jeudi 30 mai 2013

The Year In Review

For those of you who would like a reference point for this project, I have included a link to the document that lists the requirements. Click on the attachment below. Remember also, that this is a guide and that you can be as creative as you would like to be with these. The goal is to show me how far you've come with your writing and that you understand and can produce the various genres that we have learned about this year.

Have fun!

Year In Review Outline

vendredi 24 mai 2013

Parallel Stanzas

Parallel stanzas are poems that look at things from more than one angle. It can be a he said / she said type of thing or a then and now example. There are also poems that give an if - then example. I have included a few samples below. I am anxious to see what kinds of comparisons you will make in your own parallel stanza poems.

I Once Knew a Girl

I once knew a girl who

ran through the fields barefoot,

played tag on weekends,
and woke with the sun at six.
She loved school
and never brushed her hair.
She slept with Teddy
and went to bed with the night light on.


she paints her toenails green,
reads upstairs on weekends, 
and dozes till eleven.
She finds school a bore
and spends hours in the bathroom.
Teddy is under her bed, 
and she sleeps in darkness.

That girl is gone.

(Nora Bradford from Nancie Atwell's Naming the World)


I remember last year - 
that whole week I was in a bad mood.
The only words I said were yes and no.
I believed the world was against me.
You offered to buy me
a chocolate milk and a whoopie pie.
But since I was supposed to hate you,
I said no - 
or maybe I didn't even answer.
Either way,
while I sulked in the van
listening to the music you hate, 
you stood in the checkout
and spent $2.49 on snacks
I didn't want.
I know you did it because you love me,
and I knew you wouldn't like it
if I didn't eat them,
but I only took one sip.

And I remember last Tuesday - 
this whole month I was in a good mood.
All I wanted to do was talk,
and I thought the world believed in me.
You offered to buy me a treat,
and since it's so easy to love you,
I said yes.
You wanted to stay in the car
and listen to the news I hate, 
but I convinced you to come in.
You spent $1.40 on the whoopie pie 
I wanted.
I know you did it because you love me,
and I knew you would like it 
if I ate it,
so I gave you one bite
and devoured the rest.

(Nora Bradford - from Nancie Atwell's Naming the World)


I'm playing at a concert
A record company offers me a contract
I accept
Begin living life
As a rock star
I make millions
Own a mansion
The world loves me
I love life
I love my job
I get introduced to drugs
My life drains from me
I put the gun to my head
Pull the trigger
And die

I'm playing at a rock concert
A record company offers me a contract
I decline
Decide to live a normal life
As a business man
I pay the bills
Own an apartment
I have a wife and two kids
I love my family
I enjoy life
I have grandkids
I'm a great father
I've had a great life
My family comforts me around my bed
As I die

(Travis Arnal)

jeudi 23 mai 2013

The # of Ways Poems

In this form of poetry, you are to take an ordinary object and display it in one of the many ways people can see the object. In Wallace Stevens' version of this form poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, he uses the blackbird to make the reader reflect on the various things around us that may be understood by observing the simple things that we come across on a daily basis. I will hand out copies of this poem for you to unpack on your own.

Below, I have included a few examples of poems that were modelled after this one. Notice how many of the forms and styles are copied, but the idea in each is unique to the object or message chosen by the writer. Have fun with this one. It is unique and creative in so many ways.

Nine Ways to Look at a Hammer

Among a thousand items on the hardware store shelves,
the only one purchased
was the hammer.

A hammer and a nail
aren't much ;
a hammer, a nail, and some wood - 
well, they're a house.

The bang of the hammer
createth carpentry,
and whnith the threshold is completeth,
thou resteth upon thy hammer.

Rome wasn't built in a day,
especially without a hammer.

When the house was complete,
the hammer clanked
to the bottom
of one of the many tool boxes.

I don't know which to prefer,
the sound of hammer against nail
or the silence when the job is done.

The nail's in the wood.
It must be hammer time.

Noah didn't make the ark himself, you know.
The hammer helped out, too.

It was evening all afternoon.
The nail gun nailed and it was going to nail.
The hammer lay untouched in the tool shed.

(Michael Stoltz - from Nancie Atwell's Naming the World)

Eleven Ways of Looking at Paper

Among the desks,
the notebooks and pens,
the white lined paper held authority.

