Junior High Composition

May 20

Readers’ Theater is a perfect way to end our year, agreed?  I’m sorry I didn’t make you do it sooner…but nevermind.

Don’t neglect your performance this week, as you will receive a grade for it.  Checksheet below!

Readers Theater checksheet

Think about these items:

1.  Speak slowly!  S-L-O-W-L-Y.  S.L.O.W.L.Y.  Very, veeery, veeeeerrrrry slowly.

2.  Costume?  No costume = no happiness.

3.  This is a Readers’ Theater, NOT a drama.  The difference is that you are reading, not memorizing lines.  Practice holding your script still, standing still, looking at the audience with expression in your face, and coordinating your speaking and movements with your fellow READERS.

And…grammar test.  Study pages 289 and 290.

May 13

As I skimmed your rough drafts today I was pleased to see that most of you are analyzing and critiquing the story well.  If you used “I”, get rid of it!  Otherwise, good jobs.

This week, write your final draft.

Book Critique Checksheet

Also practice reading aloud your part for the “readers theater” coming up on the last day of class.  You don’t have to memorize it, but you will need to read clearly and with expression.  I’ll give you time next week to finalize your costume ideas.

For grammar, do pages 281, 286, 287.

May 6

All right, my budding book critics, it’s time to write a rough.

Next week please show me the rough draft of your children’s book critique.  This must be five paragraphs long:

I.  Introduction paragraph, containing the “pertinent book information” such as title, author, etc.

II.  Character and setting information.

III.  Plot/conflict of the story.

IV.  Resolution/Climax of the story.

V.  The hardest part:  analyze the story, plot, characters, writing style, pictures, etc.  Write like you know what you’re talking about…but DO NOT use the words “I” or “you”.

For grammar, read pages 277-278 and do page 278.

April 29

I love children’s books.  I love to read them aloud because the good ones have a lilting, poetic quality that tickles little ears.  I love their illustrations because their color and lines draw me in to the story.  I love their characters because of their simplicity.  After all, what’s not to love about a children’s book?

Oh, and another reason to love them:  they are short.  Yes!  Short is good at this point in our time together, since our time is also short and I have to make you write the next big assignment — a book critique.

Book critiques are not book reports.  Book critiques force you to not just say this-is-this-and-that-is-that, but to evaluate the many aspects of the story. Today we read “The Foolish Tortoise” by Eric Carle, and we analyzed the story.

For next week, find a children’s book that you can use for a book critique.  Then –

1.  Read it aloud to somebody.  (Even your dog!)

2.  Think about the elements of the story; plot, character, setting.

3.  Think about what you liked, what you didn’t like, what could have been better, what a little kid would like or not like about the story.

4.  Fill out the linked Book Critique Organizer.

Book Critique Organizer

Study grammar, pages 271-275.  Commas!  Hard.

April 22

Slay the apostrophe dragon this week, mates.  Do pages 269 and 270 in Easy Grammar.

Then, perfect your report.  It is due next week!

April 15

You all did much, much better on today’s adverbs test than you did on the one you took last week.  I’ll email your report cards to your moms again soon so you can see!

This week you may concentrate on your report.  I saw many rough drafts today, but if I missed yours, you can still show it to me next time.  Either way, you need to work hard on getting that report finalized before April 29.

We discussed the Works Cited page this morning, and I told you how difficult it is to write one.  Here’s the scoop:  follow my directions as best you can.  When you get to high school English, life gets more complicated…so enjoy a simple Works Cited assignment while you can!

No grammar.

April 8

This week you may take a break from grammar.


In fact, your only job — it’s a big one — is to work steadily on your report.  If you didn’t give me your “report planning sheet” today, you need to show it to me next week.  Otherwise, write, write, write!  Show me some progress on a rough draft.

Next week I will show you how to write the “Works Cited Page”.

April 1

Thanks for those Sapsucker reports today, peoples.  Unfortunately, they appear to be riddled with problems so I may have to give them back to you for fixing next week.  We’ll see.

Onward.  If you are a science student, you are beginning your science fair report.  I gave you a handout in class today and an “organizer”.  If you lost it, or your mom needs her own copy, it is linked below.

Science Fair Report

Fill out the “organizer” sheet, which is the only thing due next week.  If you are not a science student, you still will write another report, but you may choose your own topic.  You fill out the same organizer for your topic and turn it in next week.

Lastly, let’s have an adverb quiz, shall we?  Study pages 199-214.

March 18

Yay for a week off!  You deserve it, of course.  But, remember that you still have a homework assignment due when we see each other on April 1, so don’t get too vacation-happy!

