I am surprised sometimes by the suddenness of November: beauty abruptly shed to a common nakedness— grasses deadened by hoarfrost, persistent memories of people I’ve lost.
It is left to those of us dressed in the hard barky skin of experience to insist on a decorum that rises to the greatness of a true Thanksgiving.
This is not a game, against a badly scheduled team, an uneven match on an uneven pitch.
This is Life. This is Life. This is Life.
Not politely mumbled phrases, murmured with a practiced and meticulous earnestness.
Thanksgiving was born a breech-birth, a screaming appreciation for being alive— for not being one of the many who didn’t make it— who couldn’t moil through another hardscrabble year on tubers and scarce fowl.
Thanksgiving is for being you. There are no thanks without you.
You are the power of hopeful promise; you are the balky soil turning upon itself; you are bursting forth in your experience.
You are not the person next to you— not an image or an expectation. You are the infinite and eternal you— blessed, and loved, and consoled by the utter commonness and community of our souls.
We cry and we’re held. We love and we hold.
We are the harvest of God, constantly renewed, constantly awakened, to a new Thanksgiving.
Have a great break. Thanks for all of your good work this semester. No homework until you return!
You guys are a great class. I mean that sincerely. What you do need to work on is getting your work turned in when and how I want it turned in.
By this point you should have turned in the Literary Reflections for the class periods so far this week. We can work on the next one in your next class. It is frustrating when the work is not there to be graded “when” I am doing the grading. It is frustrating when you do not comment on my blog posts as I have no idea whether you read them or not and if you have any questions.
The semester is winding down and these reflections are your final grades–an easy sixteen points in my book.
All you need to do is to write sincerely using “paragraphs;” use quotes to back up your thoughts, and spend a bit of time editing and proofreading and you turn in a pdf which looks good and reads fluidly and naturally–like your voice when you speak with me. Post it to your blog and make sure it looks just as good!
If you put in the time and effort now, you will be amply rewarded when we begin our next major essay after break.
Did you read this and get it. For your comment all you need to do is write a number between 50 and 100. Nothing else.
If you don’t, you have “failed” this test!
And you will be sad…
(These 250 words or so took me five minutes to write)
From what I have read so far, I have really loved the reflections. Hopefully, you have posted these to your blog, so every can see and read the diverse—but focused—way each of you has approached the assignment. There is one thing that many of you need to do—
A big part of this reflection writing is for you to practice paragraph writing, to learn when you are shifting to a new thought and/or direction, and to do the proofreading and editing needed to make your reflection publishable: meaning, fit for people to read.
The document you turn in to iTunes U should also look good and be publishable.
I want you to write the reflections in class. Leave fifteen minutes for editing and publishing. This will give me a good idea of what a good production rate is for each of you.
As it is, I am asking you to write a bit less than fifteen words a minute. Not a lot, but not a little either. There is not a lot of room for screwing around.
So get to work…
In my Rocky story, Rocky is amply a metaphor for you guys writing without a rubric.
Take your foot off the brakes, but keep your eyes on the road
Once, back in my days as a logger, I cut through a big white oak. I didn’t realize that the trunk was mostly rotten and hollow until my chain saw was most of the way through the monstrous tree. After the mad crush of the tree to the ground I noticed blood on my saw and on my legs. In cutting the tree down, I inadvertently massacred a whole raccoon family: a mom and seven incredibly small babies. I was pretty bummed about it all, but while moving the family out of the stump, I noticed the smallest ball of fur hobbling way on three legs.
One had survived. I picked him up and named him Rocky (after the main character in The Beatles big hit “Rocky Raccoon.” He fit into my shirt pocket with plenty of room to spare.
When I got home, I put him on the table in a cake dish filled with straw. I wasn’t even sure how to feed it. Its eyes were still closed. I heated up some milk in a pan on the stove and sucked some warm milk into an eye-dropper, and as luck would have it, Rocky slurped it up.
For the first few weeks warm milk was all Rocky could eat, but as time went on he grew into a fun little terror who would eat almost anything. He even learned to open the refrigerator door himself. He laid on his back in the mornings when I was milking my goats begging for me to squeeze the teats milk all over his face. He would steal the chickens’ eggs as if it were his birthright.
I felt like a young dad doing everything a dad needed to do. I wanted to raise a raccoon that could live in both worlds: the wild world and my world. After about six months Rocky was a pretty stout and healthy three-legged raccoon. I felt more and more confident that he could now live in both a feral and a wild world.
So I let Rocky outside on his own.
