Monday, December 29, 2003

How do you recognize an "A" paper?

Question posed at Pedablogue, where some terrific answers are posted by university professors & others. The question for me should really be, "How do you recognize an "A" project?

For me, there are two kinds of "A" projects - those that score in the low 90's, and those that score in the high 90's. The first kind is attained by fulfilling all the expectations outlined in the rubric - usually a combination of following directions, accurate & complete science content, no/few spelling & grammar mistakes, and an attempt at creativity, originality, or style. This is the "I did everything you asked me to" kind of "A," and it should not be looked down upon, for it is achievable by any student who puts his or her mind to it. Nevertheless, these papers do not always seem special - they can, at times, come across as a bit mechanical.

The second kind of "A" project gets a score in the high 90's. It meets all the requirements of the rubric, does everything I asked, crosses t's and dots i's. And then it goes beyond what I asked for, and shows signs that the student truly "got" the point of the assignment. Sometimes, it might incorporate skills which I only hinted at, but did not explicitly teach. For sixth graders, an example of this is a research paper that is not only complete, but is organized so that the information flows logically from one topic to the next - a skill that is hard to teach and which I have not had much success developing across the board. Sometimes, this kind of project conveys a passion for the subject matter which I could not, by any means, require of the students, but which makes the project so much more exciting than the average. In almost all cases, it is work that shows the student pushed himself or herself, which goes beyond what the student has previously achieved. There are a few students who consistently turn in this level of work, and many others who produce high-"A" work from time to time, and many for whom it is a rare achievement.

I must also note that I allow students to re-do any project scoring lower than 75%. Once in a great while, usually with some extra help between the original and the re-do, a failing project turns into an "A." The smile on the student's face who realizes he or she has just produced top-quality work? Priceless.

Merry, on the whole.

Two aunts, my grandmother, two yellow labs, and my sister's boyfriend all joined us for Christmas dinner. I made my occasional exception to vegetarianism and ate turkey (followed, on Dec. 26th, by hot turkey sandwiches.... mmmmmm.... I am a terrible vegetarian!). I gave one raspberry-colored merino wool sweater, one pretty t-shirt, a jazz CD collection, a wall mirror, a songbook, an emergency radio (well, what would YOU get someone leaving for the Peace Corps???), a collection of the year's best sportswriting, a four-leaf clover kit, a bonsai kit, a travel Yahtzee set, and a tin of holiday art projects.

It is funny how Christmas has changed as I've grown up. I used to get up at 6-something a.m. with my sisters and brother, and as I got older and realized how tired my parents were, I would delay things until around 7 am, when curiosity would get the best of me, too... Now, the earliest anyone wakes up in my family is 8:30 or so, and this year, we didn't start the day until around 10, and I think my parents were among the first up! I used to sit in the livingroom and tear through my presents, one after another, then sit, slightly bored, as my parents took their time, watched us open gifts, and then eventually unwrapped their own. Now I sit near the tree and help distribute presents, stopping to watch as each family member unwraps his or her present from me, hoping they will appreciate what I've found, taking my time in opening my own gifts. My mom sings in the church choir, now, while the rest of us hardly ever go to church, but, when we do go on Christmas, I actually look forward to dressing up, singing carols, seeing people from town.

This post was supposed to include a picture of my family's Christmas tree, as I am the proud owner of a digital camera! Unfortunately, I just discovered that I can't post pictures on blogger unless I find somewhere else to host them on-line. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas to all!

I'm going to my parents' house for a few days of family time... not sure how much, if at all, I'll be blogging. Then again, I don't expect too many readers for a few days, either - I imagine Christmas is a pretty slow blog-reading season! So, to all, I wish you a very merry Christmas and I'll see you before the end of the year.

Monday, December 22, 2003


you are turquoise

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the html color quiz

The Day We Were (almost) All Out Sick

a.k.a. So You Want To Work in a Small School...

We have, at my school, a total of ten staff members, including 6 full time teachers, 1 half-time teacher, 2 school aides, and our school director. One teacher is out on maternity leave (no real sub in sight), so we're down to nine for a few weeks. This morning, one teacher called in sick, another came to school but left after two periods, and another nearly called in because he was feeling under the weather. I also was not at 100% since I just got over a nasty cold. My school director had to leave the building for a mandatory principals' meeting at the Regional Office. A bunch of kids were also out sick (or on vacation), but not quite enough to balance the absence of two teachers and the school director! So, we pulled together and DEALT. I covered a class during my free period - and so did everyone else.

And did I mention that we were throwing a Christmas party for our students in the afternoon, a potluck lunch followed by movies & music? So, again, we dealt. A few parents showed up and helped serve food, kids set up tables in the hallway, banquet-style (not quite Hogwarts, I'm afraid!). And we all supervised the eating, movie-watching, dancing, and clean-up. A success? I'd say so.

The kids have started bringing in Christmas presents for their teachers... It is very sweet of them, since they don't have much extra money. That said, I get some pretty hideous stuff every year! Not quite sure where I'm going to put all these crystal angels! So, I thought I'd share this extremely mean website showcasing cheesy gifts, and then return to the more positive message, which is that the kids are very, very generous. And I do take it all in that spirit.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

What do you look for in a blog?

Several bloggers whom I read frequently have started playing with their site designs. I have also noticed that many blog reviewers have something against blogspot/blogger - I'm not paranoid, here, they outright say it in nearly every review over at the Weblog Review. (I go there when I just want to look around at some new blogs). It seems to me that reviewers are probably people who spend a lot of time on the web, maybe do work related to computers, maybe spend a huge amount of time on their own blogs; all this would bias them towards blogs that show the same level of expertise with web design. Also, these are people who see lots and lots of blogs. I have some web skills, but not much extra time, and I already devote more time than I suspect is healthy to this blog. It will probably not get a facelift until summer.

Nevertheless, I'm curious. What's important to you, "the average reader," in a blog? Is it content that relates to you? A wide variety of content? Good writing? Ease of navigation? Humor? Site design (and if so, what makes an appealing site)? Having a domain of its own?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

On my voicemail...

Hi, this is Mina. I don't know if you know my phone number but it is (###) ###-#### and I wanted to ask you a question about the science project so if you can call me before 8 o'clock I'd appreciate it, bye.




Yeah, I gave her a message.


Um, what'd you say?

I was like, Hi Ms. Frizzle this is Mina, um....

Did you leave your number?


All right.

I told her, I don't know if you know my number but it is ... and I have a question for you about the science project so...

What was your question?

I didn't tell the question! Let me finish! I have a question about the science project so if you can call me by 8 o'clock I would really appreciate it. And that's it.

What was your question?

I didn't tell the question!

All right, but what is the question?!

My question is about... okay, I don't even know what my question is.

You don't even know what your question is but you want to ask her a question? That's kind of silly.

I'll think of one, trust me, 'cause I know I have a question.

My question is, Does it have to be exactly the amount of electrons?

Yes, it has to be.

But I'm building it out of toothpicks and foil.


Toothpicks & foil.

Oh well. I'm not goin' nowhere so it doesn't matter to me.

You know what Mina, you are so mean and insensitive, I'm never gonna call you again. Bye.





Wednesday, December 17, 2003

New Blog Discoveries

Processing Thoughts & Random Blurbs referred me to p/p, a blog of photographs of small poems, which I really like... it's very peaceful, and occasionally provocative. Take a look.

Weblog Review (not Frank - he's from Blog Review) referred me to Where the hell was I? , a blog which creeps up on you & makes you giggle.

The Burning Questions of Sixth Graders

Student: Ms. Frizzle, where does the word 'period' come from?

Me: quizzical look

Student: "Not that kind of period, that kind of period."

Me: Oh. The kind at the end of a sentence, or the thing that happens to girls?

Student: The second one. *blush*

Me: Well, do you remember the Periodic Table? It got its name because certain things kept repeating every so often for the elements?

Student: I guess...

Me: Okay, well, a girl's period is something that comes back every month, after a period of time, and it lasts a short period of time each month.

Student: Ohhhhh. Walks away, curiosity apparently satisfied.

Believe it or not, I answered that exact same question last year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Science Books for Kids

An article from the New York Times about science books for kids. I use lots of books - especially the Seymour Simon books - with my students, as sources for research projects. My science library is in a different part of the room than the regular classroom library. Lately my students have started borrowing the science books to read during homeroom. It started with one or two kids who sit near the science shelf, and is slowly spreading from table to table.

For the nerds out there:

Quiz Question: "What atom can bond with magnesium? What compound do they form?"

My Favorite Answer: Sulfur. They form magnetic sulfide.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Debut Performance

A first: I sang to my students today. Oh, sure, on occasion I have been known to "sing" instructions, but it was never really singing, it was never announced, it was never more than a few words. Today, I introduced the "Element Cafe" project, and sang my Hydrogen Song - see post below - to each class as an example of what a song/rap/poem about an element might be like. I got the kids to join in on the chorus! At the end, I got applause in every class... the main thing is, I hope some of the kids try their hand at scientific songwriting. (If they do, I'll post the best/most interesting efforts).

The Element Cafe is an experiment with an idea called a "menu" which I got from a book on differentiation in the classroom. I presented my students with a menu of choices for their project. They each have to do one Appetizer, a choice between two different kinds of graphic organizers; one Salad, a bibliography; two Entrees, chosen from among four projects, a model, presentation, advertisement, or song/poem/rap; and Dessert is a choice of three optional activities for extra credit. I told them that salad is good for you, so everyone has to eat it, and writing a bibliography is good for you, so everyone has to do it. Then I said that dessert will be sweet 'cause you'll get extra credit...

The idea is that the choice will motivate the kids, and the different projects allow students to play to their strengths and learning styles. It was a lot of work to put together and is going to be an ENORMOUS amount of work to collect & grade. I made a detailed rubric in advance, and handed it out today, and I'm providing examples of work that would meet the standards, and I'm giving the kids all the rest of the days before Christmas to work on it. The thing is, that's actually not all that much time, what with Christmas parties and the flu and kids leaving early for vacation and so on. I don't really know what to expect with this project...

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Pickled Herring & Molotov Cocktails

Spent the afternoon at a "Traditional Danish Lunch" given by my friend Eric. It was great - a small, fun group of people, a lot of new facts about Denmark, a chance to help out (I arranged the cheese, grapes, & crackers while the others assembled the table), and an amazing discovery: I really like pickled herring. Both the red kind and the white kind. I was actually given a red herring to take home! Yum. All the more amazing because I am a vegetarian except on special occasions & when politeness demands that I eat meat (today was both).

Did a little Christmas shopping after the lunch, then took the bus home. A man and his 8 or 9 year old son were sitting next to each other looking through a book they had purchased. The father was pointing out things to his son. It was a nice scene, a father helping a son learn something new, spending some father-son time together. It would have been even nicer if the book had been about dinosaurs, or the solar system, or famous historical figures, or almost anything besides molotov cocktails, sawed-off shotguns, rifles, and all the other weapons described and pictured in this book. It was a video game book, and the father was telling his son all about the various weapons he would get to choose from when he played the game. I'm not one of those people who thinks video games are the root of all evil, not even violent video games. I wouldn't buy violent ones for my own children, and I would be very sparing & selective about all video games, but I don't hate them altogether. Heck, I've been addicted to my share of computer games, and I know if I'd had more games as a kid, I'd have spent hours playing those, too! It's just that the time a parent spends talking to his kid is so important, such an opportunity to help the child discover what's important, learn new things, develop interests... when your dad or mom takes time to tell you about something, it is really highlighted in your mind. It's sad to me that this parent - who seemed really caring - would waste such an opportunity on video game weapons.

Friday, December 12, 2003

"not useful or even entertaining"

Review from Blog Review:

This blog is soooo boring. I tried, I really tried to give a higher grade because Ms. Frizzle seems very nice. If I was a nerd, I would probably love this site. This blog is lacking in too many area's. The web design is lame, the colors are not appealing, and the content of the blog is not useful or even entertaining.

