Friday, March 29, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/29/13

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

Meograph - Four dimensional storytelling (L:G ; SA: A)

Edcanvas - “Edcanvas is the one place for teachers to create and deliver lessons digitally. “(L:T; SA: A)

Historic Places - “was created in 2012 as a comprehensive listing of buildings, structures, objects, and sites in North America that have received a special status based on their historical or archaeological significance. We have almost 100.000 historic places listed in our database.” (L: G; SA: A)

SMS Generator - create a chat between two historical or fictional characters. (L: G; SA: A)

NASA Apps for Smartphones and Ipads - (L: T; SA: S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 28, 2013

“Design-A-Sign” Scholarship Contest


Start Date: Monday, March 25th, 2012 at 12:00 A.M.

End Date: Friday, May 24th, 2012 at 11:59 P.M.

How To Enter: The students are encouraged to design signs that represent their dreams and goals. Students can submit their design online and then share their entry to earn votes to ensure the design’s success. The highest number of votes at the end of the contest wins the scholarship!

Scholarship Prizes: $1,000 (1st Place), $200 (2nd Place), $300 (3rd place)

More details about the contest can be found at:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Calm Down

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         In What’s in your calming bin? from itsjustmeghan, Meghan shares about her son’s calming bin at school and at home. When he is overwhelmed he is able to go to his calming bin and unwind. Then she asks,

“What about you? What would you like in your calming bin?”

First of all I want to commend the teachers and the parents for allowing this young student to have a calming bin! It takes people who are compassionate and understanding to others to allow this kind of freedom and flexibility to those who may need it.

I guess I can relate because it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized I had control over my “fidgets.” As a good student, no one ever noticed how hard it was for me to focus. I think by pure will and fear of disappointing my parents, I worked hard at being the model student. Looking back now, I realize how hard it actually was. It wasn’t because I lacked the intelligence but because I was not an auditory learner and that that is how most of my teachers taught back then.

I notice that when I had to listen and sit still, my heart beat faster and my mind wandered. I even started to feel anxious. I used to doodle and of course, many teachers considered that rude. I started to write copious notes as the teacher would talk. Of course I couldn’t focus on what I was hearing and once I was home, I would reread the notes that I took and it would all make sense. But this didn’t help me in class when the teacher would ask me questions to see if I was paying attention. Of course I was paying attention because I was writing down everything the teacher said but I didn’t comprehend anything I was hearing.

As a teacher, when I attended meetings, I was able to jot notes down on paper. Then I started to bring my laptop and again noting everything down that was said and later read it so it made sense. It didn’t help me to record anything because again, that was all auditory.

So, I thought maybe I just had an aversion to learning that was all auditory. I made sure with my students that I addressed different learning styles and I think they appreciated it. The problem is that most students don’t know what their learning style is. I didn’t know what mine really was. I needed to have students try different styles over time so they could explore and find out what their styles was.

After I left the classroom, I started crocheting and then knitting. I started to listen to audio podcasts and video podcasts. I realized suddenly that as long as I was moving, I was able to focus! Why didn’t anyone notice this about me before? Instead of copying notes now at meetings, I bring my knitting. I’m able to focus on the speaker and comprehend what is being said. The pastor of my church doesn’t mind if I knit during the sermon and said she even noticed I pay attention more!

I wish I could go back in time to all of my wonderful high school and college classes and relearn the stuff I missed! I would bring my knitting and have a ball.

So the answer to Meghan’s question:

I would have paper and pens for writing or doodling. I would have some yarn and knitting needles or crochet hooks. I would have those squishy balls to squeeze. I would have things that would let me move my hands and allow my mind to relax.

So, what would be in your calming bin? Please share.

Image: 'sweet escape'
Found on

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I’m Ready!

brokenIn Ready or Not! from Tinkerings by Tim

“How do our students feel on those days we come to class unprepared?  Or breezing in late?  Or don’t have a backup plan for when the technology doesn’t work?”

I think I’m the Queen of Preparation. In fact, many people roll their eyes because I like to prepare ahead of time. I like to prepare for contingencies. I like the act of preparing almost as much as doing. I find preparation like an exploration. I discover new things along the way. This gives me time to revise and redo before I need something. Preparation is the journey to a destination and I love to travel.

I’m already preparing for my summer and fall classes at the university. I’m revising my syllabus and making changes that need to be made. I’m rereading the text book and redoing the PowerPoint slides that came with the textbook (they are absolutely horrible!).

I like to have a tentative schedule for the courses. This is a guide for the class and for me to follow so I cover all the material necessary. I used this in my high school class too. Of course this is tentative because you never know what might happen to cause the schedule to be altered. Having this schedule is like a road map. Usually I have a route planned but sometimes I have to take a few detours.

