will be treated to a viewing of The Lorax.
The fourth grade will take part in this event in the morning.
Today, Thursday, is the day for our monthly positive behavior reward. Students who have not had an office referral
will be treated to a viewing of The Lorax.
The fourth grade will take part in this event in the morning.
You can give in, you can give out, but you don't give up.
Several years ago, I was privileged to be in the audience of a Barry Manilow concert in Oklahoma City. Did you just chuckle? I have enjoyed Manilow's singing since high school in the 80s, and I especially like his more inspirational songs. I don't think The Other 99 is one of his original songs, but it was the first time I had heard it. To introduce the song, Manilow described his ascendancy in the music industry, telling how he started as an accompanist for people auditioning as singers. During that time, he said, he noticed that only one out of a hundred got a job. In his observations from a position sitting behind a piano, he studied the other 99 and learned from their tenacity and perseverance.
It's a hard thing to learn. It's a hard thing to go through. And we probably have to look back on our failures before we learn from them. I wonder, though, if it is possible to learn while we are experiencing the struggle. Is it possible to learn and adapt during the event?
One thing I hope to instill in my students is the idea that we can also learn from the mistakes of others (the main reason for studying history, in my opinion). After all, I don't have time to make all the mistakes on my own, and if I can avoid making the mistakes in the first place, I should take advantage of that opportunity.
We all have a lot to learn from the other 99.
One concept that's hard for kids to understand (adults, too, for that matter) is the idea that we learn from our mistakes. We could even take that a bit further and say that we learn from failure. I've used Derek Redmond's story from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in devotional messages at church, but it also has application in the fourth grade classroom.
Take four minutes to watch this video.
Now for some questions:
For the last three weeks, we've been reading words on the No Excuse Words (N.E.W.) list. Because of our success in reading the words (It really wasn't that hard.), we are now going to spell the words. To review, the list includes the 100 words listed below. If you're working on these at home, and I hope you are, please include spelling as part of your efforts.
The Hoggatteer Experience is something out of the ordinary. Something mysterious. Something weird! It is unusual and unconventional. It's magical, joyful, and special. And it is a constant work in progress.
The Hoggatteer Experience is one that allows students to explore and discover. It gives students opportunities to wonder and pursue their passions. It provides students a framework of safety, compassion, and family.
I want my students to dream and to stretch forward into the sunshine of the 21st Century. While they need to know the basics (math, science, and communication), while we thrive on our successes in both academic and extracurricular areas, while we want and strive for great improvement in test scores, these are not the highest priorities I have for my students. Before any of those things come the ability to make friends, to treat others with respect, to do a little extra everyday, to reach out with a firm handshake and greet people with dignity, to impress a boss, to press on with a desire to improve.
We talk about these things every day, and when it works the other things - the curricular things - come along for the ride. The discipline, the manners, and rigorous instruction, coupled with safety and a lighthearted, yet engaging atmosphere make the Hoggatteer Experience unique.
I know it’s not always easy. To quote my Teaching Philosophy:
Life does not expose itself one isolated topic at a time, changing every 20 minutes and breaking on a regular schedule. Life is multi-dimensional, rocketing toward us at a million miles an hour, with remarkable passion and mystery. That’s why we shatter the traditional mold of school. We go outside; we use real tools; we surround ourselves with exciting, real-life scenarios.
My expectations are high, and I don't want to hear empty excuses for failure. I don’t want it to be easy; I want it to be real, relevant, and rich. It is the Hoggatteer Experience!
I had already figured we would not get a Snow Day, this year, but this extra two-day break has been nice. Now that we've had a break, let's put winter behind us.
The transition of seasons just reminds me of the transition between the primary grades and the intermediate grades. I know there is a constant internal struggle in my fourth graders. Call it growing pains if you want. And students are all at different stages in the process.
When I walk outside, during our "snow" day, I see grass ready to grow and trees ready to bud. But I also see ice holding them back. I am confident that with time and energy the seasons will change. Winter, once again, will succumb to spring, just as third graders mature into fifth graders while in my care.
One of the first characteristics anybody lists for a teacher is patience. I don't always feel like I fit that qualification; in fact, I think patience can work against a teacher. It is more than simply waiting for something to happen; there is more to it. Patience must be balanced with motivation, and maybe even some friendly pressure to advance.
After 23 years, I am still amazed to compare what students cannot do in the fall and what they can do by spring.
Sometimes we find inspiration in unlikely places.
Sometimes we are enriched by our associations.
Sometimes we can achieve more when we open our horizons.
Sometimes "music" builds on the talents of others.
Take five minutes to watch this video:
Now for some questions:
Here are some extra visuals for Tuesday's boat building activity. Check out those videos at the bottom.
Today was a day to make connections. After our unit about Motion and Design, today we had the opportunity to connect it with our history unit about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Last week, we saw photos of a variety of boats and ships, so today students used what they learned to design their own crafts. The challenge was to design a floating vessel to hold as many little green dinosaurs as possible. In our challenge, each student sketched his/her idea. When it was time to make a prototype, groups had to choose which design elements to use. Then a thin sheet of aluminum was provided for the actual construction of the teams' ships.
After naming the ships, floating them in an aquarium, and placing dinosaurs into them (two at a time), one group stood above the others, holding 188 dinosaurs before succumbing to the sea. Aptly named, the Champion won the challenge. Champion was a flat-bottomed boat with high sides that held more of our precious cargo.
