Pro: a thank you card appeared on my desk today from a family who chooses to remain anonymous.
Con: I have 34 kids in my class.
Pro: About 25 of them totally got my writing lesson today.
Con: About 10 did not get it.
Pro: I had a kid score nearly perfect on the 4th grade diagnostic test in math this year.
Con: I had a kid score 3 out of 30.
Pro: I am challenged beyond belief this year.
Con: I am challenged beyond belief this year.

I think “I will survive” will be my theme song this year.

Kids love books . . . especially fun, creative, silly books.  My 4th grade students loved the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I also got two books that are in the same vein but geared toward girls.  They didn’t make it to my classroom as my daughter snagged them and is reading them voraciously.

Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life

Imagine my excitement when The Reading Zone posted a contest by the author of Dork Diaries where you can win a purse belonging to the main character, Nikki.  Oh, my daughter wants it!  She wants it bad!

Still, I love these books for kids and can happily recommend them.  And, happily recommend you go visit The Reading Zone where you will learn all sorts of great books for middle grade and middle school kids!

I am constantly looking for ways to include arts into my classroom. Two great resources for me are blogs that I keep in my Google Reader and visit daily. I can’t recommend them enough.

The Crafty Crow

The Crafty Crow is a blog compendium of art projects that are on other blogs. She saves us the trouble of searching all those other blogs of mothers, teachers, homeschoolers, etc. Some projects are best for younger kids and some will work as is or translate up to older kids.

Art Projects for Kids
Art Projects for Kids is put together by an art teacher. She features projects, with a sample picture, and complete directions. Furthermore, she tags each project for the appropriate grade level, subject matter, and materials. So you can search her archives for watercolor or for 4th grade appropriate projects.

I know you’ll find something wonderful and useful at these blogs. Have fun exploring!

When you are a new teacher, going through an induction program, you are told quite a bit that what you are experiencing is normal, typical, even and that information is both comforting and irritating, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I am both comfortably and irritatingly finding this year to be the one in which I am reaching my stride . . . finishing my induction year, heading for tenure, achieving better work/life balance, and actually able to raise my head and take a look around me as I’m getting it all done.

Read other thoughts on this year at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

Putting things– tangible things — real things — into the hands of  students when asking them to write and to learn, works.  And works well.

I am blessed with a mother who shares willingly so that I can be a better teacher.  In 4th grade in California, we cover California history in Social Studies.  I asked my mother to please share some of her bagillions of pieces of broken arrowheads and knives and spear points and pieces of half-worked obsidian so that I could bring this alive to the students.  And, of course, she did.

So, last week, I put the pieces of obsidian into the hands of the students.  We talked about it — how the rock itself was made, how the Piutes (who are the local tribes where my mother lives) made them, how the always found a beautiful place to sit and look for them, how my mother has a gift for finding them and I’ve never found anything other than chips.

And, then I asked them to write.  To describe with vivid, juicy details their piece of obsidian.  I asked them to make it come alive in their writing.

We brainstormed things we could say together.  How they looked, felt, sounded, smelled, and made us feel.  I asked the kids to please not taste the rocks!  :)

And, then, they wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.

Fantastic.

Even better was the next day when they drew.  I asked them to please draw a piece of obsidian.   Their excitement level was huge.  They drew and drew and drew and drew.  They added details and texture and drew.  Some drew more than one version . . . one side and then the other, what it looks like when you hold it to the light.  They were so fully engaged that when I asked to stop for lunch . . . they were disappointed.

So, yea, hands on stuff . . . that works!

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