Saturday, May 7, 2016

Special Recognition

Team Hero teachers are so proud of what our students have accomplished this year so far. They have been dedicated to their studies and to making the world a better place.   Thanks to our students for always showing us your best.

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The English Department is pleased to recognize five students for their success in recent writing contests. Eighth grader Sophia Gresalfi is a runner up at the New York State level in the Letters About Literature contest. In addition, all three of our entries into the NCTE's Promising Young Writers contest, Andrew Apaza, Shin-Young Park and Alice Zhang, all received Certificates of Recognition. Finally, seventh grader Ivy Gu took second place for a poem she submitted to the Kenneth F. Gambone Writing Contest sponsored by LILAC (the Long Island Language Arts Council).

Congratulations to all of these talented student writers, as well as their 6th, 7th and 8th grade teachers! A special thanks to South Middle parents, teachers and administrators for your support of our students and our writing program. (May 2016)

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The English Department hosted a poetry celebration in honor of National Poetry Month. Students stopped by to read their poetry aloud, share their poetry mini-books, take part in creative activities, and enjoy refreshments. Thanks to Team Hero students who wowed the participants with their performances and their mini-books. (April 2016)

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Congratulations to the talented performers who participated in Oliver, our school musical this year. Special thanks to students who were also part of Stage Crew.  You put on a great show! (March 2016)

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Congratulations to students who participated in our multicultural celebration this year.  All your hard work paid off!  We enjoyed your displays and your performances. (February 2016)

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Congratulations to students who earned Honor Roll this year.  
All your hard work paid off!  Keep up the good work.  

Congratulations also goes out to students who were recognized as STARSStudious, Trustworthy, Altruistic, and Responsible.
You are amazing role models for your peers. (February 2016)

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Ms. Kuhn and Mrs. Marr (English Department) are honored to share that The Rebel Pen, South Middle's art and literary magazine, received the rank of EXCELLENT in the 2015 NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) national Program to Recognize Excellence in Student Literary Magazines (PRESLM). The program recognizes students, teachers, and schools for producing exceptional literary magazines. Its mission is to encourage schools to develop literary magazines and seek excellence in writing and school-wide participation in production. Other schools in our area whose literary magazines received the rank of EXCELLENT include Jericho High School, Manhasset High School, and North Shore High School. South Middle is in fine company! Congratulations to our Rebel Pen staff and student contributors. A special thanks to South Middle parents, teachers, and administrators for encouraging and nurturing our student contributors. (February 2016)

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Thank you to all the performers at the Seventh Grade Talent Show from Team Hero: Nathan, Arianna, Alexandra, Gabriella, Sabrina, Eliana, Amanda, Albert, Chloe, Juliet, Lea, Noa, Kristina, Ivy, Yuna, Zoe, Jillian and Sasha. You certainly impressed me with your dedication and creativity. Thanks to all for being a great audience during the Talent Show and during the Minute-to-Win-It activity. Robert, Oscar, Sabrina and Casey all managed to beat the clock! Congratulations! (December 2015)

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Thank you to all who participated in the Mythology Bee. You represented Team Hero well and all your teachers are proud of you.

Special recognition goes to these students whose performance led to Team Hero being recognized as Mythology Bee Champions: Albert H., Daniel R., Brandon Y., Kevin G., Saif P., and Joonha C. 
(November 2015)

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Team Hero is so proud of our students for their participation in the Thank-A-Veteran Event. Their respectful behavior and intelligent dialogue with the visiting veterans earned them many compliments from the veterans, their family members, school staff and administrators.

