Monday, December 6, 2010

What is Qwiki?

Qwiki is a new way to search for information.  It is still in Alpha – testing mode.  It really looks intriguing.  It reminds me of those early Star Trek episodes when they ask the computer for information about a topic. 

One topic I searched was Alzheimer’s.  It pulled up pictures, text and a computer simulated voice told me about the disease.   It amazes me as I watch new technology and software pop up before my eyes and I realize I am watching history unfold in front of my eyes.  I believe Qwiki is one of the tools that will revolutionize how we process information.

Check out the site at  You are invited to look the future  gathering and researching  information.  They are also inviting people to give feed back.

As I was reading a post on their blog, I came across this quote - “In the end, all we have, machine or human, are stories and methods of finding and using those stories” – Roger Schank.   This statement really got my attention.  I believe the future is about sharing those stories, because humans are hardwired to share their stories.

Related link:  Uses in the classroom

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thanksgiving Myth

1621 Harvest Fest
By LibraryDragon | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

This is a re-post from a post on

Today's Thanksgiving has been a series of myths and successful public relation moves. Somewhere a long the way it was dubbed the "first" thanksgiving.  The colonists had celebrated many "thanksgivings" in their homeland.  These celebrations usually consisted of prayer and fasting.  The Wampanoag Indians and other Native American Tribes had feasts of thanksgiving through out the year.
Part of the myth around our national holiday involves the colonists inviting the Indians to this feast.  When you read the surviving letter from Edward Winslow and listen to the re-tellings of the oral traditions of the Wampanoag you see this gathering in a different perspective.  The Wampanoag were not sure of their new neighbors and kept an eye on them.
During that first year many of the new colonists died.  They were buried at night to try and prevent the Indians from knowing the true number and strength of the colonists.  In March Somoset and Squanto pay the colonists a visit.
The autumn festival is surrounded by controversy about what really happened.  Did the colonists invite their new allies or did the Wampanoag invite themselves for some reason.  After reading the research and oral histories of the time I believe that autumn, the colonists chose to celebrate their survival and were shooting off muskets.  The Wampanoag were quick to respond.  Massasoit arrived with 90 men to see what all the shooting was about - figuring the newcomers were going to war.  When they arrive they realize they are not going to war but are having a party.  Massasoit sends out men to bring back food.  They stay for three days, during that time they feast and negotiate a military alliance.

Related Links for further investigation:
Oyate - Deconstructing the Myths of the "First Thanksgiving"
Plimoth Plantation

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Popplet - Request an invitation

BrainBoltz visual review.
I am taking a new technology class and we explored some great tools that many of you already know: Glogster, Smilebox, Dropbox, WallWisher and Storybird.  We also looked at a brand new tool still in Beta but with great potential Popplet .

You can stop by the site and request an invitation.  I am really excited about it.  It is collaborative.  I can see using it in the classroom to connect reading, writing and images.  What a powerful tool!

Lesson I am working on:  Books - Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, If You're Not From the Prairie by David Bouchard, and Mama, Where Are You From by Marie Bradby.  Having the students reflect on what connects these stories and how it connects to their life.

Popplet is a fluid program so when changes are made your link reflects current changes.  No going back to edit what has already been published.  I think this has so much potential.  The review at BrainBoltz says it well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Operation Military Kids

The deployment of American soldiers has affected many communities.  What we may not think about is the families - the children - of these service men and women.  Any time a parent is separated from their children can be emotionally difficult.  When you add risk factors and extended time it makes for a very turbulent time.

As a teacher I may see the stress from these students come out in many ways.  If I am not aware of the back story (Mom or Dad is deployed) I may not be able to offer this student the support they need.  Families of Active Duty soldiers are more aware of what resources are available to them.  Families of Reserve or National Guard Units may not initially know about Family Support Services that are available.

One resource that many people may not know about is "Operation: Military Kids".  OMK is the Army's program to support children and youth affected by deployment of their family members.  The military is partnering with community resources to support and enhance the life of these students.  They are encouraging schools and teachers and 4-H to be an active part in this program. Many states offer professional development through this program.

One of the programs offered is the Mobile Technology Lab - students learn about technology as they communicate with deployed family, learn to make podcasts and how to use other equipment.  In 2009 - this program was active in 49 states and the District of Columbia.  You can click on this link to find out about current events and contact information. The MTL (Mobile Tech Lab) is available for all OMK partners working with military children.  Our kids need support and with your involvement they can get it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where Are You From?

