Hello and welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year at St. John of the Cross Parish School.
Language Arts class is taught as an integration of literature/reading, vocabulary, writing, oral communication including speaking and listening, grammar, and spelling. Students will be with me for two class periods each day. Language Arts counts as two grades in terms of eligibility for honor roll.
The following materials will be utilized this year:
- membean.com: This is an online vocabulary program, which is used in all 5th-8th grade LA classes. It is an audio and video enabled program that helps students to learn and remember words in a variety of ways. It is also differentiated to target different vocabulary skill levels. Students will be enrolling in the program in September and we will explore different ways to use it throughout the year to enhance vocabulary. 8th graders will be expected to complete 30 minutes per week (from Thursday at 12 AM-the following Thursday at 11:59 PM). The 30 minutes can be completed however they choose, but sessions must be at least 5 minutes in length. For additional information on the program, please visit membean.com. Please be aware of the membean rules for use:
- Unless otherwise indicated, you must complete 30 minutes of Membean by Thursday at 11:59 PM each week. (Therefore, you can work on Membean from 12 AM on Friday through 11:59 AM on the following Thursday.) This is required even if you are absent for any reason. If there is an extreme circumstance, please speak with me directly about alternatives.
- If you use 10 tickets, you have until Friday at 11:59 PM to complete Membean. If you complete Memben after that time, your tickets will be returned and you will not receive credit. Please note: Ticket distribution and use will be discussed in class.
- Accuracy: You need to have an accuracy rate of at least 50%. If you have rate of less than 50%, you need to complete additional minutes until you reach a rate of 50%.
- Activity: You should spend no more than 3 minutes studying or restudying a word. You should not attempt to waste time. If membean is open in your browser, you should be constantly working.
- Review Pace: If you miss a word, you need to spend at least 10 seconds reviewing it.
- Session Length: Sessions must be at least 5 minutes, and no longer than 30 minutes.
- IKT (I Know This) Use: Do not overuse the IKT button. If you overuse it on a regular basis, the function will be turned off on your account.
30 minutes per week as specified in #1=10 points
30 minutes per week as specified in #1=10 points
28-29 minutes=9 points
26-27 minutes=8 points
20-25 minutes=7 points
17-19 minutes=6 points
15-16 minutes=5 points
10-14 minutes=4 points
8-9 minutes=3 points
6-7 minutes=2 points
1-5 minutes=1 point
0 minutes=0 points
- You will also lose points for not following rules #3-#6 above.
If there is some unforeseen problem with membean, please talk to me. In most cases, you are still responsible completing the 30 minutes, despite any technical difficulties.
- Prentice Hall Literature: A reading textbook, exploring various genres and a multitude of skills. Each student will have his or her own book to take home, when we are not working on novels or other literature-related tasks.
- Selections from APA The Easy Way: This book will explain how to write a research paper using the APA (American Psychological Association) format. This book is to be used as a guide only, as each step will be thoroughly explained, discussed, and practiced in class. It is a supplement to reinforce what is learned in class, as students are given very specific instructions from me on how to write the paper.
- Students will also read the following novels: Gathering Blue and Messenger by Lois Lowry (already completed during Summer Reading, and studied in early September); Animal Farm by George Orwell; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; and another novel TBD. Students will also have the opportunity to choose their own books for book report assignments.
- Aspire< MAP, and HSPT Review
- Various other resources in the form of hand-outs or other items posted on Google Classroom.
Language Arts will focus on the following strands of the Common Core (also based on Archdiocesan Curriculum and the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards):
- Reading Literature (Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas)
- Reading Informational Text (Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas)
- Writing (Literary Analysis, Argumentative, Expository, Narrative and Research-based Writing)
- Speaking and Listening (Comprehension, Collaboration and Presentation)
- Language (Conventions & Vocabulary Acquisition and Usage)
- Reading Literature (Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas)
8th Grade Book Reports
- As parents, I want to assure that you approve all books your child is reading during class. I can certainly make suggestions, but you have the final say. Students need to read their selected books primarily at home. However, they can bring the book to class because they should always have something to read in case they finish assignments and tasks early. Please note that this required reading is in addition to any novels, short stories, or other materials we are reading as a whole class.
