David O'Brien

Class Description:

In Eighth Grade Language Arts, students learn English grammar, writing, and reading (nonfiction as well as fiction) in preparation for passing SOL exams later in the year and successfully transitioning to high school. Students are assessed on objectives and skills at least once every week or every other week, depending on how long it takes students to master the skill and other scheduling constraints. Homework is assigned as needed and is expected to be turned-in on time. Extra help is available after school IF there is parent approval (i.e., a written note).

June 8

So here we virtually are at the “last round-up” for Mr. O’Brien and Mrs. Graham’s 8th Grade English/Language Arts - your last English class in middle school. Today’s agenda: (1) how you can access e-books for your summer reading and (2) a poem by Langston Hughes for you to think about for the future.

Summer Reading: The best way for you to prepare yourself to do well in high school is simply to read as much as you can over the summer break. This does not mean that you must read all the time, but you ought to read consistently throughout the summer – perhaps set aside at least 30 minutes every day to read whatever you like. There are two tools (at least) for you to access lots of e-books at no cost: (1) Mi-on” which is accessed via the PWCS Clever page.  Myon.com” has FREE e-versions of a lot of books that you can download right onto your device to read! Just go to pwcs.edu and Clever. Scroll through Clever and there you’ll see “Myon.com” for e-versions of some graphic novels, sports books, historical fiction, romance and some classics like Red Badge of Courage (which is short) and Huck Finn plus a lot of others to choose from. It is free through the PWCS schools. Here’s a link to a Guide to getting started on Myon.com. Have fun with it! https://p.widencdn.net/6e5ryd/321722-myON-parent-and-family-Guide

(2)  Teen Book Cloud” is free through the PW County Library and provides lots of e-books. To get started, (1) go to the PWC Library site, then (2) select “digital library”, then (3) scroll down to “Teen Book Cloud” and click it to get started. It also has LOTS of books of different genres for you to choose from.

Poetry: Langston Hughes has been an important writer for our class this year. We read a poem by him last week, “Dreams”, and he authored the story “Thank You, Ma’m” which we read early this year. Here’s a poem by Hughes and below you can hear it read by the actress Viola Davis.

“Mother To Son”

Well, son, I'll tell you:

Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

It's had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor-


But all the time

I'se been a-climbin' on,

And reachin' landin's,

And turnin' corners,

And sometimes goin' in the dark

Where there ain't been no light.

So, boy, don't you turn back.

Don't you set down on the steps.

'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.

Don't you fall now-

For I'se still goin', honey,

I'se still climbin',

And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

  • Langston Hughes

You can listen to the poem here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L-kKxePGqA

Finally, I know that you can all be successful in high school and should go on to college if you wish. But you have to decide that you want to do it and commit yourself to doing the studying and schoolwork that will be necessary right from the beginning, not waiting until 12th grade. Make that commitment to yourself and be proud of yourself.

All the best to each of you, and don’t hesitate to contact us anytime you want to. KEEP YOUR DREAMS ALIVE!

June 1

Welcome to O’Brien/Graham’s ELA 8 class for June 1. Yes, JUNE! We’re almost there!

Today, we will be reviewing the distinction between “connotation” and “denotation” which would have been important to know for the Reading SOL although, of course, that was canceled. Nonetheless in high school, you need to know it. Essentially, “denotation” is the definition of a word if you look it up in a dictionary. However, words that mean the same thing can have subtle differences in their meaning which influences the writer’s tone and the meaning that the reader takes away. You will also read two short poems, and you can be thinking about connotation and inference as you read them. There is not a big assignment for this week since it is June.

Announcement:  The HMS literary magazine, The Golden Alabaster, will be published virtually this year and is still accepting your submissions until June 11th. Submissions can include fiction or nonfiction,  poetry, essays, short stories, journals, thoughts, artwork and photography. You may submit directly to Mrs. McLaughlin as an attachment. If you prefer, I would be happy to submit your work on your behalf if you’d like me to review it.

Guest Lecture: View the brief you tube video describing denotation and connotation here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx0nra6R-eE 

Classwork: Log in to IXL (get there via your HMS Clever account), and go to (1) ELA, (2) 8th Grade, (3) scroll down to Vocabulary, T.2 Positive and Negative Connotation and see how you do on that easy worksheet.

