Causes and Effects

Throughout both To Kill a Mockingbird and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, there are many notable events and turning points.  Today, the students explored these causes and effects in order to determine some of the central themes.  They first created a multi-flow map reflecting the causes and effects of one event in their novel of choice.  Thereafter, the students then identified the themes they saw among their multi-flow maps.  The students then voted on the themes they saw and we used those to create a scenario that we would subsequently put on trial.

After creating the mock trial scenario, the students then told me which roles they were interested in taking on for the trial.  Thereafter, if time allowed, the students were permitted to conduct research for their roles in the trial.  Jury members were able to work on any work they needed to complete in class.


  • Study for tomorrow’s quiz.
    • TKAM: Chapters 12-21
    • ROTHMC: Chapters 6-9
  • Bring your vocabulary assignment to class in order to receive a grade.


Work Ahead/Catch Up Day

I am so glad that so many of my students are also involved in the arts.  That said, with today’s band LGPE (Large Group Performance Evaluation), just shy of half of my students were absent after lunch.  As a result, the following happened:

  • The quiz was rescheduled from today to this Friday, March the 13th and
  • The Vocabulary In-Context assignment is now due tomorrow (Thursday, March 12th, 2015).

The students who were present in class were permitted to either:

  • read their novel (either TKAM or ROTHMC),
  • work on the Vocabulary In-Context assignment,
  • catch up on any missing ELA assignments, or
  • begin work on the TKAM/ROTHMC unit final project.


  • Read:
    • TKAM- Through Chapter 23
    • ROTHMC-Begin Chapter 10


Scripted Mock Trial in Action

After taking time to work on the chapter discussion questions in preparation for tomorrow’s quiz and Friday’s journal check, the students took over class to conduct a mock trial.  This pre-scripted trial asked the students to participate as lawyers for the defense, the prosecution, witnesses, the defendant, members of the jury, the bailiff, and the judge.

In the case of State v. Pat Morton, my classes arrived at the following verdicts:

  • 3rd Period- Not Guilty
  • 4th Period- Not Guilty
  • 5th Period- Not Guilty
  • 6th Period- Not Guilty

After arriving at the verdict, we spent the rest of the time discussing our thoughts on the process of the mock trial.  The students offered their thoughts for an upcoming mock trial that they will create themselves later on this week.


  • Review for tomorrow’s quiz.
    • TKAM- Chapters 12-21
    • ROTHMC- Chapters 6-9


Understanding a Mock Trial

In preparation for the upcoming unscripted mock trial, my students had the opportunity to ease into the mindset needed in order to successfully interact in a mock trial setting.

First, we explored a couple of debate scenarios:

  • Scenario #1:
    • Should middle schoolers be able to watch R-rated movies in school that go along with books they read?
  • Scenario #2: 
    • Dave hacks into the systems of the Enormous Telecommunications Company (ETC) and copies a file that describes certain details of ETC’s delicate switching equipment. When Dave is nabbed by the Feds, they charge him with theft. Is this correct?
      • What if the document is provided essentially for free by ETC to anyone for the price of postage?

This, naturally, generated quite a spirited discussion as we moved on to watching a video from 2008 of high school students competing in a mock trial competition where Overbrook High School in Pennsylvania won. This video served to illustrate how a successful mock trial should look and function.

If time allowed, we first discussed the important points in a trial.  We then got started on a scripted mock trial.  Regardless, we will perform this scripted mock trial tomorrow.


  • Read for 30 minutes and record it in your reading log:
    • TKAM: Chapter 20
    • ROTHMC: Finish Chapter 9


Fishbowl Finishing and Student-Created Tests

Today’s class was a hodgepodge of activities.  We first, wrapped up our general thoughts from yesterday’s fishbowl discussion of both novels’ themes.  Then, I took a moment to discuss the Character Chart, the top half of which was due today.  The completed version of this chart is due on Monday, March 9th, 2015.  (Side note: The “Vocabulary in Context” assignment, which was given this week, is due next Wednesday, March 11th, 2015.)

Next, we harnessed the power of the iPads and Google Docs, as the students created their own multiple choice test questions and submit them into this Google Form.  This will count as each student’s grade for the day and these questions will be used for review and subsequently, for the final test over the novel as well.

Once each student finished this task, they were able to work on their own and read in the time remaining in class.


  • Read through:
    • TKAM- Chapter 18
    • ROTHMC- Chapter 7


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

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