Friday, January 31, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/31/14

tools1 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

Wildfinder – “is an interactive tool that visualizes the global distribution of thousands of species that roam the Earth. Ever wonder exactly where tigers roam or vultures fly? Widlfinder shows you.” (L:G; SA:A)

Todoist – “Turn your browser into the ultimate to-do and productivity manager.” (L:G; SA:A)

Narrable – “uses storytelling through images and narrations to engage students and to draw out important higher order thinking skills.” (L:G; SA:A)

Thinkbinder – “ThinkBinder is here to change the way you study with your peers. We have re-imagined the study group environment around a simple, focused set of tools to allow you to work more efficiently. We believe that group discussions, shared notes and real-time interactions should be maintained in a private headquarters free from the clutter of e-mail and generic cloud hosting solutions. To put it simply, ThinkBinder is smarter studying.Our tools are designed around seamless communication and collaboration. Sign on and ask a question about your calculus homework, work through a physics problem on our collaborative whiteboard, then video chat with your Spanish partner. All in one place.Students, it is time to enhance your educational conversation. Share some brain cells and prosper from the brilliance of your peers. No matter how you choose to use ThinkBinder, you will never feel alone again in your quest for knowledge. Now go think together!” (L:H; SA:A)

TypingWebis a free online typing tutor & keyboarding tutorial for typists of all skill levels. TypingWeb includes entertaining typing games, typing tests, and free official typing certification.” (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chinese New Year 2014

Chinese-New-Year-2014-Horse-7 On January 31, 2014, my family celebrates Chinese New Years. It is the Year of the Horse.

New Years dinner was very important to my family and we would always have chicken and other traditional Chinese dishes. I don’t make these dishes now that I’m an adult but I have such wonderful memories of them.

We would also shoot off fireworks at midnight to scare away the evil spirits. Of course where I live, we can’t shoot off fireworks so I bang pot lids with a spoon. I figure noise is noise, right?

Red envelopes were envelopes with money in it (usually a dollar bill) and given to children by married couples or elderly people. This money was considered good luck.

All cleaning had to be done before the New Year. No cleaning could be done on that day because you might get rid of the good luck.

We also liked to wear red which was a color symbolizing good luck too.

So, if you have any Chinese friends, wish them a happy new year on this day and make them smile!

Photo “Year of the Horse” -

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 5 Assessments

assessment On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. So here is the challenge for today:

“Give a tip for assessment. What is an example of an assessment you give? Share any tips for designing/giving/grading assessments.”

I am a big believer of Project Based Learning. I like to come up with the objectives for my lesson and then think about the things students can create to show that they have mastered the objectives. I like to have my students create something new from their understanding of the lesson because I don’t have to worry about cheating this way. I believe it also helps the students become more engaged in the lesson because they know they aren’t expected to just regurgitate facts and figures. By applying their knowledge and creating something new, I can get a better grasp as to their understanding of the lesson. Sometimes I come up with suggestions for them to make and sometimes I let them think about ways they can show mastery of their skills. Sometimes if they can convince me that what they propose shows mastery, they are more excited and invested in the lesson.

First I plan out the main goal and objectives for the unit. Then I think of activities that will teach the information so that they can master the goals and objectives. Finally I think of projects that students can create to show me this mastery.

Once the students think about what they will need for their final project, I sometimes need to adjust the lessons. I might be teaching certain aspects of a lesson and due to their interest, I might need to add more or different information. In a way, this can end up an exploration adventure for all of us.

Of course, all of this takes careful planning before the entire lesson is introduced to the class. I like to have a general rubric that I will use to grade all of the projects. There are basic requirements that every student must fulfill and if they have the rubric from the start, the students have some guidance on where they need to start and the basics for how they need to finish. If they get more elaborate, they can add bonus points to their grade.

I have used this type of lesson many times and each time it has been successful. I have noticed that the more planning I do beforehand, the better the entire lesson seems to be.

What assessments do you give? Please share.

Image: 'Powerpoint Slide: "Planning with end in+mind"
Found on

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Apologies are Hard

Sorry In The Restorative Powers of ‘My Bad’ from Practical Theory, Chris Lehmann  shares,

“We should all get more comfortable with owning our shared, flawed humanity and be willing to say them more often.”

This reminds me of a situation that many of my former students probably still remember and have always referred to it as “Remember the zoo!”

