Posts tagged ‘reading’

February 7, 2012

Like, OMG.

by stryson

Well, folks, the day has finally come. This is what the answers in my sixth grade have come to:

4. How does Miss Harris react to Gilly?

Miss Harris is like OMG when she caught Gilly in the hallway.


February 6, 2012

Main Idea Activities

by stryson

I’ve been doing a review in a few of my classes recently, so I’ve been back to touching on Main Idea. In my search for resources, I found that BrainPop has this excellent video. Under “Activities,” they have a few excellent worksheets. I particularly liked the Inverted Pyramid graphic organizer.

This game over at Harcourt Publishers was good, but I was disappointed at how quickly it goes by. I’d love to find a similar game that could allow for more turns at the smart board.

I haven’t used it with my classes yet, but this Main Idea Song is cute. One of my classes is still struggling with details as opposed to main ideas, so I may break it out for them later this week.

If you have any fun suggestions for Main Idea, I’d love to hear them – feel free to share in the comments below.

November 29, 2011

Reading updates

by stryson

Moving has cut into my reading time! I’d planned to be done with my 50 book a year challenge by this week, so that I can spend December continuing to work my way through Ulysses, but such is not the case. Today, I finished my 47th book. I’ll be lucky to finish the whole challenge, at this rate.

This challenge is a Goodreads phenomenon. If you’re interested, the group is here, and my posting is currently in the P-T section. When I finish, it’ll move to the finish line section. I completed the challenge two years ago, but skipped last year in favor of reading harder, longer books – which is when I began reading Ulysses.

The book I finished today was called Robert and the Class President. Clearly, it was a book I was reading with my students in school. As far as plot goes, the book is mediocre, but it does provide some opportunities for lessons on multiple meanings of words.

On the other hand, we’re reading a completely not mediocre book in my sixth grade class – The Great Gilly Hopkins. The kids are loving it, and we’ve gotten into some really great discussions so far. Gilly is so full of sass!

In my personal reading, I’m working on two books at the moment. The first is The Pilgrim’s Progress. This book was written in the 1700s, and it’s an allegory about a Christian making a pilgrimage that’ll end in heaven/the promised land. I’d gotten interested in this book because I’d heard it mentioned in other books. I seem to remember it coming up in Little Women, for example. (Side note: today is Louisa May Alcott’s birthday!) The other is called Queenmaker, which is a historical fiction novel about Michal, the first wife of King David of Israel.

I’m not truly concerned about reaching the fifty book goal for the year, but I am disappointed that I couldn’t finish as early as I’d have liked. I’ll be doing the challenge again next year, but I may break in December/January to finish Ulysses as planned, regardless.

November 5, 2011

My Clever Kids

by stryson

So, two of my fourth grade boys have figured out that I write down quotes when someone says something funny during class. Of course, being total hams, these two boys have started a campaign to get written down as often as possible, and it’s making my life hilarious. It also made coming back to school after three days off a lot more pleasant.

Yes, that’s right, it’s only the beginning of November, and we’ve had 3 “snow” days. Our school, along with hundreds of thousands of other homes and businesses in northern New Jersey, lost power for the better part of the week. The upside is that we’re going to get those teaching days back. Originally, we were supposed to have a half day on Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday “off” for parent-teacher conferences. (I put the “off” in quotes because it’s the kids who would be off; we were scheduled for conferences from 8am-5pm.) However, the popular consensus was that conferences could be cancelled in favor of giving the students more time in the classroom. I’ll probably have to do a couple of phone conferences, but I don’t mind that. I’m just so relieved that we won’t fall further behind!

To wrap up, I’ll share a quote from one of the boys I mentioned up at the top of this entry. We were reading in Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and we got to the chapter that details the process of making the mouse maker potion. This young man asked if he could write down the ingredients, because: “I’m gonna make that for my brother!”

This from the same child that told me I couldn’t be a witch because they were described as “dressing normally.”

The best part is that there isn’t an ounce of sarcasm or hesitation when I say that I adore this kid, and it’s been so satisfying to see him grow into such a smart little jokester. He could barely hold a conversation when I first met him… and the transformation he’s made is representative of exactly what is satisfying about my job.

October 5, 2011


by stryson

Oh, the conundrums with which we are faced because of certain students!

There is a girl in my sixth grade reading class that has multiple learning difficulties. Among her habits (if you’d call it that) is writing all over everything, often just her name, over and over. Today, I’d passed out a story that was photocopied. I intended to just re-collect the papers and reuse them another year. Well, this young lady wrote all over hers, of course. However, I feel strange about following through to reinforce that it was a poor choice, since what she wrote was a note to me. It said the following:

[It began with a drawing of a peace sign, a heart, and a smiley face, with the label “Peace, Love, Happiness.”]

Dear Mrs. Tryson,

You are the best teacher ever!!!

From: Her Name

To: Mrs. Tryson

[peace sign] out.

Then, underneath, an arrow drawn to the illustration for the story, and a note that reads:

This is Pocahontas and she is a Native American girl. 12 years old.

So… she complimented me, and then she added a caption to the illustration that was accurate. Knowing her processing abilities and her issues with perception, I may not even bother following through.

Until I worked with children, I don’t think I ever truly understood what it meant to be exasperated by and pleased with someone all at the same time.

October 4, 2011

Quotes from Fourth Grade Reading

by stryson

My students get into interesting trains of thought while we’re reading.

This morning, I was reading The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco, with my fourth graders. I was fishing for the word immigrant, asking them, “what do they call it when someone’s moved from one country to another?” I prompted them with the first letter, an “i,” and one child began rambling out various words that started with “i.” All of a sudden, he gets an “a-ha!” moment and yells out, “Instigator!!!!!” When I began to correct him, he began jumping in over me: “Instigator! Alligator! Eaten by a gator!”


In this same class on Friday, we were reading The Witches. When we got to a part that detailed a girl’s transformation into a chicken, the exchange that ensued went like this:

Student 1: “How did they know it was a witch?”

Me: “How else would she turn into a chicken?”

Student 1: “Chicken pox?”

Student 2:“Maybe she crashed into a pillow factory.”

This is what keeps my job interesting.

September 7, 2011

Book Review: The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

by stryson

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple – Karen Cushman

Recommended for: early middle school

I fell in love with Karen Cushman’s writing as a teenager, when I first came across her novel, Catherine, Called Birdy.  I was slightly disappointed by The Midwife’s Apprentice, but I absolutely adored The Ballad of Lucy Whipple.

Summary:  California Morning “Lucy” Whipple is a twelve year old girl who finds herself in California despite her best intentions and efforts to the contrary.  Following through on an old dream, her mother packed the entire family up and moved them to Lucky Diggins, California, after Lucy’s Pa died.  We follow Lucy’s experiences as she learns to cope with her new living situation, as she pines for her hometown in Massachusetts, and as she grows into a strong young woman.

I love historical fiction, and I was incredibly disappointed by living in California when I moved there, so this book was a natural fit for me. Thankfully, I found it was a good fit for my fifth grade reading class last year, as well.  The kids really got into the Old West setting, and could relate closely with Lucy’s struggles.  Common themes of family and responsibility carry through well.  I used the Novel Unit book for homework questions and some guidance for discussions and vocabulary, and it all went quite well.

You can view the Amazon page for the book here: The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

The Amazon page for the Novel Unit books are here: Teacher’s Guide and Student Packet.

Finally, the other Karen Cushman books I’ve read: Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice.