Thursday, October 18, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird Prompt

Going through the experience of writing a prompt was difficult for me. I found it difficult to keep a balance between structuring my prompt and giving them a prompt where they can construct their own ideas and opinions on the novel. For me it is important to give your students a pathway without letting them dismiss their own creativity as long as it fits into the given prompt.

Creating a rubric was extremely difficult because I was unsure of where to begin. I have never had any experience in making or analyzing one so I had to do my own research and still, I think it could have been more detailed.

My prompt was created by Shirley I which I had to come up with the pros and cons as to how a certain literary lens can affect a person's interpretation of a reading. All though I think it was a good prompt, I think it lacked a bit more detail and structure. As a student myself, I usually have trouble knowing where to begin with my essays and I had the same issue with my response to her prompt.

Regardless, I think To Kill a Mockingbird was a great novel and the activity Lisa had us do in class was a good way to wrap up that piece of literature by making it a more eye opening experience and inviting us to share our insights on the characters and helping one another see through different perspectives that we might not have picked up on prior to the activity.

I definitely agree that this novel will be taught by most teachers in the future and fortunately there are endless activities that can be linked to this novel, including the prompt to keep our students academically stimulated.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Catcher in The Rye: To Read or Not to Read and the War On Neverending Cencorship

J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger  is one of my favorite books. I read it in high school and I enjoy it now just as much as I did back then. The story revolves around Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old rebellious outcast. The novel brings me back to those angst ridden emotions of the teenage years, and in my opinion makes Holden one of the most relatable protagonists in literature. The only argument concerned parents may have is that the novel uses an immense amount of profanity, and is sad underneath its cynical and sarcastic humor. Despite that, throughout the novel you get a sneak peek into the lingering consequences that death and trauma have on a teen, helping the reader to understand his somewhat of irrational actions. The novel also exposes the reality that social class and wealth does not create happiness but rather the loneliness and sense of being a social outcast it may bring.

Holden is significant to teens everywhere as we read about his struggle to fit in while remaining an individual among all the “phonies.” I think this is a book that will have all the students in class coming together to enjoy and relate to due to the narrator’s ability of being a spokesman for teens, even after so many generations. Even today it sparks my interest to reminisce the agony of adolescence. Although the book was published sixty years ago, adolescent alienation is something every future generation will never grow out of.

Reading the novel I can't help but notice the connection to power and wealth. The story revolves around a rich teen who goes from one expensive boarding school to another expensive boarding school and running a muck the city being a "spendthrift". Regardless of his wealth (or his parents), Holden is always unhappy and on the lookout for his identity. This is all just a reminder to me that money can't buy happiness, no matter how hard you try. 

Maybe it has to do with his gender, but as a male he is taught to hold in his feelings or face the consequence of being shunned by society. Unfortunately, this only adds to Holden's deteriorating emotional state throughout the novel.

This is a definite must read for our students, and something we should never hold back from teaching so the fact that there are people fighting to keep this story out of our classrooms is immensely disappointing.

We (are supposed to) live in a society that praises our right to freedom of speech and the freedom of press, but as teachers we are experiencing differently. We became teachers because we had a passion for writing and a love for reading. Yet in our classrooms today we are being used as political puppets to prove a point, and are being forbidden to teach outside our prearranged boxes and of letting our students think beyond the classroom.

How can we be told what and how our students read? Isn’t it the decision of the teacher how our students learn and how we prepare them for the future? Apparently not. Unfortunately, many of us are scared to challenge these committees and these parents who threaten and offensively question our ability to teach. We can’t even express our opinions on how absurd this censorship is because our careers are on the line, and who are we without these live changing careers?

Realistically, we are fighting against groups of biases: the political, the religious, the uneducated, the old fashioned and worst of all: the ignorant and unwilling to understand. How can we be told we can’t teach a classic novel because it may or may not suggest homosexuality, because the book uses words that make a group of people uncomfortable, or because the book expresses an emotion that we are often told to repress? These novels are the ones that inspired and motivated us to be the leaders of society today. These books deal with the real and often common issues our teens are experiencing and living through today; rape, death, relationships, abuse, gangs etc. We can’t shun them from the obstacles of life just because we want to protect them. We are only hurting them by doing so.

