Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Steinbeck > almost everything in English so far this year

Today we finished Steinbeck's The Moon Is Down. They were quiet--N. had tears in her eyes, three kids sighed, and J. said, "We should clap." But no one did, because we were drinking it in.

One student made a point to tell me in the afternoon that he "really, really, really, really liked that book," and his eyes were shining.

We didn't do one bit of writing about it. All we did was enjoy it and, since we are studying persuasive writing, see if the novella was just propaganda, what Steinbeck's message was then, and if his ideas are still relevant. Good conversations and shining eyes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

God Has Amazing Abs

One project my students do is to translate the key ideas of the Declaration of Independence into plain 8th grade English. They also draw pictures which illustrate the concepts, thus making the abstract concrete and thereby demonstrating their comprehension, and hopefully cementing it in their teenage brains.

Sometimes their artwork takes me by surprise. Ever wonder what God looks like?

"Hey, it's God!"

The Exception

We are each unique
(Except for this drummer boy
and my student, M).

Monday, February 13, 2012

War of 1812, an assembly, and Whitney

Sometimes events converge:
On Thursday, my kids learned about the origins of our national anthem, how Francis Scott Key wrote a poem after the Battle of Ft. Mc Henry.

On Friday, we had a moving school-wide assembly about the trap that drugs and alcohol are-- the video left 300 8th graders in stunned silence.

On Saturday, Whitney Houston died of drugs and alcohol.

On Monday, today, I showed them Whitney's greatest musical moment:

--and that, my friends, is convergence.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love and hate, burritos, and Andrew Jackson

February in a middle school means love is in the air. And when love is in the air, fights happen at lunch, because while love is passionate, so is hate, and middle school relationships last about as long as it takes to reheat a burrito. Today as I wrapped up the War of 1812 (much like a burrito is wrapped up), I experienced the highs and lows of middle school passion.

PERIOD ONE (note written in class when the teacher played Aretha Franklin's anthem to spell out the only thing the US really got from the War of 1812)

Dear Promethean Board,

I am so glad you are in my life. You make everything seem so important, and you make life so much easier. Thanks for everything, and by everything I mean the ease with which I can show an oil painting of the Battle of Fort McHenry, the lyrics to Jimmy Driftwood's "The Battle of New Orleans," and Cornell notes, all with a click. I love you. So glad I dumped that doc cam/computer projector.

Love, Lola

PERIOD THREE (note written while the teacher looked really unprepared for the lesson)

Promethean Board--or should I just call you "The Beast"??

You froze me out today. And then you ate two of my flipcharts. I thought we had something special, that I could count on you. I would kick you out, except you weigh ten thousand pounds and are expensively wired to the wall and I would get a referral. An overhead projector would have been better than you today. A chalkboard would have been better!!