Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Carnival Again

School's almost out - but The Education Carnival is going strong! It's hosted this week by The Education Wonks.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The End is Near

Just one more full week of school, and then a couple of half days, and then we're done. Not that I'm counting, or anything.

The thing I love about teaching is that it's always a challenge, coming up with better ways to handle things, figuring out new stuff to add and how to fit it in. So even though I'm crazed with all the chaos of the end of the year, I'm still making lists of things to work on over the summer, little details that need tweaking, and books I want to buy/borrow. I've been reading The Teacher's Guide to Big Blocks and thinking about how I can incorporate some of it in what I'm already doing. I'm not happy with the way I'm managing writing conferences and I haven't been doing much with reading conferences at all. I want to change some things about the notebooks I have the kids keep. Some of my units need beefing up.

And, of course, I'm looking forward to a real break - nothing to grade for a few weeks! I seriously need an enthusiasm refill, after months of squirrely behavior, endless paperwork, and just plain fatigue.

Winter Holiday

I'm reading Winter Holiday aloud to my daughter. She is loving it.

I'm not sure where I got the book, but it's an old Penguin edition (the kind that says it's not available in the United States), and it has a sticker on the front that says "25 cents."

It's refreshing to read about a time when kids could go off on their own day and night, play on boats, light fires, make tea, and do all kinds of dangerous things. The parents are generally absent in this kind of book (in this case, they are off digging up things in Egypt - what could be more appropriate?). The children spend all their time outdoors, imagining, playing, having adventures. They go indoors only to sleep and for the occasional meal, or when they are in quarantine for some childhood disease that has long since been eliminated and for which we vaccinate our infants. You can't imagine these children ever riding in a car seat, or wearing a bike helmet, or, for that matter, getting in any trouble that they can't figure out how to get out of.

There are things about that world that I miss. Even in my own childhood, which wasn't quite as far distant, or as unsupervised, as the one portrayed in this book, it seems that we played much more independently than children do today. I didn't grow up in a place where kidnapping was a threat, either.

Saturday Review of Books


Monday, May 21, 2007

Around the World in Ten Years

Here's the feel-good story of the day (actually a few days ago, but I just read it today) about a couple who rode around the world on a tandem bicycle. It took them ten years, but they did it!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Big Beautiful World

The world is such a beautiful place; I wish I had the time and money to see it all, but instead I do the next best thing - visit the Daily City Photo Blog site.

Here are some that particularly caught my eye today:

Istanbul, Turkey, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Sharon, Connecticut, Los Angeles, California, Calcutta, India, Jakarta, Indonesia, Menton, France, Port Vila, Vanuatu, and Torun, Poland.

There are lots more - see where you'd like to visit!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Just Found This

All my posts lately are super-short. That's because I'm in the midst of grading huge piles of work.

Just found this today in someone's sidebar. Words Without Borders, an online magazine of international literature.

Saturday Review of Books

Enjoy it!

It Had to Happen...

A missionary from Nigeria comes to Northern Virginia.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Last year on American Mother's Day I posted some information on how people around the world celebrate their mothers. (Hmm, looks like that Hallmark link from last year doesn't work any more. Here's a link with some traditions around the world but it's not as good as the one last year. It doesn't even mention the Ethiopians anointing themselves with butter.)

Today isn't Mother's Day here - it's the last week of May. This next week I'll be doing Nancie Atwell's lesson on Gifts of Writing with my students. She encourages kids to write poems for their mothers rather than buy generic cards containing doggerel written by strangers. I've got two more weeks to work on mine, too!

But for those of you who are celebrating today, have a great day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bathrooms Around the World

Courtesy of an ad on my Gmail account, here's a highly entertaining site: The Bathroom Diaries. My favorite feature allows you to find a bathroom by country. I enjoyed searching countries I have visited and/or lived in. Where I live now is represented, but sketchily. By the side of the road is the preferred facility here. Well, not preferred, necessarily, but most prevalent.

Reading Update

Book #33 of the year was The Kite Runner. We had a wonderful discussion about this at our book group - one of the best discussions we've had about any book. There's so much to talk about. I highly recommend it for book group purposes.

Book #34 was Hitler's Daughter. Amazon lists several books with the same title; this one is by Jackie French and is in the YA category.

