Tuesday, June 6, 2017

thank you

As often as I say it, I feel like I don't say it enough:

Thank You.

Thank you for your effort, your insight, your willingness to risk and make mistakes and change your mind;

Thank you for your trust, for your sense of humor, for your curiosity;

Thank you for your time, for your attention, and

Most of all

Thank you for taking this learning trip with me this year.

I hope you feel like it was time well-spent.

Wishing you the best this summer and always,

Dr. Preston

no one said "have a great summer" like thoreau

Friday, June 2, 2017

june 2

This is it. 

1. Find your textbook and bring it to the library.
2. Turn in your paper.
3. Turn in your journal (if you haven't already).
4. Turn in your self-assessment.
5. Sign up with your menu item(s) for next week's two-hour final period.
6. Give your presentation if you're signed up today.
7. Post anything you want considered for your grade to your blog by 12:00 A.M. Sunday PDT.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

june 1: the penultimatum

Holy crap: it's June!

This is our second-to-last day.  Tomorrow, please bring:

  • Your completed research paper
  • Your journal (if it's not already in the room)
  • Your self-assessment (please do this tonight) which includes:
    • What you learned this semester/year in this course
    • How hard you worked
    • At least one great mistake you made and how it helped you
    • What you did well
    • What you still need to improve
    • What letter grade you believe you deserve
  • Your idea of what you would like to make for our final two-hour meeting next week 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

mla style sample

Request granted.  Check out the sample HERE.  Please comment with any questions.

may 31

You know who you are.

You know what to do.

After today's presentations we'll talk a little about MLA style.

The paper is due on Friday.

That's 48 hours.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

may 30

By now you know I won't be there today.  I just called into class and Ms. Anderson told me someone is already presenting.

Nice work: this is now officially a self-sustained learning community.  I am proud to be part of it.

Please take notes and curate the moment on your blogs.

And please turn in your journals.  I have a lot of reading to do this week.  If you completed a notebook already and you have it at home, please bring it with you tomorrow.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

may 25

Today's the day.  But... the day for what?  Explain your answer.


Choose your own topic.

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy:

may 25


You find a scorpion in your shoe.  The hard way.  Describe the moment in vivid detail.


Choose your own topic.

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

masterpiece academy day 5

Thanks to Marino for his presentation about the science and passion behind high performance.  I got such a kick out of thinking about soccer so hard that I said the same exact thing about practice and basketball that I did yesterday.  Here is Marino's presentation, and-- bonus!-- my favorite rant about basketball practice.

In case you're dreaming of getting better at your own life, check out this presentation from Luis:
[update: Huh. The next generation of Prezi seems to have hiccups with its embed code. To see more than the square below please click HERE.]

Alexis taught us about the American school system.  This was a powerful moment.  We learned that:

  • We spend $153,000 per student.
  • Teachers don't have adequate training and they don't get to know their students.
  • The schools prepare students for prison.
  • Since we spend a lot of money on our students, we're ranked highly by the OECD, but we don't show positive results for students. 
  • Asian cou
  • We always hear about Finland because their students work on hands-on projects and they perform much better on exams and in life.  They don't hate learning.
  • American parents also need to be more involved.  This is difficult because so many of our parents work hard and they're tired at the end of the day.  (Only five students out of 30+ raised their hands when Alexis asked how many people talk about school every day with their parents).
  • 80% of American high school students aren't ready for life after graduation.
Jeez. We can do better.

masterpiece academy day 4

may 24

"Good luck."  What a bunch of crap.  We know better.  Since the 1600s we've had sayings like, "The harder I work, the better luck I have" and "Chance favors the prepared mind."  So why do so many of us ignore the obvious and just hope for the best without taking the right-minded action that will more likely create the results we desire?  Why leave your fate to... well, fate?  What can you do today to improve your luck?

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy: Jordan, Luis & Alexis

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

may 23

Write a short story that includes the following ingredients: an alligator, a cafeteria worker, a magic lamp, and an allusion.

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy: Cesar & Eldrin

Monday, May 22, 2017

may 22

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats]

Please reflect on the Masterpiece Academy presentations you've seen so far.  What have you learned?


Why do you like/hate Mondays?

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy Day 4: Lesley & Adriana

Friday, May 19, 2017

may 19

Choose your own.  Or write about how it is that a 52 year-old successful rock star can be so (?) that he takes his own life.

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy Day 3 (Liliy & Rosie)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

may 18

Since you didn't get to choose your own journal topic yesterday...

Choose your own journal topic.

