Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Welcome to the blog!

For some of you, this is your first time here.  If you're bored, surfing the web on your phone at conferences while waiting for your social studies teacher to finish up with the parent in front you you, I encourage you to look around the site a little bit.  Look at previous posts.

For those of you who have been here for a while, you know how it works: students in my class may read and discuss blog posts with an adult and earn extra credit for it.  This will reinforce what we're learning, keep parents up to date, and get students some extra credit as well.

In class, Mr. Helmuth is finishing up teaching about Mesopotamia and Egypt.  They discussed the ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife.  You know that old saying, "you can't take it with you?"  It seems as if the Egyptians didn't believe that.  So, one of the questions Mr. Helmuth asked his students was, if you could take 5 things with you to an afterlife, what would they be?  He had them write a paragraph explaining why the students made the decisions they did.

Another thing he had them do was write in Cuneiform.  He gave each student some play-doh and a stylus, and put a phonetic translation of the Cuneiform alphabet on the SMART board.  He then had the students write.  Obviously, it was a different form of clay, and no doubt the styli that the Sumerians used were more appropriate for the writing the scribes did, students were still able to get an idea of writing in clay.

If you came to the blog today and want extra credit - or want your kid to get extra credit, students have to read it and discuss it with an adult.  Students, tell them how class went.  What did you say you're taking with you?  How did the writing in clay go?  Does Mr. Habecker need to buy new play-doh?  What language to the Egyptians use?

Then, when you're done discussing, find a scrap of paper.  Nothing new.  Just a scrap.  The inside of a junk mail envelope.  Anything.  Have the student write down two sentences from the discussion.  Sign the paper.  That is meant to be proof that you read and discussed the blog together.  I'm trusting that if you made it this far, you also took the 5 minutes and discussed it.

Make sure that the student's name, date and hour is on it as well.  Then turn it in tomorrow.  No!  WAIT!  TURN IT IN AFTER BREAK!!!  WOO HOO!!!!  FALL BREAK!!!!

Have a good one.

Monday, October 27, 2014


We have conferences tonight, so Mr. Helmuth and I are busy preparing for those.  And you'll get a chance to ask us tonight - or tomorrow night - about class in person.

So, we won't spend any more time here.  Thanks for checking in.

If you want the extra credit, find a scrap of paper and tell me how conferences went.  If you're going to go tomorrow, tell me.  If you're not going, write that down then tell me why not.

Have the adult you read and discuss the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in whenever you're back in school.

See you soon.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Mr. Helmuth is having the students mime presentations.  It's more or less a review over several topics we've covered.  Students could present the reasons ancient civilizations were found near rivers, or cuneiform.  They could present Hammurabi's Code, or agriculture.

They had yesterday to prepare the presentations, and today to present them.  Mr. Helmuth said overall he was pleased with how they performed, and that they understand the concepts he's been teaching.

Here are some pictures of the presentations:

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, tell the adult you are reading this with what you did for your presentation.  Tell them whether you thought it went well or not.  Then, find a scrap of paper and write a sentence from the discussion.  Have the adult you read and discussed with sign the paper.  Turn it in on Monday.  Make sure your name, date, and hour are on the paper.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We've Got Spirit

It's "Red-Ribbon Week" here at Concord Junior High.  Several of us are participating.  I feel kindof bad, though.  Yesterday we told students what we were going to wear for twin day, and we invited them to join in: blue shirt, blue tie, black pants, black shoes.  But, I forgot that we were double booked.  Mr. Helmuth and I had a curriculum development meeting.  So, we went there dressed like twins - and received some fun looks.  (It was not what I would call a "shirt and tie" meeting.)

So, this is my formal apology to all the students who were let down because they felt stood up: I'm sorry.  We're sorry.  And you were still our twin even though we were in a different building.

...Also, we probably should have clarified the shade of blue.

Today was "wacky day," so we were at it again:

Tomorrow is "Color Splash Day."  Each quad is supposed to wear their designated color:

I'm not sure what the colors are for the other quads, but H is white.  Which, I guess is technically the absence of color... so... I'm just not going to ask about that...

In class Mr. Helmuth has been studying ancient civilizations - right now he's focusing on Mesopotamia.  Yesterday, the students worked on a map while we were away.  It was due today, and it will be graded and turned in tomorrow.

It was interesting.  At the meeting yesterday, we found out that the 6th graders started incorporating Mesopotamia into their curriculum last year.  So, thanks for the help, 6th grade teachers!

If you didn't complete the map, you can print one off on the school website.  Just go to H-Block Assignments.  (Or click THIS LINK. - You'll need to use maps on the internet to label it.)

To prove that you were here today, find a scrap of paper and write a sentence telling me what you learned about the Mesopotamians last year.  Then, write a sentence telling me something that Mr. Helmuth has taught you about them so far this year.

Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the scrap of paper.  Put it in the extra credit tray tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's pajama day here at CJHS, and everyone is looking fly. This is Mr. Helmuth again with a star-studded blog entry.

The weekend came and went, and we are now back into ancient civilizations. The students have spent these past two days in class looking at Mesopotamia, watching several music videos, and taking their government quiz!

The quiz was short and sweet, and went off without a hitch. Most of us did pretty well, so Mr. Helmuth considers himself a happy camper.

With the last half of class we spent our time reviewing Mesopotamia, and watching a John Green video in his "Crash Course" series. Nothing like a little Red Bull-injected education!

If you're only here for the extra credit, this is what you need to complete: Discuss the blog with an adult, have them sign a piece of scrap paper mentioning what you discussed, date it, and turn it in tomorrow. Be sure to include your favorite part of the John green video so that I know you were actually here. Have a good evening, and we'll see you bright and early on twin day!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Beginning of Ancient Civilizations

Whew! It has been a crazy week here at CJHS, and it has been several days since we last spoke. This is Mr. Helmuth wrapping up a week of ancient civilizations here on the blog.

The students spent most of their time this week learning about the Fertile Crescent, and why civilizations began to form in this area. Today our focus was on Mesopotamia, which is just another name for the Fertile Crescent. We spent most of our time reading a section from the textbook as a class, with occasional interruptions from Mr. Helmuth (sorry!).

Following our discussions, questions, and answers about the reading, the classes got to see a music video produced by students of a similar age from a different school. While it may seem a little bit goofy, it helps to remind us of the names of some of the great leaders from this time period and their accomplishments.

You can watch the video here: 

Finally, after a long week, I’m sure everyone is ready for a break…or just the extra credit. That’s understandable. For the extra credit tonight, discuss the blog with an adult, have them sign a piece of paper, put your name, date and hour on it, and turn it in on Monday. Make sure to include something interesting you did this weekend.

Have a great weekend, and we will see you “BETWEEN THE TIGRIS AND EUPHRATES, BABY!”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Mr. Helmuth is teaching the students why ancient civilizations were found near rivers.

Here are 5 reasons:

Agriculture (water for crops and animals)
Transportation and trade
Drinking water

He told an interactive story, with different students coming to the front to participate.  He had several rivers, farmers, fishermen, fish, rain...

He then spent some time going over timelines and calendars.

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, write a paragraph explaining today's story.  Make sure you explain the point of the story.

Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it.  Turn it in tomorrow for extra credit.  (Make sure your name, date and hour are on it as well...)

Monday, October 13, 2014


What's the most important invention or discovery of all time?


Don't read any farther.  And students - if you were here today, don't shout out the answer... at least, not yet.  Give a bunch of other suggestions.

See if the adult you're reading with can come up with the one I gave.








Did they?

After you've discussed it, tell them what I said.  Then tell them why.

(In case you forget, I said agriculture.  Agriculture led to the development of cities, division of labor, etc, etc... and ultimately CIVILIZATION.)

We'll get to civilizations later.

For now, just know what agriculture is, and why it's important.  Maybe think about it next time you eat a meal.  Chances are whatever you are eating was raised for you to eat.  Unless you've got a hunter in the family.  It's no longer crow season in Indiana, by the way.  I just checked.  But if you've got a bow and an arrow or two, you could go after turkey or deer.  Probably also a license, or licensed adult.  I haven't hunted in a LONG time.  I'm probably the wrong person to go to about these laws.

Also, we're discussing agriculture in here.  If you want a head start on what we're doing and what we'll be studying next, you can always search the blogger search engine at the top of your screen.  Type "agriculture."  Then you can read last year's posts.  ...If you're bored.

For now, if you want the extra credit, write down what you had for your last meal.  Then tell me how much of it was raised for consumption.  Me?  I had a bowl of cereal - all the grain in there was raised.  As were the almonds.  I poured on milk.  Cows were raised to give me the milk.  I drank a cup of coffee... yep... coffee beans.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign what you just wrote.  Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it - otherwise you won't get credit.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back, Baby! (Governments)

The bellwork today asked students to tell us which government would be the scariest government to live under, and then explain why.

We are guessing that they'll all give one of the unlimited governments.  At least, I can't imagine anyone would find a constitutional monarchy scarier than an absolute monarchy.

And I know that Taylor (from Stars Hollow... from The Gilmore Girls) can be pretty abrasive, at times... but I would hardly count him (or the direct democracy of Star's Hollow) as scarier than, say... Islam Karimov...

For the record, I know that Taylor Doose has an elected position in Stars Hollow, but the position - at least as it's portrayed on the show - has no real power.  He's just in the front at the meetings, and the people of the town get to vote.

(...Not that I watched tons of The Gilmore Girls or anything...  Sheesh...)

Mr. Helmuth is slowly moving from governments into ancient civilizations.  And what better way to do that then with Hammurabi?  You know, I was a little bit nervous when Mr. Helmuth said that the following video was pretty graphic, and that if students couldn't hack it, they should go to the hall.  But I shouldn't have doubted him.  It's not THAT graphic.

High production quality.  Some of my students were confused... "Is that the real Hammurabi?" they asked.

We looked at some of the laws the ancient Mesopotamian government created.  It was a good day.

If you want the extra credit for reading/ discussing the blog with an adult, write two sentences from your discussion and have the adult you read it with sign the paper.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Government Board Game

We'll be studying types of governments for the rest of the week.

Mr. Helmuth is having the students create their own board games.  They had to make true or false questions about the governments.  Each question corresponds with a spot on the board.  Tomorrow, they'll play the games for some sort of prizes.  I don't know what he has in mind.  I'm hoping it's a new car, because the "check engine" light is pretty much on all the time.  No one can quite figure out why this is.

Of course, that's assuming I win the game...

Students did a pretty good job of making the questions once they got the hang of it.

I'm interested in seeing how it goes tomorrow.

If you're here for the extra credit, explain the difference between limited and unlimited governments, then give an example of each.

Then, write your examples on a scrap of paper.  Have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Government Act-It-Outs (2014 Version)

We really should have filmed these.  So far, they've been excellent.  (We're in 4th hour right now.  Don't let me down, rest of the day...)

As I said yesterday, students were assigned one of the 7 forms of government we study, and they had to create a short skit depicting it.

So far, I was able to correctly identify every single one.  It's rare when that happens - not because I don't know my governments, but because the students don't always portray them very well.

I'll keep this post short again.  If you want extra credit, tell the adult you read this with how your group did.  What was your government?  How did you portray it?  What was your role?

Then, tell them which group (other than your own) did the best.  Tell them why.

Write two sentences based on your discussion on a scrap of paper.  Have the adult sign the paper.

Make sure your name, date, and hour are on it.  Then turn it in tomorrow.

HEY!  It's the weekend!!!  WOOT WOOT!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Best?

Mr. Helmuth started out class with the question, "Is a Republic the best form of government?  Would another form be better?"

It definitely sparked some interesting discussions.  Of course, the students have to know some of the basic differences between a republic and other forms of government to be able to answer with any sense of authority.

He then let them start working on their government act-it-outs.  Students are put into groups, then they are each given a government type.  They are tasked with coming up with a skit which portrays the most significant aspects of the government they were given.

If you weren't in class today, you'll be put in a group tomorrow.  You'll have to jump in as best you can.

That's it for today's post.  If you want the extra credit, you were supposed to read and discuss it with an adult.  Maybe discuss the bellwork question.  Maybe tell which group you're in, and how you are going to portray your type of government.  When you've done that, find a scrap of paper and write the word "BAM!" on it.  That will prove that you were here.  Then, have the adult you discussed with sign the paper.  That will prove that they read/discussed the blog with you.  ...Well... I guess it just proves that they signed a piece of paper saying, "BAM!"  But I trust if you made it this far, you also read and discussed the blog.

Have a great evening.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Living In A Different America

We are trying to get students to think about the similarities and differences between the various forms of government.  If we can accomplish this, then maybe they'll have a better understanding of the governments themselves.

So, what did we ask?

How would America be different if it were a dictatorship?

How would America be different if it were an oligarchy?

How would America be different if it were a direct democracy?

Students were allowed to use their charts from yesterday (see below) if they desired.

It's interesting because I remember hearing (during the Bush administration) that President Bush was a dictator.  People had their reasons for throwing this accusation around, of course.

And I've heard it said more recently that President Obama is a dictator.  ...And people have their reasons for throwing this accusation around.

I'm not going to get into all the ins and outs of why people say this - but I believe it boils down to this: the president of The United States wields tremendous power.

That said, America is not a dictatorship.  A while back we had a guest speaker come in who was unjustly imprisoned by a dictator.  (Charge?  Writing for a newspaper.  Sentence?  Three years in prison, including being tortured...  If I remember correctly, he wrote for the Sports section...)

We were talking then about how people throw around the term dictator, and he just shook his head.  He came in and talked to the class about the differences between his home country and our country.  There are many.

After the students finished writing their bellwork answers, (they also had to explain limited and unlimited governments, as well as rule of law), he had them write a story or draw a picture showing how America would be different if it were a dictatorship.  We're interested to see how they turn out.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, write one thing that might be different about America if it was a dictatorship.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Here's the chart again, if you want some help: