Monday, August 11, 2008

And You Thought That Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 Was Just a Novel!
This is a true story. If you don’t believe me, please visit Cheryl Thurston’s blog at
Cheryl operates a publishing house that specializes in interesting and exciting books and other learning materials for students. Recently, she and one of her employees met with a teacher who made some interesting comments about the Colorado Student Assessment Program Tests, which are required statewide.
This employee,” writes Thurston, “has never been a teacher. She did not grow up in Colorado. Her children are not in the school system yet. She really didn’t know anything about CSAP.”
At the meeting, the teacher indicated that even though a large number of students in her school cannot speak English, and even though 12 of the students have serious mental and physical disabilities, “all of them, no matter what, are required to take the state tests.”
"What’s more, if the students can’t answer any of the questions, all of them receive zeroes, which are averaged with all the other students’ grades to determine the school’s 'grade.'"
Well, we’ll never know how Joseph Heller would have responded to that educational catch-22, but we do know that Thurston’s companion was shocked. “That’s crazy,” she said.
Isn’t it interesting that someone who claims no expertise in a specific field can be so perceptive? If you know of a catch-22 situation related to public or private education, we’d love to hear from you.

Welcome to the Digital Age
Now that we are in the digital age,” writes Coastal Georgia Writing Director Pat West, “I have students in my college freshman composition course take photographs to support an observational writing essay. Then we conduct campus writing marathons to get students familiar with the process.” West also uses family photos to help generate writings about heritage. In another exercise, West sparks critical thinking by showing students Henry O. Tanner’s painting The Banjo Lesson and asking the question, “Who is teaching whom?”
If you have used photographs to stimulate writing in your classroom and would like to share your experiences, we’d love to hear from you.

Hello! 911! I Wanna Report a Problem with a Sandwich!
I learned about the 911 sandwich phone call on the Bill O’Reilly Show. It seems that a man called 911 to report that he’d bought two sandwiches at a Subway outlet, taken them home, and discovered that one of the sandwiches wasn’t what he ordered. That’s right! He called 911 to report a mistake in an order for two sandwiches. Duh? Why am I not surprised?

"Let onions lurk within the bowl,
And scarce suspected, animate the whole."
Sydney Smith, British Clergyman
Even the humble and often maligned onion can provide inspiration for students who are seeking ideas for their compositions. Perhaps they could reveal an onion-related experience they found humorous or maybe even annoying or disturbing. Maybe they could "lurk within the bowl" and describe what it feels like to swim in a sea of salad dressing.
In one actual classroom exercise, several students chose to describe their surroundings from the point of view of an onion. This approach allowed them to utilize many sense impressions in their writing.
Here's the opening line from one of their compositions. "Oh, no," I shouted as a hand wielding a sharp knife began to descend on me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have used a copy of a photograph from the Viet Nam era, adn was shocked that none of my students recognizing it.

I am, however, about to launch into the photo age and writing.

I recently experienced the wonder of flying on a B17 with a great new camera; I will use these to teach "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"

I will also use photos in a creative writing class. I have never taught this, but am excited at the possibilities.