Incoming Sixth Grader Mindset

Inspired by Beloit College Mindset List, here is a look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of the students who will be entering my classroom this year.  I was inspired to do this after reading Beloit’s most recent list and realizing that my newest students were born the year I entered high school.  Talk about a wake-up call!


1. Most students were born in 1998.

2. Computers have always been able to beat humans. (Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov in 1996).

3. The Lion King has always been a Broadway musical, not an animated movie.

4.  Mamma Mia has always been on Broadway.

5. Mother Teresa, Carl Sagan, Jonathan Larson, Princess Di, Ella Fitzgerald, Tupac Shakur, and the Notorious B.I.G. have always been dead.

6. Animal cloning has always been possible.

7. OJ Simpson has always been a suspected murder, not a football player.

8. Women’s softball has always been an Olympic event.

9. There has always been scientific evidence of life on Mars.

10. Lance Armstrong has always been a cancer survivor.

11. Hong Kong has always been independent of Great Britain.

12. Harry Potter has always been in their libraries and bookstores.

13. Pokemon has always been a part of their pop culture lives.

14. Joe Camel has never been a part of Camel advertisements.

15. America has been involved in a war in Iraq for most of their lives.

16. The Chicago Bulls have never won an NBA championship.

17. The internet has always been available in their homes.

18. Cell phones are ubiquitous in their lives and always have been.

19. Animal Kingdom has been one of Disney’s parks for as long as they can remember.

20. Woodstock was a concert that happened in 1999.

21. The Euro has been legal currency for 90% of their lives.

22. Wayne Gretzky has always been retired.

23. Their parents have used digital cameras for most of their lives.

24. The country of Zaire has never existed.

25. Rap music has always been easily heard on mainstream radio.

26. High-stakes testing has always been part of their academic lives.

27. Cable TV has always had hundreds of channels.

28. Flat-screen TVs have always been readily available to the average consumer.

29. Movies have always been available on DVD.

30. Ebay has always existed.

31. There have always been 24-hour news stations.

32. The Grateful Dead have always been broken up.

33. Woolworths has always been defunct.

34. The Simpsons has always been on TV.

35. They have always been able to google information.

36. The world population surpassed 6 billion by their third birthday.

37. They’ve been downloading music from the internet since before they entered kindergarten.

38. Many of them own their own iPods and have since they were eight or nine.

39. The Human Genome Project was completed during their lifetime.

40. Tiger Woods has always been golfing.

41. Y2K did not cause the world to end.

42. George Bush was president for most of their lives.

43. September 11th is only a vague memory for most of them, as they were not even in school yet.

44. Wikipedia has always been their go-to for research.

45. They’ve been watching American Idol for most of their lives.

46. The know who Al-Quaeda are, but have never heard of the Cold War.

47. The watched the space shuttle Columbia disintegrate upon reentering the atmosphere but only know about the Challenger disaster from history books.

48. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a governor who used to be in movies, not an actor who became governor.

49. Hurricane Katrina and the 2006 tsunami are the greatest natural disasters they have experienced.  They were able to watch live, 24-hour coverage of both on their televisions and computers.

50. Most of them have their own screen names, Myspace and Facebook profiles, and email addresses.

Perfect Game or What I Learned from Reading

I’m not a baseball fan.  In fact, you could say I am the exact opposite.  If you wanted to somehow put me to sleep, stick me in front of a TV with a baseball game on.  I’m more of a soccer, basketball, Olympics girl.  Fast. Aggressive.  High-scoring.  That’s how I like my sports.

However, I read an inordinate number of baseball books because I teach in a baseball town.  Every year, at least half of my boys are baseball players.  They love to read books about baseball, baseball players, and baseball history.  So this past year I read (and loved) Alan Gratz’s The Brooklyn Nine. At the end of the book, Gratz includes an afterword with historical information pertaining to each story in the book.  It was there that I learned there have only been 17 perfect games in MLB history.

Today, I opened my computer to read the headline Buehrle tosses first MLB perfect game in 5 years.  Before I read the article, I immediately thought to myself, “Wow!  Now there have been 18 perfect games!  How cool would it be to actually pitch one of those 18 games in the last 100 years?”  Not exactly what you’d expect from someone who has never watched an entire baseball game all the way through, huh?  More importantly, not what you would expect from the the girl who spent the one season she played softball making daisy chains in the outfield.  

Before reading Gratz’s book I never would have known this information.  I probably would not have even clicked on the link and read the article.  But because I read The Brooklyn Nine I was interested in the story.  Reading that book led me to read the article from Sports Illustrated today.  And now I know that there have only been 5 pitchers in MLB history to throw a perfect game and a no-hitter.  Isn’t that exactly what we want our students to do?  Read, build schema, and then go out to read and learn more?

And this can happen with any book.  I’ve seen students go out and research synesthesia after reading Wendy Mass’s A Mango-Shaped Space. Students who read Cryptid Hunters read non-fiction about cryptozoology. So on and so forth.

There are no bad books.  Sometimes I have parents who think that sports books are a waste of time.  Or horror.  Or humorous books.  Or magazines.  It goes one and on.  But here’s the magic of reading: fiction leads to reading more non-fiction-whether it is non-fiction books, articles on the internet, magazines, or any other informational reading on a specific subject.  It’s just as likely that readers of non-fiction will seek out fiction books on similar subjects, or more informational texts (in a variety of genres) about the same subject.  Reading begets more reading.  There’s no more organic way to get kids to read than to just allow them to read what they want and to continue reading what they enjoy!

Even better?  All that reading builds up background knowledge and schema.  Students with more schema do better on standardized testing because they have the necessary background knowledge.  More importantly, students with a large array of schema will connect to more books, more subjects in school, more teachers, and more people.  They are more well-rounded..

This Month’s Most Popular Book

About half of the students in my morning class are currently obsessed with Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. My ARC has been passed around and 10 of my students purchased their own copy at the recent Scholastic book sale. In fact, the PTA had to order additional copies once my class bought all of them out!  Needless to say, Patrick Carman’s ghost story is a hit.  They are raving about this one! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Reading a book that melds the written word and the digital world has made our reading time interesting and a little different than I am used to. At first, I was worried about having students view the videos in school, afraid that it would disrupt their classmates’ reading. I began by allowing one student on the computer at a time, wearing headphones, to view the videos as they reached them in the book. Soon enough, I had a student on each computer, each watching a different video. It has workedout great! The kids absolutely love the book and I love that Skeleton Creek has brought the 21st century into our daily reading time.

The videos also serve as hooks for some of my more dormant readers.  They can’t help but be intrigued by the shaky camera work, the creepy noises, and the whole setup of the video entries.  I see them as they watch the videos over the back of a classmate, pretending they aren’t eaveswatching.  With no sound (the reader has headphones on), they become even more intrigued.  Inevitably, they begin talking to their classmates about the book and soon enough add their name to the waiting list for our classroom copy.  It’s happened more than once!

Reviews have been positive across the board from the students who have completed the book.  They can’t wait for the second book to come out and are thrilled that Skeleton Creek won’t be a standalone title. I even have a few who are beginning to explore in the meantime!