December 31, 2009

Reading Challenge 2010

I'm not one to shy away from a challenge and when it involves something I LOVE, I say, "Why not?"
I have joined J. Kaye's Young Adult Novel Challenge.
Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels--It is simple...just read 75 books (or more) in 2010. I will keep you updated on my progress, adding to this blog as the year progresses.

So, are you up to a challenge? Leave a comment telling me how many books you plan on reading this year.
Remember, your 2009-2010 school year reading goal is 40 books.

I'll be starting book 1. Maze Runner @ 12:01 January 1st, 2010

December 29, 2009

If I Were A Tree...

UPDATE-Tweet message from Kate Messner: Love this! RT @teacher6th: Student video inspired by Kate Messner's "The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z"

How would you answer this question? After taking a tree quiz supplied by Kate Messner, the students pondered their answer. They created the leaf poetry mural in the background comparing themselves with their chosen tree. Here are few OMS students and staff sharing their tree personalities.

December 14, 2009

What is The Right Stuff?

Your next writing project will be sponsored by the Old Creamery Theater. You can start this project as soon as you want. We will be editing after break.

Last year, one of the stories performed at the spring production was written by a 6th grader at OMS. Will it be your story this year?

The following information is from the Old Creamery Theater website:
We are all faced with difficult choices every day. Should I cheat or follow the rules?
Should I take something that I want if it doesn’t belong to me? Should I follow the
crowd even if I don’t agree with them? Sometimes it’s hard to have the courage to do
the right thing. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the right thing to do is!

That is what The Right Stuff is all about. We are looking for stories about characters who are faced with a tough decision and who choose to do the right thing, even if it’s not the easiest choice to make. So have fun using your imagination and tell us a story about someone or something that has “the right stuff”!

All entries must:
• Be an original work from the imagination of students in grades 1 - 6.
• Be in the form of a story, poem, or song.
• Be kept to a maximum of five typewritten pages.
• Have a character or characters resolve a conflict or problem by making a choice to
do the right thing, whatever that may be in their given situation.

A good story:
• Has a beginning, middle and end.
• Is creative (and comes solely from the student’s imagination).
• Has interesting characters that can be people, animals, objects – anything!
• Tells the reader where the story takes place.
• Deals with a conflict (or problem) that is resolved within the story.
• Teaches a lesson or has a moral.
• Explains how the characters have changed or been affected by events in the story.
Be creative with your story’s conflict and resolution.

Maybe your character doesn’t do the right thing at first but later has a change of heart.
Maybe your character thinks they are doing the right thing but later realizes they were in the wrong and they must make amends.
Maybe your character needs to be shown by another character how to do the right thing. The possibilities are endless!

December 7, 2009

Curious George Tree

Elves were busy outside our classroom last week.
Mrs. Duff's favorite childhood book character- Curious George- has made many smile when they turn the corner and see the George Tree.
"Are those really bananas on the tree?"

November 25, 2009

Thank You for Voting- We Won!

UPDATE: 12-3-09
Congratulations WAT Microgrant recipient!

Thank you for applying and participating in the PCI Education sponsored "Special Education" microgrant give away. Voting has closed and you are one of our ten $200 Microgrant and Flip Video camera recipients.

I wanted to let you know that I am participating in a Microgrant program sponsored by PCI Education and an online community, called WeAreTeachers.
The 10 recipients of this grant receive $200 to aid their work with special education students, as well as a flip video camera.
My proposal involves all students using technology to connect with students in Asia during our social studies time through out the year.

Recipients are selected through an online voting process. SO --
If you have a moment, I'd really appreciate you going online and voting for my project

It would really mean a lot to our classroom to have your vote and support!
Just go to and follow the directions there. It is really quick and easy.
The project is on page 8 listed under: Duff, Karla

Mrs. Duff

November 23, 2009

OMS Students Show They Can!

The weeks before Thanksgiving was a time of excitement in the lobby of OMS.
Students suggested a can drive to help the less fortunate in our area.
With the support of staff members, the students organized, advertised, motivated and then collected food for the local food shelf. The boxes were delivered Monday showing OMS students have the ability and compassion to make a difference.
The chant "We can do it" was shortened, "We did it!"

(More information to be added soon)

November 15, 2009

Essay Winners

Three 6th graders were chosen to read their winning essays during the Veterans' Day Program. The contest was sponsored by our local auxiliary.
The theme this year was, "My Patriotic Role as a US Citizen."
Congratulations to all the students who participated in a tough but symbolic writing assignment.

(picture to follow soon)

November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day 11-11-09

Thank You Veterans!
The Auxiliary and Honor Guard made this a special time for all OMS students and staff.

November 1, 2009

Books Make Great Presents

The December Scholastic Book orders are Due December 7th.

Thank you to the parents and students that ordered last time! We are slowly adding to our classroom library with the free books we earned.

Reminder, you may order on-line using your credit card.Scholastic is having a buy $10 get $5.00 free special this month. Orders will be delivered before the holiday break.

Class/username = Duffclass
Password= spottoread

Special note to parents: If you want to place an order for presents, just email me and I'll keep the books for your pick up.

