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

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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


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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Doing Good Deeds

Last week, each of my middle school classes wrote about the different mitzvah trips they experienced.  The 6th graders went to the Second Harvest food bank and bagged food for the homeless.  The 7th graders went to Mount Herman, a school for disabled children.  The 8th graders went to a variety of places to complete mitzvahs.  They each wrote about the meaning of this quote by Shimon (son of Rabban Gamliel)  “It is not what one says, but rather what one does, that makes all the difference in the world.”

Here are a couple of their posts. Leave a nice comment.

7th Grade: Sydney T

The Amazing Mitzvah of Helping the Disabled.

On Friday, my seventh grade class and a few eighth graders toured a school for the disabled. The school is located in Jacksonville Florida, North Side, and it is called Mount Herman.
At Mount Herman, children approximately the ages of two to twenty two, with different disabilities, come to this school. Surprisingly enough, the school wasn’t built for the disabled. It was built like a normal school would have been built. Since the school isn’t built correctly, the children have to keep their wheelchairs outside of the classrooms. It was incredible to meet and see these children. I expected that most children wouldn’t be able to communicate at all, which was the case with many children, but I also expected the children to be younger than they were. I realized that once I got there, everyone was so nice, and so caring for these children. It is so sad that people have to suffer through these diseases.

I am very excited to work with these kids and get to know them. They seem like they are interested in many different things, but because of their diseases, they can’t explore and see what they are. They want to be normal, they don’t want to be treated based on their diseases, but it is the way they were born. I want to spend time with them and just talk to them, play with them, and see the smiles on their faces.

If you don’t know, this is a very important Mitzvah because we are showing the children that we care about them, even if they don’t know it. We should show our respect toward them and treat them based on  their age. I hope that one day when you are working with the disabled too, that you will treat them right.



8th Grade: Joshua F.

599px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17Shimon, the son of Rabban Gamliel said the quote; “It is not what one says, but rather what one does that makes all the difference in the world.” This verse means to me that everything we do impacts the world one way, or another.  If we do Tikkun Olam, we will make this world a better place. Shimon HaTzadik said, “On three things the world stands. On Torah, on service, and on acts of loving kindness.” If we do Tikkun Olam and follow Shimon HaTadik’s quote, then the world will be preserved for future generations of humans.

SONY DSCI think all countries should be a democracy, or a democratic republic because everybody should be able to vote on what they believe in and have rights. If people who are hungry now have a well paying job, then nobody would be hungry because people would have the money to buy food. If we give to other people, then they will also give to others. I think if everyone did more mitzvot and help save the environment, then the world will be saved.



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Writing Conventions in Middle School

Cross posted on my Class Blog

I am so proud of the quality writing coming from my students.  Please take a look at their most recent blog posts and give them some encouraging feedback.

Writing is Improving Each Week in Middle School

The Middle School students are given a different topic each week to write about on their blogs.  This week, each grade had a different topic. I have chosen students to highlight for their excellent posts this week. Visit their blogs, leave them a comment, they deserve it.

6th: This week we begin reading the Torah all over again. This year as we study Torah in my class we will not be studying the stories. Instead, we will be studying the mitzvot. How the Rabbis understood the commandments in the Torah. We will learn how the mitzvot developed through the years to what we have today. Why do you think that this is important? How can this type of knowledge help you develop your relationship to Judaism? Do you think that understanding where the laws come from will help you appreciate them more? Is there one commandment that  you really want to know more about?

Great post Benjamin!

The Torah Makes The World Go Around By: Benjamin C

 The holidays are finally over, and now we are back in school full time. The most recent holiday was Simchat Torah, which is when we finish reading the Torah and start over again. On Simchat Torah there a lot of singing and dancing. It is the only time of the year I get to carry the Torah around. I also have a lot of fun with my friends dancing with the Torah.


