Thursday, December 20, 2012

Final Projects - American Born Chinese

This week we have been celebrating the hard work of 7th grade students as they completed and presented self-designed projects that show off what they have learned reading the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Yang.

The presentations have been entertaining, creative, and also full of new understandings about the themes at the core of this book.  Check out some of the pictures and videos below and feel free to leave a comment!

What did you learn watching the presentations of your peers or performing your own?  

Which presentations were you particularly impressed by and why?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Narrative Leads


This week you will be working on a blog post of your choice and experimenting with narrative leads. A narrative lead you love, the beginnings of our fictional stories, memoirs, or personal essays, will fuel you as writer.  Choose to begin a narrative with a lead that you love and makes you happy - this will make the reader happy too!

 Your narrative blog post is due Wednesday, December 20, 2012

Here are some narrative lead options from Nancie Atwell's classroom to consider:

Typical (Try to avoid a typical lead)
It was a day at the end of June. My mom, dad, brother, and I were at our
camp on Rangeley Lake. We arrived the night before at 10:00, so it was dark
when we got there and unpacked. We went straight to bed. The next
morning, when I was eating breakfast, my dad started yelling for me from
down at the dock at the top of his lungs. He said there was a car in the lake.
■ Action: A Main Character Doing Something
I gulped my milk, pushed away from the table, and bolted out of the
kitchen, slamming the broken screen door behind me. I ran down to our
dock as fast as my legs could carry me. My feet pounded on the old wood,
hurrying me toward my dad’s voice. “Scott!” he bellowed again.
“Coming, Dad!” I gasped. I couldn’t see him yet—just the sails of the
boats that had already put out into the lake for the day.
■ Dialogue: A Character or Characters Speaking
“Scott! Get down here on the double!” Dad bellowed. His voice
sounded far away.
“Dad?” I hollered. “Where are you?” I squinted through the screen
door but couldn’t see him.
“I’m down on the dock. MOVE IT. You’re not going to believe this,”
he replied.
■ Reaction: A Character Thinking
I couldn’t imagine why my father was hollering for me at 7:00 in the
morning. I thought fast about what I might have done to get him so riled.
Had he found out about the way I talked to my mother the night before,
when we got to camp and she asked me to help unpack the car? Did he
discover the fishing reel I broke last week? Before I could consider a third
possibility, Dad’s voice shattered my thoughts.
“Scott! Move it! You’re not going to believe this!”
When beginning a story, craft several leads. Experiment. A lead you love will fuel
you as a writer. Choose the way in that makes you happiest; it will make your
readers happy, too.
© 2002 by Nancie Atwell from Narrative Leads Lesson 12
Lessons That Change Writers
(Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Resources for American Born Chinese Final Project & Extra Credit Blogging Opportunity


This week we begin working on American Born Chinese final projects.  If you are doing a research project on the Monkey King or Chin-Kee and stereotypes, please check out the resources below.  Students who are interested in learning more about Gene Yang might also want to explore these links.

**Extra Credit opportunity - This week you will not be required to blog so that you can spend more time working on your final projects. If you would like to complete a blog post you may blog about a TeenBiz article of your choice on your blog.  Please provide a summary of the article that lists the main points and your response to it: What are your thoughts, opinions, questions, and reactions to the reading? You could also do more research about the topic and inform the class about what you learned.  To find an article of interest to you, use the search function on TeenBiz.  Minimum two paragraphs.

The Monkey King

Chin Kee

When taking notes on your reading research, whether online or in your book, make sure to keep track of page numbers and sources!  Use a graphic organizer like this one:

Evidence or Examples
Page number or source 

 Suzy says, "Today when Timmy called me a...a chink, I realized...deep down inside...I kind of feel like that all the time"

ABC (188).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blog Self-Assessment!

Now that we have written at least five blog posts this trimester, it is time to assess our blog writing skills!


Please open the emailed form from me titled: "Blog Self Asessment ~ First Trimester" - then honestly and thoughtfully reflect on you performance on the blog thus far.  This is your opportunity to persuade me what your overall grade for blogging should be this trimester.