Happy Reading!

Letters from the Principal (Student Style)

Reading The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z has given students a chance to walk in the principal's shoes. Gianna had a close encounter with her middle school principal, Mr. Randolph, while collecting leaves for a science project.
OMS 6th graders were asked to pretend they were Principal Randolph and write a letter to Gianna's parents commenting on her lack of respect during a Saturday morning outing. Below are portions from a few student letters that has the "principal voice" speaking right at you.

Dear Parents
of Gianna Zales,
Last Saturday morning, I heard a loud noise. It sounded like it came from my back yard. I went outside to look. I saw Gianna with a big branch from my tree on her lap. She sneaked into my backyard, ove
r my picket fence, to get leaves for her science project. I asked her if she had seen the fence, she said she had...I was very disappointed that she would do something like this! She broke the branch off my tree and then took the leaves with her! I hope you have consequences for her actions!
incerely, Principal Randolph

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Zales,
I am not pleased to inform you that your daughter, Gianna, jumped my fenced in backyard...I walked out my back door to find her on the ground with a big branch that she had torn off my very lovely Black Walnut tree. Now, Gianna claims she just wanted to get a leaf for her science project, but I think she was trying to vandalize my lawn!...I strongly suggest that you handle a punishment fitting to the crime, perhaps six months of community service. I do hope AND expect
that this will not happen again!
Principal Mr. Randolph

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Zales,
Your daughter sneaked into my backyard by climbing over my fence! Clearly she could see the fence was to keep people OUT! She climbed up my Black Walnut tree to get leaves and snapped a branch completely off. I suggest you punish her...don't let her go outside without supervision.
Sincerely, Mr. Randolf

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Zales,
Today, your daughter invaded my property! She stole from my two trees that I really adore. The Ginkgo leaf wasn't such a big deal, but she broke a limb off my Black Walnut tree. You need to talk with her to make sure she doesn't invade my property again!
Mr. Randolf

We wondered how our principal would react to Gianna's adventure. He does have nice trees in his yard!

October 27, 2009

Horrid Henry Short Stories

Just in time for some "horrid" reading, Francesca Simon has added three new easy readers to her Horrible Henry series: Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse, Horrid Henry's Underpants, and Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter.

The reader is soon aware that Henry will do anything to get his way. Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse is a laugh out loud read that has his brother, Perfect Peter, right in the middle of mischief. Homework headaches, swimming pool sharks, creative curses, and grocery store grumbles always lands Henry on top. There is even a sneak preview to some hideout hysterics!

October 21, 2009

What did you write today?

Twitter message from KalebNation: wrote 14 pages on #BranHambric2 today. I feel like I've ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING. I do this every day for a month and I'll be done FAST

Blog message from Mrs. Duff: I wrote on my class board, sent emails, responded to E2's media projects, and took notes @ a meeting. I used Twitter to gather information and to share some, and am finishing the day with this blog entry.

Leave a comment sharing your daily writing accomplishments.

October 19, 2009

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z: Journal Photos

After reading Chapters 1-4 in The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, journal about one or more of the photos. The photos were taken by Kate Messner, the author. Use descriptive words to set the tone.

October 13, 2009

Charmed in E2

Kaleb Nation, author of Bran Hambric the Farfield Curse, and his publishers have gifted our E2 students with the silver moon charm seen on the cover of the book. The charm plays an important role in the first book of this mysterious fantasy, and will most likely be part of the plot in the books to follow.

Read the book to find out more...

October 12, 2009

Effigy Mounds

Breathtaking views of the Mississippi, mysterious mounds, historical hikes with days like this should happen more often!

Outdoor Day

Outdoor Day @OMS brought together fun, friends, and some new favorite activities.
Special Thanks goes out to our UIU student volunteers, Oelwein Police Department, and our local archers.

Student Haiku Memories:

Prairie Flowers
Beautiful flowers
Lying in the prairie now
Blowing in the wind

Morning of the Monarch
Orange, black, colorful
Dew still on my wings-can't fly
Can't wait to be free! R.B.

Butterfly Milkweed Plant
Silky parachute
Nice, peaceful, soft, seed that falls.
White, with brown seed.

NO, NO! Oh, please...
Never pick it up like that
It won't fly again. H.V.

Ox Eye Sunflower
A dark black center
A group of golden petals
An uneven shape

October 4, 2009

New Books Available

The October Scholastic Book orders are Due October 16th. I have some books that I recommend and more that I want to order and read!

Thank you to the parents and students that ordered last time! We are slowly adding to our classroom library with the free books we earned.

Reminder, you may order on-line using your credit card.
Special note to parents: If you want to place an order for presents, just email me and I'll keep the books for your pick up and not share with your child about the order.

Happy Reading!

September 19, 2009

Must read for all middle school students!

I spent time this weekend reading a newly released book called The Brilliant Fall of Ginna Z. The author, Kate Messener, teaches at a middle school and has captured the heart of life as a middle school student.

