Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year's Eve!

May your New Year be filled with many blessings and plenty of warm memories!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time For Change

A couple of months ago I was walking along the beach at Bodega Head in Northern California, and I had something of a revelation. It was during the week that I had taken my seventh graders to camp and, while they spent the morning hiking around the cliffs with their teacher-naturalists, I had some quiet time to just be. It's not often that a teacher gets some time to herself; time that isn't filled with papers, emails, meetings, or lesson plans.

I'll admit that it was a bit disconcerting at first. I've become, sadly, unused to having time for myself. Even when I do take a break from the work that has taken over my life, my "free time" is spent reading blogs, books, and magazines that are all about education. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Education is something I am very passionate about, and I truly enjoy reading and learning all that I can. What I am saying, however, is that there can be more to my life.

There just doesn't seem to be.

What I realized at the beach that day was this has to change!

When I was growing up, I was incredibly passionate about three things: reading, writing, and photography. I could very easily lose myself for an entire day in any one of those three hobbies. Now, I can't seem to remember the last time I did that. Instead of losing myself in the pursuit of one of my passions, I feel as though I've just lost myself.

So, either I start wearing a t-shirt that says, "If found, please make me stop and breathe for a moment," or I start making some changes.

Well, I can't wear t-shirts to work, so...

I'm not going to sit here and write, "I vow to read for pleasure, write one poem or blog post, and take 50 pictures EVERY DAY!" That's far too much to commit to and I would last all of two days, I'm sure. What I will do is promise myself to at least remember that these are the things that make me happy, and I deserve some happiness. Right?


I know that in order to give of myself to my students, there must be something more inside me than just a feeling of emptiness. I need to fill the void with the activities I love the most. I must do the things that make me happy. And that means finding the, not "finding" the time...making the time for happiness.

This is my goal for 2012: to get back to the person I always imagined I would become.

Much work lies ahead, but I'm up to the task. I'm ready to make time for about you?

I love taking pictures of bees!
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
~Leo Tolstoy
If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.
~Gail Sheehy
They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shared Passages

Many thanks to those who have started sharing their favorite passages from literature. As they continue to come in I will add them to the following document so we can all enjoy them!

Favorite Lit Passages

If you have a favorite passage from literature that you would like to add to our document, please see the previous post Favorite Passages in Literature. My seventh graders and I greatly appreciate your help!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Favorite Passages in Literature

I struggle each year with how to teach writing to middle schoolers. I know I write fairly well, but actually teaching writing is a totally different animal. Last night the thought occurred to me, "Do my students know what excellent writing looks like? Would it help them become better writers to look at some well-written sentences or paragraphs?"

When I was growing up, I used to write down favorite passages from my reading in a notebook that I carried with me everywhere. I've lost track of that notebook, sadly, so I want to re-create it...Google-style. And with the help of my amazing PLN!

Do you have a favorite passage from literature? Have you read something recently that made you stop and say, "Wow! I wish I could write like that!" If you do, I'm hoping you wouldn't mind sharing it with us. The link that follows is to a Google Doc I've created to gather all of our favorite passages. Please feel free to add your passages here:

Favorite Passages From Literature

If you've never used a Google Doc before, you might be more comfortable using this form to share your favorite passages:

We truly appreciate any help you can offer us. I'll publish the document in a few days, after I start adding to it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photo Captions Contest Results

For the second year in a row, I have asked my friends from around the world to vote in our seventh grade photo captions contest. This year we more than tripled the number of votes received! I can't thank everyone enough for taking the time to cast their votes. If you didn't know about the contest and would still like to have your say, please do. This contest was also an opportunity for me to demonstrate to my students just how amazing a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) is. By collecting the locations of all respondents, I was able to create a Google Map with pins all over the world. My students loved it!

Before sharing the winners, let me explain the contest. A couple of weeks ago, I showed the pictures in this slideshow to my seventh graders:

As I showed each picture on the ActivBoard, they were to write down one or two captions they felt went with the photograph. After they'd written their captions for the first picture, I asked for a few volunteers to share theirs. I wanted to make sure that everyone was clear on the assignment; I know examples always help me understand a task much better.

Their homework that evening was to add all of their captions into a Google Form that I had created for them. I waited a few days, and then I chose what I felt were the top five responses for each photo. That's when my wonderful PLN joined in. I created this Google Form and sent it out to the world via Twitter, Facebook, and Plurk.

As the votes came in, I took the location of each respondent and placed it into this Google Map:

View Photo Captions Contest in a larger map

I loved adding the pins and seeing where people were voting from! I just hope my students enjoyed it half as much as I did.

I use Google Forms frequently throughout the school year, and one of the things I love the most is the option for a summary response. So rather than going through all of the data from the spreadsheet that looks like this:

Click on "Form" and then "Show summary of responses" and you'll have a much quicker way to discover the winner of our contest.

So, speaking of the winners, I've revised the first Google Presentation to show the winning captions. Thank you, again, to all who have voted!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

International Dot Day 2011

In celebrating International Dot Day today, I had the opportunity to read The Dot to three different classes: my seventh graders, the sixth graders and second graders. Before reading this wonderful book to my seventh graders this morning, I asked them to define "creativity".  Some of their responses:

It lets you express your feelings through art or music.

The ability given to everyone to think outside the box and always have a unique idea.

With creativity, you can tell a story without talking.

Being your own person.

Imagining something new and original and putting it into the world.

Before reading the book to both the sixth and second graders, I asked the same question: "How many of you think of yourself as an artist?" I found it very interesting that only about half of the sixth graders raised their hands, while every one of our thirty-six second graders threw their hands up in the air. I wonder, if I were able to ask this same question at our diocesan staff day next week, how many teachers would answer "yes!"

At what point in our education did we go from artist to student?

The second graders had some amazing insight to share with me today. I asked them to tell me what they thought art was. They had so many wonderful answers that I wish I had thought to write them down. I remember one piece of wisdom:

It's when you use your imagination and put it on paper.

I asked the second graders if they thought books could be considered "art." The consensus seemed to be that books could only be considered art if they had pictures, lots of pictures. "Oh," I said, "you mean the big books we read in middle school wouldn't be art?" No, definitely not.

I tried a different question. "Do y'all know what poetry is?" They did. After a few more questions from me, they decided that poetry could be considered art because "it paints a picture in our imagination."

"Well," I said, "when I read a book that doesn't have any pictures, I always get a picture in my imagination. So, what do you think? Can books be art?"

That got them thinking!

Before leaving my classroom, the two girls who had been sitting right in front of me asked, "Will you still be here when we get to middle school?"

"I sure hope so."

They both responded with, "Yes!!"

Ok, that was cool!

Our Dots

We didn't finish all of our dots today, but I do want to share a couple with you. One student decided to combine our We All Matter project with his Dot Day artwork:

This same student also created a stop-motion video celebrating Dot Day which I hope he eventually shares with the world. It's amazing!

A couple of students asked if they could make their dots 3-D. Absolutely!

Students were even surprised to discover they were surrounded by dots in our own classroom:

We'll be finishing up our dot-work tomorrow; hopefully I'll have even more to share with everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2011


I'd never been to an EdCamp before, and I had no idea what to expect of the day. I was immensely curious, but I was also immensely stressed. The first day of school was days away and there was still so much work to be done. I really should go to school and work in my classroom...that was the thought that kept rattling around my brain.

I knew what I should do, but I also knew what I really, really wanted to do.

Now that the day has passed, I think we should have an EdCamp every year right before school starts. As I was driving home Saturday night, I felt inspired and re-charged. Exactly what a teacher needs at the end of her summer.

As always, the best part of any conference - or even an unconference - is the conversations in the sessions, at lunch, in the halls, and even at dinner after the conference. Imagine a room full of people all passionate about the same thing having a conversation about the thing that drives them the most. Then imagine the potential energy that could come from that room.

And now, multiply that by five rooms. Ten rooms. That, my friends, is EdCamp.

