Monday, January 31, 2011

I Didn’t Do My Homework

homework In Accepting Late Homework – They’re Twelve! from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam asks,

“So, what do you think about accepting late work?”

I definitely accept late work and in fact I insist on getting it turned in.

I found that my students had gotten in the habit of not doing their work and accepting a bad grade. When I pursued this train of thought further, I found out that usually the student got frustrated with the work and decided he would rather get a zero than try to do it and fail anyway. I think it was also a defense mechanism so no one would see that they couldn’t do an assignment and didn’t want to ask for help.

My policy was that if you didn’t do your homework, you would have to do it during your lunch time in my classroom with me and you lose 20 points off your grade. The students were allowed to bring their lunch to my classroom and eat while they worked. I also notified all of the parents about my homework policy and asked that they support me in this so that their child could be more successful and I never had a parent that didn’t stand behind me.

Students pushed me and didn’t think I would enforce this but I did. At first there were many students who had to pay this penalty. Finally, they learned that they would have to do the work anyway so they might as well do it at home and get full credit for it.

At the beginning of the year, there was a battle of wills and usually the student refused to do it at lunch. I did not get in a passionate argument with the student and just told them that they had to call a parent right then and explain to the parent why they didn’t do their homework and why they refused to do it during lunch. At this point, usually the student decided it would be best to show up at lunch time.

Eventually, the students were able to see that their grades were better than they expected. We would spend some time talking about things that affected their grades and how accepting a zero would have impacted their total grade. They also were able to see that their effort and willingness to try made an impact on their grade also.

Usually after the first couple of months, most of my students did their homework on a regular basis. They did not want to lose their social time with their friends and they knew that they would have to do it anyway. I encouraged them to ask me for help rather than be discouraged. All of the students had my home phone number and was encouraged to call if there were problems.

One time I had to explain adding unlike fractions to my student over the phone and his mother was on the other line learning how to do it also! She said she didn’t know how to do this but if she had, they would not have needed to bother me. I felt like we showed the student that we were a team working towards his success.

I think by allowing students to get away with not doing the work and giving them a zero is a cop out by the student and the teacher. By doing this, I am sending the wrong message to the students. I am saying it is okay to take the easy way out rather than to struggle and accomplish something. I am also telling them that I don’t feel they are worth the effort to push them to succeed. If students think I feel that way, they won’t try at all and the time in my classroom is just a waste of time.

What do you think? How do you feel about accepting late work?

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

Original image: 'The Joys Of Homework' by: Bart

Friday, January 28, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/28/11

tools1 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!

The Differentiated Lesson Planner – “The Differentiated Lesson Planner will guide you through the process of designing differentiated, engaging lessons for your heterogeneous class. It helps you structure your lesson design around the three major components of differentiation: readiness level, student interest and learning style. Questions will spark your thinking about how these components apply to your content, process and product. By weaving connections to recommended lists you’ll develop creative, effective ideas for teaching anything!”

Snip Snit It You chose the part of a YouTube video that you want to share. Insert it in this site and you will get a new link to share just your favorite part.

Global Issues Interactive Guides – very fascinating and engaging about many different issues.

Future Me – write an email to yourself to be delivered in the future. This would be great for people working on goals or expectations or maybe a word of encouragement at difficult times to come.

eSkeletons – “provides an interactive environment in which to examine and learn about skeletal anatomy. The purpose of this site is to enable you to view the bones of both human and non-human primates and to gather information about them from our osteology database.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Change of Heart - A Book Review

Change-of-Heart31k I recently read the book Change of Heart by Shari Maurer which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would give this book 5 out of 5. I thought it was a great book with realistic relationships and feelings. I think it would be great novel to use in a high school class and I think both boys and girls would find this interesting. This novel is about a high school girl needing a heart transplant and the relationship struggles she has during this time. I thought it dealt with the concept of organ donors and transplants very tastefully. It also delves into how a transplant would affect relationships with others including parents, siblings, best friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, and even doctors. Both boys and girls would be able to share their feelings about the relationship. It also touches on the support needed by the person who is going through a situation like this and would open up the possibilities for our young people to realize that there may be someone in their life that may need this support. I would highly recommend this for the school library as well as a classroom study.

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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 1/26/11

carnival1 Another edition of the Education Buzz Life’s A Carnival – State of the Union Edition is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Bring Parents Back Into the Schools is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

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

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

The Importance of Stretching

stretch My goal for this year is to lose 30 lbs and I figure I have 12 months to do it so this should be attainable. I have started to exercise and walk on the treadmill regularly. One of the main things that everyone tells me is that I need to stretch before I exercise. It is good for my muscles and will help me from being so sore later. Before athletic events, people are always stretching first. Even during the Olympics, the world watched athletes stretch before the competitions.

This had me wondering about how I stretch before teaching and I realize that teachers do this in many different ways. Some teachers drink coffee, some may meditate, some may even pray!

