Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ENGLISH

English this year meant my favourite teacher, my favourite classroom and my favourite subject! We covered lots, including units called ready Steady Read, Fights and Frights, Sub-zero Survival and How deep do you See?. At the beginning of the year we sat a PAT pretest and I got Merit, which was fine, and my formal text test got me a 4+ Merit!
Early on we looked at Corporal Punishment and a written letter form a Past Pupil to a very old teacher who had once used Corporal Punishment against him. We wrote a letter supposedly a reply, and here is mine.

"Dear “Past Pupil”,
It fills me with an unexplainable guilt that you should feel the urge to write to me after all these years, only to remind me of one particular day that obviously has never been erased from your memory. I confess, that day is etched crystal-clear in my mind too, so I thought it prudent to reply with my deepest apologies.
Can you please try to see it from my point of view too? Strapping naughty children was school policy, and, as far as I was concerned, proper punishment to encourage discipline back then. Never did it cross my mind that grey day that you really might have finished your work.
I have changed now. A year ago, I will have you know, I discarded my ancient looking, worn, weathered, now brown-stitched strap. I hoped, at the time, it would wipe the memory you reminded me of from my mind, but it didn’t.
I’m a headmaster now, in a modern school, who wears clothes like other people. I don’t believe in corporal punishment anymore, and you can be sure that I will do all I can to ensure an enjoyable school experience for your son.
I wasn’t happy that day, twenty-five years ago, and I suppose when I saw you out of your seat I “flipped”. I am extremely sorry for what I did. The muck in the gutter must have been hot, yes?
I punished many students over the years and perhaps it was because you never cried that I haven’t been able to rid myself of the dominating guilt that has remained with me ever since. It made me angrier then, but your courage was admirable.
I would like to make peace and thank you for your letter because I no longer live in regret, strange as it may seem. It has put my mind at rest; I hope that you will find the strength to forgive and forget.
With deepest respect,
Yours Sincerely,
Mr Cairney."

In formal writing it is important to:
* Address the reader appropriately
* Use an impressive vocabulary
* Avoid contractions and abbreviations
* Lay out your ideas correctly
* Make sure each paragraph only deals with one point
* Edit your work for spellings, pnctuation and grammar.
* Do not use slang or colloquial language
* And use persuasive writing techniquies.

Language Techniques:

Hyperbole, imperative, onomatopeia, jargon, oxymoron, alliteration, rhetorical question, allusion, cliche, euphemism, metaphor, personification, simile, connotation, emotive language, figurative language, colloquialism, stereotype, synonym, pun and listing.

We all remember the bushfires that raged through Australia this February. It was our job to write a speech, written as though we were the Prime Minister of Australia, comforting the people.

"I address, in this time of tragedy, the people of Australia and those involved wit the Victorian bushfires.
The nation of Australia suffers from both natural and believed to be man made fires. The land is being swallowed with a sizzle and a pop but we will fight, fellow Australians. We will save our country because it is our home.
I am regrettably forced to announce the death toll, which is approximately 200 at the present time, as well as 7000 homeless families. The horrendous suffering cannot be overlooked and to all those people who have lost someone near and dear to them, I give you my very deepest sympathy and uttermost respect.
To the firefighters out there, sacrificing your lives, you are the bravest people I have known who will not see your Australia burning. You are all heroes in your own right and Australia acknowledges your work and thanks you from the bottom of our hearts.
We believe that arsonists have contributed to some of the fires and we do not thank these incredibly obscene people, for they have done permanent damage to Australia and its people. For such vile acts I hope you are filled with remorse and regret.
Lastly, I would like to say to my fellow Australians that we will come through this together. There is hope and so we must continue to support each other, for we are united and this nightmare is happening to every one of us. Hold onto your dreams; one day this will end.
Thankyou."

Next we looked at connotations and the stereotypes that go with them. Good and evil characters were developed from this, launching us into our next unit, Fights and Frights. For this, our task was to create a gaming character, a villain and a good main character and storyboard some events. My game was set in an underwater world. The project got me an Excellence!

""Wet" Paul Caveitei is a piranha, Wilhelmina Grace, a blue cod, and her blue cod family, Jacob, Jasper and Gertrude Grace. Then there are the Sprat Brats and Mr Mista the swordfish.

"Meet Paul Caveitei, The Graces, Gertrude, jacob, Jasper and wilhemina, The sprat Brats and Mr Mista and explore this fishy world of good and evil, and of love and hate with this exclusive new electronic game! Limited Stock.
Paul Caveitei looks just like his Mum. They both have sharp teeth they can be proud of; they are both piranhas! Eet Paul was born in the Deep Blue Sea, rumoured to be near Washington. But his childhood consisted of hate, jealousy and failure once he failed Dentist's College. Dentistry was his life's ambition and since, the Wet Ones say he has been jealous of EVERYTHING. The Sprat Brats reckon he has inhuman speed and can make victims tell the truth, detecting lies like a lie detector. Paul lives in a cave and loves revenge as it makes him feel superior, yet he hates his life because he has no friends. Wilhelmina Grace, Paul's neighbour, is the most beautiful, elegant blue cod in history and she has a copper scale that everyone knows Paul will do anything to get. Truth is, Paul's great with kids and would like to be a grandpa someday. Is Paul as tough as he seems? And is Wilhelmina in danger?"

click to enlarge

"Paul Caveitei could never have sidekicks because he prefers to operate alone. 'You rely on no-one and no-one relies on you,' he says. Paul thinks having a sidekick would slow you down and you would have to share your loot with them, which he cringes in distaste at the idea of.
Yet Paul's big on enemies. The whole of the Underwater World fears and hates the horrible piranha, but his uttermost rival would have to be Wilhelmina Grace, he says. 'She shows off with her horrid copper scale, which is, by the way, turning green and making her look even uglier, against her blues scales. I hate her.'"


