the answer to your whys

WHY haven't I been blogging?
WHY do I love my job?

I will answer these questions for you.

WHY HAVEN'T I BEEN BLOGGING? I've been busy with work. Busy being outside in the beautiful weather. Busy starting p90x again [okay, I've done that once]. Busy traveling to Wisconsin to visit one of the dearest friend's in my life [and meet this little schnibble of joy, her son!].
Brent and I took last Friday off and we drove the seven, rainy hours to hang out with my college roommate, Renae, her awesome husband, Jared, and their four month old delight, Jaden. [Oh and their poor dog, Dori, who had to spend most of the weekend in her kennel because of my frantic squeals and panic attacks ! ] It was a wonderful and relaxing and fun weekend in which Renae and I sat around and did not do much except cook, watch Jaden smile, garage sale, and sit and talk for hours. Fabulous. Brent had the chance to golf twice! And hang drywall :) [You know you're with good friends when they ask you to pack your work clothes!!]

In other news…I've been teaching. Not much new with that except it's April. That may not seem like a relevant subject, but let me tell you…this fact changes EVERYTHING!!! The kids gaze longingly out the windows into the sunlit air, they run crazily down the hall like they have become rabid dogs, they bounce off each other, they scream more, they inform you everyday how many days are left of school and that this fact alone means we should do absolutely nothing besides eat bonbons and dance around the room in pure joy. Although I would often like to join them in their excitement, I have a job to do. And I take it serioulsy…meaning, I seriously want to find ways to entertain them while we do our lessons.

And we just had to spend nearly two weeks on GRAMMAR!!! YUCK! PEEEWWWW! I hate it. They hate it. But it is necessary. So I brainstormed activities. And here is how we have spent the last little while in our classroom:

They wanted to be outside. I wanted to be outside. They didn't want to do worksheets. I didn't want to grade worksheets. How I solved the problem: I bought some cheap sidewalk chalk, came up with the sentences they would have had to have worked on anyway, and we traipsed outside into the sunlight. While basking in the sun and spring breeze, I read them sentences. They wrote them on the sidewalk and had to insert commas in the proper locations. As I walked around checking their work, they had to tell me which comma rule they used [i.e. commas in a series, commas after introductory clauses, commas in between adjectives etc.] They enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. And we accomplished something. Fantastic. [Here are some shots I snapped…I tried to keep faces out of the shots for obvious reasons].

Of course, there is always the occasional student that just has to stand up and wave at the cars passing by :) [but don't worry, he did well on his quiz]. All in all it was a great activity. My favorite two sentences of the day? I asked students to create a sentence with two adjectives used in such a way that they needed a comma between them. Results: Mrs. Irwin is a beautiful, smart teacher. and This was a fun, educational activity. Boy do they know how to suck up!

Another thing I thought would make the grammar a little less painful was to think of a more creative way to let them take notes. Pen and paper are so yesterday, people!! :)
So I let them write on their desks in sharpie!!! …. sort of…
Okay, not really. I bought clear contact paper, put some on the corner of every desk, and let them go at it. Since I have 3 different sections of LA II, several people were able to contribute to the same "cheat sheet". I was amazed that none of them felt the need to sign their name, or draw pictures, or write other unnecessary messages… they all used it for the correct purpose and took some fabulous notes.
I did make them raise their right hands and promise they would not leave the room with my beloved, and very large, sharpie collection. :) This is something I will definitely use again!

I have used contact paper in my room before though, creating signs for the walls or during other activities. Here is one of my signs :)
I also have had my students sign a square of contact paper since my first year. I took them off my walls in Kentucky and restuck them in my new classroom :) I look forward to adding my new group in a month!
I also used it previously this year with my Juniors. They were struggling with homophones and so I had them partner up, and each "pair" had to do 4 different homophones, creating cheat sheets that we hung around the room for the remainder of the year. There are over a hundred of them stuck in some random places :)
Another activity I did while teaching grammar was the following paragraph. I wrote a really cheesy, goofy paragraph on sentence strips, cut it up, and passed it out to the class [they respond well to cheesiness]. Some students got punctuation; some got conjunctions [one lucky student in each class got "but," and when the time came for the "but" and the students realized it, I'd say, "Alright, who as a but? Come slap your but up here!" We pieced the paragraph together bit by bit, but by but, talking about the rules as we went. They were interacting and it worked very well.
And since I was taking picture in my classroom, I thought I would take a few shots of a couple other projects we've had going on!

Before starting grammar, we were in our poetry unit. We finished it off with a "coffee shop poetry reading" during which students read their poems. I pushed the desks together in tables, provided hot chocolate and cookies, and we snapped as everyone finished reading their poems. It was a very fun way to celebrate the end of the unit. Another end to the unit were their projects. They were asked to find a line from a poem or song that evoked strong IMAGERY. They then had to take that imagery and turn it into a picture. Here are just a few of the excellent results I received:

"I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree."
"I've always treated my city like some shoulder pads."
"Take a trip and fall into the glitter."

"A child said, "What is grass?" fetching it to me with full hands."
And last, but most fun! :) End of the year tests are coming up [the bane of teachers' existences if you ask me], so I figured I should probably do a bit of review. But again, worksheets are so boring!!! SOOOO….
Paper chains it was!!! I turned it into a competition: each link had to contain an "educational nugget" with something they learned from the year. AND they had to take it a step further…they couldn't just write "Simile" on the link, because that doesn't show that they really learned anything…so they had to write a definition or example with it. They raced the clock, and each other: boys against girls.

And man o man did they create some LOOOOOONG "chains of knowledge." They had to work without notes for 20 minutes, and could use notes for the last 5. It was a fury of stapling and writing and chain making for nearly a half hour.
But the best part? The conversations and terms and words I heard flying around the room while they worked. "OH! Remember static and dynamic characters?!" "Yeah! But we need to add personification and dangling modifiers too!" "Okay. And when you get done with that write about foreshadowing and author's purpose."

Yeah, my students are pretty awesome!

And THAT, dear blog world, is what I have been busy doing!
And now it's time to make supper.


*carrie* said...


This inspiring. You are totally the middle school English teacher I aspired to be. Your students are lucky to have you!

julie said...

Kelsey... you're seriously the type of English teacher that inspires students to LOVE class and pursue literature/grammar/teaching even after middle school and high school. I had a teacher like you in high school, and because of him, I'm 3 weeks away from graduating with my Bachelors in English Lit! Your students really are blessed!

Megan said...

Kels-dawg, one day if/when I have children, I want to move to Maysville, MO so they can have you as a teacher! I so wish my teachers even did half as cool and educational of the stuff that you do.

Peggy said...

This is what I call engaging your students. Awesome stuff, Kels. Thanks for coming home! Love you.

Peggy said...

This is what I call engaging your students! You are doing some great stuff that your students will remember. Thanks for coming home! Love you, KLC.

Joan said...

I love the view your heart sees.

Amanda said...

Kelsey, popped over from facebook and just have to say, this is amazing. What a way to engage your students! Hope you guys are doing well!
-Amanda Allen

Anonymous said...

I'm sure your students love you. FYI...expo markers wiped right off desk tops. I had my students use them on their desks all the time. Carol

TheStartPhoto said...

I'm only sad that you weren't MY teacher!
I think I shall steal the contact paper ideas and find a way apply them to everything I do in life.
Maybe I can use contact paper to make a list to stick to my body so that I can put "mail Kelsey's card" on that list and not FORGET TO SEND IT and find it the day AFTER HER BIRTHDAY still on the the tv and NOT IN THE MAILBOX.
hmm... just an idea. :)

Anonymous said...

Kelsey, you are simply an amazing teacher! You are going to one of "those" teachers that your students talk about all the rest of their lives--"the best teacher I ever had was . . ." Way to go! Brenda R.

Regan said...

I saw this http://www.onepearlbutton.com/2010/05/technique-tutorial-stencil-with-sharpie.html

and thought of your sharpie obsession. Enjoy!