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