Ms. Heffernan


Welcome to sixth grade Reading and Language Arts! We will be learning good study skills and organizational habits. We will also be having many magical and moving experiences through literature! I hope you enjoy taking these many grand adventures with us!

Click here to learn more about Ms. Heffernan.


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Random Stuff


  • Six Flags Six Hour “Read to Succeed” due February 17. Check your Classroom feed if you need an extra copy.
  • PERSONAL HERO NARRATIVE: I’m working on grading them. 
  • No new reading assignments
  • BOOK LOGS : Unless you were out sick, our book talks are done. You got your new book logs January 30, 2017. It’s due February 27.
  • Latin and Greek Roots for this week – Check this section

Happy Weekend!!!! 

Latin & Greek Root Units

Latin & Greek Roots: Week of : Week of April 17 is Week 25


  • Latin and Greek Roots for this week – you will get all of the new stuff 
    • Do not count on much more time in class. You received everything you need for this unit on Friday. You need to start budgeting your time.
  • Flip Flash Cards done in class on Monday 
  • Vocabulary Flash Cards Due Wednesday 
  • Vocabulary Worksheet Due Thursday 
  • Quiz Friday (the roots/prefixes/suffixes need to be memorized; the vocabulary is matching) 

This Week’s RootsFor April 17

Week Twenty-five  (Week of 04/17): prefixes 

  • ab-, abs-, apo-  (away, from) 
  • Week 25 Vocab. Know these words for the Week 25 Quiz and for the week 28 MAV.
  • abdicate (v): give up power, authority or the throne
  • absolute (adj): without restraint, not dependent on anything
  • abstain (v): to voluntarily refrain from
  • abstract (adj): not concrete or related to specific things; not easy to understand
  • apogee (n): the point in the moon’s or a satellite’s orbit when it is farthest from the earth or the body it orbits

Week Twenty-six (Week of 05/01)roots

  • bio (life) carn (body, flesh) corp (body) 
  • Week 26 Vocab. Know these words for the Week 26 Quiz and for the week 28 MAV.
  • biodegradable (adj): able to be decomposed by biological forces, especially bacteria
  • bionic (adj): related to things that are modeled after living organisms; having abilities improved by mechanical devices
  • carnage (n): great destruction of life, especially in battle; slaughter
  • corpuscle (n): any red or white cell that floats in the blood
  • symbiosis (n): the shared existence of two organisms where they both benefit from living close together

Week Twenty-three (Week of 03/13)roots

  • aqua, aqui  (water)  geo (land, earth) hydr (water) mar, mer (sea)                   terr (land, earth) 
  • Week 23 Vocab. Know these words for the Week 23 Quiz and for the week 24 MAV.
  • aquatic (adj): living or growing in water
  • geology (n): the science that deals with rocks and the physical history of the earth
  • hydrophobia (n): fear of water
  • maritime (adj): on or near the sea
  • terrestrial (adj): existing on the earth; related to the world

Week Twenty-four (Week of 04/04)suffixes This week is the review week and the quiz includes the MAV portion.

  • -ar, -er, -or, -ist (one who)
  • Week 24 Vocab. Know these words for the Week 24 Quiz and for the week 24 MAV.
  • ancestor (n): a person from whom one has descended
  • conspirator (n): one who secretly plans with other people to perform an unlawful act
  • linguist (n): a person who is skilled in the study of language
  • pessimist (n): one who believes the world is bad or who looks on the dark side of life
  • proprietor (n): someone who owns a business or property


  • MAV (Measure of Academic Vocabulary) Sample:

MAV Score:

  • 0 = no recognition
  • 1 = familiarity with but no knowledge of word
  • 2 = partial definition of word OR partial accuracy in sentence
  • 3 = accurate definition of word OR partial definition and partial accuracy in sentence
  • 4 = accurate definition of word and partial accuracy in sentence OR partial accuracy in definition and accurate sentence
  • 5 = accurate definition sentence

Each question will include a word from one of the units – only a word the children have made a flash card for! Not the other 5-15 words. There is one word from each of the four units. I will also include an extra credit word – a word using one of the prefixes, roots, or suffixes from one of the units that was not included in any of the units.

