Friday, August 29, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/29/14

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

Newspaper Map - Find newspapers for around the world in all different languages (L:G; SA:A)

Animal Inquiry – “The Animal Inquiry interactive is a versatile tool that can enhance student inquiry in research at the elementary level. The graphic organizer invites students to explore four facets of animals [basic facts, animal babies, interaction with others, and habitats (shown at left)]; the possibilities for extensions or adaptations, moreover, make this a a nice complement with inquiry-based projects. The follow-up writing prompts can be used to organize research questions as well as to record findings. After completing individual sections or the entire organizer, students have the ability to print out their final versions for feedback and assessment.” (L:E; SA:S)

Map Story – “MapStory empowers a global community to organize knowledge about the world spatially and temporally. With MapStory, people of all kinds turn into Storytellers who can create, share, and collaborate on MapStories and ultimately improve our understanding of global dynamics, worldwide, over the course of history.” (L:M,H; SA:SS)

Climate Kids – climate change website for students (L:E; SA:S)

Go Wild – “Discover wildlife from around the world. Learn lots of weird and wonderful facts. Have lots of fun along the way with wild games and activities.” (L:G; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Carnival Sunshine 2014 Day 5, 6, and 7

(Last week we took a cruise on the Carnival Sunshine so for the next few days I will be sharing about our cruise and some things that I learned each day.)

DSCF0131Day 5 (Roatan): (Here is the link for the pictures!)
We had a really nice day at the beach on Isla Roatan (Honduras). We got off the ship early and walked to Mahogany Beach so we could find 2 lounge chairs in the shade. We did some snorkeling before too many people were in the water and saw some fish. In an hour or two it became so crowded we wouldn’t have been able to do any snorkeling. Don enjoyed people watching while I knit. About 1pm we went back to the ship for lunch and sat out on deck for a while. In the evening we tried to go to the show but we were too early and ended up sitting in the Ocean Lounge listening to music until dinner time.

Day 6 (Costa Maya): (Here is the link for the pictures!)
DSCF0174We took a shuttle to Mahahual which cost us $3 each. We walked up the boardwalk and checked out the prices for beer and I looked for a diet pepsi. One place wanted $2 for diet coke which was more than the $1 beer everyone was selling so I didn’t buy it. Then a lady told me that she had diet pepsi for $1 at her store so I followed her and bought one from her. Along the way we watched men sweep up all the seaweed that washed up on the beach. We walked back to one bar that was selling 5 beers for $5 but when we sat down, the guy wanted to argue with us and we told him that was what the guy on the board walk said. Instead of arguing any more we left and went down to the Tapas bar where we had a nice seat, table, and umbrella for free. We bought two Coronas for $1 each. Then we decided we would buy the bucket of beer – 5 for $5. When the rain storm came, they moved us inside the bar until the storm passed and then he moved us back to the beach. While we were inside, all of the people working there began talking to us and we got to know them. Once we moved back to the beach the sun came out and it was a lovely day! In fact, I got so hot that I had to cool off in the water which was really nice. We stayed there and had 2 more buckets of beer before leaving at 12:30. The cab ride back to the ship was $2 each. When we got back on the ship it was time for lunch and I was hungry! After a nap we went to the comedy show with Tim You and he was pretty funny. For dinner I had chateaubriand and Don had escargot for appetizers.

Day 7 (at sea):
We had a lovely day at sea and was just lazy. Breakfast/brunch was filet mignon and macaroni and cheese. I tried the double chocolate brownie but the base was so hard that I couldn’t cut it with a knife. After breakfast we went to arts and crafts where I decorated flip flops with balloons. I also got a beaded bracelet kit. Then we walked on the track until lunch time. After lunch we walked some more until it was the wrist watch sale and line dancing lessons. I learned to line dance to “All the Single Ladies.” Before dinner we went to the comedy show which was pretty good. Dinner was so slow because the waiter dropped all of the food on his way to bringing it to the station so they had to start all over again. We were just getting our dinner when others were finished with dessert. Since we were so late eating we didn’t get to go to the late night comedy show.

Things I Learned:
1. It is fun to people watch!
2. Get to the beach early to get a chair in the shade.
3. Get to the beach early to snorkel before it gets too crowded.
4. Some people can be so rude and only think about themselves. They will drag chairs and block the walkways or crowd other people if you let them.
5. If vendors change the prices when you decide to stay, you don’t have to stay there and can leave. That will teach them not to do that anymore.
6. It is fun to get to talk to the local people and learn more about their way of life.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Carnival Sunshine 2014 Day 3 and 4

(Last week we took a cruise on the Carnival Sunshine so for the next few days I will be sharing about our cruise and some things that I learned each day. )

Day 3 (Cozumel):Here is the link for the pictures!)

