Friday, May 31, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/31/13

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

Career Thoughts - Great resource for looking for a job and succeeding through the process. (L: H; SA: C)

Typing Club - free online program to improve typing (L:E,M ; SA:LA )

Dictionary of Numbers - “Dictionary of Numbers is an award-winning Google Chrome extension that tries to make sense of numbers you encounter on the web by giving you a description of that number in human terms. Like a dictionary describes words you don't know in terms you do, Dictionary of Numbers puts quantities you're unfamiliar with in terms you can understand. Because "8 million people" means nothing, but "population of New York City" means everything.” (L:G ; SA:A)

Worldwide Telescope - “From web to desktop to full dome planetarium, WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables you to explore the universe, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world and combining it with 3D navigation. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky. You can research and import your own data and visualize it, then create a tour to share with others. A web-based version of WorldWide Telescope is also available. This version enables seamless, guided explorations of the universe from within a web browser on PC and Intel Mac OS X by using the power of HTML5” (L:G; SA: S)

Hear Names - “learn how to pronounce names correctly.” (L:G ; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pterosaur Trouble - A Book Review

PTEROSAUR TROUBLEI recently read the book Pterosaur Trouble by Daniel Loxton 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 an awesome nonfiction picture book! The digital illustration mixed with the landscape photography makes it seem so much more real. Written for young children, I think older children would enjoy this book too. It mentions different dinosaurs which could lead to further exploration. This book introduces new vocabulary and concepts which could be used in a language arts or a science lesson. I think this book would be great to have in a classroom or in a school library. I would definitely give this book a 5 out of 5 rating!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Are Student Blogs Worth It?

bloggingIn Student Blogs: Challenges by Siobhan Curious asks,

“I’d love to hear about experiences, successful or otherwise, that the rest of you have had with blogs in your classrooms.  What could I have done differently?  Is it worth taking another stab at it?”

I have used blogs in my classroom but I try to keep the accountability off of me and more on the students and their peers. I think about the purpose of keeping a blog and why I want my students to do this. Is it to show understanding, share reflections, open up conversations or something else?

I give them criteria to write about such as a reflection and what I expect in the reflection. I make sure the post meets the criteria and give them credit for this. I have them answer specific questions for their reflection such as what did I do, how did I do it, why did I do it, what worked and what would I do differently?

I never promise to comment on each post (just as I don’t promise to comment on every writing assignment they turn in that is on paper.)

I ask my other students to comment on at least 3 blogs for the week and keep a tally of that. The comments have to be more than just a short “nice job” but rather whether they agree or disagree with the blogger and why or what stands out in the post and why. I want the blog to be more of a conversation and this helps the conversation go on.

At first my students are reluctant to do this but as they do it more, they become more relaxed and open up more. I see the posts grow more elaborate and I see the comments given more in depth. Sometimes I see the blogger answer the comments and the conversation continues which makes me thrilled.

Not only has blogging improved my students’ writing but also helped them clarify their thoughts and improve learning other concepts. It has helped them see other points of views and learn new ideas.

Do you have your students blog? If so, please share the things that work for you!

Image: 'Two Bloggers, after Norman Rockwell'
Found on

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Camper Adventure

camperWe started off on our adventure with our new camper. We were supposed to leave on Saturday but then heavy rains arrived so we postponed our trip until Monday. Well, Monday arrived with some fog but no rain so off we go. On the way, Don reminds me that we didn’t check the tail lights and the turn signals which we want to do every time we get in the car so I decide that we need a checklist before we “take off” for new adventures or to get back home. We decided to stop at Cracker Barrel in Anderson for breakfast and it is there that we find out that we had forget to connect the pigtail to the Tahoe and it has been dragging all the way. In Clemson we stop for electrical tape for Don to fix that.

We find our “perfect” campsite (#31) along the lake and it looks level. Boy, were we wrong! We ended up putting 2 blocks under the right tire which leveled it some but not enough to run the refrigerator. Don also lowered the stabilizing jacks with a ratchet but he sure wishes he brought his electric drill for this.

We met the neighbors! John and Sandy (Couch) Crawford who are from Taylors and was camping in a van that John had fixed up. Sandy grew up next door to Frances and Homer Elsberry from our church. Across from the bathroom were Homer and Madonna who had a “street light” fixed up in the trees (a lamp fixture in a white bucket) which was pretty bright.

Late in the afternoon, we had an afternoon thunder shower and Madonna came down to let us know we were supposed to have high winds and hail but that missed us luckily. After the rain left, we enjoyed a beautiful campfire that Don built and tried to identify the frogs that we heard. Poor Don burned his finger playing with the campfire. Then when he tried to turn out the outside light on the camper, it blew the bulb out (possibly from some moisture from the rain). Oh well, that will give him something new to play with.

It was really nice spending the night in the camper. I was warm and the bed was comfortable. Besides that I had lights and could read comfortably before going to sleep. I think I’m going to like this new camper! During the 3 nights that we camped, we had rain and thunderstorms each evening and night. It was really nice to watch DVDs on my laptop inside where we were safe and dry.

One day we walked around the campground and scouted out other sites that we might like. In fact, we changed our site for when we return in June. This will be closer to Don’s sister and her husband’s site. Hopefully at this site, Don will be able to play with the TV and get a satellite signal.

