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)



Story Comparisons: Day 1

After our week-long break in honor of Thanksgiving,  my students were welcomed back to class by two vivid images and in-class story time.

12.1.14 Warm Up

This comparison and contrast exercise primed their mental pumps for what lies ahead.  This week we will be taking two stories, comparing them, contrasting them, and translating those thoughts into coherent, engaging, and well-written essays.  The two stories, “The Storyteller” by Saki, and “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes are very different at first glance, but do possess some similar themes (to be discussed in class later).

Class was wrapped up with a short game of “Hot Potato” where each student had to share an adjective to describe one of the stories before passing the “potato” to another student.  The catch was that each adjective could only be used once.  Needless to say, that became a little difficult for some toward the end of the game.


  • Complete the Unit #2 Vocabulary packet to submit tomorrow
  • Study for Friday’s Unit #2 vocabulary quiz.
  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Continue work on Genius Hour project.



REMINDERS: (in chronological order)

  • Unit #2 Vocabulary Packet due tomorrow, Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
  • Unit #2 Vocabulary Quiz this Friday, December 5th, 2014
  • Our FINAL Genius Hour Work Day is this Friday, December 5th, 2014 as well
  • Genius Hour projects are due NEXT Friday, December 12, 2014

Comparing Media: "The Tell-Tale Heart" (November 6th, 2014)


One of the great things about the Common Core Standards is that they provide for the comparison and contrasting of different versions of a story.  This means that my middle school classroom can become much like a college or high school film appreciation class where we can analyze videos as literature along with their written counterparts.

Today, the students and I watched a version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” released in 1941.  Luckily, the screenwriters took some liberties with Edgar Allen Poe’s short story and so the students were able to really analyze why those changes took place.  They each created their own Double Bubble Thinking Maps in order to compare what these two had in common, and how they differed.  We wrapped up today’s lesson with a discussion on the efficacy of each version of the story.

Reminder: Tomorrow is a Genius Hour Work Day and is therefore a BYOD day.  All devices brought on campus are of the responsibility of the student who has brought it.


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Have at least 5 sources on your Annotated Bibliography on KidBlog.


TV Series Review: "Sherlock"

In case you missed the news lately, most of the South has been ground to a halt off and on these past couple of weeks because of snow.  Yes, snow does fall below the Mason-Dixon Line and when it does, schools are (typically) shut down.

Snow Jam 2014.This City is Closed

Keeping myself amused was no problem at all.  What better way to brave being shut in by Mother Nature than to catch up on shows and movies within my Netflix queue?

Sherlock IMDB

Sitting quietly within “My List” (formerly known as the “Instant Queue”), “Sherlock” looked like a stuffy series that somehow cast a mesmerizing spell upon many of my closest friends and family.  So, I ventured into Netflix, selected the show, and started the first of the three episodes (though each of them is actually feature film length) with the expectation that I would be easily bored.  I was never more thankful that I was wrong.  The witty, intelligent dialogue paired with strong acting from every member of the cast is what makes this show a winner.  Furthermore, Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat‘s updated rendition keeps true to its literary roots by heavily rooting each case within the stories Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote almost a century ago.  This reverence for the original works is why I feel that this show can serve as a great educational and teaching tool.  For example, students could read Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, “A Study in Scarlet,” to compare and contrast it to the first episode of Season 1 entitled “A Study in Pink.”  Though the latter is more loosely based upon the original work, in Season 2, the second episode, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” could be compared to its namesake Holmes case.  Students of literature can delve into the reasons why Gatiss and Moffat opted to make one choice or another in bringing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to the 21st century.  For example, Dr. Watson records each of Sherlock’s cases in a blog (which can be read here).  Why might a blog have been chosen instead of a Twitter account, a regular newspaper column, or vlog (video blog)?

From an educational standpoint, “Sherlock” is certainly a show for more mature students to watch.  Season 1 would be friendliest toward audiences ages 12 and up, however Season 2 is much more appropriate for more mature audiences, such as students 14 and up.  Though tastefully done, I would certainly avoid Season 2, episode 1: “A Scandal in Belgravia” for any student audiences as there are some, shall we say, more “grown” subject matter discussed.

All in all, I found this show to be absolutely mesmerizing and intelligent.  Each episode was an intellectual adventure that took me beyond just the detective case at hand, but through the lives of Sherlock, Watson, their growing bond and group of allies.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The warm 3-day weekend wrapped up with the historic inauguration of our President on the same day as we celebrate the achievements and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.  In fact, I found out that President Obama is one of only 17 presidents to give an inaugural address to jump start his second term.  Did you know that his second inauguration is not the first Presidential Inauguration to coincide with MLK Day?  Interestingly enough, President Bill Clinton‘s second inauguration was also on MLK Day.  How fascinating!

On our first day back (and the day before the Georgia Middle Grades Writing Assessment) we played an ELA version of Family Feud for the activator (the 10 minutes prior to the main lesson) and played Writing Assessment Review Jeopardy.  The students seemed to have a wonderful time.

This afternoon was the last of the Pre-Writing Assessment after-school tutoring sessions.  I want to thank all of the students who stayed after school or came during connections for additional help.  That level of initiative is what will surely be the foundation of success.  I am so proud to teach such students!

PowerPoint: forthcoming

HOMEWORK: Get a good night of sleep!  Read for 30 minutes and work on the Guided Book Review which is due in 1 week (on Tuesday, January, 29th, 2013).

