#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

perimeter of 5 spaces
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”

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;)

To Coddiwomple is Classy

Education is an experience; This is our purpose.

The vision is coming into focus, while it is getting hazier and more illusive.

21st century teaching should less resemble the space race of the 1960’s than take on the attitude of video game designers from the 80’s & 90’s. The space race was meant to show up Russia. Who could touch the moon and return to Earth first? Whomever could cover the distance of the playground, tag the wall, and return to the starting point first, wins. Wins what? Wins the race. For what? Why?

Granted, we learned lots of things through the process of racing to get to the moon. Sometimes it is necessary to have goals. Shooting for the stars will get you off the ground… sometimes. But, what if your goal was to find out what else was out there, other than stars and what we already know? What if your goal was just to explore, in general? There is the whole funding issue.

A friend of mine (Thank you Kate Lindquist@heARTISTatWORK 9h9 hours ago) introduced an incredible vocabulary word to me just yesterday. I was of course flattered that she thought of me, especially in connection with such an interesting locution. A Google search, blog read, and some introspection lead to some seriously fun philosophy gymnastics.

Screen Shot 2019-04-04 at 4.39.15 AMThe word was coddiwomple. It means to “travel with purpose to an as-of-yet unknown destination”. If you were to boil Western Civilization down to just a handful of concepts, one of the most poignant, I believe, would be “goals”. We are obsessed with them. There have been countless coaches and seminars selling the necessity of setting good ones. A contemporary wave of self-help is focused on washing away the stress of not meeting them; failure.

A recently published blog by  Mar 28 about hiking presented a paradigm-shift away from being goal-oriented. It provided the etymology of the word saunter; coming from the word saint. A portion of text from John Muir explains the origin coming from people pilgrimaging to the Holy Land. Now, these travelers had destination goals, but clearly they understood the importance of the process as an experience. Touching down in the center of a holy place in a helicopter so that you can check it off of a list of todos, hardly seems like the end of a pilgrimage. And yet, this is exactly what some educators are teaching their students to do.

 

“Your mission is to figure out a way to get the robot to deliver something to the cup,” is not an awful way to get kids thinking, tinkering, toying, and trying. What if you said, “Others have gotten this robot to place this ball inside of this cup. What can you have it do?” Now the student will be coddiwomple-ing.

This term takes the goal and shifts it forward. So many times we keep pushing ahead. We have reached the moon. What’s next? Explorers kept pushing on until every square foot of planet Earth had been touched by human toes. I propose playing on the plains, rather than hurrying over hills.

As I prepared to deliver the definition of coddiwomple I was tempted to write some of my own words: I came up with this fun prose, “Meander with meaning.” I erased it, though, because it is inaccurate. To coddiwomple does not mean mess around. There definitely is a purpose to the play. We should teach students to love the wrestling of ideas in addition to showing them how to pin down a problem.

Sources:

The Adventure Diary. (2016, November 4). Why You Should Coddiwomple Your Way Through Life…. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://adventurediary.co/coddiwomple-definition/

Mountain Buddha. (2019, March 28). The Simple Joy of Walking in the Woods. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://journeyofathousandmiles.blog/2019/03/28/the-simple-joy-of-walking-in-the-woods/

Open-Ended Questions Are Classy

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ePals is a great way to meet teachers from around the world

I am extremely excited to announce that I have connected with a teacher from another country whose students will be collaborating with mine on a project or two and potentially pen palling each other. I found this class and teacher through the use of ePals. The country that my new colleague is from is very far from mine in both distance and culture. I thought that it would be fun to play the game 20 questions between the two classes to guess where each is located. My new pen pal has never heard of this classic American game. In thinking about how to communicate the rules and strategy of the simple game to my foreign friend, I came up with a use for playing it with my WIN class.

Research Questions

Friday’s WIN class found me teaching research questions. My students are progressing in their “Who Would WIN?” projects. We have decided on animals, checked books out of the library, and are getting ready to learn about our topics. What should we learn, though? And, how do we find the information? We search for it using research questions.

These are open-ended questions that begin with words and phrases like…

When… ?

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Students are finding books about their animals

What type or kind… ?

How… ?

Where… ?

Why… ?

Why are these open-ended questions better than yes/no questions?

I decided to play 20 Questions to show the students the limitations of yes/no ?s.

Rules/Strategies:

You get 20 questions.

Each question must be a yes/no question. It can only receive a yes/no answer. If you accidentally ask an open-ended question, it will still be answered with a “Yes” or a “No”. For instance, someone may ask, “What color is it?” That person would get the reply, “No,” which obviously does not make any sense and is not helpful. Do not waste your questions.

One question per person. And, since we have more than 20 kids in the class, not everyone will get to ask one. Sorry, maybe next time. But, definitely no one will get to ask more than one. If you do get a chance to ask a question, make sure it is a good one. You must remember all of the answers of previous questions, so that you do not repeat any of those and waste your turn and one of the group’s precious questions!

Also, you want to pay close attention to answers, so that you can build on information that’s already been learned.

You want your question to continue trains of thought that seem to be leading down information paths that could end up revealing something that would give away what the answer is. For example, perhaps someone asked if the thing being guessed is alive. If the answer was no, it wouldn’t make any sense to ask a question about something living! You would want to find out where this inanimate thing is located or what it is used for. In this way, your questions will be working together. You must think of yourselves as a team.

When it comes time to guess what the thing is, that counts as one of your questions. You may make this inquiry at any time during the game, but keep in mind that you would be using up one of the 20 questions. It would be wasteful to ask, “Is it Superman?” when you don’t have any information suggesting that it could be. Narrow down the options with your questions.

Now that you understand the game, let’s play. I’m thinking of an animal. It is a wild animal that is not featured in any of the “Who Would Win” books by Jerry Pallota. No one in the class has chosen to research this animal. What is it?

Ways to narrow the field of information include focusing on the following:

Size–Is it smaller than this chair? Yes. Is it smaller than my hand? No. Now you know that it is somewhere between a hand and chair. Don’t guess any more size questions. Focus on another feature.

Habitat–Does it live in the water? Sometimes. (It is at the discretion of the interviewee to answer the questions however he/she thinks best. There may be times when the question, even though it be an appropriate yes/no question cannot be answered with only one of those two answers, satisfactorily. My animal is an amphibian. I didn’t want to kill all chance of my guessers for figuring it out. Also, the person being questioned may provide hints if it seems like the answer is too hard. You may want to steer the guessers in the right direction. Remember, it is just a game.)

Habits–Is it a carnivore? Sort of. So, does it eat meat and plants? Yes. Okay, does it eat bugs? Yes, it loves bugs. (Notice, I am giving them a hint, here.)

Location–Does it exist here in our town? Yes.

Looks–Is it furry? No. Is it scaly? No. Is it a hot color? No. Does it have long legs? Yes, most definitely, for its size, its legs are enormous!

Me: You have many clues as to what it is, are you ready to guess what it is? No. We want to narrow it down a little more.

The students continued to ask more and more detailed questions until they were stumped. They had begun discussing with each other the fact that the animal had to be a frog, but those were usually smaller than a hand. “Is it a frog that is bigger than a hand?”

“Do you want to use one of your questions to ask that?” (They only had a couple left, and I wanted them to be successful.)

“No.” More classroom discussion.

“What do you know about frogs? Are there any that are larger than a hand?”

As if no one had thought of that, surprise lit up faces throughout the room. Finally, someone blurted out, “Is it a bullfrog?”

“Yes.”amphibian-aquatic-animal-close-416206

The Power of Open-Ended Questions

I then prompted more classroom discussion, “What question or questions would have gotten you to the answer faster, if you were not limited to yes/no options?”

Students shared with their turn/talk partners.

After listening to a few ideas, we concluded that the fastest was “What animal are you thinking about?” We also discussed better ways to dig up information about your animal. What does it eat? How does it eat that? Where does it get its food? When does it eat? How often does it eat? Before students’ minds exploded, I had them type some sample research questions in the Notes App on their iPads.atlas-close-up-dark-592753

What Country Are You From?

While that would be much easier a question to ask and get answered, my favorite part of teaching is making things difficult and challenging for my students. So, we will play 20 questions with our pen pals. Hopefully we will learn more than just the name of their country. That’s the idea, anyway.

Have you had interesting experiences playing 20 Questions? Oh no! That was a lame yes/no question;(

What interesting experiences have you had playing 20 Questions? Explain.

