What font?

Helvetica font sample

Public domain photo

I had a student that submitted a research paper about the country of Japan. It was really well written, but I was especially taken by the font she used for typing her final paper. It was different from what she usually used. It made such an impression on me that I had to find out what font it was.

I was reminded of the 2005 commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford in which he spoke about how he came to learn about calligraphy and, inspired by that course, later developed fonts for the Mac. You can watch the speech here. 

So. I’ve been thinking how important it is to understand that each of the fonts one may use when typing actually COME from somewhere! They have a history! In my search for the history of one font I see all the time, every where I go, I discovered that there was actually a movie made about the font! You can view the trailer for Helvetica the movie here, and you can also purchase it.

How interesting to know that certain fonts are used to impress the reader! So if I use comic sans, I’m pretty much setting a certain mood. In fact, I may investigate further what font this blog is typed in. (It isn’t possible for me to change it to another font.) I think I’ll also find out which fonts the Oak Meadow curriculum uses.

By the way, the font the student used was Philosopher. Next time you type a paper, think about the font you are using and what impression it may leave on the reader!

On Writing: An Honest Curiosity

Quotes on ceiling of Michel de Montaigne's study in France.

“Among the liberal arts, let us begin with the art that liberates us…”

Michel de Montaigne wrote these words in the late 1570s, when he withdrew from public life to hole up in a tower where he read, wrote, thought, paced, and ultimately, transformed the landscape of writing altogether.

Montaigne was a French nobleman and former magistrate whose life prior to his writing career has been called “unremarkable.” But it is precisely the things society has always called unremarkable that he fixed his mind on when he chose to sit down and begin writing in a style and form the world had never seen before.

Actually, he didn’t even sit. He felt his mind was more active if he paced around his library and dictated his thoughts to another person in the room. When he moved his books into the tower, he had his favorite quotes painted on the wooden beams that held up the ceiling. In this way, he could gaze up at them while walking and allow their ideas to inspire him as he walked.

“For our boy, a closet, a garden, the table and the bed, solitude, company, morning and evening, all hours will be the same, all places will be his study.”

Michel de Montaigne’s tower in France, where he wrote his famous essays.

This active approach to writing and thinking makes sense when we consider what he was writing about—ordinary, mundane things that everyone experiences but which no one ever talks about, to this day and certainly not in 1580. These were topics like: “Of thumbs,” “That we laugh and cry for the same thing,” “Of smells,” “Of sleep,” “Not to counterfeit being sick,” “Of the resemblance of children to fathers,” “Of liars,” “Of the custom of wearing clothes,” and so on. They weren’t informational articles, nor were they fictional stories or poems. They didn’t fall into any category of writing that anyone recognized. So what were they?

They were the mind in active work on the page—exploring, questioning, doubting, contradicting, and meandering, through the halls of sciences, poetry, fashion, law, history, morality, and a hundred other topics and disciplines, all with one unifying factor: the pursuit of curiosity.

Montaigne called them his essais, from the French word essayer—to try, or to attempt. Montaigne wasn’t an expert in the topics he was writing about or disseminating his superior knowledge. Instead, he was thinking and writing with a passionate rigor and a humble acknowledgement that learning and the pursuit of truth and discovery are never-ending processes.

“Put into his head an honest curiosity to inquire into all things; whatever is unusual around him he will see: a building, a fountain, a man, the field of an ancient battle, the place where Caesar or Charlemagne passed.”

Michel de Montaigne’s study, inside the tower.

This active, questioning, doubting, failing, and persevering definition of the word essay has been completely discarded from the American education system (if it was ever really present at all) through the industrialized uniformity of traditional curriculum design. When I say the word essay, I doubt you think to yourself, “Oh yeah, questioning and imagining, meandering and exploring! So fun, I love essays!” but rather, “Five paragraphs, same structure every time, topic sentences, plan the ending before I begin writing, never say the word I, hamburger method, makes me hate writing and feel like I am a bad writer.” At least that is what every writing student has told me the first time I asked them what an essay was.

