Monster essay topic

Monster essay outline


I created a slideshow of the project pictures over at them here (there’s also a link on the Farmers’ market page).

Pumpkin chocolate chip recipe below! 🙂

For those of you who wanted the recipe for the muffins I brought to class, here it is!


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.)pure pumpkin (canned or fresh)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (you can also use applesauce for lower fat muffins)
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease thirty-six 2 1/2-inch muffin cups or line with paper bake cups.

Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Combine eggs and sugar in large bowl. Add pumpkin and oil; mix well. Stir in flour mixture until moistened. Stir in morsels. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes; remove from pans.

This chapter was pretty interesting because I haven’t really encountered the process by which children learn about stories. It makes perfect sense that prior to coming to school, children learn a lot about stories without ever even knowing how to read. By listening to parents’ accounts of events and hearing books read to them, children do learn about the nature of stories. Who knew that kids were learning about such complicated ideas known as “sequentiality” and “canonicity”? Well done, kiddos! 🙂 Of course, their knowledge of stories is very limited and basic, but the ideas that stories are in order of something happening, that they are about a particular event or person, or that something is done because of an intention are obviously ideas that kids would learn through listening to stories told orally. 

This chapter really supported the idea that was found in Cecilia Espinosa’s article, that writing is something that is cultivated. This chapter focuses on that idea that writing is cultivated over time, and that it may take some students longer than others to understand a certain writing concept. This is an obvious thought, but the problem lies in how we teach these different levels of students. Every teacher, regardless of grade level, deals with this on a daily basis. How do we reach several different levels of students within the same class without going over the heads of some kids and making it too easy for others? This is where the author really focused on using pairing and groupwork to scaffold learning. She also taught a lot of mini-lessons that could be effective for a child no matter what level; the teaching could be construed in many ways depending on where they were in their writing skills. 

I loved all the examples given by the author; it’s very helpful to be able to actually see what you’re reading about. Since I’m not all that familiar with younger children’s writing, this chapter was interesting for me to read. I could actually see myself wanting to work with younger children at some point…I feel like it’d be amazing to be able to work with kids who are just starting their writing process and be able to instill some love for writing early on. So many times I feel like I am trying to repair old wounds of my high schoolers and forcing them to re-think writing when, for many of them, they’ve had too many years of bad writing experiences to start over again!

*Finding Memorable Moments: My favorite part of this article was the phrase “exploding a moment.” So many times when I ask students to write, they write the bare minimum, only giving me surface details. Espinosa’s explanation of Galo’s writing and how he “exploded a moment…by filling in details and stretching a key event…” is so real to me. I think I will be using this phrase in future classes to really get kids to WRITE in detail, using every sensory image they can think of.

I also really enjoyed the way writing was looked at in this article, as something that is cultivated rather than imposed: “children do not invent literacy anew; rather, they are socialized into literacy with interactions with their literate communities.” I have mentioned this in previous entries, but one of the biggest things that I’ve gotten out of this class is how much writing is a social activity. Sure, it’s a personal activity as well, but writing & reading are means of communication between humans that have existed for thousands of years!!! As a teacher, it would be cruel of me to expect that a student already know how to write well, and then to make them write by themselves for the duration of the class.

The author also mentioned that many different forms of memoir can take place in a classroom; it doesn’t have to be a narrative story. It could be a series of poems, vignettes (like House on Mango Street) or in journal format. This pulls in the multi-genre aspect of memoir! I like how writing is taking shape in other forms throughout classrooms; this is so much more realistic for children, no matter their age! I think the activities detailed in this article would work well in most classrooms. 

*Graphic Novels for (Really) Young Readers: I think it’s great that more librarians are researching books that kids are interested in and supplying them for students to check out. This is what librarians are for; they should support literacy in schools and supply children with a variety of genres to instill a love for reading. I agree with her statement, “graphic novels give the brain more of a workout per sentence than any other type of media, including conventional books.” I don’t have much experience reading graphic novels (although I did LOVE Archie comics as a kid!) and in reading the few for this class, my brain definitely worked a lot harder to make sense of the images and putting plot together with them. 

*A Study of Memoir: First of all, I love the fact that Arnberg’s students had 3rd grade writing buddies! How cool is that?! Arnberg really shows through this article how passionate she is about her students and in her role as a writer in her own classroom. Immersing herself for a whole summer in learning more about memoir and writing her own shows how into this assignment she was. I thought it was really interesting how Arnberg allowed students to take responsibility for this unit starting from the beginning; she never defined the genre for them but instead sent them on a hunt of sorts for them to learn themselves. We’ve talked about this a lot in this course, and I really feel that this is the best way for students to learn. One of my credos as a teacher is to be a “guide on the side, not a sage on stage.” I don’t know where I first heard this, but I’ve tried to stick closely to this as I teach. Arnberg even refers to her students as “researchers.” I bet those students loved being given this title! 

*Wordless Books: No-Risk Tools…This article was helpful for me in understanding how wordless books could have advantages in a classroom. This genre is probably one that I’d have trouble integrating into my classroom, but reading this article gave me a lot of ideas and helped to clear up some confusion I had. First of all, it confirmed that wordless books would be extremely helpful to ESL students to “process concepts and guiding them through the structure of the plot.” I imagine it would be very effective to teach someone who isn’t a fluent English speaker to see the story in another way…it would help them to transition into word-ful (ha) books. I also enjoyed reading about how they can be used in cross-age tutoring and in introducing a unit in older classrooms. This is how I can see myself using these books, if they are available for the units I’m teaching!

*Story Development using Wordless Picture Books: Wow, this seemed like a really powerful activity. I actually mentioned wanting to do this in a high school classroom after reading Owly, but reading about 2nd graders doing it just shows how this activity would help students of any age. There would be so much a student could learn from doing this, no matter what their level or ability. In 2nd grade, according to this article, the focus was on learning how to write complete sentences, make a meaningful story, use quotation marks & punctuation, etc. The activity could be just as effective in middle or high school but the focus would be on something different. For example, the focus could be on using dialogue, imagery or literary elements, plot elements such as conflict & climax, etc.

I have been MIA from the blogosphere for the past couple of weeks, so here’s my attempt to catch up on what I’ve been reading and thinking about: 

*To Dance: What a beautiful memoir. I loved reading this and enjoyed experiencing a new kind of memoir writing. The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking how fun this would be to do in a high school classroom. Students could take the story of Siena and her dancing career and relate to many aspects of their own lives. For me, I related her experiences to my own in playing volleyball. You could take this in so many directions, and for those students who are so artistically inclined, this would be such a powerful assignment. I have to say, my favorite parts were when Siena worried about growing “boobs” after seeing her relatives-HA! Too funny…I also really enjoyed the part about seeing the football game and comparing it to ballet. The last line of the book was beautiful: “Dancing fills a space in me.” I really think that this would be an awesome prompt to get kids thinking about their own memoir…to ask them “what fills a space in you?”

*Owly: I have to admit, right off the bat I had trouble following this book because of the lack of words. I found myself going back to previous frames to “re-read” them so that I could follow the story. However, I can really see how this would be an extremely effective book for certain types of kids. I especially thought of ESL kids, although I’ve never worked with them so I can’t say for sure. One idea I had when reading this was to have kids make up words and a story to make sense with the pictures. This would be a very fun activity to do especially with a creative writing class. 

*My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother: Very cute story. I love how all of Patricia Polacco’s books are based on her true-life experiences. It is very powerful when reading a book like this to be able to show students that this author wrote about her life and they can do that too. Even though I have a younger brother and not an older one like Polacco, I was definitely able to relate. It’s so funny how when growing up, at least for me, you can’t stand your siblings. I remember thinking so many times how much I disliked my brother because of how he treated me, but I “loved” him only because he was family. In some twisted way, I think that this kind of experience only serves to make a sibling bond stronger. My brother and I are very close now, just like Polacco and her brother ended up, and the teasing and torturing and fighting is a funny memory now. 

*Shortcut: I loved the illustrations in this book. I wasn’t able to relate to this one quite as much as Polacco’s, probably because I’ve just never experienced something like that. However, the main thing I liked about reading this book was the use of images and sounds. Crews really made sure to draw the reader in by giving adequate visual & audial clues, from use of dialogue and description to the “klakity-klak” at the beginning and the “whoo-woo” sound of the train whistle, I felt more involved in the story. I think this is really important to do when writing a memoir because many times, the reader won’t have experienced what you’re writing about. You have to somehow hook the reader into thinking that they did, or at least get the reader to play the images in his or her head while reading.

Apparently I’ve been doing multigenre projects for years now without knowing what they were–COOL! My desire to do them simply stemmed for a desire to do something different with my students. I was tired of seeing eyes rolling and blank stares when I handed out a test or assigned an essay prompt. The first year I did this, I got such great feedback and students mentioned it often in their end-of-course surveys as a memorable project, so I know that it is effective. 

I loved the proposal on page 32. I know this is a random thing to point out from all the reading, but it is something I’m definitely going to use. Usually I have students write a paragraph about what they plan on doing, but inevitably I get responses like, “I plan on doing the electronic scrapbook because I love to scrapbook and this choice sounds cool.” That’s it. Using this proposal form, I’ll be able to elicit more detailed responses. 

The possible genre list on page 5 was also extremely helpful. Some of these will definitely be added to my choice lists.

As I was reading the last sections of this book, the thought kept popping up about how real-world applicable this is. On page 105, the discussion between Suzette and Nancy shows how these projects mimic real job projects. “Lots of discussion…”, “lots of little conferences…”, “they need time to brainstorm…” are all things that happen in the workplace. You won’t ever find an employer who says, “Ok, I need an ad campaign by friday. Please write a 5 paragraph essay about what you plan to do.” No! You would come up with a multimedia presentation similar to a multigenre project. Students will find this so helpful. I have students ask me all the time, “when am I ever going to use this stuff?” in talking about what happens after school. If students are able to find a connection to real-life, it becomes REAL to them; therefore, they’ll put more of themselves into the project and really take responsibility for how it turns out.

As far as state standards go, this is such a cool way to sneak in those standards without the students even knowing about it. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to “teach to the test.” Students will pick up on those needed skills if you teach them ways to teach themselves rather than giving them boring tasks.  

I really enjoyed this text, and I especially appreciated the authors providing plenty of student examples. I love that this is an idea that spans across grade levels and can be equally as effective in elementary as in upper grades.

UPDATE (because I know you ALL were on the edges of your seats waiting for my decision 🙂 
I think I have decided to research farmers’ markets because it’s such a specific area of the local food movement. Researching local food in general would have been too vague, in my opinion; this way, I already have it narrowed down. As far as projects go, I know already that I’m doing a recipe book based on foods & produce found at farmers markets, but I’m not quite sure what else I plan to do. At least I’ve been “researching” this topic for years now 🙂

**I’ve now created a page devoted to this project, where there will be more in-depth info**

I have to admit, I’m one of those teachers mentioned by Zemelman and Daniels in the article who “dreads term papers as much as students do.” Many times, it’s because the teachers are given as little flexibility as the students; at the previous school I taught at, for example, the research in the 10th grade HAD to be about authors, and because the library at this school was severely lacking in interesting books, students were limited to the “classic” authors they cared little about. This isn’t the case at my current school, although the new “graduation project” that’s recently been introduced has cause a flurry of panic among students. Another reason is because students aren’t familiar with the research process, especially when they’re expected to use books (GASP! Those antiquated things!)
<Sidenote: There’s actually an interesting article about this subject that I sometimes read to my students and discuss with them…It came from Newsweek: I find it pretty interesting. I usually use it with my students right before we do research, and then we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of books vs. internet.>

Anyway, back to the article…I really do like the idea of the multigenre project. It definitely is more real-world applicable. It’s authentic literacy, and really would help students understand a subject better. However, in thinking about doing this project with my students, particularly the college-bound students, I worry about their preparation for college. There’s always a great debate going on in my head about this: sure, my first choice is always to do the “fun” activities; those that help students synthesize and apply their knowledge of a subject. But once they get to college, they’ll be expected to do the “dreaded term paper,” and if they’ve never encountered it before, then it will be more difficult for them. I can definitely see this project being more interesting to students, however, and it’s something that can be spread over the span of several weeks instead of crammed into several days. It allows for more creativity and student choice,  something that I’ve found to be KEY in teaching.

I agree that there may be problems with the types of genres and the grading components, especially the issue of consistency throughout classes if more than one teacher does this as a major assignment. As seen on page 531 of article, there are a lot of genres to choose from, so it may be especially effective to let students choose what they do. As the teacher, you’d have to make sure that the choices are equal and that rubrics are set for each. I actually do a multigenre project already…for certain novels, instead of writing a huge essay at the end, I’ll give students a list of projects to choose from: a newspaper, a TV interview, a scrapbook, an alphabet book, a children’s book, a diary from character, a movie poster, movie soundtrack with song lyrics, etc. Students love having choices and they love having the option of choosing what they do. Of course, just like the author showed in the project list, I also give them the option of actually writing that essay–and surprisingly some students take that option, but not many, of course! It’s definitely a way to hit all the multiple intelligences AND differentiate instruction for all the different levels in the classroom. It’s always interesting to me how many students go above and beyond with these assignments–they don’t just choose the “easiest” one–they choose the one that challenges them and interests them the most.

As soon as I got home from class tonight, I walked in and, since my husband had already eaten dinner, looked in my freezer for a quick dinner option. I found a Kashi frozen pizza (so yummy), and when I got the box out to start preparing it, found a haiku printed on the outside of the box! Now, I’m not sure if this really could be considered a true Haiku since it technically isn’t about nature or seasons (unless you want to count frozen food as “nature”) but I thought it was too funny that we had just talked about them throughout class, and here was one where I least expected it 🙂 the box even had a brief description of what Haiku was along with the Haiku:

Stone-fired pizza
Heavenly whole grain goodness
Earth’s bountiful gift