In November 2015, the teachers and seventh grade students of Team Hero hosted a special event honoring men and women who have served our country in the armed forces and we will be sharing what we learned in a special history project. Faculty members and students displayed artifacts from family members that have served in the military. Students interviewed veterans from the local VFW in addition to other veterans from the community, and recorded their experiences. In the end, we hope the event instills in our students the importance of showing gratitude and paying respect to the brave men and women who have made tremendous sacrifices in protecting our freedom and our way of life. (November 2015)

Third Quarter Review

Mrs. Marr's English classes balanced assessment practice with outside reading projects, creative writing, public speaking, and poetry activities this quarter. As the English Language Arts Assessment is April 5th, 6th and 7th, 2016, seventh grade students have been reviewing the format of the assessment and brushing up on their test-taking skills on standardized tests by practicing taking sample tests and analyzing their performance in order to improve.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander inspired this quarter's outside reading project. The Crossover won the 2015 Newbery Honor Medal for excellence in young adult fiction. It is a novel in verse featuring a family drama and the sport of basketball. Students read fiction and nonfiction books about sports from our classroom library and from the school library. In their writing and speaking about their reading, students considered writer's craft and persuasive writing techniques, and evaluated the books in persuasive book reviews. Students competed in a March Madness public speaking activity to determine the best sports fiction and nonfiction books for middle school readers. I hope that listening to their classmates' presentations about books will inspire students to read, read, read! Please continue to encourage your child to read and write inside and outside of school. Better reading and writing skills help academic performance across the disciplines. If your child enjoys public speaking, please encourage him or her to join the debate club or to seek leadership positions in Student Government or other clubs and activities in the eighth grade.

As the quarter ends, students will be analyzing, writing, and sharing poetry. Students are encouraged to submit their creative work to Rebel Pen, South Middle's art and literary magazine, and to read their poetry at South Middle's Poetry Cocoa House on April 14th after school or on “Poem In Your Pocket Day." The fourth quarter will be devoted to reading and writing science fiction, reading nonfiction works to understand the science behind science fiction, and completing a portfolio presentation based on their digital portfolio. Maintaining a digital portfolio helps students stay organized, encourages reflection and fosters pride in their work.  Students will be receiving information about the Self-Select Honors Program in English and about the summer reading assignment.

In English and social studies Flex classes, students have been preparing video research projects within their groups. They have spent weeks researching a topic using online periodicals. They used their notes in Google Docs to gather research notes, prepare argument essays and plan their storyboard for their movie. In the computer lab, students are using iMovie to edit and arrange raw footage on their topic. Their task is to create a meaningful video to show both sides of an argument on their topic. Students are in the process of videotaping interviews. In the end, students will be using research gathered through online periodicals and the interviews to create a documentary using iMovie. Their video research projects will be on display at the Akidemy Awards Celebration at 6:30 pm on May 10, 2016. Save the date as it promises to be a wonderful celebration of our students' hard work!

Second Quarter Review

Mrs. Marr‘s English classes entered the world of the past as they began studying historical fiction and nonfiction in the second quarter. The unit opened with a Thank a Veteran event that occurred the week of Veterans Day. Students interviewed local veterans, who served during WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many veterans had a personal connection to Great Neck public schools: Mr. Sam Levitt (retired history teacher), Mr. Sheldon Zweig (retired guidance counselor), Mr. Gil Blum (retired principal of South High), and Mr. David Gurfein (South High alumnus). In their conversations with the veterans, students reflected upon the idea of heroism, the power of storytelling, and the effects of war on an individual and society. The veterans were impressed not only by the caliber of students' questions, but also by their respectful behavior. The Thank a Veteran event was filmed by our local HTV staff and footage will appear in news segments during homeroom. In flex, students created projects based upon their experiences. The ―Thank a Veteran event would not have been possible without the hard work and collaboration of Team Hero teachers and students, the library staff, HTV, the technology staff, the administration, and veterans from the local veterans centers. Thank you to all who made it a meaningful experience!

