Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Programming Spotlight: Untapped!

Today marks the last of our school trips to see Untapped, a high-energy music and dance performance at the New Victory Theater in Times Square. All told, six of Passages' nine sites made the trip and we can’t wait to come back!--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Photo Credit: Andrew Fee

Friday, November 18, 2011

Illustrations from the Inside by The Beat Within

It only takes a pencil and paper to create artwork that moves, inspires, and wows. Nothing flashy here -- just some really talented, locked-up teenagers who have shared their art with The Beat Within, a group that describe themselves as a program that “provide[s] incarcerated youth with consistent opportunity to share their ideas and life experiences in a safe space that encourages literacy [and] self-expression...” Aside from the introduction, which is written in a scholarly and academic tone, and clearly not directed towards incarcerated youth, this book has huge appeal for our students. They pore over the art on every page; all pencil drawings which are generally in a style they recognize and of the quality they aspire to in their own work. Our students are impressed by the skill represented in this book, but not too intimidated to continue drawing; rather, the art inspires them to practice more. Unfortunately, Illustrations from the Inside is only available in hardcover, which means it can only be made available for our students in non-secure detention. --Anja Kennedy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You by Shari Graydon

Beauty is a loaded concept. Defined by culture, media, and personal aesthetic, and constantly shifting, we all seem to know it when we see it and we definitely know it when we don’t. From birth we are told stories about beauty that lead us to believe it will make us happier, kinder, more successful, and simply better. In the pursuit of beauty men and women have starved, bound, painted, and mutilated themselves. But is beauty all it’s cracked up to be?

In In Your Face, Shari Graydon takes on our beauty culture, from the brothers Grimm to Hollywood, touching on the changing ideal body through the ages, the development of cosmetics, beauty contests, body modification, and the photo-retouching age. As Graydon takes the reader through this history, she discusses the powers-that-be behind the modern idea of beauty and gives readers excellent advice for reading magazines and advertisements critically.

Part self-help, part critical cultural analysis, and part information literacy workbook, In Your Face is an accessible and well-researched primer for anyone ready to question the beauty ideal. --Regan Schwartz

Graydon, Sherri. 2006. In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You. New York: Annick Press.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stan Lee's How to Draw Comics by Stan Lee

Know how to draw? Tired of the same old tips? Well, you’re in luck! Unlike other drawing books out there, Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics doesn’t drill the same old basic skills. In fact, there are only a few dedicated pages to teaching the reader how to draw characters from scratch. Instead, this book takes a more advanced approach by discussing points of view, lighting, shading, custom creating and many more areas of drawing that have made Marvel characters so recognizable and their comics so exciting to read. Because the book spends the majority of the time addressing more advanced techniques, the information might go over the heads of newer artists. This book is recommended for those artists who are ready for a level or two up from trace-and-draw style books. -- Claudio Leon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

After by Amy Efaw

It’s 7am and Devon is lying on the couch instead of getting ready for high school when her mom comes home from her graveyard shift. Devon says she isn’t feeling well and her mom doesn’t wonder if she’s faking it. A few moments later a knock at the door causes her mom to usher a police officer inside their home. The police officer is seeking information regarding a newborn baby that was found in the trash next to their apartment complex earlier that morning. He pulls back the blanket covering Devon and discovers her blood seeping through her clothes and onto the couch beneath. Devon is quickly arrested and charged with attempted murder, among other things. The prosecution request that Devon be tried as an adult for her heinous crime. Efaw’s novel is a harrowing read for a new parent. Students may appreciate the psychological state of shock and Devon’s resilience as she navigates her court dates and incarceration at the juvenile detention center. End notes from the author discuss her seven year journey to pen the novel and the research she did on the subject of mothers abandoning newborns provide real-life context.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary by Sue Young

Writers’ block? Stuck searching for the perfect rhyme? For poets and lyricists alike, this has been the go-to book in the library to complete rhymes -- in song lyrics, raps and poems. While the listed rhyming words are by no means exhaustive, there are many suggestions to get the writer past the stuck phase. Its simple organization allows most readers and searchers to find a little help without the frustration that can come with using more complex reference guides. For instance, to find a rhyme for “hawk,” just look for the guide “ock” to see “clock, crock, doc, dock, etc.” The index in the back of the book tells the reader to search “ock” and not “awk.” Looking for another way to use this handy volume? Some students just consult the list and build their rhymes from there. Who wouldn’t be inspired to write something after reading the list “crinkle, sprinkle, twinkle, wrinkle, periwinkle, Rip Van Winkle?” --Anja Kennedy

Young, Sue. The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary. New York: Scholastic, 1994.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Post: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey offers some insight into how to live a more productive and meaningful life. As we make life-altering decisions, navigate personal challenges and embrace the potential for a brighter future, students can look to many of Covey's concrete suggestions about what brings about true happiness and success. Though life's obstacles can often seem insurmountable, Covey simultaneously shows teens how even the smallest choices impact their lives in positive ways. The book helps the reader consider their private and public persona to analyze how both sides of ourselves can help and hinder us…and what to do about that. The book supports both classroom instruction and personal exploration. Teachers might engage a whole class in a reading of Part I, Habit II, “Be Proactive,” debating whether or not individuals they encounter in the units and their lives did or did not abide by this principle of “being proactive”. Students can use the book to explore a topic such as “goals” or “abuse” to help them make good decisions for their lives. The book's graphics, activities and quotes can be used both for personal reflection and as tools to empower students to take action. I personally like how the book opens with a consideration of our paradigms and principles and how it ends, with positivity and hope. --Tara Ramirez

Tara Ramirez is the author of the English Language Arts curriculum currently in use at Passages. She has 13 years experience working with teens and educators. You can reach her at TRamirez2@schools.nyc.gov for any comments and questions.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Crap. How to deal with annoying teachers, bosses, backstabbers, and other stuff that stinks by Erin Elizabeth Conley, Karen Macklin, and Jake Miller

Need advice on dealing with life’s ups and downs? Sugar-coated aphorisms and uplifting stories not for you? Crap may be just what you’ve been looking for. Once readers get past the title and the very unappetizing color of this petite book, they will find a treasure trove of very useful advice for dealing with life’s unpleasantness. Crap’s snappy chapter titles include “What is this crap?” and “Breaking the stank cycle” and it is sprinkled liberally with quotes and sidebars about actual biological waste, making it both an easy-to-navigate tool and a very quick read. One might expect a book so irreverently titled and taking such joy in its wordplay to be little more than an amusement, but Crap is packed with insightful psychological observations and concrete suggestions for dealing with the negative in school, work, and play. For example: “We fear failure so much that we often decide to do nothing instead of risk failing. But if you don’t take chances, you’ll never live up to your full potential (and you’ll become the recipient of more and more crap).” This is followed by a step-by-step guide to over coming a fear of failure. All in all, Crap is a fast, funny, and motivating read.--Regan Schwartz

Conley, Erin Elisabeth; Macklin, Karen; Miller,Jake. Crap: How to deal with annoying teachers, bosses, backstabbers, and other stuff that stinks. San Fransisco: Zest Books. 2009