Let's Get


Welcome to ELA 2017-18! I am Helen Motta and I am excited to be teaching 8th-grade English Language Arts on the Mahalo team for the 4th year. These pages contain links to my class expectations grading policy, resources for our units, and an overview of our core curriculum units for the year. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions. My classroom number is (919) 929-7161 x51701 and my email address is hmotta@chccs.k12.nc.us.


Weekly Announcements

June 1

Almost there! Can't wait till Busch Gardens. Here's the itinerary. We'll go over these rules on Monday.

Busch Gardens Itinerary

Busch Gardens Website

Busch Gardens Map

May 14 - 8th Grade Promotion Speaker Auditions

Our 8th grade promotion ceremony will have two student speakers. If you would like to audition to be one of these speakers, prepare a 2-3 minute speech, practice, and then come to Ms. Gough's room during lunch on May 21 and delivery your speech. A sign-up sheet for those who are interested will be in Ms. Motta's room starting Monday.

May 3

Busch Gardens Field Trip Form

Busch Gardens Permission Slip & money due tomorrow morning!!

April 6

It was a bit of a lumpy start, but the students enjoyed playing the Root Word Challenge this week. See pictures of this week's winners on my website!

We are also coming to the end of our 3Q Injustice Unit during which students read books with literature circle groups about historical and contemporary injustices throughout the world. It was interesting to hear our kids talk about stereotypes, prejudice, and racism and how they lead to discrimination and injustice. We had a student teacher from Germany help out in our classroom for 3 weeks and she shared some of her experiences and insights with the students. Right before Spring Break students role-played what perpetrator-target-ally-bystander roles might look like. This week students will take on the role of Human Rights Advocate to prepare and deliver speeches to the United Nations to convince them that an injustice has occurred. So much learning and growth happened this quarter!

March 10

Just a quick note that ELA Benchmark Scores went home last week with progress reports. Please ask your child if you haven't seen them, and let me know if you have questions.

March 8

The Lit. Circles went well. The students enjoyed their books and they learned to engage in productive academic conversations. I love watching kids sharing the joy of reading!

This week we are starting the second part of the unit, which is investigating the real story behind their literature circle books. Students will researching real-life injustices and writing speeches to persuade the United Nations or the Grand Jury that an injustice has occurred.

My students in 3rd, 4th, and sometimes 8th love to eat snacks. Please send donations to our class. Thanks so much for all your support and for sharing these children with us.

Jan. 23

Parent Permission Letter for Literature Circles

Jan. 20

  • Students working on the Lost Colony option: You may want to read Anna's Letter to the News & Observer. She asks great questions about the Forest Theatre and the rock that has links to the Lost Colony. The author of the article, Ann Blythe, clarifies many of our questions about this connection and adds more detailed information. Great job Anna!

Jan. 19

New due date: Jan. 24 end of class - We will have 2-3 class periods to work on the paper before it is final. Work on it at home if you want, but please don't feel that you have to. Enjoy the snow days!

Jan. 17

I hope everyone is enjoying another snow day. It is beautiful in Southern Village today.

Please note that I moved the due date for the final essay to Jan. 22. I have also posted new slides, practice exercises, and a peer editing form in the Daily Lessons of my website. We will work on these in class, but please feel free to take a look if you want to get a head-start. Happy sledding!

Jan. 4

Happy New Year and Happy Snow Day!

Please note that I have moved the due date for the last independent reading assignment to January 15th. Please make note and turn in all your independent reading assignments by that date.

Please see Google classroom for other information on due dates.

Dec. 18

Wow! This year is moving quickly and we are almost ready for Winter Break. We have been reading informational texts and students are ready to work on their Forensic Anthropology essays. They will be taking notes this week and working on planning, drafting, and publishing their papers when we return in January. Students should have brought home a letter with information about the unit and asking for your signature. If you haven't seen the letter yet, here is a copy: Parent Letter. Some of the sources for the unit might be too graphic for some students, so I want parents to be aware of what students are reading. Please see more information about the unit on the " "Daily Lessons" and "Core Unit Resources" sections of my website.

Nov. 15

Field Trip to Carolina Theater is Nov. 20.


