Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Really Big I Know About! Book - Book Review

DSC_0068I recently was asked by Flowerpot Press to review the book The Really Big I Know About Book. There are 160 pages in this hard covered book and it sells for $24.95 SRP. I am not being paid to give this review but here it is.

I thought this was an awesome book. It is a great book for people of all ages but especially elementary and middle school students! The information is short, informative but really interesting and the illustrations and graphics are equally informative and eye catching.

This would be a great book to use for research on topics such as atlases of the world, sharks, the human body, insects, and dinosaurs.

Students can improve their reading because they will learn new vocabulary and can read to improve comprehension. By reading this book, students would find the information relevant to learning but also they would find it a lot of fun!

This book would be great in a school library, a classroom bookshelf, or even on a child’s home bookshelf. This would also make a great gift for a child on a birthday or a holiday!

As you can tell, I highly recommend this book and really enjoyed looking through it. I can see myself picking this up over and over to learn new information, remind myself of information I already knew, or just wanting to enjoy the short articles.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking Responsibility

responsibilityIn Encouraging Ownership from Ideas and Thoughts, Dean Shareski  shares,

“After every course I teach I receive an evaluation from my students. Typically 80% or higher provide with highly positive feedback. 10% are indifferent and 10% are less than satisfied. Most of the dissatisfaction revolves around lack of structure and timelines. This is partly my personal flaws and partly student preference and partly a communication failure. I take these evaluations seriously and don’t dismiss these critiques but really do try to improve.”

This really hit home to me because I’ve only been teaching on the university level for the past 7 years and the evaluations from the students still really hit home with me. In fact, I was just sharing this with my husband that I wish all of the evaluations would come back positive but every year there are 1 or 2 (out of 6-9 students) who are not happy with my class. I know I need to learn not to take it personally but I can’t seem to get past that.

I guess my biggest problem is that they seem to just complain but they don’t make any suggestions for what would make it better. I want my class to be a great class for everyone who takes it so that they get great value for the money they are investing. Hopefully they will learn great teaching strategies to make their classes more successful.

Unfortunately since this is a graduate class, there are certain requirements necessary for them to meet in order to pass the class. I go over the syllabus and I even put all of this on a wiki so that it is easy for them to access on their phones. Meeting deadlines, writing accurate reports, and punctuality are part of their grade in addition to the formal observations I do. Yet, they don’t seem to put the same effort into their paperwork as they do their observations and are always surprised when their grade is not as high as they expected.

. I’m told that I’m too nitpicky by expecting their reports to be written without spelling or grammatical errors even though these reports go home to the parents. Everyone was given the rubrics I use to evaluate the lesson plans and the classroom observation but when I don’t give credit for something not seen, it is obvious that they haven’t looked through the rubric ahead of time.

I take these evaluations seriously and each year I try to improve them so that the class is better each year and I think I have done that. I know that I won’t be perfect in anyone’s eyes because that is impossible but I’m such a perfectionist. But I resent that the students give negative feedback to me when it is their lack of taking responsibility which causes the problem.

I had a great principal that reminded us not to come to him with just complaints. If I have a problem, I needed to offer a possible solution. If I didn’t have one, I needed to discuss this with my colleagues and try to come up with one. He might not use the solution but it encouraged dialogue and problem solving.

I wish the evaluations would add questions like:

Did you have a problem in the class? Did you discuss it with the professor? Did you suggest a way to solve the problem?

The answers to this might have more impact and validate negative feedback better.

I also think that as professionals, we should not be giving anonymous evaluations since the evaluations are sent to professors after the grades are already turned in. I think if we are going to say something positive or negative about someone, we should be willing to stand behind it and give our names.

But this is just my opinion. What is yours? Please share.

Image: 'Worry less. Smile more. Accept criticism. Take+responsibility.+Be+quiet+and+listen.+Love+life.+Embrace+change.'
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Opening myself up

openingupIn Taking a Risk from Sioux's Page, Sioux asked,

“Was there a time when you shared with an audience/family member/friend and the results were encouraging?”

According to my husband, I share too much of everything with everybody! I try to be an open book because I want everyone to like me as I am, flaws and all. Of course I don’t open up right off the bat and have to get to know you before I tell personal stuff.

I try to share with my students that I don’t find a lot of things easy to learn as it may appear. I love to read and can learn anything I want to by reading but applying my learning always scares me. It is basically the fear of the unknown. Yet, the more I do, the easier it becomes, not because the actual task is easier but the fear of failure is not as scary. I am still learning that failure is not such a terrible thing. What is the worst that can happen? I might waste materials and time but no one and nothing has been hurt. I also learn what caused my failure and I can either decide to try again but in a different way or I can decide that I need to do something different. Either way, I have gained knowledge from this experience so all is not lost.

Many times my students like to listen to my personal stories of adventures in learning (or failures in learning as the case may be). Maybe it makes me more like them rather than up on a pedestal. They see that I “survived” from my many failures and that gives them hope.

A lot of my students have already faced so many failures by the time that they are in my class that they have given up hope. They feel as if they shouldn’t even bother trying because they will just fail again. It is my job to turn a possible failure into a reasonable success so we discuss “the worst thing” that could happen and then talk about what happens even if “the worst thing” happens. When we reason things out, they suddenly see that it is worth taking a risk and trying. In my class, nothing is really a failure and everything we do is a success as long as we try.

The more I open up with my students about how even I have a hard time learning, the more encouraged they are with trying. We also talk about individual strengths and weaknesses. All of the weaknesses seem magnified in a school setting because that seems what educators focus on. Suddenly they learn that they do have some strengths that other people may not have (including me).

Do you open up to others? What have been the results? Please share.

Image: 'Decisions, decisions...'
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Learning Place 2014 Week 3

Week 3 went smoothly and I think we are all getting in a rhythm that is working. The beginning of the week was rainy which kind of threw everyone for a loop. Some of the children were lethargic and I have to admit that the rain made me feel the same way. Our meltdown boy made it to the last 10 minutes of the day and the teacher walked him to the car.

Again, I saw some great lessons such as:

DSC_0038· Writing letters in shaving cream to practice letters and sounds.

· Jumping on the number line on the floor in order to add numbers.

· Learning to identify fact and opinion and practicing in learning centers.

· Learning how to ask questions about our reading.

· Older children learned to identify idioms and similes in their reading book.

· Older children learned about variables in an algebraic equation.

I have to say that I think the teacher’s blogs have been fantastic! I love reading their thoughts about the week and how their lessons go. Some reflections have been so insightful and thought provoking. I hope they continue to blog after the program ends because I would like to keep up with them and how their school year is going.

If you get a chance, please check out the teacher’s blogs and leave a comment for them.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, July 25, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/25/14

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

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

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

Made from History – great resource for history teachers! Topics include WWI, WWII, Civil War, and Referenced Blogs (L:G; SA:T)

Antarctic Food Web Game – “This interactive game adapted from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences challenges players to build a food web, a complex model that shows how various food chains in an ecosystem are connected. Players must position the names of producers and consumers in the correct places in a diagram. The completed diagram reveals how energy flows through an Antarctic ecosystem and the relationships between predators and prey.” (L:M,H; SA:S)

Baby Names – “Using US census data this map looks at how names have grown and waned in popularity in different states since the early 1900s.” (L:G; SA:A)

Visits - With visits you can browse your location histories and explore your trips and travels. Our unique map timeline visualization shows the places you have visited and how long you have stayed there. Add photos from Flickr to your visits and share your journey with your family and friends! (L:G; SA:A)

Smarty Pins – A fun geography trivia game (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Photos A Day Projects

cameraIn B-Roll, Photo Collages, and Writing and Math Prompts from Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne shares about his Math Photo a Day project. He says,

“The project asks students to take photographs of things representing various topics and concepts in elementary school level mathematics.”

I thought this was such a great idea and can be used for any grade level and any subject. With the abundance of digital cameras and smart phones out there, most students would be able to do this as a homework assignment. If doing this daily is too hard, you can make it a weekly topic. If you don’t want to come up with the topics, have your students submit suggestions for topics. They say more heads are better than one and I bet that they would come up with suggestions that you never thought of.

I think this would also be great to reinforce social skills to those students who have trouble with this. It would make them more aware of their surroundings as well as looking for examples of the skill they learned. Finding their own examples would be more reinforcing then just showing them pictures that they don’t have any connections to. By focusing on others demonstrating a certain social skill, they have an example for a model.

For younger children, this would be a great way to work on vocabulary lessons, word sounds, syllables, and other decoding skills. They could also be the start of writing prompts. It is much easier to write about something you are interested in than a picture that the teacher plops in front of you.

For social studies, this would be a great way to look for comparisons in history. What things in today’s world would you not find in the 1950s? What things are still being used from the past? What things have the same concept as the past but have been modernized?

For science, look for examples of certain concepts. Have students take photos of levers and pullies. Take pictures of certain chemical elements or reactions. Pictures of different types of weather would also be fun.

As Richard Byrne said, this would be a great activity to involve parents in also. It would be such a fun activity that could be adapted to any level of student and I think they really would enjoy it.

What other suggestions would you have for a Photo A Day activity? Please share.

