Monday, March 26, 2007

Important Things

Today was "Parent Conference Day." We had a half day, but I had four kids who didn't come at all and two who came who needed to go immediately home (C- had a crick in his neck, I've never seen him cry in two years before, so it must have been pretty bad; J- was complaining of a stomach ache.) So my class was at the enormous size of 11. Instead of teaching everything again tomorrow, we did some other useful and interesting activities.

One thing we did was read the book, "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown. Then my kids got to write their own paragraph about an object. Their answers were GREAT and completely their own (except in that they were following the format and we discussed describing words ahead of time.) I have fixed the spelling and some of the grammar, but here they are.

The important thing about a grape is that it is sweet. And it is
green. It tastes juicy. It is good. It has a stem at the top. But
the important thing about grapes is that they are sweet.

The important thing about an orange is that you eat it. It tastes
juicy. The color is orange. It is bumpy. But the important thing
about an orange is that you eat it.

The important thing about a lemon is that it is really sour. It looks
like an oval. It smells good. The color is yellow. It feels bumpy.
But the important thing is that it is sour.

The important thing about a quarter is that it is shiny. You can buy
something at the store. It has an eagle on the back. It costs 25
cents. But the important thing about a quarter is that it is shiny.

The important thing about a ring is that you wear it on your finger.
It sounds like ding-a-ding ding when you drop it. A ring is sparkly.
But the important thing about a ring is that you wear it on your

The important thing about juice is that you drink it. It is orange.
It makes me happy. It is wet. Sometimes it is made out of fruit.
But the important thing about juice is that you drink it.

The important thing about socks is that I put them on my feet. The
sock feels good on my feet. It was fresh when you get it out of the
wash. It was stinking when it was on my feet. But the important
thing is that I wear the sock.

The important thing about a cat is that it scratches. It is soft and
it is different colors. You can touch it and you can see it. You can
smell a cat. You can not taste it because it might be nasty and yucky
and gross. A cat can smell like anything. If you smell a cat the fur
will tickle you. It smells bad also. But the important thing about a
cat is that it scratches.

The important thing about a plum is that it has a nut in it. You can
eat a plum. Juice comes running down your face. It tastes juicy and
it is purple and it is sweet and it is a fruit. But it is still a
plum. The important thing about a plum is that it has a nut in it.

The important thing about corn is that you put salt on it. It is
yellow. Corn is good to me. You buy corn at the store. But the
important thing about corn is that you put salt on it.

The important thing about hair is that it grows. When somebody pulls
your hair it hurts so bad. You hair is so soft and beautiful. You
hair is brown or black. Your hair is so pretty. But the important
thing about hair is that it grows.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mmm, Juicy Plumps

I struggle with my students' lack of vocabulary sometimes. Today I was frustrated by their apparent unfamiliarity with adjectives besides color words, good, bad, and words I've previously taught (like fantastic, sticky, and long). I had brought in a few objects and I was trying to elicit words about how they felt. Nobody could give me the word smooth, or any synonyms for it. They could tell me that the book was not rough or bumpy, but all I could get beyond that was that it felt good. As in,

K: "This book feel good, Mi' Hay'."
Me: "Why does it feel good?"
K: "Because I like for to touch it."
Me: "Why do you like touching it?"
K: "Because it feel good."
Me: "In what way does it feel good? Is it soft? Furry? Bumpy? Squishy?"
K: "No."
Me: "How does it feel?"
K: "I like to read books? They be helping you learn?"
Me: "Can you feel that with your hand?"
K: "Squishy?"
Me: "No..."

A few minutes later, we were discussing taste words. I described biting into an apple and having the juice run down my chin, and someone suggested juicy. Since some of the other students were unfamiliar with the word, I asked the class to name things that were juicy (and suggested some un-juicy things of my own to highlight the difference, like bananas.)

Rk-: "Plump."
Me: "Plums?"
Rk-: "Yeah, plumps."

Rv-: "Pear-ple?" (apple eating motion)
Me: "Pear...? Pineapple...?"
Rv-: "I mean pear. It look like an apple?"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ken Light

This was on Mr. Frailich's blog a while ago, but in case you didn't see it, a photographer took pictures of the Delta in the '90s that look as if they could have been taken 100 years ago... or yesterday. Check them out here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Crazy Afternoon

My classroom was infested this afternoon, by a veritable army of winged ants. They were mostly not flying, but they were crawling around on the floor. R- noticed first. "An ant, Mi' Hay'!" she squealed, pulling her feet up off the floor (unlike in Massachusetts, where the ants are mostly innocuous, Mississippi ants almost all bite.) I stomped on it and showed her its little dead body. (We save the crickets by putting them outside, but I draw the line at ants.) And then I stopped thinking about ants.

For about ten minutes.

Then D- raised his hand. "There are some ants all over the floor," he told me. There were indeed. I decided that we would ignore it and continue with our nine-weeks science exam, with one modification: J-, who normally takes her tests on the floor by my desk (because otherwise she cheats), would sit in her seat instead. I was feeling creepy-crawly, the way you do when you see ants even if they aren't crawling on you, and I could see that my kids were feeling that way, too. And then I felt a sharp pinch on my leg. And then another one.

I got my assistant to take over test-reading duty (she's been remarkably helpful this week, after being very little help at all last week, and moderately helpful the week before that) and hightailed it to the restroom, where I stripped off my pants to shake out any ants and check on my welts. Then I went to the office to find the janitor (who has very toxic-smelling ant-killing spray) and the principal (to ask if we could relocate to the cafeteria.) Neither one was there. The principal was at a meeting at Central Office and the janitor was on his lunch break.

So I went back to the classroom and gathered up my students, our journals, and our pencils. We went to the cafeteria, where they were finishing mopping from lunch, and sat down at a table, much to the annoyance of the cafeteria staff, who informed me that they were not going to clean up after us (all we were doing was writing in our journals???) Instead of wasting the last hour of the day, we spent most of it revising our drafts of some stories. We were going to work on the collages we are doing to go with the stories, but the third graders came in for their "planning period."

Basically, that means that a class of third graders sat at a table in the cafeteria for the last half hour of the day, with nothing to do, basically unsupervised. They call it their "planning period" because that is what their teachers call it, although I don't really understand why the third grade teachers need a half hour more of "planning time" every day, especially if it means their kids are not doing ANYTHING (every class has a half hour per day of either computer lab or library.) Anyhow, the kids were already hyper because it was the end of a testing day during a testing week, and one of their teachers is (unfairly) suspended. An assistant teacher sat with them for a while, then he left for a while, then he came back and WRESTLED with another assistant to the cheering of the students, then he left again. I tried to get them to play the "quiet game," but it was really just too loud. By then the janitor had come back from his break and sprayed the room, so we went back for folder-passing and stamping and to read a little Charlie and the Chocolate Factory amid the ant-killing fumes.