Friday, May 29, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/29/09

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!

Joey Green’s Mad Scientist Experiments – a variety of experiments using every day items

Mad Libs – a fun word game to play with students

Edible/Inedible Experiments Archive – “Try your hand at experimental science! Some experiments may be eaten before, during or after the experiment, and some should not be eaten at all! Each file lists an expected age-level to carry out the experiment, as well as safety precautions. Many of the experiments will require nothing more than a quick rummage through the kitchen cabinets.”

Think About History Game – fun trivia game about history, including video clips for clues

Stop Disasters – A disaster simulation game from the UN/ISDR (high school level)

Original image: 'My Swiss Army Knife' by: Brian Herzog

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Writing Poetry

When I arrived home and checked my mail, I found the book Gooney Bird is So Absurd by Lois Lowry waiting for me. I have to apologize now because I have no idea who sent it to me. I don’t know if I requested it or if someone just liked me and wanted me to have it but I received it without any note. This means I have no way to thank the sender so if you are the one that sent it to me, please let me know so I can thank you.

The story takes place in Mrs. Pidgeon’s second grade class. The students are learning about poetry and the teacher introduces different kinds. By using personal examples, the teacher is able to make the lessons relevant to the students. The class is introduced to what makes a poem a poem, rhyming words, haikus, couplets, limericks, and list poems. When something happens, the students come together to create a poem for their teacher.

I think this book would be a great book to use in the classroom for a poetry unit. Each type of poetry is easily explained and the students in the story give examples. Even when I read it, I felt like I wanted to stop and write my own poem. The story made poetry simple and fun yet showed how the poems had meaning.

So, if you get a chance to check out this children’s book, I highly recommend it. Enjoy the poetry and make some up yourself. I think students in my classroom would be successful with writing their own poetry after hearing this book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Carnival of Education 5/27/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Siobhan Curious. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Be A Tour Guide is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Why Bother Trying?

In “I am racing people, and I always win.” from Blogush by Paul Bogush, Paul asks, “Can you imagine what it must be like to spend seven hours a day, everyday, in a place with people that label you a “D” or an “F,” a loser, a failure. Everyday entering a race and never winning, never even knowing what the race is for or which direction to run? And if you even decided one day to try your best you would still not be labeled a success?”

I feel this is what my special ed students felt like every day. By the time that they reached my high school class, they had pretty much given up on any kind of success. Most of them were there because the law or their parents said they had to be there. I’m not saying that they didn’t want to learn but they were afraid to even try because of all the years of failure that they have already experienced. I can truly tell you that it is so sad to look into these eyes see how disheartened they feel by the educational system and all the teachers that they have encountered. Why should they think that I was anyone different?

I began to see it as a personal challenge to see how many students I could get to succeed and believe in their own successes. I wanted them to believe enough that they would try new things and risk failure. I wanted to know that if they failed, they had the strength to continue growing and not give up trying any more. Each time a student achieved this, I felt it as a personal achievement too.

I have joined the many ranks that rants about the education system and administrators of all levels. It is easy to talk about the problems and the hopes of solving all the issues so that all students will survive and succeed. But when it comes down to it, how much of this ranting and raving will actually help each of my individual students succeed? I think the protesting has its place in working towards improving the system but I also have to look at what I can actually do to help the actual student that is here and now, not in the future.

I always set up the first couple of weeks with lots of small assignments that I know the students can complete successfully. At first, even they are surprised at these small successes. In fact, I know they are scared to believe in them and expect that this was just a fluke. I spend a lot of time praising them and encouraging them during this step.

As I increase the difficulty of their assignments, I make sure that I am always available to help them. Giving them cues and encouragement will help them succeed during this time. As they succeed more and more, they become more confident and this is so wonderful to see.

Now the most important step in all of this is to actually sit with them and reflect about their successes. It is important to talk about what has helped them be successful. It is also important to explain that the work will start getting more complex (not harder- words can cause a self fulfilling prophecy that I do not want to happen). They need to know that they could encounter obstacles (not failures) but it if vital that that they keep trying.

As the year continues, the students need to keep succeeding and reflecting. The reflecting part will help this behavior stick and hopefully spill over into other aspects of their lives. By doing this I hope to change the failure cycle that my students have been caught in and that they can get caught in a more successful cycle for the rest of their lives.

