March 3

Advice from your peers

Assignment for Blocks 3 and 4:

Check out the awesome feedback one of my classes (the students I share with Ms. Haseltine) left you on their blogs! Simply click on the link to Ms. Haseltine’s class blog, then in her blogroll, find the blogs that start with the code 7!

For example: (click on these to get started…) Read and comment on at least 3 today in class. Then begin your own Slice of Life for today. Remember to number it for the challenge.

7 Hours of School and Hours of Dance.

7 Minutes of Story Telling 

7 Siddhant’s 6th Grade Life

7 Live, Laugh, Love

7 Francine’s Life Blog

 7 Beginning a new day, week, and YEAR!

7 My Life as a Little 6th Grader

7 My Sixth Grade Life

7 6th Grade Life

7 My School Life


February 27

5 Minute Friday

Today’s Word: Hullabaloo

What a fantastic-sounding word! HULLABALOO! It sounds like what it means to me which is a commotion or fuss. So doesn’t that make it onomatopoeia? I’m not sure. But I do know that when I assigned this as the word for 5 minute Friday, there was a great HULLABALOO! Students were shouting that they had never heard of this word and what would they write? So I pulled up and copied/pasted the following:

noun: hullabaloo; plural noun: hullabaloos
  1. a commotion; a fuss.
    “remember all the hullabaloo over the golf ball?”
    synonyms: fuss, commotion, hue and cry, uproar, outcry, clamor, storm, furor,hubbub, ruckus, brouhaha; More

    It took them a long time to get settled. And then after the hullaballoo dissipated, there was some sort of hullabaloo next door! It sounded like the Promethean Board was playing a hullaballoo-of-a-song.

    Is there an adjective form to the word hullabaloo? Can something be hullabalooiful or hullabalooious?
    Haha. I guess I can coin a new word from hullabaloo if I want. The word reminds me of that character from A Jungle Book…the bear…Baloo! Like, if his last name was Baloo that would have been cool because then his first name could have been Hulla. Get it?!

    My Top 10 Places Full of Hullabaloo:

    1. The locker area. Ugh.

    2. The cafeteria. Double Ugh.

    3. The hallway after lunch when students are lined up outside of their teacher’s doors.

    4. Block 2 right now while I’m trying to think of my top 10.

    5. Pep rallies! I love the hullabaloo of a high school pep rally.

    6. A sporting event! The hullabaloo of a boxing match features boos and cheers. The hullabaloo of a baseball game includes shouts for “Popcorn! Cold soda!”

    7. My son playing with his 2 cousins. Now THAT’S a hullabaloo.

    8. Telling my 2-year-old son, “No, you may not have that candy.” That creates a hullabaloo.

    9. The gym before school where the sixth grade congregates.

    10. The people on Facebook when there is a forecast of snow. Wow! What a hullabaloo!

February 27

Adding to my Someday List

My Someday List is a running list of books I want to read someday. It’s valuable to have because good readers always have their next book “waiting in the wings.” When I go to the library or whenever I finish reading a book, it’s always a good idea to check my Someday List to save a lot of time finding the next great book to get lost in.

Here are 3 books I can’t wait to check out. I’m adding them to my Someday List now. These are books I found on the March Book Madness website.

The first one is called The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

download (8)

The reason I’m adding The Crossover to my list is because it won the 2015 Newberry Medal which is a prestigious book award. Also, I’ve heard from Ms. Haseltine that her students are loving it. Here’s an excerpt from Amazon Books:

     “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

This book summary caught my attention because I like the way the book SOUNDS. It reads like poetry. I also think I could learn something about basketball. I’m excited that a book written in verse is finally garnering a lot of attention and acclaim in the publishing world.

61oAigRWnBL._AA160_The second one is called Greenglass House by Kate Milford. I saw this book at the school library displayed on the top shelf and the cover caught my eye.

It’s a fantasy about a twelve year old boy named Milo who lives in an inn. It’s winter time and he’s on holiday break when all sorts of strange events begin to happen. He must figure out what’s going on along with the help of the innkeeper’s cook’s daughter. The book supposedly reveals not only the mystery of Greenglass House but also shows the characters learning about themselves. That sounds interesting to me. I am usually not a huge fan of fantasy but as long as I only have to suspend my imagination a little, I can usually get into the book. I think I also want to read it because I love old houses and the stories that are locked within.


The third one is called Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I have heard so many great things about this one! Everyone was buzzing about it at NCTE this year. It’s also a novel in verse which I LOVE. 9780399252518_custom-924dd4d31f7bb7eb200cdc4ab20453f8fa19d7e1-s1200-c15

November 24

Comic-Con for English Teachers


Here’s the hotel, brilliantly decorated for the holiday season.

The convention was held at the Gaylord National Resort.

The convention was held at the Gaylord National Resort.







I packed my suitcase and headed to National Harbor, Maryland for the past few days. I  participated in The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention! A convention is an event where participants gather and hold programs and other events, meet experts, famous personalities, and each other.

You may have noticed that comic conventions have risen in popularity over the past decade, most likely due to increasing social media presence. Well, the convention I attended was similar to a comic-con because I am a huge fan of all things English Language Arts-ish. Instead of thousands of comic book fans wandering around a convention center dressed as their favorite superhero or villain, just picture hundreds and hundreds of English teachers walking around geeking-out over popular authors, beloved leaders in the English teacher field, and complimenting one another on their cardigans, comfy yet stylish loafers, and colorful scarves. I had a blast!

But the real reason we were all gathered together, is YOU. Because you are important to us and you are our future. We want to learn the best ways to motivate, engage, and coach you into being the best student you can be! Sometimes teaching can be really exhausting and stressful and getting together with other grownups who have a lot in common can be ENERGIZING. That’s how I feel tonight–energized!

Check out our class Instagram and Twitter accounts for some more photos from my trip. Starting tomorrow, I will be sharing new books, ideas, and stategies for reading, writing, and thinking with you–all because of my time at NCTE.


Meeting Jon Scieszka, author of our class read-aloud, Knucklehead! What a funny, down-to-Earth guy he was!

Meeting Jon Scieszka, author of our class read-aloud, Knucklehead! What a funny, down-to-Earth guy he was!











Mrs. Smith, another 6th grade English Teacher at ERMS, also attended the conference. One night we enjoyed a fine dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant.

Mrs. Smith, another 6th grade English Teacher at ERMS, also attended the conference. One night we enjoyed a fine dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant.

I volunteered at the registration check-in and helped teachers from all over the country get the information they needed to start the conference. Many ERMS teachers did the same.

I volunteered at the registration check-in and helped teachers from all over the country get the information they needed to start the conference. Many ERMS teachers did the same.















Long lines to meet favorite authors! Totally worth it!

Teachers had to wait in long lines to meet our favorite authors! Totally worth it!

Here's author Andrea Davis Pinkney, the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of many books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, works of historical fiction and non-fiction. She's signing a copy of her new book The Red Pencil for our class.

Here’s author Andrea Davis Pinkney, the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of many books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, works of historical fiction and non-fiction. She’s signing a copy of her new book The Red Pencil for our class.

I attended sessions that I thought would benefit our classes the most! Here's a poetry one that I loved.

I attended sessions that I thought would benefit our classes the most! Here’s a poetry one that I loved.


Of course I had to meet Gingi from Shrek!

Of course I had to meet Gingi from Shrek! Oh what fun!

November 19

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water

     We have finished reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. At the end of the story, we listened to a special message for you, the reader.

Salva’s message to you:

 “I overcame all the difficult situations of my past because of the hope and perseverance that I had. I would not have made it without these two things. To young people I would like to say, Stay calm when things are hard and not going right with you. You will get through it when you persevere instead of quitting. Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.”  

salva.01                                   ~Salva Dut


Directions: Post a paragraph response in a comment to this post. Check for proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and above all, be reflective.

1. Please write about a time when you needed to use hope and perseverance to overcome a hardship. Explain how you did this. What does Salva’s message mean to you? Do you think this is good advice? Explain.
(Tip: Look up the meaning of these two words before you begin to write and brainstorm times in your life when you showed hope and perseverance)

2. After you post your paragraph response, please reply to at least 2 other student comments.

October 6

Guest Blogger: Meet Lipika!


Dear students,

I would like to introduce you to Lipika, an 8th grader here, who has generously volunteered to help us this year as part of our school’s wonderful teacher helper program. You may not see her in your class, but her work will be a blessing to each of you. Please join me in welcoming her in the comments section. 

~Mrs. O’Brien 


Hey guys!

My name is Lipika and I will be assisting your teacher this year along with helping you guys. I want to tell you some things about me. I am volleyball player here at Eagle Ridge. I have always had a great love for volleyball and mostly anything that includes me moving around. I do not like sitting down for a long time.

I am also an 8th grader so I already went through mostly what you guys are going through now. 6th grade right now might seem pretty similar to elementary school because it is but you guys really have to always pay attention because right now everything might seem unnecessary but believe me you will need all the knowledge if you are going to take high school leveled classes in 7th grade like algebra 1 or a language. But if you study hard and always look at the bright side you are going to have plenty of fun. Anyways let’s get onto why I am here…

As you guys know I am in 8th grade and I am in a program where I help teachers and students with anything they are struggling with. For example, I am a teachers assistant so I help your teacher with simple things such as printing out papers, or helping her make plans, etc. Even though I am a teacher’s assistant I am a mini-teacher for you guys. So if you guys have any questions feel free to ask.

