Kent and I on the Plaza

Kent and I on the Plaza

Sunday, November 6, 2011

History Mystery..the end is near!

All students should have completed their research by now.  We will spend this next week writing our mystery stories.  We have done prewriting activities to help organize the stories.  It is very possible that your child may end up bringing home their rough draft to type or rewrite into a final copy.  It is very tempting for parents to make corrections, but please refrain from this.  Allow your child to type or write his/her own story.  Should you type your child's story, it is okay only if you type the rough draft exactly. Show them how to use the spell check and allow them to do this  and make other corrections on their own.  If you want to give your child some "creative guidance," try asking them questions to guide them to a conclusion.  In the end, it is important that they turn in their own work, even if it isn't up to parental standards. Guide them to do their very best work, but it needs to be truly theirs. When parents help too much, it sends a message to the child that they aren't capable and enables perfectionism, which is a big issue for gifted kids. 

The Poet Tree

I can't believe the end of the term is just around the corner!  This week we are going to be selecting poems to put in our anthology.  Each student will choose one of their original poems and will type and illustrate it. I'll put all the poems together into a book so that each student gets a copy.  In addition, each student will be writing a descriptive paragraph demonstrating the writing tools they have learned.  Some students are still revising poems.  All this has to be completed by Wednesday, November 16! 

The kids are very excited about the upcoming Poetry Cafe.  We are going to have a wonderful celebration of poetry!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teaching Kids Typing

The very long address above will take you to a blog called Free Technology for Teachers.  The entry is about a typing program for students.  Many of  our EER kids are interested in learning to type and it would certainly benefit them to do so.  In addition to the site above, there is a free program on the Internet called DanceMat.  You might take a look at it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Poet Tree update

We are finishing up concrete poetry and working on free verse.  Some classes began writing free verse poems and some will begin next week.  Everyone should be working on their poem that they are memorizing for Poetry Cafe.  It will be here before we know it.

The poem I shared with all the classes this week was "The Spider and the Fly" by Mary Howitt.  The students really enjoyed it.  We took time to talk about the lesson of the poem which is to be cautious around strangers and people who flatter us.  I spoke with them about listening to their "inner radar" which sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable.  Some of the students equated this with their conscience and knowing right from wrong. It was a good discussion!  Next week, in honor of Halloween, I will be sharing "The Raven."

History Mystery update - October 27

Each day this week, I have copied research materials and sent them home with the kids so that they could finish their research at home.  I don't want any of them to struggle with it, so I hope parents will let me know if there are any questions about it.  The first time kids do fact and source cards, it can be pretty confusing for them.  In addition, I've been gone two days this week and we will not see students tomorrow.  I wish we had more time!

Friday, October 21, 2011

History Mystery Update - October 21

Each class received time to work on fact and bibliography cards.  This is hard work, particularly for our new third graders!  Next week we will be beginning to learn about the mystery genre.  Some students have started writing their stories, but most are still in the note taking stage of research.  The copy machine has been broken this week and so I was unable to send research materials home.  As a result the due dates for bibliography cards and fact cards are:

Monday, October 31
Tuesday, October 25 - I think this class is on schedule for this date.
Wednesday, November 2
Thursday, November 3

Poetry Class Update - October 21

This week many of my students heard and discussed The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  We discussed Longfellow's use of imagery and how this poem influenced our culture.  Most people don't know that there were other riders that night or that Paul Revere didn't complete the ride.  His legacy is due to Longfellow's poem.   This week we also took time to complete acrostic and concrete poems.  We have concentrated on word choice, using interesting instead of overused words.  We have also added onomatopoeia to our Poetry Toolboxes!

I've been reminding the students that they need to be working on memorizing their poems for the Poetry Cafe coming up on November 16, 17, 18, 21, and 22. They only have four weeks left to prepare for their presentations.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Multicultural Fall Festival

This Saturday, the Multicultural Fall Festival will be held in Downtown Jefferson City.  I believe it runs from 10:00 - 3:00.  There will be lots of activities and food!  What a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday!

