Friday, August 31, 2012

Caring Teachers AND Students

As we prepare for this long weekend and get ready emotionally and physically for the new school year, I want to share a post that has stayed with me for the last few days.  It's a reminder that preparing for teaching is not just about "space, curriculum and higher standards."  We should also think about how we might create classroom environments filled with caring teachers and students, citizens of the future.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birthdays Celebrated and Misplaced


Some birthdays were easier to celebrate
Mom was born on Christmas,
There was always a celebration,
Her presents were wrapped in birthday paper.
His Mom's day was the Fourth of July,
There was always a celebration,
Blueberries, watermelon and hamburgers.
Barbara's day was earlier this week.
The memories are bittersweet,
We used to celebrate our days-apart-birthdays together.

It's easy to lose other birthdays,
As we engage in the busy process of living.
My Son was born at the peak of summer vacation,
It was hard to organize a friend-party.
My Daughter was born in the middle of field hockey,
Parent teacher conferences and hurricanes!

His day,
Is at the tail end of the summer,
After a month of many birthdays,
As football and other fall-family passions peak,
During his softball championships,
At the edge of the very busy first days of school,
It's hard to have a "full-on" celebration,
When your birthday is "misplaced." 

Yet, they are all special,
Commemorating the traversing of life's gauntlet,
Not to be forgotten or taken "for granted"
They are a time to do what brings us peace,
To celebrate life,
Even if there is no one else around,
Even if they are "misplaced." 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This Season Of Scrabble and the Wonder of Words With Friends

I've always liked the magical way letters became words.  My childhood playmates did not find Scrabble to be nearly as much fun as Monopoly or Crazy Eights; however, it turned out that my much younger brother shared my passion for the game.  Over time, he perfected his game on his hand-held devices while I wrangled kids. On snow days and on my birthday, I tried to get other family members to play with me, but they usually declined in favor of a football game or Monopoly!  Only my brother was always ready and willing to play.  For many years, he was unbeatable!   
In fact, during the last days of his battle with cancer, I played to distract him from his pain and he played (I suspect) so that we would not have to say good-bye.

This summer, my Scrabble life grew exponentially and became filled with new, happy memories after I accepted a challenge to play an online version with my son.  Then, I slowly added some  Words With Friends requested games to my daily regime.  It wasn't long until I had multiple opponents including my niece and colleagues from work.  I was in "word heaven" right here on earth, or so I thought until one day, the family became embroiled in a "real" game while I cooked dinner.  It made my heart swell with pride that they had "found" the excitement of "my" game.  Then, if that was not enough, someone challenged me to a board game version on vacation.  I saw that someone else really loves the game.  It made evenings at the beach incredibly special. 

Thus, it has been a very exciting summer thanks to these ongoing, online games and those few "real" games with visible opponents. However, there seems to be a bit of an addictive quality to the whole online package where one game with an opponent morphs into two games through some cyberspace event! Thus, I am going to have to be the bearer of bad news to some of my opponents as I am now publicly declaring that I am not going to be able to play online every day, twice a day like I did this summer once school starts full force.  One game per opponent is the maximum I can handle, until vacation.  As my mother used to say, "Be careful what you wish for!"

For the record, because they will publicly challenge me on this, my son has whopped me quite a few times lately.  He is still "beatable" but it is getting harder and harder and his total number of wins exceeds mine!  My brother would be thrilled.  My colleague from work and I are in a dead heat with equal numbers of wins and losses.  She is spending a lot of time with Wilson and it sure is helping her!  Another colleage saw me setting up my classroom and announced, "I really want to beat you!"  Welcome back, 2012!  My niece is starting her busy senior year, thank goodness, as I have been sweating every game!  I am not so sure I can hang on at this pace.  I need a vacation! 

There is great news in this Scrabbled Summer filled with Wondrous Words.  Scrabble is alive and well everywhere thanks to the Internet.  Scrabble now has now established a whole new generation of competitive word lovers.  I promise I will accept all in-person board game requests from anyone if there are here or I am at their place.  It turns out I'm not the only one who loves words anymore and I am not begging for opponents anymore!    

Monday, August 27, 2012

Economics SOL: Back to School Focus

"You'd think they were giving stuff away," he said, as he looked for a parking spot.  "This is worse than at Christmas," I grumbled as I tried to maneuver the cart through crowded aisles. 

