Welcome Patriots!



Notes from Room 5

Week of May 23, 2016

Habit 6: Synergize

This is the habit of creative cooperation which basically means “two heads are truly better than one.” However, it does not just happen. It is a process. It requires teamwork and open-mindedness. Together people can produce better results when they appreciate and value differences. Unless people see differences as a strength and sameness as oneness, synergy will not exist.

This week we join together to close out and celebrate a wonderful year of learning while appreciating the abilities and growth that each one of us has achieved this year. Students will finalize instruction on Tuesday and will take their final examinations on Wednesday and Thursday, May 25 and 26th of this week. Graduation will be held on Friday. Seventh graders will take part in a campus wide clean-up. The schedule for the week is as follows:

     Wednesday, May 25th:  1, 2, 3, 4 period
     Thursday, May 26th:  5, 6, 7 and 1 period
Time:                    Length of class:         Period Wed/Thurs:
  • 815-940    (1 hour 25 min)  1st/5th
  • 945-1110  (1 hour 25 min)   2nd/6th
        JH Lunch  1110-1145        1145-115  JH 3rd/7th
  • 1115-1245  (1 hour 30 min)  HS 3rd/7th      HS Lunch  1245-115
  • 120-255    (1 hour 35 min)  4th/ makeup or return to 1st period class
    Friday, May 27th: All Ms. Willard seventh grade students will report to Ms. Wilson
  • There will be a campus wide clean-up from 8:15 – 11:30

All Ms. Willard’s eight grade student will report to the football field to line-up for the Graduation Ceremony

  • Once the ceremony is over, parents will need to sign you out in the front office in order  to leave campus before dismissal time of 11:30.


Week of May 16, 2016

Habit 5: Seek first to understand then to be understood

We spend the majority of our early years learning to read and write because Communication is considered the most important skill in life. But do we ever focus on learning how to listen to another human being? Why?

Most people listen with the intent to reply. We are not truly listening to understand.  Human beings are conditioned to filter everything we hear through our life experiences to provide context or some frame of reference. Then we reply based on what we selectively related to our own experiences. But this is not listening to understand. This is using our experiences to either evaluate, probe, advise, or interpret. Research shows that when we communicate words equate to 10%, sound to 30% and body language is 60% of the process. That is why empathetic listening is a very effective way to build better communication between people. It is a way of listening and responding to another person that involves mutual understanding and trust.

This week seventh grade students will engage in empathetic listening activities in class and use the talking stick for classroom discussions. Seventh graders will also take the final examination on the book The Pearl.  Criteria for the final group project will be announced. Students will create a fable that includes at least two animals, a problem or conflict that needs to be solved, and a solution. Groups will create a 10 page storybook with pictures. Each project should include a moral or lesson.  These will be presented in class during the last week of school. Groups can either read it as a story, act it out as a skit, perform a puppet or shadow box interpretation or write a song to summarize the book. Through this project students will relate folklore back to Habit 5: Seek First to Understand then to be Understood, as we see how folklore was handed down by word of mouth to teach a moral or lesson. All that was required to get the lesson was the ability to listen.

Eight graders will write a three paragraph  literary analysis on Animal Farm that includes an introduction which summarizes the book and suggests a moral or lesson. It should also include one body paragraph with three cited examples to support the moral or lesson form the book. The essay will conclude with a paragraph that links the moral or lesson to today’s society, presidential race and/or governmental system. The conclusion should include new and compelling insight that demonstrates not only the students understanding of the themes and moral of the story book but shows that a student can infer and draw an analogy to modern society or events. Eight graders will also continue working on their group projects of creating a fable in class.

Lisa Willard

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey



Week of May 9, 2016

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

The first three habits of highly effective people are individual. You and I can unilaterally and personally be proactivebegin with the end in mind… and put first things first. No permission is required to do these things and no one can do them for us but ourselves. However, the inter-personal habits begin with Win-Win. This habit and the two following it are about how we relate to those around us and how we work together.  Covey indicates, “Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration.” A Win-Win attitude requires integrity, maturity and an abundance mentality.

According to Covey literature, “most of us learn to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. When we think about succeeding, we also think of someone else failing–that is, if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Covey warns that life becomes a zero-sum game. There is only so much pie to go around, and if you get a big piece, there is less for me; it’s not fair, and I’m going to make sure you don’t get anymore. We all play the game, but how much fun is it really?”

But what if it was not a competition? What if life is really a cooperative arena, not a competitive one? Covey explains that “Win-Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. We both get to eat the pie, and it tastes pretty darn good!”   By sticking with your values, expressing your ideas with courage and believing there is plenty for everyone, you are achieving balance between courage and consideration for others. And this is the essence of real maturity which is fundamental to having a Win-Win attitude in life.

As a teacher at ALA,  I can honestly say staff here abides by a Win-Win attitude which makes this an incredible place to teach. Everyone works cooperatively and brings their own strengths to the table without competition to make our students the best they can possible be.  This week in my class we will see similar examples of people demonstrating Win-Win attitudes and not so Win-Win attitudes as we listen to and watch folklore. We will watch legends, myths, tall tales, fairy tales, fables and folktales from China, Japan, America, India and Mexico.

On of my favorite folktales is called “Tikki Tikki Tembo.” It is set in China long ago. It is a story told to explain why Chinese have short names. It is folklore about the tradition in which parents honor their firstborn sons with long, elaborate names such as Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo and  everyone is expected to say it completely. The Chinese naming tradition is made up, but traditionally firstborn sons in China were honored as the heads of the household and expected to take care of the family. Everyone was expected to treat them with reverence especially the younger children in the family. This tradition changes, however, after Tiki Tiki Tumbo falls into the well and nearly dies because his name is too long for his younger brother to pronounce when he goes to get him help. The folktale teaches that,  from then on, first born sons were given short names.  So, the moral is one of Win-Win in a sense. On the surface level, it teaches traditions can change to benefit all but underneath it teaches everyone matters when you let go of the comparison and competitions, such as long names, that divide us. After hearing this story again and reviewing Habit 4: Win-Win this week, I realize why I love yoga so much and incorporate it in my classroom instruction. It is one of the few physical outlets still left not based on a competitive principal. It enforces the strength and beauty found in each of us without comparison and competition, as we learn the strongest opponent is your own ego. Once you have overcome that opponent, only then can you work cooperatively with others for the benefit of all.



Lisa Willard

“To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.” – Stephen R. Covey


Week of May 2, 2016

Habit 3: Put First Things First

There is a story shared by Stephen Covey about a man standing in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers. He asks them to take a quiz. As he begins to pull out a mason jar and set it on a table, he places a dozen fist-sized rocks into the jar, one at a time. Once the jar is filled, he ask the crowd, “Is this jar full?” All the high-powered over-achievers reply, “Yes.” Then he reaches under the table and pulls out a bucket of sand. He dumps some sand in the jar. As the sand begins to fill in all the voids between the rocks, he asks the group one more time, “Is the jar full?” One person replies, “Probably not.” So, he reaches under the table and brings out a pitcher of water and begins to pour it in until the jar is filled to the brim. Then he asks, “What is the point of this illustration?” One person replies, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”  The speaker replies, “No, that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” So, what are the big rocks in your life? Is it time spent with your loved ones? Your Faith? School? Friends? Work? Finances? Exercise? Sports? Volunteering? Whatever it is just remember to put the Big Rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all.


Lisa Willard

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”   – Stephen R. Covey


Week of April 25, 2016

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

There are only a few weeks left of school and students are being asked to finish off strong by keeping their focus on academics! Seventh graders will continue to study the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. They will craft a personal mission statement which is a personal credo, motto or mantra that states what your life is all about. “Having the end in mind” helps us determine our values and act upon them.  It acts as a blueprint or map for building your life. Students will complete questions about their personal values and goals.  As a class, we will discuss how our values drive our choices, and how to deal with situations when our values clash with others. We will also explore how our convictions propel us toward our goals. Begin with the End in Mind teaches us that goals are more specific than a mission statement. Goals help break our mission statements down into bit-size chunks. So, a mission statement is what you want to accomplish; goals are how you’re going to accomplish it. Habit 2 ties into our reading of Steinbeck’s The Pearl this week, as the main character Kino deals with rejection by expressing physical anger and begins to compromise his values. We also examine how the discovery of the pearl in the story begins to unravel his family.  Students are asked to quick write about what they would do if they won the lottery, inherited a fortune or found a pearl like Kino. Can an event like this change your life for the better or can it cause you to compromise your values? Will there be a bad outcome for Kino if he continues down this path? If you Begin with the End in Mind, you always have an internal compass to guide you.

