* Virtual field trips this Thanksgiving!

Virtual field trips are an excellent online resource for visiting sites that would otherwise be out of reach.  To celebrate Thanksgiving with your students or kiddos at home, take advantage of Scholastic’s terrific resources for Thanksgiving.  Here’s a snip of their virtual field trips, enhanced with reenactments.  I appreciate the relatively uncluttered look and ease of access.

Virtual field trip

And that’s not all!  To promote a better understanding of the lives of the native peoples and colonists, use Scholastic’s comparison pages.  Students can listen independently and research housing, clothes, chores, school. and games in order to compare and contrast theses two lifestyles.  For students with reading disabilities or those who learn best by seeing what they hear, these resources-and more- are an excellent tool for exploring our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Virtual field trip 2

Check out Scholastic for more super resources!

* Econ, apps, and eye gaze

Mix Tobii Dynavox, Communicator 5, economics, and the Township app to get… a terrific way to learn while playing!  Playing is indeed one of the best ways for all of us to learn.  Let me explain how a special needs student applies theories of supply and demand, micro and macroeconomics, opportunity cost, and much more while using an eye gaze system and this fun app.

I’ve blogged before about Tobii Dynavox eye gaze technology and the Communicator 5 software that accompanies it.  I also described a cool book, “How to Build Your Own Country, that supports the creative development of nation states, government, and even national anthems.  My student is president, of course, and has named his township after his country.  He uses Communicator 5 to select what actions he wants to perform, from breeding animals to mining for ore.  The image below is the main topic page.  When he looks at each box, the button “reads” the text I’ve added and then takes him to additional pages, where he can make decisions about what crops to plant, which friends to help, and whether to ask the city market dealer for help.  The black box in the upper left links to a rest page for his eyes, while the blue arrows return him systematically to the main menu.

township C5

These images are from the Township Wiki.  

I’ve only encountered a couple of difficulties so far.  For one, my dearest teaching widower does get tired of hearing the Communicator 5 program repeated over and over, as I make sure all the links are correct.  Then there’s the issue of my own addiction to this game!  Finally, my student does love using Mrs. Everson’s bank, but he must first earn the bills and coins (he named them doodads and dubas in his country).  And who supplies Mrs. Everson’s bank?  Shh….  This will be a test of whether my widower still reads my posts!!

* Geometer’s SketchPad

The Geometer’s SketchPad is a cool, online tool for exploring math concepts with 3rd graders through high school students.  Published by Key Curriculum Press, SketchPad originally focused on geometry, but this clever program has morphed into a powerful tool for mathematical understanding from basic operations to calculus.

What makes SketchPad so powerful?  It provides a visual tool for instruction, student exploration, and problem solving.  This tool adds a unique opportunity for students to explore “What happens if I do this?” and provides a user-friendly platform for student interaction.  As we know from research, math instruction is much more effective when kids can talk, reason, and experiment.

For teachers, SketchPad supports a creative and relatively simple tool for guiding mathematical learning.  Teachers can join a free, online community of educators through Sketch Exchange, with opportunities to: (copied from info on Sketch Exchange)

  • upload sketches and activities
  • post links to your own website or videos
  • participate in a community forum
  • browse the content on the site by grade level, topic, or tags
  • download sketches and activities for use in your classroom

I use SketchPad with a special needs student who has a visual impairment.  SketchPad allows me to change text and object sizes and colors, background color, and increase units of measurement.  SketchPad is also available in multiple languages since it it used globally.  Give it a try!

 

 

 

 

* “The Naturalist”

What a terrific thriller!  Dr. Theo Cray is The Naturalist, a bioinformatics professor.  A computational biologist.  Huh?  Trust me, you’ll find out what that means.  The author, Andrew Mayne, lets Theo tell the story from his brilliant, socially awkward perspective.  The action begins with a flashback to a savage animal attack in Montana; in the next chapter, unsuspecting Theo sits with plastic bags on his hands at the police station.  And it goes downhill -and uphill -from there.

The Naturalist.jpg

Theo keeps telling himself to stay clear of the murderous tangle in a backwoods town, but he can’t help himself.  The police wish he would just clear out, but Theo keeps the body count rising.  He is willing to sacrifice everything to save others and bring an evil creature to justice.  Theo’s clever mind and computer analyses detect patterns which expose horrendous events and put him in grave danger.  Even so, I laughed out loud at his perspective, even in the most suspenseful scenes.  The Naturalist is so unusual, yet incredibly realistic, that I also found myself giggling with anxiety as Theo prepares for his own death.

It’s hard to describe The Naturalist without spoiling the wild plot.  If you enjoy science, thrillers, brilliant deductions, and things that go bump in the night, this book’s for you!

* Sharing my world, 1 bug at a time

Cee has terrific blogging challenges and one of my faves is her Share Your World challenge.  If you don’t follow her site, you’re missing out on amazing photography and lots of connections with other bloggers.

Here are this week’s questions:

Do you ever sit on a park bench for more than ten minutes?  I don’t sit still outside at all.  My body is bug fodder.  Mosquitoes find me instantly.  I was bitten a few weeks ago while walking into the house with one hand exposed!  And you would not believe the number of mosquitoes that attacked me in southern Florida while I glistened with repellent.  I’ve had Lyme disease from two tick bites when I fell (only briefly) into the junipers next to our driveway; I was on crutches but got no sympathy from those critters.  I have never picked blackberries without a multitude of chigger bites, even with bug spray soaking my waist.

mosquitoe-

When you lose electricity in a storm, do you light the candles, turn on the flashlight or use your cell phone for light?  We haven’t had a major power outage for a few years but I have stocked up on LED lanterns.  Candles are pretty but useless for finding matching clothes.  And our flashlights barely flicker, probably because the batteries and bulbs are 20 years old.  I would rather use my phone for games.

