Six Word Memoirs – A New Year with Eighth Graders

Blossom outside of your comfort zone.

We’ve shared a mere week together, and yet I couldn’t be more thrilled to spend the next 175 school days with these extraordinary young people…fresh-from-summer eighth graders who  unanimously–and vocally–lamented their return to school.  School is boring, they jeered. Mmmm.  It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

When we’re going to school, neck deep in as many social crises as homework assignments, we think school stinks.  That changes, of course, when we reach the end of our academic pursuits. Then, it’s work day in and day out. Summer breaks become extinct as T-Rexes. Snow days are a frosty memory.  And BFFs…they scatter across the continent like dandelion seeds lost in the wind. That’s when we realize how school was not only pretty great, but it shaped our future selves.

Right now, as we sail into another jam-packed year, I’ll keep the crystal ball tucked away in my teacher wardrobe. Instead, I’ll focus on treasuring these first few relationship-building weeks.  I hope my students see how much they matter to me–and to one another. I hope we’ll find this classroom a place to let go of fears and courageously step beyond what is comfortable and known. I hope we’ll grow into a thriving community of learners who have each other’s backs, who listen with both ears and hearts, and who choose to notice the goodness, no, the greatness, in every classmate. School is life..and I sure as heck don’t want to ever say I lived–or taught–a boring life.

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So, let the sharing begin today with six-word memoirs/teen...six carefully chosen words that tell a personal story. Here is a sampling of the wisdom, humor, and ingenuity that’s currently taking up residence in room A6.  Nothing boring about these young writers!

Can we just use more words? – Jack

Live your life. No one else’s. – Tyler

I write to escape my reality. – Prenya

The stars will be my guide. – Kaitlyn

Don’t be ordinary. Be extraordinary. – Ann Marie

Always believe in what you do. – Matt

One deed will take you far. – Jacob

Open the doors to your life. – Naeem

My dog is smarter than me. – Michaela

Dancing makes me feel more alive – Kylie

Better looking version of my brother. – Makai

If I’m weird, you’re too normal – Ashley

You will remember me working hard. – Sean

Life isn’t fair, but it’s okay. – Destiny

I’m Gucci down to my socks. – Nick

Don’t be a pretzel. It’s twisted. – Lauren

Hiding behind a book, just watching. – Maddie

Tennis and robotics are my life. – Siddhant

Take it slow; don’t grow up. – Aidan

I dance to tell my story. – Daniella

Our world is changing. What’s next? – Pranav

I am not a morning person. – Malak

Watch me. I make mistakes too. – Kasie



The Nest by Kenneth Oppel: Worth Buzzing About!


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Springtime is wasp time. I don’t know about your house, but a day doesn’t go by that my kids aren’t hollering, “Mom, there’s a wasp in the house.” Thanks to Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest, I have an entirely new, somewhat menacing, perspective on  these ubiquitous flying insects. My GoodReads review on this  phenomenally engaging book follows.

The obsessive compulsive handwashing has started up again. Steve’s baby brother has arrived, and something’s just not right. While his parents aren’t elaborating on the baby boy’s heart trouble, Steve knows one thing for certain: his once-attentive parents are exhausted from sleepless nights and countless hospital visits. Hushed voices whisper behind closed doors, and Steve feels his normal existence crumbling apart.

After allergic-to-everything Steve is stung by a wasp, the dreams of a black-eyed angel begin. The gossamer-winged creature promises to “fix” everything, and normally nervous Steve is mesmerized by the angel’s rhythmic voice. Every night, the angel appears, at first soothing Steve’s fears. Then, fueling them by feeding into the young boy’s deepest fears. What if the angels could replace Steve’s critically ill baby brother with a perfect model? One little three-letter word is all it takes to unleash a horrific chain of events: y-e-s.

Even though Steve realizes it isn’t an angel that visits his dreams, but rather a wasp queen, he gives into the temptation. Soon, a wasp nest is abuzz outside of his bedroom window. It isn’t long before Steve begins to see a baby forming inside the nest. When the wasps are done, all Steve must do is open his window and let the angels replace his damaged brother (who Oppel brilliantly leaves nameless for most of the book) with a flawless copy, carefully crafted by thousands of yellow-striped workers.

I couldn’t put this thriller of a little book down. The Nest stings the soul. It got me thinking about the potential repercussions and moral tightrope of genetic engineering. In fact, months later, The Nest is still buzzing around my brain. Toss in a little sister whose plastic toy phone receives incoming calls, and a knife sharpening salesman that shows up at only one house on the street: Steve’s, and you’ve got mega middle school creepiness. I so loved this book that I put two hardcovers in my classroom library. After I showed the publisher’s book trailer to my class, a swarm of students raided both my class library and the school library (We need more copies both places!).

The best endorsement: Owen, one of my first student readers, said he couldn’t put down the book. In fact, for the first time ever, his mom actually yelled at him to stop reading and go to sleep. For any author, there’s no greater compliment than a 12-year-old boy who willingly gets scolded just to keep turning pages. 🙂  Fly out and pick up a copy!

Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!

Today, you’ll open your very own student blog. This is a place where your voice can be heard, your writing read, and your ideas and observations shared with the  world.

Some of you are undeniably pumped about blogging. You’ve asked me “when” ever since I mentioned we’d be blogging. Others of you probably aren’t too thrilled about any kind of writing, especially one that’s new and unfamiliar. Well, you know how I feel about the importance of fostering a growth mindset. We can’t stick with what’s comfortable and easy and expect to grow into the very best version of ourselves.

As we embark on this year-long journey, let’s celebrate the successes and overcome the pesky difficulties. I may be the teacher, but sometimes you’ll untangle the technology faster than me. I promise to deliver my very best. All I ask is that you do the same. Let’s explore and learn together.

Now, borrowing heavily from a post by Susan Lucille Davis, an Edtech blogger, here are six reasons why blogging makes us better writers, communicators, and citizens of the world.

Which one of these six reasons has you most interested in blogging and why? Leave a comment below. 🙂

1. Blogs are authentic.

With a blog, students reach real rather than pretend audiences. When someone from New Zealand or Kuwait is reading your writing, the quality of your work matters more. You’ll raise the bar for your own learning when the audience extends beyond the teacher, the classroom, and the grade.

2. Blogs allow students to give voice to their passions.

Blogs are an immensely versatile, energizing medium. In some ways, blogs are the new “show and tell,” allowing students to share their own infectious love of learning.

3. Blogs invite feedback.

As students unleash their passions, they must learn to respond to and learn from readers in the form of comments. Testing our ideas on others is an important part of our growth. Plus, feedback and connections with visitors makes students accountable for the quality of their work. Students value sincere, thoughtful responses.

4. Blogs provide opportunities for regular writing practice.

Blogs were never meant to be a one-shot deal, like an five-paragraph essay or book report.  Instead, blogs require a commitment to writing, to learning, and to growth over the long haul.

5. Blogging allows students to experiment with multiple media formats.

No other medium so seamlessly blends text, image, sound, and video to communicate a message as effectively to this wide an audience. As bloggers, students learn to consider the impact of the artfully placed photograph, video, audio insert, or infographic. Essentially, blogs allow students to learn how to write with every medium at their wriggling fingertips.

6. Blogging broadens students’ perspectives and connects them to the world.

The first dot from someone outside your home country that appears in your Clustr Map is a big moment. The world suddenly opens up to you. Next, you might find from someone halfway across the globe who’s interested in collaborating on a project or commenting on a recipe.

Blogging for a world audience shifts a writer’s perspective, builds empathy, or concern for others, and reveals new ways of seeing humanity.  

Don’t forget to leave a comment! Which of these six reasons has you most interested in blogging and why? Leave a comment below. 🙂


Letter to my newest Sixth Graders

Tomorrow, I’ll welcome 94 brand new sixth graders to my classroom. Am I ready? You bet I am. The past two weeks have been all about preparation–from attending professional development workshops to devoting full days to readying my classroom for its young occupants. I turned out the lights on Friday evening and couldn’t help but smile. I am eager to meet the new arrivals. I’ll be a little nervous, of course, but I simply must remember that they’re 100 times more nervous than me. We’re in this together–from the first day jitters to the last day goodbyes. Some days will drag; others will flash  by like comets. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry (well, at least I will during our many read-alouds), and we’ll make memories together.

One of my first-day activities is  to have every student write me a letter. I’ll read and respond to all 94 letters by Friday. Tonight, I’ve written  mine to them. 

Dear Awesome Sixth Graders,

     I’m thrilled to welcome you into our Language Arts classroom! I know we’ll have a wonderful year together.

