Wimp Yourself!

Need a distraction from work? Play around on www.wimpyourself.com. Create your own “wimpy kid” version of yourself. So fun. Kids will love this tomorrow!


My Hippo Has the Hiccups

My Hippo Has the Hiccups, by Kenn Nesbitt, is free this month, in honor of National Poetry Month. iLearn Technology has a post about it here. Download your copy now!

Other National Poetry Month resources:


I haven’t updated for most of the year. I have lots of links share.

Re: Speaking to Me.

Saw this on Two Writing Teachers and I really agree… Somehow, I think I needed to hear this tonight.

Students such as these walk into your classrooms in every size, shape, and color. You can’t know their histories because their only control is control of their secrets. You are asked to create a safe enough place for them to learn, and for you to teach, and then are provided with ill-thought-out standards, drawn up by men and women so distant from your theatre of engagement as to be functionally illiterate in its regard. These people demand that you test memory-level learning and abandon the staples of real education — response, expression, relationship — to chance.

But many of you will refuse to do that, because you didn’t invest years of your life getting an education and gathering the tools to follow your passion . . . to be disallowed the right to make the connection with your students that could change their lives. No child left behind? Only policy makers and politicians need a bill named that to remind them that leaving kids behind isn’t a good idea.

There simply is no tougher job than that of Teacher . . .

-From Adolescent Literacy edited by Kylene Beers, Robert Probst, and Linda Rief; “Flying Blind” by Chris Crutcher

Baby Blues Cartoon

Today I tried an idea I learned during my Abydos training this summer. We used a Baby Blues cartoon to take an exploratory look at dialogue. Previous to this lesson, we had taken a look at a mentor text, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (current class novel), and made some observations about what dialogue looks like on the page.

The students said things like:
-When someone is talking, there are those things. (We re-learned the words quotation marks.)
-It says like, he said or she said. (We call those tags.)
-The question mark goes before the quotation marks.
-There is a comma when there is a tag. The comma goes before the quotation marks.

Then, to begin the lesson, I showed them the cartoon and let them just think about it.


Our conversation went a little like this:

What’s happening?
They are talking.
How do you know they are talking?
It has those bubble things.
How do you know which bubble goes with which person?
It points to them.
What if we re-wrote this dialogue but in story form, without the cartoons? Would it be any different?
No, you’d just rewrite it.

At this point, I already have lots of colored sentence strips and a wall chart handy. I write the first person’s dialogue on a sentence strip. I put it up on the chart. Then, I write the second person’s dialogue on a different color and put it up. The students quickly realize that it doesn’t look right. We add quotation marks on a new color. Then, I question them about punctuation (without giving it away).

dialogue excercise

I noticed that as I asked more questions, my students started to become more engaged. I wasn’t telling them anything and they were having to figure it out. It was challenging.

Slowly, we worked step by step up to a pretty decent written piece of dialogue. We also talked about different kinds of tags and how we can add words to describe what the pictures show us. Tomorrow, they will work in groups. Each group will have to do the same exercise with one square of the comic. Then, we will come together to look at the final dialogue.

The following day, we will use the activity to write a set of “Dialogue Rules”, mirroring the example in Jeff Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined.

I’ll let you know how well this information sticks when we get into our narrative pieces at the end of this week.

Book Talk

Looking for some good ideas for books for your kiddos? I added this page to my school website after one of my parents was desperate for something for her daughter to read. Perhaps it may help you. Just promise not to point out the obvious dorkiness that lies in how many book blogs I read. 🙂

Classroom Walls

What do your classroom walls look like? My walls are a mixture of Mary Englebreit/DJ Inkers (perhaps even too much for the liking of some) and “organic wall charts”. Organic, you say? Jeff Anderson suggests in his book, Mechanically Inclined, that walls should be covered in wall charts that are made in class, with the kids, and that are constantly growing and changing. I agree. I also, however, like to create a welcoming/comforting appeal in my room as well (hence the ME/DJ Inkers and bright colors).

I’ve been doing things very differently this year: lots more notebooking, mini-lessons, wall charts, using mentor text, integrating subjects, modeling with my own writing, “gem-hunting”, etc. I am happy with how it is going so far. But, it’s also a bit risky. The other day I was sitting in my room, looking around at what we had done so far this year (displayed on the walls), and I started to feel myself panic. What if this doesn’t work? What if the way we are doing things this year just totally bombs? I’ve only had so much training.

Then, I thought about the training that I have. It was good training. Well-renowned training with research and practice to back it. Plus, I have had some amazing mentors and I am simply following in their footsteps. I breathe a little more easily now, but a part of me is still sitting on the edge of my seat in suspense, waiting to see what happens.

Anyway, take a look at some pictures from my room. What do you think?