March 12:  Analogy Day

Today is the birthday of Irish writer and politician Richard Steele (1672-1729). In 1709, Steele founded The Tatler, a newspaper that featured a new style of journalism. More than just reporting the news, The Tatler featured essays, reviews, gossip, and satire.

In the March 18, 1710 edition of The Tatler, Steele wrote a sentence to illustrate the benefits of literacy:

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Steel’s analogy is perfect because reading is not just about retaining information; instead, it is about training your mind to lift more mental weight.  When you consistently lift weights in the gym, your muscles adapt, allowing you to lift more and more weight. Similarly, when you consistently read, your mind adapts, allowing you to lift and grapple with weightier ideas. Reading nourishes and strengthens the mind, giving you a mental six-pack of memory, imagination, logic, creativity, language, and knowledge.

Steele’s memorable and insightful sentence is a classic example of an analogy.  Analogies reflect the ways humans learn: trying to understand what we don’t know by comparing it to what we do know.  

Analogies are similar to metaphors and similes, but unlike similes and metaphors — which captivate us with surprising imagery, the primary purpose of an analogy is to explain via logical balance.  Analogies are also a bit more mathematical than similes and metaphors; in Greek analogia means “proportionate,” and a good analogy reveals a corresponding relationship between two pairs of things.  As Steele’s analogy illustrates, the basic formula for an analogy is: A is to B as C is to D.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. uses an analogy to illustrate the way racial prejudice blinds us:

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

To paraphrase King’s analogy, we might state it as follows:

Racial prejudice is to human love and brotherhood as fog and dark clouds are to seeing the beauty of the night sky.

The ability to think using analogies requires a high level of cognition.  It requires the thinker to synthesize complex concepts and to make parallel connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.   

It is no wonder, then, that analogies have been used to measure intelligence. The Miller Analogies Test, for example, is a graduate school admissions test made up of analogy word problems.

An analogy word problem follows a predictable format:

A : B :: C : D (A is to B as C is to D)

Steele’s analogy would be stated:  READING : MIND :: EXERCISE : BODY.

Try this analogy word problem:

story : fable :: poem : _______

  1. poet
  2. novel
  3. rhyme
  4. sonnet

The key to solving these analogies is to identify the bridge idea that connects both pairs.  In the problem above, for example, if you understand that a “fable” is a type or genre of story, you will probably realize that the answer is D because a “sonnet” is a type or genre of “poem.”

When you are solving analogies, try writing your answer in the form of a balanced sentence, a sentence that has two parallel independent clauses, such as “A fable is a type of story; a sonnet is a type of poem.”  Doing this will allow you show your thinking by explicitly stating the bridge idea.

Try the following:

  1. puppy : litter :: soldier : (A. group B. war C. army D. battle)
  2. entomology : insects : : etymology : (A. birds B. words C. foods D. ants)
  3. Grendel : Beowulf :: Hydra : (A. Achilles B. Vulcan C. Atlas D. Hercules)
  4. adverb : sadly :: conjunction : (A. the B. none C. but D. happily)
  5. Mark Twain : Huckleberry Finn :: William Shakespeare : (A. Tom Sawyer B. Jim C. Hamlet D. Hester Prynne)

Today’s Challenge:   Four-part Formula for Framing Analogies

As Windex is to a clear, picturesque view so are analogies to clear writing.  What are some topics that you know well enough to explain to someone less knowledgeable?  Brainstorm a list of topics that you might explain using an analogy. Use the basic four-part formula:

As ________ is to __________, so ________ is to _________.


As kindling is to fire so is brainstorming to creativity.

As weeding is to gardening, so is editing to writing.

As fast food is to the stomach, so is television to the mind.

As yeast is to bread, so is honesty to friendship.

As wood fuels a fire, so memory fuels the imagination.

As dancing is to walking, so dancing is to walking.

As the selection of bait is to fishing, so is audience analysis to public speaking.

Once you have written your complete analogy, follow it with some explanation that elaborates and expands the comparison.

Example Analogy with Explanation:

As the correct number of employees is to an effective business, so are the right number of words to effective writing.

Imagine each word you write is an employee of the company you own.  Each word needs a job to do. You can’t afford to pay a salary to words or employees who do nothing.  Your job, therefore, as the writer is to keep your workforce — your “wordforce” — at a size no larger than what it takes to get the job done.

