STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday — Sustainable Living– Writing Tips & Resources

 

 

Aphoria, Brachylogia, Chriea: It Sounds Greek to me!

Ever since Aristotle, humans have been using rhetorical devices to strengthen their communication. Shakespeare used them. Modern movies use them. And, sneaky science writers use them, too!

Rhetoric is an art. Most frequently we think of rhetoric as speaking or writing for persuasive purposes, but it can also be used to inform. Rhetoric includes logic, motivation, and speaking techniques, plus it includes figures of rhetoric. Figures that fiddle with the structure of sentences. Figures that string words together in a striking way. Figures that focus the attention of the reader.

Nonfiction writers can use some of that.

Rhetorical figures or devices provide formulas that have been tested and tried since the time of the Ancient Greeks. There’s an entire alphabet of effective rhetorical devices out there. Today, we don’t have time to work our way all the way to Zeugma, but we can peak into this world of word wisdom by starting with “A.”

 

Alliteration:

the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words that are in close proximity

When Shakespeare wrote The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra, he borrowed a paragraph almost word-for-word from Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. Note that word “almost.” What change did the great bard make to this history that might have sounded a wee bit stodgy?

Alliteration.

“The barge she sat in like a burnished throne,

Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sales and so perfumed that. . .”

I bet you spotted all those b’s and a few p’s. Now, let’s look at how a modern book, We Are All Greta: Be Inspired by Greta  Thunberg to Save the World  by Valentina Gianella and illustrated by Manuela Marazzi, puts alliteration to work:

“My daughter’s school chat room has been buzzing since dawn: dozens of colorful cartoons have appeared, with slogans sent out by #FridaysForFuture sites. Today is the day of the great global student strike organized by Greta Thunberg. . .”

 

Try this: Replace every other alliterative word with a synonym. Re-read the passage. How did those changes affect the reading? Practice yourself by selecting a stodgy sentence from this blog and give it some bounce by adding alliteration.

 

Anaphora:

the repetition of entire words or phrases at the beginning of successive clauses

Anaphora adds rhythm. Anaphora adds cadence. Anaphora adds emotional pull to key content. The result is emphasis on a particular piece of text, often making it memorable. Is that something you’d like to do with your writing?

A tip for using this rhetorical device: use active sentences and use anaphora when you wish to emphasize the subject of the sentence.

Try this: Put your hand on the closest book to you. Select a line from that book, a subject in that book, or a character within that book as the starting place, and write something short using anaphora for emphasis.

 

Aphoria:

an expression of doubt or uncertainty

Adding uncertainty to your writing couldn’t be useful to science writers, could it? Aphoria provides the reader an opportunity to evaluate, analyze, or judge the situation for themselves. The doubt

expressed may be genuine, sincere, or feigned. If feigned, the effect may be to guide the reader towards a specific point. If sincere, the effect may be to convey humility. If genuine, the effect may be to encourage critical thinking in the reader’s mind.

Here’s an example of aphoria from Diet for a Changing Climate, by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich.

“Pulling weeds and invasive kudzu vines from the garden and . . . eating them?”

Try this: Decide if this doubt is genuine or feigned. What effect might this use of aphoria have on a reader? Can you think of more than one?

 

Assonance:

the repetition of internal vowel sounds

Can you ascertain the assonance in this passage from Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Recycled Science: Bring Out Your work Science Genius? Bonus points if you find alliteration as well.

“Test out a physics fact, and have a blast at the same time!”

Assonance can be put to good use creating a mood and rhythm within prose. Writers who pay attention to the sounds of letters can maximize the impact of a rhetorical device such as assonance. Consider how assonance affects the mood of “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Try this: Search for assonance in another book and ferret out the effect on the mood of the text.

 

26 More Letters to Go!

One list of rhetorical figures includes 108 that begin with “A!” We will stop here, but you can dive into the rest of the alphabet with resources at the end of this post.

Figures of rhetoric can infuse your writing with passion and power. Now that you have easy-peazy formulas, you can just toss in some words and have a masterpiece, right? Maybe not. A gifted writer selects devices purposefully.

