Friday, December 19, 2014

Mr. Carlisto: Award Winner

Mr. Carlisto has been named the winner of a prestigious award. See below for the exciting details.

Mr. Carlisto
Saranac Lake Middle School
December, 2014

Dear Sir,
I am writing on behalf of the “Male English Teacher’s Vacation Fund”. We, my colleagues and I, have received word about your seventh grade English Language Arts teaching skills. As the president of this proud and highly successful association, I give you my congratulations. Since the sixteenth of December in the year 2014, our fund has brought joy and relief to many male english teachers. We have since been known as fine, generous, upstanding citizens in this proud and beautiful town of Saranac Lake, New York. We have never been selfish or overly proud people, but humble, generous, kind, forgiving, loving, and noble human beings. I am proud and excited to present to you, this fine Christmas gift that the fund has to offer you. I present to you now, the “Male English Teacher’s Vacation Fund Regular Christmas Gift”, a vacation! Enclosed is a one-way train ticket to Hawaii and a notice reminding of your hotel reservations. You requested a four-star hotel. Well, the fund is not wealthy enough to afford that, so instead we went with the slightly cheaper, less expensive option, four bedrooms in a one-star hotel. We are sorry for the inconvenience, but it is the best that we can do. Your train will leave on Monday, January 5, 2015 at 4:15 a.m. from Albany, New York. Your train will stop on the way in Cleveland, Detroit, Columbus, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Topeka, Omaha, Boulder, Santa Fe, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Carson City, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, and finally San Francisco, where you will depart the mainland of the United States of America to complete your journey in Hawaii. I would suggest bringing some warm clothing and a couple of pillows because, after the four one-star hotel rooms, we cannot afford a seat on the train. Instead, we have bribed the conductor to let you ride on top of the train like a hobo. We once again are sorry for the inconvenience, but once again, it is the best that we can do. In Hawaii, you will travel through several Hawaiian cities to get to the big apple of Hawaii, Honolulu. You will travel through Hilo, Waimea, Kihei, Wailuku, and Kapalua. You will hopefully arrive in Honolulu on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Hopefully meaning that the train doesn’t drown. Who knows what will happen with no tracks on the Pacific Ocean. In Honolulu, you will be staying in the respectable “Little Joe’s Tavern, Bar and Rooms”. You will spend your relaxing vacation in Hawaii, and then, on Friday, March 6, 2015 at 4:15 a.m., if you are still alive, you will once again become the hobo that you were during the heavenly 58 days that it took to get there. The train line agreed that if you didn’t die, then they would give a complimentary ride. Then, if you survive the train-trackless Pacific Ocean once again, you will hopefully reach Albany, New York again on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Just think, about five months away from your horrible students for a beautiful, luxurious vacation. And even if you don’t enjoy it, you can write it up in your memoir and then make millions! It will all be worth it. I assure you. Please reply to this wonderful offer by Thursday, December 25, 2014. Also known as Christmas Day. The association offers you their complete support and admiration and would like for me to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and an extremely Happy New Year!
Best Wishes,

Alexandros Marcellus Trout, President of the “Male English Teacher’s Vacation Fund”

Mr. Carlisto thanks Rosemary Crowley, Sarah Samperi and Robyn Rutgers for nominating him to receive this honor.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dear Mr. Scrooge...

Your task: Write a letter to Ebenezer Scrooge requesting that he support an organization which works on a cause that is important to you.
To begin, please see the sample that I wrote.
Your letter should:
1). display proper "business letter" format
2). give general background information about the organization you researched
3). explain why the cause is important
4.) tell about about ways to support the organization
5). provide contact information for the organization

Your letter must be shared with me via Google Doc by end of the day on Friday, December 19.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Research Your Cause And Related Orgs

I. Research

1. Review your list of 3-5 causes that you identified as being important to you.

2). Research organizations, charities, etc. that work on these causes. Use Google, Guidestar or Charity Navigator

