6th Grade English/Language Arts

Welcome to our ELA page. Use this page to help you get to know what we do in 6th Grade English/Language Arts class.

Final ELA Projects 2014

Our year studying together is almost over.  Students must prove to me that they have gained skills and knowledge in the Language Arts in reading and writing.  Students will prove this to me by choosing one of the four options for their ELA Final this year.  Please see the blog post Final ELA Project 2014 for more information.


Writer's Workshop

In 6th ELA, we use a workshop model to continually work on our craft of writing.  Through mini-lessons, guided practice, partner and whole class sharing, we draft, revise, edit, and work through the entire writing process.  While students are constantly drafting lots of ideas, stories, and notes, every 6 weeks (or so), students must bring two pieces of writing through the entire writing process to publication.  

The first 4 week cycle of term 3 (April), one piece must be a poem.  The second piece can be whatever the student chooses.  It can be another memoir, poem, or any other type of writing.  I will be teaching lessons specific to poetry writing throughout the term, as well as other mini lessons about good writing in general.  We started looking a Poetry a little last term, and now we finally get to finish it with the whole school celebration of Poetry Month!  We will be drafting, editing, peer revising, meeting with the teacher for at least one conference, and more surrounding both pieces of writing long before the publication date (4/29).

The second 6 week writing cycle will be focused Persuasive writing.  One required piece must be persuasive.  The second piece can be whatever the student chooses.  It can be another memoir, poem, or any other type of writing.  

ELA Notebooks

We will continue using our ELA notebooks every day in ELA.  Students are expected to compose 3 to 5 pages of writing in their notebooks every week.  I'll try to get some pictures up of their notebooks in the coming weeks.  I'm really impressed with the incredible work that is being accomplished within those pages.


Independent Reading Contracts

Last year, I did a lot of researching and thinking about our reading logs, student goals, and student reading engagement.  Based on my findings and my work with last years 6th graders, I like to run my 3rd Trimester in ELA a little differently.

Reading logs are to encourage students to voraciously explore the world of reading.  For some students, they work very well, giving them a tangible way to track their successes.  For others, they are a complete chore and take all the fun out of reading.  Others still simply forget and end up faking the assignment or not turning it in. These last few are not at all what I want and negate the original purpose of the assignment.  

This term’s reading is focused more individually (Term 1 = whole group with Wrinkle in Time; Term 2 = small group with Lit Circle books).  For this term’s reading logs, students will craft their own goals and their own method of tracking their progress.  I will not always be there to stand over students, to force them to read.  The best thing I can do as a teacher is help students learn how to track their own progress, how to motivate themselves to dive deeper into reading, and how to take ownership of their own learning.

Students will choose and set their own goal for reading in class.  They will then choose their tracking method and have it signed by both myself and their parent(s).  I will want to see progress periodically and will be helping students see how to make that happen.  Students must choose at least one book from Mrs. Nilsen’s “list” of suggested 6th grade literature and will do a big final project on at least one of the books they choose to read.   (I'll post the list at the end of this blog post.  The list isn't meant to be exclusive, just simply books that I have read that I feel comfortable suggesting to most 6th graders at this point in the year.)

It is my hope that students are able to take more control of their learning and that this project and set of assignments allows me to cater our in class work to the individual needs of students.

I meeting with all of the students to set their goals this week.  I will keep checking in with students (every Monday and Thursday for sure, and more often if needed) and we'll make adjustments as needed.  I think this term's reading goals are a great why to meet students where they are and give each of them a reachable challenge.

Let me know how progress towards these goals goes at home.  Look forward to a writing update in the next couple of weeks.  

6th Grade Independent Choice Reading List - 2014
Old Yeller
Al Capone Does My Shirts
The Westing Game
A Wind in the Door
The Hunger Games (series)
Eragon (series)
Harry Potter (series)
Chronicles of Narnia (series)
The Lightening Thief (series)
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings (series)
The Rangers Apprentice (series)
The Watsons go to Birmingham
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Giver
Number of the Stars
Fahrenheit 451
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM
Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
Little Women
Black Beauty
James and the Giant Peach
American Born Chinese
Island of the Blue Dolphin
The Ancient One
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Circut
Surviving the Applewhites
Air Raid - Perl Harbor!
The Higher Power of Lucky
Voyage of the Great Titanic - the Diary of Margaret An Brady
We Are the Ship - The story of  Negro League Baseball
The Trumpet of the Swan
Charlotte's Web
Where the Side Walk Ends


Weekly Word Study

Every week, students are to choose 5 words that they want to learn how to spell.  I highly encourage words they are trying to use in their writing, but are using incorrectly due to not knowing how to spell them.  This allows students to all work at their own pace and skill level.  I work with students to choose words that are appropriate.  I mark words I see in their writing that would be good words to learn and practice).  Students use the Weekly Word Study page to complete the procedure below.  Sample picture is on the left and extra copies, as always, are in my room and on Engrade.  (If you're a teacher wanting to use this method, it can be found in Nancie Atwell's Lessons That Change Writers.[2]  I'm only posting enough on here to help my parents and students know what to do for these assignments.)

Students follow the procedure below to a T as they practice their words.  The idea is to move their word from the short term to the long term parts of their memory.  Taking a break in between each word helps them to do this.  If you have any questions about the procedure, feel free to ask away!
The thing I love most about this approach to spelling is not only does it meet students individually, but they enjoy it.  Instead of dreading their weekly spelling test, they have fun with it and learn at the same time.  In addition to this Weekly Word Study, I will be doing spelling/language focused lessons every Wednesday in our Language Workshop.  

Engrade Blog Series

I've started series of blog posts to help with Engrade tech support. Check out them out if you need any help. Head to our Weekly News blog or click on any of the links below to find out more:

Engrade Tech Support
- What is Engrade and how will it help students be successful this year?
- How do I sign up? Is it for Parents or Students?
- Ok, I have an account, but only one of my classes show up. How do I add other classes to my account?

Reading Mrs. Nilsen's Engrade
- How do I read the "code" of scores on Mrs. Nilsen's Engrade?
- What's the deal with the "Homework Club" assignments?
- How do I see the comments Mrs. Nilsen left on my student's assignments?

and Engrade Help #3
- I see the list of assignments, but I don't know what you are asking my student to do for the assignment. How can I see the assignment instructions and details?
- My student lost his/her paper? How can I print another copy of it off Engrade?
- If I write you a message, Mrs. Nilsen, that message is private, right?

I hope all of this information is helpful in using Engrade. I'm always willing to help parents and students with technology issues before or after school, by appointment. Please let me know if I can assist you in any way. As Engrade is free, you can access it on any public or private computer, and it is my hope that it will increase communication and accountability within our students about their school work. Good luck!
Works Cited

[1] "Quotes About Books." (3395 Quotes). N.p., n.d. Web. 26  Jan. 2014. <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/books?page=2>
[2] Atwell, Nancie. Lessons That Change Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinmann, 2002.
[3] "Biography Ellen Raskin." Scholastic Teachers. Scholastic, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2014. <http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/ellen-raskin>
Author: Emily Nilsen
Molalla River Academy 6/7/8 Teacher
Last Updated: June 2, 2014

Helpful Links

Be sure to check out our blog to keep updated with Mrs. Nilsen's 6th grade ELA class.

Recent ELA News

Check out student's assignments expectations, due dates, and scores on Mrs. Nilsen's online "grade"book. Students and Parents can have their own log-in and password. Contact Mrs. Nilsen if you need a new student access code.
Read a great book? Want to tell your friends why it was so incredible? We'll be using Goodreads this year to share recomendations with each other. Check out what I've been reading at my Goodreads page.
Wondering what else is going on at MRA? Check out our school website.
DonorsChoose is a nonprofit that helps teachers get the resources they need. I got our Wrinkle in Time novel set and the 4 Classroom Tablets we use to help students dictate their writing assignments through DonorsChoose and a few generous advocates for education.

Even when I don't have a project up, you can still give to my classroom page. The money given will be applied to the next project I write. Check it out below and thanks for your generous giving!

ELA Notebook

Table of Contents

Below are the items in our Notebooks thus far, listed as they are in our Table of Contents.  I will update this throughout the year so both parents and students can see should be in our notebooks.  If you need copies of any of these things, shoot me an email or Engrade message and I'll get it to you. 
Date - Title Pg #
9/10 - ELA Title Page: 1
9/10 - Table of Contents: 2-5
9/10 - My Writing Territories Help 6
9/10 - Writing Territories Title pg: 7
9/10 - My Writing Territories: 8-22
9/12 - Mini Lessons Title pg: 23
9/12 - Brief History of English: 24-25
9/13 - What is Writing?: 26
9/17 - Good Titles - 27
9/18 - Weekly Word Study Rules: 28
9/18 - Weekly Word Study Ex: 29
9/18 - My Personal Spelling List: 30-31
9/20 - Context Clues: 32
9/26 - Partner Test Procedure: 33
9/26 - The truth about "I before E": 34
10/9 - Root words and prefixes: 35
10/22 - Prof. Business Letter: 36
11/5 - Questions for Memorists: 38-39
11/6 - 6th Priority Words: 37
11/7 - Movie behind your eyes: 40
11/8 - The rule of SO WHAT?: 41
11/12 - Thoughts and Feelings:42
11/13 - Writing Goals: 20
11/14 - Punctuating Conversation: 43
11/15 - In/effective Memoirs: 44-45
11/19 - The rule of a Pebble: 46
11/22 - Bad Fiction = Easy!: 47
1/8 - What makes a good Essay: 48
1/10 - Where Poetry Hides: 49-50
1/14 - The Power of "I": 51
1/14 - How Free Verse works: 52
1/15 - 6th Grade Core Words: 53
1/21 - Leads: Begin Inside!: 54
1/22 - Suffixes: To double or not?: 55
1/24 - Lines, Stanzas, Spacing: 56
1/28 - Cut to the Bone: 57
1/29 - ! [ ? ] , "  " (Punctuation): 58-59
1/31 - Considerations Final Drafts: 60

Authors All Around!

Every month will feature a new and different writer to explore. Join us as we dive into the world of reading!

June: Ellen Raskin

"Ellen Raskin was a writer, illustrator, and designer. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She primarily wrote for children. She received the 1979 Newbery Medal for her 1978 book, The Westing Game.

Ms. Raskin was also an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dozens of dust jackets for books including the first edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time.

She married Dennis Flanagan, editor of the Scientific American, in 1965.

Raskin died at the age of 56 on August 8, 1984 in New York City due to complications with connective tissue disease." [3]