We noticed carts filled with mini-fridges, microwaves, butterfly chairs, pillows, blankets, comforters, silverware, shower caddies, shampoo, plastic cartons, area rugs, lamps, bed risers....  At first glance you might think there were many young people headed to third world countries, but we both quickly surmised it was "move in weekend" for our local colleges.  Stuff was flying off the shelves!

While this was a boom for our local Target, it made me wonder whether there may be a less rosy side to this shopping-frenzy-back-to-school-phenomena for many consumers, particularly in these tight economic times when gas prices are soaring.  New school year = new computers, new phones, new clothes, new shoes, new sneakers, new backpacks, new notebooks, new locker organizers = lots and lots of money.  The mom ahead of me spent almost $400 that afternoon and I am 100% confident that her "Target" trip was just icing on her spending cake!

The trip became a bit of a wake up call that most of us (myself included) go a little overboard with back to school shopping.  Most clothes still fit, for kids too.  Shorts and short sleeved shirts are best for early fall weather, so shopping for sweaters and heavy pants could wait. Most kids do not wear "leather" shoes to school  Many notebooks still have pages.  Many backpacks can be scrubbed up to be as good as new.  As taxpayers, parents and teachers (many of us wearing all three hats) head back to school, perhaps we should seriously rethink how to keep the focus on new friends, new learning, new adventures, and new possibilities rather than on the accouterments. 

image from google

Sunday, August 26, 2012

So What Did I Do This Summer? Sharing

I've written about how stressful this question can be for those who had stressful summers; today I am going to try to be reflective of the small moments of my summer.

I led a writerly life
Sharing through this blog and my children's books.
I enjoyed a small moment of fame
Sharing Pooh at the Nerdy Book Club.
I learned alongside motivated grad students,
Sharing ideas online, without eye contact.
I played lots of Words with Friends and Scrabble,
Sharing wins and losses, virtually and in person.
I enjoyed a children's museum and Camp Aunt Anita,
Sharing the world through the eyes of children.
I relaxed at the beach,
Sharing waves, words, and memories.
I swam across my pond again and again,
Sharing the peace with kayakers and fish.
I ate dinner on my porch,
Sharing the sunset and talking about life and the future.
I spent time with someone I love who was sick
Sharing the hope for a future free of pain and suffering.
I watched my child move into a new home,
Sharing the joy of a new beginning.
I spent quiet afternoons with my mom,
Sharing memories and photographs.

I did not clean all my closets,
Nor did I make it to the south of France,
I did not read all I wanted to read,
I did not finish all I wanted to finish.
Yet, I did share small, powerful moments.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just thinking of answers to that age old question: What did you do this summer?

So, what did you do this summer?

For several years, for my family, has spend summers dealing with stressors and illnesses and sadness.  Thus, I have really dreaded the question that fellow teachers and parents ask when they see you, "How was your summer?"  My answers were sometimes pretty vague because frankly, no one wants to hear about spending hours in hospitals, hospice, or planning memorial services. 

It's all made me increasingly cognizant that MANY of our children do NOT have the idyllic summers we think of when we envision summer vacation.  Our kids deal with time spend traveling to non-custodial parent and time spent being "kept busy" while parents work. I always ask for just one thing they did during the summer and start with something small that I did as a model, such as enjoying an ear of corn or a fresh peach!  I love to show them one book I read and talk about snuggling up on the couch to read it.  Not everyone travels to Bermuda or summers on the coast of France

Fortunately, this summer I have had had the opportunity for several short trips and some much needed fun-time with family and friends.  I was thinking about that age old question as I watched the ponies the other day at the historic Saratoga Raceway. I wager $1.00 on horses with names that appeal to me such as Ballistic Sue or Picture Book!  While I had to take a gamble on a horse named after my daughter (same name but not the same descriptive adjective), that one did not pan out even though did not need to be shot!  However, I made .20 (twenty cents!) on a cute little horse named Picture Book who had never won a race before!   Seriously, I have never made money on a "picture book" before even though I have spent a lot of money on them!  While I won't be having that conversation in elementary school, it will certainly be a great small moment for my grad students!   I think it was a SIGN of what I should be doing during the rest of the summer: writing a picture book about making money...hmmmm...maybe after I help seal the driveway!   That just might be something to write about, too!


