Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Hiatus

I'll be on hiatus for awhile, as I'm out of town for the holidays, which will be followed up by a move to a new state! Busy busy time.

One piece of business: if you left a comment and were interested in seeing the original trial mock-up for Odysseus, email rflute71 at

In the meantime, fellow teachers, put your feet up and the red pens DOWN. You deserve a break. Enjoy every minute of this holiday season, however you choose to celebrate (my personal favorite involves LOTS of tasty food and sweets). Have a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

I'll see you in 2010. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First Round of Goodbyes

Thursday I gave my peer mentor (aka Teacher Assistant) her early graduation gift and a little Christmas present (gift cards to Target and Barnes & Noble respectively) with a little thank you card. She is a true gem, and I wish her all the best. I know we're not supposed to give presents to our students, but our relationship is obviously a little different than my other classes. She gave me a little hug and thanked me ("You're going to make me cry!" she said).

Friday was going away party day and boy did the kids bring in some yummy goodies! Besides the yummy food, we played plenty of games infused with a little nostalgia. First period gave me a little card; third period shared a "remember us" video one girl had made - she even went to some fellow teachers and got them to say a few words - made me positively misty; fourth period I played a round of spoons and watched the whole class play Apples to Apples together (I took a picture for posterity); fifth period I got out early on a round of spoons and then played Apples to Apples, FINALLY winning one green apple card (but even then the sweet girl gave it to me out of pity!); and sixth period I watched some rounds of spades and Apples to Apples and tried to stay away from the food.

It was great to have some fun with them. I'm going to miss these little punks. I know I've been cutting a little loose with them the past week or so, partly because that always happens around the end of the semester and partly because I just want to have fun with them.

Monday we'll finish watching Dead Poet's Society (we started pieces of it this week in First and Fourth periods) and have midterms. Then it's goodbye for real.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looky there!

Ask Why, Not How - Part 2 was accepted to EduCarnival this week. Hooray! I haven't ever looked into submitting for that because I thought all the articles were mostly meta-pedagogy. But apparently I can make the cut? Neat! (ok, so clearly I don't usually read all the entries...I spend too much time on the computer already and don't usually read ALL the articles.)

Clix wants to remind all teacher readers:
You can submit an article to the next issue of EduCarnival v2 by using the handy-dandy carnival submission form. Past carnivals and future scheduled editions can be found on the blog carnival index page.

I'll be keeping these links someplace safe for future entries. You should, too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What exactly does a mirco-biologist look like?

My desktop wallpaper is one of my favorite photos from our wedding. Usually I have a powerpoint presentation up in front of it, but occasionally I have to transition to something else on-screen. Students have gotten a few glimpses of the photo, and I still get compliments on it. Sweet kids.

Yesterday, though, one student asked me after class:
"Mrs. P, is your husband a micro-biologist?"
"Oh. Or a geneticist? Maybe a doctor."
", Student-of-Many-Questions. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason. He just...looks like a microbiologist or a doctor or...something." Student-of-Many-Questions paused in front of the photo (still on-screen), crossed one arm across his chest and rested his chin on the other hand in thoughtful contemplation. (I kid you not. What's perhaps scarier is that this a normal, natural pose for him).
"Hm," he said, and turned on his heel, leaving me to now ponder the picture.

So that's what a microbiologist looks like, eh?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ask Why, Not How - Part 2

Your kiddos have now worked with the thesis and seem to have a pretty good handle on it. You've practiced a sufficient bit, with peer reviewing, editing, etc. and each time you practice, more and more of them are producing solid thesis statements that coherently meet the criteria. Fabulous. But we don't write thesis statements to just leave them, do we? Now they gotta prove it.

This was difficult for my students, though I'm not sure why. They are already familiar with the theory of a thesis - it guides your paper and sets out what you intend to prove. But when they would write about the literature, they just gave me plot summaries. They weren't going back and LOOKING at their thesis statements and saying "OK, I have to give an example of Direction 1. It is..."

Thus, I developed the Literary Analysis Breakdown. I took 2 good student responses from our Animal Farm test, and wrote up a worksheet/activity that has them evaluate the information and break down the steps of an analysis, finalizing the lesson with the synthesis of their own literary analysis paragraphs.

Materials: Copies of Literary Analysis Breakdown, one for each pair of students; highlighters of various colors; pens/pencils
  1. Tell students that this lesson is set up in Parts - which they will see on the worksheet. Inform them that you are going to go through the parts as a class. They are NOT to go on to part II until you tell them to do so.
  2. Have students divide into partners, pass out worksheet and highlighters (2 different colors).
  3. Read directions to Part I - remind students that they are to do that for BOTH paragraphs. This takes them about 5 minutes.
  4. Go over Part I as a class.
  5. Read directions to Part II - again, remind students they do this for BOTH paragraphs. This also takes about 5 minutes.
  6. Go over Part II as a class.
  7. Read directions to Part III. Discuss Part III by talking about the fact that everything is supposed to relate back to the thesis - always always always trying to prove the thesis. Not only are you pulling your examples from your thesis, but they must be examples with a purpose. Do not just choose something that's has to be ironic in some relation to the universal idea.
  8. Segue into Part IV in your waxing poetic about Part III: Therefore, those examples must be SPECIFIC. Do NOT assume your reader knows anything (I love to play this up - they like to hear me expound prolifically that I know nothing, they know everything). If you're playing "connect the dots," you don't want to leave it up to your reader to connect your dots - they might mess it up. YOU draw all the lines for your reader and tell him/her what to think. Leave no dots unconnected.
  9. Read directions to Part IV. Teacher answer - up to you on how specific you think the examples are. In A, most of my classes agreed that the examples were specific. In B, most classes agreed that both directions were not specific enough.
  10. Part V - Synthesis! You can have them write it on a fresh sheet of paper or on the back. We wrote ours on the back of the worksheet. I had them copy the thesis, just to make sure they got that extra practice. Depending on how much time it took to talk about each part, they had about 10 minutes at the end of class to write the paragraph. It was their ticket out the door.

Not to toot my own horn, but honestly, the little light bulbs were going on (or blazing more brightly) like CRAZY after this activity. They "got it" for sure.

You may ask, why only a paragraph? Why not an essay? A couple reasons:
  • Practical: I only have 50 minutes in a class period. I don't want to sacrifice 2 days to test-taking, so for the sake of time: a paragraph.
  • Writing Skills: It forces them to be concise. In their essays, if they don't know what to write, they just start blathering on and on, mostly just giving me plot. They feel like they have to use up the space, but they don't really know how to. A short paragraph - and I emphasize no more than 10 sentences - forces them to pare down the language and content to what is MOST important.
  • Building Blocks: The paragraph is a good foundation. After all, what is the standard 5-paragraph essay except MORE examples? If they know how to give me solid examples with specific language, they can easily just add more examples to a given idea, right?
There's my Ask Why, Not How approach. Any questions?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Those Puritan schoolmarms were rough

Belated Thanksgiving present from me to you. I'm sure the Pilgrims had pdfs and research papers at the first Thanksgiving, right? Yeah it's a holiday, but I bet those little Pilgrim punks still had schoolwork to do.

More student samples! (first set here)

Zodiac Killer - Detective Log
Charles Manson - Interview

Anastasia - Newspaper/Journal
Black Dahlia - First Person Short Story

Flying Dutchman - Captain's Log
Bermuda Triangle - Journal

Harry Thaw/Stanford White - Diary
Rasputin - Memo

Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson - Interview

Bigtfoot - Journal/Report

Yeah, it's a lot. I wanted to show you a range of formats. You can see why I think reading their research papers is FUN!!

p.s. sorry for the delay