Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Operation Inquiry Presentations and Partners!

Operation Inquiry allowed my 6th Graders to present professionally.

As I stated in my last post (, Operation Inquiry was a major success!  The presentations were awesome, and I was so fortunate to have an enormous amount of support from our business partners as well as my colleagues from every CCS middle school.

The presentations took place on Monday, March 31st through Wednesday, April 2nd.  I divided all of my students into three groups for the presentation schedule.  Each student was given the task of presenting for 2 minutes.  They also endured a questioning segment that lasted 1 minute.

Group 1 (Monday, March 31st - 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM) - The presentations were dynamic!
Group 2 (Tuesday, April 1st - 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM) - Another day of awesome presentations!
Group 3 (Wednesday, April 2nd - 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM) - A superb way to end the presentations!

I have to say that we did go over on our time each evening despite having timekeepers.  We were so enthralled with their presentations that we let the presentations organically flow.  I was so impressed because no one (parents, students, judges) complained about going over schedule.  Everyone enjoyed and accepted the process.

This project was a great way to increase school-to-school collaboration and school/community collaboration.  Every middle school in our district (Cumberland County Schools) had at least one teacher representative.  I thoroughly enjoyed joining forces with these teachers from across the district. 

A special thank you is in store for Erica Smalls (Reid Ross Classical), Natasha Wilson (Luther "Nick" Jeralds), Edna Richardson (Anne Chesnutt), Estella Williams (Lewis Chapel), Mara Vega (Westover), Gerald Puckett (Ireland Drive), Pamela Grant (Mac Williams), Trinity Moore (Max Abbott), Wendy Peterson (Hope Mills), Michele Cole (Gray's Creek), Katrina Glass & Valerie Israel (Seventy First Classical), Vicki Hunter (John Griffin), Nicole Janson (New Century International), Nakia Hayden (Spring Lake), Sylvia McPherson (Pine Forest) and Jamilia Williams (Scotland County Schools). These superb educators served as wonderful judges, and I could not have asked for a better group.  Top notch!

Each evening, the food for the judges was donated.  The following business served as our food sponsors, and I am forever indebted to the managers of these fine establishments.

New Deli 
2153 Valleygate Dr
Fayetteville, NC 28304
(910) 223-3082

Pizza Hut
3016 N Main St
Hope Mills, NC
(910) 424-3860

3057 N Main St
Hope Mills, NC 28348
(910) 424-4000

1921 Skibo Rd
Fayetteville, NC
(910) 868-4849

674 Chicken Foot Rd
Hope Mills, NC 28348
(910) 424-6906

5539 Camden Rd
Fayetteville, NC 28306
(910) 426-9515

Olive Garden
234 N McPherson Church Rd
Fayetteville, NC 28303
(910) 864-0119

What I have learned during this process is that businesses definitely want to support the schools, they just do not know how they can help.  I think that schools should approach businesses with specific projects in mind.  They do not mind funding specific initiatives.

All of the students that presented received tickets for the Operation Inquiry Indoor Picnic.

Please read my next post ( hear all about the Indoor Picnic as well as watch footage from the event!  The winning products will be revealed!

Operation Inquiry - Preparing 6th Graders for High School, College, and Life!

6th Grade All-Stars + "Senior Project" = Operation Inquiry! 

At the end of last school year, I had an eye-opening discussion with an Associate Superintendent from my school district.  At the time of the conversation, she had just participated in a local high school's Senior Project.  From her perspective, some students were not totally prepared for the process.  She felt that their presentation and writing skills needed work.  After our deliberation, I devised a plan to implement what I was calling The Bobcat Project.  The Bobcat Project would equip the students at my middle school (our mascot is the bobcat) for their future experiences with the Senior Project (or writing/presenting/researching in general). The students would have to complete the following tasks: 

  • Step 1: The students would have to write a research paper in regards to a self-selected topic.
  • Step 2: The students would have to create a product related to their topic.
  • Step 3: The students would have to convince a panel of judges to "mass-produce" their product (similar to the television show, Shark Tank).  The presentations would be recorded.

I wanted to prepare all of the students in my middle school so I approached my fellow English/Language Arts teachers.  I wanted this to be a collaborative project, a true joint effort.  Initially, they all agreed.  I was ecstatic because this would be an ample opportunity for us to lean and depend on one another.  For reasons outside of my control, my colleagues were not able to participate.  Needless to say, I was definitely disappointed.  However, I wholeheartedly believed in the project so I opted to persevere.  I renamed the project, Operation Inquiry (which means information at work).  I love the new title!

