Friday, November 28, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/28/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves – a punctuation game

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence – free resources for teachers to use

Playcrafter – “a website where anyone can create fun flash games using our free online game maker. After you've made a game you can share it with your friends on MySpace, Facebook, your blog or anywhere on the web.”

National Geographic Xpeditions – “home to the U.S. National Geography Standards—and to thousands of ideas, tools, and interactive adventures that bring them to life.”

The Numeracy Project – “The National Numeracy Project aims to help children improve their thinking skills from the start of school until the end. The Project identifies children's processing abilities and where blocks to thinking are caused by lack of instant recall of basic knowledge. Teachers then seek to improve students' thinking skills and to automatise the knowledge on which thinking rests. “

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Days 22 to 24 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Day 22

Teach42 challenges us to answer the question, “Why do you blog?”
I decided when I retired that I would share my knowledge and expertise with new and struggling teachers. Since I felt I had a successful career, I thought others might like to know what I thought and strategies I had used that worked in the classroom. At first I felt like this was egotistical of me and I was kind of embarrassed about it. Then as I blogged, I read some comments and received some emails that encouraged me to continue to blog. I hope that I make it clear that what I share worked for me and doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work for every teacher out there. Because we have different teaching styles and personalities, everything I write about needs to be adapted to individual teachers in ways that work best for them. I have had some comments that what I did would not work and again, I have to tell people that teaching is not a “one size fits all” activity and what I did may not work for everyone. I have also gotten some emails from new teachers that had tried something I suggested and they were so thrilled about what a difference it had made in their classroom. When I get these messages, I feel like that I am contributing to my professional learning network as a way of giving back to all of the people who had helped me along the way.

Day 23
Teach42 challenges us to plan our blog. I am not a spur of the moment kind of person and tend to plan. I made it a goal to blog at least Monday through Friday. Since Blogger now has a scheduler, this makes it much easier especially since my husband and I like to travel. Even now as we are cruising, I am able to schedule a blog post for a later date in case I can’t get access to the internet or I don’t have time. I think having a regular schedule really makes it easier for my readers to know they can count on a post from me almost every weekday. Every Friday I like to share links to sites that I have found and liked. I also follow other bloggers who schedule a certain day for a certain kind of post.

Day 24
Teach42 challenges us to disclose ourselves.
“Do you have a Disclosure Statement on your blog already? If so, what does it include? Do you know of any other good examples amongst educators? Or non-educators for that matter! If you are creating one as part of this challenge, share a link to it in the comments below so we can learn from it as well.”

Since I am retired, I do not have to worry about anyone thinking my views are my employers so I’m lucky in that respect. But I do believe that people should disclose that they are getting paid to advertise or recommend something. I recommend sites that I like on Fridays but I do not get paid to recommend them and usually I email them after the fact to let them know that I linked to them in my post.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bringing Diversity into the Classroom

In Hit a Jew” Day. Um, er…, tween teacher states, “But how “Hug a Friend Day” de-evolved into “Hit a Jew Day” is beyond me.” Heather writes that some of the students had never had a Jewish teacher before. This brought back many memories for me.

Even now, I don’t see many Asian teachers in the public school. I have met a few teachers from India but not any from China or Japan. But when I first started teaching, I believe I was the only Asian in my district. In fact, they didn’t know how to classify me on forms because back then the only choices here in the south was Black or White. Imagine the students when they first appeared in my classes. I usually started off the first week with telling a lot about me and my family’s history. They couldn’t understand why I looked different but I couldn’t even speak Chinese. I am the only one in my family that can’t speak Chinese because the schools discouraged my parents from teaching me to be bilingual when I was young. They felt it would hinder my education.

I have faced prejudice because of people’s ignorance and I feel that with education, this is changing. Early on in my career, I had a student removed from my classroom because the grandfather, who had served in World War II, did not want any Japanese teacher teaching his granddaughter. Unfortunately, he thought all Asians must be from Japan. I didn’t try to discourage the transfer because I don’t think it would have solved anything.

I have also taught in classes where the minority students didn’t see that I was more of a minority than they were. When I had to discipline a student, he complained to an assistant principal that I was just prejudiced against minorities. The assistant principal brought him to my class and made him look at me, asked the student if he could see that I looked “different,” and asked the student to tell him who else in the school looked like me. When the student couldn’t, the assistant principal asked him who was the minority? That ended that discussion for the student and for my class. I was never accused of that again there.

If a teacher belongs to a different culture, I think we need to introduce our students to this culture. It is more meaningful when it comes from the source than if they just read about it. On Chinese New Years, I try to explain different customs and the meanings of the customs. I have also brought in some Chinese food that I eat. When I am open to the discussion, students love to ask questions and learn about my heritage but many have been too embarrassed to ask. I like to talk about how I was brought up with Chinese parents in an American society and the conflicts that I faced growing up. This usually brings up a lively discussion about how people treat each other and what we can do to change this.

My students also did not understand about Jewish beliefs until we read the book The Four Perfect Pebbles by Marion Lazan. There are not many Jewish people where we live so I felt this was another opportunity to bring diversity into the classroom. We read the book and I went to a local synagogue to buy some Jewish games to show the class. The best part of the lesson was when we invited the author to talk to our students. Instead of just having my class in attendance, I invited the entire student body and the community. The author was a wonderful lady who told about how she grew up during the holocaust and how she was at the same concentration camp as Anne Frank. Many of my students were moved and inspired by her message of accepting each other in spite of our racial and cultural differences. I even got a letter from a parent who is Jewish for having this event.

