Saturday, October 31, 2009


...good sentences I read in Time magazine (Nov. 2).

Because, as he observes, "the difference between a smiley face and an actual smile is too large to calculate."
~Taken from "The Skimmer" reviewing a book about less emails. page 18

That's one of the lessons of Antony Beevor's glorious, horrifying D-Day...: the purpose of valor is usually to make up for somebody else's stupidity.
~Taken from a review on a the book D-DAy. page 72

Some listeners will want to pat the singer on the back-- hard, so he can cough up whatever it is that makes him sound like a tubercular hobo who's wandered into a karaoke bar at Yuletide.
~taken from a review of Bob Dylan's new Christmas album. page 75

He still owns that product [which he was paid to buy through the use of coupons], with the vague hope of befriending a black woman and inventing a time machine that goes back to 1977.

Ten minutes may not sound bad for $7 [from being overcharged when saving money on a 2 for 1 deal] , but it takes just two minutes of staring at sick old people under fluorescent lights to lose any desire to extend your life through fish-oil pills.
~both taken from Joel Stein's column on living cheaply. page 80

Do I

...look like this some days?

Wow! That is one tough looking bluebird of happiness.

Essays due Monday.

Friday, October 30, 2009


...on the 8th grade floor.

What a beautiful

and pirate-like,

and did I say funky, day.

Mr. T came up to visit, especially once he heard we had new 'girls' here.

The boys were also interested in the new 'girls'.

Mr. Devoe had his picture with the new girl, but Mr. Giroux refused....

and our Marine came to visit also, or is that Mr. Spock?

We had our baseball player,

our ballerina,

and our Dukes of Hazard girl.

It was quite a day.
But, in English, it was still a day of learning.
Now, that's what I call a good day!
(Remember to have your parents email me.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Zoos, courage,

...and "I think I can; I think I can; I think I can".
Brandon's paper is a terrific example of using the assignment to do the assignment. His example off of Helen Keller's quote? Her life! I also love his use of the Little Engine that Could: "I think I can." Brandon still has a ways to go on punctuation but I love his thinking. Good job!

Jeff wrote on courage. He has such wonderful detail and conviction in his writing. He put me in a job I don't really know anything about and made me see what courageous people they are. I like it!

The last three are on zoos. Tristin's is short but it works. He could make it even better by giving an example in each body paragraph. He states his ideas, but he doesn't show them with the use of examples. I wish he did; it would only make his essay better (and more detailed, which he is certainly ready for).

Miranda's is so full of facts and details! I love it!

Unfortunately, Miranda didn't do the 'ray of sunshine' to start and so she has, as she says, 10 reasons why zoos are good. Wow! But, for really convincing people, she would need to pick out the two best reasons and work at developing them. I bet she could.

Nicole's is almost picture perfect. She really consistently writes with few errors, and her writing is good!
Like Tristin, Nicole should think about adding in examples also. Stating is good but stating and then giving examples is even better.

Keep up the efforts, and please, really start to push yourselves on proofing for errors. We've got just too many punctuation errors, sentence errors and other errors. Teaching yourselves to read outloud really works. Try it (you'll like it)!

And so, to paraphrase, "I think you can; I think you can; I think you can" do some good writing!


...with an outage.

I had a great class 2nd, and we talked about common courtesy

(Note pictures of yesterday's floor. Common courtesy is wiping your feet before you come in.)

I am going to start a common courtesy board, seeing if we can make a difference. Thanks to second for helping me with that.

We then moved into Emily Dickinson's life where wonderful details were used to do their short answers. All that in the midst of chaos, or, the power going off.

Gosh, I love it when it all comes together.

From there? Some of the kids saw fire come out of a telephone pole while we were still in 1st period. Low and behold, by the middle of second we were in a power outage.

My newspaper girls went around and got some pictures of kids stuck in various rooms.

Sure hope you enjoyed your surprising day off.

And, be sure and discuss with your parents what they put down for an emergency go home drill. As 8th graders you are old enough to be in charge of that. Know what you are supposed to do.

See you tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


...courtesy. That was my final thought walking Benny tonight.

It ended up being a tough day. Second and fourth went great with Emily Dickinson. Mikayla P. did great connecting the idea of nobodies to the women of that time, and I think Dylan even was trying to understand the idea of women. By ninth, when I was walking around, I saw some great notes, but then the sharing kind of fell apart.

So, really, was it a rough day or just not as good as I had hoped. Maybe that. I see some good work, thinking and trying, but then when we go to discuss....well, it doesn't seem to work in the afternoon. I have some not trying, some concentrating on others and others just speaking out.

