Genre: Realistic Fiction
Characters: David Baxter ( a boy who is the main character), Joe Pagnopolous (David’s friend), Beck (another friend of David), Miss Stacy (teacher), Smashing Smorgan (professional wrestler), Victor (the bully at school)
Setting: The story takes place in modern time in Hampton and it takes place in school and at Davids home.
Situation: This story is about a kid named David Baxter who lies a lot. In this story David tells a big lie about a wrestler called Smashing Smorgan. He tells his classmates that he has tickets to Smashing Smorgans next wrestling match but he doesn’t.
Our favorite character in this book is David Baxter (Corey Baxter). We like this character because he lies alot. We also think it is funny when he gets in trouble. We like it when David is bad. Corey Baxter is a legend like Corey N.
We would recommend this book for a quick read. You would like this book if you like lying and keepng secrets. This book is for kids in grades 4 through 6. Also, this book is not too hard. Remember that reading is supposed to be fun.
Corey and Chrisco
Ms. George’s 6th grade class
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Characters: Gutter (main character, made the Braves), Tad (Gutter’s new friend, made the Braves with Gutter), Kayla (A member of the Braves), May (Kayla’s friend and a member of the Braves), Vern (his parent is the owner of the PIke Street Mansion)
Setting: The story takes place in the present time at a coastal town called Tide Cliff, a vacation hotspot.
Situation: Kayla is dared to sleep inside a creepy house and she accepts. The next morning, she doesn’t wake up! Her friends must get her to the hospital and figure out what happened.
Our favorite part in the book is when Kayla got poisoned. It is our favorite part because they thought she was dead. Secondly, she got so sick that she had to go to the hospital. Lastly the whole book revolved around when Kayla was poisoned. That is why it is our favorite part when Kayla got poisoned.
We would not recommend this book to anyone. The first reason is that the book was boring it didn’t have a lot of action. Next the book was predictable and very short so it took us a paragraph to figure it out. The last reason is that it was easy to read so it was short. That is why we don’t think you should read this book.
Jay and Chris C.
Ms. George’s 6th grade class
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Characters: Brian (Hannah’s good friend), Hannah ( a snowboarder), Zack (the new kid)
Setting: Snowstream Ski Resort. Modern time, winter
Situation: The problem is that Zack’s mom won’t let employees’ kids snowboard for free unless they are on the cross country snowboard team. Brian and Hannah don’t like the new rules.
Our favorite part is when Hannah challenged Zack to a snowboard race. The race gives Hannah a chance to prove she is better than Zack. He thinks that all girls are bad snowboarders. The reason that we like this part in the book is because it has a lot of action, especially when Zack hurts his ankle while coming down the hill. Hannah helps Zack down the hill and pulls herself out of the race.
We recommend this book because it is an outstanding sports book. It teaches you about friendship and friends sticking together. It also teaches you not to judge people and give everyone a fair chance. It is more important to help your friends when they are hurt than win the race.
Oh! and if you like snowboarding you would love this book. We recommend this book to fourth and fifth grade boys and girls who love snowboarding and winter!
Raekwon and Justin
Ms. George’s 6th grade class
Genre: Science fiction, Mystery, Horror
The Characters: Will is a brave and kind boy. Melissa loves animals and is kind. Mr. Birnkley is a scary man and has the plague.
The Setting of the book is Green Valley, a small suburban town on the edge of a desert. The story takes place in modern times.
The Situation is that Will got bitten by Mr. Brinkley who had the plague. Will got sick, Melissa and Will had to figure out what was happening to Will and how to cure him.
Our Favorite Part is when Will got bitten. We liked how you don’t find out that the old man is sick until after Will is bitten. It made the book full of surprise. It was scary because the old man bit Will on the arm. We like the description of inside the store being smelly. Its dark inside, with animals lying in cages dead and spooky. The atmosphere is intense and scary. It’s Dark and Melissa is scared of the man is a silhouette. Its so unexpected to be bitten by the man. Its a pet store, so the title of the chapter could be about animal. If you like this more than us than you mite have The Plague.
We would recommend The Plague for anyone who likes mystery books. It is creepy when Will got bitten. It makes you curious to find out why Will see shadows. You also want to read more to find out why Will is throwing up after breakfast. Even though we love this book the author ended the book horrible. So if you like mystery books get the Plague (but hopefully not for real!!!!)
