I beg to differ

There’s an albatross around your neck

My AP English 4 class recently had a discussion assignment where we had to examine the Romantic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As I was reading it, it seemed so familiar. Soon, I came to the line “Instead of the cross, the Albatross/ About my neck was hung,” and I realized…it alludes to one of the songs from my favorite bands, Bastille!

The Weight of Living, Pt. 1:

Dan Smith, the frontman of Bastille, often draws inspiration from the texts he used to analyze as an English Literature major for his songwriting. He masterfully remixes them into upbeat and catchy tunes that reach the top of the charts worldwide. The messages behind the metaphors are so universal that listeners don’t need to know there was a literal/historical background to them in order to understand and relate to the songs.

In this song, the albatross bird represents a “weight of living” – a burden or consequence that, like the mariner’s deed, stemmed from good intentions. The singer is encouraging the person in the song to “let it go” and “[shrug] off the dust and the memory” and move past his mistake. It’s a reminder that even in the darkest times, even when the cause of your downfall is yourself, there is always hope. 🙂

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HB Tech Fest Review


Yesterday, May 29, 2014, I had the privilege of attending and briefly presenting at Huntington Beach Tech Fest. It was an awesome, 80s-themed experience for students and teachers alike. I learned so much about social media and technology!

The event started with a social breakfast. We were organized into teams to complete “quests” for points. I found that this was the only activity lacking throughout the day – I submitted a few quests before the keynote, but totally forgot about them later. I met a lot of teachers from other schools, some of them who surprisingly knew who I was…through my twitter handle!

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My nametag…I think I’m clever

The morning started off with an introduction by Mr. Chris Long, the organizer. Then there was a wonderful keynote by Amy Burvall, co-creator of ‘historyteachers’ music videos on Youtube, and Theory of Knowledge teacher at Le Jardin Academy. I have been following her on Twitter for some time now, so I am familiar with her work…but even the people who had never heard of her were captivated by her talk on “MTV: mobile, transliterate, visible”. During the talk, I was busy moderating the @HBTechFest Twitter account by following the #HBtechfest tag and retweeting key points. Funnily enough, when I looked up from my phone, half the audience was looking at their iPads, computers, or phones. It wasn’t that they weren’t paying attention, they were just listening and tweeting!


My first drawing made with Paper

Mrs. Burvall creates amazing hand-drawn slides with an app called “Paper” by 53. See her slide notes here.

Next was my presentation with Mr. Ziebarth. We discussed our networked reading of Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work! with @Braddo on Twitter (post on that here). I received a lot of positive feedback from teachers 🙂 which was enough to make my day.

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Believe it or not, seeing teachers share your work is super encouraging

We split up into groups to read, annotate, and discuss different chapters of the book. I even received my own free copy of Show Your Work! 😀 THEN, as a lovely surprise, we all got onto a Google Hangout with Austin Kleon! Austin was very straightforward and humble when he answered questions – he wasn’t afraid to admit his shortcomings and doubts, which I thought was admirable.

selfie with austin kleon

#selfie #collannotationsgang

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Straight-faced but he’s really fanboying inside

Even @Braddo joined in on the fun!

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After that was a karaoke lunch full of 80s songs. (Side note: Weirdly enough, I knew most of the songs on the day’s playlist because my siblings were born in the late 80s, haha.) I got to interview Amy for the tech fest video! and there were Twitter cookies! and delicious MTV cupcakes! and Mr. Z did not one, but TWO karaoke songs! Yeah, lunch was fun.

I was conflicted on what session to attend next, but finally decided to stick to Amy’s Remix{ED}. I’m glad I did! Her presentation showed so many examples of remixes, a lot of which were HILARIOUS. Then, we created our own cut-up poems & mashup monsters.


Overall, HB Tech Fest was unforgettable experience that was WAY better than the day of school I missed. I hope it inspired all the attendees to transform education into a much more interactive and fun experience!


Thank Yous (because it is that nostalgic, end-of-the-year time):

Mr. Ziebarth, for being a great, creative teacher that lets us use tech in the classroom. I have learned so much in your class!

Mr. G-O, for introducing me to the potential of Google services way back in freshman year, and for supporting me.

Mr. Theriault, for encouraging me to apply for English Honors 2 (also way back in freshman year) and for showing me how fun English class can be.

Mr. Long, for inviting me to Tech Fest and letting me take over the @HBTechFest account.

and finally, Mrs. Amy Burvall and Mr. Brad Ovenell-Carter, for liking my work and having awesome conversations with me over Twitter. I hope we continue to chat 🙂

All of you are amazing teachers!!!


I have written you down, now you will live forever

Blogging in this class has long been about how everything is a remix and nothing is original. One of my favorite bands, Bastille, uses this method to create music that is fresh, fun, but can also be serious. You might have heard of their song ‘Pompeii’, which soared to the top of the charts last year and is extremely overplayed on the radio nowadays. In honor of the approaching end of April, which is National Poetry Month, I’d like to share with you one of their songs, called ‘Poet’. It’s not my favorite song of theirs, but I thought it was relevant 😉

It was based on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 81 and the verse that goes, “And all the world will read you/ And you will live forever/ In eyes not yet created/ On tongues that are not born” really illustrates the power and beauty of the written word.

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I used to write confusedly, then I took an arrow to the knee.

you go girlll

sorry i tried to be funny in the title

A few weeks ago, my Girl Scout troop went to a local park for an archery lesson. I hadn’t shot an arrow in about 6 years. I was excited to be reintroduced to the sport, even if it would be difficult.

Although Katniss, Hawkeye, and Merida make it seem so effortless, archery is a strength sport that takes focus, technique, and concentration. When I was out on the field, my instructor told me to perfect my technique before my aim. This way, it would be easier to find out which way to shoot. First, I worked on getting my stance directly perpendicular to the target. Then, I practiced holding the bow correctly and pulling the string all the way to my cheek. After shooting a few arrows, I found that my aim was too high. When my technique was satisfactory, all I had to do was to lower the bow to shoot lower. In no time, I made the bullseye 🙂

Writing a rhetorical precis is a lot like archery because it has a specific form. On the first precis we turned in, Mr. Z gave us all feedback. I did well, but the only thing I was missing was explaining how the writer developed an audience with the reader.

 precis format

Now, every time I write a precis, I go back to an old one and tweak it to fit the current article. It’s just like keeping my technique while I shift my aim, in archery!


The World’s a Stage – don’t forget who’s watching

Lately I’ve been thinking about audience. It’s the third letter in SOAPStone and the final sentence in a rhetorical precis. It’s absolutely essential to consider when writing an analytical paper: who is the audience? what is the audience like? how does the author build a relationship with the audience? what is the author’s tone towards the audience? etc.

But audience can be found in everyday situations. The music you listen to is written for an audience that relates to it (you). The advertising in the market is made appealing to its audience (consumers). And when you do all your chores without anyone needing to tell you because you want to go somewhere Friday night, you’re catering to an audience (your parents).

Recently I’ve had a few experiences in Girl Scouts that have made me more aware of how audience intuitively affects people’s diction and tone. It all has to do with the annual cookie sale.

  • When I asked my friends to buy, I texted them something along the lines of, “Hi! Wanna buy Girl Scout cookies from me? :)”

  • When I advertised on social media, I used memes and other funnies about cookies. oh girl scout cookies

  • When I asked long-time customers to buy, I said, “Hey! It’s Girl Scout Cookie time again! I know Thin Mints are your favorite since you’ve bought so many, would you like to order a box from me this year as well?”

  • When I asked older neighbors: “Hello. Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies from me? I’m saving up to go to camp this summer. Here are pictures of our 8 delicious flavors!”

  • When I was at a booth sale asking random strangers: “Hi, would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies? Only $4 a box!”

  • And finally, when I email the board of a company to support their local Girl Scouts: “Dear Board Members: Happy Cookie Season! Here are two ways you can support the world’s largest girl-led business: 1. Buy Cookies, or 2. Participate in the Cookie Share program.”

