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Read the book, dummy.

 

Noticed:

I belong to the Notice & Note Facebook group, and it’s marvelous. Teachers helping other teachers, all grade levels (but predominately K-8), finding books, helping with lessons/units, etc. The big focus is on Kylene Beer’s and Robert Probst’s new book, Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and therefore embarrassed myself a bit by one of my questions in a post. A teacher named Lisa Roth put together this PowerPoint intended to share with staff. (I hope she doesn’t mind if I link it here: if yes, I’ll take it down post haste.)

While reading through her presentation, what caught my eye was the idea that ancient stories or ‘campfire stories’ are nonfiction. Campfire and ancient stories are something I’m very familiar with, having created units on early human story telling for 8th grade, that ties in with the World Studies history. At least I thought I was an expert, but according to Beers and Probst, campfire stories are non-fiction. I asked for clarification, and Roth’s interpretation of N&N Nonfiction makes sense: those stories were meant to inform. Yes, they were. They were origin stories, creation stories, explanations for the beginnings and the endings of things. That makes sense. But–and here is where I ran out and clicked on the book link to buy it–I can imagine teaching the context of genre and how genre shifts with new knowledge is going to be critical.

But before a rush to judgment, I will be reading with a lens that my personal theory is not all campfire stories were meant to inform. Or rather, humans didn’t need to hear and share stories with pure entertainment and escapism value. Nonfiction connotes such dryness for me, and that’s wrong. And I am going to check my bias, because more likely than not, my students believe stories as if they were factual, and it’s time to deconstruct that notion. Think about it: urban legends, social media comments, texts –they are not meant to entertain, but to state opinions as facts.

I remember when introducing Greek/Roman mythology trying to put it in context for students, and dancing around a theological line: these gods and goddess died because no (human) believed in them anymore, but at the time, the cultural belief system was as strong as any current religion today. Some students, occasionally, would suggest we bring back Zeus and Hera.

Perhaps there is another word, a portmanteau, that integrates fiction and nonfiction: truthiction? Stories intended to inform but are based on limited knowledge? Maybe I’ll leave that one up to my students next year to discuss and decide. Yes, I think that’s best.

Here is a better idea: if stories are meant to inform, enlighten, or motivate, then perhaps a unit on civic engagement is in order:

Summer Readings to Inspire Teachers about Project Based Learning with Civic Engagement by Steven Zemelman

So while I’m waiting for my copy of Notice & Note, Nonfiction version, I’ll be brushing up on my legends and mythology, and continue to dig out the truths in those stories.

If you’d like some dedicated nonfiction articles about storytelling and ancient humans, here are some links:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/09/ancient-campfires-led-rise-storytelling

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/late-night-conversations-around-fire-might-have-shaped-early-human-cognition-and-culture-180952790/?no-ist

Oh, and I started a Youtube Channel:

love youtube channel

 

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Myth of the Month Club: Krampus

Brom's Krampus
Brom’s Krampus

Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart known by many names across the continent — Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus. Usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue, but can also be spotted as a sinister gentleman dressed in black, or a hairy man-beast. Krampus punishes the naughty children, swatting them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them, in baskets, to a fiery place below.

 

Just when you thought stuff couldn’t get any weirder: ‘t round out the week before Winter Break, prevent the need to scrape kids off the ceiling, and harmlessly, innocently, integrate some technology skills I created this prompt:

There are a lot of strange and wonderful ways to celebrate in December around the world. Now’s it’s time for you to come up with your own! This is a group project contest for the best, new, weirdest plausible holiday!”

And they were off! They were given a list of items they might include:

  • Food served
  • Special clothes or costumes
  • Mascot or Character
  • Tradition/ritual
  • Activities

And while none came up with a variation on Festivus, we did have a “Wishing Day” and a “Squidmas.” The students worked with Power Point on-line through their Office 365 software, and had a ball. They only had one block class to consider, create, and design their presentations.  They were all winners in my book! This proved to be a great way to introduce Power Point on line, collaborative creativity, and a low-risk activity that was accessible and funny. The ones who didn’t quite get it at first were those who thought this was a simple regurgitation of researched holidays: once they saw others with their original ideas it helped to model. The truth is, as much as a teacher can model something, middle school students look to their peers to see what else is happening in a creative crunch.

 

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Interview with an immortal.

Hold your horses!
Hold your horses!

What would Zeus do?

Those are the questions you’re asking as you analyze a character.

There are many ways to analyze a character.

 

 Ask yourself:

What do you look like?

What is your day like?

What is your status in the world?

What relationships do you have?

What symbols or tools would represent you?

Do you have any special gifts or training?

What is one story that defines who you are?

If you could be someone else, who would it be?

What is one thing you regret?

What is one thing you are most proud of?

 

Once you have a handle on your own “character,” perhaps you can start to control another.

 

 

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Troublemaker.

Golden Apple

Hear the sound of those girl’s tears? Oh, poor baby. She has gained a few pounds and her best friend is cheating on her with her boyfriend. How do I know? I am Eris, the original ‘mean girl!’I’m the one who slipped the note in her backpack letting her know about the cheater, and who shrunk her pants so she would think she was gaining weight. Well, who did she think she was, anyway, trying to be friendly and cute to everyone around her, being kind hearted, patient, and sweet? Blech! Makes me want to barf! That syrupy-sweet act doesn’t play with me, sister. You had to be destroyed.

Oh, and I have friends in high places. Powerful friends. Ares, the god of war, my big, brawny and bold brother, always said I would go places, and he was right. He has his own issues though, ones I don’t think any amount of high-priced therapy will help. He was never revered by the Greeks, those country bumpkins, never had a palace or temple built in his honor, never had even as much as a lamb chop sacrificed to him. Those ungrateful peons! The god of war should be honored, worshipped—were it not for him, there would be stifling peace and prosperity, boring harmony and happiness! Well, between you and me, if he even got a scratch on his hide during battle, he would scream like a little girl! What a wimp. The only one who ever really showed him any affection was that tramp, Aphrodite. Granted, my brother is gorgeous, and she had a most unpleasant celebrity marriage with Hephaestus, that hunch-backed freak, so I don’t blame her for seeking my brother’s “affections,” so to speak. But violence, bloodshed and a great piece of weaponry beats out beauty, brains, and honesty any day, if you ask me.

I am the goddess of discord, disharmony, and discontent. It is my solemn and pleasurable duty to make sure there is always a little harmful gossip, a little bit of jealousy sprinkled with a dash of envy, stirred together well in a big, mucky pot of deceitful soup. I believe myself to be very powerful. If it weren’t for me, half the princesses in fairy tales wouldn’t get a prince worthy of them. If there is no conflict, there is no story! In fact, now that I think of it, all great literature, movies, and plays owe a hearty thanks to ME! If it weren’t for me causing the small problems, the self-doubts, the cat-fights, the tussles and tangos of human history, would just be flat, tasteless tales. You need a bad guy to make you love the good guy. I am indispensable.

One of my favorite tricks was tossing my golden apple in the middle of three of those witches, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera. Athena, that book worm, wouldn’t know a good time if it jumped up and bit her on her fanny. Hera is such a matronly downer, always wasting her time checking Zeus’ credit card receipts for signs of cheating – as if! Who wouldn’t cheat on that old cow! Now, Aphrodite—there’s a chick who can give me a run for my money. She, of sea foam and blood, can really mix it up. She’s almost as much as a trouble maker as I am.

Funny, though. I don’t get a lot of invitations to places. Once I was so rudely dismissed, and didn’t receive an invitation to a wedding. I like to throw rice and toast the bride and groom, so why wasn’t I invited? So, I toss my golden apple, the Apple of Discord, which is one rotten apple, ruining the whole bunch, and whisper in the ear of this local-yokel, Paris, that he must decide who is the “fairest of them all.” (Yes, there’s a lawsuit against the Brothers Grimm for taking that line and using in that stupid story, Snow White. Really? Seven dwarfs? Don’t get me started!) The three ladies each want this golden apple for themselves, and want to be considered the fairest. Athena offers him wisdom. Paris never cracked open a book in his life, why should he start now? Hera offers him land, political power, and oh, yeah – ASIA. Not good enough. Paris doesn’t like sushi. Aphrodite, clever girl, offers him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. Here’s where it gets fun – Helen of TROY, as in, “Mr. & Mrs. Troy,” as in “she’s already married to a King Menelaus. And kings don’t give up their trophy wives without a fight. Just tossing my golden apple caused the Trojan War! Oh, those were indeed the days! I really admire Aphrodite’s greed, cunning and how to maneuver on the battlefield of beauty –that lady knows how to get what she wants.

A few years hence, I didn’t receive another invitation to a christening of baby Aurora. Well, I had to put that simpering chick to sleep for a few hundred years, let me tell you. One tiny prick of a spinning needle and lights outs, sister! Teach you to disrespect me! You might know her as Sleeping Beauty, and I as the evil fairy, but that’s a demotion compared to the stature of goddess. I regret that I didn’t keep my mental tools a little sharper and cause a bit more trouble along the way. Evil fairy, indeed. I know how to keep up with the times, and make my own invitations. Who needs Kings and royalty to have a good time, or a successful career? I had a prime cameo role in the hit cartoon, “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy,” perhaps you’ve seen my work? I am fabulous!

Although I am happy with my life now—I still have everything I want, but it’s not the same. I’m a guest host on TMZ and a gossip columnist for the Los Angeles Hollywood tabloids. Whenever you hear a rumor about Brad-gelina breaking up, you can thank me! I have broken up couples that didn’t even know they were having troubles until I gave them the seed of doubt. I am the friend who say, passive-aggressively, “Oh, no those pants don’t make you look as heavy as your blue suede ones do!” My hair is naturally blonde; and my skin always tanned. Because I’m immortal, I never seem to grow old, but change looks so as not to arouse suspicion. I’m the one who’s responsible to making dimwits like Paris Hilton into celebrities. I’m the one who can cause suspicion and jealousy to slither into one’s heart, squeezing the trust out of you. Are you the fairest in the land? Well, it’s probably your best friend, and she’s stealing your boyfriend from you as we speak. Tee-hee!

“To the Fairest”

 

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Pushing that boulder…

Anytime you hear the term, Sisyphean Task, we have the old sinner, Sisyphus to thank:

From: http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/sisyphus.html

Sinner condemned in Tartarus to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again. Sisyphus was founder and king of Corinth, or Ephyra as it was called in those days. He was notorious as the most cunning knave on earth. His greatest triumph came at the end of his life, when the god Hades came to claim him personally for the kingdom of the dead. Hades had brought along a pair of handcuffs, a comparative novelty, and Sisyphus expressed such an interest that Hades was persuaded to demonstrate their use – on himself.

And so it came about that the high lord of the Underworld was kept locked up in a closet at Sisyphus’s house for many a day, a circumstance which put the great chain of being seriously out of whack. Nobody could die. A soldier might be chopped to bits in battle and still show up at camp for dinner. Finally Hades was released and Sisyphus was ordered summarily to report to the Underworld for his eternal assignment. But the wily one had another trick up his sleeve.

He simply told his wife not to bury him and then complained to Persephone, Queen of the Dead, that he had not been accorded the proper funeral honors. What’s more, as an unburied corpse he had no business on the far side of the river Styx at all – his wife hadn’t placed a coin under his tongue to secure passage with Charon the ferryman. Surely her highness could see that Sisyphus must be given leave to journey back topside and put things right.

Kindly Persephone assented, and Sisyphus made his way back to the sunshine, where he promptly forgot all about funerals and such drab affairs and lived on in dissipation for another good stretch of time. But even this paramount trickster could only postpone the inevitable. Eventually he was hauled down to Hades, where his indiscretions caught up with him. For a crime against the gods – the specifics of which are variously reported – he was condemned to an eternity at hard labor. And frustrating labor at that. For his assignment was to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill. Only every time Sisyphus, by the greatest of exertion and toil, attained the summit, the darn thing rolled back down again.

Yup. That’s how I feel today.

tizians-sisyphus

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