Friday, June 10, 2016

The Play's the Thing!

It is hard to believe that we are already approaching the end of the year! It has been such a joy to create together, laugh together, learn together, and dive into great words, stories, and activities.

For our last project of the year, we will be creating original one-act plays! Here is the assignment which we explored in class. 

Here is the board from yesterday, where we reviewed the four types of conflict that authors use to drive their plots forward, and also some formatting note son your plays:

I am so excited to see what you all create! 

Much peace,

Mr. R

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Today, we will begin to prepare for our debate over reparations. As we finish Frederick Douglass' powerful Narrative, we will explore how governments deal with tragedies and crimes from their past.

You will receive an index card today telling you whether you are FOR or AGAINST reparations for slavery in America. Here is the assignment overview which we'll discuss today. 

Our debate will begin on Friday, and to prepare you will each need one full page of notes to support your side. After the debate, you will have a chance to share what you really believe after conducting your research.

Follow the guidelines set up in our mini-lesson on credibility today to find solid sources, and be sure to remember the rhetorical triangle!

Here are a few sources to get you started today:

20/20 ABC News overview of the reparations debate in recent years

A Huffington Post piece explaining a step-by-step overview of why and how reparations are needed

A National Review magazine article against reparations.

"The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Begin with these articles and start taking notes that you feel will be helpful in the debate. Also, please do use other sources--just make sure they follow the guidelines in our credibility talk!

Our word of the day today is REPARATION, which is: the righting of a wrong; payment for a past wrong.

For tonight, be sure to finish reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (through page 69--end of the book).

Much peace!

Mr. R

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

'From Whence Came the Spirit'

Today in class, we are acting out one of the most powerful scenes in the book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. When Frederick is sent to live with Mr. Covey for a year, it begins as the worst of his already painful life. Mr. Covey is known for "breaking" slaves (p. 40).

For six months, the savage Mr. Covey does just that to Frederick.

And yet!

After being almost killed by Mr. Covey, Frederick says he makes a decision. He tell us, "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man," (p. 39). Frederick proceeds to fight Mr. Covey for two hours, refusing to allow the cruel man to whip or abuse him any longer. He writes that he doesn't know where his determination comes from--"from whence came the Spirit I do not know," (p. 42).

But it guides him and for the first time, Frederick is able to prevent abuse.

Our class discussion and acting out of this scene helped us see how the confidence and taste of freedom that began with reading extends to this moment in the text.

We also did a Quick Write about hypocrisy:  exploring why Douglass says that Methodists were the worst slave owners because of their intense cruelty. We explored how hypocrisy functions in our time, today.

For tonight, be sure to read through page 62 in the book (through the end of Chapter 10 and halfway through Chapter 11). Here is a link in case you want to listen to the book aloud as you read. 

Our word of the day today is ARDENT, which means enthusiastic; zealous; passionate. Our word of the day from yesterday was DETER, which means to prevent or distract.

Much peace,

Mr. R

Monday, May 16, 2016

Shirt Tags and Modern Day Slavery...

After our Poster Project last week, we learned a lot about slavery in its historical context, but also about modern day slavery. Your posters taught me and each other very much.

Today, we talked briefly about our class anthology. If you would like to submit artwork or photographs to be included, be sure to get them in by this coming Friday. Every piece will be included somewhere in the book, and we will vote (anonymously) on the front and back covers.

Today, we played a few rounds of YES, NO, MAYBE SO to respond to controversial statements about slavery--both historical, as Frederick Douglass describes it, and modern day slavery. One of the statements was, "American culture / consumerism contributes to modern day slavery." You had powerful and insightful comments to share, and many classes checked the tags on your clothing to see where it was made and comment on labor laws and working standards and conditions, as well as to talk about how money is linked to slavery.

Thank you for sharing your ideas and comments today.

Then, we read aloud beginning with Chapter 8 in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Our word of the day was RAKISH, which means sleek, dashing, streamlined.

Much peace,

Mr. R

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Poster Proliferation!

Today we have been working in our teams to finish creating your teaching posters for our Tracing Freedom project. I have loved seeing your insights, ideas, and summaries thus far, and I am looking forward to our walk-around tomorrow to explore all of the posters in detail.

For tonight, be sure to study the week's five vocab words for our creative quiz tomorrow. Here they are:


This week's words are from our book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and for tomorrow's creative quiz, we'll be walking around the room to view one another's Teaching Posters and then sharing some responses.

