Friday, January 30, 2015

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/30/15

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!
 Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

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

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

Video NotesAll the notes you type are automatically synchronized with the video. Later, just click on a line for the video to jump to the relevant part” (L:G; SA:A)

Duolingo – Learn a language at your own pace (L:G; SA:FL)

Poems and Questions Sets – to teach reading comprehension  (L:G; SA:LA)

Desmos - Graph functions, plot tables of data, evaluate equations, explore transformations, and much more – for free! (L:H; SA:M)

Teach It Timer – Countdown timer and a count up timer. (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bad or Blank

In Editing and Performing from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

“Do you have lots of bad pages now or lots of blank pages?”

One of the hardest things I find about writing is actually getting started.  Sometimes I find the blank page very overwhelming. I know when I was first married and my husband was taking college classes, he had a hard time writing for his class also. I remember telling him to just get started. Write something down. Anything.

I used to tell my students that writing something with lots of errors is worth more points than not writing anything at all. If I see something written, I can tell there was some kind of effort put into the writing. If nothing is on the paper, I can’t give credit for thoughts.

Sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I look for inspiration from other blogs. Just like I quoted Sioux’s blog at the top of this page. Sometimes by just putting the quote down, I can feel thoughts going through my head. I try to jot down the thoughts and not worry about the order because I’m afraid I will forget some of my thoughts.

After I have my thoughts down, I can go back and sort through the details. Sometimes I can take things out or add more detail. Sometimes I can rearrange so the flow is smoother. But if there is a blank page, I have nothing to work with.

Sometimes I copy quotes and paste them on blank pages. Then I save them in a file so when I need a writing prompt, it will be there. Sometimes I look at them and wonder what in the world was I thinking about when I copied it and other times I still know why it was important to me.  I’m all the time looking for words of wisdom or inspiration for future writing. 

Sometimes I feel like my life is a lot the same. I want to try new things and feel so overwhelmed that I’m afraid to try. I have a “blank page” with the new skill. Then I try to remind myself that trying and making mistakes is much better than doing nothing at all. In fact, I’m not even sure that I will have a “bad” page if I don’t even try. I might be successful and not have a “bad” page at all.

But it is really hard to get past the blank page. It doesn’t matter how old I am or what I’ve done in the past, blank pages are hard to work on! I like to think that I have more “bad” pages than “blank” pages because I don’t want to go through life with regrets. I don’t want to regret that I really wanted to do something and didn’t try it because I was afraid of failure.

Do you have “bad” or “blank” pages? Please share.

Image: 'Blank Pages In An Open Notebook'
Found on

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What is She Thinking?

In the article Haley budget proposal includes teacher recruitment program By SEANNA ADCOX (Associated Press), it is mentioned that

“S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley's plan for recruiting and retaining teachers in districts with the state's highest teacher-turnover rates includes the following:
—Students would get up to four years of tuition at a public college paid by committing to teach in a district where annual turnover exceeds 12 percent. Currently, 21 districts meet that definition. The person must teach two years for every year of tuition paid.
—Teachers already out of college could get their student loans paid off by moving to one of those districts. They would get one year's worth of tuition paid off for every year they teach.”

When I first heard this, I felt disturbed and unsettled by this. On the surface it sounds good but then I began to think about the assumptions that this plan makes.

By luring teachers to places where the turnover rate is high does not mean that those districts will get quality teachers. It just means that they get warm bodies. Is she implying that only quality teachers have student loans?

If these teachers happen to be enthusiastic and quality teachers, why do those districts with high turnover rates deserve them? I pay taxes and the students in my district deserve these teachers too.  Why shouldn’t all teachers in our state deserve the same opportunity?

Are we punishing the schools that are doing well and having positive results but luring their teachers away by dangling a financial carrot? Why should they be punished by losing quality teachers? What will happen to this school? Do they have to hire less qualified teachers? 

I don’t like the idea that there may be great teachers who are happy where they are but because they refuse to be relocated, may have to leave the great profession of teaching because the state insists that they go to a poorer run school or lose financial help that is given to others.

By attracting teachers to these districts, we aren’t getting to the root of the problem. We are only putting a band-aid over the wound but the problem is still there. Why isn’t someone using the money to figure out why the turnover rate is so high?  Are we not getting rid of the problem at one school and creating a new one at another?

All of this money incentives may have a negative connotation and make the public think quality education is all about the money and that is all that teachers think about.

If decision makers would look at surveys taken by teachers, they would see major concerns include red tape, excessive paperwork, redundancy in reports, ineffective administrators, inconsistent discipline, lack of flexibility, and over reliance on test scores. These are a few of the problems that could lead to high turnovers in schools.

I don’t think this is the answer to improving the quality of education in our state.  But maybe I’m missing something and you can help me understand this better.

How do you feel about this program? Please share.

Found on

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Process vs. Project

In When outcome becomes more important than process from Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson  shares a quote,

... when we teach our children that outcomes are more important than process they lose the ability to enjoy learning for its own sake. Everything becomes about the end-game. The problem is that the end game - whether it turns out as they anticipated or not - is often not intrinsically rewarding."

This makes me think a lot about knitting. Some knitters are either process knitters or project knitters. This means that some knitters enjoy the process of knitting more than they enjoy having a finished product. They enjoy the intricacies of using different techniques as they knit toward having a finished item. It seems as if they enjoy the journey more than the destination. Other knitters enjoy the finished product more than the work they have to do in order to get this. Sometimes knitters can be one or the other at different times of their life. Nothing is carved in stone.

I am a project knitter and can often be overwhelmed by the process. I recently knit a stuffed giraffe and when I started with the directions, I saw that there were 14 pages! Yes, I was intimidated. I finally kept a picture of the finished giraffe on my desk so whenever I felt overwhelmed (which was often!), I could refer to the finished item.

I think the same thing applies to learners. I feel that some learners enjoy the process of learning something more than getting to the final project that is being assessed. Other learners enjoy finishing a project that will be assessed but hate the process of getting there.

As a teacher, I feel it is important for me to find out which students are process or project learners as soon as I can. By doing this I can tailor the way the lessons are geared to each. This will mainly be done in the introduction because that is what is going to catch their interest and keep them engaged in the lesson.

For the process learners, I can detail the process needed to get to the finished project. By giving them a list of tasks needing to be completed (it may be sequential or varied), these students will be able to get excited about using different skills or tools for each step. They will have immediate gratification for completing each step. 

For the project learners, I can start with the finished project and explain what needs to be done in order for assessment. Once they know what will be accomplished, it will be easier for them to focus on the individual task and not be overwhelmed by this. Sometimes with a list of tasks, the final project can sometimes get lost and students lose their focus on what is expected on them. Being able to complete each task and mark it off the list helps them get closer to their goal.

By distinguishing which learners are more process or project oriented, I can help them be more successful in the classroom.

Are you a process or project oriented learner? Can you give an example? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley