Tuesday, January 31, 2012


If you would like to receive some EXTRA CREDIT for your awesome persuasive essays (recently completed for the benchmark assessment), then please post your Gdoc link to the work in the comment box. If you do not know what I am talking about, then it's probably best to come see me with questions. And remember, extra credit is only icing on the cake... the cake is what fills you up. Nice metaphor, huh?! Yeeeaaah... I knew you'd like that!

Friday, January 27, 2012

"College Readiness: How to Help Students Think Abstractly" by Ben Johnson

By Ben Johnson

 Ben Johnson served as an administrator in large and small schools, and at a charter school. He was the assistant superintendent of the Natalia Independent School District where he helped bring about major improvements in student learning.

A rolling stone, gathers no moss. Mick Jagger has moss? Don't cry over spilt milk. It's only milk, why cry? Too many cooks spoil the soup. I hate soup. Water under the bridge. Of course there is water under a bridge! A tiger's stripes do not change. Of course they don't! Birds of a feather, flock together. Yeah, those Grackles downtown are so annoying. There must be millions of them.
A college-ready student can think figuratively, or in other words associate abstract ideas with concrete examples. One of the best ways to help students think abstractly is to engage them in the ancient wisdom of metaphors and sayings. Initially, their reactions will be like the ones above, but with a little practice, students will be able to arrive at the real meaning of the sayings.
Thinking abstractly is useful in understanding the richness of literature, both classical and modern. Carol's Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Suess' Horton the Elephant, Milton's Paradise Lost would all be incomprehensible without the ability to think abstractly.
The reason that algebra, geometry, and general mathematics challenge students is that they require students to think abstractly. The bane of most students -- the word problems -- are all about taking something concrete and transforming the situation into abstract symbols and numbers. Most problem-solving techniques require students to step back (figuratively) from the problem at hand (it could be at foot) and state the problem in abstract terms.
In order to help my students thinking and using the Spanish language, I printed a dicho (saying) such as, "En boca cerrada no entra mosca!" (in a closed mouth, flies don't enter -- my favorite) on the board and asked them to decipher the Spanish and then the true meaning. Once we got passed the literal interpretations, then students were usually able to arrive at approximate meanings. Some dichos just stumped them: "Al hambriento, no hay pan duro." (to the hungry, there is no hard bread), or "En casa del herrero, cuchillo de palo" (in the house of the blacksmith, a wooden knife). I found that the key was not to give the students the answers. I simply put on my Socrates robe and asked questions. These were very hard for my students, at first, but with practice, I had to ask fewer and fewer questions. The students began to see the deeper messages in the dichos and were able to transfer that skill to see deeper messages in Spanish humor and literature.
It was always illuminating and inspiring to watch as students caught the joke, or the meaning of a passage of literature. Students are often smarter than we give them credit for: El leon no es como lo pintan (the lion is not how it is painted).

How do you think abstractly?

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Why SOPA is a bad idea" Presented by Clay Shirky on TED.com (DUE 1/25)

What does a bill like PIPA/SOPA mean to our shareable world? At the TED offices, Clay Shirky delivers a proper manifesto — a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume. (Recorded at the TED offices, January 2012, in New York. Duration: 13:59)

Congress is currently viewing a bill that could significantly change the internet.  As a result, Wikipedia and other major internet sites like Google staged formal protests against the potential bill on censoring the internet. 

DIRECTIONS: Watch the following video in order to be prepared for our Socratic Seminar this Wednesday (DUE 1/25/12)! Please leave a comment about this video to generate some discussion prior to our seminar.

Friday, January 20, 2012


No Name-Calling Week is celebrated by numerous schools around the country during the 4th week of January (JAN. 23-27).  The focus is to end name-calling of all kinds and encourage an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying.
In support of No Name Calling Week HOPE members would like to encourage every student and staff member to sign our banner supporting our theme of RESPECT.  Also, within the next few days you will notice posters hanging in our hallways supporting our anti-bullying efforts. 
We will briefly visit AM & PM career programs to encourage all students to sign their name in support of this effort.  We will also have HOPE members stop by academic classrooms & offices to get staff signatures.
Our banner will be displayed in building #4 as a reminder to show RESPECT toward others .
Thanking you in advance for your support!

