Thursday, January 23, 2014

You did what?

After one of my weekly visits on Monday night to #tlap, I decided to do Dave Burgess's idea.  I asked fellow teachers if anyone had crutches and a foot or leg brace.

No, it was not for April Fool's Day.  It was a way to open up the writing portion of our personal narrative unit. As the storyteller, Len Cabral, has said the best and most memorable stories are "scar" stories.  The timing couldn't have been better since the day before ended up being a snow day which led me to come up with a perfect sledding accident.

I knew that students may see me walk into school so I had to be dressed and ready from home.  I had my husband drop me off at the front of my school.  I couldn't wait to see everyone's reactions including the staff.  The teachers who greet at the door every morning were in shock and wanted to know what happened.

The best reaction came from the principal.  Since we were hired as teachers in the same year, he was completely and utterly in shock since after 15 years I have never shown up to work like this.  I wish I had videoed or got a photo of his reaction.  I had to tell him it wasn't real since he was so concerned about me.

The students were so concerned about what happened to me.  Everyone wanted to know what happened.  I simply said, "I'll tell you during class."

I thought for sure that my movements around the classroom were giving away that my leg was not really hurt.  Never in my life have I needed crutches, so I wasn't sure exactly how I needed to behave with my leg.

No matter how many times I rehearsed the "sledding accident" story, I felt like it wasn't believable enough.  I had to spend time researching what kind of leg issue would need a leg brace to make it more "real".  Thankfully it's seventh graders, and for the most part, they still believe what people tell them.  I made my "sledding accident" a short and sweet but then moved on to real "scar" stories.

All day the students were extra kind and helpful.  They held the door for me, carried things, and did everything I needed them to do.  During the telling of the story for my last class, I stood in front of them and ripped off the leg brace and tossed the crutches aside.  Students mouths dropped.  Others yelled out, "I knew you were faking!"  I went to the two other classrooms where they rest of the students were.  I walked in and simply asked the teacher a fake question while the students stared at me in disbelief.  As I left I said, "Yes I was faking it."

By the end of the day, I couldn't wait to take that leg brace off.  I have never walked so slow around the school nor felt as helpless as I did that day.  The following day I had so much pain in my back and arms muscles for using them like I never had before that I began to wonder if it was worth it.  As I reflected on how quickly and how many ideas flowed out of the students' brains and onto their planning sheets, I knew it was worth all the "pain and suffering".

After putting this picture on Instagram even my family was concerned until they read my comment.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fear Factor 2 - Brussels Sprouts

Just the name Brussels Sprouts grossed out most of my students.  To entice volunteer eaters, I created another Animoto Fear Factor video.  This time they were only told that the reward for the winner was the dessert that the character gets in the story.

The trick that they didn't know was the dessert isn't told until the last sentence of the story.  Yet, I had many eager volunteers to eat 5 sprouts.


The Dessert
It was custard that Andy, the main character received but hated, but I wanted them to see how delicious it was.  This is the signature fruit tart from Pastiche on Federal Hill in Providence.

Before writing personal narratives, we read three stories each with a different focus.

1.  Brussels Sprouts by Andy Griffiths - It is the first chapter in his book Just Disgusting.  We focus on plot and all it's parts to make a story that keeps your attention and builds wonderment up to the climax.

2.  Seventh Grade by Gary Soto - We have this in our Literature textbooks.  The focus is on the timeline of events.

3.  Squid Girl by Todd Strasser - It is a short story from the book, 13 edited by James Howe.  The focus is on sensory details.

Using this foldable, students in small groups read and look for each of the key parts that are the focus for the particular story.

Monday, January 6, 2014

French Police Visit

As I prepared to do a descriptive writing piece, I wondered how to make it more exciting because this is one unit that the students already loved.  I took a simple assignment from Hot Fudge Monday by Randy Larson.  It was about describing a character who permanently glued airplanes to a runaway in Denver and the Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster in EuroDisney in France.  It came with a list of facial features and adjectives to describe them.

The only way I could think to make it more exciting was to dress as a police officer.  I had a blue dress shirt that was perfect so I only had to add a costume police hat and badge.  The students thought the badge was real.  As they entered the room, I projected a picture of a police station in France.   

Police Selfie*
{I apologize for all these selfie pictures.  Just so you know, I am not addicted to selfies.  Well, maybe I am. :-)}
For part one of the lesson, students spent time reviewing the different adjectives and choosing the ones they wanted.  We would explain ones that some had never heard of.  Many loved choosing the worse adjectives to make the most hideous criminal they could.  For part two, students drafted their descriptive paragraph making sure to put them in a logical order.  Since the criminal was unnamed, we called him "GlueBoy".  

The third part is always a favorite of the students.  Students turn into sketch artists and eye witnesses.  They make a blockade so they can not see what the "sketch artist" is drawing while the "eye witness" gives their description.  The "eye witness" revises their writing if the sketch artist asks for more specific details.  The noise of shock and laughs fill the room as the students show off the drawings of GlueBoy to the eye witnesses. Once the drawings are complete, they swap papers to edit for grammar and spelling.  

The fourth part, the students write their final descriptions and create a wanted poster to go along with it.  On this poster, it gives them a chance to draw their GlueBoy themselves.