April 28:  Mockingbird Day  

Today is the birthday of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. She was born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926 and the events in her novel parallel her life growing up in the South during the Depression. One example is the character Dill who was drawn from Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote. In 1959, Lee assisted Capote in his now classic non-fiction novel In Cold Blood (1966) (See April 14:  Prepositional Phrase Day). To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 1962, the novel was made into an Oscar-winning film, but strangely, Harper Lee never wrote another novel.  In 2015 the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird was published under the title Go Set a Watchman.  Harper Lee died in 2016.

Cover of the book showing title in white letters against a black background in a banner above a painting of a portion of a tree against a red backgroundThe success of To Kill a Mockingbird continues today. It’s taught in nearly 80 percent of America’s middle schools and high schools. According to the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature, To Kill a Mockingbird is on every list of the book-length works most frequently taught in high school English.

Here are the lists:

Public Schools:

Romeo and Juliet; Macbeth; Huckleberry Finn; Julius Caesar; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Scarlet Letter; Of Mice and Men; Hamlet; The Great Gatsby; Lord of the Flies.

Catholic Schools:

Huckleberry Finn; The Scarlet Letter; Macbeth; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Great Gatsby; Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; Of Mice and Men; Julius Caesar; Lord of the Flies. (1)

Independent Schools:

Macbeth; Romeo and Juliet; Huckleberry Finn; The Scarlet Letter; Hamlet; The Great Gatsby; To Kill a Mockingbird; Julius Caesar; The Odyssey; Lord of the Flies

Particularly interesting is that To Kill a Mockingbird is not only the most contemporary work listed, it is also the only work by a woman.

Today’s Challenge:  A Truly Must-Read Book

What one book would you say should be a graduation requirement for high school?  Brainstorm some titles of books that you think should be read by high schoolers.  Then, select the single book that you would argue is the most important. Write your argument for why this book should be required reading.  Explain what the book offers students, and why is it an important book both for today and for tomorrow (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. -Harper Lee

1-Applebee, Arthur N. ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills. Bloomington IN. 1990-05-00. Eric Identifier: ED318035.

 

April 27:  Mouse Day

On this date in 1981, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) introduced its computer mouse. It’s hard to imagine a time when we operated a computer without a mouse, a time when we didn’t point and click, or a time when we needed a good mouser more than we needed an operational mouse.

The invention of the mouse is credited to Douglas Engelbart, who created what he called an “X-Y position indicator for a display system” in 1964. His invention, a wooden shell with two metal wheels, was patented in 1970. In 1970, however, there were no personal computers; it would be ten more years before someone stepped up to take the mouse to the big time.

The decade of the personal computer had arrived in 1980, and Steve Jobs , co-founder of Apple Computer, challenged Xerox’s (PARC) to create a mouse that was durable, useful, and inexpensive. They succeeded. Where Engelbart had used metal wheels, they used a plastic ball. Their mouse was ready for demonstration in 1981, and in January 1983 the Apple Lisa was introduced, the first commercial personal computer with a mouse. At a price of almost $10,000, the Lisa was not a commercial success, but Apple rebounded one year later with the Macintosh 128K. Like the Lisa, the Macintosh had a single-button mouse. The Macintosh revolutionized personal computing with its Graphic User Interface (GUI), the predominant method we use today of interacting with a computer using windows and icons. Imagine trying to do this without a mouse!

With the popularity of Microsoft Windows in the 1990s, the mouse became what it is today: ubiquitous (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Build a Better Abecedarian

When you hear the word “ computer technology” what are some words that come to mind?  Brainstorm as many words as you can that you associate with “computer technology,”  such as antivirus, bandwidth, and cloud.  Attempt to create an A to Z list of words that are related to computer technology.  Include a short definition next to each word. (Common Core Writing Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day:  The computer is by all odds the most extraordinary of all the technological clothing ever devised by man, since it is the extension of our central nervous system. Beside it, the wheel is a mere hula-hoop. -Marshall McLuhan

1 -Soojung, Alex and Kim Pang. Mighty Mouse. Stanford Magazine March/April 2002.

April 26:  ABCs of Poetry Day

April is National Poetry Month, which was first introduced by the Academy American Poets in 1996.  In that year, President Bill Clinton, in his presidential proclamation praised National Poetry Month saying that it “offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry” (1).  

Of course, the association of poetry and the month of April goes back much farther than 1996, and it is certainly more than just an American tradition.  For example, in 1845, while visiting Italy, British poet Robert Browning began his great poem Home Thoughts From Abroad as follows:

Oh, to be in England

Now that April’s there,

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,

While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England—now!

In addition to springtime, one of the favorite topics of poets is poetry itself.  As you might guess, they don’t give dry dictionary definitions:

Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers. – Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Poetry is either language lit up by life or life lit up by language. -Peter Porter

Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat. -Robert Frost

Today’s Challenge:  Quench Your Thirst for Verse

What are 50 words that come time mind that you associate with the word “poetry”?  Brainstorm a long list of words or phrases that come to your mind when you think of the word “poetry.”  Write down anything that comes to mind: poetic terms, memorable poetic lines, great poems, favorite poets, or just words that you think are especially poetic.

 

On this the 26th day of the month we are reminded of the 26 letters of the alphabet — the letters we use to write and to read poetry.  Imagine you were to create a poetry ABC book, featuring your 26 poetry-related words, names, or phrases. The only stipulation is that you must cover all 26 letters of the alphabet, and you must be able to explain how each of the items on your list is poetry-related.

To help prime your poetic pump of ideas, here is a list of poetry-related terms from Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary:

alliteration, ballad, couplet, double dactyl, enjambment, found poem, genre, haiku, iambic pentameter, juxtaposition, kenning, lipogram, metonymy, narrative poetry, onomatopoeia, persona, quatrain, rhyme scheme, sonnet, tone, understatement, villanelle, wit, xerox poetry, ya-du, zeugma (2)

(Common Core Writing Language)

Quotation of the Day:  Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. -Robert Frost

1-http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-did-cruellest-month-come-be-perfect-30-days-celebrate-poetry-180950386/

2-Hirsch, Edward.  A Poet’s Glossary. New York:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.