May 14:  Seven Types of Sentences Day

On this day in 2004, Ronald Reagan died at his home in Bel-Air, California. Certainly much has been written about Reagan’s political career as governor of California and as the 40th president of the United States, but after his career in politics was over, Reagan accomplished something unique. On November 5, 1994, he announced to the world that he had Alzheimer’s disease, the brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.

In a short handwritten letter, Reagan explained his desire for privacy, but also his desire to raise public awareness for the millions afflicted with Alzheimer’s. With his characteristic candor and optimism, Reagan closed the letter by saying: “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead” (1).

The disease is named after a pioneer in brain research, Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor who described the abnormal brain tissues of one of his patients in 1906.

The May 14, 2001 edition of Time magazine contained a cover story tracing the search for the causes and a potential cure for Alzheimer’s. One study of particular interest involved a group of more than 600 nuns. Scientist David Snowdown of the University of Kentucky began studying the nuns’ personal and medical histories looking for clues that might solve the mystery behind why some people get Alzheimer’s and others don’t.

Snowdown became interested in autobiographical essays that the nuns had written when they entered the order in their early 20s. He analyzed each essay for its idea density and grammatical complexity, and the results provided some interesting insights. Snowdown discovered that the nuns whose essays contained grammatically complex sentences were the same nuns who six or more decades later were free of any signs of Alzheimer’s. Conversely, those nuns who used relatively simple sentences were the same nuns who contracted Alzheimer’s. With the nuns’ early writing, Snowden was able to predict with 85% to 90% accuracy which nuns would have the disease 60 years later (2).

There is no evidence yet that teaching students to incorporate complex sentences into their writing will prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s in later years. However, one thing is certain, a healthy menu of intellectual pursuits, including writing, in your younger years doesn’t hurt. Another certainty is that good writers use a variety of sentences, and understanding the difference between simple sentences and complex sentences is a starting point for adding variety to your sentences.

Seven Major Sentence Types

Knowing the major types of sentence types allows writers to revise and edit their sentences, making them more varied and clear.  Below, the following seven types of sentences are explained: simple, complex, compound, compound-complex, balanced, cumulative, and periodic.  Notice that the definition given for each sentence is a Meta-Sentence, that is, the definition is written in the form of the sentence being defined. Each definition is followed by an additional example:

A simple sentence is a sentence with one independent clause — a group of words with a subject (noun), a predicate (verb), and a complete thought.

Example:  Bill completed his homework.

A compound sentence is a sentence with at least two independent clauses; often the two clauses are connected by a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS), a semicolon, or a conjunctive adverb — such as “however,” “therefore,” or “then.”

Example:  Bill completed his homework, and Jane wrote a report on penguins.

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent (adjective) clause.

Example:  Bill, who owns a dog named Huck, sat studying for his math test.

OR

If a sentence has a single independent clause and at least one dependent (adverb) clause, it is a complex sentence.

Example:  Bill was angry because his dog chewed up his homework.

A compound-complex sentence is a sentence that contains two independent clauses, and it also includes at least one dependent clause.

Example:  Although there were a lot of good things to watch on television, Bill, who always gets his work done on time, sat doing his homework.

If a sentence has two parallel independent clauses, it is a balanced sentence; if it does not have two parallel independent clauses, it is not a balanced sentence.

Example: Bill read his math book; Jane wrote her English essay.

A cumulative sentence begins with an independent clause, followed by additional modifying clauses and phrases which elaborate on the main clause.

Example: Jane is a great student even though she works two jobs after school and rarely has time to do homework.

Unlike a cumulative sentence, which has its main clause at the beginning, a sentence with its main clause at the end is a periodic sentence.

Example:  Even though she works two jobs after school and rarely has time to do homework, Jane is a great student.

Today’s Challenge:  Seven Ways to Make Sentences Sing

What are examples of the different types of sentences you can write to create sentence variety?  Write one original example of each of the different sentence types:  Simple, Complex, Compound, Compound-Complex, Balanced, Cumulative, and Periodic. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

May 13: Velcro Day

Today is the anniversary of a registered trademark that gave the world an alternative to zippers and buttons: Velcro.

One man’s annoyance can be another man’s eureka. One day, when Swiss inventor George de Mestral returned with his dog from a walk, he noticed that he and his dog were covered with cockleburrs. Instead of being annoyed, he studied the burrs under a microscope where he noted their hook-like shape.

Engineering artificial fasteners that replicated the ones he found in nature took a few years, but Mestral eventually succeeded in creating his easy to use hook and loop fastener. He registered his invention in 1958. For the name of his product, he blended two French terms: “vel” from velvet and “cro” from crochet (little hook).

Logo velcro.pngToday Velcro Industries is a successful international company, but like other successful companies, Velcro is challenged by a paradox: they want people to use their trademarked name as much as possible to promote their product; however, because the name is used so often and the product is so successful and so ubiquitous, the name of the product becomes a generic, non-capitalized word. As a result, companies like Velcro are in a constant battle to protect their trademark and in turn their bottom line. The lines are blurred even more when a word, like Google, becomes used so often that it becomes more than just a noun. No doubt the legal department at Google and the neologism department at the American Heritage Dictionary are both busy tracing the growth and development of this word.

The following statement from the Velcro website is an example of the kinds of reminders and warnings that companies put out to protect their brand names:

The goodwill and integrity which are reflective of the Velcro companies are ingrained in the VELCRO® trademark. This makes the trademark a very valuable asset to the company and to our customers who purchase the VELCRO® brand fasteners.

Many terms that we all use frequently in our everyday language were once trademarks …. All of these terms lost their distinction as trademarks because their owners allowed them to be misused by the public. That’s why the Velcro companies pay close attention to how the VELCRO® trademark is used (1).

As stated by the Velcro website, there are several brand names that were once registered trademarks, but today they have lost their capital letter and entered the dictionary and the English lexicon as generic terms, such as cellophane, escalator, and the yo-yo.  Other brands seem generic, but they legally retain their trademarks, such as Kleenex, Jet Ski, Play Dough, Popsicle, and Q-tips.

Today’s Challenge:  The Law and the Language

What are some examples of the names of specific products you might buy?  Brainstorm a large A to Z list of specific brand names of products. Then, select one of your brand names and research the history of the product and specifically the trademark history of the product’s name.  Is the product’s name a registered trademark or is it a generic term? For example, Jacuzzi is the name and registered trademark for the generic term “hot tub spas” or “whirlpool bathtubs” made by the American corporation called Jacuzzi Brands Corporation. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  . . . the average English-speaking adult knows about 40,000 words.  The number of active US trademarks is more than thirty times larger than the common English vocabulary.  -Christopher Johnson in Microstyle

1 – https://www.velcro.com/about-us/our-brand

 

May 12: Limerick Day

Today is the birthday of Edward Lear, born in 1812 in London, England. Before he was a poet, Lear was a painter, illustrating birds for such noteworthy clients as Charles Darwin.

In 1832, while on an assignment to paint animals in the Earl of Darby’s private zoo, Lear began composing humorous verse for the Earl’s grandchildren. He put his poems together in his Book of Nonsense, published in 1846.

Lear is remembered for his famous poem “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but his most noteworthy contribution to the literary world is the limerick.

Here are some limericks from his Book of Nonsense.

1.

There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, “It is just as I feared!–

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!”

10.

There was an Old Man in a tree,

Who was horribly bored by a Bee;

When they said, “Does it buzz?”

He replied, “Yes, it does! “

It’s a regular brute of a Bee!”

12.

There was a Young Lady whose chin,

Resembled the point of a pin:

So she had it made sharp,

And purchased a harp,

And played several tunes with her chin.

 

The limerick is a universally popular verse form, enjoyed by children as well as adults. Besides the fixed form of five lines, rhyming AABBA, the content of the Limerick is characteristically comical and nonsensical. Adult versions frequently feature lewd content. One other common feature is the naming of a character and geographic location in the first line.

Today’s Challenge: Literary Limerick

How might you adapt the limerick form for a modern purpose?  On Limerick Day write lots of limericks. Write one as a love note and put it on the refrigerator or write it on your child’s lunch sack. Write a limerick advertising a product that you think is worth buying. Write a limerick about your best friend, your pet, or your boss. Finally, select a favorite literary character and write a limerick about him or her.  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  

The English language is a maze

You can get lost in it for days

Exploring the mother tongue

Can be lots of fun

So, read today’s post on Word Days

1-http://www.gutenberg.org/files/982/982-h/982-h.htm#2H_4_0071

May 11:  Tall Tale Day

On this day in 1720, Baron Karl Friedrich Münchhausen was born.  The German nobleman fought for the Russian Empire in two Turkish Wars.  When he retired to his German estate in 1760, he gained a reputation as a raconteur, weaving outrageous tall tales based on his experiences as a soldier, traveler, and sportsman.

Munchausen might have been forgotten by history if not for German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe who listened to the baron’s tales and adapted them in a book Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia.

In Raspe’s book, the outlandish tales are narrated in first person by Munchausen.  In one story, for example, the baron recounts a near-death experience he had while bathing one day in the Mediterranean.  Startled by a giant fish swimming towards him, Munchausen curled his body into a ball and sailed into the fish’s mouth and into its stomach. Before he could figure out how to extricate himself from the fish’s belly, he felt the fish rising from the waters. A fisherman had caught the fish and was about to cut it up when he heard the baron yelling.  Freed by the fisherman, the baron ends his story by saying that ever since that day, whenever he smells fish, he becomes sick.

Throughout the years the stories that Raspe put in print have been adapted, expanded, and rewritten in numerous languages.  In 1988, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame made a film adaptation called The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

In addition to being a name synonymous with tall tales, Munchausen’s name has also become well-known in the psychiatric and medical communities for a condition known as Munchausen Syndrome.

More than just telling entertaining tales, victims of Munchausen Syndrome deliberately deceive their doctors, describing false symptoms of illness and in some cases even inducing real symptoms by injecting themselves with foreign substances.

Today’s Challenge:  Munchausen Your Autobiography

What are some incidents from your life that you might exaggerate in the tradition of the tall tale?  Brainstorm a list of key incidents that you would include in your autobiography.  Select one important incident and write it as a short autobiographical anecdote based on what really happened.  Next, take that story and “munchausen” it by adding some hyperbole, drama, and outrageous embellishments. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  The raconteur knows too well that, if he investigates the truth of the matter, he is only too likely to lose his good story. Herbert Butterfield

1-Goldberg, Philip.  The Babinski Reflex. Los Angeles:  Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990.

 

May 10:  Banned and Burned Books Day

On the evening of May 10, 1933, Students on 34 campuses across Germany gathered to burn books that were deemed “un-German.”  The book burnings were one of several of the actions the Nazi party took in the years leading up to World War II to bring German arts and culture in line with Nazi goals.

More than just spontaneous demonstrations, the book burnings were organized affairs, complete with ceremonial music and scripted statements called “fire oaths” that were read aloud as students tossed books onto bonfires.

In Berlin, where over 40,000 students and Nazi officials gathered, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, delivered a scathing speech denouncing the decadence and moral corruption found in the unwanted books.

Any book expressing ideas that in any way ran counter to Nazi ideologies was deemed fit for incineration.  The following is a small sample of some of the authors whose books were burned: Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Karl Marx, Bertolt Brecht, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, and Helen Keller.  

Also burned on May 10th were works by the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, whose words foreshadowed the horror to come:  “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people” (1).

Germany, of course, is not the only place where there have been book burnings.  In 1973, Charles McCarthy, Chairman of a school board in North Dakota had copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five burned because of its “obscene language.”  Fortunately, many denounced the book burning, including the book’s author who sent a letter to McCarthy, saying the following:

I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.

Each September since 1982, the American Library Association has sponsored Banned Books Week, a national campaign that promotes the freedom to read and that celebrates a diversity of ideas, even those that are unorthodox or unpopular.  Activities during the week include public readings, panel discussions, and even a teen fashion show where designers display original fashion inspired by challenged or banned books (3).

Today’s Challenge:   Only You Can Prevent Book Burning

What are some examples of books that have been banned or challenged?  Research some books that have been frequently banned or challenged.  Select one and write a report that gives a brief overview of the book and its author, along with some details on the specific context in which it was banned or challenged.

The following are examples of books that have been banned or challenged:

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

1984 by George Orwell

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

The Bible

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Ulysses by James Joyce

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. -Ray Bradbury

1 https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005852

2-http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/03/i-am-very-real.html

3-http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

May 9:  Turn Off the TV Day

Today is the anniversary of a memorable speech by Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to the National Association of Broadcasters. The year was 1961, and Minow did not have many good things to say about commercial television. His speech, where he called television “a vast wasteland,” sparked a national debate about the quality, or lack thereof, of television programming.

Newton Minow 2006.jpgSince Minow’s speech, television has been called the idiot box and the boob tube. Television viewers have become couch potatoes (1979), and the number of channels has grown to more than 500, but “nothing is on.”

Here’s an excerpt from Minow’s indictment:

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and loss sheet or rating book to distract you — and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it. (1)

While Minow’s phrase “a vast wasteland” caught on, his speech certainly did not discourage the growth of television sets in American homes. In an age of reality television, satellite television, and 24-hour sports and cable news stations, television is more popular than ever.

One question that has been asked by educators since the advent of commercial television is: What is the relationship between television viewing and reading? One particularly interesting answer to this question was given by Norman Mailer in the January 23, 2005 edition of Parade Magazine. In the article, Mailer says that the one thing that he would do to change America for the better would be to get rid of television commercials. Mailer argues that the constant interruptions of commercials disrupt our children’s ability to read effectively by denying them something that is necessary for reading: concentration.

Here is an excerpt from Mailer’s Parade essay:

When children become interested in an activity, their concentration is firm—until it is interrupted. Sixty years ago, children would read for hours. Their powers of concentration developed as naturally as breathing. Good readers became very good readers, even as men and women who go in for weight-lifting will bulk up . . . . Each of the four major networks now offers 52 minutes of commercials in the three hours from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day. It is equal to saying that every seven, 10 or 12 minutes, our attention to what is happening on the tube is cut into by a commercial. It is as bad for most children’s shows. Soon enough, children develop a fail-safe. Since the child knows that any interesting story will soon be amputated by a kaleidoscope of toys, food, dolls, clowns, new colors and the clutter of six or seven wholly different products all following one another in 10-, 20- and 30-second spots all the way through a three-minute break, the child also comes to recognize that concentration is not one’s friend but is treacherous. (2)

Today’s Challenge:  Boob Tube Best or Worst

What are some of the television programs of the past or present that you would argue represent the best and worst television programs of all time?  Brainstorm a list of the best and worst television programs of all time.  Select one program that you know well, and make your argument for why this program is either the best or worst program.  Don’t assume your audience is familiar with the program. In addition to making your argument, give some background describing the program and its genre. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Television is a new medium. It’s called a medium because nothing is well-done. –Fred Allen

1-http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/newtonminow.htm

2-http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2005/edition_01-23-2005/featured_0

 

May 8:  Comma Day

On this day in 1884, a New York City newspaper featured a story on Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).  The story, published in The Daily Graphic, is the source of one of the best-known quotations concerning the vagaries of English punctuation:

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.

The source of this frequently cited Wilde quotation is an anecdote recounted by the newspaper article: Once on a trip to an English country house, Wilde was annoyed by the uncultured pronouncements of a fellow guest, who loudly proclaimed that artistic pursuits were a waste of time.  As the two shared lunch, the Philistine guest asked Wilde what he had been up to all morning. Wilde replied saying, “I’ve been very busy all morning editing my book of poems.”

The fellow guest followed up asking, “So have you made much progress?”

Wilde responded, “Yes, I took out a comma.”

“Is that all you accomplished?” the guest inquired with disbelief and disgust.  

“No, not at all,” retorted Wilde, “After careful consideration, I put the comma back.”  (1)

As the anecdote and Wilde’s quotation shows, even great writers have struggled with the most common and most vexing of all punctuation marks:  the comma.

The problem is that commas are used in so many different situations that writers become overwhelmed.  One solution to this problem is to specify each of the most frequently used applications of the comma and to name each of these applications as a distinct type of comma.

Nine Types of Commas

Introductory Comma:  A comma that separates a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence from the sentence’s main clause:   

On a dark and stormy night, John sat in the library reading.

Coordinating (FANBOYS) Comma:  A comma that precedes a coordinating conjunction that connects two independent clauses:

John sat in the library reading, but he should have been doing his math homework.

Serial Comma (Oxford or Harvard) Comma:  A comma that is used to separate items in a series (See March 21:  Serial Comma Day):

John bought some paper clips, pencils, and rubber bands.

Adjective Comma:  A comma that separates two (coordinating) adjectives that equally modify a noun

It was a dark, stormy night in Pittsburgh.

Appositive Comma:  Twin commas that set off an appositive phrase from the rest of a sentence.  Typically, the appositive phrase comes directly after the noun it modifies:

Mary, a junior in college, hopes to get a summer job.

Adjective Clause Comma:  Twin commas that set off a restrictive adjective clause from the rest of a sentence:

Mary, who is a junior in college, hopes to get a summer job.

Subordinating Comma:  A comma that follows a dependent (adverb) clause, separating an opening dependent clause from an independent clause.

After he spent three hours reading in the library, John went to math class.

Quotation Comma:  A comma that precedes a quotation when the speaker of the quotation is introduced:

My mother always said, “Make sure you wear a warm coat.”

Participial Comma:  A comma that separates a participial phrase (or absolute phrase) from the rest of a sentence.  

Embarrassed to be wearing his Batman pajamas, Bill refused to answer the knock at the door.

Today’s Challenge: Comma, Comma, Chameleon

How many different rules are there for using commas?  What are some examples of specific times that a comma should be used in writing? Read the explanations above of Nine Types of Commas.  Then, write nine original sentences of your own, using all nine different types.  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  What’s the difference between a cat and comma?

One has its claws at the end of its paws, and one is a pause at the end of a clause. -An old joke

1-http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/10/25/comma/

May 7:  Dramatic Monologue Day

Today is the birthday of poet Robert Browning. Born in Camberwell, England in 1812, Browning was exposed to books at a young age. His father owned a collection of some 6,000 rare volumes, and Browning learned to share his father’s passion for literature, reading books in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Robert Browning by Herbert Rose Barraud c1888.jpgBrowning wrote both poetry and drama, and his most influential innovation, the dramatic monologue, combined both.

The dramatic monologue is characterized as a poem with a single speaker with an implied listener or audience. The speaker is not the poet; instead, the poet takes on the persona (Latin for “mask’) of an imaginary character and brings that character alive solely through the words spoken.  A specific dramatic situation is important in the poem, as well as a tone that captures both the voice and the character of the speaker.

Perhaps the greatest of all dramatic monologues was one written by Browning in 1842 called “My Last Duchess.”  In the poem, set during the Italian Renaissance, Browning speaks in the persona of an arrogant, cold, and controlling duke who is in the process of negotiating the dowry for his next marriage.  Taking a break from the negotiations, he gives a tour to one of his future father-in-law’s envoys. The major focus of the duke’s remarks is on a portrait of his deceased wife, his “last duchess,” which he shows the envoy.  The major criticism he had with this duchess, as he explains to the envoy, is that she had “A heart . . . too soon made glad,/Too easily impressed.” Because she did not make her husband the sole focus of her universe and because she allowed herself to be moved by other persons and other things than her husband, he “gave commands” –a suggestion that he had her killed to open the door of opportunity for a new, less disagreeable wife.

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will ‘t please you sit and look at her? I said
‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘t was not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, ‘Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,’ or ‘Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:’ such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,  
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, ‘Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark’—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
—E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will ‘t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Today’s Challenge:  Grab Your Mask and Your Poetic License

What are some examples of dramatic situations a person might be in that would produce a dramatic monologue?  Try your hand at writing your own dramatic monologue. You can try to write it in verse if you want, but more importantly, try to capture the authentic voice of your narrator. In a dramatic monologue you can take on the voice of ANYONE, or anything, you desire. In other words, you take on a persona and use your poetic license to channel the voice of whomever you wish.

Before you begin writing, you’ll need four things:

  1. A specific character/narrator  
  2. A dramatic situation
  3. An attitude the speaker has toward the situation (tone)
  4. A listener or audience of the monologue

Before you commit to a single idea, do some brainstorming on possible combinations of the four elements. You can go for comedy or tragedy — a really good dramatic monologue might have elements of both.

Here are some examples:

  1. An angry teacher, complaining to her husband about her students’ lack of enthusiasm.
  2. A teenager pleading with his parents to allow him to get a tattoo.
  3. A desperate elderly salesman trying to persuade his boss not to fire him.
  4. An enthusiastic teenager trying to persuade her grandmother to get an iPod.
  5. A shocked postal worker calling the police to report a UFO sighting.
  6. A concerned father advising his son on how to approach the challenges of life.

(Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Below is an example based on #6, with apologies to Rudyard Kipling:

HOW YOUR RACE IS RUN

If you can keep your head about you when everybody’s losing theirs

Step up to the starting line, and stare down your fears

Be ready for the gun as you start the race

Get out at a good strong pace

Don’t let the pack box you in.

Run your own race to win.

Whether you win or lose the race my son,

It matters more how your race is run

Will you run your race to win?

And when you fall down will pick yourself back up again?

You’ve  gotta make your own breaks in this human race

Three fingers pointing back in your face

Fill each minute with sixty seconds run.

You can’t stop the sun, but you can make him run.

Triumph and disaster are two imposters just the same,

Don’t spend your time looking for someone to blame.

Because the rain comes down and the way gets hard,

And it seems like you haven’t gotten very far

Push beyond the pain

Through the mud and the rain

Whether you win or lose the race my son

It matters more how your race is run

Try to see the world in your neighbor’s shoes

And whether you win or you lose

You’re not the only one who has a race to run

Do all you can to lend a helping hand

Pray to God each day

That He’ll light your way

Whether you win or lose the race my son

It matters more how your race is run

Quotation of the Day: Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp – or what’s a heaven for? -Robert Browning

May 6: Sub Four Day

On this day in 1954, English medical student Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in a time of 3:59.4.  Before Bannister broke the four-minute barrier, the world record for the mile was 4:01.3. At the time, many thought that running under four minutes was physically impossible, but once Bannister did it, the barrier proved to be more of a psychological barrier than a physical one. A little more than a month after Bannister’s record run, Australian John Landy lowered the world record to 3:58 (2).

Long before the four-minute mile became a subject of public interest, there was another four-minute related event that played a part in the U.S. effort in World War I.  As the United States entered the war in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson realized that winning the propaganda war at home was in some ways just as important as winning the ground war in Europe.  

Wilson created an organization called the Committee on Public Information (CPI) to manage the news and to promote support for the war.  One essential wing of the CPI was a group called the “Four Minute Men,” an army of 75,000 volunteers who gave short speeches in support of the war whenever the opportunity presented itself.  For the CPI, the four-minute time limit was an essential element for success. Speeches need to be short, precise, and to the point. Long before anyone had ever heard of the “sound bite,” CPI published bulletins with tips on how to make every word of a speech count:

General Suggestions to Speakers

The speech must not be longer than four minutes, which means there is no time for a single wasted word.

Speakers should go over their speech time and time again until the ideas are firmly fixed in their mind and can not be forgotten. This does not mean that the speech needs to be written out and committed [memorized], although most speakers, especially when limited in time, do best to commit.

Divide your speech carefully into certain divisions, say 15 seconds for final appeal; 45 seconds to describe the bond; 15 seconds for opening words, etc., etc. Any plan is better than none, and it can be amended every day in the light of experience.

There never was a speech yet that couldn’t be improved. Never be satisfied with success. Aim to be more successful, and still more successful. So keep your eyes open. Read all the papers every day, to find a new slogan, or a new phraseology, or a new idea to replace something you have in your speech. (2)

The word propaganda derives from the Latin propagar, meaning to increase or to grow, as in the propagation of plants or crops. As a metaphor, it was originally used by the Catholic church, relating to the growth or spreading of the Christian faith.  It later evolved to be used in relation to the spreading of secular ideas. In the mid-19th century, the word began to acquire negative connotations based on its use in describing the deceptive promotion of political messages.

Today’s Challenge:  Speaking a Mile in Under Four Minutes

What is an idea that you have that is truly worth propagating or promoting?  Generate some claims that you truly feel are worth spreading, not through propaganda, but through the responsible use of persuasive appeals.  Write the text of a speech that will come in as close as possible, but not a second over, four minutes. (Common Core Writing 1 – Persuasion)

Quotation of the Day:  The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. -Roger Bannister

1-http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-four-minute-mile

2-http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4970/

May 5: Five Out of Five Day

On this fifth day of the fifth month of the year, we should pause to consider things that come in 5s.  We remember the five-second rule, the five Olympic rings, the five sides of a pentagon, the five points of a star, and the five Ws (Who, What, When, Why, and Where).  We also remember the Jackson Five, Slaughterhouse Five, high fives, “Pleading the Fifth,” and the five-paragraph essay.  We also remember, remember the fifth of November, Cinco de Mayo, “this quintessence of dust,” V for Vendetta, and the five men who have held the rank of five-star general in the U.S. Army:  Generals Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, and Bradley.

Yes, lots of things are associated with five, and lots of things come in fives.  Given the five members of the ten separate categories below, see if you can identify the title for each of the Famous Five categories below:

 

 

  • center, point guard, shooting guard, power forward, small forward
  • Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  • Sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing
  • Thumb, index/pointer, middle, ring, pinky
  • Maggie, Lisa, Bart, Marge, Homer
  • Shooting, swimming, equestrian, fencing, running
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
  • Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite, Tuscan
  • Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe, Styx
  • Huron, Superior, Michigan, Ontario, Erie

Today’s Challenge:  Five Out of Five on 5/5

What are some categories of people, places, or things you could rate using a five-star rating system?  Select a general category; then, generate a list of at least five members of that category.  

Example Categories:

Mythical Creatures, Birthday Traditions, Ad Slogans, School Rules, Days of the Week, Aspects of a Bowling Alley, Inventions That Changed History, Homecoming Traditions, Scary Food, Punctuation Marks, Cartoon Characters, My Bucket List, Annual Events, Things That Come in Five, Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Best Stephen King Novels, Breeds of Dog, Song for Getting Motivated, Best SAT Vocabulary Words, Best Quotations of Just Five Words, Best Places to Go That Are Less Than Five Miles Away

Then, write your subjective assessment of each member of the category along with a rating.  Of course, on 5/5 it makes sense to use a five-pointed star system for your ratings. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Little strokes fell great oaks. -Benjamin Franklin

ANSWERS:  1-5 Basketball Positions, 2-First 5 Books of the Old Testament (The Pentateuch), 3-The 5 Senses, 4-The 5 Fingers, 5-The 5 Members of the Simpsons Family, 6-The 5 Events in the Modern Pentathlon, 7-The 5 Weekdays, 8-The 5 Classical Orders of Architecture , 9-The 5 Rivers of Hades, 10-The 5 Great Lakes