Friday, January 29, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/29/10

tool1 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

Tobacco Control – “virtual classroom on tobacco control” - will supplement your classroom curriculum. It's designed to help middle school math students practice and improve their math skills. MMU combines stuff kids are into like music, sports & fashion with algebra, geometry, decimals, fractions & word problems.

CarrotSticks – “CarrotSticks is an online multiplayer game that improves math skills for 1st - 5th graders as they practice and compete with peers around the world!”

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

International Special Educator Burnout Research Study - Here is a site for special educators to signup to participate in the study.  Please share this link with others!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Five Great Books for Kindergarten Readiness

This guest post was written by Wendy Graham, a stay at home mother and freelancer who often writes about education for Online College Guru, a directory of online colleges.

books Parents and children often look forward to the first day of school with a mixture of anticipation and worry. It can be especially stressful for parents who are uncertain if their children are ready for kindergarten. Ensuring that children have the skills necessary to succeed in those first crucial years of school can be difficult; fortunately, there are a number of outstanding children’s books that can help parents teach their children the basics needed for early educational success. Here are five of the best books to prepare your child for kindergarten.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

This delightful rhyming book teaches children the alphabet with humor and rhythm. By turning each letter into a character, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom allows them to interact and quarrel with each other as they compete to see who will be first to the top of the coconut tree. Available in a simplified board book version for the youngest readers, the longer hardcover version offers pre-kindergarteners a bright and colorful way to make learning the alphabet fun.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George

Generations of children have cherished the antics of George and the Man in the Yellow Hat. Today, his adventures still teach valuable lessons about choices and consequences. George gets into all sorts of trouble, but in the end is forgiven and repairs the damage done. This message is especially important for children preparing to enter kindergarten; the idea that mistakes and accidents happen from time to time can help children cope with the anxiety of a new environment, while the fact that George works to fix his mistakes can serve as a valuable guideline for even the youngest children.

Where the Wild Things Are

One of the most beloved children’s books of all time, pre-kindergarteners will thrill to the adventures of Max in the land of the Wild Things. The book helps children understand their own emotions and the emotions of others while spurring imagination and creativity. Winner of the Caldecott Medal for 1964, Where the Wild Things Are teaches essential lessons about family and the adventurous spirit.

Horton Hears a Who!

For small children, the assertion that a person’s a person, no matter how small, can help build self confidence and bolster self esteem. Horton’s sympathetic personality offers a chance for parents to discuss abstract ideas like friendship, consideration, kindness, and caring for others. Presented in Dr. Seuss’s unique rhyming style, the book is a warm and witty lesson in standing up for one’s friends and oneself.

The Doorbell Rang

A first lesson in math, this is the clever story of one dozen cookies and the guests who show up to share them. Pre-kindergarten children will learn fractional concepts, division, and counting while trying to determine exactly how many cookies each of the guests will receive. The artwork contains many colorful details for children to discover and enjoy while absorbing basic mathematical concepts.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'New picture books, late October 2007' by: paula

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Office Politics

politics In Ellen: Overwhelmed from CEC Blog, the author states,

“I’m drained by the politics. Not petty lunchroom stuff, but top-down stuff. I’m frustrated by what I perceive to be a lack of accountability for teachers who aren’t making things work and a lack of support for teachers who are. It’s difficult for me to be an advocate for my students when I feel that my school’s practices are sometimes not in their best interests.”

I hear this so often from many young teachers and it makes me sad. I think this feeling of helplessness causes many new teachers to pack it in too early. This feeling of office politics can be overwhelming and cause new teachers to feel powerless.

I know this is no excuse but over the past thirty years, I have had many different jobs and you will face these office politics, no matter what job you have. It doesn’t matter if you are a salesclerk, or an entertainer, or a construction worker. If you thought teaching was any different, you were wrong. Maybe Surviving Office Politics is a course that we need to teach in Teacher Prep courses because it would be of practical use.

I had one new teacher ask me about how I survived office politics and it made me think of the things I did. Maybe if I share it with you, you will find something you need in order to cope with what is going on around you.

1. Remember not to take the politics personally. I have felt that I was moved to different schools unfairly for different reasons and felt a lot of bitterness and resentment. I had to learn that these changes were not usually against me personally. Later, I learned that the change actually turned out to benefit me and without the change, my growth as a teacher would not have happened.

2. Be willing to stand up for what is right. I needed to think about how my actions would affect me in the long run; the big picture. Was I willing to sacrifice what I’ve accomplished to stand up for my beliefs?

3. Remember that I do not have the big picture. Many times the administration has to make decisions that benefit the school as a whole even though it might not be to my advantage. Sometimes decisions have to be made that affect the most people and not just the ones that I teach.

4. Open the lines of communication with my administration. If I feel that the school practices are not in the best interest of my students, I need to let my administration know how negatively this can affect the school in the future. I need to be loyal to my employer and I can do this by showing how acting in the best interest of my students is in fact what is in the best interest of the school.

5. I need to stop dwelling on the negative politics and letting it become the central focus of my thoughts. As long as I am doing this, there will not be any room for positive thinking which will enable me to cope with the way things are.

6. I need to be able to accept that what I believe in may not be the only way to solve a problem. I need to be open to other suggestions and show a willingness to try other options.

