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.

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.”

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.

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.




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.

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!


Vocabulary Quiz This Friday

Here are the words you will be responsible for on Friday:

Chapters 1-3 

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


Chapters 4-6

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



My Big Campus

top_header_bar_mbclogo@2x-6cce8a247747d6acad1eeed9246703e9Today we took the vocabulary quiz (I didn’t have a class meet last week’s challenge) on the social website “My Big Campus.” MBC has been available for a few years and I have used it on occasion but never really implemented it to the fullest.  Partly because not all students have internet access at home, but it seems more and more students have smart phones (and yes, there’s an app for that).

Perhaps I’ll use it more often.