2 out of 5 stars

Frank's Recommendation: For the more studious

When I first read this, I was a little hurt, but then I got over it. I enjoy writing my blog. At least a few people find it useful or even entertaining! Lucky for me, there are plenty of nerds out there. Anyway, when you submit your work for review, you have to be able to take the bad with the good... and he's already sent me three referrals!

P.S. If I were feeling petty, I'd point out the reviewer's misuse of an apostrophe...

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I am a Mastermind!

(Submissive Introvert Abstract Thinker )

Take this quiz.

Like just 8% of the population you are a MASTERMIND (SIAT). You can be silent and withdrawn, but behind your reserved exterior lies an active mind that allows you to analyze situations and come up with creative, unexpected solutions. Normal people call this "scheming." Don't learn German.

Anyway, your sense of style and originality are your strengths, and people will respect your judgment once they get to know you. If you learn to be a little more personable, you could be a great leader--you've definitely got the "vision" thing down. Just make sure all the plotting you do behind those eyes of yours is healthy.

Famous masterminds in television: Dr. Claw, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Montgomery Burns.

Thanks to What In Tarnation? for this insight into my personality.

And speaking of medieval...

There's a rumor* going around that our ancient, castle-like, six-story building costs $1 million per year to heat. Just our building. Just to heat. Maybe the twenty-foot ceilings contribute to that?

*It is a rumor. Another teacher heard it from a custodian. Don't know which one. That definitely undermines the credibility of the fact. But if it IS true... and it certainly could be... I think I would vote to tear the place down and build a new, energy-efficient, appropriately-sized, modern, comfortable new school in its place.

Sisyphus Configures the Laptops

I had two prep periods and one administrative period today - the lightest teaching day of the week for me - and spent the whole time configuring our laptops to make them all ready for use. Right now, the first set of laptops that we received is in use, but the new ones are still waiting to have user accounts set up, extra icons removed, Microsoft Word activated, Inspiration 7 installed, Internet Explorer configured, etc. etc. As I was saying, I spent the better part of three hours on this project today, and finished a grand total of 9 laptops. Nine laptops in three hours! Of course, a good deal of time was spent plugging laptops into the Laptop Cart From Hell and untangling the jungle of wires that resulted from the plugging in process. I tried very hard to organize the wires so that they would all stay lined up, but to no avail, by the end of the day I was looking at a virtual doily of tangled wires. I also discovered the limits of the medieval wiring in our school: 20 laptops plugged in, 1 fuse blows. Lucky for us, the circuit breakers are located within our space, not on the first floor or anything. Unlucky for us, there's no way we can charge all our laptops at once, and we are constantly blowing fuses, and there's not much the custodians or anyone else can do about it. So much for technology in the schools!

Anyway, at the end of the day, I brought some of the charged-up, configured laptops into my classroom for afterschool. My literary magazine kids typed up their writing from the last two months, and started typing the submissions to the magazine (we got so few submissions we are taking everything - I don't think the kids know what a literary magazine is, so they didn't submit much writing). It was great. They worked quietly, used the spell checker and grammar checker to spot their mistakes - and demonstrated that they use those tools intelligently - and I just walked around and assisted.

I am considering throwing a "Laptop Configuration Party" after school so my colleagues can help...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


(Sing to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Hydrogen, hydrogen
Atomic number one
Oh what a bang it is to be the fuel inside the sun
Hydrogen, hydrogen
atomic number one
Oh what a bang it is to be the fuel inside the sun

In its nucleus
is a proton by itself
an electron spins nearby
in its closest shell.
Hydrogen's a gas,
very low in weight.
What fun it is to read and sing an atom song tonight!

Hydrogen, hydrogen
Atomic number one
Oh what a bang it is to be the fuel inside the sun
Hydrogen, hydrogen
atomic number one
Oh what a bang it is to be the fuel inside the sun

Two hydrogens can bond
with a single oxygen
to make a molecule
called "water" by its friends.
This non-metal is burned
making stars so bright.
What fun it is to read and sing an atom song tonight!

