Monday, November 21, 2016

A Note on Our Spelling Work

The students received their very first spelling work today.  Spelling in English is a two-fold process.  We have a district mandated exploration of root words and definitions, this is what they were handed today, with more explanation to follow in a moment.  The other process is the work they do within their own writing; recognizing words that they do not spell well consistently and working on them.  There are never any quizzes attached to the work but instead (hopefully) a building awareness of what they still need to work on.

The district mandated program is based on the work they have done in previous years and there are two paths for them to choose from.  One is the regular path that consists of an exploration of 5 root words and 5 definitions, the other is the enriched which centers around 25 root words.   Students may choose either one every time.  They do not lock in with a path once they have chosen it the first time.

Today we discussed what analogies are as both paths include analogy work.  Students are expected to work on this word work on their own or with a partner.  Technology should be used to assist them in their venture and the purpose of the work is not memorization but understanding.

Spelling work will always be due two weeks after it has been assigned, but can be handed in sooner.

The actual pages and resources for spelling can be found in their Google Classroom accounts in case they need access to it again.

Monday, November 14, 2016

2nd Quarter in English - An Update

With the first quarter over, we now continue onward in our quest to develop as better readers, writers, and speakers.  With its particular challenge of the 45 minute class period, and how little instructional time it provides us, we now switch our focus from reading strategies in the 1st quarter to more of a writing lens.  This means that the students are starting their first writing project this week in class.  More information about this project can be seen here  The due date for this project is December 2nd, with work time given every day in class except for Tuesday the 22nd.

A major focus of this project is the individual journey that each child is on as a writer.  We therefore abstain from many whole class lessons and instead focus on small group and one-on-one conferring.  Students will be asked to set their own specific conventions goals for this project, as well as other writing goals.

Spelling is another component added in the 2nd quarter, unless a child is in Literacy Skills with Mrs. Tanner, then they are exempt from our program.  The very first spelling work will be handed out Monday the 21st of November and will be due Monday the 5th.  There is no quiz attached, only the actual work that goes into the district mandated program.  There are two choices for the program; a regular list or an enriched list.  Students may choose which challenge they would like.  

We continue to work on reading more and deeper.  Every child should be reading at least 20 minutes outside of English, and should be reading books that they like, but that are also stretching them a little.  We will continue to analyze text in class and work on group discussions.

Speeches will also appear again in second quarter, they will be solo speeches in December and another group speech in January.

Conferences with me and the other team members of 7-O: Ms. Stoller, Ms. St. Clair, Mrs. Manzeck, Mr. Spaeth, Mrs. Gratzl and Mrs. Bures, as well as all other teachers will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, November 15th from 4 PM to 8 PM in the cafeteria. Each conference gets to last 5 minutes.  If you feel you need more time than that please reach out so we may schedule a different time for you.  There are also conferences happening at OMS on the 17th also from 4 PM to 8 PM with all other teachers except for the ones listed previously.  The book fair is also happening at school right now, it is a great place to pick up some great new titles for your learner.  

As always, it is an honor to get to be a part of your learner's journey in 7th grade.  Please reach out with any needs, questions, or concerns you may have.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Refugee Crisis Assignment

The Refugee Crisis Assignment

To Do:
  1. Select three different articles to read from the choices provided - read them.  Also, choose one video clip to watch - take notes on this.
  2. Annotate each article - this is for you to use in discussion and they will not be handed in.
  3. Write a summary of one of the articles - to hand in to Mrs. Ripp.  A good summary has a main idea with supporting details.  Make sure it is written in your own words.
  4. Write an opinion piece answering; what is our role as Americans in the refugee crisis?  You must use MEL-Con format.  This is to be handed in to Mrs. Ripp and should be based on the three articles you read and the video clip you watched.  

Things to annotate for:
  • What surprised you?
  • What are the problems discussed?
  • What are the solutions discussed?
  • Anything else that you might want to discuss.

To hand in:
  • Your summary - due October 18th
  • Your opinion piece - due October 25th

What are you assessed on?

ELA 1:  Your opinion piece
Determine/analyze development of central ideas/themes in a text.

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

ELA 5:  Your opinion piece
Draw evidence from texts to support written analysis.

ELA 6:  Both pieces
Command the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and vocabulary.

This will be a summative assessment, practice and mini-lessons will occur during class.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Where is Mrs. Ripp?

Your child may have told you that we had a substitute teacher, Mr. Wink, today in English.  This does happen from time to time because 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 student, global collaboration, as well as better reading instruction.

I also created the Global Read Aloud, which students will participate in starting October 3rd, 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 involves 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 the best possible teacher for your learner first.

Friday, September 16, 2016

1st Quarter Speech: Create Your Own Superhero or Your Choice of Topic

1st Quarter Speech:  Create Your Own Superhero or Your Choice of Topic
Goal:  To create a 1 minute speech discussing what type of superhero you would be or invent your own topic such as introducing yourself to the class.

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 Tuesday, September 20th.  September 23rd, 2016 - 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,or a speech introducing themselves to the class, or on any other self-chosen topic.  

If you are introducing yourself here are suggestions for things to include:
  • What does your name mean or how did you get your name?
  • Where were you born?
  • What are things you are great at?
  • What are things you are passionate about?
  • What is your family like?

If you are doing the superhero here are suggestions for things to 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.
  • Content does not get assessed, only speaking skills.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Very First Book Order of the Year

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 Monday, the 19th  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.

A few recommendations:
All American Boys - in the teen catalog, the very first book I book-talked this year.
Ghosts - the new graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier.
Loot - A fast paced page turner about a jewelry hesit gone wrong.
Sting - the follow up to Loot.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - the hotly anticipated play script.
Rad Women A to Z
It's Not Me, It's You 
Walk on Earth a Stranger - Historical fiction with a fantasy twist (series)

Thank you so much for considering.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Letter About 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.  Since loving reading and books is one of the major goals of our year together in English, our classroom library plays a major role in the pursuit of that.

One of the things I love about teaching seventh graders is just how unique they are. 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 therefore 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, however 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/guardians 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.  I would also encourage you to speak to your child about what types of books they feel comfortable reading so that this becomes a part of their selection process as well.  If I can ever be of help to you in recommending titles for your family, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Our library will have a wide range of choices for kids – to meet all of their varied needs and help them all develop an appreciation of reading. This includes our picture book selection that spans many social and historical issues.  These are used for mini lessons throughout the year as a way to garner discussion and reflection on our role as human beings.  Through the use of these shared read alouds, I hope for students to love reading and storytelling.  Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or would like to visit our classroom library.  Finally, thank you for your involvement in your child’s education and helping to encourage reading growth and engagement.

Mrs. Ripp

Thank you to Kate Messner and Jillian Heise for sharing versions of this letter.

Monday, September 5, 2016

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.  Why 25 books? Because it is do-able, it is a great goal to shoot for, and with reading 30 minutes every day (10 minutes in class, 20 minutes out) it is completely within reach. In fact, last year, my students read more than 4,000 books combined!

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 750 - see Mrs. Ripp
  • Graphic novels count as 1/4 of a book depending on the book.
  • If you have other types of books, ask Mrs. Ripp

Further details:
  • You pick the books you want to read.
  • You have until the end of the year, until the third last day to be exact.
  • 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 small of a goal for you, please set a higher goal.  My goal will be 90 books.

