We've moved to
We've set up online learning communities via Edmodo, a social network service for the classroom. Consequently, there won't be much to see here on my SWIFT page.
With our Edmodo groups, students are writing for a more meaningful audience -- not just the teacher, but their classmates as well. We are excited about the opportunities for students to collaborate, share their thinking and practice good digital citizenship.
Parents, please consider creating your own Edmodo account so that you can follow your student's participation in the network. Contact me and I'd be happy to provide you with a code that will allow you to access your student's group.
Monday, Nov. 12
Happy Veterans Day. Take a moment to show your appreciation for the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces.
Our first big SpringBoard embedded assessment is coming up soon. I've posted it here in the Documents section, including the rubric. Parents, please take a look.
Wednesday, Nov. 7
Election Update: The people have spoken. So what did they say?
Click here to see Washington's statewide results for the three ballot measures that we looked at -- Referendum 74, Initiative 502 and Initiative 1240.
Click here to see the results of the Washington governor's race.
And click here to see how Pierce County residents -- that's our home county -- voted on all issues.
And here's a New York Times map that shows how the states voted in the presidential election. Click on the Exit Polls tab to look at how the vote broke down in key states by gender, age, ethnicity, income and other factors.
Monday, Nov. 5
Election Update: Click here to see the results of last week's student mock election.
Monday, Oct. 29
Welcome to Election Week!
And here a video you'll enjoy: The Electoral College, explained!
Here's a cool quiz from iSideWith.com that matches you with a candidate based on how you feel about the issues.
Which political party do you think best represents your interests? Try this quiz to find out.
Click here to read the Washington online voter's pamphlet. It's got information about everything that's on the ballot this year, including the three ballot measures and the two races that we'll vote on in our mock election this week.
Who is providing financial support for the measures on our state ballot? Investigate that question at followthemoney.org.
The News Tribune's Political Buzz blog has several reports about who is giving money to campaigns in Washington. The Seattle Times also has a couple reports about the big donors behind some of the state ballot measures.
Friday, Sept. 28
Humanities students, here's your assignment:
1. Respond to the Essential Question: What defines a hero?
2. Use all three of the definition strategies we talked about in class: function, examples, negation.
3. Use examples from the texts we've used so far in this unit. You can find the poems "A Man" and "Moco Limping" in the Documents section on the left. There are plenty of useful "October Sky" clips on YouTube, such as this one, this one and this one. Finally, you can find the Storycorps shorts that we watched here.
Your target is approximately 200 words. Start with the adjectives that you chose Thursday and Friday.
Thursday, Sept. 27
Journalism students, here's your link for the day. It's a New York Times story about sleep! Turns out maybe we don't need a solid 8 hours every night like we've always thought.
I don't know. Judging by some of the sleepy heads I see in my class each morning, there's plenty of evidence that some of us aren't getting enough rest.
Read the story with a partner. Help each other with words you don't know. Then go to this prompt and write your response for publication in The Husky Times online. The usual rules apply: 150 words, school-appropriate, your own work, spell-checked and grammatically correct.
Wednesday, Sept. 19
Humanities, here's your assignment: Think back to our discussion about challenges, and then write a personal response to "Moco Limping." Can you relate personally to the challenges faced by Moco and his owner? Why or why not? Explain using words and phrases from the poem.
When you use exact words and phrases from the text, make sure you use quotation marks.
Your response should be at least 125 words. Grammar, spelling and all other conventions count. Due Friday.
Go to my Documents page to find a link to download the pages from the SpringBoard workbook.
Go to the Discussion section to add your thoughts. Is Moco a hero?
**Apologies; SWIFT ate my page updates from the 2012-13 school year. The items below this line are from last year. Sorry if there is confusion.
For my media students, click here for the lesson on digital photography.
Click on Documents on the left to find a useful glossary to go with the Declaration of Independence.
The National Humanities Center has a good selection of primary source readings on the Declaration of Indendence, including an annotated version that adds context to each point on the list of grievances.