That's a fairly direct question, but the answer to that is more complex.  The surface question is" Where do you live?", the underlying question is "What influences made you the person you are?"  These questions came to the surface for me a couple of years ago when I was introduced to two pieces of literature. "Where I am From" by George Ella Lyon and "Momma, Where are you From" by Marie Bradby.

As I thought how I would use it with my students, the possibilities tantalized me.  I was not the only person who was touched by George Ella Lyon's poem, other teachers had been inspired and shared their ideas and experiences.  I found a template for student's to write their own "Where I am From" poem.  I also found some great ideas at The Book Chook for using the poem with students. at The Book Chook, Sue has a link where George Ella Lyon reads her own poem. Using these pieces of literature would make a great bulletin board by combining your students poetry and a childhood snapshot.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Voice Poems

Two voice poems are an interesting form.  They are great at showcasing different points of view.  Paul Fleischman first showcased this type of poetry in his book "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices".  Reading this type of poetry is a great tool for helping students develop fluency.  David L. Harrison wrote the book "Partner Poems for Building Fluency" to help teachers use this strategy with students.

In the American Memories(Library of Congress) lesson section "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself" there is a poem called "A Graduation Poem for Two", that is a great example of comparing two different points of view.  Lesley Roessing writes eloquently about comparing and contrasting a students life with a person from another culture.  I think this poetry format has lots of applications.

Mary Ann Hoberman has written several books in her series "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You".  They are delightful.  Great two people stories.  The one I think makes a good October selection is titled "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together."  I think my favorite story in the book is called "The Witch and the Broomstick.".  In her book she uses color to make it easier to read - purple (reader 1), lavender (reader 2), orange both read together.  I am going to share her first poem in the hopes that you will explore this format further.


Do you like to
Quake and quiver?
                              Do you like to
                               Shake and shiver?
Do you like your
Mind all jumpy?

                             Do you like your
                             Skin all bumpy?

                  If you do,
                  Then take a look
                  At the stories
                  In this book!

I'll read here
And you'll read there.

                             Both sides give you
                             Quite a scare.

                 Then, with middle
                 Words before us,
                  Read together
                 In a chorus.
                 Now we know
                 Just what to do:

You'll read to me!

                           I'll read to you!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Carousel Magic

GUILDFORD, ENGLAND - MAY 31: Children enjoy a ride on a carousel during the Surrey County Show 2010 at Stoke Park on May 31, 2010 in Guildford, Surrey, England. The annual Surrey County Show is the biggest one day agricultural show in the UK attracting up to 40,00 people. A surge in the numbers of people keeping livestock and growing their own produce has led to a focus on a more rural atmosphere at this year's show. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
I have always loved the carousel horses.  I first met them in books as a child, oh how exciting to be able to ride a real Merry-go-Round whenever you wanted.  I looked forward to the carnival that came to out community every year, because they had a Merry-go-Round!  My love for the beautiful horses continues to this day.

A few years ago Doris a friend who lives in Helena, MT took us to "The Great Northern Carousel".  What a great piece of art by many wonderful artists.  Here is an excerpt from the website:

"The Great Northern Carousel is a modern hand built menagerie carousel reminiscent of the splendid, turn-of-the-century carousels. Most of the 37 animals and one chariot were hand-carved by Ed Roth of Long Beach, California and hand painted by Bette Largent of Spokane, Washington. Todd Goings built the mechanism in Marion, Ohio and also built the spinning tub for the carousel.  And, local artist Mary Harris created the original glass artwork depicting Helena area landmarks and scenery on the Carousel rounding boards."

Last year one of art teachers did an art unit with Carousel Animals.  I did a little research for her and learned about the National Carousel Association.  Last year they visited  two Montana carousels the Great Northern Carousel in Helena, MT and "A Carousel for Missoula" in Missoula, MT.  When looking at the archives I found out about a private carousel "Dream Maker Carousel" that is open to the public in Somers, MT.  I told my husband I want to go see it next year.

This brings me to one of the new books that I added to our school library collection.  "Feivel's Flying Horses" by Heidi Smith Hyde.  This picture book tells the story of a woodcarver that comes to America and became one of the wood carvers making carousel horses for Coney Island.  I found the historical note by the author very informative.  It is a great book to introduce the Jewish immigration to America in the late 1800's.

Links of Interest: Carousel News Carousel links
Carousel Live Binder -  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Movies in the Mind

One of my greatest "Aha Moments" as a teacher happened early in my career.  I had a student who was reading a book and listening to the story on a "Walkman" at the same time. For you youngsters out there a Walkman was an individual cassette player with headphones.  I was teaching in a juvenile detention center and this student was about 16 and a struggling reader.