The five-paragraph essay is one kind of essay, but it is not the only kind of essay, and it should not be the first kind of essay we learn how to write in school. I’ll tell you why: because it does not teach you how to think. In fact, it teaches you the opposite of thinking. It does teach organization of thought—but why should you learn how to organize your thoughts before you have been given the opportunity to think?

A copy of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays.

What Montaigne got so right in his essays that we should remember in our writing today is that essay writing is not so much about convincing your readers that you are an expert, but rather demonstrating the avenues, sidewalks, flight patterns, maps, and trajectories you’ve traveled to arrive at your discoveries. It’s about crafting a question (such as, “Since it is philosophy that teaches us to live, and since there is a lesson in it for childhood as well as for the other ages, why is it not imparted to children?”), reflecting on your initial knowledge about that question, researching the question, staging a conversation between your thoughts and your research, and reflecting on the discoveries that you made. By learning to think and write rigorously in this way, you also learn all the formalities of grammar and mechanics, and gain a comfort in writing in specific forms like lab reports or the five-paragraph essay.

In the spirit of Montaigne, and this rigorous, independent learning, I’ve designed a new writing course for Oak Meadow high-schoolers called Composition: Expression & Understanding, and you can enroll in the first semester now! Semester two will roll out this summer. This course will prepare you for the independent learning style of Oak Meadow, and it will strengthen your writing abilities in preparation for studies in all disciplines. But most importantly, this course will help you discover who you truly are, what you believe in, and how you want to pursue your own full and meaningful life. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Enroll Here: https://oakmeadow.com/news/courses/composition-the-art-of-expression/

All quotes from Montaigne’s essay, “Of the Education of Children.” http://essays.quotidiana.org/montaigne/education_of_children/

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part IV

Every year, we celebrate student poetry throughout the month of April with our annual Poetry Extravaganza. We hope you have enjoyed the poetry our students have shared here! You can find more Oak Meadow student poems on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re a high schooler or a parent of one, you may be interested in our high school poetry course, Word: The Poet’s Voice. Be sure to read Oak Meadow teacher Antony Yaeger’s recent blog post, On Poetry.

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Photo Credit: Reane Loiselle
(Oak Meadow)

Sappy Love Poem
by Cadie Baglin
Oak Meadow, Grade 11

I wish I could erase
All the time a replace
You with someone new
Who cares about me too
Someone I could talk to
Someone I could cry to
Someone who loves me as much as I love you
You’re the only one who has my heart
The only one I see
And when you said you didn’t want me
I saw no fish in my sea
You were the only one I could find
In this deep blue ocean we call time
But my time is running out
And you’re the only one I’ve found
I know we’re young and it’s never gonna last
But you should know I fell really fast
My head was over my heels before I even knew
All I do I trip over you
Over the memories we share
Over how much I care
Over every little stare
But now all I do is compare
I compare myself to her
Wonder what I could have done
Compare my self to her
Wonder why I’m not the one
The one you want to see after ever game
The one you want to see at the end of the day
The one you want to see in the morning and at night
‘Cause you’re the only one I see and it’s giving me a fright
I try and pretend there are no feelings
That I don’t care anymore
But every time I see your name
No matter who it’s attached to
I realize I’m still attached too

“Why I wrote this; Being a dramatic teenager is hard, especially when you know you’re being silly. I wrote this poem to help myself get over a boy. Ahh the teenage life.”

___________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: Shirley Tanzella
(Oak Meadow)

Paper Revolution
by Claire Kern
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

I twist the cap of my pen
between my teeth, ink
stains on molars, the page
still blank, void of words,
still lacking the power,
still failing to affect change.

Wanting, wanting, wanting to affect change,
Trying to force revolution out of my pen.
Building weapons to battle the power
hungry war-machine, but my ink
spills over to form broken words,
broken images on the page.

Frustrated, I rip the page
into pieces, that’s my change.
I reach for a new sheet, that new words
might follow. Afraid my pen
cannot erase the ink
of others, the permanent stench of the power.

Lead boot prints of power
tear holes in my page,
black and blue ink
bruises beat me, no change
they scream, breaking pens
and banning new voices, new words.