If we invited people of different cultures to our classroom to explain their culture, I think it would help our students accept each other’s differences more easily. We would find out that we actually have a lot more in common than we thought and this would definitely help our students be more successful in preparing for the workplace.

Photo credit: Scrapbook page of Marion and Me by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Days 19 to 21 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Day 19

Teach42 challenges us to look at other blogs and analyze what you see there.
“Today’s challenge is a relatively simple one, and likely one that you probably do on a regular basis subconsciously. Today we’re just going to do it consciously. Basically, the idea is to spend some time visiting other educator’s blogs that fall into the same niche as yours, and analyze what you see there. This is one of the challenges that I really liked out of ProBlogger’s 31 day challenge. And I think he has an excellent list of questions to ask yourself while you visit other people’s blogs.”

I love to visit other educator blogs because I like to hear what other educators are talking about, how they feel on certain issues, and then think about how I feel about that issue. I like to read blog posts that aren’t too long and aren’t too technical. I also love the ones that have a little humor in it or are interesting to read. If the font is too small or the topic is too technical, I tend to skip over them. I also like posts that tell about different tools and how they use it with students or the successes they had with the students. I also like to look at their sidebars and see what interesting links or widgets they have that might make my blog look better.

Day 20

Teach42 challenges us to go on a Dead Link Hunt.
“There are two sites and one PC based tool that I’ve had recommended to me. The tool is Xenu, and the two sites are and the W3C link validator. All of them do the same basic task, which is to crawl through your site and test each individual link. If it thinks the link is invalid, it flags it for you. Based on the specific way each tool/site does this, it may come up with different results than the others. That’s why you will probably want to do at least 2 of the 3 tests. I’d suggest running one test, checking the results and making changes as needed, and then running a second test.”

Since I am on a cruise and limiting myself to 30 minutes a day on the internet, this will have to wait until I get home but I never thought about doing this. I also never knew there were tools that checked this. I’m excited about testing my site and I hope I don’t have too many dead links.
Day 21

Teach42 challenges us to make a blog post about a comment we made or a comment left for us.
“For today’s challenge, we’re going back to commenting with a slightly different spin. Your challenge for today is to integrate a comment into a new blog post of yours. This can be a comment that somebody left for you on your own blog (like I’ve done in this post), or a comment that somebody left on somebody else’s blog. This may require a little digging, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Honestly, there are times where the comments left on a blog post are perhaps more significant than the blog post itself.”

I like to do this a lot of times if my comment is too long or wordy. Sometimes it gives me room to express my thoughts more clearly without worrying that someone will think I’m spamming their blog post. If my post is referring to someone else’s post, then I link to that original post and leave a comment with a link to my post telling them that I wrote a post about theirs instead of leaving a long comment.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Interview with Susan Fowler, President of Council for Exceptional Children

Recently I asked Susan Fowler, President of Council for Exceptional Children for an interview. Her term will be completed at the end of December 2008 so I thought it would be fun to ask her some questions. I really appreciate Susan taking the time to do this since I know how busy she is and after reading this, I realize she is even busier than I thought. I hope you enjoy the interview!

1. What is your official job title outside of CEC?
Professor, Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois

2. How long have you been a member of CEC?
I joined in 1975 s a first year doctoral student at the University of Kansas—gee 33 years ago!

3. How did you first get involved in CEC?
One of my advisors told me I needed to join to be part of the profession. Fortunately, she also invited me to present at the national CEC conferences in 1976, 1977, 1978 as a member of her panel where we talked about early childhood special education services and I discussed the transition from preschool to kindergarten. That experience started me on a line of research and got me involved in DEC. I soon published articles in the early Journal of DEC and eventually in Exceptional Children. Then my state chapter asked me to run for President of Kansas DEC in the 1980’s and that got me involved in local advocacy and governance with CEC

4. Why do you think teachers should join CEC?
It provides them with a larger context about their profession and who they are and represent. It expands their focus and knowledge to the whole range of special education issues, birth through young adults. As new knowledge emerges and practices are developed, clarified or even changed over time, they learn about it and stay current with their profession. This opportunity ensures that they have informal ongoing professional development (through journals, TEC, website) and formal professional development opportunities through state, provincial, division or national conferences. Membership also provides a community for them to belong with and to share values and a sense of mission for the incredible work that they do with children and youth, who not so long ago, could not be guaranteed an education. It’s a precious and demanding commitment and belonging to a community helps to support this dedication and mission.

5. If you could give 3 words describing your term as President of CEC, what would they be?
exhilarating, challenging and humbling

6. What has been the best thing about being President of CEC?
Seeing how a group of committed Board members, Committee Chairs and the Staff of CEC can have a visible impact on the field of special education through advocacy at the federal, provincial and state level around issues of legislation, funding, rule making that impact our daily services to children and families. Also seeing how we can influence the future by identifying through a consensus process the most critical and timely issues on which to focus in our strategic planning such as increasing our knowledge of evidence based practices. Finally, seeing how responsive CEC can be to important issues that need a policy or position statement, such as Response to Intervention, Safe Schools and the fact that CEC members are ready and able to work on expert panels to draft these statements.

7. Do you have any advice for people who might think of running for office in CEC?
First, have a passion for your profession and a desire to make a difference in our field by thinking carefully about current and critical issues. Second, prepare to be part of a very active community of leaders who tackle these pressing issues, discuss them, argue about them and finally reach consensus on them. This takes time, but the satisfaction from doing so is enormous.

