Monday, November 24, 2014


The test grades were sent out.  Shazaam!  (They were a little late... I had some issues with technology.)

I'm impressed by the report though.  If you didn't sign up to have your grades emailed to you, you should next time: tre cool.

We're in to economics now.  This is the definition I gave the kids:

After that, we simplified the definition.  (I also added services in after goods...)

So, we could say, "the economy deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services."

Or, we could say, "the economy deals with the making, selling, and buying of stuff."  

I prefer the former, but for 7th graders the latter is easier to understand.

We discussed the difference between a good (or healthy) economy and a bad (unhealthy) economy:

And of course, we discussed Black Friday just a little bit.

I'm not a big fan of rampant consumerism.  I'm worried it's destroying our country.

But, of course, I'm glad people buy things.  If they didn't, where would we be?  It's because people buy that allows us to have jobs and a higher standard of living.  The problem comes in when "stuff" becomes more important than people.

To get the extra credit today, you should read and discuss the blog with an adult.  On a sheet of scrap paper, write a paragraph about your discussion.  Write your thoughts about the paragraph from above.  Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  Why?  What should we do about it?

Some classes also watched some videos about this topic.  Watch if you want to, but you don't have to for the blog credit if that's what you're here for:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fear and Tests

Students took the test today.  I think it was pretty easy.  I'll put the grades in Monday, although I might grade it tonight.

If you were absent today and need to make up the test, email me about it, or ask me about it on Monday.  If you are absent - say you went to visit relatives in some far-away country or something: make sure you email me.

While the students are taking the test, I've gone through and graded a lot of their writing assignments from the past couple of days.  If you recall, we read an excerpt from The Epic of Gilgamesh.  (Click the link if you want to read it.)

*EDIT*  By the way, as with all ancient texts, there are many, MANY translations out there.  If you've never read The Epic of Gilgamesh before, may I suggest that you try Stephen Mitchell's translation?  It's very good, although this note is more for the adults reading the blog than the students...  *END EDIT*

If you remember from the excerpt, Gilgamesh is looking haggard, desolate, and emaciated.  He has begun to fear death because of the death of Enkidu.  (Spoiler alert, sorry.  You've had 4,000 years to read the thing, don't blame me too much...)

I know this was my point from the last blog post, but it was really hit home for me when I read what the students wrote.  I asked the question, "what are you afraid of?" to the students.  Four of the most common answers I received were death, loss of someone they love, being alone, and clowns.  (That last one doesn't really have anything to do with this post... it just showed up a lot...)

When Gilgamesh lost Enkidu, those are the same fears he had: he now feared death, he was now alone, and he had lost someone he loved.

I asked my students to answer that question before they knew anything about Gilgamesh.  For how far humanity has advanced, we are still people, after all.

If you want the extra credit today, talk about the blog post.  But also tell the adult you're reading with how you think you did on the test.  Write a sentence or two about the discussion, and have them sign the paper.  I realize it's not too different from Wednesday's post... but there was no lesson today.  Just an assessment.  I hope they all aced it.

*Extra: Some of the student writings about what they feared are really good.  I asked if I could post a couple up here, and they said yes.

"My fear is to be alone. I am alone all the time and it is not that big of a deal.  I am not afraid of being alone, I'm afraid of being alone for a long period of time.  Sometimes I babysit my sister while my mom and dad go shopping.  They usually take about an hour, but if they take longer I start to get worried.  Or when my mom is working and I have to watch my sister.  She always comes at the same time for lunch.  Sometimes she has a meeting and forgets to tell me, so she's late."

"I'm afraid of poisonous things.  I'm afraid of poisonous things, because I don't want to die.  I'm not afraid of spiders or snakes,  I can even touch one, but if it's poisonous it will send shivers down my spine and I would scream so loud I could wake the dead.  I don't even know why I'm afraid!  All I know is I'm terrified of poisonous things.  I can pick up a daddy long leg and not be afraid, but if I see a tarantula in a pet store I run the other way.  I see a garter snake, and I'm fine, I see a rattlesnake at the zoo I run around the corner and cry."

"Personally, I'm afraid of losing all my friends, but that's a natural fear everyone has.  (Well, I take that fear a lot more seriously than other people, I think about that every day.)  My absolute worst fear though, is the stupidest fear you will ever hear.  You know the movie company THX, who helped make Bambi and The Incredibles, right?  Well when I was little I used to watch Bambi A LOT!  And every time that one stupid THX thing came on before the movie, I would scream, I'm still afraid of the THX trailer thing today!"

