Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Oliver Twist...a bit more.

"Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity: 'Please, sir, I want some more.' The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear. " Charles Dickens

This is an excellent site for helping kids in their study of Charles Dickens.

Here are some vocabulary words we particularly enjoy from the book:


Some further thoughts: this is an excellent text in which to define and explore irony.

Does Dickens believe the end justifies the means?

What is the social burden of this novel? What does it have to say about class, poverty, wealth, labor, crime, the law?

What effect do acts of personal benevolence have on Oliver?

Who do you think are the most interesting characters in the novel? If your answer is Fagin, Sikes, and Nancy, then what do you make of that response?

What would it have been like to read this novel in parts? Does Dickens use the serial form to build suspense in his readers? If so, in what cases?

The last two questions come from this site, which asks many questions about the story as it related to The Pickwick Papers.

Illustration by the incomparable George Cruikshank.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Living in the world.

For excellent lesson plans in seventh and eighth grade geography, try this Alabama site, which includes a wide variety of specific standards and approaches. And click here for the National Geographic GeoBee quizzes.

Follow the full cycle of a drop of water at this USGS site. Or, if you home learner cannot answer the questions in this quiz, make use of the site's study guides.

How is a fossil formed? This UK site provides a visual and textual analysis.

Friday, January 25, 2008

E. started reading this on the way home from her sister's rehearsal and couldn't stop, so we take a brief pause before returning to Dickens. This is a perfect text for seventh graders who feel like they don't fit in. And here is the excellent middle school book list from the Junior Library Guild.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This week, we are attending, observing, and volunteering at the rehearsals for the Eldorado Children Theater's production of Oliver!
Now that E. has seen the play and is familiar with the characters, she's begun reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and simply can't put it down. As a former English teacher (who holds a Ph.D. in Literature) I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to introduce kids to the classics so that they are open to a different experience of the world. "The past if a foreign country," as L.P. Hartley said in The Go-Between. "They do things differently there."
By reading authors such as Eliot, Austen, and Dickens, kids also become more open to a broader vocabulary and new diction. Here is a good site that lays out a strong English lesson plan for seventh graders and includes Oliver Twist on its reading list for "high ability seventh grade."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stanford Wong...

...Flunks Big-Time is by one of E's current favorite authors, Lisa Yee, who also wrote Millicent Min, Girl Genius and So Totally Emily Ebers. E's assignment for this book is to come up with her own lesson plan and study guide, which we will post soon.
It’s not that I don’t like Yin-Yin’s dim sum – I love it. But it would be suicide to be seen at school with weird-looking food. I flop down on the couch next to my grandmother with a plate piled high with cha siu bao and ha gow. She reaches for one of the fluffy white pork buns without even taking her eyes off the television. I picked up a ha gow and bite into a shrimp. Someone on television is about to win a “fabulous prize!” Too bad it’s not me.

Essay question.

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne was published in 1927 and consists of 35 children's verses. After researching the illustrator, E. H. Shepard, tell us whether you prefer his take on the characters or the current Disney version...and why.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cricket in Times Square.

excellent lesson plan base line of how to do exactly that.

Here's a good site on Chinese cricket culture.

And this is our lesson plan aimed at a seventh grade grasp of practical business:

The family that Chester ends up living with owns a newspaper stand in a New York City subway station. The business is not very profitable until Chester becomes famous for his singing.

What does it take to start and run a business? Present your findings in visual and written form. You may gather information from books, magazines, web sites, books, and interviews. List your sources in bibliographical format. Before starting, write three questions about your topic (for instance, don’t forget why, how, what, where, and who). When writing the report, make sure you have a strong beginning, plenty of information in the middle, and a compelling conclusion.
At Project GUTS, E. is learning to program software and one approach has been plotting "ingress and egress." Soon she will post results, and a link to her blog through SFI. ]]Coming soon![[

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WWII, British children's perspective.

E. wanted to re-read Goodnight, Mr. Tom, which she read last year, and so we're reviewing some aspects of World War II. Here is a site that provides excellent background reading for the book. Here, BBC provides letters of children who were evacuated to the countryside during the Blitz. Here is BBC's rationing challenge. This site also provides text and photographs for background on the Blitz.

For broader emotional context--such as "this is the sort of thing that grownups were coping with in Britain during the War"--this BBC site has an informative overview (including a good map, which always helps us) of the rescue at Dunkirk. Here is BBC's overall lesson plan page regarding what life was like for children during the War. And Masterpiece Theater did a powerful rendition of the book.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Using AP tests as lesson plans.

"These vase paintings were made in Athens about fifty years apart. Place them in the correct chronological sequence and state the reasons for your decision."

This question came from the site. (Scroll down on the right hand side to "Free-Response Questions.")

The assignment was: Using Gardner's Art Through The Ages, write a five-minute essay to answer the question posed. We dropped E. off at the local library; she had to locate the textbook and research the answer by herself. The results are great, and we're going to use this technique frequently. In addition to learning a subject, the approach helps kids become more self-sufficient at research...and at coping with the dreaded "essay question."

Here is the Metropolitan Museum's excellent online site for further research on Athenian vase painting.
If you prefer that your home learner NOT spend time playing video games, which is an absolute around here, you might consider Sudoku. We couldn't explain the concept to E. because it's not a puzzle format with which we're familiar, but she re-read the instructions until she got it, and now...she's hooked.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What exactly is an adaptation?

Turn Turn Turn

Sung by The Byrds
Written by Pete Seeger, lyrics adapted from the Bible (Book of Ecclesiastes)

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
We went to see Pete Seeger: The Power of Song last week as part of our examination of civil disobedience, since Seeger certainly did his share of that in his life and songs.

No matter what your political persuasion, it's a compelling movie because it not only captures the essence of the sixties but is informative about early environmental protests and the era of protest about the Vietnam War. Here's a link to the NY Times review.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Farther than Santa Fe?"

This week we read The Green Glass Sea, part historical novel and part coming-of-age tale, and take a field trip to the Bradbury Science Museum. The book follows two seemingly very different girls during World War II. Both end up at Los Alamos, where their parents are working on top-secret projects for the government. To the rest of the world in the 1940s, this is a place that simply did not exist.
Here in PDF format is the Scholastic teacher's guide for the book.
E. suggests that this book makes a good comparison to Thin Wood Walls by David Pataneude.