Thursday, March 31, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 3/30/11

carnival4Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Scheiss Weekly! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My articles on 8 Ways to Avoid Procrastination and To Dream the Impossible Dream are 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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Once is Not Enough

oneIn  Management Monday V - Once is Enough from Sloggett Bloggett, Kim states,

“Don’t ever say “Are there any questions?” because there WILL be! Make sure the students are looking at you when you say the “once” speech and at times that you are giving instructions. Once students realize that you will not be repeating yourself and only smiling back at them, they manage just fine. I promise you; you will never regret the decision to use ‘ONCE.’”

I tend to agree with Kim that students don’t pay attention and it is a bad habit we need to break. But I feel we need to teach them skills to break this bad habit.

I disagree with her about this “once” technique to get students to follow directions. Many of my students have trouble processing what they hear and they may still be thinking about the first direction while the teacher is now talking about step number ten. Of course, this student will have questions and now be afraid to ask them. Even if my students are looking at the teacher, they may not be processing what is being said. Many of my students get to a point where they are so lost just hearing the directions that they get distracted. If they feel the teacher has given up on them, they will give up on even trying.

I think the key is to have these directions available in different ways. For my students, I try to think about the process of everything we do and write out the steps. I know this takes longer in my lesson plans but it really helps my students succeed and takes a lot of stress out of the lesson right from the start. Everyone is given a written copy of the directions and I also read over the directions. I ask students to repeat the directions back to me. I also encourage them to ask me questions if they get to a road block and can’t figure out what to do next. After giving them the directions, I then model what is expected of them so they can see me going through the steps to complete the task.

By giving those written directions. auditory directions, as well as modeling, they are able to focus better on what needs to be done. By having the students repeat the steps also help them process the directions. Then by alleviating their stress by letting them know that I am there to help them, they are able to relax more to process what is being expected of them.

If a student is not focusing on instructions, that student needs to be redirected. If this student has this problem often, then I will meet with the student privately. At this point, I will ask the student if there is a problem with focusing on the directions and how can I help them focus better. There may be something I’m not doing that could help the student. I also explain how disrupting their behavior can be to others and hinders their learning. I have found this one on one interaction sometimes reveals a situation at home or at school that I was not aware of and is bothering the student and is distracting. By showing I care, this student usually makes a better effort at paying attention to the instructions at the beginning of the lesson. I also don’t find myself doing this too often, because I have taken preventative steps during my planning.

When my students go to general ed classes, some teachers just give auditory directions and do not repeat the directions or allow questions. When this happens, many of my students shut down or act up. This is frustrating for the teacher, the other students in the class, and even for my student (who really does want to succeed but feels it is impossible).

What do you do to get your students pay attention to directions? Please share.

Original image: 'one is the loneliest number' by: Jeff Meyer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Dream the Impossible Dream

windmillsIn Accepting false limits from Seth's Blog, Seth Godin writes,

“Perhaps I shouldn't be pushing people who want something but have been taught not to push themselves. Somewhere along the way, it seems, I forgot that it's none of my business if people choose to accept what they've got, to forget their dreams and to not seek to help those around them achieve what matters to them.”

This really struck a chord in me and made me think about Don Quixote chasing windmills. Now I am hearing The Impossible Dream song in my head. How many times have I said I couldn’t do something? How many times have I heard others say the same thing? What has my response been to myself and others? Am I an “encourager” or a “discourager”? Is it wrong to encourage others and therefore possibly setting them up for failure? Should I discourage people from following their dreams? Who am I to decide that they are unable to fulfill their dreams?

Growing up as the youngest child and my family sheltered me as much as possible from failures and disappointments. Unfortunately, I grew up feeling quite inadequate and insecure in my ability to achieve many things that I wanted to do. I know my family loved me and didn’t mean for me to feel this way and I didn’t realize I felt this way until many years later. In fact, I’m finding out more and more about my abilities as I try new things.

Sometimes though, it isn’t others who are putting limitations on me but myself who is putting those limits. I tell myself those lies that I can’t do something because of excuses and it keeps me from taking the risk of failure. In my head, I know those are lies but my heart just doesn’t seem to fight the big boss (the brain). I tell myself that there is no money, that I won’t be allowed to do this, that others won’t appreciate it, it is too much work for so little payback, and the list goes on. But I really don’t know unless I try.

I look at my students with disabilities and hear their dreams. I think that their dreams are impossible to reach because of their limitations. I feel that their dreams are unrealistic. Is it my job to tell them this? Or do I encourage them to work towards their dreams. So many times, I am told that their transition goals have to be realistic but who am I to decide that they can’t achieve their dreams.

