Monday, September 8th, 2014

Don’t Mock This Misunderstood Bird: A Characterization Told Through GIFs

It’s a classic joke. Ask primary school kids what their favorite subject is and they’ll grin and say: “recess.” And who doesn’t like recess? The answer? Caitlin Smith, the protagonist of Kathryn Erskine‘s Mockingbird.


Caitlin “hates recess” (26) because she has Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that makes social interaction more challenging for her than other kids.








Caitlin says she looks “a little like Scout” (79), the protagonist of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. She especially looked like her a few years ago when she was seven and her brother Devon cut her “hair like hers.” Caitlin’s brother nicknamed her Scout. The gif above includes a quote about empathy, which is something that Caitlin struggles to overcome because she has Asperger’s.


The cover shows a girl with a braid though i don’t remember seeing this description of her in the book.








Caitlin always wears the same kinds of clothes because she finds many details overwhelming.










On page 93, she says*:

I wear sweatpants and a long-sleeved T-shirt every day. Except in summer. Then my sweatpants and T-shirts are short sleeved. The T-shirt can be any color. I don’t care as long as it’s not yellow or gold or mossy green or pukey green or poopy green… or any kind of pink because those colors make me feel sick. And it can only be one color because I don’t like colors running into each other. And there can’t be writing on the T-shirt or people will read it and I don’t want them looking at me. (93)



Caitlin is very smart and an especially strong reader. She says, “When I was in kindergarten I was above eighth-grade level and that was far as you could get in kindergarten. Now I’m in fifth grade which is why I can read anything that Dad can” (33).






Caitlin is a very talented artist and others can see it. At her brother’s funeral, a relative says to her, “I love your drawings. You are a very talented artist” (5).










Caitlin doesn’t like “anyone to touch” (9) her.








When she cannot deal with a situation, she has a “TRM… Tantrum Rage Meltdown” (19).








When she is feeling stressed, Caitlin does this thing she calls “stuffed-animaling” (28), which is to “blur colors and shapes so they turn into fuzzy and warm instead of sharp and cold” (27).



Caitlin struggles to read other people’s emotion. She says, “emotions are evil” (42).







Michael is a first grader who says what most of the kids are thinking, “Everyone says you’re a weirdo whose brother is dead” (58).











Josh, who can be a bully at times, calls Caitlin a dog because she sucks her sleeve when she gets nervous.

Erskine writes:

Ew! he yells. You’re like a dog! Slobbering all over your sleeve. I stop sucking my sleeve even though I don’t know why he says Ew. I like dogs. Dogs sit next to you and put their chin on your lap. Dogs are sweet and kind. I’m happy if people think I’m a dog.




Tommy mentioned he was reading this book on Friday, so I took a copy home–and after the first few pages, I was hooked, finishing it in just a couple of days. I highly recommend it. It’s an outstanding book to use to show your understanding of standards such as: characterization, character development, a type of conflict, and theme (see definitions for those terms here).

Read a bit more about Mockingbirds here.

Featured image is from here.

*Note how the quote is a block quote. That’s because it’s four or more lines.

Monday, April 7th, 2014

A kindle? A nook? Did Douglas Adams first foresee a future of e-readers?

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 11.32.41 AM

Ever forgotten to pack something and then realized it once you’d left home? Ever forgotten a towel? Well, there is perhaps nothing more important to remember than a towel, especially if you’re an intergalactic traveler in Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (there is even a Towel Day!), a humorous, satirical science fiction adventure novel. Think Lonely Galaxy instead of Lonely Planet.

I’ve been rereading Adams’ work, and I couldn’t help noticing something else in Ford Perfect‘s packing list, something that is much more familiar today than it was back when I first read the novel a couple of decades ago.

… he also had a device that looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million “pages” could be summoned at a moment’s notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover fit into had the words DON’T PANIC printed on it in large friendly letters. The other reason was that this device was in fact the most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great publishing corporation of Ursa Minor–The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in. (20)

Remind you of anything?

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

A silent film loudly summarizes essential aspects of a successful blog

Many of you probably remember Mr. Sheridan, the big Aussie bloke who taught Grade 8 Humanities for more than half a decade down the hall. The folks at NIST International School in Bangkok are now fortunate enough to benefit from his expertise and enthusiasm. He sent me the following video created by some Grade 8s (see some of their posts here) at NIST.


What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, February 17th, 2014

A wee test of zeega as a multimedia tool

I used Zeega to create this multimedia below. It allows you to create a multimedia that combines a series of GIFs and your text and audio of your choice. Could you use Zeega to create a series of GIFs (including audio!) to show your understanding of a key element from the plot line?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

9 tips for collaborating with classmates



Collaboration is challenging. Below are some tips to keep in mind while working in a group.


1. Stay focused.

Do not get distracted by anything that won’t help your group.



2. Stay calm.

Do not overreact or get super stressed out. It will be okay.



3. Consider the ideas of others.

There are many ways to approach a project. Each idea, no matter how unorthodox, has merit.



4. Have integrity.

Work hard, even when the teacher (or Mom or Dad) is out of the room.



5. Be realistic.

Calculate what your group can accomplish based on the skills that you have and the time that you have to complete the project.



6. Keep it simple.

Make it your best work, but don’t overcomplicate things.



7. Know your individual roles.

Make sure that you each member of the group understands how each role is supposed to benefit the overall group.



8. Be aware.

Take an interest in what your group mates are working on, as well as what other groups are doing. You may catch something they’ve overlooked, and you may find inspiration.



9. Celebrate success.

When you accomplish a task, take a moment to enjoy all of your planning and hard work.



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