Later I saw a hawk circling overhead the hay field. I saw a coydog skulking in the tangle of brush beside the woods. I heard the awful cry of a fisher cat somewhere deep in the swamp.
Maybe I let Rocky go too soon. Maybe I should have given him a better rubric for life.
Reading Walden is no easy task, but it is an energising experience—if you meet Thoreau on his own terms. He is not interested in the casual reader, but rather a reader willing to figure out if there is something valuable to be had. He only wants his words to be read by “strong and valiant natures” who are ready for a fight, who have thought as deeply as he, and who can back up his or her convictions with passion, courage and eloquence.
Contrary to what so many people think—that Thoreau just likes to tell people how to live –(and maybe did not live that way himself) he really is simply challenging us, his readers, to look at our own lives and figure out whether or not we are “miserable failures as human beings;” whether or not we are “serfs” of the soil, or whether or not we are anything but a “machine.”
Every paragraph in my abridged version of “Economy” is chock full of bold statements, challenges, and admonitions.
What I want you to do is to rise to the challenge. Be like Thoreau and think deeply about your life and your role in shaping a better life. Respond to the introduction to “Economy” with words of your own.
You should be able to go to your “Notes” section of Walden and see a list of highlighted quotes and any annotations you would have made when reading the introduction.
Write about what you highlighted. What do you think Thoreau is trying to say in each of these passages? Do you agree or disagree with Thoreau? Answer as fully as you can.
Write at least three paragraphs. Each at least 150 words in length.
Write for at least thirty minutes: Edit for ten minutes. Post as “Thoughts on the Introduction to Walden” to your blog.
If we do not reflect about what we read, we may as well just play video games and be done with it. Reading without thinking is like pouring milk on the ground. It is simply a wasted effort.
Taken to an even higher level, we should reflect about what we read in a more formal and enduring way by writing a literary reflection.
And what the sam hill is a literary reflection?
A literary reflection, for our purposes in class, is a personal journal entry that explores a particular work or passage of literature in a thoughtful, detailed, and meaningful way. It should be honest and real; otherwise, it will be completely useless to you. The literary reflection is an offshoot of the personal reflection because it does not try and criticize and take apart a writing piece solely on its literary merits, but rather it “talks” (narrative writing from your point of view) about something you have read.
There is almost no reason to write a literary reflection about something which you didn’t like or enjoy reading (that is what a book review is for) but sometimes you have to, such as when asked by a teacher or an editor. From my point of view, you should only write literary reflections about literature that you feel is important for other people to read because you want them—your readers—to experience the same magic that you experienced. It’s like being on a whale watch boat and someone shouts out “There’s a whale,” and everyone turns to see the whale for his or herself! Your shipmates all appreciate your attentiveness, and in turn, you are pleased to point out the magnificence of the moment to them—and everyone is happy.
In almost every way, a literary reflection is written using the same techniques for writing as you would use when writing a personal narrative story. This is because your reading of a piece of literature is a unique personal experience; and, as such, it is impossible to be wrong about how you think and feel and react to a story—unless (and don’t do this) you create a fictional response to the story. However, in some ways, a literary reflection is also like a review or an analysis because you should give your readers a bit of a summary and a bit of an analysis of the story that shows you have read the literature in a deep and meaningful way.
It is also critically important that you refer directly back to the actual scenes and text about which you are writing. (Which is why you really need to have passages highlighted and annotated.) Weave quotes (smoking guns) in with your thoughts (head and hearts) and let your reader share in your exercise of discovery. Write like you are talking to a really smart and sincere friend—one who really wants to know about what you are reading and why you like it or not!
We will practice this in class, but here are some loose guidelines to follow.
Create something meaty and full: Each reflection should be 500-1500 words in length.
Work from a list of your annotations
Create new paragraphs for each new thought: Each paragraph should include topic, proof, and explanation. Some kind of broad theme/narrow theme/one-two punch; text references and text support, and some sincere “thinking” (aka head and heart).
Stay focused on the piece of literature you are writing about.
All of this is preparation for a more formal essay, for no one writes well about something which they do not know well.
And a literary reflection helps you understand what you know–kind of like a metacognition.
Literary Reflection #1: Books I-VII
Read Book VIII
Comment on Five Below
Literary Reflection #2: Book VIII
Read Book IX
Comment on Five Above
Literary Reflection #3: Book IX
Read Book X
Comment on other guys.. By this point, you should have commented on every classmate this week
Ways to start a literary reflection paragraph:
Probably the most memorable scene from the book was…
(Theme) is a theme that seems to be every where in The Odyssey so far….