For those who have never been to an EdCamp before, let me explain a few things. When you arrive, one of the first things you will see is the sessions board:

The beauty of EdCamp is anyone can lead a session! You just need to fill out a card describing your session and post it to the board. Then, we vote with our feet. You go to the session that sounds interesting, and if, after listening for a few minutes you decide it's not for you then you get up and walk to the next session that appeals to you. No hard feelings. We're all there for the same reason: to learn, to connect, to collaborate.

And, by the way, if there isn't a session in any given time slot that appeals to you, guess what! You don't have to go! In fact, one of the best conversations I had at EdCamp was at a time when I "should have been" in a "regular" session. A group of us walked back to the cafeteria to check out the board and ended up standing in front of it having a wonderful conversation. A conversation that led Tina Schneider (one of the founders of LiveBinders) and I to add a new session to the board. "Where Are You?" wound up being a fabulous session where a group of us tried to figure out why there aren't more teachers in California coming to events like this or being involved in social media like Twitter. To be honest, I was surprised that anyone actually showed up to our session! But of all the conversations I had at EdCamp, that was the one that has me most fired up!

Special thanks to Alice Keeler for taking such awesome notes during the session! Here is her Google Doc.

Special thanks also to Catina Haugen for her lovely post about EdCampSFBay and our session! EdCampSFBay Got Me Fired Up!

And speaking of LiveBinders, I'm so glad Tina and Barbara decided to lead a session about their fabulous product!! I've been using LiveBinders for a while now, but I still managed to learn some cool stuff. They've made some awesome updates this summer; I'm especially excited about the new shelfs feature! Now I can "shelve" other contributors' binders for future reference, and whenever a binder is updated my "copy" of that binder will be automatically updated. Very, very cool!! Oh, and don't even get me started on the updated text editor!

Here's the binder the ladies created for their presentation: EdCampSFBay LiveBinder Presentation. The first tab in the binder has some great information on how to use their site. The binder also has some fabulous examples of binders that have been created by a number of different educators. I loved seeing my friend Jason Schrage's Cold War binder being showcased here. Such a wonderful way to assign a project to students!

The last session I attended was run by Dan Callahan, Mr. EdCamp himself. The session was a discussion on how we can use the EdCamp model at our own schools and districts. It really is a fantastic idea! Because it all comes down to choice. Teachers are allowed to choose their own learning for themselves. What an interesting concept!

What would happen if we held an EdCamp for Kids? What would that look like?

Barbara from LiveBinders, me, Lisa Dabbs

Of course, the most important part of EdCampSFBay for me was the people. Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Those are the connections that matter. And that is why I went.

Links of Interest:

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shark Week

As much as I love watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel each year, I don't quite celebrate it with as much style as the folks at Discovery do. This video shows how they manage to attach a shark, complete with a tail fin that is seven stories tall, onto One Discovery Place. Very cool!

Shark Week - Shark Building!
Get More: Shark Week - Shark Building!

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Do You Tie Your Shoes?

I's an odd question for a blog post. But, stay with me. I recently had the privilege of attending the Google Teacher Academy in Seattle, Washington. One of our presenters, Cory Pavicich, shared the following video with us:

While we had a great deal of fun both watching the video and then trying to tie our shoes like the young man does, it got me thinking. [Shocking, I know.] I think this could be a great video to use when working with teachers as a reminder that there are not only many ways to learn, but there are also many ways to teach. I thought I was pretty cool when I saw the second idea in the video and said, "That's how I tie my shoes!" And then the young man moved on to the "really, really fast" version. And it hit me: I may know one way to tie my shoes that has always worked for me, but that doesn't mean it's the best way. It certainly doesn't mean it's the only way.

It's never even occurred to me to look for other ways. I mean, why should I? The way I do it works just fine for me, after all. I've been doing it this way for years! I'm not about to change my thinking on something that works...for me.

Sound familiar? Ever heard another teacher say those words?

The next time I do a professional development session, I'm going to start out by asking the teachers in attendance: How many of you have been tying your shoes the same way for years?

