Tuesday, September 30, 2008


...by the chart.

Today we worked with a chart that adds in the focus for before and after one reads. We've been connecting, or relating as Bethany called it, to our reading while we read.

Now, though, this chart asks us to predict before we read, and then after we read, to sit back and think about the reading. You know the saying, "Stop and smell the roses"? That's what I want you to do with your reading. Stop and think about it just for a bit. Focus.

I like the chart because I think that's some of our biggest problems when we read today. We read, but we read quickly, not giving ourselves time to focus.

We will connect with our reading for the rest of the year. It is something I want so ingrained in you, that when you go to other classes, you do it automatically. The day someone tells me that you heard 'voices in your head' doing this, I will be one happy camper!

We also looked at what extra credit looks like in here. They're reading comps from 'back in the day', my day! Doing one will give you 5 - 15 points. Five girls took one today. Good. Just know that they are here.

I saw

...improvements yesterday in your essays. Great!
I saw more kids caring about being neat. I saw more detail. I saw less errors. I saw students who were doing what I asked. Good!!

Of course, there is room for improvements. Some need to work on writing in full sentences. Some need to watch out for runons--they're just wanting a comma to do too much. Spelling and confusing words needs work for some.

For others, they are in the enviable position of tweaking their writing to become even better writers. They get to work on clarity, or development or adding in everyday images.

I start grading the essays after this. On a down side, you won't get a 100 just for doing it; but, on an up side, you'll have specific suggestions from me so you can become the best writer you can as this point. And, if you keep putting in the effort I saw this week? You'll be doing fine. Wonderful!

I just took two from 9th, since, by the of the day, I had them grading their own papers. I like the comments they made. Sam wants to write more, although her work was fine. And, Allison? She is a dedicated writer who really puts herself into her writing. She takes me where she wants to go. I like that.

If I could convince everyone to do one thing? Proofread your essay outloud, truly, listening, looking, and thinking about what's on the paper.
The Outsiders book report is due Monday. Enjoy writing it, working it, reading it outloud and then handing it in, knowing it is the best you could do.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Five point bonus

...for every student who comes on and uses comma rule 1-4, 5, 7, or 9 correctly in the comment space here. Be sure your content is your own and not taken from someone before you.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

As you know

....there are lots of activities in college, like sports and music, but did you know that there are lots of other fun things to do? There is probably an activity for anything that you like.

My niece, who is at Hartwick, got involved in Ballroom dancing in her freshman year. They learn to dance, go to competitions and just have a great time. She and her team have come to our house for an overnight for the last three years. Two years the competition was at Cornell. This year it was at Ithaca College. It's an all day affair, and we usually go up for part of it.

Yesterday, we got there a little after 1. They were doing a whole group of like competitions that my niece wasn't involved with. Here are some of the pictures from that. (Yes, our school camera, which we are very happy with, does have a hard time taking really good moving shots!)

After that, there was a break where they had a fun dance. In this case it was for same sex couples who had to go out and vamp it up, doing all the dances that they know but doing it for fun and laughter. There was one duo of girls in red dresses who did a great job, trying to fling the other around or carry the other on the back and twirl, and one of them did the floor thing where you move by rocking or jumping your body back and forth. I've seen kids do it at dances, but never a beautiful girl in a beautiful red dress. It was fun to watch.

I do think, though, that the 3 sets of guys were the best. They twirled, they flung, they shot eachother through their legs. It was hilarious--just because they were having fun, doing what they normally take very seriously.

(see the girls in the back there?)

I might love people who can learn and do and be serious, but I love it even more when people can do all that and then can have fun. There's a time for both. That's what I'm trying to teach in our classroom. You work hard; you have time for fun. If you know what you're doing, then you can have fun too.

It's like what our neighbor's social studies teacher said to her this year: "The more you know, the more jokes you'll get." That is sooooooooooooooooooooo true about life. Know more; enjoy more.

These last pictures are of my niece. There are lots because, well, she's my niece. My favorite dancers were the ones who could perform well and look like they were enjoying it too: these two did just that!!

Life your life with as much joy as these people do, and life will be good. Go for it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


...is a virtue.
My daughter managed to get our outside cat in. Wow! Heddy once was an inside cat but Tommy, our fat cat, and dogs, along with her skittish personality, made her head out. It's been probably almost 3 years. She sleeps in the basement in the winter- we have a dog door.

Patience really is a virtue.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fun Friday

...with Goin' Green and Just a Dollar.

"New" (to us) tee shirts came in from a mom of students of past years. How wonderful is that?!? This is exactly what I was hoping for. This afternoon I put up a t-shirt from her daughter and wow! There were kids checking it out (I would have too, but it's just too small for me, shucks!) by the end of the day. How cool is that?!?!? Trading t-shirts within a town. That is soooooooooooo cooooooooooooooooollllllllllllllllllllllll and so absolutely what we should be moving to in this world. Thanks to the mom of the family!!

We also had 7 items go out today from Just a Dollar. We did the drawings at lunch, so I'm hoping that more 6th and 7th graders will get involved. Thanks, though, to all the 8th graders who have embraced the idea. Start thinking Christmas!

On a learning note, I was sooooooooooooo impressed with today's lesson on how to do book reports. You paid wonderful attention and on a Friday! Thanks.

Then, we also did a summary exercise and so many of you understood that. Wow!

Finally, how cool was it that so many of you went beyond the basics of The Outsiders, and saw how Dally fit in and so much more. Just when I sometimes wonder if kids aren't growing up, I am reminded that you know so much more at such a more younger age than many did in past years.

It will be your world someday soon. Do see people as people, and not as a group or by their looks or friends or even their actions, unless you know what happened before that action.

It was a good day. Thank you. Have a great weekend!! More learning Monday-hooray!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


...I lost your email address, but it is true, true, true. We can talk more tomorrow.

But, did you vote againnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!?!? Come on! You're making me look bad. I can do that on my own!

Can't you fake it and tell me how great I am as a teacher, huh, can't ya? Just vote once at the top. Just once.


...on Linley and Lishman. Do you you remember who they are?

This outline on the two articles was tough. It shows how very, very important it is to read and understand the assignment--only having to choose one, similarities or differences-- and how very important it is to ask yourself at the end of reading, "What was the author really trying to show me here?". And, in the case of working with two articles, at the end of both, asking, "How do these two connect?" or "Why were these two articles put together?" Often, there is, seemingly, a very simple answer, but usually, there will be a much more complicated answer. That's the one we want to work with.

Mr. Linley and Mr. Lishman both worked with animals, but that's way too, too, too simple.

So, we could then say that they both worked to save endangered animals....but did they? Lishman did, but Linley caught sounds of worms, dogs, moles. Are any of them endangered? And, did Linley really care about saving animals, or did he just love the sounds?

So, going deeper, did they both love something? Yes. Sounds of animals and flying. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Both wouldn't quit when it came to their loves: Linley with going back to the alligator, and Lishman losing his power to fly for companies, but continuing on and finding a way to fly by helping birds migrate. Now, we have a deeper similarity!!

But, the question let us choose differences too, so what is the best difference? One worked to help endangered birds (Lishman) and one helped some endangered animal, but just because it happened to fit in with what he loved. See that?

Questions should not lead you where you can't go. If they give you a choice, you should be able to do either. If they say do one, do only one and really develp it.

Whatever you do, do

1. Know the assignment.

2. Ask yourself how two articles fit together

3. Go deeper than the easy answer

Some additional comments:

1.Do not list all the ways they are the same or different. Pick one. Focus and develop. We are beyond listing.
2.Brenna used "on a mission". Excellent use of the word. Elizabeth used 'obsessed'. Again, excellent. Picking just the right word to convey your thoughts is one the joys of writing.
3.Use your conclusion to reiterate your major point. In case the reader didn't catch it, you are giving the reader a final chance to get your point. One could be a bit unclear in the essay but get it right in the conclusion and make it all right for the reader. Use you conclusion wisely.

