I love to participate in Cee’s Share Your World blogging challenge. How does she do it. week after week? And her blog is filled with so many photographic gems! Wow! here are this week’s questions.
If you had to move to a country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? In my adolescence, I wanted to move to Russia. The music, the dance, the art- they all captured my soul. Then I read “A Town Called Alice,” which perhaps gave me a romantic notion about gorgeous Australia. Once I learned of the poisonous critters swimming offshore and those cane toads plopping everywhere, I changed my mind. Now? I think I’d live in northern Canada, bundled up in furs and learning to walk in snowshoes. (Yeah, talk about stereotypes….)
What color would you like your bedroom to be? It’s already got one blue wall, which is the first thing you see when you walk in, but I’d like to change the tone of that blue to a warmer hue. Some day!
What makes you happy? Make a list of things in your life that bring you joy. I am never happier than when I’m worshiping God, especially with fellow believers. My dearest teaching widower is the greatest joy in my life after Jesus. And I am so happy when I’m teaching. What a gift! I think chocolate comes next.
What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. I teach a gifted but medically disabled student who has remarkable perseverance and determination. I can’t imagine being in the continual pain and dealing with other serious conditions which are a part of his daily existence. He is an amazing kiddo who has defied all medical and educational expectations. I adore him and it’s a joy to be in his life. His parents are also amazing (they’d have to be!) and I feel so loved by them all.
Celebrating a special day as engineers of learning and fun!
“Skywalkers: Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City” is not about Luke or other sci fi characters. It’s a terrific nonfiction read on the role of the Mohawk people in building our country’s skyscrapers- and much more. Written for middle to high school plus, this book is a surprising page-turner. The author, David Weitzman, takes us from the early culture of the Mohawk people to their present day role as ironworkers and bridge builders.
This book is fascinating, with marvelous photographs dating back to the 1800s. Weitzman’s use of primary source info, such as interviews and written commentaries, bring each chapter to life. For kiddos who are curious about construction, native peoples, bridge disasters, and more, this book is riveting (pun intended)! The author explores myths and legends about the famous Mohawk ironworkers, including the sobering realities of building our cities. You will be amazed at the skills, the sacrifices, and the grit of these people. While this book has a social studies emphasis, it also presents the complex math of construction and the role of engineers and architects. “Skywalkers” will forever change the way you view our city skylines.
In case you’re wondering how I found this gem, it was recommended reading for Camp Wonderopolis 2017. You can check out that site for other books with a STEM focus.
What, me procrastinate??? On the Wonder League mission, of all things??? I blame some part of my brain that simply cannot measure or draw a straight line. OK, here’s the deal: The Wonder League has a cool programming mission using the robot, Dash. I’m good with programming. I’m good with the fascinating mission. But you have to create a mat, a 5 x 8 grid. And since my student works from a fixed position in a special chair, I had to create a sturdy platform to hold that mat. Hence my procrastination.
I did make a foam platform but I thought it was supposed to be 5 x 7 (click on the link to take a look). I am not sure how that happened, because I triple-checked the dimensions. Ha! I also thought it would be safer to make the platform larger, so it became 7 x 7. Oh dear! I had bought shower curtains and miles of black tape to create the mat; to my chagrin (thankfully before I started fastening the plastic mat together), I discovered that it was to be 5 x 8. I spent a couple of weeks re-cutting and re-gluing the foam platform, making several key errors which required MORE glue and Contac paper.
After the platform debacle, I was loathe to start the mat. My dearest widower assured me I don’t have Alzheimer’s and that he would help me measure it. I cried a few tears about my visual-spatial glitches but with my teaching widower’s faithful help, it’s all finished! Woohoo!
Yeah, that’s the robot Cue, not Dash. Cue the Cleverbot is AWESOME! But let HIM try to make a mat….
This behavior contract is for kiddos who are having significant problems getting along with one another. Ideally, this would be accompanied by encouragement (“You can do this and you’ll be glad you did!”) and role playing; these kids are also in a difficult time of transition so their behavior is exacerbated by many factors. On the other hand, they DO want positive attention, they DO love one another (deep, deep down), and they DO know how to behave more acceptably.
Key features of behavior contracts: focus on positive behavior, add rewards for extra effort, allow kids a wide range of rewards, and include a record-keeping system with self-evaluation.
What? How can goofing off be good for you- and your students? Lea Waters has written a powerful book called “The Strength Switch: How the New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish.” Despite its cumbersome title, “The Strength Switch” has the potential to change you, dear readers, as well as other teachers, parents, and kids. I am encouraged that it is already changing me!
This post will address the goofing off research and I’ll go into more detail on strength-based teaching after I finish reading the book. (What I’ve read so far is awesome!)
Research shows that certain kinds of “goofing off,” where the brain is doing something habitual, physical, and/or requires little effort or concentration, helps the brain percolate information. Waters likens it to a bridge (no pun intended, I’m sure) between direct attention or focus and “free-form” attention (sometimes called mindfulness). We can only concentrate for a certain period of time before the brain is overloaded with processing. Shifting gears, or effective goofing off, allows our brains to rest and make sense of what we’ve just heard. An interesting fact is that the brain is not really resting; this downtime allows the brain to store information, problem solve, and make room for more information. Researchers from Columbia University saw marked improvement in attention and cognitive functioning when kids were routinely allowed this effective downtime.
Waters suggests that kids can build their attention skills by practicing this shift between focus and “goofing off.” It makes sense to me that we can all do better with this approach to tasks and breaks. You know how that name you were trying to remember pops up when you’re not even thinking about it? How you come up with a clever idea or solution to a problem when you were least expecting it? Those are perfect examples of how you’ve given your brain a chance to work more effectively.