Have an awesome evening! And why not GO OUTSIDE as much as possible and simply use the vocab words WHILE playing outside today!?

For instance, if you choose to walk barefoot across a big field, linking arms with your family and friends, you might have a conversation like this:

You: "To force anyone to miss out on sunshine, fresh air, and freedom to do this is an instance of depravity."

Family member / Friend: "I agree whole-heartedly! And I hereby resolve to make sure that everyone has a chance to walk barefoot across a big field."

You: "Yes!"

Family member / Friend: "YES!!"

In unison: "YES!!!"


Mr. R

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tracing Freedom

During our reading of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass thus far, we have discussed not only the horror of slavery, but also the hope of freedom. However, even today, forms of slavery are still in existence.

Today, in your groups, your mission is to look at the scope of slavery in our world--from its origins to its current practice. Use this website, Free the Slaves, to learn about this long history: 

After you explore the website with your group, work together to create a Teaching Poster that includes the following on the large piece of paper given you:

-- At least 5 dates from the website timeline

--At least four key people / groups / countries from the website timeline

--A Statement of why you think slavery has existed for so long

--Your Ideas about how to stop it

You can represent these four requirements in any way you see fit; you can use pictures, colors, words, quotes, connections, magazines, scissors, paste, anything else you deem helpful. Also, use your notes from the documentary AND quotes from the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as well to help you include the information above!

We will have the iPads today only (Wednesday). But you will have all of our class period on Thursday to finish your Teaching Posters.

Challenge yourself and your team to create a Teaching Poster that will truly teach and help others to learn and to take action.

I can't wait to see what you create!!!


Mr. R

ps--Here is the QR Code for the timeline website in case you would like to access it that way!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Power of Writing

We are in the midst of Frederick Douglass' powerful Narrative, and we are exploring the ways in which people spoke out against slavery, seeking to abolish what Douglass calls a system of "depravity."

Our discussions have been energetic and engaging, and I have appreciated all of your wonderful comments about the book thus far.

Today, we screened a documentary created by PBS and narrated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. which explores slavery in America from 1780 - 1860, the time period during which Douglass writes. The power of his Narrative and its impact on the national scale is huge. Learning to read and write, for Douglass, was a way to help abolish slavery and change the country.

For tonight, be sure that you have read through Chapter 6 in the book. Our word of the day today was DEPRAVITY, which means a state of deep corruption or evil. Douglass refers to slave-owners as being in "depravity."

Douglass, in his book and in his speeches, revealed the power of writing and speaking to change the world.


Mr. R

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Singing Anguish

Thus far in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, we see that slavery is a gruesome, pernicious, and abhorrent practice in American history. Remember that Frederick Douglass attempted to describe slavery in detail for his readers and those who listened to his speeches so that any myth of its need or could be demolished. Also, Douglass tried to move people to ACT--to do something to help abolish slavery.

Today, we discussed the scene where Douglass writes about the slave songs, "Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains," (p. 8). This was written to directly combat the view of Northerners that the slave songs were somehow joyful or exuberant. They were cries of pain and anguish.

We then read in pairs today, Chapters 3 and 4, and kept a character list. Here is a snapshot of our board with the setup of our character list:

For tonight, be sure to finish reading up through Chapter 4 (through page 15) in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and continue making your character list. 

Our word of the day today was OBDURATE, which means stubborn or unrelenting in one's desire to do wrong


Mr. R

Monday, May 2, 2016

Douglass and Justice

Today, we began our final book of the year: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. It is a powerful, horrifying, and deeply meaningful account of the life of an incredible man who escaped slavery and then became a catalyst for the Abolitionist movement across the country.

Today, we read chapter 1 aloud and discussed it, as well as went over some of the historical background on slavery in America.

Orr word of the day today is REPLENISH, and our words for tomorrow's vocab quiz are: REPLENISH, SONNET, TUTELAGE, ACRIMONY, and TENABLE.


Mr. R

Friday, April 29, 2016

From Slam to Sonnet

This week, we have explored all kinds of poetry--from slam to sonnet and everything in between! It has been fascinating to watch you all channel your inner e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and today, William Shakespeare.

We explored this sonnet by William Shakespeare:

We talked about the rules of a Shakespearean sonnet: 14 lines, following the rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. And each line has ten syllables in it (iambic pentameter). Talk about structure! These sonnets are the very opposite of the kind of free ranging and far-flinging connections and possibilities of slam poetry, and yet both have a kind of power and beauty and purpose.

