Monday, October 8, 2007

Scooping the Principal

If you look back through my posts, you’ll see that I only write in response to written attacks. They write me a letter, I write them one back. Now, I’m about to change my strategy. Principal P and Co. have established a pattern that has become fairly easy to predict.

On Friday, October 5, Principal P. and Assistant Principal Z. both came into my classroom and walked around for about ten minutes asking students questions and writing things on little note pads. This is what I predict will happen next. They will wait for at least a month and a half and then hit me out of nowhere with a letter describing what a terrible lesson they saw. They will make sure to give me this letter just before a vacation or long weekend. By my calculations, that should be Thanksgiving weekend. So during my whole Thanksgiving Vacation, I will by trying unsuccessfully not to think about what they said. The following Monday, I will be faced with having to respond to a letter about something that happened six weeks in the past.

So instead, I am going to write that letter now. I am going to scoop them. Unfortunately, I have to use some of my Columbus Day weekend to do that, but I’m better off taking the initiative while the lesson is still fresh in my mind. By Thanksgiving, it will simply be a matter of cut and paste.

Dear Ms. P and Mr. Z.,

Thank you for visiting my classroom on Friday, October 5, 2007. You picked a great day to do so, because as you saw for yourselves, my students were working independently to complete their September Almanac Badge. This year I have designed an incentive program in which students will be awarded “badges” for accomplishing specific tasks. I call them badges because I got the idea from the badges that are awarded in the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America.

As I am sure you discovered in your conversations with my students, they had been working on the Almanac Badge since the beginning of school. On Friday, they were working in pairs to evaluate the assignments and then complete the badge by organizing and placing all the tasks in a folder to be turned in by the end of the period. I saw a student show you the list assignments which read as follows.

1. Make a Solar Calendar.
Trace the movement of Earth as it moves around the sun.
2. Make a table of the times of sunrise and sunset for one week.
3. Use the table to make a graph of the times of sunrise and sunset.
4. Make a table of the time of moonrise and moonset for one week.
5. Use the table to make a graph of the times of moonrise and moonset.
6. Write a data analysis that compares and contrasts the two graphs.
7.Make a graph of the times of moonrise and moonset for Sept. 18 through 30.
8. Write a paragraph about the patterns you see in the graph.
9. Write a report of information about solstices and equinoxes.
10. Explain the term: Harvest moon.
11. Write September Sky Events

1. Write your favorite weather proverb.
2 Draw or print an image of each of these clouds types: cirrus, cumulus,
3. Write a description of cirrus, cumulus and stratus clouds tell how to use
them to predict the weather.

Write some interesting facts about pets.

Write some interesting facts about the outdoors.

Reference: Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids at

I am sure that you took the time to admire at least one example of each of these assignments and to let the students know how impressed you were by their work.

The list of September Almanac assignments also appears on my website, My website has pages dedicated to each badge. There is also a homework page which reminds students of daily, weekly, and long term assignments. I have also included a separate web page with my lesson plans. I believe that this and other information available on the site can help students and parents understand exactly must be done to pass my class with a good grade. Teachers of other subject areas can also access the site to see what their students are doing in Science.
In the near future, I hope to publish examples of the students’ work.

Badges do not carry a grade, but I do assign number grades 1,2,3, or 4 to the individual assignments. An assignment must carry a grade of 2 or more to qualify for the badge. As I have informed my students, successful completion of all required badges guarantees a grade of at least 65 to 75.

The assignments are a mixture of work we did in class and work that students did independently at home. Some students do not have computers or an internet connection. In that case, I referred them to the local library or supplied them with supplemental materials.

In the coming month of October, we will be working on the October Almanac Badge and the Navigator Badge.

I am attaching a “Certificate of Achievement” for the September Almanac Badge which basically lists the tasks and certifies that they have been successfully completed. I need 160 copies of the certificate. This is all I can give my students for now, but I would like to investigate other possible rewards. If you have any ideas on this subject, I would be happy to hear them.
I am also attaching my lesson plan for Friday. Although I already made one available to you on Friday, I do not usually include the full New York State Science Standards with my in-class lesson plans.

Lesson Plan for October 5, 2007


Time: 1 or more periods

Materials: Textbooks, reference books, teacher generated materials, information researched by students etc.


1. Students choose one or more of the tasks that must be completed in order to get a badge.
2. Students work together with partners or groups to evaluate and complete all tasks.
3. Students occasionally use the teacher as a consultant, but generally work on their own to complete the badge.
4. Those who finish early can complete an additional task for extra credit.

NYS Standards for Lesson Plan for October 5,2007

Standard 1

Mathematical Analysis
Key Idea #2 M21a, M21b
Scientific Inquiry
Key Idea #1 S1.1, S1.2, S1.3 S1.4
Key Idea #3 S3.1, S3.2, S3.3

Standard 4 The Physical Setting
Key Idea #1 The Earth and celestial phenomena can be described by principles of relative motion and
perspective. PS 1.1e-j

Standard 6--Interconnectedness
Key Idea #5 Patterns of Change

Standard 7—Interdisciplinary Problem Solving
Key Idea #2 Solving interdisciplinary problems involves a variety of skills and strategies, including effective
work habits; gathering and processing information; generating and analyzing ideas; realizing ideas;
making connections among the common themes of mathematics, science and technology; and
presenting results.


Pissed Off said...

Sounds like a great approach. Hope it works. I have little or no use for administrators and the type of letter you are expecting could never help, even if you needed help.

We are told to return exams in a timely fashion. Seems to me, observations ought to be done the same way.

Tara said...
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