Image: 'Photomic (Help! I'm stuck in the 60s)'
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No Excuses

excusesIn Never Too Late from Sioux's Page, Sioux talks about a 93 year old author who just had her novel published.

This had me thinking about coming up with excuses why I can’t do something or why I can’t achieve a dream.

I don’t remember my parents ever letting me get away with an excuse why I couldn’t do something. They believed in me and didn’t want to hear that I couldn’t do something. It was just unheard of.

I knew growing up that I wanted to go to Furman University. I never believed I would go anywhere else. So when it came time to apply for real (I had been applying since I was in 6th grade but they kept turning me down), I only applied to this one school. Even though it was 800 miles away and it was a private school, I didn’t think about the cost. My first priority was getting accepted. Once I got accepted I would deal with the financial issue. I never doubted in my mind that I wouldn’t be accepted. I didn’t have any excuse not to try.

I was accepted in November of my senior year and then had to think about financing my education. I was going to do whatever I could to pay my way since my parents didn’t have the money to send me to an out of state private school. I guess the school wanted me too because they gave me a lot of scholarships and I took out a loan. But again, I never thought I wouldn’t be able to go because of money. I didn’t have any excuse not to find the money.

Once I got to college, I knew that I had to keep my grades up so I could keep my scholarships. I was also working every work study job that I could find. I did not have any excuse not to have good grades or for looking for jobs to earn some money.

Once I graduated, I never doubted I would find a job. I knew that I was going to be the best special education teacher ever! I quickly found a job and loved teaching. I worked to be a better teacher every day of my career. I had no excuses not to seek improvement.

Sometimes I think schools let the students have excuses why they can’t do something and this encourages that behavior. They find excuses for being late to school, for being absent from school, for not doing their homework, for not doing their classwork, for not being the best that they can be.

Sometimes teachers feel sorry for their students because of their home life or their backgrounds. Sometimes it is because of their disability. I hear schools talk about rigor and then say my students can’t achieve the rigor of a general curriculum so they write them off.

My students might not be able to achieve what a general ed student can but they deserve rigor in their own curriculum. They deserve the right to be taught and challenged so that they can reach for the stars too otherwise we are doing nothing but babysitting and warehousing these students. If we don’t believe in them, who will?

As a teacher, I need to get past their home life and backgrounds and their disability. Their life is what it is and I need to help them cope with the present and the future, not the past. I need to give my students the tools they need so that they don’t have excuses for not succeeding. I need to help them get past the point of using excuses to explain their behavior and help them learn determination and perseverance instead.

Do you allow excuses? At what point do you if you do? Please share.

mage: 'My Dog Ate My Website!'
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Learning Place 2014 Week 2

Last week was another great week at Summer Learning Place and I’ve learned a lot of new things from my teachers. I love observing their lessons for getting new ideas. Here are some of the activities I saw:

· Using goldfish on a number line.

DSC_0009· After reading the directions, students were making sand castles with pudding, crackers, and sprinkles.

· Another group used learning centers which I always think is fun.

· One teacher taught writing skills using a flow map.

· The older students started reading a graphic novel (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and it made me want to find a copy to read.

DSC_0003· The older ones worked on line symmetry and also made origami animals and wrote a poem about their animals.

The week started off great but on Wednesday one of our little ones had a major meltdown and I had to call his dad to come get him. Unfortunately when we went to take a break (allowed when sensory overload occurs), a spider with tons of babies dropped out of the weighted blanket. It freaked him out and there was no consoling him after that. The great thing was that on Thursday he arrived and the first thing he said was that he was going to have a great day.

Another day one little one cried and didn’t want to get out of the car. Apparently he forgot to brush his teeth and that threw the whole routine off. The teacher took him by the hand and calmed him down in the classroom. By the time we started the day, he was fine.

On Thursday, the brother of the first boy was having difficulties. We haven’t seen this side of him the past 7 days so we were surprised. The teacher and I talked about how on any given day, anybody could have a bad day. No two days are alike. (That’s the fun of teaching special ed!)

DSC_0001My teachers have done a wonderful job and we completed the first week of observations and lesson plans. They seem open to suggestions and constructive criticism. I’m hoping that this whole experience is meaningful to them and that they will remember this as a worthwhile time out of their busy lives.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rockets Red Glare - Book Review

RocketsRedGlareI recently was asked by Flowerpot Press to review the book Rocket’s Red Glare by Peter Alderman and illustrated by Bea Moritz. I am not being paid to give this review but here it is. This book which includes a CD sells for $16.99SRP and has 31 pages. This would be a great book in an elementary school classroom or library.