Would you rather be given $10,000 for your own use or $100,000 to give anonymously to strangers?  Hmm.  I’d like to get out of debt- and my dearest teaching widower and I do our best to be generous.  The question reminds me of past prayers to win the lottery, which wasn’t in God’s plans.  We have been blessed in MANY ways and I hope we would do His will in either scenario.  My widower says maybe I have too many toys.  Come on!!  Is that even possible?  In this era of digital goodies?

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.  My dearest teaching widower, who works day and night on his training and research, is my inspiration.  I may be in here reading or playing and he’s in the sunroom, pacing, writing, and leaving piles of eraser shavings on the floor.  He’s an amazing guy, funny and faithful.  Always there for me, with his wise and gentle ways.  I adore him!

* Memory fun

From TED talks to neuroscience journals, the consensus on improving memory is clear: make information fun, meaningful, and visual-spatial, while training the brain to focus.  Most of the videos I’ve watched emphasize memory of facts, dates, spelling, and playing cards  (Not sure that minors need to memorize decks of cards in less than 5 minutes but it might help with Hearts or Spades.)  Did you know that there are memory athletes who compete in how quickly they can memorize hundreds of names?

While we are not only teaching facts to be memorized, these athletes do have some useful tips for the load of information required at each grade level.  Multiplication.com, for example, effectively uses a story-mode with unusual characters to support memorization of times tables.

An ancient Greek strategy uses places (“loci”) to help store information.  For example, you picture the words or concepts you want to recall in familiar places, attached to a vivid story.  To memorize the six syllable types, I could walk up my front steps to find the door has turned to glass.  It is CLOSED so I whack the glass to OPEN it.  As soon as I walk inside, I see an unfamiliar band playing in the hallway but can’t hear anything.  And how did they get in my house?  I step closer and notice they are all wearing band tee shirts saying SILENT E, which is weird, right?  I run to the kitchen and grab my phone to call the police, keying in my cLE password (c for consonant).  The police send a special V-TEAM to sort things out, but those guys end up in the hallway playing with the Silent Es!  I’m about to give up when some lady on a motorcycle revs out of the living room!  The loud RRRR sound scares everyone away!  motorcycle

Okay, that’s a bit lame, but I guarantee that if a student or class create a picture story using spaces in the school building, they will remember all of the syllable types.  And just imagine the fun they’ll have!  Where does the meaningful part come in?  Guiding students to understand the benefits of learning those syllable types or multiplication facts.  Learning about memory and how to improve it.  Helping them make connections with previously learned material.  Practical and social applications, like being a student memory jock.  And maybe some of your kiddos will end up in memory triathlons!

 

* What a relief!

I survived ear surgery- what a relief!

The adventure began with 2 pre-op visits the day before.  The primary focus of the 1st one was accurately saying my name and birthdate.  I did that successfully multiple times- what a relief!  The 2nd appointment was with representatives of the actual procedure (Eustachian tube dilation).   Everyone was kind, professional, and helpful- what a relief!

The anesthesiologist made sure I could twist my head and jaw like a zombie, which I could- what a relief!  The nurse told me I might wake up the next day with liquid all over my face but not to worry, because it would be blood.  (Had she been consulting with the anesthesiologist?)  I had no liquid of any kind- what a relief!  I was given a special antibacterial soap to use twice before surgery, from “chin to toes,” in case any body parts got near my surgical site.  I am unable to touch my ear with my toes- what a relief!

I was first on the surgical schedule- what a relief!  My surgeon’s resident dropped by to tell me that they would be “moving a bone,” which I already knew from insurance papers that listed “nasal bone fracture.”  I laughed and asked if I would still be able to sing like Barbra Streisand.  He looked blank (who is Barbra Streisand and why did she refuse a nose job??)  I trilled a few soprano notes off-key and he said (dubiously) I should be fine- what a relief!

They gave me hot blankets- what a relief!  I was rolled to surgery and I could see their eyes smiling- what a relief!  The anesthesiologist gave me some falling asleep medicine and I said, “I can feel it working.  I’m falling asleep.”  Then I couldn’t breathe so I choked out, “I can’t breathe!”  She asked me, “What did you say?”  I repeated it and tried the universal choking sign, only one hand was laden with tubes.  I managed to make the sign twice with my right hand, desperate for air.  I looked up at the monitors for signs that I wasn’t getting air, but without my glasses, it was too blurry.  No one seemed concerned so why should I be?  I knew I’d be intubated and surely they would do it quickly.  They must have- what a relief!  

I woke up chatty and happy, being told by a sweet nurse that I’d already been talking for 15 minutes.  Apparently I didn’t say anything alarming- what a relief!  In fact, I told her once again about the dream I was having.  And asked her name for the trillionth time.

I discovered that smart surgeons use visual aids, as evidenced by the drawings on my ear and neck.  I teach all my kiddos to use them- what a relief!

ear

* Sharing my world

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.

Engineers

Celebrating a special day as engineers of learning and fun!

* “Skywalkers”

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.

Skywalkers

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.