Thursday, February 27, 2014


I was rather harsh today in how I dealt out bellwork points.  If students were talking even a little - they were gone.  If students were unprepared - they were gone.  And of course, if students didn't work on the bellwork, or it was incomplete - the points were gone.

Which is probably why some of you showed up today.  You want those points back - and I don't blame you.

I tried to emphasize that I offer unlimited extra credit in here.  If students want it, they can get it.  In the words of Weezer:

"If you want it, you can have it.  You've just gotta learn to reach up there and grab it."

Part of the reason I was being extra strict is that we've got the ISTEP coming up.  There are so many questions that the students think they don't know, but really they do.  Often, when they think they don't know something they'll leave the spot blank rather than read the directions carefully while looking for clues.  If they leave their ISTEPs blank, guess what: 0 points.  And that's how it was today.

If they want the points for today, discuss the ancient civilizations.

Have them tell you which civilization goes with each river: Tigris/Euphrates; Nile; Huang-He or Yellow; Indus.

Then, have them tell you one famous person from the Tigris/Euphrates river valley civilization, and tell you what he (or she) did that was so great.

On a piece of paper, write the person the student named.  Then, students, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign that piece of paper.

Turn it in tomorrow for extra credit.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

T-Minus 13 Days

On the top of a bellwork paper from a highly esteemed colleague, it reads: "T-MINUS 13 DAYS."

I have not been reviewing for the ISTEP yet, but when I see numbers like 13, I start to think... I probably should have started reviewing, you know... 30 days ago.

So, I'm glad he sent me a copy of his bellwork.  I changed my plans for the morning, and switched over to a light review before continuing on with Hinduism.  I think I'll continue that trend until ISTEP is over.  A little review, a little lesson.

One of the best parts about working at Concord, and specifically CJHS is that we generally help each other out.  I really appreciate that.  Maybe we compete to some extent, but in general we're there for each other - and we're looking for success from all our students - whether they're in our class or not.

We've finished up our discussions on Hinduism.

The bell just rang, so I'd like to direct you to THIS POST.  Just read it and do what it says if you want extra credit.  :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thoughts on Hinduism

I know I said I would link to an old post today... but I find it's also nice for me to type out what's going on.

Maybe I already talked about them on here.  If you find these same stories in a different post, well bully for you!

Some thoughts:

Good gods, bad gods:

Growing up, I always thought of Hinduism as having "good gods" and "bad gods."  For instance, Brahma - the creator, and Vishnu - the preserver were "good gods," and Shiva - the destroyer was a "bad god."  I'm not sure whether this idea came from what I was taught of Hinduism, or from applying my Judeo-Christian culture/ world-view into the context of Hinduism.

For instance, in Christianity, God the Father is the Creator.  And He is good.  Satan destroys, and he is bad.  Technically, I'd argue he's the worst.  Literally... the worst.  Jesus says in Matthew, "Don't fear anyone who can destroy your body, rather fear the one who can destroy your soul." 

So, maybe I thought Satan destroys... destruction is bad... Shiva destroys... Shiva is bad.

But that's not the approach Hinduism takes.

I told the kids it's more like this.

Think of a gallon of milk.

The milk is created.  And that's good.  Your parents go to the store, and buy it.  They put the gallon in the fridge, where' it is preserved.  And this is also good.

Now, I have a 2 year old daughter.  Sometimes we give her a sippy cup of milk.  And sometimes she loses it.  There have been times we found the sippy cup days later.  Have you ever smelled spoiled milk?

We destroyed whatever was left in that sippy cup.  Poured it down the drain and washed the cup before the stench filled the house.

And that was a good thing.  The destruction was good.

Shiva destroys when it is time for something to be destroyed.  And it's a good thing.  And Shiva - the destroyer is also the re-creator.

To all my Hindu readers out there, I know that this is a vast over-simplification.  And I realize that - just like Christianity - there are many different beliefs in Hinduism.  If anybody ever wants to leave comment or thoughts, or clear anything up.  Please feel free.

In the mean-time, if you're in my class and want extra credit for reading and discussing my blog, discuss the milk analogy with the adult you read the blog with.  Write 2 or 3 sentences telling me whether you guys agree with the analogy.  Then, have the adult sign the paper.

Turn it in on Monday.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Moving to Hinduism...

I'm not posting extra credit today.  If you're here and you want some... make sure to write me a long letter telling me how unfair I am.  I would include lots of snarky comments, and some glary-faces.  Those always help.

