“That’s Okay, I have a Superpower!”

Three of Scarlet’s cousins came to visit this past weekend (July, 2019). We experienced all of the classic summer stuff: swimming in the pool, playgrounds, and s’mores. It was a blast; Especially the swimming. 

IMG_4867Scarlet’s mommy insisted that Scarlet be lathered in a strong sunblock before getting into the pool. That is normal, and all of the kids had to forego the inevitable wait period of letting the lotion dry a little before getting into the pool; Collective “Ugh!”

Additionally, Scarlet needed to have her cochlear implant (CI) equipment changed to waterproof wires and coils. We recently received new pool appropriate boxes to put the CI processor inside to keep it safe from water damage. It takes a while to get all of this situated. 

While everyone was patient enough, no one wants to wait even one extra second when a beautiful refreshing pool is calling your name on a hot summer day! They all waited for Scarlet to finish getting ready before diving in, though, which I thought was very classy.

It was also friendly and kind for Scarlet’s cousins to help her realize that one of her coils was not on her head, but dangling in the pool. This happened constantly throughout the day. Everyone was very patient, another classy trait.

At the end of the day, Scarlet’s mommy Sonia read “Scarlet’s Superpower” to the cousins. Afterward, we discussed the superpower of not being able to hear. Sonia relayed a cute and funny story to me.

This past week Scarlet had a dentist appointment. When the technician was preparing to clean Scarlet’s teeth, he apologized for the loud noise that the air pump was about to make. “A child recently tampered with it, and it broke,” he explained.

Without skipping a beat, Scarlet reached up to her head, and while removing her coils, exclaimed, “That’s alright, I have a Superpower.” I loved the story and was proud of my daughter for taking charge of the situation. Not only was she perfectly comfortable with the fact that she wears CI equipment in order to hear, but Scarlet was proud to display its functionality. How many kids -and adults- are embarrassed of equipment that helps them with a disability? 

This is the message of “Scarlet’s Superpower”: Try to take negative situations and turn them into positive opportunities.

When the kids were waiting for their sunscreen to dry before getting into the pool, Sonia told everyone that Scarlet still has to “waterproof” her CI equipment. The horrible task of waiting turned into an opportunity to learn about water-damage and how to keep water out of things. It also masked the task of buying time. They would have had to stand around waiting, anyway! 

The next time you are tempted to complain about something, see if there is anything positive that could be gleaned from the situation. We can all possess the superpower of seeing the positive. It takes practice, discipline, and sometimes creativity. Good luck!

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Book Information:

Scarlet’s Superpower is available from the Apple Bookstore in digital form for free: https://books.apple.com/us/book/scarlets-superpower/id1461703800

And, it can be purchased for the Kindle App from Amazon for $2.99: https://www.amazon.com/Scarlets-Superpower-Matthew-Weimann-ebook/dp/B07RLFC26K/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=scarlet%27s+superpower&qid=1563187286&s=gateway&sr=8-2

#Playification

IMG_5629My dad and sister visited over the July 4th weekend. When I was at the grocery store picking up supplies for grilling, I was meandering through the toy aisle searching out things to keep people occupied. We have a pool, and everyone will want to hangout by it, but as great as water is, it gets boring, eventually. My eye was caught by some outdoorsy games; GIANT dice, checkers, and… dominoes. I brought home one of the giant wooden domino sets. There was only 28 pieces in the set, but maybe we could figure out the game, together. 

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“Playing” with giant inflatable unicorn; Does it get better?

July 4th was a blast… literally, what with all of the fireworks and everything! But, the next day was much slower, and it slowed all the way down to “needing something to do”, so much so that I actually got out the giant domino game. There was the tiniest slip of paper under the huge wooden tiles that had the most basic instructions I have ever read. It was my dad, Scarlet, and I working on playing the game, and after giving it a go, we realized we needed more instruction. Other than setting the pieces up to tumble into one another, I don’t have any experience with dominoes. 

We watched a Youtube video. It introduced some terms, like dominoes can be referred to as “Bones”, and the pile of extras would be the “Boneyard”. The instructions for play were either not elaborate enough or too complex. I thought this was supposed to be a pretty easy game! I had secretly hoped to bring the giant game pieces into my classroom to use instructionally. 


Finally, we found a guy on Youtube who had been in the same boat we found ourselves. He had done some legwork in researching how to play dominoes and put together a very helpful video explaining it for dummies like us. The video is totally awesome, and I recommend you watch it, even if only to see the Weird Al Action Figure play against the videographer! Hilarious.

I’m not going to get into the game of dominoes here. I still need to do more learning and practice. Suffice to say, it seems to supercede all expectations of being able to use in the classroom. You can play with more than just two kids. It is simple enough, combining like numbers, but also strategic: It helps to plan which bones to use in what order. There is a lot of adding and even multiplication/division! But, believe it or not, you don’t actually multiply or divide, so it is perfect for planting the seeds for those future concepts: You have to identify “multiples of five”. 

