Tag Archives: Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Book Review: The Eleventh Question by Dianne Gray

In her riveting book, The Eleventh Question Dianne Gray takes a visionary slant to take care of an invasive social problem that has received much publicity in the last 10 years. The problem of bullying is one of the chief causes of teen suicide as well as incidents of school violence that shock entire communities to their core.

Wikipedia tells casual researchers like me that  “Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. …Social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by attempting to socially isolate the victim. …Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of relatively uninvolved bystanders. In many cases, it is the bully’s ability to create the illusion that he or she has the support of the majority present that instills the fear of “speaking out” in protestation of the bullying activities being observed by the group.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying

This brief excerpt from Wikipedia describes the life of Arista, teen-aged daughter of a loving, but alcoholic and neglectful mother.  With nowhere to turn for help, Arista is on the verge of suicide, when help comes from seemingly out of no where.  What makes this story so fascinating is the OTHER story, of a young ayudante, or helper, to a seer in another part of the world.  Ayudante has his own real world struggles, but is able to “see” Arista as she grapples with her life’s questions.  Her questions somehow tie into his life as well.

The Eleventh Question wove its magical spell around my clock, and time didn’t seem to move at all as engrossed as I was in this novel.

The Eleventh Question and the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.

It is my trademark to offer an opinion here to how a teacher might ramp up the effectiveness of non-fiction documents by the use of fiction, and vice versa.  The non-fiction, social studies issue here is bullying, and with a hint of religious rights.  I can picture students reading this book and doing what I did, rushing to the find out more about bullying, and then turning it into a social action, project based learning experience.

Project Citizen is one curriculum published by the non-profit organization of Center for Civic Education that helps students reach out to the world of public policies to help them solve major social problems in the local community.  Other organizations such as the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Civic Action Project, and the Buck Institute offer similar effective programs or curricular ideas for whole class participation in a project that drives the learning deep as well as wide.

There are few people in this world who have been untouched by bullying.  It is frightening how subtle bullying can be, and how long-term, sometimes fatal, the effects of intimmidating.  Gray’s solution identified social policies connected with the foster care system that students could evaluate.  She also integrates the spirit world, which captures the imagination in a Harry Potter fashion, as a means of solving the problem.

Conservative Christians will have to keep an open mind as they read this book, just as they do with any book that edifies a religion other than Christianity.   Gray puts the actions of one zealous Christian man on the proverbial red carpet, as his behavior warrants.

As I read this I asked myself, “Is this how people typically view Christians?” and then I continued to question, “Is this an accurate stereotype?”  Then, “Why am I feeling defensive here?”  “Am I responsible for the actions of one man in a story?”  “Does he reflect MY values?”  “What about the imperfections of the Seer, and Ayudante?”   “Were they portrayed as evil or wrong?” One right after another, questions kept tumbling into my brain.  I feared that I might end up with eleven questions.  And then what might happen?

Read the book.  Fall in love with Arista and Cayo, the young Ayudante.  The Eleventh Question is heartening, loving, surprising, and deep.  See if it doesn’t make you think, and smile, and cry a wee bit.

Learn about the philosophy of the eleventh question.  I accidentally found out there is more to this than some random number.  You can always count on Dianne to dig deeper in her writing.  :)

My favorite picture of Dianne of all times!!! You can’t meet a nicer lady!!! :) ML

Other reviews and interviews of author, Dianne Gray, you might enjoy.

Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

Kristen Lamb, author of Are You There Blog?  It’s Me, Writer., writes non-fiction in a folksy, easy to understand style.  Read like good fiction, the pages of this how-to book practically turned themselves.  Writers and bloggers can immediately apply her tips to improve their blog, Facebook and Twitter platforms.

In spite of the fact Are You There Blog?  It’s me, Writer. was easy to read I found myself highlighting, taking tons of notes, and rereading to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  I had to discipline myself to keep on track.  My thoughts were screaming, “Wow, I need to go to Facebook RIGHT NOW, and remove my birthday, but I did a little self-talk “Take notes, Marsha.  Copy down the tips you want to remember.”  Because LEARNING SOMETHING is the goal of reading a non-fiction book, it IS a different skill than reading fiction.

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts always lurk in my brain whenever I read now.  Across the United States, by the time they start high school, students will spend 70 percent of their school day reading non-fiction materials.  I would recommend this book for students from 6th grade up.  Common Core Standards also put a greater emphasis on writing than ever before.  Teaching students to blog, and having them interact with each other as well as others, means less editing for the teacher, more interest and commitment from the students.  For language arts teachers this book will address reading and writing standards at the same time.

Even young students can respond to a teacher’s blog about a topic.  This doesn’t mean that the teacher has to “write” every “topic” on their blog.  They can copy paragraphs or quotes directly from a book they cite.  By high school many students will have a Facebook account.  Lamb’s book teaches them to use it safely and wisely.  They also learn to use Facebook as a marketing tool to market themselves.  We often overlook, or feel too pressured to teach, the importance of the “soft” skills in education, of how to get along with people, how to motivate them, and get them to like us.  Those skills are an integral part of DOING social media.  Kristen Lamb integrates those skills as she explicitly teaches basics of blogging and using social media.

“Giving is when you take your time to read their blog, to repost their story and to congratulate their writing goal on Twitter. Giving is when you write a nice review of someone else’s book unsolicited and expecting nothing in return.”

Lamb, Kristen (2011-05-07). Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer (Kindle Locations 572-573). Who Dares Wins Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Students will learn that “people love feeling good” and that “a positive attitude is a key ingredient for a hit blog that connects with others in a meaningful way.” (Ibid Location 1519)

These soft skills that students learn will be useful to them no matter what profession or trade they choose to enter during or after high school.

Kristen’s book is available on Kindle, which means that note taking will be easy for students (and teachers who are beginning bloggers).  When a quote is copied from the book on the computer the biographical information is automatically noted.  WHEW!  That was EASY!

Mike Lebsock, 8th grade history teacher, President San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social STudies (SJVCSS), John Adams in Colonial Williamsburg

Mike Lebsock, an eighth grade teacher in Fresno, posts a blog entry then has his students write one response to his post, and one response to another student’s response.  How easy that would be using this book.  The teacher doesn’t have to write his or her own content.  He or she simply copies right from the book into the blog.  The biographical information is automatically there as well.

Are You There Blog? is easy to read, but that doesn’t mean that there is NO academic vocabulary.  The academic vocabulary is primarily content-based and can be grasped within the context of the book.  However, for students using Kindle or other e-readers, they can open a window with the definition of an unfamiliar word by just passing the cursor over a word and stopping.

When I started this review, I struggled with recommending it for Common Core because it was such an enjoyable book to read.  After analyzing how the book can actually meet many elements of Common Core I have changed my mind.  Non-fiction books can be enjoyable, and enjoyable books can be academic.  Read and enjoy Kristen Lamb’s book, Are You There Blog?  It’s Me, Writer. with your students – – or just for yourself.

Today’s Featured Blog 

My blogging friend Rommel, has taught me so much.  He was one of my first visitors before I knew squat, he had nominated me for an award.  I didn’t even understand what an award was.  He kept coming back when I was working full time+, and hardly had a second to visit any blogs, there was Rommel commenting on my blog.   Then recently he featured me on his site.  Who knew?  What a kind thing to do.  So it is with great honor and pride that I introduce my first Featured Blogger, Rommel.  The post that I chose, although he writes great travel stories, posts amazing pictures from all over the world, I fell in love with Once in A Blue Moon, a poem.  This is how it starts.

Another special post.

Here goes…

You know what…. I need to pause… An image first.

Can’t you just picture a vibrant young man venturing out on unfamiliar waters, writing a poem?