Thursday, December 3, 2009

Extended Leave

Dear Students and Families,

You may have noticed over the course of the first trimester that I have been gone a fair amount. Some of that time was taken to care for my children, a couple of days were for myself being sick, and some have been to take care of my wife.  Now she is having more acute issues that require me to devote more of my time and energy to her.  So I have decided to take some extended leave (at least for the end of this week and most of next week).  I have met with Mr. Olson, my replacement, and will continue to consult with him about curriculum so that the students experience as little disruption as possible.  I will also still maintain an online presence via and  In addition, I will be checking my email if you should have any questions.  Thanks for your understanding and patience. 

Mr. Talmadge

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr. T's Holiday Challenge

I was watching TV last night and happened upon a certain talk show that will be ending next year.  The hostess was interviewing two Pulitzer Prize winning authors about their most recent book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.   I was moved by the the horrendous stories and thought that perhaps my students would be interested in doing something this holiday season to help  women in need in the developing world.  So, I proposed in class today that we have a little competition to see which of my classes could raise the most money to donate to a worthy cause in support of women.  The talk show I was watching provided many options for how to give, but two in particular caught my eye.  One, costing a mere 250 dollars, helps an Afghan woman to start a business.  Another, for about the same amount, provides a "School in a Box"for children in emergency situations that don't have access to traditional schooling.  So, I will be putting 4 collection boxes in my room, one for each class.  Let's see over the course of the next two weeks which class can raise the most money.  For an inspirational video on the topic, click here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Conferences Recap and Happy Thanksgiving

It was nice to meet everyone this past week.  I hope I was able to provide you with some good information and I thank you for sharing with me a bit about your family.  I left thinking that it's no wonder our 7th graders are such great kids.  Some of the common things that I tried to communicate are as follows:

·                     Students can retake/redo perfomance assignments (peformance assignments are worth 70% of the grade).

·                     I am available at lunch or after school on most days (excluding Wednesdays).

·                     I collect assignments on Friday, so students need to be organized enough to hold on to them for a few days.

·                     If daily classwork is not finished in class, then it becomes homework and needs to get done by Friday.

·                     Quizzes from this point on are CLOSED book, but OPEN workbook.

·                     Unit 2 about The Rise of Islam begins this coming week.

·                     Trimester 3 is Washington State History and students must pass to graduate from High School.

·                     If students are absent, they should check for accurate information.


We will have our final quiz of unit 1 on Monday (over information in chapter 6).  It was originally scheduled for this past week, but I decided to postpone it till Monday.  We did a review in class the last couple of days, but students may need to study a bit so that they are ready to go on Monday.  Also, thanks to those of you who volunteered your ideas for stock market contest prizes and even offered to bring some in.  You can just have your student bring them to me this coming week.  The last day of the contest is Monday.


Lastly, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  I know that I am thankful to get to spend my days with your amazing kids. Enjoy the long weekend.


Mr. T


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dear Mom or Dad,

For this week's blog post, I want you to write a letter to your parents (either one or both) explaining to them how the first trimester of 7th grade has gone for you.  Explain to them what you've learned in each of your classes.  If you've done well, explain what you did that has helped you to be successfull.  If you haven't done so well, explain to them what you did or did not do that made you struggle.  Then, whether or not you did well, describe what you would like to do differently this coming trimester. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Computer Lab Instructions

1.  Log on to your computer. 

2.  Open up Internet Explorer. 

3.  Go to <>. 

4.  Click on "sign in or register an account" in the upper right hand corner.  

5.  When the pop-up box opens, click on "register". 

6.  Fill in the boxes using the following format: 

8.  Click the "register" button. 

9.  On the next screen, click on "browse" in the upper left hand corner. 

10. Type "ss5" or "ss6" in the search box and hit enter.

11.  Find the picture that you were assigned in class by clicking on the 4 images

       in the lower right hand corner.

12.  Make two comments on that picture:

  • One that shows an interesting detail or a question that you have.

  • One that explains how the picture shows something from section 6.4.

13.  Find another picture that someone else has commented on and respond to

      their comment.




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day Assembly

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Middle Age Research, Progress Reports...

This past week we have been working in the computer lab as students researched topics of their choice related to the middle ages. You can check out our work at The process we used is similar to the way that students will conduct their social studies CBA (click here for more info) in the spring as part of the way Washington state evaluates subjects other then reading, writing and math. I wanted students to conduct research by selecting a topic, posing questions, making inferences, searching with key words, evaluating websites, summarizing and citing sources.