When I finished reading it made me think about…
Book (?) was so confusing. To understand it I had to…
(Character?) is so inspiring to me because…
To appreciate this book a reader has to…
I can relate to this (scene?) because it reminds me of my own life when…
The lesson from (Book ?) is…
Pallas Athena is to Odysseus what (?) is to (?)
If I were in Telemachus’s shoes I would have….
If you want to appreciate The Odyssey, you need to…
The biggest lesson from The Odyssey, for me at least is…
Leave a comment with your own way of starting a paragraph!
This is the time of year that many of you are involved in the stressful process of applying to secondary schools. For each of you who are applying out, I write a detailed and thorough recommendation that highlights your strengths and notes any challenges you might have. I ALWAYS put the best possible thoughts front and center on the recommendation. I am, however, as honest as I should and need to be.
“Some” schools (not all) ask for a graded writing sample as a way of “seeing” how my recommendation syncs with the reality of what you write. The only issue we need to deal with is getting you a hard copy of a writing piece to submit with your application–and our way of submitting and grading online on your blog and/or with audio comments and gradebook comments does not allow you to simply send them a file or a link.
To get around this, you should simply choose what you feel is the best writing piece to send to a specific school, create a hard copy, and I will grade and assess the writing piece and return it to you.
We will be writing a five paragraph literary analysis essay based on our reading and study of The Odyssey (and for the ninth grade, our study of Walden) so far, which is usually a good one to send. We will be starting that essay this week and completing it during the week after Thanksgiving break.
You also have a bunch of really good “Fitz-Style” blog posts (all of which are written in essay form). You have several narrative paragraphs that can easily be converted to essay style; moreover, many of you have some awesome poetry you could include in your options.
The main point is that you have a wide range of literature you have created to choose from–any one of which you could spiff up a bit and submit to me.
The best thing–and I say this from years of experience–is to make sure your Weebly portfolio is as impressive as you can make it be, include a link to your blog and portfolio in your application, and to talk about your writing experience in your interviews. You have a lot to be proud of, so don’t be afraid to “show off” and be proud!
I’ll be happy to meet with any of you who want or need more advice on what to choose.
I hope this clarifies things a bit, and I hope you are having a good weekend.
I have had a go0d read so far reading your haiku. I have a couple of thoughts…
I never quite know how to teach how to use specific imagery. When I say “specific” maybe I mean “real.” because every reader–wants to “see” what you are seeing in a real way.
avoid anything generic that might mean something totally different depending on who and where you are. The ocean is different all of the world. There are a million types of flowers, so give your flower the name: rose, tulip, dandelion. What is in the field? What bug is it? The art of the haiku is in creating an image and then creating a mood, a meaning, or an insight.
Emotions are tricky to write: joy and sadness, pain, sorrow don’t mean much on their own. Use specific imagery to create the sense of joy, sadness–or whatever emotion you are trying to capture in your haiku.
Get rid of ALL unneeded words!
Here is Basho trying to capture “persistence”
Autumn moonlight– a worm digs silently into the chestnut.
Finish up your essay and be prepared to turn it in tomorrow in class. Post to your blog as well. Have someone you trust proofread it for you. Due Tuesday
Complete a journal entry about our trip to Emerson Umbrella. See Colin’s entry for an idea how to do it. Post to your blog. Due Thursday
Read and annotate “The Experiment” in “Fitz’s Abbreviated Walden.” Highlight the sentence in each paragraph that “you” feel conveys the main point or theme of the paragraph and reword it in your own way. Be prepared to discuss this section in a Harkness discussion. Due Tuesday
Read and Annotate the first two chapters in Walden, “Introduction” and “Necessities.” Due Thursday
Write three daily blogs and post to your journal that try to capture the details of the day, and, most importantly the major “theme” of your day. Complete last entry by Sunday evening.
Finish up your essay and be prepared to turn it in tomorrow in class. Post to your blog as well. Have someone you trust proofread it for you.
Complete a journal entry about our trip to Emerson Umbrella. See Colin’s entry for an idea how to do it. Post to your blog.
Read and annotate “The Experiment” in “Fitz’s Abbreviated Walden.” Highlight the sentence in each paragraph that “you” feel conveys the main point or theme of the paragraph and reword it in your own way. Be prepared to discuss this section in a Harkness discussion.
Just a short post. I just went through one sections blogs, and I am simply blown away by the great writing that runs the gamut of profound poetry, fun videos, and well crafted prose.
This is what makes teaching so worthwhile. I am incredibly proud and happy for all of you. If you haven’t read all of the blogs, it is simply good reading, not a chore or an assignment–but real and powerful literature worth reading–and re-reading.