Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Ok, so I'm not very good at keeping this updated but that is going to be my New Year's resolution. (not that I bother to keep any of those mind you!)

Here is a recap to the end of my school year before Christmas break. Like all students at this time of the year, mine were not all that motivated to learn. However, I kept pushing them up to the very last day. (OK, not the last day as that was a half day and we watched a movie to go with our Egypt unit and then they had a party.)
I gave a Social Studies, Science, Spelling and Vocabulary test the last week. We worked diligently on completing our writing portion for the science fair and for those who had completed that, work continued on their Egypt projects that will be displayed for our Open House at the end of January.
I sent students off on break with instructions on how to complete their science fair boards (which are required back to me by Friday, January 6!) I have been receiving some emails from students with questions on the boards so that is a good sign that they are working on them!!

After break I plan on starting the novel, Hunger Games with my students. I absolutely love this book and the other 2 in the series and I think it will be a book that all my students will enjoy. If you haven't read it, I strongly encourage you to read it. It is set sometime in the future in what mimics the former United States. Each year, from each district, a boy and girl are chosen to go and fight at the Hunger Games to pay back the central govt. the cost of food. This is a fight to the death tournament. Something changes though, when two people are left standing at the end of the tournament. That's all I'm going to say! I believe this will be a great book to base some of our argumentative writing on. I have a slow and unmotivated group of children this year, so I hope I won't be disappointed in their response.
This is the first group that actually wants a basal reading each week rather than a novel because they think it is easier. It is all about easy for them. I am hoping that this novel will kick some of them out of that easy mode.
With the new Common Core standards being pushed, I have no choice but to try to raise the level instruction whether they like it or not.

I have had some discussions with the junior high teachers and our principal and have voiced the concern that with the new standards and the new inquiry approach to teaching science and social studies, that one teacher cannot adequately prepare all the subjects to the level of depth they need to be prepared and taught. So, in essence, I am lobbying for teaching only one subject area. None of the other teachers really like language arts and it is my favorite, so it looks like I will get to keep a sixth grade homeroom next year but only teach language arts. I will be sad to give up Social Studies, as I love teaching ancient history, but I just can't do it all anymore. Not to the level I need to be teaching the material. We are one of the last holdouts that keep sixth grade self-contained. Most of the schools in our area have sixth grade departmentalized so that the teachers can teach their specialty. Since I am endorsed in both language arts and social studies, I could go either way, but the teacher who presently teaches the seventh and eighth grade social studies really doesn't like language arts and it is not her endorsed area, so it only makes sense that I would take that. I wish it could start NOW as I feel like I am fighting a losing battle with my present class. I just don't know how to get them motivated. Tell me, how does a child get 33 missing assignments and the parents don't care???? Yes, that is what I am dealing with. But enough of that.

I spent this last week on vacation in St. Maarten. My husband decided that I needed to get away so off we went. It was GRAND!!! The weather was gorgeous and I really did not look forward to returning to Chicago with 35 degree weather and cold winds. It was a great week of sun and relaxation and reading. I finished 5 books during the week. Two books were read on the flight to and from the island. (it is about a 6 hour flight and I really don't enjoy the movies) I read three books that I think middle school students would really enjoy.
The first book was The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. This book was about a civilization that rated their individuals as Wanted, Necessary and Unwanted. If, at age 13, you were labeled Unwanted, you were sent to your death. The civilization didn't allow for any creativity or independent thought at all. Simply drawing a picture in the mud with a stick could land you on the Unwanted list. This is a MUST READ for anyone who loves futuristic novels.
The next book I read was Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri. This was a quick read about a boy who had gotten in with the wrong crowd while living in Detroit with his mom. She decides she can't handle him anymore and takes him to Philly to live with a dad he has never met. The boy has to adjust to being seemingly abandoned by his mom, and to living with a man that he doesn't know and who has horses in the middle of a ghetto. It is really a novel about helping others. Don't you think any middle school student could benefit from reading about helping others instead of being so self-absorbed???
The third book was given to me by one of my students. (one of the few who is an avid reader and just LOVES, LOVES, LOVES, books) This book is titled Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer. It is written in journal form. The young girl who is the main character records how her life changes after a catastropic event changes the earth's climate. It is really a battle of life and death. Her entries show how a family must pull together in a time of crisis. It raises a number of questions about our lives and what is really necessary to survive. The main character fights to keep hope alive when it looks as if their is no reason to keep on living. A definite must read!!
The other two books I read were thriller whodunit novels definitely NOT for middle school students.

Since today is Christmas, I will spend the day getting caught up on laundry and enjoying the football games on TV. In between I will actually cook a delicious gluten free dinner!!! I hope everyone else is enjoying a break from school and will be doing things that make them happy.


  1. Hi Kathy:

    I hope you had a delightful Christmas and that the New Year will bring you wonderful things!

    I had one kid who was missing 52 assignments. His parent insisted "The school is responsible for that" (Grrrrrr)

    I am SO jealous of your St Maarten getaway. Sounds LOVELY!

    Happy day!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Merry Christmas! Just found your blog :) I'm your newest follower!
    I was stupid enough to give vocab tests and collect projects the last day before break and now i'm stuck grading them :( yuck! never again. I didn't give hw for the first time this year because I think that the kids were as burnt out as I was and just needed a break. I did ask them to read and told them they'll have to do a journal response when they return. I'm reading the Hunger Games with my 8th graders and it's taking FOREVER!!!!! They love it & I love it but it's taking forever!!!!! The book is so long and there is so much to discuss.

    Looking forward to reading your future posts.

    ❤ Mor Zrihen ❤
    A Teacher's Treasure