3. Get information about the following  (record your info on loose leaf paper):

a) contact information (address, phone number, person to reach)
b) information about this organization (how does it help your cause, who works for them,
how long they have been assisting people, etc…)
c) how can people help this organization (do they ask for donations or time volunteering?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Update: 11/19

Grade 7 students have been working through a thematic unit called: "Your Vote, Your Voice." This unit is focused on issues related to democracy, freedom of speech and expression, etc.
We began by reading an excerpt of Twelve Angry Men. Next we turned to a short story, "The Fan Club" by Rona Maynard.
This week we are exploring alternative views of the first Thanksgiving and whether depictions such as this one portray the complete picture.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Update: 10/27

Last week we concluded our thematic unit "Sports Report" by reading the play "How She Played the Game" by Cynthia Cooper.
Students also wrote argumentative essays on a sports related topic (these were submitted via Google Doc, graded and returned electronically).
This week we'll take a break from our thematic units and participate in what's become a tradition in ELA 7, author Bruce Coville's Halloween Story Contest.
We'll focus on correct punctuation of dialogue while writing the ending of Coville's Halloween story.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Update: 10/11/14

A look back and a look forward...

In ELA class we are working through a thematic unit called "Sports Report."
So far, the students have studied Ernest L. Thayer's classic narrative poem "Casey at the Bat."
Next, the class turned to an examination of examples of argumentative writing. They first explored the issue of whether or not fans take sports too seriously. Then the students examined an issue a bit closer to home: should schools scale back on sports?

During the week of 10/12, the students will choose one of the previously mentioned issues and develop an argument based on articles that we've read and their own personal experiences.

Also, the students continue to read independently (from books of their choice) in class. I've supported the students' efforts by keeping track of their progress and by suggesting titles that might interest them. For example, recently I shared books by author Michael Northrup (Trapped and Gentlemen) and Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why and The Future of Us)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Update: Week of 9/29/14

This week, we'll read a dramatic adaptation of Lois Lowry's The Giver. 
Students will consider the following "essential questions:"

Should we always try to make our lives easier?
What makes us human?
What role does memory play in our lives?
In addition, we'll discuss the literary element "theme."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Update: 9/22/14

This week, the students will be working on the following assignment:

Write the story of an important event or decision; it can be real or imagined. What understanding or insight did this experience reveal?

Here's a model that students may wish to emulate from the website

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Checking In... The Week of 9/15

ELA class is in full swing after a smooth opening.
This year, we'll work partly from a new text book series. Here's an excerpt of a letter to parents from the publishers of Scholastic's Code X

What does it mean for your child to be college and career ready? How well is 
he or she prepared for the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation 
Assessments? How can you help support your child on the path to success? These 
are some of the questions at the center of instruction in Common Core Code X. 
So, what is a codex, anyway? To find the answer, we have to go back almost 2,000 
years to ancient Rome. People wrote on long rolls of paper called scrolls. These 
scrolls were very long and very heavy. The Romans realized there was a better way. 
They started stacking sheets of paper on top of each other and binding them together 
to make a book. The first book was called a codex, meaning “block of wood.” Soon, 
the whole world was using them!
The ancient codex revolutionized how people wrote and read. The Common Core 
Code X provides students with a whole new way to access texts. Your child will learn 
to ask questions to analyze and understand different kinds of texts from The New York 
Times and Smithsonian. He or she will write about new discoveries in science and 
technology and create a short story. 

Last week we read an excerpt from the novel "Call Me Maria" by Judith Ortiz Cofer as part of a unit in which we are examining real and imagined "difficult decisions" that people and characters in literature sometimes face. Soon, students will have a written assignment related to this theme.

Next up, we'll study Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken".

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to School!

