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.

 

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

 

A Question About Compassion

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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.

Let’s Visit! #16stubc

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One of the reasons we are blogging is to make connections with other student writers. Take some time to visit these classrooms from other parts of the world.  Introduce yourself as a student from Texas (remember, no last names!) and ask a question or share a thought in response to what the student you are visiting has to say.

Be sure to leave the link to your blog so that you can receive a visit in return!

Mrs. Flannery’s class in Australia

Mrs. Gordana’s class in Serbia

Mrs. Carvalho’s class in Portugal

Mr. Dahl’s class in China

Mr. Webb’s class in New Zealand

Learning from Mentor Texts

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Mentors teach and inspire us.  They set examples for us to follow, and we benefit from their guidance.

The same is true of mentor texts.  These are pieces of writing that we read and analyze so that we can figure out what the writer is doing that is so effective.  What moves does the writer make to set a scene, create a mood, or sketch a character?  Once we’ve figured that out, we can try those same moves in our own writing.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

In some of our blog posts this week, you’ll notice us giving credit to Suzanne Collins and Gayle Forman for inspiring our writing.  The following passages were lifted from the first chapters of The Hunger Games and If I Stay:

     Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower.  He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he’s a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.
      Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.

                                                Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

      You wouldn’t expect the radio to work afterward. But it does.
   
 The car is eviscerated. The impact of a four-ton pickup truck going sixty miles an hour plowing straight into the passenger side had the force of an atom bomb. It tore off the doors, sent the front-side passenger seat through the driver’s-side window. It flipped the chassis, bouncing it across the road and ripped the engine apart as if it were no stronger than a spiderweb. It tossed wheels and hubcaps deep into the forest. It ignited bits of the gas tank, so that now tiny flames lap at the wet road.
    And there was so much noise. A symphony of grinding, a chorus of popping, an aria of exploding, and finally, the sad clapping of hard metal cutting into soft trees. Then it went quiet, except for this: Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 3, still playing. The car radio somehow still is attached to a battery and so Beethoven is broadcasting into the once-again tranquil February morning.

                                                          Gayle Forman, If I Stay

What do YOU see in these passages?  What are the writers doing to help you hear, feel, see and understand what is being described?  We’re learning to recognize and name writer’s craft, and we’re starting to apply our new understanding in our own writing.

For examples of student work inspired by the above mentors, see Carly’s blog post, William’s blog post, and Tristan’s blog post.

For an example of student work inspired by our use of Beowulf: A New Telling as a mentor text, see Erin’s blog post and Julia’s blog post.

 

Up and Running!

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                                           Hideya HAMANO via Compfight

Why do we blog?

  • To share our knowledge

“Climate Change” by Lucus

“The Discovery of Planet Nine” by Jack

“Never Give Up” by Kristi

  • To express our opinions

“My Lullaby” by Jackson

“Clinton vs. Trump” by Sinan

“Collin Kaepernick and His Protest” by Bobby

“The Ups and Downs of the Cowboys” by Ben N.

  • To relate our experiences

“Home Run” by Ava L.

“My First Soccer Game of the Season” by Preston Z.

“Nervousness” by Ingrid

“Jingles” by Katie M.

“Here Comes the Bride” by Sophie M.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at other blogs to notice more about digital writing: What draws us in as readers?  What keeps us reading?  How is digital writing different from other kinds of writing?

Watch our posts for improvement!  We’re excited about the possibilities.

 

 

Blogging Begins Soon!

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As we prepare to set up our blogs for the 2016-17 school year, we need to have a sense of what it is that we are creating.  What is a blog? What makes some blogs more inviting and effective than others?

First, a brief overview of blogs, courtesy Edublogs:

One way to learn more about blogging is to visit some blogs.  As you explore the sites below, think about what you like (or don’t like) about the design and layout of the blogs. How important is ease of navigation?  Which posts draw your interest more than others?
What’s the difference between a page and a post?

Paper Fury is a blog by Cait, a young Australian writer who likes to review books.

Mrs. Smith’s class in Canada blogs about what they are learning.

Our Westlake High School librarians keep a blog.

This teen homeschooler blogs about life on her family’s farm.

Anthony Wyatt is a chef who publishes a food blog.

Amanda Eccleston blogs about her career as an elite mid-distance runner.

Sky is a student who blogs to share his passion for cars.

Mrs. Kriese publishes a blog about her interests, experiences, and random thoughts.

 

Welcome Back!

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The first day of school is here, and we’re ready to start learning!

Enjoy this message from John Green about why we’re all here at WRMS today:

 

 

“We need you.  We believe in you.  And we’re counting on you!”

Welcome back, everyone.

Spotlight on 7th Period

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When we talk about VOICE in writing, we mean that we can hear the writer’s PERSONALITY come through his or her words.  Our seventh period writers have done a great job developing voice in their compositions, and you’re sure to enjoy those wonderful voices as you read their work:

Aaron shares his thoughts about a certain presidential candidate.

Briana relates a rather scary hoverboard experience.

Caroline has us all hungry for Girl Scout cookies!

Carter takes us hunting over the holidays.

Drew has a new game to tell us about.

Emma tells us about her favorite store.

Kaleb shares what it was like to have his tonsils out.

Kendall reviews a book she enjoyed reading.

Kyrstin remembers a frightening swimming pool incident.

We know that we still have some work to do in editing our writing for correct punctuation, capitalization, and grammar, but hey, we’re making progress!  Watch us this spring as we continue to grow in our ability.

That’s a look at the first half of the alphabet.  We’ll visit the second half of our roster next week!