Monday, October 31, 2016

november 1

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica]

How much of Emerson's message is sinking in?  Rank his ideas on a scale from 1-10, 1 being "Emerson is full of crap" and 10 being "Emerson is exactly right."  Please make sure to provide at least 2 quotes from his essay and at least three reasons that support your position.  We will be using this for today's Socratic Seminar.

1. Journal
2. Socratic Seminar
3. Preview of Coming Attractions

Look up at least five of the quotes you heard in today's Socratic Seminar.  Explain them & explain why they came up in conversation in a post on your blog entitled EMERSON SAID IT

what it looks like when something we read clicks

Glad this happened for Jish.  Doesn't matter if it was motivated by the desire for a good grade or the desire for a better life or the desire to connect with the inspiration of great ideas or the desire to talk to a dead guy the day before Halloween.

Since I'm posting this by request, and there is probably value in everyone being able to see everyone else's blogs in all our classes, here is a link to all the American Literature member blogs.

october 31

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "What's He Building in There" by Tom Waits; "Monster Mash" by Bobby Boris Pickett & The Crypt Kickers]

Happy Halloween.  Tell a scary story.


During the time of Dia de los Muertos the veil is said to be thin.  Remember a loved one who is no longer with us.

1. Journal
2. On self-reliance: 175 years later, would Emerson celebrate or puke?

Finish what you should have started over the weekend

i just sued the school system

Thanks Leo for sharing this:

Friday, October 28, 2016

october 28

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors]

Rain is often used as a literary device.  Why?  What does it symbolize to you?

1. Journal
2. Emerson feedback
3. Dust off your resume
4. Preview of next week's attractions

1. Reflect on your Emerson writing.  What did you do well?  What do you need to work on?  You can use the journal you wrote yesterday as the basis. (title: AUTHOR IN PROGRESS)
2. Read "On Self-Reliance" to the end and post your notes (title: I'M SELF-RELIANT)
3. It's great reading weather... curl up with a good book-- and work on your current literature analysis

Thursday, October 27, 2016

october 27

  1. How does Emerson's diction, syntax, and tone reinforce his main idea?
  2. Emerson writes, "Every heart vibrates to that iron string."  How does his use of figurative language illustrate his theme?
  3. According to Emerson's logic, how might a "brute" or an infant qualify as a genius?
  4. (EXTRA CREDIT) Explain Emerson's purpose in beginning with, "Ne te quaesiveris extra."
  5. (EXTRA CREDIT) Here in 2016, how do you see Emerson's points that youth has force and seniors are becoming unnecessary? 

Journal Topic: please reflect on your writing today.  What went well in the preparation and execution?  What can you improve? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

the art of amezaiku

Amezaiku, the art of Japanese candy making, goes back to the 1600s. But that's not the point.

There is something extraordinary-- sweet, even-- in watching a person pursue something with so much love.  Enjoy this.  And, after you watch, ask yourself what you might love doing enough to spend a lifetime perfecting it.

tomorrow's test questions today

Thanks for all your contributions today. 

Based on all your ideas, tomorrow you will receive three questions that will ask you for responses of 1-2 paragraphs each. 

Here they are:

  1. How does Emerson's diction, syntax, and tone reinforce his main idea?
  2. Emerson writes, "Every heart vibrates to that iron string."  How does his use of figurative language illustrate his theme?
  3. According to Emerson's logic, how might a "brute" or an infant qualify as a genius?
  4. (EXTRA CREDIT) Explain Emerson's purpose in beginning with, "Ne te quaesiveris extra."

october 26

Stop.  Feel your toes in your shoes.  Put your hand over your heart and reflect on a memory.  Come back to the moment.  What's on your mind?

1. Journal
2. Get out a piece of paper: where you at?
3. Emerson test prep

Know your Emerson

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 25


I had a different journal topic in mind until I walked to class with Angel and got to talking tamales.  Now I'm hungry, so...

Describe your favorite memory of a meal.  Was it with family?  On a date?  At a fancy restaurant?  At home?  What made it special?  Was it the taste?  The company?  The emotions you felt?

1. Journal
2. What would Emerson eat?
3. Untangling the mind map
4. Odds and ends
5. "On Self-Reliance" continued

Three days 'til progress reports.

Monday, October 24, 2016

gettin started

I may not get there by the bell. Please begin your journals at the outside tables & I'll join you in progress. Mahalo.

october 24

"Do not think think the youth has no force..."  Find this quote in Emerson's essay (it's in the paragraph just after where we left off reading on Friday) and explain why you think he says this.  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?

