Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekend and Persuasive Essay Info

Homework due Monday is, as usual, the green sheet.

I have also told students that they need to have their completed first draft by Wednesday, and might want to work on it over the weekend if they know the week ahead is going to be busy (or vice versa). Since they have already had to produce the introduction and first two proofs, they are in good shape.

The first draft needs to be a 5 paragraph essay for blocks 2 and 4, and a 6 paragraph essay for block 3. It has to be readable, but neatness and spelling are not going to affect the grade to any major extent. I am looking for lots of details and evidence to support their ideas, not skimpy paragraphs. Somewhere in the body paragraphs, students need to use the following persuasive techniques:

One Testimonial (a quote from someone recognized as an expert, but possibly in this case someone they know, like a teacher)
One Research-based quotation (from the web or other source)
One piece of data (a statistic from their research, results of a poll they conduct themselves, et cetera)

As they write, they should remember that their audience is the School Board.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Keep Going!

Tonight's homework is to write the second BODY / PROOF paragraph of your persuasive essay.
Parents, keep up the good work -- I heard two students complaining in the hall today that their parents always know the homework and they can't get away with anything! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Paragraph 2

Tonight, students will write the second paragraph of their persuasive essay/letter. This paragraph is their first PROOF paragraph, but the second actual paragraph of the essay. If you need a refresher on 5 paragraph essay structure, head on back to the slide show from October 15th on writing responses to text. The information you want begins at slide 12. The basic structure is the same for responses to text and persuasives: Introductory paragraph, 3 proof paragraphs, concluding paragraph.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Two things tonight:

1. Finish chapter three of The Pearl (copies were available for taking home) and write 7 questions for review.... 3 right there, 3 think and search, 1 author and me.

2. Write the INTRODUCTORY paragraph to your persuasive essay on the 180 hours problem.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Homework Tonight

No homework tonight, but there is a middle school team announcement:

Students in 7th grade WILL be going outdoors in the afternoon tomorrow and MUST have the following in order to participate in the outdoor activities:

Gloves / Mittens
Coat (hoodie is not enough)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pre-writing activity

Tonight's homework is a short pre-writing activity for a persuasive essay assignment. The students need to write their thesis statement and three big ideas to prove their thesis. Then, they need to write 2 or 3 specific supporting details for EACH big idea. Here is an example:

Thesis statement: Since the government is requiring 180 extra hours of school per year, I think it would be best to add thirty full school days in the summer.

Big Idea 1. Continuity
Details: 1A. Students are less likely to forget what they have learned if they don't have a lengthy summer vacation 1B. Teachers won't have to plan their curriculum to stop neatly at the end of the book in June, but can go into July as needed.

Big Idea 2. Cost Effectiveness
Details: 2A. The school is open all summer long anyway 2B. Unlike adding 30 Saturdays during the year, you won't have to spend extra money on heat 2C. Parents would not have to spend so much money on child care and entertainment for their kids during the summer.

Big Idea 3. Opportunities for non-traditional learning
Details 3A. Summertime session would be a perfect opportunity to focus in on what students are behind and need remediation 3B. Students who are not behind could be provided with special enrichment situations or a gifted and talented curriculum.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Homework for blocks 2 and 3 is a worksheet entitled, "Combining Sentences with Subordinate Ideas." This was the worksheet that was supposed to go home on Friday, but there apparently was a mix-up (I was not here). Sorry for any confusion.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Independent Reading Project FOUR

Parents -- this is the hand out I will be giving kids in class today. We'll be filling in the dates, and I'll come back and update the dates in a few days. Just wanted to get this out there or you, even though it isn't at 100 % complete....

Independent Reading Project for Marking Period 4 -- FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION

Characteristics of Fantasy:

• Imaginary, highly detailed societies that are mostly outside of the realm of possibility
• Visually descriptive writing
• May include a struggle of Good versus Evil
• Magical, mythological, unusual, or supernatural creatures and races of beings
• Hero (often an underdog) goes on a Quest to save someone, something, or entire world
• Magical, mythological, unusual, or supernatural objects / foods / transportation / tools / powers
• Talking animals or talking objects
Characteristics of Science Fiction:
• Futuristic society that is often idealistic (may comment on our current society’s ills)
• Involves detailed descriptions of technology and scientific advances (cool gadgets!)
• Daily tools of the society are above and beyond our current tools, but believable
• Often involves a “good versus evil” plot line
• Often involves people “playing God” or shows the results of “playing God”
• Time travel or travel to other worlds
• Themes may relate to manipulation, power, and control
• Hero may go on a quest, mission, voyage, or journey to “save the world”

Your Quest (what you need to do to get a good grade):1. Pick a fantasy or sci-fi novel of your choice, at your reading level and of at least 200 pages.

2. When half through, or by Feb 12 at the latest, write a letter to Mrs. Wald about your book. Your letter must be at least 350 words, and may be hand-written, typed, or emailed to Be sure to include: SUMMARY (see class notes!) and EVALUATION of the novel. About half of the letter should be summary, and the other half should be evaluation – your thoughts, opinions, predictions, and specific examples of the characteristics of the genre.

3. When finished, or by March 3 at the latest, write another letter to Mrs. Wald about your book. Your letter must be at least 350 words, and may be hand-written, typed, or emailed to Be sure to include: SUMMARY (see class notes!) and a FINAL EVALUATION of the novel. About half of the letter should be summary, and the other half should be evaluation – your thoughts, opinions, reactions, and specific examples of the characteristics of the genre.

4. When finished, or by March 10 at the latest, create a THREE DIMENSIONAL OBJECT REPRESENTING THE BOOK. This is NOT a diorama of a scene from the book. It is a symbolic representation of the book as a whole. For example, you could make a cube and decorate all six sides. Criteria:
 It is 3-dimensional
 It is colorful or at least done in ink – not pencil
 It is neatly put together (words, illustrations, cutting, gluing)
 It includes an original, written summary of the novel (see notes!)
 It shows and describes main character(s)
 It shows and describes the “world” of the book
 It names the genre and gives at least three specific examples of the characteristics of the genre as found in the book (quotes and page numbers)
 It makes sense on its own (ie: people should “get it” if you aren’t there to explain it to them)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

End of Marking Period Reflections and Homework

Friday was the end of the marking period, and the mid-point of the year. It amazes me how quickly time has flown in my first year at this school. I'm still getting used to the 80 minute block schedule, and always adjusting my lesson plans on-the-go as I learn how much learning and instruction can actually fit in that 80 minutes compared to what I think should fit in! A perfect example is the novel we are reading: The Pearl. I had planned to have it finished by the mid-term, but we are only half way through. I think the students are really "getting it," though, so I don't want to sacrifice their learning for speed. I certainly appreciate the patience the students are showing with the novel -- digging deeply and trying to understand it, as it is a difficult text. I anticipate that the next novel done in class, which will be done in small literature groups with little teacher intervention, will be read much more carefully and deeply as a result of the care we are taking together with The Pearl. After all, everything we do together is done with an eye towards building students' skills as independent readers, writers, and thinkers.

Regarding the mid-term exam... I think parents and students will find the grades on the exam to be lower than they had hoped. As I grade them, the general trend seems to be that students are earning about one letter grade lower on the exam than they typically earn for the marking period. This is not true for every student, but it is my overall observation. In other words, if your child is usually an A student, you might reasonably expect to see a B on the midterm exam. I want to tell you in advance that I feel that mid-terms in middle school should be viewed as a learning experience for the students, as opposed to simply a reflection of what they know and are able to do (though it does certainly give you some evidence of that as well). For instance, the students are learning how to review, how to study, what to study, how to persevere through a long test, what they know and don't know from the content of the course, how to handle test anxiety, strategies for approaching a timed test, and what to expect on a midterm exam at the high school and college levels. Please discuss the exam grade (and the approach to the exam) with your child and help him or her to reflect on what was done well and what might be improved upon or changed in preparation for the final. I will be doing this in general terms with the whole class, but can also do it in specific terms with any student who wants to discuss it with me after school.

Regarding homework for the weekend... I was out of school on district business on Friday, and left a homework worksheet for the two classes I have before lunch. As always, green sheets are due. Students should be reading a FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION novel for marking period four, and details and dates for projects will be posted this coming week.

Thank you, parents, for all you do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mid term done, Projects due

Students completed their Language Arts mid term today. I think most found it harder than they expected, but all persevered. No, I will not have them graded by tomorrow, but I will have them by Thursday, I hope.

Projects are due tomorrow (Independent Reading Projects).

Keep up the good work!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Exam Tuesday


Projects due Wednesday.

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Help Sheet"

Students were given a sheet of graph paper (a half sheet in most classes) on which to create a "help sheet" for the mid-term on Tuesday. Parents, this is what we grew up calling a "cheat sheet," but I prefer to not use that term!

The rules for the help sheet are as follows, and were made VERY clear during class:
1. You must write only on one side
2. You must WRITE on it, not type or photocopy or glue or any other variation
3. You must turn it in on Monday for my review. I will return it on Tuesday for the exam.
4. No late passes accepted for this assignment. If the sheet is not turned in on Monday, it may not be used during the exam.
5. Write as much as you can fit, or as little as you wish.

Though students are welcome to study with a friend or share notes, the help sheet is a totally individualized thing -- students should put on it whatever they think they will need to have during the exam, based on their own strengths and weaknesses. Some may want to copy definitions on it, some may want to have directions for writing a Response to Text. Students should consult the "Fair Game for the Midterm" sheet from class on Monday (also posted on blog), so they know what will likely be on the exam. As I said in class, the textbook will be available for reading comprehension questions, and I won't be removing or covering any posters that hang in the room.

I hope that this homework does two things:
1. Forces the issue of studying (after all, copying is one way to study)
2. Makes students examine their own strengths and weaknesses in my class in order to PRIORITIZE what goes on the relatively limited space of the sheet.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Keep on reviewing for exam....

We've been doing a great deal of review for the mid term in classes this week, and one thing is clear -- MOST of the students need to STUDY more. I heard lots of stories about four or more hours spent on Wii and other recreation on the day off yesterday. Four hours studying for the mid-term would have been well spent.

To help get them started, I gave review homework:

Complete worksheet called: "Midterm Review Day 4"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Homework January 6

Two things --
1. Projects (ABC book, speech, timeline, or powerpoint) should be HALF done by tomorrow for a check.
2. Worksheet on "expanding sentences" due tomorrow.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Homework and "Fair Game" list for mid-term exam

Tonight, please complete the double sided worksheet on combining sentences, get a parent to sign your last test if you earned less than an 80 on it, and begin reviewing for the mid-term.

Fair Game list:
o Summarizing Fiction

o Short story plot structure and definitions

o Be prepared to answer essential question for short story unit in a constructed response: What makes a good short story?

o Reading comprehension questions on the following short stories and folk tales (open book, BUT you don’t want to waste a lot of time having to re-read, so be familiar enough with the stories that a quick skim will be enough to answer the question)
“Lather and Nothing Else”
“Rikki Tikki Tavi” --- Blocks 2 and 3 only
“Ransom of Red Chief” --- Block 3 only
“Town Mouse, Country Mouse”
“The Fox and the Crow” (Blocks 2 and 4 only)
“The Mice That Set the Elephants Free” (Block 2 only)
“All Stories are Anansi’s”

o Constructed Response writing – structure, expectations, and application (you may actually write one)

o Structure and parts of a 5 paragraph Response to Text Essay, including what makes a good thesis statement and what goes in each paragraph

o Be prepared to answer all three essential questions on our folktale unit:
Why have these tales survived?
What specific information can we learn about a culture by the tales it tells?
What are some aspects of folktales that are similar across multiple cultures?

o Be prepared to describe, in detail, at least two Cinderella tales and how they are both similar and different.

o Correct usage and spelling of the 48 “Unacceptable Errors / No Excuses List” and the “General Expectations” for writing, such as capitalization rules.

o Be able to label, answer, and create four different types of questions

o Know all Word Whiz:
30 Fun and Useful Words – definitions, synonyms, how to use them in sentences
35 Word Parts – meaning, examples
65 Language Arts terms – definitions, examples

o Be able to identify and write 4 types of sentences

o Be able to identify and correct fragments and run-ons

o Be able to identify and write subjects and predicates

o Be able to create and complete analogies using common knowledge and Word Whiz