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Analogies, it is true, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home. -Sigmund Freud

March 11:  I Remember Day

American poet and artist Joe Brainard was born on this day in 1942. Brainard was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but he spent most of his adult life in New York City where he collaborated with a number of writers and artists.  As a visual artist, Brainard gained renown for his work in painting, drawing, and collage.

Brainard is best known for his 1975 memoir I Remember, a kind of verbal collage, juxtaposing vivid details from his life.  I Remember is a book-length prose-poem made up of one long list of sentences, each of which begins with “I remember . . . “

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry.  I was eating apricot pie.

I remember how much I used to stutter.

I remember the first time I saw television.  Lucille ball was taking ballet lessons (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Mining Memory

What are some specific ways you would complete the following sentence: “I remember . . . .”?  The simple two words “I remember” remain one of the best prompts for writers of all ages, opening the door to the mine of memory and helping them to practice recording sensory details that show, not just tell.  Create a list poem, cataloging at least five specific memories. Strive to show, not tell, using specific sensory imagery of what you saw, smelled, tasted, heard, or felt.

-I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass on a spring day in 1971 when I first learned to ride my bike.

-I remember my dad in the front yard, pushing the lawn mower, as I pushed my Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat onto its two wheels.

-I remember being too proud to ever use training wheels.

-I remember the overwhelming joy and freedom of finally staying up on the bike, pedaling up and down the street in front of my house in Renton, Washington.

-I remember the feeling of the wind in my hair, and, looking back, I think about the absence of a bike helmet, something that no one wore in the 1970s.

-I remember the smile that would come to my face each morning as I woke up and realized once again that I had a bike and that I knew how to ride it.

(Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.

Art consists of the persistence of memory. -Stephen King


March 10:  Dialogue Day

On this day in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell uttered the first words ever spoken on the telephone.

Born in Scotland, Bell immigrated first to Canada and then to Boston, Massachusetts, where he opened a school for teachers of the deaf.  Long distance communication became a reality in the 1830s with the invention of the telegraph, but messages could only be transmitted in Morse code.  Bell’s vision was to transmit the human voice over a wire. To help make his vision a reality, Bell hired Thomas Watson, an electrical designer and mechanic.

While working on a transmitter in his laboratory on March 10, 1876, Bell spilled battery acid on his clothes.  He called out: “Mr. Watson, come here! I want you!” Watson rushed excitedly from the other room, reporting that he heard Bell’s voice coming from the transmitter.  Without realizing it, Bell had just made the first telephone call.

Bell offered to sell his invention to Western Union for $100,000.  Western Union’s president, however, failed to see how Bell’s invention could ever become more popular than the telegraph.  Within two years the telephone was worth more than $25 million, and Alexander launched his Bell Telephone Company, which would become one of the world’s largest corporations (1).

Today when we make a telephone call, we take for granted that the person on the other end of the line will answer with “hello.”  The truth is, however, that when the first telephones were put into service, people were not sure what to say to initiate the conversation.  Bell suggested the nautical greeting “Ahoy,” the word he used for the rest of his life. His rival, Thomas Edison, who made improvements on Bell’s invention, suggested “hello,” a word that previously had been used more as an exclamation of surprise rather than a synonym for “hi.”  Edison won the war of words in the long run, primarily because the first telephone books suggested “hello” as the officially sanctioned greeting (2).

In addition to the telephone, Bell is also credited with another noteworthy invention, the metal detector.  After President James A. Garfield was shot by an assassin on July 2, 1881, Bell invented a metal detector to help doctors locate the bullet.  Unfortunately, the bullet was never found because the metal bed springs from Garfield’s bed rendered Bell’s metal detector useless. Garfield died from infection from his wound on September 19, 1881.

Today’s Challenge:  Telephone Tales

What are some possible dramatic situations that would involve dialogue between two characters?  Craft a short story or anecdote entirely of dialogue.  Use no narration and no tag lines to identify speakers.  Use a title to clue your reader into the context of your story, and skip lines between each line of dialogue.  (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Darth and Luke on Christmas Morning

Luke, let’s gather around the Christmas tree and open some gifts.

Okay, dad.

Here’s two nicely wrapped ones for you.  The tags say they’re from Yoda. I bet one’s a new lightsaber and the other is fruitcake.

Wow, you’re right Dad!  A new lightsaber and a fruit cake!  How did you know?

I felt your presents.

(Common Core Writing 3- Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.  -Alexander Graham Bell



March 9:  Classic Duel Day

On this day in 1862, the Monitor and the Merrimack met at the Battle of Hampton Roads in history’s first duel between ironclad warships.

The Monitor and Merrimac.jpgThe USS Merrimack was sunk by Union forces when the Civil War began in April 1861.  At that time the Merrimack was a 40-gun wooden frigate. The Confederates raised the ship and rebuilt it, covering it with 4-inch iron armor.  The ship was launched in February 1862 and rechristened the CSS Virginia.

The Confederates quickly put the Virginia to work in their effort to break the Union blockade of Southern ports, which had been in effect since the beginning of the war. On March 8, 1862, the Virginia sunk two of the Union’s wooden ships and disabled another, proving that wooden ships had little chance against ironclad vessels.  

The Union, however, was ready to answer the Confederate challenge.  One month previously it had commissioned its own ironclad, the USS Monitor.  The Monitor had a much lower profile than the Merrimack (Virginia), rising only 18 inches from the water.  Its flat iron deck featured a 20-foot cylindrical rotating turret with two 11-inch guns.

On the morning of March 9, 1892, the Monitor steamed into Chesapeake Bay, confronting the Merrimack.  The two ships battled for four hours, but since the cannon fire simply bounced off the armor of both ships, the battle ended in a draw.  The dual ushered in a new era in naval warfare, and soon all the world’s naval warships were constructed with iron (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Classic Clash

When you think of classic head to head rivalries, what contestants come to mind?  Brainstorm a list of classic rivalries.  Your list may include people, literary characters, groups, trademarks, franchises, genres, or anything else that might be considered a classic clash of two opposing forces. Select one of your pairs, and write your case for why one deserves to be declared the single winner of the dual, giving specific reasons and evidence to make your case unsinkable.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Here are some examples of classic clashes:

Edison vs. Tesla, Lincoln vs. F.D.R., Lakers vs. Celtics, Drama or Comedy, Poetry or Prose, Star Trek vs. Star Wars, Cats vs Dogs, Apple vs. Microsoft, DC vs. Marvel, Coffee vs. Tea, Rolling Stones vs. The Beatles, Coke vs. Pepsi, Football vs. Baseball

Quotation of the Day:  Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. – Jeff Valdez


March 8:  Profile Day

Today is the birthday of the American writer John McPhee, who was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1931.

John Mcphee.jpgMcPhee first wrote professionally for television, writing plays for NBC in the 1950s. After working at NBC, McPhee wrote for Time magazine about show business.  McPhee’s major ambition, however, was to write for the great literary magazine The New Yorker.  He submitted stories for 14 years and received nothing in return except rejections slips.  Finally, in 1965, McPhee received a call from an editor at The New Yorker offering to buy one of his stories.  

The story was a profile of the college basketball star and Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley (and future United States Senator).  McPhee’s father, who was the team doctor for Princeton’s basketball team, had introduced McPhee to Bradley’s story. McPhee went on to become a staff writer for The New Yorker and an author of more than thirty books.  He has written on a vast array of topics, including Alaska, the Swiss Army, the atom bomb, Russian art, fishing, and geology.  He even wrote an entire book about oranges. McPhee won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1999 for his book Annals of the Former World, a survey of North American geology.

McPhee’s first story in The New Yorker, his profile of Bill Bradley, was expanded into his first book A Sense of Where You Are, published in 1965.

Today’s Challenge:  Twenty Quality Questions

A profile is a specific type of feature story in journalism that focuses on a person.  Like a painted portrait, a profile attempts to capture the unique character, spirit, and personality of its subject. In addition to trying to capture what makes the person tick, the profile also should give the audience an angle — some aspect of the person’s personal or professional life that makes him or her relevant, interesting, or important to society as a whole.

A prerequisite for any good profile is an in-depth interview of the profile’s principal subject.  And prior to an interview, the interviewer should craft specific questions that will get at the kinds of specific details that will be needed to write a good profile. What are some examples of questions you can ask a person you don’t know that will help you get to know about the individual’s unique story and unique personality?   Write a list of 20 interview questions that you could ask any stranger that would help you get to know that person.  Aim for questions that will get at the person’s individual character and his or her unique story. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Certainly the aural part of writing is a big, big thing to me. I can’t stand a sentence until it sounds right, and I’ll go over it again and again . . . I read aloud so I can hear if it’s fitting together or not. It’s just as much a part of the composition as going out and buying a ream of paper. -John McPhee


March 7:  Power of the Pen Day

On this day in 1839, Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s play Richelieu opened in London. Today Bulwer-Lytton’s play is largely forgotten; however, one line from the play lives on as a proverbial saying:  “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Before he was eclipsed by his contemporary, the British novelist Charles Dickens, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) was the most popular novelist in Britain.  In fact, his 1830 novel Paul Clifford features what is probably the most famous — and most mocked — opening line in all of fiction:  “It was a dark and stormy night.” It’s this opening line that inspired the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest where contestants are challenged to deliberately write a bad opening line for a new novel (see April 15:  Deliberately Bad Writing Day).

Although few people remember its author, Bulwer-Lytton’s famous insight about the power of writing (“The pen is mightier than the sword”) lives on today.  Rhetorically speaking, the line is a classic example of metonymy, a type of figurative language where a thing or idea is not called by its own name, but instead by the name of something closely associated with the thing or idea.  In Bulwer-Lytton’s line, “pen” is closely associated with the written word and “sword” is closely associated with military warfare. When we refer to the film industry as “Hollywood,” the executive branch of the U.S. Government as “the White House,” or McDonald’s as “the golden arches,” we are using metonymy.

Bulwer-Lytton’s great insight reminds us of the power of the pen, the empowering act of putting words to paper and the monumental effect those words can have on an audience.

The following are just three of the many possible reasons you might argue that writing is so mighty:

  1. Writing helps us to learn more effectively

In the book Make It Stick:  The Science of Successful Learning, the authors recount a study that examined the effectiveness of “writing to learn” strategies for over eight hundred students in college psychology classes.  After listening to lectures, students were required to generate written summaries of specific key ideas in their own words. At other points in the study, students were instructed to simply copy down key ideas and examples verbatim from slides. The results of the study revealed that when students were tested on their understanding of key concepts, they scored significantly better on questions dealing with the concepts that they had written about in their own words. In his book Writing To Learn, William Zinsser uses an apt metaphor to explain how writing helps us to learn:  

Writing enables us to find out what we know — and what we don’t know — about whatever we’re trying to learn.  Putting an idea into written words is like defrosting the windshield: the idea, so vague out there in the murk, slowly begins to gather itself into shape.

Writing then not only helps us record our thoughts, it also helps us to clarify and improve our thinking.

  1. Writing helps us think more effectively.

When we write down our thoughts, we can pause to examine them.  Expressed on paper in the form of written words and sentences, our thinking can be read, re-read, and revised.  This written record of our thinking allows us to compare past thoughts with present thoughts and propels us to produce future new thoughts.  As Dennis Sparks, executive director of the National Staff Development Council, put it:

Writing is a way of freezing our thinking, of slowing down the thoughts that pass through our consciousness at lightning speed, so that we can examine our views and alter them if appropriate.  Writing enables us to note inconsistencies, logical flaws, and areas that would benefit from additional clarity.

Writing not only helps us think better, it also helps us think about our own thinking, a high-level thinking process called metacognition.

  1. Writing helps us communicate our ideas to others.

When we write essays, reports, or presentations, we move beyond just thinking about ourselves.  Effective writing requires us to step outside of our own shoes and into the shoes of a reader. It’s a bit like cleaning up your house before you have guests over for dinner; writing for an audience forces you to clarify and organize your thinking.  As writer and historian Jacques Barzun said, “The process of writing is the best means of overcoming the mind’s natural resistance to logic, order, and precision.” Writing for an audience ups the ante, forcing a writer to be clear, to be coherent, and to be cogent.

  1. Writing helps us get a good job and get promoted.

Writing is not only a foundational skill for meaningful employment, it has also become a gatekeeping skill across the workforce.  A 2004 report by the College Board that surveyed 64 major American corporations found that two-thirds of employees have duties that require them to write coherently.  Furthermore, survey respondents reported that 50% of companies take writing ability into consideration when hiring employees. Respondents also reported that an inability to write also hinders employees from being promoted (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Writers and Their Reasons for Writing

What some of the best things people have said about the power of writing and the reasons it is so important?  Select a quotation from a specific person that resonates with you; then, write an explanation of how the quotation relates to your understanding of writing and why it is so important.

Quotation of the Day:  If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.  -George Orwell



March 6:  How to Day

On this day in 1965, the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” closed on Broadway after 1,415 performances.  

The musical was inspired by the bestselling nonfiction book of the same title, published by Shepherd Mead in 1952.  The book satirized American office life in the guise of a self-help manual. In 1961, Frank Loesser adapted Mead’s book into a musical.  The protagonist of the play is a window washer named J. Pierrepont Finch. Within one week of being hired to work in the mailroom of World Wide Wickets, Finch becomes chairman of the board.

Opening in October 1961, the play’s run on Broadway spanned five years, winning eight Tony Awards and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Of course, it is hard to truly succeed at anything “without really trying.”  One thing that does make success easier, however, is if someone with experience takes the time to explain to you the steps needed to achieve success in a specific endeavor.  This type of expository writing is called “how to” or “process” writing.

When you write a “how to” speech or when you try to teach someone something, beware the Curse of Knowledge — the principle that says that once we know something, it is hard to remember what it was like when we didn’t know it.  

The reality of the Curse of Knowledge was demonstrated in a 1990 study by Elizabeth Newton, a Stanford University graduate student in psychology.  Newton created a game where the players were given one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners.” The tappers were given a well-known song, such as “Happy Birthday,” and were instructed to tap out the rhythm of the song on a table.  The listeners were then asked to guess the song.

When asked to predict how successful the listeners would be in identifying their songs, the tappers predicted 50%.  This prediction wasn’t close. Of the 120 songs tapped out, the listeners guessed only three, a 2.5% success rate. The Curse of Knowledge explains the large disparity between the tappers prediction and their actual success rate.  As they tapped out their tunes, they could not avoid hearing the song in their head; the listeners, however, only heard the taps. The tappers were “cursed” by their knowledge of the songs’ melodies and were unable to imagine what it was like for the listeners to hear only the tapping.

Today’s Challenge:  Recipe for Success

What are some topics that you know well enough to give someone else advice on?  Select one of the topics you know well, and write a speech on “How to Succeed in _________.”  Use a recipe as an analogy for your speech. Give your audience an idea of the basic ingredients that they will need, along with specific steps that they will need to follow in an orderly chronological sequence.  Remember to account for the Curse of Knowledge by putting yourself in the shoes of your reader.

How to Succeed:

-In being a good student

-In balancing school and work

-In balancing sports and school

-In getting into a good college

-In getting a good job

-In winning at . . .

-In learning to play an instrument

-In persuading your parents

-In learning a second language

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Success will never be a big step in the future; success is a small step taken just now. -Jonatan Martensson  



March 5:  Hall of Fame Day

On this day in 1900, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans was completed on the campus of New York University.  Long before any other halls of fame were established in the United States, Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University, envisioned a place that would honor those Americans who had a significant impact on American history.

Today the Hall of Fame for Great Americans still stands.  In 1973, New York University sold the campus, so today it is on the grounds of Bronx Community College.  It features a 630-foot open-air colonnade with bronze portrait busts of the following 98 Americans:

John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Jane Addams, Louis Agassiz, Susan B. Anthony, John James Audubon, George Bancroft, Clara Barton, Henry Ward Beecher, Alexander Graham Bell, Daniel Boone, Edwin Booth, Louis Brandeis, Phillips Brooks, William Cullen Bryant, Luther Burbank, Andrew Carnegie, George Washington Carver, William Ellery Channing, Rufus Choate, Henry Clay, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Grover Cleveland, James Fenimore Cooper, Peter Cooper, Charlotte Saunders Cushman, James Buchanan Eads, Thomas Alva Edison, Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Glasgow Farragut, Stephen Collins Foster, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, Josiah Willard Gibbs, William Crawford Gorgas, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Asa Gray, Alexander Hamilton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Joseph Henry, Patrick Henry, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.Mark Hopkins, Elias Howe, Washington Irving, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, James Kent, Sidney Lanier, Robert Edward Lee, Abraham Lincoln,Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Mary Lyon, Edward Alexander MacDowell, James Madison, Horace Mann, John Marshall, Matthew Fontaine Maury,Albert Abraham Michelson, Maria Mitchell, James Monroe, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, William Thomas Green Morton, John Lothrop Motley, Simon Newcomb,Thomas Paine, Alice Freeman Palmer, Francis Parkman, George Peabody, William Penn, Edgar Allan Poe, Walter Reed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, William Tecumseh Sherman, John Philip Sousa, Joseph Story, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gilbert Charles Stuart, Sylvanus Thayer, Henry David Thoreau, Lillian D. Wald, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, Daniel Webster, George Westinghouse, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Walt Whitman, Eli Whitney, John Greenleaf Whittier, Emma Willard, Frances Elizabeth Willard, Roger Williams, Woodrow Wilson, Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright


The categories for members of the Hall of Fame include authors, educators, architects, inventors, military leaders, judges, theologians, philanthropists, humanitarians, scientists, artists, musicians, actors, and explorers.  The Colonnade was originally designed to accommodate 102 busts, so there is room for four more.  To be eligible for nomination to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, a candidate must be a native-born or naturalized citizen of the United States and must have been dead for 25 years.

