Monday, December 21, 2015

If Uncle Hammer Came to Bromfield...

Hello! Today we are finishing up preparations on our activity entitled If Uncle Hammer Came to Bromfield. (Click on the previous link if you need another copy of the activity or would love to do it twice.)

Thus far, I am loving the creativity and insight with which you're working and the diverse ways in which you are synthesizing our school and a character from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. IN many ways, we see characterization and justice at work in fascinating modes. And even some humor in certain scripts...

Our word of the day today is SOLILOQUY, which means a speech to oneself, or a long monologue in a play or story. An example is from the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, which the entire school watched last year in our auditorium. Hamlet delivers a soliloquy when deciding on what matter sin life and whether redemption is possible or worth it...

For tomorrow, be sure to review our five words for a brief creative quiz: SOLILOQUY, SOLIPSISM (the belief that the self is all that matters; opposite of empathy), DORMANT, DIVERSITY, SOCRATES.

Our homework over the long break is to finish reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. On the Monday after break, we'll discuss the book and also have a viewing of our first film in class.


Mr. R

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Art of Failure and Professional, Creative Writing

Hello my lovely, sublime, and perspicacious 7th graders!

Today, we've had a fascinating day with our guest speaker, Alex Burnett. From his experience working on a number of screenwriting projects in Hollywood, Alex has shared some powerful words of wisdom with us today.

You all asked great questions about life as a professional writer, and about the journey and the work that it takes to get there.

One of the most poignant things that Alex shared concerned baseball batting averages. He said that, as a scriptwriter for television, often only 20 or 30 % of the ideas writers create and craft end up being "good ones." In essence, just as a baseball player is considered a great player if he can bat .300, the same can be said for writers. This is a powerful antidote to the lie that tells us that writing should, be easy and if not, we are not supposed to be writers.


Not true!

Writing is hard for ALL of us, but if we are willing to stick with it and rewrite and rework and revise and then do it all over again, we can end up with writing of which we are proud. No one sits down and writes a perfect draft: it's all about revision and trying again. This is a beautiful thing!

I enjoyed spending the day listening and talking about writing and I am so grateful to our guest speaker for sharing his wisdom and experience with us today!

For this weekend, be sure to read Chapter 8 in ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. We've got a powerful few days coming up.


Mr. R

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Literature Alive, Solipsism, and Into the Iceberg...

On Monday of this week, we acted out a powerful scene from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. We watched as Lillian-Jean confronted Cassie with a tragic display of racism, and we watched Cassie fight back. However, as we discussed, Big Ma wad forced by sheer threat of the growing crowd, to make Cassie do what Mr. Simms asked and apologize to his white daughter.

You all brought this scene to life in such a vivid way, which really enhanced our class discussion of the scene. Thank you!

On Tuesday, we worked on a close reading activity in which Mama explains to Cassie the roots of racism in slavery, and helps Cassie to see that people who "need to make themselves feel big" (like Mr. Simms) are actually the least courageous, least strong people in the world.

Today, we debated--and dug deep into the iceberg--the nature of the solipsism that both Lillian-Jean and T.J. seem to display. It is different? Do they each have different reasons for why they act the way they do, and are one person's reasons more effective and understanding than another's?

Our words of the day for this week, so far, are: DORMANT, DIVERSITY, and SOLIPSISM.

See you tomorrow, and remember to read Chapter 8 in Roll for Monday!


Mr. R

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Protest Posters

On Friday, we rolled our sleeves up and got creative with our protest against civil rights injustices. After exploring the oppressions in ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY, and learning about the voting literacy tests and the Little Rock 9 this week, we had the chance to create protest posters to explore the fight for civi rights.

You each used our vocabulary words from the week to craft original and empowering protest posters--pictures to come soon. I appreciated your thoughtfulness as you worked on this activity, and the ways in which you related it to current day lives and struggles.

Our word of the day from Friday was OBFUSCATE, which means: to cloud, to hide the truth another something, to mask, to lie. An example is: THE LITERACY TESTS FROM LOUISIANA OBFISCATED THE POWER OF THE VOTING RIGHTS OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN AMERICA. 

For homework this weekend, be sure to read (or listen to!) chapters 5 and 6 from ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. And again: here is the link in case you want to listen to the chapters as you follow along in your book. 


Mr. R

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Rolling Through Injustice...

Today we discussed Chapter 4 in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and we talked about what we would have done if we were in mam's shoes: would we bring our own children to see Mr. Berry, the burned man, to show our kids what racism looks like? Or would we wait until they were older to show them the terrible force of injustice?

We also had the chance to take the Literacy Test that was given to African-Americans who tried to vote in the 1960's in Louisiana. Click on this link to learn more about the test and how deeply it unjustly kept a civil right from African-Americans. 

Due Monday, be sure to read chapters 5 and 6 in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. If it would be helpful while reading (and I often do this!) try listening to the audio book aloud while you follow along in your book. Here is a link to the free audio version of the novel fro you to listen to while you read!

And here is a photo of some details of some of the characters we've met and discussed thus far:

Our word of the day today is ACCOUNTABLE, which means to be held responsible for...

Have an awesome evening, and peace!

Mr. R

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Thunder and the Little Rock 9

Today, we had great conversations about The Logan kids and their decision to fight back against the school bus filled with white students and the bus driver who often tries to run down the Logan children. We talked about what we would have done had we been in the shoes of the Logan children, and predicted what we think will happen because of the hole they dig.

Then, we segued into a clip from the powerful documentary entitled, Eyes on the Prize. We watched s segment that explored and showed us what happened in 1957 when Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas attempted to follow the ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education and desegregate their high school.

We watched the immense courage of the 9 African-American students as they attempted to go to school, and the battle that ensued. Subsequently, we talked about what we felt, learned, and thought.

If you want to watch the clip again, or to watch beyond where we stopped, here is the link to the entire footage from Eyes on the Prize.

Our word of the day today is IRONY, which means the exact opposite of what the words explain, OR a completely unexpected and opposite outcome. The example of IRONY that we explored today is: America's history holds immense irony because this country began with the principle of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--yet this very freedom has been denied to an entire group (or more) of people.

We also explored how the beauty of America is that it can be changed!

For homework tonight, be sure to read Chapter 4 in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.


Mr. R

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Poetry That MOVES!

Today, we dove into an activity where your mission was the work as hard as you could to piece together a poem by Langston Hughes that had been cut into single words. (Who would ever do such a thing!?). In the process of working in your teams to reconstruct the poem, you began to see the power of a poem to deliver a striking message about racism and equality.

Here are a few snapshots of your poems in progress as you worked in teams:

After we finished with the time in teams, I shared the actual poem, "I, Too," that Langston Hughes wrote in 1945. (Click on the previous link if you want to read the poem again.) This is a key message in the novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: that equal rights will become a reality--and that people must stand up and fight for those rights. 

For tomorrow, be sure to read Chapter 3 in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Our word of the day today was IMPERTINENT, which means rude. And our word of the day from yesterday was VIABLE, which means possible; able to become a reality

Have a great evening, and delve into Chapter 3 and be moved by its power!


