Banned Books Week

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Banned books display

 

What do Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and Harriet the Spy have in common?

All three have been banned at one time or another.  School districts received complaints that Charlotte’s Web had talking animals (a sure sign of witchcraft!), that Harry Potter promoted dark arts, and that Harriet talked back to adults and was therefore a poor example for young people.

Other banned children’s books include The Giving Tree and The Lorax (both considered a threat to the foresting industry), Bridge to Terabithia and Alice in Wonderland (both involving overly elaborate fantasy worlds) and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (too depressing).

School boards were successful in removing these titles from some libraries; however, many of those decisions to ban the books were successfully challenged and overturned.

Curious about more titles?  Check out this list of banned classics.  How many are you familiar with?  Several of these are studied today in Eanes ISD schools.  This year, we’ll read the sometimes-controversial book The Giver.

For more about Banned Books week, visit our West Ridge Middle School library display.

 

Image Credit: covs97 via Compfight

 

A Question About Compassion

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In Phantom of the Opera,  Christine’s compassion for the Phantom leads to transformation:  the Phantom’s heart softens and he lets Raoul and Christine go free, he himself is set free from his bitterness and hatred, and he escapes the mob after physically transforming himself to elude capture.

Think about other stories you have read or seen in which a character  shows compassion for another.  How did that compassionate act change a character or move the story in a new direction?  Name the story or character and share your observations.

Another way to think about the question is to turn it around:  can you think about a story in which the withholding of compassion has turned a character or a story in a different direction from what it might have otherwise gone?

Can these questions apply to nonfiction as well as to fiction?  You may answer with a nonfiction example if you prefer.

Write a comment in order to respond to the question, or respond by elaborating on another student’s comment.

 

Image credit: Phantom of the Opera. Digital image. The Phantom of the Opera Official Website. Cameron Mackintosh, Ltd., 2008. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Welcome, 2016!

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A new year has begun.

What will we do with it?  How will we grow?

The answers to those questions as they pertain to English class are partly determined by the Texas TEKS, but also by teacher and student choice.  We as individuals can decide a lot about how we want to stretch ourselves and develop our abilities as writers and readers.

What do we want to know more about?  Let’s explore!  We each have the tools:  curiosity, ability, resources…and time.  That’s the key, isn’t it?  We have to make the time to learn what we want to learn, to do what we want to do.

Here a few places to visit to get started on some individual inquiry:

What are some of your favorite resources for learning?  Leave us a link in the comments!

 Image credit: Pixabay CC0

 

The Journey Begins with a Call to Adventure

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During our discussion of Beowulf:  A New Telling, we also talked about characters from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. In those stories, Luke, Frodo, and Harry each receives a call to adventure: a summons to leave the world he has known and to embark on a journey.

Last year, students came up with a longer list of people who have received such a call:

  • The Avengers are called to adventure by Nick Fury
  • Ender Wiggin is called to adventure when he is accepted to Battle School
  • Katniss is called to adventure when her sister’s name is drawn in the reaping
  • Amy Pond is called to adventure when she discovers the crack in her bedroom wall
  • One Direction is called to adventure by Simon Cowell
  • Superman is called to adventure by his father
  • Peter Parker is called to his life as Spider Man when his uncle is killed
  • Eragon is called to adventure when he finds a dragon egg
  • Percy Jackson is called to adventure when he discovers he is a demigod
  • Tris is called to save the factions from the Uprising
  • Tony Stark is called to adventure when his father dies, leaving him a legacy to fulfill
  • Stuart Little is called to adventure when the husband drops the wife’s wedding ring down the drain
  • Brian Robison is called to survive in the forest after the plane crash

Here in Dan Priest’s video are more scenes from more stories that develop around a character called to adventure.

Can you think of your own list of examples from fiction?

How about from reality? Can you think of people called to their life’s accomplishment by circumstance or inner voice?

In what way have YOU been called to adventure?

Give an example in the comments.

Independent Reading: What Did You Think?

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We’re about to complete our reading logs for the last nine weeks, and this class blog is the perfect place for sharing our thoughts about the books we’ve read.

Choose one of the two prompts below and respond to it as a “comment” to this blog post. I’ve made the first two comments myself as examples. Notice that the first thing we’ve got to do in the comment is IDENTIFY THE BOOK WE’RE TALKING ABOUT! Since we can’t use italics, underlining, or bold text in a comment, we’ll have to set titles apart from the rest of the comment by capitalizing correctly and using quotation marks. Comments should be about five sentences long.

1. One of the overarching themes for this year’s study in seventh grade English is the idea of the Call to Adventure: the idea that a person’s journey begins when some person or some event sets a character on a path of discovery.

In the case of Helen Keller, that call came from Anne Sullivan, who called Helen on a journey to discover language and all of the ways that it could enrich her life. In many stories, a character is called to adventure by a mentor or by circumstances that lead the character to his or her challenging journey. This journey might be an actual journey to new people and places, or it might be a figurative journey to self-discovery and the realization of some important truth.  How were Scrooge, Max, and Christine called to adventure?  How about Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, or Harry Potter?