Poetry:  Attached and in the "Files and Documents" tab is a page with two short poems for you to read for your enjoyment and thinking. They have to do with the times that we find ourselves in although one was written over 100 years ago and the other over 50. Also, here are three poems on you tube. We had planned to read a short story by Maya Angelou entitled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, but that was put off due to the pandemic, so here she reads the poem. 

Second is a fun story poem about men in the Gold Rush, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” read by the famous songwriter and musician Johnny Cash  

Last is a fun poem, “59”, by a British math student, Harry Baker, which is “a love story about prime numbers.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxGWGohIXiw&t=405s  You do not need to view the rest of that video, but you might like to.

Don’t hesitate to contact Mrs. Graham or me if you’d like to chat about ANYTHING. We’ve all made a lot of progress against this virus by being smart, but the job isn’t finished yet, so “Be safe”!

May 29      Answer sheet for the May 27 work is now posted in the "Files and Documents" tab. Be safe! 

May 27
Due to the Memorial day holiday, we did not have English class on Monday. However, on Wednesdays (today) we have English "office hours" from 12:00 to 1:30. Therefore attached and in the "Files and Documents" tab is a very short reading and a few easy questions that you can complete during the 12:00 to 1:30 period today or at your convenience. This is review of material that we studied in October-November, so there is no need for a lecture today. You may refer to your notes from earlier this year to refresh your memory if you wish. we'll publish the correct answers tomorrow.

Don't hesitate to contact Mrs. Graham or me if you want to chat about ANYTHING. Be safe!

May 18
                                                                    CAUSE & EFFECT

ANSWER SHEET to May 18 work is now available in the "Homework" tab.
Happy Monday and welcome back to O’Brien/Graham’s English/Language Arts8 for May 18. We’re still here! Today, we continue our study of text features and internal organizational patterns, focusing on “Cause and Effect”. This is an important concept to understand because you will need to apply it often in various classes in high school.

(1) Lesson: Open the document titled “Cause and Effect Prequiz” which contains a review of one PowerPoint slide and an easy quiz for you to do to get your mind warmed-up. It is here https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=43156929 and also on the HMS website Class Page under “Files and Documents”. Answers will be posted later this week.

(2) Guest Lecture Videos: Review the following two, brief, You tube videos that explain Cause and Effect a little deeper.



(3) Classwork: Now, you can try the “Cause Effect 2 Post Quiz” which is a bit more challenging than the pre-quiz and is found here  https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=43156933  and in the “Files and Documents” tab. You do NOT have to turn this in since it is optional, but you may.

(4) Homework: Read the passage titled “Save A Tree; Recycle Paper” and answer the four multiple choice questions concerning organizational patterns.

Page 1:   https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=43157265

Page 2:  https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=43157285

You can also find it in the “Homework” tab on HMS’ Class Pages. Again, this is optional, so you do not have to turn this in, but you may. Answers will be posted later this week.

As always, let us know if you need to chat about ANYTHING and BE SAFE!

May 11:  
Monday, Monday! Time for Mr. O’Brien & Mrs. Graham’s English class on Compare & Contrast!

Today, we continue our study of text features/organizational patterns by taking a deeper dive on one of the important patterns - compare and contrast. Compare and contrast is an important technique as you transition to high school where it is often required.  You may want to review the PowerPoint presentation from last week; it is still available on my class page on the Hampton web site.

Guest Lecture:  Next, we will view three you tube videos by guest teachers explaining compare and contrast.




Classwork:  Then, during class-time today we will complete this worksheet. (Answers to the worksheet will be posted later this week, so you can review your work.)  https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/cms/One.aspx?portalId=413237&pageId=9666267#  

Homework: For the remainder of today’s class and during Wednesday’s time designated for “Office Hours”, the assignment is to read the brief, interesting passage “Song of the Shadows” and the poem “A Night with a Wolf” and answer the nine multiple choice questions. These are short, but challenging readings from a previous SOL Reading exam, so I suggest you take your time and read each passage several times to figure-out the interesting imagery and vocabulary (using context clues). They are here https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=43033908 and also on my Hampton class page in the Homework tab.  Although this is NOT for a grade, it will give you a good idea of how you might do if you had to take a Reading SOL this year. (Of course, you do not take it this year.) There is a lot of interesting vocabulary to figure out, figurative language, point of view, characterization, and comparison and contrast. Answers will be posted at the end of the week.