Sidenote: If you haven't used Quietube for videos, I highly recommend it! It takes the link to any YouTube video and creates a clean presentation, with no other videos or ads. Check this link for the same video shown above: How to Tie A Shoelace Really, Really Fast.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sometimes A Great Notion Comes Again

In a post I wrote earlier today (Sometimes A Great Notion), I talked about the positive impact something as simple as a Twitter hashtag can have on our profession or, more to the point, on the perception that many seem to have about our profession. The question I asked in that post was "What would happen if we focused less on all of the negativity aimed at teaching and teachers, and, instead, started focusing on the positive aspects of our career?"

After I finished writing that post, I decided it was time to read for a bit. So I plopped myself down on the couch and grabbed my book, The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. After about five minutes, I came upon the following passages:
"What we think of ourselves and of the world makes us who we are and what we can be. This is what Hamlet means when he says, 'There is nothing good or bad, only thinking makes it so.' The good news is that we can always try to think differently. If we create our worldview, we can re-create it too by taking a different perspective and reframing our situation." p. 81
"In the nineteenth century, William James became one of the founding thinkers of modern psychology. By then, it was becoming more widely understood that our ideas and ways of thinking could imprison or liberate us. James put it this way: 'The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind. ... If you change your mind, you can change your life.'" p. 82
Both of these passages describe how an individual can make positive changes in his life by simply changing his outlook. This may seem too simplistic to you, especially if you're thinking you have to be willing to work harder in order to make changes in your life. While that may be true, I would suggest that before you can make any kind of changes in your life, you have to first believe that change is possible. And that's where, for many of us, a new outlook would be most beneficial.

But what would happen if in changing our perspective we also managed to change the views of many others? What if thinking positively about teaching could change not only us as teachers, but all those who make decisions about us and our profession? I know you may be rolling your eyes at me right now, but, honestly, what have we got to lose? Nothing!

"What have we got to lose?" That's negative thinking. The question really should be: "What have we to gain?"

So, how can you add a more positive outlook to your career? Care to help me figure this out?

Sometimes A Great Notion

I am constantly amazed at the level of awesomeness that comes out of my PLN on a daily basis. Occasionally, something that seems like a simple idea turns in to something awe-inspiring. At a time when so much negativity is aimed at our profession, Nick Provenzano decided to focus on the good that we as teachers do. His recent blog post, #SchoolDidAGoodThing, describes his idea of having people on Twitter talk about the positive aspects of their own education using the hashtag #SchoolDidAGoodThing.

I wonder if Nick had any idea what his idea would lead to. People talking positively about their education, and sharing some inspirational thoughts in 140 characters or less. Looking through the hashtag stream, not only can you get a sense of why so many of us became teachers, but you can also see quite clearly what an amazing impact we can have on the children in our lives. Even if we don't know it.

How many students have come into our classrooms just needing to be seen by someone? To be recognized as a person of value? A person who has great potential to do good in this world? But if there isn't anyone in their life to see that and point it out to them, what happens to that child?

I begin each school day by greeting my students at the door, looking into their eyes and saying "Good Morning!" What do I see when they look back at me? Do I see the student who aces every test because school is too easy for her? Do I see the student who rarely does his homework? Do I see the student who doesn't always have a lunch because mom and dad are so wrapped up in getting divorced that they've forgotten they still need to take care of their children?

Of course not. What I see when I greet my students each morning are young people who want to be treated as people with tremendous potential. They want to know they are cared for first and foremost. "And, hey, if we can learn some stuff too, that'd be cool."

I'm sorry if I've gotten a bit off track here. But reading through the #SchoolDidAGoodThing hashtag has me thinking about why I became a teacher in the first place. I've been struggling this summer with whether or not I should remain in the classroom. Teaching is an unbelievably hard job, but it is also the most important job I've ever had. I've faced a lot of negativity in the last year or so that has made my job even harder. I wonder what would happen if I focused only on the positive aspects of my job during the next year. How would that impact me as a teacher and as a person? And how will it impact my students?

And that is why Nick's idea is such a valuable one. It has people focused on the positive aspects of our profession.

A week or so before Thanksgiving each year, I have my students start keeping a gratitude journal. Each evening they have to write down three things that they were grateful for from that day. I explain to them that the theory is the more you focus on your gratitude, the more things will come into your life that you can be grateful for.

