Friday, October 31, 2014

Finding (and Being) Our True Selves

Today in class, we explored the characters of Gladys, Mike, and Poppy. We discussed whether these characters feel confident, and whether or not they are able to show others who they truly are. Each character feels fear in certain relationships--and we wondered what it will take for these characters to show their true (intrinsic!) nature.

We watched a fascinating talk by research Amy Cuddy, and then compared and contrasted Cuddy's ideas with what we see in the characters' from our novel, and in ourselves. Here is the talk in case you were absent or would like to watch it again:

Our word for the day from today was INTRINSIC, which is an adjective meaning inner; belonging to the essential nature; deeply natural. Here is an example of the word in a sentence: Mike's intrinsic sense of self is all about using his hands and his heart to create, but his father doesn't (yet) recognize this.

Over the weekend, we are reading Chapter 20 in The Absolute Value of Mike. After reading, share your reflection, below, about this question: What do you think inspires people more: intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? Why? 

Have an awesome evening and a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rescue Mission!

Today we acted out Chapter 19 from The Absolute Value of Mike. We explored big themes like: what does it mean to rescue someone from a bad decision? Can others be truly rescued, or do they need to learn certain things on their own, when they are ready? How do we truly help others see their worth?

Today, the ragtag MOO-TEAM arrives at Big Dawg's and tries to help Gladys escape from the clutches of NUMNUT, only to be refused by the bouncer at the door. However, Moo is undaunted. Eventually, Past finds his way in, and we are left with a cliffhanger as we wait to see what Gladys will decide.

Be sure to finish your top-down webs for tonight--and remember that we are thinking both creatively AND critically about the events and characters of the novel. What are the key messages and moments we see in chapter 19? Here is a picture of our board from today to help you:

Our word for the day was SAUNTER, which means to walk lazily along; to stroll. An example with our word in a line is this: When exploring the woods, I prefer to saunter so that I can soak in all the colors. 

Our word for the day from yesterday was OUTLIER, which means a value outside the normal set of data or a person far from average. Here is an example of the word in a line: Moo acts as an outlier in every single one of her interractions with other characters in the novel

Have a fabulous evening!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bringing Words to Life with Love (or Laughter)

Today, you explored Mike and his dad's relationship from The Absolute Value of Mike. You each wrote a scene--in true theater format--that envisioned what a meeting of Mike and his did would be like at this point in the novel.

Your scenes have been creative, funny, heartbreaking, sad, redemptive, and joyful. You used all of our words for the week within your creative scenes, and you began acting out your scenes in pairs today. Tomorrow, we will finish performing our scenes.

Our word for the day was EPIPHANY, which is a noun. An EPIPHANY is a sudden insight, a moment of tremendous clarity, or a great awakening of the mind. We don;t use the word epiphany for any small growth or understanding--but it is used for something truly life-changing. I shared with you all my own epiphany about what it means to succeed--but this epiphany did not occur until college!

Here's my example with the word in context: When I was a senior in college, I had an epiphany: success meant far more than obtaining great grades and winning sports' games. Success was about the kind of relationships I formed and the kindness and boldness with which I tried to live life.

And....3--2--1...our board from today!

For tonight, be sure to read Chapter 18 in the Absolute Value of Mike. Have an awesome evening--get outside and enjoy some of this warmth and sunshine!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Get Ready to Move!

Today, we explored Chapter 17 in The Absolute Value of Mike. We talked about the weight of grief (as in Poppy's case) and how humans are all connected in that we each struggled to carry different kinds of burdens.

But Mike shows us that friendship and community can make those burdens easier to carry.

In light of today's chapter, our vocabulary quiz tomorrow will be highly interractive, and you will need to depend on each other to complete the mission. Come ready to get out of your seats and MOVE!

Our five words for the week are: Redemption, Attribute, Segue, Hyperbole, and Unanimous. Scroll down through the previous blogs for definitions and examples of the words. Also, look through our class activities and discussions to help prepare.

Have a wonderful evening, and get outside and be active today!

Peace, Mr. R.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Redefining Success!

Today, we explored the question, WHAT IS SUCCESS?

You all wrote for a quick two minutes about what you think success is, and then we did a word splash (waves! water! words!) on the board as we shared our ideas about success.

IN the novel The Absolute Value of Mike, we have explored how Mike's father views success for him, and we've talked about homelessness and stereotypes about the homeless in society. We also applied the iceberg theory to characters in the novel--and to ourselves--as we've thought about what it means to be authentic and real.

Many of you shared definitions of success that connected to achievement, reaching a dream, or having what you want / desire.

Here was our board--with all of your ideas in purple, and all of what you shared after a brief film clip and discussion in black and blue.

We segued (remember our word of the day from yesterday?) into a brief clip from the 1992 400-Meter run at the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Something fascinating occurred at that Olympic race that revealed a different vision of success.