This weekend, your homework is to finish writing your own original Shakespearean sonnet. We spent some time in class crafting them and brainstorming ideas; now continue and have fun puzzling out this poem! 

Our word of the day today was SONNET.

Finally, here is a website, RHYMEZONE, that can help you find great rhymes to complete your sonnet! I use it with my own poems and picture books!

Have a great weekend, and peace!

Mr. R

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gibberish or Beautiful Truth?

After our day, yesterday, of sharing our own slam poems and watching a poem from high school students in the Slam Poetry Competition, we moved into the study of poet e.e. cummings. IN class, we read his poems aloud as a full group and in pairs, and it certainly seemed to us as though he had forgotten the rubric when he wrote his work!!

Yet, by breaking the rules of grammar and socials norms, did he actually convey a deeper meaning--a more powerful truth?

Here are the poems we explored by him (the first three poems in this linked document). 

Also, remember that we discussed how understanding poetry is like a child playing in a sand box. We need to grab a shovel and build with the words in the poems--see what they make and move them around and play with them! We want to be careful not to kill a poem by over-analyzing it. We want to play with the poem, read it and let it sit with us and talk about it with each other.

And today, we each have the chance to step into the shoes of e.e. cummings as we craft of our poems of 16 lines in the same style as e.e. cummings. Re-read the first three poems in the link above, and then try to make your own e.e. cummings-esque poem. Tonight, for homework, finish your poem and come to class ready to either share OR hand it in.

I am loving hearing your poems, and the best way to learn is to do--so we'll be writing all kinds and genres of poetry this week!

our word of the day yesterday was JAUNTY, which means excited, lively. And our word of the day today is ACRIMONY, which means bitterness (and the adjective form is ACRIMONIOUS, which means bitter).


Mr. R

Monday, April 25, 2016

Slam Poetry!

Today, we are continuing on with our exploration of poetry by delving into the genre of SLAM POETRY! Consider it a mix of a singer-poet-stand-up-comedian-or-powerful-speaker all crafted to engage, entice, and excite an audience. If you ever thought poetry was dull or boring, think again!

Today, we began by watching two slam poets perform, discussing their poems, and then attempting to craft our own slam poems.

Here are the two clips we viewed today and discussed.

Sarah Kay

Taylor Mali

For homework tonight, be sure to finish writing your own slam poem (no length requirement!).

Our word of the day today is JAUNTY, which means lively, full of energy and joy.


Mr. R

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Crafting Creatively

Today, we continued crafting our creative fiction, poetry, and non-fiction pieces for our 2016 anthology project. As I did writing conferences with some of you today, I loved seeing the variation and engagement with which you are writing, and I can't wait to see all of our writing come together to create this year's book!

Our mini-lesson at the start of today's class was about showing rather than telling. We discussed how writing that engages readers helps to vividly show the scene--the action, the dialogue, the color, the smells, the sights, the emotion--rather than simply tell the reader what is occurring.

As a wildly goofy and goofily wild example of how showing and telling are different, here's an example from our front board that show the same plot-line in two very different ways. the first simply tells, while the second shows (albeit strangely so!):

Jim McJimerson was so angry when he saw his girlfriend, Bertha McBerthanator, kissing Prune Prunerson.

And here's the example that actually shows us something--however weird that something is:

Jim McJimerson walked into his massive closet, full of orange suspenders; to his great shock, Bertha McBberthanator and Prune Prunerson had managed to attach themselves to the ceiling, where they were passionately kissing.

"Holy suspenders!" Jim roared, as he fell to his knees in anguish.

So, to help us show rather than tell, be sure to include:



Mr. R

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Anthology Time!

Over the past few days, we have begun work on this year's class anthology, whereby you will be real authors! Here is the overview to the mission. 

We have explored creating a character, a setting, and various kinds of conflicts. We have also tried our hands at a new form of poetry--channeling William Shakespeare and WB Yeats to take a crack at writing iambic pentameter!

We heard a story about love and read the poem "When You Are Old" and then we each had the chance to try writing our own poems in iambic pentameter.

And today, our class became a roomful of authors! I love the sound of so many keyboard clacking, prose and poems flashing, epiphanies splashing, characters snapping, and ideas flapping. YES!

We will have two more days to write our full original drafts for the anthology, and thhen we will revise and edit them.


Mr. R

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Creating a Protagonist

Now that we have started work on our Anthology Project, we're talking today about what it means to craft an engaging protagonist. What does a hero / heroine do, face, struggle with,, and overcome to make their stories engaging? Why do we as readers want to keep reading about that character?