And so I ask you: What would happen if we focused less on all of the negativity aimed at teaching and teachers, and, instead, started focusing on the positive aspects of our career? Perhaps it seems too simplistic to you. But haven't you ever noticed that sometimes the greatest ideas are truly simple?

If you'd like to see the impact this idea is already having, be sure to read Nick's update, #SchoolDidAGoodThing - Follow Up. And then, if you are on Twitter, add your thoughts on how school was a positive thing for you and use the hashtag #SchoolDidAGoodThing.

Please join us!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Think Outside The Search

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Google search class led by Dan Russell at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. This was actually the second time I'd taken the class, and even though it was held the night before I was to get on a plane to head to the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, I'm definitely glad I went. I got a lot more out of the class the second time around, perhaps because I was better able to keep up as I already had some background knowledge (hmmm...isn't that what every student needs?)

After an evening of learning, one thing was abundantly clear: we need to teach our students how to search! Do you have students who insist on typing their entire question into the Google search bar? Do they even include the question mark? Or do they just go straight to Wikipedia? [Not that there's anything wrong with a starting point.]

So I'm adding to my summer to-do list creating a lesson or two for my seventh graders on how to search the web. Fortunately, Google already has some lessons created that we can all use as a jumping off point.
You can find more lessons and other goodies on the site that was shared with us during the search class:
And in case you haven't seen these, here are some handouts and posters for your classroom:
Have you seen A Google A Day yet? It might be a great way to encourage students to use better web search skills. Each day Google offers a question that can be researched by students. You could even make it a game where the first student to find the correct answer wins. The trick is to use the best search terms possible. Here are some tips to share with students that I picked up during the Google search class:
  • Before you type anything, think about what you would expect to find on the site you're looking for. Choose keywords that might appear on that site.
  • In choosing keywords to search with, start with the simplest terms. If that doesn't get you the results you were looking for, try using synonyms of your search terms. 
  • Try using specific terms if you know them, but be sure you've got the words right or you could be sending yourself on a wild goose chase.
One of the best tips we can share with our students and with other teachers is how to find a specific term on a long webpage. The Find command will help you quickly find exactly what you need on a page. Try using it on a lengthy Wikipedia page and you'll quickly fall in love with Control-F (PC) or Command-F (Mac)!

As many cool tips as we learned that evening, I think the biggest reaction from the class came when we discovered this:

That's right! You can now search for recipes! Not only that, but you can narrow your search down based on ingredients, cooking time or calorie count.

Move over, Betty Crocker! Here comes Google!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Graduation 2011

As a middle school teacher who works with eighth graders, one of my responsibilities is to present the social studies awards to our graduating class. Rather than just dive right in to listing the names of those who excelled throughout the year, I take the opportunity to say my "official" goodbye to the students I've worked with for two years.

It's never an easy task to say "goodbye" to students you've grown quite fond of. But, this year was even harder. I knew as I spoke these words that I would not be addressing a graduating class again; I will no longer be teaching eighth graders. Perhaps I should be thankful that next year I won't have to stand up in front of hundreds of parents, grandparents, students, faculty and staff, and share my personal thoughts.


After graduation, a number of parents and several of my co-workers asked if they could have a copy of what I said to my students. I was more than happy to oblige as it made me feel wonderful that I had managed to touch a few people. Of course, if I was willing to share my words with my school community, I knew I would also want to share them with the members of my PLN.

The following is from our eighth grade awards ceremony, June 3, 2011.

