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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Looks good on paper

Friday, I had my kids make foldables for the concepts we had covered last week. One group did customary weight, one did metric mass, one did customary capacity, and one did metric capacity. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the outcome.

Sure, I had one kid put a picture of a pineapple on the Ton door, while one put a watermelon and a violin on the Ton door. One kid put a picture of an elephant on the Ounce door. But other than that, the representations were pretty good.

Here are a few examples:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Air is human...

I think that my air conditioning is fixed. I think that because at around 10:40 this morning, I had stepped out of my room to welcome my new class in, and when I stepped back in, it was noticeably cooler. The A/C stopped about 5 minutes later and didn't come back on for the rest of the day.

Thankfully, it wasn't tremendously hot today, but it was stuffy, and pretty warm, and I would have appreciated having some cool air all day long. However, I'm not able to turn my own unit on and off. I'm at the mercy of the powers that be downtown, who sit in their offices and decide when to turn on my air and when to turn it off.

This really upset me today. Up until this point, the unit has been blowing stale air, so that tells me it hasn't been working. But now, I have proof that it's been fixed. So today, I basically received the message, "Your air conditioning is now working! BUT... we don't feel that you are worthy of actually receiving air conditioning."


Monday, March 21, 2011

Weight, weight, don't tell me

We began our discussion of weight today, starting with the customary units -- ounces, pounds, and tons. The kids actually seemed to grasp the concept pretty well. They quickly came to realize that very light things should be measured with ounces, very heavy things with tons, and anything in between with pounds.

For some, it took a while to realize that even heavy things can be measured with pounds -- some kids for instance tried to list ME as something that would weigh a ton -- but they got it in the end.

Tomorrow we will discuss the metric units, gram and kilogram, and that always seems to be harder to grasp. The benchmark for a kilogram is always a baseball bat, but I think a lot of my kids don't really know how heavy a baseball bat is, and I don't have one at school. I've also seen a pineapple, but just today the book had an example of a pineapple weighing 5 pounds. 5 pounds is not a kilogram.

Any suggestions for what I can use to represent a kilogram? Maybe a textbook?

Monday, March 14, 2011


It hit me on Saturday that I had totally forgotten to bring home something that I was going to work on over Spring Break. My laminated Big Bracket poster. I actually didn't use it last year, as it was the first year in my teaching career that I did not hold a March Mathness competition with my kids. Part of that was due to laziness, and part of that was due to me just being particularly annoyed with that group of kids.

However, I don't want to skip it again! So I was a little bummed once I remembered that I had forgotten. Oh well, I can still pair up the kids on a smaller sheet and post them on the poster next week (LOOOONG LONG away still).

In the meantime, INTERACTIVE MONDAY today is not a question, but rather an invitation to join my March Mathness group on This has absolutely nothing to do with my classroom version of March Mathness, and I'm not offering any prizes other than bragging rights, but it's fun to be part of a group, so why not be part of mine? Just go here: March Mathness
Sign up, if you need to, and join the group called March Mathness. No password necessary.

Also, is having a March Madness type tourney, featuring books that they like. Learn Me Good is currently doing quite well in the first round voting. Second round will be sometime in late March. I'll post when that happens, and I hope you all will go and vote for me!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sprouting Seeds and Knuckleheads

Last week, we talked about plant parts in science class. This kicked off a little experiment with seeds. We put bean seeds in 3 different locations in the room, and under 3 different conditions. One spot was right by the window. One spot was on the bookshelf across the room from the windows. The last spot was inside my supply closet with the door closed. In each location, we have a couple of seeds in a cup with soil, a couple of seeds in a plastic baggie with a wet paper towel, and a couple of seeds in a baggie with a pool of water.

Before we "planted" any of these seeds, the kids first talked about what conditions they thought the seeds would need to grow, and then they hypothesized which condition and location of our classroom seeds would grow best. Everyone hypothesized that the seeds in the cup by the window would grow best.

