TALONS Launch class blog, continue Defying Normality

Defying Normality

Defying Normality

The TALONS have spent the last year with students – and teachers – adopting the use of individual student blogs, publishing writing and other media for projects and self-initiated posts to the public web in growing leaps and bounds. What at first was not without its tough-sell moments – encouraging young learners over the barrier of putting their school work “out there” for all to see – quickly built momentum with few looking back.

This blog though….It’s going to be a journal in a very different way. It’s public, and not necessarily about me, but perhaps more about how I view things. I am curious to see how my blog turns out. I believe it will be a place to discover, but also create. So here goes…. Katie’s Walking on Sunshine

First week Icebreakers

The class used their blogs to:

At the conclusion of their grade ten year in the program, a group of English enthusiasts even set up their own extra-curricular blog within WordPress and have published some twenty posts since school let out in June. Initially established for eight friends to stay in touch and preserve their summer memories, Frozen Tic Tacs has lived on into the new academic year.

This blog ended up even being discussed when the 8 friends were talking about their upcoming summer adventures sometime in March. That lead to a dream to do something like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Unfortunately, there were no jeans that could fit us all, and T-shirts were out of the question of the no washing rule. Plus, the mailing would be a difficult part too, so we came up with the idea of a blog. From that, it just stretched on until it became what it is today. Why the Frozen Tic Tacs

Howe Sound by Voyager Canoe

Howe Sound by Voyager Canoe

Last year, my blog functioned as the hub for information about class activities, assignments, outings and highlighting exemplary student posts, a process that placed my writing and input much closer to the centre of the class’ learning than I often try to be in my general teaching. Though I relished the opportunity to highlight the class’ work, and present class assignments as model blog posts in terms of using hyperlinks, images and embedded media, I knew that a collective class blog would do a much better job at creating a learner-centred publishing process.

Not only would students be able to vet, edit and publish their opinions of the best of the class’ work on a variety of subjects, but my own blog would be left to take more the role of a mentor or model’s than that of a traditional teacher dispensing gold stars and patted heads.

The trial first year in the Great Blogging Experiment left me with an appreciation for two key elements in the blogging process:

  • the cultivation of an authentic, global audience
  • the drive to create ultimately student-owned learning.

And so a few weeks ago I approached this year’s grade ten TALONS to see if they would be interested in starting, from the ground up, a central class blog. The response was brisk and enthusiastic, and in the past two weeks, the grade tens have taken polls to name and design the blog, chosen WordPress as platform and even learned a few bits and pieces of CSS coding, sought out other blogging classes to establish a blogroll and community of like-minds, invited local blogging mavens into our midst, and published an introductory post and About Page.

This blog is a way for us to let you all know what we are up to, and it is a great way to connect with other student bloggers. We each individually have our own blogs, but this is more a way for us to collectively share our ideas with the world. You will see posts about anything under the sun, be it a bus ride or a novel reflection. Just like no two T.A.L.O.N.S. students are the same, no two styles of writing, or posts will be the same, so check back frequently to see what is new in the T.A.L.O.N.S. world.

Visit and Subscribe to Defying Normality Blogging out of Bounds

A Rash of Ravishing Student Blog Posts

Whistler Wonderland

Saturday March 6th

The class’ blog feed swelled this weekend with a range of posts (and comments) on everything from our city buses, to the recent Olympics, to novel study reflections and in-depth updates. At a concert Friday night and skiing Saturday, it wasn’t until Sunday (after a late breakfast over which a friend and I (correctly) picked all five ‘major’ Oscar winners without having seen any of the films in contention) that I made my way into Google Reader with any purpose to begin reading the burgeoning exploits of the class’ writing.

As the briefest of introductions, the TALONS have been blogging a lot lately: their novel study assignments include six different blog posts; an ongoing in-depth project requires blogged updates every two weeks; and of late many of our grade ten students have joined in the globally interactive Student Blogging Challenge. This all atop the mountain of posts being compiled outside the requirements of the classacademic concerns, not to mention the wide range of comments from acquaintances near and far.

