Welcome back 8th grade students and familes

Dear 8th grade students and families,

Welcome back to your final year at Trinidad School.    It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience with all the fun activities and adventures like:   the backpacking trip, ski trip, halloween carnival, after school sports, marine studies, and of course . . .  graduation!    

This year in science we study matter, energy, and waves.

And in social studies, with Ms. Cunningham,  you will be learning about America's first people through the U.S. Constitution.

This year most of you will be in Course 3 math which introduces more advanced algebra and geometry skills in order to get ready for Integrated 1 math in high school.   

8th grade language arts focuses on analyzing literature and poetry, and writing clear argumentative essays, so get ready to B.S. . . .be specific, that is.

Spanish, tech skills, music, art, PE, and Monday Mash-up are all on the menu too, so there’s something for everybody.  

You can access a list of recommended school supplies and the tentative class schedule through my class website.

School starts on Monday, August 28 at 8:50.   Don’t forget that every Monday school ends at 2:10, including the first day of school.   

See you soon!

Mr. Vack


Digital Life Presentation Using PowToon

Make a Powtoon presentation that showcases your digital life

Go to

type in code:  Ntc1

You will need to sign up with a free account.
  • compelling/creative title
  • at least 8 slides
  • use an assortment of animations and transitions
  • keep a consistent theme and color scheme

  • include photos, screenshots from your life or technology you use.  

  • should answer the following questions

  • what technology do you use?
  • what do you use technology for?
  • how often are you in front of a screen?
  • how do you think technology affects your social life?
  • in what ways is technology a detriment to your life?
  • in what ways is technology a benefit to your life?
  • how do you envision using technology in the future?
  • ??????? 


Cosmos Infographic

  1. As you watch Cosmos pt 3:  When Knowledge Conquered Fear, make a rough draft info graphic by writing down any words, concepts, names, ideas, or images that strike you.  
  2. After we discuss and digest main concepts in the video, make an artistic info graphic that expresses what you learned.  
  3. You may make the info graphic as a collage using markers, colored pencils, crayons, magazine images, printed images, etc,  
  4. Or you may use an app/software such as PicCollage, Google Draw, or anything else that you can arrange images and text to make an info graphic.   You must be able to save your one page info graphic as a .pdf or .jpg so you can share it with me.  (more on this tomorrow in tech skills)
  5. Info graphics will be due Friday.  


Researching Topics for your Persuasive Essay

1.   Open these two google docs I shared with you  called "Persuasive Essay Topics" and "Persuasive Essay Resources and Research Guide".  Save the "Resource and Research Guide" as a copy and put your name in the title.

2.  Using the resource links, research a couple of the topics you are interested in.  If you are not sure on a topic yet, peruse the Upfront magazines,, The N.Y. Times Learning Network article archive, and the Article of the Week archive.

3.  As you read websites and articles be sure to copy or paraphrase in your research guide any important facts or quotes you come across.  Write the website/magazine/newspaper name,  headline, author,  and date if available.  Be sure to put the evidence into either the "pro" or "con"  section.  Also identify the experts in the articles, so you can refer to them later in your essay.

4.  You will definitely need at least 3 credible sources for your essay, so keep researching until you find quality articles.   Once you have your topic picked and have filled out the research guide.  Add your name and position statement to the class topic list.  (see my listing as an example)


Editing and Revising your Product Comparison Review

  1. Complete your product comparison review rough draft and give it the title "Your Name:  Title:  Rough Draft."  This needs to be complete by Tuesday morning so we can start revising in the lab.  If you don't have computer access at home please work at homework club.  Make sure you are explaining, comparing, and using specific examples from your criteria table.  Use at least five coordinating/subordinating conjunctions and bold them.
  2. Looking at the Read ReAD and RoC revision chart for ideas, read your review once more and look for ways to improve.  Now read and proofread your own at least 3 other student's reviews.  Don't correct mistakes for them, but you can underline spelling, capitalization, or punctuation errors.  When necessary, add ReAD and RoC comments.  
  3. Read those comments and revise!  Copy two rubrics to the end of your review and use one to assess yourself, leave the other one for me.  Go back and make any more improvements.  Once you feel your final draft is complete.  Change your title to "You Name:  Title:  Final Draft" and change your sharing settings with me so I can edit.  Final Drafts are Due Friday.


