school days left

English 8 students worked on The Diary of Anne Frank, act two scene three. Lots of changes going on in that seen, and students got some resolution to some conflict that has been building through the entire play.

English I Honors students began a couple of lessons focusing on final things in the novel. We will have a small test tomorrow on phrases.


  • English 8 Studies: none.
  • English I Honors: prepare for the phrase portion of the phrase/clause test tomorrow; begin preparing the outline for the final project, a letter to next year’s students.

English Studies finished up their group work on determining voice. We’ll be pulling it all together tomorrow.

English Strategies finished their first journal entries and began the work a voice that English Studies finished up today.

English I Honors students began the next section of the short stories unit, looking at characterization this time around.


Character Schaffer, Scrambled Schaffer, and Two-Adjectives

English 8 students continued with the introduction to the Schaffer model by looking at a puzzle: groups of four received a full Schaffer paragraph, but the sentences were on strips of paper in random order. Students had to consult with one another and their Schaffer notes to determine which sentences were performing which Schaffer roles.


Students will continue the second phase of the work tomorrow.

English I Honors students looked at how we can take a few simple observations about the character in “Old Man on the Bridge” and create a Schaffer paragraph from it.

2-Fullscreen capture 932014 22919 PM
Fourth period’s notes
1-Fullscreen capture 932014 22911 PM
Sixth period’s notes

Afterward, we read “Thank You, Ma’am” to begin working tomorrow on our second substantial writing assignment about characterization in the story.

Creative writing students had a quick mini-lesson on sentence variety and received a document for keeping track of minilessons.


  • English 8 Strategies: none.
  • English I Honors: complete a chart for one of the characters in “Thank You, Ma’am” like we did for the old man in “Old Man on the Bridge”
  • Journalism: none.

English 8 Strategies students began the introduction to the Schaffer writing model today. We went through an overview of all the components (topic sentences, concrete details, commentary sentences, and concluding sentences) before looking at a model.

English I Honors students went over character vocabulary (round, static, dynamic, flat, protagonist, antagonist, etc) before reading a shorty story by Hemmingway in preparation for our second analytic Schaffer paragraph.

Creative writing students flipped Friday’s lesson with today because of school-wide printer server issues. Today we looked at a passages from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to see how she used sensory language in her memoir. We’ll be trying to incorporate this into our own writing in the next few days.


  • English 8 Strategies: none.
  • English I Honors: 
    • complete and turn in online at the Moodle site the first Schaffer analytic paragraph (topic: the role of setting in “The Most Dangerous Game”);
    • complete the first column of the character chart from class that we were applying to Hemmingway’s “Old Man on the Bridge.”
  • Journalism: none.


In first and fourth periods today, they started on a project, that is due tomorrow, about how Dickens develops the different characters in his novels.

Today second and seventh period were reading more of the book Monster they also acted it out.


  • English 8 Strategies: prepare for quiz on Monster courtroom vocabulary tomorrow.
  • English I Honors: 
    • Pick 2 or 3 research topics
    • Read through chapter 40 by Friday
Effective Readers and Socratic Seminars

Second and seventh periods began looking at some knew reading engagements that we’ll be using throughout the year. These are “Think Alouds” and “Say Something.” To introduce and begin practicing these skills and to activate prior knowledge for the book we’ll be focusing on the first quarter, we looked at an informational text about slave codes. This text had embedded skills that we’ll be eventually applying to new texts. Below are the notes we made about the texts (all images from second period’s work).

First and fourth periods continued working with literary analysis, specifically working to analyze characters and how an author develops them. To do this, we used another, modified version of the Socratic Seminar. We had a speakers’ circle with a coaches’ circle that advised the speakers during breaks, and four evaluators (a comment counter, a quote counter, a transition counter, and a big board note taker) all working to determine the natures of the two main characters of “Thank You, Ma’am.”

Big Board note takers made the following notes:

First period
  • Ms. Jones forgives Roger.
  • Roger had a dirty face
  • On page 138,” it said Roger was very young.”
  • Ms. Jones gave Roger the money for the shoes
  • She fed Roger
  • She was trying to change her ways, and be nice to others
  • she did bad things in her past
  • Roger learned his lesson
  • Roger is a horrible purse snatcher
  • He is inexperienced
  • Maybe she wanted a better lifestyle for herself
  • was Roger under peer pressure to steal the purse
  • Roger is probably going to go back to stealing purses
  • He didn’t say anything at Ms. Jones house
  • He was probably trying to provide for siblings
  • Did he even buy the shoes
  • probably in the past Ms. Jones probably purse snatched and someone like her set her straight
Fourth period
  • Ms. Jones says that she has “done stuff too.”
  • She doesn’t have a son, maybe she wants to care for someone.
  • Maybe she lost her son.
  • Tells Roger to “wash his face.”
  • Takes Roger home.
  • Ms. Jones might have been strictly disciplined as a child.
  • She says she will not steal.
  • May have tried the same thing Roger did.
  • Maybe reminds her of that experience.
  • She said that she wanted things, too, as a child.
  • She tries to teach Roger a lesson.
  • Roger may be poor.
  • He says he has no one at home.