Olivia had an outline I enjoyed and followed easily. Look at her A and B lines. Her ideas are right there. In the first body paragraph, maybe she could have developed all the types of animals he recorded, but she did a good job. In the next, her detail lost focus on flying, but by the conclusion, she used it to bring it all together again. Read it- incredible! Then, see how I added an observation or connection to us to make it all come together and have two sentences?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A rock

...a question. The same thing?

On the outside, a rock, its face, can be boring, gray, unteresting.

An essay question might be the same thing: boring, simple, uncomplicated--or so it seems, on the face of it.

Take today's about the men and their passions. They both work with animals. Okay. But, at an 8th grade level that's kind of simple or boring. Certainly it's uncomplicated. Is it too simple?

Yes. In 8th grade we're going past the face of the question to the heart of the question.

A rock that is boring on its face might be fascinating, complicated, or intricate on the inside, at the heart of its matter.


An essay question can be the same way. Take today's. Instead of a question about passions for animals, maybe, if you look deeper, you'll find it's really about other passions: sounds of animals or flying. Maybe one cares more for the sound than the animal and maybe one uses his love to save animals. Maybe they both end up helping animals but for different reasons. Maybe?

Yes. Complicated, fascinating, intricate in thought.

Questions, like rocks (and people!!), often have many facets to them. Look inside. Look past the face and find the fascinating, intricate designs there for you to enjoy.


A cultural comment

...which means it's an opinion and you don't have to agree or believe that I'm right. I might not be.

Over the years, tv, parents, teachers have come to see students as cute, giddy, spacy, goofy. It's almost become an excuse to let them be how they are. Think about some of our tv shows. Do they show kids as spacy? As 'cute', meaning adults laugh at their antics? Do they portray some girls as likable but 'blonde'?

We have had this conversation in my own household. With one of my children I was worried about this from age 2 on. She is cute and likable and talkative. But, I didn't want her tagged as that. (see my text to self there? I always look back)

So, why am I writing this? I know I can sound tough in the classroom. I know I call girls 'blonde' or boys as spacy. As I said to one student today, what was cute and okay in elementary school is no longer. It gets in the way of learning.

Have fun. Be goofy. Ask the blonde questions. But, do it when we're at fun time, letting down time. Ask Jenna. I'll have fun with it too. Do it when it's not impeding the learning process.

And, yes. For some of you it will take time to get out of your habits that you have let be made.

Some of you have already. Sooooooooooooooooo many of you are working at asking the good question, or waiting till I finish to see if you in fact have a question.

Some of you are figuring out already how to think, try, and use resources and either don't have a question or you're determining when to ask.

Some of you are making wonderful connections and know that raising your hands or even just saying them is fine in here because that's how true wonder and learning can happen.

Some of you have taken my hard stance and already grown from it. Thank you.

I know my voice can sound harsh and loud. It can be both. I can sound mean, sometimes even sounding mean to myself, at which point I apologize.

I am an old feminist, getting older by the minute!

I don't want girls to be known for their looks. I want their brains to be the most important part about them.

And, as an old feminist, I sometimes think that boys have been allowed to become, for want of a better word for it, 'blondes'. Feminism has sometimes taken the toughness out of the boy. (I don't mean mean toughness or fighting toughness or strutting toughness)

We're in 8th grade, one year away from high school, when grades will count; parents will be less involved (as they should be), and where you will be seen as a young adult. It is time now to become that young adult.

If you read this all the way through, thank you. If you agree, neat! If you don't, feel free to comment, nicely; that's how dialogue happens and learning and changing opinions happen.

With this post, the beginning of the year is done. I think you know me. I think many of you are getting how I run my classroom. I HOPE many of you are finding it won't be boring, nor quiet, nor without emotion in this room. I HOPE many of you are finding that growth can happen, even with an old biddy in charge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

To you


So, you're the one always picking the bottom of my surveys. This week's "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, don't make me go in there!!!!"

I'm onto you. Good thing I know you're a good thinker and a fun guy!

Signed, Benny's sidekick!

The essays

...from last night's post. They will be up outside my door too if they don't get larger when you click on them. (Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.)

