Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Learned About Teaching From Karate, Day 3: Empty Hand

Sorry for the lack of post after school today. No homework leaves little to really report, but I think the kids are accomplishing a lot this week. Final drafts are being typed up, anoles are being observed, rodent skeletons are being pasted onto black paper...all is right with the world.

As for today's karate entry, I wanted to talk about what karate means. The word karate means, literally translated from the Japanese, empty hand. When the samurai came through and cleaned the villagers of all of their edged weapons, they had to learn how to fight using their farm implements (hence the sai, the nunchaku, the tonfa, etc...). But more importantly, they had to learn how to use their hands and feet as weapons in case of an attack from outside forces.

What does this have to do with teaching? Well, as it turns out, almost no day ever goes according to plan. It's kind of like chaos theory. There is no way everything can go according to plan. No matter how many contingency plans you make, no matter how tight your plans are, you can almost always count on some agent of chaos entering your day. A lost tooth, a call from the office to send down three students for whatever reason, or kids being pulled out for testing for hours at a time. You always have to be ready to go on your own. I learned early on that you can't just let kids have totally idle time, so you always have to be ready to fill it--even empty-handed. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What I've Learned About Teaching From Karate, Day 2: Be a Feather

For long-time readers, this is a very old story. But tonight I'm going to use this story again because it's definitely one of my more popular entries. And I have nothing to do with it.

Here it is as originally posted two years ago:

The founder of my karate dojo, Shihan Doug Adamson, once asked our class as we were preparing for the black belt test and working on self-defense, "Have you ever tried to throw a feather?" As you know, when you throw a feather, no matter how hard you throw it, it doesn't cooperate. It just goes with the flow, and bends with the wind, just kind of drifting to the ground, no more shaken than when it first drifted down when it was shed. He said, "Be a feather."

What he was saying on the literal level was that when someone throws a punch or comes in to attack, you should let your body be light and flexible, bending around their punch and maneuvering yourself into a favorable position to do some damage to your attacker. To apply this to everyday life, and furthermore to teaching, I've learned to be flexible. We don't go through a day where everything goes exactly according to plan. One thing I've taught the students in my class is that everything will go so much better for them if they can learn these words: "It's all good" and "Whatever".

Of course, this is much easier said than done. We can all work on applying this to our daily lives. But I can tell you that it makes me smile any time I tell the kids apologetically that plans have been altered due to circumstances beyond our control, and I hear, "It's all good, Mr. C."

I am still trying to learn how to be a feather, but thankfully, because I've passed Shihan Adamson's words down to my students, the kids are helping me out in the process.

Busy As Bees

Here are some students hard at work today in my Math class. We are reviewing chapter ten, and it's kind of a mix of different topics. No homework, though! It's ISTEP week, so all work is being finished in class.

To the Right; To the Left

These dancers were all breaking loose with the Cupid Shuffle when I picked them up from Music class this morning. It looked like a lot of fun, and I was surprised to see my whole class busting out the moves. Unfortunately, my amateur photography skills didn't quite capture the rhythm the way they did.

Making Progress

Well, today we got quite a bit of work done. It's a work in progress. The kids worked with their animals today, did some language arts, and we learned about the Constitution. We will continue on all of these tomorrow. Plus, we did ISTEP once again without a hitch.

We really did have a full day today, even though it doesn't sound like it. I will post some pictures when I get home.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What I Learned About Teaching From Karate, Day 1: Diamondcutter

This past weekend I had the pleasure of coaching my former students in the ring, along with a present student. In the top picture is Miss Emma and me, right after her final fight of the day.

Below that are three brothers, all of whom were my students over different years. Now they're all grown up, and they don't need my advice for fighting, but I sat in the chair for each of them at different times anyway. It was hard to get good shots of them fighting (and the bottom one, I could only get standing there), but I gave it my best. On top is Michael, the oldest of the three. Next down is Matthew, the youngest; and then at the bottom is Colin, who came in between.

Over the past years, I've done a series of posts all week before the spring black belt test. Actually, I did it two years ago, and then I tried last year, but got nil reaction, so I kind of preempted it. Anyway, it's called What I Learned About Teaching From Doing Karate.

