Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcome to India

India is a fascinating place to study.  It's so diverse.  The country has hundreds of languages, with 18 official languages.  (Check it out.)  Granted, it depends how you define "official" to get this number.  But with hundreds of languages and dialects, it would be difficult to debate the linguistic diversity of the country.

We'll get into that later though.  Today we worked on the map during the bellwork time, then we watched a video about Hinduism.  The students get a lot of the video - but they won't realize what all they've picked up until we discuss it tomorrow.  It is a fascinating topic to discuss.

Yesterday for bellwork, they worked on their new religions chart.  (It can be found HERE if you need a copy.)  The chart has the three monotheistic religions, along with Hinduism.  All four religions have a lot of similarities, but Hinduism - being pantheistic/polytheistic - is very distinct.

The students need to bring four things with them to class tomorrow:
  • Their map (it should be almost finished)
  • Their colored pencils
  • Their Hinduism Video Viewing Guide
  • Their Religions Chart
Here's the map, with instructions.  (They won't have a blue book, so they should look up the countries and cities online.)



Tomorrow's blog entry will be much more discussion heavy than today's or yesterday's.  Really, I'm just hoping you kids bring everything you need tomorrow.  You might want to read that list again.  Also again.  And again.  One more time.  Ok... that was all a big joke.  Ha.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Seriously, *wipes tears from eyes* seriously, don't forget that stuff.

To get the extra credit, you should have read the blog entry with a adult that lives with you.  If you (collective) did read it, write the following quote on a piece of paper and have the adult sign it.

Quote: "No wonder you rise in the middle of the night/ to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war."  -Billy Collins  (Extra extra credit to the person who gives me the name of the poem that came from.  I can't recollect what it is...)  Remember your stuff tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A New Day

Can we be this far into the school year? I refuse to accept it. REFUSE.

The students cleaned out their binders today. I love binder clean-out day. A fresh start. New promise. ...etc...

I also hate it. Sometimes when I look at all that work going into the recycling box, I think, "My word. All that work... gone..." Of course, I realize it's not what's on the paper that's important. What they've taken with them in their minds - that's where it's at.

We're starting India, Hinduism, and colonization today. We'll pepper in The Hunger Games as well, but we won't have nearly as much time as we had this past week.

We'll see how it goes.

In order to start the marking period off with some extra credit, discuss these questions with an adult you live with: How did you do during the first half of the school year?  What subject do you need to work on the most?  How is your attitude toward your peers?  Your teachers?  How can you be an even better student and person during the second half of the school year?  (I know, some of you are so close to perfection that this is going to be tough.  That's not tongue in cheek, either...  We've got some really great students this year.)

To get the extra credit, write the following quote on a sheet of scrap paper.  Then, have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.  Here's the quote: "One knows so little.  When one knows more it is too late."  -Agatha Christie

Don't forget to put your name on there too.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Still No Extra Credit

Like I said, it's the end of the marking period, so I'm not offering extra credit right now.  But I thought I'd share a little shell with you:

I mean, why not?

Friday, January 27, 2012

No E.C. Today

It's the end of the marking period today and I have to put in a couple grades, so this post isn't going to be for extra credit.  If you want extra credit to start off the next marking period, you'll have to get it some other way.

I should post an entry on the various ways students can get extra credit.  ...But not today.

See you Monday.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Romulus, Romulus

When I lived in Croatia, I had the opportunity to visit much of Italy, including Rome.  Some students were asking about the Colosseum.  So, I thought I'd post some pictures from when I was there.  Unfortunately, when I was at the Colosseum, I was there by myself, so the pictures are of the stadium itself - without me in it.  So, I threw on this last one to prove I was there.  ...Because I know you care.

A couple lines from today's reading:

"...The arenas are historic sites, preserved after the Games.  Popular destinations for Capitol residents to visit, to vacation.  Go for a month, rewatch the games, tour the catacombs, visit the sites where the deaths took place.  You can even take place in reenactments.
          They say the food is excellent." (p. 145)

Wow.  Geez, Suzanne Collins what are you trying to say?  A little bit of spoiling context here, (my students have all read this far - parents, I encourage you to read it if you haven't already... don't want to ruin anything for you): Our protagonist, Katniss has just arrived at the arena where she's going to have to combat 23 other children in a fight to the death.  Yowzer.

When we got to this part, I stopped for a moment and discussed the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta:

picture of park 
(Thanks: Destination360)

I mentioned how the '96 Olympic games were held there, and that a lot of tourists visit the park today.

But visiting the arena in The Hunger Games is different - and Katniss's mocking tone lets us know that she does not approve - because people are going to be dehumanizing her, and giddily embracing her death - which is disgusting...  So, it's not that kind of park at all...

Then I talked about Gettysburg:

Gettysburg Today
(Thanks again Destination360)

Maybe it's more like this.  Thousands of people died at Gettysburg.  More Americans died in the Civil War than in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam combined...  (Check it out...)  There are Gettysburg reenactments, and people (myself included) go to the battlefield during vacations and such.  That's still not the same as reveling in the glory of a Hunger Games Arena.  It's still not the same.  Who can imagine what would have happened if Lee got into the North?  We would be living in a much different world.  It's not the same.

So, I brought up the Colosseum.  (Those pictures are at the top... I'm not adding more...)  : )  People were killed in there, fought to the death, and it's still a tourist destination.  The killings were for sport - unlike Gettysburg.  The crowd was there to watch it all.  But, today when people visit, we're visiting another historical place - so although the comparison here works out if we were living in Ancient Rome, it stops once we get to Rome's collapse.

But we still go, and we're enthralled by what went on at both Gettysburg and Rome.  More than that, I asked how many of the kids played violent video games.  The number of hands would not surprise you.  And I made sure to point out that I wasn't pointing fingers - that I've lost my share of Halo tournaments... (I've never, not once won...)  And how many of us enjoyed playing them?  A lot.  All of the hands.

I'm just here asking questions, trying to get the students to make connections between Social Studies, Language Arts, and their own lives.  I'm in no way criticizing.  But it makes me wonder about my own life as well.  It's easy in the story to look at the lives of the citizens of the Capitol and see how repulsive it is that they embrace The Hunger Games.  It's easy to tell that THEY are the bad guys.  But seriously, what does that say about us?

In order to get the extra credit for today's blog, students have to read and discuss it with an adult.  If they do that, they should turn in a scrap piece of paper with the following phrase on it: "Remus, I think you need a better rock."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life and Death

The bellwork today dealt with a story we read about in our book.  Ibn Battuta was a Muslim traveler, trader, and historian who crossed the Sahara.  He wrote about his travels, much like Marco Polo.  While in the Sahara, Battuta couldn't find water, so they killed some camels and drank the water from their stomachs.  I asked the students if they would have drank the water or not.  It was about 50-50 throughout the day - with two classes coming out to an exact tie at 14-14 and 13-13.  (As the deciding vote, I voted in favor of keeping my life and drinking the water...)

We also read about the Wangarans.  These people knew where the gold mines were, and they kept the locations a secret.  Every once in a while, someone would kidnap a Wangaran miner and try to get him to talk.  The book says, "The miners would give their lives rather than reveal the secret."  (page 150)  I asked the students what they would do in this case.  Most everyone said they would choose death as well, as their families would face certain doom if they caved.  Besides, the other Wangarans might kill them for telling anyway.  Lets face it, it'd be a bad situation all around.  (I'm working on a screen play...)

There were several words that were tripping up students.  I thought I'd throw in some pictures to help them out.  Here's a caravan:

camel caravan
Photo Credit: Click Here

A lot of students didn't understand about ivory, so here are some carved tusks:
carved tusks

Photo Credit: Click Here

I showed them cowrie shells yesterday - which were used as money, but here they are again:

Photo credit: Click Here ...I think you can buy these...

At any rate, we had some interesting discussions going on...    We talked about the differences between the game and what actually happened.

In order to get the extra credit today, adults at home and students discuss the blog.  Maybe you could ask what you would each do in those life or death situations mentioned above.  You could explain how the game differed from the trans-Saharan trade.  (It didn't take two months to cross the carpet, for instance...)  Or you could discuss other stuff from class today.

When you're done discussing, have the adult sign a piece of paper with the following quote: "Rats, not 101 again..."  Make sure your name is on that paper as well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tihs Deosn't Mkae Snese

We read from the textbook today, and discussed the trans-Saharan trade - continuing on from the gold/salt trade activity we did the other day.

We don't read from the books too often, but I enjoy it every once in a while.  The students don't like it as much as The Hunger Games or the gold/salt activity, but if we're preparing students for the future, they'll probably have to continue doing somethings they don't enjoy there as well.

While reading we discussed some reading strategies: sub-vocalizing, sounding out tough names and practicing them, slowing down, timing, etc...

We also discussed some reading theory today.  We discussed phonics and whole word, we discussed "sounding it out..."  I tyepd a lttile on the baord lkie tihs.  I thnik msot poeple are albe to raed this.  It's because once you can read, your brain doesn't recognize individual letters anymore, it recognizes whole words.

The class went well.  We're going to finish up the trans-Saharan trade tomorrow, then move into colonization, India, and Hinduism.

In order to get the extra credit, read the blog and discuss it with an adult in your home.  Then, write the following word on a piece of scrap paper and have the adult sign it: Ivory.  Make sure you have your name on the scrap paper as well. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Case of the Mondays

Ok, parents and students sitting around reading this.  I know you think that I have mountains of time where I just sit around thinking up witty things to say on the computer, but that's not the case.  Mondays are crazy for me.  I've got chess in less than 10 minutes, and I just sent out half a dozen emails.  (Including one to Mr. Zook... you know the email I'm talking about...)  I put in a couple grades, and talked to Mr. Ogle about the CAP Reading Group...

Five minutes left to come up with some meaningful extra credit.  (I almost cancelled the blog extra credit today, but I didn't want to deal with the glares of the students who ended up with a 79.43999 come report card...)

So, it's short.  Today for bellwork, we discussed economics and tied it into The Hunger Games.  (I actually wrote about it before in THIS POST (CLICK HERE) but never taught about it in class...)

To get the extra credit points, read and discuss this blog with a parent, grandparent, auntie, step-parent, or other adult at your home.  Here are some things I want you to talk about: how does the economy deals with jobs? What are some other words for production, distribution, and consumption?  Can you tell me how The Hunger Games shows examples of command, market, and traditional economies?  What is happening right now in The Hunger Games?

When you're done with discussing it, write the following quote on a piece of scrap paper: "Turns out I was a vampire myself."  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Adults, by signing the paper you are stating you really did DISCUSS its content.  Please don't sign it unless that happened.  *Emoticon Smiley Face*

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stuff About This Stuff

My apologies.

(Back story:  Teachers at Concord exceed expectations, and offer students opportunities for success in a variety of ways.  For instance, a couple of the paths H Block takes to raise the academic bar: Mr. Schlegel sends out an email with daily homework and the day's content, I offer the blog for further enrichment and extra credit, H Block has a selective tutoring session (if you're interested, but not yet involved feel free to send me an email and let me know), multiple classes offer extra credit, or test retakes...

I was helping with tutoring last night when a colleague mentioned the blog.  I had printed out several copies for students without computer or internet access.  At the bottom of the page it read, "After you've finished reading this stuff, adults please sign the bottom of the paper..."

My colleague was lamenting the fact that I'd used the word "stuff" in my blog.  "Yeah, but couldn't you have used a better word?" she asked.  "We're constantly prodding students to improve their vocabulary," she continued lightheartedly, "and even mentioning that word in particular."

