Friday, April 29, 2011

My Name

Today, after we read the next few chapters in The House on Mango Street, we are going to get started on a new prompt for our memoir projects. You will be writing about your own name, and what it means to you.

To get you started, here are a few online databases of name meanings and origins. Browse these sites for your name and see what they have to say. What does your name stand for? Is it a direct translation of a word? What nationality is it? Use the information you find to give you a starting point for this writing piece.

This link goes to a list of baby names and their meanings, but clicking on "More info" will give you lots of specific facts about the origin of your name, its translation(s) and its use throughout history! is a more adult-oriented name origin website, with some pretty comprehensive histories of names.

This site is a database of the meanings and origins of last names.

Have fun with these! See you in class,

-Mr. Thomas

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beginning Our Rebel Research

After reading another chapter in The Hunger Games, we are going to introduce the next big project in this class, our Rebel Research Project.

For this project, you will choose people who, in the past, have rebelled against their governments, their societies, and their cultures. You will find information about one influential person that interests you, researching things like the country they come from, their lives, their accomplishments, and their struggles.

Rather than finding these facts and fitting them into a long essay, however, we are going to rebel against the normal assessment and create a graphical representation of the research we have done. To do this, we are going to use Comic Life.

The above "Rebel Research Project" link brings up a list of the people you will be able to research, along with a short blurb about who they were and what they did. The details of this assignment will be further outlined with a handout in class today. See you all then!

-Mr. Thomas

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dia de los Muertos and Concrete Calaveras

Hi everyone,

Though we are still about twenty pages from the part of Trash that goes into detail about the holiday celebration of Dia de los Muertos, (the Day of the Dead) I wanted to take advantage of the fact that today is Poetry Friday! We are going to have an activity related to this significant portion of the book (which we will most likely end up reading as we complete this activity today, so it will all work out!)

So our characters are about to find themselves in the middle of a Latino celebration that takes place on November 2. Though it is not made clear in which country the events of the story are taking place, there are many countries which celebrate the Day of the Dead. For the purposes of our assignment, we'll stick with a loose interpretation of the traditions that the characters in the book follow on this day. 

The Day of the Dead is a holiday season which is set aside to honor family members or other loved ones who have passed away. The celebrations often take place at the very graves of the honored dead, and there are traditionally all manner of offerings and poems/prayers laid down to honor their memories and spirits.

In keeping with our penchant for integrating artwork with our poetry, we are going to make calaveras (decorated skulls) and conjure poems that are either based on characters in our story, or written for loved ones we've lost. 

You see, one type of offering brought to the graves by the families of the deceased is any variation on a calavera, a decorated skull that can be made out of anything from paper to lumps of painted sugar. These can be accompanied by poems as well--poems that are meant to convince the spirit of the dead to come back to the world of the living! 

To make our own poems, we need to consider who we want them written to. An interesting part of writing a calavera is that it can be addressed both to someone who is still alive or someone who has died. If you want, you can write a poem for someone in your family or a character in the story. If you choose the latter, you may need to mention things about the life of that character that you either mourn or appreciate.

Once the poems are written (instructions & details to follow) we will turn them into concrete poems in the shape of skulls, and do our decorating in and around the poems. It will be interesting to see whether or not anyone tries to make their calavera look like the character their poem is addressed to!

-Mr. Thomas

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Hunger Games: How do you rank?

Today is an early-release day, so we are going to use the first part of class to play a little online game based on The Hunger Games. To play, you must answer a series of 8 multiple choice questions that show how you would react in arena-like scenarios. After you've answered, your likelihood of winning will be calculated. I'll warn you, though, the game is hard. If your chances are anything less than 100%, you LOSE!

Here is the link to the game:
Once you get to the webpage, you will be playing the second game that appears--the one called "Tribute Trials"

Afterwards we'll do a little bit of reflection:
  • What are the skills that you are required to have in order to make it out alive?
  • Why would these skills be useful to you if you were a tribute? Name three in particular that you feel are your greatest strengths.
  • Lastly, which skills does Katniss have? We know of a few by now, but we'll have to wait and see how she'll fare in different scenarios. Are there any skills that the online game refers to that Katniss doesn't have?
See you all in class for a little while, 
-Mr. Thomas

Monday, April 4, 2011

Enter: The Arena

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back from the long weekend. I doubt we'll see another snow cancellation anytime soon, so I hope you made the most of it!

Last class we read the first part of chapter 11 in The Hunger Games, in which the games kick off with a violent, bloody start.

We're going to read some more today, but I'm going to graciously take an idea from Ms. Audy (last year's student teacher) and do a little activity where we start asking questions about our reading.

We will loosely break into groups of 2 (depending on attendance) and each group or person will be assigned a category in which to ask questions about the reading:

This business of the "Death Recap"
Survival/fighting strategies of the tributes
The Love Triangle: Katniss, Peeta, Gale
The Cornucopia and the Bloodbath
Alliances and how they're made

After reading through a bit more or Katniss's adventures in the arena, we are going to take a break and get into groups for these categories. Each group or person will collaborate and come up with two questions pertaining to something in the area of their category. Once the questions have been written down, the sheet gets passed to the left and one of those questions will be answered by the next group. The papers will be passed to the left once more, and when all questions have been answered we will review them in class with a discussion.

A few good examples from Ms. Audy's class were:

Should Katniss have taken more at the Cornucopia?

What are some strengths and weaknesses of Katniss's strategy?

-Mr. Thomas

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Personal Belief Activity

Hi Everybody,

As we near the end of the third quarter, we're going to take a step back and take a look at some human rights issues we've discussed while reading Trash. 

Today we are going to have an in-class activity which will let us voice some of the opinions that I know all of you have. As we've read this book, we've encountered and discussed a variety of humanitarian disasters that are taking place all around the world: Corrupt law enforcement, child imprisonment, dumpsite children, shattered family structures, etc. During each discussion, it was easy to see that you all feel very strongly about each of these issues.

So in class we are going to each consider one of these issues by writing beliefs up on posters labeled:
     Corrupt Law Enforcement
     Child Imprisonment
     Dumpsite Children/Shattered Families

We are then going to write a personal belief statement which explains how we feel about one of these issues. After this part of the activity, we will visit a separate poster labeled, Why? where we will consider the reasons these things are happening. After we've had a discussion about the many different elements that build up to these situations, we will revisit our statement. Has it changed since you've considered some of the reasons we've come up with?

-Mr. Thomas

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Child Imprisonment (continued)

Hello Sophomores,

Today we are going to learn some more about child imprisonment.

As we've read Andy Mulligan's Trash, we've gradually seen more of the country that exists beyond Behala and the Smoky Mountain dump site. Now we will get up-close and personal with the nation's prison system. In our reading, a few of the characters are brought into the heart of a prison that is overcrowded with children and adults alike. We have already focused on the corruption of law enforcement in this book, but it is important that we become more informed about the extent of the problems of the judicial system.

The following is a slideshow of photos that a journalist took while visiting Cambodia. The journalist was working with a volunteer organization that provides help for children whose families have been destroyed by imprisonment or who have been imprisoned themselves:

We are going to watch this slideshow in class and have some discussion about the living conditions and the failings of the judicial system in Cambodia. The video will serve as a way to move the discussion in the right place, so that we can look at this testimonial from an imprisoned Cambodian woman who was forced to bring her child into prison with her, during much of her 16 year sentence. 

The link accesses a PDF of this woman's testimony, which we will look at in some detail in class. We will be linking the information we have learned with an activity as well. 

-Mr. Thomas