When "Sam" finished the book he looked at me with a very satisfied smile.  Then shared "Wow, that was a great book.  That was the first time I could see a movie in my mind when I read."

I looked at him with total surprise.  I had no idea that there were readers who didn't see the movies in their mind.  For me this conversation was a "Touchstone Moment".  Since then I have learned that many students can't make pictures in their mind as they read.  This conversation with "Sam" has influenced how I teach and one of my major goals - letting kids discover the movies in their minds.

Ralph Fletcher is a terrific writer.  I love his writing for the wonderful words and rhythm.  His books are great for "seeing" pictures in your mind.  I read "Hello, Harvest Moon" to my students.  It has great illustrations and rich vocabulary.  I am a big fan of Ralph Fletcher, and have learned a lot from reading the professional literature he has written.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Poetry

A great seasonal book with poetry and rhymes is Halloween Hoots and Howls by Joan Horton.  My students laughed at the play on words.  the illustrations are colorful and playful.  Writingfix is sponsoring a Halloween poetry writing contest.  It closes Oct 21, 2010.

You can also find Karen Mcgee's lesson for Halloween Hoots and Howls at Writingfix.  I used her Halloween word bank as a starting place and then added other seasonal words. In th book there are several poems - that are great to share with students who cannot participate in holiday activities.  I love the "Spider on the Ceiling".  I then had the students fill out the Noun, Adjective, Verb chart in th lesson.  I loved this lesson because it tied into what my 5th graders were learning in their classroom about parts of speech.

I used the ETTC (Educational Technology Training Center) poem templates to experiment with writing poetry.  I only have one computer in my classroom so I put the poem template for "Noun + Adjective + Phrase = Poem".  You can find it by name listed on the left side of the screen.  I had my students to use the word bank and charts that they had made to write their poems.  It makes for a great introduction.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Using Show Not Tell in the Classroom

I introduce the topic of show not tell by reading a touchstone text that exemplifies the writer's craft I want my students to focus on and practice in their own writing.

Reading from the Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas - p7
     “The pork chops were fragrant and crisp, the potatoes swimming in butter with a sprinkling of black pepper over their shiny brown backs.  The chop house keeper returned briefly and added a plate oozing with berries and dusted with sugar.  The wizard said something, but I didn’t hear him.  I picked up my fork and cut open a potato.  I let butter soak in for a second and then took an enormous bite.”

In the center of our mall there is a little kiosk that sells Cinnabon cinnamon rolls.  The smell of freshly baked bread spiced with cinnamon wafts through the air.  The scent tantalizes and teases me, taunting that it is within reach.  As the enticing aroma tickles my pleasure centers, my brain goes on full alert.  I reconnoiter the kiosk, surveying the display case.  Scouting out calorie laden pleasure bombs, knowing that one bite will detonate my greed for more.  I set about capturing the enemy, a choice roll that has both rich caramel flowing over the sides and thick luscious frosting standing guard on top.  After capturing this sinful delicacy, I savor it with a frosty chilled latte.  Mission accomplished.

“Breakfast Toast” is a successful writing-exercise, I have used with my students.  I ask the students if they have ever eaten toast.  They all look at me as if I have lost my mind.  I go on to describe how I like my toast.

“I like my toast golden – not crisp, not blackened, just lightly browned.  I sniff the melting butter – spreading like a puddle over my golden brown piece of toast.  To this I add jelly or better yet honey.  The smell of hot toast beckons as I sit down.  Honey butter with its sweet flavor teases my tongue as I bite down into the lightly toasted bread.”

Student Example:

Pancakes by Lily Slunaker (5th grade 2009)

I love my pancakes golden brown and soft. I love it when the smell is sweet, and the taste is warm and delicious. I like the taste of the rich maple syrup against my tongue and the sound of the batter getting poured into the sizzling hot pan. I love having pancakes for breakfast because of their delicious taste, sweet smell and the sound of the batter sloshing in the hot pan. I love pancakes.
The prompt: – Write about how you like your toast or another food.  I then let them write for seven minutes followed by sharing.

The Sharing – This is a very important part of the Writing Workshop and writing process.  There are many ways to approach this.  I modeled my classroom procedure after the National Writing Project class I attended in Laurel, MT. 

I had the students bring their writing to the back of the classroom.  We sat in a circle and I talked to them about being good listeners and a good audience.  I also told the students when called on to read they had some choices they could make – (1) Read their writing (2) Have another student read it (3) Have me read it (teacher) (4) Say pass.  As a reader make contact with your audience.  Use inflection.  Project your voice so everyone can hear you.

