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Hello students and parents! I hope you find this page easy to manage. Instead of adding more emails to your inbox, I will update this page each week as we go along in the school year so we can stay in communication throughout the week. I’ll post assignments, notes from class, and links that you might find helpful.

If you need to contact me at any time, please email me. 

Click here to download and print the Fall 2018 Syllabus here.

Click here to download and print the 2018-2019 vocabulary list.

You will need a copy of the MLA Handbook (7th or 8th edition), which you can find inexpensively on Amazon or at McKays. If you’re unable to find a copy, click here for a PDF copy and download it your computer or device.

Information about the class on November 8 and homework due for November 15 was emailed. If you have any questions, let me know.

November 1

Yesterday we reviewed the differences between quoting a source, paraphrasing a source’s information, and summarizing a source’s work in your own words. Quoting and paraphrasing must be cited in the text, however, the rules are little looser when it comes to summarizing because the writer is essentially relaying information he or she has learned but putting the info in his/her own language. To be safe and avoid the look of plagiarism, pop in a citation at the end of a summarized paragraph, particularly if you can pinpoint the summarized info to a specific chapter or section of a book.

Remember, information that is common knowledge does not need to be cited. What’s common knowledge? It’s the info that we all learn in early elementary school – that July 4th is America’s birthday, that Earth orbits the sun, that the White House is where the president lives, etc.

We went on to group critique of biography outlines, which gave me an opportunity to review everyone’s progress. Based on what I saw yesterday, here are a few reminders: 

  • DO NOT write a timeline of someone’s life WITHOUT explaining why those events were significant. Only mention things that were pivotal or influential. Remember my example about Steve Jobs having a dog? Unless that dog served a greater purpose other than a faithful companion, it doesn’t belong in a biography paper. If Steve Jobs had been blind and the dog was his service dog, well then – that’s another story!
  • Group your facts into topics – early life, inventions, relationships, religion, professional life, legacy, etc. These become the foundations of your body paragraphs. Grouping facts together like this will produce a natural timeline of relevant information. 
  • Write ONE concise, informative thesis that tells the reader the main topics you’ll cover in the paper. Avoid vague language, please. Do not tell me so-and-so had a wonderful life and did interesting things. That tells me nothing about the person. Consider this: If I was writing a paper about Steve Jobs, I might write a thesis statement like – Steve Jobs was an American businessman and inventor whose instincts, creativity and work ethic led to the creation of Apple Inc.  This thesis tells the reader a little about Steve Jobs without being overtly specific – he was American, he was an inventor of things, he was creative and hard-working, and ultimately, he is credited with creating a well-known, billion-dollar company. It also tells the reader that I’m going to address why I called him creative and hard-working in my body paragraphs. The thesis also indicates that I may spend less time writing about his upbringing and his religious convictions. Those topics may get a passing sentence, but they will not be the bulk of my work. 
  • You must have three sources, and one of those three must be a book. This is just a friendly reminder 🙂 

Homework for November 6 and 8:
1. Define and study vocab: scurry, vigilant, translucent, swarm, repugnant
2. Write the rough draft of your biography paper – including the Works Cited page on its own sheet – and email to me no later than Tuesday, November 6, at 5 p.m. 

October 25

Yesterday I reviewed each student’s notes to check progress on biography papers. Some are doing well and nearly ready to start writing, while others haven’t nailed down all three sources yet and are still forming early notes. Both stages, and the mixture between, are fine. However, outlines are due next week for group critique, so everyone needs to be thinking about the three to four areas of focus regarding he/her person. This paper is not one long timeline of a life. Instead, the challenge is to select three to four umbrella topics, such as childhood, early career, relationships (marital or familial), biggest impact on society, religion, legacy, etc.

There are countless areas of interest, so please – do not start this paper with when the person was born and end with when the person died with a string of dates between. 

We spent the remaining class time fussing with MLA format. Some enjoy the tedium of MLA format, while others find it boring and pointless. I empathize, but it’s better to wrestle with MLA now so they are in better shape for high school English.