I’m sure that when my husband, who was a terrible student in high school, left for the navy ad got his GED in the navy, no one expected him to amount to much. In fact, I know this because I ended up teaching at the high school he once attended. Boy, did I hear stories about my husband from many of his former teachers! Imagine his former teachers’ surprise when they heard that he was a judge and actually read law books to increase his knowledge (and did this reading voluntarily!). If he had told anyone during his high school years that this was his goal in life, they would have laughed at him. Many would have told him that his goal was unattainable and unrealistic. I’m just so glad that he had the self motivation to ignore anyone who held him back.

I plan on making a huge effort to listen to other people who share their dreams with me and encourage them to move forward, no matter what I think about their abilities. Because the fact is, I don’t know what will happen in the future. I don’t really know what someone’s true abilities are or how motivated they can become to reaching their dream. I want to be known as the “encourager” and not the “discourager.” I think Seth is wrong by saying it is none of his business. I think in our society, it is everyone’s business to encourage others and to show some faith in our fellow man.

By doing this, we are helping others be more successful in the classroom and in life. I don’t believe that we are setting them up for failure but giving them building blocks for a future.

What do you think?

Original image: 'Farewell Holland' by: Trey Ratcliff

Monday, March 28, 2011

Unable to Read or Write

writingIn WRAD Assignment: What would you miss most if you could not read or write? from Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc. , Angela asks,

“What would you miss most if you could not read or write?”

I have thought about this over the years and it terrifies me. Sometimes I think about losing one of my senses and I think the main one I would not want to lose is my sight. I read constantly and write a lot especially in this blog.

Reading takes me on adventures that I have never dreamed of and adventures that I’ve always dreamed of. It has also helped me learn about topics that interest me at the time. I find reading relaxing and so important to my life. Since I was a small child, I have had a book with me every single day of my life. When I go on trips, I make sure that I have packed enough books with me. Maybe I am obsessed with and addicted to books. As the weekend approaches, my husband knows to ask me if I have enough books to get me through the weekend as if it is medication that I can’t live without. I must not be a very nice person if I don’t have my book fix!

I think if I could not read, I would miss the adventures that the main characters participate in. The adventures might be in exotic places or they may take place around the country where I have been before. The adventures might consist of relationships with other people. It might be a mystery or a romance. The possibilities in my mind are endless when I’m reading and that is what I would miss the most.

Writing has become an important part of my life also. Even as a young child, I loved to write stories. As a teen, I kept a diary to share my innermost thoughts and feelings. It was my best friend when I had no one else. As a new teacher, I wrote about my experiences so that I could reflect on my teaching practices. When I retired, I started this blog so I could share my knowledge and experiences with others in order to help them be more successful in the classroom. This September, this blog will celebrate its fourth birthday and it is hard for me to believe that I have been writing for four years!

If I was not able to write, I would miss sharing my thoughts and ideas with others. I know that I could talk about my experiences but for me, writing is so much easier. I am able to write my thoughts down and then edit my words so that what I am saying can be clearer to the reader. I am not always able to verbalize in this way so that my words come out with the clarity that my writing does. Sometimes when I write down what I’m thinking and then come back to the words, I realize that what I felt at the moment is not the way that I feel most of the time. It gives me a chance to react and then reflect. Once words are out of my mouth, I feel that it is too late to reflect on my words and change them without causing misunderstandings.

How would you answer this question? Please share.

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

Original image: 'Be seeing you' by: Oliver Hammond

Friday, March 25, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/25/11

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!

Hearing Loss – Infographic on hearing loss facts

Grammaropolis – great way to learn about grammar; parts of speech are personified

Maths Zone – Interactive math games and activities;

Smithsonian Wild – “The use of motion-triggered 'camera traps' has become an incredibly useful tool for scientists to answer an enormous range of conservation and ecological questions. Researchers attach these unique cameras to posts or trees, often along forest trails, and when a camera's sensor registers an animal's body heat and movement, a photograph is taken. The studies highlighted here demonstrate the range of applications of this method, and how these cameras give us a glimpse into an animal world that is rarely seen by anyone. You can search the site by following the trail of interesting animals or the lure of diverse sites around the world.”

The Noun Project – “collects, organizes and adds to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world's visual language, so we may share them in a fun and meaningful way.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Get Out of the Rut

rutIn Looking Back and Forward from Educationally Minded, Anthony asks,

“Would you like a chance to reinterview for your job?”

When I read this, I immediately thought, “What a great idea!” I think many of us get into a rut when we have taught for awhile. I have heard the saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” but I don’t believe that applies to our teaching profession. I believe that we constantly need to look at our teaching practices, reflecting on them and reevaluating them. That is the only way to get out of a rut.

