Monday, May 14, 2012

"Opposite Pick Paper" due May 21!

See below for a sample of a written assignment that is due on May 21:

The Clique by Lisi Harrison: My Opposite Pick

I like non-fiction. I know what you’re thinking: non-fiction? Yuck! If you find the right kind of non-fiction, you can actually get hooked on the stuff. Sometimes true stories are better than anything that an author could make up. For example, The Year We Disappeared by Cylin and John Busby is the story of a cop whose family was forced to go into hiding for a whole year after he was shot in the face while on duty (and lived to identify the gunman.) Another true crime story I liked was Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson. This book was all about one of the most famous crimes of all time, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Both of those books are filled with as much action and suspense as any work of fiction that you’re likely to find.

When I read fiction, I usually go for books that have a paranormal element to them. What I mean by that is that most of the fiction that I read has ghosts, monsters or characters with unusual powers in them. Two books come immediately to mind: All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn and The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. All the Lovely Bad Ones is about a haunted bed and breakfast in Vermont and The Body Finder is about a girl with the ability to know where dead bodies are buried.

First, my experience reading The Clique was very different in that I was challenged to read this book by students. I usually find books by visiting book blogs like or I also frequently get recommendations for books from students. Rarely, however, do students challenge me to read a book.

The Clique is fiction, but not of the paranormal variety (although I suppose one could argue that the girls in this book are monsters!) The Clique is about a close-knit group of middle school girls who are wealthy, popular and envied by just about everyone. When a new girl named Claire comes to live in clique-leader Massie’s guesthouse, the girls have a new target for their teasing.

At first, I was not sure that I would be able to finish The Clique. The main characters are wealthy girls who are very interested in shopping, gossip and the latest trends. There were no characters that I could relate to. Soon, however, as the story began to unfold, I found myself increasingly fascinated by how mean the popular girls were to Claire, and then to each other. I read in disbelief as Massie and her friends insulted Claire to her face and talked behind her back. The more I read, the angrier I became. The I angrier I became, the more I wanted to keep reading to find out if Claire would be ok, and if the mean girls would get what was coming to them.

The Clique has very short chapters, some as small has one or two pages. I realized that a book like that is a nice change of pace for me. I found that even with a busy schedule, I could easily finish two or three chapters and have a sense of accomplishment.

I also learned that I should take on “reading challenges” more frequently. I was compelled to keep reading this book, no matter what, because

I had been “dared” to do it, and I wanted to rise to the occasion.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Clique. I gained perspective into the world of wealthy, spoiled, mean girls. I feel lucky that I do not know anyone in real life who is like Massie, Dylan, and the rest of their crew. I learned that The Clique is a series of fourteen books, and that book five takes place partly in Lake Placid. I’m planning to read that book (The Pretty Committee Strikes Back) but I’m not sure if I’ll read books 2-4, or just skip straight to book 5.

Even though at first I was embarrassed to be seen reading The Clique, I eventually realized that reading something different is very worthwhile.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Twain Time:2012

May finds our ELA 7 class engaged in a study of author Mark Twain.
We started by reading together the story that put him on the literary map: "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
You can check out an interesting claymation version of the story here
Next, we read the famous "whitewashing episode" from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
For those planning ahead, The final exam in ELA 7 is scheduled for Monday, June 18. It will be a test that covers only material from the final 10 weeks of school (mostly content from our Mark Twain unit).