Also, don't forget about the TLT performance of The Crucible and MU's Homecoming in Columbia.  I heard they are giving tours of the MU library following the Homecoming parade.

Poetry Class Update - October 13

The kids are doing a super job with their acrostic poems.  I have been really impressed with their willingness to revise their word choices.    I think having the computers with the thesaurus program helps with this process.  It is easy to use and they love it whenever they can get their hands on a computer.

I am beginning to introduce concrete poetry and onomatopoeia and we are moving into that new assignment.  Except for the Wednesday class, students should have completed their acrostic poem by now.

History Mystery Update - October 10

We are all working on research.  For the third graders, it is a difficult process, but they will catch on.  I have sent home calendars with the due dates for the rest of the term.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday students will bring home research next week unless they finish in class.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Poetry Class Update

We are still working on our acrostic poems which we are writing in couplets.  I really put a big emphasis on word choice.  I have shown the kids how to use the dictionary app. on the computer and they are utilizing it for the thesaurus.  We are taking words that are over used such as "nice" or "pretty" and finding more interesting words as substitutes.  Sometimes, this will throw off the rhyme and requires that a couplet be rewritten.  It is my hope that all this revising and attention to detail will spill over to their other writing.  If you have a chance to reinforce this with other writing assignments at home, that would be great!  The poems we have been analyzing at the beginning of class is "The Ballad of William Sycamore" by Stephen Vincent Binet.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

History Mystery Update - October 3-7

It is taking longer than I expected to determine the responsibility of Captain Turner of the Lusitania.  We are continuing to finish up debates and summaries.  Next week, I'm going to set aside each day for research.  The Tuesday students will need to complete their debate next week, but everyone else should have the whole period to get a solid start on their projects.

The Little Theater in Jefferson City is performing The Crucible by Arthur Miller October 13 - 15.  It has been quite a while since I've seen it, but it is about the Salem Witch Trials. I seem to recall that the play was written as a response to McCarthyism. Some of my students are researching the Salem Witch Trials and might enjoy seeing the show!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Scottish Highland Games in St. Louis - October 1

If you have extra time this weekend for a day trip to St. Louis, the Scottish Highland Games will be at Forest Park near the tennis courts.  If you have never been to a Scottish Games, you might want to consider going.  The athletic competitions are unusual (caber tossing, for example), the food is great (haggis, fish and chips...), and there are many things going on including bagpiping, highland dancing, children's activities and Scottish animal parading.  It is truly fun for the whole family.  There is an admission fee and it closes about 4:30 pm.  You might look for me at the Gunn Clan tent because my husband is the regional commissioner.  Just for the record, though, my clan is Ramsey!

Wednesday History Mystery Class 9/28/11

Today we finished our debate on the guilt of Captain William Turner of the Lusitania.  Because the Wednesday students arrive at 9:30, our time is short.  We did not get a chance to look at our research project today.  Next week, I will hand out the packets and make time for writing the thesis question and the supporting questions.  In addition, students will write their conclusions stating their opinion on Captain Turner's competence.

I think the students enjoyed debating.  They made some spirited and creative arguments.  Debate points are kept by the amount of supporting facts used by the team.  By this method, Captain Turner was deemed incompetent by one point!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Poet Tree update

We have had some great work with metaphors and similes.  My classes are small enough so that the students can all work on the white boards at the same time and the kids really love it.  It is very difficult for many of them to take an idea and write it both as a simile and a metaphor.  What a great exercise in flexible thinking.  I think they made some progress and we'll continue to work toward this goal.  We also looked at some poems which were also riddles.  We played twenty questions to guess the subjects of the poems by such authors as Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson.  Good practice for inductive reasoning!  We've been reading The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash to see how authors use similes and metaphors to create imagery in their poems. 