In addition to the many links above, here are some highlights of the weekend’s work:

Saskia on growing up by the sea, and the parallel world in Snow Falling on Cedars:

I grew up with the sea, tasted its salty breezes and threw rocks into its seeweedy depths. A small dirt path concealed to all but those who knew of it led from the bottom of my cul-de-sac to a rocky outcropping where the tide washed in. Here, in the placid waters of my early childhood, I combed the beach for sea glass and pottery chips, swam to barnacled and grassy islets, and let the summer sun crust the salt to my legs. The Islanders on San Pedro too lived by the sea. But their’s was a wild one. The sea washed through the pages of Snow Falling on Cedars. It soaked the story in storms and mystery and defined the rhythm of the islanders’ lives. San Piedro was an island of “damp souls” with a “rainy, wind-beaten sea village, downtrodden and mildewed.” The sea wind gusted through the town, “making its single traffic light flail from side to side” or causing “the town’s electrical power to flicker and stay out for days.” Yet the beaches glistened with “smooth stones and sea foam” and somehow it managed to retain a “brand of verdant beauty.”

Donya looks at the difference between her definition of “Friend” vs. Facebooks‘:

Your definition of a friend: “Oh sure I’ll talk to you behind a screen but I really dont have the social skills to come up and talk to you in person” or, “Hey! I saw the back of your head as you were leaving school one day! I should probably add you!” My definition of a friend: “Hey Donya! So we’re still meeting up for the movies on Friday right? I cant wait to spend some time with you!” and ” Oh hi Donya. I heard you were sick, so I picked up some candy on the way home for you :) Candy can fix anything!”

Kiko ponders solitude with Holden Caufield:

The traffic through the park slowed down, until I felt like I was the only one around, outside of the occasional car that drove through the calm in my head. I went through every song I’d memorized, and I looked around, watching the sun as it fell behind the bare branches of a tree off in the distance, the darkening sky, and the unchanging and, at the time, empty park. Nonetheless, I continued playing, and though only myself and the air around me received my music, the aloneness of the moment made me feel…quite content.

Justin dissects the meaning of Mockingbirds (and Finches) in Harper Lee’s classic novel:

Mockingbirds have also been referred to in the real world by Charles Darwin as a prime example proving his theory of evolution. This is also why Atticus, Jem, Scout, Boo and all the other mockingbirds in this story are starting the “evolution” of Maycomb society to become more peaceful and tolerant. Before the Finches, one would assume that the town of Maycomb were unanimous in their dislike of Black people and religious beliefs. In comes Atticus and his children, and suddenly there is a different opinion forming in the town. People like the Finches are still a minority in this book, but it starts the evolutionary chain for Maycomb, from where they were then in the 30’s to modern day 2010. Though the story of Maycomb County ended in 1935-ish, our society today could still benefit from more evolution in terms of racial tolerance and equality.

Katie reflects on the contribution public transit has made to our class’ blogging (and links to many of her classmates’ posts inspired by bus and train travel):

One day back in November, I barely missed my bus, and as a result I spent a solid 20 minutes alone, just watching the rumbling clouds go by. I remember that moment for some reason, I remember thinking about transit and how intricate the system was. I thought about the peace that the bus brought me (usually anyways…). I got home and proceeded to write the first of many non-mandatory blog posts. So, in a way, the bus got me started writing. Whether it’s stillness or talking that I find when I bus that day, it results in the same thing: thinking. Often, after that comes writing.

Jordan relates a less-than-normal trip home from work on Friday night:

At this point, my mother comes running up to the car window and I throw her the phone.  I sit in the car and watch as my mother stands between the girl and the road, talking to the 911 dispatcher.  I realize that this girl is not hurt seriously.  She sits up onto the curb and continues to wail and laugh and cry, all at the same time.  My mom tries to help her up but all the girl wants to do is flail her arms and yell profanities.  My mom puts the cellphone away, and stand protectively over the girl, to make sure she doesn’t try to run on to the road again.  The downed girl’s friend is standing off to the left side, talking about how she doesn’t want the police to come.

