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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Generation Changing the World

How does one decide that they want to change the world?  Especially when that "one" is an elementary student.  Is she sitting in class one day daydreaming and thinkng “Hey, I think I’ll save the rainforests?”  Or is she eating dinner one night and say to a parent, “Hey, I think I’ll save the whales?”

Whatever it is that drives an individual or group of individuals to go beyond the scope of their own small universe, it doesn’t really matter.  All that matters is that they want to make a ‘difference’ (just like the star thrower in Loren Eiseley’s inspirational story. 

It intrigues me more when I hear about young people who set out to change the world.  From a young girl selling lemonade to raise money to find a cure for neuroblastoma to a  young man inventing a fool-proof communication device for people who are blind, there are children who don’t realize how their efforts are far-reaching.

Just recently three students at our school decided that they didn’t like hearing about whales being hunted.  They heard about an organization call the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  The Society's mission is to "end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.” The girls just felt they needed to help!

So, they made posters to hang in the school and then they made bracelets to be given out for a donation of $1.00.  Along with the bracelet, each person who gave a donation was given a ticket.  The ticket was for a drawing for a pillow.  The girls’ efforts raised more than $150.00 to their cause. ($520.00 as of 3/6/11)!

More than raising money – the effort and initiative to work towards a cause that one believes in, should be applauded.  It is comforting to know that a new generation is ready for the challenge of caring for others and caring for the world.

I salute these fifth grade students, Sophia, Lindsey & Grace for being a part of that new generation!

(This video was created by my daughter before I explained creative commons - so please forgive any infractions.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ski School!

Go ahead and ask my kids!  They'd tell you that I would bring 'school' anywhere.  It just so happens that we are on vacation and indeed school is in session!  Ski school that is....well, really Boarding School. Well, really...we're just snowboarding and skiing!  And I didn't bring 'school' here I just brought the kids to the mountain and the lessons are here waiting to be discovered!    
Okay - so what I mean is that there are ample opportunities for the kids to learn even while they are snowboarding. Take a look at a few of our lessons today.
Lesson 1: Elapsed Time!  What time will you need to wake up if it takes 40 minutes to get to the mountain? Make sure you plan to give yourself time for a 10 minute shower each (so multiply by 3) and grab a quick breakfast.  We need to arrive by 8:30 so you might need to work backwards.  (Elapsed time practice for kids).

Lesson 2:  Money! (at the ticket window)  Throughout the day the kids will be working on money concepts.  First up is to decide which value is better.  A one day ticket for $56 each or buying three 2-day tickets for a total of $270.  What would the savings be if we bought 3 teen tickets for 3 consecutive days?

Lesson 2a.  Money Continued (at the Lunch):  You will be given $20 to spend on food for the day. What will you buy so that you have enough for 3 trips through the lodge?  Will you save any to buy something for the ride home?   Are there any deals where you can combine your money. (Money practice for kids).

Lesson 3:  Geography:  Even though we have a GPS, we like to bring along a map to find our way to the mountain. Once there planning and creating a route on the trail becomes important and involves Reading a Map.  Although there will be no longitude and latitude, paying particular attention to the map key and following signs will be key to getting down the mountain.  Locating the lodges and first aide areas would be a great first step.  Approximate estimate of distance will also be important in the planning process.  

Lesson 4: Science:  From measuring the amount of snow on the trails, finding the temperature at different intervals and at varied elevations, factoring wind chill (and dressing for it), comparing and contrasting conifers to identifying animal tracks, there is a lot of science to be learned on the mountains. 

Lesson 5:  Social Skills: Waiting patiently in line, allowing others to go ahead of you, being polite, courteous and respectful, and taking turns are just a few of the social skills learned during this type of vacation.  This is where a parent's good teaching comes to fruition.  Realistically, this is probably the most important of the lessons being learned.  If your child can handle being in a crowd of people while behaving most pleasantly, then you did your job well!
Above all, even though there are lessons to be learned by all of us - being with family is just the best lesson in itself.  Making memories that will last a lifetime is also a lesson in its own right.  Spending time with family shows your children how important they are and how important it is to be with family.  Hopefully, this lesson will be paid forward in the future when the children grow up to have their own Family Fun!

Tell me, do you know of any lessons that can be learned on the mountain, at the beach or some other vacation spot? 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

For the Love of Reading!

It’s a question I hear at ALL parent teacher conferences: What can I do to get my child to love to read?   Or What can I do to get my child to read?  These are also questions that educators wrestle with as well.

As a teacher and parent I am still plagued by these questions as there are no definitive answers.  However, there are some steps that we as educators and parents can take to aid in the love of reading. 

Be a Role Model: This is a tip from an article, How to Get Your Child to Love Reading.  Children follow their parents’ lead.  If they see their parents reading they in turn, are likely to read.  If watching TV is the preferred activity of parents, then children are likely to fall into that habit.  

Likewise, children follow their teacher’s lead.  When the students are reading during DEAR time, why not read a book along with them.  Share something funny or unusual from a story you are reading.  Kids will want to share with you once you have shared! 

Make Reading Interactive: From when a child is very young to even young teens, your child or student can participate in activities that are related to the book...from dressing up like a character or creating a craft such as a time capsule.  Reading books online at sites like Story Time for Me (for ages 1-8) or Story Line Online (for ages 5- 12) are bound to grab their attention.  (Story Time Online pairs great literature read by actors and actresses!). 

Use a RockStar: My students at school and my own children love to listen to stories that have been dowloaded to their iPods.  Using a Belkin RockStar allows up to 5 headphones to be plugged into the same iPod or mp3 player.  Now five friends can listen to the same story - makes discussing a book way more fun (and they can say they are actually with a Rockstar!) 

Take a Trip: Go on a Google Lit Trip or create your own!  Using Google Earth you can locate and visit places mentioned in your reading!  Children love to connect what they are reading to real life! There are also many Virtual Field Trip sites that offer experiences via the web that engage students in their learning!  Visit SimpleK12 to check out a few ideas.

As teachers perhaps it's time to throw out the reading logs and try something new! (Read this post by Nancy Hniedziejko: Want Children to love to Read? The comments are insightful too!)

It's devastating to think your child (or student) DOESN'T love to read (much less like it). But, engaging them in conversations about what they're reading and sharing related information may pique their interest enough that one day they'll find the one book that will hook them forever!!!


What was the ONE book that hooked you as a reader?... at

Please share ideas that you have found successful! 











Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To See or not to See (his Shadow that it is) - Punxsatawney Phil and Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day 2005 034photo © 2005 Silvers Family | more info (via: Wylio)
It's the age old question: Will we have 6 more weeks of winter? The only one that truly is equipped to deal with that is Punxsatawney Phil the Groundhog from Pennsylvania... !

Every February 2nd before sunrise Phil is brought out from his home at Gobblers Knob in Punxsatawney PA, to determine if he 'sees' his shadow. If he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow means ...Spring is around the corner.

Groundhog Day - February 2nd - holds fascination for many... especially children. Here is some information and activities for those interested in Groundhogs and Groundhog Day!

The Official Groundhog Club Site: Here you can find information about the history of Phil, past predictions and fun facts.

Hoghaven: Here you can listen to sounds of groundhogs.

Kaboose: This page gives craft directions to make a felt portrait of Phil.

Primary Games: Interactive games such as a Word Search, Puzzles, and Jumble can be found at this site.

Groundhog Day & Possum Nights: A talking storybook by Tom Tittle

Surfnet: This site has a fun concentration game for kids.

Treats: To celebrate Groundhog's Day perhaps you could make some fun treats like these cupcakes:

DSC_0866_editedphoto © 2009 Mark Levisay | more info (via: Wylio)

I'll let you discover if Punxsatawney Phil declares more winter or spring. One thing I will tell you....he predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers will WIN the Superbowl!

Please take a moment to share how you like to celebrate Groundhog's Day by placing your answer in the AnswerGarden.

How do you like to celebrate Groundhog's Day?... at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It ain't over til It's over - Activating Prior Knowledge - Part 3 After Reading

yogi!photo © 2008 Chris connelly | more info (via: Wylio) 

“It ain’t over til it’s over” was the phrase coined by Yogi BerraSpoken like a true sportsman or classroom teacher!  

We all know that even when the kids have finished reading a story they’re “not really done”.  We read. We discuss. We assess.  There are all kinds of other activities that we can initiate to make sure the students have made connections to their reading.  This is Part 3 in the "Activating Prior Knowledge" series. 

In the Before reading post, it was suggested to use an Anticipation Guide.  If used, it would be a great (quick) assessment to see if the kids can answer those questions correctly now.  (They love getting them all right too!!).  Also, in the Before post as an alternative to the KWL chart - a Word Cloud was suggested.  How about make a new word cloud to share what was learned.  (The kids love comparing them!) 

The During reading post suggested to use a Wallwisher.  Students could add new thoughts to the Wallwisher.  (The kids will have fun revisiting the Wall!).

Other activities  to institute when the students have finished reading could include creating a retelling of the story.  Why not try have the students create a comic at ToonDoo.  It is free, fun and quite simple to use.  See my sample below.


Another activity along the lines of a summary, is to create a talking picture at Blabberize.  Blabberize is a free site where you can upload a picture and record a narration.  In the sample below, a picture was created at Sketchfu then uploaded to make a Blabber. 

For something a little more open-ended, have students create a poem.  With the help of ReadWriteThink students are guided through the writing process.  See the sample below of an Acrostic poem. 

Guiding our students and having them complete activities AFTER reading will help them make connections and therefore, have a deeper understanding of the concepts.  

Hopefully, students will come to the realization themselves that "It ain't over till it's over!"