Write the final draft of your “sapsuckers” report, including an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph.  Look at the handout I gave you today for ideas on how to write these; also take a look at the paragraphs you and your classmates wrote today (attached below).  While most of these are humorous, only two are acceptable as an introduction to a factual report about sapsuckers!  You can write a fictionalized introduction without resorting to nonsense, people.

If you missed class, this is the handout –

introductions conclusions

Sapsucker Introductions from Groups

Sapsucker Checksheet Group A

Sapsucker Checksheet Group B

Sapsucker Checksheet Group C

For grammar, do pages 193-198.

March 11

Fuse away, folks.  Take those three initial outlines and smoosh them together into one working outline.  Remember that when you fuse, you are choosing information you think is important, relevant, or interesting enough to include in your report.  Each topic section of your fused outline should contain 5-7 lines of details.

Then, write your rough draft.  I won’t grade the rough, but attempt to include dress-ups, openers, and a decoration as I described today in class.  (Decoration 3sss is reviewed below.)

For grammar, study and complete pages 186-192.

Now for that 3sss decoration.  The “sss” stands for “short, staccato sentences” and you need three of them in a row inside a paragraph.  You can do this a couple of different ways:

4:3:2 –  Killer bees invaded America.  Violently they attacked.  Humans suffered.

3:3:3 — Bees invaded America.  Violently they attacked.  No one escaped.

2:2:2 — Bees invaded.  They attacked.  People screamed.

Do this if you are in Group C; everybody else can practice too, of course!

March 4

We have begun a “report writing” unit, which shall prepare you to write your science fair report (if you are in science class, of course).

Your job this week is to make two more outlines on the sapsucker articles that you did NOT outline in class.  Recall that our topics are “appearance”, “diet”, and “habitat”.  These shall be the same topics for the other two articles.

If you have any question about this, please contact me.  Otherwise, I’ll assume you know what you’re doing…and that’s good.  (For those of you who may be tempted to go one step further and fuse your outlines now — don’t.  Wait, please, until next week!)

For grammar, do pages 178-184.

February 25

What would life be like without adjectives?  Boring.  Boring, boring, boring.  Thankfully, in English we have lots of them, so boring is not a problem for us.  In Easy Grammar, do pages 165 – 177.  We’ll have a little test on adjectives next week.

You and your group members wrote an outline together on the picture you chose in class.  Now you must write the rough draft and the final draft, both due next week.  Use the same dress-ups that you used last time, and the same checksheet.  (Hey, just scroll down and find the checksheet you need – it’s still there).  Remember that the most important issue in picture writing is to state what you see in the picture as the topic sentence for each paragraph, and then to link your topic and your clincher sentences by 2-3 words.  Fill in the details, using the past participle verb form where appropriate.

February 18

Okay now you may write your final draft!  Remember that you need to state the central fact of the picture as the first sentence, then fill in the details.  When you are giving backstory details, use past participle verbs — had, has, have + main verb. 

Insert dress-ups as before, with the same requirements for groups as last time.

Group A:  ly, strong verb, quality adjective, who/which

Group B:  ly, strong verb, quality adjective, who/which, [2] opener

Group C:  all dress-ups, all openers, plus either an adjectival teeter-totter or an adverbial teeter-totter  in each paragraph.

And look!  Each group gets its very own checksheet.  Yay.

Picture Writing Checksheet Group A

Picture Writing Checksheet Group B

Picture Writing Checksheet Group C

For grammar, work on pages 155-164.

February 11

Picture writing is a whole lot more fun that doing dishes or cleaning the litter box, so get to it!

Using the outline we made in class, or revising it to suit your fancy, write the story in three paragraphs.  You will include dress-ups according to the group assignments, below.  This is, however, just a rough draft.  Don’t write the final yet.

Group A:  ly, quality adjective, strong verb, who/which.

Group B:  ly, quality adjective, strong verb, [2] opener, who/which.

Group C:  all dress-ups, all openers, one adjectival teeter-totter, and if you really want another challenge, you can give the “adverbial teeter-totter” a shot.  Example below –

The fox secretly and cruelly laughed as the foolish crow began to sing.

The lion furiously and tenaciously struggled while the net grew tighter and tighter.

Everybody do p. 151-155 in Easy Grammar.


February 4

My snarky, furry cat, who purrs even when she is angry, swiped at me with her claws.

Our old, dilapidated truck, which is out of gas, sits in the driveway.

Swirly, pearly snowflakes, which are sticking to the ground, blanket my lawn with whiteness.

And those, my aspiring writers, are adjectival teeter totters and you can use them in your paragraph this week!  Remember, Groups A and B can use them and earn 5 bonus points; Group C has to use them whether you like it or not.