1. Journal
2. MGOM -- if you haven't yet presented, work to make it the best ever; if you have already presented, help a friend who hasn't, and/or go through the course blog to find information for your paper (you can also take the time to look into MLA Style).  Whatever you do, blog about it.

masterpiece academy day 2

Ale shared her inspiration for the "perfect match" topic-- she hated the show Are You The One?
  • "When you think of the show, the contestants are just playing a game and hooking up with people they don't even care about and obviously aren't even good fits for each other."
  • The idea of birthmarks
  • Celebrity examples of failed marriages
[At this point the crowd got involved.  The class did their own relationship research online and came back together after six minutes to share questions and ideas.  If you found something interesting, or you heard something interesting today that wasn't captured here, please comment to this post.  Mahalo.]

am lit masterpiece academy links

Here...because they're awesome:

Click on the links below to see what happened in American Literature Masterpiece Academy Day 1:

Period 3
Period 4
Period 5
Period 6

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

may 17

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["Hotel California" by The Eagles; "California Dreaming" by The Mamas and The Papas; "California Love" by 2Pac]

Why do you think California is so legendary for so many people around the world?

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy Day 2

[Ale Part II]

may 16

Today the thinking is all about your thinking.  What are you thinking about?  Why are you thinking about it?  How is your thinking influenced by your feelings and your memories, your fears and hopes and expectations and rumblings in your tummy?  What can you do in this very moment to change your thinking in ways you think will help you think better?  Will this improve your life?  Ya think? ;)

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy Day 1: Ale & [?]
3. Notes/ MGOM

Monday, May 15, 2017

masterpiece academy lineup

Below is the first draft schedule (with presenters' time estimates are in parentheses/ example 5/15).  If you haven't yet requested a date, please do so by Monday May 15).  I look forward to taking your micro-courses!

May 15

Dr. Preston (10)

May 16
Ale (10)

May 17

May 19
Liliy (10)
Rosie (10)

May 22
Lesley (20)

Adriana (10)

May 23
Cesar (10)
Eldrin (10)

May 24
Jordan (10)
Luis (10)
Alexis (10)
Marino (10)

May 25
Gabriel (10)
Abigail (10)
Jacquie (10)
Leydi (10)

May 30
Daniel (10)
Angie (9)
Samary (9)
Monse (10)

May 31
Kissel (10)
Linda (10)
Kayleen (10)
Cerenity (10)

June 1 
Clemente (10)
Jackie R. (10)
Melina (10)
Fatima (10)

June 2
Pedro (12)
Brigett (10)
Angel (10)
Paloma (10)

may 15

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "When You Wish Upon A Star" by Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards)]

Wave your mental magic wand and imagine the next three weeks as valuable, unforgettable learning.  What do you expect from the Masterpiece Academy and how can you contribute to making it the experience you envision?

1. Journal
2. Masterpiece Academy: logistics and (maybe?) a kick-off presentation on this short day

Applied Self-determination Theory, as expressed through your masterpiece work and/or literary exploration.

masterpiece academy final question

When the last presentation has been given, this is the question I will ask you to write on for your final reflection.  Please start a post or notes that will help you remember what's important.

For the next few weeks the Masterpiece Academy will be your showcase.  As you reflect on this experience, and your overall experience in this course throughout the year, please address the following questions in a traditional MLA-style essay.  Then post about it to your blog in any medium (music, pictures, video, animation, [?]) that brings your thesis to life.  (You may embed the original paper if you can't think of a better way to communicate.)

Please Note: Everything on the traditional paper assignment counts.  Please proofread and/or ask a friend or relative to help with organization, flow, and mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, spelling, grammar, MLA style, e.g.)

Masterpiece Academy Question

Montaigne ended his essay "Of The Education of Children" this way:

To return to my subject, there is nothing like alluring the appetite and affections; otherwise you make nothing but so many asses laden with books; by dint of the lash, you give them their pocketful of learning to keep; whereas, to do well you should not only lodge it with them, but make them espouse it. (1580)

The word espouse originally meant "to marry" and took on connotations like "embrace," "love," and "advocate."  Have you espoused learning?  Explain your growth in this course via a narrative that portrays you as the dynamic protagonist in your own Bildungsroman.  Please include the following elements.

ELEMENT 1: You have been treated as colleagues and you have been given a great deal of choice in this course; this represents a high level of trust.  Did you and the others deserve it?  Earn it?  Honor it? 

ELEMENT 2: Fiction has been called "the lie that tells the truth."  Which works, authors, or characters did you read this year that rang true enough to make you feel like they described parts of you and/or your journey? (Please mention at least three.  It makes them sad when we forget them.)

ELEMENT 3: Have you re/connected with a passion that drives you?  If so, how will you continue your learning?  If not, how will you proceed?

ELEMENT 4: [Something about literature or this course that made you laugh out loud.]

ELEMENT 5: [A unifying theme that runs through a minimum of five (5) presentations; a quality of the content, or the speakers, or their communication techniques that strikes you as something important that we have in common.]  Please illustrate/support your point with specific examples from the presentations.

