Wednesday, July 11, 2012

About that

This blog WILL be: about my adventures as a first year teacher (names changed to protect the innocent), my ideas on teaching, lessons I do or see other people do that I want to try, and my thoughts on the climate of education today.

This blog WILL NOT be: my classroom blog where I invite parents (and web-savvy students) to read and comment and guest post.  That will be something totally separate from this blog or the other one.  It will also not be my online journal where I lament or celebrate daily life and post a lot of youtube videos.
Next, an explanation of the name.  Cupcakes are sort of my signature thing.  I have rain boots with cupcakes on them.  I draw cupcakes on everything.  My classroom theme is going to be cupcakes and I even have fake classroom currency called "Cupcake Cash".  "A Cupcake for the Teacher" would have been a perfect name, but, alas, it was taken by someone who is obviously clever and awesome.

To me, Argyle screams academia.  It's also one of my favorite things to wear.  I've never met an argyle sweater I didn't like, and very seldom have I met one that didn't come home with me.  I thought of "Cupcakes & Cardigans", for the alliteration and because those are a staple of my "serious teacher" wardrobe, but the name was also taken.

The other name in the running was "A Tollbooth Teacher" because it is my favorite book and a large part of why I want to teach.  I was searching the web to see if that sort of name had already been done, and I found this fantastic list.  I'm going to post it here, with a picture, simply so I can pin it to Pinterest

Author: Mindi Sinha

Subject: Teaching ideas for Phantom Tollbooth
As I browsed the net it was great to find so many people who remember this book so fondly. It was read to me by my grade 5/6 teacher way back in the late 60s and I had my own copy for many years until it fell apart. It has been out of print in Australia for a long time now but I was thrilled to see that it had finally been reprinted again by Collins in 1999. My colleagues and I were choosing novels to present and work with in our grade 5/6 level and I recalled just how much I had enjoyed this book at the same age. The library copy had long since "walked" and I was wondering how I could find another one which was when I discovered the reprint in the local bookshop! Oh Joy! At first I wondered if the modern child might find it too didactic and miss too many of the jokes but so far my grade seems to be enthralled with it and they are enjoying the challenges it presents. One bright child sits and listens with a dictionary on his lap to look up the more complex words!(***) I have attached a copy of the activity page I wrote for class follow up. It's nothing much but I thought you might like to add it to your collection of ideas for the book.
Mindi Sinha
  1. Build a model of the Tollbooth based on the description in chapter 1. It may be a single model or part of a diorama.
  2. Draw a map showing Milo's journey and the different places he visited. Label it clearly. Places to include: Expectations; The Doldrums; Dictionopolis; Old City of Wisdom; Forest of Sight; Valley of Sound; Conclusions; Digitopolis; Sea of Knowledge; Castle in the Air; Mountains of Ignorance.
  3. Script an argument between King Azaz the Unabridged and The Mathemagician debating whether words or numbers are more important. Choose a partner and present your script to the class.
  4. Characters in Dictionopolis are very fond of sayings and similes. Compile a booklet of sayings, proverbs and similes and illustrate each one. (Teachers, parents, other adults, internet and books can help you find examples.)
  5. At the banquet in Dictionopolis the guests had to make a speech and "eat their own words". Use Publisher to present a "tasty speech". Decorate with border, graphics and interesting fonts.
  6. Construct a model of a Dodecahedron using the template provided. Draw a different expression on each face. Conduct some Chance experiments to see which face lands uppermost the most frequently when you roll it 12, 24 and 36 times. Tabulate and graph your results.
  7. Use the Portrait gallery worksheets to create a gallery of "Goodies", "Baddies" and "Main characters" from the novel.
  8. The Terrible Trivium gives Milo, Tock and Humbug several pointless tasks to complete.  Make an illustrated booklet of ten other unimportant and time wasting tasks he could give his victims.
  9. The Threadbare Excuse spends his time making up excuses for not doing things or doing the wrong thing.  Make a humorous illustrated booklet full of excuses for not doing your homework.
  10. The monsters who live in the Mountains of Ignorance are all creatures who demonstrate some form of ignorant and unpleasant behaviour and their names help describe them. Invent 5 more monsters of Ignorance, name them and describe their bad habits. Draw a picture of each one.
  11. Use Powerpoint to design a presentation based on an incident, chapter or the whole novel.
  12. Write a script a scene or chapter from the novel and get a small group of friends to help perform for the class. 
***I would love to use this book for a read-a-loud in my class, probably 3rd grade and up.  Every time I read, I could pick 2 or 3 students to have dictionaries. Each time a child doesn't understand a word, they put their hand up.  I pause, write the word on the board, and the kids look it up and say the definition.  Then I could go back and read the sentence again.


  1. I probably could have been your grade 5/6 teacher! I have been teaching for 23 years this September and have read this book EVERY year at the beginning of the school year. I have read it to students from grade 4 to 6. I find my gifted students in grade 6 have really enjoyed it the most! I hope you have a great first year...mine was so very many years ago! Welcome to the most challenging and interesting career there is!

    1. That's awesome! I actually discovered this book on my own when I was about 14 but I wish one of my teachers had read it to us. That's why I plan on making either a read-aloud or a whole-class assignment, depending on what grade I'm in. I've been going around to used book stores and used book sales for a while trying to get my own class set of it, but I'm only up to about 6 or 7.