Goofing off is “softly focused inward attention,” according to Waters. It is not texting or talking on the phone. It’s doing the mundane, so that your brain can become more brilliant.
Give yourself goofing off time and see what happens!
Do you find yourself continuously asking students, “What did you say?” If you are asking that in response to a smart-mouthed remark, well, all you are doing is drawing attention to inappropriate behavior. For some kids, especially those with articulation problems, asking that can make them feel self-conscious. Ditto for shy kids who were uncertain about saying something the first time. BUT, if you simply cannot hear those high frequency sounds, join the club. My Hearing Loss Club.
An assistant and I both suffered permanent hearing loss from checking a student’s hearing aid without the muffler effect of a stethoset. Our ears rang for a year-and-a half until the district hired a hearing specialist. My own hearing aids were marvelously effective. Now I could hear a certain rascal say, “Don’t worry! She can’t hear us!”
Sadly, I suffer from eustachian tube dysfunction, joining approximately 5% of Americans (and 4% worldwide) with an interminable popped ear effect. I always take antihistamines. I can’t fly without steroids. I often have fluid stuck behind my eardrum. I’ve had numerous tubes and lancings and ruptures. My ear now rings without cessation. The good news is that a new treatment is available, inserting a balloon to stretch that sucker open. My procedure has been scheduled! I’ll need yet another tube because of fluid but I’m excited about the possibilities!
What did you say?
“Poached” by Stuart Gibbs is a middle school kid-friendly mystery on steroids! The second in Gibbs’ FunJungle series, Teddy Fitzroy continues to run amok while being accused of stealing Kazoo the koala. The book rocks with slapstick comedy, unexpected twists, complex characters, and loads of suspects. Gibbs seamlessly includes an abundance of interesting info on animals in the context of the fictional FunJungle, a state of the art animal theme park/zoo.
Why is this a significantly improved follow-up to the original, “Belly Up?” First, the author now steers clear of profanity, which is totally unnecessary in a kids’ book. Second, we follow Teddy as he actually leaves FunJungle to attend school (OK, the other book took place during the summer break), where a bullying gang selects him as a prime target. The school setting allows Gibbs to both strengthen his characters and introduce topics of interest to middle schoolers, including cliques and crushes. Vance and his twin accomplices (cleverly named TimJim) coerce Teddy into pranking at FunJungle, although Teddy has always been quite mischievous without any pressure. Another improvement in Poached is the author’s deemphasis on the weight of characters. The first book made fun of obesity, which is a no-no in my opinion. Teddy’s parents do a lot more than just listen to him in this second mystery; not only are their jobs are on the line if Teddy has poached Kazoo but they are acting more like responsible adults. Finally, Gibbs has amped up his clever array of suspects, keeping us in suspense until the very end.
I used the first book as a read-aloud with a lot of on-the-spot editing, but wouldn’t have any qualms about this book in the hands of middle schoolers. It’s a 5-star read with a very satisfying conclusion.
My nephew, Christopher, now lives in Texas. (If you are new to this blog, I tutored Christopher for the past 2 years. He’s a moderate functioning kiddo on the autism spectrum.) His new teacher seems really nice but has limited control over the classroom. For kids on the spectrum, weak classroom management can be devastating. In Christopher’s case, he relies heavily upon a well-structured class with clear boundaries. Despite acting up significantly at home, Christopher is adamant that he will not tantrum at school. My fear is that he will start to copy his classmates. They may easily recover with a structured classroom, but my nephew can get stuck in a cycle of misbehavior. At first, he thought it was slightly amusing that the teacher had numerous “talks” with kiddos, mostly because it wasn’t him. Now he is struggling with the stress of misbehaving kids and probably the temptation to act up himself.
My contact with Christopher has been sporadic since school started. We use Google hangouts but the time difference is challenging. Most likely he needs a different classroom, but I’m trying to address the issues for him the best I can. I’ve decided to write a series about “Bryan,” a composite identity with plenty of similarities to my nephew. It’s in a Google doc so he can listen to it being read to him. (I noted in an earlier post that Christopher’s comprehension is improved when he can both listen and see the words.) I think the content will grab his attention and I have added some questions to which I can refer when we tutor online.
Eventually I will use social stories to support Christopher, but given the stress of his move, I prefer to approach this laterally for now. In my email with the story attached, I will tell Christopher that I know about a kiddo who dealt with ta similar problematic classroom. (That is true, sadly.) The “Bryan” stories will allow my nephew to evaluate the problem from a safe distance but close enough to make personal connections. Christopher is sensitive to correction but wants to follow school rules, so I am hopeful this approach will help.
If you’d like to access the entire story, here’s a link.
Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week requires that that the photo topic have two E‘s in the word. I chose this sheet of foam, which is one-half of the base for the current Wonder League mission, a programming challenge for kiddos. I repeated the harrowing drive with a second sheet hanging out the back of my car. As I am wont to do, I somehow misread the required dimensions of the base and asked my dearest widower to chop off a foot. Not his own, mind you. The foam base is now 5 x 7, instead of the required 5 x 8. Oh dear.
Here’s the almost-final product featuring Dash the robot. I am going to glue that extra foot back on (yikes!) and finish a vinyl mat that goes on top. Then all of this sits on two tables raised up to my disabled student’s eye level. Whew! That’s a mouthful and you are probably WONDERING what this is all about. The Wonder Leagues offers a terrific opportunity for kids to explore coding on a very cool mission in outer space. Yeah, that will take some explaining. More later.