7. If I’m not happy with the way things are, I need to think about ways to change it. Then I need to be willing to approach those in power with my suggestions. If I’m not willing to be part of the solution, I need to stop whining about the way things are.

8. I cannot expect the school to develop a support system for me. I need to do it on my own. I need to make time to do this. I can find colleagues who I work with, either in my own school, or my own district. Or I can find people online for support. I need to actively do this for myself.

9. Remember the ultimate reason I became a teacher – to make a difference in a child’s life. When all else fails, I need to ask myself if I am achieving my goal. If I am, then I know that I’m doing the best I can and that I shouldn’t beat myself over the way things are.

How do you deal with the politics where you are? Do you have any other suggestions with coping with these? Do you disagree with any that I have given? If so, please explain why.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'That went down well......' by: Karen Brazier

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Craving a Class Pet

creature After reading Paws Of Fury from It's Not All Flowers and Sausages by Mimi, it brought back memories of my memorable class pet that I just had to share with you.

Keep in mind that I am highly allergic to animals. I cannot be around most animals that have some kind of hair or dander because I turn in to a sniveling, miserable, ugly creature. If rabbits are near me, my eyes swell totally shut and I cannot breathe.

This means that I have to get some kind of class pet that I am not allergic to and doesn’t turn me into the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I have tried a fish tank with fresh water fish and a salt water tank too. The salt water tank cost too much money and the fresh water tank was pretty boring. After that I got a small turtle that I got at the flea market. My students enjoyed that but no one wanted to take care of him during holidays so he was finally given to a friend who had an outside pond.

Finally I decided that I wanted an iguana. They didn’t shed and they looked like they would be a fun pet for the class. I even see comic strip characters with iguanas! After I decided this, I started to make a list of all the items we would need for this class pet. My husband was worried and kept begging me to do more research before I bought anything like this and I promised him that I would.

When I discussed it with my class, one of my students had an iguana that he was willing to give as a class pet during the school year and take home for the summer and holidays. What a perfect arrangement! What more could I ask for?

The day I decide to sit down and do some in depth research, my student, T. decides to bring in his pet for a trial day. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem because I would keep it in my portable for the day and he would pick it up at the end of the day. T. took out the iguana for me to hold and pet and it seemed friendly enough. So, after T. goes to another class, I take out the iguana to hold but it turns out a lot differently. This iguana doesn’t want to be held by me and takes off out of the cage away from me. I prayed that no one would walk into my portable so that he could escape into the wild. Just imagine me chasing it around the room, needing to grab it but afraid of it at the same time. What if it bit me? About 30 minutes later, right before I hyperventilate, I finally get him back in his cage.

With 20 minutes left in my planning period, I get on the internet to do my research. Then I find out how big these guys get and how aggressive they can be towards females during certain times of the month! They get huge and you have to keep buy larger and larger tanks/cages for them. Not only do they become humongous but they live a very long time. Oh my gosh! What was I thinking?!

Needless to say, I had to rethink my plan. No, not rethink, it was more like scrub the mission. There would be no iguana for my class. When I broke the news to my class, no one seemed shocked or disappointed other than me. I wonder if my class was a lot smarter than I was?

So I learned a valuable lesson. I need to discuss things with my class and have them help in the decision making. This would have been a great opportunity for them to practice the decision making process as well as showing knowledge that they have. As I constantly remind myself, the students have a great deal of knowledge that they can give me if I would only take advantage of it.

Have you ever had a class pet? Was it a good experience or a terrible one? Please share so others can learn from you.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Steampunk Beholder Miniature robot sculpture - Oxford Steampunk Exhibition' by: Daniel Proulx

Monday, January 25, 2010

What’s In A Name?

labels In Who’re you gonna call? The “school librarian” from AASL Blog, it is stated that,

“After a discussion that involved all members of the board, AASL has redefined the term that describes the certified person who runs a school library (or library media center — that term wasn’t addressed) as a “school librarian”. Gone is the term “school library media specialist” which has been our official designation going back to the first Information Power…”

This made me think about my own title. I have been called a teacher, an educator, a special education teacher, an exceptional needs specialist, and an adjunct instructor, among many other things that I can not mention out loud. For me, it doesn’t matter what I’m called but I have always considered myself a teacher. I am proud of that title and I remember when my parents first saw me in this role. It was an eye opener for them because I was no longer just their little girl. It was amazing for them to see me in control of a classroom. It was my shining moment to show my parents that I was now a grown up!

Yet as a teacher, I wanted to be even more. I wanted to be the one to make a difference. I wanted to have an impact in lives that even though they might not remember me, they would remember what I had to teach them. I’m not sure there is even a name for this.

I wanted to be a friend to parents of my students. I had seen some teachers in an adversarial position with parents and that is not what I wanted at all. I wanted to be part of a team and work with parents to help their children succeed. By doing this, I felt it was the only way for a student to really achieve success. Just as in a divorce, if both parents are constantly fighting, it is the child who loses. In a school situation, if the school and the parents are constantly at odds, it is the student who comes out the loser. School should not be all about power struggles.

Then as I think about how adults struggle with their own titles, I think about all the titles that my own students have had to face. My students have been labeled too much in their young lives. They have labeled students with disabilities, or handicaps. For federal funding and statistics, the labels get even more detailed. Among their peers, they are labeled losers, retards, dumbo, etc. and my students have heard it all at a very early age. By their parents or guardians, many of my students have been labeled lazy, dumb, or slow.

