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Book Report – change of plans

Due to extended teacher illness, the nonfiction book reports from the second-nine weeks have yet to be graded. To be fair to the students, those grades will count on the third-nine weeks report cards.
That means only one book report will be due during these nine weeks.
Fiction book reports due on Monday, 2/15.

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While there remain certain things I miss about teaching seventh graders, I am incredibly thankful for a long list of things I value about teaching eighth graders.

One is the novel Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen.

Flipped is a story told by two narrators, Julianna and Bryce, who grow up across the street from each other from second to eighth grade. Throughout the book, both characters share their version of the same events, giving us a unique perspective on how the two genders see and react to situations.

It’s a revealing book for both the girls and boys, and they tend to learn a lot about themselves as individuals as well as the opposite gender collectively. From a teacher’s vantage point, the observations are also revealing and, sometimes, a bit funny.

For a review of the book, go to:




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Book Reports

The first book report (BDR) of the year is due Sept. 8th, so this 150-point grade will go on the first progress report.
It’s a fiction book report based on their summer reading book.

Eighth graders were supposed to choose one of these four summer reading choices:
The River by Gary Paulsen (the same author who wrote Hatchet, and the same main character, Brian Roberson)
The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis
The Gadget by Paul Zindel
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

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2015-16 Parent letter

Mr. Scott’s Eighth-Grade English 2015-2016

Welcome to a new school year, which means new opportunities to grow, learn, and maybe have a little fun in the process. OK, a lot of fun (but don’t tell anyone).

ABOUT MR. SCOTT: This is my eighth year as a teacher (all at CMS), and while I’ve taught both seventh and eighth grade before, this is the first time I’ve focused entirely on eighth graders. It’s possible it took me seven years to actually pass seventh grade, but I’m thankful and excited to be teaching so many students with whom I already hold a relationship. I think this will allow us to jump right into more advanced concepts and ideas as soon as possible and work on a wider variety of projects and assignments. I will do my best to love, teach, guide, direct, and pray over your child, and those of you who know me already understand I will also worry, stress, and pray some more over your child – because my kids are worth any good thing I can do to help them.

HOW TO CONTACT ME: I’d be happy to communicate with you. Really. I promise.
The school phone is 682-6610.
My email is both and
My school blog can be found on the school website. Look under faculty and staff, find my name, and then click on “blog.” Or, you can go to:
I’ve tried Twitter in the past (you can still follow me at, but only three students and zero parents followed last year, so … yeah … it’s time to try something else.
I’m trying something new by asking everyone to sign up for Coach Smith used this last year with success, and I’d like to try it as a way to communicate with everyone. I’ve attached a separate sheet of paper with instructions.

LESSON PLANS: Many families didn’t use INOW in the past, so we’ve started putting our weekly lesson plans on our blogs (which, of course, are free to view). They are usually updated every Sunday or Monday. Just follow the instructions from above or go to:

GRADES: Shelby County schools are moving to Category Grading, a grading system that places assignments into Gold, Silver, and Bronze weighted categories. This really should be a positive change, but our heads are spinning a bit right now as we adjust and adapt, so please be patient while we work out the kinks. Sooner than later, we’ll be able to provide a more thorough explanation of how this system works.

BOOK REPORTS: We’ve relied on Book Data Reports the past two years, and while they serve a valuable purpose, it’s time for us to move above and beyond. In the first nine weeks. students will turn in a fiction BDR based on their summer reading book and a nonfiction BDR based on a biography, autobiography, or a major event. During the second nine weeks, we’ll branch out and offer options that will allow students to choose from different types of book reports (more on that later in the year). Each report will be worth 150 points, so they remain the highest grade priority in this class.

ONE LAST THING (AND IT’S IMPORTANT): I’m assigning homework to YOU!
I would like you to write me a letter me telling everything YOU want ME to know about your child. These letters could be about their likes and dislikes, how they feel about school and themselves, their strengths and concerns, and major events in their lives. Please send it in a sealed envelope of some kind. Whatever your write will help me, and it will remain private between you and me.
No, this will not count for a grade, and no, I will not be editing your work and returning it for you to correct and re-write. We all possess our own unique types and styles of intelligence, so I won’t judge your writing if you won’t judge my math or ask me to fix something complicated.

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Have you heard the news?

Have you heard the news?

Yes, it’s true: I will be teaching only eighth graders this year. That means, for the first time in my eight years of teaching, I will not be teaching any seventh graders.

I will miss the priceless experiences that come with teaching seventh graders. I will miss their willingness to open their mind to new possibilities and their (relative) innocence. They’re not “kids” anymore, but they’re not quite “teenagers” either.

