Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekly Preview: 9/26-9/30, 2011

Happy Homecoming Week! Fairfield Middle School is getting into the spirit of the week with lots of different celebrations. Don't forget dress-up days: Cowboy/Camo Day (Monday), Clash Day (Tuesday), Retro Day (Wednesday), Hat Day (Thursday), and Orange/Black Day (Friday). We'll end the week with a big pep assembly to get pumped up for the high school football game that night. Go Trojans!

Aside from Homecoming activities, here's more of what will be going on in room 101 this week:

6th, 7th, & 8th grade GOAL: Monday, students will finish their jam comics and their panel lotteries. Tuesday is Library Day. From Wednesday through Friday, students will work with comic activities that tie with the book The Arrival by Shaun Tan, writing captions, showing passage of time in comics, and an activity called Sum of Its Parts.

7th Language Arts: Final drafts of "If I Were Mayor" essays are due Monday. We'll also take the pretest for spelling unit 4 on Monday. Pretest corrections and book p. 34 (1-20) are due Wednesday. For the rest of the week, we'll dive into the Ideas trait of writing which will culminate in a piece of writing that ties in with the book The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups. More details to come on that assignment.

Week 5 Spelling Words

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Picture of the Winning Moment!

Today we surprised @kinnick72's 9am language arts class ... on Twitpic


The following explains the fantastic events of today! More media footage to come in the next few days, but you'll get the idea here:

It's not every day a 7-foot dog with green spots is seen outside of a terrible nightmare, but Friday in Tena Nelson's classroom at Fairfield Middle School, a 7-foot dog with green spots named Click made some dreams come true.

After receiving an e-mail earlier in the year forwarded to her from Principal Laura Atwood, Tena entered her class in a contest sponsored by Windstream Communications. Windstream provides DSL internet, phone service, and digital television to its customers, and their contest, called Windstream Connects: SchoolsWIN, was created to give back to schools and communities across the nation.

Applicants were asked to join through Facebook and/or Twitter. They were asked what they would use $1000 for in their classrooms and what kind of challenge they would have for Click the Dog if their school was chosen. Miss Nelson wrote, "Budget cuts are killing our students' access to technology! I'd love to have 2 iPads to share to allow students to skype with authors, create online presentations, and to write their own blogs... and, that's just the beginning! I want to help create 21st century citizens, but I need the hardware to do it! Come to Fairfield Middle School in Fairfield, IA! My students have been debating issues in class this week... feel like getting into a heated debate about mandatory dress code, Click?"

Superintendent Art Sathoff and Principal Laura Atwood were notified on Thursday that Fairfield Middle School's entry to the contest had been chosen and that Tena Nelson's classroom would be receiving $1000. On Friday morning, the Windstream Classroom Caravan pulled up outside Fairfield Middle School, and Click the dog, Windstream's loyal mascot, jumped out to greet the practicing FMS Marching Band.

Click and the Windstream crew visited Miss Nelson's classroom and presented her with a check for $1000. Since Click neither speaks nor wears clothes over his fur, the debate about dress code was dropped and replaced with an impromptu dance celebration. Miss Nelson hopes to use the money to purchase as least one, hopefully two, iPads for classroom use on a variety of projects. Before leaving the building, the Windstream group met many students throughout FMS and informed them that they were now eligible for a 25,000 prize if they document a community service project and upload the video to their website. Footage of Friday's events can be seen soon on the Windstream website at

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

7th Grade Trip to Camp Dodge

Last Friday, our entire 7th grade class took a trip to Camp Dodge in Des Moines. Watch the video to see their adventures! Thanks to the great Ms. Mangler for putting this movie together!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekly Preview 9/19-9/23, 2011

It was a great weekend to be a Hawkeye fan... hope your teams did well too! Here's what's happening this week in room 101:

6th, 7th, 8th grade GOAL: We're continuing our comics, cartoons, & graphic novels unit. Monday we'll be sharing our pictureless comics. Tuesday is library day, but we'll pick up again on Wednesday to work on a panel lottery class comic. As time allows this week, we'll work on jam comics and a tie-in to the book The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Out of these comics, students will be choosing one that they wish to take to the final draft stage as a representation of what they learned in this unit. Students attending the comics conference in Iowa City on October 5 (signup will be available on Tuesday; there are 25 spots) will be taking that final draft to swap, in addition to it being for their unit reflection. 6th grade journal letters are due Wednesday, 7th grade journal letters are due Thursday, and 8th grade journal letters are due Friday.

7th Language Arts: Since the entire 7th grade was gone last Friday, on Monday we'll take last week's posttest AND this week's pretest. Pretest corrections and book p. 28 are due Wednesday. "If I Were Mayor" essays are due Wednesday for teacher edit. Final drafts will be due next Monday.

Week 4 Spelling Words
dining room
word processing
pencil sharpener
study hall

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How I Look at Teaching Reading

This article from The New York Times discusses my philosophy of teaching reading... let the students choose the books! The first book I ever hated in my life was a whole class novel. Those weeks of being forced to read The Hobbit were pure torture, and they affected how I look at the fantasy genre to this day. I hope my students will become lifelong readers, and I believe independent book choice is the way to do that.

