“Why do we argue? Life's so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing.” –Alan Moore

Friday, April 18th–Creative Writing



Let’s watch the end of “Monsters” and then take apart the plot and see how it works.

Then, I’ll talk about the 20 types (or so) of stories and why we so often try to tell the same story over and over again.

Now, it’s your turn. Let’s start brainstorming ideas for our short stories. This handout should help.


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Thu, April 17th–AP

What we are learning today

  • Review on the Big 3: Logos, Ethos, Pathos
  • Approaching AP Rhetorical prompts
  • Writing body paragraphs for AP Rhetorical prompts


Welcome, I thought we’d start by looking at a few of the Real Clear Videos and noting the strategies we saw. We could choose:

Then, I thought I’d throw Class Dismissed back at you and work on that a bit. I’ll break you up into logos, ethos, pathos groups and ask you to identify specific sentences that are examples of your rhetorical category and the purpose behind them.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 5.44.44 PM

Next, I’ll ask you to try your hand at a few more short paragraphs on QuestionPress.

Finally, we’ll look at my favorite AP prompt–about Joan of Arc!–write a thesis statement and a body paragraph and impress all of our friends.

HW:  Spend your Spring Break thinking rhetorically.



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April 16th–Film

OK, it’s time to prepare for our Reservoir Dogs graded discussion.

We could break this one up by those who liked it and the ones who didn’t? Anyway, here are some questions to get you thinking.

Group 1:

  1. The inevitable filmic language question. What does Tarrantino do with a camera that marks out his work compared to others? Take a look at how he places, moves, and uses the camera as well as the way he designs what we see on the screen.
  2. The racism/sexism question. Why do you imagine Tarrantino has his characters say a number of racist and sexist things? How are we supposed to take them? Are we supposed to accept that these particular characters would naturally have these opinions…even if we would find them offensive? Or is this a sneaky way of saying taboo provocative things without having to defend them?
  3. Examine the use of music in the film. Where do you notice the choice of song and how does it contribute to the effect of the scene?

Group 2:

  1. The inevitable filmic language question. What does Tarrantino do with a camera that marks out his work compared to others? Take a look at how he places, moves, and uses the camera as well as the way he designs what we see on the screen.
  2. The movie nerd question. What’s with the constant pop culture talk? Why do you imagine Tarrantino has his characters engage in constant discussion about pop culture? How does this change how we see the characters? Does Tarrantino “steal” or “do homage” when he lifts so many images, ideas, phrases, and techniques from the movies he loves?
  3. The manly question. How do the characters in this movie consider what it means to be a man? What is the code they live by? What are the rules you can or cannot break?





Essay questions: We’re looking for a minimum of 500 words. Focus on specific examples and observations from the movie.

  1. Some critics have suggested that Quentin Tarantino may be one of the most influential directors ever. Trace Tarantino’s influence in modern movies by giving specific examples of his techniques, camerawork, attitude, and style being used in other movies by other directors. What about him is so appealing? See this article to get started.
  2. What should the rules be for ripping off other directors? What kinds of borrowing should be considered legitimate and what kinds are wrong? Give several examples of each. See this documentary for some ideas about the issues involved.
  3. Create a Quentin Tarantino Bingo board. Identify, explain, and give a specific example of  16 different Tarantino style choices.
  4. Scene Analysis. Choose a specific scene from RD to do a deep dive on. Describe the mise-en-scene and other cinematography elements with as many specifics as possible. Trace those examples to effects the director is trying to invoke or thematic ideas.
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4/16–Creative Writing


Character work

We’ve done a little work creating characters. Individually, let’s write 3 paragraphs that introduce our character, give him/her a grand passion, and suggest what the main problem is going to be.

Then, let’s get in our pairs and finish our character scenes. We’ll choose 3 to present randomly.

Writing Scenes

Then, I want to talk about scenes. Stories are built of scenes.

A good scene starts with a character who has a goal, conflicts which prevent him/her from reaching it, and then a decision or minor dilemma which finds a resolution–good or bad.

Imagine, we started with a high school senior who is graduating soon but doesn’t want to go to college though she isn’t sure what to do instead. Then, a friend of a friend tells her how easy it is to learn how to steal identities on the internet. What happens next?

Let me show you the cold open of one of my favorite TV shows The Wire.

How does that scene establish the show? What is it about?

Then, we’ll look at a Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters on Due on Maple Street.” We’ll stop scene by scene to talk about how the scenes are constructed.

If we have time, we’ll look at this scene from Prisoner of Azkaban.

Finally, I’ll have you work in 2-person writing teams to make one of the following scenes:

  1. A scene where one character wants to trick the other character into a bad decision.
  2. A scene where one character want to complain to another character about his/her bad deeds and have that complaint acknowledged.
  3. A scene where one character is threatened by another and has to escape the danger.
  4. A scene where one character wants to confess his/her love for the other, but is afraid the other doesn’t feel the same.
  5. A scene where one character want to convince another character help him/her achieve a goal.

If we have time, I’d like to talk about brainstorming our short stories.


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April 15th (Tax Day)–AP

What are we learning today

  • What exactly is a “modest proposal”?
  • How do we approach a rhetorical analysis?
  • How can we make our analysis more insightful?

Let’s start with Modest Proposal 2.o. I’ll play the Colbert Modest Porpoisal, you’ll share in table groups, and then we’ll read the best the tables have to offer. Drop the whole thing in QuestionPress.

rhetorical road map.011

In class, we’ll use this image to practice. Then, we’ll try this in a short form on QuestionPress.

After discussing your responses, we’ll look at Walter Kirn’s “Class Dismissed” and work in small groups to:

  1. Find 3 short selections (1-2 sentences) that stand out
  2. Classify each selection with a quick label/descriptions which explains the kind of move it is.
  3. Speculate as to why Kirn might have used this approach. What might he have thought it would accomplish?

HW: Choose any 3 of the videos in Real Clear Politics and analyze the strategies and effectiveness of the responses. For instance, George Will on racismHuckabee on North Korea, and Obama on LBJ.

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