Hitching it back up on the Tahoe went without any problems and we got home and unpacked quickly.

Our next trip may be heading to the Smokies and using our generator. That may be a whole new adventure!

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

MemorialDayIt is Memorial Day here in the United States which is a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May each year. It is a day to remember those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces and used to be called Decoration Day. It began after the Civil War to remember both the Union and Confederate soldiers who had died during the war and continues to the present day. I am truly thankful for all who have sacrificed their lives for me and this wonderful country that I live in.

It usually also triggers off the beginning of summer for many people just like Labor Day signals the end of summer. Many festivals are scheduled for this weekend and many people like to have barbecues and parties for this holiday. Aloft (formerly known as Freedom Weekend Aloft) festival is held at our local park which features lots of hot air balloons being launched each day over the weekend.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have a safe and fun filled day!

Image: 'Memorial Day Free Download Poster, Graves at+Arlington+National+Cemetery,+American+Flag,+Veterans+Day+Holiday'
Found on

Friday, May 24, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/24/13

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

QR Treasure Hunt Generator - Make your own QR treasure hunt (L: T; SA: A )

Spacewalk - “Spacewalk is a networked interactive experience about taking a space walk outside of the International Space Station. Players collectively take on the role of astronauts navigating and exploring the structure of the space station. Spacewalk is an interactive experiment in alternative control schemes, free-form play, virtual embodiment, and metagame communication.” (L: H; SA: S )

Picture Match - “Picture Match is designed to give new readers practice with identifying beginning-letter and short- and long-vowels sounds through a simple, fun game. Updated in 2008, the game features all letters of the alphabet. In the beginning-letter sounds section, a picture of an object (for example, a car) is displayed, and students are prompted to choose the letter that corresponds with the first letter of the word. In the short- and long-vowel sounds sections, students are prompted to choose the vowel that corresponds with the word. If students choose the correct match, they get words of encouragement and a new picture. If they do not choose the correct match, they receive an audible prompt and can then try again, choosing among the remaining letters. Once all of the pictures have been matched, students can print out a chart showing which pictures go with which letters. Pictures are sorted randomly with each game to provide a challenge if the game is played more than once. Picture Match is intended for beginning readers and can be used individually or in small groups.” (L:E ; SA: LA)

Memofon - Text based mind mapping, learning and note taking tool. (L:A; SA:A)

Our Little Earth - Current events from around the globe for kids. Delivered by email every two week. It's free. For all ages Completely ad-free. (L:A; SA:A )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


We are having a wonderful time camping in our new camper. I am having to learn a different skill set compared to tent camping. Next week I will share some of my lessons with you. Have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend!

The Rain Won’t Get Me Down

flexibilityThis past weekend we were supposed to go camping in our new camper. Unfortunately when we woke up, it was pouring down rain. I was so disappointed! But we are lucky enough to have the flexibility to change our plans. After thinking about this, it reminded me that teachers have to have the same flexibility in the classroom.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a lesson planned (of course, I just knew it would be a dynamite lesson!) and then the fire alarm goes off, or an unscheduled assembly is called, or some other unforeseen event occurs. This means that I have to put off my lesson or change my plans.

Sometimes I have plans to work with a specific student on a specific skill and the student might be out sick or have some issues that keep us from working on that lesson. Sometimes the mood of the student or the class or myself might need to be considered before doing a complicated lesson.

I think it is hard for new teachers to learn how to be flexible. As a new teacher, I remember being so focused on what I was trying to do and could only see one path to get there. As years of experience got underway, I learned more and more how I had to plan for the what ifs. What if the day doesn’t go as planned? What if my student(s) are absent? What if I am absent? What if the copy machine is broken? What if the technology doesn’t work? What if I find out that I forgot some equipment? What if the administration comes in to observe (which always threw me for a loop)? There are so many more what ifs that I had to consider.

Over time I learned to have a Plan B and a Plan C in case Plan A didn’t work. Many times these alternative plans were general enough to apply to other lessons that I had. I didn’t have to come up with a new plan for each lesson.

Then I learned that I didn’t just need to have this flexibility in my lessons, but in my daily routine, and also my own life. Knowing that I had alternatives kept me from feeling boxed in and getting burned out. Looking at alternatives helps me see the broader picture instead of just having tunnel vision.

How do you keep flexibility in your professional life? Please share.

Image: 'Great Flexibility !'
Found on

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twerp–A Book Review

twerpI recently read the book Twerp by Mark GoldBlatt. This is the review that I gave the book and I am not being paid to give this review):

The student in this story is writing a journal to get out of writing a paper on Shakespeare. Julian Twerski, called Twerp, is a likeable character that many students could relate to. He feels misunderstood and tries to explain his actions in his journal. The consequences of his actions are also shared. This is a great book for upper elementary and middle school students to read because I think they would enjoy the main character. It is an entertaining book and would be great to read for pleasure but it also would be a great book to read as a class novel. There are so many situations that would lend itself to discussion such as social skills, actions and consequences, friendship, student/teacher relationships. I would recommend this for the classroom, the school library, and even a student’s personal collection.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Episode 24 May Happenings