I have to start off by saying that I don’t think we do enough to teach our students about patriotism like we used to do. They don’t realize what a great country we live in and the sacrifices that people made throughout history to make it great. I was thrilled to a book like this and I thought it was an awesome book! Not only were the illustrations wonderful but the way the story was written was also wonderful. I felt anticipation and excitement as I turned each page and I think it would truly appeal to students in the same way.

This book could be used for recreational reading or as a classroom tool in the following areas:

Reading – The story is rich with vocabulary words such as fluttering, mast, patriotism, perilous, flagship, and defensive. It would also be great for using in teaching predictions before turning to the next page.

History – Overview of the War of 1812, the story of our national anthem, President James Monroe, Fort McHenry.

Social Skills – opens discussion for keeping your word, helping friends

Art – Make a US Flag

Music – Learn the national anthem.

I definitely recommend this book and think it should be on a school shelf whether in the library or the teacher’s classroom.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/18/14

tools1Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

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

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

Notezilla – “Notezilla is the first tool out there that successfully brings high quality audio and sheet music together. Our sheet music is synced to real recordings, so users can listen to the recording of a piece while easily studying the underlying sheet music.” (L:H; SA:FA)

World Digital Library – “The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.” (L:G; SA:A)

Cost Of Living Map – click on a state to see how much it costs to live there. (L:G; SA:A)

Molecular Workbench - Is a modeling tool for designing and conducting computational experiments across science, Provides an authoring system for instructional designers to create and publish model and simulation-based curriculum materials, Delivers an interactive learning environment that supports science inquiry, Is free and open-source. (L:H; SA:S)

Diffen – compare two things (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Excellent Habits for an Effective Special Ed Teacher

effectiveI am currently teaching a practicum for teachers who are getting their Master’s degree in Special Ed. We were discussing yesterday in our meeting about some habits for teachers and decided that I would make a list of excellent habits for an effective Special Ed teacher. I’m afraid that there are some misconceptions that new teachers have about what makes a great (or effective teacher). So, here is the list that isn’t in any order of importance:

1. Get a good night’s sleep – If you are up all night grading papers, then you need to look at your time management behaviors. Staying up all night doesn’t make you more effective; it just makes you more tired.

2. Eat lunch – Skipping lunch to do more work doesn’t make you more effective. It just makes you hungry, cranky, and not as mentally alert as you need to be.

3. Ask for help – It is better to ask for help when you need it than worrying that it makes you look incompetent. But, if someone helps you with a task that you may be required to do more than once, I recommend taking notes so you don’t have to keep asking for help about the same thing. This makes you look incompetent.

4. Start your day off by planning on it being a great day! – Your mental attitude will help you get through whatever curves that life throws you.

5. Stay ahead of your paperwork – If something needs to be done, get it done that day and don’t put it off. Paperwork seems to multiply on its own if you let it simmer. Then it becomes overwhelming.

6. Organize right from the start – Don’t pile things up with the plan that you will organize later. Think about your system and begin immediately. This will help you when you need to find something required immediately. But this isn’t written in stone and you can always tweak your system as you need it along the way.

7. Behavior Plan – Have a behavior plan right from the start. Don’t create one when you suddenly think you need it because that is like closing the barn door after the horse is out.

8. Be tough – It is easier to start out tough and ease up than go the other way.

9. Be fair – Make sure that you are treating everyone with the same standards. You can give accommodations and modifications but your values should not change.

10. Be prepared – Run off papers early in case the copy machine breaks down.

11. Emergency Lesson Plans – Have a set of lessons in case you suddenly can’t make it to school. You never know when you might be sick or have a family emergency so it is easier to have them already completed.

12. Be flexible – In over 30 years of teaching, no day was alike. What may have worked on one day may not work the next. It is important to fill your “toolbox” with different tools to use for different situations on different days. The more tools you have, the more options you will have.

13. Develop a support system – It might be close friends or family members but you need someone you can share your worries, doubts, and successes with. This support will boost you when you feel down and celebrate with you when you feel great!

14. Drink plenty of water – stay hydrated which will give you energy and keep you healthy.

15. Take a multivitamin – Let’s face it, you aren’t going to eat right, no matter how you try.

What habits would you add to the list? Please share.

Image: 'Day 25 / 365 ~ 2014 Its+all+about+Balance~+if+you+like+my+work+fav+it+so+simple+indeed+!'
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Smarts or Friends

focusYesterday I had a friend come visit with her daughter who is in 7th grade and my friend wanted my opinion as a teacher. Which is more important: Smarts or Friends?

My friend is worried that her daughter is making enough friends and learning social skills. She is worried that her daughter is spending too much time with books and being solitary outside of the swim team that she is on.

