Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Yesterday I mentioned we discussed the development of written language. I taught the kids that language was originally a mnemonic device - meant to help them remember something already knew, rather than to impart new information. Many ancient languages didn't have a strict grammar, spaces, capitalization or punctuation rules. When the students asked how they would read it, I gave them some examples. For yesterday's extra credit, they were to show you the examples and bring in the paper signed... Well, some of my students showed some great examples, others forgot how to do it, so I'll post some examples here. (I know that Y is sometimes a vowel, and often is in here... I'm keeping it in to make these a little easier...)






I'm sure you can come up with a lot more. The point is, you wouldn't be able to read those if you didn't already have some idea of what they said. Once you know what it says, you can pick out individual words - this is what made going from an oral history to a written history possible.

Today, we finished up the Christianity video. We started comparing Judaism and Christianity. Since Christianity came out of Judaism, there are a number of ways they overlap, and some good comparisons that can be made.

In order to get the extra credit today, discuss the following questions with your parent/whoever's in charge at your place. (If it's a parent reading the blog, discuss them with whoever's in my class...)

-What are some similarities between Judaism and Christianity?
-Why do they both trace their roots back to Abraham? Why is this a big deal?
-They both have a holy scripture, but how is it that the scripture between Judaism and Christianity are so similar?

After you've discussed this, extra credit can be awarded if you write the following on a piece of paper and have the adult in the discussion sign it: I wish we could learn about roller coasters in every class. Parents, don't forget that by signing this you're confirming that you really did talk about this stuff...

P.S. In case you didn't figure out that top stuff, it's The National Anthem, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and The Pledge of Allegiance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Judaism to Christianity

I am exhausted. My seventh hour class certainly enjoys talking.

We'll be spending the next several days on monotheistic religions. Today I incorporated some language development into the lesson. I gave a brief overview of pictograms and idiograms without going into too much detail or defining those words. (I linked some wiki definitions if you're so inclined...)

We talked about how written language was not originally meant to be read, but developed from a mnemonic device (proto-writing), and that Ancient Hebrew was written in a later developmental stage... (I didn't use all those words, so parents... if you're kid says I didn't teach them that stuff, I did... but not in that way...)

I gave them an example or two of how that would work. Ancient Hebrew was written without vowels, spaces, lower case, or punctuation. Some students asked how this worked, so I wrote something on the board for them. (Most every class had something different, that way they couldn't cheat.) You could have them write it down for you right now to see if you can figure it out.

We then talked about the Hebrew name of God, YHWH - and the reason some people won't say the name. This all hit a number of standards, including language development and religions. And I thought it was very fun.

We started into Christianity by watching 15-20 minutes of the video that the department uses. Honestly, I don't think any of us (teachers) really love these videos, but they're the best ones we've found. Every year we talk about making our own. Maybe this is the year...

To get the extra credit: Ask whoever is in my class to show you what mnemonic language would look like... have them write something without spaces, vowels, lower case, or punctuation and see if you can figure it out. Then discuss some of the similarities between Judaism and Christianity.

Sign the piece of paper that they wrote on, and have them turn it in for 5 extra credit points.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Religion is tricky when it comes to the classroom... especially when it comes to social studies. Indiana Standard 7.1.4 states: Describe the historical origins, central beliefs, and spread of major religions. (Individuals, Society and Culture) Example: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

I'd like to point out that is one standard. ...For 7th grade. One standard out of 52 such standards... Isn't that like, 6 undergrad credits right there?

Most years I teach the facts, dates, and names - but I've found there's no real connection with the students. So today, I asked a personal question: "Do you believe there is a God? If so, how does He (or She) want you to live your life? If not, how do you determine how to live your life? Please answer using at least 5 complete sentences."

We talked (at length in some classes) about the rights and privileges of living in the United States. We talked about religious freedom and religious persecution. We talked about respecting the rights of others while maintaining the integrity of our own beliefs. Overall, I thought it went really well, especially given the fact that we also reviewed the test and read a little bit of The Hunger Games.

I would also like to add that I didn't answer questions about my personal beliefs inside the classroom. While it's no big secret, I want the classroom to be as free as possible.

If you're reading this for extra credit, discuss the following questions:

How important is religious freedom in the United States?
Is it important to learn about other world religions?
How does religion impact our lives here in Indiana?

In order to get the extra credit, students have to bring in a piece of scrap paper signed by the adult they discussed this with. Grandparents/Parents/Step-Parent/Etc... by signing the paper, you're saying that you did read the blog and discuss it with the student that's bringing it to me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Testing Testing 1...2...

Well, today we continued reading The Hunger Games and then we continued on with the test.

We will finish up the test tomorrow, and we'll grade it. Then, if there's time we'll read some more.

Admittedly, this test is taking longer than I thought it would. I think this is a problem all teachers run into. At what point should you say, "Alright! Enough! We've got to move on!"

Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow we finish the test and continue on with the curriculum.

Incidently, I had some (2) students ask me now if I was getting paid to write the blog - if I had ads over to the sides that gave me .02% of a penny every time someone clicked on the link... or however that works.

If you're wondering the same thing, the answer is no. I don't... but it's a great idea. I'm just doing this to keep you all up to date with what's going on in my classroom.