Friday, August 24, 2012

I Pad Apps and Blooms Taxonomy

This is certainly a case of old school meets new world!  From Edutopica, a list of I pad apps based on Bloom's taxonomy appears for those of us who are trying to bridge both worlds!  I am sending this here so I don't lose it!  Some great ideas of the new iPads in my learning world.

 Connected Educator starter kit (download from this page)

Great Ideal: Digital Reading Logs

This is certainly one of those, "Why didn't I think of that moments!" 
What a GREAT IDEA!  I am going to be using this!

Connected Educator starter kit (download from this page)

Bucket Lists

"What's this," I asked innocently.  My "bucket list," he responded as if everyone had one.  There were nearly 100 things (ride a motorcycle, get a truck) on that bucket list.

I've been thinking about such lists lately, perhaps because of my birthday, but also because of the many losses, unexpected turns and significant changes in life.  I've started to think about what I would put on such as list that I haven't gotten around to doing, yet.

I still yearn to see the great cathedrals of Europe (although Easter vigil at St. Patrick's in NYC is pretty amazing).  I'd love to spend an entire summer reading and collecting shells at the beach (not that I need to read more books or collect more shells).  I hope to be read to my my children's children  (although truth be told,  I have already massed quite a few miles reading to little ones who as special as anyone on earth).  I hope to teach a few struggling readers the strategies of lifelong readers (been there and done that, just want to be able to do it again).  I'd like to share what I have learned in my teaching career with the newbies whose enthusiasm and energy amaze me and remind me of my own (I get to do that every semester through my grad school teaching and through this blogger-space).  

One thing I am sure of, I am glad I did not "stick" to the list in my head when I was 21! Then, I just wanted to get a job and have a family.  I could not possibly have imagined, then, the wonderful options this life would offer.  While my paths through family, marriage, parenting and even teaching have been challenging with tears as well as smiles, I am stronger and appreciate those special days of life more because of them all.  Another thing I am sure of is that I have had a bucket full of good things in my life!  I could say I have a full bucket!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What did Bill and Melinda Gates do this summer?

I started a post about Bill Gates earlier this summer after I linked to their blog through one of my own summer blog-linking-reading-mornings in early August.  I never finished the post because it was about a somewhat unusual topic and I was not quite sure how to make it fit my own education-centered blog's framework. 
Like most Americans, I was aware of some of the philanthropic works of the Gates Foundation; however, the extent of their research was beyond my limited awareness.  When this Tweet came through, I "saw" the connection to my own writing, reading and thinking about living in the 21st Century blog-world.  
So as the summer winds down, I want to share just a little bit about what the Gates family did this summer.  After all, students, since the beginning of time, have heard this familiar refrain:
                Write about you did you do this summer 

Bill attended a very unusual summer fair in Seattle that grew out of an initiative "to tackle the problem of sanitation in the developing world."  The challenge was to Reinvent the Toilet!

Personally, I read a lot of books, walked a lot of miles, swam a lot of laps, rode some waves, taught a lot of students, and ate a lot of fresh vegetables.  I really feel like a loser next to Bill Gates!  My response would have been BORING!  Bill, on the other hand, has a "small moment" to write about that will really get people talking!    
PS.  Check out the other innovative work they are doing with their money through their blog.

Can We Make People Want To Do Something Hard?

Can we make people want to do something that is a little bit hard for them?  Teachers (as well as parents, doctors, friends....) spend a good deal of their time trying to make people want to do things they really do not want to do!  Read, write, diet, exercise, paint the attic, mow the lawn, go parasailing.....we all try to make others do things "hard things" they really do not want to do!

So when this short video came through on my Twitter feed this morning via Amy,  I started thinking about its broader implications.  It REALLY depicts so much more than just a way to get people to walk up stairs rather than take an escalator!  It really depicts the power of suggestion to the human mind and thus it is a message to teachers, parents and others as we prepare for a new school year!

I'm thinking about how I can make reading more appealing than playing video games right now! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Advice: What can you do when kids do not want to read?

                                  It's usually asked quietly by a very anxious parent.

   "My child does not want to read.  What can I do?"

