Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 18 David and Goliath

DavidandGoliath 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:

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

I recently read the book David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and thought it had some interesting points. These are the quotes that I think would make great starters for a discussion.

1. David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants.
2. Inverted U curve – Left (doing more or having more makes things better, the flat middle (doing more doesn’t make a difference), right (where doing more or having more makes things worse.)
3. What is the perfect class size?
4. We form our impressions not globally but locally by comparing ourselves to people in the same boat as ourselves. Our sense of how deprived we are is relative.
5. Making questions “disfluent” causes people to think more deeply about whatever they come across. They’ll use more resources on it. They’ll process more deeply or think more carefully about what’s going on. (For example, changing the font to a gray instead of black.)
6. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.
7. People who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice – that if they speak up, they will be heard.
8. The law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.
9. The authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.

This would be great to use in a professional development session among teachers or high school students. It would be fun to break people up in 3-4 groups and have them discuss specific quotes. They would decide on 3 important points they want to make about each quote and then share it with the entire group. Then it would be great to interesting to compare the views of the teachers vs. the students.

Have you read this book? If so, please share what you think about it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/28/14

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

Exploratorium – “The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception located in San Francisco, California. We believe that following your curiosity and asking questions can lead to amazing moments of discovery, learning, and awareness and can increase your confidence in your ability to understand how the world works. We also believe that being playful and having fun is an important part of the process for people of all ages.We create tools and experiences that help you to become an active explorer: hundreds of explore-for-yourself exhibits; a website with over 50,000 pages of content; film screenings; workshops for lifelong learners including day camps for kids and family investigations; evening art and science events for adults—plus much more. We also create professional development programs for educators, and are at the forefront of changing the way science is taught. We share our exhibits and expertise with museums worldwide.” (L:G; SA:A)

Purpose Games – “Create your own games, host your own groups / classes, study for a test, or just dazzle us with your knowledge. PurposeGames is a completely FREE service!” (L:G; SA:A)

Electric Circuits – discover what goes on inside electrical items in your home and school. (L:E; SA:S)

Arthur Family Health – “Dealing with your child's health can be challenging and sometimes scary. Arthur and his friends are here to help with games, videos, and resources designed to help keep your family safe and strong.” (L:E; SA:S)

Lucidchart – “is a web-based diagramming application used to create compelling visual communications right in a web browser.” (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 17 Social Media Contact Info

networking 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 all of your professional social media contact info and links. How do you engage in social media for professional learning?”

I am Loonyhiker on Plurk, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Diigo, Tumblr, Instagram, and Google+. I try to use the same username on everything because it is easier for me to remember one username and for others to find me. I am also on Linked In as Patricia Hensley.

I read and comment on a lot of blogs. I use Feedly to collect the blogs that I read so it is all in one place and easy for me to find when they are updated. I connect with a lot of educators on Plurk, Twitter, and Facebook. People share links to great information on all of the social media that I use and I try to do the same. I like how I can share things so easily through Google+. It is amazing how I can read current information from Plurk and Twitter almost before it hits the news media.

Please share your contact info and how you engage in social media for professional learning!

Image: '@brockuniversity Social Media'
Found on

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Self Awareness Inventory

self In Self-Awareness: What Makes You…YOU?Angela Maiers, Speaker, Educator, Writer, Angela Maiers  invites us to take a self-awareness inventory. I decided to give it a try.

“Here is a simple self-awareness inventory that anyone can use to easily define and discover their traits and interests:
- My best trait is…
- I struggle most with…
- My favorite learning environment is…
- I help myself most by…
- Something that gets in the way of my learning is…
- I learn best by…
- I am interested in…
- My goals are…”

- My best trait is my positive attitude. I try to look on the bright side of things which I think affects my overall attitude.

- I struggle most with self-doubt. I am always second guessing my words and actions. Sometimes I feel that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not likeable enough, not capable enough etc.

- My favorite learning environment is a quiet comfortable place with soft music in the background.

- I help myself most by giving myself pep talks to overcome the self-doubt.

- Something that gets in the way of my learning is fear. I’m afraid that I can’t do it or that I will fail.

- I learn best by watching someone else model it for me. This is why I love watching videos on how to do something so I can replay it over and over if I need it.

- I am interested in gardening, hiking, knitting, reading, spinning.

