Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Thoughts on Study Questions from Acts Ch4 on 8/26



My Sunday school class/Life Group is studying the book of Acts. I posted these questions this Monday and encouraged you to jot your thoughts down.

It's Wednesday. This post consists of some comments from the class discussion.

If you’d like a PDF file of the questions, email me at crd.author@gmail.com

Chapter 4

V5-12
Where have we heard of Annas and Caiaphas before?
Annas was the High Priest from 6-15AD.
Caaphas, his son-in-law, was the current High Priest. He was High Priest from 18-36AD.
Both were appointed by the Romans. Both were Sadducees.

What question is asked of Peter and John?
By what authority, power, or what name did you do this?
This is similar in form and substance to the question the Hebrews asked Moses after he killed the Egyptian Overseer. 
"Who made you ruler and judge over us?"

What is significant about v8?
It's the Holy Spirit, not Peter, who supplies the answer.
Aside (some of this is review).
Old Testament: The Holy Spirit "comes upon" individuals or groups until a specific task is completed. They the Holy Spirit returns to God.
New Testament: The Holy Spirit "fills" people and offers them to access His power indefinitely, as long as they maintain a relationship with Christ.

How does Peter begin his reply to be sure that all understand the significance of his answer?
It's directed at the rulers and elders. 
He wants all those listening to know that he's aware of who is asking the question by acknowledging their authority.
Peter also wants them to know that he holds them accountable for what they have done in the past.

Who “gets the credit” for the healing?
"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified." 
This answer is targeted at the Sadducee High Priest and other Sadducees in the Sanhedrin.
  • Jesus - They had Him killed.
  • Christ - Another term for Messiah that the Sadducees did not accept as reality.
  • of Nazareth - A common derogatory comment of the time was "can any good thing come from Nazareth?"

Why does Peter use the OT quote that he does in v11? What is its original context?
The quote is from Psalm 118:2.
The cornerstone of any building of the period, and even now in some parts of the world, is the critical piece of the foundation. It's used daily to keep measurements consistent over the time it takes to build a structure. 
Another reference in some Bibles was to Isaiah 28:16. 
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
Isaiah goes on to write about the importance of accurately measuring the stone (with justice) and setting the stone with a plumb line (righteousness).
While neither of these refers to rejecting the cornerstone, it would have brought those Scriptures to the minds of the listening rulers.

What is made perfectly clear in v12?
The ONLY source of salvation is Jesus.

            We got this far this week. 


For the rest of this month, Thursday Timeless Truth posts will be the 1st part of a two-part article. This Thursday, Timeless Truths: Baccalaureate Address. Does God Give Make-up Tests?

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Monday, August 27, 2018

#Writing Tip. ADverbs often SUBTRACT from your writing - numbers1-5


Back in the day, a fad swept at least my part of America. Known as Tom Swifties, each is "a play on words taking the form of a quotation ascribed to Tom and followed by an adverb. Here's a good example:

The thermostat is set too high," said Tom heatedly. 

The blue text is quoted from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/tom-swifties-puns-that-turn-adverbs-into-punchlines. Used in this manner, adverbs are an art form, particularly for those who love to pun.

There are times and places in your writing when an adverb does ADd to your story.
Most of the time, rather than adding what an author thinks they add, adverbs SUBTRACT from the storyline, distract readers, and might insult readers, too.

I'll be looking at the negatives of adverbs for four blogs in a row. Week four will close the door on adverbs with examples that I feel completely help the sentence.

Consider the following five sentences. Adverbs are highlighted in yellow.
1.        Suddenly, a bomb went off.
2.        After a long day’s work, she hungrily ate her supper.
3.        actually enjoy writing.
4.       “I just won the lottery!” he said excitedly.
5.        She was listening happily to his story.

Sentences like those above are common in the works of novice writers. Unfortunately, they are common in the works of writers who edit less vigorously than they should.

Why is that?

I do insert adverbs—intentionally and unintentionally—in my first drafts. When I do my first edit, I re-write scenes where the only way a reader might know that something was said “excitedly” is through use of that term. Your story should draw your readers into the minds and moods of your characters.
From time to time during the next two months, I’ll revisit this topic. More than one book I’ve been asked to review has been mired in the pit of excessive adverbs. I lost interest in the stories because there were
       ·      many times when I was told what I already knew or felt.
       ·      other times when the adverb didn’t match what I felt about that scene in the story.

The five sentences above are reprised below. Following each sentence is an explanation of why the highlighted adverb isn’t needed along with a possible revision.

Suddenly, a bomb went off.
One characteristic of a bomb is exploding without warning. Suddenly is redundant in this situation. Any event that surprises a character is sudden. Avoid redundant adverbs.

