FPQ: School Daze

FPQ

I haven’t participated in Fandango’s Provocative Question lately, but I’m back! And #104 is a good one for me, because I am a former teacher and education has always been an interest of mine:

Today’s provocative question is about formal education. We all have our opinions on how best to educate and prepare our children to succeed in today’s highly complex world. So this begs the question:

What do you think is the one subject (or thing) that should be taught in school that isn’t?

Oh, there are many answers to this question! Students today don’t learn about half the things they should nowadays, and especially in the U.S. Therefore, I cannot just name one, but three, but grade level may determine the priority given to each.

  1. Life skills: this includes how to maintain a bank account, how to treat others in a civil society, how to live on your own, conservation, the responsibilities you have as an adult, parenting, managing a household or a budget, etc. This encompasses a wide range of topics, which are always changing (for example, in the past I might have said “how to balance a checkbook” but young people don’t use checkbooks anymore). This should be taught in middle school and high school. In middle school it could be more about decision-making, civility, and diversity. The curriculum should be somewhat fluid, because different communities might have particular needs and students have different needs. High school students maybe even should have some input about what is taught.
  2. History should be a required subject every year of high school, and also middle school. One high school year is not enough to learn all of U.S. history, which is always being added to. And standards for teaching history include many things that we weren’t taught when I was in high school, such as Native American history, and minorities’ contributions to our society. (When I was in school, it was mostly about leaders, dates, etc. We had Black History but it was a separate subject and not mandatory.) At least two years should be dedicated to U.S. history, possibly three, and at least one year should be world history.
  3. Starting in elementary school, from kindergarten on, all students should learn a foreign language. This is a very rare thing in American schools and most Americans are not only monolingual but woefully ignorant about the rest of the world. Even high schools don’t always require it. All research shows that the best time to learn another language is before the age of 12. My local school district in Des Plaines used to have Spanish classes as part of the curriculum in elementary school but only once a week and this program was discontinued along with the dual language program when budget cuts had to be made. It should be as important a class as math or English. One of this country’s major shortcomings is ignorance of other peoples and cultures. We are a large country and a world power but so is China and all their students learn foreign languages starting in elementary school. In fact, BECAUSE we are a world power, we should be more knowledgeable about the world . If other nations can teach these things, why can’t we?

    One good way to start elementary school students to learn another language is to implement a dual language program. Many school districts have bilingual programs, but that is not quite the same. Each school would select a foreign language that is predominant in their community and hire teachers fluent in both languages. Then the regular curriculum – math, reading, science, social studies, etc. could be taught in both languages from the beginning! Instead of trying to figure out how to find the time to teach foreign language, just integrate the foreign language into the regular curriculum. This would have the benefit of teaching children academic as well as social language. There are some good examples of dual language programs in the U.S. (which in some cases have replaced regular bilingual programs) and Canada has had them for a long time. But it isn’t a priority here, so therefore, unless you live in an enlightened district, it won’t be done. I have taught in a couple of dual language programs and it is definitely the best way to teach children a second language.

You may wonder, how on earth is it possible to add all these extra things to the curriculum? I don’t know about life skills, but these other subjects (language, national history and world history) are part of the regular curriculum in most countries and judging from recent studies, the major industrialized countries are all doing a better job at educating their kids than American schools. I remember learning that in a typical British school, kids may have up to 11 regular subjects each year! (If you are in Britain and reading this, perhaps you can verify if this is still the case.) In the U.S., we have for too long emphasized the teaching of subjects that are part of standardized testing, so social studies and foreign language became less important or even ignored. Learning about other countries – history, geography, politics – and their languages is so important in the world we live in today, and I think we do a great disservice to our students by not giving these subjects the emphasis they deserve.

Oh, and by the way, ALL students should have, as part of their regular school supplies, an iPad, tablet or laptop computer. Yes, all this costs a lot of money, so why not budget more for education and less to build weapons?