The dishes must be put away,
the room cleaned.
The paper lay untouched,
the assignment stalled.

The paper staggered in the midst of chaos.
It fell with Macbeth into the rubbish bin.
The writer surrendered.

A creative mind and ink
are two.
A creative mind, ink, and paper
are one.

I am torn:
the new book in hand
or the old one on the shelf?
The passion of writing on paper
or the crisp satisfaction of the computer?

The girl ripped the floral paper out of her diary.
Her thoughts screamed at the sound
of heart-filled entries severed.
Her foolish crush would be remembered

Exodus 34:28
Moses was upon the mountain with the Lord
for forty days and forty nights.
In all that time he neither ate nor drank.
God wrote the terms of the covenant
-The Ten Comandments-
on stone tablets.
Not paper.

If I were smashed into pulp,
rolled paper thin,
would all my imperfections show,
or would I have lines instead?

The unsubstantial thought
sank on a paper airplane
down to the coffin below.

She clutched the invitation
written on scented paper.
Her glass shoes winked
in the moonlight.

A ball of paper meets a trashcan;
an aged tree must be falling.

(James Morrill from Nancie Atwell's Naming the World)

7 Ways of Looking at an Orange

amidst the other fruits
piled high in the light blue bowl,
a small orange lay

a cut up apple and banana 
aren't much;
a cut up apple, banana and orange - 
well, they're a fruit salad

boy selects the biggest orange
boy struggles with orange
boy gets squirt in the eye by orange
orange lay triumphant on the counter

a rainbow isn't just red and blue
there's also orange

a man feared of wasting paper
therefore he took a straw
and stabbed the orange
creating a refreshing beverage
no need for a box

the rough orange peel
protecting the delicate, soft fruit
within - defending against
sharp fingernails and jagged knives
from whatever else may come from the unknown

It was evening all afternoon
it was raining and it was going to rain
as the orange peel
lay lifeless in the compost

(Halie Zorn)

mercredi 22 mai 2013


Odes are traditionally poems written in praise of someone or something that inspires the poet. They describe how the person or object brings joy, comfort or inspiration to the life of the writer. Often, they are exaggerated and over the top, sometimes even humourous. Be as creative as you choose to be with this form as it shares what really matters most to you.

I have included some samples below to give you some ideas.

Ode to Purple

Your colour ever so delightfully gorgeous.
The perfection of the rainbow.
Blue, red colours
mixed with excellence,
to create the colour known for royalty,
elegance and

You have the power to make a goddess
with your luxurious nature,
gifted to lose people with your mysteriousness...

I could say it all day.
Gaze at it all day.
Compared to you,
all the other colours don't even come
close to your marvelous beauty.

A combination of the warmest and coolest colours,
creating something magical and astonishing.
You're warm,
and cold.
Something mellow,
Like me!

(Britney Schwab)

Ode to Music

The golden cure
To emotions
Lifting one's soul
To what could be called
Pushing the demons of life
And modern chaos aside
Forgetting the definition
Of frown
And discovering the truth
Of joy
Music is
Stairway to heaven
Stairway to heaven

(Travis Arnal)

Ode to the Sun

A blazing sphere
of orange
amidst the blue of sky;
Nothing is better 
than basking 
in its glory
on a hot summer day,
a tall glass
of cool iced tea
at my side.

(Chad Marchand)

dimanche 19 mai 2013

Form Poetry - Tritina

Tritina is a form that depends on three and repetition.

The three lines in each of the first three stanzas end in one of three words, repeated in the order below. The last stanza (or envoy) is one line that contains all three words.

Stanza 1: A
Stanza 2: C
Stanza 3: B
Stanza 4 (Envoy): one line in which all three words appear.

See the example below.

Iron Maiden Concert

The arena snaps as the band
Emerges onto the stage, music 
Flooding the giant room, fans

Going crazy, fans
High on God-knows-what, reaching for the band
As they unleash legendary music.

Listening to my favourite music
With my friends; as 3 of the 12 500 fans
Amazed that about 100 feet from me stood my favourite band.

I'll never forget how the music blazed, the band rocked, and my friends and I, along with all the other fans, had the time of our lives.