ELEMENT 6: Evaluate whether you completed the hero's journey.  Are you a hero?  To what extent did you respond to the call of adventure?  Did you find a mentor, conquer a challenge, and return enlightened?

ELEMENT 7: For old time's sake, sneak in a literary technique.  Don't make a big deal out of it.  I'll know it's there.

because sometimes technology

I just caught a glitch in the schedule platform I used on Friday, and realized that today's schedule-- the first day of the Masterpiece Academy-- didn't make it online.  So, on one hand, the people I selected as our first faculty members don't know who they are.  On the other hand, everyone is supposed to be ready today, and you've all had ample notice (we've only been talking about your Big Questions since last August).  So: when class begins today I will take volunteers. Looking forward!

Friday, May 12, 2017

may 12

I'm off campus today, so: 1. Write about whatever is on your mind and remember to leave your journal; and 2. Use the time to gather/organize your information, develop your presentation, bounce ideas off your colleagues (not literally, Cayla :) and get ready to kick off our Masterpiece Academy on Monday. I will post our tentative schedule and our expectations / tools for evaluation later today. Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

may 11

(Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life! :)

In school we say, "Do your own thinking/use your own words/don't look at your neighbor's paper."  At work we say, "Be a team player/share your thinking/anything you say or type on company hardware belongs to the company."  When are our thoughts private and when aren't they?


Choose your own topic.

1. Journal
2. Welcome to the Masterpiece Academy

stanford study hack

(Want to go from a B to an A?  Yes, you do.)

In breaking news, a Stanford postgrad has "discovered" what we've known about learning for a long, long time... here's THE LINK so you can read about it and take someone else's word beside mine. :)

perfect attendance this morning

By now you should be writing your essays-- I hope it's going well!

may 10

I don't think I've ever posted this for a class, but:

I don't want to see you in class today.

Good luck to everyone on the AP exam!

Looking forward to hearing all about it.  Feel free to comment here, email, or stop by.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

literary techniques from this morning

Ethos pathos logos
Logical Fallacies
Figurative Language

may 9

Invent a magic spell.  Explain what it does, why you wrote it, and how it makes the world a better place. 


Choose your own topic.

1. Journal
2. AP exam last gasp
3. Life beyond tomorrow

Monday, May 8, 2017

may 8

You're in the thick of it!  How does it feel to weather the exam storm?  How did you do on last week's AP exams and the SAT this weekend?  What can you learn from the experiences to apply tomorrow and Wednesday? 

1. Journal/debrief
2. Light AP exam practice/debrief
3. Preview of coming attractions & schedule

Friday, May 5, 2017

jostens scam

Read the full story HERE

may 5

(Treat this like a practice AP exam prompt).

Author Guillermo Gutierrez has written that, "In America Cinco de Mayo is nothing more than a cynical excuse for gringos to buy and sell alcohol, wear sombreros, and exercise their First Amendment right to act like idiots in public."

Agree or disagree with this statement using what you have learned from traditional and online media, as well as personal experience.

1. Journal
2. AP & masterpiece prep, tailored for the proud/few

Thursday, May 4, 2017

give markstone a hand

Hey everyone, SMHS tech guru Mr. Markstone has asked for our help.  Please go to THIS LINK and take the brief survey.  Mahalo.

may 4

Imagine the moment you get your score on the AP exam.  What is it?  Why?  Describe and explain in detail.  (Hint: this is where you set an intention that becomes a goal.)


Choose your own topic.

1. Journal
2. AP exam prep

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

new pages (above)

For easy reference, I've created pages (above) on tone words and logical fallacies (which we first studied in September).  Please review the pages and bring your questions to class tomorrow.  Mahalo.

tone words

As we've discussed all year, TONE is the manner in which an author expresses his or her attitude toward the subject, the characters, and/or the audience.

Tone is identified by adjectives, and the possibilities are nearly endless.  Often a single adjective will not be enough, and tone may change or shift from chapter to chapter or stanza to stanza or even line to line.  Tone is the result of allusion, diction, figurative language, imagery, irony, motif, symbol, syntax, and style. 

Very young children can sense a speaker’s attitude in tone.  But understanding tone in prose and poetry is an entirely different matter.  The reader does not have voice inflection to carry meaning.  Thus, a student’s appreciation (knowledge) of word choice, details, imagery, and language all contribute to the understanding of tone.   To misinterpret tone is to misinterpret meaning.

Atmosphere:  the feeling experience BY THE READER OR AUDIENCE.

Tone:              the attitude OF THE AUTHOR toward the subject matter of the work.

Mood:  defined by some critics as synonymous with “atmosphere,” by others as synonymous with
                        “tone”…as a general term, it can be applied to either.
                                                -from the Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms


ap exam practice

Many of you have already found excellent resources -- here is another to get you started:


may 3

Sometimes I miss all the graffiti and designs from my old classroom.  One of my favorite quotes on the wall was from author Kurt Vonnegut (who we'd be reading if we had more time).  It said:

True terror is waking up one morning to discover your high school class is running the country.

