Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Out-of-Class Writing Topic on Nothing but the Truth

Essay Topic for Out-of-Class Writing on Nothing But the Truth

Due Date: Monday, June 20  (during class time)

While reading the book, one student wrote: “Philip is not an angel, but he is the real victim in this book. His parents spoil him, and his father scares him enough so that he cannot tell either parent the truth about why he can’t join the track team. What happens at school is unfair to him. A fifteen minute conference with Dr. Palleni, Miss Narwin, Philip’s parents, and Philip would have made the whole problem absolutely clear, and they could have worked out a solution, but he is not offered such a meeting. Finally, he is the pawn in the political schemes of Superintendent Seymour and Ted Griffen. Philip’s humming the national anthem was not the right thing to do, but given his powerlessness, it was not such a bad thing. The adults in this book are the ones that do most of the damage, and poor Philip suffers.”

Another student wrote, “Philip is the primary reason for the whole mess described in the book. He’s a liar, a class clown, a bad student, and a spoiled brat. He ruins the career and reputation of his English teacher, Miss Narwin. He makes the lives of everyone around him worse. A teenager is not a baby. He deserved to be punished severely. But even punishment won’t make up for hurting his teacher’s valuable career and life, and giving voters an excuse to vote against the school budget.”

Writing Question: Which of these arguments, Philip as victim or Philip as wrongdoer, is more accurate to your belief about the book? Explain by using examples, quotations and information from the book. Make sure to create an introduction paragraph with a thesis statement, body, and conclusion paragraphs.
(Hint: A possible thesis statement might read one of two ways: “I agree with the first student who believes Philip is a victim because of ___________________, _________________ and ______________.” Or “I agree with the second student who sees Philip as the wrongdoer because of _____________________, _________________________ and ___________________.)

How To Put Quotations into Your Essay:

Since you are going to quote from the book, follow these rules.
1. Keep your quotations short. Going on and on is not a good idea. You can use as little as a word and go up from there. You should try to work your quotation into the grammar of the sentence you are writing.
2. Use the page number where the quotation can be found, but do not write “page,” “pg.” “p.” Just the number is the way to do it with a notable exception.
3. If you are going to use a long quotation (more than three lines) indent 10 spaces throughout.
Examples: a. In Nothing But the Truth, Miss Narwin claims that it is “precisely because Philip is a troubled boy” that she doesn’t want “to give up on him” (49).
b. Philip’s mother spoils him by making cookies as large as “pizzas” (32).
c. In a short conversation on p. 56, Philip tells Ken Barchett, “I am going to get transferred out of her class.”
d. The following conversation takes place between Superintendent Seymour and Ted Griffen:

Albert Seymour: I think we have a real problem here.
Ted Griffen: What kind of a problem?
Albert Seymour: The teacher has tenure.
Ted Griffen: Oh, yeah. That’s a problem. I didn’t know that.
Albert Seymour: Yes, but there may be a way out.

Sample Grammar Exam #1

Practice Test for Grammar

Note: You must pass this test with a grade of 70% or higher in order to pass English 28. There will be a second test with the same rules.

A. Label the parts of speech above all of the words in the following sentences:

N = noun Adv = adverb
Pro = pronoun Prep = preposition
Adj = adjective Conj = conjunction
V = verb Interj = interjection
Art = article

Example 1: I recently read some facts about movie kisses.

Ex. 2: The first one occurs in a film by Thomas Edison in 1896.

1. I have no idea when the movie will start.

She went to the doctor’s office to meet her mother.

Don’t you want some more ice cream?

The heart is a lonely hunter, but we still need to love others.

B. Underline the subjects once and the verbs twice in the following sentences. Be careful because there are sometimes more than one verb and one subject in the sentence.

Ex. 1: Nathaneal and Cora fell in love with each other.

Ex. 2: When the dog bites and the bee stings, you can be sure trouble is ahead.

Ex. 3: Sacagawea visited her village, but her father was dead.

Her mother warned her not to marry Captain Clark.

After she visited her sister, she went to her aunt’s house.

When the time comes, we will study for the exam, but not before.

C. Put parenthesis around the prepositional phrases in the sentences below. Be sure to include all the words that belong to each prepositional phrase. (Sentences may have more than one prepositional phrase—or none at all.)

Ex. 1. In the movie, the artist is played by a beautiful actress.

Ex. 2. The last time I saw Richard, he was cleaning off the counter with a rag.

Ex. 3. If you have the time, would you come over here to help me with my essay?

Miss Narwin warned Philip to study more but he didn’t want to do it for her.

The couple went to the chapel to get married.

In Key West, Barbara was a waitress for almost a month.

Minneapolis is in the great state of Minnesota, the land of a thousand lakes.

Label the following sentences Declarative, Interrogative, Imperative, or Exclamatory.

This is the easiest test I have ever taken.

What time do you get to class?

Please don’t waste my time.

Watch out!

There are a lot of students absent these days.

Insert capitals wherever they are needed.

1. She went to long beach for a boat ride over to Catalina island.

2. Queen elizabeth has been the queen of England for many decades now.

3. Although she speaks english poorly, she has no trouble speaking thai with her friends.

4. I will see you in class on tuesday, and you can call me tonight about the homework.

5. World war I was called the war to end all wars by president wilson.

In the following sentences, make sure that the possessives are done correctly.

