Category Archives: Common Core

Attack of the Shrimp – Having Fun with Narratives

I have taught the personal narrative and narrative for twenty-six years, and I have used this model story for about twenty years.  This is one of the weeks the students will be working on story telling.  We will revisit this assignment and others like it, since revising is part of the writing process.  Of course, this is the seventh revision of my story. 

Both prompts I am using involve humor and food for three reasons.  First, I want the kids to be able to laugh at themselves a little, before anyone else can laugh at them.  We all make mistakes or have embarrassing moments.  Second, food allows the writer to create sensory details to appeal to smell and taste, as well as sight, sound, and touch.  Third, a similar prompt has appeared on previous super-secret tests; therefore, after 26 years, I seem to be teaching toward the test. 

 Since this blog is about the freshmen experience, it is only fitting that I share from my freshman year as a teacher. 

It was a cool October day during my first year of teaching.  After a long day of “learning them kids real good”, I arrived home a hungry, tired teacher.  I threw my briefcase on the couch of my one bedroom apartment, and I entered my closet-sized kitchen.  I was a man on a mission to fry some shrimp.

frying pan

frying pan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a cheap guy first year teacher with a salary of $16,500, I did not own a fryer.  Instead, I used oil in a frying pan.  Did I mention I was hungry?  I decided to put the burner on high, and I put a lid on it.  After all, water boils faster with a lid on, right?

While that was heating up, I relaxed in my brown, beat-up-hand-me-down-duct-taped recliner and watched my favorite

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

cartoon of the week: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I also decided to read the evening newspaper.

Suddenly, I heard a metallic “pop,” like a fork hitting the floor.  I also saw a flash of light as if the paparazzi followed me home and began snapping pictures.  I hate when they do this. Immediately, I saw and smelled smoke.  Of course, I was also blasted out of my seat by the smoke alarm blaring its loud, obnoxious, panic-inducing “BEEEEP!!!”

A residential smoke detector is the most famil...

A residential smoke detector is the most familiar piece of nuclear technology for some people (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I leapt out of my seat, threw the newspaper down, stepped on it, and ran into the kitchen.  The oil was on fire!!  The lid was hanging precariously on the edge with flames shooting five feet into the air.  I thought to myself, “Oh feces!”  I knew I had to act quickly; I was worried about the safety of my neighbors: 80 year-old women.  I began to imagine them falling down the three flights of stairs, bouncing off each other, their walkers, and the steps until reaching the bottom in a crumpled heap of bone, blood, and bodies.

My first action was to knock that panic-inducing smoke alarm off of the ceiling. I simply could not think with the incessant beeping in my ears.  Next, I decided to put the lid back on the pan to smother the fire.  However, I was going to have to reach over the flames to grab the lid.  Not wanting to get burned, I quickly thought of a backup plan: I would put the flaming pan and lid in the sink and douse the oil fire with water.  OK, I forgot that oil and water do not mix.  Luckily for me, I was a bachelor and always kept dirty dishes in the sink.  There just wasn’t room for the burning pan.

Standing at the sink holding a pan that had flames scorching the ceiling, I realized I needed to think a little faster.  Suddenly, a college flashback lit up in my mind.  Phil, a smoker across the hall, threw a lit cigarette into his trash can.  To extinguish it, he carried it into the shower and turned on the water.  Viola!  No more fire.  Yes, I was still forgetting oil and water do not mix.

As I turned the corner from the kitchen to the bathroom, a mere two feet, the coordination that prevents me from playing basketball or even walking and chewing gum at the same time, shined through.   I ran into the wall.  The lid fell to the ground.  Boiling oil landed on my hand and the carpet.  The carpet melted instantly.  My hand turned red and blistered simultaneously.  I exclaimed vulgarities that would have made my mother proud, which is probably why I was rewarded with a nasty, putrid, and worse than a two-day-old-dead-skunk-on-the-side-of-the-road stench, as the smell of my burnt flesh wafted into my nose.

I  jumped over the pan lid with the flames shooting three feet into the air, and I threw the pan, which still held some burning oil, into the bathtub.  I remember thinking to myself when I watched the flames swirl down the drain, “This looks like a volcano toilet!”  Then, I remembered the burning pan lid.  I jumped over the flames again and went to the kitchen sink to get some wet towels.  I wrapped one towel around my hand to try to ease the pain and keep the swelling down.  I used the other towel to grab the pan lid.  For some mysterious reason, I thought the best way to get rid of this burning lid was to walk across the newspaper, crinkle, crinkle, crunch, that was strewn across the living room floor and place it on my wooden balcony.

As I did this, the fire burnt itself out.  I left the balcony door open to allow the smoke and stench of burnt hand and melted carpet escape.  I also checked on my neighbors.  They had heard nothing.  Turns out they were all deaf.  A younger neighbor, about sixty-years-old, took me to the emergency room.  For a month after, I visited the doctor every other day in order to have the dead skin picked off and get a new bandage wrapped around my hand.

Since that fateful October day, I have placed a fire extinguisher under the sink, and I have learned how to use it!

"Learn to use it NOW-Carbon Dioxide Hand ...

“Learn to use it NOW-Carbon Dioxide Hand Fire Extingusher” – NARA – 514853 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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September 23, 2013 · 4:39 pm

The Third Annual Star Wars Party and Standardized Tests

The second Death Star under construction in Re...

The second Death Star under construction in Return of the Jedi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“May the fourth be with you,” stated my eight-year old son.

“And with you,” I replied.

Thus began our STAR WARS day, May 4th, 2013.

A month ago the invitations were mailed. The RSVPs had been given. At noon, my son’s fellow younglings would arrive for light saber duels, Jedi training, and good v. evil challenges. The Jedi were to depart at 3:15. Not 3:00 o’clock. Not 3:30. Three. fifteen.

This was my son’s third annual STAR WARS party. At the first party, someone thought it was a birthday party and brought him a gift. The mom couldn’t understand that our son would plan a party to celebrate STAR WARS! Really? I have seen Oscar parties, Kentucky Derby parties, and Super Bowl parties. Those parties do not even come close to my son’s STAR WARS parties for fun and excitement.

The best part is he does the planning. We ate Death Star grapes, StarWarsberries, and make your own pizzas. Every little Jedi would be happy.

My son informed me that I was not needed in organizing games or activities outside. In fact I was to do nothing except put the pizzas in the oven and take them out of the oven. Part of me was sad that he was growing up, and he didn’t need me. However, I quickly became happy when I realized I would not have to be hit with light sabers, or have those Ewoks jump all over me. I could relax.

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, at every STAR WARS party we have a kid cry. Even if I remind them that no one ever cried in STAR WARS. This year, we had one accidental hit on the head with a light saber. A little Jar Jar Binks walked into a light saber being tossed in the air. And, we had a couple of boys try to sneak into the basement to play video games:

“It’s burning up outside,” they whined.

“It’s 73 degrees. There is a breeze. Get a glass of water and go play,” I ordered.

They drank some water, petted our little Chewbacas and ran outside to join the fun. There were no further problems or complaints.

The party was an excellent demonstration of skills my son learned in school and at home:

*Writing invitations

*Using time management

*Planning activities

*Leading small groups

*Creating a menu for kids with food allergies

*Compromising so everyone has fun

I can’t wait to see how the Department of Education will create a standardized test to assess these skills. I hope he does well, or he may not be college and career ready.

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Filed under Common Core, Humor, Learning, Measuring Student Success