  • English 8 Strategies: 
    • second period: complete 6, 7, and 8 from the “Slave Codes” informational text;
    • seventh period: complete 4, 5, and 6 from the “Slave Codes” informational text.
  • English I Honors: 
    • complete a Schaffer paragraph about either Miss Bates Washington Jones or Roger, the characters in “Thank You, Ma’am” and turn it in online here;
    • make a comment on this update about your views on today’s Socratic Seminar: one thing you liked and one improvement you’d make. (Remember: first name and last initial only!)

Today in class first and fourth periods worked on identifying direct and indirect characterization. We pulled examples from “The Old Man at the Bridge” and analyzed them to see if the author used indirect or direct characterization. Our focus standard was RL.9-10.3: “Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.”

Second and seventh periods began a new unit, the first major unit of the year. We looked at illiteracy in the world and read Thank You, Mr. Falker as an introduction to the unit. (The reason for the stress on literacy will become obvious later.) Our main standard focus was on citing the text as evidence of a claim.


  • English 8 Strategies: without using a dictionary, determine a definition for “tradition.” You may speak to anyone you wish about this.
  • English I Honors: read “Thank You, M’am” on page 137. An online version is available here.

First and fifth periods began the focus text for the fourth quarter, Walter Dean Myers’ Monster. We’ll be reading it in class and, since it’s a screen play, acting it out. The rubric for the acting is available here.

Second and fourth periods finished up a look at characterization, which we will return to as we complete Great Expectations.

  • First and fifth periods: none.
  • Second and fourth periods: read Great Expectations through chapter 40. You can use our skimming method for all chapters except 38 and 39. Play close attention to chapter 39: it is a hinge chapter for the whole novel.
Changes in Point of View and Characterization

First and fifth periods began with another choice journal topic (number five) continued looking at point of view, examining the differences between a text originally in third person that they had transformed for homework into a first person text.

2-Fullscreen capture 4252013 112304 AM
First and fifth period notes

We finished up by working on Magic_Squares vocabulary work for Monster, our anchor text for the fourth quarter.

Second and fourth periods, with so many students out for the Beta Club field trip, continued with a more-relaxed-than-usual pace. We returned to the question of characterization, looking additionally at topics we first covered in the first quarter about methods of characterization and types of characters.

1-Fullscreen capture 4252013 112254 AM
Second and fourth period review notes

Students worked in groups to create and re-create/revise word splashes from yesterday, adding today the question of characterization method and character type.

  • First and fifth periods: complete the Magic_Squares vocabulary work from class.
  • Second and fourth periods:
    • continue reading Great Expectations (you’ll need to be through chapter 40 by Tuesday);
    • continue working on the Lord of the Flies self-study.
Point of View in Narratives and Characterization

First and fifth periods looked at an excerpt from There Are No Children Here by Alex Kolowitz. We began by examining it for elements that seem to indicate it’s a fictional piece (the presence of characters, dialogue, setting, and a problem/plot) to see how a nonfiction narrative can be structurally like a fiction narrative.

Notes from First and Fifth Periods
Notes from First and Fifth Periods

Afterward, we switched to an examination of the point of view, shifting at the end to an exploration of how a change in point of view might affect a narrative. We began working in class on switching the following passage from third person to first person:

The muscles in Lafeyette’s face tensed. He had his hands full, watching over Pharoah and the triplets. The young ones knew enough to stay in the windowless corridor away from possible stray bullets, but they chattered and fought until Tiffany, too restless to sit still for long, stood up. Lafeyette shoved her back down.

“We wanna go,” whined Tiffany.

“Be quiet,” admonished her brother. “You crazy?”

The narrow hall of their four-bedroom apartment had become their fallout shelter. Stray bullets had zipped through their apartment before, once leaving two holes the size of nickels in the olive-green living room curtains. Another time a bullet found its way into the hallway; it had traveled through a bedroom window and the bedroom door, missing Terence by inches. The children now knew enough to sit away from the doorways.

The five children squatted on the musty floor long after the shooting subsided. LaJoe, who huddled with them, could sit still no longer. Wearing a T-shirt that read WIPE OUT GRAFFITI, she walked into the kitchen and began to sweep the floors. Cleaning house was the only way she could clear her mind, to avoid thinking about what might happen or what might have been. It was cathartic in demanding focus and concentration. She scrubbed and washed and rearranged furniture, particularly when things got tense—with family problems, shootings, and deaths. The kids knew to stay out of her way, except for Lafeyette, who, like his mother, also found cleaning a useful distraction.

