Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learning Was So Much Fun!

In What happened to the fun? from Blogging on the Bay by bgaskins, he says, “What is making this classroom work is that we have no accountability! We don’t have to write lesson plans and we don’t have to give grades. I don’t think the students know about the grade part yet. We are having fun and designing our mini-lesson based on the need. This week we will finish our first writing cycle and next week the new cycle will focus on reading. We are still planning. I wish all classrooms could be fun. Where has the fun gone?”
Bill talks about a writing class that he was teaching and how much he and the students enjoyed it. This post brought back memories of when I was in high school. Each summer there were enrichment classes offered by our school district and I always thought all schools did this until I became a teacher. I never realized how lucky I was to go to these classes. These classes were offered at the same time the remedial summer school classes were offered. One summer I took a guitar class and writing class. Another year I took a writing class and drama class. The last summer I took classes involved a typing class and a marine biology class. I also earned Carnegie units towards graduation for these. If I remember right (it was many years ago) but these classes were pass/fail and I learned so much from them. I think part of the reason I learned so much was that all of these classes were a lot of fun and even the teachers seemed to enjoy teaching these classes. We were all in this for fun and the joy of learning.

I wish I heard of more programs like this for students. I realize that this costs money and that right now money is a pretty sore subject. Again though, I see the struggling students or the students who don’t try during the school year getting the attention instead of the students who want to learn more. What are we doing to encourage them to learn outside of school?

I notice that in the summer there are story telling at the local libraries for small children. But what are we doing for our teenagers? With so many parents out of work, going to summer camp or paying for lessons during the summer is out of the question. Maybe the libraries could offer a weekly book club for teens to discuss books like Twilight. Maybe they can get some teens to volunteer to teach senior citizens computer skills (and in turn learn something from the senior citizens). I just think our communities should find ways to engage our young people during these tough economic times or we may regret it in the long run. What kind of activities do you think the community could offer that wouldn’t cost too much? I think if we tried, these could be successful things for young people to participate in and have fun with too!

Original image: 'The Moment' http://www.flickr.com/photos/27922350@N06/2857862332 by: Kris Chae

Monday, March 30, 2009

We Choose Who We Become

In We Are Our Actions and We Choose Those from TJ on a Journey by TJ Shay, he states, “My message to the student, in response to information about how the family behaves is, ‘You get to choose who you become.’"

After reading this, I had to share a story about a former student (I’ll call him C.) who has really come a long way. C’s father was a drug addict and divorced from his mother. C wanted so much to have a relationship with his father. He spent years trying to get the dad’s attention and doing whatever was necessary to achieve this including acting out in school. Luckily C’s mother was strict and didn’t allow C to use his dad as an excuse for bad behavior and insisted that C take responsibility for his actions. I taught C for four years and watched him struggle to make something of himself. It was really hard to watch especially when he was making wrong choices and there was nothing that I could do to help him. His mom and I just encouraged him all that we could.

When C turned 18, he was so excited because his dad recently got out of prison (for drug charges) and was going to buy C some stereo equipment that he really wanted. We heard for days how he was going to buy this stuff and what he was going to do with it. C was so excited and hopeful that they were going to have a great relationship now. C had big plans for all the things that the two of them would do. I think the new relationship was more of the present than the stereo and C had such high hopes for the future.

Then the day after his birthday, C came to school all withdrawn and angry. During class I watched him disrupt my lesson and pick a fight with kids who were his friends. I knew it was time for me to act so I took C for a walk while my assistant stayed with my class and pried the story out of him. Apparently dad used the stereo money for drugs and had gotten caught by the police again. C was angry about not getting his birthday present, angry and worried about dad’s situation, and hurt because he thought his dad didn’t love him. This betrayal made C so angry that he felt like anything he did was useless and didn't matter. I explained to him that he was a man now and had to accept certain things as well as take control of his own life instead of letting other people’s actions influence him. I said that his dad loved him and would always love him and that his dad’s actions had nothing to do with love. His dad has always been irresponsible concerning C and probably wouldn’t change but that didn’t mean that C should follow in his footsteps or use those actions as an excuse for not being the best that he could be. I firmly told C that he was a man now and had to accept the fact that his dad would never be the man that C wanted him to be so let it go and move on with his life.

Now fast forward this story about 10 years. I have a Facebook account and I get a friend request from C. He is now happily married and living in a nearby state. He is a preacher at a church and doing well with his life. His mom is remarried and doing well too. I am so proud of C and his family to rise above their struggles and make a life for themselves. I have seen too many people in the same situation like this family and they find it so easy to give up and make excuses. I guess that is why I loved what TJ had to say in his blog post because it brought really great memories of a student who decided to be successful with his life and worked to achieve this goal. He had to make the choice of what his future would be.

