Thursday, January 31, 2008

Doing one's job.

Today the boys of Mr. Giroux's gym class invited me in to play vball with them. A thanks to them and Mr. Giroux for letting me play. I play every Thursday night with a group that has played together for 25 years. We're even into 2nd generation play, with our kids playing, and playing better than us, of course!

(So, to the guy that said, guys don't play vball, they do. In Ithaca you can find a league going on just about any night of the week, winter and summer, male and female. It is a sport you can continue to play forever.)

It was a lot of fun, and, as usual, continued my thoughts on sports and academic teachers. We all have our jobs to do, whether it is vball or writing a paper. The better we do at knowing all the steps and doing them, the better our efforts will be.

In vball, Mr. Giroux was teaching bumping and setting. If a side uses all three hits allowed, bump, set, spike, that team has more control and a better chance at winning. Really, today most sports need teamwork and working together, all doing their jobs for the good of the team; that's the most important aspect of most sports. Being the hotdog, well, it just doesn't work.

The same is true in my classroom. Doing all it takes to do a good job is required. Thinking, writing, editing and proofreading: we need to do all the parts of a job to do our best.

Look at Stephanie's essay on art. The content is absolutely wonderful. She followed directions, added in everyday objects--night lines, birds flying, plopping a big, heavy water balloon, feeling of relief. She then proofed, only a couple errors, and we all make errors. The end result is an essay that was easy to read and easy to connect to, even though I'm not an artist. Her terrific style came through in this one because she did her job. I can't wait to read more like this.

Now look at Courtney's. Her content is phenomenal. It was such a treat reading the thoughts in this paper. She used examples, repetition, was wonderful. Unfortunately, Courtney's thinking was ahead of her proofing.

That happens sometimes with good writers. (Salma, remember me saying this to you?) They have so much to say and have a way to say it so well, that proofing for commas gets lost.

Courtney's terrific writing is in need of commas. That's it; with that I think it would be a publishable paper. Her only job now is to learn to write it and then read it outloud, teaching her ear to hear those pauses. That will come in high school to so many of you. I know it. Like a sport that you get better and better at, so will you with your writing.

Here's a freebie 100 to any who want it. Print Courtney's paper off the blog (click on it and then hit print, or highlight just it and then hit print), and then add in commas or any other of the few errors I see. If you do a good enough job (Courtney too), I'll give a 100 to use on a blue grade. Now, don't change wording or ideas. They are incredible. Just do an exercise in proofing outloud to hear the pauses.

As I have said over and over: you are really a nice bunch of people. Working together (not just with your friends), and doing your best, which means doing all the parts of a job, are what you need some work on. And, don't we all?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I went to the games last night. Thanks again for Kraig and Mike coming over to sit for awhile. Being smart kids, when the game got too close to handle without language they thought I shouldn't hear, they left. Smart kids. Half of growing up today seems to be to learn when and where we all have to behave.

The games were heartbreakers. JV were up by 20 and then lost, but Nick, the one I've talked about before, goofy Nick from 8th grade, put one up from midcourt at the buzzer at halftime and made it! Wow!!

Nick also anticipated 4 throws, and stole the ball successfully 2 of those times. Again, what games and coaches teach, are the same skills I'm working on in class. Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. When you do, it's your game and you're not playing catch-up.

(By the way, Austin, another fun player to watch, was in that same class in 8th grade. Allen, who has been coming into his own lately, is remembered by his ability to step away from things and be his own person, another wonderful trait.....and you thought I forgot my students after you all left?!?!?)

(And, on another note, I don't know what Nick scored on his eighth grade cheeseburger, but I do know that it will never, ever define him. The player I see on the court is the man Nick will be.)

I write about Nick because we have still continued to talk, and he knows how I remember him and how proud I am of him. It could be any player out there.

And, Keegan, I love your acting skills. A couple fouls, and I thought you did foul, you had such an innocent, innocent look on your face. Loved it! Keep acting. Maybe it could be your back up plan!

Sorry the game didn't work out.

I was also lucky enough to see Chris's father at the game. I saw him, but didn't talk to him. I would have loved to tell him what a wonderful job he is doing with teaching Chris vocabulary.

At the beginning of the year, I used the abysmal and asked my homeroom what it meant. Chris knew it because his father had used it to describe something about Chris

Today in class we started a game called "What Do You Know", otherwise called "What You Should Know". I think the classes are having fun with it. We will play this whenever I can get it into the schedule. These are ideas I want every 8th grader to have for going into 9th grade. It's a good way for me to know what I need to keep bringing home to you so you have it. I think we'll play again next Friday. Please do keep track of your bonus points on the first page of your textbook.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conversing, connecting and questioning.

We are in the library today looking at Depression Era sites. I have had some good questions asked by students. Why did migrants move around? What is a foreclosure? Why did the wind take up the soil? We've read about migrant workers, FDR, and hoboes and railrides, along with the dust bowl and the stock market crash.

Some students really take the time to write detail down on their conversing page. That's wonderful, not only because I ask you to do it, but because every time you write a fact down, you're helping to cement it in your brain.

Other students have done a good job connecting- Mary with text to world (why can't a movie cost only pennies today?); Mac with text to text (his knowledge of farming and migrant workers); and Chris with text to self or world (with banks and saving accounts today). Much of our government intervention started in the Depression.

If you need help picking out a book for this month, ask me, but be sure first to have read page 102 about the books. You'll see here some of the covers for some of the books I recommend. Sea Glass and Jim the Boy are for the best. Love from Your Friend Hannah is more for the girls. The other three are just great books. Purely Rosie Pearl is probably the shortest one.

The questions will be up tomorrow. I am impressed by some of the good reading you must have done to be able to come up with some of these questions!

And finally, to Steven, what a great job on commenting about the differences in blacks and whites during the Depression. Little bits of that show up in Bud, Not Buddy, Jim the Boy and With Wings as Eagles. I would be thrilled if someone did those three!!

Connecting to that, as Chris and I were talking, people who had tough times before the Depression perhaps handled the Depression a bit better, but on the flip side, people who were mistreated in good enough times were probably treated even worse in bad times. (think bullies: always making sure someone is feeling worse than them).

It's a great month for reading. Try reading more than one!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Does anyone look at me when I talk?????

This is Thursday night out on the track. Benny and I were over here while there was high school chorus practice. And, just like my students today, who mostly have not been looking at me, Benny wouldn't either when I was trying to take his pic!

Good readers, and I will continue to say this over and over and over, converse, connect (text to ___) and question when they read. Today we read about violins, but you should have immediately connected to anything you love to do because it was really about practicing and how we form connections in our brains when we learn new skills.

So, I'll try to get Benny to pay attention to me and you try to get yourself to pay attention to the teacher and we'll all be happier.

Essays have come in. Thanks to Jordan, I am thinking about the library when I retire. Chris has made me see what a good teacher he would be. Of course, there are many of you, Dana, Steven, Keegan and others who want to be invovled in sports. I love reading about my students because the student who is one thing in my classroom becomes someone else with these details. Thanks for sharing!

Proofing for commas, runons and fragments need work, as do spelling errors and apostrophes. But, for a first time in a while with essays, the content was good and so was the detail. Your writing deserves few errors. It's too good to have to stand behind errors. People see erros rather than the content. That's not fair, but it's true. So, be true to yourself and proofread--outloud!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Procrastinating; are you?

I need to do something with my day. The house needs picking up and the dishes need doing....but here I am checking the blog.

And how is your essay coming along? Are you procrastinating also? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Hop to it and then treat yourself to something nice after you've written it. Maybe even take a break, read it over one final time-asking about any spelling word you wouldn't die for, and then copying it over or hitting the print, making sure you have a proper heading and are doing it in ink. Remember, try to use everyday objects to paint.

Tomorrow we go back to sp/vocab and reading comps. on Thursday. Hopefully, each five day week we'll have them.

Also, I came up with an idea for using everyday objects to introduce your subject for your papers. You could use it to write your book report this week. Here it is.

This month's topic is on the trenches of WWI. You know that because you have the assignment in your textbook, and at this point in the year, you should be one step ahead of me...because you are smart and have started to anticipate what is coming from the textbook. That's why I made one; so you could be in charge.

Anyway. You're going to describe the trenches in your book report. Ask yourself what they were like. (Got your answer?) They were terrible, weren't they?

So, come up with a time where you had to do something that was taking a quiz you didn't study for.

Now, connect it: Trench living in WWI was as bad as that empty feeling a student gets when there's a quiz and the student didn't study.

Next sentence gives title and author and starts in on what it was like, using specific detail from the book you read.

The characters must be mentioned. Talk about the specifics from the character's point of view, either the brothers (using their names) or the father's (using the boy's name, as in Barb's father). You are not only painting what trench life was like, but you are showing you read the book--it is a book report.

This is all going to be done in 7-9 sentences, remember?????? I want you to leave 8th grade being able to write well at the essay level, but also in an organized, succinct, concise manner for a paragraph.

You were supposed to have done this for December's. I ended up deleting the whole grade because the marking period closed Friday, so I couldn't do what I said I would, which was exchange this grade for that if it was better. Lucky you who blew it--as in, didn't follow the directions that were in front of you!!

Be sure to follow directions this week. Page something in your textbook. This is just extra help. Use it all and get a great grade. Be sure to proofread also. So many of you are becoming the writers you can be. Take pride; don't let errors ruin your good thinking.

Okay. I have procrastinated enough. Off to the dishes. (I won't even tell you how many episodes of Cash Cab I watched this afternoon. I am embarrassed for myself!!)

Ps. To the bball guys: Dummy me. As soon as my husband saw me at the game at the end, he told me I hadn't saved the pictures as I took them. And, he was right. I didn't get the group one. I am not what you would call cell phone smart. Sorry. Luckily Jenna got the two of the guys for the newspaper; now I have to get my husband to send them to me. I sure don't know how!!!!!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Essays are back!

I have graded some of the essays that are due Monday. I am finding taking a break is a good thing. You have come back stronger and better in your writing ability! Can't wait to start in on Monday with the rest!! Remember: try to use everyday images or objects to paint your paragraphs. One talked about doing her doll's hair when she was young. Another talked about how he got into cars, and still another the tv show that has motiviated her into what she wants to do. I have heard about action figures, football, and money already made. See how easy it is for me to remember this info? They have painted and I have kept it--Wowowowowowowowow!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poem 6

I was amazed by the poems done off of the paragraphs from last week! I think you will recognize a few of them. Wonderful! My only comments? As usual, commas (rid yourself of end ones, usually), punctuation (trynot to use ! much and do use others to help with timing), capitals (not all the way through and only for new ideas), editing (edit out the needless words that are needed for sentences, the is, are, you...and think endings and moving words around; less is best in poetry; get to the essence of the thought), and terms (you should not get a 100 without the use of two terms; think everyday objects: similes or metaphors, allit, rep. refrain. You can do it!).

Poetry writing is an excellent thought process to have. You learn to see the bare minimum but the whole picture. Truly, the essence. Then in essay writing you will be able to take that essence and paint it up. See how that works?

On a positive note, I am not seeing that many errors. For the ones I am, please do proofread. Errors are starting to be a real distraction because many of you have something to say; don't let silly errors rob you of your moment to connect.

Reading day tomorrow. Essay due Monday; use an everyday object in the body paragraphs!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cell phones

I guess people didn't take me seriously about this. Just got a notice from Mrs. Filzen to all teachers that cell phones are starting to be confiscated. The first time? Taken and you get from the office at the end of the day. The second time? Taken and a parent comes in to pick it up. Those are the rules. They're in the Discipline Guidelines that you signed.

Yes, we know they're important for communicating. Yes, we know you need them. Yes, we know parents think you need them. But, bottom line? You don't during the day. You are here to learn.

I told you to keep them off. Keep them in your pocket or in your locker. Truly, what 'emergency' can you have where it wouldn't go through the office or wait till 2:45? Think about it. I can't really think of a one.

And, as usual, it's kids abusing them that's getting everyone into trouble:having them out in full view of teachers (remember this morning?), having them go off (remember yesterday- the one that was vibrating in the locker and everyone could hear it... or the one in my room?), and students getting caught using them.

Come on. You don't want us coming down on you, but you're not playing fair. Keep them off; keep them in your pockets or in your locker; forget about them during the day. They're a distraction.

The Cornell Hockey team is thinking about doing away with ipods before games. I couldn't agree with that more. How can we concentrate on what's coming and what we need to do when we, literally, have voices in our heads? How can I teach if you're always waiting for that next 'voice'?

Now, please, put them away. There will be no more warnings. They are not to be noticed during the school day-- from the time you are on the floor until the bell, 2:45.

"Charles" and reading for comprehension....

...a must before reading to discuss. Today you guys did a great job of concentrating on the short story, "Charles" and then drawing it. Just because the cheeseburger is over, doesn't mean our learning is. Onward, I say!

If you can picture what you read, you are connecting to it. It's the same as conversing while you read. Then, if when you finish, you wonder, or question, you are again connecting with it. These are all parts of being a good reader.

Thanks for a good day. Here are some pics of 9th with their drawings....and Mike being studious, well, he was, till I took the pic!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back to Essays

Today, finally, I have assigned page 60, an essay for next week. I am so happy to be back to them. Please use all the work we have done in the month or so when doing them. The proofing skills you've worked on with your poems? Use them to proof your essay. The everyday objects? Use them once in each body paragraph to paint your picture. The outlinng work? Use it to know really what you want your essay to do and where you want your essay to go. I look forward to reading them next week.

You also have a poem due tomorrow. If you haven't done yours yet, I am handing back the paragraphs from last week. I had had hopes for putting them up in the hall, but I didn't get to it. Many of you could be using them to write your poem. Enjoy the process!

WWI assignment is next week. Finish your book.

That's it. We are starting the short story unit. We will be reading and discussing/tearing them a part. From there we will go right into our novel unit: Old Yeller, seeing how a wonderful book is written.

And, to Keegan, a big thank you for wanting to know about Oranges and Lemons. How terrific that a book connected enough that you wanted more info. That is exactly what good students do!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Poems for Week Five

These are the fifth poems you've written for me, and they are coming along. Some take my breath away and make images in my mind, and I am so thankful that I am an English teacher! Others make me laugh with the images that I see.

Still others, though, make me think, "I need to push, push just a tad bit more." These poems almost seem like that nasty 'good enough' disease is still in the air.

There are the two sentences and they now look like a poem, but editing to get rid of needless words (the ones that make a sentence a sentence), to edit out you, to catch the spelling errors, to add in terms (easiest ones being simile, alliteration, and repetition, with personification and metaphors not too far behind).

So, I'm pushing. I will not give a 'got it' without terms, with complete sentences just divided up, with errors in spelling. Please, take pride.

I'm not asking for perfection and I know that it's easy for me to take someone else's work and edit it.

But, and I do believe this: are you really trying the hardest you can?
Or, is good enough good enough?

Here's what I did with Kaitlyn's wonderful image of her pink box, which was the topic of her poem.

My small,
pink box
at me
from my dresser.

Fun secrets
in my
small and pink

they whisper
let's play, enjoy;
have fun!"

Smiling back,
I open
memory box.

That's a poem from two lines about a small, pink box and having fun things in it.

That's the effort I want to see. Repetition and personification help to make this a story, not just using exclamation points.

I look forward to the last ones on this format next week. And, remember, please use your ideas from the paragraphs yesterday--more than two sentences and each every day object is really a simile or metaphor, depending on how you say it!

Click on the poems for larger.
Have a great weekend.
Take a moment to thank the people before us who have fought for justice--MLK and many others!

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Here are 8th and 9th examples. What a great day for writing and reading skills. Thank you to all. Can't wait to see the poems that come out of these, Donovan and Bryan. Who would have guessed this fit right into poetry writing and the two (or more) sentence format!!