We ate breakfast in the dining room and then went out on the deck to watch us pull in to the port. We arrived in Cozumel around 10am but they didn’t let us off the ship until after 11am. Since it was so late, we decided to take a taxi to downtown and it was $8 for 1-4 people. I went up to a nice couple (Jeff and Cherry from TN) and asked them if they were going downtown and would they be willing to share a taxi so it ended up only costing us $2 per person.

We walked around downtown and was disappointed to find out that our regular bar was closed down and we didn’t see the old man that we usually see so we think he probably died and they closed his family’s bar down. After walking around town we decided to walk back to the ship and it was SO hot! There was a tequila store offering $1 Coronas so we stopped to have a drink before moving on. Then we stopped at the grocery store to buy a couple of bottles of diet pepsi ($2 and I got back some Mexican change). We met Jeff and Cherry on the way back and enjoyed talking with them along the way. They ended up going back to the ship but we stopped at the Chinese place to have another beer ($3 for 1 Dos Equis). Then we found another place that had a bucket of Coronas – 4 for $10 and had some more to drink. By then I was starving so we went back to the ship and ate lunch.

We watched the Carnival Glory pull out 30 minutes late and we think they ended up leaving someone behind because they kept blowing their horn and then eventually left. We left at 6pm. We had to rush and get ready to go to the show which was Epic Rock. I didn’t like the show much because it was too loud and the singers just sounded like they were screaming. Luckily it was only a 40 minute show. Dinner was okay but I was pretty tired by then so we went to bed early. I had over 19,000 steps (8.5 miles) for the day!

Day 4 (Belize): Here is the link for the pictures!) 
We had a lovely day on the ship when we arrived in Belize. To get into Belize you have to take a tender since we can’t dock at the port. So, since we have been here several times, we decided to stay on the ship. After breakfast we walked on the track for an hour. Then we played miniature golf and shuffleboard. Then we sat out on the 3rd floor deck in the shade and read our books. By then it was time for lunch. After lunch we did the water slides which was a lot of fun! I was surprised how fast you go down those things! I did all 3 waterslides but Don only did 2 of them because after stories of people getting stuck in the yellow one, he decided to do the green one twice.  Before dinner we went to the show which was the ventriloquist and he was pretty good. We’ve seen him before and enjoy his show.
Things I Learned:
1. The exchange rate was 13 to 1 USD.
2. It is easier to find people to share a taxi on the way downtown but not on the way back to the ship.
3. It is really hot in the afternoon so it is easier to walk downtown when it is cooler in the morning.
4. The grocery store is a fun place to walk around AND it is air conditioned!
5. I was surprised how many shops and bars were closed down.
6. Cozumel is much prettier around Christmas time.
7. Ask the children which water slide is the slowest, the fastest, and the best. They give great advice!
8. Sometimes it is good to take a day just to relax.
9.   It is okay to not go into a port if you have been there before.
10. You don’t have to eat food just because it is all around you!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CCarnival Sunshine 2014 Day 2

DSC_0016(Last week we took a cruise on the Carnival Sunshine so for the next few days I will be sharing about our cruise and some things that I learned each day. Here is the link for the pictures!)

We had a lovely day at sea yesterday and did a lot of walking and eating. After breakfast we walked on the track. Then we had to leave to meet up with my Facebook friends who have been talking about this cruise for months. After that we went to the cooking demonstration which is always fun. My favorite food there is the mushroom cappuchino (soup) and the tiramisu (dessert)! Then for lunch I had a salad before we walked on the track again. In the afternoon we sat out on the Lobby deck in the shade where I read and knit. Then hubby wanted another snack so he got a hamburger before we took a real nap before dinner. First we went to the show which was Motor City and it was cute. I liked the music and the dancing. I asked for our dining room table to be switched to a large table in the Sunrise dining room. Instead they moved us to another table for 2 in the Sunrise dining room where it was hot and the view obstructed. My hubby was not happy. I had lobster, shrimp, and prime rib for dinner.

Things I Learned:

· Drink plenty of liquids in the Caribbean. You dehydrate faster than you think.

· All chefs cook differently. Even though the cooking demonstration shows the same food on each ship, they may tast differently.

· It is good to take some down time and just relax and do nothing!

· Be careful about making changes to dinner reservations because you may have been better where you started.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Carnival Sunshine 2014 Day 1

DSC_0017(Last week we took a cruise on the Carnival Sunshine so for the next few days I will be sharing about our cruise and some things that I learned each day. Here is the link for the pictures!)

We spent the night at the Hampton Inn in Cocoa Beach where we will leave our car and a shuttle took us to the port. We met in the lobby at 9:30 and the shuttle was scheduled to pick us up at 10am. Getting on the ship was fast and easy and everyone was so friendly!