This was probably 20 years ago and I had talked my principal into letting my 8 self-contained high school students go to the local zoo with the students in the Child Development class. That class was also bringing along a group of 3 -5 year olds with us. My class consisted of good students but I also had some students who needed closer supervision than others.

Everything went well until lunch time when we left the zoo gates to eat lunch at the picnic shelter close by. 6 of my older male students ( a couple who were 18 years old or older) had forgotten their lunch and asked if they could go to the concession stand to buy some lunch which I allowed them to do. About 40 minutes later they still had not returned and I was very worried. Still with me was a girl who had a brain tumor and was physically clingy to me along with a boy who liked to smoke pot when he thought no one was watching. Seeing how worried I was, the boy offered to watch the girl and promised me he would not smoke pot, do anything illegal, or let the girl wander away. The teacher for the other class was close by and promised to keep an eye on them so off I went to hunt for my wayward boys.

I was imagining all sorts of terrible things such as them teasing young children, maybe feeding them to the animals, or who knows what else! The longer I hunted, the madder I got. Finally I saw them walking to me but when they saw my angry face, they turned around the other way. I screeched for them to stop and not move. Then I proceeded to “get in their faces” and pointed my finger up at every one of them (they were a lot taller than me!) while I scolded them for a long time. They all had their heads hanging down as we went back to the picnic shelter.

Finally after calming down and making sure everyone had lunch, I started feeling bad about ruining their day. A parent pushing a stroller walked by and asked to speak to me on the side. He told me that he saw me scolding the boys and wanted me to know that they all were eating lunch at the concession stand quietly and respectfully the whole time. When I heard that, I felt awful!

I finally talked to the boys calmly and asked them why they didn’t return. They thought they had to eat the food there and wasn’t allowed to take food away from the area. They didn’t know that I was waiting for them and was worried that they hadn’t returned. They thought they were doing the right thing.

At this time, I realized how wrong I was and deeply apologized to them. I tried to explain that my anger was mostly out of worry for them. I didn’t mean to ruin the day for them by being so angry. They were surprised that I apologized but they seemed to understand. For the next hour we went back to the zoo and stayed together as a group.

For years after that, this story became a legend and “Remember the zoo!” was passed on from year to year, especially if we had a field trip planned. Every time we went on a trip, my students were on their best behavior because they never wanted to face my anger (which over time was greatly exaggerated) like those boys had.

It was hard for me to apologize but it was the right thing to do. I think it sets a good example for the students when they see teachers apologizing when they are wrong. It also shows students that teachers are human too.

Have you had a situation where you had to apologize to your students? Please share.

Image: 'Sorry - On Australia Day'
Found on

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 4 Looking for the Positives

positive On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. So here is the challenge for today:

“Share a topic/idea from class this week. What’s one thing you did with students this week that you will (or will not) do again? Why?”

One activity that I do each year about 3 months after school has started, is “Looking for the Positives.” By the time I do this activity, most of the students know each other in the classroom. Some get along with each other and some don’t. It is also getting near Thanksgiving and my students are starting to get stressed out about exams and holidays and other things that are going on with their lives. This is a good time to do this activity.

I start out by having students brainstorm positive words that they could say about other people. This is not directed to anyone specifically but just looking for positive words. As the students mention positive words, I write these on the board. No one is allowed to say anything negative during this whole activity.

Then I have each student choose a colored piece of construction paper and I write each student’s name at the top with a black magic marker. I ask the student to use a crayon and write a positive word about themselves on their paper. At a signal, I have them pass the paper to the person in front of them. Then they find a positive word on the board that describes the person named on the paper. Only positive words may be used. This is repeated until the paper has been written on by every student.

As I look around the room, I can see many students begin to smile to themselves. I see some sit up straighter as they see themselves in a more positive light. It warms my heart to see that some of my students get positive affirmation by their peers.

After this we have a discussion about how easy it is to say negative things about others and how it can become a bad habit. We also discuss why it is hard to say positive things about others. Sometimes teens are afraid of looking bad in front of their peers by saying positive things and feel like they belong more when they say negative things. It is really great to see students seriously discuss this activity.

I notice that students interact with each other better after we finish this activity. Students still disagree but many times they interact more respectfully with each other.

What is one activity/topic that works well in your class? Please share.

Image: 'YOU are Loved
Found on

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wandoo Planet

Here is the press release I got about Wandoo Planet. It sounds like something kids would enjoy and I plan to check it out!