Following this we moved onto Film Techniques. To learn to recognize Wide, Long, Mid, Close Up and Extreme Close Up shots, we got to watch Prince Caspian from the Chronicles of Narnia! I love that movie. Later, I adapted part of the movie, which is based upon the book, into writing again...

"I woke up feeling refreshed, and suddenly all the burdens of the day before left me. All the feelings of being unbelieved, unhappiness; they all vanished when I opened my eyes to the peaceful green canopy of the forest above me, the sun peeking through to see if I was awake yet. I felt the bracken and fern under me and I got up slowly and quietly, so as not to wake the others, and stretched. I smelled the good sweet scent of the forest and tip toed away to absorb it all, glancing back at Trumpkin, Susan, Edmund and Peter, sleeping peacefully, scattered over the forest floor like spilt breadcrumbs, all curled towards the last embers of the fire we had made, that, on this glorious morning, was no more.
Yet peace was all around me. I advanced, fumbling around, trying to touch every last fern frond. Wet with dew, the plants soaked up the sun around me, breathing ... living.
I turned a corner, feeling no fear, gazing in disbelief and awe as a tree moved and blossom petals of spring and hope fluttered down towards my face. I smiled as an updraught caught them and they assembled faultlessly into the familiar figure of a person I knew so well.
The trees around me creaked and groaned, like bears awakening after a cold, winter's grasp. Imagine what it would be like to hibernate and be aroused ... to this. The beauty of the day was all around me. I listened to the leaves rustling, breathed in the fresh cool air and quietly watched, gratefully, as the trees moved to make way for me, Queen Lucy of Narnia. They bowed down to me and I wandered through the path their formation had created.
Nimbly I clambered up the bank in eagerness to see what I was sure I would see. Excitement made me clumsy. I rounded a huge tree and there in the sunlit clearing I found, the light making his mane even more golden, Aslan. "Aslan! Oh, Aslan," I whispered. He turned towards me and I ran up and gave him a bear hug. We lay and talked for a while, enjoying the morning and then suddenly the atmospere changed.
I snapped my eyes open. It was cold and I was with the others, still sleeping, I noticed. Where was Peter? The sun shone but its face frostily observed us. I got up and made my way where I had been filled with such joy just moments before. It had all been a dream, yet I traced my path, hoping with all my might that I would see Aslan, yet something was wrong. I walked through the forest, stopping at a big tree. Why weren't they dancing? I ran my fingers over the bark. "Please wake up," I breathed."


"Recipe for Granda's Delicious Conflict Cookies.
In order to make these truly satsfying fight scene cookies, take:

A mixture of Griffins goodies and Griffins baddies that are strong and brave,
Dress them in silver armour and glinting, metal weapons,
Give them a sword and shield,
Surround them with supporters and fighters,
Make sure the camera angles are always changing to add interest,
Use a lot of wide shots to emphasize quantity,
write them some dialogue that makes them seem grave and ready to kill,
Direct the actors to release their arrows simultaneously,
Add a dollop of fear,
And a dash of humour,
Mix it all together with some slow motion editing.
Bake in a hot oven then ice with medieval, string music,
And sprinkle with clashing metal sound effects.
Double the recipe and add plenty of icing and sprinkles for a battle scene.
Enjoy!
NB: For a special result, add a dab of blood."

After this we did a special study on Dracula (the novel by Bram Stoker). We didn't read the whole book, although our teacher summarised it for us and told us about the most important bits. We started at the part when Dracula the vampire writes to the lawyers requesting a visit. We each had to adapt it and write our own letter, hence Task #1.

"Garlish Residence
Carpathian Mountains
Transylvania

Tuesday 9 November 1888

Dear Sirs,
After much thought, I have concluded that it is prudent for me to move to a new country to acquire new tastes and see the world. I am interested in residing in England, and, after hearing of your professional company I decided to propose your most accomplished lawyers an offer.
Over the years I have obtained much money. I require one of your lawyers to come and stay with me to advise me on purchasing some English property. I realise it is a long journey and I apologize, but if I had not discovered your company I'm afraid I may have made a great mistake.
I would be a welcoming host, and you would be more than welcome to hunt on my large estate. I have pheasants and a lot of other wild game. Of course, your company and guidance would be greatly appreciated.
I am looking for a mansion, something secluded, perhaps, and shady. I like to have lots of room for all my spectacular Dracula artefacts!
I would, of course, pay you very well; hundreds of pounds, perhaps, but could you please come and see me in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania? I will be sending my servant to meet you in three weeks at the Slaughtered Lamb Inn.
Hence gratefully waiting,
Count Dracula."

