Tag Archives: 6th grade

Week 38 – Can the Training Wheels Miss the Bike?


We were on our last week of school.  Tuesday was our last day of regular classes.  Wednesday students watch the Upper School Performance (which was wonderful) and had two Humanities classes.  We finished up our last essay which students presented as a speech. The 6th had a math class, but then, that’s it.  Thursday was a half day and that was all about cleaning up, gathering up, signing year books, and saying good-bye.  We also finished watching most of The Holy Grail, skipping Castle Anthrax.

The speech writing used the same pattern as any other expository writing.  Brainstorming, outlining, writing, and for some of the faster students, a chance to revise.  The main difference was that I wouldn’t help them.

One student was not about to be put off.  She kept asking me to check her work.  Now this is a student who was writing her 14th essay for me.  I knew, really knew, that she didn’t really need my help. I had her previous 13 papers in her portfolio in the back room.  Every time she asked for help I referred her to her Tools folder, or the rubric, or the book, or a classmate.  Still, she kept asking questions that I knew she knew the answer to.

I finally stopped her and asked if she knew how hard it was for me not to help her?  Everybody thinks that the teacher is there to guide and help students, but the teacher is also there to help students do it themselves.  Once the how-to-do-it-ive-ness has been established, the teacher needs to step back and let the students do it.  I think they had noticed by now, as it was the end of the year, that I am both nosy and bossy.  I find it very, very difficult not to look over their shoulders and point out places where they could be doing it the way I would be doing it, even when there is no guarantee that their way isn’t better.  It is why I make myself sit at my desk and often knit or write blog entries until one of them needs help.

The student looked at me and said, “So, you are kind of like training wheels?”  Yes.  I am the human equivalent of training wheels.  My job is to make myself superfluous.  Then I asked her if she ever considered that the training wheels might miss the bike.

There was a moment of reflective silence in the room.


Week 34 – The Underground Hero: A 6th Grade Essay


Another review essay, this one is on the novel Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is a great favorite in my classroom. I’m thrilled about this because even his youth fiction is complicated and requires real concentration from his readers.

This writer immediately picks up on the perverse nature of what it means to be a “hero”. Believable heroes are never fully convinced that he (or she) really is one. This writer highlights the premise that a real hero is often the product of a moment.

The Underground Hero 1
The Underground Hero 2a
The Underground Hero 3
The Underground Hero 4
I have to say that I really love this paper. The writer understands what is important in the novel and presents it clearly and with such strong word choice. Also, I’m pleased with how he is moving his organizational structure to accommodate his readers. Finally, it is unusual for me to agree so completely with one of my writers, but as I read his paper, I found myself saying, “Yup, yup, yup,” and nodding along as I read. I watched him struggle with this paper, but the end product is so definitely worth it.

Week 34 – A Desert Trip: A 6th Grade Essay


An essay on Holes by one of our 6th graders. She asserts to us here that she has grown out of this level of reading, and at the same time, she is able to see the merits of the novel.

A Desert Trip
A Desert Trip 2
A Desert Trip 3

This writer started off writing essays in a verbose manner. As you can see, she is now working on being succinct. The pendulum swings for writers, and you can see how she is begins to understand how answering readers questions helps her to decide how fulsome to be as a writer.

However, no matter how concise, her voice comes through loud and clear. This writer has a chatty tone which I love. You get the feeling that you are discussing the book over coffee and cake.

Week 34 – The Sly Creation: A 6th Grade Essay


Here is the offering of a student who read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  This student gets right to the point of the book, i.e., what does it mean to be human?  It’s a grand philosophical question, and one that, clearly, our students can grapple with in middle school.

The Sly Creation 1
The Sly Creation 2
The Sly Creation 3
The Sly Creation 4

To some extent he runs out of steam when he gets to his conclusion paragraph, but this only slightly diminishes the power of his thesis.

I feel that this student really turned a corner with this paper. It seems to me that he has “burned through the boring” of essay writing and is making the writing his own. He has become a writer of non-fiction in his own right.

Week 8- The Power of Pothos: 6th Grade History Essays


Alexander History Essay Test Question:

In a four paragraph essay (Intro, 2 body, conclusion) brainstorm, outline, and draft (1st) this question:  Compare and contrast Alexander the Great and Iskander the Accursed.  Defend what made him great.  Explain what made him accursed.

Student 1- The Power of Pothos   (Pothos means an unquenchable yearning)

In this essay on Alexander the Great, I will question wether he is all that great or not.  I will pick out the important parts which make him who he is and what he did.

I will start with the things that made him a great and reasonable conqueror.  When he was young one of his great achievements was taming a wild horse, which he used for almost half of his life. I think this shows his self-bravery, throughout.  Later in his life as he rules most of Asia, he captures his enemy’s wife and children, but takes very good care of them, even if they are different from him.  He is also “great” for his intelligence in political strategy, for example when he fights one of his last battles with King Porrus, even though Porrus surrenders, Alexander is impressed with him and gives back his kingdom.  But possibly he did this to make a good ally.  It’s also very impressive that when in battle Alexander is always encouraging his men and does not take all the glory just because he is king.  Lastly, Alexander’s love for the arts and philosophy shows why he kept his powerful pothos.

