Category Archives: BIG PICTURE


Set-Up: Like many new parents, my wife/I went through endless lists of possible names for our first child. Our goals at the time were pretty simple:

  • Retro/classic but with a ‘modern’ twist (“Beckett” seemed to fit that mark)
  • Not typical, or at least not expected by most people who’ve heard a lot of baby names
  • Had good/solid nickname possibilities over time (aka “Bex” or “Becks” thus far)
  • No obviously ‘bad’ playground nicknames
  • Fit well with “Long” as a last name

Ultimately we stumbled upon ‘authors’ names one afternoon while driving around Fort Worth, hence the choice to take Samuel Beckett‘s (author of Waiting for Godot) last name as our son’s first (although Mr. Long will often claim that his lifelong love of the Boston Red Sox was the real reason; just don’t tell his wife).

Challenge: With a new kid soon to arrive in our home this coming March, we’re beginning to toss around various possibilities for her/his name. We won’t know the gender for 2 more weeks, so we’re still pretty wide open to suggestions.

  • Offer a literary name — author, character, location, concept, title — that you think would be an interesting boy’s or girl’s name for my wife/me to name our next child.
  • Make sure that it fits the criteria mentioned above (nicknames, retro/modern, etc).
  • Explain why you think it would work, including anything cool trivia-wise about that literary connection.

Length: 5+ sentence



Set-Up: Author Dorothy Parker once quipped:

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Challenge: React to this quotation.

Think of your life, both in the classroom and in the real world.

  • Where do you become profoundly curious?
  • Where do you find that you can’t shut your brain ‘off’ when your imagination takes over?
  • Is this something that teenagers still do, or is curiosity just child’s play?

Length: 7+ sentences


Set-Up: On a simple level, Lord of the Flies appears to just be a story about a bunch of young boys (12 and under) who crash-land on a tropical, jungle-filled island without any adults to tell them what to do or how to survive.

As you will soon see, however, this is a far more complicated story, a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle.

Fortunately, the author — William Golding — tries to help us this puzzle by allowing us to ‘see’ the answer within the first few pages.  Throughout the story, he hides clue after clue after clue.  You’ll find them on the beach, in the jungle, near the rescue fire, on the mountain, in caves, on the pig trails, and just about anywhere else you care to look.

In other words, this novel is a foreshadowing treasure hunt like you’ve never encountered, possibly one of the best examples of challenging readers to predict the characters’ future that you’ve ever read.

Challenge: Based on what you’ve read so far — going NO further than chap 3 (which is due for Mon) — predict what is going to happen to these boys using EVIDENCE from the story.

Length: 5+ sentences


Set-Up: Now that we’ve begun to challenge what we mean by being writers/thinkers on many fronts, especially now that we’re in the midst of a novel that demands our radar remain on at all times, I’m curious how you see your own growth in this class.

Challenge: Share with us one way you have definitely grown as a student of English so far this year.

It can be something very specific or a big picture item. Likewise, it can be something internal or external. Finally, it can be something that has dramatically evolved or something that you think is on the verge of being an important part of how you’ll continue to write/think/debate in the future (but may be in a raw state currently).

Length: 5+ sentences


Set-Up: It’s a question that seems to pop up over and over, but I think you’ll see how it has relevance to reading Lord of the Flies starting this week.

Challenge: Imagine you are going to be stranded on an island by yourself for a full year.

While you’ll have access to basic food, water, and materials to make a basic shelter so that you’ll technically ‘survive’, it’s also obvious that the ‘quality’ of your life will be improved if you had a few personal items — from the real world — with you during your stay on the island.

  • Identify 5 objects (non-living) that you currently have at home that you’d want to bring with you while stranded on an island yourself.
  • Explain in 1-2 sentences (for each one) why each of these objects would make your life better in this unique circumstance.

Note: You’ll have no access to electricity or a way to re-charge batteries.  Please consider the ‘value’ of any electronic items after a day or two given that you’ll be there for a year…and can only bring 5 things with you.

Length: See above.


Set-Up: Before we head to a tropical island to follow the lives of a group of boys who crash-land in an airplane, we had a 2-day discussion centered on a fictional “bomb shelter” and the tough choices you’d have to make as the youngest mayor in your town’s history faced with selecting 7 (of 20) people to spend a year with you during some sort of ‘attack’ on your town.

At first, we made choices based on very little information (generally just their occupations).  Over time, however, we had a bit more information to go on (relationships, unique skills, problems/crimes, etc) that each person would bring with them into the protected bomb shelter.

Our job was to consider which combination of 7 people (plus you as the mayor) would best work together and possibly help to re-build the community/society after a year’s time hidden in the bomb shelter.

Challenge: Who were your 7 and why did you choose them?

Length: List each of the 7 and add 1-2 sentences for each.  Plus, explain in 2-3 sentences what your overall thinking was with regards to the reason these 7 people needed to be together.


Set-Up: During our “Last Friday” advisory meetings this week, we finally had a chance to consider the summer reading:  Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Challenge: I’m curious about what you see as valuable/useful about Carnegie’s ideas and examples.

  • Pick at least 1 idea from the text.
  • Explain how it may be relevant to your current and future life.

Length: 5+ sentences.

Note: For anyone in Mr. Long’s advisory, feel free to comment on the Skype video chat we had Friday morning with Megan Hustad, the author of How to Be Useful:  A Beginner’s Guide to Not Hating Work.  I’d love to hear what you thought before the weekend is over.

BTW: I’m hoping to ‘bring’ her to class in the coming weeks to talk about the writing/editing process, so your responses might give the rest of my 10th graders a hint of what she’s about and why it was worth talking with her today.  Oh, and here’s the link to her blog, in case you’re curious (wink, wink; nudge, nudge).