Monday, October 10, 2011

Adv. or Prep?

In the following lesson,  the students are practicing using the same words as different parts of speech.  One sentence will contain a word functioning as a preposition and in the other sentence, the same word will be used as an adverb.

Choose five words from the list below.  Write two sentences for each word.  In one sentence use the word as an adverb.  In another similar sentence, use the word as a preposition.  After writing the sentences, choose your best example and add to wall wisher for further analysis. Go to and create an account using your current user name and password.  After you have finished, click on this link to add your example sentences:  Adv or Prep?

Prepositions of Choice
above under down
around on before
along in across

Example for using the word off.
Tom pulled his boots off.  (off has no object and therefore is functioning as an adverb.)
Tom picked up his boots off the floor. (off has the word floor as its object and therefore is functioning as a preposition.)

1.  Adverb
1. Preposition
2. Adverb
2. Preposition
3. Adverb
3. Preposition
4. Adverb
4. Preposition
5. Adverb
5. Preposition

Wall Wisher

I got this from Tom Barrett's website about the many different ways in which you can use Wall Wisher.  We are now participating in Global Virtual Classroom (GVC) where we will be working with others around the world and it has some great ideas for collaboration.

19 Interesting Ways to Use Wall Wisher

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writing a Thesis After Narrowing a Topic for a Research Paper

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.40.50 AM

What happens when you discover that your topic is too big?
A topic that seems like it is perfect for research can become too big after you’ve learned a little more about it.  If this happens, you need to narrow your topic to make it more manageable.  You can do this by considering different ways to restrict your paper topic.
Some of the ways you can narrow your paper topic are by:
  • Who – population or group (e.g., elementary students; boys/girls; Asian Americans)
  • What – discipline or focus (e.g., education)
  • Where – geographic location (e.g., United States; elementary schools; small towns)
  • When – time period or era (19th century; Renaissance; Vietnam War)
  • Why – why is the topic important? (to the class, to the field, or to you)
For example, a paper about exercise would be very broad and too big to research because there are so many different types of exercises, reasons for exercise, and people who exercise.   However, a paper about reasons kids need to participate in daily exercise during school might be just right.

What happens when you discover that your topic is too small?
Sometimes you will find that your topic is too narrow - there is not enough published on your topic.  When this happens, you can try to broaden your topic.  There are a couple of strategies you can try:
One strategy is to choose less specific terms for your search, e.g., standardized tests instead of SATs or performance-enhancing drugs instead of anabolic steroids.
Another strategy is to broaden your topic by changing or removing limits from your topic:
  • Who - population or group (e.g., instead of Memphians, choose a broader section of the country)
  • What  - discipline or focus (e.g., instead of choosing a educational perspective, look at a number of perspectives)
  • Where  - geographic location (e.g., instead of Memphis, choose United States)
  • When  - time period or era (e.g., instead of 2003, choose 2000s or 21st century)
For example, a paper about sports injuries in elementary boys in 2003 might be too narrow of a focus.  But a paper about sports injuries in elementary students in the 21st century might be just right.
Use the following Search engine to find information on your topic: Type in your topic and click "go" to find articles and websites for research to see if there is enough information on your topic.
[xyz-ihs snippet="Sweet-Search"]

This tutorial explains how to write a thesis statement.
The following is an example of a topic: Why FedEx is the top shipping company in the world
The topic should not be in question form but should begin with one of the following:
  • How.... (followed by a subject, not a verb)
  • Why.... (followed by a subject, not a verb)
  • The effects of.....
  • The importance of....
The following is the topic that has been changed to thesis form:  
Topic: Why FedEx is the top shipping company in the world
Thesis: Though there are many fantastic shipping companies in the world, Frederick W. Smith’s FedEx company tops all.  
Note: The thesis should include the key words from the topic.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Timeline of Research Paper

Creating an Outline

Inspiration helps to organize ideas using a cluster diagram which is great for the visual learner who can use shapes and colors to arrange and categorize information. The students have used the cluster diagram for organizing their thoughts for their research paper. They began by using the center circle for their thesis and from there, they linked it to their three supporting details. With each support, any specific examples were linked accordingly. Each section of the cluster contained only words and phrases (not complete thoughts) since they would eventually convert it to outline form. Once they arranged all of their ideas, the simple click of a button turned their graphic organizer into an outline with Roman Numerals, letters, and numbers.

