5 Reasons Students Should Write Every Day

This is a repost from Sherrelle Walker, M.A.

Students writing

Credit for photograph

Sherrelle Walker asked the question: “Are your students writing as much as they should be?”

She explained that classroom writing, done with willful focus and daily diligence, remains an essential part of educating students of all ages, including adults. She also provided five reasons classroom writing is still a must:

1. Writing improves communication skills.

First and foremost, writing provides a vehicle for expression and communication. No matter the age or grade level of your students, diligent writing practice will boost both their skill and comfort level with revealing and relating their own thoughts and feelings.

2. Writing helps students review and remember recently learned material.

Isn’t it always easier to remember a household task or a website to visit later if we write it down somewhere? A brief writing assignment at the end of class, focusing on the day’s lesson and discussions, is a great way to reinforce the material, support long-term recall of the key lesson points and help build writing skills all at the same time.

3. Writing helps educators assess student learning.

Probably the most common use of writing in the contemporary classroom is for a given student to demonstrate that he or she knows and understands x or y concept. Whether the assignment is, for example, an intensive compare-and-contrast essay at the secondary level or writing and illustrating a haiku in the primary grades, writing assignments help teachers see what material students have mastered and where there may be gaps.

4. Writing encourages creativity and exploration.

Daily writing encourages a creative flow that can help students use their imaginations, explore possibilities, delve into problem solving, and engage in storytelling. In addition to “serious” writing assignments which are reviewed and graded, it is important to assign “free” or “creative” writing time, so that students can explore vocabulary, concepts, and writing styles that they wouldn’t risk in a formal essay or heavily graded assignment.

5. Writing is essential for self-understanding.

Even a cursory search online will reveal a plethora of diary-like blogs, filled with entry after entry of highly personal content.  In the same way that these blogs serve their authors, classroom writing can help students understand and make sense of their own experiences, locate contexts, and make (sometimes surprising) discoveries about their own thoughts and feelings.

Classroom teachers will find that reading through their students’ writing assignments can give them great insight into each student’s personality, style, and comprehension level of the material being presented. When a high value is placed on consistent writing in the classroom, it’s a win-win all around.

So, write on!

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Chinua Achebe: I Honor the Legendary Father of African Literature

We owe so much to the man whose pen propelled Nigerian and African stories into the stars, the man who gave us the voice to tell the world that we, too, have literature, and the man who allowed us to walk with lifted spirits and heads raised to the sky.

Today, we celebrate Chinua Achebe who would have been 87 years old. Google says it well:

Today’s Google Doodle Honors Legendary Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe

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Chinua Achebe left our world much better than he found it. We owe so much to Chinua Achebe:

  • Told our stories fearlessly despite that he was just a new graduate.
  • Was authentic in writing and in REAL life.
  • Was bestowed with many titles too numerous to count: Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, critic, publisher, essayist, research fellow, university professor/educator, director of external broadcasting for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, director of two Nigerian publishing houses, and many more titles.
  • Received honorary degrees from more than 30 universities around the world.

 

  • Inspired generations of African writers and others around the world. “Achebe’s writing triggered a revolution in fiction which continues to this day. By presenting the world and history as seen through different eyes, he gave voice to the previously unheard. Achebe inspired writers in both Africa and elsewhere to tell their stories, most notably African-American Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.”

 

  • His style was unique. His work had drama, sympathy, empathy, liquid imagery, photographic descriptions, and much more: “It gives a visual image of the Nigerian values and code of life. Chinua Achebe uses visual, aural and olfactory language to colour our senses and portray the climate, the images and the way the Ibo people react to certain scenarios. “The birds were silenced in the forests, and the world lay panting under live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was angry, metallic and a thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. …”
  • Told it from the perspective of the African: In an interview with The Paris Review in 1994, Achebe explained how reading other nations’ depictions of his own, ones that described them as “savages”, inspired him to take action and become a voice for his people: There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian.”

 

  • Even at 82 years, Achebe died young: “In Achebe’s obituary in March 2013, The New York Times described the author as the person who ‘helped to revive African literature and rewrite the story of a continent that had long been told by Western voices’.” (Refinery29.com)

Before I read No Longer at Ease, I (and millions of African readers) had never known of T.S. Eliot. Chinua Achebe made T.S. Eliot famous to Africans. Imagine that!

The list just touches the tip of who Chinua Achebe was and what he contributed to humanity. We miss him, but we are richer, more intelligent, and grateful for his legacy.

