Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving holiday

I hope everyone has enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. The days off have been wonderful for me; I have been able to gather with family and friends, do some much needed cleaning around the house, and enjoy a good movie and a good book.

I've told the students about the movie I viewed, The Life of Pi, since it is also a book. I was fortunate enough to see the movie on Friday, while, as I have been told, lots of people went shopping for so-called "big" deals. In class, we watched the trailer to The Life of Pi as we took notes and learned about the seven fictional literary elements we've been studying. I will say that I really enjoyed the movie and feel that Ang Lee did a wonderful job interpreting it into a visual story. It's been at least seven years since I read the book, but if my memory serves me well, all the important elements of the book were treated well in the movie. I would have liked to have seen more elements of the spiritual within the movie, but I must admit that the ending was done exceptionally well, in my opinion. I first recommend that students read the book, even though it might be more challenging for some than others, but I further recommend students and families see the movie. It is rated PG, so I would argue that it is accessible to most, if not all, middle-schoolers.

On Saturday, I read Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert. I checked it out from the Pleasant View Library and highly recommend it as a moderate-length nonfiction text. I vividly remember watching as the miners, whose story is told in the book, were rescued. I can even remember leaving CNN on throughout the day in my classroom, watching as the rescue effort continued over many hours. The book is not terribly long, and sticks mostly to the facts, but at several points in the story I was almost overwhelmed with emotions--fear for the miners' lives, concern for the miner's families, hope once the first "doves" were drilled and contact was made. I saw the rescue and heard some of the stories, but this book goes into much greater depth, and provides insight that even the national media couldn't provide.

In my first year of teaching at Pleasant View, I helped chaperone a trip to Wichita, Kansas. On this trip we went to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, where 650 feet below the surface we took a tour of the old salt mine, along with surveying some of the amazing Hollywood memorabilia stored in the mine. My greatest connection, while reading Trapped, was the absolute black darkness of the mine. At the Salt Museum, we had to take a short tutorial on how to wear and use the proper safety gear, in case anything should happen, and we had to ride one of the double-decker elevators to take us down into the salt mine. The elevator was packed tight, and it was darker than anywhere I have ever been in my life. I could not imagine being 2,000 feet down, in complete darkness, for days on end, not knowing whether I would be rescued or not. The whole story of Trapped, and the miner's ordeal, makes me want to continue reading about this story--either individual miner's stories or any other books available on the rescue.

On a school related topic:
In the coming weeks, prior to our winter holiday, we'll continue to study fictional literary elements. We'll read some more short stories and maybe even watch some short videos. Students will get another chance to deeply analyze a favorite book or movie. Before the holiday, students will complete a significant writing piece in response to some of their reading this quarter; students will either write a letter to an author using the Letters About Literature writing competition as a framework, or students will write a response to literature in which they journal as a character in a book.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

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