Original image: 'Success' by: Vincent Maurin

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teaching Students to Forgive

In How to Let Go and Forgive from zen habits by Leo, he states

“We need to learn to let go. We need to be able to forgive, so we can move on and be happy. Forgiveness does not mean you erase the past, or forget what has happened. It doesn’t even mean the other person will change his behavior — you cannot control that. All it means is that you are letting go of the anger and pain, and moving on to a better place.”

He also shares some things about how he does this. If you get a chance, read his suggestions because they are helpful. Now I wonder about how well do we teach this to our students. We focus so much on content but is this a social skill that we should teach and if so, how do we teach it?

It always seems to me that teenagers are so angry all of the time. I don’t know if it is hormonal or because of the steroids that are put in our foods (that is another whole conversation that I won’t get into now). Yet, they are always feeling like their world is so unjust and that we owe it to them to make their lives fair and easy. If you aren’t part of the world that is for them, then you must be against them and they do not forget or forgive easily.

I think it is important to recognize their anger and accept it. I remember growing up and my parents telling me that I would grow out of this phase or to get over it. I am sure that I lost many good friends because I got angry at them and wouldn’t forgive them for their action. These actions seem minor now that 35 years have gone by but at the time, they were important. By acknowledging these feelings, we can help a studentwork with them instead of hiding them in a closet.

By looking at the consequences of not forgiving someone, it might help the student see a bigger picture. Developmentally, they are at a stage where the world revolves just around them. I think it is important to expand their world and see how their actions can affect others. By not forgiving, they could lose friendships, but it can also affect their health. This in turn would affect their parents and other friends.

Another important way to help my students is to model forgiving behavior. I get angry at a lot of things around me and in the news. I need to verbalize my feelings and show my students how I work through these feelings. Students learn a lot by watching teachers as much as hearing the teachers talking. Sometimes students need to learn that even teachers need to be forgiven for their shortcomings because we can’t solve all of their problems for them.

I think teaching forgiveness could be a valuable lesson to teach to our students. By teaching students this skill, I feel it would help them become more successful in their education as well as in their lives.

Original image: 'sorry' by: Alex Cockroach

Monday, May 25, 2009

Am I Passionate About My Teaching?

In Passionization - (Part 2 of 4) from Angela Maiers Educational Services by Angela Maiers, she states,

“We are impacted by those who we spend time with. I am energized and motivated most when I am surrounded by passionate people. Even a single hour spent with those who live life as observers rather than participants, going through the motions without purpose and passion drain me physically, mentally, and emotionally…As an adult, I am fortunate that I get to chose who I spend my time with, choosing wisely to surround myself with those who are "alive and awake". Our students are not afforded this same luxury.”

After reading this I began to wonder if I was a passionate teacher. What did I do in order to keep my passion for teaching? Is this why so many teachers leave the field after a few years? Do they not do whatever it takes to keep the fires burning? Do I do whatever is necessary for this to happen?

I have tried to be around other teachers who love teaching. When I see them looking for new strategies or sharing their ideas, I know that I want to hear more from them. These are the teachers who will be great to go to when I need support. I also like to observe these teachers in the classroom because even the students can feel their positive energy. When I feel like I hit a mind road block, it is these teachers who seem to motivate me the most. Just being around these teachers, I can feel their passion flowing all around them and I know that I want to be just like that.

I love to go on Plurk and Twitter to connect with other educators who have a love of teaching. These educators are the ones who share links to great resources and ideas. It is so exciting to be told about an online seminar or live webcast that I can interact with others. Every Sunday morning I join the New Zealand/Australian teachers for a weekly meeting to exchange ideas and discuss certain topics.

I also listen to educational podcasts that can help motivate me. I might hear a topic or an idea that interests me. Then I try to decide how I can use this in my classroom. Constantly thinking and searching for new strategies in my classroom will help keep me on my toes. It also helps keep my teaching from becoming stagnant and boring. If I keep teaching the same things in the same ways over and over, I get bored with it and the students pick up on my feelings. Yet, if I am excited about something new, they will also pick up on that excitement too.

