* I’m smiling!

Thanks to a very special blogger, Nerd in the Brain, for her Three Things Thursday fun idea!  (Be sure to check out her GO PLAY challenges, too, for some cool ideas that will bring out the child in you.  The happy child.)

Now, what three things have made me smile today?

One, a student and mom had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (like Alexander) and so they went for a walk.  Look what they saw!  This great horned owl made their day and mine, knowing that there is life (and happiness) outside school.  owl

Two, I survived a session of basic algebra with a high-schooler I mentor.  Poor guy, he knows what to do but not why.  I don’t know how to do it but I figure out why.  Between the two of us, we have a complete brain!  With a little help from my dearest widower.  And son.


And three, now that I am off antibiotics, my taste for chocolate has returned!  YES!  Dove

Your turn…. What makes you happy today?

* The Cure for Bullying? Look Beyond the Schoolyard

In her article for the AAPC newsletter, Meg Utz, a young woman with autism, describes the bullying she endured in school.  She had no idea that she was on the AU spectrum at the time, but speculates that her giftedness was a major trigger for bullies.  Her siblings moved into programs for the gifted and despite being bullied themselves, fared much better in a stimulating environment.  I would have to agree with her assessment, based on my experience with kids who share similar profiles.  Now, at age 24, she is evaluating her past experiences and assessing the world around her.  This author’s take-home message is that we live in a culture of bullying, from politics to the treatment of “various groups of people.”  I could add that many school environments are also toxic at the hands of administrators and teachers who feel threatened by colleagues and parents.

Each one of us can make a difference by speaking up for victims, creating a safe environment for kids and adults to talk, and reining in our natural inclination to respond in kind when we feel mistreated.  I know I have room to grow in this area.  What about you?bullying 2

Source: The Cure for Bullying? Look Beyond the Schoolyard – Autism Books

* Graphics and algorithms, part 3

Raise your hand if you have an analog wristwatch or clock.  I thought so.  Raise your hand if your classroom (or your child’s class) has an analog clock.  The analog clock is a dinosaur, really, but I think it still has a role to play in helping some kids understand time concepts.  (On a side note, it also reflects our use of the number 12 as a basis for other measurements.)

What are the benefits of using an analog clock to teach time?  I think it creates a sense of how to represent what has happened as time passes.  It certainly explains the common use of expressions such as “half past,” “quarter past,” five ’til,” etc.  Those expressions are still a part of our conversations about time and make less sense on a digital clock.  The relationship between a clock and fractional parts also supports kids’ understanding of both concepts, especially if we use a clock to represent segments of time that don’t always start at 12:00.  If we use an analog clock to compare the amount of elapsed time between 10:10 to 10:30 and 10:40 to 11:00, we teach kids to think flexibly about noncontiguous fractional parts.  Many special needs student are confused by what fraction is represented in the following graphic:Clock and fractions

Although an analog clock is one visual for representing elapsed time, I believe a number line better represents this concept.  Here’s an example of measuring elapsed time in 10 minute intervals.  Once a student can do this fluently in five minute intervals, they are likely to extrapolate to one minute intervals without the number line. A number line is also a better link to the use of standard algorithms for adding and subtracting time.  clock and number lineDon’t laugh at my “writing,” please!  My handwriting is bad enough with pen or pencil, much less using a mouse!

* Pow! Build! Share!

Are video games actually good for you?  Based on the number of members that Lumosity has accrued (over 50 million!), the answer seems to be yes.  On the other hand, research indicates that we had better not get our hopes up.   It’s been reported that players get better at specific games without other lasting brain benefits.  (But it feels so good to beat my lower scores!)

What about the much-discussed problem of kids and video games?  There are studies linking violent video games and TV shows with increases in violent behavior.  There are also concerns that such games can be addictive and reduce an individual’s social interactions.

But wait!  Just recently I came across two articles suggesting that some video games for kids have a positive payoff.

Understood, a marvelous website on learning challenges, identified five video games which can boost reasoning and problem-solving skills.  No surprise that these five do not include a single zombie.  SimCIty and Minecraft are two examples of games which require complex reasoning, ability to sustain a trial and error approach, and even cooperation with other players.

A recent article in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences argues that action video games improve visual perception, the ability to make quick responses, and improved ability to ignore distractions, among other benefits.  You might find zombies in this genre.

My opinion is that parents need to decide what’s best for their kids based upon their child’s interests, personalities, and learning differences.  Some kids do become fixated on video games, often the ones who already have weak social skills or a narrow range of interests.  It can seem a lot easier to let them play for hours instead of arguing about time limits, but these kiddoes need some help with boundaries.  You can also turn this “obsession” into social credit by setting up playdates with other kids who enjoy the same games.  I’ve seen that work successfully, as long as an adult helps them share playing time and provides support for positive comments.  Without that support, you could end up with two very miserable kids.

Millions of kids now watch “animated” adults play Minecraft online.  Why not let your teenager share his or her success at gaming (of course, with no identifying features)?  This process could involve problem-solving, awareness of audience, and improved self-confidence.  A new gaming site, PixelPuf, allows users to upload media and even written content.  I’ve known some kids with amazing cartooning skills who could find an enthusiastic audience out there.  Check it out!PixelPuf 2

* The Emmy’s book

This special ed team has the MOST creative ideas! Here is their version of the Emmy’s, featuring kids dressed as favorite TV show characters. You gotta love it!

Group by Group

IMG_4013We are SO excited to be talking about the Emmy’s during our groups this year.  For the book, we thought of some different television shows that our students might watch during the week.  Our wonderfully cute students got to be models for us again and pose as some of the characters from the different TV shows, such as Sesame Street, Doc McStuffins, and So You Think You Can Dance, to name a few.  The front of the book even features one of our students with an Emmy of her own!

IMG_3814Here is a link to the book: This Show Deserves an Emmy

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* Raining thankfulness

Lizzi, the originator of Ten Things of Thankful, is safely back in England after a wild and wonderful trip through Murica.  I wonder if I am the only person who thought she had headed to Spain.  Duh.  I can’t wait to read her next post!  While I’m waiting, here is my TToT!

One: Rain, rain, and more rain.  Five inches and counting.  We were in drought conditions and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person praying for rain.  As our pastor joked, we almost expected an ark to sail past this week.  I am sad that some folks have suffered from flooding and wish we didn’t build in floodplains.

Two and Three and Four: Cam Newton, the Carolina quarterback, has come into his own.  The Panthers are 4-0!  Woohoo!  It’s been delightful to see this young man mature.  He was put in a very tough position as a rookie and seeing him sulk under his towel was not my favorite image.  Cam now smiles throughout it all and looks adorable, rain or shine.  I love that he gives a football to a young fan after each touchdown.  Most important of all, my widower and I enjoy Panther games with our son and his wife and friends, win or lose.camFive:  I wrote a review of a terrific book called “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton” by Don Tate.  And Don Tate actually read and liked my post!!  I whooped for joy!  Already an established illustrator, Don Tate earned the Ezra Jack Keats Award for his first book, “It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.”  By the way, I will be reviewing that book soon!

Six: I am considering adding “fairy strands” to my hair.  Just thinking about it is thrilling.  These strands are silk threads attached to a single hair, available in all kinds of colors and sparkles.  Don’t they sound perfect for someone who is easily bored with her hair (me)?  I have been checking out the pros and cons and it’s looking good.  I haven’t talked to my dearest widower about this, but he survived my two years of brilliant red and recent blast-from-the-past blonde.  Sparkling turquoise sounds sweet!

Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten:  Movies I am glad I haven’t seen or (hopefully) will never see: Steve Jobs, Pan, The Green Inferno, and Hotel Transylvania 2.

* Love That Dog For Real

Ever since sharing my thoughts on Sharon Creech’s “Love That Dog,” I have been thinking about Luke.  I often told folks that Luke was a Ukrainian circus dog and most people believed me, at least until I started grinning from ear to ear.  You can see that he enjoyed a certain notoriety as a performer.  The photo below was taken at a birthday party performance.  Luke also showed off at school on several occasions, back in the day before dogs were banned from campus. Luke experienced a bit of anxiety when the curtains opened on stage at a PTA “fashion show,” but he made it look like a part of a comedy routine.  Luke

Luke had the most amazing blue eyes, and those eyes were always on me.  He watched my every move, waiting for a treat, waiting for a chance to do his tricks, waiting for our hour-long walks.  Before we got this sweetie, I hadn’t realized he would be a one-person dog.  In fact, I hadn’t realized how much my dearest widower disliked dogs.  Especially vocal dogs like Luke, who could “cry like a baby,” “sing Happy Birthday,” “howl,” and “whine” on command.  I have always whined whenever, but Luke saved most of his whining for performances.  Unfortunately, teaching him to be so vocal meant that he barked like crazy at everything.  He set off our alarm system repeatedly until we changed the glass break settings. Like my widower, the faithful police officers didn’t always appreciate Luke’s charm.  And “no bark!” fell on deaf ears.
Luke 2

In the picture above, his favorite uncle actually carried him up to the top of Grandfather Mountain, like a lamb across a shepherd’s shoulders.  Luke had city paws and that rocky trail was just too painful.  We had tried securing socks on his feet, unsuccessfully, and my dearest widower actually suggested I stay below with Luke.  Hmm.  Look at that face and tell me you would not carry him up a mountain, too!

* First snow

No, we don’t have any snow…yet.  Yes, I am already praying for a snowy winter. This is another of Cee’s photography challenges!  Her black and white challenge-back-of-things.  Um, this is the backside of a tree.  Does that count? The backside of our porch as I eagerly watched the flakes fall?  Whatever, it makes me feel great to remember that night!
First snow

* Life

Life and death. If you have a student/child with autism, you’ll appreciate what this mom and researcher has to say. Her conversation with Tucker is precious. Hopefully, zombies will stay put in the fictional world!

366 Days of Autism

Last week on the campus where I teach a young woman took her own life. She was 18.

I didn’t know her and yet, was profoundly affected. Profoundly.

That afternoon I went home and found both of my children in the kitchen. Tucker was bringing a pizza over to the table as Estelle was reaching for two plates. They, albeit knowingly, set the environment to have a very serious discussion.

I told them about Katie. I told them what happened. I cried. Tucker asked if I knew her. I told him I did not, but that didn’t stop the hurt.

I told them that she was just too young – she had a life full of promise just waiting.
I told them that she was someone’s daughter – like you, Estelle.
I told them that she was someone’s sister – like your sister, Tucker.
I told them that she was…

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* Real teachers know this!

In case you forgot that being twice exceptional takes exceptional effort, read this!

Song Bird Songs


How I can so relate to this! Being dyslexic long before the condition was widely known my high IQ lay buried beneath totally incomprehensible spelling. Only after leaving school was I able to bring my mind to bare and learn how to overcome this becoming the only pupil from my poor secondary school to obtain a degree and go on to teach others.

One of the secrets of my success as a private tutor was my delight in unlocking the treasures buried in these brilliant minds and showing them how to apply them. Nothing can give more satisfaction to a teacher.

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