Our captain is Roberto Leotta and the hotel director is Mark Damme. The Cruise Director is George Roberts and he is quite a flamboyant man. Don thinks he has a great voice and speaks nice and clearly.

As for the ship itself, which is a refurbished Carnival Destiny, I’m not sure I like the layout. I was very disappointed that there wasn’t an Aft bar on the lido deck. Where the Aft bar and pool are at on other ships, there is now the Havana Bar which consists of the JiJi Asian restaurant and the Italian restaurant. Both are free for lunch but cost $15 per person for dinner. There didn’t seem to be a nice place to sit outside and watch the ship leave the port from the back so we just walked around all day instead of getting our bucket of beer. There were two dining rooms. The Sunset dining room is only on floor 3 midship. The Sunrise dining room is two floors in the front of the ship. I did go to the maitre’d to see if we could change to a larger table instead of just a table for 2 and move to the Sunrise dining room. They say they would let me know the next day.

Our cabin was pretty big for an inside cabin on the first floor. The hallway and the cabin doors are decorated so nice and different compared to other ships! Our cabin steward’s name is Adi. We did notice that one of the closet racks was on the floor of the closet and didn’t fit so it could be installed so we had to ask Adi to get someone to fix it. He said he knew something was wrong because he saw it on the floor of the closet before we arrived (so why didn’t he get it fixed?). The top drawer also is broke so either he isn’t cleaning it and doesn’t know or he knows and isn’t getting it fixed. The bathroom is also a little weird. The shower is bigger lengthwise but the toilet sits catty cornered and you almost have to put one foot in the shower to use the toilet.

We went up to the spa to look inside and found the sauna which is a very small and dark space. I thought the spa people were very snotty and almost rude. I guess I won’t be going up there any time soon.

We ate lunch on the Lido deck. I tried the food on the Mongolian grill which was pretty good. I also tried the pasta from the Italian restaurant which was okay but nothing to brag about. Later we tried a piece of Prociutto pizza from the pizza place and I thought it was horrible.

Before dinner we went to the opening bingo game and watched to see who won the $500. I don’t usually play because I’m never lucky with this but it is fun to knit and watch. Then we watched the Welcome aboard show which was fun.

For dinner I had a shrimp cocktail, beef and barley soup, and the flat iron steak which were all good. I had the black forest gateau cake for dessert which is my favorite dessert. Don had the same starters and the tilapia for dinner which he enjoyed. Of course he had the crème brulee which he loves, for dessert.

I wanted to go to the comedy show but was too exhausted after dinner so we went to bed.

Things I learned:
1. We did notice that there was only one bedside table on one side of the bed and when we asked Adi, he said that our room doesn’t come with bedside tables but he got us one. There was also a lot of empty space for a chair but when we asked, he said this cabin doesn’t come with a chair or bedside tables.
2. There is a steam room but it costs $139 for a couple to use it for the entire cruise. On previous ships it was free but not coed.
3. Walking up and down the stairs instead of taking the elevator makes you very tired by the end of the day!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/22/14

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

Interactive Math Gamesmath games for elementary or middle school students (L:E,M; SA:M)

Persuasive Map – “The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate. Students begin by determining their goal or thesis. They then identify three reasons to support their argument, and three facts or examples to validate each reason. The map graphic in the upper right-hand corner allows students to move around the map, instead of having to work in a linear fashion. The finished map can be saved, e-mailed, or printed.” (L:E; SA:LA)

Cyber Street – learn to protect your identity and your electronic devices (L:G; SA:A)

A Thin Line – “MTV's A Thin Line campaign was developed to empower you to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in your life and amongst your peers. The campaign is built on the understanding that there's a "thin line" between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else. We know no generation has ever had to deal with this, so we want to partner with you to help figure it out. On-air, online and on your cell, we hope to spark a conversation and deliver information that helps you draw your own digital line.” (L:M, H; SA:A)

Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum - Google has partnered with child safety experts at iKeepSafe, and also worked with educators themselves to develop lessons that will work in the classroom, are appropriate for kids, and incorporate some of the best advice and tips that Google's security team has to offer. (L:T; SA:A)


Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Please Don’t Call on Me!

hidingIn The Art of Cold Calling: Blogiversary Post #7  from Classroom as Microcosm, Siobhan Curious  asks,

“Do you cold-call in your classroom?  If so, how do you make students fell okay with that?  If not, why not?  Does cold-calling improve the classroom dynamic, or is it a detriment?  I want my students to rise to the demands cold-calling creates, but I don’t want to poison their learning with terror.”

I was one of the students who sat in terror when I was called on. I even felt anxious at the thought of being called on. Even though I knew the material, I would freeze at the thought of being called on! I remember sitting in desks behind a person that was bigger than me just so I could easily hide behind them. This didn’t mean that I didn’t do my homework every night but I just could not face talking out loud in class. Being ridiculed and forced to do so did not improve my education in any form.

