Extras

The Ferryman: Reading Group Discussion Questions

  1. What do you suppose first attracted Fate to Karen? Do you think that on some level Karen wanted someone else to control her life? Was she looking for another entity to blame for her troubles?
  2. Why do you think Jerome’s grave hadn’t been robbed before?
  3. If you were in Karen’s position, how would you handle Fate? Would you try to break the contract?
  4. Is it possible to outwit Fate? What are some ideas or strategies that might work?
  5. If you met a ghost from 200 years ago, what would you ask the ghost?
  6. Do you believe in Fate? Or Fortune? If so, how much control do these entities actually have? Is it the same for everyone?
  7. Why do you suppose that Karen could see the bones of ghosts? Is this symbolic of anything?
  8. The river appears multiple times in the story. What does it mean or symbolize? Could it have more than one meaning? Did you notice other recurring themes?
  9. The discussion between Fate and Fortune on genetics had each one blaming the other for defects. Is it possible to place blame for these things? Who had the better argument in this book?
  10. Why is Karen irresistibly drawn to Fortune? Is it something about him? Something within herself?
  11. Did you like Karen as a person? Did your opinion of her change throughout the book? Could you identify with her at all?
  12. What did Karen learn from Fate’s interference in her life? Did she learn anything from Fortune? Who taught her the most during the course of the book?
  13. Karma was mentioned but never fully appeared in this story. Why do you suppose the author didn’t fully develop the character in the same manner as she did with Fate and Fortune?
  14. Did you like the images between the chapters in the book? What was your favorite? Least favorite?
  15. Which ghost or ghost story was your favorite? Why?
  16. After the story in the book ends, do you think that Karen could still see ghosts? Why or why not?
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The Orchard of Hope: Reading Group Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever felt like your hope was being eaten alive? What does that feel like?
  • Why is hope symbolized as a fruit? Do you think it’s also symbolic that hope trees continually bloom and produce fruit instead of going through a uniform change from flowering to bearing fruit?
  • What draws the groupies to Roland? What benefits, if any, do the groupies receive from following him? Are these followers a positive or negative thing for Roland?
  • How do you think Kelsey’s knife was made or where do you think it came from that it can cut magic spells?
  • What do you think of the garments of the Sisters of Wisdom (sewn together with the threads of learning, etc)? Would you like to have clothing made of those things?
  • How do you think Nicholas feels to be left behind when the group leaves on their quest? Does he understand his role?
  • Why do you think the dwellers in the City of Eternal Beauty polish away the imperfections that make something unique? Are things more valuable because they appear unblemished? Is there a way that blemishes could add value to something?
  • Do you think it’s possible for the people in the city to learn that the flame takes away their beauty instead of enhancing it? Are there things in our world that are like the flame?
  • Would it be fun to cross the Sea of Laughter? Do you think that death is relief to people who can’t stop laughing on the sea? How would you handle uncontrollable laughter if you had to cross the sea?
  • Do you think of yourself are more similar to the Sisters of Mercy or Brothers of Discipline? Would you attempt to negotiate with the wolves? Would you fight them? Or would you handle the situation differently?
  • In your opinion, is Moss crazy? Is it possible to learn useful skills from a crazy person? What would you do if you had a teacher like Moss?
    Why do you suppose Moss brought Newton to life? Is Newton useful to him?
  • Why are wolves often portrayed negatively in literature (the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, for example)?
  • The Evil Sorcerer tells the same story over and over to make it more powerful. Do words have that much power in your life? Is the power of words limited? If so, how?
  • Do you think the king is powerful enough to ultimately defeat the evil sorcerer? What advantages does he have in this effort?
  • Kelsey’s symptoms are the real cause of her pain, but there is no actual injury. Do you think that people sometimes live in pain because of a perceived injury? Can you think of examples of a situation in real life?
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Reading Group Guide for The Orphanage of Miracles

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General

Discussion

Questions

  1.  What sort of place is the orphanage? Is your view of the orphanage changing as you read more about it? Is this a lace you wold like to visit or live?
  2.  Everyone would like to have a miracle. Would you set out on a quest like Kelsey’s if you thought you could find one?
  3.  Do you think there really is a war? Or is the war imaginary?
  4.  Where do you think Silence came from? Is he an orphan and could he have come from the orphanage?
  5.  Would you ever buy a memory? If so, what kind would you buy? Would you ever sell one?
  6.  Are bad memories valuable? Why or why not?
  7.  What do you think it takes to manufacture  miracle? Is that even possible?
  8.  Are the Pontiff’s good guardians of the orphanage? Why or why not?
  9.  In chapter four, was it a good idea for Kelsey to keep Silence? What are the possible benefits or problems of traveling with someone like Silence on a quest?
  10.  Why do you think there are no miracles on Mondays?
  11.  How would you recognize a miracle? How can you tell if one is real?
  12.  What is the significance of the woman in purple? Why does Kelsey find her annoying?
  13.  Why do children disappear when their plants die?
  14.  Did Nicholas create a miracle? Why doesn’t Nicholas know whether he created one or not? Should he feel different if he had created one? Why or why not?
  15.  What makes Megan and Silence get along together so well? Why do you suppose Kelsey dislikes Megan so much? Does Megan find Kelsey equally as annoying?
  16.  Is Kelsey imagining the noises she hears chasing her? What is causing them and why does Kelsey fear them?
  17.  Is Megan really a healer? What makes a good healer and how does Megan measure up to those traits?
  18.  Silence is a mute, and yet he “talks” to the birds. How do you think he does this?
  19.  Why don’t the mentors or the adults in the Orphanage help the children to create miracles?
  20.  Was renting the horse to cross the desert a good idea? What were the cost/ consequences of this action?
  21.  Why do the Pontiffs and others have a difficult time believing that Nicholas had created a miracle?
  22.  Would you by miracle seeds if you found them? Why or why not?
  23.  Are there times when taking a shortcut to a miracle would be acceptable? If so, when are these times?
  24.  Junko became lazy after she created a miracle. Why do some people quit working after they achieve an accomplishment? How does that impact the goals and achievements of a group?
  25.  Why does Kelsey like Roland so much? How would you react to meeting someone like Roland?
  26.  Why do you think the other children forgot about Junko once she left the orphanage?
  27.  How does someone become the “owner” of a story?
  28.  How can someone want to be healed but at the same time not know that they are broken?
  29.  What would a miracle smell like?
  30.  How was Kelsey equipped to battle the Wind of Fear? Are there things that help equip us in our lives to handle fear better? If so, what sorts of things?
  31.  Why do miracles need people?
  32.  What caused the snow at the orphanage? Why didn’t the children recognize the snow?
  33. What were the king’s original goals for the orphanage? What kept the orphanage from achieving these goals? Have you ever created similar obstacles to achieving the goals in your own life?
  34. Which character is your favorite? Why do you like this character?
  35.  Do you identify more with Kelsey or with Nicholas? What is it about the character that you identify with? Are there specific aspects of these characters to which you can not relate?

 

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Defining Jazz

Appropriate for grades 2 – 5.

 

Overview:

Music is a form of communication and, as such, is constantly changing and evolving. Most musicians also view music as a language. Students need to appreciate the dynamic aspect of the definition in order to understand what is and isn’t jazz. Understanding the basic elements that define jazz as it changes to reflect the culture and times is essential to understanding why some music is classified as jazz and other music is not.

Purpose:

The purpose of this lesson is to help the students understand what defines the genre of jazz as well as to help them understand the dynamic nature of this music.

 

OBJECTIVES:

1. Understand that music is a language – just like English or Spanish.

2. Understand that Jazz is not easy to define.

3. Recognize the elements of what defines jazz

 

Key Point 1: Music is a language

Language is a way that individuals communicate. Music is a method of expression that is considered by many experts to be a form of communication. Music has the ability to convey abstract thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

Key Point 2: Languages are living things

Languages are not stagnant – they are “alive.” New words are born, meanings change, and words may die out from lack of use. Language changes as people change.

Look at the scientific definition of “alive” and discuss how language may or may not posses any of the characteristics of living things:

Living things are made of cells
Living things obtain and use energy.
Living things grow and develop.
Living things reproduce.
Living things respond to their environment.
Living things adapt to their environment.

From a sociological perspective, music is alive. It grows and changes to reflect the culture and times in which it exists.

If music is a language, then jazz may be considered a dialect. Spanish and English are dialects of language just like jazz or classical genres are dialects of music.

Key Point 3: Defining a moving target

When something grows and changes it is not the same today as it was yesterday. Defining something that changes is difficult because the thing itself is not constant.

Since jazz music has been changing and evolving since it was born, there is some disagreement as to what constitutes jazz music. However, there are some basic characteristics of jazz that help us to identify and distinguish jazz from other types of music.

Key Point 4: The Basic Characteristics of Jazz

A car has four wheels. However, everything with four wheels is not a car. A piece of music may have one of the elements of jazz and still NOT be jazz. In a similar way, there are some jazz pieces that don’t have all of the defining elements (Going back to the car example: not all cars have a hard top: some are convertibles).

The two main elements that identify something as jazz are syncopation and improvisation.

Syncopation:

In syncopation, the emphasis is placed between the beats. Use the following samples to demonstrate the difference between syncopated and non-syncopated music.

Example 1 (No Syncopation)

 

 

Click on the player below to listen to what Example 1 sounds like.

[audio: http://fogink.com/wp-content/uploads/Tyra-Neftzger-twinkle_straight.mp3]

 

Example 2 (No Syncopation with Band Playing Along)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the player below to hear what Example 2 sounds like.

[audio: http://fogink.com/wp-content/uploads/Tyra-Neftzger-twinkle_band.mp3]

 

 

Example 3 (Syncopation)

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the player below to hear what Example 3 sounds like.

