Portland Public Schools
Portland, Oregon

da Vinci Logo imageda Vinci Arts Middle School

Creative minds for
challenging times.

2508 NE Everett Street | Portland, OR 97232
Phone: (503) 916-5356 | Fax: (503) 916-2721


Writing Homework
[last updated: 11/4/10]

Brain Dump at home for 15 to 30 nightly when homework is light.



·       For those new to middle school, this is one of two district mandated essays students write in language arts classes. It is a basic five-paragraph essay. The other essay/speech will happen this spring.

·       CHARACTER ANALYSIS ESSAY PROMPTS: (students will select one)

1.     From a work of literature (The Outsiders), select a character that experiences a change. Analyze (examine critically) the character to determine the motivation for the change. Write a paper discussing what motivated the character to change using evidence from the text.

2.     From a work of literature (The Outsiders), select a character that experiences a change. Analyze the effects of the change upon the character or those around her/him. Write a paper discussing the effects of the change using evidence from the text.

  • CHARACTER ANALYSIS DUE DATES: (see assignment sheet for specific info.)


    • 1st paragraph – Intro & THESIS – due Wednesday, November 10
    • 2nd paragraph – due Friday, November 12
    • 3rd paragraph – due Monday, November 15
    • 4th paragraph – due Tuesday, November 16
    • 5th paragraph – Conclusion – due November 17



For a good number of years here’s what writing assignments looked, or at least felt like to me, in my classes. I would give students an assignment sheet, which outlined guidelines, expectations and due dates. We’d go over all of the information together. Students asked questions, we’d clarify what I expected. We’d do mini-lessons in class on technique. Students would bring in drafts of their stories for me to rubber stamp/check-in on their progress (I could never fully read any of the drafts, let alone sit down and conference with any of them while they were in progress – too many kids and not enough time). They’d take their drafts home and presumably continue to massage their writing (without much guidance from me at all). We’d have a few peer editing sessions. And when the assignment was due, I’d collect it, score it, and the assignment was “finished.” This does NOT work for me any longer as a writing teacher and I certainly don’t think it works for students trying to learn how to be writers. I absolutely must be more involved with my students’ writing while they are IN THE PROCESS of writing. My comments do them NO good if they received them once they deem the assignment to be “done.”


For a little more than a year a team of teachers here at da Vinci has been working on how to improve writing for students here. The team went to a three-day workshop this summer regarding the importance of giving students descriptive feedback. In order to incorporate what I know my students need from me, my program is going to have to change. I introduced this change to students today.


I know it’s going to be bumpy, experimental, and not a perfect system. I hope everyone can be patient and supportive while we work out the kinks. Here’s the bottom line, I want students to do their writing IN CLASS. The only way I can imagine this happening is if I require students to handwrite assignments during class. This way I can be there during their writing time and if they need or want help, I’m there. I know all of our science teachers are requiring students to have access to Google Docs. I may also have to go to this system but I have to learn more about it before I make that my policy. In the meantime, I will be requiring students to work on their drafts IN CLASS. They can then take them home and type them but they will need to do more writing at school as well. This system is also an attempt to get around all of the technology excuses students often have. Students can continue emailing me drafts of their work and I can print them here at school. We will practice this new process with our new poetry assignment.


If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, please let me know. I am looking for all of the input I can get as I really want this to work and I want to be a better writing coach for my students.