That's where my idea of common courtesy comes from. Do most of the problems stem from just not doing what used to be considered common courtesy?


looking at the teacher when she's talking.
doing what the teacher asks, like writing sentences.
not laughing when teaching is happening.
not talking out when discussion is going on.
picking up after one's self, papers, trash, and so on.
pushing one's chair in.
connecting that enhances learning not distracts.
not writing on the desks
leaving things alone that aren't yours.
coming in as neat and clean as you can.
helping others.
cutting others a little slack.
bringing what is required to class.

wiping one's muddy feet before coming in and tracking mud all over.
taking only so much at the salad bar so you don't spill out all over. Two dips are allowed.
picking up after yourself in the hallways.

The list could go on and on.

I like this class. Today was just another day of showing that. Some of you talk to me after class about what we've been talking about. Others look so interested when I'm trying to connect what is being done. An example? So many of you took in how our work with inference is going to help 'see the whole picture', and then we even diverted out 9th into different communication and how it affected wars and such. You know, if that interests you, ask me more. It's only going to help you be better thinkers. And, I love seeing interest, I do.

But, with that, then do me the common courtesy of trying and listening when I'm doing something I need to do. That's all it is: we give what we get.

I'll try to be interesting in my teaching and give you courtesy, and please, you do the same.

So, really, it wasn't a tough day; it was a day of learning with another one tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009


...and inference work, again.

About a month ago, we did a day of looking at graphs, charts, and cartoons from history and seeing what you knew by looking at them. It went well, but like first days of anything, just learning what you're to do is hard, and then adding in actually doing it is tough.

Not so today. Today we had work from the last half of American history, which means you haven't really studied it yet, and yet, you did a terrific job. It was a wonderful day of inferring.

In second, I heard Kyle explaining to Curtis and Tristin all about the cartoon on neutrality and 1939.

In fourth, I had Tyler explaining to Brandon about Truman and the branches of government.

In 8th, I had Christie, who went pale the first day thinking she had to do history in English, get right to work taking notes on what she could infer from the work. In a class where I had a few who immediately went to "I don't know what I'm doing!", Christie went right to work. Thank you!

In 9th, Reid went to town explaining about imports and exports. A number of students did all day and I was amazed at your knowledge of economics.

I also had Erin and Cameron and others take in the learning others could give today. Some didn't realize what Uncle Sam stands for-- the government of the USA; others learned about Johnny Q. Public (just giving a name to an idea, like Jane Doe and John Smith on detective shows) and that he stands for the citizens of America.

I was amazed at how well students took in the idea of imports and exports, goods coming in being bad and goods going out good. Students listened about women not having rights in 1848--just because if someone is writing about it means it's not happening...

And, finally, I was tickled pink, that after talking about the timeline we're developing for history for our 'What Do You Know' days, Mikayla wanted one to study. Again, the more general knowledge you have to pin the detailed knowledge to, the better off you'll be when you're actually taught this stuff. If you have ten dates in your head, it'll be easier to ask, where does this fall in the world. Thank you, Mikayla, for listening to me and going for it!

Isn't it cool you found out how much you could know about a topic, even when you thought you knew nothing????

It's called inference (listening or reading and then thinking how what you've got could go together), and it's one of the highest levels of reading comprehension. Wow!!

Pat yourselves on the back; you did a wonderful job today!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What do you know


Yesterday we began a yearlong process of having days where you get to show what you know. Below Keegan, Kyle and Peyton are putting on their stickers that show what they know.

As I said in one class yesterday, too often in education, we're pushing you to learn, learn, learn. And, yes, we have to do that. But, sometimes, we should be taking the time and enjoyment of seeing what you already know or giving you the chance to work on skills you still need.

Can you feel the concentration emanating from Kyle, Kyle, and Cody?

Life shouldn't be push, push, push. It should also be, "Wow, I know!!" Just as we should finish reading with sitting back and contemplating what the reading was for, so should we on learning. We should sit back and acknowledge what we know. It's good for the soul.

I love these days because they are so intense and quiet...not because I make you do something, but because you find it a treat to do what you want to do and not what some adult has you do. Good!

My 4th period class also had a nice break with Mrs. Farrell, who shared a book she'd found for her grandkids.

It was a Halloween pop-up book that had wonderful examples of onomatopoeia in it. I loved the skeleton the best, but each page was terrific.

Children books should never be given up. Their story lines, beauty or teachings, they are all good for all of us.

We also have our first students coming in to enjoy "The Wonder Years".

Brandon and Casey laughed out loud at some parts...and so did I since I stopped what I was doing to watch it with them. I loved that show when it came out, and guess what? It's still just as good.

