Mr. Mullen's Language Arts 8th Grade

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year! This is my eleventh year with the district. As Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch might say, "Word on the street is this group of 8th graders is good people." I'm looking forward to getting to know each of them. We start out with a poster of who you are! What do you like to do? How many members in your family, and what do they look like? My World Poster Activity. Parents: please allow your son or daughter to use photos for this activity (they will return with them in the spring!) as it makes for a better look at who they are! We will work on this on Friday only, and it will be our first graded assignment! The grade will be kind as long as students make a good faith effort, as art is a subjective thing. :) Parents, if you need to contact me, the best way to do so is via e-mail: I check my mail regularly, and will get back to you!

Thurs. Sept. 7: We are looking at being prepared for emergencies such as fire and lock-down. In addition, we will look at the student handbook and discuss cell phones, bullying, the dress code etc. In addition, building wide we will be playing team-building games etc. The students have been introduced to the D.I.N. (Do it Now sponge activity). This consists of two bad grammar example sentences on the white board that students correct to the best of their ability. Then I go over the corrections suggested to me by volunteers. The students make the corrections, then we turn the binders in for grade every two weeks. 

Fri. Sept. 8: We will be doing the D.I.N. as usual, then the My World Poster activity. These posters are popular with the kids (and staff) all school year long. Students make a poster of their family and their hobbies which we hang on the wall. 

Week of 9-11: Monday we will read the short story, "The Landlady." This is always a popular story with the students. They love the twist at the end. Tuesday and Weds. we do pre-reading research into what life would be like in the colonial period. The novel Johnny Tremain is set in the turbulent period leading up to the Revolutionary War. Students will see that life was very different: no T.V., cell phones, electricity etc. Thursday: we will begin the novel and begin to find the evidence for the comprehension questions that go along with the chapter. This is in line with the Smarter Balanced stuff. We will read section one of chpt. 1.  EVIDENCE from the text is word for word, not paraphrased. Friday is usually reserved for independent reading, but things are a bit hectic and we don't yet have access to the books. We will continue our Johnny Tremain reading by finishing chpt. 1.  

Week of 9-18: Mon. we will begin the Three Best Things About Christmas essay. This lays the foundation for our 5 paragraph model essay that we will use for the Expository Essay, and the Persuasive essay we will do later in the year. It also gives me a look at their writing ability. The essay will incorporate hook, thesis with rule of 3, three body paras. and conclusion. Tues. we conclude the essay. Weds. we will read non-fiction on the NEWSELA website on the Chrome books. This is in line with the SBAC. Thurs. we return to the Johnny Tremain novel. On Friday we will go to the library and check out a 100 Book. We will read and make journal entry #1. 

Week of 9-25: Mon. we continue the novel Johnny T. after the D.I.N., which we do daily. We are working on finding the evidence for comprehension questions. We will finish chpt. 2 and begin 3 through sec. 1. Tues. we continue the novel by reading chpt. 3 through the end of the chpt. and answer the questions with evidence from the text. The students now put their finger on the evidence and we discuss if the answer works. Weds. We will read from the novel chpt. 4 through sec. 4 and w/s. Thurs. we will finish chpt. 4 through sec. 2 of chpt. 5 and answer the comprehension questions. We will also take our first steps with Cornell notes.  Fri. we read from our 100 Books from the library and make journ. entry #2. 

Week of Oct. 2: Mon. we continue Johnny T. after the D.I.N. by reading sec. 2 through the end of chpt. 5. We are continuing finding evidence from text. We are also adding to our Cornell notes worksheet. Tues. We continue the novel reading chpt. 6 through sec. 2, as well as answering the comprehension questions and vocab. We will also add to our Cornell notes w/s. Weds. we break from the novel to read from our Chrome tablets on the NEWSELA website for non-fiction. The students have taken a baseline reading of three stories they were assigned to establish their reading lexile. Some may not be finished however, and will do so. Thurs. we return to the novel Johnny T. and will read the rest of chpt. 6 and turn in packet 2: chpt. 4,5, & 6 worksheets. Fri. We read from our 100 Books and make journ. entry #3. 