I loved to get to school very early before anyone else showed up. I liked my quiet time in the classroom to mentally prepare for my day. I would make sure all of my lessons were ready and that the material was available. I would do a run through of the lesson in my mind to make sure that I hadn’t forgotten anything. I would also go through the day in my mind to make sure that I remembered any meetings or changes in the schedule. I wanted to be prepared for the day so that my students would have confidence in me.

Some teachers like to meet with colleagues before the day starts. Maybe they need the camaraderie to feel supported. Some people like to meet with colleagues after the day is over to recap the day. In a way, this is like stretching after the event.

Do I encourage my students to stretch? Do I give them time to do this before jumping in our lessons?

I like to start off the class with a 5 minute exercise. What I have found works best is having the students write in a journal. They can write about their day yesterday, how their day is today, what they want to do tomorrow or anything they feel like writing about. I also post a quote for the day on the board and sometimes the students want to respond to that. It doesn’t matter what they write about but it must make sense and contain at least 5 complete sentences. I do not count off for spelling in this assignment.

During this time, I’m able to take care of any “housekeeping” items and talk to individual students if necessary.

This helps the student transition from their previous class into mine. Sometimes the students have problems with their peers and this helps them vent their anger and frustrations. It helps them get in the right frame of mind before I try to teach them a new skill.

When I first started this, I was not sure if it would be effective. Boy, was I surprised how well it worked!

Some teachers like to put up math problems or an independent assignment pertaining to their subject area. Some call it bellringers or other names but I think all of them are great stretching exercises.

Do you have your students stretch? If so, what kinds of things do you have them do? Please share!

Original Image: ‘Stretching’ by: tobyotter

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Cleaning Tips

organized I’m sure you have heard of Spring Cleaning but what about winter cleaning? Who says you only clean once a year? I have a closet that stores my seasonal clothes. In the fall, I switch out my fall/winter clothes and store my spring/summer clothes. In the spring, I switch again. That works for me and it helps me see what needs to be discarded or kept.

The same thing needs to be done in the classroom. At the beginning of the year I’m usually too busy and overwhelmed to do much sorting. I’m trying to get to know the students and plan my lessons. During the first half of the year, I notice that my classroom can get a cluttered look. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas tend to cause my focus to be on other things than the organization of my class.

January is a great time to reevaluate the materials and lessons for my class. I can’t tell you how many things that have been given to me that I think I might use and then never use them. I also realized that students were useful in helping and there can be many teachable moments doing this. Here is a list of things that I do in January and sometimes my students can help me do this also.

1. Holiday materials need to be stored in appropriate containers and stored so they can be found next year.

2. Sort through any games the students use. If they are missing parts, decide if I want to save the game and buy more parts or just discard the game. There is no use keeping a game that can’t be used.

3. Decide if bookshelves can be organized in a different way to be more effective in the classroom. Students love to help organize bookshelves. Once I decided to put my library in alphabetical order according to author, the students really stepped up and helped me.

4. If there is something that I haven’t used the past year, then I need to pass it on to someone who can use it so it is not being wasted. If no one wants it, then it is time to get rid of it.

5. I also need to look at the lessons I use that were very effective and file them so they can be found again when I need them.

6. I also like to look at the room arrangement. At the beginning of the year, the arrangement may have worked because the students didn’t know each other. Now I need to see if there is a better arrangement to make teaching and learning better.

7. Ask students for ideas for organizing the room and materials. Sometimes they might have a good idea and having a say in their classroom may help them feel like they have control over their environment.

8. Talk to other teachers about organizational tips that work in their classroom. I might pick up a tip that works well in my classroom. Ziploc bags and clear plastic tubs help me find things that I need when I need them.

Do you have special organization/cleaning tips that can be included? Please share!

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

Original image: Organized! by katybeck

Monday, January 24, 2011

Helpful Checklist

checklist In A Good Thought from Educationally Minded by Anthony Purcell, he shares,

“Yesterday was a great day! I had a different student sitting next to me working (it is mandatory he sits next to me). He does not stay on task very well and does not want to write the math problems down.”

Again I am reminded of a checklist that I had for students. I liked for them to do a lot of self monitoring and I think once they learned the process, they could see how it helped them. I spent too much time doing the “housekeeping” chores which took away a lot of teaching time. Too many times I had to ask them to write their name on their papers, put the page number of the work they completed, and other things that I required them to do. Finally I made up a checklist that they had to complete before they asked for help or turned their paper in. At the bottom of the paper they had to write the statement, “ I completed the checklist – (signature of student)” and if they wrote that without actually completing the checklist, they had to copy the whole checklist down.


1. Name is on the paper.

2. Page number is written on the paper.

3. Class Motto is written.

4. Complete Sentences are used.

5. Work is shown for all math problems.

If the student completes the checklist, I’m not wasting time asking them to do routine tasks. By following this checklist, it also puts some responsibility back on the student instead of on the teacher. I no longer have to argue with the student about doing simple tasks that do not need explanation. I also explain this very carefully to the students so they understand why they are doing things like this.

At first the student will write the ending statement and sign it without actually following the checklist. But I stand fast and consistently have them copy the checklist down if they fail to follow it. This does not have to happen too often before they learn to follow it. The key is that I am consistent and fair with this rule. I do not let anyone have a second chance, even if they beg for it. They learn quickly that this simple checklist is not to be ignored.