"My worst fear is losing my brother.  I realized that this was my worst fear over the weekend.  My brother was going somewhere to practice for a band competition.  This was with a bunch of people he didn't know.  He told mom that he'd find a ride home.  My friend was spending the night that night.  My brother was supposed to come home at 7:30 PM.  At that time he still wasn't.  I went to my mom's room to get something and she said, "**** isn't answering his phone.  I'm scared he got in an accident."  I walked out and cried on my friend's shoulder.  At 1:30 AM my mom went out to find him.  She came home and told me he was at a friend's and fell asleep.  This is my worst fear because I don't know what I'd do without ****."

*EDIT: 9:17 PM 11/21/2014*

Guess what just happened.  It was rough, but I made it.  Students, you can fill in your parents if you want to.  I was very brave.

Oh no... There are two bags...

Nothing to worry about.

What was that noise?

Maybe if I run back inside fast enough she won't be able to catch me!

*Whew*  MADE IT!

Heh... La Llorona.  ...I don't even believe in her.  And I'm not a kid, so... whatever...  I wasn't running because I was scared... I was just exercising. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Fate of Mankind; The Issue of My Friend

The Epic of Gilgamesh is almost always credited with being the oldest written story in the world.  It's a fantastic story, and if you've never read this - mankind's first piece of writing - I highly recommend it.

We've been studying ancient civilizations, so it's only appropriate that we take a peek inside Mesopotamia's most famous book - and their most famous super-hero.

Since the book was written in Cuneiform, it was written on clay tablets.  We only read a portion from Tablet 10, the translation of which comes from San Jose State University's webpage.  You can read what we read HERE.  It's only a page, and it will give you some context for this post.

In the portion we read today, Gilgamesh is afraid.  Gilgamesh - this EPIC warrior - is afraid.  Terrified.  The guy who challenged the gods.  The guy who killed Humbaba (the body-guard to the gods), the guy who killed the Bull of Heaven: he's afraid.  The text says his cheeks are emaciated, his expression is desolate and his features are haggard.  From fear.

We've all dealt with fear before.  Sometimes it's embarrassing, right?  I shared this picture with most of my students:

Most of us aren't as fearless as Gilgamesh.  Why is he afraid?  What is he scared of?  What is "the fate of mankind" that so terrifies him?  And why does it terrify him?  And if it's something that scares one such as Gilgamesh, is it something I should fear as well?

If you were in class today, you know your job: read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Tell them what we talked about in class.  What was it that Gilgamesh feared?  What was the fate of Enkidu, his friend?  Is it a legitimate fear?  Why or why not?  After your done discussing, write a short paragraph about your discussion.  Have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper, and turn it in tomorrow.

If you weren't in class, read the section of the story we read today: found here.  Then write me a paragraph telling me what it is Gilgamesh fears.  Give me 3 examples from the text that support your conclusion.  You don't have to do all this with your parents or an adult.  Just turn it in when you return to school.  

Not to show my hand too much, but this is what we'll be talking about tomorrow as well.  Part of the point I'm trying to get across (aside from teaching ancient texts from the civilizations we're studying) is the commonality humanity shares across both time and cultures.

The fears of Gilgamesh are the same as the Pharaohs.  The same as Emperor Qin, who drank the mercury and jade.  The same as Juan Ponce de Leon - or at least, the legend of him which says he was searching for the Fountain of Youth.  ...And it's the same as one of our newest heros: Augustus Waters.  This is one of the major themes of The Fault in Our Stars, right?  Raise your hand if you've read it.  The point is, maybe we're not so far removed from the Mesopotamians after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Again: Test Friday

Like I said yesterday, check to see if you're missing anything.  You can download assignments for my class HERE.  I put the date of the assignment as well as the name - so that should help make sure you're getting the right one.  Occasionally, some of the names get switched around because the online grade book gives me character limits.

I used all my blogging time looking at someone else's blog.  If you want the extra credit today, you should check it out.

To get the points for today's post, play one of the games, and write a note telling me what you think.  You only have to play it for 5 minutes to get the credit - though if you want to play it longer go for it.

In class we reviewed for the test.  I also asked students what they were struggling with, and what they knew.  This will help me know what I need to hit in the review.

Again, to get the extra credit today, you have to play one of those new online games and tell me what you think.  Make sure you tell me which one you played.

If you want to study for the test - and I hope you all do - (What else would anyone possibly want to do on a Tuesday evening, he seriously asked himself...) - I would definitely check out yesterday's blog post.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ancient Civs Venn

Students completed a Venn Diagram of the ancient civilizations today.  It was classwork, and we graded it already.  The grades should be entered by 3:30 today.

If you weren't here, you can download it and print it from THIS PAGE.  Actually, if you're missing anything, it can be downloaded from that page.  If you don't have a printer - don't fear: there's one in the Media Center.  Just ask your CAP teacher if you may go during CAP.  Ask early, CAP teachers only have 2 passes a piece.

We reviewed the ancient civilizations, and I tried to reinforce some of the more minor differences.  Since we do have a test coming up on Friday, it might be a good idea to review these:

If you've read and discussed the blog with an adult, write two sentences telling me about that discussion.  Then, have them sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.  (Make sure your name, date, and hour are on the paper.  If they're not, you won't receive the credit for it.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Test Next Friday

We graded the Egypt map today.  The grades should all be entered by 3:30 today.  If you see that you're missing it, you should consider doing that.  Progress reports are coming out soon.  It might be a good idea to check your grades.

I also passed out the review guide for the test on ancient civilizations - which will be next Friday.  You can view or download the review guide HERE.

I'm keeping the extra credit simple today: study for the test with an adult for at least 5 minutes.  Let them quiz you.  Then, on a scrap of paper, write down 1 thing you knew, and one thing you struggled with or didn't know.  Have the adult you studied with sign the paper.  Make sure your name, date and hour are on it and turn it in on Monday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Egypt Map

Students worked on a map of Egypt today in class, while I read ancient Egyptian myths and legends.  (I was told they are the "multi-tasking generation," though my reading may have just been background noise for some.

If you weren't here and need the map, you can get it HERE.

If you want the extra credit today, read and discuss yesterday's post.

Have a snowy day.  Stay safe.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Egypt and Regions

I'm sorry that I didn't have time to send out an email about the blog post today.  Chess is meeting in my room.

I'll just quickly post what we did in class.  As always, my students can earn extra credit if they read and discuss it with an adult.

I asked a couple questions based on this map:

See if they can explain what this map is trying to show.  If they can't, please feel free to help them out.  States and countries have fixed boundaries.  Regions, not so much...

We also watched John Green's Crash Course Ancient Egypt.  Mind you, it does have a light curse word at the beginning.  I turned the volume down in every class, except 8th hour where I was distracted.  ...Students... Am I right?

He does point out that it's not cursing since he's talking about a donkey.  ...Maybe...

Feel free to watch the video:

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, write down two or three sentences from your conversation.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed it with sign paper.

If you have time to remind your friends via facebook or instagram or whatever that there is an extra credit blog post today, they might appreciate it.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


To any veterans that stumble across this page, Happy Veteran's Day, and thank you for your service.

We will be studying ancient civilizations a little while longer.  I'm debating whether I'll try to finish before Thanksgiving or not.  We have yet to talk about Ancient China, but the concepts students have learned about the other civilizations may be enough for now.  (Ancient China began by a river for it's silt, irrigation, drinking water, fish, and transportation/trade.  They had their own code of laws, specialized workers, cities, and written language...  You know...)

Today the students worked on a map, reviewed the Indus River Valley Civilization, and watched a short (2 minute) video on Egypt.

The map was 20 points.  If you were absent, you can download it HERE.  (It's pretty easy.)

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, define "architecture" and then draw a picture of the most famous piece of architecture for each of the 4 civilizations we've studied.  Don't spend more than 1 minute on your drawing.

Have the adult you discussed with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nothing Today

It's been a little crazy around here today.

Don't blame me.  Blame hackers.

I'll be sure to post tomorrow and tell what we did both days.  Don't forget you can always play the games for extra credit.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Micah Helmuth

Mr. Helmuth had his last day with us today.  He was a fantastic student teacher, and will be missed.  We had a lot to cover, but I made time in the agenda for group pictures.

Again, we all really appreciate the time, work, and effort he put into the class, and we wish him the best of luck as he continues working to become a full-time teacher.  He's going to be great.

If you're here for the extra credit, I'm sorry that didn't have time to post a full-fledged blog today.  Tell the adult what we did in class today and discuss it.  Write down 2 sentences about what you discussed, then have them sign it and turn it in on Monday.  If you're having trouble remembering, some of it doubles in THIS  POST.  - Although, we also talked about values (the story about my daughter Gwennie...)  We went more in depth on how language works, and how it developed, and I  listed the languages you needed to know for this class.  You should be familiar with Mesopotamian/Sumerian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Indus Script, and Chinese Calligraphy.  More on those on Monday.  See you then.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Geography Games

We were in the computer lab today.  When students entered, they were greeted by my daughter, Gwennie.  It's her birthday.

They spent most of the hour playing geography games.  We're studying ancient civilizations.  I want them to know that the land we're studying still exists today.  In fact, many of the present day countries are countries of key interest to U.S. foreign relations.  (Did I mention the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia, is present day Iraq?)

I won't write a long blog post.  Instead, I want students to play the games again.  Don't forget that they can get unlimited extra credit by playing them as well.  They just have to prove to me that they played.  Screen shot their scores and email them to me, or print them out.  Something.

Here's my big question though, how many of you can play these games from a Smart-phone or tablet?  That's what I want to know.  If you have one, HERE'S THE LINK.  Have the kid you're reading and discussing the blog play it once.  Then, on a scrap of paper, have them write down whether it worked or not, and tell me what device they played it on.  If you don't have a Smart-phone just play it on the computer.  Then, the adult that's reading and discussing the blog should sign that paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

I'll write a little bit more, but don't feel like you need to read it or do anything about it.

Towards the end of class we looked at this map.  (I made it based off a map I got from eduplace.)

Hopefully, by the end of the day, they know which countries these are - along with all the countries in the Middle East.  It might be helpful to quiz them over this, as it will show up later as well.

It was a good day.  :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Start Writing

Today's lesson was mainly about writing.  How did it originate?  How does written language work?  What ancient languages should students be familiar with in this class?

I started the lesson by connecting it to previous learning.

Students came in and had to quickly draw two pictures.  One picture depicted the reasons ancient civilizations were found near rivers.  The other picture showed some of what helps anthropologists qualify a civilization as a civilization.

Here are the pictures.  We're all artists:

If you weren't here today, you should draw these and show them to me tomorrow.  If you were here, don't worry about it.  That's not the requirement for extra credit.

Hopefully most students already knew this - as Mr. Helmuth taught it to them.  I know they spent quite a bit of time checking out Hammurabi's Code.  You know - the code of laws for Mesopotamia.

Written language (a system of writing) is crazy.  It's like magic.  Most of you are probably reading this right now.  RIGHT NOW.  You just read that.  I wrote this a while ago, and you're reading it now.  That's a big deal.  And you can read it again if you want to.  (Ok... rereading this paragraph might seem a little pointless...  but I'm sure some of you just did...)

Obviously, when writing first came about, not everyone could do it.  Scribes must have looked like magicians.

We discussed writing coming from ideograms and pictograms.  Hieroglyphs.  We looked at the move to symbols representing sounds.  Phonetics.   The Phoenicians.  We discussed how ancient languages started as a mnemonic device - and that we still use ideograms, pictograms, and mnemonic devices today.

Obviously, we covered a lot more in 45 minutes, but I don't want to overwhelm you - you were here.  I just want you to talk to the adult you read this with and tell them how class went.  You could also mention the maps we looked at (on population/ population density) or what we read on the SMARTboard.

If you've read and discussed the blog and want extra credit.  Write a sentence or two from your discussion.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed with sign the paper.

Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

See you then.  What a great day!  Am I right?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Population vs Population Density

Welcome, first timers!  My students can earn extra credit by reading this post and discussing it with an adult.  Read, discuss, then follow the instructions at the bottom.

What is the difference between population and population density?

Population = total number of people.  Population density = number of people in a certain area; how tightly packed together people are.

When my students came in today, we took the population of the class.  They began working on a short bellwork I made up.

I asked questions like what's the population of Box City, what is the population/ population density for each quarter, and what's the population density for Box City...  Pretty simple.

In the middle of working on this, we took a time out and changed the population density of our class.  Generally speaking, it's pretty even.  We decided to concentrate it in a box.

I like to tie things together, so I pointed out that ancient civilizations were almost always found near rivers - population density is higher around rivers.  So, Tito was our river first hour.  You can see him forming a delta with his arms in this picture:

Tying it together even further, I mentioned that to be recognized as an actual civilization, that civilization had to develop cities.  More and more people moved to these cities by rivers.  The movement into cities is called...   EVERYBODY NOW!!!  ______________________.  (Remember this blank, you will need it later...)

So, students moved into the city - concentrating our class's population density in this box.  As of 10:31 AM, first hour has the 2014 record with 29 people in the box:

Yeah...  second hour didn't even have a chance:

Notice in that first picture - all the empty desks.  Although the population of the class didn't change, the population density did.  Our population density increased around the Tito River because of the silt, the water for transportation and trade, water for our crops and animals, for fishing, and drinking water of course.

If I remember to take pictures throughout the rest of the day, I'll post them on here around 3:15.

Students: if you want extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, you were to have read and discussed it with an adult.  Explain to them the difference between population and population density.  Tell them about the map we looked at as well.  Explain to them why India was shaded darker than China - even though China had more people.

Then, find a scrap of paper (I wouldn't print anything out... ink is expensive...)  Write down the word that goes in the blank above.  If you don't remember that word, write two sentences from your conversation.  Then, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow in the extra credit tray.

See you then.

*Alright - here are the rest of the pictures, sorry it's after 3:15.*

Fifth hour broke 1st hour's record: 30.

Sixth hour did not break fifth hour's record: 29.  The first picture shows a town with a low population density...  Well, right now it's really low...  0 people per... square box of tape...  And behind it, the town with the much higher population density.  31 people per square box of tape...  (That's counting the river.)

Seventh hour: Helmuth makes a cameo.  They had 28, I believe.


Hopefully by concentrating our population into that box of tape the students understand the difference between population and population density.  I guess we'll find out on the test.  (Don't worry, it's not for a while.)