I think I would think of questions that I would ask someone interviewing for my job. I would want to know what their teaching philosophy is. What would make them an effective teacher in my classroom? I would want to know how they would meet my students’ needs. What successful behavior management techniques have they used? How would they communicate with the parents and with other colleagues about what is going on in the classroom? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How would they work to overcome these weaknesses?

Then I would take these questions and answer them as if I was the candidate for the job. I would be as honest as I could be. I would want the answers to truly reflect the way that I think others would see me as a teacher.

I would even discuss the answers with other colleagues about this hypothetical candidate. I would get their perspective on this person and ask if they would consider hiring this person if they had the opportunity. It would be interesting to hear their views about this person and the reasoning behind their decision. Then I would evaluate whether I would hire this candidate and clarify the reasoning behind my decision.

From these answers, what would I change about the way I teach? How could I be a better teacher? What works well in my classroom and needs to be continued?

I can see this being done at the end of every year. By doing this, I think I would be more successful in the classroom and not get into a rut where I’m doing the same thing every year. If it gets boring for me, I can imagine that the students pick up on this feeling and will develop the same attitude. Instead I need to be a good role model for change because change can really be good for all of us.

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

Original image: 'the road home' by: garycycles

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Open House Fun

OpenHouseIn 10 Ways to Make Open House Night a Success from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam asks,

“What do you do to make Open House a success?”

I always dreaded open house days because I never knew what to expect and I could only imagine that many parents felt the same way. Many parents felt like it was a waste of time so I needed to figure out a way to make this time valuable to both myself and the parents.

First I had to ask myself what I would like to happen. Why did I feel it was important to meet the parents and get to know them? Becoming aware of the purpose was vital to giving me a mindset and positive attitude for the event. If I felt like it was a waste of time, I’m sure my feelings and body language would show this to others.

Then I call all of the parents a week ahead of time to personally invite them to open house. I share with them why I think it is important for them to come. I try to be positive and excited which encourages many to show up. Many parents with children who have disabilities have become frustrated and discouraged with the education system so this is a chance for me to show them encouragement and a sense of teamwork that will help their child be more successful in the classroom. I also ask them to bring their child with them when they come.

I have each desk labeled with the student’s name on it. When parents arrive I tell them to go ahead and find their child’s desk. If I’m meeting with other parents, they are welcome to sit in the desk or anywhere else around the room. During the school year, I collect student work that I feel parents would enjoy seeing. I also save test papers. When Open House comes, I have a folder for each student that shows their good work and tests with good grades on them. Parents who are waiting to see me can look at their child’s folder while they wait. This helps put them in a good mood when I eventually talk to them.

When I sit with the parents, I like to tell them a short bio about myself so they can get to know me too. I explain that we will be working as a team to help their child. I also review contact information that I have for them to make sure it is all correct. I also share ways that they can get in touch with me. I feel communication is the most important thing between us to help their child.

I like to ask parents if there is anything special they would like their child to work on or if there are any problems that I should be aware of. I think getting their input helps this meeting be more interactive rather than just listening to me which makes the conversation one way.

Just having a short time to meet and build a rapport with parents is essential to future success for my students and for me.

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

Original image: 'Shaking Hands' by: Aidan Jones

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Organizing My Paperwork

filecabinetRecently I was asked this question by a new special education teacher and I thought I would share my answers with you. I remember being overwhelmed by all that I had to do plus the deadlines that these requirements entailed. Once I had a system to organize this information, I felt more in control of what I needed to do. Being organized helped me be more effective in the classroom because I was able to focus on my lessons instead of the deadlines hanging over me. I will share with you my reader’s questions and then below I will answer each one.

How do you organize your:

1. Contact documentation to parents/guardians? (Do you have a special form?)

2. The filing system for each student?

3. The calendar to keep up with evals and IEP meetings and when you need to schedule the meetings?

4. How do you organize your plans for the students you serve?

5. Is there a checklist that you use to make sure you crossed your T’s and dotted your i’s as you complete the eval and IEP process?

6. Finally, do you know of any good websites that are specific to special education that have good articles, supports, ideas? Is there a special ed. magazine for teachers?

My Answers:

1. Contact Doc: I made up an excel spreadsheet with the date, time, person I talked to, and notes about the conversation. I made regular calls every 2 weeks so the calls were not long.

2. I had a file folder for each student where I kept all important class papers and test papers as well as notes to and from parents, referrals, etc. to be used during parent conferences. All of these were kept in a milk crate near my desk. IEP paperwork was kept in separate files in a locked file cabinet (for confidentiality purposes).

3. I used a Google calendar to post all evaluations and IEP meetings (in a different color than every day events) which emailed reminders to me.

4. Each of my students had a weekly assignment sheet with all assignments for the week on it. Since everyone was individualized, it takes a lot of time on Fri. afternoon for the following week but it helps the next week. When I grade papers, the grade is documented on the assignment sheet that they get each day so they can get immediate feedback. On Fridays, I collect these sheets and put them in their folder I keep.

