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