                          This is one of the toughest of questions for teachers to answer. 
Stop Berating Yourself
There are many factors that contribute to reading success.  Remember, children are strong willed and powerful beings who will exert their independence and engage in power struggles over little and big things every day. Sometimes, it is the potty, or bedtime, or food; sometimes it is reading!

Read to Your Child Every Day
Parents who read to their children are providing the best foundation possible.  No matter what else you do, continue to read to your children every day if you have been doing so.  START reading to your child every day if this has not been a practice in your home.  Read books that they could read to themselves as well as books that you both enjoy that are too challenging for independent reading. Read with expression and read with gusto.  It is through your gift of reading aloud that you are building a foundation for language and clarifying an understanding of story structure and content.  You can not possibly read too many books to kids.  While you keep reading every day, begin a plan to promote reading in your home without making it a power struggle. 
Talk To a Professional
Talk to your child's teacher and / or your pediatrician.  Sometimes, an attentional or focusing difficulty can impact independent reading.  They child may "hold it together all day long, but have nothing left in their "tanks" to read independently in the evening.  Sometimes, vision difficulties can be a factor and children's eyes are more tired at the end of the day. 

Find Books Your Child Wants to Read
The best place to find and try out books in at the library.  Get a card.  It is the best bargain of all - it's free.  Ask the librarian for suggestions.  Try out books of many different genre.  There was a time when my daughter read nothing but scary Stephen King books while my son read nothing but Matt Christopher books about characters engaged in sports.  I really didn't like either of their book choices but they were reading.  It does not have to be the classics or books parents like.  Kids need to try out books to find what they like. Captain Underpants, vampires, graphic novels and yes, comic books are all reading material and all worthy.   
Talk About Books
During dinner, in the car, on the way to get groceries, talk about books.  Talk about the characters and their problems or what they have learned.  Relate characters and their situations to your own life.  Talk about the content of informational texts and about  things you want to learn more about whenever it seems to fit into a conversation.  Get out a cookbook and have your child find a recipe and then help you cook!  One little caution: your conversation must be real because kids see right through a parent who is just trying to get them to read! 
Model Reading
Even if you have never been a reader before, start to model living as a reader.  Read the newspaper or magazines and take books out of the library.  Kids know the difference between talk and practice.  Your example is far more powerful than your words. 
Partner Reading
Take turns reading aloud with your child. You read a page or even a paragraph and then the child reads one.  This is never a "cop out" and always a way to make reading enjoyable for both of you.  I promise, at some point, your child will NOT want you to read with them!
Offer Incentives
Offer reading AFTER bedtime or in exchange for more TV.  This is not so much of a bribe as it is a statement about what YOU value most! Once upon a time in my house, someone earned a "buggy board" for some amount of reading and writing!  Even now, I have been know to share my Barnes and Nobel gift cards with my kids - because they ask for them! 

Tablets and Computers
There are a wealth of books available on Kindles and Nooks and it's still reading.  Try it.  Your child might just like it.  It is undeniably the future of reading.  Who knows, you might like it!  I do even though I am NOT admitting publically to ALL of the books I read this summer!   


Advice: When you are looking for a PLN

I've never met Diana, the power behind The School SLP & Literacy Daily; however, I "know" of her through Two Writing Teachers.  She is pretty amazing and my hat is off to her for doing this daily bit of publishing.  While SOME of her focus is Speech and Language, she is also VERY connected to Literacy - and after all, it is all connected!  I suggest you check it out as she is doing a great job compiling many resources, blog posts and bullets of educational information and inspiration.  I am in awe of her energy and time management!

A newspaper by

Diana Martin

Advice: When you are looking for love

This "poster" really caught my eye.  It might be a "result" my job as a professor in a graduate school that puts me in the proximity of men and women who are often madly "in love" or in the "throes" of a "break up."  Typically, I redirect their attention to the educational lesson at hand and remind them that we ALL have to find ways to put our "baggage" into a safe spot while we do our jobs.  I use the analogy of the surgeon.  I still want her or him to focus if they are going to be inside ME.  So, when I saw this poster, it really made me think about the baggage we all have.  Perhaps, it is an interesting way to look at / look for a partner on this journey through life.  If we are lucky enough to find someone who can help us unpack,we are indeed lucky.   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Poetry App

Over on Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life today, my virtual friend and PLN (Personal Learning Network) mentor, Diana, posted about a great app that I suspect many of us will want our students to use.  In the past, I have often used the Smartboard to model playing with high-frequency words, pronouns, preposition and other words in phrases; however, I see this as being a great way to encourage individual practice!  Check out Diana's post and then they app

Age, Wisdom, Gift of Time

When I was half my age,
I worried about growing "older,"
I fretted about wrinkles and lines,
I was saddened when grays popped through,
What was I thinking?
I didn't yet know they were badges of honor,
Reminders of miles traveled and battles won,
Evidence of taking on the gauntlet, again and again.