- My goals are to learn new things even if I’m afraid to do it.

It was interesting to put these thoughts in words. Even though I think I’m a positive person, I’m pretty negative towards myself. I think I need to work on that aspect in my life. I think sharing this with my students would help them see that I’m a person, just like they are.

Now, I challenge you to take the self-inventory. Please share your results either in the comments or in a blog post!

Image: 'sails'
Found on

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Explaining Disabilities

In Adrien:  Teaching students to be self-advocates from Reality 101: CEC's blog for new teachers, Adrien asks,

“How do you teach students with disabilities about disabilities? Or to be self-advocates?”

At the beginning of every school year and at least once every quarter, we talk about disabilities. It is that elephant in the room that unless it is discussed can really interfere with learning. I like to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

DSC_0003I start out with the picture of a car on the board (I’m not a good artist so my students enjoy seeing my drawing ability!). Then I draw bridge with a road on each side in front of the car with a dotted line. I explain to my students that this is the road to graduation. Sometimes I might even draw a pot of gold or a packet of money at the end of the road. All of the kids are paying attention at this point. Then I take the eraser and erase the bridge. I explain that this is their disability. For whatever reason, their bridge is gone and we are not going to worry about why the bridge is gone or what caused it to be gone.

Now I draw a detour road from the car up around the road and broken bridge that leads to the pot of gold (or money). This road is usually full of curves to show that it is longer than the original road. Unfortunately this road is full of potholes, boulders, and lots of ups and downs that cause their trip to be longer and harder than if they had traveled the original road. This is just like their life where they may face hardships and struggles but that there is no reason that they can’t end up at their destination just like students in general education classes. Of course the trip may be longer and harder and they may even want to give up at times. But I will be there to help them and encourage them so that they won’t be alone on the trip. I describe myself as the “On-star” voice in their car.

I think this really helps many of my students. I see them nodding with understanding and agreement. It seems to make sense to them. Then I ask them to make the same type of drawing and explain it to a partner. For homework, I ask them to explain it to their families and discuss it with them. When they return to school, I ask them to share how they felt and how their families felt about this explanation. To reinforce this explanation, I repeat this again right after they get their report cards and right before summer vacation. You would think they would get tired of this but they never seem to tire of hearing about it.

How do you explain disabilities? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bullies and Rude People

bullies In Not Every Bad Behavior is Bullying. From Blog, Michael Smith says,

“The most overused word in education is ‘bullying.’
People throw it around way too easily.  You can make this accusation with absolutely no proof…
As usual, our society has swung too far in identifying ‘bullies’.”

I think Michael Smith is absolutely right. The word Bullying seems like it is the buzzword of the year. If you want to get the righteous up in arms, talk about bullying. Even some people who don’t have a clue about what is going on will jump on the bandwagon in favor of anti-bullying. They don’t need to know the situation but they will want to be on the side against the so called bully.

Many times I see instances of people being rude and self-centered. But that is not bullying.I grew up being made fun of because I was a minority. I was physically stuffed in lockers and I was scared to death. That is bullying to me. In my mind, bullying is something that someone does more than once and may be directed to one or more people. If we label people bullies I hope we have all of the facts.

I see rude people in the store who want to cut in line in front of me because they have gotten away with it before. This may be a bullying habit for them but I have no way of knowing if this behavior is a habit or a one-time event. Maybe the person has to go to the bathroom or is sick which causes them to be rude. I don’t know so I can’t label this person as a bully. I don’t think labels help anything and instead of labeling the behavior, it is important to talk about actions instead.

I see a lot of programs that talk about how we need to get rid of the bullies and how we should punish the bullies. There are also programs to change the behaviors of the bullies. Yet, I believe we also need to start teaching our students to stand up for themselves when they are faced with rude people or bullies. If they stand up to this person and the offensive behavior continues to be directed at them, they need to know how to handle the bullies. People would not continue rude and offensive behavior if others stood up to them. That is how society works.

Remember when you were a little kid and if you grabbed something out of another child’s hand, you might get bopped in the head. You learned not to do that behavior. How about the times you acted silly or said something stupid and your peers gave you that funny or disgusted look? You learned not to say that again. I think this works with rude behavior too. We need to stop being so polite to others and turning away from this behavior. We need to confront it and say it is not acceptable.

