A Question About Compassion


In Phantom of the Opera,  Christine’s compassion for the Phantom leads to his redemption and transformation:  he lets Raoul and Christine go free, he himself is set free from his bitterness and hatred, and he escapes the mob after physically transforming himself to elude capture.

Think about other stories you have read or seen in which a character  showed compassion for another.  How did that compassionate act change a character or move the story in a new direction?  Name the story or character and share your observations.

Another way to think about the question is to turn it around:  Can you think about a story in which the withholding of compassion has turned a character or a story in a direction different from where it might have otherwise gone?

Can these questions apply to nonfiction as well as to fiction?  You may answer with a nonfiction example if you prefer.

Write a comment in order to respond to the question, or respond by elaborating on another student’s comment.


Reading and Reading Logs: Time to Re-Think?



The message of the above graphic is one we already know:  reading is important, and reading every day fosters academic strength.  Chances are that the more you read, the better student you will be…the better thinker you will be.

At the seventh grade level, we ask that you strive to read 800-900 pages in a nine-week time period, that you log the titles of the books you read, and that you obtain a parent signature next to each title as corroboration of your reading.  Reading that many pages means reading regularly, even though you may not keep to a 20-minutes-a-day schedule you had when you were younger.  We all have more time to read some days than we do on others.

Recently, we teachers have lifted the requirement that you read at least one book of a specified genre per nine weeks.  The most important thing isn’t what you read, but that you read.  I appreciate these words by educator and reading expert Donalyn Miller: “Reading belongs to readers, not to teachers. If we want children to see reading as anything more than a school job, we must give them the chance to choose their own books and develop personal connections to reading, or they never will.”

We’ve made that small change, but I’m thinking there need to be more changes.  I’d like to open a conversation about how we do reading at school, and I’m asking for your input.  Parents, feel free to add your thoughts, too.

  • Independent, Sustained Silent Reading is something we used to do daily in seventh grade when ELA classes were 84 minutes long.  I’d like to find time for ISSR again at school. Some schools with only one period of ELA have their ISSR time one period each week or once every seven school days.  Others use the first ten minutes of every period.  What are your thoughts about how often and how long we should have independent reading in the classroom?
  • Reading Logs don’t have to be lists of titles with signatures.  If we are reading at school again on a regular basis, there could be time for reading conferences with the teacher.  With our iPads, we could record small group conversations about what’s happening in our books and turn in those conversations.  What would be your preferred way of receiving credit for your reading?
  • Regular library visits are important to supporting an ISSR program.  Should we start going to the library every two weeks? Some students have said they have trouble finding a book to check out, so perhaps we should arrange for Mrs. Martinez to spotlight some titles for us each time we visit.  How do you think we could make the most of regular trips to the school library?

Parents and students, I look forward to hearing your answers to these questions (and any other thoughts you may have about reading) in the comments section of this post.

Exploring Your Life for Expository Essay Topics

Need an idea for your next expository writing assignment?

Let’s think about this together. We know that expository writing can explain: it can explain why you think something or how something is done. Perhaps you’ve been reading some articles this week about the Olympics, explaining the history of how certain sports have developed over time or explaining an opinion as to why Russia should or should not have been awarded the games.

You can think about aspects of your own life and explain the how or why of topics you know well:

Think about family vacations.

Explain why _______ is a great place to visit.
Explain why your family will never again vacation at ______.
Explain how to make the best of a rainy day stuck in _______.
Explain why air travel is _______.
Explain how to survive a long flight (or a long airport delay).
Explain why family road trips are _______.
Explain how to irritate your siblings on a family road trip.
Explain why Disney World never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve been before.
Explain why _______ is the best ride at _______.

Think about your school life.
Explain why _______ is your favorite subject.
Explain how to make ________ grades in class.
Explain why school dances are _______.
Explain how the school day could be better organized.
Explain why the school’s technology policy is ________.
Explain why grades are ________.
Explain your ideas for improving the appearance of your campus.
Explain why homework is _________.

Think about your social and extracurricular life.
Explain why being the new kid (or a cheerleader, or a ”nerd”) is ________.
Explain how to crash a friendship in three easy steps.
Explain why participation in sports is ________.
Explain what participation in ___________ has taught you.
Explain how __(insert social media)__ can ________relationships.
Explain how your parents’ rules for you should change.
Explain how you are different now than you were in sixth grade.
Explain why students need more down time during the week.

Think about your hobbies and passions.
Explain why ________ is a favorite activity.
Explain how to play a better game of ________.
Explain why you love ________.
Explain how your love of _________ enriches your life.
Explain why the haters are wrong about your passion/fandom/celebrity crush.
Explain what your most important possession is and why.

Think about the people in your life (those whom you know or have read about).
Explain why you admire _________.
Explain why ___________ is an example for others to follow.
Explain how ___________ achieved success or overcame adversity.
Explain how ___________ has taught you ___________.
Explain why you are grateful to __________.

Think about what you have learned recently.
If you like history, explain how a key event happened or why it is significant.
If you like science, explain why an experiment was successful or how a process happens. Explain how discoveries in __________ will change the future.
If you like health and PE, explain how __________ affects the body or why people should stop/start ______________.
If you like math, explain how you solve a type of problem.
If you like English, explain how a certain character ________ or why a certain character ________. Explain why you ________ reading or why a favorite book has been important to you.
If you like your independent studies, explain how ________ is done or why _________ is something you want to learn more about.

