Friday, September 23, 2011

Punctuation Ninjas

Sometimes it just happens. You think the lesson is pretty decent and then, KAPOW! From out of nowhere (like a ninja) an idea strikes and the whole lesson is nothing less than wicked! That's how Punctuation Ninjas was born.

It was an average lesson about editing our writing and the students had been hunting for errors in a text that was up on the Smartboard. I knew it was taking longer than I had expected but when I nervously looked at the clock I may very well have said aloud 'Oh, my! How will I get through all of this before the bell?' In a moment of pseudo-desperation and makeshift brilliance, I instructed the class that I would read through the passage and they were to raise their hand where there should be a full stop. Simple enough. They followed the instructions and were doing okay.

Then it happened. (WP) stood up at the back of the class and rather than raising his hand, he was pushing it forward at waist height. Are you thinking what I was thinking? I stopped in my tracks.

"Etu (maori for stand)! To your feet!" I instructed and quickly explained that we would open-palm-punch at waist height (like a Jedi 'push', if that helps) for full stops, do the same but add a straight forearm and hand above for exclamation marks, and an angled forearm with a bent wrist for questions. Naturally, each of these are followed by a capital letter so we began each sentence by raising our arms out in a big circle and back in to a prayer/"domo arigato Mr Squires" stance until the next piece of punctuation.

The engagement was incredible! They were so excited everytime we reached a full stop. They loved the exclamation marks. They could barely contain themselves when the reader asked a question! Now I have big ideas about colons, commas and apostrophes. I have to admit I never knew I had ninjas in my classroom, but I guess that's the way they like it.

 No students were harmed in the learning of this punctuation.
All actions were performed by trained, professional students.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Science Fair

Well, it's that time of the year at my school! It's a time of beakers and bunsen burners, test tubes and tally charts, hypotheses and headaches...yes, it's science fair time at my school!!

I love science. If I could bring myself to say I 'Puffy Heart' anything, Science might be that something. It was one of my favourite subjects. The kinaesthetic kid in me was free for forty minutes as we tried, tinkered, and tested questions in the search for understanding. The mess was a price I was willing to pay to see things spark, smoke, sink, slide, sit, swing or sizzle (try saying THAT five times, fast).

And now that you're done trying to say "spark, smoke, sink, slide, sit, swing or sizzle" five times fast, I can get back to my point.

I have mIxEd oPiNiOnS about science fairs.

Some demonstrations are wicked and child produced and show some real curiousity combined with investigation.

Then there are those that lack in these departments and I can't help but think 'the point was lost' and that makes me sad. And forgive me when I say part of this let down is on the teachers.

Now, put away the torches and the pitchforks! I said 'PART' (see above). Let me explain. Teachers are not entirely to blame. There are other reasons science fair projects flop (lazy kids, poor resources, not enough parent support, too much parent support, ...the list goes on) but the reason that is directly in our power to change is our comfort and knowledge in how to make a fantastic scientific inquiry and share our findings.

So here's help ("finally," you say.)
Kevin Temmer created this 15 minute video which will help you and your students understand AND get excited about the science fair. It is funny and informative and I think many people will find some value in it, whether it be for their class or just for themselves (a small percentage will just wonder why they wasted 15 minutes watching it.).

So go ahead, watch and learn and give your students the chance to DIG for the answers! Because that's what science fairs are all about.

And for crying out loud, will you please put those pitchforks away??

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Top Ten? Yeeah! and what to do with pegboard

First of all, I have to say that I am truly honoured to be named one of Pam's Top Ten blogs over at Vintage Teacher! Given the calibre of her blog, to even be considered is a real compliment and if you haven't been by her blog, you should check it out (and the other fantastic blogs that she chose).

Secondly, I have a confession.

My name's Liam ('Hi Liam') and I am a horde-aholic. I have a difficult time a really hard time  an impossible time throwing things away. It is always an epic internal debate when I find myself standing with an freshly emptied jar. The recycling bin beckons me.

"This way, Liam" it says softly. "You have no need for that."

"Nonsense!" another voice protests! "That pickle jar would be perfect ... for something... just you wait. You will regret discarding it, of that you can be sure!"

The feeling that you get when something you have stubbornly kept for far too long suddenly finds it's calling can be defined in a word: Awesome! I love those moments because it justifies all the other items that are still waiting in the wings. Like little actors listening for their cue to enter from stage-left. Triumphantly, the horns pronounce an epic VICTORY for the hero and the people rejoice.

The reason I am going on and on about this is that I have a piece of pegboard. It's a good sized piece, about 4' x 3', if I remember correctly. It's white on one side and it's unpainted on the other.  The problem: I don't have a clue what I am going to do with it! It has sat in my class for WEEKS now and I am getting frustrated that it hasn't met it's purpose yet. I've seen one good idea already on Jack of All Trades but I want to see what else you come up with.

Consider this Liam's Creative Challenge #01 
So, dear reader, I ask you. What would you do with pegboard? (and before you ask, there is no prize for the winner, just the satisfaction of a job well done. Besides, that's what we tell the kids is important, right?)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daily Decontamination

Amy at FirstThingsFirst is having a linky party (I still don't think I'm totally comfortable saying that phrase) about the "simple things". Well, here's mine. I call it Daily Decontamination and it goes like dis:

It's a simple system for controlling unending paperflow. I mean the little bits of paper that follow the current of the day but ultimately lodge themselves on your desk. The memos, the notes from parents, the permission slips that get handed to you as you are speaking to a colleague, the flyers for upcoming professional development opportunities, and the numerous other sheets that magically arrive at your desk throughout the day with no explanation. If your desk is anything like mine, it ressembles a riverbank, lined with a tangle of paper seaweed and Post-it pebbles.

Daily Decontamination is a short session that I built into my "End of the Day Routine" and (in keeping with the analogy) is kind of like a River Clean-up Project. It works in 5 easy steps. Instead of typing it all out, I have JUST THIS MOMENT (inspired by Amy's learning) learned how to link a picture to a Google Doc and am posting my first freebie (insert rejoicing sounds here). I keep this posted on my desk as a reminder to decontaminate every day. Call it "OvEr ThE tOp" if you like but that's just the way I do things. So here it is...I hope you enjoy it...I hope you tell me you enjoy it...I hope you really mean it and aren't just saying it because I'm soliciting some positive feedback...

Okay, go ahead now. Check it out (and tell me what you think).

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