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Class Discussion on Annoyances (March 27, 2004)

Students read the amusing essay, "Street Directions," by Andy Rooney where he complains about the difficulties of giving and getting directions. To prepare for their writing assignments, the students had a group discussion on things that annoy them and possible solutions to their annoyances. Original assignment.

Student Annoyances and Solutions:

One student lives very near to a high school. There are lots of problems, especially with bad behaviour from the teenagers. One example is when the kids gather on the playing field and then play loud music and drink. The student has called police to help solve the problem but, unfortunately, the police are not always able to come.

Another student purchased a new car. One week later, the husband and wife were going to go to the spring festival but found the car window had been broken. Worse than that, the thieves had taken two things: the air bags! ICBC says that this is a common problem in the city these days and that thieves can sell the bags for one or two hundred dollars. However, the bags cost 4,000 dollars to replace and the owner must pay a 300 deductible. The solution, if it happens again, is to sell the new car and buy an older, unattractive one!

A student lives on 10th Avenue, a very busy traffic street. Often, sports cars with very loud mufflers pass by her house. Even through two layers of glass, with the windows tightly closed, the noise can be heard clearly in her suite. The only solution we could think of was for the student to move, since busy streets are usually very noisy!

A student feels bad because her daughter can speak and understand English better than she can. This is pretty common with new immigrants. One solution might be to use the child as a way to help the adult to learn the language better. We agreed that it is difficult when children perform some typical adult jobs like answering the phone or reading documents. This can make the adults feel inadequate and upset.



Class Discussion on Prejudice (February 13, 2004)

Prejudice is a kind of injustice to others based on something that other person cannot control. For example, some people have prejudice against teenagers, assuming that they are thieves (when the teenagers go into a store, the storekeeper is suspicious of them).

The Wordsmyth dictionary ( defines prejudice as “an opinion, judgment, preference, or conception formed without knowing or examining the facts.” They add that it is also “irrational hostility toward a person or group, usu. on the basis of racial, ethnic, or national origin.”

Four prejudices faced by people in our class:

One of the students went to a restaurant with their family. This student is from Asia and the waiter was a young (teenage) white person. Although the restaurant was not full, the waiter took the family to a table beside the washroom. The family did complain and ask to move, but their feelings were hurt as a result of their bad treatment.

Another student was waiting in a lineup (after only one month in Canada) and made small talk with another person (Caucasian and younger). This person, when she thought that the student could not understand her (she could!), rejected her and waved her hands to indicate she didn't want to talk with her anymore. This made the student feel bad and that the other person was rude and racist towards her.

Another group discussed that, generally speaking, incidents of prejudice are quite rare in Canada. One student mentioned that, in the USA, it was much more common to experience prejudice. All the students agreed that it was a case of certain people who acted in this way and not as a widespread experience.

Another student called for a new apartment and was told it was available. When the landlord saw that he was a person of colour, he or she said that the apartment was rented. Then, the student called again on the phone and was told that the apartment was free! The student felt quite bad about it and saw it as racist.




Class Notes on "The Road Not Taken" (February 7, 2004)

The notes below comment on and explain more about the poem, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.

1. The Road Not Taken

First, read the title carefully. Think for a minute and make sure to understand the exact meaning of the phrase. The class believes that it’s not real roads, it is some kind of metaphor (road is life) that’s happening.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, “yellow” indicates autumn
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

the road is rough or not well travelled and we can’t see its end.

Stanza one is part of the 87 word sentence that ends with the word “black” on line 12. It ends with a semicolon, which tells us that we should consider the words before it as a group. So, the speaker (in story it is narrator) is standing at a junction or fork in one road (becoming two) and wishing to be able to go on both and tries to see what is on one of the roads.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Be clear that both roads are not well-travelled.
The road he says has “perhaps the better claim” is very much like to road looked upon in the first stanza.

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black. autumn (leaves)
Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yeah, sure! Irony is when the situation is clearly different from what is said.
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

The speaker admits that this is unlikely, but we knew it first.

I shall be telling this with a sigh A “sigh” is a sign of regret or sorrow.
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by, After your experience you can understand that fewer go this way.
And that has made all the difference. 20

No matter which you choose, it will make“all the difference” but there is no positive or negative attached to the speaker's words.



 Wow! The poems the students wrote for the assignment were wonderful! Here are three I had time to type for you to see.

Embrace the Sky

Embrace the sky
I wish I can fly
Like the skylark,
Embrace the sky.
I sing what I want to sing
Everyone feels happy.
When the night comes,
I sing with the stars.
Let the earth be full of peace.


Sunset at the Beach

The silver beach at sunset is so gorgeous like a piece of silk.
The joyful children are busy with building sand castles.
The pretty girls with Hawaii skirts are dancing and whirling.
The sail boats with colorful sailcloth are flying butterflies.

