What Makes Good Writing?

ManiacMagee5One of my cardinal rules of reading as a class is:

Don’t go ahead of the assigned reading.

When kids read ahead, it’s nearly impossible not to blurt out a newfound answer to a question we’ve been wondering about since the beginning of the book.  Such outbursts, while not intentional, can spoil the story for everyone else.  Never has this rule been so hard to obey as with Maniac Magee.  Inspired author Jerry Spinelli is taking us for a wild run with his protagonist, Jeffrey Lionel (a.k.a. Maniac) Magee, and many of us want to keep pace with the boy who can run the length of a football and soccer field  in the time it takes the pigskin to spiral 60 yards.

But I want us to go S-L-O-W-L-Y.  There is so much to digest in this book, including Butterscotch Krimpets and Mars Bars.  I love the language of the story, and we are having fun chasing down all the figures of speech, vivid verbs, invented language, and crazy insults that makes Mr. Spinelli a modern day Shakespeare, in our humble opinion.

Chapter 7 is one of my favorites, and while it’s difficult to settle on only one favorite sentence, this is in the Top Ten Club.

“He was so busy laughing at the runt, he lobbed him a lollipop and the runt got lucky and poled it.” 

That’s Mr. Spinelli’s way of saying, The pitcher was so busy laughing at the little batter that he lobbed him an easy pitch, and the batter hit a homerun.

I love that sentence for the alliteration, the metaphor, and the verb.  That is one high impact sentence.

We made a list of awesome verbs just in this chapter, and we came up with over twenty-five.  That’s an impressive list for a five page chapter.  Here are a few of our favorite verbs:

windmilled          pinwheeling          croaking         jolted        chucking

chickening        yelped                    slithered        swooping     zoomed

This chapter also has the memorable word, “Unbefroggable!”

We invite you to nominate or vote on an “awesome” sentence (check out this post on Huzzah! while you are at it!) for our Top Ten Club.  We’ll tally the results and let you know next week!

What sentence or sentences do you love from a book you are reading?  What makes the writing so good?


A Night on the Town

Twenty nine middle school students spent a Friday night watching a production of Schoolhouse Rock at the Venice Theater. Accompanied by six parents, Mrs. Gunther, and Mrs. Donofrio, the students met for pizza and a fierce air hockey tournament, then walked to the theater, and finished the evening off with some ice cream. Everyone left humming the words words to “Conjunction Junction”, “We the People”, and “Sufferin’ for Suffrage”.

What is your favorite Schoolhouse Rock video? Why do you like it?

Schoolhouse Rock at Venice Theater on PhotoPeach

A Visit from author Liz Lantigua

Author Liz Lantigua visits our middle school classes

Author Liz Lantigua visits our middle school classes

We had a banner day today in language arts class!  Author of Mission Libertad, Liz Lantigua, spent part of the afternoon at our school, sharing her life as an author as well as the background of her YA novel with our students.

After Mrs. Lantigua’s presentation, the students asked lots of questions and learned that:

  • Her job as a newspaper reporter made Mrs. Lantigua aware of the plight of many Cubans who arrived on the shores of southern Florida in homemade rafts.
  • She used a lot of primary sources as her research for the novel.
  • Perseverance is very necessary to publish a book in today’s market.  Aside from doing many rewrites based on feedback from editors, successful authors must also actively promote their books by doing interviews with the media, participating in book signings, and visiting schools.
  • After eighteen years of hard work, she transformed her book from an 18 page children’s story to a 214 page young adult novel.
  • Since competing her first novel, Mrs. Lantigua is working on a sequel.

What sounds appealing about the life of an author?

What sounds difficult about the life of an author?


Mrs. Lantigua shares a photo of herself as an early writer.

Mrs. Lantigua shares a photo of herself as an early writer.

Welcome to Venice!

As part of the Student Blogging Challenge, we’d like to take you on a brief tour of our beautiful city of Venice.

Welcome to Venice on PhotoPeach

Venice is located about midway down the west coast of Florida.  We are on the Gulf of Mexico.  As far as cities go, Venice is a baby, founded in 1926, although early pioneers began arriving in the area in the 1870’s.   Venice has had other names aside from its present day moniker.  One of the oddest is Horse and Chaise, so given because a small grouping of trees resembled a horse and carriage.  Eventually, one of the early founders, Frank Higel, submitted the name of Venice for consideration as the many canals in the area reminded him of Venice, Italy.  Aside from our beautiful beaches, our claim to fame is as winter home for the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus from 1960 until 1992.  The railroad brought the circus train into town each winter, and some of the circus stars and their descendants still make Venice their home.

You can learn a lot more about our town and state by visiting our Teddy blog.  Teddy is a little dog who escapes his family, often while they are on vacation with him.  He has traveled numerous places and shares his adventures on his own blog.  He was the first “Dog with a Blog”.  Teddy has 16 posts about places in Florida.   He’d love you to visit him!  He loves getting fan mail and will happily write back.

When most people think of Florida, they think of Disney World.  Disney is wonderful, but we are so much more than Disney.  What else do you know about Florida?

A Day of Rememberance

Today we remember all of those affected by the events of September 11, 2001. We remember them in our actions by doing good deeds for others, and we remember them in our thoughts by continuing to pray for all the families and friends left behind, as well as for all those who are currently first responders and military personnel. In class we looked at the Facebook 9/11 I Will page and thought about what good deeds we can do so that we continue to make America a good place to live.

One of the good deeds our school does is collect soda can tabs for the Shriners.  They in turn recycle the aluminum and use the money to support their Children’s Burn and Orthopedic Hospitals.  The Shriners provide completely free care for their pediatric patients.

What good deed can you do this week or this month as a way to commemorate the lives of all those affected by September 11th?

We've collected over 400 pounds of soda tabs over the last five years.

We’ve collected over 400 pounds of soda tabs over the last five years.

042 shriners tabs 001


Scavenger Hunt Success

Did you know that vending machines were invented by the Ancient Greeks?  The Greek mathematician Hero of Alexandria developed a machine that dispensed holy water when a coin was inserted.   It is said that Plato invented the alarm clock and that Aeschylus is responsible for our system of trial by juryWhat do Ajax, Midas, Nike, Oracle, and Pandora have in common?   They are all products or companies named for characters in Greek mythology.  These are just a few of the interesting discoveries we made as we hunted in our modern lives for evidence of the legacy of Ancient Greece. 

Can you add any items to our list of legacies of Ancient Greece?

Scavenger Hunt: Ancient Greece in the Modern World

Hey Kids!

Today I was riding my bike on Casey Key, and I saw this statue in front of someone’s home:phone photos 005

A little further in, I noticed this artwork,

phone photos 007

Right away I thought of the documentary we saw in class, Who Were the Greeks?, which asks its title question because the legacy of the Greeks, in democracy, philosophy, art, architecture, literature, science, and sport, continues in our modern day culture all over the world.  This morning was a perfect example.  Two thousand years and six thousand miles from Ancient Greece, the influence of their artwork and architecture stands amid palm trees on a little key in the Gulf of Mexico.

I pulled out my cell phone, snapped a photo, and rode on, until the gate of the house next door caught my eye.

phone photos 010

Do you remember the story of Heracles?  How is this gate a tribute to this Greek hero?

I am on to something, I thought.  I took another photo, rode home, uploaded my pictures to the computer and voila!  A scavenger hunt is born.

I am proposing a challenge.  Look around you.  What evidence of the legacies of Ancient Greece can you find in your daily life and travels?   Where do you see the philosophy, art, architecture, literature, science, and sport of the Greeks in your life in modern day America (or Canada, or England, or Australia…wherever you live).  Make it your quest this week to find as many examples of Ancient Greek life in our lives today.  Leave a comment, and let us know what you unearth.