Friday, May 24, 2013


I’ve had a gym membership. I signed up, tried it once, felt inadequate because I couldn’t keep up with the people already on their way to physical perfection, so I never returned. I’ve also signed up for Twitter, Facebook, Skype, IChat, explored Second Life, have a blog, have three email accounts, managed a Wiggio account, and I’m a member of a PLN. Sounds as if I’m using social media.

Truth is I haven’t blogged since February, don’t know how to access the PLN, let alone contribute, no one in the Wiggio group used it, and Twitter is making me nervous. I can’t handle the number of tweets that pop up in a half a second time period. I can’t read them all, information overload! And who can send a coherent message in 140 characters?

I want to be on the cutting edge, I’ve tried. I’m one of those old dog-new trick people. I don’t want to be an old dog so I try new tricks. Trouble is, I only know enough to get stuck. I can only ask my tech friends so many questions before they un-friend me. LOL and what’s all that! I’m an ESL teacher and realize that exposure and use of a new language can lead to acquiring it but OMG!

I see the potential, the promise of greatness, in using social media as a tool to gain knowledge. New generations of teachers will bring these tools with them to their classrooms just in time for something newer still to come along. But these teachers will have the background knowledge to make the transition to the new stuff. My background consists of a typewriter. Most kids have never seen a typewriter, let alone know what magic an electric one possessed.

You probably think I’m anti-social media.  I’m not. I love that you can communicate with people all over the world.  Meeting new people, learning new things keep us growing as productive, contributing adults.  But am I a true contributing member of these social networking groups? And am I able to use social media tools to help my students learn? Just like the gym, I’m feeling inadequate.

However inadequate I may feel you can gain some new tools by taking a look at the following list. Enjoy and Use!

Trading Cards

Educreations Interactive Whiteboard

Activity Types and Technology

CAL SIOP lesson plans

Common Core Reading Lessons

Khan Academy FAQ

Career Tech Testing Center

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…


iOS Education App Reviews and Web Sites

Math Dictionary

Web 2.0 Smackdown at Iowa 1:1

This is the Animal Matrix

The 100 Best Twitter Tools For Teachers (2012 Edition)

Cool Cat Teacher Blog

10 Free IPad Creativity Apps for Young Learners

25 Ways to Use the IPad in the Classroom

Scooped By Judie Haynes

Colorin Colorado

UtellStory: a multimedia storytelling and sharing community

To Activate Prior Knowledge
DE Streaming

Learn360 (Login is at the top right)

American History in Video

Educational App Store
Plenty of free as well as inexpensive apps

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I Use the CASE Method

A long time ago, in my other life as a young reading teacher, I would attend regular reading association meetings. These were great meetings, reading teachers from all over came to hear about the latest in the field. Sometimes there would be a guest speaker which made things even more enjoyable. I don't remember the speakers name, where the meeting was held, or any other thing about it, except for this one teaching method, CASE. CASE stands for something I do often and with the best intentions. Copy And Steal Everything.

I will freely admit that if you have a good idea, I'm going to use it myself or share it with others. I guess this might be illegal but I never take credit for inventing or creating the shared thoughts. I will always give credit if I can.

I am using the CASE method again today. I know I have mentioned the Career Testing Center,,  in Oklahoma before and will probably do so again. They always have wonderful resources to share, the following is no exception. In their Monday's blog,  25 of My Favorite YouTube Channels for Education you will find very interesting, useful sites. Enjoy and Use!
  1. Khan Academy - From the channel: “It is our mission to provide a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. With this in mind, we want to share our content with whoever may find it useful.”
  2. SimpleK12 - This channel provides content on some of the most popular topic for educators today, like: keeping your students safe online, online publishing, Google, iPads, and much more!
  3. The Library of Congress - Timeless treasures and contemporary presentations from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. As the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, we are the steward of millions of recordings dating from the earliest Edison films to the present.
  4. Smithsonian Videos - Learn from experts in art, design, history, culture, science and technology.
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.
  6. Stanford University - The Stanford Channel on YouTube is an archive of videos from schools, departments, and programs across the university highlighting faculty lectures, events, news, and more.
  7. Harvard University - This YouTube channel shares video content about life and learning that takes place on their campus and around the world.
  8. Yale University - Yale's philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. The Yale Courses channel provides entry into the core of the University--its classrooms and academic programs--including complete sets of lectures from the Open Yale Courses initiative.
  9. Cambridge University - Find out about some of the research, discoveries and innovations that take place at Cambridge. In particular, check out the Cambridge Ideas series, a collection of short films in which top researchers reveal some of their latest findings and discuss subjects ranging from energy to disappearing languages, and policing the streets to the future of robotics.
  10. UC Berkeley - The University of California, Berkeley covers a wide-range of subjects from classic literature to emerging technologies (from the curricula of 130 academic departments).
  11. Sick Science - Easy hands-on cool science experiments you can do at home from Steve Spangler Science!
  12. YouTube EDU - YouTube EDU brings learners and educators together in a global video classroom. You have access to a broad set of educational videos that range from academic lectures to inspirational speeches and everything in between. You can find quick lessons from top teachers around the world, course lectures from top-tier universities, or inspiring videos to spark your imagination.
  13. TedTalks - TEDTalks shares the best ideas from the TED Conference with the world, for free: trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses, all giving the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. They post a fresh TEDTalk every weekday.
  14. At Google Talks - This program brings authors, musicians, innovators, and speakers of all stripes to Google for talks centering on their recently published books and capturing the popular and intellectual zeitgeist of the day.
  15. TEDxTalks - These videos were filmed at independently organized TEDx events and uploaded by the organizers. Enjoy the collection: 20,000+ videos from organizers in 130+ countries!
  16. Edutopia - Inspiration and information for what works in education. Edutopia is run by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.
  17. MoMA - Since its founding in 1929, The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has collected and exhibited the art of our time, focusing on Architecture and Design, Drawings, Film, Media, Painting and Sculpture, Photography, and Prints and Illustrated Books.
  18. Common Craft - Common Craft produces short explanatory videos for use by teachers and trainers.
  19. The American Museum of Natural History - The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world's preeminent scientific and cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to discover, interpret and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education and exhibition.
  20. Discovery Channel - Dedicated to bringing viewers amazing stories and experiences from the world of science, natural history, anthropology, survival, geography, and engineering.
  21. Periodic Table of Videos - Your ultimate channel for all things chemistry. A video about each element on the periodic table. They upload new videos every week about science news, interesting molecules and other stuff from the world of chemistry.
  22. Sixty Symbols - Cool videos about physics and astronomy.
  23. Nova - From PBS, NOVA's mission is to make science accessible to viewers so that they can better understand the world around them.
  24. National Geographic - Inspiring People To Care About The Planet!
  25. Reel NASA - As the channel states, "Get off my planet. Give me my space."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

From My Dining Room Window

Today is a very typical Iowa winter day. Snow falling and what has already descended to the ground is taking another trip through the air thanks to the steady wind. Not a blizzard, yet. I'm lucky that my work can be done at home so I am safe and warm, happy to have a glorious view of the birds trying to get one more grain from the bird feeder. They are fun to watch, some very happy to share, others fight for their spot in the feeder. Some with short stubby beaks, others with long pointy ones. Kinda like some people I know both in looks and attitude.

One of the many things I should be doing instead of blogging is reading the book I started yesterday, "The Literacy Gaps, Bridge-Building Strategies for English Language Learners and Standard English Learners" by Ivannia Soto-Hinman and Jun Hetzel. This 2009 publication by Corwin Press is proving to be an interesting read. I have spent a lot of time reading and working with students learning English for the first time, even second generation ELs, some from literate families, others who have never been in a school. This book not only addresses ELs but also children in poverty, African American children who speak AAVE, rural Appalachian children, children with illiterate parents, our American born, English speaking migrant children, and on and on. We have homegrown children who are often overlooked or misplaced into special education when all they need is support in learning Standard American English, the language of our schools.
This is one reason that I am so thrilled about the implementation of the Common Core, here it's the Iowa Core, in our schools. Finally the mainstream educational realm has listened to the ESL professionals. Every teacher is a teacher of English, every teacher is a teacher of reading, listening, speaking and writing. Now all we have to do is convince the teachers of this. Oh yes, and let's not forget our institutes of higher ed. If we don't prepare our future teachers to include the four domains of language in their content classes, our next generation of educators will be just as clueless as all of us before them. I did include myself in that last statement. For many years I was totally and hopelessly clueless as to why some kids got it and others didn't. It wasn't until I started my grad work in the TESOL field that things started to click. There's so many things that I'd change if I had them to do over.

For anyone who wants a refresher on teaching reading or help taking your first serious look at how you teach, I suggest this book. Call Corwin, maybe they will give you a sample copy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is important and what is necessary? Are they the same?

I found out today that my brother-in-law has prostrate cancer. It is always a shock to hear of a loved one with something so drastic. We don't know what his next steps will be but at least the problem has been identified. Family illnesses have a way of putting other things in perspective, not diminishing the other important aspects of our lives but making them take their rightful place on our list of priorities.

One item on my list is to start implementing my personal professional development plan. Like in all good educational organizations, we are expected to participate in continuous professional development. I enjoy this when meeting with a group of colleagues but what I really, really struggle with is writing and carrying out my own personal professional development. On my own, by myself.

