Monday, December 7, 2015

Yahara River Writers Contest

Yahara River Writers Contest
This December, the English teachers invite all students at OMS to participate in the Yahara River Writers Contest!  This writing contest is open to all students 5th through 8th grade in Dane County.

What can you submit:
There are 4 different categories you can enter your work into:  Realistic short story, poetry, political cartoon, and editorial.  Students can submit to more than one category if they choose.  

Due date:
All submissions are due to your English teacher on December 14th, students have been given some time in class to work on their entries.

Requirements and more information can be found here

What can you win:
This is a county-wide contest where 33 school districts in the area send submissions. All entries will be judged and the top ten in each category, per grade level, will be selected.  From each top ten group, a first and second place entry will be identified.  All top ten entries will be published in the Yahara River Writers Anthology, and all authors of top ten entries will be invited to attend a workshop on the UW Campus.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Skyping with 2nd and 3rd graders #SkypeAThon

As part of our non-fiction picture book project, we spent part of class today skyping with our target audience; 2nd and 3rd graders in North America.  The students had all prepared questions to ask and they took notes during the call.  We learned that 2nd and 3rd graders like a lot of facts, bright colors, many topics, and that they expect all 7th graders to be great spellers.  It was a great day of connecting in 7th grade.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our Non-Fiction Picture Book Project Explained

Non-Fiction Picture Book Assignment

Purpose:  To create a non-fiction picture book aimed at a 2nd-3rd grade audience.

Assignment:  Students will create a non-fiction picture book on a topic of their choice aimed at a 2nd-3rd grade audience.  Further expectations are discussed below.  

Due:  December 22nd, 2015.

Final Product:  All finished books will be created in Google Presentations for more creative flexibility.  These will be submitted via Google Classroom and then shared with 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms around the world for additional feedback.


  • Finished product should be a 15 to 20 page book that not only includes 4-5 or so "chapters/sub-topics" but also has a glossary, table of contents, sources, and front and back cover.
  • Font size of text should be at least 20.
  • Students will use at least one print research material and supplement with reliable internet sources.
  • We will use the website to cite all of our sources which will be done in conjunction with Jeri in tech tools.  She will assess that portion of the project.
  • We will spend time in class researching, writing, as well as sharing our work.  Students should be able to finish this in class if time is spent wisely.  

Sample:  Will be shown in class and linked to here.

  • Graphic organizers and templates can be provided for those who need to follow a format.  To access them, please go to this Google presentation and make a copy as needed.
Mini-Lesson Materials:
Every day, we will focus on a mini-lesson meant to bolster the skills and needs of the students.  The following mini-lessons will be taught (in order):
  1. Exploring NF picture books; what are their text features and why are they important?  Template for this discovery can be found in Google classroom and here.
  2. What do you want to teach the world?  Narrowing down topic and finding research materials.  Brainstorming research questions to guide their reading.  
  3. Who is your audience?  What do we know about 2nd and 3rd graders?  Preparing for our market research Skype call.
  4. Skype call to classrooms and then research time.
  5. Taking 3 column notes in notebook or Google docs.  Example template can be found here.
  6. Taking notes on notecards.
  7. Using Diigo as a way to take notes (refresher from Tech tools).
  8. Unscrambling a paragraph - parts of a paragraph  (example taken from here)
  9. Fill in the main idea and conclusion - found here
  10. Informal to formal paragraph - found here Alternate is writing a sample paragraph
  11. Teach to your partner, checklist can be found here
  12. Table of contents - what does it do, what does it need?
  13. Glossary - what does it do, what does it need?
  14. Self-assessment, peer edit if they want to and review, checklist can be found here
  15. Turn in (December 22nd).

Standards Assessed:

ELA 3:
Write informative texts to convey ideas; select, organize, and analyze content; summarize

ELA 5:
Draw evidence from texts to support written analysis.
ELA 6:
Command the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and vocabulary.

Yahara Short Story Draft Rubric

Yahara Short Story Draft Rubric
3 separate summative scores are given for this best draft effort.

