Analysis Chapters 6-7
with Angela Harris
We started our class with a journal prompt on the subject of deja vu. If we could remember a specific instance, did the feeling make us uneasy? Or was it reassuring in some way? Are these experiences related to instinct? We agreed it's really difficult to write about just one experience, as the sensations are fleeting and tend to occur at odd moments, so we wrote more generally about how these sensations make us feel. Of course, we related this discussion to our protagonist, Buck the dog, and the pull of his ancestral beginnings, which could perhaps resemble the feeling of reliving experiences over and over again!
We then proceeded through our standard analysis of the prior week's reading (another book finished!) by listing the steps Buck took to become "fully wild" after hearing the call of his brothers in the forest. I was happy to hear that most students were pleasantly surprised that they enjoyed London's novella as much as they did...always a good sign!
Literary Analysis: Plot & Themes
The last two elements of literary analysis that we are discussing this session are Plot and Themes. Remember for the final (multiple choice) quiz, you need to be able to identify/define these elements. Refer to these notes to make sure you are comfortable with the material. The final quiz will be emailed after February 4 and will need to be completed by the last class of the session -- February 11. We will go over the answers in class. In addition to book content, the final quiz will cover these literary analysis elements. Please also study your Key Facts handout.
The author crafts a plot structure to create expectations, increase suspense, and develop characters. The pacing of events can make a novel either predictable or riveting. Foreshadowing and flashbacks allow the author to defy the constraints of time. Sometimes an author can confound a simple plot by telling stories within stories. In a conventional work of fiction, the peak of the story’s conflict—the climax—is followed by the resolution, or denouement, in which the effects of that climactic action are presented. The Call of the Wild is told chronologically without any flashbacks. The reader witnesses Buck’s transformation from the contented, civilized pet of Judge Miller to the “dominant primordial beast” who kills his rival, endures hunger and fatigue, and eventually answers the call of his wild ancestors. As another journal prompt, we pretended that John Thornton survived the final massacre. Do we think Buck would stay with Thornton, or would he still follow the wolves into the forest? What might London be suggesting by killing Buck’s beloved master? I loved that we got a good mix of different answers. The beauty of lit analysis is that it should largely be up to the reader to make decisions about what they believe the author is trying to convey. I try to avoid "dictating" certain points of view, even though they may be accepted as fact in academic environments--you never know when someone may have a thought that is new, interesting, and revealing!
Themes are the central, recurring subjects of a novel. As characters grapple with circumstances such as racism, class, or unrequited love, profound questions will arise in the reader’s mind about human life, social pressures, and societal expectations. Classic themes include intellectual freedom versus censorship, the relationship between one’s personal moral code and larger political justice, and spiritual faith versus rational considerations. A novel often reconsiders these age-old debates by presenting them in new contexts or from new points of view. We have covered many of these themes already in Animal Farm and The Chosen, and will be tackling racism and maybe even a little unrequited love before the year is out.
As an exercise in identifying themes we did a very simplified version of finding the theme in a work of literature. Students were given five "stories" that were one paragraph in length and then challenged to state the moral or lesson (theme) and then provide an explanation for that statement using the text. This will help prepare them for our upcoming essays in Sessions III and IV.
The Yukon and Alaska
Homework and Final Projects
In light of the impending blizzard, all Mosaic classes are cancelled for tomorrow. While the forecast calls for only light snowfall in the morning, the storm is expected to begin to intensify in the afternoon hours making it imprudent to hold 2nd period classes.
Stay safe and warm and we will see you next Monday (2/2)!
with Angela Harris
We ended class last week by beginning a fun creative writing exercise that attempted to imitate London's storytelling devices by narrating a story from our own lives from the point of view of a pet (or an imaginary animal). We had some wonderful results and I have posted them on the private Gathering Ink Community Page for students and their families to enjoy. Please check them out!
Analysis Chapters 4-5
Our analysis this week focused on the relationships of the dog team to their various owners: Francois and Perrault, the man known as the Scotch half-breed, and Hal, Charles, and Mercedes.
