Wednesday September 30/15

Today you have a work period for your essays. As promised, I will be writing an essay along side you so what I’ll do today is model my brainstorming process. You might have a different process and that’s okay but it sometimes helps to watch another person demonstrate this.

Tuesday September 29/15

Today we’re going to take up the questions for The Town Dump and then you’ll have the period to work on your personal essays. Details about both of these assignments are available on our elearning site.

Monday September 28/15

A cool video on literary devices:

Today I’m going to conference with you while you work on your questions for The Town Dump. These will be due by the end of the period–finished or not. If you’ve already finished them, you can get started on your culminating task for this unit, which is an essay. You can get a copy of the assignment on our elearning site, or come up and get a copy from me.


Thursday September 24/15

Today passive voice will be learned (do you see what I did there? Huh?…. Anybody?…) After this lesson you will have the rest of the period to work on your formative projects. Don’t forget that you have your second check in tomorrow.


But sometimes you might want to use passive voice. For example:

What Is Active Voice?

I’ll start with active voice because it’s simpler. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. A straightforward example is the sentence “Steve loves Mary.” Steve is the subject, and he is doing the action: he loves Mary, the object of the sentence.

Another example is the title of the Marvin Gaye song “I Heard It through the Grapevine.” “I” is the subject, the one who is doing the action. “I” is hearing “it,” the object of the sentence.

What Is Passive Voice?

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, “Steve loves Mary,” I would say, “Mary is loved by Steve.” The subject of the sentence becomes Mary, but she isn’t doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve’s love. The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Mary.

If you wanted to make the title of the Marvin Gaye song passive, you would say “It was heard by me through the grapevine,” not such a catchy title anymore.

Is “To Be” a Sign of a Passive Sentence?

A lot of people think all sentences that contain a form of the verb “to be” are in passive voice, but that isn’t true. For example, the sentence “I am holding a pen” is in active voice, but it uses the verb “am,” which is a form of “to be.” The passive form of that sentence is “The pen is being held by me.”

Notice that the subject, the pen, isn’t doing anything in that sentence. It’s not taking an action; it’s passive. One clue that your sentence is passive is that the subject isn’t taking a direct action.

Is Passive Voice Always Wrong?

Passive voice isn’t wrong, but it’s often a poor way to present your thoughts.

Another important point is that passive sentences aren’t incorrect; it’s just that they often aren’t the best way to phrase your thoughts. Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other times it’s vague. Also, passive voice is usually wordy, so you can tighten your writing if you replace passive sentences with active sentence.

When you put sentences in passive voice, it’s easy to leave out the person or thing doing the action. For example, “Fred is loved,” is passive. The problem with that sentence is that you don’t know who loves Fred. Of course, maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe you want to emphasize the idea that Fred is just loved in general, in which case, that’s fine.

Politicians often use passive voice to intentionally obscure the idea of who is taking the action. Ronald Reagan famously said, “Mistakes were made,” when referring to the Iran-Contra scandal. Other examples of passive voice for political reasons could include “Bombs were dropped,” and “Shots were fired.” Pay attention to the news and listen for examples of passive voice.

Also, businesses sometimes use passive voice. It sounds better to write, “Your electricity will be shut off,” than “We, the electric company, will be shutting off your power.”

Is Passive Voice Hard to Understand?

A recent study suggests that less educated people–those who dropped out of school when they were 16–have a harder time understanding sentences written in the passive voice than those written in active voice.



Wednesday September 23/15

Today we’ll begin with 5 minutes of meditation.

Then we’ll return to the essay “Once More to the Lake”. At your tables, you will identify as many of the different literary devices, punctuation, stylistic techniques and rhetorical devices as you can. In addition to simply identifying them, be prepared to explain how they contribute to the meaning of the text. You should also look for sentence variety: simple, compound, complex, and compound complex sentences.

Then we will move on to the descriptive essay. If you are away, the lesson for the descriptive essay and a copy of the descriptive essay are on our elearning site.

Please come prepared to work on your projects tomorrow. Your second check in is this Friday.

Tuesday Sept 22/15

As part of our happiness project, we’re going to start today with a writing exercise that I think will be fun: First we’ll read the examples on this site and then see if we can each come up with some of our own.

Then we will discuss the narrative essay that you read yesterday.

We’ll discuss the elements of the essay that are narrative and the elements that are more like an essay.

Then in groups you will attempt to identify a number of different literary and stylistic elements in the essay and explain how they create meaning. (If you’re looking for a digital version of the essay please go to our elearning site.)

Monday September 21/15

As part of our happiness project, we’re going to start today with a writing exercise that I think will be fun: First we’ll read the examples on this site and then see if we can each come up with some of our own.

Your CCA novel choices are due today! Please submit your sheets to me.

We’re going to be going to 211 so that those of you who still need to fill out your check in form can do that and the rest of you can work on our narrative essay lesson while I conference with students.

When you get to the lab please log in to our elearning site.

Friday September 18/15

Today is your first check in for your formative projects. If you haven’t already done so, please go to our elearning site and fill out the check in form and then submit your check in to the dropbox (or hand it in to me).

Thursday September 18/15

Today’s focus is on punctuation, but we’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about it. I’m going to specifically focus on the semi-colon, but that’s not the only piece of punctuation you’re required to use effectively.

If you’re away today, go to our elearning site and you’ll find your “punctuation power pack”! It includes all the different types of punctuation you need to be able to use effectively by the end of unit 1.