* Share Your World aka Wanna Be Like Cee

Thank you, Cee, for this week’s Share Your World challenge.  Cee always manages to post THE most beautiful photographs.   She’s managed to make crayons look like an art exhibit!  Me whining: I wanna do that!

On to the challenges.  Oh, my, the first question is easy.  Toilet paper should go over the top of the roll, not under.  It’s easier to tear, to control, and I think it looks better, too.

The second question relates to those gorgeous crayons photographed by Cee (go on, click on her link above).  If I were a crayon, I would be one of those Melt and Mold Factory “homemade” crayons by Crayola, a long swirl of colors that I would change, depending upon my mood. No matter my mood, though, I do love the smell of Crayolas!

The third question seemed very easy at first, but if I had to do it for real?  I would choose to get $5000 for shaving my head instead of dyeing my hair bright lime green and not telling anyone the reason.  I could buy a number of sweet Crayola products with $5000.

Bonus question.  I am all about bonuses.  I’m grateful for my health both this week and last.  I remain free from crud.  I was slimed on Saturday evening, but so far so good.  I got my flu shot last week from a newbie who was nervous about how he did.  I told him he was fine.  If he starts fretting, he’ll be much worse.  There was a nurse in the local school district who could inject you with just about NO sensation at all.  No kidding.  Of course she is retired.

* T is for (white) TarHeels

T is for TarHeel: A North Carolina Alphabet,” written by Carol Crane and illustrated by Gary Palmer, is an attractive book detailing famous sites, state animals/flowers, etc., and other events of note in North Carolina.  This book is one in a series of all the states (“Discover America State By State”) and fits nicely into a fourth grade curriculum.  The illustrations are beautiful watercolors and the text is in two forms, poetry with an accompanying detailed explanation of each selection’s significance.  If you visit Sleeping Bear Press, you can download a free, 23 page teacher’s guide for this book and many more.

There is much to like about the book, but is North Carolina an all-white state?  Has it always been a one race place?  In this book, a single picture features a black girl with a caterpillar and there are ZERO references to any black contributions to our state’s history and culture.  (The same is true for native peoples.)  What about H or J for Harriet Jacobs?  She wrote one of the first narratives about slavery, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.”  The Harriet Jacobs Trail in Edenton allows visitors to follow the events of her life, including hiding for seven years in a tiny attic after escaping her brutal owner.

Or what about I for the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, formerly Woolworth’s, the site of the sit-in by four courageous young men who defied the “whites only” rule, moving our nation away from laws of segregation?

There are others, but what about N or S for Nina SImone?  She was a powerful voice in jazz and the civil rights movement.  Enjoy her music in this video.  Her lyrics are a powerful indictment of racism and sex-trade trafficking.

Finally, let’s hope the book is edited to include ALL our citizens.

* Don Tate and Poet

Wow.  If you haven’t read “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” written by poet and illustrator Don Tate, you have missed out!  As an added bonus, teachers can also find excellent lesson plans on Don Tate’s website.  Listen to Don Tate read the beginning of his own beautiful work:

George Moses Horton was a slave who taught himself to read, then wrote and even sold poetry in Chapel Hill on the campus of the University of North Carolina. I’ve lived here since 1983 but had never heard of this gifted man until now.  Don Tate’s prose does justice to the talented poet who was eventually freed after the Civil War.  Our children need to read books like this.  Tate not only touches our hearts and consciences about the savagery of slavery, but shares a story of hope and resilience.  This book is a keeper.


What if you could take a well-designed, free online class on a topic that could dramatically change your understanding of how kids learn?  What if you could take that class with interesting folks from around the globe?  What if that class would help you better understand the way kids and adults process information?  What if this course enhanced your understanding of your own learning strengths and weaknesses?  What if you became a better teacher or coach?  What if you got credit for taking the class?

