Teaching and Tasties

Delicious eats and daring, death-defying teaching feats

The discovery of wikis… December 7, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 4:51 pm

I always knew wikis existed, but I did not know their educational potential until recently.  As a Spanish teacher, we do SO many projects, which I love.  It lets the kids really push themselves and think and write and do outside the box.  So I was thinking back on my techie camp and came across wikispaces, a wiki that gives free space for educators.  I figured, what the heck?  Nothing to lose on this one…

At this point, I have create 3 assignments for one class.  The first, a group project, went well, but not as well as I wanted.  The benefit of the wikis is that anyone can edit them from anywhere.  For my site, it only allows those I have invited, which makes it extra safe for the kids!

Our most recent project was a weather report.  I would say, in general, it went really well – until a student decided not to follow directions. (BIG surprise there!)  I made a page for each kid, but he decided that instead of editing his personal page, he was going to edit the main page, the one with all the directions.  Lo and behold, my directions are all gone, as are the connections to all the other students’ pages.  THANKFULLY, he is a bit behind and chose to do his project after everyone else had turned theirs in!

What is great for me, and potentially sucks for the kids, is that I can see their every move!!  In fact, they can see what everone else does too…they just aren’t quite quick enough to figure that out.  (Man I love these kids!)

Checking upI can hit the “history” tab at any time and see who edited what, at what time and what he/she added or deleted.  So for a group project, when a kid says he did all the work…I can really verify it!  I think it definitely holds the kids a bit more accountable.

Our new project should be interesting.  The kids are to draw a monster, person, being, etc. and write a paragraph describing it.  They post the paragraph on the wiki and a friend draws what they imagine from reading the paragraph.  The picture is then posted and so is the original.  The two get together to compare and contrast, which is also posted.  It’s great, because the page is easy to set up and the directions are right on the page:

picture-11Sometimes I create the pages for the kids and other times I let them.  I think this time, they will get to start the page.  It will be a test in following directions, as they will need to make sure the page shows up in the right place!

Since this is the third project they have done, I am hoping they can move a bit quicker (ha) and get this done in the 2 weeks before break.

Pray for me!!


Día de los Muertos November 3, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 5:31 pm

As a Spanish teacher, it is very difficult to pass this time of year without talking about Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.  Of course, many of my students have no clue what this is, but they do know it has something to do with candy and sugar.  Usually at this time of year, the extra credit assignment, after discussing the holiday, is to bake pan de muertos, dead bread, which is usually dry and basically horrendous – mostly due to the fact that it is made by 12 year olds!  This year, in my quest to stray away from foods (less worries of allergies and less wasted resources), I found this really cute idea of a skull pillow (which of course I cannot find again to save my life!!)  Skeletons, calaveras, are dressed up in a variety of costumes and offer resemble people who have died.  Perfect!

My students were instructed to create a small felt pillow in the shape of a skull.  Th

e directions were simple and this was not too costly.  I reminded them that they could use old t-shirts or pillowcases that were going to be donated or thrown out, or any inexpensive fabrics.  This also didn’t involve a sewing machine, as thick thread is used for effect.  The only other requirement was that the skull MUST include something that helped me identify it – a sport the student enjoys, his/her favorite colors, etc.

Out of 45 kids, I received about 15 projects.  This was actually a total shocker…way more than I expected.  Not only were they totally cute, but I could tell that some of the kids really took the time to figure out how to make the calavera look like them.  I even had one student put her dog’s name, as he died this past year.  How thoughtful!

They turned out totally cute and the kids were so excited, they even wanted to share and talk about why they chose to do what they did.  I swear, it was pretty much as close to teac

her heaven as I could get 🙂

Here are a few examples:


Traveling tales October 22, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 1:45 am

So it is almost the end of 1st quarter, and the traveling isn’t getting any easier.  Besides being on the cart and in four classrooms for four periods, I also have to deal with getting back and forth to the elementary to teach the 4th and 5th graders.  I think that traveling wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I was so used to having my own classroom.  To go from having my own space and my own room, to sharing 3 different classrooms is driving me insane!  I am extremely organized, yet I can’t seem to get it together.  Maybe my system just isn’t good?

The other issue is the problem of the elementary school.  While I think the kids are totally cute and we do have a decently good time together (as they find just about EVERYTHING amusing), it is very trying.  I walk into another teacher’s classroom and the kids all of a sudden believe that they don’t have to follow classroom rules.  Besides, I see them for 25 min, 2 times a week.  Not much I can do with that.  In fact, many of them call me the name of last year’s teacher.  Oh well.  I just don’t even know how to deal with them.

I love the middle schoolers – I can be sarcastic and joke with them and we can create a relationship.  I don’t get that with the elementary.  It is just a burden and takes me away from the more important things in my life – the middle schoolers.  I hope that this is not a permanent thing…or I may have to find a new job 😦


Getting to know you… September 12, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 12:05 am

A week down and the kids are still TOTALLY in love with this project.  I have kids that come in and tell me about what they are doing at home with their best friend.  One kid came in today and told me how bored Pepe was.  He was really disappointed that he couldn’t keep his friend entertained!!!

I am still not totally sure how this will all pan out, but I think I have decided to do a short interview (3-5 questions) for each section of the textbook.  While I don’t love following the textbook, it does give a great skeleton for the year.  This is also a way to informally assess how the students are doing.  The first entrevista (interview) was only worth 10 points, with 2 points for creativity and 2 for turning the assignment in on time.  It was interesting to see how kids did and what they found difficult.

As the year winds down, I will have them begin to piece everything together to create a PowerPoint, movie, website or poster.  They actually seem excited at the prospect.  We will spend the last week or so having the kids present their friends and share pretty much everything they learned over the year.  More than anything, this has turned into a great assessment tool – almost like a portfolio.


A Year Long Project. September 7, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 1:13 pm

Well, the project has been instated.  No turning back now!  I told the kids about it and I got the typical moaning and groaning.  Too bad!!  Once the kids were introduced to the “New Best Friends”, however, I heard nothing but hysterical laughing and possibly, yes possibly, excitement.  While I’m not sure they are overjoyed at the prospect of a year long assignment, they definitely got a kick out of their new best friends.  They actually thought I was bringing new people into the class!  Too funny.  I made them line up in a random order and then I walked down the line with pieces of construction paper with their friends on them.  Kids picked without looking and then sat down.  When everybody had a person, they all looked at the same time.  What a roar of laughter.  I gave them 5 seconds to trade.  I can’t imagine why they would want to trade any of these people for others:

I guess if my new friends looked like these, I would be laughing too!  Good thing I introduced this at the way end of class because they were gone after that.  Well, let’s see what happens!

Here’s the project.


A year long project? September 4, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 12:49 am

I am feeling like a first year teacher all over again.  This is my fourth year at the same school, teaching the same subject to the same grades…yet without a classroom of my own I feel totally helpless.  I know others do it all the time, but to spend three years with my own classroom and then **poof** it’s gone.  :> sigh.

In order to keep my sanity and make myself feel better, I have resorted to creating lots of new projects and fun things for the kids and myself.  Some might say this is craziness and will only make matters worse, but I think it will help me stay focused and make sure I do great things for the kids.

So my new idea is sort of a year long project on someone.  Rather, a random clipart picture that the kids will pull from a hat.  This will be their new friend, who they have to learn and share everything about.  It is almost like having a pen pal but not quite.  So as we start the year with greetings and introductions.  The kids will start to write from the perspective of their friend.  As each theme passes, they will write more and more.  I haven’t quite gotten farther than that…but I think the end goal is to have a book or something of the sort.  The kids always write about themselves, which I love – it helps me get to know them – but I feel like some kids don’t do well with that.  They don’t like who they are (especially in middle school) or they are embarassed about their family or something.

I haven’t decided if this will be done paper and pencil style or if, perhaps, each kid will create a wiki or a webpage with iWeb (it is SO easy to use and always looks amazing).  Maybe they could do something in Comic Life?  I guess I will have to see as we go, but I guess I should figure out the start since they will be picking people tomorrow!!!  When I have this thing figured out, I will post it in hopes of some help…


Back to School August 27, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 1:12 am

Well, tomorrow it’s official!  Back to school I go.  I think I am excited, but like every other first year, I am SO nervous.  After two days of professional development, I still don’t think I’m ready.  Of course, it doesn’t help that the computer lab will be absolutely, completely booked for three weeks for MAPs testing.  Gotta love the state and its’ testing.  Really.  So…I have to figure out what to do about my most amazing wiki project ever…OK…maybe not most amazing, but I was really excited about it.  I think that I can find a way to work it out, but, as always, a pain in the butt.

I had a bit of a spat with the French teacher, as she thought the fact that I was giving “Welcome Back Sacks” to my 6th graders would be divisive within our department and would cause trouble in the school.  Whatever.  I’m pretty sure she is just a bit crazy.  Once I explained everything, all was well.  Too bad she is almost 50 and still acts like she’s 12.

Since I don’t have a classroom this year, I have a great cart with all sorts of drawers and such.  I am not excited about not having a classroom, but my cart is pretty rockin’.  If nothing else, I will make the best of it and see where that gets me.  Between travelling to our elementary schools to teach and roaming the school on a cart, I am on my way to a great year.  If this was a high school, I think I would be more understanding…but in a middle school?  And I’m the only one!!!

Well, here’s to the start of the new year!