Archive for the 'Teaching/Education' Category


Guess I carried the “What did you have for breakfast” quiz too far . . .

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a discussion with a group of children about what they ate for breakfast and how that led to a mini research project on the breakfast habits of my students.  Perhaps I carried it too far, though.

This afternoon I was reading with a group of three fifth graders.  One girl stopped mid-sentence while reading aloud and declared, “You haven’t asked us what we had for breakfast in two days!” 

“That’s right,” agreed another girl.

“Okay,” I said, “What did you have for breakfast?  All three immediately and eagerly described their breakfasts.

What have I started?

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The 109th Carnival of Education is Open

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

The 109th Carnival of Education is open for your reading enjoyment over at What It’s Like on the Inside.  The Science Goddess has been her typically unique self in her presentation of the carnival.

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Breakfast of Champions? What kids eat for breakfast (Or how a discussion of the Revolutionary War led to a discussion about breakfast foods)

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Note:  I originally published this a few days ago.  However, I did a little further “research” which I added at the end.  So I’m changing the date/time so it’ll be at the top for awhile.

The zigzag pattern of conversation is interesting.  One topic/thought leads to another and then another until the conversation is about something totally separate from the original topic.

The other day the children in one of my reading groups were reading about the Revolutionary War.  There was a paragraph about the Quakers and how they were pacifists during the war.  One girl mentioned that the drawing of the Quaker man in the history book resembled the man on boxes of Quaker oatmeal.  A couple of the kids remarked that they liked oatmeal, and I told them that RT had made Quaker oatmeal for our breakfast that  morning.   Of course the second I told what I’d eaten for breakfast, the children had to tell me what they’d had for breakfast. 

It was an enlightening conversation.  So enlightening that I grabbed pen and paper and wrote down what they told me.  Later, I asked the children in the next reading group to tell me what they’d had for breakfast, too.

Out of the eleven children in the two reading groups, three are significantly overweight.  What did these significantly overweight elementary children have for breakfast?  One had two Pop-Tarts, although she said that usually she has a ham & cheese Hot Pocket.  Another had a bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal, and the third had a S’mores Pop Tart, a bottle of Yoo-hoo, along with sausage and bacon.  All three ate breakfast at home.  About half of the other children had eaten breakfast in the school cafeteria.

A too-thin child had had no breakfast. She said she skips breakfast about half the time, and that when she does have breakfast, it’s usually a bowl of cereal.  The other children had things like French toast sticks and syrup, Eggo waffles, eggs, sausage, Froot Loops.  One boy had a corn dog for breakfast.  Another boy had a donut, cereal and apple juice.

Are there any conclusions to be drawn from this extremely limited sample of elementary school children? Nothing scientific – that’s for sure.  However, here are a few observations:

I was surprised at the amount of junk food – toaster pastries, donuts, cereals like Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch.  Lots of processed foods and sugar.  NONE of the children ate what I consider a healthy breakfast – whole grains, fruit, milk.  As a matter of fact, none of the children had milk except with cereal, and the only fruit was the one child who drank some apple juice.

The amount of food was surprising, too – from the child who skipped breakfast half the time to the child who ate not only a Pop Tart but drank a bottle of Yoohoo and had bacon and sausage, too. 

I guess the main thing is that if these eleven children are representative of other elementary school children, then the breakfast habits of American children are abysmal, and it’s no wonder that Americans have become so overweight.

Another thought I had is that these children come to me for reading help because they’re struggling readers.  I wonder if the children who excel in reading would have different patterns of eating.  Tomorrow I’ll meet with a group of 15 high readers.  I’ll be asking them about what they eat for breakfast.

Monday, 3/5/07 Update:  Okay, folks, here’s the update with the high readers.  Out of a group of 15 high readers, there is only one child who is overweight.   That child had what I call a “double breakfast.”  She had sausage, eggs, chocolate milk AND a bowl of Cocoa Krispies.  The other breakfasts in the groups were similar to that of the children I mentioned earlier (pancakes, Lucky Charms, toaster strudel, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, chocolate chip muffin, etc.)  There was one notable exception. 

I was eager to learn what one particular child had for breakfast because she was recently  identified as “gifted” and is way above all the other children – even in the high group – in reading and other subjects, as well.  Her breakfast?  Yogurt, fruit and water.  She was the only child out of about 30 children who had what I would consider a healthful breakfast.  She also happens to be thin.

It’s totally unscientific, but I think you can draw some broad tendencies from my “research.”  Out of 30 children, only one had eaten a healthful breakfast.  All the others had eaten over-processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods for breakfast.

I also wondered about the children in the low groups.  Out of eleven children, there were three that were significantly overweight, and one that was borderline.  Out of a group of 15 high readers, only one was overweight.  I wonder if there are any correlations there, too.  I know excess weight makes me have less self-confidence and I don’t feel as alert and eager to learn.  It likely has a negative impact on children, too.

My daughter-in-law is in the last few weeks of her nursing degree program, and they’re doing clinicals.  One of the clinicals is in public health where they go to elementary schools to do body fat measurements.  She said it is amazing the terrible physical condition (in terms of weight and lack of exercise) of many children.

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“Activate Your SCHEMA” – Reading Comprehension Lesson

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Today I taught a lesson on “activating schema”.  I taught the same lesson to three different second grade classes. It still amazes me how the same text, the same activities are received and responded to differently by different classes.  It’s a lesson that really could be done with children of any age. 

Here’s the lesson:

Materials:  4 file folders, sticky notes, text Where Fish Go In Winter And Other Great Mysteries by Amy Goldman Koss.

1.  Introduction:  Show the children a file folder and explain that our brains are like filing cabinets.  There is lots of information, and we don’t think about all of the information we know at the same time.  For example, if the teacher mentions the topic “butterflies”, we immediately start to retrieve the information on butterflies from our mental filing cabinet.  Everything that’s in our mental filing cabinets – everything we already know – is called our SCHEMA.  (One child today suggested that our brains are like computers.  That might be an even better analogy to use with the children, depending on their level of technology knowledge).

2.  (Give each child 3 sticky notes)  Here’s a topic.  (Hold up a file folder with “Do islands float?” written on it).  A minute ago you weren’t thinking about islands and whether or not they float.  Now that I’ve held up this folder, though, you’re beginning to ACTIVATE YOUR SCHEMA.  That means you are thinking about the information you already know about islands and whether or not they float.  On one of your sticky notes, write down something you already know about whether or not islands float.  (Wait for children to write)

3.  Have children share their schema about islands floating – then have them bring their sticky notes up and place them on the file folder with the question “Do islands float?” 

4.  We read and research to find out whether or not our schema is correct and to gain more schema about a topic.  Sometimes our schema is correct, and sometimes it isn’t.  I found this wonderful book.  (Hold up the book and read the title and author and illustrator).  It gives the answers to a lot of questions.  It has a page that answers the question “Do islands float?”  It’s written as a rhyme.  As I read it aloud to you, I want you to decide which information from our schemas about islands is true – and which is not true.

5.  Read p. 10 in the book.  Then go over the sticky notes and decide which schema is correct and which isn’t.  You can remove the sticky notes that aren’t accurate.  Emphasize that it’s a good thing to find out that our schema is not correct,  because then we know the correct information about something.  We replace incorrect schema (knowledge) with correct schema (knowledge).  That’s why

6.  Repeat the exercise with other questions from the book such as: Why does popcorn pop?  Why do leaves change color?  Why do onions make you cry?

7.  Review the meaning of schema and how it is helpful in reading, in school and in all subjects to really THINK about what we already know – to activate our schema – when we’re learning.

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Broken nipples, not farting, and curling tongues: Comments I overheard today at school

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Sometimes teachers overhear some of the strangest comments.  It’s just a little past lunchtime, and I already have three doozies for today:

Scenario #1:

“I think I broke my nipple.”  (1st grade boy)  The child was sitting across the table from me.  So it wasn’t really an “overheard” comment.  He was commenting for the entire reading group.  I figured that I SURELY hadn’t heard correctly, so I HAD to ask, “You broke your what?” 

“My NIPPLE!” he clarified as he took his fingers and pinched his shirt over his left nipple to demonstrate what he was talking about.  The child next to him followed suit with both sides of his shirt to make sure I understood what he was talking about.  I briefly wondered what on earth someone would think if they walked into my classroom and saw children touching their nipples.  However, once the boys saw that I understood, they stopped.  The first boy continued, “When I leaned over the table, I banged it against the chair.”

“Oh, okay.  Well hope it feels all right now,” I said.  We continued with our reading lesson. Maybe 30 seconds from beginning to end of scenario.

Scenario #2

“I didn’t really fart.” (2nd grade boy)  I was walking past a second grade class that was lined up in the hall returning to class from the cafeteria.  Figuring that he probably HAD really farted or he wouldn’t have felt a need to say he hadn’t, I kept on walking.

