Tuesday, November 30, 2010


...on reaching.

Reflecting and Reaching

Upon reflection
I'm not so sure
many of you
did any

Yesterday's lesson:
Did you
head home
and reflect
on what was taught?

Did you,
today, come in
ready to reach
for the computers?

Without reaching-
and reflecting-
for what's outside
our grasp
we seldom get what we
want (or need).

Be like KGB
reaching for the sandwich
(my sister's)
Be like KGB:
reach for learning.

Try what I showed yesterday

Grasp it and get it.

Got it?

Come in
tomorrow ready
to reach for
what you can
(yes, you can)


...in all its glory. You have poems to write and a book report.

Except for those, all work will be done in class. Come prepared to think and work. Read outside of class and check in on the blog. Not a bad month.

Learn to stay focused in the midst of all the hectic holiday plans. Thanks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Directions and details

...make for a successful project.

KGB has a new hat, made by her sister.

KGB's sister is an 8th grader who can follow directions, work diligently and complete a project. It looks great to me, and KGB is sure smiling.

Those two principles - following directions and working - were in abundance today. Today was the day where I walked you through the directions for the book report project, a poem.

I took you through the key parts, only the top third of the paper (remember to read the rest tonight), and then we started on the thinking process of the poem. Courtney in second had her bookmark out so she could refer to it.

Wow! Now, that's what I call learning--using a physical reminder of what happened in the book to jog her memory. By the end of second it seemed like so many of you understood what you had to do.

Then, in seventh - which was, let's set the scene, after lunch and after a five day vacation - Curtis connected so well with the task that he has his poem almost completed.

Curtis connected with the summary page and the term page so he didn't need the third page of thinking. That's exactly what I wanted today to be, a day to jumpstart your thinking. For those who were confused with the first page, the third page might have helped, since you've done that page a number of times. (Remember Katie's post? When doing a new task, think if there's something you can use from the past to help you.)

By the time seventh was finished, I was one happy camper. Here I was giving out new directions for a new assignment and students were on top of the situation. What would 9th bring?

9th brought more of the same.

This time Mackenzie had her bookmark to use, while Allyson and Matt were in their thinking fog even before I was finished. And, that's okay. Once you get thinking and you know what you want to do, I say go for it. I have to agree with Brooklyn, the class goes by quickly!

So, today we did the directions. Tomorrow come with a rough or an idea of what you're doing, and if you do, the computers come out. Tuesday and Wednesday will be work days to write and hone your poem. Thursday we'll turn your poem into a poster.

I'm thinking it won't just be KGB smiling by the end of the week. Everyone who follows the directions, works and gets their poem in early will be pretty happy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Figuring things out

...for yourself.

Yup, it's my niece again. I'm going to call her KGB. The KGB were Russian spies during the Cold War years. Since my niece is going to be 'spying' on your progress here on the blog, it made sense to me. (Okay, so I'm stretching it, but I had to come up with something!)

This week KGB managed, by using the pulls on the dresser, to get up and begin that arduous process of moving by standing.

My sister didn't tell her nor did her parents or sister. KGB didn't have written directions, and she couldn't keep asking someone how to do it or what she should do. She only had herself and her brain. But, KGB figured it out on her own.

How cool is that?!?!? When we want and we want badly, we learn. We think, look around and then we try.

That's what I want from you. I want you to use the examples I give you, the directions I write out, and even your friends around you, and I want you to figure things out for yourselves.

Did you do that this past week with the poetry project, or, did you need me each step of the way?

Be like KGB and go for it; think and try...and learn, step by step by step.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Poetry project:

...following directions, time management and using your imagination.

Every group, who handed in their project on time, is on this post. As you know, there were six parts to be done over five class periods, with time outside of class if you needed it.

I spent a day going over each part with written directions for each part and with mini mentions at the start of every day. There were also two to three heads in each group, groups that you chose.

Hmmmmmmmmm, get what I'm getting at?

We are starting our poetry writing for the year. We started with studying four poets and their poetry. We worked on memorizing the terms. Then, this past week we did the project.

In part one, using a past student's words, you worked on editing for lines, capitals, and use of punctuation.

Isn't it interesting that the same words can be placed differently on the paper...and work?

Then, in part three of the project, after a page of examples, and after having to do it once (part two), where you then went over it with me, you had to take a simple sentence of your own making and use it to show different terms.

So, you continued to work on lines, capitals and punctuation while adding in terms. A couple groups even made these lines into a poem. Amazing!

(On the other end of the spectrum, some groups couldn't even copy over correctly what I had shown them with their work. Also amazing, ... but in such a different way!!)

With part four we added in brainstorming, organizing, and, finally, writing a poem.

This part was the BEST I've ever had from any 8th grade class. Thank you!
There was some excellent brainstorming - truly the 20-25 ideas that I asked for - editing out of needless ideas and then organizing of the rest of the ideas, with lines, capitals, punctuation and terms being incorporated.

There were some that were so good that I want them to be typed so we can give them to Mr. Devoe for the Memory Book. Wow!

It's neat to see how different poetry can be. Short or long, in stanzas or free verse, one word lines or more, they all can be terrific poetry.

This one is short, but add in a title - something we worked on yesterday: find the most important line and then find the essence of that line - and it'd be a great poem. (Sorry for the turned page!)

Part five was magnet poetry. While some still do random, fun, imaginative lines, most heard me when I said that the poem had to have a thread or story line to it.

Magnet poetry is all about truly letting your imagination see the possibilities in words.

And again, in this part, there were some great poems.