A lot of what I do this year, The Wonder Years, bringing in Benny, letting you out of writing work, I'll do because I'm trying to show that if you do your work, and do it right, life is actually easier and more fun.

One of the best concepts to take into your adult life is doing well and early is soooooooooooooo far better than doing shoddy work and taking forever. Shouldn't we do our best and be able to enjoy?


On Monday we will have another day of chart work. Inference is one of the highest levels of thinking. If you can infer from the world around you, you will be in great shape as an adult. This is just another day to show you that you are smart; it just takes a bit of thinking and confidence that you can do.

And, you can. Each and everyone of you can!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The best

...first sets of book reports I've ever gotten!

I had so many people do a great job on explaining the book and then connecting it to their lives. Thank you!

Zach's is below. He does a good job with doing what I ask about content, good.

Like many, though, he needs to copy or paraphrase the assignment sentence so he's introducing the general topic, judging, and then he needs to have a transition in the second body paragraph and have the title in the conclusion. There are certain things I must have. Of course, that I can teach, but the ability to put enough detail in? That's far harder to get kids to do, so I am sooooooooooo pleased students are doing that!

Allee's is below. She does a terrific job with the whole assignment, but I also like how she is honest and explains how she feels when the judging happened to her.

I appreciate a person who can take what happens, think about it, not agree with it maybe but not be jaded by it either.

I've used Alissa's because it is another wonderful job, but she also uses parenthesises correctly, and I wanted to show that. Many of you tried using them when, really, you should have used commas. Parenthesises are used to add something that really isn't about the esssay, but that you want to toss in.

Finally, we have Peyton's intro and con. It's incredible, amazing, right on the mark, unbelievable.

Do you see how she came back to her banana idea in the conclusion? Wow!!

I am hoping to use a voicethread to talk about what you must have in book reports....I learned it at a course this past week, and I know I need to try it to cement it in my brain.

That's how learning works: we use it, or we lose it.

Here's hoping you use what you learn in writing so you don't lose it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Outsiders' reports are going so well! Thank you.

For the most part you have followed the format. Good. There is some excellent detail too.

I was specifically looking for title/author in the intro with copied sentence or your own beginning and then introducing BOTH body paragraphs.

In the body paragraphs I was looking for the title in the first body and a transition in the second. I really felt you had to address Johnny's killing and what that made him, but then the other facts could be developed as you chose, as long as you gave detail to what you wrote. In the second you had to tie the judging to your life. Many of you did a wonderful job there.

In the conclusion I am looking for the title, a summary statement and a 'push it forward' to end.

All in all? I am pleased! Thank you!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mother nature

....having fun.

My sister, who is, well older than even me, hates winter. I mean, she hates it. She starts getting depressed in August because she sees her garden starting to wane, and she sees winter, winter that is months away!

Gray and cold can do her in. Now, add in snow. Better yet, add in snow in October, October 16th to be exact. Are you getting the picture? Yes, she is one depressed lady over the weather.

Today she sends me a picture she took. It's of the snow, in the gray dawn, in October, with many more months of winter to come.

Have you looked at it?

Very carefully?

Do you see what Mother Nature sent my sister?

Yup, a heart.

Some might say that heart is just a trick of the picture capturing the snow. But, not me. I think it's Mother Nature trying to remind my sister that spring will come. She just needs to have heart...

and patience.


...3. They came back today. I think my man Curtis has figured out what a proper heading is, and my man Josh is going to give me margins. Good.

Zeke got his back and I heard him say: "I got another 90," like he was unhappy with his grade. I like that. It shows he wants more than to just get out of doing the next essay. That's wonderful!!

And that's why I don't care that you can have a million errors and yet get out of the next essay. Zeke has great content, and he sure has the format down. Look at it. It's a very good essay filled with terrific, historical content.

Now what Zeke has to do is hone his proofing skills. He will. I know he will, especially with the comment he made.

Hallie wrote a wonderful essay, from the heart so she comes through loud and wonderful in her essay, that shows terrific style.

Her content puts us in her life. She, too, will become a better proofer. We have all year.

Dylan's is much like Zeke's in that his style is based in facts. I am so impressed that so many of you have already found your writing style. Good. Use it. Find what you're good at and continue to use that style.

Josh's essay (next week, remember, he's going to give me a margin on both sides!!!!) puts me in his motocross racing. He, too, uses detail, facts, but it's based in his personal enjoyment of the racing. That's kind of a cross between Hallie's very personal writing style and Zeke and Dylan's factual style.

Here's another on more of a personal level.

