Category Archives: Open Question

Reading Journals

This week in my class on Language Acquisition and Reading, our lesson is on Reading. The first section was on reading for content classes (science, history, etc) and the second section is on reading literature.

I wish, I wish, I WISH the teachers I had in school had simply done a better job explaining what we were doing! I’m recognizing a lot of things I did in English classes for analyzing literature and I vaguely remember it being called “Close Reading”, but I seem to have missed the memo on “Close Reading” being a specific way of reading literature. I mean, I knew it had a set structure, but I never understood why it was WRONG to pay too much attention to just getting lost in the story!

Had they done a simple compare and contrast of “Close Reading” (paying attention primarily to the structure of the story) v. “Reader Response” (paying attention primarily to ideas the story evokes), I think I would have enjoyed English a little bit more. Because as it was, I hated English because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to just enjoy books and I really didn’t understand why it was so important to look at the structures used by the author since I have no desire to be a professional literary writer.

Now that I understand why it’s important to learn about structure as much as content, I’d be fine with analyzing a piece of literature based on it’s structure! It’s not that one way of looking at literature is better or worse (which I thought back in high school), but that they are different.

Especially with poetry.

I don’t like poetry because you can’t read poetry. I mean, you can, but it has to be read aloud. Which is fine if you like reading aloud! But I like seeing a story and I can’t see a story if I’m stumbling over pronunciations and making sure that I’m pausing in all the right places (which are never at the end of a line even though the lines don’t take up the entire width of the page….WHY?!?!?!). It bugs the crap out of me.

Ooh! Brainstorm! Whenever I have to deal with poetry in my future classroom, I will always prep for the class by re-writing the poems! I will write them out as though prose (except without the distracting /s) and use ellipses (…) as necessary. Though, I’m pretty darn good at pausing at the commas! Haha. This way I can read them as they are meant to be read (and continue to wonder why the heck they’re structured stupidly to start with!).

Anyway, Bitching about poetry wasn’t the reason I started writing this  post. I’m supposed to be writing about Reading Journals.

There are 4 types:

  1. Response Journals: where the student reflects after each chapter, usually in response to a prompt given by the teacher, though they can be free-written.
  2. Literary: the student pretends to be one of the characters and reflects from that POV.
  3. Double Entry: where the left side of the page is a quotation and the right side is a question or reflection (I remember doing this for Pride and Prejudice, an assignment I actually enjoyed).
  4. Dialogue Journals: where the student and teacher (or two students) have a written discussion about the book within the confines of a journal.

As a letter writer, I think I will rely heavily on Dialogue Journals! I’m 1000x more confident on paper than vocally and I feel much more comfortable writing to my professors than I do speaking to them, especially when I have a question. I imagine this is true for many students who do not want to look silly in front of the class.

Thinking about the Double-Entry Journal we did for Pride and Prejudice, I felt self-conscious about my teacher reading it because I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track about things. I knew that I was getting graded for my work in it and the feedback was always about creating a correct Journal and making the right kinds of connections/inferences, not about specific things that I’d written. Not a conversation about the book and my ideas on it. An actual conversation about it would have been really nice, since I rarely talked in class.

I’m sure a lot of the questions I wrote in that Journal never got answered. I assume that my way of approaching a book hasn’t changed much, so many of the quotes I questioned or reflected on were things that made me laugh or made me cringe. The journal is long, long gone, but I know it would have been nice if it’d had some dialogue with my teacher in it where she gave her opinions on the book and my thoughts rather than simply “that’s interesting” and “good insights” or whatever other generic statements she could make. There was nothing that made me want to dive deeper into what I’d already written about in the journal. Why go back to a previous chapter when the next chapter’s reflections are due this week?

Probably one of the best responses I ever got from a teacher on an assignment was in the Environments of Lewis and Clark course in college where on a homework assignment we were asked to list 3 uses of water in the home. One of mine was “watering the cats and dogs” (because I couldn’t figure out a better way to word this particular chore). The professor drew a little picture of a cat with a watering can over it’s head that let me know that she had smiled at my terminology. I felt like we were on the same page about the question and that we were cool. It let me know that she’d read my answer and had a personal response to it. That meant a lot.

Since I’m an avid reader, I hope to have read many of the books that my students will read so that I can have a real conversation with them about their books in their Journals. I’d treat it like a mini, private book club where the students are free to share even their wildest ideas about the books because everyone is entitled to have any reaction they want to a particular book.

And if we’re learning about the structure of literary works (which is important!), I will make sure that my students understand that analyzing structure is different from having merely an aesthetic response to a book. Because there are a lot of crappy books being written today which lack even a semblance of literary structure and that’s not cool!

As Architects say, “Form Follows Function”. In reading as many sources of news that I do, it’s critical to realize when a form exists for a very specific reason (poetry be damned).

Okay. I relent: A haiku exists only as a form: meaning has nothing to do with it’s structure. I think?

Question: How often to homeschooling parents “grade” their children’s reading journals? Do many curriculum require that children keep such journals?

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Horse Pills

While reading about a little girl with HIV, I was struck by how very large her pills are (a lot of the article was about how she had to be told about the HIV because she was fighting the pill taking so much). 

So, I’m curious. Why are some pills so huge? I assume it’s because you need so many milligrams of the medication. But, why doesn’t the manufacturer make them half the size with instructions to take two instead of one? Does pill size have something to do with efficacy?