  1. Reminder that the field trip to Carolina Theatre is Monday, Nov. 20. Forecast is sunny with a low of 29 and a high of 51. Dress in layers. We will eat lunch on the steps/plaza of the theater after the performance.
  2. Students are assigned a partner for the field trip. Students should stay with their partner throughout the trip, on the bus, in the theater, and during lunch after the performance.
  3. Students will be part of a chaperone group. Students should make sure that they know who their chaperone is and their chaperone should know where the student is at all times.
  4. A well dressed student is a well-behaved student. Dress appropriately for the theater
  5. Pack a lunch. We will have coolers on the bus.
  6. We will leave school no later than 9:15 and return by 1:30. Students will line up for the buses at 9:00.
  7. We will have 1st period (line up at 9:00), 7th, and 8th periods.
  8. When we arrive at the theater, we will form a single line to enter the building. Chaperones will remain with their groups. The theater manager will direct us to our seats.
  9. Some theater rules:
    • Students are to be reminded that this is a live performance. They need to be on their best behavior. This means no cell phones, no talking or whispering during the performance, no eating or drinking in the theater.
    • Students may be ejected from the theater for inappropriate behavior.
    • Students should pay close attention to all the performances. There will be an assignment to complete when they return from the trip.

Oct. 26

Amazingly, the end of quarter of this week. The students have worked hard these first few weeks of school and have completed their first major writing assignment. Personal Narrative essays were due on Tuesday.

Yesterday and today we reviewed students' mastery of the reading standards taught this quarter: RI8.1, RI8.2, RL8.1, and RI8.2

Today, students were given a goal sheet to complete for the goals for the rest of the year. The students were asked to discuss their goals with their parents and have them sign them. Please check with your child if you have not seen their goal sheets.

My goal this year is for all my students to score a 3 or higher on the EOG and for all students to show growth from last year. I also want all my students to be ready for English 1 at the end of the year.

Sept. 22

Field Trip Forms Due Monday!

Please make sure your child brings back his/her permission form for our field trip by Monday. I would love for every child to participate in this trip! Please let me know if you have questions or need more time to return the form.

Permission Slip English and Spanish

Permission Slip French

Welcome to Parent Night!

Parent Letter

Parent Survey

September 8

I really love my job! What an awesome day. Students worked in collaborative groups today to build towers out of plastic cups using string and rubber bands to move the cups. Student learned the valued of working with a team. It was wonderful to see the sense of accomplishment as they placed their final cup to complete the tower! Shoutout to Ms. Gough for sharing this lesson with me and helping get my materials together. See pictures below.


Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the Independent Reading Assignment:

  • How do I earn points?
    • Points are assigned based on reading responses, not just on tracking books read. Points assigned for different responses varies. Students are expected to complete 100 points worth of reading by Oct. 13 for the first quarter.
  • Can I do more than one response for one book?
    • Yes, make sure you choose responses that are appropriate for the book that you read.
  • Do I have to read the book to do a response?
    • Yes.
  • Can I do the same response for different books?
    • Yes, but not more than twice. In other words, you can't get 100 points by doing the same activity.
  • How do I turn in my responses?
    • The best way to make sure I see and count your response is to attach it to your Google classroom assignment, and then email me or tell me personally that you did that. I will do my best to give you feedback or a grade within 3 school days. If you want to write your response on paper, you should put it in the bin for your class period in the front of our classroom. Again, please make sure you let me know that you did that.
  • How do I get full credit for my response?
    • Look at the rubric. Responses that are at masterly level in all four categories, reading/research, development, content understanding, and completion, will receive full credit.
  • I don't understand how to answer one of the prompts. What should I do?
    • Please ask me in class because I'll bet other students have the same question and you'll be helping them out as well.
  • How do I do the self-assessment?
    • Please read the rubric and give yourself a grade before you turn in your response. You could also exchange papers with a friend and grade each other's paper.
  • I need some help planning my responses.
    • Here are some outlines for some of the prompts. Or, see me during lunch on Monday, Thursday, or Friday or Study Hall on Mondays.

September 5

Here is the link to my Parent Letter and to a Parent Survey that I'm hoping all parents will complete when you have a chance.

August 28"

What a wonderful first day of school! The students are attentive and enthusiastic about learning. This is going to be a great year. Please see the "Daily Lessons" of my website for the activities that we did in class today. I will update this on a weekly basis.

I will send home a parent letter later this week with more information about class policies and expectations. Please email if you have questions.

August, 2017 Update:

Bring a book the first day of school.

Hello rising 8th graders! I am looking forward to meeting my new students.

For the first week of school you will need a binder with paper, a composition book, pen or pencils, and most important, a book for independent reading.

We will have our first library day on Friday, Sept. 1, but you will need to have a book to read in class before then. There are some books in our classroom library that you can borrow.

I am working on updating the pages on this site, so not all information is current for this year. Please feel free to email me if you have questions.