Thursday, February 18, 2010


"Are we going to do poetry?" asked M., one of the seminar kids. Yep. Very soon. Next week, even.

That's one of the few units I feel confident about. I have the master teacher's poetry binder, and she has laid it out so beautifully. I nabbed notebooks so we can make our own poetry anthologies. I am thinking when we all write poems, we should print multiple copies so our classmates can add the original poems to their collections. We wrote Poe-inspired poems a while back, and some were amazing.

Our district is heavy on poetic forms. That's fine. Poetry always asserts itself.

I am scared of handling the (few) kids who might not get into poetry. I guess I'll just trust the power of the word and the passion of the poetry lovers. Oh, and of music lyrics...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Four day weekend!

Abraham Lincoln
and George Washington,
I thank you
for being born


The seminar kids are writing persuasive speeches. Typed first drafts were due on Wednesday, and I tried something original. Kids were randomly paired, and then Partner A read aloud Partner B's draft while Partner B listened. Whoa: this turned out to be super powerful, since the writer was transformed into the audience. Kids grabbed their papers out of their partner's hands to revise, kids' heads were huddled close together (lice-leaping close!) as they helped each other out.

At the end of the period, I asked, "Was this activity useful?" As one, they roared, "YES!"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fresh Start :-)

Middle school is one of the few times in life where we get two fresh starts a year. September is the most famous--everyone wears new clothes, carries new notebooks, checks out the new kids and teachers. Everyone is also on his/her best behavior. Everything everyone does sets precedents for the future.

But my unsung hero is the launch of second semester. The kids and I are like an old married couple, each a little too familiar with the quirks and foibles of the other. And yet tomorrow, Monday, we begin again. I made the kids clean out their backpacks on Friday, so they are organized. Everyone starts with an A, everyone starts fresh with perfect citizenship, and we set new goals for June.

Will R. use his leadership power for good instead of evil? Will V. keep his promise to do all of his work? Will I do a better job of holding kids accountable and pushing my Seminar kids forward?

I am excited to begin -- again!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


--gave my first one ever on Thursday. It's a great idea--my colleague has done so for years, and there is definitely wisdom in having the kids review all they have learned since September. But it's tricky--fifty points could really impact a grade. So I threw in an optional handout with ten extra questions which could only help them.

What ten points amounts to is one homework assignment: one out of over forty. So, really, it wasn't going to impact their grade so much as inflate the outcome of this single test. In my challenge class, sixteen of thirty-six kids got A's! But the gorgeous thing is that so many of them had never seen that shiny letter atop a test. There were grins everywhere! "Can I take this test home to show my mom?"

There was V., who had a rough start--drop the euphemisms: he had about a 50% early on. His work was spotty all semester, but he raised it to the D- border. With some last ditch hoo-rah-ing, he began to turn in quality work and he turned in all his late work (for half credit, of course). And then on this test he earned a C+! Who knew V. had such a gorgeous smile! I gave him a hug, so glad, and remarked, "Man! All your hard work is paying off! Imagine if you had started the semester like this!" And he replied, "Next semester I'm gonna keep that A we start with--I'm gonna do all my work and everything!"

Midterm Generosity

the ten bonus points
gave you your very first A
and cost me nothing