- Students will be required to complete three book reports during the school year. I will assign four reports total. Two are mandatory, and the third can be done for bonus points applied during the second or third trimester, depending on when the due date is assigned. Students can pick which two of the three book reports to complete.
- The first book report will be due in October. You will be required to sign each of your child’s book reports, indicating that you approve of the book, and that to the best of your knowledge, your child has read the book and completed the report on his/her own. I ask that you try to make sure that your child is reading young adult or adult books. Children’s books are not acceptable for eighth graders to read for book reports.
Below is a summary of the assignments for the book reports. Specific dates will be assigned and more detailed descriptions of assignments will be distributed closer to each due date.
|Month||Assignment||Type of Book|
|October||Create a Social Networking Profile (for a character)||Fiction
Read Son for 10 points extra credit
|January/February||Choice of creating a scrapbook, movie soundtrack with written explanation, or an epilogue/extra chapter||Fiction|
- Formal reading and writing assignments and projects, (i.e., research paper, essays, book reports, other projects, etc.) will always be accompanied by an assignment description and/or formal rubric. The types of formal writing we engage in include the research paper, other research projects, various types of literary analysis, poetry writing, narrative, business letters, and persuasive/argumentative. Students are responsible for following the directions, and asking me any questions that arise. Please encourage your child not to put off long-term projects until the last minute. It is much easier for me to find the time to answer questions and provide help to struggling students (particularly if they need to meet with me outside of regular class time), if ample time is available. We will do self, peer, and teacher-assisted editing in class, but I highly encourage parent participation in assisting your child in proofreading his/her formal writing assignments.
- If a problem occurs with your own computer the night before an assignment is due, students are still required to hand in the paper on time. First, they should go to the LRC to print before 8:40 AM. If they arrive at the LRC are not able to print, they should come to me at 8:40 AM and explain the issue with printing. If they followed the appropriate steps, they will be allowed to print in my classroom. If a child is absent the day a long-term project is due, he or she is responsible for having it completed on the day he or she returns to school.
- 8th Grade Research Paper: We will soon begin a discussion about selecting and narrowing topics for this paper, which takes the form of a review of the literature on a particular subject. This year, students will choose a topic about a disease, disorder, condition, social issue or social problem. This will then lead to selecting a topic for further research the research paper. The process includes selecting and narrowing a topic, locating sources, completing a rough outline, taking notes on sources, completing a final outline, writing a paper in APA (American Psychological Association) format, and completing a References page. You will be receiving more information as we continue in the writing process. Please be assured that each step of the process is thoroughly explained, with both oral and written instructions. One of the keys to writing a successful research paper is to avoid falling behind. Please help your child to stay on top of assignments and due dates, and encourage him or her to ask questions for clarification during class.
- I try to provide multiple and differentiated means of assessment for literature. It is the student’s responsibility to complete independent reading assignments, often on a nightly basis, in order to be prepared for quizzes, tests, and individual and group assignments, discussion, and projects in class. Also, it is the student’s responsibility to ask questions about reading material that they are having difficulty understanding independently, should the need arise. In addition to our vocabulary program, vocabulary words and skills will also be presented in the context of required reading material.
- Word Wall: A Word Wall will be displayed within my Language Arts classroom throughout the year. This helps reinforce vocabulary skills taught in different contexts
- membean.com: See above
- Grammar and Spelling: We will review a variety of grammar and related spelling skills, and work on building new skills including: applying knowledge of word origins and derivations; reviewing identification of the eight parts of speech; enhancing proofreading skills; writing effective sentences; using effective transition words within and between paragraphs; and demonstrating correct usage of gerunds, verbs in the active and passive voice, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement and parallel sentence structure. Grammar and spelling are not always taught in isolation, but are woven into developing enhanced reading and writing skills. The use of proper grammar and correct spelling will be built into formal writing assignment grades. We will also spend time reviewing English skills as they are presented on the Aspire and HSPT.
