Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Morning Writing Prompt--Rabbits and Punctuation

Saturday is International Rabbit Day, and Sunday is Punctuation Day.* Write a story or a description of a rabbit, using at least one of every punctuation mark you know. Bonus points for the writer who can correctly use some of these oddities.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Scobie Bathie

Family Troubles
Bathie, Scobie
Grade: 11
School: Fargo North High School, Fargo ND Educator: Lori Koenig
AWARD: Silver Key, Dramatic Script

A caring mother of the four children, Mark’s wife, funny, but can be stern when needed.
The laughable father of the four children, Paula’s husband.
A daughter of Paula and Mark, a typical teenage girl, has a stereotypical sibling bond with Josh, 17 years old.
A son of Paula and Mark, a witty gamer, has a stereotypical sibling bond with Jackie, 12 years old.
A daughter of Paula and Mark, a curious little girl looking for adventure, 6 years old.
A son of Paula and Mark, infant. This character is to be played by a doll wrapped in a blanket that covers most of the face as to give the illusion of an actual child.

This play is set in the early 2000s in a modern house of a family of 6. The set is shown as the living room of the house. A couch stands center stage right, with a coffee table in front of it. On it lays a game controller and a TV remote. The television is not on stage; instead its screen is in the audience. All actors should face out completely when looking at the TV as if a small part of the audience was the screen. Other furniture and accessories are found throughout the room, including a small round dining table with several chairs. There is a large, glass, operable window along the back wall of the house, a front door positioned upstage left, and a kitchen door exactly opposite of it stage right. A staircase leading up to the upstairs, stage left.

(Scene starts in the living room; starts out with SAM, JOSH, JACKIE, and PAULA holding DEVIN, in the room, PAULA standing beside JACKIE, and JOSH sitting on the couch while SAM colors on the floor)

PAULA: All right, that’s the lowdown on what I expect for tonight. Now, repeat it so I know you understood.
JACKIE: You guys leave, we take care of Devin, make sure the house doesn’t burn down, I watch the little ones, blah blah blah (takes DEVIN from PAULA’s hands). And then, (talking towards DEVIN but to PAULA) when you get back, I’m going to get a shiny new car!
PAULA: That’s right. But, if anything bad happens, no one will be getting anything. Understood?
JOSH: Yes Mom, we understand. You don’t have to worry about anything. (aside) Except for me playing the new Forge Striker game you told me I couldn’t buy but went behind your back and did anyway.
PAULA: What was that honey?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday Morning Writing Prompt--one-word from a quote by a famous author

If you weren’t able to join us at the Pens and Pints Writing Crawl this past Thursday, you missed out on the fun. So we’ll bring some of the fun to you! Our writing prompts this year were one-word prompts that accompanied quotes from well-known authors. Grab a beverage and find some inspiration in these words: irritation, hope, broken, risk, dreams, change, magic, friendship. Please share a little of your writing in the comments below!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Melissa Pratt

Never Good Enough
Pratt, Melissa
Grade: 12
School: Kindred High School, Kindred ND Educator: Tanya Neumiller
AWARD: Gold Key, American Voices nominee

Sitting in the waiting room, I felt so tired. Children were running around and screaming with runny noses, touching everything in their path, and more often than not, coughing over everything. I felt like I had been waiting here for hours, though it was maybe only about thirty minutes. I had been the first one in the waiting room, but I still hadn’t been called. Sick of waiting I laid my head on my mother’s shoulder next to me. I had tried to pass the time by reading, but the children’s cartoon, Caillou, was blaring on the TV above me, making it hard to focus. Instead, I tried to prepare myself for the many questions that surely awaited me. I grew very impatient. There was a coldness between my mother and me, and that made conversing hard. Not that we had much to say anyway, being we were both tired and exhausted. I had had enough of this. I finally decided to ask my mother if we could leave. Before she had time to answer, I was called. “Finally,” I thought, as I stood up, grateful that they called me, but perturbed that it took so long.