Meanwhile, her daughter tells me that she likes to read (She is reading The Three Musketeers) and believes that she needs to concentrate on being smart. She thinks that smart people can learn to be social but social people can’t learn to be smart.

I felt that the important thing for this young lady was balance.

I feel honing your intelligence is always important but not to where it isn’t the only thing in your life. It is good to concentrate on getting good grades and learning important information. It is good to keep your focus on learning when in the classroom.

Yet, learning social skills can only be learned when you interact with your peers. That is when we learn acceptable behavior in society with our parent’s guidance.

Let’s face it, middle school age is a tough time for boys and girls. Everything seems so difficult when your hormones are raging and everything is so confusing. It is hard to determine right from wrong when you are facing peer pressure.

I’m not sure if my young friend is having difficulties with making friends and hiding behind her “smarts” as an excuse.

I explained to her that when filling out a college application that most admissions officers look to see if the applicant is well balanced. They don’t want someone who just has good grades but are looking to see what extracurricular activities this person is involved in. It might be a sport or a volunteer activity or some other type that involves teamwork and collaboration.

So, I’m not sure I told either one what they wanted to hear. Which do you think is more important and why? Please share.

Image: 'I so need to FOCUS a bit+more+on+the+simple+things+in+life~EXPLORED+[+Way+over+10,000+Views+thanks+everyone+]'
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover

bookOr a student or class either.

As our summer program began, I assigned some teachers to a class that may have been out of their comfort zone. After reading their blog posts, I learned how apprehensive some of them were.

Yet, they stiffened their shoulders and jumped right into their assignments. They didn’t whine and groan about how they didn’t want to be there. Instead they tried to make the best of a situation they weren’t thrilled about.

Over the past week, I have seen their students blossom and thrive. I have also seen the teachers blossom too. They have reached beyond what they thought they could do and really seem to be enjoying themselves. They have gotten past their anxieties and now actually feeling the thrill of it all.

These teachers were able to assess the student’s needs and developing goals for the students to work on during our program. With a direction in mind, the teachers are creating activities that meet each student’s needs. I love when I see the whole class engaged in an exciting lesson and especially love when the students come to show off their work.

How many times do I do this in my own life – professional and personal? I need to keep an open mind and be willing to try new challenges. I need to keep an open mind because without new challenges, I become stale and boring. With each new challenge I am also growing to be a better person.

Do you judge first or are you willing to face up to the challenge? Please share.

Image: 'The book'
Found on

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Learning Place 2014 Week 1

DSC_0001Our summer program called Summer Learning Place has started. There are 6 teachers and 23 children ages 6-14 who have learning or behavior problems. The teachers are really my students taking a practicum in order to earn a Master’s degree in Special Education. They are having to teach reading, math, writing, and social skills to their class from 8:30 – 11:30 each day for the next four weeks. This course is the final course necessary for them to complete their degree. By teaching actual students, they are able to demonstrate all that they have learned up to this point. This course is instruction by real life experiences and assessment of past learning for the teachers.

DSC_0002I love this program each year because I see it as a challenge. Even though some of the children may return, they have matured and changed over the year. The new students have their own challenges and we hope to help them learn strategies that will help them in the next school year. I also don’t know what to expect from my teachers. Each one comes from a different background and teaching experiences so they may have different ideas of how the classroom should be developed. It is through this experience that they can see that not every situation can be taught in a lecture or textbook.

DSC_0003The first couple of days were spent assessing the child and finding out their present levels of performance. The teachers will use the results to come up with goals and instruction for each child. Every Thursday the parents receive a report about the week and how their child is doing.

On Monday the teachers set up their rooms. It was interesting to see how well the teams got along right off the bat. Sometimes in the past, some teachers’ personalities were so different that they sometimes didn’t find their rhythm until a week or two had passed. This is normal but since we have such a short time to work together, it can sometimes be a strained relationship.

On the first day with children, we had one boy have a major meltdown. He sat in the office with me until he calmed down and then I returned him to class but he had another meltdown so I had to call home. His aunt came to pick him up and asked if he was allowed to return the next day which was fine. Sometimes the first day is really hard for students with disabilities because they are in a new situation with a new routine. After some thought, I decided to move this child to the other classroom where they have two breaks instead of one and the other children seemed more on his level. We also had parents of a girl with epilepsy leave medicine in case she had a seizure. This was in the form of rectal gel! There is no way my teachers or I would be touching any child’s private parts so I called the parents and explained to them that there was no nurse on duty and we would not administer any type of medication.