Mr. R

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rolling Onwards!

Today, we began our powerful new novel ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. We read the start of the first chapter aloud and stopped to discuss some of the key terms and ideas.

For tomorrow, finish reading the first chapter of the book and also study for our creative vocab quiz! Our word of the day today is INTERPRETATION.


Mr. R

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Civil Rights and a New Book

Yesterday and today in English class, we explored how the civil rights movement transformed (and continues to transform!) this country. We Forsy shared all that we knew, and then discussed the idea of a movement--how and why it starts and how and why it continues.

We discussed two centrl figures: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and we also explored ways in which the civil rights movement is very much ongoing today.

Tomorrow, we will leap back in the past before the movement of Dr. King's and Malcolm X's time and into the 1930's as we begin our new novel ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY. This is a breathtaking and searing novel that still makes me cry each time I read it, and fills me both with sadness and hope. In 1973, Mildred D. Taylor's powerful novel won the prestigious Newbery Award, and I can't wait to dive into this book together.

Our word of the day yesterday was SUBSEQUENT, which simply means following in order (think: because of or therefore).

Tomorrow, our book reviews are due.


Mr. R

Monday, November 30, 2015

Revision Central!

Today in English class, we dove into a peer edit on our book reviews, and then signed onto the iPads and used keyboards to make further revisions on the reviews.

The final drafts of our book reviews are due on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week (December 2 or December 3).

Here is a model middle paragraph, including notes on how to include a quote and thoughts on your topic sentence. For more examples of the first paragraphs, and organizers for how to structure your middle and concluding paragraphs, scroll down through previous posts to find loads of fabulous links!

At the end of last week, before the holiday, we explored the idea of perseverance, and how finishing something is deep[ly powerful--even if it is not as amazing as you had hoped. Here is the powerful Olympic video we watched of Derek Redmond of the 1992 Olympics. 

Our word of the day today is JUXTAPOSE, which means to compare two things side by side. It is also a poetic term that we'll discuss further in the Spring!

Our words of the day from last week that we'll carry over are: THESIS (a formal argument!) and TRAJECTORY (a path forward for a character!)


Mr. R

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Writer's Workshop

Today, we had an awesome time all working together on our book reviews. We continued to craft our middle (body) paragraphs and our conclusions. (See the links in yesterday's post for all kinds of great organizers, the assignment, and inspirational ways to think about writing a book review or a thesis essay).

For tomorrow, we will be studying our vocabulary words for our next Creative Vocab Quiz! We have seven words this time, however you will only need to use five on the quiz! Our words are: OBLITERATE, COPIOUS, TUMULTUOUS, NEURON, PATHOS, IMPERVIOUS, and TRANSFORMATION. (See in posts below for definitions and examples).

The rough drafts of our book reviews are due Monday, November 23, in a printed out version. And the final drafts will be due Wednesday, December 2.


Mr. R

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Like Lawyers!

Yesterday in class, we talked about the RHETORICAL TRIANGLE and what it represents. IN one corner, we have pathos (meaning emotion); in the second corner we have logos (meaning logic), and in the third corner we have ethos (meaning credibility and trust).

When a speaker or a writer or a debater or even a company makes an argument, they will often try to get listeners or readers (or shoppers) to be persuaded by making them THINK (logos), FEEL (pathos), and TRUST (ethos) that their argument is a good one.

Here is a graphic of the rhetorical triangle:

We also viewed the final courtroom scene from the film A Few Good Men to better understand and discuss what the rhetorical triangle looks like in action. Here is the clip we watched: A Few Good Men final courtroom scene. 

Our word of the day yesterday was...PATHOS (which is defined above in our rhetorical triangle). 

Today, we are in the library, typing up very rough drafts of our thesis essays. Our goal is to have a working draft of our book review by next Monday, November 23. Then we will begin revisions and editing!

Here is an example of our middle paragraph, as well as the proper heading (title, subtitle, name) to follow within your essay. Notice that this is a great document to checkout to make sure you are citing quotes properly!!

Be sure to look through our blue packet for a reminder of the overview of the assignment, an organizer for the middle paragraph, and another for the concluding paragraph to help you structure your essay. And remember: a rough draft is just that: rough! We will revise and improve our drafts all next week, and the final drafts will be due Wednesday, December 2. 


Mr. R

Monday, November 16, 2015

Arguing with Passion and Purpose: Book Review Assignment

Welcome back!

Today, we introduced the book review assignment, now that we have finished reading and exploring Kathryn Erskine's The Absolute Value of Mike.

Here is a link to the actual assignment, which we read through and debriefed in class today. 

You'll notice that is is actually a brief writing assignment--only a single typed page! However, sometimes it is actually more difficult to write a powerful, clear single page than to write five vague ones!

We discussed the differences between informal writing (such as our Quick Write journals and our short story assignment) and formal writing (such as this book review and any thesis essay). Here is a picture of the notes from our board:

As we work though this essay, some other materials we will use are: this model of a book review from The New York Times (by reviewer Gary D. Schmidt); and here is a graphic organizer that we will use for our middle, body, paragraph. 

Our word for the day today is OBLITERATE, which is a verb that means to destroy.

For homework tonight, write a rough draft of your intro paragraph to this book review assignment. Don't worry just yet about making it great! This is a first draft--so we are just aiming to have an argument for our essays.

Some examples of a thesis statement that we created in class are:

EX.1. Mike and Poppy learn to have a great relationship in the novel, The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine.

EX.2. James Frost is a good and effective father in the novel, The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine.

EX.3. This book is great because it teaches a number of powerful life lessons.

These are examples of strong thesis statements. But don't use these. Forge your own in a paragraph tonight!


Mr. R

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Finding Support!

Today, we spent a lot of time with our noses buried deep in our ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE books! As we prepare to write professional, formal book reviews next week in the library, we worked on collecting quotes that support our ideas.

You all did a great job of finding ideas and passages that affect you and make you think deeply, or make your heart feel in a powerful and vulnerable way.

Our word of the day today is TUMULTUOUS, which means being in an uproar or confusion; a synonym for another of our vocabulary words: boisterous!

The homework for tonight is to finish Ch. 29 in MIKE.



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Literature to Life with Tableau

Today, we are exploring the ways in which character sin novel see themselves and how they connect with and communicate with others. As an inception point, we are watching social psychologist Amy Cuddy's fabulous talk on nonverbal communication.

How do the ways in which we carry ourselves, the poses we use, and other forms of body language reveal who we are and how we think of ourselves?

After watching and then discussing Amy Cuddy's talk, we then break up into small groups or via a solo endeavor, we are creating a tableau to demonstrate how a character in the novel shows him or herself.

It is great fun to guess which character we are impersonating, and it's been fascinating to think of ourselves in this light, too.

