Expository Writing


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?


#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?

Despair, Distress, and Darkness


There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.

Think of the deepest, darkest place you could imagine. Good- now- make it dismal… pitiful… and… poignant. Now, think of the saddest memories you have- dying, failure… imperfection…. Now- Throw them all in a cauldron- one not even the worst witches would dare to think about- and mix them with heartbreak, hopelessness- and everlasting darkness. Now you are ready to enter his lair.

In a dark room- on a bed of stone. The sound of a violin song. Not even a cockroach would dare to inhabit the darkness of the small, cramped room. There is a man playing a violin. On the stone cot, A shadow in the pitch cloister. His name is the Phantom. His disheartening music could explain for his treacherous life. Despair, distress, and darkness. Day after night of playing the violin, on the cold and unforgiving floors.

The ceiling seems to get closer every day- as he might have said long ago, in the 20 million years or so… but he has learned to contain his thoughts, long ago. on the abysmal castle-like walls, a single torn painting linger a painting of emptiness- and pitch black strokes. The rest of the walls are empty- just like the phantom.


Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Flood G. via Compfight


Voice in Writing


Pixabay CC0

Pixabay CC0

What is voice in writing?  Read the following posts and think about what these writers are doing to capture your attention and connect with you as a reader.

“Fifty Minutes of Freedom” by TJ
“Advice for Future Seventh Graders” by Kendall
“My Trip to Mexico” by Reece
“The Starter That Nobody Wants (Is Better Than the One You Choose)” by Sloane
“Basketball Season Is Over” by Harper
“The True Meaning of Tired” by Alex
“Technology…” by Alec
“Star Trek vs. Star Wars:  Which Is Better?” by Tae-Kyung

What are some of the ways a writer can show personality through words?

Poppies Grow, Row on Row…


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, British soldier
Poem composed in May 1915

Artist Paul Cummings had a vision: one poppy for every British soldier who died in World War I, each planted at the Tower of London as a tribute to the sacrifice of those men. The resulting imagery is powerful indeed.

What do you think and feel as you view the result of this artist’s work?

Take out your Writer’s Notebook and turn to the next blank page. Can you capture the sight with imagery of your own?

The Journey Begins with a Call to Adventure


During our discussion of Beowulf:  A New Telling, we also talked about characters from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. In those stories, Luke, Frodo, and Harry each receives a call to adventure: a summons to leave the world he has known and to embark on a journey.

Last year, students came up with a longer list of people who have received such a call:

  • The Avengers are called to adventure by Nick Fury
  • Ender Wiggin is called to adventure when he is accepted to Battle School
  • Katniss is called to adventure when her sister’s name is drawn in the reaping
  • Amy Pond is called to adventure when she discovers the crack in her bedroom wall
  • One Direction is called to adventure by Simon Cowell
  • Superman is called to adventure by his father
  • Peter Parker is called to his life as Spider Man when his uncle is killed
  • Eragon is called to adventure when he finds a dragon egg
  • Percy Jackson is called to adventure when he discovers he is a demigod
  • Tris is called to save the factions from the Uprising
  • Tony Stark is called to adventure when his father dies, leaving him a legacy to fulfill
  • Stuart Little is called to adventure when the husband drops the wife’s wedding ring down the drain
  • Brian Robison is called to survive in the forest after the plane crash

Here in Dan Priest’s video are more scenes from more stories that develop around a character called to adventure.

Can you think of your own list of examples from fiction?

How about from reality? Can you think of people called to their life’s accomplishment by circumstance or inner voice?

In what way have YOU been called to adventure?

Give an example in the comments.

Imagery in Poetry


Click the “full screen” icon to view poems.

We invite you to read some of the poems we crafted after a study of imagery in mentor texts “The Shark” by Edwin Pratt, “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser, “Poppies” by Roy Scheele and “When It Is Snowing” by Siv Cedering. Students were invited to pattern their poems after the work of the published poets.

As students worked on their poems, they were asked “What do you want your reader to feel?”  The answer informed the use of imagery, and all that goes into that: details, word choice, graphic elements, and more.

These are some of the efforts of the second week of school. We look forward to sharing more as we learn more in the months ahead!

Who Am I?


When Peter Parker walks in late to his English class, he interrupts a lesson on plot in fiction. His teacher is explaining that a mentor of hers used to say that there are ten basic plots in all of fiction, but that she disagrees…she thinks there is only one: the question of who am I?

Certainly the exploration of that question is key to many stories.  It is key to the story of Spider Man as Peter Parker must figure out the origin of his identity and who he wants to be going forward.  The question of identity is one we each must answer as we grow up, and it makes sense that if literature is the exploration of human experience that its stories strive to answer that question, too. Who are we, as individuals and as part of larger communities?

“Who am I?” is a question that is key to understanding the theme and plot of many stories we have discussed this year, among them

  • Beowulf, A New Telling
  • Freak the Mighty
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Lion King
  • Mulan
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Les Miserables

Can you think of more stories you have read or watched that explore the question of identity?  Share your answer in the comments.

Darkness: a Beautiful Thing?


As I walk into the Phantom’s lair I feel I chill rush through me. I stop and look around the room. It is incredibly dark. The only lighting in all of the Phantom’s mysterious hideaway, is an immense chandelier hanging from the cracked ceiling. Only three candles are lit. The floor is rough, worn out cement. And the walls are a deep crimson red with black designs scattered throughout. I can tell the room is bigger than the eye can see because of the faint sight of candle light far in the distance.

I turn back to see the Phantom lingering further and further into the darkness. I slowly follow him deeper into his realm of despair.
I then hear a faint sound ahead of us. I can’t tell what it is yet. Wind? No it couldn’t be. Not all the way down here. My curiosity directs me to the noise faster. I try to go as fast as I can without daring to pass in front of the Phantom himself.

As we near the end of the lair my eyes wander around the room. But before I can look at anything too closely I hear the sound again, this time loudly erupting from the ground.

“Water,” I say out loud.

I cover my mouth quickly; but instead of seeing rage building inside the Phantom, I see him nod slowely. I walk as close to the ledge as I can, without falling in. The water seems haunting yet soothing in a way I don’t seem to understand.

Pitch black

Pitch black is all I can see. There is no clear marveling river—not at all— in fact I cant see the river at all. The only reason I can say it is water is because of the thundering sound echoing in the cavern. The darkness frightens me for moment, but for some strange reason it soothes me now. I didn’t know how something that seemed so frightening could be so beautiful.

Maybe the dark isn’t what we make it out to be. And maybe, the Phantom isn’t what we make him out to be.