The HOPE committee & Advisors: Ms. Whelan, Ms. Moffitt, Dr. Hourani, & Ms. Swider

Thursday, January 19, 2012

EXPOSITORY ESSAY! "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou (DUE 1/30)


DIRECTIONS: Submit the final drafts of your expository essays via Gdocs no earlier than 1/25 and no later than 1/30. Please copy the Gdocs hyperlink to your essay and post it to the comment box. If you have any questions, please make sure to ask prior to submission deadline.

H A P P Y   W R I T I N G !

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice."

-Maya Angelou

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


FICTION NOTES! Make An Image Become A Symbol

"You want to think about the objects in your story, something concrete, some object you can see or touch or hold. Now you’ll work to add an emotional attachment to that object.

 One student wrote an essay about her high school basketball career, how that sport, that team, that basketball court was her life. On the night of her last game of her senior, she walked out of the locker room and her Dad threw her a basketball. She caught it and held it cupped in both hands, a brown globe, a world that had consumed her last four years.

 Suddenly that circular shape of the ball becomes a globe, a world that represents much more than just a pebbly brown ball that bounces. It held all her high school memories and it was a poignant moment."
-Darcy Pattison


"I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed." -Michael Jordan

Monday, January 16, 2012


Today, let us remember the man, his dream, and the reality of equality we enjoy everyday as Americans. http://bit.ly/A5G9sQ

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

POETRY OUT LOUD! "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou (DUE 1/11)

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.



Maya Angelou has had a varied career as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco, a dancer, editor for The Arab Observer, teacher, and actress. Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928, she gained fame with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her 1970 autobiography which speaks courageously of her encounters with racism. One of the best-known writers in America, Angelou read her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993.

DIRECTIONS: Read Maya Angelou's poem, "Caged Bird", and address the following open-ended questions. Please compose your responses using Gdocs and post your url/web address in the comment box.
  • What is the metaphor contained in the poem? (1 paragraph)
  • How does fate OR freewill factor into the poem? (1 paragraph)
  • What is the theme/message being communicated by the author? (1 paragraph)
 *MAKE PERSONAL CONNECTIONS: Text to Self; Text to World; Text to Text
*USE TEXT EVIDENCE: Information contained in the text that supports your response.
*ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS: Address each one of the questions with a paragraph.

Friday, January 6, 2012

TED - Dan Pink on the surprising science of MOTIVATION (DUE 1/6)

DIRECTIONS: Watch this video from TED and submit a brief response in the comment box about how Dan Pink's presentation relates to education.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

POETRY OUT LOUD! "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost (DUE 1/5)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost is considered the bard of New England. Casual readers sometimes overlook the depth of his poetry and its technical accomplishment. His apparently simple poems — collected in volumes from A Boy’s Will to In the Clearing — reveal a darker heart upon close reading, and his easy conversational style is propelled by an unfaltering meter and an assiduous sensitivity to the sounds of language.

DIRECTIONS: In Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken", he compares life to a road. Please read the poem again and consider what else you might compare life to. Using Gdocs, write an original poem in which you compare life to something that shares many of its qualities and characteristics. Once completed, post the web address/url to your document in the comment box.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Truth of Imagination: Metaphor's Universe of Possibilities" by Dan Albergotti (DUE 1/4)

DIRECTIONS: Please read the poem "Water to Sky" from the article provided and answer the following question in a one-paragraph response in the comment box below this post.


Extra Credit!
DIRECTIONS: Watch the music video for the song, "Lunch for the Sky" by the band Socratic, and explain the connection it shares with the poem, "Water to Sky", in an additional one-paragraph response.