If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

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Sailing into September

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We continued to work on subjects, predicates, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and prepositional phrases.  The majority of students are now easily able to identify these parts of speech.  

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We have been working on personal narratives and have finished the rough drafts. I have been breaking it down into small portions so they can really identify with the different elements of the plot. I have been writing my own personal narrative with them and allowing them to give me some useful feedback. After reading several students’ drafts, I am quite impressed with their use of adjectives, adverbs, dialogue, and figurative language.  When they hear examples it really challenges them to step it up. We start revising and editing tomorrow.  Each student will have a peer conference and a final conference with me before they publish their stories.

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Each Friday, I have students present book commercials. We discussed how public speaking takes much effort and practice. The students not only are preparing for the commercial with the proper content, but their speaking skills are the most important part of the presentation. 

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Our highlight for the week was our lesson on literary genres.  Each class worked in groups to create genre posters to hang in the classroom.  Now, they have a visual aid to help determine the genre of their novels.






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Two Weeks Down….

Cross posted on Class blog.

I continued to work on important grammar skills by using the mentor sentences at the start of each class. These skills included subjects/predicates, prepositions, adjectives, and compound sentences.

Book Commercial.cl2doc

Several students also practiced sharing their first “Book Commercials” in class. I have assigned students dates to present Book Commercials through December. 

Most students have started their second novel since school started. They are adding books to their A to Z charts as soon as they complete each book. Here is my current A to Z chart:



 The students are really enjoying both class “read aloud” novels. It does take a lot of time out of class, so I have tried to minimize the read aloud time to 10 minutes or less.


I started with personal narratives for our first writing assignments. The students created a graphic organizer and they have written introductions. We are going to draft the “Rising Action” and “Climax” portions of the stories this week. The following week will conclude the drafting process when they write the “Falling Action” and “Resolution” portions to their stories. The final step will include publishing the stories on the blogs.


I am really enjoying all of my classes.  I have had a great turn out for my “Book Club” both this week and last week.  We have about 12 students signed up weekly.

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It’s a NEW Year!

Cross posted on My Classroom Blog

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I cannot believe summer is gone, and a new year has begun.  I haven’t been blogging all summer, so I’m ready to get back into the swing of things.  I am spending another year teaching Middle School Language Arts and I am thrilled to be teaching the same thing for two years in a row.  I have four classes this year.  My sixth and eighth graders are both split into two classes.  I also have a combo class of seventh graders and some of my eighth graders.  I am really looking forward to this group.

We had a great first week of school.  The students are eager to learn.  I jumped right into the curriculum and have already reviewed several skills.  We started each class with a “Mentor” sentence, which leads to my grammar or reading lesson for the day.

I introduced and/or reviewed the following skills:

  • linking and helping verbs
  • subjects and predicates
  • adjectives
  • possessive nouns
  • declarative sentences
  • compound sentences and compound predicates
  • proper nouns
  • prepositions
  • Author’s point of view
  • Setting

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I started two “read aloud” novels.  A couple of classes are reading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, while the other classes are doing So B. It  by Sarah Weeks.  Both novels are excellent.

I started my reading workshop (read to self from Daily 5).  Hopefully, we will be able to start our writing workshop next week.  I have had the opportunity to have an individual conference with about 98% of the students.

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In order to provide my students with more “reading” time,I am offering “Book Club” starting next week.  We are meeting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before school in my classroom. Book Club will be a time for quiet reading without distractions.  We will celebrate completed novels and share ideas for other books to read.

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Creative Book Projects by 6th Graders

My sixth grade class just finished reading The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf.  The students were given the following options to choose from for a culminating activity:

  • write a new ending
  • make a book trailer
  • compare Devorah and Nechama to two other characters in other novels
  • create a song, parody, or poem about the novel

I must say that the students truly went above and beyond on this assignment.  Take a look at what they created.

By: Gil S

By: Zoe M

This is a poem that I composed on The Night of the Burning:

Devorah is an orphan.

She is twelve years old.

She has survived many things.

If you ask, this is what you will be told:


I lived in Domachevo.

A small village in Poland.

There were many Jews there,

But also Christians even so.


Papa would trade with them.

Every early morn’.

So when he got back at night,

He would be tired and worn.


However, our happiness wasn’t meant to last.

Because papa died.

We almost had to fast,

And often cried.


Mama was so upset,

And she died too.

So Aunt Friedka moved in,

And was with us through and through.


One horrible day,

There was a pogrom.

All the Jews were murdered,

Even those who stayed calm.


We got to the orphanage,

In a different city,

And Nechama was often told,,

That she was very pretty.


One day, there was a special visitor,

Who offered to take,

Us to a place that was not similar.

It was called South Africa,

And Nechama wanted to go,

So I agreed too,

But I hoped it would be a better place,

Because I was a Jew.


I had once sworn,

I would never leave Nechama’s side,

So we stayed together,

And went along for the ride


We both got adopted,

By a separate family.

And although I was scared at first,

In the end, I settled in happily.

By: Jamie B.

Here is my song (To the tune of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” in Disney’s new movie, Frozen)


(Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock)


Do you wanna see this book?

I’ve been reading all day!

I never see you anymore

Just call me up,

I’m not too far away-

We used to be best buddies

but we were separated

Adopted, but tell me why!-

The night of the burning,

The night of the burning,

Everything’s gone



Mama and papa died from typhoid

Aunt and Uncle died from war.

I think I need you more than you need me,

you’ve stopped saying the shemah!

It gets a little lonely

Being in my room,

Longing for just that time-

(Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock)



Mrs. Kagan?

You have definitely helped me,

I’m sorry for the stress

Daddy Ochberg told me to love you,

and to try to forget

I know I never will,

My sister forgot us,

from before the war

But I have a question for youuuuu?

Can I… call you mummy?”


Here is a poem I wrote about The Night of the Burning. Itamar L

In the dawns last light,

Devorah cried through the night.

When a strange man came,

To try to stop her pain.


Ochberg offered a new life,

away from the strife.

Her sister accepted so what could she do,

She promised her parents to protect Nechama through and through.


Nechama was the last of the last,

The only good thing that came from her past.

So she decided to go,

With a lot of doubts though.

When the flashbacks began,

She tried to take her stand.


But the flashbacks became harder to control and to fight,

Let me tell you a few from her past,

Let’s see if what the things people did her were right.

T’was a warm spring night,

Devorah was hiding trying to stay out of sight.


It was Easter and her parents were scared,

That the Christians would kill them.

Would they be spared?


Indeed they had their wish,

but the rest of their lives were not served on a dish.

First Uncle Pinchas was taken away,

To fight the army.

Though he did not wish to stay.


One night he came home,

he walked alone.

For he was so sick,

even the army was afraid of it.


Soon after he died,

In his small little bed.

A doctor did not come,

in his place was Aunt Friedka.

And so Pinchas died before his time had come.

The next person to die was poor dear Papa,

The Influenza killed him like prey for a cobra.

With very little money left Auntie moved in,

To help out the family and stay with her kin.


Mama grew sick fast,

Raving and ranting all the time about her past.

Typhoid had taken her,

And it would soon break her.


Alone Devorah sat by her dying mama

When she promised her mother to protect Nechama.

And then there was only three in their small little house,

Between Devorah, Nechama, and great Auntie too.

The house seemed as quiet as a mouse,


With bad luck in the air,

They were caught in despair.

One night someone came through their place,

“Pogroms, Cossaks,” came the frightful yell.

“Runaway, just in case,”


But the family stayed afraid of the hell,

that had been unleashed outside.

Nay, they would not stay,

So they took up a stride.

But what could they do, so they started to pray,


The answer then came in the shape of a barn,

They ran to it, and hid inside,

A soldier was coming, oh darn.

Aunt Friedka was stabbed and very soon died,

The children huddled up close in a corner.

Devorah was officially a mourner,

Morning soon came.

They walked slowly out of the barn as though the were lame.

A good christian woman came to help,

And sent them off to the orphanage.

Without a cry or whelp,

Devorah felt like a bag, a luggage in storage.

So that’s where we are in the story,

Nechama and Devorah are going to Africa.

With many a worry.

Soon after they left,

They arrived in Warsaw.

There they stayed to gather the rest,

While Devorah she had nothing interesting she saw.

After that they arrived in London,

By now Devorah and Nechama are no longer shrunken.

There they took a ship across the sea,

And they were finally free.

Soon they were both adopted,

Devorah opted.

That Nechama stay with her,

But there journey was finally done,

There purpose together was at this point, none.

Jolie’s post

Zachary’s post

Benjamin’s post

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Amazing Acts

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The 8th graders have been writing plays for the past couple of weeks. We started off discussing the differences between writing a play versus writing a basic narrative. One of the main differences they recognized was that a play is meant to be three-dimensional, rather than two dimensional. A play is meant to be performed by live actors, and not meant to be read in silence. The descriptions told by the narrator, as well as, the descriptions for how the setting should appear are of utmost importance.

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We spent a few days just working on creating a detailed setting. Following that activity, the students worked on character development. We did a few “warm-up” activities, using m&m’s, and then they were ready to develop the characters for their own play. They had to create a plot in advance, and then they could put the pieces of the setting, characters, and plot together to make their own scripts. Some students chose to work independently while others chose to collaborate and work in teams.

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Once they finished drafting their scripts, they had to share with peers, edit their work, and make necessary revisions. For the final step, they had to decide whether to perform their plays or use technology to create an alternative presentation. A few of the students acted out their scenes for the class this week. Each script was unique and different.



Promising Poets

Cross posted on my class blog.

The 6th graders have been working on a poetry unit.  We started off our unit discussing what the word “poetry” means.  We spent some time learning different types of figurative language.  Each student created a short tutorial to teach the class a different type of figurative language.

This was one example:

Fwd_ Alliteration - stephanie.teitelbaum@mjgds.org - Martin J. Gottlieb Day School Mail

We discussed alliteration, assonanceconsonancehyperbolesmetaphors, similesonomatopoeiasymbolism, and personification. Once the students each taught their classmates these terms, they split off into groups and analyzed various poems by some well-known poets.  They had to find examples of each type of figurative language.  Some poems were quite difficult to analyze, but nonetheless, we were able to find an example of each term.

Following our figurative language activity, each student randomly chose a famous poet to research. The students had to find out information about his/her assigned poet, what types of poetry he/she wrote about, and choose one of their poet’s poems that they found interesting. Finally, each student had to choose one poem to memorize and recite to the class. Last week, during our “Poetry Read Aloud” we all enjoyed hot chocolate, tea, and donuts while listening to classical music in our dimly lit classroom. We listened to the students recite their poetry and discuss why they chose the poem and how it made an impact on each of them. It was a great experience for all of us.

benjamin poem

These were the poets they researched:

Emily Dickinson-Itamar 

E.E. Cummings-Rebecca

Walt Whitman~Gil 

Langston Hughes-Jolie 

Lewis Carroll-Benjamin 

Edgar Allen Poe-Zachary 

William Wordsworth-Zoe 

W. B. Yeats-Jamie 

T. S. Eliot-Elior 

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Power in Persuasion

Cross posted on my classroom blog.

The 7th graders have been working on persuasive essays for the last few weeks.  It has taken some time, but the results have been quite impressive.  We started off talking about what “persuasive essays” consisted of and what types of topics they could write about.  The students found comfort and excitement when discussing topics that related to themselves and/or their unique interests. The students learned that it would take more than their own “opinion” to persuade an audience to agree with them.  They must have evidence, facts, research, and statistics to support their opinions.

First, we used the topic “Should schools be year-round or stick to the traditional school calendar?” The students then listened to examples of how to “hook” the reader.  They heard examples of anecdotes, facts, statistics, and a variety of strong thesis statements.  Next, each student practiced writing thesis statements from the topic list created by the class.  Following that, students wrote rebuttals to these paragraphs to gain perspective and to hear the other side’s point of view.

Second, the students had to choose which topic they wanted to research and write about.  Following that step, they had to make a list of three main reasons to support their topic.  Once their three reasons were established, it was time to research facts, statistics, and various stories to support their ideas.  This led to the drafting process of their essays.  We introduced transitional words and phrases to use in their writing.  A few are listed below.

Equally important

In the first place


Besides          Further

Next               Again

Moreover       Similarly

Once the drafting process was concluded, it was time to work on their conclusions.  We read examples of strong conclusions, which restated the writer’s side. The students completed their conclusions, and then were ready to learn how to cite their websites properly and use in-text citations.  This seemed to be the most daunting task for them.  We still have many errors that need to be corrected, but they will be revising their final essays next week.

Finally, the students used the Rubric that was provided to assess their own essays and a peer’s essay.  They will be meeting with 5th graders tomorrow to assess their persuasive essays and provide constructive feedback.  Hopefully the 5th graders will also provide some powerful feedback for the 7th graders. Next week, all of the essays should be posted on their blogs with necessary corrections and supporting images.

Here are a couple of the completed essays. Both students did an excellent job persuading their audience, and they chose opposite topics.  Which one persuaded you?  Leave them a comment and let them know how they did.

Unique Form

December 8th, 2013 by lilyh

Uniform | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Do you want to be the same, the same as everyone else? Do you want to work in discomfort? There are numerous cons to wearing school uniforms. Uniforms are itchy, scratchy, and quite uncomfortable. They are very dull and aggravating. As long as there is a reasonable dress code students should be allowed to show off their individuality in their clothes.

 Picture this, you’ve been sending your children to the same school for years. They have enough uniforms already, yet, you end up spending hundreds of dollars every year for more uniforms. Of course this happens every year. The cost of uniforms is overwhelming and, in my opinion, unnecessary. The overwhelming cost of uniforms is only one of the many disadvantages of schools having uniforms. According to a chart written on October 24, 2013 found on “Statistic Brain” the “Average annual cost to parents for school uniforms” is two-hundred and forty-nine dollars. (“School Uniform Statistics.”) You’re spending money on something that could be harming your children and you don’t know it!

 Money cash | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

How could uniforms possibly harm children? Don’t just think physically. Uniforms can set a mood, but not a happy mood. Uniforms can cause frustration! They are also itchy and scratchy, and they can bother a student during school. Uniforms can redirect the pupil’s attention from his/her school-work. This can drop their grades. Dropping of grades can lead to disencouragement to work hard. It can also keep students from getting into certain high-schools and colleges. Employers will often request workers from certain schools, so this can damage their life, even as an adult.

 Uniform means same! Kids need to be able to express their style and uniqueness. If they can’t wear the clothes they want to wear it could influence them to show their style in inappropriate ways. As stated in an article written by Amy M. Armstrong on January 23, 2013, “Children will turn to other forms of self-expressions such as inappropriate hairstyles, jewelry or make-up when denied the ability to choose their own clothing.” (Armstrong) You are probably always telling your child to “be yourself,” to “express their style.” Uniforms aren’t a solution, they’re a problem!

jon fishman_s sonic fabric rhythm dress | Flickr - Photo Sharing! 

Your child walks into school, confident. He/she is dressed in comfortable clothing that suits his/her personality and style. Your child would feel happier, and a lot more confident if he/she could choose his/her own clothes. Uniforms are holding back children! In short, having no uniforms, is only an improvement!

Happy Face | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Works Cited

Armstrong, Amy M. “Do School Uniforms Negatively Affect Kids’ Behavior?”LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/560471-do-school-uniforms-negatively-affect-kids-behavior/>.

“Facts against School Uniforms.” Facts against School Uniforms. Education

Newarchaeology, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

“School Uniform Statistics.” Statistic Brain RSS. Statistic Brain, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

Picture Credit:

Taken by Jamil Soni Neto; December 22, 2005; found on Flickr

Taken by @Doug88888;  May 15, 2010; found on Flickr

Taken by alyce santoro; March 3, 2008; found on Flickr

Taken by Enokson;  April 22, 2013; found on Flickr

Persuasive Essay-Why all Schools Should Require Uniforms

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Do you want your life to be stressful and confusing? I know I don’t. Imagine that you are a middle school student. You spent your entire evening visiting an ill relative, and you just got home at eight o’clock. You sprint to your closet to find a glamorous outfit for school the next day. All your clothes have to match perfectly. Exhausted, you fall asleep immediately, dreaming about looking great at school. The next morning, you proudly step into the classroom. But then you see a science test! You were so busy selecting your outfit that you never studied! At the end of class, you get your test back. D+! Wearing a uniform would make my life so much easier! In my opinion, all schools should require uniforms!

 school girls in uniformsWith all schools requiring uniforms, it will reduce bullying. Bullies can’t make fun of your clothes if they are wearing the same ones! In 2010, one in every five public schools required uniforms (Toppo 1). The uniform was created for “reducing social pressures of children” (Toppo 1). Students at schools with no uniforms will be stressing about what they will wear. Students in families with lower incomes will look out of place next to peers with more money. School should be a place for learning and making friends, not for ranking others by their wealth and what they own. “It means everyone is equal, there’s no distinction between the kids whose parents can afford designer gear and those who can’t,” says Emma Parkin, Parenting Magazine (Reynolds, Costello 1). With uniforms, kids can judge others on who they are, not how they look or what they wear.

Wearing a uniform makes life easier for students, teachers, and parents. “Educators like uniforms because they simplify their jobs. It saves them time from having to punish kids for too-short skirts or shorts, for instance,” says Ken Trump, school safety consultant (Toppo 1). Students can’t break many dress code rules if they are wearing uniforms. Uniforms also simplifies parents’ lives. Parents don’t have to go out and spend money for whenever a new style come out. For example, parents don’t have to hear “Mom! I need new shirts! Everybody at school has them!” With a uniform, the parent doesn’t need to go clothes shopping with their children as often. In addition, students are busy with homework and extracurricular activities, not having extra time to spend with clothing. This new rule will reduce wasted time for everyone.

sticker gradeSchool uniforms will improve students’ grades. They will focus on school work, and not be distracted by others’ clothing. The time spent picking out clothes could be focused on studying. This will improve students’ academics, giving them a higher chance of success in their futures. Uniforms will also get students ready for life as they get older. Many jobs require uniforms, or have some sort of dress code. If students wear uniforms, it will teach them more about what clothes are appropriate.

The reasons above is why I think uniforms should be required at all schools. Without uniforms, I predict that students will be disoriented. Everyone will be confused, getting in trouble, and not succeeding in academics. Teachers and parents don’t want this to happen to students. Students want their lives to be easier. In conclusion, I predict that uniforms will make schools function more smoothly with fewer issues.

Works Cited
Reynolds, Deirdre, and John Costello. “Keeping It Old School: Why Uniforms Are Still a Class Act.” Independent.ie. Independent.ie, 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.
Toppo, Greg. “What to Wear? Schools Increasingly Making That Decision.” USA Today. Gannett, 18 Aug. 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.
Wilde, Marian. “Do Uniforms Make Schools Better?” GreatSchools. GreatSchools, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013
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Modern Myths and Legends

The 7th graders have been learning about myths in their social studies class.  They have been reading examples of different legends and tall tales in language arts.  They started working on creating their own modern examples of myths and legends.  Some students  chose a myth that they read, and changed it up to become their own unique version.  Other students chose to write more of an adventure story, similar to Percy Jackson.  Those that chose to write a legend, picked a person from modern times and tell an exaggerated tale of how they became legendary.  Here are a few examples from the class.

 Justin Bieber Legend by: Casey

The Incredible Marshawn Lynch by: Noah

Justin Bieber Attacks by: Sarah

My Pentology by Sydney