Homework for Nov. 1:
1. Define and study vocabulary: concoction, bluff, hasten, outlandish, recuperate
2. Decide the three or four topics you want to focus on for the biography paper. Draft an outline that includes a stab at a thesis statement and subsequent topic sentences addressing those areas of focus. I don’t expect perfection, but I DO EXPECT EFFORT.
3. Print and complete this MLA worksheet

October 18

We started yesterday’s class with a discussion about the biography paper. Everyone has chosen person to research, and a few have already started reading books and searching online sources. It’s required that at least one source is a book, but the options are open for the rest. Just make sure the source is credible (not Wikipedia). 

Then we got down to business with MLA format – a tedious and taxing process every student must endure. As a group, we reviewed the homework and make corrections as necessary. We’ll keep working on MLA format for the next few weeks. I reassured the class that I don’t expect them to memorize format rules. Instead, I want them to learn how to use the handbook. That only happens with practice. 

Homework for Oct. 25
1. Define and study vocab: ominous, monotonous, emerge, dismal, eavesdrop
2. Keep researching and bring your notes to class next week. Be in touch if you’re having trouble finding sources.
3. Complete this MLA assignment on a separate sheet of paper and bring to class for us to review together. 

October 4

Today I reviewed a couple of issues I saw in the Compare/Contrast rough drafts. First, this is not a advantages/disadvantages paper. Those ideas are rooted in opinion, but the Compare/Contrast paper needs to stick to facts. Second, it’s hard to think of various ways to say the same thing, but that’s a common challenge in academic writing. Some students are struggling to use a variety of words and phrases, but keep working through it! Be careful not to repeat yourself. Finally, if you looked up information about your topic and then used that information in your paper, you must cite your sources. All of these topics can be written without external research, but some students wanted to go to the next level! That’s all fine and good, but please cite your work. Refer to the MLA Handbook so you know how to cite properly. 

We moved on to the Biography paper today! I reviewed the following expectations:
800-1000 words, written in the third person
– must have three credible sources, and one of them must be a book 
– these online resources are credible:,,, and, among others. Wikipedia (or any Wiki site) is not credible. Check with me if you’re not sure!
– note-taking is required throughout the research process and students must bring in their notes each week for me to see 
– Use one of these four note-taking methods: notecards, idea webs, tree diagrams, or list making (typed or freehand). The method doesn’t matter to me as much as the thoroughness of the notes. Keep track of important information and always write down the source details.

Homework for October 18: 
1. Finalize C/C paper and bring in a copy to be graded.
2. Complete MLA assignment (follow the directions, please)
3. Decide who you want to research and bring back the worksheet I gave in class with the first two numbers completed

September 27

Today we reviewed the basic structure of a five-paragraph essay since enough students in the class are still struggling with it. (Thanks to those who were patient.) Each sentence in each paragraph plays a role and understanding those roles help writers draft a better paper.

I passed out a sample Compare/Contrast paper on the topic we’ve been discussing the last few weeks – a wedding versus a funeral. However, I omitted the conclusion so we could draft a conclusion together. We talked about using transitional words and phrases when moving from one topic to another. (Click here to print out an extensive list of words and phrases that will be helpful throughout the year.)

1. Define and study vocabulary: jabber, adversary, banish, plenteous, vulnerable
2. Write the Compare/Contrast rough draft. Follow either the subject-by-subject or point-by-point structure, and be sure to write it in proper format Email it to me no later than Tuesday, October 2, by 5 p.m. (Remember, all rough drafts are emailed this way, but all final papers are submitted in class.) If you’re lost, please use the sample paper as a guide to help you

September 20

After the vocabulary quiz and collecting final Process Papers, I taught a quick lesson on how to write concisely. In academic writing, it is more effective to write in direct, concise language than to fill the page with redundancies and empty words. Some students already understand this, but there are enough in the class who have a hard time constructing sentences that get to the point quickly. I also reviewed types of sentences – simple, complex, compound, and complex-compound. Every academic paper should have a good collection of all four types of sentences. 

