Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sophomore Summer Blogging Prompts — Week 6

Here are the Week 6 prompts for people doing the synchronous path. Bon Appetit!

Poetry Prompt: Read the poems by Emily Dickinson on pages 93-97. In your response, do two things: 1) Describe Dickinson’s style. What stylistic elements unify her poems? 2) Pick one of the six pieces by Dickinson from 250 Poems and offer your interpretation. Close reading and using quotations is appreciated. As always, if you want to do some research online, that’s okay provided you link to your source.

Novel Prompt: What does your novel have to say about gender? Is it a book by a female author with mostly female characters, or a book by a male author with mostly male characters, or does it defy stereotypical expectations? Has the author succeeded in creating believably realistic characters of the gender he/she is not? Do you think that the book is mostly a book for female readers or mostly a book for male readers? Or do you think that distinction is bogus? Explain . . . argue . . . gripe.

Bonus Prompt: Food blogging is popular these days. Let’s lean into this trend. Write a post about the best meal you’ve had this summer. Or describe a meal that you cooked yourself this summer. Or, if you are planning to go to an interesting restaurant this week, shoot photos of your meal and post them to your blog with a review of the meal you ate. Or come up with your own food-related post; just tie it to your actual experiences this summer.


Midsummer Things

I got back from my honeymoon in Quebec yesterday. It had been decades since I had been in Quebec, and it was a joy returning after all these years. The Central Planner kept peppering me with questions about how to say this or pronounce that in French, which led to a discussion of my summer project to use Duolingo everyday to learn some German. Of course, being the rotten linguist that I am, I’m struggling with German. But the CP installed the Duolingo app on her iPhone, tested into Level 7 Italian, and has been spending five times as many minutes per day working with the app as I am. Despite my jealousy of her superior foreign language acquisition ability, I’m eager to have another person to bounce thoughts off of as I try to evaluate Duolingo.

Meanwhile, the tech that has been blowing me away lately is Google Now. After resisting it for a year, I went ahead and starting using it about three weeks ago. (I’m an Android guy — HTC One — whereas the CP is an iPhone woman.) Sure, Google Now will remember where I parked for me and anticipate that I am going to drive to the Newtown Athletic Club today, but it really surprised me when my phone buzzed last night to inform me that it had turned all of my honeymoon photos into a cool album/travelogue. I’m also using Google Keep, which most people outside the Connected Educator world probably don’t know exists, and that integrates with Google Now, too. I’m leery about Google sticking all of my photos in Google+ where everyone might see them, even though I’ve carefully adjusted the settings so that shouldn’t happen. We shall see.

While I was away, I wasn’t able to check on Class of ’17 summer blogs as much as I’d like. I’ve looked at all of them in the last 24 hours — leaving lot of comments — and I’m pleased to see how many students have finally gotten started. The blogs are delightful, and I’m just so jazzed to see the students’ reacting to excellent books like Wolf Hall, The Art of Fielding, and Skippy Dies. Their poetry responses are excellent, too; maybe even better than their novel responses. Hopefully many of my colleagues read about the project on the school web site and have had their curiosity whetted. I can’t wait to get up in front of them at our opening meetings to show what the kids have done. I need to pull in more colleagues to leave comments for the students this week and over the next few, so I may have to send a lot of individual emails to advisors with blog links included. That will be time consuming, but I’m on vacation, right?

Sophomore Blogging Prompts — Week 5

Synchronous Blog Prompts: Week  5 (July 21) — Respond to one or more prompts. The bonus prompt doesn’t count towards your ten-prompt minimum for the summer, so only respond to the bonus if you feel like it. Posts should be a minimum of 200 words. You are welcome/encouraged to write more than that. Proofread before posting!

Poetry Prompt: OK friends, this is getting serious! Read the selection of passages from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” on pages 72-84. Whitman doesn’t use rhyme or meter, so what does he do to make music out of language? What do you think of his content/message? Do you find yourself affected by “Song of Myself” or not? Why? As usual, if you want to do some online research for help with the poem, that’s fine, but link to your sources.

Novel Prompt: We are all at different places in our novels now. Some people may be done, some people haven’t made much progress. So just choose a part of the book that you enjoyed a lot, be it from the beginning, middle, or end, and explain why you liked that passage. Was it a result of what happened in the plot, or character development, or funny narrative, or what? As usual, feel free to cite a portion of the text to illustrate your points.

Bonus Prompt: We are just about at the halfway point of summer vacation. How is your summer going? What has been good, and what has been not so good? What are you looking forward to in the second half of your vacation? Are there books that you are still hoping to read? Places you are still hoping to go? Experiences that you are still hoping to have?


Want to make sure Eric reads your posts? Email him a link ( or Tweet at him with a link (@EricAfterSchool).

Sophomore Summer Blog Prompts — Week 4

Synchronous Blog Prompts: Week  4 (July 14 ) — Respond to one or more prompts. The bonus prompt doesn’t count towards your ten-prompt minimum for the summer, so only respond to the bonus if you feel like it. Posts should be a minimum of 200 words. You are welcome/encouraged to write more than that. Proofread before posting!

Poetry Prompt : Read “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (p. 64-69). Then go to Google Images and look at paintings and other illustrations of the poem. This is a narrative poem, so it tells a story. What moments in the story do the artists seem most interested in illustrating? Why do you think that is? [“The Lady of Shalott” is an amazing poem, and you are welcome to include your direct reaction to the poem as well.]

Novel Prompt : Write a summary of the most recent chapter you’ve read. Then analyze that chapter, pointing out important movements in the plot, character development, themes, symbolism, etc. Your summary should be one paragraph (5-8 sentences is a good guideline). Your analysis may be as long or short as you feel is appropriate.

Bonus Prompt : Retell a piece of family lore. Write down a story that is part of your family’s history (be it centuries old or very recent), and try to capture the spirit of the story and its significance to you and your family. Respect your family members’ privacy: If they don’t want to be named, create pseudonyms or just refer to them as “my mother” or “my grandfather” etc.

“The examples of how in-use devices and apparatuses have an impact on small-scale forms of sociality (a meal, a conversation, or a classroom) may have become commonplaces, but the cumulative harm sustained is nonetheless significant. One inhabits a world in which long-standing notions of shared experience atrophy, and yet one never actually attains the gratifications or rewards promised by the most recent technological options. In spite of the omnipresent proclamations of the compatibility, even harmonization, between human time and the temporalities of networked systems, the lived realities of this relationship are disjunctions, fractures, and continued disequilibrium.”

                                                                                                                 — Jonathan Crary, 24/7


Sophomore Summer Blog Prompts — Week 3

Synchronous Blog Prompts: Week 3 (July 7 ) — Respond to one or more prompts. The bonus prompt doesn’t count towards your ten-prompt minimum for the summer, so only respond to the bonus if you feel like it. Posts should be a minimum of 200 words. You are welcome/encouraged to write more than that. Proofread before posting!

Poetry Prompt : Read the three poems by William Blake on pages 34-36 (“The Lamb,” “The Tyger,” and “London”). What themes does Blake choose to focus on in his poetry? (i.e. What is his poetry about?) What is the style of his poetry? (i.e. How does he use rhythm, rhyme, meter, etc.?) If you do any online research, remember to link to your sources.

Novel Prompt : Pick a passage that you’ve read in your book. It can be from any part that you’ve read so far; pick a passage that you like or find interesting. Then analyze that passage using close reading skills. Look at the specific word choices and narrative choices the author made. How did he/she make this passage interesting or effective? What might you learn from this analysis that could help your own writing? Use quotations from the passage and cite the page numbers in parentheses.

Bonus Prompt : Go online and Google the original pages of the three William Blake poems from the Poetry Prompt. Examine how Blake mixes his artwork and writing. How is your understanding or appreciation of Blake’s poetry altered by your examination of his original leaves? Remember to provide links to your sources.

Want to make sure Eric reads your posts? Email him a link ( or Tweet at him with a link (@EricAfterSchool).

Adaptability Project Reading: Review of How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

The Adaptability Project is comprised of a group of George School faculty members who will come together over a two-year period to study the new landscape of secondary education. We will share readings, discuss vision and strategy, and engage the community in a larger conversation about how the school can adapt as we strive to remain vital and relevant.

After reading The Human Side of School Change by Robert Evans last week, How Children Succeed by Paul Tough was a refreshing change of pace. The book is a breezily written page-turner, and one gets engrossed in the stories of the students and teachers whose travails Tough chronicles.

Unlike the previous book, this one is less relevant to the Adaptability Project, but it is hugely relevant to anyone in the teaching business. The book’s focus on the importance of noncognitive skills seems right up the alley of our Foundational Skills Committee. (In fact, FSC explicitly aims to encourage the teaching of metacognition in the GS freshman program.) Also, there is much in the book that is encouraging to people who are part of our residential program. Tough explains that, even relatively late in one’s adolescence, the damage done by a stressful childhood can be reversed. The surrogate parenting done by dormstaff at a boarding school, for instance, could heal the damage done to students’ academic and noncognitive skills, especially in a safe environment such as ours.

The book also makes me want to take up chess again. In the last few decades, I’ve watched my alma mater, Princeton Day School, build a wonderful chess program. It makes more sense for them because they are a K-12 school, and the best time to get started in competitive chess is years before students enter high school. Nonetheless, I’d love to see us try to start up a program here.

I heartily recommend How Children Succeed to anyone in the education business, and anyone who is a parent, too.