Our word of the day for today is TRANSFORMATION, which is a noun that means a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance...and consider this: an epiphany can lead to transformation! :)


Mr. R

Monday, November 9, 2015

Breaking through What Appears Impervious

Today, we began with a Quick Write as we listen to a few tracks from the film Chariots of Fire. Options for the Quick Write included thinking about how our quotes for the day applies to our lives: "Sometimes you don't feel ready, but you have to move anyway." Mike says this to Poppy as Poppy sits in a tree with his arm around a Porch Pal whom he images to be his son, Doug.

Afterwards, we used Reader's Theater to perform the conversation Mike and Poppy have, and the epiphany that occurs during that talk.

For homework tonight, be sure to read pp. 195 - 209 in The Absolute Value of Mike (Chapters 24 - 26).

Our word of the day today was IMPERVIOUS, which is an adjective that means not letting anything through. And example of the word in a line is: Poppy has been impervious throughout the novel until this climactic moment in Chapter 23.

Have a great evening!


Mr. R

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Quick Review for our Creative Vocab Quiz Tomorrow!

Our post below explored the in-class activity we did with the iPads today, but bear with me for one more post in order to do a quick review for our creative vocabulary quiz tomorrow:

The five words we worked with this week are:

EPIPHANY (NOUN: huge moment of insight that is life-transforming)

SAUNTER (VERB: to walk leisurely or stroll)

INITIATIVE (NOUN: a first step)

INTRINSIC (ADJECTIVE: coming from the inside; a deep part of oneself)

OUTLIER (NOUN: a value far from the average--could be a person, a place, or a thing that is far away from most others in terms of life or actions or purpose)

And here is a single sentence with all five words:

As Jonathan walked to school one morning, he had an epiphany: it was time to let the intrinsic desire of his heart come out so that he could be the kind of outlier he always wanted to be; he would take initiative today, saunter into the the teacher's Homeroom and ask for help to finish writing his novel.


Mr. R

Sauntering Along With our Neurons...

Welcome to English! Today, we will be reading and reflecting on two fascinating pieces of writing. Afterwards, we will have time to share a little of our own thing regarding these two texts, and connect them to our novel, THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE.

Let's dive in!

First, follow this link to read a two-page overview of the ooey-gooey, sticky, slimy stuff in our brain called neurons and their connections. 

Feel like a brain expert yet? Ready to perform brain surgery?

In all seriousness, now you have some interesting knowledge anput how the brain functions, and how it isn't fully formed until you are about 20 YEARS OLD! That means the way your brain functions now will probably change!

Now, read through this poem by Robert Frost, entitled, "The Road Not Taken." 

Okay! We're ready to reflect! Check out the questions below, and choose one to share in your comment on today's blog. If you have more time, read through and reply too other people's ideas, of respond to the second questions as well. I'm excited to see what you think!

1) Based on the Neurons article and the poem you read, do you think intrinsic or extrinsic motivation works better to help people change and make good choices? Why?

2) Yesterday, we had a great Socratic Seminar exploring success and failure. Based on these two texts, state your case for why failure truly is necessary to succeed, or why it is not.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Socratic Seminar!

Today, we held our first Socratic Seminar. It was wonderful to hear you all talk, debate, and reflect on four key questions that relate to themes from our novel, THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE.

Here is a picture of our four questions that we explored:

As I took notes on all of the comments and ideas you shared, I was deeply inspired and I learned a lot from you all. Here are a few ideas--quotes--that came out of your Socratic Seminar today:

"There is no such thing as success--it's not a real thing. But you can have various achievements, and those can make you feel proud."

"Success is reaching your own personal goals."

"There are multiple ways to be intelligent--and those ways can't always be measured by traditional schools."

"Ben Franklin is an interesting example of success: he never really had much schooling, and yet he was a creative genius and invented so much!"

"Success is so often shaped by other people's standards; people are pressured to achieve in certain ways."

"People who have a lot of empathy can often become despondent on behalf of others." 

"You can still have fun and grow a lot without being the best at something."

"Often discouragement ties into failure; what can help is finding a hobby you like--something you believe in that brings you joy and relaxation."

"Society too often values things like beauty and talent, instead of much more important things like honesty."

"Wealth is the most important hing in our society, because it allow people to get good educations."

"More people would rather (deep down) be less popular and have good friends."

"There are a lot of successful people who never went to college."

"Popularity goes too far: consider the book Wonder."

"Success is totally subjective, but society crafts a majority definition."

"People who grow old too often forget what mattered to them in their childhoods."

"Most of us judge by money and intelligence, but that isn't always good."

"I think success is self-pride."

"What can help people who are despondent--like Poppy--is having friends and social connections."

"People who have lived through a lot of bad situations see the world differently."

"Happiness matters the most; happiness is the key to success."

"Past is homeless, but he's happy."

"Failure is an important part of success."

[in response to above comment]: "But failure isn't always good; like, what if you fail at disarming a bomb?"

"Success is doing something that makes you feel more like the person you really want to be."

"Sometimes, success is unintentional."

"Success is about working at something again and again, over a long period of time."

Our word of the day is: OUTLIER, which means: a value far away from the average (think: a person who does something very differently than others, a school or place that is very different than the norm, etc).

For homework tonight, be sure to read Chapters 22 and 23 in THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE.


Mr. R

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Is Failure Subjective?

Today, we began by writing all of our ideas about various characters from The Absolute Value of Mike on the board. You each shared about a character and events or experiences in which they seem to fail. Then, we moved around the room and agreed or disagreed with these thesis-style statements.

After debating and sharing, we began to see that what some of us view as failure in a character, others see as a form of success or growth.

Next, we moved into a read-aloud theater-type exploration of Chapter 19, whereby we saw how Past saves the day at Big Dawg's. A surprising turn of events for a character whom many saw, previously, as unimportant or somewhat of a failure.

Our word of the day, today, is INITIATIVE, which means a first step. Sometimes, great dreams are only accomplished when someone takes initiative.

For homework tonight, read chapters 20 and 21, and be ready for a brief Socratic Seminar tomorrow (with models and explanations to come!).


Mr. R

Monday, November 2, 2015

Is Failure Essential to Success?

Today, we are exploring the theme of failure in life and in our novel, The Absolute Value of Mike. We are watching a speech given by famed writer J.K. Rowling, author of the widely popular and mesmerizing Harry Potter novels. (Here is the link in case you want to watch it again or are out from school today:

In Mike, we see that failure seems to be a part of his life, too. He isn't quite able to master math, to have a good relationship with his dad, or to feel intrinsically valued for anything about himself--until Do(n)over. Then, things begin to change.

Today, we are chatting about failure as J.K. Rowling defines it, and tomorrow we will explore Mike Frost's experiences with failure in closer detail.

Our word of the day today is INTRINSIC, an adjective which means of or relating to an inner value or inner ability or goal. 

Our homework for tonight is to read Chapter 19 in Mike, pp. 154 - 161.


Mr. R

Thursday, October 29, 2015 English!

One of the beautiful things about our class novel, The Absolute Value of Mike, is that it reveals how math is a way of understanding our lives and emotions, too.

We began today's class with an equation: MATH + EMOTION = LIFE When we look at the facts of any situation, and then add our emotions and views to those facts, we get a larger image of what our lives are about.

