Thursday, November 29, 2007

Writing Sentences with Series

For several weeks we have been learning how to make our writing more descriptive with precise nouns, strong verbs, and vivid adjectives. I have found that integrating parts of speech with writing lessons is more meaningful to students than isolated grammar lessons. Let me show what I'm talking about.

Instead of writing . . .
She smelled the flower.

We have learned it is more descriptive to write . . . .
The lonely hiker inhaled the fragrance of the wild rose.

Before Thanksgiving I introduced a lesson on commas with the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. With hilarious illustrations, the book shows how comma placement can completely change the meaning of a sentence. I always tell my students that commas are like traffic signs. For example, a period is like a stop sign, and a comma is like a yield sign.

This week we learned how to use commas when writing a series of three or more parts, so I decided to build on what we had learned about parts of speech by combining the two. For homework, students were assigned to write four series sentences: one each with a series of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. I selected the best four sentences from homework to illustrate the task in this post.

Carly wrote the best series of nouns:
I've been through three pairs of socks, two shirts, five pairs of pants, and four pairs of underwear in one day.

Teresa wrote the best series of verbs:
My friend imagines, builds, and shows off his stunning art.

Billy wrote the best series of adjectives:
The seats on the airplane to Maryland were leather, plastic, and metal.

Jeff wrote the best series of adverbs:
I quickly, accurately, and efficiently cleaned my pigpen of a room so I could go play with my friends.

In case you're wondering about writing series with the remaining four parts of speech, we have studied one example with prepositions, but we decided that series of pronouns, interjections, and conjunctions don't make much sense!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Conference Night

Conference Night was a great success! It all started with a hearty lasagna supper for teachers sponsored by our always-wonderful Tomlin PTSA. Then, in two and a half hours I was privileged to meet with the parents of eleven of my students. I send a huge "thank-you" to all the parents who came out for showing your support. I truly appreciate all of your kind words to me as a teacher and the genuine concern you have shown for the welfare and educational growth of our children.

Thanks again!
Mr. Blount

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanks for the Mini-Grant, Tomlin PTSA!

The always-supportive, ultra-generous, tireless, best-ever Tomlin PTSA board has awarded our class the funds to purchase a class set of 26 hardcover copies of the award-winning adventure novel Peak by Roland Smith.

(Can you tell we have been writing sentences with series of adjectives in class?)

The books arrived from Scholastic today, and Peak is scheduled for May 2008 to be our final focus novel of the year. Several students in our class have read Peak already this year, and all of them have given the book high ratings.

"[When] Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he's left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father's renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. He wants Peak to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit--and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it's also one that could cost him his life."
Peak blurb from

Video: Roland Smith Introduces Peak

Further background on the mini-grant . . .

A few weeks ago Tomlin PTSA president, Mrs. Sharon Ours, caught me in the parking lot and encouraged me to apply for a PTSA mini-grant, letting me know that funds were still available. One reason I had not applied earlier was because Tomlin PTSA had been so generous to me last year when they contributed to the expenses for my Holocaust Summer Seminar in Poland and Israel. This award was completely unsolicited and unexpected, and PTSA surprised me when they presented me with a substantial check at the faculty luncheon during pre-planning last year. When I remembered that hardcover copies of Peak were available from Scholastic for $5.95 each, I decided to submit a mini-grant application to the PTSA for a classroom set. The rest is recent history.

Thanks again, Tomlin PTSA! You are the BEST!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Great American Teach-In 2007

Tomlin Middle School hosted its annual Great American Teach-In last Wednesday, November 14. Our own career specialist, Mr. David Horn, did an amazing job booking and scheduling speakers as he has for the past ten years. A total of 121 guest speakers conducted 256 presentations school-wide. A special thank-you to Tomlin PTSA, Mrs. Carol Field, Mr. Horn's mom, and everyone else who assisted with this beneficial event. Early on, I asked Mr. Horn to give me a full slate of speakers for every period, and he did. Thanks, Mr. Horn!

First period, our extra-special guest speakers were my parents, Roland & Evelyn Blount. They are newly-retired career missionaries, and they have been visiting my class each year for as far back as I can remember. Their message to my students is always about overcoming adversity in our lives. My father went blind when he was 10 years old. He graduated from Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, and then went on to earn a ministerial degree at Southeastern Bible College. He is a musician, singer, carpenter, pastor, missionary, audio technician, translator, and the best man I know. My mother is a sharecropper's daughter from right here in the Plant City area who overcame poverty to become the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Later, she became a television producer, director, and ordained minister. She is the most beautiful woman in the world to me and the best cook anywhere!

Other guest speakers were Mr. Galvez (internet marketing), Mrs. Girling (optician), Mrs. Spencer (cosmetology), Ms. Rodriguez (dog grooming), and Sensei Parker (martial arts). As a follow-up to this special day, I reviewed the five parts of a friendly letter, and the students wrote thank-you letters to our guests. We send our sincere thanks to all of our speakers for sharing your time and your careers with us!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Written Book Responses

Written book responses are due Wednesday, November 28. For the second quarter students will be writing a simple one-page summary of a recent novel or nonfiction title they have read.

Blog Parent Consent Form

The consent form for parents to allow student information to be posted on this blog was sent home today. If you as a parent wish to give consent for your child's first name, work, photo, or video clip to appear on this site in the future, please complete, sign, and return the form to school tomorrow.

Mid-Quarter Progress Reports and Conference Night

Progress reports were sent home today. Please sign and return them to school tomorrow.


Second quarter conference night will be Tuesday evening, November 27, from 4:55-7:25. All parents are invited to attend conference night on a walk-in, first-come first-served basis.

December Scholastic Book Clubs

December Scholastic Book Clubs went home today. All book club orders are due by Monday, December 3.

Click below to view the memo and learn how to purchase Christmas gifts from Scholastic Book Club and keep it a secret. Shhh!

Follow the link below to place your order online. You will find the class user name and password on the memo sent home from school.

Scholastic Book Club Online Orders

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Focus Titles: Zach's Lie and Jack's Run

The PM Class is currently reading Zach's Lie, an adventure novel by Roland Smith about a boy whose family must be placed into the Witness Security Program after his father is arrested for illegal drug trafficking. The AM Class is reading Jack's Run, the equally engaging sequel.

I have encouraged my students from both classes to read independently the companion novel the other class is reading so they can know the whole story. Some students have already started, and at least one or two have finished the other book already.

Roland Smith is the author of several other adventure novels. For more information visit his web site at this link:

Both titles are available from Scholastic Book Clubs. December book club newsletters will be distributed Monday, November 19, and the deadline for orders is Monday, December 3.

Mr. Blount's Classroom Goes Online

Since school started this year I have been attempting to find an electronic communication medium to suit the needs of my classroom. At first, I thought I would be able to start a class blog similar to my three personal blogs. It would be relatively simple to update the site regularly from school. Unfortunately, “personal networking sites” are blocked on school computers. So, I attempted to get special approval to unblock either a specific hosting address or my classroom computer. Categorically denied! Then, I tried to become a blogger on, but alas they had already selected their five teachers for this year. My next attempt was to create a homeroom page on, but the miniscule limits on uploads shot that down. I don’t really care for the format and features of the Tomlin Middle School official site, so I went back to square one and decided to initiate a class web site at and run it from home. It will require more work for me, but hopefully I won’t run into anymore roadblocks, and we can get this thing up and running.