So imagine our great surprise yesterday, when we made our first official observations of the seeds, when we discovered that the seeds in the cup in the CLOSET were growing the best! I noticed that the cups on the bookshelf and by the window had tiny little stems starting to grow out of the soil, and that the roots were clearly visible along the inside of the clear plastic cups. But inside the closet, we seem to have Audrey II from The Little Shop of Horrors going wild!

Some of the kids thought that these seedlings, growing inches bigger than the ones that are out of the closet, were dead. Merely because they aren't green, and are in fact whiter than Justin Beiber. Yet they are getting bigger and bigger with each passing day!

The kids have been pretty good about respecting the delicateness of the seeds -- for the most part. I did have one knucklehead today, however, who broke that rule. Towards the end of the observation period, I kept hearing several kids saying, "C squished the frijole!" I immediately started breathing through my mouth, because I thought this might be some new euphemism for passing gas.

But no, C had actually taken one of the plastic baggies between thumb and forefinger and squeezed one of the seeds floating in the pool of water. It was just mush. When I demanded to know why he had done it, he finally said, "I thought it was hard."

I was a bit miffed, and I replied, "Well, I think your head is pretty hard, can I squish IT?"

C has received a restraining order from the seeds and must now remain at least 10 feet away at all times.

I don't need any more dead seeds to go along with my "dead" plants that are growing where the sun don't shine.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Quirky teachers

Happy Monday, everyone. This week's INTERACTIVE MONDAY question is, What unique quirks do you have as a teacher?

I got the idea for this last week, when I had a brief flash of alarm after school was over. I had reached into my right pocket, and I hadn't found the two pens that I ALWAYS keep there -- one red, one black. My eyes darted around the room before finally spying the pens on my desk.

Once my heart went back to normal speed, it occurred to me that most people probably don't worry so much about where their pens are. This would definitely be a quirk of mine. When I'm not at school, I don't ever carry pens around in my pocket. Not ever. However, once my school day starts, I truly feel naked without those 2 pens in my pocket. When somebody asks if they can borrow a pen, I probably come across as a jerk because of my hesitance. Even more so when I make a point of asking for the pen back before I leave the room.

Every day as I'm leaving school, I take both pens out, place them on one of the desks, and leave them behind. Once I'm out the classroom door, I don't even think about them until I return the next morning. But then, it's obsession on again.

I can't exactly provide a rationale for this quirk, I can only describe it.

Anybody else care to share their quirks?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Indie Spotlight on Carl Ashmore

Hey everyone,

Earlier this year, I read a book on my Kindle App by fellow "Indie Author" Carl Ashmore, a great guy from the UK. The book is called The Time Hunters, and it was awesome! It is a very enjoyable tale, reminiscent of something CS Lewis or JK Rowling would write, about 2 kids staying with their uncle, who just happens to have a time machine. The kids join their uncle, as well as a couple of other famous characters from history/mythology to search for The Golden Fleece and avoid the evil time travellers.

Carl has graciously answered a couple of interview questions at the bottom of this post, but first, check out this excerpt from The Time Hunters (available on the Kindle, and on the Nook!):

Here’s a brief excerpt from ‘The Time Hunters’:

Becky pulled her dressing gown close and followed him to the rear lawns. She watched horrified as Joe turned a left and stopped at a familiar outbuilding. Joining him, she shot him an angry look. ‘You haven’t broken into Uncle Percy’s laboratory, have you? He said it was out of bounds. If you have, I’ll thump your face so hard it swells like a - ’

‘Quiet,’ Joe barked. ‘Listen…’ He pressed a finger to his lips.

For once, Becky did as he said. The rain was fading now but even through the moaning wind she could hear muffled voices. She grew intrigued.

‘Look round the corner,’ Joe whispered, pointing to the edge of the wall.

Becky hesitated and then slowly peered round.

‘Can you see? Are they still there?’

