Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 SC Ed Tech Conference Day 1

001General Notes:

1. I was so excited to attend the SC Ed Tech Conference this year. This was my first year attending this state conference so I can’t compare it to others or even comment about accommodations since it was held in my home town.

2. I do like that there was an app for my iPad to use during the conference which was fantastic. I was able to choose the sessions I wanted to go to and mark them as favorites. Then I could just go to that and see what room it was in and who the presenter was.

3. They also used Edmodo and each session was given a code. Presenters could give links to their presentations and other information. Some gave a survey for you to answer before the session. This platform also allowed conversations to continue after the presentation was over and attendees had time to process what they learned. If there were questions, they could be asked and answered for others to see also.

Here are my notes for the sessions I attended:

Learning languages technology

  3. only in Spanish
  4. Learn French on YouTube
  5. Fluent in 3 months - did a Ted talk
  6. Mango languages language - software at Spartanburg and Richland county libraries
  7. Pimsleur CDs
  8. Rosetta Stone
  9. pronoun citations
  10. web bases word processor using special characters from that language. Then you copy and paste.
  11. Gmail - will change your msg to other languages
  13. Language immersion for chrome

If its not free, it's not for me by Tia

  1. Website of the month calendars

Language arts:

  1. Recipes for good writing
  2. The write source - student writing models for all grade levels
  3. Lit charts - alternative to sparknotes; high school
  4. Speak good English movement
  5. Classicly

Social Studies:

  1. SS skills tutor
  2. Go SS go!
  3. Tour wrist - great for writing prompts
  5. (360 app on iPad is great)
  6. Connect the dots for democracy


  1. stem live binder for science
  2. Biodigital human
  3. - csi experience
  4. Edheads


  1. Algebra in the real world
  2. That quiz



Using GPS and Geocaching in a Hitech Adventure

Findit! - GPS app for Ipad


Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure - A Book Review

SQUEAK RUMBLE WHOMPI recently read the book Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis 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):

This book was filled with sound words! I think this would be great to use in a classroom with small children and have them make the sounds they think the words sound like. It would be fun to record the teacher telling the story and have the children add in the sounds. This would also be great for older children to use in order to find sound bites on the computer to match the story. Then they can read the story aloud to smaller children using the sounds they found. Along with the book was an insert. One side was a poster to use with the book and the other side included suggested activities that a teacher could use in the classroom. I think this would be a fun book to use in the classroom.

I enjoyed this book and would definitely give it 5 out of 5!

Monday, October 29, 2012

As Masters Degrees Become the Standard, Technology Intensive Education is a Must

(Sophia Foster’s article today takes a look at some of the many ways in which technology integration is essential to modern education -- an issue that should be very interesting to Successful Teaching readers. There has been a lot of debate and discussion in recent months over the extent to which Internet tools and “wired” appliances should be a part of classroom learning, and Foster’s take should promote some good conversations. Most of Foster’s work concerns finding accredited online graduate education, and she considers herself to be something of an expert when it comes to Internet-based learning.)

technologyIn the US, a record 10.9% of all citizens now hold a masters degree, a percentage that will likely grow rapidly in the coming years. Much of the increase in educational attainment can be attributed to the worldwide expansion of technology resources in recent years. Yet, as more people are interacting with advanced online technology, researchers are finding that these resources are not only aiding our learning, but also changing the way we think. Thus, in order to assure that humans continue to evolve our thinking at our optimal pace, technology use in our classrooms is vital.

Research from University College of London Professor David Nicholas has revealed that the internet encourages a form of associative thinking wherein users dart between pages instead of concentrating on one source, such as a lengthy book. Repeated exposure to associative thinking leaves the majority of users incapable of linear disciplines such as reading or writing, the staples of traditional academics. Prof. Nicholas was the first academic to systematically study people's online behavior by analyzing millions of anonymous data records suggesting the web's hyperlinked network of information was rewiring the minds of young people. He found that four in 10 people never revisited the same web page and that they viewed only up to three pages from the thousands available online. In contrast, people who grew up prior to the age of the internet repeatedly return to the same source instead of flitting between sites.

Findings by neuroscientist Gary Small, a brain researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles strengthen Nicholas' claim. Small has found that technology has actually influenced a number of changes in how the human brain functions. A study recently conducted by Small in which 24 people aged 55 to 76, half of whom were frequent and adept users of the internet and half of whom were not, used functional MRIs while performing web searches. Results found the brains of frequent users showed twice as much activity as novices.

“Our brains are sensitive to stimuli moment to moment, and if you spend a lot of time with a particular mental experience or stimulus, the neural circuits that control that mental experience will strengthen,” says Small. “At the same time, if we neglect certain experiences, the circuits that control those will weaken.” However, Small is quick to admit that no one is yet certain whether these changes are permanent or not.