Our students look up to us for guidance, they look up to us to hear the truth, and they look up to us to prepare them for the real world. How can we do any of that when the real world is being censored? The issues that these books cover are real; they are raw and they need to be explored. We as teachers need to stand together and win this war over censorship. We can’t let this ridiculousness overcome us, because to live a lie, we might as well not be teachers at all…

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monster- WDM

Monster- WDM
Main characters:
Steve Harmon: 16, male, black: main character, on trial for being a lookout to a robbery/murder case
Kathy O’Brien: Steve Harmon’s defense attorney, indecisive to whether or not Steve is guilty
Sandra Petrocelli: Assistant District Attorney who prosecutes Steve and James. She brands them “Monsters” in court.
James King: the defendant who encouraged Steve to be involved in the robbery and the one responsible for the murder.
Richard "Bobo" Evans: the defendant who planned the robbery. The prosecution uses his testimony in an effort to put King and Steve in jail.
Asa Briggs: James King’s defense attorney
The Judge: Trial judge, 60 yrs. old
Osvaldo Cruz: 14 yrs. Old. Hispanic. Tatted. Belongs to Los Diablos gang
José Delgado: drugstore clerk
Sal Zinzi: a nervous man, slightly overweight, who sells stolen goods.
Wendell Bolden: a boy in jail due to numerous crimes: b&e, possession of and intent to sell drugs. Called to trial for additional info on Steve and witnesses.

Introspection: Steve must come to terms with his own identity. He accomplishes this throughout the novel in his journal entries which he makes during his time in jail awaiting trial.
Peer Pressure: This theme is the basis for how he ended up in his current situation. Had he not given into the peer pressure by James King he wouldn’t have been involved with the robbery that led to the death of the store clerk.
Humanity/self-acceptance/quest for identity: Steve is called a "monster" by the Prosecutor at the beginning of the novel and Steve grapples with the question of whether or not he is monstrous for his actions in the robbery. He is constantly reflecting upon this in his journal entries. The word can also be found scribbled faintly and scratched out on pages of the novel itself.
Important Events:
Jerry/Steve discuss being super heroes and removing the bad guys (ironic)
Steve arrested for involvement to the robber/murder and put on trial
Steve’s decision to write his trial experience into a screenplay, he is an aspiring film maker
Steve receives support from his family, they visit him in jail. Family goes through turmoil.
O’Brien teaches Steve the cup technique for his answering methods in trial
Mr. S (Steve’s former teacher ) comes to stand and answers questions about Steve
No hints as to whether Steve is guilty or innocent until the end of the novel

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


For my contemporary novel I read Monster by Walter Dean Myers. It was about a sixteen year old boy, Steve who finds himself on trial for murder and accused of aiding as a lookout in a robbery-homicide of a store clerk in Harlem.

Although the novel was interesting, for me, this was a difficult novel to read considering the size and the short amount of time. the way the story is written makes it a bit hard to follow, and i had to make a ton of notes in order to keep up and make sense of everything. This is discouraging considering it is meant for teens in secondary school and here I am, a university student, struggling to read it.

Realistically I don’t think I would be teaching or assigning this novel to my future students during the school year, however, it think students could learn a lot from the novel (loyalty, peer pressure, self identity, friendship, laws,  and the realistic outcomes/consequences crime have on oneself and those around us) and it would make a great summer read.

What I did enjoy about the novel was the way it was written. Steven writes first person journal entries and some form of a screenplay as he lives through the reality of the trial and the possibility of living the rest of his life behind bars.

I think that this book does a good job of teaching journal entries, something I would definitely like to explore in my class and do believe my future students would enjoy. I think the students could partake in an activity where the students write journal entries through the eyes of Steve and apply it to their own lives. The screenplay can also get the students’ creative writing to a start and I think these two activities would be both fun and academically acceptable.