Sunday, November 6, 2011

Holiday essays

To complete my essay challenge, I'll be writing about five wonderful holiday essays.

(sure I should have written about this last month...but, who has time!? And, I figure if Christmas can encroach on Halloween then...)

From the blurp in front of the essay, "Because he is an acknowledged master of [horror fiction], his thoughts on why people love horror movies offer an unusual insight into this question. King also gives us a unique glimpse into why he himself creates horror."
I think that we're all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better--and maybe not all that much better, after all. We've all known people who talk to themselves, people who sometimes squinch their faces into horrible grimaces when they believe no one is watching, people who have some hysterical fear--of snakes, the dark, the tight place, the long drop...and, of course, those final worms and grubs that are waiting so patiently underground.
Why it's perfect for the holidays?
Um, there's an excellent dead baby joke that you can use to frighten your friends and family. You get to tell people that they're crazy if you catch them picking their noses and, most importantly, you get to feed your inner gator.
How I use it in my classroom?
I have my students do an in-class write using this essay as a prompt. They answer four of the questions at the end of the essay (if you want those questions check out the McGraw-Hill Reader from 2002) while incorporating their view of the horror film genre. I then take this cold read and response and let them flesh out an essay that is to be taken home and typed.

Lost in the Kitchen by Dave Barry

Dave Barry knows he doesn't belong in the kitchen, but he really does want to help, really, well mostly as long as helping doesn't interfere with the game. He also has some great insight into what really happened with the advent of women's lib.
Men are still basically scum when it comes to helping out in the kitchen. This is one of the two insights I had last Thanksgiving, the other one being that Thanksgiving night must be the slowest night of the year in terms of human sexual activity. Nobody wants to engage in human sexual activity with somebody who smells vaguely like yams and is covered with a thin layer of turkey grease, which describes pretty much everybody in the United States on Thanksgiving except the Detroit Lions, who traditionally play football that day and would therefore be too tired.
Why it's perfect for the holidays?
Thanksgiving means giving thanks, but it also, laziness and gluttony. All of these are shared honestly in this essay. And, oh my gosh, if you have a brother/father/male friend/husband/son you can in some way relate, I promise you.
How I use it in my classroom?
I've never used this essay at school, but the lovely teacher who created the document I found is just begging me to do something with it. It's a short little thing that really packs a punch, hits home, makes me laugh and a little perturbed and I would love to hear the discussion on this one! And, yes, if I was going to use this essay I'd either leave the first paragraph intact or I'd only use a couple of paragraphs to set the scene for something else, I would not edit it.

From Chris Radant's book, Home for the Holidays and other calamities, 22 stories about real life family and holidays.
It was the night before leaving for Pittsburgh, and Mom called to inform me that it was very cold there. I hid my shock well. After all, I lived in Boston and it was the end of November. I assured her I'd bring a coat. She told me she had called four times before and hung up when she heard 'that answering machine pick up'. In five weeks, it will be 1990 except at Mom and Dad's house, where 1956 will never end. Before she said 'see you tomorrow', Dad interrupted to remind me to get to the airport half an hour before my flight. He said they would be waiting for me 'with painted breath.'
Why it's perfect for the holidays?
Family, nostalgia. It's a perfect time to remember that our parents love us and are well-meaning and that sometimes when visiting family we have to take a deep breath and love them. This essay is also a perfect homage to sibling love and how they sometimes get us better than we get ourselves.
How I use it in my classroom?
I've used this essay in the following ways:
1] as a jumping off place to a holiday essay that the students have to write (I can send you the prompt if you really want it)
2] as an intro to the movie, which we then watch and compare and then write a holiday story (Creative Writing class)
3] I've read this essay out loud and then asked students to respond to it, it's a perfect beginning to a holiday break when you've finished something and don't want to really start something else, but you don't want to let the kids be idle either.
I highly recommend watching the movie is probably one of the first dysfunctional family movies that have been coming out every year since 1990, it stars Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Dylan McDermott, Anne Bancroft and many more and it is directed by Jody Foster. My college roommates and I watched it in the theatre and it always makes me feel nostalgic for them and for the holidays.

Inside and Out by Lisa Widenhofer

In looking for a picture of her grandparents wedding, Widenhofer finds something much more precious and realizes that she is more like her grandmother than she thought.
It was another gloomy day on my Christmas break. This particular afternoon Mom and I settled down in the sewing room to search through a box of old photographs taken from Grandma's house. So many things had been taken from the house since she had moved into the nursing home that it was hard to get excited about going through yet another box. In previous boxes we had found junk jewelry, outgrown clothes and little baubles purchased on sale for some future Christmas.
Why it's perfect for the holidays?
Family, nostalgia. The holidays are a perfect time of year to remember the past and find a way to bring it to the present.
How I use it in my classroom?
I use this essay to open up the year. I ask the kids if they have something of value that has been passed from generation or given specifically to them to cherish and pass on. This year I received many wonderful answers including WW II survival knives and a rear-view mirror tenderly retrieved from a truck before it was sold. I use these to tie Widenhofer's essay to the lives of both boys and girls and how we all can feel nostalgic. We use our stories as a jumping off place to write our descriptive/narrative essays.

A Winter's Walk by Henry David Thoreau

The beautiful story of waking up to the surprise of a winter snow and then noticing those things around us that make nature beautiful no matter what the season.
The wind has gently murmured through the blinds, or puffed with feathery softness against the windows, and occasionally sighed like a summer zephyr lifting the leaves along, the livelong night. The meadow-mouse has slept in his snug gallery in the sod, the owl has sat in a hollow tree in the depth of the swamp, the rabbit, the squirrel, and the fox have all been housed. The watch-dog has lain quiet on the hearth, and the cattle have stood silent in their stalls. The earth itself has slept, as it were its first, not its last sleep, save when some street-sign or wood-house door has faintly creaked upon its hinge, cheering forlorn nature at her midnight work,--the only sound awake twixt Venus and Mars,--advertising us of a remote inward warmth, a divine cheer and fellowship, where gods are met together, but where it is very bleak for men to stand. But while the earth has slumbered, all the air has been alive with feathery flakes descending, as if some northern Ceres reigned, showering her silvery grain over all the fields.
Why it's perfect for the holidays?
Nothing like talking about Winter to get you in the mood for a delicious change of season. Read this with a cup of hot cocoa, all cozy covered up with blankets on the sofa.
How I use it in my classroom?
I've never used the whole essay, but I have used those two marvelous opening paragraphs as a prompt in getting my students to write about a season of their choosing. We talk about setting the scene with your words.

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