I like to plan my presentations and have them ready before I start the course. These can also be changed if I need to add slides or information. But having the bare bones already set up helps to save a lot of time. It also helps me do the research needed to give my students the best information.

If I have handouts to give my students, I like to have them all run off the week before. This means that if I have to make them, it needs to be made up the week before. At my last school, I never knew if the copy machine would be broken or out of toner so I wasn’t going to risk copying things the morning of my class. That usually resulted in disaster and it only took me a couple of times for this to happen to not risk it anymore.

If I need any tools or equipment, I make sure that I have access to everything I need the week before. I remember one time I was showing an experiment in class and forgot to bring matches to light the candle I needed to burn. Of course all of my colleagues were non smokers and no one had matches. I had to go into the bathroom where I knew some kids were smoking and ask someone to throw their lighter or matches over the door. I promised that they would not be in trouble this time but that I needed it for an experiment in my class. If someone gave me this, I would walk out and not try to find who was in the bathroom smoking. At that time, 3 lighters flew in the air and landed at my feet! Now I make sure I have everything way in advance.

If I am going to demonstrate something, I practice it first to make sure that I have all the steps down, all of the things I need, and that I haven’t left anything out. This saves me from embarrassment when I actually have to do this in front of the class. It also helps me see if I’m not clear enough on some of the steps.

I always come up with a contingency plan in case technology lets me down. I don’t count on my PowerPoint as being the main focus of my lesson. I am the resource that I need to be able to count on. Everything else is just back up for me. Visual aids whether PowerPoint or websites or videos enhance the lesson that I’m teaching but I am the one with the main knowledge.

I also like to show up for class 30 - 45 minutes early. Sometimes this is when I find out I left my room key at home or that there is some problem inside the room (roof leak, or heat/ac is broken) and can request to move to another location. This gives me time to get acclimated to the classroom, temperature, and check on any technology I might need. This gives me time to transition from traveling to the class and getting in a different mind frame to teach.

Students know if I’m not prepared and this isn’t the kind of role model I want them to see. If I expect them to be on time and be prepared for class, how can I expect less of myself? I believe that being prepared is vital to a successful lesson.

What kind of things do you do to be prepared for the classroom? Please share.

Image: 'brokencopier'
Found on

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Do They Want to Learn?

eagerIn Genius Hour — Let Your Students Challenge Themselves from Angela Maiers, Speaker, Educator, Writer, Angela Maiers asks,

“What would happen if we gave kids one hour a week to work on anything they wanted?”

Having students give input on what they want to learn is a great way for them to get engaged in learning. Whenever students have given me input on anything and I listened to what they had to say, they felt empowered. I think this was a great way for them to get excited about learning.

When planning a topic of instruction, I asked them to give me some ideas of what they wanted to learn about that topic. I jotted down their ideas and then reviewed it with them. When teaching the topic, I tried to include their ideas if possible. At the end of the lesson or unit, I went over their ideas with them and summarized the learning to show that I took their input seriously.

Usually before a holiday or vacation, my students would get antsy. So about a month before, I would have them write down things they wanted to know more about. I would schedule a time for the library and have them find a magazine article (number of words for the article differed according to the student’s reading ability) and have it approved by me. Then I would use that article for lessons in class. They would practice reading and comprehension using this article. After they were done with the article, they worked on way to present their information to the class. On the last day before vacation, each student would give their presentation. This was a great way to make the last week before a vacation meaningful and keep students engaged in learning.

Since I taught a special education self contained class, I had many students for multiple years. At the end of the year I would have them write down topics that they wanted to learn about the following year. I would take their requests and match them up with state standards in order to formulate a plan for the year. Students requested topics such as dinosaurs, the Civil War, astronomy, the Holocaust, the Korean War, recycling, bugs, picture framing, and cooking. When I would teach a topic, returning students frequently would tell new students that the chose this topic. New students were amazed at how much input they were allowed in class.

When a student is learning about something that interests them, it makes classroom time so much more fun. Students are excited about learning and want to know more. It was pretty easy to incorporate most of the state standards with these topics. Reading, comprehension, grammar, writing was standard for most topics. Scientific inquiry and measurement was easily used in most topics. Then I was able to assess student’s understanding in different ways according to their different abilities.

Teaching this way was a win-win situation for all and it was a hit in the classroom.

Do you give students choices or input into their learning? If so, please share.

