Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Well, progress reports came out today. Overall, grades were good - though there were a couple bad grades in the mix. It's interesting that I'm offering more extra credit than ever, and I still have some students with low grades...

At any rate, you can get some extra credit today by discussing the following with an adult - preferably one that you live with, like a parent, or auntie, etc...

Tell what happened in today's segment of Gandhi. What points did Mr. Cowells stop it? Why?

Compare what's happening/ what happened to the Indians to the Burmese in "Shooting an Elephant" or the Banananovians, or the various continents in the colonization simulation.

Make a prediction: if the British leave India, what's going to happen?

To get the extra credit today, write the following on a sheet of scrap paper: "Nice beard, Mr. Frantz. I read and discussed this leap-blog with ___________." Then, have the adult you discussed it with sign on the line.

Picture of Gandhi with quote
Image Credit: TheSayGi

Monday, February 27, 2012

Amritsar Massacre

I understand that the students got to the Amritsar Massacre today.  (You can watch the clip below.  Fair warning, it's probably the most intense scene in the movie.)

The Indian Independence Movement is interesting.  It's interesting because it mainly manifested itself nonviolently.  Now, that's not to say there wasn't a loss of blood.  There was much blood lost - as this clip shows.  But it's different than the U.S. route to independence - through war.  Or, Australia - which gained its independence gradually over the course of many years without any bloodshed at all.

To get the extra credit for today's blog entry discuss what has happened so far in Gandhi with an adult in your household.  Make sure to mention the Amritsar Massacre and what happened to General Dyer (if you know.)  Talk about what Gandhi wants, and why.  Discuss what is meant by civil disobedience and nonviolent, noncooperation.

Then, to prove you read and discussed the blog, write down the following sentences: "All hail Cowells-ji!  I read and discussed the blog with _____________________."  Have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tomorrow, tomorrow...

I'll have more extra credit up tomorrow.  I promise.

In the meantime, enjoy your evening, or morning, or wherever/whenever you are.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It seems as though Mr. Cowells, Mr. Swanson, and Mr. Frantz watch Gandhi the way I read The Hunger Games.   ...You know... stopping every few seconds or minutes to talk about how it ties in with social studies.

I'm sure it's super-annoying, but no doubt also super helpful.  There is SO much in that movie.  It's one of the top 3 things I'm asked every year by former students: have you started Gandhi yet?  And generally, it's followed by some accolade or another...  My point is the interruptions enhance the film rather than detract from it.

To get the extra credit tonight, discuss what you watched in class with an adult that you live with.  I want you to mention 3 different places the film was stopped and discussed.  Tell why Mr. Cowells (or whoever stopped the film) stopped it and what they were pointing out.

Finally, write down the following quote on a piece of paper, and have the adult sign it.  "I discussed three times the movie Gandhi stopped with the person who signed this paper."

One last thing.  I had some people ask about pictures of my new baby.  Here are a couple.  I'll add Mr. Frantz too.  I hope he doesn't mind.  He seems like a nice guy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No E.C. today

Sorry all of you point-savvy people out there.  There's no extra credit today.  Word on the street is class went well though.

Baby number three (Penelope Jane) is adorable.  I'll try not to inundate the blog with pictures.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shooting an Elephant - Homework

Today in class we read George Orwell’s essay, “Shooting an Elephant.”  It’s a very good essay.  It depicts the British Empire as it’s reaching its end, and shows the outcomes of colonization.  If you’ve never read the essay and want to, click HERE.  (I highly recommend it.  It’s not very long.)

Every other year we’ve discussed the essay in class.  Most classes got a little discussion in today, but not to the extent I wanted to discuss it.  Your homework, student, is to discuss the essay with a parent, adult that you live with, or someone over 18.   You don’t have to take more than 10-15 minutes discussing it, but you can discuss it in greater detail if you want.

First, summarize the story.  Tell the person you’re discussing it with what happened.  Parents/adults, feel free to ask questions if you don’t understand something about the story.

Once the summary is done, discuss some of the following questions.  You can choose the amount you want to answer, but I would suggest answering at least two questions.

1.  The British had made Burma (Myanmar), India, and the rest of the “British Raj” part of the British Empire.  What does this mean?

2.  Why did Orwell feel conflicted about his job?

3.  Can you give any examples of ethnocentrism found in the essay?  Can you find an example from the other side?

4.  Orwell says, “When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.”  What does he mean?

5.  Have you ever been faced with a situation where you felt pressured into doing something you knew was wrong?  How did that make you feel?  Explain your answer if you feel comfortable.

6.  Compare what happened to the Burmese in the essay to what happened to the Banananovians.

7.  How do you think the elephant’s owner felt?  Why couldn’t he do anything about the situation?  What does that say about the rights of certain groups of people in the empire?

8.  Did Orwell REALLY have to shoot the elephant?  And what makes you come to that conclusion?

9.  Did the elephant symbolize/represent something more?  If so, what?  (Symbolism reminds us of something else.)  ***If you’re having trouble with this one, compare what happened to the elephant to what happened to the Burmese people.  Compare who shot the elephant to the British Empire.

In order to get credit for the homework, on a scrap piece of paper, write down the numbers of the questions you answered, along with a brief (one or two sentence) response to each.  Then have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.  (Make sure the name of the student is on it as well.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

China's Oil Imports

So... honestly, I didn't like my lesson today as much as I thought I would.  It was rather boring.  Sorry about that.  I promise you'll like it tomorrow.  Well... I'd better not promise... but you'll probably like it.

Today we continued discussing GDP, and we looked at China's oil imports.

I don't want to take up more of your time today, so I'll just get to the E.C.

Find out if your kid knows what an import is.  Ask them the opposite of import.  Ask them how GDP and standard of living are similar.  How are they different?  Why does China need to import more oil this year than they did in 2005?

Finally, ask them what currency means.  I was shocked, shocked, when I saw how many students didn't know what currency means.  In one class, I didn't have a single student who could answer it.  (Most classes it was about 50-50...)  My definition of "pounds" was "British currency."  Unfortunately, the students didn't know what currency meant.  Oh well, it's not like it's that common of a word.  Besides, they know it now.  (Hopefully.)

If you want the extra credit today, write the following phrase on a scrap of paper: "Riba ribi grize rep."  Then, have the parent or adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Make sure you include your name.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


We had a nice discussion about GDP today.

I had a District Technology Committee meeting today in the afternoon, and the meeting just ended - so I don't have time to type up a blog right now.

Extra credit if you discuss what we talked about in class:

What does GDP stand for?
What is GDP?
How is it measured?
Why can't it be measured in number of products?
What happened to China's GDP between 1949 and 2000?
What are some reasons that happened?

If you discuss those questions with an adult, write the following phrase on a scrap piece of paper:  I never knew gross meant total.  I discussed GDP with __________________________.

Then, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the the line.  (Make sure you have your name on it as well.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Couple Games

To get the extra credit today, play the Middle East Geography Games found HERE.

We spent a little time today discussing similarities between the three monotheistic religions - Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.  One of the similarities we mentioned is that they all originated in the Middle East.

Some of the students were unsure of what/where the Middle East is, so I talked about the term a little bit - and how it's Eurocentric - and therefore, one could argue - ethnocentric.  (Basically, the term comes from the European point of view.)

Here's a nice picture: map of near east middle east and far east

To get the extra credit today, students have to play the game (play the "country" column - in the middle) 5 times, and show an adult that they've played it 5 times. Once they're done, have the adult sign a piece of scrap paper, along with the scores.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Colonization Simulation Breakdown II

The students have homework over the weekend, though most of them finished it in class.  If they haven't finished their Colonization Simulation Breakdown papers, they need to.  (I'll attach a link in case anybody was absent or lost it.)

If you were in class, it should be easy, as we discussed a lot of the questions today.  Some of the questions were pretty straight-forward, such as: "What did your flag look like?"  Or, "What was your chant?"  Other questions were more difficult though, like, "What did the flag and chant represent?"  We discussed the different aspects of culture that they represented.