Thanks, Book Whisperer, for posting this article on Facebook tonight, so I could share it with all of you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

She Knows Me Too Well!

This was on the board today in Mrs. Kaska's room. I made her Daily "Pun"ishment! I guess it sometimes pays to be a Drama Queen! :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GREAT Opportunity!

I just received word about this FREE event this Sunday in Coralville for elementary & middle school students. Check it out... it looks great for kids into science, math, and engineering!

Here's the website:

Here's the information:

On Sept. 18, elementary and middle school students and their families will simulate a Hazmat decontamination, play "Blood, Guts, and Healing" on a wii console, operate robotics, and take part in many other hand-on activities at Iowa's first iExploreSTEM.

Held at the State Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville from 1 to 5 p.m. , iExploreSTEM is a free festival created to encourage student involvement in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

"Probably every economic assessment written in the last 50 years concludes that growth comes from innovation, and that most innovation derives from STEM-related advances," said Gina Schatteman, Ph.D., Director of iExploreSTEM and associate professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Iowa.

The festival is a collaborative brainchild of Schatteman and leaders at the Hygienic Lab and Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership (IMSEP). The idea grew out of the first USA Science and Engineering Festival held in 2010 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. IMSEP was a participant at that event and will co-sponsor iExploreSTEM with the Hygienic Laboratory.

More than 40 iExplore activities are designed to engage students in activities that will encourage them to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in these fields.

"The stagnant performance of U.S. students suggests that we are not creating a new generation of innovators," Schatteman said. "This bodes poorly for economic growth in the US in general and Iowa in particular. Fortunately, we have a strong culture of innovation and a supportive education system, so this course is not irreversible if we act now."

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that the number of STEM occupations will increase by 17 percent in the next seven years, compared to an increase of 9.8 percent for non-STEM occupations.

Most jobs now require some level of STEM knowledge, according to Schatteman. These include firefighters who need a working knowledge of chemistry for Hazmat duties; farmers who rely on math and economics to decide what to plant and when to sell their crops; and emergency medical technicians who use their knowledge of physiology.

"To be competitive for 21st-century jobs, students must have a strong foundation in STEM," Schatteman said. Unfortunately, once the world leader in STEM education, the U.S. is now in the middle of the pack and falling fast in international rankings. Iowa students used to be the best in the nation, but now rank in the middle by some measures. How will our kids be able to compete for jobs in a global economy?"

More information about iExploreSTEM is available online at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Drama Club

First Drama Club of the year today... awesome group! This year (because we no longer have week 1 & week 2), Drama Club will meet on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays after school from 3:40-5:00. Grades 6-8 are welcome! Spread the word!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Preview: 9/12-9/16, 2011

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since 9/11. I remember where I was that day... I was running late for professional development at the high school, and I saw the second plane hit right before running out the door. I'd never been so scared for my country in my whole life as I was that day. We must all continue to talk about 9/11... to remember for those who are too young to remember on their own.

And now to what's happening in room 101 this week:

6th, 7th, 8th grade GOAL: We're continuing our exploration of comics, cartoons, and graphic novels this week. We're reading a bunch, and then we're going to do some activities that lead up to us creating our own. This is out of the comfort zone of many students... and their teacher! Click on this link for a great resource that we'll be using extensively for our comics unit. Tuesday is Library Day. 6th grade journal letters are due Wednesday, 7th grade journal letters are due Thursday, and 7th grade journal letters are due Friday.

7th Language Arts: We'll start with spelling. After Monday's pretest, corrections and page 22 (1-22) will be due on Wednesday. For the rest of the week, we'll be working on our "If I Were Mayor" essays. We'll be typing, conferencing, and fixing draft 2, thereby making draft 3! Some students will be ready to hand in draft 3 for teacher edit. Others will need further drafting and correcting because we're all in different places when it comes to learning to write. Essays will be due for teacher edit at the end of the period on Friday.

Week 3 Spelling List

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Weekly Preview: 9/6-9/9, 2011

I hope you all had a great long Labor Day weekend. We're ready to jump into another week here at FMS!

6th, 7th, & 8th grade GOAL: Tuesday is our first library day, so we'll be refreshing our memories about all the procedures and rules of the library. Then, students will have a chance to check out and read books. Journal letters will be due this week (Wednesday for 6th grade, Thursday for 7th grade, and Friday for 8th grade). They may be written about the read aloud book or about the students' individual reading contract books. On Wednesday, we'll be in the computer lab learning about our class wiki and how to use it. Thursday and Friday, we'll be starting our comics, cartoons, and graphic novels unit.

7th Language Arts: A short week means quicker spelling. We'll take the Week 2 pretest on Tuesday, and the assignment (p. 16, 1-20) will be due on Wednesday. The posttest will be Friday. We'll be working on writing our "If I Were Mayor" essays for the rest of the week. Rough drafts will be due Thursday at the end of class. Friday, we'll go through a group self-revision so we'll be ready to type next week.

Week 2 Spelling Words