Category Archives: Classrooms

Endangered species?

cursive writing

This is a re-post, as I believe in its importance….

The above image of the alphabet is something I hardly see taught anymore—writing in cursive style. The kids that I work with  daily overwhelmingly do not posses the handwriting skills that had been drilled into me as an elementary student. Taking this practice away because of keyboards is like taking away math computation because of calculators. Therefore, the over-emphasis on electronics and social make writing by hand seem obsolete.

But the good news is—it’s NOT. Being equipped with this skills helps the kids have a better handle on written expression, and critical thinking, skills which extend beyond the classroom.

I’m told that we “don’t have time” because the focus of the day is on literacy and math primarily, and something like cursive handwriting skills are considered hardly necessary.

I’m making the case for families to help out more at home by:
investing ust 10-15 minutes a day to help your child in proper letter
formation, and the best posture for comfortable, more legible handwriting.

It doesn’t have to be  Palmer Method perfect, but with consistent practice, patience, and gentle praise along the way, there can be a difference made.


English Language Arts–Urban Classroom

Today, I covered a 2nd grade classroom during their language arts time. Now, these kids know me , so we’re past the “getting acquainted” stage. The teacher left their activity on using new words in original, oral  sentences.

Our first word was “police”. One student said, without missing a beat—“I saw that ‘police’ shoot somebody.”  Just like that. An 8 year old knows about shooting just like watching Niktoons everyday. Similar sentences followed from two other students. We finally decided on something a bit more Officer Friendly-type.

The next example used the word “life.”  Several hands went up, and the one student I picked said forlornly, “I have a bad ‘life’.” I felt compelled to ask her why. She responded matter-of-fact, “That’s because somebody’s always shooting and fighting by my house, and I don’t sleep.”

Sad, sad commentary, isn’t it? Where is the lightheartedness of early childhood? Of course, nothing is TV perfect, but when a violence lifestyle is accepted as norm in our yung, what does the future hold?


Spel It Rite


I recently had the opportunity to attend  an upper elementary spelling bee at the school where I’m currently at, and was totally surprised at the word skills that came out.

Not everyone has spelling as a prime skill, that is true. But this comes from not just memorization of words, but gaining a handle on the meaning and usage, and being comfortable with the whole idea of vocabulary.

The top 3 spellers in each grade, from 5th through 8th were selected. It was going to be an exciting time for twelve students and their supporters of classmates, teachers, and a few family members.

I was sure we had a good 40-45 minutes for this program. So I sat back, and waited for the event to begin. One of the students was in the room I was covering that day.

After explaining the rules, all 12 students got their first shot. However, of those twelve, NINE got knocked out after the first words!  That’s right—75% of the contestants were eliminated within five minutes.

The increase of text-ease, and Spell-Check have pushed correct spelling and word usage to a lowered tier. They just aren’t priorities like they used to be.  With Common Core standards in place, these areas don’t have prior emphasis.

With three students left, it might be a close race. After all, the words were getting more difficult, and these guys had prepped, right?

Sad to say, the remaining eighth-grader eliminated the other two in about four minutes, making it the fastest spelling bee I’ve ever seen.

Teachers and administrators were dumbfounded at what was happening, and they scrambled to keep things going. To put a spin on this, the last eliminated student faced the actual champion in a type of run-off spell-la-thon. That lasted another ten minutes, but the champion held his own, going on to the district events later on next month.

Here are some of the words that got the kids out of the running. The correct way is shown first, and the misspellings beside the

brilliant – brialliant            soften – sofin
tongue – toung                      nectarine – necktarine
tussle –  tussel                         widget – whichid
fluency – fluencie                hoodwink – hudwing
pixel – pickel                          charity –   charoity
ardor – ardoor                       journey – jurnty

Keeping “The Dream” Alive In Our Classrooms

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963, it is fitting that the words about education from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  be shared once more:


The Real Reason

education for what

As a new school season unfolds, and I return as a guest teacher in my city, my hope is that there is an across-the-board revitalized movement to put teaching before testing, to allow students to be genuine explorers of knowledge, and  to instill a respect for the thousands of guest teachers throughout  the nation, who provide a valuable service as professionals  keeping the learning continuum going when a regular teacher is out. Rather than let the learning threads be broken, they keep the threads flowing along.

New Twists On Old Excuses

It never ceases to amaze me at how my students still use the same, tired excuses for not turning in work. Back in the day, saying, “It got wet,” or “My brother ate it ,” were standard. But now, my kids have a whole new angle on avoiding turning in work.

When I asked one particular class why they hadn’t turned in an assigned poster  project, too many of them told me some high-tech one-liners: “I don’t have a printer,” “I can’t write this much information,” “We went on vacation, and I didn’t have time to finish,” “The laptop crashed,”  “No way to get to a public library [to use the free computers],” and “My subject wasn’t on the Internet.”

Things haven’t changed…….

Students going hungry–Barrier to Brain Power

One of the saddest tasks no teacher, [even a guest teacher]  likes to see is a hungry student. Too many times I’ve had to keep a small supply of juice, healthy snacks, and fruit when a number of my kids would come to school cranky and stressed out because their stomachs had precedence over their brains.

A recent story presented on the CNN network, Students going hungry, highlights some of the woes faced when childhood hunger has such a large presence in many urban schools. This is a serious problem that has grown over the last year.

Featured is Bill Shore, founder and executive director of the national non-profit, Share our Strength. The organization  produced a powerful report on hunger in the classrooms. One of the points that came up was that for every 10 teachers surveyed, 4 spent an average $25 per month out of their pockets on food.

 As someone who has worked at several of schools in my city, I’ve witnessed crying, sullenness, sleeping, and aggressive behavior, usually stemming from the child not receiving enough nutrition to get them through the day. Unfortunately, school meals are often the only decent meals that kids have–but what about when they leave school in the afternoon? What about the weekends, Or when school is out for vacations? Where are those nutritious meals they need to have?

Despite the necessary push for academic excellence, it’s just as important to focus on what goes into the mouth, as well as what goes into the mind.