Using a checklist like this can help both the teacher and the student be successful in the classroom. It enables the teacher to be more effective in the classroom and helps the student be more independent.

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

Original image: 'checklist complete' by: ▄█▀▐█▌█▄▐█▌

Friday, January 21, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/21/11

tools2 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!

Ascent – Commemorating Shuttle – “This compilation of film and video presents the best of the best ground-based Shuttle motion imagery from STS-114, STS-117, and STS-124 missions. Rendered in the highest definition possible, this production is a tribute to the dozens of men and women of the Shuttle imaging team and the 30yrs of achievement of the Space Shuttle Program.”

Quiz Snack – “QuizSnack is the most easy to use online poll & survey tool, allowing you to create and conduct market questionnaires without having to learn complicated software. Also, the reporting is very simple and straightforward, with results being displayed in real-time.”

Yummy Math – “We provide teachers and students with mathematics relevant to our world today…and it’s delicious.”

Many Eyes – “You can explore data using your eyes! This site is set up to allow the entire internet community to upload data, visualize it, and talk about their discoveries with other people.”

Adventure Maker – free download; The World's easiest way to create point-and-click games and virtual tours for Windows, PSP, iPhone, and iPod touch!”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Note taking 101

notes Years ago, when I was in high school, my note taking consisted of copying every word the teacher said. I didn’t really comprehend anything but I was writing it all down. Then when I got home, I would reread the information, and underline the important things. What a lot of time was wasted by doing it this way. The reason I did this was because no one taught me to take notes. I remember that teachers expected me to take notes but no one really told me how to do this. It was assumed that I would know how to do this. When I went on to college, I basically took notes the same way until a friend borrowed my notes and told me how much time I wasted doing this and that there was a better way.

Recently I have seen some plurk and twitter messages as well as other complaints about students taking notes in class. Some teachers are complaining that the students aren’t taking notes and others complain about the notes that are taken.

I decided that my students needed to learn about note taking, why we take them, and the different ways to take notes. Just because I like taking notes a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the best way for all students. In fact, some of my students even taught me different ways to take notes that I never thought of doing.

So here is a little process that I use but can be adjusted and modified to meet the needs of my students.

1. Discuss what note taking is and why we take notes.

2. First I start off with guided notes where I leave out key concepts and words and the student fills in the blanks from the lecture, movie, text, etc.

3. Next we look at the guided notes and review the answers. We also discuss why these notes were taken and not others.

4. Then we talked about different ways to take notes. Here are some note taking strategies:

a. You can summarize key concepts in your own words.

b. You want to write down any words in bold or ones the teacher writes on the board. Definitions are important.

c. Fold your paper so that 1/3 is folded the length of the paper. During class, record your notes on the right (larger side). When you review your notes, summarize, or jot important points down on the left (the smaller side).

d. Record important concepts. Then go back and map them out to show connections.

e. Student suggestion: draw a picture of what is happening.

5. Then I found an interesting article that appealed to most of my students and had them take notes in the best way they thought would help them.

6. Some of the students actually tried one way and when it was too hard or confusing for them, they tried a different way.

7. After everyone was done, I let them compare their notes. If the class was large, I broke them into smaller groups with at least one person who tried each strategy. I noticed that some of them explained why they picked that strategy and why it worked for them. I also allowed some of them to add to their notes from what they learned from others.

8. I asked them to review their notes for homework.

9. The next day, I asked questions about the article and did not let them look at their notes. Many of them were able to answer most of the questions. I think they were able to see the connection between note taking and success in the classroom.

I don’t feel that my lesson in note taking should end there. In the beginning, I usually tried to have them practice their note taking skills this way with at least one of the content lessons each week. As the year went on, they needed less practice and became quite proficient at it.

Since I taught a special education class, I was always thrilled when one of my students would come to class laughing because they had better note taking skills then their friends in general education classes. As a college bound student back in the late 70s, I would have loved for someone to have taken the time to teach me to take notes.

Do you have any suggestions to help students learn note taking skills? Please share!

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

Original image: 'Nanocast-VideoCall with CEO Jennifer Cooper' by: Brajeshwar Oinam

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Giving Children Responsibility

students When my children were growing up, they had certain responsibilities. They had to make up their bed, fold their clothes, keep their rooms neat and whatever was appropriate for their age.

I believe that giving children responsibilities not only teaches them to be independent but it is also a way to show them that you trust them. You trust that they can do what is asked and do it to the best of their ability.

I have talked with many parents and I’m always surprised when they tell me that their child does not have any responsibilities at home. By not having any, I think the child is getting the wrong message. Even if a child has a disability, many are capable of small responsibilities. In fact, if they are capable, it can go a long way to improving their self esteem. Of course, they may fuss and protest about having these responsibilities, but I think later in life they will appreciate this learning experience.

I feel the same thing applies in the classroom. Students should have certain responsibilities in my classroom. This shows that I trust them to help me as well.

