NANOWRIMO is here!


During the month of November, we are each taking the challenge to WRITE A NOVEL. Yes, you read that right. You have complete creative freedom. The only instruction? To WRITE.

Go to and sign up using your ga email. Join our American Stories Rule! classroom with this code: YEXSEPBF

If you’d like to use the workbook, of course you can! ~middle_school_workbook_ed4_INTERIOR

Our American Studies word count goal: 2500 words in one month! (The “official” word count goal is actually 50,000 words!)


Here’s a secret, writer: your first sentence doesn’t matter. Your first chapter doesn’t matter. You’ll return to these pieces again and again as you write and revise your story, discovering your characters, perfecting your plot. These pieces will change, and for the better.

As participant Jessica W. said, “NaNoWriMo is the chance to abandon rules and embrace the ‘what ifs.'”

And the only important thing about the beginning? To begin.

So start with some action. Start with dialogue. Start with your character falling asleep at their desk and poking themselves in the eye with a pencil, or with flying monkeys, or with underwater amusement parks and a robot dog who ends up being the villain.

Just start.

Excited to wonder about all the “what ifs” with you,

Marya Brennan,
Young Writers Program Director

Animal Farm in Poetry


Learning Targets:

  • Communicate a clear purpose or theme in my poem; readers can understand and appreciate my poem.
  • Create an impact with my poem; readers can experience the desired reaction or emotional response to my poem.
  • Use language from the original sources effectively and creatively; I go beyond the obvious or predictable in my poem.
  • Create imagery by using vivid and strong words; my word choices are varied, powerful, and precise.
  • Enhance the meaning and impact of my poem with powerful visual elements, such as colors, illustrations, backgrounds, images, font choices, and so on.

To complete our study of Animal Farm

You will create a pair of found poems or a blackout poems. You may create two of the same types of poems or one of each. In your poetry, please express what you take away from Animal Farm and/or why these important messages, lessons, themes, ideas, or words of the wiser matter to us today. You will hand in hard copies of your poems, some of which will be chosen for display. To be clear: YOUR POEMS ARE ABOUT ANIMAL FARM — ABOUT WHAT YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE NOVEL AND WHY THOSE TAKE-AWAYS MATTER TO US TODAY. To the inevitable question of “how long do our poems have to be,” allow me to answer, “as long as it takes to hit the learning targets.”

The Challenge…

You will be given two random pages from Animal Farm. Those pages are what you have to work with. Remember, found poetry = words exactly as you find them on the page without additions or omissions; blackout poetry = choose whole words only; no more than three words in a row.

Click here for the assignment sheet.

Please make sure you’re following all instructions and hitting all learning targets.

You can find the rubric here.

This project is due for everyone in all sections on Wednesday 10/31.

Examples of black-out poetry:

Some ideas on take-aways to get you started:

Banned Books Week is here!

We will begin working on this project in class on Monday 9/24 or Tuesday 9/25. You need not do anything before then. Thanks!

Let’s begin by seeking understanding of Banned Books Week. Using the GoogleSlides on the Banned Books page, create handwritten notes or sketchnotes in your own words defining these terms and answering these questions. Again, please take notes in your own words as you seek to understand. If you do not finish in the class time provided, this is time-critical homework because you’ll need this insight for class this week!

Banned Books Notes:

  • First Amendment
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Censorship
  • Banned vs. Challenged
  • Why do books get challenged or banned? What trends or commonalities do you notice in the reasons for bans or challenges?

On Wednesday 9/26 and Thursday 9/27, we are in the Library with Mrs. Eppelsheimer! The discussion questions are on GoogleClassroom, which is where you’ll turn them in.

Copy of Dear Banned Author (3)_1

Learning Targets:

  • Express appreciation for an author or book in writing by following the tips given below.
  • Meet the expectations of the 8th grade Writing Specs.

From the American Library Association:

Dear Banned Author is a letter-writing campaign hosted by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. During Banned Books Week, readers are encouraged to write to their favorite banned or challenged authors, sharing what their stories meant to them. The goal of the campaign is to not only raise awareness of books that are threatened with censorship and support authors, but also encourage thoughtful discussions about the power of words and how essential it is to have access to a variety of viewpoints in libraries. Authors also have shared fan letters as support when there’s a public challenge to their books. Speaking out for banned and challenged books is vital in the fight against censorship.

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom hopes that you realize that as a student and young person in America today, your words “have the power to sway decisions, to defend access to books, to stop censorship. Your words can combat the silencing of stories.”

This week, as part of Banned Books Week, we will participate in the ALA’s Dear Banned Author campaign. We will each write at least one postcard to a living author whose work is important to us or our communities. As you choose a contemporary author, consider the ALA’s question: What book has impacted your life?

Click here for a list of authors’ names, addresses, and twitter handles! If the author you would like to write to is not on this list, please see Doc for help.

Click here for the rest of the assignment. Please carefully follow the instructions! Pay attention to detail. You can also find several options for going Above and Beyond on the assignment sheet!

You’re on Deadline!

The Ideals of the Declaration: Which Is Most Important? Essay Final Draft Instructions

Learning Targets:

  • I can compose a clear, concise claim that identifies my main, central argument.
  • I can support my claim with evidence and examples.
  • I can explain my evidence with sound reasoning that demonstrates how it supports my claim.
  • I can write with an academic voice, which is more formal and less conversational.
  • I can accurately cite the sources of my evidence.
  • I can meet the expectations of the 8th grade Writing Specs.
  • I can follow all instructions provided. Note: This score is either a 0 or a 3 and cannot be reassessed.

GoogleDocs Document Set-Up:

GoogleDocs document name: First Name Last Name AS English Section DOI Mini-Q Essay / Example: Xavier Barth 1 DOI Mini-Q Essay

Page set-up: MLA format

  • Header with last name and page number in top right corner of every page in 12 pt TNR font (insert header, right justified, type last name, hit space bar, insert page number).
  • 12 pt TNR font, double-spaced — Everything is double-spaced with no skipped lines anywhere in the essay.
  • First line: Name / Second line: AS English Section / Third line: Date (I use due date) / Fourth line: Title (centered) / Fifth line: Essay begins.
  • Title may be in a different font or size but cannot take up more than one line. Capitalize important words in the title.

Document Evidence in the Mini-Q Essay:

  • Whenever you use information from a Document, you need to identify where the information is from.
  • Introduce your evidence, meaning identify what Document your evidence is from, whether you are directly quoting or paraphrasing your source.
  • Give as much context for the Document as possible, including author names and article or artifact titles.
  • Use attributive tags that weave the evidence into your essay as seamlessly as possible. Examples of attributive tags (used to introduce evidence and attribute it to its source) include:


  • According to the “Declaration of Sentiments” in Document A…
  • As the political cartoon by Steve Greenberg in Document B shows, …
  • “The Consent of the Governed: Essential Principles” in Document C states…
  • According to the “Declaration of Tea Party Independence” in Document D, …


  • HIGHLIGHT your main claim/thesis statement for the entire essay in YELLOW (in your introduction paragraph). Also highlight the mini-claim/topic sentence in each body paragraph in YELLOW.
  • HIGHLIGHT in GREEN particularly strong, descriptive, effective word choices. Be extremely selective.
  • HIGHLIGHT in BLUE vocabulary words. Show off your understanding of vocabulary words!
  • HIGHLIGHT each “to be” verb in PINK. Hopefully you have very few of these! You do not need to highlight “to be” verbs from quotations. (“To be” verbs listed below.)
Writing SpecsPut on your writing specs and compare your paper to the Writing Specs for 8th Grade.

Commas and Semicolons: 

Look at your use of commas and semicolons. Try at least one semicolon!

Commas and Conjunctions:

IC + comma + conjunction + IC.

IC no comma DC.

Introductory word, phrase, or clause:

Introduction + comma + IC.


IC + semicolon + IC.

When you’re ready, submit your GoogleDoc on GoogleClassroom.