When I first approached my students about Operation Inquiry, they were hesitant.  They were especially reluctant about Step 2.  They could not wrap their heads around the fact that I wanted them to create original products/inventions.  We watched several segments from Shark Tank to get the creative juices flowing.  We also watched numerous clips from The Ellen DeGeneres Show about kid inventors.  

I had the students on board for the most part.  Now, I had to secure the support of my parents.  I held 4 Parent Information Sessions on Monday, March 10th to accommodate my 4 different groups. 

  • 2nd Period Parents/Students - 5:00 PM
  • 3rd Period Parents/Students - 5:30 PM
  • 4th Period Parents/Students - 6:00 PM
  • 5th Period Parents/Students - 6:30 PM

I really enjoyed the Parent Information Sessions because I was able to share my expecations with my parents in an intimate setting.  There was a great turnout for each session.  I learned the importance of providing multiple options for parents.  If a parent could not make their scheduled appointment, they came at another time.  I really did not care what time they came as long as they came.

In an effort to ease nervousness and uncertainty, I had my students to simulate the requirements of the project while we studied our class novel, Dovey Coe.  In the book, the characters visit a Farmers Market.  I had my students to choose a product that they would sell at a Farmers Market.  They had to write a research paper, bring the product, and give a presentation. This was a great way to simulate what I wanted with Operation Inquiry.  Since the students had already navigated the waters with the Farmers Market Project, they could apply the skills that they learned to Operation Inquiry.

Read my next post to read more about the specific projects, presentations, prizes and all of my partners!  My 6th Graders hit it out of the park!(

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Author Frances O'Roark Dowell Visits South View Middle!

Here I am with Frances O'Roark Dowell (Author of Dovey Coe)
On April 8th, Frances O'Roark Dowell (Author of Chicken Boy, Shooting the Moon, Secret Language of Girls Trilogy) stopped by South View Middle School to discuss her first novel, Dovey Coe.  

My 6th Graders had been anticipating her visit since we started reading the book in early February.  My media specialist (Jody Phillips), my students, and I worked tirelessly to prepare for the experience.  Each evening, I went home and recorded the chapter because the book does not have an audio version. Essentially, I created an audio/video version of Dovey Coe for educational purposes in my classroom only.  Here are a few pictures showcasing my recording experience.

My students created Dovey Coe Case Files/Magic Books in order to dissect information from the book. Each day, we would read a chapter. Next, the students would have to create a title for the chapter.  We are going to send our top three choices for each chapter to Mrs. Dowell!  After labeling the chapter, the students would write objective summaries recapping the chapter.  They had to stick to the facts, eliminating their opinions.  Lastly, they had to complete a Chapter Assessor Using Gridded Response (below).  The students had to rate the chapter (the range being from -5 to +5) and bubble in their opinion of the chapter.  This was a great conversation tool because the students all had different values.  However, each student had to justify their choice.
Students used gridded response to rank each chapter of Dovey Coe.
After each chapter, we developed rigorous questions for the author. The questions went through a true vetting process.  The questions had to have the support of 80% of the students in order to make it on the official list.  I was beyond thrilled when Mrs. Dowell said that she had never been asked some of the questions.

I also utilized the novel to prepare my students for a major project that I was initiating called Operation Inquiry.  With Operation Inquiry, they had to write a research paper, create a product, and present in front of a panel of middle school teachers from across my school district.  As a forerunner for Operation Inquiry, I had my students to select an item that they would like to sell if they had a booth at a farmers market.  They had to write a research paper about their product, bring the product, and present in front of their peers.  Caroline and Dovey visited a farmers market early in the book, and I thought this approach would be a great way to simulate what I wanted for Operation Inquiry.  Here are a few photos from the farmers market presentations.

What impressed me the most about Mrs. Dowell was how down-to-earth and approachable she was.  She came into the media center, and she was very unassuming.  She gave her all to my students.  She shared delightful tales about her life and her experiences as a writer.  When it was time to sign copies of her book, she genuinely chatted with each of my students.  All 100 of them! Each child walked away with a HUGE smile on his/her face, which put a GIGANTIC smile on my face!

Below are photos and a video highlighting the unforgettable experience!


I thought that there was no possible way that this experience could get any better.  Boy was I wrong!  On Friday, I received an email from Mrs. Dowell informing me that she had discussed her visit to our school on her website.  Please visit her website to read what she wrote.  I am sincerely honored!  Here is the link:

Frances O'Roark Dowell is quite IMPRESSIVE!

Indoor Yard Sale - Funds Raised to Purchase 100 Copies of the novel, Dovey Dove!

Need $600 to purchase 100 Copies of Dovey Coe? No problem, host a Community Yard Sale!