As always, feel free to contact Mrs. Graham and me anytime about anything. Be safe!!

May 4th                                                               ORGANIZATIONAL PATTERNS

Welcome back to Mr. O’Brien & Mrs. Graham's ELA class for Monday.

Today we continue the work we started last week on Text Structure/Organizational Patterns by shifting from external text structure to INTERNAL organizational patterns. We will (1) finish reading the presentation that we started last week, (2) view some you tube presentations by guest lecturers, and (3) practice recognizing organizational patterns with a worksheet.

  1. PRESENTATION: Read the rest of the Powerpoint presentation that we started last week “Organizational Patterns Prestn 6-8 update”, found at “Files and Documents” on O’Brien’s class page or here-https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=42691876

  2. GUEST LECTURES: View the following you tube videos:

    A) Pisa Rap-   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kWGQ-_ipBY

    B) Architect-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cytHen2SCeM(a)

    C) Explain-     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2I_6SrOMes

    D) Examples-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTdpVX8kCKA

  3. PRACTICE: Complete the following worksheet “Organizational Patterns Wrksheet pg 1_2” which is found at the “Homework” section of O’Brien’s class page or here https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=42857468

    Note: Answers to this activity will be posted later this week.

  4. PROMPT:If you have time, re-read the prompt you worked on last week about a historic figure, and revise and edit your work.

  5. Finally:Looking for a new independent reading book? Yeah!!Try “Myon.com” for FREE e-versions of a lot of books that you can download right onto your device to read! Just go to pwcs.edu and Clever, there you’ll see “Myon.com” for e-versions of some graphic novels, sports books, and some classics like Red Badge of Courage (which is short) and Huck Finn plus a lot of others to choose from. It is free through the PWCS schools, and you find it on Clever. Here’s a link to a Guide to getting started on Myon.com. Have fun with it! https://p.widencdn.net/6e5ryd/321722-myON-parent-and-family-Guide

As always, Mrs. Graham and I are available anytime you want to contact us about ANYthing – Language Arts or otherwise. Just send an e-mail, and we can respond by e-mail or a phone call. STAY SAFE!!

April 27
                                                         External Text Features

Welcome back to Mr. O’Brien & Mrs. Graham’s Language Arts class for Monday.

External text features are sub-headings, graphics, sidebars, footnotes, italics, etc., that help us/readers understand the text more easily. There are both external and internal text structures, and we’ll look at internal text structure in future weeks.

Today, we will (1) view and read through just a few slides of a powerpoint file (below OR in the “Files and Documents” tab of the Hampton web site, O’Brien class page), (2) view a couple brief you tube videos by Guest Lecturers that explain text features in a little more detail, then (3) do a short fill-in-the-blank page (also in the Files and Documents tab OR below) about text features and also provide you with the correct answers. Finally, (4) there will be a writing prompt to help maintain our writing skills.

(1) PPT:   View just the first few slides of the PPT “Organizational Patterns Prestn 6-8 Update” https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=42691876   (We do NOT need to view any of the “Internal Text Structure – Organizational Patterns” pages.)

(2) VIDEOS: View the following two, brief you tube videos which explain external text features:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54TPI1py8HQ(NOTE: do NOT bother about the speakers’ reference to your “NOTES” pages; just listen and follow along on the screen.)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW0Ehfhava8

(3) WORKSHEET: In the “Files and Documents” tab OR the link below, open the “External Text Aid Identification Earth Day” file. Read page 1 and try to fill-in the blanks by simply writing the number and the answer on a separate piece of scratch paper. (You do NOT need to turn this in.)        https://hamptonms.pwcs.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=42691845    After you do that, if you scroll down to the next page it provides you with the answers, so you can check your own work.

(4) WRITING PROMPT: “If you could have dinner with any historic figure, who would it be?  Write at least one full page. You may choose any HISTORIC figure you want, but some suggestions might be: Barack Obama, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Harriett Tubman, Roberto Clemente, Nat Turner, Althea Gibson, Che Guevara, Wilma Rudolph or any HISTORIC figure you choose.