Copyright 2003 Ms. Frizzle

Bulletin: Student Misconceptions

Mass confusion ensues in Bronx science classroom. Textbook & teacher say that if a liquid changes to a gas, that's a physical change, but if two chemicals react and a gas is produced, that's a chemical change. Students doubt that when water evaporates, it's still water. Students continue to doubt this even after observing that you can "catch" the water vapor and it will condense back to liquid water. Teacher marks many questions wrong on homework and wonders how to demonstrate the difference.

Positivity Redux

Today was day two of my new two-pronged approach to classroom management - lots of positive attention combined with giving checkmarks to well-behaved groups - and it is really working. The kids started the period already doing as well as they were at the beginning of the period the previous day. I made only one negative comment the whole period, and everyone was much more relaxed.

To address concerns made in the comments section: sure, once I reward them they will see the next reward coming, but that's just the nature of the beast. The advantage, however, is that I've never spelled out an accounting system, so they can't come to me demanding points - they have only a vague idea that good behavior might lead to a checkmark. Any teacher who has dealt with kids whining, "But myyyy table was good, too..." knows how detailed systems can backfire. Actually, I'm a bit surprised, but so far none of the kids have said anything about why I'm making checkmarks!

My colleague who made the comment about bribes vs. rewards said today that she used to use a mysterious smiley/frowny face system without ever saying a thing about what it was for... when the kids were acting up, she'd draw the two-column chart on the board, with a smile on one side and a frown on the other. Then, whenever she even walked near the chart with her chalk, the kids would all straighten up and pay more attention. She said she never, ever put any checks in the frowny face column, only in the smiley column (more positive attention), and she never actually did anything with the chart - no rewards, no punishments. It worked for years, though she did not use it every day.

Also, I like academic rewards better than candy, too, Erin. I am a little careful about rewarding them with "no homework" passes because I don't want to reinforce the idea that homework is a chore to be avoided. Also, if you're giving valuable assignments, you don't want them to miss even one day! Giving kids a break from homework is fine if you do it very, very rarely. School supplies or subject-related objects (like polished minerals for Science) can make good rewards.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Think Positive, No Matter What!

Consensus among the teachers is that the seventh graders have completely lost their minds. They talk constantly when they are supposed to be quiet, they completely ignore directions given by adults, they insult each other; in short, they are behaving like the worst stereotype of seventh graders (well, maybe not the worst). Give us back our kind, considerate, obedient babies!

I have had a particularly hard time lately with SUNY-Albany (remember, we named our classes after the alma mater of the homeroom teacher). I do not expect complete silence during my class, at least not all the time. We do plenty of labs and group activities where talking is not merely tolerated, it is actively encouraged. At certain times in the lesson, however, I want quiet work. And I definitely do not want to spend 1 minute out of every 5 regaining the students' attention. But lately, every time I pause - after giving directions, finishing a sentence, handing out papers, after every single thing I do - they start talking.

"Take out your notebooks," I say.


"Write down the notes that are on the board," I say.


"Finish the warm-up activity silently," I say.


"Clear your desks of everything except your notebooks," I say.


As a school, we are discussing making some changes after Christmas vacation - we are going to do a little research into middle schools that work and how we can create the kind of environment where the kids voluntarily treat one another nicely, speak to adults respectfully (and listen to adults respectfully!), and pay attention in class.

But the situation in SUNY-Albany demanded more immediate action. So, today, last period, after a surprise practice-standardized-test, a difficult period with any class, I began a new system: forced positivity accompanied by a reward system.

"I like the way table one is working quietly," I said. Notice: I said nothing about tables two through six. Instead, I quietly made a checkmark on a sheet of paper under the number one.

"I'm looking for tables where all the students are obviously focused and paying attention," I said brightly. Ten minutes later, I found one! "I can tell that everyone at table five is paying attention because they are sitting up, looking at me, and volunteering to answer questions," I pointed out, making a checkmark on my paper under number five.

This continued all period, and, sure enough, it was one of the best periods I've had with Albany in weeks. By the end of the period, every table was focused and on-task. I had not beaten them over the head with negative comments, and I was able to praise them.

By the way, I never told them anything about the checkmarks, or what those marks might lead to. I never introduced any new systems. I gave out no awards. At the end of the week, I will probably find some little reward for the group with the greatest number of checkmarks, but I'm not going to tell them what's coming. As a colleague once told me, "Tell them ahead of time to be good, it's a bribe; tell them after they're good, it's a reward."

