Well, nothing much in the mail today. Just some junk mail that I'll put in the usual place (the side of the dinner table, where it accumulates until my husband goes through it and actually opens it to make sure it's not important) and a few magazines, including two health care company magazines with article titles like, "Your Health in Your Hands."

Nothing funny, quirky, or in a bright blue envelope.

I sent my students off a couple of weeks ago with self-addressed, stamped envelopes in all shades of bright colors and the instructions to write me a letter. While I generally like to pretend the students don't exist over the summer, I like to hear from them every so often, with something funny or quirky, or some important update, like Michaela's news last year that her family got cloth napkins. In past years I've gotten letters as early as the very first day of summer, but so far nothing.

Until something sufficiently amusing or informative arrives, I'll post some summer letters I've gotten in years past.

Dear, Ms. Garb
is June 7. Kim possible just came to disney. I really like that show. I just came from swimming. I'm very cold. I hope you're having much fun as me
Your student

Best Friend Telepathy

Summer is well underway--no school, no homework, lots of time to play with your friends. One thing about friendships I noticed this past year was how important it is to call on your friends during a share.

In our classroom, two kids sign up each day to share during morning meeting. Topics this year ranged from a trip to Baltimore to watch football and eat nachos to a little league trophy to the possibility of maybe hopefully going on a cruise. The actual share itself is only half the fun, though. The other is the ultimate power that comes with being able to call on 5 of your classmates to ask questions. This decision must be made judiciously, especially when there are many more hands than remaining questions. A few times this year I witnessed an interesting phenomenon during the Q&A portion of our morning meetings-the "I am going to call on you, don't worry" look of reassurance. I watched as Malik held out his five fingers to tick down the remaining questions but didn't call on his best friend, Tyson. As Malik got down to two questions to go, he stared at Tyson across the morning meeting circle long enough and intently enough to do a little telepathic exchange. "We are best friends. I am definitely going to call on you, buddy. I will take one more question from some other non-special kid, but the last one I'm saving for you and only you."

Breanna also employed telepathic friend powers at morning meeting this year, staring across at Alexis as the number of remaining share questions dwindled. "I will take your question, friend. I will not leave you hanging" she mentally communicated to Alexis. Breanna then solemnly nodded to confirm the promise, before calling on some other non-Alexis kid.

Sure, I've done a fair bit of breaking up of favoritism during various games this year, but I did particularly appreciate how both Malik and Breanna navigated the best friend dynamic--calling on other classmates while still saving one of the coveted question spots for a very special friend.



If the triple digit temperature today wasn't enough proof that summer is here, I'm finally done with the school year!

Last day with kids--check.
Progress reports written, edited, proofed, double checked, printed, copied, stapled, filed--check.
Parent conferences--check.
Math manuals returned--done.
Room cleaned out--yep.
Drawer of confiscated items--emptied.
Half of public library returned--eh, I'll get to it.

And now--I have time to look through the rest of the end of year compliments to everyone in the class. None can really top the one gem I found the other day, but here are a few others I particularly liked.

You focus on the thing the class is doing.

I like when your cheeks turn red which is funny.

Bridget is fancy because she wears fancy clothes.

I like that you follow the rules that I tell you to do.

You sometimes are not my friend but you are my classmate.

Then there's a whole category of compliments praising the absence of a negative. I have no doubt that the compliments in this category are sincere appreciations, they just all sort of hint at an unspoken part 2. "Unlike SOME people...."
He doesn't get into an argument easily. I like how you always pay attention and never are mean. You don't complain about your partners in PE.

What I Like About You

We're just days away from the big end of year goodbye--somewhat anticlimactic, though, as almost everyone will be back again in a couple of short months for part two of this second/third grade loop. Same classroom. Same teacher. Same homework passes, which may be redeemed in grade 3 after having been earned in grade 2. One student figured out that this was actually a remarkable return on investment. Earn a free night's worth of second grade homework and cash it in for the inflated value of a free night of third grade homework!