Today’s Challenge:  Hometown Hero

What American deserves a statue in your town?  What makes this individual so influential and so deserving of being immortalized with a statue?  Make the case for the individual you would select to be honored with a new statue or bust to be erected in a prominent location in your town.  What makes this person deserving, and how might honoring the individual influence citizens in both the present and future? (Common Core 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  American was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. -President Harry Truman



March 4:  National Grammar Day

Today is National Grammar Day, which was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG). On this day, it is imperative that we all “March forth!” and honor the conventions of English that help us all communicate more clearly.

Brockenbrough founded National Grammar Day to raise awareness of language, to show why it matters, and to change some of the negative attitudes that people have about grammar:

For me, the goal is to get people to think about language and why being careful with it matters . . . . There was this idea out there that speaking well and knowing what words mean and how they work was somehow elite and untrustworthy. This is ridiculous. You’d never hear anyone complain that a doctor knows too darn much about brain surgery or their mechanic is too careful when it comes to fixing cars. (1)

Assert yourself on National Grammar Day.  Craft sentences with confidence. Punctuate with purpose, and compose confidently. March forth, and write imperative sentences — the kind of sentence that command, that begin with a verb, and that have implied subjects (“You” march forth.)

Today’s Challenge:  Write Now

What are some examples of two-word imperative sentences, such as “March forth.”?  Brainstorm a list of verbs from A to Z.  Then try to match up each of your verbs with a second word that will form a two-word imperative sentences.


Ask nicely.  Be positive.  Carpe diem.  Don’t touch.  Exercise cognitively.  Floss daily.  Golf daily.  Help me.  Just sing.  Keep calm.  Listen carefully.  Make cookies.  Never whine. Offer hope.  Please shower.  Quiz often.  Read daily. Sing loudly.  Think big.  Use caution.  Visit Europe.  Work hard.  X-ray injuries. Yelp barbarically.  Zip it.

(Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day:  Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative. -H.G. Wells

1- “A Toast to National Grammar Day.



March 3:  Mount Rushmore Day

On this day in 1925, Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located in South Dakota on a mountain that was originally called Six Grandfathers by the Lakota Sioux.  The construction of Mount Rushmore began in October 1927 and ended in October 1941.  After Congress authorized the mountain memorial, President Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, insisted that in addition to Washington, two Republicans and one Democrat be portrayed.  

MtRushmore.jpgThe sculptor in charge of the project, Gutzon Borglum, selected Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to join Washington.  In the process of construction, 450,000 tons of rock were blasted off the mountainside.  

Less than one year before the completion of Mt. Rushmore in March 1941, Gutzon Borglum died from an embolism.  Borglum’s son, Lincoln Borglum, continued his father’s work until it was completed on October 31, 1941.

One aspect of Mt. Rushmore that Borglum envisioned was never completed. Borglum wanted an inscription in words to accompany the faces of the American presidents.  Specifically, he wanted 500 words telling the history of the United States written on the front of the mountain.  Borglum wanted these words written not only in English but also in Latin and Sanskrit.  In this way Mt. Rushmore would become a new Rosetta Stone, giving future archaeologists an explanation of the history behind the people depicted there.  

Initially, Borglum asked President Calvin Coolidge to write the 500 words, but Borglum rejected Coolidge’s submission.  A national essay contest was then held in 1934 with more than 100,000 entries. The contest’s winner was a Nebraska student named William Andrew Burkett.  Unfortunately just as he had rejected Coolidge’s entry, Borglum also rejected Burkett’s essay.  As a result, the mountain was left without inscribed words (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Your Rock Stars

Who are the four key individuals within a single field, such as science, philosophy, rock-n-roll, movies, literature, or baseball, who you would enshrine on your Mt. Rushmore?  Mt. Rushmore has become a kind of metaphor for the idea of enshrining four specific individuals as the pillars within a certain field.  Today, for example, most students of American history recognize Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt among the most important United States presidents.  Select a field that you know well, and brainstorm the names of people you consider pillars in their field of expertise.  Once you have selected your four, write a brief rationale for each, explaining what made these individuals’ contributions so significant.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation. -George Washington