I realize that it doesn’t matter what I am called or what my students are called. We need to get beyond the labels. I need to find out exactly what their needs are and leave their labels at the door. My students need to realize that we will never be able to get rid of the labels, but we don’t need to let the focus of our lives revolve around these labels. These labels do not define anyone’s life. It is our actions that do that.

Just as in the library, I will go to the person in charge (whatever their title is) and ask for help because I know that they have more knowledge than I do in the library. They may be able to help find the answers I need.

In the classroom, whatever I am called, I will be there for my students. I will help them find the answers to their questions.

No matter what my students are called, I will encourage their quest for knowledge. I think this quest is something we are all born with and it doesn’t matter what our labels are, this can’t be ignored. This thirst for knowledge can be encouraged and nurtured. I need to put aside any label that I may have associated with this student and delve into the real person to find out what must be done to meet this student’s needs.

If I can do this, my job as a teacher will be successful.

What labels do you have? How does it affect your teaching? How do you cope with this?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Monster Stickers to color'

Friday, January 22, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/22/10

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

Bright Storm Math Tutorials – math tutorials

Exploring Science with Children – Great activities for science in the backyard, the kitchen, playground, car or bus, neighborhood structures, throughout the day, the market, and of the human body.

Children’s Storybooks Online – “Illustrated children's stories for kids of all ages”

Vintage Ad Browser – “100,000+ vintage advertisements to explore”

More than 100 Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans – on the Free Technology for Teachers blog

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Financial Literacy Poster Contest

PosterContest I was recently notified about this cool poster contest. You might be interested in getting your students involved. here is the information I received in an email:

“The NFCC is sponsoring the Be Money Wi$e National Financial Literacy Poster Contest to get young students thinking about how to manage money efficiently and offers them a creative outlet to demonstrate their knowledge. All school-aged children in grades 3-12 are eligible to enter with local and national winners to be chosen from each of three grade categories. Students from public, private and home-schools are welcome.”

About the contest:

“The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is once again holding the Be Money Wi$e National Financial Literacy Poster Contest in 2010. The contest is a great way to get young students thinking about how to manage money effectively and offers them a creative outlet to demonstrate their knowledge. Finally, it offers the opportunity for local and national recognition for student artwork and rewards winners with US savings bonds and other prizes.”

The rules from the web site:

Rules and Guidelines

"$mart Money Choices = A Brighter Future"
The 2010 NFCC National Poster Contest will feature three grade categories

Elementary - 3rd through 5th Grades
Middle - 6th though 8th Grades
High - 9th through 12th Grades

Posters may be between 8 ½" by 11" and 11" by 17" in size (11" by 17" is preferred.) All posters must be submitted on white paper/stock. Original and computer-generated artwork is accepted.
All posters must be labeled with the following information (see entry form):

  • Student's Name
  • Student's Grade
  • Student's School Name and Address
  • School Telephone
  • Sponsoring Teacher's Name (if applicable)
  • Parent Name
  • Home Address, Phone and Email
  • Name of NFCC Member Agency Where Poster was Entered
  • Agency Location
  • Student T-shirt Size (and whether kids or adult size)

Most local poster submission deadlines will be in February 2010. As deadlines vary; check Submission Information for details.
Posters will be judged on expression of the theme (40%); artwork style and content (30%); and creativity (30%).
Note: Upon submission, all posters will become property of the NFCC Member Agency and/or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which reserves the right to reproduce.”

Please go to the web site for more information and the entry form.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Word for 2010

cherish In Happy 2010 from Creating a Path for Learning in the 21st Century , Bill asks

“What “word” will you live in 2010?”

It has taken me two weeks to decide what my word would be. I wanted it to be something that I can focus on and have it help guide my actions each day. I wanted it to be a word that I can stick on my mirror and see every day. I wanted a word that would mean something to me and then, it finally hit me. I found it! I found the word that I want to live in 2010.

Drum roll please…my word is…


According to the Merriam-Webster Online, cherish meansto hold dear : feel or show affection for”

This year I want to hold many things dear because if I know that they are dear, I want to appreciate them more. I don’t ignore or hide things that I cherish. I want to share with others the things that I cherish because they are important to me.

Here are some of the things I cherish and hope to focus on them this year. They are not in any particular importance but rather in the order as they pop into my mind.

· Cherish my family because I don’t know how long I will be able to let them know how much I cherish them.

· Cherish my friends because good friends are hard to find.

· Cherish the new things that I learn each day.

· Cherish the opportunities that present themselves to connect with others.

· Cherish the opportunities to share my knowledge and experience about education.

· Cherish the wonderful serendipitous events that happen to me because they happen often in my life and I don’t always take the time to appreciate them.

So what word will you live in 2010?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Thoughts...'

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Say, Ask, and Be

change In Say the change you want to see from Generation YES Blog by Sylvia Martinez, she states,

“Say the change you want to see. Ask the change you want to see. Be the change you want to see.”

This really had a great impact on me because it really expressed what I feel. Yet, I’m scared.