(Travis Arnal) 

samedi 18 mai 2013

Form Poetry - Haiku

Try writing one about something
you observe around you
In a traditional haiku, the rules were more specific. The theme was always one of nature and the syllable pattern was predetermined. The first line had 5 syllables, the second had 7 and the third had 5.

In a more modern haiku, the three line guide holds true, but the theme and syllable requirements are much more lax. See some of the samples below, submitted by students in past years.


falling, drowning me
in sorrow
Eyes leak...

(Britney Schwab)


Beckons me from its perch
six steel strings and slender wood
longing for human touch.

(Chad Marchand)

A frog 

Croaks its complaint
to the peace of night
under a cold starry night sky

(Travis Arnal)

I'm anxious to see what you come up with.

vendredi 17 mai 2013

A Guide For Your Response to the Year

This is by far my favourite piece to read from the Year In Review. It gives me some insight about the things that have mattered to you throughout the year. As we discussed, it can include anything that you experienced, heard about, saw, or thought about this year. Remember also that you are in a stage in your life where many thing are changing (or are about to change). Even your thoughts will go through a change as you begin to see the world through the eyes of an adult.

Some students organize this response with subtitles. They talk about different things that have happened this year and they give each a little title. Others write the whole thing in one document (divided into paragraphs of course). Some incorporate lists in their response as they organize the new things they have learned and come to believe through the course of the year.

Common topics include:

     - Classes or the school: What were your favourites? Your least favourites? Being in a high school was new for most of you.

     - Friends: Some of your friends have been there forever, and some are new to you this year.

     - Changes in friends: As you change, sometimes your friends do too. You may find that you are discovering common ground with new people and your inner circle has reduced or expanded (depending on your case).

     - Family: What has the year been like for you at home?

     - Sports: In and out of school.

     - Music: In and out of school.

     - Travel: You may have had the opportunity to go on one (or several) trip(s) this year. This may be something worth responding to.

     - Technology: You may have appreciated (or not) the way technology was used at school this year. You may also have other interests in technology you would like to talk about.

     - The future: Has this year impacted the way you see your future? Are you more afraid? Are you comforted knowing that you have a better idea of what the adult world is all about?

     - People: Are there people who have come into (or remain in) your life that help you to grow as you approach independence?

     - How do you feel about starting grade 8 next year? Remember that it will be the last of your elementary school years. After that, high school, Baby! Are you ready? Has this year helped you to feel ready? Or do you feel you have a long way to go yet? If so, what made you realize this? Are you ready to do the work you need to do in order to get there?

     - Other: There are a number of other things you may have experienced this year. FTJ, school outings such as baseball, movies (at USB), and even the grade 7 camp. What did you like or appreciate about them?

Writing an Interesting List

Lists are fun and easy to write but there is a big difference between a grocery list and a list that shines a little insight into the person you are, the things you believe and what really matters to you. When you are writing a list as a literary genre, it is important to keep your audience in mind. You are informing your reader about something that they may or may not know about. If the reader does not know you or knows very little about you, they will need enough information from your list to understand the importance of your category.

Blurbs are an excellent way of making an otherwise boring list into something of a worthwhile read. For example: You are writing a list of your favourite colours. No offense, but most people don't really care what colours you like. If you add a reason or a description, however, then it can become a much more creative bit of reading.

My Favourite Colours


This list can be made much more interesting with a bit of decription... in fact, even the title is more interesting...

The Colours that Inspire Me 

Red - It is bold and it stands out and demands to be noticed. What's not to love?

Yellow - The golden rays seep through my window and wake me by tickling my nose in the morning.

White - It is the colour of the handkerchief that my grandmother crocheted for me before she passed.

Green - My constant reminder that we are constantly in a state of growth.

Now this list may not be interesting to everyone, but there is a certain poetic quality that gives it more value than a list of random colours for no apparent reason.

The other interesting thing about lists is that they can have such an assortment of topics. You can make a list about absolutely anything that interests you. Some examples I have seen in my students' work in the past (but this is still a limited list - feel free to create your own) is included below:

The Top Ten Superpowers I Would Most Like to Have

The Dozen People I Would Love to Have Over for Dinner (Remember that a creative list does not limit you to people you already know. Imagine having dinner with Hitler so you could finally ask him what the heck he could possibly have been thinking to do what he did...)

The Five People I Would Like to Be For One Day (Your choices say a lot about you. I have seen rich and famous people on this list, but I have also seen a homeless person. Imagine what that might be like.)

The Eight Best TV Series of All Time

A Bucket List

Finally, remember that anyone can make a list, but when you add a personal touch to it, it becomes yours and yours alone. It can define you in some ways.

Writing a Letter

This year, we have talked about three types of letters. We have reviewed the personal letter, the business letter and the imaginative letter.

A personal letter is simply a letter we write to a family member or friend to communicate with them. They usually include information such a updates (here's what's going on in your life), questions (wondering what's going on in their life), and a message (such as gratefulness for something they have done or to let them know that you miss them).

     Form: date, greeting or opening salutation (Dear ___,), body (information and messages divided into paragraphs), ending or closing salutation (Love, Sincerely, With friendship, Yours truly, etc), and then a signature.

A business letter is usually used to communicate information about a company or product. They are often in praise or in complaint of something. The information included might be the experience you have had with the company or product, the problem you may have encountered (or the positive effect of the experience), the reason this is important to you, and a request for action (what you would like them to do about it (usually when it is a complaint).

     Form: date, name and address of the company, opening salutation (Dear ___, or To whom it may concern - if you do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing), the body (divided into paragraphs based on information included - see paragraph above), closing salutation, space for signature, name typed beneath the space.

An imaginative letter is one that can be as far fetched as you would like. You can write to a person who has already passed away, to yourself in the past or the future, to an imaginary person (such as a character in a book or movie), to a famous person from history you would really like to have met, or to an animal or thing who normally does not read. It is very similar to a personal letter as they tend to be of a rather personal nature.

     Form: date, you can include a name and address of the imaginary person or place for fun but it is not necessary, opening salutation, body (divided into paragraphs), closing salutation, signature.

The Lessons of Poetry

Just as a reminder and to give you a reference point in case you need one, I have summarized the lessons of poetry here.

1. The Power of I: Give your reader someone to be with.

2. Beware the participle: Avoid "ed" or "ing" endings. They weaken your verbs. This does not mean you CAN'T use them, only that you need to be sure that if you do, it does make the poem stronger.

3. Cut to the Bone: Cut all unnecessary words. Remember that a poem is elegant shorthand. And when you can't find another word to cut, then your poem is finished.

4. Line and Stanza Breaks: These can guide your reader as he or she reads your poem. They usually indicate the natural pauses that are needed when reading the poem. Rules are made to be broken, however, so if you break lines or stanzas in an original way, just be sure that you are doing it for a reason.

5. Effective and Ineffective Repetition: Sometimes repetition works well in a poem, and sometimes it just sounds redundant. Read your poem aloud or have someone read it to you so that you will "hear" what it sounds like to a reader.

6. Strong words: Look at each word you have chosen for your poem. Is it the best word you could have chosen? If not, what would be stronger. Feel free to use a thesaurus to inspire you or to suggest new words for your writing.

7. Conclude strongly: The ending of your poem is what gives the reader something to think about after they have finished reading. An echo (repeated line from earlier on in the poem) can remind the reader of an previously mentioned image that still rings true.

8. Begin inside: Starting with an image can help to set the mood for the poem. It helps the reader connect with the ideas you are presenting in the poem.

vendredi 10 mai 2013

Judgment Day

Memoir Writing is a genre that allows you to rediscover a moment from your past and come to the realization that it has stayed with you for a reason. The questions is why. In this memoir, I relive the night my sister and I disobeyed our parents and our little stunt cost me dearly. The things we put ourselves through sometimes seem much worse than they are meant to be. Please note some of the elements of story that make it effective. I am always trying to improve it so feel free to leave your comments in the doc or on the post.

Judgment Day

vendredi 29 mars 2013

Got an Issue? Here's a Tissue.

If we take the words of Austin Powers' father at face value, no one really cares about our issues. Whatever it is that is bothering you is your problem. Go cry about it alone or do something about it. I agree to a certain degree because the world is full enough of belly-achers who do nothing but complain about the state of things, but there is a difference between whining for no purpose and venting to let the facts of the issue unfold before you.