So what kind of time are we talking about? If you are running for the Board, make sure that you can set aside 3-5 hours every week to participate in e-community discussions, read CEC Smart Briefs, CEC Today, CEC Policy Insider and other electronic information. Try to take time to read one or two articles from each issue of our journals to stay on top of trends and findings in our field. Be ready to serve on a work group on a specific topic related to issues of governance. Finally, make sure that you can arrange time off to attend a Friday-Sunday board meeting in Arlington VA in Oct. and Jan. and of course 5 days for our convention in March or April. If you run for office as president-elect, double the time commitment and add more visits to CEC to your schedule!

8. What do you think the biggest challenge CEC faces in the future?
Growing our membership and convincing our new teachers that they will benefit from belonging to their professional organization. The second challenge, is just as critical, and that is maintaining our specialization as special educators within the general education curriculum.

9. What are your plans when your term is over?
Professionally, I’ll have more time to think, relax, read my journals, attend more sessions at CEC and division conferences and enjoy being a member. Personally, I’ll have less travel and more time with my family and I think the teenagers will be happy that I am home more often! I know my husband will be happy!

10. (One teacher wanted me to ask you this): Placement for special needs students is straining the budget in the small rural district where I teach. Any suggestions?
Does she mean placement out of the district? Or does she mean identification of students who are eligible for special education services in the district? I’ll try to answer if you have a bit more information……

(Thank you Susan for a wonderful interview! I have enjoyed serving on the board under your leadership!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Carnival of Education 11/19/08

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at I Want to Teach Forever. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on How Was My Lesson? is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/21/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

You are the Historian – is a “comprehensive online site that builds students’ understanding about the harvest celebration of 1621, which is often erroneously referred to as “The First Thanksgiving.” The learning on the site is supported and enhanced by an online teacher’s guide, “Becoming a Historian,” with lessons that correspond to each activity on the site,, graphic organizers,, and additional resources and information.”

National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery – Images, videos and audios for you to use

Can Do – “The Can Do! web site offers stories, activities, and resources to help create a better understanding and deeper appreciation of how people can overcome their challenges and reach their dreams by using their abilities and a "can-do" attitude.”

Learning Vocabulary Fun – games to make learning vocabulary lots of fun

Next Vista for Learning – “An online library of free videos for learners everywhere - find resources to help you learn just about anything, meet people who make a difference in their communities, and even discover new parts of the world. And Next Vista for Learning wants to post your educational videos online, too. Everyone has an insight to share and yours may be just what some student or teacher somewhere needs!”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 18 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to join and read the Education Carnivals. He quotes by saying:

"A Blog Carnival is a particular kind of blog community. There are many kinds of blogs, and they contain articles on many kinds of topics. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. every monday, or on the first of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors opinions or remarks.
There is so much stuff in the blog-o-sphere, just finding interesting stuff is hard. If there is a carnival for a topic you are interested in, following that carnival is a great way to learn what bloggers are saying about that topic. If you are blogging on that topic, the carnival is the place to share your work with like-minded bloggers."

This is a wonderful idea because I have been doing this for a long time. I have read so many things that keep me current with educational issues. I have enjoyed joining the debate on some of the articles and I feel this helps me sharpen my own ideas and beliefs. I have connected with many other educators and learned about new resources that are constantly being developed to make my teaching more successful. I make reading the Carnival part of my weekly routine so it has become a habit.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 17 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

On Day 17, Teach42 challenges us to make our blog more mobile. I think this is a great idea even though I do not have an iphone or those other great geeky toys…yet. I do not want to discourage people from reading my blog just because I can’t stay current with the new toys.

You can access it by using this google link:

I am also trying that he has recommended. I have added the widget to my sidebar. Here is the link to this:

Hope you enjoy checking this out.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Days 14 -16 of 30 Days to Be a Better Blogger

Day 14: Contact me – I have my email address and my Connect with Me widget that I found on Christine Southard’s Blogspot. I really like how it gives my usernames for all the different social networking platforms that I use.

Day 15: Search for myself on Google and Technorati – I haven’t done this before so I will be checking this out. It will be interesting to see what links I find. I might have missed some that I didn’t know about so I will be doing this on a monthly basis also.

Day 16: My Greatest Hits – I have my favorite articles on the side and I want to update them with more but I’m afraid that it is too much for the side bar. Does anyone have any suggestions? I think I might change it to “The Greatest Hits of 2008” and then change them each year since I am now working on my second year of blogging.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Inclusion Discussion

We had a great Council for Exceptional Children Chapter 877 online meeting last week which ended up being a discussion about Inclusion. The original topic was homework and other subjects that pop up and I feel it ended up being a great discussion about inclusion. Amanda, one of our members is a resource teacher on the middle school level, Faye is technology teacher, and Lisa is a 5th grade teacher. It just so happens that Lisa’s class is also an inclusion class so I had lots of questions for her. I really appreciate Lisa coming into the discussion and letting me throw lots of questions about her program out to her. Lisa and Christine are coteachers in an inclusion class which I feel is what inclusion should really look like in an elementary school class. I’m not sure how inclusion could work on the high school level with so many different subjects and so many different students but this is a good way to start looking at the possibilities. If you are interested in hearing the discussion, please click this link to hear the replay.
If you look to the right of the picture, you can click on the tab labeled “chat” to see more of the conversation. Participants could have a webcam, a microphone or just type in to chat. In this meeting, we had all 3.

Since our state conference is at the end of January, our next meeting will take place in February. I will announce the date and details on the CEC 877 wiki. Our tentative topics are talking about the conference and I’d like to get someone to come on and talk about the Universal Design for Learning. So please watch this blog or the wiki for more details.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Excuses

Now that Obama is President, I see it as another great example for many of my students to strive for higher goals. Over many years I have had students who used their race as an excuse for why they didn’t do better in school, why they couldn’t dream of a better life, and why they couldn’t achieve their goals. For many years, my students believed the way to a better life was to be a famous athlete who is paid a ridiculous amount of money. They didn’t believe that you could use an education and your brain to achieve your goals.

Today I thought about many famous African Americans who didn’t let their race hold them back. There were so many of them that I didn’t think I could name them all. In fact, I found a wonderful website that lists Notable African Americans. These were great for students to study but then I started to think of people in my own community who were great role models.

One person I thought of was Oscar Neely, a paraprofessional who worked with me for a few years. He was also the head varsity basketball coach for our school and used as an administrator at times. He was always well dressed and was professional at all time. We talked a lot about the race issue and how many of our students used it as an excuse for not succeeding. Here was living proof that this was not true because Oscar had a teaching degree and was our winning most basketball coach ever. He was a true role model for my students because he treated adults and students with respect. He rarely lost his composure and could reason with most students and adults during an emotional situation. As a basketball coach, he had a lot of influence on the student body and I was honored to work with him on a daily basis.

I believe we need to get more community members into our classrooms as role models for our students. The famous people we can find on the internet and TV are great to use for examples but if you can show them a real person to interact with, students have a more concrete example. The more real we can make it for our students, the more successful they can be.

Original image: 'Q picks the Great African Americans Placemat' Archie McPhee

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 13 of 30 Days to Be a Better Blogger

Teach42’s challenge today is to keep decluttering the sidebar on the blog. I added the “Show Yourself” Widget so it would be easier for people to connect with me. I do like having the number of visitors and the clustrmap on the sidebar. After reading Teach42’s challenge, I was glad to see that I could change my Blog Archive into a drop down menu. That really cleaned up my side bar a lot. I love learning something new every day of this challenge.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/14/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

NASA eClips – video segments for all grade levels and adults

Epals – “Safely connect, collaborate and learn using our leading protected email and blog solutions for schools and districts”

Design and the Elastic Mind – “Design and the Elastic Mind explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world by bringing together design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations. The exhibition highlights designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history—changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior—and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. This Web site presents over three hundred of these works, including fifty projects that are not featured in the gallery exhibition. “

Soshiku – “is a simple but powerful tool that manages your high school or college assignments. Soshiku keeps track of when your assignments are due and can even notify you via email or SMS. And it's totally free.”

Rethinking Homework – Interesting article about homework

Photo credit: Original image: 'Tooled Flatty'

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 12 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42’s challenge for Day 12 is to Declutter Your Sidebar Part I - Blogroll Audit.

I have to admit that I’ve gotten lazy with my blog roll. Today I plan to go through the list and get rid of the stale blogs and add some of the new ones that I’ve found and enjoyed. I just wonder how many people really look at my blog roll and if they even care who I follow. Then I think about the times that I’ve looked at other people’s blog roll and realize that I need to clean mine up. This challenge is definitely motivating me to do some of the things that I’ve put off so I will be busy today. If you come by tomorrow, I hope my blog roll will be in better shape. I also plan to make it a goal to check my blog roll at least every other month. (If I write it down, I am more likely to follow it). Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog!

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Geography Becomes Extinct

Can you believe how many people do not know the continents or where major countries are located? I found these two lessons: A Collaboration Project for All Ages and Writing a Story in Google Maps and thought they would be great to use with students. We have come a long way to teaching geography. I recently found out that our district has cut geography from the middle school curriculum. After I picked my jaw off the ground, I had to say that this seems totally ridiculous to me. As we become a more global society, I would think that geography would be even more important. How can we interact with people from other countries if we have no idea where they are or even how to find out where they are? There have been many news articles reflecting the horror of knowing that our children do not have geography skills. Yet, they are doing away with teaching geography in school?

As I interact with teachers from other countries, I am finding out how much we are same more than different. I see that we have a lot of common difficulties in the schools and the students. We celebrate our successes of our students with the same enthusiasm no matter where we live. We share common fears for our children and our countries but we don’t let our differences keep us from connecting and collaborating. Maybe if our governments can’t work for peace from the top down, we can do it by teaching our students and work from the bottom up.

I think doing one of these projects would be successful in the classroom. If the school district is not promoting teaching geography, I feel these lessons could be used to teach reading, writing, computer literacy, and even history. There are so many ways to adapt these lessons to the needs of your students. Since Geography is now pushed out of the classroom, I hope that teachers will incorporate it as much as possible with their lessons.I hope you give one of them a try.

Photo credit: Original image: 'globe'

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Carnival of Education 11/12/08

The Carnival of Education Transition Team Edition is up on the midway at Core Knowledge Blog. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. It is so nice to be on the short list for Secretary of Defense with my article on How Far Are You Willing to Go?

How Was My Lesson?

Betty wrote in her post Evaluation Smaluation a link to Was That a Good Lesson? This had me thinking about what kind of mental checklist I use to see if my lesson was successful or not. Here are some things that I look for:

· Did I have all the necessary materials and information?
· Did I introduce the topic so that the students wanted to hear more?
· Did I explain the instructions to the assignment so that the students with different learning styles understood what to do?
· Did the students stay engaged during the lesson?
· Did the students complete the assignment with success?
· Were students able to tell in their own words what they had learned and why they needed to learn it?
· Did the students ask questions that led to further inquiry? Did they want to learn more?
· Did the students offer other topics related to this that they would like to learn about?

Now I wonder if I ask the students to tell me what makes a good lesson in their eyes, what their checklist would look like. Would it not be the same kind of list we make, as teachers, when we attend presentations? When I attend presentations, this is what I would like:

· I want the topic to be interesting.
· I want the presenter to be confident and know the material being presented.
· I want the presenter to be organized and not scattered which automatically puts me off.
· I want to be involved, which for me, means more than just lecturing.
· I want to be encouraged to ask questions and if the presenter doesn’t know the answer, that he/she admits to not knowing.
· I want what I’m learning to be relevant to what I am doing in my life at this time.
· I want to be motivated to learn more.
· I want to have something at the end that I can take with me and use (not necessarily something tangible, but even some kind of knowledge)

What would be on your list for a successful lesson? Do you agree or disagree with my list? Please let me know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 11 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42’s challenge today was to introduce ourselves to another blogger. “To be honest, this one doesn’t really NEED to be a blogger, it could be a Twitterer or a Plurker too. Pick somebody that you may have followed, read, or listened to from afar but never made contact with before. Then introduce yourself. Let them know who you are, and why you read their work. Perhaps you want to reach out to someone you saw at a conference recently, a keynote speaker who you thought had an interesting point of view, or an author in an educational magazine that wrote an article you enjoyed.”

I have read this blog before but never really made contact with Christine of Ramblings of a Technology Coordinator. So, I sent her an email telling her how much I enjoyed the links she puts in her blog. I feel a lot of the tools can be adapted to a special ed student’s needs so I hope to pass these on to teachers who are in my university classes.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht


In SpEdChange, Ira talks about backchanneling. He mentions how he has used it in his class and how they all benefited by this.

He says, “Every few minutes I looked up at the screen and checked the conversation, and typically I adjusted the discussion, or picked up on a question being asked there, or commented on an answer or a comment. In a big class it gave me real access to far more students than I can possibly get by watching for raised hands. And it let me - and the class - hear from many who never raise their hands. Honestly, I could even judge, much more clearly than usual, what was connecting and what was missing.”

What a power tool this appears to be! I plan to try this in my university course that I’m teaching next summer. Ira mentions another teacher who feels this is a distraction and another feels that backchanneling is an “unharnessed resource.” I think as in any kind of tool used in the classroom, if students know that you are monitoring it, it will be used appropriately. I also feel that it gives everyone an opportunity to have a voice in more ways than are possible without it. If students are engaged in the lesson, how could they not use it appropriately?

I love the thought of having a shy student feeling comfortable asking a question this way? By backchanneling you are not interrupting the speaker and if monitored, the speaker can answer the questions at an appropriate time. I think it also keeps people from interrupting each other and helps students really listen to what the speaker is saying, Many times my students focus so much on remembering their question that they stop listening to what is being said. If they can backchannel the question, they will be listening for the answer.

I believe that some teachers tend to be intimidated by backchanneling but they need to look at the positives which outweigh the negatives. I think it gives immediate feedback to the teacher, which could make our lessons more interesting and more relevant. This is a great example of why good teachers are the ones who are flexible and not rigid. Ira talks about how he adjusted the discussion which I think says a lot about him as a teacher. He is willing to adjust his teaching in order to make sure his students understand what he is talking about. How many times have you heard a speaker drone on about something and you were lost about 20 minutes ago and still have no idea what he is talking about? What a waste of time for both, the speaker and the audience!

I am looking at Google Moderator and it looks interesting. I think I will recommend that we use plurk though because I like that the conversation is all in one place and can be saved. What are your thoughts on backchanneling in the classroom? Should this be used only at certain age levels? Would elementary level students be able to use this? Please leave your suggestions, thoughts, opinions in the comment section so everyone can read them.

Photo credit: Original image: 'What's Your backchannel' Deb Schultz

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 10 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to look at our blogs from different browsers. I never thought of that before. I use IE7 but I did download Firefox because sometimes I can’t read the blogs I subscribe to without it. For me, the links in Twitter will open when I click on it since I have Firefox. Before I had Firefox, I couldn’t open the links unless I copied and pasted them into IE. I subscribe to my own blog in Google Reader so I can see what it looks like there and I sometimes post it ahead of time. This lets me know that Blogger posted it when I wanted it posted. I was glad to see that my blog looked the same in IE and Firefox. I have the same issues with the widgets in my side bar when I look at them in both. I am still trying to fix them but haven’t had any luck so far. If you happen to use another browser besides them, please let me know if you have any problems seeing my blog.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Day 9 of 30 Days to Be a Better Blogger

I’m know I’m a day late but better late than never. Today Teach42 talks about RSS and using Feedburner. He gives a great explanation about RSS which I never know how to explain. Isn’t it funny that just this morning my husband was asking me what RSS is and what did it do? He also suggests using Feedburner which is a free RSS service. I’m so thrilled that I already have it on my blog. This tells me that I’m doing something right at least. I also added the “Subscribe by Email” because I read another blogger complaining that many blogs didn’t have this so I quickly added it to mine. I know that I subscribe to many blogs and read them in Google Reader which makes it very easy to keep track of when blogs are updated. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog!

