News

May 13

May 13, 2022

Dear Parents,

We celebrated a beautiful May Liturgy with a crowning of the Blessed Virgin. The kids showed great leadership in putting the Mass together and helped in all aspects of this special event. I will try to get ahold of the photo we took at the end of Mass and send it your way.

We have been doing a lot of writing this week and finished Friday with a peer-editing session for our Legacy Project autobiographies. We talked about how to transition from the biography portion of the project to this one, how to parallel the thesis statement from the biography, and how to ensure that we talk about either how our relative’s legacy affects us now, or how we are going to leave a legacy someday – just like they did. The final corrected and printed copy of these autobiographies is due next Friday, May 20th, along with their self-portraits. Although the Legacy Project Due Dates sheet doesn’t state it, the final day for turning in their completed albums/binders (their choice of style) will be Friday, May 27th. I chose that date specifically so that kids are not waiting until the bitter end and having to use their Memorial Day weekend to finish up. If you have not yet purchased a binder and plastic sleeves or a scrapbook-type album large enough to accommodate at least fifty pages (25 sheets X 2 sides each = 50 pages), please do so soon. One student asked this week if they need to read their Legacy Projects at graduation. The students will put their projects on display at tables in the gym for the reception after graduation, but they need not read them. They will share their projects with the younger grades on the last week of school, but again, they will not read them and will only share some interesting things they learned along the way.

The kids continue to enjoy their dystopian novel unit. They had complete choice over what novel they are reading, and this really helps. They’ve been working on their literature journals in which they write a summary of their reading each day along with completing an extended literature task of their choice. Again, they really love having some choice in what they do. Please be sure they are reading each night so that they keep up in their novels. We aim to finish these by the end of the month so that they can complete a project related to their novels. I am still recording the reading logs each Monday and will do so until the end of May, so please be sure you sign it on Sunday night and have them bring it to school Monday.

We have been learning a lot of in-depth information about the Civil War in history class. We are hoping to bring the war to an end on Monday and then to have just enough time in the last two weeks of school to learn about Reconstruction – the last of the units of required learning in eighth-grade history.

Father Moore continues to teach lessons about morality. He has covered some heavy topics: same-sex marriage, abortion, pre-marital sex, etc. I hope your kids are bringing these conversations home so that they are comfortable talking about them. This will really come in handy when they start facing some potentially tough or dangerous situations in high school. My Family Life lessons are much tamer (thank goodness!), and we are working our way through these lessons.

Our final MAP testing of the year will start next week. We test Tuesday and Thursday, so please avoid pulling your child out those mornings (we are usually done testing by 11:30). We skip testing the following week because of our retreat and complete our final tests the mornings of June 1 and 2.

We are still looking for two dads to be chaperones at the retreat May 24-25. If you can do this, please let me know as soon as possible. If you have not contacted Rob V. with your offers of help for food, please do that as well.

I have been telling the kids to check their grades in FACTS and complete any missed work or corrections. We are now in countdown mode, and I will now be taking only weekly missed work or corrections, not work from weeks or months past. If they would like me to make some type of exception to that, they should let me know Monday, or I will be sticking with weekly late work/corrections only. This is meant to allow me the time to focus on grading the large amount of writing and other work that is coming in now so that it is done by my grading deadline. I hope you understand.

Have a great weekend!

Chris

4/29/22

April 29, 2022

Dear Parents,

We have had a crazy busy week! Students have overcome one of the main portions of their Legacy Project – they turned in their ten-page biography today after peer reviewing it one final time. This, I’m sure, will take a lot of pressure off them. I will teach them how to structure their autobiography next week. Remember that it will only require five pages. They should continue to gather artifacts to put into their L.P. binders or albums (whichever style book they choose), but don’t let them begin assembling until they have their graded writing returned so that they know how many pages to leave in the album. If they want to begin putting captions on documents/artifacts (required of every document) and putting them into sheet protectors, that would be fine. Mrs. Santos will work with them next week to begin the self-portrait.