My plan this year includes reading articles and books on literacy and ELs. Right up my alley. Or it should be. With all the discussion and implementation of the Core Standards each of us should take a look at what we believe as teachers, what the research tells us, and how we apply our knowledge when exploring and accomplishing the expected results with our students. Somehow this has made me take a new look at old familiar things, truths I've known have to be addressed with a new slant. I'd like to say with "fresh eyes" but I think after so many years in the educational field, my eyes are anything but fresh. I have too many years of successful students, students who struggled, and students who failed to be able to look at research and recommendations without bringing all that with me. So as I read for new understanding, I will automatically apply my background knowledge and experiences to make this information meaningful, useful.

The first book I've chosen to dive into a book I've read before, using a different colored highlighter and post-it notes to mark those special sections that should be remembered. My book of choice is "Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners, A Teacher's Guide to Research-Based Practices" by Nancy Cloud, Fred Genesee, and Else Hamayan. This is a great book, one that makes sense to the ESL field.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You will enjoy messing with verb conjugation. Maybe

 I don't know about you but as a native English speaker I don't pay that much attention to conjugating verbs. Maybe I should now that I blog.  

Kenneth Beare does a great job explaining and supporting such things as verb conjugation on his website, This is just one of the many lessons that are great support to ESL and mainstream classroom teachers. 

I have copied a very helpful chart from this lesson on verbs just to give you an example of what you will find when you explore his work.

Verb Conjugation Grid

Simple Tenses Simple Tense Example Progressive Tenses Progressive Tense Example Perfect Tenses Perfect Tense Example Perfect Progressive Tenses Perfect Progressive Tense Example
Present Present Simple Jack usually takes a bus to work. Present Progressive Alice is writing her report at the moment. Present Perfect Bob has purchased three cars in his life. Present Perfect Progressive The students have been writing for twenty minutes.
Past Past Simple We drove to Yellowstone last Past Progressive Daniel was ironing at seven o'clock. Past Perfect They had completed the report by the time he requested to see it. Past Perfect Progressive My neighbors had been working outside for a few hours when their daughter telephoned with the news.
Future Future Simple I'll see you tomorrow afternoon. Future Progressive Tom will be making his presentation this time next week. Future Perfect We'll have the job finished by six o'clock. Future Perfect Progressive Mr. Jones will have been teaching for eight hour straight by the time he finishes.

Full of Hot Air

Today is hot! Very hot and dry. My yard looks like we have tried to kill the Queen Anne's lace but got the grass instead. Patches of white, long, scrawny,  plants cover my yard. The only thing I can do and still be positive is to admire how delicate and graceful they look. Find the beauty in the weeds, the good in the bad.

As I write this, I am working in the waiting room of the car dealership that is fixing the AC in my car. Thanks to the deer who thought it would be fun to crash into my car, I've had a slow leak in my AC that finally became a huge leak. No cool air during the hottest part of the summer. The good in the waiting is that I've been able to work on a grant report, answer emails, read articles on RTI and ESL, and write my first blog post in months.

Thank goodness for technology and the great new book I brought to read, "English Language Learners At School, A guide for Administrators", Else Hamayan and Rebecca Freeman, Caslon Publishing, Second Edition, 2012.

71 contributors have answered many questions that need short, direct answers. A book like this is important for every school administrator who has ESL students in their building. In Iowa that should be about every district in the state.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Have a Little Whine with your Wine!

Well, I've done it. Today I've turned 60. Something about that number has me a little upset. No longer does it give the impression of being young.  59 still sounded sexy, youthful, energetic, exciting. But 60, the BIG 6-0! Ick! No sexy overtones there, no spring in your step visions, no wait let me do it for you vibes. If you can't tell, I'm not handling this birthday well. I had the same problem the year I turned 29. I felt old and worn out. Tears came without warning. And grumpy! It was not a pretty sight. But what happened after all the emotion? Nothing earth shattering, just life, and a happy one at that. So, I need to get a grip in my attitude and enjoy the fact that I have been blessed with another year to enjoy those I love, dislike those I don't, eat what I should or not, exercise and enjoy physical activities that I know will make me hurt tomorrow. All just because I can. 

Oh yeah, you came here looking for an educational nugget. Well, don't worry, I haven't lost all of my memory yet.

Take a moment to read the report, English Language Learner Resource Guide: Top Ten Instructional Tips for Schools With a Low Incidence of ELLS, prepared by Jane D. Hill and Heather Hoak from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, April 30, 2012. The five state region of the McREL's North Central Comprehensive Center includes the states of Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota. These five states have experienced an increase in the number of schools who have a low number of English Language Learners. Giving support to these schools is very important because even having one ELL is reason to examine teaching practices. This guide gives some good, basic strategies.