Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deep in the Heart of Prefixes and Homophones...

Me: What is the opposite of "increase?"

Student: [long pause] "Non-crease?"

And later...

Me: What are the Great Plains?

Student: The Blue Angels?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sounds like...

My class was discussing words with multiple meanings. Our illustrious teacher's guide offered a classic: 'hot.' We delicately made our way through its various applications, unscathed but for a few nervous giggles, and continued with several other exemplars--fire, lie, and one representative of the current vernacular: sick. I then asked the students if anyone could think of another example.

A girl raised her hand.

"Yes, Elsa?"


I'm sure I looked a bit puzzled as I considered her answer, so Elsa began to elaborate. "Like I can 'squat' down, or like a "Squat Team!"

None of Elsa's classmates seemed to find this at all funny, and I managed to conceal my own amusement as I suggested that Elsa had likely meant "SWAT Team."

Friday, October 22, 2010

So close, but yet, so far

Me [addressing the class]: Do any of you know who Richard Simmons is? (Yes, I did have a good reason to be asking this question!)

Most faces are blank, but one boy raises his hand. I call on him.

"Yes, he's the lead singer for KISS."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Figuratively Speaking

My students and I had just concluded a great discussion about idioms. We explored many examples, giggled over what a literal interpretations might look like--"getting someone's goat," "stuck between a rock and a hard place," "being 'in hot water,'" something costing "an arm and a leg," "raining cats and dogs," etc. The students had just settled into their assignment--to draw a picture to illustrate an idiom of their choice--when a boy exclaimed from his seat, "Oh, I thought of another one!"

"Oh, what is it?" I asked.

"Some guy is "light in his shoes!" the boy announced, innocently.

Uh, oh. "Oh! You mean someone is "light on his feet!" I replied, thinking as quickly as I could.

I could tell by the boy's expression that this did not quite fit what he had in mind, but he opted not to pursue it, for which I am grateful. I had no particular desire to touch that one... not even with a ten-foot pole.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


An audible voice emerging from what had been a hushed conversation between two boys:

"No, you cannot get scoliosis by falling off a bridge onto a parked car!"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Soaking It All Up

It seems my 4th graders are reaching that age where they become much more attuned to matters of style and fashion. This morning one of my girls gestured to the skirt I was wearing and exclaimed (correctly):

"You've never worn THAT skirt before!"

Surprised at her having noticed this, I looked up at her and smiled, "Wow, Kendra! You noticed that?"

"Yes. I'm very absorbent when it comes to my teachers!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sounds Like...

During yesterday's lesson on literary conventions, I had just completed a discussion about simile and personification, and was moving on to 'onomatopoeia.' As soon as I said the word, but before I could get it written on the board, a boy exclaimed,

"Oh! My uncle has one of those!"

Huh? I was thinking... I turned and looked quizzically at him.

"Yeah! Automatic Pea Gun! My uncle's got one of those!"

Predictably, the term "pea gun" was heard by some of the youngsters as "pee gun." Gasps and giggles rippled through as a room full of ten year-olds with ticklish insides considered their various visions of a "pee gun...." After a fashion, I restored the lesson's momentum, and the kids brainstormed dozens of examples of onomatopoeia.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Givin' It Up for Lint

Insomnia struck last night. So... I made cupcakes for my class--chocolate. While distributing them, I arrived at Tony's desk. "No, thanks," he said. This was rather out of character.

"Oh, you don't want one, Tony? Are you O.K.?"

"Yes, I'm fine, but I gave up chocolate for Lent."

"Oh, alright--good for you. Thank you for telling me," I said, moving on.

Just then another child asked, "What's Lent?"

Before Tony could answer, a third little boy interjected, "Isn't it that stuff that comes out of your belly-button?"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lest We Forget...

I keep this quotation, attributed to J. F. Boyse, near my desk at school. It has the power to stem a rising tide of frustration, and make me take a deep breath... smile... and just "try, try again." It is a great reminder for those of us who, by parenting or chosen vocation, spend our days in the company of children...

"If, in instructing a child, you are vexed with it for want of adroitness, try, if you have never tried before, to write with your left hand, and remember that a child is all left hand."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good Question!

First thing this morning, a boy told me that another boy, "Alex," was singing and refused to stop. Apparently the singing--however muffled--was creating a distraction.

Here's how the matter was addressed from there:

Me: Alex, please stop singing.

Alex: I ain't singing.

Me: [with emphasis] You aren't singing.


Alex: Well, then why are you telling me to stop?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's in a Rhyme?

My students were studying words beginning with "para--" paragraph, paradise, parallel, etc.

After each word on the page was identified we briefly discussed its meaning.
The word 'paralyze' came up, and I added it to the list on the board.

Turning to the class, I asked, "does anyone know what the word paralyze means?"

Immediately, a boy raised his hand.

"Yup, that's at the church, when they dunk you in the water."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gotta Start Somewhere

Teaching children to write can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. We painstakingly explore ways to generate workable ideas, create characters, craft a clever lead, and a satisfying conclusion, inject natural-sounding dialogue, and follow a sensible plot line. Sometimes students' views of the process and mine don't quite match.

Today a student brought me her story:


"Ok," I replied after she read it aloud. "You've got a good idea to start with there. Why don't we--" I started to consider how best to guide her.

"Oh, don't worry," she replied. "I'm only half done!"

Somehow this explanation is not inspiring a lot of confidence...

An eager student brought in a DVD from home and asked if we could watch it in class. I told him that I would need to preview it first. Initially he seemed to accept this, but a short time later, he returned to my desk, more insistent, and said,

"I just came to 'ensure' you that there's only two parts with kissing, nothing else... so it's fine! One part that's a cartoon, and one part with a guy and his wife in a video they made."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rules of Nature

In a recent presentation about electrical safety, the students learned that electricity will always take the easiest route to the ground... even if that means traveling through a person's body. This information was troubling to one of my students. In the days following the presentation, he asked me several times why electricity would always find the easiest route to the ground. Lacking a better explanation, I said, well, I guess you could say it's a rule of nature. I could see this little boy was clearly not satisfied with that answer. When I asked him what was troubling him, he replied, "Well that 'rule of nature' has SERIOUSLY HURT a lot of people!!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't Look! I'm Gonna Read Your Mind!

Today's math lesson introduced "ordered pairs" and locating coordinates on a grid. For practice, students joined with partners to play a game similar in principle to Battleship. Players secretly place a "queen" and several "knights" onto a paper grid, and then take guesses as to their opponent's pieces. I was partnered with one of my boys. After several misses, he suddenly and confidently nailed my queen and won the game. I had a sneaking suspicion that he may have "peeked" at my paper when I wasn't looking; however, I became that much more convinced after the following telling exchange:

"Do you want to know how I won?"

"Sure, how did you know?"

"I read your mind!"

"Oh, my goodness, you did?!"

"Yup, and I'm gonna play this tonight with my mom! And I'm gonna read her mind... when she's not looking! I only read people's minds when they're not looking!"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Got a Minute? Or Twenty??

"Mrs. S, how many Facebook friends do you have?"

"Oh, I don't know, about three hundred."


"What are their names?"

Monday, January 4, 2010

High Five!

It's our first day back from Christmas vacation. My students rumble in, a rag-tag tribe, clomping and swishing in their new and old snowsuits and boots. They are a little out-of-step, shaking off two weeks of glorious un-structure, like sleepy bear cubs awakening from winter. Academic diligence may not come easily in these first hours back, but silliness does. I expect a hefty dose of it, along with two-weeks worth of breathless story-sharing and plentiful hugs in celebration of our reunion.

I've just gotten the group settled, making lists in their writers' notebooks of “memorable moments” from vacation. Clearly not ready to sit still, a boy scurries toward my desk.

“High 5!” he exclaims, thrusting a hand toward me. It doesn't feel right to meet his enthusiasm with a bland redirection to his seat. I tag his hand.

“To the side!” he extends the hand laterally. I tag it again.

“Up High!” he reaches upward. I tag him a third time.

“Down Low!” He offers his hand at knee-level, and then almost too quickly, claims his punchline by swiping it away and letting mine swat the air.

“TOO SLOW!” he shrieks.

“Haha, good one, Derek!” I congratulate his delivery, smile, and then direct him—still giggling--back to his seat, adding “hey, maybe you can add your new joke to your list of memorable moments!”

Shortly after lunch, another High-5-ing petitioner approaches me, clearly convinced that all memory of my earlier experience had been miraculously erased. “High-5!” he exclaims, pushing his little hand into the air near my face. He's moving swiftly, but not so swiftly that I cannot see the remains of taco sauce and recess on his hand. I am immune to all manner of kid-contagion, and I agreeably return my half of the 5.

“To the side!” I play my part.

“Down low!” He lets me tag him.

“Up high!” he snatches it away. “Too slow!”

The 'down-low, too slow' rhyme has gotten lost in his rendering of this most-hilarious-of-all-jokes.

“Oh, heavens to Betsy!” I exclaim, as if all at once to congratulate the child on his masterful trickery AND to say, I-just-don't-have-it-in-me-to-seize-upon-this-as-a-teachable-moment.”

The child savors the moment proudly, and then, with no discernible process of change, appears suddenly confused.

“Who's Betsy?” he asks.