Category Archives: Pingo Lingo

2009-10 Courses Underway: “Out of the frying pan and into the Lab”

After two days the Grade 8, 9a and 9b classes have created a blog, changed their Profile password, started their Blogroll, and been introduced to a general pattern for a new post:

It looks like it’ll take a period or two just to get the blogroll done, then “widgets”, then … the “clown pants”. It’ll likely be a while before a post is ready. It feels like the class is a “do everything I tell you” class so far. And that’s expected as every click on the school site is new. Problem solving and creativity will come soon enough. I’ve asked all English students to have a reading book handy, I expected the unexpected with the lab, but we have been able to get a tonne done. No reading time yet. Each class is filled with eager students willing to step up and master a skill and share it with a class mate. Terrific stuff!

The Grade 10s have already handed in their first post, each with 3-5 comments tallied on a Google Docs spreadsheet and scored out of 8 on the critical thinking skills rubric. Many have started their reading logs, half the class went to the library to get a new book today, many of the the others already had a book and it looks like everyone should be ready to track their reading on their reading log. Some have noticed that we haven’t picked a course focus. That issue will be chatted about in the STJ forums before a decision is made. The focus in the beginning becomes the final exam in the end, so we’ll want to think through our choices carefully.

Math Applied 20 students will choose partners and come up with a strategy to complete the “Glyphs” project from the Project book. They’ll need to pay attention to the 10 day timeline on the Topic outline page and keep up with the assigned work from the Source book as well. I think they think I’m going to assign every question in the text from here on in. So far I’ve looked at 4 questions. I don’t know their strengths and weaknesses yet to decide which questions or sections to drop. I’ll need to continue meeting one on one with each throughout the class to check notes and discuss their thinking strategies to know who knows what and how they know it. Trying to keep the class focused, quiet, and productive, while I spend time meeting with students one on one is tough and makes most – err me – rather . . . moody. It’ll get better as we fall into the routines. If this leads to success on the Unit test for Chapter 1, we’ll all be happier. I’ve created a Math 20 site just for outlines, timelines, hints and tips. Students can login and leave comments or questions there, too. I like it best when students can share how they arrived at a solution, rather than just telling the solution. After all, the answers are in the back of the book. The journey matters. The more wordy the explanations, the better, I figure. Oh, since we are in a chapter called Graphs, make those graphs sparkle. We’ll be hanging projects on the walls soon enough.

Grade 3s came to the computer lab for period 8 today, after the grade 8s had stacked the chairs they didn’t stack yesterday. So I unstacked and re-stacked all the chairs. Oh, well. We went to for 10 minutes. It was soooo hot in the lab.

The best tip for any student in the computer lab after the first 2 days is to “restart” or shutdown after every use. With so many students using the computer to login to sites, folders, servers, email – a restart is the best way to be certain the “cookies” are fresh. I’ve gone around the lab a few times to securely logout students, but they have to make sure they restart when the leave.

Students will soon have new, working, gmail accounts. We’ve guessed our email addresses to get up and running right away. When I know the official email, we’ll be into google docs -spreadsheets, presentations- chat, video linking, site building sharing, etc, etc, etc. Very exciting stuff this year awaits.

English Language Arts 8 Course Outline
English Language Arts 9 Course Outline
English Language Arts 10 Course Outline
Applied Mathematics 11 Course Outine

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The nature of our humanness: a ’55 punch bug, a turtle, and rhizobia

After reading The Bean Trees, making some notes, and writing the exam, choose a focus questions for your essay. Try one of these questions as written by your classmates:

Pingback your essay ASAP.

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Poetry Contest for Grades 9 and 10

A while back I received the following invitation:

A Panacea of Poetry East Central is having a poetry contest! It will be positively poetic and panoptic!

The first phase we undertook in Grades 9 and 10 was to explore Ladders to the Dark. The first poem was published, April 21, 2009. And today 38 students have written over 350 poems, fragments, and musings.

Links to all published poems can be found at our Queneau blog, aka Random Poetry, in the comments section following each exercise.

Now, here’s what I would like to see from students, today:

  1. Write a post that contains links to three of your best poems and/or links to three of the best poems written by your classmates
  2. Submit a comment below with a link to that post.
  3. Return to this blog later today to find out who I’ve seleted to advance to the next phase

Today, three poems in Grade 9 and three poems from Grade 10 will be entered in the next phase of the contest.

Winners(and prizes???) of A Panacea of Poetry will be announced June 15, 2009.

Good luck.

UPDATE: 3:30PM May 6, 2009
The Finalists:
Grade 9
My Mind Is High
In the Midst of the Fire
Grade 10
Turning Back

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Story Generator I Dig

Tonight I was “surfing the net while sitting on the couch” again and I stumbled upon a terrific site for generating random ideas for writing short stories.

