Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"You're My Yoda"

During a recent Blackberry conversation, I received a text from a colleague that read, "You are my Yoda." Not knowing what she meant, I quickly typed back, "?????" I didn't get a text back, but later on that morning I had the chance to ask her what she meant. She explained, "You know, like in Star Wars? You are my Yoda. You're the person I go to when I need to know something."

I must admit I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it makes me feel REALLY old. Not so long ago, I used to be Luke. Young, enthusiastic, fearless, and ready to take on the galaxy (Or at least a group of fourth graders!) Now, suddenly, I'm an ancient, wrinkled, big-eared advice-giver?

On the other hand, it's kind of nice to know that I've helped someone. I've chosen to work mainly as a coach this year, and I have wondered many times whether or not it was a good decision. Being called a YODA makes me feel like maybe it was.

So, I'm a Yoda? Yeah, I can live with that.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Game On!

Last month, I attended the NAG Spring Conference. As anyone who goes to conferences can tell you, shopping at the vendor booths is one of the best parts!

I always look forward to seeing what new things Connie has at CR Toys. Not only does she display her items, she does workshops for teachers. After attending one of her sessions, I ran to her booth and bought You've Been Sentenced, Word Pirates, Camouflage. and Knockout/Muggins.

There are many benefits of playing games. Social play teaches students how to share and take turns, how to communicate, and how to behave in groups and on teams. Games can reduce stress and help students gain confidence in their abilities. Physical movement helps keep children focused and engaged. Games allow students to apply the skills they have learned in different situations.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that challenging your brain with mentally stimulating leisure activities (including board games or cards, doing crossword puzzles, reading, writing, and playing musical instruments) is great for your mind. In fact, seniors who participated in such activities about once a week for a 20-year period reduced the risk of dementia by 7 percent. Those who engaged in these activities more often reduced their risk even more--by 63 percent.

So, come on teachers! Game ON!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Differentiation in an Hour

If you are interested in learning more about differentiated instruction, I recommend the online course Differentiated Instruction: Success for Every Student offered by Curriculum Associates. The tutorial is divided into 4 lessons, and each lesson takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Lessons include Differentiation Instruction at a Glance, Identifying Student Needs, Instructional Strategies and Classroom Management, and Putting Your Plan Into Action. So in about an hour, you can have in your hands some new "tools" to help you meet the needs of all the students in your classroom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Nebraska Stock Market Game

Last month, I attended the Nebraska Association for the Gifted Spring Conference. As a board member, I was responsible for being a room monitor for some of the sessions. I know from experience that this can be torture if you get a presenter or topic that is not so good.

I must say that I lucked out this year! Jennifer Davidson, from the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, did a fantastic job telling us about The Nebraska Stock Market Game.

The Stock Market Game is a ten-week academic competition for students in grades 4-12. Student teams manage a $100,000 portfolio, do research, and buy stocks and bonds. I can see students really getting into this, and it is definitely something to consider for next year.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Economics is Everywhere!

Economics is Everywhere is an entertaining and educational program for students post 6th-post 8th grade. The Summer 2010 Day Camp will be held June 14-18 at the UNL College of Business Administration. The cost is $200 and includes all field trips, materials, lunches, and snacks.

For more information about the kinds of activities offered this year, check out this brochure

This event is sponsored by the UNL Center for Economic Education. Questions can be emailed to, or visit


Portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe) is a word formed by merging the sounds and meanings from two other words. Some common examples include smog (smoke + fog), brunch (breakfast + lunch) and telethon (telephone + marathon). Perhaps the most popular are those used to identify famous Hollywood couples. Who hasn't heard the terms "Brangelina," "TomKat," and "Bennifer"?

Portmanteaus seem to be ginormous right now, so I 've decided to create my own...
Fregor (freedom +rigor)

I'll admit, it seems strange to want to put these two words together. In fact, freedom and rigor would probably be listed as antonyms in a dictionary. It's true that on the surface these words don't have much in common.

However, when you dig a little deeper, there does seem to be a connection. When I really started to think about what rigor is and what it isn't, I actually began to think of rigor AS freedom.

When you watch students involved in a rigorous learning activity, you notice that they have all kinds of freedom. They have the freedom to explore and create. They have the freedom to take risks and to fail. They have the freedom to agree or disagree.

On his Speed of Creativity podcast, Wes Fryer makes a case against the word rigor. As he so cleverly points out, other words for rigor include inflexibiltiy, stringency, and cruelty. Why, then, would we want these words as defining characteristics of our educational system? "Differentiation and flexibility," Wes says, are things we need to embrace.

Rigor, as defined in the dictionary, is not what we want in our classrooms. What we want is FREGOR!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Differentiation Video #2

Karen Dumond, a teacher from Kentucky, finds out what her students know by using formative assessments. In this video, students give pioneer presentations using a variety of methods and materials. You can't help but smile when you see how one student gleefully explains the concept of "buffalo chips" to his classmates. As you watch, you may want to ask yourself, "What evidence is there of student learning? It may also be helpful to think about how this type of assessment is guiding the instruction of the teacher.

Is There A Better Way?

Hoping this gives us all something to think about...


Friday, March 5, 2010

Carrot Sticks

As far as bloggers go, I'm pretty much a newbie. I'm still learning the ins and outs of the blogging world. Luckily, there are some amazing sites out there that I can look to for inspiration. I've mentioned ilearntechnology before, and thanks to Kelly's alliance, I've found some other awesome blogs to follow, like

Both of these blogs regularly highlight technology resources, and both blogs have featured CarrotSticks.

CarrotSticks is an online multiplayer game that encourages K - 5th graders to practice their math computation skills.

I love how students are given the option of practicing alone or going head to head against an opponent. Another cool thing is that problems get more challenging as you play. When I was there, I accepted a challenge from another person and was surprised to get a three digit addition problem. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I lost!)

I'm so happy to be able to pass on this little tip: Teachers can get a classroom account for FREE by emailing