Rough Drafts, Edits, and Revisions

Today was a continuation in the writing process started yesterday.  The students took the outlines and Double Bubble Thinking Maps they created yesterday about the stories we all read on Monday.  With “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes and “The Storyteller” by Saki as their source material, the students set about creating a rough draft of an essay comparing and contrasting the themes within the two stories.  Furthermore, they were asked to show how the authors of both stories conveyed these themes.  After a brief re-cap of yesterday’s writing tips and a Q & A session, the students had the rest of class to write their rough drafts, share them with a peer for editing, and make the necessary revisions.  Tomorrow, the students will type up their final drafts in the Essay Scorer program for instant grading.


  • Finish any work not completed in class.
  • Continue work on Genius Hour project (DUE DECEMBER 12th, 2014).
  • Study for Friday’s Unit #2 Quiz.


Story Comparison Day #2: Expository Writing Tips

Essay writing has always gotten a bad rap…and rightfully so.  The topics have long tended to be stiff, un-engaging, and flat-out of tune with the millions of students who have to write in response to them.  While I like to create topics that are more interesting, all students need to learn how to find a way to connect with the topic in order to pop out an essay that is interesting to read, and representative of how well they can adapt and interpret the topic.

In today’s lesson, I showed the student how I approach the essay writing process so that it is a relatively easy and painless process.

Ms. Willipedia’s Expository Writing Tips:

  • šGet to know the writing prompt.
    • šDissect and analyze it to know what you’re being asked to do.
  • šOrganize your thoughts in advance.
    • šUse an outline or Thinking Map
    • šI strongly recommend an outline after using a Thinking Map
  • šRemember to make it interesting.
    • šInclude stories along with facts and examples to drive your ideas home (make them stronger).
    • The “Go Green” process works really well here.
  • šJust write.
    • šDon’t get obsessed with perfection.  Writing is a process.  This means that you make it better over time.

After presenting the students with their writing topic, we walked through the process of dissecting it in order to begin the brainstorming process.

Prompt: šRead “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes and “The Story-Teller” by Saki. In your review, compare how the authors reveal theme in each story. Detail what is similar and what is different about the way each accomplishes conveying his message.

šDissecting the Prompt:

  • What are the verbs?
    • šRead, compare, reveal, detail, accomplishes conveying
  • šWhat are the verbs modifying/telling us to do?
    • šRead what? “Thank You Ma’am” and “The Storyteller”
    • šCompare what? How the authors reveal theme in each story.
    • šDetail what? What is similar and different about the way each author conveys (shows/illustrates) his message.

We then worked together to create a Double Bubble Thinking Map focusing on the themes of the two stories.

The students then took this Double Bubble Thinking Map and created an outline for their essay rough drafts with the information from the Thinking Map.  Whatever was not completed in class for the outline was assigned for homework.



  • Finish essay outline from class.
  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Continue work on Genius Hour Project (DUE FRIDAY DECEMBER 12th, 2014. NO late work will be accepted.)


Information-based Writing

With today’s shortened class periods due to our weekly advisement, today’s lesson focused mainly upon looking over yesterday’s Essay Scorer data and in the understanding and creation of infographics.

Overall, the students did well for their first foray into using Essay Scorer this year.  The class scores were 3.1 out of 4 for 3rd period (9 scorable essays), 3.1 out of 4 for 4th period (12 scorable essays), 3.1 out of 4 for 5th period (10 scorable essays), and 3.4 out of 4 for 6th period (5 scorable essays).  I showed the students the teacher summary page so that they could see their overall results and we discussed the breakdown of which domains were strongest and which were weakest.  Overall, all four classes were strong in conventions (grammar and punctuation) and word choice.

I then talked to the students about infographics and we discussed how they can be another way to share valuable information in an quick and easily-read manner.  The students then created their own infographics based on either the in-class student dictionaries or the 8th grade literature books.  Below is an example of an infographic I made through the website on the student dictionary.

Here is a sample infographic I made to show the students.
Here is a sample infographic I made to show the students.



  • Read for 30 minutes.


Expository Exposed: Days 1 and 2

Both today and yesterday the students worked either individually or together to explore Expository writing.  They each started class with a question asked via the daily PowerPoint and via Padlet.  Yesterday’s topic was where the students had to choose one of two current event articles to skim and then comment upon.  The first article dealt with child homelessness and the second one dealt with gossiping.  Today’s warm up asked each student to share where they would wish to visit around the world and why.  A selection of their responses is below:

Padlet Where Would You Go


The students then continued their exploration by working on a web quest and creating a KidBlog post with a mini expository essay.  Today, upon finishing the previous task, the students then compared two songs through Essay Scorer, an online resource that automatically scores essays and provides feedback.  The links to the resources used yesterday and today can be found below:



  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Continue working on your Genius Hour project.


In-Class Art Gallery and Expository Writing Showcase

Upon returning from my last-minute mission yesterday, I brought a selection of 9 works of art for the students to view. The students first had to write down their thoughts and feelings while viewing Claude Monet’s “Water Lillies” for their warm up activity.  Thereafter, the students meandered around the back of the room in our classroom art gallery.  The other works of art that comprised the showcase, including Salvador Dali‘s “The Persistence of Memory,” are featured in the photo grid below.


The students walked around the part of the classroom made into a gallery and jotted down quick notes on what they observed about the pieces of art.  If time allowed, they then worked in pairs to create a brief newscast about either one of the works of art they preferred, all of the works of art, or about the entire art showcase.

In all classes we wrapped up today’s lesson with a showcase on expository writing.  Since it relates to only facts and is found throughout our lives, I showed examples of:

  • a to-do list
  • directions
  • a news article
  • essay types (description, cause and effect, problem and solution, and process/how-to)

I paid particular emphasis on the definition of expository (a.k.a. informational) writing as it informed the students of how this type of communication must be done assuming that the audience has little or no prior knowledge of the subject at hand.  This served as a segue into what the students will be doing during tomorrow’s Genius Hour.



  • The quiz over Lesson 8 of “Vocabulary from Classical Roots” Book C is tomorrow.  Here is a link to the review resources.
  • Tomorrow is another BYOD day in class for Genius Hour.  Any devices brought are the responsibility of the student who brings that device to class.


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Study for tomorrow’s vocabulary quiz (see the reminder above for a link to the quizlet online flashcards)


Agent Investigates Disappearance with Student Help

At approximately 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014, Agent Keen (often seen on NBC’s “The Blacklist”) arrived to the classroom of Ms. N. Williams in order to investigate her whereabouts.  It appears that while Ms. Williams was constructing her lesson on Expository and Informational Writing, some odd events occurred, resulting in her disappearance from class.  With the help of the ECMS campus officer and the students of Ms. Williams’ 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th period classes, Agent Keen was able to ascertain Ms. Williams’ whereabouts.

Below are some photos from the students’ processing of the scene:



  • Read for 30 minutes.


Evaluating Stories: #Pointergate and Student-Created Rubrics (November 10th, 2014)

We started class this Monday as we do every Monday with current events.  Instead of asking the students for what they saw occurring in the world this weekend, I invited them to engage in a discussion around the #pointergate story that blew up over social media this weekend.  The students were shown the original news cast and then had to answer a choice of a series of questions regarding whether or not a news outlet in Minneapolis was fabricating a news story or covering something relevant to their viewing audience.  The students then viewed a video which documented the context in which the #pointergate picture was take.  They drove the discussion on whether the mayor did indeed throw up a gang sign as was suggested.

What makes one story better than another?  We discussed what makes stories interesting and good overall.  The students worked together to create a each point in a rubric to evaluate the stories we have read and the ones we will read in the future.  Each story will be given points based on how we evaluated them on the rubric and those average scores will be used to to see who wins in a head-to-head single-elimination style bracket.

In the interest of time, we did not make it to the points and bracket portion and will be sure to evaluate “Flowers for Algernon” versus “The Tell-Tale Heart.”


  • Read for 30 mintues.


Friday, November 16th, 2012

On the Friday preceding Thanksgiving Break, the students needing additional time to make up their benchmarks were given the opportunity to do so.  Meanwhile, all of the students were presented with information regarding their Thanksgiving Break Project.  This project will kick off our Expository Writing (fact-based writing) Unit.  The students were to choose three of the five possible assignments to complete.  This project is due on Monday, November 26th.  All of the information on the project is included below (the Word document is also available for download as well):

Thanksgiving Project Word Document: The 8th Grade ELA Thanksgiving Break Project (Expository Intro Choice Board)

For additional help or examples regarding the Choice Board Assignments, feel free to visit any of the websites below or take a look at the examples provided to each student also below:

*Please pardon the technical difficulties precluding the timeliness of this post.

Monday, November 12th, 2012

This Monday, the students were introduced to our second unit.  With Expository Writing as the focus, I took the time to present the students with a “showcase” of examples of Expository Writing in the real world.  These examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Travel information
  • News articles
  • Owner’s Manuals/Instruction Manuals
  • Informational Text
  • Reports (such as):
    • Police reports
    • Experiment/Lab reports
    • Research Reports, etc.

After our showcase, the students completed a timed writing on any of the topics below:

oExplain why you admire a particular person.
oDescribe the major stressors in teens’ lives.
oExplain why you do (or do not) like to work in a team.
oExplain how music affects your life.
HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes, bring any library books that need to be returned back to school, and study for the Benchmark Exam.