Each student was assigned duties that lasted the whole week. I had one student designated with taking attendance and letting me know who was absent. Another student would collect homework and let me know who did not have it. One student was responsible for answering the phone if it rang so I was not interrupted during teaching unless it was necessary. This student had a script to follow which was near the phone to help them. I even had one student who was responsible for letting me know 5 minutes before the end of class so that we could finish up and do what was necessary before they left.

All of these things were minor to me but it really freed me up to be a more effective teacher. Plus the students enjoyed having these responsibilities. The tasks can be different according to the age that you teach but all students on all levels need these responsibilities.

Here are some other articles I have found on this subject:

Classroom Jobs for Elementary School Students

A Classroom Job for Every Child

Classroom Jobs

Classroom Jobs for All Your Student Helpers

I believe that by assigning duties to students, I will be helping them be more successful during the school year and in the future.

Do you have your students do certain things in your classroom like this? If so, please share. I might find a new job assignment that I had not thought of before.

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

Original image: '9:15 AM-Students Reading and Working on Seatwork' by: Judy Baxter

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Swing Cafe - A Book Review

swing_cafe I recently read the book Swing CafĂ© by Carl Norac • illustrations by Rebecca Dautremer • narration by Bebel Gilberto and David Francis which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would give this book 4 out of 5. This book was rich in culture and music but it really needed the CD to make it a good read. First I read the story and noticed how wonderful the illustrations popped off the pages. I had trouble blending the story easily when I was reading it but when I listened to the CD, it all blended easily together.

I loved the narrator’s accent on the CD which made the story come alive. The story was also enhanced by the music that accompanied the story. I think this story could be used in a classroom to introduce culture, geography, new vocabulary (lots of wonderful rich vocabulary throughout the story), music, friendship, dance, travel, and social skills. I think this would be a nice book for young children to read and listen to but I also think it would work for older elementary grades too because of the richness of culture and music throughout the story. Even as an adult, I enjoyed the story and music so I think middle school and high school would benefit just from listening to the CD along with the book.

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Blogging and Teaching Connection

bloggingIn Blogging v. teaching from Dangerously Irrelevant , Scott McLeod shares,

“Blogging, then, whether in graduate schools or kindergartens - in elite universities or slum schools - binds all of us together. In blogging we display our views of knowledge and learning, we advertise our ideas, how we reason, and how we struggle with moral choices whether we intend to or not. To blog is to enlist in a technical, morally based vocation...

Edubloggers, do you see blogging as an extension of your teaching? If not, should you?

On the flip side, do you see teaching as an extension of your blogging?”

I couldn’t resist answering these questions but I had to take some time to think about how I felt.

I believe that blogging and teaching go hand in hand for me. After three years of blogging, I can’t imagine both not existing together and that is why I work towards encouraging other teachers to blog.

I have seen how blogging helps me reflect on my teaching practices. By writing about the process I used, I can see what worked or didn’t work and see why. It helped me see the purpose of doing things a certain way and allowed me to see the flexibility in changing things. I was able to see similarities in things that worked and was able to apply this to other lessons in order to be more successful. So I guess in this way, I see blogging as an extension of my teaching.

Yet, when I am blogging, I am usually talking about a specific topic which in turn motivates me to try different things with my teaching. When others comment on my blog, the conversation usually inspires me to do more. I also clarify my thoughts and beliefs about teaching through my blogging which in turn makes my teaching techniques more effective. I think if I had blogged many years ago, I would have been a better teacher which is why I try to encourage my students in my graduate classes to blog. I want them to see the benefits of blogging too. In this way, I see my teaching as an extension of my blogging.

How do you feel about this? Please share your thoughts.

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

Original image: 'Two Bloggers, after Norman Rockwell' by: Mike Licht

Friday, January 14, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/14/11

tools2Here 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!

Book Flavor – a visual search engine for books

Scrub Club – “a fun, interactive and educational Web site ( that teaches children the proper way to wash their hands. The site consists of a Webisode interactive games, educational music, downloadable activities for kids, educational materials for teachers and program information for parents.”

Icyte – an online bookmark and citing tool; free for educators and students

UJAM - is a cloud-based platform that empowers everybody to easily create new music or
enhance their existing musical talent and share it with friends.

The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators – “In this book there introductions to more than six dozen web tools for K-12 teachers. Additionally, you will find sections devoted to using Skype with students, ESL/ELL, blogging in elementary schools, social media for educators, teaching online, and using technology in alternative education settings.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Emergency Handling

In Poltergeist XV from Learn Me Good, Mister Teacher talks about a situation that occurred where he had to evacuate his students from his classroom. He shares,

“So this brings us to today's wild panicked exodus. My class was going well. We had just read a Reader's Theater out of the book. We were mixing math and reading, discussing the fractions we had seen in the little play. Suddenly and without warning, one wall seemed to explode with a horrendous sound. It was like an elephant was right outside the classroom, hitting an extended G flat to warn its troop of danger from intruding poachers. At the same time -- and this sound lasted 15 or 20 seconds at least -- a huge cloud of white smoke billowed forth from the HVAC unit. It was like the Smoke Monster from Lost had come to attack, and it hadn't even appeared to me in the form of dead loved ones. I pray to God that it was just steam, and not some kind of toxic gas. Unless I wind up getting super powers out of it, and then it's ok.”