FPQ: Rediscovering My Joys

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week encourages us to look inward, at ourselves. Fandango writes: I saw this question on a site that offers up a bunch of “deep, philosophical” questions and this one intrigued me. It’s about evolution, but not in the context of Darwin’s evolution of the species. It’s more about evolution of the individual and about who you are and how you change over time. Here’s this week’s question, which is essentially about you. I hope you’ll have fun with it.

Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? (Yes, it’s both.)  Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around? (My essence, my soul, my identity).

Now that I’ve answered both questions in brief, I will expand, as I am wont to do!

I once had a revelation about myself that I told my daughter: You may have changed a great deal since childhood, but whatever you were good at and interested in when you were 10 will come back around when you are an adult. Cee’s On the Hunt for Joy challenge has a theme related to this: rediscovering your childhood joys.

For me, it was art (I drew and doodled incessantly) , languages (I fell in love with Spanish in 5th grade), cultures (I was fascinated by the pictures in my parents’ National Geographic magazines), cats (I have always had one as a pet, except when my son had allergies growing up), and writing (I wrote many stories and even a short novel when I was a kid).

This is one of my more recent drawings – it’s a combination of drawing and watercolor. First, I chose a photograph I had taken. Then I drew it freehand with black pigment liner. Then I used watercolor pencils for the color and background.
Another of my obsessions – cats. This is the best cat drawing I have done, but not the only or most recent one!

Another art form I love is photography, as any reader of my blog knows. I first started taking pictures with a Brownie black & white camera when I was about 10.

I took these photos of my friends with my Brownie camera in 1966!

In high school, I bought an Olympus SLR and got “serious” about photography. It helped that I had a boyfriend who was a photographer, and he taught me how to develop my black and white pictures. Later I installed my own mini darkroom in the second bathroom of an apartment I lived in in college.

In my late teens and early adulthood, for years I tried to become something that I couldn’t become – a musician (I’m not very talented in music, much as I love it), a best-selling author (I don’t have the discipline), a counselor (I have trouble giving advice on the spot) – and then I dreamed of being something that I could become, but didn’t: a linguist, an anthropologist, a translator at the United Nations – and finally became something I’d thought about in childhood but never thought I could become: a teacher. One of my sisters was a great teacher and she was very patient. I have never been patient.

I wasn’t actually a great teacher. I was, in fact, mediocre as a classroom teacher, and kept losing classroom teaching jobs. I was better at being a “pull-out” resource teacher (teaching ESL and bilingual literacy to smaller groups of students who came to me during their classroom’s literacy time). I was better at this because I didn’t have to worry about 10 things at once and didn’t have to keep track of 20+ kids at the same time. I also love languages and was very passionate about language acquisition and a strong advocate for bilingual education. So that job (where I spent more years and was happy) utilized more of my strengths: using Spanish every day, teaching English as a second language, enthusiasm about learning, working with students, doing creative holiday projects and writing projects with them.

I started a paper recycling club at my school one year, and this is me receiving an award worth $200 for the paper recycling we did. The money was used for the school’s club fund. I have always been passionate about environmental issues.

On the other hand, classroom teaching emphasized my weaknesses – midway through my teaching career, I found out I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). This is not a good thing to have if you are a teacher but at least I knew it wasn’t because I was a failure – at discipline, executive functioning, at remembering to send in my attendance every morning, at trying but never succeeding at being organized. This diagnosis helped me become more accepting of who I am and not ashamed of what I am not.

Now I’m happily retired and doing the things I used to spend hours doing when I was a kid: drawing, writing, learning foreign languages, pursuing intellectual interests such as politics, international affairs, and traveling (I didn’t do these last few much as a kid, although I have fond memories of family trips and I never avoided controversial topics with my parents, which didn’t always work out very well). I love other cultures and seeing new things.

Here I am with my cousins in Tanzania in 2018 (that’s me in the light colored shirt) – we are about to learn a traditional dance in a Maasai village.

These interests have always been a part of me, even though I have evolved a great deal in my journey of self-discovery. I’m not so hard on myself as I used to be. Finding out about having ADHD was a revelation about my entire life – why it was hard for me to make new friends, why I daydreamed so much, why I talked out of turn in school, why I was a “slow reader” (I wasn’t slow – I just got distracted so that by the time I had finished a page, I couldn’t remember what I’d read and had to go back and read it again), and why I was constantly losing things.