When I say something out loud, it makes it real. By saying the words, it is no longer a quiet thought in my head. Quiet thoughts cannot be analyzed or criticized. As long as they are in my head, no one can tell me I’m wrong or I’m crazy for thinking this way. They are my thoughts and only I can see or hear them in my head. They are not anyone else’s and they belong all to me. Maybe I’m selfish with my thoughts and don’t want to share them with anyone else. But when I act this way, change will never happen.

Once I say my thoughts out loud, I need to be willing to ask what needs to be done to accomplish what I want. By asking, I’m taking a risk. I’m taking a risk because there will be others who tell me that it can’t be done or why it shouldn’t be done. I need to be specific with my questions and not ask ones that people can answer with these negatives. I need to ask what steps I need to take to reach this goal. I’m not asking if I should do it or whether it can be done. If it can be put into words, anything is possible. Think about the first automobile or plane that was invented and the way people may have approached these ideas. I’m sure there were many people who thought it was impossible but I really believe that once it is formed into words and said out loud, anything is possible. I love the thought of getting input from others though who may see my thought from a different perspective and help me think of approaches that I would never have thought about myself. I think that is why I value connecting and collaborating with others so much.

Once I have said it and asked about it, I need to take action. Talking and discussing will never make anything happen. I picture it like alphabet soup and it is nothing but letters being stirred around in a pot of soup. Stirring is not eating and no nutritional value is gained by stirring. It is a total waste of time to talk about something, work into a plan, and then do absolutely nothing with it. I see too many politicians talk in circles this way and nothing ever seems to get accomplished.

I need to think about the risks of attempting to make changes. What is the worst thing that can happen? Usually, the worst thing that can happen is a strike to my pride more than anything else. I need to ask myself if the risk worth it? It takes courage to make a change. Sometimes when we push for change, we stand alone, apart from everyone else. Everyone seems to be holding their breath waiting to see if I sink or swim. No matter what, I can feel proud that I made the attempt.

As I think about this, I wonder if this is what my students are feeling. Do I take in account that they are going through the same things that I do when I am changing my life? Whenever they learn something new, they are taking a risk. They are taking a risk by admitting that they don’t know something (and that is really hard for teenagers to do). They take the risk of not succeeding and facing ridicule by their peers (aren’t adults afraid of the same thing?). We need to make our students aware of the possibilities of success as well as the risks of failure but encourage them to give it a try.

In future posts, I plan to say the changes that I want to see happen, and ask for your input in planning these. Then I hope I will have the courage to take action and give an update here on how it turns out. Stay tuned while I say, ask, and be!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Think global, act local' by: Kevin Dooley

Monday, January 18, 2010

Balancing and Analyzing

Thanks to Kyle Dunning for sharing this great graphic with me called: College in America (see the graphic below). I found all of the statistics very interesting to see but a couple of them really bothered me more than the others.

· 1 out of 5 students fail to properly balance a checkbook.

· 1 out of 2 students fail to correctly analyze prose like news editorials.

It always bothers me when people can’t seem to manage their money. I have seen too many people get in trouble because they can’t balance a checkbook or manage their money. I hope by the time our students get into college, they will know how to use a checkbook and the scoop about credit cards. I mean, how many of us get tons of credit card applications in the mail every day? This flash tends to excite students who do not have any money. Every year, I spend a couple of weeks and we practice carefully on how to use a checkbook for our class. They take their class salary (which they get every week) and deposit it into their checking account. They write out checks for pencils, paper, breaks for water/restroom, passes to the library, time on the computer etc. Once they get used to using it and feel comfortable with it, I stop doing direct instruction on it. At the end of every month, they have to balance the checkbook and make sure that it matches the bank statement that I have (I enter their amounts in a spreadsheet at the end of every week). This is a great habit for them to get into and they learn the importance of doing this.

As for news editorials, my students think that the “squeaky wheel” must be telling the truth. They need to learn how to take this information and analyze it. This is so important especially around election time. Too many times we are teaching our students to conform and fit the mold, that we forget to teach them to think. They need to figure out what they believe in and why they believe this way. “Just because” and “they say so” is not a good enough reason. I think debates on pros and cons would help students learn how to back up their opinions. The school system needs to work on this skill more than it does. If it doesn’t, when these students get into positions of power and hold our future in their hands, we will be in big trouble.

Please look below and the graphic and enjoy! Thanks again Kyle!

College in America

Source: Online Colleges and Universities

What statistics stand out for you and what does it say to you?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/15/10

tool1 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

Educational Applications of Sketchup – I have mentioned Sketchup before but this chart really helps to put it in perspective.

Great Scavenger Hunt Contest – free contest to encourage reading;

1) To participate, your readers (called hunters) will look at the list of participating books in your collection and choose one that looks interesting. The program was designed primarily for readers age 8 to 19, with a maximum eligible age of 19.

2) The hunter reads the book, prints out and completes the associated trivia challenge, and turns it in to you to check. (Hunters may complete new trivia challenges as often as they would like. The more, the merrier!)

3) You’ll check the trivia challenge against the answer key (more on this in your confirmation email). A hunter must get at least 8 out of 10 answers correct to be eligible for the monthly contest.

4) When a hunter gets at least 8 answers correct, you will enter them in the contest via the online contest entry form. (Details on this are also in your confirmation email.)

Skype An Author Network – “The mission of the Skype an Author Network is to provide K-12 teachers and librarians with a way to connect authors, books, and young readers through virtual visits.”

This Week in Rap - “A week's worth of news, rapped. New every Friday.”

MathTrainTV – “Mathtrain.TV is a free educational "kids teaching kids" project from Mr. Marcos & his students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, CA. Mathtrain.TV was created by middle school mathematics teacher, Eric Marcos. It is part of the Project and was created to host our student-created math video lessons all in one place. It is Web 2.0 friendly with its ability for users to generate "ratings" and "comments". Our middle school students use a tablet pc and screen-capturing software, Camtasia Studio, to create the math tutorials. The site is powered by PHPmotion, a free video-sharing software.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 14, 2010

100 Essential Blog Posts for the First-Year Teacher

teaching Check out the article: 100 Essential Blog Posts for the First-Year Teacher. There is a great list of articles to read, not just for the first year teacher, but for anyone who may learn something new. They included my article on “Catch Them Doing the Right Thing.” The articles are listed in categories of Working with Students, Teaching, Classroom Management, Technology in the Classroom, Resources, Going Green in Schools, Education Reform, and The Future of Education.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'overview' by: Liz

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doing the Best I Can

As a teacher, I look at many great teachers and want to replicate what they are doing. I want to teach the way they do and have the students brag about what a great teacher I am. I want to have the enthusiasm about the subject like these great teachers do and teach it the way they do. But when it comes down to it, my personality and way of teaching can’t be done the same way as others. I need to find my own purpose. By imitating them, am I really doing what I set out to do? What is my own purpose?

bible Recently I have seen some of my friends start this program to “Read the Bible in 90 days.” At first I thought about joining because I have been trying to read the bible in one year but I am still working on it several years later. I thought if I joined the group, then I too could have the whole book finished. Then I stopped to think about my purpose. Did I really just want to read the words of the Bible in 90 days? My answer was no. I am reading it in small sections and thinking about it and really trying to comprehend what I’m reading. I think if I tried to rush it in 90 days, I would not get as much out of it as I want to. Maybe for other people this might work but I know it won’t work for me. I would be more focused on covering the assigned pages than I would be in concentrating on the meaning of the words. My purpose may be very different from others and I need to do what works for me.
I used to be really interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail as a thru hike. This means hiking all 2200 miles at one time over six months. I bought the books and planned it in my head, waiting for retirement. Over the years, we have hiked sections of it and seen a lot of the pretty places. Now that I have retired, I realize that I really don’t want to do the whole trail as a thru hike. Maybe at the time I wanted to brag to others that I could do it and go the distance. Now I look at the trail and think that I only want to do the pretty parts and enjoy it. I don’t want to brag about the hardships and the miseries but want to relish in the joys and miracles of nature. I need to do what works for me and not what other people are doing.

I think it is important to find my own purpose each day. Maybe today I will want my class to work towards one objective and maybe tomorrow it will be different. I need to figure how to mesh what is required by the school with meeting my students’ needs. This may be different in other people’s classes because their makeup is different than mine. The pace I need to go may be different than another teacher’s pace. Like fingerprints, no two classrooms will ever be the same. And even though I may teach a subject or a lesson more than once for different classes, it will never have the same results every time. If I tried too hard to imitate another teacher exactly, I would be too focused on matching the pace rather than making sure my students were achieving the desired outcome. This is not what I want my purpose to be and would feel very disillusioned and frustrated.

So even though I admire these great teachers and want so much to be like them, I need to do what I think is best. I need to make the best decisions that I can at the time and not second guess my actions. After all my training and preparation, sometimes experience is the best teacher. I might want to use some of another teacher’s strategies but I need to tailor it to my class’s needs. I might revise my actions the next time around after reflection but at this very time, I will do the best I can. And I will recognize that I am doing the best I can at that time. I’m not saying that I can’t do better or improve the next time but right now, I am doing well. This is the way I work towards having a successful experience in the classroom.

How about you? What works for you?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Bible with Cross Shadow' by: David Campbell
Original image: 'Hiker' by: Andrés E. Azpúrua

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where to Find Free Teaching Worksheets for the Classroom

worksheets Printing worksheets off the web can allow teachers to make more time to do what they do best: teach. Worksheets are also a great way to give students extra practice at home. Here are 10 websites that offer free teaching worksheets and worksheet generators.
Super Teacher Worksheets - Dedicated entirely to printables, Super Teacher Worksheets is a good place to find free worksheets for students of all ages. Covered subjects include math, reading, writing, spelling, phonics, science, and social studies.
abcteach - This site features 5,000+ free printables and worksheets as well as several custom worksheet generators. Teachers who become members of the site can also gain access to additional resources.
About Homeschooling - The Guide to Homeschooling provides a wide range of printable worksheets and projects for home use. Worksheet categories include science, geography, history, math, language arts, health and nutrition, physical education, holidays, seasons, and animals.
SchoolExpress - With more than 16,000 free worksheets, SchoolExpress is an excellent place to find free printables online. Worksheets cover a wide range of subjects, including math, reading, writing, language arts, science, social studies, and geography.
Schoolhouse Technologies - Schoolhouse Technologies sells several products for a fee, but they also offer two no-cost worksheet generators for math and vocabulary. Both generators can be downloaded for free with no strings attached.
Dad's Worksheets - Operated by a dad with two daughters, this site provides thousands of free math worksheets on nearly every topic imaginable. Dad's Worksheets also offers free graph paper and handwriting paper.
Math Fact Cafe - Math Fact Cafe offers hundreds of free, pre-made mathematics worksheets for grades 1-4. The site also provides a free worksheet builder that creates printable worksheets and answer keys.
Discovery Education - Teachers can find a wide range of science worksheets on the Discovery Education website. Worksheet categories include anatomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, general science, physics, and astronomy.
Handwriting Worksheet Maker - This simple worksheet maker can be used to create customized handwriting practice worksheets for letters, names, words, and sentences. The maker works for print and cursive worksheets.
Armored Penguin - Armored Penguin is a no frills but popular site with several free generators for students and teachers. The generators can be used to create word searches, word scrambles, crossword puzzles, and math worksheets.
Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree reviews for OnlineDegreePrograms.
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'Worksheets from this week's Thursday folder at school' by: Wesley Fryer