All of the students papers were well done; at least that’s what the professors secretary said.

Tonight we are going to Johns party, and then we are going to my girlfriends parents house.

I saw Marys brother last night, and he was asking about the colleges policy on residents fees.

These shrimp don’t taste as good as last years shrimp, but we ate them anyway.

President Obamas Chrysler is on sale at E-bay for over one hundred thousand dollars.

With a broken line, underline the dependent clauses in the following sentences and write DC above this. Then with an unbroken line, underline the independent clauses, and put IC above it.

Ex. 1. After he passed the exam, he felt much better.

Ex. 2. The dogs are taller than they were last year, which makes them the tallest we have ever had.

Ex. 3. While she was in the garage, he was cooking dinner in the kitchen.

We can have no doubt that he loves her.

Ever since this class began, we have been learning about writing.

Whenever school starts, I will be there, and she will, too.

Circle the correct pronoun to make a complete, grammatically correct sentence.

Ex. 1. She (herself, her) cleaned the kitchen without any help from (he, him).

Ex. 2. Both (she and I, she and me) will be at the game tonight.

Ex. 3. Between (you and I, you and me) (this, these) flowers are pretty ugly, aren’t (they, them)?

If (she, her) brother comes to the game, (he and me, he and I) will sit together.

I told them to be quiet and do it (theirselves, themselves), but (they, them) wouldn’t listen to (I, me).

If not for (you, your), I would never have seen (my, mine) mother again.

The difference in (they, their) attitude is noticeable, isn’t (they, it)?

Fix the following Run-ons or comma splice sentences.

Ex. 1. This is the easiest test I have ever taken, Ryan must be crazy to thin it is hard.

Ex. 2. A lion is the king of the jungle what is a tiger then?

Ex. 3. She wore a yellow sweater over a dark blue dress she looked beautiful.

1. The traditional Thanksgiving feast includes turkey after you eat a lot, you must lie down.

The college isn’t closed on Fourth of July that’s because it is on a Saturday.

3. The teacher failed to assign us homework, that gave us time to enjoy ourselves last night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prepositions, Conjunctions and More for You to Memorize

Here are some terms and lists that any student should know. Print out and bring to class tomorrow, please.

The Most Common Prepositions (There are others as well.)

about above across after against along
among around as at before behind below
beside besides between beyond by concerning
considering despite down during except for
from in inside into like near
next of off on onto opposite
out outside over past plus regarding
respecting round since than through throughout
till to toward under underneath unlike
until unto up upon with within

The Seven Coordinating Conjunctions

and but for nor or so yet

The Most Common Subordinate Conjunctions (can be one or more words in combination)

after although as as if as long as because before
even if even though ever since if how in order that
now that rather than since so that than that though
unless until when whenever where whereas wherever
which whichever while who whoever whom
whomever whose why

The Most Common Transitional Expressions (can be one or more words in combination)

A. Conjunctive Adverbs

accordingly also anyway besides certainly consequently
conversely finally furthermore hence however incidentally
indeed instead likewise meanwhile moreover nevertheless
next nonetheless otherwise similarly specifically still
subsequently then therefore thus

B. Transitional Expressions

after all as a matter of fact as a result at any rate at the same time
even so for example for instance in addition in conclusion
in fact in other words in the first place on the contrary on the other hand

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Upcoming Homework Assignments for You to Complete

Homework for Wednesday, June 24:

Study Essential English Grammar, Chapters 4-8
Read “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes. (Print out and bring to class.

Homework for Thursday, June 25:

Prepare for in-class writing on I Choose to Stay. You will be turning it in during class this day.

Homework for Monday, June 29:

Read all of Nothing But the Truth.
Study Chapters 9-12 of Essential English Grammar.

Homework for Tuesday, June 30:

Turn in out-of-class essay on “Thank You, Ma’am” and I Choose to Stay.
Study Chapters 14-17 of Essential English Grammar.

Homework for Wednesday, July 1:

Essential English Grammar, Chapters 18-19.
Additional Homework as assigned.

Homework for Thursday, July 2:

In-class writing on Nothing But the Truth.

Out-of-Class Writing Assignment on I Choose to Stay and "Thank You, Ma'am."

English 28 Out of Class Writing #2: “Thank You, Ma’am” and I Choose to Stay

Due on Tuesday, June 30 during regular class time.

You are to write about “Thank You, Ma’am” and I Choose to Stay. Write a 2-3 page essay that is titled, and has an introduction with a thesis statement, body, and conclusion paragraphs.

Writing Question:

Would Mr. EL agree with the way that Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones treated Roger? If so, why? If not, why not? (You must use a minimum of five quotations both from the book I Choose to Stay and the story “Thank You, Ma’am.”)

In-Class Essay Topics: I Choose to Stay. Choose only one of the three questions to write about for this Thursday, June 25.

In-Class Writing on I Choose to Stay--Due in class on Thursday, June 25

Choose one of the following options to write about. Of course, this is an academic essay and you should use the format we have been discussing all semester: Title, introduction with thesis student, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.