Next we were told about the part when Jonathan Harker, a lawyer, is sent on his way to Dracula's manor. This is my interpretation.

"16 September 1886.
Digesting my exquisitely divine supper!
Wrapping my weathered, fur traveling cloak tighter around my shivering body, I stepped out into the frosty night and began my journey.
Eventually I made it to the Slaughtered Lamb Inn and glanced nervously around. The inn was full of drunkards and the bored bartender slowly polished a dirty glass with an even grimier cloth. In the dim light of the lit candles I saw everyone trying to hide their interest in this young English traveler, but I took no notice. Taking a seat, I asked for a goblet of whisky, which I drank without touching the dusty rim to my lips. Thirstily I glugged it down, my parched throat feeling a little better.
I was just about to order a couple more drinks when I stopped myself for two reasons. One, I shouldn't like to be drunk while being introduced to this wealthy Count, and two, at that moment I noticed a well-dressed man step out of the gloom. "Jonathan Harker?" he rasped at me, and cautiously I replied,“Yes?”
“Come with me,” he said, and, nodding to the curious onlookers on both sides, he led me out the door. I glanced back at the people there, but they had lost interest and gone back to their drinking. Their tired eyes above dark circles portrayed their lost flame of love for life; no hope twinkled inside them. And with this, I went out and shut the door.
I climbed into the polished carriage, shiny brass wheels matching the brass d├ęcor inside. Making myself comfortable, I moved to the far side, leaning my head against the cool glass and sighing.
A spark of excitement penetrated me then, after all, I was young, engaged and seeing the world, only to be hosted by a wealthy Count! Though I shall not deny the voice in my head that kept telling me something was wrong. I shushed it, persuading myself to believe that it was just the dark, misty night, the full moon and the howls of supposedly wild dogs that I could now hear. My eyelids grew heavy, but I started when I was sure that I had just seen a wolf less than four or five yards away. I shivered involuntarily, and imagined a whole pack joining their alpha in singing to the moon, howling a haunting wail, raising goose bumps on my body and sending a chill up my spine.
We passed tree after tree and soon my brain became too tired, and so I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew was that the carriage had stopped. I peered out the window and saw a breathtaking sight. I gasped at the tall, concrete castle and the lit doorway, in which I could see the silhouette of an aged man. Count Dracula."

Task #3 was the next diary entry, all of which we later put together to recreate the supposed diary. Here it is.

"16 September 1886.
Waiting for sleep in my starched green bed.
My eyelids grew heavy as Count Dracula and I stared into the fire. Silently he got up and huskily implied that I should be going to bed.
A silver bell sat on the mantelpiece. The Count rang it and shuffling footsteps made me look at the door, where an ancient man hobbled into view.
In a persuasive whisper, Count Dracula commanded the butler to take me to my room. I felt discombobulated but feigned gratefulness as I retreated, following the old man who looked like he might topple backwards onto me at any moment up the stairs. He told me that under no circumstances was I to leave my room, and with that, he locked me in!
My room smelt musty. The walls were a dark, sap green, causing spooky shadows in all the corners. As I glanced around me, I realized that the room was pentagonal. One side of course, supported the door, the second, old cupboards. The third held a chest of drawers, as long as the wall, and the fourth, a great glass window. Lastly, to my right, lay the large king-sized bed. There was no shortage on luxury, but it wasn't the kind I had always dreamed of as a child.
My traveling bag lay on the bed, so I started unpacking. At least it gave me something to do with my hands, which were shaking, whether from the extreme cold, or fear, I wasn't sure. I had never suffered from claustrophobia before, least of all in a spacious room like this, but perhaps the darkness of the walls made it feel smaller. Or maybe I was just being silly.
And with that, I took my few belongings and placed them in a shallow drawer. The whole chest was coated in dust.
Sneezing, I moved to the creaky cupboards. They were made of oak, two of them. I expected the doors to squeak, but they appeared to be well oiled.
Just then, something fell off its perch and fluttered to the wooden cupboard floor. I suppressed a gasp, realizing it was just a moth. Still, my heart hammered for an eternity before I went to gaze out the window."

Lastly, Jonathan's exit form the castle.