This happens for Mike and his Dad and all of the characters in the novel! And author Kathryn Erskine does a great job of revealing, though the mathematical chapter titles, how these mathematical properties connect to the lives of the characters.

Thus, here is the activity we worked on in partners today:

And here is an example of one option for how the first part was completed today: 

I absolutely LOVED seeing you all make connections between Math and English!

For homework tonight, be sure to study for our creative vocab quiz tomorrow. Here are the five words you'll use in a creative screenwriting quiz: HYPERBOLE, SEGUE, ATTRIBUTE, REDEMPTION (or REDEEM), and UNANIMOUS. (our word of the day today, which means in total agreement). 

Look back over previous posts for help with each word, and your awesome yellow sheets with your own examples!


Mr. R

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Empathy and Imagination

During our early release day today, we shared out our ideas and 1st person POV narratives regarding one of the children that we saw in a photo from Orphanage # 105 in Russia. You each created powerful and empathetic narratives regarding what life might be like, base don our reading in The Absolute Value of Mike as well as the photos that I showed and talked with you about.

In small groups of three, you read and responded to each other's writing.

Then, we did a close reading activity regarding page 135 in our novel, Mike. You each shared great insights and ideas!

Our word of the day today is ATTRIBUTE, which can be either a noun OR a verb! Whoa! As a noun, it means a quality or characteristic. As a verb, it means to explain the cause of, as in these examples:

1) (as a noun): My favorite attribute in a person is kindness.

2) (as a verb): The student attributed his "A" in Science to hard work.

Our homework for tonight is to read Chapters 17 and 18 in Mike (pp. 136 - 153).

Have an awesome evening!

Mr. R

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Life in an Orphanage...Reality and Literature

Today, we tried to step into what life might be like in an eastern European orphanage. First, we got out of our seats and each had a marker with which to write down key moments from Chapter 13 and Misha's life at the Romanian orphanage.

Then, with all of the evidence from the book on the board, you each had the chance to do a walk-about and record your reaction with a "+" that meant you agreed, or a "-" that meant you thought differently. Here are some images from this activity:

Next, we returned to our seats and I showed you some pictures from a trip my wife, Jennifer, and I took to Orphanage # 105 in Moscow, Russia, and our weeks living with kids there. We saw many similarities to Misha's life in The Absolute Value of Mike, and we discussed possible connections and emotions between the two examples.

Finally, we wrote 1st person POV narratives imagining a day in the life at one of the orphanages, trying to record the emotions and thoughts and experiences that we would have were we in their shoes.

Thank you for a wonderful class today.

Our word of the day was REDEMPTION, which means the process of gaining back what was lost, of returning value to something that appeared to be worthless. An example of the word in a sentence is: In our family, we use the idea of a "do-over" to show that any situation or person can undergo redemption.

For homework tonight, we are reading Chapters 15 and 16 in The Absolute Value of Mike (pp. 123 - 136).


Mr. R

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's All About Empathy

After reading chapters 11 and 12 in The Absolute Value of Mike over the weekend, we used Mike's plan to raise $40,000 to adopt Misha from Romania as a topic for discussion and empathy. How might it feel to be vastly out of your reach to do something you love?

How do people like Poppy and Moo make ends meet?

Connecting to our recent field trip to Overlook Farm at Heifer International's MA site, today we explored how people struggle to make ends meet, and we brainstormed what we might do if we were in their shoes.

First, we used two-column notes to explore what Mike is doing to try and help raise the $40,000 to bring Misha from Romania to Karen, in Pennsylvania.

Then, I shared a personal story about my time in England with family and the difficulty of making ends meet.

Subsequently, we transitioned from literature to life. How would you fare if you were in Mike's shoes? What ideas would you craft to try to make ends meet and raise the $40,000?

Below are two examples from two classes on the ideas you generated for both Mike and for yourself:

I admire the ways in which you tried to empathize with the characters, and how you tried to see life from their perspective!

For homework tonight, we are reading Chapters 13 and 14 in The Absolute Value of Mike (pp. 107 - 122). 

Our word of the day today is SEGUE, which is a verb that means: to transition smoothly. Here is an example of the word in a sentence: A great writer knows how to segue from one idea to another.

Have an awesome rest of your day!


Mr. R

Friday, October 23, 2015

Creativity & Exaggeration!

Today, we had our sixth creative vocab quiz, in which you wrote a letter to one of the characters (or objects!) from The Absolute Value of Mike. Thus far, I have seen fabulous letters to Doug, Mike, Moo, and even Tyrone (the car) and Junior (Moo's purse)!

Our word of the day today is HYPERBOLE, which means extreme exaggeration. An example of the word in a line is: when my 7-year old son asks how much I love him, it is time to use as much hyperbole as possible to make sure he understands!

Homework for this weekend is to read Chapters 11 and 12 (pp. 86 -106) in The Absolute Value of Mike.

Have an awesome weekend!


Mr. R

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Your Life as a Movie?

Today in English, we began with a creative quick write in which many of you chose to respond to the prompt: What would your life be like as a movie? Who would play your role? What scenes would the film include, and what would the soundtrack be?

Some of us shared out our quick writes, and then we moved on to the mission of completing our writing portfolios. You each included some very inspiring quotes and images and ideas on your portfolios!

Our word of the day today was MOSAIC, which means an artistic pattern made from multi-colored tiles. However, we tried to use the word as an analogy in our sentences, such as Our class is a MOSAIC of people and learning styles!

For tomorrow, we have our 6th creative vocab quiz, using the following words: MOSAIC, DESPONDENT, JOVIAL, BOISTEROUS, and ASPIRE. Scroll down through the previous posts for definitions of the words to help you study.


Mr. R

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Motivation Strategies in Literature and Life

Today, we had an awesome class in which we compared and contrasted the motivations strategies that we found in THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE by Kathryn Erskine and in a two-minute film clip from the movie RUDY.

We see, in our novel, that MIKE is trying with great diligence and persistence to get Poppy off his chair and active. In the film, we see the janitor try passionately to get Rudy NOT to quit the football team even though he has never played in an actual game.

We made a Venn Diagram and charted the similarities and differences that we found between the film and the novel, and then explored motivation in a bigger way--relating it even to our own lives.

Here is a snapshot of on of the compare/contrast diagrams from two classes today:

And here is the link to the RUDY film clip we watched, in case you were out OR you loved it so much that you want to watch it again:

Our word of the day today was ASPIRE, which means: to work hard towards a certain goal; to dream; to hope for something.

For tonight, read Chs. 9 and 10 in MIKE (pp. 69-84).

Have an awesome evening!!


Mr. R

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writing Portfolios

Today, we are sharing aloud from our 1st person POV narratives about Past's previous journey from The Absolute Value of Mike. After we share aloud, we are moving into the creation of our year-long WRITING PORTFOLIOS!

What begins as a boring manila folder shall be transformed into a thing of beauty (as poet John Keats would assert). We will be crafting collages, writing inspiring quotes, including captions and drawings, and preparing our folders for the year ahead.