As a classroom lesson, I would create scenarios and have my students role play how they would behave in this situation. Role play is a very successful strategy when trying to demonstrate a certain behavior. The more this is practiced, the easier it will be for the students to do this when faced with a real situation in the same way that we practice fire drills and tornado drills. You hope that they will never have to face it but if they do it, they will be prepared.

How do you define “Bullies?” How do you prepare your students to deal with this type of behavior? Please share.

Image: 'Bully Free Zone'
Found on

Friday, March 21, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/21/14

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

Iditarod Education PortalGreat resource about the Iditarod

Explain3D – “system of interactive 3D simulations helping people to learn how things work. Simulations are the best way to show your audience, how your products work and let them play with them. They can be very useful in education and presentation. Simulations can be accessed online using web browser, standalone on all types of computers or applications on tablets and smartphones.”

Many Eyes – “is a collection of data visualizations.” (L:G; SA:A)

Rubrics for Assessment – “A collection of rubrics for assessing portfolios, cooperative learning, research process/ report, PowerPoint, oral presentation, web page, blog, wiki, and other social media projects.” (L:T; SA:A)

Tellagami – create your own talking avatar (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quotes from To Sell is Human

tosellishuman-300x300 I recently read the book To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink. It was an awesome book chock full of things I wanted to remember. Here are some quotes from the book.

1. A world of flat organizations and tumultuous business conditions – and that’s our world – punishes fixed skills and prizes elastic ones.

2. Patients heal faster and better when they’re part of the moving process.

3. Health care and education both revolve around on-sales selling: the ability to influence, to persuade, and to change behavior while striking a balance between what others want what you can provide them.

4. Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity: These three qualities, which emerge from a rich trove of social science research are the new requirements for effectively moving people on the remade landscape of the 21st century.

5. Increase your power by reducing it.

6. Use your head as much as your heart.

7. Mimic strategically

8. Ambiverts…These are people who are neither overly extroverted nor wildly introverted.

9. Selling…requires a delicate balance of inspecting and responding. Ambiverts can find that balance. Ambiverts are the best movers because they’re the most skilled attuners.

10. Conversations help us understand and connect with others in ways no other species can.

11. The 3 key steps (to strategic mimicry) are Watch, Wait, and Wane.

12. (The empty chair) It’s there to remind those assembled who’s really the most important person in the room – the customer.

13. How to stay afloat amid that ocean of rejection is the second essential quality in moving others.

14. Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within.

15. It’s the golden mean of well-being, the magic formula for flourishing, the secret numerical code of the satisfied: 3 to 1 (positive to negative emotions)

16. When something bad occurs, ask: Is this permanent? Is this pervasive? Is this personal?

17. The more you explain bad events as temporary, specific, and external, the more likely you are to persist even in the face of adversity.

18. (Negativity and negative emotions) They prevent unproductive behaviors from cementing into habits. They deliver useful information on our efforts. They alert us to when, we’re on the wrong path.

19. …The most essential question you can ask is this: Compared to what?

20. Framing a sale in experiential terms is more likely to lead to satisfied customers and repeat business.

21. Merely assigning that positive label – helping the students frame themselves in comparison with others – elevated their behavior.

22. Being honest about the existence of a small blemish can enhance your offerings true beauty.

23. People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment because its’ more uncertain.

24. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning ‘not the least but ready’ and 10 meaning ‘totally ready’, how ready are you to study? Why didn’t you pick a lower number?

25. Most people who resist doing or believing something don’t have a binary, of-on, yes-no position.

26. Clarity depends on comparison.

27. Process for curating information: a) seek: put together a list of the best sources of information. Then set aside time to scan those sources regularly. As you scan, gather the most interesting items. b) Sense: create meaning out of the material you assembled. Tend to this list every day. c) share: you’ll help others see their own situations in a new light and possibly reveal hidden problems that you can solve.

28. Right Question Institute – Question Formulation Technique: a) Produce questions – generate a list by writing down as many as you can think of. Change any statements to questions. b) Improve your questions – categorize each as either close ended (answered with yes or no or one word) or open ended (requires an explanation). Look over both and think of the advantages and disadvantages. For a few close ended ones, create an open ended one and (vice versa). c) Prioritize your questions – choose your 3 most important questions. Think about why you chose them. Edit one more time so they are ultra-clear.

29. Ask the 5 whys – forces people to examine and express the underlying reasons for their behavior and attitudes. – can help you discover the hidden problems that most need solving.

30. Think about the essence of what you’re exploring. – The 1% that gives life to the other 99%.

31. Understanding the 1% and being able to explain it to others is the hallmark of strong minds.

32. The success of a pitch depends as much on the catcher as the pitcher.

33. The purpose of a pitch is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.

34. The ultimate pitch for an era of short attention spans begins with a single word – and doesn’t go any further.

35. By making people work just a little harder, question pitches prompt people to come up with their own reasons for agreeing (or not).

36. Rhymes can enhance reason.

37. Pitches that rhyme are more sublime.

38. A deep structure of storytelling involves 6 sequential sentences a) once upon a time…b) every day…c) one day…d) because of that…e) because of that…f) until finally…

39. Clarify your purpose and strategy by asking: what do you want them to know? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?

40. Pecha Kucha – 20 slides – 20 seconds ea.

41. Go first if you are the incumbent, last if you are the challenger.

42. Change “Yes but...” to “Yes and...”

43. By making it personal, one is recognizing the person you’re trying to serve. The other is putting yourself personally behind whatever it is you’re trying to sell. Y

44. Why not always act as if the other guy is doing the favor?

45. Treat everybody as you would your grandmother.

46. 2 important questions: if the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 16 Grants

SONY DSC 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:

“Have you ever earned a grant? What was it for? Who was it from? What tips might you offer for someone seeking a grant?”

I have gotten a few grants over the years but my favorite ones that I got were for my landscaping project. I got this grant for 3 years in a row and it really made a difference in my class.

My class was a high school self-contained class for students who would only receive an attendance certificate. My students felt like it was a waste of time and so did some of their parents so I had to find a way for them to learn a skill and raise their self-esteem. We decided to landscape the school grounds and luckily I had a coworker who used to teach an agriculture class so I asked if we could combine the classes for this grant. I would do the paperwork and he would advise us on how to do the work.

My class helped me write the grant since they would be involved in the work. I also would have some of these students for 4 years so I wanted them to have a lot of input into this project. They were so excited about actually doing something they thought was meaningful so we began the process. First I had to get the approval of the administration and once I outline a plan, my principal was agreeable but skeptical.

The first year we decided to plant trees around the school so my class had to do research on what kind of trees and how much they cost. We also had to figure out what tools we would need and how much they would cost. After that we had to decide where we wanted to plant them and how many trees we would need. Of course this plan had to be approved by the principal. Then we had to map out a timeline for our plan of action. Once we had all of this information, we were able to fill out the grant application and then wait.

By mid summer, I found out that I won the grant and we hit the ground running. We had to purchase all the tools and supplies. The hardest part was digging all the holes by hand. We planted 30 trees and had to dig holes that were three feet deep and three feet in diameter. This took a couple of months but we wanted to get the trees planted before winter came which we did.

The interesting observation was that many of the general education students were envious of my students and told them so. This was the first time many of my students felt envied and it felt good. Some students asked how they could get into my class so they could be a part of this and one of my students replied, “You have to be special!”

After they were planted, they looked so good and we were so proud of these trees.

The next year I wrote another grant for landscaping around the building and we planned on planting azaleas around the front of the building. The process was the same and the only thing different was that we purchased different tools and had a different timetable for the plan.

The last year I was at this school, I won a grant to landscape around the softball field. Again this was well received by the community and the school – students and faculty.

It was a great experience for all. We found a way to make learning relevant and meaningful. Plus we were able to show how our lessons benefitted the school and community. I was so proud of my students and many years later, they still call me and we reminisce about this great project!

Have you earned a grant? What was it for?

Image: '172/365 - Digging a hole'
Found on

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 15 Wishing for Mentors

tutor 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 would be one (or two) items on your classroom wishlist? Why? How might you get this item?”

I wish that I could have one mentor for each student. I know that people probably expect me to wish for some technology or books or supplies but I think more than anything special ed students need a mentor. They already have trouble with socializing with their peers, they have trouble with academics, and many have no friends to even eat with at lunch. By the time they reach high school, their self-esteem is either extremely low or almost nonexistent. It is so hard for me to see my students depressed and lonely. There are no tools or supplies that boost a student like positive human interaction.