Option #1: Many people believe in love at first sight, or in cases on the Internet, love at first write. They say things like, “I’m going to marry that person” even before they meet him or her. When they do get to know the real person, the one that lives behind the attractive cover, they often find that he or she is not what they seemed and would make a terrible match. Often these relationships end in frustration and divorce. Shawnna and Salome seem to have experienced love at first sight. But the question for you to answer is this: “Did Shawnna make the right choice of a husband? Why or why not?”

Option #2: One summer, I loaned my copy of I Choose to Stay to my 14-year-old niece. A couple of weeks later, when I asked her what she thought, she said that she got tired of it about halfway through. She complained, “Mr. EL never does anything wrong. He acts as if his whole life is wrapped up in these school kids, and just about everything he does is right and turns out good. But even I know that people make mistakes and fail. Besides, the lessons I got from reading the book are the same lessons I got from kindergarten up until now: Aim high, work hard, do it for the team, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Enough already!”

Because of what my niece said, I am now hesitant to suggest I Choose to Stay to other teenagers, for fear they may not like it. Your writing task is to give me some arguments, with examples from the book, to help me convince teenagers like my niece that they can learn something truly valuable from reading this book.

Option #3: After class, a student told me that what he got out of I Choose to Stay was a message that smart people succeed while not-so-smart people pretty much failed in the world. Mr. EL was smart from the beginning of his life—and wound up very successful. His sisters and brothers didn’t have his brains--or his success. In general, he thought that the book was not really a message of hope for everyone, but one of “genetics determines one’s level of success.” In other words, those who were born smart and strong grew prosperous while the person of average or below-average intelligence failed. He mentioned Eli, Salome’s twin, who was really affected badly by his dad’s absence. He also mentioned two of Salome’s sisters who got pregnant and had kids without husbands, therefore repeating the same cycle of Mr. EL’s parents. Do you think this student’s attitude about the book is right or wrong? Why?

Thank You, Ma'am by Langston Hughes

Thank You, Ma’am

By Langston Hughes

She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails. It had a long strap, and she carried it slung across her shoulder. It was about eleven o’clock at night, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, intsead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. The large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.
After that the woman said, “Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here.” She still held him. But she bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?”
Firmly gripped by his shirt front, the boy said, “Yes’m.”
The woman said, “What did you want to do it for?”
The boy said, “I didn’t aim to.”
She said, “You a lie!”
By that time two or three people passed, stopped, turned to look, and some stood watching.
“If I turn you loose, will you run?” asked the woman.
“Yes’m,” said the boy.
“Then I won’t turn you loose,” said the woman. She did not release him.
“I’m very sorry, lady, I’m sorry,” whispered the boy.
“Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”
“No’m,” said the boy.
“Then it will get washed this evening,” said the large woman starting up the street, dragging the frightened boy behind her.
He looked as if he were fourteen or fifteen, frail and willow-wild, in tennis shoes and blue jeans.
The woman said, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?”
“No’m,” said the being dragged boy. “I just want you to turn me loose.”
“Was I bothering you when I turned that corner?” asked the woman.
“But you put yourself in contact with me,” said the woman. “If you think that that contact is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming. When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.”
Sweat popped out on the boy’s face and he began to struggle. Mrs. Jones stopped, jerked him around in front of her, put a half-nelson about his neck, and continued to drag him up the street. When she got to her door, she dragged the boy inside, down a hall, and into a large kitchenette-furnished room at the rear of the house. She switched on the light and left the door open. The boy could hear other roomers laughing and talking in the large house. Some of their doors were open, too, so he knew he and the woman were not alone. The woman still had him by the neck in the middle of her room.
She said, “What is your name?”
“Roger,” answered the boy.
“Then, Roger, you go to that sink and wash your face,” said the woman, whereupon she turned him loose—at last. Roger looked at the door—looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink.
“Let the water run until it gets warm,” she said. “Here’s a clean towel.”
“You gonna take me to jail?” asked the boy, bending over the sink.
“Not with that face, I would not take you nowhere,” said the woman. “Here I am trying to get home to cook me a bite to eat and you snatch my pocketbook! Maybe, you ain’t been to your supper either, late as it be. Have you?”
“There’s nobody home at my house,” said the boy.
“Then we’ll eat,” said the woman, “I believe you’re hungry—or been hungry—to try to snatch my pockekbook.”
“I wanted a pair of blue suede shoes,” said the boy.
“Well, you didn’t have to snatch my pocketbook to get some suede shoes,” said Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. “You could of asked me.”
The water dripping from his face, the boy looked at her. There was a long pause. A very long pause. After he had dried his face and not knowing what else to do dried it again, the boy turned around, wondering what next. The door was open. He could make a dash for it down the hall. He could run, run, run, run, run!
The woman was sitting on the day-bed. After a while she said, “I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.”
There was another long pause. The boy’s mouth opened. Then he frowned, but not knowing he frowned.
The woman said, “Um-hum! You thought I was going to say but, didn’t you? You thought I was going to say, but I didn’t snatch people’s pocketbooks. Well, I wasn’t going to say that.” Pause. Silence. “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know. So you set down while I fix us something to eat. You might run that comb through your hair so you will look presentable.”
In another corner of the room behind a screen was a gas plate and an icebox. Mrs. Jones got up and went behind the screen. The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day-bed. But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now.
“Do you need somebody to go to the store,” asked the boy, “maybe to get some milk or something?”
“Don’t believe I do,” said the woman, “unless you just want sweet milk yourself. I was going to make cocoa out of this canned milk I got here.”
“That will be fine,” said the boy.
She heated some lima beans and ham she had in the icebox, made the cocoa, and set the table. The woman did not ask the boy anything about where he lived, or his folks, or anything else that would embarrass him. Instead, as they ate, she told him about her job in a hotel beauty-shop that stayed open late, what the work was like, and how all kinds of women came in and out, blondes, red-heads, and Spanish. Then she cut him a half of her ten-cent cake.
“Eat some more, son,” she said.
When they were finished eating she got up and said, “Now, here, take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes. And next time, do not make the mistake of latching onto my pocketbook nor nobody else’s—because shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet. I got to get my rest now. But I wish you would behave yourself, son, from here on in.”
She led him down the hall to the front door and opened it. “Good-night! Behave yourself, boy!” she said, looking out into the street.
The boy wanted to say something else other than “Thank you, m’am” to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, but he couldn’t do so as he turned at the barren stoop and looked back at the large woman in the door. He barely managed to say “Thank you” before she shut the door. And he never saw her again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Out-of-Class Essay Topic #1. Due Tuesday, June 23

