Tag Archives: language arts

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

Writing Well–An Afterthought?

  Writing well, and with clarity seems  a skill overlooked  in city junior high grades.

    Realizing that an inordinate amount of  time is given over to anything but instruction–classroom management, paperwork, and other sundry matters, it’s a major challenge  to teach writing skills that will make a difference in academic performance.

    Looking at some 7th and 8th grades posted student work, I was truly disheartened at how ill-prepared many students are when it comes to expressing themselves on paper.

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