Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Welcome to Mr. Chester's Class

This is my dog, Clovis
Welcome to what will be a great 2017-2018 school year! My name is James Chester and I am your student’s Language Arts and/or History teacher.  I am confident we will have an outstanding year and am looking forward to developing deeper relationship with each of my students.

Class Objectives (from the State Standards)
Students will demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking while exploring various fiction and non-fiction genres.  In addition, students in history will have proficiency in European history from the Roman Empire through the Enlightenment, Medieval China and Japan, Mesoamerica, the Middle East, and West Africa.

Language Arts: The Language of Literature by McDougall Littell, Novels, Supplementary Materials.
Social Science: History Alive: The Medieval World and Beyond, TCI, Supplementary Materials

Assignments are given letter grades to help approximate equal interval grading.  The Aeries app on your phone converts these to percentages.  Student grades should be checked regularly on a computer for more accurate grades.  Incomplete assignments are marked “I”.

All homework must be completed on time to earn full credit.  Worked turned in up to one week late will be marked down one grade.  Work over one week late may not be accepted. Late work deadlines are listed in Aeries whenever possible.  Students are expected to read a book of their choice as part of the regular homework.  Therefore, they have homework every night.

All students at SJMS are expected to be Responsible and Respectful. For a more detailed description of school behavioral expectations and consequences, please review the parent handbook or student planner.

Classroom Tardies/Consequences
All students at SJMS are expected to be seated and working on the Do Now! before the bell rings.  I am very strict about this rule.  If the Do Now! refers to homework a student has not completed on time, that student may be marked tardy as a result.

To receive regular homework updates, please send me a request at  You may list as many addresses as you like.  Updates will start sometime next week.

Thank you.

P.S. If you scroll down you can see some of the assignments we have done in previous years.  We'll be doing some of them again this year, too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Where We're From Poem

Here are some selected lines from the "Where I'm From" poetry assignment. This was based on a poem by George Ella Lyon. These selected lines come from students in first and fifth period English.

Where I'm From...

I am from a house you can see from the freeway
from dog hair and hardwood floors.

From potatoes and tacos
And removing all the Barbies' hair and putting it in a doll house
My brother's trophies in his closet to my academic awards on my shelf

I am from go play outside and keep your chin up
And patience is a virtue, child

From the time my uncle ate dog food to try and impress
The girls next door.

From Thanksgiving at my grandparent's and the right-handed cousins.
That picture of us three
That will forever hang on the white board.

From the time my uncle left us in the woods
We ran and hopped across rocks, dodging snakes
My mom carrying the dog on her back
Tears stream down my face as I think how proud my Nono would be.

I'm from it's ok to cut people out of your life and the truth hurts.

From Grandma's cooking and Uncle Tim sleeping in the truck
My great grandfather's knife
On the shelf in the office, since he passed away.

From the T.V. always on even if no one's watching just to fill up the small silences.
I'm from the house in the middle that looks exactly like all the other ones
It's crowded sometimes but it feels empty most of the time.

From the apartment on the hill
That smells like tea and cakes and comfort
The muted tones of photographs of people I barely remember.

From Don't worry about the people who talk behind your back,
They're behind you for a reason.

I'm from brown eyes and fat fingers
From Gilton and Roxana
I'm from jokes I don't get and talking too much
And from eating too much.

I'm from Novato and Italy
Pasta and Pizza
Pine cones from Lake Tahoe
on the  fireplace mantel

I'm from nail-biting and obnoxious laughter
And from the songs that never end.
From the witch lady and my magic horse that kept me safe
And "Aye, aye, aye, aye, poof!"

I'm from cleaning and working hard
And The Yellow Submarine and You Belong with Me
From Jack and I secretly eating ice cream when we're home alone.

I'm from Go to your room and That's a no no.
A new goodnight song my mom came up with every week
From the story of how my grandpa lost both of his legs.
It happened when he was jumping train cars and fell between them.

I'm from El Salvador and the U.S.A.
Ramen and hash browns.

I am from the blazing, bright light on the nightstand next to my bed
From white sneakers and tea tree shampoo
The ticket to my first every Warriors basketball game
Kept in my dresser drawer underneath all my books
The day I remember as if it was just yesterday

I am from flimsy door knobs made of brass
from tech products like Dell and Intel
I am from apartments coated in shades of green
pine scents through the windows as well as smooth walls.

I'm from doing my first communion in Spanish and eating tamales

I'm from You're instigating and Don't hurt your sister!
And You can do it!

Papusas and yuca frita
My Grandfather saving my father at the beach. My father caught in a
wave my grandfather pulling him out.