So how do I feel about teaching eighth graders? If I was ever going to make the move to teaching only eighth graders, this is the year. As a whole, it’s an enjoyable class that makes me laugh, think, wonder, ponder, and work to be a better teacher.

I watched so many of them grow last year from wolf cubs to more self-sufficient wolves asking better questions and digging for the best answers. It will be rewarding to watch them continue to grow as students, and most important, young people learning more about who they are and the kind of person they want to be.

I will place more emphasis on group collaboration this year. My goal is to talk less and “direct” and “guide” more. You know the old axiom: if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; if you teach him to fish, he can feed himself every day.

OK … you know the drill folks. If you want to make a public comment, go for it! If you want to keep it private, let me know. If you have any questions, let ’em fly! Questions are the tools of the curious!

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Final fiction BDR of the school year

It’s not quite here, but it’s near, so don’t sit on your rear or just stand frozen in fear like a frightened dear. Get it in gear!

The final fiction BDR of the school year is due Friday, April 10!

Need a book? Check out my classroom shelf or let me help if you need an idea.


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Annual research project

My seventh graders will work from Thursday March 19 to Wednesday March 25 on a research project worth 250 points.

Their research is designed to help them better understand the 1960s in America as preparation for reading The Wednesday Wars in April.

Yes, students may work on this project at home by using Google Apps. The entire assignment will be paperless, with everything from the research to the final product conducted with Google Apps.

For more information on the project, click on the following links:


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Nonfiction BDRs – due date moved back

The deadline for the nonfiction BDRs has been moved from Friday, Feb. 27 to Monday, March 2.

So … NO EXCUSES, right?

Don’t be late!

Don’t hesitate!

It might be lead to a doomed fate!

That would not be great.

If BDRs are not in by Tuesday, March 10th, they will show as zeroes on next week’s report cards. While the grade can be changed later, late assignments will be reduced to 75 percent of their full values.


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2015 theatre parent letter Ths Phne 2.0

Welcome to the 2015 CMS theatre team!

I call it a team rather than a club because teamwork is essential to our success and one of the most valuable lessons anyone can learn from theatre. We call it theatre because, let’s face it, the word “drama” has a bad connotation for middle schoolers.
Right now, we’re committed to performing a play called Ths Phne 2.0. No, that’s not misspelled. It’s about how electronic devices and social media have taken control of our lives. It’s funny, quirky, and serious at times, and it teaches some worthwhile lessons.
There are parts for everyone, but some are smaller than others. At this point, I’m looking at the possibility of either writing in some roles, adding a second smaller show, or putting some of the actors together in short scenes. We’ve never been concerned about “stars” and “leads”; In T-ball terms, I want everyone to have a chance to step up to the plate and hit a home run.
As for props, everyone will need some sort of cell phone – but these phones do not need to work. They can be older phones that no longer work or have no service. They’re just props. If necessary, we will find a prop for anyone without one.
Participating in theatre is free. However, if a student loses a script, the student needs to pay $5 for a new one.

One of our parents, Wendy Chappell, has taken the initiative to come up with team t-shirts. They will cost $15, but it is not mandatory for you to purchase one. They will be purchased through the school. We’ll let you know when kids need to sign up and pay for those.

CMS theatre shirt

Also, please, please, please work together as a family to do all you can to pick up your children on time. I know some parents have work conflicts, so just communicate with me so I know what to expect.
When are we performing this show? A lot of that depends on how quickly and effectively we can learn this, but even more depends on when the SCHS auditorium is available. For now, let’s focus on a rehearsal schedule:
Feb. 17 and 19: 3:15-5:15.
Feb. 24 and 26: 3:15-5:15.
March 3 and 5: 3:15-5:15.
March 10 and 12: 3:15-5:15.
March 17 and 19: 3:15-5:15.
March 24 and 26: 3:15-5:15.
We will meet during spring break. Eventually, as we move toward the show, we’ll increase our rehearsal schedule. For now, this schedule will suffice.
Can students miss rehearsals? Eventually, math team competition and cheerleader and color guard tryouts will interfere with our schedule, and as long as students communicate with me ahead of time (a day or two), we’ll be OK. Illness, of course, is excused. In all seriousness, we can’t afford to miss rehearsals. I run this like a football team – you wouldn’t allow your kids to miss a football practice, so don’t miss a rehearsal unless it’s unavoidable. Whatever you do, please communicate with me.
Please save this schedule somewhere, or find it on my blog on the school website under the faculty and staff link. You can also email me at and I can give you my phone number.
Whatever you do, please don’t call the office. Those ladies up front work hard already, and I want parents and students to read and follow the directions I send home and contact me personally. Please don’t be that parent who calls the office constantly because you lost the information or simply won’t read it.
Thanks for being part of the team!
Mr. Scott

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