In an issue piece, you are given the chance to rant on about the issue of your choice - and let's face it, we all have them. The difference between belly-aching and venting though is that venting is the first step in processing the problem at hand. With a vent, we are essentially saying these are the conditions that apply to my issue. We need to understand what we are dealing with before we can offer possible solutions to what we feel is the required change.

Once we have done this, an issue becomes less of a complaint and more of a call to attention to something that needs to be addressed. Often, this allows us to reassess our ways and the state of things that define the world we live in. Click on the link below to read about an issue that concerns me. I hope to get feedback from some of you on this subject.

Morals? Who Needs 'Em?

vendredi 15 mars 2013

Character Description

Can you imagine being the character in a book? What would your description be like? Would you be a good guy? A bad guy? Play around with the idea of what you would appear to be to a reader and give it a try. I have attached my first attempt below. Let me know what you think...

Me - as a character

jeudi 14 mars 2013

Where the Red Fern Grows

I once knew a teacher who had a great answer for a student who asked her why on Earth she would read a book more than once. To this she answered, "Have you ever had pizza more than once?" The student told her he had, to which she replied, "But why would you eat pizza if you had already tasted it?" He had no answer.

I first read Where the Red Fern Grows in grade 5. I stayed up late, hidden under the covers with a flashlight and cried real tears as the touching events unfolded. (This does blur your vision and makes reading difficult, but it's a worthwhile cry.) It was the first time a book had had such an effect on me. I started to crave that kind of connection with my reading and my book choices became more and more discriminating. Over the years, I have found others, but it takes a great book to bring this kind of attachment to my reading out of hiding.

Every year, I share this novel with my students. I don't expect them all to react in the same way, but I do want them to learn to appreciate literature and to realize that books and writing can have that kind of an effect on you as a reader. It is the best I can do to convince them that reading is worth the investment of their time.

Click on the link below to read my responses as the book unfolds and feel free to leave some comments so that we can start a dialogue about our shared reading. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Values From a Book?

vendredi 1 mars 2013

Spoken Word Poetry - Sarah Kay

A couple years ago, a friend forwarded this video to me and I was fascinated by the flow of this girl's expression. It's one thing to write poetry, but it's another thing altogether to speak it aloud and expose a little part of yourself along with it. I hope that some of you will watch this video (at least the poem she uses to open her speech) and I would love to hear back from you if you like it.

I don't think most students are ready for this kind of thing, but if there's anyone who would like to try it, let me know and we'll see what we can do to get you an audience.

To This Day - Response

What an inspirational video. I still can't believe the silence that followed in the classroom. On a couple occasions during this spoken-word poem, the author mentions the "Sticks and Stones" riddle. It's very true what they say about the fact that it is completely wrong! It's simply not true that names won't hurt you. In fact, they continue to hurt you long after the bruises would have healed. This explains the title "To This Day" which shows how long that kind of cruelty can last.

The second reference he makes that seems ludicrous now is the statement, "Kids can be cruel". Yes they can, but I maintain that this cruelty is learned. And that saying it doesn't make it ok. What I wonder is where kids learn to be this way. In some homes, this is the norm. Parents will toughen kids up by exposing them to this kind of banter. When they get to school, they honestly don't understand how hurtful it can be to a child who may not have been exposed to this. And let's face it, it doesn't really hurt less if they have been exposed to it either.

The expression that comes to mind is the one about fighting a losing battle. I wish it would change, I would love to be a part of the solutiuon, but when I look at all the initiatives of the past, I wonder if it is possible to weed the meanness out of people who don't seem to feel anything for others. I guess, we must simply not lose hope.

lundi 25 février 2013

Writing a Review

A review can be used to promote a book, movie, special event or even a product on the market. In class, we went over some of the characteristics of writing a review. Regardless of what you are trying to convince your public to try (or to avoid as the case may be), there are a few ways you can make the review more effective.

You do not need to necessarily use all of these, just the ones you feel will be effective or that will apply to your piece. In this list, I am focusing on the book review but many of these characteristics can equally be applied to other types of reviews. Here are some of the features we came up with during our brainstorming session.

1. Be sure to include the title and author. You may choose to include the year of publication if it is relevant to your review.

2. Talk about the characters if they are the reason the book is worth promoting. Can you relate to them? What makes them special or memorable?

3. Is there something special about the way the book is written? Does the author have a special style or a voice that makes the story come alive?

4. Ask questions. Try to involve your reader to give him or her an idea of what they might think about in this book. Try to help them imagine the circumstances they will encounter in the story. Second person narrative works well with this. Talk directly to your reader.

5. Identify the target audience. Who is the book written for? Who would it appeal to?

6. Give the book a rating. What grade does it deserve? It is not necessary to do this, but it is an option.

7. Talk about the themes from the book. Are there certain themes that may appeal to the reader? Will it appeal to teenagers because of the constant battle they face with finding their identity? Or does it delve into the mysteries of the past, teaching you about history through a fictional story?

8. Your review should be two to three paragraphs. It certainly can be longer, but this is a guideline for your first attempt at a review. The first might talk about the book and the second might focus on your response to what you have read. Be sure to break your ideas into paragraphs and to have at least two of them.

If you feel I should add more ideas to this list, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will be sure to consider them. Thanks for reading. I am looking forward to seeing what you review and which new books I will add to my "Books I Want to Read" list.

vendredi 25 janvier 2013

La charité dans le monde

Il y a quelques années, j'ai essayé de m'habituer à regarder les nouvelles à tous les soirs afin de m'informer. Je sais que j'ai une responsabilité de savoir ce qui se passe dans le monde autour de moi et que les nouvelles seraient une bonne façon de le faire. J'ai durée une seule nuit. Les choses qui se passent dans le monde sont tellement déprimantes que je préfère ne pas le savoir. S'il y avait plus de choses comme l'histoire charmante de cette petite vidéo, j'aurais peu-être un peu plus d'espoir dans le futur de notre planète.

La deuxième vidéo contredit presque tout ce qu'on a vu dans la première et j'ai honte de me compter parmi les gens qui ne feraient rien. Visionnant cette vidéo et la partager autant que possible, est peut-être une bonne façon de faire réfléchir nos jeunes. Il serait intéressant de voir si les personnes qui ont vu cette vidéo réagiraient différemment si une nouvelle occasion se présenterait.

Ma réflexion de cette comparaison est dans le lien ci-dessous.Sentez-vous libres de me laisser des commentaires.

La charité dans le monde

vendredi 11 janvier 2013

Les droits universels de l'homme

Dans notre cours de sciences humaines, nous abordons le sujet des droits de l'homme. Ici, le mot "homme" signifie "humain". Il y en a trente dans la liste et certains sont un peu compliqués. J'ai hâte de voir quelles discussion naîtrons des idées que nous avons de ces droits. Si tu avais à choisir les cinq droits les plus importants, lesquels choisirais-tu? Explique le pourquoi de chacun de tes choix. Cliquez sur le lien ci-dessous pour les lire.

Droits universels de l'homme

jeudi 6 décembre 2012

The Giver - Response

Well, we are over half way through the novel The Giver by Lois Lowry and I feel so mean. I have stopped the reading for the next week and I am watching, with more than a bit of guilt I might add, as my students mope about resentful about the wait. I really am sorry, but we have to respond in the middle to consider some of the elements of a response midway through a novel as opposed to one done at the end of the book.

With this in mind, remember that your thoughts (good and bad) help to show me the meaning you are making from the text as we stop and discuss the themes we are finding as we plug away. I have attached my own response (just one of many possible ideas) so that you can get some ideas about responding to a longer story. Just click the link below to read it and to add your comments.

Don't hold back. Be creative and have some fun with this one. Remember that it will be as interesting as you make it. This novel is great for providing some controversial topics about controls in society. What would you accept? What wouldn't you? Back it up. Be specific. I'm anxious to read your thoughts and I hope you respond to mine as well.

Also, just to see who is actually following my blog from time to time, I have read a rumour (and it is a rumour because it is as of yet unconfirmed), that the Giver is being made into a movie starring Jeff Bridges!!!! Keep your fingers crossed people! We could all meet up at the theatre on opening night!

The Giver - A Model Society?