Let's Get


Welcome to ELA 2016! I am Helen Motta and I am excited to be teaching 8th-grade English Language Arts on the Mahalo (formerly known as Fungi) for the 3rd year. These pages contain links to my class expectations and late work/grading policy, resources for our grammar and vocabulary 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 Updates

Busch Gardens Itinerary

May 22 - Reader's Workshop Unit

Audition for Promotion Speakers today during lunch.

Reminder that Homework Packet 11 is due on Monday. Please see the "Daily Lessons" section of my website for help and examples on how to complete the graphic organizers.

New: Quizlet for EOG Vocabulary-some words still need definitions.


May 10 - Almost There!

8th Grade Promotion Speaker Auditions

When: Lunch on Monday May 22 (sign up by Friday May 19)

Where: Mrs. Gough’s Classroom (170D)

Prepare a 3 minute speech for the

8th grade Promotion.

Speeches should be a farewell wish and a reflection of your class’s time at Culbreth Middle School.

To audition, please sign up with Mrs. Motta or Mrs. Gough by May 19. Auditions will be held during lunch on May 22. See Mrs. Motta or Mrs. Gough with any questions.

May 6 - Updates

If you received an email from me this week asking you to open a document, I apologize. It was virus, and I hope it didn't cause you too much inconvenience.

We took a break from our Teaching the Canon unit to do a practice EOG test this week. This was a worthwhile experience for most students, but some students appeared to be a little stressed. I'm hoping that taking practice tests will alleviate anxiety in students and help them be more confident when they take the EOG. Please talk with your children and let me know how I can support them if you feel like they are feel anxiety about testing or anything else. Eight-grade can be a stressful year!

May 1 - Busch Gardens Field Trip Permission Forms are due this Friday!

We have finished the Injustice unit and are well into our Teaching the Canon unit. The students have been enjoying reading the (No Fear) version of Shakespeare's Othello.

We are still missing some of the books from the Injustice unit, so if you see any of these books around the house, please send them back:

Mango Shaped Space, Red Badge of Courage, Speak, Angel on Square, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Chains, Stuck in Neutral. There is a $10 replacement fee if students have lost their books.

April 14 - TAG Math Game

TAG Math Game

In addition to teaching 8th grade language arts, I teachTAG, Culbreth's reading and math intervention program. I posted this Quizlet game for my 6th grade math students.

In 8th grade language arts, this has been a proud teacher week for me. It's been a pleasure watching my students take on the role of human rights advocates and deliver compelling speeches to the United Nations in support of targets of injustice. Dealing with a wide range of topics such as learning disabilities, poverty, sexual assault, and worldwide genocides, they shared stories from their novels and memoirs as well as factual evidence from credible sources to make their case. This assignment was the culmination of many weeks of hard work and I am proud of the students' accomplishments.

April 3

Duke Summer Writing Camp (Nathan Kotecki teaches weeks 1, 4, and 6).

March 24

Have a wonderful Spring Break!

Please remember to check the "Daily Lessons" section of my website if you have been absent from school and want to see what we have done each day.

March 14 Summer Camp Opportunity

CampWrite UNC: UNC-Chapel Hill sponsors an amazing and free creative writing camp in the summer. Apply online by April 2.

Feb. 22 Updates

Please make sure you are checking the "Daily Lessons" section of my website if you missed class or just want to clarify something that we covered that day.

Feb. 13 Injustice Unit

I'm excited to be starting the Injustice unit. Students were assigned books and groups last week. Parents, please ask your child to see the letter about this unit. More info on the "Daily Lessons" section of my website.

Jan. 30 Report Cards

Report cards went home today with students. Please see the letter that I sent to all parents. Thank you for your support

Jan. 20 Positivity

President Obama's Farewell Address

My warm-up on Friday was to show a brief clip of President Obama's farewell address to the nation and ask students to respond to this quote from his address:

"Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands."

(Sorry 5th period - computer difficulties - I'll get you caught up next week!)

This quote resonated with me because it perfectly describes my students and gives me hope for the future. The kids astutely picked up on Obama's message, and we had some spirited discussions about the state of the country. Many expressed fear but agreed with President Obama that there is hope for the future. One student bravely talked about the extreme divisions that exist in our nation today and the role of social media in fostering that divisiveness. She encouraged her classmates to listen to others, even those who don't agree with us. Some students talked about checks and balances and others talked about how we can still influence change, even though it may be harder today than it was yesterday. Overall, the mood was a cautious positivity. I truly enjoy teaching these children.

Jan. 11: Update

I posted the Rough Draft assignment in Google Classroom thinking that we would be back in school on Tuesday of this week. Surprise! We are not. I changed the due date for the Rough Draft to Friday, and I'm hoping we will have time in class to work on it Thursday and Friday. The due date for the Final Draft is still Jan. 20. If you think you will need more time to work on your Rough Draft, it would be a good idea to start on it today. Please feel free to email me if you have questions. Have a great day off!

Jan. 7: Happy Snow Day!

I hope everyone is enjoying your day in the snow.

I just posted the assignment for your rough draft in Google Classroom. When you are tired and cold from sledding, I hope you can find some time to work on your essays or get started on your homework packets. Final drafts of the essay are due on Jan. 20 and homework packets are due on the 19th.

A note about retakes: I will be giving retakes this week to students who scored 65% or lower on the HW Unit 5 NoRedInk Test. Students who plan to take the retake must complete all the practice exercises in NoRedInk before taking the retake. Please email me if you are not sure how to access them.

Happy sledding!

Dec. 31: Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a wonderful and restful break. I am looking forward to seeing all the Mahalo kids this week and continuing to work on our forensic anthropology unit. I introduced Creative Problem Solving Method and students began brainstorming their solutions before the break. It was interesting to watch their process and listen to their suggestions. This week, students will take on the role of forensic anthropologists and start planning their own solutions the to the problem they chose: either the Lost Colony mystery or solving a murder mystery.

For those students on the Lost Colony track, I heard about this article that was recently published in our local newspaper:

Forest Theatre rock could provide link to Lost Colony | News & Observer

Does this give you more ideas about how you might establish a connection to the Lost Colony in your paper?

Info on Orange County Student Essay Contest

Dec. 18: Mahalo ELA Update

Test tomorrow, Dec. 19 on reading strategies using an EOG-type reading, active/passive voice in NoRedInk, and our six Tier 2 vocabulary words: proficient, adept, fastidious, formidable, disposition, disgruntled.

Nov. 18: Thanks to those who have brought in change to support our class's drive for Pennies for Patients.

This week we have been reading about the Kennewick Man as part of our Forensic Anthropology Unit. Please see the Core Unit Resources section for information on the culminating assignment for this unit. Students will have a choice of two alternatives and parents will be asked to approve their choice. Letters will be sent home on Monday with more information.

We will have a test on these concepts on Tuesday, Nov. 29:

Grammar - Verb Tenses, and Subject/Verb Agreement - please do NoRedInk Practice

Vocabulary - plausible, intricate, tedious, trepidation, modify, ardent. Please see Quizlet in the vocab section of my website for practice.

Reading Strategies: context clues, reading for understanding, identifying key ideas, details central idea, text features, text structures, and author's purpose. Please review your guided reading notes for the Kennewick Man article.

Nov. 10 - Pennies for Patients

Please support Pennies for Patients!

Culbreth students are taking part in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Pennies for Patients program from November 7th to December 2nd.

During this program, students will collect money to support LLS's mission: to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. Our school goal is $3,000!

Students should bring in change to 1st period to donate. The class with the most money wins a pizza party! Or use this link to donate to our class's page.

Thank you in advance for helping Culbreth and LLS!

Nov. 4 - Congratulations Mahalo on a successful 1st Quarter!

What a busy week it's been! Students took a grammar and vocabulary test on Monday. I'm still working on getting grades posted, but overall, the results are much better than previous tests. Students are showing growth in these areas. I have finished grading and posted grades for the students' first major writing assignment of the year, the "Editing My Life Story" narrative essay. I enjoyed reading these essays and learning about the students' challenges and how they learned to cope with them. Students should have received and email with their scores and my feedback, which will be helpful for our next writing assignment, the Writelike. This is a differentiated assignment, based on areas of strenght and need as demonstrated by the first writing sample. It was introduced on Wednesday and is due on November 14.

Have a wonderful weekend!

October 28

Mr. Tim Crothers came to talk with us about his book and new movie. Thanks, Ms. Martin, for bringing him to our school.


October 21

This week, we have been working on our second core unit. Students will be strengthening their ability to read and understand informational text through readings related to the discipline of forensic anthropology. We have completed the first reading, and students took a brief quiz today to demonstrate their understanding of central idea. Next week, we will begin looking at text structures and text features as ways to help understand the central idea of informational texts.

Please see the Core Resources section of this site for more information on the Forensic Anthropology unit and a model of the "Key Ideas Graphic Organizer."

Important: Our Science teachers have planned an awesome field trip for Nov. 10, Permission slips went out last week, but very few have been returned. Please read and sign the field trip form and include your payment, and have your child return it as soon as possible. Final deadline is Thursday, Oct. 27. The cost of the trip is only $15, but it will be a great learning opportunity for your child.!