Read each question and all of the directions carefully!

Image source:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mining Our Heart Maps

This week, the 7th grade has been working on mining their heart maps in their writer's notebooks to come up with a choice topic to write about this week on the blog.  We've  been talking about how certain topics call for different genres.  For instance, the story that I told about losing my phone during Chirstmas time and meeting Pam might make a great short story, memoir, poem, or letter, while my passion for teaching and beliefs around how I believe learning happens in the classroom would make a good essay.

We also talked about writing essays and how they could be either personal or informational.  Maybe you have a hobby on your heart map that you could inform the class about?  Perhaps you have a hidden talent that you could provide "How To" instructions for.

This week's blog is a chance for your passions, interests, and curiosities as a writer to guide your way!

Blog drafts are due on Monday 11/19 for my revisions.  Please submit for review if and only if you are ready for me to suggest revisions and corrections.  As always, your blog should reflect your best efforts and be proofread thoroughly before submitting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

American Born Chinese - Reader Response Blog Entry

Image Source:
This week in ELA we learned about the medium of the graphic novel (and how to read it) and began reading American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.  It's safe to say that even though we are only on page 40, this book is already a hit!  We then discussed (and Teacher Lacey modeled) the process for composing reader response blog entries.  Together we decided that there are many strategies that we can use to respond to our reading.  Here is a list of what a Reader Response Blog can do (compiled so far by three sections of 7th grade ELA students).

A Reader Response Blog Entry Can...
  • Include your thoughts and opinions on a text
  • Make connections to your own feelings and experience
  • Introduce and summarize the events in the text you want to write about
  • Ask questions
  • Include your predictions about the story
  • Make inferences about the main character's problem
  • Talk about how the main character feels
  • Include specific details from the story
  • Draw conclusions about the author's purpose and craft
 For this week's blog post, please compose your own Reader Response Blog Entry on your first impressions on the graphic novel American Born Chinese.  For this week you might also choose to focus on what you notice about the graphic novel medium and details from the panels themselves.  Alternatively, you could discuss your predictions and how they may have changed as you began reading the story.  Your blog post should be at least two paragraphs and carefully proofread.  Please include a title and, as always, you're welcome to include relevant images in your post.

Your published blog entry is due Tuesday, November 13, by 8AM.  Please be prepared to share your entry with your peers.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


In the above video, Kevin gives an amusing, but also thought provoking rant, about the stereotypes that he has to deal with on a daily basis.  For this week's blog post, you will reflect on the stereotypes you have to deal with.  

As always, be careful to proofread before posting.

Due: on the blog by 4PM Monday, November 5th

Minimum: Two MEATY paragraphs

Choose one or more prompts below to reflect on your experience of and beliefs about stereotypes.

1.        Write about a time you witnessed someone being treated according to a stereotype.

2.        Have you ever been mistreated or benefitted from a stereotype that was applied to you?  Describe what happened.

3.        Write about a time that you or someone you know or heard about acted according to a stereotype.

4.        Write about a time you experienced or witnessed a racist act and how it made you feel.

Six Word Memoirs!


It's finally time to unveil our Six Word Memoir Videos!  After learning about how just six words can tell a story, 7th grade students set out on coming up with their own.  The results are passionate, funny, and heartfelt.  Please watch the following videos from each 7th grade class and feel free to leave a comment.
Thanks for watching!

Here are the commenting stems we like to use in class to keep our remarks polite and useful!

7A's Class Video:
7A Movie from lacey boland on Vimeo.
7B's Class Video:
7B 6WM Video 2012 from lacey boland on Vimeo.
7C's Class Video:
7C 6WM Movie 2012 from lacey boland on Vimeo.
7D's Class Video:
7D Movie 2012 from lacey boland on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Imagine If A Painting Could Speak...


On Tuesday you visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and explored ways that both visual art and writing can tell a story.  We examined painting, sculpture, armor, prints, and even a Japanese tea house and noticed the careful details that the artists had included to create an effect on us.