Here is the footage of the race, which we watched in class and then discussed:


We then explored success using a more complex idea of what it might mean, and we connected this to our novel, and to ourselves.

Our word of the day was REDEMPTION, which means the process of winning or getting something back that was either lost or assumed gone. 

An example of our word in a sentence: By the end of the novel we hope that Mike and his father will find redemption in their relationship with one another. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Genius in Real Life?

Today, you all handed in your second drafts of your creative short stories. Huzzah! I am so excited to dive back into these drafts, and to see the revisions that you've made. Now that we've gone through a round of revisions on grammar and form, the third drafts will focus on character and plot development.

As Mike would say, Sweeeeeet!

We also read Chapter 13 aloud together. Mike is fully engaged in trying to help raise the $40,000 to adopt Misha from Romania--but we are wondering if his plans will succeed.

Our word for the day was attribute, which is both a VERB and a NOUN! As a noun, it simply means, qualities--as in this example: My wife has many attributes: she is kind, bold, courageous, and energetic. But as a VERB, it means to explain the cause of something--as in this example: Some people attribute feelings of boredom to watching too much television!

After reading chapter 14 in The Absolute Value of Mike, share your insights, below, on this question: In Chapter 14, Mike replies to Past that his dad is not a genius " 'when it comes to real life,' " (p. 116). What do you think it means to be a genius in "real life" and not just according to math or any academic subject? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ideal? Or Real?

Today, we explored the parents we see populating the pages of The Absolute Value of Mike. We explored and discussed Poppy, Moo, Mike's Dad (James), Mike's Mom, Karen, and Gladys's parents. With each parent, we tried to think about the iceberg, and what might be going on beneath the surface and why these parents act the way they do.

I really appreciated all your insightful comments--and how you used the text to support your ideas and inferences!

We also did a Quick Write from the prompt, The best parent would... You wrote for six minutes without picking your pens up off the page, and we encouraged tangents and let our gooey, mushy brains take our hands wherever they wanted to go!

Towards the end of class, in pairs, you each created a list of seven attributes you believed an ideal parent would possess. Then, we discussed how those apply (or do not apply) to the parents in Mike. Finally, we wondered as a class whether the ideal was even possible--or whether we all deal with the real, while we constantly grow and yearn for the ideal.

Our word for the day was SEGUE, which means to make a smooth transition from one topic to another (verb). An example of the word in a line would be: Harold began by talking about honey and then segued into a discussion of why he loves bees.

Have a great night, and remember that Draft # 2 of your short stories are due tomorrow. Be sure to staple the first draft on the back, and include the cover page (here's the link to how to do your cover page, in case you need a refresher). 

Rock on!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Making Characters Real

Today you all dove into an interactive vocabulary quiz, whereby you pretended to be one of the characters from The Absolute Value of Mike and wrote a letter to another character from the novel. You shared your writing with a partner, and then read the response your partner wrote. And you powerfully used our lovely words: boisterous, despondent, jovial, aspire, and mosaic.


Over the weekend, we are reading through the end of Chapter 12 in The Absolute Value of Mike.

Our word for the day, today, was hyperbole, which means an extreme exaggeration. An example would be: Authors love using hyperbole in their writing because it helps to poetically show character and scene. And, an example of hyperbole would be: Jehoshaphat ran faster than a locomotive in the one-million meter dash!

Share your thoughts, below, regarding this question: In the novel, we see a lot of imperfect people all trying to love and be loved. After reading through Chapter 12, what would you say it means to love another person? What does authentic love look like?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Revision is at the Heart of Great Writing (and Great Living!)

Today, we explored your first drafts of your short story project. You received your drafts back with what may feel like an enormous amount of comments and notes from me! However, do not worry! All good writers STILL receive tons of comments and revisions on their writing.

Remember: All good writing involves loads of revision and hard work. It's a process that is riveting and fun--but also one that is all about perseverance.

We explored the ways I've made comments on your papers, and here are two pictures of our boards today so you can be reminded of what we discussed in conjunction with your stories. Refer to your notes and these pictures to help as you work on your revisions. Remember that your second drafts are due next Wednesday, October 22. Include your first drafts stapled underneath your second drafts.

Our word for the day was JOVIAL, which means cheerful, joyful, gleefully happy. I was jovial when I arrived in Room 340 this morning to teach!

And, before signing off, here is a question to ponder and share about The Absolute Value of Mike: How are you similar to or different than Mike? 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Yes, No, Maybe So? And Powerful Lines!

Today in class, we moved around the room as we explored how we respond to some controversial statements about themes in the novel, The Absolute Value of Mike. Last night, you each read Chapter 5 and created a web to share some of the key moments from the chapter.

We discussed the iceberg as we explored what it means to be homeless. In the novel, we meet Past--a character who goes against many common stereotypes about homelessness. And we talked about how society often tries to put many types of people in boxes, whereas RELATIONSHIP and DIGGING UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE are so important! With Mike, we are surprised to see Past and how he has an "office," a cell phone, and an incredible ability to make things happen!