- Class participation is highly encouraged in Language Arts Class. Students will receive more out of the class if they are active participators. The answers in Language Arts are not always right or wrong. There is much room for individual opinion and that is the beauty of teaching this subject! When I am asked for recommendations for high school placement, I rely quite a bit on how much I have seen your children actively participate and take initiative in this class.
- Students will often work in pairs or groups in Language Arts. Much research has shown the benefits of students working in groups to complete tasks collaboratively, as well as the ability of students to retain more information when they are given the opportunity to “teach” one another. Students in 8th grade are aware of my expectations for working in a group. When working on group projects in the classroom, students are almost always assessed on the ability to make wise and appropriate use of group time. Below are the “Rules for Working in a Group”, which all students are expected to adhere to in the classroom.
Rules and Procedures for Working in a Group
- Respect for all
- No criticisms/Include everyone/Leave out no one
- Ask for everyone’s ideas and opinions at the beginning
- Review rules or set particular rules at the beginning
- Divide work equally
- Assign specific jobs and responsibilities and put them in writing
- Come to each group meeting well prepared
- All members take responsibility for tasks that need to be completed outside of school (i.e., bringing a poster board, reading certain pages)
- Remind each other of responsibilities at home with a note or a phone call
- Inform group if you think you will be absent (at school; with a phone call the night before)
- Tell at least one group member where necessary items are in your locker (i.e., notes)
- Stay on task
- Assign a group leader-this person is responsible for redirecting the group
- Redirect one another, as needed
- Eliminate distractions
- Respond with appropriate questions and comments only
- All members must actively participate at all times
- If someone is not talking, prompt them with questions to increase involvement
- Limit the amount of time one person can talk continuously to 2-3 minutes
- Only one person talks at a time
- If necessary, designate an item as a “talking stick”-only the person holding the stick can talk
- If someone continues to break this rule, inform the teacher
- No screaming or yelling
- Remind one another to use inside voices
- If someone continues to break this rule, inform the teacher
- Settle all disagreements peacefully
- Try to listen to all opinions, and come to a compromise
- If unable to compromise, take a vote and the majority rules
- In the event of a tie, use “rock-paper-scissors” to decide
- Work as a team
- Encourage one another in a positive way
- Quiz or help one another to increase understanding
- No wandering away from the group or disrupting other groups
- Redirect one another
- Ignore intruders to your group
- Group work will be evaluated/graded
- Group members will be evaluated by the teacher in different ways. Students may also be asked to evaluate themselves and other group members.
*Before involving a teacher to solve a problem within your group, you must try at least one strategy to solve it on your own. The teacher has the final say in the resolution of group conflicts.*
Students who continue to violate the Rules for Working in a Group may have to complete the project independently.
Students/groups that are observed as being off task will be given one warning. The next time the student/group is observed as being off task, one point will be lost from the grade, as indicated on the rubric under a designation such as “Wise and appropriate use of group time.” Additional behavior will result in additional loss of points throughout the remained of the project.
- Language Arts will appear as one grade on the report card, rather than two separate grades for literature and writing. The goal is to make the synthesis between literature and writing more cohesive, and allow students to engage in more opportunities to write about what they are reading. This includes some basic literary analysis papers.
My Language Arts grade for your child will come from a variety of literature, writing, vocabulary, grammar, and oral speaking assessments including, but not limited to, tests, quizzes, group and individual work done during class, class discussions, oral presentations, individual projects, writing assignments (formal and informal), book reports, and some homework assignments. I base my grades on points, rather than percentages. Therefore, grades worth more points obviously affect the final grade more than those worth less points. My grades are not weighted, per se, but more important, and longer-term assessments are worth more points. For example, the final draft of the research paper is worth 100 points, the final test on Summer Reading is worth 60 points, and a typical homework assignment might be worth 10 points. All late assignments will result in a deduction of points. On most assignments, work will not be accepted if it is more than 2 school days late, except in extreme circumstances. Therefore, if an assignment is more than 2 days late, the grade given will be a zero. As a parent, it is your responsibility to check Power School regularly in order to be aware of your child’s grade. I do not typically contact parents regarding percentage/grades, as they are available for you to view at any time. I update my grades about every two weeks. If you have trouble signing in to Power School, please contact Nancy Rocco at email@example.com.