I wish there was someone who could spend at least an hour a day helping one particular student throughout the school year. This would almost be like a school big brother or big sister. This person can tutor the student in academic subjects that is a major struggle. As a teacher, I would still teach the skill but then the student could practice this skill with a mentor. It is like a child learning how to use a baseball glove and ball but needs someone to practice playing catch with them. This mentor could also listen as the student reads aloud or even take turns reading required lessons out loud. Teachers just aren’t able to spend the time they really want and need to with each individual child and this would really help.

Some of my students with autism have no one to eat lunch with and this would give them a friend to hang out with during this unstructured time. Also having a mentor would help the student feel safer from torment or bullying (which happens no matter how hard we try to stop it).

In order to start a program like this, a brochure naming and explaining the program would have to be created. Strict guidelines would have to be developed for the volunteers and students explaining what they could or could not do such as they must always being in direct supervision of a teacher. Then it would take administrative approval. Once approved, each student would probably have to get parental permission (just like they would in a Big Brother/Big Sister program). I would be able to approach the PTSA, Rotary clubs, Lion’s club, Kiwanis club, college education programs and clubs, and any other volunteer organization that would be interested.

What is one (or two) things on your wishlist? How would you get it? Please share.

Image: 'Staged.'
Found on

Monday, March 17, 2014

Oscar Winners In My Life

In And the Oscar Goes To…(Part 2) from Learning is Growing, Kathy Perret asks,

“Who has changed your world this year? Who deserves your ‘Oscar’?”

I had to think for a long time about who would win these Oscars. These are people who have impacted my life this year and made a difference in my life.

DavidFran169 Best Actress in a Leading Role: My next door neighbor Fran deserves this award. She has battled cancer like a warrior this year. No matter how bad this disease knocks her down, she comes up fighting with a smile and positive attitude. Her faith in God and his purpose for her in this world is amazing and truly inspiring.

Best Actress in a Supporting  Role: My sister deserves this award! I remember growing up thinking she could do everything she set 02_February her mind to do and she could do it perfectly. I was always intimidated because I knew I could never do anything near as perfect as her. Now that I’m an adult, I see our relationship so differently. When I took up knitting, she was there to help me see why I was having difficulty learning (I was trying to learn English style when my mother had taught me continental style when I was a child. Apparently muscle memory was still there!) and she is always encouraging me when I try something new. She celebrates with me when I finish a knitting project.

DSC_0021 Best Actor in a Leading Role: My husband definitely deserves this award! He is always there for me and no matter what, I know I can depend on his support for anything I really want to do in my life. He makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. He always makes me feel beautiful no matter how old I am getting!

DSC_0003Best Actor in a Supporting Role:  My father gets this award. He will turn 95 years old this year and truly an inspiration for my life. He doesn’t seem to believe in the words “I can’t.” If he wants something done, he knows how to do or to find someone who can. He is constantly in motion whether it is gardening, maintaining his home, playing pool at the senior center, or playing the slot machines at the casino. Everyone who knows him can’t believe his actual chronological age because of how active he is. He truly models the saying, “You are only as old as you feel!”

036 Best Picture: The best picture goes to last Labor Day when we went to Myrtle Beach to meet up with my niece, her husband Mike, her youngest daughter, and her oldest daughter and husband. It had been years since we all were together and we had a magical time together. Who would have known that three months later we would lose Mike suddenly? I’m so thankful that we took the time to meet up with them. This showed me that life is too short not to make sure that your loved ones know how much they mean to you.

So now I ask you, who in your life deserve Oscars? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, March 14, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/14/14

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

Ratatype – (Thanks to Adam Fort for this link!) “Learn to type faster with Ratatype typing tutor. Take our touch typing lessons for free.” (L:G; SA:A)

Typeracer – (Thanks to Adam Fort for this link!) “the global typing competition. Increase your typing speed while racing against others.” (L:G; SA:A)

Your Next Read – “At YourNextRead we only feature books you have told us you have read, enjoyed and recommended for others to read. If you do not understand what you are meant to be looking for then YourNextRead is for you...!” (L:G; SA:A)

Trend Watch – words that are trending in the news and pop culture (L:G; SA:A)

Math videos – short math videos from Planet Nutshell (L:E; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cozy Art Wall Decals – A Review

I was recently invited to do a review on some wall decals from Cozy Wall Art ( and I couldn’t wait to give them a try.Cozy Wall Art is also on Etsy.  I am not being paid to give this review.

