Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Very First MysterySkype!

Students in independent reading had their very first Mystery Skype today.  Mystery Skype is a geographical location guessing game done between two classes using only yes or no questions, as well as teamwork and critical thinking skills.  The 4th grade class we skyped in Iowa guessed us before we guessed them but I was very proud of how the students represented OMS during the call.

An Update From English

Good morning,
I thought it would be nice to let you know what has been happening in English the past few weeks.
We have been busy developing our analysis skills in reading using the 6 signposts from the book "Notice and Note."  More information about them can be seen here  Having this shared reading language allows the students and I to dig deeper into our books, become better conversationalists, become better at expressing our thoughts, as well as becoming better at paying attention to the world around us.  All great skills in literacy, as well as life.

We have also started writing brief paragraph responses in our readers notebook, which stay in the classroom.  The format we use to analyze text and write about it is called MEL-Con.  M is main idea, E is evidence, L is link, which means the explanation of why our evidence supports our main idea, and then CON stands for conclusion.  Their first formative scores for this will be entered today and serve as a baseline for their growth the rest of the year.

Students are expected to read at least 20 minutes outside of class and have today set specific goals for what they are working on the month of October, please ask your child what their goals are.  Every child is also doing the 25 book challenge all year.

Finally, we will kick of the Global Read Aloud next week, which is a global project I created in 2010 that connects more than 500,000 students in the next 6 weeks around a shared read aloud.  We will take part in the picture book author study and be mentors for a few kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms in North America.  I am excited to see how the students will grow during this project.  For more information on the GRA, please see

Please reach out if you have any questions or comments.  I love the thinking and conversations that are happening in our classroom.  I truly have the best job in the world, so thank you for letting me teach your child.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

RADaR for Revision

This is the method we use for revision in the classroom, taken from Kelly Gallagher
RADaR for Revision
D and

- words that are not specific
- words that are overused
- sentences that are unclear

- new information
- descriptive adjectives and adverbs
- rhetorical and literary devices

- unrelated ideas
- sentences that sound good but do not fit
- unwanted repetition
- unnecessary details

- to make better sense or to flow better
- so details support main ideas

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Speech Grades Explained

I have spoken to the students about the grades being entered today but wanted to inform the home front as well.  First of all, I am so impressed with the work that most of the students put into their speeches.  They were creative and well thought out.  Second of all, the expectations for public speaking are high in 7th grade.  It is a necessary skill for all students to grow in  whether they need to present, interview for jobs, or simply have confidence in their speaking.  Therefore the first round of speeches always give results that may be lower than what the students expected.  

All students are assessed in 6 areas: poise, voice, life, eye contact, gestures, and speed.  They should be able to explain to you what these areas mean.  Their scores today are therefore in 6 different areas for Standard 7, which is our speaking standard.  There is not just a single grade.  The single grade will be assigned at the end of each quarter for this standard and will be based on their growth.  To see the rubric for the different areas assessed, please go here

Today, the students will be handed back their grades and they will be asked to write 2 goals to focus on for their next speech which will be in October.  These are written in their readers notebook, which stays here at school, please ask your child about their goals.  The grades given today are a summative grade, but they serve as a baseline for their growth for the year.  Since speaking is something we do multiple times each quarter, there are no re-takes available, which the students know.  The next speech serves as the re-take instead.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Where Is Mrs. Ripp?

Your child may have told you that we have a substitute teacher today in English.  This does happen from time to time, and I am very sorry about it.  Sometimes, I am asked to speak at education events about how to be a better teacher and I have the incredible opportunity to share the words of the students I teach.  While I am delighted at the honor of teaching other teachers, my main job is to be a teacher for your child.  I therefore have an agreement with the district that I am not gone very often and I always make sure that it fits in with what we are doing.

Why am I out speaking?
It is due to the education blog I write at and also the books I have written (and am currently writing) about how to make education better for all students.

I also created the Global Read Aloud, which students will participate in starting October 5th, and so I get asked to teach others about global collaboration, great literacy instruction, and personalizing learning.  To see more information about the Global Read Aloud, go to

How is my child impacted?
Hopefully not in a negative way.  I am very mindful of my few absences.  We try to create a classroom filled with students that push themselves as learners and so when I am out, they are not just doing busy work, they are actively working on things that matter to what we are doing.  One of the benefits is that the students voices get to be a part of the worldwide education debate, meaning they are starting conversations on a global scale about what students need and want.  This also means that we do a lot with authentic audiences, so that students are not just producing work for me but for others to give feedback as well.  Students also get to connect with authors and other students around the world.

I sometimes use pictures from my classrooms or words from my students in presentations.  I will ask for permission if this concerns your child.

Questions or concerns?
Please contact me.  My main responsibility is to be a 7th grade English teacher, not a speaker, or a writer.  Traveling to speak is a bonus but not my ambition and I want to make sure that I am teacher first.

A picture from this morning where I keynoted in Michigan.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Our Speech Rubric and Assessment Explained

Students will give their first speech next week and this rubric will be used to give them a breakdown score for each subset of skills.  The 6 different areas they will be assessed on are:

Poise:  How they use their body and the stance they have during the speech.
Voice:  How they use their voice to math their message.
Life:  The passion they bring to their speech
Eye Contact:  How well they use eye contact as a tool throughout.
Gestures:  How do their gestures match their message?
Speed:  Does their pace match their message?

While this is a summative assignment, these initial scores are simply a baseline for the year.  Therefore a child may receive 1's or 2's and should not be worried, rather they should use this as a guideline for further practice.  We will do at least 1 speech every quarter so I will be looking for growth in this standard throughout the year.

To see the specific rubric I will use, please click here.

Also, because this is a speech, re-takes cannot be done.  If a child needs to show mastery they will have opportunities to do so later in the quarter.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Making Their Mark on the World - Celebrating Dot Day

Yesterday, we ventured into the Innovation Lab for the first time to celebrate International Dot Day.  We read the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds aloud, discussed its message and then created our own dots.  Students were then asked to create a 1 minute speech discussing the meaning of the dot (the funnier the better), as well as why their dot was clearly the best dot ever created.  We had a blast creating, and also practicing our speaking skills.  Pictures are from the first 2 hours of the day.