Kindergarten Games

Today was Kindergarten registration in my school district, and that means all hands on deck. It is an enormous undertaking student came into answer questions about numbers, colors, iand do a retell on a story they were told. Most every student could point to a door when asked, Some could write their first names.

before the children were tested individually they would wait outside the Room where they were told that they were waiting before going to play a few games.

Upon hearing this , one kindergarten turned to his mother an remarked, “mom, they’ve got games. looks like I am going to need some quarters.”


E.B. White and Spiders

This month, E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web is the read-aloud book for the 2nd grade. They take the book home to share with their families; the hallway is decorated with spiders and pigs. The enthusiasm shown by teachers and students alike is “T double-E double-R double-R double-I double-F double-I double C, C, C!” to quote the Goose in the novel.

I mentioned to one of the teachers that I had seen an exhibit at the Eric Carle museum in 2013. The exhibit, Some Book, Some Art: Selected Drawings by Garth Williams for Charlotte’s Web, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the novel with original illustrations by Garth Williams. They showed how the spider drawing “morphed” as a collaboration between White and Williams.

At the end of the exhibit, there was a poem that  White wrote in 1929 shortly after his marriage.  The poem’s title is “Natural History” and the first of three stanzas reads:spider

“The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of his devising;
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.”

The choice of words such as “devising” and “premeditated” are certainly part of any spider’s nature, but these characteristics are central to the plot the character of Charlotte devises to rescue the pig Wilber from the butcher’s block.

White also saw spiders also as loyal, spinning metaphorical connections of threads to lives as evidenced by the closing stanza:

“Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.”

While it is unlikely the 2nd graders will understand all the language of White’s poem, their experience with the character of Charlotte-her loyalty, her bravery, and her compassion- will be the silken strand that keeps them forever connected to this wonderful book.

“When I Am 100 Years Old….”

The 100th Day of school is celebrated by students in many different ways. They will count. They will have parties.

This past week, I was walking through the first grade hallway decorated with the student statements of what will happen to each of them when they turn 100. They had carefully “aged” their portraits by wrinkling the paper. What they anticipate will happen to them at age 100 is, in a word, hilarious!

I will sleep all day.

I will live in a nursing home in Orlando.

I will have glasses.

My husband will get the food.

I will have white hair and I will live in a white house.

I will not be pretty anymore.


The Rabbits Who Lead

Every new initiative that becomes a success must first have a few brave rabbits that leap quickly ahead.Racing-Rabbit-line-png

That is illustrated by the recent adoption of Google Docs in our middle school as a collaborative writing platform. Two teachers, one from ELA and one from science, created a  series of interdisciplinary lessons based on the bestselling book by Andy Weir, The Martian. They submitted the lessons to a contest Curious Classroom offered by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (kicking off their new website HMH Marketplace). These lessons explained that they would be using many of the instructional strategies with these lessons that they do everyday and won second place: 30 Chromebooks and 500 books.

According to the Curious Classroom website, the 2nd place winners

“…were rewarded “for their collaborative and engaging interdisciplinary mini-unit based on Weir’s novel, The Martian, which helps students learn about the science behind realistic fiction. Matt DiGioia and Sherry Mitchell, teachers at Bailey Middle School in West Haven, CT, created a collaborative resource that highlights Language Arts and Science lessons, but can be easily modified and applied across the curriculum.”

The success of their venture is an example for other teachers to follow, but more important was the authentic lesson they taught their students. These teachers collaborated in submitting the lessons and encouraged student participation. The success of their 2nd place finish demonstrated to students how to be a part of a larger venture…a Google Doc adventure of sorts.

Now that these rabbits are out of the gate…the pack will follow.

Grading Papers

Screenshot 2016-03-04 20.29.09

This week’s New Yorker Magazine (3/7/16) has a cartoon by Paul Noth that is hilarious.

I will do my best to describe it.

A bedroom, and a couple in bed.
The husband on the left is sitting up.
He is completely covered with a bee keeper hat and gloves.
He is holding a frame from the beehive that is serving as a bedside table.
Bees are buzzing around his head.

The woman sits in bed with a pile of papers, holding a pen.

The man speaks: “Oh, but it’s fine for you to grade papers?”

If you did not think this is hilarious, then I am either terrible at describing the cartoon OR you do not know a teacher.

I have spent over 25 years grading papers. I have graded papers in cars, on trains, and on planes. I have taken papers on vacation, (and returned with many still ungraded.) I have graded papers during faculty meetings and in doctor’s offices. I have graded papers in restaurants.  I have graded papers at sporting events (NOTE: I prefer baseball with long innings vs. soccer’s continuous action). I have graded papers at the dining room table,  in the kitchen, and on the sofa….and yes, of course I have graded papers in bed.

Hilarious cartoon…and very true. Ask a teacher.


Blocking Gardner’s Grendel

A friend shared an recent article from the Washington Post titled In Virginia Classrooms, Should Parents Block Sexually Explicit Literature for Their Kids? by Jenna Portnoy:

Under the bill, K-12 teachers would be required to ‘directly identify the specific instructional material and sexually explicit content contained in such material’.”

The books in question include The Bluest Eye, by  Toni Morrison, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

GrendelMany English teachers have run into similar conflicts. In my first encounter with censorship, a fellow department member had assigned John Gardner’s novel  Grendel to her honors sophomores. One set of parents petitioned the school board to remove the book because of the sexual descriptions in a chapter where the monster Grendel fixates on a woman’s anatomy.

These parents formed a committee to prevent the spread of this “filthy “text. In order to prove their point, they xeroxed copies of a particularly objectionable page to share with other parents and build a case to block the use of the book.

During a Friday night football game, and executing a textbook example of dramatic irony, the committee distributed copies of that page.

The football game was attended by families who filled bleachers, but these families were more interested in the game then in reading a selection from English II. At the end of the game, hundreds of those copied pages from “Grendel” drifted in the cool night air or lay trampled underfoot…signaling another form of rejection for Grendel.



100 Days Down; 80 To Go

Today was the 100th day of school in the elementary schools. To mark the event students wore hats decorated with the proclamation, “I am 100 days smarter today!”100 days

Of course, the possibility of inclement weather in Connecticut makes the planning for celebrating “fluid”, and teachers had to be flexible. At this late date, there have been two snow day cancellations in spite of a remarkably warm winter.

By law, students must attend 180 days (or “nine hundred hours of actual school work for full-day kindergarten and grades one to twelve”), leaving 185 days in the year (…and don’t forget 2016 is a leap year!)

In other words, students attend school LESS than 1/2 the year. Given all the effort, however, the school year just seems…. longer.