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Teaching Social Skills in the Classroom

Last week, MamaMonkey asked me, “How do you work on social skills with your students in the classroom?” I have had Social Skills as a separate lesson from the curriculum when I felt that we needed intense instruction on a specific skill. I will show you how I taught two skills in my class but the lessons can be adapted to whatever skill is necessary.

Shaking Hands:
1. Introduce the skill (Shaking Hands) and explain why it is important in the workplace.
2. We talk about how to shake hands and what you say when you shake hands.
3. I model the behavior by asking another adult to enter my room so I can shake their hand.
4. I show video clips that give examples of people shaking hands. There are plenty examples of politicians shaking hands and athletes shaking hands before a basketball game or business people shaking hands.
5. Then I interact with each student to practice that behavior.
6. I pair students up to practice that behavior.
7. I ask the teams to prepare a small booklet for younger children to teach them this skill. Students need to write down the steps and draw a picture for each step.
8. I shake their hands each day when they enter the classroom as reinforcement of the skill.

Asking for Help:
1. Introduce the skill and explain why it is important in the workplace.
2. I model different ways to ask for help (raising hand in class, sending an email, using the phone etc.)
3. We discuss the appropriate time to ask for help (wait for instructions to be given, before the boss leaves you to begin work, if you don’t understand something when you are in the middle of a job etc.)
4. We discuss why people are afraid to ask for help. If we talk about the fears, it is easier to face them and then feel more comfortable in asking for help.
5. Before class, I have written different situations on index cards where there is an interaction between 2 people and one of them will need to ask for help. I include situations in a classroom, at home, in a retail store, in different workplaces. During class, students break into groups and role play the situation. I move around the room and monitor that they are interacting appropriately.
6. Then I bring the class back together and we discuss how they felt when they were asking for help. We also discuss how they think the other person would feel when asked.
7. I ask different groups to role play in front of the class to model the behavior. I usually ask for volunteers and have no problems getting them.
8. I ask the teams to prepare a small booklet for younger children to teach them this skill. Students need to write down the steps and draw a picture for each step.
9. I ask them to practice these skills outside the classroom and when we meet again, we will discuss when they used it and the results.

By practicing social skills, students will be more successful in all areas of their lives. I was so thrilled when I had my students and their parents at my house for a cookout and my autistic student walked up to my husband and shook his hand the first time they met. That is when I knew that the social skills I had been teaching were really working.

Photo credit: Original image: 'Calcutt, Beckett, and Keen' Mirona Iliescu

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day 8 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 says, “For today’s challenge, find two blogs to leave a comment on. One can be a favorite that you’ve commented on before, but the other should be a blog you’ve never left a response on until now. Bonus points for going beyond the ‘required’ two!”

I have to admit that I really like seeing comments on my blog. I really got excited the first time I got a comment and I still feel amazed when I see that people took time to comment on what I write. I have seen other people say how much they hate to leave comments because it takes time or they don’t know what to say. Even my own husband complains about leaving comments because he worries about spelling and grammar. I keep trying to tell him that his thoughts count more than spelling or grammar. Sometimes when I am excited about what I’m saying, I accidentally leave off a letter or two and I don’t proof what I’ve written. After I’ve sent it, I read it again and realize my mistakes but I don’t let myself agonize over that. I don’t feel like the person getting the comment is going to be offended if I make a spelling error or if my grammar isn’t perfect. And even if they are offended, I feel better that I shared my thoughts.

I have to admit that I like the conversation that occurs in blogs and I tend to leave so many comments that I worry people may think I’m some kind of weird stalker. Of course I know how much I like to get comments and since I truly believe what goes around, comes around, I try to leave as many comments as I can. Whenever a teacher lets me know that his/her class is blogging and asks that we leave comments, I rush over to see what they have written. I love the innocence that a student has when they write. It seems so important that they share their thoughts and you can feel their hopes that there is someone out there listening. If I don’t leave a comment, I feel negligent as a teacher and as a person in not encouraging them to continue. I hope that I can motivate others by leaving comments when they need them.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Friday, November 7, 2008

Day 7 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to use guest bloggers on our blog. The reason he recommends this is because:

· “You admire them and want to share their opinions.
· Ask an expert to address a specific topic…
· A guest blogger can increase your traffic.
· To fill a gap.
· To show you feel other voices are valuable too.”

I agree with these reasons and that is why I’ve had two guest bloggers this past year. I have had South Carolina State Senator David Thomas wrote about his views on education and Heather Johnson wrote about Google Earth. I hope that I have a few more in the future. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog!

Day 6 of 30 Days to Be a Better Blogger

Teach42 gave this challenge for Day 6:

“Your challenge for today is to share your blog with someone who has never seen it before. Choose a friend, colleague, family member or total stranger and ask them to sit down at your blog and explore it. If possible do it in person so you can see them actually doing it. Don’t give them any prep per se, just ask them to check it out and explore. Then see what they do. You can learn an incredible amount of information from just watching their explorations. Even if you can’t watch them do it yourself, ask them questions afterwards to see what their experience was like.

• Where do they click?
• What do they find?
• What do they miss?
• Are there parts of it that are unintuitive?
• Are there features that you’ve built in that aren’t quite as ‘obvious’ as you thought they were?
• Is it easy to navigate around or do they have trouble making their way from one section to another?
• Is there any information that they wish you had provided that isn’t there?
• Are there any parts that they didn’t understand the purpose of?
• Any general suggestions that they have for improvement?
• What parts of your blog were most memorable to them, 10-20 minutes after they explored it?”

