Category Archives: HOW WE THINK

W8, #6: NAME GAME

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

W8, #5: FESTIVAL OF MINI-ESSAYS

Set-Up: Last week, we took a brief look at a series of mini-essays about Chapters 5 & 6 (that were written by periods 1, 2 & 3 as a group in-class essay project). Each of you picked one you thought would be interesting based on the title alone and gave us a few things to look at that you thought was successful.

Challenge: Take a look at the full list one more time.

  • Pick a new essay title to look at and read the entire essay.
  • Tell us which essay you picked.
  • Identify 5 very specific things in that essay that you thought were done well.

Length: Varies

The list:

Small group mini-essay paragraph writing challenge (in lieu of the typical in-class essay):

Links to the specific student responses

W8, #4: HIDDEN IN THE JUNGLE

Set-Up: We’ve crossed a certain point in the Lord of the Flies experience — by the beginning of chapter 5 — where it seems that every page is intentionally loaded with imagery. Seems that something vital is cleverly hidden in the jungle by Golding at every turn of the pig trail and curve of the horizon line.

While we don’t pretend to ‘get’ everything he’s throwing our way quite yet, we are developing decent radar for ‘tracking’ a few gems hidden in the creepers along the way.

Challenge:

  • Point out 1 thing that you think is really clever on the part of the author in terms of weaving together a many-layered story that obviously is hinting at something fare more complicated than just having ‘boys on an island’ try to get ‘rescued’.
  • Tell the rest of us what it means and why you think Golding is doing some pretty solid work as a writer in terms of pushing well beyond basic plot/action to hint at something bigger at the end of the novel.

Length: 5+ sentences

W8, #2: 6 DEGREES OF SEPARATION

Set-Up: There is an expression — “6 degrees of separation” — that suggests how connected we individuals are as collective humanity, no matter how big a world it may be. In short, it means that:

if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is an average of six “steps” away from each person on Earth.

Playing off of this concept, we’re going to play a weekly game called “6 Degrees of Separation” where we are given 2 topics (that seem to have nothing in common) which we must figure out a creative way to connect. The trick is that we have to use a logical set of connections to show how the 2 items are related in “6 steps”. Additionally, we will also offer a bit of trivia about each new step to showcase our knowledge and imagination.

Example: Let’s take 2 random topics — Ancient Egypt and “Lord of the Flies” — and figure out how to connect them in “6 steps” with some added trivia to show our knowledge:

Step 1: When someone in America thinks of ancient Egypt (1), he/she can’t help but think of legendary pharaohs given that everything one can easily think of from that period of Egypt’s history — from golden statues to the Great Pyramids — are remnants of these god-like leaders. It’s particularly interesting that pharaohs were often buried with everything they owned, gifts for them for the afterlife, and even their living servants.

Step 2: The most famous pharaoh (2) that I can think of is King Tut (1) which was one of my favorite stories growing up. Even though the amazing amount of gold discovered and the identity of the “boy king” were supposed to be the important parts of the story, this wasn’t what captured my attention at first. As a young kid, I actually daydreamed a lot about the idea of a curse placed on all of the people involved in finding the original tomb, especially given that the spirit of the pharaoh may have been angry that they disturbed his eternal slumber. This led me to study a range of curses and superstitions when I was in elementary school.

Step 3: King Tut’s (2) exhibit just arrived in Dallas (3) — as a major art exhibit called “King Tut and the Golden Age of Pharoahs” being held at the Dallas Museum of Art — for several months. Hundreds of thousands of people (paying up to $32/ticket) are expected to attend the show, including some of our own art and archeology students who will go there on an upcoming fieldtrip.

Step 4: On Elm Street in Dallas (3), specifically near the Texas School Book Depository (4), was the location of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

Step 5: The Texas School Book Depository (4) was “a multi-floor warehouse for the storage of school textbooks and related materials” (according to Wikipedia) that shut down in 1970 when the business moved out. It was also in the year 1970 that the American Library Association awarded the first Coretta Scott King Award was given to African-American writers/illustrators who focused on the creation of books specifically for children and young people (5).

Step 6: One of the most famous school books ever taught in the United States, Lord of the Flies (6), appears to be about children and young people (5). Clearly, however, it is not “just a book about kids on an island”. Golding’s book was ranked by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English language books published since 1923 (and was also ranked by the American Library Association as one of the most “challenged” books between 1990-2000.)

Challenge: Using these 2 random items, connect them in “6 steps”:

  • the epic poem, Beowulf
  • the star, Hannah Montana

Length: Varies

W7, #6: CURIOUSLY

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

W7, #5: ARE YOU A DECENT FORTUNE TELLER?

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

W7, #4: STEADY PROGRESS

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