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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Actions speak louder than words

I know many people choose a “word” for each new year.  I have one friend, in particular, who has done this for numerous years and uses her “word” to focus her moments, her reflections, and her writing.  I enjoy reading her posts about her word.  They are insightful and usually inspiring.  If you have read many of my older posts, you might know that I don’t like to journal.  I like reflecting on learning and life by talking with other people.  Journaling seems like a chore to me.  And then, if you add your journaling to  a blog it becomes a chore, AND adds an element of “oh-my-gosh-this-has-to-be-deep-and-meaningful-because others are reading it-ness” to the reflections.  I have used those excuses in the past to keep from writing, reflecting, and posting.  Not anymore (well, at least not today).

When I was stuck at home an extra week after Christmas break due to the Indiana Snowpocalypse of ’14, I mulled over the idea of a “word” for 2014.  As in the past, the idea didn’t sit well with me.  Instead, actions started coming to mind.  So, my actions for 2014 are:

  • Be Kind
  • Just Believe
  • Choose Joy

Earth shattering, I know.  (As a disclaimer, I never said this was going to be a deep and meaningful post – just that I wasn’t going to be intimidated by the idea.  Today.)  These are really common sense, and yet get pushed aside, or out of my mind, during some moments (or some days).  Last year I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  Still one of my favorite books – and I recommend everyone aged 10 and up read it.  My favorite line from this book is: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.  Sometimes we get so caught up in proving that we are right, that we overlook how this position may make another person feel.  Being kind also means to be more selfless.  Another quality that is worth striving for.

I am going through some challenges right now and sometimes it seems like I won’t make it through the day.  I have to make the conscious effort to believe that I will.  Not always easy, but by surrounding myself with the right people, they can help me remember to believe  in myself, my abilities, and my value.  I’m not sure why it’s so much easier to feel less than, or undeserving.  But I’m going to stop believing lies, and trust in the truth instead.

Going with the previous paragraph, joy doesn’t come very easily right now.  I can either choose to find the joy, or choose to wallow.  I am choosing joy.  I am laughing at funny stuff, playing with my kids, and relishing my morning coffee.  These things are privileges, blessings, and should be appreciated as such.  I can just go about my daily routines and miss out on the times to choose joy in these situations.  But that’s not living.  It’s existing.  Just existing isn’t very joyful.  I read this post today written by Chris Kennedy (@chrkennedy ).  He echoes my thoughts on finding joy in the classroom as a teacher, and as a student.  School should be fun.  Learning should be fun.  Working (in education) should be fun.  Are we just moving about through the day, or are we savoring the joyful moments (when that 2nd grader beams at a new accomplishment, when that pre-teen daughter still holds your hand, when that crazy, rambunctious boy gives a huge hug)?

How about you?  Words for 2014?  Actions?  Advice for this learner?

Engaging our student readers

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” ― Harry S. Truman

I have said it before, but I will say it again, it is every teachers’ job to teach reading.  Once our students reach middle school, reading instruction looks different, but is still just as important as it was in elementary.  The secondary teachers teach their students how to read in their content areas.  That will look different in the chemistry classroom than it looks in the calculus class.  One problem is that adolescents tend to lose their interest in reading as they get older.  So then, the teacher’s job becomes more challenging.  Not only do they have to teach them how to read in their content area, but they also have to find ways to make it relevant and engaging to all of the students in the classroom.  Oh yeah, and help them find quality materials at their reading level.  Challenging…but not impossible.  Below are some suggestions on how to engage our readers to respond to what they have read.  Reading for enjoyment is important, but so is thinking about their reading.