In social studies we learned more about why the Emancipation Proclamation was so important and how it affected both the Union and the Confederacy. We will continue our lessons about the Civil War next week, focusing on daily life during the war and on how the tide of war shifted.

In language arts we began a review of basic and more advanced punctuation skills. Who knew the comma was so important and had so many rules around it?! We always seek to look at the logic in a grammar or convention rule so that it will be easier for us to remember it later. The review of punctuation came in handy as we peer edited the Legacy Projects.

We finished our April book reports about Civil War novels and the resulting projects adorn our hallway. The kids wrote about the plot structure, themes, characters, and synopsis of their novels – all on an object that was symbolic of their novel. Our next genre will be dystopian novels. The kids were given the task of finding a dystopian novel they would like to read (they should not have read it before) and bringing it in on Monday. They were allowed to borrow from one another (many kids have these at home), from another classroom, from the school or public library, or purchase one. I wanted them to have the option of choosing one they liked. I have a stack of dystopian novels in the classroom, so if your child does not bring one on Monday, I will be assigning one that I have. Please check with your child to be sure he/she comes prepared or amenable to my choice on Monday.

We took our ACRE test in religion class this week. As a reminder, the results of the test do not count toward your child’s religion grade. Rather, the scores let the Archdiocese and us know how strong our religion program is. We also started our first Family Life lesson. As you saw in my email, there are ten lessons in the program. We should finish it the last week of school.

We continue to go to the We Grow Garden most Wednesdays. I have not had any parents volunteer to walk with us on these dates. I would really appreciate some extra help, if you are able. Our remaining dates are May 4, 11, 25, and June 1 (our final session). We leave school at 1:15, walk ten minutes, and return by 2:40. If you can come along with us, please let me know. It really is a lovely and valuable time with the kids.

Our retreat is coming up Tuesday and Wednesday, May 24th and 25th. I will send out a permission slip next week. We will need drivers and overnight chaperones, so please indicate on the slip how you are able to help. I also explained in last week’s letter that eighth-grade parents are responsible for preparing/providing the meals for the retreat. If you can help in that way, please let me know. I have heard from one person so far.

Have a great weekend!

Chris

4/22/22

April 22, 2022

Dear Parents,

We had a great, sunny afternoon at the We Grow Garden on Wednesday. The kids did some planting, some garden bed preparation, and some weeding and composting. We will be going again next Wednesday and need a parent who is willing to go along with us. Ideally, we’d like a parent who can drive our two kids with leg injuries there and back again. If you are Safe Environment/Virtus trained and can join us on Wednesday from 1:15 until 2:45, please let me know.

The kids are feeling a bit of relief with the science projects wrapped up and the bulk of their ten-page Legacy Project biography done. They peer edited their papers today but are not quite finished with that. We will finish peer editing on Monday and they will have until Friday to turn in the final biography. This weekend would be a good opportunity for them to add some details, if they’re feeling a bit shy of the ten-page mark.

In history class, we have been learning about the Civil War and its causes (it wasn’t only about slavery) and will learn about the Emancipation Proclamation next week. In addition to our textbook, we have been using the American Battlefield Trust website to learn about the Civil War. It is filled with many more resources than we have time for, so if your child is interested in this topic, please encourage him/her to do some exploring of the site.

We spent our language arts time learning about different poetry forms so that we could write poems about our relatives to include in our Legacy Projects. Students will write one poem about their relative, and one about themselves. As noted on the due dates sheet, the poem about the relative is due on Friday, April 29th along with the final draft of the ten-page biography. The poem about the student will be due when the autobiography is due, Friday, May 20th. I will explain the autobiography in more detail after next Friday, but I want the focus to be on finishing the biography, first.

In literature class we are nearly finished with our Civil War novels. Some students, in fact, have started a second and even a third novel! Along the way, kids have been completing tasks related to their novel (they had some say in what these tasks were) and have also been learning about different literary elements like conflict, protagonist vs. antagonist, plot development, theme, etc. I will explain the culminating book report expectations on Monday and the kids will be given class time to complete it by Thursday, April 28th.

In religion, we had our Virtus lesson. The topic was “Boundaries: Feelings and Facts”. The kids seemed very knowledgeable about the topic and I am hopeful they will know what to do if they hear or are involved with any type of incorrect or inappropriate behavior. Practice, practice, practice so that if something happens, you respond in a way that is helpful (just like a fire drill!). Our ACRE test is coming up early next week. As you may recall, this is a test given by most Catholic archdioceses in the United States. It is given only to fifth and eighth graders. We will have one final review day on Monday before taking the test Tuesday.

You may have received a notice in the Wednesday parent letter that Tuesday is class picture day. Most students wear their dress uniforms this day, but eighth graders are allowed to wear appropriate free dress that day. Wednesday of next week is “Heart Health Day”. The kids should wear red that day.

Have a great, sunny weekend!

Chris

 

 

 

 

 

4/15/22

April 15, 2022

Dear Parents,

I’m sure you’ve felt the pressure of how busy the kids have been these last couple of weeks with all the deadlines looming. They’ve been working hard in class to finish things like homework so that they can use home time for the longer projects they’ve got going. I’m so proud of them for working hard and hardly complaining. They’ve been pushed this year and have been building resilience in their work habits.

One of the big things they’ve been working on is the Legacy Project. They’ve written their introduction and thesis statement and should now be working on the body of this ten-page biography (rough draft due next Friday for peer editing). We went through some possible paragraph topics (early life, home, school life, marriage, historical context that may have impacted them, etc.). I suggested to the kids that one way to be sure they’re not overwhelmed is to take one paragraph topic each night and write about that part of the story. In fact, I suggested they make a list of all the topics directly onto the document so that they remember, and then just write about each one when they have enough info gathered. That way, they won’t leave big gaps in their relative’s life. Another important piece to any “non-Wikipedia-sounding” biography is the inclusion of stories or anecdotes about the person. If you have any of these to tell your child, be sure they include them in their narrative.

One part of the Legacy Project is to write a poem about their relative and one about themselves. We studied different types of poetry (April is poetry month) and made posters for our walls. I will give the kids time during class next week to get started on writing their poems, although they probably won’t finish them during one class period.

We’ve been reading Civil War novels in literature class. To relieve some of the pressure of outside work, I told the kids that they weren’t required to do two outside reading book reports this month, but only one book report about the Civil War novels we are reading in class. I will give them time the last week of April to complete this report (I will show them what format I would like them to use); I want the majority of their home time to be spent on the Legacy Project biography.

The majority of our religion time this week was spent in preparation for the Triduum. We listened to a song by Will Reagan and United Pursuit called “Take a Moment”. This was especially important for the kids, as busy as they are, to remember that God lightens their loads, even though they don’t always recognize it. The kids finished their Lenten books and shared them with their Kindergarten buddies this morning before escorting their buddies to the “Prayer in the Garden” and Stations of the Cross. The eighth graders had taught their little buddies about the Stations on Thursday in the church with a simplified version so that they would have a better understanding of this prayer form on Good Friday. We spent the day today unplugged and quiet, in keeping with the solemn nature of the day.

I hope you saw and returned the field trip permission slip that came home yesterday. This slip has the dates for our service to the We Grow Garden for the rest of the year. You might remember that we went in the fall. It will be great for the kids to see the things they planted way back in October. We will be going on Wednesdays from 1:15 – 2:40. This includes walking time (the garden is across the street from Bellingham High School. To prepare for this service, the kids did research and learned about food insecurity/food banks, at-risk youth and other marginalized groups, community gardens in Bellingham, the importance of organic gardening, and sustainable gardening/permaculture. They’ll present their learning to one another on Tuesday next week so that they have a good understanding of why they’re serving at the garden. We will need a parent or two to walk with us each week, so if you are able and are already Save Environment trained, please let me know.

