Sunday, February 21, 2016

Week 24: Tracing Character Development and The Raven Takes Flight (Week of 2/19/2016)

This week, we finished up our character development essay. Way back in November, students chose one of the five main characters from "The Outsiders" and made an assertion as to the type of person that character was (character traits). That was at the beginning of the novel. We forgot about those assertions as we read through the novel and dug deeper into characterization, eventually coming back to our original assertion last week. Now that we'd finished the novel, we were ready to make an assertion as to the character and whether they were static or dynamic (unchanged or changed, respectively). To do that, we started by rereading our original paragraph and then writing a second, now looking at the character at the end of the novel. We wrapped up the body of our work by talking about the "agent of change", or what cause a dynamic change in our character (or what should have caused a change in a static character). Finally, we added an introduction and conclusion to our work and we're ready to peer edit. We'll be peer editing on Monday in class and the final draft will be due Tuesday, February 23, 2016, in class.

Not only can we celebrate finishing our character development essay, but students have the opportunity to enter it into Laguna's Writing Celebration! Entries can be any piece of writing that a student is proud of in these categories: informational writing (like our character development essay or nonfiction KBAR project infographics), argumentative writing, and poetry. The writing can be from a class your student is taking this year at Laguna, but does not have to be. If they're proud of it, they should enter it! The deadline to enter is Friday, March 11, 2016. Students will be submitting their writing through their English teachers. If you'd like more information, please feel free to contact me or Mrs. Rollinger at

Lastly, I was invited into Mr. Townsend's third-period class to see their Japan assessment. It was great to see all of the students taking their knowledge and applying it in a real way, what I call a "life test", to create an engaging comic strip. All of the students were working hard to put their knowledge to the test, depicting a day-in-the-life of a noble, a samurai, or a peasant. One of our shared students quipped that this assignment was similar to the infographics we made in my class last semester and that she liked this style of presenting information. I couldn't agree more! What a cool way to show off your knowledge through pictures and text. It's certainly much more exciting that a formal pen-and-paper assessment. Well done students!!!

This week, we wrapped up our study of "The Raven" by applying our knowledge of symbolism and colors to the poem itself. In small groups, students decoded the symbols in the poem, created a poster, and presented back to the class. It was inspiring to see the students work so hard on this admittedly long (necessarily long) unit of study. They got such a deeper understanding of the poem by looking at the poem multiple times, deciphering all that the poem had to offer. We came to the conclusion that the raven itself never actually existed in the poem; it was a hallucination of sorts, brought on by the narrator's overwhelming grief from losing his love, Lenore. The raven? It's a symbol of the author's nagging depression. Will it ever go away? Nevermore.

Next week, we're moving on to another Poe classic, "The Tell-Tale Heart". With this short story, we'll be looking at vocabulary again but also looking at point of view and its effect on a story as well as the different types of irony (situational, verbal, and dramatic). The students are sure to love this creepy, mysterious tale of a man gone mad.

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-What is final form? Why should your work be turned in in final form?
-What writing have you done this year, in any class, that you'd like to enter into the Writing Celebration?

-What is your preference, tap water or bottled water? Why?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin

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