Blog

September 2019


June 2019

As always, students are working diligently in English class.
Our freshmen have transitioned from their work with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, into a darker, more sinister territory as they have dived into their final unit, Create Your Own Dystopia. As a part of this unit, students have decided on their own book to read, and they will be creating their own dystopias! As they do this, students will be answering the following essential questions: What factors and situations combine to create dystopia? What happens to the individual vs. the group in a dystopia? What new problems does conformity create? and How important is it for people to have a choice?
Our sophomores are working on their final unit, Native American Voices. In this unit, we are reading selections from Moccasin Thunder, edited by Lori Marie Carlson, Stories for a Winter’s Night, edited by Maurice Kenny, and Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. They are answering essential questions like: How do Native American values influence our society today? and What can we learn from Native American literature and way of life? To end this unit, students will be conducting a family history and personal legends project. Our juniors are busy finishing their collaborative novella project, titled Two Stories and Three Tails. They have done a phenomenal job exhibiting synergy and bringing this project to close with revisions and collabrative discussion. Our seniors are currently reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for their final unit, Clash of Cultures and Colonialism. During this unit, students are exploring the following questions: In what ways are human beings similar across cultures? What is the impact of European colonialism on the characters in the novel? and What is the impact of Europeaen colonialism on the people and cultures of Africa? Students will be bringing this unit to a close with a group project and a argumentative essaay focusing on the main character, Okonkwo.

March 2019

Students are hard at work in English class! Our freshmen and sophomore students are working on finishing their reading of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and will soon be coming together to work on their final group project, which will consist of a modernized scene from the play.
Our juniors have finally finished the yearbook. They are now working on a creative, collaborative assignment in the form of a novella. Together, they have designed characters and created a fantastical plot full of twists and turns. They have also created art pieces to accompany their writing.
Our senior class is finishing up their senior projects while also focusing on In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. They are learning about the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960 and comparing themes of the time to similar issues faced today through an exploration of essential questions. They will soon begin their research projects to accompany the unit.

February 2019

As we move from February to March, some exciting things are happening in English class.
In March, the freshmen and sophomore students will be coming together to study William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. They will be examining themes surrounding human nature, the uncertainty of gender, universal truths, love as a cause of suffering, and the folly of ambition. They will also be answering essential questions like: How do social expectations affect the development of our identity? How do language and performance construct definitions of identity? How does language shift in meaning across texts and contexts? And how do writers use literature to reveal truths about human nature? The unit will culminate in a final group project that will be a modernized scene.
Our junior students are hard at work at both their independent creative writing projects as well as the yearbook. They are working on the design and textual elements of the yearbook, and they are also interviewing their fellow students for content.
Our senior class has finished The Alchemist, and they will soon be moving on to In the Time of Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez. This novel tells the story of the Mirabal sisters who are assassinated after visiting their husbands in jail. It takes place during the days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. In this unit, they will discuss themes surrounding family, violence, sacrifice, courage, women and femininity, society and class, religion, and freedom vs. confinement. They will be answering the following essential questions: Does an individual have a responsibility to a larger community? How do people maintain their humanity in times of oppression? What factors lead people to switch from social awareness to social action? And how are individuals affected by family dynamics and culturally defined gender roles? This unit will culminate in a research paper and a student choice project.

Dear Evan Hansen

The Seattle Theatre Group and Broadway at the Paramount recently partnered with Dear Evan Hansen to invite students from Title I high schools to view the musical after participating in the Digital Education Program (DEP) around the musical called Power to Inspire. The Power to Inspire project asks students to focus on curriculum that is based in connection, identity, social media, and living in the digital age.
As a special treat for participating in the Power to Inspire Project, students received tickets to Dear Evan Hansen at the discounted price of $10 per ticket. Four students from the high school chose to submit projects and were thrilled to be able to view the performance on January 24th at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.
Dear Evan Hansen is a winner of 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show focuses on main character, Evan Hansen, who struggles with extreme social anxiety. After the tragic death of a classmate, Evan gets caught up in a lie that he never meant to tell and his life begins spiraling out of control. The story follows Evan’s journey through pain and hopelessness to an eventual change in direction to hope and joy.
Our students had a wonderful time at the performance. They laughed, cried, and agreed that they all loved the performance.

