Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all students and parents!

We had a good week, despite its shortness (or maybe because of its shortness!). Today, students finished working on mini-projects related to folktales around the world. We'll be doing a quick writing assignment in class on Monday to "wrap up" the folktales.

Starting next week, we'll be moving into a new unit on John Steinbeck's novel, The Pearl. We'll be reading it with an eye to writing a persuasive essay by the end, using the novel as one of our "proofs" in the essay. I am planning on generating with the students some of the themes of the novel, and either proving or disproving these statements in a persuasive essay. The novel deals with greed, man's inhumanity to man, goodness, and many other abstract ideas that we'll be working with to create theme statements.

To get the kids started thinking about the novel, I have proposed the following homework assignment: Ask three adults to answer this question with a simple "yes" or "no" -- Are people basically good by nature? The students will compile the answers into some statistics to possibly use as they write their persuasive essays. I have offered an extra credit option for this assignment as well... If any of the adults are willing to be quoted as explaining their answer (ie, saying why they said yes or why they said no), students may write down the explanation and share it with the class.

Green sheets are also due on Monday, and students should be working on reading, taking notes, and completing a glossary for December 9th.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Project Homework

Tonight, please continue reading and taking notes on your independent book project. I will be checking notes and progress on glossary tomorrow in class.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weekend Homework

This homework should have been posted Friday. I apologize. There are, however, no surprises.

The green sheets are due as usual on Monday. The Independent Reading Project (NOV 13 posting) should be perking along, and I will be checking progress on glossary and note-taking as announced at the start of the project.

Students should have about 10 terms for their glossary by now. These are EITHER words they learned as they read, OR words that they think someone new to the topic might need to know to help them understand the book they are reading.

The note-taking is on the three essential questions that they identified at the start of their reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Homework for Monday

Tonight, please use all 48 "Unacceptable Errors" correctly in original sentences. This could be 48 different sentences, or you could use multiple words at a time. It is up to you. Be sure to underline the words to make it simple for me to find them.

Be sure to bring your non-fiction books and notetaking chart to class from now on for USSR time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Independent Reading Project MP 3

Last Week, students were given a brown copy of this to have in their binders. FYI to parents. 3 Essential questions due tomorrow, 11/14. (A "big" question that requires reading the whole book to answer, but parts of the answer can be discovered during reading. Ex for a book on baseball: How has baseball changed over time?)

Independent Reading Project -- Non-fiction

Before reading, please identify 3 “essential questions” that you would like to explore while reading your book. These should be deep, “think and search” kinds of questions, not simple “right there” kinds of questions. For example, if you are reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson, a good question might be, “Why did Jefferson want to become president?” or “What kind of a person was Jefferson in his home life?” A bad question might be “What year did Jefferson become president?”

While reading, take notes on your three essential questions. You should do this by creating a three column chart with each question at the top of a column, then jotting down facts and information that help to answer the questions. Be sure to indicate the page number on which the information was found.

Also, while reading, build a glossary by identifying 20 words that are new to you as you read, or are key to understanding the topic your book is focused on. Give the page number the word is found on, and define it as it is used in the book.

After reading, choose and complete a project from the following list:
1. Illustrate a timeline of major events in your book. The timeline should be at least three feet long, and include a minimum of 8 major events, illustrated and explained in words. The timeline will be judged for informational accuracy, GUM and spelling, artistic quality, neatness, and depth of information.
2. Create and share with the class a PowerPoint demonstration of a minimum of 8 slides (not including title slide) exploring your essential questions and the answers you found as you read. The PowerPoint will be judged for informational accuracy, GUM and spelling, class presentation, artistic quality, and depth of information.
3. Design and “publish” an ABC book of terms, key ideas, and information related to your non-fiction book. For example, and ABC of oceans might have “W is for Whale,” and “P is for Plankton.” The book will be judged for informational accuracy, GUM and spelling, artistic quality, neatness, and depth of information.
4. Prepare and present a three minute speech giving key information about your topic. This could be pre-recorded in the form of a podcast or other electronic means. The speech / podcast will be judged for informational accuracy, vocal quality (inflection, tone, delivery), and depth of information.

Key dates to keep in mind and even post on your refrigerator:

Book chosen by: Nov 12

3 Essential questions recorded on a chart: Nov 14

First check of progress on notes and glossary: Nov 25

Second check of progress on notes and glossary: Dec 9

Project progress check (1/2 done): Jan 7

Projects due: Jan 14

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No new homework!

No new homework tonight. Begin reading non-fiction book, and think of three essential questions to guide your reading and note-taking.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Unacceptable Errors / Writing Expectations

"Unacceptable Errors"
a lot

General Expectations:
Always capitalize I when referring to yourself.
Start sentences with capitals.
Use capitals for proper nouns.
End sentences with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
Single space a complete heading on the left side of the paper.
Use margins of ½ to 1 inch on left and right.
All drafts of portfolio pieces must be double spaced, and
handwritten neatly in blue or black ink or pencil, or
typed in Arial or Times New Roman in 12 point black ink.
Final copies must have all drafts and evidence of process attached behind.
Final copies of portfolio pieces are not written on by teachers.

Update to Independent Reading Project

Since this is a long weekend, students obviously can't turn in their final drafts on Monday as planned. The final drafts will instead be collected on Wednesday. Because of this shift, I am no longer requiring the formal book talk. Instead, it has become an "optional" assignment that will be for extra credit. I strongly suggest that students do the book talk, particularly those who are earning grades below a C.

Green sheet is due Wednesday as usual.

There will be a quiz on either Wednesday or Thursday on the "unacceptable errors" list that we have been going over in English class this week. These "unacceptable errors" will be implemented in all classes beginning next marking period. Teachers will be holding students accountable for correctly spelling these words in all types of writing. I will post the list in a separate posting.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Group work and Homework update

Today, groups began exploring Cinderella tales from a variety of cultures. I have 15different versions of the story in picture book form. It was quite a fun activity, and we'll continue with it tomorrow.

There is no homework for tonight, except perhaps getting a head start in the non-fiction book for next marking period.

Homework for the long weekend will be to make a final draft of the Independent Reading Response to Text (the one the students wrote about their outside reading book). Most students did not receive back their second drafts yet, but will get them tomorrow to finalize over the weekend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Today,as part of our unit on folktales, Mrs. Clifford read a new picture book called Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal to us. This is a multicultural version of the Cinderella story most of us grew up with. Did you know that there are hundreds of Cinderella tales and nearly one from every country on earth? They all have a similar theme, but many different specifics, such as what type of shoe Cinderella wears, and what kind of chores she does. We're going to read many different versions in class tomorrow and Friday, then we'll be trying our hand at writing one ourselves. Mrs. Kramer has agreed to hep our students make a cover for their stories in art class. I think it is going to be a very cool project, and hopefully one that will help students answer the three essential questions for our folktales unit.

Looking ahead, I handed out a sheet with due dates for the upcoming marking period. It is brown. Ask your child about it. I'll also be posting those dates on the blog soon.

No new homework tonight.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Apologies and News

Hello everyone. My apologies for not posting yesterday. There was homework, but it is not due until tomorrow (Wednesday). Homework is to write 2nd draft of Response to Text on the Independent Reading Project. It should be either typed or neatly handwritten, and should be double spaced to allow room for proofreading/editing.