Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Video Chatting with Miss Melanie in Zambia

This morning we had the amazing opportunity to video chat with our former CFI intern,employee, and friend - Miss Melanie. She is now living in Zambia. As part of her mission trip she is homeschooling three American children, learning a lot about life in Zambia, and looking for new opportunities to volunteer her time and abilities in her new community.

The kids gathered around a laptop in small groups and asked all sorts of questions. They found out a little about the language, money, clothes, homes, animals, and rituals of Zambians. Many of the kids thought video chatting was just about the most ordinary thing in the world. However, for me to be sitting here in our classroom casually chatting with Melanie all the way in Zambia using only two or three clicks of the mousepad was just crazy! This seems like something that could really be used a lot in the classroom - connecting with people around the country and the globe.

Be sure to ask your child about this cool experience tonight.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Thank you all so much for the second picnic table. The kids have appreciated more space for eating lunch, reading, writing, and working on math outdoors. Here are a few pictures from lunch last week...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Morning's Concer and News of Next Year's Loop

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it in this morning for the concert. I asked the kids yesterday which families were planning to come and based on that conversation I was expecting two or three visitors at most. Wow, I think we wound up with about fourteen or fifteen! The kids really did work very hard on their songs and were excited to have such a big audience between our families and the visiting classes from second and fifth grades.
No matter how their interests change and develop over the coming years I hope many of the kids keep writing songs - as well as lots of other types of writing. This short unit was such a great opportunity to read carefully for both meaning and structure, identify patterns across multiple sources of information, and model our own work after that of others we value. We'll record these songs tomorrow afternoon using the equipment you all purchased for the classroom last year.
In regards to next year's loop, thank you so much to everyone for filling out those sheets concerning the possibility of a four-year loop together. Knowing this was a real possibility allowed us the flexibility to interview not only teachers with experience and comfort teaching 4th and 5th grades but 2nd and 3rd as well. In the end, however, we found an amazingly strong teacher with lots of experience teaching 4th grade. Her name is Emily and she is actually a classmate of mine at USC whom I first met at a professional conference in Orlando a few years ago. We have since met many times to talk about education, reading methods, and how to take up issues relating to social justice in the classroom. I'm so happy for our school to have found someone who can seamlessly step in and not only fill a vacant spot but even challenge us all to think beyond ourselves.
Because nearly all her experience is with older students Emily will be stepping into Mrs. Vice's spot and inheriting Mr. Foote's students (as Mrs. Vice would have done). This means your kids will be moving on to Ms. Mahowald as originally planned. While I'm happy we found a great candidate with lots of experience I am also saddened to know this means the next few days will truly be the last with this group. Today we created lists of songs, books, and recess games we want to share together over the coming days as a way of reflecting on the great experiences we've had together. Not surprisingly, they picked some really good ones.
I want to make sure to thank each of you as well for all you've done over these two years. I hate cliches (and, thus, avoid them like the plague) but I truly do appreciate the trust you have afforded me in working alongside your children each and every day. Even on our worst days (which really aren't that often, I promise! ) I love each and every one of them with all my heart. Ten years from now I hope that's what they remember most about second and third grade.

In our two years we have learned a whole lot together and even tackled a few issues that are not always comfortable for everyone yet I've never received anything but support and honest feedback from you all. As a result of the stories you've offered about conversations at home, your child's feelings and experiences, and your own hopes for what we might accomplish together here at school, I have reflected on and reshaped a number of my own ideals about classroom practice and procedures. There was a time when I believed that at some point teachers come to have figured it all out. Now I realize that like parenting this is far from true because the context keeps changing.
I'd love to invite the kids to come play at some point during June (in batches). I've had some of them over already (due to established friendships with my home kids) but really want to make sure everyone who wants to has a chance to come hang out with us for a day of games and swimming. I'll send something more about this later on.
Thanks again,

Friday, May 24, 2013

Special Concert Next Wednesday

Our class is hosting a special concert next Wednesday at 9:30 am. We will be sharing all we've learned about songs as well as performing a number of original pieces the kids have been writing individually as well as in small groups over the past couple of weeks. All parents who can make it are invited to join us. Also in attendance will be Ms. Mahowald's 5th grade class and Mr. O'Keefe's 2nd grade class.

Weekend Homework

Please type out the lyrics for your original song and e-mail them to me this weekend. Remember to format it so that the line breaks help us (and you!) see where there are supposed to be pauses. Also separate each verse and chorus as you would a paragraph - with spaces between them. We read songs all the time in class so you should have a really good idea what it is supposed to look like.

During our concert next Wednesday we'll put your lyrics up on the Smart Board for everyone to see while you introduce your song (writing it, the structure, etc).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Curse

Here's a video I told the kids I would post to the blog. As part of our songwriting unit we read these lyrics in search of the story being told. It is a good one! After discussing the story we enjoyed the video featuring puppetry. The video fills in parts that we had not imagined when reading (such as the woman lying in the mummy's case at the end). Our lingering questions: (1) Did the mummy  pass the curse on to the woman?, and (2) Did he mean for her to die?. In terms of the song structure, we noticed this song was unique in that it has no chorus - just verses.

The Curse - Josh Ritter

He opens his eyes
Falls in love at first sight
With the girl in the doorway
What beautiful lines
Heart full of life
After thousands of years
What a face to wake up to
He holds back a sigh
As she touches his arm
She dusts off the bed
Where til now he's been sleeping
Under miles of stone
The dry fig of his heart
Under scarab and bone
Starts back to its beating

She carries him home
In a beautiful boat
He watches the sea from a porthole in stowage
He can hear all she says
As she sits by his bed
And one day his lips answered her
In her own language
The days quickly pass
He loves making her laugh
The first time he moves it's her hair that he touches
She asks "Are you cursed?"
He says "I think that I'm cured."
Then he talks of the Nile and the girls in  Bullrushes

In New York he is laid
In a glass covered case
He pretends he is dead
People crowd round to see him
But at night she comes round
And the two wander down the halls of the tomb
That she calls a museum
But he stops to rest
Then less and less
Then it's her that looks tired
Staying up asking questions
He learns how to read

From the papers that she is writing about him
Then he makes corrections
It's his face on her book
More come to look
Families from Iowa
Upper Westsiders
Then one day it's too much
He decides to get up
Then as chaos ensues he walks outside to find her
She is using a cane
And her face looks too pale
But she's happy to see him
As they walk he supports her
She asks "Are you cursed?"
But his answer is obscured
In a sandstorm of flashbulbs
Rowdy reporters

Such reanimation
The two tour the nation
He gets out of limos
Meets other women
He speaks of her fondly
Their nights in the museum
She's just one more rag now he's dragging behind him
She stops going out
She just lies there in bed
In hotels in whatever towns they are speaking
Then her face starts to set
And her hands start to fold
Then one day the dry fig of her heart stops its beating

Long ago on the ship
She asked why pyramids
He said "Think of them as an immense invitation."
She asks "Are you cursed?"
He says "I think that I'm cured."
Then he kissed her and hoped
That she'd forget that question