January 2019

January has been an amazing month for our English students! Thanks to a wonderful donor in Snohomish, Ms. Shelton’s English classes now own a brand new video camera, with a microphone and other necessary accessories. This new camera will allow our students to bring their projects to life in ways that they weren’t able to before.
Freshmen have finished a project that paired with their viewing of Dear Evan Hansen on January 24th. Additionally, they have been reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. They have also started work on argumentative papers that will be on the topics that they choose.
Sophomores are continuing their work with Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun. They have been focusing on self-expression, identity, and growing up. Because the novel focuses so heavily on the arts, they have also been trying their hand at various art pieces that coincide with the reading.
Our junior students are beginning their independent creative projects. One of our students is working on writing a musical, and the others are working on writing video game scripts. These projects will come to a close at the end of the year as a culminating final project and will be published.
Our senior class is nearly finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. They are also hard at work with their senior projects. They have almost finished writing their papers, and their projects are well underway. Soon they will begin putting their presentations together. It is a very exciting time for them!

November 2018

November has been an exciting month, and our English students have so much to be thankful for! Thanks to a variety of donors who participated in our fundraiser for new books, Ms. Shelton’s English classes now have new classroom sets of a variety of books to be used throughout the year.
Additionally, students in grades nine through eleven have been invited to view a matinee showing of the Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen, in late January. In order to attend this performance, students will be required to produce an artistic writing project. Students even have the opportunity to have their performance chosen to be performed on stage at the event!
Our freshmen class is currently wrapping up their work on Enrique’s Journey and turning to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for our new censorship unit. This is a story set in a dystopian future and focuses on a fireman named Guy Montag. In this world, citizens are heavily censored and literature is forbidden. As a fireman, it’s Guy’s job to start fires rather than put them out. Students will be exploring questions like: How does Fahrenheit 451 reflect themes related to technology, nature, censorship, propaganda, and conformity? How have you been censored? What is the cost of censorship? When does censorship (or breaking the rules) start to affect other people? Our unit will wrap up with both a short story, as well as a character analysis argumentative essay.
Sophomore students are wrapping up their current unit to move toward our new unit: Identity, perspective, and growing up in America. Students will be reading Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun. This novel follows twins, Jude and Noah, as they face the difficulties of growing up and learning from mistakes through art, friendship, family, and hard work. Students will focus on questions like: What effect does family have on growing up? Is growing up finite or perpetual? How do we come to an understanding of how we fit into society? How do we reconcile the tension between internal and external identity? and How do we deal with the conflict between our desire to conform to society and our need to express our individual identity? Students will finish the unit with a final project that will include a written piece of narrative nonfiction, a “Where I’m From” poem and project, and a “Who I Am” art piece.
Our junior students are workshopping their way through a collection of essays entitled, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy. As they read and respond to these essays, they are learning how to strengthen their own writing, and they are asked to write their own pieces that correspond with each essay. Students are specifically focusing on learning how to evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
Our senior class is about to start reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for their new unit, which focuses on personal legends. This novel tells about the quest of Santiago, a shepherd boy who wishes to travel in search of treasure. Students will focus on questions like: What are some common archetypes found in literature? How do archetypes serve as symbols for elements of the human experience? To what extent does “normal” society allow/not allow one to speak the truth? What role does the human spirit play when people experience difficult circumstances? and What influences one’s personal identity? We will wrap up our unit with a personal legend multimedia project.