Saturday Review of Books

Here it is!

Friday, May 11, 2007

News Quiz

It's been a while since I've posted one of the BBC's news quizzes. Try this one. I got four out of seven.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Carnival #118

Another Carnival, this one hosted by NYC Educator, is up today!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I just finished reading The Giver with my eighth graders. I was really disappointed in their reaction to it. Many of them said it was very boring. Some said it didn't make sense. Some said it "sucked." I think all of them hated the ending. When we discussed it, several said that they couldn't understand why Jonas bothered to try to change things - what was the point? As long as he was OK, why should he care?


So I guess that was book #32 for the year.

Now I am re-reading The Kite Runner for my book group. I read it a couple of years ago and liked it, but I remember it being rather harrowing and I'm finding it the same way this time around.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Quote from The Giver

"Confronted by a situation which they had never faced before, and having no memories from which to find either solace or wisdom, they would not know what to do...."

I like the idea that our memories give us solace and wisdom.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


The last three books I've read have been scary, disturbing stories. All three have had something to do with the idea of identity.

The first one (book #29 of 2007) was The Chimney Sweeper's Boy, by Barbara Vine. After a writer dies, his family begins to find out that he was not exactly what he seemed to be. This one also touches on creativity, and writing, and how an author uses life and turns it into art. I couldn't stop reading this but I won't look for more by this author, who is also Ruth Rendell. I've tried to read a couple of her novels written under that name and haven't liked them much.

Book #30 was Monday Mourning, by Kathy Reichs. Tempe Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, and there are other novels about her but I don't think I'll seek them out. To her and those of her profession, identity is in the remains people leave behind them. The details of her job were fascinating, but the style irritated me (lots of super-short sentences) and I had to skim large sections because I was learning more than I wanted to about the horrible things people do to each other.

And then there was book #31, which I just finished and thought was brilliant. It was The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers. It's about the nature of consciousness, what it means to be sane and to be human, head injury, ecology, cranes, a family, siblings... I can't even list all the elements of the story. But they all come together in a wonderfully satisfying way, leaving you thinking and asking questions and wanting more. Most of all, it's about identity - how do we know who we are and what is real? You have to read this book.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Interesting article

This article sums up some of the issues facing countries around the world right now. It's about a little town in India and their problems with electricity.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"Satellite television is beaming urban India's new cravings and anxieties into Umred's living rooms. Relatives who migrated to cities are returning home with tales of lucrative jobs and trendy nightclubs. The Internet has emboldened the young to hunt beyond the town for jobs, life partners and ideas."

"But if new wealth remains concentrated in urban areas, the longings created by growth are spreading more evenly. To buy a washing machine costs money, but to desire one is free."


Saturday Review of Books

Here's this week's edition.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ideas for Writing

I've been thinking that I need to develop more minilessons on ideas - coming up with things to write about. I use Nancie Atwell's suggestions - Writing Territories, the "Where Poems Hide" idea (though actually I don't think I did that one this year), and some others that she has in Lessons that Change Writers. However, I have lots of students who have trouble choosing topics.

Today I read this on Lois Lowry's blog and I'm thinking that I can try to collect a bunch of these - answers to the question "How do you get your ideas?" from other authors.

Does anybody have some useful suggestions on how to help students when you're having them choose their own topics?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day

Looks like other people had a much more exciting day than I did. I just worked. And worked and worked. I got a whole lot done, but there's still more to do.


We had a staff get-together on Sunday, and our speaker talked about running. She has run several marathons, and she compared the school year of a teacher to a marathon. Here we are at Mile 20, looking up at Heartbreak Hill. The end is near, but not quite yet in sight. And it seems as though we can't go one more step.

Today we have a day off (May Day is a public holiday here, as in many countries of the world), but here I am in my classroom. I was entering grades, but city power went off, so I'm taking a little internet break while I wait for the generator to come on (this computer has battery power, but the one with the grade program doesn't). I have so much to do and it seems that even if I work all the time, I'm never finished. I am really ready for this marathon to be over.

DP Theme Day - Tribute to Another City

Today's DP Theme is a photo from another city. That's why you'll see a photo of San Francisco at the Paris Daily Photo site. You'll also see links to other DP bloggers who are participating today. Take a look!