The banished words
hold all the power,
and the gunpowder pen
burns my palm and page,
demanding I write the call for change
demanding I carve new voices in fresh ink.

Progress is marked by ink
lines drawn in blood, battle words
and wounds whose mouths cry change.
Bury the patriarchy, power
drunk bastards with blood pages,
scar their rank flesh with my pen.

Ink tears bleed power,
and I craft words on torn pages,
changing, changing, changing the world
with my pen…

 

___________________________________________________________

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part III

Here in the Meadow, we celebrate student poetry throughout the month of April with our annual Poetry Extravaganza. We invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems, and we’ll be sharing some of them here over the next few days. Enjoy!

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Photo Credit: Park Family
(Oak Meadow)

The Nest In The Road
by Emma Agudelo
Oak Meadow Grade 10

Ghost of care dropped from above
Left crevice in tree or chimney vacant
Of cracked hairs of yester summer light
Batted by wind till as a globe they spin,
Snatching life from cars’ roaring tumult
Asphalt its sky, air the arm of Fate;
A hollow of youth, entertainment
Between whirling black and silver sheen
Joy a motion, emotion innate;
Tumbling as it’s wards overhead
Positions reversed, seasonal change;
The dance of a nest in the road.

“This poem was written for a poetry workshop with Mr. Yaeger, inspired by a prompt he gave to write about spring. I didn’t have any idea what I would write until two days before the workshop when I happened to glimpse an old bird’s nest rolling in the street as cars rushed past. It wasn’t exactly a beautiful moment, but I thought it an interesting one that I would like to share.”

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Once I Knew Two Who Died
by Lucy Enge
Oak Meadow Grade 10

Once I knew two who died–
Both kind good people who left
At the same time of hour.

Chills went down deep
Into the fire with its high flame–
Down my back bent in sorrow–
To save my tears from running out.

I cared for both perhaps one more,
Life comes and leaves–
Without consent from the godly persons
Or even those who might be sinners.

Minding wanders to thoughts of heaven–
Do souls live in eternal rest?
Or are we gone from Earth forever?
Never to see the green and blue again.

Death mysterious as life–
I will question until my time.
Deep within my flaming soul,
I ponder all but do not seek–
The keys and parts of life.

“This poem was inspired by the works of Emily Dickinson and was for one of my Oak Meadow Literature and Composition II lessons.”

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Questioning
by Nurbanu Alptekin
Oak Meadow Grade 10

Photo Credit: Laura Nance
(Oak Meadow)

Did talking about how?
Lead to knowing about what?
Should I have asked where?
Should I have asked who?
Who might have taken her when
I was watching her snooze, why

would they take a little girl, who
knew nothing of life or what
to do, if she needed to know why
she wasn’t in bed when
dawn came, she asked about where
they were going and how

she got there, and where
she was at with who?
Where was I when she needed me most in a time of questioning why life was so cruel? Why?

“This was a poem I wrote for English class here at Oak Meadow. This type of poetry is called a sestina. What’s unique about it is that every stanza repeats the same six words in a different order at the end of each line. This poem isn’t about a real life experience (thank God). I frankly don’t know how I came to write this, it was a spur of the moment type of thing.”

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Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part II

Here in the Meadow, we celebrate student poetry throughout the month of April with our annual Poetry Extravaganza. We invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems, and we’ll be sharing some of them here over the next few days. Enjoy!

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Chess

by Benjamin Almquist
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

Photo Credit: Vivian Harder
(Oak Meadow)

Chess
A game of strategy
Where made prodigy
Is calmness and skill
Where thrill
Comes through movement
And Thought

Life
can be a mere
Game of peer-
S with everyone
The worldpawn

Salvation
of the Castle above
Side to side
To bide
Timestress
With death far and few between
For their are only two

Death
When moves are void
No way to avoid
The impending deaththrill
Chess

“I wrote this poem for an experimental poem assignment.”

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If your only emotion was happy
by Katherine Almquist
Oak Meadow Grade 9

They have emotions
I have but one
Restricting
me

Feelings of sadness
I know none
Surprise…. I can not understand
Anger…. Passes through me as a wind through a ghost
feelings of many I know not
Happiness I know only

To me
People of many feelings are emotionless
Unless happiness is sensed
Wenst it is seen on the faces of theirs

This happiness which lights the faces of theirs
Is routine on the face of mine
Free are they
Chained am I

Photo Credit: Doughty Family
(Oak Meadow)

How
Are
Pleasantries
Possessed
In
Nature
(W)enst
Solitude (created by a single emotion)
Surpasses (the rest)?

The answer? I have not.
For only in I lives happiness
Emotions, I do not have

“I was inspired to write this poem for a Oak Meadow literature assignment. I was required to write an experimental poem and I decided on a topic that I had written about in an essay before, but made it more professional and put the concept into a poem.”

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Bunk Bed
by William Aldredge
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

High in my perch,
I gaze upon a room,
Like a monkey in a tree,
But i do not utter a sound.

For a cat has entered the room,
And like a jaguar,
It will climb up here,
And take me away,

To a world of solitude,
An icy moon,
Somewhere far off in the universe,
And then i fall asleep.

My dreams take me even further,
To a new place,
Dusty and red,
At first it seems abandoned,

Then a lone robot comes,
And sends my picture to the space people,
When the skygate opens,
And i am sucked away,

Back to the bunkbed of dreams,
Except it is a jungle,
And there is a jaguar,
And the jaguar jumps up,

And asks me,
“Are you ready?”
But then i awaken,
To a persian cat licking my face,

But it is not an awakening from the dream,
Merely an awakening to another dream,
Angels surround my bed,
And carry me off to the clouds,

Where i lay down to sleep.
But then i awaken,
To a cat licking my face,

I think it is a dream,
But no,
The cat is there,
I feel its hot breath,

So i let it be,
And it stops licking me,
But then,
Something strange happens,

It says to me,
“Come, you are not dreaming”,
So i go with it,
Off to an eternity of wonder,

But then the eternity ends,
With 42 bees,
Who sting me back to reality,
And now i am,

On a small green planet,
With a hole at the poles,
And i look inside,
To see a lamp,

It is a lampshade,
I realise,
With nobody but me,
31G-350125 is here,

And he shoves me into the planet,
I expect heat,
And receive a hard thump,
on the lamp,

So i call for the cat,
And arrives mystery,
Who takes me away,
back to the bunkbed,

And stays a while,
But then leaves,
Here comes the cat,
Who licks me to sleep,

I awaken once again,
To the cat licking my face,
I sit up and look at him,
“Your secret is safe with me”

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Paper Revolution
by Claire Kern
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

I twist the cap of my pen
between my teeth, ink
stains on molars, the page
still blank, void of words,
still lacking the power,
still failing to affect change.

Photo Credit: Shirley Tanzella
(Oak Meadow)

Wanting, wanting, wanting to affect change,
Trying to force revolution out of my pen.
Building weapons to battle the power
hungry war-machine, but my ink
spills over to form broken words,
broken images on the page.

Frustrated, I rip the page
into pieces, that’s my change.
I reach for a new sheet, that new words
might follow. Afraid my pen
cannot erase the ink
of others, the permanent stench of the power.

Lead boot prints of power
tear holes in my page,
black and blue ink
bruises beat me, no change
they scream, breaking pens
and banning new voices, new words.

The banished words
hold all the power,
and the gunpowder pen
burns my palm and page,
demanding I write the call for change
demanding I carve new voices in fresh ink.

Progress is marked by ink
lines drawn in blood, battle words
and wounds whose mouths cry change.
Bury the patriarchy, power
drunk bastards with blood pages,
scar their rank flesh with my pen.

Ink tears bleed power,
and I craft words on torn pages,
changing, changing, changing the world
with my pen…

 ___________________________________________________________

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part I

At Oak Meadow, we celebrate student poetry during our annual Poetry Extravaganza. In April, we invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems. We hope you will enjoy their poems as much as we do!

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Photo Credit: Melissa Lewis
(Oak Meadow)

Desserts

by Danica O’Donohoe
Oak Meadow Grade K

Sweet treats
Bake cake
Kids want to scream for ice cream
Yummy in my tummy!

 

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Photo Credit: Tracey Watts
(Oak Meadow)

An Angel and a Bird
by Carlos Checa-Sacasa
Oak Meadow Grade 3

Once there was a bird
who heard a whisper in the air
the bird flew towards the voice
and saw an angel there
Feathers, flowers and light
it was quite a sight
An angel and a bird in flight

 

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Photo Credit: Laura Kelly
(Oak Meadow)

Freddy Lives On
By Deanna Oakes
Oak Meadow, Grade 6

In front of the fire,
At the foot of the bed,
In the warm sun,
At the homestead,
Freddy is gone.
Freddy is gone, but his memory lives on.
He rode in the truck,
He played with his toys,
He snored real loud,
But he didn’t like noise.
Freddy’s memory lives on,
He will never truly be gone.

“Last year, my librarian’s friend was grieving the passing of her dog, who had recently passed away. Her friend was very sad, so Mrs. Hoffman, my librarian, asked me to write a poem in memory of Freddy, the dog. She told me a little about Freddy, and I used what I learned about him to write this poem. It was wonderful to gift this poem to her; she loved it.”

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Creative Writing

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

In a recent Oak Meadow blog, I wrote about the book character, Flat Stanley, and how author Jeff Brown initially created this funny fellow as a bedtime story for his sons. Creative writing, especially for the younger grades, often begins with oral and artistic expression. In Oak Meadow’s early elementary language arts lessons, the students are introduced to the art of storytelling by listening to stories and then practice retelling story events with detail and in sequential order. They compose simple story summaries and draw story scenes showing specific details. Puppet shows and play acting are also encouraged in the retelling of stories or in creating imaginative scenarios.

As the students mature and develop, creative writing is introduced through detailed story summaries, short stories, and original poetry and rhyming compositions, along with descriptive and opinion paragraphs. By the time the student reaches grades three and four, creative writing is generated through brainstorming story ideas, identifying story components (character, setting, story problem, conflict, and resolution), expressing thoughts and ideas in informal journal form, and completing other free writing exercises.

For some students creative writing flows with ease, while for others information research projects are much more appealing. As American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott once wrote, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”  When I work with my local home school students on creative writing projects, we often tell stories together. It’s kind of like a Round-Robin storytelling session, where we sit in a circle and I (or one of the students) begin the story with a few sentences or a short scenario and then pass it on to the next person  to continue with a few more sentences. It goes all the way around the circle until the last person gives the story an ending. It’s not only a great activity for oral participation, it also provides a nice segue into writing ideas in story format.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

When my students and I learned about Flat Stanley and each participant made a “Flat Me”, we created adventurous settings and stories for our characters. Perhaps we visited a jungle or a deep enchanted forest, or we climbed atop a mountain or visited the deep blue sea. The stories that were written to accompany the activity included questions that helped in composing the imaginary stories:

 

 

1 – Who went with you?

2 – Why did you go?

3 – How did you travel?

4 – What trail did you follow?

5 – How long did it take?

6 – What did you see?

7 – Who did you meet?

8 – What special memories did you bring back with you?

No matter how you approach creative writing, it can enrich the student’s imagination. Knowing where to begin or what to write about allows the activity to flow easier, naturally, and more creatively. Inspiring the student to write with their own passion and excitement allows a new freedom to write about many things.

On Poetry

by Antony Yaeger, Oak Meadow teacher

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Having studied poetry with amazing teachers in my life, and having honed my own craft at Sarah Lawrence College, it is a joyful and enriching experience to teach poetry at Oak Meadow. What makes poetry so unique is something discussed in our poetry course: Poetry is a universal art form that can be found in all aspects of human life and can hold within it elements of all other art-forms. Poetry is not bound solely to the page. The famous phrase “poetry in motion” is a purpose of graceful fluidity, such that moves with tactful elegance throughout. Abstract, yet direct and completely beautiful to all 5 senses. We live with poetry every single day, even if we don’t have time to pick up a book.

To find poetry in the world, we often look to nature. To try to create an essence or impression of nature in art, we often turn to poetry. In my teaching, I try to teach in a way that takes into account my student’s developing mind as well as their heart, blending the two with their imagination. Poetry is one perfect way to do this. Each student brings their own unique perspective to analyzing a poem and their own special voice to the crafting of their own poems. Poems can be successful in any number of ways, but calling on the senses of our readers is crucial.

Photo Credit: Starkus Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What makes poetry even more incredible is that the reader is welcome to read between the lines, to string together their own meanings and ideas, to bring their own working palette of comprehension to the experience of reading. I feel this way with my students in this distance learning course and in the monthly poetry workshops we have created together. In these workshops, students celebrate their classmates’ poems and give them the gift of constructive feedback. It is amazing to see how perceptive each student becomes, how kind and selfless they are in making another poet’s poem better.

Poetry exists around us all, and you can read into that statement all that you want! For it’s not simply an abstract or ambiguous thought, but a truth waiting for us all to discover.

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Antony Yaeger received his undergraduate degree in Poetry and Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and his Masters of Science in Education and Waldorf Education from Sunbridge College, New York. Antony spent four years at the East Bay Waldorf High School in Berkeley, CA teaching poetry, photography, literature, and directing school plays. In 2009, Antony graduated once again from Sarah Lawrence College, this time earning a Masters Degree in poetry and creative writing. He encourages students to use writing as a tool for self-exploration and to gain clarity and perspective on world events by examining issues from new angles. 

For more information on enrolling in Oak Meadow’s semester-long high school Poetry course with Antony Yaeger, click here.

For more information on purchasing Word: The Poet’s Voice curriculum for independent use, click here (on sale for the month of April 2017 in honor of National Poetry Month!)

Fact or Opinion?

The Oak Meadow curriculum offers many opportunities to learn how to research and write reports. Note that I wrote LEARN, because most middle school students are just beginning to learn how to find appropriate resources for a topic and how to organize the information into an interesting, cohesive, and fact-filled report.

Finding a reliable source can begin with a trip to the library for magazines, encyclopedias, newspapers, biographies, and lots more! Some students don’t have a library nearby and so they use the internet for their research. Reliable sites are usually ones that end in .org, .net, or .edu. I like to use the Great Websites for Kids as a starting point. Their website notes that the site is an “Internet guide of child-safe sites selected by a committee of the American Library Association.” You can choose a subject such as “sciences” and then choose a specific subject of interest. Give it a try!

There’s a lot in the news these days about what is fact and what is opinion. When I read reports by students I often write, “Make sure you back up your opinion with a reliable source that explains the facts that you are basing your opinion on.” Some students are learning that an opinion can be based on fact, and they’re backing it up with a quotation from a reliable source. For instance, I received a research report on sound frequencies for an 8th grade physics lesson. I was impressed with the three sources and the examples that the student used for his research. However, most impressive was the use of quotations from his sources that added strength to his examples. Convincing a reader that what you’ve written is true, rather than just your opinion, is pretty important! When you use a quote from a reliable source you give your opinion validity. It allows the reader to trust that your opinion is based on fact.

Making facts louder than opinions is evident in this video from The Weather Channel. 

Dots and Dashes

http://publicdomainvectors.org/en/tag/morse-code

It is so easy to send a message these days by way of cell phones or the internet that it is hard to imagine that at one time there was no way to communicate with other people a distance away unless you used the postal mail. When Samuel Morse invented a way to send messages that were a code of electrical impulses, our lives changed forever! Those dots and dashes could be sent and translated over a distance making it possible to send emergency messages to places throughout the country. Many Oak Meadow 7th grade students in the first semester of their world history lessons have the opportunity to learn about Morse and his code. I found this fun website that translates a sentence that you write into Morse Code. You can then click “play” and hear the dots and dashes of the message. Send something to a friend! Here’s the Morse Code Translator.