But a goodbye nonetheless. My end of year tradition is to have all of the students write compliments about each other and to compile them to present to each kid on the last day. When gearing up to write, we do a minilesson on what makes a good compliment--it's always positive and specific compliments are best.

On year, Shay received this compliment:

You are my friend and I like that and you can do the Robot.

When we presented the typed list on fancy scroll paper to Shay, she did the Robot.

Friends in the class are a piece of cake. "You're my best friend" always appears on the list of compliments between a few buddies. Less-than-friends, though, can be a stretch. Much though I try to help the kids brainstorm possible areas for compliments, model some examples, and review the two features of a good compliment, some compliments always turn out to be not particularly specific. Still others turn out to be not particularly positive. This year I haven't even looked through them all yet, but already I came across one that is rather amazing in its backhanded-ness and will definitely not be included on the scroll.

You're mean to people but not to me.


We didn't!

And now the big reveal about what Kevin and his brother DID NOT DO to the teacher appreciation cookies. I am hoping that they in fact did not sneeze on the cookies, but that was not explicitly stated upon presentation, so who's to know for sure? I am also glad that they did not trade them away for--let's say--some Yu Gi Oh cards, as I am much more a fan of chocolate than of whatever it is one does with such cards. Kevin presented the cookies with such pride, holding them up above his head and declaring,

"My mom baked these! We didn't smush them in the car!"

The self control, creative backseat maneuvering, and protective guarding that it clearly must have taken for these cookies to have arrived in one unsmushed piece were, it seemed, quite a source of pride for Kevin as well.

Fill in the Blank Contest # 3

We're in the last week of school, but the progress report writing continues. So....another fill in the blank contest!

For Teacher Appreciation Week this past spring, I got a delicious baggie of homemade cookies from Kevin. He was very proud of his gift, and perhaps even prouder that he and his brother had managed to NOT DO the thing that Mom had clearly laid out as the one thing to NOT DO to these cookies en route to school. He even worked this into the presentation of the cookies.

"My mom baked these! WE DIDN'T _______!"

What was the thing Kevin and his brother DIDN'T DO to/with the cookies?


We're wrapping up the year! One week to go! I always give an end of the year survey to the kids to see what they liked best, what they found easy or hard, and what they think I should change. Here are a few responses from the question, "What did you find very hard?"

Borrowing from three-digit numbers.

What I found very hard was the more challenging challenge work.

Equivalent fractions.

Having to have a time limit for some stories.

Having to be in Congress and all the arguing.

Fixing my temper.

Well, I agree. All of those were difficult for some kids this year. And fixing one's temper can be quite difficult!
   And for those of you wondering what was Samuel's watertight reasoning about why he could safely be exempt from hand-washing....
   Forty-Something Chick and Sarah from Confessions each had a great potential excuse for forgoing the soap and water. It wasn't the ole spit-and-wipe, though, or a magical hands-free bathroom experience. No--still another reason to not wash.

Ms. Sarah as Samuel exits the bathroom: "Samuel, did you wash your hands?"

Samuel: "No! I had my gloves on!"

Did You Wash Your Hands?

Challenge # 1 in the Fill In the Blank Contest met with some great suggestions! For what Jonathan did to Darnell if not actually bite him, readers guessed "tasted" and "gnawed a little bit." It's true, "biting" is blowing it all out of proportion, and let's be honest--a little subjective. Who's to say what's a bite and what's a mere sampling?

Darnell: “Jonathan bit me!”
Ms. Sarah: “Jonathan, did you bite Darnell?”

Jonathan: “No! Well. I just nibbled.”

And now for Challenge # 2!

When is it OK to not wash your hands? How about when you're on a hiking field trip and stop in the nature center bathroom? As long as this certain something is the case, you're good to go.

Ms. Sarah as Samuel exits the bathroom: "Samuel, did you wash your hands?"
Samuel: "No! I __________."


Fill in the Blank Contest

Well, once again that time of year is upon us. The time of year when I lose the progress report-writing contest among my co-workers and have to buy everyone a drink. In an effort to NOT lose this time, I'm going to keep my blog posts shorter through this crunch time.