     Today, I’m asking you to write a letter to me, so I thought it only fair that I write a letter to you. Let’s start with introductions. Who am I? I’m Mrs. Martha Rombach, teacher, writer, reader, and mom of five awesome kids ranging in age from 12 to 21. I graduated with an English degree from James Madison University, where I met my husband, Mike. I grew up in Yorktown, Virginia, where I built forts, rode my bike for miles, shot archery in my backyard, captured every type of wild critter I could raise in a box or tub, and even worked summers at Busch Gardens when I was a teenager.

     I love being outdoors. I enjoy hiking, traveling to unfamiliar places, and blasting music in my canary yellow Jeep. If I’m not outside, I’m probably curled up inside with a good book. Forget about trying to talk to me when I’m reading. I’m in another world. I read over 20 books this summer, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. In fact, our first read-aloud will be Fish in a Tree, one of my summer best.

     Speaking of favs, I’m a candy fiend. Hot Tamales and Twizzlers are my go-to sweets. Look around our classroom, and you’ll see I’m a huge Steelers fan. Music keeps me grounded; I can’t go a day without it. What am I afraid of? Heights! I’ll happily remove spiders from our classroom, but don’t ask me to climb a ladder or peer over a ledge.

     I’m a teacher who’s connected to technology–Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and a couple of blogs. That means we’ll be using technology in our classroom nearly every day–really! Bring in those devices. 🙂 Before becoming a teacher, I was a newspaper and magazine writer. Now, I write on two blogs–and will open blogs for each of you soon!

      I have the best job in the world. I love coming to work every day because of you. You are one of a kind. You are amazing. You have the power to change the world. As we embark on this year together, know that I believe in you. If there are bumps in the road,we’ll navigate them together. If you have questions, ask them. When you need to talk, I’ll listen. I’m here for you 100%. Be kind, be motivated, be ready to make your first year in middle school absolutely awesome (just like you)!


Mrs. Rombach



Three New Tech Tools & One Call to Action

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Today has been a sit-in-front-of-the-computer day for me. I’ve been digging up all kinds of technology that I can use in my 6th grade Language Arts classroom. Two weeks from today is when teachers report, so that internal alarm sounded bright and early this morning. Time to get yourself in gear, Martha. Well, while my adventure-seeking daughter and her equally fit pal are biking 35-40 miles into Washington, D.C. on the W & OD Trail, I’ve sat on my slightly sore bum prepping for classroom instruction. (1) I created my first classroom Symbalooan online, visual aggregate of my frequently used websites. (2) Through various searches and blog visits, I discovered Learn2Earn, a teacher-friendly website where my students can track and respond to their reading. (3) My heart was doing cartwheels when I landed on PearDeck, a must-explore interactive presentation creator for all teachers–especially those in schools that have adopted one-to-one technology. My mind is racing with dozens of potential uses for PearDeck!

I’ll spend a little time in the next day or two sharing out a few more finds. Now, however, it’s time to head outside. Have you ever wondered why it’s important that our bodies and brains see the light of day? Take a couple of minutes and watch this video. Then, leave the computer idle for a while as together we head outside and soak up a little Vitamin D. What did you do outside/inside today? Leave me a comment!

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I Wonder — Teachers Write Day #1

Teachers Write!

Yesterday, I walked the concrete paths of Cornell University, contemplating my son Bryan’s college future. Could I see him in the faces of the backpack-toting students who crisscrossed the campus? This Ivy League school, with its soaring stone clock tower, stretches across a seemingly endless green landscape overlooking Cayuga Lake.  As Amanda, the bubbly campus tour guide with bouncy chestnut curls, rattles off her freshman year favorites, I watch my six foot three son’s face for reactions. Trying to read his expressions is like rereading the same page in a book five times when you’re falling asleep. Hopeless.

My husband, 15-year-old daughter Cady, and our rising seventh grader, Sean, join me in the back of the pack. I wonder…what does Bryan think of this place, nearly six hours from home. Could he be a Cornelian? Does he even want to be a Cornelian? Can we even afford such thoughts? How do we help our children stretch for their dreams–and still put five kids through college? When these doubts, like ricocheting pinballs, start to spoil a perfect summer day in Ithaca, New York, it’s time to shut down the worry. One day at a time. One child at a time. One dream at a time. Today, it’s Bryan’s dream up against Dad’s impending deadline.