Today you will use your notes to write a narrative about your experience looking at art.  You may choose one of the prompts below, or you may wish to develop one of the writing prompts you began in the museum with your group. If you would like to write about one of the prints in the Brandywine Workshop collection, click here.

For full credit, your blog post must be thorough, thoughtful, creative, and well-proofread using the proofreading strategies we discussed in class (see your handout)!

Choose one prompt and one painting below to get started.  You may wish to include the image of the work of art you choose to write about in your blog post.

1.  Journal - Write a journal entry from the perspective of someone or something in a work of art.  Write about the events of your day, your current thoughts and feelings, as well as ideas, reflections, and what you wonder about.

2.  Jump into a work of art - Imagine you can jump into a work of art and write a story about your adventure.  How did you get there?  What happened to you as you explored the work of art from the inside?  How will you get back out?

3.  Exploring dialogue - What would they say?  Write a dialogue between two figures in the same work.  What is each one thinking?  What would they want to ask or tell one another?  What would they say in conversation?  Use the dialogue to begin a story about your painting.

Paintings to choose from:

"The Battle of Milvian Bridge" by Audran after Le Brun

"Breaking Home Ties" by Thomas Hovenden

"South Philly (Mattress Flip)" by Zoe Strauss

"Portrait of the Artist's Mother"

"The Bicycle Race" by Antonio Ruiz

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Would You Change Our School Rules?
Image source:


In honor of the upcoming presidential elections and the debates that we have been watching, this week's blog assignment calls on you to persuade your classmates, teacher, principal and dean about a school rule that you think should be put in place, changed, or eliminated altogether.  This week's post has the potential to make real change.  The best blog entries will be submitted to our principal and dean for their review!

Possible Topics:
  • Gum chewing
  • Uniforms/Dress Code
  • Use of cell phones at school
  • Use of Kindle or other electronic reading devices
  • Other?
Your Task:
  • First Paragraph: Introduce the school rule and state your opinion.  Why do you think this school rule should be eliminated or added to our community?
  • Second Paragraph: Support your opinion with lots of evidence and examples.  What would be the potential positive effects of your rule change?  Consider including student and teacher opinion on the matter. 
  • Third Paragraph: What are the potential negative effects? Explain how your opponents might react to the rule you are suggesting and offer a rebuttal that proves them wrong.
  • Concluding paragraph: Sum up your argument in a thoughtful way.
Check your ICS mail to read an example editorial essay titled: "Let the Kids Choose"

Please post your persuasive editorial on your class blog:
- Give your blog a title - make your title count!
- Proofread for CUPS
- Don't forget to click the blue submit for review button when you are finished!

Your blog post is due: Monday, October 22nd. If you know will have trouble accessing computers or the internet, plan ahead! Write your blog out on loose leaf to type up Monday at school before 4PM for full credit. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blogging Away! 
Image Source:

The 7th grade students are getting the hang of this blogging business and their first couple of posts are up!

Click on the links below to read some exemplary student blogs from last week!

Denisha tells us why she loves signing.

Arion gives us a taste of why he loves basketball and the story behind his six word memoir.

Jazmine shares the story behind her memoir and her love of reading.

Aaliyah discusses her six word memoir and her love of playing the piano.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Introducing Individual Student Blogs!

Blog Sauce
 Image Source:

Hello 7th graders,

I am so impressed by your first attempts at blogging last week!  Many of you already seem like old pros!

This week, we will be creating our new individual blogs using the website:

To get started on your blog, follow the step by step instructions below:

1.  To create your new blog simply go to your class' blog website and find your name on the drop down menu and then type in your password (this password is the same as your Achieve3000 password).

2.  Begin exploring on your blog.  Choose a name for your blog that represents who you are as a writer.  The default option is: Your Name's Blog.

3.  Click on your profile at the top of the site once you are logged in to change your blog's theme and add an avatar that will represent you.

4. Now you're ready to write your post!  Click on new post and begin your draft.  Don't forget to give your post a title!

5. Your first step will be to insert your Six Word Memoir slide - simply click on Upload/Insert Media: at the top of your post and then select: "Media Library."  Once you have successfully uploaded your image, it's time to start writing!

Blog Assignment - Submission for review due Tuesday! (Two MEATY paragraphs MINIMUM)

1.  Underneath your memoir, give some background about the assignment. Is there a story behind your Six Word Memoir?  If so, tell it using details and description that support your memoir.  If your memoir is more of a personal motto, explain what the motto means to you.

2.  Write an *I LOVE* paragraph about something that you love.  You could focus on a hobby or activity, or a place that is special to you.  Use the paragraphs we read in class today as models.  Use lots of specific VERBS and NOUNS.

Remember, this is your first blog post so your goal is to share with the world who you are and what is important to you!  Be honest, personal, and creative!  And, as always, proofread for Capitalization, Usage (grammar), Punctuation, and Spelling.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Fictional Friendship


Welcome to 7 Speaks!

For your first blog post this year, please write two paragraphs in response to the following prompts.  Make sure to include lots of details, and check for spelling and punctuation before posting.  For all of your blog posts, make sure to compose in a google doc first!  That way you will be better able to check your work. Also, because we are unable to indent on the blog, please use the enter key to skip a line between paragraphs. 

To review how to post a comment, click here.

Paragraph One:  Write a detailed paragraph that gives lots of information.  You should say more beyond, "I want to be Han Solo's best friend because he is cool."  If he IS cool, explain why.  What would you do together?  What would your friendship be like?

Paragraph Two:  Describe your identity as a reader using the following questions as a guide.Choose a minimum of three (or more for extra credit!).
  • Do you remember when you first learned to read?  How old were you?  Who taught you?  Describe your earliest reading memory.
  • What was your favorite book, or who was your favorite author, as a child?  Did you ever return to one book again and again?  Do you still enjoy this book/author today as a 7th grader?
  • What is the definition of a good book for you?
  • Describe the book you are currently reading.  Include the title and author and tell us about it without giving away any spoilers.  Who would you recommend this book to? (Let's share some titles and get reading!)
  • Have you read The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins?  What are your thoughts on this book being made into a movie franchise?  Do you think the film version does the book justice?  Why or why not?
  • What other film versions of books have you seen and loved (or hated)? 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dear 7th Grade of 2012...


What a year we've had!  Among other things, you have written 27 blog posts - quite an accomplishment!  Now, for blog #28: your final post of the year.  Your last blog assignment is to leave words of wisdom, advice, and general parting reflections on your seventh grade experience for next year's rising class.  Your thoughts will be the first thing my new students read next year when I introduce them to the blog.   

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind for your final commentary:
  • What valuable lessons did you learn along the way that you can pass on to others?
  • What are “the essentials” that every seventh grader should know?
  • What books should every 7th grader read?
Topics of discussions can be related to academics, stress, adjustment from sixth grade, clubs and extracurricular activities, time management, homework, assessments and projects, reading logs and 100 Book Challenge, friendships, Heifer, Take Flight, etc.

Just make sure that your advice is, well, actually good information.

**As always, please use complete sentences and proofread for CUPS before posting.  Compose your commentary in a google doc to make sure you do not lose your work and have ample room to edit!

If you discuss particular classes and teachers, please do so with respect, humor, and goodwill.  If your commentary is not respectful, I will not post it.

I've enjoyed getting to know each and every one of you this year.  Reading your writing on this blog, as well as your formal essays and assignments, was often the best part of my week. 

Have a wonderful summer full of adventure and visits to the library. I will miss you next year -- so come visit me!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Who is Chin Kee and where does he come from?


American Born Chinese deals with Asian stereotyping in popular culture. Since the first American and British contact with China in the 1800's, there have existed many racist stereotypes about Asians in general. Many originated with the simple fact that east Asian cultures appeared and operated differently than western ones. East Asia was seen as a place of great strangeness and described as "the Orient" and figured to be a a fantastical, strange place.