English 28 Out-of-Class Essay Writing #1

Due on Tuesday, June 23, during class time.

In a previous semester, when asked about Louise Mallard of “The Story of an Hour” and her relationship to “A Simple Truth about Happiness,” two students had quite different writing responses.

Student One wrote, No one should feel sorry for Louise Mallard. Her unhappiness is her own fault. Even if she is in an arranged marriage, the man she married loves her. He is both “tender” and “kind.” As for her feelings, many wives love their husbands only “sometimes.” When Louise dies of disappointment, I found myself thinking not “Poor baby!” but “What a spoiled brat!” Instead of being unhappy about their unfulfilling marriages, wise women find things to do in order to make themselves happy. They take action in some form, whether it is to find work, to help others, or even to take a lover; they realize that concentrating on “the missing tile” is a source of their unhappiness, and they can choose not to concentrate on what is missing; and, finally, they are grateful for their good luck in having a house, food on the table, and breath in their lungs.”

Student Two had this to say: Louise Mallard is a heroic woman. For a long time, she was just going through the motions of life. She was not living. When her husband died, she not only discovered that she had a ‘missing tile,’ she found the tile, and its name was ‘freedom.’ Dennis Prager wrote, ‘If something is missing from your life, my suggestion is: Find it or drop it. If you cannot live without it, do whatever you can to find it. If you cannot find it, stop thinking about it and celebrate what you do have.’ Louise found her missing tile and she also found she could not live without it. She chose the freedom of death over a life without happiness. Her heart attack was a willful act, done by her own choice and in the spirit of rebellion because she refused to live another minute in an unhappy, unfulfilling, miserable marriage.

Writing Question: When you read “The Story of an Hour” in light of “A Simple Truth about Happiness,” which of these students’ views do you find more accurate to your own view? In other words, which of the above assessments do you think is more accurate to your understanding of “The Story of an Hour”? Explain your view in a fully developed essay that includes an introduction (with a thesis statement), body and conclusion paragraphs—along with adequate quotations. (Your thesis statement might read something like, “I agree with the first student because of a, b, and c.” Or, “I agree with the second student because of a, b, and c.)

A Simple Truth about Happiness by Dennis Prager

A Simple Truth About Happiness

by Dennis Prager

If you're waiting for it, you've missed the point.

After I gave a talk on the subject of happiness, a women in the audience stood up and said, "I wish my husband had come." As much as she loved him, she explained, it wasn't easy being married to someone so unhappy.

This woman enabled me to put into words what I had been searching for- the altruistic, as well as the personal, reasons for taking happiness seriously. I told her that each of us owes it to our spouse, our children, our friends to be as happy as we can be. And if you don't believe me, ask a child what it's like to grow up with an unhappy parents, or ask parents what pain they suffer if they have an unhappy child.

I was not a particulary happy child, and like most teen-agers, I reveled in my angst. One day, however, it occured to me that I was taking the easy way out. Anyone could be unhappy; it took no courage or effort. True achievement lay in struggling to be happy.

The notion that we have to work at happiness comes as news to many people. We assume it's a feeling that comes as a result of good things that just happen to us, things over which we have little or no control.

But the opposite is true: happiness is largely under our control. It is a battle to be waged and not a feeling to be awaited.

To achieve a happier life, it's necessary to overcome some stumbling blocks, three of which are:

Comparison With Others. Most of us compare ourselves with anyone we think is happier- a relative, an acquiantance or, often, someone we barely know. I once met a young man who struck me as particularly successful and happy. He spoke of his love for his beautiful wife and thier daughters, and of his joy at being a radio talk-show host in a city he loved. I remember thinking that he was one of those lucky few for whom everything goes effortlessly right.