Here's our board from today:

As I shared various statements, you all moved around the room to a wall labeled YES or NO or MAYBE SO. Then, from our various locations we talked about why you made that choice. We also inferred what Mike and Pasts' relationship is going to be like, and I shared my own experiences about having meals and conversations with people who are homeless.

Our word of the day was MOSAIC, which is a collection of small, colorful tiles brought together to make a work of art. It can also be a metaphor! As in this line: The students in Room 340 create a beautiful mosaic of energy and insight.

Our word for the day from yesterday was DESPONDENT, which means utterly depressed and crushed. As in this line: Poppy is despondent in the novel because of the death of his son, Doug.

Over this weekend, you are reading through the end of Chapter 7 in The Absolute Value of Mike. After reading, what is one of the most powerful lines (for you) from the chapter? Quote the line and then share with us why it was so powerful to you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Standing and Speaking to Create Synapses!

Today, you each stood on your chair--one at a time--and spoke your line using one of our perspicacious vocabulary words. The connection between moving our bodies and helping things stick in our brains is so important! And you each spoke with confidence, clarity, and boldness. I loved watching you say your lines aloud, and hearing your voices fill Room 340. Thank you.

After our standing and speaking study session, you took our vocabulary quiz, during which you explored connections to Mike and how Mike and Moo's relationship is going thus far in the novel.

For tonight, be sure to read Chapter 3 and put your best inferences into the web I passed out in class. Here is a picture of the web in case a zombie devoured yours on the way home, or in case an undaunted yet ferocious puppy attacked you and demanded your web, or in case Spiderman said he was all out and asked if he could borrow yours.

Our word for the day was ASPIRE, which means to work towards something high and great. I aspired to be an astronaut when I was five; when I was ten, I aspired to be a teacher. Now here I am, living my dream!

Our quote for the day was from poet Walt Whitman: "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

Have a fabulous evening!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Let's Shoot Some Webs and Aim for the Heart

I had a blast with you all today. We're into The Absolute Value of Mike, and we discussed how Mike so badly wants his Dad to love him as he is, and to be proud of him for who Mike really is, rather than who his dad wants him to be. Sometimes, characters (including ourselves) struggle with the expectations of other people, and right now, Mike is squarely in this situation.

After creating a top-down web for MIKE'S JOURNEY, we began reading Chapter 2 in our reading pairs. You each paired up with a partner whom Mr. R lovingly chose, and you alternated reading aloud page-by-page. We encountered that hilarious scene in which Moo think Mike is asking for UNDERWEAR instead of DVDs!

Here is the web we created for Mike's Journey.

Our word for the day was SKEW, which is a verb. Skew means to turn away from; to veer off course. And example of a line would be: Whenever I take our tiny dog for a walk, she skews from the path any chance she gets in order to chase after squirrels

Tomorrow, we have a vocabulary quiz on the following five words: Inference, Recede, Flourish, Sputter, and Skew. As always, it will be a highly creative quiz! Look back through our blog posts for a refresher on the words, or to see them in example lines.

Have a fabulous evening!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Absolute Values!

Today, we began our first whole-class novel of the year: The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine. We explored the covers, made some predictions, and inferred what the symbols on the front cover may represent.

We also talked about the tiny font on the Copyright page, and what some of the information represents (tiny numbers! book printings!). Then, we dove into a read-aloud for the first chapter to see Mike and his Dad and their relationship.

Our word for the day was Sputter, which means to spit out food, or to stutter or speak haltingly (usually with some emotion involved).

The homework is to study for our Vocabulary quiz on Wednesday. Have an awesome evening!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

From Object to Idea

Over the past two days, we have explored symbolism in a deeper way. Authors use symbols as a way to portray powerful ideas through objects, events, and actions.

Yesterday, you each used word associations and emotions to map out what comes to mind when you saw various images--from the American flag to an apple to a gun to a rainbow. Each of these images brought up many similar emotions and associations among you all, however we saw key differences and unique connections as well.

Symbols can mean different things to different viewers and readers, and authors work hard to craft symbols that help to support and enhance both the impact and the interest of their stories. In your second drafts of your short stories, you can try to do the same!

We explored the short story  "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury and applied what we've learned about symbolism.

Our word for the day yesterday was recede, which means to decrease, or to move away. When my brothers and I build sand castles on the beach, we wait for the water to recede before we start.

Our word for the day from today was flourish, which means to grow well, or to thrive. This year, I hope you each flourish as writers in Rm. 340!

Remember to continue reading 10 pages or more in your independent reading books each evening, AND ENJOY YOUR BOOK.

I hope to get your first drafts of your short stories back your way next week with loads of lovely and riveting revisions so that you can dive in to draft number two! Remember that good writing is like good living: it takes lots of learning and revision along the way. Three cheers for revision!

And next Monday, we will all start our first class novel, The Absolute Value of Mike, by Kathryn Erskine.