Home, safe and alive.

I am home. I am alive. I am safe. I didn’t die on the plane. I’m stuffing myself full of delicious cupcakes and my dad’s amazing chip dip.

More information about books, math team, and the awesome world of education coming soon!



Ben Franklin myths

We talked today about the idea that Ben Franklin’s famous key and kite experiment was not actually struck by lightning. Instead, he felt a small zap of static electricity that was not enough to harm him, but was enough to prove that lightning was related to electricity.

We talked about the fact that nonfiction means not fake, but you still sometimes need to double check information, especially if the book is old. We then saw the Mythbusters video showing that Ben Franklin’s kite experiment was not quite what it seemed.


Green Gables Snowball Math Jam 2010


I just got off the phone with Mr. Brown (I’ve been holed up inside all day dealing with doctor/insurance/money drama, so I missed the competition), and Wildcat Math is a force to be reckoned with!!!

In the team competition, WILDWOOD PLACED FIRST AND THIRD!

1st Place

3rd Place

And in the individual competition, Sam and Hannah TIED, then on a tiebreaker, Hannah received 2nd and Sam received 3rd.

All your hard work and teamwork continues to pay off, Wildcats! Last year, the team competitions were our weakest point. Looks like we’ve shaken that off!

It’s also exciting to note that Jasmin and Eli placed at their FIRST math team competition ever!

I am SO PROUD to be your coach, and I am SO PROUD to be a Wildcat!


Jalapeno Bagels

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Jalapeno Bagels. By Natasha Wing

You can find a copy of this book in the red Multicultural Fiction bucket in the bookroom.

No lesson plans are included with the book, but if you visit this site and click “Lesson Overview,” Kathryn Felten shares her ideas.

Learn more about the author at her Web site. You can even set up a Skype conversation with her!

If you’d like to see some vocabulary and comprehension PowerPoint presentations related to Jalapeno Bagels, check out this site.

If you’d like to study the vocabulary in this book, a virtual stack of flashcards is available here.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:


  • Use prior knowledge to connect with the text. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this book. I like that it highlights a multiracial family based on an actual family in California. But I don’t know how I feel about some pieces that could be seen as caricatures or stereotypes (Does the Dad really need to wear owlish glasses and have full facial hair?). Wildwood has a pretty significant Hispanic population. I think it’d be interesting to see how our students feel about the portrayal of the Mom. Are they pumped because a Mexican-American family is featured? Or do they find the depth of the characters lacking? What are their experiences?
  • Summarize text, include sequence of main events. This book is short and simple enough that it would be a good resource for a lesson explaining the differences between retelling and summarizing.

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use dictionaries, thesauruses and glossaries as tools. Jalapeno Bagels has a multilingual glossary in the back. Talk with students about the fact that fiction books that contain multicultural or international components often contain supplemental material in the back. This could be particularly useful for intermediate students who have gotten out of the habit of doing picture walks before reading.

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!


Tomorrow’s Alphabet

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom, along with lesson plan suggestions.

Tomorrow’s Alphabet. By George Shannon, illustrated by Donald Crews

I yesterday e-mailed a list of environmentally-related texts in our bookroom, and I thought this mentor text would also fit into a theme of thinking about how today’s actions affect us tomorrow and in the future.

In Tomorrow’s Alphabet, A stands for Seed, B is for Eggs, and C is for Milk. What? Well, tomorrow, the seed will be an Apple, the eggs will be Birds, and the milk will be Cheese! How smart — you could use this text in so many ways! There are no lesson plans included with this mentor text, but there is a CAFE menu included in the bag, and it’s highlighted as follows.


  • Predict what will happen, use text to confirm. You can use a piece of paper to cover the righthand pages (I’d attach the paper with a paperclip or binder clip otherwise I think it’d be too much to juggle in a read aloud situation), or you could project the lefthand pages on the document camera. Students can guess what tomorrow’s word will be.
  • Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text.
  • Recognize and explain cause and effect relationships. I’ve been trying to figure out an uncomplicated way to explain cause and effect, and I think this just might do the trick!


  • Use the pictures… Do the words and pictures match?

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use prior knowledge and context to predict and confirm meaning. I’m thinking this will be particularly important on words like “embers” and “bud.” Speaking of “bud,” this might also be a good book to explain that challenging words aren’t necessarily the long ones.

If you’re following the units of study for the writer’s workshop, your students may have already been introduced to Crews’ work. Lucy Caulkins loves Donald Crews. I hadn’t heard of him prior to that, and my appreciation has grown rather slowly. It’s more of Toby’s style. His art is bright, bold, and accompanied by the Helvetica text that Mr. McKes adores.

If you’re interested in using more Donald Crews in your classroom, our bookroom has a big book copy of Freight Train. We also have three student copies of Freight Train, and three student copies of Truck. Both of those texts can be found in the blue bucket marked GR LB (where we keep wordless books and low-level books).

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

P. S. We also have a book set by Donald Crews’ daughter, Nina. We have seven copies of Snowball, and they should be in the small office next to the bookroom. See me if you’d like the set.

P. P. S. I lost a little bit of respect for George Shannon when I discovered his entire Web site uses Comic Sans. Barf.


Congratulations, Wildcats!

Today, Wildwood competed in the 4th annual Thomas Jefferson winter middle school math contest. What an exciting day for our team! I think I was proudest of how well we came together as a team.

Congrats to Sam, Tyler, Hannah, Brian, and Connor!

Wildwood’s mathematicians dominated! Tyler placed 4th in Ciphering, Sam placed 5th in Ciphering; Sam, Tyler, Hannah, and Connor all placed in the Individual Test, and Sam, Tyler, Hannah and Brian placed fifth in the Team Test! I should also mention that the Team Test was a 5th/6th grade competition! Great job, Wildcats! We’re SO excited that your hard work has paid off so spectacularly!

Wildcat Math!

Wildcat Math!


Many thanks are due to Tom Norris, who put this whole crazy event together, to Tom Clymer, who writes challenging but fair tests, to James Brown for being a mathematical force to be reckoned with, to the TJ volunteers who work with our kids every week, and to our students’ families! It’s truly remarkable to be a part of Wildwood’s math community!

Next week, I’ll begin a series detailing how James Brown and I have put together a functioning and fun elementary school math team!

**Students’ families have explicitly given me permission to use photos and their students’ first names.**