“Evanced Solutions launches beta version of world’s first

kid-powered interest genome project

New software platform empowers children ages 6-14 to discover their keenest interests and find relevant books and movies they are most likely to enjoy

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 24, 2014)Evanced Solutions, a library software developer, announces today the release of the beta version of the world’s first kid-powered interest genome wandooplanetproject, Wandoo Planet. The subsidiary of Demco is seeking children, parents, educators and librarians to beta test the online platform—which will be widely available this spring as a free app—and provide their feedback.

The software empowers children ages 6-14 to explore their keenest interests by playing an interest-finding game. After they’ve decided on a few interests, they can then discover relevant books and movies via a personalized recommendation engine. Because Wandoo Planet is driven by an “adaptive learning system” algorithm, the more kids use the software, the “smarter” it will become—and the better its recommendations will be for all the kids who use it.

“Leveraging children's interests is a powerful tactic when it comes to fighting reading deficiency, but unfortunately, it is not something that has been put into widespread practice,” said Rob Cullin, president and co-founder of Evanced Solutions. “Wandoo Planet was created to offer children a platform that lets them choose and discover their individual interests to promote reading success. We welcome the feedback of our beta testers who will help us make the game even better before its official release this spring.”

In the interest-finding game, kids are offered topics and activities that other kids have found to be interesting—from “Twilight” and unicorns to dirt biking, superheroes and everything in between. Kids then decide if they love, like or dislike what they see. Once they have identified a few interests they love—or want to explore further—their own interest sapling starts to grow into an interest tree with individual branches representing each interest. The branches then start to bud with suggested kid-friendly content that directly relates to users’ interests. As kids read and explore, interest branches grow leaves.

“We’re very excited about the potential impact of Wandoo Planet on our youth,” said Lindsey Hill, former two-time Teacher of the Year and current lead for reading engagement initiatives at Evanced Solutions. “With its reporting capabilities, teachers, librarians and parents are easily able to track the types and numbers of books and other materials kids consume.”

Wandoo Planet is not the only educational project Evanced Solutions has created to help empower kids to find their keenest interests. The company also offers children’s edu-game apps based on content from award-winning Edupress board and card games, includingFroggy Phonics, That's Baloney! and Champs of Numeria, as well as its popular Tic-Tac Bananas app. Each app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

To become a beta tester for Wandoo Planet, visit Sign-up for children younger than 13 requires adult assistance.

For more information about Evanced Solutions’ efforts to improve children’s reading engagement, visit”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/24/14

tools1 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

Typing Adventure – a typing game (L:H; SA:A)

Good Typing – Free Online Typing Course - (L:G; SA:A)

UTellStory – “A multimedia storytelling and sharing community that let people from different age and background to easily tell stories and share topics with photo, video, voice, music and words.” (L:G; SA:A)

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States – “This digital edition reproduces all of the atlas's nearly 700 maps. Many of these beautiful maps are enhanced here in ways impossible in print, animated to show change over time or made clickable to view the underlying data—remarkable maps produced eight decades ago with the functionality of the twenty-first century.” (L:M,H; SA:SS)

NRICH – “promotes the learning of mathematics through problem solving.We provide engaging problems, linked to the curriculum, with support for teachers in the classroom.” (L:G; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 3 Website I Can’t Live Without

air On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. So here is the challenge for today:

“What is a website that you can’t live without? Tell about your favorite features and how you use it in your teaching and learning.”

For a long time I used Google Reader to consolidate my blogs and articles but when that ceased to exist, I now use Feedly. I like having my blogs and articles that I read regularly all in one place otherwise I will forget to go look at some of them. I like knowing when someone has posted something new and there is a feature where I can bookmark it to save it for later.

I learn so much from reading other people’s blogs. I have them organized into different folders such as Education, Knitting, Gardening etc.

Many of the posts listed are inspiration for blog posts that I want to do. I see it as one-stop-shopping and it saves time.

What website do you use that you can’t live without? Please share.

Image: 'Sucking Eviair
Found on

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Evanced Games Review

Recently I was sent an email giving me codes to download a couple of iPad apps to review.

FroggyPhonics The first one was Froggy Phonics which is geared for children ages Pre-K to grade 2. The cost of the app is $4.99. Students have the frogs leap from lily pad to lily pad trying to locate the words with the sounds that are given. Clues may be beginning, ending, or middle sounds. It kind of reminded me of that old game Frogger only this was educational. The graphics and sound effects were engaging and I can see young children really enjoying this. The directions were clear and easy to understand. Once the frog leaps on the correct lily pad, the word also said aloud. If the frog tries to leap to the wrong pad, the frog won’t leap. This is a great way to help students self-correct. I think this would be a great app for young students to work with.

