Monthly Archives: December 2012

Thoughts about children’s safety in school.

There really are no words to describe the horror of this senseless incident that occurred on December 14th at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. First and foremost, my prayers for comfort go out to the families who lost loved ones whether they were young children or educators. I also wish for a speedy recovery for anyone injured in the stabbings in a China public school were someone wielding a knife injured 22 students and an elderly woman on the same day as the Connecticut shootings. Thank G-d there was no loss of life there, but both incidents together make me wonder…how can we protect the children in our schools?

On that same morning one of my own students, who has a history of problems, lost his temper for very little reason, and he started throwing and kicking things around the room. Thank goodness no one was hurt, but imagine what damage he could have caused had he come to school with a weapon? We had to involve the police with this incident…it was just a short time before I heard about the shootings. It made me wonder about my own safety, the safety of my co-teacher, and of course, the safety of the other students. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers at this point…just more questions.

One thing that saddens me about the entire event is that I see people from different sides of various issues use these senseless deeds as a means of promoting a political agenda. There may be a time to discuss issues around gun control and mental illness, but for right now everyone’s efforts should be on helping people deal with cataclysmic loss. These are important issues that deserve our attention, but not now. We should be trying to find common ground rather than arguing about who’s right or wrong. It is self-serving and not productive or comforting to the survivors. People should have empathy. If you were the parent of a kindergartener who was tragically killed, or even a child who escaped and had to witness the mayhem, would you want to see people using the event to advance political agendas moments after the story hit the news? Of course not. Our first and last thoughts have to be with the families. Before we post anything in a public forum about this topic, we should think—how may this affect the survivors if they see it?

Someone posted a quote on Facebook from Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) that I think is appropriate and helpful, and it answers a question that one of my fellow classmates in my M.Ed program asked, “…where is the good when this happens in our school?” Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” It is the helpers and heroes in any disaster that remind us that there is good in the world.


Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


Idea for using a game incentive for writing prompts in class

Possible Game Structure
One idea for building a game structure for the class is presented below:

Used under an attribution license from photon de. Original image found at

Used under an attribution license from photon de. Original image found at

Setting— 5th-6th Centuries in England. Arthur is the king. Game is centered around the Knights of the Round Table.
Characters—The students are the main characters in this game scenario. They are the knights, and their responses to the journal prompts are the primary way that they earn points. Students will design an avatar for their character, and choose a character name. Other characters will include King Arthur, and additional characters from the legendary story. They will help set up the action of the game.
Goals—This game will have both long-term and short-term goals. The short-term goals include earning XP points, and small rewards like candy. The long-term goals are to earn a spot on the Round Table, and for the top point earner…some kind of incentive like a gift card; or, perhaps more relevantly, a paid trip to Medieval Times, where they can experience similar scenario to the game play.
Earning Points—Points can be earned in the following manner:
• Each student that attends school that day will earn ten points just for showing up. This will encourage better attendance.
• Student who can’t make it to school will earn five points if they call, and two additional points for bringing in a note explaining their absence.
• Each student will earn twenty-five points for turning in a journal prompt response regardless of the grade.
• Students earning a “B” on the prompt will earn an additional five points. Students earning an “A” will receive ten additional points. All grades are based on the rubric for writing prompts.
• Each prompt will include a bank of vocabulary words. They are not required so that they don’t stifle the creativity of the writing, but they are encouraged in that each word they use correctly in their response earns an additional XP point.
• The best response of the day will receive an additional 20 bonus points.
Game Play
1. The game begins by the students handing in their avatars and medieval name.
2. A score sheet with avatars and names will be printed daily, and used to tabulate points earned.
3. Each day when the students arrive they will receive a journal prompt with a scenario related to the day’s prompt.
4. Students will respond to the prompt using the rubric so ensure that they earn the best score possible.
5. Once scored by the teacher, students will have the opportunity to correct mistakes, and resubmit the assignment for a better grade and higher points.
6. The top ten student point earners for the day will earn a place at the Round Table.
7. The student who accumulates the most points at the end of the game will receive the prize listed above.
In order to keep the game incentive fresh the recommended time to change the game is once per month. Therefore, over the course of a ten-month period, ten games will be necessary. This way students will not become bored with the game, and the grand prize incentive will not be too far away to keep their interest.
Sample Prompts
Sample 1
Scenario: You have been challenged by Sir Gawain to a debate about the value of creating a welfare system in the kingdom to support the citizens who are most needy.
Prompt: Choose whether you support the creation of a welfare system or not, and Sir Gawain will take the other side of the debate. Write a persuasive paper describing whether you think such a system should be created, and explain your response with at least two important reasons why you picked that side of the argument. You must pick a side and write only about why your position is correct. Don’t straddle the fence. Remember, your target audience is King Arthur, and the Noblemen and Noblewomen of the kingdom, so address your response to them.
Directions: Please write at least two paragraphs of seven to ten sentences each. Your writing should include your position, two key points, and several details to support each point.
Sample 2
Scenario: Gentlemen knights…you have met the lady of your dreams. Lady knights…your knight in shining armor has arrived in the kingdom.
Prompt: Write a sonnet using iambic pentameter to express your feelings, and to win him/her over. For detailed instructions about sonnets and iambic pentameter, check out the white board, and listen to the instructions from the head-knight. Writing the best sonnet not only wins over the love of your life from other potential suitors, it also scores additional 25 bonus points.
Instructions: A sonnet is a kind of persuasive discussion in poem form that follows a particular format. The most common sonnet form is the Shakespearean sonnet. For this prompt you don’t need to follow the traditional two-paragraph format, but you must follow the instructions on the board, and the rubric for full credit.
Other potential game settings
• Writers and Poets of the Harlem Renaissance
• Astronauts in Outer Space
• Inventors and Inventions
• Art Crime Investigators
• The Newsroom


Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


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