50 Greatest Technological Innovations Project pt 2

  1. Once your scripts are made, start adding high resolution images to your photo story.  
  2. Make a title page using Photoshop
  3. Now you can add your narration.  If your computer's audio is not working ask me to use a laptop.  
  4. Add some background music and/or audio effects.  You can download free sound effects at


50 Greatest Technological Innovations Project pt. 1

  1. Read The Atlantic's list of the 50 greatest inventions.
  2. Choose three to research further.
  3. Start researching your inventions.
  4. Narrow your decision down to the one you would like to investigate further

News Quiz

Take the N.Y. Times Weekly News Quiz and test your knowledge of current events.


Digital Drama and The Uniqueness of You: Word Clouds

  1. After you have finished your digital drama worksheet and turned it in to the "Reality of Digital Drama" folder.  
  2. Make a word cloud of your ideas.  Remember the more times you use a word the larger it will appear in your word cloud.  
  3. Save your word cloud as a jpg and post it to your blog.
  4. Make a second, more in depth word cloud about yourself.  Use unique words to describe who you are.  
  5. Save as a jpg and post to your blog too.  
Wordle: Vack


Writing Surveys/Analyzing & Interpreting Data

 After you have created your survey and taken everyone else's, write a 1/2 page to one page response that reflects on the following questions:

  • How does your quality and type of questions in your survey compare to others?
  • What makes a good survey question?
  • What were the trends in your survey?
  • What results were predictable and why?
  • What results surprised you and why?
  • What did you learn about our class from your survey?
  • Any challenges from this assignment?
  • What did you like/dislike about it?
  • Why are surveys such a large part of business, politics, etc?
  • Anything else?
Please post your final draft on your blog and include a link to your results.  

Cyber-bullying Assignment

  1. Open up this document in your drive.
  2. Save as a copy and rename using you and your partner's name in front of "Cyber-Bullying." 
  3. Share this document with your partner, making sure they can edit.
  4. Read and answer the questions together.  
  5. Save it to the "Cyber-bullying" folder.  You may need to move that folder into your drive first.
  6. Sign into GoAnimate using your first name initial, last name in lowercase letters:  ex:tvack, your password is:  123
  7. With your partner or by yourself make a video that expresses a cyber bullying scenario.  Characters should include the "bully," "victim," "bystanders," and "upstanders."  


The Misfits: Peer Revision/Editing Guide

  1. Make sure you have named your document:  "Your Name:  The Misfits Final Four Responses.
  2. Click on "Share" in the upper right hand corner.  Change sharing settings to "Anyone with Link" and then make sure you select "can comment" in the drop down menu.
  3. Drag your document into folder, "The Misfits:  Final Four Responses."  Click "Shared with Me" if you don't see it in your drive.  
  4. Click in the folder, and read and make comments to the student's response directly to your right.  Read and add comments one response at a time.

Directions for Peer Revision/Editing

  1. Read the response all the way through without adding comments.
  2. Read the response a second time by adding editing & revision notation comments.
  3. To add a comment, click on the word where you want to add a comment, then either right click and select "add comment" or hold down "ctl/alt/m."  Once you add a comment be sure to click "comment" or it won't show up.  
  4. Use the Revision and Editing Checklist as your guide.
  5. If you feel a standard is missing or needs improving, write the first letter of the standard in your comment.  
  6. Add a comments where you think editing errors have been made.  Use the categories provided in the checklist.
  7. Write a few specific positive comments at the end.  
  8. Move on to the next response.
  9. When your are done, follow the same procedure with the student's response on your left.  

Photoshop animal monsters are due Thursday!


Language Arts & Blog Post Assignments This Week

Click here for a a link to the character note taking guide for The Misfits

1.  Write at least two entries for Encyclopedia Entry #4.   Please write thoughtful and detailed entries.  At a minimum, these should be a paragraph.  Make sure your headings are bold and a slightly larger font size.

2.  Post your "In the Garden," scary preposition story.  Be sure to underline, italicize, bold, or change the font color all the prepositional phrases.

3.  (Optional) Revise and post your free response about cliques & groups.

5.  Read the person;s blog to your left and right.  Write a positive comment to them for at least one blog post.  Did they disable the security question?  If not please tell them.

