Tag Archives: English 9

Book Reviews for LA 9

Today I was asked: “How do I write a book review?”

Here’s a quick trip about what I found: 

My first stop was at Amazon. With each book is a snippet of a responses from readers/buyers/sellers. The purpose of the reviews are simple – take a few seconds to write a sharply worded sentence or two and recommend the book for sale. In a few minutes and swift clicking I can read hundreds of reviews. The reviews are brief, many amounting to glowing praise or stark rebuffs. Some attention is made by review writers to carefully craft sentences, few reviews amount to more than a sternly worded paragraph. The reviews are focused on the text and personal preference, but with so many sweeping generalizations there was rarely a focus at all. Little is learned about the reviewer. These “pesky” reviews are not what we need to mimic.

My second stop was the more personally focused site, One Minute Reviews. The reviews here are written by one reviewer. The reviews range in length, depth. Some a few sentences to recommend a sale, others quite elaborately synthesize a variety of information. The summum bonum of the experience is to grow in an understanding of the reviewer. I like this approach to the book review better. However, I could not relate to the bulk of the experiences of the reviewer, and shared few if any common interests. The focus was too narrow and I lost interest in the site. 

Quality Book Reviews was just too busy. Too many links, too many distractions, too many book reviews. It would take a while to find a reviewer I liked as the “finding” would be left to chance. Something this big is more than I need. Searching for author, title, reviewer is useful, but I need a smaller focus, a more modest audience, a warmer welcoming.

Real Reader Reviews looked the most familiar to what I’d expect for beginning reviewers. But again, the focus was amiss. After a few clicks, it felt like I was reading the same review over and over again, with no real exposure to the personality of the reviewer.

The Teen Book Review is by far the best fit in my hastily assembled survey. I spent so much time reading and marveling, that I have run out of time to write much here.  The focus was clear. The text easy to read. The text linked/bolded. There were no distractions in the sidebars. The post layouts were simple and varied. The variety of posts reflected the author’s identity. The personality of the reviewer beams through: “Gone is a huge book, over 550 pages, but the time passed so quickly while I was reading it, and I just couldn’t put it down! Last night, taking a break from my history homework, I picked it up, intending to read a chapter or two and then  get my brain back on track. Instead, I read two hundred pages. That’s how absolutely engrossing this book is!”

Have a long close look at Teen Book Review. These are reviews we should mimic.

Cell Phone and iPods Banned from Students

Peruse the articles linked below. Find your own sources.
Defend your own position, hyperlink your sources. Contribute to the discussion in the STJ forums. Write your own post in your blog. Trackback here.

From New York

When Olivia Lara-Gresty saw the metal detectors at the entrance of Middle School 54 on the Upper West Side, she turned around and ran home to ditch her contraband before joining her sixth-grade class.

From Toronto

“You’re welcome to bring the cellphone to the school itself. We don’t want to ban it outright from the premises so students can’t use it as a tool for safety when they’re walking to and from school,” said trustee Josh Matlow.

From NYCLU

Every day, more than 93,000 New York City school children must pass through a gauntlet of metal detectors, bag searches and pat downs administered by police personnel who are inadequately trained, insufficiently supervised and often belligerent, aggressive and disrespectful. This burden weighs most heavily on the city’s most vulnerable children, who are disproportionately poor, Black and Latino.

From Weblogg-ed

So let’s review. What does this teach those kids? First, it teaches them that they don’t deserve to be empowered with technology the same way adults are. Second, that the tools that adults use all the time in their everyday lives to communicate are not relevant to their own communication needs. Third, that they can’t be trusted (or taught, for that matter) to use phones appropriately in school.

From a Toronto School Trustee

Therefore, be it resolved:
(a) That all schools include provisions in their codes of conduct to ensure that all personal communication devices will be powered off and stored out of view during an instructional class and other areas in the school, unless otherwise authorized by the principal;

From NY Times

Carmen Colon, a divorced mother raising three sons in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, considers herself a law-abiding citizen. But New York City’s ban on students carrying cellphones in the schools is one rule she will not abide by, she said yesterday.

From thge Charter of Rights

b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

From eSchool News

When word spread of an airliner crashing into the Pentagon, just 14 miles away, the phones began appearing everywhere. “The reality was that many kids are carrying around phones, and carrying them around responsibly,” Monday said.

