Welcome Back!

I haven’t used this blog in years and years, but I decided it was time to use it again. (Feel free to go back through and see what I said to my Kennedy AP Lang students in the distant past!)

Here you will not only have access to your colleagues’ blog posts, but also to blog prompts, “best of” posts, and general blogging suggestions. Plus, you have the pleasure of seeing that now I have to blog as well! Enjoy!

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Prompts for March 8

If you need a prompt for one of your posts this week, here are three options: 

1. Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” To what extent do we have control over whether we feel harmed by what others say and do? 

2. In reviewing the reality dating show Love Is BlindAmanda Mull writes that the conflicts among the show’s participants seem “distressingly familiar”: “All couples argue, and lots of them have the same argument over and over again. Defensiveness, poor communication, and hurt feelings have turned us all into jerks on occasion.” Either respond to Mull’s argument, or choose another reality show you like. To what extent is relatability part of its appeal? Why? 

3. Spring trimester often gets people thinking about where they are going, and where they have been. What single piece of advice would you give to eighth graders who are getting ready to start high school?

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Two Assignments and a Suggestion


“This would make a great topic for my next blog post.” (Credit)


I’m going to continue to push you toward using your blog for the preparation work before you begin drafting your Book Review Essay (the requirements for which can now be found on Canvas here and here). So, for your three posts this week, here are two assignments and a suggestion:

  • Assignment One: I’d like you to use at least one of your posts this week to write some initial thoughts about your book. I know people are in different places. Don’t let that deter you. Even if you’re not as far as you “should” be, even if you’re only far enough to give some basic first impressions, do what you can. But if you’re halfway through, you can probably start to shape how you want to talk about this book when you’re drafting the real essay.
  • Assignment Two: Find another outside source about the same topic. Could be anything: a column from a newspaper, a report from a nonprofit organization, a video from YouTube… Just be mindful (as always) of what readers will think, and be ready to answer the questions before they’re asked: “Where did this come from? Who made/wrote it? Why should I trust it?”
  • Suggestion: Do Assignment Two twice, so that you’re even further ahead on developing and articulating your thoughts about the topic of your eventual essay.

PS — Don’t forget, you should still use images/links/etc. in these posts!


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A Few Good Sources

I hope you’ve been making good headway on your nonfiction books in the past several days. So far, I’ve asked you to analyze an existing book review essay, and to think about how the author gives the reader context early on. Now I’d like you to start looking for some additional sources that you might eventually use in the essay you’ll write.

Today, your assignment is to find two sources that could be used in that way.

My suggestions for how you might go about this:

  • Keep track of the questions that occur to you while you’re reading. Not the questions about vocabulary, but those that could be answered through a little further research. Then go looking for articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, and other stuff that will help you answer those questions.
  • Look for interviews with, or articles about, your author. There, you’ll almost surely find some really useful or interesting tidbits that may prove useful when you’re drafting.
  • Take a look at websites and magazines whose topics align with that of your book. Read around on the site. Look for connections with the book you’re reading. This will make it easier to tie your review to current public conversations.

There are more options than just those, of course. And once again, I encourage you to use your blog posts this week to explore some of these articles, or ideas directly from your book!

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NF Book Questions (part 1)

At this point, you should have your nonfiction book that you’re going to review.

  1. Is there an author’s note? If so, what important information (perhaps about her/his process) does the author tell you there?
  2. In the introduction or first chapter, how does the author make a case for the relevance of her/his subject?
  3. What context does the author tell us we need to understand in order to make sense of her/his subject?
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Book Review Essay Analysis


As we’ve been talking about, you’re going to write a book review essay that follows the basic conventions of the genre. My hope is that you’re already well on your way to getting a nonfiction book, published either this year or last, about a topic that interests you.

To get a sense of the genre you’ll be writing in, and its conventions, you’re going to spend some time analyzing a book review essay. Choose one of these essays from The New York Review of Books linked below. I will provide some questions for you on the Smart Board.

Remember that the goal here is for you to gain an understanding of this kind of essay, not to get the “right” answers to the questions I’m asking. Here are the essays:

The Women at the Top, by Marcia Angell (2014)

Kicked Out in America!, by Jason DeParle (2016)

The Disaster of Richard Nixon, by Robert G. Kaiser (2016)


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Friday Links

Spiders tune their webs like guitar strings. Very short video; worth the click.

This upcoming Macbeth movie looks potentially pretty cool.

Sounds like David Foster Wallace’s essay “Consider the Lobster” caused more than a couple of arguments with his editor.

Via Laughing Squid, enjoy this time-lapse of a monarch caterpillar’s metamorphosis.

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Chris Ware, Minecraft, and Visual Literacy

For later use, Ken Parille’s blog post about Chris Ware’s New Yorker cover from the June 22, 2015 issue.

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Student Life at ISU

Adam_BlogOver the weekend I ran into Adam, a former Kennedy HS and AP Lang student. Sounds like he’s doing impressive things at Iowa State University these days, which is no surprise to anyone who knows him. But the reason I’m posting here about him is that he was blogging this year for Cyclone Life, a student organization at ISU. Among other things, now I know where I should eat the next time I’m in Ames. Thanks for sharing, Adam, and keep up the good work!

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Formatting an Essay Like the New York Review of Books

To make your essay look like one of the essays on nybooks.com, you’ll need the following:

  • all the publishing info about your book;
  • an image that evokes an important idea within your essay;
  • a caption for your image, including whose image it is.

Remember that you’ll also have to include a Works Cited page. The formatting guidelines for those are here, if you’re using MLA. An example of what it looks like is here.

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