Monday, December 7, 2009

Just Gotta Smile...

Preliminary question on an oral reading test: "What are sheep used for?"

The child's answer: "For making cotton balls."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Well, If You Say So...

I often use analogies to help build my students' logic and thinking skills. The idea is that they identify the relationship that exists between the two words on the complete side... and then apply that same relationship to the other. Many of these are simple, ready opportunities for the students to feel successful:

HAT is to HEAD as GLOVE is to ________

But every so often, an example comes along that offers a comical glimpse into how children see the world. This morning's analogy was a case in point:

HOP : RABBIT :: SLITHER : ________

Several hands went up when I asked for volunteers to answer. I called upon a boy, and restated the analogy for him to complete. "Hop is to Rabbit as Slither is to... "

"Woman!" came his confident reply.

I'm sure a smile escaped my lips as I searched his face for any sign or mischief or humor. I found none. Likewise, none of his peers seemed amused by the answer, though a few stretched their hands higher into the air, affirming that they considered it an error.

Still smiling, I said, "Well, how about we see how some others may have answered." Shortly, we settled on "SNAKE" as the preferred answer, but I'm likely not to look at the word 'slither' the same way again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

You Watched *What* Kind of Movie??!

My colleague was teaching his class about the /or/ sound, and how it can be made in the English language. He asked the students to brainstorm words containing the sound. Gradually the list on the dry-erase board began to grow:

or for four core war soar poor

My colleague addressed the next raised hand, after which a little boy offered a word. Phonetically, it sounded exactly like "whore."

"Ahhh," the teacher replied, buying a moment. "Do you know what that means?"

"Not really."

"Well, can you use it in a sentence?"

"Um, well, like I watched a 'whore' movie?"

"Oh, right!" my friend replied. Smiling, he turned and added "horror" to the list.


Sometimes the funniest "chats" are those children have apart from adults. Here are two I recently overheard:

"Is Abraham Lincoln still alive?"

"No, he died a long time ago. Someone shot him right in the head."



"Hey, guess what!"


"It's only 18 more days 'til we find out if my dad's girlfriend is a boy or a girl!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One for the 'Record' Books

Today a student asked me, " Miss Stultz, what is the 'Gineous' Book of World Records?

Strangely, I was sure what I heard was "Miss Stultz, what is the Hideous Book of World Records?" Immediately, I had visions of a volume celebrating all-things-gross-and-disgusting--you know, something cataloguing things like: longest fingernails, worst nosebleed, and most shocking find-from-the-back-of-the-fridge. Sadly, not only do such things exist, but they tend to hold broad appeal for children.

Before I answered, another child corrected her, "No, it's the Genius Book of World Records."

A third child got it right, "No, it's the Guinness Book of World Records."

And still another, very authoritatively, "No. Guinness is beer!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Decimal Points... EVERYWHERE!

Newly introduced to decimals--the decimal point, and decimal place value--my students received their first homework assignment, to search for examples of decimals in their daily life. The next morning, two girls stood at my desk. One held her homework, still totally blank. Pushing it toward me, she complained,
"I couldn't find ANY decimals at all!"

Before I could address the evident difficulty, the girl beside her spoke up,
"It's easy, just go on the Internet. EVERY Website has decimals."

At this point, I'm sure I looked quite confused myself. A comically long pause ensued as we both stared back at her, heads cocked sideways awaiting her explanation, until, mildly irritated at how obtuse we both must be, she exclaimed,
"Duh! Um, hel-lo! DOT com!????"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Elementary, My Dear Watson. Definitely "Elementary"

At the end of silent reading time, I record each child's book and current page number.

"Davin, what did you read today?"

"The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sherlock Homeless."

A Bit of Revisionist History

Another gem shared by a colleague... wherein a 4th grader learned that the solo explorer "Lewisan Clark" was, in reality two people....

"Mr. A., who was Lewisan Clark?"

"You should say, "who were Lewis and Clark."

"No, Lewisan Clark. Who was he?"

"It's Lewis and Clark. Two people: Lewis. and Clark. Those are their last names."


Monday, November 9, 2009

Positive Self-Talk, and a Quick Calculation

We try to teach children to be savvy number crunchers--kids who can not only put skills into practice, but stretch the limits of their application with a hefty dose of good old common sense. Oh, and a positive attitude never hurt either.

This morning at twenty minutes past eleven, a student asked me, "How many minutes until lunch?"

"Ten. You must be hungry!" I replied.