“Tropes are storytelling devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.”

Here’s one


And another …


The real value is when you click the Setting, Plot, Narrative Device, Hero, Villain, Character As Device, and Characterization Device. A wiki opens explaining the pattern, theme, cliché, or archetype with connections to examples from literature, film, comics, and video games. Very rich. Happy digging.

Have you ever googled “Applied Phlebotinum“?

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Crossword Puzzle: “Who Am I?”

Create a “Who Am I?” crossword puzzle for your group/class.

  • get every person’s name to fit somewhere
  • get at least one descriptive adverb or adjective for each person in the group
  • get at least one favorite activity listed for each person

Example clues:

  1. a friendly boy, when he’s not playing basketball
  2. Bob’s favorite sport

Use the following, or similar, crossword puzzle maker.

Attach a printable copy of your completed puzzle to a post and pingback here.

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Teen Book Recommendations Needed

There is an increasing appetite among STJ bloggers for fresh books to read. At the STJ Library blog the list of books read and reviewed keeps increasing, however, I fear the lack of choice in our current library stacks may soon inhibit this momentum.

So, I’d like to try something to abate/assuage my fears.

In my vision, I’d like to have a solid list of “teen recommended books” in my hand that I’d like to have the library acquire … some day.

So here’s what I’d like you to do:

  1. Create a single “Top 10” post identifying and justifying in a sentence or two a top 10 list of books you would like to read.
  2. For each text you list, be sure the link has the book’s ISBN-10 number (ie. link to the book at
  3. identify at least one Canadian author
  4. identify at least one “non-fiction” title
  5. justify your choice of text after considering course focus questions
  6. Bonus: Add a “Showcase Widget” to your sidebar that does the same.
  7. Optional Extra Bonus: Create a “Listmania” or “Wishlist” list at
  8. pingback or leave comment with a link to your post here

I’ve added a few widgets to the Library blog with links to libraries, resources, and reviews to help get you started. However, I personally find Amazon’s “listmania” feature quite useful.

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“Speak Out” Alberta Students

Found this today.

Alberta Ed “Speak Out” website invites students to be interactive with blogs/forums.

Follow “Council” link and minister wants applications for Student as Advisors from 22 “zones”.

Fine print:
“As your rank grows from Newbie to Member to Advanced Member with your posts, our Speak Out Team will add it all up and use it towards your Conference and/or Council applications.”

IB students from Harry Ainly got the jump it appears.

Grumble, grumble.

We need to give away more XBOX games during school survey time, too, I figure.

Register for Speak Out and engage.

After registering, contribute to this month’s featured discussion on “Using Technology to Learn.”

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Precious Gifts: The Consequences of Reading in Grade 10

A student asked me today, “When are we going to start that Poetry unit?”

I have more than once looked at the cardboard box of Grade 10 poetry textbooks and asked the same question. The box sits neglected in an my otherwise abandoned classroom as I have spent the entire semester teaching in the library or computer labs.

“But we would have to stop what we are doing,” I replied, “and I like what we are doing.”

These are the times I have to remind myself that it is not so much about what text we are reading, it is about about what we are doing with the text we are reading. The “what” we read is secondary to the “how” or “why”. In Language Arts the “ends” is the “means.”

Students need to read some every day, and write some every day, be accountable to someone every day. The formula seems intuitive enough to me.

“Schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” — Jean Piaget

I really see the “new” gains made by this simple formula with this semester’s Grade 10 class.

For this class, as any other, success emphasized the following: individual work habits, homework, home reading, school reading, keeping track of missing or late assignments, attendance, accounting for reading/homework witnessed by parents, and keeping extracurricular coaches “in the loop.” By Christmas break, 14 students will have read over 80 books.

Students have overwhelmingly been proud of the books they have read, proud of the writing they have done. They wrote about themselves, other texts, and the world. They picked their own texts, they selected their own focus questions, they developed their own voices.

This class was special, we were in a library every day. We surfed the net and wrote to a blog, every day. I enjoyed reading responses to dozens of different books by emerging and maturing voices. With the iblogs, I checked that progress every day.

We put our feet up if they were clean, we traded in a lousy book for a better one. We read and wrote as much or as little as we were able. We took time to read, time we tracked in detail every day.

This is the first class I have ever required students to have a Public Library card. Radical stuff.

This is the first class where every student kept a “Reading Log” and I insisted that parents and teachers sign as witness every time the student read. I even invented an arbitrary calculation: “Home Reading Ratio”. Students divided the number of pages read by the number of pages read at home.

I am embarrassed to postulate that I may have students, in older grades, that have NEVER read a book that the class has not read together. I will never say that about these readers.

Each student received a tonne of time to read, a tonne of time to connect. Precious gifts.

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