National Day on Writing

Pen to Paper
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: mbgrigby via Compfight

Raise your hand if you knew today, October 20th, is the National Day on Writing.  I admit, at 7:00 this morning, I would not have been able to raise my hand.  However, it didn’t take long between emails, tweets, and blogs to learn that today is, in fact, a special occasion, especially for all writers and for those aspiring to be writers.

Happy National Day on Writing!

In honor of the day, let’s share the writing we’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks and then use these tips to create some new writing.



Analyzing and evaluating our writing

Analyzing and evaluating our writing










These are examples of blog comments we wrote last week.  We analyzed them in four parts:

I. Did we create imagery for the reader? (specific nouns, verbs, adjectives/adverbs; figures of speech)

II. Did we make the reader think?  (details and examples to support ideas)

III. Did we engage the reader? (variety of sentence structures)

IV. Did we organize our material for the reader? (beginning, middle, end)

We evaluated our writing using FOCUS.  An essay that scores a 1 is not very FOCUSed; a score of 6 is quite FOCUSed.

Focus: on topic

Organization: introduction, body, conclusion

Content: supporting examples and details

Usage: proper grammar and mechanics

Style: mature vocabulary, variety of sentence structure, figures of speech

Finally, we identified specific areas that we improved since last week, and explained how we plan to continue to improve.

In honor of National Day on Writing, a most happy occasion, let’s listen to some writing from some American Authors that you may have heard before:

Would you consider today, the National Day on Writing, to be the best day of your life?

If not, what is the best day of your life so far?




Exploring the Middle Ages

For the past seven years, our middle school students have hosted a Medieval Fair for our entire school.  We read literature pertaining to the Middle Ages, study the history of the time period, and then put our knowledge to use by creating a town fair, complete with jousting tournaments, swordplay, dramatic presentations, juggling, stilt walking, music, and of course, booths of food and wares.

In our blogging adventures, we have noticed that Mr. Miller and his class at Chalone Peaks Middle School in King City, California, also study this era in history, but in a very different way.  They bring a modern twist to the Middle Ages by recreating Medieval villages through Minecraft.  (Click on the photo to visit Mr. Miller.)

Mr. Miller's Medieval Minecraft

Mr. Miller’s Medieval Minecraft

Mr. Chiu’s class at Aldergove Public School in Ontario, Canada, also studied the Middle Ages.  They created 3D models and made oral presentations. Visit Mr. Chiu’s class by clicking on the photo.

A 3D model of a castle in Mr. Chiu's class

A 3D model of a castle in Mr. Chiu’s class

The Year 6 students at Tirlebrook Primary School in Gloucestershire, U.K.,  took a field trip for a Magnificent Medieval Day this past July.  You can watch them in action in a slide show on their blog.

Elder Tree student playing a game of 9 Men's Morris

Elder Tree student playing a game of 9 Men’s Morris

Of course, you can see how we celebrate by visiting any of our archived posts listed under Medieval Fair.

In 1271, a young Marco Polo sailed from his home in Venice, Italy, to exotic lands in the Far East, bringing back tales of his adventures.   Like the Venetian explorer from the Middle Ages, you can visit other far off classrooms to discover how their studies of the Medieval Era are similar to and different from ours and then write about your travels in a comment or post.  Start a conversation with another class who is also studying the Medieval time period.  

In addition to blogs, you can visit some cool websites as well!

Medieval Music

Everything Medieval

Happy traveling!  


The Journey of a Lifetime

Spices of the world
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: darwin Bell via Compfight

Have you ever heard the expression variety is the spice of life?  

The meaning behind that saying is one of the reasons I love teaching language arts.  We have so many different avenues to explore which keeps life interesting.  Every day we think about something different.  To begin with, the basic skills we develop are varied: reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, speaking, and listening.  All of those skills involve using language in some way.  Add to that the manner in which we approach the development of these skills: small groups, class discussions, games (a list of choices here: diagram races, Jeopardy, Bingo, baseball), dramatic readings with costumes, traditional note taking, technology (more options: the blog, QR code scavenger hunts, Educreations, Quizlet, Prezi, Powerpoint, Chictionary, iPads, iMovie, Skype, etc), simulations, field trips.  Finally, we have a myriad of materials at our disposal: myths, novels, informational text, poems, short stories, essays, and biographies and a plethora of topics: The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, Antigone, Crispin, Beowulf, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Under the Blood Red Sun, Tangerine, The Wednesday Wars, a list too long to continue.

Is it any wonder I am constantly saying, “We need to spend the whole day in language arts!”?

This past week we used our speaking and listening skills to present oral reports about journeys we’d like to take.  We chose this topic as we completed our study of The Odyssey.  Odysseus’s voyage took ten years to complete.  He sailed to a multitude of locations around the Mediterranean.  He met strange people, ate unusual foods, and heard enchanting music.  In addition to ten years of his own life, the trip cost him the lives of his crew.  We thought about adventures we’d like to take: where would we go, how would we travel, what would it cost, and what would we see, hear, taste, and do.

Come fly with us around the world!



Here’s another student making an oral presentation that addresses some of the topics we’ve been thinking about in our class.

What road will you take on your journey in life?

Will you take the road less traveled by?


Click to play clip

Will your journey be one of thousands of miles or a hundred feet?

How will you add spice to your own life and by doing so enrich the lives of others?

Will you become a world-wide traveler?  A president?  A chef?  A language arts teacher?

What is your journey?