An Open Letter to…


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.

New School Year, New Bloggers!


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

EXpository EXplains


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.

#16stubc Australia: What We THINK We Know…


Pixabay CC0

Pixabay CC0

Recently, we’ve received visitors from Mrs. Flannery’s class in Australia.  How cool is that?! We’re excited to be sharing our ideas with students in another part of the world.

Today we put together a list of what we think we know about Australia.  No iPads allowed…this is what we came up with without using the internet:

  • lots of kangaroos!
  • lots of scary, deadly animals live in Australia
  • more plains than mountain ranges
  • many tourist attractions, such as the Sydney Opera House
  • koalas!
  • rain forests!
  • Australians speak with an accent
  • famous for the Great Barrier Reef
  • emus! cassowaries!
  • great surfing!
  • had a national election in June

Mrs. Flannery’s class, how did we do?  What more can you tell us about where you live?

Why Do We Have to Write Today?


Notebooks for little girls

In English class, we read “Why Do We Have to Write Today?” by Todd Finley.  Students wrote their own responses to the question, some of which you will see in individual blog posts.  As a group, students came up with these reasons:

  • to ask a favor
  • to request more time
  • to sign a card
  • to obey teachers
  • to tell parents you’ve left
  • to observe lab results
  • to be known
  • to connect with friends
  • to be a teenager
  • to role play
  • to tell stories
  • to explain why
  • to figure things out
  • to feel better
  • to be safe

Why do you write?  Leave us a comment and share your thoughts.


Image credit: Andrea R via Compfight

For Mr. Webb’s Class in New Zealand


Our sixth period students are excited about their upcoming Skype chat with Mr. Webb’s class in New Zealand.  The two classes have been visiting each other’s blogs, and now the kids will get to visit in person…sort of 🙂

We started preparing for our chat by brainstorming what we think we know about New Zealand:

  • New Zealanders have little tiny ponies that are awesome
  • The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed there
  • “Kids ride kangaroos to school,” said Clark (really, Clark, really?!)
  • You can order kangaroo meat at a restaurant
  • Some schools let the kids go barefoot
  • People in New Zealand have really cool accents
  • There are tiny cows in New Zealand
  • It rains more there than in Texas
  • It’s hot and humid in New Zealand
  • People drive on the left side of the road
  • The Auroa School kids are amazing 🙂
  • There are volcanoes in New Zealand

When we compared the size of Texas with the size of New Zealand, we were just as amazed as Mr. Webb’s kids. We know Texas is big, but wow, Texas is BIG!


Some students insisted that our above “facts” are wrong, with some saying kangaroos are in Australia, not New Zealand. We’ll have to do some investigating in the coming days!

Student Spotlight: Fifth Period Free Topic Posts


For most of this year, students have been enjoying the freedom to blog about any topic they choose in any mode they choose.  Check out this sampling of the wide variety of subjects covered by fifth period students so far:

Jenna celebrates her dog’s first birthday.

Do you love musicals?  Madeleine shares her favorite Broadway hits.

Meghana finds Draco Malfoy to be a sympathetic character.

Surya explains why studying a second language is a good idea.

Want to understand Javascript? Ian does an excellent job of explaining a complex topic.

Lorena enhances her writing with photos, color, and special effects.  Cool!

What’s your favorite season?  William explains why his is winter.

Ananya writes a poem to capture the beauty of a new day.

Blake has some information and questions for you about 4-D printing.

Erik enjoyed an opportunity to meet a favorite author.

The misery of flu season is expressed in this post by Layna.

Madeline takes you into the Phantom’s lair…and into his mind.

You’ll appreciate these amusing tips from Varun on how to avoid telemarketers!

Milan describes his dread of state testing.

Pranu shares her thoughts about an unsettling documentary she recently watched.

Shreyaa describes the complexities and joys of one of her hobbies:  Bharathanatyam dance.

You’ll want to visit Hawaii after reading what Tiffany has to say about it!

Student choice is an important factor in writing instruction.  Students who have something to say will work to say it well, and maybe even have some fun in the process!

Blog Power


BeFunky_Wildcats-1 (2).jpgAs we prepare to complete our blog self-assessments next week and set goals for the spring, let’s take a look at what some other student writers have done with their own blogging.  Do you have a particular passion that could become the focus of your blogging this semester?

Jake’s Bones
Jake is a thirteen-year-old Scottish student who has been collecting and studying bones since he was six.  His blog has been featured on television and radio, and his work has become a book by the same name.

Cayla and Ashley
Cayla and Ashley are two sisters, age fifteen and thirteen, who have used their blog to showcase their singing and song-writing talent.  They now have a YouTube channel, and they have released two CD’s via iTunes.

Sky’s Cars
Sky is a fifth grader who has been blogging about cars for two years.  His visits to car dealerships and his interviews with car experts have given his blog a wide readership.

British student Maelo Manning started blogging about politics when she was only ten years old.  Since then, her blog has won many awards for political commentary, and she has been a guest on several political talk shows in England.

Tolly Dolly Posh
Tolemia is a fourteen-year-old who has been blogging about fashion since she was eleven. Her blog has been featured in many publications, television segments, and radio spots.

Call Me Hannah
Hannah Alper is an eleven-year-old blogger who describes herself as a “Change Maker, Activist, Eco Warrior, Animal Lover.” Her blogging has led Hannah to roles as a TEDx speaker and a student ambassador for Free the Children.

Check out the work of these “kid reporters” from SIKids and Time for Kids.

Student bloggers also share their work at TeenInk (must be at least 13) and their book and movie reviews at DogoBooks and DogoMovies.

What do you want to do with your blog in 2015?

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Spotlight on Third Period


Found Blur Motion
Photo Credit: ilouque via Compfight

Students have a choice of what to write about each week.  Enjoy this collection of posts from third period:

Avery writes about her love of Christmas.

The possibilities of time travel are explored by David S.

Eli shares his thoughts about schoolwork and his study habits.

Jonny writes about the fun of fishing.

Jack wrote a poem about hockey.

Are you a hunter? Kirk tells about getting his “first bow deer.”

Thomas writes about a day spent at home, too sick for school.