Monday, December 20, 2010

A to Z Story: Creative "Winter" Write

            Lithograph, Eric Carle 
For this week's blog commentary, I'd like you to complete a creative write using (you guessed it) the alphabet.  Write a winter themed story (sounds easy enough, right?); the catch: each sentence must start with each letter of the alphabet in order (hence the title: A to Z Story). 

Before you begin your story, think about what you will write about.  The theme is "winter," so think about the kinds of things (people, food, activities) you associate with this time of year.  You could even try writing about a favorite winter-themed memory.  Snow days, cookies, overeating, frigid walks to the subway, mall exhaustion, vacationing with family: what stories do you have to tell about winter?

This is a tricky assignment.  To help keep your sentences following in alphabetical order, try writing with dialogue and beginning sentences with dependent clauses.  Read the beginning of my example story below for ideas.

**Remember to compose your story in a word document and proofread for CUPS (as well as alphabetical order) before posting!

P.S. If you're having trouble composing a full length story, try writing a poem.  The same rule applies for a wintry poem: each line should follow in alphabetical order.

Happy winter writing!


Armed with flour, a bag of sugar, and more butter than I cared to consider, I began to examine the index cards each written out in Nan’s careful, spindly handwriting.  Beside each recipe, Nan had jotted down a few words for the inexperienced baker: Forgotten Cookies, “they’re worth the trouble.”   

Christmas, from as far back as I can remember, has not only been about family, but about...cookies. Deliciously sugary, buttery, morsels of sweetness.  Everyone in my family had a favorite: Sandtarts, Molasses, Chocolate Drops, Ginger, and of course, forgotten cookies: the cloud-like meringue castles that concealed chocolate chips.  From Thanksgiving on, Nan and my Grandmother would head to the kitchen, churning out tub after tub of old family favorites.  

(To be continued...)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cyberbullying: How much do your parents know about your life online?


Last week in the New York Times, an article by Jan Hoffman, “As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up,”  discusses the challenges parents face in keeping their children safe from bullies online.

Hoffman writes:
It is difficult enough to support one’s child through a siege of schoolyard bullying. But the lawlessness of the Internet, its potential for casual, breathtaking cruelty, and its capacity to cloak a bully’s identity all present slippery new challenges to this transitional generation of analog parents.
Desperate to protect their children, parents are floundering even as they scramble to catch up with the technological sophistication of the next generation.
…online bullying can be more psychologically savage than schoolyard bullying. The Internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person.
“It’s not the swear words,” [cybercrimes specialist, Inspector Brian] Brunault said. “They all swear. It’s how they gang up on one individual at a time. ‘Go cut yourself.’ Or ‘you are sooo ugly’ — but with 10 u’s, 10 g’s, 10 l’s, like they’re all screaming it at someone.”
…“I’m not seeing signs that parents are getting more savvy with technology,” said Russell A. Sabella, former president of the American School Counselor Association. “They’re not taking the time and effort to educate themselves, and as a result, they’ve made it another responsibility for schools. But schools didn’t give the kids their cellphones.”

For this week's blog prompt respond to the following questions in 2-3 paragraphs.

  • How aware are your parents or guardians of what you do online or via your cellphone? 
  • Do they monitor the sites you visit, the things you post to Facebook or the texts you send? 
  • Do you think they should? Where would you draw the line between appropriate monitoring and invasion of your privacy? Why? 
  • Have you experienced an incident online in which your parents intervened, or in which you wish they had? 
**Remember to compose your comment in a Word document and proofread and spell check your work before submitting!**

This week's blog prompt is courtesy of the New York Times Learning Network.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fairy Tales are Everywhere!

Snow White, Disney’s first animated feature, was released in 1937. Disney’s 50th film, Tangled, a new take on Rapunzel, was just recently released.  Take a look back at more than 60 years of classic Disney films.  Can you spot any Grimm's fairy tales?  (Remember: Disney tried to tone down much of the violence in the Grimm's tales in an effort to make these stories appeal more to young, modern day viewers.)

Which one of the following movies is your favorite?  Which movie is your least favorite?  Why?

Please reply to this prompt in one paragraph.  Include a clever intro, details, and more details and the reasons behind your choices.

Start a discussion!  This week, after you post your response, try replying to other students' comments by using the format: "@student'sname" in your reply.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


After more than five weeks of blogging under our belts, the time has come to assess and evaluate your efforts before the first trimester grades.  For this week's blog prompt, review each blog entry to re-read your comments and answer the questions below.  The purpose of this exercise is to evaluate your writing and assess your strengths and weaknesses so that you can continue to grow and develop as writers.

Please answer all questions honestly and thoroughly and refer to the Blog Commenting Rubric when evaluating your grade.  I will review the second part of your blog assessment with you in class.  The second part of the assessment will include selecting an example of your best blogging efforts to revise, edit, print, and include in your writing portfolio.

Steps to Blogging Success
Blog Commentary Rubric

Interesting –
Something special.
Makes the reader think & wonder
Everything listed below.

Good information.
Well written.
Detailed content.
Everything listed below

Correct usage & punctuation.  On topic & on time.
Well organized.
Everything listed below.