When have you played the game? I used to play with my sister on long car rides when we were growing up. It helped to pass the time.

What was the best answer or question that you remember someone using?

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Research Questions send you on a QUEST.

Must Mention

I always point out the root word in “Research” and discuss that this term means “searching deeper.” It is like you didn’t find all of the information, so you “Re-Search”.

An extremely creative and bright student pointed out a root word in the word “Question”. Research is like going on a “Quest”. I was blown away. This is the classiest group of kids, I tell ya!

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Cognomens Are Classy

“Excuse me.”

I like to listen to books while I work. I was wearing earbuds when this person was speaking to me, and couldn’t hear what she was saying.

“Excuse me.”

I thought I heard something, so I turned to look. The woman who was housesitting was talking to me. She had been saying, “Excuse me.”

“How long are you staying?” she asked me. “I’m not rushing you… I just wanted an idea.”

We were the only two people in the house, and she was looking right at me. There was no question who she was talking to. It was me. But, there was something missing. What was it? I couldn’t place my finger on it, but there was a feeling.

She hadn’t used my name.

A Confession

I have a confession to make. I am not good at remembering names. I wish I was. I have worked on it. When I was in highschool, I actually read a book about how to remember names. I still remember most of its points, but I can’t remember who wrote it. Too often, I will come across someone whom I had already met, and their name completely escapes me. So, there it is: My concession of unclassy behavior prior to proposing you do what eludes me.

Back to the Tale

The encounter with the housesitter happened yesterday. This was probably the thirtieth time I had met her. Earlier in the day, I was surprised to find I already had her phone number saved. At that time I learned the name that she normally goes by. I programmed that into my phone, as well.

The feeling materialized into a thought: This woman either didn’t know my name or chose not to use it. Why would someone decide another person’s name was not worth saying? In the past, I have witnessed people speak to hired help differently. More than the words they used, it was the way they said them. They spoke down to the person whom they believed was beneath them. Sometimes the way they do this is through the words they do NOT use. I have experienced people who think that their status elevates them so high above me that they try not to talk to me, as if speaking with a worker will somehow drag them down. Now, I bet that this lady did not feel this way. But, by not using my name, it felt like I was less human; a less person than she.

Earlier that Week

Contrast this feeling with a story from earlier in the week. I was picking up my daughter from daycare, when another parent told her child to, “Stand to the side, and let Mr. Weimann through.” At first, I was surprised that she knew who I was. And then, I thought it classy that she used my cognomen. It made me feel special; important.

A person’s name is precious to him (Schultz, 2017). Dale Carnegie famously suggested a person’s name is the sweetest sound to him. The very first word that anyone types on a keyboard is his name. The first thing we learn to write is our name. It is our label. It’s who we are. There is an art to using other people’s names in conversation. It attracts the listener’s attention (Russell, 2014).

Luke Davis (2017) points out plot lines containing a search for characters’ names in “The Power of Using Someone’s Name”. A name in fantasy stories is sometimes magical. When the miller’s daughter learns Rumplestiltskin’s name, she saves her first born’s fate. Davis suggests that people give permission when they offer their name. They are communicating how you may address them. I remember a few years ago, an adult visited the classroom. He wore a nametag that showed both his first and last name. A kid read it and pronounced the adult’s first name. This adult could have handled this better. He said, “It is Mr. __ to you” to the student. He hadn’t given that student permission to use his first name.

Classics

I love classics. Some have been rewritten, made into movies, talked about so often that reading the original work is like looking at a primary source. There are times I feel like an archaeologist dusting off the first few words a master wordsmith penned. This is the feeling every fall when I get out “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.  

29bd75fffbd860f9116b782fee7b4f5fWith sentences longer than the paragraphs my third graders write, this text presents descriptive writing that transforms the 21st century classroom into a one-room schoolhouse in a comfortably lazy, quiet, rural town. Incidentally, Sleepy Hollow is an actual town. If you cross the Tappan Zee Bridge, a word Irving includes in his text, you will see signs for it.

Remember my mentioning that I listen to texts? I have heard “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” on audio several times. When you listen to the story, you don’t have the ability to look up the words that you don’t know. You just use context clues or allow the meaning to escape, and move on with the plot. The robust vocabulary is part of the allure of the classic. The enchantment of Irving’s learned lexicon is lost, however, when I read the text to/with my third graders. Rather than bump down a bubbling brook, we get caught with confusion at every turn.

As it turns out, I have never gotten all the way through the classic with my students. I begin reading it close to the start of the year, looking toward Halloween. Everyone has heard the story. Many students tell me they have seen “the” movie. (There are several.) None have ever heard a sentence of the original classic. Even though it takes weeks to get through the first chapter, I find it fun and beneficial for students to experience. We eventually peruse the rewrites and end up comparing/contrasting them with what we have witnessed of the original.

How Does Sleepy Hollow Fit?

What on earth does “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” have to do with the story that began this blog? When we are first introduced to the main character of Irving’s tale, there is a sentence that I like to present to my students as a riddle: “The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person.” In addition to the vocabulary word, cognomen, the double-negative throws 8 & 9 year olds for a loop. We had already learned Ichabod Crane’s name, so we could use context clues to figure out that cognomen meant last or surname. The double-negative is harder to explain.

Cognomen

Cognomen is one of the vocabulary words that my brain glossed over when listening to the book on audio. Because it didn’t affect the plot of the story, I didn’t worry myself about it. When reading the text with students, however, it became a curiosity. We looked it up in a collegiate dictionary. (Our elementary dictionaries couldn’t handle it. This makes third graders feel awesome!) In addition to surname, cognomen also means alias or nickname. So, Irving could be saying that he is adorning this character with this name because he wants you to picture him with a beak of a nose. Ichabod’s creator/father, the man bestowing him a surname, Washington Irving, is making this surname a nickname, a cognomen. Of course, I don’t get into all of this with my third graders. We are simply happy to learn the term, surname.

Cognomens Are Classy

Nowadays, we are not reading about Sleepy Hollow. We are looking at manners from a book about being polite. This happens everyday after recess and before math. Last week, 2bookone of our lessons was to use Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. along with the last name (cognomen) when speaking with adults, or find out how the adult would like to be addressed.

As always, we had plenty of discussion, full of stories. I told the students about a neighbor, when I was a kid. He was elderly, and his family did not live close. He loved company, and we would visit him regularly. Rather than calling him Mr. Vinton, he insisted we say “Grampa Vinton”. He turned out to be one of my best friends, growing up. Even though I visited him nearly everyday and we shot rubber bands at each other in his breezeway, I always called him Grampa Vinton. Placing the respectful title before the cognomen helped me remember this was not another kid.

When I was growing up, I had friends who referred to adults as ma’am and sir. This seemed respectful, but never felt quite right to me. Looking back, I now know why. Sir and ma’am denotes mastery. The kid was suggesting servitude. This is not the same as respect.

Mr. Smith

In my classroom I use kids’ last names all of the time. I do this because it is weird and to help me learn/remember their last names, but I have noticed an interesting byproduct: Kids love it. You should see them light up when I call them Mr. Smith. Their faces look like they just won the lottery. Being called the same thing as your mom or dad is winning a lottery of respect. I place the kid on the same title plane as myself. Why don’t they refer to me as Matt? That would be unheard of, but why? By using their last name, I elevate them to the same status.

When the lady refused to use my cognomen or even my first name, yesterday, I was left with a feeling opposite my students’ when I use their last name.

Black History Month: Race

I have one more disclaimer: The text that I was listening to when the housesitter began talking to me was “The Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen. I’m sure you guessed it from the title, but this is one of those truly eye-opening books. I was just listening to Chapter 5, “Gone With the Wind: The Invisibility of Racism in American History Textbooks,” when I heard, “Excuse me.”IMG_8396

Loewen’s text taught me that there are subtle ways that opinions about race are woven throughout most history textbooks. The concepts are thin, and the weave is tight. You don’t even notice it, but there is a thread of attitude here, and a fragment of thought there. Many times, it is what the textbooks do NOT include. They never tell about the laws that demanded black people not look white people in the eye. There were many laws like this that trained race relation deterioration during “equalization” after emancipation that I had never heard. 

I am not about to march into my third grade classroom and dump all of this information onto my students. It has, however, caused me to think about omission as a bad thing. Although it might feel awkward to bring up race, NOT doing so could be damaging. Perhaps, it is like addressing someone without using his name.  

