Student Blogging Challenge: Week Two

The Student Blogging Challenge is underway, and the students of awesomeness are learning the art of thoughtful expression and connecting with new people.

Not My First Rodeo

This is the second year that my classes have participated in the Student Blogging Challenge.  Each week we are challenged to a series of tasks.  Some tasks are a bit more challenging than others.  I have been using Edublogs since 2007.  It has not been a consistent journey.  I have had some lean years in making progress with students, but this year seems to have gotten some traction.  Maybe I am betting better at teaching blogging after all!

The Challenge This Week

This week, we are challenged to make quality comments.  In a world of “swiping up,” students are used to passive commenting that requires minimal thought and time.  Quality commenting takes some brain power.  Students have to find a post, read the content, and find a connection with the post strong enough to warrant a comment.  It isn’t easy, but those students who are up to the challenge are usually rewarded with a thoughtful response from the post’s author.

Student Blogging Challenge

This is the first year my classes will participate in the annual Student Blogging Challenge.  The goal is to start online conversations with students of the same age and interests around the world.  We have worked for the past six weeks getting ready for the challenge.  It is finally here and we are learning how to use the blogs we have worked so hard to build.

New tasks are posted every Sunday.  Students can select one or all of the tasks to complete.  They submit links to their finished works on the Student Blogging Challenge website for other students to find and comment on their completed tasks.  The goal is to have global conversations that are meaningful and constructive while learning how to live in a digital world.


Check out my students’ blogs on the right hand side of this page.

Hello, 2018-2019!

We are well on our way to achieving awesome things in Room 140.  Three weeks into the new year and I cannot wait to see what becomes of this batch of 7th grade students.

This website is where you can get news about my (Mr. James) class as well as connect to my students in the US and even students around the world!

Be sure and subscribe (it’s a painless process) over on the right so you can get all the latest updates about what’s going on in class.

Things to look forward to:

  1. Knowsys quizzes (Pre AP classes only) – Knowsys is a SAT vocabulary preparation program that is used in JH and HS English classes
  2. Blogging – Every student has their own blog and will use it to connect with me, each other, and students from around the world.
  3. Novels – We will be reading some novels in class this year (don’t worry, I have plenty of copies for everyone so no need to spend any money)
  4. Classcraft – If your student has mentioned Classcraft, ask them about it.  It is a system I use to help engage students in learning and help encourage positive behaviors in the classroom.  You can find out more about it here.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

The city of Riga, Latvia holds the claim as home to history’s first decorated Christmas tree, back in 1510.

In Argentina, Christmas is a blend of American, European, and Hispanic traditions. Their celebrations typically include the boots of Father Christmas, red and white flowers, and putting cotton on Xmas trees to simulate snow. But most family gatherings take place on Christmas Eve, with huge feasts, gifts exchanged at midnight, and children going to sleep to the sound of fireworks.

In spite of Ethiopia’s Christian heritage, Christmas is not an important holiday there. Most people actually call the holiday Ganna or Genna after a hockey-like ball game played only once a year, on Christmas afternoon.

On Christmas Day, tradition allows Lebanese children to go up to any adult and say, “Editi ‘aleik!” (“You have a gift for me!”). If the adult has a present to spare, the kids add this to their Christmas morning haul.

Winning the award for longest preparation time, Greenland’s traditional Christmas dish, kiviak, takes a full seven months to prepare. It begins with hollowing out a seal skin and stuffing it with 500 auks– a sea bird (feathers and all)– to ferment. When the holiday rolls around, it’s served straight from the seal.

How’s this for a weird Christmas food? South Africa is home to some of the world’s most unusual holiday food fare. Every December locals feast on a seasonal delicacy– the deep-fried caterpillars of Emperor Moths!

The tradition of tinsel, which was invented in Germany in 1610, is based on a legend about spiders whose web turned into silver when they were spun in a Christmas tree.

Information from:

Interesting Facts About Germany

I will be traveling to Germany this summer.  Germany is an amazing country for many reasons.  Here are just a few that I found most interesting:

  1. Germany was the first country in the world to adopt Daylight saving time.
  2. Prison escape is not punishable by law in Germany.
  3. Germany has legal say on what babies can be named.
  4. College education in Germany is free even for internationals.
  5. Germany is one of the world’s leading book nations.
  6. It’s illegal to run out of fuel in the German Autobahn.
  7. Germany has over 400 zoos, the most in the world.
  8. There are over 2100 castles in Germany.
  9. One third of the country is still covered in forests and woodlands.
  10. Berlin has the largest train station in Europe.


Facts found at

Poetry Friday


by Terry Webb Harshman


Some houses look scary,


and bleak,





with windowpanes broken

and shutters

that creak,




with lawns unattended,

and porches

in shambles,




and overgrown gardens

of thistles

and brambles.





But don’t look upon them

with fear

or disdain;

they just need the love of

a family


Reflections on the First Week

2016/2017 is already bigger than any year I have had.  More students are part of the Awesomeness than previous years, and I cannot wait to see all that they will accomplish together.  We have already jumped into “Indelible Moments” and will be writing those down for future generations.  I have to confess that I am always emotional during the “Indelible Moments” lesson because of the moments I will never forget:

  • My first day of Kindergarten and my first friend, Joel, who wore a Tony the Tiger t-shirt and read aloud for me
  • My first crush
  • The birth of my children
  • Victory
  • Defeat
  • Life
  • Loss

Share those moments with one another.  More importantly, share them with your loved ones.  Chances are, they make up most of your “Indelible Moments.”