* Cee’s geometry challenge

I took all the photos below HOPING that Cee would do something with geometry again in her Compose Yourself Challenge.  I’ve been reading her tips on geometry in photos and looking for angles and lines and shapes. I am not ready for the more subtle forms of geometry, I think, but here I go….

geometry 2

Science experiment on moon phases

geometry 3

Near Chinatown in San Fran

geometry 4

Stanford Chapel

geometry 5

Stanford Chapel

geometry 6

Overlooking San Fran

geometry 7

A welcome seat at the Contemporary Jewish Art Museum in San Fran

geometry 1

Pickup truck in front of me

* J is for joker


Cards at school?  No joke!  Anyone who’s taught math could name dozens of games using a deck of cards.  They’re great for learning basic facts and all kinds of “war” games can be played using multiples, factors, etc.  Yeah, it may not be politically correct to call it “war,” but you all know what I mean, right?  So change the name, if that’s a problem.  For the younger crew, one of my favorite sites for card games is Activity Village.  From fish to memory to “My Ship Sails!” you’ll find plenty of action.  Please remember to role play good sportsmanship with kiddos.  These games are no fun if war DOES break out in your room.

Here are some other links to card games:  Today’s ParentDelia Creates, Education.com, and TJED.org.

Jokers are more than great math fun.  The history of cards is a fascinating subject and can be tied to social studies instruction.  (Did you know that the Joker was an American invention?  No, I don’t mean Batman’s adversary.)  I have used cards purchased at Williamsburg, Virginia, to get kids interested in the US revolutionary period.  Students often enjoy creating their own cards after they see how simple these are.  Braille cards are always a draw (pun intended) and can help kids understand the challenges of reading with their fingertips.

playing cards

For those indoor recess days, card games are inexpensive and intriguing.  What about some STEM activities?   There’s a lot of science and engineering in building a house of cards.  Hey, that’s a good intro for teaching idioms!

* I is for intuition

I recently took a personality inventory conducted by a leadership development team called Professional Dynametrics Programs (PDP).  I was extremely impressed by their workshop and personality tool for measuring and defining strengths.  (Our presenter was a former football pro, Phil Olsen.  I used to watch him play for LA and Denver!)


Phil Olsen: Wikipediea.org

OK, back to intuition.  My profile was a good fit with who I am, a nice change from previous surveys which came across as a random mixture of Chinese fortune cookies.  The PDP survey indicated that my default is intuition when making decisions.  If you’ve read the book “Blink,” you’ll know that there’s power for good and evil in the blink of an eye.  But when you factor in experience, a teacher’s intuition makes a lot of sense.  It is still possible to come to the wrong conclusions by both reasoning or intuition.  But I would bet that my success as a teacher of kids with behavior and emotional disabilities has a lot to do with sizing up situations so rapidly that my responses were more proactive than reactive.  That’s not to say I didn’t mess up, but that kind of role was a good fit for my personality.  See that looong dip in the graph below?

pro scan

Researchers have attempted to determine if a sense of “with-it-ness” can be taught and learned.  As a longtime mentor, I have seen that teachers can definitely improve that almost intangible quality of intuition with the potential to improve multitasking, guiding large groups of kids, and making good judgments quickly.

* Lucky to be bamboo?

Perhaps lucky, if these Lucky Bamboo plants live up to their name.  This is an ongoing project with a student interested in bonsai.  We started with a single Lucky Bamboo and are trying to propagate these shamrock green plants before they wither under my dismal care.  It’s actually an experiment in species reduction, but don’t tell the 4th grader!

bonsai 3.JPGbonsai 2

* The color of shadows

Benton is a Plott hound, the state dog of North Carolina.  I did my best to take a photo of this lively youngster, but either my shadow or that of others were always in the way.   I guess that worked out OK.



He’s wearing a pack with his water and other necessities.  Loved to get in my face!

* I see you!

In sepia, of course.  I’ve always been high energy, to put it politely.  I was almost 2 years old in this shot.  My Brit mom and Yank dad were visiting USNS General Patch, a naval transport vessel.  Don’t remember the ship but that expression looks familiar.

Oct 1951 General Patch_0002

* H is for homeschooling

At one point in my career, I wanted to homeschool our kiddos.  Our young son looked skeptical and asked, “What could you teach me?”  He already knew that his third grade math skills exceeded mine.  Our teenage daughter, now deceased, looked alarmed and squealed, “What about my friends?”   Never had to guess about her priorities.  That ended my feeble attempt to walk down a homeschooling path.


