"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do." Helen Keller

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Fran Richardson
Welcome to my blog!I'm a teacher in a beautiful, small, rural town. I moved here a few years ago, but I have taught over 20 years in this same small town that is now my home. My experience is in teaching second, third, and fourth grades with one year in sixth grade. I am always reading, learning, and reflecting on what goes on in my classroom. I love the work that I do with the parents, my fellow teachers, and most all-my students.I hope you will enjoy reading my blog.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“WOW-ed” on Wednesday

I told myself that I needed to take it easy on the professional books this summer ( after all I  still have to buy groceries, pet food and keep that AC hummin’ hear in good ole SC) so I’ve indulged my thirst for professional knowledge by mostly following several blogs.

HOWEVER, because I do feel like I need to feed my mind in many different ways,  I decided I would allow myself one or two professional books during my summer vacation, and with only a few days left of June, I made one  of  my first choices:
TEACHING WITH INTENTION by Debbie Miller.Red heart This is just the kind of book I need to read this summer!

from Stenhouse

"I believe that classroom environments are most effective when they are literate and purposeful, organized and accessible, and most of all, authentic."

Debbie Miller,
Teaching With Intention

from http://www.literacy-builders.com/free-resources/quotes-we-love

If you are not familiar with Debbie Miller and her work with reading comprehension, you may want to view these videos to get a better idea of the authentic, literate, and purposeful classroom environments that she is speaking of.
These were a few videos of her teaching style in action on You Tube which were posted by Stenhouse Publishers:

As you think about what you want  to go on inside your classroom, you may want to check  out Reading With Meaning which is definitely one of my  teaching “anchor texts” for teaching reading comprehension. My  hard copy is now about ten years old, and I have a backup copy on my Kindle.Smile


If  your interest is piqued, you may preview several chapters of Teaching With Intention at the Stenhouse site like I did:


In reading reviews of this book on Amazon, one or two reviewers said the book was “ a good summer read.” That  kinda sounds like “fluff”  to me, but after reading the first few pages, I understood what the reviewers intended: Summer is a good time to reflect on our classrooms not just the decorations and furniture arrangements, but our reflections should focus on what goes on inside those classroom walls. Everything we do, think, say, and believe as teachers should be reflected in our classroom: the  arrangement, the overall environment, our lessons, our words- all create an atmosphere of who were are as teachers and what we believe in.

This idea spoke to me so strongly because it reminded me of the words that were spoken about what was important  to my family as evidenced in my home.

Gary Smallen , an assistant football coach at Coastal University in Conway, SC, has for all intents and purposes been a big brother to me. He was a player for my father Don at  Dentsville High School in the 1960’s. The two remained lifelong  friends, mentor and student, player and coach, father and son until my Daddy passed away in 2005.I asked Gary to speak about my mother Iris when she passed away in March 2010.

Gary began his eulogy speaking about how you can tell a lot about people just by going into their homes. He said he had spoken with his son ( and my father’s god-son Jason,  and the two men came to the conclusion that  when a visitor  comes into your home, it is almost like a profiler gathering evidence and information. And so a speech was born! 
Gary said that anyone could tell a lot about my mother and me by the home I created that we shared for the past several years. ( I moved three years ago to  the small town where I have now taught for almost 20 years, and bought my dream house- a nearly 100 year old farm house). Gary spoke of the  old family photographs, the old sports memorabilia, the Biblical quotes, the  old handmade   objects like quilts and churns, the many books in almost every room, and how each object included and displayed in this home was something precious that held a story and was of some importance. But these objects in my home also reflected what my family held dear: our love of family and our past, our love of sports, our strong faith, and our love of knowledge. I cherished the words he spoke that day because now as I look around my home, I remember that each and every place I look- I see and feel LOVE.

When I read Debbie Miller’s first chapters, I felt like her words were speaking to in the same way that Gqry’s words did that day. They were powerful, strong, and thought-provoking. That’s what I want my kids to feel when they look around my room this year. My plans for this year must be done intentionally.

Some of the challenges and questions I had  on my mind were:

  • What do people see when  they come into my room?
  • Is what I value about learning evident?
  • Does what I have displayed reflect my own beliefs about learning?
Thinking about the answers to these questions is empowering and  can also somewhat sobering.

So as I am preparing for my new school year, I need to be careful, selective, and thoughtful  not only in how the room looks ( and Lord knows, we teachers LOVE to plan  and decorate our rooms) but what goes on when my class arrives MUST BE DONE WITH INTENTION.Smile

As I am picturing my room filled with children, I have to think “How am I going to get them to that place that is my ideal, my dream classroom?”

These questions have given me what I need to start.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Think About It Tuesday: The Super Six of Reciprocal Teaching

An overview for students of the strategies needed to form Super Six teams. This will be how I introduce reciprocal teaching this year to my students.

In later posts, I will include some of the handouts and mini-lessons and procedures needed to begin using this powerful teaching strategy.

NOTE: There are a few "techno" problems that I need to iron out. My original seems to be without all these obvious flaws. I'll try to get those straightened out.:)

Monday, June 27, 2011


Today I am going to focus on something that inspired me  last year and  gave me an “A-ha!” moment: the teaching strategy of reciprocal teaching. I am a fan of this strategy because of this woman:
Lori Ozckus!Red heart



Thanks to her work in reading comprehension,  I changed how I approached  my small-groups and guided reading in my fourth grade  social studies classroom.I had been searching for  years for new ways to make reading a more interactive, hands-on experience-one that involves  movement and manipulatives and yet “kept it real” for fourth graders.  Hers was the first book I encountered that  does just that!

First,  an example of Lori Oczkus’  in action teaching a reading lesson from You Tube:

Lori Ozckus takes  reading comprehension and makes it interactive with the use of  both hand signals and puppetry in her book Interactive Think-Aloud Lessons. One of my fellow teachers who is a kindergarten teacher also had  interest in the use of hand signals and movement with her kindergarten students to enhance learning. When we talked about this book, she grew excited and confirmed to me that she had seen firsthand in her own classroom how this strategy could work. I was ready to try these strategies of adding a movement and interaction to  help readers in my  fourth grade classroom.



While I really loved the idea of the hand signals for read-alouds, in the intermediate grades, our focus in reading  shifts from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”  because more reading is done in content-areas. While I still do read-alouds,  I teach social studies so the reading strategies I address need to scaffold readers who are beginning to delve into the complexities of informational texts and nonfiction content-area reading. When we read in my class whether it is a shared reading, guided reading, or a read-aloud, I also have to address content, and my time is limited so I need lessons that can pull double-duty.

I went on a search again for interactive strategies and found that lo and behold: Lori Ozckus  also has a book on this as well- reciprocal teaching! Open-mouthed smile

But I have to admit that at that time, I REALLY wasn’t sure if I knew what reciprocal teaching even meant.Confused smile

Another Google search took me to seeing how this strategy could  be used in the content-areas and in any upper grade classroom where reading takes place in some form nearly every day.

Here is reciprocal teaching in action in an intermediate classroom:

I was convinced just by what I  saw that this strategy could work for me. Lucky for me, I found a chapter sample from her book online here:


Please visit  Lori Oczkus’ website, you can see more of her work in using reciprocal teaching in action along with some additional handouts such as a viewing guide.



In my next several blogs, I am going to show how I took some ideas from the work of  Lori Ockzus along with several other online resources to adapt and create my own reciprocal teaching style along with some lessons and resources to help in your classroom.

Mason Klimek and Abel Mendiola_Grunge_1

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WOW- It’s already WEDNESDAY!

I’ve spent the past few mornings working on some things in preparation for the upcoming school year, and these past few days I’ve just been overwhelmed at the amount of great websites and blogs and classrooms that I’ve visited all while sitting here on my comfy little couch. In case, you didn’t already know it:There are some amazing teachers out there in the world who are just a click away!
Despite all the negative news that teachers seem to attract these days, the majority of us go to work each day and close the doors to our classrooms and teach! It’s sad then that most of us will never make the six o’clock news unless we retire at age 100 having taught five generations in the same school. Teaching can sometimes be thankless but also very isolated.
That is all the more reason that we as teachers need to come together collaborate and support each other even across long distances, and visiting and sharing and ENCOURAGING via classroom websites and blogs is a great way to do just that.

I feel enthusiastic,renewed, and encouraged in my beliefs about both education and what I do as a teacher, but I’ve also discovered better ways of doing some things that I already believe work well in my classroom.

For several years, I’ve been a fan of Ms. Powell ( Angela Watson) of mspowell.com. As someone who is organizationally-challenged, I admire her skill in lesson planning and storing her materials, but she also has some instructional practices that are worth checking out. I believe that her book The Cornerstone should be a gift for all first year teachers in the primary and elementary grades. It’s THAT good in helping to set up a classroom, set procedures, communicate with parents- everything.
Her website is the first place where I saw the idea of a content-based bulletin board that would serve as a visual review for students.

My district supports a literacy-based model of reading that encourages the use of anchor charts. Having used Strategies That Work for a decade, I am familiar with that idea. I found many good examples at readinglady.com.:

The Reading Lady

The Mosaic Listserv
Another teacher that I am a HUGE fan of is Angela Bunyi who blogs for Scholastic. Her use of anchor charts and bulletin board incorporate several great ideas from the  Daily 5  and CAFÉ books and Tanny MacGregor’s book on comprehension.

Last year before my job description was  social studies teacher, I hung up a “chart wall” as described in Denise Leograndis’ book, Launching The Writing Workshop which I LOVE because there are plenty of colorful pictures of the classroom and examples of the charts. However, once I became a social studies teacher, it was difficult to adapt that idea to a content-area. I was really bummed!

So now I have found something that seems to take the best of all of these ideas: FOCUS WALLS!

Take a look at the Power Points by a third grade teacher in California

My imagination is just running wild for FOCUS WALLS!Smile

I imagine my focus wall as a content-area chart wall that is very LITERACY-BASED.   I imagine my wall being a place that includes something along the lines of Michael Gravois (who has so many wonderful hands-on ways for children to create study tools and manipulatives in  his many books such as the one below about publishing research). The class mural or quilt would be ideal in my social studies classroom.

Using my imagination and some online examples, I’ve come up with my own focus wall based on what’s expected with my district’s literacy model and also what I believe is best for my own classroom such as reciprocal teaching during my  small group/ guided reading block. Here are my headings for my  new focus wall.


I am looking forward  to later   posting some pictures of my very own content-area, literacy-based focus wall.

I hope you’re WOW’ed by focus walls, too!:)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fantabulous Friday: Father’s Day

me and daddy beach 001
“But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.”
“Leader of The Band” by Dan Fogelberg
[ From : http://www.elyrics.net/read/d/dan-fogelberg-lyrics/leader-of-the-band-lyrics.html ]

Father’s Day is always bittersweet for me. Bitter because my father, Don, passed away in June 2005 after a difficult four-month long battle with Stage 4 renal cancer. But Father’s Day is still  much more sweet than bitter to me because the times prior to that experience were times of great joy.

My father Don was a PE teacher and a  track and field and football coach. My father was not the typical bumbling jock-turned-coach portrayed in so many TV sitcoms and movies. My father was quick to point he was a graduate of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. For people who do not understand,  NC is home to several prestigious universities: Duke, Chapel Hill ( University of North Carolina), and Wake Forest that have long both long traditions in the sport of basketball but in "educational excellence like an Ivy League of the South". ( Can you tell T have indoctrinated on this point?)

I am a teacher because of my Daddy. I have never seen someone who loved their work more. I have never seen someone who loved “the kids” as he called them more,  and this is a man who dealt daily with all the heartache and drama that goes with teaching adolescents. I have never seen anyone before or or since that worked so hard to change people’s lives so much  as he did with his caring attitude that went well beyond any field or classroom, well beyond any points on a scoreboard or grades in a book.    I don’t dare  call what Daddy did a  job. For Daddy, teaching was truly a life’s work. I admired that and aspire to that.

When I was 17, I was accepted to Clemson University’s elementary education program. While I was still in high school, several well-meaning folks told me what a waste it was for me to go into teaching. I heard comments like how little of my brain I would use. I heard what the condition was of schools and education in our county. ( This was 1981 so things weren’t so great back then either). I heard the pay was low, the hours were long, and the job was unappreciated, and I was making a grave mistake.

I can still remember the conversation when Daddy sat me down, and we discussed my future and the choice I had made in a major. He told me that I had chosen a noble profession- “as noble as a decision to go into the clergy”. ( This is the way the man talked so I warned you he was no dumb jock, and for those of you who knew him well, you know how he could be quite eloquent  when called upon to speak or write). Daddy went on to explain to me that teaching was a calling and “not all are called to do this great work.”

At 17, you cannot appreciate  nor fathom the life that lies ahead and how choices then will set your life on certain paths. While I listened intently to what  he was saying, it took several years before I realized the complexity of what he was saying to me. Thirty years later, and those words have an even greater meaning.
In laymen’s terms, what Daddy told me is this: Teaching is not for everybody. For many people, this is their Plan B. Some people who choose teaching don’t know any teachers,  have no idea what they are getting into, and know less of the nature of children, and worst of all, don't care. They don’t realize that teaching has it’s  tremendous highs but  also  crushing lows.

I learned how to be a teacher from watching my father live his life.From my father, I learned the each day I’m given a gift: a new day, a clean slate, a chance to start over.  I wondered when I was 17 why he made a point to tell me this pearl of wisdom: If you have a bad  day in teaching, tomorrow you get to start all over again and try again because  kids have that kind of forgiving nature.

The trying again is something I watched in my father as he fought cancer. I have often told people that we never had our “Tuesdays with Morrie” experience when he came home to die. He never accepted that cancer would defeat him.Until his last breath, he fought to live. He never gave up.

But that is how he lived his life. He never gave up. The worst kids were the ones he seemed to take under his wings and find something of worth in. The kids who often stood back in the shadows, those who were ignored or ridiculed and unloved were the very ones he turned into stars. The ones who were often so broken by life’s defeats were the very ones that he grew to love most, and like so many stray animals that he took in, they  were “adopted” and brought into my family as my brothers and sisters.

From my father I learned about leaving a legacy as a teacher, a mentor, and a friend.

Daddy on sideline at Dentsville-1
The best example of what my father taught the kids he taught and coached is summed up in the article from The State Newspaper( Columbia, SC):

September 13, 1996
Author: Jim McLaurin, Staff Writer
In Don Richardson's life, the acorns never fell very far from the tree. And some of those acorns have made fairly good oaks themselves.
``I coached with Doug Bennett,'' said Phil Williams, head football coach at Buford High in Lancaster, speaking of the legendary high school coach from Swansea. ``I could sit here for four hours and talk about why Doug is one of the greatest who ever put on pads. I don't know if I could do that with Coach Richardson.
``But I'll tell you this: I never wanted to do for anybody like I did for Don Richardson. I loved Dentsville High School. I had great friends. But when I played football, I wasn't playing for Dentsville, or mama and daddy, and I wasn't playing for no girlfriend. I was playing for him.''
It is a rare gift that some coaches possess, that ability to get every ounce of courage out of a young player and have him display it readily on such a physical, violent stage as a football field. It is rarer still that one coach would inspire so many to follow in his footsteps. And do it well.
Tonight, when the lights shine on high school football stadiums across the state, they will be on at least four of Richardson's best. Williams' Buford team is ranked No. 2 in The State's Class A poll and Gary Smallen's Ridge Springs-Monetta team is sixth in that classification. Charlie Macaluso's Columbia High Capitals are No. 4 in Class AA and Phil Strickland's
Batesburg-Leesville Panthers are the defending champion in Class AA and currently ranked seventh.
``He was more than my first coach,'' said Macaluso. ``He was my next door neighbor and one of the people who encouraged me to play football to start with. He was coach of the B squad when I was in the ninth grade and, after he became head coach, he allowed me to come back and help him when I was going to (USC). Without his help, I doubt I'd have been able to get a varsity assistant's job my first year out of school.''
If you mention Richardson's name, the word ``love'' doesn't come up very often. Coaches don't talk that way. But it is implicit in every sentence.
Smallen, along with Williams, played for Richardson at the old Dentsville High from 1965-67 and Smallen's first coaching job was as an assistant when Richardson moved to Airport.
Today, Richardson, 64 and retired, is Smallen's volunteer assistant at RS-M.
``I don't consider it as him working for me,'' Smallen said. ``We don't have a coaching relationship. He's more like my godfather. He's pretty much the best and closest friend I have. He's my confidant and everything else.
``I tell my kids today -- when he's not around -- that they are pretty lucky to have somebody like that around. They know it, and their parents know it.''
Richardson's teams only enjoyed modest success, although the 1966 squad at Denstville went 7-2-1 -- losing only to eventual champions Batesburg and Brookland-Cayce and tying Airport -- but what he meant to his players won't be found on the left-hand side of the won-lost ledgers.
``He was a tough coach, a stern taskmaster,'' said Williams. ``Our Dentsville teams were known to be very physical, hard-hitting, because we hit every day in practice. If a day passed without us playing bull-in-the-ring, we felt we'd gotten away with murder.. . .
``But he was the kind of a guy who didn't have to say a lot, and didn't. When he looked you in the eye, you wanted to do it for him. All he had to do was look at me.''
But there's more to Richardson, Smallen added, than getting you up for a game.
``Coach has been a father figure not only to us, but to hundreds of kids out there, and not only athletes,'' he said. ``He is absolutely at his finest when he's out there with those ninth and tenth graders who look up to him so.
``We give awards, and when I give it, it's one thing. When Coach gives it, they end up hugging each other. It's just a different kind of thing.''
``He is the type of person who very rarely lost his cool,'' Macaluso said. ``That's one of the things I remember about playing for him. And he could also relate to his players and take a personal interest in them, like they were his own sons. He was personally interested in every kid. That has a lot to do with kids really respecting him.''
Down deep, Williams said, that was what Richardson was all about.
``Sometimes I ask him about it . . . you know, `Gee, Coach, I wish we could have won more for you; maybe people would remember you more.' He said, `I don't give a hoot about that. You put on my tombstone that I cared more about kids than I did about winning.' ''
That would be a fitting epitaph when the time comes, but not exactly accurate.
``We learned a lot from him,'' Williams said. ``And his philosophy is sure winning now.''
Copyright (c) 1996 The State Record Number: 9609130079

My Daddy and His Dentsville Boys ( 2003)

daddy and his dentsville boys 001
“And he gave to me
A gift I know I never can repay”

A song by Dan Fogelberg that reminds me of  my legacy -

Thanks, Daddy. I love you!
Daddy and Me 1985 001
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Get Inspired, Read A BOOK

Yesterday I finished the book Learn Me Good by John Pearson. This  humorous book was about an engineer who takes a job as a third grade math teacher in a school with high poverty and mobility ( meaning that the kids move  a lot, not as in “upward mobility” AKA “rich” kids). I laughed out loud, many , many times and thought of some of my students ( everybody has had a Marvin), but I guess I kept waiting for that moment where there would be another side of this teacher realized- a profound moment of awakening in the midst of the humor and day-to-day account, but it never happened.
So when I finished I thought “Well, it was  no “The Water is Wide” (  by Pat Conroy)!”

It made me think of books and stories that inspired and encouraged me as a teacher.

When I first started teaching  a long time ago in a town even smaller than where I am  right now, one of my  fellow teacher friends  ( or as we were called  by a veteran teacher,  one of my fellow “baby teachers”)  said  she was telling some stories of the children we taught and their conditions and our struggles and woes as teachers. She related her tales  to one of her high school teachers, and he said “You need to read a book written by one of my classmates.” How funny. Her teacher was a Citadel grad, and that classmate and friend was Pat Conroy.
First, let me tell you that Pat Conroy has written many good books, but unfortunately for many of  you, those books  became movies so you’ve never actually READ one of his many books. Sorry, seeing the movies here doesn’t count. You need to read A Prince of Tides, and trust me, no disrespect to Ms. Barbra Streisand, but the book is even more moving and emotional than what was portrayed on-screen.
The Water Is Wide has a classic ( OLD) version starring a young Jon Voight ( you know Angelina Jolie’s dad for you younger folks). A very good movie, but still…

Conroy wrote the book based on an old folk song. Here’s a version by James Taylor (*sigh*):

“The water is wide, I can't cross o'er
And neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I”

( lyrics from lyricsfreak.com)

The teacher in the story ( Conroy) tries his very best to give his students  “wings to fly” despite the poverty, racism, and ignorance of  both the island dwellers and the outsiders.

I  also came up with a list of books that involved teachers as characters or teachers as authors. The book Among Schoolchildren  is by an observer in a classroom rather than a teacher,  and  so it is interesting just because it gives a different point of view of the daily lives of a class and its teacher that was followed for a year. Other books about teaching that are noteworthy are linked below.

My final category is my own “I’ve seen the movie, but I’ve never read the book.”  I loved the movie Freedom Writers, and here is the book the movie is based on.

Finally, I am adding something I came across yesterday as I was looking over my Daddy’s Wake Forest Alumni Magazine. What an incredible story about a teacher ( yes, GOOD COACHES ARE GREAT TEACHERS) whose selflessness is inspiring. Read  “The Gift” here:


Technorati Tags: Pat Conroy, Marva Collins, Wake Forest University, " The Water is Wide", teaching
Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Today’s focus is going to be on something that is both WILD and WONDERFUL: WATER! Right now in sunny SC, the temperatures  are well into the  high 90’s daily so we are all looking for ways to cool off, and I have a few ideas from several different sources that are water activities that you can do easily with very few materials at home or school.

My co-teachers  and grade-level team of  Tami Garvin, Quetta Hammonds, Tammy Swartz and I put on our first Water Olympics in May. Earlier in that same week, we also did several team-building activities that involved water during our end-of-the-year camping unit. One challenge was building a paper cup with only one sheet of paper and glue ( we used glue sticks). I was impressed by the ingenuity of the kids’ designs and how well their designs held up! We also had the traditional water balloon toss the same day as our water games. The kids ( and teachers) had a BLAST!

Our activities were  based on  several ideas suggested by Victoria Jasztal on her Scholastic blogs at Top Teaching last year.

Our  water-based activities were  adapted from similar AIMS units:


There are plenty of resources of water sports and games online that can easily been done at home, and while they are just good, old-fashioned fun, some also involve really using your brain!


The team building and thinking games such as the paper cup challenge that I used with our students came from a great new set of  resources that I really LOVE! These are  my new favorite books for cooperative games, brain teasers and challenges and team-building  and are all by Lorenz Publications. I have about five total that I can use in any subject area and also can be used to start class instead of “bell work” or to end class but some are JUST FOR FUN!  Some of the activities require little or no materials, and the activities we’ve used have left my kids begging for more. That’s the best review anything can get!


Have fun and I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday, too!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Make A Difference Mondays- ‘Change The World”

As I’m ending my day, I’m thinking about some potential themes for this blog. I noticed as I thought about change that I was humming an Eric Clapton song,CHANGE THE WORLD. I also happen to find a great YouTube Video with really COOL graphics to share.

The  chorus of this song reminded me of  the book, MISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney. The character Miss Rumphius sets several goals for herself as a child, but her grandfather reminds her that she needs to do something to improve the world. This book is a great  read at the beginning of any school year or any new venture  as a way to encourage students to set similar goals.

We as teachers need to encourage our students to look ahead, set goals,  and plan their futures because the outcome of our lives begin with a single thought whether they are positive or negative.

As the saying goes,

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

( from http://thinkexist.com)

And like Miss Rumphius, we need to help students see their lives as a  whole- a destiny, a legacy that can be planned with set goals that go behind ourselves.

Why  should parents teachers, and children think of leaving a legacy? According to the Legacy Project website,
“Leaving a legacy is a human need. It is in part selfish -- we want to feel immortal. The idea of leaving something behind that will "live forever" is appealing. We also want to feel like we matter in the vast sea of humanity. By connecting with those at the beginning of their lives, we do complete a full circle in life's journey and leave some of our "selves" -- our experiences, ideas, values, and personal example -- in the minds and hearts of others. But leaving a legacy also has an altruistic component. If we don't leave a positive legacy, what kind of society are we building? What kind of world are we leaving behind? What are we passing on to our children and grandchildren?”

The Legacy Project has a huge list of  many wonderful ideas, lessons, and books to help parents and teachers teach the idea of leaving a legacy in children and in families.

Here’s a new charmer: A wonderful story that reminded me of my Grandmama who left behind a legacy of love and living  a life for something more than  ourselves.

We can really change the world and leave a little something good of ourselves behind just like Miss Rumphius.

Summer Learning for The Teacher: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM

I had never heard of the Flipped Classroom until today so I’ve learned something new after reading a  blog and seeing the model. Because I am a very visual learner, I was WOWED by this video and excited that classrooms in the very near future could become like this in a mix of technology and data-based instruction with hands-on learning and better teaching time.


Here is the blog that started my interest in the Flipped Classroom Model:

And some other video resources:



I discovered this little gem in the Kindle Summer sale in the $0.99 to $2.99 price range. There are so many Kindle books that are free that I have become quite stingy when it comes to paying for a book, but I read the reviews, and BUY WITH 1-CLICK, and it was downloaded immediately to my collection.
I only started reading Learn Me Good yesterday. If you are expecting  a Ron Clark-type story, then you are in for a surprise. Here’s a quick synopsis: A down and out engineer ( a Duke grad) goes back to school after becoming laid-off and becomes an elementary teacher. The story is told through a series of emails from the engineer back to a friend at his former job.
Sad thing is it’s true, and if you’re a wise person you can figure out for yourself that  most engineers ( God love ‘em) and little kids don’t generally mix.
Admittedly I went into reading this book with a shield up: I am not going to laugh because he is probably going to make fun of teachers, and as far as teaching goes, he’s an outsider.

That’s exactly why  LEARN ME GOOD by John Pearson is so good. A “fish out of water story” it is, but he is not laughing at us because he is one of us. John Pearson became  a teacher.

I have only read roughly about a third ( it’s on my Kindle so I’m at about 30%), but I had to put it down because I was wiping tears from my eyes.  It was that funny, and I was laughing that hard.
All I can say is if you have taught school you’ve met the kids in Mr. Person’s class, and if you say you haven’t as they kids say “you lie!”

That’s Just GROSS!:P

An article in today's Aiken Standard caught my eye: MAD SCIENCE. Just those words make me think of my co-teacher Tami Garvin and her words" Let's just mix it up and see what happens."


Please don't panic- it was only old Alka Seltzer tablets and soda after we did the “ooh-aaah”  Mentos and soda experiment. The Alka Selzer just  kinda fizzled, but Tami had the right idea about kids and science.

Granted  the Mad Science mentioned in today’s paper is a business that performs science-based shows and even parties for kids,  but there’s plenty of Mad Science to go around:


Parents:There’s even an Kid’s Club at Mad Science!

But behind all the thrills of finding out  the science of why we belch, examining animal scat ( if you don’t know, just Google it), and mixing slime, the real reason we as parents and teachers need to check this out is here in this Time Magazine article found at the Mad Science website:

We need to get kids hooked on science. What do kids like? Anything that looks, tastes, smells, or feels GROSS. I can tell some of you have been around fourth graders some days after lunch because I sense your smiles  and giggles.

Right now Mad Science  also has an exhibit titled "GROSSOLOGY" at the State Museum in Columbia. The State Museum includes more activities that are gross but science standard-based.

All this grossness is based on  the GROSSOLOGY series by Sylvia Branzei and Jack Keely which is also a series on Discovery Kids:

But never fear- there are   many freebies out there so you too can be GROSS at home!



Sophie and Sadie are big fans of grossness that gets kids interested in science and  wave their paws in the air for this summer activity.
Disgustingly yours,
Sunday, June 12, 2011

Learning Lessons

It doesn't take much for me to learn a lesson, but it often seems like I learn many things "the hard way." Such is the case of my blog.

My idea was to start this blog as a way to express myself as a teacher. I craved collaboration and cooperation, and all those warm, fuzzy feelings of sharing and having an exchange of ideas. ( Sigh).

Imagine my excitement then when I made my first post on my first blog. ( Okay, we aren't counting the blog that sat empty and waiting for a year that died from lack of attention like an unloved houseplant). However, being a visual person I didn't like the look and feel of the page. It was a template, and it didn't feel like me. It was very "cookie cutter," and while I tried to make it mine, something didn't quite fit.

I decided to go on a search for making my own template despite my limited knowledge of how to do this. After all, I am teacher, and I believe that I can read and follow directions. I read several reviews, and I decided on Aristeer's Home Edition. I downloaded the trial version, and I started playing around, and I came up with a better look that suited my style. Then came the big moment: seeing how my new creation looked.

Here's where I goofed: The trial doesn't have the back-up feature. Because I didn't read this needed information beforehand, I clicked, and everything on my blog DISAPPEARED!

I won't lie and say I didn't think of crying.

So back to work I went this time with the paid version, and a short while later, there was my new blog page which looked even better than either the lost original or the trial version. While it's not perfect, my new page does represent me better than the "cookie cutter" page. Because I was starting over, I could toss out the elements that didn't appeal to me. I had control over what became part of my new page. I was allowed to be free, creative, and expressive, and truth be told, the newness of it all made it fun.

This whole experience seems to sum up both my journey as a teacher and how I have crafted my own teaching style: I don't like "cookie cutter curriculum." I seldom use the textbooks in my classroom except as resources. I try to fill my shelves with good quality trade books. Doing without the textbook and endless workbook pages or worksheets forces me to be creative in how I teach. I know that children learn best by doing and seeing and experiencing. For those reasons, I try to use games that require movement, simulations, role- playing, and hands-on or manipulative organizers or study tools as much as possible. And like the experience of my lost blog, in the midst of it all, it becomes FUN.

See- an old dog can still learn new tricks. :)

SMILEBOX: School 'Shots 2010-2011

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"I bear the flame that enlightens the world. I fire the imagination. I give might to dreams and wings to the aspirations of men."
- Marva Collins, from her poem, "I Am Excellence."

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