24/7 Awesomeness

An extension of the best 53 minutes of the school day


Benchmarks and Corn Dogs

Since Thursday of last week, we have been taking benchmark tests in the Awesomeness.  7th graders have to take three STAAR tests for English: a written composition test, a revising and editing test, as well as a reading test.  We like to have a benchmark test for each STAAR test administered, so we need a whole week to get those benchmarks administered.

I think the word “Benchmark” stresses students out, so we call them corn dogs.  It’s weird.  I know.

Spring Break is right around the corner, and we all need a rest before the final preparation for the Writing STAAR on March 29.

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Grade Reports

Each student received a grade report today showing what assignments are missing or failing. Students should double check that they do not have any missing assignments in their binders.

The only failing grades that they can correct are Knowsys related (Pre AP only). Corrections can be made by writing the sentences with the correct word underlined.

The six weeks ends on February 19, but I would like for any corrections or missing assignments be turned in no later than next Friday, February 12.

Please e-mail me if you have any questions or concerns.


Thanks for your help!  Have a great weekend.

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Hero’s Journey

Today students will develop their own stories following the “Hero’s Journey” plot structure.  Here is the link to the online tool they will use:

The Hero’s Journey

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What to Expect This Six Weeks

The 3rd six weeks begins Monday, November 9.  Here is what will be happening in The Awesomeness.

Expository, Expository, Expository

We will be studying expository writing this six weeks, which is the type of essay students will be expected to write for the upcoming STAAR test.  We have already started studying this complicated writing style.  Expect to hear a lot about it this six weeks.  Historically, 7th grade authors struggle with expository writing, but we have plenty of time to develop the skills necessary to write an excellent paper.

James’s Jambalaya Gets a Reboot

Grammar, vocabulary, syntax, punctuation, and spelling all come together in James’s Jambalaya.  We have spent that first two grading periods developing our language arts skills with this system and this six weeks adds a twist.  In order to go deeper, we will spend two weeks on each Jambalaya.  The first week will introduce the words and elaboration techniques, while the second week will provide independent practice. This may lead to more homework than previous six weeks grading periods.

Pre AP Classes Take on Knowsys Vocabulary

Knowsys is an SAT and ACT vocabulary preparation program that several AP teachers in the district have adopted; both at the Junior High and High School levels.  It is NOT an easy system.  Students will be challenged by words to which they have never been exposed, but will see on college entrance exams.

Students already have the list of words and definitions they will need for the rest of the year.  It is their responsibility to keep the lists and definitions in their binders.  Students who learn these words with an adult or with other students benefit the most and are more successful than those students who go at it alone.

We will have a Knowsys vocabulary quiz every Wednesday.  The “Group 1” quiz will be this Wednesday, November 11.  Students need to know the words and their definitions well enough that they can use the words in a sentence.  The format of the test is NOT simple matching.  Students will need to know how to USE the words, not just regurgitate their definitions.

Historically, students grades fall with the first two or three quizzes.  If they develop the habit of daily review of the words from the current list as well as previous lists (the quizzes spiral, requiring students to study previous lists), performance will improve.


From what I have observed so far, your students will rise to the challenges ahead.  They are more than capable of learning the content and performing admirably.  After school tutorials are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 3:25-4:00.  Encourage your student to use those times to see me for extra instruction or guided practice on assignments.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.



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This week marks the third week of the six weeks and some students have some work to do.

I graded everything that was given to me on Friday, October 16.  That was the day everything was due.  If your student has a zero, they have until Wednesday to get it to me.

I gave all students the opportunity to correct their work and improve their grades.  They need to get all corrections to me before they leave on Wednesday, October 21 since benchmarks are taking up the last two days of this week.

Most of the mistakes that were made were minor and can be corrected.  I believe grades should be an indicator of where students are in their learning.  If they are learning, the grade should reflect that.  Learning from their mistakes is a critical life skill.  Some mistakes in life cannot be erased.  However, mistakes in punctuation on a take home page can be, as long as they put forth the effort to do the corrections.

If you have specific questions, please do not hesitate to email me.

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Writer’s Toolbox & Homework

BadabingLast week, I introduced the “writer’s toolbox” that includes Ba-Da-Bing!  Writers use Ba-Da-Bing to add details to a sentence.

Ba – What are your feet doing? What kind of action is in the sentence?

Da – What did you see? Did you see anything or make any observations?

Bing – What did you think? What thoughts did you have in this part of the story?

For example:

Original sentence: “A truck hit a telephone pole.”

Ba-Da-Bing!: “While walking down the street, I saw sparks flying and thought, “What is going on?”

Today, we added Dialogue to our toolbox.  Punctuating dialogue reminds me of “The Chicken Dance.”  Ask your student to demonstrate how it works.

To practice punctuating dialogue, I sent home with your student an orange sheet with sentences to complete.  It is due Friday, October 16.


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Quick Writes, Zero260 Words, and Other Stuff

Quick Writes:

A Quick Write (QW) happens in the first few minutes of class.  I will have a prompt on the board and students are to respond to the prompt in their compositions books.  They write the date and then give 5 blue lines of response.  QWs are designed to get brains thinking and to help build writing stamina.  QW grades are based on completion and not necessarily on content, since QWs are merely warmup exercises.

Zero260 Words:

Ask your student what these words are.  I am curious if they remember what the title “Zero260” means.  The grade for these words (entered October 7) was based on completion.  Students were to copy the word, the proof, and use the Zero260 word in a sentence.  If your student’s grade is not a 100, then points were lost for not following the instructions given for entering the words into the composition books.

Silent Reading

Every other Wednesday is our day to go to the library and check out books.  After taking care of what I call “library business”, we spend the rest of the class period silently reading our book(s). Student earn a daily grade based on their ability to take care of business and silently read.  Points are lost when students fail to follow those directions (i.e., they choose to talk instead of read).

Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


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Academic Vocabulary – 1st Six Weeks

The Academic Vocabulary Test will be this Thursday, October 1.  The words are below:

  • Meter – the basic rhythmic structure in verse, composed of stressed and unstressed syllables
  • Rhyme scheme – the pattern of rhyming lines (e.g. ABAB, ABBA) Note: The pattern starts over with each new stanza
  • Personification – figurative language in which non-human things or abstractions are represented as having human qualities (e.g., necessity is the mother of invention)
  • Biography – the life story of a person as told by another
  • Autobiography – the life story of a person as told by himself or herself
  • Memoir – the autobiographical story of one stage or time in a person’s life; typically highly emotional; focuses on a short period of his/her life, rather than the entire life
  • Fictional adaptation – a fictional story based on an autobiography; the point of view is often changed and details are often added that weren’t in the original text
  • Implicit message – a message that is not stated, but is implied (must be inferred by the reader)
  • Explicit message – a directly stated message
  • Figurative language – language layered with meaning by word images and figures of speech, as opposed to literal language
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Spirit Bear Test

Over the weekend, I have decided to offer corrections for the Spirit Bear test.  The average grade was a 64.  More students failed than passed.  That usually means something is wrong with the test, so it would not be fair to the students to let the grades stand as they are.

Students have the opportunity to improve their scores by creating their own questions.  On a sheet of paper, they will write questions and answer choices for each question.

Each one they write correctly will give them four points added to their existing grade.  If they are happy with their grade, they do not need to do anything.  All questions need to be submitted before the end of the day Friday (September 2).

I am sorry if the test results caused any grief at your house over the weekend.  Perhaps this alternate assignment will ease some anxiety.

Feel free to ask me any questions and thanks for having great kids!


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Semester Exam – Vocabulary

The words that will be on the semester exam are found below.  Make sure you study the list that goes with your class period.

1st, 5th, and 7th period

rasping – harsh; grating

palpable – readily or plainly seen, heard, perceived, etc.; obvious; evident

rumple – to crumple or crush into wrinkles: to rumple a sheet of paper

distraught – distracted; deeply agitated

adequate – sufficient to satisfy a requirement or meet a need.

transgression – a violation of a law, command, or duty

beckon – to signal or summon, as by nodding or waving

chastise – to criticize severely

petulantly – showing sudden, impatient irritation, especially over some little annoyance

remorse – deep and painful regret for wrongdoing

serene – calm, peaceful, or tranquil

indulgently – easy going, not strict

cloud – to blur

reprieve – to postpone or cancel a punishment

infringed – exceeded the limits of

relinquish – to give up or abandon

conspicuous – easy to notice, obvious

torrent  – a heavy, uncontrolled outpouring

tentative  – not fully worked out

obsolete – no longer in use

conveyance – a means of transporting

unwieldy  – difficult to carry or manage

admonition – a mild yet earnest warning

vacant (adjective) – empty

comply (verb) – to go along with; to do what is asked or ordered

manhandle (verb) – to treat someone roughly

criticize (verb) – to point out what is bad about someone or something

warrant (noun) – a document, or piece of paper, that gives a police officer the right to do something, such as arrest a person

intricate (adjective) – complicated

vicinity (noun) – the area around a certain place

majority (noun) – the most of a group

moderately (adverb) – to a limited degree

habitual (adjective) – regular; usual; done out of habit

eavesdrop – to listen secretly to a private conversation

coincidence – a situation in which two or more events that seem related accidentally occur at the same time

policy – a guideline for actions or decisions

withdrawn – shy, quiet, or unsociable

vile – very bad; unpleasant; foul

deprived – taken away; removed

passionately – enthusiastically; intensely

simultaneously – at the same time

maneuvered – guided with skill and design

lapse – interruption; pause

2nd, 3rd, and 6th period

admonish – to exhort or caution

allege – to assert without proof

assert – to state confidently, without need for proof

beseech – to beg

conjure – 1) to call as if by magic, 2) to imagine, 3) to call a devil or spirit

emphasize – to place stress on

haggle – 1) to bargain over petty issues or 2) to dispute

retort – a quick or sharp reply

signify – to mean or to imply

warble – 1) to sing with trills or 2) to yodel

acknowledge (verb) – to recognize

dissuade (verb) – to turn from using advice or persuasion

fathom (verb) – to understand or to probe

incline (verb) – to persuade

muse (verb) – to think or meditate

perceive (verb) – to become aware of or observe

ponder (verb) – to reflect on or think about carefully

probe (verb) – to explore thoroughly

realize (verb) – to understand clearly

resolve (verb) – to decide

formidable (adjective) – powerful

foster (verb) – to nurture or encourage

intensify (verb) – to sharpen or strengthen

invincible (adjective) – cannot be conquered

ponderous (adjective) – 1) very heavy or 2) lifeless and dull

prowess (noun) – superior strength, skill, or bravery

replenish (verb) – 1) to replace or 2) to stock up

robust (adjective) – strongly built

stringent (adjective) – tight, strict, or rigid

ultimate (adjective) – maximum

rasping – harsh; grating

palpable – readily or plainly seen, heard, perceived, etc.; obvious; evident

rumple – to crumple or crush into wrinkles: to rumple a sheet of paper

distraught – distracted; deeply agitated

adequate – sufficient to satisfy a requirement or meet a need.

transgression – a violation of a law, command, or duty

beckon – to signal or summon, as by nodding or waving

chastise – to criticize severely

petulantly – showing sudden, impatient irritation, especially over some little annoyance

remorse – deep and painful regret for wrongdoing

serene – calm, peaceful, or tranquil

indulgently – easy going, not strict

cloud – to blur

reprieve – to postpone or cancel a punishment

infringed – exceeded the limits of

relinquish – to give up or abandon

conspicuous – easy to notice, obvious

torrent  – a heavy, uncontrolled outpouring

tentative  – not fully worked out

obsolete – no longer in use

conveyance – a means of transporting

unwieldy  – difficult to carry or manage

admonition – a mild yet earnest warning


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