I'll probably use an old post for extra credit tomorrow.  I wrote some good ones on the topic last year.  And if I'm not going to do a better job this year, why not just use them?

Alright.  Peace.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Poppy!

Look, I know you're not here to hear about my kids, but it's my daughter Penelope's birthday, so I thought I'd post this picture that my wife sent to me this morning:

*Sigh*  They grow up so fast.  She's two today.

In class we're finishing up the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  We looked at the 5 pillars of faith again, and then did an interactive Venn Diagram.

There will be a quiz coming up pretty soon.

But tomorrow we're moving on to Hinduism.  I haven't decided yet if I'm going to break the religions apart - you know - give a quiz on the three monotheistic religions, and then a separate quiz on Hinduism and Buddhism.  I'm leaning on giving one test covering all the religions we've studied.

Last thought: one of the vocabulary words that's going to be on the Wellness vocabulary test on Friday is monogamous.  This is where learning those prefixes and suffixes comes in handy.

If you're in my class and want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, make sure you read it and discuss it with an adult.  Tell them the 5 Pillars of Faith from memory, if you can.  Tell them about the Venn Diagram we did together as a class.  Explain how it worked.

Then, write the quote: "Happy birthday, Poppy."  on a piece of paper, and have them sign it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

5 Pillars of Faith

Today students drew pictures of the 5 Pillars of Faith for Islam, and then shared the pictures with someone else - having them label the pictures.  I hope to post some of these pictures later, but I don't have time right now.

Here's my rendition of the 5 Pillars.  Don't judge it too harshly.

Don't ask me how the pillars in the second picture are being lifted off the ground...  I'm guessing they're attached somehow.  Ask an architect.

The point is, that to be a "good Muslim" one would have to submit to these pillars of faith.  For instance, if a Muslim said, "I don't believe in God," he wouldn't be a very good Muslim.  In fact, one could argue he's not a Muslim at all.

I had a student in 6th hour ask about that though.  "What if there was a Muslim who didn't give to the poor."  Great question.  I think other Muslims might say that person's not being a very good Muslim.  Maybe they don't want to judge their brother, but they might believe that since Allah commands it, they should do it.

I also compared it to a game of Jinga.  Eventually the tower will fall.  Maybe they only pray twice a day.  Maybe they don't fast during Ramadan...  There will come a time when their faith falls - or at least when they are considered "nominal" Muslims.

If you're in my class and want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, write two sentences from your discussion, and have the adult sign it.  Maybe tell them the 5 pillars of faith for Islam.  If you can't remember them, just scroll up.

Have the adult sign the paper, and turn it in tomorrow.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Homework? What? Are you crazy?

I know, right?  You only have 4 days to complete it...

We finished up our 3 monotheistic religions charts today.  If you weren't here or you lost yours, you can download it by CLICKING ON THIS LINK.  That link will work for the rest of the quarter.  It's also on the school's website.  So imagine you're in the future trying to remember which blog post is housing this chart...  no need to worry.  Just go get it from H-Block Assignments.

Today's homework is also posted there.  (Or you can just click THIS HOMEWORK LINK.)  Students have to have 5 beliefs, thoughts, practices, etc... for each religion, and 5 for all three.  Anything falling in the two out of three category counts as all three.  So, for instance Judaism and Islam teach that pork is unclean - and should be avoided.  That would fall under the "all three" category, but should be placed between Judaism and Islam.

Students need 20 total on the diagram, and it's worth 20 points.  The instructions aren't on the top of the diagram, but we went over it in class.

We also finished watching the Islam video today.

Thanks for all your support.

Students, if you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, make sure you have your homework done.  If it's done, on the back of the homework write the 5 pillars of faith for Islam.  If you don't remember them, look them up online.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the back of your homework.

Put a note in the extra credit tray telling me to check it... I'd hate to miss it.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Yesterday and Cladogram (Monotheistic Religions)

If you didn't read yesterday's post, go back and do that.

If you already read (and submitted) yesterday's post, let me know and you'll get credit for showing up today.

If you were absent today, we discussed the 2 analogies that were in the post yesterday.  I had students write about them, and they submitted them as a writing sample for Mr. Ogle.  (Or whatever LA teacher they have...)

We also started watching a short video on Islam.

I created a Prezi cladogram on the three monotheistic religions.  It's a work in progress...  please feel free to suggest any changes.

I'll probably keep working on it as I find time.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Founders: Two Analogies

I haven't shared this with my class yet, so they may not get it.  ...Well, I shared the one example with a couple classes.  ...No time to explain.