Eight graders will continue reading Animal Farm Chapter 8-10 and complete comprehension responses and analysis of the story. Students will begin to see how society on the farm starts to grow more fatalistic because the guiding values for the rebellion have been overshadowed by greed and corruption.  By Chapter 8, the tone turns dark and depressing. The pigs begin to hoard the barley for themselves and become intoxicated with their homemade brews. Executions, hunger, deprivation and fear become common place under Napoleon’s rule although Squealer continues to sugarcoat the truth.  The changing of the commandments to suit the leaders’ aims go unchecked  as the illiteracy of the animals keeps them misinformed and apathetic. Then, the most beloved animal on the farm and hardest working war hero of the story, Boxer, dies and is callously sold to a slaughterhouse that makes glue so the pigs can buy a case of whiskey.  Eventually, by the end of the book, the satirical message is exposed; no one is able to distinguish the men from the pigs in the story. And, in a final sad irony, the farm is renamed Manor Farm. Students will continue to sequence key events, summarize and re-enact chapters from the book for retention purposes. A final assessment will be given on Friday, April 29, 2016.


Lisa Willard

“A personal mission statement becomes the DNA for every other decision we make.” – Stephen R. Covey


Week of April 18, 2016

Habit 1:  Be Proactive!

It is fitting that the week we are studying Habit 1: Be Proactive is the week I failed to get my weekly summary completed on this website.  However, this habit is essentially about taking initiative and responsibility in one’s own life. This means that I acknowledge when I fall short and I do not blame others. I understand that every decision is ultimately the key determining factor to how our lives turn out and how effective we are. So, if I am not prepared and proactive, then my performance as a teacher will suffer. Therefore, I have to be accountable for that. So, this habit says we need to be willing to accept our choices. I take full responsibility for not managing my time well.

This non-example of being proactive turned into a lesson for my class and allowed my students to see that I make mistakes too. My seventh graders conducted a group activity by responding to scenarios using either proactive or reactive  language. Examples included: my dog ate my homework, it’s not my fault, I take full responsibility for not having my website updated, and I choose to not let your bad attitude rub off on me. Students learned we always have a choice in regards to our language and attitude. Seventh graders also read Chapter 1 and 2 of The Pearl this week and completed comprehension questions in a their literature packets.  Eight graders continued reading Animal Farm. In this section of the book, Napoleon wrestles the power away from Snowball by having him run off the farm by  a pack of vicious guard dogs. Then Napoleon takes full credit and responsibility for the Windmill blueprints which were created by Snowball. Soon, Napoleon starts changing the commandments and ruling with an iron fist. In addition, Squealer begins spreading rumors and lies about Snowball. No one is safe on animal farm.



Lisa Willard

“Proactive people focus their efforts on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive.”  – Stephen R. Covey


Week of April 11, 2016

First we make our habits, and then our habits make us.  – John Dryden

This week seventh grade English students will begin reading and reviewing The 7 Habits of Effective Teenagers. We will start by exploring and discussing the meaning of the word “habit.” A habit is a repeated behavior or attitude. Students will take part in some classroom activities that classify habits by good, bad and neutral. Students will begin to reflect on their individual study habits or classroom behaviors that have become habit forming and rate them as good or bad. From the 7 Habits literature, we will read about the Circle of Control versus the Circle of No Control.  Once this concept is examined, students will be asked to write down one bad classroom habit they need to improve which is within their own power and control such as talking during instruction, blurting out of turn, not completing homework on time or making inappropriate noises. Each student will be given a card to write down their habit. They will also promise to work toward improvement of that habit and sign it. The cards will be used throughout the remainder of the school year as a gentle reminder to the student to check themselves when they are engaging in this “bad” habit during class. Since a promise or a vow is a declaration assuring that one will or will not do something, this will be an ongoing active study of the 7 Habits effectiveness for all of us to witness together in class as we continue to learn about the 7 Habits throughout the remainder of the school year. In addition, we will begin reading Chapter 1 of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl this week.

Eight graders will continue reading Animal Farm. The battle for power between Snowball and Napoleon comes to a climax this week as we read Chapter 5 through 7 of Animal Farm in class. Orwell contrasts the characters much in the same way as the similar battle between two very different men, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin during the Russian Revolution. While Trotsky secured a role for himself as military strategist and inspirational leader, Stalin exercised power through regulations and rules often referred to as “tactics of terror.” Napoleon, much like Stalin, bullies Snowball, who symbolizes Trotsky, off of Animal Farm. Napoleon then systematically attempts to rewrite history by removing any traces of Snowball. Orwell uses these chapters to repeatedly call the readers’ attention to how  Napoleon, much like Stalin, used language and the manipulation of information to distort historical events. He also draws attention to the animals’ willingness to believe the propaganda. Students will examine the language and manipulation used by Napoleon. They will also create Facebook pages for Napoleon exhibiting these propaganda techniques.



Lisa Willard

“We can control only one thing…ourselves.” – The 7 Habits of Effective Teenagers




Chapter 1 – Animal Farm (visual sequencing of key events) by Kathy and Jalon

Monday – April 4, 2016

This week marks the beginning of fourth quarter. Eight grade students will draw key events from Chapter 1 and 2 of Animal Farm as a comprehension study strategy for the quiz which will be given on Tuesday.  As a class, we will also perform a retell skit of the key events and review key vocabulary, characters and literary terms on Monday. We will continue to add new character traits and events to the in-class wall as we read each chapter in class throughout the weeks ahead. Students will draw or write a summary and answer comprehension questions regarding plot development and character traits on Chapters 1 through 4 by the end of this week. (I actually have made a personal challenge to see if anyone of my students can summarize Animal Farm in 50 pictures or less.)  For the remainder of this month, students will continue to read Animal Farm and write a literary analysis at the conclusion of the story. Themes and questions that will be examined include: Is universal equality achievable? Why or Why not? In addition, students will watch the movie. Then, students will finish off the year by reading the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty written by James Thurber followed by a short video clip of the story. Students will analyze two-step inferential questions based on the story.

This week seventh grade students will finish the final section of their Common Core Performance Coach workbooks and complete the Strand 2 Review Assessment on Working with Informational Text. Next week we will continue to review main idea and making inferences before we start reading John Steinbeck’s book The Pearl, also known as, La Perla.  We will also incorporate an overview of Folklore during the reading of this book, as it is considered, a Mexican novella or folk tale. The story which is set in La Paz, Baja California Sur, explores man’s nature in relation to greed, evil and racism culminating in a lesson or moral about how our actions and choices can have serious consequences.  Stories to be examined include: fables, fairy tales, folk tales, ghost stories, legends, tall tales and myths. We will examine the purpose these stories serve to the members of a society.  The final project for this quarter will include performing a mock trial of a fractured fairy tale based on the book The True Story of  the 3 Little Pigs as Told by A. Wolf in conjunction with Mrs. Berger C level students. Students will put the Big Bad Wolf on trial and write a short folktale as their final group project for the year.



Lisa Willard


Chapter 2 – Animal Farm (Sequence of key events from board)


“Everyone has a story.” – Neil LeBute


Monday – March 28, 2016

Hope you all had an Eggcellent Easter! Just a little clever use of two literary devices (pun and alliteration) that my daughter pointed out to me as we strolled the Easter aisle at Walmart. The names on those dye kits are a treasure trove of figurative language devices that would put a smile on the face of any English teacher. I need to remember that next year for lesson planning purposes.

This week we will be administering the AzMerit Statewide Achievement Assessment. Students will complete the Writing portion on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they will take Reading Part 1 and Math Part 1. Then on Thursday, students will complete Part 2 of the Reading and Math sections. Only the eight graders will be taking the Science assessment on Friday.

Please be sure that your child gets adequate sleep and eats a nutritious breakfast before coming to school. Students may bring a healthy snack to school for the scheduled break.  It is also advised to make sure each student has a book they can read after testing.

Monday is a regular academic instruction day.  My eight grade English class will watch two short videos introducing the plot of the book Animal Farm as a satirical allegory for the Russian Revolution. We will review a timeline of important events in the revolution and key figures. Students will associate that animals play the roles of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and overthrow the farm owner setting it up as a commune in which, at first, all animals are equal. Much like the Russian Revolution, students will understand that disparities start to emerge between the different species of animals.  Before we start reading the book, a foundational background and understanding is needed for context.  Students will be guided to define several terms and to identify who each character in the book symbolizes. Please see the eight grade Homework tab for the terms and definitions. As we start reading Chapter 1 this week, students will begin creating character sketches and making character comparisons in a graphic organizer.

The seventh grade English class will review “How to Apply Context Clues” to determine word meaning. We will review the various strategies as warm-up. Then students will take a 20 minute timed Vocabulary Test in preparation for the state assessment. There will be no homework assigned this week due to testing. Class instruction will go on after testing but class times will be modified to accommodate the testing schedule. Students will spend their time partner reading a short non-fiction book on either the Egyptian Pyramids, Greek Parthenon or Peru’s Machu Picchu Inca site. They will then write a book report and create a travel brochure using text and graphic features (heading, subheadings, tables, charts, maps, photographs and captions).  Each group or pair will give a brief presentation about their selected site to classmates.

Good Luck!

Lisa Willard

“In the age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” –  George Orwell


Tuesday – March 23, 2016

Were the giant statues on Easter Island actually “walked” to their final resting spots?


Welcome back Patriots!

This week we will be reviewing for the AzMerit state assessment which is being administered next week. We will be working out of our Common Core Performance Coach Books.  We will review the checklist for Informative and Explanatory Essays, as well as, supporting a thesis statement with evidence. We will also examine the checklist for Writing an Argument.  A focus on comprehension testing strategies will include drilling down on what it means to Make an Inference from text.

Students will be asked to make an inference using clues or information they know from a story to figure out or make an educated guess about what they do not know or what may be implied. A good inference is supported with evidence and sound reasoning. We will watch a video and answer questions in class about the theories circulating about how the Moai statues on Easter Island arrived at their final resting place.


Lisa Willard

No an alien spacecraft did not crash land on Easter Island. The evidence tested by the researchers shows that Moai were specifically engineered to ‘walk’ in an upright position achieved using only ropes, human labor and simple cleared pathways.  In addition, researchers reported  “the majority of statues are found facedown when the road slopes downhill, and often on their backs when going uphill.”




Thursday, March 10, 2016

Today marks the last day of the quarter and the beginning of Spring Break.  You can feel the excitement in the air. It was so thrilling to see all the students lining up for Incentive Day this morning. Congratulations to everyone that showed progress on their Galileo Benchmark scores. Have fun at Amazing Jake’s! I want to acknowledge Jennifer, Cathy, Freddy and Justin for doing an outstanding job on their Progress Essay Presentations in my class yesterday. Kudos to Jennifer who made salsa that was much much hotter and better tasting than mine! Thanks for sharing it with all of us too.

I was blessed again… three times this morning. First, I was serenaded by the string section as they warmed up for the morning assembly in my classroom. Thank you Mrs. Graham. It made my day! Then, I received a beautiful picture created by Nicole (one of my students) just because she wanted to cheer me up (see above). Yes, teachers get a little down sometimes too especially this time of the year. But as always, my students keep my spirits soaring high with their amazing talents and kindness! As I graded papers, I came across an Ode that was turned in late. It was timely and relevant though given that students get to spend more time with their families during the break.  I think all parents can appreciate the sentiments in Jakeb’s poem. Have a safe and happy Spring Break and enjoy your gifts!

Ode to My Mother by Jakeb

O mom, how much I love you

When I have to go to a baseball game, you cheer me on

When you are driving in the car and we rock out to music

O how much I love you

When we are at home and we have a movie marathon

When we take walks together to get my leg better

When we go to the movies and stay up until 2 a.m.

O how much fun we have together

When you and dad come over and annoy me for fun

When we attack dad for being annoying

When we run around the house and laugh just for fun

O mother, when you get mad at me and send me to my room

O mother, when you get grumpy and yell at me

O mother, how I love you


Cheers to 10 days off!


Lisa Willard

“Taking time to do nothing, often brings everything into perspective.” – Doe Zantamata


Tuesday – March 1, 2016

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” – George S. Patton


Congratulations to my students that made Honor Roll last semester. I am very proud of your achievement. Keep up the hard work and commitment to your education.

I would like to also acknowledge the achievement of our seventh grade class for showing almost 10% growth on the third Galileo Benchmark Assessment.  Students have been provided information on their individual growth.  The graph on our classroom wall has been updated to show overall progression in a positive direction.

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Benchmark #1                     Benchmark #2          Benchmark #3

The yellow dots indicate growth for individual seventh graders totaling 9.83% overall for the class from Benchmark 2 to Benchmark 3. The dots are heading up and to the right in the same direction of the arrows. Woo Hoo!!

Congratulations to my seventh grade class for winning the quarterly benchmark contest. They beat the eight graders again. Three students have achieved Galileo Superstar status for showing the most growth from Benchmark 2 to Benchmark 3. The seventh grade student with the highest achievement was Josh who recorded over 38% growth on his score, moving up over 181 points.  A close second was Mallory with 33% growth and 154 points. Eight grade student Nicole recorded 15% growth and scored 88 points higher than her last assessment. Congratulations each of you on an outstanding performance.

7th Grader – Josh  with 38% growth
7th Grader – Mallory with 33% growth
8th Grader – Nicole with 15% growth
This week we will be focusing on preparation for AZ Merit in April by working out of our Common Core Performance Coach workbooks. We will also be wrapping up our Poetry instruction by writing a compare and contrast literary analysis with cited textual evidence. Students will use two poems from their completed Poetry Books.

As always, you can find assignments for the week under the Homework grade level tabs on this webpage. Parents please remember Wednesday, March 2, 2016 is early release as ALA is hosting Parent-Teacher Conferences from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  If your child is failing my class, you should have been notified to schedule a meeting. Otherwise, you may walk-in anytime during conference hours.

Thank you,


Lisa Willard

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can. “ – Nikos Kazantzakis

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll



Thursday, February 25, 2016

This has been a very busy week in our classroom. Students have been completing their Poetry Books. The eight graders finished writing Sonnets while the seventh graders wrote Limericks. Both grade levels are also defining ten vocabulary words related to poetry and creating matching visual representations of each to add to their Poetry Books. Students have really impressed me with the level of interest they have in poetry and the creative process. Students have really stepped up and embraced this project. Now onto the next assignment.

Practically everyone knows how to do something well. In fact, many people know how to do something so well they could actually teach someone else to do it. That is the main purpose behind the process essay. So on Wednesday, I served homemade tortillas with salsa during my eight grade English class. What? Why? It was actually a demonstration of How to Make Tortillas as an introduction to the “big idea” behind writing a Process Essay.  I performed each step and modeled how to write it in paragraph form.  For the assignment, eight grade students are to select something (a process) they know how to do  and then write an essay which “teaches” the reader how to do that same thing.  It is important for students to choose a subject that is simple and straightforward such as how to bake cookies, put a golf ball, do a yoga poise such as the Eagle or Cobra or vacuum, over something that has a long and complex process. The papers will be due March 9, 2016 and students will give oral presentations on March 9th and 10th. Please see the eight grade Homework and Project tabs for more details.



Lisa Willard

Step by Step and the thing is done.” – Charles Atlas






** Please Read ***Presidential Trivia Question for the week: Since 1900, presidents have nominated how many people to a seat on the Supreme Court during an election year?


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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Welcome back. I hope you all had a fantastic three day weekend. Last week the eight graders ended the week with a study on meter, rhyme and pattern in poetry. We explored meter by using a basketball to learn iambic pentameter and troachic tetrameter. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we read Shakespearean Sonnet’s and completed a Valentine’s Day Dialogue assignment using Sweethearts to practice convention rules (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling). This week students will teach Mrs. Berger’s students on Thursday how to write Limericks using a strict AABBA rhyme scheme and anapestic metric pattern. In addition, all eight grader students should have also completed their DBQ essay for History class last week which asked the question: “Did the Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (Martin Luther King and Malcom X) accomplish their goals?”

Today, my seventh grade English class taught Mrs. Berger’s students how to write a Haiku.  First, they learned about the Japanese tradition that uses 17 syllables in a three line pattern of 5-7-5 to tell a story about nature. The group then walked outside and collected natural artifacts such as leaves, flowers, pieces of tree bark, twigs, grass and rocks. Each student then wrote a poem and incorporated the item into a watercolor painting that resembled the natural state in which they found the item. They created some beautiful poems and pictures (See picture above). I am repeatedly impressed watching students work 1:1 and witnessing how well this model of teaching enhances their overall understanding of the concept.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be taking the Galileo Benchmark assessment. Please be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast. If any parent wants to send in a snack for the break, it will be appreciated.

On Friday, students will write an Ode which is a style of poem that admires something ordinary or shows the importance of something that is usually overlooked. An Ode does not have to rhyme but does have detailed disruptions and observations. Here is an example:

Ode to Chocolate

O chocolate

how sweet

O chocolate

ranging from white to dark

O chocolate

how you sweeten my life

O chocolate

how you light up my day

O chocolate

what would I do without you

O chocolate

there is no better joy than you

O chocolate

you are the best

and will always be!

– By anonymous

Congratulations Kyle for answering the question to last weeks Presidential Trivia question. The answer is “Four American Presidential Candidates won the popular vote but lost the election. They were Jackson, Tilden, Cleveland and Gore.”

As always, thank you for all you do.