  • Book trailers – These are just like movie trailers in that the students create a preview for the book they just read.  They can use iMovie or Animoto to record their trailers.  They have to have a firm grasp on what they read in order to summarize and share with an audience.
  • Retelling – Students can use apps like Sock Puppets and Coolibah to create multi-media retellings.
  • Create Comics – Using Comics Head students can create comics strips to summarize what they read.
  • Bring a character to life – This project would be great for fictional characters, as well as, historical (or modern day) figures.  Use Aurasma to create an augmented reality video to show character development.
  • Book talks – My daughter loves to tell me about what she is currently reading for pleasure.  She is especially passionate in her description when she is really enjoying the book.  She would tell anyone who would listen about the book and that they should read it.  Our students can easily produce videos of themselves giving book talks with iMovie.

These are just some basic ideas.  Feel free to share some of your own in the comments section.

Google Image Maps

As I watched this YouTube video by Christ Betcher, my mind started jumping to all of the possible ways  to use Google Image Maps in different classrooms.


Here were my ideas:

  • Reading/English classes (any age) – Students can create a drawing (or insert a picture) containing main characters from the passage.  They could link each character to a Google doc that they have created with character traits and/or the character’s role in the story.
  • Social Studies – Same as above only using specific historical figures
  • Geography – Use a picture of a map and link websites to each region that gives specific information about that area.
  • Science – Use a diagram (i.e. cell with parts labeled).  Students would then link each label to either a Google Doc that they have created describing that part, or to a reliable website that gives more information.
  • Animal Science – Same as above, labeling different organs of an animal and the roles those organs play.
  • Anatomy and Physiology – Same idea using the human body
  • Art – Students create a collage of different artists’ works and link websites that give background information about the artist and/or that particular piece of art.

These were the ones that quickly came to mind.  Please comment and share how you could use Google Image Maps in your classroom.  I’m anxious to see ideas that I haven’t thought of.

PLN challenge: 1. Tag, You’re it!

I was surprised and humbled to be tagged to participate in this blog challenge.  My blog is a little over two years old, but this is the first year that I’ve been regular in my postings (only b/c my supe makes me write about digital resources every Monday – just kidding, Dr. R, you know I love this stuff!!).  So, I’m excited to take part in this challenge to meet new people, read new blogs, and learn new stuff.

Here are the rules…

The PLN Blogging Challenge:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger. 
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself. 
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Acknowledge the nominating blogger – I was nominated by Lisa Kincer.  She is @kincerlisa on Twitter and writes at  She is a fellow Hoosier and passionate educator.

Share 11 random facts about yourself

1. I have two incredible children – a boy and a girl.  My daughter is like me in almost every way.  This is both amazing and frustrating.

2. I love to travel, preferably to somewhere with a beach involved.  Italy/Spain is my dream trip.

3. I have been to several countries in S. America and lived in Chile for the summer of 2012.

4. I love to dance.  I took fourteen years of lessons growing up, but now mostly dance to entertain my children in the living room.  They are an easy audience to please.

5. I was a ten-year 4-H member.

6. I’m the fifth generation female in my family to have dimples.  My daughter is the sixth.  I loved them when I was younger, but think it’s just plain wrong that I have to deal with “fine lines” where my dimples are now.  I guess it is just motivation to keep smiling.

7. I actually enjoy exercising.  I really do.  All kinds.

8. I LOVE to read.  I love everything from historical fiction to paranormal romance.  I’ve read six novels over Christmas break all on my phone via my Kindle app.

9. I like to cook and bake.  My favorite thing to do in the kitchen is modify existing recipes, or create new ones.  It’s a creative outlet for me, and I don’t have enough time to enjoy it as I’d like to.

10. I’ve had LASIK surgery twice, and still wear contacts.

11. I love being a curriculum director.  If you’d told me that I would say that five years ago I would’ve thought you were crazy.

Answer Lisa’s questions:

1.  What is one thing you tried this school year that you learned about from your PLN? Working on an iBook to share with my teachers.

2.  If you weren’t in education, what would you do instead? I would be a nutritionist.  I’m fascinated by foods, vitamins, exercise and how it all ties together.  I’d love to be able to use that knowledge to help others lead healthier lifestyles.

3.  Who was your favorite teacher growing up and how did she/he inspire you? I had several favorites.  My first grade teacher, Mrs. Domenico, was so incredibly kind.  I’m beyond blessed that my son is now in her class.  I had the same teacher for third and fourth grade, Mrs. Ihnen, and loved her both years.  She differentiated to allow us personalized learning before it was in vogue.  She challenged us to think creatively, and allowed us a lot of freedom in our learning.  School was fun.  In high school, Mr. Zinsmeister, was my teacher for several English classes.  He was young, passionate, and fun.  He pushed us to try our hardest.  All of these teachers had characteristics that I hope I displayed once I was a classroom teacher.

4.  What is one example of ed-tech that you use daily in your work with students? As a curriculum director, I no longer work directly with students.  However, I daily research digital resources for our teachers so they can integrate technology into their instruction.  I’m a huge proponent of Twitter for personal professional development.

5.  What characteristic do you value most in a team member or colleague? Respect.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but if we have mutual respect for one another, then we will be able to do what is best for our students without getting defensive or offended.

6.  What is the best book you’ve read lately? I recently finished Sunset Rising by S.M. McEachern.  It reminded me a lot of Hunger Games, but definitely took on its own plot developemnt.  I’m eager to read the next book in the series which is released later this month.

7.  If you could have dinner with three people, alive or no-longer living, who would you select, and why?  What/where would you eat? Sorry – I hate this question.  It is just so overwhelming, but I will try to live up to the expectations…. I don’t think I would include all of these people in one dinner date (which probably violates the rules to this question, but I’m rebelling and not caring).  I would definitely pick my grandma.  She died too young, and I still miss her dearly.  I’d like to have dinner with her at the house she lived in when I was growing up.  I don’t care what food we’d eat for dinner, but we’d have angel food cake for dessert (that was something we shared a love for).  I just want to tell her about my life and show her pictures of my kids.  And just hold her one more time.  Gosh, anyone else I think of just kind of pales in comparison.  Sorry, rebelling again, and only picking her.

8.  Connections totally fascinate me, so name one member of your PLN and tell how you became connected with him/her.  {Just in the time it has taken me to type this blog post, seven individuals have popped up as my new Twitter followers – leaving me quite excited to check out who they are – but also curious as to how they found me.} Holly Stachler (@classTECHnique), Seth Hamilton (@edtechseth), and Mike Kneebone (@mikekneebone).  They are a package deal.  We sat together last summer at a four-day Apple training.  What can I say?  We bonded.

9.   What is your favorite children’s or YA book of all time? Children’s: The Gruffalo (though, it’s realllllly hard for me to pick a favorite.) YA: The Giver

10.  What educational conference is on your “do not miss” list for 2014? ISTE

11. If you had to narrow down your words of wisdom for students or fellow-educators to just three words, what would they be?  Please identify the intended audience (educators or students) for your words as you share them Words that should descirbe them as Educators: flexible, open-minded, co-learner

Bloggers I am nominating:

Bethany Hall    @BethanyHall5

Anne Clark   @AnneClark7

Jake Everett    @MrEtalltteacher

Justin Vail  @ED_Shift

Tara Linney   @TechTeacherT

Krista Moroder    @edtechcoaching

Danielle West   @aemediachic

Kathy Cassidy   @KathyCassidy

Rachel Haselby    @RHaselby

Dan Layton    @DanLayton2

Scott Newcomb   @SNewco

Nathan Jones    @elearnjones

My Questions:

1. What is your favorite part about working in education?

2. Who is an educator who challenges your thinking, and why?

3. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?  What would you do there?

4. What one event has shaped you the most as an educator?

5. Who is your favorite Tweep?

6. How do you learn best?

7. If you had to pick one, which would you choose?  Ice cream or pie?

8. What five words best describe where you live?

9. What five words best describe you?

10. If you could change one thing in education what would it be?

11. Who is your favorite celebrity?

I hope my fellow bloggers enjoy this as much as I did!