Skip to main content

Missions, Seagulls, DNA Models and other "fun" projects

I am not a crafty mom.  My mom was not a crafty mom.  I don't own a glue gun, and I don't like Michael's.  The only C I got in middle school was in sewing, and in ceramics class my pots ended up on the ceiling!  Therefore, there is nothing that creates  more fear and dread for me as a parent than when one of my sons brings home five pages of instructions for a "fun" project.   In the past several years, we have built three missions out of sugar cubes, a paper mache, seagull, a DNA model out of plastic beads,  a cell made out of cake and candy , a clay village , a Lego diorama, and a variety of other projects,  NONE of these were FUN!  Pretty much all of them involved my kids crying  and me screaming at the top of my lungs ready to stab my eyes out with pipe cleaner or a  chopstick ( chopstick used for seagull's legs in seagull project)!

What really gets my goat is that teachers say to use things you have around the house for the aforementioned projects.  We have lots of dog hair, leftover lasagna, and dirty laundry around the house.  We do not have a Costco sized case of sugar cubes, we do not have pipe cleaners, we do not have clay, we do not have lion figurines.  You get the idea!

Most recently my 6th grader came home with a project on the Colosseum.  However, it is a group project with two boys I do not know.  One of the boys "worked" with my son on the last project and did absolutely nothing.  Josh built the entire thing himself, and I paid for it all.  Of course, the other boy received credit because Josh was too chicken to say anything to the teacher.  This project, like every other project, ended up in the garbage. So, why did my son choose to work with this boy again?  I have no idea, but I have a feeling that the boy sought out Josh like a heat seeking missile.  He knows a good thing when he sees one! 

Last Saturday night Josh came into my room crying.  It was 11:30, and I was just drifting off after  a Netflix binge.  He was crying.  He was really crying.  He was gasping for air and could barely get out a syllable.  Finally, he was able to communicate that he was stressed about his history project.  He was afraid his group wasn't going to pull through. He also said he had no idea how to make a model of the Colosseum.  I was furious-not at him-but at the ridiculousness of the situation!  My ELEVEN year old was stressed out....about a pointless project.  My eleven year old is pretty much the happiest kid I know.  His nickname on his baseball team is Smiley!  I basically decided at that moment that I didn't care if he failed the class, he was NOT wasting his time (or mine) to build this model.  

He and I discussed possible ways to handle the situation and finally decided that he would write an email to his teacher explaining how he was feeling and some possible  alternatives to building the Colosseum.  Of course, I warned him that she could tell him there were no other options and to be prepared.  Within twenty minutes, she responded.  She said it would be fine if he created a Google Presentation instead.  He could include information from his research, as well as pictures and videos of the Colosseum!  He literally jumped for joy, and so did I! 

On a side note, I love this teacher-and not just because she let my son do an alternative project.  This teacher is one of the most enthusiastic, creative teachers I know.  Her enthusiasm is incredible, and it's obvious that she loves her students and her job.  Perhaps some students might learn something by building a seagull or a mission. However, I think it's good to provide alternatives.  I also think parents should not have to be involved in their child's homework.  Homework should be something that can be completed independently, without a parent's time and money!

Thanks for reading!  I just had to get this out!

Popular posts from this blog

Bottle Flipping

Last week someone posted article on Facebook about the newest trend with middle schoolers-bottle flipping.  If you haven't heard of it, you probably don't teach middle school or have a child in middle school! Consider  yourself lucky! If you know about it, then you also know it's annoying as heck.  Kids (usually boys), toss a partially filled water bottle into the air so that it flips in midair.  The goal is to have the bottle land upright.  This year I have had to ask several students to put their water bottles away because they wanted to flip them.  I know,  I'm mean!  

After reading the Facebook article I thought, "Hey!  I bet I can incorporate this into a lesson somehow."  Using my Oreo lesson as a model, that's just what I did.  First, I found two different articles about bottle flipping.  I went through both looking for key vocabulary words.  I then typed out the sentences with the words and created an activity where students had to guess the definit…

Oreos in China and Read 180

A few years ago I read an article about what happened when Kraft introduced the Oreo to the Chinese in 1996.  It was not a success.  The Chinese thought the filling was too sweet-the cookie too bitter.  Kraft almost pulled the beloved cookie off the shelves. Instead, they began a quest to find out how to make the Oreo appeal to the Chinese. Enter the green tea Oreo, the mango Oreo, and an Oreo in the shape of a straw (not sure that still qualifies as an Oreo).  The revamped Oreos were a huge success! I found the article fascinating and decided to design a lesson around  it to share with my students.

First I showed them a news clip from CNN about the topic. Then, I taught them a few vocabulary words that appear in the article using Kate Kinsella's method.  Next, we read the article together and marked the text. I did a think aloud as I read aloud to them.  After that, students created a T-Chart listing the ten most important words in the text, as well as five main ideas from the tex…

Making Comments on Student Writing Meaningful

As any English teacher knows, we spend countless hours grading and commenting on student work.  What I realized after a few years of teaching was that many students did not read my comments at all; they just looked at their grade. Some didn't even look at the rubric!   However, many students valued my feedback and relished every comment.  I felt as though I was wasting my time on more than half of the essays.   As evident from the next essay the students wrote, the majority of the students did not heed the advice I gave in the previous essay.  I came up with a solution!  Using Google Forms, I created a detailed survey for my students to fill out about the comments they received on their writing.  I will include pictures of various questions and answers.  Better yet, I told them that all responses would be read and a graded  for the thoughtfulness.  I had a sub that day, so I created a link to the form in my daily blog post for my class!  SO easy!  Students were forced to go back t…