A growing number of schools are embracing technology as a resource to better engage students in learning, and in many cases they are seeing significantly positive results. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education found that 5th graders in a rural school district who completed their daily homework using web-based tutoring platform ASSISTments learned two-thirds more than students who used traditional paper and pencil methods. Researchers claimed that through web-based education programs “teachers can ... pinpoint exactly where students are having difficulties and get reports on which skills to address in class for individual students of the class as a whole, thus allowing teachers to address shortcomings.”

For schools with “high-need” students, the results from technology utilization in the classroom appear to be even pronounced. Results from a recent State Educational Technology Directors Association report found a 31% increase in the “innovative use of technology by teachers in core subject areas” in high-need schools. The results were particularly significant in reading and math achievement, with increases of 17% to 33% in reading and 18% to 36% in math. “Educators are finding that the use of technology increases student engagement and empowers individualized instruction,” says John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association. Wilson asserts that “technology can address teachers' need for engaging curricula, as well as increase access to management and assessment tools to enhance the way students learn and teachers teach.”

The encroachment of technology in our lives seems inevitable, as does its effect on our thinking processes. Yet, as technology advances, human innovation will likely discover new ways for it to aid us in education. Technology experts predict that advancements in biometrics will likely allow teachers to adjust course material at any given moment in order to tailor it to individual student needs. Multi-touch surfaces and interactive web-based media can allow students to interact with peers around the globe, an excellent resource for understanding different cultures and languages. Though technology undoubtedly affects the way we think, in the end, human innovation from educators and technology developers may yet assure that new advancements are used to further our ability to learn and reason.

Image: 'The Underground Peoplemover to the International Terminal'

Friday, October 26, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/26/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

ClassBadges is a free, online tool where teachers can award badges for student accomplishments. Through your teacher account, you can award badges customized for your classroom or school. (L: T; SA: A )

Wikibrains - “a social brainstorming tool that helps you think. It's fast, visual and fun.” (L:G ; SA: A )

The Water Cycle - an interactive site from the EPA (L: E; SA: S )

The Water Treatment Plant - a virtual tour of a water treatment plant (L: G ; SA: A ) - “’s goal is to expose as many people as possible to art. Currently, our growing collection comprises 17,000+ artworks by 3,000+ artists from leading galleries, museums, private collections, foundations, and artist estates. works with 300+ of the world’s leading galleries, museums, private collections, foundations, and artist estates from New York to London, Paris to Shanghai, Johannesburg to São Paulo. We provide one of the largest collections of contemporary art available online. Thousands of works from all cultures and time periods are accessible for study and enjoyment, and select works from our gallery partners are available to collectors. By making all the world’s art freely accessible, hopes to foster new generations of art lovers, museum goers, collectors, and patrons.” (L: M, H; SA: FA )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Layers of “Me”

onionIn Like the Layers of an Onion, So Are the Facets of Our Lives

from Sioux's Page, Sioux did a writing activity with middle school students about how we are made of many layers. Then she asks,

“What do people think when they see you? When strangers see you on the street, when someone hears you read your writing out loud but has never met you, what impressions do they form? What kind of "mask" do you wear, and what lies under the surface?”

I am going to try to be really honest here and even while saying that, I am having a hard time.

I start each day with a happy greeting on Facebook, Plurk, and Twitter. Everyone who “knows” me this way believes that I’m an optimistic, outgoing person. I think I’m very optimistic but I have “trained” myself to choose to be that way. My attitude is affected by how I choose to be. This cheery beginning always makes me feel good about the day, my world, and even myself.

When I meet people for the first time, it is really hard for me. It is hard for me to put a smile on my face and act natural as if meeting them is nothing out of the ordinary. At the same time my mind is berating myself for putting me in this position. I guess it is part of the “fight or flight” response and I so want to run and hide. I’m very nervous and sometimes talk too much because I’m so nervous.

Just recently I was invited to 2 group chats on Google + chats and I had to practically make myself join them. I was terrified. I actually clicked on the link to one and then closed it out. After giving myself a pep talk, I finally joined again and enjoyed myself. The next one was a little easier but I was still scared.
I love meeting my online friends in person when we travel around the country. I look forward to meeting them and talk about them all the time. Then when the time comes to meet them, after arranging a place, date, and time, I want to kick myself for doing this. What was I thinking?! But then I meet the person or people and I’m so glad I did. I wish I was more comfortable talking to people.

I have a lot of acquaintances but very few close friends. Over the years I have been hurt by my so-called “friends” that I tend not to get to close to many people. I’m lucky enough to have my husband as my best friend and sometimes that is enough. I have three friends that have been my friends for about 30 years and I consider myself lucky to have them in my life.

At the same time, I have no patience for overbearing opinionated people who have no sense of humor. If I feel that I have come in contact with this kind of person, I tend to tune them out and distance myself from them. I want no part of them socially or professionally.

I have many different interests and tend to jump from one hobby to another every few years. I love learning new things. Sometimes I’m not very good at one thing but I enjoyed it while I was doing it.

My life is very simple and so are my wants and needs. I am quite happy with my life so I guess you would label me as content.

I think those are the layers of me. What are your layers like? Please share.

Image: 'spacehog:in the meantime'

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Episode 18 New From The Sun Room

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Change is Happening Faster Than You Think

ModelAIn Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency from Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod asks,

What can we do to build the internal capacity of both individual educators and school systems to be better learners and faster change agents?

I can feel Scott’s frustration as I read his post. I too sometimes want things to happen faster than it is possible. When I’m planning my garden, I want the end product to appear immediately which is impossible. When I’m starting a new knitting project, I want to have it finished as soon as possible. I guees when new technology is introduced, we want everyone to be proficient with it immediately too. Unfortunately people have different learning rates, different priorities in their lives, and even different interests.

I can only imagine how the Wright brothers felt when introducing flight to people. I’m sure there were skeptics all around. Even when commercial flights began, it took time to train people to be pilots and maintenance engineers as well as training airport personnel and all the many people involved in commercial flights. Probably the same thing happened when the automobile entered our worlds. It took time to teach people to drive them as well as repair them and provide roads for automobiles to use.

I look back at my life time (and I’m really not very old) and am amazed how many changes have actually happened and how fast they have happened. At the time, change may seem slow but when you look back, it is truly amazing how quickly things have changed. I remember when TV was only black and white and we used “rabbit ears” to receive the signal. There are so many advancements that I have been able to experience and I wonder what the future will hold. What else will I be able to see and do before I die?

I guess that I can see that this change with using technology doesn’t happen overnight. My generation, who did not start out using computers (since they didn’t exist), is sometimes slow to adopt the new technology. Many students are learning on their own or from their peers. I imagine this next generation will be able to be more comfortable with changes in technology than the generation before it, and the cycle will continue.

When looking at this cycle, I’m not sure that there really is anything we can do to hurry the change. I think we have to just do the best we can and not settle for second best. We need to continue to push forward and even push the limits to what we think we can do. We need to encourage our students to learn. They need to learn from their teachers and their peers. They need to share their new learning so others can learn, including their teachers.

So, my message to Scott is:

Be patient. Change may seem slow but it may be faster than you realize. Don’t give up. Be strong and steadfast to your beliefs and keep trying. It will all be worth it.

Image: '1903 Ford Model A Tonneau 3'

Monday, October 22, 2012

Four Great Halloween Books to Read to Your Classroom

Whenever October rolls around, I always get in the Halloween spirit. As the mother of two young children, I love to pull out a few Halloween books and read to my kids in the days leading up to Halloween. These books not only get my kids excited about Halloween, they're also wonderfully entertaining for me as well. If you're looking for a few Halloween books to read to your students, check out these four unique titles!

Where's My Mummy

where's my mummyThis adorable book is written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by John Manders. Where's My Mummy follows the main character, Little Baby Mummy, as he tries to find his mummy after losing her during a graveyard game of hide and shriek. On his quest to find his mummy, Little Baby Mummy encounters several kind creatures, including a vampire and skeleton, who all tell him to return home and go to sleep. Will Little Baby Mummy ever find his mummy? Well, you'll have to read to find out. This sweet book is best suited for ages four and up.

Big Pumpkin

big pumpkinThis 32-page, visually breathtaking book is written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by S.D. Schindler. In this Halloween book, we meet a sweet witch who decides to celebrate Halloween by baking a pumpkin pie. The only problem is that the gigantic pumpkin in her garden won't pull away from its vine. In an attempt to aid the witch, some Halloween-centric characters including a ghost, vampire, mummy, and bat come to help her pull the pumpkin away from the vine. Does the witch succeed in making her pumpkin pie? You'll read in eager anticipation to find out! This book is suited for ages four and up.

Where the Wild Things Are

where the wild things areI know, I know: this book is already a worldwide phenomenon, but it's definitely a book you should revisit during Halloween. Over forty years ago, Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated this children's book, and it immediately became a classic. Where the Wild Things Are follows a mischievous little boy named Max as he ventures into a far-off jungle full of beasts known as "The Wild Things." During his time in the mysterious jungle, Max becomes king of The Wild Things but eventually decides to return home after becoming homesick. It isn't necessarily a Halloween book, but the use of costumes and monsters makes it Halloween enough for me. Read this to children ages four and up.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Afraid of Nothing

the little old lady who was afraid of nothingThis classic story holds a special place in my heart. For one reason or another, I simply can't resist reading it to my kids every time Halloween rolls around. Author Linda Williams tells the story of a little old lady who is followed by pants, a shirt, some shoes, and a pumpkin on her way home to her cottage. Although the inanimate objects seek to scare her time and time again, the little old lady refuses to run away in fear, saying, "I'm not afraid of you." The ending is a delightful twist you certainly won't see coming! This book is suited for ages four and up.

