Friday, October 31, 2008

A man of my

...teaching style.

Today, on wacky Friday, October 31, in the afternoon-- which means students are beginning to collapse on us--Elder Mr. Giroux, in all the meaning of elder, was listening to a student who was unhappy with another.

Can you see the concern and care on young Mr. Giroux's face?

When the student was finished with his story of woe, Elder Mr. Giroux said that he would take care of it, and then said, and I quote, "You don't have to cry about it, though."

What words of wisdom. Words we could all benefit from.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Essay writing with best of

 and not here. So many to choose from.
I am so, so, so pleased with what I am seeing.
Only, note: if I write the same comment 3 times in a row, your grade will drop.
I mean it.
Especially if you haven't asked me about the comment.
No kidding.

Thanks to

...Ashley and Mr. Gambetta! Ashley came in today with a present for Benny, a Halloween bone! I can't tell you how wonderful that is. You are all so good to Benny. You take him for walks, watch over him and get him treats.
How we treat our animals tells us a lot about how we treat others. Thank you for being such great people.
You treat Benny great!

Mr. Gambetta, on the spur of the moment this morning when I invited him, came to our 4th period class today.
I invited him, our 11th grade American history teacher who has taught here at Groton for 45 years (!), because he is a teacher who is known for his lectures, or stories, as some people call them. I wanted some of you to have the opportunity to take our notetaking practice and use it. I have been working with you on a person's life; I wanted you to try it in a real-life situation from a real-life teacher who teaches by lecturing.
Mr. Gambitta's talk was on slave ships. But, if you ask a 4th period student, they will tell you it was on soooooooooooooooooooo much more.
It was on quotes and overall history and indians and the holocaust and the migration routes of sharks and the learning habits of animals and ship building and vocabulary....and yes, slave ships.
And, just as it was on so much more, my lesson on notetaking became so much more. From the notetaking (which many probably gave up because Mr. Gambitta is so interesting [yet, that is exactly when you need to take down key ideas, so you can go over them later and cement them in your head]) it became a lesson on, as Nate so astutely recognized, connecting.
Mr. Gambitta connects his ideas so well, that if you haven't learned what he is doing, you might just see his talks as stories. But, they're not; they are steps to learning so much more, even as you think you're learning about only one idea.
S0, when Mr. G left, I had 4th write down an After Reading Connection, you know, from the chart.
Then, I took it to the next level and connected this to our thesis work of the past two weeks. But, instead of me giving a thesis statement, they had to try to develop their own. They are down going to the cafeteria. Remember: this was our first try at making our own thesis to prove.
A thesis does not have to be on the idea that is being presented. It can be on whatever you got out of it, as long as you can develop your idea with facts from the presentation.
And so, it could have been on the quote, or migration of sharks or learning habits of animals or history or, yes, slave ships. Many might have made their way to slave ships....just because all that Mr. G gives, intertwines.
You might have started off with the quote, gone to the indians, slaves and the holocaust, three hundred years, and then back to the slaves as an indepth example. That's thesis building.
Our thanks go to Ashley, Mr. G and all who were so enthralled today. My only regret is that this happened for only one of my classes.
Isn't it wonderful learning? Yes!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is

... what happens when dedicated teachers meet up with knowledgable taxpayers and an understanding administration.

Mr. Giroux makes the blog twice in one morning!!
Sheldon is typing his book report on the class computer (in a really comfy chair) while Mr. Giroux is on the laptop the school gave him because he is one of 12 teachers working with learning the new computer technology.

It is teachers like Mr. Giroux (Mr. Filzen is another who could today, just as easily, be on the blog twice for help with lockers and computers -- unlike me, who is scared to death to go near middle school lockers!!) who go the extra distance with students to get them to perform and become the students they will need to be.
Aren't we lucky to be involved in a school and community where education matters?

Don't we all

...have issues?

Larry isn't the only one who has locker issues, but he might be the only one with a wonderful mentor trying to help him keep it organized.

Should we have a vote?

Will Mr. Giroux be able to help Larry with his issue of his locker?


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Connecting Emily Dickinson's poem went great today, probably the best discussion day I have ever had with it. Wow!!! Thank you.

In 2nd, Kyle saw 2 people in an alleyway with people walking by. He took her poem and put it into our lives about homeless people. We went through the images, the questions, the terms connections to our lives and the theme. (A special thank you to Brandon. I suggested a pen with his penmanship and he has brought one every day since. Thanks!! That's what I call a student willing to listen and try.)

In 4th we took the discussion one notch further. We hypothesized about Dickinson's life through the poem, what we know about the history of that time and what we could put together. Nate then went right to the heart of the poem and said it is exactly what middle school at its worst can be: the populars and the nobodies. Wow!!!

So many in that class, and all classes, spoke up and added their images, questions and thoughts to put it all together. For any who think that they can't 'do' poetry, I have faith you can. Start with the image that comes to mind, ask questions that you hear in your head--wonderful questions of why--add in connections, and then think through what knowledge you've already got about life.

5th had Olivia who could do the theme right off from her work and thinking, but Joey and John were right there with their thoughts. So impressive, so very, very impressive. And, the participation: Xavoir is right there adding in; Greg can be caught doing good thinking, and Carmen, Alex and Elizabeth are working quietly. It's terrific. Mrs. Shurtleff and I are often caught saying how happy we are with the thinking and learning happening. (A huge thank you to Mrs. Shurtleff, too, who helps any and all to be the best learners they can be. We have worked together long enough that we compliment eachother easily, or maybe she makes it look easy!!)

Then in 8th, which has some kids who are still working on being students more than goof balls (we have a few in 5th too), we had more great images and thinking. Kayla, my quiet Kayla has such a terrific mind; I have to remember to ask what she's thinking. Sam had a mirror image that was terrific and Sergey had the red carpet one. Jake and Jenna had a great talk about rhetorical, as in rhetorical question and could this be a rhetorical poem? Wow!! What connecting.

In 9th, Kylene came up with the image of the somebody not being happy with all the attention of the people, a new way for me to see it, and certainly there are celebrities who hate the attention. Others in the class, Jenna, Sam, Bethany, Sam are willing to get involved, all really were participating. I was proud that Billie shared her image.

So, did I get through all five steps in each class? Images, questions, terms, connections, and theme? Maybe not, but do I feel like you all got more out of today than usual? You bet.

And, most knew that we look to the last two poets to see how we do this activity. We're beginning to look to the past to make the present easier. Wow.

Now, today would definitely be called a day of learning.

Ah, to be

...young again and not know of all the pitfalls of the book report assignments.
Yesterday was a good but tough day for me. We went over synthesis again, through the blog I wrote and then discussed again what thinking after reading should look like. I was really pleased with some answers and Donny's, at first, threw me for a loop before realizing that it should be a teaching moment rather than a frustrated one.

If your first thought for the After Reading comment isn't really a comment that shows you learned anything from the passage, go to a different prompt. Donny did "My first thought was..." and he finished it with 'I couldn't read it.' Well, he couldn't read Nick's but he could read what I wrote, and so Donny could have summarized my writing....or told his favorite part or what the most important part was to him. See how you can do, really do, something with what you read?

Then when going over the book reports, I tried to show how you want to go back and pull from The Outsiders' one because we should be using past experience to make today's work easier. That was tough since you're still learning to do that.

Then, the stressing of doing the first body paragraph and making sure you understand that you must use characters's names to tie it to the book was important to me.

From there I wanted to make sure you understood that it was probably going to be a trait that you would write about. In the past having kids say that they want slavery to end...well, that drives me nuts. We take true ideas we can incorporate into our lives. That's what can happen from reading a good book.

So, pick the slavery/Civil War book that you read and go for it! Outlines due Thursday. Also, remember to use the grading sheet that I used on The Outsiders to make this month's better.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


...but necessary. For my niece.

My niece is going to paint a landscape for my living room. The above blank space is where it's going, next to the tv.

I need to be able to show her the colors of the livingroom; hence the couch (Hi Benny), the chair and the rug.

When it's finished, I'll put it on so all can admire.

Tom cat

...scrunches again!

I'm really supposed to be cleaning. (Can you see the leaves in the background?) Who wants to, though, so I'm blogging instead. Do you see how small that basket is but how deep?

I wonder why he does that?

Any ideas from the Animal Planet watchers?

Friday, October 24, 2008


...effectively is actually a good way to get free time.

A lot of students don't study. But, if they would just learn to study hard up front and study correctly? A lot less time would be needed to learn.

Is that possible? What do you think?

Today I tried to show that. The few kids, from Sam second period to a few ninth, who got a 100 on the first try had the rest of the period to do what they wanted.

Others found out that just a few minutes writing out definitions and concentrating on them led to a 100. Some, who have never put much effort into studying, took the whole period and still need to do more (if they want). It does take the effort of concentrating with the eye, hand, mouth, ears and mind. But, when you see how powerful that is, you'll be able to easily be a student of learning.

Yes, I want you to know your poetry terms. We'll do the same with the literature terms. But, today I also wanted to show you that you can study. And, the more you use this technique, the easier it will become to do. What you're doing is training your brain to concentrate. So often in our society today, we only give a little, little bit of our concentration to anything but our most cherished hobbies. Concentration, total concentration, is an incredible thing.

I loved the students who said 'sweet' or 'cool' or 'yessss' when they made the 100. I liked the students who, with just a few minutes left, took the test again so they could get a 100. Zach pushed himself, Dustin did, John did, Carmen did, Mitchell did. It's really a great feeling to see students want to do well and then watch them when they find that they can. Thanks for all who cared and worked. You made my day of work into a fun day of watching students perform.

On Tuesday you worked on the same technique with the multiplication facts to 12. The 8th grade team has decided to set up a program that, whenever you have time in a class, want to study and then take a facts-based page and get a 100, we'll record it.

At some point, an incentive program will be set up. Lunch made by the teachers or something like that, or, what would you like??? Maybe a free day of fun in June? Let us know!!

Freebie 100's aren't the way we want it to go. We want to give you facts and practice at studying so that doing homework is actually not a tough proposition at all. This is supposed to be a way to make learning better and easier, not a way to get you out of learning.

Look at the poster outside my room. We've got a bunch of facts-based sheets ready. Study the facts and when you're ready to get a 100, take one. Just, they need to be done in a different class than the one it's from. We want you to realize that all classes matter to us, not just ours. And, of course, you can do this in SHs or detention.

Essay due on Monday, and have your sentences ready and your book finished: I'm assigning your book report. Then Emily Dickinson, poetry, notetaking, and synthesizing work. Outline and reading comp due on Thursday. The spelling/vocab quiz on Friday will bring us to another week gone by. Wow!

First, though, have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


...on Ralph Waldo Emerson and his poem, "Fable".

First, my thanks go to Mr. Pat and my second period class. They worked hard and did a fine job without me. But, in hearing some read, I realized we were still missing the point of synthesis.

Think of our word synthetic this week, or think of photosynthesis. Now add in synthesis. What do they all have in common? They are all about making. I wanted you to make something that shows Ralph Waldo Emerson was a philosopher.

Synthesis is making something new from other facts. It's not regurgitating the facts, but using the facts to then make something new. When there are two sources of ideas, both are used to make the point.
Nick did a good job picking and choosing the facts to then develop the idea of Emerson being a philosopher. That's another part to it: using only the facts that pertain to your topic. Pull those and then figure out how you can organize your ideas so that they are systematically used to build your point.

Check on the outside board. Where is your paragraph? Are you in the 'got it' section or in the middle or in the 'regurgitating' section? Wherever you are, work to do better. Start by reading some that were good examples of synthesis.

Life isn't about where you started; it's about where you end up. We have two more to do. I'll give you a thesis. Think how you can make that thesis by using the facts you were given. At some point, a thesis won't be given and you'll have to think of one. But, not now; that's the next step. One step at a time!

My first

...essays to grade! They were a treat. 8th period probably wins (if it were a contest) the best of class award, but so many of you did so well. I can only put on so many a week, but I promise to spread the accolades around. Look for others next week!

Some comments:
Yes, you get bonus points for using comma rules, for using everyday images, for using poetry terms to make your writing better or for better and natural sounding vocab. That's how some people managed to get a 105.

The 100 means it's good and better than expected. An 84 is average with average errors. A 70 says thanks for doing but, truly, not passing work. In pencil? 55. Not done? 55.

Please, be sure my comments on the comment sheet make sense to you. Otherwise, today was a reading day and you should learn to ask me then, or ask inbetween classes or ask in the mornings. The comment sheet must come in with essays, and after I have to write the same comment a few times, your grade will drop, no matter what the comment is. The comments are my teachings and I expect them to be worked on. Thanks.

Overall, I saw us in a great spot for so early in the year. Wonderful! Kudos to you and your previous teachers for doing such good work. Keep it up!