I love to see the “lightbulb” go on in a student’s head when he finally understands what I am teaching him. This is a big motivator to me and keeps me teaching. Helping my students become successful can really help me keep going when I’m feeling down. The trick is to keep trying to find a key that will work with each individual student. When we try to force a student’s success by using the same methods with all the students, we are setting ourselves up for failure. The more success they achieve, the more they want and this makes me want more for them.

My students know when I am passionate about my teaching. It is this feeling that can be infectious and encourage the students to keep trying. I have seen many classrooms where this feeling is absent and those students are just vegetating in there. I hope that I do not have a classroom like this and I feel it is important to evaluate my own teaching practices on a regular basis. I need to keep asking myself if I am passionate about my teaching and how do I show it. If I can answer these questions, I feel my teaching will be successful.

Original image: 'hallelujah'

Friday, May 22, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/22/09

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! – “We are an independent, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. We provide pros and cons on diverse controversial topics with facts and quotations from thousands of experts. Our sites are 100% free and contain no advertising. Our mission: "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format."”

US Dept. of State for Youth – great information with some fun activities about the US State Department.

Mad Scientist Party – Plan a party with a mad scientist theme. It gives ideas for invitations, costumes, decorations, cakes, food, drinks, activities, and favors. I think this would be fun to do in the classroom too.

Stykx - “Stykz is the first multi-platform stick figure animation program in the world (as far as we know!), and it is COMPLETELY FREE!”

Pete’s Powerpoint Station - FREE Presentations in PowerPoint format & Free Interactive Activities for Kids

Original image: 'Veere: tools' by: Ard Hesselink

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Carnival of Education 5/20/09

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Be a Tour Guide

During our travels, we did a lot of sightseeing that involved having a “tour guide.” When we went to Jewel Caves National Monument and Wind Caves National Park, both caves required tour tickets to get in the caves. When we went to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, we had a guided tour by the park ranger. All of these sites were wonderful to see but I was really impressed with the difference the guides made. I guess as a teacher, I’m always critiquing the guides and comparing it to my teaching. I noticed when the guides were excited about what they were showing, it really showed when they talked about their subject. The ones that really enjoyed what they were doing knew their subject and facts about their subject and were willing to answer any questions that you had. At one place, the ranger talked in a monotone as if he had memorized this talk. He didn’t add anything else and I didn’t feel encouraged to ask any questions. Of course, I didn’t enjoy that place as much as I did the others. I’m not sure one place was any better than another because the subject matter was different, but I enjoyed the ones where the ranger was a great tour guide. All of this reminded me of things that I learned in college about teaching and how some of them really did apply (sometimes I wondered how much of the textbook learning was really relevant in the classroom.)

Know my subject. This is really important because the people listening to me will sense if I know my subject. It will show in my voice and in my body language. If I don’t know my subject, my voice and actions will not be as confident. My audience will not have confidence in what I am sharing with them. There is also something appealing about listening to someone who you feel really knows what they are talking about.

Organize what I am saying. If I jump around from one topic to another, it won’t make sense. If the audience can’t follow what I’m trying to tell them, they will shut me out. They will look at the things that I’m showing them but it won’t be as meaningful to them. I think it’s important to make sure that I link each new step to the previous step. If I don’t, sometimes it takes too much energy from the student to follow along so they give up.

Add personal stories. When I add personal stories that connect the subject to my life, it makes it more interesting. People love personal stories. It also makes it seem more real to audience. When we saw historical sites, they almost seemed fictional but if the ranger shared his own personal story about it, it made it interesting. I understand that they might not have lived during the time of the event, but even connecting it with when or how he learned about it or how it affected him made a difference. When I told my students where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, they seemed in awe because to them, John F. Kennedy didn’t seem like a real person. Here was someone who had seen and heard him when he was alive.

Open to questions. Allowing questions is so important. If I don’t leave enough time for questions, it seems like I’m afraid that someone will ask me something I don’t know. If I don’t know the answer, the students respect me when I tell them I don’t know but I will try to find the answer for them.

I realized after being with these guides that being a teacher is just like that. Being a teacher is like being a tour guide. I am taking the students on a trip and I am their tour guide. When I teach them about history, I am taking them on a trip through time and I can either make it an interesting visit or make it a horrible time to endure so it is so important how I present the information. When I teach about a subject, I hope to be successful and if it takes being a tour guide, then I’m more than willing to do so.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Embarrassment vs. Responsibility

After reading the post Yearbook Panic, Brown Bags & Underwear from Bellringers by mybellringers, I began to wonder how much is the school and her teachers supposed to be responsible for?