Monday, January 11, 2010

Blog Theft Part 2: A Learning Experience

robbed Thank you so much for the help and support you gave me about my blog theft. I started to name everyone who has commented on this blog, plurk, twitter, and facebook but there were so many, it took up half the page so I decided against it. So many of you have given me great suggestions and even went so far as to help investigate the perpetrators. Please read on to see the suggestions from Richard, the response from Hostgator, and at the end, my own response.

Here are some details that Richard was so kind to share with me. I also want to thank some others who had sent some of the same information also but his added comments also helped me and I think others would benefit from this information too.

“1. Try to determine if the person is doing it maliciously or innocently. This is important because it influences how I take my next steps. Determining this can be tricky, but generally if the blog reusing your content doesn't allow comments, uses a lot of inappropriate advertising, or uses a proxy server to register their domain they are intentionally stealing your content. In some of my cases I've had teachers/ principals reuse my content innocently because they didn't understand fair use.”
2. Run a WHOIS search using
Go Daddy (or other sites according to another email from Richard)) to see who has registered the domain. In your case the person used a proxy to hide their contact information. Legitimate bloggers don't use a proxy for registering domains. When there isn't a proxy in place it's easy to locate the contact information for the person who registered the domain.”
3. If you can't get a response from step 2, do what you've done. Publicly "out" the content thief. I've only once had to do this, but it was effective. My content was removed from the blog thief’s page.”

Hostgator response to my email:

“To file a notice of infringement with us, you must provide a written communication that sets forth the items specified below. Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your copyrights. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether material available online infringes your copyright, we suggest that you first contact an attorney.

To expedite our ability to process your request, please use the following format (including section numbers):

1. Identify in sufficient detail the copyrighted work that you believe has been infringed upon (for example, "The copyrighted work at issue is the text that appears on") or other information sufficient to specify the copyrighted work being infringed (for example, "The copyrighted work at issue is “Intellectual Property: Valuation, Exploitation, and Infringement Damages” by Gordon V. Smith, published by Wiley, ISBN #047168323X").

2. Identify the material that you claim is infringing the copyrighted work listed in item #1 above. You must identify each web page that allegedly contains infringing material. This requires you to provide the URL for each allegedly infringing result, document, or item.

An example:

Infringing Web Pages:

3. Provide information reasonably sufficient to permit us to contact you.

4. Provide information, if possible, sufficient to permit us to notify the owner/administrator of the allegedly infringing webpage or other content (email address is preferred).

5. Include the following statement: "I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law."

6. Include the following statement: "I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed."

7. Sign the paper.

8. If via postal mail, send the written communication to the following address:

HostGator LLC

Attn: Abuse Department, DMCA Complaint

11251 Northwest Freeway, Suite 400

Houston, TX 77092

United States of America

OR fax to:

(281) 476-7801, Attn: Abuse Department, DMCA Complaint

Regardless of whether we may be liable for such infringement under local country law or United States law, we may respond to these notices by removing or disabling access to material claimed to infringe and/or terminating users of our services. If we remove or disable access in response to such a notice, we will make a good-faith attempt to contact the owner or administrator of the affected site or content so that the owner or administrator may make a counter notification.

We may also document notices of alleged infringement on which we act. As with all legal notices, a copy of the notice may be made available to the public and sent to one or more third parties who may make it available to the public.

In order to ensure that copyright owners do not wrongly insist on the removal of materials that actually do not infringe their copyrights, the safe harbor provisions require service providers to notify the subscribers if their materials have been removed and to provide them with an opportunity to send a written notice to the service provider stating that the material has been wrongly removed. [512(g)]

If a subscriber provides a proper "counter-notice" claiming that the material does not infringe copyrights, the service provider must then promptly notify the claiming party of the individual's objection. [512(g)(2)] If the copyright owner does not bring a lawsuit in district court within 14 days, the service provider is then required to restore the material to its location on its network. [512(g)(2)(C)]

If it is determined that the copyright holder misrepresented its claim regarding the infringing material, the copyright holder then becomes liable to the OSP for any damages that resulted from the improper removal of the material. [512(f)]”

My thoughts and response:

After talking this over with my husband and reading the many responses I had about this, I have decided to let it go. I know that by doing this, I’m letting someone get away with stealing my stuff, but life is too short to let this blip control my life and emotions. I feel energized and inspired by the people who encouraged me to continue writing so I will keep plodding on. I realize that I was not losing any money, and this thief was not making any money from my posts so I really was not “damaged” financially, other than my feelings were hurt and I felt violated.

Yet, I learned so much from this experience. I learned that I have many friends out there who shared this hurt and were so willing to help me. I learned that many people value what I’m writing which I guess was surprising to me. I learned that obviously someone/something felt I had written something of value if it was worth stealing. I learned that blogging fulfills a need that I have to share my experience and knowledge and no one can steal that feeling from me unless I let them.

So, there aren’t words that express my appreciation to all of you who have read my blog, sent your prayers my way, and went out of the way to offer help. Thank you!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'And then, our train was robbed.' by: Joe Philipson

Friday, January 8, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/8/10

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

You Are Here – free website; “You are welcome to use the resources and activities on this site to teach kids about today’s marketplace. The site is intended for students in 5th through 8th grade and can be used to complement lessons in critical thinking, writing, language arts, media literacy, business, civics, and social studies.”

Cash Cab Quizzes – fun quizzes to use in the classroom. – “ is committed to delivering public domain literature paired with high quality audio performances. We pair together great literature and accompanying audio. Putting the text and audio together, readers can learn spelling, punctuation and paragraph structure by listening and reading masterpieces of the written word. Read and listen via your web browser or on your mp3 player. Regardless of how you enjoy the audiobooks (audio books), they are free.”

Kideos – videos for kids; “the premier destination for kids to safely watch videos online. Each video on Kideos has been screened by our Video Advisory Council before it makes it onto our site. Our goal is to empower parents to feel comfortable allowing their child to spend time on Kideos, while also making sure children have a thoroughly entertaining experience.”

Communication4all – created by a teacher who offers classroom resources to support inclusion

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Blog Has Been Robbed!

robbed Recently I found out that another blog called Mutual Education Resources is stealing my blog posts. I don’t even want to write the name of the blog here to give them advertisement but I will in case someone knows how I can get them to stop. All of the “popular posts” on the right are MINE! I don’t mind people using my posts as a starting point but this person has copied my entire posts word for word and is taking credit for it as their own! They are not even crediting me for writing the posts. I have looked all over for a way to contact the author but comments are closed and there is no contact information. I’m so steamed!

Right now I’m kind of hurt and disillusioned. First of all, I really don’t think that what I have to say is that great that someone has to copy what I say for their own. Then I wonder if this is a classroom assignment and someone is getting credit for it. Part of me doesn’t even want to write any more. But I love blogging. I shouldn’t have to stop because there is someone out there doing this.

Someone in my PLN suggested that I blog about this situation. So here I am! I hope the sorry son-of-a-gun copies this one and posts it!

From now on, I plan to sign all of my posts with a signature. I don’t know if that will help but I will give it a try. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to let me know.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'And then, our train was robbed.' by: Joe Philipson

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Step Up to the Plate

homeplate How many times have you heard the saying, “Step up to the plate? This applies to someone taking the initiative to make something happen. This is necessary for change to happen. If no one steps up to the plate, then the status quo will be the standard and most things cannot survive in eternal status quo.

In Without them

from Seth's Blog by Seth Godin, he states,

“In my experience, once it's clear you're willing (not just willing, but itching, moving, and yes, implementing) without them, things start to happen. People are rarely willing to step up and stop you, and often just waiting to follow someone crazy enough to actually do something.”

I feel that I’ve had to do this many times. I’ve had to take responsibility when no one else would do it, simply because it needed to be done. This happens a lot in my personal life. When the trash is full, I seem to be the only one that is bothered by this overflowing garbage pit so I take it out. When the dust on the furniture is thick enough to write messages on, I will dust and polish. If I don’t wash the bathrooms, they would never be done. Unfortunately no one wants to follow the yucky stuff. Yet when I’m feeling antsy to go traveling, my husband takes the responsibility for planning the trip and working out the fine details. Once he steps up to do this, I’m willing to follow and help make reservations or other things that need to be done.

Yet at school, the big joke is not to suggest any changes or you will be in charge. This causes many people to keep their mouths shut. But I think that if it is important enough to bring it up for discussion, then I should be willing to volunteer to help make the changes. Someone needs to be willing to start the change and when others see how it will benefit, hopefully they will follow.

Over the years, I’ve been cheerleader coach and over student council. I’ve also been advisor over an assortment of clubs. But it seems like every year, there is always someone who is willing to criticize my actions or ideas under the guise of “offering advice.” I want to pull my hair out and tell them that they should do the job first and then offer me this advice. Until they walk in my shoes, they don’t realize the time, the commitment and the frustrations that it entails. It is easy to be on the sidelines looking in and deciding that certain actions need to take place. Yet, on the field, it is a totally different ballgame.

I admit that I have been guilty of being the one on the sidelines offering advice. I have to keep reminding myself that it is different when you are the person in charge. There are a lot of things happening in the background that I don’t know about and probably never will. I need to remember how it feels to be the one willing to take the risks while others are discouraging.