Halloween is a great time to get your students reading, so if you haven't already, check out these four wonderful Halloween titles!

Melanie Foster is a regular contributor to She is passionate about giving potential students advice, especially within online education. Please leave comments for Melanie below!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/19/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Presidential Campaign Ad-O-Matic - “pick your party and make your own TV commercial” (L:H; SA: SS)

Financial Football - “Give your financial knowledge a workout with the the latest version of Financial Football, a fast-paced, NFL-themed video game developed by Visa. Test your money management skills by answering financial questions that allow you to move down the field and score touchdowns. Are you warmed up and ready to compete?” (L:M,H; SA: SS,C)

Professor Word ProfessorWord is a freebookmarklet that helps you learnnew words while you surf the web.Whether you're studying for theSAT/ACT or GRE, learning English, or just looking to improve your vocabulary, find out howProfessorWord can help you! (L: H ; SA: A)

Water Life - video about the water cycle; follow water from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. (L: E; SA: S )

The Noun Project - Icons for all nouns, “The Noun Project is a platform empowering the community to build a global visual language that everyone can understand. Visual communication is incredibly powerful. Symbols have the ability to transcend cultural and language barriers and deliver concise information effortlessly and instantaneously. For the first time, this image-based system of communication is being combined with technology to create a social language that unites the world.” (L: T; SA: A )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Are Deadlines for Real?

deadlineRecently on Facebook, I got into a discussion with a friend whose daughter is trouble because of low grades. Unfortunately for the student, she was going to have her Iphone taken away. The mother’s concern is this,

“I think the part that bothers me the most is that she will come home and say, my grades not that low I just need to turn this or that in. Makes me so mad that teachers allow kids to turn in assignments whenever they get good and ready. Anything to make the school look good and pass those kids. They pretty much beg the kids to please do the work. Really???? When I was in school you did it and turned it in when it was due or it was too bad for you.”

I had to agree with her but my response was,

“I think that is why many kids don't take responsibility for their actions. They feel that they don't have to be accountable. Of course, there are many parents who raise Cain at the teachers who don't give the kids leeway on assignments and threaten to sue. Usually the squeaky wheel gets the grease so these parents usually get their way. Then teachers feel tired of beating their heads against the wall and instead of setting themselves up for a fight, they usually just let kids get their way.”

I also stated,

“Better that she learn a lesson at this age then when she has a job and gets fired. Real life is so different than school life and kids need to know that. A boss would not put up with missing deadlines the way teachers do.

I guess I saw both sides of the story from a parent’s point of view and a teacher’s point of view. But I have to say it is time for teachers to stand steadfast with their deadlines. It is time to make students accountable for the actions (or their lack of action). I don’t think we should buckle down to some of the parents who want their children to pass despite their lack of responsibility. Many parents just want their child to get good grades even though they don’t deserve it. Unfortunately these students are set up for failure when beginning a career. They don’t understand that on the job, deadlines are for real. A boss does not want to hear excuses but wants to see results. If we let students get away with failing to meet deadlines, we are doing a major disservice to them. They will eventually be unable to hold a job until they realize that deadlines are for real.

How would you have answered this parent? How do you handle deadlines in your class? Please share.

Image: 'Time'

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Appreciating an Education

fightI have had that girl in Pakistan in my thoughts and prayers this week. This teenage girl was speaking up for her right to an education and was shot because of this. The Taliban wanted to shut her up because they don’t feel that woman have a right to an education. Now she lays fighting for her life in the hospital.

My father’s stories of his growing up in China and how he was able to get an education because his family was wealthy always fascinate me. It is hard for me to imagine not going to school because my family is poor.

It reminds me of our own country’s history when many of our own people had to fight for the right to an education.

It makes me feel sad when I know how much the students in America don’t appreciate their education. There are people in other countries who are willing to risk their lives to be educated and here we have students who skip school or show disrespect because the do not want to be there!

I think that young girl in Pakistan would want us to use her story in our classrooms to help show our students what an education means to others. Using this story, maybe it would enlighten students to appreciate an education more. I would explain what their country, culture, and beliefs are so that they can see how and education might help them change for the better. I would also discuss how the lack of an education in our country could hurt us all. What would be the consequences if we made education available only to the rich? Or to a select group of people?

I think it is time we had this discussion with our students. What will it take to get them to appreciate an education?