Since I am not around many new people, I was unable to do this day’s challenge but I feel the results would be really important to know. If you have never read my blog before today, maybe you can help me answer these questions for me. I will keep this here and when I find someone new, I might get them to look at my blog so I can answer these. I love the questions and would really learn a lot from the constructive criticism.
photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/07/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Making Science Fun - Science Experiments – “This hands-on science library represents Steve's most requested science experiments from his weekly television appearances and live presentations throughout the country. Just search for an easy science projectt idea or browse the entire library of experiments.”

Cartoons for the Classroom – Great editorial cartoons for you to use in the classroom along with lessons for teachers to use.

Funschool – fun educational games for kids.

Ithryv - "dedicated to providing a world-class platform to both serve financial institutions with a great new product, and help parents and children learn about handling money. We knew the least we could do is to apply our technology skills to upgrading the current transaction only online banking systems with a 2.0 version that can deliver needed skills and knowledge at the point that people deal with money. "

Worldmapper – “a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.” Some are available as PDF posters.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 5 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 talks about using Clustrmaps and Google Translate on blogs. I have used Clustrmaps for a long time and I like seeing where people come from when they read my blog but I never thought about using Google Translate. This will enable people from other countries to translate my blog into their language. That is such a cool thing! Maybe if it can be translated, what I have to say can reach more teachers around the world. After learning about this, I have put the Google Translate on my the sidebar of this blog. If you want to play with it, have fun!

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Election Results and Lessons I Have Learned

About a week ago I was asked to run as a write in candidate for Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner. No one had filed for this position so there was no one on the ballot. I agreed to do this and passed the word around to my friends and family. Yesterday morning as I heard the results announcing that Barack Obama is our new president, I searched to see who had won my race. Amazingly, there were 11,926 write-in votes for this race. I looked through the rest of the races and I think there isn’t any other race that had this many write-ins. The local newspaper even mentions that the winner is unknown because they have to count the votes. I find this exciting because I have no idea who else was running as a write-in but I’m glad to see there was an interest in this race. I think it is a shame that no one filed to be put on the ballot for this but I am also to blame because I didn’t check on this either.

When I first ran years ago for this, I encouraged my students to take an active role in their future. I encouraged them to get involved and know what was going on in the world around them. Then when asked, I had to practice what I preached so I filed to run. As a hiker, I am very interested in the environment and the conservation of our resources. Surprisingly, I won the election with 67,000 plus votes and served for four years. I truly enjoyed it and learned a lot from being actively involved. I felt I made a contribution to my community by being a watchdog on how some of our tax money was being spent.

This has taught me a valuable lesson again. Whether I win or lose, I need to pay better attention to all of the candidates who will be running. All of the focus was on the Presidential election, which is very important, but local races are important too. I saw this recently when my city decided to increase my taxes by 25%! Luckily for them, none of the city council members are up for reelection this year, but I promise that this will definitely be in my mind when they do come up for reelection. Many people do not realize how much of your tax money is spent on things until you get your tax notice. 90% of my tax money goes to our school district so I plan to attend more school board meetings. I also plan on attending County Council meetings and City Council meetings more. Again, I have lectured that we shouldn’t complain if we aren’t willing to be involved so I need to practice what I preach. By attending these functions, I will be better informed during election time and I won’t have to depend on all the propaganda and campaign ads that are out there. I will have firsthand knowledge and be able to make my own decisions from this.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Carnival of Education 11/05/08

The 196th edition of the Carnival of Education is up on the midway at the New York City Education Examiner. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. There is also a post included from me: Do What I Say, Not Do What I Do. Lots of other great thought provoking articles there to entertain you! See you there.

Social Skills in the Workplace

According to 10 Years On, High-school Social Skills Predict Better Earnings Than Test Scores,

· “…high-school students who had been rated as conscientious and cooperative by their teachers were earning more than classmates who had similar test scores but fewer social skills…”
· “…good schools do more than teach reading, writing, and math. They socialize students and provide the kinds of learning opportunities that help them to become good citizens and to be successful in the labor market…”
· “…employer surveys that stress the need for workers who can get along well with each other and get along well with the public…”
· “…the most successful students are those who have not only high achievement test scores but also the kinds of social skills and behaviors that are highly rewarded by employers in the workplace…”

When I see information like this it makes me more determined to enlighten other teachers about teaching social skills in connection with their academic skills. I have talked to employers myself as I tried to prepare my students for the workplace and they told me that general social skills was more important than knowing the specific knowledge for a task when they first enter the workplace. A student needs to know how to learn, how to ask questions of coworkers, how to work with coworkers, and how to handle conflict. These are skills that an employer does not have time to train an employee to do. They want employees to know these skills when they hire them and can spend time just training them to do the actual task. When an employer has to take time to show the employee how to take notes or how to remember the task, there is concern whether this employee is the best person for the job. When there are conflicts between employees, it takes time away from production when the employer has to deal with this situation. An employer has to trust that an employee will ask questions if they need help or doesn’t know something rather than doing something wrong and wasting company time and money.

I’m not saying that social skills are more important than academic skills but I do feel they go hand in hand when preparing students for the workplace. What are your thoughts about this?
photo credit: Original image: 'Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept' Scott Maxwell

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 4 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach 42 encourages us today to make sure that we have a creative commons license on our blog.
Creative Commons License -"Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from 'All Rights Reserved' to 'Some Rights Reserved.' "

My creative commons license is at the very bottom of the blog on your screen. I hope I won't ever have to fall back on it but I'm glad it is there because I would hate to look back and wish I had only done that.

photo credit: Original image: 'my CC stickers have arrived!!!' ryanne lai

How Far Are You Willing to Go?

My Plurk buddy, AgapeJen pointed me to this article: I love you, mum: First words of brain-damaged girl, 6, given power of speech by laser which tracks her eye movements. It truly is an amazing story. I know you must be tired of me telling people not to write off our special education students but this is just one more example of why we cannot give up on them. Just because a student doesn’t respond in the conventional ways we would like does not mean that they don’t comprehend what is going on around them. We just need to find a way to overcome the barrier keeping us from communicating with each other.

The parents could have given up when she wasn’t able to communicate. I have had students who were not able to retell a story to me in their own words but that doesn’t mean they didn’t understand it. It only tells me that they cannot process it and do what I ask. Just because students cannot write a paragraph in the way I want, does not mean they can’t communicate their thoughts. It is up to me, the one with the background and the education, to look for ways that will enable them to communicate in the best way possible. I need to look at my goals and objectives and make sure that I am giving students a variety of ways to show that they can achieve them with success.

The parents could have given up because she was labeled brain damaged. How many times are we told that there is no hope for brain damaged individuals? The child could have given up because no one believed that she could communicate. Haven’t you ever given up because you felt that it was useless to even try? Companies could refuse to make tools for people to communicate because they don’t believe it is possible. Why make something they don’t think will sell or even be successful?

This story made me grateful that the parents did not give up, grateful that the child did not give up, and grateful that there was some company not willing to give up. The parents continued to hope or else they would not have made this tool available for their child. The child didn’t give up and persisted in trying until finally her mom understood. The company didn’t give up because they made this machine and sold it with the expectation that it would work.

We have to continually have expectations that our efforts are not in vain. This is a true example of why we should never give up! I hope I will remember this story when I am feeling down and think things are hopeless. It is stories like this that fill my heart with hope and makes me try even harder. How about you?

photo credit: Original image: 'Communication' Joan M. Mas
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 3 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Today’s challenge from Teach42 involves writing a thank you note to another blogger who has linked to me. I started to think of the many people who have linked to me so it was hard to think of just one person.

Dear Joel of So You Want to Teach? ,
I really enjoy reading your blog and have it in my Google Reader so I don’t miss any of your updates. Last year you featured me in your November Reader Appreciation post and I was so honored. You see, I had only been writing my blog for about 2 months, so I was amazed that you would include me in your post. By doing this, you motivated me to continue to blog and share my ideas and views. Sometimes I would get discouraged and not sure that anyone was even interested in knowing what my thoughts were and I’d think about your post and how it helped me. Thank you for being there for me!

Photo credit: Original image: 'Thank You!' by: Vern Hart

The Drive

Recently I received an email about a new event that is coming up called The Drive which is hosted by The League. “For The Drive students create and implement a plan to address issues related to poverty, hunger and homelessness in their community by conducting a collection drive to provide needed goods to a chosen recipient organization in their community.” If you go to their website, you can find out more about the event and there are also great links to lesson plans for different grade levels. I looked at some of the lesson plans and was pretty impressed on how well they were written because they give objectives, time needed, materials, and a clear explanation. I really think these lessons would be successful in the classroom as well as helping the community at the same time.

I really like that “Students learn about the values of giving and service in the classroom, then go out and contribute to their own communities.” I did a lot of service learning projects in my classroom because I felt that I was incorporating academics with relevant real life experiences. Being involved in The League events are a way of doing this. I also had many students who were on government aid and receiving a lot of services so I felt this was one way to show them that they could be on the giving side also. In fact, this helped their self esteem and they felt like they had something to contribute to society.

I hope you will take the time to check out The Drive and see how you can get involved! Thanks for reading!

photo credit: Original image: 'PICT8842' Steve Harwood

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day 2 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Day 2 from Teach42’s challenge deals with Site Traffic and what information do we gain from the statistics. Here is what I’ve learned from my statistics:

· 170 Average visits per day
· 73% of my readers are from the United States
· 10% of my readers are from Canada
· 58% of my readers use IE
· 29% of my readers use Firefox
· 9% of my readers use Safari
· More people visited my page on Wednesdays than other days of the week.

The number of readers has definitely gone up since I started blogging a little over a year ago. Most of my readers are from the United States but I need to remember that people from other countries are reading this also. This means that I need to be careful when I’m using acronyms or referring to things that only Americans would know about. I need to check my blog in Firefox so that I know what the 29% of the readers are seeing in that browser since I mostly use Internet Explorer. I believe that Wednesdays get the most traffic because that is the day the Carnival of Education comes out usually with one of my posts included. This directs people to my page.

I found it interesting to look at the statistics which I usually don’t do. I will try to look at them at least once a month to make sure that I’m not missing something important.
photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 1 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Steve Dembo of Teach42 has challenged us to be better bloggers in the next 30 days. I am always open to improvement and I think it also helps me be a model for my students or others that I am trying to influence. So, here I is my information for Day 1:

Who is the author of this blog and what is this blog all about? You can find this information if you click on the link "About Me." I do have a photo (which I didn't for a long time and decided that I needed to get over the paranoia about showing my face) and I also have contact information. I really get frustrated when I read some blogs and want to email the author about a question that I have and can't find out how to contact them. I have also added my twitter, plurk,

What the blog is all about is listed on the to where my title is. I think this immediately tells the reader whether this is a blog they want to invest time in. They don't have to search for this information by clicking a link or hunting through the text.

I feel pretty satisfied with my About page so I look forward to the Day 2 challenge.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht