On the second day of Christmas…

I had been crabby for the first half of the week for many and various reasons: a “mama bear,” a moron or two, a faculty meeting, the brrrnesss of the weather lately–30 degrees on my bike to school every day this week…really? Really? I thought this was California…

But today was full of laffs.

aside: For some reason, I just really love spelling it that way and seeing it spelled that way. I don’t know why, I just smile every time I see it that way.

Here’s one of today’s knee slappers. (I think I might need to save some of the others for days 9 or 10, if the well starts to run dry.)

A few weeks ago, I found a stash of  the “consumable” workbooks that I thought we were out of, and we’re working (haha) our way through the “reading in the real world” type exercises. Yes I have blogged about this before, but instead of making you click the link to get the back story, I have conveniently included it below, along with the related “video,” which this lesson gives me an excuse to drag out each year. I’m sure my old (no offense) regulars will remember this one. See you after the flashback from February ’10.

Those of us who have been teaching junior high for awhile (and still like it) know that part of the enjoyment of the job is the opportunity to act like a seventh grader now and then. Some of us take that opportunity more often than others.

In the movie 48 Hours, which was the last Eddie Murphy movie I’ve seen, there’s a great scene in the all-white cowboy bar, when Eddie gets all bad cop on them and says, “I’m your worst nightmare, I’m a n***** with a badge…” (Obviously the quote, coming from a young Eddie Murphy, has been cleaned up a bit.) I have always considered myself a sort of  “seventh grader with a badge.” In some of my battles with district administration over the years, I’m sure they’ve had similar thoughts.

Anyway. Lately the kids have been working on one of the few things I actually use that came with our literature anthologies. (I will devote a whole ‘nother post to the lameness of said anthologies. I didn’t even bother to write numbers on my set of  giant books — 8 pounds! As if the kids’ backpacks aren’t giant enough– because I didn’t send them home. We read exactly one story out of it –“Thank You M’am“– and one Emily Dickinson poem. ) Part of the deal with buying the anthologies was that they came with a workbook kids could write in, and do the whole “active reading” thing; write in the margins and answer questions and suchlike. Most of the work book is just large print versions of some of the stories in the anthology, with lines on the margins for “notes” and answers to questions. I don’t use that. But in the back of the book are a bunch of exercises similar to parts of our state tests, with things like reading a textbook and getting info from a weather map and other such practical reading applications. The exercises are a bit simple in themselves, but with a bit of in-class discussion and quizzing, they’re pretty useful.

Last night’s reading was focused on looking for what they called “signal words” that show order, importance, chronology, etc. The example they worked from was a brief piece on the life-cycle of the butterfly. Well, what’s the stage after caterpillar called? No, it’s not chrysalis. What’s the thing inside the chrysalis called?

Here are the first three questions from the quiz. (It was open book; the point was to practice extracting information from the reading. NOTA is our shorthand for none of the above.)

  1. Once a caterpillar has ______ for the last time…  a) cracked the egg  b) shed its skin  c) made a pupa (haha) d) metamorphosised e) NOTA
  2. …it becomes a _______… a) chrysalis  b) spiracule  c) caterpillar  d) pupa (haha)  e) NOTA
  3. …with a hard covering called a ______. a) pupa (haha)  b) egg  c) spiracule  d) chrysalis  e) NOTA

The quick readers start laughing right away. I can’t resist.


Giggle. Giggle.

“Get it? Made a poopa?”  Seventh grader with a badge.Yes, I know it’s pronounced pewpah. That is not nearly as much fun to say.

One class lost it altogether. It was so much fun, I didn’t care.

“Get it? Made a poopa?”

“Did you put haha after every pupa?” She pronounces it correctly. There were eight questions on the quiz, and most of them had pupa as one of the choices.

“I tried, but I sort ran out of steam toward the end. Get it? Made a poopa? ”

Seventh grader with a badge.

So before we started the quiz this year, I said something like,

“If all goes well, I have a video that goes with this quiz.”

“What? Butterflies? I seen that!”

(me) “You’ve seen a butterfly video?” They’ve always seen everything…even when they haven’t.


“And you think I’m going to show you some sort of butterfly video?”


Anyway, their reaction was pretty much the same as last year’s bunch. And then I bust the babies, and we all rock and groove and poopadoop, and half of them look at each other wondering if it’s ok to like this stuff. For good measure, I roll it again. There is almost unanimous rocking.

Then there is one of those perfect little silences. Those times, when for one reason or another, they all go quiet at once. So rare. So beautiful. And always shattered by something like this:

“That wasn’t a butterfly video. What about the butterflies?”

Laffs all ’round.