Personalty

Write a letter to the personality trait you like least, convincing it to shape up or ship out. Be as threatening, theatrical, or thoroughly charming as is necessary to get the job done.

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Observe death carefully, sympathetically

Write a narration about your experience with a person or an animal whose actions you have observed carefully, using a first-person point of view to present not only your own observations of your subject but also the details of that subject’s experiences as you have sympathetically understood and interpreted them.

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Death of a Young Son by Drowning

“Death of a Young Son by Drowning” by Margaret Atwood is a moving poem about the death of a child. The use of metaphor makes the poem more challenging.

Theme:

Hope dies when one’s child dies.

Techniques:

  • metaphor, simile, symbolism, allusion.

Issues:

What happened to the speaker? To her son?

What reflective question does this poem ask?

This poem comes from a collection written by Margaret Atwood called The Journals of Susanna Moodie. In this collection we read of the hardships and triumphs of the title character, who is a pioneer and recent immigrant to Canada. Find and read other poems from this collection.

Write about the comparisons this poem uses. Do you think the comparisons are appropriate or effective?

How do you feel about this poem? What do you like or dislike about it?

What do the last two lines mean?

Discuss the type of journey both mother and son make. Discuss how it symbolizes the journey of life, from birth to death.

 

“Death of a Young Son by Drowning” by Margaret Atwood

He, who navigated with success
the dangerous river of his own birth
once more set forth

on a voyage of discovery
into the land I floated on
but could not touch to claim.

His feet slid on the bank,
the currents took him;
he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water

and plunged into distant regions,
his head a bathysphere;
through his eyes’ thin glass bubbles

he looked out, reckless adventurer
on a landscape stranger than Uranus
we have all been to and some remember.

There was an accident; the air locked,
he was hung in the river like a heart.
They retrieved the swamped body,

cairn of my plans and future charts,
with poles and hooks
from among the nudging logs.

It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass
leapt to solidity;
my hands glistened with details.

After the long trip I was tired of waves.
My foot hit rock. The dreamed sails
collapsed, ragged.

I planted him in this country
like a flag.

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Story Activity

Read a story.

Write a post in which you first summarize the story. Next describe your responses to the characters and events at various points. Then develop two open-ended questions you are interested in discussing. Work with others in the class to develop a structured discussion around the group’s questions. Afterword add one or two paragraphs to your post, incorporating new insights or interpretations from your discussion.

Help with “structured discussion”? Use the comment form at the bottom of your post or the forums.

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Pick 5 and Synthesize (Part 1)

Pick 5 of the following words and synthesize them into a piece of your writing:

  • psychological
  • scorn
  • elitism
  • promenade
  • demeanour
  • crystalline
  • bickering
  • furrow
  • gilded
  • a rococo motif
  • absently
  • deprived
  • orrery
  • turnover
  • endowed
  • haunches
  • evanescent
  • wiry
  • claustrophobic
  • disembodied
  • matronly
  • oblation
  • hackles
  • bedraggled
  • frump
  • decisively
  • vehemently
  • tote
  • tentatively
  • resentfully
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Peel Out!

One day you leave your house and in your driveway is the car of your dreams. Your name is stencilled on the door and the keys are in the ignition. You don’t ask any questions. You get in and take off. Describe the story of the next couple of hours of your life in glorious detail.

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Evil

Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.

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National News

Spend a week carefully observing news stories covered by the televised CBC news The National (10 or 11 p.m.) and the print daily newspaper The National Post.

Which stories were covered on TV, which significant stories were only in the newspaper? Which medium provided the deepest and most thorough coverage of particular events?

Write a post about your comparison and conclusions.

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Cities

Is the big city “a wondrous toy” as the song goes, or is it a hill of swarming ants? Is it a creative showcase for a country’s talent and skill or is it a drain on the energies of millions of people who must struggle for survival from day to day? Can it be both? Is it something else? What does the city mean to you? Describe your view of the city in specific detail.

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Does Music Speak to Your Values?

The Courage of Conviction: Social, Political, and Spiritual beliefs

The 1960s was a time when popular music—whether country, R&B, gospel, Motown or rock—spoke of themes such as overcoming adversity and the possibility of freedom and equality. Songs touched on messages about the hardships of racism, poverty, and the urban experience. During the Vietnam War, many songs were also written raising questions and calling for peace.