In the historical fiction unit, students read four books and one play as well as a number of nonfiction historical texts. Many of the historical topics and universal themes align with students‘ work in social studies class. First, students read the classic My Brother Sam Is Dead as a whole class novel, and applied the skills of accumulating the text, envisioning, and organizing and evaluating their ideas in their digital notebooks. Next, in small reading groups, students interpreted the crises faced by the teenage protagonists and the world in which he or she lives in one of the following novels: Light in the Forest, Sophia‘s War, Soldier‘s Heart, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or The Fighting Ground. Students analyzed the Coming of Age motif across two texts making sure to cite specific evidence from both novels in classroom discussions and in their digital notebooks and extended responses. Students also read Petey by Ben Mikaelsen, an author they are familiar with from their work reading Touching Spirit Bear in the sixth grade. Ben Mikaelsen is this year's visiting author. Petey is based on a real life story of a person living with cerebral palsy in the 1920s -1990s. Through their reading of the novel and analysis of secondary sources about the Americans with Disabilities Act, students explored the rights of Americans with physical disabilities during that time period. Students have a chance to write a personal letter to Ben Mikaelsen. Students will also read Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin. If your child enjoys reading Lincoln‘s Grave Robbers, please encourage him or her to read other award-winning books by Mr. Sheinkin.

Finally, students will assume the roles of important historical figures when they study and perform scenes from 1776, The Musical. They will consider the historical context in which the play was written, the techniques used by the writers to breathe life into characters that actually existed in the past, the theme of the play, and its relevance to our lives today. Students will be challenged to think about whether they (and the nation) are living up to the promise of ―life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-- for all Americans.

Looking ahead to the third quarter, we will be studying nonfiction in greater depth, writing persuasive essays, tackling a research project, and reviewing test-taking techniques for the English Language Arts Assessment to be taken April 5-7, 2016. If you received a letter about your child‘s participation in the tutorial(s), please encourage your child to attend regularly to improve his or her skills. As always, students are encouraged to submit writing pieces to The Rebel Pen, South Middle‘s Art and Literary Magazine, and to Middleview, South Middle's student newspaper.

First Quarter Review

Students in Mrs. Marr's English classes explored the nature of heroes and monsters in stories and novels in the first quarter. Students marveled that ancient Greeks asked similar questions about nature, human behavior and the origin of things in myths created thousands of years ago. Ancient Greek myths have persisted for so long because they explore mysteries that we still face today, and because they are so emotionally and intellectually engaging. Students began the mythology unit with an independent reading project in the library. They traced a theme through multiple myths in their notebooks and then in a formal essay.

Next, students analyzed the heroic, yet flawed, nature of Ulysses (Odysseus) in Bernard Evslin's The Adventures of Ulysses, an adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, and are applying what they know to Beowulf in Robert Nye's young adult adaptation of the Scandinavian epic. They are thinking critically about the dual nature of man and the values that a culture expresses through its literature. Students have been making claims and supporting claims with text evidence in their notebooks. They have been refining their writing skills by composing essays with engaging openings, clear thesis statements, and specific evidence from the text. They have used the Quizlet and Edmodo Apps to work on their vocabulary and study skills. For their creative writing assignment this quarter, students will be composing stories featuring heroes and monsters. The stories will most likely become a wonderful amalgamation of the myths and fantasy novels they have read this quarter.

For enrichment, students may volunteer to participate in a Mythology Bee or in a lunch book club discussing Rick Riordan’s new novel Sword of Summer. Students are encouraged to submit writing pieces to The Rebel Pen, South Middle’s Art and Literary Magazine, and to Middleview, South Middle's student newspaper. Looking ahead to the second quarter, we will be focusing on historical fiction and nonfiction by studying 1776, The Musical, reading My Brother Sam Is Dead, participating in historical fiction book clubs, and reading The Notorious Benedict Arnold or Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. They will be reading Petey to prepare for visiting author Ben Mikaelsen. The after-school tutorials in English Language Arts and math have begun. If you received a letter about your child’s participation in the tutorial(s), please encourage your child to attend to improve his or her skills. Finally, a special thanks goes to the PTA for organizing and managing the Book Fair. It is wonderful to see students excited about owning, reading and