Comparing and Contrasting two Sherlock Holmes Tales

Over the past week and a half, my students and I have been delving into one of the most notable of Victorian literature in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes stories.  Last week, my students read “A Study in Scarlet,” which was the novella in which the famed detective was first introduced.  We have then been watching the first episode of the BBC show “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  This episode, entitled “A Study in Pink,” draws most of its storyline’s influence from Doyle’s work, however writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (of Dr. Who fame) did make some noteworthy differences in their re-telling.

As a result, and in accordance with the following standard, the students compared and contrasted the two stories.

ELACC8RL7: Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.

The students created a Bubble Map sharing these similarities and differences once they finished viewing the aforementioned episode.

REMINDERS: Genius Hour has returned!  The students will present their projects Monday through Thursday of next week.  Parents, contact me if you are interested in coming to watch your student’s presentation.

STUDENTS: You may start submitting your Genius Hour Projects here.  The must be uploaded to the Padlet page at least one day before you are scheduled to present (remember the Friday, May 8th deadline was to help make sure you were done early).  Your final grade on this project depends upon this aspect.  You must also be sure to have your rubric on hand the day you perform or else you will lose 10 points. (See below if you need another copy)



Quiz and Fishbowl Discussion Day

Today started with the long-awaited quiz.  I opted to have the students answer a 5-question short answer quiz to reflect what they had learned from reading either To Kill a Mockingbird or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  The students had roughly twenty minutes to complete the quiz, but, of course, could work at their own paces as necessary.

Once the quiz was finished, I gauged the time remaining in class.  For classes where there was more than twenty minutes remaining, we began our Fishbowl discussion.  For this, the students sat in a circle in the center of the room while two sat in the center.  The students in the center would discuss one of the themes in their story of choice, providing their thoughts and what evidence from the text they found to support their views.  Then, as other students had something to share, those would raise their hand slightly and be tagged by one of the students inside the circle to replace them.  Only the students in the center could actively discuss the topic at hand.  This provide students with the opportunity to have a focused approach to discussing these themes (outlined in yesterday’s blog post) and to practice really active listening.

In the classes with less than twenty minutes remaining, the students were permitted to either:

  • review his or her Fishbowl statements from yesterday’s class,
  • read either To Kill a Mockingbird or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, or
  • work on the discussion questions in preparation for tomorrow’s Journal check

NOTE: The students reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry received information on their “Friendship Essay” which will be due next Thursday, March 12th, 2014

  • Topic: What is a friend?
  • Directions: Discuss the relationship between Stacey and T.J. in the story.  Write an essay describing what you think a good friend should be and how Stacey and T.J. stack up as friends.  Remember to use text evidence.  The essay should be at least 5 paragraphs in length.


  • None.  Use this time to catch up as necessary.


Fishbowl Discussion Preparation Day

Both Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and To Kill a Mockingbird are filled with rich themes.  Some of these themes are common between the two, such as racism, but others are more unique to each text.  At any rate, each both texts present complimentary themes.

Today, the students worked with their partners to identify themes they wished to explore and they set about locating examples within their text of choice.  The themes we explored were:

To Kill a Mockingbird:

  • Racism
  • Social Inequality
  • Coexistence of Good and Evil
  • Appropriate Gender Roles

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

  • Racism
  • Land as Independence
  • Family and Community
  • Injustice and Dignity
  • The Power of Silence

The quotes, notes, and examples that each group acquired will be used in tomorrow’s in-class fishbowl discussion.

We finished today’s lesson with a brief discussion of the themes and how they shape our understanding of the text.


  • Read for 30 minutes and log this in the AC Reading Log.
    • TKAM- Review for tomorrow’s quiz.  Use the discussion questions for assistance.
    • ROTHMC- Review for tomorrow’s quiz.  Use the discussion questions for assistance.