Even when the poem didn't quite work, the imagery that some of you made was wonderful. We can build on that. We have time to develop that thread along with the imagery. It'll work with time and effort.

Truly, from parts four and five, I so look forward to the year of reading your poems!

Finally, there was the final step to poetry writing, style and tone. It's not easy to develop a style and tone of your own, but with looking at others' you can start to see how varied poetry writing can be.

I was impressed with how many took the photo of immigrants coming to America to write on. It was tough, but many of you did a fine job.

The "Sit a While" poem captures a unique style and tone with its varied lines, use of punctuation and margins.

We end back where we began: one week, written directions and group work. My question to you is, how did you do?

Did you use the directions instead of coming to me with every single question? Did you manage your time so that you weren't in trouble by Monday, racing to finish? Did you do the absolute best you could do, or did you end up in trouble because you picked a friend to work with rather than a working partner?

These are all aspects of working on projects you've got to learn to deal with: following directions, time management and personality compatibility.

My goal as your teacher is to give you the skills necessary to go to high school, college and the world as a person who is capable and independent. Some of you were there this week. Some of you were working on it, and some of you still need to.

Hmmmmmmmm, so I ask you again, are you getting what I'm giving?

Here's hoping you are.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What a

...way to end the week. Much of teaching is not teaching. It's giving. Teachers try to give ideas to students to help them become lifelong learners.

Katie took what I gave and then used it to do her science work.


When you have to do something in school, in work, in life, stop, think, and ask yourself, "Have I done anything that I can use to make this easier?"

Make life easier and make a teacher happy. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


...is the face of learning.

It's my great niece. (On a side note, yes, I am a great aunt. My sister, who is the grandmother and who is older than me, loves to make that comment. Somehow great aunt sounds older than grandmother.) My niece is 7 months old and learning to stand or walk.

Do you see how her fingers grip the railing? How she is pushing herself to see beyond her crib? How she is determined to do what can't be done yet? That is what learning is all about.

When we're young, we learn; we learn so much, and we learn daily. Everyone around us loves to watch, and they motivate us and congratulate us on all that we accomplish. Learning is wonderful then.

Then, somehow, for many, learning becomes a chore. It's homework and practice and doing things we don't want to do. Take my class: the writing of essays, the reading comps, the outlines and comments on the blog. It sure could seem like all work and no thrill.

But, this week, maybe, just maybe, I saw lots who look a lot like my niece. You're peering over where you are and seeing where you can go. You're finding out that book and paper learning can be just as good as learning to walk.

When you use a new vocab word in your work, when you write with more detail and less errors, when reading comps become easy and, do I dare say it, interesting, you are finding the love of the quest and not the chore of 'having to do'.

Every time, in every class, that you catch a glimmer of the joy of learning, you're not growing up; you're growing younger. You're finding that joy of learning you had as a baby.

And that, that is what we want.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Essay number

...6. Just when I begin to wonder if it's worth it to make you guys write every week, or even every other week, I get a week like this one. Wow!

Anneleise writes so well and her vocabulary is wonderful.

I love it!

Courtney wrote about the quote, connecting it to school.

Again, wow!

Then, we move to my seventh period group of boys (with Helena thrown in). Curtis is such a wonderful thinker, I knew that from his previous essays, but this week, he showed he could do it my way, as in in an organized manner that others could understand. Terrific!

Helena didn't even have to do her essay this week, but she did. Note her intro, using a fact on Tiger Woods to make her point.


Kodie and Luke are improving all the time.

I appreciate that they have the format and are proofreading for errors.

While not perfect, their papers show effort, and that's what I want to see. Yes!

I knew nothing about Bear Grylls, but from the detail in Ryan's paper this week, I now do.

That's using his writing to paint for others.

In 9th period, we have Broolyn's on her grandmother.

What a nice tribute, but again, what I really like is the desire to do well, follow the format and write neatly, all attributes that tell me Brooklyn is a student who wants to learn.

Finally, there is Tena's, on her mom, and a good job, but again, it's the effort at being neat and the effort to use our vocabulary that makes me most proud of her.

Tena, like so many of you, is improving every week, using my comment sheet to become a better writer. I love it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Civil War/Slavery

...book reports.

Brittany's comes first this week because of her effort to carry her simile throughout her essay.

Initially, it was a little confusing, but then as Brittany used it in every paragraph, it worked. Wow!

Then, thank you to the three or four of you who used a vocab word, toll, in your paper. It's appreciated.

Sam did all he had to do, and he did it without a lot of writing.

Sometimes, I think you think you have to write so much, and you don't. You just have to be able to write concisely, using just the right detail to make your case.

Darren's detail does a fine job of developing his important idea.

I so appreciate his willingness to type, also. Many of you are, and it's appreciated.

Chris has got the format down so that now he can work on developing into a bit more detailed writer. First, though, comes understanding the format. He has that. Good.

Tony connected to this book, and it shows with his detail and the care he took in writing his paper. Neatness and handwriting are two ways to show you care.

I end with five papers of format, content and good writing.

The neat aspect of this assignment, The Important Idea, is that you can make it yours.

As long as you stay focused on your topic, use detail, and connect that detail back to your idea, you can do what you want.

Yes, there will be some detail, as there should be, that everyone uses.

But, from there, you can use that detail as you want to build your point. You can write as much as you want, lots or just enough.

The key is having an important idea that you believe in and can develop with detail.

With practice you can use this format without the format. Having an important idea and then developing it with detail from the beginning, middle and end of the book, that's all this is.