As a special educator, I’ve seen many parents make the decision to homeschool when they are dissatisfied with the service provided to their kids.  In fact, that concern was the impetus for the growth of some charter schools in this area.  Not all those school survived.  It’s quite a task to get a school off the ground.

Other parents have fled the school system in the face of increasing pressure to label their child with a disability.  Most often, the school was pursuing Other Health Impaired (for kids who appeared to have significant attention issues) or the A word (Autism Spectrum Disorders).  Parental concerns about racial profiling were usually a factor.  The black community has reason to be wary of over-identifying black boys, in particular.  In my opinion, not all of the school efforts to label kids were off the mark.  Some of those kids needed specialized instruction.

I have worried at times about the quality of homeschooling, just as much as I have been worried about the quality of a public school education.  The teacher makes or breaks a class.  The majority of homeschooled kids I’ve seen do very well, often merging into the school system in later grades.  I do know a few homeschooled kids with attention problems who would probably end up dinged and dented in a large group setting.  And a few homeschooled kids were dinged and dented at home.

Could I have really homeschooled our kids?  I don’t think so.  I am used to having a certain emotional distance which protects me from button-pushing on either side.  I worked with our son for weeks on shoe-tying, to no avail. I paid my niece $5 to teach him and it was accomplished in one session.  Well worth the money.  As for our daughter, just getting her to do homework was too much for me.  After all, she had better things to do with her time!

* G is for GameMaker: Studio

Gaming is a huge draw for many kids.  I’ve found that students labeled twice exceptional, on the autism spectrum, and learning disabled can not only play complex games but love the creative side of gaming.  How many first and second graders have told me their goal in life is to create computer games?  That number seems to grow exponentially as they age.

GameMaker Studio is a terrific site for kids who are raring to create!  I approached this gaming endeavor with a little trepidation, but the beginning tutorial was easily followed and went at a steady pace.  I understood the basics and could have started making a game after that one lesson.  In fact, I wondered if I could make this into a teaching platform but didn’t see any advantage in that, timewise.

Shaun Spalding, Community Manager at YoYo Games, talks to his audience via tutorials ranging from beginning level to advanced.  There are 12 tutorials alone on platformers.  NONE of it requires much reading/spelling, which is excellent for kids with dyslexia.  (I was a bit startled to hear Shaun justify the basic steps by remarking that it will “help you understand what the h__ is going on in later tutorials.”)  Most kids who might access this site in a gaming course would be middle school or older, but as a parent, I would get my kiddo involved in this level of coding/programming at an elementary level, especially if they enjoy Minecraft.

I read an excellent review of GameMaker: Studio on Graphite, a reliable source for reviews of apps (here’s a link to my previous post on Graphite, which also happens to start with a G!).  According to their review, GameMaker: Studio “is one of the most popular game-creation tools” and allows kids to create, sell, and share their games quite easily.  Kids (and adults) can start with a free membership but right now, Studio Premium is now HALF PRICE (especially helpful if they are eager to learn advanced skills and market their games)!

As a worthwhile educational outlet for gamers, to build social credit, and actually open the door to future careers in programming, GameMaker: Studio is a winner!


From https://www.yoyogames.com/learn/platform



* F is for flipped

The flipped classroom and flipped learning have been around for a while now, but those terms continue to generate some confusion.  The flipped classroom has been somewhat controversial in that students watch videos or read online info at home and then participate in classroom activities which require that knowledge.

The rationale for this model of the flipped classroom is that school time can then be spent in creative applications of knowledge instead of its acquisition.  Sadly, the brain doesn’t work that way.  Front loading a stack of information is a sure way to overload the brain.  And for struggling students, attempting to assimilate new information after a LONG day at school is mostly futile.  Many of our at-risk students don’t have access to a computer or tablet.  One variation on flipped classrooms is for students to produce these videos for classmates to watch, a kind of “jigsaw” cooperative learning process.  Again, if the watching and learning process must occur after a long day, it’s usually counterproductive.

On the other hand, the flipped learning model is, to me, another way of describing authentic project-based learning.  Teachers establish content and appropriate materials but create a flexible physical environment for group and individual endeavors.  Students are provided rich opportunities for exploration and self-evaluation.  In this role, teachers are facilitators, not lecturers.  They must allow students to explore content by working with others (which can be noisy), provide continual feedback to guide the progress, and establish suitable evaluation procedures.  This kind of teaching requires skilled and experienced educators who know where their kids must be going and can support unique ways for them to get there.  I’ve seen this flipped learning modeled in classes of National Board certified teachers.  Flipped learning is no small task for teachers or students.