Image: 'Glutton'
Found on

Friday, March 22, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/22/13

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

Problem Attic - “Get instant access to 30 years’ of well-respected, proven questions for Math, Science, Social Studies and English.” (L:H ; SA: A)

Grand Canyon - “panoramic imagery of one of the world’s most spectacular national monuments: the Grand Canyon. These beautiful, interactive images cover more than 75 miles of trails and surrounding roads, making our map of this area even more comprehensive, accurate and easy to use than ever before.” (L:G ; SA: A)

World Tax Comparisons - infographic (L:H ; SA: SS)

Hero’s Journey - “The hero's journey is an ancient story pattern that can be found in texts from thousands of years ago or in newly released Hollywood blockbusters. This interactive tool will provide students with background on the hero's journey and give them a chance to explore several of the journey's key elements. Students can use the tool to record examples from a hero's journey they have read or viewed or to plan out a hero's journey of their own.” (L:H ; SA: LA)

The Science Behind Wheeled Sports - “This unit focuses on cycling and wheelchair racing: what we might collectively call 'wheeled sports'. The Scientific concepts such as force, acceleration and speed are also useful for understanding these sports.” (L:H ; SA: S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Cat Who Came Back For Christmas - A Book Review

The CatI recently read the book The Cat Who Came Back For Christmas by Julia Romp that I found in the New Book section of my public library. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

This story is about a single mother who is raising her son who has autism. It tells about a cat who gave this family a gift of love. Even though I have never had a child with autism, I really felt for this mother who struggled to get her young son understood. With a mother’s love, she never gave up on her son and didn’t listen to those who did. I felt truly frustrated for her. Even though she had many trying times, she constantly looked at the positives that her son brought in her life. The relationship that her son has with this cat is amazing and heartwarming. The hope and love in this book just fills you as you read it.

As a parent of children with disabilities, I highly recommend this to other parents so they won’t feel so alone. It doesn’t matter what disability your child may have, it was easy to relate to many of the struggles this parent faced.

As a teacher of children with disabilities, I highly recommend this to all teachers. This would be a great book to understand what many parents are feeling and how they see the educational system from their point of view. By hearing what this parent was feeling, it could help how teachers approach parents about their students and could help improve teacher parent relationships.

As a member of a community, I think this would be a great read for any adult. Many times we come across children who seem out of control or not disciplined. After reading this, people might be more aware that there may be other circumstances involved and not bad parenting. This might help make people more tolerant and aware of possibilities in their own community.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t expect too but the kitten on the cover appealed to me. I had no idea what this book was about and thought it would be about cats. But once I saw it was about a bond between a cat and a child with autism, it had me hooked!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


forgivenessAccording to the Free Dictionary, Forgive means 1. To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon. 2. To renounce anger or resentment against.

Forgiveness is hard. There is nothing easy about forgiving people. Every day I hear about how we need to forgive people and that it is the right thing to do. Yet, it is another thing to actually do it.

There are many wrongs that happen in the educational system, in the schools, and even in the classroom. But I know I need to forgive people for these wrongs. Why? Because that is what I need to do to move forward.

The Legislature - Whether on the state level or the national level, I can only hope they are doing the best that they can even if I don’t agree with them. They are making decisions from the information they are given by either their aides, lobbyists, or their constituents. Some of these people speak louder than others. In order to fight back, I need to get past the personal level and forgive them for making decisions that I don’t agree with. I need to not take their poor decision making personally and work out ways to change their minds. As long as I hold a grudge and only focus on their wrong decisions, I don’t make room in my brain for ways to help them see that other options are available.

Schools - Many times the principal will make a decision that impacts the most people at one time. Unfortunately this may not be the best decision for me, my class, or even my department. I need to forgive the principal for doing his/her job and not feel like this decision was made to disrupt my life personally. I need to understand that sometimes I won’t understand why the decision was made but I need to do my job from that point forward. If I continually blame the principal for all the wrongs that are happening, I’m expending way too much energy blaming rather than focusing on what can be done.

In the classroom - Many times my students may act inappropriately or refuse to act at all. I need to forgive them for being this way because I might not realize what is going on in their lives. I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes that may motivate them to act this way. Sometimes my students are unable to control their actions and lash out. I need to forgive them and look for ways to reach them. As long as I focus on their bad behavior and refuse to forgive them, I will be unable to find positive ways to interact with them.

At no time am I saying that I need to forget anything but instead I need to use these things as building blocks for the future. I need to learn from what others have done and brainstorm ways to overcome these obstacles. Forgiving clears the mind and by not forgiving, it clogs the mind. I want to be a teacher with a clear mind. I don’t want to waste brain space by holding grudges for things that are in the past. I need to use what I learned to be better prepared for the future in case history repeats itself. I need to turn this negative situation into a positive opportunity.

How do you handle forgiveness in the workplace? Please share.

Image: 'untitled'
Found on

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Writing Advice

WritingIn Things Learned From Our Four-Legged Friends... from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

“What writing advice do you have?”

Just start writing. The hardest thing for me is to get started. Once I start, I seem to gain momentum. Yet, I have to push myself to get started. So, I begin by just start writing and then let the thoughts start flowing.

Don’t worry about organization at first. I just start putting my thoughts down in writing and don’t worry about organization. After I have written everything down, I start grouping the sentences together that belong together. Sometimes they say the same thing in a different way so I have to choose which one sounds better. Sometimes I find out that some sentences don’t belong on topic and should be saved for another day.

Write from the heart. I mean what I say and don’t just write down thoughts that I think people want to hear. I write with feeling and try to write things that I think can impact others or make a difference to others.

Write personally. I try to write about how things affect me or what they mean to me. I don’t try to write about what other people do. If people think that something works for me and wants to give it a try, which is a good thing. Sometimes it won’t work for them. But by seeing that I try something and that it worked might give them inspiration for strategies that will work for them.

Know your purpose. I think about what I’m writing and why I’m writing it. I think about my audience if it will make people think that it is worth reading. Sometimes I might just write to vent my feelings or to reflect on my own actions. Then I realize that I am my own audience which is okay as long as I know this. Then if it benefits others, it is an added bonus.

Be appropriate. I don’t mean that your writing has to be perfect but use good writing etiquette. I don’t want to read stuff that is full of profanity, hate, or about illegal actions. If that is what you want to write about, then preface your article with that to warn people. I have info on my blog that tells people what I am writing about in general. I try to stick with my general mission as much as possible.

Make it interesting. If it is boring for me to write about it, then I know it will be equally boring for anyone to read it. I think I enjoy entertaining myself while writing as much as hoping that others will find it entertaining and interesting when they read it.

What writing advice would you give? Please share.

Image: 'Be seeing you'
Found on

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oconee Bells

017Last week I went on a hike with a ranger at our local state park to see the Oconee Bells. This is a rare flower that is only found only in the mountains of SC, NC, and GA and they bloom from mid March to early April. These flowers were found by Andre Michaux, a French botanist, in June 1787 even though many say it was in December of 1788. (We know this because he brought evidence of them back to Versaille that was dated 1787.) Years later , Asa Gray, an American botanist, gave these flowers their Latin name: Shortia galacifolia named after Dr. Charles W. Short. Dr. Charles Sargent saw the plant about 100 years after Michaux and gave it the common name Oconee Bell. Amazingly, none of these men had ever seen this plant in bloom.

In his journal, Michaux wrote about finding these flowers in the high mountains and people searched for these plants for years. For Michaux, after coming to America and starting out in Charleston, Oconee County seemed like the high mountains to him when in reality it was the piedmont. It was a 17 year old trout fisherman who found them on the banks of the river and brought it home to show his dad, who happened to be a botanist. For years, they sold these plants to people for their gardens.

These plants reproduce from runners that come from the established plant. Apparently there are seeds but whatever dispersed the seeds to make new plants isn’t around anymore. When people began to pick these flowers for their own yards, it made the number decline which makes them a rare plant now.

Thankfully the park service is doing a great job of educating people about this plant and trying to preserve it. There is a great 1 mile nature trail called the Oconee Bell Nature Trail that brings people to areas where they bloom. If you ever have a chance to visit the park, this is worth seeing in March and April. The trail is nice any time of year but to see the Oconee Bells, your best chance is in March or April.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, March 15, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/15/13

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
I Need a Pencil - Free SAT prep (L:H ; SA: A)
Wonderopolis - “It’s a place where wonder and learning are nurtured through the power of discovery, creativity and imagination. - See more at:” (L:G ; SA: A)
Brainy Box - create great presentations (L:G ; SA: A)
Sketch Star - create your own animation (L:G ; SA: A)
Plag Tracker -  “is a unique checking algorithm that scans content for plagiarism. It is fast and easy to use. We ensure our system will find any content that has been plagiarized, along with a list of all the sources, to make is easier for you.” (L:T ; SA: A)
Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Episode 22 March Madness

1. Contact info:
a. loonyhiker on Plurk:
b. Loonyhiker on Twitter:
c. Blog –
d. Email me at

2. Music Notes
a. Every Child’s A Star by Danny O’Flaherty from his Heroes CD. :
b. You can watch a video and hear the whole song on Youtube here:
c. Every Child’s A Star CD Campaign:

3. Science Notes
a. Frog Watch USA
b. FrogWatch Reseachers of Greenville Zoo (FROGZ)

4. Teacher’s Lounge:
a. Online CEC 877 meeting - info from the SCCEC convention
b. BAM Radio: The voice of the Education Community

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Caring Too Much

caringIn Get Accused of Caring Too Much from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam shares,

“I had a conversation recently with a teacher who was feeling a bit beat up, because she had been criticized for caring too much for her group of students.”