The bottom line is, find your style and develop it with detail. When you do that, you will be a writer who is able to convey your thoughts and connect people to your ideas. Wow!!

The proofing will come when you want more than a 90. Each and every underlining will matter to you. As you learn what you did wrong, you'll learn to catch them in the following essays.

That's what it's all about: improving and finding your way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't give

...up. That's what Langston Hughes' poem was saying. And, today, not giving up, we had a much better day than yesterday. Sooooooooooooooo much better. Thank you!

Life is about trying, messing up sometimes, and going on and doing better. You guys did so much better today, I had to go congratulate Mr. Lott and Mrs. Christopher on how well they worked with you the last two years!

When I was down in the 6th grade wing, one of my reading kids was there and Emmilie said that we were working on adding detail from their reading. See? That's what we did today and that's what we'll do tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Learning takes time. Enjoy the process when you're able and live through it other times. There's always tomorrow!

See you .... tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mother to Son

...teaching needed some tweaking today. The kids who listen and do, did very well. The ones who aren't invested in learning yet? Well, that will take some doing.

One class saw today that I am not opposed to yelling. The old school is not necessarily the wrong school, as they say. If you can't do what I ask, you will see a side to me that is loud. Of course, as some kids were pointing out today, they saw that side last year (Kyle and Brandon) and yet now, all is fine. I have a very short memory. So, you blow it one day. I blow, try to teach a lesson, and we get on with life. The key is doing better.

I always try to do better and so should you. To help my 8th period class, they will have a seating chart now and partners in learning. For now, the rest won't. You want to be seen as young adults who can take care of yourselves? Then, be that. Don't, and I will have to treat you like children.

The one most important idea in my classroom is to not get in the way of others' learning. You want to be a dud, then sit there, but don't take away from others. That's only fair.

Another day tomorrow. Good. We get to try again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


...and what we've learned.

I noticed on Jason's last outline something that I haven't made clear: your conclusion to your paper should highlight and reiterate what your concluding sentences said in each of your body paragraphs.

The conclusion is just a chance to say again what you tried to show. We don't want to repeat but we do want to bring home the points you were making.

When you go to write your Outsiders' book report this week, make your points about how people judged Johnny and your real life situation (thank you Ms. Barhite!!), and then bring those two points home in your conclusion.

Did you also notice in our work today that the topic might be Johnny, but that there were two suptopics, how he was judged and really what he was?

I look forward to seeing your first book reports. Format will count, though. Be sure and have all that I gave you today: copying of the sentence (or more), title underlined and author and then both subtopics introduced in the intro; The first body paragraph needs the title and the second needs a transition to show you've moved from Johnny to you; finally, in the conclusion, summarize and push us forward so the reader of your paper too can connect to what you got out of the book.

It was great to have a break from school and learning, but you know what? It's great to be back. You're a terrific class to be working with.

Before The Outsiders

...comes examples from last week's essays.

I've put my general comment sheet up above to remind you of general things I'm concerned about. Until they show up on your gold paper, though, you don't have to worry about them dropping your grade.

Cali's is a wonderful example of style. Enjoy reading it!

I also want her to type it for the BOCES contest coming in the spring. When you see that comment on the top of your paper please do see me so we have the chance to get you into the contest too!
Zach's is another good example of a good essay.
I liked his conclusion.

I am impressed with Aaron's thinking in his. With thinking like this, the world will only get better and better.

Next we have an essay on the country. I like to see students trying different types of essays.
Please read some of these and get a handle on how some of your classmates are writing. I must say, though, sooooooooooooooooo many of you are doing sooooooooooooooooo well. It's going to be a great year.
Just do remember to try to proofread outloud and a while after you have finished your rough. You'll catch more errors that way. And, errors are our biggest problem right now. We have the whole year to improve.
Enjoy the process of becoming better writers!

Monday, October 12, 2009



While we were in NYC for the weekend, my sister and nephew and family took Benny.

He left Thursday after school with them, and he never looked back when he went up the steps with them.

Of course, why would he? He sat on the furniture,

watched them cook as he sat on the stool, had smells galore to sniff and other dogs to play with.

He had Shell, my niece,

loving him, and Missy and John to take him out and spoil him.

He had my sister who shared her computer chair with him, and a cat

to try to teach him the way of things.

He also had cows to watch, a new bed to sleep on and lots of attention. My wonderful family took him out, played ball with him and let him stand and sniff and listen to all the new around him.

I was worried he wouldn't want to come home to us!

But, Benny is back on our couch again. He will be in this week to see you all. Be sure and ask him how his four days went!

Thanks to Peggy, John, Shel and Missy for a great weekend. We sure appreciated it!