Harry Berry Is Die-Hard in “Kidnap”

The preview of Halle Berry’s “Kidnap” came to the public’s attention in late 2016. The release date was moved to January of 2017, moved a few times, and was not mentioned for a while. Finally, a reliable source indicated that it would be released this month. It is out this August, and it is worth the wait!

David Erlich’s review of “Kidnap” is unnecessarily dismissive and insulting. Reviewers like Erlich are the reason fans go to see a movie despite them thrashing it. David Erlich must not have watched the entire movie or must not have watched it at all. He missed the crucial essence of this most prolific film and its profound message: that we should rescue exploited and missing children with the tenacity of a mother bear.

Unlike the parents of the children on the “Missing” posters at the police station, Karla Dyson refused to do as the police requested: go home. “They waited,” Karla realizes and spurs herself to continue the search for her abducted son.

Flash over to a more credible source: NBC News recognizes the importance of the movie. As such, any parent who loves his/her child will be vested emotionally in this movie. The script is believable. That parent in the audience is on the edge of the seat cheering on this struggling mother whose callous husband tosses her aside for lack of post-secondary education while he makes a dive for a pediatrician. Berry’s character gives tenacity a different meaning.

The most crucial aspect of reading a book (or–as I tell my students–READING a movie) is reference point. Writing a review demands the same: making the plot relevant to one’s life. Therefore, we relate to Halle Berry’s character, Karla Dyson, and are sold on HALLE_BERRY_IN_KIDNAP-EHalle Berry’s convincing portrayal of a low-income/minimum-wage earning waitress whose lifeline is her son, Frankie. As parents, we are in tune with the twists and turns. When we stare into Karla Dyson’s horror-filled eyes, we feel her helplessness, her raw dread, and her iron-clad resolution. KDNP_00653.dng“To say that Karla was relentless is a gross understatement. Berry made sure we feel the despair and vulnerability of this mother as she stuck to her chase no matter how many times she cheated death doing so,” writes CBN News.

Rooting for Karla Dyson, we join her as fierce mothers (humans, giant anteaters, swans, brown bears, etc.) who will go to the ends of the world to keep our offspring from harm. If movies like the “Die Hard” franchise and the “Taken” trilogy can be believed, so can “Kidnap.” Karla Dyson accomplishes so much without the violence rampant in most action thrillers. She convinces us that she is decent and is above violence unless it is her only recourse.

The movie needs and receives a mother’s touch, a splash of sensitivity that introduces the plot. The audience hears Mother Karla continuing a stream of off-camera nurturing. We sense Berry’s role as one of the producers in the touchy-feely lead-in that allows the audience to watch the baby boy grow from birth to a six-year old. The audience falls in love with the baby and feeds into the palpable and fierce bond between mother and son. The viewer now has bought into the mindset of the determined giant anteater and the extent she will go to ensure the safety of the core of her being.

This edge-of-the-seat thriller sends the viewer’s blood racing from Frankie’s kidnapping to the engrossing chase. Several instances will catch the viewer by surprise and might elicit loud screams. The film might not have received the budget or the exposure of “Monster Ball,” “X-Men” movies, or Bond’s “Die Another Day,” but in terms of its centrality to humanity and its relevant themes, “Kidnap” gives all other Berry films a run for their money.  Kidnap-movie-Halle-Berry3

The ultimate one-liner that will make this film famous is Karla Dyson’s delivery to the kidnapper: “You took the wrong kid!”

Kudos to you, Halle Berry: actress and producer!

 

 

The Shortest Movie Review: “The Cold Light of Day”

Cold Light KeyI am playing catch-up on the movies I have missed over the years. I am five years behind on this movie, “The Cold Light of Day” (2012).

The unbelievable and unacceptable point from which I still am reeling is that Bruce Willis allowed the producers/directors to kill his character, Martin Shaw. What the living daylights happened??????

For a Hollywood legend who built his reputation on death-defying roles (“Die Hard:” two installations, “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “Red,” “Die Harder,” “Red 2,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” “The Expendables:” two installations, etc.), I never believed the day would come when Bruce Willis will allow his character to succumb to premature death. I am beyond disappointed.

Interviews of Famous People Series:Emery L. Campbell

I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed many famous people. A recent event caused me to rummage through my electronic folders. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Here is the article I wrote for Yahoo! I do not know the reason I did not take a picture of/with Emery with my camera. The picture shown here is not mine.

