Junior High Composition

May 3

You began to write an “alphabet short story” this week with a partner, and we will finish those next time.

This week you are welcome to write your very own “alphabet short story” and bring it in final draft form.  I will give you extra credit!

Otherwise, no homework!

April 26

Diagramming test next week!  Practice these, and turn them in for homework:

  1.  The guides went with her for instruction.
  2. A few monkeys were swinging on the bars and the lions were roaming about the enclosure.
  3. Would you like a chocolate ice cream bar?
  4. Harriet has to plant twenty daffodil bulbs tomorrow.
  5. The fishermen are setting their tackle along the river’s banks.
  6. In our entire class, a left-handed student writes very legibly.
  7. Alonsa waits patiently for her turn.
  8. Dad presented me a bike for my birthday.
  9. I handed the teller five checks.
  10. She baked her family an apple pie for dinner.
  11. The readers searched among the shelves for books about frogs.
  12. These steaks are so tender.
  13. Take a bus downtown later.
  14. The one year old jumped off the diving board.
  15. Is everybody ready?

April 19

I was so thrilled with your first personal essays that I can’t wait to read the next one!  Your “Family Tale” is due.  Be sure to include setting and character description, along with at least four lines of dialogue. 

April 12

Your very last paper for this year is another personal narrative, only this time you are to write a “family tale” about an event that happened to someone in your own family.  This time you are not the main character, but you can be in the story as a minor character.  I gave you an example today of the time my daughter, Jenny, got stuck in low tide mud on a Puget Sound beach.  I told this story from my viewpoint as her mother, but I could have told it from another POV – hers, perhaps, or as an omniscient narrator using the pronouns “he” and “she”.

The POV choice is yours, except that you can only choose between 1st and 3rd person, no 2nd person POV.  If you need more information to write your story, be sure and interview all of the people involved!

Next week I would like to see a “partial” rough draft.  This means that if you show me at least 2 paragraphs, that will be fine.  You can show me more, of course.  Also, for your final draft please include some dialogue.

April 5

“Did you come to English class today?” asked Matilda.

“No,” answered Frank.  “I was too busy playing chess with my pet gorilla.”

“Well,” scolded Mathilda.  “Then you will probably not know how to punctuate dialogue correctly.  And, you won’t be able to include dialogue in your personal essay!  That was not smart.”

“You’re right, of course,” sighed Frank.  “I am a lazy bum.”

Bad Frank!  Don’t be like Frank, folks.  Include at least 4 lines of dialogue in your final draft for next week, okay?  Also please finish pages 283-284 in your grammar book.

Yes, dress-ups and openers are great and you should throw some in your essay.  I won’t be looking for them specifically, but I will notice if they are there or not!

March 29

We’ve read two stories recently, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and “Jabberwocky”, and you wrote book critiques on them.  Now it’s time for you to tell a true story of your life, with yourself as the main character!

Think about a time in your life that was exciting, scary, nerve-wracking, or even hilarious.  No fair trying to claim that “nothing special ever happens in my boring, little life” because I know that’s not true.  Think about times that were memorable, events that you have shared with your family and friends, or stories that your parents tell about you.  Choose one that has a good, solid conflict/resolution, and write a story about it.

Here are the rules:

1.       Your story must be true.  Although it is perfectly fine to “embellish” or add details to a story (authors do this all the time), I want you to stick to the facts.

2.      Your story must have happened to you – you are the main character!

3.      You must have learned something from the event, even if it is a little thing.  For example, in the story we read today Tucker learned that even simple objects can be dangerous. 

4.      Write your story with clear description of setting, character, conflict. 

5.      Your rough draft is due next week.


March 8

This week you have just one thing (and it’s a big one):  write a book critique for “Jabberwocky.”  Follow these rules –

1.      Write a rough draft.

2.      Edit your rough draft.  (This means to mark mistakes, insert dress-ups and openers, etc.)

3.      Write your final draft.

4.      Double-space your final draft.

5.      Write a title for your critique.  Make the title your very own; do not write something boring like “Jabberwocky Critique”.  Okay?

6.      Write your title, centered, on the top line of your paper.  Underline it.

7.      Write your name below the title.  It will say – by Sally Student – just like that.

8.      If you are typing, do NOT use a different font size for your title.  Make everything 12-point font.

9.      Double-space your final draft, whether you are typing or writing.

10.   Your introduction paragraph only has to be 3 sentences long.  The first sentence must mention the title and the author.  Write something interesting for the second sentence.  The third sentence is your “thesis”, which says something about the story.  For example, “Jabberwocky is an exciting adventure tale.”

11.   Your three body paragraphs need dress-ups and openers.

12.   Underline all dress-ups.

13.   Put all openers in brackets [  ] with the number inside.

14.   Your concluding paragraph is your opinion of the story, without using “I, me, my, you, your” etc.  Write in third person!

15.   Your concluding paragraph only needs to have three sentences in it.

Jabberwocky Checksheet


Turn in your rough draft, outline, and final draft with the final draft stapled on top.

March 1

“Jabberwocky” is a fun poem to read aloud, so why don’t you?  Just for fun, ask your family to listen as you recite it aloud to them!

Your assignment is to finish the chart you started in class today.  If you were absent, the chart looks like this:

Nonsense word Part of speech (noun, verb, adj, adv) An English word you might substitute


And the poem is linked below.


Also, make an outline for the “Jabberwocky” story, just like you did for “Rikki”.  The first paragraph will be setting/character information; the second paragraph will be problem/conflict; and the third paragraph is climax/resolution.

Then, practice diagramming these sentences.  They all have adverbs in them…the trick is to decide if the adverb is modifying the verb…or another word.  Do your best, then check back here on Friday for some help.

Help here:

Diagram helpers

1.            For a beginning skydiver, Morgan dives very well. 

2.            Martha stopped quickly on the race track. 

3.            The audience jumped wildly and cheered very loudly. 

4.            The small child chuckled gleefully at her reflection. 

5.            Smedly accepted criticism very gracefully.

6.            Can you hit a ball really hard?

7.            After the beautiful symphony, everyone left cheerfully. 

February 23

Well.  Since I was sick last weekend and did not get your “Rikki” papers graded, I am going to give you another easy-going assignment this week.  As soon as I get those graded and back to you, we’ll jump back into writing big papers.  Here we go —

  1.  Diagram sentences 5-15 on page 198.  These sentences all have adverbs in them; some have more than one.  I know adverbs are a bit confusing, so just do your best on this assignment.  Remember that you want to “hang” the adverb off of the word it is modifying in the sentence.
  2. Here is a short, not-very-well-written paragraph on popcorn.  Rewrite it on your own paper, and stuff it full of dress-ups and openers.  Have fun — don’t worry.  It will be tricky to get all six dress-ups and five openers into one paragraph, but you can do it!

Popcorn is a good, healthy snack which can be enjoyed any time.  It is a natural food.  It tastes plain unless you add butter and salt.  Many people eat popcorn while watching a movie at home.  Popcorn is also sold at theaters.  Popcorn is cooked by heating kernels of dried corn.  The corn pops when it gets hot enough.  Popped corn looks white.  Popcorn is a better snack than Skittles.


February 16

Every once in a while it’s necessary to take time out and deep-clean the house.  I know you probably have chores you do every day, and you keep your room spotless, and that’s great.  But, have you ever stopped everything to sort through your stuff, throw out the things you’re not using, and reorganize the rest?  I like to do this in my house, and also with writing assignments!

We have been learning how to write a book critique, and you turned in yours today.  Now we’re going to take a bit of a break from composition writing and make sure we all know how to dress-up sentences, and how to open them in new ways.  This will be like sorting and organizing our houses!

This week, all you have to do is some grammar and some sentence practice.  Diagram sentences 4-10 on page 189.  This time, be sure and include all of the words in your diagram.

Then, practice “sentence openers” by using openers [2] and [3] on each of these sentences.  (You will rewrite each sentence twice — once with [2] and once with [3].)  Put the number of the opener in front of the sentence, please.

  1.  Marcus swims across the lake during the summer.
  2. The wallpaper in my bedroom needs to be replaced.
  3. Sam dragged his little brother across the beach on his belly.
  4. The neighbor’s dog barks all day long.
  5. Red is my favorite color.
  6. One black chicken is sitting on the chair. 

