Sunday, November 4, 2007

Goodbye for Now to MMS-7

Mrs. C. is returning from her 12-week maternity leave tomorrow; so I said my goodbyes to the students Friday afternoon. It was a day of conflicting emotions. I am in need of a break and am looking forward to some time to spend with family again; but I will miss each of these unique individuals immensely.

The student-teacher relationship is a unique one. In good circumstances it strongly resembles that of child-parent. My attachment to each of the students in my three 100-minute a day classes grew strong and binding during our 12-week tenure together. I will miss each one and will rejoice with them as I hear of their accomplishments in the coming years. In order to convey my best wishes to the students, I prepared a goodbye letter and printed a copy for each of the 63 students with whom I have been working. I then wrote a personal message of encouragement and farewell to each at the bottom of the printed letter.

Here is the text of the letter I gave to each student.

November 2, 2007

My Dear Student,

I have been blessed to share in your life for twelve weeks. I have grown to love you, and I am expecting to hear great things about what you accomplish in your life.

I hope that you will:

  • Concentrate on doing things that will have a positive effect on your life.
  • Choose your friends wisely (They will influence the outcome of your life more than you realize.)
  • Listen to your parents and teachers (They love you and want what is best for you.)
  • Do the very best you possibly can in everything you attempt.
  • Don’t look back on the things you would have done, could have done, or should have done, but look forward to what you CAN do.
  • Take every opportunity you have to make a positive difference in someone’s life.
  • Invest yourself (your time, your energy, and your thoughts) in what matters most – the special people that God has placed along your path.

In the routine of daily living, it is very easy to get caught up in “stuff” (in the things that don’t really matter) when in fact, you are meant for greater things! Your talents, your gifts, your time, your energy, your love—these are precious resources of great value. I hope you realize that, and I hope that you will find your joy in being a person of ethical conduct and a person who shares his/her best with others. You have the power to contribute to a better future for all of us.

God bless you!
Ms T

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Week of October 22-26

What a week this has been at MMS7! Red Ribbon Week is always a busy and hectic one in schools around the nation. Our emphasis for the week is to be sure students know why they should avoid drug use, to encourage ("to instill courage") them to withstand whatever pressures they may encounter to start the use of drugs, and to celebrate the joys of the drug-free life.

Our students threw themselves into the celebration. They read drug research-study results, participated in a number of events such as teacher-student volleyball games, chalk-play, contests, and door-decorating to cement their commitment to remaining drug-free.

Pictured above is the door decoration that our homeroom designed and displayed.

In our regular classwork this week we began studying the writing of a comparison and/or contrast essay. We studied how to get ideas and organize them. On Monday we will begin the first step of the writing process: prewriting. Students will come to class with their topic decided and ready to begin prewriting and organizing the essay.

We also did the vocabulary study for a new reading selection: "A Retrieved Reformation" by O. Henry. We will begin reading that on Monday as well. We are also continuing to read new chapters daily from the novel Bud, Not Buddy.

In grammar study, we continued practicing the use of nouns in various positions in sentences and reviewed case, number and person of pronouns.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Student Council Representatives

Today was election day for our school Student Council.

At our 7th grade assembly the candidates for SC representative gave speeches, and the students voted for their choices. We elected 4 excellent representatives. I was pleased to see that the students took their voting privilege seriously and did not vote just on popularity. They obviously listened to the speeches and tried to choose responsible and dependable representatives.

Congratulations to Kaylee and Kiston on their election.

These two highly qualified and conscientious students are in our Language Arts Classes (and in my homeroom too, BTW!). The other two newly elected 7th Grade representatives, MacKenzie and Francisco, take Language Arts instruction from Mr. Jones. I hear that they are equally qualified; so congratulations also go out to them.

Among the congratulatory notes given to me to include in this post are:

from KH: Congrats, Kaylee! I think you'll be a great student council member."

from KA: Congrats, Kiston, you rock!

from KD: You are great, Kaylee!

from Mrs. T: Your speeches were great! We are all proud of you.

from BT: Wassup?! Way, Frany!

from SR: Congrats, Kaylee! You da bomb!

Update on This Week's Classwork

We have been very busy since my last blogpost.

In class we have worked on these grammar concepts and skills:
  • Using prefixes and suffixes to increase reading comprehension and fluency as well as to extend vocabulary
  • Recognizing complex and compound-complex sentences and knowing when to use them in writing to show relationships between ideas

We have read:

  • The novel Danger on Midnight River by Gary Paulsen
  • An excerpt from a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Currently, the novel Bud, Not Buddy (set in the same time period as the biography we just read.)

We are preparing our thoughts and working toward the prewriting of our expository essay. Each student is going to write a 5-paragraph essay comparing and contrasting two persons, places, things, or ideas of his/her choice.

I took a daily grade this week on oral reading. One of our GPS is that the student can read orally with appropriate expression and volume and can decode unfamiliar words and self-correct pronunciations as needed. I also took a daily grade on summarizing and paraphrasing skills as we discussed our class reading assignments.

I will add our Word of the Week and our Quote of the Week to the sidebar ASAP.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

2nd Nine Weeks Curriculum

In addition to the reading/literature objectives outlined in the previous post, the Georgia Performance Standards for the next 3 months include these writing and grammar objectives:

Identifies and writes complex, compound-complex sentences

Produces technical writing (business correspondence, instructions and procedures; web pages): (ELA7WIII) Creates and follows an organizing structure appropriate to purpose, audience and context; excludes extraneous and inappropriate information; follows an organizational pattern appropriate to this kind of composition; and applies rules of standard English.

Produces writing (multi-paragraph expository such as description, explanation, comparison-contrast, or problem and solution) (ELA7W2II) Engages the reader by establishing context, creating a speaker’s voice, and developing reader interest; develops a controlling idea; creates an organizing structure; develops topic with supporting details; excludes extraneous and inappropriate details; follows an organizational patter appropriate to this kind of composition; and concludes with a detailed summary linked to the purpose.

Uses the writing process to develop, revise, and evaluate writing (ELA7W4) Plans and drafts independently and resourcefully; takes notes, outlines, summarizes to impose structure on drafts; revises manuscripts to improve organization and consistency within and between paragraphs; and edits for precision and better word-choice.

Demonstrates understanding and control of the rules of the English language, realizing that usage involves the appropriate application of conventions and grammar in both written and spoken formats. (ELA7C1) Identifies and writes correctly punctuated adjective and adverb clauses; identifies and uses verb tenses consistently (simple and perfect); demonstrates correct usage of comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs; understands comma and semicolon use (with all types of sentences and with split dialogue; and produces final drafts that demonstrate correct spelling, use of punctuation and capitalization.

Reading/Literature Curriculum

Reading and Literature Objectives

I hope you all are enjoying your time away from school this week. On Monday we will pick up the pace a little as we begin the second grading period of the year. We have a large number of Georgia Performance Standards to meet during the next nine school weeks.

A general outline of our planned curriculum follows:

Reading: Unit I of our textbook is Learning from Experience. In the first nine weeks we completed the first section of that unit with fiction selections on “Knowing Who You Are.” We will begin the next grading period with Section 2 of Unit I. This section will feature non-fiction selections on the theme of “Moments of Discovery.” The non-fiction selections will include biographies, autobiographies, essays, informative articles, and interviews. Unit II (Relationships) is also divided into two sections. We will begin this unit around the middle of the next nine-weeks period. The first section uses poetry to illustrate Reaching Out. Section 2 is themed “Facing Choices” and features drama.

Some of the specific reading-proficiency outcomes we expect from the students include (this a general summary of the 7th grade reading objectives as given by the state department of education):

Demonstrates comprehension in literary and informational texts: (ELA7R1)
Distinguishes between theme in a literary work and author’s purpose in expository text; relates literary work to information about its setting or historical moment; analyzes recurring and similar themes across a variety of selections, distinguishing theme from topic; identifies events that advance the plot; analyzes characterization; explains and analyzes the effects of sound, form, figurative language and graphics; notes how an author’s use of words creates tone and mood; notes similarities and differences in traditional literature from different cultures; analyzes common textual features to get information; uses knowledge of common graphic features to draw conclusions and make judgments; applies knowledge of common organizational structures and patterns; can follow an author’s argument for an against an issue; and identifies evidence used to support an argument.

Understands and acquires new vocabulary and uses it correctly in reading and writing (ELA7R2) Determines meaning by context clues; uses roots and affixes to determine meaning; notes and explains idioms and analogies; and determines meaning by definition

Reads aloud accurately familiar material in a way that makes the meaning clear to listeners (ELA7R3) Decodes using letter sounds, phonics and context clues to determine pronunciation and meaning; self-corrects; and reads with rhythm, flow and meter that sounds like everyday speech

Reads a minimum of 25 grade-appropriate books (or about 1,000,000 words). Fictional, informational, technical, variety of genres, variety of subject areas.) (ELA7RC1)

Discusses curricular learning in all subject areas (ELA7RC2) Identifies messages and themes in all subject areas; responds to variety of texts in multiple modes; relates themes from one subject area to another; evaluates merits of texts in all subjects; examines author’s purpose; and uses features of disciplinary texts.

Acquires new vocab in each content area and uses it (ELA7RC3) Understands contextual vocabulary in various subjects; uses content vocabulary in writing and speaking; and explores and understands new words found in subject area texts

Establishes a context for information acquired by reading in subject areas. (ELA7RC4) Explores life experiences related to subject area content; discusses how words and concepts relate to multiple subjects; and determines strategies for finding content and contextual meaning for unfamiliar words or concepts.

Fall Break - October 1-5, 2007

I hope you all are relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather we're having this week while we are out of school.
Did you know? According to a recent study conducted by Northwestern University, the number one reason that job candidates are rejected by Fortune 500 companies is poor communication skills.

Did you know? Whether it is fair or not, every time you speak, people judge you by the words you use. They make judgements about your intelligence, your education, even your abilities. Nothing makes a better impression than a solid mastery of the English language. It has been shown over and over again that a strong command of language is directly linked to professional advancement and to the amount of money a person makes.

And... did you know? Good communication skills are exactly what we teach in our Language Arts Classes. You can expand your vocabulary and sharpen your command of English this very year!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The End of the Grading Period

Good Morning, Students and Parents.

I have begun reading the personal narrative essays you turned in yesterday. Many of you are showing that you learned to use the 5-step writing process to produce a standard 5-paragrah essay. I can see that most of you made an honest effort to improve your writing by adding sensory details and dialogue. The most dramatic improvement I have noticed so far is in your introductions and conclusions. I am happy to see that you are providing your readers with backgound for understanding in your first paragraph as well as providing a sense of completion in your last paragraph. Good work!

During the remainder of this nine-week grading period, we will finish reading the short story "Zebra" by Chaim Potok. We will write responses to the literature and diagram the plot on the board, noting the events that advance the plot in the rising action portion of the story. We will discuss the theme and character development as well. Please continue to use the vocabulary words from this unit in your conversation when possible. At the end of the study of this piece, we will have a quiz on the selection. We will also read the short story "The Crush" by Cynthia Rylant.

We will continue our grammar review on types of sentence structure. We will refine our use of complex and compound-complex sentences and continue to work on correct punctuation of all sentence types.

Conduct during transition times remains a deterrant to the best use of our class time. I encourage you to always "be there, be ready" when it is time for instruction. If each student does her/his part, the class as a whole will benefit.

Friday is "Capital 7" day with rewards for those students who have shown mastery of the High-5 behavior objectives -- by accumulating fewer than 3 discipline notations in each class. About 3/4 of the students in our classes have attained this goal. Hurray for these good citizens! It is students like these that make it possible for teachers to do their jobs effectively.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Personal Narrative Essays

Please remember that your personal narrative essay is due Wednesday. We have reserved the computer lab for Tuesday's entire class period in order to finish editing them. If you need to finish your essay at home, you should bring a disk upon which to save the work we do in class. If you do not have access to Microsoft Word at home, you should plan to handwrite the essay neatly before Wednesday. In either case, the final copy will be due when you come to class on Wednesday.

Let me repeat for the "umpteenth" time: Your grade on this writing piece is an important grade for this 9 weeks since it represents many days' work. Your essay will illustrate whether or not you learned the concepts we've studied for the last 6 weeks or so. In this way it is a "test" of the grammar and writing skills we have attempted to learn during this grading period. Be sure that your final essay shows what you know about effective writing, sentence structure, and punctuation.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Language Laugh #1

The roundest knight at King Arthur's table was
Sir Cumference.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Update on This Week's Classwork

Today we had 30 minutes of class time in which to continue revising our personal narrative essays. I had an opportunity today to sign us up for some additional, previously unavailable, computer lab time. The 1st and 2nd blocks will be able to spend one class period in the lab tomorrow beginning to publish working copies of their writing-in-progress. We will go there immediately upon finishing out check-out appointment in the media center. The 4th block will have time on Thursday to do the same thing. We hope that each student will produce a printed copy of his/her work upon which to do the editing and proofreading in the next few days. We will then return to the computer lab next Tuesday and Thursday to make final changes and publish the essays. In the last few days I have been pleased to see a lot of hard work and thoughtful revising done by most of the students.