Absolute Zero pt. 1: The Conquest of Cold

Absolute Zero Video Link
Answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper as you watch the NOVA video “Absolute Zero”.     If you miss one of the answers, a transcript of the program is available at:
1. Cornelius Drebbel had a wager with King James I in 1620.  What was it?
2.  What does adding salt do to ice?
3.  What did Robert Boyle discover about cold?
4.  When were the first accurately calibrated thermometers made, and where?
5.  Explain how liquid thermometers work.
6.  What was the biggest problem with these first thermometers?
7.  Describe Fahrenheit’s temperature scale.
8.  What made him so famous?
9.  How did the Celsius scale originate?
10.  What is absolute Zero?
11.  Compare the different theories of heat between Lavoisier and Rumford.  Draw a frowny face next to the not so hot theory, put a smiley face next to correct theory.
12.  What did Faraday discover through his experiment with chlorine?
13.  What property of ice made it possible for Tudor the make millions shipping ice around the world?
14.  Carnot found out that more work could be done by an engine if…..
15.  What did Joule prove?
16.  What is does the unit of Joule a measurement of?
17.   What is the First Law of Thermodynamics?
18.  What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics?
19.  Draw a diagram explaining how refrigeration systems make ice.

20.  In what ways is refrigeration one of the greatest human innovations?


Photoshop lesson #1

Tech Skills Assignment

1.  Finish your painted  "Perry the Platypus" and post it to your blog by inserting it as an image.  You will need to save it as a .jpg file first.  Title your blog post Photoshop lesson #1"

2.  Use the magnetic lasso tool to cut out Perry and paste him to a background of your choice.  Use filters and other tweak tools such as smudge and blur to create an interesting scene.  You may cut other images out too make your scene more interesting.  These will be due next Thursday, Oct 3.


Assignments This Week

1.  Finish any assignments from last week first.

2.  Post your "How to Fool a King" response.

3.  IRJ #2

4.  Read other student's blogs and leave specific and positive comments.  (Make sure your own security question for comments is turned off too!)


Matter vs. Weight

On a separate piece of paper or google doc, create an outline with the following subheadings that answer the following questions:

What is weight?

Compare the weights of an astronaut on earth, the moon, and the space station.

What is the equation form of gravity?

How fast does gravity fall?

What is mass?

What is gravity?

What is one g?

Why are all objects weightless on the space station?

How fast is the space station moving?

Describe microgravity.

How is arm-wrestling and Sumo wrestling affected my microgravity?


A Few Words About Student Blogs

Every year new parents and students ask me the same question, "Why do students have blogs?"  So I thought I would answer this question in, what else but, a blog post.

Vack's Top 10 Reasons for Student Blogging.

10. A blog is basically an online writing portfolio where final drafts can be "published."

9.  Because these are final drafts, writings should be free of mechanical and syntax errors.  (don't forget to capitalize your "i"s and remedy those red underlines for mispelled words.

8.  Though they are technically considered final drafts, blog posts can be revised and submitted for a better grade, that is, you can email me.  "Hey Mr. Vack, I added more b.s. to my writing.  Think you could check it out for a better grade?"  (Ask a student what b.s. stands for)

7.  Student writing can be read by family members and friends anytime.  (You may not be able to get grandma off her smart phone!)

6.  Students, teachers, and family members can post supportive and positive comments to writings, making student authors feel all warm and fuzzy.

5.  Blog designs and layout can be customized to a student's personality, as long as it's readable.  (lime green font on white is not the best choice)  You can also add images and video!

4.  All student blogs can be accessed through the side bar menu on my blog,, also where all blog post assignments are conveniently found

3.  Many high school English teachers require their students to keep a blog, so . . . there you go.

2.  Blogging inspires, even the most reluctant writers, to write their best because their ideas will be read members of there classroom community.

1.   "Blog" is just a fun word to say.  Keep on bloggin'!


Blogs and Writings for Sept 13 - 19

1.  Post your "Poem for Two Voices."  Make sure it has a unique title and at least 10 lines.  Give credit to your co-author.

2.  Type up your IRJ #1, making sure you follow the guidelines of the handout .  Print out and turn in with a self evaluation stapled to it.

3.  Write at least two more Encyclopedia of Ordinary Life entries.  This can be titled.  "Encyclopedia of Ordinary Life Entries #3.  Please write a well developed, creative and thoughtful entry.  A couple of sentences just "won't cut the mustard!"

4.  Read other student's blogs and make positive comments.  Be sure to B.S.  (Be Specific!)


Language Arts Assignments for the Week of Sept 2 - 6

1.  Post your "Personal Space"  response.  Make sure you give it a title other than "personal space response"

2.  Post your next two encyclopedia entries, you can write as many as you want.  Title this "Encyclopedia Entries 2"

3.  Post your nature name response.

4.  Write a free response about Morning Girl.  How what did you think about it?  What connections did you make with the book?  What questions does it bring up for you?


emails and blog addresses

Send me your school email address and blog address by answering this google form.


Writing Assignments for the Week of Aug 26 - Aug 30

1.  Write a separate blog post for each of the following:

  • 6 word memoirs (all in one blog post)
  • tweet memoir
  • encyclopedia of everyday life:  four entries as one post (entries should be in alphabetical order)
2.  Start pre-writing your personal map story in on a piece of paper or g-docs.  


What's your gmail address?

Please follow this link and give me your gmail address.


Requirements for Poetry Porfolios

Your poetry portfolios are due Thursday, May 23.  Here's what you'll need to include:

  • Creative Cover with title and your name
  • Table of Contents
  • Your poems in any order you want, with titles (not name of assignment)
    • Ode
    • Haikus
    • Braggin 
    • list
    • Vs
    • thematic Vs
    • abstract noun
    • limerick
    • "I Have Seen"
    • Magnetic Poetry
    • any others you may have written this year
  • four poetry responses with notated poems
  • Daily Song essay with notated lyrics
  • Poetry example handouts
  • "Elements of Poetry" and "How do Read a Poem" handouts


Assignments for April 30 - May 5

1.  Make sure you have completed all of last week's assignments.

  •  Have you posted your "I Have Seen" poem with lots of detailed imagery that makes your "abstract" noun become "concrete?"  
  • Have you posted three poetry responses with links to the poems?
2.  Post your limericks

3.  Post your "Braggin' Rap" verses.

4.  Read at least four student's "I Have Seen" poems.  Choose two students sitting directly to right of you and two students sitting directly to the left of you.  Can you guess the abstract noun? Write a poetry response for at least two of them.  You can write the responses in the same post.  Be sure to include a link to their poems.
5.  Keep reading other student's blogs and commenting.

6.  Try the magnetic poetry too!

7.  If all is done, try out this simple online beat maker.


Assignments for April 23 - 25

1. Post your "I Have Seen"  abstract noun poem.  Make sure you include lots of detailed imagery to help make your  "abstract" noun more "concrete."

2.  Post your three (or more) haikus.

3.  Complete poetry response #3.

4.  Read at least six student's blog posts and write positive comments.

5. If you are 13 and in 8th grade, write a haiku for the Scholastic haiku contest and you could win a trip to Europe, Australia, or China.  Entries are due April 26

6.  Write some poems using Magnetic Poetry.  Make sure they are school appropriate (do I even need to say this?  for some of you, yes!)  You can print your poems for you portfolio and post them to your blog.


Assignments for April 16 - 18

1.  Thinking about ways you can add elements of poetry, revise your list and vs. poem.  Is there rhythm, repetition, do the comparisons make sense, is there a strong ending, and logical flow of ideas?

2.  Finish your first poetry response from last week.  (Look at my last post for the assignment requirements)

3.  Start on this week's poetry response.

4.  Read other student's poems and poetry responses and leave positive comments.


Assignments for April 10 & 11

1.  Type up your list poem , publish it to your blog, and print out a copy for your portfolio.  Make sure it has a title other than "list poem."
2.  Browse and read poems on the sites and poetry archive.  Find two that speak to you.
3.  Copy and paste each of them in a google doc, making sure you keep the original formatting, title, author's name, and date if available.
4.  Print each poem out and crazy notate.
5.  Using the Elements of Poetry and How to Read a Poem handouts, write a (at least 1/2 page) response per poem.  Be sure to discuss the theme of the poem, and use examples from the poem to illustrate use of poetic devices such as alliteration, repetition, metaphor, etc.  Of course include the author's name and poem's title in your first sentence.
6.  Post your responses to your blog along with a link to the poems.  Finally, print out your two response, hole punch, and put them in your portfolio along with your notated poems.
7.  When you're done, read other student's posts and write comments.