The questions are formatted like this:

  • Have you seen or heard this word before? (This should be a YES!)
  • If you have seen or heard it, do you think you know what it means? (This should also be a YES!)
  • If yes, what do you think it means? (Students should all be able to give a definition of the word – they have basic definition of all the words on their flash cards. I have given them time to work with the words in class, and have recommended that they spend a couple minutes a few times a week reading over them. Short bursts over time is the best way to get information into long term memory.)
  • If you think you know what it means, can you use the word in a sentence? 
    • In my experience, this is where students will have the most trouble. This is because they have to synthesize several aspects of their learning to do this accurately. They need to make sure they use the word as the correct part of speech AND make sure the sentence tells me they understand the meaning of the word.
    • For example, writing a sentence like: “I tried to forewarn my mother.” at least tells me the student knows forewarn is a verb, but it doesn’t tell me that s/he knows the meaning of the verb. A sentence that would receive full credit would need to read: “I tried to forewarn my mother that my brother would be coming home with a pet snake.” A sentence like this tells me s/he knows the vocabulary word is a verb and that it means that there is something to warn Mom about before the brother makes it home.



Please remember to look at your child’s grades on Power School.

TOPIC: Personal Narrative w Reflection – TEST WRITING SKILLS


  • Currently, we are woking on learning to write for a standardized test. We are practicing being able to choose a topic for a prompt, write a thesis statement, and then divide 40 min of time correctly to finish a 3-5 paragraph essay with time to review and edit. Some children need to work on finishing within the allotted time; some need to work on expanding ideas beyond a paragraph. They should be using all of the traits as they write. We will have multiple opportunities to practice before the test.
  • CHECK YOUR EMAIL! You will be getting assignments and announcements via Classroom


Trait: VOICE – Conveying the Purpose – 

  • Think about
    • Is the purpose of my writing clear?
    • Does my point of view come through?
    • Is this the right tone for this kind of writing?
    • Have I used a strong voice throughout this piece?
  • Remember – this story should have a very strong point of view – it is a story only you can tell. Today we are going to get a start on the REFLECTION piece. Adults often have trouble with this piece – it requires you to be insightful about why you made this choice for your hero AND this choice for the story you want to tell. What have you learned from this person? What has this taught you about the kind of person you want to be?
  • You had time to consider this during class – but many of you were unfocused, so you have some homework today.
  • Your “Conveying the Purpose” sheet is your entrance slip for Thursday, January 05



VOICE – Tone – for 12/09 – you have chosen the primary tone for your narrative. Now that you have that, take a moment to reflect on WHY. What is the emotional path you anticipate your narrative will take?

  • Will your narrative begin quiet and explanatory and then move into three separate stories, each with their own emotional tone, and then conclude by explaining again why this makes this person your personal hero?
  • Does it start off telling a story where you are initially scared and then your hero creates a sense of calm and peace for you?
  • Is it a joyful story full of happiness? Does your hero create that kind of emotional space for you?
  • Think about the path you think your story will take. Your tone is important – you need to put emotion into this very personal story.

Writing your Thesis Statement for your Personal Narrative:

  1. What is your question for this paper? Who is my personal hero? Why? answer — my mom Why comes next…
  2. List three reasons/answers to this question. 1) she is kind  2) she is smart  3) she is fun
  3. Combine 1 & 2 to come up with your thesis statement. My mom is my personal hero because she is kind, smart, and fun. — you could add to this sentence if you were going to tell a particular story — My mom is my personal hero because she is kind, smart, and fun, and I learned this first hand when she took me to look for colleges. Otherwise, you can just leave it as the list of three – this is your roadmap for your narrative – the three things will turn into the body of your paper.

We also worked on the Trait of Voice – Voice is the energy and attitude of a piece of writing. In fiction, voice can take on almost any tone, from humorous or hopeful to serious or somber. In nonfiction, it is often compelling, authoritative, and knowledgeable. You arrive at the right voice for a piece by thinking deeply about your purpose and audience for it. You “speak” in a way that connects to your audience. Establish a tone that is compelling and right for the piece. 

Children will be expected to use excellent CUPS (Capitalization, Usage/grammar, Punctuation, Spelling & Spacing) when they answer their Reader’s Response questions. This is the Conventions Trait. They will be expected to be practicing this from now on. 🙂 

Trait of Word Choice– As children answer their Reader’s Response questions for their book club books, they will be expected to use appropriate word choice, especially in regards to adjectives. It’s not descriptive enough to tell a reader that a character is “nice” or “mean.” I expect the groups to really get in there and use specific vocabulary. 

Trait of Organization – how to write a hook/lead. We learned many different ways to write a good hook & chose one to practice. From the hook, we led into our thesis statement. The thesis statement for this paper would be the theme chosen for Snow White. By the end of class, everyone turned in an introductory paragraph for a paper discussing the theme of Snow White. This is work to prepare for an entire paper which will be written about their Book Club novel.

What did we learn about writing a hook? Check out the examples here.

Current Unit: Literary Theme. We will be focusing on Organization and writing a lead/hook & thesis statement.


Revising for Clarity Video

How to Write a Killer Conclusion

Thesis video

The writing program used in the Middle School is called 6 + 1 Traits. What follows are the basic definitions of each trait. The program is spiraled, so as we move along, we add to our expertise for each trait – and are expected to use each part with more ease. Children are also expected to use these traits in all of their other classes.

  1. Ideas:
    • Clear main idea on one small topic
      Interesting, specific details
      Lots of examples, explanations, reasons
  2. Organization:
    • Interesting first sentence and a last sentence that wraps things up
      Details are in the right order
      Title shows the main idea
      Not too fast, not too slow
  3. Voice:
    • Show the real “me” and original thoughts
      Addressing the reader or keeping them interested
      The tone is right for the job
  4. Word Choice:
    • Specific words that say exactly what you want (stroll or sprint, not go)
      Words are correct and don’t seem weird
      Describing words (adjectives, adverbs) as well as nouns, verbs, conjunctions
      Describe the sight, smell, sound, taste, feel. Use similies or metaphors.
  5. Sentence Fluency:
    • Correct, complete sentences except sometimes for fun.
      Some short, medium, and long sentences. Different patterns.
      Easy to read aloud without weird sound or pauses
  6. Conventions:
    • spelling
      grammar: no problems with verb tenses, pronoun agreement, pronoun case
  7. Presentation:
    • use your best handwriting/word-processing
    • use of proper graphics
    • show you care about your piece by making it look as lovely as possible

As the year progresses, children will also be learning to write personal narratives (with and without reflection), persuasive/argumentative pieces, a brief research paper, how to write a test response in the appropriate time frame, how to write responses to literature and to nonfiction pieces, and how to take information from multiple texts to answer a question completely.

“Good writing may be magical, but it’s not magic. It’s  process, a rational series of steps and decisions that all writers take.” — Donald Murray



Please be looking at your child’s grades on Power School.

  • ASSIGNMENTS : We may have multiple assignments with multiple due dates. Please pay attention – here, L&G Roots, and sometimes writing.
  • We are preparing for the ASPIRE test – we are taking some practice tests & practicing some writing prompts.
    • Wednesday, April 19: Children need to finish the second part of the Information Text practice for 04/20 We had about 20 min in class to start.
  • AND THEN THERE WERE NONE CLUE REVIEW GAME – Ask your kids why they are running around campus interviewing suspects and answering review questions from our novel. They are solving our very own OLW murder mystery! Final answers are due to me no later than 4:00 pm Monday, April 24. All answers are final – no second chances. The first ten sixth graders to find me and give me the correct suspect, location, and weapon win. Electronic answers are not accepted. Good luck, sleuths!
  • We are currently reading And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Be checking your Classroom Feed for assignments. You also have a link there for a copy of the book with an audio track.
  • All of your Comprehension Questions need to be answered on your same Google doc. You’ve all managed to share the doc with me – so all you are doing is continuing – ch. 7 AFTER ch. 6 … and so on. Make sure you write the title of the chapter, return and then the question you are answering – do not start with 1 unless you are actually answering question 1.
    • Reading Reasons: Reason 5: Reading Makes You Smarter

“Brain Maintenance” – What do you know about your brain?

1.Your brain stops growing after age five:

1.False. Researchers now believe your brain has the potential to grow throughout your life.

2.Television provides good brain exercise.

1.False. TV puts your brain in “neutral.” Brain researchers suggest that you should turn the television off.

3.The lower your education level, the higher your chances may be that you will suffer from dementia later in life.

1.True. One study showed that those who read fewer books were more likely to develop problems as they aged.

4.If you exercise your brain a lot when you are young, you build up reserves to fight brain problems later.

1.True. Researchers now believe how much you read between the ages of six and eighteen are predictors of how well you’ll think decades later.

  • What purpose does reading play in keeping your brain sharp?
    • Do you challenge yourself to learn new things?
    • Do you read enough to keep your brain “muscle” strong?
    • Do you watch too much television?
    • What price will you pay later if you don’t read now?


Week of January 30:

    • We began working on specific reading comprehension strategies by reading Greek Myths. This will also work with social studies when they move to Ancient Greece. 🙂
  • summarizing strategy from Nonfiction Notice and Note– 
    • Somebody/Something (topic)
    • Wanted (what happened)
    • But (conflict/problem/movement/change/opinion/argument)
    • So (conclusion)
  • If your child is having trouble summarizing a passage, ask them SWBS! 🙂 

BOOK LOG Due: It’s due February 27. You will fill out a short book recommendation card and give a book talk on Friday, February 10 –  so make sure you get at least one book read this month. If you are reading something super long – like a 600 page book – let me know and you can split your book talk into two parts over two months. If you finish more than one book this month, you can choose the book you want to share with us. BLANK BOOK LOG

Quick Reminder of Rules for Responsibility Grades:

  • 3: assignment completed satisfactorily and on time
  • 2: assignment incomplete or unsatisfactory work (if directions are not followed correctly, this could = a 2); turned in on time OR completed in the HATS room on the due date and turned that day
  • 1: assignment turned in one day late (does not apply to absence)
  • 0: assignment turned in later than one day or never turned in
  • Many homework assignments receive only a responsibility grade


Current Unit: We are writing a personal narrative with reflection. We will be using reading to help us become better writers. We will be focusing on figurative language & context clues.

We will also be moving ahead with our Reading Reasons. Our focus will continue with The Reading Minute, Reading Helps You Build a Mature Vocabulary, and Reading Makes You a Better Writer.

  • Reading Makes You a Better Writer:
    • 12/05: “Cooking Up Good Writing”
      • How to Become a Good Writer
      • Read lots of books, articles, etc.
      • Understand the ingredients of good writing
      • Play with the ingredients of good writing
      • Sample lots of writers
      • Imitate other writers
      • Experiment with different combinations of writing
      • Learn from your failures
      • Practice, Practice, Practice!!!


What is THEME?

  • The THEME is the central idea to a work of literature. It is a literary work’s PRIMARY PURPOSE – In its simplest definition, it is the MORAL of the story; the LIFE-LESSON the author wants you to take away.
  • It does not apply just to the characters – it is more abstract than that, more universal. It often applies to all of us – at the very least it applies to the world beyond THESE characters and THIS world.
  • Theme is not a subject – a thing/a one word: family, courage, loyalty, love, etc. The theme is the idea the writer wishes to express about the subject.
    • “Family bonds last longer than friendship.”
    • “Friends are very important because they are the family you choose.”
  • Theme is an opinion, not a fact. The theme is not a thing/subject – it is an opinion about that thing.
    • The courage people can show under pressure” – thing = subject
    • “Ordinary people are capable of showing great courage under pressure.” = an opinion about the subject = theme
    • Love = no Love stinks = yes Love is magical = yes
  • Try to come up with something interesting. “It’s good to be fair” is boring and most people would agree. Let’s show some insight. People make generalizations based on their observations and the world around them and their experiences.

A work of literature is a model of the real world. The author wants you to see the world through his/her eyes. She doesn’t usually just SAY it. You learn it by looking at that world the author is showing you and making generalizations. Gain insight, understanding and abstract meaning about the world around YOU through the model of the book.

  • Literature is complex with many themes. Some are large and obvious; some are small and less obvious. If you can support your answer through text evidence, you are right.
  • Sometimes there are opposing themes purposely put there by the author. Sometimes two people can read the same book and come up with opposing conclusions. That’s fine as long as both can be supported by text evidence.
  • The reader owns the meaning of the work – not the author. The theme is what the book means to YOU – what YOU learned/took away from the book. As long as you can back it up with text evidence, you are fine.
  • How to find themes:
    • What happens to the main character? Does s/he change in some important way? Is the character for all of us? What is the author saying about all mankind? The answer is a theme.
    • Watch for statements of theme. Often near the end of a book, a character will make some kind of observation about life. There’s your theme. It doesn’t always happen, but if the author hands it to you, take it.
    • Look at the title for clues. Sometimes the title is just descriptive: Romeo & Juliet, Cinderella, Land of Stories. Sometimes the title gives you a hint: To Kill a Mockingbird (what is going on when they characters talk about killing a mockingbird), Divergent (what does the term mean?), People of Sparks (what do sparks symbolize?), Mockingjay (why is that so important?)
    • What is the main conflict? What forces are pitted against each other, who wins, why? NOT specifically, but the big ideas.
      • CONFLICT: the opposition of persons or forces that bring about dramatic action central to the plot of a story.
      • Man vs. Himself: INTERNAL: a psychological conflict within a character (conscience). Internal conflict is not always good vs. evil. It can also be between two positive forces.
      • Man vs. Man: EXTERNAL: (most common): protagonists face down an adversary or antagonist that stands in the way of achieving a goal. The conflict can be physical, emotional, or psychological.
      • Man vs. Nature/supernatural: EXTERNAL: force of nature/natural disaster/ natural phenomena/supernatural force is used to keep the main character from reaching a goal. This is symbolic of conflict between man & the universe or man’s struggle against God. Animals are often used as a symbol of Good vs. Evil. Beasts of popular myth exhibit supernatural strength but are defeated by the cunning & bravery of a human foe.
      • Man vs. Society/technology: EXTERNAL: protagonist is often an outcast of society and feels trapped, paranoid &/or feels something is very flawed about the world around him, but no one else can see it. Characters struggle to change conventions or institutions, often with little or no success.

We are continuing to work on the following skills:

  • building critical thinking skills
  • becoming purposeful and thoughtful readers
  • remembering key information & paying attention to detail
  • identifying main ideas
  • recognizing cause and effect relationships
  • analyzing personality traits, actions, and motivations
  • making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • recalling sequence of events
  • determining the meanings of words in context

We will also be focusing on introducing Notice and Note Sign Posts:

  • Contrasts & Contradictions: This is what happens when a character does or says something that is the opposite of what s/he has been saying all along. Ask yourself why? Answers help you make a prediction about plot and conflict.
  • Aha! Moment: This is when a character suddenly realizes or understands something. Ask yourself how this new understanding changes things? If the character just figured out a problem, you probably just learned about the conflict. If the character understood a life lesson, you probably learned about theme.
  • Tough Questions: This is when you realize that a character has asked him/herself a really difficult question. Ask yourself: what does this question make me wonder about? The answers tell you about conflict and might give you ideas about what will happen later in the story.
  • Words of the Wiser: When you’re reading and a character (who’s probably older and definitely wiser) takes the main character aside to give some serious advice, stop and ask yourself: What’s the life lesson and how might it affect the character? Whatever the lesson is, you probably just found a theme to the story.
  • Again and Again: When you’re reading and you notice a word, a phrase, object, or situation mentioned over and over, you should stop and ask: Why does this keep showing up again and again? The answers will tell you about theme and conflict, or they might foreshadow what will happen later.
  • Memory Moment: When you’re reading and the author interrupts the action to tell you a memory, you should stop and ask: Why might this memory be important? The answers will tell you about theme, conflict, or might foreshadow what will happen later in the story.

We are also working on introducing or 6-Traits of writing as we practice writing Constructive Responses to our novels.


Helpful Websites & Study Strategies

Spelling Bee Help

Purdue Online Writing Lab

How to Study

How to Do Homework without Throwing Up tip sheet