Did you notice the change in word choice? These quotes were all by me! As an experienced seller (this was my eleventh year…wow I feel old) I instinctively knew how to appeal to my different audience. When I asked my friends, I was more informal. When I approached long-time customers, I showed them that I remembered and cared about their purchases from at least a year earlier. With new and older customers, I was polite. And when I asked business people, I reminded them of the value of the Cookie Business.

Remembering your audience is not just a tip for writers and students. In order to be a successful in your career and life, you need to improve your interpersonal skills. For me, the Girl Scout program has been a doorway to learning new things such as this.

Which cookie are you? Take the quiz:

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SPOILER ALERT: Nick lies, Daisy cries, Gatsby dies

Mr. Z does this really fun and innovative activity called Lit in 6, where we read a book and summarize it in 6 words. It was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” and by We did this for the first book we read in class, The Scarlet Letter. Immediately, I was hooked. I thought of phrases like “Three sinners, two lovers, one letter.” My favorite Lit in 6 for that book was, “Scarlet sin reflected in later kin.”

The idea is that simpler is better, less is more. We try to condense a book of hundreds of pages down into six words. Language is flexible like that.

On Thursday, we had our final discussion about The Great Gatsby. We discussed this article  and whether or not Nick Carraway is an honest narrator. At the end of class, Mr. Z announced that we could participate in the #litin6 hashtag on twitter for Gatsby: #gatsby6 (go check it out to see all my classmates’ amazing six-word stories!)

Here are some of my favorites for this book:

I posted a few myself. Some I rhymed (Nick lies, Daisy cries, Gatsby dies), some I quoted (“I hope she’ll be a fool”) and some I remixed (The green light foreshadowed Avada Kedavra). All in all, this is one of my favorite little assignments. It allows you to be so creative, and the six-word limit is perfect length to not go overboard with it. Each word must be used wisely, and that’s an important skill to learn.

A few teachers on twitter saw the Lit in 6s that my classmates and I posted, and were interested in doing a twitter challenge! I think that sounds really cool, and I’d love to see it happen!


The English of Deduction

Hello all, Happy 2014!

Deduction is defined as “to use logic or reason to form (a conclusion or opinion about something)” or “to decide (something) after thinking about the known facts”. It’s the type of reasoning that Sherlock Holmes (briefly mentioned in my earlier post here) uses to solve his cases.

Well, if you’ll excuse me for jumping on the bandwagon, I’ve recently started watching the excellent show that is Sherlock and I’m obsessed.

In his own words,


This type of reasoning can relate to AP English because when we stare at a text, the words are evidence, and it is up to us to form conclusions. On the AP exam, we will be asked questions about style, tone, narration, diction, syntax, etc. We aren’t supposed to use outside information, the author’s assumed perspective, or any bias.

“Let me run over the principal steps. We approached the case, you remember, with an absolutely blank mind, which is always an advantage. We had formed no theories. We were simply there to observe and to draw inferences from our observations.”

Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box

When reflecting on my Scarlet Letter essay, I found that the reason I lost some points was because I tried to assume the author’s intent and perspective. It lead to me forming conclusions that I couldn’t back up with reasonable evidence.

The lesson of the story is: let the text guide you. Allow the evidence to show you the answer. Even though you might first stare at the text like a drunk Sherlock:

eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and be able to write an essay about it. (yay…)

And lastly, a few pieces of advice for the upcoming finals!


(Disclaimer: I read Doyle’s original Holmes stories long before I knew about the BBC show Sherlock. I’ve always liked the character, but I like to enjoy the show and the books as two separate things.)


In the cookie of an essay, literary devices are chocolate chips.

Err…that’s how the saying goes, right?

I’ve never yet made cookies this perfect, but I’m on my way 🙂

Today, I made cookies. Chocolate chip, to be exact. Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite type of cookies ever, so if I’m ever feeling down, you know what to bring me. Warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk.

Recently, we’ve been analyzing the style of several essays to prepare for our AP exam. Of course the test isn’t until May, but this was our teacher’s first little introduction to the types of questions that we have to answer come May 9th.

