Archive for December, 2007

Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy

December 7th, 2007

I’m a total Star Wars fan, so of course I’m biased. But I have a pedestal set up with the book on top and it is one of the most popular attractions before school as well as at lunch.

Return of the Jedi

  1. Lots of detail! Here’s a video to get across just how much there is, and I didn’t even open all of the flaps. There are flaps upon flaps!
  2. [display_podcast]

  3. Easy to read and organized by categories.

Revenge of the Sith

  1. It’s gonna get man-handled. C-3PO is already showing signs of back pain.
  2. No, students, there is no AR test for the pop-up book as of 12/7/07.

Final thoughts: It’s great to put on a display with other sci-fi books because it will get frequented.

Book Sale

December 5th, 2007

Phoenix Book Company is having a $3 paperback sale. It is very relaxed and there are actually good titles, instead of other peoples’ sales where it’s their book fair extras.

Quick Tip: Erasing Dry Erase

December 4th, 2007

As I came back from the cafeteria with my orange chicken, noodles, and strawberry milk, I noticed that my entryway calendar needed updating. I decided to try a trick that a new teacher had taught me.

If dry erase marker is caked on, don’t bust out the film-destroying water yet. Color over what is caked on and then mysteriously wipe away the writing. (If you don’t do it mysteriously, it drastically reduces your success rate.)

Maybe you’ve done this before, but with years of teaching experience under my belt, I still hadn’t heard of this.

This Week’s Griggs Greats – for 7th grade

December 3rd, 2007

With all of the podcasting and iMovie DVD burning, it was nice to do a booktalk today.

I was stressed a little, since reading time was a little crunched. (But the podcasts were awesome! I was walking around with the school’s iMac showing different people – “Now that’s a podcast!”)

So, for all of the crunched librarians out there, here is a list of Griggs Greats guaranteed to add a couple more patrons to your hold list. (At least that’s what happened today.)

  1. The Contender by Robert Lipsyte
  2. Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen
  3. All-American Girl by Meg Cabot
  4. Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper
  5. Atherton by Patrick Carman
  6. Star Wars: Shadow Academy by Kevin J. Anderson
  7. Cover-Up by John Feinstein
  8. Lion Boy by Zizou Corder
  9. The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick (read it before it’s banned)
  10. Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick

Jon Scieszka is my new best friend

December 3rd, 2007

Or at least he would be if we ever met. Jon Scieszka, author of Stinky Cheese Man (and some other books, I guess) has a site called It’s been out for a while, but I just stumbled upon it.

There he gives a search engine to help guys find guy books (which, sadly, are not usually classroom novels…but it’s getting better!) as well as some printable resources.

Anne Frank and Food Rationing

December 1st, 2007

To introduce The Diary of Anne Frank, I would simulate a day at a market under shortages and rationing. We then followed up with the “Homefront” article. Little slips of colored paper helped me to demonstrate real life history.

Each student got one of the three lists and a randomly selected pile of colored slips of paper. The object is to get your groceries for the week, with the starred item being crucial to your specific family. The corresponding article delves into the different rationed items.

At the end we debriefed (crucial for learning) and I pointed out each year how there was someone willing to lie and steal just for little scraps of paper, without anyone’s life on the line.

Make do – Wear it out – Do without, my friends!

“The Home Front: 1941-1945” by Hazel Shelton Abernethy

Rationing Requirements

Your family needs stamps to purchase all of these items for this week. One point for each item acquired. A bonus point if you can purchase the starred item.

Food = 1 pink
* Gasoline = 3 purple
Metal/Electronics = 3 yellow
Hygiene products = 2 green
Sugar = 1 blue


Rationing Requirements

Your family needs stamps to purchase all of these items for this week. One point for each item acquired. A bonus point if you can purchase the starred item.

Food = 1 pink
Gasoline = 3 purple
* Metal/Electronics = 3 yellow
Hygiene products = 2 green
Sugar = 1 blue


Rationing Requirements

Your family needs stamps to purchase all of these items for this week. One point for each item acquired. A bonus point if you can purchase the starred item.

Food = 1 pink
Gasoline = 3 purple
Metal/Electronics = 3 yellow
Hygiene products = 2 green
* Sugar = 1 blue

Things I have learned

December 1st, 2007

If I wrote a book for new teachers, this would be in the intro.

Things that I’ve learned since my first contract year:

  1. Be friendly to the custodians. You never know when something/someone is going to be locked in somewhere else.
  2. Be even friendlier to the secretaries. They talk up in the office. They are also the ones to process paperwork.
  3. Get a support system at school so that when you come home your spouse isn’t overwhelmed. My first year I would want to work through every single problem that I had that day when I got home with my wife. There’s not much she could do but be supportive (but it was a lot of ‘take’ on my end of things and not much ‘give’). When I got home it was now a feeling of “Ahh. Rest from the crazies. Let’s see what reality is like.”
  4. Help out the counselors. Always show them your professionalism and they will be professional in helping you. (Even if they say it’s a computer that sets up your class schedules, I’m pretty sure they have some say in who goes in which class.)
  5. Take on some of the students that have been labeled ‘trouble’. Take them in moderation and try to suggest which hours/classroom climates would work best for which students. If the general attitude of the class is enjoying learning, new students will be more likely to want to join in the fun. (It may take some scaffolding.)
  6. Never tell a class that they’re your worst class (or even that they’re a trouble class). You can say that professional attitudes need to be developed, you can say that respect needs to be demonstrated, but once you label them, they will own that class identity. (And then brag about it in other classes and to other teachers.)
  7. Junior highers already think that teachers are out to get them and don’t like them. Show them otherwise.
  8. You can care without being motherly. A fair and equitable teacher who values each student’s voice and demands the same from the class will win out over a “friend” teacher.
  9. You don’t give your friends detentions.
  10. No matter what, you will always be cooler than your students. You graduated college; they haven’t. You have a career; they don’t. But you will be changed by your students.
  11. Figure out how to work with your administrators and to see what they value and what they’re good at.
  12. There are some teachers that share lessons because they want to help. There are others who talk about what is going on in class because they are proud/excited. And then there are those who are worried about what other people think and want to show that they teach as well.
  13. Just as there are different personalities in the world, there are different styles to teaching. Just as there are different styles, there are different ways to assess learning.
  14. Just because students are quiet doesn’t mean they are learning. If students are too loud, though, they’re probably taking away from someone else’s learning. You are in control of the classroom environment. Not the students, not the other teachers in the department, not the parents. They influence, but you have the final say.
  15. We change lives for a living. Sure, you could make more money selling appliances, but tell me three things that impacted you about the person who sold you your refrigerator.
  16. Take things ‘step by step’. There are many things that will get thrown in your face. Figure out which is your highest priority.
  17. Pass on the ‘step by step’ philosophy to your class. I’ve taught special education/developmental students and I’ve taught honors students. Both groups need to learn how to break down seemingly impossible tasks into smaller chunks. You can’t down a monster burger in one bite, but when you finish those steps…awesomeness.
  18. Choose three things that you want your students to walk away with at the end of the year. Always come back to these three and filter the majority of your activities through these. (Mine were: to develop an enjoyment of reading, to become more professionally caring students, and to be able to write a good thesis statement)

These can all be summed up by this:

Teach how you want to be taught.

Remember this and everything else will come.