I am glad to welcome you to the 2014-2015 school year, and grade 7 ELA class!
Here's an excerpt from the opening day handout that I will send home with ELA 7 students:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Welcome to grade 7 ELA class!
I’m looking forward to working with you to help your student have a great school year.
Here are some expectations I’ll share with your student related to behavior in my class:

  1. We listen respectfully when someone is talking.
  2. We arrive at class ready and prepared to learn.
  3. We show respect to each other at all times.
  4. We work to the best of our ability.

I’m hopeful that you’ll find these rules fairly straightforward and easy for your student to follow.
In addition, I’ll enforce the rules of student conduct as explained in the middle school handbook.
While the majority of assignments will be completed during class time, occasionally there will be work for the student to do at home. Typical homework assignments may include independent reading, writing/revising essays or other written assignments, etc.

I'm looking forward to meeting your students tomorrow and then you on September 16 at "Open House and Meet the Team Night."

Please don't hesitate to reach out sooner if you have questions by emailing me at

In the meantime, please check out this back to school message from one of my favorite authors, John Green, as it captures some of the sentiment that I'd like to share with students at this time of the year.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Extra! Extra!

We're working through a mini-unit on "newspapers" which started last week with a scavenger hunt and a discussion of local, national and world news.
The students also have the option to read the Adirondack Daily Enterprise during independent reading time.
Soon students will be writing various kinds of articles, op-eds, etc.
We appreciate being able to use our community's local paper as a text to study in the classroom.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"First Line Contest"

We're looking at great first lines this week; specifically those that were submitted for Scholastic Scope Magazine's "First Line Contest".
Here are some winners from previous years.
The story based on this year's winning first line is called "People Call me Crazy" and was written by Gary Paulsen. We'll read it in class this week.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thematic Unit: Human Nature

We'll be ending April and beginning May by considering "human nature."
Among the works we'll study together are an adapted version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson.
We'll also read a personal essay in the author relates to the fictional Jekyll and Hyde, "Confessions of a Former Hazer" by Courtney Davidson.
Similar in theme, we'll read and discuss the short story "The Fan Club" by Rona Maynard.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Talks: Graphic Novels

Mrs. Kennedy joined us today to talk graphic novels.
I admit it; when I first started teaching I was a bit snobbish about graphic novels. I looked down on them and didn't appreciate their value in the classroom.
Since then, I've watched as year after year, reluctant readers beome inspired by and hooked on graphic novels.
Here's the list of titles that Mrs. Kennedy presented today:
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
The Storm in the Barn
The Secret World of Arietty

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WildAid: Shark Conservation

"Saving the Great White Monster," an article from our "animals" mini-unit about shark conservation, introduced us to the organization WildAid.
We watched several of WildAid's commercials from their campaign to end the overfishing of sharks (here, here and here).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Bunch of Animals!

Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way. — John Muir

We launched a thematic mini-unit on human/animal interaction by discussing the above quote.
Next, we read a short story by Eliot Schrefer called "Animal Distress Calls" about a teen's life changing encounter with a sick ostrich in a zoo.
It was then on to Gary Paulsen's "Caesar the Giant," in which the well known author tells of his experiences with an adopted Great Dane.
Also on tap is a non fiction article about Great White Sharks and the practice of hunting them for shark fin soup.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We've spent time writing personal narratives and students will be working to turn those into plays, as we participate in Pendragon Theatre's "Young Playwright's Festival."
To gear up for that, we're stretching our "creative muscles" by doing exercises in writing dialogue and creating characters.
Our language arts work continues this month, as we work on editing practice. The students have especially enjoyed the inspirational "editing music" that is played during these exercises...
Independent reading continues and Mrs. Kennedy is scheduled to visit later this month for another round of book talks. The topic this month is graphic novels, and ahead of her visit I've read Smile and Drama by Raina Telgemeir.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!


It's great to be back and we're jumping right in by writing "personal narratives" of an important event in our lives this week.
I'll be sharing this strategy (making a timeline) to help students plan their work.
Ultimately, we'll work on turning these narratives into plays for the Pendragon Theatre Young Playwrights Festival.