I leave you with this idea: I have been thinking about using Gamification in my classroom, because “everybody (seems to be) doing it”, and I like making school maximum fun! Through exploring articles and thinking about what I want to get out of the school year, however, it looks like “Playification” is more my speed. When I teach a lesson, I present a problem, and then students use what they know to figure out a solution. We then discuss additional possible solutions and ways to get to them. Finally, I let students “play around” with the ideas. “Try using it in a unique way,” you might hear me say, if you were walking by my classroom. 

So, more than turning everything into a point system or changing pedagogy into games, I am leaning more toward using games to help my students “play more”. You can cheat a game. The only thing you cheat when “playing” is yourself. 

Source:

https://www.smartcompany.com.au/growth/fast-lane-forget-gamification-it-s-all-about-playification/

It Isn’t “Follow The Leader”

I wasn’t sure what to title this blog. There are many ideas swimming around in my head that I want to share. The title I settled on may seem negative, but I chose it to dispel an idea that could hold people back; This misconception might limit people’s experience on Twitter. And so, I hope to help anyone struggling with the question of “who to follow” by offering a couple ideas.

When “following” someone, I am adding them to the influencers of my Twitter feed. Either I’ve seen something that they produced or due to their profile information, I’m interested in seeing more from this person. Immediately after clicking “Follow”, the person’s info will flood enter my feed. I struck out “flood” because it sounded negative; the new info does not push out other things. It just gets added. You do see it right away, if the person has tweeted recently, which is kinda fun.

Due to the information in the previous paragraph, I sometimes WON’T follow profiles that haven’t tweeted at all or who haven’t tweeted in the past couple years. Often authors will create a Twitter account that just sits there. There are some who tweet all of the time, and some even “Like” and “Reply” to you. @JerryPallotta is one of my favorites. He writes the #WhoWouldWin series that I use to teach my third graders nonfiction research skills.

That being said, I will definitely follow people who are using Twitter the way I like to use Twitter, even if they don’t have large numbers in the way of Tweets, Followers, or Following. Hey, I started at 0, 0, and 0 at one time, also. The people who jump in headfirst and immediately begin replying, connecting, sharing, and engaging with me and my PLN are golden on Twitter. These are my kind of people, and I can’t follow them fast enough!

There are a few exceptions. First of all, you will have your own list of parameters for people you follow. For instance, I enjoy the back and forth on Twitter. Therefore, I target following other educators who will talk TO me. Perhaps you would rather use Twitter as a type of news source. People who chatter away (me) may not be perfect for you; Follow me anyway;) (ha ha) Secondly, following isn’t exactly an artform. People who are highly engaged might have succinct algorithms for following. I find that most do not. I’ll tweet to people who are engaged in conversations with my PLN for weeks before that person follows me, sometimes. Other people and even companies will follow me for seemingly little reason. Thirdly, I have a personal philosophy of following certain people, regardless of Twitter behavior, just because. These people include anyone and everyone from my home school district, Eastpenn. I love that Dylan Peters put together a list that helps me find these people. (Make sure that your information is added to the list if you join later in the game!) Another group of parameter-pushing people I follow are tags my PLN suggests. If someone whom I am in close contact with, as in I communicate with them regularly, lists a bunch of people’s handles and says, “Follow these folks”, I do it, no questions asked. You might not have this rule, but I trust my PLN to give me good suggestions.

For example, I just took a break from writing this to check Twitter. Julia Dweck, my good friend, colleague from Willow Lane Elementary, and Twitterer Extraordinaire had tweeted a picture of students holding a project. She was tweeting #Task5 of the #EPSDTwitterChallenge, so Julia included several handles of Tweeple she follows who she suggests others follow as well. Most of them I already followed, but I was pleased to find that there were a couple whom I could add to my feed. I don’t even hover over or look at profiles of people that my close friends suggest I follow. This makes it easy and fast.

I want to end this blog with its title: “It Isn’t Follow The Leader Perhaps to some the word “Follow” leads to negative feelings; As in, “I don’t want to be a follower of anyone.” Also, when you type follow into the GIF search box, you get pictures of little ducklings “following” their mommy. Who wants to be associated with that? I encourage you to NOT think of it that way. There is no leader on Twitter. When you follow people, you DO lend your support to them, but more importantly, you allow yourself the opportunity to learn from them. Not following people is robbing yourself the ability to grow.

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https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/following-faqs

#ZombieApocalypseRoom207

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The Zombies of Room 207

I am NOT against play.

I wish there were more time for it. And, time is my enemy. I have a lot to teach in a very limited amount of time.

Time is against me in another way, as well: I constantly ask myself, “How will this learning stand the test of time? Why would my students remember any of this?”

One answer to this question:

#ZombieApocalypseRoom207

It was the first day of ELA standardized testing. I still had several math concepts to teach IMG_4199before students took the Math PSSAs (Pennsylvania’s standardized tests for elementary schools).

How would I present math when students’ brains were fried?

Serve them up for Zombie hors devours!

I wonder, now, if it was the metaphor of brain-eating, zombie-creating testing that got me on this kick. Either way, everyone loves a good apocalypse theme… And, I delivered. As soon as I got rid of my PSSA tests and dropped my students off at lunch, I recovered my stowed away phone and went to work.

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Problem from ReadyMath that I revamped with zombie theme

Earlier in the year a student had shown me the app Chatterpix. I used this to snap a pic of our classroom spider and make it talk. This spider, EEKK, named after the way students are supposed to sit on the carpet while pair-sharing; Elbow, Elbow, Knee to Knee; has been hanging out in our third grade classroom since his introduction early in the year. I was moving him every now and again, suggesting that he wanted new vantage points from which to witness students’ good behavior/sharing skills. The students love pretending things are alive, and we had fun with it. When I wasn’t moving him for a while students began grumbling and commenting, so I hid him away. Now, 5 min. away from kids, I took a picture of EEKK who was in a cabinet next to the squirt bottle I use to mist the plants. When students watched the video, they exploded in predictions of where EEKK was hidden!

The message of the video was simple: There are zombies lurking, and we need to learn capacity.

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Pic of 2nd day: Review Gallon Guy and workout perimeter problem

Just as I had predicted, my third grade students didn’t care that a toy spider wasn’t alive; that, if it were, it wouldn’t be able to handle a squirt bottle; or that a tiny squirt bottle of water wouldn’t be enough to fend off zombies! They were thrilled to learn about standard liquid measurement and copy my Gallon Guy drawing from the board. I got out containers, and we discussed capacity. 

The next day, was Tuesday, the second day of standardized ELA testing (PSSAs) in the morning. As per law, I put all electronic devices away, until I had rid my room of PSSA materials. While the students were at lunch, I made a new movie. This time, I got fancier. I took a snapshot of EEKK on red tile and used Apple’s Keynote App to erase all of the red background with Instant Alpha. Then I stuck him on top of a pic of a moat.

Chatterpix was used to make EEKK present a new problem of creating a perimeter to protect the classroom spider from zombies while he rested. He couldn’t be on guard 24/7!

With each passing day, I added increasingly difficult problems to EEKK’s predicament. After digging a moat, EEKK had to fill it with water. If it took him 5 minutes to get one gallon, and each linear foot of moat required two gallons, how long would it take to completely fill the moat? Was this question real-world? Well, minus the zombie theme, yeah, I think so;)

img_1572.jpgEEKK wasn’t completely secure, surrounded by only a moat. He decided to build a fort on

MW Teaching
I had to review this several times.

the land he had partitioned from the zombie-infected outside. Luckily Amazon was still going strong and available to drone-drop an order of lumber on EEKK’s land square. But, we needed to figure out how much it would cost us. While the outer perimeter of the moat was a 10′ X 10′ square, the moat took up some of the inside space. If the moat was exactly one foot wide all the way around, what would the perimeter of the inner square be? Students needed some perception help with this one. I even had to break out the clay and make a moat to demonstrate the inside square being smaller than the outside one.

Once we figured out the perimeter of the inner square, which would be the length of fence that EEKK would construct, we had to calculate how much this material would cost. Each foot of lumber was going to require $1.25.

The #ZombieApocalypseRoom207 was so much fun that more characters wanted in on the action! Enter the #PolitePirates. Now, #CaptainIronKnee, Mary (pronounced “muh-ree” for a different story), and Zeus want in on EEKK’s pristine perimeter project. They are a little picky, though. They each want their own space. Now, we must figure out how much more  lumber we will need in order to build walls within our fort to partition individual spaces for each of the four inhabitants. Plus, they need a “Common Place” for all of them to eat and converse together; a shared space.

For this part of the project, I had students use the geoboard app on their iPads. They had to make the perimeter of the fort, 8 units by 8 units, with one “rubber band”. Then they could create any size spaces within that for the four characters, leaving an additional, fifth space, for the common space. The only parameter was that all of the corners must

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This clever student had the idea of drawing lines on each unit to keep track of counting.

be right angles. (This was so that the linear measurement of perimeter was more accurate. It was enough to figure out the cost and time to construct our forts. I didn’t need to teach the pythagorean theorem on top of everything else!)

Once they designed their fort interiors, they had to figure out how much the materials would cost. “Keeping linear units at the price of $1.25/each, how much money are we looking at spending for your fort?”

One thing that was very difficult to communicate clearly was the fact that you didn’t have to count a unit that functioned as two walls twice: If a room inside the fort shares a wall with the outer perimeter or another room, you only count that structure once. (It is tricky, even, to write about this.)

Self-Reflection: What I would do differently

The apocalypse began in fantastic form. The students loved it. The theme was fun and the problems were challenging and engaging. They quickly became overwhelming, however. There needed to be more teaching. I sat with some struggling students and walked them through the use of geoboard. I had them make the same exact shapes as me, and we figured out the perimeters together. This worked well.

Also, the idea of shared walls was very tricky. Two things could remedy this confusion. Make the parameters so that not walls would be shared, or have kids use popsicle sticks to actually build model forts. I wanted to do this last idea, but Wegmans didn’t have any sticks, and I was out of time. Teams could use clay bases and even fill the moat with water. Manipulative money could be used to “buy” the materials from a Zombie store. Students could earn the money by doing chores or figuring out other problems.


Another lesson-learned: Don’t overdo the theme. I am guilty of this. I tried doing a data lesson using the zombies, and not only did everyone grown, but it didn’t even make that much sense without teaching data-analysis, first. The video is cute, and I’ll use it in the future. Plus, students did love the game of throwing zombies at the school.

Self-Reflection: AWESOMENESS and things to grow

Even though the data lesson was not perfect, it gave us Zombie puppets. I had the students use the puppets for an ELA lesson. They made their own Chatterpix videos where their zombies told stories.

The creativity and open-ended practice was unparalleled.

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The teaching and creativity seemed endless!

The teaching moments were limitless. I never even got into the cost of carpeting the inside of the fort with different flooring styles! We discussed and figured out area, but it was enough to reteach/learn fractions with four quarters equaling one dollar and division with 12 being broken up into groups of four (quarters) to see the money problem different ways.

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This student began erasing her art because she thought she was in trouble. “NOOOOOOOO!!!” I shouted. She had drawn the Polite Pirates talking over their fort fence with the misunderstood zombies.

And then there is the artwork. In addition to coloring in the zombie puppets, some students drew illustrations for their videos. I had given the class the premise for their zombie stories: The zombies didn’t really want to eat brains. They just wanted to be smart, and they thought that eating brains would help them. The Polite Pirates explained the problem of this misperception to the zombies and everything was fixed. Each student made up his/her own rendition of the story.

The Future of #ZombieApocalypseRoom207

In the future I’d like to incorporate some supplemental reading and ELA components. My friend, Julia Dweck has written a couple of cute kid books about zombies that I would love to incorporate.

Can you recommend others in the comments?

Any other zombie must-dos?

Scarlet’s Hearing Equipment

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Scarlet draws the “thumbs up” from page 11 of her book. (Notice her shirt says, “Be Yourself”.)

It is natural for kids to be narcissistic, thinking mostly about themselves and their personal situations, until they are tweens (10-12). Scarlet, being only 7 at the time of this writing, doesn’t totally understand how different her hearing situation is from most other people.

One difference that Scarlet is well aware of is her hearing equipment. In her book we mention the great advantage to being able to NOT hear when it comes time to go to bed. This is true… not the monster creeping out of the closet, but everything else. When Scarlet wakes up in the morning, she can’t hear anything until she puts her coils onto her head. This means that Scarlet, a 7 year old, is wandering around the house, completely oblivious to any sounds happening around her.

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[As I type this, at 5AM in May with the windows open, I hear birds singing and traffic zooming on a busy road near our house. Scarlet will never know the experience of waking up to birds chirping.]

Thankfully, it is not difficult to equip Scarlet with the tools for hearing. There are several companies that offer cochlear implant equipment. The one our family went with, Advanced Bionics, has a couple of different devices (at the time of this writing; technology is changing all of the time). One of them allows the processor to be clipped to her clothing. This one has a long cord that reaches from the processor to the coil that sticks to Scarlet’s head. A couple nice things about this equipment is that it is easy and fast to put on. It can clip to anything; Sometimes I clip it to Scarlet’s hair! Another great thing about this device is that it is waterproof. Some drawbacks to this one, though, are that its batteries are hard to get to and need to be changed often. Plus, the long cord gets caught on things and pops the coil off a lot.

The other device that Scarlet has for hearing attaches to the back of her ear with double-sided tape. An earlier version of “Scarlet’s Superpower” had the word tear in it on page 4, when it says, “I reach up and slowly, carefully remove one of my sound processors.” We removed this word because we didn’t want the book to be disturbing. That could diminish the message of the text. The truth of the matter is that every night we DO have

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It is common for Scarlet’s hair to get stuck to the double-sided tape.

to rip the processors off of Scarlet’s ears. And, many times it really hurts her, pulling a hair that is stuck in there. Also, I fear for my daughter’s skin behind her ear. Some advantages of these devices are that they are smaller with shorter cords, lighter in weight, the batteries last longer, and they have the ability to attach an additional device that allows her teacher to use an FM speaker system to broadcast directly to her cochleas. (This last feature may be the subject of a future book; one about her bionic abilities.)

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Here is Scarlet’s teacher Mrs. Brans celebrating with Scarlet the day she signed the National Anthem at a baseball game. This was the same day that “Scarlet’s Superpower” was published. We had to leave the game early, because it began to rain.

A serious drawback of this latter device is that it is NOT waterproof. This is where the subject of this blog comes into play. Scarlet has recently begun complaining a little about not being able to go outside for recess if it is drizzling or if rain seems imminent. Having her equipment break is too risky. One thing I didn’t mention about the equipment, and I won’t expand upon, is that it is a hassle and nuisance to have to get any of it replaced. Thank goodness we can and it is possible, but it is FAR from convenient.

So…

Scarlet’s Superpower, albeit totally awesome, and it truly is, came from a desire to help Scarlet feel good about being different. “I might have to stay inside when it is wet out, but I don’t have to hear the fire alarm.” My aim is to empower Scarlet AND kids like her with this new, SUPER attitude or way of looking at their disabilities or special conditions, a positive outlook.

We are already seeing it play out when we hear from children telling us that they are okay with wearing glasses because they now view it as a superpower. Please, share more of these stories with us. And, share “Scarlet’s Superpower” with others, because this is one of those synergistic powers, in that, rather than being depleted, the more it is shared, the greater it becomes. That will be the topic for another blog.

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Planning for page 8 of “Scarlet’s Superpower”

Active Math

IMG_5826I was going to title this blog “The Building Blocks of Math Construction” because I liked the play on building/constructing learning from material things. Really, though, I think the most important thing about this lesson was plain old ACTION. Yes, it was creative and fun, but rather than teachers reproducing the exact lesson, I want to share the philosophy behind it. It is a difference between building a beautiful, popular burger joint that everyone in a region admires and franchising the concept all over the world.

IMG_4095This is what I did. In thinking about teaching money, I was imagining setting up some kind of store in the classroom. In stead, I brought my daughter’s old school, wooden building blocks into the classroom. I thought I would have the students compete to construct the tallest structure while using the least amount of supply: They would stack blocks of value to create vertical towers and add up what it cost them.

I told the students of my plan. They were ecstatic. I assigned value to the blocks, dividing them into four categories: Many of the blocks were around 14cm. Those would cost 80¢. Any block that was less than 13cm would cost 40¢. (I did less than 13cm, because the 14cm blocks were a tiny bit under 14cm.) Now, the fun part. Many of the blocks had round edges that would make it

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Students took pics with iPads and identified styles/cost of blocks. This is an image from a student iPad.

difficult to construct with; Those were on sale. They were half off. Here the kids would be using their recently acquired fraction skills. Lastly, there were two gigantic 28cm blocks in the box. Those were $2 each. Why? Because that’s the number that popped into my head. Also, these are super valuable because they are so solid and long. The kids can evaluate the price of these versus the others.

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After going over costs, I set students loose!

After talking cost, I started centers and left my top kids to figure out constructing cost-effective building on their own, while I conducted guided reading. The buzz from the back corner was electric. Everyone in the class was dying for their chance to add up the cost of blocks!

Halfway through the first center, I stepped away from my guided reading group to check on my little architects. How were they doing?

Rather than constructing a tall tower, this group of three boys and three girls were designing the most beautiful condominium complex you ever saw. They were finding a way to use every single block they could! At first, I was like, “That wasn’t the objective.” But, I caught myself.

I forgot to mention: I had introduced the whole idea through telling the class that they were going to be designing high rises in an urban area. We would have Lego people rent space in our sky scrapers.

This group was not making a cost-effective creation. Was that wrong? No. No, it wasn’t. “Okay,” I managed to say. “This is going to be pricey,” I told them. “You’ve built a Five-Star resort, here,” I joked. “Let’s add up how much it will cost to construct.” They jumped on taking it apart, putting the blocks into piles, categorizing by the characteristics I had assigned, earlier. I told them that they could reconstruct their building after figuring out the price tag for it. Amazingly, there wasn’t a breath of complaint. I’m pleased to report 100% success, albeit after quite some time.

IMG_8975After this experience I realized that the rest of the groups would probably need some guidance with this project. I decided to use math time to teach how to evaluate constructions. While students did some online work, I brought groups over to the construction corner of the room. I went over the prices of each of the four styles of block. We analyzed similar blocks and categorized them according to cost. Then I built a simple structure with one of each price. Students used dry erase boards to add up the cost. I also had manipulatives (plastic coins) there to help. It took a few tries, and as students showed success, I let them build a four block building. They had to add up the cost before moving on. With each success, they were able to build more.

I grouped students with like abilities to work together. There was a group that did so well so quickly that I let them work in teams with more than four blocks. None of my builders cared too much about making their towers tall, even though the example that I gave them was straight up, as tall as could be with one of each style of block. I did not emphasize this, either.

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Look at this amazing construction!

Students had a blast building their block structures. One group built a road. Why not?

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We double-checked the cost of each creation.

One thing I would change, and I was tempted to change this halfway through the lesson, is the pricing. I didn’t like that half the price of the 80¢ block was the same cost as the smaller one. The smaller blocks should have been 50¢. Then there would have been more variation in the numbers and coins. Kids would be counting with quarters.

This was solved the next day. We revisited our building blocks motif, but this time with the vertical challenge. I explained that they were constructing in the inner city. I had actually looked up the price of the average urban block. “A city block in Manhattan is worth ONE BILLION DOLLARS!”

“What?!” Screamed the class with gasps of horror.

I had them use my vinyl chess mats as city plans. Each block or square would cost them 75¢. The trick is that for every inch of vertical they could collect 25¢. I formed a bunch of groups and spread students out all over the room, dividing up the blocks. In seconds the room was a buzz with builders. It wasn’t about how tall their building was, so much as how much money they could make.

