This is an old post. I am slowly rebuilding my blog from when I forgot to update my blog hosting and lost everything I had written. Thankfully I had it all backed up! This post is from April 2011! Wow! That was a long time ago!
One of the things I appreciate the most about middle school students is their randomness. With that in mind, here is a random story from this week in my classroom.
Each week I have my students complete their Writing Explorations on various topics (e.g. family, entertainment, joy and sadness). Every third or fourth week I give them Free Choice.
Every Monday I have mini conferences with the students and we talk about their Writing Explorations. The discussions are insightful and fun: I actually look forward to Mondays!
Two students in my fourth period class told me they “just wrote random stuff.” I asked them individually, “What is the most random thing you wrote.”
Puzzled look with the sound of an empty roller coaster.
Puzzled look morphs into an excited look as they skim through their writing and proudly show off their randomness.
I then had them write the randomness down because it was too funny, and err, random!
By the end of the class period, both students came up and asked if they could have a “Randomness Competition.”
They wanted to challenge each other to see who could write the most random things throughout our Spring Break. Three pages of Randomness was their self selected challenge.
I love the excitement these two students, who are reluctant writers, have for their challenge. They even suggested I do it for the entire class.
I think I have my “Returning To School On a Monday Morning After a Week Long Break Writing Assignment.
I cringe every time I hear someone say they love the icing on a birthday cake instead of the entire dessert. Remember, it is birthday cake, not birthday icing!
I have the same reaction when someone waxes poetic about Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.
One of my biggest complaints about the Ben and Jerry’s Mafia is that people get excited about everything but the actual ice cream base for any given flavor. I have had countless, sad spoonfuls of oatmeal cookie or waffle cone whenever I eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
There should be more ice cream than cookies, candy, or anything else on my spoon!
The Cinnamon Toast Crunch Ice Cream at Creamistry is an outstanding masterpiece.
At first glance, it does look like there is more cereal than ice cream in this cup, but that is deceptive. Every single bite provides more ice cream than cereal with ratio of about 2-1.
Cinnamon and ice cream are not often put together and I do not know why. Ice cream adds a balancing layer to the nuances inherent cinnamon.
Add some Cinnamon Toast Crunch and you have another layer with crunch…
The sugar on the cereal unifies and binds everything together with joy and a sly smile.
The liquid nitrogen used to immediately freeze the ice cream is essentially novelty, bringing a bit of excitement a simple scoop can not provide.
The real star of the show at Creamistry is the entire package: a tasty scoop of ice cream that will remind you of eating cereal in the living room Saturday mornings while sitting on your couch watching Scooby Do with your grandma.
Music is playing in my class all day; the only exception being when I am talking with students. I believe music to be a calming, comforting tool used in my class.
Many times, my students can tell what mood I am in upon walking into class and hearing either the deceptively soft melodies of Elliot Smith or thespeed and intensity of Anthrax.
I had a professor in college who played concert videos of Yanni, John Tesh, and Celine Dion in between classes. At first, we laughed and mocked her. There was something really odd about watching one of these videos prior to an English 101 class.
One day a friend of mine borrowed one of his mom’s Yanni concert t-shirts and wore it to class, hoping the professor noticed; she did. After the first two weeks of the semester, I began to notice that all of us students were in the lecture hall, sitting in our chairs watching Celine Dion rock out with her electric violinist, at least five minutes before class officially started. (HERE it is, if interested!)
In my iTunes I have a folder called “Instrurock”. Technically, the contents are mostly “Post Rock” (link to wiki). But the great thing about these bands is that, ninety-five percent of the time, there is nsinging.
I generalize this music as being modern versions of Rush‘s “La Villa Strangiato”.rrA key aspect of these bands, in addition to having little to no singing, is that the music is hip enough for the students to not have a Pavlovian negative response to Classical music. I frequently see students tapping their foot with the beat.
Another way in which I use music in my class is as volume control. I point out to my students that there is music playing in Target, yet the workers are still doing their job and people can still talk. My students know that their volume should not go above the volume of the music (of course, there are times when we are louder, much louder; but, that is circumstantial.).
Here is a nice song by Godspeed You! Black Emperor that is representative of the soundtrack in my class while students are writing or working in groups. I particularly like how the song slowly builds to a crescendo, adding subtle layers of nuance: a nice metaphor for writing and creating.