Monday, December 08, 2003


Alex is the kind of girl who could come off as a bit self-righteous except that she's so obviously sincere. I love reading her site. The appearance, the writing, the thoughts expressed, are all beautiful in a simple, unpretentious, direct way. And - happiness! - she's been posting again after a couple of very quiet months.

Happiness again! Peppermint mochas from Starbucks.

Happiness again! Blogging rather than cleaning. (Er, that is, blogging before cleaning...).

I have added a couple of blogs to my list of teacher blogs... take a look at Blowing Up the Classroom - the blog of a future-chem teacher (currently subbing). See also Twilight, a pagan future-teacher's sparkly blue blog.


Test tubes are amazing motivational tools. We did a simple lab activity today to compare physical and chemical changes. The kids had a test tube with food coloring and water, and then added a few drops of bleach. The color fades in about a minute, from dark green to blue, to greenish yellow, to yellow. I also lit a candle and had them observe the difference between the wax changing from a solid to a liquid, and the wick burning and releasing heat, gases, and smoke. Finally, we did the classic baking soda & vinegar experiment, to show that bubbles are a sign of a gas being released. They were very excited by the whole thing, particularly the change in color when they added bleach to their test tubes.

I, on the other hand, was having one of those discombobulated Mondays when, even though you've planned the lesson thoroughly, you just don't feel ready to teach it. Plus, we don't have goggles or aprons, so using bleach made me very, very nervous. Goggles were on the list of science supplies last year, but got cut when I had to trim the list to fit our budget. That was before I'd taught Physical Science! The labs I've done in Earth Science, and most of the labs in Life Science, are not particularly dangerous. We will definitely order goggles for next year, and I think I will even price them now to see if I can get some for this year. Anyway, I demanded full attention, gave out the bleach for only a very short period of time, warned the kids about the dangers of spilling it on their skin or clothing, and designated one person per group to do the actual experiment. No disasters! Phew!

Anyway, planning this week's lessons helped me make my peace with teaching Physical Science. There are lots of great lesson plans on the web, and I can imagine some of them being both fun and informative. For example, I am really looking forward to having the kids experiment with ways to make a solute dissolve faster, or a reaction take place faster. It occurred to me that it's not the end of the world if I don't organize the lessons perfectly; the kids can still get a lot out of them. I need to step back, take a deep breath, accept the fact that I am teaching this for the first time, and look at the positives: The kids are excited about chemistry experiments and will learn so much. Heck, even though I am slightly disappointed by my unit on atomic theory, the kids know much, much more about atoms and compounds than they did a month ago. At least 75% can predict correctly what ion will form from a given element. Virtually all could describe the atom pretty much accurately. They all know what the atomic number is. At least 75% understand ions and isotopes much better than I did at their age! Most can predict which ions will bond to form a compound, and most know how to name the compound, too. They know some of the patterns that underlie the organization of the Periodic Table. Next time, I will order the right materials to do some demonstrations of how elements in one group share properties, but my kids know a bit about that even without demos. They know what the noble gases are, and why they don't react easily. I'm not doing such a bad job, after all, and if I loosen up, make use of internet resources, and get some kitchen chem books from the library, January will rock'n'roll!

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Compounds, Mixtures, & Solutions

I graded about 180 papers this weekend. I was so proud of myself when I looked in my folder and saw that "Complete" was about 5 times bigger than "To Grade." Now it's planning time. Last year, I finally reached the point with Earth Science where I could do a few weeks in advance, and just fill in a few details each weekend. Teaching Physical Science this year, I am back to planning one week at a time. I'm looking for good, hands-on, safe lesson plans to teach kids the difference between a compound, mixture, and solution. Lucky for me, there are many. Here's one source: Chemical Reaction Lesson Plans.

The Snowy Day

"Okay, everyone turn around and look out the window!"

The kids turn, in unison. Eyes widen, whispering, grins.

"Will there be lots of snow when school gets out?"

"Well, right now it's not collecting. The air is probably colder up here near the sixth floor, but it must get warmer near the ground, since the snow is melting, not sticking. But you never know what might happen by this afternoon!"

"Are we going out for recess today?"

"Um, I don't think so. Okay, everyone, you have exactly one more minute to be really, really excited about the snow, and then you have to turn back around and concentrate on Science again! Look, it's snowing! Yay! Snow!"

But by sixth period Friday, all I really wanted to do was look out the window.

This is why I need at least a little winter every year. This is why all those cold snowless winters felt so barren and joyless. This is why a white Christmas is the best kind of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Parable: On Knowing When NOT to Follow Orders

Petey approaches the teacher's desk during the first five minutes of class, and starts to ask a question.

"Why are you not in your seat with your hand raised?" demands the teacher.

"I want to ask you something..."

"Go sit down and raise your hand!"

Behind Petey is Veronica, the kind of girl who knows what the rules are, and generally follows them in letter and in spirit. She, too, starts to say something.

"Veronica, why are YOU out of your seat? You know what you're supposed to do when you have a question!" the teacher reprimands her, sharply.

"I have something important to tell you!"

"That's fine, but you still need to sit down and raise your hand before you say it!"

"No, I mean, I have something really important to tell you!"


"All right, go ahead, what is it?"

Veronica signals her teacher to bend down closer, and whispers,

"Ms. Frizzle, your fly is open."


So many children would have gone back to their seats, raised their hands, and called out the news for all to hear. Some would have done it out of spite, and others because that's what their teacher said to do. Thank goodness for those who know when to stick to their sense of what should & should not be done!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Ms. Frizzle's Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I've been a good teacher this year, really, I have. I've worked hard to design coherent, interesting, important, and informative units. I've graded hundreds of papers. I've put together a parent newsletter. I've had kids in for extra help at lunch. I've done my best to be kind, patient, supportive, and provide many opportunities for students to learn Physical Science.

Santa, I was hoping you'd consider parking the reindeer on the roof of my building in the Bronx on that chilly December night, and leaving a package or two for my school. We don't have a tree, 'cause we're a public school, but you could leave the presents under the world map or next to my desk. Heck, I'll even leave extra milk & cookies for you at my place (wouldn't want to attract mice to my classroom) if you'll just stop by.

My Christmas wishlist:

A subscription (or two or three) to World magazine for kids.
A subscription (or two or three) to Cricket magazine for kids.
A subscription (or two or three) to Ranger Rick magazine for kids.

A small printer (or two or three) so we can't print in the classroom rather than down the hall! And some ink cartridges to go with it. Something we can network easily would be best, other than that, almost any printer would do - inkjet, laser, personal, business, black & white, color...

Thanks for thinking of us, Santa!

Ms. Frizzle
(& colleagues)

Monday, December 01, 2003

Blog help needed...

Anyone know how to make an "About Me" page using Blogger? I'm not absolutely sure I even want an About Me page, but someone who read the blog suggested it... I read through Blogger's knowledge base, but couldn't find this crucial piece of information. What I am looking for is how to make a little window/box pop up when you click on a link. I know how to make a link; it's the box that the link links to that I am unsure of.

Electron Shells

Finally, a hands-on activity! After all the problems with the abstract nature of atomic theory, I was concerned about what would happen when I started doing ionic & covalent bonding, electron shells, etc. Honestly, I might have skipped electron shells altogether if I hadn't found some nice hands-on activities at Middle School Science. Today, I made a handout which showed the different energy levels of an atom and the number of electrons which can "fit" at each energy level. Then the kids used pennies as "electrons" and figured out how many electrons go in each shell for atoms of different elements. This lays the groundwork quite nicely to understand how ionic and covalent bonds form, and the kids really seemed to get it. Yay! They also picked up electron dot diagramming fairly quickly, though I fear that it may lead to some confusion about the number of electrons in an atom versus the number of electrons in the outer shell.

A few days ago, the kids asked why the protons in the nucleus don't repel each other - an excellent question - and I found the answer for them: They are held together by "the strong force." Um, sure. Sometimes physical science sounds like voodoo or wizardry.

"Respect yourself and others will respect you." -Confucius