- Homework given will sometimes be formally graded, and other times students will check their own work, or use their homework to facilitate something we plan to accomplish in class. If graded homework is late, a deduction in points will occur. In addition, please remember that homework is not always written. For example, students will be asked to complete independent reading assignments for homework, write rough drafts or brainstorm for writing activities, or locate information on the Internet to be used for individual and group assignments done in class. My expectation is that they will do any type of assigned homework, so that they will be prepared for class discussion, or related assignments to be completed in school.
- Late Assignments: All late assignments will result in a deduction of points. On most assignments, work will not be accepted if it is more than 2 school days late, except in extreme circumstances. Therefore, if an assignment is more than 2 days late, the grade given will be a zero.
- Absences and Homework Buddies: Students have now been made aware of which students share their daily schedule, and we have also assigned homework buddies in homerooms. The job of the homework buddy is to gather books from the absent child’s locker, write down all daily assignments, and bring books to the office at the end of the day. Although well intentioned, the homework buddies do not always do a perfect job. Ultimately, in the event of an absence of any length, students are responsible for speaking with me upon their return regarding missed assignments. They are responsible for making up any missed work due to illness, vacation, etc. Students should also check Google Classroom during any period of absence.
- Vacations and Planned Absences: I often receive many emails from parents regarding absence due to vacations. I expect students to request work prior to a vacation or planned absence. I am happy to assign what work I can ahead of time, but the students must come to me personally and ask for that work, as opposed to an email from a parent. The best idea is for the student to inform me of the absence in advance, and then remind me before the absence will begin. (For example, students should remind me that they will be going on vacation the day before they are leaving, or the Friday before they plan to be gone on a Monday.) Please be aware that in the event of an absence for any reason, it is the child’s responsibility to ask for and make up his or her work. Even if the child received work prior to the absence, he/she should still check in upon his/her return. Also, as stated previously, homework buddies are helpful, but they may not communicate every assignment or all of the information a student has missed due to an absence. Since all work may not be available prior to an absence, it is imperative that the students plan a time outside of usual class time to talk to each teacher regarding what was missed during an absence. Students are held accountable for all the information missed during an absence. Special consideration will not be given to students who miss assignments and fail to make them up or turn them in on time due to vacations. If an assignment or project was due during a planned absence, that assignment or project is due the day the child returns to school. If a child misses a quiz or test while on vacation, he/she must take the quiz/test upon the first day of return from this absence. The same consideration is not given to students who are absent due to vacations or planned days off (i.e., shadow days), as compared to students who are absent due to illness or family emergencies. In some cases of extended absences, for any reason, students may be required to take an alternate form of the quiz or test (i.e., an essay quiz instead of a multiple choice or short answer quiz). Students will be reminded of this policy throughout the year.
- Students are aware of classroom rules, which are listed below. Violation of the rules will result in consequences (also listed below) and/or parent contact and meetings, as necessary. It is also expected that students have read and understood the school’s behavioral policies, as stated in the Parent/Student Handbook.
- BE READY
- Be on time for school and classes each day.
- Make sure assignments are completed on time.
- BE RESPECTFUL
- Treat all school teachers/administrators/staff/other adults and fellow students with dignity and respect.
- Do the same for school property/equipment, your own property, and the property of others.
- BE RESPONSIBLE
- Be a positive, Catholic representative of your school at all times.
- Comply with all school and classroom policies, procedures, and routines.
- Be prepared for class.
- Be honest and do your own work.
- Refrain from cheating, plagiarism (intentional or unintentional) and maintain academic integrity at all times.
- Follow all classroom procedures and routines.
Serious behavioral infractions (including those listed in the handbook) and/or repeated problematic behavior will result in a behavior notice.
Less serious violations of classroom rules will generally be handled in the following way:
1st time a rule is broken: Verbal warning
2nd time a rule is broken: Meeting with teacher outside of class time
3rd time a rule is broken: Parent contact and/or behavior notice
(In cases of uncertainty, the teacher will consult with administration as necessary.)
- It is crucial to be on time for class. Students must be in their seats by the time the bell rings for LA class to begin. If a student is late, without a written note or verbal explanation from another teacher, administrator, or staff member, he/she will need to write a 250 word essay on the importance of being on time for class and how he/she plans to be on time for class from now on. If the essay is not turned in the next day, then the student must write 500 words on the same topic, with the words continuing to increase if the essay is not handed in on time. (If half the class is late because another teacher kept them in the previous class too long, this is an exception to the rule.) If students are tardy more than once, different topics will be assigned for the essays. Repeated tardies and/or failure to hand in essays in a timely manner will result in parent contact and/or a behavior notice.
- Snacks are allowed in all 3rd or 4th period classes for 8th Students must be able to eat the snack without causing a distraction, and clean up after themselves. Students must also refrain from bringing any snacks that contain or have been processed in a facility with peanuts and/or tree nuts. Please see the updated approved snack list.
- Cheating and dishonesty will not be tolerated. Even if a particular assignment is not graded formally, if a student copies work from another student or any other source, this is still considered cheating. Although I encourage parent involvement, please make sure that the work your child does is his or her own. If a child is being tutored outside of school, please be aware of what material the tutor is presenting to your child. If a tutor is doing your child’s homework for him or her, or giving your child answers to any of the materials I require them to complete, this is considered cheating. It is my opinion that if your child is being tutored in Language Arts, the tutor should be focusing on skills that help to improve general reading and writing, rather than focusing on assignments I have given him or her to complete independently. I would be happy to help students complete my assignments if they ask me. Finally, I have also found that sometimes parents believe their children are struggling with reading, but the real problem is that they are not completing assigned readings. Obviously, it is impossible to understand a book and do well on related quizzes, writing assignments, and other activities, if you do not read that book. Unfortunately, I have experienced tutors giving answers to students who have not even read the book we were studying. I just ask that you are aware of these issues. Please remember, the best way to become a better reader is to read more! I also know there is a multitude of information available on the Internet for the books we read this year. Although many of these can be useful, it is imperative that eighth graders read and attempt to understand all assigned reading on their own. These should only be used as a secondary source of information and should never be used as substitute to completing the reading independently.
- Unless specifically directed to do so, students should not be sharing any Google docs. More information about Appropriate Use of Technology in LA will be coming soon.
- As a behavioral and academic reward system, I will give students raffle tickets in my class. This procedure is explained to students during the first week of school. Tickets can be used for a variety of purposes, including the ability to hand in some assignments one day late. They can also be used as “chances” for a raffle at the end of every trimester. This system is unique to my LA class, and it is a privilege. If a student abuses the privilege in any way, students may be ineligible to use the tickets, either as individuals, groups of students, classes, or the entire grade.
- eReaders will be allowed in LA class, as long as students are using them for reading a book. All students should have something to read with them when they finish work early. Students may also use their eReaders as dictionaries. eReaders should not be used for other activities, such as playing games or using the Internet. If a student does not use the eReader as indicated, he/she may lose the privilege of being able to bring it to LA class.
Questions and Concerns
- If your child has any questions or concerns, please encourage him/her to speak with me. If an issue or concern cannot be resolved during class, I can be available for them before and after school, and during recess/lunchtime. If you have any questions or concerns, the best way to reach me is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to respond to your email within 2 school days. If you do not hear back from me within this time, please email me again, just in case I did not receive your first email.
- My newsletter will be available online at the SJC website each month. Please check it for important information and details about what is happening in 8th Grade Language Arts class, as well as homeroom happenings in Room 121.
- Please check the calendar on the SJC website regularly for important dates, and encourage your 8th grader to do the same.