April 21

IF you took the L.A. SOL in March, I can e-mail your score to you.  To protect student privacy, you must SEND ME AN E-MAIL ASKING me to send the score to you. Then, I will reply to your request e-mail in the next day or so with your score.  Stay safe!

April 20

Monday is English Language Arts day! Welcome to Mr. O’Brien/Mrs. Graham's class for April 20th.

In today’s environment it is very important that we can distinguish fact and opinion in our reading. Even today, there can be a lot of misinformation about coronavirus which we need to be able to sort out. This will increase even more as election campaigns ramp up. Today’s optional lesson will address fact and opinion with some (1) short videos, (2) simple activities, and (3) a reading passage.

But first, the following is only for those students who need to improve their class grade. Those students can work on these activities INSTEAD OF fact and opinion IF you need to.

A)  This week is your last chance to submit your “Thankfulness” final draft. (several students already have done so recently!) Check your Student Vue on the Hub to see if you have/have not already done so. Contact us if you have any question. For your reference, the assignment and the grading sheet are on my Hampton school class page as usual.

B)  We took a re-test of the Subject Verb Agreement assessment already. If you did poorly (check your Student Vue on the Hub) and wish to take the re-test again, you must contact Mrs. Graham or Mr. O’Brien and first do some remediation and then we will send you the re-test.


1) View the following 4 short videos which explain the difference between fact and opinion.

Fact and Opinion on Brain Pop:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ngkj2Lx-Ks

Fact and Opinion, Teaching Without Frills (2 min):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwdDClWP6i4

Fact v opinion (7 min):   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs9ZGW_1oMM

Fact v Opinion (5 min):   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc0XdBrbgw8

2) Read and complete the brief Worksheet “FACT OPINION page 1” and “FACT OPINION page 2” which you can access on O’Brien’s Hampton school web page class page under “Homework” on the left of the page. You do not have to submit that work. I will post an answer sheet later this week.

3) View the video that illustrates how to read a short passage (about Abraham Lincoln “the Greatest President”) to tell fact from opinion.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YZoS7DCMjM

Then, read the passage “Elephants Should Be Free” (found on O’Brien’s Hampton class page under “Files and Documents”) and determine the fact and opinion.

These three activities should give us a solid basis to determine fact and opinion and help us to stay safe. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Mr. O’Brien or Mrs. Graham today or during Office Hours at noon Wednesdays or anytime you need to. Stay safe and be smart!!

April 13

Greetings students and welcome back to O’Brien & Graham’s Virtual Hampton.

(1)  SCHEDULE:  You may have seen that the Principal has posted a revised schedule for the coming weeks. I have also posted it on Mr. O’Brien’s Hampton web page (under Files and Documents at the left), so you can find it there if you need to. That schedule calls for English Language Arts instruction on Mondays (only) from 8:30 to 10:00. We will try to get together at that time starting next Monday, 20th. More specific instructions will be sent to you soon.

(2)  The schedule also calls for ELA Office Hours on Wednesdays from 12:00 to 1:30. If you or your parents would like to ask me (Mr. O’Brien or Mrs. Graham) a question about your work or grades or anything else, we can get in touch during that time. Please send me an e-mail if you’d like us to be in contact during that time, and we can figure out the best way.

(3) 3rd QUARTER GRADES:  You will receive a report card and grade as usual for 3rd Quarter. The Grade Book in The Hub is up to date for ELA including all your work up until our last day in school (March 13), and that is the grade that you will receive unless you turn in any additional past due work.

PWCS and HMS have extended 3rd Quarter until April 24, so you can turn in past due work (such as “Thankfulness” Final Draft which was originally due around Feb. 7) up until next Wednesday April 22nd. I strongly suggest that you look at your grades in The Hub and see if you have turned in your Final Draft. If you did turn in the Final draft, you probably have a decent grade for the quarter. If not, you will see a “0” for that assignment which will have a very negative effect on your final grade. You should try to be sure that you submit that assignment before April 22nd for credit. In case you need a reminder, the assignment is on my HMS web page (under "Homework" on the left) and so is the grading sheet. Note that it MUST BE READABLE/LEGIBLE or you will not get credit. You may e-mail your paper to me or, if you do not have access to a computer and e-mail, you may take a photo of it and send it to me. In 4th Quarter, there will be NO GRADES.

(4)  RE-TEST: If you wish to re-take the Subject-Verb Agreement re-test, contact me THIS WEEK by e-mail and we can arrange for you to take it THIS WEEK. You must contact me first to arrange it. If you already did OK on that test, I do NOT encourage you to re-take it. Only re-take it if you did poorly. You can review your grade in The Hub.

That’s all for now; let me know if you have questions about this.

Be safe and be strong!

April 3
1. Looking for a new independent reading book for Spring Break? Yeah!!

If you go to pwcs.edu and Clever, there is a site named “Myon.com” which has e-versions of a lot of books which you can download onto a device to read. It has some graphic novels, sports books, and some classics like Red Badge of Courage (which is short) and Huckleberry Finn. It is free through the PWCS schools and you find it on Clever. Following is a link with a guide to getting started on Myon.com. Have fun with it!


2.  Answers to questions on “Get Out Your Binoculars” have been posted in “Files and Documents”, in case you’re curious.

April 2-3: Students, please click on "Files and Documents" on the left side of this page to see a new Assignment for today/tomorrow. Thank you.

As of March 12, Mr. O’Brien’s classes have now successfully completed the 8th Grade Writing SOL - both the multiple choice and the short essay sections. The VDOE will share results with us in about a month. Consequently, our classes are now emphasizing reading in preparation for the Reading SOL in May. (Note that the VDOE has more recently announced that they are trying to "waive" the Reading SOL this year.)

At this time, each student should be reading a book independently. If students do not have a book from the HMS Library or class library, they are encouraged to read a grade-appropriate book from their home or neighborhood library. In addition, Mr. O’Brien’s page on the PWCS Clever web site has links to the iq.whro.org site and the ixl.com site. The iq site (Interactive Quizzes) has links to many previous Reading SOL tests released by the state and provides the answers as well as the questions. IXL is available to students via Mr. O’Brien’s Clever page and the District resources, as is the Study Island application. While school is not in session, students are encouraged to visit these sites for about 30 minutes and do 5 – 10 questions of their choosing per day.

We will also make available a hard-copy packet of materials “SOL Ready – Reading 8”. Students are encouraged to do 5 – 10 questions per day in that booklet, also. Depending on the duration of any school closing, we will continue to make additional resources available for students as appropriate. Thank you for your support.

Status as of March 25

Before the school closing on March 13, Mr. O’Brien’s English Language Arts classes had all completed the writing portion of the curriculum and had taken both components of the Writing SOL – the multiple-choice exam and the short essay exam. THREE CHEERS TO ALL STUDENTS FOR YOUR HARD WORK IN ACHIEVING THAT MILESTONE!!  (The state of Virginia has not yet informed us of the results of these exams, and we do not expect to be informed of the results for a few more weeks.)

Students have also covered several of the Reading SOL strands in preparation for the Reading SOL which was scheduled for May but is now deferred. These Reading and Writing SOL strands that have been covered include the following:

8.1: Participate in small group learning activities.
8.4: Apply knowledge of word origins and figurative language to extend vocabulary.
8.5: Read and analyze a variety of fictional texts, literary nonfiction, poetry, and drama.
8.6: Read and analyze a variety of nonfiction texts.
8.7: Write in a variety of forms including narrative, expository, persuasive, and reflective.
8.8: Edit writing for capitalization, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, paragraphing, and standard English.

By the way, my electronic grade book available on The Hub, parent vue or student vue, is currently up to date with all assignments through March 13.

Going forward:  Since the writing portion of the curriculum has been completed for the most part, the remainder of this academic year will emphasize reading, particularly comprehension and analysis (i.e., SOLs 8.4, 8.5, and 8.6). Nonetheless, some writing activities will continue so that the learning from earlier this year continues to be strengthened and because the reading and writing domains strongly reinforce each other.



Class Schedule: 


Period 1

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Period 3

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Office Hours:
Enter Day of the Week: 7:55-3:10    Please call during my planning times to provide optimal teaching time during the day. If you should need me at a different time, please call the office (703-670-6166) or email me.

Announcements and Assignments

   Presently, students are working on grammar, emphasizing sentence structure and punctuation; reading, emphasizing the elements of fiction; and writing in their journals on the theme "Who Am I?"

 Class Announcements and Assignments can be found at


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