Besides the self-discovery that comes with maturity, I look back at my life and sometimes feel I really haven’t changed that much. I’m still me. I sometimes think I’m still that girl I was in high school. I still have the same soul, which I will have until my dying day. I carry buried memories and emotions of the last 68 years in my brain, but I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, because that doesn’t matter. I have a good life – everything I need and much of what I want. I’ve been lucky, I know that and I am grateful.

CFFC: What Noses Smell

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week continues with the senses. This week it is the sense of smell.

Swan noses are two thin parallel slits on their bills.
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Cows smell the grass and feed they eat.
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Cats’ noses…
20200125_191913smell everything they encounter as they explore anything new….
…a birthday cake or
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…someone’s jacket.
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Cats are especially attracted to the smell of catnip, a plant in the mint family with a pungent smell. Pet stores sell little toys stuffed with catnip – Hazel’s was a carrot that we tied to her scratching post. Catnip is the marijuana of catdom!!
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Noses may be displayed in artwork, such as on this tapestry entitled “Processional Nose” at the Eye Film Museum in Amsterdam.
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Human noses…

are also attracted to certain smells. Some research indicates that humans may choose their mates by the person’s smell (unconsciously, of course).

What could be more wonderfully sweet than the smell of lilacs in spring?
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Many flowers have a pleasant fragrance, perhaps to attract pollinators.
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Spices also have strong smells.
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A smell unpleasant to most people is cigarette smoke – yet smokers and those who live with them don’t smell it at all! Their noses are desensitized to the smell that permeates everything they own. (This photo courtesy of Google Images)
Delaware moves closer to raising smoking age to 21 - WHYY
However, we associate some smoke smells with family barbecues.
20170710_192031Like certain songs, many odors, such as smelling a certain cuisine, can invoke memories. Many foods have strong smells, whether one appreciates them or not.
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What smells can you conjure up looking at these photos?
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Words associated with smell include:  smell, stink, odor, rotten eggs, fragrance, perfume, scent, aroma, smoky, musty, garlicky, acrid, reek, funky, malodorous, fetid, whiff, inhale, putrid, rancid, stench, odoriferous, sweet-smelling, flowery, redolent, pungent, bouquet, balm, savory, spicy. (Notice how many words we have for bad smells, less for good smells!)

SYW: Re bake sales, cops, fungus and, like, other stuff too

Here are my answers to Melanie’s Share Your World this week.

QUESTIONS.

(the last two are courtesy of Teresa of The Haunted Wordsmith)
1. Is it wrong to sell store-bought pastries at a bake sale?
No, not if you acknowledge that.
2. Have you ever interacted with the police?
Yes, I have gotten a few tickets – in the days before cameras were installed to catch people speeding, etc. wcophen the cop actually stopped me in person to tell my I was over the speed limit. I also have had “conversations” with police officers who called about my son or came to my house to bring him home, mostly regarding acting erratically or possession of marijuana. I dreaded those interactions!

3. What will you remember most about this past year (this question will show up again, in late December, just FYI)
The wonderful trips my husband and I took – to Egypt & Israel in Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019 and to Europe in June-July 2019.

Also the embarrassing and shameful behavior of our so-called president, Trump. It never gets better and his lies just keep mounting. I think lying is default with him – it’s so natural to him that it’s the first thing that comes out of his mouth. The Mueller Report – which everyone seemed to think was anti-climactic because he refused to indict Trump but in his hearings last week he made it clear that he considered Trump guilty. Every day Trump says something outrageous – either racist or defending some of the sleaziest characters in America.
trump is a ra-ist
4. Is it better to have fungus on your toes, your tongue, or your pizza?
None. Mushrooms are a fungus, and often found on a pizza, but I am not fond of them. But at least on a pizza, I can pick them off.
Weird mushrooms at Park Ridge farmer's market
5. What is one slang word that makes your skin crawl?
I have two:
I have never approved of the word “suck” to mean awful or terrible, yet I occasionally say it myself now because I am so used to hearing it in everyday speech.
The word “like” used several times in a sentence or to denote someone’s speech or reaction to something – it’s so lazy. Can’t people come up with a more descriptive word for a reaction to something – “I was like…”? Or what’s wrong with the word ‘said’? “I said I couldn’t believe he did that” is proper English; “I was like, I can’t believe he did that” is lazy and so – teenager-ish, yet people keep saying it well into adulthood. But once again, it has become so pervasive that I hear myself using ‘like’ that way myself. UGH!!

Something I am grateful for this week…
My son was in a serious car accident, which completely wrecked the front of his car, but thank God, he was not injured, nor was the other driver involved. I am grateful for the airbag that probably saved his life!

Journey to Egypt, Part 17: Horemheb’s Temple & Gebel Silsila Quarry

December 30, 2018

This afternoon we arrived at the narrowest stretch of the Nile, an area that the Egyptians called “Khenu” or the place of rowing. At Gebel Silsila, high sandstone cliffs come down close to the water’s edge.DSC_0387
20181230_150716dThe Temple of Horemheb is small and not well-known.
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Nile cruise ships don’t stop here because they are too large to moor in this area.

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Cruise ship passes us by as we stand on shore. To the right is another moored dahabeya, which possibly had a famous passenger – the queen of Belgium! She is apparently working with or observing archeologists at the site.

The temple itself is not in great condition compared to others we had seen and would see over the next few days. It was interesting because of the different inscriptions, not just hieroglyphic writing, but also hieratic script, demotic writing of later times, with Greek influences, and Coptic script from early Christian times. Early Christians stopped here to shelter and escape persecution during the early years of Islamic reign in Egypt. They are likely the people who wrote some of the later-age inscriptions. For this reason, this site is of particular interest to epigraphic studies (study of inscriptions).

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Thoth, depicted with the head of an ibis, was important to ancient Egyptians, for he was the god who gave them the gift of writing. In fact, what we call hieroglyphics (a Greek word), was medu-netjer to the ancient Egyptians, meaning “the god’s words”.  Note the modern writing (graffiti) that a more recent visitor carved, to Thoth’s lower right.

The temple dates from the end of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, during the reign of Horemheb, who dedicated the temple to Sobek (the crocodile god), …

Amun (pictured below, distinguishable by his large feather headdress),
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…and other gods, including Thoth.

Thoth, in ancient Egyptian belief, was born with immense knowledge, the most important of which was the power of words. Although he gave this knowledge to humans, he expected them to take it seriously. The main purpose of writing was not decorative or literary. It was to provide a means to bring into existence concepts and events. If something was written, it could be “made to happen” again and again.

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Hieroglyphics consisted of phonograms, logograms and ideograms. Phonograms are alphabetic signs, where one hieroglyph represents a single consonant or sound. There are 24 of these in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and they are the most common. Phonograms could also represent 2-3 sounds, like diphthongs and blends. Ideograms (pictures conveying a concept) were often at the end of words.

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Egyptian writing could be written from left to right, right to left, up-down or down-up (and sometimes started in the middle!). Symbols of people or animals, however, always faced the beginning of the text, so if an image of a bird or a woman was facing the right, the text was meant to be read right to left.

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This photo shows an example of hieratic writing, which was a faster script, using simplified versions of hieroglyphic symbols. Hieratic writing developed early in the dynastic periods, after hierpglyphic writing had been firmly established. Around 800 BCE, hieratic developed into a cursive script.

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This is an example of demotic writing, which replaced hieratic script c. 700 BCE. Demotic writing was called sekh-shat, or document writing.  It was developed in the Nile Delta region and spread southward during the 26th Dynasty (c.1069-525BCE). This became the most popular script for the next 1,000 years.

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Note the different costumes worn by the people in the carved image to the left of the writing.

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At the top of this photo is an image of people fanning the pharaoh with large palm fans as he is carried on a platform. Below is yet another type of writing – Coptic script. Coptic script was that used by the early Christians. Demotic writing had continual use until it was replaced by Coptic script during Roman Egypt. Coptic script uses the Greek alphabet with some additions from demotic script. Hieroplyphic writing only fell completely out of favor with the rise of the new religion, Christianity.

