Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Admissions – Book Review

I recently read Admission by Julie Buxbaum. I read a review copy compliments of Netgalley. I am not being paid to give this review. It should be released for publication in May 2020.

The story is about a girl who is in her senior year of high school and she is applying to colleges. She is caught in the middle of the College Admissions scandal and we see the whole story unfold from her point of view.

This is an appropriate story of today’s world as we hear about the college admissions scandal in real life. I have watched the news stories but never really thought about what the actual students might be feeling or going through. This book was so interesting that I couldn’t put it down.

I think this book would be great to use in a high school class as either an individual book assignment or even a whole class assignment. Discussion topics could include honesty, integrity, college admissions, friendships, sibling rivalry, family dynamics, ethical behavior, and resilience. I think this book would allow students to discuss their own fears or anxieties about the end of their own school career and what the future holds for them.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Video Chats

Last week I was able to do a lot of video conferencing with people around the world.

·      I Skyped with a friend of mine in my county who was feeling lonely and isolated.
·      I used t with other educators and talked about the current situation in their part of the world.
·      I talked on Jitsi with a class of 15-year old students in Austria and I learned some new things about Austria.
·      I chatted with knitters on Zoom who hope to attend a knitting retreat this summer.
·      I chatted on Google Hangout with another knitter in my area because our knitting group isn’t able to meet at our local Starbucks. We usually meet weekly there.
·      I met with other professors from my university and had a “mindfulness” session on Zoom.
·      I’m on Skype several times a day connecting with other educators on “HLWSkypers.”

I highly recommending giving these things a try. It will help you and your students feel more connected and less isolated. Remember that all parties would need download the same app and open it to connect to each other. These are great ways to stay connected with your schools, friends, and family.

Here are some links:

Google Hangout – free; you may have to have a google account and need to download the Google Hangout app; can be on phone, iPad, or computer
Zoom – free version is for 40 minutes at a time; up to 100 people; need to download the app; phone, iPad, or computer
Jitsi – free; only works on Chrome browser;
SkypeHLWSkypers – free, need to download the app; phone, iPad, or computer

What other platforms do you use to connect with others? Please share.

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Friday, March 27, 2020

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/27/2020

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

40 Ways to Make Time for More Creativity in Your Lesson Plans – “That’s why we’ve gathered ideas for incorporating more classroom creativity into your day—and we’ve covered every grade level.” (L:G;SA:A)

10 Creative Writing Prompts to Boost Your Nature Journaling Skills – “For me, nature is a stimulus for creative thought and, as a result, better writing. By the time I am home again and facing my computer, I am usually free from whatever was blocking my flow of ideas … even if I’m not specifically writing about nature. I return more in tune to my surroundings and aware that I am a part of something much larger than myself. Being out in the natural world reminds me of who I am … and that keeps me from trying to be something I’m not. And I think that’s the key to good writing … conveying your thoughts in an authentic voice that’s true to who you really are.” (L:G;SA:LA)

25 Of The Best Resources For Teaching Critical Thinking – “For this post, we’ve gathered various critical thinking resources. As you’ll notice, conversation is a fundamental part of critical thinking, if for no other reason than the ability to identify a line of reasoning, analyze, evaluate, and respond to it accurately and thoughtfully is among the most common opportunities for critical thinking for students in everyday life. Who is saying what? What’s valid and what’s not? How should I respond? This varied and purposely broad collection includes resources for teaching critical thinking, from books and videos to graphics and models, rubrics and taxonomies to presentations and debate communities. Take a look, and let us know in the comments which you found the most–or least–useful.” (L:T;SA:A)

10 Ideas for Excellent Inquiry-Based Learning Webinar - Moderated by Vicki Davis of Cool Cat Teacher, Richard Byrne and Monica Burns discuss 10 excellent ideas for inquiry-based learning! (L:T;SA:A)

Stamp Discovery Education Program – “The Stamp Discovery Education Program at the Postal History Foundation is directed by Lisa Dembowski with assistance from Linda Wynn. Stamp Discovery supports kids, parents, and teachers through several free or nominally-priced services and resources.” (L:E: SA:A)

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Language Arts Activities for Home

Many schools are closed and either doing learning online or sending work home. I also thought it might be a good time to do suggest some activities for children to do at home that might not require the internet.

Journal Writing – Now would be a good time for the student to start a journal. Every day they can write using the prompt and then add a paragraph about how they are feeling. Here are several prompts:

If I had a Superhero Power, it would be…
If I could meet one famous living person, it would be...
The best part of not going to school is…
What I miss most about not going to school is…
Something new I’ve learned is…

Nouns – using post-it notes or index cards, label all the nouns in your room. If there is more than one child, give them different color pencils, pens, crayons or markers to write the labels.