This brought back a couple of memories of emergency situations that I have been in at home and in the classroom. I am terrible at dealing with emergencies and I’m so glad my husband and my paraprofessionals are level headed.

Many years ago I taught a high school self contained special education class in a portable. In fact, mine was the only portable at the school. Now, I’m sure you are saying how awful that is but we didn’t mind. We loved it! In fact, I taught in the portable 11 years there even though they wouldn’t let me plant flowers around it because it was not a permanent fixture. Usually administrators stayed away (they were afraid we might complain about the conditions or maybe they just forgot about us) and left us alone to do what we needed to do. This portable was very old and over the years I had complained and they had to make needed repairs. In fact, one year I could see the grass outside in the one inch gap between the wall and the floor. The final straw was when a mouse came up to look back at me. I sat in the principal’s office refusing to teach under those conditions so the maintenance guys came out. They said they had to run cables underneath to make the box square again because it was about to fold up like a house of cards. The floor was also weak in places and they made me mark the floor with Xs so they could put cinder blocks under those weak places. But all this wasn’t the emergency.

The emergency happened when one day, two of the long fluorescent light fixtures dropped down out of the ceiling. We immediately got the students out of the room but not before I grabbed my laptop and purse! We ran out in the midst of smoke and the smell of something burning!

We spent the rest of the day in the library while maintenance fixed the problem. The reason we had a problem was that it had rained the day before and the roof was flooded with water making the ceiling droop. They got the water off, fixed the light fixture, and covered my whole portable roof with the biggest blue tarp you have ever seen. They tied the tarp down to my huge flower pots that I had situated on the corners of the portable. Oh, they put 4x4 wood beams around the room inside to prop up the ceiling. I taught around these beams and tarp for about 3 years until I finally transferred to another school closer to my home. Needless to say, teaching in the portable lended itself to lots of excitement over the years.

The other big emergency we had happened at home. I’m not exactly proud of how I handled myself at the time. My husband was watching TV on the couch (with his eyes closed of course!). My wonderful dog woke him up when the oil furnace caught on fire. The house was filled with smoke! In fact, the smoke was from the top of our cathedral ceiling down to the couch so my husband rushed in the bedroom and woke me up. Immediately I grabbed what I guess I thought were the most important things to me besides my husband and rushed out of the house. Imagine my surprise when the firemen got there and I looked down to see that in one hand was the dog and in the other was my grade book! My husband was so mad that I didn’t grab wallets or pictures or anything else besides my grade book! We still laugh about that to this day. I guess I had always been drilled that losing my grade book equals loss of my job so I’m really glad when we started doing our grades online! What a relief. Now if I ever have another fire, I can forget about the grade book and actually grab the wallets!

My suggestions to all teachers are to think about your specific situation and make a plan for an emergency evacuation. Even though the school has a fire drill plan, think about what to do if it only applies to your situation and make an individual plan. Plan on who does what and gets what things out with you. At one school, we even had an emergency bag near the door with information, attendance sheets, pencil, first aid supplies in it which was great. At home, we have copies of important documents, and emergency money plus whatever else we decided was important in an emergency bag. We know to grab this bag if we need to evacuate our house.

What are your plans for an emergency? Do you have any other suggestions that would be good to share?

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

Original image: 'KF&RS Dennis Fire Engine' by: Ken

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 1/12/11

carnival2Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Leaving Quality Comments is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

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

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Bring Parents Back Into the Schools

parentsIn the article, School Tells Special Needs 7-Year-Old His Parents Can't Walk Him To Class from's Education Blog , Megan Cottrell tells the story about a 7 year old boy with Asperger's syndrome. At first the school let the parents walk him to class and he stopped suffering from the severe separation anxiety that he felt. Later the principal stopped allowing this because other parents complained. There was no mention of any kind of disruption or problems with the parents.

Now this brings up one of my favorite pet peeves and I hope this won’t turn into a rant. But I feel we need more parent involvement in schools to help turn the education system around. I’m not talking about allowing parents to disrupt schools or disregard the safeguards we have to keeping schools safe. But let’s not hide behind these two reasons to keep reasonable caring parents out of the schools.

Let’s go back in time to when I was in school. (Yes, they had school way back then!) I remember lots of parent involvement in the classroom. We had classroom parents who helped out and did special things for us when I was in elementary school. In junior high and high school I remember seeing parent volunteers as hall monitors, school nurse aides, library aides, and even bathroom monitors to make sure no one smoked in the bathroom (yes, we even had that problem in the dark ages!) There was no telling where a parent would turn up. And boy, did we watch our behavior and language while we were in school because you were never sure if your own parent might be around the corner.

I have worked in schools where parent involvement was encouraged and I loved it. I had parents coming in to help my students read. I also had parents offer to run papers off for me and organize my non-confidential papers. I also loved having parents as chaperones for field trips.