There is a wide variety to choose from and are even grouped in categories such as Kids & Nursery, Animals, Trees & Nature, Decorative, Kitchen and Modern. I chose the Friendly Fish Wall Decals. They come in two sizes: Standard (22”x15”) for $20 or Large (35”x27”) for $40. I chose the large size. All products also come with a 90 day 100% guarantee as long as the product is in its original condition and unused. Plus orders over $50 come with free shipping.

After picking out the wall decals that I wante d to try, I notified them and was quickly sent the product. When I got the package, I couldn’t wait to open it up and put them on the wall. The wall decals came with the decals, a plastic squeegee, a sample flower decal, instructions and 3 lollipops (nice touch!). The decals came on one sheet and after reading the instructions, we couldn’t decide if we had to just put that one sheet up in one spot or if we could cut them apart so I gave them a call. My call was immediately answered and I was told that I could cut them apart so they could be spread around the wall.
DSC_0006The longest time involved me trying to place them where I wanted them. They recommend using masking tape or painters tape to arrange them on the wall where you want them. Once I placed them, I started to apply them to the wall. The first one was fiddly for me because I was afraid of messing up. So, I took the sample flower and tried it on a window so I could see the process that I needed to follow. After applying a couple of them to the wall, the rest went on easily. The big trick for me was that I needed to move slowly so that I didn’t have bubbles under the vinyl and that I also didn’t stretch the vinyl out of shape which cause tiny creases in one of the bubbles. Moving slow and steady was very important.

DSC_0012I really like how they look on the wall! One of the factors that appealed to me when I was reading the web site was the fact that they could be removed without ruining the wall. Of course I haven’t tried to take them off but I hope that is true. Many schools prohibit putting things up on the wall that can’t be removed without damaging the paint job. According to the company: "A trick for removing them: when you are ready to remove them, use your hairdryer! As you are about to peel them off, heat them up with the dryer. This reactivates the glue making them super easy to peel. (they are pretty easy to peel off without the hairdryer but this makes it even easier)."

I would recommend this wall art for several reasons:
1. There was a good variety to choose from.
2. The price was very reasonable.
3. These were easy to apply to the wall.
4. It looks pretty after it was applied.

So, if you have a chance, please check them out for your future decorating needs, whether in your classroom, or home, or even business.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Engaging Secondary School Students

beginning I was recently invited to join a World Class Teachers Top Tips competition from The Bloggers Lounge. The prompt is:

“Together with World Class Teachers – a supply teaching agency who specialise in placing teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and the UK into day-to-day and long-term teaching positions throughout London – we’re offering you the chance to win a World Class Teachers’ T-shirt PLUS one of two fantastic prizes*:

-          A Champagne London Eye experience for two (*UK Winners Only)


-          A $50 Amazon gift voucher!

Plus, the lucky winner will be featured on the World Class Teachers’ blog AND the Bloggers’ Lounge!

We want you to write a blog post on your top 5 tips for keeping kids engaged in the classroom, via one of two categories of entry:

-          Top tips for keeping primary school children engaged

-          Top tips for keeping secondary school children engaged

Tips can be as creative or unusual as you like, but they must be tried and tested!”

I decided I wanted to enter and write about Top tips for keeping secondary school children engaged. I think this is an important topic because by the time students get to secondary school, many are disillusioned, bored, or frustrated with the system or their own lack of progress. I plan on listing some tips to help engage these students but the list is not in any order of importance. Many times one strategy will work for one student and not for another so I don’t believe that there is just one true tried method that works for all students. Since students have individual needs, their motivation will be very different from each other. In the classroom, I would try one thing and if that didn’t work, I would try another and as long as I didn’t give up, I truly believe that something will work to help the students find learning meaningful and relevant.

1. Call home often (at least every other week) and brag about the good things the student does. Many times students have fallen into the habit of acting bad in order to get attention. I try to break the cycle of bad behavior and replace it with trying to get attention by acting appropriately.

2. Survey the students to find out what way they learn best. Some students are visual learners and other may be auditory or tactile-kinesthetic. Students learn better if they are taught according to their learning style instead of the teacher’s learning style.

3. Offer several assessment options for students to show they have mastered the skills taught.

4. Develop a project and have the students work towards a final goal. Students can work in groups to figure out a way to reach the final goal. If students have something vested in the assignment, they are more engaged in the lesson.

5. Find out what topics students are interested in learning about. Many times academic skills can be incorporated into these topics. If the students are interested in the topic, they are more engaged in learning.

6. Find out what hobbies/interests that the student likes outside of the classroom. Learn a little bit about this in order to have a meaningful conversation with the student. Ask the student questions about this. Show the student that you care. If the student sees you care, not just about the classwork but about the student as a person, the student will work harder for you.

7. Go to extracurricular activities that students are involved in. This shows the students that you care and are willing to learn more about them as people and not just students.

8. Make sure lessons are meaningful and relevant. Tie the lesson to something in real life where students will use the skill. Invite speakers (in person or on Skype) who use the skill on the job.

9. If a student is having a behavior problem, include the student in coming up with a solution. Develop a plan to improve behavior but include the input from the student.

10. Don’t take misbehavior personally. Look for the function of the behavior and do not see it as a personal affront. If a student misbehaves one day, make sure the next day is a new beginning. Do not hold grudges and make sure the student understands that they have a fresh new start.

I have done all of these things with my high school students over the years and had a lot of success by doing them. My students responded well to these strategies and I’m glad that I never gave up on them.

Image: 'New Beginning'
Found on

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bridging the App

switch I recently attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s state conference and learned a lot of great things. 

This session, Bridging the App, was presented by Liz Maggee and April Garrett.

Description: Move beyond the single-user app and design functional group lessons centered on age-appropriate technology.

1. They presented demonstrated different activities to use in the classroom.

2. They also demonstrated how to use a switch with an iPad for students who need this extra help.

3. Also shown were different ways to adapt the Ipad depending on the needs of each student.

4. They also shared different activities that can pair students up with different ability levels.

5. QR codes were explained and different ways to use QR codes in the classroom were given.

Here is the link to their presentation:

Takeaway: I love seeing ways to implement new tools and strategies in the classroom. Not only did the presenters share new ideas to use in the class but they also shared different ways to actually use them in the classroom.

Image: 'This is the Real Red Button'
Found on

Friday, March 7, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/7/14

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

Alphabet Organizer – “Students create an alphabet book or alphabet chart with words for each letter of the alphabet. Or choose just one word per letter and upload an image to help early readers make a visual connection between the word and the beginning letter.” (L:E; SA:LA)

Varsity Tutors Classroom Assessment - design customized tests; free (L:T; SA:A)

Varsity Tutors Practice Tests – free practice tests in many different subjects (L:T; SA:A)

PDF to PowerPoint converter – free (L:T; SA:A)

The Interactive Ear- Learn how the human ear works (L:A; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Secondary Transition and Common Core State Standards: Tools You Can Use

transition I recently attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s state conference and learned a lot of great things. Over the next few days, I hope to share with you some of the information that I learned.

This session was presented by Jennifer Cease-Cook from the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center

1. Common Core Standards have been adopted by 45 states and Washington DC.

2. New Territory: large scale formative assessment, “through course assessments,” computer based/adapted assessments, emerging technology available, matching testing accommodations to classroom accommodations, single set of testing policies within a consortium.

3. Are college ready and career ready the same: look at academic skills, test proficiency, job-specific/technical skills, business and industry leaders focus on employability skills (soft skills) – problem solving, communication, teamwork, technology, adaptability, increased national focus on Career Pathways, industry certification, alternative pathways.

4. College readiness: key cognitive strategies, academic knowledge and skills, academic behaviors, contextual skills and awareness.

5. Career Readiness: work based learning experiences, self determination

6. Standards-based education does not equal special education

7. What does this mean for students with disabilities? – increased academic rigor, increased focus on college preparedness in education, increased attention that multiple methods of assessment and instruction critical, increased focus on using date for instructional and program decisions increased recognition of importance of alternative pathways.

8. Designing instruction – address real life topics, make curricular content more meaningful and relevant.

Additional resources: – resources and current info on the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards - a curriculum mapping project for resources regarding instruction and curriculum design associated with the Core Standards – 101 documents on secondary special ed issues including college and career readiness

My big takeaway from this session was that we need to make education relevant and meaningful to our students. There were great examples for doing this in this session.