Treasure hunt – With smaller children, give them post-it notes and have them find things in the room that begin with a specific letter. They put the post-it note on each object they find.

Read – Find a book that you want to read. After you are done, pretend they will make a movie of the book and you have to create the movie poster.

Cook – Find a recipe that you want to try to make. Check that you have the ingredients in your house. Follow the recipe and create your food.

Word games
·      Word connections – One person says a word. The next person has to use a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word.
·      Ghost – One person says a letter. The next person has to build on that letter by adding a letter for a real word. The next person adds on another letter towards building the word. Continue taking turns with all people playing the game. Each person will add a letter to the previous ones to create a real word. The one who ends the word gets the letter in order from the word GHOST. The person is out of the game when they have all the letters from the word GHOST.

Board Games:
If you have the game Scrabble, this would be a fun game to play at home.
Turn all the tiles over so the letters can’t be seen. Each person draws 7 tiles. Use the letter tiles to form words. These tiles can’t be used again. Each tile counts as one point. Draw however many tiles from the pile that you used. The one with the most points after all possible words are made, wins.

What other language arts games would you suggest?

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Math Activities for Home

Many schools are closed and either doing learning online or sending work home. I also thought it might be a good time to do suggest some activities for children to do at home that might not require the internet.

Cooking –
·      follow a recipe and measure ingredients.
·      Treasure Hunt  #1 – Give the student 5-7 different measurements. Have the student find items that measure that size.
·      Treasure Hunt #2 – Give the student 5-7 items and have the student measure them.

·      Put different amounts of money in small plastic bags. Number each bag. Have the student count the money in each bag.
·      Pretend that you are a customer and give the student paper money as if to buy a certain amount.  Have the student count back change that you should get.
·      Learn to figure out gratuities.
·      Learn to figure out sales tax on different amounts.
·      Learn to fill out tax forms.


·      Have the student find objects that match different shapes.
·      Have the student draw a scale model drawing of a room or an object in the room.
·      Have the student draw a diagram of the house.

Checking Accounts
·      Give the student a list of check amounts and deposits. Make up a fake check register. Have the student keep the balance in the check register.

What other math activities would you suggest? Please share.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Having a Schedule

Working at home is not as easy as people think it is. It is easy to be distracted and hard to separate work responsibilities from home responsibilities. During this stressful time, many teachers have their own children at home at the same time they are teaching from home. Having a schedule helps balance work/home responsibilities. If both parents are home, it is easier to share responsibilities but sometimes teachers are single parents.

Separate the day into morning, afternoon, and evening blocks. You might want to meet as a family to work out a work/home schedule for everyone to see.

List the home responsibilities for each block such as breakfast for the family, lunch for the family, dinner for the family, helping children with schoolwork, cleaning the house, and bath time. If you have older children, consider having the older children helping at mealtimes either cooking or cleaning. Consider having older children help younger children with schoolwork when needed.

List the work responsibilities for each block of the day. It would be good to do a daily video for your students each day which will help them feel connected and not abandoned. This video can just be a “hello” and an overview of what you hope they get accomplished today. There may be work that needs to be graded and lesson plans that need to be done. You might plan a time that you can video conference with others in your department or school each day as a check-in to see how everyone is doing. This will help you feel less isolated.

Then create some kind of spreadsheet with the three blocks of time for each day of the week. Put your responsibilities into the blocks that they need to be in. By spreading these out into a visual, it will help be less overwhelming. You can print this out for your family to see. You might also want to come up with a family schedule. Having a routine will help everyone feel grounded and get used to the “new normal.”

Do you plan your routine at home? How do you work it out? Please share.

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Monday, March 23, 2020

Amazon Purchases

I just wanted to thank everyone who has been buying things from Amazon through this website. Your support means a lot to me!

If you haven’t been buying from Amazon through this site and would like to, all you have to do is put a keyword in the Amazon search box on the left. Then click on the search button below the word which will bring you to the Amazon site. Then you can shop as you regularly do.