I hope you have a very blessed and peaceful Easter!

Chris

 

3/18/2022

March 18, 2022

Dear Parents,

We are a couple weeks into Lent and the kids have been busy making Lenten ABC books for their buddies. This is a tradition here, and many kids have been fondly remembering their time with their eighth-grade buddies and the Lenten books they received from them. The kids built Leprechaun traps together on Tuesday, in hopes of catching one of those crafty little guys. Alas, not a one was caught, although there was a lot of evidence of the Leprechauns’ handiwork – overturned chairs, sparkles on the floor, traps that had been sprung. Eighth graders received thank-you cards from their buddies today for all the help and fun they put into the activity.

We finished reading “Romeo and Juliet” this week and watched the movie (the Leonardo DiCaprio version set in modern times). There are several other movie versions that the kids were interested in, but they’ll have to watch those on their own time. We learned about theme today and I set the kids a task of choosing one of the main themes of the play and writing an essay about it. I sent them the directions, rubric, and PowerPoint about theme that I presented today so that they can review it. We will be using part of our literature and language arts time next week to write the essay, although I told the kids that they may have to do a bit of work at home to finish the essay by Wednesday morning.

We have been learning about the things that led to the Civil War and assessed what they know about that today. We’ve been setting the stage so that the kids can do some independent research about the Civil War and then share their learning with one another. They will also be starting Civil War novels next week during literature class.

Please be sure to read the email I sent earlier today that includes dates for the eighth-grade retreat and graduation activities. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Have a great weekend!

Chris

 

2/25/22

February 25, 2022

Dear Parents,

The kids did a great job leading Mass this morning. It’s so nice to see them take on this kind of responsibility and to let the Holy Spirit work through them to guide others. We will be going to Ash Wednesday Mass next Wednesday and some students will be altar serving or taking up collections that day.

“Read Across America Day” is next Tuesday. We have a morning activity planned with our Kindergarten buddies. Eighth graders will be leading family groups (mixed-age groups) in a variety of literature- or Mardi Gras-based activities in the afternoon. Kids can choose to dress up as their favorite book character that day (no masks, weapons, facial makeup).

We are still studying a variety of pronouns in grammar and will finish the unit next week. We have also been talking about what makes good, clear writing. The kids had a chance to use their writing skills today to show what they learned in our social studies unit on Westward Movement. They wrote a three-paragraph essay about manifest destiny. I will grade these this weekend and return them on Monday.

“Romeo and Juliet” still captivates our attention. We learned that sometimes greater interest is created when an author doesn’t show a main event, such as Romeo and Juliet’s actual marriage. We also learned that Shakespeare’s tragedies are formulaic in that they are all five acts, and all have six literary elements: starting point (exposition), initial exciting force, rising action, turning point (climax), falling action, and catastrophe (ending). We’ve identified the first four of these elements in what we’ve read so far and will keep working our way through the play next week.

Please remind your kids that two book reports are due for the month of February on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Chris

 

2/18/22

February 18, 2022

Dear Parents,

In religion this week we completed a religion review for our chapter on the Church and the Roman Empire and then completed the test. One of the quotes from this chapter reminded us to do everything (both in word and in deed) in the name of Jesus Christ, so I played a song from Steven Curtis Chapman called “Do Everything” to remind the kids of this. Fr. Moore began teaching about morality, now that his lessons on the sacraments are finished. The eighth graders will be putting on the Mass next Friday, February 25th. If you’d like to attend, you may sit in the transept by the door. There is usually plenty of room there.

We finished our unit on sentences this week and had an informal test today. The kids should be incorporating the variety of sentence types and structures into their writing. I told them that I would be ramping up the amount of writing they do in all classes as we progress through this second semester. This will mean that they may have an increased amount of homework when working on a writing project, but the payoff will be great. They should be able to enter high school with confidence as writers.