In early February, Jody Phillips (Media Coordinator for South View Middle) approached me with an offer that I just could not refuse! She wanted to know if I would like to have an author to visit with my 6th Graders.  The author in question, Frances O'Roark Dowell! She is the author of wonderful titles such as Chicken Boy, Where I'd Like to Be, Shooting the Moon to name a few.  This would be the first time that South View Middle ever had an author to visit our school!

I was scheduled to read Peak by Roland Smith as my next class novel.  However, I immediately decided to adjust my plans in order to grant my students this special treat.  I was beyond excited, but I did not know which title I wanted to read with my students.  

Unfortunately, we did not have a class set of any of her books.  In some aspects, the choice of which book to read was totally out of my hands.  I would have to check with the other schools in my district to see which class sets were available.

A couple days later after my pivotal conversation with Ms. Phillips, I ran into Donna Pope (Media Coordinator for John Griffin Middle).  John Griffin Middle has several class sets of Frances O'Roark Dowell's books.  I asked Mrs. Pope to suggest a title, and she recommended Dovey Coe.  I had read Dovey Coe, and I loved the book.  She graciously agreed to allow us to borrow John Griffin's copies.

Next, I had to figure out a way to provide my students with a personal copy of the book in time for the author's visit.  I decided to sponsor an Indoor Community Yard Sale.  Take a look at the video below to go behind the scenes of the successful event.

With table rentals and donations, we earned $641!  I was able to purchase enough books for all of my students!  Check out my blog post about the author's visit!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cross-Curricular Enrichment Task Coinciding with The Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant

South View Middle School recently held The Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant

About a month ago, my school hosted The Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant.  Initially, I had reservations about the event because it took place during school hours.  I am very territorial over my instructional time.  I feel like I never have enough time with my students.  I struggled with whether or not to approach the principal and the coordinators about rescheduling the event after school because we had already missed so much instructional time because of the snow days.  As a compromise with myself, I created a Cross-Curricular Enrichment Task Coinciding with The Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant (below).  Thankfully, I was able to relate the pageant to every single subject area/department.  The document was given to every student who attended the pageant.  One lesson that I learned during the process was that if I worked hard enough, I could create a curriculum connection with almost any event or situation.  Keep reading to view the contents of the document.

Cross-Curricular Enrichment Task Coinciding with the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant

Directions: Utilize this sheet to document the Cross-Curriculum Connections that you detected at the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant.

English/Language Arts
List three genres that were showcased in the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant.  Please specifically explain how the genres were illustrated.

Place events from the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant in Chronological Order.


There are 150 participants in a certain beauty pageant competition. They are numbered from 1 to 150. Now, in the first round, starting with no. 1 every third participant is eliminated (no 1, 4,7,10 etc.). The remaining participants are again numbered serially starting from 1. The process is repeated till there remains only one person. She is declared as the champion of the competition. What was her rank in the first arrangement?

After calculating the percentage of male contestants in the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant, complete the following Gridded Response Items.

                        Simple Fraction                             Decimal                            Percentage
Social Studies/Historical Relevance

The first winner of the “Miss America” pageant was selected on September 8, 1921. The winner was sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C.  She was the daughter of an official of the Ministry of Agriculture.  By the way, that pageant was the world d├ębut of a semi-nude body as the girls showed up wearing swimsuits for the first time.  How are the pageants of yesteryear comparable to today’s contests?  How are they divergent?

Science: Beauty and Brains?
Real Life Correlation: Science fairs or beauty pageants... who says you can't do both? Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle, biochemist and former Miss Massachusetts, didn't feel like she had to make a choice between pursuing a career in science and the pageant circuit. Dr. Ebbel Angle found balance between biochemistry and her feminine side.  Do you believe that women can possess both beauty and brains?  Please elaborate with strong support details.

How was science exemplified at the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant?  What are some other ways that science could have been incorporated?_______________________________________________________________

Arts Education

In this section, select and closely examine one song that was played at the Mr. and Ms. Orange and Blue Pageant.

Identify 10 words in the song.
What do you notice or find interesting about the song (i.e., instruments used, rhythm, traditional vs. modern sounds)?
 What kind of person may have written this song?  Why do you think so?

If you know the name of the song, what would be a legitimate alternative title?  If you do not know the name of the song, what title would you select?  Why?

Career and Technical Education
Record three “jobs” that you observed at the pageant.  Discuss why you would or would not want that particular responsibility.  For example, one of the jobs was emcee.

Health/PE: Critical Stance

In general, should there be a separate pageant for overweight or obese contestants or should all sizes compete collectively?  Why or why not?