Original image: '"It is our choices. . . that show what we are, far more than our abilities."' http://www.flickr.com/photos/12596956@N06/2699207704 by: Jan

Friday, March 27, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/27/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. 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!

SlideMap - “explore the world through Flickr geotagged images”

Tenement Museum – From Ellis Island to Orchard Street. It lets students simulate immigrating to America. They fill out information for a passport and go through the different stages. They even get to see what an apartment was like.

American Experience Films – “featuring over 200 films. Watch full films online, download teacher’s guides, go behind the scenes, and learn more about your favorite films.”

Jeopardy Labs – “allows you to create a customized jeopardy template without PowerPoint. The games you make can be played online from anywhere in the world.”

The Elements – You can click on any element and get more information about it, as well as examples of how each element is used.

Original image: 'Tooled Flatty' http://www.flickr.com/photos/46861107@N00/1085739925

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Carnival of Education 03/25/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Opening the Door is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Cindy Golden gives some great ideas for activities for this month in her blog OMAC Consulting. In addition to her ideas, here are a few more:

1. Design a proclamation and have it signed by the mayor and school superintendent of your city. Present it at the next school board meeting.
2. Write some public service announcements and get your local radio or TV station to air them.
3. Write a press release for your local newspaper.
4. Each school day in April, someone reads a fact about autism over the intercom to the whole school.
5. Invite legisltators for a reception (hosted by your students) and give a short presentation about autism.
6. Give a presentation to the local high school service learning classes.
7. Give a presentation to the local high school key club organization.
8. Give a presentation to the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
9. Give a presentation to the Lion’s Club.
10. Have your students make a pocket sized factbook about autism to give to legislators or school board members.

Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment and share it. Thanks for reading!

Photo credit: Autism Awareness Month Ribbon

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do It Now or Else

In Instant Discipline? from Blogush by Paul Bogush, he states, “Why don’t we take this approach with kids who are “behavior challenged?” Why do teachers expect to tell them something once and then if they don’t do it “punish” them. What if teachers approached behavior just like academics. Teach it, review it, reinforce it, opps you made a mistake lets try it this way, here’s why its important, here’s how it impacts your life, your future, and if that doesn’t work try something totally different expecting not an immediate turnaround but slow growth over the course of the year.”

I think Paul makes great points but I can also see why teachers don’t react this way. I have been told many times:
*It is not our job to teach students to behave.
*I don’t have time to fool with a student who misbehaves.
*The student doesn’t respect me, so why should I work with that student?

But I don’t see how we can afford not to spend the time on behavior management.

This reminds me of a student who drove me crazy the first half of the year. He was disruptive and refused to follow directions. This made me angry and frustrated and the student obviously felt the same way. I kept records of how many times each class he disrupted the class and made a chart of this behavior to show everyone when we had a conference with the parents. They felt so bad but had no solutions. All of a sudden it hit me, I had the power to work with the student and help him find success in the classroom. The parents were not in the classroom and couldn’t control their son’s behavior when they were not with him. I needed to change my behavior before I could change his.

I actually spent some time charting my own behavior and what my reactions were each time this student misbehaved. I thought about what actions he exhibited and why he did this. Then I noted my reactions and the consequences for both of us. I was amazed (and somewhat embarrassed) by my results. I actually realized that I was the cause of some of his bad behavior and was reinforcing it by my own actions.

I first had to decide what I would change in my own behavior when he acted a certain way. Once I identified this, I was able to change my reactions when it happened. This change in me shocked him enough to actually change his behavior. Each time his behavior changed for the better, I rewarded him for this behavior. I also kept records of the behavior and charted them to see if there was a change from my original charts. Needless to say, there were big changes.

I also sat down with the student to discuss assignments that were frustrating to him. We tried to brainstorm ways that he could show me he understood the concepts in other ways. We also looked at what barriers were causing him so much difficulty with the classwork and what other tools he could use to help him complete assignments. We did try different tools until we found the ones that helped him be successful. Once he was able to be engaged in the lesson, the disruptive behaviors decreased. He also seemed to try harder because I was taking the time to really help him.

I was able to call home and report on positive behavior changes. The parents were very relieved and shocked about the change in behavior but curious as to why this was happening. I explained to them that I decided I needed to change my own behavior in order to help their son. I explained the different things I was doing and how the charts were showing this change. They were so grateful for the effort I was taking with their son that I had their full support. Their support actually encouraged me to continue in my efforts.

By the end of the year this student who was making Ds and Fs as well as being suspended often from school for bad behavior had started to make Bs and Cs in my classroom. In fact his good behavior started to spill over in other classes because his self esteem had also improved. I’m so glad that we were successful in changing his behavior or it would have been a miserable year for both of us. Just like Paul mentions, it is slow growth and takes time, but it was worth it!

