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


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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.

 


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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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Great things are happening….

This week, my 5th graders taught a lesson (as a group) to the 3rd graders on how to write a Quality Comment.

Then, the 5th graders paired with the 3rd graders to help them use the skills they were taught to write quality comments on the 4th graders’ blogs.  Each 5th grader worked with 1-2 3rd graders, and the results were quite impressive.  I was amazed with the patience, enthusiasm, and true knowledge of the content they each shared with the 3rd graders.  Here is an example of one of their comments:

Dear Zach,

That was a cool video. I like reading. Now I like baseball. Was that video made because you like
baseball? And why do you like baseball? What are your favorite baseball teams?

Thank you,
Benjamin

Here is an example of a typical 5th grader’s comment:

Dear Julia,

I totally agree that you do have an awesome blog! I love the theme of your blog because it has warm, bright, and cheerful colors. My blog is a bright shade of green, with sparkles, and a butterfly. For the text at the top I wrote, “Make Fantasies Become A Reality”. I love this blog, and what you write about.

Just like you, I as well have an after school activity. I do dance with you, and I do volleyball. I used to do running and swimming, but this summer I am planning on running with my dad at night. Are you going to run with your mom or dad over the summer?

I as well like blue, but I also like black, white, green, yellow, and purple. In Jewish Studies, we are studying the colors of flags. Each individual flag has a color for a reason, which is what my class and I are trying to figure out. Anyways, I like blue because it means freedom and justice. I adore the color white because it means peace, and I think that there should be peace everywhere. I admire the color green because it symbolizes Earth and nature, and I love to interact, study, and learn about nature. I love the color yellow because I feel like it stands for doing the right thing, such as being honest, and I am very good at doing the right thing. I admire the color purple because to me, it seems neutral. In other words, if there is an argument, I would be neutral, I would try to fix the problem instead of siding with one person. Just to summarize, no favorites. Last, but certainly not least, black. Black might seem like a sad and dull color, but to me, it represents determination and courage. Why are your favorite color pink and blue?

I also think that blogging is important because I get to express myself. I get to tell the world about what I am doing, learning, and so much more! I love writing because I can be creative, and that is part of the reason why I like blogging.

I love how you love working on the iPads because that is one little jump towards 21st century. I have my own iPad Mini and an iPod touch. What to you have?

Again, I love your blog, I now know a lot about you, and I hope that we can continue to communicate.

We also started to discuss our next phase of our poetry book that we have been working on.  The students came up with so many questions.

  • When will we publish it?
  • What will we charge?
  • Will we do an e-book, a paperback, or both?
  • Who will our audience be?
  • How will we market it?

So many questions, and so much to do…The students developed a list of jobs (with my guidance) that would be needed to begin to answer these questions.  Once the job list was complete, they had to determine what job would best suit each of them.  Each student developed a resume and applied for one of the positions.  I was thrilled to see that they each applied for positions, which really emphasized their strengths.  Based on the individual resumes, we ended up hiring a VP of Finance,  two students to be the VP’s of Marketing, a VP of Design, an editor, a publishing liaison, a VP of Public Relations, and a VP of Business.  They all have a list of their job descriptions and they will be reporting directly to Mike Fisher and myself on a weekly basis.  This project will continue into next year.  The 4th graders will also be choosing the areas that they feel suit each of them, so they can be on a collaborative team with the 5th graders.

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My fourth graders began to work on our final research paper this week.  They each chose an important person to research from Florida’s history.  Mrs.Hallett, our 21st Century librarian,  helped them determine the proper search engine to use.  They had to find 2-3 websites to obtain the necessary information listed on the graphic organizer that was provided for them. Next, I taught them a lesson on proper note-taking techniques.  Finally, they took notes to use on their essays.  We will be writing the papers this week, and then Mrs.Hallett will be guiding us in creating a thinglink. I look forward to sharing the finished product in a couple of weeks (hopefully).

QC4


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Have you heard of EdJEWcon?

Currently, I am attending the EdJEWcon conference at our school, MJGDS. (follow us on twitter #edjewcon) We have educators from all over the world joining us to teach, reflect, and share.  It’s been a fabulous experience so far.  Today, I enjoyed listening to Chris Lehmann, who is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy. I was completely amazed and inspired by everything he had to say.  His entire philosophy of education is everything I aspire to be.  So far, the highlight of the conference for me was watching seven of my students teach a session called “Speed Geeking,”  modeled after the well known “Speed Dating.” These students volunteered to become the teachers and SHARE different technology tools, answer educators’ questions and showcase their own learning. They each spoke for 5 minutes  before their group moved on to the next “Geek” station.  The educators rotated to all seven stations, and were taught tools that these students use regularly and effectively in school.

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edJEWcon-Day One | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

 

Tomorrow I will be presenting with Mike Fisher on our collaborative efforts to create a book based on some kids’ poems that Mike Fisher wrote.  My students have illustrated the poems, and next, we will be  publishing them,  selling them and creating a marketing plan around our work.  This is authentic learning!  I will be sharing more soon.