* Still loving Classkick

Apart from its name, I love Classkick! It’s a really cool app for creating awesome and individualized assignments, monitoring student progress, and communicating effectively while students work. Whoever put this together had a marvelous time anticipating what teachers would need to be effective. Here are some screenshots and explanations of Classkick’s usefulness:

The activity below is uniquely suited for a student with adequate typing skills, poor handwriting, and a need for hands-on activities. You can make any image movable, which allows for flexibility in responses. Text boxes do not edit spelling, so you can easily spot patterns of errors.

You can quickly adapt worksheets or create your own for use on Classkick. I often use PDFs from Education.com for math assignments.

For evaluation purposes and feedback on assignments, you can create tailor-made ‘puzzles’ of interest by hiding responses under any sections of an image (this one is from Roblox). Students search for the hidden phrases and decide which ones will describe their experience.

Classkick also allows simple creation of links. I can direct students to a specific activity, like this one at Math Playground, with required information for logging in. I will also preview skills (in this case, using a number line to depict negative integers).

Evaluating a session is so easy! Students click and drag.

I am still learning new tricks and techniques for improving my Classkick activities. Let me know if you want me to share some of these with you! I do wish the app had a different name….

* Losing my mojo?

Warning: This post contains explicitly dismal thoughts.

Last November, I mentioned that I had applied to renew my National Board Certification. To qualify, I needed a current teaching license, so I kept hounding the licencing board for my renewal status (for which I had submitted my course credits in June). When I finally saw that my license was active, I paid my big bucks and started the NB process. I completed a teaching video in December and by March, had a nearly complete set of entries. Then the coronavirus hit. The deadline for completion was moved to June. Whee!

I don’t know why I rechecked on my licensure, but I’m glad and sad that I did. The licensing board showed my teaching certification as expired! WHAAT?!? I considered how I could appeal this process. All my communication with the board had been through a ‘Contact Us’ format. I had no records of any of my questions, nor any record of my license being active. There were no ‘live people’ available. Ever. I wasn’t going to lie to get my National Boards. I didn’t have money to hire an attorney, on the slim chance that might make a difference.

In the midst of these dismal thoughts, I was forced to consider that I hadn’t talked to either my dearest teaching widower or God about renewing my National Boards. I was renewing them because:

  • I could not imagine myself without that validation of my skills?
  • My self-worth was bound up in my career?
  • I had worked hard to get those renewal credits?

Whatever my rationale, I have sort of accepted this situation. I still wish I could have renewed my NBs, which perhaps means I have more come-to-Jesus times ahead.

Good news, though. None of the effort in licensure and NB renewal was in vain. All of it improved my skills and made me perfectly suited for my current work. And had God not prompted me to get NB certification 20 years ago, and blessed the entire process, I would never have National Board Certification in the first place.

To answer the question: No, I am not losing my mojo. My pride is skinned, which is a good thing. My love of all-things-teaching is intact.

I love this photo of my DTW with all his mojo!

* TToT for a million dollars

It’s been eons since I last posted; I hope all of you are well and making it through these tough times! My next-to-oldest great-nephew keeps asking me what I would do for a million bucks. I do remember those days when it seemed like the most spectacular thing ever to get $1,000,000. Or to get ‘all the money in the world.’ Now I know what true riches are, so I will share my Ten Things of Thankful (TToT) blogging challenge with you out of a truly grateful heart.

#1 I am thankful for my dearest teaching widower (DTW). He continues his treatment for cancer and is such a warrior. I thought this nightmarish ‘cure’ might cause him to stumble, to become impatient, to change who he is. But he is still the loving-est DTW in the world. That counts for about 5 TToTs. Or about $1,000,000.

#2 I am thankful for our dearest son and his most precious wife. Matthew has endured much with a 5-year-long health struggle, going from triathlete to incapacitated to nearly incapacitated. And he has started a blog (please check it out!)! While his chronology of the illness is heart wrenching, it’s also filled with faith that comes from trusting in the Lord through desperate times. I’d say this special couple are worth at least $1,000,000.