Thanks again for your support.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/20/2020

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

A Woman’s Place Is in the Curriculum: Teaching Women’s History through American Art and Portraiture – “Recently I worked with a team of educators at my museum and the National Portrait Gallery to develop/produce/create a teaching poster set and related webinar series designed to bring diverse women’s stories into the classroom through American art and portraiture. Funded by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative – Because of Her Story – our project aims to connect these artworks to relevant, interdisciplinary themes and support teachers with ideas for using them. Women’s stories have always been integral to American history, but they have often been marginalized or erased from K-12 education – presented as peripheral to the main story or highlighted only during Women’s History Month. Without question, women of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community have been doubly – sometimes triply – marginalized.  In fall 2019, SAAM and NPG educators co-facilitated webinars designed to bring some of these untold stories into focus.  Each of the three thematic webinars has its own Learning Lab collection, which includes two images from the teaching poster set, as well as additional SAAM and NPG works, along with suggested visual literacy strategies…” (L:G;SA:LA,SS)

Foldscope – This is not free but it is so cool that I had to share it with you. The cost is pretty low for a classroom set ($35). “Foldscope is the ultra-affordable paper microscope. It was designed to be portable and durable, while performing on par with conventional research microscopes (140X magnification and 2 micron resolution).” (L:G;SA:LA,S)

99Math – “Exciting 5-minute math games to get students to the next level.” (L:G;SA:M)

Short Films – great animated short films (L:G;SA:LA,S)

22 Powerful Closure Activities – “Quick activities that can be used to check for understanding or emphasize key information at the end of a lesson.”

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Look Closely

“Too often, we take what we are offered at face value. The zoom setting is determined by someone else, and in our rush to get onto the next thing, we fail to discover what is going on within.”

Sometimes teachers get busy with school and personal life that we stop looking at our students more closely.

I find it is very important to greet each student at the door. I require that they make eye contact with me and say hello. How they greet me tells me a lot about their mood and attitude for the day. Those that have difficulty making eye contact have something going on in their lives that may affect their performance. Those that have no trouble and are quick to tell me about their morning will be okay today but tomorrow they may be different.

When I have a student disrupting the class or not doing the assignment, I need to look closely as to why the student is avoiding the work. Maybe the student is not prepared with the proper tools such as paper, pencil, or pen. Maybe the student doesn’t understand the directions and doesn’t want to ask for help for fear of looking stupid. Maybe the student is afraid of failure so by not doing the work, there won’t be a possible failure.

If the student has some personal problems outside the classroom, maybe I can talk to the student and show support. This little support may be helpful and encourage the student to hand in there and face whatever is going on. Maybe by talking about the problem, it can help the problem from becoming overwhelming.

If the students are misbehaving and getting on my nerves, maybe I need to look at myself more closely. Am I in a bad mood and why am I in a bad mood? Students are quick to pick up on things like this and their behavior may be a reflection of my own attitude. It may be good to explain to my students that I’m having a bad day and apologize if I’m sharp with them because I don’t mean to be this way. Many students respect that I can share this and apologize for my own behavior. This is also a good modeling example for them when they feel the same way.

In what ways do you look at your students more closely? Please share.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

First Fractional Denomination Stamp

The first fractional cent stamp in US History featured President Warren G. Harding. He was chosen for this stamp made necessary by third-class postage rate changes by the Postal Service Act of February 28, 1925. This raised the rate from one cent to one and a half cents per ounce. The stamp was designed by Clair Aubrey Huston, and the vignette was engraved by Frederic Pauling. This was vignette was also used in 1923 on a 2-cent stamp. It was issued on March 19, 1925, in Washington, DC. It was used primarily in circulars and was needed in large quantities as quickly as possible. It was issued in sheet form from a rotary press as well as in flat plates. Since the rotary press was faster, it became the method of choice. It printed out 6,000,000 per day vs. the 1,600,000 per day of the flat plate press.

Warren G. Harding was born on November 2, 1865, in Corsica, Ohio. He became a teacher and then went on to read law and sell insurance before becoming a journalist. He was fired for supporting a Republican candidate for president but went on to buy a bankrupt newspaper for $300 called The Marion Star. He married Florence DeWolfe, the daughter of a prominent banker and nicknamed her Dutchess in 1891. They ended up having a successful newspaper. Florence helped Warren become successful in politics and he became a Republican state senator in 1898. In 1903 he became lieutenant governor but lost the governor’s election 7 years later. Warren became a US Senator in 1914. In the largest presidential popular vote landslide since 1824, Warren Harding became the 29th US President.

President Harding established a peace agreement with Germany and Austria that ended WWI. He also arranged the Washington Naval Conference. He also started the first child welfare program.

There were a lot of scandals during his presidency that did not appear until after his death. He also had a fifteen-year extramarital affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips but ended in 1920.

President Harding died in 1923 from a heart attack in 1923.

Teaching Activities:
1.     Make a poster or scrapbook page  of Warren G. Harding during his Presidency.
2.     Draw a picture of the one and half cent stamp.
3.     Research The Marion Star and share five interesting things about it.
4.     Make a class newspaper.
5.     Who became president after President Harding died? What was the procedure for him becoming president.
6.     Research the rotary press and write a report or make a scrapbook page about it.
7.     Research the flat plate press and write a report or make a scrapbook page about it.

Original photo by Pat Hensley 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Online Conversations

Recently our university was put on an extended break. This gives the professors time to put their courses completely online.

In other conversations on Facebook, many students and teachers are concerned about their online courses. Teachers want to make sure that the students get the information they need, and students want to know that the lessons will be meaningful. Someone was concerned that they wouldn’t have meaningful conversations online like they would during a classroom discussion.

I like having students write something and have students respond to two or three others but I think it is important to give directions for the conversations, so they are meaningful.

When I ask students to read or watch something for the lesson, I ask them to write about what they learned. I ask them to tell me if they agree or disagree with what they learned and why.

Then I ask others to comment on at least two or three other posts, I ask them to tell what they agree or disagree with the post and why.

Hopefully, this will lead to a deeper conversation where others may ask someone else a question for clarification or even begin debating.

This involves critical thinking and discussion. I would conduct the same kind of conversation in the classroom so I believe it would work in an online discussion also.

I also like to have a place for students to post a question or something that they didn’t understand. I would then invite everyone to contribute their answer or explanation.  Again, this can open it up for others to jump into the conversation. There are websites like Padlet where people can post their questions anonymously and others can answer anonymously. This may be a good place for those that are shy or afraid to ask questions.

What other strategies would be good to use in order to have meaningful online conversations? Please share.

Photo by Paper Textures on Unsplash

Monday, March 16, 2020

Pandemic Panic

During this virus pandemic, my husband and I have enough supplies for two weeks so we don’t have to go shopping more than necessary. Normally, my husband loves to go to the grocery store every day! The odds are better for us on staying healthy if we stay away from others as much as possible.

The news is constantly updating on places that are closed and events that are canceled.

This is a scary time for those of us who understand what is going on. For our young people and children, this can all be very alarming because they don’t understand what is happening. For those with intellectual disabilities, this can be extremely frightening too.

This is the time to reassure the children and those with disabilities that with precautions, they will be okay.

It is a good time to go over with them about the precautions they should take to stay healthy. This includes washing hands often and staying away from large crowds.

Many schools are closing and children are staying home. During this time, enjoy the time with your children and use it as an opportunity for bonding activities such as cooking, baking, cleaning, organizing, and arts and crafts. Help your child start a journal and write/draw in it every day. Teach your child a new skill such as knitting, crocheting, painting, or sculpting. If you don’t know how to do these, learn alongside your child by watching YouTube videos together.

By doing activities together, it will help the child from feeling isolated and lonely. Keeping active will help keep the fear and anxiety at bay.

What other ways can we comfort those who are too young or disabled to understand what is going on? Please share.

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

Friday, March 13, 2020

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/13/2020

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

Wall of Birds – “The mural, titled "From So Simple a Beginning," is a one-of-a-kind celebration of the world of birds. Envisioned by Cornell Lab ornithologists to showcase biodiversity and evolutionary change, the project features species from all surviving bird families alongside a select group of extinct ancestors. It takes a big painting to do justice to the phenomenal history and diversity of birds. The Cornell Lab and Ink Dwell studio have combined efforts on the mural covering about 3,000 square feet (280 square meters) of wall space in the Lab’s Visitor Center. Meet a bird from each taxonomic family: The mural gives you the chance to meet an outstanding representative of each of the bird families of the world. Each of the 243 representatives is meticulously painted in life-sized, colorful detail to showcase the unique character of the species. Explore the map and click on any of the birds to get to know them better. See where each bird species lives: A foot of each bird touches the world map at a point where you can find that species. For a more complete picture of their ranges, browse to the dynamically-updated eBird (ebird.org) sightings map provided with each description.” (LG;SA:S)

ClassroomQ – “We are two teachers using technology to make the lives of students and teachers easier. Our mission is to create a classroom in which students can easily ask for help without stifling the flow of a lesson. Using our website, teachers can efficiently organize student questions. This system allows teachers to tend to each individual student need without interrupting learning. A site made for teachers by teachers.” (LT;SA:A)

Kollate – A Chrome extension; “Ever felt the need to bookmark content that you consume online, organize them beautifully in collections, search them on any tab, remind yourself to read an article before going to bed, take beautiful notes, and access them on any tab of your browser? Kollate has you covered. For free.” (LT;SA:A)

Answerables – “Create immersive virtual classrooms Transform your digital content into an interactive learning adventure.” (LT;SA:A)

Pocket Grade Calculator – iOS app; “Teacher's Grading Calculator” (LT;SA:A)

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Introductions are Important

In Doing Your Best Work from @DavidGeurin Blog, the author states,

“We do our best work because we want to, not because we have to.”