“Lemme help you,” he begged, still sitting by the wall. “You figuring to start cleaning up ’cause you upset. You figuring to start cleaning up.” LaJoe didn’t hear him. “Mama, let me help you. Ain’t nobody gonna get killed out there today.”

“Stay there, Lafie. Someone’s gotta watch the triplets,” LaJoe said.

Students were to choose on of the characters — Lafeyette, Pharoh, Tiffany, or LJoe, their mother — and write a new version of it in first person from their chosen character’s point of view.

Second and fourth periods began a two-day lesson on characterization. We began by looking carefully at eight characters:

  • Pip 
  • Joe 
  • Mrs. Joe
  • Estella 
  • Mrs. Havisham
  • Uncle Pumblechook
  • Jaggers

Each student chose one character and created a word splash for the character, with the style of the script for the character’s name somehow reflecting aspects of the character’s personality.

  • First and fifth periods: complete the first-person rewrites begun in class.
  • Second and fourth periods:
    • complete the word splash from class;
    • read Great Expectations through chapter 30.

First and fifth periods worked on choice debates. We’ll be having the debates later in the week; today we worked on the first scenario, fleshing out one side of the argument and beginning to work on the second side.

The scenario we used is from Bargaining Games, by J. Keith Murnighan:

You and an acquaintance, “Pat”, are walking down the street when you meet an older couple with a bag of money. The older couple makes the following offer: We wish to give the two of you $100,000 if you can decide how it should be divided between the two of you in the next 3 minutes. You say, “So, Pat, what do you say? How about fifty thousand dollars each”. To your dismay, Pat answers, “Gee, I’m really sorry, but my mother needs an expensive operation. So, I’ll take eighty thousand dollars and you can have twenty thousand. I won’t settle for anything less!”

Pro: Argue that Pat should agree to the 50/50 split.
Con: Argue that Pat’s financial needs are great, so you should agree to the 80/20 split.

We’ll be dividing into groups for individual scenarios for debate tomorrow.

Second and fourth periods began by examining a sentence from chapter eighteen of Great Expectations

I had known him the moment I saw him looking over the settle, and now that I stood confronting him with his hand upon my shoulder, I checked off again in detail, his large head, his dark complexion, his deep-set eyes, his bushy black eyebrows, his large watch-chain, his strong black dots of beard and whisker, and even the smell of scented soap on his great hand.

Afterward, we looked at the character Jaggers in some detail.

  • First and fifth periods: complete the three arguments and their rebuttals for the 80/20 split (the con argument above).
  • Second and fourth periods: work on the Lord of the Flies project.
Initial efforts and notes about the process

First and fifth period finished the Diary of Anne Frank. We also began wrapping up the Anne first/later impressions work by examining the actual final diary entry (as opposed to the invented entry from the play).

First period's overview
First period’s overview
Sixth period's overview
Fifth period’s overview

Second and fourth periods began working on their sonnets. We began with a whimsical sonnet by Billy Collins:

Poem annotations
Poem annotations

We wrote one quatrain together as a class today in order to work out some of the kinks of the process and acclimate students to the challenges of writing in iambic pentameter.

Initial efforts and notes about the process
Initial efforts and notes about the process

As a side note, the test scheduled for next Wednesday with first and fifth periods has been postponed to January 3, the day after our return from winter break.

  • First and fifth periods: none.
  • Second and fourth periods: continue working on poetry anthology project.
Notes from second and fourth periods

First and fifth periods continued with The Diary of Anne Frank, beginning with a quiz and a couple re-orientations with the unit, reminders about various things we’re going to be keeping track of in the second act.

Second and fourth periods put the net up for poetry and finally began looking at meter. We began with words before moving to phrases and full lines.

Notes from second and fourth periods
Notes from second and fourth periods
  • First and fifth periods: add the initial “Later Impression” for Anne to the graphic organizer we’ve been using to track character development.
  • Second and fourth periods: continue working on the poetry portfolio project.
Final Character Planning and Voice Two

First period worked on voice after a bit of practice determining the meaning of words from context. Second and fourth periods finished up their group work creating outlines for a character analysis. Fifth period read chapter two of Nightjohn, looking at how standard and non-standard English, formal and informal diction can affect voice.

  • First and fifth periods: none.
  • Second and fourth periods:
    • prepare for quiz on Monday covering literary terms listed in “Writing about Literature”;
    • write out two of the planned paragraphs for the character analysis and turn it in here.

First period worked on making predictions and activating prior knowledge prior to reading Nightjohn. Fifth period finished up the same activity from yesterday and began Nightjohn, looking at voice and how authors create it.

Second and fourth periods worked on a new story for character analysis: Langston Hughes’ “Yes, M’am.”

  • First period: classroom management issues — draw “anarchy” in the box labeled “A” for tomorrow’s class meeting.
  • Second and fourth periods: complete character analysis chart begun in class.
  • Fifth period: none.