With such a hectic beginning of the school year, I've been a terrible classroom blogger!  But...I am making it a priority to get back in the saddle so I can share the great things going on with students in my classroom. 
Quick plug: I am going to be the Featured Teacher next Saturday (9/22) at 10:00 am MT.  Classroom 2.0 is a terrific website that focuses on educational uses of technology and they host a monthly webinar on various related topics.  I will be sharing how I use web tools and technology to promote critical and creative thinking.  It will be live, so wish me luck!
If you want to check it out at a later time, Classroom 2.0 archives the shows and has them available at iTunes.

Whew!  It's been a while since I last posted...things have really taken off here at school.  I wanted to take a minute to share what some of your children have been doing in our 3rd period gifted tutorial class.  If you follow the link below, it will take you to the first ever edition of Eisenhower's new online magazine called Constellations!  This magazine is for the entire school, but is put together by my 6th graders in tutorial.  Please take a few minutes to check it out - they have done a fantastic job!
One of our fun routine assignments is called Praise Pockets.  Students designed their own little pockets to hang in the classroom and every so often, students will compose short compliments to deliver to each other's pockets.  It's a quick way to promote teamwork and comraderie.

Another feature of these compliments is that they have a content goal as well.  For example, if we are studying metaphors, I may ask students to write a compliment for a classmate that includes a metaphor.  Yay for being nice!

The website above is where to go for FUN studying of our vocabulary words.  I have just purchased an account that will allow students to study from home...or wherever!  I am giving each student a login and password and will be taking all classes to the computer lab this Thursday (9/8) to show them how it works.

The site has tons of features and activities, including spelling practice, words read aloud, parts of speech, definitions, contextually explicit sentences...you name it!  We'll even be able to take vocabulary tests on this site from our school computers.  I will also be able to see reports of how often and how much each child is using the site as well as their progress.  What a great tool!

*Each time we begin a new vocab unit, I will post the words onto the site (the words still come from the orange vocab booklet each student checked out earlier this year).
Thanks to 2 donors, Laura Spillers from Louisiana, and Richard Davisson from Horace Mann (locally), my donorschoose.org project for podcasting equipment has been fully funded!  This means I will be able to use our tutorial time next year to teach students how to create and upload podcasts of themselves discussing literature, movies, and other related topics.  Parents, other students, teachers, and the world will have access to these via the Internet.  How exciting for Eisenhower!  

Thanks so much, generous donors!  Can't wait to break out the microphones and get started.  

If you could design the PERFECT society, what would it look like?  This is the question our students had to answer as they created utopias for our Utopia Fair (May 19-20).  We saw societies based on a love of nature, on the thrill of sports, and on advanced technology.  Clearly, we saw that one person's utopia was another's dystopia (especially for the vegetarian society vs. the society focused on hunting).  It was a blast to be able to peek into the personalities of the students as they explored their own beliefs, values, and tastes.  Plenty of creativity and critical thinking were on display and I congratulate all the students on a heck of a job well done!
I just submitted my first ever proposal to donorschoose.org and I am really excited about the project!  Donorschoose allows teachers to post a project idea or classroom need,  along with a small budget for making it happen.  Donors can cruise around the site looking for projects they want to help fund.  Contributions can be small or large.  Not all projects get funded, so fingers crossed for this one!!
Please check out the details at this link: http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=575036


Tomorrow we kick off our last big literature unit this year.  Sigh.  Where did the time go?  

Well, don't worry.  We still have enough time to tackle a truly fun book by Rodman Philbrick (the same author who wrote Freak the Mighty) called The Last Book in the Universe.  It's a sci-fi novel dealing with a dystopian future.

I found an interesting little piece by Rodman Philbrick about the book and how it got banned in one school district for being a "gang" novel.  Of course, the message in this book is the complete opposite...but I guess some people were too busy to read it before banning it.  Check out what he says here:
Students are busy working on research projects this week that they began last week.  My student teacher and I are very excited to see what everyone comes up with.  The assignment has thrown some kids for a loop - present how an item (or idea) has changed over time.  It turns out that some students' idea of "history" is less than a decade! 

Luckily, we've managed to educate our classes on the importance of researching an item (or idea) that has been around for more than a few years.  So far, we've got topics such as the history of: orchestras, video game consoles, American dresses, the English language, medicine, and television. 

This Friday (April 22), students will be presenting an oral report plus a physical display (and some students are creating PowerPoints!).  The third component is a research paper, complete with parenthetical citations and a works cited page.  Does it get more fun than this?!  :)
     This week is helping us practice our flexibility skills, as we are taking the SBA.  These tests are untimed, so our schedules each day are unpredictable.  Since students test all morning, their little brains are reduced to quivering piles of neurological pudding by the afternoon (I prefer butterscotch, but whatever). 
     In a week like this, students need something fun and stimulating to do in the afternoon, so it occured to me, what's more fun and stimulating than origami?  And what if we could learn some origami AND help out the victims in Japan at the same time?  Turns out that Students Rebuild - http://studentsrebuild.org/japan/ - is running a fundraising program together with DoSomething.org that asks students to send in origami cranes in order to spur the Bezos Family Foundation to donate $2 per bird to the relief effort.  How cool is that?!
     We began by reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a short book based on the story of a real girl in Japan who was 2 when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 11 and died at age 12.  This story provided the students some background knowledge about Japan, as well as the effects of radiation on people.  It also helped them understand the significance of the crane as a symbol for peace and hope.  Today we are watching a short video on how to construct the cranes - viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ux1ECrNDZl4
     I'm encouraging students to make at least one or two cranes, but the more we can send, the more money will go to victims.  Also, once all the cranes have been mailed in, they will be put together in an art installation.  Very exciting!
We've already got a flock!
I made one from a Post-It note.