Monday, April 25, 2011

back to school, back to reality

Let's look at a pretty picture even if (and especially if) we're back to reality that is full of rain, cold temperatures, and standardized testing.

Our state tests begin next week. I started "formal" preparation lessons the week before spring break by distributing a packet with exam information, sample/practice test questions, and review terms. Our class lessons did not involve the packet much - we were still busy with Book Club, Reader's Theater, etc. This week, I'm spending more time explaining the format of the state test, giving small chunks of practice tests, discussing and applying test-taking strategies, etc.

This is my attitude that I hope to successfully project in class: Hey folks, this is coming up, be ready, don't be anxious, doing your best is worth the effort, work hard like you always do, it's not the only important thing in our class, we'll wrap up Book Club and start a new round of Book Club next week, so be ready to love literature!

PS - I am absolutely in LOVE with Book Club, formerly known in my classroom as literature circles. The key is BOOKS - enough copies of good books. Sometimes I arrange the groups, based on book preferences (of the students) and my own teacher judgment of group dynamics, but right now they're in self-selected groups (and book choices) and doing pretty well. HOW do we find enough books? Our department was very fortunate the past 2 years to spend textbook money on independent reading books. The current/future fiscal outlook is not cheery, so I don't expect a repeat of such literary riches anytime soon. I've started to spend a bit of personal money on classroom books again, and I'll need to hunt book sales earnestly (again). I've thought about just begging, asking book stores/publishers/authors to donate small sets of 4, which is minimally what I need for one Book Club group. I should write a more detailed post on this topic soon because I have a TON to say about it :) :) :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

a dream


My spring break vacation in the Charleston, SC area was a dream - a luxurious one that lasted 7 days. I'm back in my real life now! To help the dream linger a bit longer, I used Paula Deen/Food Network's recipe to make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting recipe, prompted by my craving of the red velvet cupcake from Jestine's Sweet Shop in Charleston. My slightly pink velvet cupcakes were ok, but the cream cheese frosting was dreamy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Southern history

Sights from our tour of Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, SC. Really interesting tour!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

spring break

Friday was our last day of school before spring break. It was a crappy day for me, chaotic, nonstop up-and-down, so I knew I was going to earn this vacation. Now that we're here, I really don't think I suffered enough to earn this much paradise. So I am very very thankful! (Pic 3 shows 4 turtles lined up on a log - see them?)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

spring reading

I don't spring clean, but I spring read. Here's me reading Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, sequel to Leviathan - I'm dumnkopf smitten, barking mad about these books! Can't WAIT for Goliath to be released this fall!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Valentine for Ernest Mann

My goal is to share a poem each day with students in April, aka National Poetry Month, aaka time to prep for the state standardized test in early May. Last Friday I shared my podcast reading of this with a class of 7th graders:

Valentine for Ernest Mann

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he reinvented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of the skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

- Naomi Shihab Nye