If there is one thing that I have found out through this journey is the power of discipline. Over this past weekend, I played the part of a coach. As a coach, I would go in and sit with kids while they are waiting to go, sit in the chair while they're fighting (think Mickey from Rocky), and make sure that the scorekeeper is keeping score properly. I also became a water bottle-carrier, a headgear tracker, a blood-wiper, and the counselor for some of those who didn't win their fights. It doesn't take much--just the simple things go a long way.

As a coach, I get to let kids pound on me, I get to dole out push-ups when kids are talking and not listening, and I get a loud "Yes, Sir!" when I tell them to close their mouths and listen. This is a little different from the classroom.

I do have to say that recently, however, I covered a Wednesday night at the dojo (Thursday is my normal night...), and I saw some students I hadn't seen in about a year and a half. These three screwballs would be right at home in 5-1, and it was no surprise to me when I had to hand out about 175 push-ups between the three of them. At the end of the class, at the part where each kid walks up to shake my hand, all three of them had big smiles on their faces. "Man, we missed you!" one of them said. When I went out to the bleachers between classes, their parents said, "We missed you."

Love that. As a teacher of karate (or just a regular teacher), we don't discipline out of anger. We do it the way a diamond cutter gets rid of the stuff that's not a part of the diamond.

Okay, so I guess I try to do this, but last week was a major victory in the dojo on that front.  And I see it every day at school as well.

My So-Called Modern Life

I just learned how to Tweet. I am not sure how often I will do it. You can follow my random sputterings of information @CarterDojo. Now I feel all modern. #mrmodernworld (Now even more so.)

Well, today was day one of the infamous ISTEP testing. It was just fine. No problems whatsoever. And during the rest of the day, we did things like read about disease and third world countries (and discussed First World Problems); we observed our anoles/chameleons, crickets, and earthworms, and we listened to a story on giant vegetables that came down from the sky.

I'll post some photos a little bit later, but for now, I wish you all a happy Monday. No homework tonight!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Whew. I just got home about twenty minutes ago from a very karate weekend. The good news is that I did manage to nab about two hours yesterday afternoon to grade some papers, and woke up early this morning to get some plans made for this week. We are going to have a very Social Studies and Science-heavy week this week, because such things can be handled pretty easily without homework.

The reason for no homework? ISTEP testing. We won't have too much in any one day, but because of our limited time for testing, it will run from tomorrow (I imagine today, by the time you're reading this...) until next Monday.*

My Math class may be affected a little bit as far as the time goes, but Math should be fairly regular as well. 

*By the way, NEXT Monday, I do plan to send home a spelling list. We end our testing next Monday, and therefore homework will resume that night. I'm just warning everyone right now.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lizard King

Mrs. Jackson thought it would be a good idea to get the anoles into the cages before I left for the weekend. So with a little help from Evan, we got these guys into their terrariums. Mrs. Jackson will spray the insides with water again today and tomorrow while I'm up here in Chicago for karate. 

They can't wait to meet you guys on Monday. You can name them then, even though Evan and I already have a few choice names for these lively fugitives. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another Chance To Get It Right

We accomplished quite a bit today, but as always, my scholastic eyes are bigger than my plate of time. We did manage to:
  • get our terrariums (terraria?) ready for the earthworms, crickets, and anoles. After school, Lucas and Evan manned up and got the earthworms wrangled into the terrariums so that they can start fertilizing the humus. 
  • most of the students wrapped up their vocabulary journals, and some of them even got their research papers handed in today. It's good to see those start trickling in, and it sure does help that we had computer lab today. 
  • kind of read our health booklets. I get the feeling that excerpts of these books are going to have to make it into our reading time next week. The good thing is that we should have a little less to do while ISTEP testing, which should give us a chance get caught up on some incidentals like this. 

Here's what we didn't accomplish today:
  •  I wasn't able to meet with the group that's reading Fever 1793 today. Our first official "having read" meeting, and it was curtailed. This will be remedied tomorrow. 
  • We didn't do a GCL today, even though it was all printed out and ready to go. We will do it tomorrow, and then probably grade them on Monday. 
I'll call it a loss leader. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Handle With Care

Here are some of the kids dissecting their owl pellets. I was really pleased that there were far more people interested than they seemed when I first introduced the idea of this project.

Group Resilience

Today we picked apart owl pellets, we read about health and disease, and we took a look at graphing information in Math class. We had a day full of excavating fractured bones, hopefully repaired a fractured ego or two, and we also took a break from fraction reviews.

I will post some pictures later of our owl pellet investigations. The kids had a good time with it, luckily.

That said, we still have a lot of work to get accomplished in the next few weeks. Luckily, next week we won't have any homework because of ISTEP, so it's my hope that we will be able to accomplish everything that's on our plate. (Fat chance of that, I realize, but one can hold out hope...)

Pull Yourself Up and Keep Trying

“When I look at the kids training today... I can tell which ones are going to do well. It's not necessarily the ones who have the most natural talent or who fall the least. Sometimes it's the kids who fall the most, and keep pulling themselves up and trying again.”
Michelle Kwan (born 1980);
figure skater, Olympic Medalist, United States public diplomacy ambassador

This was today's quote from the Foundation for a Better Life. Amen, Michelle Kwan!

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's a Small World, After All

Today we did the ISTEP practice test. This was just so that the students would understand how the test operates, and then try out some of the tools that they can use (rulers, protractors, etc.) on the test. It went fairly well. Hopefully all of the kinks are worked out at this point.

We also had Spring Picture day. Everyone loves posing for their spring photos.

Here is our homework today:
  • Spelling definitions
  • 20 minutes for reading
  • My Math class has a study link and also a fraction reducing half sheet.
Hope everyone has a fantastic Monday. Tomorrow, I keep telling myself, could be a typical day, rather than an atypical one. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Puppeteer

Hope you had a great birthday yesterday, James! James is a creative young man who loves his puppets (a bunny and an otter, that we know of). I first remember James from when he was a first grader and he came to my class dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, as a part of a then-current student's oral report on the subject matter. He is a good kid who is a huge helper to me each day. Not everyone knows how to turn on my overhead projector, but he is also great at turning on the doc cam and making sure my screen is pulled down.

Thanks, James! Hope you had an awesome time on your birthday--and that your mom made her chocolate chip cookies for your birthday as well.

Technically, It's a List of Adverbs

Here's this week's Spelling List, just in case anyone "forgets" theirs at school on Monday when they go home:

  • actually
  • colorfully
  • carefully
  • directly
  • peacefully
  • sincerely
  • smoothly
  • thankfully
  • seriously
  • tragically

The Hardest Things Are the Most Liberating

Well, I hope the Easter Bunny has left everyone happy today, and that everyone was able to celebrate today with family.

I am sad to report that today marked the passing of John Houbolt. Students may remember John Houbolt as the man responsible for the idea of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous during the Apollo space project, which sent the United States to the moon. He is an historically undersung character in the world of NASA history, but I found him important enough to put on the kids' test for that unit.

Thank you, John Houbolt, because it wouldn't have worked without your frustrated insistence that the other scientists listen to you.

Also passing today was Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the former boxer wrongfully convicted of murder, who spent almost twenty years in prison as a result. I read his autobiography The Sixteenth Round just last winter, so this death resonated with me when I heard about it today. Of course, I'm sure all you parents out there probably know the Bob Dylan song inspired by Carter's story

Hoo-boy, are we in for another busy week. We have a lot to accomplish this week on all levels. We will have...
  • a THEME TEST on Friday for Reading/Language Arts.
  • a spelling test as well on that day.
  • a MATH test that afternoon, but the good news is that I will let them use their Mathcabulary notebooks. 
  • we will be getting our live animals (hopefully) this week. In the meantime, we will be dissecting owl pellets (woohoo!) and creating diagrams of both earthworms and crickets in class. I hope, by Friday, to have our anoles (a.k.a. American Chameleons). 
  • a Social Studies take-home test, given out Tuesday, most likely due on Thursday. 
  • these are just the major components. I will also be continuing an old reading group or starting a new one/new ones. We have a lot of work to get in before the end of the year!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Technicolor Explosion

 It was great to see so many folks out at Woodbrook today for the Color Run. I am just happy that I actually finished the race. 5-1 both past and present were represented today. I think we would all agree that it was a lot of fun. As I was running alongside Mrs. Davis at one point, we both agreed that this needs to become an annual thing. For the inaugural run, we had at least 200+ people there.  Thanks to everybody who came out to this big event!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Best Connections

I loved this last night when I first saw it. I was happy that a few of the kids discovered it today in the media center. It has a special connection to 5-1 because it was discovered by the Kepler (hey, Billy!) telescope that went out into space.