Stereotypes, especially prejudicial ones can be extremely hurtful, even as jokes. American Born Chinese attempts to examine some of these stereotypes, to see how they still stick around today, and how dealing with them and transcending them is often part of being an Asian-American. 
When Chin-Kee shows up in Chapter 3, he is a walking stereotype. Let's explore below what stereotypes he embodies:
1-  One of the oldest Asian stereotypes involves the form of dress worn by poor Chinese farmers and laborers in the 1800's.

• This is a Chinese farmer in traditional 1800s garb.

• These are immigrant Chinese workers working on the San Francisco Railroad in the 1800s.

Compare the above two photos to this racist political cartoon from the 1800s:

But, Asian Stereotypes didn't die off in the 1800s

2- Chin-Kee is a racist stereotype. Below, check out some footage from blockbuster 1980's film "Sixteen Candles" featuring another outrageous Asian stereotype, Long Duk Dong. 

3– Now that you've viewed those videos, please read this Blogpost analyzing the harmful stereotypes that Long Duk Dong embodies.


Reflection: After reading and viewing the above, please respond to the following questions in complete sentences with evidence and details.  

1.  Compare the real photo of Chinese men working to the 1800s political cartoon.

2.  What is stereotypical about the Long Duk Dong character from Sixteen Candles?

3.  What are two key points the NPR article raises about Long Duk Dong and Chinese stereotypes?

Bonus Question: Do any of these sources remind you of Chin Kee?  How?  What is Yang doing with his creation of the character Chin Kee?

Monday, April 16, 2012


A stereotype is an oversimplified, but widely held view of what a whole group of people is like, or a characteristic that they have. Because it is a view that is so simplified, and can often be hurtful, stereotyping can lead to assumptions, as well as bias. Bias is a preconceived opinion that is not based on actual experience or is based on limited experience.

For this week's blog prompt, please respond to the following THREE questions. Each question should be a new paragraph (skip a line).

**As always, don't forget to compose in a google document and proofread for CUPS before posting!

1.  Stereotypes Write a paragraph about a group or groups you belong to and a stereotype you experience as a member of that group. What stereotypes have you faced and how have they made you feel? Where do you think these stereotypes come from?

2.  Watch the video, "I Have To Deal With Stereotypes" below and react to the following questions.
  • Give examples of the Asian stereotypes that bother and amuse Kevin.  
  • What evidence does Kevin offer that combats these stereotypes?

3.  Read the Wikipedia entry on East Asian Stereotypes (click here) and respond to the following questions:
  • Describe and react to at least two of the stereotypes described.  What is the stereotype and what does it make you feel, think, wonder...?). 
4. Bonus Question (5 points): Post your Just Because poem (in a separate comment). Include clear stanza breaks.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hasta Pronto Nicaragua!

By Kai, Charles, and the sleepy airport crew

Later that same monday we went to a fritanga. Most of you guys have seen street vendors on the corner selling their treats and such, well a fritanga is like a giant one of those. Once again we had a choice of three meats: pork, chicken, and beef. We ate at the tables provided in the area and this was one of the restaurants that we could not get reservations for so you ate at a free table and some people didn't necessarily get to eat with all of their friends. The fritangas were really cheap and we spent way less than we had planned so the teachers took us to a nearby super market and we got to get ice cream pops.

The next day we woke up bright and early and went to La Laguna de Apollo. La Laguna de Apollo is a volcanic crater lake that gets fed from underground, it was really big and the water was really blue. There we went swimming and had a load of fun. We also got a chance to go in inter tubes to float just float around and have fun. After our adventure at the laguna we went to a nice restaurant. Once again we were offered the same choices; beef, pork and chicken. The meat was served on a steaming hot plate with a side of plantains and rice beans. After we were done eating we went to go buy things at the market. They had bracelets, necklaces and all sorts of arts and crafts for us to buy for our family. We had our last meal together in Nicaragua inside the market, it was Caballo Bayo style. We had our last meeting then, wrote letters to our selves that the trip leaders will later send to us, we woke up the next morning at 4:30. 

Which leaves us now writing in the airport back to Philly summing up the days events. Most of the students said that they are sad to go but it will be nice to go back home and sleep in their own beds. But something better that all the kids said was that they are ready to come on back to Nicaragua. I guess it is just the way the people acted and the sense of community that always seemed to be in the atmosphere. Thank you to everyone who helped us to broaden our view of the world, to see a different country, and to see how exceedingly privileged we are. On behalf of the whole Take Flight crew, we thank you all for helping us experience life in another culture and for following our travels on the blog.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Hard Day of Work

By Logan and Eamon

The first time we went to Chacocente we delivered desks funded by ICS and ANS and had a field day with both students from both ANS and Chacocente. Today we went back to Chacocente to do some hard labor for the community. It was a very interesting experience. When we arrived they were in the process of building a new restroom for the school with running water and flushing toilets. There was only one toilet in the whole project that had a flushing toilet and that was in the house of the coordinator of Chacocente, Juan Carlos. Every other bathroom was a latrine, which is basically a hole in the ground. Before we started the day everyone from Chacocente and ICS gathered around and greeted each other, thanking each other for either the experience or the help. Afterwards, the boys, Tr. Anthony, and a few kids from the project started to play a quick game of soccer, while the girls got straight to work and started painting metal support columns red lead by our bus driver who jumped right into the mix, Don Pablo. 

After a while, Omar, the delegations coordinator, came to give us a tour of the entire community. On the tour we saw eight houses, a store, the well, and the school. During the tour we also saw various plants and animals such as pineapple bush, cinnamon tree, and a cashew tree (each fruit makes only one cashew). We also saw many chickens, cows, horses, birds, and DOGS. We were all fascinated when Omar told us that the families built their own houses with the help of volunteers. Each house was different in its own way. The way the houses looked or things the house was decorated with. The way the families got their water was from a well that was 600 hundred feet deep. It cost 45,000 thousand dollars which was donated by a church in Texas. We also got to tour one of the houses which was considered the white house because Juan Carlos owned the house. The way his house was different was that he built a porch, had cable, television, and also a flushing toilet.

After the tour we began working on helping build the restroom at the school. There were three different stations to work at. The three different stations were making support beams, moving cinder blocks, or shifting sand for the cement. Each station was brutal. At the sand shifting station the sun was beaming down on everyone, the sand got into peoples eyes, we had to lift shovels of sand, and the sand changed the color of our skin by making it darker and dirty. There was heavy lifting involved in the cinder block moving. The pile of blocks seemed 10 feet high. Everyone from the project were helping out by building the foundation or doing the same thing we were doing. In the middle of the work Cullan’s buddy from ANS showed up to help. The families cooked us a traditional Nicaraguan lunch with chicken, rice and beans, fried plantains, and watermelon. We sat on the floor in the special lunch room for visitors.  

After lunch we had a little break time to do whatever. The boys went to play soccer with some boys from Chacocente. There was also a little market hosted by the families with a bunch of little things such as bracelets and bags. We started to work again after the break and everyone was filthy and tired from a half day of work. We still had about half the mountain of cinder blocks remaining, so everyone stopped what they were doing to help the people at the cinder block station complete the task before we left. Once everyone started to work we got about twenty blocks from point A to point B in a minute. And after forty five minutes we had gotten all of them to one side of the school. We then said our goodbyes to the families or what they like to say, “see you later” and we gave hugs to everyone, a tradition for visitors to Chacocente.

Throughout the day we all realized that even though we got all hot, dirty, and sweaty we all did a great thing to help out the families. They thanked us for helping them,  but honestly we all want to thank the families at Chacocente for letting us have this chance to help them, and just for being so open to us. They all stayed strong through the rough times and because of that they are all kind hearted people. After helping the families it changed the way everyone thinks from Take Flight.  Not all of us do hard labor volunteering, but after seeing the smiles on the families’ faces when they thanked us, we all felt it was worth the sweat and the work. This whole trip has been a life changing experience for both the teachers and the students.