Monday, November 14, 2016

Welcome to T2!

Families,

Welcome to Trimester 2! Here are a few updates and reminders:

In English this week we launched our next big unit, inspired by StoryCorps's The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Over the next two weeks, your student will interview a friend or family member (preferably one who is at least 40 years their senior). We will use these interviews as inspiration to write biographical narratives. Please review the project launch information with your student and discuss who they might choose to interview. Students need to select an interview subject and contact them to set up a time to conduct the interview by this Thursday. Interviews need to be completed by Monday,  December 5.

You can learn more about The Great Thanksgiving Listen (and even participate yourself!) here. Please note, we will not be using the StoryCorps app to complete this assignment as most students are under the age of 13.

As we round the corner into a new trimester, please encourage your students to turn in their work on time! Many students found themselves scrambling in the last week to complete or turn in missing assignments. Starting this week, you will see "LATE WORK BY... " in the descriptions for assignments in Classroom to indicate the last date that late work will be accepted for that assignment. We will not be accepting late work any more than 2 weeks after the assigned date.

Please also remind students to bring a book for Silent Sustained Reading each day. We read for 10 minutes at the beginning of Social Studies every day. This is a great way for students to make progress on their Independent Reading challenge for the year. Students should also be reading for 20 minutes at home Monday-Friday.

As always, please feel free to email anytime with questions.

Let's explore!
Mrs. Ellis
mellis@westlakecharter.com




Friday, October 21, 2016

First Paragraph Friday - "Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie" by Jordan Sonnenblick

This week I previewed the awesome Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. This is another great realistic fiction book and it even has a sequel!


Thirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother's illness and his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece. Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.

I love the reason that Sonnenblick gives about why he chose to write Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie:

Week 10 Update

Families,

What a busy week we have had!

In Social Studies, we wrapped up our study of medieval Islam by discussing the Crusades and watched this great video by John Green that asks, "Were the crusades a pilgrimage or a holy war? Or both?"



In English, we participated in a Pop-Up Debate about whether or not self-driving cars will be good for America.  We practiced not only using a voice appropriate for the task and space but also on making purposeful and consistent eye contact while speaking. It's great to see students lose some of their anxiety about public speaking as we make this a consistent routine!

We also launched our first major analytical essay about The Giver. Students will be analyzing whether it's worth it to sacrifice diversity and choice for the benefits of "Sameness" as experienced in Jonas's community in The Giver. This week we wrote thesis statements, collected textual evidence, and practiced the difficult skills of crafting context and lead-ins. Next week we will tackle reasoning (analysis) and conclusion paragraphs.

This weekend, could you please check in with your student to make sure they have completed the following in the digital graphic organizer for the essay:

  1. Thesis statement
  2. Claim, context, lead-in, and evidence for paragraph A
  3. Claim, context, lead-in, and evidence for paragraph B

Please also note that there are video mini-lessons linked in the graphic organizer just in case students need a refresher on the various parts of the paragraph.

Due Date Alert!
Formal Book Review #2 is due on Monday 10/24!

Have a great weekend, Explorers!
Mrs. Ellis
mellis@westlakecharter.com 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Week 9 Update

Welcome back, Explorer families!

We hit the ground running in Humanities upon returning from break, finishing up our reading of The Giver in English and studying medieval Muslim innovations and adaptations in Social Studies. I really appreciated how willing all students were to jump right back into work after a week off!

Looking ahead, we are about to start our first big writing assessment - an argument essay on The Giver. This will take up most of the next two weeks of class time in English, and it will be important that students use their class time appropriately to ensure that they do not fall behind. Here is a calendar of when we are planning to work on each part of the essay in class. If students do not complete class work on these days, it will be critical that they finish that work at home so they are ready to move ahead with the class the following day. Please check in with your student each afternoon to ensure that they are on track with the writing process:


In addition to working on this essay during class, students are also responsible for completing the Second Formal Book Review at home independently. The second formal book review is due no later than Monday, October 24, but students are encouraged to complete and submit their second review as soon as they are finished with it.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Let's explore!
Mrs. Ellis
mellis@westlakecharter.com


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Week 8 Update

Families,

Have a wonderful Fall Break! I really believe in honoring breaks from school, so your student does not have any homework for English or Social Studies due when they return. If your student has missing work, this week would be a good time to tackle some of it and check in with me during WELL when we return. Break is also a great time to accomplish some Independent Reading! Please also remember that this is a break for teachers as well! While I will be putting in a few grades this week, I am looking forward to spending the week with my family as well!

This past week in English we continued reading and discussing The Giver. We will finish the novel when we return from break, then launch into our first major writing unit.

In Social Studies, we learned about the Five Pillars of Islam and had some great conversations about respecting cultures that are different or foreign to us. I was really impressed with the respect and maturity that all Explorers showed this week!

Again, have a wonderful break!

Mrs. Ellis
mellis@westlakecharter.com

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:

ENGLISH
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.

SOCIAL STUDIES
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.

REMINDERS

  • 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
mellis@westlakecharter.com