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Our time on campus is limited, as a flight from Dulles is on my husband’s evening agenda. There are 327 miles (5 hours and 36 minutes, according to Google maps) between us and Leesburg. With every toll of the clocktower, the urgency for departure grows, as do the snippy comments and irritability. We are all tired. We are all hungry. A 36-hour trip up and back to Ithaca, New York, is quite an adventureI Add in yesterday afternoon’s spontaneous vertical hike alongside Buttermilk Falls, and now there are five slightly sore campus visitors whose exhaustion has morphed into impatience. The clock is ticking as Bryan decides to stay after the Engineering info session to trail yet another happy-faced Cornelian around campus. Mom feels Dad’s tension as he calculates the countdown to takeoff. I wonder…how can someone’s tone of voice completely change the way we receive information? How do we recognize the stress, understand its implications, and yet are unable to deflect the crabby comments that dig a little too deep?

After making a quick trip to the Cornell Dairy Bar for grab-and-go sandwiches (and a single dip of ice cream for three of us), we hit the road close to 2pm, an hour later than planned. The five hours and 29 minutes forecast by Google Maps turned into six hours and 42 minutes with construction traffic, backroad detours, and emergency pee breaks. My salvation? Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner. My sixth graders closed out the year with rave reviews for their book club selections, including Wake Up Missing and All the Answers. I ordered Eye of the Storm for my own rising 7th grader; but guess who reads it first? Me, which keeps me chasing down monster storms with Jaden, Alex, and Risha instead of stressing about the climate inside our SUV during our own race against time. (I wonder…what really happened to grandma?) So I start yesterday at the storied Cornell University and land smack in the middle of a twisting, turning story by Kate Messner. I wonder if coincidences are really coincidences, or if there’s something more spiritual at work.

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Climbing out of bed this morning, I spend a few minutes fiddling in the kitchen and then plop down in front of the computer, a computer I’ve banished myself from since June 16th when school ended. Today, in the productive silence of a sleeping, husbandless house, I troll Twitter and listen to a few awesome podcasts. I order more books, including How Children Succeed, so I can inspire courage, curiosity, and persistence in my classroom. Next I shuffle some papers on my desk and find Kate Messner’s 59 Reasons to Write staring back at me. Do I really need 59 reasons? I could probably use just one. I start reading, and I am quickly reminded about Teachers Write!, the summer online writing workshop for teachers like me. I’d checked earlier in the year, but the details weren’t post yet. This morning, after yesterday’s car ride glued to Kate Messner’s story, I type “teachers write” into the Google search bar and discover I’m already one day behind. That’s okay; I am now signed up for another heart-pounding Kate Messner adventure.

Today, it’s my dream, and there isn’t any deadline. I wonder what I’ll write about in the month ahead. I wonder what prompts will give my fingers freedom to clatter across the keyboard. I wonder how my writing will evolve.  I wonder if there’s a storm of stories percolating inside of me. I bet the answer is yes.

Happy 2015!




I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing the world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

— Neil Gaiman, author

Let our New Year’s resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.

— Goran Persson

Make New Year’s goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.

— Melody Beattie

Here’s to 2015–exploding with endless possibilities!


Mrs. Rombach




Dreaming Big & Setting Goals

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

“If you want to live a happy life,tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” ― Albert Einstein





Last week, we articulated our big plans for sixth grade. What did you want most to accomplish between now and June 16? What was on your to-do list? What priorities have you set? Are you determined to make new friends? Do you want to earn better grades? Are you focused on improving in a subject that left you feeling overly challenged or frustrated last year?

What are your dreams for today, tomorrow, and the rest of the year? Dreams only come true when you believe they can. Do you believe in the awesomeness that resides inside you? Do you recognize that you’re already an expert in oodles of things? You could surely teach Mrs. Rombach many things, starting with how to take a presentable selfie. (Currently, I am an epic failure in the selfie department.). The bottom line is this: I believe in each of you, and recognize the gifts you bring to my class every day. You may not love to read or write — yet — but you’re passionate about something.

What is that something? Your Wednesday night homework is to watch this TedX video (it’s less than 5 minutes long), and then tell me: What would YOU attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? From landing a difficult trick with your skateboard to someday hosting your own YouTube channel, share one goal you’ve set for yourself. It may take you 2 months or 10 years to reach that goal, but just putting it here in black and white makes it real.  Share your goal in a comment–and let me know how this video inspired you to dream big.

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” 
― Robert H. Schuller


To leave a comment, click on the blog post title, “Dreaming Big & Setting Goals.” A comment box will appear at the bottom of this page. Complete and submit. Yes, you’ll have to type in the anti-spam letters.


Next Monday, I’ll ask you to complete a Google survey on your reading and writing goals for the First Quarter. As the week progresses, contemplate what kind of goals you might set for yourself as a reader and as a writer.

Remember, study Weeks 1 & 2 vocabulary words on and be prepared for the vocabulary quiz on Friday. Also on Friday, be sure to bring your completed weekly homework sheet.

Spread happiness with your smiles and positive outlook!

Mrs. Rombach


Top 10 Things I Loved about the First Week of School

I really, really love my job.

Not everyone gets up and heads into work with a giant smile painted across their face. I know that. Boy do I feel blessed that I’m one of the lucky ones who do. I love my job. I mean, I really, really love my job. The first week of school confirms it once again. Yes, I am bone tired after standing on my feet for most of every single day. In fact, it’s now nearly 2pm on Saturday afternoon and I’ve just unglued myself from the living room couch to officially start my weekend warrior work. (That’s after an 8-11am journey to watch my cross country runners melt along the 5K course at Great Meadows.) As tuckered out as I am, I am smiley face happy. The first week of school was like rocketing out of the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby…exhilarating!

10. We made our own birthday cards…and wrote 10 things that make us unique and wonderful on the backside of our handcrafted cards.

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9. We heard an inaugural address by Kid President and vowed ourselves to be awesome this year.


8. We made Big Plans together, sharing out our sixth grade dreams on the front and back of Crayola-colored index cards.

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7. We watched the MazeRunner movie trailer – dipping our toes into a future of Book Talk Tuesdays. It’s true…the book is always better! 


6. We met the real Cynthia Rylant, the Newbery Award-winning writer who grew up reading drugstore comics–not library books–in poverty stricken Appalachia.

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5. As we shared our first read-aloud, Rylant’s excerpt, The Prettiest, we were startled by Okey’s almighty hollerin’…and surprised by Ellie and her Dad’s unlikely bond in the midst of an early morning dawn.


4. We nibbled on books in a round-robin book tasting. We talked about falling in love with reading–and finding the “just right” book. We made Someday lists of books we want to read. We opened our classroom library, checked out books, and began another life.


3. We  visited the computer lab, changing passwords and setting up files. Some even explored this blog and began imagining the creation of their own student blog–which is coming soon!


2. We became desktop writers, using Expo markers to record our classmate interviews on our newly assigned desks. One student asked, “Are you serious, Mrs. Rombach? Can we really write on our desks?” Oh yes, we can! (Baby wipes clean instantly.)

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1. We traded names, stories, laughter, and caromed through our first four days of sixth grade together. I am giddy with excitement about journeying through this year together. Sixth graders are awesome (especially the ones I’m blessed to teach).


Here’s to the inimitable story we’ll write together…

Mrs. Rombach



Welcome to Sixth Grade!

photo 3In a mere two and a half hours, over 460 new sixth graders will arrive for orientation to begin their middle school journey at Eagle Ridge. Lucky for me, I’ll have the opportunity to teach more than 70 of you. Wahoo! Welcome to the wonderful world of Language Arts. 

These past two weeks, I’ve been readying the classroom for your arrival. Twenty unpacked boxes later, I have desks in place, a close-to-complete classroom library, bulletin boards awaiting your contributions, and plenty of reading material coloring my cinderblock walls. My husband, Mike, and my youngest son, Sean, devoted several days to carding and cataloging the newest books to line our shelves. Over the summer, my classroom library grew by leaps and bounds–and I am counting down the days until I can start sharing my most recent reading finds. In fact, I just placed my first Scholastic book order of the 2014-15 school year, and I have some absolute must-reads coming your way. You, too, can order the latest, greatest books to hit the young adult market, because I’ll place a classroom Scholastic order every month (First order due September 26.). Click here to check out my Scholastic page. 

Reading, writing, and learning together — that’s what we’ll be doing every day this year (and having plenty of fun along the way)! Get ready for your first amazing year of middle school.

See you next Tuesday for Day One! 🙂

 Mrs. Rombach

P.S. – In addition to the Sixth Grade Supply List posted on the school website, please bring in one 3-Subject Spiral Notebook to be used in our class for Reading, Writing, and Vocabulary. Thanks so much! 


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