• Classroom News

     Please scroll down for newer posts.

    Ms. Ellis is available after school by appointment until 2:30 pm Monday-Thursday

    I HIGHLY recommend watching the following films:

    He Named Me Malala

    Dead Poets Society

    Mona Lisa Smile

    Freedom Writers

    Dead Man Walking

    Seven Years in Tibet

    Good Will Hunting

    Selma

    Amistad

    12 Years a Slave

    Into the Wild

     

    • I also recommend students read the news magazine-The Week, UpFront Magazine, and listening to (NPR) National Public Radio (NPR.org), WFCR.net 88.5 FM (Five College Radio), and BBC News.
    • These resources will provide students with a wealth of information about the world in which they live. These resources are used and mentioned in my classes and provide students with connections to the literature the students are presented with.

    I also recommend the following:

    Vocabulary.com

    vocabsushi.com

    freerice.com

    The free App. vocabology

    The free App. Quizlet

    Merriam-Webster free dictionary App. for smartphones

    www.text2mindmap.com (an online virtual graphic organizer)

     

    Classroom NEWS

    UNDER CONSTRUCTION

    2019-2020

     September

     Students in all of Ms. Ellis's classes are encouraged to extend their learning outside of the classroom walls. I call this "Extension Learning". The internet can be a great way to engage in this process. We are also focusing on elevating CRITICAL THINKING skills. Parents are encouraged to foster this at home.

    Well, it's a brand new academic year and all of my students are off to a positive and productive start! It's difficult to believe the summer went by so fast, but just as the autumn leaves fly, so too do the days inside Room 521. If you've ever sat down and asked your child what happened during their school day and received a blank stare, some eye blinking, and a barely audible, "nothing" from your child...it's important to know, you are not alone. Rest easy!  I'm happy to fill you in on what we have been up to in English. With the Summer Reading Assessments (essays) out of the way, I have a good idea of the level of writing skills your children are coming into my class with. I was pleased to see the foundation of their writing skills is strong, yet we have some work ahead of us. I often tell students that writing is like being a classical music composer, it takes a lot of time, prolonged dedication, and tons of hard work. Add to the mix a lot of mistakes, and trial and error. And yet, eventually, the students steadily develop into skillful, creative, thoughtful writers that will continue to develop all the days of their lives. Let's face it, I've been writing since I was five years old and teaching English for 17 years, and I'm still trying to improve every time I sit down to write.

    We began our academic year with a non-fiction unit where the theme of adversity weaves its way throughout. I think the subject of English is great, however, what I truly believe is amazing is when I can use the content and texts to challenge my students' thinking and encourage them to think much more critically about the world beyond South Hadley High School.

     College Prep. 9   Of Mice and Men  by John Steinbeck

    Currently, the students and I are a little more than halfway through John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men. The class has been working in cooperative literature circles in which they utilize the Socratic Seminar method of creating their own higher order thinking questions in which they pose to the larger class discussion. It is truly amazing to watch the class engage in deep inquiry with regard to the text and the allegorical layers of this timeless, even more, relevant piece of literature.  We have had meaningful discussions about intolerance, marginalization of particular groups within the pages of the text and the world outside of the text. Students are making meaningful connections to their own lives and the current world they live in.  We have also been bolstering our vocabulary with tier three words derived from Steinbeck's text. It's truly a bonus, as the students are learning context-based vocabulary prior to encountering it in the pages of the text itself.  I continue to be impressed by this group of 9th-grade students and their willingness to push their intellect even further. This is the part of the academic year that I love....things are REALLY starting to take off!

    College Prep. 10    A Raisin in the Sun  by Lorraine Hansberry

     https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Raisin-in-the-Sun/themes/ 

    This is the link that we watched in class that went over the major themes in the play, particularly the theme of assimilation within the play.

