Third Hour Essays

British Literature

February 5th, 2009

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I hope the overview in class was clear, but in case it wasn’t, here’s a primer:

[This post was WinsomeWiki’d on 4 Jul. 2009.]

Our Foray into Nonfiction

British Literature, Internet Goodness

December 30th, 2008

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English classes are interesting.  We teachers often push aside works of nonfiction in favor of fiction’s many incarnations while asking you to produce short works of nonfiction in response (think essay, book report, research paper…).  Think about it: if all that you consume is fiction, what do you predict your writing will look like?  Exactly.

Please to not misinterpret me: Fiction is vitally important to our understanding of the world.  (Remember our discussions on the magnifying glass, the different lenses, and the fact that most communication is metaphorical.)  That said, my goal with this section is to remove the pressure of fictional analysis while focusing on three vital skills: communication, collaboration, and connection.  You will communicate your ideas and knowledge; collaborate with your peers; and make connections between what you know, what others know, your books, and the outside world.

Here’s how we’ll do it:

Each of you has chosen a work of nonfiction from this list (if you don’t have your copy yet, email me now.  I’ll buy it for you and meet you at Starbucks if I have to.):

These books cover a wide range of topics (group intelligence over singular genius, the impact of complex pop culture, the resilience of non-hierarchical organizations, how ideas/products become popular, and the impact of relationships and the media on young women), but they all share one thing on common: how we are impacted by the world/people around us.

Each day you may be asked to teach the class about what you’ve read so far.  Others who are reading the same work may add to your lecture if they want to.  This will be uncomfortable for you at first, but remember, we all want to learn about each of the books, but can’t read them all.  Use your reading journal or notes to help you keep track of your thoughts if you’d like.

If you are not teaching your book, take notes in your journal.  Write down any lightbulb connections you make between the book and yours, any questions you have, or anything you might want to study further.  This will allow you to make sure you understand what is being presented and solidify the connections you make between your book and others’.

After a book has been taught, I will ask the other readers of the book about their thoughts on it so far, and any connections they’ve come across.  Before the break, I asked each of you to bring one connection between your book and the outside world to class on Monday.  If you’ve found one, keep looking!  We can never make too many connections, and I’ll be asking for them often.

We will then open the floor to those who have not read the book but have questions or connections to contribute to the class’s understanding.

This is not a series of presentations.  This is not a book report.  I will not ask you to stand in front of the class.  This is a discussion amongst peers about how parts of the world works.  The steps above will only be in place for the first few days.  After that, we should be in the habit of explaining what we’ve read, sharing ideas and connections, and building on one another’s ideas.  The length of this assignment is dependent upon how deep we want to delve into the topics.  We begin work on the final project on day one, so please come prepared.  What form the final project takes is dependent upon where our discussions take us.

Grades.  Because I have to.  Best advice: have fun, talk to others about what they’re reading, share what you know, make connections beyond the classroom.

If you’re keeping track, here’s the breakdown:

A list of resources to get you started:

Midterm Questions

Contemporary Nonfiction

April 10th, 2008

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Here are two questions to choose from, based on the books we’ve read so far.  This is not a book report.  Write on something that affects your life, or a topic you would like pursue further.

We covered the impact of popular culture on our everyday lives when reading Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson.  Our discussions centered on the impact of video games and television, and the cognitive effects of our consumption of these materials. 

Edit: I have received a few messages from you, suggesting possible topics for an EBIGFY essay.  If you have an idea, run it by me and then begin work.  The essay should follow the ideas in the book, either in support or refutation of, or using Johnson’s ideas in a new application.  Again, run your idea by me before you begin, but I want you to make this essay your own.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell explains how information (and fads) can spread through a population like a cold.  We’ve talked about the people that begin these fads (The Few),  and how a message’s "Stickiness" can allow or prevent ideas(or fads) from spreading.  My challenge to you is to come up with a plan based on Gladwell’s theories that would create a Tipping Point of your own.  Who would be your "Few"?  How would you make your message "Sticky"?  In what context (i.e. time, place, population, medium) would you seed your idea?  Remember, Gladwell’s examples range from Paul Revere’s ride to Sesame Street to shoes and crime. 

Before you begin planning, think about something that you’d like to happen.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

After you’ve come up with your topic, review Gladwell’s explanations and my questions above.  We’ll discuss this (and Chapter Four up to page 163) tomorrow.  Comment below if you have any questions.  (We will discuss format, length, due date, etc tomorrow, so no worries about that.)

Oh-oh, it’s magic…

Contemporary Nonfiction

April 9th, 2008

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you knoo-o-ow.  Not really.

Gladwell makes some interesting assertions in the second chapter, and today we focused on the effects of interpersonal communication.  He cites a study by Syracuse University that explains the impact of newscasters and their expressions in Presidential races, and explains what makes Tom Gau so convincing.  Derren Brown was brought up, and I promised videos.  Here they are:

Watch Brown’s movements as he talks to the man.  He mirrors his movements, then takes a step back.  The man follows.

This one is a bit off topic, but I think it effectively illustrates just how easily our creativity can be affected by our environment.  As always, you are what you eat, even if you don’t mean to consume it.


This one is similar.  You think you aren’t listening, but you are.


I’m trying to find video or an article explaining the microemotions explained in this chapter.  If anyone finds something, post it below.

Autism, Stroke Victim

Contemporary Nonfiction

April 8th, 2008

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Here’s the video we watched today in class:

And one that I talked about in class.  This is one of the most profound descriptions of right/left brain thinking that I’ve ever seen.  Check out for more videos.

Tonight you should read the rest of the second chapter of The Tipping Point.