Once the outline was checked for needed revisions and edits, it was then transfered to a word document with another simple click of a button. The ideas from the outline were then used to compose sentences for their research paper.

Reliable Source?

After reading the following information about how to search for reliable internet sources, use this cool technology tool to help you analyze just how reliable your source is.

The Internet is a great resource for research, but you have to remember that it is a public place where anyone can post information. When you want to find a trustworthy source, you need to first take the time to make sure it is reliable. The following are the steps to take to make sure that you have a valid site:

1. Always check to make sure that the source has an author. You can check the author's background to help validate the information.

2. Check the sites URL (http://...) If the site ends in .edu, it is probably an educational site, and you should still be aware of personal opinions. If the site ends in .gov it is probably a reliable government website. You will most likely find factual information here. Sites that end in .org are usually non-profit organization sites and can be reliable and unreliable, so make sure that you are careful not to take someone's opinion as the truth. You can find information on this site that will give you facts, but you may also run across political opinions that might slant one way or the other.

3. You can also follow research suggestions from which suggests that the CARS (credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, and support) method is great for evaluating sources.


Parenthetical Citations

As you research and find information to support your thesis, you will need to give credit to that source within the context of your paper.  This can be done with parenthetical citations which is an alternative to using footnotes.  Throughout your writing, you will need to reference someone else's ideas to support your own and you will accomplish this through paraphrasing or quotations;  you will need to provide the author’s name and the page number of the work in the text of your paper. The following are examples of parenthetical citations found from Mr. McLaughlin's Classes:

Even today, many children are born outside the safety of hospitals (Kasserman 182).

This indicates that you are using information found in a book by somebody named Kasserman (last name) and it was found on page 182.

You may also give the same information in another way, if you want to name the author in your sentence. You might want to do this to add variety to your paper:

According to Laura Kasserman, “many children today do not benefit from the sanitary conditions which are available in modern facilities” (182). Many children are born outside the safety of hospitals.

Be sure to use quotation marks when quoting someone directly.


The following information came from *

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas. But terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offense:
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
2. to use (another's production) without crediting the source
3. to commit literary theft
4. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.
But can words and ideas really be stolen?

According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).
All of the following are considered plagiarism:

* turning in someone else's work as your own
* copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
* failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
* giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
* changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
* copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules)

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism. See our section on citation for more information on how to cite sources properly.

Example for using quotations

Example for using paraphrasing

*What is Plagiarism? (n.d.) Retrieved May 4th, 2009

Using KWL for Brainstorming & Inquiry


Complete the provided word document titled Thesis and KWL. Make sure you place it in the research paper folder on your desktop.  At the top of your word document, write your thesis that will serve as the focus of your paper.  The following is an example of a topic: "Why FedEx is the top Shipping company in the world" The following is the topic that has been changed to thesis form:  Though there are many fantastic shipping companies in the world, Frederick W. Smith’s FedEx company tops all.

Your prior knowledge needs to be recorded so that you can distinguish between what information belongs to you and the new information that you will gather through your research. Using a KWL thinking routine, record everything that you can recall about your thesis. Allow that thesis to be the focus of your research.

K= "What I already know about my topic."  You should already know something about your topic to form an opinion about it.  Make sure that you are very detailed and thorough in providing this information.

W="What I want to Learn about my topic."  This will help guide your research if they are thoughtful, meaningful questions.  Use the following questions from the inquiry process below (yellow) to help you brainstorm ideas. There are no right or wrong answers, so answer the questions accordingly.  You might have several responses to the first question of, "What do I want to learn about this topic."  You will write it in question form; for example, if you wanted to learn about FedEx's logistics that make the company so successful, you could ask, "How many airports, planes, etc. does FedEx have globally?" 

L= "What I have learned."  This part of the KWL thinking routine will not be completed until after you have finished researching and organizing your thoughts in your research paper which is not due until the middle of May.

I found the following from that will help you with inquiry.

Title Page

The following are the requirements for your research paper:

*Font size 16

*Font style must be something traditional such as Times New Roman, Geneva, Ariel, Helvetica, etc.

*The First page is the title page that should have your approved topic centered in the middle of the page. Double space and center your first and last name. Double space again and center the due date May 13, 2011.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brainstorming Research Topics

This information has been moved and updated on my new website, Here is the direct page to the brainstorming and topic list

On Friday, April 15th, you should turn in the following:

1. A page of notes that shows you have brainstormed as you have answered the questions below. 

2. Three possible topics in order of preference.

Brainstorm topic ideas. If you have trouble thinking up creative topics to write about, here are some questions you might ask yourself:

* What am I interested in?
* What do I like to do for fun that might translate into an interesting paper topic?
* What do I feel strongly about?
* What do I know a lot about?
* What would I like to know more about?

* What are some issues or topics that are in the news right now that I find interesting and important?
* What are some issues or topics at my school that I find interesting and important?
* Can my friends or family members offer me suggestions for topics that I find interesting and important?

Evaluate each appropriate topic for ease and quality.
How difficult will this topic be to research and write about?
Is the topic too broad?
Is the topic too narrow?
Remember to get help from the teacher to find out if your topic is manageable. You also might need to do some library and computer research to find out how much information is available about your considered topic.

Pick the topic on your list that you find most interesting and important. Remember, it's much easier to write a paper that you find interesting than one you do not, so take the time to pick out a topic you truly care about. The topic can NOT be something that you already know a great deal about.  It defeats the purpose of needing to research to learn more about it.

Get permission from the teacher to make sure that your topic is appropriate and not controversial. Then, let the fun begin as the research process unfolds during English class! Follow my blog posts as I take you through the steps of researching and writing a paper on your approved topic.

The following topics are from the past years that you can get ideas from as well:

Why Lacrosse is a challenging sport
Why the Vietnam War was One of the Worst of All Time
How Nuclear Missiles Cause Devastation
Why Steve Nash is the Best NBA Player
How Pirates have evolved Over Time
How Aircraft Carriers Can Improve
Autistic Savants: Drawbacks and Advantages
Why Jamar Chaney is the Best Rookie Linebacker in the NFL
The Challenges of Conquering Mt. Everest
Why Gil Stovall is One of the Best Swimmers in America
The Reasons for Butterfly Migration
Why High Fructose Corn Syrup is Unhealthy
UFO's: Myth or Reality
Why Golf is One of the Most Challenging Sports
Why the Octopus is One of the Most Exotic Animals Ever

The Causes and Effects of Sun Exposure
Why Mt. Everest is the Hardest Mountain to Climb
The Causes and Effects of Arthritis
The Cruelty of Using Animals for Entertainment in the Circus
Why Black Hawk Down Went so Bad
Why Beagles are Unique Dogs
The Importance of Recycling
What Makes America's Armed Forces the Most Advanced in the World
Why the Swine Flu is such a Perilous Disease
Why the University of Alabama is the Best College
The Negative Effects of Cigarettes
Why Alcatraz is World Famous
The Reasons Why Pet Snakes Should be Prohibited

The Devastating Effects of World War II
Why the Red Birds is the Best AAA Baseball Team
How the Zulu Tribe of Africa lives a Unique Life
The Effects of Steroids
How Shoes Affect Your Running Form
The Yeti: Myth or Reality
The Causes and Effects of Tornadoes in Tornado Alley
Why Al Capone is the Most Notorious Gangster of all time
Why 9/11 was the Most Tragic Attack on America
How the Traditions of the Masters Were Created
The Causes and Effects of Snake Venom
Why Hurricanes are the Most Devastating Natural Disasters
The Causes and Effects of Dreams
UFO's: Myth or Reality

The Benefits of Boy Scouts
Why Exotic Cars are the Fastest Cars Ever Made
The Likes and Differences of Native American and American Lacrosse
Lochness Monster: Myth or Reality
Why It's Essential for Kids to Play Sports
How the Mayans Created Amazing Architecture
Why the Beatles Are the Best Rock Group of all Time
The Benefits of Modern Day Warfare

King Louis 16th and the Fall of the French Monarchy
Why Hershey is such a Great Company
Why Pixar is the Best Animation Studio
Why Being on Ski Patrol is so Challenging
Why Yellowstone National Park is World Famous
Why Modern Day Zoos Are Better Than Zoos of the Past
Why the Masters is One of the Best Tournaments in Professional Golf
The Effects of Autism
The Importance of Going Green With Solar Energy
How the Dust Bowl was Caused by the Average Farmer and Not by the Forces of Nature
Hurricanes: Causes and Effects