No, I don’t believe in cold calling in my classroom. The main reason that I would do this would be to check for understanding or to make sure that the student is doing their homework. Yet, I don’t believe that by doing this, I am achieving my goal. I know from experience that just because students don’t answer a question, doesn’t mean that they don’t know the material. By pushing students to do so may end up with disastrous results and cause them to hate learning.

I believe that there are other ways to check for understanding or to find out if the student has done their homework. Teachers need to be creative and look at the strengths of the student. Have the students use their strengths to show their understanding. If needed, have the students give input on how the can show their understanding. They might actually come up with good ideas that you haven’t thought about.

If I do have to do some cold-calling, then I establish some ground rules. No answer is laughed at or ridiculed. We encourage and support our friends who need extra help coming up with the correct answer. I see answering cold calling questions more in the sense of brain storming. If the answer is wrong, then we need to reason out why the answer is wrong so the person will have a better understanding how to come up with the correct answer.

How do you feel about cold calling? Do you do it? Why or why not?

Image: 'Simon the cat playing in pajamas'
Found on

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Treat Teachers Like Adults

boringIn Technology in adult meetings from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson states,

“The use of technology in staff meetings and other gatherings of adults automatically seems to be viewed as a negative. When e-mail and other "distractions" are available, won't staff members, like kids, be distracted by default?”

One of the complaints I’ve had about faculty meetings are the way we are treated like children.

On the first day of teacher in-service, we sit all day in the library where the administrators read the teacher manual to us one page at a time. I’m told this is done for legal reasons so that if a teacher is fired, they can’t say they didn’t know the rules. Don’t we do the same thing with class rules and our students? We are adults and have the adults read the manual and sign something stating that they read it instead of wasting a full day reading it to us!

We were not allowed to leave during our planning period because we might not be back on time or might be doing things not associated with our job. Yet, why does the school not mind when I’m using my own time to call parents and grade papers? And if we aren’t back in time for our responsibilities, then treat it as such and deal with us as employees and not children.

During professional development, make the information relevant to what we need to know. Set an example for how we should be teaching our students. Isn’t that what leadership is all about? I have attended too many professional development sessions that didn’t even pertain to my subject area or age level. What a waste of time!

Ask teachers for their input and really listen to what they are saying. Have teachers brainstorm their major issues and then let them get into groups to discuss the issues. If there is a problem, have them come up with a problem statement and also come up with at least 3 possible solutions. Then bring the total group back together and have each group give their presentation. I’m not saying that an administrator has to follow any solution but I think they owe it to the teachers to listen. Maybe an administrator hasn’t realized that there was a problem and may even have a simple solution for the problem.

I believe that communication is the key. This is important to teachers just as much as students. Teachers are expected to behave like role models for the students but aren’t treated in such a way that allows them to act this way. If administrators treated teachers like adult employees instead of students, maybe we would see more positive changes.

How are you treated at school? What makes you feel this way? Please share.

Image: 'Riveting meeting'
Found on

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Give Time to Practice

practiceIn Maybe We Could Just Get Better from Practical Theory, Chris Lehmann states,

“Perhaps we are a time where we can admit that our best practices are the ones that we actually get the time to practice.”

I think that is the biggest mistake we make in education whether we are the teachers or the learners. We want immediate gratification and we want to be the best or be known as the best immediately.

I know that when I learn something new, I compare my results to the sample. Of course it won’t be as good as the original because that person probably had more practice creating it than I do. When I learn a new knitting technique or spinning technique, I want it to be perfect as soon as I’m finished. I need to remind myself that it will take practice. I might have to practice many times until I get the results that satisfy me.

In the same respect, I need to help my students practice. I need them to practice their skills until they become adept at what they are learning. I saw this a lot in the summer course that I taught. Many of the teachers were practicing and applying the skills they learned in all of their previous courses. This was a time for them to practice their skills but they all expected to earn an A and have a perfect score after 16 days. When they didn’t earn a perfect score, they got upset. I’m not sure how to help them learn that they probably won’t have a perfect score at the end of the course. Even though I give them a rubric to follow, many don’t read the rubrics or meet the course requirements outside of the classroom observation which results in a lower score. Then they want to argue that their teaching was exceptional so they should receive an A. Getting a B is nothing to be ashamed of and means they are still Above Average.

I would really like for my students to pick a skill that they want to practice and take the time to learn it well. I wish they would take the time getting better at this skill rather than be mediocre at several skills. My mother used to have a phrase about this: Jack of all trades and master of none.

I remember reading the book Outliers and Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery. I wish teachers would give students the time needed to practice skills before discouraging them or labeling them as failures. I also wish that administrators would do the same thing for teachers. I can’t tell you how many times the district gives a new tool or strategy and gives you one school year to master it without sufficient training or time to practice. No wonder so many things fail or fall through the cracks and people become frustrated.