TicTacBananas The second app was Tic-Tac Bananas which is geared for children from K-grade 2 and costs $1.99. This is a two person game and would be a fun game to use for word recognition reinforcement. Students look at the pictures and the part of a word that is shown. They are given letters to complete the word that describes the picture. Each person takes a turn by choosing a square to figure out the word and if they get it right, an X (made of bananas) or an O (made of a coconut) is put in the square. If they get it wrong, the picture changes in the square and they lose a turn. The graphics and sound effects are fun and amusing but I would turn down the volume if used in the classroom because it might disturb the other students. I think this would be great to use as a reward for students who complete their work early. I think the price is great for this app too.

ThatsBaloney The last app was That’s Baloney which is a trivia quiz game for students in grades 2-6. The great thing about this app is that it is free! I really enjoyed this game and I think students would have fun also. You start by giving your name and then you choose the mode where sandwich is 20 random questions or snack mode where you can choose a category. Then you choose a grade level that you want to start with. You have to decide if each statement given is true or baloney. If you get it wrong, you lose a pickle and if you lose 4 pickles, you lose the game. At the end of the game, they also review the answers. I would totally recommend this for teachers who are looking for a free educational app to try with their students. (I have to admit, that this was a lot of fun for me too!)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Smash Your Fears

I recently got an email that said,

“Eight years ago, my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer that kills most people within 2 years of diagnosis. She had just given birth to our daughter Lily, and was only given 15 months to live. After a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, LungLeavin’ Day was born. This will be the 8th year that we celebrate!

The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears! Each year, we gather around a fire in our backyard with our friends and family, write our biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. We celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, we celebrate life!”

So I went to the site – Lung Leavin’ Day which is celebrated on February 2. Scroll down the page to read the story. Once you get to the bottom, there are plates. There you have the opportunity to write your fear on a plate and then smash it virtually. It was really a great way to symbolically get rid of your fear.

This would be a good way for students to do some more research about mesothelioma or even lung health. It would also be great for many students who have many fears that they don’t feel comfortable telling an adult. It might not solve the actual problem but it might open the door to starting a conversation with someone who might be able to help.

If you haven’t checked this site out, I would highly recommend that you go there and give it a try!

Edited 11/17/18 -

"Advocacy organizations are more overwhelming in numbers moving into 2019. Information on mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis is also available through reputable sites like"

Image: 'Handmade Embroidered Anatomical Lungs Pillow'
Found on

Monday, January 20, 2014

Word of the Year – Support

support Each year I like to think of a word or theme for the year and this year my word is SUPPORT.

I’ve been so blessed with such wonderful things in my life and this year I want to be more supportive of my family and friends.

Instead of doing the Photo A Day project this year, I plan on going to Flickr and leaving more comments on other people’s photos. I want to comment more on the composition, color, details, or shapes.

I plan on leaving more comments on the blogs that I read. Not just general comments but comments that invite more conversation.

I want to do more scrapbooking and look at other people’s scrapbook pages. By leaving a comment on their gallery pages, I can support their creativity.

I am trying to lose weight and using MyFitnessPal and Fitbit. My online friends there have been so supportive of me and I want to be more supportive of them too.

What word or theme would you like to guide you this year? Please share.

Image: 'Always with you ! (Explore 19/5/13)'
Found on

Friday, January 17, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/17/14

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

Word TamerFun way to begin creative writing. (L: M, H; SA:LA)

Kuizza – “Kuizza is an online resource tool for testing one's knowledge of any topic imaginable. Users can take kuizzes (pronounced "quizzes", kool kids use a k) on nearly anything they wish and receive instant feedback on their results. Users may also contribute kuizzes by creating their own through our Create A Kuiz page. Kuizza seeks to allow people to validate their knoweldge base and encourage curiousity and action.” (L:G; SA:A)

Power Typing – “Online free typing tutor.” (L:G; SA:A)

Listen and Write – dictation to improve listening skills. Would be good for ESOL classes. (L:H; SA:LA)

Word Games - is a dictionary of impressive free flash word games! (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 2 Organizing Paperwork

paper On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. So here is the challenge for today:

“Share an organizational tip from your classroom. What is one thing you do that works for you?

