Pandemic Teaching – What’s up?


Responding to the call from Pocketful of Primary to answer questions about how teaching during the pandemic is going.

Week 3 in Distance Learning 2020


I’m still tired. This week, it’s mostly due to poor planning on my part, and things in my family life. Class, that’s settling into a routine. I’m making adjustments as I get feedback from my parents. Mostly it’s about giving kids “breaks” but also transition signals and check-ins to get them or keep them on track. I’m running classes about 30 minutes of direct instruction, then 30+ minutes for them to work independently finishing up work based on what I taught. The direct instruction includes Nearpods or discussions (small group or whole class).

A notable recent moment in the classroom was during the novel I’ve been reading to students, Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid which is part of his Kane Chronicles series based on Egyptian Mythology. I picked the book out because I wanted to find a fun book to start out the school year, and I wanted to have a non-white character, since most of those types of books used in elementary, and most of the novels that have traditionally been used for fourth grade have white characters. I had read the novel to my son when he was younger (but older than 9). The story starts with an explosion at the British Museum, where the Kane family was visiting after hours. Dad is African American Egyptologist. The kids are mixed, their mom was a white British anthropologist, who sadly has died under mysterious circumstances. The police start to question the kids, and the boy (who looks like dad) is getting a harder time than the girl (who resembles her late mom). The characters notice the difference, but even before that, one of my students raised their hand to bring it up.

The student believed that this was because they were Muslim. I had to explain to them that although that would be a problem, it was because of their race, as they are not Muslim and as we’ll find out later, they’re actually practicing a religion that pre-dates Islam, although Islam is the dominant religion in present day Egypt. It was a good intro to world religions, and discussion of racial profiling.  I wasn’t sure how well this novel would work, because it does have a white author, but he actually does an okay job exploring issues of colorism that happen in mixed families. Since a lot of the African American families in our school are mixed, it’s a good topic to explore.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Lesson Plan: Rhyme and Rhythm in Poetry


I’ve started a recent unit on poetry with my class. I’m not a poet, and I’m not a poetry fan (I don’t hate it, but I’m a prose gal), so this makes it harder for me to teach than many other parts of the curriculum. One resource that’s been invaluable is, which, I got from the redoubtable Larry Ferlazzo. Some resources I found are worth sharing so I thought I’d do that. The lesson doesn’t go in the narrative order that I came up with it, but there you have it.

Small Thing Big Idea: How Jump Rope Got Its Rhythm 

This popped up in my Facebook feed, which I guess is an argument in favor of the algorithm, because I wouldn’t have found it otherwise. It’s about the culture of jumprope/handclap rhymes, and their influence on rap music, etc. I wanted them to appreciate the rhymes they already know, and also it emphasizes beat, etc. My only beef is that it’s a Facebook video, which is really problematic to show in school, etc. I had to hook up my phone to the projector. Not everyone has the tech chops to do that.

We then watched the video for Double Dutch Bus, to show an early rap song with clear influences from playground rhymes.

Maya Angelou – Harlem Hopscotch | Genius

Next up, we looked at this phenomenal dance video based on Maya Angelou’s “Harlem Hopscotch”. Once again, it’s a poem/lyric based on playground rhyme.

Gwendolyn Brooks – Poet | Academy of American Poets

Finally we went to Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool” which while not her best, or deepest, fits in well with the rest as a short example of rhythm and rhyme. We talked about syllables/beats, etc.

There are loads of other resources available, which I’ll be using as the unit progresses.
Photo Credit: “Hopscotch” by Skip on Flickr

Bad Hair Day


It’s winter time. It’s cold — okay, not for anyone outside California and Florida, but still — I’m wearing hats in the morning. Lovely knitted hats that I’ve made. This results in a lot of “bad hair days”. I keep a comb, but my follicles, they want to be free! The other day it came in handy…

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Classroom Update #7



While there is much talk about increases in diagnoses of psychological maladies around attention issues and autism among school age students, I’m experiencing a bubble of depression problems in my classroom, that is starting to be troubling. I’m going to stick to generalities so as not to breach privacy, etc. What I will say is that when I first brought it up to a co-worker, they posited something about entitlement and expectations, and I had to share some of the very real stressors these kids are experiencing; a family death, a family health crisis, and a case with hints of family violence in the history. How serious is this? Serious enough that I’ve had concerns about physical safety, and I’ll leave it at that.

But given the high levels of family stress, poverty, etc. that so many of our children live in at this time, I really can’t be surprised. The scary part is that I’m not even in a high poverty school. We have a school psychologist and nurse in one day a week, solely to do assessments related to special education. There is no counselor, social worker, etc. to work with the over 500 students in my school. Lord knows, we could use it.

Image credit: Depression on Flickr

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