Becky didn’t respond. Mesmerised by the astonishing sight before her, she didn’t hear his words.

Will was crouched on the waterlogged grass, beside him, a large sandy-coloured animal in a heavy sleep, its chest moving up and down in a slow, consistent rhythm. Uncle Percy stood over them, soaked and exhausted. He held a pair of pliers jubilantly in his hand. The pliers contained a fat, yellowing tooth.

‘Good girl,’ Will breathed, softly patting the creature’s back.

‘Milly should be out for about half an hour,’ Uncle Percy said. ‘What do you say to a nice cup of tea, William? I believe we’ve earned it.’

Will laid the animal’s head lightly on the grass. ‘I deem we have.’

Becky’s head spun like a top. She felt confused and bewildered. Not to see Uncle Percy up at this time of night - she half-expected this would be when he did his inventing. No, looking at the sleeping animal, she knew it shouldn’t be alive at all. She’d seen one before at the Natural History Museum in London. But that was only a life-like reconstruction and not the genuine article.

A Sabre-tooth tiger lay sedated on the lawn of Bowen Hall. A very large, very real Sabre-tooth tiger.

Here, Carl answers a few questions:

What or who inspired you to write ‘The Time Hunters’?

The idea was the inspiration. In 2005, I had an idea about a teenage girl who discovers her uncle is a time traveller and becomes embroiled in a murder mystery and search through time for the Golden Fleece.

The more I considered the possibilities of fusing legend with history, myth with reality, the more it excited me. I reached a point the story had to exist outside my head and so began to write.

However, two years ago, my dad died suddenly and eleven months later my beautiful daughter, Alice, was born. These events sharpened my focus– initially as a way of dealing with grief (‘The Time Hunters’ contains a strong surrogate parent/child relationship) and as a story for Alice to enjoy in the future.

Why did you choose to write for children?

I would never want to write anything else. Writing for children allows me to explore the most fundamental themes - courage, honour, decency, identity, whilst also stretching my imagination to its limits.

In ‘The Time Hunters’ I visit Ancient Greece, Victorian England, Ice Age Kansas and Jurassic London; my characters include Will Scarlet, Jason and the Argonauts, a vegetarian Minotaur and a Megalosaurus called Harold.

Writing for adults could never offer such opportunity for fun. Besides, I’m a big kid so technically I write for an adult audience too.

What are your future writing ambitions?

I have currently writing the ‘Time Hunters’ sequel called ‘The Time Hunters and the Box of Eternity.’ This time the story takes my characters to the eighteenth century Caribbean, so there’ll be plenty of pirates, foaming grog, enormous sea serpents, zombie sharks and Pandora’s Box in the form of Blackbeard’s Treasure Chest!

Carl can be reached directly at

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

March Tattleness

It's March! And with it comes Madness, as all good college hoops fans know. Nevermind the ladies at my old place of employment who thought, when I suggested adding March Madness activities to the calendar, thought I was suggestion a shopping bonanza.

Since it's the beginning of a new month, I am posting another sample chapter of my work in progress -- Learn Me Gooder! This chapter is all about a common enemy of every teacher -- Tattling.

Enjoy, and as always, feedback is appreciated!

Date: Friday, November 20, 2009

To: Fred Bommerson

From: Jack Woodson

Subject: Whose whine is it anyway?

Hey bud,

In case I haven't mentioned it, my class this year is extremely immature. I've never had so many kids that still suck their thumbs, display a total lack of listening skills, and repeatedly do the same things over and over and over again, despite being told not to. Case in point, Patty, who, even after all this time, continues to get in trouble for talking in the hall.

I also notice that many of my kids have a supreme sense of responsibility when it comes to OTHER kids in the room, but they can't seem to look after themselves. They are so worried about the kids around them no following the rules, but they never seem to notice when they're not following the rules themselves.

I think it's great for kids to take on responsibility, but one of my boys, Bobby, always winds up taking responsibility AWAY from somebody else. I'll ask one of the kids to hold open a door so the class can walk through, and seconds later I'll turn around and Bobby will be holding the door. Or someone in my class will ask if they can take a basketball out to recess, yet Bobby is always the one who winds up holding the ball after lunch.

Maybe he's been reading his Spiderman comics backwards again and thinks that with great responsibility comes great power.

Yesterday, with a few minutes before the bell rang at the end of the day, I asked everyone to clean up the area around their desk, as I always do before we leave the classroom. Usually, it's the kids with the lumber yard right under their desk that ignore me and keep talking, while the kids with a few atoms of dust under their desk are lying prostrate on the floor, trying to make it clean enough to perform surgery.

As I'm asking everyone to look on the floor around them, I'm looking directly at several scraps of crayon wrapper right underneath Bobby's chair. Rather than looking around his own area and picking up the trash, Bobby notices that Nolan, on the other side of the room, has a small piece of an eraser under his chair. So Bobby goes running towards Nolan's chair, does a power slide on his knees that would make Tenacious D weep with joy, and picks up the eraser. Then he looks at me like I'm going to award him the Silver Star Award.

Mrs. Bird has started calling him, "The Sheriff."

Still, the worst of it all is the tattling. I know, I know, I should be used to it by now. After all, tattling in grade school is like the kilt in Scotland – ever present, expected even, but never welcome. Nevertheless, it continues to annoy me.

I think that if teachers didn't receive any base salary at all, but they were given $25 every time one of their students tattled on someone, they could all retire to the Bahamas by the end of the second year.

There is a significant difference between telling the teacher something and telling ON someone. For instance if Susie is hanging upside down from the monkey bars by her shoestrings and can't get down, then yes, that's something I need to know. However, I think I can do without hearing that Billy laughed when Peter dribbled chocolate milk down his chin.

There are many cases when I just have to fight mightily to resist the sarcastic response.

Student X: Jimmy pointed his middle finger at me!

Me: Really? Then he's not doing it correctly.

Student X: She called my momma fat!

Me: Your momma is not fat. But does she ever Porky Pig?

Here onboard the Tattlestar Galactica, two of my kids take things to the extreme.

I have unofficially given Puddy the cabinet post of Tattle Tale General, since he assaults my ears as soon as he sees me each morning, laying out the general school population’s misdeeds with military precision.

"Sir, status report, Sir! Tommy kicked Lisa's book bag, Kelly was making faces at a second grader, and Donnell is jangling pennies in his pocket. In world news, Lindsay Lohan was busted on DUI charges again."

Then there's Janice, who is constantly tattling about someone or something. And apparently, to anyone who will listen. This morning, her class was entering the cafeteria for lunch, and I exited through the other cafeteria door, behind her class, so she was not aware that I was standing there. I actually witnessed her tattle on one of her classmates to some random woman walking down the hall! It was probably some poor second-grader's mother, just minding her own business, suddenly accosted by a little girl claiming, "Excuse me, Miss, he just hit me!"

Of course, this lady was able to do what I always wish I COULD do. She kept her eyes straight ahead, didn't make eye contact, and just kept on walking.

Mrs. Frisch told me that she told her kids at the beginning of the year that she doesn't want to hear any complaining, unless it involves one of the 3 B's – Barfing, Bleeding, or Broken. Of course, she has to deal with Roy'al every day, so I think tattling is the least of her worries.

I've overheard Mrs. Bird on more than one occasion tell one of our kids to, "Save it for tattle-time." The trick here is that there never IS a tattle-time, but the kids don't seem to catch on to this.

I'm considering creating a tattle patsy. This will be a stuffed animal, or a poster, or even just a stapler – something that I can send the kids to when they really, really have to tell on someone. After all, Janice and others like her just want to speak the words into the air anyway, regardless of who is listening.

I just need to be sure that "Tattle Toby," the stuffed elephant, has eyes that can roll.


Penn and Teller