Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Getting Out of our Comfort Zone: End Slavery

Here is a topic that makes us feel uncomfortable.  However, since living and traveling in Asia and seeing Human Trafficking up close, it has sat on my heart that we need to stand up against it and stop it. I'll never forget the time when visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia, I saw about a 12 year old boy dressed up as a girl standing in the Tourist market; waiting for a customer.  My eyes met with his and his eyes displayed intense shame and pleading for help.  Realizing that it wasn't safe for him or me to help him right there, I whispered "sorry" and left Cambodia determined to make some kind of difference for children being trafficked. I began to donate to different organizations in place to shelter and help stop human slavery.

Thanks to @coolcatteacher on Twitter, she has inspired me to write about one of the Anti-human trafficking organizations that I donate to. Click on her Twitter name to see her Blog posting on ending Slavery and more facts about human trafficking.

Joyce Meyer Ministries Hands of Hope supports Human Trafficking shelters and programs that are in these countries so far: (click on Joyce Meyer for a link to their Hands of Hope Human Trafficking page)
  • Funding support to construct Los Angeles Dream Center's human trafficking shelter
  • Support women’s homes in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Support Prem Kiran Transformation Center in Mumbai, India
  • Support the “A21 Campaign” in Thessaloniki, Greece
Every 2 minutes in the world, a child is prepared for sexual exploitation. It is time to change that!  An Ethiopian girl's story can be seen here and view a video about a girl's story in India here.  Talking about Human Trafficking can make us, well, uncomfortable.  It's time to face it and make a difference!  For more information and how to make your donation, visit: http://www.joycemeyer.org/.  You can learn more about them and see how the funds are spent on their webpage.

Thanks @coolcatteacher. Together, we can get out of our comfort zone and make a difference to  #endslavery!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Giving- What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Christmas and Holidays are a time for families and friends to come together.  It is a time of practicing generosity and kindness.  A time to remember those less fortunate and take time to give back to the world. I'm so grateful for this time and hope that it extends in peoples' lives to give and be generous throughout the year, not only during Holiday celebrations.

It does make me think when I cross a situation of how parents, schools and business organizations are encouraging children to give.  Our Health Curriculum includes a volunteer component and often when I ask others what their children do to volunteer or give back, they respond with surprise, "Oh, nothing...yet."  I wonder why we think it is up to everyone else to volunteer their time, money and energy to give back to the world to make it a better place.  I wonder why people leave it up to "someone else" to get it done; and assume that "someone" is or will do "it".  By example, what are we teaching our children?  Our children will grow up copying not only what we say, but even more likely, what we do.

Then I hear of students who are encouraged to volunteer or donate to a food bank for "extra marks" or "bonus points".  I believe this teaches children to give back when there is something in exchange for themselves.  A student will need to give a certain number of food banks in order to earn the points.  Hmmm, this makes me wonder about the definition or meaning of "giving: to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation, to bestow" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/giving).

If we offer rewards to our children for the gift of giving, then what are we really teaching them?  If we, as adults, don't give back to the world to make it a better place by example, then can we expect our children to do any different? Christmas is a time to be generous, not only to people we know and love, but to others that we do not even know. It is also something we all need to be doing all year round to make our world a better place. Jewish Rabbi Hillel is famous for his quote: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

By writing this post, I'm not trying to place blame on anyone.  I'm just reflecting on the examples and reasons we give to our children to give back to the world.  To think about what we are doing to make our world a better place.  What examples are we giving our children? Are we teaching them to give without expecting anything in return? Or, are we promoting an iGeneration; one where there has to be something in it for the individual before they will participate in the gift of giving?

One of my favorite books to show children about the gift of giving (to give without expecting something in return) is Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Maybe it's a good time to read it again!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Friday, November 25, 2011

5 Reasons for Educators to Join Twitter Today!

Learn With Twitter
     When my husband joined the Twitter world, I have to admit, I just didn't get it at first.  I thought it was just another thing to do and I didn't have the" time to spare".  Over time, as I watched him tweet, I saw he was excited about what he was learning and that he was connecting with teachers all around the world.
     Gradually, it dawned on me that this was more than social networking, this was building connections in an online professional community. I found I was peeking over his shoulder learning through his PLN.  With both of us being teachers, we often discuss pedagogy and share what we are working on with our students.   He was encouraging me and other educators to join Twitter; stating that since you created your own PLN, it catered to your professional interests and needs.   Decisively, I conceded that this Twitter world was something I needed to look into; it was time to build my own PLN.
     The staff at my school are working in a PLC (Professional Learning Community) with teams of teachers across several schools, subject areas and grade levels.  I've found this process amazing in bringing together teachers to help share ideas, curriculum, and continuously raise the bar of excellence in teaching and learning.  Everyone is taking responsibility for every student's learning!   I began to make the connection that a professional Twitter PLN is an extension of my school's PLC.

Here are 5 reasons I've found to join Twitter:
1.  Twitter is like Team Teaching: if there is something you want to learn more about, all you need to do is tweet your question or browse and you will get the most amazing answers- fast!  It allows you to feel connected and have conversations with other educators around the world.  I am thankful to the amazing @cybraryman1 for his generous sharing of all his pages.  I have used his resources and cited him in workshops and newsletters. 

2. Twitter Connects you to Teacher Blogs: I love reading blogs and when I see a tweet of something that a teacher is doing, I will tweet them and ask if they are blogging about it so I can learn more.  I have met many incredible teachers who are doing amazing projects with their students all over the world. Thank you @tashacowdy @hechternacht @klbeasley @jplaman @heza @whatedsaid @Louisephinney @markbrumley @happycampergirl @mscofino @coolcatteacher @jessievaz12 @cfrehlichteach and so many others for the amazing blog posts and for sharing your expertise. Click on their Twitter name and you will find a link to their blog.  I look forward to reading more Twitter Education Blogs from more Twitter Educators!

3.  Twitter Connects you to Professional Reading: I enjoy the professional and global reading put together by a variety of Twitter users from @Scoopit and @Paper.li. You can create your own magazines which update daily with Zite and Flipboard on your ipad. It is quick learning at your fingertips to enjoy on a small break or with your morning coffee.

4.  Twitter Connects you to 21st Century Learning and Digital Citizenship: I have to admit, keeping up with changing technology is a fast paced race.  Thanks to Twitter and connecting with similar teachers around the world, I am able to focus my technology learning curve towards relevant and useful projects for students across many grade levels.  Just this past two months, I have learned to blog, tweet, about a variety of different eportfolios and a plethora of digital literacy projects such as Storybird.  I'm enjoying learning something new everyday to share with students, staff and parents!

5.  Twitter Connects you to Conferences: From reading on Twitter, I learn about what Educational Conferences are taking place all around the world.  Recently, I participated in the online Global Education Conference 2011 and I've found a list of eLearning Conferences 2012.

Thanks Twitter, because to teach is not to know it all; it is to keep on learning.  Guess I'll have to take my husband's advice a little more seriously!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Camera, Lights, Action! Stop Motion Productions...

Wow!  I'm wanting to share one of my Grade Six student's independent projects on Stop Motion iMovie Productions.

This student outlined his story on a storyboard and made a background setting and characters.  He recommends writing a storyboard first to help you stick to your ideas.  Then he took photos with a regular camera, moving the characters and items in tiny increments.  He downloaded the photos into iMovie, cropped the photos and edited the speed to 0.1 seconds between frames.  After an amazing amount of work, dedication and adding music, he produced his movies!

His Stop Motion iMovies demonstrate creativity, dedication, digital literacy and reflection as to what music would engage the viewers emotions.  He included tiny details in his story board such as a mouse eating something in the Titanic dining room for the observant viewer.

I have permission from him and his parents to post his productions.  I know you will enjoy viewing them, and I hope your students are motivated to try this form of digital story telling.  Thanks for the inspiration, Hunter!
Happy Stop Motion film making...!

This one is called, Lego Oil Spill (approx. 800 photos):

And this one is called Lego White Star Line,  and is about the Titanic (approx. 1200 photos):

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Games for Writing K-3

To write is to be a risk taker!  And taking risks in writing needs constant encouragement to build confidence.  Teacher Peggy Kaye has written a book, Games for Writing,to help students overcome their hesitations to put pencil to paper.  I like her writing games and activities as they are similar to the book making projects that I enjoy doing with my students.  Games and book making projects put children in the right mood to learn and trigger their interest and alertness.  They switch from dreading to wanting to write!

Children become writers starting from a sheet with a few squiggles; to beginning to form their favorite letters and names of people who are important to them; to writing out their own journals, lists and stories.  As children grow in their ability to rush out words as they write, letter formation and penmanship may take a back seat.  Writing graceful letters is a wonderful thing to do, and getting their thoughts recorded on paper is the first step.  Do the editing later!

The games recommended by Peggy Kaye do not require extensive equipment nor are they time-consuming.  You can do them with a group of students or at home with your family.  The most important thing to remember is to have FUN!  Your young writer will find he or she likes some games more than others, so flip through the book to find a variety of writing activities that is to their liking. Here is a sample of what this book offers:

There are five parts to this book:
1.  Just for Starters:  Try these 11 activities designed to ease Kindergarten and Grade 1 children into writing.  Through games, they learn to control their pencils and produce properly formed letters.  By listening to her story games, they learn to identify well-organized stories from semi-coherent stories.
Examples:  Letter reversals?  No problem, give them more opportunity to explore and practice.  Try the tactile experience of making Popcorn letters (gluing popcorn to a gigantic letter "J").  
Or try using Pretzel dough to make alphabet letters- shape, bake and eat!

2.  Stress Busters: Young writers can be nervous to put pencil to paper.  Try these 16 activities designed to get a child giggling; nothing like laughter to calm a child's fears!  These activities take small amounts of time to limit writing demands on children without limiting their imagination.
Examples: Try Rhyme Time using words to create simple silly poems together in the A-B-A-B-A-B or AA-BB-AA patterns.  Create your lists of rhyming words first together.  Share the writing out of the poem.
Or try Acrostic Poems, which work well using words/people/places that are important to your writer.
A FUN one! Word By Word: Choose a title for a story with a group of students.  Start the story together as a group.  Then have each student contribute by rolling a dice/die and the number rolled is the number of words each child will add to the story!

3.  Bugaboos: Try these 9 playful ways to improve spelling, handwriting and grammar.
Examples: Mixed-up and Missing: For grammar, try covering the student's eyes, writing out a full sentence, cutting it into separate words, mixing up the words and say to your student: "Open your eyes! What do you see?" They see a lot of mixed up words and their job is to sort them out to make sense.  You can give clues to help!
Or try Traveling Words: Turn handwriting practice into a funny sentence.  Normally, you would write it on a straight line, but not in this game!  Draw a winding/ weird road across the paper and your student writes the sentence as neat as he can on the road line.  Traveling words is more rigorous than you may think!

4.  Writing with Style: Ahhh, time for writing more sophisticated stories!  This section of her book includes 8 activities which encourage students to create unusual fictional characters, mature in their notions of story structure and select new vocabulary to express their ideas.
Example: Egg Carton Tales: Use 3 half egg carton sets (6 holes).  In the first "setting" set, write out 6 different story settings (a forest, a pirate ship, a tree fort, a school, a King's castle, an island).  In the second "character" set, write out 6 characters.  In the third "problem" set, write out 6 different story problems.  Have your student shake a coin in each of the cartons.  Where the coin is when you open the carton, that determines the setting, character and problem.  Help your writer tell and make up a story to match their egg carton choices.  Telling stories with these elements will eventually transfer into writing a complete story on paper.

5.  Made with Pride:  When it is time for longer writing projects, 30 minutes or so, try the 8 writing activities in this section.  Some of these will be done over several different writing sessions over many weeks.
Example: Shape Books: Children often perk up when they get to write in a new or unusual shaped book! If your child loves Cats, make a cat shaped book with construction paper covers and lined paper inside.  When it is important to the writer, he or she is motivated to get writing!

To use this book effectively:
-Try a game and see if it motivates your child. 
-Children's tastes change over time; so one activity that did not work in January, may work in May!
-Play an effective game over and over, as many times as your young writer likes!
-Don't worry about mistakes.
-Be generous with your compliments and encouragement.
-Show you are delighted with the Risk-Taking your young writer is doing!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Words to Live By...

One of the best Anonymous quotes that I have come across that made me stop and reflect on myself is below.  You've most likely read this quote before...enjoy your reflection! 

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Digital Literacy: Storybird Online Story Writing and Book Making

Recently on Twitter, I learned about Storybird, an online story writing website that promotes digital literacy.  You start by choosing an artists set of pictures or a theme of pictures and creating a story, based on which pictures you choose.  I am a huge advocator of book making projects and alternatives to worksheets which motivate children to write, and this included digital literacy.  So, I just had to dig in and try it!  You can view my published book: A Surprise Winter Day Birthday Party by clicking here.  The books go through a filter approval process before they are published.  The artist I chose to use is

There is a demonstration video in the Tour tab on how to use the Create board: add text, change colors, and drag and drop in pictures for your story.  There is a Read tab which takes you to where you can read other books published for public viewing.  When you create your account, you can choose a regular account (1 person), a         teacher account for a class, or a child account for under 13 years. You can sign up for free! 

When writing, you can invite a collaborator to work together with you by adding their email; a beneficial feature if you have more than one student working on a book together. There is also a spot for a guardian or parent email so they see the collaboration and writing in progress.  Once you publish a book, you can make your books "public or private" (invite by email address).

However, there is a catch, as I found out after publishing my story.  If you want to download a PDF file of your published book, it will cost you $1.99.  There are other purchase choices too for soft cover books and hard cover books ranging from $14.95- $29.95.  On the positive side, it could make the perfect gift from your students for a family member or special friend.  Or, you can share it for free by just posting it as a "public".  If you choose the "private" viewing setting, then you can invite only certain people to view it free online by adding their email address.   So, there are a variety of options!

The best part about the Storybird digital literacy story writing website, is that it just may be a technology tool to inspire your students to write, write, write!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homework Menu: add choice and community service. It's not all on paper...

Teacher Sally Koch Hayes of Burlington, introduced a terrific idea about homework and differentiated learning.  She knows students have different interests and different styles of learning that is meaningful to them.  Basically, she gives her students a weekly homework grid and they must select three daily activities from a "menu" of 10 categories which may include:

1.  Pleasure Reading: books, magazines, recipes, newspapers, ebooks
2.  Physical Activities: walking, biking, skating, swimming, playing sports
3.  Hobbies: sewing, gardening, photography, caring for pets
4.  Art Projects:  painting, drawing, collage, dioramas
5. Community Service:  mowing a neighbor's lawn/shoveling for them, playing a game with an older person or younger person, picking up trash

Effective education thinks outside the box; it is creative and innovative.  This teacher found her students began to organize community clean-ups and learned how to play chess in order to play with an older person.  They extended themselves to build community.  Homework is more than regurgitating information and completing worksheets.  I like this idea; learning is not all on paper.  This is homework that would make Music lessons or participating on a Sport Team outside of school count.  Today's students would love a Technology option to interact with websites, view videos, and play online skill building games.   I like when students connect what their gifts are and where their strengths lie to extend themselves and reach out to others!

To read the full article on Sally Koch Hayes, please click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Googlios: Transforming ePortfolios, Transforming Education

Educator G. Alex Ambrose, an academic advisor at the University of Notre Dame and an ABD Doctoral Student in Computing Technology in Education, created the concept and website on  Googlios (Goolge + Portfolio).   It is copyrighted and licensed under  a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.  See the 2 minute introduction video here:
I'm interested in these for students to build their ePortfolios through school and post secondary studies and for adults to continue to add to their ePortfolios as they add their own post Graduate studies and work experience to their resumes in the form of a Googlio.  You can make your Googlio public, private (for viewing by email invite only), or semi-private  (in the case of a school).  Click here to view the four part videos by G. Alex Ambrose. Please visit www.Googlios.com for more information.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pizza Books!

What do you get when you combine Pizza and Books? ...Pizza Books!  These creative books are seen in The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook...Plus Other Books to Make With Children  by Tami Duby and Cyndy Regeling.

Use this folding pizza- shape idea for reports or presentations instead of a flat poster. The pages of the book look like a pizza slice and it folds open page by page into a circular pizza.  Storage is easy as it folds back up into a single slice of pizza.  I've used this with children to present on their Family, each piece of pizza is a new paragraph and photo.  Use it for Social Studies to separate different regions, provinces or Flags of different countries.  Be creative!
Other variations the authors recommend are Rainbow Pizza Books using multicolored poster boards , decorating the edges with patterns, stamps, hole punch designs and stickers, and Mini-Pizza books!

Kids love putting these together with you and the best part is, they can't wait to write in them!  Enjoy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pursuing Peace: The Talking Corner

Here is my Prezi to explain how to pursue peace through talking with your students in Grades 1-3: "The Talking Corner".  I have implemented this problem solving strategy with students and it works; focusing the students on talking, pursuing peaceful relationships and finding solutions. You can adapt the process to older students by replacing the Teddy Bear with a "conch" for the speaker and to represent taking turns.  Enjoy this idea developed by educator, Deanna Odland.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Alternatives to Worksheets

Creative Teaching Press has a terrific resource to change worksheets into fun projects compiled into a book called Alternatives to Worksheets written by Karen Bauer and Rosa Drew. They recommend using the projects for grades K-4, but teachers can modify projects to upper elementary grades. I've used them with students in grades K-6 as motivational and meaningful projects which can be adapted to any topic or inquiry study you are doing. These projects focus on written work and students enjoy creating them so much, they are motivated to write!

Some of my favorite ones to use in motivating children to write are Accordion Books, Shape Books, Pop-up Cards, Paper Vests, Book marks, Door Hangers, Cubes and Visors.

Useful strategies using this resource in Students reaching success include:

1. Students can work with a small group, a partner or independently.
2. Teachers model the project and students personalize their own creatively.
3. Brainstorm what you know about the project/topic together to help students get started.