What skill would you like to practice more? Please share.

mage: 'Little violinist'
Found on

Monday, August 18, 2014

Planning a Road Trip

TripPlanningMy husband and I have been planning for an upcoming road trip. My husband loves the challenge of the planning almost as much as he loves traveling. I think many people don’t take big trips like this because they don’t know where to start when planning a trip or feel so overwhelmed at the thought of trying to do this without a travel agent. So I thought I would share the process that we go through when planning a big trip and maybe it might help some people or someone might have a suggestion for us to make our planning easier. Please feel free to send your suggestions if you have any to add.

1. Research the places that we want to see and make a list of the places with notes of what we want to do there. Using Google and library books work well for this research.

2. Plan the dates of the trip and make spreadsheet. I make a column for the day of the week (this is helpful when looking at hotel rates), date, location, lodging, and notes (for confirmation #, recreation plans).

3. Using a pencil (my husband works with the paper copy) and I use the computer spreadsheet, we decide how long it will take to get to each place and where we may need to stop for the night. This can be adjusted as needed.

4. If we want to spend more than one night at this stopping place, we pencil in the town on the spreadsheet for each day.

5. We continue planning the towns until we have planned all of the places. Sometimes this may change when we are looking for lodging. Some places may not have available rooms or may cost more than we want to spend.

6. Then we go back to look for lodging at each of those places by using Kayak, Priceline,,, or even the tourism web site for those locations. Sometimes calling the lodging directly can get us a cheaper price than the other booking sites and sometimes the lodging is sold out but the booking sites bought a block of rooms that may be available. Once I make a reservation, I ask to get an email confirmation or a confirmation number over the phone. All of this is written on the spreadsheet.

7. As we discuss things we want to do in each place, I make sure I note it down so we don’t forget to do anything we want to do.

8. After we stay there, I rate each lodging with a 1, 2, or 3 meaning 1 is the worst, 2 is okay, and 3 is really liked. This is a great reference in case we return to this area in the future.

How do you plan for your trips? Please share!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/15/14

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

A Graphic History of the Past 100 Years – using visual aids like graphs and timelines (L:M, H; SA:SS)

Countdown Timers – useful to time activities in the classroom (L:T; SA:A)

Typing Club – touch typing lessons (L:A; SA:C)

Flashcard Monkey – review SAT vocabulary words (L: H; SA: LA)

Crunchzilla – Learning to code can be fun! Learn to write javascript programs (L:A; SA:C)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Review

LEMONYThis summer I devoted my time to reading all thirteen books in this series because a young friend of mine was reading it too. It is always fun when you are reading the same books as someone else so you can discuss them. Here is what Wikipedia says about the series:

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of children's novels by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American author Daniel Handler) which follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents' death in an arsonous house fire. The children are placed in the custody of their distant cousin Count Olaf, who treats them rudely and plots to embezzle their inheritance. After the Baudelaires are removed from his care by their parents' estate executor, Arthur Poe, Olaf begins to doggedly hunt the children down, bringing about the serial slaughter and demise of a multitude of characters.

The series is actively narrated by Snicket, who makes numerous references to his mysterious, deceased love interest, Beatrice. Both Snicket and Beatrice play roles in the story along with Snicket's family members, all of whom are part of a mysterious organisation known as "V.F.D."”

It seemed like the story line was very dark and even depressing at times. Yet, I was cheering on the children and hoping that eventually they would have a happy ending. Finishing each book had me wanting to read more because I wanted to know what would happen in their next adventure. Though I have to admit that by Book 13, I was ready for the story to end. It started getting long and drawn out so I was feeling tired and frustrated for the children. I am looking forward to seeing the movie now and comparing it to the books. Seeing the movie would be a good incentive to get students to finish the series.

I could see upper elementary school and up reading these books. I think it would help develop a larger vocabulary because throughout the books new words and their definitions were given. I also think students would enjoy making new combinations of words using V. F. D. I also think that there would be many opportunities for art expression by having the students make their own illustrations of important events. Choosing their least favorite character would also be a great activity. They could make a poster about this character and write why they dislike this person the most or they might dress up as one of the main characters and tell the class why they dislike this person the most.

Have you ever read this series? What did you think about it? Please share your thoughts about this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lessons Learned from Blogging

bloggingIn Lessons From WritingLand from Sioux's Page, Sioux shares,

“I have been struggling lately with balancing things. Blogging vs. not blogging regularly. Working on shorter pieces vs. working on a longer project (which is on the side of the road right now...I've got the flashers on, and the sign posted in my back window that says, "Send help" but no help has arrived yet). Being open and free-flowing vs. stifling myself (like Edith Bunker).”

