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A long overdue post!

January 28, 2012

Teacher musings:
Well, since you are reading this, the first thing I want to say is “thank you” for still following this blog.  It has been a couple months since I last posted, and I’m really glad to be back!  I have been away for a while for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with exhaustion and lack of time.  I’m in the midst of working on my National Board Certification, we just finished up the second term at school (which meant mountains of grading and planning all at the same time) and I’m currently in month four of my second pregnancy.  All those factors together required me to push blogging down to the bottom of the priority list for a while.  But now, I’m back, and with lots to write about!

As I plan my next unit, I have been grappling with the issue of how to “teach” both skills and content.  This is not a new idea, but I’m starting to see my “content” in a new way, thanks to a couple books by Kelly Gallagher and some awesome English colleagues I have gotten to work more closely with this year.  I used to think of ELA content as things like literary terms and the plots/themes of classic literature.  When I saw things that way, it was far easier to see teaching reading and analysis skills as my real priority, and that I would include the content that would support the development of those skills.  But now I am seeing the “content” I teach as more the “big questions” about life.  I have always had kids talk about and discuss “big ideas” in books and literature we read, but often my focus on modeling and practicing comprehension and anlaysis skills has pushed out these discussions, or made them shorter, because of a lack of time.

However, now that I have set up my curriculum to spiral the way I teach skills, it has freed me up to integrate more of these “big ideas.”  For example, this term my students are choosing between three books: The Secret Life of Bees, The Color Purple or A Lesson Before Dying.  A question that I think ties them all together is “Is dignity something we have or is it bestowed upon us by others?”  We are launching book clubs officially on Monday, and we will start discussing this question in earnest the week after that.  I’m excited by the fact that my students have a basic understanding of how to do a “close read” of text and how to comprehend complex text, so that I will continue to work on those skills with them (especially the ones who aren’t getting it), but also move forward with this more interesting discussion about dignity.  I’m also excited to engage with the content of the books this way.  I’m sure some other ELA teacher is reading this and is horrified that I haven’t been teaching this way all along, but it’s true: I’ve been focusing too much on strategy instruction, to the point where students weren’t engaged with comprehension because they weren’t engaged with the ideas of the text.  I hope that the combination of my spiraling curriculum and development of a “big question” will help remedy this situation.

Yummy Stuff:
Once again I must give a shout-out to my hubby.  He is really turning into an amazing cook and bread baker!  He just made a loaf of beer bread (no-knead) that is to die for!  We have been eating well (and I have been eating quite a lot – I blame it on my “condition”).  Last week we had vegan jambolaya, red flannel hash, leek and white bean cassoulet, sushi, and tacos.  I make the vegan sushi from Veganomicon, and it is delicious.  This time I made enough to take it to work for lunch three days in a row, and I enjoyed it up to until the last day!

Vegan Sushi

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print


1 cup sushi rice
2 TB of rice vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 pack (or 4 oz) of tempeh
2 TB of vegan mayo
1-2 tsp of sriracha sauce (rooster sauce)
1 avocado
1/2 cucumber
2-3 scallions
Sheets of nori (probably 4-5)
Bamboo rolling mat (you can get one a local Asian food market, or at amazon)

1) Cook the sushi rice according to the package directions.  While it is cooking, cube the tempeh and then steam it for 10 minutes.

2) When the rice is done, put it into a glass bowl and sprinkle the sugar and rice vinegar in.  Use a rice paddle or large spoon to gently mix the vinegar and sugar into the rice.  Cover with a lid, plate or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

3) When the tempeh is done, put it into a bowl and mash it with a fork until all the cubes are broken up.  Then mash in the mayo and sriracha sauce until it is fully mixed and the tempeh is the consistency of a tuna or egg salad.

4) Slice your avocado, cucumber and scallions thinly.

5) Roll your sushi!  Check out this video for some help (start at 13:15 if you want to skip the “how to make the spicy tempeh” part).

Slice, admire and enjoy!

  1. Sarah L. permalink

    Marie, that’s such an awesome “big question!” I hope to be as awesome with math some day, so that we more regularly use the content to answer a “big question” in my class too!

    • Thanks Sarah L.! I’ll keep you posted on how well it pushes our discussion of the books forward!

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