Now I will explain what some cultures think of Alexander as a cursed king.  I think the over all terrible thing that happens is that his power corrupts him to even kill his own historian for giving him wisdom.  Second to that is his forgetfulness of the importance of the Persian palace as he burns it to ashes.  3rd to this is the massacres that he goes through with no explanation.  And fourth of all was what he left behind him, because after he died he left the countries he conquered in a world of unrest.

I left my reader off with lots to think about.  But overall I think that Alexander corrupted himself with the power he earned through all of his accomplishments.

Student 2- Essay Comparing and Contrasting Alexander of Macedon

This essay will mainly be around the question “Compare Alexander the Great to Iskander the Accursed”. They are both Alexander of Macedon, but two different points of views on him. I will compare them both, and contrast them both.
Now I will compare the two. He was both when he built roads, and killed the Persians and King Darius. He was also both because he was mortal. And his troops responses considered him to be both. And he was known almost all over the entire eastern side of the Earth for doing great things and terrible things.

Now I will state the differences between the two. He was great because he was very smart (politically). Another reason for him being great was how he was nice(ish) to his troops! He motivated and helped them (sometimes, only when Alex needed them to continue). And some people almost loved him for what he did! Now I will say some of the things that made him terrible. One thing that made him terrible (and probably the most obvious one to) is that he killed so many people that were innocent! And that made a lot of people hate him. Plus he was a terrible ruler!!
Well, time to wrap it all up. I think that there are two sides to every story. And to understand the story, you have to understand both sides. And my personal opinion on Alexander is that he was terrible! Mainly because, no one should want to kill so many people and no one should want to conquer so much land. Especially if you’re not prepared to deal with it.

Student 3- Great or Not so Great?

In this essay I will explain how Alexander of Macedon was Alexander the Great and how he was also Iskander the Accursed. During Alexander’s life the Greeks were pretty much the only people who thought that Alexander was great. The rest of the world thought he was accursed. Many people at this time were both great and bad. It was just the time period.

This paragraph will explain how Alexander of Macedon was Alexander the Great. A feat that made everyone around him impressed was when he tamed an “untamable” horse named Bucephalus. He also built large postal roads going through all of Macedonia once he conquered the Persians. Alexander unties the Gordian knot. The legend of the Gordian knot was whoever untied the knot would become the lord of Asia. Alexander also made Tyre become a peninsula as oppose to an island when he built the amazing Tyre causeway. Alexander also invaded Persia for revenge when the Persians burned down Athens. The Greeks were happy about this because they thought something like, “Yay! He’s gonna avenge us!” Last, another thing that made him great was when Alexander gave King Porus’s kingdom back.

This paragraph will explain how Alexander of Macedon was Iskander the Accursed. He became cruel by acts that drove him insane. The death of Hephaestion made him insane and I am also sure the death of his only son ever also drove him insane. Another thing that would make him insane is that he killed his second best friend (Hephaestion was his first best friend) Cleitus at a drunk party. Cleitus was a general. One thing more that would have made him psycho is when he became deathly sick which not only reminded him that he was mortal but he really wanted to die in battle. He also became more evil when Callisthenes says he needs to stay Greek. That made him really mad. He was additionally Iskander the Accursed when he persecuted the Zoroastrians. Another not to good deed was he was funding his campaign with slaves. It was pretty bad when he burned Persepolis on top of all that.

Overall, I think Alexander of Macedon was neither good nor bad because I do not think his deeds did much to me. I have shown how he is both good and bad so remember not to just say he was one side and one side only. The reason his deeds grew worse is because absolute power corrupts absolutely. Finally, the source of Alexander’s strength was he thought he was the son of Zeus which gave him mental power which gave him physical power in the body.

Student 4-  Accursed or Great?

Is Alexander the Great not so great?  Some call him Iskandar the Accursed.  He can be either but sometimes he is both.  For example, in the desert, his men gave him the last of the water in a helmet.  Instead of drinking it, or giving it to him men, he pours it on the ground.

Now, if we zoom in on Alexander’s bad side, one, too, can see the deaths caused by so called “Alexander the Great.”  The massacres he commits are too great a number to count all the lives dead by his hand.  But, I would estimate about… 450,000 innocents and enemies slain.  He was brutal and bloody, pushing people off of cliffs, some by opposition’s own free will.  He pushed his men too far over the limit of their abilities, killing without trial, and suspending freedom of speech.

Though, we do have to give him credit for the empires he conquered.  He was kind to his men by cheering them on to greater lengths.  Agreeing to turn away when he knew it was too far.  If he saw fit to reward, he does.  So brave, as to not turn back when he only had an army of three men with him against a few hundred.  His men truly loved him.

Now one can see the different views.  He funded him men, so they cound have less death in their army, but funded it with slavery, not so great.  One sees not he is both great and accursed.  What does, my friend, he seem to you?
It’s not a bad start.  –  Me