Midterms + Ending Poetry Unit

Midterms have been sent out! If anyone has any questions about grades or assignments, please let me know and I will get back to you as soon as possible. The largest factor impacting grades at this point has been the reading logs, which have been due each Friday.

We are finishing up our brief unit on poetry, in which students have worked at identifying and analyzing the impact of literary devices in poems by Shel Silverstein, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Emily Dickinson. In addition to analyzing these poems, students were tasked with coming up with their own poems, focusing on topics that they personally identified with — cultural groups, hobbies, etc.

Starting next week, we will begin practicing for Smarter Balanced test, as well as begin working on a new essay project in which students will read, annotate, and utilize information from 3-4 sources to persuade readers of a specific viewpoint. While the essay portion will be timed, students will have ample time in class to read sample essays, review the rubric, go over the sources, and plan their essay using an outline, which will also count for 50% of the essay grade.


A brief update

This is a big week! Today, students will have turned in their final revisions of their bug essays, and this Friday students will be turning in their creative writing and peer review worksheets.

This past Friday, students took the STAR Assessment for the second time this year; as a whole, students did very well, with many students making significant gains already. If you are interested in seeing how your child has done, please ask them or send me an email and I will provide you with that information. We will be taking the STAR Assessment again in late February or early March, and once more in June to finish off the year.

Last week, students also worked on a number of very brief writing prompts, both narrative and evidence-based. Topics included “imagine you are now 80 years old and complaining about ‘kids these days’,” “The negative health effects of energy drinks,” and “the pros and cons of a school without rules.”

This week we will continue with some brief writing prompts and analyses of short articles. Students are learning about the difference between objective and subjective writing, and picking out details from articles/practicing writing objective/subjective observations about videos, photos, and writing samples. This will carry over into students writing a research paper towards the end of the year, and evaluating the reliability of sources prior to using them in their own writing.

Students were also handed permission slips to watch The Giver in class next week on December 23. Be sure to have those signed and returned no later than this Friday!

Thank you and have a great week & holiday break!

A much belated update for the new trimester!

It is hard to believe that it is already December! At this point, students are working intensively on improving their writing in class. We recently wrote persuasive essays on whether or not bugs will be the future of food, and these essays were scored on the SBAC rubric as a baseline to see where students are at and where we will need to focus as the year progresses.

In addition to working on the bug essays, students have begun the process of working on their own pieces of creative writing on any topic or form of their choosing. As of this week, students have started workshopping their writing. They will receive feedback from at least two other students in the class, and will also self-evaluate using techniques that we have learned about in class, before writing a second draft of their work. This second draft will be turned in to me in a couple of weeks, and then after receiving my feedback, students will have the opportunity to once again revise it. This way, students are getting used to the habits of planning, drafting, re-reading, and revising their work, looking at it with a more critical, evaluative, and objective eye.

For homework, students are still completing reading logs each and every week, due Friday (no exceptions)! Students should also be studying their vocabulary words — every long period we will be reviewing vocabulary as a portion of the class period, and students will be assessed on being able to not only define the words, but also apply them to their own writing.

Happy Halloween!

Students have finished with their group projects on the Giver, so we are done with the novel (and our unit) until we watch the film in November. We will then have a writing assignment analyzing creative differences between the book and film.

As such, we will be starting our next unit on writing, entitled “How Writers Work.” This unit’s primary focus will be on what makes a piece of writing good, looking at types of writing (article, poem, short story) and generating our own pieces or responses to them.

In addition to this writing unit, starting next week, students are going to be responsible for independent reading using books they have selected from either my class, the library, or ones they own. I will send home a sheet with details, but essentially each student will be responsible for 30-45 minutes of independent reading a week, accompanied by a weekly reading log detailing pages read and a short summary. Students will be provided time in class to get some of this reading done as well.

Post-WINGS Update!

Once again, sorry for the belated update; between the field trip for the Writing Center on Friday, a long weekend and WINGS, the past week has flown by!

This week, students have discussed (or in the case of 8th grade, will soon discuss) their experience in WINGS, while focusing on the public speaker we had on the first night of the program. In the speech, students were told that failure is a necessary component of success, and that in order to succeed and reach one’s dreams/potential, one must take the risk of failure. After discussing their experiences and failures/successes at both WINGS and throughout their lives, students were then tasked with writing a one page response to the following questions:

What is something that you regret not trying because you were afraid of failure?

What is something you were afraid to try, but you did anyway — and how did it turn out?

What have you learned from these experiences?

The responses are due on Monday, if students did not finish them in class. These pieces of writing will be saved for use during the memoir unit that we will be starting in the Winter/Spring.

Next week, students will still be working on identifying gerunds, participles, and infinitives in selections of writing for their grammar focus. In regard to The Giver, students will begin working on drafting and finishing summaries and literature circle sheets for the final chapters next Monday, so that we may get underway on their “Final Project” choices for the text. Students will also be using the computers to take Accelerated Reader quizzes on the text, for both vocabulary and content. I am aiming for these quizzes to be taken on Friday.


A Belated Update

Sorry about the delay in updating! Last week we closed out Friday with the STAR Assessment (those students who missed testing will be given the opportunity to make it up this week). We refrained from having a quiz on the chapters students were assigned to read, so that we could continue working on our group projects. So far, we have had many interesting and diverse presentations, including those on topics such as nuclear fission, neuroscience, and 9/11. One of the groups started up a lively classroom debate on the topic, “should people be protected from making the wrong choices?” With that said, we still have many more projects to go, as students are making real-world connections to the topics explored in the text. Groups will be done presenting by Wednesday of this week.

This week, students in 7th grade will be covering chapters 11-14 to completion, and begin working on chapters 15-18. 8th grade will finish up chapters 14-18, and will begin working on chapters 19-23, finishing off the book. On Friday, students will be quizzed on the chapters that they have finished this week.

The grammar topic of the week is verbals. We have introduced the concept of infinitives, participles, and gerunds to the class, and are working our way to a better understanding of these grammatical concepts that many of the students are already employing proficiently in their writing. This will be a topic we cover for the next few weeks, having students identify these parts of speech in a number of various texts, songs, excerpts from books, and film clips. In addition to identifying them, students will practice including them in their own writing, making note of the function they hold in the sentence (for example, is this infinitive being used as a noun, adjective, or adverb).

Thank you, and have a great week!

An Update

As of today, 9/19/2014, we have completed our work with commas! We are also largely underway discussing chapters 7-10 of The Giver (7th grade) and chapters 9-13 (8th grade). This week we finished working on and presenting a majority of the group projects, which included presentations of skits (both filmed and performed), PowerPoints, posters, brochures, and essays to the class, broadening our understanding of the community in which Jonas lives.

The quiz on chapters 9-13 has been postponed until Monday, so that we can get presentations completed and ensure that every group has had a chance to discuss their literature circle roles and chapters with the class. The quiz will be open book, so that students gain practice picking and citing contextual evidence with their responses.

Over the weekend, students are tasked with reading chapters 11-14 (7th grade) and 14-18 (8th grade).

Have a great weekend!

The week’s progress

Today we had our second quiz on The Giver. For grade 7, this encompassed chapters 4-6, while grade 8 worked with chapters 4-8. The quiz also contained a separate portion to assess proper comma usage, which we will continue for one more week as our grammar focus.

Students have primarily been working on their group projects this week. They have been coming up with posters, brochures, and skits, and will be finishing up/presenting them on Monday.

The assigned reading for the weekend is as follows:

Grade 7: Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10

Grade 8: Chapters 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

When classes resume next week, and after we have presented our projects, students will be assigned new groups and roles from the literature circle sheets. Where we go from there… well, that will remain a surprise until then 🙂

Have a great weekend!

We’ve begun!

As of today, we have read up through chapter 3 of The Giver. 

Today’s lesson included an open-book comprehension quiz on chapters 2+3, as well as a handout and PowerPoint on the fundamentals of writing a summary. As summarizing and paraphrasing are important concepts to master, especially given that they will be tested on the SBAC, this refresher and handout should serve to help students identify just what key events are worth writing down, and which minute details are worth omitting.

To check for understanding of these concepts, we not only summarized the events of Chapters 2+3 of The Giver, but I also had students watch a 3 1/2 minute viral ad by Chipotle. The ad utilizes a dystopian setting and, without any speech, tells a very vivid and moving story. We watched the video twice, taking note of both the characteristics that made the setting dystopian, as well as focusing on the key plot points; as a class we summarized the video step by step, omitting all unnecessary details.

For homework, students in 8th grade are to read chapters 4-8. 7th graders are to read chapters 4-6. 

Day 3 — The Giver

Greetings! Today we began with a mini-lesson in history by establishing the role of government in determining the rights and freedoms of the people under which it governs. We looked at the preamble to our own constitution, as well as discussed the rights, freedoms and opportunities available in our society. In contrast to this, we also looked at certain societies, both fictional and otherwise, that have restricted the rights of its citizens.

This served as the introduction to our first novel, The Giver. As the novel takes place in a dystopian society, we will be focusing on the rules and regulations that Jonas, our protagonist, lives under; in what ways is this similar to our own society? In what ways is it very different? 

For homework, we are just reading the first chapter of the book, and working on the literature circle roles that we were assigned; either Summarizer, Illustrator, Questioner, Connector, or Vocabulary Enricher. Once we reconvene, we will discuss what we read, making predictions for what might happen and looking at certain key terms that will appear throughout the text. We will also further explore the concept of a Dystopian society by looking excerpts from The Hunger Games, providing yet another setting for which we can compare that of The Giver’s to.