Good morning, Eighth Grade!
 I would like to share a passage with you that I found recently. A little reminder for you as you leave us:
"It’s so important to surround yourself with the right kinds of people when you are striving to live a meaningful life. We cannot always choose whom we walk with on our paths in life, but whenever we can, it makes everything easier, more joyful, and so much more productive when we choose to spend our days with people who bring out the best in us, see the best in us, and believe the best about us. Seek people who make you want to become a better person, the kinds of people who are focusing on positive and good things in life. It will inevitably rub off on you and before you know it, YOU will be the one that others are seeking out because YOU are leaving everyone better, happier, and more hopeful than they were before you found them. You have SO MUCH more influence than you know."
 [as quoted in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People who are Poking the Box and Making a Difference by Seth Godin]
I can honestly tell you today, that because of all of you, my world has been a better, happier, and more hopeful place. And, as hard as it is to say goodbye, as much as I will miss you, it is time for you to go. You see, there is much work to be done, and you’re ready to begin it.
Former football coach Lou Holtz once said, “I can't believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.” Today, we say goodbye to 36 extraordinary individuals. I am so proud of each and every one of you. I know that each of you will do great things. I expect nothing less.
Our theme this year was Imagination. I would ask you today to imagine the future you want for yourselves, and then go out and make it happen. And remember, who you are and who you will become are not defined by what others may say. You create that definition every day of your life with every choice you make. So, choose wisely, my friends.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Your ASCD 2011 Experience

This afternoon at our faculty meeting I will have about five minutes to summarize all that I learned at ASCD's annual conference held this past weekend in San Francisco. I could really use your help with this! If you have a few minutes, could you answer a few questions for me? Or add some links to a Google Doc? Or add to a list of books? I truly appreciate it!!

Were any links shared during your sessions at ASCD? Your PLN, especially those who could not attend the conference, would love it if you could share those links here:

Links Shared at ASCD

I've also started a Google Doc for the books we heard mentioned at the conference. If you heard of any great books while you were at the conference, please feel free to add them here:

Our Reading List from ASCD 2011

Thank you for your help with this! I'll add your information to my reflection post when I get it written (hopefully by the weekend!)

My PLN Rocks!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Stamp Act - CTK Style

The Stamp Act of 1765
AN ACT for granting and applying certain stamp duties, and other duties, in the British colonies and plantations in America, towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same; and for amending such parts of the several acts of parliament relating to the trade and revenues of the said colonies and plantations, as direct the manner of determining and recovering the penalties and forfeitures therein mentioned.

At the very last minute before social studies with the eighth graders today, I decided to change it up a bit and start out with a huge lie! I just hoped they would buy into it. So I began...

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Before we begin, I wanted to make sure you were aware of the new policy concerning student handouts. In order to help meet some of our expenses here at school, it has been decided that we will start charging students for each and every handout we distribute in class. Students will be charged one cent for every page they receive; so a handout that has five pages will cost you five cents. If a student loses a handout, it will cost five cents per page to replace it. 

I'm sure you can imagine how high our paper costs are each month...teachers use a lot of paper! And we need to pass that cost along to the students. After all, these handouts are for your benefit anyway!

They totally bought it!

There followed the briefest moment of silence until..."WHAT!!!" And for the next thirty minutes we discussed, argued, and plotted. At one point Daniel offered up a huge hint:

This is sounding an awful lot like what happened between the colonists and the British.

I actually laughed after he said that, thinking that the jig was up and they would figure out that I'd made the whole thing up.


Some of the comments from students included:

What if we refuse to pay?

Do our parents already know?

Are we supposed to bring pennies every day?

Another reason to go paperless! (my favorite!)

And, of course, the obligatory:

That's not fair!!

One argument that came up was that families pay tuition in order for their children to go to a Catholic school and items such as handouts should be covered by that tuition. I responded, truthfully, with "Tuition doesn't cover all of the costs to run a school. It doesn't even cover teachers' salaries. Remember, we didn't get a raise last year? And it's quite likely that we won't get a raise this year."

At one point, I stopped the discussion saying, "I can't believe I've spent almost an entire class period talking about paper!" I asked them to open their books and then asked Jack to read the paragraph about the Stamp Act of 1765. I assumed, incorrectly, that this would lead my students to understand the deception I had led them into. 

Instead, it led them to start plotting. "Let's have our own tea party!" "We should tar and feather them!" Luke, a temporary voice of reason, offered up an idea for a boycott. "I say we 'borrow' the handouts, write everything down on a piece of binder paper, and then give them back their paper. Then they can't charge us."

Well, we'd still be making the copies, so we would still have to charge you for them.

