Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jazz Band by Natalie B

Hi guys! Our school’s Jazz Band, also known as The Byram Blues Jazz band, has started again with new members from 6th, 7th and 8th grade. We had about a week or two to practice and prepare for tryouts. I had about 3 to 4 days to practice since I agreed to tryout much later.

We sat in the music room and improvised a solo, played some scales, and in the end, we all made it! After tryouts, we were given songs to practice and play. We have rehearsals afterschool on Mondays ,and before school on Fridays. Plus, we are able to have some practice time during school. We have worked very hard to play as a band. We currently know "Five Spot after Dark", "Listen Here" and 2 other songs.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Spotlight on Socratic Seminar II by Brandi

Spotlight on Socratic Seminar II

Back in November, as the first marking period of the 2017-18 year closed out, I wrote about my experience doing my first Socratic Seminar. The seminar was on important global issues about refugees related to our class book, Inside Out and Back Again, from Mrs.Loredo’s 8th Grade period 8/9 ELA class. I found the first Socratic to be a very insightful and a meaningful learning experience. I have included the link to my experience doing my first Socratic, which includes an explanation of how a Socratic Seminar works.

This marking period Socratic was much different, because instead of debating about one question regarding global issues, we tackled discussing a Shakespearean play. The marking period was spent reading and analyzing Shakespeare’s comedic play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The story features comedic tradesmen putting on a play, four lovers who run away into a forest, and magical fairies who love to cause mischief. Despite the light-hearted comedic feel of the play, it tackles many intense themes such as love, magic, and control. The recent Socratic I was part of dealt with all these issues and more.

In preparing for the Socratic, we were given five questions that students would get called into the inner circle to discuss. Even though I was only going to be called into the inner circle for one of these questions, I had to be properly prepared to all of them, because I didn’t know which one I would be randomly assigned. During my preparation, the question I enjoyed preparing and contemplating the most is: “Do the characters emerge as one or are they are indistinguishable between each other? If you think they are not individuals, explain why you think Shakespeare did this?” I found I agreed that they are not individual characters, but rather used as props in Shakespeare’s expression of the themes of young love and control. This question was thought-provoking, because it dove deep into the author’s (Shakespeare’s) reasoning when creating the characters.

I ended up being pulled in on the theme of control questions. “The main theme of the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream is control. What motivates people to try to control each other's actions? How do people try to control each other's actions? What happens when people try to control each other's actions? In what ways have the characters’ attempted to control one another in the play and were their attempts successful?” This question was actually the prompt for our end of unit assessment and was great to discuss.

I argued that people control because they feel a lack of control, want to obtain ends, or to feel security in power. I explained how the character Oberon tries to control his wife, Titania, because he feels out of control in their relationship. I also touched on how characters want to obtain ends and they control to receive these ends. In my Socratic, I also tied my book club book, Animal Farm, and explained how the characters in that book (which are representative of people in the political Russian Revolution of 1917) control for the sake of power. I shared my thoughts on how characters and people either control psychologically or physically. Finally, I explained how not all attempts to control another person’s actions are successful, but some do work. Overall, I found the theme of control really interesting to discuss, based on the thoughts Shakespeare was trying to show through his play.

One of the best parts of Socratic is being able to observe your peers discussing. The question I found most interesting to observe discussion on was the one that dealt with the theme of love. “Of all the happy couples at the end of the play, Demetrius and Helena stand apart because Demetrius alone is still under the spell of the love potion. In your opinion, does this render their love false, or is it just as valid as the love between the other couples? In forming your opinion, consider what the play has to say on the whole about love.” Some of the conclusions my peers formed when discussing the theme of love is how foolish and blind love can be. I found this to be interesting to observe, because I didn't even think about how Shakespeare was trying to show that theme through his play. I felt being able to observe this question gave me a deeper understanding of what Shakespeare was trying to express in the play.

Overall, I believe this Socratic helped me to understand on a deeper level the meaning behind Socratic Seminars. I received a deep understanding of the value of the three main parts of a Socratic: Prepare, Discuss, Observe. Preparing helps to really use critical thinking, research, and analytical skills. Discussing allows speaking and listening skills to grow, allowing us to work on expressing academic ideas with our peers. Observing shows us different points of view and expands our perspective. The Socratic Seminars allow for a variety of skills and perspectives to be expanded, which is really beneficial, particularly when talking about Shakespearean literature or global issues. My first Socratic Seminar really showed me how insightful Socratic can be, and this one exposed me to why it is so insightful through the different parts of the seminar. I can't wait to see what I discover in my third Socratic!

The link to my first Spotlight on Socratic Article:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Writer's Block by Sarah S

It happens to every writer. You don’t even have to be an author, you could just be writing an email, an essay, a poem, or a school assignment. It happens, out of nowhere, for anyone who’s writing something lengthy.

Writer’s block.

It comes out of nowhere, and it doesn’t go away. Every single moment you’d been writing seems to leave out of nowhere, and every beautiful word you’d put into your incredible piece of literature seems to seem simple and bland. There is not an ounce of creativity in your body. So how can you fix it? Why does it happen? Here’s a few reasons and solutions.

  • Take a walk, or go somewhere where you find inspiration. This might be the forest, the lake, a city in the dark, or the Netflix home page. Whatever gets your juices flowing.

  • Relax a bit. Some writers stop writing out of fear, either of rejection or simply people seeing your work. Realize that even if some people don’t like your work, there’ll always be other people who love it. Fear is the reason most writers don’t end up successful.

  • Eliminate distractions. Seems obvious, right? Sometimes people just don’t realize they’re being distracted, and just can’t seem to figure out why they can’t focus. 

  • Change up your environment. Maybe change from a bed to a desk, change up the lighting, or move to a completely different room altogether. 

  • Turn on some music. This is only if if doesn’t distract you, of course. Maybe try some classical or jazz music. Music with lyrics tend to distract some people, but not all people.

  • Write. I know it sounds like this is exactly what you can’t do, but bear with me here. You can write anything. Write about your sleeping dog, or the house plant next to you, or your dentist appointment last week. If you start writing, generally, you won’t want to stop.

  • Finally, if none of those worked for you, just wait. Maybe it’s just not the right time for you to be writing. Go along with your day, take a nap, do some work. You might just need to try again later.

Writer’s block can be super frustrating. Sometimes, you just need a nap. Sometimes, you’re completely empty and need to wait days before any creativity comes back. Remember, you can always go back and change your writing later. Really, the key is to just try your best. If it doesn’t come out good, who cares? Try again later, edit it a bit, ask your friends, whatever. Just know that it’s not the end of the world if your paragraph is a 50 word long run on sentence. Just try your best.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Odd Ones Out by Peter

Currently on YouTube animation channel, The Odd Ones Out has 5.7 million subscribers. He grew so much in 2016 and 2017, it was unbelievable. James grew up drawing cartoons and took that to the website tumblr. A short time after that he went to YouTube. He tells stories about his childhood and recent things that have happened to him. His newest video is called My Horrible Spelling, where he talks about how when he was a little kid, he had some reading and speech problems. The reason it is so cool that he grew so quickly is because of the way the YouTube algorithm works. I don’t want to go into it, but it kind of brings out small channels and animation channels are not that big. Some of my personal favorite videos of his are Harry The Moth, Cardboard Boat Racing, and My Horrible Spelling. Harry the Moth is about James and his sister as kids. They found a pet moth and they made it the class pet, but all goes wrong. Cardboard Boat Racing is about James and his class building a cardboard boat, then racing it with other schools. Go check out this great set of videos.