Lisa Willard



“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” – Robert Frost


Bravo and kudos to my seventh grade English SE students for modeling outstanding behavior and service today during third hour. Each student worked 1:1 with a student in Mrs. Berger’s class helping them to create a Poetry Book cover of their own.  They demonstrated how to paint and create a concrete poem out of a tree or heart. Here are pictures of the finished products:

20160209_105744~2    20160209_105732~2


****Please Read**** Presidential Trivia Question for the Week Has a Presidential candidate ever won the popular vote but lost the election? If so, who and when? ******


Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year! My seventh graders and I are blessed to have two Chinese foreign exchange students visiting our classroom for a few weeks as part of the ALA Foreign Exchange student program. Today, they shared what Chinese New Year represents and told us it was the Year of the Monkey according to the Chinese Lunar calendar. As luck would have it, it is my year! I was born in 1968 so I am considered a Monkey in the Chinese zodiac calendar. To start off my New Year right, our visiting exchange students presented me with a sweet Happy New Year card that contained a nickel and wishes for beauty, riches and happiness every day throughout the year. It made my day!

This week my eight graders will be writing Limericks and Free Verse poems as my seventh graders complete their DBQ Essays on the Cause of the Great Depression. Seventh graders will also be taking Hake Grammar Test #4 covering chapter 1 through 25 on Friday.  Please see the seventh grade  English SE homework tab for a list of vocabulary words and a quick review of items to study for the test.

Lastly, Congratulations to Matt (and his dad) for answering last weeks trivia question. The answer was: “All three lost the Iowa Caucus but won the Presidency.”

Happy New Year,


Lisa Willard



** Please Read ***Presidential Trivia Question for the week: Besides the Presidency, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all have one thing in common. What is it?   Hint: It occurs in February but it isn’t Presidents Day.


Monday. February 1, 2016

Concrete Poem Poetry Book Covers created by students

Concrete Poem Poetry Book Covers created by students

Monday, February 1, 2016

Last week, we began creating our covers for our Poetry Books. Students painted a tree or a heart using watercolors and then created a concrete poem overlay. The finished products were very creative and expressive. A special thanks to ALA Art teacher Mr. McAllister for lending us his watercolor paints and brushes.  This week, eight grade students will begin a study of the different forms of poetry and begin creating original works for their Poetry Book Project.

This week the seventh graders will finish writing their Persuasive DBQ Essay on the Most Important Cause of the Great Depression. For more details, see the 7th Grade SE tab.














Poetry Book Project will be announced next week! In addition, I will be taking several high performing student ambassadors into the C level classroom for severe and profound students. They will work with students 1:1 to help them create their very own poetry books during the weeks of February 8, 2016 and February 15, 2016.



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Happy Tuesday everyone!  This week students will be assessed on their understanding of figurative language and asked to apply the skill by using it to construct sentences in a 35 question Quiz.

We will also wrap up a unit in our Hake Grammar books. My seventh graders will complete Hake Grammar Lesson 25 and will be assessed on all chapters through 25 next week. My 8h graders will complete Hake Grammar Lesson 45 and take a test on Friday of this week. Please remind students to keep all their Grammar notes and homework assignments to study from for the cyclical review tests.

My seventh grade English class will begin constructing their Persuasive Argument on What Caused the Great Depression. Students will receive direct and guided instruction on Writing a Persuasive Essay using the Fred T writing strategy. Here is this weeks schedule for these lessons:

Wednesday – Difference between opinion and persuasion. Brainstorm pros and cons of teachers assigning homework. Write an argument using one pro or con in a five sentence paragraph using the FRED T. strategy. (*Please note I will be out today due to illness. The expectation as always is for students to complete this in class with the substitute and turn it in for credit.)

Thursday –  Begin brainstorming the causes of the Great Depression. Choose your argument and construct an introductory paragraph to your four paragraph essay.

Friday – Using loaded language. What is it? Also, focus on citing evidence  from the data collected in your History classes to support your argument and using proper MLA formatting in an essay.

Next week, we will begin working on our Poetry Book Project.

Thank you,


Lisa Willard

“Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” –  Herbert Hoover



Let It Go from Frozen


© Wonderland Music

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

We had a great time in class identifying figurative language in lyrics from popular music. Students were able to distinguish the metaphor ‘my heart is a stereo’ from a simile such as ‘you change your mind like a girl changes clothes.’  My favorite was  identifying hyperbole because teenagers are masters of exaggeration frequently proclaiming they are bored out of their mind or so hungry they are going to die! They easily recognized this technique as it is used in the song “Grenade” by Bruno Mars and “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. I assured them that no one will really catch a grenade for ya’ or wait a thousand years for ya’.  The passing of Glenn Frey from the Eagles provided us with some great examples of alliteration mixed in with allusion such as the line ‘Tiffany-twisted and she got a Mercedes benz.’ Also, the allusion of referencing the biblical concept of heaven and hell in the song “Hotel California.”  We all listened to alliteration as used in Tom Petty’s song “Free Falling” and Nina Simone’s song “Little Liza Jane.” Students were able to come up with other songs that use allusion such as “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy which also references The Munsters theme song. We also examined personification and imagery in poetry written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson and John Greenleaf. In addition, we learned how to identify the rhyme scheme of a poem. After working out the rhyme scheme on several poems, we could then compare and contrast the structure, type, figurative techniques and themes in written paragraph form using a guided scaffolding technique to respond to comprehension questions about the poems in our Common Core Performance Coach workbooks.

This week, we will continue to examine puns, idioms,  oxymorons, onomotopoeias, paradox and periphrasis in preparation for a Figurative Language test on Tuesday, January 26, 2016.  As a study technique, I am allowing students to provide song requests to play during our journal writing time for the next week. I will play the song, as long as the lyrics are appropriate and if the student provides at least two figurative language techniques used in the song lyrics so I can point it out. A short quiz on denotative and connotative meaning of words will be given on Thursday, January 21, 2016. We will also be playing Deal or No Deal in class as our study strategy for these concepts.

As always, we will continue with Grammar Lessons this week. The seventh graders are distinguishing the difference between a phrase and clause. The 8th graders are learning how to edit out overused adjectives and unnecessary articles. Also, due to an overall low average grade in all my classes last week, I am repeating the same spelling words this week. It seems no one is studying for spelling tests after the long holiday break (said with a sigh).

Lastly, we will begin working out of our Common Core Performance Coach workbooks in preparation for the AZ Merit  assessment. The expectation is that students will complete most of the assignments in class, however, if they do not finish in class then and only then is it to be completed for homework. These lesson will be checked and entered into the grade book weekly.

Thank you for all you do at home to support our instruction.


Lisa Willard

“And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be. I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. “

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


Monday, January 11, 2016

Happy Monday everyone!  This week we will continue our Poetry study and complete a study guide on figurative language.

In order to stick with standard cultural norms, we will review setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. Statistics show that nearly 88% of all New Years Resolutions fail because they are too broad and not well defined.  In addition, we will have several journal prompts this week related to setting and keeping New Years resolutions using the S.M.A.R.T. goal system. For instance instead of saying, “I am going to lose 30 pounds this year.” If I used a S.M.A.R.T. goal, I   would say, “I will lose 15 pounds by June 30, 2016 by exercising 45 minutes a day for 5 days a week and eating less than 1400 calories each day.” This is a more attainable goal that is specific, measurable, relevant and time bound.  Journal topics this week include:

How important is exercise for a healthy mind and body? How do you exercise?

What is your weight loss goal?

Did you set any academic goals this year?

What bad habits do you need to stop doing this year?

We will also return to our timed yoga physical activity breaks this week with each student getting a turn to instruct two poses throughout the quarter.

Please see class tabs for detailed Grammar homework assignments and spelling words. Also, eight graders check the 8th grade Project tab for samples of Six Word Memoirs, guidelines and due date.



Lisa Willard

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” – Abraham Lincoln


Friday, January 8, 2016

Thank you Mio! Seventh grade student Mallory brought her cockateil to share with classmates today. It was fun having him hang out in my classroom all day. We will miss his whistling.


*******Breaking News on Thursday, January 7, 2016******************

Juliano G. and Tyler J. will be competing in the school wide Scripps Spelling Bee today at 4pm in the Covey Auditorium. Please come out and cheer for them today!!!!


Monday, January 4, 2016


Happy New Year!

I would like to echo what our Director Mr. Roberts said in his Leadership Minute address this morning about the new year. He said it is not only a time to reflect but more importantly to focus on the lessons learned as motivation to improve ourselves in the year ahead.  This spoke volumes to me and I hope to many of my students as well.

