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The story “The Pinapple and the Hare” by Daniel Pinkwater made the rounds the past week for being part of a perplexing section of the 8th Grade NY State ELA exam this year. NPR covered some points in Eyder Peralta’s article “The Pinapple and the Hare: Can You Answer Two Bizarre State Exam Questions?” The idea that state exam questions can be confusing is not a new concept: a postmodernist would have a field day deconstructing exams and finding reams of meaning-making banana peels (and headaches).

Instead I draw my focus to the amusing op-ed Pinkwater penned for the NY Daily News, “Pinapple Idiots! Who Knew My Book Would Be Used for the World’s Dumbest Test Question?” He comments on the use of his nonsense work, “On the test, the story makes even less sense, (less sense than nonsense? Yes! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible), and then . . . get ready . . . there are multiple choice questions the kids are supposed to answer.Well, if a thing is absolutely illogical and meaningless, it’s not possible to ask questions like, “Which animal in the story was the most wise? Choose (a), (b), (c), (d), etc.” And, “Why did the animals eat the pineapple?”

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I was thrown off balance when a Head of Middle School showed me a neatly laminated 3′ x 2′ poster that may or may not have been titled “The Writing Process” and asked me for my thoughts. The reason I forget is significant: the poster was forgettable- not the least bit sticky. Well I lied, I remember the green border and the green tiger separated with its own palatial blank white territory. They had nothing to do with the writing process.

He said the school was standardizing the writing process and would be hanging these posters in all the classrooms. I’m not sure who designed the poster, but I don’t think it was a writer. My mind streamed with improvements that could be made-

Problems with the Poster

  • There are not always  5 steps (brainstorm, outline, draft, edit, final composition) in the writing process
  • People use different processes
  • The process is not linear and neat like a list
  • Lacked relevant and inspiring visuals
  • Font all the same style and color, nothing pops
  • A poster does not teach a person to write
  • It wasn’t student-centered and created

Improvements

  • Create a project for students, perhaps a unit “Writing Processes”
  • Students research writing processes, e.g., writing processes used by favorite or notable author; writing processes used by self and friends; improvements they would make, and present to class and perhaps school
  • Create a board in the classroom for Writing Tools and Processes, students can post and organize ideas
  • Address the writing processes they used for this project and how they figured out how to do it, e.g., trial and error, experience, tips, Internet, books, teacher, friends, parents

This song and video are wonderful. uplifting. insightful. life-

ankraut; http://www.flickr.com/photos/ankraut/538294558/; Polluted Water at Dakshinkali Temple

“Unsafe water kills more people than war, Ban says on World Day“, UN News Centre

“Every day around the world, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are poured in the earth’s waters, while one child under the age of five dies every 20 seconds from water-related diseases, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).”

“World Water Day Focus on Global Sewage Flood”, National Geographic

“There are few places where this is more clear than in Nairobi’s slums. On a rainy day in Kibera—one of the world’s largest unofficial settlements, or shantytowns—you are ankle deep in a soupy, earthy smelling mess of red mud, human waste, and plastic shreds.”

Where would you rather read a book, eat lunch, socialize, and think?

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"Empty shelves in the fiction section at the Donnell" by Salim Virji, http://www.flickr.com/photos/salim/2351214894/

A School without a library: Cushing Academy.

David Abel’s article “Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books” discusses the groundbreaking phenomenon of a school that has destroyed its library and built a posh technologically-equipped “learning center” (computers, electronic readers, flat screens.)

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