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    Hard to believe September has arrived. It's finally feeling more like autumn outside. Now more than ever it's a good time for students, faculty, and families to take some time to reflect and think about all the things we are thankful for in our lives.  Currently, the students and I are a little more than halfway through John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men. The class has been working in cooperative literature circles in which they utilize the Socratic Seminar method of creating their own higher order thinking questions in which they pose to the larger class discussion. It is truly amazing to watch the class engage in deep inquiry with regard to the text and the allegorical layers of this timeless, even more, relevant piece of literature.  We have had meaningful discussions about intolerance, marginalization of particular groups within the pages of the text and the world outside of the text. Students are making meaningful connections to their own lives and the current world they live in.  We have also been bolstering our vocabulary with tier three words derived from Steinbeck's text. It's truly a bonus, as the students are learning context-based vocabulary prior to encountering it in the pages of the text itself.  I continue to be impressed by this group of 9th-grade students and their willingness to push their intellect even further. This is the part of the academic year that I love....things are REALLY starting to take off!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Take our first non-fiction mini-unit, Freedom Writers. We watched this powerful film about 150 teens and a teacher who used writing to change themselves and the world around them.  We discussed the ways in which education, learning, and the power of the pen can in fact change lives in dynamic and powerfully positive ways. The film is based on the New York Times bestseller, The Freedom Writers Diary. It's the true story of rookie English teacher Erin Gruwell, who teaches tolerance through texts such as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Night by Elie Wiesel, and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo.  Through these texts and others, Ms. Gruwell was able to empower her students, who were all too familiar with violence, to pick up a pen and begin journaling about their own experiences. Students soon began comparing their own lives to the people they discovered in the pages of the texts.  Our English classes have begun our own Freedom Writer Diaries. We have read several entries from the actual Freedom Writers and reflected on our own lives in the pages of our diaries.  

    Next, the classes began a multi-step writing process unit. We are going through each step in the writing process, from brainstorming to outlining, to drafting, to proofreading, editing, and revising, to the final draft. Our topic for the essay is Hero.  Students will be identifying a person they consider a hero and explaining why this person best fits the class's working definition of a hero.

    (NOTE: This is where your child's writing is REALLY going to take off!!!    Let the FUN begin!!)

    Stay Tuned.......

    October

    So begins one of my favorite times of the year, autumn. As the colors have started to reveal nature's hidden beauty, we have begun our Of Mice and Men unit by none other than Mr. John Steinbeck.  Over the years, I have developed a deep appreciation for this man who truly used his writing as a vehicle for change. When William Shakespeare coined the phrase, "The pen is mightier than the sword," I believe Steinbeck was listening when he wrote this 1937 allegory that criticizes society when it comes to race, class, gender, and those in society who are often marginalized.  At a time when the United States was in the depths of the Great Depression, Steinbeck dared to criticize areas of society that were often unspoken. So how does that relate to a student in the 21st century?  Well, you may be surprised, but this novella is even more relevant today that perhaps it was in the 1930s. Considering our current climate of racial intolerance towards immigrants, and people of color, students are empowered to look inward and outward and examine the world they live in beyond the text to wrestle with some deeper societal questions.  The students have been introduced to the power of the Socratic Seminar and we held our very first discussion which was truly impressive. I was struck by their thoughtful insights and their ability to use dialogue with other peers to answer many of the questions they created prior to coming to class for our discussion. The students witnessed first hand the power of peer to peer teaching and learning. 

    Additionally, the students have all been working diligently putting forth the hard work, effort, and prolonged dedication going through the writing process as they have been crafting their Hero Essays. I have been so impressed by how many students have chosen to write about family members who they define as their personal heroes. It is my hope that they will be willing to share these essays with you as well. You might be surprised to learn that their heroes are not always found on the big screen in a movie theater or in the pages of a comic book. 

     

     November

    Hard to believe November has arrived. It's finally feeling more like autumn outside. Now more than ever it's a good time for students, faculty, and families to take some time to reflect and think about all the things we are thankful for in our lives.  Currently, the students and I are a little more than halfway through John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice and Men. The class has been working in cooperative literature circles in which they utilize the Socratic Seminar method of creating their own higher order thinking questions in which they pose to the larger class discussion. It is truly amazing to watch the class engage in deep inquiry with regard to the text and the allegorical layers of this timeless, even more, relevant piece of literature.  We have had meaningful discussions about intolerance, marginalization of particular groups within the pages of the text and the world outside of the text. Students are making meaningful connections to their own lives and the current world they live in.  We have also been bolstering our vocabulary with tier three words derived from Steinbeck's text. It's truly a bonus, as the students are learning context-based vocabulary prior to encountering it in the pages of the text itself.  I continue to be impressed by this group of 9th-grade students and their willingness to push their intellect even further. This is the part of the academic year that I love....things are REALLY starting to take off!

     

    December

    I often think of poet Robert Frost when the weather turns cold and the snows of New England begin to fly. Thinking back to my own youth, I remember being in eighth grade and reading Frost's Walking Home on a Snowy Evening and having a new appreciation for the way words often embody the thoughts and emotions we feel when seeing even the most simple of things.  This month we revisited our friends in Room 203 with Ms. Gruwell's Freedom Writers.  We continue to be inspired to write our own stories and validating our thoughts, feelings, and the struggles we all go through. Journaling is a powerful vehicle that helps students connect to the world around them and one that is easily connected to the literature we will be fortunate to encounter this academic year. In a few days, we will be diving into our next literary unit that challenges our notions of social justice, equality, and having the courage to stand up for what is right even though it might be one of the most difficult things we choose to do in our lives.  We will be with the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a fifteen-year-old African-American young man who was beaten to death because of the color of his skin in Money, Mississippi. This detestable murder has been called the event that sparked the American Civil Rights Movement and one that inspired author Harper Lee to write her masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird.  I encourage parents to read this powerful novel with their child and engage in some meaningful dialogue about race, injustice, and intolerance which is sadly evermore relateable in our society today.  I have posted the URL addresses below. Simply copy and paste them into your browser in order to access them.  (Viewer Discretion Advised)

    The Murder of Emmett Till - PBS American Experience

    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/till-timeline/

     

    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/till-killers-confession/

    FREEDOM WRITERS VIDEO LINKS

    The Freedom Writers Primetime Live - Video Interview (Parts 1-3)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUbTOWi5jZE&index=1&list=PLlaklkmfBg5BXJ6fzxUKvw_azAf1Aa1fb

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG5bH1tpaAQ

    http://www.mikkelkiilerich.dk/english/the-freedom-writers-diaries.pdf 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I truly hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoys time with family and friends, get outside and enjoy a hike in the woods! No HOMEWORK over the recess!!!

     Next, I introduced my students to a young woman who is changing the world, who advocates for the education of all peoples, and believes that young people have the power to affect change on a local and global basis. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen who was shot in the head by the Taliban (and lived) because she dared to speak out and advocate for the right that every child deserves an education.  In many ways, this is one of my favorite units to teach, although tragic, it really helps open my students' eyes enabling them to reflect on their own education and whether or not they take it for granted. It's a powerful unit, and one I hope will set the tone for my students throughout the academic year.  As one of my quotes in my classroom states, "In this room we don't do easy, we make easy happen through hard work and learning." I am very excited about an amazing new school year with your kiddos!

     

    October

    Now that I have met students' parents and guardians at Open House Night, we now all know what hard work, effort, and dedication lie ahead for our kids.  The junior classes have begun one of my favorite units to teach. We shall be going back in time to the Roaring Twenties when Prohibition was in effect, bootlegging was rampant, and the Jazz Age redefined an entire generation of young people, especially F.Scott Fitzgerald.  The 9th-grade classes have also taken a leap back in time to a more challenging time for Americans, The Great Depression of the 1930s. John Steinbeck's novella tells the story of two men, whose unlikely friendship must endure the adversity of one of the more difficult times in our nation's history.  It's a story about friendship, adversity, and the difficult choices we all are forced to make throughout our lives.

    November

    Hard to believe November has arrived. It's finally feeling more like autumn outside. now more than ever it's a good time for students, faculty, and families to take some time to reflect and think about all the things we are thankful for in our lives. I truly hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoys time with family and friends, get outside and enjoy a hike in the woods! No HOMEWORK over the recess!!!