In the not-to-distant future, you and your colleagues will take on increasing responsibility in your lives, your communities, your professions, and your country.  What makes you feel ready for this?  What more will you need to learn or prepare?


Choose your own topic.

1. Journal
2. MGOM (you may not yet be running the country, but you are starting to run this course)
3. Individual conferences

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

ap practicum/ boot camp

Please come to 645 at lunch any day this week if you want additional practice on the AP English Language & Composition timed writings or multiple choice. 

ignite talks

Stephania: What trips up high school students?  Why do high school students procrastinate on things they get to do, and focus on what they have to do?  I plan to talk to a high school counselor to see what they think

Daniel: What would the world be like if there was no school?  I read a few articles to learn whether society would be better off, and I discovered that it would affect younger people more.

Kayleen: Why does school focus on teaching us unnecessary things we won't use in the future?  Why don't we learn how to start a business or file our taxes?  I need to do more research?

Liliy: Is death like a domino effect?  Do loved ones die faster after they lose people they care about? In researching this I learned that people really don't like talking about death.  I'm going to ask more people who have had experience with this in their families.

Abigail: When is it too late to change your career or pursue your dream?  I found information about people who discovered their motivation later in life.  I made a connection in this class with Fahrenheit 451.  I feel like this question may be too easy so I may make a change.

Fatima: What happens after death?  I read articles and discovered that most perspectives are based in religion and not science.  This connected in my mind with Emerson.

Gabriel: How can I improve my memory skills for music, language, and everything else in life?  Get sleep, hydrate, and eat well-- and I learned about pneumonics.  I connected this with the characters who memorized the books in Fahrenheit 451.  I plan to do more research.

Cerenity: My big question is based on a quote: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."  I connected this with Emerson, who taught us to be unafraid of being and expressing themselves.

Samary: What does it mean to be perfect in life?  This is tricky because nothing is perfect.  Except that I am religious, so I consider God to be perfect.  I want to learn more about people's insecurities with regard to perfection.

Marino: Why do so many people give up on high school and push things aside, then complain that they don't have the grades to get into college.  This is connected to Emerson's ideas that people make their own decisions.

Cayla: What is creativity?  How should we as a society define it?  I talked to people and watched YouTube videos, and so far my research suggests that creativity is a matter of opinion.  I remember learning about remixes in class and this changed my idea of creativity-- I need to rethink my question and redefine creativity.

Lesley: What does it mean to make music?  What is music?  In this class we defined it as literature, and maybe it's something more than what you hear on the radio every day.  I have the beginning of a general answer, I need to do more research so that I can think about how to present it.  Taking something as broad as music

Adriana: Why does everyone hate Mondays?  Over break I asked people and did research, and it seems like Monday is the first day of the work week, but we also have some power to reframe how we understand it.  Even Montag in Fahrenheit 451 came up with a more positive ways to look at crappy situations.

Clemente: Are people evil or does society make them evil?  I observed people and it seems like those with more negative experiences develop more negative views.  Their upbringing matters.  The news and media matter.

Paloma: Why do we trust and take risks for people when we know the outcome may not be so great?  Why do we give them second chances?  My initial research suggests that everyone is unique and makes different mistakes.  Some people deserve more chances.  The connection to this course for me was Emerson.

Peter: What impact does music have on society?  I read online essays from students and I studied this in my Spanish literature class.  A connection with this course is "A Modest Proposal"-- it grabbed people's attention.

Angel: What am I going to do after high school?  Over break I looked at colleges that would accept my grades, and the only thing is Hancock.  I am searching

Angela: How can I balance my ideal life with my real life priorities like school and family?  I asked my sister who is a counselor, and I learned that sometimes thing go wrong, like when I got sick over break.  I need to prioritize my health. I connected this with "On Self-Reliance."  Next I will research he

Monse: What goes on in the mind of a murderer or a psychopath? So far I've learned that there is a part of the brain that prevents learning from our mistakes, and a warrior gene that makes men more aggressive.  That made me think of Tom from The Great Gatsby.

Melina: Why do people dream and forget their dreams so easily?  I learned the average person has 4-6 dreams

Jacquie P: How will new technologies and inventions continue to change our culture?  I researched and learned that technology doesn't just change the way we think but actually changes the structure of our brains.  The connection with this course IS this course.

Jackie R: What is worse, failing or never attempting in the first place?  I began by defining failure and contrasting this with not trying.  Failure can be a great teacher.  In Fahrenheit 451 Montag failed and became better for it.

