Selling Sarris candy, confusion over comma rules, “Staying Gold” with Ponyboy Curtis, applauding school shooters rehabilitated, wishing upon a monkey’s paw, and overcoming HIV. All in a normal day’s work in 8th grade language arts.

Some might think that 8th graders know everything, but one thing we admit to not knowing is where to place commas. Is there really a need for eight comma rules? Before the conjunction that joins two independent clauses in a compound sentence, in a series of three or more items, between two or more adjectives of equal rank that modify the same noun, after introductory words or phrases, to set off words that interrupt the flow of thought, to set off nouns of direct address, to set off appositives, and wherever the reader might otherwise be confused. I am still confused! We recently learned that commas can be placed near prepositional phrases. At the beginning, of the school year, along with other students, I am still having problems with commas and prepositional phrases, but Dr. Fenyus encourages us to keep trying!

After taking a much needed break from writing and studying grammar and mechanics, in November, we went on a field trip to see the short stories we read in class produced live on stage. Everyone loved the on-stage renditions of the horror stories, “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but most of us loved lunch at the Spaghetti Warehouse more. Last week, we had Greaser and Soc dress-up day in celebration of finishing the novel, The Outsiders. Students with slicked back hair, wearing leather jackets and a lot of denim filled the hallways as we remembered the themes of the novel: to be yourself, don’t take innocence for granted, and “stay gold.”

In comparison, we watched an anti-bullying movie called “Bang Bang You’re Dead” that depicts an at-risk, seemingly violent, but bullied, student who changes for the better. Each month we have to read an independent reading selection and the popular choice among us this month was Ana’s Story by President Bush’s daughter, Jenna. She writes about a girl born with HIV who overcomes family struggles, abuse, and alienation. Even after becoming pregnant at seventeen, she embarks on a journey that leads to a new hope.

As if we are not busy enough, we are busily selling candy, cheesecakes, cookie dough and appetizer snacks to help fund our Washington, D.C. trip. We are excited about touring museums and memorials and for the first time this year, we are taking a Potomac River boat tour that includes food and dancing! It has been an exciting journey so far and I know that there is more candy to sell, books to read, commas to master, and characters to connect with in the months to come.

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