Another group, with a boat named Boaty, was the only team to accurately estimate the number of dinosaurs its vessel would support. Congratulations to all our ship builders on a job well done!
Where is the moment when we needed the most?
Here we are, in the midst of the longest stretch of school, with very little in the form of a break - until the latter half of March. Sometimes, the days seem long, the weeks really long, and spring is far from being around the corner (Crazy groundhog!). Then, for teachers, there are the meetings, coaching students after school, and special events in the evenings.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining (OK, maybe I am a little.), but most people get to leave their work at the end of the day and go home to spend time with their families. I know this idea of devoting time to my class and the other kids in the school is a noble one, but sometimes my daughter wants to know why daddy's not hanging around more at home lately. Plus, and I know this is hard for some people to grasp, I am only a human being.
I have been struggling this year with my creative spirit. I would love to make every day a special day, with awesome events and surprises around every corner for my class, but sometimes the very educational engine that wants me to do those things, motivating students with the desire for improvement and lifelong learning, is the same engine that gets all gummy and clogged with the technicalities of government red tape and mandates. Time, even though we are in the 21st Century and have so many "time-saving" devices, is still a very real and scientific factor. As much as I try, I cannot make time stand still while I get all the things done that everyone wants me to do.
This time of the year, time catches up to most teachers. There are no breaks to speak of between Christmas and Spring Break, and it's too cold to do most things outside. The meetings get to be endless, and other events in life present themselves at the most inopportune times. But I'm not complaining. Much.
A good point that adults need to understand is this: the days and weeks are not only long for us; they are long for our kids too. Sometimes those springtime, cabin-fever behaviors that irritate us in our children can be the result of our own stress levels and seasonal depression (Of course, not being a doctor, I can't use those terms in the clinical sense.). There are moments when I am the antecedent (big word) for the poor behavioral choices being made by my children. For this reason, I must remind myself of what is important - not the ungraded papers on my desk or the newest form being requested, in triplicate, by the state concerning the data being collected in my classroom. What is important is that I keep on keeping on, doing what's best for my students, and doing my very best to keep some energy in my shoes and some electricity in my heart.
What's important is not that we get to the end of the chapter or the unit by a predetermined date on someone's arbitrary calendar. It is that I keep my high expectations in mind, while always reaching with hands and spirit into the pool of students before me, grabbing hold of their arms, and pulling them along with us to the shore - where we can celebrate our breath-taking experience together.
I do not want the magic of learning to be lost because someone kicks up a cloud of leaves in our faces. I want the magic of learning to occur in spite of all those dusty leaves. With dust in our lungs and eyes, that's not always easy, but we simply must keep stretching forward. The light is out there - beyond clouds - and I'm not complaining; I'm just trying to understand it all.
Yesterday, I wrote about writing. Next to it, I included a poster from former Pixar storyboarder Emma Coats. The poster has some fantastic advice for writers. Perhaps it is easier to read the text form of the poster (below).
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
I have been forbidden from using my SUPERPOWERS to teach writing, and that makes the task much more difficult. I have been forced into the trenches along with all the other teachers who find it difficult.
If I could use my superpowers, I would begin by zapping all of my students with a dose of encouragement. They would all have a piece of my desire to write, and I would find it hard to stop them from writing. The principal, walking through the hall, would hear me constantly scolding the class for writing when they should be doing something else.
Shortly after the first zap, I would mentally infuse my students with the impulse to improve their writing. They would suddenly pay attention to characterization, setting, plot, and theme. They would spend time choosing just the right words and phrases. They would constantly work on carefully leading their readers through a story, making them see the scenes without telling them everything outright.
Finally, I would fill my students' writing utility belts with the tools described in the infographic at right (which emerges from the creative minds at Pixar). Students would be instantly trained in the best writing strategies. They would become writing ninjas, ready to conquer writing challenges as they inevitably arise in the universe.
But alas, my superpowers have been squelched, and I am, once again, merely a mortal teacher, reduced to using the normal tools of the trade.
Incidentally, the poster in the picture above is available for purchase.
Wouldn't a framed copy be a great addition to any writing classroom?
Just click on the picture to find shipping information.
Our class was recognized in an assembly, this morning, for two of the school's Golden Awards.
First, we were awarded as the Golden Broom for having the cleanest classroom in the upper grades. This award is determined by our school custodians. At the end of most days, JO, the custodian assigned to clean the classrooms in our hall, often asks me if we had class at all. We just don't generate a lot of trash, and I really stay on my students to put things away before they leave the room.
The second award we received was the Golden Book. This award is based on class behavior in the Media Center. Awarded by the library staff, this prize, along with the aforementioned Golden Broom, is now displayed outside our classroom door.
As a grade level, we also earned recognition, in the form of the Golden Clock, for having the best attendance statistics for the month.
In the past, we have been awarded the Golden Brush (for using proper procedures in Art), the Golden Plate (for excellence at lunchtime), and the SOAR banner (for excellent assembly behavior). Additionally, we have earned (as a grade level) the Golden Shoe (for being respectable in the hallway), and (for the upper grades) the Golden Plunger (for cleanest restrooms).
A special note of appreciation is due to ELLA's mom for putting together a dignified party, yesterday.
Students left happy, and the teacher was pleased.
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