I have worked in schools where parent involvement was discouraged. What a disservice we have done for our students! I was told that an administrator would have to approve any parent involved in my classroom and no parents were allowed to go on field trips with us.

I am always concerned when a school does not want a parent to see what goes on during the school day. As a taxpayer, I think they have a right to observe. I understand for safety and security that they must check in with an administrator and even possibly make an appointment. Of course, all of my parents knew that they were welcome in my classroom at any time but they did need to call an administrator to get approval. In fact, they never needed to notify me ahead of time if the administrator approved it because I never acted or taught in any way that I should worry who saw what was going on.

My husband mentioned that Hitler did the same thing with the youth. He discouraged the parents from being a part of the education system. He wanted the government to control and raise the children. I hope our government is not encouraging this train of thought and if it is, we need to rise up and stand against it. I think parents should insist that they be a part of their child’s schooling.

Here are some reasons why I think it would be beneficial for parents to be involved in the school:

1. Parents need to see how students behave in the school setting.

2. Parents would go home and warn their child not to act like some of the students they had seen.

3. Some students would behave better because they may know the parent present.

4. Parents would better see what the school needs and actually become an advocate for the school.

5. Parents would better understand the needs of the teacher and be able to offer support.

6. Parents might have some suggestions that may actually help the classroom or the school.

7. Parents would be able to share the positive things they see going on in the school and not just hear about the negative things in the news.

8. Parents make great volunteers and who couldn’t use an extra pair of hands, eyes, or tutors!

How do you feel about parent involvement in the schools? Do you allow it at your school? Tell why or why not. Please share!

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

Original image: '42-15650295' by: Elk City Oklahoma

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Day Preparations

021Yesterday was the day of the big storm. We knew it was coming because it has been on the news for days. Actually all this anticipation and excitement made me glad when it finally snowed. While we sat at home watching it snow, I was able to catch up on reading the blogs in my Google Reader. One that caught my interest was

The Power of Nature from Educationally Minded by Anthony Purcell. He talks about how weather has impacted his life as a child and also as a grown up. He shares,

“… I wanted to share some stories of the power of nature and how it has played in my life.”

He talks about the things that happened during a storm when he was a student and how he had to call his mom when he got home from school.

In anticipation of the snow, my husband and I went out yesterday and bought a generator, just in case the power went out. We also keep flashlights by our bed just in case we have no lights. We know where the candles are too just in case we want more light in the rooms. We have a lot of “just in case” stuff around because we like to be prepared.

All of this had me thinking about preparing my students. I have never done anything to really prepare them for storms. What I do are things I’ve read about, heard about and learned over the years. I’m not sure that I speak about this enough with my students. Like fire drills, this might need to be discussed often so that it becomes ingrained and second nature. I need to make sure that I impart this knowledge to my students.

Here are some things I would share with my students:

1. Know where your flashlights are in case you need them.

2. Make sure your flashlights work.

3. Know where your breaker box is in case you need to shut off the power to your house.

4. Know how to cut the water off to your house in case a water pipe bursts.

5. Know where your warm weather gear is before you have a need for it.

6. Clear off entry ways to your house so when you come and go, you won’t slip and fall.

7. Know where emergency numbers are located.

8. Have a plan of action in case something happens and an adult is not at home.

9. Prepare to have some emergency food available (granola bars, cereal, cookies, candy, bread, milk etc. )

10. Have a place designated to meet in case you get separated from members of your family.

What things would you want your students to know in case of emergency? Please share in case I missed some things.

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

Original Image: Snow storm by Pat Hensley

Monday, January 10, 2011

Capturing the Memories

Over the Christmas holidays, we visited with my 91 year old dad and 85 year old stepmom in Florida. Both are still very active and my dad cooked Chinese food for us every night. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but I finally filmed my dad cooking with him giving me instructions along the way. I couldn’t wait to use Windows Live Movie Maker and piece it all together and put it up on YouTube. Now my sister in NY and my niece and nephew and friends can all see him in his favorite element. My sister, due to her illness, has been unable to visit my father and has not seen him in action for years. She was thrilled to see him cooking which I’m sure brought back many memories of us growing up. I wish that I had done this before my mother had passed away. I think of all the years I have wasted and not done this. Well, I can’t make up for lost time but at least I can start now.

Here are the two that I posted if you are interested: Cooking Chinese Turnips and Cooking Tofu and Snow Peas with Chicken.

I think this will also be a great way to pass down some of his cooking techniques. I found it interesting that he slipped in a story about when he first came from China and caused an incident in his father’s restaurant. He didn’t have knowledge of the English language and used profanity which caused a waitress to storm out and luckily two prostitutes who were customers donned some aprons and helped him out.

I want to suggest that you find some of your elderly family members and talk to them. Have them tell you stories. Ask them if they would mind if you film them because you don’t want to forget their stories and you want to share it with younger generations. These people have such rich stories to tell of their youth and their life and we don’t appreciate it enough. Of course, it may take more than one visit for them to warm up and feel comfortable talking so be patient.

