Week One

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As we approach the end of the first week of school, my students and I have much to be proud of.

We’ve done good work together: writing our thoughts, writing our hearts, writing our selves. We’ve shared our ideas with each other, even though it might have felt a little intimidating at first. We’ve taken those first important steps toward building a community, practicing the work of respectful talking and listening. We’re realizing just how powerful a tool the writer’s notebook can be.

Next week, we introduce more powerful tools into our community of readers and writers. With the iPad will come the collaboration features of Google Drive and the discussion opportunities of Edmodo. The week after that will bring the introduction of blogging, and then wow! Watch us go!

What a great beginning.

Wildcats write, indeed!

Back to School

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Students,

One week from today, you’ll be here! We teachers are getting ready for you, unpacking boxes, hooking up computers, and setting up our classrooms. In the picture above are cartons of new science and math textbooks. Bet you can hardly wait!

I look forward to meeting all 110 of you on the 25th. Meanwhile, enjoy that last week of summer before the real fun begins ;- )

Sincerely,
Mrs. Kriese

Who Am I?

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When Peter Parker walks in late to his English class, he interrupts a lesson on plot in fiction. His teacher is explaining that a mentor of hers used to say that there are ten basic plots in all of fiction, but that she disagrees…she thinks there is only one: the question of who am I?

Certainly the exploration of that question is key to many stories.  It is key to the story of Spider Man as Peter Parker must figure out the origin of his identity and who he wants to be going forward.  The question of identity is one we each must answer as we grow up, and it makes sense that if literature is the exploration of human experience that its stories strive to answer that question, too. Who are we, as individuals and as part of larger communities?

“Who am I?” is a question that is key to understanding the theme and plot of many stories we have discussed this year, among them

  • Beowulf, A New Telling
  • Freak the Mighty
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Lion King
  • Mulan
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Les Miserables

Can you think of more stories you have read or watched that explore the question of identity?  Share your answer in the comments.

New Novels

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Intrigued by the history and enticed by the opening pages, pre-AP classes are off to a great start with Animal Farm this week.  Many students left class on Friday saying they were looking forward to reading more, and might even finish the book this weekend!

Those who do finish Orwell’s novel before May 5 may want to explore further resources:

This Brain Pickings article highlights the incredible Animal Farm illustrations of Ralph Steadman as well as key quotes from author George Orwell.

The History Channel website has short, interesting biographies of Joseph Stalin¬†and Vladimir Lenin¬†with several related video links. A YouTube search will yield many videos¬†about Nicholas II or any other figure of Russian history you’d like to learn more about.

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Students in second and third period enjoyed the first chapters of Freak the Mighty so much they didn’t want to stop reading on Friday.¬† The popularity of the book is due in part to the wonderful voice of Max, our teenage narrator.¬† We’ll follow the story of Max and Kevin’s improbable friendship this week and talk about the important¬†lessons¬†these two boys learn from each other.

Students interested in more Kevin and Max might be interested to know there was a movie made of the book.  Author Rodman Philbrick talks about that and other aspects of his popular novel on his official website.  If you love Freak the Mighty, consider reading its sequel, Max the Mighty.

 

 

 

Edmodo for Book Thoughts

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Descriptive-narrative sketches,¬† personal narrative essays, narrative poems–we’ve been talking a lot about narrative writing lately.

Most of us are reading books that tell stories.¬† We’re enjoying the unfolding of a plot and the development of characters.¬† We’re sticking with our novels because we want to find out what’s going to happen, and because we’re entertained while we wait:¬† the author’s style is just right for us.

Whatever genre we are reading, we all have something to share about our books.  We are thinking, wondering, noticing, feeling as we read, and many of us would like a place in which to share our book thoughts.

One virtual space that my classes have used in the past is Edmodo.¬† We’ll use this secure, safe education tool to create an invitation-only, password-protected Kriese 7th ELA “room” where we can talk about our books (and other stories).¬† Parents will be invited, too :- )

Students are likely familiar with Edmodo via science classes in earlier grade levels.¬† I’m excited to use this tool again in English class.