5. Checklist: I made my own checklist on an excel spreadsheet for what was required for my district and items I wanted to remember. Then I can print this off before each meeting and check it over during and after the meeting to make sure I did everything.

6. Council for Exceptional Children has wonderful magazine called Teaching Exceptional Children but you have to be a member to receive it.

If you have any other suggestions of things that work for you, please share this!

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

Original image: 'Forms and Requisitions' by: Bob

Monday, March 21, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 3/16/11

carnival1Another 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 Grabbing Their Attention 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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/18/11

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!

RSOE – from Free Technology for Teachers - “RSOE is a service based in Hungary that is using publicly available data sets to create a continuously updating Google Map of emergency events. Click on any icon on the map to learn about the event. The types of things you're likely to find on the map are car, rail, and airplane accidents, seismic activities, outbreaks of illnesses, fires, and nuclear energy events.” The recent events that happened in Japan were seen on this map after it happened. I think this is a really cool site to visit!

The Face Of 7 Billion – Interactive display by National Geographic showing language, nationality, religion, livelihood, urban vs. rural, and literacy of the earth’s population ; graphic in which the world's 7 billion population is depicted by 7,000 human figures, each representing a million people.

Little Bird Tales – “was created to help nurture children's creativity and imagination while simultaneously creating one of a kind childhood treasures that can easily be shared. We are dedicated to providing a safe web environment for children, free of advertising, merchandising and links to other sites.” Upload pictures, record voice, add text, share with others.

TurfMutt – free science program; “Inspire your students to become environmental stewards! TurfMutt offers standards-aligned science lesson plans for grades 3-5, educational videos, activities, puzzles and more to promote your students' appreciation of the green space that surrounds them every day.”

Vocab Genii –vocabulary games to build up your vocabulary

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Basketball Madness

basketballIn March Mathness from Educationally Minded, Anthony writes,

“So, with so many people setting up their brackets, let’s look at making one based on math. YES! MATH! Is this how we should be setting it up anyway? We know some people use math when filling out their bracket, but their biases do show through. Well, here are the lessons that we will be doing tomorrow in class…What’s even better about this assignment? It includes writing and geography. YES! Cross-curricular!!! It can be done.”

I love using current events to direct my lessons. Yes, March Madness during basketball season creates lots of excitement, even if you aren’t into basketball. My hubby and I don’t watch a lot of basketball all season but once the NCAA tournament starts, we fill out our brackets and compete against each other.

I love to involve my students and have them help me pick out the winners for my bracket. It involves a lot of friendly discussion and debate and is a lot of fun. I liked to stir the discussion into what determines a winner in my student’s eyes. Of course this leads into statistics, player strengths, team strengths and other things I had never thought of. They love knowing that I’m interested in their opinions on this and will base my decisions on whether they can convince me to pick the team they are pulling for.

My students like to follow my picks and determine the percentage of winners that I got correct. This would also be a great class project if each student filled in the bracket.

Sometimes I have them write a paragraph telling me who they think the ultimate winner will be and give supporting details for their pick. This is a great exercise for persuasive writing.

I think it would also be fun for them to write a letter to their favorite player, team, or coach. If they don’t have a favorite, have them write a letter to a team asking them to move to their hometown.

I like the idea of finding out where each team they like is located for a geography lesson too. Many of my students have heard of the teams but have no idea where they are located so this would be a great way to “sneak” in some learning! It would be fun to determine the distance to the different tournament sites or to the location of each team from the student’s home. Some teams have players from other countries and it would be fun to learn more about that country.

As Anthony mentioned of course, this whole big event can be used to teach so many different math skills.

How are you using March Madness in the classroom? Please share.

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

Original image: 'Hoops' by: Arturo Donate

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Substitute Planning and Other Stuff

a. Contact Info: I’m loonyhiker on Plurk and Twitter.

b. Yes I Can by Danny O’Flaherty from his Secret Garden CD

a. Luck of the Straw:.

b. Green Stamp:

c. Wee Leprechaun:

d. Ravelry: a social networking site for knitters and crocheters

(I apologize for the sound quality. My microphone quit working and I just used the mic on my laptop in my huge room which made it sound like I was in an echo chamber!)

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

8 Ways to Avoid Procrastination

procrastinatorIn Maybe I'll Stop Procrastinating...Tomorrow from Sioux's Page, Sioux shares some practical advice for procrastinators and then asks,

“What advice do you have for procrastinators?”

I grew up hearing that saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today!” In fact I’m betting that most people have heard this saying in one form or another.

I have to admit that I am probably the Queen of Procrastination.

I hate doing the things that I really hate doing. (That makes sense, doesn’t it?) I think most people feel the same way. But feeling the same way as most people doesn’t help me get things done.

Admitting I have a problem doesn’t really help me much either.

Yet, I am amazed at how many people see me differently. I have heard people tell me that I’m very organized and dependable because I always meet my deadlines.

Reading this post from Sioux made me think of the things that I do so that people don’t see me as the Queen of Procrastination but rather the Queen of Getting Things Done on Time. (Boy do I have them fooled!). I realized that this does not come naturally and I have to struggle to make this happen. Here are some of the things that I do to succeed in this way.

1. Make a list of the things that need to be done and list the dates they are due.

2. Put the list of things in order according to order in which they are due.

3. Look at the items and see which ones can be done easily and quickly. If possible, do these and get them out of the way immediately.

4. Look at the items that are left. On another sheet of paper, list the next item that is due. Write down what is needed to accomplish this task and prioritize these items. Start doing the things on the list in the order they are now listed.

5. Mark things off the list as they get done.

6. Take one step at a time and work on each task in #4. Since these tasks are broken down, they are not so overwhelming.

7. Give myself small rewards for getting a specific task done before starting on the next task.

8. Know what things distract me and make a conscious effort not to allow myself to do these things. (Or use this as one of my rewards with a time limit)

I realized that following these steps were important because I was a role model for my students. My students were experts at procrastination and I needed to teach them my “secret” for getting things done. They were always amazed when I told them that I felt exactly the way they did about certain tasks. By telling them this was my “secret,” made them feel like we shared something special. I’m hoping that my “secret” helped many of them be more successful in the classroom.

What do you do to avoid procrastination? Please share!

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

Original image: 'seal' by: Alex Shultz

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flip the Flaps Planet Earth – A Book Review

PLANET EARTHI recently read the book Flip the Flaps Planet Earth by Dr. Mike Goldsmith  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. This was a wonderful book for young children! The illustrations were excellent and very appealing. It was filled with wonderful factual information about the earth. This information was presented in a way that would excite youngsters and make them curious enough to want to learn more. I think the pages that flip to the answers was a great way to introduce and teach information to children. I would highly recommend this to be used in the classroom and even in a school library. New vocabulary and concepts can be taught using this book.

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

Friday, March 11, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/11/11

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!

Knoword – vocabulary game;

Plagiarisma.Net – “Free Online Plagiarism Checker and Duplicate Content Finder”

My Fake Wall – “With you can easily create fake profile pages just for fun. This fake facebook wall generator allows you to create a funny profile to entertain your friends. Create it, and share it on Facebook!”

Quicklyst – “free notetaking program; “Take your notes with you on an Amazon Kindle, Android, iPhone, smartphone, or tablet device.”

Webonauts Internet Academy – “Webonauts Internet Academy is a web original game for PBS KIDS GO! that gives kids 8- to 10-year-old an opportunity to have some fun while exploring what it means to be a citizen in a web-infused‚ information-rich world. It is an engaging experience on its own but becomes all the more powerful when parents and teachers use game play as a springboard for conversations about media literacy and citizenship in the 21st Century.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feelings about Social Networking

networkingIn Educational Technology Questionnaire – How would YOU answer? (Update) from Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc., Angela Maiers asked how her readers how they would answer the following questions:

1. Do you think that online social networking sites have a positive or negative effect on the users’ social development and social skills? In what ways?

2. Right now the number of users on Facebook are over 500 million users. How high do you think this number will become a few years down the road? How long do you think it will take for Facebook to reach 1 billion users?

3. Do you believe that online social networking plays a major role in politics? In what ways?

4. What are is your take on the privacy concerns of social networking sites like Facebook? Is this actually a legitimate problem or just an exaggeration?

5. In what ways do you think online social networking will affect our society in the future?

As this post has been shared on Twitter, many of you suggested sharing these questions with your students as well! That is a fantastic idea, so I created a Google form to use in your conversations!

SHARE YOUR ANSWERS HERE: Educational Technology Questionnaire

Here are my answers:

1. I think online social networking sites have a positive effect on the users’ social development and social skills. I find myself connecting with others so much easier since I have joined online social networking sites. By doing this, I have found others who are interested in the same things that I am. I am able to debate with others by using rational arguments and evidence but I’m able to do this easier online. If I met these people face to face at first, I think my shyness would have kept me from sharing my thoughts and ideas. After getting to know others this way, meeting them face to face is much easier.

2. I can see billions of people on Facebook as more and more young people get of age to use it. I can see Facebook reaching a billion by the end of this year.

3. I definitely believe that online social networking plays a major role in politics. In the past couple of elections, I liked to see politicians’ Facebook pages. I was able to see what they stood for and where they might hold their next meetings with the public. I read more about politicians there than reading any brochures or handouts they might be giving out.

4. As long as we have choices on how to set up our privacy settings, I don’t have a concern. When Facebook starts sharing my personal info with others without my knowledge or permission and then won’t let me change this, I have a concern. I think many people overreact to what could possibly happen when young people use Facebook. Parents need to be knowledgeable and diligent in watching and protecting their children whether they are on Facebook or walking through the shopping mall.

5. I think as more and more people become comfortable with online social networking sites, businesses will be using them within their infrastructure as well as reaching out to their customers.

What would your answers be to these questions? Please share either here or on the questionnaire.

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

Original image: '_-_ complexity [1]' by: Domenico Nardone

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Learning from Kids

I recently watched the TEDtalk - Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids. What an engaging and enlightening talk. Here is a youngster who says it the way it is and we need to listen.

She made me wonder when adults make kids stop trying. I believe we do that. I have had so many of my students who have given up by the time they reach my class. When I try to get them to brainstorm ideas or give suggestions, they feel it is useless. It reminds me of the Charlie Brown cartoons where Lucy holds the ball and every time Charlie Brown goes to kick it, she jerks the ball away. How many times have we done that to our students?

I know that I get frustrated when the administration asks for suggestions and then ignores them and does what it wants anyway. I know how angry I feel and I’m an adult. Imagine how children feel when we treat them the same way!

How many times have students gotten excited about an idea and I start in telling them why something can’t be done? I know a good rationale is that I don’t want to let them fail or get hurt or many other excuses that come up. If I continually shield them from failure or disappointment, am I really teaching them to learn or how not to try? I wonder if it is more my own fear of failure that is keeping me from encouraging others. Am I afraid of how I will look if they fail? The important thing is to learn from this failure and disappointment. I need to teach them that when they face things that don’t work, what are the next steps that need to be taken?

If things don’t work out the way they want, I need to teach persistence and thinking outside the box. If something doesn’t work the traditional way, what untraditional ways are possible? Instead of throwing the negatives in front of these students, why not think of the possibilities? If I am going to be an obstacle in their way of progress, then I need to step aside.

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preparing for a Substitute

sickAs spring gets near, allergies can wreak havoc on my body. If I am going to be absent, this time is probably harder for me than the winter months. I do many things to prepare for days that I am out which helps my students and my substitute.

Throughout the year, I try to meet the substitutes at come to my school. I try to get a feel for their personalities to see if I think they would be good with my students. As a special ed teacher, many subs won’t work in my class so I find the ones who are willing to do this. Once I find the ones that I like, I get their contact information for the future.

I invite subs to come observe me so they can see what procedures I follow and meet the students. This really helps for the future also so this person is not unknown to them. My students have a difficult time with new people and new situations.

I have a 3 ring binder that is designated as the “Substitute Book.” This binder has several sections designated in it.

1. One section holds seating charts, copies of attendance rosters, locations of important places and things (faculty restroom, asst. principal offices, cafeteria, and emergency bag for fire drills).

2. One section labeled “For Help” contains the teachers nearby including names and locations that the sub can go to if help is needed. I also include names of trusted students for each class that can also help the substitute with the daily routine and locating places and things.

3. One section is for my class rules and consequences (along with behavior referrals for the office).

4. Another section holds the emergency lesson plans. I keep a copy of lessons for each class/subject that can be used at any time of the year. This may cover some new information but does not teach any new skills. It is more of a review using skills they already know. I don’t feel this is a waste of time or busy work as long as they are practicing skills that they have learned this year. It never hurts to practice them.

5. One section holds a copy of the routine procedures that is also posted on the wall. I have routine procedures for the subjects I teach. This routine is very helpful to my students also. Even though the content matter will change, many of the routine classroom procedures are the same on a daily basis.

6. One section is just blank sheets of paper for the substitute to leave me any notes about the students, the lesson, or anything in general.

7. The last section holds the student copies of any material needed in the emergency lesson plans.

A lot of this take times to plan and prepare but it is well worth the effort. The students and the substitute will appreciate this in the long run. It also makes my life easier when I return to the class.

What do you do to prepare for a substitute when you are absent? Does your school require certain things?

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

Original image: 'Migraine' by: Craig Munro

Monday, March 7, 2011

5 Ways to Handle a Bad Day

BadDayIn Having a Bad Day? Not feeling too well? Suck it up! from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam shares,

“Our students come into our classes expecting to learn something new each day. It’s our job to make sure they get a quality education – every day, not just on those days we feel good. So to all you new teachers out there, having a bad day? Suck it up and teach. The kids deserve our best.”

When I read this, I couldn’t agree with this more. In fact, I wanted to jump and down and cheer. I’m so glad to hear another person say this!

I can’t tell you over 30 years how many times I have had to teach on a bad day that I was having. But the important thing is that I get past my bad day and do my job. Not just do my job in order to get a paycheck but do my job effectively.

This made me think of a conversation I had last night with a friend of mine. He went to get “fixed” (his words not mine) and on the day of the surgery, they arrived to find out the doctor was resting after having had a seizure. When the doctor came to see him, the doctor had something that looked like an ice pack on his shoulder and was limping towards my friend. Obviously the doctor was having a bad day. Now I don’t know about you, but I know if it was me, I would have been out of there! Yet, my friend had the surgery and everything turned out okay. (Luckily, I think, but no one asked me!). I’m sure that there are other doctors out there that have had a bad day and continued to do their job. But I hope if that doctor is ever operating on me, he handles his bad day appropriately and does his job the best that he can.

I feel that I am the same way about my students. I may be having a bad day but how I handle it is important because what I say and do will affect young minds possibly for the rest of their lives.

Here are some ways that I handle having a bad day.

1. Stop for 5 minutes some place I can be alone. Shut off or dim the lights. I start doing some deep breathing exercises and think of somewhere I love to be. This helps calm me down and get past my bad feelings.

2. If I have time, I walk to get rid of my pent up negative energy. I can walk during my lunch break or my planning. I know that if I don’t get rid of my negative energy, I am wasting my time trying to do any effective planning.

3. If I have time, I write about the thing that is causing me problems. Sometimes this helps me to get the negative feelings out of my system. Once I write it all out, the negative feelings aren’t there to fester like a wound.

4. Talk to others and get there perspective. Sometimes I am seeing it with a narrow mind and making the situation worse than it really is. This helps give me a reality check.

5. I have two small stuffed animals. One is a mean bull and the other is a pink dragon. On most days, the pink dragon sits on my desk but if I am having a bad day, I put the bull on my desk and it lets my students know that I’m having a rough day. Usually they see this and want to show their love and support so much that I end up eventually putting my pink dragon back out. I also let them know how much they help change my mood. Students can be very sensitive if I let them be and it shows them that I am human too. I have also had students ask if they can borrow the bull when they are having a bad day. This lets the other students know to give them space too.

How do you handle a bad day so that you can do your best job at teaching? Please share!

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

Original image: 'Angry Face' by: Pietro Jr

Friday, March 4, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/4/11

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!

Internet Safety with Professor Garfield – helps students protect themselves online

What Was There – “The premise is simple: provide a platform where anyone can easily upload a photograph with two straightforward tags to provide context: Location and Year. If enough people upload enough photographs in enough places, together we will weave together a photographic history of the world (or at least any place covered by Google Maps). So wherever you are in the world, take a moment to upload a photograph and contribute to history!”

Meet Me At Midnight – “an interactive adventure set in the Smithsonian American Art Museum (American Art). Our goal is to introduce youngsters to American art and artists using examples from our collection. We also aim to teach art terms and concepts in a fun, game-based setting. We hope this Web site will encourage you to take children to the Smithsonian American Art Museum—or to an art museum in your hometown.”

PBL Co-Laboratory – locate and share projects

Graphic Organizers – Lots of free and printable from Houghton Mifflin

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 3, 2011


After reading I Remember... from Sioux's Page, I just couldn’t pass up the chance to write about my own memories. It was almost bittersweet to remember how much life has changed since I was a child.

· I remember my family going to Jones Beach in NY and I was scared of the huge waves. My father picked me up and held me safely in the water. I trusted him and never doubted that I was safe.

· I remember never locking our house or car doors. No one would steal anything that wasn’t theirs.

· I remember playing jump rope with my friends and learning all the wonderful little rhyming songs that went with this. jacks

· I remember playing jacks and being so excited when I moved up a level past my friends.

· I remember being so excited when someone bought a new refrigerator because that meant the neighborhood kids were given the huge box to play with. We would pretend it was a castle or a fort or whatever we wanted at the time.

· I remember playing in the neighborhood and feeling safe. We didn’t worry about creeps kidnapping us or doing even worse. Our parents knew we were safe and if anyone misbehaved, any parent could scold any child. If you were scolded, you never went home whining about it or your parents would scold you again.

· I remember going to an ice cream parlor was a special occasion such as winning an award or doing well at a music recital.

· I remember when gas was 35 cents a gallon, mailing letters through the post office was how we connected with others, long distance phone calls were very rare and very expensive.

· I remember knowing that if I got in trouble at school, I would be in trouble again at home.

· I remember walking to elementary and jr. high school because we attended neighborhood schools. Teachers lived in the neighborhood and shopped at the same stores the students did. Teachers and parents talked when they saw each other in the community so parent/teacher conferences were not a big deal.

· I remember neighbors coming over for coffee and cake regularly. We would also have barbecues where neighbors were invited. We had an active community which supported each other.

I think this would be a great exercise to do with our students. Have them write about the memories they have now. Encourage them to put this in a safe place. Encourage them to add to it five or ten years from now. It may amaze them how much the world has changed in their lifetime. This would be a great topic for students to discuss with their parents to see how much their world has changed.

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

Original image: 'Untitled' by: Leanne

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 3/2/11

carnival3Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Elysabeth’s Emerald City! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Children with Autism in the Classroom 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

Grabbing Their Attention

grabbingFirst lines are important.

I recently read What's in a Name? from Sioux's Page by Sioux,

“I always look at the first line of a book before I buy it. Sometimes it doesn't immediately hook me, but if I already love the author, I'm willing to go on the journey anyway. Most of the time, however, if I make the purchase, it's because that initial line sends me off into a much-desired direction, or it intrigues me to the point that I must know where it leads...”

I remember growing up hearing the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That is a good saying but how many of us still do that. I tend to be attracted to a book that has an interesting cover over a blank cover with just the title. Okay, if I get past the cover, I glance at the book jacket and read a description of the story. If the description doesn’t grab me, I usually don’t waste time reading the book even if it probably is a great book. If there is no description of the book, I glance at the first sentence and hope that it will grab me. Those three steps are important to me when I’m making choices.

I began to wonder about my first sentences that I use when I’m writing, giving a presentation, or teaching a lesson. I realized that many times I do the same thing when I read posts in my Google reader. I skim through the first lines and if the title or first line doesn’t grab me, I tend to move on.

In today’s busy times, most people don’t have time to wade through fluff to find out the important information they are looking for. When I write in my blog, I need to make sure that I don’t fill it with fluff and I need to grab their attention right from the beginning. If every post I write doesn’t grab people, no one will want to come read what I have written. I hope that I write enough to make people want to come back for future readings.

The same rule applies to giving presentations to my colleagues. I have been to the same boring presentations where they speak in monotone and read the bullets off the PowerPoint presentation. The first way to grab people is the write up about the presentation. When people have a choice as to what sessions to go to, the write up needs to make them interested in finding out more. If the write up is boring, people tend to assume that the presentation will match.

Again, this applies to teaching. Students feel as if their lives are slipping away and they don’t want to waste a minute of it. I want them to feel like the time put into this lesson is not wasted. First I need to grab their attention and make them want to know more. The first thing I say about this lesson can determine how the students will react to the entire lesson. If they start off being bored, they will shut down their minds and I am basically wasting my time. If I can grab their interest right from the beginning, they may be more willing to endure the so called boring parts that are necessary. As a teacher, I find that I tend to feed off their interest too. If they are bored, then I struggle to keep them on task and the whole lesson is miserable for all of us. But if I get them interested, it motivates me to make it even more interesting and enjoyable for them which makes this better for all of us.

I almost feel that should be an important step in writing lesson plans. There should be a question that every teacher needs to ask themselves such as, “What is your grabbing first statement about this lesson?” Time should be spent thinking about this because it is so important but I’m not sure I ever spent enough time doing this. If I go back to the lessons that flopped or just didn’t go as well as I expected, I bet I could find that many of the lessons didn’t have a grabbing first line.

Do you do this with your lessons? How much time do you spend doing this? How do you make sure that you don’t forget this? What do you do to develop your grabbing first line? Please share!

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

Original image: '9: Lack of support keeps dragging' by: sascha

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word – Book Review

TeachingisNota4LetterWordI recently won a copy of Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job by Tom DeRosa by entering his blog contest (Check out his awesome blog I Want To Teach Forever). I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book and I’m ashamed to say I might not have if I hadn’t won the contest.

I would like to encourage my readers to find a copy of this book and read it. It is a fast and easy read but it is absolutely inspirational. I think many new teachers would benefit from reading this as well as those teachers who need a reminder about how wonderful teaching is. Mr. D. gives lots of great suggestions and strategies that make a teacher’s life easy. Some of the lessons mentioned are ones that I do but had forgotten how important they were and that others needed to know about them too.

I also think it would be a great book for a faculty to use as staff development. At the end of the 70 lessons, there is a self assessment to find out where the reader stands. After doing the self assessment, it would be a wonderful way to open discussion as a faculty. I feel self assessment should be done on a regular basis so can make sure that we are doing the right things for the right reasons.

I plan to share this many of my friends who are teachers and hope they pass it on to others. I hope those that do not have a copy of this book consider getting one. You can find it on Lulu for $12.99 or file download for $6.25. It is also available for the Kindle for $6.25.

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