I think it's fairly important to stay informed, so before the 2008 elections, I read both of Barack Obama's autobiographies/memoirs as well as John McCain's book Faith of My Fathers.  In the book, McCain tells of when he was a POW in Vietnam.  He told the story of Mike Christian making a flag out of his POW uniform.  We discussed what the flag represents, and why.  We compared that to the flags students made for the activity.

I searched out the story on youtube.  It differs slightly than how I remember it from the book.  It's embedded here if you care to take 3 minutes to watch it.

We discussed whether what happened was fair or unfair, and why students felt that way.  We discussed sporting events, reffing, and how things always seem unfair if you're on the team that loses.

We discussed ethnocentrism, and whether or not the Europeans were truly ethnocentric.  I had a student one time ask me if they were really ethnocentric, since my definition was, "thinking your culture is superior to other cultures."  The student told me that means the colonizers weren't ethnocentric.  Since they defeated everybody else, they really were the better culture.  If two basketball teams played one another, we'd all agree that the winning team was the better team - especially if it was a landslide victory. ...Like I said, we had some great discussion today.

Congratulations.  It's Friday.  I am a real human being typing this.  If you want the extra credit on Monday, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign a piece of paper and write something witty on it.

Here's the link to the paper: Colonization Simulation Breakdown Paper

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Debriefing Colonization Simulation

That's right, it's time for the weekly social studies blog homework.  In case you're still wondering why I do this, the more a student discusses what goes on in the classroom, the better chance she'll have at retaining the information.  Furthermore, multiple choice testing can only assess so much.  One-on-one discussion truly shows understanding and comprehension.  Unfortunately, I can only have a limited number of one-on-one discussions in the classroom.  Finally, I'm trying to help you guys out. I believe it is important to keep families in the loop.  This is what we are studying in my class.

Yesterday we had the colonization simulation.  Today we started debriefing the activity.  The bellwork question was, "If you were in a group that was conquered, how did you feel?  Why?  If you were part of the conquering group, how did you feel?  Why?"  So far, I've received some really good responses.  Most students bought into yesterday's activity, and felt like it was unfair that one person could defeat seven or eight.  They thought it was unfair when their land was taken.

We looked at a couple maps of The British Empire:

British Empire Map

Then we went back to the "Reasons Explorers Explored the World" paper from Tuesday.  Class was cut short today because of the writing prompt, so we'll have to leave the rest of the debriefing until tomorrow.  To get credit for the blog homework, discuss yesterday's activity.  Adults, ask questions about what happened.  Students, be as descriptive as possible.  Explain how the desire for natural resources was the driving force behind exploration and colonization.

After you've discussed the blog, write the following sentences on a piece of scrap paper: "I read and discussed the blog with ___________________________________."  Then have that person sign on the line.  Finally, write 3 things you told them about yesterday's simulation.  (Make sure your name is on the paper as well.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Colonization Simulation

Today we did one of my favorite activities of the year, the Colonization Simulation.  I wish I was allowed to post pictures of students on here.  Most of them really got into it.

The room was covered in blue butcher paper, with spaces of carpet representing the continents.  Students take time developing their own cultures.  They're supposed to make a chant/cheer, design a flag, and alter their style of dress somehow - cuffing their pants or rolling up their sleeve...

Then, the smallest of the continents sails across the sea and tries to colonize the others.  If they succeed, they tear up the flag, and force the people to dress the way they dress.  They always succeed.  (At least in the simulation...  I guess we're having another Great Britain/Falklands flare-up...)

We're going to debrief the activity at length tomorrow.  There may be a little bit of homework as well.  (Shock and sadness from all students involved.)

In order to get the extra credit for reading this, students must discuss this blog with a parent or adult that lives in their home.  Students, tell your parents about the activity.  What continent were you on?  What continent do you think it represented?  What did your flag look like?  What happened to it?

After you've discussed the blog and the questions in bold above, write the following quote and sentence on a scrap of paper.  "'What were the political ramifications of the 1986 quarter-final World Cup game?'  I read and discussed the blog with ___________________________."  Then have the parent/adult from your home that you discussed it with sign the scrap paper on the line.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I can't believe I'm posting in the morning.  This is great!  Maybe I'll be able to set up the Colonization Simulation during prep today, and then I won't have to put in another 14 hour day, like yesterday.

My second hour class is at a job fair, in case you're wondering what I'm doing.  I could be up with them, but as I'm already gainfully employed I think this is a better use of my time.  Mrs. K. Dutton is up there with them as well, so they're not just roaming the halls.

Natural resources, natural resources, natural resources.  If there's one thing I want students to get out of this lesson, other than a review over karma, the caste system, and Hinduism in general, it's natural resources.

I gave the students a handout on exploration that Mr. Cowells gave me.  It's basically a cut and paste from thinkquest. How I long for the day when we have paperless classes, and I can just send students to that link to get the information.  There is Sooooo much we could do if every student had his own computer.  The future continues to impress me.

If you want some extra credit points, go to the THINKQUEST site and discuss the reasons for exploration with an adult that lives in the same house as you.  THOUGHTS:  Were some reasons better than others?  What are the implications of the sentence under Gold, Silver and Precious Stones,  "They believed that Asia was loaded with gold, silver, and precious stones, so they decided to find it and bring it back."  What about the section, Larger Empires?  Any thoughts on that one?

If you want credit for discussing this blog, write down the headings from each of those sections from the thinkquest website.  Then, write the sentence, "I discussed the thinkquest website with_________________________." on a piece of scrap paper.  Finally, have the person you discussed the blog and website with sign on the line.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Be very, very quiet.  I'm coaching chess right now.  We're treating the games like a tournament today, since we have the team qualifier coming up in a week...  Which means I can't play, and I can't give hints - not that my hints are that helpful.  I'm more a chess "sponsor" than "coach," if you know what I mean...  Coaching chess is a humbling job indeed...

We read The Hunger Games for five minutes, one day last week.  If we keep up that pace we should get through it somewhere around the spring of 2045.  So, today we read all day.  But this will be the only day this week that we get to read, so that's only bumping us up to finishing the book around spring 2044.

It looks like we have the green light to see the movie though.  (Assuming we finish the book...) We'll work out the logistics later.

Today, if you want the extra credit, discuss what's happening in the book with some adult that you live with.  (If the adult you're discussing this with plans on reading the books, maybe you should find a different adult to discuss these questions with...) Answer the following questions:  How does the theme of trust play into the book?  Who does Katniss trust?  Who does she distrust?  Why?  How does being constantly watched affect the different levels of trust in the book?  For instance, would you act any differently if you were at a birthday party and you knew someone was videotaping you?  Why?  How does that relate to the "trust" issue in the book?

Tracker Jacker Baby
(Thanks, Dekalb for letting us use your Tracker Jacker...)

After you've discussed these questions, write the following quote on a piece of scrap paper to prove that you've read today's blog: I'm a tracker jacker attacker.  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Adults, by signing that scrap paper, you are signifying that you read and discussed the blog with whoever it is in my class wants the extra credit.  Please don't sign it unless you really did discuss it.

Friday, February 3, 2012


I just finished up putting in grades.  You may want to check them and see if you're missing anything.  It's 5:05 and my family is probably wondering where I am.

Speaking of grading, we graded the India Maps in class today.  Grading during class is a great way for students to take in the information a second time.  They get to see where they made mistakes, and correct them right away - which reinforces their learning.

I make the students take everything off their desks except for the red pen they are using, and the map they are grading.  This cuts down on cheating.  (Believe it or not, I've had students try to cheat in my class before...  Sad, I know... What has the world come to?)

We also discussed the caste system a little bit more.  The bellwork for the day asked whether or not there was a caste system or social structure here at CJHS.  We had some pretty interesting responses.  Personally, I'm putting the Chess Team at the top.  We've got a tournament tomorrow.  8:00 AM until about 3:00 or 4:00 PM.  I'm pretty sure we'll smoke the competition.

To get the extra credit Monday, students need to discuss the following with an adult in their home: is there a social structure at CJHS?  What does it look like?  Are there any other ways to make the social structure pyramid?  Where would you put yourself?  (Don't worry, I won't ask that one in class...)  How much of social structure at CJHS is perception?  I mean, some people might think one group is on the top, other people might thing a different group belongs there...

Once you've read and discussed the blog, write the following quote on a piece of paper and have the adult you discussed it with sign it.  (Don't forget to put your name on it as well.)  Quote:  "Be nice to nerds.  Chances are you'll end up working for one."  - Bill Gates.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Plenty to Discuss

I love this curriculum.  I love my classes this year.  We took notes today - which we hardly ever do.  In spite of this, most classes had some really great discussions going on.

We started out by discussing the various ways to view a person.  I stated that there are at least three.  There's the way you view yourself, the way others view you, and the "true view" of you...  We discussed these in depth.  I generally ask the students how many agree with the statement, "I know myself better THAN anybody else knows me.  I know my thoughts and motives.  I'm the only person that's with me 24-7.  I know myself best."  The majority of students agree with this.  Then I ask them, "how many of you know someone who thinks they're really cool - but they're actually not maybe as cool as they think?"

Again, the majority of hands go up.  "Interesting," I say.  "Can you have it both ways?  I mean, you're saying that you know yourself better than anybody else knows you - but you're also saying that you know others better than they know themselves.  Somewhere somebody's mistaken."

It makes for some pretty interesting discussion.

We discuss what makes up a person:

Once again, we had some great discussion.  (Is that all there is?  Is there a such thing as a soul?  Is all of this stuff for real?...)

This is one of my reasons for having the blog...  I'm teaching about Hinduism, but these questions come up naturally.  I want to make sure you know what I'm teaching, and I want you to know the questions that your kid, or nephew, etc... has.

Hinduism teaches that there is a soul.  So we continued talking about the Hindu view, the caste system, and reincarnation:

I was encouraged by the students today.  They were very respectful throughout the lesson.  Obviously, being a public school there are a variety of faiths and ideas that are brought into my classroom.  Throughout the day, students listened appropriately to what others had to say and asked insightful questions.

In order to get the credit for the homework tonight, students are required to discuss this blog post with the adult they read it with.  After you've read and discussed the post, write two complete sentences in response to it.  Then, students, have the adult you discussed the post with sign the paper.  (Make sure your name is on the paper as well.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Does Everything Take Longer Than I Think It Should?

Perhaps you can guess from today's heading how I think class went today...  I think I gave the students too long to finish their maps.  So we didn't get to the discussion...  which means we'll push that back to tomorrow or Friday.  Tomorrow doesn't work so well because we'll be grading the maps... which leaves Friday.  Of course that means we won't be reading The Hunger Games this week.  I HATE going that long without reading.  It really breaks up the flow of the book.  Though, I guess I have to wait a week between episodes of The Office and I can still follow what's going on...

We did talk a little about the caste system pyramid:

Some classes even got a pretty good discussion going.  We compared the social structure in the U.S. to the caste system.  We also looked at similarities between racism and the treatment of the untouchables.

However, it was still a very surface-y discussion.

I was impressed by a couple classes bringing up The Hunger Games.  We were going to get to that once I started going over the notes in earnest.  Some students brought up how the top tier of society is The Capitol, and the higher the district number, the lower standard of living, and the lower you were in the social structure pyramid.  Very perceptive.  One student even mentioned that the Avoxes were like the untouchables.

I love connections.

To my class: make sure you have your map tomorrow.  We're grading it.

If you want the extra credit, make sure you discuss the blog with an adult at your house.  Then, on a scrap of paper, write down three points that came up in the discussion.  Have the adult sign the paper.