Love is in the air! We are working through the second act of “Romeo and Juliet” and are learning about theme. We have learned about a few more literary devices such as allusion, dramatic irony, pathos, foreshadowing, and soliloquy. The kids have some reading (Act 2 Scenes 3 & 4) and questions to answer in their packets by Tuesday. I have been reminding them of the reading log due next Tuesday, and also of the two February book reports due on February 28th. Please help me with these reminders.

In social studies we are learning about Westward Expansion. We’ve learned about the trails used, the travelers, and their motives for moving. We also learned how Texas became a republic (yes, it was its own country at one point!) and are now learning about the Mexican American War. We will have a closed-packet test next Friday. I have been teaching the kids some study strategies that they’ll want to use in high school. Some of these strategies they know, such as highlighting and taking notes, but some are new to them. We will learn how to use a study buddy to review for a test next week.

Tuesday is 2/2/22 and we will celebrate by having the kids wear crazy socks that day. They should also bring in either a new pair of socks to donate, or two cans of food (no beans, please) to stock the food pantry (Hope House’s, not mine!). Uniforms should still be worn on Tuesday.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and bonus day off!

Chris

2/11/22

February 11, 2022

Dear Parents,

We were busy this week reading through “Romeo and Juliet”. We have been learning about different literary devices used by Shakespeare and have discovered oxymorons, metaphors, similes, foreshadowing, and puns so far. Reading this play has been a challenge, especially when there are different ways to interpret what is being said. Many kids have discovered the ample analyses that can be found online such as SparkNotes. These analyses have been helpful, although I warned that they should not replace reading the novel.

In religion we continued talking about the early Church and focused on Charlemagne’s role in bringing Christianity and order to all of Europe. Charlemagne’s sense of justice and belief that government should help, not oppress people tied nicely to what we have been studying in history class. We revisited the idea of natural law and fundamental ideas of right and wrong based on this law. We also explored ways to remain faithful when society promotes opposing values or when government establishes a law that is contrary to Catholic moral teaching. We read an excerpt from Luke 9 that talked about losing one’s life because of Jesus, and gaining material things but losing one’s soul. I introduced two songs related to this reading – one by Michael W. Smith called “This is Your Time” about student Cassie Bernall at Columbine High School who was asked by the gunmen if she believed in God (she said yes and was shot). The other song by TobyMac is called “Lose Your Soul” and talks about losing your soul over material things. Hopefully these songs will have a small impact on the kids.

In social studies this week we learned about the Indian Removal Act and focused on what it would be like to be pushed out of our land and moved to a less than ideal reservation. The kids researched the Trail of Tears and worked in groups to create “animal hides” on which to draw pictographs telling this story. Yes, I even found a song tied to this event in history! We listened to Paul Revere and the Raiders “Cherokee Nation”. The kids will present their stories to the class on Monday (some are still attaching their hides to sticks to be “stretched”).

I handed out Legacy Project packets that include all due dates, forms to be turned in along the way, and a planning calendar with school dates listed. Please ask your child to show you this packet as the first due date is coming on February 18th (check-in date for the family tree).

Please have your child bring in valentines on Monday. This is optional, but the kids seemed excited to give them to one another. They also talked about bringing treats, but I’m going to leave that up to them. We will watch “Charlie Brown’s Valentine” at lunch. Please also have your child make a valentine for his/her Kindergarten buddy as we will deliver these to them on Monday.

I hope to see some of you on Sunday at our Open House from 2-4PM. It would be great to have some students here in the classroom to answer questions from visitors. And of course, I’d love to say hello, too!

Have a great weekend!

Chris

2/6/22

February 6, 2022

Dear Parents,

As some of you may know, my dad died last Sunday. He was surrounded by family, and it was a very peaceful goodbye. I missed Monday and Tuesday of last week because of this and was surprised to learn that the kids were worried that I was not coming back. This is a testament to how settled the kids have become and how much they appreciate the stability of their eighth-grade year. I have noticed how much more mature the kids have become since the beginning of the year and how willing they are to work hard. Report cards will be coming out this week, and these reflect this hard work.

In language arts this week we began learning about sentence structure – the difference between simple and complete subjects and predicates. We also learned that we can be more streamlined in our writing if we use compound subjects and predicates. I explained to the kids that they already use these types of structures when speaking, so incorporating them into their writing should not be difficult.

We began our Shakespearian unit in literature class by first studying Shakespeare’s life and creating a class PowerPoint about it. We then studied what a sonnet is (a 14-line form of poetry that has 10 syllables in each line and uses iambic pentameter [walking speed, ABAB pattern]). We also read the prologue to “Romeo and Juliet,” going slowly enough to understand what was happening. It was interesting to note that the prologue is actually a summary of the play (in advance!) with a warning that if the readers pay attention, they will understand what happens in the coming pages. We will do our best! Please remind your child to fill out the weekly reading log so that you can sign it and your child can return it Monday morning for full credit.

We had only a religion test and a visit from Fr. Moore this week, since our religion time was cut short by skiing and Catholic Schools Week (CSW) activities.

Social studies lessons were also abbreviated this week due to CSW, but we started a new unit on Jackson’s Era. This will encompass the nation’s changing views of what it means to be American, how we will expand the nation, and what the consequences to certain groups would be because of that expansion.

Your child should be working on gathering information to put together a family tree for the Legacy Project. Please support him/her in this process. I will send home a calendar of Legacy Project due dates on Friday.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Chris

1/29/22

January 29, 2022

Dear Parents,

We are halfway through the year already! The kids should be proud of their hard work this last week to finish up a few assignments (book reports, Latin and grammar tests, etc.) and meet the Friday deadline for grade submission. The kids have really learned the importance of deadlines and are meeting them consistently, which I appreciate.

In language arts we completed our unit on modifiers – both adjectives and adverbs. We finished Latin lesson 8 and are halfway through the book (right on schedule). Next week we will dive into sentences and how they are formed – always with the intent to make our writing better. We will have the opportunity to assess our language skills when we take our final MAP test next week. We will test on Monday and Wednesday, again splitting the test into two 45-minute sessions so as not to overwhelm. Please take care to avoid pulling kids out for appointments at 10am both days.

Our literature groups finished their novels and had plenty of time to discuss them and complete activities involving language concepts, vocabulary, and comprehension. We will be moving into a unit on Shakespeare next week and will spend the month reading and analyzing “Romeo and Juliet”.

We had very little time for religion lessons this week due to the Tuesday ski program and MAP testing. We did manage to squeeze in a Second Step lesson on how to speak up when you see something that isn’t right. We also reviewed the history of the Liturgy in the Eastern and Western rites in preparation for a test next week. We will continue preparing for the ACRE test for a few minutes at the beginning of each religion lesson. We really enjoyed being back together again for Mass on Friday – community worship is such an important part of our faith.

In social studies we learned about Jefferson’s administration and the difference between Federalists and Democratic Republicans. We studied the struggles of the young nation and how these led to the War of 1812. We are heading into a new era – the Jacksonian Era – and will start learning about the plight of Native Americans as we started to expand the nation westward. And finally, we talked about what legacy means, in preparation for the first step of our Legacy Project. As you may recall, I sent home a packet of information about the project before Christmas break. This packet can also be found on the 8th grade web page under the “Resources” tab. We talked about how legacy is something you receive, but it is also something you give. The kids will be focusing on both aspects of legacy throughout the project. For the first part of the project, the kids need to start creating a family tree as far back as possible. They should gather information from family members, but can also use the Internet. Their final family tree can be displayed in whatever way they wish. Last year, we had kids with huge, artistic posters, but we also had family trees printed out on pages that could fit in their final binder/scrap book. I will send home a calendar with due dates for each part of the project next week, but be sure to support your child in developing the family tree in the meantime. They will need to choose a relative (grandparent or older) to focus their research on from that tree.

Next week is Catholic Schools Week. Please make note of the themes for each day as listed in the school’s newsletter.

Have a great weekend,

Chris

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