The afterglow of the sun is dyeing the sky into gold.
The sea waves are flashing with sparkling stars like pearls.
Suddenly, the sun disappears on the west side of the sky.
The only thing left is a dream of the flaming gold cloud.



I know how secure the caged bird remains!
When it thunders. . . when it lightnings, rains reservoirs,
When the tornado blows deadly,
I see the caged bird reposing safely.
I know how content the caged bird remains!
When the snow falls like a million diamonds,
When the bitter wind makes one tremble,
I see the caged bird living comfortable.


Notes from The Flower Drum Song

Quotation marks show the exact words of a speaker.
They follow special rules of punctuation that you
should know. The other way we use them is to provide
emphasis as in the word “face” used above.

When May Li and her father disagree about climbing the
stairs to the restaurant, it is called a “conflict.”
It does not mean a big fight, but all stories have
them and we like to find out the result of each one
(the result is called the “resolution.”

We also have “internal conflicts” inside ourselves.
Mr. Li isn’t sure it’s a good restaurant and also
isn’t sure what to order. These are conflicts inside

In China, being compared to a cow is a positive thing.
The comparison in the story is a simile, “as strong as
a cow.” WARNING: A “cow” in Canada is a fat, ugly



Here's a sample poem for this week's assignment. The rules: use two rhymes; lines 8-10 syllables or so; one simile or metaphor; a title.


Out on a Limb One Day

I went out on a limb one fair day,
Teaching a poem to my devoted class.
As bright sun shone through sun-dappled glass,
Their faces, sympathetic, I’m pleased to say.
Now, as I listen to a favourite musician sing,
“Keep me in your heart for awhile”
Honey fills my ears, and then I smile,
And wonder what joys their poems will bring!

—by Brad Hyde, September 26, 2003









Notes for February 7, 2003 Class on "Say Hey."

Autobiography: “auto” means by myself; “bio” is about life and “graphy” is about writing SO the word means a story about my life written by me.

Biography: story about someone’s life written by a writer or someone else. Willie Mays: baseball player

Willie Mays played before the Korean War, then joined the army, then returned to baseball after the war.

Have you ever left something and then gone back. What was it? How did you feel about going back?


authority: a teacher is an authority on some subject

ordeal: An ordeal is a difficult job or task. Learning English is an ordeal if you begin as an adult.

technicality: A technicality is when you save some tax in a special way that the government doesn’t want you to. Another word for this is “loophole.”

suspicious: He was suspicious when when he found a letter in his son's drawer.

Moral is right and wrong and you know the difference.

Morale is a kind of feeling of how happy or unstressed you are. It is a kind of confidence. Many of the world’s people have low morale these days.

He “couldn’t stand” the loud noise of his neighbour’s stereo. It drove him crazy.

A “dumb play” is a stupid thing to do.

Teachers who “play favourites” may give higher marks to some special students. These students are called “teachers’ pets.”

After I came out of the dirty attic, I was a sight. To “be a sight” is to have an unusual look for some reason. A pretty girl can be a “sight for sore eyes.”

People should “tip off” the police if they see something suspicious in their neighbourhoods.


Notes for November 1, 2002 Class on "The Women of Brewster Place"

fiction, meaning that . . . Many times in writing a noun (fiction) is followed by a comma. After the comma, you will find more information on that noun.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein (E=MC2)

The characters are the people in the story. focus on (looks at closely) issues: a new meaning is to mean “problems” He has issues with her. So, he needs to talk to her about something that is bothering him.

A conflict is a disagreement or fight or opposite feeling between two people or a person and environment. Also, the person can be in the conflict with him or herself.

An idea.

A value. Children should respect their elders. A value is a moral guideline for living all your life.

Mood is a feeling of happiness or sadness, fearful and scared, anger and so on.

In the first half page of our reading there is clearly some happy mood (dancing, winking), a party. But, there is some feeling of conflict.

Miss Johnson (Etta), Mattie, and a handsome teenage boy (no name), Ciel. Their reunion is joyous and tearful.

Thoughts on Our Reunions with Family and Friends:

I returned to my family home and felt very strange. I didn’t feel comfortable (like a fish out of water).

For many months I travelled with other young people and now I was in my home and felt very restricted. I also felt happy and enjoyed my mother’s cooking.

The happiness is mixed with the knowledge (or feeling) that you will separate again.

I felt welcome. My favourite food was cooked for me.

I was feeling intoxicated. It felt unreal or strange.

Reunions are usually a mixture of feelings, both happy ones and sad or uncomfortable ones. A habit or routine is very important to everyone. That is perhaps why a reunion is not always very easy.

To leave everything is unusual. To go far from your home and lose all contact with your family and loved ones is not common, but happens everywhere. Usually, there is some kind of problem behind it.


Notes for October 4, 2002 Class on Writing about the poem, "Sympathy"

It is always easier to write what you know.