Why Performance Enhancing Drugs Should Not Be Allowed
How Antartica is Being Affected By Global Warming
Why Street Racing is an Intense Pass Time
The Causes and Effects of Global Warming
How Pancreatic Cancer Affects Lives
Why the Credit Crash Affects America
How Brain Tumors Affect People
How Space Travel Has Improved Over the Years
How Going Green Can Affect the U.S.
How F-16's and A-300's are Alike and Different
Obesity: An American Epidemic
How Navy Seals are Trained for Sea Hijacking
How the Stock Market Affects the United States

How Smoking Can Affect the Lives of Ordinary People
How the Technology of World War II Affected Its Outcome
Why the Velociraptor is the Deadliest Animal of All Living Creatures
The Affects of Smallpox: Then and Now
How the Armenian Genocide Was the Worst of ALL Time
Why the Deep Sea is Rarely Explored by Humans
Why Mount Everest is the Hardest Feat for Climbers to Conquer
What Happened for the Fight for Fallujah to Unfold
Why O.C.D. is Very Challenging
Why Slam ball is the Next Up and Coming Sport
How Smoking is Ruining American Lives
How the Beatles are the Best Rock-N-Roll Band of All Time
How Lives are Affected by Dwarfism
The Causes and Effects of Diabetes
Leo Frank Murder Case: Innocent or Guilty?

The Curse of the Great Bambino
Bigfoot: Legend or Reality
How the X-43 is the Fastest Jet on Earth
How Knowing God Improves One's Quality of Life
Why the Cuttlefish is the Most Amazing Animal Known
How Aspirin is Beneficial
Why the Traditions of the Masters Make it the Best Tournament of All Time
Why the Who was one of the Greatest Rock Bands of all Time
How Modern Day Pirates are an Immense Threat to Every Docking Point in Samalia
UFOs: Fact or Fiction

Monday, March 7, 2011

Exchange Club Essay Contest Winners!!

The 5th grade recently participated in the Exchange Club’s Crime Prevention Essay Contest, and five boys were selected as a finalist. Trace D, Will H, Rucker W, Jackson M, and Bradley K proceeded to the next phase of the contest as the Law Enforcement Officials and the Exchange Club members interviewed them on Thursday, March 3rd. The two PDS winners of the essay contest, Bradley and Rucker, have been selected among participants from Memphis City, Shelby County and other private schools in the area as Jr. Police Director and Jr. Deputy Director. It is an honor to have such a large number of boys to represent PDS as the finalists in the contest!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We have been discussing mindset in the classroom throughout the year, and I found a great critical thinking activity to put the students' mindset to the test.


This problem solving game has no directions, and the students have to use cause and effect to get through each world and move on to the next.

This is a similar game to Questionaut where there are no directions for problem-solving.  The objective is to get the character, Samorost, to explore the spaceship that is flying toward his planet.

I wanted to share the comments and I am going to categorize them according to mindsets, fixed and growth:

Fixed Mindset Comments:
What's the point?
I don't get this.
This is too hard
It's impossible
Oh my gosh! What do you do?
This doesn't make sense
I could beat this if I wanted to
Fixed Mindset Actions:
A boy threw his hands up.
There was huffing and puffing.
Pouting took place.
Deep sighs were heard.
Heavy typing was heard as if a forceful stroke on the keyboard would solve the problem.
Hitting the desk out of frustration was seen.

Growth Mindset Comments:
Yes! I did it!
You just gotta think and you can do it.
It makes me feel good when I finally do something.
yea! I accomplished it, I so accomplished it.
That level 3 was really hard but I got through it.
This takes a lot of patience.
This is awesome!

These comments reflected the features of the boys' thinking which are not giving up, asking a lot questions, generating multiple ideas and explanations, being a critical thinker, and not stopping or giving up too soon. In the book The Thinking Classroom it states, "Good thinking is a mind-set, a collection of attitudes and inclinations with which one approaches thinking." It goes on to point out that "students have misconceptions about good thinkers, often equating good thinking with 'being smart.'" They need to realize that in order to be a good thinker, they have to learn that it is a matter of a disposition and not intellect alone.