Correct spelling & capitalization.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Extra Credit Story Assignment from Alexander Stadler

Last Friday, the 7th grade attended an exciting author talk and mini-workshop (not to mention Pizza lunch!) with local Philadelphia author and illustrator, Alexander Stadler.  Alex shared a little about himself and his experiences as a writer and illustrator, and then led each group in creating characters, settings, and the beginnings of stories rich in detail and excitement.

This week as an extra credit assignment, you are invited to finish the stories we began with Alex on Friday.  In order for you to receive full credit, write your story in a Microsoft word document first, re-read for any errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and then copy and paste your story in a comment below. 

5th Period Lunch prompt:
Bobbie is a goat and life guard on the Jersey shore who somehow manages to do his job well (even though he is terrified of the water.)  He and his friend Genifer the hamster, are on their way to Philadelphia when Chuckie the Gorilla tries to stop them in an angry rampage!  What will happen to Bobbie and Genifer?  What is Chuckie's problem, anyway?  Will our heroes prevail in the end?  Finish the story below.

6th Period Lunch prompt:
Johnny is an odd fellow who enjoys eating vegetables and lives in a dumpster (by choice) with his sister Lolita (Lita for short).  One day, Johnny, Lita, and Pito their dog find a winning lottery ticket.  In order to claim their prize (one million dollars!), Johnny, Lita and Pito must make it downtown to present their ticket by 12:30.  They hop on the bus at 11:45 and start chatting happily about all of the amazing things that they will do with their new fortune.  It's only a 35 minute bus ride away, but the trio is suddenly, and cruelly, stopped by a crazed, flying donkey.  What will happen to Johnny, Lita, and Pito?  Will they make it downtown in time to claim their winnings?  Finish the story below.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just you, your character, and a suitcase...

Sometimes when I'm reading a good book I like to imagine what it would be like if I could step inside the world that the characters inhabit and hang out for a while.  Growing up I always fantasized about having my own secret garden just like Mary in the novel of the same name, and I would daydream about what it would be like if I suddenly found myself strolling down the yellow brick road with Dorothy and Toto in the land of Oz (FYI: The Wizard of Oz was originally a book!).

For this week's blog prompt, I'd like you to choose one main character from any of the novels you have read so far this school year. Pretend that you have been invited to spend a week with your character and get out your suitcase. What will you pack? What will you need to bring with you and why?

In reading your response, I should be able to tell how well you understand your character, and the setting (the where and the when) of your book.  Your response should include a clever intro, details and more details, and the reasons behind your choices.  If you are packing chewing gum and a pair of skis, for example, you need to explain why you will need these items in relation to their purpose in the book.

Your commentary should be at least four paragraphs, but it can be more.

Superstar blog commentaries have been written and proofread in a word document before submitting.  They have been checked for spelling and grammatical errors, and have strong sentences.

Happy packing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Should Stores Sell Violent Video Games to Minors?

The Supreme Court is currently debating this question and trying to determine “what the drafters of the Bill of Rights would have made of an extremely violent game like Postal 2.”

In “Justices Debate Video Game Ban,” Adam Liptak writes in The Times:

 In a lively and sometimes testy Supreme Court argument on Tuesday over a law banning the sale of violent video games to minors, the justices struggled to define how the First Amendment should apply to a new medium.
… The law would impose $1,000 fines on stores that sell violent video games to people under 18. It defined violent games as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way that is “patently offensive,” appeals to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests” and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
“What’s a deviant violent video game?” asked Justice Antonin Scalia, who was the law’s most vocal opponent on Tuesday. “As opposed to what? A normal violent video game?”
“Some of the Grimm’s fairy tales are quite grim,” he added. “Are you going to ban them, too?”
Justice Stephen G. Breyer took the other side. He said common sense should allow the government to help parents protect children from games that include depictions of “gratuitous, painful, excruciating, torturing violence upon small children and women.”
What do you think about this? How violent, “deviant,” “offensive,” or “morbid” should a game have to be to make it unsuitable for people under 18? How would you draw the line? And how do you think violent video games affect young people in general? Why?

P.S. New videos at the top of the screen!  Check them out.  They are great discussion points!

(This week's blog post is courtesy of The New York Times Learning Network.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

As You Wish


This week, to kick off our yearlong partnership with the Rosenbach Museum & Library, researching, reading, and writing fairy tales of our own, we will watch the film The Princess Bride (1987) based on the novel of the same name by William Goldman.  

The Princess Bride has something for everyone: sword fights, murder, a six-fingered man, the fire swamp, the cliffs of insanity, the pit of despair, and of course, true love.  For this week's blog commentary, I'd like you to respond to the following questions about the movie.  Remember to spell check and proofread your comments before posting!

What are your reactions to the movie?  Did you enjoy it?  Why/why not?

Who was your favorite character?

What was your favorite scene?

What connections can you make between our discussion about common elements of fairy tales and the film?

Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.

Happy blogging!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Oh say can you see..." Is Philip Malloy patriotic?

For your first blog commentary, I'd like you to reflect on the word patriotism.  In your opinion what is patriotism?  When Philip Malloy chooses to hum or sing the "Star Spangled Banner" during Ms. Narwin's homeroom is he being patriotic?  Use evidence from the text to support your claim.  If you could ask Philip to define his idea of patriotism what do you think he'd say?

Answer all of the above questions in one to two paragraphs to receive full credit.  Don't forget to proofread your work and check for spelling and grammatical errors before submitting!