This is an emergency !

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Made ya look!

Actually, I was inspired by the writing of one of my students to do that. It’s a prank. And pranks actually have some value.The assignment was to write a paragraph which included a main idea (to be placed in the last sentence) and three supporting details. This student NAILED it! Such a creative literary work. One of the best I’ve seen.


                If you are touching this paper, you should know that I found it in the trashcan with cockroaches crawling all over it. I’m just kidding! The reason why I said that was that is because that is what pranks do to you. It wakes you up when like when popcorn pops. I walked around half awake and my friends pulled a prank on me and it got my attention. I was like a turtle coming out of its shell. Prank pulling is an activity that uses people’s imagination.  If people are looking for ways to be creative, this should be their way. To me, this world is a harsh world and it would probably be more interesting this way. When I am bored, I always find ways to get myself entertained, but most of the time, I can only think of watching TV. I usually Google what to do, but then I think about pranks and it keeps me entertained. I just spent the whole day thinking of pranks without being bored. By the way, if you just finished reading this paragraph, then you are about to get punched. I’m still joking! Well, prank pulling is really enjoyable to me.


You Know You’re Too Busy When . . .

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Yesterday evening, I received an email from the office that cinnamon rolls would be served this morning at 9 am. I wanted to mark it as unread to make SURE that I didn’t miss out on this most cherished of events. As anyone who knows me, it doesn’t take much to make me content or overjoyed. I often repeat the old saying, it’s the little things in life.

Examples of such little things would include a cup of coffee; a student who suddenly “gets it”; a student who laughs at my stupid jokes; when I drive through the city without hitting a single moto . . .  I could go on.

So, the simple cinnamon roll was the thing that gave me renewed joy throughout the evening. I’m quite sure that I had some wonderful dreams throughout the night, as well. I just can’t PROVE it, though, because I never can remember my dreams. Unless they involve falling off a cliff into a pool of piranhas or something. On the way to school I was utterly oblivious to the wonderful reflex-challenging moto drivers cutting in front of me at every opportunity. Again, simply because of my focus on those gooey delights.

And so the day began with our regular class devotional time, which was followed by a long speech by myself to the class on what we would be doing for the day. Essentially, we would be doing some semi-final preparations for our BIG Bible play. We had boxes to spray paint and props to design. We had boxes of costumes to pilfer through and walls to paint.

Before I knew what was happening, I was running around like a chicken that wished its head would get chopped off. Some of the more mature students were outside by themselves spray painting. Some of the boys were making props in the classroom, while others were lining up Zenya bottles along the walls. Still others were cleverly acting like they were doing something, when I know full well they were not. I opted for the old, Don’t ask, Don’t tell policy.

At some unknown point during this flurry of activity, I swear that I had seen a blur (resembling my wife) go by and set 2 cinnamon rolls on my desk.

My fingers hurt from typing right now, and I sense that whatever readers have made it this far, are about to check out – so I’ll try to bring this to a close.

At some point after lunch, approaching 1 pm, I joined my wife for coffee and cinnamon rolls in the quiet, sanctuary known as the staff lounge. Lesley Weiss was there, too. She was lying down on the sofa and appeared to be near comatose. “How ya doin’ Lesley?”

She mustered her strength to turn her head, and she raised her limp hand a few inches from the floor as she smiled just a bit. Not sure if she even said anything. We were both in our happy places.

It’s the little things in life.

A Sneak Peek: 6th grader novels (2010-2011)

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This is my bittersweet time of year. The 6th graders are deep into their novel rough drafts and I am bursting with pride at their accomplishments – yet I see this as the sad beginning of the end! Soon they will be signing books (by the hundreds?) out in front of the school and bragging about how they’re going to be 7th graders! Next thing I know . . . they’ll be gone. From room 305, that is. For now, I want everyone to see some of the ideas that they’ve come up with in their stories. Here are some excerpts:

Here is a fine example of setting the scene in an exposition. The author has chosen a story that will appeal to kids her age.

The year was 2003, and the 4th graders were having their annual camp. “Ring! Ring!” Everybody was to be in class by now . Ms. Andy went to the front of the class and said,” I have exciting news for you guys. Next week we’re going to camp in the forest!” The students jumped out of their seats and did the happy dance. There were two girls that just got out of control, and their names were Amanda and Heather. They were best friends. Amanda always wore glasses because she had an eye problem, and Heather always wore a headband to school.

This next excerpt is from a story about a teenager who is investigating some peculiar disappearances in a Japanese town. I found some terrific descriptions here – an area we’ve been working on all year.

. . . From that day on we had been going everywhere together, and finding proof, but deep inside we had a fear. Fear of getting killed, fear of our plan failing, and fear of our loved ones disappearing. Well, one day our fear came true. We were walking in the park when three of those monsters ambushed us. There was nowhere for us to run – we were just standing there paralyzed as the enemy advanced toward us. And then Ryutaro started to shimmer, “What’s happening to me!” he screamed as he turned into a monster too. But unlike the other, his color wasn’t black, but blue. His hands were tentacles instead of scythes, his feet had sharp claws and were webbed, and his face was that of a wolf.

“Fitting in” is a HUGE issue for middle-schoolers. The next piece was taken from a story that deals with that very subject. This was very well written.

She saw a lot of girls hanging out at the mall. Cloe thought to act the same, but first of all she needed to buy the things she needed in order to fit in the group. She bought things like perfume, clothes, nail polish, to mention just a few. When she got home, she quickly put them on, and then went downstairs to see what her mom thought of it all.

“How do I look mom?”

“Wow! You look different.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“I guess so…”

So Cloe went out with her new look and everybody seemed to like it. She went to a coffee shop and all the girls came running toward her.

“Wow! You look amazing!” one of the girls told Cloe.

“Well thank you!”

“This is our group’s phone number. If you ever think of joining us, you can call , but you don’t have to decide now.”

“I don’t need to call you because I will answer you now, and I will surely join your group!” shouted Cloe excitedly.

MILITARY ACTION ! This is the kind of heart-pounding description that causes 6th grade boys to become completely oblivious as they read page after page inside their desks as important math concepts are being taught.

. . . A couple of seconds later, there were a series of explosions coming from the area where the smoke grenade had ended up. Phew! A strange whirring noise could be heard, and we turned around – only to discover that there was an immense tank about 15 yards away! Slowly, its turret turned towards our us and fired. Kah-BLAM !!! Dust was sent flying everywhere, blinding us all. Moments later, there was another explosion which sent Kent flying against a wall. Brown got up to rescue Kent, but there were soldiers headed towards them. Allen and I took out our sidearms and started to fire at this new enemy threat. Later, Brown arrived with Kent. We all turned and ran away from the soldiers. But like in a bad war movie, Kent tripped over a large log, and as Brown, Allen, and I started to help him, we could hear the crunching of the soldier’s boots close by.

By the time we got Kent up, we knew that we were surrounded. One of the soldiers barked at us to put our hands on top of our heads and drop our weapons. Before any of us complied, I managed to sneak an instant smoke grenade into my palm. While we raised our hands,  I lobbed the grenade towards the soldiers and POOF!! The grenade exploded sending up a gigantic plume of black smoke which temporarily blinded all of the Guragas soldiers. Fortunately, we had heat vision goggles, so we could see the other soldiers very clearly. We drew our melee knives and started to slash and cut our way through the mass of soldiers. Those who were left thought that we were still there so they started to shoot rapidly at each other. There was horrible screaming in pain and agony going on, but the other soldiers thought that it was us who were in agony; instead it was their team mates. How ironic.

From a story about two schoolgirls whose minds are switched comes this predicament. While passing notes in class in an effort to let each other know how they are “supposed to act” in their new conditions, the teacher becomes suspicious . . .

While the teacher was talking, Christina freaked out because she was afraid she would be found out; Stella is inside her body. Stella was abnormally quiet so Ms. Cale remarked, “Wow~! It’s your first time to not cry in front of me!”

