Christina O.

7th-Grade English Portfolio

My Portfolio Reflection

1. How would you describe your writing at the beginning of the year and how would you describe it now?

At the beginning of the year, I don't think my writing was nearly as good as it is now.  I think that I have improved a lot over the course of this school year.  I've learned a lot about different ways you can write, and different parts of writing and stories, and that information has helped me improve as a writer.  

2. What do you consider your writing strengths?

I think one of my writing strengths is taking a bunch of raw information and making it into an interesting essay.  I've improved this skill a lot this year, because we've written quite a few essays in class, and occasionally at home.  I have also gotten better at "showing, not telling", making my writing interesting, and writing in different styles.  

3. What writing skills do you need and/or want to continue to develop next year?

I want to get better at writing fiction and fantasy, because I feel like most of the writing we did this year was fact-based.  I want to continue to learn how to write in different styles and "voices", expand my vocabulary, grammar, and spelling, because I feel those things will help me become a better writer in general.  

4. What piece of writing from this year best captures your growth as a writer and thinker?

I think my Hero' Journey Essay best shows how I have grown as a thinker and writer because in it I really thought about the theme of the book, and I felt like I came up with some good thoughts.  I improved as I writer when I accurately put my thought to words, and created my essay.  

5. What piece of writing from this year are you most proud of? Explain why.

I am really proud of my Holocaust Letter.  I had fun corresponding with someone I'd never met, and I feel like writing to them really helped me improve as a writer.  I also thought that the prompt was really creative, and encouraged us to really put ourselves in the shoes of someone who was experiencing the Holocaust.  

Artifact #1

Hero's Journey Essay

Few things stay the same for long. Everything is always changing. Something that is seemingly small can change your whole life; send you on a journey. The Hero’s Journey is all about change and transformation. Many books contain the Hero’s Journey. One such book is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It is a monomyth because the main character, Ponyboy, goes through the stages of the Hero’s Journey.

Ponyboy experiences the second part of The Initiation when Johnny, his best friend, dies. A lot has happened to Ponyboy since he cut his hair. Johnny is severely injured and close to death, but he needs to tell Pony something first: “‘Ponyboy.’ I barely heard him. I came closer and leaned over to hear what he was going to say. ‘Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold…” […] I tried to say something, but I couldn't make a sound” (148-149). In the Hero’s Journey, the second part of The Initiation is when the hero faces his “lowest point”, also called The Abyss. There he must do battle with his greatest fear. In The Outsiders, one of Ponyboy’s greatest fears is losing someone he loves, especially after the death of his parents. When Johnny dies, Pony must battle his fears and sadness. He tries to figure out what Johnny meant by “stay gold”. Ponyboy does not think of himself as special, but his friend obviously does. Johnny believes that Pony is unique because of his sensitivity; the part of him that likes to watch sunsets. Even though he might not think so, to Johnny, Ponyboy is “gold”.

Ponyboy experiences the Hero’s Journey, making The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton a monomyth. When Johnny kills Bob, Ponyboy is separated from the comfortable. When he cuts his hair, he faces a challenge. When Johnny dies, Ponyboy must battle his greatest fear. But, finally, when he comes out of his concussion, Ponyboy understands that he is not alone. And, that is what Hinton is trying to teach us throughout this book: everyone faces the Hero’s Journey. No one is alone in their suffering.

Artifact #2

Holocaust Letter (letter #5)

Asher and Edward-

Some days I don’t even know who I am anymore. Every day is more or less the same. I never know what day it is, or what month, or even what year.

I suppose I should start from the beginning.

When the train pulled up at Treblinka (the labor camp I now live at) and the doors were pulled open, I felt like a mole emerging from my burrow. My eyes burned and watered horribly, but I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was gaze at the sky. The smokey, cloud-covered, foggy grey sky that was pouring buckets of sleet down on us.

It was beautiful.

Father, however, did not feel anything like a mole. I think he felt like a tiger, being let out of its cage.

“Finally!” he had roared, “We can move again!”

A Nazi soldier had beaten him to the ground with the butt of his rifle, but not out of anger. His eyes were empty. It reminded me of a robot, like the kind I saw in a film that once.

To think that I had ever partaken in such a frivolous pastime makes me feel sick.

“Yes,” he had said, “You can start by moving into an orderly, quiet line.”

We had carefully climbed out of the car, our limbs full of pins-and-needles from being practically motionless for so long. I made an attempt not to cry, but what was the point?

The pace of my tears only quickened when the girl, the one who had said she was not hungry, did not get up. Eliza shouted in her ear, but nothing happened.

We all knew that she was gone.

The entire time we assembled into a line, Father wouldn’t get up. He was definitely alive, but he just hugged himself and groaned. Finally, the soldiers picked him up and marched him away.

“I think you need a nice, long shower,” I heard one of them say with an empty, robotic chuckle.

That was the Nazis were, a bunch of big, ugly robots. Robots, and nothing more.

I’m sure it wasn’t a regular shower, either. The way the soldier laughed erased any hope, however faint, of that unlikely chance.

Then, the Nazis told us to move along, and we were quickly separated. The women and children went one way, the men going the other.

The women were led us to a large building, which was near a whole bunch of other large buildings. Inside, they made us remove our clothes - all of them! It was horribly awkward and embarrassing.

After that, they took us to another room, where a bunch of girls around my age chopped off all my hair! I had spent three years growing it out, and it nearly hung down to my waist. I was most displeased, but didn’t dare breathe a word.

Then, they took us to a room full of ice-cold showers. The water coming out wasn’t all that clear. We ran through, getting a little cleaner, but not by much. I prayed that this was the kind of shower my father was placed in, but I highly doubt that any of us could be that lucky.

Next, they gave us all striped, pajama-like clothing, and wooden shoes. My clothes were ridiculously big on me, but I soon traded with another girl who was very tall.

In the final part of the “procedure”, we stood in lines again, outside in the pouring rain. They had a sort of stamp-like device that they would press on your arm. When it came away, there was a number. Some people screamed when they got their number, but most just closed their eyes. We’d been through enough already.

Polly was somehow terrified by the numbers. She kept shuddering and whispering “Why are they doing this?!”.

To comfort her, when I got my number, I didn’t even wince. I turned and attempted to smile at her. “It’s not so bad, Polly. It’s only a number.”

I had no idea how important those words were going to be.

Life in Treblinka is as horrible as the horriblest thing you can imagine, times ten. We are awoken by a loud alarm far too early every morning. Then, no matter the weather, we must stand outside for hours on end, and go through a ridiculously long and tedious roll call. They use our numbers. Mine is 3587. But it’s only a number.

Then, we have a disgusting “breakfast” of herbal “tea” (dirty water) and imitation coffee that tastes like mud. Yes, that’s right, yours truly has tried coffee, the drink of men. I agree that only a man would be so foolish as to drink it (no offense to either of you, of course).

I have the horrendous job of cutting hair. I grow used to the dull snip of the scissors. I become immune to the comments of girls who, like me, have spent far too much time on their hair for it to be hacked off in such a brutal manner. I do my best to offer a smile or a reassuring nod wherever I can. I learned not to talk the hard way, with the very hard butt of a rifle.

Most days, they feed us “lunch”, which is usually extremely watery soup. I have no idea what’s in it, and I don’t really want to ask. It keeps me going, though, which is really the most you could ask of Treblinka cuisine.

“Dinner” is always an impossibly tiny piece of blackened bread. I’ve learned to save it, nibbling on the edges in the night when I wake up with a stomach so empty I feel as if I’m hollow inside. I also eat it at “breakfast”. However, I’ve been lucky a few times and received small extra bits of food, like little hunks of cheese, or slivers of meat. These I cherish more than anything.

Sometimes, when the Nazis knock me to the ground, trip me up, or yell at me, or if I see them doing that to anyone, I think to myself, Big, ugly robots. Robots, and nothing more. It keeps me from doing something stupid, like fighting back. That would be pointless, and I would just become another carcass for some poor chap to bury. But some days, I can’t help but clench my fists. Nothing about this is fair. Nothing.

Also, when they call me by my number, I tell myself, Your name is Petra Roth. You are 13 years old. Maybe 14 by now. You are not 3587. That is just a number.

It has helped me. I repeat a variation on the same speech to Polly and Eliza every night. We are all in the same bunkhouse, and we talk at night. Our nightly talks, as well as my little mantras, are the only few, thin threads keeping me from leaping off the cliff.

I apologize for the length of this letter. I just have so much to say, and not nearly enough space to say it all. However, due to the rarity of paper, I will end soon.

I am glad to hear that your health is improving, Asher, and I am truly sorry about your mother. I’m sure, however, that she’s in a better place now.

I hope you are alright, Edward. If you simply can’t find paper, nor time, then I completely understand. If you are sick, then I hope you will get better. And, though I really do hope otherwise, if you are dead, then I pray that your soul find a happier place.

I hope my little chants help you, and I really, really do hope that we survive this war, and that something better is waiting for us afterwards.

כל טוב (kol tuv/ all the best),

Petra Roth

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