Think about the wider world around you and life’s bigger questions.
Explain why it is important to help others.
Explain how one person can make a difference in the world.
Explain why it is important to speak up for what is right.
Explain how technology is making life more _______.

Once you’ve found your topic, remember to organize your thoughts into paragraphs:

  • an introduction to establish your controlling idea (don’t give your reasons or make your points yet);
  • body paragraph(s) to develop that idea with your reasons, supporting them with specific support/elaboration/commentary;
  • and a conclusion to echo the controlling idea and leave your reader with something more to think about.

free glitter text and family website at FamilyLobby.com

Some students have asked about how to add some special text effects to their blogs. Enjoy playing with the possibilities below! You can search the web for more options. If you find more cool bling for blogs, leave your recommendations in the comments!

Glitter Text @ Glitterfy.com


Get this text and many more glowing fonts here . After you create your message, choose “get web code” and paste it into your post. Remember to use the “text” option when pasting in codes.


Do you like Minecraft? Check out this site for generating text. When you finish designing your message or header, there is no html code to copy. Just download your text for use in your blog, or use a tool like the snipping tool to cut out and save the image for upload as you would any photo. That’s what I did for “Purple Power.”

A Closer Look at A Christmas Carol

Take a look at Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol:


Scroll through Dickens’ handwritten manuscript page by page by clicking HERE.

Turn the pages by using the buttons in the upper left corner. Zoom in to more clearly see Dickens’ revisions by using the controls at the bottom of each page.

Notice that even the most talented writers (especially the most talented?) revise their work!

For more background information on Dickens and A Christmas Carol, see the link in the “Explore More” section of this blog’s sidebar.

Read any good leads lately?



When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This was the day of the reaping.

–Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

The writer of an article, essay, story or book begins with a lead to draw the reader in–to make the reader want to read more.

In the comment section of this post, share an interesting lead to an article, essay, story or book you’ve read recently.  Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the work.  See the first two comments for examples.

Before posting, make sure your profile is set to display your name with your three digit number.  I need to be able to tell who is in what class period so I can give you credit for your posts and comments this nine weeks!  Your name display setting is found under DASHBOARD–USERS–PROFILE–DISPLAY NAME PUBLICLY AS…

Howdy from Texas

Check out the introduction message and slide show that students in Mrs. Schoch’s and Mrs. Kriese’s Pre-AP classes made for their iEARN project partners in Russia, Romania, Belarus, Indonesia, Pakistan, Colorado, and Tennessee. The kids did a fantastic job!

Introducing a New Project

We are excited to welcome our Pre-AP students to iEarn  (the International Education and Resource Network ) in a collaborative writing project with eight other teachers and their students from around the country and the world!

Over the next fifteen weeks, we will be learning more about each other and ourselves as we plan a writing project together and exchange our composition work with each other.  Eventually, all ten of our classes will produce a literary magazine highlighting the best of our writing.  The theme and format of that final product has yet to be determined by the students, but that’s part of the fun:  deciding together what it is that we will accomplish.

First things first, though.  We’ve got to open the lines of communication and get to know more about each other.  We teachers have made our first posts to the teachers’ forum, and over the next couple of weeks, students will be creating, taking, and then sharing a survey of who they are as a group of young WRMS Wildcats, Austinites, and Texans.  We’ll gather items for  “welcome packets” (eight of them!) that we can send to our fellow iEarn classes.  As we await welcome packets in exchange,  we’ll be proactive in learning more about the home states and countries of the schools we are collaborating with.

We’ll officially get started on the project next week, but in the meantime, meet our iEarn partners:

Ms. Hockert from Hixson, Tennessee, United States
Ms. Gorelova from Sarov, Nizhny, Russia
Ms. Graham from Dolores, Colorado, United States
Ms. Popa from Botosani, Romania
Ms. Shabbir from Karachi, Pakistan
Ms. Suaib from Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia
Ms. Zubair from Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan
Ms. Mitrofanova from Belarus

Students, do some exploring of these places on your own between now and Monday.  Perhaps you can use Google Earth to take a quick journey across the country or across the oceans to see where our soon-to-be new friends live!

~Mrs. Kriese and Mrs. Schoch

Preposition Poems

Inspired by this lesson from Read, Write, Think, we are writing poems to help us learn prepositional phrases. Here are two that Mrs. Kriese and her daughter Karen wrote together last night:

Between the cursed lines of a diary’s pages,
Within the ring upon a blackened hand,
From the locket beyond a lake of monsters,
  In a cup among glittering jewels,
In a diadem among abandoned treasures,
Inside a snake under a cloak of scales,
Behind the lightning scar of the boy who lived,
The Dark Lord survives


Harry Potter
Out of the cupboard
On to Hogwarts
At age eleven
Beside loyal friends

Across the years
After so much pain

Into the forest
Among those he loved
With new understanding
Beyond fear of death
Toward Voldemort

Write a poem of your own using prepositional phrases.  Students, perhaps you could revisit your Writer’s Notebook entry about your favorite shoes and where they have taken you and turn it into a poem.  Other ideas include writing a poem about a favorite hobby, sport, book, movie, vacation, game–anything goes!