Check out my new digital learning website: GrammarCloud!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pronouns in Context: Nightmare Vacation!

The students have just finished studying personal, possessive, reflexive, interrogative, demonstrative, and indefinite pronouns. They wrote about a nightmare vacation as they applied their knowledge of pronouns in context. Below are some samples from each class: 

I was on mountain top peering down at the hopeless town. I had a lone dog of mine sitting beside me. My small heart was thumping as I was trying to think of an idea. The town boiled with excitement as Christmas was coming and their song started to drive me out of control. I suddenly came up with a hunch to end my thoughts, “I’ll steal all of their stuff and ruin Christmas.” We started to build our sleigh to rocket down the mountain of snow. My dog’s ears flopped and his legs shivered in the milky flakes. Through the houses we went stuffing toys, candy, stockings, and even cats up the chimney. All of the treasures were ours. Up to the steepest of the mountain we went, when guilt shocked me in the heart. “What will the enthusiastic kids do?" I thought. I turned the sleigh around and there we went down the snowy hill throwing presents and blaring a horn in praise. Christmas was here and everyone enjoyed it.

On my family vacation we encountered some boiling events. Our family went to our lake house in Arkansas, but unfortunately I forgot sunscreen. So I was now a baked potato. I asked my parents, “May I borrow some of your sunscreen,” but the best they had was 1 spf. Then, suddenly my brother told me that his hat flew off in the cool summer breeze, so I had to let him borrow mine! If you think your family vacation was sweltering, than look at ours.

My nightmare vacation was when I went to the amusement park, Six Flags. First, our flight got canceled that I had to wake up at 4 p.m. for, so we drove.....As result of eating chili at Burger King, my sister Phoebe threw up on her own leg and started crying. Both my brothers and my iPhone ran out of battery, which was our only source of entertainment, and my dad was really mad at us for no apparent reason. Then his car got a flat tire, which delayed our trip a couple of hours because the next gateway was 45 minutes away. When I got to Six Flags, it was snowing its brains out. Also we found a pleasant surprise that our luggage was gone. That was my nightmare vacation.

My last family vacation to Destin was a complete nightmare. First, in my dad’s Lexus, my little brother, Timmy, decided to get sick on my back. His face was green, mine was, too, and my shirt . . . well, its color is still green. Next we checked into our Marriot hotel, but we had the same luggage as another guest. This led to a complete disaster because he took ours, we took his, and the whole ordeal was terrible. None of his clothes fit any of us! Lastly, on our boat trip, someone claimed our trip as their family’s, and we were accused and kicked out for trying to steal a reservation! We were framed for attempted robbery when we were the victims themselves. In other words, last family vacation was a horrible experience, and I hope it will never happen again.

Check out my new digital learning website: GrammarCloud!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sentence Starters

I have been following a fabulous blog and Tom Barrett had these wonderful sentence starters posted for engaging students in creative writing. These were compiled by over 100 educators on Twitter who contributed these using hashtags where "each tag is specific to a topic or theme that gives other teachers a little bit of a focus for their contributions." What a great way to effectively collaborate using Twitter! I would like for my English students to practice using some of these sentence starters as they creatively write in the writing section of their journals.  

Check out my new digital learning website: GrammarCloud!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Check out my new digital learning website: GrammarCloud!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Common or Proper?

A writer is a more effective communicator when Using specificity in writing because it gives a reader so much more information. Using proper vs. common nouns adds detail to a piece of writing where the reader can envision the message you are trying to convey or a picture you are trying to paint.

Activate your memory and brainstorm a list of common and proper nouns that would represent each of the following topics.  Later, we will refer to our list when using specific nouns in the context of writing.

list 3 common nouns for the following:
Example: kitchen-plates, blender, microwave

List 3 proper nouns for each of the following:
Example: Movies- Coca-cola, Malco Theater, The Chronicles of Narnia
animal pet names
national landmarks
Bible characters
fictional characters
famous battles

Check out my new digital learning website: GrammarCloud!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An ancient Chinese Proverb best sums it up by stating, “Tell me and I forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I understand."

Monday, January 3, 2011