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!