Monday December 3

I’m away at a subject council meeting today so here’s what you’re working on:

Your thesis statement. (See Google Classroom) This is due today and so is your final synthesis paper.

How to Generate a Good Thesis Statement

A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes.
It will:

  1. take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, that is, there could be an equally valid counter-argument.
  2. deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment.
    develop one main idea.
  3. assert your conclusions about a subject.

Brainstorm your topic:

Write down everything you can think of that’s related to your topic. You have already done this, but you may wish to revisit your brainstorming and expand on initial ideas.

Narrow it down:

Review your brainstorming and look for ideas that come up more than once. Start making connections. Identify things that wouldn’t be obvious to most readers of the literary work upon first glance.

Can you take your topic and turn it into a question? (Please note: for the purposes of illustration only, Sherlock Holmes will be used in the next examples.)

For example, if you wanted to look at the role of Watson as a foil for Sherlock Holmes, you might ask “What function does Watson serve in the Sherlock Holmes novels?” Your next step is to answer the question. Your answer can become the basis for a thesis statement.

Take a position on the topic.
Watson’s primary role in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is as a foil for Sherlock Holmes.


Be specific.
What are Watson’s characteristics?
What are Holmes’s?
How does the author depict Holmes’s more unpleasant characteristics?
What are the specific words, phrases, or examples of imagery used?
What is the significance of having Watson as a narrator?
This might lead you to…


In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle positions John Watson as a loyal and sympathetic narrator, and foil, to contrast Sherlock Holmes’s more antisocial qualities, which both emphasizes Holmes’s quirky character traits, while giving the reader someone likable with whom they can identify.

This is much more complex than just saying “Watson’s role is as a foil.”

Thursday November 29

Make sure you completed the google form from yesterday. You will have time to work on your final synthesis paper if you choose to (it’s due Monday), but we’re going to gradually introduce Macbeth. We’ll start by discussing the learning goals and success criteria for the Macbeth unit which are going to mostly be focused on media expectations. Then I want you to begin your descent into the madness that is Macbeth by reading an article on morality. See “What Makes us Moral” in Google classroom.


Wednesday November 28

We’re going to start today by reviewing the learning goals for this unit:

Then you’ll work on your final synthesis paper.

Thursday November 22

Today we’re going to start by talking about how to improve your synthesis papers.

  1. MLA format
  2. Supporting your ideas with evidence from the text
  3. State, illustrate, explain.
  4. Integrating quotations into your writing.
  5. Drawing conclusions.

Then you can continue working on your next synthesis paper or reading journals.

Please read yesterday’s blog post from yesterday. It is the focus for your third and final set of reader’s journals.

Today you are working on your reader’s journal amd synthesis paper—both due Monday.

Tuesday November 20

Today we’re working on our synthesis papers and reader’s journals for your final meeting.

What should you be focusing on for your next set of reader’s journals?

The Power of Language

Language is powerful because it can affect us in a variety of ways:

Intellectually, by conveying ideas/impressions/suggestions to the reader. Imaginatively, by conveying sensory impressions to the reader, especially visual and auditory effects. Emotionally, by creating feelings within the reader, e.g. excitement, fear, pity, anger, suspense. Aesthetically, by appealing to the reader’s sense of what is beautiful in the language. Physically, this is much more difficult to achieve, but a text that takes the reader on a terrifying roller-coaster of events filled with horror and gore might create such physical manifestations such as goose bumps, or, in extreme cases, even nausea; particular words or phrases may help to generate the moments of high intensity which make this possible.

When analyzing an author’s use of language, you want to avoid writing things that are vague (i.e., “It creates interest.” or “It helps create an image in the reader’s mind.” or “It helps the writing flow.”). Instead, be very specific about the effect that it creates for the reader. Here is an example of a student analysis of language. Notice how the student states her point, illustrates with an example, and then elaborates.

The author begins by making a direct address to the reader (“you”), instantly involving the reader in what is about to be written. The phrase “if you dare” would certainly create suspense by suggesting that this could well be an exciting and thrilling read. The ellipsis after this challenge has the effect of further drawing the reader in. The author has also written the passage in the present tense, thus bringing the reader even closer to the event by creating the illusion of immediacy.

At the beginning of the next paragraph, the phrase “late at night” definitely helps to set the scene and establish an eerie atmosphere because it intimates danger, as does the heavily punctuated reference to being “alone”. The frequent mention of the main character’s preoccupation with his / her book also adds tautness to the writing as the reader has already been strongly encouraged to believe that this character should really be much more vigilant.

