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Mrs. Terista's 7th Grade Language Arts

 (609) 407-4008






September 2020




Dear students and parents,



Welcome to a new school year!



My name is Mrs. Terista, and I will be your child’s seventh grade ELA teacher this year. Needless to say, this year is going to be an interesting and challenging one. Despite the challenges, NCS is filled with hard-working educational professionals, dedicated to the success of your child, and we are all looking forward to an exciting, productive year together!



Attached to this letter is my classroom guidelines. Please read this carefully.  It explains expectations for students in this class as well as information on classroom procedures.  Our goal is to make sure your child’s transition into 7th grade is informed and comfortable, as we make significant strides in reaching their academic potential.



If you have any questions regarding this letter, I can be contacted at school,, or (609) 407-4008. Please know that your communication is always welcome, at anytime during the school year and all inquiries will be answered in a timely manner. We will also make every effort to keep in touch with you on a regular basis. In addition, be sure to mark your calendars for a virtual Back to School night (more information forthcoming).



 Together as a team, we’ll make sure your child receives the best education possible!






 Mrs. Terista




7th Grade ELA Teacher, Northfield Community School






Classroom expectations/general information



1) Classroom rules for behavior will be discussed with students the first day of school. We’re keeping it simple with the three R’s (Ready – Respectful – Responsible). 




2) Schedule. All virtual and in-person students: AM cohorts 8-11; PM cohorts 12-3. 




3) What to expect in reading and writing:


 Reading and written expression: 7th grade is in their 2nd year of the Collections reading and writing program. We will begin the year with an introduction to the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, publishing), then move on to the following categories of written expression: Personal narrative, Argument, Informative/Explanatory. The program is a systematic way to implement reading writing that reflects New Jersey Student Learning Standards as well as teach students to write well no matter where life ultimately takes them. We’re excited to begin this journey with you!


In addition, novel studies will utilize literature circles as a means of inquiry and investigation. Literature circles are comprised of roles: discussion directors, word wizards, story summarizers, and story connectors (test to text; text to world; text to self connections). The first week of school is dedicated to the discussion director role and Bloom’s taxonomy and how the two work together to create thought-provoking questions that will allow students to get the most from their reading and group work. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, students take part in rigorous centers that connect to their reading and writing studies, and offer enrichment with other New Jersey Student Learning Standards activities (such as Wordly Wise vocabulary). Students also take part in a Do-Now, which is a daily grammar warm-up activity.



4) Assessments: Assessments are a comprehensive view of your child’s progress each marking period. Sometimes an assessment will be teacher-planned (i.e. quiz), other times your child will have the opportunity to choose how they would like to demonstrate understanding of a concept learned (i.e. written report, PP presentation, movie trailer, video game, etc.). Again, each marking period will include an assortment so that no one child is locked into any one measure of their progress. Homework, participation, quizzes, projects, and tests are all weighed in the overall grade.  



Thank you! If you should have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out. Looking forward to a wonderful year together!




Mrs. Terista



October 2020


Dear parents,


This month's post is for you. As 7th grade writes and publishes personal narratives, your spirit in their work is ever-present. Stories of commitment, perseverance, bravery, and hope, ranging from dance recitals, to escape rooms, or that hockey game 'we almost won,' and many more unique topics, 53 to be exact.


As I read over student work, I am reminded of how precious these small moments are, how they shape our lives long after 7th grade is over, and how you, as parents make these incredible moments possible. Sometimes we don't even realize the impact of the small moments as our children's lives unfold, myself as a parent included. But know that your sacrifices in the love, care, and commitment to your children are truly evident as they put the pen to the page. And I am inspired. And so are your children even if they don't know it yet. My son once asked me what it's like to be a parent. Should I tell him it's like placing your heart on the edge of a cliff, while simoultaneously watching over him with bated breath as his life story unfolds? Not a chance. He won't get it until he is a parent himself. Until then, I wont give up, ever. That impossible, tired moment at the end of a long work week, an illness I hadn't anticipated, a struggle I didn't agree to. And I know we all face these realities in life, to some degree or another. And yet, we make the best life happen for our children. And you certainly have.


So keep making it happen, parents! Enjoy those moments with your children, large and small. I can't wait to share our personal narratives!


Yours in education,


Mrs. Terista   



November 2020


Final exam projects for Out of the Dust are due Monday, November 30th. Have fun with this project! See me for supplies! 


General reminders: 


Tuesday, November 3, 2020: Teacher In-Service


Thursday and Friday, November 5 & 6th: NJEA Convention


Wednesday and Thursday, November 18th & 19th: Parent/Teacher conferences


Wednesday, November 25th: Half day (follow virtual Friday schedule)


Thursday, November 26th: Thanksgiving



December 2020


This December 7th grade studied the works of Charles Dickens and his iconic novella, A Christmas Carol. As we studied this great work of fiction, we tied in many activities: reading the novella, acting out the play, and writing biographical sketches of the author himself. I enjoyed all activities with the students, but reading their essays brought me particular joy. They are writers! And since writing is meant to be shared, here are just a few samples. If you 'd like to see your child's essay, take a look on their google classroom page. Happy holidays to all! 


Student sample (MLA formatting removed):


   Charles Dickens was an artist with words. He shaped his words like clay to create sentimental and memorable characters. He painted pictures in your mind and sculpted a story with structure, humor, and emotion. His work stands today as some of the greatest writings of the Victorian era. Charles Dickens used his past experiences to form inspiring and magnificent books that still hold up today as the best of the best. Charles Dickens early life, factory experiences, and drive for writing built his career as one of the most marvelous authors of all time.


   On February 7th, 1812 in Portsmouth, Charles Dickens was born. His two parents, Elizabeth and John Dickens had dreams and aspirations of money and good jobs. However, Dickens and his family struggled with living a life that they couldn’t afford. Consequently, his father was sent to Marshalsea prison in 1824 for debt. To make money, Dickens was forced to go to a shoe factory along the River Thames. At the rodent-ridden factory, Charles Dickens would work long grueling hours to support the rest of his family.


   At Warrens Blacking Factory, Charles Dickens would “Paste labels on jars of shoe pollish,” according to He earned 6 shillings every week or around 1.68 dollars in U.S. money. 10 hours a day, 12-year-old Dickens would work tirelessly and would not earn much money for it. Dickens felt betrayed, being sent away without a say. Luckily, his father, with inheritance money, could pay off his debts and set Charles Dickens free from the horrible work conditions placed upon him at the factory. The work experience played a major role in many of Charles Dickens's future books where social classes and bad working conditions would be very prominent.


   Charles Dickens used his past experiences in many of his writings. His writings that launched his career off were The Pickwick Papers. These writings lead to Dickens becoming somewhat of a celebrity. Furthermore, his monthly novels were very popular. According to, “Dickens pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication.” Later in 1843, Dickens would create his popular novella, A Christmas Carol. This is a classic story that is still relative and popular today. His future books, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, also remain as some of the best writings of the Victorian era. Using humor and grace, Dickens created deep and emotional stories that are widely popular almost two centuries later. 

   In conclusion, Charles Dickens is one of the best writers of the Victorian era. He used the craft of writing and experience to create a variety of classic literature. Dickens persevered through his father being sent away to jail and having to work at a factory for long hours. Overall, Charles Dickens used his experiences in his early childhood and work experiences, to create phenomenal works of art that are still relevant today!


Student sample:


   Do you dislike Christmas? If you said yes, you are similar to Ebenezer Scrooge, a fictional character in the story A Christmas Carol. Written by Charles Dickens, the story is just one of his many great literary works. Dickens is considered to be the greatest author of the Victorian era. Throughout his life, he worked in literature-related jobs and published numerous written works. Clearly, the events of Dickens’s childhood, his work experience, and his passion for writing all contributed to his fame and iconic stories. 


   Charles Dickens was born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. His father, John Dickens was a naval clerk in a payroll office. Dickens’s father dreamed of becoming rich. His mother, Elizabeth Dickens, aspired to be a school teacher and school director.  There were eight children in the Dickens family, Charles included. Despite dreams of wealth, the Dickens family struggled financially. His father was sent to Marshalsea prison in 1824 due to his debts. As a result, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work at a boot-blacking factory when he was just 12. He was able to go back to school once his father paid off his debts. Three years later, Dickens became a law clerk at the firm of Ellis and Blackmore to help make money for his family once again. Due to his childhood, Dickens would later write stories with themes of social classes, poverty, and greed. 


   In 1827 after working as a law clerk, Dickens began to do freelance reporting at London’s law courts. A few years later, Dickens had a job reporting for two major London newspapers. He published his first book in 1836, titled Sketches by Boz. The book consists of sketches he began submitting to different magazines and newspapers 3 years prior under the pen name “Boz.” Something else he published was The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. It was a series of captions originally written for Robert Seymour’s sports-themed illustrations. Published by Dickens, the series would see monthly installments and amass a lot of popularity. During his lifetime, Dickens published 15 novels. The first was Oliver Twist, about an orphan living out on the streets. It was published in magazine installments from 1837-1838. The story was published in book form in November 1838. Oliver Twist was popular in both England and America. Dickens’s next book, A Christmas Carol, was published 5 years after Oliver Twist. It is about a grumpy old man named Ebenezer Scrooge who, with the help of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, changes his attitude about Christmas. He wrote the book in only 6 weeks, starting in October and finishing just before Christmas celebrations began. The story is one of Dickens’s most well known stories. It was even made into an animated movie. Some other honorable mentions include A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Dickens’s books were so popular that books similar to his writing are described as being “Dickensian,” meaning they include comically repulsive characters or characters with poor social conditions.


   Later in life, Dickens traveled to America in 1848 with his at-the-time wife, Catherine Hogarth. They married in 1836, shortly after Dickens had published Sketches By Boz. He was very popular among Americans. According to Dickens, “[Americans] flock[ed] around me as if I were an idol.” During his visit to America, Dickens spoke out against slavery. In 1858, he divorced his wife Catherine. Near the end of his life, Dickens was involved in a train wreck, known as the Staplehurst Railway accident. Some sources suggest that he was injured by the wreck, while others say he was not harmed by it. Dickens died of a stroke on June 9th, 1870. Thousands gathered to mourn by his grave.


   Having left us with various great literary works, Charles Dickens is an author to be remembered. There is even a word used to describe stories similar to his. Movies and plays were made based off of his works. Dickens’s early childhood, experience in writing and publishing, and his burning passion to write all helped him become famous as a writer and publish iconic stories for us all to enjoy.



January 2021


Ahhh, literature circles (update, student examples, and progress)! This month 7th grade is reading the novel My Brother Sam is Dead. The story takes place during the Revolutionary War from about 1775 to 1779 in Redding, Connecticut, with some parts taking place in New York and other small towns. Even though the book is named after Sam, the story is told by his younger brother Tim. We learn everything from Tim’s point of view. At the beginning of the story, he’s just 12 years old, and by the end of the events that marked his life, he’s 14. He is smart just like his brother. Tim has many obstacles to face as he, his family and community journey through the Revolutionary War. Bonus: This is a great cross-curricular connection with Mr. Vain's Revolutionary War studies in Social Studies class. 



