Monthly Archives: October 2008

Interactive Website: Blue Zones

Interactive websites are kind of hit and miss, but this one looks promising for health/science/culture. Blue Zones for educators has a series of modules that encourages healthy behaviors in students through scientific exploration of cultural behaviors. I had a problem signing up as an educator, but the general log in worked fine and I could access the lesson plans.
The Blue Zones Challenge  teams students, parents, and educators in an effort to alter the four key behaviors that impact childhood obesity. This personalized program empowers students, with the support of their parents and teachers, to take charge of their own health by tracking servings of fruits and vegetables; periods of physical activity; servings of sweetened beverages; and periods of watching television. Lesson plans and information are attached to all the projects.

The Legacy Project has two significant components. First, it provides the opportunity for kids to interact with someone from a different generation to learn more about the meaning and importance of legacy—both on an individual level and generational level. Second, it provides the opportunity for kids to be involved with real scientific research by sharing their findings through this Web site with scientists at the National Institute on Aging.

The Financial Challenge helps students understand the basics of financial literacy. Supported by their parents and teachers, students track their ability to earn, budget, and save for a month. Students will assess their current habits, set goals for their future, and track their progress as they learn about the power of savings over time.


If Teens Could Vote slideshow

Time magazine and CNN sent a photographer to Los Angeles’ Rock the Vote rally and asked teens to finish the sentence: “If I could vote in this election, it would be because. . .” It’s an interesting slide show, but what’s more important is the question itself and the answers that our students could bring to it. If Teens Could Vote

Abbie, 14
“To educate everyone.”teenvote_021.jpg

What Reluctant Readers Want (part 3)

Readers young and old like to read certain authors. My mother-in-law insists on reading every Danielle Steele book even though the stories all start looking alike to me. If reluctant readers are given a book that they like, they’ll tend to trust that author to tell a great story. Here’s a few (if you have others, be sure to comment):

schooled.jpgCap lives in a commune that’s been existence from the 1960s, but now holds just 2 members, Cap and his grandma Rain. When Rain is hospitalized, Cap is thrust into a middle school and pretty much fed to the sharks. As in other Korman books, the hero triumphs in his own hilarious way.

lawn-boy.jpgGary Paulsen, he of Hatchet fame, also has a great sense of humor. In this story, the narrator’s grandma gives him an old riding mower for his 12th birthday and he becomes an entrepreneur immediately. Soon lawn boy has a partner, 15 employees, a lot of money invested in the market, and a prizefighter.

beige.jpgBeige by Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof, Queen of Cool) is about Katy who needs to leave Montreal when her mom goes on an archeological dig and spend two weeks with her aging punk rocker dad (Rat) in L.A. She’s a neat freak, and even his soap is dirty.

bluebloods.jpgRevelations by Melissa de la Cruz is the third book in the Blue Bloods series. It’s got overpriviledged teens at an exclusive private school in New York (sounds like Gossip Girl), but these powerful teens are all vampires.

cass.jpgWhat Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles (Shattering Glass, Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters, Playing in Traffic). I’ve posted about this book before and it’s not that recent, but I have got a lot of reluctant readers hooked on this story, so it works. Oh, so what happened to Cass? She’s buried alive.

deadline.jpgChris Crutcher was one of our authors for our Big Island reading festival, and as a reader he was just laugh out loud hilarious, but this one shows his counselor side. 18 year old Ben Wolf has one year to live, and he won’t let his doctor tell his parents and he is refusing any medical interference. He’s going to live his last year on his terms. A real tear jerker.

twilight.jpg The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer. I must say I resisted reading these book (even though they were in my classroom library) until the last one came out. They are not small books. Like the Harry Potter series, they seemed to get longer, but I must admit I got hooked and read a a book a day. Girls go crazy for these books, and I’ve even seen some boys carrying them around, although one of the male English teachers at the high school said Twilight was the only book he almost stopped reading. I told him there was more testosterone in the other ones, but he was not having any of it.

Happy reading – and let me know what authors you trust!

When Students Are Confused. . .

I’m getting into these If. . . Then charts and thought I’d share some.

If students are confused (glazed look, or head down, or turning in work that is way off the mark). . . THEN try using the I do it, we do it, you do it format for your lesson. This is a good way of monitoring misunderstandings and almost (no guarantees) ensuring that all students complete the assignment PROFICIENTLY. This method basically asks you to provide well-executed models for students to inspect and provide further support by doing a sample together (formative assessment of understanding) with the entire class. This is done before students are expected to complete an assignment independently.

I Do It, We Do It, You Do It lesson format

Anticipatory Set Teacher activates background knowledge and experiences of students in order to build connections to the lesson objective.