Write an anecdotal paragraph this week, following the handout example I gave you.  You will think of a “story” or incident that happened to you, and a moral or lesson you learned from the incident.  My example was the story of how I walked around all morning with a coat hanger stuck to the back of my classy, wool coat, and how I thought I was looking professional and trendy…but in reality I looked more like a bag lady.

The moral or lesson is your topic sentence, and be sure to link it to your clincher properly.  The body of your paragraph is the story, told from beginning-middle-end.  Use the dress-ups you are required to use according to your group assignment (these are listed below, too).

Group A:  ly, QA, strong verb

Group B:  ly, QA, strong verb, [2] prepositional opener

Group C:  all dress-ups, all openers, PLUS an “adjectival teeter-totter”.  Directions for T-T linked here.

JHC Checksheet Anecdotal paragraph

JHC OT adjectival teeter totter

In grammar, do pages 135-139.

January 28

Next one:  comparison/contrast!

Seahawks vs. Broncos

Spaghetti vs. Lasagna

Corvette vs. Dump Truck

One sibling vs. the other one

Camping vs. Disneyland

Any two “things” that you could reasonably compare (list similarities) or contrast (list differences) are fair game for this paragraph.  Follow the directions on the handout I gave you in class; see the checksheet below for point values.

Group A:  ly, quality adjective AND  strong verb this week.

Group B:  ly, quality adjective, strong verb AND [2] prepositional phrase opener.


Now, here’s a deal for you:  You have to do the dress-ups and openers that are assigned for your group, but you can earn extra credit points for putting in more dress-ups/openers.  Okay?  Underline them, label them, earn extra points for them!  (And, I promise promise promise not to make you move to a different group just because you can do more dress-ups.)

JHC Checksheet comparison contrast

Lastly, review grammar for a test on nouns — common and proper, plurals, and possessives.

January 21

You may be surprised at how many “processes” you already know how to do.  Clean your room…make omelets…wash your puppy…feed your pet iguana…arrange flowers in a bouquet…surprise your sister…ride a bike…operate a computer…wax Dad’s sportscar…throw a baseball…score a goal…paint your nails…lots of things.  If you don’t like this list, you are welcome to choose your own topic for this week’s Process Analysis paragraph.

Follow the directions on the sheet I gave you in class to explain how to do something, which is what “process analysis” means.  You are responsible for the dress-ups and openers I gave your group in class yesterday, but if you don’t remember which group you are in, email me and I will tell you.

Group A:  ly, quality adjective

Group B:  ly, quality adjective, strong verb

Group C:  all of them, plus all sentence openers.

Here is the checksheet; no grammar this week.  Yay!

JHC Checksheet process analysis


January 14

Last week you wrote a “description” paragraph.  This week you will write a “definition” paragraph, which really sounds a lot like a description paragraph but it’s not.

Using the handout I gave you in class, write your paragraph about either leggings, toenail clippers, iPads or jello.  Again, use as many dress-ups and sentence openers as you can.  Here is a checksheet for this assignment:

JHC Checksheet definition

If you were absent and did not receive the handout, email me and I will send it to you.

In Easy Grammar, do the rest of page 104.  Also do pages 121 – 124.

January 7

Well, folks, here we go.  We’re departing from fiction writing for a while to concentrate on the nitty-gritty of junior high writing skills.  I know you’re thrilled.

First, do grammar pages 103, 112-120.

Then, write a descriptive paragraph about macaroni and cheese, OR peanut butter, OR glue OR light bulbs.  Choose just one of these, not all four! Write a rough draft first, and then write a final draft.  I need to post a check sheet for this assignment, and I will…but it might take me a day or so.

The checksheet is below.  You will notice (and maybe this will bother you), that I don’t say exactly how many dress-ups to include.  This is because not all of you know how to use them correctly.  Remember that I asked you to write down how many dress-ups and openers you knew how to use?  I will evaluate your paragraph based on what you said on that paper.  Here you go –

JHC Checksheet Description

Remember that your paragraph should appeal to all five senses, and should have dress-ups and sentence openers — as many as you are comfortable with.

November 19

Only one more week before we won’t see each other for a while.  (Yay?)  Do this:

1. Study for a grammar test.  You must know how to locate prepositional phrases, verbs (the whole verb, please!) subjects, and direct objects.  Pages to help you with this are 36-37, 57-58, and 73-81.

2.  If you’d like a better grade on your short story (and I hope that you do!), rewrite it and fix the grammar mistakes.  Turn it in to me next week, with your graded draft so that I can see how you improved it.

3.  I will give you time in your groups next week to finish your planning for your “puppet writer” story.  Maybe some of you are supposed to fill out character sheets at home?  That would be peachy, so do that.

4.  Let’s eat cupcakes next week, shall we?

November 12

Okay, Guinea pigs, here’s the deal:  In small groups, you are plotting a new story with new characters and an intriguing setting.  You will work on this again next week, and then when you’ve finished, you will direct your Puppet Writer (*ahem* that would be me) to draft the story for you over the break.  No need to do much about this project until we meet again, except that you could be thinking of a great story with realistic characters.

Besides this, click on the link below to a worksheet entitled “Dialogue Ping-Pong” and have a blast writing a conversation with perfectly punctuated quotations.  This is homework; turn in a rough draft and a final draft.


For grammar, memorize the 23 Helping Verbs for a test.  I will ask you to write them down on paper, in any order.  Also please do pages 57-58 and 73-77 in your grammar book.

November 5

“What is our assignment for next week, Mrs. B.?” asked Gilbert, who had returned from his camping trip.

“Well, Gilbert,” answered Mrs. B, taking a look at her planning calendar.  “You need to write the final draft of your short story, and turn it in on Tuesday.”

“Okay,” babbled Gilbert.  He wasn’t really listening to Mrs. B answer his question, because his mind was still back on the mountain.

“Do you understand what to do?” queried Mrs. B.

“Um….not really,” he confessed.  “I actually didn’t remember to finish my story because I decided to go camping overnight instead.  And,” he whined, “Archie said we would probably have another two weeks to finish it.  I believed him.”

“Sounds like Archie is not a very reliable friend for you,” declared Mrs. B.  “Your story is due next week, so I suggest you buckle down and finish it.  Pronto.”

“You’re right,” signed Gilbert.  “But, um…what does ‘pronto’ mean?”

As I just told the fictional character named Gilbert, your short stories are due next week.  Include at least a little bit of dialogue, and also finish pages 283-285 in your grammar book.  Here is that dialogue we worked on in class today –

Dialogue and Beat Practice


October 29

It’s time to write!  It’s time to write!  It’s time to write the rough draft of your short story!  I’m excited…are you?

The rules are simple:  give your character a problem, and then get him or her out of it.  Do it in at least 3 pages, and no more than 10 pages.  (Sound like a lot?  Nah.  Add setting description, character description, a few minor characters if you need them and ta da!  You’ll be done.)

Have fun.  Also work on Direct Objects, pages 35-37.

October 22

Your prepositional phrases retest was a success.  Go check your grade!

This week you need to practice writing in past tense for your upcoming story.  Click on the link below for a worksheet that will help you with tenses.  The worksheet is due next week.

Past Tense Practice

And, it’s time to figure out what kind of trouble you’re going to get your characters into.  All stories have a central problem, also know as a conflict, that affect the main character (the protagonist).  This might be something unlawful such as a kidnapping or a robbery.  Or, it could be something personal, like two brothers who are arguing about who gets to drive Dad’s car to the concert on Saturday.  It could be something touching, like a grandma who has saved all of her life for a trip to Paris, and finally has enough money.  Maybe a little girl lost her pet lamb, and the whole family is searching the neighborhood in the dark trying to find Lambie.  I know!  Maybe two kids are home alone while their Mom is at the grocery store and it’s too wet to play outside, and suddenly a cat wearing a … nevermind.  That one has been done before.

Think of a conflict for your story.  Write a paragraph describing to me what the conflict is, and how you will turn it into a story.  Don’t just tell me that your antagonist is going to steal cookies from your protagonist and eat them beneath the oak tree…tell me WHY he wants to do that!  The conflict has to affect your protagonist directly, and your readers have to know the reason behind the conflict.

Whoa.  I’m talking a lot.  I will stop now and let you get to work!

October 15

Your characters are coming along!  This week you get to portray your character a little better, so that you can begin to “know” him or her, and so that you can practice your writing skills as you reveal your character to your audience.

Here is a worksheet.  Do what it says:

Characterization – Concrete Details

And, if you scored a “C” or below, you must retake the prepositional phrases test next week.  (“A” or “B” scores make retake for fun because grammar is.  Fun, that is.)  Tomorrow please check back right here for a study worksheet to help you!


October 8

I’m looking forward to reading your “mom character worksheet” answers.  Ha!  I wonder how your mom would do with those questions if she had to answer them about you?

This week you get to “create” two characters of your very own.  Remember to use the worksheet that I gave you in class (and I’ll link it below, too).  Answer ALL of the questions about each of your two characters. Take some time with this — remember that you are creating two fictional characters out of thin air, and you will be placing them into a story soon.  They need to be as “real” to you as you can make them!  (One will be your protagonist, the other your antagonist.)

Character Worksheet

Otherwise, you need to work on grammar!  Specifically on prepositional phrases.  There are plenty of practice pages in your grammar book, so if you can find the prepositional phrases in the sentences on pages 22-33, you’ll be well-prepared for our next test.  We will have our next test on October 22, which is in two weeks.

October 1

Oh, my goodness — it’s October already.  Time to find verbs and subjects!  In grammar, find the verbs and the subjects in the sentences on pages 18-20, 22, 23.  First, remember, you have to get the prepositional phrases out of the way…and then the verb should pop right out.

For story writing, choose one assignment, below:

1.  Retell the story of Baby Moses from Miriam’s point of view.  (She was his sister, who put his basket by the river.)  Write in first person.

2. Retell the story of Jonah and the Whale in first person, from either Jonah’s POV or from the whale’s POV. Write in first person.

3. Retell the story of Goldilocks from one of the bears’ POV’s.  Write in first person.

4. Retell the story of Rumpelstiltskin, from his POV.  Write in first person.

5.  Retell the story of the three little pigs and the wolf…from the wolf’s POV.  Write in first person.

6.  Retell the story of the gingerbread man, from the fox’s POV.  Write in first person.

Your retold story may be longer than 7 sentences…but not shorter!  The checksheet for this assignment is below.

Checksheet POV story

September 24

You’re doing a fine job with the “7-sentence story”, but now it’s time for me to get stricter with my grading.  This week you will rewrite one of the fables (attached below) as a 7-sentence story.  Remember that I said you could revise it any way you like — modernize it, make new characters, etc. — as long as you keep the basic story line in tact.  Besides grading your story for content, I will grade it for “form” and “style”, too.  Also below you will see a link to a checksheet, which explains exactly what I am looking for when I grade this paper.  Read it carefully!


JHC Checksheet Fable

In addition to writing your fable, let’s take a grammar quiz on prepositional phrases, shall we?  Practice with pages 22-25 in your grammar book.  Although the directions tell you to look for subjects and verbs, I will only ask you to find prepositional phrases in your quiz.

Finally, remember that you need to memorize 23 helping verbs from page 10.  Use the Helping Verbs Jingle to help (and because it’s fun to sing…..)

September 17

I’m looking forward to enjoying your 7-sentence stories this week!  While I do that, you will write some more stories –

First, write a “bad story” according to the two bad story examples I have attached here.  Remember, “William’s Adventure” has too many problems, and “Princess Anabella” doesn’t have a problem!  Have fun.

How NOT to Write a Story

Then, using the story prompt paper I gave you, write two more 7-sentence stories.  Pay close attention to your verbs, adverbs, and adjectives.  Also, introduce the setting of the story in a sneaky way — instead of coming right out and saying “This story takes place in the desert”, make it more creative:  “The scorching sands stretched for miles and miles, beyond what poor Charlie could see with his bare eyes.”

For grammar, begin to memorize the list of helping verbs on page 10.  (The Helping Verbs Jingle will help you!  Find it on You Tube.)  Do pages 11 – 12 this week.

September 10

Okay, junior high writers, here we go!  We begin our year by writing short stories and studying prepositions.  Your first week of homework has two parts –

First, do pages 1-9 in your grammar book.  The directions will ask you to “cross out any prepositional phrases.  Underline the subject once and the verb twice”, but all I care about this week is that you underline the prepositional phrases.  If you know what the subject and verb are, go ahead and find them; but if you don’t, that’s okay. ( If your grammar book hasn’t arrived yet, you’ll just catch up when it does.)

The second part of your assignment is to write two short stories, just like we did in class today.  Here is our story:

Larry was walking along a deserted railroad track in the Alacama desert in Chile.  He was inspecting the track for problems when he heard an awful growl.  Larry turned and saw a huge, hairy monster that was about to grab him!  Gesturing wildly, Larry waved his arms in an attempt to slug the monster in the chest.  The monster, who started crying, explained that he had been lonely, and only wanted to give Larry a hug.  Larry gave the monster a warm bear hug.  Larry and the monster lived happily ever after.

Our little story is only 7 sentences long, and follows the pattern that I gave you on the worksheet.  I will attach the worksheet below, in case you can’t find yours.

Story Planning Worksheet

Write TWO stories — each of them in the same 7-sentence pattern.  Write a rough draft first, then a final draft.  You may type your stories if you like.  Be sure to double-space them.

Happy writing!