Summer Reading for Wheeler H.S. 2015-2016

This is, in essence, a re-post from March of this year.

For those students headed to Wheeler High School in August, you must be sure to read the texts outlined in the link below:

Summer Reading 2015-16


From March 2015:

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.

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.


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.


A Veteran's Day Story Face-off: "Flowers for Algernon" versus "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Courtesy of: Image source:
Courtesy of: Image source:

On this fifteenth Veteran’s Day of the new millennium, we took time to pay respect to those who have served in our armed forces through a picture-based writing prompt and our classroom playlist.  The students were asked to look at the image above and write their thoughts, whatever those might be, for the length of two complete songs.  The writings that were shared showed that my middle-schoolers have a lot more reverence and understanding of holidays such as today than one might ordinarily think.

The students and I then worked to finish what we had started yesterday.  We pit Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” against Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” to see which was the better of the two stories.  How can you evaluate these two divergent texts that only share their first-person points of view in common? Based on the work we did yesterday, the students followed my example and created the remaining cells of a rubric.  I then chose the best-written ones and used those (almost verbatim) to construct our giant, in-class story rubric.


The students then worked individually to evaluate each story based upon the rubric.  Next, they worked together with their tablemates to average the point values they awarded each story.  We then collected all of that data to come up with a class average score for each based upon the table-by-table averages.  In the end, Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” won due to its variance in writing style and its more interesting and more fully-developed characters.


The students then finished class with their 10-question reading comprehension quiz on “The Tell-Tale Heart” to the soundtrack of the following patriotically-themed songs:

  • “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
  • “America the Beautiful” by Whitney Houston
  • “Proud to be an American” by Beyonce’
  • “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus
  • “Southern State of Mind” by Darius Rucker


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Work on any Genius Hour.


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.


Story Recap and Genius Hour: Friday, November 7th, 2014

Class started with the students taking turns sharing images they created of various vocabulary words from lesson 8 as if they were trying to teach them to an elementary school student.  Thereafter, we delved into a recap of yesterday’s lesson.  We spent the first part of today’s class discussing the differences between the telling of “The Tell-Tale Heart” in a written versus a short film format.  That spawned a very interesting and detailed conversation about some of the liberties taken by the filmmakers in adapting Edgar Allen Poe’s story for the screen.  Why did the filmmakers choose to show this, omit that, or include this?

The last half of class was dedicated to work on the students’ Genius Hour projects.  They are to have their Annotated Bibliographies filled with at least 5 sources by 11:59 p.m. tonight.

I also created a page entitled “Genius Hour” that can be found linked in the tabs at the top of this blog.


  • Read for 60 minutes.
  • Finish whatever was not finished in class.


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.


Literary Devices in Context: Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (November 5th, 2014)

Courtesy of:
Courtesy of:

The jaunty pop music gave subsided to reveal the sound of a beating heart.  Thump.  Thump.  The students looked around the room quizically, wondering what could be the source of that noise.  Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Intermittently it reemerged and then disappeared while I continued teaching, pretending that nothing was wrong.

This was how I introduced the Edgar Allen Poe classic “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  The students followed along in their literature books as the short story was read aloud through the speakers.  Thereafter, they completed a  three-column chart identifying the literary devices they located and what examples they found of those literary devices.  We wrapped up the class with a discussion of whether or not it was easier (or harder) to identify and understand literary devices in the context of a story.


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Continue posting resources into the Genius Hour Annotated Bibliographies (5 sources by Friday).


Literary Devices Review: Monday, October 27th, 2014

The beauty of English Language Arts is that it is recursive and the same concepts are explored from year to year, just at varying depths.  So today, we touched upon literary devices, which the students learned in seventh grade.  While there are a lot of literary devices to explore, today we touched upon the following:

  • alliteration and assonance
  • metaphors and similes
  • flashback and foreshadowing
  • personification
  • onomatopoeia

First, we did a quick pre-assessment so I could see who knew what general concepts.  We used my new favorite classroom toy, Plickers.  These “picture clickers” combine an app with cards that are specially-coded and can be assigned to students.  They turn the cards in order to answer with an “A,” “B,” “C,” or “D.”  Below is a (very roughly-done) screencast I did for one of my grad classes on the usefulness of Plickers.


Hopefully one day I will have enough time to re-do this video to make it better. 🙂

We then watched some videos to help illustrate the various literary devices.  Two of the best-loved videos were a rap about literary devices

and examples of literary devices in pop culture.

We then finished class by re-taking the Plickers pre-assessment so that I could see if the students had any better results.  In most cases, all of the students answered correctly.  There were only a handful of students (under 5) in each class that were unclear about the meaning of some of the literary devices.



"Flowers for Algernon" August 20st-28th, 2014

The students have been delving into the world of Charlie Gordon, who undergoes experimental surgery to triple the level of his intelligence.  In the process, the students have had the opportunity to see how Charlie’s intelligence and perception of the world around him changes.  How many times have we all been in situations where we thought we knew where we stood, but then realized that we did not?  In their exploration of this text, the students have been partaking in the following:

  • recording their thoughts and observations with each of Charlie’s updates (as the short story is written in the form of his diary entries over 9 months),
  • explore the themes of the story through the creation of their own choice of projects, and
  • complete their first quiz and major test over a work of literature.

Below are the resources for this mini-unit.  The resources will be updated with each passing day with any relevant information.

Power Points:

Flowers for Algernon Project:

Flowers for Algernon Short Story Links: