Monday, October 30, 2017

Not-Halloween Not-Party

Halloween, to be honest, is not a favorite holiday for me.

For one thing, in the world of a veteran classroom teacher, any holiday which can serve as a thin disguise for children to be unkind to one another is, well, not a good thing. Even if I weren't a classroom teacher, Halloween would not be my jam. Yep. I am a Grinch. I will admit that I hate having people leap out at me and scare me. I do not find it at all fun. I abhor gore. I dislike pranks. And April Fool's Day is my absolute least favorite holiday.

However, I perfectly well recognize that children love this holiday

    ... and I loved it as a child... and I remember how my mom would get out her sewing machine and buy patterns and fabric and make all of our costumes every year, and my brother and I had to submit our costume choices by October 1st so that she had enough time to make them... and one year I was big enough to fit into her old costume from when she was a girl and I was so excited... and I had to spend a lot of time that night explaining who Annie Oakley was...
and that there are plenty of fun and wholesome things which can be done to celebrate it. So this year, for the first time EVER in my teaching career, I am doing an in-class Last Day of October Mild-Mannered Celebration.

It's a compromise, though. NO costumes to be worn to school. And I am NOT passing out candy. But I AM willing to fill the afternoon with fun things. So we have been joking that it's a Not-Halloween Not-Party.

Of course, classic activities like Ghostie Numbers and the Haunted House of Speech have been going on in my classroom for the past few weeks. The finished Haunted Houses will be going home with children in the afternoon.

Here are the 10 thoughts in my Not-Party Planning:

1. Read "The Bells" by EAP to the whole group

Poetry for Young People: Edgar Allan Poe

(On October 31st there was an interesting, and related, article in the newspaper about author's craft and current Artificial Intelligence projects, so we read it. It was called "It Lives! This Nightmare Machine Writes Bone-Chilling Tales," which is an enormous exaggeration and the Twitter posts from the fiction-writing bot are not at all scary. Just really peculiar!)

2. Read Roald Dahl's ultra-creepy short story "The Landlady"
(this is for older children only)

3. Display some Halloween-y books, including

Play outdoor party games:

    4. Eyeball Toss
    (individual game: draw eyeballs on plain white ping pong or foosball table balls with red and black Sharpie, set up an assortment of Halloween themed buckets as well as a line behind which students stand, they have to toss the eyeballs into the buckets, earning more points for buckets which are farther away)

    5. Mummy Race
    (team game: pair students up into teams and decide which one is the wrapper and which one is the mummy, the wrapper wraps the mummy with toilet paper thoroughly but as quickly as possible and then the mummy has to run from one end of the field to the other and then back to the starting point and unwrap with their partner's help, first team to complete this task wins)

    6. Bobbing for Apples
    (individual game: put a bunch of apples in a large washbasin, put in a lot of cold water so that the apples are floating around well, children have to put their hands behind their backs and catch an apple between their teeth to win)

7. A few fun things to do on paper:
word searches (I have two options, one easier and one harder), a maze, a crossword puzzle, and several different pretty Autumn coloring pages

8. Make fake blood (a handy-dandy ratios project, equal parts warm water and corn syrup, red food coloring and cocoa powder added at your discretion until it looks realistic) and complete the Blood Splatter Detectives Lab

9. Do the Lord of the Flies Prereading Survival Scenario Activity with the older students

10. And, last but not least, practice ratios again (1:1:1) by making and playing with Jack o' Lantern Slime. This recipe takes equal parts clear glue and water and liquid starch. Add the food coloring or confetti to the glue/water mixture before you put the starch in. We are doing two recipes, one with black spider confetti and one with orange pumpkin confetti. I got the confetti from Hobby Lobby.

My daughters are especially thrilled at the prospect of slime making. Why? I bought four containers from the bakery of baked goods because the deep plastic containers are perfect for making and storing slime in and can be tossed when your kids are tired of it. My daughters were so excited because I came home from the grocery store with an apple pie, a sweet potato pie, pecan sticky buns, and gourmet English toffee cookies!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Main Lesson Blocks: Ratios and Math Gnomes

First, a few pieces of Morning Pages work which students would like to publish in the blog. For the first prompt, I read Say It! by Charlotte Zolotow, which is filled with rich Autumn imagery. Then I asked students to try writing a piece with a lot of imagery. For the second prompt, I asked them to write a story which began, "The best treat I got for Halloween was..."

    One beautiful day in October the leaves were falling like apples and turning sharp orange. The air smelled like pumpkins being carved or made into pie. It looked, sounded, and smelled wonderful.