OK, you had me at topic that could dramatically change your understanding of how kids learn.  It’s not too late to sign up for the Learning Differences course offered through the Friday Institute.  Having gone through that course twice, and still convinced that I could learn more if I took it again, I think this course is a game-changer for teachers and parents.  Plus, there are THREE other courses currently being offered.  Theses courses are at the cutting edge of current research, extremely well organized, and FREE.  Many of the participants are National Board Certified teachers.  I have had the opportunity to interact with teachers, administrators,media specialists, and many others from around the world, each with a lot to share and eager to improve their skills. keyboard

Check them out online or follow at Twitter #all_learn.  SO easy!

* Happy, happy, happy!

Thanks to Nerd in the Brain for sharing her Three Things Thursday.  Take a look at her gorgeous paper flower creation.  She’s just so handy!  So nerdy!  So clever and kind.  Such a terrific blogger who has encouraged me SO much!

My own three things of happy for today includes erasing the last shreds of the Windows 10 Borg.  Resistance was futile.  I spent 4 hours yesterday uninstalling bits of iTunes so I could reinstall the program in one piece.  Poor iTunes, transformed into a single, hazy, disappearing .msi file.  That Windows “upgrade” has cost me weeks of effort to repair.  Like the Terminator, to mix analogies, it keeps coming back.  Can you believe that?  Upgrading IS simple but restoring your trashed computer is not.  Hopefully someone has noticed the resistance….Windows 10

My second thing of happy is the cooler, damp weather.  My hair is curling with joy.  Which reminds me, did I ever show you my Afro?  I hunted down this photo to show a student.  As you can see, I’ve had all manner of hair.  This was probably the easiest to maintain.  I’ll show you the hardest another time.  Right now, after the Borg-Terminator attack, I need easy. Afro

My third thing of happy is ToyWiz.com.  They promptly shipped a very special Lego Ninjago birthday present for a very special kid.  I was praying that it would arrive before his birthday party!  It will probably take this Ninjago genius 10 minutes to assemble the Fangpyre truck.  I am learning a lot about Ninjago!


If you want to learn more about nerdy things, Nerd in the brain (NitB) is your woman!

* Screeeeeeching!

How do you teach kids when to tell?  How do you stop tattling?  This is one social skill which is fairly straightforward.  You need to teach kids the following rules.

“Kids should know when to tell.  They need to learn to tell when:

  • Someone is being (or has been) hurt
  • Someone is being (or has been) bullied
  • Someone is missing (such as MIA on a field trip or coming in from recess)
  • They are feeling scared or threatened
  • They are asked or told to do something wrong or dangerous
  • They are told to keep a secret about any of the above.

Kids should not tell when:

  • They want to get someone else in trouble
  • They want attention
  • They are acting like the teacher or parent (such as correcting others, monitoring other’s’ work)
  • They are “jumping” into someone else’s business.
  • Doing any of the above is called tattling.  Our rule is no tattling.”

Most kids can easily understand the differences between these categories.  It’s the adult response that takes practice.  Some kids develop a screeching tattle-tale voice which triggers an equally screeching response from another kid.  SIblings often have this down to a fine art and it becomes a screech-along which is difficult to end.  At the beginning of changing this behavior, it helps if you respond consistently with, “When you try to get someone in trouble, that’s tattling.  What is our rule about tattling?”  After a couple of episodes, it’s more effective to simply say, “You are breaking our rule about tattling.”  Then turn to the other screecher and say, “Remember our rule about ignoring.”  Oh yes, you have to teach “how to ignore.”  Someone yelling, “I’m ignoring you!” with fingers in his or her ears is not ignoring, but it has made me smile many times.  screeching

* Ya know what I mean?

The opportunity to summarize, to process information, is a key strategy to support learning across any subject area.  This is a powerful tool for all students, but especially those with weak working memory, weak decoding skills, and weak attention.  As neuroscience has informed effective teaching practices, educators should be aware that students need frequent opportunities to pause and process what they’ve just heard or read.

Teachers can neglect this step for many reasons.  In my case, providing time for processing/ summarizing information was a real weakness in my early teaching repertoire.  Like many teachers, I taught in a manner that was similar to the way I learn.  SInce I am a fast processor, I never gave much thought to the time students needed to make sense of new information.  Also, my teacher preparation did not include the benefit of the brain-based research available today.