Also this past week we had our last 15 day progress check before the end of the trimester on November 25th. I updated grades and changed all of the asterisks "*" that students may have had to zero's. This way they get a truly accurate picture of what their grade would have been if the trimester had ended this week. The good thing is that students still have about 10 days or so to make up any work or redo any tests. Because I want to have the grades finalized before parent conferences begin on November 20th, I have decided to make November 18th the last day to turn in work in my class.

Regarding conferences, I look forward to meeting with families on 11/20, 11/23 and 11/24. Conferences will run from Noon-3pm on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. In addition, we'll be offering an evening time on Tuesday from 4:30-7:30. I do have a question for you. The other teachers on the 7th grade team and I have been wondering whether or not to print out a paper copy of student' grades. Does it matter to you if you get a hard copy or is the online access good enough? Respond by clicking here if you read this on your email or by using the comment box at the bottom of this post if you are reading this on my blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friday Activities

Friday's are crazy days in my class.  For one thing, each class is only 30 minutes.  For another, I usually pack three activities into that short amount of time: assignment turn-in, geography skills practice and a raffle.  It's a bit of sprint for me as I teach for 3 hours straight with no break.

Assignment Turn-in
I don't like to collect things on a daily basis, instead choosing to do so on a weekly basis. In theory, this should mean that I am keeping my grades up to date weekly, but somehow things just don't work out that way.   At any rate, I have the students turn assignments in by passing them up their section to a person in the front row whom I designate as the "first level of quality control."  Then that person is suppose to pass the assignments over to the student sitting closest to my desk. I then take the pile from them and place it directly in front of my monitor (so that the pile can be forever calling out "grade me!"

Geography Skills
I like to use most Friday's as a day to focus on geography skills. So, we get out the trusty atlas and I make students search for things.  I use two different online geo quiz resources.  One at and another at  The first one requires the students to read through a paragraph to decipher what it is they are looking for.  Then they have to decide what key word(s) to look up in the index of their atlas.  While they are searching I walk around the room and students raise their hand when they think they have the right answers.  They point in their atlas and I give them creative economy money if they are correct. The second is more of a traditional quiz, so I alter it a bit by sometimes making them show me in their atlas what the right is.  This past Friday I tried something new which was to use the activote devices so that the students could register their response electronically.  You can see the device below.  The second image is a screenshot I took of a geobee question with the activote spreadsheet overlayed on it, just like the students would see in class.  I have signed us up for the National Geographic Bee (click on the link above to read more about it), so hopefully the time we spend on Friday is helping to prepare the students for that.

Creative Economy Raffle
Finally, the last five minutes of class we have a raffle.  While students are getting their assignments ready to turn-in at the beginning of class, I walk around and "sell" raffle tickets.  The prices varies depending on "what the market will bear".  I started out charging 1 dollar, but the price has risen to 3 dollars now that students have had some time to earn money.  Usually, I take the money collected and divide it up among the winners of the raffle.  It's a pretty fun way to end the week. 

I would love to know what you think about these Friday activities.  You can comment by clicking here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Church Poems

Sunday, October 18, 2009

10/12-10/16 Update

This past week started out with me being quite sick on Monday and Tuesday. After my family had been sick the week before, I knew that I was at higher risk for catching something, and boy did I. So I ended up staying home on Monday and Tuesday. On those days, students finished up chapter 3 about The Church and began chapter 4 about Town Life in the middle ages. I came back Wednesday and rewarded the students with a trip to the computer lab. In the lab, students updated their blogs by making a post that reflected on their Church Poems which were turned in on Monday. They also had a chance to trade stocks on (by the way, some of the students are really having fun playing the market!). One of my main goals in the lab, however, was to introduce them to voicethread (click to watch a short demo), a web application that allows group conversations around images. To do that, I created a practice voicethread (click to see it) using one of the pictures from the textbook that shows town life in the middle ages. All of this was designed to prepare them to use voicethread as a way of reflecting on their church poems and provided feedback on their classmates' poems. On Thursday we were back in the classroom where I began teaching students about marking the text and using an abbreviated code in the margins. Specifically, we learned how to connect to prior knowledge and to pose questions as they read. I had to make a copy of a page in the text as I don't want students writing in the textbooks. This week, we may try placing a clear transparency sheet in the textbook and letting students write on that as they read so I don't have make copies of the text (which seems like somewhat of an overuse of paper). Finally, on Friday, I decided to go for it and let the students use voicethread to make comments on their church poems. You can view the voicethread here.