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

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. Language Arts Notes
a. Book reviews: Twerp, One Little Christmas Tree

4. Math Notes: The Economics of Seinfeld:

5. Social Studies Notes
a. Fort Pickens
b. Fort Barrancas

6. Teacher’s Lounge:
a. Radio interview on BAM radio went well. Talked about Engaging vs. Entertaining Students
b. New Camper 2002 16 foot Casita Freedom Deluxe

Friday, May 17, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/17/13

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

MathisPower4U - Youtube videos: Math tutorials on arithmetic to calculus and beyond (L:G; SA: M)

The Art of Storytelling - “Experience a Story: Listen to stories, read and view pictures inspired by our collections created by visitors like you.;Tell a Story: Become a storyteller as you write and record a story inspired by works in the museum’s collection.; Picture a Story: Create your own work of art using objects and characters found in some of the museum’s most noteworthy paintings. Enjoy, and let your creativity flow through pictures and words!” (L:G; SA: A)

Video Notes - take notes while watching a video; put the url of the video in and watch on one side while taking notes on the other side. Then share your notes if you want to. (L:G; SA: A)

The Economics of Seinfeld - “Seinfeld ran for nine seasons on NBC and became famous as a “show about nothing.” Basically, the show allows viewers to follow the antics of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer as they move through their daily lives, often encountering interesting people or dealing with special circumstances.It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses. Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere – in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.” (L:M,H; SA: M, SS)

Popcorn Maker - “Popcorn Maker makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Use your web browser to combine video and audio with content from the rest of the web — from text, links and maps to pictures and live feeds.” (L: T; SA: A )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Drop Out Rates Can Be Deceiving

dropoutIn Diplomas Elusive for Many Students With Learning Disabilities from On Special Education - Education Week, Christina Samuel shares,

For the 2010-2-11 year, “Nationwide, the dropout rate for SLDs was 19 percent. But 22 states had dropout rates higher than the national average; South Carolina, at 49 percent, had the highest dropout rate.”

I was not shocked to see that my state had a high percentage of drop outs but it may be because I know what they include in the drop out category. As in many statistics, numbers can tell just about anything but if you are comparing apples to oranges, the numbers are meaningless. Unless all of the states calculate drop outs with the same criteria, these numbers don’t show anything and makes South Carolina look worse than it is. I’m not saying that our dropout rate is bad, but I am saying that it may not be as bad as it is portrayed.

I know that I taught self contained students who earned an occupational diploma from my district. Since this diploma is not recognized by the state, it is actually listed as an attendance certificate. Also, because my students were not required to pass some kind of exit exam and didn’t receive a state diploma, they are classified as drop outs. They are considered drop outs even though they have completed twelve or more years of school!

I feel this label really does a disservice to my students. It is demeaning and really minimizes all the hard work they put into towards completing a public school education. Many of my students were very bright but learned differently than students in general education classes. In fact, I helped many earn a GED after they finished public school. Some of my students may have had behavior issues (which may have been worse because of the frustration with learning) and put into a self contained class because a general education teacher could not handle them. Some students were slower learners and rather than getting accommodations in a general education class, they were dumped in my class. Even if I found out after a year that they were wrongly placed, they would have had to repeat that year over in order to earn Carnegie units from a general education class and many were too discouraged then to try.

In order to get an occupational diploma, my students had to work in an unpaid internship in 11th grade and then get at least 360 continuous paid employment hours in their 12th grade year in order to graduate. This means they could not get fired or quit or they had to accumulate hours all over again. We didn’t just teach them how to get a job but how to keep one also.

When I would go out to their place of employment, many employers would tell me how conscientious my students were and that they were more dependable than some of their other employees. I think it is because my students realized they already had a strike against them (their disability) and had to work harder than anyone else so it couldn’t be used against them.

I had a student with autism who completely organized a doctor’s office medical records. He was steady and a hard worker and didn’t seem to get distracted from his goal. This office raved about him so much they offered him a permanent job after graduation. I had another student who started working as a bag boy with Publix and eventually earned promotions each year that when I saw him years after graduation, he is a department manager and has stock options in the company.

I could go on and on about different students’ successes but it amazes me that students like this are listed as drop outs. I wonder if we followed the ones who have graduated, how many of them have full time jobs? Do graduation rates really predict success rates? I’m not sure. It sure seems like most of my students who are considered “drop outs” are pretty successful after graduation.

I really think statistics can be deceiving if we aren’t comparing numbers that use the same criteria rather than just having the same label.

What do you think? Please share.

Image: 'boys and dropout rates'
Found on

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Square Pegs

SquareIn One size does not fit all…, Paul Bogush asks,

“What are you doing for the square pegs?  What do you see in their future when they walk into your class?”

I think we need to make sure that we pay close attention to these square pegs. According to Fortune 500 magazines, many of the rich, famous, or in leadership positions were the square pegs in the classroom. These are the ones that learned to survive in the real world by developing coping skills from their school days.

I was one of the kids that tried to fit in to the round hole. I believe now, looking back, that I was really a square peg but I learned to adapt so that I could fit into a round hole. No one made exceptions for me and I was so determined to succeed that I found my own way to make myself fit. I was very self motivated and determined but many of the students in my classes did not have the same characteristics.

