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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Blog #2: Your Life as a Reader

Due:Thursday, September 22 by the end of the day.
Word Count: 300
Required: Include a link to your autobiography or, if you are able, embed it in your post using HTML.


Over the past two weeks, you've thought a lot about your development as a reader, not just as a young adult, but also as a small child. You've considered your parents' involvement in your reading life as well as some of the most positive and negative experiences you've had with literature. Just as importantly, you've come to see something about the reading lives of the people around you - your teachers, your parents, and your peers.

Questions to Consider

You may answer any, all, or none of the following questions and prompts. Do not treat these questions as a quiz. If you're answering more than one question, focus on blending multiple prompts into a seamless response.

The best responses will bring in links to outside sources, including videos, cartoons, photographs, and articles.

  • What conclusions can you come to about yourself as a reader?

  • What role did reading or story play in your life as a young child and what affect (if any) do you think it had on your development as a reader?

  • What do your positive and negative experiences with reading have in common?

  • If you were to create a program that would encourage people to read for enjoyment and personal growth for their entire lives, what would you do?

  • Why do you think people stop reading or fall "out of love" with reading as they get older?

  • What did you learn about your classmates' reading journeys? Can you come to any tentative conclusions based on your observations?

  • What do you think you'll discover in your research on reading?

  • How can reading be social?

  • What have you noticed about books you dislike? What have you noticed about books you really like?

  • What single book or story can you attribute with the key moment in your development as a reader?
Samples of Student Work:
Remember, these examples are of work done last year and represent only one possible way of completing the assignment. This is not the only way to do it. In fact, these are products of the first time this assignment was done and your project can be different and better than these models. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Blog #1: What is Truth?

“Fiction is the lie that helps us understand the truth.”
― Tim O'Brien
Due date: Saturday, September 10.
Minimum Words: 350
Remember to cite evidence from sources outside of your own opinion. 
We know that writers, especially non-fiction writers, are supposed to be loyal to the truth. That idea seems simple at first, but as we examine the concept more fully, it becomes apparent that truth is a difficult concept to define.
Here, Ken Burns, a respected American director of documentary films, talks about the difficulty storytellers can have with the truth and how filmmakers tell 24 lies per second to bring an audience closer to the truth.

Ken Burns: On Story from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

For the first week of Quest 8 English, we're discussing and expanding on your interpretations of the meaning of Truth. We'll come up with a wide variety of possible definitions and characteristics for the concept of truth, but we were unable to come up with a broad definition that could satisfy everyone. Your first blog entry should tackle this difficult situation.
Take a look at the following questions and respond in any way you choose on your blog. Try to include the word "Truth" somewhere in your post's title. Do not answer each of these questions like they are a quiz. Pick one, none, or a combination of questions and engage with them in a way that shows your developing viewpoint on the idea of Truth.
  1. What is truth to you?
  2. What should all readers and/or writers know about the truth?
  3. What does it mean to be loyal to the truth?
  4. In what ways can a writer best find and report the truth?
  5. Can you find or link to a story/video/podcast that exemplifies the pursuit of Truth.
Your response should be thorough and personal, capturing your unique voice and perspective. Try to write at least 350 words. A true blog will contain links to outside sources or responses to the thoughts of the other blogs in the class. 
Good luck.
Due date: Saturday, September 10

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blog #12: Your Nonfiction Project

Due Date: Tuesday, June 7
Minimum Word Count: 400 words

Congratulations, friend! You did it.

You've got your nonfiction project complete and you've shared it with the class. You've put in a lot of time, effort, and energy over the past few months, and you've learned something because of it. Now, it's time to share what you've learned.

This blog has two requirements:

  1. Share your project in some way on here. 

    1. Embed your Prezi or YouTube video.

    2. Upload your podcast to SoundCloud and embed it.

    3. Share your Google Doc with the world and embed or link to it on here. Do something to make your project available to everyone.

  2. Reflect on your project.

If that is enough information for you and you want to take your own spin on this blog, then go for it!

If you still need more, then continue reading.

A good reflection will:

  • An explanation of how you accomplished what you accomplished.

    • What research did you do and what did you learn along the way about your topic as well as the research process.

    • What was your beliefs heading into the project and how did they change throughout your process?

  • What you think went well with your project.

  • What areas for improvement do you see?

    • Beyond "Start earlier", what would you do differently if you were to do this again?

  • What do you hope your audience would take from your project?

  • What are some thing you learned that you left out of your project?

  • What are some thing you're looking forward to doing with your next research project?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Blog #11: To Kill a Mockingbird Readers Notebook #2

This entry should cover the end of the book
Due Date:
 Wednesday, May 25
Minimum Words: 500 of your own words, not counting quotations.
Note: Be sure you are using a lens and continually returning to the text. Feel free to refer to class discussions.

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

For this blog, try to move beyond just the reader response lens - just your reactions to the text. Instead, try to connect your reactions to something else, make observations and predictions, comparisons and contrasts, or use a different lens to shape your entry.

The most important thing to remember is that you should constantly refer to the text. Quote passages and paraphrase scenes.

Here are some questions or ideas you can look at tho get started if you are stuck:

  • Why is the book even called "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

  • Analyze Boo Radley's role in the novel.

  • What makes Atticus the way he is. What is his role in Maycomb?

  • How do characters change throughout the novel? How do they remain the same?

  • What's the role of family in the novel? Pay attention to Ms. Alexandra.

  • Take a look at these Book Club questions if you're really stuck.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Blog #10: 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.

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.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Blog #9: Julius Caesar, leadership, and good people

Due Date: Wednesday, March 16
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).