Monday, January 25, 2010


As any of my former teaching partners and/or students will tell you, art is not my forte! I distinctly remember Mary, my first 4th grade teaching partner, coming into my room after one sketching lesson. She took one look at my work and burst out laughing. I really couldn't blame her. It was worse than awful!
I wish I would have known about these sites when I was in the classroom, but I'm excited to share them with teachers. I can imagine doing a whole Picasso unit using the site Mr. Picassohead.

Here are some other sites that I've also had fun experimenting with lately:
Jackson Pollock
Art Pad

Maybe if I would have had these online resources, I wouldn't have dreaded Art Fridays.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Made the List!

Mr. Livingston, a social studies teacher at our high school does a really cool project each year. I don't know all of the details, but I think he has each student create a timeline about his/her life. Somewhere along the way, students must identify their favorite teacher.

I was excited to learn that Jacob Engel had named me as his favorite. I taught him 5 years ago, and my best memory of him is when he dressed up as Johnny Carson for Notable Nebraskans Night. He was a great 4th grader, and I wish him all the best in the future.

Congratulations to my colleagues who also made the list this year!

Mrs. Dotson
Mrs Boyd or Mrs Boyle (maybe these are two different teachers.)
Mrs Kinnaman
Mr. Petersen
Mrs Furrow
Mrs Evans
Mrs. Rogers
Mr. Sodawasser (from his Adams years)
Mrs Stevens
Mrs Flanders
Mrs Harshburger
Mr. Deutschmman
Mrs Malmkar
Mrs. walters
Mrs DeBoer
Mrs. Shotkoski
Mr. Mohs
Mrs Leach
Mrs Roberts
Mrs Lehmkuhler
Mrs Elmshouser
Mrs chapman
Mr Halsted
Mrs Roggow
Mr Gulzow
Mrs Gulzow
Mrs Woodill
Ms. lukwitz (student spelling)
Mrs Miller
Ms. Brinkmeyer
Miss Callaway
Mrs Wiles
Mr. Hammond
Mr. Whitney
Mrs Hatch
Mr. Luke
Mrs Diamond
Mrs Fickel
Mrs Cox (Hershey)Mr. Burns
Mrs Burke
Mr Beeman
Mrs Andre-Henn
Mrs Davis
Mrs Hanson
Mrs Harvey
Mrs Deterding
Mrs Mickolatchi
Mrs Ludwig
Mrs Horn
Mrs Hyaban
Mrs Milsap
Mrs Westland
Mrs Cuttingham(student spelling)
Mrs Volchek
Mrs Johnson
Mrs Rickett
Mrs Hess
Mrs Meduna
Mrs O'Rouke
Mrs Michaels
Mrs Froman
Mis Hill
Mrs Groves
Mrs Knepke
Mrs. French
Mr. Vemeer
Mrs Schroeder
Mrs. Digiovioni
Mrs Brogden
Mrs Rolands
Mrs Mohrman
Mrs. Isom
Mrs Carlson
Mrs Brouillett
Mrs Reynolds
Mr. Callaghan

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Providing Challenge Through Tiering

I recently had a meeting with a teacher who is teaching multiplication to her third grade students. She told me that she has 4 students who seem to be really struggling, 11 students who are cruising along fine, and 7 students who seem to need more of a challenge.

This situation isn't unique. We teachers often find ourselves wondering how to meet the extremely diverse learning needs of our students.

Tiering is a strategy that can be used to differentiate assignments. By adjusting the level of the task and by allowing students to choose their own entry level, we can help students be successful.

One of the best resources I've found on tiering is Challenge by Choice. This blog asks the question, "What happens when students are offered authentic assessment choices and given the responsibility for determining the appropriateness of their own learning targets?" It's a great question, and by exploring the information, lesson plans, and videos on the site, teachers may find that they want to see what happens when they try to answer it.

For me, the most important part of tiering is making sure that students at each level are engaged in meaningful tasks. If we have one group doing a problem-solving activity and have another group reciting facts with flashcards, we show little respect for our our students. A better solution would be to have all groups solve a problem. The problems, however, could be modified to meet the readiness levels of students.

On the Houghton Mifflin Math site, there is a great multiplication story problem. It's challenging, but I think with some tiering, it would be perfect for the third grade class I mentioned earlier.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Go Big Red!

Wouldn't it be amazing if students could say, " I edited a film over the summer" or maybe "I spent my summer designing and carrying out field and laboratory-based research projects."

Both are possible with 2010 BIG RED ACADEMIC CAMPS . These career exploration camps (which begin in June) give students a chance to explore the UNL campus, meet people from across the state, spend time investigating an interest or potential career, and have lots of fun!

The topics this year are biological science, companion animals, culinary arts and food science, fashion design, filmmaking, golf, natural resources, youth legistlature, veterinary science, and
3-D animation and virtual world creation.

For more information, read the online brochure or go to the FAQs.

I've been Thinking....

Cover 21

Here is a fun logic game that you might want to try in the classroom. It would make a great anchor activity as well.

Create a 3 x 7 grid to use for a gameboard. Number them in rows like this:

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
10 11 12
13 14 15
16 17 18
19 20 21

How to play: Students take turns putting one or two markers down in order starting at the box with the "1" in it. The person who loses is the person who has to put a marker down in the "21" box.

Thanks, Dimis, for sharing this with me. And yes, there is a way to always win the game. The challenge is figuring it out!

