Archive | December 2013

Writing Bridging Answers….Not Just for Our Students!

One of the most enjoyable, but seldom done activities by teachers, is to actually write the answers to the Bridging questions that they give to their students. I would encourage you to pick up your pens and start writing! Think about the meaning of the quotation or new information and see how you can make the connection with that new information and the text which you have learned with your students.

Here are some of my ideas for four bridging questions which are on this site:

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Bridging 1-

At almost 40 years old Robert Frost had not published a single book of poems. He was very discouraged by this. In 1911 he received ownership of a family farm and he and his wife made a momentous decision; to sell this farm and start a new life in London where Frost hoped to be able to publish more of his poetry. He later became the most widely admired and highly honored American poet of the 20th century.

One possible answer:

The new information in the bridging question explains how Robert Frost, who wanted to be a published poet, was not finding someone to publish his work. In 1911 he was at a crossroads when he received ownership of the family farm and decided to sell it, move and start a new life in London. As a result of that decision, he began publishing his poetry and became famous.

This connects to the poem, “The Road Not Taken” because in the poem we read how the author is at a crossroads, trying to decide if he should take the path most people take or “the one less traveled by”. He chooses the one less traveled and says, “that has made all the difference”. This is just like Frost’s decision to move to London to publish his poems rather than stay on his family farm to be a farmer all of his life.

Bridging question two:

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words” Robert Frost

How does this information connect to the poem?

The quotation says that a poem is created when an emotion becomes a thought and the thought then is expressed in words. This connects to the poem, “The Road Not Taken” because we see that the author feels the emotion of having to make a choice between two paths, both of which seem pleasant or similar. That debate inside of him becomes the words of his poem. For example, when he says, both looked “fair” but he chose the one that was, “grassy and wanted wear”. He further expresses in his poem that he chose “the one less traveled by” and that made all of the difference for him in his life.

Bridging question one on “The Split Cherry Tree”

“If we only had in America today more teachers who could teach beyond- and still include- the required subject matter, teachers who could inject beauty into their teaching, we could change the face of America. Inspirational teachers can have a profound influence upon the youth who will later occupy state and national positions and influence a nation.” (Pg. 177 in To Teach To Love by Jesse Stuart)

How does this information connect to the short story?

The quotation by Jesse Stuart talks about the importance of having good teachers who teach more than the subject but they inspire their students by going beyond the subject. This connects to our story, “The Split Cherry Tree” because we see that the teacher, Professor Herbert, wants to teach Dave a lesson by making him work to pay for the tree he and the other boys destroyed. However, when he realizes Dave’s situation at home and he meets Dave’s uneducated father, he tries to inspire him. Professor Herbert realizes that he must go beyond the punishment and show Dave’s father the value of being educated. He shows him this by inviting Dave’s dad to stay in school with him for the day and he explains to him what the children are learning. In the end, Professor Herbert convinces Dave’s dad of the value of having an education and the importance of staying in school. Dave is a witness to how Professor Herbert teaches and treats his father with respect. As it says in the quotations , “these types of teachers can have a profound influence upon the youth… who will later influence a nation.”

Bridging question two:

I’d rather have a C student with an A character than an A student with a C character. Jesse Stuart

How does this information connect to the short story?

This quotation states that Jesse Stuart thinks that a person’s character is more important than the grades they get. This connects to the story, “The Split Cherry Tree” because we see how the main character, Dave, is very concerned about the obligations he has at home and how he would rather get “whipped” as a punishment than be late for doing his chores at home. The story focuses on the character of both Dave and the principal, Professor Herbert, who is also more concerned about building character than grades. We see this in how he makes the boys pay for the damage that they do to the Cherry Tree. In conclusion according to Jesse Stuart, a student with a good character, even if their grades aren’t’ high, is preferable to a student with high grades but who is not honest and is not a good person.

These examples represent a few sample answers to Bridging questions. There are many more ideas that you and your students could explore together. I invite you to write answers to some of the bridging questions on this site or ones that you find and give to your students. Remember the steps in writing a bridging answer:

  1. Pre- writing– Read the quotation/information and make sure that you understand what it means.
  2. In the first sentence of your answer write what the quotation/information says.
  3. In the second sentence (could be second to fourth depending upon if it is written by four or five point students) write how this quotation/information connects to the literary piece that we read.
  4. The next two to four sentences should give at least one example to support what you wrote for answer three. These examples must come from the literary piece.
  5. The last sentence is a concluding sentence. It completes your paragraph and may refer back to the quotation/information.  For example: In conclusion, we can see from these examples that the author wanted to show this idea (state the idea from the quotation/information) when writing the poem/short story/novel.

Humor and Teaching English Creatively- “Grandmother” by: Sameeneh Shirazie

As teachers we try to motivate our students to use English as a way to communicate more than just the answers on the tests. There are two experiences all people enjoy, having a story told or read out loud to them and laughing. It doesn’t matter what age or level, I always read the literature pieces I introduce to my students out loud with flare and feeling. I have a colleague,  Jenny Epstein, who gives her students bonus points on their tests if they can write a joke, in English of course, at the end of the exam. Jenny writes a joke to them and then asks for one in return. Of course it needs to be a joke that they could tell to their grandmother! You can find some cute clean jokes for kids of all ages at: Try it out and see how creative your students’ English communication skills can be!

A combination of seriousness and humor can be used when we teach literature to our students. For example, many of us teach the poem, “Grandmother”, by Sameeneh Shirazie (see below).  There is  a very poignant YouTube video called, “My Zaidy” which could be used to introduce “Grandmother” or as a post-reading activity.  Moshe Yess sings about his Zaidy and the things that he taught him while living in his home as a child. Here is the link   My Zaidy sung by Moshe Yess From The Oorah Shmorg 2 DVD. A special thank you to Justine Cohn for sharing this YouTube with us. On the humorous side,  below is a poem that an anonymous person wrote meant to commend her grandmother for attempting to use the computer. This poem could be used as a pre-reading  or post-reading activity for “Grandmother”.

The poem by Shirazie  lends itself to a discussion about the importance of grandparents in our lives. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have a relationship with our grandparents understand that a grandparent has a plethora of lessons, some serious and some humorous to impart to us. Let’s get our students thinking about that relationship, reading and writing about it!

                                                                                                                                                                The computer swallowed Grandma,
Yes, honestly it’s true!
She pressed ‘control and ‘enter’
And disappeared from view.
It devoured her completely,
The thought just makes me squirm.
She must have caught a virus
Or been eaten by a worm.
I’ve searched through the recycle bin
And files of every kind;
I’ve even used the Internet,
But nothing did I find.
In desperation, I asked Mr. Google
My searches to refine.
The reply from him was negative,
Not a thing was found ‘online.’
So, if inside your ‘Inbox,’
My Grandma you should see,
Please ‘Copy, Scan’ and ‘Paste’ her,
And send her back to me.



by Sameeneh Shirazie

I hadn’t asked her much,
just how she felt,
and she told me all about her day,
and how she’d washed the sheets,
and how she could not understand
why the towel got so heavy
when it was wet.
She’d also sunned the mattresses,
such tired bones and so much to do,
and my eyes filled with tears
when I thought of how I was simply
going to say “Salaam” and walk away
and so many words would have been
trapped inside her.
I would have passed by as if
what lay between those bedclothes
was just old life
and not really my grandmother.

[Note: “Salaam” meaning “peace,” is often used as a greeting.]