Here are some links for our lesson on Thomas Paine.
The National Humanities Center has a good section on Paine and the reaction to his writing at the time of the revolution. Here's a link to excerpts from Common Sense.
Here is a story from the BBC on the 200th anniversary of his death. It's got lots of biographical information and is a good general overview of his life and contribution to the American Revolution.
And here is a link to the Smithsonian Institution's Paine site at the National Portrait Gallery.
Here are some links you can use to learn the states.
The Sheppard Software site has a number of different states and geography games.
On this Shockwave site you have to put the states on a satellite image of the United Staes.
And more here.
And of course, my favorite, Sporcle.
Here's another case from the news: An appeals court has sided with school administrators in the case of a student who blogged critical remarks about a decision by her principal. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals moves the issue of online student speech one layer closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Heads up: The link that we had problems with in 3rd period today should be restored. It's the one below to the First Amendment Center page on cyberspeech. Not sure why it died on us, but it ought to be good to go now.
Meantime, a belated thank-you to everyone who could make it out to conferences on Wednesday afternoon and evening. We had a great turnout -- I had the pleasure of meeting with the parents or guardians of 74 students. My apologies to those who had to wait a little while. If you didn't get the chance to say hello but would still like some feedback about how your student is doing in class, please call or e-mail.
Work will continue next week on the CBA, and we'll also be preparing for the beginning of MSP testing the following week.
We've begun work on the state-mandated Classroom Based Assessment, aka the CBA. In 8th grade, students are required to write a CBA about a Constitutional issue.
Our topic is this: Should students get in trouble for statements they post on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, or in text messages?
Students must take a position that considers individual rights and the common good, and must support their position by citing evidence gathered from credible, relevant sources. (Click here for more on the requirements and the rubric that we'll use to score student work.)
This assignment follows on the work we've done the past couple months on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. To do well on the CBA students will need to demonstrate a solid understanding of the First Amendment, as well as the Fourth Amendment. We've spent considerable time in class reading, talking and writing about these cornerstones of American life.
This week we've studied major decisions by the United States Supreme Court that have shaped students' rights to free expression in and out of school.
Here's a link to a First Amendment Center resource concerning student free speech on the Internet. Students in class today looked at a number of the stories posted the bottom of this site and will continue to do so over the next few days as they conduct research for their CBA project.
I'll post more links here as we continue. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
UPDATE: Here's a link to an Everett Herald story about a principal who was maligned on Facebook. How does it relate to the work we're doing?
And here's a link to a story about a pair of Issaquah kids
who are in big trouble for their actions on
The students are hard at work on their Revolutionary War infographics. They're working in groups of two and three to produce informational graphics that demonstrate their understanding of a particular aspect of America's war for independence.
Go to Documents to find a collection of links that students will find useful in researching and gathering artwork and other essentials for their project.
Each infographic must include:
-- a timeline
-- at least one map
-- art, such as photographs of period paintings or students' own original work
-- a list of sources of information
Beyond that, it's up to the students to use their imagination, research and technology skills to put together a compelling presentation.
Work is due by the holiday break. Presentations will follow.
Online grades are updated. I'm still working on the autobiographies. The ones I've graded are reflected in the grade book. The rest are still pending.
In some cases, I will be giving the papers back to students to refine, rewrite, expand and otherwise improve the work they've submitted. Please encourage your student to ask me about this and to take advantage of this opportunity if it is extended.
In the meantime, we're plunging ahead with the American Revolution. We're through the French and Indian War and neck-deep in the Stamp Act, Patrick Henry and the Boston Massacre.
I may have mentioned before that our textbook, Prentice Hall's "America: History of Our Nation," has many features available online, including study guides, maps and other cool interactive stuff. I encourage you to give it a look.
It's been too long between updates. We'll do better. ... The students have finished their autobiographies and I am in the process of grading them. They learned a lot about elaborating in their writing and we are continuing to work on that with every writing assignment.