My students were on fire. They had no idea they were even doing math! I am planning on putting together an elaborate assessment involving an urban plan where city block prices vary, depending on proximity to highway exits. I’ll redo the price of blocks. I’m even thinking about including fractions or weight! We love a challenge.

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Hats On To You

My head is swimming in a storm of figurative language, ideas, memories, and desires to share stories right now. Room 207 is a buzz with homonyms. Twitter is popping with robust vocabulary that is inspiring existential, pedagogical philosophies. I have stumbled across a heretofore unknown superpower, asking “Why?” –Soon to be blogged.

And finally, have you ever had the experience of someone seemingly reading your mind? There are those friends who know you so well, or the two of you have shared so many of the same experiences that he/she can tell what you are thinking throughout a conversation. The idea of completing one another’s sentences is the costume for this super power. But, have you ever met someone who simply shares many of the same interests, experiences, life values, and goals; so many in fact that you seem to have known each other far longer than you actually have?

I only just met Kate Lindquist, and that only virtually on Twitter, a few weeks ago. But, the way she is tweeting things that are right up my alley reminds me of the relationship between Rodion Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich from the godfather of dual personality psychology thrillers, “Crime and Punishment” (Dostoevsky, 1927). Petrovich, the local detective, has no idea Raskolnikov committed murder, but the latter feels like Petrovich is on to him through the entire novel. The recent tweet is a perfect example.

better qualityThe picture at the top of this blog is from my very first year teaching. Those kids are in high school, now. I was doing all kinds of culture-building activities, mixing in art, philosophy, and story-telling. This was the year that I dreamed up “The Polite Pirates”. One of the special days throughout the year was “hat day”. This theme spurred all kinds of ideas, one of which, as you can see by the picture, was making pirate hats that did the opposite of filling strangers with fear and dread; They were to spread cheer and peace. We also came up with new classroom roles: The Peace Pirates.

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The first ever Peace Pirates

One boy and one girl would be chosen each week to be incharge of making sure that the classroom was manageably quiet. They were given a “Peace Tool”, which is a little plastic drum with beads in it. When tilted slightly, the beads spill, simulating a beach-like sound. The class whispers “So peaceful” in chorus. They love it. And, it works.

The next year I added to the theme by making two “Peace Hats” that the Peace Pirates may wear. These were made of gigantic cardstock fronts that every student added some peaceful idea to, decorating the front with color and peaceful symbolism. There were words, pictures, cartoons, etc. I had to readjust the band that held it onto the students’ heads each week, but that was part of the formality of picking new Peace Pirates.

It was the following year, year three of Peace Pirates, that I finally wrote a story for the Peace Hat policy. [This is wear (get it;) Kate’s tweet comes in.] The story is about the power of the hat. I wrote it to bring power to the Peace Hat, but it is about hats having meanings or messages.

While the story was only okay, it took on new life when it was changed into a play to be read during a readers theater for parents. I love engaging top notch students’ help with projects as a way to differentiate through enrichment. The year that I made “The Peaceful Hat Story” into a play I had a student named Brandon help a little. We were learning Google Docs that year, and I had Brandon reformat some of the text, separating paragraphs into speaking parts. Honestly, I did most of the work, and had to fix some of

Brandon’s help, but he felt like a million bucks, having participated in the project. As a reward and payment for his participation in the project, I put his name on the bulletin that I printed out for parents. Of course Brandon was in this play during the readers theaters performance! Some of his crew congratulated him with comments in the shared Google Doc. My favorite thing about this experience, though, was the ending that Brandon gave the play. I have left it just as he typed it all of these years, explaining to future classes that a student wrote that. It cracks me up, and I can’t think of a better way to end the thing!

The Peace Hats are not worn as much anymore. This year’s haven’t even graduated from artwork to hat! But, the Peace Pirates get to sit at our classroom island. Looking out over our classroom from their peaceful perch, they still use the Peace Tool to encourage a quiet environment. In this way, none of my Polite Pirates will need to dawn the invention explained at the end of the Peaceful Hat story.

And, here it is in play form.

 

A Peaceful Hat Story Readers’ Theater

by Mr. Weimann

CAST:

  • Narrator 1
  • Narrator 2
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Captain Iron Knee
  • Zeus
  • Swashbuckler
  • Sailor

Narrator 1:  (in a gruff old piraty tone)  Behold, ye landlubbers be sittin’ in on the finest collection of courteous kids these here parts have ever known.  We have a tale to share saving shenanigans for silly sailors and piraty persons performing peaceful feats!

Narrator 2:  (in a normal voice.)  Oh, good grief that pirate talk is hard.  And, I’m pretty sure it didn’t make much sense, either.  What my friend meant to say was that this class of students has a story to convey through one last readers’ theater.  And, guess what! It is a polite pirate tale.

Narrator 1:  Yeh, there be some strange personages patroling these planks.  Watch out for the disease. It be catchin’ ye off guard, and shir ta frighten ya.

Narrator 2:  My friend is referring to Onomatopoeia, which is no disease, but rather the literary term defining words that represent sounds.

Onomatopoeia:  Grrrrrr.  Argh!

Narrator 1:  There she is!  That was thee disease.  She roams these waters. Be plenty oh pirates ‘fraid of her.

Narrator 2:  Sure.  If you are unaware of Onomatopoeia, you may be frightened by…

Onomatopoeia:  Wham!!!  Slam!!! Bam!!!

Narrator 2:  But I just told everyone who Onomatopoeia is, so we’re good here.  Let’s get on with our talel.

Narrator 1:  If you insisteds.  You be the boss, with yer fancy talkin’ and profesionalies explainin’.

Onomatopoeia:  Stomp, stomp, stomp, SLAM!  (Door slamming shut)

Iron Knee:  (bursts in on Zeus stirring a pot)  What’s for dinner!? I’m starving!!

Onomatopoeia:  CRASH! (pot falls to the floor) SPLAT! (Sauce lands on Zeus’ hat.)

Zeus:  Oh, no.  Look at my hat.  What a mess. I cannot cook with such a messy hat.

Iron Knee:  I’m so sorry, Zeus.  I did not mean to be such a distraction.  I should have walked quieter and closed the door gentler.

Onomatopoeia:  Sob, sob

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Preparing for performance

Zeus:  I forgive you, captain.  I just don’t know what to do.

Iron Knee:  Well, you could wear my hat, if you must have one.  I’ll have one of the swashbucklers clean up yours.

Onomatopoeia:  Gasp!

Zeus:  I couldn’t possibly!  Your captain’s hat doesn’t belong  in the kitchen.

Iron Knee:  Nonsense.  What does it matter where it is worn?  It will cover yer head. That is all.

Narrator 2:  It did not require much persuasion for Zeus to dawn the captain’s illustrious hat.

Narrator 1:  There was much need, those, for the young piraty cook to be wearin’ many dishtowels on his little roundish head.  For the captain, he be havin’ a rather largish head, so his hat be hugish on top oh the cook’s.

Zeus:  This feels better… pretty good… almost too good… powerful…  Back to that sauce.

Onomatopoeia:  Swish, slosh, splirt… (Zeus stirs the sauce.)

Narrator 1:  Every stir that cook took made the hat-wearin’ rook look…  power caused him to shook…

Narrator 2:  Are you a poet now?  I don’t think shook is even a word.

Narrator 1:  It most certainly is!  The cook shook with might.  And, maybe. Maybe I will be the Poetic Pirate!

Narrator 2:  You might shook with…

Onomatopoeia:  Clank!  (Zeus drops the stirring spoon.)

Zeus:  Sauce, I am tired of stirring you round and round, round and round.  I want you to thicken, and I don’t think that I should have to slave over you to make that happen.

Narrator 2:  As if in answer to the person wearing the captain’s hat, a humungous bubble rose up from the surface of the brown goo.

Narrator 1:  (with gusto, like a professional actor)  Zeus grabbed a knife from the counter, and held it like a cutlass high above his head.

Narrator 2:  Don’t steal the show.  You’re only a narrator.

Zeus:  Insubordinate gelatinous mutineer!  You shall pay dearly for your rebellion.  I will have no rivalries on my ship!

Onomatopoeia:  POP! Splat.

Narrator 1:  (with a flat boring voice)  Zeus removed the captain’s hat.

Onomatopoeia:  Utter silence.

Zeus:  Oh no, what have I done?  Captain’s hat is covered in mutinous muck.

Onomatopoeia:  Creek, click.  (the door opens)

Swashbuckler:  Hey, what are you doing with the captain’s hat?  I have yours right here, all cleaned up and ready to go for you.

Zeus:  What?!  The captain gave this to me!  I did not steal it. You can go stick your nose in someone else’s business!

Narrator 2:  Now, the swashbuckler, who had returned with the chef hat that he just washed as a favor to both the captain who had asked him to, but also as a courtesy for his good friend the chef, could not help but laugh out loud.  Little did the chef realize, but he looked ridiculous with a pile of dishtowels still atop his head. As he yelled, the pile swayed to and fro like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Onomatopoeia:  Ha, ha, ha, chuckle, chuckle, chuckle

Narrator 1:  (incredulous)  A Dr. Seuss book?  Really? This story is so far removed from Dr. Seuss, that…

Narrator 2 :  (cutting off the other narrator)  Rather than experience the wrath of his friend, who was turning as red as a beet at this point, the swashbuckler backed out of the kitchen still clutching the chef hat.

Onomatopoeia:  Step, step, step

Swashbuckler:  I wonder what got into him.  Where should I leave Zeus’ hat?  I’ll just wear it until I find a place.

Narrator 1:  (back to a piraty voice)  Well, my mateys, this fine friend of a fellow forgot all about the look shook cook’s hat he took.

Narrator 2:  (to himself)  Oh brother. (to the audience)  Even when another sailor asked him…

Sailor:  What’s cookin’?

Narrator 1:  (piraty)  He be still forgetin’ he be dawning that puffy white hat!

Swashbuckler:  Nuttin’ much.

Sailor:  Tis that a new dish?

Swashbuckler:  Dish?

Sailor:  What we be havin’ for mess mate?

Swashbuckler:  What mess?  I cleaned this deck this morning!  It’s as shiny as your bald head!

Sailor:  (a little hurt)  Hey. I just be wonderin’ what’s the eats we be slavin’ aways fur.

Narrator 1:  (still piraty)  Look here. This sailor fella be thinkin’ that a regular old swashbuckler be the chef o’ the ship.  He be thinkin’ this ‘cause the swashbuckler be keepin’ that chef hat on top of his dare head.

Narrator 2:  Are you going to keep talking that way throughout the entire play?

Narrator 1:  (piraty)  It be startin’ to grow on me.  That there be an idiom, if ye not fir-mill-yaaarrrrrrJ

Swashbuckler:  I can’t take this anymore!  I’m outta here. (throws chef hat on the ground)

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Performed on “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, September 19th

Onomatopoeia:  Kirr whop!

Sailor:  I wonder if he realized he was wearing the chef’s hat.  I think…

Onomatopoeia:  Churn churn churn

Sailor:  I think I might be able to have a little fun with this.

Onomatopoeia:  Slosh, swish, swoosh,  ring, slosh, swish, swoosh, ring

Swashbuckler:  Hey chef, I’m starved.  What grub we got for supper?

Narrator 1:  (no longer piraty, but kind of confused)  Wait a minute. Is that the same swashbuckler from before…  like two minutes ago?

Narrator 2:  Yeah, that’s right.  We should probably infer that some time has lapsed.  You’re a narrator; why don’t you tell everyone?

Narrator 1:  (still regular voiced)  Could it be that the chef hat has some kind of magical power, so that it transforms the appearance of anyone wearing it?

Narrator 2:  I think you are over-thinking it.  These are pirates. They probably just see a chef hat and assume a chef is wearing it.

Narrator 1:  (a little hurt)  Oh, so pirates are less intelligent than other people, huh.

Narrator 2:  Not this again…  Look, this whole tale is about hats.  I think it is safe to say that there is something going on with the whole who wears a hat, and what hat it is matters business.  Let’s find out how the tale ends.

Narrator 1:  (piraty again)  I be hearin’ correctly?  Somebody mention themselves some grub?

Narrator 2:  Here we go…

Onomatopoeia:  Mmmmmmm

Sailor:  Grub.

Swashbuckler:  You ignorin’ me man?!  What grub we be eatin’?

Onomatopoeia:  Mmmmmmm

Sailor:  Grubs, man.

Swashbuckler:  I asked you what grub.  Why you be askin’ me what grub?  You is bein’ the cook ain’t ya? What you doin’ foolin’ me dis way?

Sailor:  We be eatin’ grub my matey!

Narrator 1:  (normal, and out of piraty character)  Is he saying “grub” like the animal, or grub, as in the slang term for food?

Narrator 2:  Narrators are supposed to supply information, not ask questions.  The sailor is playing a joke on the swashbuckler. The word grub can be used both ways, and he is implying that the swashbuckler will be eating actual insect larvae for lunch.

Onomatopoeia:  Splash!

Narrator 1:  Wow!  The swashbuckler did not seem to appreciate the joke.  He just dumped his whole bucket of dirty water on to the trickster sailor’s head.

Onomatopoeia:  Wham!!!   Bam!!! Slam!!!

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This was the crew that turned the story into a play. 2013

(conversation off stage)

Captain Iron Knee: All hands below deck!  Batten down the hatches.

Zeus: Where did this hale storm come from?

Swashbuckler:  Where is sailor?

Captain Iron Knee:  The sails will be ruined.

Swashbuckler:  No, I mean where is the sailor who I threw a dirty bucket of water on?

Onomatopoeia:  Thwack, thawack, thwack

Sailor:  Attack!  Attack! Someone is attacking the ship!  Man the nine-irons! Jib the sails, or whatever you do with sails.

Narrator 2:  As you may have guessed, the sailor was blind with the bucket on his head.  The dark, combined with the sound of huge hale hitting his bucket head, disconcerted him to the point that he began running around raising sail and preparing for battle.

Narrator 1:  Sailor unknowingly saved the entire ship!

Swashbuckler:  You raised the sails yourself?

Sailor:  I am a sailor.

Zeus:  You had the foresight and extreme intelligence to place a bucket on your head?

Sailor:  Well…

Captain Iron Knee:  You are the hero of the whole ship!  What a brilliant idea! How did you ever think of it?!

Zeus: Yeah how did you come up with that?

Sailor: Well you didn’t let me finish before.

Zeus: Well, then who did it.

Sailor: The Swashbuckler did.

Captain Iron Knee: What?

Zeus: Well then I guess we can congratulate both of them.

Captain Iron Knee: Yeah.

Narrator 1/Narrator 2: And, that’s exactly what happened.

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Piraty Personages;)