Let’s get the conversations started!

 

 

Image credit:  Elements of Literature. Digital image. The-teachers-lounge.com. McDonald Publishing, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.

What Are You Reading Now?

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At the beginning of class last Tuesday, students were asked to summarize what was currently happening in the books that they were reading.¬† They typed their answers into a Google form, with reminders to incorporate the sentence variety and conventions we’ve been working on in class.¬† I’m especially happy to see the use of appositives in the responses!

Most importantly, I’m happy with the level of engagement I’m seeing with most students and their books.¬† Spending time in the library and in silent reading has given me insight into students’ reading lives.¬† I’m learning who¬†is familiar with¬†which authors, who reads reluctantly and who reads willingly, and who throws up big roadblocks to reading…and perhaps why.¬† Several students and I are now working on finding books that will get them interested again after many, many months of not reading any book at all (true confessions have been one of the benefits of this return to library visits and reading time).¬†

Some of the many intriguing plot summaries from last week:

Ben on Perfect Season by Tim Green:

“A new kid, Chuku, has just moved in and is a potential star wide receiver. He met Troy, the main character one day at the Jets facility and Troy was impressed. Since Troy has to attend a poor school because his dad ran away with all of his money, he tried to “recruit” Chuku to attend and he did. So now, with a hall of fame player, Seth Halloway, as their coach, they are looking forward to a perfect season.”

Jane on Size 21 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot:

“Heather Wells, a college dorm monitor, has been hearing strange screams going down the elevator shaft and she has been finding¬†people dead at the bottom. She knows these types of people wouldn’t elevator surf¬† (jump from elevator cars to the next) so she calls the police, and of course they don’t believe her and no one else does either. She starts to investigate and finds the president of the colleges son as a suspect.”

Joseph on Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins:

“Gregor is getting ready to go on a hunt to find the Bane — the biggest baddest rat in the Underland — and kill it. Gregor knows that he has to do this even though the prophecy calls for his death. Him and Ripred, a rat that is on the humans side, are going to do whatever they can to kill the Bane and let Gregor keep his life, but it will be very hard.”

Francesca on The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler:

“The main character, Penny, just arrived at a new school in Hog’s Hollow. She and her mother baked cupcakes for a party and they have just arrived to set up the party room. An embarrassing accident happens and the birthday girl, Charity, now hates Penny. She then ‘welcomes’ Penny to her new school with a locker full of pennies.”

Kevin on The Fourth Stall, Part II by Chris Rylander:

“Earlier in the book, the protagonist Mac and his best friend Vince, along with a few other assistants, conducted a mass cheating operation for the SMARTS test, the book world’s equivalent of STAAR, where they corrected every answer. Unfortunately, everyone failed the test, despite the corrections. As the punishment for a failure on this scale results in the school being closed down, Mac and Vince must find out who is trying to take the school down. If they can’t–it’s the end of the world.”

Dahlia on The Chase by Janet Evanovich:

“FBI agent Kate O’Hare was captured by Carter Grove’s elite private security agency called Black Rhino. Nicholas Fox, her partner and international con-man and thief, is caught, and even though her bosses know what she’s doing, she’s on her own. Kate successfully talks her way out of the tricky situation, finds Nick Fox, and heads back to the states, finds Carter Grove in possession of stolen paintings, and arrests him, with help of a rag-tag crew and her dad, ex-Navy Seal, Jake O’Hare.”

Sam W. on Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr:

“The main character, Connor, has a big baseball game coming up against his biggest rival, Billy Burrell and the Red Sox. Connor runs into Billy at school, where Billy starts to threaten Connor about ‘accidentally’ hitting him during the game. Connor then watches as he walks off and walks right into a locker door, sneding Connor home laughing. Connor then finds the tires on his bike slashed with some jagged glass, which only could have been done by the one and only….. Billy Burrell!”

What are you reading now?¬† What’s happening in your book?