The Week of January 14-18th in Review

In preparation for tomorrow’s Writing Assesement, last week was devoted to review of all of the writing strategies that had been addressed in class.  I held two tutoring sessions during and after school to assist those who felt they needed to practice some skills, ask additional questions, or receive extra teaching.  It was an absolute blast!  As a result, I will be holding weekly after-school tutoring sessions starting within the next couple of weeks.  Finally, on Friday, we wrapped up the week with a timed writing to simulate part of what the students will encounter tomorrow.

PowerPoint: forthcoming

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes and work on the Guided Book Review (Due Tuesday, January 29th, 2013)

WELCOME BACK! Tuesday-Friday, January 8th-11th, 2013

I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Winter Break!


On this first day back for the students, we did a writing strategy recap.  As a whole group, we looked at a sample expository writing prompt and broke it down using TAPP-F.  This strategy helps the students look at the key points in a writing prompt to determine what it is that they need to do in order to be successful.

  • T=Topic
    • This is where the students take a topic in its entirety and summarize it in one to two sentences.
  • A=Audience
    • According to the writing prompt (topic), who is going to read the essay/letter/speech?
  • P=Purpose
    • Why is this essay/letter/speech being written?  Is it to persuade or to inform/explain?
  • P=(Organizational) Pattern
    • How should you organize your writing? Should it be organized in:
      • chronological order (in order of time)?
      • logical order (in order of what makes the most sense to you)?
      • cause and effect order (where the cause of something is discussed first and then its effects)?
      • problem and solution order (where the problem is presented and then you discuss a possible solution)?
      • comparison and contrast (where two or more things are discussed for how they are similar and dissimilar)?
  • F=Format
    • In what form are you writing?  Is it supposed to be:
      • a letter?
      • an essay?
      • a speech?

The students had to dissect and brainstorm using TAPP-F on the topic below:

Lunch GMWA writing topic

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes and write an introduction paragraph based on the topic presented in class.  Read for 30 minutes.

PowerPoint: Writing Strategy Recap 1.8.13



In class, each student continued formulating and organizing their ideas using a graphic organizer to map out their body paragraphs.  I provided some assistance by guiding them through the process using the ELMO document camera.

HOMEWORK: Complete the body paragraph sections in the graphic organizer provided in class. Read for 30 minutes.

PowerPoint: Body Paragraphs 1.9.13



Having mapped out the body paragraphs both in class and for homework the previous night, the students began work on sculpting a strong conclusion.  With the time remaining in class, each student then took what they wrote in the graphic organizer the night before and translated it into a rough draft.  Those who did not finish in class had to complete it for homework, due at the beginning of their class period on Friday the 11th.

HOMEWORK: Complete the rough draft of the letter to the principal.  Read for 30 minutes.

PowerPoint: Conclusions 1.10.13



The week wrapped up with practical application of all of the skills practiced this week in the form of a timed writing.  As a reminder, the students used the acronym of T-BOW ( (c) 2013 Me) to guide them through the writing process.  T-BOW represents:

  • T=TAPP-F (see above under “Tuesday”)
  • B=Brainstorm
  • O=Organize (see above under “Tuesday” as well)
  • W=Write

All of the drafting homework from the previous days this week were due at the beginning of each class with no late work being accepted (except in rare circumstances).

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes.  Remember, this upcoming Tuesday is our next Library Day!  Find your library books and have a wonderful weekend!

PowerPoint:  Timed Writing Day 1.11.13


Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Just like Monday’s class, Tuesday was a day filled with work at centers.  The students had to work in the centers they had not addressed on Monday and complete the tasks given.


HOMEWORK: Complete any missing assignments (DUE FRIDAY) and read for 30 minutes.

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Monday was the first of two days where the students were in centers to practice their writing skills.  There were a total of six stations to which the students had the opportunity to visit.  These stations included focuses on:

Center #1: Organization

1.     Read the articles on the pay of female tennis players.

2.     Next, compare and contrast the two articles.

3.     Then, identify the problem in the article and suggest a solution.

o   Write at least 2 sentences explaining why that would be a good solution.

4.     Guess what might be the cause for the inequality in pay.

o   Then, write what the effect has been in at least one sentence.

Center #2: Ideas

1.     Think of 5 topics and write them down on your own sheet of paper.

2.     Then pass your topics to the person on your right. 

3.     Brainstorm at least 5 points for each topic. (Use a bubble map or a bullet point list)

4.     Turn to your elbow partner and share the two topic brainstorming bubble maps (or bullet pointed lists).  KEEP YOUR VOLUME LOW.

Center #3: Style

1.     Read the article “Text Talk” on Reality Central page 49. 

2.     Find the paragraph you think is the strongest.  Write down:

o   What page it is on,

o   What number paragraph it is from the top of the page,

o   And explain why you think it is the strongest.

3.     Next, Choose one of the paragraphs to rewrite with more style.

4.     Make the vocabulary stronger, add DRAPES, and overall make it more interesting to read.


PowerPoint: Writing Centers Dec. 3, 2012

HOMEWORK: Complete any missing assignments (due Friday) and read for 30 minutes.


Monday, November 26th, 2012: Presentation Day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving Break)!  It is so good to have everyone back at school.

Today was the first day of presentations on the Thanksgiving Project. Each student not presenting had to jot down their thoughts on each of their classmate’s projects.  On a sheet of notebook paper, each student had to do the following:

•Write the name of the class member presenting.
1.List which three products they did.
2.Which did you like the best?
3.Why did you like this one?

These “Thanksgiving Project Reviews” were collected for a classwork grade.

PowerPoint: Nov. 26. 2012 Presentation Day #1

HOMEWORK: Complete any missing work.  Read for 30 minutes.