My husband would have been that kind of student who never fit in and never knew how to make himself fit in. He was considered a lousy student and deemed a failure. Luckily he went into the navy where failure wasn’t an option and learned coping skills (out of pure survival I think) that helped him succeed. Years later he went on to college and even became a judge. I share this story with many parents so they can realize that it is important not to give up on students who don’t fit the mold. Many parents don’t ever give up but it is really hard for them to convince the professionals not to give up.

I also learned many things from my husband on how to help my students fit in. Then I began to talk to other adults who felt like square pegs when they were growing up and I asked them for tips on how to help my students. Sometimes I opened up this discussion with my students and it is interesting that many of them have some ideas of how they can fit in better but feel like no one is listening to them. Allowing the student to give input actually empowers them and makes them feel more confident.

I’d love to be able to give you a laundry list of things that worked for every student but every student is different. Sometimes I had to try different things and if they didn’t work, I had to try something different. This sometimes took a lot of patience for both of us, the student and myself. I prepared the student for this possibility before we tried something so that the student didn’t feel like a failure if something didn’t work.

To find strategies that work, I had to take the time to survey the student and try to determine what style of learning works best for that student and in which situation. Sometimes a student may have different learning styles depending on the task the student is being asked to complete.

I also need to learn as many different strategies as possible so that when I when I need to try a specific strategy, I will have an assortment of things to try. It is like a construction worker who must have the right tools on hand to complete a project. If you don’t have the right tools, the end product might not turn out the best that it could.

This whole process will also help the students when they leave my classroom. They need to learn how to advocate for themselves and look for strategies that will work for them. Instead of sitting passively waiting for someone to help them, they will be able to take an active role in their own learning.

How do you help the square pegs in your classroom? Please share.

Image: 'unemployment was high in lego land'
Found on

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Things I Thought I’d Never Do

shovelIn Kaylie: Top Five Things I NEVER Thought I’d do as a Special Ed Teacher from Reality 101: CEC's blog for new teachers, Kaylie says,

“For all current teachers, please share what makes your lists of ‘Things I NEVER Thought I Would DO as a Special Ed Teacher’.”

As I began to think that I didn’t have anything to list, some things did pop into my head. Here are things from my list.

I never thought I would:

1. Dig 30 holes by hand with my students (3’ in diameter and 3’ deep) so the trees we ordered could be planted. I ended up in holes that I couldn’t get out of and students had to pull me out. The trees were so big, that a crane actually lifted them off the truck and placed them in the holes.

2. Start a worm compost system in my classroom.

3. Learn how to mat and frame pictures in order to teach my student a skill he wanted to learn.

4. Have a student go into labor in my classroom.

5. Take my class on a 8 mile hike with me to a waterfall at the state park.

6. Cry when a student gave me a dozen long stem red roses at graduation as his way of thanking em for teaching him to read(his parents say this was his own idea and bought with his own money).

7. Double date for the prom with my students.

8. Call 911 on one of my students who had perfect attendance in my class when I found out he was wanted by the police. It was a sad day for me. Later, when talking with him, I explained that I had to do the right thing and wouldn’t cover for my students.

9. Attend wedding showers, weddings, and baby showers for my former students.

10. Keep in touch with many of my students 20 years later.

What are some things you never thought you would do as a teacher? Please share!

Image: 'Rake & shovel'
Found on

Monday, May 13, 2013

Florida Adventure May 2013

Tuesday, 5/7/13

We left home at 7am and it was good timing. Traffic was smooth the entire way. We stopped for breakfast on the north side of Atlanta because the traffic started to back up due to an accident. After breakfast at Steak-n-Shake, I drove us through the heavier traffic through Atlanta. We stopped in Montgomery, AL for lunch at 005Mrs. B’s Home Cooking and the food was delicious. If we go through there again, we will definitely stop here for lunch! It was $9 for an entrée, 2 sides, bread, and a drink. We arrived at Fort Pickens State Park around 3:30 (central time) and set up our campsite (C45) for $20 per night. We drove around the area and Pensacola Beach. Since we had to pay $1 to get over the bridge, we stayed on the island and decided on a Subway sandwich for dinner which we ate at our campsite. We walked over to the beach and watched the sun set. Our campground had Pensacola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.

Wednesday 5/8/13

We had breakfast at the Coffee Cup Restaurant on E. Cervantes St. in Pensacola. In fact, we went here for breakfast every day because it is where the locals and cops ate plus the food was cheap and good. Then we 020spent the day at the National Naval Aviation Museum which was free and lots of fun. We took the trolley out to the flight line and saw 2 of the Blue Angels take off on a practice flight. Lunch at the Cubi Café was reasonably priced too. Later in the day we were there for the Blue Angels autograph session. We ate dinner before returning to the campground and walked the birding trail around the Marsh. We saw 2 snakes: a rattlesnake and a copperhead. On the way back to the campground we walked along the beach on the gulf side. The mosquitoes were really awful and they feasted on Don.

