Monday, February 28, 2011

Building a Better Blog ~ Assessing Your Blogging Powers!


This week's blog commentary includes three parts.  Please complete all parts by Monday.

1.  It's that time of the trimester again when we must take a step back to assess where we've been and where we are going.  Much like we did during the first trimester, this week you will be looking back to re-read your blogging commentaries from December through February.

As you re-read your commentaries, I'd like you to think about your blogging strengths and your areas of growth.  What would you like to work on as a blogger as we head into the Student Blogging Challenge this March? What blogging skills would you like to continue to practice?

Have your comments changed at all from the first trimester?  If so, how?  Use the below rubric and the google doc form to assess your progress this trimester as we grow together as bloggers.  Just like last trimester, you will be selecting one piece to edit and polish to include in your writing portfolio, so make sure you read through each and every comment.

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

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

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

Correct spelling and capitalization.

This form is password protected, so make sure to log in after submitting! (This form is now closed for comments)

2.  When you are finished, add your comments to our "wall wisher" - what can we do as a community to build a better blog?

3.  What ten (10) images should we include on our blog to introduce the world to 7 Speaks and our school?  Think about images that we can include in a digital photo.  Please respond in the comments section below

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Talking About a Revolution

Recently, it seems that we have been surrounded by examples of youth taking action, lending their voices to fight for change; and the media, comprised mostly of adults, have taken notice. 

Over the past few weeks, we've had the rare opportunity to watch as a revolution in Egypt took place before our very eyes.  The 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak has ended and, according to the New York Times, the young people of Egypt played a significant role in peacefully toppling his repressive rule.

The Times reports,

Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel prize winner, has been the public face of an effort to reinvigorate and unite Egypt’s fractious and ineffective opposition since he plunged into his home country’s politics nearly a year ago, and he said the youth movement had accomplished that on its own. “Young people are impatient,” he said. “Frankly, I didn’t think the people were ready.”

But their readiness — tens of thousands have braved tear gas, rubber bullets and security police officers notorious for torture — has threatened to upstage or displace the traditional opposition groups. 

Dr. ElBaradei now seems to believe in the power of youth to effect social change, in the article he went on to say that,

The youth movement “will give them the self-confidence they needed, to know that the change will happen through you and not through one person — you are the driving force."

It remains to be seen how this revolution will unfold and who will carry the movement forward.  There is cause to be optimistic, yet Egypt still has a long way to go.  Read the full article from the Times here.

Closer to home, The Notebook reports, on February 11th close to 100 West Philadelphia High School students walked out of their classrooms at 1 PM.

Borrowing a tactic from the long history of student activism, students say they organized a walkout as a statement to the District about their disappointment and concern with the ongoing reforms at the school.

Junior D'atwan Nelson, an organizer of the event, said students' voices were being ignored at the school.

Students chanted, "No education, no life."

According to The Notebook and The Philadelphia Inquirer, students feel that the school is disorganized and are frustrated by the number of expulsions, and even arrests, of students for minor infractions such as wearing sweaters, as well as by school police who are "disrespectful of teens."  Not only that, but the school may be letting go of over half of its teachers next year because of plans to overhaul the school as one of the district-run "Promise Academies."  Students are troubled by the fact that many of their teachers will have to re-apply for their current jobs.  You can read the full list of student demands here (scroll down).

And, lastly, in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry we've begun to see several of our characters stand up for their rights.  Cassie finally spoke to Papa about the incident with Lillian Jean in Strawberry, and he had this to say:  

"There are things you can't back down on, things you gotta take a stand on.  But it's up to you to decide what them things are.  You have to demand respect in this world, ain't nobody just gonna hand it to you.  How you carry yourself, what you stand for -- that's how you gain respect.  But, little one, ain't nobody's respect worth more than your own" (Taylor 176).


For this week's blog prompt, I'd like you to consider the theme of social action in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and make connections to yourself, and our world.  Please answer all parts of the following questions in 2-3 paragraphs using complete sentences.  Remember, your response should be able to stand alone; your reader should understand what you're writing about without needing to read the blog prompt.

**Quality commentaries are composed in a google doc before posting and are proofread for CUPS
  • What do you think about the incident between Cassie and Lillian Jean?  Do you think Cassie handled the situation well?  Why or why not?  
  • Is it ever OK to do use violence if you feel you've been treated unfairly?
  • Papa says in the above quote that "There are things you can't back down on, things you gotta take a stand on." What "things" is Papa referring to?  What things do you think Cassie must take a stand on? Why?
  • Have you ever felt the need to "take a stand" on something?  What cause would get you out in the streets like the West Philadelphia High School students, and the protesters in Egypt?
  • What other examples of characters "taking a stand" do you see in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?
  • Do you think these characters are right to take a stand?  What are the risks involved?  Do the potential benefits outweigh the possible dangers?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Exploring Theme in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Friendship

TLC "What About Your Friends"

The Beatles "With A Little Help From My Friends"

Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, and Whitney Houston 
"That's What Friends Are For"

Listen to the lyrics in the above songs and answer the following questions for this week's blog commentary on the theme of friendship in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry 

**Make sure to compose your response in a google doc before posting and proofread for CUPS!
  • What do you expect from your friends?  What makes a friend different from an acquaintance?
  • Quite often friendships are tested by events at school, by our families, and even by other people's opinions.  Have you ever had a friend who was especially difficult to be friends with (don't name names)?
  • Describe the problems you see developing between friends in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  Describe which characters make good friends and why.  Who would you most like to be friends with in the book and why?
  • How are friendships in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, beginning to be tested?
Quality commentaries start a discussion and answer all questions in complete sentences.  Your commentary should be at least 2-3 paragraphs in length.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Everybody needs a hero (or a heroine)

This week in 7th grade ELA we had help from local author and illustrator, Alex Stadler, developing main characters for our ... FAIRY TALE WRITING UNIT!  Yes, it is really, truly happening.  We will be writing (and publishing) fairy tales this spring and I can't really think of a better way to kick off the actual writing of these tales than the awesome workshop we all got to take part in led by Alex. 

For those who unfortunately missed Alex's visit, we spent an entire class devoted to dreaming up our main characters and taking notes on our visions and inspirations by outlining "character resumees."  Students took notes on their character's appearance, obsessions, fears, strengths, weaknesses, family, friends, living situation, schooling history, and more.  After getting our words down on paper, students then went on to draw their character's portrait (kind of like a police sketch).  As a handful of students read their work aloud, it was amazing to watch as the number of people in the room (in person and on paper) doubled.  I'm hoping to add some of these illustrations to our blog soon.

For this week's blog prompt,  we will be using the character sketches we began as well as our paragraph rough drafts to further explore our characters and commit them to paper.  These characters will hopefully become the main characters in our fairy tales, the heroes or heroines, who will encounter obstacles and hardships but, in the end, prevail.

Students, for this week's blog commentary type up your revised paragraph using the checklist below as a rubric.  Because we have had more time to work on these paragraphs, I am expecting fully developed, polished pieces.  Your paragraph should not only tell us about your character, but should also make us excited to read your tale.  Your paragraph should include the following:

1.  An interesting title.  Your title should be creative and tell us something specific about your character.  You could use the character's name, but you could also think of using a question to spark the reader's interest, or a descriptive, alliterative phrase that says something about your character.  Skip a line after the title to begin writing.

2.  Include a clever opener.  Don't just say: "My character's name is Max Hyperion."  Instead, think of a compelling way to introduce your readers to your character.  Try some of these sentence starters below, or come up with your own:

    - The first thing you notice when you meet _____________ is ...
    -  [Insert Character's name] is  [three adjectives to describe their personality].
    -  [Insert Character's name] is the most __________________ you'll ever meet.

3.  Use your character resume as a guide to detail both your character's physical appearance and their personality.  This is the meat of your paragraph.  Make sure to change the length of your sentences and the words in your sentences to keep your writing interesting and alive.  Think about discussing how these personality traits or their physical appearance affects their daily life.  How do others see your character?  How does your character feel about him or herself?

4.  Come up with a tag line.  Most people have words or phrases that they say a lot (whether they like it or not.  Think Paris Hilton: "That's hot.").  What does your character say a lot?  What does that say about them?

5.  What does your character want or need more than anything?  Every main character, or hero, needs a problem to solve.  What does your character want or need most, and what obstacle stands in their way of achieving their goal or desire?

Happy writing!