- From my unit 1 and unit 2 portfolio, I think that my greatest achievement has been the Great Poets Teaching Project. I put a lot of effort into this project with research, annotations, and presentation preparation, which is clear from my supplemental documents. I am very proud of my project because I think that I got to know and understand my poet very well and I think that I presented my learning well.
- When looking back at my work, I find that something I can work to improve on is close reading and analysis. I think that I struggle especially with interpreting poetry because I haven’t had much exposure to it in the past and I find it hard sometimes to interpret the language and abstract concepts in poetry.
- For my process piece for my short story analysis on “The Yellow Wallpaper”, I had three drafts. I first approached this by starting off with the major themes and literary devices that I saw present in the story. From there, I chose a theme to work with and a literary method that the author conveyed that theme through and then I wrote the thesis. My first draft was mostly getting my ideas and the basic structure of my essay down. After I received peer feedback, I revised my first draft using their feedback to make it more organized and concise. I then went to see Mrs. Brayko, since I still wasn’t confident about the structure of my essay, and together we worked through how I could refine my essay to hit the targets that I wanted to and which structure would work best. Finally, I used my peer feedback and the ideas that I generated with Mrs. Brayko to write my final draft.
- When looking at my Mastery page on Schoology, I notice that I have done really well on my formatives (my mastery for all the formative competences are full marks), but these don’t translate to my summative grades on the same competencies. I also notice that the competency that I think I have to improve on the most is C2.
- Having reviewed the semester’s reading, writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking, as well as my collaboration, creativity, and resilience, a goal I have for Semester 2 is to improve my close reading and analysis of passages/poetry for in-class writing and improve my timed essay writing skills.
- Something I would like my teacher to know is that I still have questions about my grades for the Dragon Notes project. I hope that we have time to discuss this during our portfolio meeting because there are some questions I have about my grades and the feedback we received.
“Everyday Use” talks about African American identity and heritage. In the story, there is a clear cultural divide between Dee and her mom and sister, Maggie. Dee is the only one out of the three who has had a full education and left life on the farm. Her mom and sister find it hard to understand Dee and her behaviors and beliefs.
During this short story, Dee and Hakim-a-barber (either her boyfriend or husband) visit her family. Dee tells them that she has changed her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” because she “couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” It is clear that Dee/Wangero was trying to reclaim her African heritage by changing her name from Dee, which was passed down from her family and likely originally given by white slave owners, to Wangero, an African name.
It becomes even more clear that Dee is determined to connect with her heritage when she begins asking to keep various objects around the house, such as the churn top and dasher that her uncles had made. Finally, she asks to take the quilts that her grandmother made and refuses to take the other quilts that were machine stitched. “These are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all this stitching by hand. Imag’ine!” Dee/Wangero finds a lot of meaning in the genuine vintage-ness of the quilts and in the fact that it was hand made by her grandmother.
There is an obvious culture divide between Dee/Wangero and her mother when they fight over who will get the quilts, Dee or Maggie. Dee argues that Maggie will “be backward enough to put them to everyday use.” Clearly, she sees this as a negative thing. However, her mother has the opposite opinion – she wants the quilts to finally be put to use. Walker uses the cultural divide between Dee and her mother to represent the impacts of the African American identity movement during the time that this story was written (1960s/1970s). The mother, who is an older generation and has never left her rural life, doesn’t understand Dee/Wangero’s need to connect so badly with her heritage. Dee/Wangero, like many of the young African Americans of the time, found herself needing to connect to her African heritage in any way possible (like through her family’s “everyday use” objects) because she was trying to find her place in society and reclaim her identity.
“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway provides a perfect example of the significance of a story’s title. Before even reading the story, the reader can make a prediction about its theme from the phrase “white elephants” in the title. A white elephant is defined by something that is unwanted, useless, or hard to dispose of. Now, just from reading the title, the reader knows to be on the lookout for the white elephant in the story. In this short story, the American and the girl have an intense conversation about “it,” but never explicitly mention what “it” is. However, certain parts of their conversation give hints that allow the reader to draw conclusions about what it is. For example, the American refers to it as an “awfully simple operation” that many people he knows have gone through with before and been happy with. He also tells the girl, “I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else.” This, combined with the girl’s indecisiveness may lead the reader to believe that the “it” is abortion. The reader’s suspicions about abortion can be confirmed by returning to the title. Clearly, the white elephant is the baby – something that is unwanted and hard to get rid of. Furthermore, the “hills” in the title represent the girl’s pregnancy because of their resemblance to her pregnant stomach. In “Hills Like White Elephants,” not only does the title help the reader predict the story’s theme, but it also helps confirm the reader’s theories about what “it” is.
Question/prompt for the next person: How do authors use contrasts to enhance the meaning of their stories? What are some examples of contrasts and why are they effective?
I think that all stories reflect on the shared human experience and are ultimately relatable to all readers. Regardless of the content, all stories contain themes (good vs evil, love, coming of age, etc) that can be seen throughout human history. For example, I read “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker for my Dragon Notes project. At a first glance it may seem like I am not able to relate to the story because I am not African American, I didn’t live during that time, and I have never experienced the life that the characters of the story did. However, I can relate to the story on a deeper level. “Everyday Use” is set in the 1970s and discusses the various movements at the time in which African Americans were seeking to reclaim their identities. It also highlights the cultural differences and misunderstandings between older and younger generations. As an international kid and an Asian American myself, I can relate to this theme of finding your identity because my experiences have often led to me questioning or wanting to “reclaim” my identity. This connection isn’t unique to me. I believe that all readers will be able to draw connections between their own life and experiences and this story or any other story for that matter. So while stories don’t always seem to be very relatable to readers or to the human story, I believe that all stories are, on the thematic level, commentaries on the human story.
I also believe that while society shapes literature, literature also has the power to shape society, and this endless loop is why all stories are also the human story. It is very clear that literature is shaped by society and the issues of their time – we often see authors writing about themes that concern their values which reflect and highlight moments in human history as well. But sometimes we can forget that literature, just like music, art, and the media, also shapes society. In class, we talked about how the type of news that is reported in a country can reflect and reveal things about its culture: if the news that is reported is mostly bad news, this is reflected clearly in the attitudes and beliefs of the country’s population. I believe that literature works in a similar way – that the type of literature we read and write greatly impacts our culture and values as a society.