While I struggled with potty training,
I worried they might be in diapers,
Learning multiplication facts and spelling words,
Or mired in teen angst, forever,
What was I thinking?
I didn't yet see the paths they were blazing,
The adventures, the excitement, the potential
  That some day we might be friends on this journey.

When I was a newbie teacher,
I agonized over finding a job, earning tenure,
Finding ways to teach them all,
I worried I did not know everything,
What was I thinking?
I didn't yet realize the more you know,
The more you realize what you do not know,
That we either become old and stagnant,
Or live as lifelong learners.

While I prepare for this new year,
I will seek to make each day memorable,
Thinking about the gift of time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seminar vs. Webinar

I sometimes long for the "good ol' days" and those crowded New York State Reading Conferences up at the ol' Concord Hotel in the Catskill. There were so many vendors trying to "give" you books and materials to "try" that you had bags and bags of "stuff" to take home and then "boxes" and "more boxes" would arrive in the mail.  I remember sitting next to Peter Johnston and talking to him about action research, classroom language and our kids' soccer games!  I would come back so stimulated and excited to try new ideas. Truth be told, those conferences were also a bit stressful as you had to come up with plans for school and home without you there!  Plus, with all that stuffy air, you always comae home with a cold!

While there are still international and national conferences out there for teachers (e.g. IRA, NCTE), most of us are not going to have school district sanctioned participation in local or even regional conferences because of the costs and tight school budgets.  However, within our Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) we can attend Webinars.  There, we can sit "with" professionals and get new ideas without the planning or expense of attending a conference. 

This link came up on my Twitter feed yesterday and it really got me thinking:

In recent months, I have worked on and learned a LOT about technology through my own reading (and following) on the Internet. It's been every bit as stimulating as talking to Peter and I have not had to leave my "office."  

One of the ways I have "stimulated" my own writing is through participation in the Slice of Life group at Two Writing Teachers.  From there, I got "hooked" into participating in the Teachers Write all summer long!  I found my way over to the Nerdy Book Club and even had a day of fame when they published MY writing!  Without ever leaving my couch, I have "talked to" teachers who are pushing us all into the 21st Century with a vengeance.  I feel like Kevin is my techno mentor and I really do look forward to checking my Twitter feed for short bits of educational stimulation.

It only makes sense that Webinars are the "wave of the future" for educators and an added bonus is that entire teams of teachers can go for a little bit of money! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Inviting Classroms


I must admit that I think about my classroom environment a LOT more now than during the early years of my teaching.  Perhaps it is our society and new expectations of teachers, but our classroom environments do matter!  A fancy classroom environment does not mean good teaching; however, it does provide an inviting space for teaching and learning!   

A few years ago, I went with the "power red" image after finding some fabulous couch cushions along the side of the road. 

One of my partners added some ruby red carpets and our theme was secured. 

Until last year when I wanted to morph our theme into a "three ring circus" motif .  All I really did was add pencil holders that looked like popcorn holders! 

As we prepare for a new group of students who will be spending MANY hours in our rooms, it's a good time to think about our classrooms as more than just locations of color!

ALSO, with lots more administrator observations (at least in NYS where our new teacher assessment plans begin), it's a good time to re-think about our classroom environments!

First impressions matter
What do you see when you walk in?
Ask a friend for his/her suggestions.
The environment needs to be clean, orderly and comfortable at the same time.
Throw away or donate to others what you are not going to use (this can be hard to do, but beneficial).
Little changes (cushions, rugs, containers, chairs, place mats, tablecloths, throw pillows) can add big bang for a little buck!
Space for reading and for collaboration.
Tools for learning (pencils, pens, papers, Smartboards).

Make your classroom or space learner-centered and inviting to everyone who enters; however, remember that looking good is just a way to make your classroom inviting.  The teaching part will make them want to come back every day! 

google images, possibilities

Pinterest is another good source for images, possibilities.

As you can clearly see from yesterday's post, I have a lot of work ahead of me next week!

Friday, August 17, 2012

CCSS: How should we teach children to read complex texts?

I've been reading as I prepare for the new school year....and this came through my Twitter feed just now....

Justin Beader takes on the Heinemann Company and its Pathway to the Common Core'll

The message is clearly state in this quote from the article:

"You can teach students to read complex grade-level text by giving them just-right books. The more reading of just-right books you do, the faster you will reach standard."

Why do people read on the beach?

I admit that my beach experiences have been limited.  I've yet to visit Cancun or Hawaii; however, I covet days at the beach with a good book and every once in a while, the stars line up and I am able to get to the beach for a few days of R and R (that's reading and relaxation)!

So, when I headed to the beach last week, I went with a stack of books and my Kindle reader. The family members who sat on the chairs next to me when they are not bobbing in waves, were reading, too.  That's no surprise as we stopped at the book sale at their local library on our way out of town.

When I looked up from my book, I noticed that may other people were reading too. 

                                Younger people, older people,
Men, women,
Kindles, Nooks,
Hard cover, paperback,
Informational, fiction,
Best seller, beach trash,
Books were everywhere
The action researcher inside of me, came out of hiding and I began thinking:
                      Why do people read at the beach?
I had a few hypotheses! 
           Perhaps, it is the warmth of the sun that makes them slow down and read? 
           Perhaps, it is the lull of the waves that makes them slow down and read?

At first, I saw the possibility for research to answer this question with the hope that it might shed light on how we could help reluctant readers WANT to read!  Quickly, I came to my senses as I realized:
                                     Very few 10-15 year old boys were reading;
                                             They were catching waves. 
                                     Very few 10-15 year old girls were reading;
                                             They were catching waves.
                                       Not one 5-10 year old was reading; 
                                        They were digging in the sand,
                                             Playing in the waves,
                                    Parents of toddlers were not reading;
                                      Unless their offspring were asleep.
So, after careful observation and reflection, I have decided that the one great benefit from having adult children at the beach with you is that you don't have to wait for them to be asleep in order to read!

I am still wondering if there just MIGHT be SOME BENEFIT from adding a heat lamp, some beach chairs, and a sound track from the ocean to classrooms?  Perhaps THAT is the action research we need!   
                 Random people reading. 

Are You Ready for School?

Have you ever watched a dog get ready for a "good" nap?  If so, you probably saw them sniff, lick, and then circle around the intended spot as they prepare for their mission: a "good" nap!  It would appear teachers, parents and even students go through similar gyrations as they prepare for a "good" school year! 

Earlier this week, I began my own "circling" of the wagons in preparation for the new school year.  First, I had a few days at the beach.  I listened to Julia Child's autobiography on the way there and read "beach books" while listening to the waves.  I walked along the beach clearing my mind and remembering what is really important.  I ate gourmet meals, played Scrabble, and talked with people I love.

Then, the wagons circled around to my school space and I began the task of cleaning up bookcases, sorting usable and unusable materials, and putting things away in an organized manner. (This was early in the process before the 4 bags of discards and before I had a "final plan" for my space.)

From the number of people at the beach, it would appear that many families are going through similar gyrations this week.  Connecting with those we love and circling the wagons (either in messy classrooms or in crowded school supply aisles) in preparation for busy days ahead.       

Friday, August 10, 2012

Should we rethink the school year?

One more PLN tidbit for the day from a favorite blog / news site that says what lots of us have been wondering for a long time.  It just might be time to rethink the academic calendar!  After all, the kid are not working in the fields in most of the USA.  The only real down part to this idea would be sleep away summer camps and the burden of longer breaks for working parents.  I am CONFIDENT that we could find LOTS of people interested in providing 2 weeks day camps that would provide wide experiences and broaden kids perspectives of learning!  

Here is the link:
Here is an excerpt: I recommend breaking up the time spent in school so that students get more frequent but shorter breaks than at present. I base my case on the principle of diminishing returns.....
This goal can be achieved by dividing up the year so that there would be, say, 6 weeks of instruction followed by, say, two weeks off. 