Here is the Slideshow Presentation that we walked through in class so that I could share a few of my heroes with you, as examples of the different kinds of conflicts and struggles a protagonist can face: they can be internal or external battles, but what matters most is that we give our characters a fairly substantial amount of challenges!

Link to the Slideshow:

For tonight, be sure to do a brainsplash for your created character and WRITE ONE FULL PAGE describing the character you invent: what is she / he like? Personality? Physical appearance? Conflicts? Even if you don't use all of it in your story--or you change some of it--this is an important step along the creative path of authorship!

Our word of the day is MUSTER, which is a verb that means to stir up; to gather, as in Michael Jordan mustered his strength to try out again for the basketball team after he didn't make it his Freshman year of high school.

And here are a couple of photos from our SUBLIME visit with National Book Award winning author Kathy Erskine on Monday:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

4 Types of Conflict...but None About an Anthology!

Today, we explored the 4 types of conflict that we find in stories. Some authors choose to focus on just one type for their stories and novels, and others choose to incorporate more than one--sometimes even all four! Remember that conflict drives a story; it helps to keep the reader engaged and keeps the plot moving forward.

Here are the notes from today (thank you Ms. Shelton for writing them down for us!):

Our word for the day today was QUELL, which means to stop by using force. For example, an antagonist in a novel may try to quell the resistance from the protagonist (sound like a familiar plot?)

Subsequently, we passed out the anthology book from last year's 7th grade and had some time to explore and see what students wrote about last year for the book.

Hopefully, the juices and the inspiration are both flowing and soon you'll be creating your very own creative piece for this year's anthology. Rock on!


Mr. Reynolds

Monday, March 28, 2016

An Author's Motive?

Last Friday, we had our 3rd Socratic Seminar of the year, using these questions as a guide. As always, it was VERY hard for me to bite my tongue as I heard fascinating and intriguing connections and ideas from you all--some of you were flipping pages in your novels so fast to try and prove your points. And I love that there were so many powerful articulations of what occurred in the novel and how it relates to our lives.

Remember: English is all about finding out what you really think and believe (and sometimes changing that in the face of a powerful story or approach), supporting your ideas, and then connecting them to life to make a difference. 

Today, we continued reading Mockingbird in class as we prepare for Kathy Erskine's visit on April 4th. We also did a Quick Write and handed in our Nothing but the Truth novels.

Our word of the day today was SUBSIDE,. which means to lessen or decrease; to grow smaller. An example of the word in a sentence is: when I got that huge split lip as a kid, it took two weeks before the swelling subsided. Another example is: I hope your love of reading and writing never subsides.

For tonight, share a few sentences in response to this question: why do you think an author writes a novel?  What do you think drives and sustains the author to complete the book and see it through until publication?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Preparing for Socrates!

Today, we talked about your synthesis essays and you received them back with loads of blue notes on them from me! Blue! We love blue!

We also began reading aloud from Kathryn Erskine's National Book Award winning novel Mockingbird as we look forward to welcoming Kathy to our school for a visit on April 4th!

We will begin preparing for our Socratic Seminar by working on this preparation sheet tomorrow in class.  On Friday, we will then hold our THIRD SOCRATIC SEMINAR of the year, about which I am thrilled.

Our word of the day today is APLOMB, which is a noun that means quiet self-confidence; poise. And yesterday's word was DISDAIN, which is a verb OR a noun that means to look down on someone (verb) or the feeling that someone else is unworthy.


Mr. R

Friday, March 18, 2016

To Suspend or Not To Suspend...That is the Question

Today we had impassioned and enlightening conversations about the big question thus far in Nothing but the Truth: was it right for the school to suspend Phillip Malloy?

Embedded within this question are others regarding what truth is, where respect and individual rights meet, and how students and teachers interpret school rules and school communication. It was fascinating to hear your thoughts, and I look for ward to Monday when we'll use our class symbol of the iceberg and apply it specifically to the events of this novel.

We also did a Quick Write today about the relationship between truth and trust.

Over this weekend, be sure to read Chapters 15 and 16 in Nothing but the Truth, and we'll continue our conversation and do an iceberg activity on Monday.

Our word of the day for today is CONCEDE, which means to admit something is true or valid; to yield or surrender. An example of the word in a line is In any intense argument, compromise can start to be reached if each side concedes some points.

Have an awesome weekend!


Mr. R

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Unpacking the Media...