I feel that it is so important to be willing to jump in and get involved. That is the only way that change will happen. For example, just this Sunday, I asked my pastor why the sermons weren’t uploaded on the church’s website. As a frequent traveler, it would be great to be able to go on the website and listen to that week’s sermon that I missed. She looked stunned and said that they hadn’t gotten to that point yet but it sounded good. Then I offered to help when they did get to that point. I’m not an expert but I am willing to help make it happen. I wonder if anyone else had thought about doing this or wished it would happen. Surely I’m not the only one who has thought of this. Yet, maybe my offer to help will be an impetus to make it happen. I don’t know but we will see.

Over the years I have listened, read, and watched education pundits discuss change but only a few of them are willing to take action. Just as in basketball, a player has to take the shot in order to make it. Sure, there will be some misses, but there also may be some three point successes. But if the attempt was never made, the success would never happen. People need to be willing not only to step up to the plate but also realize that some failures may occur. These do not need to end the process but need to be considered an opportunity to fine tune and improve the attempts. Eventually, with the support of all who step up to the plate, the attempts will be successful.

What have you done lately to step up to the plate? What would you like to see happen that you would be willing to step up to the plate?

Original image: 'Baseball Home Plate' by: Keith Macke

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What’s Next?

next In A Matter of Intertia from Teacher Food by Mike Rush, he states,

“Good teachers ride a wave of momentum: their eye constantly on what's next, the next lesson, the next materials needed. She told us about how on the last day of school, teachers sit in their cars trying to think of what's next when all they really need to do is turn the key and go home.”

After reading this, I realized how true that is. I am always looking at the big picture and what I need to do next. I work towards a certain project and once the students begin it, my mind is racing to the next project.

I do so much preparation for each project and I really enjoy it. I like to write down the steps I need to follow in order to reach the point that my students are able to complete the project. I write down everything even if it is minor so I don’t take anything for granted. First, I basically brain storm all the steps and don’t worry about the order. As I think I things I don’t want to forget, I write them down. Then I prioritize all the steps once I think I have written down everything. After prioritizing, I go from one step to the next, making sure that the previous step will bring me to the next step. If it doesn’t, I need to add something there. All of this planning involves lots of research. I like to use the internet, the library, any books I have in my home, and other people who might have done something like this before. I may talk to people in person or I may just phone them. By using Twitter and Plurk, I have lots of people resources at my fingertips. Once I ask if anyone has done a project like I’m planning, I am able to talk to them about it. They are able to tell me things I might have missed or things they would avoid. This is essential to me in order to have a successful lesson. They may be able to add dimensions to the lesson that I hadn’t even considered.

I like to develop files of projects that were successful. Then I can use them in future years and add to them. If there is something that didn’t go well or it doesn’t fit my class structure, then I delete that part. Sometimes these files can be an inspiration for a different project.

Each summer I look for opportunities for new lessons. I try to be open minded so that I can find some new topics that may interest my students. If I can find a topic that interests them, I can adapt it to match the standards that are required for instruction. At the end of the year, I have each class fill out an evaluation about my program. I have them write the topics that they enjoyed, didn’t enjoy, or what they wish I had taught. This is also useful in future planning. One year we did a three month unit on dinosaurs because it was a common wish across many evaluations. Since my students wanted to learn more about it, they were more engaged in the lessons. Of course I didn’t let on that they were learning English, Math, Science, and Social Studies at the same time!

I think this constant looking forward is what keeps me motivated and inspired. I think this year I will spend a month studying a new topic on my own. I will read lots of information and take lots of notes because one day this may come in handy. The day that I’m looking forward is the day that I have given up. There is always something new to share with my students! I just need to find a way that will excite and interest them. Once I can do that, I will have a successful lesson on my hands.

Original image: 'Time Spiral' by: Alexandre Duret-Lutz

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 Photo A Day Project

In 2009, I decided to join in the Flickr group that involves taking a photo a day (PAD). I learned a lot about myself in doing this. It was also fun trying to choose the best picture I took that day. Even my husband got involved and helped me look for things. My pictures are in my Flickr set: 2009/365.

I started to look at things in a way that I hadn’t done before. I took a lot of scenery pictures and realized that I needed to get closer. I know that most of my scenery pictures will turn out great but my close ups don’t always do that. They turn out blurry or the color is not right. Then I realized that sometimes I lead my life in the same way. I like to step back and look at the scenery of life instead of getting closer. By getting closer, it means getting committed, being more involved, and taking risks.

I also enjoyed looking at all the pictures of the year because it brought back great memories. Some things I had forgotten and it helped to remind me about some of the good things that have happened.

I learned that I need to lots of photos so that I can choose one out of the bunch. If I only take one that is the only choice I have. Again, that is the way I live my life and maybe I need to branch out. I need to take advantage of more opportunities which involves getting committed, being more involved, and taking risks.

Somehow I got the numbering messed up or I missed some days. I don’t know how all of them aren’t in this group but maybe I forgot to add them. I think I only missed three days so I’m pretty proud of myself.

I will be doing this project again in 2010 at the group: 2010/365 photos. I have some ideas for monthly themes for myself and I hope to be better organized. I have a spreadsheet that I will fill out with the title of each day’s photo so I can keep up with them. I also have a folder that I will keep them in. Maybe this will help me this year and I can actually have one for every day. If you want to give it a try, come join us!

Here is a Flickr sideshow of all my pictures from 2009. Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

NewYear Happy New Year to all my family and friends!

I hope 2010 brings you lots of joy and happiness.

Original image: 'Fountain of Color'