Years ago, I was transferring to another school and had an exit interview with my principal. After giving me an excellent evaluation and signing the papers, he put them aside and said, “Now let’s talk candidly.” He looked at me and told me he was glad that I was leaving because I “cared too much.”

Apparently I was making the other teachers look bad and he felt it was a reflection on him. I contacted all of my students’ homes every two weeks either by phone or in person.  By letting the parents call me at home when needed, I was too close to the parents. I lived in the community and saw my students and their families outside of school. I attended extracurricular activities and became friendly with families of kids who weren’t my students. I was an advocate for my students and pushed for things that they needed and by rights, the district should provide. I stood up for my students when they were right.

I did all of this because I cared. I cared about my students. I cared about the school. I cared about the community. I cared about doing what was right. I cared about being a good teacher. I cared about doing a good job. Yes, I admit it. I cared. Obviously to my principal, I cared too much.

So, I was also glad I was leaving. I left for a school where I was allowed to care. No one told me that I cared too much. I had an administration that appreciated my caring. The students and the community even appreciated that I cared.

Caring is a good thing.

Caring too much is even better.

Do you care too much? How do you show it? Please share.

Image: 'My Van Door'
Found on

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You Are Stardust - Book Review

stardustI recently was sent the book You Are Stardust written by Elin Kelsey and illustrated by Soyeon Kim. This is the review that I gave the books (and I am not being paid to give this review):

This book looks like a young child’s book with cute illustrations. It is a nice story connecting the young child with the environment and might be a nice story to read aloud. The only concern I have is that some of the vocabulary seems way too advanced for a picture book like this. Words like: womb, swirling, quenching, sprints, sprout, microorganisms need to be carefully explained before the young child can grasp the concepts that are shared in this book. There are great opportunities for discussion on space, growth, seasons, oceans, water cycle, flowers life cycle, rainforests, and animals.
There is also an app that you can download to go with this book. “The app is an enhanced digital version of the book and features narration by author Elin Kelsey, a behind-the-scenes look at how Soyeon Kim created her dioramas, a build-your-own diorama activity,”

If you come across this book, a child would enjoy the pictures but I think it needs to be read with and by an adult. I don’t feel this book is one that a child could read independently.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Frog Watch Training

025This weekend I went for Frog Watch Training and it was an awesome experience. It was held at the Greenville Zoo and given by Lynn Watkins and Barbara Foster. If you ever get a chance to take this training and become a volunteer, I think it is going to be well worth the effort. Click HERE to see the pictures from our training.

Now I’m sure you are asking, what in the world is Frog Watch, so I’m going to fill your head full of fun stuff I learned.

According to the web site, “FrogWatch USA is AZA’s flagship citizen science program that allows individuals and families to learn about the wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads…

Frogs and toads also play an important role, serving as both prey and predator, in wetland ecosystems and are considered indicators of environmental health. Many previously abundant frog and toad populations have experienced dramatic population declines both in the United States and around the world and it’s essential that scientists understand the scope, geographic scale, and cause of these declines.”

During class, we learned more about what citizen science is and how this data will be beneficial. Then we learned more about amphibians and the types that exist. We also learned the protocol for monitoring frogs and toads in wetlands in order to be able to submit data that is uniform for all observers. Then we learned to identify 16 frogs and toads that can be found in SC by what they look like and what they sound like. There are more than 16 but the trainers didn’t want to overwhelm us. By giving us a sample of the sounds and also relating it to sounds that we know, it was easier to connect the calls with the specific animal that we were identifying. Also, there is a 2 minute of silence before you start in order for the observer and the animals to settle down once you arrive. Then you monitor for 3 minutes and then record data such as date, time, weather, temperature, wind, frogs and toads you heard.

We were given a few handouts, a handy field guide, and a CD with some calls so that we could come home and practice. You can find the frogs and toads in your state by going to this page. This training along with the enthusiasm of the teachers made me want to learn more. I can’t wait to practice identifying frogs and toads by their calls but I can see now that this may take a lot of hard work. It is not recommended that you record the sounds at the site but instead document what you observe. It seems like this is like learning a new language and I should practice at least 10 minutes every day. Hopefully I will get better and better at identification in this way.

Once I feel comfortable identifying them using the CD, phone apps, and web sites, I would like to go to a local site and shadow someone who is doing actual monitoring and filling out the data sheets. When I begin filling out the data sheets, four of them need to be submitted to our local trainer to see if I am on track and monitoring it the way I should. I like the way I wasn’t pressured that I had to learn all of the calls, and fill out the data sheet perfectly the first time. Also, the time I want to be involved in monitoring is really up to me and I am not tied down to specific dates and times. This freedom makes me feel comfortable in easing into this whole process.

Frog Watchers of Greenville Zoo (FROGZ) even has its own facebook page.