She shows a video from “the CNN link about the girl from Florida who went to school sans underwear, sat in the front row for her club group photograph and now appears to have pulled a Paris Hilton-Britney Spears-Lindsay Lohan shot for all eternity in the 2009 Sickles High School Yearbook …Mom now wants the school to quit handing out the yearbooks, confiscate the ones already passed out and reprint the entire book minus the offending photograph.”

This whole situation has me thinking of so many questions. These are questions that obviously have no answers but open a whole can of worms.

Yes, I feel terrible for this student but what was she thinking? And if you know you aren’t wearing underwear, shouldn’t you NOT sit in the front row? What responsibility does she have in this situation? Should she have to pay for the yearbooks to be reprinted? Do you remember those elementary school class pictures where you always had some boy with his fly unzipped? Maybe it was the classes I was in, but it seemed like we always had one in our picture.

Who is going to pay for the cost of the yearbooks to be reprinted? They could raise the price of the yearbooks (which is already ridiculously overpriced in my opinion) but is it fair to punish everyone for this girl’s indiscretions?

What if a girl showed too much cleavage? Who determines what is too much? What if a parent saw their daughter and felt the picture was offensive? Do they have a right to ask for the entire yearbook to be recalled and reprinted?

If the school doesn’t stop passing them out, is that considered pornography? Is it any worse than this sexting that everyone is talking about? Should photographers now have to ask for all people not wearing underwear to stand in the back row? Should there be an announcement now that for all photos, underwear must be worn? Would this be considered sexual harassment?

I don’t know what the solution is but I haven’t been able to think of any that would make this whole fiasco better. Will it eventually lead to the extinction of yearbooks? I’m not sure how the outcome to this will be totally successful. What do you think a viable solution would be for this situation?

Original image: '232: Hiding from the Hidden. Salvation via Angst.' by: sascha

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Refreshment

Now that summer is approaching, it brings back memories of summers where I was so overwhelmed with my free time that I didn’t know which way to go. I thought I would give some suggestions for some people who are trying to think of some options. Maybe I will mention something that you haven’t thought of before.

Take a course for recertification. I always found it easier to take a course in the summer than during the school year when I was teaching. Just for a little self promotion – I will be teaching two courses at Furman University this summer: Edex622 Nature of Learning Disabilities and Edex 962 Learning Disabilities Practicum. If you need either of these courses, I would love to have you in my class.

Learn something new. You can check out the hobby stores to learn a new craft or you can go to a home improvement store to learn how to do something on your house. Maybe you could find a language course to take.

Visit or call the people in your life that has had to take a back seat to teaching. I know that I have let some friends fall to the wayside during the school year because I haven’t had enough time for them. I try to schedule a lunch with them at least one time during the summer. Good friends are hard to find and I can’t afford to lose any of the ones that I have.

Get out in nature. Find a local state or national park near you and explore it. It is amazing how much that nature can do to rejuvenate you. I find being outdoors and enjoying nature helps me put my life in perspective.

Come up with a list of things you want to do at home while you have time this summer. Then prioritize it and don’t try to do all the things at one time. Splice in some fun after you accomplish each thing. You will find that you won’t be as overwhelmed and maybe even surprised at how much you can actually get done.

Plan a get together with some school friends. During the school year, I never really had time to socialize with my friends that I worked with. Sometimes it is good to get outside the work place and get to know them better.

Do something for an elderly person. I know that I have an elderly neighbor who is over 90 years old and lives alone. During the summer I like to check with her to see if she needs light bulbs changed, or things moved. She hates to ask for help so I enjoy offering to help her. Some of the things seem minor but I know they are big things for her and she appreciates it.

Do you have any other suggestions that you can add? I’d love to hear them.

Original image: 'Lake St. Peter HDR [2]' by: Rick Harris

Friday, May 15, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/15/09

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!

Interactives: US History Map – “The United States History Map is an interactive Web site where students can learn about the geographic features of the United States, the regions and areas of the United States, and the development of the geography of the United States over the course of history.”

The States – hosted by US History Channel including maps, timelines, games

Pollen Park - A learning discovery into the fascinating world of flowering plants and their reproductive lifecycle.

Questionaut – “Journey through strange worlds and test your knowledge of English, Maths and Science on this magical mission to recover your friend’s hat.” Really cute game but there are no instructions and students discover what they need to do through exploration. (I heard about this on a Seedlings podcast!)

I Love Schools – “The I Love Schools, Inc. mission is to help America's school teachers find sorely needed school equipment, materials and supplies they cannot obtain through normal channels. The average teacher registered on this website spends over $659 out-of-pocket buying these items. We would be hard-pressed to find another group of people who consistently takes money out of their own after-tax paychecks and purchases items for their employer. Teachers have been doing it for years. Nationwide, State and Federal budget constraints have made things even tougher.”

Original image: 'What's in my bag?' by: Matt Ewalt

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Carnival of Education 5/13/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Rayray’s Writing. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on The Best Teaching Method is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Inspiring Blog Posts

I made the list! My post on Teaching Students to Ask the Right Questions was on the list of “100 Incredibly Inspiring Blog Posts for Educators.” I was so surprised but thrilled. Sometimes when I write, I wonder if it will mean anything to anyone or is it just meaningful to me. If I get comments from people that say they felt it was useful, I feel that I got my message across. I really love when I can get a conversation going about what I’ve written. I was also excited to see some posts from some of the blogs that I already follow. Being on the same page as them felt like an honor all by itself!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Do I Answer the Question?

After reading Are These Three Words Ruining Your Life? from Zen Habits, (Thanks to Edventures who shared this with me), Jonathan Mead writes,

“The unmagical words
Those words are: I don’t know…
Just imagine all of the possibilities for you to practice actively making decisions based on your desires, rather than re-actively defaulting to unconsciousness.”

This had me thinking about how I could relate this to the classroom. When I ask a student a question that requires their opinion or their views, many will answer, “I don’t know.” I know with my autistic student, saying, “I don’t know” was a defense mechanism for him most of the time. By using this phrase, many of my students would hide behind the words rather than risk making a mistake. I had to begin thinking about when I use these words and why I use them.

I know sometimes I say this to my husband when I don’t want to start a disagreement or I’m not sure of the answer he is looking for. Or maybe I just don’t have the energy to really think of an answer. Or maybe what I really mean is, “I don’t care.” Am I avoiding the answer because it takes effort to really respond to the question and I don’t have time to do that?

Do my students feel the same way? Are they afraid that they won’t say what I want to hear? Is it too risky for them to give an answer in case it is wrong? Maybe it is my facial expression or my body language that is making them feel this way. Or maybe they don’t have the energy to think of an appropriate answer? Maybe they are tired, or having a bad day.

Then I began to think of some other phrases they could use that might also help them feel more secure. (Of course I have the usual rules that we don’t make fun of any wrong answers, or make the person feel bad etc. But you know that these are just words too and students still can make someone else feel bad without the teacher knowing it.) I think I use certain phrases when I blog because I’m afraid of offending some reader or coming off too strong. But I learned these phrases through trial and error and testing. When I use these phrases, I feel less intimidated.

Phrases like:
1. I feel…
2. I think…
3. In my opinion…
4. If it was me…
5. I have done it this way…

I think I would actually give them opportunities to practice these phrases. I would also try to give them situations where they would feel less intimidated. Maybe they could work in small groups or with a peer. Maybe they could write out their answers or record their answers verbally outside of the general group. Maybe they could make a comic strip that includes their answers.

I believe over time, they would become more comfortable with answering. Using the “unmagical words” would occur less and less and they would be more successful with answering questions in the classroom.

Original image: 'is flickr an addiction?' by: Candace

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learning at Home

In So How Could I Still Teach My Students If School Was Cancelled? from Learning Is Messy - Blog, Brian wrote,

“Think of all the learning time being lost by those students already on leave because of the H1N1 flu issue. What if this did become more widespread and we did have many students out of school for a week or more? My school district has already informed us that if even 1 student is diagnosed at our school with H1N1 then they would close that school for 5 to 7 days AND those days don’t have to be made up at the end of the school year. That’s a lot of lost learning time AND lots of free time on the hands of kids that may lead to other issues.”

