Around the World in 80 Minutes

Hey Kids,

Do you ever wonder what kids do in other classes?

Do they read the same books we do?  Do they dress up in character?


Polyphemus and his Cyclops friends


Jason, the Argonauts, Kings Pelias and Aeetes, Medea, Phineas, and the Harpies

Do they have an 80 minute language arts class?

Do they race to diagram a sentence?

Do they use iPads in the classroom?


Day one of 1:1 iPads


Interviewing each other with our new iPads


Exploring our new technology


When you live in one classroom, it is easy to think that there is only one way to do things.  One of the reasons we love blogging is that we get to step into the classrooms of other kids.  We see new ways of doing things.  Our brains engage in the “what if” scenario.  What if we…


Visit some of our blogging buddies.  Visit their blogging buddies!  Read about their classrooms.  Write them a quality comment.  Ask questions about what they are learning.  Share what you are learning.  Love.  Learn.  Soar.  Pass it on.

Finding just the right word

Words matter.

Choosing the right nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs allows the reader to understand the message the writer intends.  This week we discussed the importance of the choices we make in writing and speaking.

We watched this clip called “Word Choice” from an old t.v. show, Friends.  

After watching the clip we visualized the idea of using longer, but not necessarily stronger, words with an exercise involving thread, string, and a rope.   Unravelling a very long piece of thread, a medium piece of string, and a short piece of rope, we realized that although the thread was a lot longer than the string and the rope, it was by no means stronger than the other two.  That was the same lesson Chandler and Monica tried to teach Joey, aka Baby Kangaroo, when Joey wrote his letter.  While we want to “sound smart”, too many long words strung together sometimes confuse the meaning.  More succinctly put, longer doesn’t equal stronger.

Look at the three items below.  Which is the strongest?  Which is the longest?  Just because something is longer, it is not necessarily stronger.  Check out this blog post .

Does longest = strongest?

Does longest = strongest?

We also read this short excerpt from our text books:

As a girl wept under a tree, a woman suddenly appeared.  She waved a magic stick.  A vegetable turned into a vehicle.  With another movement of the woman’s stick, the girl’s torn clothing turned into a beautiful dress.  Overjoyed, the girl thanked the woman and rode to the party in a building.

How long did it take you to realize the lines above relate the story of Cinderella?  It took some of the students in our class until the third sentence; some of us needed even more information than that.  Cinderella becomes very unfamiliar when specific nouns are replaced with general ones.  Word choice is important.

We used more household items to illustrate this point.  Is it better to say eating utensil or fork?  Eating utensil or spoon?  Even though “eating utensil” might feel ‘smart’ (think Joey), these longer words are less precise than spoon or fork.

Other times, we really do need adjectives to help us understand what the writer wants to convey.

Popsicle stick, chopstick, tree stick?, drumstick, yardstick

Popsicle stick, chopstick, tree stick?, drumstick, yardstick

What kind of stick is this?  Picturing the  importance of adjectives and nouns

What kind of stick is this? Picturing the importance of adjectives and nouns

While all the items pictured at right are sticks, they are very different kinds of sticks.  It would be extraordinarily difficult to eat with yardsticks or drumsticks, wouldn’t it?  Likewise, measuring distance with Popsicle sticks or chopsticks is equally tricky.  We listed the items as yardstick, drumstick, chopstick, and Popsicle stick. Guess what some students wanted to call the very last stick I showed them?  A tree stick!  After a little laugh, we realized that changing the noun to branch or twig was a better alternative than using the adjective tree with the noun stick.  We tried the same exercise using a paper cup, a measuring cup, and a coffee cup.  Some of us wanted to use mug rather than coffee cup.

Whether writing a letter of recommendation or a fairy tale about a princess, choosing just the right word is an important skill for an author.

Here are 182 Questions to Write or Talk About from The Learning Network with the Ny Times.  Peruse the list and write a response to one of the questions.

Practice your best writing!  Choose your words carefully.

What keeps you going?


“Your attitude is a choice you make.”  I have this quote, and many others like it, in a little book I’ve been keeping since 1991.  I write messages to myself that remind me to stay positive, to be grateful and appreciative, to work hard, and to have faith.   Here are some of my favorite lines that keep me going:

“Life is either a challenge, or nothing at all.”   ~Helen Keller

“Happiness is not something owed you.  Nobody is handed joy on a silver platter.  Instead you make your own happiness, knowing it is an attitude, a habit gained from daily practice.”      ~Denis Waitley

“Positive attitudes are like nourishment to the body and soul.  The right attitude can carry you through the worst days.”      ~Unknown

“Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”   ~Albert Einstein

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”         ~Isaiah 41:10

The beginning of the school year is often a time when we turn over a new leaf or start with a blank slate.  Those idioms mean that we make a fresh start to do things right, to the best of our abilities.  This isn’t always easy though.   By the time we hit week four, which is where we are now, the routine has become, well, routine.  It’s already getting tough to get out of bed on time, to do our homework before watching t.v. or playing Xbox, to exercise after school, to be kind to the kids who annoy us.

Think of Odysseus, lost at sea for ten years after already fighting in the Trojan War for nearly 10 years.  Think of all the difficulties he faced at war, at sea, and even when returning home to Ithaca.  What kept him going?

How can we stay positive when the going gets tough?

In addition to my book of quotes, I can think of twenty-five things that make me happy, that keep me going when I’m starting to sink.

25 Things That Make Me Happy on PhotoPeach (click on link rather than on slide show in order to hear music…little technical difficulty with music)

Generally speaking, it’s hard to make others happy when you’re stuck in a rut yourself; that’s one reason why it’s important to choose to have a good attitude.  It’s like the oxygen mask on the airplane; you have to put the mask on yourself first before you can help others with their masks.  

So think about it……

What keeps you going?  

(Purple makes me happy, too!)  (So does peppy music and the tv show Drake and Josh where the song came from.  I love that show.  It’s so funny!)



A QR Field Trip to Ancient Greece

Today I told my kids that we were taking a virtual field trip, also known as a webquest, to Ancient Greece via our new iPads.   Similar to an actual field trip, the goal is not to rush off the bus, see one thing, run to be the first person back to the bus, and then stand around waiting, doing nothing, until everyone else returns to the bus. The goal is  to learn as much as possible in the time allotted.

Parthenon, Athens

The Parthenon in Athens

Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely via Compfight

Imagine that you are on a field trip to the Acropolis.  Everyone must stay at the Acropolis, no side trips to McDonald’s, but everyone is free to explore the parts of the Acropolis that he or she finds most interesting.  Some kids might go to the Parthenon, others to the Erechtheion, to the Propylaia, or to the temple of Athena Nike.   That’s how our virtual trip worked as well.  The kids scanned a QR code which brought them to a website related to Ancient Greece.  Once on the site, each student was free to explore according to his/her own tastes and interests.

Here is one site we visited.  Click on the picture to explore with us!

Explore Ancient Greece via the BBC

Explore Ancient Greece via the BBC

On a real field trip, after returning to the bus, you might talk with people around you about what you saw in your section of the park.  “The Parthenon is huge!  It looks like the one in the Percy Jackson movie!” or “My Nikes stood at the Temple of Nike!”  We had similar discussions on our virtual field trip.  Once we had explored the site individually, we shared our information in small groups, and then chose the most interesting tidbit to relate to the entire class.

In order to find the web sites most efficiently, some of us whose iPads had a free scanner app on them scanned the QR code to quickly connect to the site.  Those without a scanning app could also find the site by typing the URL address.

Facts about Ancient Greece

Facts about Ancient Greece


What was the most interesting piece of information you learned while visiting Ancient Greece?