I had been to the doctor so many times before, I knew the whole routine. I would walk in, state my name and birthday as they would lead me to a room where they would take my weight, blood pressure, and temperature. I followed the nurse into the room, trying to figure out a good explanation of why I was here without everyone thinking I was a complete psychopath. I sat down in the chair as she took my blood pressure on my left arm, instead of the usual right arm. I drifted into thought about pointless things, but was quickly awakened from it as I felt that sharp squeeze on my arm by the cuff.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saturday morning writing prompt--school days memory

School is in full swing. Recall a memory from your school days and write down the emotion it made you feel. Then write your memory without naming the emotion. Instead, add details to help your reader feel the emotion with you.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Dayton Snow

Animal Poem
Snow, Dayton
Grade: 7
School: Circle of Nations School, Wahpeton ND Educator: Lori Hieserich
AWARD: Honorable Mention

Like a big beautiful white wolf
That steps through the snow my
Leave a path for others to follow in school.

Like an annoying
That “Hoo’s hoo’s” at night

I yell around to annoy my family at home.

Like a big brown
That gathers food for the
I buy food to try and stay inside at the dorms.

Like a tricky red fox
That tricks their prey

I trick my sisters to walk in my pranks at home.

Like a graceful
That listens for hunters
I listen for my parents to come home. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How the RRVWP Spent Its Summer Vacation Part #1: Completion of the First College-Ready Writers Program Advanced Institute; Launch of the Second

L to R: Tanya, Kim, Angie, Lisa, Nancy, Becky, Tammy, and Kelly
Congratulations to the following teachers on completing the RRVWP's first College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) Advanced Institute: Ann Duchscher, Becky Fisher, Nancy Gourde, Lisa Gusewelle, Angie Hase,  Tanya Neumiller, Cadie Olson, Tammy Linn, and Kim Rensch. In addition, Angie Hase co-facilitated the institute with NDSU Associate Professor, Kelly Sassi, who also serves on the national leadership team for the CRWP.
Ann, Kim, Nancy, Tanya, Tammy, and Becky

The CRWP focuses on the teaching of source-based argument writing. The teachers taught at least four cycles of argument writing and brought student work to the institute for formative assessment using the tools developed by the National Writing Project. A cycle of writing in the CRWP looks like this:

The RRVWP chose to pursue a grant to offer this professional development to teachers because of the success of the CRWP in independent randomized-control research. Students who have experienced C3WP out-performed other students in writing. The research results can be found here. The data included implementation in 10 states and 22 school districts across 12 writing project sites. It includes many rural, high-needs schools. CRWP had a positive, statistically significant effect on the four attributes of student argument writing—content, structure, stance, and conventions. Interestingly, although explicit teaching of grammar is not part of the program, there were gains in writing conventions. Teachers have also highly enjoyed this professional development and have found it to be rewarding. We have featured the success stories of our first cohort of teachers on this blog throughout the year.

The National Writing Project is scaling up the CRWP, which has a new name, the C3WP (College, Career, and Community Writers Program). The Red River Valley Writing Project contributed district commitment letters to the National Writing Project's i3 grant proposal, which was awarded in January 2017. This $36 million grant will allow the NWP to reach more states and districts through 2020.

The RRVWP launched the next Advanced Institute in C3WP August 8-10 in Fargo and it continues through the 2017-18 academic year with virtual and in-person meetings.

Advanced Institute participants committed to teaching four cycles of argument writing in the 2017-18 academic year and participating in two rounds of formative assessment in which they use National Writing Project tools to analyze student writing. Cycles of writing arecomprised of brief routine argument writing and mini units as well as extended researched arguments. RRVWP teacher leaders support participants in planning that fits each teacher's context.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Lenora Combs

Burn Me
Combs, Lenora
Grade: 11
School: Divide County High School, Crosby ND Educator: Richard Norton
AWARD: Gold Key, American Voices nominee

On July 2, 1944, two weeks after my fourteenth birthday, a letter was brought to my home in the city of Hiroshima, Japan saying that several weeks prior, my father, Yamato Kataoka, a soldier in the Japanese military, had been killed in action in the vicious Battle of Kohima in India.

