Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy holidays!

Mrs. Earl wishes all of her students and their families a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Putting It All Together

Thursday and Friday of this week will be the post-assessment for the informational reading unit.  After learning, and reviewing, and practicing a variety of reading strategies, students will need to demonstrate their ability to:

  • generate ideas about the central idea of a text by asking, “What is this mostly about? What is the author saying about this topic?”
  • look for patterns and connections by asking themselves, “Why does this keep coming up? What might the author be showing us with these patterns? What connections are being made throughout the text?”
  • connect specific, relevant details in a text to the central idea by looking for supporting ideas that support the central idea and summarizing key events and ideas by asking themselves, “Which events are important to the central idea?”
  • recognize and track connections among individuals, ideas, and events as they read by roadmapping and asking themselves: “How are the individuals, ideas or events related? How do they connect? What idea do I have about what this text is saying?”
  • know that authors use specific words or phrases to create a tone and think to themselves, “What central idea is the author developing? How do these words or phrases impact the central idea?”
  • identify and differentiate between words with connotative, figurative, and technical meanings that connect to the purpose.
  • identify when an author uses figurative language by locating examples of analogies and allusions to other texts.
  • pay attention to how an author has structured a text and think, “Why would the author use this structure? What is he or she trying to show me?”
  • reflect on a feature of text and identify how it relates to the central idea by asking, "Why did the author choose to include this feature in the text? How does this feature contribute to the central idea?”
  • look for particular sentences within a paragraph that develop or refine a key concept (central idea) and ask, “What role do these sentences play in developing the concept or idea? How does this specific sentence add to the meaning of the central idea?”
  • identify specific claims within a text by reviewing the supporting ideas around the central idea and assess whether the claim is sound by asking, “Does this make sense? Is there enough evidence that supports the claim?”
  • recognize when an author introduces information that is irrelevant to the claim (or central idea) and think, “What does this have to do with the claim (or central idea)?” 

Analyzing Text Features

Students have been learning about the importance of paying attention to and analyzing the use of text features in informational writing. To aid in that review, see below:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reviewing Text Structure

HW Smith Boys Basketball Team

The season is extended this year so that the boys and other HW Smith students can participate in an intramural league when we return to our building in January.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Exploring the Impact of Word Choice on Meaning

Students will continue to read and analyze Flesh and Blood So Cheap this week.  Instead of focusing on the determining the central idea, students will investigate the impact of word choice on meaning and tone. After a few days of practice, students will complete a practice assessment in preparation for next week's end of unit exam.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Main Idea Songs

Although a little silly, check out these teacher-generated songs to help students determine the main or central idea of a text:

Determining the Central Idea

As part of our informational text unit, students have been refining their ability to find and explain the central idea of a passage.  Here are some additional hints from Scholastic. com:


Text of Link
To find clues to topic:
a) Look at the title.
b) Look at the first and last paragraph—the topic is usually named.
c) Ask yourself: What is discussed throughout the whole selection? What subject spreads
across the whole text?
d) Look at captions, pictures, words in bold, headings, and so forth for clues to topic. What
do all of these have in common?
e) Remind yourself: The topic must include all the major details and events from the selection.
Caution: Not every detail has something to do with the topic. The topic is the common
element or connection between major details.

f) What do all major details share in common?

Check Yourself: It’s Not the True Topic if…
a) It’s too general or too big. (Topic statement suggests or could include many ideas not
stated in the text.)
b) It’s off the mark, totally missing the point.
c) It only captures one detail, rather than all of the key details.
d) It captures only some of the details, for example, maybe you didn't think about the

Questions to Check Yourself:
a) Does the topic I’ve identified give an accurate picture of what the whole selection is about?
b) Was I as specific as possible?
c) After naming the topic, can I now specifically picture in my mind what happened or was communicated in the text? or might I picture something different that also fits my topic statement? If so, how can I change my topic statement to correct the problem?

Authors often plant important ideas in:
a) Details that reflect or refer to the title.
b) Details at the beginning of a text.
c) Details at the end.
d) Surprises, revelations, whenever your expectations are not met.
e) Repetition.
f) Lots of attention given to a detail, for instance, long explanation or description.
g) Subheads and italicized text.
h) Changes in character, tone, mood, setting, plot twists.
i) A question near the beginning or the end.

Check Yourself: It’s Not a Key Detail if…
a) It’s interesting, but it doesn't develop the topic/lead to the central focus.
b) It remind us of something and is even personally important, but if you were to remove it
from the piece, the piece wouldn't lose any significant meaning or impact.

Questions to Check Yourself:
a) Are all the details related to the topic?
b) How do the key details relate to each other?
c) What pattern do they make?
d) What point do they repeat or add up to?

3. IDENTIFY THE CENTRAL FOCUS (the main idea or point the author makes about 
the topic):
a) The statement of central focus you name must make a point about the topic and cover
the whole selection.
b) Ask yourself: Is the central focus directly stated? If not, it must be inferred.
c) Which details help me decide on the central focus? Why are these details important?
d) The central focus considers how the details relate to one another or lead to one another (what caused or led to what).
e) The central focus must consider the ending and how the details or events led to this final

Check Yourself: It’s Not the Central Focus Statement if…
a) It is so literal and specific it doesn’t allow the reader to apply the main idea to his
own life.
b) It is too general—more like a topic statement than a main idea.
c) It is true but misses the point of the text. Wasn’t what the author was talking about.
d) It misses the point.
e) It only fits one detail or event, not the whole text.
f) It does not incorporate all details.
g) It doesn’t fit ending or final situation.

Questions to Check Yourself:
a) What point do the key details repeat and add up to?
b) Is the central focus a statement about the topic?
c) Is it something useful that can help you to think or act in the world?
d) Also consider: Do you agree with the statement as applied to life? Why or why not?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Extra Credit Opportunity

To earn five points in your lowest grade, please watch one of the video clips below and complete the two following sentence stems:
One new thing I learned from the video was...
Something I found surprising was...

You can leave your response in the comments section below.  Remember to write your name with your comment.  Also, remember that you will not see your comment right away because it needs to be moderated. 

To earn extra credit, you must submit your comment by midnight on Sunday, 11/24/13.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NSBE Conference

Congratulations to our HW Smith students that will be represnting the Syracuse City School District at the NSBE conference:
Tydre B.
Myles C.
Jordan H.
Nathaniel H.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Photos from the Lewis Hine Exhibit at the HW Smith Museum of American History

Building Background for Our Informational Reading Unit

In our next unit, we will be focusing on strategies to read and make sense of informational texts.  We will be building off what students are learning in Social Studies by studying the Industrial Revolution and child labor at the turn of the century in the United States.  Students can learn more about the time period by watching the following:


Students can also follow the links below to additional videos at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Utilizing Transitions to Make Your Writing Make Sense

Transitions are an important part of writing.  Transitions help the reader to make sense of the writing.  Watch the clips below to help you better understand transitions and how they are used effectively in writing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Punctuating Dialogue

Need help with punctuating dialogue?  See the video below.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Narrative Writing Prompt

Students in 8th Grade ELA are writing a narrative about a memorable moment.  Students are required to pick a memorable event and choose a moment within that event to explode and focus in on.  Students are working on the body of the narrative.  Students are tasked with balancing:

- sensory details (descriptions that appeal to the reader's sight, hearing, touch, etc.)

- actions (what the characters are doing)

- personal thoughts (the narrator's thoughts during the episode)

- dialogue (what characters say)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

AVID - Question Four Rewrite

To help AVID students rewrite their question four from the post-assessment.  Here is the question four that was rewritten for class:

Authors purposefully make decisions about how to present information to readers. The way in which an author structures a piece, contributes to its meaning and style. Both "The Bully" and "To Forgive" examine bullying. Analyze the texts and determine how the differing structures and literary devices contribute to meaning and style of each.
In your response, be sure to:
explain how "The Bully" was put together and WHY the author chose a chronological story structure
explain how "To Forgive" was put together and WHY the author chose a short poem (twenty lines)
describe how each author uses figurative language to contribute to the theme and style
include relevant text-based details from both passages