In John: Help! I’ve Fallen into Paperwork, and I Can’t Get Out! From Reality 101: CEC's blog for new teachers, John shares ways that he keeps his paperwork organized. Then he asks,

“Veteran teachers, do you have any helpful tips for maintaining the paperwork you have as a teacher?  Techies, any suggestions for using less paper?”

I thought I would add to the list that he mentioned and combine it with Day 2 of the Blogging Challenge.

1. I keep a folder for every student which I make on the first day of school. In that folder are parent communications, examples of student work, referrals or anything else that I might want to take to a conference about that students.
2. It is important to file all things that need to be filed by the end of the day and not pile them up so it becomes overwhelming. Otherwise they get in a pile and never seem to get filed which means I never can find them when I need them.
3. I have started to scan a lot of papers and file them on my computer. Of course I always make a backup in case anything happens to my computer. I have actually found it easier to find the paper I need on the computer rather than hunt through miles of real paper to find it.
4. If there is some form that needs to be filled out with a deadline, I fill it out by the end of the day and turn it in. I also keep a log on my computer as to what form it is, the day I turned it in, and where or who I turned it in to. This helps me refer back to it in case the person says they never got it.
5. I try to email as much as possible. This keeps me from having to keep up with paper letters as documentation when I have an email with the date and time of contact.
6. I try not to use worksheets except for emergency lesson plans when I am absent. I like having students work on projects for units where they are creating something which is my assessment. This eliminates the worry of cheating and the burden of grading papers.

What are your secrets for organizing paperwork? Please share.

Image: 'stack'
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shipping – Last year and in the Future

shipping In I shipped in 2013 - you can too from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug says,

“‘What did you ship?’ is a great question for all of us to ask ourselves. What, beyond just doing one's job, did you accomplish (not try to do, not intend to do, not think about doing, not hope to get done, not plan to do - but actually DO) in 2013? What did you do that was a little bit scary? That you might have drawn criticism for? That may change the world just a little bit?”

And then he asks,

“What did you ship in 2013 and what will you ship in 2014?”

So here is what I “shipped” in 2013:

1. I presented a program and speaker to the church women about the Red Cross and fire safety. I enjoyed some reminders that I had forgotten about and hopefully some of the elderly ladies were reminded of some safety things also.

2. We bought a camping trailer and learned the ins and outs of camping with a trailer. It is interesting how many of these new lessons can be applied to other things.

3. We had to repair and ready a rental house for a new tenant which involved a lot of time and money!

4. I took an online Mapping with Google course. I’m hoping to use the knowledge for future trips.

5. I taught a graduate class for Furman in July (Practicum for teachers getting their Master’s in Special Ed.) This is my chance to share my knowledge about special education.

6. I attended the Furman faculty retreat and was able to interact with fellow professors that I don’t normally see.

7. I went to Myrtle Beach to meet up with my niece and her family from NY. I haven’t seen them in a few years so it was important to reconnect with family.

8. I taught an undergraduate class for Furman during the fall semester (Education of Students with Disabilities). This was an exciting and fun class to teach. I learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me.

9. I joined Furman Link which promotes fellowship among women of the University by providing social activities, planned programs and interest groups; by welcoming newcomers to campus; and by supporting projects relating to the University and community.

10. I attended the South Carolina Ed Tech conference and learned some new stuff along with networking with friends – old and new.

11. I attended Furman volleyball games to support my student who was a player on the team. I think it is important to support my students outside the classroom.

12. I visited Disney World 7 times in one year thanks to an annual pass that we had. It is amazing how much I learn about human nature by people watching.

13. I attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Tennessee where I learned so much about nature from experts while hiking.

14. I volunteered with the Red Cross and was able to come to the aid of people who lost a lot in local disasters.

15. I was a judge at the regional robotics tournament. It was amazing to see middle school students thinking outside the box!

16. I was interviewed on several podcasts. This was a great chance to share my beliefs and strategies that work in the classroom.

In 2014:

1. I hope to do some traveling around the country and reconnecting with friends. I think nurturing friendships are important.

2. I plan on teaching the Practicum again this summer.

3. I’m hoping to go to the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage again if we are not traveling across country.

4. I’m hoping to go to Hawaii this year since I have never been. It will leave only Wisconsin left to visit in order to say I’ve been to all 50 states.

5. I will continue to volunteer with the Red Cross because it warms my heart to be able to help other people.

So, what did you “ship” in 2013? And what are your “shipping” plans for 2014? Please share.