Image: 'untitled'

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nurturing Long Distance Friendships

I had a busy week this week visiting with friends I haven’t seen a long time. Yet, even though we haven’t seen each other face to face, we have either stayed connected or reconnected thanks to social media.

003aIn 2000 and 2001, I hosted the teacher of a school group from Germany. Christa Klie (and another adult) brought a group of their students (English as a 2nd Language) to our school for 2 weeks. I really enjoyed getting to know her back then and learning about another culture but over time we had lost touch. Her school email had changed and unfortunately many of her addresses were lost. This year she got in touch with our school and asked to bring another group and the plans were set up. The teacher she contacted let me know through Facebook that Christa was coming and then Christa found me on Facebook. Finally she arrived and we were able to visit one day. During a full day of shopping and visiting, we reconnected and shared good memories as well as making new ones! You would never have known that ten years had gone by and we picked up our friendship as if there was no gap! It was a wonderful day!

023Also this week, we were able to visit with my friend Diane Cordell after we picked her up at the airport. Diane and I had been online friends for awhile and when we visited New York a few years ago, we met when we traveled through her home town. It was great meeting with her and since we had been online friends, it was as if we already knew each other. When she came for a conference in Charlotte, NC, we decided to take a day trip and pick her up at the airport so we could spend some time together. This week she had to attend another meeting which was held in my home town so we were able to pick her up at the airport again and spend the day with her. Since we stay in contact through Twitter and Facebook, it was as if we see each other day. After dropping my hubby off at home, I took her on a whirlwind sightseeing tour of my town.

I am so lucky to have friends like this! Even though we live so far away from each other, social media has enabled us to nurture our friendships. We can stay connected!

Do you have some long distance friendships that you nurture this way? How do you stay connected? Please share.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Monday, October 15, 2012

Who’s In My Family - A Book Review

WHO'S IN MY FAMILYI recently read the book WHO'S IN MY FAMILY?: All About Our Families (Let's Talk About You and Me series) by Robie H. Harris ▪ illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

This book was a fantastic book! What a great book to use to teach the concept of families to young children. It talks about different types of families that exist whether traditional family, step-families, or other types. It also talks about things that families like to do together and how family member support each other. The illustrations are awesome to so that students can visualize the concepts. There are many opportunities for young children to learn new vocabulary. I would definitely use this in a classroom with young children!

I enjoyed this book and would definitely give it 5 out of 5!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/12/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Teach the 2012 Presidential Election - “Collaborative, interactive teaching tool for grades 7-12” (L: M, H ; SA: SS)

Harnu - “connects you to people all over the world in your native language”; news and music from all over the world. (L:T ; SA: A )

C-SPAN Classroom Deliberations - “This website is designed to engage students in classroom deliberations about current issues being debated in Congress. Here you will find a carefully selected set of C-SPAN primary source video clips and newspaper articles that concisely present the leading positions on a new issue each month. Teachers will find handouts, current events lesson plans, and deliberation strategies that make it easy to engage students in the issues.” (L:T ; SA: A )

Base Ten Fun - is an educational virtual manipulatives activity for kids learning place value, addition and subtraction. Base Ten Fun is highly customizable; kids can select from ones, tens and hundreds. The activity also features three different modes of play: Read and Make | Listen and Make | Count and Write. Each mode has audio support and written instructions describing how to play. As a bonus children are able to select different colored block sets when the get 10 correct! (L: E; SA: M )

Tour of Park Geology - search by park name, or state, geologic wonders, or scenic byways (L:G ; SA: S )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Hiking with 2nd Graders


More Hiking with 2nd Graders

For more pictures, click HERE.

This week we were lucky enough to lead more 2nd graders around the lake at Paris Mountain State Park. I just love hiking with these young students because they make me appreciate my world so much more! These students came from Buena Vista Elementary and were very well behaved.

They seemed excited about being outdoors even though it was pretty cold outside for the first time this season (50F). One boy didn’t have a jacket and the bus driver was kind enough to give that boy his jacket until the ranger gave him an extra jacket they had in the office. What a kind man! I’m not sure the children felt the cold as much as the adults did. There were also many parent chaperones that were with the group and they seemed excited to be there too.

I felt bad that we didn’t see a lot of wildlife but I guess the temperatures were cold enough for the animals to want to stay warm out of sight. As we hiked, I was able to share information about the life cycles of dragonflies, frogs, butterflies, birds, bats, and owls. We also saw some flowers such as purple asters and Heart’s a Bustin. I also showed them how to tell the difference between mountain laurel and rhododendron. The students were very attentive and I think enjoyed the program.

It is experiences like this that make me glad to volunteer in the park. Spending a day with these students made me look forward to doing this again in the future.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Successful Teamwork with Paraprofessionals

Businesswoman consulting a partnerIn Jerry: (Para) Professionals, Part One from CEC Blog, Jerry shares,

“Many paraprofessionals who assist with instructional tasks do not receive the training that they need so that they can be successful at these tasks.” (Keller, Bucholz, Brady, 2007).

Then he asks,

“…reflect upon your own relationship with the adults in your classroom. Have you encouraged them to be everything they can be? Have you set them up for success or failure? Have you communicated clearly what you expect of them every day? Are they props? Are they copy machine jockeys? Or are they valued members of your team who are treated as professionals, are expected to work, and understand the importance of the work you are doing?:

The relationship between teacher and paraprofessionals has always been important to me. It is important because it makes an impact on my students and may determine the success of the classroom.

I started fresh out of college teaching my first special ed self contained class. This poor class had suffered through three teachers in one year and the only constant they had was the paraprofessional who had been there for the past seven years. Needless to say, students (and possibly the administration) felt the real authority in the classroom was this paraprofessional who they felt they could count on. Here I come with brand newfangled ideas and no experience to “cure the ills of the world!” Or so I thought. Thankfully I had an extremely patient paraprofessional who was patient and supportive enough to let me try my new ideas. Some worked and some didn’t but not once did she ever say “I told you so!” But I know that I was one of the lucky new teachers. Not everyone had someone like this to begin their career with and support them.

Fast forward to many years later when I became the department head for the largest special ed department in the county and was involved in the hiring process. I was involved in interviewing teachers and paraprofessionals for the department. (I just interviewed and gave my recommendations but didn’t make the final decision of course). Before interviewing the paraprofessionals, I sat down with the teacher(s) and asked what their expectations were. What did they want this person to do? What did they need this person to do? What characteristics were important to them? How did they expect this person to deal with conflicts with the students or the teacher? These are important things to hash out before you hire a paraprofessional. It is important for the person coming into the job to know what to expect.

Many people think that paraprofessionals are just babysitters and that is absolutely untrue. I was lucky enough throughout my career to have awesome paraprofessionals who were supportive and extremely vital to the success of my program.

I think it is important for a teacher to become the leader or guide for the paraprofessional but not be a dictator. Each morning I had a list of things I needed this person to do. I put stars besides the things that were the most important or needed to be done immediately. This helped the person know the plans for the day.

It is important not to take for granted that this person knows how to do what I ask. I need to make sure I train this person to do things the way I want them to do it but not be condescending as I train them. Usually the requirements for the paraprofessional are not very high (usually a high school diploma and no criminal record get them the job). Basic educational level does not indicate low intelligence and teachers should not treat them this way. Different teachers have certain ways of doing things and it is important to train the paraprofessionals for doing this. We cannot expect them to be mind readers.

I also made sure I had time each day for the parapro to give me input. Sometimes this person would see things from a different perspective and asking for input shows that I valued this person as a member of the team.

I also made sure that this person knew how much I appreciated all that was being done. I was aware of the pay scale and knew this person was not getting paid enough for all that I asked but they chose to do the job anyway. A little appreciation can go a long way.

Image: 'Businesswoman consulting a partner'
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning is Like Eating Vegetables

vegetablesIn Let’s Skip the Salad Dressing from Bud the Teacher, Bud shares,

“When I was a kid, I didn’t do too well with eating my vegetables. My mom, wanting to see some eaten, offered me plenty of salad dressing to eat with the vegetables I wouldn’t, and I got awfully fond of salad dressing.”

When I growing up, I didn’t have a choice about eating my vegetables. I was told that I couldn’t leave the table until I finished all my food. When my children were little, they didn’t always eat their vegetables but we didn’t always force them. We decided that they needed to try anything we put on their plate and eat at least three bites. Many times they found out that they liked the taste and it was better than expected. Sometimes they found out that they really didn’t like it at all but at least they tried. I have to confess that my daughters ended up with better eating habits than I ever did. My youngest daughter has tried many foods that I never would never have tried. I ended up being a picky eater (according to my husband).

I started to think about how schools do the same thing. If we force students to learn by not allowing them to be creative, making them “fit the mold” by having everyone do the same thing in the same way, and not giving alternative assessments, I think that we are turning them into picky learners. These learners end up hating learning and are not willing to try anything new. In fact, they tend to be fearful and skeptical of anything new that comes their way. When something new crosses their desk, they wrinkle their noses and believe that there is no way that this can be a good thing.

Maybe we need to have our students do the three bites system. Have them try something new and after three bites, assure them that if they don’t like it, you are willing to help them explore something new. I’m not talking about changing the skills and concepts that have to be taught. I’m suggesting that we have them try different ways of practicing these skills or studying and even how they show they understand the information. Some students may do better with flash cards and others may not. I had students who were fantastic artists but never allowed to use this strength to show they understood the material. Instead they had to use their weakness (reading and writing) to show their understanding and of course, they were unable to succeed. This didn’t necessarily mean they didn’t understand but instead just reinforced the fact that they had trouble with reading and writing.

What would happen if we gave students this “three bite” method? I believe that if we did this, our students would end up being more successful in the classroom. It might not happen overnight (neither did learning to eat vegetables), but in the long run, it will be well worth the effort.

How do you get students to try new things in your classroom? Please share.

Image: 'Arcadia, California'

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Tooth Mouse - A Book Review

tooth mouseI recently read the book The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood 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):

This book was a really cute book. I would definitely share this with friends and family who have children who are losing their baby teeth. Throughout the story, the author uses French words which were a great way to introduce culture to a young reader. There were also great new vocabulary words for a child to learn too. I loved the illustrations throughout the story also. Of course, the age old tradition of losing baby teeth and what happens to them would be appealing to a young child. By adding a list of traditions on the back cover, it also introduces other countries and cultures into a child’s life.

I enjoyed this book and would definitely give it a 5 out of 5!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/5/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Tree Planet - “If you plant a virtual tree through a smartphone App, we will plant a real tree. The application is, of course, free. Then how will the costs of planting trees be covered? To grow a tree, one needs to give the water and fertilizer with Sponsor's advertisement. The items in the App have company logos. We receive money from the advertising and give the money to NGOs. The NGOs then take the funds and build a forest in a desert. Plant a tree in the desert from where you are.” (L: T ; SA: A )

Earthquakes 101 - “Earthquakes happen all the time, and can be barely noticeable or terribly devastating. What causes them? What can we do to be prepared?” (L: G ; SA: S )

Problem-Attic - “45,000+ New York Regents Exam Questions. Search by topic or exam. Select, arrange, and format questions the way you like. Create beautiful classroom materials in just minutes!” (L: T ; SA: A )

Historical Thinking Matters - “a website focused on key topics in U.S. history, that is designed to teach students how to critically read primary sources and how to critique and construct historical narratives.” (L: H; SA: SS )

Study Champs - “ an educational website for learning Math, English, Science and Social Studies. Study Champs provides high quality educational material in the form of printable worksheets, online games and quizzes, flipbook lessons, fun activities and story books for kids." (L: E, M ; SA: M, S, SS)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Aunt Het Festival

Robert-Quillens-Aunt-Het-1930's-001This Saturday, I will have a booth in the Aunt Het Festival in Fountain Inn, SC to sell my hand knit items, handspun yarn, and shawl pins. I have a lot of shawls, hats (babies to adults), scarves, dishcloths, and monsters. I’m really excited about this. If you live near here or visiting in the area, please come visit my booth!

Now I’m sure you are asking who or what is Aunt Het!

Around 1910, Robert Quillen bought the Fountain InnTribune, a newspaper sharing news about the local area. He became well known for his editorials, cartoons, and one liners and appeared in newspapers throughout the country. One of his syndicated cartoons was “Aunt Het” and she was

het03211938remodelAunt Het was always shown as an older matronly housewife who was full of wisdom. Usually wearing an apron or doing housework, she was always giving much needed advice to all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Learning to Listen Better

interruptionIn 10 Ways to Listen More. Talk Less. Teach Well  from Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Victoria A Davis, Cool Cat Teacher, gives great suggestions on how to listen better. She also says,

“So often, people don't hear what you say because they're too busy formulating their own response. Let's focus on listening, especially to our students…Remember that sometimes your behavior shouts so loud people don't hear what you say. If you're talk about listening well and you don't do it yourself, you're a hypocrite and so am I. Let's be true to what we believe in our classrooms. Listen more. Talk Less. Teach Well.”

I have to confess that I am one of those people. For some reason, I am so worried about what I’m going to say and how people will receive it that I sometimes shut down. I focus on one thing that is said and I’m so busy thinking of my answer that I don’t hear the rest of the conversation. Sometimes I disagree so strongly that I want to object to each point separately. I don’t want to hear the rest of what is being said. Vickie gives some great suggestions for helping this. I thought I would add some more for my students.

Write notes. I have started writing down the points that the speaker is giving. Then when it is my turn to speak, I can address each of the points that were given.

I can also jot a word down to jog my memory about what I want to say later. Sometimes I interrupt because I’m afraid I won’t remember what I want to say later.

In a disagreement, it helps if each person gets to say all that they want to say without interruption. Then the next person should be given the same respect and opportunity. Once both parties have had their say, then they need to take turns responding. Some kind of manipulative to hold is a great signal as to which person has the floor.

I have attended a meeting where the person leading the discussion had a great way of running the meeting. During the discussion, each person could talk about one thing that pertains to a specific topic and every person in the group would be given this opportunity. After everyone has had a chance to speak, each person would be given another chance. This continues until all points have been discussed or time has run out. This really helps stop any interruptions or from people going off on a tangent.

How do you handle conversation interruptions? Do you do this and how do you stop yourself? How do you teach your students not to interrupt?

Image: 'The librarian warning'

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rules Don’t Apply

151I really don’t understand why people think rules never apply to them. When we drive on the interstate and we see a sign that says Right Lane Closed, it never fails that we see a car zooming past us on the right lane right before it ends. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood in line at places only to have some people think they can cut in front of me as if their time is more valuable than mine. When we were at the Grand Canyon, it amazed me to see people walk out o the very edge and sit so they could hang their legs over the side of the cliff. It didn’t matter to them that there were signs warning them not to do that. I have started taking photos of these people for my “collection” of Rules Don’t Apply. The latest one was taken at a waterfall where I know people have died from falling over the edge because of recklessness. There is a huge sign that says Danger and explains why. I was not even shocked when this couple decided to climb over the low fence by the sign so they could stand on the edge to take a better photograph. I took a photo of them so in case they fell, I could at least identify what they were wearing!

I always wonder where these people learned that rules don’t apply to them. Why do they think they don’t have to follow them? If they are parents, what kind of example are they setting for their children? It is no wonder that many of my students think they don’t have to follow the rules.

I think it would be a great lesson to use these photos from my collection and talk about this. We need to talk about what rule is being broken. We talk about why we think the person broke the rule and if we think that was a good enough reason to do this. We also talk about the consequences of breaking the rules as well as who else might be effected by the rule breaker’s actions. I believe it is time to start having major discussions about this since students are seeing so many of their role models breaking rules and getting away with it. It really reinforces their wrong thinking when they see local people in their real lives breaking rules without any thought.

I’m tired of being silent about this or just ranting about it in a blog or whining about it to my friends. I need to do something about this. Teaching a lesson and using real life examples will be more effective than the whining and ranting.

What other rules have you seen people break and think nothing about it? Please share.

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station

025For more pictures, click HERE.

For our Upstate Master Naturalist Meeting, we met at the Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station in Oconee, SC. We met in the Foothills Trail parking area where we were introduced to the men who organized this program for us and would take us on our tour. We had to carpool because places where we would stop didn’t have a lot of parking area. Marcus Pitts (Duke Energy employee) led us on a tour of the facility.

First we traveled across the top of one of the dams (there are three of them) which is an earthen dam. It was an amazing sight to see. The station took 10 years to build starting in 1981 and finishing in 1991. The Bad Creek Reservoir is the upper reservoir and Lake Jocasee is the lower one. After that, we drove into the access tunnel which they used to bring in equipment and personnel. We were able to walk around in the Powerhouse (which was actually lower in elevation than Lake Jocasee). The huge room we stood in was 74 feet wide, 160 feet high, and 433 feet long. The generators weigh over 425 tons and there were cranes that lifted the generators when they needed to be worked on. We saw the smaller generator which actually reverses and brings water back into the upper reservoir. The 30 foot power tunnel allows over six million gallons of water per minute to pass through the turbine. This was truly amazing to see and how no one would actually know that all of this took place so far underground just by looking at the lakes and the land in between.

072After leaving there, we went to the outdoor classroom which was a wonderful science lab available to teachers of all grades. Available was a shelter with tables for the class to sit for talks and lunch. There was also a food plot, butterfly garden, and trail with stations. There were plywood boards with rope on them so that the class could lift it up and see what kind of insects live under there. Teachers have the flexibility to use this outdoor classroom in any way they need to in order to meet their curriculum standards. If teachers are interested in something special, they can contact the education specialist there and talk to them about specific needs. I liked that teachers of any grade level could bring their class to this if they thought it could be used for hands on learning experiences. There is no program, guide, or instructor for this classroom so each teacher would be responsible for teaching their own lessons. Duke Energy is just making their facility available to the teacher and class. After going through an orientation, teachers may use this outdoor classroom the way they thing it would best enhance their lessons. All Duke Energy asks is that they reserve the site (so more than one class isn’t there at the same time) and check in when they arrive and leave.

I was surprised that this fantastic free opportunity is available but not many schools use this. I hope as some teachers read this they may be interested in using this facility. The only cost would be the bus and bus driver. If anyone is interested in using this facility, contact me and I will give you the contact info for the Outdoor Classroom.

I thought this was an awesome day (and great way to celebrate my birthday)! In fact, coming back home from Myrtle Beach to attend this meeting was part of my birthday present from my hubby. If any teacher lives close enough to bring their class to Bad Creek, I would highly recommend it!

Original Photos by Pat Hensley