A Routine Traffic Stop

I have never been pulled over by the police, except for that one time when they were having a DUI checkpoint when I was driving home from the bowling alley. But, this doesn’t stop me from feeling like I have to have a plan should that ever happen to me.

This morning as I drove to work I evaluated the situation in case a cop decided to pull me for whatever reason. I have a slight lead foot (I end up going 5-7 mph over the speed limit usually) and drive a 20 year old SUV. I don’t pay attention to my taillights and could have one out without knowing it (I nearly always turn my lights on, even in broad daylight).

Anyway.

This morning, I realized that if I got pulled over, I would find myself in a bit of a pickle. My wallet, with my driver’s license in it, was in my backpack, which was on the floor of the front passenger seat (this is true about half the time, with the other half being my backpack is in the actual passenger seat). Now, the last time I reached over to the passenger floor while wearing my seat belt, I pulled a muscle in my back/neck and thought I was going to die because it hurt so bad. Virginia has a seat belt law, so taking my seat belt off before the cop sees me wearing it seems like a very bad idea.

Plus, there’s the whole issue of the cop seeing me reach around into my floorboard before he gets the chance to walk up to my car window–what’s he going to think I’ve grabbed?!?!

Did I mention that there’s a whole host of random crap in my backpack and my wallet is usually somewhere at the bottom?

And my registration is in my glovebox, I think (it may be in the center console). One of the two. So again…do I break my neck or risk a lack of seat belt ticket?

So. I guess I should leave my important stuff in their places until the cop gets to the window so he can see my seat belt is on. But then…what’s he gonna think when I ask to start rummaging (seriously, there would be some rummaging going on) in my backpack and my glovebox?

I guess it’s a good thing that I’m a tiny white girl and not a black guy of indeterminate size. Cop is totally going to assume I’m harmless.

Which got me thinking–what would I do if I actually was a black guy of indeterminate size?

Ya know what? I think that if I get pulled over, I’m just going to do what everyone recommends black guys of indeterminate size do: I’m going to leave my seat belt on and I’m going to keep both my hands on the steering wheel (I may even turn my car off so that the cop doesn’t think I’m a flight risk). I will already have the window rolled down. When the cop comes to the window, I’ll be polite and tell the cop that my license is in my wallet in my backpack and that my registration and insurance are in the glove box (you know what? I think I’ll make sure these items are  in my glovebox in a clearly marked envelope). When the cop tells me that I can reach over and pull them out (because that’s how tiny white girls are treated), I will calmly tell him that I’m more comfortable staying as I am and give him (or her) permission to retrieve the relevant items. When the cop looks/acts uncomfortable doing this because I’m a white girl…well, that’s not my problem.

Hmm…thinking about moving my period supplies from their private pocket in my backpack to the main compartment with the rest of my crap, just to add to the awkwardness of the situation, in case the cop is a squeamish guy.

Anyway, what do y’all think? Good plan?

 

War on Christianity?

If you only listened to Conservative media outlets, you’d be certain that the government in the US is doing everything it can to expel Christianity from our borders.

So, please explain to me how, in that worldview, a Bojangles in Portsmouth, VA can get away with playing nothing but Christian rock(?) music in their restaurant.

Exactly.

I eat at this particular Bojangles about once a month between September and May because of bowling (since I work and bowl so near each other it is impractical for me to drive all the way home for dinner).

Anyway. I have already told you that I’m a Deist rather than a Christian. I don’t really have an issue with their music choice as being Christian. But to be honest, I think Christian music sucks.

Musically, that is.

The content is fine for the genre. The lyrics themselves aren’t always awful.

But something seems to happen whenever Christians decide to make pop music religious. The singers sound incredibly whiny! I guess it’s the forced “worshipfulness” that does it, like in order to sound reverent, they have to sound a certain way that just nauseates me. Forced strikes me as being a very appropriate word to describe what annoys me about this genre; maybe even more appropriate than whiny.

The easiest way for me to describe it is the beginning lyrics of Hoobastank’s The Reason:

I swear I can identify a Christian rock(?) song even when I can’t understand the lyrics, just by the way the lyrics are sung.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a deep love for some types of religious songs. The traditional gospels songs like “Amazing Grace” and the somber hymns like “Oh Come Emmanuel”. I will listen to Gregorian Chants at work. But Christian rock? No thank you.

I do wonder if there are any Christian rock songs that aren’t forced and whiny. Is it possible to take the same lyrics (which I don’t think are necessarily the problem) and put it towards better musicality? I welcome y’all to share whatever you figure out on this topic!

Open Question: Climate Change Deniers

As this year marks 100 years of the National Parks in the US, NPR has had many articles on various parks that have been noticeably affected by climate change since their establishment (Glacier National Park and Joshua Tree National Park immediately come to mind). My question is “Since there’s so much evidence that the climate is changing, what are the various ways that climate change deniers blow off the evidence?” Of course, there are many different flavors of deniers: the ones who agree its changing, but say humans have nothing to do with it; the ones who flat out deny that the climate is changing; and the ones that say the climate can’t change are just a few. So, to best answer this question, it’d be important to specifically identify the type you’re talking about.

Thanks a bunch and I look forward to reading your answers!