Friday, January 15, 2016

Update from English

While the team newsletter will go out later today I wanted to send an update on English specifically with a few more details.

First up; book orders from Scholastic!  Catalogs were given out today and there are some great books in there!  This is also one of the biggest months for bonus points and if we as a group order for more than $300 then we get 5,000 bonus points.  This means a lot of new books for the classroom.  I always place a large order for this month to get kids re-ignited about reading, so if you have been thinking about ordering some books for the spring, this month would be a great one to order in.  

All orders are due by Wednesday, January 20th.  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!The 5th wave - a lot of students want to read this book as it is coming out as a movie soon!
The Red Queen - phenomenal new science fiction/fantasy series
Rollergirl - Graphic novel that just won a Newbery Honor
Echo - Also just a won a Newbery Honor

Monday we will start our collaborative project with Integrated Literacy as we try to learn more about the the UN Challenge.
Tuesday all students will give their non-fiction picture book speech. More information can be found here
Thursday students will self-assess their growth and determine their grades for 2nd quarter, as well as their letter grade for the 1st semester.

We are still working on our paper blogs and should write our first real blog next week.  

I presented at a workshop yesterday and was very proud to share some of the students' advice with participants.  It is incredible to be able to share the message of our incredible students in order to inspire other teachers to hopefully make it more about kids.

Please let me know if you have any questions. And remember there is no school on the 22nd.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our Non-Fiction Picture Book Speech

Goal:  To continue working on our speaking skills, this time focusing on how to present using slides.  Skills practiced are the 6 speaking skills: Poise, voice, life, eye contact, (gestures - will not be assessed), and speed.

Product:  A 1- 2 minute speech, with 5 slides at least, rehearsed and ready to deliver on Tuesday, January 19th.

What to do:
  1. Decide what information you want to present, you must have a beginning, middle, and end
  2. Create your slides to enhance your information
  3. Create notecards or manuscript for your speech
  4. Rehearse to make sure it is between 1 and 2 minutes.  

Speech Prompt:  Provide an abstract (brief summary) of your non-fiction picture book topic with slides to support your knowledge.

Standard 7:  Present focused claims with support, using eye contact, volume, and elocution.  This is a summative growth assessment.

Helpful Hints:
  • You should rehearse this speech before you give it making sure you fit the time requirement, as well as how you will go through your slides (a clicker will be provided for students).
  • You should have it typed out on note cards or have something else to remember it by if you need it
  • Part of speaking well is drawing people in, how will you draw your audience into your speech?
  • You will need 5 slides at least to support your speech, you may not read off of your slides.
  • You can use the website to create inspirational slides or

Some time will be provided in school for the assignment, however, students will need to rehearse and time their speech outside of school.

Let's Get Blogging!

What is a blog?
This year I am happy to introduce a very exciting learning tool in our classroom; our very own student written blog.  A weblog, or blog for short, will function much as in class discussions and work, except through posting and creating work online, we will be able to engage in conversations with across the globe on our work, as well as classmates. This new writing opportunity affords us the chance to help students develop their writing while exposing it to a potentially global audience, thus leading to in-depth discovery, reflection, and redirection in their literacy skills.

This week will serve as an introduction to this tool as we create paper blogs, discuss safety, as well as the overarching purpose of our blogs.  The blog will provide the students with a safe way to communicate with people around the world and will be used extensively thought out the year.  All posts and comments are approved by me, which ensures the safety of the students, as well as the appropriateness of what they post and the comments they get.  This should be a very positive experience for the students and is something that something I value greatly.

Time Expectations

While class time will be provided for blogging, students are able to blog outside of school.  Many students want to blog about their interests and I encourage them to do so.  Our blog is used is a model for student blogging globally so we will discuss how to best represent ourselves to the world.  Spelling, conventions, as well as the ideas we present matter, and they will used to shape our continued writing journey.  Therefore, students are expected to only put their best out there.

Staying Safe

Safe internet behavior is something I take very seriously and something we discuss throughout the year, but particularly here in the beginning of our new adventure.  This week we will discuss the rules for staying safe on the internet using the analogy of how the internet is like the mall.  We will also discuss how a public blog is different from a private journal and the types of posts someone may write.

Throughout the entire year as we blog, I am also a line of defense.  All posts have to be approved by me (there is no way around this) and all comments have to be approved by me (also with no way around it).  All links that get to a student through a post have been clicked on by me and viewed.  In the 4 years of blogging with students, I have never had an unsafe situation, nor any type of cyber-bullying.  The most we have ever gotten are spam comments, which I simply delete before they reach students.  I feel that Kidblog is an incredibly safe way for students to write for an authentic audience and engage in a  global conversation.

If a child does not have permission to have their blog open to the public, they will still blog.  Their posts will only be seen by their classmates and not widely published.  That way no one sticks out and everyone still has the same chance at reflecting.  If you do not want your child’s blog to be shared with people outside the classroom, please let me know so I can setup their account accordingly.

If you would like to see students blogs from previous years and where your child will be blogging this year, please go to

Our first posts will be up by the end of next week.

If you have any questions regarding this, please contact me.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Our Top Picture Books of 2015

For the past 3 days, my 7th grade students have been furiously discussing the their favorite picture books as we get ready for the Caldecott awards.  While we have not voted for our top 3 yet, I thought it would be worthwhile to share our all of our favorite picture books from 2015.  What I love the most is the care that the students are putting into their conversations surrounding their selection, looking beyond the "What a great story!" and really searching for picture books that will leave a long lasting impression instead.  Note, some of these are sadly ineligible for the award since the illustrator does not reside in the US, nor are they a citizen.  So if you are looking to boost your picture book collection, start with some of these incredible books.
I Don't Like Koala - Story by Sean Ferrell, Art by Charles Santoso
The Night World - Story and Art by Mordicai Gerstein
I cannot wait to see which books are in the top!

Friday, January 1, 2016

An Update from English

Happy new year!
I have entered in all assessment for the non-fiction picture book projects this evening and overall was very pleased.  If your child does not feel their score is an accurate assessment of their skills, please have them look at their projects and then contact me with questions.  This was a project that measured many skills and time management was one of the keys to success.

This is also a great time to check Infinite Campus for any missing assignments.  Students are expected to have made up any missing work they may have, all work can be accessed through here if needed.  The end of the quarter is January 21st and all make up work must be received before then.  Both standards based grades and letter grades will be given for the quarter and semester.  In English, students will determine and assign their own grades and then meet with me to discuss and finalize.

January 29th, we have our all school assembly celebrating the end of 2nd quarter and also our CARE trip for bowling.  Students do not have to bowl to participate but can simply come to be with their friends.  We will meet as a team this week to discuss students who may be ineligible due to missing work, incompletes and such, these students will be notified by a team member and will then be given an opportunity to make up the work.  Our goal is to bring all students!

January in English is when we will start blogging.  More information will come about that, we will also delve in to our mock Caldecott unit celebrating picture books, do another speech, and do a collaborative project with integrated literacy.  It should be a great month!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.