The second day started off well and I returned the medication to the girl’s parents. The dad didn’t think we needed training to administer it but I insisted that policy insists that training be given when administering medicine. He signed a paper stating we should call 911 if she has a seizure. Then the boy who had the meltdown did well until 11am. Since it was so close to the end of the session, I didn’t call home. The teachers with him did an awesome job. Ms. M took him out and walked him around to calm him down but then tried to return him to class where he threw a major tantrum by throwing his shoes, the trash can and other things, as well as ripping papers taped to the door. Ms. L. did a great job with reassuring the other children in the class and continuing with teaching the class. Ms. M. took him outside and I went out to support her. When he tried to go out the outer door, I had to tell him that was a safety issue and if he went out the door he could not return at all. He stopped but Ms. M. talked him into calming down by counting to 10 and taking 5 deep breaths. When he put his shoes on, she walked him to the car and talked to his aunt.

On the last day of the week, the boy’s dad came in and gave his teachers and me some valuable information on dealing with him. I just wish he had done this on the first day or even emailed me some of this info before we started it. The dad was worried that we would see it as criticism but this was important information!

Over the first three days with children, I would walk past the classrooms and listened to all the interactions going on. I worried that with the major issue going on with the one child that I was neglecting the other teachers but I couldn’t help that. I tried to be visible so they knew I was available for help if they need it. The children were engaged in activities and the teachers were enthusiastic about teaching. I look forward to the next 3 weeks with this group.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Friday, July 11, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/11/14

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

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

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

Progressive Phonics – “is an all-in-one reading program that is easy, fun, and totally FREE---that's right, totally and completely free! And with Progressive Phonics, ANYONE can teach a child to read and write in just a few minutes a day, which makes it ideal for parents, teachers, tutors, volunteers and home-schoolers.” (L:E; SA:LA)

Interactive Weather Maker – “Using our Interactive Weather Maker, you'll be able to turn a sunny day into a windy day. Or create a rainy day. And if you create the correct conditions, you can make a blizzard - complete with a whiteout!” (L:E; SA:S)

Legislative Explorer – “observe large scale patterns and trends in congressional lawmaking without advanced methodological training. In addition, anyone can dive deeper into the data to further explore a pattern they’ve detected, to learn about the activities of an individual lawmaker, or to follow the progress of a specific bill.” Follow a bill as it goes through congress to the President. (L:H; SA:SS)

The Water Cycle – great visual for the water cycle. You can hit auto and it will give you an animated show of the water cycle. (L:E; SA:S)

Math Chimp – “We create and collect the best free online math games, videos & worksheets. Each math activity is aligned with the Common Core.” (L:E,M; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 10, 2014

River Treasures

DSC_0126Another program we attended in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was called Oconoluftee River Treasures led by Ranger Amber. (We also were on the night hike that night with Rangers Amber and April but it was too dark for me to take any photos.) You can view my pictures on Flickr HERE.

As we walked along the river, Ranger Amber talked about the treasures we find here. At one point she even pulled out animal furs for everyone to touch which was a big hit, especially with the children. She also talked about the birds that we might hear. At one stop, we discussed the ways that water was used and how important it was to the families that lived in the area. Sometimes we take water for granted and it is programs like this that remind us how valuable this resource is.

This would be a great activity to do with students in the classroom to help them appreciate the environment around them. I would take my class on a nature walk and have them look for treasures around them. Every few minutes, I would stop and let them make a list of the treasures that they find using their senses. I might even take photos of ones that are really exciting to the students for future use such as a writing prompt or a science research prompt. We might even do this nature walk once a month to see if there are different treasures that could be found at different times or seasons. This list of treasures could be displayed in the classroom.

What other activity would you suggest to help students learn to appreciate their environment? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Many Uses of Corn

DSC_0074Another program we attended in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was called Awww Shucks led by Ranger Jarred. You can view my pictures on Flickr HERE.

Ranger Jarred talked about the many uses of corn and I learned some ways that I had never heard of before. I never thought about how the corn cobs could be used on the dirt floor to absorb water and keep the floors in the barns and the cabin from getting muddy. I guess that is a lot like gravel but using corn instead. He also shared about the corn shucking parties and people wanting to find the red eared corn so they could kiss the person they fancied.

This would be a fun activity to students to do in the classroom. I would break students into groups and have them research the way people have used corn in the past. Then bring them back into a big group and compile a list as each group takes turns giving a use not mentioned yet. A competition could also be done with small prizes and if a group runs out of a new use, then they are out of the game. The game is played until only one team is left.

