Friday, January 27, 2012

What Are We Doing Today? It's A Mystery!

Buenas Tardes Amigo,

I love the literature at the upper elementary level. There are a lot of great authors and a lot of great books. But I love the mystery genre just a little bit more because the introduction to the genre that I do is just a lot of fun.

I start by telling the class that we are here today to catch a murderer. This murderer killed a man in Mexico, and now has come to Kathmandu to steal Lincoln's beard. What's more, the murderer is partially identified in this song, Buenas Tades Amigo (by Ween):

(I realize this is the wrong album cover for the song. The actual album is "Chocolate and Cheese," but this cover is more appropriate to the song, and to the sensibilities of younger viewers)

 I split the song into four parts. At the end of each part each detective team has to guess who the murderer is. 

Part I

Buenas tardes amigo.

Hola, my good friend.

Cinco de Mayo's on Tuesday,
And I hoped we'd see each other again.

You killed my brother last winter.
You shot him three times in the back.
In the night I still hear mama weeping.
Oh mama still dresses in black.

Part II

I looked at every fiesta
For you I wanted to greet.
Maybe I'd sell you a chicken
With poison interlaced with the meat.

You... you look like my brother.
Mama loved him the best.
He was head honcho with the ladies.
Mama always said he was blessed.

Part III

The village all gathered around him.
They couldn't believe what they saw.
I said it was you that had killed him,
And that I'd find you and up stand the law.

The people of the village believed me.
Mama... she wanted revenge.
I told her that I'd see that she was honored.
I'd find you and put you to death.

Part IV

So now... now that I've found you

On this- such a joyous day!
I tell you it was me who killed him,
But the truth I'll never have to say.

Buenas tardes amigo.
Hola, my good friend.
Cinco de Mayo's on Tuesday,
And I hoped we'd see each other again.

Yes, I hoped we'd see each other again. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Phil Clinton

Today my boss and friend resigned as director of Lincoln School.

This post is a tribute to a great man that I've had the privilege to know for the past four years. To paraphrase the words of Michael Scott, "The dictionary defines 'superlative' as 'of the highest kind, quality, or order, surpassing all else or others; supreme.' I define it as Phil Clinton. As a leader, as a man, and as a friend, he is of the highest kind, quality, and order; supreme."

When Phil left Khartoum to come to Nepal, my 5th grade class in Sudan put together this goodbye video for him. Each chapter is written by a different student, and each highlights their country of origin as Mr. Clinton travels around the world in search of his new home, Nepal.

That was a happy good-bye. Phil did so much for that school and community. This one is an incredibly sad good-bye. It is a terrible shame that he wasn't given the opportunity to fulfill his education vision in Kathmandu.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Favorite Poem Project: An Easy, Exciting Way To Show Off Poetry Connections

There are three parts to my year-long poetry unit:

- Connecting with poetry that we read

- Performing poetry

- Writing poetry

There are other parts of this unit that we explore outside of poetry class. One is examining poetic song lyrics for figurative language, and explaining what that means. But those are the main components of any poetry unit I do, regardless of the grade.

For the first one, I use the Favorite Poem Project as a way to show my students how to connect with poetry. We first look at the poem that is featured, then make predictions on the type of person who would connect with the poem, then we watch the featured video, and finally compare our predictions to the personality who actually chose the poem. I do it in this order to show that connecting to a poem doesn't have to be just on the surface. If someone decides to connect with the poem  "I'm Nobody. Who Are You?" by Emily Dickinson, it doesn't necessarily mean the person feels they are nobody. It could be quite the opposite. In fact, in the Favorite Poem Project's case, it could be someone who is so involved in so many different ways, that they long to be 'nobody' for a period of time. In this order, these are the Favorite Poem Project poem connections that are discussed in class:

1) #288 ("I'm Nobody! Who are You?") by Emily Dickinson read by Yina Liang

2) The Sloth by Theodore Roethke read by a 5th Grade Student

3) We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks read by John Ulrich

4) Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer read by Lee Samuel

Now it's true that with the last connection, Lee Samuel likes the poem because he likes baseball. But that is why I do this one last, because by that time the students are way more in-tune with digging deeper into connecting with a poem.

After we go through these poems and connections, it's the students' turn.They find poems that they can connect to, record the poems in their poetry journals, and write how thyey connect with them. Finally, we do our own version of the Favorite Poem Project. Here are the criteria:

1) You should introduce yourself.

2) You should explain why you connect with the poem

3) You should read the poem (but it doesn't have to be memorized)

4) And you should use at least 2 different backgrounds.

Not only are we demonstrating connections to poetry, but we are constantly building up our sense of what makes a visually appealing video.

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