Exploding a Moment

Review how to take a big event and focus in on one specific moment to explode for your narrative writing piece.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

21st Century After School Program

Need extra help in math or ELA?  Want to complete activities that help you gain knowledge in these subjects and still have fun?  Want to participate in fun enrichment activities?  Then join HW Smith's 21st Century After School Program!  Contact Mrs. Earl or Mrs. Yanchik for more information. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Out of Class Reading Assignment Update

Due to the change in the timeline for report cards, all out of class reading assignment summary activities are due by the end of the school day on  Wednesday, October 30th instead of Friday, November 1st.  If you have questions, please see Mrs. Earl. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Denotation Vs. Connotation

Reviewing Tone and Mood

Tone and Mood Video

Word Choice and the Creation of Tone

This week students will be concentrating on the author's word choice and how it creates tone in a story.  Tone and mood are closely connected but two separate and distinct ideas.  

To review:

  • Tone is the author’s attitude toward the writing (his characters, the situation).
  •  Tone is set by the setting, choice of vocabulary, and other details.
  • A work of writing can have more than one tone. 
Some Words That Describe Tone 

  • Mood is the general atmosphere created by the author’s words. 
  • It is the feeling the reader gets from reading those words. 
  • The mood may be the same throughout a story, or it may change from situation to situation.
Words That Describe Mood 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Out of Class Reading Assignment

Just a reminder that November 1st is right around the corner.  Students are required to submit the three summary activities for the out of class reading assignment by that time.  Students should be reading and completing the summary activities throughout the marking period.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekend Homework

Students have been reading The House on Mango Street and will continue to do so over the weekend and throughout the next two weeks.  In addition to reading through page 52 of the novel over the weekend, students are asked to complete five of the nine comprehension activities on the handout.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy Columbus Day!

Just a reminder that there is no school on Monday, October 14th due to the celebration of Columbus Day.  Have a restful three-day weekend!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Earn a Homework Pass

Scholastic Reading Inventory

Each year, students take the Scholastic Reading Inventory three times to determine their reading level.  This information helps teachers best meet the needs of the students in front of them.  Eighth graders will be taking the SRI on Monday, October 7th.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The House on Mango Street

Students are reading the novel, The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros.  The novel is written in a series of vignettes that tell the story of Esperanza, a young teen, and her trials as she grows into a young woman.  The coming of age story is the perfect novel to focus on the skill of charting character development.  Throughout the unit, students will read the novel and identify and explain the ways Esperanza changes and grows throughout the story.

Learn more about the novel from the author in the clip below.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Reviewing the Plot Diagram

Don't forget to review the five parts of the plot.  All stories, no matter how basic, follow this outline.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Casey at the Bat"

Today we read and acted out the poem, "Casey at the Bat."  Students can see an adaptation of the poem by watching the Disney video below.  (It will also help in completing the plot diagram and extension questions for tonight's homework.)

Text of "Casey at the Bat"

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer 

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis├Ęd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Sorry, Wrong Number"

Watch the classic movie based on the radio play we read in class.  There are nine total clips to make up the movie.  Think about how the movie is similar and different to the play we read in class.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Open House

The Open House for HW Smith K-8 @ Levy will be held this Thursday from 6:30 to 7:30 PM.  Please come and meet the 8th grade team of teachers.  

Fix Up Reading Strategies

What do good readers do when they don't understand what they've read?  Skip over it?  Give up?  Of course not!  They use Fix Up Reading Strategies!  Review them below:
&    Define Your Purpose For Reading
Ask yourself why you are reading.  What are you trying to get out of it?  Is it for entertainment?  Is it to give you information?  Is it to persuade you to do or feel something?  Reading to learn or pass a test requires more concentration than reading for enjoyment.
&    Read the Author’s Note
Sometimes the author will present background information as an author’s note.  By reading this section, you will be preparing your brain to take in new information and connect it to what you have already learned.
&    Reread
It is OK to reread text that you’ve already read.  Maybe you misread a word or left out a word that holds the meaning to the text.
&    Look At The Pictures, Illustrations, Charts, and Graphs
These are used by the author to help you understand what you are reading.  Pictures and illustrations help you visualize what you are reading.  Charts and graphs are used to present the information in a more visual manner.  By closely examining these, you can deepen your level of understanding.

&    Figure Out the Unknown Words
You may use context clues, identify roots and affixes, or use a dictionary to determine the meaning.  Do not just skip the word altogether.

&    Make a Mental Image
Take time to make a movie in your head.  As you read the descriptions of characters or settings, paint a picture.  This strategy will help you visualize and comprehend better.
&    Make Connections to What You Already Know
As you read you should be thinking about how the information fits with what you know about yourself, what you’ve read in other texts, and how things operate in the real world.  This will help you remember what you read.
&    Stop To Think
Every so often as you read, you should stop and think about what you have read.  If you don’t remember anything you have read, why continue?  Pause and summarize in your head.
&    Read Ahead
You might want to continue reading for a couple of sentences if you are confused.  If the confusion does not clear after a couple of sentences, try another strategy.
&    Look at Sentence Structure
Sometimes an author’s style of writing may contain awkward sentence structure.  Try moving the words around in your head until they make better sense.
&    Ask Questions
If you ask questions as you read, you will be more actively engaged with the text.  You will be looking for answers to your questions, and will remember what you read.
&    Make Predictions
As you read, think about what might happen next.  You will be making inferences and drawing conclusions about the characters and plot.
&    Ask For Help
When you are not understanding what you are reading, and you do not know which fix-up strategy to use, ask someone.  You might ask a friend or you might need help from a teacher or parent.

* Remember that you should not continue to read if you are not able to summarize what you have read so far.  If you do, you are just wasting time “saying words” and aren’t learning or understanding anything from the text.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reviewing How to Roadmap for Fiction

In an effort to boost comprehension, students are continuing to use the roadmapping strategy that they learned last school year.  Students in ELA are reviewing this strategy and how to effectively use it when reading fiction texts.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer Reading Help

Having a little trouble with the summer reading?  The story by Ambrose Bierce is a tough one, but Mrs. Earl is confident you will work hard and understand it.  Below you will find a link to help you better understand the story as well as two film versions of it.

Annotated Text of Story

Remember that if you are still having trouble, you should contact Mrs. Earl.  Contact information is on your summer reading packet.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Final ELA Research Project

Since May 30th , students have been working on the final project of the year by researching and then creating an ABC book on slavery and the abolitionist movement.  The guidelines for the project are below:

To demonstrate your knowledge of slavery and the abolitionist movement, you will create a children’s book about that subject matter.
The ABC Book
o   Each student will choose words for nearly each letter of the alphabet that outline the major events, ideas, people, and places related to slavery and the abolitionist movement. 
o   Students will be able to use information gained from our in-class learning activities including the novel, Nightjohn, as well as information gathered during our research days.

REQUIRED MATERIALS:             alphabet planner chart
                                                book pages
                                                markers, colored pencils, or crayons

PROCEDURE:  Students will brainstorm words for each letter of the alphabet that represent something important from slavery and the abolitionist movement.  The words can be names of important people, key places, significant events, noteworthy ideas, etc.  Students will then explain the word’s significance in at least three complete sentences as well as provide a related picture.  Pictures can be hand-drawn, computer generated, and/or cut out of newspapers and magazines.  Students will then combine this information into a creative ABC book that highlights this important time period in American history.  The ABC book can be typed or handwritten, but should be neat and pleasing to the eye.


5/30 –                            Introduce Project
5/31 and 6/3 -                Research Tips and Practice
6/4 to 6/7 -                    Library Research Days
6/10 to 6/14 -                 In-class Work Days

Each project will be graded using the rubric on the reverse and will be worth 100 points in the student’s test average.  Students may work independently or with a partner to complete the project.  Students working with a partner will receive the same grade. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to earn five class work points each research and project work day. 

Projects are due on Monday, June 17th, 2013 by 3 PM