Last week, I learned that poems use something called a "stanza" that is kind of like a paragraph.

I learned that poetry expresses feeling and is like a container. Poetry can make a long story shorter and concentrated.

Because poetry has rhyme like a song, it is easy to remember and touches us deeply. I learned that... (useful starting words for a sentence about anything you study)

I learned that poetry is like a container full of our feelings. It is written in a special way: instead of paragraphs a poem is made of "stanzas."

The words used in poetry are sometimes hard to understand because some are not ordinary words and the sound is also different, for it is made of words that rhyme.

The student had added "full of our feelings" to the container idea. This gives more meaning. . She has noted that poetry is written a different way than other writing.

Conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (FANBOYS) On the certificate tests, many students cannot use `for." It means "because."

When a poet says "the river flows like a stream of glass" it is like a strong way of saying something (more than what is possibly true), which makes us see a picture easily. The "mind's eye.' This is simile.

The teacher wants a paragraph about what you have learned from your study of the poem, "Sympathy."

Topic Sentence Samples:

I learned that the poem, "Sympathy," is about a sad bird's life in a cage.

The poem, "Sympathy," shows us how much we wish for freedom.

>From the poem, "Sympathy," I learned a number of important things. First, I learned that a poem is a container full of feelings. Then, I learned that poets use special words called similes. For example, the poet says a "river flows like a stream of glass." This is a simile that uses "like" to compare a river and glass. In addition, I learned (63 words, so far. Try to write 100.

Concluding sentence example: So, I really did learn a few things about poetry from the poem, "Sympathy."

When you write YOUR paragraph, use the words in green to connect the ideas together.


Notes for September 27 Class on the Poem, "Sympathy"

What is a story?

A story is a beginning a middle and an end about something happening.

What is poetry?

Poetry expresses feelings, using sound in special ways, is shorter than other kinds of literature, and is the oldest form in language. Before written language, our people gave out information, history, stories in poems (or songs) to the next generation.

A poem is a container for feelings.

Songs are nearly or are poems.

Poetry is difficult, because it is short and concentrated (like orange juice), and is special or out of the ordinary in feeling and words used.

Always look carefully at the title before you begin to read any literature. Make sure you know the meaning of "sympathy" before you begin!


I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven, he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

—Paul Laurence Dunbar

“Alas” is a kind of sympathy word used to express
sadness to someone and often in poetry.

When you read a poem, remember to read the sentences
for meaning.

Using a semicolon “;” is a way of joining two
sentences into one.

Using a colon “:” is a way of saying, “I will explain more to follow.

Upland is a compound of “up” and “land,” so you can guess the meaning.

A “slope” is a hillside where the land goes higher from a lower place.

The wind “stirs” as we stir coffee (the same motion) and the grass “springs” and so is gently going up and down in that wind. It is a picture or image.

The river is like glass. The river is not glass, but it looks like glass. The poet compares the two things to help you see an image, this time using “metaphor.”

This is a special kind called “simile.” Simile uses “like” or “as” to compare.

“Opes” is a poetic word to mean “open,” but the poet needed a rhyme for “slopes” and open would not work, so he uses this word.

“Chalice” is compared to flower bud by its shape. A “chalice” is the cup used in a Christian church to hold the wine that represents the blood of Christ.

The group of words together in lines is called a “stanza.”

The baby “clings” to its mother.

The bird sits on its perch. The bird perches.

A “bough” is a tree branch.

A scar is left after a bad cut. Your finger throbs when you cut it. Your pulse is your heartbeat.

A knife is sharp when you make it keener.

A “plea” is a noun for when someone asks strongly for something. A child pleads with his mother to get a chocolate bar at the store. The mother must be very strong to resist his pleading. A good synonym to “plead” is to “beg.”

Try the Quiz on the notes above.

Discussion Notes for January 25 Class

In this class, we spent time in groups talking about the following quote by Albert Einstein on the meaning of peace. We were preparing to read Virginia Wolfe's essay "Thoughts of Peace in an Air Raid" from our text (pages 99 - 101)

"Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order—in short, of government." —Albert Einstein

Student Reactions:

Einstein’s definition is quite ideal and difficult. It seems that even Canada or Vancouver cannot meet his conditions. 

One example from a student was a bank robbery is not peaceful. Also, a citizen running red lights or speeding is not orderly (and Einstein said peace requires order). Sometimes the wrong man is in jail for a murder and we find it many years later and free him. This is not just.

But, Canada is closer to Einstein’s idea than many other places, so it is still mostly peaceful. (many students thought so)

Also, it is difficult to say whether Canada is at war or at peace right now since our soldiers are in Afghanistan ready to fight under US command. We follow the US command for the first time since 1944.

A Definition of War (Following Einstein's sentence structure)

“War is not merely shooting guns and dropping bombs but the absence of thinking, negotiation—in short, a failure to communicate." (written by the teacher)




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