I was afraid to try Movie Maker and finally bit the bullet and gave it a try. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use. It was on my computer so it didn’t cost me anything so you might have some movie program on your computer too. I just used the video function on my digital camera. I started and stopped taping so there were many pieces that I just joined together as one. I was able to add a title screen, captions, and even credits.

I think this would be an easy and fun lesson to do with students. Have them tape a story told by their parents or relatives. If their family member doesn’t want to be filmed, film the student telling the story. Then have them use the program to edit their movie.

Now I can’t wait to get back to Florida to visit my dad for more cooking lessons. I told him that he has to live to be over 100 because I have lots of plans for filming and he is the star!

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

Friday, January 7, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/7/10

tools1Here 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!

The Science of Football – “NBC Learn,  in partnership with the National Science Foundation and National Football League,  unravels the science behind professional football.  For lesson plans and activities,  visit Lessonopoly.”

A Home for the Future – tour a virtual solar powered home

US National Parks – found on fotopedia (a collaborative photo encyclopedia) showing photos of national parks.

Guardian 2010 Year in Review – Pictures of events in 2010; there is a link here for you to build your own year in review.

Data Store – “Data journalism has become an increasingly big part of our work here at the Guardian - from Wikileaks to government spending, it's our job to make the key data accessible and easy to understand”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jump Out of an Airplane or Check out the NWP – You Choose

writing(I first heard about the National Writing Project on Sioux’s Page. I have her blog in my Google Reader because I enjoy reading what she has to say, so if you get a chance, please check it out. Of course, her comments made me curious about this project and I asked her to write a guest post about it for me. Thank you Sioux!! So here is what she writes…)

Life changing, for sure. Re-energizing. As exhilarating as skydiving, and a heck of a lot less dangerous. That’s what the National Writing Project is…

Ten years ago I took a break from teaching summer school, and applied to be part of the Summer Institute (SI) at one of the Missouri sites (Gateway Writing Project). The Summer Institute is the core of the local National Writing Project programs. It’s an intensive class---lasting between four and five weeks and resulting in 6 graduate credits---but there are no “busywork” projects or never-to-be-used-again article reviews or finals. During that time, you form a community with the other teachers—and they range from elementary to college instructors, from reading teachers to science and math teachers—and you work on your own personal writing. You choose the genre, as you hone your craft in your writing response group. And I promise you: as you become a better writer, you will learn ways to teach your students how to become better thinkers.

Where are these NWP Sites?

There are more than 200 sites. They are always university based. Chances are, there is one close to you.

This Sounds Like Yet Another Program, a Program That Will Disappear When the Pendulum Swings the Other Way…My Plate’s Already Too Full

NWP has been around since 1974, and their headquarters is in Berkeley, California. If you’ve survived “Four Square” and “Power Writing” and all the other writing fads, this is not another program to overwhelm teachers even more. In fact, during your work during the summer, you will find ways to integrate writing into all academic areas, which actually lightens your load.

I Can’t Afford It! I Spend All My Money on Books and String Cheese for My Students (Since Candy is No Longer Allowed in School, and Nothing Says “Festive” Like Some String Cheese)

Some of the programs even make available a stipend, to help cut down on the tuition cost.

I’m Not a Good Writer

Yes, writing is not like math, where there is an answer that is always right and other answers are wrong. You may not be the next Hemingway, but now you know how your students feel. Take a risk right along with them. Try. If you usually write stories, dabble in a bit of free verse poetry. If you expect your students to progress and grow as writers, you need to do the same.

Life Changing? Right! And I Bet You Have a Magic Pill to Sell Me That Makes It So the More Chocolate I Eat, the More Weight I Lose

I began this summer course thinking—as a 3rd grade teacher—that creating webs was the best way to pre-write. What a bunch of hooey! I started discovering what worked for me as a writer, and found there are interesting techniques that work for others. (For example, one member of our group writes with a fountain pen. The audible scratching across the paper is a necessary part of the writing process for him.) I learned countless ways to inspire students, to conference with them, to help them find writerly habits that work for them.

In the ten years since I did the Summer Institute with Gateway (in St. Louis), I have been to national conferences, countless writing retreats and many workshops. I’ve written round-robin limericks on cocktail napkins during writing project get-togethers and laughed until my face hurt. I’ve led workshops at other school districts. I launched a summer creative writing camp for my school district. I just got word that a children’s book of mine has been picked up by a publisher. I’ve made friends and connections all over the country. And I did this all because of the National Writing Project…

If you want more information, go to You won’t regret it.

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

Original image: 'road trip journal' by: Andrew

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Teacher Interview

fairandfirmHere are some questions from Ms. Understood over at Teacher, I Don't Get It for teachers to answer. I thought you might be interested in my answers.

Background information: I taught special education in public school for 30 years before retiring and now teaching teachers getting a master’s degree in special education at the university level.

How was actually teaching different than what you expected it to be when you went into teaching?

I thought I would change the world. Everything seemed so black and white in my mind. I had big ideas and wasn’t going to implement them immediately but then reality struck. I realized that change was going to take time and progress would be slow. There also were a lot of gray areas and nothing was just black and white.

What do people not know about schools or teaching that you wish they did?

I wish that people would realize how much they demean teachers in their words and actions. I’m not sure they even realize it sometimes. I remember growing up and knew that if I got in trouble at school, I would be in trouble at home. If my parents did not agree with the teachers, they never showed this in front of me. Parents need to work together with teachers to help their children succeed. This should not be a fight of “us” against “them” and together, their child could go further than they imagined. When the parents say terrible things about education, teachers, and schools in front of their children, their children lose respect for their teachers and do not learn all that they could. Parents and teachers need to learn to trust each other.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing educators today?

Paperwork and bureaucracy. Those are the biggest problems. When the educational system got more and more political, it stopped being about what is in the best interest of the students. The more political, the more paperwork. Teachers don’t seem to have enough time or energy to give to teaching like they did when I first started. The students are the ones who are losing out.

What is the best thing about teaching?

The best thing about teaching is when students suddenly understand what you are teaching and are able to do it on their own.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I hope to still be teaching teachers at the university how to be more effective in the classroom. I hope to be in schools working with teachers by teaching them how to use new tools that they don’t have time to look for and learn. I would like to travel to other countries and help teachers there too.

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

Original image: 'teaching with emotion: a halloween story' by: woodley wonderworks

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fair and Firm Wins the Race

disciplineI remember when I entered the teaching world and could not imagine teaching anything except the elementary level. I mean, I was taller than them, bigger than them, and smarter than them (I hoped). So, fresh out of college, I taught a self contained class with students who had emotional disabilities which lasted 3 years. Then it was time for a change and I switched to high school. It was the only opening I found and for some reason, it felt right.

I decided immediately that I would go in as a dictator. I was going to set the tone by making it clear that I was the boss and this was how it was going to be. You see, I was terrified! Some of these kids were taller than me, bigger than me, and I’m sure, even smarter than me!

Once I got started though, I realized that these students were not out to “get me” even though that is what I had expected. These students just wanted to learn. They wanted someone who would be fair and firm and treat them with respect and that was something that I could do. In fact, I couldn’t imagine doing anything differently.

Going in with a strict attitude was not a bad thing though. I have always heard that you can start out tough and then lighten up but you can’t go the other way and that is so true! I have seen too many teachers start out trying to be their student’s buddy and end up in tears most of the year. That is not how I planned on my career beginning, ending, or existing. No way. I felt that kids would come and go and I had to find a style that I felt comfortable with but still accomplished what I needed to do in the classroom. Fair and firm summed it all up. When all else failed, fair and firm would win every day.

Once I got behavior expectations established, I was able to teach whatever I wanted. Even the students felt relieved when they realized that the whole year would not focus just on behavior issues like they were experiencing in other classes. Of course, like any student, they would push the limits and test me but hopefully, I proved that I would consistently be fair and firm.

Once the appropriate behavior was established, I began to enjoy my classes and the students. It was okay to tell the class that I enjoyed them and they appreciated it too. In fact, I saw many students sit up taller and some even told me that no one had said that to them before. Why is it so easy to tell my peers and family how much I enjoy them but not share the same feelings with my students? I like when they tell me how much they enjoy my teaching and classes so shouldn’t I share with them when I feel the same way?

The more I praised my classes and saw them in a positive light, the easier it became to teach them things that I valued. Since they began to respect me, they worked hard to please me too. Yet, whenever someone stepped over the line or a new student appeared to test the limits, the students trusted me to step in and be fair and firm.

I think this approach works on whatever level I teach on. Once I got over the fear of discipline (because I saw it as a way to rule) and began to discipline as a sign of respect and trust, my own teaching skills began to improve.

What rule of thumb do you follow in your classroom? Have you changed from when you first started teaching? Please share.

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

Original image: 'Discipline' by: Ibai

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Goals for 2011

happynewyearHappy New Year! I hope this year brings lots of good health and happiness to you and your families.

I never was good at resolutions because I usually forgot about them or felt guilty when I couldn't stick with them.

I think it is important to come up with goals that are attainable. What is the point of coming up with impossible goals or ones that I think other people would chose for me? I came up with ones that are important to me and no one else.

My goals are:

1. Be more positive about tough situations. Many times I try to come across this way to others but I want to feel this way in my heart too. I need to not let others drag me down when I am in a tough situation (usually of my own making) and look at the positive side of things.

2. Make someone smile every day. If we all did that, maybe the world would be a happier place.

3. Lose 30 lbs. I have gained 10 lbs. since last year and all of my clothes are too tight. This increasing in weight has got to stop or I will be so big, when I die, they won’t have a coffin big enough to bury me in!

4. Learn to bake bread. I like to try a new skill every year and this is what I plan to give a try. My sister bakes wonderful things and some of my friends do also so maybe I can do it too.

5. Knit a sweater for myself. I have seen so many patterns but then I get intimidated by it all. Last year I stuck to mostly socks so this year I will try a sweater. I have 12 months to get it done so surely I can do it.

Do you have any goals you want to work on this year?

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

Original image: 'Happy New Year To Everyone!' by: Cindy See