Thursday, September 3, 2009

A tuneful reminder from They Might Be Giants: Science is Real.

No matter what age your learner may be, chances are they like the music of They Might Be Giants. Here's a story about their new CD on Wired. Here's the video for "Electric Car":

And here's an excerpt from a helpful review of the songs from the excellent blog Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child.

" 'Science is Real' is a driving and building number, 'Electric Car' (with a fun changeup in guest vocals from Robin Goldwasser) is hugely fun to sing (and clap!) along with, 'Meet the Elements' could be on commercial radio tomorrow, 'I Am a Paleontologist' mixes headbobbing with career aspirations, 'Why Does the Sun Shine?' rocks as hard as it has live for years, and 'Speed and Velocity' (written and sung by drummer Marty Beller) will get everyone vrooming around.

Here Comes Science goes well beyond what most science-themed kids’ records do, seeking to present a more realistic, and, dare I say more mature, look at what science really is about – questioning, challenging, and testing theories. It’s arguably both TMBG’s best record of this decade (kid-oriented or otherwise) and, so far, the best family record of 2009.' "

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Don't ever tell anybody anything."

"If you do, you start missing everybody." J.D. Salinger

E. has read a good many books over the summer break, and we begin here with a look at The Catcher in the Rye.

It's a bildungsroman (coming of age story) and was first published in July 1951; parts of the novel appeared as short stories in Collier’s, December 1945, and in The New Yorker, December 1946. The protagonist is Holden Caulfield, who is narrating from a psychiatric facility a few months after the events of the novel. He narrates in the first person, describing in great and often amusing detail what he sees and experiences. He is describing a long weekend in the late 1940s.

"'I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go? I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away."

In a way, Holden wants to connect with other people on an adult level, but part of him wants to reject the adult world as “phony” or superficial and to retreat into his own memories of childhood. This is the main conflict of the story--that is, for the most part, the conflict is within Holden himself.

The novel covers alienation as a form of self-protection by using engaging, conversational language that lurches from exaggeration to vagueness, and the phoniness of the adult world as perceived by someone who hasn't quite entered that world and doesn't quite want to enter it.

Here's a pretty good SparkNotes quiz on the book. This is an excellent overview by a fellow in Germany.

Catcher in the Rye Truths:
All morons hate it when you call them a moron. Ch. 6
Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad. Ch. 7
Catholics are always trying to find out if you're Catholic. Ch. 15
That's the nice thing about carousels, they always play the same songs. Ch. 25

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Civics lesson plans from a judicial perspective.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

has created an interactive program designed to teach civics and inspire students to become active particpants in government, politics, and citizenship. The Web site offers information, games and tools so young students can better understand and participate in civics. It also provides teachers with materials, lesson plans and support for creating an engaging civics curriculum.

Here is a link to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Friday, May 22, 2009

National Register of Historic Places: Lesson Plans.

Created by National Park Service interpreters, preservation professionals, and educators, these lessons use historic sites to explore American history. All of the lessons are available free of charge. Browse the collection in four ways, each of which includes a short description of every lesson:
Time period;
National Standards for History;
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

Designed for middle school students learning history, social studies, geography, and other subjects, TwHP lessons include maps, readings, and photographs accompanied by questions.

Here is the curriculum kit about exploring our National Parks. There are also resources so you can create your own lessons.

Each TwHP lesson plan links both to relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12 and also to relevant Performance Expectations for Middle Grades from the national Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. For more information about the National Standards for History, please visit their website. To learn more about the national Standards for Social Studies, please visit the National Council for the Social Studies website.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reading list expansion: The Time Machine and War of the Worlds.

Published in 1895, The Time Machine is an adventure tale that introduces us to the science fiction of the time machine, and is also an adventure tale about the Eloi and Morlocks in the year 802,701 AD. Many of the concepts in the novel are an imaginative expansion of
Thomas Huxley's ideas about entropy and decay in society.

Published in 1898, War of the Worlds is the first novel that ever explored the idea that other planets not only have intelligent life, but that those life forms might engage the people of earth in less than friendly interaction. Aliens land on British soil, and that leads to themes of interplanetary imperialism, technological holocaust and chaos. (Here's a helpful link to a site that discusses the Orson Welles radio broadcast in 1938.)

And here's a link to some strong review format H.G. Wells quizzes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Expanding the school reading list.

We're fortunate that E's middle school experience has thus far been a rewarding one, but an area where we perceive a weakness is the reading list. So these are the first two books we're adding for the 2009 reading log:

White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages - A sequel to The Green Glass Sea. It is 1946, and Dewey Kerrigan is now living near the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico with the Gordon family. Dewey and her "sister" Suze, share secrets, art, and science as they adjust to high school in an isolated desert town. Then, Dewey's long-lost mother, Rita Gallucci, reappears in their lives.


The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - A teenage boy's mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967-68 school year. Holling Hood is a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher. Holling finds Motivation in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny in spite of himself. Here is a helpful bookdweeb post.

Also, if you're seeking books for a middle school age kid whether home schooled or not, this list of eighth grade novels is exceptional.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Call of the Wild.

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was
brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle
and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in
the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and
transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing
into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy
dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from
the frost.
Decent research guide...scroll down.