Dominique, Chris S., Jeff
Ms. George’s 6th grade class
Ms. George’s 6th grade class came into the Media Center today, to give book talks on their Hi-Lo books. They were very excited, and so was I, as they are the first students at Pollard to work with the brand new Hi-Lo books. Plus, they were excited because it was their first experience working with Buddies.
In their buddy groups, the students came to the front of their audience of classmates and teachers to read their book summaries. They had spent about a week and a half working on looking for and writing out the following information about their books: title, author, genre, characters, setting, the situation, their favorite part, and whether or not to recommend it. As a challenge, they could choose to do an extra part at the end. One student told me he worked on 7 drafts before he finished his portion. Their talks are posted onto the Book Review portion of this blog.
The first group to talk was Dominique, Chris S. and Jeff, who told us about “The Plague,” by Jonathan Harlen. They took turns reading, then pantomined a shortened version of the whole book, which showed someone getting sick, biting someone’s arm, throwing up and dying from the plague. Following them, Justin and Raekwon told us about “Snowboard Duel,” by Jake Maddox. Next, Jay talked all by himself because Chris C., his partner, was absent. Jay told us about his book called “I Dare You!,” written by Steve Brezenoff. After his presentation, Jay showed us a book review poster he had created for a book called “Summer of Sabotage,” by Bob Temple. He had used a “for more information” URL located at the end of his book, and had researched information about it for the presentation. The last group to book talk was Corey and Chrisco. They told us information about “David Mortimer Baxter: Liar,” by Karen Tayleur. For their challenge, they did a short skit from the book, where they pantomined a scene where David tells the class he has tickets to a wrestling match but really doesn’t. However, at the end, the class goes to the match.
Afterwards, we all enjoyed hot chocolate and homemade apple crisp, baked by Ms. George. Being as how it was chilly, rainy and gray outside, the hot chocolate tasted delicious and was a great way to have “Choco-Lit” Book Talks. After the feast, everyone gathered around the Hi-Lo book cart to pick out their next titles, which they will begin reading next week.
I was very pleased with the student’s work, and their ability to write about what they read with good understanding, as well as give an honest opinion about what they liked or disliked. Not everyone can like a particular book, and it was refreshing to see their true thoughts. I feel that understanding what makes a book interesting to them will help the students to make better choices on their next book. As if to prove this, I saw everyone making sure to read the book summaries and picking out several books to discuss before deciding on a final choice.
Kudos go out to Ms. George for her creativity and leadership in coming up with a fun way to review books, and to Mrs. Neale for being there to help and give an encouraging hand. Thank you for the invitation!
I was so excited to meet Yoko Kawashima Watkins again today. I had met her last year in my previous library, and we’d struck up a friendship that day with several letters to each other over the year. She is the author of several books, including “So Far from the Bamboo Grove,” studied by the 7th graders, and its sequel “My Brother, My Sister and I.”
When she saw me this morning when she came into the library, she ran towards me in her kimono and geta with outstretched arms hugging and kissing me, saying how nice it was to see me again, and reminding me that my photo is always on her desk. We exchanged pleasantries, and I took another photo with her to replace the former one and told her I’d mail it to her. She is so sweet.
Yoko spent the day speaking almost 1 hr. each to four different groups of about 100 seventh graders and teachers with a lunch break which she used to sign books and speak with several students who she had invited to eat with her. With her traditional “ohayo” (good morning) greeting, she joined the students and had them bow towards their teachers who had been gathered in front of them, and greeted us with a chorus of “ohayos.”
Aftwerards, Yoko showed them the Japanese symbol for “people,” which seemed to depict two people leaning towards each other. She explained that we need each other, and need to speak kindly, care for each other and get along with no more fighting or bloodshed. Yoko urged the students to create peaceful surroundings for their community and not to depend on the government for peace because it comes from each one of us. She asked them to teach their children to have peace without bombs and if they hear that she has died, because she is now 76 years old, to “go forward with nothing but kind words.” She also apologized for Japan’s involvement in Pearl Harbor, noting that everytime she visits Pearl Harbor she says she’s sorry for what her country did to America.
Urging students to come forward with questions, she answered their questions using props that were set up on tables. Using her mother’s clog that had fallen off her feet when she died in the station when she was 11 years old, Yoko described the leaf motif on it and how she’d broken it in a fit of despair when her mother died. She had been sad because she’d lied to her mother and never got a chance to say she was sorry. Yoko urged the children to “come clean,” apologize, and write a letter of gratitude to their parents for all they’ve done for them. She suggested they write these types of letters throughout the year, as their letters would remain over the years when their parents passed away.