Thursday 5/9/13

I woke up with red bumps all over my feet and a few on my hands. We think I might have been bitten by sand fleas since I had been wearing my sandals and Don wore his tennis shoes. After breakfast, we went to Fort Barrancas and explored. About 2 hours later, the park ranger found us and let us know that she was locking up because the fort was actually not open to the public. She had been giving a tour to a school group which is why the gates were unlocked. After apologizing, we left and stopped at the Barrancas National Cemetery. Then we stopped at Walmart to pick up some supplies and had lunch at the Coffee Cup Restaurant. After 106lunch we went to Fort Pickens where the park ranger (the same one from that morning) was giving a tour so we joined her. Hooters was our place of choice for dinner. The 10 wings were $6.99 but the sodas were $3 each!

Friday 5/10/13

I woke up at 4am and the wind was picking up and it was cloudy enough that I couldn’t see any stars. After checking the weather online and noting that the fog was moving in, I woke Don up at 4:30 and we packed up the tent to head out. We were going to head to Manatee Springs State Park but the rain looked like it would hit there too so we headed for home.

We had a great time and would definitely come back here again!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/10/13

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

Duckie Deck - Educational Games (L: E; SA:M )

Miss Spell’s Class - fun word game to identify misspelled words (L:M,H; SA: LA)

Word Kingdom - “Build your kingdom by arranging letters to form words. Correctly spelled words can be converted into resources to feed your warriors, fortify your fortress and dominate WordLand.” (L:M,H; SA: LA)

Digital Public Library of America - “The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world.” (L: G; SA:A )

Career Sighted - “…3 minute videos about every career you can think of and thousands more that you can’t. These videos are available for free at so that students (and anyone considering a career change) can discover a career that is well suited to their interests and talents.” (L:G; SA: C)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 9, 2013

National Naval Air Museum

008Yesterday we visited the National Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, FL. We spent hours looking at the many planes here. How exciting it was to be there for an autograph session by the Blue Angels! We even saw two of the planes take off for a practice flight. Unfortunately all of the shows have been cancelled due to the federal government sequestration so I was glad to be able to meet the pilots and talk to them!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Accentuate the Positive

In John: Where’d All the Good People Go? John asks,

positives“…could you share some of your successes, big and small, in the comment section to help some teachers struggling to find the positives in our profession?”

Well, I didn’t share this with John in the comment section because I tend to be wordy (who would have thought!). I thought I would share my thoughts here.

First of all, I don’t think I can depend on others to find the positives I need to keep going. I have to look for them myself and squirrel them away for a rainy day. Just thinking positive thoughts wasn’t enough for me even though it helped.

John had a great idea of keeping a journal which I did the first year. I kept a daily notebook and wrote about each student every day. It was really wonderful to go back years later and read this notebook. Not only did I see my own teaching practices in a different light, but I was able to see how much I had grown and take satisfaction in that. I have started keeping a Joy journal and writing down each day the things that bring me joy. When I am feeling down or discouraged, it is fun to read this journal.

Another thing I did was keep in close contact with the parents of my students. I called them every 2 weeks or so, which helped keep the phone calls short and sweet. By calling often, I established a wonderful rapport with many of the parents and they appreciated me for keeping in touch. Many of them would tell me how much this meant to them. When I was feeling discouraged or frustrated, I would call some parents to brag about their child’s work, behavior, and/or general attitude. This always thrilled the parents and worked as a pick-me-up for me and I always felt better after these calls.

I developed a few hobbies such as hiking and gardening. This really helped relieve a lot of stress as well as took my mind off my classroom. My husband could tell you that he thought I had my classroom on my mind 24/7 and would constantly talk about how whatever we were doing and how I could use it in the classroom. All during the summer, I was thinking about new lessons and things that would make my classroom better. Having hobbies helped me decompress and give my mind time to relax and take a break.

I also like trying to improve my teaching practices every year by researching current trends and new strategies that are being used. This involved attending conferences and training sessions during my personal time. When possible, I would ask colleagues if I could observe them to learn something that they were doing that seemed special. Many were flattered and allowed me to do this. I tried to avoid getting in a rut and teaching the same way every year and doing the same things over and over (because let’s face it, it is easier and not much work is involved). I would read magazines, watching educational podcasts, and even developed a personal learning network online. Connecting with others and sharing ideas and strategies is truly energizing!

Facing the reality that being a teacher isn’t going to be happy and fabulous all of the time also helps. Like anything in life, there will be ups and downs. Talking (or ranting) about the down times with a colleague helps me but then I need to let it go. I can’t harp on it constantly every day and let it consume my life or there won’t be any room for the “ups” to come in. I have to admit that I will make mistakes, I don’t know everything, and I can’t be perfect no matter how hard I try but I can learn from my mistakes, learn more every day, and try to be better each day. In the same respect, I have to see other people in the same light and not expect others to be error-free, know everything, and be perfect.

So, how do you find the positives in your profession? Please share!

Image: 'Explosion of positive energy'
Found on

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My First Paycheck - Now What?

financesIn Preparing students for real-world financial success, Lisa Nielsen states,

“Students often begin pursuing employment as early as high school, but they are not taught best practices when it comes to managing their money.”

Many people I talk to don’t realize this until we are discussing it. Then we talk about how we learned or when we were taught. Many were taught by their parents but now with so many children living in single parent homes or being brought up by grandparents, I think this real life skill is falling by the way side. I learned a hard lesson about credit cards when I graduated from college and maxed out my new credit card. No one taught me how credit cards worked and my parents never had one so they couldn’t teach me. I was thrilled that I was able to get something that my parents didn’t. Luckily, when I got married, my husband had more money sense than I did and got my finances on track.

