Book Talks and LAL Coding

Since today was an early out, our schedule was pretty simple:

  1. Independent reading
  2. Book talks
  3. Work time

I shared a document with students on their google classroom that showed them how to “code” their Letter About Literature AFTER making revisions based on partner suggestions. If you weren’t here, make sure to look at this document, so you know what to highlight and in what color. Your document should be turned in tomorrow before you come to class.

Students should also make sure to read through their piece again before turning it in because this is a letter that is going to a contest and, possibly, an author, so it is more important than ever to make sure there aren’t mistakes in it.


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. BT reflection (if this applies to you)
  3. Complete your revisions/coding and turn in your rough draft to me.

LAL – Peer Revision

Class began the normal way. Students didn’t have a WA to complete, so after writing down homework, they moved right into reading.

Before we began writing today, students looked at their figurative language quizzes. I went over a few answers, and students were able to ask questions if they had any before putting them into their binders.

It is video Tuesday, so our writing prompt came in the form of a video; however, I chose this one based on recent events in our school where a pretty devastating rumor was spread about a student that caused a lot of uproar and reaction from the administration and law enforcement, but when it was investigated further, it turns out the student never said what people were saying he did. Wow. I think that can be a lesson for all of us that even sometimes when we have the best intentions, our actions or our words can have adverse consequences, consequences we might not even mean or realize. This video reminds us of that.

I invited students to write about something from the video that impacted them or a line that stood out. I suggested they write their own “To this day” about something someone once said or did that has really stuck with them, or I suggested they write about something they did or said that they regret.

After writing, students moved into peer revision. They underlined the figurative language in their piece (if they didn’t have any, they were supposed to leave a comment in order to remind themselves to add it) and got with a partner/group.

I reminded students that their focus should be revising (making the writing better) instead of editing (making the writing correct – grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.). Students were supposed to use the checklist below to look at their partner’s paper and then leave some DETAILED comments – two comments on things they found really interesting and three comments about things that could be improved (see the sentence stems below to help with this part).

LAL Peer Revision Checklist

—I think you should start this paragraph/example over because

—You should rewrite this sentence because

—Right here, you should add.because.

—You should delete this part because

—This part could be made better if you

—This part doesn’t work because

This took until the end of the class. If students were finished, they exchanged papers at the end of class. If they were not done, they are to finish for homework.


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. Complete your BT reflection (if this applies to you).
  3. Finish peer revising (green checklist and comments)

Letters About Literature – Building a Foundation

Class began the usual way. The WA had students reviewing power sentences today, and they had to determine which sentence out of the two below was NOT a PS and be able to explain why:

Covered in dry scales, the lizard slithered over the red-hot sand.

As salty tears rolled down my flushed cheeks, the others guffawed and pointed, embarrassing me even more.

The second sentence is NOT a power sentence because, even though it is very descriptive and uses a strong verb, the beginning clause does not describe the subject (the others). If you look at the first example, the subject of the sentence is “the lizard” and the first part of the sentence does describe the lizard.

After going over this, students received the rubric for the Letters About Literature assignment, and they had time to look over it before I answered questions. You can view the rubric for the assignment here.

I stressed with students the importance of two things: 1) This is NOT a fan letter. You are not writing to the author to tell them how much you love him/her or to gush about how good the book was. 2) This is NOT a summary of the book. The author doesn’t need to know what happened in the book. They wrote it! Your task is to write about how the book IMPACTED you. How did it make a difference in your life? What did you learn from it? How did it help you through a tough time? How did it change you?

In order to prepare students for beginning this writing process tomorrow, the cycled through three different pre-writing stations today, each station going over an important skill and allowing them time to think about how that will be applied to their own work. The pre-writing activities for each station are attached below:

Letters About Literature- Pre-Writing Stations

After cycling through the stations, students had time to finish the RACER prompt they began yesterday. I encouraged them to use the yellow rubric (attached below) as a checklist.

Racer and Beware the Thunder Rubric

We ended class with watching some CNN10. Click here to watch today’s episode of CNN10.


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. Complete at least one of the LAL pre-writing activities
  3. Book talk reflection (if this applies to you)

“Beware the Thunder” and RACER (in-class response)

Class began the usual way today. Students from down synonyms and antonyms for their weekly words as the WA, and then they either moved into reading or planning/practicing book talks.

After book talks happened, students had a break because the next part of class promised to be a bit difficult.

We have been working with theme and explaining evidence for a few weeks now, and today students skills were put to the test; however, this “test” allowed students to use all of their notes, examples, handouts, and past writings in order to write a RACER response about theme for “Beware the Thunder,” the story students read for homework last night.

After students reviewed how they did on their revisions from yesterday, students received the rubric below that serves as a breakdown for what I’m looking for in each part of the answer.

Racer and Beware the Thunder Rubric

I also encouraged students to use the attached organizer in order to come up with their themes because the theme you begin with is SO important to being able to explain something well. If you start with a poor theme, then you are going to have trouble explaining the evidence well.

Discovering Theme GO (7th)

Students had a significant amount of class to work on this – about 35 minutes – but they will be finishing tomorrow.


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. Compete your book talk reflection. You have ONE WEEK from the day you go to do this.

Explaining Evidence/RACER Workshop – Day 2

Class began the usual way, but students did not have a WA today, so after reading, we moved right into NBT, and the student-submitted prompt for that is below. I suggested students write about an awkward moment they have had or been a part of.

To dive back into our work with improving both explanations and RACER responses as a whole, students watched a second Pixar short and analyzed three different explanations.

Best Explanation – Mike’s New Car and Explaining Theme

Students had time to work on this by themselves, analyzing each explanation and making note of the good and bad of each, and then they discussed with their partners. This time, example #1 was the best because example #2 was a summary, and example #3 explained a different theme.

After going over the answers, students had between 5 and 10 minutes to finish critiquing examples of student RACER responses, and then I went over a few of them on the board, so students would know what I was seeing when I looked at the responses.

This work finally brought us to the most important part: students seeing and reflecting on their own work. After opening up their computers and reading over their own answers, students were able to look at the rubric I used to grade them and make changes accordingly. Students had about 20-25 minutes to revise and turn their revisions back in to me. If they finished early, they received the reading attached below, so they could get a jumpstart on their homework.

Beware the Thunder TEXT


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. Read the story “Beware the Thunder” in preparation for tomorrow’s class.


Explaining Evidence Workshop – Day 1

Welcome back!

Class began the usual way. Students completed a WA that had them reviewing a few grammar concepts by correcting the sentence below:

Incorrect: While running up the stairs my Dad asked “did you remember to take out the trash.”

Correct: While running up the stairs, my dad asked,Did you remember to take out the trash?

Instead of NBT today, we played quizziz in order to get back into the swing of things in language arts and to be reminded of the many concepts we have covered throughout the year.

The main focus of today was on sharpening explaining evidence and RACER skills. I explained that while I was looking at RACER responses over the break, these were the things that I noticed:

  1. If you struggled, it might have meant you were summarizing a piece of evidence instead of explaining HOW it showed the theme.
  2. If you struggled, it might have meant you left out a part of the RACER format.
  3. Some people turned things back in without making the revisions, and I think that is due to comments not showing up consistently on devices. This means you should always check your feedback on a computer if nothing shows up.
  4. Many didn’t turn it back in at all! (Missing in the gradebook)

I showed students an example of a RACER response that received 100%, and I talked through all of the different parts, highlighting each part in a different color. That example is below:

The theme of William de Mille’s “Ruthless” is people shouldn’t take things too far in revenge or there can be awful consequences. The author wrote, “What are they?’ she asked, “Something to make him sick?’ … He seemed fascinated as he saw the Bourbon changing into a deadly drink. … ‘Here, take this. It’ll pull you together.’ A small whiskey glass was pressed to Judson’s lips. Dazed and half-conscious he drank.”(Mille 1-3). This shows that when Judson tried to get revenge on someone for petty theft (by killing them), which was taking things way too far ended up dying by the way he tried to kill the person, so he ended up with death, a awful consequence. If Judson Webb hadn’t poisoned the wine, and instead put up cameras to catch the killer or something less violent like putting a lock on the door, when he drank the wine from slipping on the acorn he wouldn’t have died to it and would’ve been fine. Consequently this evidence shows that the theme of this text is taking things too far in revenge can result in awful consequences. The theme of “Ruthless”, a man trying to kill someone for petty theft and ends up killing himself, is people shouldn’t take things too far in revenge or there can be awful consequences.

Specifically, when it comes to the explanation, I had students read through the example and notice how the explanation doesn’t summarize the evidence; instead, it shows how that piece of evidence proves the theme, even using the language of the theme to really make the connection. I also pointed out how part 2 of an explanation and the last R in RACER are different things. They sound similar, and it may seem a tad repetitive to you to have both; however, that is because we are only working with one paragraph and one piece of evidence right now.

After going through this example, students watched the Pixar short “Feast.”

We used this video as a “text,” analyzing three different explanations.

Best Explanation – Feast and Explaining Theme

Students first looked at these explanations on their own, trying to figure out which one was the best example. I gave them the clue that one of them mostly summarized and suggested they make sure they could find both part 1 and part 2 in the explanation.

Students then worked with a partner to transfer these ideas to some student examples of the RACER response by using the anonymous examples and checklist below.

Ruthles RACER Responses for Evaluation

We will finish this work tomorrow, and students will have a chance to revisit their own writing.


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. Complete your book talk reflection IF you need to.


How do I explain evidence?

Class began the usual way with students completing a WA and then reading. However, the WA was a little different because it was them reading over their next writing assignment! This assignment is Letters About Literature, and I have attached the handout the students received; however, I’ll also provide the additional information students received in class.

LAL student handout 2017

  • Students need to have the book they are planning to use for this. We went to the library today, so students could check the book out or put it on hold. They have two and a half weeks to re-read the book in whole or in part before we begin the project.
  • We will start the actual writing process the first week of December.
  • All students will be submitting their letter to the contest, so it should be a very polished and professional piece of writing.
  • Students who write to an author that is still living will be encouraged to send the letter to him/her as well! Many students have received letters back from authors in the past. How cool!
  • Students should see me with any questions or concerns.

After going to the library to finish IR and for students to check out books, we returned to class, and I introduced students to an incredibly important concept of explaining evidence. Students picked up a note sheet (extras available in the room), and they walked around the room where the answers to the blanks were posted and worked to figure out what goes where. What they should have come up with is below:

Part 1: Explain the SIGNIFICANCE of the evidence

  • Most detailed (at least two sentences)
  • HOW does the evidence show the theme?
  • What is important about the evidence?
  • What inferences are being drawn?
  • Be careful not to summarize

Part 2: Connect back to the big idea (theme)

  • One sentence
  • Begins with a transition word or phrase

After students checked their work on this and looked at the example on the bottom of the handout, we reviewed RACER from the beginning of the year. Using the RACER format and their new knowledge about explaining evidence (the E in RACER), students got onto google classroom to complete an assignment that asked them about the theme in the story “Ruthless” from yesterday. This was to be completed and turned in by the end of the period.

When students finished, they went onto the vocabulary study section of this website in order to review their vocab for the quiz on FRIDAY.


  1. Read for 25 minutes.
  2. Review vocabulary for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Book talk reflections due tomorrow for those that went last week.