Enjoy your week.

February 9

Finally!  Write the final draft of your “Rikki Tikki Tavi” critical book review.  The last paragraph is your opinion on the story and the biggest trick to this is that you cannot use the words “I” or “you”.

Also, diagram the sentences on page 163.  These all have predicate adjectives, remember!

February 2

Time to write!  Using the outlines you made last week, and the one you made about Rudyard Kipling in class this morning, write four rough draft paragraphs of your book critique.  These are rough drafts only, but go ahead and try to put all dress-ups in each paragraph.  That six dress-ups in each!  Next week we’ll discuss how to write the conclusion, and then you’ll write the final.

(Dress-ups are:  ly, who/which, because, quality adjective, strong verb, wwwasia — where, while, when, as, since, if, although)

And, I think we should take a sentence diagramming test.  You’ve been doing very, very well so far!  Below are some practice sentences for (heh) practice.  If you check back here on Friday, I will post the answers to those sentences so that you can check yourself.

  1.  Oscar spilled the milk.
  2. Bob sent Larry an email.
  3. The nice man gave me a donut.
  4. She baked her class some delicious cookies.
  5. Scout gave Mrs. B a nasty scow.
  6. Mrs. B fed Scout her dinner.
  7. The dog ate a sandwich and a bag of French fries.
  8. The shadows, long and foreboding, climbed the side of my house.  (That’s a difficult one!)
  9. Johnny’s father bought his mother a latte.
  10. The children must bring us their dirty socks.

Answers below…no peeking until you’ve done your diagrams!




January 26

I am very happy with your progress in sentence diagramming.  Good job, all!  This week practice with the Indirect Object and diagram the rest of the sentences on page 102 (sentences 6-15).

We haven’t written a long paper for a while, so let’s do that!  Your next paper is called a Book Critique, and we will use “Rikki Tikki Tavi” as our story.  For now please complete a key word outline for the three main body paragraphs of your critique.  Below I have an outline of what this looks like, but you will need to write yours on your own notebook paper.

The first paragraph is all about “setting” and “character”:





4.  (you have to have at least 5 points, but 7 is best.  If you really want to, you may have as many as 9.  Do not have more than 4 words on each line, though.)

The second paragraph is all about the conflict/problem of the story.





4. (Have at least 5 lines, but no more than 9)

The third paragraph is all about the climax/resolution of the story.





4. (Again, at least 5, but no more than 9).

January 19

Two things:

  1.  Make a character chart for “Rikki Tikki Tavi”.  Choose six characters (Rikki, Darzee, Nag, Nagaina, Darzee’s wife and one more).  For each, show how he/she is characterized in the story.  Be sure to include a short quote, written in quotation marks.
    1. What does the author say directly about this character?
    2. What do other characters say about him/her?
    3. What does this character say about himself?
    4. What can we infer about him from his actions?

2.  Diagram the sentences on page 58 of your grammar book.  You only have to include the subject, verb, and direct object BUT you are welcome to add the prepositional phrases, adjectives and adverbs where they belong.

January 12

Every story can be analyzed (neat word!) according to the plot diagram we have been using in class – even “children’s literature” such as “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose” by Dr. Seuss.  This week you have an opportunity to see how plot diagrams work with a new short story, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling.  I know that some of you have read it and that others are very familiar with the story, but reading it for yourself – or reading it again — will help you to understand it more deeply.

Read “Rikki” through carefully and answer these questions on your own paper.

  1. Where and when does the story take place?  How do you know?
  2. Who is the main character?  (This main character is also known as the “protagonist” or the “good guy” of the story.)
  3. What does the protagonist look like?  Describe his/her personality.
  4. This story has bad guys, too.  They are called “antagonists”.  Who are the antagonists of the story?
  5. What do the antagonists look like?  How would you describe their “personality”?
  6. This story has more characters besides the main ones.  They are “minor characters”.  Who are they?
  7. What does the protagonist want?
  8. What does the antagonist want?
  9. What is the conflict of the story?
  10. How is the conflict resolved?
  11. Lastly, draw a Plot Arc for Rikki on another piece of paper.

For grammar, label the prepositional phrases, verbs,  subjects and direct objects on page 57 of your grammar book.  Then, diagram sentences 5-15.  The tricky part might be deciding which word is the “direct object”, and then writing it correctly on the line.  Do your best…if you know where to diagram any adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases, do them also.  I’m only grading this paper on subject/verb/direct object words, though, so don’t go crazy.

January 5

We’re back…and it’s just like we never left.  Or, not.  Happy New Year!  Let’s start a new writing unit!

Today we talked about “story” and the three parts of every story — plot, setting, and characters.  We focused on PLOT, and I drew that nifty diagram called Freytag’s Pyramid on the board.  Then, we watched the Pixar short film called “For the Birds” and filled out the plot diagram for it.

Your assignment this week is to watch one more Pixar short films.  (Ha!  Can you believe your English teacher is asking you to watch cartoons?)  Below is the link:

Geri’s Game

Note:  My husband and I decided that the other short  I had on here earlier, “Partly Cloudy”, was inappropriate for Christian home school families due to the sorcery in it.  Therefore, you are only required to do one plot diagram instead of two. Thank you.

And here are links for the plot diagrams you’ll need.  Print them out; or if you can’t, you are welcome to do the work on your own paper.

Geri’s Game Plot Diagram

Now, I understand that some of you may not be able to watch the films online.  That’s okay.  If you can’t, then you should use two well-known “tales” such as “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Three Little Pigs”, or another similar story.  Okay?

Lastly, please label and diagram the rest of the sentences on page 33 of your grammar book.  We did 1-6 in class; you do the rest.  You are labeling all prepositional phrases, verbs, subjects, and adjectives (in that order).  Write in your book.  After you have done this, diagram your sentences on your own notebook paper.  I’ll collect the diagrams next week.



November 17

I am so fond of electricity.  You also?

This week, finish “dressing up” the three-paragraph story I gave you entitled “The Lion and the Shepherd”.  Some of you may have finished in class, and that’s fine.

Also, diagram the sentences on page 27 of your grammar book.  First, cross out any prepositional phrases, underline the subject once and the verb twice.  Then, diagram each sentence on your own notebook paper.

November 10

Write your five paragraph friendly letter to your special person.  You may use pretty stationary if you like; you may also type if you like.  Include a stamped, addressed envelope so that I can pop your letter in the mail after I grade it.  (No… I promise that I won’t write in red ink all over your letter.)  Checksheet below.   Yes, you need dress-ups in the three body paragraphs.  If you can do all six, do all six!  If you are new and only know “ly”, who/which and because, do those.

JHC Friendly Letter Checksheet

Then, diagram the sentences on page 163 (1-9).

Remember Uncle Mervin?  Here is the completed letter, for your enjoyment!

Uncle Mervin letter

November 3

  1.  Write a rough draft of a 5-paragraph friendly letter to one of the people you wrote on your paper today.
  2. The draft must follow the model “friendly letter” handout I gave you in class.
  3. Do pages 18 and 19 in your grammar book.  This time, follow the directions at the top of each page.

October 27

Write a letter to me this week, telling me ONE TRUE THING about yourself.  Tell me about your cat, or your camping trip to Hurricane Ridge, or how you love the piano, or what a good tennis player you are.  Just make sure you are writing truthfully; no pet giraffes or ski trips down Mt. Rainier, please.

Spell my name correctly — Mrs. Baumgaertel — and spell the date.  Write on the front side of a piece of notebook paper; no typing this time.  You may single-space if you like.

For grammar, please cross out all of the prepositional phrases on pages 7-9 of your grammar book (write in the book!).  Also, memorize the list of 23 helping verbs on page 10 to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.  Here’s a link to help —

Helping Verbs Jingle


October 20

Time to write the final draft and turn it in!  Yay!

In this paper, you need five paragraphs of course.  You also need dress-ups in them!  If you are new to dress-ups, you are responsible for “who/which”, “because” and “ly”.  If you are not new to dress-ups, you need them all – plus, one adverbial teeter-totter someplace in your paper.

See the checksheet below for information on how I will grade this essay.

JHC Five Paragraph Essay Checksheet


October 13

Write your last rough draft, this time with your introduction, three main body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.  Put it all together!  Get ready to edit it and dress-it-up!

Also, practice our new sentence diagramming.  This link will help:

Diagramming compounds and adjectives

First, some compound sentences:

  1.  Dad wore his slippers, and he forgot to put on his raincoat.
  2. It was pouring rain, and he did not like rain.
  3. His hair was wet, and his feet were soaked.
  4. I laughed, yet he didn’t.
  5. He forgot his umbrella, and I sighed.


Now some with adjectives:

  1. A cool, light breeze scattered the leaves on the driveway.
  2. My terrified, scraggly dog slept on the neighbor’s porch.
  3. The round, orange pumpkin glowed in the darkness.
  4. Red, orange, purple and green leaves blew in the wind.
  5. My chocolate bar tastes delicious!

October 6

I’m the fish, folks.  (Since I get to choose, I want to be one of those flamboyant, yellow and blue tropical fishies with the long, flowy tail.)  Your job is to catch me and reel me in with a well-baited hook — a lively, catchy, NOT BORING AT ALL introduction paragraph.

This week write a rough draft of the introduction paragraph to your essay.  We saw today that you can do this a number of ways —

  • by using a startling statement and a little story
  • providing some interesting (true!) historical background
  • showing your audience how she will benefit from reading your paper, or
  • painting a descriptive picture.

Here’s a handout to help you with some ideas.  Part of your introductory paragraph is that all-important thesis sentence.  Make it great!

JHC The Introduction Paragraph

No grammar.

September 29

Your next big writing assignment is called ‘creative writing’.  Scary, right?  Not so much if you remember to “think three themes” about any topic, and then make an outline of details.  Do this –

  1.  Choose a topic to write about.  I am not picky, but make sure your topic is appropriate for our class.  Some examples are
          • Baby-sitting
          • Bee stings
          • Getting lost
          • When the power is out
          • Fireworks
          • Fun in the car on a road trip
          • Camping
          • Iguanas
          • Houseguests
          • The zoo
          • The fair
  2. Make an outline of your topic on the Creative Writing Outline handout I gave you in class today.
  3. You may begin to write a rough draft if you like, but it is not due yet.

For grammar, diagram the sentences below.  We will have a little diagramming test next week.

  1.  The boy threw the ball into the pond.
  2. The boy and girl caught the frog.
  3. Milk and juice are good choices for a morning beverage.
  4. Don’t forget or ignore your mom’s birthday.
  5. Iguanas and turtles live and eat in tropical islands.
  6. Duck!
  7. My cat purrs and licks my arm.
  8. The chickens and the coyotes stay outside and sleep there, too.
  9. Your friends are slow.
  10. Dad sings in the shower.


September 22

It’s officially autumn, folks.  Time to put the noodles in storage until next summer, so let’s finish this essay!

Your final draft of “swim noodles” is due next week.  Write an introductory paragraph, then your three main body paragraphs (the ones you’ve already drafted twice) and a concluding paragraph.  Include dress-ups in your main body paragraphs, and remember the topic-clincher rule – which only applies to the main body paragraphs.  Below is a check sheet for this assignment, so print it out and see how I will grade you.

Swim Noodle Check Sheet

Also below is my example.  Read it to notice how I underlined the dress-ups, and how the introduction and conclusion help the essay.

Floating Spaghetti

Then, diagram some sentences.  First, sentences with “understood you” in them on page 18 of your grammar book.  Do sentences 1-8.  Then, sentences with two subjects on page 12 of your grammar book.  Do sentences 1 – 8.   For these you will need to use a ROCKET!

September 15

Today I had Brianna do a quick check of your rough drafts, and she gave you 10 points if you turned one in on time.  Then we handed your rough draft back to you, because you have more work to do on it this week.

Here’s what to do:

  1.  Rewrite your three paragraphs, making sure that each one follows the “topic/clincher rule”.  (I will explain that in more detail below).
  2. Also add dress-ups to your paragraphs.  If you are a returning student – meaning that you had me or Mrs. M for a teacher last year – you have to use all six dress-ups in each paragraph.  (Linked below is a reminder sheet of dress-ups and how to use them.)  If you are a new student, you must use only one dress-up – the “who/which clause”, in each paragraph.  (Uh, oh!  I know what a few of you might be thinking: you are a new student this year BUT you know how to use dress-ups, so what should you do?  Tell you what – you only have to use the who/which; however, you are most welcome to impress me and use more!  Okay?)
  3. Complete the “Who/Which Dress-up Practice” sheet, linked below.

Finally, guess what?  I was planning to teach you all about the YOU UNDERSTOOD subject, but our time just flew by…and I didn’t.  So, you have no grammar homework this week.  Isn’t that neat?

What about that “topic/clincher rule”? 

Well, this is a handy-dandy rule to help you write a good, satisfying paragraph.  The rule says that your topic sentence and your clincher sentence must “repeat or reflect 2 or 3 words.”  For example, if your topic sentence was –

Swim noodles are oodles of fun both in and out of the water.

Then your clincher sentence would have to have 2 or 3 of the same words (or synonyms of them) in it.  Like this –

As you can see, bathing pasta is entertaining no matter where you find it.

What are the 2-3 repeat/reflect words?  They are swim/bathing; noodles/pasta; fun/entertaining.



September 8

Noodles.  Did you ever expect to write about noodles for English class?  No?  Well then, this will be a new experience.

Today I gave you the topic for your first writing assignment, which is “swim noodles”.  We spent some time making a list on the white board of ideas that we associate with swim noodles, and then we grouped our ideas into three categories.  Those categories were 1)The Appearance of Swim Noodles; 2) The Uses of Swim Noodles; and 3) The Problems With Swim Noodles.

After that we made an outline, and here it is:

I.  The appearance of Swim Noodles

  1. Bright, colorful, pink, yellow
  2. Green, orange, purple, not black
  3. Holey, foamy, noodle-like
  4. Long, skinny, not pasta

II.Uses of Swim Noodles

  1. Floating, surface, water, pool
  2. Whacking, heads, sword, fight
  3. Fold, half, pretend, horse
  4. Blow, water, hollow
  5. Young, fun, surfing

III. Problems with Swim Noodles

  1.  Can’t, eat, with, sauce
  2. Everybody, wants, one, share
  3. Fragile, buoyant, bendy
  4. Choking, hazard, not, lifesaver

One of your jobs this week is to write a rough draft paragraph for each outline point.  You may include the details we listed on our class outline, you may add some of your own, or both.  Next week you will show me your rough draft paragraphs for 10 points credit, and then we will continue writing about noodles.


Perhaps if you’re new to class this year, you’re wondering what a rough draft is and how to write one.  Simply put, a rough draft is just your first try at a writing assignment.  It isn’t perfect or pretty; it might have lots of spelling or grammar mistakes; it might even look messy.  That’s okay.  I won’t be grading your rough draft – just giving you 10 points for having one.  So, if you are a perfectionist and think you have to only give me a flawless assignment, you’ll have to change your thinking!


The only thing I would like you to do as you write your rough draft is to double-space.  This is hugely important to ME, and it means to skip lines if you write on notebook paper, or to set your computer to space “2.0” if you’re typing.  If you forget to double-space on your rough draft this time, I won’t mind so much, but try to get into that habit, okay?


The second job you have this week is to make simple sentence diagrams for sentences 1-14 on page 57 of your Easy Grammar Workbook.  We did this in class today also, but if you need a reminder click on the link below.

Sentence Diagramming 1

Parents please note:  This year I am using the Easy Grammar Workbook to teach sentence diagramming.  When I assign pages in it for homework, I intend that your student use the sentences on the page for the diagramming assignment, NOT that he follow the directions in the workbook.  There will be assignments that require him to follow those directions, but I will be careful to note what’s what when I post on this blog.  Let me know if you’re confused!

Here is a summary of what you need to do for homework:

  1.  Write three rough draft paragraphs about noodles, following the outline.
  2. Diagram sentences 1-14 on page 57 of your grammar book. ONLY write the simple subject and the simple predicate (the verb) on the lines.  Leave all of the other words out of your diagram for this time.

See you next week!