We discussed how London very cleverly introduced these owners in a particular order so that the reader could gain perspective on the the dogs' experiences and that Jack London probably ran into these types of characters on his own journey to the Klondike. We especially enjoyed talking about Mercedes and her ridiculous antics. Was the character true to life or exaggerated to make a point? We agreed probably true to life!
This week's literary analysis focus was:
Symbols and Metaphors
Symbols are persons, places, or things in a narrative that have significance beyond a literal understanding. The craft of storytelling depends on symbols to present ideas and point toward new meanings. Most frequently, a specific object will be used to refer to (or symbolize) a more abstract concept. The repeated appearance of an object suggests a non-literal, or figurative, meaning attached to the object. Symbols are often found in the book’s title, at the beginning and end of the story, within a profound action, or in the name or personality of a character. The life of a novel is perpetuated by generations of readers interpreting and reinterpreting the main symbols. By identifying and understanding symbols, readers can reveal new interpretations of the novel. A metaphor is a statement that one thing is something else, which, in a literal sense, it is not. By revealing similarities, metaphors provide insight into characters, events, and issues. While Jack London does not use figurative language frequently, some of his characters and themes may be interpreted as symbolic or metaphorical. For instance, the land in The Call of the Wild holds significance that extends beyond weather and terrain.
Novels trace the development of characters who encounter a series of challenges. Most characters contain a complex balance of virtues and vices. Internal and external forces require characters to question themselves, overcome fears, or reconsider dreams. The protagonist may undergo profound change. A close study of character development, maps in each character, the evolution of motivation, personality, and belief. The tension between a character’s strengths and weaknesses keeps the reader guessing about what might happen next and the protagonist’s eventual success or failure.
Naturalism vs. Realism
We finished up class by introducing the concepts of Naturalism, Realism, and Romanticism, within literature. Naturalism is the style of fiction in which characters are forged by their environment. First introduced by the French writer Émile Zola in the 1880s, Naturalism, an extension of Realism, was a reaction to the tenets of Romanticism, which idealized emotion and adventure. While Realism attempts to depict characters and their situations as truthfully as possible, Naturalism moves beyond realistic description to also address the psychological and evolutionary forces that contribute to a character’s decision making. Characters must confront their limitations and adapt in a world that can be violent, powerful, and destructive. This rather depressing quote by Stephen Crane sums up Naturalism so well:
A man said to the universe: “Sir, I exist!” “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”
To drive home the basic tenets of Naturalism, students were challenged with creating a comic that will illustrate one of the following elements of Naturalism:
Optional: Turn your plot line into an actual comic with illustrations and send to me so I can share on the Community Page!
As always, refer to your syllabus for the complete list of homework for next week. See you then!
with Jayne Besjak
The Republic of Rome v. Marcus Brutus
Students did a great job conducting the last mock trial of the semester. With very little guidance from me, they formulated their cases for the prosecution and defense in this historically-based trial and wrote their own witness questions/answers and attorney statements. I love the energy and enthusiasm this group brings to all our classroom activities!
It has been such a pleasure working with the students this semester and watching them grow in numerous ways. I've witnessed wonderful growth in their critical thinking skills, teamwork, and public speaking (and dramatic!) abilities. I certainly hope they've enjoyed this interactive introduction to the judicial process as much as I have.
And the verdict? Marcus Brutus found not-guilty of first degree murder. The court deems that a defense of justifiable homicide was established.
Enjoy the slideshow of our last class and trial!
with Kim Rodgers
We finished our last class of this semester learning about the Norse gods and hearing a traditional story told of Thor and the Giant King. After reflecting on the role gods played in the lives of the Vikings we turned our attention to finishing work on our Viking ships. We had a lot of work to do to finish them by the end of class, and most students did! Phew! They came out great and the kids were very impressed with their work and attention to detail. A great way to end our semester!
with Angela Harris
Analysis Chapters 1-3
We started class with our usual "'round-the-virtual classroom" open notebook quiz on the background reading on author and novel from the Glencoe Study Guide. Don't forget to read these short entries each week as it gives great insight into the different things we are discussing during our class time together. The pages you need to read are always indicated on the syllabus.
