Sunday, December 25, 2011


I thought about my students this morning when we sang carols in church. No matter what holiday they celebrate, how many gifts they receive, or what people surround them during winter vacation, I wish them peace in their hearts.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

sock it to me

Yes, I finished knitting one sock! Started October 24, finished tonight. I waited several weeks to finish the last third of the sock because I just ran out of steam, thinking about these things: a-whole-nother sock to knit, not knowing how to start the gusset that my knitting class instructor actually did for me, and lovely socks I just BUY in any STORE. (I love that expression - "a-whole-nother". I really don't care it's not correct.) Last two days I just pushed ahead, resolved to finish ONE sock even if that's all the sock I ever knit.

Right now I won't even bother to make connections to writing or any other creative process because I'm just so happy I finished knitting this one lovely sock!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

poetry carousel

Poetry review this week: a carousel activity that involved reading different poems and identifying examples of poetry elements: sound elements, imagery, figurative language, main idea. I listed those 4 categories in order of difficulty, based on student answers.

I noticed one major obstacle in the students' ability to identify the main idea: vocabulary. I'm probably hyper-sensitive about vocabulary words after attending a Common Core Learning Standards workshop Tuesday, in which my small group studied (as part of a "jigsaw" activity) "Shift #6" (out of 6) - Academic Vocabulary. The workshop document stated that we should focus on helping students acquire common vocabulary instead of "esoteric literary terms such as onomatopoeia". (Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean classroom, my substitute teacher led the poetry review of sound elements like onomatopoeia. Sizzle. Gurgle. Splat.) Raised hackles aside, I fully acknowledge the low level of COMMON vocabulary knowledge such as the following words perceived to be difficult in our poetry review this week:

dreary ("I'm Nobody", Emily Dickinson)
woe ("Sixth of January", David Budbill)
refugee ("Refugee in America", Langston Hughes)

Today a wonderful college student (whom I taught in seventh and eighth grade) now studying English Education was in my classroom to help fulfill her classroom observation requirement. When she saw my lesson materials, she said she learned to spell the word "onomatopoeia" in my class. She also reminded me that she had won the school spelling bee when she was in eighth grade.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

pop culture reference

In our poetry study, we read Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody" yesterday. I offered this analogy: Kim Kardashian is the opposite of the "nobody" speaker. I asked the 6th grade class, "Do you sometimes wish people would just leave you alone and stop bugging you?" Everyone, including the boy who fervently wishes each and every class that I ignore him, nodded vigorously.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

fall book review

Thank goodness keeps track of my reading! I can't believe I haven't yet blogged about the books I read the last few months. The good news is - the fount of stellar literature for children and young adults won't run dry anytime soon!

The Maze Runner - I understand why my students would enjoy it, but I really didn't. Suspenseful thrillers  fill me with anxiety and dread. I do NOT enjoy that at all. I finished this book anyway and read about 40 pages of the second book in the series, The Scorch Trials, then I gave up. I'm glad to possess a copy to lend to students.

Scrawl by Mark Schulman - I LOVED this book! It's the opposite of action/adventure/thriller books like The Hunger Games. Very realistic, complex narrative, STRONG protagonist (teen bully/juvenile delinquent) voice, reminds me of John Conlan from The Pigman.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - I know I'm late to this fan table, but I still want to rave because it's a children's story about loss and tragedy but not disturbing violence. I'm not sure I care to watch the new soon-to-be released movie. Generally, I've decided to not bother with movies based on books. I don't watch many movies anyway, so why watch someone try to remake a book story that I truly enjoyed?

Resistance by Carla Jablonski - graphic novel, historical fiction about French people during the German/Nazi occupation - need I say more? The story is simple, should be easy (for 7th and 8th graders) to read as well as meaningful food for thought and discussion.

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Graphic Novel - I read the original novel a few years ago, loved it for my own reading, but didn't think my students could follow the narrative or vocabulary. (I've been told that it's standard 11th grade classroom text in my district.) I think this graphic novel makes the story much more approachable for some 8th graders (specifically, readers who like graphic novels and/or strong readers).

I won the Scholastic book fair teacher raffle at my school - $25 worth of books, so I chose the last two books listed above! I felt SUPER lucky!!!