Then we started talking about the Internet. He blessed its existence, he told me, because he could look up information on mutiple sclerosis- the terrible disease afflicting his wife. I felt like a fool for assuming nothing unhappy existed in his life.

Images of Perfection: Almost all of us have images of how life should be. The problem, of course, is that only rarely do people's jobs, spouses and children live up to these imagined ideals.

Here's a personal example: No one in my family had ever divorced. I assumed that marriage was for life. So when my wife and I divorced after five years of marriage and three years after the birth of our son, my world caved in. I was a failure in my own eyes.

I later remarried but confided to my wife, Fran, that I couldn't shake the feeling that my family life had failed. She asked me what was wrong with our family now (which included her daughter from a previous marriage and my son). I had to admit that, aside from the pain of being with my son only half the time (my ex-wife and I shared custody), our family life was wonderful.
"Then why don't you celebrate it?" she asked.

That's what I decided to do. But first I had to get rid of the image of a 'perfect' family.

"Missing Tile" Syndrome. One effective way of sabotaging happiness is to look at something and fixate on even the smallest flaw. It's like looking up at a tiled ceiling and concentrating on the space where one tile is missing. As a bald man told me, "Whenever I enter a room, all I see it hair."

Once you've determined what your missing tile is, explore whether acquiring it will really make you happy. Then, if you truly believe that something is missing from your life, my suggestion is: Find it or drop it. If you cannot live without it, do whatever you can to find it. If you cannot find it, stop thinking about it and celebrate what you do have.

I've spent years studying happiness, and one of the most significant conclusions I've drawn is this: there is little correlation between the circumstances of people's lives and how happy they are. A moment of reflection should make this obvious. We all know people who have had a relatively easy life yet are essentially unhappy. And we know people who have suffered a great deal but generally remain happy.

The first secret is gratitude. All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it's truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.

The second secret is realizing that happiness is a byproduct of something else. The most obvious sources are those pursuits that give our lives purpose- anything from studying insects to playing baseball. The more passions we have, the more happiness we're likely to experience.

Finally, the belief that something permanent transcends us and that our existence has some larger meaning can help us be happier. We need a spiritual or religious faith, or a philosophy of life.

Whatever your philosophy, it should encompass this truism: if you choose to find the positive in virtually every situation, you will be blessed, and if you choose to find the awful, you will be cursed. As with happiness itself, this is largely your decision to make.

In-Class Writing #1. Print and bring to Wednesday's Class. Thank You

In-Class Writing #1—You can download this and bring it to class. You can use notes and dictionaries during the class session. You must turn this in at the end of the class period.

In years past, I have asked students to write about Malcolm X and Charles Sykes’ articles on learning, self-esteem, teaching and the like. Some students have had almost opposite reactions to the following question: In light of the article he wrote about self-esteem and learning, would Charles Sykes have been impressed by Malcolm X’s efforts to learn while he was in prison?

Here are two students who have very different points-of-view.

Student 1 wrote: I think Sykes would be impressed with Malcolm X, and think that he hadn’t been victimized by others building up his self-esteem in a false way. After all, Malcolm X’s increased self-esteem came about by three things: one, he did a realistic assessment of his life and his skills and found himself lacking and unhappy about it; second, because he was highly motivated, he taught himself to read and write well; third, he demonstrated real change after jail by staying clear of illegal activities.

Student 2 wrote: Malcolm X was a jailbird. He spent six years in prison for crimes he committed. While in jail, he taught himself to read and write better than he had before he went there. I think Charles Sykes would say that the rise in self-esteem Malcolm X felt by the end of his prison term was not a good thing. First, Malcolm X shouldn’t have been allowed to profit for his crimes by being able to have the leisure time to learn to read and write. Leisure time is for those who work hard and do well, not for criminals. Second, he got involved in a religious movement, the Black Muslims, which was violently against American society, not for it. Many people, including himself, were killed by Black Muslim actions and activities. Finally, I agree with Sykes who wrote, People who have ele­vated or inflated views of themselves tend to alienate others." I wasn’t impressed by Malcolm X’s story. So he learned to read and write well, big deal! Does that mean he deserves a big autobiography and a movie? Hardly. Mother Theresa or even my own mother deserves to be celebrated, not some con who thinks he is something special—when he isn’t.

Of these two views, which is more like your own? Why? You need to write an essay that contains a title, an introduction with a thesis statement (one sentence that contains your main idea and organizational plan}, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion drawing your ideas all together. By the way, you can agree or disagree with Students 1 and 2, and use their thoughts and arguments to help you guide your own views. Of course, your work has to be original and it will be. You must also incorporate at least three quotations into your answer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Choose to Stay--Whole Book Text Online--You Will Read this book starting Wednesday, June 17

If you click on this link, you will find one of the books for the course:

I Choose to Stay by Salome Thomas-EL

We will do this book first, I believe. You can read online or download and print out for class.