Here they are:


There's a rich billionaire.  In his will, he says he is leaving everything to his son.  "Keep the money intact so the family business stays strong," he says.  "Don't split the money up.  Don't give some to someone and the rest to someone else.  Give it all - ALL OF IT - to my son."

Not a problem, you think?  He had two biological sons, and one adopted son.  Which one gets it?


A man owns a pizza business, and it becomes wildly successful.  This man has two sons.  When he gets older, and makes his will his eldest son tells him he wants to keep the pizza business going.  He asks to be written into the will, and to have some money to continue.

His youngest son has never really liked pizza.  He has always been interested in shoes.  He asks his father if he could still have his share of the inheritence to strike it out on his own in the shoe business.  His father agrees.

Years pass, and the father dies.  The older son now runs the pizza business, the younger son runs the shoe business.  The money from both business came from the father.  Who is the founder of each business?

Discuss these analogies with an adult.  See if you can figure out what they have to do with religious founders.  For instance, who does the rich billionaire represent?  What about his two biological sons?  What about his adopted son?  What about the will?

From analogy 2, who is the pizza owner?  What about his sons?  What is the pizza business and shoe business?

If you can figure it out, great.  If not, we'll be going over all this tomorrow.

If you want the extra credit, write the following sentence on a piece of scrap paper, and have the adult you discussed the blog with sign it:  "I'll take something to believe, something with long sleeves - because it's unpredictable."  Share this on facebook, instagram, or twitter for extra, extra credit.  (You still have to complete it (read and discuss) with an adult though.

If you also want to write a note about how the conversation went, I'd love it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I'd read the comments on today's blog if I were you...

Before I officially begin today's post, I want to say that I'm glad you're here.  I tried to direct all my students to this page tonight, but since I didn't assign it for homework, I'm sure a lot of them would rather... you know... do anything that's not "school."

I also asked them to go back and ask you what you believe.  We covered some controversial topics today in class, and there were times the conversations got very intense.  In fact, I was told they carried over into other classes, so I'm sorry if your kid got in trouble somewhere else...  I think a stern look by Mrs. Higley was enough to bring them back in line.

Why do we study social studies?  To understand one another.  If we understand others - their successes and failures, their goals, ambition, and will... it will help us get along with each other, and understand ourselves.

Junior High students often see a lot of drama.  I believe understanding others, and respecting others will cut down on that.  And there's something to be said for picking your battles...  some Jr. High kids fight every battle, which makes for a long school year.  If you understand others, you probably won't have to fight them as much - or at least, you'll know when the time comes to legitimately stand up for what you believe in.

Part of understanding others is understanding what they believe.  I've always assumed this is why the state of Indiana wants us to teach on the various religions.  We've already introduced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - but now we're getting a little more in depth.

In order to hammer the idea that Christians are a very diverse group, I asked my students a series of questions about what it means to be a "good" or "real" Christian.  The questions ranged from baptism, to drinking, to modesty, to gay marriage and abortion.

Throughout the lesson, I tried to counter what students said with thoughts and arguments from the other side.  As an educator, this is often difficult (albeit fun) to do, because I'm often arguing against the very belief that I hold.  And through it all, I emphasized respect for the other side.

For instance, if a student believed a "good" Christian would oppose same-sex marriage, the opposing side wasn't allowed to call them bigots or haters.  If a student believed a "good" Christian would favor same-sex marriage, the opposing side wasn't allowed to call them "nasty" or "disgusting."

I felt like that question was particularly timely, as Indiana is debating HJR3.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, find a scrap of paper, and write two short paragraphs.  In the first one, tell how you thought today's class went.  In the second one, talk about the discussion you had with an adult while reading this blog.

Have them sign the paper, and then turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


We did some timeline practice today.  ...I wonder if I can upload that bellwork here... lets see:




Looks like that's a no.  At any rate, I made a timeline of the 3 monotheistic religions, and the students worked on that for the first half of the class.  For the first time this year, I felt like the majority really understood timelines.

The second half we watched a video about Judaism.

We'll finish that up tomorrow, and then make the transition from Judaism into Christianity and Islam.

I'm keep the blog post short and sweet today.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, discuss what you know about Judaism - from that chart we did yesterday, and the video we started today.

Then, write the following on a scrap piece of paper to prove you were here today:  "Will tomorrow be a day of rest?  I'm sleeping in if it snows."

Then, have the adult sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.  Or... you know... whenever we get back here.