The author then further ratchets up the tension, and the reader’s emotional engagement with the writing, by use of the simile “the isolation which completely surrounds you and which clings to you like a second skin”. It encourages the reader to imagine how vulnerable the main character is by the fact that he/she is all alone and far removed from any possible source of help. Furthermore, the reference to “a second skin” may well conjure up in the reader’s imagination a fleeting impression of nakedness, thus further increasing the sense of this character’s vulnerability.

The metaphor “darkness devours” is further satisfying in both an imaginative and intellectual sense because it suggests that the night itself is also a nocturnal predator. Because the darkness is depicted as being so pervasive, it implies that there is danger everywhere and adds even more menace to the writing.

In this final chunk, your focus should be on the author’s use of language. You may wish to review this list of literary devices.  As you focus on language in this activity, consider the following quotation:

One important thing that can be learned by reading slowly is the seemingly obvious but oddly underappreciated fact that language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint. . . . it’s surprising how easily we lose sight of the fact that words are the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

-Francine Prose

Thursday November 15

Your synthesis paper is due tomorrow on Google classroom. You can work on it this period. One of the chromebooks was not plugged in last night though. As I reminded you, if you don’t plug in the chromebooks, it’s your class that you’re hurting because my grade 10s are working in the inquiry den for the next few weeks. Plugging in the Chromebooks is your job. I get that it’s a pain. Figure it out.

If you are done your synthesis paper, continuing to work on your reader’s journals (These must be submitted to Google Classroom before class on Monday).

Chromebooks must be put away and plugged in at the end of the period.


Tuesday November 13

Today you will be working on your synthesis paper. See Google classroom for more information.

Your focus for the next literature circle meeting will be characterization:

How do Writers Develop Characters?

For many readers, one of the greatest pleasures in reading comes from discovering compelling characters who we care about and want to know more about. Perhaps one of the reasons character-driven narratives are so compelling is because we can find reflections of ourselves in these fictional, but rich and complex characters. In following the journeys of these characters we discover truths about ourselves that are often

Character Types


Character changes over the course of the story e.g, Harry Potter goes from bullied orphan to powerful wizard.

This is an image of the character Harry Potter.


Character stays the same over the course of the story e.g., Scar from the Lion King begins as an evil remorseless villain and is still remorseless at the end of the movie.

This is an image of the character Scar from The Lion King.


Character has multiple and sometimes even contradictory character traits e.g., Hamlet is philosophical and intelligent but he can make rash and hasty choices and get caught up in his emotions.

This image is of the character Hamlet.


Character only has one or two character traits. He or she lacks depth and complexity. This may result in a fairly stereotypical character. E.g., Ursula the Sea Witch from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

This is an image of the character Ursula from The Little Mermaid.


Character with whom we identify. He or she is the one who faces a conflict which must be resolved. Sometimes he or she is referred to as the “hero”, but is not necessarily “heroic.” Nick Carraway is the narrator and protagonist of The Great Gatsby, but he is not heroic. He is complex and has many character flaws. Additionally, he is more of an observer than a participant in the romantic storyline of the novel.

This is a photograph of actor Tobey Maguire in the role of Nick Carraway from the most recent film version of The Great Gatsby.


The character in opposition to the protagonist. Sometimes he or she is called the villain, but is not necessarily villainous. Hank is the brother-in-law of Walter White in the TV show Breaking Bad. Walter is making and selling drugs, and Hank is trying to catch drug dealers. While Hank is a “good guy” for much of the show, he functions as an antagonist.

This is a photograph of actor, Dean Norris, in the role of Hank Schrader from the TV show, Breaking Bad.

Character Traits

Character traits are the words we use to describe a character’s non-physical attributes. Look at this chart for a list of character traits:traits-list


An author can develop characters in ways that are direct or indirect. Direct characterization occurs when an author tells the reader about specific traits a character has. E.g., Dan was bold and decisive. This is often not as effective as indirect characterization, where we learn about a character through his or her actions, what the character says, and what other characters say about him or her. E.g., Dan stood up and put both hands down on the long boardroom table. All eyes turned to him. “Here’s what will happen,” he began. Another way to think of indirect characterization is “showing” rather than “telling.” This allows the reader to form his or her own conclusions about the character.


Which characters are dynamic or static? Which are round or flat? Identify the protagonist and antagonist. What are they like? Does your protagonist have a foil? If so, which traits does the foil highlight?

Does your narrator use indirect or direct characterization? Which is more effective and why?

Has the author created any unlikable characters? Why do you think the author may have made this choice?