Too true.  In fact, I think there were a couple power points I just graded that contained that dirty word.  I believe I made comments that it should be changed.  Ouch.  End of back story.)

Hence the apology above.  I can give you lots of excuses.  I'm typing this out hastily during my prep period - trying to get it out before students get home...  That allows for basically Zero edits/ re-writes...  I want the tone of the writing to be conversational and inviting...  Whatevs.  I think she's right.  Stuff has been banished from this blog, and I hope the same stuff gets banished from your kid's writing as well.  ISTEP is looming, after all.

Ok... I may not banish stuff, but I will try harder to avoid such a dirty word.

In class today we had acuity, so there's not much to talk about.

When you're done reading this stuff the content of this blog, please discuss it with your parent, grandma, auntie, or other adult in your household.  Try to find 3 challenging vocabulary words in my the writing above.  If you can't find any, how could you spice it up?  When you are finished, write the following quote on a scrap of paper, and have them sign it.  (Make sure your name is on it as well if you want the extra credit...)  Quote:  "We are such stuff as blogs are made of..."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ghana's Gold/Salt Trade

We played the trading game in earnest today.  Before you read any further, I'd like the students to explain the game to whoever they're reading this with.

Key points of the game:

Salt traders in the north of Africa crossed the Sahara into Ghana and traded their salt for gold found to the south of Ghana.

Salt traders had to pay a tax upon entering Ghana - one piece of gold for three bags of salt.

They used a silent trading system.

Whenever they made a trade, they clapped their hands.

Once their mine ran out of salt, they were done.

The game went really, REALLY well today.  I think everybody liked it.  (You'll have to check with them to be sure...)  Ok... I don't think anybody liked crossing the Sahara, but other than that everybody liked it.

(Image taken from Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies.)

So, here are some questions to ask them:

How did you like the activity?
How did Ghana get gold?
Why were the traders willing to pay a tax?  (Yes, astute students, I did just answer the previous question...)

Why did the traders trade silently?

We didn't discuss the hand-clapping in class.  In class, crossing the Sahara involved crossing the room.  Hundreds of pounds of salt was depicted on a one-inch square of paper...  It was fun to trade, but it wasn't a big deal like the actual trading.  We'll learn about that on Tuesday...

Students, once you've read the blog and discussed it with a parent, aunt, uncle, or other adult in your house - write the following statement on a piece of paper and have them sign it: I will remember my planner tomorrow.

Adults, by signing the paper your stating that you read and discussed the blog with the student in my class.  Please make sure you include the student name as well as the parent signature.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dogs With Gold Collars

First off, to all the parents and students who read this blog and discuss social studies - a huge thank you!  It's nice to see your grades going up, but it's also nice to believe you're thinking about this stuff outside of the classroom.

If you are turning this in for credit, make sure that you put your (student) name on it as well as the parent signature.  I've had quite a few turned in recently with no name or hour.

A beautiful chaos of learning: that's what class was today.  We played a game from the History Alive curriculum.  It was based on Ghana's salt-gold trade.  We spent a little more time reading about Ghana first - how rich and powerful it was... yeah, the king even had guard dogs with gold collars.  The students all drew and labeled three quick pictures depicting this after the reading.  Then discussed them and went to play the game.  The game took a little bit of time to explain - which I knew it would - so we're playing again tomorrow.  HOORAY FOR SOCIAL STUDIES GAMES!  We won't get to play the whole time - we'll have to debrief.  I'll tell you tomorrow how it goes.

In order to get the extra credit for the blog today, students have to read it and discuss it with an adult in their household.  Students, today I want you to discuss how the game was played.  Explain the different groups - salt miners, salt traders, Ghana's taxation officials, and the gold traders.  Give the rules of the game, and the group you were in.  Explain why you had to crawl...  You get the idea...

When you're finished, write the following phrase on a piece of paper: "The king's nephew is heir to the throne."

Finally, have the adult that you read and discussed the blog with sign the scrap paper with the quote.

Parents/Adults: Don't forget that by signing the paper you're saying you discussed this stuff with whoever is turning in the paper.  ...Please don't sign unless you discuss this stuff.  Also, make sure it has your kid's name on it too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Well, I got to the school at 5:50 this morning... they weren't lying to you.  It was pretty foggy.  I was planning on setting up for a game we're going to play dealing with the salt/gold trade of West Africa during Ghana's empire.  Unfortunately, the two hour delay put the kibosh to that.  Siempre tenemos manana...

We did read and discuss the trade for a little bit.  I haven't read from the textbooks all year, so that went well.  (If you haven't covered your book yet, make sure you do tonight...)

Today's bellwork question asked whether or not students agreed with the statement: "Salt is worth its weight in gold."  We discussed that question at length as an introduction to Ghana's empire.

You can get extra credit points tonight if you read and discussed the blog with an adult at home.  If you're wondering what to talk about, ask the following questions:

Where is Ghana anyway?  Is salt worth its weight in gold?  Why is gold worth more than salt today?  Is your book covered?

If you've discussed (you know, like a real discussion) those questions, write the following quote on a piece of paper and have the adult from home that you discussed this with sign the paper.

Quote: "I know a story of a woman turned to salt.  I know a story of a woman turned to gold."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Mad Rush

Today we read.  If you'll allow me to be candid for a moment, I'm getting a little nervous.  We're about a third to half-way through The Hunger Games.  The kids love it.  It's helping their reading skills, grammar, linguistic, etc... AND it ties in with Social Studies.

The problem is there's so much we're supposed to cover in class.  And, even though I believe this may be more beneficial in the long run, I feel this self-imposed pressure to move on to a new topic.

Even so, I keep coming up with more and more ways it ties into the curriculum.  I was just thinking about economic systems - which we studied about a LONG time ago... the book contains all 4: The Capitol is a Command System - telling each district what they must produce.  (12 produces coal, 11 agriculture, etc...)  But, inside each District, they use the Market System - people have money and prices are set by supply and demand...  BUT, in The Seam (part of District 12) the people don't have money.  Katniss has to poach her food and trade for other food and goods - which is a Traditional System...  And of course, because none of these economic systems is pure, they're all examples of Mixed Systems.  Maybe I should bring that up to my classes tomorrow...

At any rate, we're reading again tomorrow, assuming we're in school...  WHICH WE WILL BE.  Don't bank on a delay people, that's always dangerous...

I wish I could have a copy of The Hunger Games for every student.  Then we'd be able to get through with time to spare.

After reading today's uber-short blog, discuss the following: what's going on right now in the book?  On a scale of 1-10, how do you enjoy it?  Who is your favorite character, and why?

After discussing the questions, write the following phrase on a piece of paper, and have the adult that you read the blog with sign it:  "If this is only a test, I hope that I'm passing..." 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


For those of you who have been reading these posts and receiving the extra credit: good work.  I'm sorry about yesterday's post.  (Yesterday, I posted instructions on how to access files from home.  Unfortunately, there is some sort of glitch that prevented this from happening.  The good news is I contacted our technology coordinator and they're working through the issue.  Thank you to the family that sent in the screen shot of the problem.  -You know who you are.)

Today, I want you to access something else.  Look up your grades on STI.  See what you're missing.  Students know how to do this, we've done it from school before.

We only have 12 more days in this marking period.  Right now is the time to make up missing assignments, or turn in extra credit.  If you put it off any longer, it will be too late.

Granted, most of you will have good grades.  If you have good grades, I suggest you get a pat on the back right now from the person you're reading this with.

