist attractions, such as the Sydney Opera House
  • koalas!
  • rain forests!
  • Australians speak with an accent
  • famous for the Great Barrier Reef
  • emus! cassowaries!
  • great surfing!
  • had a national election in June

Mrs. Flannery’s class, how did we do?  What more can you tell us about where you live?

Despair, Distress, and Darkness


There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.

Think of the deepest, darkest place you could imagine. Good- now- make it dismal… pitiful… and… poignant. Now, think of the saddest memories you have- dying, failure… imperfection…. Now- Throw them all in a cauldron- one not even the worst witches would dare to think about- and mix them with heartbreak, hopelessness- and everlasting darkness. Now you are ready to enter his lair.

In a dark room- on a bed of stone. The sound of a violin song. Not even a cockroach would dare to inhabit the darkness of the small, cramped room. There is a man playing a violin. On the stone cot, A shadow in the pitch cloister. His name is the Phantom. His disheartening music could explain for his treacherous life. Despair, distress, and darkness. Day after night of playing the violin, on the cold and unforgiving floors.

The ceiling seems to get closer every day- as he might have said long ago, in the 20 million years or so… but he has learned to contain his thoughts, long ago. on the abysmal castle-like walls, a single torn painting linger a painting of emptiness- and pitch black strokes. The rest of the walls are empty- just like the phantom.


Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Flood G. via Compfight


The Hero’s Journey


In recent weeks, we’ve been reading some mythology, including Robert Nye’s Beowulf: A New Telling. Our discussion of the book led to discussion of stories in general and the common elements we find in so many of them. Beyond the basics of plot and setting, character and conflict, climax and resolution, we often discover the hero’s journey, a narrative pattern found both in mythology and our modern stories and made famous through the work of scholar Joseph Campbell.

We had some fun thinking about our own lives in terms of the pattern:  a call to adventure in an unknown world, challenges faced the help of mentors and opposition from enemies, an abyss of darkness to be passed through before we could emerge with greater understanding of ourselves and our abilities, and the rewards gained from our experience.

Here are some of those journeys, shared via Tackk and our Edublogs accounts:

Let’s Visit! #16stubc


Pixabay CC0

Pixabay CC0

One of the reasons we are blogging is to make connections with other student writers. Take some time to visit these classrooms from other parts of the world.  Introduce yourself as a student from Texas (remember, no last names!) and ask a question or share a thought in response to what the student you are visiting has to say.

Be sure to leave the link to your blog so that you can receive a visit in return!

Mrs. Flannery’s class in Australia

Mrs. Gordana’s class in Serbia

Mrs. Carvalho’s class in Portugal

Mr. Dahl’s class in China

Mr. Webb’s class in New Zealand

Learning from Mentor Texts


Mentors teach and inspire us.  They set examples for us to follow, and we benefit from their guidance.

The same is true of mentor texts.  These are pieces of writing that we read and analyze so that we can figure out what the writer is doing that is so effective.  What moves does the writer make to set a scene, create a mood, or sketch a character?  Once we’ve figured that out, we can try those same moves in our own writing.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

In some of our blog posts this week, you’ll notice us giving credit to Suzanne Collins and Gayle Forman for inspiring our writing.  The following passages were lifted from the first chapters of The Hunger Games and If I Stay:

     Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower.  He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he’s a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.
      Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.

                                                Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

      You wouldn’t expect the radio to work afterward. But it does.
 The car is eviscerated. The impact of a four-ton pickup truck going sixty miles an hour plowing straight into the passenger side had the force of an atom bomb. It tore off the doors, sent the front-side passenger seat through the driver’s-side window. It flipped the chassis, bouncing it across the road and ripped the engine apart as if it were no stronger than a spiderweb. It tossed wheels and hubcaps deep into the forest. It ignited bits of the gas tank, so that now tiny flames lap at the wet road.
    And there was so much noise. A symphony of grinding, a chorus of popping, an aria of exploding, and finally, the sad clapping of hard metal cutting into soft trees. Then it went quiet, except for this: Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 3, still playing. The car radio somehow still is attached to a battery and so Beethoven is broadcasting into the once-again tranquil February morning.

                                                          Gayle Forman, If I Stay

What do YOU see in these passages?  What are the writers doing to help you hear, feel, see and understand what is being described?  We’re learning to recognize and name writer’s craft, and we’re starting to apply our new understanding in our own writing.

For examples of student work inspired by the above mentors, see Carly’s blog post, William’s blog post, and Tristan’s blog post.

For an example of student work inspired by our use of Beowulf: A New Telling as a mentor text, see Erin’s blog post and Julia’s blog post.