    The best treat I got for Halloween was when I was trick or treating with my friend Mara and we went to this house giving candy by the handful and this guy's hand was really big so he gave us a lot and, best of all, he gave me the good stuff like: white chocolate Hershey's, cookies 'n' creme Hershey's, the same flavors of Kit-Kat, also Nerds, and Milky Way, and Twix.

    A chocolate cake with icing and cherry pie.

I suddenly realized that I haven't published an overall post of what we've been doing in our lessons since Monday, October 9th! So I'm going to go back and play catch up for a bit.

My middle schoolers are still working their way through Jamie York's math workbook for 7th grade. They finished the introductory Arithmetic review pages and then we moved on to the Ratios section, skipping the Measurement review pages for now. I do NOT recommend trying to do a main lesson book for Ratios all in one swoop. He comes back to Ratios three times during the year and so you need to know that you will be working on an MLB, then leaving it, then coming back to add more pages to the topic.

I'm pleased to report that I found a bunch of GREAT recipes for Ratios! If you are doing this in the Spring or Summer, I highly recommend making this Hummingbird Nectar Recipe. However, we are doing this in the Autumn, so we used

You can also use ratios when cooking grains such as rice, millet, or barley.

We continue to have homework for the older children. For one of my students, the Key Curriculum series has been really beneficial for review and practice of Fractions, Decimals, and Percents. Other homework has included

The older students have also presented book reports twice in this block of time. We like the options in Not Your Grandma's Book Report: 30 Creative Ways to Respond to Literature. I've printed out the full list of options and each time I have the students circle which one they've chosen and write the book title in the margin. They are not allowed to repeat an option during the school year. We heard book reports on

We finished up the 7th grade Creative Writing block (Wonder, Wish & Surprise) by polishing and publishing our stories in our main lesson books (the three tasks were: creating imaginary islands, writing a story with a Wish in it, writing a story with a Surprise in it) and having two surprise field trips: a nature program at the library and a day at Bandy's Pumpkin Patch. We enjoyed the surprise element of Snowball Writing as a class. Reading Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" was another lesson to go along with this theme. I've done these comprehension questions before with other children, but one of my students this year really surprised ME with a very perceptive point. When asked to identify some of the elements of foreshadowing that the necklace was fake, he pointed out that the very fact that the necklace had broken was a sign of its poor quality. A really valuable diamond necklace would have had a much sturdier clasp. So true!

Our Virtue of the Week was Consideration for the week of October 9th. We read Yertle the Turtle, The Un-Terrible Tiger, and Freedom Summer.

Our next Virtue of the Week was Courtesy and we spent two weeks on it. We read Veronica's Smile, Zen Shorts, and the short story What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?

We finished up our Philosophy topic of Compassion by learning about the Dalai Lama. We also read a wonderful book, Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights. Our new topic is Nature and we kicked it off with a great hands-on lesson on the history of penmanship from a special guest, Ms. Hilary. I showed her our pokeberry ink and she showed us how to write with quill pens and modern pens with nibs. She had gone to school in France as a child and had an inkwell in her desk and a dip pen. She even knew how to cut dry daylily stalks into pens!

We continued to enjoy Farm Day on Wednesdays. We also had a wonderful Farm Day field trip on October 18th! I would like to extend two special Thank You's. First, I would like to thank the Farm Day staff person who donated balls and balls of a lovely light brown sparkly yarn, perfect for finishing up the back walls of our stalactite and stalagmite cave tapestry. I would also like to thank the family who donated a horseshoes setup for the yard. This will be a great addition to all of our choices for outdoor recess.

We have also done some fun "Zactivities" with my two year old, including Hidden Colors and Frog World. To go with Frog World, we got a new wooden game called Frog Wobble. It is actually pretty hard to collaboratively balance those little wooden frogs on their tippy log... so the game is going to go into the collection of educational games as a Brown work choice.

A few students started new chapter books (I'm not counting Becca here, because she reads more than a book a day and I seriously can't keep up). Some newfound favorites are The Great Brain (and the rest of the series -- absolutely wonderful fun) and Puck the Gnome.

Speaking of gnomes, my youngest group finished their Jataka Tales main lesson block and dove eagerly into learning about the four processes with Math Gnome Stories. I like best the stories from Putting the Heart Back into Teaching, and since used copies of this out-of-print book are a thousand dollars (I'm not kidding), I've put significant notes as to the content of this block as they present it on my website. Enjoy!

As a fitting end to our stories from Buddha's past lives, we have started a new read aloud book, Newbery winner The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elisabeth Coatsworth. The students love it and are completely absorbed.

We continue to look at examples of Author's Craft, leading up to the next novel study for my older group, Lord of the Flies. We read Fox Eyes by Margaret Wise Brown and practiced making inferences. My next post will be about how we celebrated October 31st. The kids are very excited about the holiday, and we will be doing some fun activities! Happy Halloween!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!