A revisionThe bomb exploded. Shrapnel followed the sound wave in a devastating reminder of the power of C4.

After a long day’s work, she hungrily ate her supper.
I’m usually hungry when I start to eat. The adverb isn’t necessary. While it’s possible for someone picking at their food while eating, a hungry worker isn’t one of those individuals.

A revisionShe didn't realize how hungry she was until she found herself reaching for seconds before the others had finished their first servings.

actually enjoy writing.
At least that’s better than pretending to enjoy writing. Actually and literally are abused terms. If something exists, it is actual. If something happens, it is literal. The adverbs shouldn’t be necessary. If the scene is well written, the adverbs are not necessary.

A revisionThe time I spend writing is the most enjoyable part of my day.

“I just won the lottery!” he said excitedly.
Duh. I know it’s tempting to include descriptors like excitedly. As I said above, the scene itself should trigger emotions like excitement, happiness, and sadness in your reader without the need for adverbs.

A revisionHis eyes widened and his pulse began to race as he looked at his lotto ticket before shouting, “I just won the lottery!”

She was listening happily to his story.   
I can’t tell if my ears are happy or sad. I have been happy to hear some information. I’ve heard happy news. I cannot recall listening happily.

A revisionThe story was funny. She smiled first, then laughed out loud.

Remember:
If your stories don’t draw your readers in, adding adverbs to set the tone subtracts from those stories.

Next time I’ll comment on these sentences.
6.        “Move it, buddy. You’re blocking the hallway,” he said irritably.
7.        I guess I wasn’t truly invisible to the crowd.
8.        “I think we’re lost,” he said worriedly.
9.        The oxygen level in the cabin was dropping. She searched frantically for another canister to install.

10.    The car gave a jolt and I was nearly thrown against the window.

In two weeks: #WritingTip. ADverbs often SUBTRACT from your writing #2


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

#Teaching Tip #9. Semester or Final Grades Part 2

This is the ninth of a series of 10 posts.
I'm running all 10 posts on consecutive Mondays starting today. 
As of Labor Day, 2018, all ten of these #Teaching Tip posts are searchable on my blog.

If you're not a teacher and you're reading this,
let a teacher know they are available.

I've been in enough in-service/professional-development sessions to guarantee that the information in this series is better than most of the information you’ll get while sitting through all your teacher workshops this coming school year.

You might be asking yourself,
What gives this guy the nerve to offer ideas about teaching AND commentary on professional development to anyone?

That's a legitimate question.
I invite you to follow this link and check my credentials.


Categories in this year were based on California State Standards for the course. For the most part, the first six categories contained all the assignments--homework, tests, writing assignments, etc.--that related to the content in that standard. Notice in the left column that #24 is "Unit 1 m/c E7." That was the multiple choice portion of the unit exam on Standard #3 E7-Earth Science.
My first experience with “computer grades” was in the mid-1980s. I’ve described my first computer in an earlier blog,
allotted
I used it for word-processing and keeping track of student scores. There were no grading programs for the CP/M operating system. There weren’t many programs at all. I used the spreadsheet that came with the machine. It was Perfect.
Really.
The word processor was PerfectWriter. The spreadsheet was PerfectCalc.

I learned two things within hours of posting my first grade printout on the wall.
I needed to come up with some form of anonymous code to use for public posts.
Students thought that computer grades had to be correct—after all, they were from a computer.

I was still “keeper of all the points in the universe,” so my theory on grading didn’t change. It was sooo much quicker and easier to calculate grades when they were in a spreadsheet. Life was good.

At that time the Grossmont Union High School District required teachers to submit “Blue Cards” with each student’s grade handwritten in the proper column on a blue-colored cardstock form.

It was in my second or third year of using the spreadsheet for grades that I managed to find the spacing between lines required to fit the lines on the Blue Card. I printed my grades, carefully aligned the page to fit the spaces on the Blue Card, glued each printout onto the card, signed the “Teacher Signature” line, and handed the card to the Attendance Clerk. She was the collector of the grades.

The next day, I had a note in my mailbox to see one of the Vice Principals.

“We can't send your Blue Card to the district,” he said.
“Why not?”
“It’s not handwritten.”
“The grades are accurate and every grade is lined up with the correct space on each card.”
“They want handwritten Blue Cards.” He handed me my cards.

I recopied my grades that one time only.

At the end of the year, I told the VP that there was less chance of me posting an incorrect with my system than when I hand wrote them. I handed him my glued on printout, hand-signed Blue Cards.

I don’t know if someone in the office pulled off the printout and handwrote the grades above my signature that semester. I hope not. But, I turned in my glued/hand-signed Blue Cards for the next 10-years or so, until I left the district.

The biggest change in my grading procedure over my career occurred while I was teaching my last high school courses at Great Oak High in Temecula, California.

I was the last science teacher, figuratively dragged kicking and screaming, into grouping like content or like assignment-type scores into categories. Regardless of the number of assignments or points in a category, it was worth a fixed percentage of the final grade. The image below is a grade printout with categories listed.

The most important thing I learned about using categories in grading is this:
Neither students nor parents understand how grades are calculated.
That is a gross generalization. It’s also not far from the truth.

The worst “innovation” in grading is allowing students and parents to “real time grades.” This phenomenon reared its ugly head when grades went online. Students and teachers could check their current grade—real time—by logging in to the grading program.

At first, teachers could “hold” a set of grades in one category until other grades were recorded. Releasing four or five grades in a category is a much more realistic description than the grade after a single entry in that category.

Once teachers lost the control to put a set of grades on hold, every grade input into the grade program was immediately accessible to parents and students. I’ve received emails from parents who were online while I was posting grades during my preparation period demanding to know “why <student name>’s grade dropped from an A to a C.”

Ultimately, no grade is real until the final semester grade turned in for the student’s permanent record. Most parents, and many students, are not satisfied with that reality.

What follows is an attempt that my co-teacher and I made to explain how our categorical grading system worked. We took class time to go through the letter with our students. We sent the letter home with the students.

Hello, Parents.
While we don't believe personally that it is necessary for anyone to have 24-hour access to student grades, it is district policy. For that reason grades in our class will appear in real time.
Because pre-AP biology uses categories, no one assignment can make or break any student’s grade. For example, the entire first unit your student completed, Scientific Method, is worth a total of 2% of their final grade. The next unit, Chemistry, is worth 13%. Please ask your student for the complete listing of categories and their values. Another way to put this idea of weighted categories is:
Each point in the Scientific Method category is worth 2 points in the final semester grade calculation, however, each point in the chemistry Unit is worth 13 points in the final semester grade calculation
All assignments whether lab, in class activities, homework, projects, or tests, are recorded within the category for the unit in which they occur. Since each category has a unique percentage value, individual grades on assignments have slightly different weights in different units/categories.
Because of the waiting of categories, the first assignment recorded in any category has a disproportionate value. For example, the first assignment in the chemistry unit will be worth 17% of the student’s final grade at that moment in time. However, when the unit is completed, that assignment will have a significantly less impact on your student’s grade, than it did when it was entered. Not only does the first assignment in a category account for the total percentage value of that category, it also is weighted temporarily at more than the value percentage of the category.
To continue our example from above:
If a student received 55/66 (83%) for the Scientific Method unit, and the first grade recorded in Chemistry was 4/10 (40%) on a quiz, because of the weighting, the quiz grade is 100% of the Chemistry unit weight at that moment in time. The student’s grade plummets to failing AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME ONLY.
Grades currently posted are for the Scientific Method unit that is worth 2% of the ultimate grade in this class. However, at this moment in time, that grade appears as the course grade. This is an aberration. When the Chemistry unit is completed, 15% of the total ultimate class grade will have been earned. But, when you look at the grades at the end of the chemistry unit, the chemistry unit itself is worth six times the scientific method grade. In other words even if a student did very well in the Scientific Method unit, if they did not do as well in chemistry, the lesser (Chemistry) grade would be six times the value of the good (Scientific Method) grade.
Hopefully this letter will help ease your mind when you look at grades from time to time. If you look at the grade and it's a C+ and the next time you look at it it's a C-, that's probably not a cause for concern. If however, the first time you look at a grade it is an A and the next time it is a B and the next time it is a C, then that may be cause for concern.
Typically what happens when a new category is opened is that student grades go either up or down very quickly for the reason explained above. As more grades are added to the category, the overall grade tends to stabilize around the true value.
Please don't assume that your student is doing poorly in the class based on any one look you take at the grades from pre-AP biology.
Thank you.
Dr. Chuck Downing          & Ms. Rachel Larson
Great Oak PreAP Biology Teachers

In subsequent years, we added the highlighted bullet to our class syllabus shown below. This is an edited version of the document to show the general layout and the categories we used. We sent the above letter home before we posted our first grades online.

The categories are
·   3-ring binder with divider tabs labeled: Agenda, Study Guide, To Be Completed, Vocabulary, Notes, Activities, Labs, and Cal/Syl/Safety (CSS). All work done for this class, before and after grading, should be kept in the appropriate tab section.

Next #Teaching Tip #10 – Miscellaneous Musings

Post #10 will be/might be the final blog in this series.

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Study Questions from Acts Ch 4 on 8/26



My Sunday school class/Life Group is studying the book of Acts. Every Monday, I’ll post the questions we discussed the day before. I encourage you to jot your thoughts down.

On Wednesdays, I’ll post some of the comments from the class discussion.

If you’d like a PDF file of the questions, email me at crd.author@gmail.com

Chapter 4

V5-12
Where have we heard of Annas and Caiaphas before?

What question is asked of Peter and John?

What is significant about v8?

How does Peter begin his reply to be sure that all understand the significance of his answer?

Who “gets the credit” for the healing?

Why does Peter use the OT quote that he does in v11? What is its original context?

What is made perfectly clear in v12?


We got this far this week. 

V13-22
What character trait of Peter and John strikes the members of the Sanhedrin? Contrast this to them on the night Jesus was arrested—what made the difference?

"Unschooled, ordinary men" is translated as "untrained laymen" in the New English Bible. What about that translation is significant to the church?

What is "the plan" of the Sanhedrin to stop this “heretical” teaching?

The disciples' response to the Sanhedrin is given in verses 19-20. What are issues today to which we should have a similar response?

Why was the Sanhedrin’s solution ineffective?

Why do you think Luke emphasizes the age of the crippled man?

V23-31
What is the immediate response of the believers to the return of Peter and John?

What might our reaction be today if something similar happened?

Vv24-30 is a corporate prayer. What is the structure of the prayer? Compare it to the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6.
Lord’s Prayer
This prayer
What features strike you as you read through the prayer? What is evident about God's faithfulness, character, and power?

What was asked for by the group in this prayer?

What happens immediately after the "Amen?"

Vv32-37
Details on what practice are given here?

Why were there no needy persons?

What is the general organization of this "group of believers"?

Who do we meet for the first time in this passage?

For the rest of this month, Friday Expressions of Faith posts will be the 2nd part of the Timeless Truth post the day before. This Friday,  Baccalaureate Address #3. Does God Give Make-up Tests? Conclusion

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Thoughts on Study Questions from Acts Ch 3 and Ch 4 from 8/19



My Sunday school class/Life Group is studying the book of Acts. I posted these questions this Monday and encouraged you to jot your thoughts down.

It's Wednesday. This post consists of some comments from the class discussion.

If you’d like a PDF file of the questions, email me at crd.author@gmail.com

Chapter 3

V11-26

What is the OT context of the quote from Moses?
Deuteronomy 18:15-18. This is more of a quote than some Old Testament quotes are. 
Moses is setting up the Law.
This quote points to the coming of Jesus as Savior and Messiah.
One commentary said various OT prophesies about Jesus name Him as PROPHET, PRIEST, KING, SUFFERING SERVANT, and SAGE.

What "big three" OT characters does Peter refer to in his sermon? Why is each chosen?
We decided to list all five OT characters mentioned. All references here refer to the LORD who is coming.
ABRAHAM. The Father of the Jewish nation. He gloried God.
ISAAC. The Son of Promise.
JACOB. Part of the lineage of Jesus. Is included when describing God as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
MOSES. A Deliverer and Lawgiver.
SAMUEL. Represents the Prophets.

How does Peter end this sermon?
Jesus is the prophesized Messiah.
Calls the Jews ignorant because Jesus wasn't "the answer" they wanted.
Appeals to their national pride as the lineage of the Messiah for the whole world.
"Here's the promise. You have to accept it!"

Can you think of an example of God's power at work today/in your lifetime like it was in this chapter?
  • Jews converting to Christianity and working to convert others - Jews for Jesus, Completed Jews, Messianic Jews.
  • Miracles still happen.
  • The Jesus film ministry's success.
  • Billy Graham and other mass evangelists crusades.
  • House churches in hostile countries.



Chapter 4

V1-4

What were Peter and John doing?
 Teaching about Jesus and the resurrection.

The people were amazed by Peter and John's activities. Who was not amazed but rather upset? Why?
Priests, specifically Sadducees. 
They don't believe in resurrection.

Why are the Sadducees specifically mentioned here? Think theology and escape.
See above. 

Why did they put Peter and John in jail immediately?
 To shut them up.
To get the audience to scatter.
They weren't supposed to have trials after sunset.

How effective has Peter (and the others) been?
They were effective to the tune of 5000 converts to Christianity!



            We got this far this week. 


For the rest of this month, Thursday Timeless Truth posts will be the 1st part of a two-part article. This Thursday, Timeless Truths: Baccalaureate Address. Does God Give Make-up Tests?

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com



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