Scenario #3 – Same 2nd grade boy as the previous scenario – along with a classmate – in the hall about 20 minutes later. “See I can do it!”  The other boy replied, “I can’t.”  The first boy stuck out his tongue and curled it up from the sides.  The other child just stuck out his tongue.  He couldn’t curl his.  I thought about stopping and telling them that the ability to curl one’s tongue like that is a genetic trait, but then when I started thinking about it, I wasn’t sure that was right.  So once again, I kept on walking.  I’ll have to look that up.

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Yea! It’s Over

Monday, February 19th, 2007

The presentation I had to give this morning is over!  YEA!!!!!!!!  Words cannot express how happy I am that it is over  – it turned out good – but most of all, it’s over.  Whew!  Public speaking is definitely NOT my strong suit.  But I did okay.

Today was Presidents’ Day.  Kids were out of school, but teachers weren’t so lucky.  Teachers had all-day professional development meetings.  All the kindergarten teachers in the school system went to one school, all the first grade teachers went to another, etc.  My presentation was to the third grade teachers.  There were probably around 50-60 teachers in the session that I led.  Two of the third grade teachers at my school helped with the presentation.  There were six sections of the presentation – I had four sections, and they each had one section.   Our topic was on working with high readers in third grade.

A bonus: The third grade teachers just happened to be at the school that Sweet Stuff (my 5-year old granddaughter) attends.  So I got to see her classroom and all her artwork and school work that was displayed in the hallway outside her classroom.

Oh yes – it was the first time I’ve done a PowerPoint presentation.  Everything worked out just fine.  But the most important thing:  It’s OVER!

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Wasted Snow: If we can’t get a “snow day” from it, why bother with snow?

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

It snowed early this morning – enough to cover the ground – enough to make the roads a tad iffy.  If it were a school day, we’d have a snow day.  It’s supposed to snow more during the day which means that if tomorrow were a school day, there’d be a good chance we would have a snow day tomorrow, too.

However, it is Saturday morning, and tomorrow is Sunday – which means the two possible snow days are wasted.  By Monday the weather will warm up – no snow in sight.

From my perspective as a teacher, snow is totally wasted on weekends.  What good is snow if it doesn’t bring a snow holiday from school?

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An Unexpected Snow Day

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

RT and I were peacefully sleeping shortly before six o’clock this morning.  Suddenly I was aware of RT jumping out of bed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“The phone’s ringing,” was his reply as he went into the guest room where our only land-line phone is located – the phone we virtually NEVER use.  I figured it was a dumb telemarketer (who would call at THAT hour of the morning?) or a wrong number.  No one we know ever uses that number to contact us.  I turned over and tried to go back to sleep.

In the next room I heard RT answer the phone – and then silence.  After a few seconds, he came back in the room, walked to the door and looked outside.

“Who was it?” I asked.

“You’re out of school today. That was the automated calling system.”

There were still a few minutes before the alarm would ring, but I was wide awake.  No school?  I had stayed up and watched the late news last night.  There was not even a mention of possible snow.  I looked out the window and saw the ground was blanketed with snow.

Later when I turned on the TV, I found that a stray cloud had found its way right above our county and the one next to us. We were the only school systems that had enough snow to cancel school.

HOORAY!  RT immediately gave me a list of what I needed to do to help him with house today, and I had my own list of what I needed to do.  It’ll be a busy day, but it’ll be busy on my terms. 

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Scratch your nose with your tongue? OH! That feels SO good!

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

The five fourth grade girls had come into the classroom and had taken their places around the table.  I greeted them and turned to get the basket of supplies from the shelf behind me.  They were chatting, and I was generally tuning out the sounds of their conversations until we were ready to begin our lesson. 

Suddenly, the words, “Oh! That feels SO good!” captured my attention.  Looking toward them, I saw one girl with her tongue stuck out and stretching up towards her nose.

She had my interest.  I smiled.   “What feels good?” I asked.

“I have a lizard tongue,” she answered.  “See?”  She demonstrated.  “My mom and grandma can do it, too.  You scratch your  nose, and it feels SO good.”  She went on the demonstrate again for the group.  She was right.  She DID have a lizard-like tongue.  It reached all the way to the tip of her nose.  Each of the other girls tried to do likewise – with no luck. 

That’s one of the things I enjoy about working with children.  You never know what they’re going to say or do next.  Every day, every conversation, every class is different.   And no, I didn’t try it myself.  Not then anyway.

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The 105th Carnival of Education is open at “This Week in Education”

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

This week’s Carnival of Education is open at This Week in Education.   Since just yesterday I started reading The Bridge to Terabithia with a group of fifth graders, I was excited to see that The Lizard Queen wrote about the challenges of the book.  Talk about good timing! 

There are many good blog posts to visit and learn from at the Carnival of Education.  So click on over and enjoy the entire carnival!

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