This will be our next read aloud. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

September 16, 2009

Read the the video

Happy Birthday, Kaleb !
Characters from Bran Hambric the Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation

September 10, 2009

What Are You Reading?

6th graders have been busy reading everyday @ OMS. The library is checking out books at a record pace. Students are seen reading-even when it is not required-GASP!

I finished the long awaited Bran Hambric The Farfield Curse written by Kaleb Nation. Without giving away any of the magnificent magic in the book, all I can say is, "Hurry up with the sequel!" My review is posted on my Shelfari page below.

Take time and comment. Share what you are reading. I need more adventures...

September 7, 2009

Reading and Gnomes...WARNING!

Students in E2 are reading
Bran Hambric
and the Farfield Curse
whenever they get a chance. One main problem occurs when the gnomes steal the book...can't blame them-the book is amazing!

Hopefully the book will be returned after the long holiday weekend.

September 4, 2009

Gnomes Where are you?

Although gnomes are lurking all over, I would like a statue of one for my classroom.

Not one gnome could be found @ Mall of America...Gnomes R Us, Lego-of my Gnome, Gnome Depot, American Gnome, Bed, Bath & Gnome, ISEA Gnome, Bubba Gump's Gnome Co.---I looked everywhere- not one gnome available...Mall of Magic may be my next stop...

Bran Hambric

August 30, 2009

Kaleb Responds

 Twitter message  from Kaleb Nation after seeing our video:

I hope all classrooms are this way when they get Bran Hambric in the mail :D
from TweetDeck

August 28, 2009

"Bran Hambric" Hysterics @OMS

A project that I have been developing is now "out of the bag" and in my classroom!
Kaleb Nation, a new young author, will be releasing his 1st published book 9-9-09. Our English Enrichment class has been chosen to read, review, and respond to Bran Hambric The Farfiield Curse.

Sourcebooks Publishing supplied a hardcover copy at a pre-release date so we could get started. Thanks Sourcebooks!

After a quick introduction to Kaleb and his video blogs, we decided to create a video of this event.
Watching this video, you will witness our unscripted, unplanned unveiling of Bran Hambrick The Farfield Curse!

(Video can be seen here and at @ Kaleb Nation & Bran Hambric Facebook pages)

August 23, 2009


You are now officially a 6th grader at Oelwein Middle School! Our first few days together flew by without much time to really settle in and set a routine. Moving from classroom to classroom and meeting new teachers can be challenging. In the next few weeks, the pace and expectations will become familiar and it will seem as if you have always been a middle schooler.  Believe it or not, the end of the year will be here before you know it.

Spending time with old friends and meeting new friends makes this a great place to be. I was pleased to see many students volunteering to help others. I heard "Please" and "Thank You " in the hallways, cafeteria, and in my classroom over and over again. Smiles were everywhere!

I hope you were able to rest and relax this weekend. I spent most of my time reading. My favorites this weekend were: The Schwa was Here By: Neal Shusterman and The Sixth Grade Nickname Game By: Gordon Korman. Both books have a middle school setting that we all can relate to. Let me know what you are reading, I'm always looking for a good book.

August 14, 2009

Where is your spot at OMS?

I have been in our classroom this week sorting, cleaning, and planning this year's adventure. Although this is a new school building for all 6th graders, this has been my "spot" for the last 16 years. I have moved rooms, met new friends, said goodbye to old friends, and found that this building has become a special spot to me!

You will be starting the 2009-10 school year finding your spot. Your locker, your classrooms, your seat at lunch, your favorite shelf in the library, will all become part of your "spot" at Oelwein Middle School.

Spots can move, change, and surprise us. Spots can become a place where we laugh, learn, and grow. This year's adventure is about to begin- have fun discovering spots to call your own!

My official "spot" this year is room 12.
See you there :D

August 6, 2009

Book Orders

School book orders always give me a smile. Today, I opened up the September Scholastic Book Club forms and immediately started a must have-must read list. I love the fact that new releases and old time favorites show up just waiting to join my books in the classroom and at home. The fact that the books are usually less expensive than in book stores is a big plus!

This year, Scholastic is making it easier on students and parents, giving them the ability to buy on-line with our classroom code. You can even see the book list in full detail.
No more, "I lost my order form."
No more, " I forgot to bring my form to school."

I love seeing the box in the school office and passing out books to students! The new releases are the first ones I read. Some will become old time favorites in no time.

So, start making your list of must haves- it might be available from a book club! I always take suggestions when I put in my order -you might even get to read it before I do if my desk is surrounded with must reads.

Scholastic Book Club Order information:


Class/username = Duffclass

Password= spottoread

July 30, 2009

Summer Reading- What did you read?

This has been a great summer for reading! Think of all the items you have read...magazines, cereal boxes, travel brochures, pool schedules, score boards, maps, movie posters, text messages, chore lists, video screens, graphic novels, and maybe even a book. You are probably reading a school supply list about now and looking towards the first day of school.

This blog will be a place we can share what we are reading and what we think about it. I hope you have some suggestions for me and I'll share some of my favorites with you.

Take some time before you hear the first period bell ring and read!