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Directions For this exercise, you will need a partner. (I divide the class into partners, randomly). Flip a coin to see who will ask the questions first. These questions are designed so that everyone has an answer. I also think of them as safe questions that illicit memories and response rather than fear and anxiety. Please feel free, however, to make up your own questions to suit your students needs. Proceed in this manner.
Step 1 Partner #1 asks the following six questions.
Partner #1 listens intently as partner #2 answers. There is no note-taking allowed. Only listening. Then #2 asks number 1 the same questions. When they are both finished responding, each one sits down and writes a summary of what they learned from the interview. They are not to write it as a series of answers to questions, but rather in paragraph form telling the story they learned (in the third person). If they were good listeners they should have at least a page to write. When the whole class is finished, I ask each student to share their writing with the whole class. In this way we all get to know each other and hopefully build some trust among the group. Since my writing classes involve a lot of sharing and reading out loud this is good practice.
- 1.) Describe how you got to school in the first grade
- 2.) What accomplishment do you remember taking pride in during those early years in school?
- 3.) Describe the first time you remember being embarrassed in school.
- 4.) Who is the first teacher you ever liked and what did you like about him/her?
- 5.) What did you dislike about elementary school?
- 6.) What is your memory of recess?
Another suggested reading for this topic is the poem “The Poor”, by William Carlos Williams, also in “The Little, Brown Reader.” My planned activity is a field trip to the welfare office, and the writing assignment is to interview someone on welfare. In addition an interview with a local alderman or congressperson will be required.
- 1.) Describe Lafeyette and Pharoah’s personalities
- 2.) Why are they afraid to play basketball?
- 3.) What role does the gang leader Jimmy Lee play in his community?
- 4.) Why did Chicago’s Mayor Jane Byrne sleep at the projects for one week?
- 5.) What does the title “There are No Children Here” refer to?
- 6.) What means of escape do Lafeyette and Pharoah have?
- 7.) What type of mother do they have?
Terry makes the decision not to sell drugs after he turns fifteen because he could then be tried as an adult. And as an adult he would go to jail if caught. Is the threat of jail a deterrent? Should all juveniles be tried as adults? What other deterrents to selling drugs are there? Two good field trips for this section are a visit to the jail on Whalley Avenue and The Superior Court on Church St. You must call in advance. One writing assignment will be either an interview with a drug dealer or a student’s opinion on drug dealers. For those students who choose to interview a drug dealer you must remind them to be careful not to use any names and not to put themselves into a dangerous situation. Sometimes students’ enthusiasm overcomes their common sense. Another assignment will he an interview with local residents about their feelings on crime and personal safety. A more formal expository essay will be due entitled “Is capital punishment a solution to crime?” In The Little, Brown anthology there are two excellent readings to prepare for this assignment. They are “In Favor of Capital Punishment,” by Jacques Barzun, and “In Opposition to Death Penalty Legislation,” by Henry Schwarzschild. One guest speaker I intend to ask to come for a visit is Chris Alexy, a prosecutor in New Haven’s Superior Court. Another excellent speaker and an avid supporter of New Haven’s public schools is Tom Morrissey, a New Haven police officer. He is comfortable in the classroom and his ideas are thought provoking. As well as discussing crime it would be helpful to hear his ideas on community based policing.
- 1.) What alternatives to selling drugs does the article show? (Yale, religion, professional sports, Rap Star, McDonalds) What do you think of these choices? Which one would you make? What other ones do you think are available to black kids from New Haven?
- 2.) What role does T V. play in the family’s lives? What role does T.V. play in your life?
- 3.) What role and or responsibility do girls play in the drug scene?
- 4.) What do you think about Virginia Henry who started the organization “Tenants Against Drugs, Dammit”?
- 5.) What reason does Terry give for not dealing drugs anymore?
- 6.) What is community based policing? Is it located in your neighborhood? What do your neighbors think about it7 What do you think about it?
- 7.) What kind of mother do you think Anjelica is? What are her good points? bad points? What does the author of the article think Anjelica wants out of life?
- 8.) What does the title “Out There” mean? Have you ever felt out there? What advice do you have for people out there?
- 9.)Why are most drug dealers young black men?
- 10.) Write an editorial on possible solutions to the drug problem in New Haven
- 1.) Read “The Mall” by Bob Greene. Greene’s article is a humorous, and insightful view of malls as he follows two white teenage boys for a full day in a suburban shopping mall. He records their dialogue which includes their views on sneakers, girls and the world. It is wonderful. A writing assignment based on this reading that high school students everywhere would love is—“Take a trip to your local mall. What people and things do you see?”
- 2.) Take a field trip to a senior citizen center and interview the senior citizens about their lives and the changes they’ve seen in New Haven.
- 3.) Visit East Rock Nature Center and interview a local park ranger.
- 4.) Describe your idea of a perfect city.Some suggested movies what would be good in this course include: “Roger and Me,” “All the President’s Men,” “Between the Lines,” “Perfect,” “Absence of Malice,” “Hester Street,” “Grand Canyon,” “Boyz n the Hood.”
Barnet/Stubbs. “The Little, Brown Reader.” Boston, Mass. Little, Brown Publishers, 1984.
Bing, Leon. “Do or Die.” New York: Harper Perennial, 1991
Finnegan, William. “Out There.” “The New Yorker,” September, 1 990 .
Greene, Bob. “A Midwestern Boy on His Own.” New York: Atheneum, 1991
Jacobs, Jane. “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” New York: Random House, 1961
Kotlowitz, Alex. “There Are No Children Here.” New York: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1991
Terkel, Studs. “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day.” New York: Pantheon, 1974
Trachtenberg, Alan. “Reading American Photographs: Images as History—Matthew Brady to Walker Evans.” Hill and Wangt 1989
Wigginton, Eliot. “Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience.” Garden City, New York: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1986
Zinsser, William. “On Writing Well.” New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1976
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