Baking cookies is a lot like writing a paper with great style. The ingredients aren’t the only things that matter; the technique does, too! In an essay, words are your ingredients, but how you use them – diction and syntax – is the difference between a crumbly, dry cookie, and a chewy, delectable dessert. When making my cookies, I first refrigerated the dough for a while and I made extra tall cookie dough balls so that the butter would solidify and not spread too much, creating a perfect thickness. The recipe didn’t say to do that, but I know from my experience that cookies turn out better this way. We can also variate the standard cookie recipe to our likes by changing the ingredient proportions.

Ingredient variations to help you find your favorite cookie recipe!

Likewise, writers use diction and syntax to achieve their purpose by creating a mood or tone. It’s our job as AP English 3 students to identify and analyze the effect of each rhetorical strategy. We must consider the topic, speaker, and especially audience. For example, when I’m making cookies for my dad, I might add chopped nuts, because I know he’ll appreciate that more. My mom will want extra chocolate chips. My brother will be satisfied with whatever I end up making. And my sister…well, she’ll ask me why I didn’t make brownies instead.

Style analysis is really a step-by-step procedure, so don’t make it too hard on yourself! First read, annotate, add flour, find literary devices, add brown sugar, and ask what the effect of each is. Then bake for 10 minutes. It’s really that simple 🙂 good luck on your future analysis essays!

Isn’t this Sesame Street/Hunger Games mashup the best thing ever!?

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Steal like Liesel

“When life robs you, sometimes you have to rob it back.”

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is one of my favorite books ever. I honestly love everything about it – the plot, the language style, the characters, the sassy narrator, even the crude drawings.

[Yes, I know the quote above is from the movie. Give me a break though, it’s coming out tomorrow and I was so excited!…until I found out that it’s only coming to a limited amount of theaters, specifically a theater 30 miles away. Sigh.]

Liesel Meminger, the titular character, steals books…because she can.

I hope one day I can be half as intriguing as Zusak is in this book. I don’t know if my English teacher would qualify it as “literary genius” but I certainly think it is. It doesn’t follow the normal rules of novels (that I’ve read). It has sidenotes, handwriting, it picks on the reader, and it relates the effect of harsh Nazi Germany on a delicate child. But while reading this book, you feel like you have a friend; the narrator Death walks beside you, whispering in your ear, holding you by the hand as (spoiler alert!) you walk along the charred path that used to be Himmel Street. He doesn’t let go until you know, you feel, the message of the book: power is nothing without words. Words are life.

This week in English we’ve been working on our essay introductions. My teacher explained different ways we can grab our audience’s attention. We can introduce them to the setting of the essay by using historical context, an anecdote, a larger concept or a thought-provoking question. But there is also another way, “the puzzling scenario”. Here is an example, the first two lines of The Book Thief:

You are going to die.

What better way to warn the reader that this isn’t going to be your average book? Right away, we know two things: the narrator is blunt, and this story has death in it. The “puzzling” part is that we don’t know anything about the characters, the setting, or the plot. In fact, none of that is introduced until the second chapter. In my opinion, the first chapter is there to get familiar with the narrator Death, to see things from his perspective. The powerful truth is that this abstract and unorthodox beginning is the perfect way to draw the reader in and inject them with feels. It transports you Liesel’s callous and unforgiving world.


I’m going to take a page out of Liesel’s stolen book and try to start my essay with a puzzling scenario like Zusak’s. If I can’t steal like a teacher, why not steal like a book thief?



Lately in English class, we’ve been talking a lot about innovation. Our teacher is trying to prepare us for our What If? projects. Personally, I’m very excited about this project, even though I’m not sure about my topic yet. I know that whatever I decide to do, it will be a memorable part of my high school experience.


Innovation is a lot like remixing. It’s taking something that already exists, and adding a personal touch to make it relatable, usable, or fun. One of my favorite quotes has to do with this process:


It means that nothing at this point in time, we might not be able to create things on our own, but we can copy things in different ways (remixing) to find ourselves. In a world with so many people, past and present, it is very likely that what you think is what someone else thinks. However, you just might put two things together than have never been done before!

That being said, innovation is a difficult process! It takes energy, time, and loads of creativity. I can’t wait to see all the cool projects created this year!

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