Week 12

When you read a non-fiction book or article, the “Main Idea” (AKA “Central Idea”) is what it’s mostly about.  But how do you find the “Main Idea” or “Central Idea”? It sounds simple, but it can be difficult.  Why? Because sometimes we get caught up in the small pieces of information– the details– instead of looking at the big picture. 

Let’s begin by reviewing what a Main Idea is:

So, again, how do figure out what the Main Idea is?  First, make sure you’re not confusing a detail with the Main Idea.   

puzzle satisfying GIF

Think of details like a piece of a puzzle leading to the big picture.  So, when looking at the details ask yourself:

  • What are the details mostly about?  
  • What are the details teaching me?

Here’s are a couple of other clues:

  • The main idea is often stated in the first or last sentence
  • Look at the title and pictures

For today’s activity, you’ll be using your notes from the non-fiction book you’ve been reading to create a project showing a Main Idea and the details that support it.

For my example, I’ll use THIS article about Colin Kaepernick.  In the center, I put the main idea and on the sides, I put supporting details.

Week 11

Today we will be doing an art activity that revolves around The Middle Passage described in Copper Sun.  As we do our work, the audio from Chapter 10 will be playing to keep our minds and our hearts thinking about pain, violence, and evil that took place.  Here are the steps to our activity:

1- Divide the page in two with washi tape

2-  Lightly Sketch a ship with a pencil on the left side using THIS GUIDE (or draw your own without it!).
(Optional) 3- make some colors in the pallet
4- Paint the ship
5- Paint an ocean.  Optional: experiment with sprinkling a little salt on the painted ocean and pressing crinkled plastic wrap on it.
6- On the left side, paint the colors you feel as you listen to the story of the middle passage.

7- Using a fine-point marker, draw faces of pain and evil on top of the right side.


feels GIF

Today we will boost our emotion (feelings) and trait detectors.  Here’s a list of emotions and traits:

Remember: Emotions (feelings) come and go–they’re temporary.  Traits are part of your personality that last a long time.  Here’s a word find you can print to help you remember some feelings and traits:

Next, we are going to take a Kahoot! to see how skilled Ruby and I are at communicating our emotions and traits.

Now it’s your turn!  We’re going to play an acting/guessing game.  Here’s how:







Here are a couple of examples from the 8th grade:


This week we will be working with the idea of character traits.  Sometimes in our writing, we get stuck on simple character traits like: goodbad, happy, and sad.  The problem is that when your character has simple character traits it makes your writing simple.

What art supplies did I use to create Bertha?

Meet Bertha, she’s DishonestImpolite, and Bossy.  One day, right after she got her paycheck, she passed by a homeless woman with a skinny dog– it’s ribs were showing.  The woman asked, “can you space some change?”  Bertha responded, “nope, I don’t have a dime.  And, I must say, It’s time for you to get a job honey.”

Now, close your eyes: I’m going to say the following traits and I want you to imagine the first person that comes to your mind when I say them (they can be real or fake):






For this activity, we’ll be taking adjectives from a character trait list and building a character.  Here are the steps:

STEP 1: Click on the following lists and choose 3 traits:

STEP 2:  Build a Character (real or fake) from the art materials inspired by the 3 traits you chose.  Get creative!  Here are some funky portraits to inspire you:

STEP 3:  Write the 3 Character traits you chose somewhere on your character.

STEP 4: Think of one thing you could write about that your character did to show these character traits.

-Week 8-

This week marks the beginning of our work thinking deeply about Copper Sun.  There is so much beauty, violence, and history combined in this book.   Today we will be creating something called FOUND POETRY that reflects these ideas.

There are a lot of ways to do FOUND POETRY.  Today we will be taking words cut out from books and magazines and placing them together to talk about the book.

Here’s how to do it:

STEP 1:  Choose one of the quotes below:

Amari looked up at a seabird flying above and remembered her little brother. I wish he could have flown that night, Amari thought sadly. I wish I could have flown away as well.

The path...was flanked on both sides by fat, fruit-laden mango trees, the sweet smell of which always seemed to welcome her home. Ahead she could see the thatched roofs of the homes of her people, smoky cooking fires, and a chicken or two, scratching in the dirt.

Amari and Besa...would be allowed to marry in another year. For now they simply enjoyed the mystery and pleasure of stolen moments such as this.

“You know, Amari, the drums are not just noise —they are language; they are the pattern of the rhythm of our lives.”

Amari watched, aghast, as a mother with her baby wrapped on her back tried to flee, but both mother and child were clubbed down into the dirt by one of the Ashanti warriors. An Ashanti! How could this be? Villagers ran blindly into the fire, trying to escape and screaming for mercy, only to be felled by the terrible fire weapons of the strangely pale men.

“Tirza, stop talking like that!” Amari whispered back. “We must live!” “Why?” she asked dully. “Because as long as we have life, we have hope!” Amari said fervently.

STEP 2:  Find words that show how one of these quotes makes you feel or the movie that it makes in your mind.   The words can be taken from the ones already cut out or you can cut out your own.

STEP 3: Rub a glue stick on the paper then stick your words on it to form a poem.

STEP 4: Decorate your paper or create a new poem.  Everyone needs to be working the entire period.


-WEEK 6-

Today we’re going to be doing a design challenge about A Long Walk to Water and The Good Lie.  Your job is to form teams of 2-3 people and create a piece of art that shows a theme from either A Long Walk to Water or The Good Lie.  Here are some themes (but you can choose your own).

FINDING SAFETY- going from something dangerous to something good for you.

SACRIFICE- Doing something for someone else even if means something bad for you.

LOSS- Losing something important to you.

REBIRTH- Starting again, this time more positive.

SURVIVAL- Doing what you have to do to stay alive

R U L E S :

1- You can only use the materials on the table: 2- You have exactly 30 minutes.

3- Someone in your group needs to be able to talk about your art piece.

4- There is no “right way” to do this, it can be big or small have color or no color, use two of the materials or 10 of the materials.  But it must show off a theme.

Here are a few examples of work done by 8th graders for their book A Long Way Gone:

Theme: POWER


Theme: DEATH

-week 5-

cat dog GIF by Cheezburger

This week your personal narrative Makerspace project is due!  As a reminder, click HERE to see the rubric you will be graded on.

Last week, we read a chapter from Kiara’s personal narrative.  Although she’s still working on it, click HERE to read more chapters. The most important takeaway should be the BRAVERY it takes to reveal dark parts about your life.  My hope is that everyone in 7A can show that same bravery.

-WEEK 4-

Our topic today is Personal Narratives through music.  Below are a couple of examples of what it looks like to tell your story through song:  As you listen, ask yourself the following question:

What steps would it take to create a song out of the Personal Narrative I wrote?


Lyrics can be found HERE


Lyrics can be found HERE

Like Scowling Crackhead Ian, your song does not have to be a rap.  But, for those who would like to do that, I created a rap guide last year that helps you to create one:

Finally, let me give you an example from your class.  Click HERE to read Ayden’s personal narrative about a fight with his brother.  Now here’s the song I made that was inspired by his work:

Click HERE to see the lyrics.

Here are a few free instrumentals that you can use for your Personal Narrative  song:

Related image-WEEK 3-

This week we’ll be talking about how to change your personal narrative from 2D (flat) to 3D.  There are two ways to think about this:

  1. Changing a character in your writing from 2D to 3D.
    2D Characters 3D Characters
    Perfect life Has problems that you explain
    No history Has a past that you talk about– not just what’s happening at the current moment in your story.
    Perfect looks Has interesting beauty marks, pimples, hairstyle, clothes that don’t perfectly match
    No thoughts A voice inside her head with different ideas and desires that don’t match what they are saying.

-week 2-

illusion hiding GIF

Last week, we spoke about the power of personal stories.  Many students came to me privately and spoke about intense events that happened in their lives– stories about drugs, relationships, and violence.  I told everyone the same thing: TELL YOUR STORY.  But, if your story reveals details that embarrass you too intensely or gets anyone in trouble, change the names in your story and ask me not to reveal you as the author.  If you’re creating a film, choose actors to play the characters from your life.

Here are a few more examples of personal stories:

Gabriela reveals to her mother that she's been molested.

Kapone talks about the struggles he's facing after his uncle commits suicide and his sister is out of control. Click HERE for the lyrics.

A family struggles to survive after the father is incarcerated.

-week 1-

suspicious kenan thompson GIF by Saturday Night Live

For our first week of ELA in the Makerspace we’re talking about YOU- yes you.  Whether you believe it or not, each of you has an incredibly powerful story inside of you (probably more than one).  No one’s life is boring.

We all struggle with family drama, have weird issues with friends, and do random stuff that we regret. We all have secrets that we hold inside, gross memories, and times we laughed so hard our bellies hurt.  We have all loved deeply and cried when we lost something important.  Yep, each of you has a story.Reading Book Read GIF by Laura Salaberry

So, you might be wondering what does this have to do with Social Action?  Well, think about it this way: have you ever felt like no one has understood what you are going through– felt alone in your struggle?  When you tell your story, you are offering up the chance for a bunch of people to relate and not feel so alone.  That is Social Action!  Of course, your story doesn’t have to be serious, just super personal and have a lot of details.  Let’s check a few out:

If you are interested in filmmaking, begin by making a storyboard for each scene in the movie. Show it to me and borrow a camera to get started!

Alize's song tells the story of her parents relationship. Click HERE to read the words.

The last animation is from a site called Storybooth.  Spend some time checking out more stories by clicking HERE.  If you’re interested in creating your own, check out the tutorials below for the animation software Powtoon (use student@techbrarian.com and the usual password).

Click HERE to see my Cow Heart Animated story.