Ariana on Holden Caufield and the smokers by the bus stop:

They slouch behind the back gate of my high school with sagging pants and sagging faces. I see them as I leave for the bus stop, right hands holding cigarettes, left hands draped in their pockets. I don’t stop to wonder what they’re thinking: the divide between us is palpable and, following a strict, unspoken code, we avoid eye contact. I broke the rules once. As I stood under the bright winter sun waiting for the 97 B-Line, a stream of smoke floated to settle above my friends and me.  The smell was the same one engrained into my memory of my grandmother and into the tablecloths we inherited from her after she died of lung cancer. I turned towards the boy and his cigarette. “Will you please stop smoking upwind of us? Do you know that what we’re breathing in has twice the amount of nicotine as what you are?

Louise contemplates the terrible beauty that gives life its meaning:

All these things will be gone, maybe in a few minutes, a day, a month, a year, decades, or hundreds or thousands of years. The sun will sink into night, the eagle will die, the shell will crumble into sand, the diamonds will fade, the glacier lakes will dry, my friends will pass on, and the hurricane will disperse. They will be gone. Perhaps others will take their places, but it won’t be ever the same again. However, I’ve seen the burnt and cracked trunk  of a lightning-struck cedar covered with heavy moss and Dead man’s beard. I’ve seen the the skeletal, bleached-white trees that will never flower or bud again. I’ve seen the crushed feathery wings of a baby robin in the middle of a parking lot with its body gone. I’ve seen the bloody salmon struggle up the rapids, torn and dying. Perhaps not everyone would find all these scenes attractive, I see a terrible beauty in them. The struggle that these living things were once subject to breaks my heart a little. The vulnerability and emptiness of these things, gone and broken down by time and accident radiate coldness and bleakness.

The RSS Feed for the rest of the class’ blogging can be found here. We also have syndicated our comment feed, which can be followed here. Students’ Clustermaps are filling with dots from all over the world, and our comment feed is increasingly bearing the stamp of a globally connected classroom, a trait many in class would like to expand upon.

To those who have not yet, don’t be shy: Join the conversation! Comment, link to us, and enrich the TALONS learning! And to those who have: thank you for supporting, listening and teaching 30 young learners (that total includes my teaching partner and I), who are indebted to you!

Talons debate the "Good" Books

My Favorite Book Shop .........As the TALONS Novel Study has progressed, I have waited for the discussion of six diverse novels – listed here – to begin to overlap into a meaningful discourse of the nature and the value of literature. Yesterday in class I asked a question posed by Clare and, to some extent, Kiko, on their blogs recently, hoping that across generations of literature there might be a common thread or reasoning behind our study of the Great Books. Clare asks:

So if Catcher in the Rye is no longer making us re-think society as it did in the 1950s, does that make it less important?

Similarly, Kiko wonders about the nature of treading the trampled ground of books like Catcher or Lord of the Flies:

How many people had done that before me? Is the size of that number a good thing, or a bad thing? Why does this matter to me at all? I have a slightly different perspective on everything than everyone else in the world.

Being that each of these questions meets an answer in a subjective truth (excellently supported and given context in a comment by Michael Kaisaris), I reposed them to the entire class the following afternoon, creating a stir that boiled over into a debate that not only continued in the classroom long after the 3 o’clock bell, but in a Facebook thread that appears to have consumed many members of the class throughout the evening.

Here are the highlights of what was discussed: Book Worm

The question I want to put out there is “What makes art great?” Great art is something that makes a person feel. If a person is making connections, predictions, having intuitions, thinking, or especially feeling emotion, the art is important. If a reader feels stronger about Twilight than Romeo & Juliet, I think that may also be the greater art. At least, to that select individual.

