November  2015 Newsletter - “Falling” into Positive Writing Habits
Unit 4 – Summarizing a Reference
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November 2015 Newsletter

“Falling” into Positive Writing Habits

Unit 4 – Summarizing a Reference 
Dear Readers,

Have you ever fallen into a bad habit? At one time or another, most of us would probably admit that at some point in our lives, we picked up a not-so-great habit or two. Have you ever tried to break those bad habits? Not an easy task! When you are teaching writing or learning how to write, why not create positive writing habits from day one, so you can avoid the difficult habit-breaking phase?

Unit 4 focuses on teaching students to pull interesting and essential information from a single source. This unit is important, as it prepares students for Unit 6 – Summarizing Multiple References. Students will also learn how to craft a topic sentence and paragraph clincher. As you approach Unit 4, here are two positive writing habits to implement:

1. Remember to narrow your research topic. In the long run, a narrowed topic will save you from frustration. “Basketball” is a very broad topic. If you wanted to write about basketball, how could you narrow the topic? Perhaps you could choose a specific team or even a particular coach or player. Another example . . . Instead of writing on “fish,” perhaps you could narrow your topic to “the most common saltwater fish.” Choosing your topic is important, as it can become frustrating when a topic is too narrow, and you cannot find enough information. Or if it is too broad, you have excessive information.

2. Topic-Clincher – The first sentence in a paragraph introduces your topic, while the last sentence of the paragraph should repeat or reflect two to three key words from your topic sentence. This concept is important, as it gives a nice flow and a conclusive feel to the paragraph. The following excerpt from our 2015 print magazine, written by 10-year-old Zeke Johnson, demonstrates the topic-clincher relationship. 
    Beavers are intelligent builders. They erect dams across ponds. They like to create their lovely homes at night, so they are sure and safe from their enemies. First, they pile mud and stones in the water. Patiently, they drag trees, which they have cut down, into the water. These clever beavers stack the sticks higher than the water and then dig underwater tunnels. Next, they pack mud between the sticks and stones with their tails to make the lodges stronger. These wise beavers will live in their lodge all winter. Obviously, beavers have an intelligent way to build their homes.

Notice how the last sentence reflects and repeats the first sentence, allowing the paragraph to tie together nicely.

Although these are simply two positive writing habits to consider, there are many more. What other good habits could you implement from your writing toolbox? Parents and teachers, for information on correcting bad teaching habits, listen to Andrew Pudewa’s recent podcast series, The Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.

Congratulations to our student-authors who were published in
this newsletter:

Michael Bowen
Sam Daniels
Andrew Heil
Braden Siegal


Writing and Illustrating Opportunities:

Magnum Opus Magazine Writer's Deadlines

- Yearly Print Magazine (all units and topics) - November 9, 2015
- Unit 5 - November 23, 2015
- Poetry - December 22, 2015
- Unit 6 - January 18, 2016
- Unit 7 - February 18, 2016
- Unit 8 - March 21, 2016
- Unit 9 - April 18, 2016
- Fiction - May 23, 2016
- Journalism - June 27, 2016

To submit student work, please email the Word document and consent form to (Please include author’s name and submission title in the subject line.)

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Magnum Opus Magazine


Have you ever wished you could have hands-on experience working on a magazine? If you love to write and edit, our Magnum Opus Magazine internship opportunity might be right for you! Interns will be working alongside an editor, researching, editing, and writing their own pieces for publication.

1. Homeschooled and in 10th–12th grade
2. Solid grasp of basic grammar and writing skills
3. Has completed the Student Writing Intensive 

Upon completion of the internship, students will receive a letter of recommendation from the editor.

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We are currently looking for student illustrators for our 2016 print magazine. We accept all mediums including digital artwork. If your student is interested in being one of our illustrators, email with a sample of your student’s work.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their work to our Unit 4 newsletter! We encourage you to keep writing and submit again!


Megan L. House
Magnum Opus Magazine Managing Editor
800.856.5815 x5101
The Infamous Pirate of Charleston Harbor
by Sam Daniels, age 10
          Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, is probably the world’s most famous pirate. Much of his earlier life is unknown, and people are not even positive his name was Edward Teach. Blackbeard was pleasant to those who cooperated with him. Instead of savagely torturing the innocent people around him, he liked to greedily plunder ships for priceless valuables. Blackbeard cleverly knew that if he appeared bloodcurdling, people would surrender to him without a fight. Therefore, he tied his bushy black beard into pigtails, and in battle, he fastened hemp cord to his hat. This formed a cloud of dark smoke around his head. Opposing crews thought he looked like a devil. Blackbeard once blockaded Charleston, but not for gold or precious jewels, rather to extort medicine. He abducted stunned people from a ship and held them for ransom. He would not emancipate them until he received the medicine. Finally, the medicine arrived, and Blackbeard released his victims. However, he did pillage their valuables and pilfer their clothing. After all, Blackbeard was the world’s most rascally, frightening, infamous scoundrel.
Glorious Titans of the Jungle
by Michael Bowen, age 13
          When God created the elephant, which is a massive and majestic creature, he provided special attention to detail. Elephants have dense tissue on their feet because of the need to be silent when moving through the African underbrush. These tissues muffle sounds like crunching leaves and snapping twigs. The elephant's sole also prevents the large mammal from slipping. Amazingly, an elephant's sole is as unique as a human's fingerprint. Its legs control the size of the foot. The foot expands and contracts according to the elephant's steps. An elephant's legs and feet are really unique.

          When the elephant was created, among the many things that are unique, one stands out, the elephant's intelligence. These leviathans, which live in the jungle, arc incredibly smart. They possess 25 different calls. And each one has a specific meaning! Another branch of the elephant's intelligence is the memory. The memory is used socially as well as for survival. In individual families or herds of elephants, each has a matriarch, or ruling dominant mother. She is the matriarch because she carries the knowledge needed to survive in a jungle, desert, or grassland environment. Over time, the matriarch passes down this valuable knowledge to the younger females of the herd. Eventually, when the ruling matriarch dies, one of the younger females will become matriarch. Elephants in captivity are swift learners, because with gentle training they can learn as many as 40 voice commands! The elephant is truly one of a kind.
          Elephants have keen senses. Since they can scent a human over a mile away, their sense of smell helps them avoid predators as well. These gentle giants can also hear very low sounds. These low sounds, which are below the range of human ears, are called infrasound. Elephants can communicate over two miles away because of infrasound, maybe even twice this distance. But the elephant's sense of touch is also acute. It is most profound in its trunk. These magnificent titans unfortunately have poor eyesight. This makes these glorious titans of the jungle depend mostly on their senses of smell, hearing, and touch.
The Declaration of Independence:
A Great Inspiration

by Braden Siegal, age 13
          Although it has been in existence for 239 years, one great document has inspired many people, both when it was written, and in the modern world. The Declaration of Independence was designed to instill in people the seed of freedom and democracy. Myriad events led up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. In the 1700s, conflict and strife scarred the relationship between Britain and America. Despite the fact that they were British citizens, the American colonists were treated unfairly. They had less rights than the prosperous British in England. King George taxed the colonists and then squandered the money on himself. The people simply refused to buy the taxed items, non-violently resisting the wrongful laws. The non-compliant Americans began to demand representation in Parliament, solemnly chanting “no taxation without representation!” Some even sent petitions to coax the hostile king, but the obstinate man never responded, let alone granted it. In fact, King George sent troops across the ocean to compel the Americans to quiet down. The colonists were soon pushed to the point of no return. When ships full of tea sailed into Boston Harbor, the indignant men of the town tossed the tea into the tranquil sea where it sank into the deep azure water. Some, who were tired of the king's antics, began to believe that they were left with no choice but to declare independence from Britain. The Second Continental Congress convened to try to resolve the issue. These problems instigated the idea of the Declaration of Independence.

          The second Continental Congress wrote and adopted the Declaration of Independence. They discussed and debated what to do. Finally they agreed on five men, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston, to write the paper. They elected Thomas Jefferson, the most adept writer of the five, to pen the first draft. He speedily completed the almost perfect draft in just seventeen days. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the final Declaration of Independence. It stated that a government should give its people certain rights and protect those rights, or the people can get rid of the leader, which is still how our government runs today. It also called King George a tyrant and confronted his animosity. Everyone in the Congress then signed it, including John Hancock. He wrote his signature in a large, flourishing style, because he wanted King George to be able to read it without his spectacles. All the members who signed knew they could be arrested and hanged for treason, but they stood up for what they believed in, persevering all the way. Copies of the Declaration were sent all over the colonies. This profession of freedom was the main catalyst for the Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress is responsible for the Declaration of Independence having been written. The Declaration of Independence is an amazing inspiration of freedom and people's rights.
The Man Who Inspired
the Modern Age

by Andrew Heil, age 15
          Nikola Tesla, a pioneering individual who conceived most of the essential machines in the twentieth century, lived a remarkable life. Amazingly, two out of three people do not know who Tesla was. Much mystery shrouds his life. He envisioned many technologies which some believe could not have even existed or functioned. Constantly thinking, his ingenious mind was always working and imagining new ideas. In fact, his mind was his lab and the world his toolbox. Full of ideas, he always wanted to share them with the world to change things for the better. Sitting in the gritty sand on a beach one day, inspiration struck him like a bolt of lightning. He grabbed a long stick and quickly drew plans for a new kind of electrical power generator. After establishing a firm foundation in his career, he visualized and built many things that other people thought were crazy. When he was ready, he searched for a place where he could watch his dreams become reality. Without the cascading effect of the genius of Nikola Tesla, the world would not be in its current state.

          Tesla was a magnificent inventor. Once he was able, he began to work for the esteemed Thomas Edison. Edison had created Direct Current (DC) which was remarkable and a monumental achievement at the time but had one fatal weakness. Direct Current could only travel through a mile or so of wire before it dissipated completely. It required many “booster stations” along the wires to maintain its electrical power. Working in Edison’s factory, Tesla observed and learned a great deal about Edison’s inventions. As time passed, Tesla drew up plans and offered them to Edison as a possible way to improve his direct current electrical generators. Tesla conceived a new kind of electricity called Alternating Current (AC). If Edison had accepted the proposal, then it would have had a profound impact on the modern world. Foolish and cocky, Edison explained to Tesla, “If you can improve my DC generators, I will pay you fifty-thousand dollars.” Fifty-thousand dollars in 1890 was the equivalent of roughly 2.5 million dollars in today’s currency. Expectedly, Tesla began his quest for building an AC generator. He tirelessly and diligently worked on his generator. He put more effort and salty sweat into this project than any task he had done before. After all his hard work, he succeeded in creating an AC generator. He confidently approached Edison with his idea and requested the fifty-thousand dollars that Edison had promised him. Edison simply laughed and told him that it had been a joke. Tesla quit working for Edison the next day. While Tesla was an amazing inventor, Edison could not see his potential and later stated that ignoring Tesla’s ideas was his greatest mistake.

          No longer employed with Edison, Tesla searched for a job, so he could build his machine on his own. Finding work was difficult, but he managed as well as he could. Predominantly he worked at inns for a long and frustrating time. After a while, two men approached Tesla asking him about his AC generator. He excitedly explained his idea in minute detail to these two intrigued men. Blown away, they decided to set up a small laboratory for Tesla in which he could work to create his machine. Because his ideas were so unique, patents were issued to him without challenge. Later on, Tesla met George Westinghouse, the inventor of railroad air brakes. Westinghouse thought that AC would be the power of the future, so he paid Tesla large sums of money for the rights to his patents and in royalties. Tesla was overjoyed. Tesla, more than willing to accept Westinghouse’s offer, began working immediately to build his generators. Amazingly, after a short amount of time, he sold so many AC generators, that Westinghouse was on the verge of bankruptcy from the royalty payments. Tesla, showing a massive amount of faith and generosity, ripped up the royalty contract. After that he began to explore other areas of technology. Building a gigantic lab, which housed a massive coil of wire and many other electronic components, he now owned a new place to conduct larger scale experiments. One day, while experimenting with wireless electricity transmission, he lit two hundred bright light bulbs from over two hundred miles away. Although it was an amazing achievement, no one was interested in his newfound creation. Tesla pioneered many other technologies such as radio, remote control, wireless electricity, and even a death ray. Unfortunately after his death, the government seized his plans and patents. He was an amazing person with a vast innovative imagination who inspired most of the modern age.

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