Original image: 'Grr!' http://www.flickr.com/photos/43426549@N00/2273593999 by: Martin Kingsley

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reading: the old way vs. the new way

In Experts Wary of Springboard, we find out that “Hillsborough schools have switched to new math and language arts curriculum for most middle and high school students that focuses on specific hands-on lessons. Most dramatic is the shift away from yearlong studies of British, American and world literature in high schools…But district officials say students don't realize they are learning because the lessons - designed to improve critical thinking - only seem easy…Richard Paul, director of research at the Center for Critical Thinking at Sonoma State University in California and chairman of the National Council for Excellence in Critical thinking, states that, ‘It's not what you think about - it's how you think…’ ”

That last statement had me really thinking (of course critically thinking). Do we really teach our students how to think? I know that we spend lots of time telling them what to think. In fact, I remember having to memorize lots of facts and details during my school but I remember having a really hard time with critical thinking. I loved multiple choices, true or false, and fill in the blanks kind of tests because I was a master memorizer. But I really hated essay tests because they involved thinking. It involved analysis as well as synthesis. Luckily, for me, many of my teachers felt it was easier to give the tests that I liked. Unfortunately for me, when I went to college, I was like a fish out of water. Of course, I had wonderful friends who supported and encouraged me when I struggled. It was during this time that I learned how to think and realized that I was pretty good at it too. College professors do not want you to spit back things that they have told you. I began to look at things differently and having my own ideas and opinions about what I was reading.

I feel like once you learn how to use the tools, you can use them to create new things and we all do not have to create the same things in order to be considered a craftsman. We may use different tools and perfect our skills in different ways but that is what makes the world what it is. An artist can be a painter using oils or a painter using watercolors but nonetheless, both are artists. Someone may use hammers and saws to build cabinets or build houses, but both are skilled in their particular field.

This makes me realize that it doesn’t matter whether we teach our students using the classics or using modern literature. Maybe our students are reading material that explain a new hobby that they are interested in. Maybe students are reading directions that show them how to do something new.We need to be encouraging our students to read and analyze what they read no matter what they read. I remember having a teacher that didn’t care if I read Harlequin romance novels or classic novels (at the time, I read both) but he was just happy that I was reading. This encouragement helped me develop my love of reading. I think if we do this for our students, students will be more successful in reading for knowledge and reading for fun.

Original image: 'What I'm reading and re-reading' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/163867388 by: Earl

Monday, March 23, 2009

Importance of Knowing the Facts

The other day I wrote about how important critical thinking was compared to rote memorization. Then I realized how I use a lot if information that I had memorized from my school days.

As we walked along the Mississippi River in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, I noticed how high the water was. Then this nice man stopped to talk to us and mentioned that it was very higher than usual and showed us the road which was now under water. He said that people usually drove their cars along that road when the water is low. When I asked him what was causing the high water, he said that the snow was melting from North and South Dakota which flows into the Mississippi River. Now, of course I knew where these states were located because of the years that I had to memorize the 50 states. Without knowing this, I would not fully understand the impact of the snow melting and that the water was heading to the Gulf of Mexico.

This nice man also mentioned that the Eads Bridge was very famous. It was built in 1874 and predated the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The date made an impression on me because I knew it was built soon after the Civil War. I also knew where the Brooklyn Bridge was and what it looked like because I grew up in New York and we traveled across the bridge many times. Again, I remember having to memorize dates when I was in school.

So, now I realize that it is important that we have students memorize certain facts that they may use later in life. I think it is very important to know the continents, oceans, states, important dates in history, multiplication and division facts, and basic fractions. What other things do you think are important to memorize and why do you think students should know this information?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/20/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN (personal/professional learning network). 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!

Timesavers for Teachers – “TIMESAVERS for TEACHERS specializes in printable, often-used classroom forms, report card comments, spelling activities, practical teacher tools, worksheets and downloadable teaching materials designed to save teachers valuable time.”

Ology – this is a really cool web site for kids created by the American Museum of Natural History.

The Elements Song – song about the elements in the periodic table

The Biochemists Songbook mp3 files - songs about different science processes

The Tale of Despereaux – a story where you (or someone you know) is part of the story

Original image: 'Ordnung' http://www.flickr.com/photos/79504817@N00/3161081439

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Morning in a Different Place - A Book Review

Morning in a Different Place by Mary Ann McGuiganFebruary 2009 • Front Street Books/an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, Inc. • Young adult fiction

I recently reviewed this book after it was posted on The Picnic Basket (and I am not receiving any compensation for this review). I would definitely give this book a rating of 5 (Strongly Recommend – This book is so delectable that it calls for a picnic just to read it. I might even skip dessert to read it or enjoy the book and the strawberry shortcake. Definitely part of the gourmet, decadent picnic basket).