This week seventh graders will be reading a scene from Julius Caesar by Williams Shakespeare out of our Performance Coach Common Core Books. It is Act III, Scene 2 best known as the scene when Antony, Caesar’s friend, is allowed to speak at Caesar’s funeral.  Students will determine the verbal irony being used and the modern equivalent of the  antiquated language. Students will also answer questions 1-4 on pages 31-32.  This will begin our foundational starting point for poetry as we are introduced to figurative language and exploring the denotative and connotative meaning of words.

The eight graders will be reading  a passage titled The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a study of informational text.  They will also read The Unknown Citizen by W.H. Auden which asks students to identify government policies or laws that they may disagree with at this time. Also, they are asked to write an epitaph that could be inscribed in a monument for when they are lying in eternal rest.

As a twist for this assignment, I am changing the epitaph to a six word memoir. I am so excited as this is one of my favorite lessons to teach.  Students will watch a video on writing a Six Word Memoir which was made famous by Ernest Hemingway. As the story goes, the Nobel Prize-winning American author, famed for classics such as For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea was sitting at a table,  laughing when his friends bet that he could not write his life story in only a few words. Hemingway, a master of brevity, immediately grabs a napkin and writes: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He  not only wins the bet but leaves the audience wondering what he meant by that statement. Yet, it also summarizes his life perfectly. Amazing!

Students will create their own six word memoirs to be used as epitaphs for this assignment.  In this study, we will also look at song lyrics from some of today’s most popular music to identify figurative language techniques such as simile, metaphor, idiom, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, oxymoron, alliteration, and personification. Students will be encouraged to use these techniques in this assignment and throughout this quarter.  For this assignment, students will work with a partner or small group in class to ask: What do you want people to remember you by? What impression do you leave with people? How do people feel when they are around you? What common words are used to describe you?

As always, please check the homework tab for regular Grammar assignments and Spelling words for the week. Please remember we have a half day on Friday, January 8, 2016.

Wishing you and your family many more miraculous blessings in 2016,


Ms. Willard


“Couldn’t cope so I wrote songs.” – Aimee Mann

“Danced in fields of infinite possibilities.” – Deepak Chopra

– Abstracted from the Six Word Memoir Celebrity Project



****Friday December 18, 2015 – Closing Note from the Turn-In pile*****

Every year when I assign a poem, I find that my male students become prose spouting romantic laureates.  This year is no different. To close out the year on a high note, I am posting the following Sonnet titled Peter is Heaven written by eight grade student Kyle A.. It is written from the perspective of Anne Frank to Peter Van Daan. Although the rhyme scheme is off slightly, Kyle still did a great job writing this Sonnet. His words give me hope for the future. Be well & Merry Christmas!

                        Peter is Heaven

Once before the war there was peace and life

Now there is war; peace is gone; fear is here.

Everywhere and every place you turn, strife

Will this war end before we disappear?

But I see a distant light from heaven.

Is it an angel to show me God’s love?

Could it just be a sign to us seven?

Surrounding me, hovering like a dove.

As I stay with Peter I feel so safe.

In Peter’s heart is peace, kindness and love.

There is no fear. No evil. No danger.  No strafe.

In Peter’s arms is a presence above.

In the real world is fear, camps, hunger, death.

In Peter’s eyes there is light, love, peace, breath.


Monday, December 14, 2015

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas and feel like it too.  I realized in a quiet moment, as I drove to school this morning, how truly blessed my life is to see my students grow and develop this semester not only academically but socially and emotionally.  I am also always touched to see the friendships that form and the respect that is shared among my students at this point in the year. This is not something that gets tracked on a report card but I believe it is the development of a fully rounded child that truly matters most.

As a teacher, it is sometimes easy to become discouraged and focus only on the lack of academic growth or the things not working for us in our classrooms. But, Christmas, has a way of bringing us back to center and reminding us to be grateful for where we are at, the progress we have made and to know for today it has to be enough before we can concentrate and focus on tomorrow. We can always fall for the ego driven mindset such as wanting more now such as the bigger, better shiny new thing at this time of the year but it is best to stay humble and right-sized. As the Dalai Lama once said, ” When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others that never goes away.”

So, what can we be grateful for and celebrate today? We just heard preliminary results from the state of Arizona that American Leadership Academy scored above the state average in every category on last years AZ Merit standardized assessment.  That is amazing! In addition, both my classes recorded growth on the Galileo benchmark. It looks like my eight grade class beat the seventh graders this quarter. They grew 4% as a class just edging out the seventh graders at 3%.

Two students have achieved Galileo Superstar status for showing the most growth from the Benchmark 1 to Benchmark 2. Each student achieved well over 10% growth in the areas of Reading and Vocabulary. Each  student will receive a stocking filled with treats. These students are:
7th Grader – Jayden with 16% growth
8th Grader – Kaden with 13% growth
Please take a minute to congratulate Jayden and Kaden on their efforts. I am very proud of their performance during the second quarter. Keep it up guys!  I also would like to mention outstanding growth was achieved by eight graders Kadence L. and Thomas S. My eight graders will be provided nachos and drinks on Wednesday in class during the movie as a reward. If you would like to send in any treats on Wednesday, you may do so. Otherwise, finals are scheduled for Thursday and Friday. There will be a Grammar test on Thursday and a reading quiz on Friday for both my classes. Starting Monday, we will be watching the film version of the books we just completed reading The Call of the Wild and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl.
As always, I wish you and your family a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year,
Lisa Willard
When a person doesn’t have gratitude something is missing in his or her humanity.” – Eli Wiesel


Monday, December 7, 2015

I want to take an opportunity to sing the praises of our Department Lead, Mrs. Sly. I have the priviledge of co-teaching a seventh grade English class with her this year. On a daily basis, I am in awe of her abilities as a teacher. My inclusion students are extremely fortunate to be in her class. Since she has a background in psychology, she recently taught a lesson about the brain and neuroplasticity.  Her and I share the same philosophy that teaching should involve explanation and understanding of the learning process. However, her grasp of the learning process, specifically neuroplasticity, excites me.  She believes and can substantiate with research that when students understand how their brains work, they are more motivated to learn and the brain grows new neurons. Also, she explained to students how changing our habits has the power to change our brain chemistry permanently.

During her lesson, students were excited to realize no matter where they fall on the Galileo Benchmark scale, they are literally wired, meaning the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.  This discovery was made only a decade ago. In the past, we believed the brain stopped developing during adolescence. This is exciting news especially for students that performed poorly on the first benchmark. They will be able to see with practice, they could grow new neurons. If they grow new neurons, they could improve their scores which in essence shows their brain is continuing to grow and develop. In addition, Mrs. Sly implemented the idea for each English teacher to display a large replica of the Galileo Benchmark scores so students could see and understand where they fall on the grade level proficiency scale. This allows students to activily track their progress throughout the year, anonymously, as they are just provided a number, symbol or picture so no names are posted on the scale. In my opinion, this is the perfect application of learning about neuroplasticity. The more you practice, the more your brain grows. Therefore, the higher your Galileo score!

I will review neuroplasticity and the benchmark scoring graph posted on my wall (see above) with all my classes on Monday in preparation for Galileo testing on Tuesday and Wednesday. We will pick up reading our novels on Thursday. Next week, my seventh graders will watch  The Call of the Wild movie on Monday and Tuesday in class. My eight graders will watch Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Then students will have a final Grammar Assessment and a final comprehension test on their books later in the week.


Lisa Willard

P.S. Enrichment Activity – Students that were fascinated with the videos on brain research should check out episodes of Brain Games on Netflix.

Everything having to do with human training and education has to be re-examined in light of neuroplasticity.” – Norman Doidge


Thursday, December 3, 2015

It has been reported that the Germans and their collaborators killed over 1.5 million children during the Holocaust. This includes over a million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children, German children with physical and mental disabilities, Polish children, and children residing in the occupied Soviet Union.  My eight grade students have the opportunity to explore the life of those persecuted for their race, disability and beliefs through the eyes of a thirteen year old Jewish girl in the book Anne Frank: The Diary of Young Girl. Given the current state of the world, I feel this unit could not be more relevant or meaningful. Students understand the historical context of events leading up to World War II and have been able to compare and contrast these to current events. This has provided more depth to their overall comprehension of the story as it unfolds.

This week, as we read Anne’s words, students began to analyze and describe her character. In our discussions, we recalled what was right about her and all of human nature. We also  honored Anne for the positivity she expressed despite her circumstances by creating Haiku poems in class describing her nature, attitude, and spirit or the natural surroundings of her life during World War II. In addition, students were provided the requirements for their final project.  It is a 14 line Sonnet written either from the perspective of Anne, Peter, Otto, Edith  or any character in the book or from your perspective to any of the characters. It could also be written from Anne’s perspective about her longing to be set free from her current situation or about her love of the world, Peter, her parents and people in general. The Sonnet is due Thursday, December 17, 2015  and is worth 40 assessment points in the grade book. Some students have a modified assignment which is a Free Style poem that includes a theme, mood and at least 8-12 lines with 2 stanzas (See Homework tab and project tab for examples and details).

Overall, students have developed a relationship with Anne through her experiences and have seen glimpses of themselves as typical teenagers in the pages of her diary. Her precociousness juxtaposed against her tragic journey reminds us to always treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve for that is the only way we can change the world.

The seventh graders continued reading The Call of the Wild up to Chapter 3. They were asked to create a picture book of key events in sequential order. They also completed a character analysis and answered comprehension questions. A test on Chapters 1-2 was given on Wednesday.  Please check the seventh grade homework tab for more details on Grammar assignments.



Lisa Willard


In an attic room

I see tree-tops and roof-tops:

hints of lost freedom. – Haiku 5-7-5


20151124_153118~2 (1)

 Tuesday, November 24, 2015                                        

 Visions of turkey, turkey and pumpkin pie predate candy canes dancing in our heads at this point in the school year. It seems we are all a little ready for the five day break ahead. Due to the abbreviated week, students did not have much homework. The eight graders were only asked to seek out a few key dates online related to events during World War II to add to their Anne Frank/World War II Timeline.

In addition, we exercised our creative talents by constructing Study Guide Booklets in class that will aid comprehension during the reading of the abridged version of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.  While we created these books, we listened to radio broadcasts that were aired during the same period that Anne Frank’s family went into hiding. Please note in the interest of time, I decided to read the shorter abridged version versus the longer book in order to allow for more engaging activities.

Yesterday, students were asked to draw items in a suitcase of valuables they would pack if they had to flee their homes quickly and go into hiding. This turned into a great discussion about the different things each of us value in life and why.  It also allowed students to engage the text-to-self comprehension strategy. Today, we watched a documentary that provided historical background for the story. Students will focus on historical context throughout this unit including the political and social events going on in Europe and the world during the dates of Anne’s diary entries. This helps with comprehension by engaging the text-to-world strategy. Students are well versed on these events as they just finished learning about World War II in History class.

My seventh graders  listened to chapters 1 and 2 of the Librivox audio version of The Call of the Wild in class over the last few days.  They then pair-shared and answered comprehension questions related to the main character Buck and how events began to slowly force him to adapt to his new surroundings. Students completed Active Reading page 12 and answered questions 1-3 on page 13 in class. It was only homework if they did not complete it. We also focused on historical context as we did some background reading last week on Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush.  Students were then asked to draw the main characters as we listened to the story. They also listed 2-3 character traits and 1-2 physical traits to describe the character next to their image.  Why? Thi20151124_153209~2s book contains many characters related to the dogsled team. The visual depiction and description will not only help students solidify whose who in the story but will act as reference for recall later.

Lastly, my RAP classes created colorful turkeys and wrote brief gratitude notes. I am always deeply moved by this simple activity as I learn so much about each student by reading their gratitude list. I also find that no one is ever too old for arts and crafts. It always seems to calm the soul. I posted two examples from my hardest working students. They both value and are so grateful for their education. As a teacher, that sentiment just makes me smile!

juliano I would like to extend my warm wishes to you and your family on this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that you entrust your child’s education to my amazing colleagues and I at ALA.  It is not a responsibility that any of us take lightly. Happy Thanksgiving!


“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the higher appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy, XXXV President of the United States – Thanksgiving Day 1963


Monday, November 16, 2015

This week students will be completing a close reading and annotation assignment to learn comprehension strategies. Students will also complete leveled reading assignments in small groups as an overall review of the key elements of literature before we start reading our first novels of the year. As we re-examine each concept, students will be given a pre-test and post-test in order to check for mastery before moving ahead. Non-traditional quizzes will include wall stations. This allows each student to have some physical movement as they walk from one wall station to another reading and identifying the text structure and point-of-view of posted reading passages on index cards. This also breaks the monotony of the paper/pencil sitting at a desk type assessment while providing quick brain breaks between the reading of each passage.  Many students struggle with cognitive overload when asked to sit at a desk and read several long passages back-to-back.  The elements of literature that will be reviewed and tested this week are as follows:

Authors’s Purpose:

  1. Entertain
  2. Persuade
  3. Inform/Explain


Identify point of view:

  1. First person
  2. Second person
  3. Third person (limited, omniscient, objective)


Plot Diagram:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling action
  5. Resolution


Types of conflict:

  1. Man vs. Society
  2. Man vs. Nature
  3. Man vs. Man
  4. Man vs. Self


Identify difference between:

  1. Tone and mood


Character types:

  1. Flat
  2. Round
  3. Dynamic
  4. Static


Overall text structure techniques for categorizing content and creating cohesion will also be examined. Students will learn how to identify these structures in text and understand why they help the brain comprehend abstract ideas/concepts more efficiently. Students will also use application of the skill by writing one or two paragraphs using text structure techniques to answer a current affair type question.

  1. Chronological
  2. Compare and contrast
  3. Sequential
  4. Problem and solution
  5. Cause and effect



Lisa Willard


Monday, November 9, 2015

In honor of Veterans Day, students will be writing thank you letters to active duty officers that are currently serving overseas.  This is a tradition that I have continued with each one of my classes since I first student taught back in 2010 at Riggs Elementary and even further back to 2007 when I ran an after-school program at the homeless shelter House of Refuge.  As the daughter of a former service member and the sister to two veterans, I feel it is imperative that students learn to thank those who fight for the freedoms that we cherish in this country. It isn’t enough to simply learn about these freedoms in class through lectures, videos and discussion. We must as educators actively engage our students in expressing our gratitude for those that risk their lives everyday to defend our ideals. This helps make everything we teach in relation to the history of our country real for students. It also sets forth the beginning responsibilities of what good citizenry means and how expressing gratitude enriches our own lives.

Last year, my students wrote letters to the newly appointed ALA C.E.O. Colonel Brent MacArthur who served in the United States Air Force for several decades.  The students really enjoyed the assignment. In addition, Colonel MacArthur was thrilled and humbled to receive the letters. He even visited students in class to thank them personally for such a warm welcome and their expression of gratitude. He explained how he sat around with his family and read each letter while tearing up a bit. He also said this activity aligns with our ALA leadership philosophy to learn, lead and change the world.

In order to continue this tradition, we will be writing letters to two active duty officers. Students have also voted to include a care box filled with treats.  Items should be sent in no later than Friday, November 13, 2015.  Items include: chips, snack mixes, nuts, rice crispy treats, apple sauce, newspapers, magazines, crossword puzzles, books, small games, hand warmers, socks, mouthwash, and mints.  Several members of my class and I will also guide Mrs. Berger’s students through this assignment as well. I also understand that Mrs. Sly’s classes will be writing letters this week too.

There is a Veterans Day assembly being held on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. ALA invites and welcomes any family members that are veterans to attend the assembly and luncheon. There is no school Wednesday in honor of Veterans Day. The rest of the week we will be finishing our World War II essays, getting caught up on Grammar assignments, studying Scripps Spelling words and continuing to read George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant which explores the impact of Imperialism.

After the Thanksgiving break, students will begin reading novels. The seventh graders will read Call of the Wild By Jack London which delves into pack mentality and naturalism while historically set in the 1890’s Klondike Gold Rush.  My eight grade class will read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl which will allow us to look more candidly behind the events of World War II through the words in a diary written by a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis.

Thank you for all you do,

Lisa Willard, M. Ed.

ext. 1278

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.” ~ David Thomas


*****************Breaking ((((Good)))) News**********************************

Dated:  Monday, November 2, 2015
Two students have achieved Galileo Superstar status for showing the most growth from the Benchmark Pretest to Benchmark 1. Each student achieved well over 10% growth in the areas of Reading and Vocabulary. Each  student will receive a goodie bag today filled with candy and school supplies from Treasures for Teachers. These students are:
7th Grader – McKay  with 11% growth
8th Grader – Kathy  with 18% growth
Please take a minute to congratulate Mckay and Kathy on their efforts. I am very proud of their performance during the first quarter. Keep it up guys!
Ms. Willard
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Henry Ford

Monday, November 2, 2015


This week the seventh graders will wrap up their DBQ on World War I. It is a tough process to learn how to analyze and paraphrase textual evidence but I have been very impressed with the effort students are putting into these essays. The expectation is to have the final drafts done on Tuesday. Grammar lessons have been moved to Wednesday and Friday for this week only. On Friday, students will begin reading Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell using annotation and close reading strategies. This story details the culture class between the British colonizers and the Burmese both through external events and through the narrator’s divided sympathies. It contrasts the killing of an elephant with the treatment of the Burmese. It allows for students to reflect of the consequences of Imperialism and to relate the themes of the story back to the underlying causes of World War I .