I began to think about how I could teach my class if we were out for an extended period of time. I remember hearing about ways that a friend was preparing to teach in China when SARS was spreading around the country. Now would be a good time to think about this before it actually happened and to prepare for it too.

I would have all my students get a gmail address and know how to access their email from any location. If my students didn’t have a home computer, this would enable them to access their email at the local library or other locations too.

Students would need to know how to use Google Docs and access/upload documents.

Students would create a blog to share their ideas/thoughts/feelings.

Students would learn to use twitter and plurk so they could contact me in real time if necessary in order to ask questions. This is another opportunity to talk about online safety and not sharing personal information online. Also good to talk about online etiquette.

I love wikis, so I would prepare my procedures/lesson plans on a wiki to share with my class. Students would go to this wiki each day to find out what their assignment for that day would be.

I would give a variety of assignments that students could choose from according to their ability levels and interests. If students have a choice, they tend to feel more motivated to complete the assignment.

Students would be able to complete individual assignments or group work and turn them in on Google Docs or the wiki. There would be no excuses that “my dog ate my homework.”

I also would encourage students to explore online and look for other “tools” that we could use for class. Some students may feel motivated by this because I encouraged them to try this. This may help too if they are bored because they are not in school.

Students could also look at the goals of the assignment and suggest other ways they would like me to assess their knowledge online. Students love to have input and they will respect me more if they know that I value their input.

These were just some of the things I thought of but if you have any other good suggestions, please let me know. I think this would be successful if students were out of school for an extended period of time.

Original image: 'Desk' by: William Hook

Monday, May 11, 2009

Trip Reflections

Some Statistics:

Days away from home: 52

Average cost: $150 per day (under what we had budgeted for our trip) see chart for breakdown.

Online friends we met face to face: 8

Miles covered: over 11,000

Oil changes: 2

States visited: 18

Camping: 1 night

National Sites visited: 20

Presidential Libraries visited: 4

Time Zones we crossed: 4

When we watch the news and read the papers, we see so much bad stuff about our world. Yet, when we traveled around the country, I saw so much goodness. It gave me lots of hope and good feelings about the world we live in.

It was so thrilling to meet my plurk/twitter friends in Kansas because it was a new experience for us. Usually my husband is very skeptical and wary about meeting new people because he has seen such meanness in his courtroom I guess. Sometimes he feels that I’m too naïve and open to strangers (don’t we worry about our children and students in the same way?) I think this introduced him to a lot of goodness that can be found on the internet. First we went to the Cosmosphere to meet HowieG who was so gracious and welcoming. He really was the catalyst for making this a great experience for us. It was really neat to be in a restaurant and having Lulubell come up and introduce herself to us because she had seen online that we were going to dinner here and wanted to come meet us. The next day we met HowieG, Joel, JerryB and Tom for lunch at this awesome BBQ place and that night, KevinH, Honeymic, Lulubell, and HuskerFan joined us for dinner too. I think it helped my husband see who I talk to on the internet each day so he could relate to what I’m talking about and who I am talking about.

I also had a digital scrapbooking friend that I’ve known online for a couple of years and we finally got to meet in person. Meg brought her children too and we all searched the Oregon tidepools for treasures. I felt so comfortable around her and her children as if I’d known them for years. We were able to go out for lunch and enjoy each other’s company. This was also another way for my husband to experience my life on the internet too.

I still can’t believe that wonderful lady in the antique store in Oregon got us a free night at a beautiful condo just because we needed it. She didn’t know us and hadn’t ever met us before but offered it to us when she heard that we were going to look for a hotel room. Nothing major bad happened on the entire trip which was a relief. Sometimes I would find myself worrying about getting sick or something happening to our car or getting in an accident but I would make myself stop anticipating the worst. While we were in Durango, our car battery was dead but a quick call to AAA had a tow truck arrive to jump us off. Since we didn’t have any other problems, all we can think is that we left something open or on that ran the battery down while we were on a train ride all day. Every time we turned on the TV and saw more news about the swine flu, I wondered if we should hurry home but we decided not to let this affect our trip.