"Ok," Luke decided, "if a boycott won't work, then I say we take their paper and stuff the sinks and toilets with it!"

This, of course, received a rousing cheer from his frustrated classmates.

I explained to the class that this would be considered vandalism to school property. At a time when they were applying to the local Catholic high schools, did they really want to risk being turned away from the future they had planned out for themselves?

It got very quiet for a moment.

And then the complaining started again. Questions came up about how the school was spending their money. Perhaps better financial decisions needed to be made, and they had a few suggestions (some of which I even agreed with). I stopped them and asked for a show of hands of those who could understand why the school would want to raise funds this way. Nearly every student had their hand in the air. "And how many are opposed to this idea?" All but two.

I asked them to explain why they would oppose something that they seemed to understand the reasoning behind. "It isn't fair!" reared its ugly head once again, and then someone offered the perfect question:

When was this discussed? Who was there?

"Beautiful!" I thought to myself. And then I responded, "I don't think it was really discussed. The decision was made by those over there" and I pointed toward the school office.

Oh come on!

That's not right!

"What do you mean, it's not right?" I asked. "Y'all said you understood the reasoning for needing to raise the money. Doesn't the school have the right to ask you to pay for expenses for your education? Why should WE have to pay for YOUR education?"

More complaining ensued and I heard Sam mention how the British had treated the colonists. We were getting close to the end of the class period, so I interrupted the conversation, stood in front of them and just smiled. It took a moment or two, but then...

NO WAY!! made it all up?!

I reminded the class that, early in the discussion, Daniel had drawn the comparison between what I had told them and what had happened between the British and the colonists in the 18th century. I was rather surprised they didn't catch on at that point. A loud groan escaped my classroom! They couldn't believe it either. I went on to explain that I had put them in the position of the colonists who were frustrated with the British placing tax after tax on them without giving them a voice in Parliament.

And they got it! They really understood why the colonists could become angry at the way they were treated by the British and why they would eventually issue a Declaration. It was probably the best teaching moment of the year for me! The looks on their faces were absolutely priceless! I hope this gives them a totally different perspective on the American Revolution as we move forward in the unit. I have to bring pennies tomorrow or not?


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Trip to the Library

Take four seventh grade girls, plop them in the middle of the teen section at the local library, and just listen. You're in for, at the least, a very interesting morning. Of course, if you were sitting with my students, you might just laugh yourself silly and then be absolutely amazed...all in the space of about ten seconds.

Welcome to middle school. This is no place for wimps.

I met four of my students at the library again this week, hoping to sit and talk about books for a couple of hours. The girls who showed up on Wednesday are incredible readers, so I took advantage of our time together and asked them to help me create a list of recommended books. If you're looking for something to read from the young adult genre, this is a good place to start (along with the list I provided in my previous post).

These are in no particular order:

My students are always giving me the titles of book that I just have to read. So I created a Google Spreadsheet for them to add the titles to. Some of the books they've added, that I haven't mentioned here or in my previous post:
And if you're curious as to what books my students checked out from the library on Wednesday, here's a picture I took of our table (and these aren't even all the books that were checked out):

We also had three iPod Touches with us, so we discussed some of their favorite apps, including Livesketch which they were happy to demonstrate for me:

I have some amazingly talented artists in my class! That one was created by Lanvi; the following was done by Gaby:

Lanvi let me try it out on her iPod, but I didn't feel the need to take a picture of my, um, "creation".

Some of the other apps we talked about:

  • Doodle Jump (incredibly addictive game!)
  • Talking Tom Cat (he repeats whatever you say with a strange voice that makes middle school girls giggle...which makes their teacher giggle at them!)
  • Talking Gugl (a funny looking little creature who does the same thing as Talking Tom Cat)
  • Finger Balance (I think this one would drive me mad)
  • Fruit Ninja (I love this one!)
  • Veggie Samurai (I really shouldn't get this, but you know I will!)
  • Cut The Rope (yet another highly addictive game!)
If you need any other suggestions, I know my students will be more than happy to share their thoughts with us! Happy New Year!