"4 October 1886.
Waiting for luncheon in my hospital bed.
My story is dramatic, and I can still feel the fear I felt that night I looked death in the face. I had spent at least two weeks at the castle and could not continue to deny that something was very, very wrong. I was mystified as to where the Count slept each night. I never heard him outside of my locked door. What bothered me most was that I once caught a glimpse of him in the mirror, but he had had no reflection. He had turned his chilling gaze upon me and I had looked away, my face burning. Dracula could not be human. It was time to face the truth. If the Count was some strange beast, I still didn't feel comfortable with him subtly holding me prisoner each night. And when had I ever seen the Count and the butler in the same room? I wanted to go home. I needed to leave, and so, on this frosty, moonlit evening, I packed my traveling case. I decided against taking the whole thing, and opted for a sack I found in the wardrobe, tied with frayed rope. I took a candle stub and some matches, an overcoat, a hunk of cheese saved from supper and a flask of water, tying the rope around my waist, my fingers failing to work properly. I glanced out the window and my breath caught in my throat. I stopped myself from making a noise and turned away to try and control myself. What I had just seen was not real! Holding my breath, I moved to the window and looked down. My stomach swooped because it was so high, and, directly below me, crawling down the castle wall, headfirst, his cape billowing out behind him like the wings of a bat, was Count Dracula. He moved silently and quickly, and what with the full moon and the howling of the wild dogs, things were somewhat eerie. My room no longer felt safe, and I jumped when a cricket moved in the corner.
I tried in vain at the door, which would not yield. My window was too high to jump from, and what with the Count, I couldn't have anyway.
Looking in the wardrobe, I found a wire coat hanger and jiggled the end through the keyhole, successfully picking the lock.
I had not had much of a chance to explore the castle before, but picturing its layout in my head, I worked out that I needed to head to the bottom before I would find an exit at the back. Surely all castles had a fire exit in the kitchen? Praying the chef would be somewhere else, anywhere but the kitchen, I ran down the stairs. It was then I realized I was making funny noises, and stopped immediately in case someone heard me. Taking another careful step onto the landing, the floorboards suddenly gave way beneath me and I fell down to the third floor. My ankle throbbed and in the gloom I saw that a big purple bruise was swelling. It was painful, but I knew that someone would be down here soon, so I used an old creaky table to help myself up. I was in what appeared to be another spare bedroom. It looked like someone had been murdered here. Blood spattered the walls and cockroaches ruled in this kingdom of doom.
Crying in defeat, I wondered if I would ever get out of this hole. It was when I heard a footstep in the hall outside that I froze and my brain kicked into action. I was going to get out of here, and I was never coming back.
The footsteps grew louder, but thankfully, they were slow. Perhaps it was the butler? A shadow appeared in the crack under the big wooden door and I knew that I had to hide, or perhaps my time on earth would expire tonight. I peered into the darkest corner of the room. Was that a box I could see? I tip-toed over, grateful for somewhere to hide, but my blood ran cold when I saw that it was a coffin. The teak lid lay slightly askew, and I could see that the coffin was empty. Why on earth would the Count keep a coffin in his house? Unless… Judging by the crumpled fabric inside, I guessed this was the Count's bed. Ugh! No way did I want to get in there!
A second had passed while I had mulled this over, and the door behind me was now being slowly heaved open a crack. I jumped into the coffin, closing the lid over me. It smelt salty inside, like blood.
My hearing confirmed that it was indeed the butler who had come to say goodnight to the Count, and murmuring his farewell, he left. I forced myself to stay for the time being, until I was absolutely sure that he had gone. And then I pushed at the door myself. It was very heavy. I took a break, picking up a small piece of mirror shard. My eyes were filled with fear and my face was drenched in beads of sweat.
I charged across the room. Shoved the big door open. Squeezed myself through the minute opening I had created. I was in a dark hallway, and down the corridor, yes! The kitchen!
It was light here, but far from cheery. Animal carcasses hung form the ceiling, strung up with barbed wire. Where was the fire exit? It was like a nightmare-slaughter-house. Would my dead body be hanging in here too, tomorrow? I thought, as I caught a glimpse of old-fashioned dressed human bodies. As soon as I thought it I rebuked myself, because I was determined to get out of here at any cost and be with my Mina again. I proceeded, taking in that the walls were thinning and they were now made out of very thin wood. Balsa?
At the end of the kitchen I spied a crack in the weather boards and pulled them apart with bloody fingernails. And then I felt it. Freedom. The cool breeze blew in my face, but fearful that the Count could probably smell me, I sprinted toward the gate. It was a high, wrought iron one, and I had never been one for climbing, but, afraid for my life, I swarmed up the first yard. Hopefully, I moved my left foot for a better position, and that, I think, was when I slipped. It was so cold that my right hand nearly froze to the bar because I was holding on far too tightly, and with two limbs in pain, I had no choice but to let go. I landed in the wet grass on my tailbone, which the doctor says I fractured, and it took me a while to get back up again. By that time, I was shivering violently and soaked to the skin.
I thought then that I might give up. How many obstacles had I faced already? How many more were there to come? And then I saw Mina, heard her voice, changing the question to, “How many obstacles have you overcome?” And it was you, dear Mina, who got me to try again.
I did get over that gate, though how, I just don't know. My hands were blistered and cold when I hit the ground again, but I was on the other side! I hobbled down the lane like an old man, glancing back once, at the darkened castle, at my room, which the Count had put in the highest turret. There was a faint glow, my candle, then a shadow, which flitted over to the window. The butler! I ran faster than I ever had before. Down the lane and through the gorse I moved, anxious and frightened. Surely someone would be after me?
A short while later, I came to a rusty signpost. The words were hand-painted, and hard to make out in the darkness. The left arrow said, “Right Way”, and the right arrow said, “Wrong Way”. I was sure it must be another of Dracula’s tricks, so I chose “Wrong Way”, which must surely be the way of escape. I walked on, pausing only to sip at my flask. But I couldn’t slow my pace yet. I limped on until I realized I was knee-deep in thick, oozy mud. I could feel my eyelids closing and I realized I would die stuck, like a statue. Every part of me hurt very much, but, nevertheless, I lifted one foot after the other, retracing my steps. I took a fall into the mud once, and spluttering I struggled to remember which way I was meant to be going. Almost in a trance, I ploughed on in the only direction I could think of: forwards. Surely the bog must shallow out soon? I thought. And sure enough, it did. Within an hour of escaping I found myself in the forest, and on dry ground, which was such a huge relief that I didn’t realize I was lost for quite some time. I heard the howl of wolves and sat down in despair. At least, I think I did, because all I can remember after that is pitch-black darkness. Nothing at all."

These pieces of writing, were perhaps, my best for the whole year, if not, my best pieces of writing ever! My one regret is my silly mistake of putting two full moons into the story within the space of only a couple of weeks, but when I realised this was better writing from me than usual, I became very pleased! Reading this, both my mum and my dad were very impressed. My mum didn't pick up at first that I had written it! The highlight of this assignment? My grade. In the English department they mark assignments on a number scale. Up to 6, a 5 is a very good Excellence grade, while a 6 is outstanding, but rarely given out in Year 9. I was awarded a 6+ Excellence! Later, these same pieces of writing were submitted my teacher, getting me a place at a special Achiever's Breakfast. She submitted it for the end of year school magazine too, so I look forward to seeing that in print soon!

I thought I might as well scan up my drawing of Dracula too!


Last term we watched Edward Scissorhands as an entry to our focus on rejection or differences. It led on to us doing Static Images on this concept. I was pretty happy with mine...

click to enlarge

The static image earned me an Excellence.

"Stranded in the Desert" was a piece of writing I wrote with the basic idea given to me, to start us on the unit which would have us reading Holes (by Louis Sachar).

"The gas exhalants from the back of the ute left me blinded and gagging for breah. Spluttering, I followed, but heat waves wobbled before my eyes. 'They couldn't just leave me here!' I reasoned desperately. I shouted and ran, but the ute rounded the bend and sped up. I gave up, feeling useless. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. The toxic gas lingered in every particle of my being, and I swallowed a few times to get rid of it.
It was quiet out there. Nothing lived or breathed. Nothing survived out here, apart from the several cacti I could see in the distance. They wouldn't provide much shade for me. It hadn't really sunk in, but I knew I needed to put into action the survival skills I had seen celebrities do on Treasure Island TV programmes.
I was situated between two sand dunes, about 100m apart. The tracks from the ute were very faint; more sand had blown over them. The breath of wind teased my hair; grew stronger, and instantly a stronger wind joined in the contest of power between these forces of nature.
Suddenly all the loose grains of sand were picked up and blown away. Hi-jacked, as I had been.
The sand blew into my eyes and ears and I gasped. Like a feather, I was helplessly blown into a heap on the ground. I curled up and waited for the storm to subside.
When I re-emerged, like a snail from its shell, I was in a completely different setting. I had been in a valley before, and now it seemed as though I was on a hill. Looking down from my mound felt like looking down from a majestic mountain.
A life sized sandcastle was all I was sitting on. Realising I had stayed in the same place, I reasoned out that the sand 'above' me was no longer present, and was now situated below me.
Disorientation overwhelmed me. Where was I?
I didnt know my whereabouts, but I did know the time. Looking at my watch, its digits fading and only just visible in the glare, I found that only two hours had passed since this nightmare began. I thought then of my friends and family, and, as I pined, I decided I'd walk all the way back until I died. It seemed pretty pathetic, but hope was all I had in this dire situation.
There was no time to cry. I just started out on the biggest walk of my life. A walk, its outcome unknown.
Though I tried to see it, there was no beauty here. The sand dunes towered above me, with more experience out here than I. Counting cacti and mumbling thirstily about different ways I could walk to add interest, I plodded, walked, skipped, jogged and grapevined over the sand.
This is not a happy story. I tired within seconds. My body yearned for moisture, water. I had heard about people, who, in desperado, had drunk their own urine to stay alive. The idea repulsed me, but I was getting pretty desperate.
My thoughts were interrupted when I stumbled upon a rock and recieved an overdose of pain in my knee. A scorpion was hanging there, partly stuck into my knee. I hollered, I yelled. I cowered in pain, but no-one came. Wrenching the killer out I threw it as far as I could and limped on. The sun was beating down on my back, an iron on my body.
I had learnt that nature did not give second chances to anybody. Not even me. Whimpering, I cast a final eye over the blue sky and yellow sand, and lay down upon it. My brain shut down. My eyes closed. And then the second sand storm struck.
Sand blew all over me, separating me from a world that I was no longer a part of."


The whole class read "Holes", which I had read in 2006. I read it again because it is such a good book, but finished at a faster speed and moved onto "Noughts and Crosses" by Malorie Blackman, which I really enjoyed. On a roll, I read Whale Rider" too, and took a bit longer with "To Kill A Mockingbird", which, although hard to keep up with, turned out to be a good book. It was about this time that the correct structure of an essay was taught to us to prepare us for our upcoming exams. We practised these.
My assessment for Holes was to write a review. Mine is in the form of a fictional online chat.

"Holes
An interview with Louis Sachar…

Face-booking one night, I discovered that Louis Sachar, author of the astoundingly good novel “Holes”, was online. Eagerly tapping away, I messaged him an interview and this is what he said…

Me: Hi, my name is Nicola and I am a keen reader of your book “Holes”. You are the author of this book, right?
LS: Hi there, that’s me, alright. Did you enjoy my book?
Me: I LOVED your book. The plot was soooo original and captivating!
LS: Hehe - - That’s good to hear. Who was your favourite character?
Me: I cannot help but like the Warden. I love it when she says, “Excuse me!” Wbu?
LS: Sorry?
Me: Oops - text language! What about you? Who was your favourite character and why?
LS: Oh, right! You got me! I personally love Stanley’s personality and I got close to him in writing so much about him and his heritage. Secondly……….no, actually I like them all! But I do have a soft spot for Sam and Mr Sir. Mr Sir had a hard life, as did Sam. Giving up smoking is one thing, but being threatened to be hanged is completely different.
Me: I see. Yeah, I like Mr Sir too! Did you have much of a role in making the movie?
LS: Unfortunately the director told me to keep off the set. I spent two days listening to the actors, but I had no authority in what they changed. It was good though, wasn’t it?
Me: Sure was. Why did you use so many plots?
LS: Umm, well, firstly, I don’t think when I‘m writing, I just…write. It came out like that and when I re-read and it was far too confusing, I split the three stories into a main plot and two sub plots. Secondly, it makes it really interesting for the reader, I think, to get an idea of what happened all those years ago, so that the end of the story is understood better and is far more satisfying. Subplots, two in my case, were the perfect masks for what was really going to happen.
Me: Masks????
LS: Yes. That’s my term for disguising the conclusion of the story, allowing the reader to have a go at predicting the end but proving them wrong by writing a completely original conclusion.
Me: Did a possible childhood passion for digging influence your story?
(Posted by You at 2:55)
Me: Hullo? Are you there?
LS: I’m sorry – that’s a hard question. I never really dug as a child, but once at the beach I dug a hole and found an oyster with the pearl in and I suppose that could have inspired the storyline of the book.
Me: You found a-!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oops - I’m getting sidetracked! Did you have a least favourite character?
LS: A least favourite????? Weeellll, I’ll confess... I don’t really like Zero much! I was going to kill him off but he was an essential part of the plot and one of the only ways to get the treasure.
Me: ZERO!!!!!!!!!!?????????
LS: Yes.
Me: So………. We read your book as a class because we were focusing on labels and discrimination of people. Why did you include such concepts in your story?
LS: Racism and stereotyping is a big issue in our community.
Me: Could you elaborate on that, please?
LS: At primary school when I was a boy I would often see people getting discriminated against. And there was one boy in Grade 3 that the teacher picked on a lot because of his dyslexia. He wasn’t able to read, write or spell, but he drew pictures. A picture can say a thousand words, so I didn’t think this was fair and it motivated me to write a story in which the character with lack of reading skill – Zero – was smarter than everybody thought he was, for example, Mr Pendanski.
Me: Recently I read “Noughts And Crosses” by Malorie Blackman. Have you read it?
LS: Noughts and Crosses………that does ring a bell….
Me: About discrimination against whites instead of blacks?
LS: Oh yes, now I remember!
Me: Malorie wove the discrimination theme excellently into her book, too.
LS: Yes, I remember it clearly now. It was a really well written novel with great insight into a completely different point of view…
Me: Yep. What it brought to mind, as did “Holes”, is how it seems that some high schools can be more discriminating than intermediate and primary schools.
LS: Yes, I can see where you’re coming from. Though on a lower scale, discrimination is all around us, isn’t it? I remember from my high school days when ‘groups’ were formed overnight and became really different from each other. The moral of these stories is simply that we’re all unique. Difference makes life interesting. Diversity broadens our limited way of thinking….
Me: Well said. It seems so obvious, but I think it is important that once in a while a really good author (YOU!) will come along and touch our hearts and remind us of this valuable lesson.
LS: Malorie Blackman definitely wrote her book well. The theme of discrimination is very clear and strong. How do you think she does it?
Me: I reckon it’s because she writes from two people’s points of view: Callum and Sephy, white and black, nought and cross, boy and girl. At first it’s confusing to keep swapping points of view, but when you get your head around that, it’s a really powerful… different tool.
LS: Indeed. And I would elaborate on that: Malorie gets the discrimination theme into our minds, too, by including so many examples. On a low scale, Sephy and Callum’s minor arguments are often related to racism. Then there’s the whole school that’s turned against white people, and ultimately, violence, bombs, secret organizations and death are introduced.
Me: Oh okay…yeah, that makes sense.
Me: What intrigued me were the names of all the boys at Camp Green Lake. I daresay it was fun to make them up? How did you think of them?
LS: I had a lot of fun with these names. Zero, of course, represented that everybody thought of him as nothing, and that his surname is Zeroni. There are some explanations I’ve included in the book. Barf Bag, Caveman, X-Ray, Armpit, Magnet…ah. Is that the time?
Me: Do you have to go now?
LS: I’m afraid I do-
LS: Nicola.
Me: Oh well. Thank you soooo much! That was really interesting!
LS: Hey - don’t mention it. Not a problem; that was fun! I’m sorry I have to go now and drive over to the publishers of “Holes”. I’m thinking of writing a sequel.
Me: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!! Well, thank you! Bye!
LS: Ciao.
(Louis Sachar Is Offline)."


This piece of writing was a harder genre to write in, but got me an Excellence, nevertheless!

Speeches arrived, too, and, having to talk this year about an issue of some kind, I looked into the poor farming of pigs and wrote this (quite long!) speech...

"Picture this.

In one of the numerous pig farms dotted all over New Zealand live up to 200 or more unhappy pigs, crying for freedom. Stressed and bored, they scream, hoping that YOU’LL understand their predicament. Hoping that you won’t be like all the other powerful humans that cruelly condemned them to a life in the dark of misery and depression. A life spent waiting for death. Their eyes pleading, they chew the bars of their despicably tiny crates.

This is what many pigs in New Zealand suffer for the majority of their short lives. At least, that’s what we’ve seen in the media lately. But is all this just hogwash? Who’s telling the porkies here? Like any issue, there are two sides to this story, and so I went for a surf on the net. In order to form an opinion, I needed to investigate.

And so here I stand before you, the pig farmers and the government, with my case.

I think that in order for this issue to be settled, you pig farmers must be willing to change your ways, and politicians, you must see the sense in granting these pigs a little more luxury.

In piggeries all over New Zealand, 29% of pig farmers use dry sow stalls. Pregnant sows carry their piglets for 16 weeks, and most are confined for the whole four months in a tiny, metal, barred box. Due to narrowness, the sow cannot turn around or exercise AT ALL.

Sow stalls are 60 cm across by 2 metres, and what with the cold, concrete bottomed prison, she is also more prone to foot problems, leg ailments, and even lameness. The stalls are actually banned in the U.K and Sweden, and if they can do it, why can’t we?

After these four, long, torturous months, the pigs give birth in a farrowing crate. Bare and cold, the mother is deprived of being able to make a nest for her babies because there is no straw. And then, on top of that, the piglets are taken from their mum at one month old.

The poor sow stresses and grieves, and grieves and stresses, then is forced through it all again with another litter of piglets she will never see grow up. A much larger 67% of pig farmers allow this abuse to go on, and in some ways, it is worse, because the piglets are put through it too.

As for the younger pigs, they wait their lives out in fattening pens for the day that they will be killed. Butchery claims a whopping 800,000 pigs a year. They wallow in depression and urine; stress even leading to cannibalism between the pigs.

I popped onto the SAFE website, wondering if the pigs actually suffer. Though I feel the pigs should not be kept like this, I noticed that the way SAFE presented its ideas was quite biased, using very emotive language such as depression, boredom and apathy. They declared that pigs are extremely intelligent animals, so it is even crueler to coop them up like this.

The NZ Pork Board takes a different opinion, stating that as the Levin piggery break-in featuring Mike King occurred at 4:00 in the morning, the pigs were taken by surprise by the arrival of humans with bright flashlights. They also think that the pigs were simply hungry, and squealing in anticipation of being fed.

The Pork Board felt that all the articles in favour of the pigs after this uproar against factory-farming were one sided, and wanted the public to know that sow stalls are necessary as pregnant sows can be quite aggressive. They managed to excuse just about all the evidence that the opposing parties gave, putting the bar-biting down to hunger too.

So can we be reassured that the pigs are OK after hearing this? Who's wrong? Who's right? Though I can truly understand where the Pork Board is coming from, I am inclined to think that the crated pigs should still have a little upgrading to first-class boxes. I wonder if there are any other ways of housing pigs, or perhaps if it could be done in smaller groups of pigs?

Sow stalls may be necessary, but the lack of comfort is not, and the SPCA sides with me here as they also call for a ban on sow stalls. The SPCA National Chief Executive, Robyn Kippenburger, said that "the pig farmers are hiding behind the Animal Welfare code, which disapproves of the cages, but does not ban them."

Mr Kay, the Levin Piggery farmer, also had some things to say on the matter. Clearly disagreeing, he insists that the way he farms is pigs is entirely legal. Mr Taylor decided to back him up also, saying, "Pigs bite bars the same way dogs chew on bones." What are we left to think? However, you cannot deny the evident changes (portrayed through the web) in a true-life story about a pig called Piggy Sue who has experienced both sides of the crate.

She was purchased recently by Mrs Press McKenzie, who says that the changes have been HUGE and that she couldn't walk well at the beginning, but now happily runs outside and jumps in the rain. And I think: This cannot be wrong. This is how it is meant to be.

So I encourage you: pig-out on this food for thought. "

The September holidays were coming up and I was thrilled to find out we would look at "Hamlet"! Again we did not read the whole book, nor see the whole movie, but watched and read pieces.

For those of you who are familiar with the story of Hamlet, we looked at the bit in which Ophelia drowns and I wrote this poem as I scrutinized the postcard picture scene, painted of Ophelia's Demise.


"Ophelia's Demise.

Pale in death
Yet as pure as an angel
She floats downriver
As does the multitude of coloured flowers
That guard her lifeless body.

Face upturned
The reeds she bypasses
Caress her face
And bow to the maiden
Superior, even in death.

The rainbow of flowers
Stay with her body
But the trees and the bushes
Pay their respects and weep;
Ophelia lost to the bottom.

Curious daisies like shiny eyes
Sullenly watch
Her burial in mud;
The greenery darkens
Sage green plants wilt.

The crowflowers avert their eyes
Return to the gloom of the day
Her dress, her lifeline, betrays her
As it pulls her onto the river bed;
Still her face looks up.

Her eyes closed
For the final time
Her lips parted, her body cold
Ophelia, angel of the brook
Lured to her demise."

On this note we read about the fight scene at the end and made plays about it, performing to the class on the second to last day of term. We performed on the outdoor stage! I was Hamlet's mother, who died of poison.

In Term 4 we got a new teacher who is extremely funny. Though the work is easy again, as are the spelling words, it's OK as we only have a few weeks left. For weeks we've been on Sub Zero Survival; survival in the desert and in the Antarctic or Arctic. We started off with some creative stories about a lost in a blizzard experience. Mine is a collaboration, or at least written like one, but I never finished. If I do, I will post up the rest.

"Lost In A Blizzard.
collaborated by Nicola, Thomas, Gary and Nicole.

NICOLA
Sitting in my heated study writing this, remembering, makes me think for the millionth time how lucky we all are, that is, Nicole, Thomas, Gary and I. Two weeks ago, I had been delighted to hear of an offer for me, and one of my best buds, Nicole, as a journalist, to travel with some global warming scientists to Antarctica! My expertise was required for a new base camp the government wished to set up near Weddell Sea. Nicole was asked to recount the whole adventure, and ecstaticly we jumped up and down and started counting the days. Tommo and Gary had been friends since university, and we all got along amazingly well.
On the twelfth we were flown down, all of us bundled up tightly in hoodies and coats. Gary was always cracking jokes.
Anyway, when we go to Antarctica, the first thing I saw was a catepillar wheeled vehicle, kind of like the Hagguland Ride I had been on at the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, years ago.
We were driven to some temporary huts, and, as we had left that morning while it was stil dark, we pulled on more layers and stepped outside to the dazzling snow. We plodded four abreast for 3 kilometres and stopped to have some lunch. This is when the trouble began.

THOMAS
Hey guys, Tommo here. I was outvoted so I ended up writing the bit when ~ oops, sorry guys.
All of a sudden, Gary slipped on the ice and skidded down the shelf we were near. Gravity betrayed us as kinetic energy hurtled him down. We realised with a jolt that crevices were down there and I yelled out, feeling sick to my stomach..."

We watched Touching The Void, a true survival story of a guy who was climbing a mountain, fell and broke his leg, was lowered down by his partner (except the rope went down too far and he couldn't get his weight off the rope, a.k.a the signal) and who's climbing buddy cut the rope, assuming he had died. He then fell down the mountain, and additionally down intoa deep crevice, where he spent a cold, claustrophobic night. By then he thought his climbing buddy had died too, and pulled the rope down to use him as an anchor. However, the rope came down at a cut end and extinguished his hopes for getting out. He lowered himself deeper into the already deep crevice, wating to die, except he hit the bottom of the crevice and spied light, the mountainside, but much, much further down. With his broken leg he climbed out and over all the other crevices, back down to the bottom, surviving to tell his amazing story today. It was a really good movie, leaving me shivery!


We also watched the beginning of Into The Wild, the movie of a real life man who gave up society to live on his own in the mountains. We discussed the necesssary motives for this.

Lately we've done a lot of reading comprehension and language technique activities and questions. Last week ofr so we read about the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen, and the difference both teams had.

Not to mention long talks about polar bears, and reading a story about a near miss with a polar bear attack. They are really quite scary!!!


Following this we did a lesson on puns (some were quite dry) to prepare us for yet more static images! They're due this week, either a book cover for a survival story or an Antarctica expedition poster.
My Static Image:


More recently we have been working on persuasive writing.

As for our spelling tests, I've gotten 21/21, 20/20 and 24/25.

In preparation for our exam we have been looking at poems and analyzing them. And so came the poetry test, on which I got Excellence! Next we have to revise essays this week as our exam is on Friday!!!

I recently got my exam results back and I'm really pleased! Section A was to write about an aspect of "Holes", and was very, very strictly marked. I got Merit!
Section B had questions about a poem, and then questions about a static image. For both of these, I got Excellence!
Section C was a piece of formal writing, and I got Excellence again!

English this year had brought me many successes and it has been a really good start to college English! I've thoroughly enjoyed the writing we did!

Comments hugely appreciated!

2 comments:

Mrs. Stevenson said...

Wow! What an amazing student you are! I am an eighth grade (13 and 14 year olds) math teacher in the southern part of the United States. I have not been able to decipher your age or level in school based on your comments, but I am impressed regardless. Keep up the good work,and may God bless you. Mrs. S

Nicola said...

Thankyou for the comment!! English would be my favourite subject still, which is why I got a little carried away with blogging it all!!
I'm 13, going on 14; I suppose I would be 8th grade too? In NZ I have just finished Year 9. (I started this blog in our Year 7.)
Thanks again, very encouraging!
God bless.