My mother, a gentle, soft-spoken woman by the name of Misaki, had nearly fallen over when she received the letter and had begun to cry even before it was opened. You see, when a letter addressed from the government is hand-delivered by a man in a military uniform to the door of the family of a soldier, it can mean only one of two things: the family member in the army is dead, or they are missing in action. If they are missing in action, it means they are either dead but the body has not been found, or they have been taken as prisoners of war. Despite what some people might say, in a war as cruel as this one, a large majority of POWs were not expected to survive.

I can still vividly remember the moment when my mother actually opened the letter. Her hands shook as she slit the top of the envelope. She had carefully pulled out the letter and unfolded it as if she feared the paper would crumble to dust in her thin hands. She had read the letter silently to herself, and as soon as she had finished, she had sunk to her knees with a heart-broken wail that ripped my heart to shreds and made it impossible for me to breathe.

My older brother, Isamu, had gently grabbed the letter from our sobbing mother who did nothing to

Friday, August 25, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Alessandro Sassi

Alessandro also received an award for his editorial cartoon (above).

Sassi, Alessandro
Grade: 12
School: Fargo South High School, Fargo ND Educator: Kelly Sassi
AWARD: Honorable Mention

In September of my junior year, I flew off to the mother country. I left my small town of Fargo, North Dakota and arrived in the metropolis of Rome. As a second generation Italian-American, I was familiar with the day-to-day phrases my father spoke to me at home, but this was something completely different. I wondered if I, the goldfish, was ready to swim in the big pond. Would I be able to succeed at one of the most selective high schools in Italy with the skills I possessed? I was not here for the normal reasons students study abroad for a year. I was here to see if I could bring out that Italian blood in myself, if I could reconnect with my father’s family, my language, my culture. Or would I lose my identity?

In the middle of the year, my class was studying Dante’s Inferno. Even my Italian classmates struggled with the old Florentine dialect in which this masterpiece was written, so for me, it was an especially painstaking endeavor. Furthermore, our understanding of the book was tested in a manner unlike anything I’d experienced in America. It’s called l’interrogazione (the Interrogation). The menacing name of this oral exam is an accurate description of its function. A student is called at random before the class and without the aid of any books or notes, he or she must answer questions posed by the teacher. Italian students fear l’interrogazione as Dante fears Cèrbero.

I was horrified that I might be called on.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Ifedayo Omotunde

The Man of the Trees
Omotunde, Ifedayo
Grade: 12
School: Park River Area High School, Park River ND Educator: Kierstin Hurtt
AWARD: Silver Key

The work starts on a late morning before the fog completely lifts. A short ride in a beat- up pick up full of an odd assortment of pruning shears, garden trowels, and plant clippings delivers me to the spot where I will work. Once I get there, I realize the area is bigger than I thought. Even so, the job seems easy; I just have to pull some plants out of the ground. The garden is beautiful, with tall wheat-like grasses framing an ornate metal arch with a garden bench, accented by colorful flowers. Small and medium size trees provide the whole area with shade, and to the right a great boulder stands guard. The boulder is a striking, yet ordinary grey mass about ten feet tall, entirely solid, radiating a gentle sturdiness. That boulder could be used as quite an accurate description of the man that I was volunteering for: Joel Hylden.

Joel is a man who is the picture of the middle-class, Protestant, North Dakotan, quite ordinary. He could be described almost as an ent from The Lord of the Rings. He radiates a gentle sturdiness, with kind eyes and a muted youthfulness. His beliefs are of the old- spirit, of getting back to our roots. He believes in people learning about nature and embracing the beauty of God’s creation, not constricting it to man’s ideal sense of beauty. He also believes that “everyone should be taught how to prune a tree properly.” He has a fatherly wisdom about him, wisdom that he teaches to anyone that will listen; a wisdom of doing things the way God wants.

A deeply religious family man, Joel has a down-to-earth, quiet demeanor. He is the rock of every room he walks into. His home is full of life, the way it was meant to be: natural. Nature peeks out