How do you record it?
There are many ways to record your 25 books, here are a few examples:
  • You can create a page in your reader's notebook, which we will do in class.
  • You can use Instagram and tag Mrs. Ripp in it
  • You can use Goodreads
  • You can use Padlet
  • You can use a Google Doc
  • Or you can come up with your own idea

Why should you keep track?
  • Because it is an accomplishment that you are working toward.
  • Because you and I will be checking in together to make sure you are on the right track.
  • Because this is a chance for you to share the great books you are reading.
What happens if you don't reach your goal?
No worries, you will. If you are really worried, speak to Mrs. Ripp.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ideas for Keeping Your Child Reading Over the Summer

This is cross-posted from my professional blog.  Happy summer reading!

The beauty of summer reading is falling into the pages of a book and not having to come up for air until it is done. @pernilleripp
I know many of us educators (and those at home) have been working hard all year to try to cultivate or protect a love of reading in our learners.   Now with warmer temperatures and summer beckoning for the Northern Hemisphere comes the real test; will kids keep reading over the summer?  Is what we did enough?  Did we lay enough of a foundation, get them excited, get them hooked so that the next few weeks or months will not put them in a reading drought?  While time will truly be the judge of how the work might pay off, here are a few ideas that may help depending on the age of the learner.
Have a to-be-read list.  All year we have cultivated ours, trying to add as many titles as possible so that when the students leave our classrooms they have something to help guide them when they are either at the library or at the book store.  This is especially important for our “fragile” readers, those who have just discovered that books and reading may be for them after all and need a constant diet of amazing books.  But really all kids should have one, not just some.  Even if school has not created a to-be-read list it is not too late to make one!  Browse the displays at the library or at the book store and write it down somehow. Keep the list on you because you never know when you come across an opportunity to find more books.
Visit places where books are present.  We go to the library a lot; when it is too hot and the pool is not open, when it is stormy, when we are tired.  We also go to our local book store and browse.  Accessing book, touching books, getting excited about books and anything that we can read is vital to keep the desire alive.  If you are not able to go places where there are books, ask your child’s teacher if you may borrow a big stack of books from them if you promise to bring them back.  I have often lent books to families over the summer as a way to help them keep reading.
Make it social.  I love reading a great book and then talking to others about the book or even better passing the book on to them (as long as they give it back).  Make reading a social aspect of your summer; have reading “parties” where kids can discuss books, create a book swap with other families, scour garage sales for long-lost favorites.  Offer up yourself to read with your learner or get more than one copy of a book (if you have access to them) so that others may join in the reading.  Too often as parents we think we should read all of the books our child is reading and while that can be a fun bonding experience, it may be more powerful if you can get a friend of your child to be a reading partner.
Use audio books.  I love that I can borrow audio books from our library – the entire Harry Potter series has been the backdrop to our commute for the past 4 months.  When your children are in the car, put on an audio book.  Have a copy of the book ready if  anyone wants to keep reading and you have reached your destination.  With all of the research coming out correlating audio books with further reading success this is a winning situation.
Find great books.  Get connected online to communities like #Titletalk, #BookADay, or Nerdy Book Club to get ideas of what to read next.  I am constantly adding to my wish list due to these two places.  Use the professionals like librarians,booksellers and teachers.  Also, ask other parents what their kids are reading, create a Facebook page to share recommendations or simply use you own page, anything to find out what great books are available.
Create a routine.  We read every night and sometimes even in the morning (as well as throughout the day but then again we may be slightly book obsessed).  Helping your child create a routine where reading is a natural part of the day mean that they will create ownership over the habit, thus (hopefully) inspiring further reading.
Allow real choice.  I have seen some parents (and schools) require learners to read certain books over summer, but summer is meant to be guilt-free reading.  Where we reach for those books we cannot wait to read because they will suck us right in, where we fill up our reserves so we can perhaps finally tackle that really challenging book that we have been wanting to read.  Where we explore new books because we want to.  Too often rules and expectations infringe on the beauty of summer reading; falling into a book’s pages and not having to come up for air until it is done.  That also goes for reading things that may be “too easy” or “too hard” – I devour picture books, graphic novels and all thing “too easy” in the summer, as well as trashy beach reads and Danish crime mysteries.  I refuse to feel guilty about my choices in reading, because that is never what reading is about.
Have books everywhere.  Again, this depends on how many books you have access to, but leave books wherever your kids go.  I have books in the car, in their rooms, in the kitchen, living room, etc.  That way the books seem to fall into their hands at random times; stopped in traffic, quiet time before lunch, a sneak read before falling asleep.  It is a luxury to have books in our house and so we try to make them as visible as possible.
Celebrate abandonment, but ask questions.  When a child abandons a book, this is a great thing.  They are learning that this book is not for them and they can use their energy for a book that will be for them.  But ask questions so that they may think about what type of book they might like.  So they can think about what type of reader they are and want to be.  Make sure that there are other books they want to read as well so that they can keep trying to find great books.
Be invested and interested.  This does not mean that you ask your child to write reports about what they read, in fact, I would be very careful as to what type of work goes along with reading over the summer beside reading, but do ask questions.  Ask whether they enjoy the book or not.  What they plan on reading next.  Read along with them or beside them.  Make reading a part of your life so it can become a part of theirs.
Keep it fun.  Too often, especially if our child is not a well-developed reader, we can get rather nervous as parents and think that we must keep them on a regimented reading program at all costs.  That we must have them write about reading or track it somehow.  Have them read, yes, but keep it light and fun.  The last thing we want to do is to make reading a worse experience for them or adding more stress to your family.
What other ideas do you have?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Final Book Orders Due

Summer is near and that means that we do everything in our power to combat the summer slide in reading.  All learners have long to-be -read lists that they should bring home next Friday to help them find great books for over the summer.  I have also told students that if they email me, then I can let them know when I am at OMS and they can come grab books.  I get many new books over the summer that I would love for students to read and review.

Book order catalogs were sent home today - the biggest pile yet - here are some of my favorite reads:
  • Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson - a new book from this master author
  • Surviving Bear Island by Paul Greci - for the nature/survival fans
  • The Trials of Apollo #1 - The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan - brand new series!
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jameson - A great graphic novel
  • Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson - what if our world was really filled with magic?
  • Slacker by Gordon Korman - brand new book from this master author
  • The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer - fantasy and fairy tales
  • Love that Dog by Sharon Creech - one of my all-time favorite free verse novels
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman - mesmerizing and a challenging read
  • See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles - a tear jerker for sure

There is a teen catalog included in the order so there are more mature titles.

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

Thank you for your support of our classroom library as well.  With every book you order, I get points which I then use to buy more books for the kids to read.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Our Final Project: This I Believe

This I Believe Project Breakdown
Goal:  To create a 4 or 5 paragraph speech and narrative writing piece modeled after the “This I Believe”  format.  See this link for examples.

Summative standards assessed:  
Standard 4:  Write narratives to share events, using vivid detail & ordered sequence.  
Standard 6:  Command the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and vocabulary.
Standard 7:  Present focused claims with support, using eye contact, volume, and elocution

Due Date:  June 1st

Day-by-Day Process:

Reading and listening to This I Believe speeches - class discussion; what do you notice?  Individual exploration and listening - filling out inspiration sheet to understand structure?
Guided brainstorm - elevator activity to jog memories that carry significance
Filling in our timelines and listening to examples of the end product
Zeroing in on a personal beliefs - using the rough organizer
Handing out graphic organizers
Students will start to fill out graphic organizers
One-on-One conferring with “stuck” students using the breakdown organizer
How to write a strong introduction - conferring one on one with students
Revising for better introductions
Adding quotes to our speeches/essays - more rough draft working time
Adding details
Rough draft work time - conferring one on one with students.  
Revising for better word choice
Work time
13 (Friday)

Rough drafts all due to Mrs. Ripp

Hand back rough draft - Peer review and commenting
Types of conclusions
Work day for revising and editing
Work day for revising and editing
Work day for revising and editing
Speech practice