Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#13 of 31 Test This

Sparkling River Academy of Dreams and Learning. 

Where we believe that school is a place for children to dream, learn and grow; that nature is abundantly full of beauty and an ideal setting for the flourishing of youth; that learners ought to have sufficient influence on how their learning is run for the benefit of their learning; and that school is meant to be an enjoyable time which prepares children for an enjoyable future.

Here I sit in the midst of my junior homeroom taking their Iowa Assessments. And because you can only walk up and down the rows so many times without getting the death glare from some students, I sit at my desk reading the latest Creative Writing papers.

This year, I've been using ideas from Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher in my classroom. They both give students a great deal of choice in writing, all the while paying attention to the Common Core. So the last writing assignment was informative writing.

Sounds boring, right? Are images of dry, dull reports floating around in your head? Thinking students spent way too much time copying and pasting info from the internet into documents they then turned in as their own?

Not so fast.

Our school is meant to be a relaxing and tranquil, yet exciting and stimulating environment that provides a strong learning experience for all our students. Our goal is to help you not only discover your dreams, but also to help you achieve them. Our teachers and staff are here to help you on every step of your journey through public education and beyond.


Gallagher's book Write This Way: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts
has a great chapter on informative writing. Lots of ideas, some mentor texts, and the writing prompts I put on the board to begin the period provide enough variety to satisfy most students.

Many students modeled their writing after a piece in the book by Rick Reilly. It's a satiric look at NBA stars and all the money they make. Reilly offers them many ways to go through that money quickly. Students seem to like the tone of it, so they have fun modeling their own writing after it.

I also had several students who chose to do a little research about a topic and write a report. I was OK with that. It was their choice.  Topics chosen?  Cheese. Cheese Rolling. The Seven Wonders of the World.

I didn't know there were so many kinds of cheese.

But I bet I would if I went to the Sparking River Academy of Dreams and Learning.


Our school prides itself on on offering a wide variety of classes on almost everything that can be learned. The variety increases at each school level, to the point where if there is something you would like to learn about and it is not listed among the course at the high school level, you may put in a request for a course in that subject.

Some of the classes offered:  
  • 10 of Everything: Lists for Life
  • Bookbinding: From Papyrus to Vellum, from Paper to Silk, From Runes to Illumination
  • Chinese
  • Gallantry and Knighthood
  • Ice, Ice Cream, and the Frozen State
  • Making Math Less Painful: A 50-Step Process
  • Philosophy: Let's Get Deep
  • Quaint European Villages
  • Writing: The Simple Joy of Expression (most genres are separate classes)
  • Yellow: 100 Things That Are Better With It and Why

I couldn't possibly share with you the whole brochure (It a small booklet really). Nor could I share all the course offerings listed. But I can share a student's dream of what a school should be. 

An academy of dreams and learning...

You can't test that.


  1. Along with our students, I am surviving the ISTEP (Indiana's state test)applied skills portion. So your title appealed to me. I think I am ready for Sparkling Academy!

  2. Sounds like the perfect school with the perfect teachers in the perfect dream. Hope your testing is almost over and you can enjoy more dreams!

  3. I love his vision of of school and the sampling of course offerings. We finished round 1 of our testing today. Hope yours is finished soon.

  4. What a delightful-sounding school, and a delightful project by your student! It sounds like he/she was so engaged in writing this piece that the school almost became a reality! What fun! Glad you had a bright day in the midst of your testing! (We are in testing too, and my students have extended time so we have to be trapped in a room together even longer -- all day if they need it! Can you imagine taking a test all day? My heart breaks for them, and yet they try so hard!)

  5. Awe-inspiring. If we would just ask every once in awhile, right? Speedy testing :).

  6. Hmmm . . . I don't know which class I want to take first. I think I might never leave a school like this. Wow Deb!

    1. You should read the rest of the list Elsie. It's magical. Some practical, some just fun. I don't know if I want to teach there are be a student!

  7. Great post! I love the way you interspersed your student's writing with your own. How lucky your students are to have such an inspirational teacher! Thanks for sharing.

  8. I love how you share what you are reading and how you have used it in class.

  9. I like the course offerings you listed. What would I take first?

    I hope testing comes to an end soon so that normalcy can resume.