Category Archives: Crossroads

To Build a Fire

Read “To Build a Fire” by Jack London.
Responding to the Story

  • The author writes of the main character, “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.” Why would it be important to have imagination living and traveling in a harsh climate? What other characteristics or qualities does the man have? How are these demonstrated?
  • When did you first suspect that the man was going to die? How is his death foreshadowed?
  • Who or what is the “enemy” in this story? How did the man deal with this enemy? What type of conflict is developed in this story?
  • Why do you think Jack London gives no name to the man or dog?
  • What examples in the story can you find that tell you it was written a long time ago? Could the events in the story occur today? Why or why not?

Literature Studies: Short Story Theme
In “To Build a Fire,” Jack London not only tells his story convincingly, and entertainingly, he also expresses his feelings about the North and how people react to it.

  • In a sentence, write what you think the author’s theme is. List three examples from the story to s support your view. For each example, write a sentence that explains why it supports the author’s theme.

Writing an Essay
Look over the notes you’ve made so far. What you have written may be enough for a rough outline for an essay about the story’s theme.

  • The sentence you wrote about the author’s theme is your thesis. this is a statement or viewpoint you are trying to prove or explain.
  • The sentences you wrote for the examples are similar to the topic sentences you might write for the body of your essay. They develop and prove your thesis.
  • Review your notes. Is your thesis clear and easy to understand? Do your examples support your thesis or do they stray from its topic. Revise your sentence outline.
  • Now write a five-paragraph essay. The first paragraph will be your introduction and include your thesis sentence. Write a paragraph for each of your topic sentences. End your essay with a one-paragraph summary or conclusion. Work with a partner to edit and revise your essay.

Research: Gather Facts
“To Build a Fire” takes place in the Yukon. Use online sources to find out more about the first large settlement in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. List each fact you discover. Include a link to the source of each fact you collect. Divide your facts into categories, for example, the type of people who went there, or how people traveled to the gold fields. Using these categories as guidelines, write a brief report.

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Debate: Ireland

Although Ireland has gained independence since the the events of the O’Flaherty’s story “The Sniper” or Jordan’s film “Michael Collins,” Northern Ireland continues to be a place of conflict, which can be viewed in at least two ways:

  • Northern Ireland should remain separate from Ireland.
  • Ireland should become one country without a north and south division

Work in a group to debate these two opposing viewpoints. First, use print and electronic sources to research this conflict. Then decide on a statement to debate; for example, Northern Ireland should remain a separate country. Divide into two groups, one for and one against, and then prepare to debate with your classmates. Use the following guidelines as your prepare:

  • review the facts in your research
  • think about your opinion or the position you’ll be taking
  • prepare a persuasive argument about two minutes in length
  • work co-operatively with others on your team to develop three arguments that, but don’t repeat, each other
  • revise your argument
  • memorize and practice delivering your argument
  • during the debate listen carefully to the opposing team’s arguments
  • prepare your rebuttal (your response to the argument of an opposing team member)
2010 World Schools Debating Championship

Canada Wins 2010 World Schools Debating Championship

2010 WSDC Motions

2013 WSDC site

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The Sniper

Read “The Sniper,” by Liam O’Flaherty.

Respond to the Story

  • Reread the first paragraph. What details in the author’s description of the setting establish the tone or atmosphere of the story?
  • What message about this civil war is Liam O’Flaherty trying to convey? How does his message compare to the theme in “War,” by Timothy Findley?
  • List words and phrases the author uses to describe the sniper and what he is doing. Write your own descriptions of him, using some or all of these words.
  • The sniper is the only character the author describes in great detail. Why do you think the author chose to do that?
  • Were you surprised by the ending? Why or why not? Did you find it a powerful ending?
  • Do you think such a story could occur in Canada? Give reasons for your opinion.

Write a Factual Report
Imagine you are the main character in “The Sniper.” You’ve just returned to your company and have been asked to write a report about what happened. List the events in the story in the order they occurred. Use a complete sentence for each event. Because this is an official report, leave out how you feel or what you thought–just include the facts as you saw them.

Essay Topics

  • After researching the life of Liam O’Flaherty, write an informative essay explaining the extent to which he based “The Sniper” on his own experiences.
  • Does urban warfare, like that in “The Sniper,” affect the outlook and mental stability of combatants differently than battlefield fighting?
  • Is modern Ireland still influenced by the outcome of the violence in the early 1920s?
  • In an informative essay, write a short psychological profile the IRA sniper.
  • Can the tactics of urban guerrillas–sniping, sabotage, terrorist bombings–be morally justified?
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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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I Have A Dream

Read “I Have A Dream,” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Respond to the Reading
Discuss these words from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“I have a dream that four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Do you think the community in which you live has reached this goal? Explain. What can you do to achieve King’s “dream”?

Write a Research Report
Work with a partner or small group to research an incident of ethnic or religious intolerance in Canada. What were the events leading up to the incident? What were the issues, and how did the people involved feel about them? What, if anything, did the people involved learn from the incident? What did you learn from your research? Decide on how you will present your report: as a scripted recorded podcast, or a written post in your blog. Hint: use the speech as a model.