“Of course. I’m not afraid of you at all,” Stella replied. Christina was giving a sign not to act like that , but Stella just couldn’t stay still because Ms. Cale was saying inappropriate words. Suddenly Stella stood up and shouted at her. The teacher freaked out and teacher thought that she was dreaming because Stella never acted like that. Christina rudely walked out of the room and Christina was crying, so everyone was staring at them and thought they were weird.

A young girl is plagued by recurring nightmares which began after the mysterious disappearance of her father. Later, she is transported to a strange world through a magical trap door. The particular draft that this has been clipped from appears to be on track to becoming a very thick novel, filled with vivid detail and captivating conflicts.

Dawn looked around. Everything seemed to be covered in dust except the little hut. The warm wind blew across her face, but she still felt tired, hot, and clammy. What happened to the trees? She thought bitterly. She was standing in the middle of a dirt road, and everything appeared to be treacherous to her.

The hut, thought Dawn. Is the hut a good place to ask for help or somewhere she should keep away from? She slumped to the ground and put her head in her hands and cried. She wished for anything that could take her away from this horrid unfamiliar place. Then she heard a crackling voice, sharp as thunder saying, “Chosen One, arise!”

Dawn gave a yelp and looked up. She couldn’t see anything clearly, for the strong rays of the sun were beating down on the atmosphere, but she could identify an old woman-like feature.

A hiking trip for 6 teenagers turns bizarre in this developing story which is rich with vivid descriptions.

“This way guys,” said William. He had hiked in the forest of Terra before, so he knew a magnificent place to set up tents. As the teenagers followed him, they gazed out at the beautiful scenery. They glanced at the squirrels and chipmunks in types of trees that they had never seen before. They passed a couple of rocky creeks and probably a hundred tall strong trees. William led the group to the banks of a river where they spotted some extraordinarily beautiful fish. This seemed a marvelous place to set up the tents, yet a weird feeling came over Alicia.

Alicia started thinking about why she had been so late that morning. She wondered why the van had gotten stuck on the way to the forest of Terra. She pondered why her dog would not let go of her leg earlier. She wondered why a weird feeling had fallen over her. “There must be a reason to this,” she thought . . .

The forest suddenly plunged into darkness and the feelings of each teenager turned from excitement to fright. Alicia was the most frightened of all.

“What’s going on!?” Alice screamed raucously. After she said that, a moon appeared out of the sky, a red one.

“Alice, I don’t know, but this has to be a horrible omen!”

“Walking on the path of God led to eternity”

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This simple sentence was penned by a student that struggles (albeit valiantly) with the English language.

I was doing a mini-lesson on how to use key words in a cause and effect paragraph. I would model the particular keyword in a sentence on the whiteboard, and then students would quickly try to come up with a sentence of their own.

Here was their prompt:

Walking on ___________ led to __________ .

This particular girl (who typically stays under the radar) raised her hand high and I called on her. She read these words: “Walking on the path of God led to eternity”

I will cherish the sentence for years to come.

The Infamous Phnom Penh Flood

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I like to look at silver linings where I can. Making the best of a bad situation is a fantastic coping strategy here in Cambodia. We recently were inundated with rainwater, and it has made life more difficult for some – downright miserable for others. I wanted to get students writing about their perspectives on the whole ordeal. Yet, I wanted to do so with a twist.

Yesterday evening they were told to write about it in their journals. But they needed to be thinking about some vocabulary words they were given this week. The words are as follows: infamous, catastrophe, and embellish. Here is one student’s embellished perspective:

Wow! This flood made everybody hard to arrive. It was infamous. Every moto stopped because of so much water. Some of the cars had been stopped too, and people were pushing them. Dirty water made all the germs get on peoples bodies causing disease. Everybody hated it and the next day it was still flooded. It came up to my neck. So I had to swim to school with smelly water.

When I got back at school all my pants and shirt were like somebody threw up on it. The same with my friends. But when I got to class I saw Mr. Bridell with a nice shirt and nice pants. I was thinking, why aren’t his clothes wet? and when I asked him he said that he took an airplane and flew. It was SHOCKING because how come he had money to ride an airplane to school. When school ended, I swam back to my house.

Nice writing job. But, of course, you know me – I just can’t resist writing some comments of my own. Here’s my counter-embellishment to answer the question of how I was able to fly to school, thus keeping my clothes dry:

The day of the flood, my car had gotten trapped in the stinky, rising water. It carried the ’91 Camry all the way down to the airport. There, the vehicle came to its resting place in front of a Red Cross relief plane. They had empathy for me and said that I could ride in their plane to wherever I needed to go.

As the small aircraft approached the school, the captain said, “Out you go!” I was expecting them to land on the soccer field, but they told me it would be far too dangerous. Instead, they pushed me out the door as we flew over the school. Fortunately, I landed on the top of that coconut tree which grows just outside the cafeteria next to the infamous room 305. I bounced off the fronds and into the waiting (here’s personification, boys and girls) arms of the cafeteria. Just another typical day in Cambodia.

Making the most of semicolons (read on, it’s not what you think)

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The new 6th grade group has nowhere to go; indeed, they can neither run nor hide.

To that, I can only say, “MWahahahahah !!”

Did you notice the cleverly placed semicolon in that first sentence? As I told the students,
even high school and college students rarely know how to use this piece of punctuation.
I suggested that they may soon be smarter than a lot of adults when it comes to the semicolon.

The homework assignment was to take a set of words (which are called adverbial conjunctions [and they must remember to NEVER try to remember this horrible term- EVER!]) and place a semicolon before them, and a comma after them. I mentioned that if they, instead of just writing unrelated example sentences, were to actually turn those sentences into a little story, I would be extremely pleased. So pleased that I may not even know what to do with myself.

Among the pages of student journals, I came across this gem:

The octopus was going to get a crab; however, a human took it first. The octopus was very angry; nevertheless, it could go and kill the human; still, it was very hungry for crab. So it found another crab; however, the same human took the crab again. So the octopus found a swordfish; in addition, it threw it at the human; then, the human caught it and said, “Thank you, indeed, my friend.”

The octopus got more angry; however, he couldn’t do anything about it. So the octopus kept on throwing fish and stuff; thus, the human caught it. Soon the human had nowhere to keep the fish; furthermore, he created an aquarium to keep the fish in. Then the human got richer than before; however, the octopus grew more angry than normal. Then the human said, “Who was the one that threw all those fish at me?; thus, I will let you live happily in a tank and get to eat crab every day of your life.”

The octopus heard that; therefore, he was very happy and showed up to the human.The octopus lived happily; nevertheless, he died at an age of 10 years old.


Excerpt from the pages of a future novelist

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As the 6th graders are busily writing their rough drafts for their year-ending novels, I have been telling myself that I won’t begin looking at their works until they get to the final draft stage. Too time-consuming.

Yet I snuck a peek. I had to.

I have already recognized outstanding natural writing talent among several students in the class, and I just had to see what this student was writing – even though she is only in the very early rough draft stages.

Here is the story opening (again, only rough draft):

Tania raced towards the park, her dark hair flying beside her. Only a few more steps, she thought as she ran jumped up the steps and headed towards the bridge. She had to dodge people as they ran, laughed, walked, or played.

And then there it is: The bridge right ahead. The bridge was always one of Tania’s favorites at the park. On both its sides, it was occupied with trees, their bluish flowers, swaying in the wind. There always seems to have a breeze blowing, and the best of all, you could get some snacks on the other side of the bridge and enjoy it, either sitting on the soft green grass, or sitting on the benches.

There was a figure up ahead, sitting on the grass, drinking a milkshake and peering around. Tania put on extra speed feeling as if there was a trail of smoke behind her. “Emily!” she yelled, suddenly collapsing on the ground.

Emily turned. “Tania!” She put down her milkshake and ran over to where Tania lay on the ground, still breathing hard, her face red. Emily laughed. “Get up,” she said gently as she helped her best friend stand and walk.

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