Sources

Davis, L. (2017, August 10). The Power of Using Someone’s Name. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-power-of-using-someones-name-ldvs/
Irving, Washington, 1783-1859. (1963). Rip Van Winkle, and The legend of Sleepy Hollow. New York :Macmillan,
Loewen, James W. (1996). Lies my teacher told me : everything your American history textbook got wrong. New York :Simon & Schuster,
Schulz, J. (2017, January 12). Using a person’s name in conversation. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/using_a_persons_name_in_conversation

To Evaluate is Classy

Kira – Kira” by Cynthia Kadohata

The title of this Newbery Award winner intrigued me. I read it in October of 2018. I havescreen shot 2019-01-10 at 7.50.39 pm struggled to blog about it. What angle do I want to use? How can I talk about this novel’s impact on me without giving too much of its plot away? I loved it, and I hated it; like something so bad that it’s good. And, I don’t mean poor quality–It won a Newbery Award!

Right after the new year, I was scrolling through Twitter, and I came across a tweet from the American Library Association that got me thinking. I replied to the idea, but haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I haven’t stopped thinking about it because I disagreed with it. The tweet suggested getting rid of books that don’t bring you joy. My reply communicated my dissent. I have loads of books that are only sad and some that are downright scary, quite the opposite of “joyous”.

It didn’t take long for someone to rebut my reply. Don’t think of joy as “happiness” the person suggested. After a few more back and forths, I began to understand it to mean “emotion”. As in, if a book does not “do something for you emotionally” (bring joy), toss it. This was still difficult for me to swallow, for I adore books. I love them the way I love students. Would I “toss” a student?! Of course not!! You can learn something from every single book and, in one way or another, help every single student.

I continued to wrestle with this concept for a while. I was trying to decide whether I agreed with this definition of joy, and whether it was a good enough reason to get rid of any books. One idea I had was that some books can actually be dangerous. I own books that I not only disagree with philosophically, but that have been shown to contain falsehoods. These books are actually hurting the public who read and believe them. Why would I own or keep them? (My wife is constantly trying to purge our library of them.) They serve as reminders and warnings. As the saying goes, keep friends close, but enemies closer.

Another thought I had concerned the books that I have read that didn’t do anything for me. They ended up being time-vacuums. I did not gain a thing by reading them. Could I get rid of those? Well, I did actually learn something through reading them: That they were pointless and a waste. This is a very important lesson. They could be kept to simply remind me of that danger.

I am aware that this could come off as a defense for keeping every single book, but what I am aiming to show is the process of “evaluation”. In this case, it looks more like “justification”, but simply thinking about each text from my library with the question, “Can I part with this one?” instigated a process that caught my attention. Evaluating is a higher-level metacognitive skill that is very valuable; And therefore extremely classy.

Each one of my books was evaluated on several different criteria. Did it evoke emotion? Did I learn a lesson from it? Was my life or world-view changed as a result of reading it? Would I recommend this text to a friend, and why?blooms-taxonomy-650x366

Eventually, I came to “Kira-Kira”, the book that I have wanted to blog about, but couldn’t quite bring myself to sharing why I liked it… or warn people of its harm. Of course, it elicited emotion! There were a few things in the book that could be potentially dangerous; concepts that immature minds may not be ready for. Obviously, I wasn’t going to part with it… But, wait a minute. What was I doing? I have mulled over this one book, that was probably my least favorite so far, in the way of bringing me the traditional definition of joy, more than any other! Through my “evaluation” of the text I am getting even more out of it.

The tweet that I originally disagreed with also caused me to evaluate. I had to look at the word joy from many perspectives. It drove me to look at a thesaurus, for crying out loud. I didn’t like the tweet. But, in the end, it was one of the most powerful, because it caused me to think the deepest. And, finally, I find myself doing the only metacognitive act higher and classier than evaluation: creation.

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Kira – Kira” by Cynthia Kadohata: Loved it/Hated it (healthy kind)

How are you using evaluation in everyday lessons? What do you have your students evaluate?

Sources:

American Library Association. (2019, January 4). Retrieved January 10, 2019, from https://twitter.com/ALALibrary/status/1081299680535998464 %5BThis is a link to the original tweet that sparked the thought for this blog.]

Armstrong, P. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved January 10, 2019, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/