I just love that some picked the topic to work on. Thank you for going with the hardest assignment. Some maybe need to back down and work on the others before they try the quote, but this person did a great job bringing in courage and showing us just how much she knows about history. Wow!
The above essay is a good, solid essay that works to do everything I ask and at the highest level. Look at the interest in the intro, the transitions, and the observation in the con. Wow!

The two partial essays here show you that some of your classmates can and do use everyday images to connect to the reader. Click on these and find the everyday images.

I put my comments on this essay because it's a pretty good essay with what I want to see. Of course, some might have been more developed or had more style, but this is what I want everyone to get to, and then we build. Good job!

The above two are good, solid essays. Now, do they have errors? Yes, but we have all year to work on catching as many errors as possible. We'll be training your ears, eyes and mouth to catch them.

I like how this essay works to catch our interest in the first sentence. You can either just introduce the topic, school, or you can introduce and catch the reader's interest.
There you have some of the essays from this week. I could have put more on, but I just can't do them all. I will be putting some on every week. Do your best, have patience and know I will do lots over the year. I so appreciate everyone's efforts. Keep trying, growing and writing!

Monday, September 22, 2008

First essays came in today

... and I was pretty impressed! Overall, most did it. The ones who didn't? What can I say? I went over the outlines on Thursday and you could have chosen to work on them Friday. What more can I do for you? I sure am not going to write them!!

Then, for all who did them, the majority got a 100, not because they were perfect but because you tried. I can think of one person who wrote their essay in one paragraph, a major no-no, and got a check, an 84. One student who wants to read while I'm explaining and who didn't do an outline, did an essay on The Outsiders. That person got a check minus, a 70 and that with having done it in pencil--which I will not take again from any student.

Other than that, I think most got a 100, as I said. I was pleased! 4 paragraphs, some with 'catch us' intros and a few with connecting or making an observation conclusions. 2 people even had everyday images in their writing to make it easier for the reader to connect to their writing.

Tomorrow I will put some of all of this on the blog. I scanned this afternoon at school, but now, here at home I can't.

So, where are we looking ahead? Next week if you don't have four paragraphs, it will be a check minus. Intros and cons? If they don't have 2 sentences each, it will be no higher than a check. I won't take an essay in pencil.

Do think about using transitions. Do think about proofing for spelling errors, confusing words and sentences-some were fragments today and some were run-ons, asking a comma to do more than it can. Variety is something that needs work with some of you also. Your body sentences can't all begin the same.

I then saw i, u, cuz, cause. No text language! Even one of those will give you a check and more than one will be a check minus. I consider them like the format; you're writing an essay, not texting or instant messaging!!

So,yes, there were errors, but you know what? That's what we'll focus on when I start grading them. I did see a lot of effort and style with the detail. Wonderful!

Get your outline finished by Thursday. I went over all three options today. It will be my last time in class to go over them so completely. You must learn how to weed through an assignment and get to the heart of it. Do so, and then ask me if you're a little worried. Try first and then doublecheck. I'm okay with that. But, I bet most of you have it now, and, if you look, they're all the same format. Do what we did this week, and you should be fine.

Examples tomorrow. To end? I was pleased. Keep trying!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A very quick one

...because I'm headed out for the weekend.

Today was a greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat day of connecting and outlining. I've learned how to show you about a subtopic and development and you've seen some everyday language to make connecting easier for the reader.

Remember the umbrella. The handle is no good if the top part isn't there. That's true of development too. We have all year now to get better and better at it.

Everyday language? Again, we have all year to make your writing the most understandable and easiest for the reader. We write so others understand and connect with us. To do that, we have to get into their heads with detail and 'painting', as I used to say. Now, use an everyday image to do that. Some of you understood that really I'm saying use a comparison, a simile, to make it easier for the reader. Good.

Below are a few that were done. 9th didn't end up writing any, but what a great class it was! Jenna got the connecting thing. Loren showed his brains. Sam told me she liked the umbrella idea and Kylene sat right up front and helped me to engage.

It's our third week of school, and I'm already so pleased with all you're trying and doing!
Can't wait to see your first essays on Monday!