#3, #4, #5 Special families and kids, Cadbury chocolate, and vegan chocolate cakes still rank high on my list! Although I haven’t hiked outside since summer weather took root, I’ve savored the photos I took. Cee‘s awesome photographic influence is easily worth a cool mil. (Be sure to check out her blog, too!). I’ve never met a plant I didn’t want to photograph!

#6 Of course, the kiddos keep us on our toes and give God plenty of issues in my heart to work on, with impatience being at the top of my list. But who wouldn’t enjoy being asked if I would wear a KKK robe for a million dollars? That question is followed by shrieks of glee: I should want to be in the Kool Kids Klub. Yikes. Glad we are quarantined or they’d be stoned!

#7 Tea is right up there with chocolate. Tetley’s is my fave. The caffeine kinda makes up for my lack of sleep. Sorta. Perhaps. Not so much.

#8 Now that I have cracked through the Blogging Barrier Reef, I am excited to catch up on others’ blogs! Yay! (I really don’t like that spelling but my use of yea always gets misread as yeah, so meh….)

#9 I love to watch the birds who visit our feeders and bath. A robin just finished a thorough soaking and sat fluffed up on the edge, drying off. So sweet. OK, not so fascinating to everyone. The hawks? They love it. Totally grateful. Yum yum.

#10 Last but not least are you, my dearest readers, who continue to follow this blog. I’m grateful!

* Nonsensical?

Many thanks to Ronovan for his Décima Poetry Challenge! Usually, I read his challenge, putter around a bit, and then give up. Today, I decided to tackle this one. The topic is SENSE.

Image by cafepampas from Pixabay

Sense

If I had any sense at all

I’d never write a décima

Instead I’d sigh, try to recall

The purpose of this teaching blog:    

To clear the smoke and rid the fog

Of cloudy thoughts that hinder all.

Of course, since I spent 5 minutes on this, I need to examine my own head for foggy ideas!

Honestly, though? I am writing this because I have no hope of writing sensibly about George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders. I am still trying to put something together that would encourage educators to teach ALL children. The fact that the average black high school graduate reads at an 8th grade level is nonsensical. So are the ubiquitous, racially predictable test results at EVERY level. White American teachers, WE MUST DO BETTER!

* Weeds are fine, sweat- meh

As much as I loved spring, with its vibrant flowers and fragrances, the beginning of summer is great for flowering weeds, not so great for long walks. We’re talking about major sweating here- and the temps are still moderate for this time of year. I guess 6-foot distancing is best since I look like I have a dripping fever.

The weed below is a Carolina horse nettle. My dearest teaching widower would be proud that I didn’t touch it!

Magnolia trees are not weeds, but since I DO grab sniff all the lowest blossoms, I must include this gorgeous one. The flowers of this ancient plant do not have true petals. In fact, this early flowering giant has been around for 36+ million years! I guess the above blossom may be a fossil in the making. I do love to see the stamen, lying there like candy matchsticks. Truly delish!

* Oh, deer

You know how incensed I get when the local deer rip out my plants? And how I yell and bark at them to no avail? Well, I take all that back every year around this time, when our hill becomes a fawn parking lot.

Sorry for the photo quality. This was taken through the window. Quietly.

We do have a set of twins up there but it’s the only child, Fawnville, who entertains us daily. Fawnville started off wobbly and uncertain, but he’s now into dizzying sprints. His mom has to trail after him; keeping him out of mischief is a full time job. She already looks weary, kind of like other parents in quarantine. I keep reminding her that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, I am silent as they rip out the remaining periwinkles.

* ESL Kids Download review

A reader asked me to check out his company’s website, so here is my review of ESL Kids Download. This site is aimed at ESL learners, most likely Asian but applicable to young kids learning English with British spelling, offering four main products: books on phonics and grammar, flashcards, and puzzles.

