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)



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.


Constructing Strong Responses: R.A.C.E. and the "American Dream"

Unlike previous posts, this one will be in the present tense and will cover the lessons from both Thursday, January 15th and Friday, January 16th, 2015.


Students, what is the “American Dream”?  What is your “American Dream?”

Task: Choose any two of the resources linked below and then complete the Essay Scorer assignment entitled “Your American Dream.”

Step 1 (of 3): Resources

Directions: Read any two of the resources below.  Then proceed on to Step 2.

Step 2 (of 3): R.A.C.E.

Directions: Now that you have read two of the resources above, create a R.A.C.E. graphic organizer using the form below.  Afterward, proceed to step 3 (do not click “submit”until you finish inputting your Essay Scorer response).

Writing Prompt: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. famously stated that he wished to see a future where different races were integrated in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Now that this has become a reality, what is your dream of the future in the United States? Write an essay clearly painting a picture of your vision of the American Dream.

Step 3 (of 3): Essay Scorer

Directions: You are at the last step.  Log in to Essay Scorer using the directions below and complete the assignment entitled “Your American Dream” using what you wrote in your R.A.C.E. graphic organizer above.  You will have to write at least 3 separate paragraphs.  That said, you may rewrite your essay up to 12 times.  When you finish, click “submit for grading.”

Essay Scorer Student Link:

Login: First Name

Password: Last Name (unless otherwise specified by teacher)


Did you finish early?  Follow the instructions below.

Directions: Go to this page and follow the instructions for extension work.  Any extension work assignments completed must be submitted as specified or else extra credit will not be awarded.



  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Any work not finished in class will be completed the next day.
  • Please Note: Extension work will need to be completed in order to count for extra credit.


  • No PowerPoint presentation for Thursday, January 15th nor Friday, January 16, 2015


Playing Devil's Advocate: Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Devil's Advocate Definition and origin


After taking a moment to consider five questions the students would want to ask their progenitors or their future progeny  during the warm up (both of those words are some of their current vocabulary words), the students presented the last of their Alternative Book Reports.

The students and I then explored the origin of the expression “playing Devil’s Advocate” which was the colloquial name given to a person within the Roman Catholic Church, officially called the promoter of the faith, whose job it is to find any information, particularly upon papal candidates, that could disqualify them from such a post.  We talked about how “advocate” has the same roots as the words “abogado” (“lawyer” in Spanish) and “avocat” (“lawyer” in French) as they are all Latin-based.  Before starting an activity where the students had the opportunity to stand on either side of a variety of “hot button” or controversial topics and voice their reasons for such.  In some instances, some students were chosen at random to try to play “Devil’s Advocate” themselves.  Before embarking upon this activity, all of the students were shown the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: This activity is one geared only toward seeing different perspectives and is in no way intended to be offensive to or question your own personal beliefs or morals.  This activity will serve only as a segue into the argumentative writing unit for which differing perspectives is paramount to writing most effectively.

The students really gravitated toward this activity as they shared their knowledge and opinions on a variety of topics ranging from school uniforms, to Ray Rice and Hope Solo, to whether the U.S. should step in and assist in resolving conflicts around the world.



  • Read for 30 minutes
  • Study for tomorrow’s quiz over “Vocabulary from Classical Roots” lessons 2 and 3




Revisiting Theme-September 4th, 2014

Themes are an integral part of effective storytelling.  Today, we reviewed themes through several short films.  For those still stuck in figuring out how to find a theme, I shared the following video.

After sharing the themes they each found in the stories they have been reading at home, the students practiced applying what they had re-learned theme to the following short films:

The stories we did not reach today will be used in class tomorrow.

Homework: Read for 30 minutes in preparation for our next Alternative Book Report (ABR) submissions.  These ABRs will be due after the September break.

PowerPoint: 9.4.14 Reviewing Theme

Revisiting Plot Structure-September 2nd, 2014

Plot structure is an elementary school standard, however it always needs to reviewed and explored even deeper than in the previous year. This is what we started today. The students worked in groups to brainstorm on the functions and purposes of each of the following plot elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and setting. They then reshuffled groups so that each group had only one member who had gathered information on each plot element. Each student then had the opportunity to serve as their group’s expert on that topic. From that, they created a Brace Map to show the parts of a story’s plot (NOTE: Setting was thereby included as part of the Exposition since it is not a standalone element).
Plot Structure Brace Map

In order to differentiate for learning styles, or if a student missed any of the information presented within the jumbled groups, we then watched a quick PowToon to rehash the concepts of each stage of the Plot Diagram.

Next, the students took a moment to apply what they had reviewed through the story “Curious George and the Kite” and “The Pirate’sTreasure.”  While listening to these stories, the students created a plot diagram to chart the main events in each story.

Plot Diagram



  • The students will watch an episode of their favorite television show and create a plot diagram to illustrate the different points within the story presented.  The students will also make note on whether there were any unresolved plot lines and will include any necessary information from previous episodes as well.

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Free Throw

The students had a rollicking good time today in class with TRASHKET BALL!!!  The room was divided into halves, each team had a team captain and designated free throw shooters.  Each student on each team had to answer questions related to ELA and Reading.  After 5 students from each team answered, each team’s designated free throw shooter aimed one of three balls (each of varying sizes and point values) into the “trashket.”  The team with the highest amount of points, won!

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes.  Complete the ELA Infographic Project which is DUE FRIDAY (a.k.a. TOMORROW)!!

PowerPoint: ELA Olympic Showdown (Day 2) 4.4.13

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 and Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2013: On Tuesday, the students worked whole group on a head-to-head team challenge with ELA CRCT review questions.

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes.  Work on completing the ELA Infographic Project, which is due Friday, April 5th.

PowerPoint:Standards Centers (Day 2) 4.2.13


Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013: Today, after much pleading from the students (that was a little example of hyperbole),though they had the option of working in three different centers,  they overwhelmingly voted to work on their infographic projects.  I reminded them that they could use PowerPoint,, and   I have included information on these resources below:

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes.  Work on completing the ELA Infographic Project, which is due Friday, April 5th.

PowerPoint:ELA Olympic Showdown (Day 1) 4.3.13 

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Today the students had to take a mock CRCT within each 55 minute block.  Okay, APRIL FOOLS!  In all seriousness, we kicked off more CRCT review, which is what we’ll be doing each day leading up to “the test.”  Thus, my apologies in advance if the upcoming posts seem redundant.  The students in my 1st period class did self-directed work, while 2nd, 6th, and 7th periods opted for a whole-group challenge.

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes. Continue with on the ELA Infographic Project.

PowerPoint: Forthcoming

Friday, March 29th, 2013

We capped off this week with a continuation of our ELA Olympics.  Each of the teams in class were competing quite hard to gain the most points.  Today, we put our emphasis on two things: the ELA Infographic Project and sentence trees.  I had a Q & A session with the students to make sure that everyone was clear on the expectations of the project (which is due next Friday, April 5th and no later).  We then broke sentences down into their parts of speech and then looked at how the words came together to make phrases, clauses, complete subjects, complete predicates, etc.

Just as a refresher (for those of you parents who might not be familiar with sentence trees):

Sandy likes candy with chocolate.Sentence Tree

HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes.  Continue work on the ELA Infographic Project (due Friday, April 5th).

PowerPoint: Status Report 3.29.13