Ad Adstra

The new year just started, but I am already getting things in the mail about summer programs and activities for students. Ad Astra (to the stars in Latin) offers HAL middle school students the opportunity to experience a week of living and learning on the Ceighton University campus. Students attend classes in the mornings and participate in other social and educational activities for the remainder of the day. Instructors include Creighton professors, master teachers, and other professionals from the metropolitan area. Session 1 is June 6-12, and Session 2 runs from June 13-19. Registration information can be found here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jumping Calculator

Here's a great idea for practicing math facts that I found on the Math Models blog.

So....Does anyone have a mini trampoline laying around that I could borrow?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Body Systems

Fifth graders in our district learn about the different body systems. One brilliant and innovative teacher I know has decided to use Dr. Kathie Nunley's Layered Curriculum concept to teach the unit.

Layered Curriculum is an effective differentiated teaching method that fosters complex and creative thinking while holding students accountable for their learning.

Students work through and demonstrate 3 levels of understanding. The acquisition of basic knowledge happens during the the first part of the unit or the "C" layer. Students then move on to the "B" layer and apply what they learned in a variety of ways. "A" level tasks require students to synthesize information and form and defend opinions.

One of the things I love about Layered Curriculum is choice. At each level there are a variety of assignment options. I've compiled a list of online activities that I think would work well in a layered unit plan for body systems.

Body Systems Podcast C level Basic Knowledge
In a nutshell: Students from Mr. Coley's 5th grade classroom share information about the different kinds of human body systems.

Build Arnold's Body C Level Basic Knowlege
In a nutshell: The object of the game is to get the right organs in the right system.

Fun With Mummies B Level Application
In a nutshell: This amazing interactive website guides you through the steps of preparing a mummy for burial. Students will be interested to learn to learn all that had to be done to each body.

Blood Drive A Level Critical Thinking and Analysis
In a nutshell: In this activity, students are in charge of a organizing a school blood drive.
They design a flyer that explains the process and importance of blood donation to the community.

Virtual Knee and Hip Replacement: A level Critical Thinking and Analysis
In a nutshell: Amazing site! Students take on the role of surgeon throughout a hip or knee replacement surgery.

A 15 minute video, "How Do I Begin Layered Curriculum?" is available on the Layered Curriculum site. There is also a collection of lesson plans that teachers may find helpful.

Reading Ideas

Today a teacher asked me if I knew of any good reading websites. She needed something to use as a center activity during her reading block. Thanks to Kelly from ilearntechnolgy for sharing these sites.

Big Universe

In a nutshell: Big Universe has hundreds of non-fiction and fiction books that students can read online. There is a monthly fee, but students can access the free book of the day.

Book Wink
In a nutshell: Through podcasting and video, Book Wink connects kids in Grades 3 through 8 with books that will make them excited about reading. After watching the booktalks, students could create a list of books that they would like to check out from the library.

In a nutshell: This little gem from the American Museum of Natural History invites students to investigate a variety of "ology" topics including zoology, archaeology, astronomy, and more. It is very user friendly and would be perfect for a reading center activity.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Organization Tips Kids Will Actually Use

The following information is provided by Susan Goodkin, Executive Director of the California Learning Strategies Center, The Center helps parents meet the needs of gifted and advanced students from kindergarten through college planning.

Organization Tips that Work for Kids

When it comes to organizing young students, many parents and teachers try to fit all students into one box.

For example, students generally come home from their first day of middle school with new planner in hand and strict instructions to record all their assignments in it every day.

As many frustrated parents have learned, however, making every child use a planner as their primary organizational tool simply doesn't work in practice.

For many students - particularly young boys - writing down their assignments in tiny boxes, for up to six different classes, is torturous.

Additionally, for the planner to be effective, not only do students have to accurately record the assignments in the brief time between classes, but then they have to remember to review their scribbles. As one of my young clients earnestly informed me, "Oh, the planner works for me - I just forget to look at it."

If we want to improve our children's organization skills, we need to consider tools many kids are more comfortable with - and more likely to actually use - than planners.

Take cell phones, for example. When teachers write assignments on the board, a click of the cell phone camera will record the homework accurately and instantaneously.

Students can also text message the assignment to their mom or dad. (I know, to many adults it seems just as easy to write down the assignment as to text it, but texting seems easier to kids.)

If homework is assigned verbally, students can use their cell phones, and some Ipods, to record their teachers' instruction. You can also can channel your child's inner James Bond and get cool spyware gadgets such as a recording pen.

For an example, check out

Of course, students need to get the teacher's permission before recording.

Parents must also understand that teachers already have their hands full policing the use of cell phones and Ipods. Students who don't limit their in-class use of these devices to recording assignments should lose the privilege of doing so - back to the planner.

However students initially record assignments, they still need to review them.

Rather than trying to get kids to haul out their planners to check their assignments every day, why not make use of a tool the vast majority of kids unfailingly look at without reminders: their computer. You can turn the computer into an organizational aid through the many free programs available on-line.

Using programs such as Airset ( or zohoplanner ( students can calendar homework assignments, record appointments, create to-do lists, and more.

Students can also program reminders to pop up before assignments are due, as well as e-mailing their entries to parents - thereby creating another source of reminders!

Finally, for those kids who are reluctant writers of to-do lists and the like, parents can check out voice recognition systems such as Dragon Naturally Speaking,

This software will magically transform your child's spoken words into a written document. This is helpful for all kinds of tasks, as well as reducing the frustration of those kids who think faster than they can write.

Getting our children organized will be a lot easier if we adapt to their world. What are the odds that today's students will rely on low-tech devices such as planners when they're adults?

Let's help our kids by letting them use 21st century tools to organize their 21st century lives.