Image: 'balance-your-stuff-1a--richardstep-unleash-your-strengths'
Found on

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quick Results with Behavior Intervention Plans

tantrum I recently attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s state conference and learned a lot of great things. Over the next few days, I hope to share with you some of the information that I learned.

This session was presented by Deb Leach of Winthrop University along with Hannah Grim and Misty Hill. They gave an overview of functional behavior assessments, common functions of challenging behaviors, strategies for behavior intervention plans and two case examples.

These are the notes that I took:

1. A function means that the behavior serves a purpose for the individual.

2. There are two major functions for challenging behavior: to gain access to something or to excape from/avoid something.

3. Steps for conducting a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA): select a target behavior, collect baseline data, collect data to develop a hypothesis for the function of the behavior, triangulate the data to form a hypothesis.

4. A hypothesis should address the purpose the behavior serves for the student, how the behavior is related to setting events, antecedents and consequences, and may also include information about skill deficits.

5. When developing Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP), consider the three I’s (make the behavior ineffective, make it target behavior inefficient, and irrelevant) and PTR (prevent, teach, reinforce)

6. You can attempt to change the environment, the behavior of the adults/peers in the child’s environment or the child.

7. Antecedent interventions should be the primary focus of BIPs.

8. BIPs should serve to prevent problem behavior from occurring or at least reduce the occurrence of the target behavior.

9. Always consider if the problem behavior is a performance issue or skill acquisition issue.

10. Steps for developing a BIP: environmental modifications, changes to teacher/peer behavior, objectives for the student/strategy selection, and plan for monitoring progress and evaluating the BIP.

11. Often, all of the necessary information is gathered during the interview process.

12. Many times explicit instruction of expectations is all that is required.

13. Many times environmental modifications or changes to adult/peer behavior is needed.

14. In some cases, if you focus efforts on increasing the student’s active engagement, problem behaviors are significantly reduced.

15. Many times, you can find a student’s purpose of the behavior by interviewing the student.

The main takeaway that I got from this session is the importance of talking with the student. Many times the student is left out of this process and they know exactly why they are acting the way they do and can often give ideas on how to stop this behavior.

Image: '2006_05.28 Isaac tantrum'
Found on

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 14 Current Events

newspaper 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?”

I think it is important to discuss current events in class. I remember in high school that my teacher used to test us on fact and information from the newspaper. It was really hard for me because my family did not buy the local newspaper and when I got to school, I never had enough time to read the previous day’s paper, much less learn all that was in it. I really stunk at current events.

Now I realize that it isn’t so much as knowing all the facts and information but rather putting it in context. I want my students to know some of the highlights in the news and during our discussion, we can learn where the location is on the map, who are the main characters in the story, what the main points of the story are, and what are the effects on others that this may have. This is more meaningful to me than just regurgitating facts and figures in the news. Actually it helps me remember things better when I can put them in some kind of context.

Since current events changes daily, there is an endless supply of information. This can be a short lesson or can be longer depending on how much time I have. I usually try to keep this to 10 minutes because it is short enough to keep them interested but long enough to get the information out. If they have questions or are interested, I can extend the time but I don’t force the issue.

What is a topic that is successful in your class? Please share.

Image: 'Just How Bad Off is the San+Francisco+Chronicle?'
Found on

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 13 Another Favorite Book

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:

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

TakedownAnother book I liked to use as a classroom novel was Takedown by EMJ Benjamin . It is a story about a high school wrestler who is diagnosed with epilepsy. The reader finds out how he deals with the new turn his life has taken. I think many students can understand how the wrestler feels because many times they have had obstacles come up in their lives. This is a great novel to use for class discussions about disabilities, peer pressure, health, hiding things from your parents, dealing with health issues, and high school athletics. This book is good because it also appeals to the males in a classroom. My male students were interested in reading this and finding out what happens next.

I also happened to contact the author to see if she could speak to my class by Skype or over the phone. I was so excited to find out that she actually had lived in our town and was willing to come to my class in person to speak to the class. What a wonderful bonus!! I had never heard of this author before and found out that the authors was really Ellen Bache and her husband who is now deceased. He used to be a high school teacher so he wrote from experience. She is a distinguished author and written some books that had become well known movies.

What book do you like to teach or share in your classroom? Please share.