In these folders, we will keep all of our formal writing for the year: all of our typed, revised writing pieces. These are different from our Creative Writing Quick Writes and our in-class writing activities.

At the end of the year, you'll be able to see how your writing has grown, and you can explore all the genres and areas you've explored through writing--both in this portfolio and in your journals.

Our word of the day today is DESPONDENT, which means deeply troubled, depressed, hopeless. An example of the word in a sentence is: In Room 340, we refuse to be despondent about any writing mission: we will simply revise and try again!

Our homework for tonight is to read Chapters 7 and 8 in The Absolute Value of Mike (pp. 54 - 68).


Mr. R

Monday, October 19, 2015

Past's Past, Creative Writing, and Noise!

Hello Lovely 7th Graders!!

Today we began class with a Quick Write and had the chance to consider our similarities to a character from THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE--or to follow another train of thought (or heart) that callied out to us!

Then we did a read-through of the short story rubric in pairs decided by birthdays.

Following that, we worked in groups to finish our small creative writing (in class assignment) envisioning Past's past: how did he get to be homeless? What is his backstory?

Our word of the day was BOISTEROUS, which means loud and chaotic!

And for homework tonight, remember to finish your final drafts of your own short story and bring in the printed copy with the rubric attached.

Thank you!

Mr. R

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Creative Vocabulary!

Hello! Today we had our fifth creative vocabulary quiz--and you each used a passage from THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE and then made personal connections and inferences and used some fabulously sublime new Vocab words within!

Our word of the day today is JOVIAL which means joyful or full of energy.

For homework tonight, we are reading Chapter 6 in THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE (pages 45-53) and tomorrow we will meet in the library to choose independent reading books and have writing conferences with me!


Mr. R

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What We Choose to Value

What a fun day!

It has been a real pleasure writing, thinking, and creating with you all today.

We began with our word of the day, SKEW, which means to go off course; slant; leave the norm. We talked about how little kids go from one point to another, but they skew constantly as they do so!

We then dove into a Quick Write for four and 1/2 minutes, writing our hearts out and making our hands sore as we thought about people we value (or any of your other creative ideas).

Then, we all gathered onto the floor in the middle of the room and I read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to you. We talked about how value shapes shape depending on what we choose to value.

Then, we transitioned into exploring how Past is valued in our class novel, The Absolute Value of Mike. Are we able to see more than the surface level of his homelessness?

To do so, we wrote 1st person narratives in Past's voice and perspective to try to imagine his story, and how he got to be where he is.

It was awesome!

For tomorrow, we have our fifth creative vocab quiz, with the following words: INFERENCE, RECEDE, FLOURISH, SPUTTER, SKEW.

And the due date for our short story assignment is a window this year: anytime between Friday, October 16 and Tuesday, October 20 is good.

Peace! And thanks for a fabulous day,

Mr. R

Friday, October 9, 2015

Quotable Quotes!

Today in class we did a creative writing Quick Write with the optional prompt: How are you similar or different than our protagonist, Mike? Or, you had the option to do our non-stop six-minute writing session about anything else you wanted!

After our Quick Write, we talked about this QUOTE KEEPER organizer to help us keep track of engaging quotes as we read through The Absolute Value of Mike. (Click here for the Quote Keeper document.)

Then, we dove into a paired reading activity where you read Chapter 3 from The Absolute Value of Mike aloud with your partner--some of you even doing great voices for the different characters!

Our HOMEWORK for this four-day weekend is to read through Chapter 5 of the novel (through page 44) by class on Wednesday.

Our word of the day today is FLOURISH, which means to grow well, to thrive, to succeed.

Have an awesome weekend!


Mr. R

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Today, we began our first novel of the year: Kathryn Erskine's empowering and excellent contemporary realistic novel THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE. It is a funny, beautiful, and poignant story about a young boy with learning difficulties in Math and the adventure he goes on to rural Pennsylvania to meet his crazy, old aunt and uncle (Poppy and Moo!)

We talked about the copyright page in a novel, various printings of a book, and the process a book goes through to reach its finished form (HINT HINT: it's all about REVISION!).

We began reading the book aloud together, today, and for homework tonight, read up through the end of Chapter 2 (through page 16).

Our word of the day was INFERENCE, which means: an educated guess.

Have an awesome night!!


Mr. R

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Revision in Action!!

Today, we dove into deep revisions on the first drafts of our creative short story assignments. First, we explored some of the key symbols for grammar and structural changes in our writing. (These all relate to our 13 Rules for Writing, which we discussed yesterday--click here for that list of rules!).

Here is a snapshot of our class board from today with these symbols:

In order to practice using these AWESOME symbols and finding these grammatical and structural issues, we then did a group revision of the start of a story about a character named Juku. Here is the Smartboard snapshot of our group revision:

And then you each had a partner in which to practice by helping one another find areas for growth in these first drafts of your short stories. It was fabulous to interact and watch as you did that beautiful thing: REVISION!

For tonight, start making some of the changes in your rough draft (no need to print off a new copy yet). 

Our word of the day is RECEDE, which means to lessen or decrease; to fade or back away. An example is: Mr. R's painful memories of riding the school bus in second grade have receded now that he is older. 

Have an awesome evening!


Mr. R

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In a Quandary about Quizzes?

Yoday we had our fourth creative vocab quiz, where you had the chance to envision your life twenty years from now and use five of our words of the day. Quandary is one of my favorite, and I can't wait to read how you all used it in your futuristic narratives!

Our homework tonight is to be sure to bring in three to five typed pages (double spaced) of the rough draft of your creative short stories (see the link below for the assignment of you need it again.)

Our word of the day today is SPUTTERv which means: to excitedly try to speak and fumble over one's words.

Have an awesome night!


Mr. R

Monday, October 5, 2015

Writing is All About Revision!

Today, we dove into preparations for our first, full rough drafts of our creative writing assignment: the short story. (Click here here to see the assignment again or if you left the hard copy at school.)

On Wednesday, the typed rough draft is due. Remember: this is not the draft that will be graded, but rather we will work with our drafts in class and begin the revision process. It's all about revision! Remember that most writers don't have amazing first drafts. It's only by revising that writers hone their stories and make them more powerful.

Towards that end, we reviewed this list of 13 Writing Rules that I hope you keep with you forever, an even if you should go to college, get married, go whitewater rafting, or go ice fishing, I hope you will have THIS LIST OF WRITING RULES tucked away in your back pocket.

Our word of the day today is POISE, which means a calm confidence, or balance, even in the face of great difficulty. 

We have our fourth vocab quiz tomorrow on the following words: POISE, FORMIDABLE, SYMBOLISM, QUANDARY, EXULT, and DIVULGE. You will  only need to know five of these six since we have one extra!

See you tomorrow, and peace!

Mr. R

Friday, October 2, 2015

It's all about the POV!

Today, we had an awesome class exploring POINT OF VIEW in a story! After we discussed the different kinds of POV, we watched a clip from the fabulous film Stranger than Fiction and discussed what POV the film takes.

Our homework over the weekend is to write the second page of your creative fiction assignment--rough draft form (can be handwritten!).

Our word of the day is FORMIDABLE, which means overwhelming, challenging, causing fear or dread.

And here are the notes on POV!!

Some authors use 1st person point of view, whereby a character in the story is the narrator, and the "I" voice is how we see all other characters and events. A great example of 1st person POV is that lovely first line from S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders: "When I left the movie house that night, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home."

Some authors (though rarely) use 2nd person point of viewwhereby the "you" voice is is how we see all the events and characters within the story. A great example of this is Jay McInerney's famous novel Bright Lights, Big City (which was made into a film starring Michael J. Fox). The entire novel is told in the "you" voice, so the narrator is always describing action, thoughts, and emotions by saying things like, "Your heartbreak is just another version of the same old story."

Other authors use 3rd person limited point of view, whereby we learn about events and emotions through the eyes of one or 2 characters within the story. The writing voice, here, uses "she / he / they." However, the narrator doe snot know what EVERY CHARACTER in the story thinks or feels--only one or two characters. An example would be Margie from our short story, "The Fun They Had." Asimov writes, "Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days."

Finally, we have 3rd person omniscient point of view, where the narrator of the story KNOWS EVERYONE'S EMOTIONS, THOUGHTS, AND VIEWS. The narrator here can take turns telling the story from different perspectives, in order to access every character's vision. It is still told in the "she / he / they" voice, but the narrator can use ANY "she / he / they" within the story, not just one or two!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Using Symbolism to Strengthen Stories

Today, we jumped into a SYMBOLISM activity whereby we explored loads of images. For each image we saw, we wrote down word associations, emotions, and places that came to mind. As we discussed the ideas and emotions that the images brought up in our heads and hearts, we began to uncover how powerful symbolism really is--and WHY heat authors use symbolism in their fiction.

We discussed the success of Suzanne Collins's great trilogy THE HUNGER GAMES, and listed off the many symbols in the books--from the mockingjay to fire to white roses. Each symbol increases the reader's fascination with and engagement with the novel. Were we to remove all of the symbols, the story would have less power.

Tonight, your homework is to draft the first page of your own short stories. In this first page, try to incorporate at least one symbol!

The definition of SYMBOLISM (our word of the day) is: the process of using an object or an image t represent an idea or an emotion.

Our quite of the day is from author Katherine Porter: "One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage to use it."

Tonight is Parents' Night at the school, beginning in Homeroom at 6:30c


Mr. R

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Creating Your Own World!

Today, you are all AUTHORS!

We are beginning our first formal writing assignment, in which you will each have the chance to create your own characters, setting, plot, problem, and resolution. We have been learning about the parts of a short story and the ways in which authors work to characterize both the people within their stories and the themes.

Now, welcome to the world of creation! Our project over the next couple of weeks is to form, then revise, then re-write, then revise, then revise, then revise (!) our stories to make them as powerful, vivid, and engaging as possible. I will be writing a short story with you, too!

Here is the assignment, online, so you can review it in case a strange thief managed to steal it from you (thinking that this story assignment was, of course, much  more valuable than any amount of money).

Our word of the day today is QUANDARY, which means a state of confusion. It is a noun, and here is an example of the word in a sentence: "When I was driving through the thick fog in England, I was in a massive quandary."

Our quote of the day is: "To make your unknown known--that is the important thing." --Georgia O'Keefe, artist.


Mr. R

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Kind of Truth...

Today, we are on a field trip at Heifer International's New England site, Overlook Farm, in Rutland, MA. We are exploring their Global Village, learning how different people groups around the world live and how they sustain their families. My group cooked a Barley-ground lunch in Tibet over a fire and we explored a host of practices and history about the region.

The other half of our grade will be visiting Overlook Farm tomorrow, and we'll continue learning this different kind of truth: the hands-on kind rather than the head and desk kind. It is a powerful thing to see and experience.

For the half of our grade that was in school today, and will be going on the trip tomorrow, you all read Joan Bauer's powerful short story about truth--a poignant symbolic kind of truth--"The Truth about Skarks."

Our word of the day was DIVULGE, which means to share or give--often pertaining to information or knowledge.

See you tomorrow!


Mr. R

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Being Who You Really Are...

As we prepare to write our very own short fiction, we explored another great story in class: Todd Strasser's "On the Bridge." In the story, we see a powerful idea from the author shown to us in vivid and action-packed scenes.

You each write some ideas and shared some commentary on whether or not you think boys need to "act tough" in our culture to earn respect. Then, we explored the story and discussed further. We talked about how Strasser's story is a commentary on current society.

Our word of the day is CHARACTERIZE, which means to describe a person or group of people. I shared how my brother, Chris, was unfairly characterizes when he was in high school because of his deafness.

For tomorrow, be sure to study for our creative vocab quiz based on these five words: ANTAGONIST, PROTAGONIST, EMPOWER, OMNISCIENT, and CHARACTERIZE, and look over our previous blog posts for help with their definitions and examples--and in your own notebooks!


Mr. R

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Creating Your Own School...with a Protagonist and an Antagonist!

Yesterday, we read a fascinating story by Isaac Asimov, called "The Fun They Had." Now, today, we'll have some fun furthering our own visions of SCHOOL, and practicing the art of short fiction.

First off, welcome to the library! Today, we'll have the chance to practice our word of the day right here.

Click on this link to read about what an ANTAGONIST is in literature, as well as find some great examples.

Now, think about the Plot Chart we explored in class two days ago, as well as our word of the day yesterday, PROTAGONIST.

Now, let's get creative!

Try your hand at writing a "flash fiction" story. This is a very, very, very short story--yet it has all the main parts of a story, as well as characters.

In the "comments" section below, try to write a five sentence flash fiction story about school in the year 2157. Make sure there is a protagonist and an antagonist! and most important, THINK WIDELY AND CREATIVELY!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A School of the Future?

Today in class, we discussed our plot charts that we created for our favorite film or books last night. (See the photo in yesterday's post for the image of a Plot Chart! Yeah!).

After exploring and sharing our charts, we then transitioned into brainstorming about what school might be like in the year 2157. You all wrote for a few minutes on your own, and then we shared ourt ideas and had a lively discussion about what might happen...

Here is our board, veritably exploding with your insights:

After crafting your own ideas and discussing, we read the short story, "The Fun They Had," by Isaac Asimov. In this science fiction short story, we see some of Asimov's predictions about school in 2157 would be like--and he wrote his story in 1951!

We talked about how different stories fit into different genres (types), and how soon YOU WILL CREATE YOUR OWN TYPED SHORT STORY, using all the examples and building blocks we're learning about now. Get ready to be an author!

Our word for the day today is PROTAGONIST, which means the main character in a story. And we talked about how YOU are the protagonist of the novel which is your life. 


Mr. R

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Truly Great Story...