This post had me thinking about my writing habits and my blog. Here are things I have learned about myself and my writing.

Schedule – I need a regular writing schedule or I won’t do it. I have been blogging Monday through Friday for the past 7 years and I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed many days. I know that I’m basically lazy and if I didn’t make myself follow a schedule, my writing would fall to the side.

Reading – It is important for me to read other blogs and see what is going out in the world. I learn so much from others by reading their blogs and I’m thankful that they are willing to share their thoughts with me. Many times I want to leave a comment but then realize (such as this post) that my comments are so long they are actually great posts for my own blog. So I end up linking to the original post and sharing my thoughts here.

Love – I love writing and this blog is the perfect outlet for it. I have tried audio podcasting and video podcasting which is fun but I love writing posts for this blog. If I didn’t love it, I would not have been able to do this for seven years!

Thoughts – Writing down my opinions help me clarify my thoughts and beliefs. I am basically shy when meeting new people and even though I’m passionate about education, I don’t always voice my thoughts well openly. By writing them down, it helps me organize my thoughts and think about what I would say if I was asked in person about them.

Conversation – I love the conversation involved in blogging. Sometimes people leave comments that have me rethinking what I have written. Or sometimes agrees with me and validates my thoughts. Sometimes people challenge me and ask questions so that I need to make my ideas clearer.

Community – Since I retired after teaching 30 years in public schools, I became an adjunct professor at a local university. I was afraid that I would feel isolated from the education community and blogging enables me to stay connected.

Do you blog? What lessons have you learned? Please share.

Image: 'Why Aren't You Blogging?'
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting the Dream Job

interviewIn On booby prizes and new horizons from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson shares that he is moving to a new position but reflects on how he got his current position and his feelings when he didn’t get his “dream” job 25 years ago. He says,

“Don't mistake the edge of a rut for the horizon. 
~ James Patterson


“On retrospect the booby prize turned out to be the grand prize.”

Years ago, when I decided to leave a school that I had been at for 11 years even though it was a 45 minute drive from my house, I applied to a school nearest to my home. I knew it would be perfect for me because years ago I had lived near the school I taught at and I loved it. I loved being part of the community. I loved being close enough to go to many of the after school activities. I knew that this would be my dream job. Even though it was a drop in pay, I would save so much in gas and time so it would be worth it.

When I decided to interview for the special ed position, my friend who works for the district talked me into applying to another school a little further away (15 minutes from my home). I didn’t want to interview but my husband told me that it would be a good experience to practice my interview skills so I went to both interviews.

My dream job interview was okay but the principal told me that he already promised the job to someone else and was waiting to hear from him. He also said that if the other man didn’t take the job that he would give me a call.

My second interview (remember the one that I didn’t really want to go to?) was an amazing interview. The administrators spent the time actually trying to convince me to come to their school rather than the other way around. As we walked around the school, I heard teachers laughing and sounding like they enjoyed being there. Students were smiling and greeting the administrators as we walked through the halls. Any of my concerns (size of the classroom, number of students, optimal teaching schedule) were all addressed to my satisfaction. Within days I was offered the job.

Needless to say, I was disappointed that I didn’t get my “dream job” but I decided to take the second job because they made me feel so good about myself. They acted like they really wanted me and that was a good feeling!

I spent the next 7 years at this school and I never regretted this decision. I had the most amazing colleagues and even though it was a huge school (2300 students), we all worked well together. My principal decided I had leadership abilities and made me the head of the department. This belief helped me grow so much professionally and I ended up being chosen Teacher of the Year. In fact, I was a top 10 finalist out of the 5000 teachers in the district! I don’t think this would have happened if I hadn’t come to this school.

So, I believe that things happen because they are meant to happen. I may not have gotten what I had thought was my “dream job” but I actually got the job of my dreams!

Have you ever not gotten your dream job but it turned out better than you thought it would? Please share.

Image: 'Interview'
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Why Should I Learn This

whyIn Why Do I Have To Learn This? Blogiversary Post #3 from Classroom as Microcosm, Siobhan Curious  shares,

“‘Why do I have to read/think about/know this?’ is a place at which education can begin, if we answer the question authentically, or, even better, if we ask them to answer it for us.  If we show interest in their theories, they might become curious about ours, and together, we might be able to make some learning happen.”

When I teach new concepts, I try to always share with the students reasons why they need to learn them. I have learned over the years that if I can’t show relevance, the students don’t seem the value of learning and remembering what I’m trying to teach them. Sometimes the relevance may be that it will be on some standardized test and the school district wants them to do well on it. It may not be a good reason but it is a reason for learning something. Other times I tell my students that they need to know something so that they can use it to get a good job and not end up on welfare which I pay for out of my taxes. I am not trying to offend any of them if they are on welfare but I want them to see that they have options when they have knowledge. In fact, if I can’t show relevance, why am I wasting my time?

Yet, I never thought about having them come up with theories about why they need to learn something. The students may actually see a reason that I hadn’t seen. Allowing their input will help them problem solve which is another useful skill. Plus, not everyone offers reasons for new learning so this would be a great exercise in trying to figure out the reason rather than just giving up and assuming there is no reason. Just because the reason for learning is not handed to them on a silver platter doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

I think it would be fun to talk about the new skill, concept, or assignment. Then have them break into small groups for 5 minutes and have them come up with reasons why they are doing this lesson. Each group shares their best answer. You might give a reward for the correct answer and the most creative answer. By doing this, you are encouraging students to think outside the box.

How do you teach relevance of a new lesson? Please share.

Image: 'Why?'
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Friday, August 8, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/8/14

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

Word Writer – “Providing teachers with an interactive and easy-to-deliver vocabulary development application” (L:E,M; SA:LA)

Go Figure: The Week in Numbers – “Look back at the week in numbers with our Go Figure images, which are posted daily on social media.” (L:M,H; SA:SS, M)

Developing Good Credit Habits –In this module, students will discover the secrets to developing good credit habits and learn how long it can take to pay off a credit card balance. The objectives are to pay off credit card debt, maintain a good credit rating by making payments on time and accumulate as many consumer goods and services as possible without running up credit card debt.(L:H; SA:SS)

Code Monkey – “Suitable for all levels. From first steps in coding to advanced subjects in computer science. We’ve got you covered with intuitive, bite-sized lessons. Taught by cute animals!” (L:A; SA:C)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Don’t Let Hope Die

hopeIt is that time of the year. I hear teachers talk about getting their classrooms ready. I hear parents thinking about getting supplies. I even see the school supply lists at the entrance to stores. This past weekend was tax free weekend in SC!

I miss the beginning of school and always loved it better than the end of the year. Everyone is usually full of energy and full of hope. Many students will get a chance to turn over a new leaf and start fresh.

Teachers have great hopes for a fabulous year. They are full of new ideas, strategies, and energy to face any challenge sent their way. This is the year that they will have the best classes with the best students who want to learn. This is the year that they will have all the materials and equipment they need on hand to teach what they need to teach. This is the year that all of the students will complete their homework on time. This is the year that all of the students will think their teacher is brilliant and want to learn more!

Parents have great hopes for their children this year. This may be the year that they have a great teacher who will encourage and challenge their child. This is the year that their child will thoroughly enjoy being in school and want more! This may be the year that their child excels in sports on the school team! This is the year that their child does not have any discipline referrals!

Students have great hopes for themselves this year. This is the year that they will be able to do harder work without being frustrated. This is the year that they will do well on tests. This is the year that teachers will like them. This is the year that their friends will like them and want to spend time with them. This is the year that they will be able to do all the things they want to do without struggling.

I love all these hopeful feelings but it saddens me how quickly hope dies.

I challenge you to make this the year of hope. Don’t let it die. Hang on to those feelings of hope and help others do the same. If you see someone else, whether it is a teacher, parent, or student, then try to boost them up and hang on to their hopes. If everyone tried this, maybe the hope wouldn’t die.

What do you think? Please share.

Image: 'Faith and Hope [Explore]'
Found on

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Learning Place 2014 Evaluation

At the end of our program each year, I have the parents fill out a survey to help me make the program better each year. I usually have a small number of surveys that get returned but this year I had about 50% of the surveys returned. From the comments I received I’m very happy with the results and am thrilled that the parents felt it was worthwhile. I wanted to share the comments with you and hope you enjoy reading them!




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

8 Ways to Help Children with ASD Succeed in School

(Today’s post is a guest post from Pediatric neuropsychologist Dr. Lee Ann Grisolano who works with children and adolescents and is an expert in Neurodevelopmental Evaluations. Dr. Grisolano specializes in: Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs) for students who are difficult to diagnose, Psychotherapy geared towards children or adolescents and their families who are struggling with emotional and behavioral issues relevant to a diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder (e.g., ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Tourette syndrome) and Cognitive training & rehabilitation. In addition, Dr. Grisolano is an experienced college professor, published researcher and accomplished presenter and writer.)

autismAffecting 1 in 62 children, ASD is one of the fast-growing developmental disabilities in the United States. Although Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is becoming more common, many aspects of the disorder can be problematic for the daily life of not only the diagnosed, but also the parents and teachers of those with the disorder. School can often pose a threat to those challenged by the symptoms of ASD. But don’t worry—here are 8 ways to help children with ASD succeed in an academic environment:

1. Independent Educational Evaluation—An Independent Educational Evaluation, also known as an IEE, is an evaluation conducted by someone outside of the school system. This evaluation is often sought after when parents of a child with a neurodevelopmental disorder does not agree with the evaluation conducted by the school system. In the case of a child with ASD, parents may disagree with the child’s school programming due to an impression that the child is not getting enough, or the right kinds of, services. By law, parents have the right to seek an IEE. For more information, or to see if your child qualifies, click here.

