Friday, October 29, 2010



feet and all!

Have fun


Come to school on Monday ready to learn

Be the students you were today, the Friday before Halloween:


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Notetaking, thinking

...and writing: a very necessary skill for high school. Good students learn how important notetaking and reflecting on those notes are. Right now in English you've heard me say that.

Good students not only take notes, but they reflect on what those notes say; they make sure to understand their notes. For high school, it will be to take tests, but toward the end of high school and certainly in college, it will be for the sake of learning.

Lifelong learners want to know. Reflection on what you've been given is key.

Today we did our second exercise on having two sets of notes and using them both to developing an idea. That, too, is a necessary ingredient to becoming a good student.

Can you take what you've been given and use it?

These were all rough drafts, as you know. You only had 5 or 6 minutes to do these: thinking, developing your thoughts and then the actually writing of the paragraph. They aren't perfect. Take Tena's and Matt's. They each develop one set of notes, while leaving off the other. That's okay. What is here is good. With practice, they'll use both to develop their ideas.

Alan and Ryan's are two more. I like how Alan used examples from today's life too, incorporating other ideas to make his idea clear. With more time, he could have developed this into a whole essay, using the two sets of notes and his own thoughts to truly develop the idea.

Ryan's is a good example of taking what you have at hand and answering the question. He pulled from one set of notes and then the other. Good. With more time (and desire) his good answer could have been developed into a far better one. BUT, to start, some of you need to see that less is better. For some of you, writing lots doesn't make it better. Answering succinctly (click for a definition) is so important.

Thanks for a good day. Another tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


...number 4.

Our first example is Veronica's. It is a good essay, following the format and doing what it is supposed to do.

I like it. This is what all should aspire to, including being typed.

Courtney's is another. I want you to be able to go into high school and take your writing with you as a tool, being able, to the best of your ability, to do what the teachers want from you.

Reading, thinking, writing, and vocabulary skills will be what separates the best from the rest.

Annaleise chose to do the essay on courage. It is wonderful! I can tell she clearly connected to her learning on Harriet Tubman. I also like the amount of detail Annaleise put into her work.

She makes us see exactly why she thinks so highly of Harriet Tubman. Excellent!

Trevor is another good essay, but it's also an example of a student who has taken my comments every week and improved on his writing by using them. I so love that.

There are students who are naturally good writers right now, and I love reading their papers, but I also understand that there are good students who are still working at being the best they can be in writing. Trevor is a good student who is willing to work at being even better. Terrific!

Darren moved up to the front of my classrooom, and he has become the model of a caring, good student. In this essay he tried taking one concept, the Important Idea format, and using it in another way. He did a fine job, but for one thing: I never got the feel for what the topic was.

That's okay. With one bit of explaining from me, he will get that, and then he will continue to grow. That's more important than just doing it; stretching yourself is fundamental in becoming a lifelong student of learning.

Curtis! He is a student with so much going on in his head. Read his essay below. Wow! to all that is happening there. The content, the detail, the strength of his convictions: it is a joy to read his essays.

This is a student thinking. Now, my goal? We need to get Curtis's great thinking into more of a formal format so others can easily follow his thoughts. I hope Curits takes the challenge of harnessing his thoughts as the fun task it should be.

My last example is of Branden's paper. He, too, has some good thinking and work going on. He, too, needs to work on getting his thoughts down on paper in a way that a reader can easily follow. We can and will work on that this year.

But, I also want all my students to note Branden's grading sheet. Not only has he improved on every comment I have made, he has added his own about his book report! Now, that is a student working to be a better writer. That is a student using my comments to become a writer. That is a student who wants to learn.

Every mark I put on your paper should be understood. Every comment I write should be clear. If anything is not, you need to come to me. Come up on reading or work days, tomorrow is one, and talk to me. The comments are just to be a stepping stone to more learning. If something doesn't make sense, it's your job to come to me.

Let me teach you; that's my job.

Use me to learn; that's your job.

Monday, October 25, 2010


...posters. Last year, the Middle School English dept. and my 8th graders developed 6 posters to help students become better writers.

Our goal was to have these posters readily available so that you could use them as a reference.

If you read these and you think they would be of help when you write at home, please print them out.

They should be a handy reference for your basic questions about writing. Maybe I'll put the posters to the side on the blog.

That would make them available at all times.

Here's hoping they help. You are students who are improving all the time, and I love that. Anything I can do to help that along, I want to do!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A bit of a howler in, Harry Potter and the reprimands in that book. But, this howler is mine.

I only had 3 people take on the challenge of writing on what it means to be an American, and get it in by today.

Only 3 people stepped up and wrote for Mrs. Filzen (and me) for the naturaliztion ceremony that Mrs. Filzen is bringing to the school. I could cry, but instead, I will howl.

So many of you are fine, fine writers. And, when you had a chance to use that writing to show off Groton's student body abilities, because that's what these boys will be doing when their work is selected, many of you didn't do it. You didn't take the challenge.

I applaud the three boys who did what I asked and did it all of one weekend early. My heroes today are those three boys: Kodie, Luke and Chris.

Some of you might think you are the best of the best and are fine writers, but today, it is those three boys who hold that title.

You know we are, really, only what we do.

They did. Did you?

Our first book reports

...The Outsiders.

It was another Important Idea paper. You were to decide what was the most important idea you would take from having read the book. Then you were to have developed it with detail from each part of the book, continuously connecting that detail back to the idea. Beginning, middle, and end with an intro and conclusion to make up the paper.

Some of you were incredible! There were a variety of important ideas, but for many of you who have it, you used much of the same detail, as to be expected. Then, with each topic, there were nuances that you could pull in to make your specific idea come alive. I was soooooooo impressed that many of you could do that.

Others had the important idea and some detail but now need to work on developing that detail to the important idea. A sentence in each body paragraph that ties back to the idea normally would take care of that.

Others need to maybe work on focusing a bit more. Find your important idea, and then say, "What one incidence shows that in the beginning of the book...the middle...the end?"

Only a very few still need to grasp the idea that the important idea isn't a summary. The important idea, ideally, doesn't even mention the book: it's the lesson, if you will, that you got from the book.

What amazes me about this format is that it allows you to connect to the literature. What one gets might be oh so different than what someone else got. That is taking a dusty old book and making it come alive. Yes!!

We will do another of these next month for our book report again.

I look forward to seeing them and the improvements that will happen!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


...of Langston Hughes. Thanks for being a great bunch of students who worked hard at taking notes, both from my notes and from the air, as I call it. As high schoolers, you will be expected to be able to do that: have a discussion and take notes at the same time. We'll be practicing that so you're ready next year.

I also liked how well Langston Hughes fit in with your study of Civil Rights in history class, not because he was a part of it, but because his writing came right before that time. He wrote of the black man's life before others were.

Would you like to see a list of his poems (note other info in header at this page)? Click here.

Tomorrow is another day of Langston Hughes with his life and then you putting that and his poetry together to make something for yourself, the highest form of thinking: synthesis.

Can't wait!

Friday, October 15, 2010

OMG, #3

...from 9th period. (This is my third post on OMG. Please read all to get a full picture of my comments.)

Little mistakes is our biggest problem, and that is wonderful because that means you have the idea and details. Wow!

If I had said five weeks ago that you'd be able to write a five paragraph, detailed essay with your own thesis, I bet most of you would have said you couldn't.

But, you can. Now, please work at the little errors. A stop is a period; a pause is a comma. Sentence comma conjunction sentence...that's a must for some of you. Spelling is also something that needs work, but, again, how wonderful that for so many of you you now know what to concentrate on. There's still 35 weeks to get it all.

Wow! What a great way to go into the weekend!
(Outsiders due Monday)

#2, OMG

...from 7th period. (Please do read the OMG one below this post. I'll try not to repeat myself.)

The Important Idea on The Seven Blind Mice was a resounding success. I had lots of good detail and lots of students picking out the important idea, many of whom picked out the same idea. (I did have two students who handed in almost exactly the same essays. I know I look old, but I still can remember if I've read a paper. Silly students.)

And, that's good because it shows that most students can find the main idea, the theme.

But, the neat thing about this is that we can connect to reading personally, as Ryan did.

But, no matter what any of you did, there should be detail from the book to prove your thesis, the important idea. Math, science, even history in many ways, is about knowing the facts. In English we can work on supporting your thoughts with detail....which is called thinking.

Thinking is what you need to be able to do to be a citizen of the world.

Go for it; be a thinker!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

OMG in 'Oh my goodness,' second period!!

I had a few students who didn't give enough detail and some, okay, many, students who still need to work on their proofreading skills, but wow!

What wonderful work on following the format, having an appropriate important idea and then developing it.

I am so impressed with how you guys could use detail and explain it clearly, coming back to your important idea.

My main suggestion? A stop is a period and a pause is a comma. Are you proofreading outloud to hear those? Do so, and you will begin to hear them.

But, really? You are so ready to push yourselves to become incredible writers and thinkers.

Enjoy the process!