Katie

I agree that fan fiction has significant relevance to our society and that, in a hundred years, it could be very useful to understand the values and what not of society today. However, I do not offer it the same “importance” (although maybe we should find a less subjective word) than, say, a Douglas Coupland book. While I suppose one could argue that each would provide an equal understanding of today’s culture to future generations, one can’t argue that they would be of equal value to a person’s philosophical concept of the world and their position within it. By reading fan fiction, I doubt anyone would learn more (that isn’t to say that there is nothing one would learn) about themselves or gain much insight into our fundamental raison d’être than by reading a Douglas Coupland book or other piece of “good literature.” There is a reason it is called that and fan fiction is not. “Good literature” challenges our ideas and society’s rules more so than fan fiction ever could. It is because of this that it is more important.

Saskia

Were both forms of writing made equal though? Both were created by a person who wanted to express themselves and they way they saw something. Shallow or not, both fan fiction and literature were written by a person who was passionate enough about something to write it down and take the risk or putting it out where the world can access it.

Katie

Importance, in my opinion, is related to how much a work influences society, not how much it reflects the society of the moment. Take Catcher in the Rye, for example. It was revolutionary at the time it was written and changed the way people thought about teenagers. Even today teenagers who read the book can identify with Holden Caulfield. He certainly influenced my perspective on my own teenage angst. Has Twilight influenced society other than to increase the sale of vampire t-shirts and create great fodder for jokes? I don’t think so. Katie brings up the point about people who love Twilight getting more out of it than literature. Maybe they get more enjoyment out of reading Stephanie Meyer, but they aren’t getting more understanding of the world or getting any new opinions to consider.

Ariana

I think almost all literature is about their philosophical concept of the world and their position within it. When people write, their morals, beliefs, ideals, ideas, opinions, personality and themselves are written in. You can’t write anything without that, whether it is shallow or not. Even jobro fanfic represents that. What the writer thinks about the world and their place in it as a jobro fan.

Louise

There are certain ways you can look at things like fan fiction and see what it says about society, but on the other hand, there are works of art that I believe are more important to society and literature as a whole, things that will ‘stand the test of time’. I think it all boils down to one thing: If we were to keep, say, ten pieces of art, from any time period, which would they be?My Favorite Book Shop ......... The ones that changed society the most, the ones that made people stop and think and realize what is really happening, either in their time, or in the past. I think what really makes art great is that it can say something that people will look at and feel something about, whether it’s a personal connection or a greater understanding of people and/or society.

Kiko

It would all come down to who was picking. Everyone would chose 10 different pieces and then this argument would go world wide. We would no longer be the only ones debating over “fluff” versus “literature.” Yes, you would pick the ones that have contributed to society the most but even if you instantly ruled out fan fiction, Twilight, etc. How would you finalize your top ten picks of art? Why is one classic book more important than another? “…we can rate it’s importance in terms of the impact on society. ” Won’t each individual have their own thoughts and feelings on how each piece of art has impacted society? It still boils down to perspective. You could argue this until the end of time. Everyone sees things differently gets something different out of everything they read.

Katie

In the end, it is the affect a book has on all of society or the majority of society that determines where it stands and whether it will be remembered as a book of great importance. Reiterating some of what Kiko wrote, it the ones that made society as a whole stop and think, the ones that changed society’s perspectives (in the present or the past) that will last. Fan fiction or other fluff, though it may somehow be very important to an individual, does not make the cut.

Saskia

I don’t think anyone writes a book thinking that it’s going to change society. I agree with Louise that they write it to say something for themselves and if it ends up being important enough to change a reader, then that’s great. And if it resonates with a lot of people, then I guess it might change society a little, but I don’t think many books have changed society; people don’t read books and instantaneously change.

Clare

Reading Is Fundamental “There are two books that I’ve read in my life that disturbed me in such a way that I felt they literally shook my faith in humanity. ‘Blindness’ was the first and ‘Oryx and Crake’ by Margaret Atwood was the second.” Dave Truss left this comment on my blog post about Blindness, and I definitely agree with him. Books do change people. They change how one views society, how one perceives life, how people think… the list goes on. Maybe all books don’t, maybe no book you’ve ever read has changed you, but some people are heavily influences by books.

Kiko

These books didn’t change society by themselves. However, they definately contributed to that change in a big way. Look at Kiko’s post above. Let’s take banned books for example. Why have books been banned throughout history? Because they deal with issues that governments or schools don’t want people to consider. If books had no profound impact on the opinions of the nation, there would be no point in outlawing them. I don’t think anybody would ever consider banning Twilight because it doesn’t challenge anybody’s faith or bring up any revolutionary ideas (not to say that all books need to be banned to be considered “great”).

Ariana

As for Twilight…
  • putting others before ourselves
  • love is unconditional (however cheesy it might be)
  • being perfect isn’t as great as it might sound
  • people are not always what they seem
  • perfection on the outside does not always mean perfection on the inside
  • with great power comes great responsibility
  • It’s okay to lean on people for support
  • stereotypes/ don’t believe everything you read (about vampires for instance)
How this would fundamentally change someone…
  • changed way some people saw themselves. Before, they might have considered themselves “average” but now they are more confident in their right to talk to someone they’ve previously admired or even been intimidated by.
  • effected how people viewed their problems (angst), ability to speak to others about them
  • made people realize they could be accepted even if they deviate from the norm.

Katie

If you look deep enough you can find themes, even meaningful themes, in any novel from fan fiction to Twilight. And maybe these themes have an affect on people. However, I disagree with the word fundamental. While the great works (such as those mentioned earlier) take on new ideas or new perspectives that shifted the way people saw things, the themes you listed in Twilight are not new. They appear over and over in almost every novel you read. There is no fundamentally different or thought-altering idea in Twilight and that is one of the many things that separates it from other literature.

Saskia

But ideas are used over and over again and maybe the 500th time it is used it makes a difference. Yes the ideas in Twilight aren’t new but they were also read by many many people who have in some way been affected by those ideas.

Andrea

A classic work should say something of value and draw attention to fundamental human problems. It should support or condemn a point of view. That means saying something more significant than: “Vanilla ice cream is indescribably amazing,” even if that statement is true and will maybe cause ten people who have never tried vanilla ice cream to visit the grocery store. The message doesn’t have to be new, but it should at least take a new angle or provide new evidence.

Ariana

It’s about whether some books are greater, or more important to society, than others. Also, I think we need to get away from some random person in some obscure place. For a book to be considered “great,” it needs to effect a substantial portion of the population. One person doesn’t make it or break it.

Ariana

It’s not about a book being great? Then what is great literature? I don’t think that anything has to impact society. It’s the importance we’re talking about, not the impact. We’re all random people in random obscure places.

Louise

Louise, that blew my mind. I am sitting here at my computer, feeling like such a random person in a random obscure place.

Katie

For many people Twilight was one of the first books that they actually enjoyed reading; that was the case with many people I knew in middle school and for them Twilight was a good book because they hated reading as then they found a book they could actually enjoy so they probably got a lot more out of the book than you or I did.

Andrea

As Andrea mentioned with Twilight and I can say with Harry Potter, those books are the reason that a lot of people came to enjoy reading – I would consider that a huge impact and thus, “important.”

Clare

Stalin once said that “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic.” Well, I say “If a book is bought and read by a million people, it’s a best seller, whoop-dee-do. If I read a book and enjoy it, it’s a divine miracle.” The ability of a book to affect many people (society) doesn’t make it a good book in an individual’s opinion. Millions of people bought The Da Vinci Code but I recommend reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Why? Because my in MY opinion it’s better. This may be different for different people, and they may say my book which ain’t a best seller sucks because it wasn’t economically successful. This brings me back to the fan fiction/fluff vs. classics/non-fluff. If people can connect with the writing, then the literature has done it’s job. If teenage girls can connect with Jonas bros, then that’s them, and the fan fiction didn’t fail in communicating a message and representing that segment of society. It seems to me that these days (modern times) with the internet, TV, face book, and all that what could have been great pieces of art are melted and conformed to something that would sell well, and thus receive marketing and cast a wide net for audience. Small things and exquisite literature that probably won’t sell well are discarded for conformists. This is quite disturbing in that the conformist stuff are what our era will be remembered for.

Steven

Depending on who you are you will get different things out of different literature. Overall, society might deem some books as having more to offer, but it is still up to the individual to decide and/or discover what they value the most. In school, it is beneficial to study some of the same novels that humans have labeled as ‘important.’ However, every person is unique therefore no one has the right to judge what importance they find in the art they see.

Katie

Andrew B. Watt's Essay Encouragement

Writing Essays

One of the teachers I seem to visit with the most regularity doesn’t work at my school. He doesn’t even live in Vancouver, or British Columbia, or Canada. But I read about what goes on in Mr. Watt’s classroom through his blog – which I have mentioned thinking quite highly of elsewhere in these pages – and appreciate the parallels that often crop up between our two classrooms, even though they’re on opposite seaboards.

One such parallel arose this week, as each of our classes were working on historical essays in class. And while I may not have experienced the same angst expressed by Mr. Watt on this occasion, I still thought it would be valuable to ride his coattails in presenting this slideshow he made to help his students with historical writings.

And while my class is now benefiting from Mr. Watt’s help, I implore them – via their blogs – to help right a wrong he wrote about here. In posing the question “What’s wrong with the Edublogosphere?” Andrew replies as follows:

I think the biggest difficulty is that there are no prominent student bloggers writing about education, of which I’m aware.  There isn’t a vast crowd of students telling us what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, or even if we’re going in the right direction.

If someone has some student writers, who write about their educational experiences, to recommend — please pass them my way.

For that matter, I think it’s important that we start encouraging our students to look at, and respond, to some of the big names in educational blogging, so that we begin to get a sense of who really is on the right track to understanding what “the kids these days” are all about.

Of late I have been thinking about the possibilities of truly open-learning. Inspired by the likes of Andrew, and people like Alec Couros, Dean Shareski, Ira Socol and Shelly Blake Plock – each of whom have been involved in broadening the reach and breadth of our classroom, and directly or indirectly helped TALONS learners explore and expand on their individual learning experiences – I am always on the lookout for opportunities for the class to engage in a more global conversation about their education.

And now they speak to Dean’s audiences, and Shelly’s students, and are read by teachers in China, and on each of the continents. They write about music, and history, and running, and the Olympics (and the Olympics, and the Olympics, and the Olympics and the Olympics), and they continue to define themselves in conversation with those in their local, as well as global community. The people from outside the classroom who find their work and thoughts are each at different times teachers; and likewise do many of the TALONS no doubt become teachers, mentors, and sources of light for others immediate and afar.

So I am proposing to the TALONS class that you answer Mr. Watt’s call to become those Prominent Student Bloggers, to engage with voices in the Educational Blogosphere like those listed above – but also Will Richardson, Karl Fisch, David Warlick and others – and help shape the direction of education as you are experiencing it. In countless conversations in our Coquitlam classroom, your input is the strongest aid in developing an approach to not only your individual, but your collective learning, and I don’t see how this shouldn’t be the case on a much larger, and more effective scale that is becoming available to us.

After all, if Mr. Watt is going to be your teacher (for instance, he has a bevy of essay-resource materials available online), he may as well have the benefit of you being his.

Novel Study Blog Post Topics

Prayers for the Dead - Dennis VannattaAs the TALONS class sets out on a novel study that will see them reading a range of five different novels in small groups, much of their “work” in flushing out the themes, symbols and technical aspects of the stories will be happening on their blogs, a process I am not alone in harbouring excitement to begin. In a class of voracious readers, with several leaders in not only the study and criticism of literature, but also the appreciation, and honouring of it, I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that I felt a little like Santa Clause yesterday handing out copies of the novels the class had chosen from the predetermined short list. And today, on a sunny afternoon, late into the first week of local Olympic hysteria, as we sat down to begin an hour of Sustained Silent Reading – or Writing, but more on that in a minute – the group quickly fell into rapt meditation over their selected books; a few put finishing touches on blog posts introducing their stories, but for the most part, all was quiet, as the enjoyment of literature is meant to be.

To read a book, one must be still. To watch a concert, a play, a movie, to look at a painting, one must be still. Religion, too, makes use of stillness, notably with prayer and meditation. Just gazing upon a still lake, upon a quiet winter scene—doesn’t that lull us into contemplation? Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, “Gosh, life is racing by.” But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by. Yann Martel What is Stephen Harper Reading?

stillnessDuring class for the next few weeks, we will be using our study of literature in the form of novels to cultivate this stillness so difficult to attain in our modern surroundings. As someone who spent my most illuminating college years locked in dorm, apartment or rented rooms with books, blank pages and music, but who has since succumbed to becoming the doting father of both a laptop and iPhone which are all but constant appendages in my working life, I know that at least some of my job as an instructor and mentor of English literature and writing – indeed, the reflection upon the very aspects of life which demand stillness to be appreciated – depends on creating opportunities for my modern students to enjoy silence, stillness, and the sounds and creations of their imaginations.

To this end, the class will set aside ample time – an hour and ten minutes this afternoon – wherein the class will be silent, still. As a means of progressing in their novel studies, students are asked to work quietly, and individually, toward a better understanding of their selected novel, whether in silent reading or writing as reflection or creative product. A novel is a personal experience, and with the following reflective writing prompts, I hope to share in my students’ struggle and enjoyment of reading over the next few weeks.The home office

I am asking that students blog regularly, trying to bear in mind Wesley Fryer’s recent advice (as well as this superb resource composed of Steve Dembo’s 30 Days to Become a Better Blogger posts), and help to foster depth and discussion of their peers’ novels through avid commenting and discussion online, and during classes set aside for oral dissections and Book Talks with their peers (though stillness is one of my aims, I hope to not sacrifice the fervor and glee that accompanies the traditional TALONS literary arguments and informal debates). To this end I have proposed the following possible prompts for blog posts:

  • My Choice is… – Which novel have you chosen? Why? How do you hope for its reading to affect your study of English? See Andrea, Katie, Julie, or Donya’s examples.  
  • Passage Reflection – Take a passage from the text and supply as block quotation at the top of a post. Outline and explain the significance of the quote in terms of its relation to elements of the novel’s character, plot or theme development, as well as your personal connection to the piece. Clare asks a great question in hers (and shares a wonderful passage from another book here), and I particularly appreciate this lengthy passage very clearly articulated by Andrew.
  • Theme Synopsis – In developing your personal response to the novel’s theme, formulating ‘guesses’ at the author’s intended themes, symbols and underlying messages is an effective way to construct your own interpretation. Beginning this process early in your reading can be an effective means of noticing, and interpreting subtle details throughout the novel. Outline and support one (or many) theme statement(s) with your own personal reasoning supported by details and contextual evidence from the story. Nick, Andrew, and Katie have great theme posts already.
  • Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict or Point of View Analysis – Reflect upon one (or more) of these technical aspects of the author’s craft by utilizing the terminology applied to each of these major elements to summarize the unique choices and presentation used by the author. Check out Justin’s look at Atticus Finch, Louise’s description of Ishmael, or Jenna’s description of Little Brother’s Marcus.
  • Reflection on the Author’s Style Prose Language – There are as many ways to write as there are people using a given language, and as we delve into the works of traditional and contemporary masters of the written voice, I will be curious to hear your reactions and responses to the use and manipulation of language employed by your author. Veronica starts things off with a look at some of the NewSpeak in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother.
  • Connection to Other Readers, Bloggers – Within and beyond our class are many various opinions, reviews and interpretations of the books we are reading, reading in general, or the craft of the novel and technical aspects of each story’s composition. Use this post as an opportunity to write a response, critique, or continuation of someone else’s thinking, and be sure to link back to their work!