Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tools of the Trade: Lack of Progress Letter

We are already into week number three of the school year in my neck of the woods. The school year is divided into four nine-week semesters. Week number four, which is looming in front of me, is the magical time when midterm grades are entered and each student’s progress is analyzed.

While many students start the year off with a bang and do very well, many struggle with suddenly having three or four different teachers and having to learn to deal with taking notes, and actually using a textbook. Please remember though, I don’t teach based on the textbook. My students use it as just one of many tools to access content, and since they are nine and ten years old part of my efforts involve teaching them HOW to use a textbook, and to extend their skills with informational reading.

By this time students have completed our first unit of study….Native Americans….and have submitted their notebook for a grade. I usually take a few classwork grades, a project grade, a quiz or two, as well as homework checks. It’s a very busy four week period. If a student ends the first four weeks of a semester with a grade of 79 or below the follow slip is sent home for parental review. This notice reaches parents BEFORE the actual midterm is handed out.

Student Name:______

Native Americans Test Grade _______
Notebook Grade ______

Midterm Average _____

Dear ____________,

I’m sending you this note because I am concerned regarding your child’s performance on our unit test given this past Friday. The test had been announced for several days and had been listed on my board for students to record a reminder to study in their agendas. Students also had a review sheet with every question and answer for the test in their possession to study. Each unit begins with a study guide that has all the important information you might need as parent to help oversee your child’s study.

Students cannot simply listen to me in class and “get it”. They must work with the material on their own by completing the classwork and homework assignments, and by creating and turning in their Native American project. They must review their notes and reread sections of the text on their own to grasp the concepts. Many times during the week I have students write in their agendas “Review or study notes.” Please help me by checking the agenda daily and by asking your child to see their notebook. It would also be to your child’s benefit if they brought home their Social Studies text in order to reread material we have already read in class. This study time should take no longer than 15-20 minutes. It would help students a great deal in focusing more on the concepts we are studying. I appreciate your assistance.


I print these out on half-sheets of paper and staple them into the child’s agenda and follow up with phone calls when necessary. For parents who have children with grades below 70 this midterm note from me is not the first time they have ever heard from me. I would have already contacted them during the second or third week of school to voice my concern.

It is ludicrous to believe that you can garner a parent’s support and partnership by remaining silent for four weeks, and then allow a midterm report to express that a student is having problems.

Another classroom management topic that is appropriate for this time of the year involves classroom procedures. You can read my past posting regarding my classroom syllabus here and here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Carnival Announcement

Where else can you find postings regarding a concert review, John Edwards’ recent confession, a prayer attributed to Francis Drake, paintings, sewing, and the back-to-school blues all linked together in one place?

The Georgia Carnival, of course! You can find it over at my Georgia site…..Georgia on My Mind.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yes! There's More About Fort TIconderoga...13 Things

1. Built in the narrows of Lake Champlain Fort Ticonderoga could view trade routes from the Hudson River Valley controlled by the English and the Saint Lawrence River Valley controlled by the French. My post yesterday provides more details regarding the strategic location of the fort.

2. Through its long history the fort has seen four important battles. The French constructed the fort also known as Fort Carillon in 1755 The fort’s main objective was to control Lake Champlain and keep the British from advancing into the area.

3. I always like to show students a picture of the fort and ask them….if the objective was to hold the lake why was the fort built on a bluff high above…….answer is it was important to maintain the integrity of the fort. It was harder for enemies to attack because they had to climb the walls

4. This fact didn’t keep the British from attacking during the final French and Indian War aka the Seven Years War on July 8, 1758….parts of the fort were still under construction….unfortunately the British were repulsed. This was the greatest victory for the French during the Seven Years War; however, in 1759 the Battle of Ticonderoga was fought with a British victory.

5. Surprisngly the British allowed the fort to fall into disrepair, and maintained it with a small garrison. Students are always amazed that the garrison was less than a hundred….less than 50…less than 30….more like 20. When Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys the Americans entered through a breach in the wall and it was taken without a single shot being fire. The picture below shows the side the structure where Allen entered and demanded the Fort’s surrender.
6. Cannons and gunpowder were seized and were then hauled by Henry Knox in 1775-76 to assist with the siege of Boston

7. In my post Saving History I recount how today the fort is privately owned and is considering selling off some of the artifacts in order to cure huge financial missteps and dwindling numbers of tourists. While this saddens me we probably wouldn’t have Fort Ticonderoga to visit at all if it wasn’t for the fact that the property has been privately maintained since William Ferris Pell (pictured below) purchased the property in 1820. Ironically he was the member of an exiled Loyalist family during the American Revolution.

8. Pell was a businessman, horticulturalist, and preservationist. At the time he became the owner of the property many of the locals had been pilfering the huge stones and other building materials for use on their own properties. Pell was able to secure the fort though he conducted no reconstruction.

9. Pell built a magnificent home on the grounds called The Pavilion which he later turned into a hotel. Today, along with the Fort, The Pavilion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

10. Pell’s great-grandson, Stephen Pell, seen below, took over the restoration of the Fort in 1908. While the Fort becomes a tourist destination, The Pavilion becomes a private family residence. Stephen Pell is credited with building the museum that the Fort is today due to the fact that he was an avid collector of Revolutionary War relics.

11. Stephen Pell was a decorated war veteran, having served in both the Spanish-American War and the First World War. You can find out more about him here

12. The official website for Fort Ticonderoga can be found here.

13. Members of the Pell family are still involved with the Fort and sit on the Fort Ticonderoga Association and Board of Trustees. A family cousin, Deborah Pell Dunning is working on a book which will detail the Pell family’s involvement with the Fort, but does not have a publisher as of this date.

There is a great online article here concerning the history and restoration of the Fort.

Other bloggers have published lists of 13 things as well today….you can find them here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wordless: A Stategic Location

Today’s images are the famed Fort Ticonderoga I mentioned yesterday in my post regarding selling history. The Mohawk Indians named the area Ticonderoga long before the French decided to build a fort at the location. The very word Ticonderoga means “land between the waters” meaning the peninsula where the fort was built (between 1755 and 1759) is between Lake Champlain and the drainage of Lake George (La Chute River). In fact, the fort could reach the Vermont shore with cannon fire, and anyone who had control of the Fort had control of a very important north-south water route.

The image below is another view of the Fort…You can see Fort Ticonderoga and Rattlesnake Hill (Mount Independence) from Sugarloaf Hill (Mount Defiance). Fort Ticonderoga sits on the end of the peninsula to the left. Rattlesnake Hill is the peninsula to the right. You can clearly see how the fort is strategically located where the lake narrows.

More on Fort Ticonderoga tomorrow!

Other bloggers are also posting wordless images today. You can locate them here.

It's Carnival TIme!

The Education Carnival can be seen in all its glory over at Joanne Jacobs. I can’t wait to grab my cotton candy and delve into all things education over there.

Won’t you join me?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Selling History

I had lunch on Sunday with some friends of ours and the subject of my writing came up. I mentioned that perhaps it was the heat of July and August or perhaps it was because I had been busy with numerous projects over the summer, but I just haven’t been very enthusiastic regarding my writing topics until……until I saw this article regarding Fort Ticonderoga.

I mentioned to my lunch companions that apparently the fort is a bit cash strapped because they are looking into selling some of the property’s artwork and artifacts. Instantly one of my companions remarked, “Wait, how can they do that? The government owns the fort, don’t they?”

Read the article and you will discover as I did that Fort Ticonderoga is privately owned and is only on the National Historical Register. It is not part of the National Parks Service as many historical locations are. Therefore, they can sell what they wish, and it appears they are wishing hard. One item in particular is a painting by Thomas Cole titled Gelyna: View Outside of Ticonderoga (1829). See it to your left. You can click on it to see a larger view. It’s rather interesting, don’t you think?

Apparently the money mess began when the fort’s main benefactors, Deborah and Forest E. Mars, Jr. (of candy bar fame), pulled out cold turkey because they had a problem with some of the museum folk. If you read the article I linked to above as well as this Topix thread the whole thing sounds like a financial soap opera.

Sheesh people…this is history….this is Fort Ticonderoga. Quit trifling with it over power issues.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reforming Education

The following video is from the British television show Prime Minister. Depending on the side you’re on regarding education reform the video speaks volumes regarding the beauracracy of education and how insane it is.

How do I know the video speaks volumes? Well, I’ve sat in on meetings where I’ve heard some of the same comments. Say what you want to regarding the high level of poor parenting today, but parents are still the parents and should be able to make decisions regarding the education of their children.

Yes, the clip is a bit long, but it’s worth a laugh…..or cry.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Clicky Things

The latest edition of the Carnival of Education can be found over at Pass the Torch. Head on over and check out the latest and greatest in the edublogosphere.

….and while you’re in a clicky mood head over to IdeaBlob where Carol has a great idea regarding an afterschool program. Follow this link to read all about it. Apparently if Carol gets enough votes she will win a rather substantial sum of money to get the program rolling. Bronze: Where the least find the will to succeed…..I like that!

Monday, August 04, 2008

What's Your Message?

My dear husband forwarded this video to me earlier today, and I instantly felt it was so very important to share with those of you who visit here.

We all have a message……through our daily interactions with co-workers, parents and students, through our interaction with strangers each day, as we visit with friends, and as we parent and conduct our family life.

How our message is s delivered makes or break how it is perceived by others. If we all thought a little more about our message and could discover the best mode of delivery it would probably be a much different world.

What do you think?