[audio: http://fogink.com/wp-content/uploads/Tyra-Neftzger-twinkle_sync.mp3]

 

 

Example 4 (Syncopation with Band Playing Along)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the player below to hear what Example 4 sounds like.

[audio: http://fogink.com/wp-content/uploads/Tyra-Neftzger-twinkle_sync_band.mp3]

 

You can also demonstrate the element of syncopation by having the students clap a steady rhythm. Then have one member of the class clap in between the beats while you help the class to maintain the steady rhythm.

 

Improvisation:

Improvisation is the technique of changing a melody as you play it so that it’s not the same every time. This may be done by modifying the notes, rhythm, or both. In jazz, players often improvise to reflect their moods. If a player is feeling down or blue, the musician might play slowly with a mellow tone. If the musician is feeling angry, the tone might be louder, more staccato (short, emphasized notes), and make rapid movement from one note to another.

Use the following samples of a familiar tune (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) to demonstrate what improvising sounds like.

Example 5 (Improvisation embellishing the melody)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the player below to hear what Example 5 sounds like.

[audio: http://fogink.com/wp-content/uploads/Tyra-Neftzger-twinkle_improv1.mp3]

 

Example 6 (Improvisation playing through the harmony)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the player below to hear what Example 6 sounds like.

[audio: http://fogink.com/wp-content/uploads/Tyra-Neftzger-twinkle_improv2.mp3]

 

Classroom Activities using the companion CD:

Exercise1: “So Misunderstood” is written from the dog’s perspective. In your opinion, how does a cat think differently? Write a short poem on what your cat (or anyone’s cat or other pet) would sing about if the animal could sing. Or write a letter from your pet to you telling you how s/he REALLY feels.

Exercise2: Listen to the second song “Afternoons” and imagine what the dog is doing during different parts of the song. Write a story that connects the ideas together and tells about the dog’s afternoon.

Exercise3: Play an instrumental jazz CD (check your local public library). Discuss with the class what the composer was thinking or feeling when s/he wrote the tune. Discuss how the musicians may be feeling as they play the music. Now ask the class to interpret how the CD makes them feel by writing a short poem. Work as a group by listing adjectives, nouns, and phrases on the board. Keep the music playing as you work to organize the thoughts into a poem.

Resources/ Materials required:

Classroom, chalkboard or whiteboard, and a method for playing the samples (either PC with soundcard or a CD player with the samples burned to disk). Teachers are authorized to copy these samples to CD as many times as needed for educational purposes.

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Discussion Questions for All That The Dog Ever Wanted

 

Questions about the Book:

  1. Who is the main character in the book?
  2. Is the book written in first or third person narrative?
  3. What did Cole want most of all?
  4. What did Django want most of all?
  5. Do you think that Django knew why Cole was upset over the guitar strings and drums? Did Django think he had done anything wrong? In your opinion, did Django really do something wrong?
  6. How do you think Django felt when Cole wouldn’t talk to him for a few days? Have you ever stopped talking to a friend or family member for awhile? And, if so, did not talking help the situation?
  7. Have you ever had a brother, sister, or friend break something of yours when you weren’t home? Have you ever borrowed something from a friend or sibling and accidentally broken it?
  8. Do you think that Cole handled the situation well? What could he have done differently?
  9. Do you think that Django tried too hard to please Cole in the beginning?
  10. Would Django have learned that he could sing if he never felt sad?

Questions about the music CD:

  1. Which song on the CD do you like the best and why?
  2. Have you ever listened to jazz before? When or where?
  3. Do you like the song with words or the instrumental music better? Why?
  4. Do you think that the words to So Misunderstood reflect what most dogs are thinking?
  5. If a cat wrote a song, do you think the cat would write about being misunderstood?

 

Exercise1:

“So Misunderstood” is written from the dog’s perspective. In your opinion, how does a cat think differently? Write a short poem on what your cat (or anyone’s cat or other pet) would sing about if the animal could sing. Or write a letter from your pet to you telling you how s/he REALLY feels.

 

Exercise2:

Listen to the second song “Afternoons” and imagine what the dog is doing during different parts of the song. Write a story that connects the ideas together and tells about the dog’s afternoon.

 

Exercise3:

Play an instrumental jazz CD (check your local public library). Discuss with the class what the composer was thinking or feeling when s/he wrote the tune. Discuss how the musicians may be feeling as they play the music. Now ask the class to interpret how the CD makes them feel by writing a short poem. Work as a group by listing adjectives, nouns, and phrases on the board. Keep the music playing as you work to organize the thoughts into a poem.

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Conversations with the Moon: Readers Guide/Discussion Questions

Conversations with the Moonby Amy Neftzger

Discussion questions for this collection of short stories whimsically told from the moon’s point of view of life on earth. The moon shares stories that convey what he has learned about this planet, as well as his curiosity about it. The moon is a spectator to some of life’s most poignant moments. If you have never heard the voice of the moon, perhaps you might enjoy reading what he has to say.

Read more

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