Today in class, we read the newspaper account written by Jennifer Stewart aloud. Her article in Nothing But the Truth frames Phillip Malloy's act in Miss Narwin's homeroom as one of patriotism--but you all had strong ideas about whether or not that was true.

We did an activity in class called THE BOSTON PHOTOGRAPHS in which, as groups of three, you had to start to put yourselves in the shoes of newspaper editors and decide what their purpose is, what their impact should be, and how they determine truth.

You became editors of the Boston Herald in 1975 and determined what you would have done with the photos taken by Stanley Foreman in July of that year.

Our word of the day today is RELENTLESS, which means unstopping, unceasing.

Our word of the day for yesterday was INCULCATE.

For tonight, share a few sentences about the following question: What do you think the purpose of the media is (newspapers, news networks, etc): to inform, to make a profit, to fulfill a certain bias? Is it possible to have zero bias? Why or why not?

Monday, March 14, 2016

No Subterfuge for This Truth...

Hello class! Today we read in small groups from Nothing but the Truth and I heard many amazing voices to personify characters like Miss Narwin, Mr. Lunser, Phillip Malloy, his parents, Dr. Doane, Allison, and the other key characters in this saga.

Thus far, we are beginning to see how a tiny seed of misinformation and anger can fester and germinate and eventually grow into a crisis.

Tomorrow, we'll have Vocab Quiz 16--and come ready to be creative as you use our words for the week in your writing:


And be sure to bring your copy of the novel with you tomorrow as well.


Mr. R

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Plot Thickens...

Thus far in our reading of Nothing But the Truth by Avi, we have characterized Miss Narwin as very strict and somewhat uptight. Yet she does have a lot of passion for literature and teaching, as some of you astutely pointed out!

As the plot thickens in our novel, we are beginning to see tensions develop, and tomorrow we'll continue acting out scenes from the novel.

As we begin to think about Phillip and Miss Narwin--along with the other characters--share a few insights regarding this question: Would you want Phillip Malloy as a friend of yours? Why or why not?

Our word of the day today is SUBTERFUGE, which means a great deception or trick.

See you tomorrow, and peace!

Mr. R

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Of Picture Books and Perspectives...

Today, we are handing in our final drafts of the SYNTHESIS essay. You made it! I really appreciate your hard work on an arduous skill--and I am very proud of each of you writing and revising these essays paragraph by paragraph.


Yesterday, after reviewing the proper heading and workshopping engaging titles, we had the chance to channel our inner five-year old selves. We left our seats and gathered on the floor in the center of the room for a reading of the awesome picture book Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thomspon. Since we had just finished writing our synthesis essays based on the documentary about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and the novel The Breadwinner, it was a great time to read a fabulous picture book.


Our word of the day yesterday was ANTIQUITY, which simply means ancient times. An example of the the word in a sentence is One of my favorite people is Socrates, who lived in antiquity, but whose wisdom still resonates today.

Our word of the day for today is DUBIOUS, which means causing doubt or untrustworthy.

Today, we are beginning our new novel, Nothing but the Truth by Avi. We read aloud from the opening pages and for tonight, share a couple of sentences on the class blog with your response to this question: WHAT IS PATRIOTISM, AND HOW IMPORTANT (or unimportant) IS IT?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Rounding the Bend with SYNTHESIS!

Today in class, we did a double- peer revision of our synthesis essays. Yes! We talked about some of the key areas to look for in our essays. As you continue editing at home, be sure to check these KEY WRITING GUIDELINES before printing out your final draft.

The final draft of our synthesis essays will be due this Wednesday, March 9. Be sure to include all your rough draft work stapled behind the final draft. And here is the overview of the mission in case you need an extra copy of you'd like to print out one to frame for your bedroom wall, or you want to double-check that you've followed the outline. 

Also, remember to include our WORD OF THE DAY words within your synthesis essay:








Be sure to check in the blog posts below if you need more information, to watch the video clip explaining synthesis, or to be sure your paragraphs follow some of the examples we explored in class. YOU CAN DO THIS!! I am very proud of the work you have each put into this essay so far, and I'mm really looking forward to the final drafts.

Rock on!


Mr. R

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Examples of Synthesis...Yes!

Hello Class!

Yesterday, we dove into our Synthesis essays, but we did so backwards. Instead of beginning at the, well, beginning,, we began with our second and third paragraphs. Even though it seems crazy, the easiest way to write a synthesis essay is to figure out each part first, and THEN combine them together to make the whole.

So, yesterday we write our theme paragraphs about Emmanuel's Gift and then about The Breadwinner.

Here is a snapshot of one example from our board on how to craft the paragraph about Emmanuel's Gift:

And today, we are building our Introductions--complete with our actual synthesis statements! Here is a link to the examples we'll discuss in class today on how to find your synthesis statement. 

And finally (finally!) here is a video that explains how to get your synthesis statement in case you need a refresher, or you love synthesis SO much that you just can't wait until school tomorrow to hear all about it again!

Our word of the day yesterday was PERPETUAL, which means continuing on forever. And our word of the day today is ARDUOUS, which means incredibly hard!

Have an awesome day and evening!


Mr. R

Friday, February 26, 2016

Emmanuel's Gift: HOPE

We are getting towards the denouement of our remarkable documentary Emmanuel's Gift. In watching, we are preparing for our SYNTHESIS ESSAY for the upcoming week, as we combine the theme of Emmanuel's Gift with the theme from The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis to create a BRAND NEW IDEAS about what matters most in life.

Here is the link to our synthesis essay assignment.

Our word of the day from Wednesday was NEFARIOUS which means having a desire to hurt; wicked; evil. And our word of the day for today is RUMINATE which means to think deeply.

Today in class, we also crafted some possible thematic statements fro Emmanuel's Gift, and you came up with great examples such as: The theme in Emmanuel's Gift is that one must always keep pushing forward even when it seems or feels impossible. 

Another example from class is: The theme in Emmanuel's Gift is that because society calls one 'disabled' does not make a verdict that one is unable.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness and excitement today.

Have an awesome weekend!


Mr. Reynolds

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Synthesis Essay!

We're digging deeper into SYNTHESIS today! Yesterday, we created fascinating, powerful, and sometimes silly tales about how two random objects could be synthesized to create a new narrative.

Today, we took the leap from our objects into the realm of ideas. Here is the SYNTHESIS ESSAY assignment which we explored in class today. 

After reviewing the new project, we then began screening our documentary entitled Emmannuel's Gift

Our word of the day for today is ASTUTE, which means wise; having the ability to make good choices.

Have an awesome day!


Mr. R

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's All About Synthesis!

Today in class we are jumping in to the realm of SYNTHESIS! This is an awesome skill that involves combining two or more ideas to make a brand new idea! Instead of comparing and contrasting, synthesis uses both ideas (or objects, or events, or...anything!) to create something new that did exist before.

One great way to think about synthesis is the following:

A + B = C

Instead of comparing A and B, we are combining them together to make something brand new: C! 

Today you each received two strange objects from the mystery bag and had to combine the objects together to create a story that is dependent on both of them--a new C! I loved hearing your stories!

For tonight, be sure to share in the comments below an example of SYNTHESIS in the natural world or in your daily life.


Mr. R

Friday, February 12, 2016

Socratic Seminar: Fear or Love?

Today we had our second Socratic Seminar of the year, and you all did an amazing job of sharing powerful and insightful ideas to our four questions based around the themes from our novel The Breadwinner.

Here is a snapshot of the four questions we explored:

I loved listening to your opinions, evidence-based claims, and your personal experiences. And even though it was hard for me to bite my tongue and remain silent, you all taught me a lot and I am glad for this chance!

Our word of the day yesterday was EMBARK, which means to begin a project or journey.

Have an awesome break!


Mr. R

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fear as a Form of Power?

Today, we are exploring how people can wield fear to gain or maintain power, as The Taliban does in our novel The  Breadwinner. First, we did a Quick Write to explore the question: Is fear always bad, or does it serve a good purpose as well?

We then had a discussion / debate regarding the uses of and interpretation of fear. You all shared powerful ideas and experiences of how fear can be a helpful, cautionary, or even inspiring thing--yet also how it can condemn and destroy.

We then connected to our text and the Taliban's use of fear as a form of control.

Our word of the day today is TACITURN, which means silent by habit. It is a synonym for another of our words, laconic.

For homework tonight, be sure to read Chapter 10 in The Breadwinner (only four pages!) and review for our vocab quiz tomorrow on the following five words: THEME, FALLACY, VOCIFEROUS, VOCATION, LUGUBRIOUS.

Have an awesome rest of your day, and peace!

Mr. R

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rhythm & Retention

Today we are venturing out from school and into the field to make music. Using a diverse mix of percussion instruments, we are translating the work we did yesterday on thematic statements into actual musical movements that correlate to The Breadwinner.

I am loving hearing your musical creativity and seeing how you tie in Deborah Ellis's message in the novel to the musical themes you create to match it.

Here is the project overview of the Rhythm & Retention musical mission that we've worked on yesterday and are continuing today. 

This past Monday, we did a prediction-oriented writing activity where you each tried to write Chapter 4 from The Breadwinner from the point of view of a character in the story--inferring what may happen next. Here is the link to that creative writing mission. 

Our word of the day from yesterday was THEME, which refers to both the subject / big idea of a novel, song, or film AND the author's message in any of these (the thematic statement is often how the author's message is characterized). 

And our word of the day from Tuesday was FALLACY, which means a mistake in thinking or logic as in this sentence: when I thought that people who drove mini-vans were criminals, that was a fallacy from my five-year old days.

Have an awesome day!


Mr. R

Monday, February 1, 2016

Empathy and Imagination

Today in class, we explored the courage and boldness in Parvana's mother as she storms into the Taliban-ruled jail shouting vociferously, "Give me my husband!" This kind of courage is beautiful for us to behold--and it inspires us deeply.

We also read a section aloud from the book Kids of Kabul, detailing the pursuit of 14 year old Faranoz to learn to read.

Then, we jumped into a creative writing activity whereby you each began to create your own narrative for what will occur in Chapter 4. Here is the creative writing mission if you were absent or you need it again. 

For tonight, be sure to read Chapter 4 in The Breadwinner (pp. 44-62). Our word of the day today is VOCIFEROUS, which means loud and shouting or crying out.


Mr. R

Friday, January 29, 2016

Lugubrious Joy

Yesterday, I had a blast with you all as we shared stories from our childhoods of when we felt lugubrious or were in lugubrious situations...

Our storytelling exploded into loads of narratives, and there was a sense of joy as you each used the word so well and revealed fascinating (and sometimes even funny) memories of things you thought were lugubrious but in actuality were not!

We also talked, more seriously, about Parvana's situation in The Breadwinner, and how aptly her struggle fits with the darkest and hardest meaning of our word, lugubrious. Yet, her inner courage finds a way for hope to maintain life.

Today, we had our 13th Vocabulary Voyage!

For homework this weekend, be sure to read through page 43 (up through Chapter 3) in The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. And our word of the day for today was VOCATION which means a desire towards a certain job or career; an ideal job; a calling.


Mr. R

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Credible Account

Today, in some classes, we finished our IDEAL SCHOOL presentations, and began our new class novel, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. The novel is a powerfully credible account of a fictionalized journey of 11-year old Parvana in her quest to courageously stand up to the Taliban regime and help her family survive.

Our word of the day today is CREDIBILITY, which means trustworthiness, or the ability to inspire belief, respect, and trust. And example is: Because of her work in Afghanistan. author Deborah Ellis has a lot of credibility in her writing of the novel The Breadwinner.

For tonight, share a brief response to the following question: what do you think is one of the most important values of a government and why?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ye Intrepid Presenters!

Hello Lovely Students!

Today we continue on with our Ideal School presentations. So far, I am loving learning from eahc of you what might be possible in education, and I have laughed, pondered, wondered, smiled, and even had a few epiphanies!

Our word of the day from last Friday was INTREPID, which means bold, brave, fearless. Our word of the day today is LACONIC, which means using few words. Laconic is the opposite of one of our previous words, LOQUACIOUS (which means using loads of words).

Have an awesome day today!


Mr. R

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Presentation Time!

It was a blast listening to the first rounds of Ideal School presentations today. In each class, I felt as though I was on a school board listening to proposals for a brand new school--and so many of your schools are imbued with creativity, hands-on learning, and fascinating field trips!

I am looking forward to continuing to hear and see more of your schools in the upcoming days!

Our word of the day today is RESILIENCE, which means the ability to keep going in the face of obstacles or failure. We used the example of J.K. Rowling and her 13 rejections from the book Harry Potter as an example of resilience!


Mr. R

Friday, January 15, 2016

Antique Photographs and New Schools

Today, we had our creative vocab quiz whereby you used our past five words to write a compelling (and sometimes hilarious) personal narrative based on an antique photograph that you selected from our big table at the front of the room.

I can't wait to read your narratives--as I loved hearing the ones that some of you read aloud in class today!

Be sure to finish up your presentations for your IDEAL SCHOOL project by Wednesday (here is the assignment), and "share" your presentation with me by clicking the little blue button on the top right of the Google Slides screen that is called, aptly, SHARE.

On Wednesday, we will begin presenting our schools to one another. Scroll down to yesterday's post for the assignment overview and an example of a great school from last year. Additionally, because some of you said you'd love to see more examples, here are a few more ideal schools from last year!

Example 1 of an Ideal School

Example 2 of an Ideal School

Example 3 of an Ideal School

Have an awesome weekend, and see you Wednesday!


Mr. R

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Schools and Creativity

Today is our last day in the library to workshop and craft our ideal school projects. Remember that they are due on Wednesday, January 20. We will each have the chance to share two of our slides with the rest of the class (or more!0 beginning Wednesday.

Here is the overview of the Ideal School mission--be sure to check your slides against the list of required slides--and then creatively craft your other slides!

And here is the model we explored in class of a powerful Ideal School presentation from last year.

For tomorrow, be sure to review our last five words for our creative vocab quiz: IMBUE, PERFIDIOUS, MOROSE, EMPATHY, and APOPLECTIC.

Have an awesome evening, and good luck working on your IDEAL SCHOOL projects!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Creating Your Ideal School

After reading the powerful novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and screening the inspiring film Glory Road, and then delving into the brilliant mind of Socrates with "Plato's Allegory of the Cave," we are digging into our creative projects today in the library: making an IDEAL SCHOOL!

Here is the link to the Ideal School mission overview.

And here is a link to an example IDEAL SCHOOL project from one of last year's students.

Be sure to check it out for examples and inspiration, and I am thrilled and excited to see what you come up with!


Mr. R

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Creating Your Ideal School (and Channeling a little bit o' Socrates)

Today, we chipped deeper into the iceberg!

Way down!

Cracking the dense ice!

Whoa, man, ice chips are flying everywhere!

Another way of saying the above is: we read "Plato's Allegory of the Cave" (which which really spoken by Socrates) and tried to grapple with what Socrates says life is all about.

Here is a link to the reading that we performed aloud and acted out in class today. 

Then, we segued into our IDEAL SCHOOL project, in which each of us will have to decide what core values and ideas matter most when creating and designed a school.

Here is the link to the overview of the IDEAL SCHOOL project. 

Tomorrow and Thursday, we will meet in the library to workshop and create our schools, and we'll continue discussing Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and "Plato's Allegory of the Cave" as we do so.

Our word of the day today is PERFIDIOUS, which means deceitful, as in this example, "The villain was perfidious when he told me that he was only trying to find the secret to my super power."

Our word of the day from yesterday was IMBUE, which is a verb that means to fill completely.

See you tomorrow, and peace!

Mr. R

Monday, January 11, 2016

Poetic Connections

Welcome back! I honestly missed you all very much while I was away on jury duty, and it is great to be diving back into our work together after your screening of the film Glory Road last week.

Today, we engaged in a creative comparison and contrast between the film Glory Road and the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Instead of writing an analytical comparison to connect the film and the novel, we worked on creative poems by which to relate two characters and their similarities and differences. As an example, I shared a draft of a poem I wrote connecting T.J. Avery from Roll of Thunder to Bobby Jo Hill in Glory Road. Click hear to read the example that we discussed in class today.

Then, we had on music and you all dove into crafting your own creative connection poems. I loved workshopping these poems with you and having the chance to read and connect!

Tomorrow, we will begin our IDEAL SCHOOL project using our novel, the film, and our own experiences! And a little something extra from our old pal Socrates...


Mr. R

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sacrifice and Justice

Welcome back from your holiday break!

Today, we began with a Quick Write for 6 minutes. My hand hurt after the six minutes--and if yours did, too, I hope it relaxes until our next voracious dive into writing nonstop!

We had the chance to change up our seats today for the new year, and then we discussed the denouement of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. We talked about Pap's sacrificial move to burn 1/4 of the Logans' own cotton in order to save T.J. from the mob.

Even though Papa has saved T.J.'s life for the moment, though, we talked about the fight for justice in the South in 1933 and we wondered aloud what will become of T.J. now.

 As we prepare for our first film screening of the academic year, on Wednesday, we also talked about how justice can happen when small groups of people make committed decisions to stay with a goal even in the face of great obstacles.

Our word of the day today is MOROSE, which means gloomy or sullen  (think: sunken in terms of mood or atmosphere).

For tonight, our homework is to find out three fact about Texas Western University, and bring them in for tomorrow.


Mr. R