This book takes place during the 1960s and focuses on two friends of different races. Each girl has her own problems and their friendship gives them strength to face their problems and make their friendship even stronger. Since I grew up during these times as the only Chinese girl in my school, this book really hit home. Yet, I think the feelings in this book of friendship, racism, abuse, dysfunctional families, tolerance, and acceptance knows no time boundaries. I think middle school and high school students will be able to relate to the events that take place in this book and will encourage open discussion about these topics. This would be a great book to anchor a unit around and have students complete projects about the main topics from the book. This could be used use in teaching subjects such as reading, writing, history, social skills, and character education.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Catch Them Doing the Right Thing is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much popcorn and cotton candy!

Original image: 'Carnival' http://www.flickr.com/photos/74771420@N00/9527255 by: Chuck Schneider

The 60s (History Channel) – A DVD Review

This is a review of a collection of DVDs on the 1960s (I am not being compensated for this review). Recently I watched the 60s, which is a collection of DVDs about the 1960s. There are 14 DVDs in the collection and the titles included are:

· King
· 1968 with Tom Brokaw
· The Vietnam War (LBJ and Vietnam: In the Eye of the Storm; Tet Offensive; Unsung Heroes: The Battle of Khe Sanh; Vietnam: On the Front Lines)
· History Presents: The Race to the Moon
· Voices of Civil Rights (Biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall; Mississippi State Secrets; Crossing the Bridge)
· JFK: A Presidency Revealed (Biographies of John F. Kennedy and Joseph Kennedy, Sr.)
· The 1960s (Peyote to LSD; The JFK Assassination; Modern Marvels: Apollo 11; Bay of Pigs Declassified)
· Days of Rage and Wonder (Riot: The Chicago Conspiracy Trial; Sex and the Vietnam War; Hippies)

I really enjoyed all of them but I especially liked The Race to the Moon. These videos would be great to have in your library in order for students to find out what the 1960s were like. In fact, I learned some things that I had not known because I grew up during this time so many of the events were not documented at the time. The length of each segment was short enough to keep students’ attention but was in depth of enough to give a wealth of information. It is now on sale in the History shop for only $80 and this is well worth the money!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Opening the Door

In, We are the “Corps of Discovery” from Tech Thoughts By Jen by JenW, she talks about a friend who is new to technology.
“The biggest obstacle, I continue to see, is the willingness to open the door, to take the first step, to be bold and courageous. And this past Wednesday — I saw just that. She is taking the step to NOT using tech — but to using an opportunity to make her life a bit more simple and a bit more successful. All because of those who had gone on before.”

I am working on a presentation to encourage a group of people to use Skype and wikis in communicating and collaborating with others. Having an internet connection is an iffy possibility so I’m not counting on it but if we get one, it will definitely help. I feel like the first thing I have to do is to get people to “open the door” or I’m wasting everyone’s time. It is no use to bring a bunch of people to a house and tell them that there are great tools for them to use inside and then no one is willing to open the door. How do I get them to want to open the door?

I am going to do in three ways:
1. Show examples of wikis and how I use them
2. Show screenshots of my Skype and the process of making a call
3. Offer support for new learners

I think an important way of getting them to “open the door” to wikis would be to show them examples of how I personally use them to connect with others. By showing how it enables me to interact with others, they may feel this is something that they can use. I will show some examples of wikis that I have created and explain how easy it is to create one and by personalizing this, it will inspire them. I need to get them to understand the benefits of using a wiki and how it can benefit everyone who uses it.

I also will show screen shots of Skype and some of its capabilities. If we can get a decent internet connection, I’m hoping to be able to Skype with someone for a couple of minutes so people can see how easy it is to use. I will show what my windows look like and what I do in order to use this tool. Hopefully, this may help people so they don’t go through all the same things I did when I was trying to figure out how to use this. Many times, when a new tool overwhelms the learner, it is much easier to give up then to persevere to success.

If and when people decide to give it a try, I will offer to let them contact me so they can practice using it. That was one of the hardest things for me was trying something new but not having anyone to interact with so I could learn how to use it. I was lucky enough to have people in my personal learning network (even though I didn’t know them face to face) who I could ask for help but many others do not have this. Sometimes it is easier to call someone you know, rather than a stranger, so you could ask questions.

Do you think this will work? Do you have any other suggestions? I really believe that these are great tools to use in order to communicate and collaborate with others and I hope my enthusiasm in using these will also encourage others to give it try. If they just “open the door” and use this opportunity, it will make a difference.

Original image: 'Puerta al cielo' http://www.flickr.com/photos/11599314@N00/2088202973 by: Luz A. Villa

Monday, March 16, 2009

Growing Up Chinese in an American World

A friend of mine gave me links to a wonderful article at the National Women’s History Museum called Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance. I know this sounds lame, but I guess I’m finally interested in finding my roots.