The election unit was fun. We spent about four class sessions learning about voting and elections. The students also examined the ballot measures and the U.S.Senate race and then cast their ballots in the Washington Secretary of State's mock election Oct. 29. This week we compared the results for Giaudrone with the way students across Pierce County and the state voted. We also looked at how the youth vote in the mock election compared with the actual vote Tuesday.
We'll spend the next few weeks learning about the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
Online grades are posted. They're based on each student's ability to meet standards on two tests: one on the elaboration writing strategies we learned in the autobiography project, and the other on the voting and election unit. Grades will be updated as I score the autobiographies.
Looking forward to seeing everyone out for Open House tonight. This past week in Social Studies we've been working on writing our own historical autobiographies. The students are learning about how history begins with the stories of individual people, and our point of entry here at the beginning of the year will be our own individual stories.
Students are framing their autobiographies with this in mind: What are the things that are happening today that historians might want to know more about in 100 years? And how are these things affecting us today? We've talked about living in a diverse community in the Obama era, about growing up in a nation at war, about hard economic times and a host of other issues. The students have some incredible insights and experiences to share.
We're about halfway through the project. By now your students may have talked to you about what their lives were like when they were little. We watched and read a number of examples of autobiographies, including this one, this one and this one (the second one from the top) at the America's Story Corps site. I encourage you to watch these moving stories.
Now we've moved on to learn about good writing strategies that will help students elaborate and tell their stories in a compelling way. These are strategies students usually learn in high school but we are giving students a chance to grow as writers here in 8th grade. They're doing good work and we are excited about seeing the finished products.
Today and yesterday we're introducing the textbook we'll be using for this class, Prentice Hall's "America: History of Our Nation." The book has an impressive array of features that are also available online, which you can check out here. We're doing a textbook scavenger hunt in class to help students get to know all the different features that will help them learn.
I also am sending home a letter of introduction that also explains a little bit about what we'll be doing in Social Studies this year -- it's all about U.S. history. The letter also includes my contact information. I gave the letter to students with instructions to bring it home, but judging by the one or two that I found in the recycling, on the classroom floor or folded into a paper airplane, I suspect not all of them made it to their intended destination. So I am posting a copy on the documents page. Please take a moment to look it over and as always, I welcome your calls and e-mails with any questions at all.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. Yesterday and today we are celebrating the 196th birthday of "The Star Spangled Banner" by sharing a humorous newspaper story about what a difficult song it is to sing -- especially when you've got to sing it in front of thousands of fans and a national TV audience for big sporting events.
We're also doing some in-class writing and revising and we are introducing Bloom's Taxonomy and Costa's Levels of Questions, two very important documents that will help guide our students as they become strong critical thinkers. Each student has a handout that explains the levels of questions, and includes useful question starters. They are to keep this handout in their binders for use throughout the year -- ask them to show it to you.
I've also posted a quick how-to note under the Documents section that outlines our expectation for word-processed work for class. Please look it over, and whenever possible please help your student do their school writing on a computer.
Our Read Aloud today, ahead of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was a New York Times story about a family still struggling to come to terms with their tragic loss that day. Students made many thoughtful observations about the story and engaged their critical thinking skills.
We also completed our in-class rewrites of the Social Studies standards. This weekend, students will write a paragraph describing which of the 30 or so standards they think will be the most challenging for them to meet. They know that they should include at least three reasons to explain their choice. The paragraph is due when they return to class Monday and Tuesday.
Today our Read Aloud was about Jefferson Thomas, one of the Little Rock Nine, who passed away last weekend. We read his obituary from The Washington Post and talked about whether we would have been as courageous as he was.
We're also working on rewriting the Washington state Social Studies standards for 8th graders into our own words. You can see the standards here.
Monday, Sept. 10
Welcome back to school. Hope you had a nice weekend.
Journalism class, here's our link of the day to the New York Times learning network. It's a prompt that we're going to use to post our very first story of the year at the Husky Times, so give it some thought and do your best work.
Friday, Sept. 7
Here's the story for you to read in the New York Times. It's about Sasha and Malia Obama, and what it's like to be the kids of the president.
First day of school!
We're looking for a three-peat.
For the past two years, Giaudrone Husky 8th graders have made huge gains on the MSP reading test -- in fact, the largest gains from 7th to 8th grade in the entire Tacoma School District.
Check it out: Of the students we sent on their way to high school at the end of the 2010/11 school year, 64 percent passed the reading MSP. Forty-seven percent passed the previous year as 7th graders. That's a gain of 17 percent -- tops of all middle schools in the district.
This past year's 8th graders made an even bigger jump from 7th to 8th. Of the 2011/12 group, 60 percent passed the reading MSP, up from the 38 percent who passed as 7th graders. That's a gain of 22 percent -- again, the biggest bounce in the district.
Are we bragging? A little. Our now-Husky alumni worked hard.
This year's group will work hard, too -- although we'll have a tougher time repeating as the biggest gainers in the district.
You're starting at a much higher level than previous 8th grade classes -- 58 percent of you passed this spring.
So what do you say, Huskies? Do you have another 15-20 point gain in you?
Do it, and we're right in there with the best schools in town.
Let's get to work.
It's CBA time. Here are some useful links:
The First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University is a good resource. This link takes you to the latest entries regarding student speech.Some of the news stories on this list might provide you with some good information for your call to action.
Here's a post from Bloomberg Law's SCOTUSblog that does a nice job of covering the Supreme Court's reluctance to wade into the issue of student speech online. At about paragraph 10 he does a good job of connecting current cases to the landmark Tinker v Des Moines decision that you learned about Tuesday and Wednesday. (Note: This link is blocked by the district's cybersheriffs, but it's worth checking out if you're reading from home.)
These two cases will be good examples to consider: J.S. v Blue Mountain School District and Layshock v Hermitage School District. Both are cases in which the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said schools were wrong to punish students for their online postings about school administrators.
Another important recent decision, but in the opposite direction: In Kowalski v Berkeley County Schools, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the school was right to punish a student for spreading vicious rumors about another girl on a social media site.
Here's an unusual take on the Kowalski case. The district's filters might block it at school (it's on YouTube) but you can check it out at home.
And then there's this case, in which the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was OK for a school to punish a student who ripped administrators online for canceling a school concert. Was the decision fair to the student?
These cases ought to help you think about how far is too far -- that is, how far can students go and still be protected by the First Amendment, and how far can principals go to keep a safe school environment but not violate a student's constitutional rights.
Others: This story from the First Amendment Center tells how some students have had to go to court to stop cyberbullies when schools couldn't do it for them. There's some good background in here -- and some more information that might help you answer the question in the preceding paragraph.
And many of you have found this one, about the Indiana school girls who said they were only joking. Does that get them off the hook, in your opinion?
Here's an opinion piece from a First Amendment Center expert on the Supreme Court's decision not to get involved in the Layshock and J.S. cases. As we've discussed in class, you may want to build your call to action around this lack of direction from the highest court in the land.
And finally, here's the one about the student who was expelled for using the F-bomb on Twitter. Fair? Based on what you know about Tinker, Bethel and Morse, what do you think the courts would say?
Public Servant Profile: Choose a cabinet secretary, a member of Congress from Washington, or a United States Supreme Court justice and compile the information listed below.
Use online reference cites to gather your information, such as wikipedia or the New York Times topics page. Search for your public servant by name.
In your own words, write:
Humanities, here's your assignment. Think back to our discussion about challenges, and then write a personal response to "Moco Limping." Can you relate personally to the challenges faced by Moco and his owner? Why or why not? Explain using words and phrases from the poem.
When you use exact words from the poem, be sure to use quotation marks around those words or phrases.
Your response should be at least 125 words. Grammar, spelling and all other conventions count. Due Friday.