The Journey of a Lifetime

Spices of the world
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: darwin Bell via Compfight

Have you ever heard the expression variety is the spice of life?  

The meaning behind that saying is one of the reasons I love teaching language arts.  We have so many different avenues to explore which keeps life interesting.  Every day we think about something different.  To begin with, the basic skills we develop are varied: reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, speaking, and listening.  All of those skills involve using language in some way.  Add to that the manner in which we approach the development of these skills: small groups, class discussions, games (a list of choices here: diagram races, Jeopardy, Bingo, baseball), dramatic readings with costumes, traditional note taking, technology (more options: the blog, QR code scavenger hunts, Educreations, Quizlet, Prezi, Powerpoint, Chictionary, iPads, iMovie, Skype, etc), simulations, field trips.  Finally, we have a myriad of materials at our disposal: myths, novels, informational text, poems, short stories, essays, and biographies and a plethora of topics: The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, Antigone, Crispin, Beowulf, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Under the Blood Red Sun, Tangerine, The Wednesday Wars, a list too long to continue.

Is it any wonder I am constantly saying, “We need to spend the whole day in language arts!”?

This past week we used our speaking and listening skills to present oral reports about journeys we’d like to take.  We chose this topic as we completed our study of The Odyssey.  Odysseus’s voyage took ten years to complete.  He sailed to a multitude of locations around the Mediterranean.  He met strange people, ate unusual foods, and heard enchanting music.  In addition to ten years of his own life, the trip cost him the lives of his crew.  We thought about adventures we’d like to take: where would we go, how would we travel, what would it cost, and what would we see, hear, taste, and do.

Come fly with us around the world!



Here’s another student making an oral presentation that addresses some of the topics we’ve been thinking about in our class.

What road will you take on your journey in life?

Will you take the road less traveled by?


Click to play clip

Will your journey be one of thousands of miles or a hundred feet?

How will you add spice to your own life and by doing so enrich the lives of others?

Will you become a world-wide traveler?  A president?  A chef?  A language arts teacher?

What is your journey?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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!)



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What is the truth?

Hey, Kids!

On the first Thursday in August, the Odyssey kids met with school board members and a journalist for the Venice Gondolier  to discuss the Newbery Award winning, documentary novel, Nothing But the Truth, by Avi.  (Click on the book to link to Avi’s website.)

Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel

This novel follows a very realistic chain of events as 9th grade student Philip Malloy is suspended from school, purportedly for singing the National Anthem.  Soon, the school board and the national media become embroiled in the emotional issues of patriotism and American values.  Tied up in this incident are the reputation of an English teacher, a political election, and the school budget.   Do you believe everything you read and hear in the news?  Can students be suspended for singing The Star Spangled Banner?  What really happened that day in Miss Narwin’s homeroom period?  Read the book to find out.

School board member Eric Robinson shares ideas with Odyssey 8th graders

School board member Eric Robinson shares ideas with Odyssey 8th graders. Mr. Robinson also offered a $100 prize for our essay contest.


School board member Marilyn Fogerty facilitates discussion about Avi’s novel with 7th grade Odyssey members.


Gondolier features editor Kim Cool and school board member Margaret Wells discuss “Nothing But the Truth” with 6th grade Odyssey members.


Mrs. Gunther and Mrs. Bettley illuminate themes of the documentary novel.


Members of the Odyssey group invited the ECS school board and journalist Kim Cool to discuss Avi’s Newbery-winning book, “Nothing But the Truth” during their summer book club meeting.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Learning to speak Chinese

A Chinese Tea

A Chinese Tea

Tea and cookies

Tea and cookies


After weeks of practicing, two of our Odyssey students shared a Chinese tea with us, the result of working during our weekly Genius Hour.  Dressed in traditional attire, we enjoyed green tea and some tasty cookies in addition to listening to them converse in Chinese.  To my ear, they sounded wonderful!  I was very impressed with their determination to learn a foreign language, and Chinese at that, without any help from an adult.  They conducted the research on the computer, wrote their own script for the tea, practiced consistently, baked the cookies, brought in the tea, and they shared their knowledge all without assistance.  I was impressed! I’m sure they will remember this experience for years to come.


How many languages do you speak?  What language would you like to learn, and why?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tea Time is always 4 o’clock

Our Mad Tea Party

Our Mad Tea Party

Our Odyssey group discussed The View From Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg, during tea.  We enjoyed tea sandwiches: cucumber; watercress; apricot and brie; and pear, cream cheese and walnut.  Also on the menu were a variety of desserts: petit fours, cannoli, ruggelach, and lemon poppy seed muffins.  Delicious!   After tea, we divided into teams for a rousing Academic Bowl game.  Can you answer these questions?

  • What are the first two letters of the Greek alphabet?
  • Who is baseball’s all-time hit leader?
  • Who was the first Spanish explorer to reach Florida?
  • Who was the first president to live in the White House?
  • What do the acronyms POSH and TIP stand for?
  • How many quarters are in twenty dollars?
  • Who is the father of Jacob and Esau?
  • What is the sequel to Alice in Wonderland?




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A Day Down Yonder

After reading Richard Peck’s Newbery winner, A Year Down Yonder, the Odyssey students visited Manatee Historic Village, a small, early 20th century town reminiscent of the novel’s setting.  We imagined ourselves arriving on the train with Mary Alice to live with her Grandma Dowdel for a year.   As we walked through the farmhouse and barn, by the privy, into the one-room school house and the church, and browsed in the general store, we imagined Grandma Dowdel pouring glue on Augie’s head, ramming Old Man Nyquist’s pecan tree with the tractor, letting Mildred Burdick’s horse loose, and serving burgoo at the Armistice Day turkey shoot.

What is your best memory of time spent with your Grandma?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email