You are to write a five-paragraph essay about this film. It should be about 250 words, or two full pages in your journal. We will start with an outline! Remember that you will need THREE different thoughts or ideas for the main body of the essay. You may use any of the ideas listed here, or you may think of your own ideas. New ideas may come from the discussion during class or your own observations and thinking. Just be sure to develop the ideas thoroughly! To have five paragraphs take up two pages, you’ll need to do a lot of thinking.
I. Virtues: (first body paragraph)
RESPECT AND TRUST: Why do the students initially only trust peers from their own ethnic/racial groups? How does Ms. Gruwell earn the respect of her students? How do the students finally come to respect one another? How does respect work, anyway -- how can you tell when someone does or does not respect you? Why is trust such an important component of a teacher-student relationship?
TOLERANCE: How does Ms. Gruwell manage to get the students to show tolerance for one another? Her father was a civil rights worker when Erin was growing up; how might that have affected her feelings on tolerance? Make sure your essay includes discussion of the racial caricature that Ms. Gruwell confiscated, and the impact that it had on the entire outcome of the story.
COURAGE AND PERSEVERANCE: Ms. Gruwell's students endure many hardships in their personal lives: physical violence and/or emotional abuse, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, gang violence, and deaths of family and friends. Ms. Gruwell herself must endure a lack of support from her colleagues and supervisors. What were some other roadblocks to Ms. Gruwell's success at first? How does courage and perseverance apply to these situations?
II. Relationships: (second body paragraph)
FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS: Many of the students have difficult issues to deal with in their families. Eva's father was in prison because of loyalty to the gang, and she had to testify in court on a case similar to the one that sent her dad away. Marcus was kicked out of his house when he joined a gang. One boy tells the class that he has no other family, just them. Comment on all these situations and how they are resolved.
ERIN GRUWELL AND HER HUSBAND: What caused the break-up of their marriage? What might they have done in order to save their relationship? What would YOU try to do if you were in this situation?
III. Other Ideas: (third body paragraph)
STEREOTYPES: How do you see stereotypes in this film?
WRITING IN JOURNALS: Describe how writing in journals helps transform the lives of the students. How does writing "free" the students from their pain? Do you or have you ever kept a journal or diary? If so, do (did) you write about events, emotions, or both? Was it a good experience, helpful for you?
ANGER: Why are the students filled with such anger at the beginning of the story? Do you think their anger is justified?
INEQUALITY: What are some of the inequalities among students and classrooms at Wilson High School?
CHANGE: How do some of the major characters change from the beginning to the end of the story? Why did they change? What was one important event that made a difference? Consider these characters: Erin Gruwell, Scott Gruwell, Eva, Marcus (the boy who went back to his mother's home), Ben (the white boy), and any others.
CLIMAX: What part do you think is the most important part of the story? What makes it important? What would the movie be like if that part didn't happen?
ANNE FRANK: What did you learn about Anne Frank from watching this movie? Why did the students make such an important connection to the diary of Anne Frank?