We attempted to do our customary analysis, but were unceremoniously interrupted by my internet connection. Thanks to everyone for their patience while I got back on the call--well done!
Reminders: Don't forget to keep your Vocabulary Glossaries current. Please add anthropomorphism and industrialization to your glossaries. You should also be maintaining a map log for this book. The handout was posted to the Community Page and the Google Map link is HERE. You should have filled in Seattle to Tahkeena for chapters 1-3. You need to indicate on your log the chapter where the location is mentioned and one fact about that location. You can pull all the points directly off the map, and there are even location facts listed right there to help you out. Writing them down cements them in your memory for use at a later time. We'll hopefully have time to go over these next week.
Last week we focused on "Culture and History" as it relates to literary analysis. Today, we talked about:
Narrative and Point of View:
The narrator tells the story with a specific perspective informed by his or her beliefs and experiences. Narrators can be major or minor characters, or exist outside the story altogether. The narrator weaves her or his point of view, including ignorance and bias, into telling the tale. A first-person narrator participates in the events of the novel, using “I.” A distanced narrator, often not a character, is removed from the action of the story and uses the third person (he, she, and they). The distanced narrator may be omniscient, able to read the minds of all the characters, or limited, describing only certain characters’ thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, the type of narrator determines the point of view from which the story is told. The Call of the Wild is told from the third-person point of view by a limited omniscient narrator. This narrator tells the story entirely from the perspective of the main character, Buck, a St. Bernard/Scotch Shepherd dog. In order to understand The Call of the Wild, we must understand Buck’s personality and motivations.
The central character in a work of literature is called the protagonist. The protagonist usually initiates the main action of the story and often overcomes a flaw, such as weakness or ignorance, to achieve a new understanding by the work’s end. A protagonist who acts with great honor or courage may be called a hero. An antihero is a protagonist lacking these qualities. Instead of being dignified, brave, idealistic, or purposeful, the antihero may be cowardly, self-interested, or weak. The protagonist’s journey is enriched by encounters with characters who hold differing beliefs. One such character type, a foil, has traits that contrast with the protagonist’s and highlight important features of the main character’s personality. The most important foil, the antagonist, opposes the protagonist, barring or complicating his or her success. Buck is the protagonist of the novel. Several antagonists oppose him—dogs, humans, even the harsh climate and landscape (abstract antagonist).
Pack Mentality & Anthropomorphism
Please refer to and read your handout by this name. We didn't have time to discuss today!
We ended class by beginning a fun 5-10 minute writing exercise. In order to understand anthropomorphism better, we tried to imitate London's storytelling devices by narrating a story from our OWN life as told from the point of view of a pet or imaginary animal.
We'll share these at the start of class next week. Until then!
We will have a delayed opening today due to inclement weather. Forecasts for the region call for precipitation to change over to rain only by about 10am with temperatures remaining above freezing.
Period 2 classes will meet today (12:15pm start time, as usual) for High School Biology, Middle School Mock Trials, and Upper Elementary History.
Doors will open and I will be there by 11:30am for students that would like to arrive early to eat lunch and meet/prepare for the mock trial.
In the event the forecast changes to indicate unsafe conditions for the afternoon, I will send out a cancellation message, so please check your email before leaving.
with Angela Harris
Intro to The Call of the Wild
We began the second formal session of Interpreting Literature with a brief overview of the life of a fascinating character--Jack London.
Jack London was born in San Francisco on January 12, 1876. London grew up in Oakland, and his family was mired in poverty throughout his youth. He remained in school only through the eighth grade but was a voracious reader and a frequent visitor to the Oakland Public Library, where he went about educating himself and laying the groundwork for his impending literary career.
In his adolescent years, London led a rough life, spending time as a pirate in San Francisco Bay, traveling the Far East, and making his way across America as a tramp. Finally, temporarily tired of adventure, London returned to Oakland and graduated from high school in one year. He was even admitted to the University of California at Berkeley, but he stayed only for a semester due to his frustration with the slow pace of his classes. He began a lifelong practice of self-education, often reading and studying for more than 15 hours per day!
Key Facts & Literary Analysis
After introducing the plot to The Call of the Wild, we then went over a "Key Facts" handout. At this stage of literary analysis, students should begin to become familiar with and later, comfortable with, defining and identifying key literary terms such as setting, tone, themes, motifs, and symbols.
As we read through the book, we will be identifying and discussing these different elements in class. In Sessions III and IV, we will actually be writing about them as they relate to our novels in classic five-paragraph essays.
This week's focus was understanding "Culture & History" in literature. Why is it a good idea to know something about the culture and historical background of a novel when analyzing a work of literature? Context, of course! Cultural and historical contexts give birth to the dilemmas and themes at the center of the novel. Studying these contexts and appreciating intricate details of the time and place help readers understand the motivations of the characters.
The Klondike Gold Rush & The Inuit People
Each class will also continue to have a mini-lesson that relates to an aspect of the book. This week we learned about the Klondike Gold Rush (perhaps not as well known to us as the California Gold Rush!) and the individuals (prospectors and native peoples) that the gold rush affected. For instance, the Canadian government enforced a law that required every team of prospectors to carry 1000 pounds of supplies with them to make it over the mountains. Most of this weight came from food (including the recommended 20 pounds of flour, 12 pounds of bacon, 12 pounds of beans, 3 pounds of coffee, and 5 pounds of corn meal). Heavy equipment and the warmest clothing available made up the rest. Once a team reached Dawson (YT), they found much of the land already staked. Many obtained jobs working for other miners in hotels, bars, or supply shops. Mail, carried entirely by dogsled, was often delayed for months at a time in the winter. Cities like Dawson were also rife with con-men. From its impassable trails to its sawdust bar rooms, the Klondike was a dangerous place.
Once known as Eskimos, the Inuit inhabit the Arctic region, one of the most forbidding territories on earth. Occupying lands that stretch 12,000 miles from parts of Siberia, along the Alaskan coast, across Canada, and on to Greenland, the Inuit are one of the most widely dispersed people in the world, but number only about 60,000 in population. Between 25,000 and 35,000 reside in Alaska, with other smaller groups in Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. The name Eskimo was given to these people by neighboring Abnaki Indians and means "eaters of raw flesh." The name they call themselves is Inuit, or "the people." In fact, many of the Inuit people feel the term "Eskimo" is unflattering, and do not like to be referred to by that name. The Canadian Indian and Inuit were the foremost peoples to use huskies in an interdependent relationship. The Yukon gold discovery of 1898 added great popularity to sled dogs after thousands of Canadians, Americans and Europeans briefly streamed into far northwestern Canada. These men quickly came to realize the necessity of having a strong dog team. Many chose to bring some of their four-legged companions back home upon their return to their respective countries.
Homework for Next Week
Please continue to follow your syllabus closely for all required homework as it won't be reiterated here, however, I will post any additions or changes on Mosaic Minutes, so be sure to read the post each week.
Don't forget to fill out your Map Log after you read each week (Map Logs are new this session) and the Google Map Link you need to complete your Map Log is here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer msa=0&mid=z_ApyoPR9lPM.k4t8qiEuZoSs
For this week's exploratory essay (researching the positive and negative effects of the Klondike Gold Rush on its people, economy, and environment), you may find the following summation extremely helpful: Impact of the Klondike Gold Rush. Remember to look for other information as well, and cite your sources as before.
with Leigh Ann Yoder
"Stars Above, Earth Below"
Today Ranger Bob presented his last, and possibly most thrilling presentation called "Stars Above, Earth Below" (Note - Bob's presentation title is based on a book of the same name written by his friend, Tyler Nordgren)
Bob began by highlighting the benefits of a lifelong appreciation of the starts and familiar constellations. Some of his convincing arguments included learning about the past, exploring the future, igniting our curiosity and just being WOWED! Not to mention it is really cool to be able to point out a few stars and asterisms in the night sky.
Before teaching the students about celestial motion basics he gave definitions of a star, a constellation and an asterism. Be certain to discuss these three terms with your students. I am almost positive they can teach you something you were not aware of. Hint - the Big Dipper is NOT a constellation.
Throughout his presentation Bob told us tidbits of myths and legends surrounding the constellations and asterisms. He encouraged all the students to look up some of these great stories. They might want to begin with the asterisms: Leo, Gemini, and Andromeda. He also pointed out the word origin of many stars, asterisms and constellations; demonstrating how they are connected. I was surprised to learn that many of the names are based on Arabic words. I'm sure all the students would agree that Ranger Bob had us captivated with his own storytelling skills and incredible knowledge base.
Mapping the Stars
He showed a map of the 88 constellations and then began to teach us how to read the night sky. Students learned how to locate three anchor asterisms: the Big Dipper, the Summer Triangle, and Orion. Using just these three asterisms they can locate many, many more asterisms, constellations and stars. Not only did students learn to map the sky, they also gained an understanding of how the night sky changes in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the year. They even understand a bit of what is going on in the Southern Hemisphere.
Ranger Bob pressed on and taught us about apparent and absolute brightness. He explained that our perception of the brightness of a star does not indicate its actual distance from us. In other words, looking at the Big Dipper it would appear that each of the stars are at the same distance from Earth, but this certainly is not the case. He further explained how scientists are able to use a spectrometer to determine star distance.
He presented the class on behalf of himself and the New Jersey Astronomical Association with a professional image of the Andromeda Galaxy taken at the Voorhees State Park. We are genuinely grateful for this spectacular gift. I do hope the Mosaic students will visit the NJAA at Voorhees and continue their astronomical learning.
We ran out of time, so the students took home the supplies to make their own planisphere (star-finder) which they can use in their backyard with the naked eye, binoculars or, if they are lucky, a telescope.
Students can download apps that will aid in their exploration. These apps will provide a map of the night sky from their own backyard at any given date and time! Make certain to check out http://www.celestron.com/support/celestron-skyportal and http://stellarium.org
Final Notes of Thanks!
Parents, I want you to know how proud I was of our middle school students today. Amazingly they sat for the full 90-minutes while Ranger Bob lectured. They did not fidget or speak out of turn. They asked intelligent questions, gave thoughtful answers, showed respect at all times, and remained fully engaged. I know this is a difficult task for any school-aged child, but ours certainly shined today!
Last, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to Ranger Bob. He made our Astronomy class a pure success this semester. Having someone with a true passion is contagious and I am hoping that our students will be inspired to follow their own dreams and interests. Bob is a role model of what one person can accomplish when they are lead by their own curiosity and genuine interest. Please make certain your students complete the one requested assignment by Ranger Bob as their own personal thank you.
Also, from Ranger Bob: a particularly timely page and podcast in Sky and Telescope Magazine: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/january-2015-stargazing-podcast-12302014/?et_mid=712911&rid=246751426
ECA Chapter 14
Let's Visit the Planets Activity ECA pg. 170-171
Study for Final Game Show
Assemble planisphere (handed out by Ranger Bob)
Answer this question for Ranger Bob and send me your answer by Friday:
Will you continue to explore astronomy? If so, what are you most interested in and how do you plan to continue your exploration?
JK Chapter 9 & 10
NB pg. 153,154,155,158,160,161
with Kim Rodgers and Jayne Besjak
The Mystery is in the Details...
The students became detectives in this week’s installment of creative writing. Using “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick,” which is a book containing illustrations with mysterious details along with a title and a caption, we brainstormed possibilities for story lines.
Each child chose an illustration to investigate. First they decided if the picture would explain the beginning, middle, or end of the story. Then they noticed the five most important details in the illustration and came up with three different story lines explaining what might have been going on in the picture. Choosing one, they began writing a story or drawing comics to explain the story. This week they are to work on finishing their story, coming to class with a completed story to share next week. They were so enthused with this project that they decided they wanted to work on another illustration of their choice from the book next week as well. This group has been doing a great job expressing themselves through storytelling. It’s always an adventure hearing them read what they wrote. They are so creative and entertaining. I look forward to seeing what they come up with this week!