October 2018

October brought our freshmen the chilling nonfiction tale of a boy named Enrique who travels a terrifying journey by train from Teguicigalapa to Nuevo Laredo on his voyage to find his mother. Enrique's Journey, written by journalist Sonia Nazario, documents a dangerous journey familiar to many immigrants. Students will develop an understanding of migration through Mexico’s southern border, gain a sense of the particular struggles of families who decide to migrate, understand the physical and emotional risks migrants take during the journey, and analyze the psychological ramifications of reuniting families who have been separated by years of distance. Students will also be examining their own immigration history through our immigration project.
Sophomore students have been reading Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and learning about historical civil rights movements along the way. Students have been answering questions like: What are the responsibilities of teenagers and adults in society? What is racial profiling? Are all Americans treated equally? Who has the power to change how people are treated? and How do we as a people change history? Students will understand racism as power plus prejudice and learn to recognize aspects and effects of structural racism in our society. They will also gain knowledge about the Black Lives Matter movement, including its origins and goals, as well as misconceptions about the movement. Students will be completing a “Refuse to Stand Silently By” project, where they will examine crucial global social issues facing us today and decide how best to take action.
Junior students are working on a writer’s workshop where they are getting their creative writing juices flowing. Students are currently focusing on a short piece of fanfiction, but they will move on to create original stories of their own. They are examining questions like: How do writers think and choose a topic? How do writers learn to write? and How can we do a better job of making sure that readers understand what we are saying? Students are learning how to identify and explain the function of essential short story elements, engage in writing assignments that require utilization of all stages of the writing process, evaluate and give feedback to peers, and accept and use feedback to strengthen their own writing.
Our senior class is reading Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This book follows protagonist Christopher as he investigates the suspicious death of his neighbor’s dog. Christopher has autism, and as he partakes in this journey of self-discovery and growing up, he must learn how to navigate human emotions and come to an understanding of how the world works and what his place in the world looks like. Students are exploring questions like: How does the community impact growth of an individual, and what are the individual’s responsibility to the community as well as the community’s responsibility to the individual? and How can unstable family situations affect teens? Students will be discussing characteristics of autism, including how being autistic equips Christopher to solve the mystery, trace Christopher’s expanding understanding of honesty, and engage in formal writing assignments.

September 2018

What are the skills needed to teach others? How do people learn? These are questions that we have been answering in Ms. Shelton’s English class. Throughout September, sophomores, juniors, and seniors took part in a project-based learning unit where they became teachers for one whole class period. Students chose from a variety of topics, ranging from how to play guitar to how to tie knots for macrame to how to write short stories. Students learned just how much work is put into the creation of lesson plans and assessments.
Our freshmen class has been reading various short stories while they learn about the elements of a story. As they read stories like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains, students are examining the following questions: What are the elements of story? What makes a story? Why do we tell stories? How do readers construct the main idea or theme of a story?

May 2018

We continue to push forward in English class. Our senior class is continuing with I Am Malala. They recently finished viewing a film by Sabiha Sumar, Silent Waters, which tells the story of Pakistan on its path to Islamization. They will soon be meeting with community member Shelly Johnson to discuss education in Liberia. They will use this information to compare what they have learned about education in Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries. Our junior class continues to work on their independent projects amongst State testing. They will be publishing their final pieces soon. Our sophomores have also been hard at work with State testing, but they are also working on their final projects of the year, which include a “Song of Myself” performed through a creative medium of their choice. Our freshmen are writing their final papers for The Hobbit, which focuses on analyzing the motif of the hero’s journey in the story. Students will focus on how Bilbo Baggins experiences the steps of an archetypal hero’s journey and discuss whether he fits into the description of an archetypal hero. Additionally, they will be comparing the story to another classic or modern quest narrative.

April 2018

The work never stops in English class! Our senior class has been continuing on with their study of I Am Malala. They will be discussing how Malala’s narrative illuminates common cultural practices around the place of girls in the family in modern South Asia and also examining the connections between cultural practices shaping girls’ experiences and the history of secularism in Pakistan. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a Skype conversation with a citizen of Tajikistan, a country that borders Pakistan and has a similar culture and values, to discuss current practices and ideas. Our junior class is hard at work on their final independent projects. Two of our students have decided to write and publish the novels that they began back in November. Another of our students has chosen a published blog as their final project. Students are in the process of finishing their writing and editing. They are answering the essential question: How do I create and publish my own novel, screenplay, game script, blog, etc.? Are sophomores have moved on to our poetry unit that will specifically focus on Walt Whitman. They will be examining the questions: How do the circumstances of an artist’s life influence their work? How does an author’s style and word choices affect the purpose, meaning, and tone of writing? How can I write my life into my work? Students will be completing their own version of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” through a creative medium of their choice. Our freshmen have delved into J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of The Hobbit. Students are participating in reader’s theater and learning about Joseph Campbell’s theory on the hero’s journey by mapping out Bilbo’s adventure. Students are focusing on the questions: What defines a hero? Why are quest narratives told? How can our own lives be viewed in terms of a quest narrative?

March 2018

Our senior class will soon begin a new unit, the #malalaproject. The #malalaproject focuses on allowing students to become better global citizens by taking action on current events. We will be reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, and focusing on questions: What is equality? How can the study of cultural practices help to inform our understanding of historic events? In thinking about a major world conflict present in the news today, what questions do you have about culture and history that would help you to better understand the political situation? And, finally, how can memoirs shape our understanding of critical moments in history?
Our junior (and sophomore) class saw Hamilton this month! Students had a fantastic time on the trip and were inspired by the performance. Juniors are also hard at work on the 2017-2018 Skykomish yearbook, which is due to be sent off to printing in April. Students will soon begin focusing more heavily on their individual creative projects.
Our sophomores have moved on to a new unit, The Roaring ‘20s. We have recently finished The Great Gatsby, and we are focusing on the American Dream and asking questions such as: What is the American Dream, and to what extent is it achievable for all Americans? In what ways does the American Dream mean different things for different Americans? How has the American Dream changed over time? Is the American Dream of individuality a destructive or empowering force, or a combination of both? Is the American Dream still a viable element today? As a teenager today, how are you affected by the American Dream?
Our freshmen are also in the process of moving into a new unit. They will be using J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit to examine the hero’s journey. They will be answering questions such as: What defines a hero? Why are quest narratives told? How can our own lives be viewed in terms of a quest narrative?

February 2018

Our senior class began a new unit where they will be reading paired literature Night by Elie Wiesel and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. They are focusing on the essential questions: What factors influence decision-making in the face of injustice? How does society influence our identity and the choices we make? How does a society integrate immigrants and how do immigrants transform societies? Our junior class has been continuing work to earn their places to see Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton in March. Students have written original pieces that they will be transforming into music videos. Additionally, they have begun work on their final creative writing projects, where they will each produce their own novella. Our sophomores have been hard at work researching famous authors of their choosing. They are taking their newfound knowledge and transforming it to become their authors for an exciting rap battle. Students will take on the personas of John Green, Dr. Seuss, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Stephen King. They are examining the question, How can art help us understand the world? Additionally, sophomores have recently begun working on their own Hamilton pieces as they have been invited to attend our viewing of the show with the junior class. Our freshmen have moved on to their dystopia unit. They have each chosen a dystopian novel and are using it in combination with their government research to create their own dystopia. Throughout this unit, students are examining the following questions: What factors/situations combine to create dystopia? What happened to the individual/the group in a dystopia? How important is it for people to have choices? What societal changes influence writers to write dystopian fiction?

January 2018

As always, students are busy at work in English class! Our senior class has been reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. They are focusing on the essential questions: What consequences do we face when we don’t take responsibility for our actions? Can individuals transform society? How can scientific advancement and exploration be both good and bad? What is the ethical relationship between creator and creation? Our junior class has been granted an opportunity to see Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton on Broadway in Seattle this coming March. In order to view the performance, students are participating in a short, Hamilton-themed curriculum, which will culminate in an original performance piece that they will have the opportunity to perform at the event. Our sophomores are nearly finished with their post-apocalyptic unit. They have been learning about Radio Theater, have recently written, and performed their own original radio theater piece titled “Safe Haven” about a group of zombie apocalypse survivors who have taken shelter at the Skykomish School building. Our freshmen are continuing on with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They have developed a character analysis by creating Twitter profiles and posts for the characters Romeo, Juliet, and Mercutio. They will soon begin scripting out their final performance. Check out our sophomores’ final project, “Safehaven,” here: https://soundcloud.com/sky-english-class/radio-theater-project-english-class-2018/s-RzHcw

December 2017

Shelton’s English class has been awash in new and continuing projects! Our senior class has recently finished reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. They are working on producing a trailer and soundtrack for the book while focusing on theme and characterization. They will soon be moving on to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Our juniors are at work on both the monthly newsletters and the 2017-2018 school yearbook. They will also soon be editing what they completed for National Novel Writing Month and beginning work toward their final pieces. Our sophomores are well into their post-apocalyptic unit where they have written and produced their first project, a zombie public service announcement, which can be viewed with the QR link below. In order to complete this project, students needed to collaborate to write a script, design costumes, and edit and produce their short PSA. Next, they will be focusing on putting together a radio theater project on a grander scale. Our freshmen class has moved on to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and students are having an enjoyable time acting out their individual roles. Students are examining the question: how can we connect contemporary culture with classic literature? They will completing several projects, including a character analysis through Shakespearian Twitter, modern musical connections through the text, and a final filmed performance.

November 2017

Shelton’s English classes have been busy with a whole group of new projects. Our senior class have started a new unit, Gothic Interviews, where they will be reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and creating a variety of cumulative products while examining the questions: how does culture influence the behaviors of men and women? And how does Gothic fiction reflect American society in the 19th and 20th centuries? Our juniors have been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo). They have also begun working on the 2017-2018 school yearbook, which has taken on the superhero theme, “Knowledge is Power." Our sophomores have started a new post-apocalyptic unit where they will be reading Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Students will be participating in active role play and various radio theater projects, where they will learn how to write a script, create sound effects, act, record, and publish their own radio dramas. Students will be examining the questions: How would I survive an apocalyptic event? What are my ethics now and how would my ethics change? And how would my relationship with the environment and society change? Our freshman are currently working toward finishing their superhero unit. We have shifted our focus from writing character origin stories to researching real-life world problems and writing advocacy speeches that they will perform in class. We will also be collaborating with Ms. Diaz’s 4th and 5th grade class to share our superheroes and their show off our creative costumes.

October 2017

Shelton’s English classes have been busy with a variety of projects. Our senior class has been hard at work at their senior projects. Soon, they will be submitting their final papers for review. Additionally, they have been studying Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and recently finished a viewing of Star Wars, where they tracked Luke Skywalker’s journey from farm boy to praised member of the Rebel Alliance. Our juniors have been hard at work preparing for National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo). This November, these students will join writers from all across the globe to participate in NanoWriMo to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days! Our sophomores have been focusing on censorship in our country by focusing on a banned or challenged book of their choice. Their selections range from Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Our students are taking a close look at their First Amendment Rights through various mock trials and research projects to decide whether their chosen selection should be banned in various institutions. Our freshman are currently focusing on a superhero unit. They have created their superheroes, Captain Bobinson, Jess, and K.C., and are now working on character origin stories through a series of blog posts. This unit focuses on creative writing in the science fiction genre and introduces students to web design. Later on in this unit, students will turn their focus to researching real-life world problems and brainstorming how best to solve them as they answer the questions, “What do you stand for?” and “What would you fight for?”

September 2017

What are the skills needed to teach others?
This is the question that Ms. Shelton’s students were asked to explore. This September, sophomores, juniors, and seniors took part in a Project-Based Learning (PBL) unit where they became teachers for one entire class period. Each student had the opportunity to teach their peers whatever they wanted. Students taught everything from the history of WWI vehicles, to writer’s workshops, to how to assemble goat carts while learning just how much effort is put into the creation of lesson plans and assessments.