If your kid wants extra credit for reading this blog, discuss with them the following questions:

Do you like Concord Junior High? Is it important to like school? Why or why not? In order to get the extra credit for reading this, parents (or other adult) must sign a piece of scrap paper along with the statement: "Please end the testing." (Parents, by signing your name, you're saying that yes, you did read and discuss this blog with your kid, and you're not just giving them free extra credit points.)

Friday, November 18, 2011


We had the test today. I think it went pretty well. I had a number of kids tell me that it was easy, and a number tell me that it was difficult.

I tried something new. During the last five minutes of the test, I gave students a sheet of loose-leaf paper and let them write any questions they had. They were allowed to take that paper home to study. I hope it helps.

I gave everybody a little time to study before the test as well.

Before that, I read a couple pages of The Hunger Games. There was an act of defiance in the reading today, and it was a subtle, yet aggressive act. In discussing dissent in unlimited governments, I asked if it was ever ok to defy authority.

What do you think? To get the extra credit on Monday discuss the following questions with your parent:

What was the act of defiance that occurred in The Hunger Games? (You don't have to answer that one if your parents are planning on reading the book... We wouldn't want to give anything away.

Is it ever ok to defy authority? If so when? If not, why not?

Did you write anything on your loose-leaf paper from the test? What didn't you understand? You may want to figure those answers out somehow...

In order to get the extra credit Monday, bring in a piece of scrap paper that is signed by your parent (or whatever adult you discussed it with...) Include the phrase "Defiance is wasted by the young." Parents - by signing this paper you are stating that you really did discuss it with your kid.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Test, By Any Other Name

We just finished up Day 2 of The Hunger Games. It's been a blast thus far. If you're wondering why I'm reading it to my class, please read yesterday's post.

We spent the rest of the time reviewing for the test. I'm a little worried. I'm not sure about the study habits of all of my students. I know some have studied quite a bit, others... Well, we'll see how prepared they are.

Here are a few questions from the test. (I gave these out in class too, so if you're worried that I'm giving an advantage to those with internet, don't be.)

An unelected group rules in this type of government, and rarely follows the rule of law.

Is it: Direct Democracy? Oligarchy? Dictatorship? Republic?

List the four reasons I gave that ancient civilizations were found near rivers.

What are the ingredients of culture, and give me an example of each.

We've been reviewing all week, so hopefully it pays off.

Seriously though, I'm most excited for The Hunger Games. I think that's true for all the kids too. Nobody gets excited about taking a test.

Students in my class can get extra credit by reading this blog. In order to do so, parents have to read the blog and ask them a couple questions.

Today's questions:

What's going to be on the test tomorrow? Did you study for it? Are you prepared? What's an oligarchy?

What happened in todays part of The Hunger Games? Tell me about it. Do you like the book? How did it tie in with social studies today?

If you want the extra credit, bring in a piece of scrap paper that's signed by your parent (or whatever adult you've discussed this with) along with the phrase: "I'm going to ace this test." Parents, by signing your name you're saying that yes, your kid really did discuss this stuff with you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Social Studies Through Literature

I have wanted to teach The Hunger Games to my kids ever since I read it back in 2008/2009. (I was actually a little annoyed that they didn't warn you ahead of time that it was going to be a series... other than that I loved it...)

Last year our block bought 20 copies of the book, and I bought 5 copies with my own money. We read it in my CAP class. It was a blast.

A couple copies are now missing, so we don't have enough to make a classroom collection, but in the spirit of promoting reading, and given the fact that it ties in so well with my curriculum, I've decided to take 10 minutes a day to read it.

The kids, for the most part love it.

We're only on page 10, and already multiple topics that I teach have crept up: unlimited government, social structure, standard of living, censorship...

I'm so excited.

If you're a student, and you read this, (or a parent/guardian and you read it with your child) you can get extra credit by discussing the following questions:

How does The Hunger Games tie into social studies?
What happened in the sections we read today?
Are you ready for Friday's test?
What do you think will be on it?

You can get extra credit by bringing in a piece of scrap paper signed by your parent (or whoever you discussed this with) along with the words: Hunger Games. (Parents, by signing this paper you're saying you really did talk about this stuff with your kid.)

Here's the trailer for the movie, in case you want to watch it again:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gains Gains Gains

Sup bloggies?

I'm really pleased with the way the class I'm in has been going.  (To all you out there reading this, that aren't yet aware, I'm taking a class on technology in education...)

I saw the greatest growth in learning about the opportunities to expand technology use.  There's so much I hadn't heard about until this class, and there's quite a bit I had heard about, but couldn't picture utilizing.

Let me give you some examples... check out pbworks to get started on an educational wiki.

If you're on this blog, you can probably already know the value of edu-blogging.

If you haven't heard of edmodo, check out this video:

I made my first WebQuest at QuestGarden.  (You can see the one I created here... it's pretty good)

This is all new stuff too...  such gains.

I'm going to use this blog to offer extra extra credit from here on out.  Go me.

That's not even mentioning stuff I knew about, but wasn't proficient in, such as Excel.  (I know, how did I get this far without knowing Excel?  ... One of the great mysteries of the world...)

The next real question is, "how will my teaching not change based on what I've learned."  I'm offering students more opportunities to use technology in their presentations, I'm planning on creating both wiki and edmodo pages.  I'm hoping to use this blog for extra credit.  I've sent them on their first WebQuest, and I'm planning on sending them on many more.

Technology is constantly changing though... I've got a good pace going, I'm not worried about keeping up.