Week 4: Camp


A weird week since half of it was spent on the 7th grade camping trip.

MON: Of Mice and Men, Ch. 3 and Alchemy

We began my seventh grade classes by reading the scene where Candy’s dog gets shot. This led to a discussion about the ruthless cruelty of the ranch. I asked students to note which of the survival strategies they brainstormed on Friday were being used by different characters in the novel.

I then read the description of Slim from the previous chapter and suggested that he might be a kind of symbol of some sort.

We then read the scene where Lennie crushes Curley’s hand. We discussed how Curley, who’s a bully, is himself bullied by the buckers in a moment of weakness.

Finally, we read the scene where Candy joins in on George and Lennie’s dream of a ranch. We discussed the concept of the American Dream and the need for hope in such dismal circumstances.

I closed class by introducing the Answers.com Creative Writing challenge. I asked students to look up the definitions of the words for homework and come prepared with story ideas.

The Answers.com contest came to my attention the previous week, by someone who ran across this blog right here and e-mailed me with this opportunity. It came just in the nick of time, too, as I was starting to fret over a vocabulary assignment for the 7th grade. Thanks blogosphere!

Speaking of vocabulary, I began my eighth grade class by reviewing the vocabulary homework assigned over the weekend. I answered questions about the upcoming vocabulary quiz and then moved on to The Alchemist.

We compared Santiago to some of the other characters in the book, namely the crystal merchant and the Englishman. We also had a discussion of what alchemy is and the connection between alchemy and transformation. This led to a fruitful discussion about why alchemy might be central to the book even as it has not really made much of an appearance in the plot thus far.

This was going to be the last class I would have with my eighth graders for the week. I assigned them to finish the vocabulary exercises in their book and forbade them to read ahead in The Alchemist without me.

TUE: Vocab Story

I only had my seventh graders today. We began class discussing the words given for the Answers.com challenge. I sounded like a spokesman for Answers.com, pointing out how looking up the words on their web site leads not only to dictionary definitions but pronunciation sound files, thesaurus and specialized dictionary entries, wikipedia entries, and so on. I forgot to mention Googling a word can take you directly to the Answers.com entry for that word.

I was a little disappointed that a number of my seventh graders did not do the homework. I’ve been falling behind in grading, and so I’ve been loathe to add more to my grading pile. The result, however, has been that homework seems to have diminished in significance to my students.

I gave the students 15 minutes of writing time to get started on the contest. I didn’t want them to have too much homework the night before their camping trip. I also didn’t want them to think too much about Of Mice and Men over the camping trip, either. Having this vocabulary break ended up being a nice transition.

With the remaining minutes of class, I treated my seventh graders to a spontaneous showing of The Potter Puppet Pals.

WED: Camp Victory and Vocab Review

I joined the 7th graders on their camping trip to Camp Victory near Bloomsburg, PA. Camp Victory normally houses programs for children with physical disabilities, but has allowed our school to rent their facilities for our camping trips for several years now. Most of the activities of the camp are run by Quest, an outdoor adventure and recreation program run out of Bloomsburg University. They do an awesome job and started us off on a variety of team-building activities. Later on in the evening the students put together some skits. Umm, let’s just leave it at that.


Meanwhile, I had left the following instructions for my eighth grade class:

  1. Play a tutorial (that I burned on DVD) showing how to control other email addresses through Gmail
  2. Go over the vocabulary exercises I assigned

THUR: Camp Victory and Vocab Quiz

The second day of camp was jam-packed with rotating activities. Every student got to go on a climbing wall, speed down a zip-line, share at a conflict resolution workshop, and explore Bloomsburg University. Thankfully it didn’t rain until the evening (Quaker) Meeting for Worship; I actually liked listening to the thunder and rain in a relatively silent, reflective meeting.


As for my eighth graders:

  1. They took the vocabulary quiz
  2. They watched my tutorial on subscribing to feeds using Google Reader — which was apparently too confusing for many

FRI: Heading Home and a Grammar Quiz

Quest created a final team-challenge olympics for our final day. We cleaned our cabins, said our goodbyes, and headed on back for home.


The eighth graders:

  1. Took a non-graded grammar assessment that I’m going to use to just take stock of where we need to focus future grammar instruction.
  2. Watched my tutorial on creating blogs using learnerblogs.org

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