Here are some skills that I think we need to teach our students. These can be incorporated in lessons for reading, math, social studies, social skills, and/or career preparation.

1. Bank Accounts - how to open up checking and savings accounts, what bank fees are involved, how to balance the accounts, withdrawing and depositing money, penalties

2. Banks/Credit Unions/Rent to Own/Check Cashing Companies - Look at the different types and compare

3. Loans - loan applications, fees, final payoffs, interest payments

4. Health insurance - benefits, costs, comparison shopping

5. Car insurance - benefits, costs, comparison shopping

6. Credit cards - reviewing statements, annual fees, interest charges, other fees

7. Pensions/Retirement - how does the system work

8. Taxes - state, federal, sales

9. Buying a Car - comparison shopping, taxes, maintenance costs, other costs

10. Renting an Apartment/House - comparison shopping, fees, utilities, deposit, maintenance

11. Buying a House - costs, fees, different types of loans, interest, final payoff

12. Budgeting - How to set up a budget, look at expenses and income

These are just some of the things I wish someone had taught me so I didn’t have to learn the hard way. I believe by learning these things, students will be more successful in life. What other financial life skills do you think students need to learn before they leave school? Please share.

Image: 'Dollar in Piggy Bank'
Found on

Monday, May 6, 2013

Who Taught Me?

In Prompt #3: The Writing on Learning Exchange: Who Taught You by Siobhan Curious, she asks,

“This week’s prompt: Who have you learned from?  What did he/she teach you?”

I guess I’m in another weird situation because not one person taught me the main things but several people have taught me many important things about life. Some are no longer living, some are, and some I have no idea where they are. So, let’s begin!

My professional life:

I had a wonderful third grade teacher who made me love school more than I ever thought I could. She challenged me and praised me every day. Learning was fun and doing well was even better. I wasn’t expected to be perfect but I was expected to do my best. Reading was the best part of her class and it was encouraged every free moment we had. I never wanted to leave her class. I knew that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up and wanted to be just like her!

My fourth grade teacher was a nightmare I will never forget. She was a perfectionist and physically abused students when they gave a wrong answer. She would pull them out of their desks and bang their heads against the cinder block walls. Then we were threatened that if we ever told on her, she would get us next. I had the beginning of an ulcer that year and it was the first time I ever went to the doctor. Needless to say, I was a straight A student and did not make mistakes so I was never abused but the threat was still there. I didn’t realize until a year or two later that she had been engaged, married, abused by her husband (which is why she wore sunglasses to class), and was divorced in that one year I was in her class. In fact, she had such an impact on me that I never told my family about her abuse until I was married and out of college. Even though she was awful, she taught me a lot. She taught me that I never wanted to be a teacher like her. I never wanted my students to be afraid of making mistakes. I never wanted my students to be afraid of telling their parents about school. This was a teacher that I never wanted to be and used her example to review my teaching practices at the end of every school year of my career.

My personal life:

Family1964My parents: My parents worked hard raising three daughters. My mother was a stay at home mom and my father worked in a restaurant. I don’t believe he had any sort of pension plan or health insurance. I learned to stay healthy and take care of myself and was given home remedies if I was sick. I loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and had it for lunch every day of my school career and give it a lot of credit for my good health which also resulted in perfect attendance. My mother made all of clothes for school and my father spent a lot of time with me on his one day off from work. We had dinner together as a family every day even if it meant that we ate dinner as soon as I got home from school because my father left for work soon after that. I’m not sure I ever told my mother how much I appreciated her when she died at the age of 59 but as I get older, I feel like I can see more and more the many sacrifices she made for me. I realize now that she did without so many things so that I could have so many things. My father is still going strong at the age of 93 and I work hard to let him know how much I appreciate all that he taught me such as having a strong work ethic is very important and that family is important too.

My oldest sister: She taught me to enjoy life because you never know how long you will live. She was diagnosed with lupus when she was about 18 and since they didn’t know much about it, she wasn’t given long to live. She lived for 9 more years and didn’t die until she was 27 years old (I was 15 at that time). She appreciated every day she was still alive and even though I was so much younger than her, we were very close and I learned to appreciate life with her. I learned that I couldn’t worry about the “what ifs” and I need to live in the “here now” or I would miss out on many wonderful things.

My husband: He has taught me to start every day with the right attitude. No matter how I am feeling, I need to be thankful for each day and be happy that I’m alive. In fact, he actually says that out loud every day. He gives me a kiss good morning every day and lets me know how much he loves me. I learned how much this can mean to someone because I know how much it means to me. I learned to appreciate being alive and being thankful for the people in my life!

So, now I ask you, who taught you and what have you learned?

Photo by one of my family members but I’m not sure who.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/3/13

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

Math Trail - game involving math and geography skills (L:M, H; SA: SS)

100,000 Stars - “100,000 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser. It shows the real location of over 100,000 nearby stars. Zooming in reveals 87 major named stars and our solar system. The galaxy view is an artist's rendition.” (L:H; SA: S)

Kodu Game Lab - “Kodu lets kids create games on the PC and XBox via a simple visual programming language. Kodu can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming. Anyone can use Kodu to make a game, young children as well as adults with no design or programming skills.” (L:G; SA: A)

Astronomy Picture of the Day - Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer” (L:H; SA: S)

Scoot and Doodle - “online, collaborative studios where friends and classmates easily get creative together, face-to-face and in real-time.” (L:G; SA: A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Monthly Review of Goals from April

GoalsApril is now past andI want to see how I’m doing with my goals to this point. All of my goals can be found here.

For the year:

1. I want to spin the alpaca fiber that I processed with some wool. ( I accomplished this!)

2. I want to knit a sweater. (I am finished this and I think I love making top down raglan sweaters!)

3. I want dye yarn. (not worked on yet)

4. I want to spruce up my gardens this year. (I have spread 26 bales of pine straw and did a lot of weeding so far. We’ve had a lot of rain though so my weeds seem to grow faster than I can pull them!)

5. I won’t commit to more to more than I can handle. (I have turned down 2 leadership opportunities this month. Even though I would have loved to do them, I have enough on my plate right now. )

6. I will find something good in each day. (This month has been glorious!)

7. I will learn archery. (I still haven’t signed up for my lessons yet and hope to do it this month.)

8. I will nurture old friendships. (I spent a lot of time with friends who attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage too.)

9. I will lose at least 20 lbs. this year. (My weight has gone up and down this month but I’m still down 5 lbs from the beginning of this year.)


1. I will eat healthy. (I have been logging my food in daily and I think that helps me be conscious of what I’m eating.)

2. I will exercise. (I have walked 10,000 steps for 26 days of the month.)

3. I will stretch. (I am doing strength exercises each day.)

4. I will read my bible. (I let this slide this month and I need to get back to doing this!)

5. I will do something that I have been avoiding. (I haven’t been avoiding things this month so I think I’m doing a good job with this.)

6. I will contact a friend and let them know I am thinking of them. (I’m still working on this one.)

7. I will be happy. (I don’t have to work too hard on this because I’ve been pretty happy.)

I’ve done pretty well this month. The only thing that I’m disappointed in is with my bible reading. I need to do a better job with that. I still think this monthly review of my goals has really helped me stay on track.

Have you reviewed your goals or resolutions you made at the beginning of the year? How are you doing? If you haven’t achieved something yet, don’t give up. Just begin now.

Image: 'La Jolla Goal Wall'
Found on

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Day 3

154(Click to see pictures from Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Day 3)

(Link to the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2013)

The first session today was on Forest Foods and Pharmacy led by Ila Warren and Brittney Hughes (Naturalist, DeSoto State Park in AL). We met at Metcalf Bottoms and walked to the Greenbrier School. Here are things we saw and info about some of them.

1. Witch Hazel (by bridge and water) - astringent, used for water dowsing; loves its feet in water, seed pods burst, beins are not symmetrical.
2. Solomon’s Seal - cut rhizome in a cross section and Star of David Appears.
3. Fleabane - new can be pink or blue; pregnant women planted this to predict sex of babies.
4. Rattlesnake Weed - green leaves with purple veins, in the dandelion family
5. Cinquefoil - yellow bloom, aka Barren Strawberry; 5 leaflets not leaves.
6. Poison ivy - leaves of 3
7. Galax - aka Beetleweed or Fairy wand, smells stinky, pollinated by ants.
8. Spotted Wintergreen
9. Christmas fern - eat fiddleheads by parboiling and then sauté.
10. White Pine - source of Vitamin C and calcium. Limbs are in a circle. Add to Yellowroot and make a salve using lard and oil. Fry with needles, cinquefoil, and yellowroot. Use on poison ivy and bug bites.
11. English plantain and jewelweed can be used for poison ivy too.
12. Dog hobble
13. Dog wood - bloom is actually yellow. Flowers are modified brachs. Use dogwood berries - parch and ground; used for quinine to treat yellow fever during the Civil War
14. Violets -edible blooms; leaves have to be cooked.
15. English Plantain - aka White Man’s Foot - use in a salve; use instantly on bug bites by crushing and rubbing on bites; young are edible in a salad along with dandelion, chickweed, and violets. Seeds are great fiber source.
16. Wild Ramps - industrial onion; lots of sulphur, false hellebore leaves look the same and cooking them could kill you.
17. Morel mushroom - $35-$40/lb. tastes like steak or fishy; can stuff and back, can bread and fry. Leatherback mushroom is also good in the fall even though it is smelly, it tastes good.
18. Wild Woodruff - whirled leaves
19. Spanish Dagger - aka yucca; take finber to make cordage; blooms are edible right off the plant.
20. Trailing Arbutus -once they bloom, they put off new foliage.
21. Partridge Berry - aka squawvine. Berries are edible; have 2 belly buttons, 2 blooms with a fused ovary.
22. Buffalo nut - aka oil nut; oil used for lamps; put wicks in oil to make them last longer.
23. Poke salad - eat leaves but parboiled several times; eat berries whole; roots are poisonous
24. Wild Cherry - never pick and let leaves wilt because arsenic becomes concentrated; use leaves immediately when they are fresh; leaves used in cough medicine
25. Yarrow - staunching wounds and bleeding
26. Halbred leaf violet - yellow bloom
27. New York Fern - tapered on each end, wide in the middle, big spread of them
28. Wild Geranium - palmate leaf with a lot of vines; seed pods burst when touched; pollinated by ants; ants carry off seeds, eat oily covering and the rest germinates.
29. Wood Anemone
30. Rattlesnake Plantain - orchid family
31. Lemon scented trillium
32. Dwarf Iris
33. Chickweed - use leaves in salad for weight loss
34. Monarda - Wild mint; square stems, Bee balm
35. Vetch - goat’s rue
36. Wild Yam - women’s medicine; estrogen, uses roots
37. Stonecrop sedum
38. Bloodroot - blooms early
39. Ironwood - see “tendons” in the bark that looks like human muscles
40. Vasey’s Trillium
41. Sassafras - spring tonic (SSS tonic - Sassafras, sweet birch, and spicebush); boil and simmer roots to make tea; blood thinner so be careful if you have high blood pressure; weak tea; cleansing and tastes good.
42. Yellowroot - looks like parsley; help kidney ailments, mouth ailments, antibiotic
43. Cutleaf Toothwort - peppery; mountain wasabi; used for toothaches, tastes like horseradish; if it ends in -wort usually has healing properties.
44. Sweet Birch - smells like wintergreen; 2 leaves at one place and 2 buds; aspirin like properties; lightly boil or simmer; aka toothbrush tree; refreshes plain water.
45. Woody stems - simmer; leaves - steep
46. Lycopodium - running cedar

Our next session was on Wildflower Photography using an SLR camera. This was led by Jack Carman ( author of Wildflowers of Tennessee) and Bob Hutson (co-author of Wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains). We were also in their class on the first day and this really added to what I learned on the first day.

1. Focal length divided by camera’s multiplication factor (Nikon = 1.5)
2. Manification talked about in terms of life size: 35mm =1x1.5=life size; ¼ life size = 4x6”
3. SLR shopping - look for Depth of Field Preview, Live View, manual or aperture priority, cable release, mirror lockup, Nikon or Canon

1. macro lenses are the Cadillac of photography; life size without accessories; 100mm or 180 mm-200mm which is better; goes to life size but not as flexible as a soom lens for other uses and cost.
2. Zoom Lenses - work well for flower photography, use a diopter or extension tubes for magnification beyond ¼ life size; 70-200mm or 70-300mm works well
3. Diopters - fits in front of lens, 2 elements are high quality; magnification is the focal length of lens divided by focal length of diopter; positives (no light lost, low cost); negatives (minimum optical degradation)
4. Extension Tubes - hollow tubs between lens and camera; magnification is length of tube divided by focal length of lens; Positives (no optical degradation and relatively inexpensive); negative (loses light)
5. Multipliers - 1.4x (1 stop) or 2x (2 stop) are best; fits between lens and camera; increases focal length but maintains the original close focusing distances; positive (longer focal length); negatives (some optical degradation and major light loss; should not be used with zoom lens)

1. Tripod - goes flat to the ground; Eye height without use of a center column; minimum 4 lbs if made of carbon fiber ($$-$$$) or 5 lbs. if made of aluminum ($); legs move independently; 3 secions stronger; Brands - Bogen Gitzo, Induro, RRS
2. Tripod Heads - ball head most commonly used; camera placed and locked by a single knob, quick release; ara - Swiss
3. Cable Release
4. Angle View Finder
5. Level
6. Polarizer
7. Dark Cloth
8. LCD Views - old slide fild , 4x Loupe, Hoodman 1x loupe; newer model collapses
9. Plant holder (pipe cleaners, ties)
10. Commercial stakes to hold accessories
11. Camera cases

Electronic Flash
1. Use standard TTL flash unit
2. Flash used mostly as fill with a flash compensation setting of 2 stops
3. Used with a diffuser

Batter Powered LED Lights
1. See results before you take the picture
2. More control than reflector
3. Video broad light like a reflector
4. Flashlight, spotlight, or special effects
5. Video Lights have more color cast
6. Correct with gel or filter provide
7. Flashlight has greater color cast
8. Inexpensive video lights ($40); available such as CN-160 from Amazon
(Note: Get Light Source in close light up subject not the background.)

1. Rain umbrella - 36 inches
2. Collapsible Translucent - 32 inches
3. Photographic umbrella - 60 inches

Shading Tools - Black piece of cloth over umbrella

Depth of Field (DOF)
1. Use manual focus
2. Depth of Field - difference between the closest point in acceptable focus and farthest point in acceptable focus.
3. DOF is a function of
4. The magnification of subject - mag. Increases, DOF decreases
5. F stop - f stop increases, DOF increases
6. DOF is not a function of lens focal length
7. Maximize DOF
8. Camera back should be parallel to the plane of your subject
9. Selective focus

Depth of Field Preview
1. Lens is normally at its max opening, min. DOF when you look through view finder
2. Use DOF preview button to stop the lens down to the picture taking aperture
3. DOF preview with live view
4. Focus with live view

I had a great time at the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2013. If you have never been to it, I highly recommend it! Maybe I’ll see you next year!

Original Photo by Pat Hensley