This week in Hebrew class, we are learning about the mitzvot in the Torah. Most people interpret a mitzvah as a good deed. But, a mitzvah is a commandment that was commanded by God. We are the chosen people. God chose us by giving us the Torah and the 613 commandments. Each Rabbi has his own interpretation of each mitzvah in the Torah.


Right now, we are reading about the mitzvot in the Torah and how they developed. I think this is important because God commanded us to follow these mitzvot. So, how are we going to follow the mitzvot if we do not know them? I think this type of knowledge will develop my relationship with Judaism because it will help me understand my religion and the Torah more. I think if we learn where our mitzvot come from, it will help us understand the true meaning of them. I would like to learn more about the mitzvot that we do not practice anymore.

The mitzvot were made over 2000 years ago. But, how are we going to follow these laws when there are so many new inventions and technology now? The Rabbis have to try and make these laws fit today’s standards, so we can still follow the mitzvot.

Hopefully, I will have a great year of school that is full of learning experiences that will help me prepare for my Bar Mitzvah.

Image Credits: Microsoft Clip Art

7th: Write chapter 17 of the book Stuck in Neutral. Make sure that your chapter is consistent with the book we read. Make sure that at the end we know what you think happened. You do NOT need an illustration for this assignment. Your title can be Chapter 17.

Great job Lily!

By: Lily H

My class read a book called “Stuck In Neutral,” about a boy who had cerebral palsy. He couldn’t physically control any movements he made. He believes his dad is going to kill him, and little hints support that theory. Proof shows that his dad really is thinking about killing him, but that he has doubts, too. The book did not tell us what happened. It ended up that when his dad was either going to kill him or not, he drifted off into a seizure. I wrote what I thought would have happened if there was a chapter seventeen.

My version of a Chapter 17:

Once I returned to reality, alive, my eyes happened to shift to where my dad was, dead. It seemed as though he couldn’t decide whether to end my “pain” or not, so he ended his. I wish I could have communicated to him that I didn’t want to die. I wish he knew how I really felt. There is more to me than appearance, and I didn’t want him to kill himself. I have thoughts and feelings, and right now I am devastated.

What would have happened if I could control my movements? Is it possible I would have  a worse life? Would I have a great life? Would I have friends, a girlfriend? Would my dad still be alive? Would he have still been married to my mom? Would my family’s life be the same? What if I could only control one part of me? Would I be able to communicate? I ponder over these questions, thinking about dreams I had and the world around me, trying to answer these questions. All I know is that I wish, just once, before I had that seizure, I could have communicated with my dad. I wish I could have told my dad the truth.

8th: The holidays are over and now it is time to really get to work choosing your year long projects. Tell me what you are really interested in and why. How will participating in this project help the people you will be serving? How will it change YOU? If you are not sure what you want to do, please share your thoughts and ideas so that we can find the right project for you.

Great job Hannah!

How I Can Help

 Now that the holidays are over, and we are back on track with school, it is time to get serious with the mitzvahs that we do every Friday. After driving around Jacksonville doing mitzvot for two years, I want to have the opportunity to volunteer in my own community, doing the same project, at the same place, every Friday. I really want my year long project to be working with pre-school kids. If I do that, then I will be able to see if I actually made a difference, because I would see them on the week days, not just on Fridays. Also, I know most of them, so it would mean more to me because I am already close with them, and it wouldn’t be awkward.

Participating in the project that I would like to do, volunteering in the preschool, will help both the teachers, kids, and me. For the teachers, it will give them a little break. They already do so much, and when we come and help, we can take some of the work off their shoulders. For the kids, it will help them form a bond with another kid. We could basically become their other brother or sister. And for us, the middle school students, it will teach us responsibility that we have to use for school, and for our lives in general. I’m excited to start this year round project, and learn some new things along the way.

1215079-kids-earth-and-peace--cartoon-illustration.jpg_400×400_pixelsPicture from: http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/fat_fa_tin/fat_fa_tin0707/fat_fa_tin070700015/1215079-kids-earth-and-peace–cartoon-illustration.jpg