What is literature circles all about? Taking part in literature circles is like being in an advanced book club. Not only are students reading through an inquiry-based learning approach, they are constantly writing! Inquiry-based learning--if you are not familiar with the concept--is an approach to learning that emphasizes the student's role in the learning process. Rather than the teacher telling students what they need to know, students are encouraged to explore the material, ask questions, and share ideas. For example, this week students have been assigned to read 3 chapters of My Brother Sam. In conjunction with their reading they were to complete the word wizard role for literature circles (in this role students find 6 new vocabulary terms that are unfamiliar to them, define the word, use the word in a sentence, indicate if there are synonyms or antonyms, and create an original story using the words in a 1st person point of view.) This is always differentiated for each student because the end product is a result of researching vocabulary that is new and unfamiliar to them. In an effort to have additional practice with these new vocabulary terms in a fun, engaging way, students write the terms on flash cards. On the back of the flashcard, they create a line of dialogue using that vocabulary term. They then take part in an improv activity called 'the bucket game," and use the lines of dialogue in an impromptu conversation with a partner. The flashcards join the ever-growing word wall in 7th grade and we will continue to interact with these words all year. And our stories...some examples of the stories written in the 1st person point of view (as to build upon My Brother Sam which as also told in the 1st person point of view), are below. Happy reading!


Student sample:


   Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. I reached over and smacked my table for the third time, finally hitting the small blue alarm clock that sat on it. I groaned inwardly to myself and checked the time. Only eight. Ugh. I picked myself up and out of bed, to go open my window. It was a breezy spring day, the sound of twittering birds outside.

   ¨Evelynn! Weŕe gonna be late!¨ I heard my mom yell from downstairs. 

   ¨COMING!¨ I bellowed back. It was ridiculous! It was too early on a Saturday to be going to one of my uncles hunting competitions. Nevertheless, here I was, throwing on some capriś and a t-shirt. Then I heard my sister's voice.

   ¨Get down here now,¨ she commissioned, ¨ I don't wanna be late.¨

   I ignored her, for I knew the only reason she wasn´t still sleeping, was because she was promised Starbucks if we could get out of the door fast enough. I bolted downstairs and picked up a hot fudge sundae pop tart for breakfast. Soon enough, we were in the car, and heading towards the hunting grounds. The grounds were not too far away, although I did get rather bored on the way there, and decided to make up a game. Of course, it was a game I could play myself, seen as none of my other family members were interested. After a few minutes, I decide on How Many Windows are in the Buildings. So my game began. I noted that the bright pink house we passed had five visible windows, and the one next to it had three. I tried counting how many our small parishchurch had, but there were far to many, and I gave up. Instead my eyes wandered to a gigantic creature in the middle of the street. My parents drove over it!  My eyes widened as I looked out the window, to see that there was nothing there but some dark shadow. I was really scared for the match. I hated seeing dead animals. Maybe my eyes were deceiving me, but no! There was definitely something there.  My parents had insisted for me to come for reasons unknown. Suddenly, I felt a slight shove on my shoulder. 

   ¨Hey! Ev! I was asking you a question!¨ I realized it was my sister, and turned my head groggily at her. I must have fallen asleep. I despise mornings. Nodding, while glaring daggers into her eyes, which she challenged with a look of her own, I motioned for her to go on. 

   ¨I asked if you had a water bottle for me. Also, weŕe parking now, so get ready. Maybe brush your hair.¨ 

   My eyes widened when I remember we have put both our makeup desks in the loft, with everything still in them, including my hairbrush. Well, too late now. I stepped out of the car. 

   We walked for about 15 minutes, until we came across a metal bench with a few people sitting on it. There were also food trucks and three judges. My sister and I went to go sit on the bench, while my parents went to search for my uncle. Suddenly, one of the judges turned around. When she saw me, she waved. I waved back meekly, but turned to my sister as the judge got caught up with another conversation. 

   ¨Hey, isn't that our preschool teacher?¨ I asked, with somewhat curiosity. I don't remember much, but I do know that my former teacher had left the school, in order to continue another passion. At first I wasn't sure it was her, but then she turned to look at me, and all the memories came crashing down. 

   ¨Huh. I guess it is. Why'd you ask?¨ My sister remarked, a mused look on her face.

   ¨Well, if she knows that our uncle is in the competition, will she judge it fairly?¨

   ¨Well,¨ my sister smirked, a twinkle in her eyes, ¨we could always plan a subversion for her, to get her out of the judging.¨

    I could tell by the way she stared down at the judges, eyes darting back and forth, that her plan wasn't going to be a very friendly one. So instead, I shook my head and kept quiet the rest of the competition. My uncle came in second in the end. Although he had won the hunting part of the competition, he had lost overall for poor craftsmanship of the gun you had to make, whose stockbroke off half-way through the competition. He still achieved a medal and a $50 gift card. After that my whole family, extended included, came back to my house, and we spent the whole night playing games. We didn have enough room in our house for everyone, so we dispersed around two a.m., except for the two cousins closest to my age, and their parents. 

   As I laid down in my bed, I realized how eventful my day had been, and closed my eyes ready for the second day of the weekend. 



February 2021


This month, in addition to our regular course of study, I am offering an extra credit opportunity for students who would like to read The Magician's Nephew, prequel to The Chronicles of Narnia. If students decide to take part in reading The Magician's Nephew, they will work with another 7th grade student, and construct reading and writing responses on my reading blog every week. This is a 5 week independent study and students will be accountable for all other work in class, in addition to their other classes! (Remember: this is completely voluntary!) Details will follow Monday, February 8th. Sign-ups are Thursday, February 11th.


In addition, we are currently writing the literary analysis. We are comparing and contrasting universal themes between the folk tale "The Old Grandfather and His Little Grandson," and the poem "Abuelito Who." This is great practice for our final exam in My Brother Sam, in which students will be expected to respond to a writing prompt in the form of a literary analysis. Student samples will be provided once we complete our work!



Student samples for voluntary independent study: The Magician's Nephew (team: Evelynn Smith and Abigail Lahey). Great way to use text citations to support your response, Evelynn; and great exploration of literary terms--foreshadowing, mood, plot--Abby. Well done girls!


By: Evelynn Smith

  1. If you could give this chapter a title, what would it be? Explain why.


If I had to choose to change a title for one of the three chapters I read, I would change the first chapter title to Indoor Explorations. The original title is called “The Wrong Door”, and although that is a fitting chapter name for what events occurred later on, I would not use it. You see, in this chapter, a young girl named Polly met this boy named Digory, and they quickly became friends. However, because of the rain and weather, they usually met up indoors. Polly showed Digory the tunnels she found connecting all of the little houses. They would explore a lot, and ventured into Uncle Andrew’s forbidden study. But closer to the start of the book, C.S. Lewis states, “That drove them to do indoor things: you might say, indoor exploration.” I found this to be a very good sum up of what they did for the majority of the first chapter. And as I say again, the original title was a very good chapter title to leave the reader’s on edge about what the pages had in store, but I believe that a catchy-two-or-three-word sum up of what happened for a chapter title is better use. Therefore, if I had to change one chapter title of the three we read, it would not be “The Woods Between theWorld”, or “Digory and His Uncle”, but instead the very opening chapter title. 



By Abby Lahey

  1. Do you like the way this author writes? What do you like or don’t like?


I enjoy the way C.S. Lewis writes. There are many little things he does in each chapter that makes you want to keep reading. First of all, the author uses foreshadowing to help set the mood for a chapter. By giving out little hints of the future, the reader becomes curious and wants to keep reading. The author also uses unique dialogue, which shows different interactions and connections between the characters. Uncle Andrew and Digory have a unique relationship. Even though both of them live together, they still seem so far away from each other, rarely even speaking to one another. Neither of them have made much of an effort to get closer, leaving them with an empty relationship and non-existent feelings for each other. This adds to the plot and might help reveal more backstory in the future.



March 2021


Stay tuned for argumentative writing!