"Yes, I am. But I know I can make it. I KNOW I can, cuz:

10 is only 5, twice."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hope the Tooth Fairy's Got a Strong Stomach

Who doesn't remember the anticipation of a loose tooth, and the irresistible urge to hasten it along--wiggling it with a finger or probing at it with the tongue. Today during silent reading, a murmuring arose--

"Ughh! gross!"--quickly followed by "Miss Stultz!"

I've learned that when one child declares another child's actions to be "gross," what comes next is usually a tattle. Well, it seemed one of my boys, whether by natural causes or by his own encouragement, had lost a molar. The boy was approaching rapidly from my left, flanked by a self-appointed helper. The boy held in his left hand the bloodiest specimen of a nine-year molar that I have ever seen (and I've seen many). In his right was a wadded up paper towel, nearly dripping with blood, and half stuffed into his mouth. His helper stated the obvious, "Markie lost a tooth!"

"Oh, good grief, I should say so!" I replied and dismissed him to go clean up and claim his plastic-tooth-treasure-chest-necklace from the school nurse...

By the time he returned, proudly bearing the necklace, I had at least a half dozen other boys and girls, still silently reading, but meanwhile trying to extract any teeth of their own that bore the slightest hint of looseness. This generated its own litany of tattles, most notably "Miss Stultz, I told Alex PACIFICALLY not to do that! Now he's got blood, too!"

Eventually I had to declare a moratorium on tooth-loosening for the day, lest my classroom devolve into a bloody medical wasteland. But I predict, once free from the oppression of my oversight, my boys and girls will devote this weekend to ensuring 'job security' for the Tooth Fairy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All in the Name of Public Health

This morning during the lunch count, one of my boys sneezed. As if auditioning to be the poster child for the "new" technique for covering, he thrust his elbow toward his face. After completing the lunch count, I called the students' attention to this, saying "boys and girls, I noticed something very important while I was writing down your lunch choices..." and proceeded to compliment the student on his good example, particularly during this time of heightened concern about flu, etc.

Almost immediately, a girl stood up and said, "when my nana sneezes, she does THIS--" and then covered her mouth and nose with her hand while whipping one leg across the other.....

There she stood, eyes wide, hand covering her nose and mouth, and legs tightly crossed. Removing her hand, she asked oh-so-innocently, "why does she do that?"

Thinking it wisest to ignore the leg-crossing part, I simply said, "well, when your nana was little she was probably taught to cover with her hand, much like I was when I was little."

"But why does she do this?" she asked, renewing the urgent leg cross.

"Oh, it's probably just a habit she has, " I offered, concealing an embarrassed grin, and hoping against hope that she'd settle for that.

Not so simple. Up goes another student's hand, followed by "when my nana sneezes, she does that so she doesn't pee her pants!"

By then, my well-intentioned reminder about covering with the elbow faded away in a ripple of giggles about nanas peeing pants.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alien Anatomy and the Limits of Artistic Expression

A story passed along by a colleague with whom I share students:

This morning, one of my students got himself in trouble with some artwork created on the way to school. During his bus ride, he drew a picture of an alien, complete with penis and testicles. Predictably, another child tattled on him, and the young artist was called upon to explain his artwork. When asked by our school's behavior intervention specialist why he had drawn it that was, he replied, "because I don't know how to draw pants."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By Way of Introduction....

Thank you for making your way to Chats With Children! This site is intended as a gathering place for anyone and everyone whose heart smiles at the sweetness of chatting with children... and for the children who bring us this sweetness.

I am a 30-something (ok, nearly 40-year-old) elementary school teacher. I consider the chance to have conversations with children to be the hidden treasure of teaching. It is a highlight of my days. Sometimes there is laughter and silliness--only magnified through the voice and eyes of a child. Other times there is serious soul-stretching, even pain as the *smallness* of youth runs up against the enormity of life's challenges. Always, there is magic, borne out of the simple fact that relationships are the fuel of life. Teaching and learning are just one mechanism that casts light on the power and importance of relationships. It is why I have chosen teaching as a profession.

I cannot tell you how many times I have shared something I experienced in chatting with a child, and had someone say "Oh! You have to write that down!" And write I have. Many sheets of scrap paper, spare corners of a calendar or plan book, and more recently "emails-to-self" have captured, often in wildly abbreviated form, the content and essence of these moments. Please join me as I collect these moments here on this site.

Come for the humor, come for the tenderness, or come to share from your own chats with children. Children, you are the reason this site exists. Share what's on your minds. Share the thoughts and stories you're bursting to tell. We are bursting to listen!

One last thing before we begin: Let's all work together to keep this site fully kid-friendly and to preserve privacy--no full names, please.

So, let's Chat!