I am from the comfort and coolness of the home I've lived in since birth,
The smell of food.
I am from the Lilacs in my kitchen.
The Redwood tree right outside my door,
Whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from the squishy couch cushions in the living room
From Salami in the fridge and foamy soap in the bathroom.

I am from the house with all the plants in the front
I am from the pink roses
I am from the big tall eucalyptus tree whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from first communions
I'm from Greenbrae, CA and Guanajuato, Mexico
Tamales and pozole.

My Great Grandma's necklace
in a locked box

I'm from shopping sprees on birthdays
I'm from Marin County and Thailand
From pranks my father used to pull
The upside down rooms.

I am from gluten free donuts on Thanksgiving and a laugh that makes babies cry
From the time my grandpa forgot to put the plug in the boat
Already off of the boat launch slowly sinking with me in his arms.

I am from never give up and practice makes perfect.
And if you hit the bottom, the only way to go is up.

I am from the noisy old fridge that kept me up
From off brand Cheez-Itz and broken Schwinn bicycles.
I'm from the condo identical to all  the others, except for the defiant red door.

I'm from Secret Santa at midnight, on Christmas
I'm from San Francisco, California and Hidalgo, Mexico
Camarones al a diabla and enchiladas

The big willow tree that sings when the wind dances
Whose long gone limbs I remember
As if they were my own.

I am from the kitchen cabinet that holds the secrets to baking
From the flour and sugar and eggs to pan
Rice and curry
From my uncle playing in the dark
When the power went out
My little sister playing tag
Replayed in my heart

I am from the trampoline in the yard
From iPads, iPhones and MacBooks.

I am from the table in the dining room
From honey and salt
Beans and quesadillas
From my brother losing his shoes at the store
And my mom, not very happy about it.

I am from a bed with pillows everywhere
from the Captain Crunch and organic milk
Me and my crayon buddy lello since I couldn't say yellow
All placed within a box in the closet.

I am from the house on top of the hill
That always smells like home cooking.

I am from the rosemary we grow outside
The pear tree by the gate
Whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own
I'm from watching too much TV makes your eyes go square and
Goodnight, I love you, don't let the bedbugs bite.

I am from the small door next to the flower garden
The one with the blue paint on it.

I am from my black, coin filled couch
From the Biore face wash and Homemade rags
I am from the house on the boulevard with all the plants.

I am from respect your elders and eat everything on your plate.
That song Another One Bites the Dust.
The special way my grandma made eggs and oysters.

I am from the apartments passing the freeway going to San Rafael
The one that feels like my safety zone.

I am from the moss on the stone wall in my backyard
The purple-flowered plant that grows just outside the front door
Whose branches held me while my mother took pictures

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Daily Song and Dance: Altered 45 Project

An altered record is artwork that is made using an actual record.  Some people change the shape of the record or cut out parts of it. Others paint directly on old records or use them as a surface for collage. Several examples are included in this post.

Begin this project by selecting a song mentioned in Jacqueline Woodson's book, Brown Girl Dreaming.  Here's a list. Please ask me know if I missed one that you would like to do.
  • Sam Cooke: Twistin' the Night Away (33)
  • America the Beautiful (162)
  • The Star Spangled Banner (162)
  • Burl Ives: Froggie Went a'Courtin (202)
  • Sly and the Family Stone: A Family Affair (221)
  • Tingalo, Come Little Donkey (232)
  • Jackson Five:ABC (262)
  • Five Stairsteps: Ooh, Child (Things are Gonna Get Easier) (262)
  • The Hollies: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (262)
  • John Denver: Rocky Mountain High (262)
  • The Carpenters: We've Only Just Begun (262)
  • Rufus Thomas: Funky Chicken (262)
  • The O'Jays: Love Train (267)
  • The Big Blue Marble Theme
  • Ray Stevens: Everyone is Beautiful (262)
  • She'll be Coming Round the Mountain (61)
  • We Shall Overcome (Paret IV, Title Page)
Listen to the song a couple of times before you continue.  You may want to find a video that plays the lyrics as you listen.  If you can't find one see if you can find the lyrics somewhere else. Search for the song title and the word "lyrics."

Next, use black paper and an old '45 to create a "record."  Trace the record on the black paper, then cut it out.  Don't forget the hole in the middle.

Create an "altered record" to illustrate the song's importance to the book.

  • The songs title
  • A key lyric from the song
  • Images that illustrate how the song connects to the theme of book--What makes us who we are?
  • Other artwork
Find the poem in Brown Girl Dreaming that mentions the song you chose.  Re-read it a couple of times to help you figure out why Jacqueline Woodson chose to use that song and how the song relates to the themes of the book.

You may use any material you like to create your altered record.  All classroom materials are available to you.  You can also use materials that you bring in from home if you wish.

For the back, or the "B Side" select a song that has personal meaning to you.  Try to choose a song that relates to the theme in a more personal way.  What does this song have to do with the person you are becoming?

 One the "B Side" repeat the same steps you followed for the "A Side": title, lyric, images.

When you are finished with your artwork, write an artist's statement on a separate piece of paper. You may type this.  In your artist statement explain why you chose the lyrics you selected and the images you used.  Be sure to connect these to Brown Girl Dreaming and to your own life.

Your artist statement should have two paragraphs, one for the "A Side" and one for the "B Side".  It should be between 200 and 250 words long. About one page, typed.


You project will be graded on these criteria:
  • How well you met all of the requirements listed above.
  • How well written your artist statement is.
  • How well you explain the connection between the songs and the themes.
  • How visually appealing your altered record project is.
This project is due on Wednesday, May 25.

It is a 70% project.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reformation vs. Exploration

Select one of the projects below.  Follow the directions to read the correct chapter and to complete the project.  Projects are due by at the start of class on Friday.  You will have Monday and Wednesday to work on your project.  After that, they become homework due on Friday.  

Project #1 - The Reformation

Make a Reformation Facebook page for one off the people mentioned in chapter 31.

Begin by reading chapter 31: The Reformation Begins.

Take Cornell style notes in your history journal for the entire chapter.

Afterwards, select one person for whom you will make a Reformation Fakebook page.

You may do additional research online, but you should have enough information from your notes.

Use to create a Fakebook page about the person you selected.

Use the research you did in class, the history book and any other sources (internet) that you can find.

Be creative.

Make it look like a real Facebook page.  You can find samples by searching for images of "historical facebook pages."

You can do this assignment on paper if you have too  much trouble using Fakebook.

You'll have to do several postings on Fakebook before you can save.


You must keep track of your template link and your password to edit your Fakebook page later.

Include as much historical information as possible on your Fakebook page.  Be creative, but don't forget to include information from your notes and other research.

Project #2 - Exploration

Create an annotated one-pager about one explorer.

Begin by reading chapter 33: The Age of Exploration

Take Cornell style notes in your history journal for the entire chapter.

Afterwards, select one person for whom you will make an annotated one-pager.

If you do not have enough information from your notes you may do additional research on-line.

For your one-pager:

  • Use large (11 x 14 inch paper)  You'll find this in the back of the room.
  • Include:
    • A 150 word biography of the explorer you choose.
    • a map showing their "voyage" including
      • places they visited
      • what happened at at least one of the places
    • a large illustration of one event on the voyage
    • the person's name and the dates of their life
    • a border
    • additional information or illustrations

Use creative touches to make your one-pager visually appealing.  It may be one giant map with several smaller pictures, it may be a large drawing of the person with smaller illustrations and maps around it, or any other creative design as long as you do your own artwork.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to make a journal from an old architectural plan and cool duct tape..

Start with one large architectural plan like this one.

Fold it in half horizontally.

Fold it in half horizontally a second time.

Open it up completely so all three creases show.

Cut along the creases so you have four strips of paper.

Use colorful duct tape or blue painter's tape to tape all four pieces of paper together end to end. You don't have to overlap the paper when you tape each piece together.

You will end up with one very long piece of paper.

Place your strip of paper printed side up.  Fold back one end to make a square and crease the paper. Fold the other way next.  You'll be making an alternating or accordion fold out of the entire strip of paper.


You may have a bit of extra paper that you can cut off with scissors.  Don't worry if our pages are not even. You will fix this once you're done making your journal.

The next step is to tape the left side of your journal together with one or two pieces of duct tape or blue painter's tape.  You journal should then open like this.


Finally, use a pair of scissors or the paper cutter, with teacher's help, to trim the extra tape and make the top and bottom more even. DO NOT TRIM THE SIDES.  Then apply a piece of folded card stock to the front cover to give your journal a strong, colorful surface to create your cover art.


You may now decorate your front cover. Include your full name and the word "History" on your cover. Select one of the people listed here to feature on your cover. Look up some information about the person you selected along with some images. Create a cover about the person you chose including words and original artwork. DueThursday.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ruby Bridges Activity

For this activity you will look at several images, photographs and paintings.  Because Ruby Bridges faced very extreme racism in her childhood some of the images may be upsetting and may contain language that is not normally allowed on this website or in class.

Please remember to be respectful when viewing them.

Picture for questions #1

Picture for question 2

Picture for question #4

Monday, April 17, 2017

Student Projects: Witness in a Box

Here are a few samples of the "Witness in a Box" projects from our 7th grade students. Scroll down for more details about how the boxes were made or click here.  These samples come from all of the 7th grade classes.