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


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 

photo 5


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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
Image Credits:


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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.



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


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Researching techniques for 8th Graders

Cross posted from Language Arts Blog

My eighth graders have started a research paper on different types of diseases and disorders.  We are working collaboratively with our science teacher.  Each student randomly chose a different type of disease selected by Mrs. Jaffa to research.  They are using this organizer to create their paper.

8th grade research 2013.docx

Once the topics were chosen, it was time to work with our librarian, Mrs.Hallett.  We started a series of lessons involving how to properly search for reliable information, how to cite the resources properly, and how to take notes without plagiarizing.

Our note broadcaster of the week, Sabrina M., shared detailed notes of our lessons with the class.

Research Paper Notes - Google Drive

class13 res

Now that the students have learned these necessary researching skills, they have been working on visiting their chosen sites and taking notes.  Next week, we are planning to start writing the first draft of their research papers.


What tips have you learned about researching?  What is important to share with others?