The selection quiz on "Names/Nombres" today was successful for most of our students. The test results seemed very consistent with my observations of the attention and effort being displayed by students during the classwork on this short story. The students who have been attentive and who have worked well on this story got the rewards of that work in the form of good grades on that quiz. Those who have not been on task regularly, generally speaking, also clearly demonstrated on the quiz what they learned. You can, of course, check for those grades on I-Parent.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Our Current Writing Project -- Personal Narratives

Scroll down to the next article to see the study guide for our Tuesday quiz on the short story, "Names/Nombres." We reviewed for that in class today.

We are making progress on our personal narrative essays. This is a major writing project that has taken numerous class periods of instruction and preparatory work, so the final product will be an important grade.

Tomorrow we will continue to revise the essays for content. This will include: adding sensory details as needed, making more exact word choices, choosing vivid verbs, being sure that the sequence of events if clear. It will also include: capturing the readers' attention with a good introduction; providing closure in the conclusion; and adding dialogue.

Wednesday we plan to work on editing and proof-reading the personal narrative essays for structural and mechanical errors. Then we will let the essays rest for a couple of days.

After we have done a final re-reading of our essays, we will move on to the publishing stage. I have reserved the computer lab for our use Tuesday and Wednesday of next week so that we can publish the final drafts of them.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week Review

Congratulations, Students, for completing another successful week of 7th Grade English/Language Arts!
Please take a few minutes to review (to see again) some of the concepts and skills we worked on during the short week of
September 4-7, 2007.

  1. What makes a complete simple sentence?
  2. How can you join two simple sentences to make a compound sentence?
  3. Can you identify any noun and classify it according to these 4 categories: common, Proper, concrete, or abstract ?
  4. What is the one major general rule for forming a possessive noun? (Here is a good explanation and review.)
  5. What is the one major exception to that rule?

Grammar Practice:

What possessive noun phrase would you use to write each of these ideas?

The bookbag belonging to my brother

The bookbags belonging to my brothers

The agenda belonging to my friend

The agendas belonging to my friends

The schedule belonging to the children

The schedule belonging to the child

More practice here.


You should bring to class each day this week all the usual: your agenda, your ELA notebook with its five sections clearly marked and containing your in-progress writing piece:

  • The sequence-ladder graphic you used to pre-write your personal narrative;
  • the rough draft of your 5-paragraph personal narrative essay;
  • the changes you made when we revised.

Your revision should show that you evaluated your rough draft for these qualities:

  1. Do I have a catchy beginning? (dialog, a question, a quotation, a vivid description, or action)
  2. Does the 1st paragraph let the reader know the who, what, when, and where of the story and what the situation was at the beginning?
  3. Do the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs use lots of sensory detail (touch, sight, sound, taste, smell) and some dialogue? Do these paragraphs show the reader how the characters feel? Have you built up some anticipation in the reader?
  4. Is the sequence of events clear to the reader?
  5. Does the 4th paragraph tell the high point of the story using vivid verbs, dialogue, and sensory detail?
  6. Does your concluding paragraph provide a sense of completeness? Do you show why the experience was worth telling? Do you point out any lesson learned from the experience?

Please come to class each day this week with your revised narrative ready for us to begin editing and proofreading for mechanical and structural improvements. We will be ready to publish these by early next week.

Here is one possible internet site to check out for some tips on writing a personal narrative.


We have discussed the "butterfly effect" from several different angles for the last few weeks as we have read short stories focusing on the theme "Learning from Experience -- Knowing Who You Are." As a related read, we also discussed Emily Dickinson's encouraging poem "If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking". We just finished reading "Names/Nombres", the 3rd short story in this unit.

Tuesday we have the selection test (big grade!) on the short-story "Names/Nombres".

Here are some questions to further guide your study for that:

1. Why do you think Julia Alvarez gave her personal narrative the dual-language title, "Names/Nombres"?

2. What is the main issue the author deals with in the story?

3. What is the author's attitude toward her topic?

4. How does humor help the author get her idea across?

5. What country is the Alvarez family from?

6. What does her family think (during her teenaged years) about her hobby of writing?

You should study the vocabulary words some more if you didn't stay on task very well during our class work on these words.

The ten vocabulary words from this story are:

  • Adjectives: exotic, initial, chaotic, convoluted
  • Verbs: specify, usher, merge,
  • Adverbs: ironically, inevitably,
  • Noun: ethnicity

Congratulations to the one student who took the opportunity to get extra ELA credit this week! KD got 10 points added to her lowest daily grade by writing a poem and designing a card for Grandparents' Day (September 9). Isn't her grandmother blessed!? I hope each of you told your grandparents how much you love and appreciate them!

I am looking forward to another good week with you September 10-14!