How did I learn yesterday?

  • From my Google Reader
  • Listening to my iTunes podcasts
  • Smart people on twitter
  • Maps on Deb’s iPhone app
  • Texting traffic help from son in car
  • Links from @hewilbrandt on Youtube
  • Face to face conversations in Philly at dinner w/ @jennyluca @mcarls @dmcordell @rinegarcia and @capohanka

Today…looking forward to seeing the SLA kids and teachers again, two years later. Remembering that first Ustream @chrislehmann did from one of the classes, thinking this school is amazing.

Image: ‘04.28.09 [#118] Feet Week – On the+Backs+of+Others’

Play then eat?

A recent tweet from @dancallahan led me to an article in today’s NYT, which explains why it might be better for kids to play and then eat.

My eighth-graders come racing to class after their 30 minute outside “play” time after lunch, and I’ve often wondered if they are just too excited to buckle down at that point. Eating after play might be just the ticket!

Love to watch them laugh…

Ok, they’re not smiling. And the photo isn’t even clear.

But it’s all I’ve got today, and I want to write about how much fun I’m having working with the 8th graders these days. We are reading Romeo and Juliet aloud, dressing up and acting out as much as we can. Students have also picked topics about the Renaissance Period to research, placing it on a wiki. This is what I’ve noticed:


  • pick up nuances and laugh in appropriate places
  • can’t wait to be picked to read aloud
  • do better when in costume

Renaissance Day is Feb. 16. We are so lucky to have fellow teacher Keith Wamsley and Dr. Bill Atalay, authors of Leonardo’s Universe, who will share their thoughts about the time period AND donate two books for a class contest.

I can’t wait.

Preparing for what’s next

The beginning of the year means a new semester for me.

And more than ever, I want to move away from the traditional approach I’ve used in the classroom for way too many years. My literature is set by the department, but the way I approach it is flexible. So here is what I left on my class blog for the students:

Can you believe it’s time for school again? I missed you all and can’t wait to get started. We’ll be focusing on these essential questions for about 7 weeks:

  • Does/should society determine rules for its citizens? (Sound familiar??) What happens when people don’t follow society’s rules? Should they have free will?
  • Is love at first sight possible? In what way does love or hate affect a person’s rational thought?
  • What is the effect of a long-term conflict between groups and between individuals within the groups?
  • What is the effect of misunderstandings in communication? How important is clear communication?

Our work will include:

  • Researching and writing our results up on a wiki (more time to work on citing sources)
  • Reading Romeo and Juiet aloud in groups
  • Presenting the play to sixth- and seventh-graders
  • Writing essays about our essential questions
  • Reading one independent book about or from the time period (1400-1700, being very flexible here!) See the stack in my room to get you started…

And more.

See you Monday.

The questions tie to literature and discussions we had first semester, so I hope to see them make connections to that as well as what they are studying in history. Their writings will focus on the questions as they relate to the play.

As I was finishing up my plans, a friend (the history teacher referred to as HT from now on) walked in the room, saying she had found a book I might want to use. Do I?? Wow. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz is a perfect way to introduce this time period to the students. I stretch the Renaissance to begin with the Middle Ages, trying to give them a sense of the changes and cultural shifts. This book offers poems, plays, and short readings for middle school students. And I plan to start each class period with a reading either by me or one of the students. Thanks HT.

Between that and having costumes available to the kids to throw on while reading aloud, I hope to make them feel they are living the time period. We’ll also have a ning, where they will talk in character. The unit will culminate in a Renaissance Day with students in costume, presenting their research to the other middle school students.

Though I am sorry to see the break end, I am excited to see the kids and get back to work.