*My word people, you'll never believe what just happened.  I just got a call from Mrs. Paulus.  She told me that Stoneware was down last night (corporation-wide), which is why files couldn't be accessed.  But it's working again.  I told you she's good.  Also, be aware that Stoneware has some issues if you're using it with Firefox 8 or 9.  So, for the second part of the homework - after checking grades - read yesterday's blog entry.  If you can't access your files, try using a different web browser - such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Google Chrome.  Open up the graded copy of your Hammurabi presentation and discuss it as per yesterday's instructions.

To get the points today, after you've finished the above, write the following quote on a piece of paper: "All three monotheistic religions trace their roots back to Abraham."  Then have the adult that went over your grades saw your powerpoint sign the piece of paper.

(Don't forget to cover those books too.)

*If you're kid says 7th hour didn't get them yet... tis true... Lucky kids getting out of more homework.*

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Access Granted

I think most people know this, but students can access their digital school work from home.  In case you're wondering how to do this, here's how:

Student File Access From Home

1.  Type in         https://stoneware.concord.k12.in.us   

2. Type in your user name   (entire first and last name no spaces.)

3. The password is your lunch code number

4. Click on My Files

5. Click on the little + sign by the yellow folder. This should give you access to all your                              

For the sake of speed and the security of your file, when modifying existing files on our network, it’s a good idea to save the file to your local hard drive first. To do this, right click on the file name, choose Save Target As and put it on the desktop of your home computer. You can continue to save to this location throughout the time you work on your file.

 6.  When you are ready to put your work back on our network, use the Upload Files button near the top right of the screen to browse to the modified file. Highlight the file and click Open. It will then display the path to the modified file in the File Upload Utility window. Click Upload to put it back on our network in the folder being displayed when you clicked on Upload Files.
7.  It is very important to Sign Out of the portal when finished to avoid problems logging into the network when back at school.  

So there you have it... piece of cake, right?  I'm am continually amazed at the level of technology utilized by this school district.  They really have it together around here.  I'll have to email Mrs. Paulus (our school's technology coordinator) and let her know she's doing a good job.

Yesterday we discussed 'restating the question' and 'pronouns.'  Today I had the students respond to the comments I left on their finished projects.  After that we discussed citing sources and the outcome of the assignment.

A lot of student wrote "www.google.com" as their source.  When citing sources, you have to be specific.  www.google.com doesn't cut it, even if that's where you got the picture.

We also discussed whether or not it's fair to judge Hammurabi's code based on the laws we have today.  Many, MANY students said, "We shouldn't judge him, because it's the past."  It made me think of this:  

We watched the clip in class and then discussed it.

Extra credit:  In order to get the extra credit today read and discuss the post.  Then, students, access your graded powerpoint and show it to your parents.  Ask if you parents agree with the conclusions you came to regarding judging Hammurabi according to today.  In order to get the extra credit for today's blog have the adult that looked at your powerpoint write a two sentence response to your presentation, then have them sign the paper.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back to the Grind

This will be a short post: I have to go coach chess.  (That should be good news for those of you who just want the extra credit points...)

I gave back the powerpoints today.  It was a great project.  At this level, we don't do too much research.  I was surprised how well they all did.  They were supposed to save it to their network drives - which means you should be able to access them from home.  (I know many of you had trouble with this last time.  I'm going to find out why by tomorrow night.  That's my promise to you.)

Because the scoring was so much more objective than usual, many of the grades weren't as high.  For instance, even though a student had a 17 slide presentation, he still received an F because 16 of the 17 slides were background information on Hammurabi. 

It took me an average of 7 hours a class to grade these.  ...I'm glad we had a 17 day break.  I put a lot of notes on them. 

Here's how you can get the extra credit for today.  See if you can open up the graded powerpoint.  If you can open it, read the notes I left and discuss them.

If you can't, tell your parents your score and what we discussed in class.  Mention pronouns, and restating the question.

In order to get the extra credit, write a paragraph mentioning what we discussed in regard to pronouns and why it's important to restate the question.  Then have that signed by the adult you discussed it with.