 

Try this: Flip through several books, and flag the use of rhetorical devices. Work your way through the book a second time, making note of the frequency per page or absence of these tools. Do you see any trends? When might it be wise to avoid using a rhetorical device?

When you’re ready to level up to the next challenge, compare the figures from several books. Try a textbook, a nonfiction book from a series, and a trade book on the same topic. What differences do you notice?

O.O.L.F. (Out of Left Field)

Resources in Rhetoric

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, Mark Forsyth

Literary Devices, a list of commonly used rhetorical devices with in-depth explanation and examples, https://literarydevices.net/

The Forest of Rhetoric, a more complete list of rhetorical devices with brief definitions, http://rhetoric.byu.edu/

 

Rhyme Zone, for help with alliteration, plug a word into the synonym search and then sort alphabetically, https://www.rhymezone.com/

Heather L. Montgomery enjoys finding a fun turn of phrase while writing about wild and wacky wildlife. You might even spot a few rhetorical devices in her recent nonfiction: Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other.

STEM Tuesday — Sustainable Living– In the Classroom

Sustainable living protects the environment, and it’s something everyone can try. Here are the books I read that promote sustainable living, covering topics students can experiment with in their in-school classrooms or at-home ones.

Let’s Eat: Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet by Kimberley Veness

Readers will take a look at the impact of pesticides, fertilizers, food chains, and commercial fishing on our food and environment.

 

The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book: Fun Projects For All Seasons by Kari Cornell, photographs by Jennifer S. Larson

Why rely on others for your fruits and veggies? This book provides readers with easy projects to jumpstart your own gardening.

 

Classroom activity: Try the fall and winter projects in the book, from growing an avocado plant from its seed to making an herb window box. Activities include detailed materials lists and instructions. Incorporate some science into the projects by asking students to record observations such as how much their plant grows in one week, or how different areas in their homes or classrooms affect the growth of their plants. Students will have some fun and tasty projects to try over the winter with this book.

Additional resource: National Garden Bureau, https://ngb.org/2020/03/25/kids-gardening-activities/

Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff by Tammy Enz and Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

This title shows you how to put your waste to work with ideas to recycle common household items and learn science while you are at it.

 

Classroom activity: Students can earn all kinds of interesting science concepts in this book through activities that recycle what is usually waste–like how wood can bend and how crystals form. Have students try any of the activities in this book. Encourage them to make a video demonstrating their end results, describing the recycled materials they used and the science behind what they created.

Additional resource: NASA Climate Kids, https://climatekids.nasa.gov/recycle-this/

 

Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich

Can we alter the way we eat to solve the problem of hunger in the world? Authors Mihaly and Heavenrich offer a compelling look at facing the global hunger crisis by eating weeds, wild plants, and bugs.

 

Classroom activity: Most kids (and not just picky eaters) may think eating weeds, wild plants, and bugs is gross, but as this book points out–doing so could really help our environment. Ask students to pick a bug or plant described in the book and create a commercial or poster listing its many benefits to humans and the environment. Ask them to do some further research to support their claims, and think of a meal or recipe their chosen food could be used in. In addition to this activity, students can try making one of the recipes in the book.

Additional resource: Time for Kids, https://www.timeforkids.com/g56/bug-business/

 

There are so many STEM-filled activities in each of these books and the others on this month’s book list. Students will have fun with the science and learn about sustainability with each one!

Middle-Grade Mysteries, Spy, & Sci-fi stories featuring South Asian Characters: Interview and Giveaway with Sheela Chari

Hello Mixed-Up Filers! I’m pleased to welcome Sheela Chari, author of the new mystery series, The Unexplainable Disappearance Of Mars Patel, for an interview at Mixed-Up Files today.

                                   

Hi Sheela, thanks for joining us today at Mixed-Up Files.

Thank you for having me—it’s great to be back! Years ago, I was one of the original members, and I loved interviewing other writers! These days, writing, teaching, and being a parent has taken over much of my time. But it’s definitely fun to be in this familiar space again.

 

About THE UNEXPLAINABLE DISAPPEARANCE OF MARS PATEL

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel follows Mars Patel and his pals on their quest to find their missing friend, Aurora, who might be part of a chain of other disappearances around the world leading back to billionaire inventor, Oliver Pruitt. It’s a story filled with conspiracy theories, deceptive adults, and enterprising kids who know how to rely on technology and each other to solve problems.

Mars Patel was originally produced as a podcast mystery drama series for kids by Gen-Z Media.

Now, it’s also a middle-grade novel and series written by me!

When I was invited to write the novelization, I was asked to take an audio-drama and re-envision it in written form. I had to really think about who Mars, Caddie, JP, Toothpick and the rest of the characters were, and the stories of their lives not captured in the podcast. It was a lesson in character study and plotting, and even rethinking everything I knew about dialogue. In the book, you will find a traditional story littered with emails, texts, podcast transcripts, and other asides to capture the same chatty dynamic of the podcast. It was really my wish to reflect the very interesting, funny way that young people talk to each other today both online and IRL (that’s “in real life” for the uninitiated).

On Mars Patel identifying as an Indian-American spy kid

Representation have always been important for me. It’s the reason that I wrote my mystery novels, Vanished and Finding Mighty, which both feature Indian-American detectives, and are rooted in my experience of growing up Indian-American. I also make an effort for the other supporting characters in all my books to reflect the diversity and inclusiveness I see and cherish as a part of being an American immigrant. The Mars Patel series is a perfect representation of these ideals. Not only that, Mars gets to do those very things that ALL kids should be seen doing in novels: sleuthing, pranking, laughing, messing up, apologizing, doing better, taking risks, and growing up.

 

                                                         

 

On how reading mysteries was an integral part of your childhood

When I was young, I would pore over Nancy Drew books in my library and at home. Not just the stories themselves, but also those wonderful interior illustrations and cover art, observing how Nancy Drew, and her loyal friends, Beth and George, transformed from book to book. To me, they were heroes and old friends, and even the way I met my own best friend (we found each other in the Nancy Drew aisle of the Iowa City Public Library). From then on I would graduate to other mysteries and spooky stories (Lois Duncan comes to mind!). But I do believe this idea of mystery-solving and friendship finds it roots in those Nancy Drew mysteries and a shared love for them with a close friend.

On drawing inspiration from your own life when writing this book

The original podcast hints at a story set in the Northwest. I went a step further and set the book in Washington State, where I lived when I was in middle school and high school. Mars’s fictitious town of Port Elizabeth is based on all the trips I made to Seattle and the Puget Sound as a young person. So writing the book was truly a trip down memory lane for me. I also went on a recent vacation to visit an old friend in the Puget Sound, and it was very inspiring. I used all kinds of details — taking the ferry across the water to Seattle, that particular quality of rain, clouds, and occasional sun, the up-and-down hills, the inky waters of the Sound —to help me describe Port Elizabeth. It was so much fun!

On immersing yourself in a MG sci-fi with corporate conspiracies

Yes, in this story there are bad guys, surveillance, and a conspiracy to hoodwink kids. Even so, for me, Mars Patel is about looking to the future, where anything is possible, even a chance to start over as a society. It’s a book that celebrates technology, space travel, and innovation. Not to say there aren’t threats — Book 1 starts with a Code Red scene in school. Later books in the series take on the urgency of climate change. Even so, the story has always given me a surprising and upbeat way of looking ahead, of knowing that kids growing up now will have the mindset to invent and think differently. Thank goodness.

Sheela Chari is the author of FINDING MIGHTY and VANISHED, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. Her latest middle-grade novel, THE UNEXPLAINABLE DISAPPEARANCE OF MARS PATEL, based on the Peabody-award winning podcast, is out this October from Walker Books US, an imprint of Candlewick Press. Sheela teaches creative writing at Mercy College and lives in New York.

Want to own your very own signed copy of The Unexplainable Disappearance Of Mars Patel? Enter our giveaway by leaving a comment below! 

 

You may earn extra entries by blogging/tweeting/facebooking the interview and letting us know. The winner will be announced here on October 16, 2020 and will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US only) to receive a signed, personalized book.