If it is something I want or need, I will be more motivated to do the work to reach my goal.

Let’s face it, I hate housework. I do it because it is time to do it when I’m embarrassed about how bad my house looks. I don’t want to do it but I need to do it. I don’t consider it fun.

If it is something I want to do or want to accomplish, I usually enjoy it much more but when it becomes an obligation, then I dread doing it.

My students feel the same way.

If I just teach lessons they need to learn and the only purpose I can give them is because I have to teach this or you have to learn it to pass the final test, then I will face resistance to the learning.

They either won’t bother trying to learn it or even remember it. This information means nothing to them.

I need to find the catch that will make it relevant to them. I need to figure out a way to make them want to do the work.

Many times teachers tend to pay more intention to the procedure or activities instead of the introduction. They see the introduction as just a small part of the lesson. Instead, teachers need to see the introduction as the marketing tool for the lesson.

First impressions are so important. That is why the introduction to any lesson is vital to the success of the lesson. If you can hook the students into the learning and make them want to learn more, you have a much better chance of them actively learning and retaining the new information they learn.

Procedures and activities are important too because that is where the students will get the actual learning, but this process will be much easier if the students are engaged in the learning. Without a catching introduction, the rest of the lesson may feel like pushing a heavy-laden wheelbarrow up a steep hill. You hopefully will reach the top of the hill but it will be much harder than if you were going downhill.

We need to learn to teach smarter and not harder.

Do you do anything special to introduce a lesson? If so, please share.

Photo by Hannah Loreen on Unsplash

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Education Rockstars Podcast

Recently at the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s Conference, I learned about the Education Rockstars Podcast. It is an awesome audio podcast that educators would enjoy listening to. I’m a little behind in the game because there are already 17 episodes posted but I have listened to a few and can’t wait to listen to all of the ones I’ve missed.

According to the description:
“"Teaching and Leading in public education is not for the faint of heart. It takes grit, energy, grace, and a daily desire to change the world." Join Dr. Ann Marie Taylor, 2008 South Carolina Teacher of the Year and SC's public education cheerleader for a bi-weekly dose of amazingness. Whether you just need a shot in the arm to keep going or you want to dive in to what it takes to be a teacher leader this podcast is for you. We believe that better conversations lead to better education.”

Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

St. Patrick’s Day Activities

I always liked St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 because it is a fun day for fun activities. It is a nice break from our usual activities, and I think students seem to enjoy them. Here are some suggestions for activities you can adapt for all grade levels. Some of them might take some advanced planning so I’m posting this a little early.

Vocabulary: This can be done for reading words or subject area words. Depending on the age, have the students cut out green shamrocks. You can make a stencil on cardstock and have the students trace them and cut them out. Or you can find some online and print them out on cardstock for students to cut out. Have them write the vocabulary word on one side and the definition or important fact on the other side. These can be used as flashcards or a game.

Share some fun limericks with the class and then have them write their own.

Creative Writing:
·      Imagine that you caught a leprechaun and he would give you a pot of gold if you released him. What would you do with your pot of gold?
·      You found a pot of gold: at the end of the rainbow but then you find out there isn’t any gold in the pot. Instead, you find…

·      Build a leprechaun trap.
·      Grow Crystal Shamrocks
·      Make rainbow slime
·      Make a milk rainbow

Find out the true history of St. Patrick’s Day and make a scrapbook page.

Use blank shamrocks (like in the vocabulary lessons), and have students write math problems on one side and answers on the other. These can be used as flashcards or a game.

Social Skills:
·      Use blank shamrocks and have students write compliments on them. Make a bulletin board with these compliments so students can see them every day. Instead of seeing negative comments, they can get used to seeing positive ones.
·      Have students put their names on a piece of paper in a hat. Each student draws out a name, They will make shamrock card saying something nice and exchange them with the person whose name they drew.  

What other activities would you recommend for St. Patrick’s Day? Please share.

Photo by Alex Jackman on Unsplash