Innovative Product Project

Now that you have finished Ender's Game I hope you are inspired to read more sci-fi and ponder what the future holds for mankind (and alien kind?).  The final culminating project will be to design and explain an innovative product for the near or distant future.  In groups of one, two, or three (depending on the complexity of your presentation) you will need to accomplish the following tasks:

  1. Brainstorm ideas from the categories we discussed in class.
  2. "Pitch" your best idea to the class in under a minute.  Answer questions and revise your idea.
  3. Form teams based on similar ideas.
  4. Create a rough draft drawing and narrative about your product.  Be sure to identify:
    • important components
    • how it functions
    • materials it's made of
    • why it's needed/what make's it special
    • product name
  5. Turn this in, so I can approve it and help make and revisions.
  6. Choose a presentation style:
    • Commercial:   Script & poster/or model/slide show
    • Trade Show Presentation:  Script & slide show
    • Common Craft Style video:  Script & video
  7. Get to it!  This project will be due next Thursday, March 21.
  8. If you really want to make a 3D model of your product check out tinkercad.  Somebody say extra credit?


Post your Ode!

Don't forget to post your ode.

Ender's Game Assessment: "Revisiting the Anticipation Guide"

After you have finished reading Ender's Game, go back and re-read your anticipation guide response and reflect on how your opinions have changed or stayed the same in regards the themes in the book.  As you write your new response, be sure to use examples from the book that support ideas about the themes.  You will have two weeks to complete this, so please use lots of supporting detail and thoughtful commentary!

Orson Scott Card Article Response

After re-reading the article, 'Ender's Game' Author's Anti-Gay Views Pose Risks for Film write a one page blog response that includes the questions and arguments we discussed in class such as:  How does Card's views on gay marriage affect your opinion of his book?  Should Mr. Vack remove this book from his class's reading curriculum?  What do you think about the movie company trying to keep Card "out of the limelight?" Do you think this movie should be boycotted?

Ender's Game Questions Chapters 12 - 15

Chapter 12 – Bonzo
1. How did Ender provoke Bonzo?  How did Bonzo respond?
2. Who was Stilson? Why was Ender thinking of him?
3. Why does Ender still expect help from the teachers?
4. Did you know Stilson and Bonzo were dead? Find the specific clues in this chapter about the deaths.
5. Was Ender justified? Why did they not tell him of the deaths?

Chapter 13 – Valentine
1. “Perhaps it is impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” Explain what this quote means. State an example of this idea.
2. Is it a natural, “good” instinct for humans to be killers? (survival of the fittest)
3. Discuss the conversation between Ender and Valentine on the raft. What does Ender reveal about himself and his enemies?
4. Discuss Valentine’s conflicting thoughts about her brothers. How have Peter and Ender’s roles shifted? How does Valentine feel about each?
5. Discuss Graff’s statements about why the war with the Buggers was inevitable.

Chapter 14 – Ender’s Teacher
1. What disturbs Ender about Eros? How does Ender figure out the truth about Eros?
2. Describe how Mazer is going to be the only teacher Ender has ever had?
3. Why had Mazer been dishonest with Ender? Do you think Ender could have
handled the truth?
4. Have they pushed the children too far? Was it worth it?
5. Is genocide, or in the case of Ender's Game where an entire alien race is
annihilated, xenocide, ever justified? Was the xenocide of the Buggers inevitable? Why?

Chapter 15 – Speaker for the Dead
1. Valentine said, “Nobody controls his own life, Ender. The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given to you by good people, by people who love you.” After what has happened in Ender’s life, what would he think of this statement?
2. Ender listens to the evidence about the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo. What is Ender’s opinion about the deaths?
3. Why did Valentine make sure that Ender could never return to earth?
4. What is ironic about Valentine’s statement about Peter saving millions of lives?
5. What knowledge did Ender gain the enabled him to write The Hive-Queen? Give specific details.
6. Why does Ender publish the book using the pseudonym “Speaker for the Dead” and not his own name?


Practice Those Phrases!

Use grammar blast to quiz yourself and practice for the verbals and phrases test on Thursday.  Go to the 8th section and click on "phrases."

Responding to Drones

Post a one page response about drones.  You can make connections to Ender's Game, write about the pros and cons, make up a fictional story, or write a poem.  For more info watch this video.