No Child Left Inspired: Parent-Teacher Night Blues

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Last night I attended Parent-Teacher night with my eighth grade son.  It was depressing.

For two hours, I, my son, and several hundred other parents were herded from classroom to classroom where we were introduced to the variety of TEKS tests our children would endure this year.  TEKS, the acronym for the assessment  “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills,” will measure students’ ability to take tests.  Honestly, that’s what it boils down to. The four areas of “knowledge” they will assess are math, science, history, and social studies.  Writing, and critical thinking, apparently, are not deemed “essential.”

Now,  I realize teachers only have ten minutes to address each class.  They were dead tired, as was I.  But you know, in each ten minute session, ALL I heard was due dates for tests and the breakdown of grades. In not a single class was there any excitement about the curriculum, no discussion of new ideas or interesting projects… nothing.

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What You Read Over Summer Vacation: Readers Respond to eNotes

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Remember, just a few months ago, when the summer seemed endless and our Loyal Blog Readers were asked what  books were going into beach bags and which were being chucked in the backseats of cars?  Some were novels recommended by a friend; others were purchased because of the rave reviews of trusted literary critics; still others were ones that had been Christmas gifts that we were finally going to have time to read.  Well, now those readers report back, with thumbs up or down or sideways about those earlier choices, and some that snuck in somehow…impulse buys or gifts.  Here’s what you had to say about your summer reading selections:  

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Celebs Gettin’ Schooled by 8-to-12 Year Old “Grammar Cops”

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Red Balloon is a private school in Brazil designed to help Portuguese and Spanish-speaking children become fluent in English.  The faculty came up with an innovative idea to engage kids AND help them learn. They encouraged the children to follow their favorite celebrities on Twitter and then tweet them back,  correcting their often egregious spelling errors.

Here are a few of the best recent Celebrity Shamings:

1.  Rihanna

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2.  Daniel Radcliffe

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Happy 87th Birthday, Harper Lee!

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Last night, I found my sixteen-year-old daughter in bed  a full hour early. In her hands was Harper Lee‘s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. “I want to see what is happening with Scout. I’m worried about her,” she explained.

My daughter, like millions of other readers, has become enthralled by the coming-of-age story of Scout Finch as she navigates the racially-charged world of Alabama in the 1930s.

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Yesterday, April 28, 2013, marked the 87th birthday of Harper Lee, the novel’s author. To Kill a Mockingbird was immediately popular and has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It was an instant critical success as well, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 2008, London’s The Telegraph named To Kill a Mockingbird “the greatest novel of all time.”

The novel, Lee’s only published work, may not have ever been.  She was struggling to make ends meet in New York, working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines. While in the city, she became friends with the composer and lyricist Michael Brown and his wife, Joy. The three became very close. In December, the Brown’s gave Lee an astonishing gift: a years’ salary with a note that read, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Within a year, Lee had completed the first draft of  Mockingbird. 

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Hot on the heels of Lee’s Pulitzer was the film being made of her work. The movie was released in 1962 starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird won three Oscars and was nominated for five more. In 2003, AFI named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

Want more? How about some trivia?!

Five Quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird

  1. Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.
  2. I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
  3. Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.
  4. Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
  5. You really never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Seven Quotes: On Reading & Writing

  1. More than a simple matter of putting down words, writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write.
  2. There’s no substitute for the love of language, for the beauty of an English sentence. There’s no substitute for struggling, if a struggle is needed, to make an English sentence as beautiful as it should be.
  3. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career, that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.
  4. Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.
  5. It was like being hit over the head and knocked cold. I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.
  6. Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.
  7. You must come to terms with yourself about your writing. You must not write ‘for’ something; you must not write with definite hopes of reward. (Source).

Still want more?? Test your knowledge of Harper Lee or her classic novel!  Take our fun, interactive quizzes!

To Kill a Mockingbird Quiz 

Harper Lee Quiz


Choose Your Own Adventure: Hamlet!

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If you are at all a fan of comics, or have a child who is, you have likely heard of Ryan North, writer of the hilarious comic book series, Adventure Time , the wildly popular Dinosaur Comics  and perhaps even the #1 best-selling Amazon short story anthology Machine of Death .

 North had an idea for a new project, a take-off on the beloved children’s series Choose Your Own Adventurewherein the reader can select different paths for different characters. Each path leads to a radically different ending for the character and for the story.

Why not apply the same idea to the Bard?  North mused. He took his idea to Kickstarter, a crowd-sourcing site which funds creative projects. North made his goal of raising $20,000 in three and a half hours, made six times his goal in a  week, and now the project has accrued $580,905.

Here’s an idea of what you can do with North’s adventurous Hamlet (from The Guardian): 

Readers will be able to opt  to Hamlet (“an emo teen in his early 30s”), Ophelia (“She’s got a +1 science stat, but she’s also got a -1 weakness against water”) or the King, Hamlet’s father, “who (SURPRISE) dies on the first page and becomes a ghost. And then we make fun of you for dying on the first page, but you can become a ghost and must INVESTIGATE YOUR OWN MURDER that you TOTALLY SLEPT THROUGH because you got SLEEPY IN AN ORCHARD. (“Shakespeare wrote this part,” said North.)

So what are you waiting for?

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