The ESL Kids Download phonics series is of particular interest to me because phonics opens the door to early reading in an effective manner. These materials, all of which have free samples, are systematically organized to teach phonics effectively. Or at least as effectively as a pdf can do. Obviously, these books should be paired with live instruction of some sort. The illustrations are simple and colorful.

The grammar books are likewise well-sequenced and have content that is kindergarten through early elementary-based. They are heavily reliant upon fine motor skills, which is in fact a related skill being taught through these materials. For youngsters who have the dexterity and can manage to sit through so much writing (which many kids with special needs would find problematic), these would be effective in learning the basics of conversations, pronoun usage, verb tenses, and other skills.

ESL Kids Download offers an excellent set of flashcards paired with clear and colorful images. Their puzzles also support a wide range of skills.

This website includes links to its sister sites, including MANY games which look very appealing to me. (I think the links should open in a new page, but maybe I’m picky.) The bigger problem with the games is that they run on Flash Player, which has been abandoned by Adobe and is more easily hacked than the HTML5 code. Too bad! I mean you could allow Flash Player, but I wouldn’t.

If you are interested in downloadable phonics materials, if you use British spelling, and if you have students who are really into writing and drawing, this would be a good option. I do wish I could play their games!

Foot on the Gas

If you are a writer, you’ll easily identify with Devon as she shares her publishing quandaries, her amazing self-discipline, and her passion for writing. There is something so universal about her love of writing; it reminds me of the love of teaching. I hope you enjoy this post!

the starving artist

Well, I will have my first writing group Zoom on Wednesday. (Perhaps we were all enjoying being cut off from civilization for a while, but now we know we must connect in order to keep the group alive.) I have so much to report, though there are things I wish I could be saying.

Here’s the deal: my life has stayed somewhat the same under the Stay-at-Home Order. I was a home school mom and I still am (without co-op and with an additional, though self-sufficient, kid at home). I was a homemaker and I still am. (I have discovered that I clean for me as much as for any possible guests. I like a clean and tidy and aesthetic space.) I was a home cook and I still am (with the added responsibility of foraging, which is a precarious and enormous project that I center around every-other Friday). I…

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* Fear of blogging?

Sometimes I hate to blog. I know folks have written comments for me to read and I know those comments are sitting idly on a runway to nowhere. I know I have neglected all those blogs taking flight to other worlds, with their photos and stories to enjoy. If only I could take off and fly this thing!

It has occurred to me that I’m paralyzed by fear of blogging- and worse. Here are some symptoms:

  • If I read too many of Pete Springer‘s awesome posts (like, just one), I immediately stop blogging.
  • I once paid a slightly desperate blogger for 5 re-posts of anything, but that was four years ago. I have yet to write a post worth re-blogging. And yes, I still ask a different, not desperate blogger, Suzi Speaks, to help me! She has righted the craft many times.
  • I never ever reread any of my posts unless under duress, such as when I’m quoted and then flabbergasted that I wrote such a nonsensical thought. I accidentally read what I posted today (Sunday) and immediately saw a typo, thereby reinforcing my desire to avoid rereading.

What’s worse than fear of blogging? What’s really at the core of my phobia? Foolish comparison with others. What other charming passenger lurks in the tail of my plane? Fear of what others think. And wait for it- there is yet another creepy item in the cargo hold. Perfectionism (which is a nicer name for pride).

I think it’s time for an oxygen mask to fall out of the ceiling. And I have almost exhausted my airplane analogies. You’re welcome.

As this post plummets out of control (gotcha!), let me tell you what the black box says: She tried writing quickly to keep perfectionism from stalling the craft. Too late. She veered off with a draft, which merely joined trillions of other drafts waiting to be deleted. Then she started chatting about Vesna Vulović, who fell 33,000 feet from an airplane and survived. Major ouch and nothing a sane person would desire! Finally, she thought about her dearest teaching widower, who would have had to listen to all these ramblings if she hadn’t written them down. He cannot tolerate any more phonics talk at the dinner table.

Well then….

Because I love him and I love all things education, especially the kiddos and their fams, I’m in. For at least this week.