I Do, You Watch Teacher models how to do what the students will be asked to do at the end of the lesson

I Do, You Help Teacher models again, but with the help of selected students

We Do, I Help All students complete some part of the task under the guidance of the teacher, preferably in partners or small groups

You Do, I Watch All students complete the task independently while still under the teacher’s supervision.

Closure, Summarizing Statement Teacher summarizes the purpose and possible applications of the task and gives a homework assignment if applicable.

This strategy is from 40 Ways to Support Struggling Readers in Content Classrooms, Grades 6-12, by Elaine McEwan. I have this book in my professional library if you want to borrow it.

P.S. – Ron’s getting pretty good at this one for note taking and he’ll improve!

Literacy through e-cards

When I was younger, we would get pen pals through school and I’d love to write on Hawaii postcards. I had a pen pal in Israel and Kansas that I wrote to for several years. Even these silly, non-curricular pieces of writing were important to me because through the simple act of writing, I got to meet people, learn about their culture and learn about them. Even after my pen pal days, I’d write notes to my friends just because it was for a real audience. I don’t have any of my old essays, but I have my notes from others.

Students in this internet age text message each other and email, or call, but like postcards, e-cards are a more personal way to write, and even though it’s still on line, as writers we craft our messages on an e-card more than we would on an email or text message.

At the Martha Stewart site, students can pick their own pumpkins, and follow the arrows to add color, stem, eyes, nose and mouth. Then they can write their own message and send it to their friends or classmates. The fact that it’s real writing will encourage them to actually reread and edit their text.


The Field Museum lets students send e-cards with pictures of Aztec sculptures. The recipient not only gets the card, but also gets background information on the sculpture that was chosen for the e-card. This is a special exhibit, so the Aztec e-cards will probably end in April when the exhibit is over.

What Reluctant Readers Want (part 2)

Last week I said that one of the factors that play an important role in getting reluctant readers to read is a title that catches their attention. Another factor is a catchy cover. Notice how both of these factors have very little actual reading involved, but they do stimulate the eyes. Here’s some new titles:

babymouse.jpg babymouse2.jpg In the Babymouse series, the brother-sister team of Jennifer and Matt Holm hit the mark time and again with humor, sweetness, and characters so genuine they can pass for real kids.  This series is one of the few graphic novels for the elementary set. Yes, it’s not a middle school book, but  Babymouse kind of has middle school attitude because she’s sassy and sweet (sound familiar). RL ages 9-12 (reading level)

bullyville.jpg Bullyville by Francine Prose is definitely a young adult book and not for those wanting a story that follows the expected story lines. Burt is lucky to go to an exclusive school on scholarship, but this is becoming his worst year in his life.

beastly.jpgBeastly is a young adult book that takes the point of view of the modern day beast, a once rich, handsome teen who is turned into a beast by a witch in his English class.

Stay tuned for more recommendations next week.

October book recommendations

October is a double whammy month with 2 book orders online: Tab and Teen Readers’ Club. Ordering is easy and secure and the books will be delivered to advisories 2 weeks after the order deadline (October 17, 2008)

If you’re interested in ordering books, come to my room to get a flyer and order online

class username: kamehameha

password: imua

This month’s recommendations:

From TRC (teen readers’ club)

Favorite author this year, Stephanie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn) came out with her first sci-fi book, The Host. Will Melanie Stryder refuse to surrender her brain to the alien presence known as Wanderer? Two souls, one body. . .and a love that’s bigger than both!


From TAB:

dared.jpg The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti When 16 year old Helmuth discovers that Germany is lying to its people, he tries to expose the truth — and he is tried for treason! Gripping WWII drama told in flashbacks with breathtaking suspense.

Scrapping the curriculum

One of the great things about teaching is that teaching allows for and nurtures flexibility, so when events outside of the classroom start distracting from things happening inside the classroom, teachers have the flexibility to put the “printed curriculum” on the back burner (not scrap all together, I’m just trying to hook you in) and make way for teachable moments. 2865741525_5f9bc6afd8_m.jpg 

If we are trying to nurture students who become industrious, informed and functional citizens of the world, then we must embrace those teachable moments and adjust. Some topics that middle school students can grapple with:

  • what is credit
  • how do mortgages work
  • what are the repercussions of the banks and investment firms shutting down
  • what is our national debt
  • what is personal debt
  • what will the economic stress mean for my community, my family

I’m sure there are more math and history and art and language arts connections. As it is the line between facts and opinions are blurring in the media. Take advantage of the teachable moments. These are excitingly frightful times.