Write an Opinion Essay
Choose a type of prejudice or bias about which you feel strongly. It could be bias against an ethnic or religious group, a group of students in your school, or any other group. Write an opinion essay that expresses why people have a negative view of that group, and presents arguments that might change their minds. Your essay should begin with a clear statement of your point of view, give your arguments and supporting evidence, and end with a strong and persuasive conclusion.

Suggested Topics:
Canadian Residential School System

Chinese Immigration to Canada: A Tale of Perseverance

Africville: Expropriating Black Nova Scotians

Religion in the Classroom

Hippie Society: The Youth Rebellion

So Long City, Hello Suburbs!

1970: FLQ frees British diplomat after October Crisis

1990: Canadian soldier, Mohawk warrior face off at Oka

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The Michelle I Know

Read “The Michelle I Know,” by Alison Lohans.

Respond to the Story

  • Who is the hero in this story? Explain why you think so.
  • What is the turning point? In what way does Michelle change?
  • What is the overall message and mood?
  • Why is humour an important part of this story?
  • Why do you think Alison Lohans calls her story “The Michelle I Know”?

Story Craft
Investigate drawing a plot diagram for this story. Use an online tool or draw your own chart. Complete it by adding story details under each of the following: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Have you read other stories like “The Michelle I know”? Discuss these stories. How were their plots similar or different? How could you use a plot diagram the next time you write your own short story?

Write a Short Story
In most good stories the characters undergo a significant change, just as Michelle does. Think about, and jot down, some ideas for a short story about an ordinary person who undergoes a significant change. Which idea would make an entertaining story for an audience of your peers?

Story Writing Tips from STJ Forums

Write an outline for your short story, including notes on the following: main character and personality, setting, conflict, initial incident, rising action, changes, climax, and conclusion/denouement/resolution. Use this outline to write a first draft. Ask a partner to give you feedback about improving your story. Revise your draft using this feedback.

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Laura Secord

Laura Secord a poem by Raymond Souster
Lady, long part of our history
would you perhaps have been so eager
that time to drive those silly cows
before you through the forest mile after mile,
risking who knows what indignities
at the hands of the invaders,

had you known you would end up
on the box for a brand
of over-sweet chocolates?

From The War of 1812 to this?

I. Respond to the Poem

  1. During the War of 1812, Laura Secord saved a British garrison from American attack. Do some research on Laura Secord and compare what you find out to what is revealed in the poem.
  2. There are two parts to this poem. Why do you think the author divided the poem this way?
  3. The poem is written as one long question. What question is Raymond Souster asking?
  4. What do you think he is saying about heroes and heroic deeds?

II. Write a letter
As Laura Secord write a letter to Frank P. O’Connor, the founder of the Laura Secord Company.

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A hunch is a feeling or impression that something is about to happen. Authors sometimes use a character’s hunches to create suspense or to tie together a group of events. For example, in “Stains,” the mother has been afraid for her son “for a long time. She realized that when the doorbell rang at 4 a.m.”

Write a story about a character’s hunches. Try to use this hunch not only to create suspense, but to help explain the action that comes at the end of the story.

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Superman or Tarzan?

Crash Test Dummies music video “Superman’s Song” from their 1991 debut album “The Ghosts That Haunt Me”.
Written by Brad Roberts

Tarzan wasn’t a ladies’ man
He’d just come along and scoop ’em up under his arm
Like that, quick as a cat in the jungle
But Clark Kent now there was a real gent
He would not be caught sittin’ around in no
Junglescape, dumb as an ape doing nothing

Supermen never made any money
For saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair the world will never see
Another man like him

Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job
Even though he could have smashed through any bank
In the United States, he had the strength, but he would not
Folks said his family were all dead
Their planet crumbled but Superman, he forced himself
To carry on, forget Krypton, and keep going

Tarzan was king of the jungle and Lord over all the apes
But he could hardly string together four words: “I Tarzan, You Jane. ”

Sometimes when Supe was stopping crimes
I’ll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back
On man, join Tarzan in the forest
But he stayed in the city, and kept on changing clothes
In dirty old phonebooths till his work was through
And nothing to do but go on home

I. Responding to the Song:

  1. Use words or phrases to from the song lyrics to describe Tarzan and Superman. Which character, if any, do you think the songwriter, Brad Roberts, respects the most?
  2. When you think of these two characters, what images come to mind? Do your images match those of the songwriter?
  3. Why is Superman trying to save the “world from Solomon Grundy”?
  4. Why would Superman be tempted to stop what he’s doing and “join Tarzan in the jungle”?
  5. Are Superman and Tarzan symbols for types of people? If so, what might they symbolize?
  6. Which character, if any, would you rather be? Explain.

II. Writing a Short Story
Which superhero would you rather be, Superman or Tarzan? Explain. Develop your answer to this question into a short story, told in the first person, about your experiences as Tarzan or Superman for a day.

III. Presenting a Song:
Work with a partener or small group to plan a reading of another song.

  • First choose the song. Think about how you will read it to the class so the meaning is clear.
  • Practise reading the song, working together to read it effectively. Focus on tone, volume, gestures, and emphasis to use as you read the lyrics. Discuss how reading a song is different from singing it.
  • Record your reading with Garageband, save it as an mp3 and share it via your blog. What elements of your recording were most effective?

Consider the following:
Focus Questions: Decisions Crime and Punishment
Superman @ wikipedia
Tarzan @ wikipedia
How to punctuate dialogue correctly

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