Teaching English 21--Day One

Today was the first day of the five-week summer semester, and many students attended. They seem eager enough, but it is always difficult on the first day. I expect there to be books in the bookstore, students who are motivated, and so on. The first part of the bargain--books--are not available, and that makes me very uncomfortable. To have to wait a couple of weeks is silly and demeaning for the students and the teacher, and I am angry that this has happened again. From now on, I am going to walk my orders over and make sure they get inputted immediately. Relying on other teachers or the bookstore staff is just not optimal.

As for the eagerness of students, that is always a plus. I know how to keep that excitement going--by making the class challenging and not accepting mediocrity. Students in English 21 have much to learn, and their skills have to be sharpened immediately. I don't know how many are willing to do the kind of hard work necessary to make this happen for themselves. It has rewards, but only if they stick with it. They won't even know the rewards until years from now when they can actually write decent material that others enjoy reading. So... we'll see.

I have been doing this long enough to have a backup plan. I have things for students to read and react to, and I can show them samples of good writing and discuss the elements of good writing. In a way, having limited choices makes my job easier. I don't have to explain so much, and I won't feel let down when the students don't read what they are supposed to be reading. So... there is that challenge.

I can already see that only a few people have visited the blogsite. So... my hopes are somewhat dashed. But I will persevere and write...

more another day.
The Storm
by Kate Chopin (1898)


The leaves were so still that even Bibi thought it was going to rain. Bobinôt, who was accustomed to converse on terms of perfect equality with his little son, called the child's attention to certain sombre clouds that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar. They were at Friedheimer's store and decided to remain there till the storm had passed. They sat within the door on two empty kegs. Bibi was four years old and looked very wise.
"Mama'll be 'fraid, yes," he suggested with blinking eyes.
"She'll shut the house. Maybe she got Sylvie helpin' her this evenin'," Bobinôt responded reassuringly.
"No; she ent got Sylvie. Sylvie was helpin' her yistiday," piped Bibi.
Bobinôt arose and going across to the counter purchased a can of shrimps, of which Calixta was very fond. Then he retumed to his perch on the keg and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst. It shook the wooden store and seemed to be ripping great furrows in the distant field. Bibi laid his little hand on his father's knee and was not afraid.

Calixta, at home, felt no uneasiness for their safety. She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm. But she felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads. She unfastened her white sacque at the throat. It began to grow dark, and suddenly realizing the situation she got up hurriedly and went about closing windows and doors.
Out on the small front gallery she had hung Bobinôt's Sunday clothes to dry and she hastened out to gather them before the rain fell. As she stepped outside, Alcée Laballière rode in at the gate. She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone. She stood there with Bobinôt's coat in her hands, and the big rain drops began to fall. Alcée rode his horse under the shelter of a side projection where the chickens had huddled and there were plows and a harrow piled up in the corner.
"May I come and wait on your gallery till the storm is over, Calixta?" he asked.
"Come 'long in, M'sieur Alcée."
His voice and her own startled her as if from a trance, and she seized Bobinôt's vest. Alcée, mounting to the porch, grabbed the trousers and snatched Bibi's braided jacket that was about to be carried away by a sudden gust of wind. He expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open: the water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets, and he went inside, closing the door after him. It was even necessary to put something beneath the door to keep the water out.
"My! what a rain! It's good two years sence it rain' like that," exclaimed Calixta as she rolled up a piece of bagging and Alcée helped her to thrust it beneath the crack.
She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity. Her blue eyes still retained their melting quality; and her yellow hair, dishevelled by the wind and rain, kinked more stubbornly than ever about her ears and temples.
The rain beat upon the low, shingled roof with a force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there. They were in the dining room—the sitting room—the general utility room. Adjoining was her bed room, with Bibi's couch along side her own. The door stood open, and the room with its white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, looked dim and mysterious.
Alcée flung himself into a rocker and Calixta nervously began to gather up from the floor the lengths of a cotton sheet which she had been sewing.
"If this keeps up, Dieu sait if the levees goin' to stan it!" she exclaimed.
"What have you got to do with the levees?"
"I got enough to do! An' there's Bobinôt with Bibi out in that storm—if he only didn' left Friedheimer's!"
"Let us hope, Calixta, that Bobinôt's got sense enough to come in out of a cyclone."
She went and stood at the window with a greatly disturbed look on her face. She wiped the frame that was clouded with moisture. It was stiflingly hot. Alcée got up and joined her at the window, looking over her shoulder. The rain was coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist. The playing of the lightning was incessant. A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon.
Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcée's arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.
"Bonté!" she cried, releasing herself from his encircling arm and retreating from the window, the house'll go next! If I only knew w'ere Bibi was!" She would not compose herself; she would not be seated. Alcée clasped her shoulders and looked into her face. The contact of her warm, palpitating body when he had unthinkingly drawn her into his arms, had aroused all the old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh.
"Calixta," he said, "don't be frightened. Nothing can happen. The house is too low to be struck, with so many tall trees standing about. There! aren't you going to be quiet? say, aren't you?" He pushed her hair back from her face that was warm and steaming. Her lips were as red and moist as pomegranate seed. Her white neck and a glimpse of her full, firm bosom disturbed him powerfully. As she glanced up at him the fear in her liquid blue eyes had given place to a drowsy gleam that unconsciously betrayed a sensuous desire. He looked down into her eyes and there was nothing for him to do but to gather her lips in a kiss. It reminded him of Assumption.
"Do you remember—in Assumption, Calixta?" he asked in a low voice broken by passion. Oh! she remembered; for in Assumption he had kissed her and kissed and kissed her; until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight. If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. Now—well, now—her lips seemed in a manner free to be tasted, as well as her round, white throat and her whiter breasts.
They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms. She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon. Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world.
The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.
When he touched her breasts they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy, inviting his lips. Her mouth was a fountain of delight. And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life's mystery.
He stayed cushioned upon her, breathless, dazed, enervated, with his heart beating like a hammer upon her. With one hand she clasped his head, her lips lightly touching his forehead. The other hand stroked with a soothing rhythm his muscular shoulders.
The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. But they dared not yield.


The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems. Calixta, on the gallery, watched Alcée ride away. He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; and she lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed aloud.
Bobinôt and Bibi, trudging home, stopped without at the cistern to make themselves presentable.
"My! Bibi, w'at will yo' mama say! You ought to be ashame'. You oughta' put on those good pants. Look at 'em! An' that mud on yo' collar! How you got that mud on yo' collar, Bibi? I never saw such a boy!" Bibi was the picture of pathetic resignation. Bobinôt was the embodiment of serious solicitude as he strove to remove from his own person and his son's the signs of their tramp over heavy roads and through wet fields. He scraped the mud off Bibi's bare legs and feet with a stick and carefully removed all traces from his heavy brogans. Then, prepared for the worst—the meeting with an over-scrupulous housewife, they entered cautiously at the back door.
Calixta was preparing supper. She had set the table and was dripping coffee at the hearth. She sprang up as they came in.
"Oh, Bobinôt! You back! My! but I was uneasy. W'ere you been during the rain? An' Bibi? he ain't wet? he ain't hurt?" She had clasped Bibi and was kissing him effusively. Bobinôt's explanations and apologies which he had been composing all along the way, died on his lips as Calixta felt him to see if he were dry, and seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their safe return.
"I brought you some shrimps, Calixta," offered Bobinôt, hauling the can from his ample side pocket and laying it on the table.
"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinôt! you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded, "J'vous réponds, we'll have a feas' to-night! umph-umph!"
Bobinôt and Bibi began to relax and enjoy themselves, and when the three seated themselves at table they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballière's.


Alcée Laballière wrote to his wife, Clarisse, that night. It was a loving letter, full of tender solicitude. He told her not to hurry back, but if she and the babies liked it at Biloxi, to stay a month longer. He was getting on nicely; and though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer—realizing that their health and pleasure were the first things to be considered.
As for Clarisse, she was charmed upon receiving her husband's letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.
So the storm passed and every one was happy.

Homework for the Week of June 22

Homework for the Week of June 22, 2009—

Monday, June 22--Finish reading I Choose to Stay. There will be a quiz on the whole book first thing Monday morning.

Tuesday, June 23:

1. Turn in paper on "The Story of an Hour" and "A Simple Truth about Happiness." Topic for this out-of-class paper is elsewhere on this blog..
2. Study chapters 1 – 5 of Essential English Grammar

Wednesday, June 24:

1. Read pp. 1-70 of Nothing But the Truth
2. Study chapters 6-8 of Essential English Grammar

Thursday, June 25:

1. Second in-class essay
2. Finish reading Nothing but the Truth

Friday, June 12, 2009

Writing a Five-Paragraph Academic Essay the Simple Way

Writing a Five-Paragraph Academic Essay the Simple Way

The five paragraph essay follows a defined format: a one paragraph introduction with thesis statement; a three paragraph body; and a one paragraph conclusion. It is the key to all academic writing, and it is something you need to master before you can consider yourself a successful writer.

The first paragraph introduces us to the topic and includes a thesis that gives the three main supporting subtopics. The second through fourth paragraphs are all similar in format. They individually restate the subtopics, and are developed by giving supporting information. The fifth and last paragraph restates the thesis statement and reminds the reader of the three main supporting ideas that were developed. All of these paragraphs are important.

The introductory paragraph is where the writer introduces the reader to the topic. It is important to make this as clear and compelling as possible. This is where the writer grabs the reader's attention. It is important to note that all introduction paragraphs should end in a thesis statement. This is one sentence that contains your main idea and the organizational plan for your essay. It should be specific, and the best type of thesis statement states clearly three subtopics that the essay will develop in the subsequent body paragraphs.

Next, the body of the essay contains paragraphs two through four. They are all similarly constructed. Their topic sentences are restatements, often in original form, of the three supporting ideas presented in the thesis statement. The subtopic of each of the body paragraphs is again supported by four or more supporting sentences. These sentences cement, in the reader's mind, the relevancy and relationship of each of the subtopics to the thesis statement.

Finally, the fifth paragraph is the conclusion. It is often a good idea—though not always--to restate the thesis and three supporting ideas in an original and powerful manner as this is the last chance the writer has to convince the reader of the validity of the information presented. Because the purposes of the first and fifth paragraph are so similar, some writers construct them at the same time. They will edit them, as necessary, as they do with each and every part of the essay. Remember that paragraphs are made up of ideas that you choose and words that you control. Every word is important, and you should carefully consider each word. You can always change your ideas and words to fit any new thoughts you have. That is why writing is such a fluid, creative process.

It is important to reiterate that each of the paragraphs is joined together by a transition word, phrase or sentence. Transitions help the reader to follow the flow of the logic and sequencing. All of the essay types follow this basic transition format. To put it more visually, the structure looks like this:

Introductory Paragraph
General Topic Sentence
Background Information
Thesis Statement containing
Subtopic One
Subtopic Two
Subtopic Three
First Supporting Paragraph
Restate Subtopic One
First Supporting Detail or Example
Second Supporting Detail or Example
Third Supporting Detail or Example
Second Supporting Paragraph
Restate Subtopic Two
First Supporting Detail or Example
Second Supporting Detail or Example
Third Supporting Detail or Example
Third Supporting Paragraph
Restate Subtopic Three
First Supporting Detail or Example
Second Supporting Detail or Example
Third Supporting Detail or Example
Closing or Summary Paragraph
Synthesis of main topic
Synthesis of Subtopic One
Synthesis of Subtopic Two
Synthesis of Subtopic Three

There is more to understanding the structure than these simple basics. To find out more about the five paragraph essay, visit some of these sites (In order to view these sites, you might have to click on the Control Key at the same time you click the mouse button.)

The Five Paragraph Essay - basic structure with an example
Writing an Effective Essay - follow the basic steps
Essay Writing Tips - simple yet effective
Write the Introduction and Conclusion - This site provides the basics and is a good place to begin. There is also a sample essay.
Writing an Effective Essay - follow the basic steps
Find the Question - Be sure you understand the assignment
The Five Paragraph Essay Slide Show - all of the main points are covered in an interesting manner
The Five Paragraph Essay - Here is a sample to show you hot it all fits together.

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

The Story of An Hour

Kate Chopin (1894)

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that owuld belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they ahve a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.
When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Homemade Education by Malcolm X

A Homemade Education
by Malcolm X

(Writer, lecturer, and political activist Malcolm X (1925-1965) was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska. His father, a Baptist minister, supported the back-to-Africa movement of the 1920s. Because of these activities the family was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan and forced to move several times. Eventfully, his father was murdered, and his mother was committed to a mental institution. Malcolm X quit high school, preferring the street world of criminals and drug addicts. While he served time in prison from 1946 to 1952, he read books and studied the Black Muslim religion, finally becoming an articulate advocate of black separatism. Malcolm X later split with Elijah Muhammad, the Black Muslim leader, rejecting the notion that whites were evil and working for worldwide African-American unity and equality. For his defection, Malcolm X was assassinated.)

It was because of my letters that I happened to stumble upon starting to acquire some kind of a homemade education.
I became increasingly frustrated at not being able to express what I wanted to convey in letters that I wrote, especially to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. In the street, I had been the most articulate hustler out there - I had commanded attention when I said something. But now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn't articulate, I wasn't even functional. How would I sound writing in slang, the way I would say it, something such as, "Look, daddy, let me pull your coat about a cat, Elijah Muhammad - "
Many who today hear me somewhere in person, or on television, or those who read something I've said, will think I went to school far beyond the eighth grade. This impression is due entirely to my prison studies.
It had really begun back in the Charlestown Prison, when Bimbi first made me feel envy of his stock of knowledge. Bimbi had always taken charge of any conversations he was in, and I had tried to emulate him. But every book I picked up had few sentences which didn't contain anywhere from one to nearly all of the words that might as well have been in Chinese. When I just skipped those words, of course, I really ended up with little idea of what the book said. So I had come to the Norfolk Prison Colony still going through only book-reading motions. Pretty soon, I would have quit even these motions, unless I had received the motivation that I did.
I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary - to study, to learn some words. I was lucky enough to reason also that I should try to improve my penmanship. It was sad. I couldn't even write in a straight line. It was both ideas together that moved me to request a dictionary along with some tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison colony school.
I spent two days just rifling uncertainly though the dictionary's pages. I'd never realized so many words existed! I didn't know which words I needed to learn. Finally, just to start some kind of action, I began copying. In my slow, painstaking, ragged handwriting, I copied into my tablet everything printed on that first page, down to the punctuation marks. I believe it took me a day. Then, aloud, I read back to myself, everything I'd written on the tablet. Over and over, aloud, to myself, I read my own handwriting.
I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words - immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I'd written words, that I never knew were in the world. Moreover, with a little effort, I also could remember what many of these words meant. I reviewed the words whose meanings I didn't remember. Funny thing, from the dictionary first page right now, that "aardvark" springs to my mind. The dictionary had a picture of it, a long-tallied, long-eared, burrowing African mammal, which lives off termites caught by sticking out its tongue as an anteater does for ants.
I was so fascinated that I went on - I copied the dictionary's next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary's A section had filled a whole tablet - and I went on into the B's. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary. I went a lot faster after so much practice helped me to pick up handwriting speed. Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words.
I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something, from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn't have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad's teachings, my correspondence, my visitors- usually Ella and Reginald - and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.