The eight graders analyzed historical evidence regarding World War II and how Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor led to U.S. involvement in the war.  Students will begin outlining their essays on World War II on Monday. The expectation is to have a completed rough draft by Thursday and a final draft by next Tuesday.  Grammar will be taught on Wednesday and Friday this week instead of Monday and Wednesday. Spelling Test is on Friday as usual.

Warm Regards,

Lisa Willard


October 26, 2015

Today kicks off the first day of Quarter 2.  We are starting off the quarter by writing an Expository Essay. The 7th graders are writing about the three causes of World War I. The eight graders are writing an essay focused on what led to the U.S. involvement in World War II.  This assignment is a collaboration that is being supported by both the English and History departments. History teachers are responsible for teaching the historical concepts and reviewing evidenced based data. The English teachers will analyze evidence based data and apply how to use and cite it in an essay. English teachers will guide the overall writing of the essay including the thesis statement, introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and conclusion.

As always, I have included all assignments for the week in the homework sections of this website for each grade level.  My eight grade class has requested that I include diagram templates for the homework assignments so I am allowing them to use their cameras to take a picture of the templates off the board. I will also post a copy under the homework section with each Hake Grammar assignment. Please keep in mind that students will also have Grammar and Spelling Tests on Friday as usual.

We have decided that the class that shows the most progress on the next Galileo benchmark testing will win a Nacho Party! Ole!

Thanks for all you do,

Lisa Willard

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” – Winston Churchhill


*****************Breaking ((((Good)))) News**********************************

Dated:  Thursday, October 22, 2015
Hello Parents,
Sorry for such short notice but I just received the results!
My 7th grade English class has beat my 8th grade class for showing the most growth and progress this quarter. We will be having a party during our shortened class period tomorrow (Friday, October 23, 2015).  If you would like to send in any goodies, we will welcome them.  Please send in enough for 10 students.
Also, I have one student that is gluten free so if anyone wants to send in gluten free treats that would be fantastic!
Thank you,
Lisa Willard

P.S. We will still  have a Spelling Test during the first few minutes of class. :(


“Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences.”  – Howard Gardner

Monday – October 19, 2015

Thoughts on Multiple Intelligences….

This week students will be taking Galileo Benchmark testing. Parents please be sure your children get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast before coming to school.

Benchmark testing always makes me wonder how on earth I learned how to read, spell, add and tell time. Oh, yeah and question in depth how I ever passed Geometry.  The answer is not found in my IQ score or standardized test results. The answer is found in my own understanding of how I learn and apply effective study strategies. This is best explained by Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Developed by Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University, the theory consistently amazes and excites me with its ability to serve as a guide in constructing strategies not only for my own learning purposes but for student success.

The intelligences, briefly described, are:

Linguistic: the intelligence of words.

Logical-mathematical: the intelligence of numbers and reasoning.

Spatial: the intelligence of pictures and images.

Musical: the intelligence of tone, rhythm, and timbre.

Bodily-Kinesthetic: the intelligence of the whole body and the hands.

Interpersonal:  the intelligence of social interactions

Intrapersonal:  the intelligence of self-knowledge

At the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Foster and I present a power point on Multiple Intelligence  and students complete a survey to find out what type of learning strategies work best for their learning style.  Students learn whether they lean toward an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learning style. Then, they are provided a list of strategies to try throughout the year.

This week I was able to present a specific lesson on visual note taking, which is one strategy suggested for those students that rate lower in the linguistics category but high in the spatial category. The lesson was presented in the 8th grade English class I co-teach with Miss. Mudd.  Granted, not all Grammar lessons lend themselves to visual note taking, but Hake Grammar Chapter 69 on Italics and Underline did this time.  In short,  visual learners make up about 65% of the population, so the majority of students were able to relate to this method well as visual learners absorb and recall information best by seeing it in pictures instead of words.

With guided instruction, students were asked to create an image to represent a Grammar rule. This provided an outlet for their own creativity while allowing for the engagement of cognitive functions such as comprehension, information organization and capacity for intrapersonal reflection. Then students shared their drawings with one another allowing for some kinesthetic movement within the  classroom. It also forced interpersonal socialization among students and free exchange of ideas. The engagement of auditory, visual and kinesthetic activity fires up more synapses in the brain so that information is better stored in long term memory for retrieval later.  By embedding the image using all these faculties, it acts as a more precise guide for retrieval from the storage system. This is a highly effective strategy for students that struggle with memory recall or linguistics in general.  After all as Temple Grandin says, “the world needs all kinds of minds” and some of those minds “think in pictures.” Here is a finished product. As you can see, we took two very wordy pages of Grammar rules indicating when to use italics and condensed them into six picture panels with two sentences summarizing the rule.

2015-10-18_0093 2015-10-18_0094

Visual note taking, much like mind mapping, can be used in any class. Here are some other examples from History class on the three branches of government and using primary sources.

3 branches of primarysources

As a teacher, I feel it is important to continually push my students to understand how they learn. It is not about how smart you are but understanding how you are smart that can make all the difference in your academic success. Each one of my students has unique gifts and talents to share with the world beyond standardized test results. There are many ways of being smart which benchmark tests may not measure. So, as  your children prepare and take these tests this week, please remind them there is no way to test for everything that makes them uniquely who they are and special to the world.

Always do your best because your best is good enough,

Lisa Willard

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”    – Benjamin Franklin

Monday – October 12, 2015

A nip in the air welcomes all of us back to school after what I hope was a very relaxing and rejuvenating Fall Break for each one of your families. In order to eliminate weekend homework assignments, I have changed my Grammar lesson and homework assignments from Monday and Friday to Monday and Wednesday starting this week. I hope this makes it easier for you at home. Students will still have two days to complete homework. So, if it is assigned on Monday, it is due Wednesday and if it is assigned on Wednesday it will be due on Friday. Thanks again parents for making sure your children have completed all missing assignments to date. The last day to turn in late work is this Friday, October 16, 2015. Also, items for extra credit including pencils, tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer, Lysol disinfectant wipes, colored expo markers and/or bags of Hershey’s Kisses will continue to be accepted through then as well.

This week we will jump back into Grammar lessons and Scripps Spelling word studies as usual.  We will also delve a little deeper into how to write the perfect Spooky Narrative Story.  The Haunted House Diorama Project is due Monday, October 19, 2015.  We will work on writing the descriptive details and  narrative story in class this week. I am hopeful students spent some quality time over the break, as assigned, planning out their designated rooms for their haunted house and reading some spooky stories to help get the creative ideas moving. If not, I suggest they spend time in the evening at home looking on the internet for some ideas.  I was able to find a lot of neat dioramas on youtube.com. We watched one in class that was modeled after the Haunted Mansion Ride at Disneyland before the break. It had real wood flooring and carpet, as will as, a suspended candle opera, 3-D Hologram mirror and sound. As I explained then, it is important for the room not only to include items mentioned in the story but that it contain active visual and sensory elements. This will make it easier for students to use descriptive sensory language when writing the actual story. So, think big….lights that flicker, beds that are suspended in the air, creaking sounds, music, screaming or pounding thunder, flowing drapes, etc.  The spookier and creepier….the better.

Think Spooktacular,

Lisa Willard

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

*******Check the Project Tab for more ideas and specific details regarding the requirements for the Diorama


Monday – September 21, 2015

There are only eight and a half more days left before Fall Break! Guess what? Students are starting to feel anxious already. With that said, parents please remind your students about the benefits of finishing strong!  It may be a wise idea to check their grades in IC for any missing assignments now in order to allow time to get them in before we leave on break.  If your child is failing my class, you should have been contacted to set-up a Parent-Teacher Conference time already. Also, even if a student qualifies for Incentive Day by showing growth on the Galileo Benchmark Assessment, they could still be eliminated from attending the event based on failing grades, attitude and behavior. Parents please be advised that teacher input is being considered.

This week, my sevies (7th graders) are getting ready for their first Grammar test. I will review for the test in class but be reminded that it will cover all concepts in lessons 1 through 10.  Be advised that students should always save their grammar notes and graded homework lessons because Hake Grammar Tests include cyclical review of previous concepts taught. So, do not throw your graded homework assignments away! The vocabulary words that will appear on the test include: adopt, adept, adapt, humane, human, waives, wave.  Concepts include mastery of: the four types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory), identification of run-ons, sentence fragments and complete sentences, capitalization rules for proper nouns, and ability to diagram the simple subject and simple predicate in a sentence.

In addition, we will be completing our first Data Based Question (DBQ) which is about Overcoming Obstacles in life. Last week, we read some fiction and non-fiction example of how people either successfully or unsuccessfully deal with obstacles. We even watched the famous I have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King.  This week, as an in-class writing assignment, we will be using the “Yes, Ma’am” method to find data based evidence in text to support written responses to literary questions. This is aligned specifically to help students prepare for the AZ Merit Test in the Spring.

Those 8th grade students that need to retake the Grammar test from last week will make corrections and have it signed off by teacher on Monday. The Grammar Retake test will be on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. The rest of the week will be devoted to the study of Russian Literature. The 8th graders will begin reading God Sees the Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy. We will learn about the life and written words of Tolstoy who passed through a spiritual crisis which led to a renunciation of his highly successful career as an author.  God Sees the Truth, But Waits portrays the spiritual development of the protagonist showing the inner conflict of two opposing thoughts, faith and injustice, that closely align to Tolstoy’s own struggle with the material and spiritual planes of existence. In the story, truth or justice, however, is not arrived at until the very end of the story.  Through this literary technique is Tolstoy saying that we must have faith that God will eventually bring justice to every situation?  Or is he cynically pointing out that justice sometimes arrives too late?  That is for students to debate and decide.

As always, I am available anytime before or after school at extension #1278 or by appointment.

Thanks for all you do,

Lisa Willard


Monday – September 14, 2015

On Friday, we had a memorial assembly for 9/11.  Students listened to several speakers share their experiences from that fateful day including our Director Mr. Tommy Roberts.  Lyrics from the song American Anthem by Nora Jones accompanied a video montage which resonated with students by asking: “What shall our legacy be? What will our children say? Let them say of me I was one who believed in sharing the blessings I received. Let me know in my heart when my days are through…America. America. I gave my best to you.”

In class, students were given a journal prompt that asked how they intend to change the world in order to make it a more peaceful place for all in the future. The following are a few examples from my 7th grade English class:

“In memory of the ones we lost and the ones we love, I can and will make this country a peaceful place. Through all the hard times America has been through, I am going to serve this country. I will stand up and protect the cries of the weak. I can and I will protect my country… I hope to change the world.”  – Grace

“I really want to be a Master Sergeant when I grow up because I want to make my country proud of my work by being in the Army. I want to make my family proud and keep the U.S.A. safe. I believe in dying for my country and my freedom to protect all. This is how I intend to change the world.”  – Jayden  

Due to the assembly, we had shortened classes and, therefore, we did not have enough time to get to our Grammar assignment and spelling test on Friday. Frankly, as a teacher I made the decision to use this day and the memorial service as a way to integrate service learning and civics into the curriculum which I believe is an important lesson for the overall development of my students. With that said, parents please see revised homework dates and test dates for this week on the appropriate grade level homework page.


Lisa Willard

No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” – 9/11 Museum inscription


Monday – September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day! Hope you all are having a relaxing holiday weekend.  This week our 7th graders will begin studying the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. We will read and complete a packet on The Tell-tale Heart. It is a dark tale with lots of suspense by a master of the macabe who uses tons of literary devices to demonstrate his writing skills. Students will be intrigued and sitting on the edge of their seat as we listen to the audio version of the story in class this week.  The 8th graders will begin reading Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  They will examine the value of a Fountain of Youth through the eyes of an old doctor that allows his friends to relive their early years only to find that it is not all it is cracked up to be. In addition, my 8th grade class will start guided practice on How to Write a Literary Analysis.

Both of these classic pieces of literature studied this week will model how mood and tone impact the reader. We will also continue to develop our writing skills by providing evidence to support the overall theme of a story. By the end of the unit, 7th grade students will be expected to develop a one paragraph response that is 5-7 sentences in length and 8th grade students will write a literary analysis that is five paragraphs long.

As always, we will continue to complete weekly Grammar assignments and study for the Scripps Spelling Bee. The 8th graders should be reminded that the final draft of their Dragon Story is due this Friday, September 11, 2015. It can be typed in MLA format or handwritten neatly in pen. Don’t forget to build the suspense and make sure you include dialogue in your narrative first-person story.

Please be reminded that students can turn in a Weekly Reading Log up to four times a month for credit if they want but it is only expected every other week. Also, students continue to receive raffle tickets for completed homework and a drawing is held every other Friday.  If you would like to send in candy, I raffle off solid chocolate candy bars of any variety. We also started taking our Yoga break and the students are really enjoying it. I began my Yoga teacher training this week and should be certified in November.

In addition, I have started posting Superstars of the week on my W.I.G. wall.  A student gains this acknowledgement by getting the top score on a test, and/or for exhibiting ‘Great Character’ by using one of the 7 Habits while interacting with others in the classroom.  So far, I have posted 10 stars this week! Each star pupil can receive either a homework pass or a piece of chocolate for their success.  Here is one example of a student showing a ‘Win-Win’ Attitude: On Wednesday, we welcomed a new student to class. One 7th grade boy in my class welcomed him by proclaiming, “Everyone in this classroom is in here because we are awesome.” He then went on to explain to the new student the unique talent that each student and even the teacher exhibited that made them so special. Everyone felt acknowledged. It was a great demonstration of the close knit classroom community we are building together.

Thanks for all you do as parents to support us teachers in the classroom.  It is much appreciated.

Learn, Lead, Change the World,

Lisa Willard

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Henry Ford


Monday – August 31, 2015

Well we made it to the fourth week of school already!  And what an amazing journey it has been. We completed our unit on Elements of Literature and both classes read stories with ironic endings or twists. By the end of the unit, students are able to identify the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution of a story. The seventh grade class just finished reading The Necklace. The final assessment will be given on Monday, August 31, 2015.  This week we will focus on writing a Narrative Story and continue Hake Grammar.

Our eight grade class just finished reading The Bet and completed the test last Wednesday. The Narrative Dragon Story was assigned last week. The rough draft is due this Friday September 4, 2015 and the final draft is due September 11, 2015.  I will offer writing time in class this week for students to work on their rough draft. At this point, they should have their character outline (egg), hook and introduction completed for me to look over on Monday. We also have a Spelling Test on Monday. Hake Grammar Lessons will be moved to Tuesday and Thursday this week since I will be absent on Thursday.

Also, students were given information about how to earn points by completing a Reading Log. If they read outside of school for 20 minutes, they need to write a short summary of what they read and turn it in for credit (five points). This includes reading any homework assignments for Science, English or History. Students are expected to complete a Reading Log at least once every two weeks for up to 15 points (60 minutes).

Thanks for everything you do,

Lisa Willard

Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda


Monday – August 10, 2015

Welcome! I hope you all had a fantastic summer and are ready for a great year of learning. It was a pleasure getting to know all of you today during our “Get to Know You” activities in class. As I read through your short paragraphs and motivational quotes that related to the vocabulary word perseverance, I learned something very unique about each one of you. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories with me. Your words and quotes inspired me to make this my best year of teaching yet.  Together, we can do it and persevere even when things get difficult!

This is my second year teaching at American Leadership Academy Middle School and I absolutely love ALA. I graduated from Arizona State University in 2011 with a Masters degree in Special Education. Go Sun Devils!  In my previous career, I worked for over a decade as a researcher, news producer and writer at a local broadcast news station in Hollywood, California. I am a native Los Angelino but have quickly claimed my status as a Phoenician in the Valley of the Sun. I love the beauty and slower paced lifestyle of Arizona.

In addition, teenagers fill my days with happiness as I not only teach seventh and eight graders but have a 13 year-old daughter that is in 8th grade. She is musically gifted and plays the piano, guitar, bass and ukulele. Also, I have a 16 pound long haired tortoise cat named Carrots.  Most of her daily activities consist of lounging on the couch and chasing lizards in the backyard.

This site is designed to help you keep on top of your assignments and projects. But, be warned, I am not very skilled in technology so it really will only have basic assignments and due dates for now. Hopefully, I can learn how to add fancy graphics, photos and video links by the end of the school year.

Please be sure to return your signed Syllabus on August 11, 2015 or no later than August 14, 2015.

In addition, students will be taking Galileo testing this week beginning August 11 through August 13 for the key academic areas of reading, writing and mathematics. Make sure you have a good breakfast and get plenty of sleep the night before. You may bring a book with you in your backpack so in case you finish early you can read silently for a sustained amount of time while other students finish up testing.

If you have further questions or concerns, please contact me at: lwillard@alaschools.org

Please allow 24 hours for a response.

My telephone extension is 1278. I can be contacted before school and after the last bell rings at 2:55 p.m.


Ms. Willard

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Henry Ford


For this class  you will need the following:

1) Designated section in your three ring binder for English filled with 100 pages of college ruled paper or a designated spiral notebook

2) Pencils

3) Highlighter

4) Expo markers (2)

5) Red correction pen

6) Three Prong Folder ( 7th grade = blue and 8th grade = red)

Optional donations: expo markers, tissues, hand sanitizer, Hershey’s kisses, yoga mats and page protectorssA