2. Individual Attention—It’s difficult for teachers to offer individual attention when there’s a classroom filled with 30 other children. However, this is one accommodation that is nevertheless necessary in order to help level the playing field in the classroom and offer students with ASD the same opportunity for academic success. For example, when teaching, make sure to address the pupil with ASD by his or her name to ensure understanding (but don’t overuse it—you can also use sounds to help gain the child’s attention). This one-on-one attention will provide the student with extra support.

3. Clarity—Another key to academic success is clarity. It’s important to be as clear as possible when going over instructions, assignments, homework, etc. Keep your sentences simple and concise. Sarcasm and complex language can cause misunderstanding, and will sometimes cause a great deal of frustration. Simplicity is key.

4. ASD Friendly Environment—Whether it be at home or in a classroom, structure plays a large role when establishing an ASD-friendly environment. One of the easiest ways to do this is to develop and abide by a routine. This will help eliminate any unnecessary anxiety, as change often poses as an emotional trigger for children with ASD.

5. Eliminate Distractions—This goes hand-in-hand with an ASD-friendly environment. Children with ASD pay attention to detail. Try to eliminate unnecessary background noise and avoid seating students with ASD in high-flow areas, such as near windows and doors. If distractions occur and the student becomes overwhelmed, offer 10-15 minutes of alone time to restore his or her emotional state.

6. Use Visuals—Visuals are great tools to help students with ASD. For example, place an image of someone washing their hands near the sink or brushing their teeth in the bathroom to help teach and/or remind the child of proper hygiene. You can use visuals in both the home and classroom, as this will establish consistency between the two. But remember—make sure to keep the visuals simple.

7. Encourage Independence—Although children with neurodevelopmental disorders need extra help to some extent, they can often live independent lives. Establishing a developmentally appropriate level of independence early on is a vital part of the child’s development. Give the child the opportunity to make independent decisions, and reward the positive ones.

8. Results may vary—ASD is not a “one size fits all” disorder. It’s important to understand that each child is unique, and exhibits and copes with the symptoms of disorder differently. The biggest key to success is to fully understand the child’s disorder and behavior. Only then can you begin to help the child adapt to his or her academic surroundings.

For more information on how you can help your child with academic success, visit

Image: 'Autism Awareness Ribbon, Colorful Puzzle Pieces, +Free+Creative+Commons+Public+Domain+Download'
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Monthly Review of Goals from July

GoalsJuly went by quickly because I worked all month. It was really hard for me to exercise when I was working because I was exhausted each day. I tried to make myself work out but my body just wasn’t as willing as my mind was. 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.
    7. July – The plant engineer at the school gave me loads of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. So, I diced up some chicken and sautéed it with the diced up squash, zucchini, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. I added oyster sauce and soy sauce too. It came out really tasty.
  2. Reach my target weight by the end of the year. – I lost one pound this month.
  3. Knit a Fair Isle vest. (not started yet)
  4. Learn to chain ply some handspun yarn. (I finished this in July and I’m glad I tried it. I think I overplied the final yarn though. I need to learn to treadle slower so it doesn’t twist so tightly and kink up on itself.)
  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, June, and July.
  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. 4.67 miles per day)
    7. July - 117.02 miles (avg. 3.77 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 did much better in July.
  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
    7. July – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I’m pleased with what I did accomplish this month even though I didn’t exercise enough. There are only 2 out of 6 things on my yearly goal list that haven’t been started yet. I’ve also been keeping up with my daily, weekly, and monthly goals so far. By making myself accountable each month, I have been able to accomplish these goals easily.

Image: 'Goals
Found on

Friday, August 1, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/1/14

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

The Invasion of America“How the United States took over an eighth of the world.” (L:M,H; SA:SS)

Live Gaps Chart Builder – “create your own chart online.” (L:G; SA:A)

Zaption – “Teachers, trainers, and content publishers use Zaption’s intuitive web app to quickly add images, text, quizzes, and discussions to existing videos from YouTube, Vimeo and private video libraries. The result is an interactive learning tour that transforms video from a “lean back” experience to an engaging “lean forward” activity. With Zaption’s analytics, instructors get immediate feedback on how students interact with the content and understand key concepts.” (L:T; SA:A)

Eskeletons – “provides an interactive environment in which to examine and learn about skeletal anatomy. The purpose of this site is to enable you to view the bones of both human and non-human primates and to gather information about them from our osteology database.” (L:M,H; SA:S)

Rule the 90s – trivia from National Geographic about the 90s. (L:M,H; SA:SS)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley