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.

Monday, September 14, 2015

1st Quarter Speech: Create Your Own Superhero

Goal:  To create a 1 minute speech discussing what type of superhero you would be to practice your speaking skills.

Summative Standards Assessed:  
Standard 7:  Present focused claims with support, using eye contact, volume, and elocution.

Timeline & Due date:  Time will be given in class to work on this.  September 22nd, 2015 - all speeches will be performed in class live.

Detailed description:
Students will write and perform a 1 minute speech discussing what type of superhero they would be if they had to invent one.  
Questions to discuss include:  
  • How would they become a superhero?
  • What would their superpowers be?
  • What would their name be?
  • What would they look like?
  • What would their main purpose be?
  • Would they be good superheroes or villains?  Why would they choose that?
  • What would their superhero gadgets be?
  • Where would their lair (hideout) be and what would it look like?

Students should:
  • Use their time wisely in class so they do not have to work on it at home.
  • Time their speech to make sure it is right around 1 minute, not too short and not too long
  • Practice their speech to make sure they feel comfortable.
  • Have a way of supporting themselves through their speech, meaning they can use notecards or a manuscript, however, they may not read their speech but need to deliver it as best as they can.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Our very First Book Order!

I asked the 7th graders if they still did book orders and they answered with a resounding  "Yes!"  So our first book order will go home today with interested students.  They are due back to me by Wednesday, the 9th  of September.  Note that there is a teen catalog of choices too and that some of the books in it are more mature.

If you at all are considering ordering books for your child, please make it from this one, because if we receive $300 worth of orders our classroom gets 10,000 bonus points, which I then use to get us more books.

Shop Online:
One-Time Class Activation Code: GXJ8R To order books either send in a check or do it online.

Some book recommendations are:

  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Amazing historical fiction)
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (One of my favorite science fiction series)
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Was made into a movie last year)
  • The Raft by S. A. Borden (page turner!)
  • The Maze Runner series by James Dashner (Another page turner)
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (mature)
  • Legend by Marie Lu (Another favorite series)
  • The Body in the Woods by April Henry (First book in a new series - page turning mystery)
  • The Eight Day by Dianne K. Salerni (Great new realistic fantasy series)
  • Raina Telgemeier set (Smile, Drama, & Sisters) - Some of the best graphic novels out there
  • The Copper Gauntlet by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black (Book 2 of The Magisterium series - a slightly darker series like Harry Potter)
  • Sunny Side Up by Jenni and Matt Holm (Phenomenal new graphic novel)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney (Brand new Diary of a Wimpy Kid!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The 25 (At Least) Book Challenge

Welcome to the 25 book challenge!  In 7th grade you are expected to read at least 25 books.  If you already know you will read at least 25 books, I would like you to set a higher goal than that which we will do in class.  

How are books counted:
  • Books with more than 300 pages count as 2 books, books with more than 500 pages count as 3 books.  More than 800 - see Mrs. Ripp
  • Graphic novels count as 1/4 of a book depending in the book.
  • Picture books count as 1/10 of a book - so 10 picture books are needed to count as 1 book.

Further details:
  • You pick the books you want to read.
  • You have until the end of the year.
  • You are only competing against yourself as a reader (and Mrs. Ripp if you want).
  • 15 of the books must be actual chapter books.
  • This is meant to push you as a reader, if 25 is too little of a goal for you, please set a higher goal.  My goal will be 85 books.

How do you record it:
There are many ways to record your 25 books, here are a few examples:
  • You can use Goodreads
  • You can use Padlet
  • You can use a Google Doc
  • You can come up with your own idea
  • Or you can use the in-class all year reader's’ notebook (provided)

A Letter Regarding Our Classroom Library

Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s),
Think back to the last time you were trying to find a book to read. Which book did you choose to read? Why did you want to read that particular book? All of us have different reading lives, and all of us enjoy reading different genres, titles, or authors. I find that to be true with my students as well, which is why I have an extensive classroom library with 1,000’s of books available for them to check out. This is to help them meet the goal of 20 minutes of independent reading outside of English class every day.

This school serves a lot of different students and the middle school years are no ordinary years for adolescents. The differences in student interests, maturity levels, as well as learning goals are vast and varied.  These kids are not only different ages; they arrive at school with different reading levels, different backgrounds, and different experiences that have shaped their lives in both positive and negative ways. They have different needs when it comes to reading. As a teacher, I have a responsibility to serve all of the kids who come to me, and a responsibility to offer literature choices that speak to all of them.

Kids, in general, do a fantastic job of self-selecting books, and when they find they’ve picked up something they’re not ready for, they’re usually quick to put it down and ask for help choosing something else. (In fact, I encourage my students to abandon books that are not right for them at that time.) As a teacher, I’ll offer recommendations and steer kids toward books that are age and individually-appropriate, and I encourage you to talk about books with your child. Self-selecting a book is a pillar of our reading community.

As a teacher, I respect your right to help your own child choose reading material, and ask that you respect the rights of other parents to do the same. If you object to your child reading a particular book, let me know, send it back, and I’ll help your child find another selection. I’ll put the first book back on the shelf because even though you don’t feel it’s the right book for your child right now, it may be the perfect book for someone else’s child.

Our library will continue to have a wide range of choices for kids – to meet all of their varied needs and help them all develop an appreciation of reading. If I can ever be of help to you in recommending titles for your family, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you for your involvement in your child’s education and helping to encourage reading growth and engagement.

Mrs. Ripp