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The Full Life of Georgia’s 2011 Senior Poetry Laureate

The e-mail bearing the news that Emery L. Campbell of Lawrenceville, Georgia, has won the title of 2011 Georgia Senior Poet Laureate slipped into my inbox with the modesty and grace characteristic of Campbell.

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A true gentleman who age cannot seem to hold down, the 84-year-old business-executive-turned-poet is no stranger to winning contests. This year, the piece that earned him the deserved SPL honor was “Declaration of the Forswearing of Ophidian Decortication.” Chew on that title for a minute.

“This is familiar territory,” Campbell noted, very comfortable in his current position. “I’ve won the title SPL before,” he stated dismissively. “I took up poetry in 1994 after I retired from the commercial scene,” the widely published multi-linguist affirmed.

This year’s 19th annual Senior Poet Laureate competition included participants from all 50 states with 900 poems entered by 219 poets. It was not Campbell’s first success in the contest.

According to the sponsor, Amy Kitchener, Emery has represented Georgia several times by winning the SPL poetry competitions at the state level, and he took the prestigious National Senior Poet Laureate award once in 1999. He has also won numerous prizes in state and national poetry contests over the years.

“My poetry is constructed, not inspired,” he said. “It is mostly rhymed and metered traditional verse. I choose my words carefully, making extensive use of a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus.” When asked about his muse, Campbell characterized it as “a bit of a mystery.”

Campbell admits that the highlight of his life was meeting a Dutch girl in Paris in 1957 who later became his spouse of 53 years. Born in 1927 in Monroe, Wisconsin, he has lived in France for twelve years, including two as a post-graduate student, in England for nine, and in Argentina for seven year.

He has traveled widely in Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the United States, often accompanied by his wife, Hettie. Since 1988, the two have resided in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Their sons, Julian and Lucas, live in the Atlanta area.

A longtime member and past VP of the Georgia Poetry Society, Campbell served as the organization’s contest chair for twelve years. He is also a member of the Southeastern Writers Association, the Georgia Writers Association, and the Utah State Poetry Society.

After serving four and a half years as a U.S. naval aviator, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His knowledge of French transformed his life by helping him to land his first job overseas. It also enables him to garnish his witty poems with Français.

A 2005 Georgia Author-of-the-Year nominee, Campbell has published two books of his poems and his French-to-English translations: This Gardener’s Impossible Dream (2005) and Selected Fables and Poems in Translation (2010). Several hundred of his poems have also appeared in various other publications, anthologies, and on the Internet, and his work has been compared to that of Ogden Nash.

Early this year, his poem, “A Lawyer More Compassionate than Most,” was accepted for publication in the spring 2011 edition of the Israeli poetry and prose journal.

“A Witch in Time,” one of his pieces about a sorceress whose fear of heights prevents her from flying around town on her broomstick, is being pitched to Kennesaw State University in hopes that its music department may present it as a choral performance next Halloween.

As for words of wisdom to younger poets, Emery advises, “Poetry contests are much like lotteries. You have to keep resubmitting your work. If you win, good. If you don’t, just shrug it off.  Judges have likes and dislikes. Your winning or not often depends on how the judges feel on any given day.”

Over the years, Campbell has acquired a versatile taste in poetry and expresses particular admiration for the work of slam poet, Marvin Ayodele Heath. He often quips that Emory University was named after him, but the University spelled his name wrong.

Interviews of Famous People Series: Professor Nikki Giovanni

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Dr. Giovanni speaks to Kennesaw State University about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nikki Giovanni Asks for a Major Motion Picture for MLK, Junior

As Kennesaw State University joins the rest of the nation to mark another deserved birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, it welcomed the world renowned poet, Professor Nikki Giovanni, as its keynote speaker. In her inaugural visit to KSU, Giovanni posed a question worthy of deep consideration.

“Why has there not been a major motion picture in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Hollywood has made movies about drug dealers and criminals, Capone, Dillinger, and so on. You have to wonder why Martin has no movie in his honor,” the bold and critically acclaimed Giovanni demanded during the 2012 annual observance on Monday, January 16.

Forty-four years after his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., is yet to earn a big-screen, sole-title movie right as Malcolm X and numerous other black history makers and heavyweights.

In an unpredictable mixture of history lecture, entertainment, chastisement, and religious sermon, Giovanni kept up a stream of surprising influx that kept attendees laughing hilariously and continually. Without warning, she sent them bristling from her criticisms and feeling grateful for uncountable legacies at the same time.

A distinguished professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University—Virginia Tech–since 1987, Giovanni sneaked in another title to numerous others (mother, writer, poet, commentator, and activist), that of a comedienne, as she caused riotous laughter to erupt smoothly and repeatedly.

The “Princess of Black Poetry” recanted childhood stories of her grandmother’s link to Civil Rights legends such as Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon (who bailed Parks out of jail), and MLK, Jr. She reminded us of a very painful fact: “We lost Martin too early. He was just 39.” Ironically, Giovanni’s writing career was born in the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Giovanni recited a very moving tribute to “the incomparable Martin” from her poetry collection, Acolyte. “In the Spirit of Martin,” demanded “the world to see what they did to my boy.” It traveled through civil rights cities and envisioned a present-day Martin, “the voice of his people,” wearing a tattoo and with braided hair.

One of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends,” Giovanni uplifted the mixed-race audience by urging Caucasian female writers and historians to tell the story of the frontier woman whose courage in the face of insurmountable danger has not begun to be told yet.

Georgia’s third largest university, Kennesaw State honored the woman who came to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., with a medley of orchestrated events such as songs by the KSU Gospel Choir, a rendition of the “Black National Anthem,” and remarks by President Daniel S. Papp.

A 30-minute book-signing session followed Giovanni’s speech, but the long line that curved inside the Student Center kept the famous poet signing books all evening and taking pictures. She had a smile for each adoring fan and did not show any sign of fatigue.

Interviews of Famous People Series: Chika Unigwe

In class today, students were reading an article on author Chika Unigwe, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed the author when she visited Smyrna, Georgia, from Belgium before she relocated to Georgia with her family. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Author Chika Unigwe Brings a Cause Célèbre to Atlanta

The harbinger of uncomfortable and eye-opening news, Nigerian author, Chika Unigwe, came four thousand miles to expose Atlantans to a festering human condition spreading too rapidly worldwide. Unigwe proffered unflattering details on the cancer of human trafficking during a gathering in her honor on Friday, November 18, 2011, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marietta.

The much publicized writer and the winner of numerous international awards and fellowships, Unigwe elaborated. “The incident is so prevalent that it has created a new middle class in Nigeria. Parents receive money from strange men in Italy to groom their daughters, and Italian men pay the tuition. The parents traffic their daughters once they graduate from high school,” Unigwe continued, deeply concerned.

When Amy Edwards of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna learned that the author was coming to visit her sisters in the Atlanta area, she acted expeditiously and arranged the reading of On Black Sisters’ Street, Unigwe’s novel. Using the book as a platform for the exposure of the rancid disease of selling humans, Edwards revealed the inconvenient truth that Atlanta is one of the top U.S. cities–and an infamous hub–for trafficking modern slaves.

The mother of four boys, Unigwe disquieted her fans as she revealed unsavory facts of legalized prostitution in European countries and the enslavement of thousands of Nigerian girls who are bonded to pimps and madams in Belgium for a minimum of five years.

According to Unigwe, “The daughters are given to men or are sold into slavery to women in the United States, Belgium, Italy, and other countries as long as the girls send money to Nigeria. Some of these girls want out, but they are bound and gagged by their parents’ need for the money they send. There have been reported incidents of pastors involved in the sale of humans.”

The condition reached an alarming proportion locally that it prompted Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to launch the “Dear John” program in 2006. The Georgia General Assembly followed by passing HB 200, “Freedom from Human Trafficking Act,” in 2007 and revised it in 2011.

Despite local, national, United Nations, and other international laws, “The problem of human trafficking continues because of widespread corruption. A staff at Heathrow smuggled Nigerian girls into London through employee exit,” Unigwe narrated.

“As part of my research for my novel, and with my husband’s approval, I dressed as one of those girls on the streets in Antwerp to gather first-hand materials. The difference between European and Nigerian pimps is that European pimps control with drugs; Nigerian pimps use psychology.”

Edwards encouraged attendees to get involved by connecting with the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Not For Sale, A Future Not a Past, and Street Grace.  These organizations are dedicated to awareness and prevention of child exploitation as well as to the restoration of victims. Any person can help by reporting any incidents or possible victims of child sex exploitation and human trafficking to the Georgia Care Connection Office.