Friday, December 16, 2011

Fact or Opinion?

Fact: Something that can be proven. Something that is true or the same every time, no matter who you ask.
Opinion: What someone feels, believes, or thinks about something.

Ok, so those probably aren't Webster's definitions, but they are the most user-friendly, 4th grade definitions that I can think of! And even still, the kids get confused! They get the concept for the most part, but there are some that just baffle them every time.
For example, today during Reading they had to decide if the sentence "Patrick Henry was a noble patriot and was admired by everyone." was a fact or an opinion. Considering 99% of them don't understand the words noble, patriot, and admired, I let it slide if they missed it. But, I mean, come on kids. Obviously there were some who thought he spoke treason and too outspoken, it's CLEARLY an opinion. :)
Just kidding. The ones they usually miss are ones like this:
"Summer is the best season." - Definitely a fact. It can be proven and no matter who you ask, you always get the same answer...  at least when your sphere of influence is limited to 24 other school-crazed fourth graders who are dying to hear the words "it's the last day of school"!
"Ice cream is yummy." - Same thing. How can it be an opinion when it's a fact of life?
"My teacher is the best teacher in the world." - I honestly had a student come up to me and ask me if this was a fact... "because we all know it's true and you really are the best teacher and everyone in the whole class thinks so." So precious. But I'm pretty sure the 'best teacher' would've figured out a way to teach them enough to know the difference between facts and opinions.... :)

Having them identify facts or opinions is fun enough, but having them come up with their own facts and opinions is opening a whole new can of worms.
Fact: Bengermen Franklin made lightning. - In this student's and my defense, we haven't studied the electricity unit yet. :) 
Fact: Susan B. Antaney was deaf and blind. - Well, based on my decoding, I think you were trying to spell "Anthony"... based on your information, I must be mistaken. I appreciate you trying to share your wealth of knowledge, but in the future, why don't you just put a fact like your classmates' "I am at school."?
Fact: God is real. - Agreed. 

(On a similar note, one of my sneaky little students came up to me on one of our Fact and Opinion days and said, "Ms. Wacek, fact or opinion, Santa is real?" Haha. It's always important to tread lightly this time of year!!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost in Translation!

Teaching ESL students can be a challenge. For example, it's hard enough to explain to a native English speaking 4th that a "hardship in the colony of Jamestown" does not actually mean there was a boat made out of stone, let alone someone who doesn't quite yet know that a ship and a boat are the same thing.
Although it has its difficult moments, I wouldn't trade it. The inquisitiveness, culture, trains of thought (not real railroad trains... in case any of them are reading this...), and laughter they bring to the classroom are invaluable. There were two particular instances this week where I was reminded of the language barrier and the difficulty of the English language.
Tuesday morning, one of my students came in very solemnly, sat down at his seat, completed his morning work and then just stared off into space for a while. A few minutes later, he got up, turned to me, and said, "Ms. Wacek. I think today is not my lucky day."
Me: "Why not?"
"I got run over by a car this morning."
"I was walking to the bus and I looked both ways before I went in the street. But then, it just zoomed out of nowhere and ran me over."
"Ummmmm... What?! Did the driver stop? Are you hurt?"
"No. It almost ran me over." 
With that, he went back to his seat and read his book silently. The incident was never mentioned again. The events of that morning were definitely lost in translation. 

That same afternoon, I was tutoring some kids after school. I was working with some boys on long division (a constant in my life these days) and they started goofing around like 10-year-old boys who have just been through a full day of being cooped up in a classroom tend to do. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, one of the ESL boys shouts, "Oh man! This is giving me the hilly-billies!" Through our very confused expressions, everyone started laughing.. a nervous, confused laugh. "The hilly-billies?" 
"Yeah, it's so scary! I have the hilly-billies!"
"The heeby-jeebies?"
"Oh yeah. The heeby-jeebies. That's what I meant. What does that mean?"

I couldn't tell ya. You gotta love the English language! :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011


It's days like these where I wish the show Survivor was actually reality. It would be awesome to be able to win a challenge and get an 'immunity necklace'...

My immunity necklace would be different though. My immunity would actually give me physical immunity... not from getting voted off a deserted island (although, most days, for at least a fleeting moment, that's where I wish I was!), but from being invaded by the millions of germs that have overtaken my classroom this week.
Monday I found out that one of my students has pneumonia. She came to school the next day. Germs.
Tuesday I found out that one of my students cut his foot open over the weekend and it bleeds most of the day. Germs.

Wednesday 3 students were absent, 3 complained of stomach aches, 2 complained of headaches, 2 said they had thrown up that morning, and one was sent home puking (thankfully he made it to the trashcan in time!). Germs.
Not to mention we've been having majorly bi-polar weather, so all of our bodies are confused and weakened. Oy vay!

Thankfully, I was raised by parents who don't believe in germs or doctors in a country where the former are very prevalent. I think that is my immunity necklace right there (along with some daily orange juice, of course!). Here's to good health!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Dinner!

What's the first thing you think of when I say "Thanksgiving"?

Turkey. Green Bean Casserole. Pumpkin pie. Family. Football. Giving Thanks. These are the usual responses someone would receive when asking the above question. Actually, these are the answers that someone SHOULD receive when asking the above question.

If you asked a teacher or student this same question on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, you might get a different answer... something along the lines of "chicken chunks in gravy over a scoop of stuffing with cold green beans on the side and a roll on the top, served by grumpy-pants herself."

While it may not have been the most appealing and was definitely not served with any holiday spirit, it actually tasted pretty good.... or maybe I've just been an elementary school teacher for too long... or maybe I was tasting the three days of no school/students/stress that were symbolized by each chunk of chicken. Whatever the case may be, I was thankful for a warm lunch and even more thankful for mom's home-cooking later in the week. :) Now if only the Christmas holiday dinner would hurry up and get here.... ;)