3.4.15 Fishbowl Discussion Prep

Summer Reading for the 2015-2016 School Year

I just received information about the Summer Reading Requirements for the students attending Wheeler HS next school year and have copied and pasted them below.  Please do not hesitate to get these books sooner than later.  Besides, it will make for a more restful summer. 🙂

9th Grade Honors

  1. All students must read and prepare outline (provided on Wheeler’s web site) on The Woman in White by Wilkie
    Collins. ****All students must prepare a TYPED outline for submission to the first week of the semester on this book.

    1. Each heading and subheading must have at least two parts. Do not exceed 2 pages typed using 1”
      margins and Times New Roman 12 point font.
    2. Be consistent. Use either complete sentences or brief phrases, but do not use both.
    3. This outline will be submitted to once information is provided by the teacher at the beginning of class.
    4. Be prepared to discuss this novel and participate in novel-related activities the first two weeks of the
  2. All students will select a second book to read from the On-Level 9th Grade Reading List (see below), then be prepared to write an in-class essay on the novel the first week of the semester.
    • During the essay, students may use one handwritten 4 x 6 index card containing notes on
      characters, plot, setting, etc. The card is NOT required, but if students use a card, it will be
      collected and kept at the end of the essay test. Typed and/or cut and pasted notes are NOT acceptable.

9th Grade Reading List

Should I receive or find information about the summer reading requirements for any of the other Magnet schools, I will be sure to update and republish this post–links and all!

-Ms. W.

Vocabulary in Context

Today’s class was relatively sparse in comparison to my typical lessons because the students in two of my four classes were selected to go into the Media Center in order to complete a survey on my effectiveness as an educator.  This survey data, which will become a part of my TKES (Teacher Keys Effectiveness System) evaluation for the year, sought to identify my instructional strengths and weaknesses.

As a result of this impact to two of my classes, I opted to push today’s scheduled quiz to tomorrow.  The quiz will cover chapters 1-11 in To Kill a Mockingbird and chapters 1-5 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

As a review and in preparation for the quiz, the students worked on vocabulary activities corresponding to their book of choice.  Those assignments can be found here.


  • Read for 30 minutes and log it into the reading log.
    • TKAM-Chapter 13-14
    • ROTHMC-Finish Chapter 6


Advice to Scout and Cassie

Friday’s empathy activity really helped the students take the time to observe how destructive it can be when people jump to conclusions erroneously.  Thus, today, the students had to put themselves into the place of the two narrators of our books of choice, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Cassie from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  When posed with a hypothetical situation, the students had to construct advice to either character.

The instructions and situations were as follows:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird:
    • Since Jem is spending more time with Dill, imagine that Scout befriends a young black child around town and they become fast friends. After noticing the odd looks and comments from the people around town when playing with this other child, she writes a letter to the local paper asking for advice.
    • Option A: Write Scout’s question and the paper’s response to her in the form of an advice column.
    • Option B: Write a dialogue between Scout and Calpurnia where Calpurnia provides some advice.
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:
    • Cassie goes into Strawberry to run errands for Mama. On her way back, she enters a store and is refused service because she is black. Upon returning home, she writes a letter to the local paper asking for advice.  What do you think she would say?
    • Option A: Write Cassie’s question and the paper’s response to her in the form of an advice column.
    • Option B: Write a dialogue between Cassie and Mama where Mama gives Cassie advice. What would she say?

After a moment to share what had been written, the students then had time to read for the remainder of class.


  • Read for at least 30 minutes and log it in the reading log (check #2 will be on Friday):
    • TKAM- Chapter 12
    • ROTHMC- Chapter 5
  • Catch up on any outstanding work or discussion questions.


#TheDress and Empathy


They say that “perception is reality” and luckily, the Internet provided the perfect example as a segue into today’s lesson on empathy.  Is it wrong if others see things differently?  Does the context in which we see things make a difference in our perceptions?

Of course context makes all the difference.


Apparently, if one changes the white balance of the photo, you can see that the dress is blue and black.  For me, I saw it as white and gold until I looked at the context of the photo.  Everything else in the background was brighter, fuzzier, and whiter than normal.  The image was not true to life as the picture at the left is made to be (that image, by the way, is from the dress’ manufacturer Roman Originals.)  When it comes down to it, our brains can play tricks on us.

After our discussion about #TheDress, we then moved into our empathy activity.  Each student answered 3 questions from the “Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes” handout they received from ReadWriteThink onto a 3″x5″ notecard.  They then placed that into their right shoe and put the shoe into the center of the room.

Each student then had to try to fill out the rest of the questions they had left on their handout based on the shoe and the three questions that had been answered.  Needless to say, each student walked away (uh oh, it’s a pun) understanding more of what it means to empathize with others.


  • Read for 30 minutes:
    • TKAM- through Chapter 10
    • ROTHMC- through Chapter 5


Unit Overview, Setting, and Some Characters

Beyond what was planned, we only briefly discussed the setting of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and To Kill a Mockingbird.  More importantly, I went into detail about the unit materials by distributing a calendar of all of the assignments and required items for the entirety of this novel study.  This way, students who fall behind or are ahead of the the class’ pacing can also work ahead as well to keep them locked into the unit.  The detailed unit information can be found on the page below.  The page will be updated as we move throughout the unit.

To Kill a Mockingbird and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Novel Study Unit Resources

TKAM and ROTHMC Discussion Questions Ch4 and Ch2


  • Read for at least 30 minutes and record it on your reading log.


Getting into Setting

The original goal for today’s lesson was to get into discussing the similarities and differences in the settings of each book; either To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.  That said, with many students out after the Orchestra’s LGPE performance and others on the Junior Wildcat Basketball team (good luck tonight young men!), I opted to push that back until Monday’s lesson.

The students completed the discussion questions listed below.  Thereafter, they were encouraged to read for the remainder of class.

To Kill a Mockingbird Discussion Questions:

1.Why is Scout so looking forward to starting school?

2.Why does Jem not want anything to do with Scout at school? Is his behavior typical of an older child?

3.What do you think of Miss Caroline Fisher as a teacher? Can you find qualities which would make her good or not so good at her job?

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Discussion Questions:

1.Where does this story take place? In what year?

2.Describe the schools that the black and white children attend.  Who is the “white” school named for?

3.Name the members of the Logan family.  What grades are the children in?

4.Why does Little Man stomp on the school book he is given?  What does the teacher mean by “That’s what you are”?


  • Read:
    • TKAM- through chapter 4
    • ROTHMC- through chapter 3


Novel Study First Chapters

As we are reading both Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and To Kill a Mockingbird, two classics in children’s literature, our upcoming lessons will be quite differentiated (meaning different variations of the lesson to meet the students where they are).  In today’s class, we did a quick recap of the first chapter of each book.  The students had the opportunity to complete discussion questions for their respective book’s first chapter.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 1 Discussion Questions

1.What do you learn in this chapter about Maycomb, Atticus Finch and his family?

2.What do you learn about Dill’s character?

3.What, briefly, has happened to Arthur “Boo” Radley.

4.Why does the Radley place fascinate Scout, Jem and Dill?

5.What do you notice about the narrative voice and viewpoint in the novel?

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Chapter 1 Discussion Questions

1.Where does this story take place? In what year?

2.Describe the schools that the black and white children attend.  Who is the “white” school named for?

3.Name the members of the Logan family.  What grades are the children in?

4.Why does Little Man stomp on the school book he is given?  What does the teacher mean by “That’s what you are”?

The students finished class by sharing their initial thoughts on the story they chose to read and their observations were fascinating.  It was really nice seeing how much the students are being hooked in by each story.


  • Read for 30 minutes.
    • TKAM-Chapter 2-3
    • ROTHMC-Chapter 2