Seeing different places and experiencing different weather was exciting too. We were in high winds that topped 18 wheelers, saw it snow, experienced a blizzard, drove through dust storms and deserts, and waited out tornado watches/warnings. We saw high elevations with huge amounts of snow that were high above our heads as well as sand dunes that were equally high. At times we were at the Pacific Ocean in Washington and Oregon and then other times we were over 14,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. We went through all four time zones of the United States.

To see pictures about our trip on Flickr: Click HERE.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/8/09

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!

Flat World Knowledge – resource for free college textbooks

Model UN Nation – A Teacher’s Guide – “a program that allows students to take on the role of delegates from specific countries, learn about international issues, and discuss these issues from the point of view of their chosen country.”

More Classroom Ideas for Old Fashioned Index Cards

My Library of Congress – “The Library's new, personalized site,, presents many of these items in compelling online exhibitions that reveal our nation's history, knowledge and creativity through primary sources, engaging activities and materials for teachers and students.”

Confusing Words - is a collection of 3210 words that are troublesome to readers and writers. Words are grouped according to the way they are most often confused or misused.

Original image: 'Tools' by: Thomas Hawk

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Carnival of Education 5/5/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Steve Spangler’s Science Blog. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Reaching the Top is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Those Were The Days: A Meme

I was tagged for this by Heather Loy over at Tech Tips & Timely Tidbits. She was tagged by Cathy Nelson over at the TechnoTuesday who was tagged by Shannon Wham over at the Books, Bytes, & Grocery Store Feet. This is as a reflection on what things we used to do that you can’t do any more.

Here is my list (and I’m really afraid it will show my age too!):

I remember when I could:

1. Roller skate in the neighborhood with skates that hooked on to my sneakers. I needed a key to tighten them up.

2. Play in the neighborhood until dinner time without worrying about being kidnapped or molested.

3. Be scolded by the neighbor and being afraid that my parents would find out. If they found out, I would be punished.

4. Shake in my boots when my mother said, “I brought you into this world…and I can take you out of it! (She never said anything she didn’t mean and she didn’t care about DSS or anything! Of course I was a PERFECT child, so I really never had anything to worry about. LOL)

5. Watch the NBC peacock feathers change colors on TV so I would know the program was in color and not black and white.

6. Use words that were in style, meant what it really meant, not considered offensive, or not politically incorrect like gay (meaning happy), bad (actually meaning bad), groovy, cool (not kewl), gross (meaning disgusting) etc.

7. Listen to music and actually understand the words which usually dealt with love or unrequited love and no profanity or violence.

8. Listen to music on 8 track tapes.

9. Remember phone numbers by the names at the front of the numbers (Mine was Juniper 66-888)

10. Leave high school during lunch when I was a senior. Of course lunch was an hour when I was in school and this was a privilege only seniors had.

11. Get paid $1.75 per hour minimum wage as a camp counselor and I thought I was going to be rich!

12. Get a ride to the local discos (I loved dancing and John Travolta back then) and never worry about how I was getting back to college. I remember fitting 12 people in a Volkswagen bug. On football nights, they had beer for .25.

13. See Jimmy Buffet in concert at my college and tickets were only about $25 (which was a lot back then!)

14. See Alabama play at a Myrtle Beach bar for free before they became famous. We had to sit with the wall to our backs and I was told to crawl under the tables to the door if a fight broke out.

That’s all that I can think of right now and I’ve probably traumatized all of my friends and family by these recollections. If you want to join in, I’d love to see what you remember!

Original image: 'Old carriage' by: Khalid Almasoud

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Best Teaching Method

In Which of the learning methods yield the best results? from Kobus van Wyk , kvanwyk discusses what we can learn from Aesop’s fable: The Fox and the Cat.

“The moral of the story: find a method that works best for you, and don’t waste time debating the merits of the options.”

This actually had me thinking about my blog, my teaching strategies that I suggest and my opinions on education. I have gotten a few emails that have criticized me for sharing things that I would recommend others to do. They feel that this wouldn’t work in their classroom and that I live in a fairy tale land. I am glad that they feel they can share their feelings with me and I’m thankful that my blog has created a conversation so please continue sending me emails.

If you are reading my blog, please remember that I am suggesting things that have been successful for me. I am sharing things that have worked in my classroom and that I would do again. These have worked best for me but I’m not saying that they are the only things that work. I am not saying that all of the things would work for you the same way they did for me.

But remember that these things might not work for you. You need to take in account your own personality as well as the personalities and abilities of your students. Maybe your administration would not be supportive with this activity.

Sometimes what I suggest would not work in the situation that you are in but maybe you could adapt it so it could work. If you think that what I am saying would not work for you, maybe you could think of how you could change it so it could work. Maybe my ideas could be a foundation for you to start with.

I hope you find teaching strategies and methods that work for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things. But don’t waste time debating over whether one is better than another until you have tried it or you will waste time and energy instead of providing instruction. You never know, maybe the one you thought wouldn’t work actually turns out to be successful!

Original image: 'Eliot and the Year 6 students' by: Brian Yap (葉)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Geology in the Classroom

We have been visiting lots of national parks in our travels this 7 weeks and I am truly amazed at the beauty that surrounds me. I began to think of what wonderful lessons that can be taught using our national parks. Whether you have one close to you or whether you visit it virtually, there are so many things students can learn from them.

We have been to:
1. Mt. Rainier National Park
2. Mt. Saint Helens National Monument
3. Olympic National Park
4. Zion National Park
5. Bryce Canyon National Park
6. Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
7. Colorado National Monument
8. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
9. Great Sand Dunes National Park
10. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
11. Rocky Mountains National Park
12. Windy Cave National Park
13. Jewel Cave National Monument
14. Badlands National Park

I began to search for some online resources that would enhance geology lessons in the classroom and this is what I came up with. If you know of any other good ones, please let me know.

Photo credit: Black Canyon of the Gunnison by Pat Hensley

Monday, May 4, 2009

Students in Nature’s Classroom

As we travel to different national parks and monuments, I always feel thrilled when I see young people experiencing this wonderful gift that we have. I also wonder how many people realize how lucky we are in the United States to have so many wonderful places. I love to meet people from other countries who are seeing my country for the first time and enjoying the beautiful parks that we have. If it hadn’t been for someone with a vision, these places would not have been protected over time. But what about the future? Are we instilling this same vision in the generations to come? How many of my students have never been to a park, or hiked, or experienced the outdoors? That is what scares me.

When I was growing up, I was expected to be a young lady and never get dirty. I was never allowed to do much outdoors but I wonder if it is because my parents had no experience with it either. Even now, I’m not sure my parents understand my love for the outdoors. As I see the world around me, I am constantly amazed at how this earth was made and continues to change. It helps me put my own life in perspective and see things in life differently. This made me wonder if my students did not have much experience outdoors because their parents did not have any experience either. Maybe their parents worked two jobs and it was all they could do to support their families. There could be many reasons for why my students had no clue about the outdoors.

This made me think that I had to offer opportunities for my students to experience nature. I began to look up websites but that would only let them see the outdoors on a virtual level. I began to look up hands on activities. I found courses like Project Learning Tree that offered lessons to use with my students. I joined a hiking club so I could learn more about the areas where I lived that I could share with my students. I began taking my class outdoors when the weather was nice to look at trees and plants and discuss what they saw outside. At the end of the school year, I always planned a hike in the state park which my students really enjoyed. Many of them had never been hiking or even seen a mountain before. Just to see their faces as they experienced this for the first time was extremely moving to me!

Many of my students thanked me for the opportunities and I hope I planted a seed. I hope their memories of what they did in my classroom would inspire them to continue with a relationship with nature and the outdoors. Hopefully a love for our earth would grow in their hearts and would be passed on to their children. I might not see the results of my teachings but hopefully the future will benefit and be more successful for the little part I played in this story.

Photo credit: Capitol Reef National Park by Pat Hensley

Friday, May 1, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/1/09

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!

Papervision 3D – really no educational value other than it really looks cool. It feels like you are inside an giant aquarium. Move your mouse around you.

Weboword – visual vocabulary search

Planets – great visuals to better understand the planets.

Essay Map - a mapping tool to help students write an informational essay.

My Ebook – “myebook aims to revolutionise the way we create, publish and share ebook content online. Built on a feature-rich social platform, complete with powerful, browser-based, builder software, and a slick reader environment, there's never been an easier way for anyone and everyone to 'get it out there'.”

Original image: 'The Toolbox is Organized!' by: Dan Thompson