1. Journal
2. "On Self-Reliance" continued
3. Mind map & next steps

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 21

Describe one important idea you've gotten so far from Emerson's "On Self-Reliance."  How is it relevant or helpful to think about this idea in 2016?

1. Journal
2. Emerson continued
3. Mapping our minds

1. Make 10 edits to the mind map
2. Describe your map work on your blog.  Why did you do what you did?  How did it/will it help you understand Emerson's writing?  (title: MAPPING MY MIND)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

october 20

"This is only a test..."  What does the word test mean to you?  Is it an obstacle in life, a thing you do in school for a score, or something else?  What should it mean?  What is the value of a test?  Do you see any value or importance in doing something that is difficult or inconvenient?  Why/why not?

1. Journal
2. Kissel & Clemente briefing
3. Mind map prep

Contribute to the mind map

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

october 19

Have fun taking the PSAT.  Please write about it your journal and/or post to your blog.

Hey Kissel, do you want to teach tomorrow?  Today would be ideal to prep.

what are you doing up?

Look at the post time.  This isn't a good idea.  Go back to sleep.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

october 18

We attach a lot of importance to achievements like making money, or getting famous, or even a high G.P.A.  What is your greatest accomplishment so far?  Agree or disagree with Emerson: "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

1. Journal
2. This essay ain't for children
3. Pro Tools: Mind maps
4. Preview: Brain with 72 legs

1. Post something interesting about the Literature Analysis book you're currently reading (title: SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT THE BOOK I'M READING)
2. Research mind map tools and come to class tomorrow (Wednesday) prepared to advocate for one
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Read more at:
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Read more at:

Monday, October 17, 2016

october 17

Choose your own.  What's on your mind?

1. Journal
2. Self-Reliance: Notes about Literature Analysis and Big Questions
3. Self-Reliance: Notes about resumes and cover letters

Have you done Literature Analysis #2?  Select a book for Literature Analysis #3 and post about your choice tonight.

Friday, October 14, 2016

october 14

This morning I was preparing for class when I kept getting interrupted.  It occurred to me that all of our communication-- and sometimes, even the way we see each other-- are products of our culture, our environment, where we live, and what we have to do every day.

As I struggled to regain my focus on today's class, I found myself wondering what Ralph Waldo Emerson would have to say about this.  It's all good and fine to study the "Romantics" or the "Transcendentalists" as a unit of an American Literature class, but does his thinking still apply today or was he just another product of his time, a museum relic that reminds us of what no longer exists?

I'm going to think on this more over the weekend.

In the meantime, it's now 8:24 AM and students are walking in.  How can I make a meaningful connection between where we've been and where we're going in our thinking?

How about this:  we're in a class about language.  The presidential election is giving a master class in the use of rhetoric.  The candidates are symptoms, products of the organizations that nominated them, and they speak speak to motivate their target audiences.  But for all the talk it's 1.0.  None of us feel like we're part of a Democratic Dialogue that might actually lead the candidates or the public to greater understanding or better policy.

So, this period, we get our say.  Please take out a piece of paper and write either/both candidates a letter in which you:
  • summarize what you understand about them so far
  • evaluate them-- yes, JUDGE them-- for their speech and actions as you understand them
  • tell them what you need them to know about your future and their role in it
Then we'll have a conversation.

And I'll think more on Emerson and the rest over the weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

emerson on self-reliance


from Essays: First Series (1841)

(Republished with gratitude from

"Ne te quaesiveris extra."
"Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."
           Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune
Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.
ESSAY II Self-Reliance
I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come

october 13


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”  What does this mean to you?  How can you do this in a world that seems to pressure you in so many ways to be something else?

1. Journal
2. "Art of Hosting" quiz
3. Vocabulary Q&A
4. Independent work/collaboration time
5. Post. (Post. Post.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

october 12

I won't be in class today.  Since we talked yesterday about creating community online and offline, and since this course is all about the stories we Americans tell, and since the best way to help other people feel comfortable to disclose their thoughts and feelings is to disclose our own, I'm suggesting that today we do something a little different.  Below is a prompt designed to get you thinking by sharing something I'm thinking.  I'm asking that you do three things with it:

  1. Please write about it in your journal.
  2. Please comment to this post (you can use what you write in your journal, or share a shorter version)
  3. Please post to your blog about it (title: MY AMERICAN VOICE) -- you can share what you wrote in your journal, you can think out loud about the democratic process we use in this course, you can think about other situations in which you have had to decide whether to speak up or stay silent, or you can add to the topic by adding your own flavor.  Please make sure to use at least three of the principles you learned by reading "The Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online" and please get at least five people to comment to your post.  You can share your blog link via text/email/social media, you can find other members' blogs and comment to theirs with a link to your own, or you can invite people the old-fashioned way-- walk up and ask them in person! :)

When is it important to speak up, and when is it important to observe quietly?

I'm feeling conflicted and I'm interested in your perspectives.  I noticed that this year's course blogs just tipped 42k page views.  I feel a responsibility as an American teaching a course with the word "American" in the title.  Much of the literature we read focuses on political action and self-actualization.  I am aware that we are in the final month of a presidential election that has very big consequences.  I am also aware that public school teachers are discouraged from expressing opinions about politics in view of students.

So: when do you speak up?  Do you consider it a responsibility or an inconvenience?  Do you speak up when you see someone weak being bullied or abused by someone strong?  Do you speak up when you see someone taking out their temper on another person?  Do you speak up when you see someone cheating (in school or in a relationship)?  Do you speak up when you see someone being unkind?

How do you speak up?  Are your words necessary, true, kind, and timely?  Do you think before you speak?  Do you reflect on your words after you say them?  How would other people describe the way you talk?

There is no right or wrong here.  There is no "how to" lesson.  This is an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.  I'm interested in your thoughts.  My prediction is that we will all learn something important. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

vocab: fall list #6

open source

october 11

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?" from Sesame Street]

How do you meet people and build relationships?  Offline? (Through school/classes, extracurricular activities, community organizations...)  Online? (Through general social media like Instagram, FB, Snapchat, or forums of interest, or...)

1. Journal
2. Vocab
3. Networking
4. Online conversations

1. Define and write sentences for the vocab words (or create graphics, or a vid, or post something else to your blog to show you know what they mean and/or why they're important)
2. Please finish reading "how to host..."

october 11

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?" from Sesame Street]

How do you meet people and build relationships?  Offline? (Through school/classes, extracurricular activities, community organizations...)  Online? (Through general social media like Instagram, FB, Snapchat, or forums of interest, or...)

1. Journal
2. Vocab
3. Networking
4. Online conversations

Please finish reading "how to host"

Monday, October 10, 2016

october 10

Consider your friends, your relatives, your teammates, your co-workers.  What makes a good relationship?  What makes a relationship good?

1. Journal
2. Last week's vocabulary this week
3. This week's vocabulary this week
4. Social commentary: from where does a speaker derive authority?
4. The art of hosting good conversations online

1. Vocab
2. Recruit 3 followers to your blog by Friday 10/14

the art of hosting good conversations online

(original online here)

The Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online

By Howard Rheingold


Friday, October 7, 2016

just because

French fry face

october 7

Reflect on the introductory paragraph you just wrote.  Was it better than the paragraph you wrote the first time you saw the prompt?  If so, how?  Did the exercise we did yesterday help?  If so, how?  If you still feel like you need to improve or understand the process better, can you describe what you think you need?

1. SMHS Eng 3 CFA
2. Journal
3. Vocab?

1. Finish any late work and post to your blog
2. Be a Good Human Being and post about it to your blog (title: TODAY I'M A GOOD HUMAN)

how we write

Today in class we talked about our writing process.  We started with the journal topic asking you to describe yours, then we shared ideas, and then I took one for the team by talking and writing my way through the prompt we had recently.  Here are the notes and the essay I wrote on the screen while we talked:

Key Elements of Writing Process
  • Read the question
    • not just with our eyes, but for deep understanding
    • scan for the action words that tell us what's needed (in the case of the E.M. Forster prompt, the key word is EXPLAIN)
    • Circle or underline anything we need to emphasize or remember
  • Do a pre-write
    • Thesis statement
    • At least three key supporting reasons, details or facts (depending on type of essay)
    • This is your trail of bread crumbs so you don't have to remember your entire train of thought as you write
    • Can be outline, word web, bulleted list... any structure that helps you (mine below is a combo of a thesis statement and bullets)
  • Write
  • Proofread
    • Hard to overstate the importance of giving yourself a couple minutes for this
    • Close your eyes, stretch, wiggle your fingers, and try to read your paper as if you've never seen it before or someone else wrote it and asked you to fix it
    • As you read, listen for any grammar that clanks-- you don't have to know WHY it's incorrect, you just need to know that it needs fixing
    • Watch for mechanical issues (punctuation, spelling, capitalization, legibility)

Here is what I did:

Agree with EM Forster’s idea that personal relations are more important than patriotism or causes.  Or don’t.  Hmmm.

Thesis: I agree with Forster

Personal relations are the building blocks of countries and causes—you can have personal relations without patriotism, but you can’t have patriotism without some sense of connection to other people.

I. Personal relations are building blocks for community
II. Community gives us a sense of belonging and purpose
III. Personal relations are the stuff of sacrifice

A couple presidential elections ago, a candidate made a commercial in which she was asleep at 3:00 AM and the phone rang.  It was an international crisis.  The commercial asked who voters wanted to answer the phone.

When I’m asleep at 3:00 AM and my phone rings, there is only one reason for me to answer.  Love.  Who needs me?  What am I being called to do?  Is it someone I care about, someone who’s been there for me?  Or is it a military officer or someone who wants me to sign a petition?

There may be causes and countries in the world worth supporting, but E.M. Forster had it right when he wrote that personal relations are more important than patriotism or causes.  Personal relations are building blocks for community. Community gives us a sense of belonging and purpose.  Personal relations are the stuff of sacrifice.

Personal relations are the basic connections we make with other people.  Our lives begin with connections to our parents.  We build connections with friends.  We fall in love.  Our relationships define in ways that lead us to a sense of our life’s purpose and even who we are.

Our personal relations add up to our neighborhoods, our extended families, our communities, and, in the end, our sense of tribe.  We come together when there is a crisis or a need.  If we have confidence in our personal relations, we know exactly who to turn to when the need arises.  In fact, sometimes when a need arises and we turn to the people near us, we find out exactly who our friends really are.

Our true personal relations are those for whom we would give all.  This is also the operating value of every patriot and every follower of the world’s great religions.  The word “Islam” means to break oneself before God; every military demands the ultimate sacrifice.  But personal relations come from a different place.  They come from within.  Each of us determines what is true for ourselves.  In the end, no sacrifice can have integrity if it is demanded.  Sacrifice only matters when it is freely given. 

Therefore, E.M. Forster was right.  However important patriotism and causes are, they are only as strong as the people who support them.  And the business of being people is strongly related to the business of being personal.  This is the wellspring of our connection and our ideals.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

october 6

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Everyday I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello & The Attractions]

Describe your writing process from beginning to end.  What do you do when you are faced with a prompt and the blank page? 

1. Journal
2. Those who Can, Do

Literature Analysis #2 due tomorrow (Friday, October 7)
Vocab quiz tomorrow

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

october 5

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?  You can pick someone close to you, or someone famous, or even someone from the past.  Why this person?  What would you talk about?

1. Journal
2. Essays/feedback continued
3. Rewrite your essay (in a new post entitled ESSAY 1 REVISED-- include an opening/introductory sentence that says, "After reading my colleagues' work and sharing ideas, I realized I could improve my first essay by [...].  I'm proud of the result.  Hope you enjoy reading it!"
4. Letters to mentors

1. 10 mins. min. on vocab
2. Please post Literature Analysis #2 by Friday
3. Please post your letter to a mentor (title: MENTOR LETTER DRAFT 1)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

october 4


Use five of this week's vocabulary words to describe your experience in this class yesterday.  Is it different for you when Dr. Preston isn't here?  How?  Why does the teacher (not) matter to your learning experience?

1. Journal
2. Catching up (1): essays/feedback
3. Catching up (2): Big Questions (*postponed)

***Please comment to at least three essay posts letting their authors know what worked and what could be improved in terms of: Hook; Thesis Statement; Organization; Mechanics; and Parting Shot.

1. 10 mins. min. on vocab
2. Please post Literature Analysis #2 by Friday

Monday, October 3, 2016

so, this is a thing

vocabulary: fall list #5

  1. venomous
  2. stolid
  3. hypnotized
  4. suspended
  5. transformed
  6. accuse
  7. anticipate
  8. fringe
  9. melancholy
  10. earnestly
  11. dissolve
  12. aggravate
  13. illuminate
  14. capillary
  15. proboscis

october 2

*I'm out today.  Please complete the journal and the vocabulary.  If you get it done in class, no homework.  If you get it done in class early, please read your literature analysis book.  Please bring your IDs tomorrow.  Mahalo. DP


Do we still want what we want by the time we get it?  Kids want to be older, adults want to be kids.  We want more independence, we want someone to take care of us.  Do you know what you want?  Does it feel good to get what you want?  Have we just gotten really good at wanting?  Give this your best thinking, to be continued in discussion tomorrow...

1. Journal
2. Vocabulary definitions and sentences

If necessary please finish and post your vocabulary

Sunday, October 2, 2016

want to be happy? quit social media

That's what the young people in this article say, and it would account for the reported 11 million who dumped Facebook between 2011 and 2014.