In one of the books you chose to read, did a character receive a call to adventure? Was he or she guided by a mentor who set an example or taught valuable lessons? Elaborate and give an example.

2. One of the reasons we teachers assign independent reading is so that you discover authors whose work you enjoy. This is important because the more you read, the better your reading and your writing will become.

Which of the books on your independent reading list did you enjoy reading the most? What was it about that book that kept you reading? Was it something about the plot (the action in the story that made you want to find out what was going to happen next), the characters (who they were, how they interacted, what they thought and felt), or the style of writing (the way the author put together sentences, chapters, descriptions, dialog, etc)?

Be specific in your answer without giving away any spoilers!

Image credit:  Pixabay and BeFunky

Author! Author!

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We’ve been talking about what we like in the books we are reading.  What does the author do to make the book good?  What choices has he or she made that are really effective in making us want to read more?

Here are some of the thoughts shared by students:

 

Mikaela on Caragh M. O’Brien (The Vault of Dreamers):
“I like how the author makes you ask questions.  It makes you want to finish the book before it eats you alive!  And she makes you review the questions later to see if you were thinking logically.”

Reda on Heather Anastasiu (Glitch):
She knows how to end a chapter with a cliffhanger.  With other authors, they seem to make me angry and aggravate me to the point where I want to stop reading, but this author makes it so that I need to know what’s on the other side of that page.”

Tori on Dawn Metcalfe (Luminous): 
“This author has created a story that is unique to all others.  It doesn’t have a very generic plotline, such as one with an obvious antagonist.  This, I think, is an important part of a good story because it creates that tension.  My book keeps taking sharp turns that make the ending harder and harder to guess.”

Niko on J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets):
“Unlike most authors, she expands her universe and keeps a good story at the same time!”

 

 

Layna on Kelly Bingham (Shark Girl):
“I like how the author writes the book in letter form.  I feel like books that are made up of letters are unique because it is a whole different style of writing.  Letters are shorter so there are more stopping points, while in other books there are chapters that are 20 pages long and you sometimes have to stop in a middle of a chapter!”

Madeleine J on Agatha Christie (The Hollow):
“I love this author’s work because she knows how people think and you never can guess who the murderer is.  I also love her work because there is so much of it, and she always gives an extensive background on the people involved.”

 

David S on Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl:  The Last Guardian):
“I like Colfer’s work because he always has a riveting and suspenseful plot.  He never fails to merge suspense and humor, so I always find myself smiling or on the edge of my seat.”

Mia on Suzanne Collins (Mockingjay):
“I like that the author elaborates and is very descriptive.  She is very specific about the words she chooses to use in her sentences.  She uses very big words that have even bigger meanings, along with some I have never heard before.”


 

Book Cover Images: Scholastic Reading Club Online. Scholastic, Inc., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.

Making Connections

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“Holler, RT put yer hands up if you dig nerdy pursuits i.e. comics, Dr. Who, Star Wars, cosplay, and mixing with learning…#nerdyedu”

I smiled as I responded to this tweet from Maine high school teachers Dan Ryder and Jeff Bailey, and I attached a collage of images from our classroom walls: several movie and television show posters, all of them representing popular shows with large fandoms.  You’ll find Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Doctor Who and a few more.

Why?

Why not more posters about steps in the writing process? about grammar, capitalization, and punctuation?  about vocabulary and reading?

Because together we will be creating wall charts to show our learning of the “school” stuff.  Because those charts will make more sense if we develop them in class, as we are practicing the work of reading and writing.

Because just like the ELA charts,  the movie and television posters help us make connections around our reading and writing!

Let’s take a look at the “big questions” that organize our Holt McDougal literature textbook:

  • What is courage?
  • Is life always fair?
  • Where is home?
  • Can we achieve the impossible?
  • Who sees the best in you?
  • What makes you brave?
  • What stands in the way of your dreams?
  • Who deserves a second chance?
  • What has the power to heal?
  • Where do people find hope?
  • What is honor?
  • Why do we need memorials?
  • What is our duty to others?
  • How can we change what’s wrong?

and more.

Stories explore all of these questions, and some of our most powerful stories have been told or retold via television and film.  Frodo lives up to the faith that Gandalf has in him and finds the courage to battle great evil. Luke discovers his true identity but decides for himself who he will really be.  Harry realizes the terrible truth of his life but finds the strength to overcome it.  The Doctor is burdened with deep sorrow but spends his life helping others.  Belle believes the Beast deserves a second chance, and Simba uses his to change what is wrong.  The Phantom finds that love has the power to heal–and the power to free.

BeFunky_class posters.jpg

The posters aren’t up because they represent stories we will study (we won’t even be watching the movies).  They are up to make us think, to help us make connections between the stories we are studying and the stories we each are living.

How do the “big questions” above connect to books, movies, and shows you love?  How do the questions relate to you and your life?