Then we discussed each student’s chosen topic for Compare/Contrast and reviewed notes on lists and Venn Diagrams. Not everyone came prepared, so for those who didn’t complete the homework, please contact me if you have trouble throughout the week. My goal is to work on these pre-writing exercises together, but I can’t help students who don’t complete the work. Trust me when I say that pre-writing exercises help in the long run.

Also, a few students didn’t turn in their final Process Paper this morning, despite knowing it was due. This is the only time I’ll give grace on the due date and not count off points. From now on, if something is going to be late, tell me ahead of time. Telling me on Thursday at the start of class will result in a lower grade.

1. Vocabulary – illuminate, exasperation, cunning, dispel, malleable
2. Complete the outline for the Compare/Contrast paper. Write the thesis statement and related topic sentences. At this point, you should decide whether you’ll write the paper Point by Point or Subject by Subject. Bring your outline to class for group critique. Please come to class prepared. 
3. Complete this MLA worksheet.

September 13

I handed back everyone’s rough draft and gave a fair warning about my edits. For some, it will look and feel like a lot of corrections. It’s not my intention to overwhelm students, but I understand it may feel that way at first. I reviewed what my editing marks mean in an effort to be as clear as possible, but it might be necessary for some parents to help their students work through the corrections. Just do your best! I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect a solid effort. 

We moved on to the second paper of the year – Compare & Contrast. I handed out an information sheet explaining the two ways to format it, along with the list of topics to choose from at the bottom. 

To help explain the brainstorming process, we went through an exercise using a wedding and a funeral as the topic. I drew a Venn Diagram on the board and we filled in the gaps. Students will do the same (or similar) exercise for homework on their chosen topic. (Attached is a Venn Diagram, if anyone wants to use it.

Homework for September 20:
1. Define and study vocab: sabotage, waft, zeal, muster, meticulous
2. Finalize Process Paper and turn in a paper copy to me on Thursday.
3. Choose a topic for the Compare & Contrast paper and begin making lists or sketching out a Venn Diagram. (Bring it to me next week.)
4. Read Ch. 5.1-5.3.3 in the MLA Handbook (7th Ed) and complete this worksheet. (If you have an 8th edition of the handbook, use the PDF above to read what’s assigned. We are almost finished reading the material in the handbook, so those with 8th editions will be able to use their handbooks more easily.) 

September 6

This morning we reviewed one another’s introductory paragraphs, thesis statements, and topic sentences. Some students are definitely ready to draft the first version of their Process Paper, but others have more work to do.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when tackling the first draft:

1. Write the paper in the third person. Nowhere in the paper should there be I, me, we, us, our, etc. This isn’t a paper about your personal experiences. Rather, you’re giving instructions to the reader (me) on how to do something, make something, take care of something, etc. Occasionally, you may switch to second person (Giving a direct instruction by saying “you”), but overall, the paper should be written in the third person.

2. Elevate your language. If you’re writing fun, great, good, fine, etc., grab a thesaurus and find another word. 

3. Use proper format (Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced), and get help with your grammar or punctuation if you need it. Grammarly is an excellent and FREE online app that works wonders. 

4. Please contact me throughout the week if you need help. I am available! 

We also talked about writing conclusions, which can be tricky. I handed out an informational sheet about it, so please refer to it when you get to the end of your paper and aren’t sure how to wrap it up.

Homework for Sept. 13:
1. Define and study vocab: defiance, egregious, jostle, pertinent, recluse
2. Write the rough draft of your Process Paper and email to me no later than Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 5 p.m. (You are welcome to email it sooner!) 
3. There is no MLA worksheet to complete. However, please keep your handbook nearby as you write! You never know when you may need to look up something. 🙂 

August 30

Today we started with a recap of common mistakes I saw in the “about me” paper students wrote. There were run-on sentences, fragments, uncapitalized proper nouns, and other basic grammatical mistakes that can easily be fixed with careful reading and editing. If allowed, I suggested students create a free Grammarly account to help catch simple mistakes. Not only that, I’ve said several times (and will continue to say) that students need to rise above basic vocabulary. Simple words (like fun) are fine in elementary school, but now, as middle schoolers, it’s time to use the thesauras and find bigger, better words to use!

We moved on to group critique, during which students shared their Process Paper Outlines for peers to offer advice and ideas. I, too, looked at everyone’s papers and made suggestions. Students, please make sure you’ve chosen a process that encompasses enough details and steps to warrant 500 words. Don’t fill the paper with meaningless steps and commentary to reach 500. Instead, select another topic.

Homework for Sept. 6:
1. Define and study vocabulary words: materialize, quell, scarcity, terse, aptitude
2. Read the following sections in your MLA Handbook (or from the PDF linked above) and complete this worksheet: 1.9 (Writing Drafts), 2.1-2.8 (Plagiarism), and 4.1-4.4 (Format of a Research Paper: Margins, Text Format, Heading, Page Numbers). *The numbers correlate with the 7th Ed. of the MLA Handbook, but not with the 8th Ed. Hopefully, the titles help you. The content is still the same. 
3. Write the first paragraph of your Process Paper, complete with a thesis statement. Then write three topic sentences that point back to the thesis. We’ll review them together in class. 

August 23

Today we reviewed the basics of the Process Paper, as well as how to construct an outline. (If you were absent, here are the papers I handed out: Basic Outline for a Process Paper and Example of a completed Process Paper) While it’s tempting to write in First Person Point of View (I, we, us, me), please write the Process Paper in either Third Person (she, him, they, one) or in Second (you).

Topic-wise, make sure it’s something you’re familiar with. Possible topics include how to play a game, such as chess, a sport, or card game, or how to bake or cook something specific. Whatever you choose, be sure to put the process in your own words and not pull directly from printed recipes or given instructions. Pretend as if you’re explaining something to me as if I have no prior knowledge – which, depending on what you choose, could be the case! If you write about how to change a tire or build a circuit or perform a science experiment, use the correct terminology and present it on a basic level.

Note: Some students did not print and complete last week’s MLA Handbook worksheet. Please check the homework from August 16 below and turn it in next time so students can get credit. 

Homework due August 30:
1. Define and study vocabulary: jargon, headway, foresight, aplomb, engross
2. Read 3.4.1-3.7.7 in your MLA Handbook. Then print and complete this worksheet
3. Draft an outline for your Process Paper and bring it to class next week for group critique.

August 16

Today we made introductions and discussed expectations for the class. For the record, all submitted work needs to be typed in Times New Roman, 12 pt, and double-spaced.

One expectation I have is for students to take notes. To sit and listen is only half of the effort. Writing something down helps solidify the information in the brain, so please – take notes. 

We jumped right in to covering the elements of a basic five-paragraph essay. (Click here to download and print a copy if needed.) This is the skeleton of an essay, so it’s reasonable to presume students may write more than five sentences per paragraph and more than five paragraphs per essay, if they feel the topic requires more information.

Students need access to a copy of the MLA Handbook. I understand some of you purchased the Little, Brown Handbook, which is what we’ve used in previous years. If you can return it and purchase the MLA Handbook (7th Edition or higher), that would be fantastic. If you aren’t interested or able to switch books, I’ve linked a PDF copy of the MLA Handbook HERE. Feel free to download it.

Homework for August 23:
1. Define and study vocabulary words: apprehensive, conspicuous, momentum, precipice, kindle) 
2. Read Ch. 3.1.1-3.3.3 in the MLA Handbook and complete the worksheet (download and print here
3. Write a 500-word (approximate) essay about yourself. Do your best to follow the format and guidelines provided today. This will help me know where everyone stands writing-wise.

error: Please, no copying.