Hello! Welcome back to another week of English! Today, we explored the way PLOT functions in a short story, a novel, a movie...your life! Any truly great story follows some form of plotting, and even though this plot sometimes surprises, saddens, shocks, or empowers us, it is always present.

We reviewed the five parts of PLOT STRUCTURE, and created examples in class from some of our favorite stories and books, as well as from our own lives.

Here is a photo of our board with our Plot Chart front and center:

Every great story involves events that trouble the characters within--even if we WISH the characters could have it easier, we explored how it's the difficulties and challenges that make stories truly powerful. We envisioned Harry Potter if everything had gone well for him, and realized how dull and dreary the story would be!

We also did another Quick Write where for SIX WHOLE MINUTES you each write without taking your pen or pencil off the page. Huzzah!

Our word of the day today is OMNISCIENT, which means all-knowing. My son Tyler, when he was two, thought I was omniscient...but now that he's six, he knows the truth!

(Our word from last Friday was empower, which means to give strength to or to authorize, legally.)

Our quote of the day is, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," from Albert Einstein.

Our homework for tonight is to complete a Plot Chart using your favorite book or movie. 


Mr. R

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Alliteration and Shocks!

Today we explored a fabulous short story by author Ellen Conford entitled, "Double Date." In the story, we find out that a lot is going on beneath the tip of the iceberg for these characters!

I loved hearing you read aloud, and your guesses as to what the big shock was going to be!

Our word of the day today is ALLITERATION, which is the repetition of the same sounds at the start of words close together, as from the classic by Dr. Seuss, FOX IN SOCKS, in which we read, "Luke Luck likes lakes."

Tomorrow we have our second vocabulary quiz--and it will be highly creative! It is also picture day at school tomorrow.


Mr. R

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why We Write

Hello My Undaunted 7th Graders!

Today in class we explored some passages from the book Spilling Ink, by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer, and you each signed the Writer's Permission Slip which allows you to write anything you want within our Creative Writing Journals.

Towards that end, we set up our class Creative Writing Journals, and talked about the process of creativity and how first drafts of writing aren't always great. In fact, often a first draft of what we write is the complete opposite of great, and it's only through revision that our writing grows.

But within that time of creative space--where we let all our ideas out onto the page--we can finds some gems and possibilities.

I loved watching you each set up your journals, as well as tape your permission slips to the inside cover. And great job on your first Quick Write of the year!

Our word of the day today is UNDAUNTED, which means determined, unafraid to move forward. And example of the word in a sentence is: After my car accident, for a while I was NOT undaunted about driving again; but over time, I eventually became undaunted about driving once more!

And for homework tonight, respond to the following question using the "Comments" feature right here on this blog post. (Remember to include your name!)

In your opinion, what is the purpose of writing? WHY DO WE WRITE? 


Mr. R

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Annotating is Amazing, Awesome, Awe-Inspiring!!

Today, we jumped into one of the most important skills we'll ever practice in English class. (And in life!). It is a skill that hones our brains, fires up our hearts, turns what's normal into something BEAUTIFUL and awe-inspiring.

This skill is stronger than the Incredible Hulk.

This skill is faster than a speeding bullet.

This skill soars higher than a rocket ship.

This skill is: ANNOTATING!!!

It is our word of the day today, and it silly means TO MARK UP THE TEXT WITH NOTES AND IDEAS.

In class, we began reading and annotating this interview with author SE Hinton, and on the first page, you see an example of how Mr. Reynolds annotates. Finishing annotating anything you didn't explore in class, and remember to try and find your own style of annotating.

What matters is that you ANNOTATE as you read!! Here is a link to the interview in case you forgot it or were absent today. 

Tomorrow, we will have our Annotate-Off to see who has annotating the most in each class (but remember: not just "I like mice" -- but annotations that relate to the text! :)

What an awesome day.


Mr. R

Monday, September 14, 2015

Comparing and Contrasting

Welcome back from the weekend! Today, we watched the opening scenes from the movie version of THE OUTSIDERS, and then spent some time in a comparison and contrast activity. You shared some great insights on liberties the film took, and talked about the mood of each version.

Our word of the day today is ANALOGY, which is a connection or relationship between two things that aren't necessarily similar. I shared the following example of an analogy that my son, Tyler, too dome when he was three years old: "Poops are like thunder and pees are like rain, Daddy." A little bit disgusting--but also poetic and fitting for our word today!

Our quote of the day is from Johnny's character in THE OUTSIDERS: "Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold."

Friday, September 11, 2015

Making Your Voice Count

Welcome to Friday's English class! As you read this message, if all goes according to plan with technology, we are in our classroom using the iPads from the iPad cart. And if this is the case, look up now and you'll see Mr. Reynolds walking around with a big goofy smile on his face that you all are here and you made it to our blog.

English class!


Sharing what you think!

So, for today, let's get comfortable learning how to post comments on our blog, have a discussion, and follow some links to fascinating stories and information.

First off, have a re-read through the Robert Frost poem that is so important to the book, "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

After reading the poem, stand up from your seat in class, go to any part of the nearest whiteboard, and write in ALL CAPS one emotion word (one feeling) that the poem gives you.

Back in your seat? Great. Now, check out this perspicacious article in THE NEW YORKER about SE Hinton and THE OUTSIDERS.

Notice that the article was from one of Mr. Reynolds's favorite magazines, whose covers happen to, well, cover one of our classroom walls! Now that you've read the article, stand up again and find another space on any of the whiteboards. Write a single sentence that shares your opinion about books for young adults--are they powerful, important, plentiful, too rare still, wish there were more of a certain kind, wish...

Back in your seat again? Great! Now, share what you think in response to the following question. For this response, write a few sentences by clicking on the "comment" link below the blog post. Write your ideas, then simply use your first name and first letter of your last name right after your sentences (no need to log in). Then post!

As people post, ad other students' responses, and try to write a reply or a comment to someone else's ideas. Awesome! We are having a class discussion on our blog!

Question: why do you think the battle between the Greasers and the Socials exists? Do you think people who are different from one another always struggle and disagree? How do you think love can be more powerful than fear or hate?

I am looking forward to what you think!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Creative Writing To Learn


Today, we had a wonderful day as we used our first five new vocabulary words in our own creative stories. You each crafted your own, original stories and used all of our first five words within the story. I can't wait to read them all!

Our word of the day today is PENSIVE, which means thoughtful, deep in consideration or wonder. An example of the word in a sentence is: When I was in fifth grade, I wanted to be a teacher; when I went to college, I pensively considered other jobs, but my heart loved teaching more than anything else. 

Our quote of the day is from the novel Elijiah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis: "I know it ain't been easy, but you found where you supposed to be. You're home."

See you all tomorrow!


Mr. R

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Today, we brought the opening scenes of S.E. Hinton's novel THE OUTSIDERS to life as we acted out the parts and the actions of the text. As we performed, we stopped to discuss some key questions, such as:

--Is Darrel a good big brother? If so, why does he act so mean towards Ponyboy?

--Under the tough exterior, does Dallas have a good heart or a soft spot?

After we acted out some scenes, you had the chance to play YES, NO, MAYBE SO and you all moved around the room to show your responses to statements about the book.

Our word of the day today is VACILLATE, which means to hesitate between two choices or paths. An example of the word in a sentence is: I vacillated between running away or explaining after a VERY awkward situation!

Our quote of the day today is from Michaelangelo: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved him out until I set him free."

Our homework for tonight is to study for a creative vocab quiz tomorrow. It will have the five words we've learned and practiced with thus far--and you'll get to be creative with them!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What Matters Most

Today in class, we explored our English Grade 7 Syllabus (click here for an electronic version). We read aloud in pairs, practicing trading off paragraphs back and forth. You each did a great job reading aloud, and I loved hearing your voices as I sauntered around the room...

Also, we shared our five most powerful lines from The Outsiders and talked about why we accentuated those lines, and what their power is for us.

Our word of the day today is ACCENTUATE, which means to emphasize. And example of the word in a line is: My son, Tyler, began to accentuate his words differently when we lived in England for three years.

Our quote of the day is from Nobel-prize winning author Ernest Hemingway: "All you need to write is one true sentence."

Our homework for tonight is to sign the last page of the syllabus and bring it back in.

That's all!


Mr. R

Friday, September 4, 2015

Voracious about English!

Thanks for a wonderful Friday!

Today, we began to explore our summer reading book THE OUTSIDERS, by S.E. Hinton. You all did an Artist Gallery walk-about, and had the chance to see each other's artwork and character analysis.

We also explored what it means to be an ICEBERG--both as people and as books.

Our word of the day today is VORACIOUS, which means having a large appetite; very eager.

An example of the word in a sentence is: When I was in 10th grade, before my best friend and I had a pizza-eating competition, I was VORACIOUS!

Our quote of the day is from poet Emily Dickinson: "Dwell in possibility."

Have a wonderful weekend!


Mr. R

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Eluding School? No Way!

Thanks for a wonderful Day # 2 today!

We had the chance to practice eye contact and speaking with confidence today, we you all paired up and tried to hold eye contact while having a conversation. We talked about how eye contact and presence lead to confidence as speakers, and you all did a GREAT job with a tough (and awkward) activity. Thank you!

We also explored our class blog a little bit, to get to know it and see what is here.

Our word of the day today is ELUDE, a verb which means to avoid or escape.

An example of our word in a sentence is: When I was in the 7th grade, rather than talk to my crush, I always tried to elude her in the hallways!

Our quotes of the day is from poet Theodore Roethke: "I learn by going where I have to go."

Our homework for tomorrow is to bring in all of your art and lines associated with our summer reading, The Outsiders.


Mr. R

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Welcome to 7th Grade English!

Hello My Bold and Perspicacious New Students!

Today has been a blast getting to know you and getting to know our classroom and the ways in which we will learn and grow together.

You to hear a little bit about me, to learn a little bit about each, to speak, to use our first WORD OF THE DAY, and then to find an interesting object or quote from around our classroom.

Our word of the day today is PERSPICACIOUS. It means having a keen (good) understanding; clear-sighted.

An example of the word in a sentence is: My one-year old son, Benjamin, is sometimes not perspicacious about dangerous things--like ovens! :)

And our quote of the day is: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is engaged in a battle." (Philo) I am already looking forward to seeing you all again tomorrow!


Mr. R

Monday, June 15, 2015

Our Denouement! (With a Little Help from Vocabulary, Alphonsis Demorkfeed, and a Sandcastle)

This has been an incredible year! I have loved reading with you, writing with you, making music with you, acting out scenes with you, laughing with you, learning with you, growing with you.

It has truly been sublime.

And now...our DENOUEMENT!

This week, we'll dive into a highly creative (and somewhat crazy) endeavor with words: to write the narrative of Alphonsis Demorkfeed using every single one of our words-of-the-day. Want to see just how crazy this project is? Take a look at the link for a copy of the mission. (You'll get a green one is class, too!).

Our Crazy Mission about Alphonsis Demorkfeed and VOCABULARY!

And before I sign off, here is the photo of our gargantuan SANDCASTLE from our field trip to Crane Beach this past Friday. The central tower was almost six feet tall!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Jackets We Wear

Today, we explored a powerful short story by Todd Strasser called, "On the Bridge." In it, we meet two protagonists named Adam and Seth who are both grappling with their identities--trying to figure out who they are, and who they want to be.

By the end of the story, we see that Seth's jacket has come to symbolize the "self" he was trying on--and it no longer fits! He wants to be more than just another "tough guy." Now, he wants to be real with himself. So, he throws the jacket into the trash.

I appreciated hearing your ideas and comments about the story, and the writing you did afterwards.

Now that we've had time to digest some of the story's themes and symbolism, share your ideas about this question: in middle school, do you think most people wear "jackets" that don't fit? Do you think most people are trying on different personalities and trying to figure out who they are--just like Seth? Why or why not?

Our word of the day today is SUBLIME, which means, inspiring awe; great; noble.

Friday, June 5, 2015

What We Hide...And Why

Wecome to the library today! Our anthology is almost complete, with special thanks to seven copy editors who stayed after school yesterday to help out. And today, we'll dive into a powerful (and deeply ironic) short story called, "Charles," by author Shirley Jackson.

First, read the story at this link.

Once you've had a chance to read the story and consider what is happening with this kindergarten student, open up a Google Document (or a Word Document if you prefer) and try your own hand at creating a brief story that utilizes a little bit of irony.

Remember that IRONY is when certain characters in a story are unaware or the reality of situations. Irony also occurs in a narrative when the reader (you! me!) knows more than the characters within the story, so that we hear about these characters and we want to shout that there is something they are missing!

Your own story can be brief. It can even be a VIGNETTE, which is a short-short story (sometimes only a paragraph long) that still has characters, a plot, and a setting.

Think about Jackson's story, and then try your hand at creating a piece that also shows the reader characters who do not know something very important--while we do!

Share your story with Mr. Reynolds via Google's "share" button before you leave the library, or send the Word Document as an e-mail attachment: LREYNOLDS@PSHARVARD.ORG.

Enjoy the story, and I am looking forward to reading YOURS!


Mr. R

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Of Seminars and Subtitles...

This week, we are continuing our exploration of the hero's journey--what it entails, and how protagonists deal with failure, rejection, and fear along the way.

Yesterday, after finishing our screening of the film Rudy, we had Socratic Seminar in which we explored what bravery looks like, whether it is something different for everything, and which our of characters from the year displayed bravery. Among the many great ideas I heard, I very much appreciated how you found that bravery can be either large or small--and it can be seen by others or completely unseen, under the surface. You also noted that bravery and heroism are relative--depending on what protagonists struggle with and against.

Today, we are working in groups to brainstorm and narrow down our choice for the title and subtitle of our class anthology, as well as discuss what title pages, front matter, and back matter are in a book.

Our word of the day yesterday was AUSPICIOUS, our word of the day from two days ago was INVOKE, and our word of the day for today is CHURLISH. I love hearing your sentences and stories using our words!


Mr. R