This past Tuesday was also a 15 day progress update. Many students are still working with me to get their missing work turned in. But because I have also been out more than I'd like, it has been difficult to connect with every student. So, if a student is missing work from the previous three weeks or so, I am giving them more time to get that turned in. On the next progress report, however, I will be turning those missing assignments to zero's, at which time they will negatively impact the grade.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finishing Feudalism, Touring Europe, Writing about the Church

To start, I know that many students have been waiting patiently for me to update their grades.  Over the weekend I inserted a bunch of scores, so you should see that reflected in your online grades.

In terms of class activities, this past week we finished chapter 2 about the social structure of the middle ages. I placed a poll on Edmodo, our class microblogging platform, asking students about which social class they would rather have been born into in the middle ages. Here are the results:

On Thursday we began our next lesson, about the influence of the church on life in Europe during the middle ages. We are in the midst of a pretty neat activity that I call a "Tour of Europe".  I have placed the students into 6 groups. Each group gets to discuss and read a section of the textbook, as well as engage in an activty to help them learn about an aspect of the church. For example, one group is learning about holidays, which they now know are actually holy-days. They listen to two different pieces of music and discuss the differences. Another group is learning about medieval church art and achitecture, so they get to build a gargoyle out of playdough. Here's a picture of one such gargoyle:

This week we will continue learning about the church.  And, for our summative assessment, we will do a small project which involves the students writing a short poem, rather than taking a quiz.  You can view the assignment sheet here:
The Church Poem

Also, the scoring guide that I will use to evaluate them can be viewed here:
The Church Poem Scoring Guide

Finally, a sample of the work that students have done in the past is here: 

I hope that gives you a good sense of what we've been up to and where we're headed.  As always, if you have any comments or questions, you can use the comment feature at the end of each blog post if you're reading this on your email, click here

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nobles, Knights, Serfs and Substitutes

This past week was an odd week for me.  It began like any other as we spent Monday and Tuesday beginning Reading Notes 2 in the workbook and learning about the social structure of the Middle Ages called feudalism.  However, on Wednesday I had to be out of the classroom helping the 6th grade language arts teachers from across the district evaluate their students' writing on the Fall District Writing Assessment.  I never like to be out of the classroom, particularly in September, given how important it is to set the tone at the beginning of the year as to what the expectations are.  Then, as I was driving in to work on Thursday, I received a call from Stefanie, my wife,  who said she was not feeling well and needed me to be at home to take care of Thomas, our two year old, and get Jonah, our 5 year old, off to school.  She has pretty much stayed in bed for the last three days with what seems to be the flu.  Our doctor went ahead and prescribed Tamiflu for Jonah and Thomas to try to prevent them from getting sick.  Thomas had a slight fever on Thursday night, so I made the decision to go ahead and call in for sub on Friday as well.  I hope to be back on Monday. 

In terms of classwork for the week, we took video notes on 20 minutes videos about Feudalism, The Noble, The Knight and The Serf. The notes are taken in two column format where I give students the topics on the left hand side and they fill in the specific details on the right hand side.  We also played a fun review game using white boards.  Two students are chosen to go the back of the room and the rest of the class uses their notes and/or the textbook to find key words or phrases.  I choose one of the words and the students in the back try to guess what it is using clues from their classmates.  My plan was to have students turn-in their work on Friday, which is the normal routine, but we'll have to do that on Monday. I was also hoping to take the student to the lab this past week, to help them set up their own blog (check them out at and to show them more about buying and selling stocks for our stock market contest ( parents are welcome to sign up by clicking here and using this password: smseagles).  Now the plan is to do that on Monday also.

Lastly, I know that many students have been out sick as well.  Of course I will be flexible and work with them to help them make up any work.  I highly recommend that students who have been gone set up a time to meet with me to develop a plan for how they will complete the work, particularly the video watching and notes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grades Updated

Today was our first official "Progress Report Day."  In the past, this meant that I would print out hard copies of each student's grades and hand them out.  However, now that most (but not all, I know) families have online access, I simply try to have as many assignment grades inserted in the online gradebook as is possible.  When you look at the grade, you'll notice that there are mostly "practice" assignments except for the Chapter 1 Quiz, which is the first "performance" grade.  In my class, I use weighted categories.  "Performance" is worth 70% and "practice" is 30%.  This being the case, it is extremely important for students to do well on their performance assignments (i.e. tests, quizzes, projects, etc).  Because the category is worth so much, students are welcome to retake/redo any performance assignment until I cut off grades at the end of the trimester.  Take at look at your grades and be sure to communicate with me if you have any questions. 

I do have a question for you.  What do you see as the advantages/disadvantages of a system like mine where one category is worth so much and where students can redo/retake those assignments as often as they like?  Use the comment feature below to register your feedback (or if you are reading this on your email, click here).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Feudalism, Stock Market and Creative Economy

In class this past Thursday we did our first simulation. I chose one student from each class to be king or queen and they in turn chose 4 Lords or Ladies, who in turn chose some knights to protect their "manor". The remaining students were lowly serfs working the land. I was able to get a few props from Mr. Tresman (our part time librarian.
From Mr. Talmadge's Blog

In addition, I have been slowly giving out money in our creative economy. I use it both as an incentive for positive behaviors, and also as a deterrent for undesirable behaviors.
From Mr. Talmadge's Blog

Finally, I took each class to the lab this week to sign them up for the first trimester stock market contest. Contest rules are simple: spend at least 40,000 of the allotted 50,000 dollars and buy stock in at least 20 different companies. I would like to invite parents to participate as well. You should be able to click on the green box below to get signed up.
Join my free Stock Contest at! (password: smseagles)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Have you subscribed yet?

I just wanted to put out a post so that those of you who have subscribed to the blog can see what it will look like in your email in box.  Don't forget to check your junk mail folder to make sure your filter didn't automatically route it there.  It was great meeting all of you and I am looking forward to a fantastic year. 

In terms of class so far, we have turned in a few assignments, but I have yet to update the grades.  I'll make it a priority to do that this coming week.  We have begun our first lesson on the Legacy of the Romans.  We will be having  a quiz on Wednesday about that legacy.  I also handed out a map of Europe that students can be working on.  You can find those by clicking on the "documents" tab at the top of my blog.  The map is due on Friday the 18th.  On Thursday we will have our first experiential simulation where students get assigned to a social class a la the Feudal system that arose out of a chaotic Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire.

I hope everyone has a wonderful, sunny weekend.

P.S.  All of the relevant links for me are as follows:

The Blog: (subscribe at
The Audio Update:
The Videos:
The Tweets:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Edmodo Code of Conduct

Edmodo Code of Conduct


1.  I will only use one of the avatars included with edmodo for my profile picture or create one that doesn't include my picture.


2.  I will use posts to discuss course content only.


3.  I will use a respectful tone of voice when posting.  All school rules and consequences related to harassment apply.


4.  I will use appropriate English grammar instead of texting language.

5.  I will only use pictures that I have appropriate legal permission to use.

6.  I will not use my posts to promote personal websites or chatrooms.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mr.T's "Last Lecture"

Not that I gave many "lectures", but here's an audio recording of me talking to 1st period this morning about what I hope they learned from me this year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pictures from Living Voices!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Computer Lab Instructions

Computer Lab Instructions



1.  Continue researching online using the keywords list  for your topic.


2.  Continue adding links to the appropriate page on the wiki for your topic.


3.  Fill in two website citation worksheets (you can use the encyclopia page for your second website or you can another print another website one here.)


4.  Complete at least one of the two graphic organizers that you got on Monday and Tuesday.


5.  Show your teachers that you have complete 3 citation worksheets and 1 graphic organizer.


6.  Create a "New Page" on the wiki.  Title it using your first name and last intial.


7.  Make sure to use the "CBA Template" when creating your page.


8.  Now you're ready to make a first attempt at answering the questions on the CBA Template.


9.  Good Luck!






Thursday, May 14, 2009

Computer Lab Instructions 5/15

1. Sit at the computer you have been at for the last few Friday's.
--Do not sit at the new computer that corresponds with the new seat you got this week.

2. Once you've logged in, go to

3. Read these instructions.

4. Open up your Excel Map.

5. Make sure that it is saved to your user share account by clicking on the "File" menu and then "Save As". Find your last name and save it there. This way you'll be able to have a new computer next week.

6. You goal today: Try to get 12 pop-up comments on your map!

7. Use your textbook and a planning sheet for assistance. If you don't have one, click here.

8. If you get tired of adding pop-up comments, search for ways to bring your data to life at

9. If you get tired of that, work on formatting your comments and map so that it looks nice.

10. Finally, if you have any questions, post them here.

Good luck! I'll see you Monday...

Living Voices

Friday, May 8, 2009

Computer Lab Instructions

1. Review the Scoring Guide

• There’s a link to it in the “Important Links” list on the blog.

2. Review your Excel Map Planning Sheet

• Now that we are through with chapter 4, look back
over your first 8 items and make sure that they
connect to the things we’ve learned (e.g., Glacial
Lake Missoula, J Harlan Bretz, Differences in
East West Environment, Differences Between
Coastal and Plateau Indians, Sea Explorers, Lewis
and Clark.)

• Look at the sentences that you’ve written. Have
you included a title, a good bit of data, and
explained why that data is important to our state’s

• Have you included a picture or a link to an
interactive web item or both?

3. Look at chapter 5, who or what could you include as your items for that chapter?

4. Finally, consider how your map is formatted.

• Will you change font colors?

• Will you “color” the map?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lewis and Clark Artifacts

Friday, April 24, 2009

Totem Pole Pictures

Washington Map

I have beeng grading the Washington Maps this week and notice that there are still many students who have not completed it. I spoke with each of those students today in class, but perhaps you could check with your child this weekend to make sure that they remember to do it. I believe the next progress report day is May 5th, but I'd love to have all of the maps on my desk by early next week in preparation for that progress report. Thanks for your help!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Geology Guest Speaker!

Today we had a guest presentation on the geologic history of Washington by Richelle Rose, a UW trained geologist now working for King County. She also helped the students as they make observations about different rocks and minerals f0und in Washington State.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maroon Book, WA Map, Paper Towel Tube

Hi Folks,

Just a quick note to check-in about a few things. First, since we are finished with the world history portion of the class, I am collecting the maroon History Alive books that were checked out to students. I have asked students to bring those by tomorrow (4/17). Second, the students have been working in class on a map of Washington--it's due tomorrow as well. Finally, next week we will be doing an art project and students will need a paper towel tube (or something else akin to it). Can you make sure to be prepared? Thanks...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

West African Drumming

Thursday, March 26, 2009

West African Art

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WA State History Money Due Friday!

I just wanted to remind everybody that the five dollars to pay for actors from Living Voices during third trimester is due on Friday. I am attaching the original letter that explains everything. Thanks for your support!

From Mr. Talmadge's Class

Thursday, March 19, 2009

#17 Planet Money: A Ponzi Drama

This is the podcast we listened to today that explains about Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi Scheme.

Bernie Madoff woke up in jail today, after pleading guilty to 11 charges stemming from an enormous Ponzi scheme. How enormous? The most recent court documents put the figure at $65 billion. In another amazing Planet Money Radio Dramatization, Alex Blumberg, Adam Davidson and David Kestenbaum act out a Ponzi scheme of their own. With a cameo by Harvey Pitt, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who suggests that the estimate of $65 billion is "badly inflated."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guest Speaker!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thank you, 10 March 2009

Below is a message from my friend in Nigeria regarding the video conference with 5th period this morning...

Dear Mr. Talmadge,

It was the highlight of my day to speak with your students for the first time. The questions asked were thoughtful and interesting.

As I mentioned in the video conference, I will attempt to get one of my colleagues in front of the camera. It may take a little convincing on my part, but I’ll do my best.

Also, I will take pictures of the following as promised and send them via email as soon as possible:
  • Public transportation and other private vehicles
  • Traditional Nigerian clothes
  • Different types of stores

I look forward to our correspondence as “video pals” as we continue learning together.

Have a wonderful day.
Manuel “Manny” Martucci


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

#375: Bad Bank

Hi Folks,

This podcast does a nice job of explaining the banking crisis. I used it in class today to help the kids understand how bankers make money and why they are not currently "solvent".

Sent to you by Mr. T via Google Reader:

via This American Life by Chicago Public Radio on 3/1/09
Alex Blumberg and NPR's Adam Davidson team up once again to talk economy: specifically, the US's current plan to deal with banks, why the plan looks suspicious and what it all amounts to.

Things you can do from here:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Washington State History

At left is a copy of a letter that I sent home with your children today. The letter explains about the high school credit received for passing Washington State History during 3rd trimester. In addition, the letter requests help in paying for some actors from Living Voices that will perform in class. Last year we had one performance that was quite good. This year I've added a second performance.

On another note, how are your stocks faring in our stock market game? I have extended the end date to March 31st, which is the new end of trimester date. There is still time for you to sign up if you haven't done so. Just click on the green button in the right hand sidebar.

Finally, this Friday (3/6) is the last progress report before the trimester ends. That evening you'll be able to get an up to date idea of how your child is doing so that you can check in with them over the weekend.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Creative Islam Poster

Check out this Islam Poster made by Zahra and Shea in 5th period.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Islam Poster

Students will be working in partners on a poster to show what they know about the Five Pillars of Islam. The poster will include a side of text that includes a definition and two examples. The other side will include three pictures (drawn or printed off) to depict how Muslims live out their faith.