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Rosetta stone image (downloaded from Bing): The Rosetta stone provided the key to reading hieroglyphic and demotic writing. The text is a proclamation written in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic script from the reign of Ptolemy V (204-181 BCE). All three are the same text, in keeping with the Ptolemaic ideal of a multicultural society. Until the Rosetta stone was discovered, no one knew how to read or interpret hieroglyphic or demotic writing.

Information on the history of ancient Egyptian writing was taken from the online article Ancient Egyptian Writing by Joshua J. Mark.

Horemheb’s Temple was one of the earliest examples of temples made from sandstone. During the reign of Akhenaten in the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian temple builders switched from limestone to sandstone.
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The pharaoh, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, offers sacred lotus flowers to the god Thoth.

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Although this looks like a repeated image and hieroglyphics, on closer inspection, one can see that it isn’t. On the far left are two figures seated side by side, and each of the other single figures has some differences – the second on the left, for example, is holding an ankh in one hand, and the cartouches with names of pharaohs and priests contain some different symbols.

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Someone crossed out one of the figures, which appears to be a pharaoh wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt.

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Sandstone is lighter in weight and the area of Gebel Silsila had abundant sandstone. In fact, this site was used as a quarry for constructions as far away as Luxor and Amarna, 800 km to the north.
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There was a steep path leading up to this hole, which was once part of a temple. Some people in our group, including Mohamed, climbed up and had their pictures taken!

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Little niches, or holes, on the rocks near the river’s edge, were where boats were tied next to the shore.
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20181230_155944There is an epigraphic survey project going on at Gebel Silsila by a team of archaeologists studying inscriptions, under the auspices of Lund University in Sweden.

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The archaeologists’ felucca

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DSC_0399That night, back on the Aida, we were enjoying a delicious dinner when several crew members appeared, playing instruments and singing! The captain danced with a couple of the women in our group.
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Word(s) of the week: types of fog

I am pairing two weather-related words from two different places. The first is:

pogonip (noun). According to dictionary.com, it comes from a Shoshone word which refers to an ice fog that forms in the mountain valleys in Western USA. Being a “flatlander” in the Midwest, I of course had never heard of this term. I like the sound of it, though, especially the “nip” – when that fog comes in, the weather is quite nippy! A pogonip will nip at an exposed nose or ear!

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Pogonip covering a mountain valley

The origin of pogonip in the Shoshone language (the Numic language group) is paγɨnappɨh, which means “thunder cloud.” Pogonip became an Americanism – in general use in that region – by 1865.

The pictures above show pogonip crystals.

The Shoshone people come from the Pacific Northwest. They may have several words derived from this root – just as the Inuit have many words for snow.

~~~~~~~~

Crossing the Atlantic, another fog-related word comes from  eastern Scotland and Northeastern England.  A thick, white fog that comes onto land from the seacoast is called haar. It usually happens on the east coast of the British Isles between April and September, according to Wikipedia. The warm air comes into contact with the cold North Sea, causing the air to condense and creating the fog, which can spread several miles inland. This causes a substantial drop in temperature.

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Haar covering half of the rail bridge over the Firth of Forth, Scotland

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Haar descends on the city of Edinburgh.

The web site dictionary.com, dates this word to the late 1600s. It is a variant of the word “hoar.” Perhaps if we close our eyes and listen to what this fog sounds like, it might resemble haar– like a exhalation of air. This is, of course, pure speculation, since I have never seen – or heard – this fog.

The origin of haar may be Low German/Middle Dutch “hare”.

Here’s an especially dramatic picture of the haar:

haar-Queensbury-Edinburgh

 

 

 

Word(s) of the week: Auld Lang Syne

As it is the first day of a new year, I decided to research the meaning and history of the title (and lyrics) of this famous song, sung all over the world on New Year’s Eve.

auld_lang_syne-couple celebrating

Auld Lang Syne is a gift from Scotland to the world. The words to the song were written in the 18th century, but there are several different versions. The lyrics are mainly attributed to Robert Burns robert-burns(1759-1796), Scottish poet, and the original words are written in Scots, a language related to English but with its own pronunciation, form and unique vocabulary. This is why, popular as this song is and sung throughout the world on New Year’s Eve, most people have no idea what the song is about.

Auld lang syne means, roughly, “old long ago.” The song is about retaining old friendships, that whatever happens throughout our lives, we should remember our lifelong friends and hold them dear. This is an appropriate sentiment as we “ring out the old and ring in the new.”

The popularity of Auld Lang Syne has mainly to do with two factors. First, Scotland was influenced by Calvinism (introduced in the 16th century), out of which grew Presbyterianism. These Calvinist Presbyterians, until about 100 years or so ago, did not celebrate Christmas, which they considered “hedonistic” – the holiday’s most popular customs had nothing to do with the birth of Christ and in fact, most scholars believe that Christ was not born in December. Thus, Christmas was more associated with the winter solstice, celebrated by pagans.

RoyalScots-Dunnotar

Thus, in Scotland, the more important holiday of this period came to be New Year’s, or “Hogmanay” as they call it. Auld Lang Syne was thus sung during this time and became connected with New Year’s celebrations. Everyone likes a party, so the song, unintelligible to many people, becomes more so – and sung with more gusto – after one has had a few drinks!

Hogmanay celebration, Edinburgh
Hogmanay celebration, Edinburgh

Torchlight Procession, Edinburgh
Torchlight Procession, Edinburgh

Hogmanay Festival Fireworks
Hogmanay Festival Fireworks

The second factor was the American custom of watching television. The Canadian band leader, Guy Lombardo, broadcast a big band version of the song on New Year’s Eve beginning in 1929 (on the radio) and continued to be a yearly tradition until 1976 (by then broadcast on TV). This created another link to the holiday and became the tradition. What is a New Year’s celebration without singing Auld Lang Syne?

Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians
Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians

So raise your glasses one more time and get ready to sing: here are the words (in Scots, then translated into standard English) of all five verses of Auld Lang Syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, (originally “my jo”)
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp, (pronounced “stoop”)
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wandered mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i’ the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Auld Lang Syne-words

English translation:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.

(Refrain):
And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.

(Refrain)

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many the weary foot
Since long, long ago.

(Refrain)

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.

(Refrain)

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

(Refrain)

Happy-New-Year-2016

All images downloaded from Google Images.
Web sites used for research:
Vox.com
RobertBurns.org
www.carols.org.uk
www.scotland.org

ABC COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT: R is for…

June 2, 2015

R is for Reader’s Theatre.

I love Reader’s Theatre! This was one of the best things I did with my students all year every year.  Once the standardized testing is done, by mid-March, the pressure is off and teachers can start planning projects and activities that are fun and engaging for the students. In the spring I always had my students do a research project on a topic of interest and prepare a Reader’s Theatre production to perform in front of other students. Reader’s Theatre was always on my priority list because first of all, the kids really enjoyed it, and second, it’s a good way to increase English learners’ reading fluency and confidence. I’m not the only one – the last two years I’ve worked as a program assistant and the classroom teachers I work with put on a play with their students each year.

From my first year of teaching on, I did a lot of Reader’s Theatre with my classes. In 2003, my dual language 3rd grade class put on two plays: Caperucita Roja (Little Red Riding Hood) for the dual language first grade  class, and Energy (which I wrote – we had been studying about different types of energy and I used each of these as a “character”) was performed on the school’s TV station. Then at the end of that school year, students read for their families during the Academic Celebration, a shortened version of the book, The Great Kapok Tree by Lynn Cherry, which I had adapted for Reader’s Theatre.

I then adapted the same play based on the Spanish version of the book, El gran capoquero. One year my students made colorful and elaborate renditions of the animals in the book, which were used for the background scenery.

At least twice, my classes put on a Mexican version of The Brementown Musicians, which was in English but sprinkled with Spanish phrases and it had great humor!

In 2006, my 3rd grade ESL literacy class premiered my play The Great Chicago Fire. I had five narrators and many other parts, both big and small, so that everyone could participate. Some even got two roles! During this production, we used an overhead projector to show images of the Chicago Fire of 1871 in the background. Later, I reproduced a picture of a horse-drawn fire truck which was used in those days, and that prop became part of future productions.

Below are some pictures of Reader’s Theatre productions I’ve directed since 2009 (except 2014 – I didn’t direct those).2009: 3rd grade play (bilingual literacy class)

2009: 3rd grade play (bilingual literacy class)

3rd grade play
3rd grade play

4th grade play: Red Writing Hood
2009 – 4th grade play: Red Writing Hood

Red Writing Hood cast
Red Writing Hood cast

5th grade play: I don't remember the title but it had to do with the Underground Railroad.
2009 – 5th grade play: I don’t remember the title but it had to do with the Underground Railroad.

5th grade play cast
5th grade play cast

2010: 3rd grade play,
2010: 3rd grade play, “The Great Chicago Fire”. These are the 5 narrators. I wrote this play based on research I did on the Internet.

The main character, Claire, is separated from her family. She joins others who are trying to hide from the fire.
The main character, Claire, is separated from her family. She joins others who are trying to get away from the fire.

Fire fighters & volunteers pass buckets of water drawn from Lake Michigan to throw on the spreading fire.
Fire fighters & volunteers pass buckets of water drawn from Lake Michigan to throw on the spreading fire.

2010: 4th grade literacy class - Red Writing Hood (I did this 2 years in a row).
2010: 4th grade literacy class – Red Writing Hood (I did this 2 years in a row).

Red Writing Hood and the ballerina wolf!
Red Writing Hood and the ballerina wolf!

2010: 5th grade literacy class play - the cast poses after a performance for the special ed class.
2010: 5th grade literacy class play – the cast poses after a performance for the special ed class.

Performing in the intermediate special ed classroom.
Performing in the intermediate special ed classroom.

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2011: Bilingual second grade performed three plays. This one is
2011: Bilingual second graders performed four plays. This one is La escuela de pececitos.

These two boys were the only ones to memorize their play! But then, it was such a natural fit for them!
These two cousins were the only ones to memorize their play! But then, it was such a natural fit for them!

The storm dies down and the play reaches its conclusion.
Dia de la tormenta: The storm dies down and the play reaches its conclusion.

Vivian D is the bookstore owner whose mynah bird escaped from its cage that morning. (OK, so we didn't have a mynah and I had to use my beanie baby parrot instead!)
This play was in our reading textbook. The girl in pink top & black skirt is the bookstore owner whose mynah bird escaped from its cage that morning. (OK, so we didn’t have a mynah and I had to use my beanie baby parrot instead!)

Vivian tried hard to read her part clearly.
She tried hard to read her part clearly.

Taking a bow! This performance was for our class's fifth grade reading buddies.
Taking a bow! This performance was for our class’s fifth grade reading buddies.

2014: 1st grade play:
2014: 1st grade reading class play: El mas fuerte de todos. Two ants set out on a journey to find out who is the strongest. Here they meet with the sun.

The ants talk to the deer who tells them she is not the strongest.
The ants talk to the deer who tells them she is not the strongest.

Raton, Casa y Gato, waiting to say their lines.
Raton, Casa y Gato, waiting to say their lines.

The other first grade classes were the audience for the first performance.
The other first grade classes were the audience for the first performance.

The cast pose for pictures in their costumes.
The cast pose for pictures in their costumes.

2014: 2nd grade reading class play,
2014: 2nd grade reading class play, El gran capoquero (The Great Kapok Tree).

I adapted this popular book about the rainforest for Reader's Theatre. One of the other program assistants made their masks.
I adapted this popular book about the rainforest for Reader’s Theatre. One of the other program assistants made their masks.

The cast of
The cast of El gran capoquero takes a bow.

In late May of this year, the bilingual first grade reading class performed once again for the other first grade classes, and then for their other classmates. This time they did a version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Spanish, Ricitos de Oro. The bilingual second grade reading class performed Trabajando juntos, which was about ants working together. I have chosen not to publish these photos, due to their being so recently taken.