This activity could also be done with other items in the kitchen or a tool. What items would you suggest for this activity? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In the Good Ol’ Days

DSC_0008Last week we camped at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. While we were there we found out about a program for people ages 13 and up called the “Not-So-Junior” Ranger program. After we attended three ranger led programs and had them sign our special paper, we turned it in for a choice of a patch or a magnet. I thought this was a great idea for visitors to the park and I wish every national park did this but I think it is unique to this national park. You can view my pictures on Flickr HERE.

The first program we attended was The Good Ol’ Days with Ranger Rhonda. She is actually an intern from the University of Oregon and was in charge of our program.

At first we were afraid that we were the only ones for the program but eventually there were about 30-40 people who showed up. Ranger Rhonda talked about the way of life in the cabin and how the porch was a major center of activity. Next we went to a shed where she talked about corn and the many uses it had. Finding a red ear of corn was a special find and enabled the finder to kiss the boy or girl that they liked. When we reached the barn, she talked about the community and how they helped each other to survive. The barn was an important building to the family because it housed their animals and their tools as well as animal fodder. Next we went to the sorghum mill and press where they made molasses. Molasses was used to sweeten their food. It took 10 gallons of sorghum juice to make 1 gallon of syrup. Last we returned to the cabin and she opened it up for us to walk inside. She talked about drying green beans and this made me want to give it a try. It was also interesting to see the quilt frame hung from the ceiling to get it out of the way when they weren’t using it.

Ranger Rhonda was enthusiastic about her subject and made visitors feel very welcome to be part of her group and even ask questions. If she couldn’t answer, she was honest about it. She was very patient with the children and included them in the discussion as much as possible.

I think this would be a great activity to do with students in the classroom. Students could invite elderly people to come talk about how their life as a child was different than it is for children today. They could speak in general or even show a specific activity they did as a child that many aren’t familiar with doing today. If a speaker couldn’t come to the classroom, maybe the students could interview someone they knew who grew up in a different era.

Have you done something like this in your classroom? Do you have any other suggestions on how to help students see how different life was in the good ol’ days? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, July 7, 2014

Children’s Picture Dictionary - Book Review

PixDictionaryI recently was asked by Flowerpot Press to review the book Children’s Picture Dictionary edited by Tammy Hunter. There are over 1,234 words given but not all of the words are illustrated. I am not being paid to give this review and this book sells for $7.99 SRP.

I thought this dictionary would be a good resource for a teacher when working with beginning readers. I don’t think that a child could read this independently and since all of the terms did not have pictures, it might even be confusing to a child. I also didn’t like the pronunciation key using phonemic sounds that was used even though I can see that the editor thought it would be helpful to a child. I think it would teach a child bad habits that may actually confuse them when a teacher requires them to use phonics when decoding words. If an adult was working with a child, the adult could read the definition and see if they child could find the matching picture. If there was no picture, the child might want to draw an illustration that might match the world. The pictures and illustrations used in the book were very appealing and cute. I can see this book on a teacher’s shelf to use as a resource to enhance reading lessons.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/4/14

tools1Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

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

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

Fat World – “s a video game about the politics of nutrition. It explores the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the contemporary U.S. The game's goal is not to tell people what to eat or how to exercise, but to demonstrate the complex, interwoven relationships between nutrition and factors like budgets, the physical world, subsidies, and regulations.” (L:G; SA:S)

Nourish Interactive – “is your free one stop resource for fun nutrition games for kids, interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators to use to promote healthy living for the whole family. Created by nutrition and health care professionals, Nourish Interactive's nutrition education website gives children and families the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices.” (L:E; SA:S)

Math Graphing – graphing activities (L:E,M; SA:M)

Living With Railroads – “provides an open, constructive space in which those with an interest in the transcontinental railroads can not only explore historical artifacts and their own interests, but also build on previously held knowledge. As a cooperative space for knowledge gathering, community experts as well as academics researchers can engage productively over a variety of topics such as historical fare rates, model railroading, or train accidents.” (L:M,H; SA:SS)

History Pin – “Historypin is a way for millions of people to come together, from across different generations, cultures and places, to share small glimpses of the past and to build up the huge story of human history. Everyone has history to share: whether its sitting in yellowed albums in the attic, collected in piles of crackly tapes, conserved in the 1000s of archives all over the world or passed down in memories and old stories. Each of these pieces of history finds a home on Historypin, where everyone has the chance to see it, add to it, learn from it, debate it and use it to build up a more complete understanding of the world.” (L:G; SA:SS)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why I Blog

bloggingIn Why do you blog? From Blogush, Paul Bogush talks about why he blogs. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on why I blog and see if it is different now than when I first started.

When I first started, I didn’t know many people who blogged and some people looked at me funny when I said that I blogged. Now there are many blogs out there on many different subjects.

Reasons I started:

I wanted to reflect on my past teaching practices.