Also in this program, other students like me in 8th grade tutor students that are struggling with a subject. ( Math, English, History, etc.) This is not a required program but it is really cool. I really like doing volunteering stuff so I really like this program but not everyone has the same feeling.

Also I will come every 3rd block and only on A-Days. In part of this program I would really like to know what things you would like for me to help you with because I would love to help you guys with anything you feel unsure with. I might know what kind of trouble you are facing because I’ve already been through 6th grade. In 6th grade I had Ms. Haseltine, one of the other 6th grade English teachers here at ERMS. And I absolutely loved her class!

I have noticed that you guys read a lot of books and in 6th grade I was a very unsure person on what genre of books I like to read but now finally in 8th grade I know what books I like to read. Everyone develops at their own pace so feel free to ask me and I might be able to help pick out a book that is right for you. Some authors I really like are Sarah Dessen, Adriana Trigiani, John Green, and Veronica Roth. Some of my favorite books are the Viola In Reel Life series, Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars.

I hope you guys have found out a little more about me and I would love to know more about you.



October 3

Learning Narrative Structure

In class this week, we have been studying the narrative structure of writing. We discussed how all good stories have structure–and there are building blocks (elements of narrative structure) that fit together like Legos to form this structure). These “Legos” create the novels we love to read, the short stories that thrill us, and the TV episodes and movies we can’t turn off.  We call these five important “Legos” of a story:

1. Exposition

2. Rising Action

3. Climax

4. Falling Action and

5. Resolution.

We learned in elementary school that all good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now that we’re in middle school and getting more sophisticated, we are going to use more precise vocabulary for these labels. The beginning of a story is the exposition and this is where the reader meets the main character(s) and is introduced to the setting (time and place). Sometimes the exposition can take up many chapters or paragraphs; sometimes exposition is much quicker in a short story.

There is usually an inciting event or something that happens that starts the rising action of a story, where one event leads to another, like dominoes falling over, building suspense until the climax, or turning point of the story. Here, in the climax, the main character comes face to face with an important decision or conflict in the story, or this could be the most action-packed part of the story. But we know we are in the climax because something changes after this part of the story. Things are different as we move into all of the events following the climax (aka the falling action) and finally the resolution, where all of the loose ends are tied up and we hopefully arrive at a satisfying conclusion.

We are still reading stories for enjoyment, but now we are more skilled readers, and equipped with this knowledge, and can analyze or break stories down into these parts for further discussion when we want. We have used a plot diagram to do this in class. We watched a simple cartoon, Lambert, The Sheepish Lion,  where each part of the plot was clear, then, using technology we moved scene-shots from the cartoon around on the Promethean Board and decided as a class how the story worked together so well to make us smile, laugh, and sing along.  And now when we write a story, we know we want to have these essential elements to make it the best it can be.

inigo blog

Using the ActivSlate to plot
the exposition of Lambert,
The Sheepish Lion.

September 23

Slice of Life #3

20140923_124248Slice of Life #3 (Rough Draft aka “Sloppy Copy”)

Today we are writing from meaningful objects…here’s the Slice of Life I wrote with Block 5:

Gracie Lou’s Paw Prints

When we first got Gracie Lou, her paws were so big she reminded me of a lion cub. They were golden fluff balls and so soft. I used to hold her in my arms and even kiss the bottoms of her huge paws. They didn’t always smell good…sometimes they smelled like Fritos corn chips! Haha. But I loved her so much.
I wasn’t married and I didn’t have a son when we first got Gracie Lou. She was named for the character in the movie Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock, Gracie Lou Freebush. That movie always made me laugh and Gracie our little golden furball always made me laugh, too.

One day I was at a store and saw a little kit that parents could use to create a keepsake of their kids’ hand or footprints. I decided I wanted a keepsake of Gracie’s “handprints” so I bought the kit and rolled out the kit’s dough and got my puppy into the kitchen. I remember sitting on the hardwood floor and smooshing her chubby paws into the dough. It was hilarious. She had no idea what was going on but she licked my face and seemed excited I was paying her so much attention. It took a few tries from what I remember because she was squirmy.

After we were done, I took wet paper towels and cleaned off her paws and let her out back to go potty.

Then I set the dough out to dry. After a few days it did and then I added a picture of her. This took place in 2004 and now it’s 10 years later and I’m glad I captured that moment in time…framed for my students to see in my classes.

September 17

Mrs. O’Brien’s Slice of Life #1

NOTE: For me, writing a first draft and sharing it via a public blog makes me feel vulnerable. But sharing first drafts with students is something I believe in because writing is a process. And sometimes, lousy first drafts are the only way to get to the next, hopefully better draft. I don’t ever want to post a polished piece I have carried through the entire writing process and pass it off to students like that’s how it looked when I started. So here is my raw, unformed mess.  (I’m still trying to figure out why it won’t let me indent the paragraphs…sigh.) Enjoy!



I have a slight obsession with bags. I call them teacher bags because they’re what I use to tote around all of the folders, and lesson plans, and professional books, and my lunchbox, and extra pair of contact lenses (just in case), and pencil pouch, cell phone, car keys, wallet, coffee thermos, grade sheets, rosters, writer’s notebook, mail, water bottle, the Dunkin Donut in a brown paper bag that a kind colleague gave me, my leftover apple from lunch that I didn’t have the heart to throw away, my spiral book of my To-Do lists; and the novel I hope I get to read that night if all goes well.

As a new(ish) mom, I also find things in my teacher bags that amuse me and surprise me because I’m still not used to being someone’s mom sometimes. I’ve found the board book version of “Good Night Moon”, Legos, and sippy cup lids in my teacher bag. Finding items from my son always thrills me and makes me miss him. I usually pause and think of what he’s probably doing at the moment, and I feel blessed I get to see him after school.


Sometimes it’s hard for me to decide what to bring with me when I leave my house. I like to err on the side of caution and take anything I think I may need. I play the “What if?” game and run a panoply of scenarios through my head. “What if my left contact lens falls out while I’m teaching? That’s it! I’m packing my glasses, too.”
Because of this struggle, I have acquired several teacher bags. And I’m always on the lookout for the perfect teacher bag for me. I want a teacher bag that can hold a lot of stuff, look kinda cute and stylish, and keep me from hurting my back. I don’t want to develop health problems from lugging so many things between school and home each morning and late afternoon. Because of this, I have tried many teacher bags and experienced the vicissitudes of teacher transport.

When I was a first-year teacher, I had no idea what I would need when I was grading papers or planning at home so I brought EVERYTHING to and from school for most of the year. For that, I needed a little crate on wheels. The trouble was, every time it rained, all of my items would get wet.

teacher tote all

Then I tried expensive backpacks. If the backpack had too many pockets, I would lose small items and I never seemed able to put items in the same place each time so I could find them again. Also, even the most expensive backpacks were no match for the volume and mass of the items I toted back and forth.

polka dotlife is goodswiss backpack

I soon moved on to a sleek leather satchel that I quickly discovered looked great but didn’t have enough room for anything. I got a lot of compliments on it but I had to carry not only my satchel, but a backpack and usually a grocery bag around at the same time.

green leather

Over the summer, I found an awesome laundry tote with handles at The Container Store in Reston. (Don’t get me started on how much I adore that place!) The tote was made from heavy duty plastic, a pretty powder blue color, and could fit a lot! I used it for play dates with my son and taking him to the pool. It could fit beach towels, swim diapers, sippy cups, water bottles, snacks, an extra change of clothes, a beach ball, and even my purse, inside.


laundry tote

As summer wound down and teacher work days began, I found I had grown attached to the laundry tote with handles. It was so easy to toss items in and go. It was sturdy. As I made the transition from home to school, I continued to carry new items for my classroom in the laundry tote. Slowly, it became my new teacher bag. One that made more than  a few of my colleagues snicker. I began to feel like maybe it wasn’t appropriate or professional enough to be carrying my teacher goods in a laundry tote. So I looked at it sadly and returned it to the laundry room.

But what would I use now? That’s when it hit me! I know, I thought. I’ll use my rolling suitcase. The wheels rotate 360 degrees, the color is a nice shade of green, and there are pockets and zippers but not too many to confuse me. It’s protective enough so that rain won’t damage student papers, there’s a long handle so I won’t hurt my back, and it will fit everything easily! I was so excited to try it out that I packed it up that moment.

green lugagge

The rolling luggage I use is the one on the right.

It was awesome! I loved it! The only problem was when I wheeled it into work that next day, a few teachers laughed and I felt a little silly. I started to rethink my idea until I looked around the parking lot when I was leaving work that afternoon. I saw teacher after teacher lugging multiple bags to their cars. Some had to stop and reorganize their belongings. Some bags looked so heavy I felt bad for the teachers. Suddenly, I didn’t care what others thought. I had found something that worked for me even if it it’s original purpose was for traveling.

It makes sense to me to use my luggage for now. Maybe another teacher bag will come along, who knows? But to me, the only thing sillier than using a luggage for a teacher backpack…would be NOT to use one because I was worried about what other people think. I like my rolling luggage and maybe it will catch on and be the latest teacher trend.

February 21

Spring is in the Air

I wanted to share two lovely pictures one of our Family and Consumer Sciences teachers took this week. The snow is melting and and spring is in the air. These images remind us that we truly have a beautiful school building and property grounds.


photo courtesy of Beth Newport


photo courtesy of Beth Newport