But--how about a contest of sorts? I've taken one of my favorite kid quotes and chopped off the last word. Can you guess what the line might be? Or can you come up with something funny? I'll reveal the actual quote in the next post.

Darnell: “Jonathan bit me!”
Ms. Sarah: “Jonathan, did you bite Darnell?”

Jonathan: “No! Well. I just __________.”


He Loves Our School

We are all terribly sad at my school to be losing our principal at the end of this year. He's moving across the country this summer and it's getting awfully close to the time to say goodbye. It's actually getting close to the time to say goodbye to a few other teachers who are close to our class, as well as to a couple of kids who are moving.

Not that our cards and messages of goodbye are any less heartfelt, but it sort of feels these days like we're a factory of appreciation. Fold. Draw. Tell what you like about her. Fold. Draw. Tell what you'll miss about him. I could almost post a permanent sign for the remainder of the year and just write in a different name each day. "The good-bye card of the day, children, is for _____."

The cards for the principal, Mr. Jim, were really wonderful to look through today. And as with much of the kids' work--a little funny, too.

He talks nicely to me.

He is a good guy.

He always says hello or good morning and never is bad.

Aw. Yes--Mr. Jim does talk nicely to people and always says "good morning." And yes, it's definitely a good thing that our principal was never bad. The fanciness of Mr. Jim's ties featured prominently in the drawings as well as the things the kids like about him.

You are a great principal to me and you wear fancy ties.

The best thing about you is that you give people hugs and you pay money to the school so they can go on field trips like the Capitol.

Well, it doesn't really work like that with the money, but OK. Some kids gave advice.

Here’s advice for you, Mr. Jim: Always feel like a principal in your heart and be safe. Everybody wants help from you every time in their life. Mr. Jim, make sure you don’t forget us. Please don’t forget us. I’ll forget you if you do, but you won’t.

We tried to clarify with Marnay about the “I’ll forget you if you do.” "Surely you must mean, 'I’ll forgive you if you do.'" But no. Marnay insisted that she wanted to tell Mr. Jim that if he does, in fact, forget us, we will pretend he never existed. Just so he knows that up front.

Jacob told that he likes how Mr. Jim fixes kids' problems, and Abria drew a whole scene to encapsulate just exactly how Mr. Jim does help kids.

A teary-eyed Sydney in the picture says: Sorry that I’m sad but people won’t let me play with them so I can make my friends.

A tie-wearing Mr. Jim replies: It’s OK Sydney. Sometimes people won’t play with me.

Another girl in the picture, perhaps even Abria herself, says: Sydney fakes like people don’t play with her.

A wavy skirt and label saying “Ms. S” shows that it's me saying: Ok—people will play with her today.

Though I'm not sure it was fully necessary to include the mention of Sydney faking, Abria's goodbye message above the drawing was pretty spectacular.

What I like best about Mr. Jim is that he loves our school. He wants the best for it and it makes me feel like I can trust and give all I got!

Quick--Catch It!

I'm always searching for ways to spice up language lessons. Adding punctuation to a paragraph or capitalizing proper nouns is--let's be honest--rather boring. Grammar just doesn't have the same excitement as, say, an action movie. Until today.

We were going about our regular morning work, capitalizing those proper nouns and adding punctuation to one big long strung-together set of words posing as a coherent paragraph. "My dad taught me about that!" exclaimed Marcus. "It's a runaway sentence!"

Epilogue: After my initial delight over Marcus' new term, a quick online search revealed that the phrase "runaway sentence" may not be an authentic Marcus Wiley original. Darn! It's always so great when kids create a brand new phrase that's really far more apt than the original. One such term I particularly enjoyed a few years ago was Jamal's name for that tape-dispensing thingy that sits next to the stapler. A tape-ler.

Have you heard of a runaway sentence before? Apparently it's much more out of control than a mere run-on.

We are NOT Joking Around, Here

This summer I have been getting lots of advice on the impending baby situation that will be happening this fall.   Highlights of this advi...