Yoko’s talk was filled with her memories, answering questions and giving advice to the students. She noted that just as she’s a mirror of her parents, brother and sister, so are they a mirror of their parents. They should speak kindly and care deeply for their friends and surroundings.
In answer to a question about when did she see her father again, she told how she and Ko had gone without food many times to save for the double postage postcard they sent every month for 4 years with their current address to an address in Japan where they hoped their father would end up on transports from Korea. He finally came 6 years after their mother died, and she didn’t recognize the white haired, stooped over old man walking with homemade crutches as her father until he patted her mother’s ashes in the urn Ko carried. She remembered he had always patted her mother and, once she realized it really was her father, Yoko told us she wouldn’t let go of his hand as she cried.
With questions about her brother and sister, Yoko answered that after college Ko became a home economic teacher and retired. She is now 82 years old, lives in Boston, has slowed down a bit, and visited her at Easter. Laughing, she said that Ko is still very bossy, as is her 77 year old husband Donald, and the two spend time arguing with each other. When she visits, he tells her to come again but not to stay too long, yet they love each other dearly. She’s glad that they have the energy to spat.
Hideo, her brother, died in 1977 but visited her in the States in 1976 for the Bicentennial, which was the first time in 20 years she and Ko had seen him. During his visit was when she finally got the courage to ask how he escaped. She noted that he didn’t give her dates and times, so she had to make them up in “My Brother, My Sister and I.”
Someone asked if it was hard to write her story, and she said it was harsh and she cried during it. The inspiration began as a 10 page letter to a very spoiled 15 year old American girl, whose family she was visiting on her first trip to the States. The girl ignored her when she stood to greet her, and made her way to the icebox where she stared, and slammed it shut declaring there wasn’t anything good to eat. Yoko noted the ice box contained a gallon of whole and skim milk, and she didn’t know Americans even had a choice for milk. There was also a container of Half and Half, which also puzzled her. Included in the “nothing good to eat” ice box was: eggs, yogurt, cold cuts, cheese, leftover steak from the night before, fish, many bags filled with 2 kinds of grapes, nectarines, peaches, cherries (her favorite), giant oranges, fresh vegetables, as well as different kinds of soda and V-8 juice.
The 15 year old went to the living room where she proceeded to smoke while Yoko and her mother did the dishes. When she was urged to get dressed, she rudely blew a cloud of smoke at her mother, mashed the cigarette butt onto the banister and left it there. Her closet was filled with lovely clothes and shoes, while her room was full of dirty clothes thrown everywhere, yet she screamed down that she had nothing to wear. Yoko found her to be disagreeable during her whole tour, and even complained about dinner after examining it saying if that was the meal she wouldn’t be eating at home.
Because of this behavior, Yoko wrote her a 10 page letter, letting her know what it meant to be homeless and hungry, and how she had so much. Afterwards, she changed her mind about mailing it because she knew it was the parent’s fault for raising her that way, and she was a product of her upbringing. Later, she took a writing workshop, and her story went from the original 10 pages to 50 pages.
She ended her talk with advice from her father saying: “Don’t lose your temper. Throw away your pride” and “Forgive others.” When she had been bullied in school because of her deafness and was called “garbage girl” because she searched the trash for paper and school supplies, Ko told her to: “Grit your teeth and endure the worse.” Her last advice, spoken from her heart, was “Be an expensive human and not like bad adults.”
Yoko was a big success, and all of the 4 clusters laughed and clapped at appropriate times. It was wonderful to see and hear her again. She reminded the students that she was reading their lips because of losing her hearing in a bomb blast at a young age. After each presentation, various students stayed to ask her questions. At the end of the day, several students returned to talk with her, and Yoko patiently answered their questions. She has a great patience and understanding for children, and it shows. She carefully wrapped up all of the letters and pictures she had received, including the welcome banner and paper flowers. She gleefully showed me her stack of letters from the students saying she had a 2 hr. ride home and would spend the time reading them.
In the afterschool center, I asked various 7th graders what did they think of Yoko and every single one of them said she was wonderful, funny, and they really enjoyed her visit. Several wanted to know if they could still visit her as 8th graders.
Thank you, Yoko, for reminding us of what is important in this world, of how much we have as Americans, and how best to use our resources. Domo arigato.
Today, I was a chaperone for one of Sra. Hill’s 8th grade classes. We left this morning for the Acapulcos Restaurant, where students were supposed to speak only in Spanish. Before we entered, Sra. Hill checked to make sure that silverware, plates and glasses were missing so students would be forced to use their Spanish to ask for what they needed. If someone forgot a word, and his neighbor didn’t know, we supplied the words. One student made us laugh as he tried adding an “o” to every word to get his point across saying: “yo quiero uno cupo ofo sodao” for “I would like a glass of soda.” Of course, he was corrected to say “yo quiero un vaso de soda.”
The two room restaurant was decorated in tones of orange, yellow, brown and purple. Green, red and white strips (representing the colors of the Mexican flag) were festooned over the windows and arches. Baskets of crunchy, warm taquito bites (similar to nachos) were served with hot sauce if desired, while drinks consisted of soda, water and lemonade. Students ordered quesadillas, tortillas with meat (tortillas con carne) and enchiladas. All meals came with orange rice and refried beans. When Aiden saw the refried beans, he was very surprised and asked “where are the beans?” However, after taking a small taste, he ate all of it. Indeed, almost every student loved their meals so much that they cleaned their plates and asked for refills on the taquitos.
To help them practice speaking Spanish, Sra. Hill and I walked around the long table set for 26 making small talk with individuals or small groups.It was Joe’s 15th birthday so, at the end, several staff members came out with a huge purple and gold sombrero for him to wear. They then sang part of “Las Mananitas,” a traditional Mexican birthday song, followed by the English Happy Birthday with lots of clapping to the beat. Joe had a huge smile, along with everyone else, and thoroughly enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.
I really enjoyed my time with this group of very bright 8th graders, and my chicken quesadilla with pink lemonade was delicious. When we arrived at Pollard, as they left the bus and filed by me, all thanked me for coming along with them. It was a great time, enjoyed by everyone.
Thank you for the invitation Mrs. Hill! Gracias por la invitacion Sra. Hill!
In the midst of the hum of activity in the library as I pack over 3200 books for High Rock, do an inventory of the 22,000 books, and weed out old, broken books, the entire school is humming with activity. Last week, the 7th graders left, one cluster at a time, for their yearly field trip and, on Friday, the entire grade participated in their annual Field Day. Below are a few of the upcoming events for the rest of the grades this week at Pollard:
Wed. and Fri.: Eighth graders in Spanish classes continue their trips to the Acapulcos Restaurant, where they will speak only Spanish to order their food and during regular table conversation. As a result of my earlier visits to her classes, Sra. Hill asked for my help. Thus, I will be chaperoning her classes for the 2 hr. trip, and helping students with their Spanish when necessary.
Wed.: Chorus Concert 7 pm at Pollard (all grades)
Thurs.: Visit by Yoko Kawashima Watkins (7th grade)
Thursday night 6:30-8 pm: Student Art Show. A wonderful display of student work from all grades. Includes paintings, drawings, and ceramic work.
Friday all day: Music Dept. Field Trip to the Great East Music Festival (all grades)
Below is the 2009 Summer Reading List for Pollard and High Rock.
There is no one book requirement for rising 6th graders (current 5th graders) or rising 8th graders (current 7th graders), however, students are expected to read at least 2-3 books from the list below and be prepared to discuss what they read with their English teachers in the fall.
Rising 7th graders (current 6th graders) will be required to read one of the following titles by Charles R. Smith, Jr.: “Rim Shots”, “Hoop Queens” or “Hoop Kings.” In addition, students are expected to read 1 or 2 more books from the list below and be prepared to discuss what they read with their English teachers in the fall.
Rising 9th graders (current 8th graders) will be required to read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.” The high school list has other titles they need to read to prepare for the fall.
Taken from the letter for parents about the Summer Reading Program at Pollard: “Whether you are on the threshold of your 6th, 7th, or 8th-grade school year, please read a minimum of two books from the list below and be prepared to discuss or write about one of these two books during the first few weeks of school. If possible, bring to school a copy of one of the books you read. Additionally, we ask that you fill out the brief parent sign-off form as well.”
Titles in Bold are NEW this year! Happy reading!
100+ Sizzling Summer Reads: 2009 Summer Reading List
- Breakpoint or any in Alex Rider series (Anthony Horowitz)
- Bull Rider (Marilyn Halvorson)
- Running Out of Time (Margaret Peterson Haddix)
- Someone is Hiding on Alcatraz Island (Eve Bunting)
- The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke)
- The Twenty-One Balloons (William Pene DuBois)
- A Week in the Woods (Andrew Clements)
- Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls)
- All But My Life (Gerta Weisman Klein)
- The Diary of Anne Frank (Anne Frank, Otto Frank)
- Guts: the true stories behind Hatchet and the Brian Books (Gary Paulsen)
- Leonardo DaVinci (Kathleen Kruel)
- The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (James Giblin)
- My Life in Dog Years (Gary Paulsen)
- Persepolis ( Marjane Satrapi)
- *The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom (Margarita Engle)
- Woodsong (Gary Paulsen)
- Ryan White: My Own Story (Ryan White)
- The Amber Spyglass or The Subtle Knife (Philip Pullman)
- Artemis Fowl and series (Eoin Colfer)
- Clay (David Almond)
- Dealing With Dragons and series (Patricia C. Wrede)
- Dracula (Bram Stoker)
- Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine)
- First Test (Tamora Pierce)
- The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman)
- *The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
- Half Magic (Edward Eager)
- The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, or The Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
- Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)
- The Lightning Thief or others in Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (Rick Riordan)
- The Lost Years of Merlin and series (T.A. Barron)
- Redwall and series (Brian Jacques)
- *Savvy (Ingrid Law)
- The Secret of Platform 13 (Eva Ibbotson)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes or The Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury)
- *The Underneath (Kathi Appelt)
- The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (Roald Dahl)
- Zel (Donna Jo Napoli)
- A Long Way from Chicago or A Year Down Yonder (Richard Peck)
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Ernest J. Gaines)
- Behind the Bedroom Wall (Laura E. Williams)
- Bud, Not Buddy (Christopher Paul Curtis)
- Catherine Called Birdy (Karen Cushman)
- *Chains (Laurie Halse Anderson)
- *Elijah of Buxton (Christopher Paul Curtis)
- Island On Bird Street (Uri Orlev)
- Milkweed (Jerry Spinelli)
- Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (Lensey Namioka)
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi)
- Under the Blood Red Sun or House of the Red Fish (Graham Salisbury)
- Witness (Karen Hesse)
- *A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Ishmael Beah)
- Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter (Adeline Yen Mah)
- Free the Children (Craig Kielburger)
- It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (Lance Armstrong)
- Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High (Melba Pattillo Beals)
- And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile or Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
- Cover Up (John Feinstein)
- *Found (Margaret Peterson Haddix)
- *The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick)
- Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief and series (Wendelin van Draanen)
- What Could Go Wrong? (Willo Davis Roberts)
- The Afterlife (Gary Soto)
- Alt Ed (Catherine Atkins)
- Amazing Grace (Megan Shull)
- Baseball in April and Other Stories (Gary Soto)
- Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
- Behind You (Jacqueline Woodson)
- The Breadwinner and series (Deborah Ellis)
- Cousins (Virginia Hamilton)
- Cuba 15 (Nancy Osa)
- Fallen Angels (Walter Dean Myers)
- Fault Line (Janet Tashjian)
- The First Part Last (Angela Johnson)
- Homeless Bird (Gloria Whelan)
- Hoot (Carl Hiaasen)
- I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This or Lena (Jacqueline Woodson)
- Jazmin’s Notebook (Nikki Grimes)
- Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key and series (Jack Gantos)
- The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
- Like Sisters on the Homefront (Rita Williams-Garcia)
- Locomotion (Jacqueline Woodson)
- The Man in the Ceiling (Jules Feiffer)
- Millicent Min: Girl Genius (Lisa Yee)
- Money Hungry or sequel Begging for Change (Sharon G. Flake)
- Monster (Walter Dean Myers)
- On the Devil’s Court (Carl Deuker)
- The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
- PS Longer Letter Later or Snail Mail No More (Paula Danziger, Ann M. Martin)
- Replay (Sharon Creech)
- The Schwa Was Here (Neal Schusterman)
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (Ann Brashares)
- Slam! (Walter Dean Myers)
- Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
- Tangerine (Edward Bloor)
- There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom (Louis Sachar)
- The View From Saturday (E.L. Konigsburg)
- *Waiting for Normal (Leslie Connor)
- When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (Kimberly Willis Holt)
- *Winning Words (Charles R. Smith, Jr.)
- The Year They Burned the Books (Nancy Garden)
- The Duplicate (William Sleator)
- The City of Ember or sequels: The People of Sparks; Prophet of Yonwood (Jeanne DuPrau)
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Douglas Adams)
- The House of the Scorpion (Nancy Farmer)
- Between A Rock and a Hard Place (Aaron Ralston)
- Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. (Susan Campbell Bartoletti)
- *Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and Recovery of the Past (James M. Deem)
- *The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition (Caroline Alexander)
- Hoop Dreams (Ben Joravsky)
- In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle (Madeleine Blais)
- Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer)
- *We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball (Kadir Nelson)
- With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote (Ann Bausum)
- *After Tupac and D. Foster (Jacqueline Woodson)
- *The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation vol. 1 or vol. 2 (M.T. Anderson)
- *Chameleon (Charles R. Smith, Jr.)
- *Feed (M.T. Anderson)
- *The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
- *Kissing the Rain (Kevin Brooks)
- *Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (Gabrielle Zevin)
- *Nation (Terry Pratchett)
- *Strays (Ron Koertge)
- *Three Clams and an Oyster (Randy Powell)
- *Uglies and other books in the series (Scott Westerfeld)
- *The White Darkness (Geraldine McCaughrean)
During the morning on Friday, I visited Ms. Streisfeld’s 8th graders. I talked about Juan Felipe Herrera, showed them some of his books, and read a few pages from “The Upside Down Boy, El Nino de Cabeza.” I had them look over some of the books in the Spanish collection that I brought with me, and showed them how to access the books from our online catalog.
For part of the afternoon, I went to the Lecture Hall to listen to a debate between Ms. Scribner’s and Ms. Driscoll’s 8th graders on the topic “Is the Death Penalty Cruel and Unusual Punishment?” The students were divided into an Affirmative Side (Scribner’s class) and a Negative Side (Driscoll’s class.) An audience of students was given a sheet to grade the debaters on their persuasiveness, power, emotion, how the question is answered, whether or not they make good points and can back it up with facts, and their closing statements.
Students had prepared by sorting through books and online sources related to their topic. They worked in teams of Openers, Closers, Debaters, Moderators and Film Crew, which filmed the debate. Each side was given a 2 min. Opening Statement. One side showed a powerpoint of cruel and unusual punishments (like the thumb screw), and said they are the same as the death penalty, while the other side gave an example of a criminal who killed 21 boys over a period of time by being in and out of jail, and noted that the death penalty is morally correct because it stops the cycle of violence.
Questions were asked to each side such as “How do you feel abut the death penalty based on its success rate?, If there is no death penalty, what should happen?, What method is preferred?, If one of your loved ones was killed, would you want the killer to stay alive?” Lively responses to each question followed, with questions posed within the questions by both sides to each other. Several times, the Moderator had to remind the debaters to be mindful of the rules that they must talk at the podium, not from their seats, and to not cut each other off when speaking.
When the debaters finished with each other’s questions, the audience members posed questions to them such as “What is cruel about the death penalty?, and What is accomplished by killing a person who’s done something bad?”
At the end, both sides presented Closing Statements in which they strove to convince the audience that their side was the correct point of view. One side stated “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Do we want to continue something just because it’s been done for a long time? Two hundred years ago, slavery was ok and now we know it’s wrong. With the war, do we want to keep spending money on this?”
The other side retaliated with “In prison, prisoners get 3 meals a day and recreation time. That costs money too. All jail does is keep people watched while they go about their regular life. The death penalty serves as a deterrant and is a just punishment for their crimes.”
As I listened, I gave mental points to each side as both groups were well prepared and ready to argue for their point of view. The Moderator was funny and quick to keep the sides in order, while several students on both the Affirmative and Negative sides were outstanding in their arguments. The audience had thought provoking questions, along with those posed by the debaters. I thought the whole debate was lively and very interesting.
I enjoyed myself very much, and was very impressed with their work. Ms. Driscoll and Ms. Scribner worked very hard to help their students to prepare in just a short week of work, and it showed. Kudos to both classes for a fine presentation, and to their teachers for giving them the opportunity to debate a very volatile topic.