An Open Letter to…

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We’re finishing out the 2017-2018 school year by writing open letters to fictional characters.  Some of us are writing in order to pay tribute, and others of us are writing to (constructively?) criticize.

Regardless of our take on the subject, we all agreed that a strong open letter has several characteristics:

  • a clear controlling idea is presented in the introductory paragraph
  • supporting points are made in the body of the letter, and those points are then elaborated with relevant details AND commentary
  • the controlling idea is echoed in the conclusion, perhaps accompanied by an appeal to action
  • the letter writer’s VOICE is engaging and authentic
  • the letter has an appeal to a wider audience

Many students enhanced their letters with GIFS and other images.  We learned in our digital citizenship lessons that Fair Use laws can protect the use of copyrighted images as long as those images are used in conjunction with critique of a product.

As you enjoy the following open letters, feel free to share your own opinions in the comments!

Esha’s open letter to Severus Snape

Joseph’s open letter to Leo Valdez

Sanaya’s open letter to Indiana Jones

Daniel L’s open letter to C-3PO

Kate’s open letter to Bella Swan

Kayley’s open letter to Wonder Woman

Austin’s open letter to Shrek

 

 

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons CC0
J’accuse” is an influential open letter written by Émile Zola in 1898 over the Dreyfus Affair.

Descriptive Narrative Writing: The Phantom’s Lair

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In our Writer’s Notebooks this week, we played around with writing our own descriptions of the Phantom’s lair.  Drawing upon the noticings and author’s craft lessons from previous units, we each worked to develop a description of the lair that created a strong mood.

Students had full creative license here:  their description could reflect any characterization of the Phantom they wanted to work with. Was the Phantom evil, lonely, dangerous, pathetic, mysterious, depressed, romantic, bitter…?  The choice was up to the writer.

Each worked to create that chosen mood through a variety of means:

  • choice of details to include and emphasize
  • use of imagery and figurative language
  • use of devices such as repetition and magic three
  • variety in sentence structure, such as the use of fragments or questions to create tension
  • choices in paragraphing, such as the use of a dramatic one-sentence paragraph
  • use of movement in the scene as opposed to description of a static space (the “narrative” part of the descriptive-narrative composition)

Enjoy the work of the following writers.  What do YOU notice about the choices each made?

Mark

Ava

Ian

Grace

James D.

Sanaya

Scott

Jessica

Carson

Jennifer

Zoie

Vanessa

Katelyn (who wrote her post as a poem!)

For some of our thinking about theme and  Phantom of the Opera, check out our responses to a question about compassion.

Image credit:  Pixabay CC0

Crafting a Poem

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One of the assignments every West Ridge student completes in seventh grade is writing an original poem.

This composition is a process piece:  after spending time reading and discussing mentor text poems, students spend time independently exploring our school library’s large collection of poetry.  After experimenting with possibilities in their writer’s notebooks, students then draft, conference, revise, edit, and publish their own poems.

Below are just a handful of the 130 poems written this December.  Each is accompanied by an author’s note that provides insight into the writer’s inspiration for the poem and experience in writing it.

“At First Glance” by Aoibhin

“The Beach” by Charlie

“The Team” by Benjamin T.

“The Whale Shark Swims” by Ava

“Unless…” by Daniel L.

“A Surprise in the Lake” by Brittany

“Snowflake” by Avery

“I Stand at the Block” by Cannon

“Hunger Games Poem” by Charan

“Flying High” by Emaan

 

Image credit:  Pixabay CC0

A Closer Look at A Christmas Carol

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Take a look at Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol:

 

Scroll through Dickens’ handwritten manuscript page by page by clicking HERE.

Turn the pages by using the buttons in the upper left corner. Zoom in to more clearly see Dickens’ revisions by using the controls at the bottom of each page.

Notice that even the most talented writers (especially the most talented?) revise their work!

For more background information on Dickens and A Christmas Carol, check out this website.

 

New School Year, New Bloggers!

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Our 2017-2018 West Ridge Wildcats have been blogging for a few weeks now, and we’re off to a great start!

The topics we choose to write about each week can vary widely, but there’s always a common skill we’re focusing on.  Recently, that skill has been paragraphing.  No one wants to read a long block of text (especially when reading online).

We’ve been noticing the various ways in which paragraphing can be effective:

  • paragraphing helps our readers follow our thinking
  • paragraphing can add emphasis to a moment, helping our readers see, hear, and feel what we want them to see, hear, and feel
  • paragraphing can enhance mood and add voice to a piece of writing

Check out these blog posts on a variety of topics, and notice how we’re organizing our thoughts into paragraphs 🙂

We invite you to leave us some comments.  We’d love to hear from you!

  • Luca reviews the “old’ Blade Runner in preparation for the release of Blade Runner 2049
  • Abbie shares her experiences at summer camp
  • Troy has some thoughts about the game Overwatch
  • Miranda writes about her pet lizards
  • Ian is writing a fiction story featuring a real-life gangster
  • Scott has some thoughts about DNA and individuality
  • Mary explains her disappointment with Texas weather
  • Ethan describes his love of soccer
  • Austin educates us about the history of Nintendo
  • Joelle argues that dance is a sport
  • Morgan introduces us to a dragon named Luna

For more of our work, see all 140 names on the sidebar to the left!

Image created via Canva.com

Banned Books Week

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Banned books display

 

What do Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and Harriet the Spy have in common?

All three have been banned at one time or another.  School districts received complaints that Charlotte’s Web had talking animals (a sure sign of witchcraft!), that Harry Potter promoted dark arts, and that Harriet talked back to adults and was therefore a poor example for young people.

Other banned children’s books include The Giving Tree and The Lorax (both considered a threat to the foresting industry), Bridge to Terabithia and Alice in Wonderland (both involving overly elaborate fantasy worlds) and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (too depressing).

School boards were successful in removing these titles from some libraries; however, many of those decisions to ban the books were successfully challenged and overturned.

Curious about more titles?  Check out this list of banned classics.  How many are you familiar with?  Several of these are studied today in Eanes ISD schools.  This year, we’ll read the sometimes-controversial book The Giver.

For more about Banned Books week, visit our West Ridge Middle School library display.

 

Image Credit: covs97 via Compfight

 

EXpository EXplains

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Pixabay CC0

More students EXpress their thoughts in EXpository posts:

“Why don’t you join me in this awesome place?  See for yourself the beauty of the city that never sleeps.”    
Noelle explains why New York is a great place to visit.

“Netflix is a disease, and there is no cure.”
Kristi explains why Netflix is addicting.

“…we live in Texas, and when temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees in December, you start to realize a crucial fact that all Texans have learned: Texas winter is awful.”
Ava explains why Texas winters are awful.

“The Bruins will be dangerous come tournament time, and they are a team that everybody should be putting in their Final Four.”
Flynn explains why he’s betting on UCLA to make it to the Final Four.

“Everyone loves to be able to stay awake at night and stay asleep in the morning for some weird reason, so any break from the usual go-to-bed-early-wake-up-early routine is welcome”
Alice explains why she’s looking forward to Spring Break.

“For those of you viewers that know how Adobe Animate works, please give me some hints, because I am hopelessly lost with this program!”
Andrew explains why he finds a certain computer program frustrating.

“Running late to class because you couldnt open your locker? Or maybe it was because you had to grab different supplies, and it took a minute to switch out your stuff. What about hallway traffic and you still have to go by your locker to get your things? Well, fear not, there’s an amazing solution to your problems: a backpack.”
Maddy explains why backpacks should be allowed in the classroom.

Expository Writing

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Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working on expository writing:  writing that explains. Textbook chapters, magazine articles, and instruction booklets are some of the many kinds of expository writing.

As a seventh grader, you’ll focus on expository writing that explains your opinion about a topic or your thoughts about an idea.

Check out these short expository compositions from previous WRMS seventh graders:

Lauren explains why summertime is the best time of the year.
Steven explains how NOT to play video games.
Kevin explains his hatred of pep rallies.
Rachel explains why the Hill Country Galleria is a great place to hang out.
Joseph explains his love of football.
Tori explains why sidewalk chalk was one of her prized possessions as a kid.

What do these posts have in common?  Can you identify some of the strengths of effective expository writing?

 

A Question About Compassion

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107655_PHAN_25_Show_History_2008

In Phantom of the Opera,  Christine’s compassion for the Phantom leads to transformation:  the Phantom’s heart softens and he lets Raoul and Christine go free, he himself is set free from his bitterness and hatred, and he escapes the mob after physically transforming himself to elude capture.

Think about other stories you have read or seen in which a character  shows compassion for another.  How did that compassionate act change a character or move the story in a new direction?  Name the story or character and share your observations.

Another way to think about the question is to turn it around:  can you think about a story in which the withholding of compassion has turned a character or a story in a different direction from what it might have otherwise gone?

Can these questions apply to nonfiction as well as to fiction?  You may answer with a nonfiction example if you prefer.

Write a comment in order to respond to the question, or respond by elaborating on another student’s comment.

 

Image credit: Phantom of the Opera. Digital image. The Phantom of the Opera Official Website. Cameron Mackintosh, Ltd., 2008. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.