From lawyer Morgan Lewis

a special proceeding against the New York City Department of Education

From Donna Lieberman

The cell phone ban has caused enormous disruption in the education of New York City’s children — distracting them and their teachers from the business of learning, putting them in frequent confrontations with police personnel, and eating up class time. It’s time for the mayor and the Department of Education to revisit this ill-advised, counterproductive, and inflexible rule.

From Gotham

“The majority of people are fed up with the proliferation of chatter,” says Reed, “and I feel like somebody needs to legislate etiquette, or just help New Yorkers get some peace of mind.”

From Brooklynrail.org

After the metal detectors, scanning wands, and armies of security personnel were introduced to Clinton students in September 2005, the lines at the East side of the building extended halfway down the block to Bronx Science, one of the City’s top 5 most prestigious public high schools. The two schools occupy opposite ends of the spectrum of high school surveillance/security/cell phone ban policy. Asked what he thought about Mayor Bloomberg’s and Chancellor Klein’s newly imposed cell phone ban, Lolo flatly stated, “It’s very obvious they’re singling out minority schools. Bronx Science is on the same block as our school and they don’t have metal detectors and their kids can bring whatever they want.”

[rsslist:http://forum.stjschool.org/rss.php?tid=141]

The Night Aunt Dottie Caught Elvis’s Scarf When He Tossed It From The Stage Of The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center

This exercise is simple: write a poem about a family member meeting a famous person. All of us have such incidents embedded in family history or folklore: the day Dad shook hands with Ike in France; the time Mom spilled coffee on Elizabeth Taylor in a pizza parlour in San Mateo; the night Aunt Dottie caught Elvis’s scarf when he tossed it from the stage of The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. In most cases, our loved ones’ encounters with the famous or powerful tend to be fleeting and bittersweet, however memorable they may later seem — and it’s this aspect of the encounter that helps us to envision our family members in contexts that avoid easy sentimental gestures. These are situations that, in a small way, the forces of public history and private history collide, and these meetings help us to see our loved ones as individuals, not as types.

Guidleines for the exercise:

  1. The encounter can be real or imaginary, but at least should be plausible — no meeting between Cousin Ed and Genghis Khan
  2. The family member, not the famous person, should of course be the protagonist of the poem and it is his or her consciousness that the poem should try to enter or understand.
  3. The writer of the poem should be an effaced presence, understanding the inner workings of the family member’s mind but seeing the family member as a character referred to in the third person (“my father” and not “Dad,” in other words).
  4. The famous person can be anyone in politcs, entertainment, or the arts; JFK to Mel Gibson, Emily Brontë to Madonna
  5. Since the exercise tends to demand a fairly complex profile or portrait of the family member in question, it is best suited to longer poems — at least 30 lines.
  6. Submit completed poems via trackback

To Make a Dadaist Poem

  1. Take a news article (from your RSS aggregator, for example)
  2. Take some scissors
  3. Print the article
  4. Get a small bag (pencil case, ziplock, lunch bag)
  5. Cut the article into bits, one word per bit.
  6. Put the bits into the bag
  7. Shake gently(the bag, duh!)
  8. Take out each bit one by one and copy conscientiously in the order each bit left the bag
  9. The poem will resemble you

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

BTW: Dada, Dadaism, Dadaist

My Mother’s Kitchen

  1. Use pencil crayons to draw a picture of your mother’s kitchen.
  2. Put the oven in it, and also something green, and something dead.
  3. Write a poem about your mother’s kitchen.
  4. You are not in this poem, but some female relation – aunt, sister, close friend – must walk into the kitchen during the course of the poem.
  5. Completed poems, with a suitable image(72 dpi, png, lightbox), should appear in your blog and trackback here.

A lesson on single point perspective. Hint: Tiles need an extra diagonal, too.

Microcontents Flourish at STJ Blogs (LA 9)

Thanks to a few bloggers for helping me work out the bugs in the microcontent code. Movie, music, and video game reviews appear to be the most popular. I still haven’t, yet, found a sure fire method of aggregating all the reviews – POGE. The FREEoutputthis.org looks promising.

Anyway, for the time being, trackback your microcontent posts here.

Blogging About the News (LA 9)

Students can collect news headlines from a variety of RSS sources using their blog as a news aggregator. Writing about the news is one of the more common uses of a blog throughout the blogosphere. Bloggers blend fact and opinion, rant and satire, sarcasm and criticism, objectivity and subjectivity, style and substance. By reading and commenting about the news we learn two things: something about the news, and something about the blogger.

Trackback/pingback your posts about the news here.