We are beginning a new writing assignment...the dreaded acrostic poem! I have found a new and better example for them and we will be writing acrostics in couplets which I found easier than writing in free verse.  We'll be brainstorming topics and comparisons (for similes and metaphors) and then students will have time in class to write their poem.  Students tend to get caught up in the rhymes and neglect the meaning of their poems. It is a challenge to teach them that without meaning, their poems are well, meaningless.  It seems obvious, but really, it's not!  We are utilizing rhyming dictionaries and student thesauruses to help find the perfect words to complete the poems. 

As we complete our poems, students read them outloud to the class.  We practice applauding each other, being good listeners, making eye contact, and presenting good posture!

History Mystery Class

While my classes are still at slightly different places, we are all working on the controversy surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania.  I was able to show them a 10 minute silent animated film of the sinking of the ship and we discussed its purpose as propaganda which was a great follow up to our discussion of "yellow journalism" during our investigation of the USS Maine.  One of the concepts I'm emphasizing this year is critical thinking when viewing media images.  This was a great opportunity to discuss it and to introduce the idea of silent film to them.  We will begin debating the accusations of negligence against the Captain of the Lusitania.

I am also handing out research packets this week.  We are choosing topics and writing thesis questions.  Each student must then write 8 research questions which will lead to the answer of the thesis question he/she has written.  I will be giving each group class time for this and they will be due in two weeks - October 10, 11, 13, and 19.  Each student has a page on the front of his/her research packet to keep track of the due dates for the project.  There will also be a copy sheet for each day of class posted in my room.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Poet Tree - September 20 update

Today we explored the poem "Ode to my Socks" by Pablo Neruda.  We discussed similes and metaphors and added them to our "Poetry Toolbox."  The students worked in teams to write a poem based on "Predictable" by Bruce Lansky.  Students had to write creative similes into their poems so that the second and fourth lines rhymed.  Beginning Wednesday, September 21, we will focus on metaphors and extended metaphors.  They will have to guess the meaning of the extended metaphors I give them.  We will then look at the acrostic form of poetry and work to write acrostics that incorporate similes and metaphors.  Usually, this is a hard assignment.  We will be examining "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes and "Custard the Dragon" by Ogden Nash to examine their use of simile and metaphor and we will be contrasting the moods of the poems.

Monday students are slightly behind and they will begin similes on Monday, September 26.  They will begin acrostics on Monday, October 3.

Also, it is time for students to declare which poem they wish to memorize for Poetry Cafe.  I already have students working on the memorization.  The poetry list is attached to my website should you need it.

History Mystery Update - September 20

We are getting ready to begin research projects.  I have attached the materials to my webpage for those who may need a page while at home.  The classes are in different places right now, but next week they will be evened out a little better.  Tuesday and Thursday classes are farther ahead. Wednesday and Monday have both been shorted some time due to Labor Day and late start.  Starting tomorrow, Wednesday September 21, we will all begin learning about the Lusitania and will choose research topics.

Today in the Tuesday class, we solved a mystery called A Grave Mistake.  Children used a map to discover the origin of arsenic poisoning.  We talked about ground water and ways to keep it cleaner.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Second Week of EER - Wednesday, August 31

In History Mystery we are discussing The Spanish American War.  It's fun to teach because very few of the kids have even heard of it.  The mystery is that of the sinking of the US Maine.  I found a great 7 min. intro. to the war on Youtube.  We begin with it and then talk about the causes of the Maine's explosion.  We also get a chance to discuss primary and secondary sources.  We read an actual  newspaper article and letter from an eyewitness.  The assignment at the end is to write a letter back to the eyewitness stating an opinion on the cause of the explosion and to support it with facts from the sources.  My Wednesday students did not get a chance to complete the letter, so we'll finish it next week.

In The Poet Tree, we read The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee by Mildred Pew Meigs.  We found examples of imagery and alliteration.  We started writing limericks and the kids all did a great job.  We'll continue with limericks next week.  We'll work on writing limericks using alliteration and each student will choose one to "publish."  The chosen limerick will be edited and handed in for scoring.

Good Gifts for Kids

Kids love to get mail.  If you have a favorite child in your life that loves to read and learn, consider a magazine subscription.  At EER we subscribe to several magazines for students.  They cover a huge range of topics and are colorful and well written.  We receive:

Faces - geography and cultures
Dig - archaeology
Muse - science, history, art, music, communication arts...
Ask - sscience, history, art, music, communication arts... (younger reading level)
Odyssey - science

The magazines are published 9 times a year  by Carus Publishing and the price for a subscription is $29.95.    Except for Ask, they are written at a middle school level.   Go to for more information.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 24 - EER today

Today we began the 2011-2012 school year with our students.  It was so good to see them!  In my History Mystery class, we spent time talking about different history mysteries and the kids were very interested in the books I had in the room.  We didn't have enough time to start the activity I planned, so I let them peruse the book collection.

In The Poet Tree, we did an activity with "The New Kid on the Block" by Jack Prelutsky.  We talked about the words Prelutsky used to create images in our minds.  At the end of the poem, the students discovered that Prelutsky had tricked them with the image he created. We also talked about the memorization assignment due at the end of the term.

I really believe that memorization is a great mental exercise.  In addition, when we memorized words of beauty and/or meaning, we keep them with us and take them wherever we go.  They cannot be taken from us, but are ours forever.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Toporopa Geography Game

Kids are going to spend time on the computer no matter what.  My pediatrician recommends no more than a total of two hours of "screen time" per day.  Screen time is all inclusive - tv, computer, video games...I do the best I can to limit my kids' screen time, but it is a challenge.  Now that school is back in session, it will be easier.  I think setting limits on the computer is important for several reasons, mainly that kids need to exercise their minds and bodies.  While electronics can provide some of both (a Wii can give some physical exercise), it can't be the sole provider.  However, computers can be a great learning tool and here is where we get to my title topic:  Toporopa.  I love this online geography game.  It has really helped my  European geography, which was lukewarm at best.  It isn't as exciting as an RPG, but it is good  use of screen time.  Go to to play!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Letter about Literature Contest

This contest is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and is sponsored by Target.  There are three competition levels:  grades 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12.  Students must write a personal letter an author (alive or dead) and explain how that author's work changed their perspective about the world or themselves.  Winners choose their favorite library which is then granted $10,000!  The winners themselves get a $500 gift card.  Smaller prizes are also awarded.  The deadline is December 2011.  For more information go to

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lunchables Kids Ultimate Field Trip

This is an instant win game for kids 6 - 13 and will be ongoing through September 30, 2011.  Ten grand prizes will be awarded and they include a trip for six friends and two parents to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History - all expenses paid.  The link to enter is below:

Kraft is also offering 100 first prizes which are $100 gift cards for a local field trip.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I just finished this great book.  I read it so that I could recommend it to my students and discovered that I shouldn't.  I handed it to my seventh grade son and he enjoyed it, but I suggest reading it before recommending it to your middle school child.  You might have objections that I didn't.  Girls might enjoy reading it, but I see it as a strong "boy book."

The Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian is a valuable read.  It addresses the issue of being a "smart kid" and the feelings of isolation that can accompany it.  It addresses the issues of poverty friendship, loyalty, love, and death.  As a teacher, it reminded me of my potential to impact an at-risk student and how hard it is for some students just to attend school.  There are many good reasons to recommend it to teen readers!  I'm so glad I finally picked it up!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Ozark Medieval Fortress: A Great Roadtrip!

Yesterday, I visited the Ozark Medieval Fortress.  It takes about 4 hours to get there from Jefferson City and is about 45 minutes south of Branson.  If you and/or your children are interested in the Middle Ages or architecture, it is worth the visit.  Our guide had a degree in medieval history and was very interesting.  Artisans are in a twenty year process of building the castle using medieval methods.  Much like the Rennaissance Festival, there are artisans such as weavers, blacksmiths, and stonecutters in costume practicing their craft.  If you're interested, check out this link!