Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Introducing the #bookaday challenge... and #BookItForward

The book a day challenge is a simple one: read a book a day over Christmas break. Then post a shelfie with the book on Instagram. Use the hashtag #bookadayMS9 to see what everyone else in class has read. Any book counts: novels, nonfiction, picture books, graphic novels, comics, etc. Don't forget to give a quick review of the book too if you can.

For example, this is what I wrote about Little Roja Riding Hood on Instagram:
This is a fun, modern twist on Little Red Riding Hood told in unabashed, bilingual rhyming verse. Little Roja Riding Hood subverts the traditional fairy tale trope with style and swagger.

And while you're thinking about reading... maybe #BookItFoward

Monday, December 8, 2014

English 8 Midterm

First semester will soon be coming to a close. For your midterm, I will not be giving a test per se, but instead will ask you to write an essay in Google Docs.

The prompt for this essay is a simple one:

What have you learned in this very short semester? 

Don't just think about the tangible things you have learned (the 6+1 traits of writing, how to write dialogue, etc.) but also think about the intangible things - what you have discovered about yourself as a writer and as a student.

In addition to a minimum 2-page, double-spaced essay, you will also be asked to include the following:

  1. Use 3 vocabulary words (IN CONTEXT!) in your essay and highlight them.
  2. Using the comments feature, point out 3 places where you used a particular trait of writing well and explain why you feel that way.
  3. Using the comments feature, label an example of each of the 8 parts of speech.
  4. Using the comments feature, show me an example of a contraction, possessive noun, and plural noun. (If you leave one or more of these things out, mention that at the end of your essay and give a separate example)
  5. All pronouns of I must be capitalized or I'm taking off an automatic 3 points. 
  6. If you use a fragment or run-on, point it out and explain why you made that stylistic choice.
  7. Please make sure you find a way to effectively introduce your essay as well as create a satisfying, resonating ending.  

Things to consider when writing your essay (you don't have to include all of these, they're just suggestions of things you can discuss):
Thoughts about your writer's notebook
How have you been brave? 
Our author visit from Carrie Harris 
Article of the Week 
Formal writing assignments you have turned in:
  • This I Believe 
  • Superhero assignment
  • NaNoWriMo
  • Words are Powerful
Texts we have shared this semester:

Also, separate from the essay:
  1. Share your favorite passage from your NaNoWriMo novel and explain why it's your favorite.
  2. Share a passage of dialogue from your NaNoWriMo novel -- punctuated and indented correctly.
  3. Provide a synopsis of your NaNoWriMo novel. (Think about how novels are described on the backs of books or inside jacket flaps to entice readers)

Extra credit:
Design a cover for your novel and write a short explanation about how that cover  + title works for your novel. (You can turn this in separately from the Google Doc)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” - Tom Stoppard

"Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary. How potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them." - Nathaniel Hawthorne


The old adage "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is a lie. Words have power. They often leave scars more painful than physical ones. So your task is to write to this prompt:

Words are powerful.

Think back to our article of the week, the poem we discussed, the passage from X: A Novel that we talked about, as well as the We Need Diverse Books video we watched in class.  

The genre you choose to write to this prompt is up to you. You can write an essay, story, poem, article, etc.  Whatever you write though, needs to speak to the prompt in some way.

Assignment is due Monday, December  8th.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What I was up to at NCTE in Washington, DC

I made this video of my NCTE experience with Animoto. The music should sound very familiar to you. :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

2nd quarter extra credit...

My mom just got a new puppy. His name is Audie. Yesterday I took this picture of him and his expression seems very meme-worthy to me, don't you think?
Audie the pug puppy

Your extra credit project is to make Audie his own meme.

Here are a few examples of my favorite memes:

Due date: before Christmas break

Ways to turn it in:
  • Print it out and give it to me
  • Email it to me
  • Tag me on Instagram

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Countdown to NaNoWriMo -- your daily word count calculator and strategy for making your word count

Chris Baty, the original creator of NaNoWriMo frequently talks about the importance of low expectations when writing a novel for the first time.

Here are some of his thoughts:

"Novels are simply too long and complex to nail on the first go-around."

"Exuberant imperfection... helps you tolerate the drivel that greases the wheels of genius." 

10,000 words in 30 days equates to 333 words a day (including weekends). So this is what your daily word count will look like:

Day 1: 333 words
Day 2: 666 words
Day 3: 999 words
Day 4: 1,332 words
Day 5: 1,665 words
Day 6: 1, 998 words
Day 7: 2, 331 words
Day 8: 2,664 words
Day 9: 2,997 words
Day 10: 3,330 words
Day 11: 3,663 words
Day 12: 3,996 words
Day 13: 4, 329 words
Day 14: 4, 662 words
Day 15: 4, 995 words
Day 16: 5, 328 words
Day 17: 5, 661 words
Day 18: 5, 994 words
Day 19: 6, 327 words
Day 20: 6, 660 words
Day 21: 6, 993 words
Day 22: 7, 326 words
Day 23: 7, 659 words
Day 24: 7, 992 words
Day 25: 8, 325 words
Day 26: 8, 658 words
Day 27: 8, 991 words
Day 28: 9, 324 words
Day 29: 9, 657 words
Day 30: 10,000 words

You will not be graded on whether or not you achieve your goal but how productive you are with your time at school and at home. As you may have noticed, this is something you will have to work on at home as well as at school, so you must keep that in mind as well. Even if you don't have a computer, you can always write scenes in your writer's notebook and then copy them into your Google Drive file when you get to school the next day.

What I'd like you to do right now, is create a strategy for how you will ATTEMPT to make your 10,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo. Do this in Google Drive and when you are finished, turn it in to Google Classroom.

As an example, here is my plan:

I am someone who has a hard time turning off my inner editor, so having a word count goal is either going to motivate me or make me freeze up. In order to make sure the word count goal motivates me, I will continue to remind myself that this is just a FIRST DRAFT, that it's not supposed to be good, and that you can't revise a blank page. 333 words a day is really not that much -- it's just one page.

So I will make sure that every day, I open my Google Drive file and write until I come to the bottom of a page. I am not allowed to get up from the chair until I do, whether this is at school or at home - most likely at home since I will be helping out my students in addition to writing my own novel.

I will also make sure to use weekends to play catch up if I do happen to fall behind and I will consult the word count chart daily.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rules of Summer assignment

After the class read Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan together, click on the link for the Google Doc and follow the directions.

Share your Rules of Summer

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

This I Believe essay resources and requirements

We started by exploring two different poems about  belief  "What I Believe" by Jacqueline Woodson. This poem was a listing of all the things the author believes. Now it's time to narrow it down. 

Your first formal writing assignment for the 2014-2015 school year will be to write a "This I Believe" essay. Writing this essay will allow you to go beyond a personal narrative and shape your story into a personal belief or credo.

Requirements (taken from the "This I Believe" essay collection book and the website):
  • Name your belief (focus on ONE belief, not many)
  • Be positive - be FOR something, not against it
  • Focus on the "I" in the title rather than sermonizing to a "we."
  • Tell a story about you and be personal

Avoid (also taken from the "This I Believe" essay collection book):
  • self-righteousness
  • prescribing for others (telling people how THEY should live)
  • cliches and restatement of someone else's or group's beliefs
  • disguised attack

For those who feel especially inspired, it is possible to submit your essays to the "This I Believe" website for the possibility of being published.

"To make such an earnest, exposed statement is itself an act of bravery." - Jay Allison

Explore the "This I Believe" website
Writing Guidelines
This I Believe podcasts and texts of essays

Read and grade Mrs. Shaum's "This I Believe" essay:
Happiness is a Grand Piano

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Welcome Back!!!

Hello 8th graders!

Welcome back to school and welcome to my classroom blog. This will be a place where I will pose questions, post surveys, and share some of the awesome things we'll be doing in our classroom this year.

The first assignment here on the blog is for you to take this devices survey.