4:  Writes a narrative using vivid detail and powerful word choice.
The writer effectively uses precise words and phrases, vivid descriptive details, engaging sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences and events.

Uses precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and appropriate sensory language to convey a clear picture of the experiences and events.
The writer uses simplistic words and phrases, inconsistent descriptive details, and limited sensory language to convey a partial picture of the experiences and events.
The writer vaguely expresses experiences or events and uses confusing or incorrect words and phrases, little or no descriptive details, and little or no sensory language to convey an unclear or confusing picture of the experiences and events.
4:  Writes narrative using an ordered sequence following the story arc structure.
Effectively creates a sequence of events, real or imagined, that unfolds naturally and logically from beginning to end.  
The writer adequately creates a sequence of events, real or imagined, that unfolds naturally and logically from beginning to end
The writer creates an inconsistent and uneven sequence of events, real or imagined, that unfolds from beginning to end.
The writer uses little or no discernible sequence of events, real or imagined, to convey the narrative.
Standard 6: Command the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and vocabulary.
Strong grasp of conventions and consistently uses it to enhance the work.
Strong grasp of standard writing conventions (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation). Correct sentence structure throughout.
Many errors in conventions (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation) which distracts from writing. Simple or inconsistent use of varied sentence structures.  
Conventions (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation) and/or sentence structure hinders readers from comprehension of work.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

News from 7-O English

All word work grades have now been entered, these are summative assignments that should be re-taken if a student got less than a 2.5.  The re-take window closes on December 7th.

The scores are based on the following:
0-1 incorrect (includes spelling) - 3
2 incorrect - 2.5
3-4 incorrect - 2
5 incorrect - 1.5
6-8 incorrect - 1
9 or 10 incorrect - IE = insufficient evidence
Most students are doing really well with choosing their path, while a few are not choosing well and consistently do not study or finish their work.  This may be a great opportunity to ask them about their study habits and how they are staying organized. 

The only homework over break is to read!  The students book shopped from more than $2,000 worth of new books yesterday as I had won a grant for brand new books plus picked up 3 boxes of books at the conference.  There is definitely no reason to not find an amazing book in our classroom with the students having access to many advance review copies as well.

I hope you have an incredible break.  Please know how thankful we are for these kids and just how much we love our jobs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Word Work Re-takes Explained

With our foray into word work, I thought it would be nice to explain the re-take policy for any of it.

How are they assessed?
The packets are assessed for completion as well as spelling.
The quizzes are assessed for correctness, as well as spelling.

Who can re-take?
Anyone that wants to show a deeper understanding of the words and their definition.

How does a re-take work?
Path 1:
If a child wants to -re-take the quiz, they can if they got more than a 2 on it.  They then need to see me to schedule a re-take. If they got a 1 or a 1.5, they need to do the packet (path 2) as their re-take since the quiz did not seem to work too well.

Path 2 and Path 3:
Simply fix the mistakes and do any missing work and re-hand in the same packet.

The window is open for 2 weeks after every due date.  So this time all re-takes are due to me be the 20th.

Further questions?
Contact me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Parent Survey Before Fall Conferences

In order to best prepare for our upcoming fall conference, I invite you to fill out the following survey so that I can prepare your needs can be met.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

An Update on English Scores

I am entering the students' scores for their summative English assignment today and wanted to take a moment to address what they mean.  English scores are on a continuum of growth, meaning that a child getting a "2" on a standard this quarter is not reason for alarm or disappointment.  Two of the standards that students are scored on this quarter; standards 1 and 5, are hard concepts to conquer as they involve abstract thinking and expression.    These standards are practiced most quarters and we typically see great growth in not just skill, but also in confidence.

I will be addressing this with students today as well as they receive their summative scores.  My intention is certainly not to frustrate students (or parents) but instead challenge their thinking and their skills.  I will continue to do small group, as well as one-on-one instruction in class to help individual students as needed.

For the next two days students are working on their final speech of the quarter; a choral poetry performance.  This is a great way to boost speech scores and build their confidence as speakers.  These will be performed and videotaped next Monday.

Finally, students will determine their standards scores for the semester evaluating their own growth as well as setting goals for next quarter tomorrow.  I will send home copies of their self assessments on Monday.

Please continue to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.  I so appreciate your feedback and support.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Word Work Explained

As we near the end of our 1st quarter it is time for us to start word work.  There are 3 paths to success within our word work program in English.  Students can choose whichever path they would like every time word work is assigned.  This gives them a chance to be more successful as they can gauge what they need at the given time.

Path 1.
Students receive the list of words and study for the quiz.  The list of words can be found here and the quiz is typically the Friday following the week it is handed out.

Path 2.
Students are given the same 10 words as Path 1 but are asked to work with the words instead.  In a packet, found here, students figure out meaning and word relationships as they get to know the roots better.  There is no quiz for this path, the completed packet is due the same day as the quiz.

Path 3.
Do the same word work as the enriched English class; Caesar's Word Within Word.  This path also allows for the students to gain deeper knowledge as they work with the words and their meaning.  There is no quiz for this path, instead the completed packet is due the same day as the quiz.  That work can be found here.

This will be assessed under standard 6:  Command the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and vocabulary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall Conferences Information

Student/Parent/Teacher conferences for the fall will be held in the OMS lunchroom on November 17th and November 19th from 4 PM to 8 PM.  At OMS, there are no sign ups for conferences, instead the teachers are all seated at tables in the lunch room and each conference lasts 5 minutes.  You simply approach the teacher(s) you would like to speak with when they are open or wait in line for them.  

If you do not feel that 5 minutes will be enough to discuss your child, please contact the individual teacher to schedule a meeting at a different time.

Due to the NCTE conference in Minneapolis, I will not be at OMS on the 19th of November and will thus not be available for conferences that day.  I have therefore set up an alternative day for conferences on November 12th from 3:30 PM to 8 PM.  The conferences on the 12th will be scheduled so that you do not have to wait for an open slot.  To secure one of these spots on the 12th, please follow these directions:

1. Click this link to go to our invitation page on VolunteerSpot: 
2. Enter your email address: (You will NOT need to register an account on VolunteerSpot) 
3. Sign up! Choose your spots - VolunteerSpot will send you an automated confirmation and reminders. Easy!

 Note: VolunteerSpot does not share your email address with anyone. If you prefer not to use your email address, please contact me and I can sign you up manually.

I realize that the spots on the 12th are limited due to the longer time for each, and will therefore also be available on the 17th in the lunchroom for the 5 minute conferences.  That being said, I can also meet at a different time if you would like or feel we need to have a longer discussion about your child.    Please just contact me.

Next week, the students will bring home a parent questionnaire as we prepare for conferences, please take a moment to fill it out so I can make sure our meeting fulfills your needs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Time for October Book Orders

Good afternoon,
The students received the book order fliers today in English, and they received a lot of them!  The book orders are due to me by this coming Tuesday so that we can get the new books into the hands of students as quickly as possible.  I am very excited about this book order because of the great new books highlighted.  Note that there is a teen catalog of choices too and that some of the books in it are more mature.

I recommend shopping online, as there is a larger selection of books than in the fliers. 
To shop online:
One-Time Class Activation Code: GXJ8R 

Or you can send in a check made out to Scholastic to order the books.

This month's book recommendations - it is so hard to pick!
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan - the new series is here from the author of The Lightning Thief!
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate - this one has been flying off my shelves.
  • Fantasy League by Mike Lupica - his latest is out in paperback.
  • Auggie & Me by R.J. Palacio
  • The Marvels by Brian Selznick - a masterful tale
  • The Babysitters Club Books 1 - 3 in graphic novel form
  • Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark  by Deborah Hopkinson

Happy reading and thank you for considering!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Is It A Duck or A Rabbit? Student Videos #GRA15

The 7-O sharks started the global Read Aloud today with the book Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  We then had to debate and persuade others of our opinion.  1st hour students wrote on a padlet, which can be seen here  while other students made videos.  All of these were shared with the many students doing the Global Read Aloud around the world.  We would love to know in the comments; is it a duck or is it a rabbit?

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