Another "Earth" is out there. If this isn't awesome news for the world of science, I don't know what is. New planets are discovered nearly every day. But one that is pretty much Earth? I love the scientific world.

It's All In the Wrist

Today we were treated to a lesson given by Madi and Emma on making parachord friendship bracelets. It was really neat, and the kids had a lot of fun making them. Madi and Emma bought this opportunity with their tickets, but we all reaped the benefits.

Thanks, ladies!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Caged Animals

Tomorrow we will have a Spelling Test.

Tomorrow is also tie-dye day. I really don't know what I'm going to wear yet.

Today we learned about Bill Gates (reading book), Mary Ludwig Hayes (aka Molly Pitcher), and we took a look at the diagrams of our crickets and earthworms, which next week we will be putting into our terrariums. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paint the Town

I hope some of you guys are reading this in the morning before coming to school--not counting on it, but just hoping. Thursday is RED day.

And on Red Day, I hope everyone brings in some quarters to support Relay for Life.

Let's make it an awesome day.

Hidden In Plain Sight

Not much by way of homework tonight. Some kids will probably have their Meaning Exercises tonight, and my Math class has a study link and a fraction review page.

We talked algebraic expressions, camouflage, Thomas Edison, and a robot that almost made a bed.

It was a big day in 5-1 today, and in that way, it was much like the others.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Trial of the New Century

This evening, I had the honor of sitting on a panel for Chris Hsu. Chris is a part of the Global Scholars program at Park Tudor. He gave a talk on the implications of 3-D printing. The implications--as Chris pointed out--could (and probably will) be very interesting on an economic, ethical, and legal scale. I felt like I was at a TED Talk. I'm really not sure I'm worthy to be an evaluator for this project, but as I said, it was a true honor.

Chris, as well as fellow high school senior and his girlfriend Sophia Yin, are both former students of mine. Chris is going to Princeton. Sophia is going to Yale. The students have truly surpassed the master. But I can tell you one thing--the future is in good hands!

The Faded Strobe of Phosphoresence

Even though the majority of people wearing neon colors are in the back (really, people?), we celebrated Neon Day today by bringing in our nickels for Relay for Life and bringing in our handfuls of nickels.

Tomorrow is GREEN DAY. So wear your green and bring in your silver--in the form of dimes, that is. It's all to support Relay for Life, which is of course a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Sewing, Dribbling, and Cannonfire

Today we discussed varied topics from the invention of the sewing machine by Isaac Singer (it turned out a little more interesting than it seemed at first), read about a young man named Jimmy Naismith who ended up creating the sport of basketball (even if the story was a fictionalized account), we read about the men and women of the Revolutionary War--along with the bloody footprints in the snow at Valley Forge, and then we learned about animal habitats and the kids worked in groups to create their own animals. (And no, despite what you just read, we did not learn about run-on sentences today. Maybe we should have.)

Homework for homeroom tonight: 3x each for Spelling, and pages 74-75 in their white pages for Social Studies [they should only have to do 13.4-13.8 tonight; 13.2 and 13.3 should already be finished].

Math: Study Link 10.2. I am foregoing the fraction review page tonight.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wolf Packs and Convoys and Captains and Men

I have once again been remiss in my coverage of 5-1 birthdays, but admittedly, I didn't spend too much time on Spring Break dwelling on student birthdays.

But on Saturday, I missed giving a birthday shout-out to Mr. Corbin. Sorry, big guy!

Corbin is a basketball player, a kid who always does his best work, and a guy who is always the life of the party. He has a heart of gold, and that's what makes him awesome.

I am glad to report that Corbin's birthday was spent on the beach with a huge party. So I don't feel too bad about having missed it. But I want to take the time now to say I hope it was a great birthday for you, Corbin. You're one of the good ones.

I Come Into the Peace of Wild Things

Tomorrow don't forget to wear NEON! I need to find a little neon to wear, but I think I should be okay.

Here is this week's Spelling List just in case yours didn't make it home...

Spelling List: April 14-18, 2014

Theme: Animal Adaptations

  1. adaptation
  2. camouflage
  3. ecosystem
  4. habitat
  5. carnivore
  6. herbivore
  7. omnivore
  8. prey
  9. vertebrate
  10. invertebrate

Sunday, April 13, 2014

You Can Do What You Want to Do In Living Color

Monday. Spirit Day wear Blue and Yellow and Bring in your PENNIES

Tuesday.... Neon Day wear NEON and Bring in your NICKELS

Wednesday....  Green Day wear GREEN and Bring in your DIMES

Thursday.... Red Day wear RED and Bring in your QUARTERS

Friday.... Tie-dye Day wear TIE-DYE and Bring in your DOLLAR$
Monday to Thursday supports RELAY FOR LIFE June 7-8th
Friday supports IPS # 56 Wellness Plan

Lots of Activities on Wellness Week ending with:
On Saturday April 19th at 11:00am

Sign up on: Sign Up Genius
Or go to Woodbrook Home Page
Wear your white t-shirt
Come join the FUN. 

It’s Free!
Sponsored by Wellness Committee/PTO

*Donations for Relay For Life will be accepted at the Color Run*

I sure hope this cut and paste job translates. I hope everyone heads out to the Color Run on Saturday!

A Matter of Life

Hello from the waning world of Spring Break. I am chiming in with the hopes that everyone will check in to remember that Monday will be Blue and Gold Day! Also, don't forget to bring in your pennies for Relay for Life.

Please click here if you need any more reason to support this year's Relay for Life. This is just the first in a series of videos I'm going to post this week. As someone who has had a mother, a grandfather, and countless friends, coworkers, and acquaintances go through the horrors of cancer, you can be sure that I will continue to support this fight as well as the ACS.

Not much more that will happen this week will matter quite as much as this.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fuzzy Math

This is somehow brilliant. A lot of fans of this video in 5-1 Math class today during our brain break.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stick the Landing

Sorry for the lack of after-school post. It's all written in your child's assignment notebook, though! There is only a fraction review page for Math, and a Caesar's English test and a test in Math tomorrow. My profoundest apologies to the fourth graders in my Math class--turns out they have four tests tomorrow! So no more whining, fifth graders. Fourth graders are tougher, as it turns out.

Hope everyone has a fantastic break and comes back ready to stick the landing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It Should Be Raining Frogs Any Minute Now

I'm proud to say that the day went by without too much tomfoolery (today's Word of the Day).  I did receive a "brownie" (which turned out to be a "brown E") from one student, but not to worry, the kids did have a special quiz today that left a few kids scratching their heads.

For their writing and reading homework tonight, the students need to read this article (they have a hard copy that was sent home with them) and answer the question "Do you think this is a good way to get students more interested in their school work? Why or why not?" They need to attach their answer to the back of the rubric, which was also sent home.

Here it is, just in case:

  •        Did you begin by restating the question in your own words?  (2 points)
           Did you answer completely, appropriately, and with a full paragraph (five to eight sentences)? (4 points)
           Did you use only complete sentences? (2 points)
           Did you appropriately punctuate and capitalize your response? (2 points)

    Sorry about the formatting there! It doesn't quite copy and paste with ease.

    Today we did a lot of work in Social Studies, vocabulary, and significant progress is being made on the students' outlines. Many have been turned in at this point, and many are still being worked on. And that is totally okay. 

    The kids also read an article and filled out the third column on some work we had done together in class yesterday, only this time they did the writing portion on their own.

    Lastly, my Math class has only a fraction review page tonight (instead of last night's three pages). I returned last night's homework to them today to study with for the big test on Thursday.