Week of Oct. 9: Mon. we continue Johnny Tremain reading sec. 1 & 2 of chpt. 7, and answering the comprehension questions by quoting 'evidence' from text. This is a word for word quote, in line with what they will be required to do on the SBAC in the spring. Tues. we again read from the novel by finishing chpt. 7 & worksheet. Weds. we will break away from the novel to look at a classic short story by Edgar A. Poe, "The Tell Tale Heart." The students always love this story. It's one I read in class over 40 years ago, and never forgot. We will also look at "Paul Revere's Ride." This is certainly in keeping with our fall selection of in-class reading! Thurs. again return to Johnny T. and comp. questions. Fri. is 100 Book reading day, and journ. entry #4. 

Week of Oct. 16: Mon. we continue with our reading of the novel Johnny Tremain, from sec. 3 of chpt. 8, possibly to the end of the chpt.  In addition, we will continue looking for evidence from text. The students are being guided quite a bit in this activity, as it's vitally important that they understand how to include the question in the answer, and to quote word for word. I am surrendering this control now, by having volunteers take a stab at it. We also are continuing the Cornell Notes activity along with the reading. Tues. is another reading day from the novel, as we will finish chpt. 8, and read sec. 1 and 2 of chpt. 9. Weds. we break away from the novel to read non-fiction on the Chrome tablets from the NEWSELA site. This is our third day on this activity this fall. Students are finding their reading level by taking the comprehension tests at the end of the articles. Thurs. we return to Johnny Tremain by finishing chpt. 9 and reading sec. 1 of chpt. 10. Fri. is reading day for the 100 Books the students chose from the library, and we make journal entry #5. 

Week of Oct. 23: Mon. Chpt. 10 Johnny T. comprehension stuff. The students for the most part understand the process of finding evidence. We need some more work as to how to do so independently. Tues. we will continue the novel by reading chpt. 11 through sec. 4. Weds. we will read sec. 5 of chpt. 11, and finish the last chapter! The students have really enjoyed Johnny Tremain. I can't say they've enjoyed finding the evidence as much. ;) Thurs. we again read from our 100 Book list book and make journal entry #6. Fri. is a staff development day. Enjoy your weekend!

Week of Oct. 30: This is Conference Week! Mon. Pd. 4 will be with me in L.A. We will lay out the study guide for the final for the novel Johnny Tremain. This group of 8th graders really enjoyed the novel. I heard on almost a daily basis from someone saying, "This is a good book." I agree. Tues. periods 1,2, & 3 will receive the info. needed to be successful on the final for the novel. Weds. period 4 will read from their 100 Book and work on the Template (which is ticket to the interview on their novel) as well as make journ. entry #7. Thurs. periods 1,2,& 3 will read and prepare for the interview. Fri. all four classes will finalize preparations for the interview next week. 

Week of Nov. 6: This is a big week for the students. We place a big emphasis on the independent reading. It is the key to doing well academically and the grade reflects the importance and the time we devote to this. Monday through Wednesday we will be doing the interviews in class. Thurs. we take back our old 100 Book and get a new one which we will read today, and make journal entry #1. 

Week of Nov. 13: Another big week for the students. Some didn't do well with the book report interview. Despite giving them time to read in class, and constant reminders, some didn't take the interview seriously. The students are told at the beginning of the year (first day of school!) that the book report grade is a test grade and reflects the importance of what it is designed to do: make them better readers. Some must stumble before they learn. 
Mon. we will work on our study guide memorization for the Johnny Tremain final which is Thurs. and Fri. Tues. is another study day. Students may do the final draft of their essay component ahead of time. Weds.. we break away from the study to read non-fiction on the NEWSELA site on the Chrome books. Thurs. and Fri. it's test days. The study guide may NOT be used on the final itself. The novel finals are one of the times students must actually study to do well! 

Short week of Nov. 20: This week, in line with the Smarter Balanced requirements, we will compare and contrast the novel Johnny Tremain with the movie version. The movie is from the 50s so I won't bother sending a permission slip home. The film is a bit dated (like all of us relics from the decade) and is a Disney production. The movie does differ from the novel quite a bit, so the task for the students won't be daunting. The film will take up the two and a half class periods for the week. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Week of Nov. 27: This week we will be looking at Jack London's "To Build a Fire," and using the Cornell Notes to think more critically about some of the themes that run throughout this classic short story. Monday we will begin the story and employ the Think-pair-share strategy to discuss and record out thoughts as to the guiding questions.Tues. and Weds. we will finish up the story. We will also take time to discuss internal and external conflict. This short story is perfect for this exercise. Thurs. will be a writing day for a narrative essay based upon the guiding question: The Time I was Coldest. Fri. will be 100 Book reading day and Journal entry #2.

Week of Dec. 4: Monday we look at another short story this time with a theme of comedy. "The Ransom of Red Chief," is a story that reminds me of Dennis the Menace, or Home Alone. Tues. we will come up with the questions that we come up with as a group by using Costa's levels of questions for a quiz that we will take next week on "To Build a Fire." Weds. we begin taking the practice test for the SBAC. This will give us an idea where the kids are. THURSDAY is 100 Book reading day and journal #3. Fri. we continue the SBAC Interim test. 

Week of Dec. 11: Monday we will read another short story with a dog! Yes, it is a pattern, but who doesn't love a dog? :) "Stickeen" by John Muir. Tues. we once again read non-fiction on the NEWSELA website. Weds. we continue with the SBAC Interim, and hopefully finish. Thurs. there may be some who need to finish the Interim test. We will also take the quiz that the students designed last week which incorporate the three Costa levels of questions. Fri. is 100 Book reading day and Journal 4.

Short week of 12-18: Monday we will look at two short stories to see how others have responded to the passages they read with questions. I'm looking for Level 2 and 3 questions to see if the students can make the connection to thinking more deeply about what's happening. We will look at "The Path Through the Cemetary," and "A Man Who Had No Eyes." Tues. we write a letter to ourselves to be delivered ten years from now. We'll brainstorm for the things we would say to ourselves about who we are and who we hope we will be in a decade. Yes, I will mail these in the future! Weds. we will make a Christmas message to each other and exchange these. Have a great holiday, and we'll see you in 2018!

Week of Jan. 3: Welcome back! This week we lay out the expectations and requirements for the Expository Essay. This will be the first time students will see what is required in a formal word-processed paper. I'll review the 5 paragraph model incorporating the 'rule of 3' in the thesis. Thurs. we will begin researching using 3-column notes. The 3 columns will have the information that will become the 3 body paragraphs. Fri. we will read from our 100 book and make journal entry #5. 
Week of Jan. 8: We are continuing the Expository Essay. This is the first time we will try our hand at a formal word-processed, researched paper like students will be required to do in high school and beyond. I've given them prompts and examples of what the paper should look like. The paper will have proper info. in upper left corner, a title centered, and introductory paragraph with hook and thesis. There will be three body paragraphs in line with thesis that will include facts and an expert quote on their subject, as well as a conclusion. The paper will be 12 font, and it must be peer-reviewed before it is turned in. We will finish this up on Thursday. Friday we will again read from our 100 book and make journal entry #6. 

Week of Jan. 16: Tuesday we catch our breath from essay writing to talk about verb mood. This is in line with the Smarter Balanced standards. We will also do a life skills lesson on the cost of living. This is part of motivating young people to see their education as "the great equalizer." A way to improve their lot in life. Weds. and Thurs. we look at a classic short story by Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Friday we return to the 100 book to prepare for next week's interviews. 

Week of Jan. 22: Monday we spend the day finalizing preparations for the book report interviews this week. Students should make their eighth and final journal entry, as well as turn in the D.I.N.s that have not been graded. Today's the day to get final help with the Template, which is the ticket to the interview. Tues. through Thursday the students will be interviewed about their books. 

Week of 1-29: Monday we will begin do a pre-reading lesson dealing with real-life situations where a student's attempt at telling little lies to avoid responsibility for bad choices sometimes can take on a life of their own and get out of control. This is also the situation the protagonist of the winter novel Nothing but the Truth finds himself in after lying about his bad choices to his family and school administration. Tuesday through Thursday we begin the novel and the reading journal. Friday we will take our 2nd qtr. 100 List reading books back to the library and get new ones, as well as make journal entry #1 for the new qtr.

Week of Feb. 5: Monday we will continue the new novel Nothing But the Truth, and make journal entry 4. The students are enjoying taking part in playing the various roles in the novel by reading them aloud. Tuesday is another novel day, and we also make journal entry 5. Weds. we will break away from the novel to return to the NEWSELA site for reading comprehension practice. Thursday, it's N.B.T.T. day again, and journ. 6. Friday is 100 Book list reading day and journal 2. 

Week of Feb. 12: Monday we will lay out the study guide for the novel N.B.T.T. The final will be Thurs. and will include an essay component. This is one of the times during the school year where students are required to study and memorize characters/characteristics, vocab., and provide an example of simile and metaphor. I will give them time to study in class Mon. Tues. and Weds. They will not be using the study guide for the final! They may come for the test with the final draft of the essay if they wish. They may word-process and print it as well, though they are not required to. They may write this out by hand. 

Week of Feb. 20: No school Monday. Tues. we will finish the essay component of the novel final. Weds. we return to the non-fiction reading and comprehension questions on NEWSELA with the Chrome tablets. Thurs. we will do a think-aloud with a practice SBAC for finding evidence in text! Fri. we will read from our 100 bookds and make journal entry #3. 

Week of Feb. 26: Monday we will do the activity we were scheduled for before the weather changed our plans. That activity is the practice SBAC. We will read the story on the projector screen, then discuss what the question is asking. Without really knowing what the question says by close reading, we can't really know what it's asking us to do. The next big thing is finding the evidence in the text. We will do a think-aloud to find the evidence together. The students did a district wide attempt at a practice SBAC earlier this year, and if the examples I looked at are any indication of where we are in terms of readiness for the test, we have a great need for this type of activity to prepare! This is not the only time we will do this. In March I'll do much more. Tues. we look at poetry terms and vocabulary, as well as the poem "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman. Weds. we will be doing the NEWSELA reading on the Chrome tablets. Thurs. we return to the poetry with "Annabelle Lee," by E.A. Poe, as well as other classics. Fri. is 100 Book reading day, and journal entry #4. 

Week of Mar. 5: Monday We continue our look at some of the various types of poetry and review the poetry terms for the quiz tomorrow. Tues. We do the matching poetry quiz, as well as look at song lyrics as poetry. Weds. We try our hand at end rhyme poetry writing, or free verse poetry writing. I'm not asking for Shakespeare, Shelly, or Keats, but I've been surprised at the depth of feeling and the quality of the poetry I receive! Thurs. we take another look at a practice SBAC in class and discuss evidence and what it looks like. Fri. we return to our 100 Books for independent reading and journ. #5.

Week of Mar. 12: Monday, in line with the National Standards, we look at the function of verbals in sentences. In order to make a dry subject a bit more palatable, we will break into groups and have a contest to see which group can sort movies, music groups, and song titles for gerunds, participles, and infinitives. Winners get the treats. Tues. we do some more non-fiction stuff on chrome books with emphasis on finding evidence. Weds. the folks who were not in L.A. yesterday will do the non-fiction lesson. (Conference week disrupted normal classes) Thurs. we return to our 100 Book independent reading and make journal entry #6.

Week of Mar. 19: Monday and Tues. we will do a pre-reading activity in preparation for the Anne Frank unit. The students will use Cornell notes to follow how the Nazis and how their leader Adolph Hitler came to power, and how his hatred of Jews became state policy. The students will be trying out one of the online reading programs My Perspectives as we read the play. Weds. we break from the novel to do some more close reading stuff in preparation for the SBAC test. Thurs. if all goes well, we'll begin the play. Fri. the students will read from their 100 Book list novel and make journ. entry #7.

Week of Mar. 26: Monday we will work on the Template for the book report interviews which will take place when we return from spring break. Students must have the Template filled out entirely as ticket to the interview. Tues. through Thurs. we will be getting to know the new re6ading comprehension program My Perspectives with the computers. There will be a learning curve for this, so I hope for calm and cooperation for both students and teacher alike. Fri. we again read from our 100 books before heading out to spring break and make journal entry #8. 

Week of Apr. 9: Mon. we will work on Template or finishing up our reading for the book report interviews which will take place Tues.-Thurs. in class. Template is ticket! No Template, no interview. Friday we will take our old 100 Book back to the library and choose another for 4th qtr. Monday we will begin a trial run of the Amplify L.A. program online. The district is trying out My Perspectives Language Arts stuff as well. We will make a decision in May on which is the best fit for the district as far as m.s. and h.s. 

Week of Apr. 16: Mon. we will be trying out another ELA online program. This one is called Amplify. Tues. and Weds. we will also be giving Amplify a try. Thurs. we will break away from the norm to do a think-aloud strategy with the SBAC practice test. Understanding the question and finding the evidence are key skills when taking the SBAC. Fri. we read from our 100 Book and make journal entry 1.

Week of Apr. 23: Mon. through Weds. we will be trying out the Amplify program. We have learned some cool things that the program can do. We seem to like it better than the first program we tried:  My Perspectives. Thurs. we prepare for the SBAC test which will start next Tues. by continuing the practice test we started last Thurs. I think we're about ready for 'game day.' Fri. is 100 Book reading day, and we make journ. entry #2. 

Week of Apr. 30: Mon. we will go over test taking strategies, as well as review terminology they may see on the SBAC which we begin tomorrow! Tues. through Thurs. we will be doing the Language Arts SBAC. Fri. we will again read from our 100 Books and make journ. entry #3. 

Week of May 7: Mon. we will take a look at the Smarter Balanced practice Performance Task, along with tips on what the P.T. will require as far as conventions etc. Tues. through Thurs. we will be finishing up the SBAC for the year! Fri. we return to the 100 book reading and make journ. entry #4. 

Week of May 14: Mon. we take a break from the SBAC which most finished last week. Others will be pulled to catch up with the rest. In L.A. we will look at A.B. Guthrie's "Bargain," a short story that has a twist at the end. The story is one the students like because of its themes of bullying and revenge. Tues, Weds. and Thurs. we will be reading the play Anne Frank. The students sign up for roles in the play and read the parts. Fri. we again read from our 100 books,and make journ. entry #5. A note on the SBAC: I was pleased that the students seemed to take the test seriously. I'll be surprised if they don't show improvement. Looking forward to the results. 

Week of May 21: Mon. We continue with the play Ann Frank. The young people enjoy playing the various roles of the characters. Tues. and Weds. we will wrap up the reading of the play and turn in the journal entries. Thurs. we read from our 100 Books and make journal entry #6. The students will also work on Template stuff in preparation for the book report interviews which will take place June 13-15. Fri. we lay out the requirements for the Ann Frank final. 

Week of May 28: Mon. is Memorial Day. Enjoy your day off. Tues. we will study for the final which is tomorrow! Weds. Final day! You may use the books but not the study guide! Thurs. we lay out the requirements for the Argumentative Essay. Fri. 100 Book reading day and journ. #7. 

Week of June 4: Mon. through Thurs. we will be working on Chrome tablets doing the Argumentative Essay. This is done in M.L.A. format using citations etc. The students have done a formal paper earlier (Expository) and again will use the 'rule of 3' in the thesis statement which will line up with the three body paragraphs. Again, the paper will be peer-reviewed and research will be done in 3 column notes ( or 3 pages). The hand written notes must be attached to the final draft or it will not be accepted! This is so students don't revert to the old open a website, steal what's there, and paste it on a Word doc. Fri. we read from our 100 books and make journal entry #8. 

Week of June 11: Mon. we will continue with the Argumentative Essay. Tues. will do double duty. The students will be finalizing their Argumentative Essays, as well as doing Book Report interviews with me. Weds. we finalize book reports, as well as going into overtime for those needing to finish essays. Thurs. it's break from study for the annual Wild Waves trip! Fri. the students will celebrate our SBAC success with the delightful film Napolean Dynamite. We will discuss themes that run throughout the film as well: bullying, friendship, and cliques.