After my father served in the US Army, he married my mother in 1946, and they lived in China for three years. Then they had to escape the Communists with my sisters (2 years old, and 3 months old) so they came back to the US. I was not born until 10 years later. My parents were very strict and brought me up following a lot of Chinese expectations. This was very hard for me, especially since I was surrounded with American friends who did not have parents with the same values. It always seemed to me like they were having lots of fun while all I was allowed to do was study, chores, and take music lessons. Now as I learn more about my heritage, I feel that was something to be proud of instead of resenting. I still play my accordion and have achieved many goals from my studying. I’m not sure that I would have reached all my goals if my parents hadn’t instilled in me this sense of responsibility and hard work.

Growing up as the only Chinese American girl in my school, the differences in my facial features made me fair game for many children to bully and tease for many years. I wanted so much to be like everyone else and resented the fact that I was different. Many of my teachers expected me to know more about my heritage than I did and seemed disgusted with me when I didn’t. Other teachers were upset when my parent’s view of what happened between China and the US was a little different than what is taught in our history books. These encounters made me want to deny my heritage even more. It wasn’t until I became a teacher and started to teach students to embrace their own heritage rather than ignore it, that I became interested in my own heritage. I guess this was an example of practicing what I preach.

I really enjoyed Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club (the book and the movie) because I could understand a lot of what those girls went through and what they were feeling. I then began to look for books that would help me understand the life my parents and grandparents led when they lived in China. A couple of years ago, my husband and I went to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site where the first transcontinental railroad was finally completed at Promontory Point. I’ve been told that my grandfathers worked on the railroads when they were first formed. I have visited Ellis Island to imagine what my family might have gone through when they entered the US. Later I found out that my father actually came from China through Vancouver to Boston.

I have begun to connect with other Chinese people around me. I have even enrolled in classes to learn Mandarin as well as found online courses to help me too. We took a 30 day tour around China in 2000 and I would like to go back for another tour in the future. Hopefully someday there will be a Chinese American Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

All of this has made me more aware of what our students are going through as they struggle with who they are. As teachers, we need to teach tolerance of cultural differences and help those students embrace their heritage instead of resenting it. By collaborating with classes around the world, students would be able to connect with students in other countries and learn to understand the difference and similarities they have with each other. Lessons exploring cultures and teaching tolerance will help our students be more successful in the classroom and in life.

Original image: 'Great Wall' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61329414@N00/896744048 by: Zsolt Bugarszki

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Carnival of Education 03/11/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Right Wing Nation. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Validation – Do We Do It? is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Photo credit: Payasos de colores - Guanajuato México 2008 5615 by Lucy Nieto

Friday, March 13, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/13/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. 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!

Teacher Training Videos – “These videos were created for teachers to help them to incorporate technology into their teaching. Just click and a video will open and take you through how to use that technology.”

National Body Challenge – Educators Toolkit

Trackclass – “TrackClass helps you get your school work organized. From reminders to notes to assignments and grades, you'll be on top of your studies!”

TeacherTube: Inclusion – great video on how a class included a student who had leukemia

GoogleLit Trip – “This site is an experiment in teaching great literature in a very different way. Using Google Earth, students discover where in the world the greatest road trip stories of all time took place... and so much more!”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chasing Lincoln's Killer – A book review

Chasing Lincoln's Killer: The Search for John Wilkes Booth by James Swanson ; February 2009 • Scholastic • YA fiction •

I recently reviewed this book which is featured on The Picnic Basket (I receive no compensation for this review). I really enjoyed this book and found it easy to read so I would rate it a 5 (Strongly Recommend: This book is so delectable that it calls for a picnic just to read it. I might even skip dessert to read it or enjoy the book and the strawberry shortcake. Definitely part of the gourmet, decadent picnic basket). The illustrations and photos that supplement the content were helpful when reading the book. Many young adults find stories like this interesting and I think they would read it for content without even thinking they were improving their reading. It was also great to see the story unfold from the killer’s perspective and then actually seeing what went into catching the culprits. This would be a great book for a reluctant reader because it is so captivating. I also think this would be a great book for a special education class on the high school level.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Seeing is Believing

In Believe in Change from Clif's Notes by Clif Mims, he gives a quote:

“You have to believe it to see it.”–from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Then Clif asks, “How do you think this relates to the educational reform that many of us in the edublogosphere are calling for?”

I think this is the problem between educators and non educators. Unfortunately most of the non educators are the ones with the power and the purse strings. I think this as educators we build a lot of things on faith. We believe that we can instill knowledge and make a difference. We can’t wait around for proof before we take action. We believe we have newer strategies and tools that will make this process easier and better for the next generation. Educators need to have a vision for the future instead of looking at what was always done in the past. Our students are going to be the decision makers of the future so we need to give them tools of the future to help them when they get there. Sometimes these tools might not have been developed yet so we need to teach them how to find access to them when they are developed. Sometimes we just need to have faith and keep an open mind. We have knowledge that we can build on to move in the right direction. Sometimes we will make mistakes but it is through these mistakes that we are learning. I feel if we always wait to see it before we believe in it, we will have lost so much. And the time and energy it will take to catch up with the rest of the world will be so overwhelming that we might never catch up.

Original image: 'Moment magique' http://www.flickr.com/photos/26106682@N02/2918686678 by: Nanou :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan – A Book Review

Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan • photographs by Tony O'Brien; October 2008 •Bloomsbury Children’s Books • Nonfiction (illustrated)

I recently received this book featured on The Picnic Basket to review and couldn’t put the book down. I would definitely rate it a 5 (Strongly Recommend: This book is so delectable that it calls for a picnic just to read it. I might even skip dessert to read it or enjoy the book and the strawberry shortcake. Definitely part of the gourmet, decadent picnic basket)! The photography was awesome and the stories from the children were too. My heart was full as I read the different stories and tried to imagine the hard lives they lead. I realized how spoiled our children are in my own country and wonder if they appreciate all that we have. When I read stories about how much school meant to some of them and how far they went for any education they could get amazed me. When the end of the book came, I wasn’t ready to stop reading because I wanted to read more stories. Part of me wanted a happy ending for the end of the book even though I knew it wouldn’t happen.

I think this book would be great for many middle school and high school students to read because I think it would show them how they take their education for granted. If they realized how many students yearn for an education but unable to get it, our students might appreciate what they have access to in a different way. I think this book is also a window into the lives of other young people that our students do not get to see on TV or in the movies. Reading this book could lead into discussions on different cultures, tolerance, living conditions and a myriad of other topics. Using this book in the classroom would help make lessons more successful!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Catch Them Doing the Right Thing

In the article, Ways to Catch Kids Being Good, the author states, “The most effective behavior management technique is the easiest to implement..."catching 'em being good". Research shows us that the quickest and most effective way to promote the display of appropriate behaviors is to reward them…”

I think this is so important and can be done easily in the classroom. Many times we come up with a discipline plan at the beginning of the year which is the most sensible thing to do. But sometimes difficult behaviors appear throughout the school year depending on what is going on in the student’s life at the time. I have a firm belief that I can’t change the way others behave as much as I can change the way that I react to the behavior. As I’ve walked past other classrooms, I hear many teachers react to students’ inappropriate behaviors in ways that reinforce the behaviors rather than deter them. Sometimes this is the only attention a student may get and for him/her, negative reactions are just as good as positive reactions. So how do I get the student to replace the inappropriate behavior with appropriate behavior?

Let’s look at my student which I will call Johnny. First I identify the behavior that drives me crazy. (Let’s face it, there are students that do things just to push our buttons.) It is important to only work on one behavior at a time or I will confuse Johnny as to which appropriate behavior is getting him the positive attention and it will be harder for him to make this behavior a habit. Then I think about how I would rather Johnny behave. Once I identify the appropriate behavior, I think of situations when Johnny can show this behavior. The important thing is to set Johnny up for success. I might actual prompt Johnny with the appropriate behavior at first and when he does it, I will give him lots of praise (which should be absolutely sincere because I am thrilled he isn’t doing the inappropriate behavior). The next day, I will set him up for success again and may even call home to brag about his behavior. In fact, many times I will call the parents with Johnny standing right beside me so he can hear what I am saying.

Johnny sees he is getting attention for doing the right thing but may try to see if he can get the same attention for doing the wrong thing so it is very important at this stage to ignore the inappropriate behavior. I would not acknowledge that I notice the bad behavior (as long as it isn’t dangerous to Johnny or others) but I would immediately set Johnny up again to do the appropriate behavior so he could get the attention he needs.

In fact, many times I will see other students’ reactions change as they see my reactions change. They also begin to give the student positive attention as his behavior changes. I continue this until I see Johnny is showing appropriate behaviors without any prompting or initiation on my part. If I control my own reaction to Johnny’s behavior consistently, I would not need to set him up for success for long. The appropriate behavior eventually becomes a habit for him.

At this time I can work on a different behavior if necessary. Obviously this takes time and patience and too many times I have seen teachers give up in the middle of doing this. That confuses the student and actually sends a message that the teacher does not follow through with his/her actions. My behavior is actually a model for him and other students to see.

This is something that I’ve done in the classroom for most of my teaching career and I feel it is extremely effective. I realized this early on when I saw that many of my students thrived on negative attention like yelling, office referrals, and detention and knew that I had to break this cycle. Sometimes I could go a whole year without writing one office referral so I know that this practice helped me be successful in the classroom. It takes time, energy, and perseverance but if you stick with this, I believe that you will actually be able to focus more on effective instruction than behavior once behavior is no longer an issue.

If you have used this technique, please share your story and the effect it had on the student or the class. Thanks!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/6/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. 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!

Thinkfinity - “…lots of free educational resources for standards-based K-12 lesson plans, educational games, music clips and videos”

The Attention Movie – interesting video about ADD

Cramberry – “a new web application that uses flashcards to help people study for exams, learn a new language, remember important things like birthdays or names, and much more. Getting started with Cramberry is simple, and usually takes less than a minute.”

Museum Box – “This site provides the tools for you to build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box.”

Abraham Lincoln: The Face of aWar – Lessons through the Smithsonian. “In the first lesson in this issue, students take a close look at Lincoln the man, as seen in two photographs, taken in 1860 and 1865, and in two plaster “life masks,” made in the same years. This exercise in portrait analysis leads to a study of events in the years between—years that changed Lincoln drastically—and might serve as an introduction to a unit on the Civil War. In the second lesson, students examine an eyewitness drawing of Lincoln’s arrival in the enemy capital of Richmond, Virginia, at the end of the war. As he moved among former slaves, Lincoln the person became freedom’s personification. Never before had an appearance by a president—the mere showing of his face—meant more to his audience.”

Original image: 'My Swiss Army Knife' http://www.flickr.com/photos/80516279@N00/2274372747 by: Brian Herzog

Carnival of Education 03/05/09

The Carnival of Education 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. My article on How Important is My Toolbelt? is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Original image: 'the mighty midway in all its glory' http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035614490@N01/1299763888 by: Sarah

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What is a “Best Practice” ?

How can I find out the best practices for my classroom, for my subject area, and for my students? People in the education system like to throw this phrase out but it brings out so many questions for me. It is important because I teach grad courses where I’m supposed to share “best practices” with my students. Is there a difference between “Best Practices” and “Effective Teaching Practices?”

In Effective teaching practices by JohnL, he states, “In general, researchers have found that when effective teachers teach well-structured subjects, they:
• Begin a lesson with a short review of previous, prerequisite learning.
• Begin a lesson with a short statement of goals.
• Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.
• Give clear and detailed instruction and explanations.
• Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
• Ask a large number of questions, check for student understanding, and obtain responses from all students.
• Guide students during initial practice.
• Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
• Provide explicit instruction and practice for seatwork exercises and, where necessary, monitor students during seatwork.
Source: Rosenshine, B. , & Stevens, R. (1986). Teaching functions. In M. C. Whittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 376-391). New York: Macmillan.”

I thought this was so important that I had to share it. I have heard so many people talk about “Best Practices” but I really can’t find information on who determines what these are, how do they determine what is or isn’t one, and how can teachers use this information. I’m sure that everyone wants to do what is a “best practice” because who wants to use a “worst practice.” I looked at the above list and I see these are things that I was taught in college during my teacher training thirty years ago. These are things that I have done in my class practically on a daily basis. I also wonder if something can be a “best practice” for one student and not for others. When people are talking about “best practices,” are they also taking into consideration different learning styles, different teaching styles, the environment students and teachers are in, and what the purpose of the lesson may be?

Maybe you know some research that can answer my question. Or maybe you have a way to determine what is or isn’t a “best practice.” If so, please share it with me because I would really love to see this and possibly use it in my classes. You can email me or leave it as a comment on this blog post. I really want to know and share information that would help me have a more successful classroom!

Original image: 'final exam'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/34017702@N00/74907741 by: John

TV Interview

This is for my family and friends that couldn't see me on the local TV news station. Here is the first part of my interview on WYFF-TV from March 1st.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Validation – Do We Do It?

I just watched a really neat video called Validation that is guaranteed to make you smile. That is basically the theme of the whole video.

It made me realize that I don’t do it enough. I don’t validate other people’s contributions to society, to my life, to the world enough. No matter who I may come in contact, there is something good about that person. I may have to look for it but it is there. I need to practice saying and doing these things in my life.

Do I validate my colleagues’ connections to me? Do I see their strengths or do I mainly focus on their weaknesses? Do I try to see what skills they can offer and do I use them wisely? Do I ask them for advice because I value their opinions? Do I let them know how much I appreciate them?

Do I validate my students’ connections to me? Do I appreciate the humor that they bring into my life? Do I let them know how important teaching them is to me and how their success is important to me? Do I look for something positive about the student that I really dislike in my class (come on, be honest, we all have one)? Do I really listen to them and let them know that their opinions count?

Do I validate my family’s support to me? Do I spend time with them? Do I interact with my family or do I basically exist with them? Do I show them how important they are to me? Do I support the things they like to do even though it isn’t my cup of tea? Do I cherish every moment that I spend with them because I know how short life is?

Do I validate strangers who I may meet? What harm is done by smiling at them? Or saying something nice? Or just acknowledging their presence? Since I don’t know what is going on in their lives, maybe something positive I say or do can have a positive impact on their life. Do I take the time to do this?

Do I validate my own existence? Do I constantly tell myself that I cannot do things or I talk myself into inadequacies that I really don’t have? Do I pat myself on the back when I deserve it? Do I take pride in what I do and what I think? This perception of myself will appear as confidence and self assurance when I meet others.

Why is it so hard to be positive with others? It seems like we get in a habit of being negative and then it feels impossible to get out of it. My husband and I make it a common practice never to insult or say negative things (even if it is only teasing) about each other in public. In fact, many times he tells complete strangers something nice about me and they seem shocked because they don’t know how to act. They are not used to people saying nice things. When did society think that teasing and saying negative things were cute? They are not only NOT cute, but they are insulting and demeaning and shouldn’t be said at all.

I think if I could break this cycle in my classroom, it can change the dynamics of relationships between the students and me as well as their peers. Hopefully it would spill over into family relationships. I think this is important in making a classroom successful.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You Can Do It!

In Brain Research, Multiple Intelligences and Technology, Fran Mauney writes, “I study the standards and write them in student friendly terms. I post the “easy to understand” standards on the board and ask an essential question about the lesson.” When I read this, I realized that this is exactly what I was looking for. I think as teachers, we get so bogged down with all the buzz words and complex sentences that we overwhelm ourselves and our students. We need to convert a lot of the information in to friendly terms. When I read some research, I am sometimes turned off by all the educational jargon they use that I’m not sure what they are saying really applies to my needs. Yet, if I can convert what they say into friendly terms that mean something to me, I might be able to apply this research into something I can use. I feel our students are the same way. They need to hear what we are teaching in friendly terms. Just recently my sister bought an Ipod Classic just like the one I have. Even though we live about 800 miles apart, she wanted me to help her learn how to use it. Sometimes I would start explaining something to her and she would stop me saying that it seemed like I was speaking a foreign language. Then I would have to find a way to rephrase what I said in terms that she felt comfortable with. Do I do that enough with my students? Do they feel comfortable enough to tell me when they need me to find a new way? I really don’t think that teaching is that complicated a skill but it is our human emotions, feelings, and passions that make it into something special.

Fran (who works in the Greenville County Schools IT department) goes on to state, “It is time for teachers to utilize technology tools that motivate students and enhance learning based on the learning standards. You don’t have to do this alone. There are many resources available at your fingertips. Begin by asking colleagues at your school for ideas. Be willing to share ideas with other teachers at your school, district and state. As educators, we should work together as a team and share our students’ successes with each other. Communicate using blogs and wikis and lead in-services at your grade level meetings, faculty meetings and local conferences. Teachers are eager to help, if you’ll simply ask.”

Here is someone in the district that really “gets” it! I know many times teachers complain that there is a disconnect between IT and teachers, but I really think this district is trying hard to bridge that gap. I was so excited to see her mention in her blog post some of the tools that I use and recommend. This summer our district will be hosting The 2009 Upstate Technology Conference which is a free conference with awesome sessions. Last year, David Jakes and Ewan McIntosh were the keynote speakers. This year Chris Craft will be the keynote speaker and I sat in a session he did last year so I can’t wait to hear him this year. If you are anywhere near Greenville, SC, I hope you consider coming to this conference because it is well worth going too. This is a great opportunity to learn about new tools and how to use them in the classroom. Many times I look at my goals and objectives in order to decide what tools would work best in achieving my goals. So, I feel it is so important to find out what tools are out there and how to use them effectively in my classroom. By coming to this conference, I also have the opportunity to share with others my difficulties and successes which is also a way to gain information from others. I love free conferences that will help me be more successful in the classroom. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Original image: 'Suddenly things seem crystal clear to me ...' http://www.flickr.com/photos/15501382@N00/754581568 by: Anita Martinz

Monday, March 2, 2009

Podcast #5 Useful Info and Funny Stories

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Show Notes:

1. Music: The music for this podcast is the song Every Child’s a Star by Danny O’Flaherty from his Heroes CD. You can find out more about him at his website: http://www.dannyoflaherty.com/. He is one of my favorite singers so check it out!

2. Furman asked me to teach another course this summer so I will be teaching:
- EdEx 622 Nature of LD
- EdEx 962 Practicum in LD

3. Featured posts that I have written about on my Successful Teaching Blog:
· http://successfulteaching.blogspot.com/2009/02/super-duper-tour.html
· http://successfulteaching.blogspot.com/2009/02/lincoln-and-his-boys.html
· http://successfulteaching.blogspot.com/2009/02/miracles-do-happen.html
· http://successfulteaching.blogspot.com/2009/02/five-changes-to-education.html

4. Links to Websites
· http://www.kidsastronomy.com/
· http://www.teampedia.net/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page
· http://www.piclits.com/compose_dragdrop.aspx
· http://support.wonderville.ca/Default.aspx