So, I would recommend you find a Frog Watch chapter near you by clicking here. Not only will you be helping the environment, but it is a lot of fun too!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, March 8, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/8/13

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

Professor Word - is a freebookmarklet that helps you learn new words while you surf the web. (L:G ; SA: A)

Flashcard Stash - allows you to create and customize your own digital flashcards. You can create flashcards with anything. Such as dates for History class, vocabulary for French class, or words for the SAT. (L:G ; SA: A)

Iditarod Education Portal - Great information on teaching about the Iditarod in the classroom (L:G ; SA: A)

Maps: Tools for Adventure - “use maps to solve problems and help animals” (L:M, H; SA: S)

History Explorer - “History Explorer's resources focus on learning history by "reading" objects for the stories they hold about the nation and its many peoples. Learning activities feature artifacts selected from over 3 million items in the Museum's collections, and draw on the expertise of the Museum's renowned curatorial staff.” (L:G ; SA: A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spike the Mixed Up Monster - A Book Review

SpikeI recently read the book Spike the Mixed Up Monster by Susan Hood and Melissa Sweet 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 is a great young children’s book with wonderful opportunities for learning. The illustrations are colorful and eye catching. The story is interesting and can be used for vocabulary development. It also gives Spanish words to introduce other cultures into learning. At the back of the book, the Spanish words and definitions are also given. The animals that are mentioned would be a great way to incorporate the book into a science lesson. In the back of the book, the author gives more information about the animals. This book would also be a great book to talk about social skills such as making friends, being different, feeling good about yourself, and individual strengths. After reading this book, students could be encouraged to draw their own monsters which would incorporate art with reading. Students might also want to find out more about other animals that some people might consider monsters.
I would definitely give this book a 5. This book would be great in an early childhood classroom or the school library. It would be useful for a class lesson or just for entertainment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Virtual vs. Face to Face

VirtualIn Is Face to Face Better than Virtual? from On an e-Journey with Generation Y, murcha asks,

“What do you think? If money, effort, cost, availability were of no consequence, and the presenter was highly engaging, would you choose face to face or virtual linkups? Why is one preferable over the other? How successful have your video linkups been? What makes them successful, what makes for unsuccessful connections?”

I believe that if money, effort, cost, and availability were no object, I would choose face to face linkups for my classroom.

Keep in mind that I love all my virtual linkups as well as face to face meetups but I believe that virtually linkups are just 2 dimensional where face to face is 3 dimensional. The more “real” it can be for my students, the more meaningful it will be for them.

Years ago, my class read the novel Four Perfect Pebbles by Marion Blumenthal Lazan. Through various connections, I was able to share expenses with 2 other schools and invite the author to come to our schools. I didn’t just have my whole class there to meet her, but I invited the whole school and even the community. It was amazing how exciting this whole event was! Students from other classes who I knew had some behavior issues were even well behaved! There was something about seeing this author in person that made her story more real. When she talked about differences in people and how all people had value, this message really resonated with my students. By being able to go up to her and even hug her, was a moment that many of my students would never forget. Even years later, I see former students who talk about this.

Now, this author was elderly and probably could have visited my class virtually but I don’t believe it would have been as meaningful. She would have been able to interact with the students and answer questions but there is something special and personal about seeing someone face to face. I don’t believe that I would have been able to engage the whole school or even the community in such a positive way as seeing the author in real life.

As I mentioned, I love meeting my online friends virtually. I feel connected with them and enjoy our friendships. But I love when I have a chance to meet them in person. I feel a deeper connection with them.

Yet, due to the economy, money, effort, cost, and availability are issues in real life. Having the opportunity to connect with others virtually is the next best thing. I would highly recommend it. Being able to interact with people around the world brings a new dimension to learning in the classroom. If face to face meetings are not possible, by all means, look for ways to connect virtually.

What do you think? How would you answer the question? Please share.

Image: 'Flat Classroom Skype'
Found on

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teacher Feature - Alice Simmons


This month’s featured teacher is Alice Simmons! Congratulations Alice for being this month’s featured teacher! I think you will really enjoy this interview because I know I did.

ST: What school do you teach at? 

AS: Bennington Grade School

ST: What subjects/grade levels do you teach? 

Alice1AS: I have a special education resource room with grades K-6, some years can include 7th & 8th grades as we are a PreK-12 building and try to start the year with fairly balanced caseloads. Additionally I am one of our special education cooperative Mandt trainers (this is a system of managing your own behavior to assist other with managing their behavior). I primarily teach core instruction with reading, written language, phonics, and math for some students but support all subjects as students need. For other students, I do skill work which don't require extensive pull-out time. We manage paras who support our students in the regular classroom. My focus is to move students from pull-out to support in their classroom and for those who it's appropriate they are moved out of services. My caseload includes a variety of exceptionalities as well.

ST: How long have you been teaching? 

Alice2AS: 30 years including a couple of years of tutoring while in college as well as a few years as a full-time mom thus teaching my own children during their early years.  (Here Alice is with her beautiful family!)

ST: What has been the hardest thing for you as a teacher? 

AS: Juggling!  Keeping everything going when I have 6 different grades/subjects in my room at the same time or when I end up on my own with multiple needs in my room without a para. Keeping everything moving smoothly and forward including academics and behavior. Another challenging facet is figuring out what and how to tweak when I have a student who is not making progress or who plateaus. Processing through these challenges can be frustrating for the students as well and helping them not be frustrated is a challenge. Scheduling can be quite a challenge. Keeping up with all the current changes with regard to Common Core as well as other changes which come along.

ST: What do you feel is the best thing about teaching? 

AS: The kids! The kids! The kids! Watching them learn and being able to celebrate with them when they make progress. Watching those lightbulbs turn on, buds of learning turn into beautiful flowers. Being able to celebrate with parents when we make great achievements or are able to dismiss a student from services and watching them blossom. It's great when a student demands I email or text a parent to tell them what just happened. Developing relationships not just with my students but with their parents so we can work together as a team. Developing relationships with colleagues so we can work as an effective team. The teacher across the hall is great at helping me celebrate and reward great progress steps. There's a special joy when you have a student who doesn't like school yet one day at home gets upset because they realize they are missing your class. To have the parent come in and share even this is such a wonderful feeling. To have the student who comes to you at the end of the day to let you know they are not excited about not getting to come to your room the next day as they have something else to go to. I have a small group of kids when there is a schedule change, will manage to come to my room to get me to tell the teacher that I must have them come down or try. When they want to come down, then we are able to achieve great things. Giving one of my students a leadership role with the younger students and watching them blossom rising to a different challenge. Oh and did I say the best thing about teaching is "THE KIDS"?

ST: What is the biggest issue in education that you wish the state or federal government would address and why? 

AS: Elected officials who know nothing or next to nothing about education making decisions on what and how we are to teach. I don't mind aspects like Common Core which give a cohesiveness across states. What does bother me is when they think they can determine who should receive how much of what service, that all kids will achieve at a certain level (no one is perfect and then there are the attitudes of some, let alone those students who may not have enough to eat or are concerned with shelter or with being safe, then there are our students with learning disabilities or cognitive impairments or communication impairments), passing legislation which is supposed to decrease paperwork when it really increases paperwork and on that paperwork there might be hard set timelines regardless of illness or blizzard or whatever curve life might throw us. I think it would be great if every year they randomly selected everyday working teachers from across the region (state for state committee and country for federal committee) and across grade/subject levels (including special ed) to serve on an advisory committee for a year and take the advice to heart from actual teachers not just committees for general education but for special education as well.

ST: What piece of advice would you give to a new teacher in order to be successful in the classroom? 

AS: College doesn't really prepare you for having your own classroom. It does give you a very basic framework but the real learning happens when you have your own room. The first year will be the hardest and it will get easier from there.  Take your first year a day at a time and have something at home for you to do which destresses you. Don't be afraid to ask questions of your colleagues and make sure you have a mentor who can help you out. Most important - become friends with the custodian(s) and secretary, everyone knows they really know what's up and if you become friends with them they will help you when you need it. Have crackers or some other healthy munchie for those students who might come in hungry. As for the classroom and actual teaching, have your lesson plans but have in there the ability to go with the flow. Sometimes the left turn leads to our end result in a different way. If you don't think a lesson went well, think how you could change up your presentation to improve it and bounce ideas off of other teachers/mentor. Be willing the first year to try some different techniques you've learned to figure out what best fits your style. Teach to as many modalities as possible. Listen to the kids as they can have great ideas. Several years ago I had a multi-grade science class and we were talking about energy. We got to a point of nuclear energy and one of my students asked if it was what they made bombs from & what happened if it went kaboom. I told them a melt down and brought in information on Chernobyl & 3-Mile Island. My thinking a quick 1 day project to go over the highlights. They came up with the idea of making scale models so I challenged them with what would be on the rubric. In the end we had a 3 week project with active scale model meltdowns and the students could tell you everything you wanted to know about nuclear energy as well as the type of energy they thought was the best and why with the last portion being a written report. If you become a general ed teacher, don't rush to have a student identified for special ed. Current trends have us being able to use classroom intervention data and while it can be a lot on your plate, in the end it can aid in a student being appropriate identified. Remember you have the basics in your toolbox, as you teach your toolbox will become much fuller and you'll get to know which tool to pull out for each situation.

ST: If money was no object, what would you want for your classroom? 

AS: More iPads and iPod touches or maybe some iPad minis with accessories (including computer to manage the devices) and gift cards to be able to purchase apps as good ones become available without jumping through purchase order hoops. We received a grant for some of these and I wish I had enough iPads to configure one per student. I'd love a large stash of iPod touches to be able to give one to my 5th & 6th grade students (maybe a few 4th graders) as well as our junior high & senior high students with the audio of their textbooks on them as well as being able to put novels (both for reading/English class and for independent reading) as well as some key apps for skill practice. These iPods could then be given to them, if still in working order, when they graduate from high school.

ST: If you could have anybody in the world visit your class, who would it be? 

AS: Oh my, this is a tough one. I'm going to answer this with two people. The first person would be Helen Keller as she was an influence as someone with a disability could do anything they want to do. I grew up with a hearing loss. I would love to have Sherrie Chrysler, one of my sped profs, come and visit. As with many of us in our sped program, she was a very influential person.

ST: Is there something special or unique that you do in your classroom? Is so, please share.

AS: I have tarps cut into 9" wide strips. On these tarps we have the alphabet, letter sounds (per our coding with saxon), sound pictures, and numbers. We are able to walk, jump, hop, etc... our phonics, our spelling, our math. The math tarps help with adding and subtracting as well as skip counting. I do brain gym and brain dance activities which encourage both sides of the brain working together. With spelling, we chunk our spelling words and with strips of paper we color code each. We start with the first section, adding one section at a time (maximum of 4 sections) we learn to spell our words forwards and backwards. I have word chunk tiles (wingo) which we are able to make up our own game to work on reading real and nonsense words. I do like to purchase materials which can have multiple uses.

If you want to nominate a teacher for me to feature in the upcoming months, please email me (successfulteaching at gmail dot com) their name, school, and contact info. Please consider helping me recognize teachers who sometimes don’t get the recognition that they deserve!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monthly Review of Goals from February

eyeNow that February is done, I want to see how I’m doing with my goals to this point. All of my goals can be found here.

For the year: (I only listed the ones that I have been able to do so far.)

1. I want to spin the alpaca fiber that I processed with some wool. I finished spinning 4 oz. of alpaca and plyed it with 4 oz. of Corriedale wool to end up with 608 yards of fibery goodness. I would like to knit a vest out of this.

2. I want to knit a sweater. I bought some yarn from WEBS to make a sweater.

3. I want dye yarn. I have been watching videos about how to do this.

4. I want to spruce up my gardens this year. I have picked all of the dead limbs around the yard that have been blown down from wind. I have trimmed back my butterfly bush and umbrella plant.

5. I won’t commit to more to more than I can handle. I haven’t volunteered for any new activities that have come up.

6. I will find something good in each day. Every morning I think about the good things that are possible for the day.

7. I will learn archery. I bought a groupon coupon for archery lessons.

8. I will nurture old friendships. My husband and I have gone out to dinner with another couple that we don’t see often.

I will lose at least 20 lbs. this year

Daily: (I listed each goal and what I’ve done with it.)

1. I will eat healthy. - I am trying to lower my consumption of carbohydrates to only on the weekends.

2. I will exercise. - I am running/walking 2.5 miles on the treadmill at least 4 times a week.

3. I will stretch. - I do this when I remember.

4. I will read my bible. - I found a great site: The New Bible, that also has an iPad app. I am able to subscribe to reading plans that are different lengths. Each day I go to the site and read the assigned passages.

5. I will do something that I have been avoiding. - I make a list the night before of things I need to do but don’t like to do. Then I choose one of them the next day and get it done.

6. I will contact a friend and let them know I am thinking of them. - I do this often by Facebook connections.

7. I will be happy. - I make this choice and knowing that I choose to do this, it is easy to be happy.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how I am doing with my goals. I have worked harder on them this month than I did the first month. I think one of the reasons is that I know I will review them each month instead of just at the end of the year.

How are you doing with your goals this year? If you are struggling, don’t give up. Just give yourself a fresh start and begin from this point forward.

Image: 'Eye Portrait'
Found on

Friday, March 1, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/1/13

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

Fetch! Lunch Rush - An app; “In this Augmented Reality, multi-player game, you need to keep up with lunch orders from Ruff’s movie crew. The challenge is keeping track of how many pieces of sushi everyone wants.” (L: E; SA:A )

Narrable - “Every photo has a story. Now you can preserve the voices behind your photos. Narrable makes adding your voice or the voices of your friends and family as easy and natural as talking on the phone.” (L:G; SA:A ) - “a fun system for students of all ages to learn the multiplication facts quickly and easily.” (L: E; SA:M )

UTellStory - “tell stories with audio, image, video and words” (L:G; SA:A )

Sketch Star - Make your own animations (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley