Responsive Essay Assignment
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?