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