Image: 'Toasters?'
Found on

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day 1 My Favorite Book to Teach or Share

BloggingChallenge On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. I’d love for you to join in and if you do, here is a Google Form to list your blog so others can find you along with all the other bloggers who have joined in.

So here is the challenge for today:

“Tell about your favorite book to teach or share. Provide at least one example of an extension or cross curricular lesson.”

One of my favorite books was Four Perfect Pebbles by by Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan. Marion Lazan shares the story that shaped her life. She talks about her life in Germany before she ended up in the concentration camp with her family. This concentration camp was the same one that Ann Frank was in. It was an extremely moving story and my students were enthralled with reading it. Part of the reason was that it was a true story and they had a hard time imagining what it would be like living the way she had. I was able to use this as a novel to improve reading skills and writing skills. I also was able to connect it with History lessons.

My students in this self-contained special education class saw hardship from a different perspective. They also were inspired by this author’s courage and perseverance to survive.

The best part of reading this novel was when we invited Marion Blumenthal Lazan to our school to speak to the student body. I joined other schools in splitting the cost and invited the community to hear her speak. My students were the hosts and the school community saw them in a different light and the auditorium was packed full. Even people from the community came to hear her speak.

The biggest thing that the author talked about was tolerance. She felt that was the main message she wanted to share from her book. What an experience! It is one that I would definitely repeat if I had a chance.
What was your favorite book to teach or share? Please share!

Image: 'Project 50 - Day #1 (Moleskine)
Found on

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Key to Writing

key The first key to writing is you write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. – Forrester (played by Sean Connery) in Finding Forrester

I was watching the movie Finding Forrester the other day and I really enjoy watching Sean Connery along with the plot of the story. I've seen this movie a few times over the years but for some reason the above quote really stood out for me this time.

I realize that he spoke exactly the way that I write. It was like someone really understood my writing process! I believe this is the key to writing.

I finally have my husband jotting down ideas and notes as he thinks of them and then I help him put them in some kind of order. After it is in the order he likes, he can go back and do revisions. Now he writes so much more than he did when we first got married and I think he is more confident in his writing because of this. When he first started writing (for classes he was taking or for his work), he seemed paralyzed by the overwhelming task. Slowly, over the years, he has learned to write what is in his heart. The rewriting, correcting of spelling and grammar can come later but getting his thoughts down is what is important.

I want my students to do the same thing. That is one of the reasons I had them write in a journal for five minutes at the beginning of class. I tell them that spelling doesn’t count. I only expected five complete sentences written in paragraph form. I read over them and corrected their spelling but they didn’t lose any credit for that. I asked them to note the correct spelling and try to use it correctly in the future. After the second month, I insisted that they indent the first sentence of each paragraph. After the third month, I asked that they write a topic sentence in addition to the five sentences that supported the topic sentence. By this time, their spelling had improved because they could refer back to previous paragraphs.

It was amazing to read the things they wrote when they wrote from the heart. When they weren’t worried about spelling or grammar, they wrote freely about their thoughts and feelings once they realized that I was sincere about not penalizing them for spelling or grammar. Sometimes I left a comment to what they wrote and they seemed to like that too.

I’m not saying that they never would be graded on spelling or grammar but first I wanted them to write from the heart. It is exciting to see them when they feel comfortable doing this and free from their own limitations. If I couldn’t read or understand what they wrote, I asked them to come up and read it aloud to me so I could make the necessary corrections.

The best part was at the end of the year when I had them compare their latest writing to their writing from the beginning of the year. I even had them write about how their writing had changed and what difference they noticed. I hope it encouraged them to continue writing even when they left my class.

How do you encourage writing with your students? Please share.

Image: 'Key 3'
Found on

Friday, January 10, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/10/14

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

Word Counter – “ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text.” (L:G; SA:A)

Money As You Grow – “20 essential, age-appropriate financial lessons—with corresponding activities—that kids need to know as they grow. Written in down-to-earth language for children and their families, Money as You Grow will help equip kids with the knowledge they need to live fiscally fit lives.” (L:G; SA:A)

BiologyPopCollection of videos, articles, and games from different topics in biology. (L:M,H; SA:S)

Turn-o-phrase – using a set of pictures to help you identify colloquial phrases (L:G; SA:LA)

The Secret Millionaires Club – “The Secret Millionaires Club is an animated series that features Warren Buffett as a mentor to a group of entrepreneurial kids whose adventures lead them to encounter financial and business problems to solve. The program teaches the basic of good financial decision making and some of the basic lessons of starting a business. The animated series has 26 online short webisodes and TV specials featured on the HUB cable network.” (L:G; SA:SS, M, C)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Life in Stitches - A Book Review

ALifeInStitches I recently read the book A Life in Stitches by Rachael Herron. This is the first nonfiction book I’m reading for the year and part of my yearly goal to read more nonfiction books. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

As a knitter, I was very interested in this book because it involved knitting. Rachael Herron shares twenty stories about her life and how knitting was a part of each story. I found it interesting to learn more about an author outside of the fiction books that I’ve read from her. It made me see her in a different way which I think is important for readers to do. I think this encouraged me to look for biographies on my favorite writers.

Many of her stories struck a nerve because I could relate to some of the situations she spoke about. This book was an easy read because the chapters were short and interesting.

One quote that stood out and grabbed me in the first chapter was:

“Hope always came right behind disaster in my dad’s world…”

I thought this was a great quote to use in a classroom in order to encourage my students. If this accomplished writer could talk about failures and disasters in her world, then my students could dream about the future and the possibilities. This would be a great chapter to share with my students.

There is also another chapter about the Blanket of Love and how strangers and fans came together to make her a blanket that would comfort her after her mother’s death. What a great example of compassion and team work. This is another great example to share with my students.

So, if you have a chance, I would recommend this for teachers. Hopefully they would find a chapter or two that would be useful in the classroom.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Beginning the Journey

journey On Facebook the other day, my friend Ginger asked,

“Do you think we should encourage kids to follow their passions and make it their life's work?”

My answer was this:

Absolutely! Through this journey they will learn their strengths and limitations but with a goal in mind, the opportunities and possibilities are endless!

I need to see my student’s abilities in a positive way. Instead of telling them all of the things they can’t do, I want to focus on the things they can do and encourage to follow their passion.

If a student has a passion for something and I can fine tune learning towards that passion, I feel my student is more willing to try harder and take risks. The student can see the relevance of the learning if it is tied to something that the student is passionate about.

This doesn’t mean that their current passion will be their final destination. It may change along the way as students gain more knowledge, grow in their abilities, and learn from their failures.

Too many times I see teachers use the excuse of following standards and core curriculum as a reason not to encourage students to follow their passions. It makes me wonder if maybe the teachers have forgotten how to follow their own passions. It seems that all this red tape and regulations have clouded our vision or purpose for the final outcome.

I think if we help students to follow their passions, it will help us map out a plan for the entire journey. Along the way there may be roadblocks or detours or we may even decide to head towards an entirely different destination, but that is okay. The main thing is to get started. Being that journey. Take that first step towards where we think we want to go. Isn’t that what learning is all about?

What do you think? Should we encourage kids to follow their passions and make it their life’s work? Please share.

Image: 'untitled'
Found on

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Say Yes More

DSC_0092 Last week my husband and I visited my parents in southern Florida. While we were there, we went to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. As we started up the boardwalk I noticed the signs telling us all of the things that we could not do. I noticed how the list told us not to do this or that but there was nothing that said what we should do. How much more inviting it would have been to have a lot more yeses mentioned. Some I thought of were:

  • Yes, have fun!
  • Yes, look for different wildlife!
  • Yes, notice how wildlife interact with each other!
  • Yes, learn how to identify flora and fauna!
  • Yes, learn how conservation is important!
  • Yes, look at the beauty of nature!
  • Yes, share your love of nature with others!
  • Yes, take lots of photos!
  • Yes, enjoy yourself!
I understand that sometimes for legal reasons we need to post all the “no” things but maybe we should emphasize more of the “yes” things.

I see that many times in the classroom too and I don’t want my classroom to be filled with too many no things. My rules are written in a positive way rather than a negative way. Rather than saying “Don’t come unprepared to class,” I would say, “Be Prepared for class.” Rather than saying “No homework will be accepted late,” I would say, “Homework must be turned in on time in order to earn credit.” Instead of “No talking,” I would say, “Talking allowed for collaboration.”

There would be so many ways of turning negative statements into positive statements.

When I see all these negative signs telling me not to do something, I don’t feel very welcomed or encouraged. I don’t want my students to feel the same way when they walk in my classroom.

How do you handle the rules in your classroom? Do you state them with no or yes? Why? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley