Monday, November 29, 2010


Today, during our word work study, I dicatated the word club and the kids began sounding it out and writing it down.

Several of the young spellers wanted to know what "club" meant. I explained that clubs are groups of people who tend to like the same things, like a bicycle club, a chess club, a service club, a car club, etc.

After a few seconds, Noah looks up and calls out, "MASSAGE CLUBS?"

Accidentally Overheard in First Grade~

After lunch today, the first graders filed in and sat on the rug for one of their favorite times of the day: A read-aloud. Jenny picked up November, by Cynthia Rylant, selected because it provides closure for our Thanksgiving celebrations and sets the tone for our upcoming holiday festivities.

As Jenny reads, she models the 'text-to-self' connections between the story and her family's Thanksgiving celebration. The kids share their own connections and then Jenny carefully and quietly instructs them to open their journals and write down their connections. The kids get busy writing and everybody is on task for quite a while.

After about 20 minutes, Marcus comes up to Jenny with his closed journal. Jenny asks him if he is finished and he replies that, yes, he is done.

She asks him to read his Thanksiving writing to her and he hesitates.

"Uh, Miss Jenny?"

"Yes, Marcus," replies Jenny.

"Um. I, uh.... I uh..... Well. I ACCIDENTALLY wrote down whatever I wanted."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nonie's Sewing Box~

I finally bought a sewing machine. This purchase has been a long time in coming, put off by the confusing and pricey sewing machine displays at JoAnn's designed to make anybody who doesn't sew a little nervous.

What happened was this: My couch cushion needed repair. I bought some fabric and hunted around for somebody with a sewing machine to help me. Said machine owners were miles away, at work, or otherwise engaged. Discouraged, I went to Sears to buy an iron, which would allow me to repair the back of the couch with heat-activated adhesive. On my way to the iron display I saw it: A sewing machine on sale for $79.99! (My iron is missing. How does one lose an iron? I don't know. It's a mystery.)

So, I bought a sewing machine, determined to repair the couch cushion myself. It took me several hours to read the manual, thread the machine, and figure out the bobbin. (The latter still has me confused.)

Once the machine was ready, I cut the fabric for the repair and realized I needed pins. I looked in my paltry little sewing box, which is actually a re-purposed 1980s bacon storer from Tupperware. No pins! Picturing boxes of pins, I looked other places but the pins were in hiding.

Suddenly, I remembered. Nonie's sewing box has been sitting in my livingroom for several months now. If pins were to be had, they would be in Nonie's sewing box. I remember her little red pin cushion that looked like a tomato or a strawberry, and the balsa wood pin holder my father made her in Boy Scouts. Surely, they would be in the sewing box!

I opened the box and caught a whiff that I can only describe as Nonie, my grandmother who sewed like a professional and made Susan's and my clothes while we were in elementary school. They were beautiful clothes, frilly dresses, skirts, button-down shirts, and even pants. Nonie made us pajamas, pillows, bathrobes, and matching outfits.

The smell from the box was pure nostalgia. I could picture her. In the box there are needle packages from the 1950s, an array of thread, knitting needles, crochet hooks, packages of vintage snaps, and some mean-looking tools for affixing grommets. For a minute I just touched the things she touched - and remembered.

Alas, there are no pins to be had, so I used needles to hold my potential cushion seems together. They worked well and I think Nonie would have been proud.

But... I still need an iron.

Test Tube Trials~

In my ongoing attempt to be a better teacher of science, I bought two packages of test tubes from Steve Spangler Science. These sturdy little tubes are actually 2-liter soda bottles, before they are blown up by extreme heat and filled with soda.

Our first classroom experiment involved colored water and vegetable oil, an exploration of the density of liquids. The kids were most impressed by the food coloring diffusing through the measuring cup of water, I think, than the actual travel of the colored water through the vegetable oil to settle at the bottom of the test tube.

The kids dutifully took the test tubes home and explained to their families what the experiment was about. Accompanying each test tube was a hand-labeled diagram of the whole process, our attempt to be "scientific" and "document things like scientists."

About half the young scientists returned the test tubes, despite my wheedling, cajoling, and elevated nagging. We piled them in the bathroom sink at school for washing. And this is where the adventure begins.

The attempts to wash the test tubes in the sink with scented handsoap were unsuccessful. So, I piled the oily lot of them into a basket and took them home, where they sat for a couple days in my school bag. Yesterday, I dumped them all into a sink filled with hot water and dishwashing liquid, where I let them soak while I did other things.

That didn't work. The tubes remained oily and I was perplexed. I switched the tubes to the other sink with a fresh batch of really hot water and more liquid dish soap. That didn't work either.

After a couple hours of unsuccessful soaking, I decided to add some bleach. Clorox is the mainstay of my deep housecleaning. If bleach can't clean out that oil, I figured, nothing can!

Well, I am here to tell you that trusty Clorox did not do the trick. The test tubes remained oily and my kitchen smelled toxic. After rinsing out the now-sparkling sink and still-oily test tubes, I began pondering what I always use to clean icky messes. The answer came in a flash: Cleanser.

"Cleanser won't work," Dan said, when he saw me sprinkling the sink full of test tubes. I added water, ignored Dan, and waited for the cleanser to de-grease these obnoxious test tubes. I dutifully waited a couple of hours, allowing the trusty cleanser to do its dirty work.

The cleanser was a huge disappointment. Not only did the test tubes remain oily, they were now covered with a film of oily cleanser. Big ick factor here!

Dan is a huge fan of Pine Sol. He suggested I try soaking the tubes in his favorite floor cleaner and see if the "fresh pine scent" would do the trick. Pine Sol always reminds me of public restrooms, but I agreed to try. Not only did it NOT work, it didn't work overnight, and my whole kitchen smelled like a public restroom.

I asked Dan to pick up some dishwashing soap that cuts grease, like Dawn. He came back with Simple Green, which made no sense until he explained that it was the only cleaner he could find that actually promises to cut grease.

Simple Green's label lies. I scrubbed out each tube with a toothbrush to tackle the patina of cleanser and then gave up. The offending scientific tools sit in my dish drainer, oily as ever.

Our next scientific adventure will entail dry ingredients only.