Looking critically at this article, here is one piece that I do not think has been proven: It sounds good....but I am not sure of the research basis for this statement. 
Distributed learning, in general, has proved to be a better option than massed learning.

PS....Even though I think such a schedule would be best for KIDS, I am starting to get a little panicky that the summer of 2012 is coming to a rapid close! 

Special Ed Teachers: Connecting Through Blogs

Through my PLN - professional learning network - I have been exploring the web big time this month.  Through a Twitter feed, I came across this is a list of 50 blogs that are recommended for special ed teachers. The source is

"While being a teacher is never easy, working with students in special education comes with some unique challenges. From writing lengthy IEPs to working closely with parents and other teachers, it takes a calm, collected, organized, confident, and very special person to work with students who often need a great deal more support and assistance than their peers to succeed. Yet even the best special education teachers can use a little guidance, inspiration, and information to help them to be even better at what they do."

Yes indeed.
Check it out:

I loved.......but please check out the entire list of resources - and bookmark them for the busy days ahead.
  1. Teachers at Risk: Teacher Elona Hartjes, a teacher of the year, shares resources and advice.
  2. Successful Teaching: Advice on classrom management and more! 
  3. Special Education and Learning Differences: Tips and ideas
  4. The Cooke Special Education Blog: Ideas for special needs children.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nerdy Book Club Blogger

Today is a pretty exciting day in my "writerly life."  I am the guest blogger at the Nerdy Book Club!  The hardest part of writing the "retro review" was deciding WHICH BOOK to write about!  So, I queried my daughter who QUICKLY suggested that Pooh was the one! 

As I was writing this review of Winnie the Pooh, I really did notice that the challenging vocabulary of this "rigorous" text was probably very much in line with the CCSS and a very important way to stretch our children as readers and thinkers.  I also was reminded of powerful memories of snuggling with my own children on my bed as we explored the magical world of Winnie and his friends.  

However, when I saw my name in print, I felt JUST LIKE TIGGER!  I could have bounced all the way to the Hundred Acre Woods!

Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Connecting: Don't Assume

At first glance, what do you see?  On the surface, you see a family who eats a lot of hummus and is consumed by their technology.  On the surface, they seem unable to connect with each other.   On the surface, this is a sad, sad picture of the state of our lives.  On the surface, this picture would make you cry out for the "good old days" before technology interfered. 

If you made those assumptions, you were wrong, at least on most of them!  Here is the "rest of the story."  This is a family that "connects" in person just a few times a year; however, they connect almost daily via Facebook Scrabble. At the time of this photo, they were loading apps and preparing for another Scrabble game (the old fashioned way - on a cardboard game with wooden tiles) after a day of fishing (the old fashioned way - in canoes).  This is a family that does eat a lot of hummus with taco chips, pretzels and veggie sticks and then drinks a lot of grapefruit Pelligrino after a "long, hard" day on the lake pretending to be catching dinner and at the table playing Scrabble!

Message: Don't Assume ............................................

Monday, August 6, 2012


                                                               Drought, heat, humidity,
Strong winds, intense rainstorms,
Scorched lawns, fallen trees.
Tragedies, illnesses,
Fires, moves, challenges,
Sadness, silence, anger,
Lives disrupted.

    It doesn't "rain" forever, 
      Life, relationships,people are fragile,
       Each day, a gift, not to be repeated.
 We are not promised tomorrow,
    Yet, there will be rainbows,
  After the many
Storms of life.

 Real view after storm.

Real view after storm.

This blog was started to share writing with graduate students in a 21st Century kind of way.  However, my life is full of adventure, sadness, happiness, and drama; thus, there are lots of small "emotionally charged" moments about which I am writing! 
Meanwhile, the CCS ask us to shift our focus to more informational writing..  On one hand, I applaud informational reading and writing as an easier and certainly a worthy genre for many of our students; however, I do not want to give up personal narratives, personal poetry, and fictional texts based on personal experiences.  Writing and sharing has helped me share smiles during the great days and has helped me cope with the darker ones.  Diverse writers need to have opportunities to try it all as they grow and travel the storms of lfe.   Writers are as complex, different and ever-changing as the rainbows that emerge briefly from the sky after a storm.