Saturday, September 24, 2016

First Paragraph Friday - "Legend" by Marie Lu

This week I previewed Legend by Marie Lu. Legend is the first book in a trilogy (the next two books are Prodigy and Champion) and is narrated by alternating narrators - Day and June. It's a great series with lots of twists and turns!

Image result for legend marie lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Marie Lu has another series called The Young Elites. The third and final book is being released on October 11!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Week 7 Update

This was a crazy week with power outages, WIFI issues, and our awesome Chili Cook Off, but we still did lots of exploring and learning in English and Social Studies! Here are some highlights:

In English, we dove into Lois Lowry's The Giver. Students are tracking signposts and answering tough questions like "Is a society where everyone is treated the same fair?" and "What is the relationship between equality and fairness?" I am looking forward to discussing Chapter 5 first thing next week and would encourage you to ask your Explorer about this very important chapter at home this weekend!

We also had our second Pop-Up Debate this week, questioning whether the Olympics should have a permanent home. 7th-grade Explorers did an awesome job debating the merits and drawbacks of keeping the Olympics in a single location. I was really impressed with their speaking and listening skills and the willingness of all students to participate in public speaking, even though it can be intimidating to stand up and speak in front of all your peers.

In social studies, we spent several days exploring the Arabian Peninsula and sharpening our map-reading skills. Then, we began learning about Arabia in the 6th century and the early life of Mohammad. Next week we will explore the origins and spread of Islam and work in groups on a Muslim House of Wisdom project.


  • Progress reports went home this week! Please click here to read a very important message about Humanities progress reports
  • Your signature is required on two rubrics this weekend. The Book Review rubric (a green half-sheet) and the Social Studies Unit 1 Assessment rubric (a white full sheet). Revisions are available for all students on these assessments for the next two weeks at WELL.
  • My WELL takes place on Wednesdays from 12:30-1:15. Students should sign up to attend WELL here and be prepared to know exactly what they will be working on when they arrive. 
  • This is the last week to get book orders in - I will place the order before we leave for October break.
This is also my last week to teach English and Social Studies to students in periods 4 and 5. After the October break, Mrs. Chavez will be returning from her maternity leave. I will really miss my 4th and 5th period Explorers, but rest assured I will still be on campus teaching every day in the morning. Mrs. Chavez and I will work very hard to align our curriculum as closely as possible for the remainder of this year, and I will always be available to help any 7th-grade Explorer with Humanities work! Please be on the lookout for a letter of introduction from Mrs. Chavez in your inbox next week.

Have a wonderful weekend!
Mrs. Ellis

No WIFI? No problem! #westlakecharter

via Instagram

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Can't wait to add this to the classroom library!

via Instagram

Week 6 Update

This week we were ahead of Mr. Aichele's class in Social Studies, so we took a break before starting our unit on Ancient Islam and spent the whole week focusing on reading and writing in English.

First, we finished our discussion of the six signposts for fiction writing and analyzed chapter 4 of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key looking for all the signposts. We also practiced our analytical writing skills and wrote several "CER" (claim, evidence, reasoning) paragraphs - we focused on writing arguable claims, finding good evidence, and writing reasoning that analyzed our evidence and really showed our critical thinking skills.

In preparation for next week's Pop-Up Debate, we read a great Pro/Con article from NewsELA about whether or not the Olympics should have a permanent home. In addition to working on close reading skills by answering text-dependent questions about the text, students also wrote a CER paragraph where they took a side on the issue. Their work on that paragraph will set them up for success in next week's debate!

We also launched our English unit on Lois Lowry's The Giver. Even students who have read this book already or have seen the movie will really benefit from the structured assignments and discussions we will do with The Giver; we will be using this whole-class novel to practice the type of talking and writing about books that we will be doing all year long.

Finally, we explored the Express & Reflect purpose for writing by writing 6-word and 140-character memoirs. You can see some of the great student work here.

A few other reminders:

  • Progress reports will go home next week.
  • My WELL (office hours) is from 12:30-1:15 on Wednesdays. 
  • This week is the last week for students to turn in late social studies work before we move on to the next unit. 
  • Book orders are due by the end of the month
  • Sign up for Remind! (Period 1/2 or Period 4/5)

First Paragraph Friday - "Unwind" by Neal Shusterman

This week I previewed Unwind by Neal Shusterman. This is a super interesting and creepy book and is the first in a series of four. I highly recommend it!

Image result for unwind

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them 

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away. 
Here is Shusterman talking about his inspiration for the Unwind series:

You might also be interested in a short film that was inspired by a chapter in the first book. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Week 5 Update


Here's the latest from 7th grade English and Social Studies!

This week we had our first-ever Pop-Up Debate and I am proud to say that every student participated! The public speaking "moves" that we worked on were:

  1. Making an arguable claim
  2. Supporting the claim with evidence
  3. Speaking in a clear voice at a volume appropriate for the space and occasion
  4. Practicing SLANT when other classmates were speaking
Our next debate will be on September 14 and we continue to hone the above skills as well as start to practice the skill of responding to a classmate, whether to agree or disagree. 

We also began exploring Signposts for reading fiction - patterns that all authors use that make us tstop while we are reading and ask ourselves questions about why an author might be making a certain choice. This week we covered Again & Again, Words of the Wiser, Memory Moment, and Tough Questions. Next week we will finish up with Contrasts & Contradictions and the Aha Moment. These signposts will give students a common language to use when discussing poetry, short stories, and independent reading books, as well as our upcoming class novel The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Social Studies
This week in Social Studies, students completed the Unit 1 Assessment. This assessment asked students to pick one topic from our Unit 1 study of life in medieval Europe and write about the three most important ideas from that topic. I was really impressed with how well students used class time and how many Explorers were able to turn in their work on time today. Next week we will begin Unit 2 which is about Ancient Islam. 

Other Important Stuff
  • My WELL Office Hours are from 12:30-1:15 on Wednesdays. If your student needs to attend the WELL for help with Humanities work, please have them fill out this form prior to attending. If your student needs help with math or science, they need to arrange that with their math or science teacher(s). 
  • Scholastic Book Orders are due at the end of the month. Please see this post for more information about ordering from Scholastic and helping us get more books for our classroom library. 
Thanks families and, as always, let's explore!

Mrs. Ellis