Kissel: How much control do we really have over ourselves? I am still looking for a connection with the course

Eldrin: I want to know more about the Big Bang, what happened before it, and what caused it.  My initial research shows that we know very little.  Some might ask what the point is, but learning more about how the universe started might help us understand where it is headed.

Luis: My topic is lucid dreaming and I tried it over break. The connection here is with the journals and free association.

Jordan: How can we the next generation carry on this society if we don't prepare?  Over break I watched the news and asked people my age what they think about what's going on.  A connection I made was to the eyes in The Great Gatsby.  Next I plan to talk with adults and ask why they think we can

Linda: How does music connect to the mind?  I started with psychology and looking into attention.

Alexis: Why hasn't school adapted its way of teaching?  Over break I learned that other countries don't do this and they are more successful.  I connect this with how Dr. Preston teaches this class.

Jesse: Why are there words such as race and racism?  Over break I researched racism, and I learned that this concept has been responsible for death and destruction.  I connected this with the character Tom in The Great Gatsby and I hope to learn more about how we can move past racism.

Brigett: How do people know they will be successful in life?  I compared a sponsored athlete with an amateur.  I see a connection with Fahrenheit 451 in the way Montag found his own tribe/community.  I plan to do more research using the Pyramid of Success.

Leydi: What are strategies to find the best thrift store deals?  One strategy I learned was to follow people's blog, and the obvious connection to this course is how we all express ourselves on our blogs.

may 2

1. Ignite Talks
2. Journal

JOURNAL: (at end of period)
What did you learn today?  Describe at least three observations about speakers' topics, processes, or styles.  Include at least one example of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Monday, May 1, 2017

URGENT: please come to room 645 at lunch to pick up ap exam reg cards

I just learned that there are AP pre-registration cards in my mailbox. I will go get them at break and they will be available in the room today at lunch.  Please stop by and get yours-- this is especially important if you are taking an exam tomorrow.  Mahalo.

this just in: facebook stalking insecure kids

Facebook is using covert surveillance methods to target high school-age kids who are "insecure, stressed out, overwhelmed" etc.  Full story HERE.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

may 1

Look back through your journal.  What was your favorite topic so far?  Why?

1. Journal
2. Essays

Friday, April 28, 2017

we eat social media for breakfast

I originally wrote this last year for teachers at Pioneer Valley.  It applies to us too.  Please read and respond on your blog in a post entitled WE EAT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BREAKFAST.  Here is the formal prompt for your response:

Write an essay in which you analyze the author's use of diction, syntax, tone, and rhetorical strategies to develop his main argument.

This weekend I did something I swore I would never do.

I texted pictures of my breakfast.

Oh no, I thought.  I’ve become one of those narcissistic sharers I used to make fun of.  I’m a wannabe Millenial!

But there’s more to this than meets the eye.  For starters, you need the right tool for the job.

(For a slightly deeper dive on this, and to see how I introduced the idea to students, click HERE.)
Selecting tools requires critical thinking: What IS the job?  What do we want to accomplish by sharing information?  And what tool to use?  How does a tablet compare with a composition book?  Is it best to use an online format that supports text?  Photos?  Video?  Music?  Interaction/ conversation?  What are we trying to say, and what impact do we want to make on the person or people to whom we say it? 

I didn’t really understand the Internet until I learned about its history and its culture from the people who BUILT it.  Now I understand that it’s not a toy, or even a tool.  The Internet isn’t just the next evolutionary step from papyrus or the printing press—it represents a belief system about how we interact and communicate.  If that sounds like a mouthful, it’s because the popular focus has been on developing and celebrating tools.  We have a great opportunity to be more mindful about what we’re doing with these tools, and how we can do it better. (Please click "Read More" below to see the rest.)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

april 28

JOURNAL TOPIC: (on a separate piece of paper)

Today is the end of our second-to-last grading period.  You know what I'm going to ask: Where are you doing well?  Where do you need to improve?  How committed are you to doing your best work?  If you were recording the grade, what would it be?

1. Journal
2. Essay work/ weekend
3. Ignite talk prep

* Please read this post for your essay this weekend; give yourself no more than 5 minutes to read the question and do a pre-write, no more than 25 minutes to write, and no more than 10 minutes to proofread and post the essay to your blog.  Please bring your original hard copy to class on Monday.
** Ignite talks will be next Tuesday (5/2) -- please review this post to prepare

real-time fb news

This just in: Facebook is now using "machine learning and intelligence agency-level analysis" to identify false accounts and propaganda efforts.

april 27

[Choose your own]

1. Journal
2. AP rubric
3. Your essays: Community critique
4. Ignite talks tomorrow (Friday)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

what you don't know will most definitely hurt you

Everything you do on a computer generates data.  That data is so valuable to governments and corporations that companies like Google and Facebook let you use their services for free-- so they can collect your data and sell it.

So what happens to the data you create on school-issued machines and software?  It might interest you to know that "ed tech" has become its own industry, worth an estimated $8B per year.

april 26 (II)

Thanks to those of you who came to class and wrote the AP practice essay.  I look forward to discussing the AP rubric and doing some collaborative critique tomorrow.

The second item on our agenda tomorrow will be your inquiry and Ignite Talk, which will now happen on Friday.  Please plan on being here tomorrow and Friday.  (Reminder: the current grading period ends Friday.)

Cerenity and friends (i.e., anyone who was not in class today), please see me on the patio before we begin class tomorrow morning. 

april 26

1. Ignite Talks
2. Journal

JOURNAL: (at end of period)
What did you learn today?  Describe at least three observations about speakers' topics, process, or style.  Include at least one example of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ignite talks wednesday

Traditional speakers at professional conferences talk for an extended period of time, either as a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, or panelist.

A few years ago a new trend emerged in the world of sharing ideas.  TED and other conferences made shorter talks popular.  These were kind of like the intellectual version of "speed dating."  At one conference where I presented, there was a series of "ignite talks"-- these were designed to be high-energy, exciting introductions to ideas that would get the audience thinking and hungry for more.  They were also required to be no longer than five minutes.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, April 26) every single member of our learning community will give an ignite talk.  There will be no passes, no "I forgot"s, no exceptions.

How will we manage this?

Our ignite talks will be no more than one minute long.

Here is what each ignite talk will include:
  • Your big question/ masterpiece topic (1-2 sentences)
  • One thing you did over the break to explore your question/topic (1 sentence)
  • One thing you learned by exploring over the break (1 sentence)
  • One connection you see between this course or something we read and your question/topic (1 sentence)
  • What you're doing next (1 sentence)
Since we will not have time for audience questions tomorrow, please also create a post for your blog (title: IGNITE TALK) in which you write out these 5-6 sentences and invite commenters to contribute ideas or questions.  If you have any questions or technical challenges please email or comment to this post.

Looking forward to learning from you!

Monday, April 24, 2017

april 25

(I think today is the mandatory AP meeting.  If you're all doing what you're supposed to be doing, I'll have the classroom to myself.  I will use the time to reflect deeply on your recently posted essays and consider what we need most for the rest of the week.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

april 24

In nature, Spring is a time of birth and renewal.  Flowers bloom, baby animals get born, and outside you can practically hear "The Circle of Life" from the soundtrack of The Lion King.  (*Which I'd be playing alongside this topic if I were in class today.)

We humans have created rituals in our cultures and religions to celebrate Spring.  Apart from formal celebrations like Passover and Easter, and the Pagan rituals that preceded them both, many families practice Spring cleaning.

So my question is this: now that we are solidly in Spring, what can you do to start over, or clean out part of your life, or change for the better? 

1. Journal
2. Peer review
  • Please read at least five (5) of your colleagues' essays online
  • Comment to each with at least one (1) compliment and one (1) constructive criticism (i.e., you should look for something in each author's writing that is effective, and you should look for at least one opportunity to improve)
  • Take your own notes for our in-class discussion tomorrow.  In your notes, you should include at least one example of organization or expression that is so good you want to steal it and use it to become a better writer
If you need to complete this at home, do it; please make sure that you've made your online comments and taken your own notes so that we can have a complete conversation and move forward together on Tuesday.  Mahalo.

time flies and all that

As Spring Break draws to a close and we ramp up for the AP, some reminders:

  1. By now you should have written and posted three essays to your blog, using the AP prompts in the tab above;
  2. This exercise should have given you practice in applying the tactics and strategies I posted last week;
  3. I won't be in class tomorrow (Monday 4/24) -- you should be prepared to read your colleagues' work and post your critiques.  I will post more about this on the day's agenda (next).  We will be aligning your feedback to the AP grading scale on Tuesday, so please be prepared.  If we have to spend time on Tuesday writing or reading for the first time, you will have: (a) lost an opportunity, and (b) contributed to the unnecessary crankiness of a teacher.

Hope you all enjoyed the time away from school, looking forward to seeing everyone Tuesday!  -dp

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

ap essay tactics & strategies

I'm posting this by 3:00 P.M. per Samary's request-- I may come back and refine it later.  Please feel free to chime in with observations and questions in the comments! -dp

(specific behaviors you will use on Game Day)
1.     Read the prompt
2.     Circle or underline the key words in the prompt that tell you what is being asked for (words like “analyze” or “describe” or “take a position”)
3.     Do your pre-write (outline, web, list)
4.     Write
5.     Proofread

(ways of getting ready & ideas to remember)
·      Practice essays
o   Start with pre-writes (first 2-3)
o   Graduate to full essays (40 mins. Max)
o   Reduce time to challenge yourself
·      Read essay prompts with SOAPSTone in mind:
o   Speaker
o   Occasion
o   Audience
o   Purpose
o   Subject
o   Tone
·      Connect the source with the prompt
o   If a text is provided, make sure you can restate it’s main argument in your own words
o   If a text is not provided, YOU are the source, so start your brainstorm! (For instance, decide whether you dis/agree with a major idea.)
·      Write down your argument
o   This is still part of your pre-write, and it’s not a thesis statement yet
o   Make sure to consider at least one counterclaim
·      Gather your evidence
o   If you’re given a text, look for key quotes or information (such as statistics) that you can underline and/or list
o   If you’re not given a text, start a list of quotes, examples, or things you know about the topic that may be useful
·      Now make a thesis sentence out of your argument, using your main idea and your main reasons
·      Your thesis sentence should come in the middle or at the end of your first paragraph—open with a strong “hook” that gets the reader’s attention
·      Make sure to include any appropriate literary elements in your opening paragraph (so you can refer to them and explain them later on)
·      Make sure to begin each paragraph with a topic sentence and include transition words (such as “in addition,” “however,” or “similarly”—these create flow between your paragraphs).
·      Include specific evidence and explain it (be sure to keep your quotes to a couple lines or less, and also be sure to “sandwich” your evidence between sentences that you yourself write.  You are the most important author now!)
·      Write a strong conclusion.  Don’t just restate your thesis; leave the reader thinking.  You can do this with a challenging idea or even a question.
·      When you review your first couple practice essays, ask yourself: am I using a variety of styles?  (Hint: if all your sentences are the same length or structure, you need to change them up.)
·      Use sophisticated diction when you want to be specific and you are confident, but don’t reach for a complicated word “just because.”  Sometimes there is elegance in simplicity.  The most effective tool for the job is the one that works.
·      You can check most of your grammar by proofreading—if something sounds “off” it probably is.

april 12

What are your intentions for Spring Break?  How will you balance work, play, social, family, and [?]

1. Journal (quick: <5 mins)
2. A few more words on words
3. Masterpiece Academy

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

april 11

Six hundred years after he stopped writing, we are still quoting Shakespeare-- often without knowing it.  Is there an author, poet, lyricist or rapper writing today who will be remembered as having such an impact?  Who?  Why?

1. Journal
2. I'm out unexpectedly today so:
  • If you were in class yesterday, please share your notes with someone who wasn't;
  • Choose at least three of the AP essay prompts and apply the tactics and strategies to pre-write your essay.  You may do this independently or with colleagues at your table
I plan to be in class tomorrow to set the stage for break and beyond.  If you can't join us for any reason, please check the blog for specifics.  It's important for us to keep up with each other so we don't lose momentum over the break.  Have a great day!

Monday, April 10, 2017

how to install the 'followers' widget

april 10

It's time to wave the magic wand.  Complete this thought: "If I could do anything I wanted over Spring Break, I would..."  Describe in detail.

1. Journal
2. Discussion/study
3. AP essay strategy & tonight's HW


Friday, April 7, 2017

what do you think of this?

Read the story HERE.

wanted: good humans

You're the captain of the team, you have a 4.6 G.P.A., and you started a nonprofit that cured cancer. But are you a GOOD PERSON?

why journalism matters

Read the full story HERE.

pre-essay socratic seminar

  • Montag as dynamic character
  • Montag as role model
  • Themes of the book
  • Writing techniques/ literary elements
  • Symbolism
  • Author tones & reader moods
  • What Bradbury's predictions say about our society and us
  • Individual and group psychology of the characters
  • Preston's scribblings
  • How we write
  • What we should write about

ESSAY (due on your blogs by 11:59 PM PDT Sunday, April 9):

OPTION 1: Describe the difference in Ray Bradbury's tone with regard to Clarisse & Beatty. Support your analysis with examples of Bradbury's diction and detail.

OPTION 2: Analyze Bradbury's language, especially his figures of speech and his syntax, to convey how Montag's inner world differed from the world around him.

OPTION 3: Analyze the language and rhetorical devices that Dr. Preston uses to convey his point of view about reading. (Essay HERE)

***You may write more than one essay for additional credit, practice, and the betterment of humanity.

  • In Preston's essay he points out a different interpretation of Hamlet and says that in school we usually only get one meaning.  It makes me wonder what other meanings we might have missed in the things we've read?
  • I read for the plot, and when I read Preston's essay it got me thinking about the themes
  • I read the book before and I hated it -- because I love books -- but this time when I read it, I got to think through it and find the deeper meaning, so I guess now I hate it less. 
  • In the beginning of the book, when Montag met Clarisse, I wanted her to stay.  Why did she inspire him and then: BAM! Why did the author kill her?
    • The author wanted us to know something else was possible
    • Maybe she didn't get hit by a car
    • Maybe "they" killed her
    • Maybe she's in hiding with the other readers
    • Mildred said she was dead, and Mildred didn't pay attention to anything
    • Maybe she was smarter sooner-- anyone who was still in the city died in the end anyway
  •  Montag may have been a role model, but not in the right way... maybe you shouldn't break safety rules
    • He took drastic action though
    • He stepped out of his comfort zone-- it was edgy but he was inspired
    • He is self-reliant (as much as I hate that essay); he did what he wanted to do 
    • I don't think he was a good role model. He did what he did without thinking.  He is impulsive. He could've gotten Faber hurt. He didn't stop when Faber told him to.
  • I connect this book to events in the world-- we read about the bombing the day before the bombing in Syria
  • I want to burn Trump's book
    • (widespread disagreement/ cooler heads prevailed)

april 7

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["In One Ear" by Cage the Elephant]

Listen to the lyrics:  
They think they know my thoughts/ But they don't know the least/
If they listened to the words they'd find the message tucked beneath

One thing authors, songwriters, and (now that I'm thinking about it) just about everyone hates is having their words twisted into something they didn't intend.  Describe a time you thought you communicated clearly and someone else didn't agree.

1. Journal
2. Socratic seminar

Thursday, April 6, 2017

pre-ap exam mtg

I just received the following email from Mrs. Martinez.  Please mark your calendars and plan to attend this meeting:

april 6

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["Eat It" by Weird Al Yankovic; "Savoy Truffle" by The Beatles]

Describe your favorite meal in mouth-watering detail.  By the time I finish reading this journal entry I should be hungry and jealous.

1. Journal
2. Residual F451 Q & A/ status
3. Deconstructing my essay

*Tonight it would be a good idea to make sure you are up to date.  Tomorrow (Friday) we will have a Socratic seminar in which you will be expected to participate.  Over the weekend we will have an essay, and then it will be writing madness through break...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

this just in

Courtesy of Liliy:

april 5


Sometimes, when athletes at the Olympics complete their event or earn a medal, they cry.  Athletes are stereotypically tough humans, and crying is stereotypically not a tough thing to do, so how do you explain this?

1. Journal
2. F 451 Wrap Up

Monday, April 3, 2017

april 4

Describe a time you finished a book.  How did the experience make you feel?  Proud to have completed it?  Sad to say goodbye to the characters?  Surprised/irritated at the plot resolution?  Please explain.

1. Journal
2. Finishing F451
3. (depending on time) preparing for the essay

explain the ending of fahrenheit 451

In a thoughtful comment to this post, please explain the ending of the book.  Mahalo.

april 3

Why are you tested so much/often?  What are adults trying to figure out?  Why can't they do it another way?

I have no idea who's going to be smarter, more balanced, or in class today as a result of testing, so we'll pick up where we need to when I see you.  Those of us who are here will finish the novel and set the agenda for tomorrow.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

fahrenheit 451 essay on medium

I published another, slightly better (IMHO) version of the Fahrenheit 451 essay I wrote.

You can read it HERE.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

the curious case of sidd finch

This story ran in Sports Illustrated on April 1, 1985, when I was fifteen years old.  As far as I am concerned it is the greatest April 1 story ever.

happy april 1

Thinking that April Fool's Day 2017 is a remembrance of a time when we weren't fooled every day.  Ask questions and express doubt about what you see and what you read today-- and then do that every day from now on.

my thoughts on fahrenheit 451

Thanks in advance for reading and for commenting to this post.  Later this weekend I will also publish this on Medium, and I'll share the link when it's available there.  In the meantime, here are some suggestions for getting the greatest benefit out of the experience, which continues well after the break:

1. Follow the footnotes
2. Click the links
3. Enjoy getting confused or experiencing questions-- and then ask the author
4. Find something you dis/agree with
5. When you see an argument, ask yourself what makes it in/effective
6. Most importantly, find something about reading this to ENJOY

As you scroll down, you will get to what I hope are insights on Fahrenheit 451.  First you will suffer through my thinking about this topic in general. 

We should read the same books more than once, over time.  As we change, the way we understand what we read changes.  This is important. 

The first time I read Hamlet I was in Jerry DeBono's1 AP English Literature class at Cleveland High School in Los Angeles.  We read the play in class.  Actually, that's a lie.  I didn't read the play in class.  I was thinking about other things while my unlucky friends who got chosen for the speaking parts tried unsuccessfully to salvage a shred of cool while mumbling and stumbling through their lines.  The night before the test I read just enough of the play to write an essay.  I understood what my teacher was asking, and I delivered an adequate-enough answer, but I didn't really understand the play-- not just because Shakespeare's iambic pentameter wasn't my native language, or because "To be or not to be" is such a hackneyed cliché, but because I didn't have enough experience to