Other factors that impact how much time teachers allow for processing include pressure to “get through” a topic (and sadly, the pressure to assess) along with management issues, such as crowd control when students talk to each other to process information.  A pair-share strategy may be implemented, but what if many kids are talking about recess and lunchtime?  If videotaping doesn’t capture conversations effectively, it helps to have a familiar adult sitting in the midst of the group during pair-shares.  I have been in that role many times (supporting an individual student, for example) and could see that the quality of pair-share conversations was sketchy, at best.

That brings us to another key point.  Most students need explicit instruction on the why’s and how’s of summarizing.  Using role-playing and videotapes of examples and non-examples is an effective strategy for teaching verbal summarizing while setting high expectations.  For summarizing paragraphs and longer passages, model how to create effective summaries on sticky notes. Be sure to include non-examples.  Here are two examples from a passage on the value of allowing some forest fires to burn out naturally.  Can you tell which one is on target?sticky note 1 sticky note 2

Our special needs kids could have much-improved comprehension if they are taught to summarize throughout the reading process.  And sticky notes don’t have to be laboriously written.  Teach kids to use symbols and abbreviations for their ideas.sticky note 3

To summarize, we learn best when our brains process information in manageable chunks.  The chunk size varies by individual, as does the amount of time to process.  Some students process best on their own, not with a partner.  Other students may benefit from a visual reminder of what they have heard or learned.  If teachers discuss and teach this aspect of learning explicitly, it will help create an atmosphere where learning differences are validated.

* Rubric for getting along with sibs

I’ve had some recent opportunities to support the social skills of siblings in a home environment (my home, actually), which is code for “How can I teach these kiddoes to stop slugging one another?”  “Slugging” is a bit strong; it was more like scratching and screaming and a little whacking.  Before I had kids, I said the most ridiculous things to parents.  Now I get a taste of my own medicine in trying to retrain some youngsters who have experienced a number of setbacks in life.  At their core, they are compliant and eager to please.  One-on-one, they are 100% delightful.  In a group, they are determined to get attention in any way that presents itself.  If that means unleashing revenge for the long list of wrongs they have compiled against one another, all the better.

This rubric is a way for me to measure their baseline behavior and growth.  And my baseline behavior and growth.  I have already learned that I must intervene rapidly when body parts are about to collide.  I must effectively engage them in positive and active pursuits.  Equally important, I must “publicly” rotate between activities which are special to each child.  That means we do a bit of everything in 5 hours.  One child wants to see a Barbie video, one wants to play pirates, and one wants to play Mario Kart.  No one gets to completely finish anything but the good news is that secretly, they all do enjoy what the others are doing.  I drink a cup of tea before they arrive, as a caffeine boost, and honestly, enjoy myself a lot.  They are bright, imaginative, and affectionate kiddoes coping well with tough situations.  rubric for getting along with sibs

* Jobs with Hats book

These specialists have a great time with their kids. You should look at their “Hats at Work” book, which makes excellent use of technology to create a fantastic group of kids at work! Awesome resources!

Group by Group

IMG_2639We are learning about community helpers by talking about all the different jobs with hats!  Our lovely student models posed for the different pictures  and make these jobs look like fun!

Some of the different jobs with hats we talked about were cowboys, construction workers, and Buckingham Palace guards.  Take a look at the book and see lots of different jobs with hats!

IMG_2452Here is a link to the book: Look at All the Jobs With Hats!

We also have another book about jobs with hats which Michael, one of our parents, helped us out with.  Thank you so much for your help with this, Michael!

Here is the second book link: Hats at Work

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* Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge

I couldn’t resist Cee’s oddball photography challenge after snapping this photo when I got my hair cut recently.  Every inch of my hair salon is covered with mostly handmade oddities.  The bathroom is papered with hilarious calendar pages and there’s not a spot on the ceiling without something unusual dangling down.  Many of the images are angels and here’s a dashing one I call the Hair Color Angel.  Rated PG13.hair color angel