I wanted to share my teaching strategies with others.

I wanted to stay connected with other educators.

I wanted to refine, reflect, and refresh my teaching philosophy.

Reasons I continue to blog:

I want to share my experiences so that new and struggling teachers will have an easier time.

I want to share my beliefs and opinions about the education system.

I want to give links to sites that I think might be good resources for the classroom so that teachers don’t have to waste a lot of time looking for useful sites.

I want to review books and products so that other teachers can find out about these things without having to spend too much time doing this on their own.

I want to stay connected with other educators.

I want to continue to learn from others.

Do you blog? If so, why do you do so? And if you have blogged for over a year or more, please share whether your reasons have changed since then.

Image: 'Why Aren't You Blogging?'
Found on

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Don’t Get Run Over

crossingguardA few weeks ago when we were visiting my parents, we almost ran over a teenager who skateboarded into the middle of the street. We missed her and then she was almost hit by another car! I’m not sure she ever noticed how close she came to being killed.

During our conversation, it was mentioned that with school guards stopping traffic to let children cross the street, that children don’t know how to cross streets safely any more. They automatically think that cars will stop for them. It seems like there are more and more pedestrian vs. car accidents. Maybe we take it for granted that cars will stop for us and we forget that a false assumption can cause death.

I remember growing up and when I crossed the street, my parents made me look both ways before crossing. They let me practice this at a young age. I would come to an intersection and my parents would have me cross them after determining that it was safe to cross.

I think it would be a good idea for school crossing guards to take the time to teach children how to cross the street. Even if cars get impatient, this skill is one that needs to be taught and not assumed that children will learn this skill. Have children check to make sure it is safe to cross and once it is determined that it is safe, the crossing guard can stand in the middle of the road with the stop sign.

Maybe this is just one skill that we have stopped teaching our children. Good manners like opening the doors for the elderly, offering your seat to an older person, saying thank you or please when you want something, and even sending thank you notes have fallen to the way side.

What things have you noticed that we have stopped teaching our young people? Please share.
Image: 'Hold It Kids
Found on

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Monthly Review of Goals from June

GoalsJune was a tough month for me. We went on a camping trip where I had no internet for several days and that throws me off. Then we went to FL to visit my parents and did an 8 day cruise. I don’t feel I was very consistent this month. My close friend and neighbor also passed away on our anniversary so I just felt too sad to get all my walking done. All of my goals can be found here.

Yearly goals:
  1. Try at least 12 new recipes (one per month).
    1. January – Quinoa Meatballs
    2. February – Mushroom Lasagna
    3. March – Chicken Quesadilla
    4. April – Grilled Asian Chicken
    5. May – Simple Green Smoothie
    6. June - Barbecue Ribs with my father’s secret barbecue sauce. This is the first time I’ve made ribs.
  2. Reach my target weight by the end of the year. – My weight stayed the same this month
  3. Knit a Fair Isle vest. (not started yet)
  4. Learn to chain ply some handspun yarn. (started by not finished)
  5. Dye yarn and fiber. (not started yet)
  6. Spin my camel, yak, and cashmere fiber. Amended to add: or try different techniques
    1. January - spun camel/merino/silk blend fiber in
    2. March – tried drafting back when spinning instead of my usual short forward draft. This made my yarn turn out much loftier.
    3. April – Spun my yak/merino fiber
Daily/Weekly/Monthly goals:
  1. Daily - Read the bible and keep a log so I can tell how I am doing. – I’ve read it every day in January, February, March, April, May and June.
  2. Daily - Do strength exercises for 30 minutes each day. – I have done this every day.
  3. Weekly - Walk at least 10,000 steps for 4 days every week. (4.3 miles per day for 4 days/120.4 miles per month)
    1. a. January – 159.01 miles (avg. 5.1 miles per day)
    2. February – 130.27 miles (avg. 4.7 miles per day)
    3. March – 161.13 miles (avg.5.2 miles per day)
    4. April – 166.86 (avg. 5.5 miles per day)
    5. May - 144.34 miles (avg. 4.7 miles per day)
    6. June - 139.99 miles (avg. 4.6 miles per day)
  4. Weekly - Keep a journal and write down 5 things that I’m thankful for. – Every Sunday I take time to jot down the 5 things. – I missed a few weeks in June.
  5. Monthly - Read one non-fiction book every month.
    1. January - Life in Stitches by Rachel Herron.
    2. February – The Spinners Book of Yarn Design by Sarah Anderson
    3. March – To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
    4. April – David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
    5. May – The Biography of Shirley Jones
    6. June – Spartan Up by Joe De Sena
Image: 'Goals
Found on