Composers of songs that addressed social issues took risks to express their values, as well as their social, political and spiritual beliefs through their music. Some songs were ignored by radio stations. Yet, some of these same songs from the 60s are still on the airwaves today and most of them have endured and been recorded on CD, and are widely available online (YouTube, iTunes, Play). Newly composed and recorded music still speaks to us on many of these social themes and concerns.

Listen and Respond

Think of a song that you enjoy today that you believe speaks of an important social issue, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Listen to it a few times, and reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers.

  1. What are lyrics from the song that stir emotions in you? Why? Record the lyrics that you believe are the most powerful or memorable below:
  2. How do you feel when you listen to this song?
  3. Why do you think the themes and messages in the song are important?
  4. Do you believe that a wide range of people, for many years to come, will be able to connect with the meaning of this song (in the way that people have connected with the meaning of “People Get Ready” for more than 40 years)? Why or why not?

Group Discussion

If possible, share your song (by playing it) with a group and have each person share the song that he or she chose for this activity. Talk about the messages in the songs. Tell each other what your answers were to the questions above.

Write a Post

Write a post about a song in which its composer addressed social issues and took risks to express their values – their social, political, and spiritual beliefs – through their music.

Inspiration:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/readers-poll-the-10-best-protest-songs-of-all-time-20141203/bob-dylan-blowin-in-the-wind-20141203

Try These:

Sweet Music (One of These Days)
Written by Alicia Keys
Produced by Alicia Keys and Kerry Brothers (as Kerry “Krucial” Brothers)
Performed by Alicia Keys

Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
Written by Stevie Wonder, Sylvia Moy, Henry Cosby
Performed by Stevie Wonder

Woo-Hoo
Written by George Donald McGraw
Performed by Rock-a-Teens (as Rock A-Teens)

Rave On
Written by Del ‘Sonny’ West (as Sunny West), Bill Tilghman, Norman Petty
Performed by Buddy Holly

Kaw Liga
Written by Hank Williams, Fred Rose
Performed by Hank Williams

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)
Written by Hank Williams

If We Never Needed the Lord Before We Sure Do Need Him Now
Written by Thomas A. Dorsey

I Can’t Get Next to You
Written by Norman Whitfield (as Norman J. Whitfield), Barrett Strong
Performed by The Temptations

I’m Blue
AKA “The Gong Gong Song”
Written by Ike Turner
Performed by The Ikettes

Last Night
Written by Charles Axton, Chips Moman, Floyd Newman, Gilbert Caple, Jerry Lee ‘Smoochy’ Smith
Performed by The Mar-Keys

Shake It Up Baby (AKA Twist and Shout)
Written by Bert Berns, Phil Medley
Performed by The Isley Brothers

My Guy
Written by Smokey Robinson
Performed by Mary Wells

Function at the Junction
Written by Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland Jr.), Shorty Long (as Frederick Long)
Performed by Shorty Long

My Home is on the Delta
Written by Muddy Waters (as McKinley Morganfield)
Performed by Muddy Waters

I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honeybunch)
Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland Jr.)

Can You Do It
Written by Richard Street, Thelma Gordy
Performed by The Contours

Burnt Biscuits
Written by Chips Moman, Booker T. Jones (as Booker T. Jones, Jr.)
Performed by The Triumphs

I’m on My Way to Canaan
Written and Performed by Mahalia Jackson

Baby Love
Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland Jr.)
Performed by The Supremes

Jordan River
Written by James Herndon
Performed by Shirley Cesar

Texas Fight
Written by Colonel Walter S. Hunnicutt, James E. King, Burnett “Blondie” Pharr

Green Onions
Written by Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewie Steinberg and Al Jackson Jr.
Performed by Booker T. & the M.G.s (as Booker T. and the MG’s)

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
Written by Otis Redding, Jerry Butler
Performed by Otis Redding

Ain’t That Good News
Written by James Cleveland
Performed by The Meditation Singers

El Paso
Written by Marty Robbins

Going to a Go-Go
Written by Smokey Robinson, Marvin Tarplin, Warren Moore, Bobby Rogers (as Robert Rogers)
Performed by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Shotgun
Written by Junior Walker (as Autry Dewalt)
Performed by Jr. Walker & The All Stars

You’re a Wonderful One
Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edwards Holland, Jr.
Performed by Marvin Gaye

Get Ready
Written by Smokey Robinson
Performed by The Temptations

Ain’t That Peculiar
Written by Smokey Robinson, Marvin Tarplin, Warren Moore, Bobby Rogers (as Robert Rogers)
Performed by Marvin Gaye

Down in the Boondocks
Written by Joe South
Performed by Billy Joe Royal

Ballad of the Green Berets
Written by Barry Sadler (as Barry A. Sadler), Robin Moore
Performed by Barry Sadler (as Sgt. Barry Sadler)

Road Runner
(AKA “I’m a Road Runner”)
Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland Jr.)
Performed by Jr. Walker & The All Stars

Dancing in the Street
Written by Marvin Gaye (as Marvin P. Gaye), Ivy Jo Hunter, William Stevenson
Performed by Martha & The Vandellas

These Arms of Mine
Written and Performed by Otis Redding

People Get Ready
Written by Curtis Mayfield
Performed by The Impressions

Up All Night Blues
Written by Rick Garcia, Craig Eastman
Performed by The Raven Shadows

The Eyes of Texas
Written by John Lang Sinclair

On, On, U. of K.
(University of Kentucky)
Written by C.A. Lampert

People Get Ready
Written by Curtis Mayfield
Produced by Alicia Keys and Kerry Brothers (as Kerry “Krucial” Brothers)
Performed by Alicia Keys and Lyfe Jennings

I Will Make the Darkness Light
Written by Charles P. Jones
Produced by Alicia Keys and Trevor Rabin
Performed by Alicia Keys

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Mysterious Potion

You encounter a mysterious man offering you a magic potion that, once sipped, will make one of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) super sharp ? but dull the others. Will you sip it, and if so, what sense do you choose?

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Williams, Creely, Ginsberg, Bowering

Read some poetry written by William Carlos Williams, Robert Creely, Allen Ginsberg, or George Bowering. Then write an illustrative essay in which you discuss what you believe makes the author’s poetry effective. Be sure to support your ideas with specific details and examples.

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Time Loop

In the comedy “Groundhog Day” Bill Murray experienced the same day again and again, stuck in a time loop until he got the day ?right.? What day would you choose to repeat until you got it right? Do you think it’s ever possible to get life “right”?

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The Grandchildren That Never Where

It is the year 2100. In the year 2090, World War III began. In the year 2095, a biological weapon that destroys the human immune system only was released and used by both sides in the war. As a result, human beings have become extinct. The beautiful parks that the people of the early 21st century worked so hard to build and protect are now enjoyed by no one but the squirrels and birds that live there. At the entrance of the biggest, most beautiful park of all, there is a golden plaque that reads as follows: “This park is dedicated with love to our future grandchildren. We worked very hard and made many sacrifices, knowing that you would one day appreciate having this green space to enjoy.” Of course, the “future grandchildren” referred to in this plaque were never born, because there parents all died in World War III. Was it still worth the effort? Should the people of the 21st century have put there effort toward preventing WWIII instead? Should we be thinking about our future grandchildren now?

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How do you know it is good?

Select two works of art(visual, musical, or literary): one that is good and one that is bad.

Explain the reasons for your judgements in a short piece of writing. Include a thumbnail, embedded clip, or snippet of each and ask your classmates to submit a comment with their own analysis and judgement.

Respond to your classmates criticism and discuss together the similarities and differences in your evaluations.

http://www.wga.hu/index1.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_art

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War

Read “War,” by Timothy Findley.

Do you think you really understand why adults do the things they do?

Respond to the Story

  • Whose war does the author refer to in the title? Support your view with examples from the story.
  • With a small group, discuss whether you think the way Neil reacts to his father leaving is typical of a ten-year-old boy. Why do you think he throws the stones?
  • Like most stories, the action builds up to an event that’s the high point or climax. What is the climax of “War”?
  • Reread the story focusing specifically on the way Findley has captured the thoughts and feelings of a twelve-year-old boy who is looking back on events that happened when he was ten years old. Focus particularly on the explanations and interpretations that the narrator at the age of twelve offers for the things he said and did at age ten. In what ways does the older version of the narrator understand more fully the significance of the events described in the story?
  • Find examples of vocabulary, expressions, and syntax in the story that are typical of a young person. What are some features of language that are used unconventionally to imitate the direct speech of a young person whose use of language is still developing?

Explore Personal Feelings
Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you lost control of your emotions or the way you acted? What event or situation in your life made you lose control? Jot down in note form what happened, how you felt at the time, how you felt afterward, and how the situation was resolved.

Use your notes to write a story about that incident. You might use a structure similar to “War.” The beginning could introduce the main characters and the problem or situation. The middle section could explore how everyone had to deal with this problem. The climax could occur when you (or your character) lose control. The end could briefly describe how everything was resolved.

When you write your story, how do you write conversations between characters? Could your style be improved? How?

Create a Script

  • At one point in his story, the narrator switches from normal narrative conventions to a dramatic version of a conversation held by the three boys. This part of the selection is set up more as a play than as a story. Explain how effectively this scene works as a piece of drama. Pick another episode in the story that would work well as a dramatic scene and rewrite it using the example provided by Findley as a model. Remember to make the dialogue specific to each character’s personality. Prepare a recording of your scene.

Another Viewpoint: Society
With a group of 5 or 6 students plan a Symposium(or Symposium?) on the subject of war. Have each student select and read or view a work that focuses on war, such as the novel All Quiet on the Western Front(1929) by German author Eric Maria Remarque, paintings by Canadian designated “war artistsFrederick Varley or Molly Lamb Bobak, the non-ficiton book The Guns of August (1962) by American author Barbara Tuchman, poetry by the British writer Wilfred Owen, or the American film The Thin Red Line(1998). During your symposium, have each student articulate the impressions of and ideas about war evident in each text. Then explore some of the following questions: What characteristics are common to all wars, regardless of the era or location? How has war changed over the centuries? Is war today more dangerous than wars of previous eras? How does war affect the daily life of civil society? Can war ever be eradicated?

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Love Songs, Love Poems

Robert Burns (1759-96), a popular poet from Scotland, lives again each January 25th, when millions around the world celebrate his poetry. In his poetry, Burns expresses his concern for people of the working class. He is also one of the first poets to question the treatment of women and children in society. Robbie Burns is best remembered for his love poetry. The following selection is one of his better-known ballads.

A Red, Red Rose, by Robert Burns

O my luve is like a red, red rose
   That's newly sprung in June;
My love is like the melodie
   That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonny lass,
   So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love!
   And fare thee weel, awhile!
And I will come again, my love
   Though it were ten thousand mile.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-94) is a well-known poet of the Victorian period. She was acclaimed for her poetic skill and distinctive style. Some recurrent themes in her poetry are of unhappy, delayed, or frustrated love. “A Birthday,” one of her best known poems, has a more positive theme.

A Birthday by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
   Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
   Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
   That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
   Because my love is come to me.
 
Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
   Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
   And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
   In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
   Is come, my love is come to me.
  1. Burns and Rossetti both use a common literary technique, the metaphor, to describe feelings of love. Identify and discuss the similarities and the differences between the two poems.
  2. What effect does the repetition of the phrases create in the poems? Do you like the effect that is created? Why or why not?
  3. Choose your own personal metaphor for describing love. Write a poem, song, or short narrative or create a collage of images which incorporates your metaphor for love.
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Film Study

Describe a movie you think is a fairly realistic depiction of your life, or the lives of people your age.

Alternatively, think of some movies that are aimed at your age group and explain how they are not realistic.

Do you have a preference? Do you think movies reflect who we are or who we want to be?

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Plinky Prompt

Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing or event from the last month of your life into the glistening marble of immortality. What’s the statue of and what makes it so significant?

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The Pleasure Centers

Imagine scientists have mapped out the pleasure centers of the brain, so they know exactly which brain cells “fire” when you experience the pleasure associated with eating and drinking, exercise, sex, etc. Suppose further that the scientists can insert electrodes into your brain and stimulate those brain cells in such a way that it feels exactly like you were experiencing the real thing. They tell you that you can stay attached to electrodes as long as you want. Do you think this would be a desirable life? (This experiment has actually been done with rats, and the rats consistently choose electrode stimulation, even if it means forgoing food.)

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