Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Blog #9: To Kill a Mockingbird Reader's Notebook #1

 This blog post should cover the events of Chapters 1-10 in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Minimum Words: 400
Minimum Text References and Citations: 4 (Including works outside of To Kill a Mockingbird)
Due Date: Sunday, April 23 at midnight. It must be done before large group discussion.
Note: You are very welcome to include references to other works, including books, stories, videos, music, and other things.

Helpful links: Sample Reader's Notebook from CIS Literature* | Critical Lens notecards |  Reading Schedule | Reader's Notebook Instructions Spark Notes

This notebook entry is supposed to be 100% dictated by your own analysis and relationship to the text. If you can, try to do this without looking at the suggested questions below. However, for those of you who need a little push to begin this voyage, please feel free to consider the following questions or statements:

  • Try to apply a critical lens to your reading, the characters, or Harper Lee.

  • Who is the protagonist in the novel? Who is the antagonist? How does the opposition of these two characters help develop the drama and the unfolding of the tale?

  • How would this story be narrated, in the third person, from the point of view of Dill’s fabulous imagination?

  • How would Boo Radley describe Jem, Scout, and Dill?

  • What motivates the primary characters?

  • What kind of teacher is Miss Caroline, Scout’s first grade teacher?

  • Here are some pictures of America during the time frame in which the novel is set. What connections can you make to the text?

  • Take a look at some of the actual artifacts from the Jim Crow era in America. How does this affect your reading or your perceptions of the novel.

Please cite page numbers and specific passages from the novel to support your inferences and conclusions. We will be using these questions and your conclusions, questions, and insights to spark classroom discussion on Wednesday.

Example citation:
Scout says that " Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it" (Page 4). She seems to be trying to emphasize not just the age of the town, but also the slowness of the town, the values of the people, and the way that summer heat made everything drag on.

or
This isn’t the first time we see one of the Price women choosing materialism over God, despite Nathan’s harsh beatings and warnings. On page 363, Rachel reaches for her mirror instead of for her Bible, explaining “[ . . . ] it didn’t seem worth saving at that moment, so help me God. It had to be my mirror.” Whether this shows rebellion or just the simplistic mindset of a 15-year-old teenage girl, I’m not sure. Perhaps she was, in her own, small way, rebelling from Nathan. But maybe she just wanted to make sure that no matter where she went in Africa, she would always know the state of her appearance. That seems pretty likely.


* The sample reader's notebook above is done by a senior in high school with a lot of experience writing these notebooks. It is also over 600 words longer than the entry you are expected to create. No pressure.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Blog #8: Julius Caesar: Leadership, Empathy, and Good People

Due Date: Wednesday, March 8
Minimum Words: 450
Outside links required: one
Correctly cited text references required: 2

For the complete text of Julius Caesar, with both the original text and the modern translation, check out No Fear Shakespeare: Julius Caesar.

Consider the story of Julius Caesar and reference it as you respond to the text. Your response should focus on the ideas of Power and Leadership.


Make sure your writing as a clear claim near the beginning and that you introduce your topic ully. You need to give context to your audience at the start of your writing so they know what you are writing about what you may be trying to prove.


Here are a few questions if you need an idea to get you started. You can go in depth about any of these or combine them into your own questions. Don't treat this as a quiz and answer every questions.

  • What modern connections can you make between Julius Caesar and the idea of leadership today?
  • Antony, another member of that ruling class, is also one of the more sympathetic characters of the play. But is he a good ruler?
  • Does this play portray an ideal leader? Does it give any clues about what an ideal leader could be?
  • What is the difference between a good person and a good leader? Are those two things mutually exclusive in certain ways? Are there ways that good people cannot be good leaders and good leaders cannot fully be good people? What implications does this have on your views of leadership?
  • What kind of leader is Julius Caesar? The conspirators say he's a tyrant headed for absolute power. Is there evidence in the play to support this? Is Caesar really a threat to the Roman Republic? Why or why not?
  • Were the conspirators justified in removing a leader who has the potential to be a tyrant?
  • What relationship is there between leaders and those who are led (or, perhaps, followers)? What does this play suggest about the people's ability to choose leaders and the choices they make for themselves? What do the Plebeians suggest in this play?
  • What connections can you make between "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and Julius Caesar.



Here's how you cite examples and lines from the play:

You will receive extra credit points for attempting to quote a passage from the play in the correct format.

25. Verse play or poem For verse plays, give act, scene, and line numbers that can be located in any edition of the work. Use arabic numerals and separate the numbers with periods.
In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Gloucester, blinded for suspected treason, learns a profound lesson from his tragic experience: “A man may see how this world goes / with no eyes” (4.6.148-49).


Friday, February 24, 2017

Blog #7: Claim, Evidence, Warrant

Due: Friday, February 24 at midnight
Minimum words: 500
Minimum links or evidence: 3

Note: This blog entry is worth more than the traditional 25 point blog entry. You will be evaluated by more than one person, including members of the Journalism 2 class at Buffalo High School.

For the past few weeks, we've been talking about Claim, Evidence, and Warrant as a way of presenting an argument. If you're totally baffled by this, check out this helpful site that will walk you through it. Also, this page may be even more helpful with examples.

We're pretty awesome at creating arguable claims, and we're starting to get great at Evidence. Warrant is giving us a headache.

Warrant is the "So what?" It explains why your evidence is important and how your evidence connects to your claim. It makes a claim convincing.

Your task? It's easy.

Choose a topic. It could be the same as your Satire topic, something that can help you with your nonfiction project, or just something you're interested in. Then, you get to engage it with informational writing using Claim - Evidence - Warrant.

  1. Make an arguable claim that you actually believe.

  2. Provide valid evidence for your claim from authoritative sources and link to that evidence.

  3. Provide warrant.

  4. Anticipate a counter-claim and briefly argue against it, explaining how your argument is better through evidence and warrant.
I ask that you make a claim that you actually believe in or one that you actually can support. Remember that an arguable claim is one that can be debated, so go ahead and pick something that not everyone agrees with you about.

Your writing should be polished and your evidence should be sound. You should put emphasis on proofreading your entry and work toward having a clear and audience-friendly final draft.

Need help? Try it first!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Blog #6: Logical Fallacies

Due: Monday, January 9
Minimum Words: 400
Links Required: Your Fallacy Video and perhaps your presentation

For this post please embed your group's fallacy video and strongly consider embedding your Fallacy presentation. This is a great chance to turn your blog into a portfolio.

After you include your work, come to some conclusions about how Logical Fallacies relate to problem solving, debates, or influence. If you need help coming to a conclusion or getting started with your writing, please consider to following questions:

  • What has studying logical fallacies taught you about reasoning, debating, and argument.
  • Where have you encountered logical fallacies in your life? 
  • What fallacies do you find yourself using?
  • How can understanding fallacies make you a more prepared thinker or debater?
  • Why do you think logical fallacies are used?
  • How can understanding fallacies help with problem solving?
  • How can people best use debates and discussions to promote problem solving instead of creating deeper divisions? How can understanding logical fallacies relate to this?
  • Why are debates and discussions so difficult sometimes?
  • When have you seen fallacies used correctly?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Blog #5: Creating Satire

Due Date: Friday, December 16
Minimum Words: 550 - However, other formats besides writing may be used
Links: Optional, but helpful if you're going to have fun with the tone in a "real" blog.

What is the biggest rock? This  is the most important question.



Start here for an excellent video that defines what satire is and gets you a head start on how to make your own.

Here's an example of satire, outlining the tortures of Teenage Affluenza.


Jon Stewart, who is a modern master of Satire, explains about his relationship with it here.



Your assignment is to create an original piece of satire on a topic of your choice.

It can be written as an essay, an article, a poem, or a song. It could be performed as a piece of music or speech, it could be a video done alone or with partners. It could take the form of anything you please.

Feel free to label your post as Satire if you are worried about your audience forming the wrong impression about you. However, if you truly want to do this well and have your intended effect, you may want to avoid the label.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Blog #4: Happiness and the American Dream

Due: Monday, November 21
Minimum Words: 500
Minimum Quotations from works we've read in class: 3
Minimum Links to outside sources: 1

Your evidence from texts needs to be cited properly. Please refer to Purdue's Online Writing Lab for the way to do this correctly.




We all want to be happy, right? But, what happens once we get there?

Happiness is a huge topic. It's the subject of movies, books, music and countless conversations. You think about it when you pick your friends, your hobbies, and how you relate to others.

Writing this blog prompt is difficult for me, because my friends came up with over 100 important questions about happiness, and the class generated over 60.

So, here's what I'd like for you to do this week. Consider what we've done in class; the stories we've read, the conversations you've had, and the activities we've done. After that, come to a conclusion about the pursuit of happiness and share it here. 

Reference what we've done, your own thinking and experiences, and outside sources that connect to what you're thinking about.

I'll try not to ruin this one by asking too many questions.

Good luck.

 Things you can and should reference in your blog:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Blog #3: The Stranger

Due: Friday, October 7 by midnight

Your blog post this week will be based on a creative response to The Stranger by Camus. You can pick from the following options or pitch a different idea to McCallum before writing. These prompts will evolve over time, so make suggestions, corrections, etc.

Your response should be at least 400 words long.

Do not do more than one of these prompts.

1. Write an important piece of an alternate ending for The Stranger considering one of these two paths:

  • Meursault does not shoot the Arab.
  • Meursault is found not guilty of murder.
    • Note: If you think there is another pivotal moment in the book that could create an excellent alternative storyline, feel free to explore that in your writing. Some examples that were suggested were Meursault's interaction with the Magistrate, his decisions surrounding his friendship with Raymond, or his choices made about his career and love life.
  • It could be an actual passage from the “novel” or a detailed plot outline of key events.
  • Keep an absurdist slant to the resolution you create.

2. Meursault is intriguing, puzzling, and infuriating to those around him, but many people tend to give him the benefit of the doubt and even make excuses for his behavior. Write a detailed character description of Meursault from the perspective of Marie, Raymond, or The Magistrate. It could be from any point on the timeline in the novel or set after the events of the novel have taken place.


  • Your writing can include dialogue and actual events from the novel.
  • Your writing should reveal something about both the characters who are narrating and Meursault.
  • Your character is free to ask questions, speculate, make assumptions, and be wrong.
  • Try to stay “in character” during this writing.

3. Imagine Meursault attended BCMS or was a teacher at BCMS in the year 2016. Describe something unique to this place or this time from the perspective of Meursault that stays true to the style and the internal monologue of The Stranger.


  • How would an absurdist teenager or teacher react to the world around him? How would an absurdist react to technology, school, assignments, Wal-Mart, or other things?
  • Your Meursault could be male or female.
  • How would his family, bosses, girlfriend/boyfriend, and friends react to him?
  • Note: You should NOT make comparisons between Meursault and any real students or teachers at BCMS. You can, however, compare his reactions with yours.

4. Which modern heroes or villains could Meursault best be compared to? You could compare him to characters in plays, movies, comic books, video games, and other novels.

  • The Stranger is an incredibly influential work of literature and many modern directors and authors have studied it. It wouldn’t be surprising if many characters, both heroes and villains are modeled after Meursault.
  • Have any modern heroes or villains personified absurdist philosophy?
  • Back up your assertions with evidence and details.
  • Remember that your audience may be unfamiliar with the work you are referencing, so provide some sort of explanation or context for the work or characters in your writing.
    • For example, if I were compare Meursault with The Misfit from Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," I would want to make sure to explain exactly who The Misfit is and what about his character reminds me of Meursault.
    • Hey Look! Somebody did it.
Here's one interesting example of a comparison to a modern villain. Don't look at it if you don't want to be influenced.

5. Illustrate Meursault's reaction to or relationship with nature at crucial points in the novel.

  • In your blog post, Include the passage or moment you are illustrating and explain the significance of your illustration. This is the part of your blog that demonstrates the critical thinking work behind your work of art.
  • Your illustration to could show positive feelings and relationships, negative feelings and relationships, or both.
  • All the following criteria can be ignored if you have a better idea:
    • Pick a medium you'll work well with. Your options include, but are not limited to; painting, photography, drawing, online art tools, etc.
    • Your illustration does not have to be literal or realistic. You can be abstract. You should take risks.
    • Your illustration can represent feelings and emotions.
    • You could include a series of illustrations rather than a single work.