The listener’s role is to understand the writer.  Ways to be a good listener: watch the reader, interact with the reader - nod your head, smile encouragingly, make eye contact, what part of the writing works.   After the reader has shared their writing – thank them for sharing.  I then tell them, they can retell the part that they liked best and why.  I encourage them to use as many of the author’s exact words as they can.  They can ask questions for clarification.  They can talk to the speaker about what they are still confused about (I remind them they must do this in a respectful way.)  In the book p 36 “Don’t Forget to Share” by Leah Mermelstein are some great questions audience members can ask the speaker.  As a final step I ask the writer, “What part of the conversation was most helpful?”

This sharing and reflection is very powerful.  Even though I give suggested prompts I always leave writing about something else as an option.  I remind them that they need to keep the content school appropriate.  Last year I had a young woman (4th grader) share about her cousin’s murder.  Two students moved to sit by her giving her support and comfort.  These sessions are important to building community and a safe place to share their writing.  It also provides the writer with a real audience for their work.

Recommended Professional Literature:

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop by Leah Mermelstein
    ISBN: 13: 978-0-325-00951-3

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Would Happen If Animal Migration Stopped?

Robert Krulwich - wrote a post called "Migration Blues: When Birds Don't Fly South".  As I read his post my mind had a hard time wrapping my head around what is happening.  If the animals stop migrating, not only will it affect their own species but what does it mean for human kind?  What is causing this phenomena?

Krulwich creates a powerful scene when he writes - "Simply stated," says Princeton professor David Wilcove, "the phenomenon of migration is disappearing around the world. The great salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest have been reduced to a trickle ... Monarch butterflies are threatened by illegal logging of the Mexican forests where they winter. "

More and more studies show fewer creatures are migrating and those who do more often don't make it.  There is no easy way to address this problem."
Krulwich writes: "Krulwich Wonders, NPR Sciency Blog.  He tackles science and explains what is happening.  A great science blog to use with students.  The migration post shows the interconnectedness of many issues.  Great discussion piece.

Links of Interest   Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hooking Kids on Literature

James Prosek is a fabulous water-colorist.  He has written and illustrated several books about fish for adults.  His picture book "A Good Day's Fishing" is exquisite.  The image on this post is from the book.

The writing is a great hook for kids who love the outdoors.  It provides a great model for their own writing.  Prosek takes a nonfiction subject and turns it
into a memorable picture book.

"Hooked On Fishing—Not On Drugs" is a unique, nationally accepted drug prevention program offered through the American Sportfishing Association's Future Fisherman Foundation. It is presented by certified instructors at the local level with lessons that are geared towards students in grades K-12 and is correlated with MT Core Curriculum Content Standards."

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks sponsors the Montana Hooked on Fishing program.  This program is a way to provide students with alternatives to drugs - by becoming fisherman.  The national program has been very successful.  MT Fish Wildlife and Parks have several posters of native fish available for classrooms that would connect beautifully with this book.

Newspaper article      Future Fisherman     Angler Editions  Take Me Fishing


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Those Sparkling Memories

I have been working on a great part of my job choosing and ordering new books.  This last week some of those orders arrived.  Each time I open a box of books it is a treasure hunt.  Oh I need to share this book with so and so.  Last year I wrote two grants to buy fiction and nonfiction mentor books that will be added to our school collection.

One of the first books I shared with my students was "Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen (1999).  The illustrations Ruth Wright Paulsen add depth to the wonderful prose.  The pictures portray the vivid descriptions. Great example of taking a memorable day and melding it with exquisite words.  

Before reading this book aloud - I selected approximately 20 words from the selection and broke them into 4 groups.  I wrote the groups on the board and had my 4th & 5th graders use them for an alphabetizing activity.  Once I started reading the story I could see the students' eyes light up as they made the connection to the vocabulary on the board and the selection I was reading.

All in all it is a great book to model for word choice and memories.  It can also be used as a "boys" book - I heard the "ahs" when I read the author's name.

Links you might like Two Writing Teachers and WritingFix


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Constitution Day - September 17th

Constitution Day is observed on September 17.  According to Wikipedia Constitution Day in 2004 to recognize the ratification of the US constitution and those who have become US citizens. Before 2004 this day was known as Citizenship Day.  The 2004 act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on September 17th.

There are many great resources for educators that range from readers theater to trial simulation games.  Check out some of these sites and I would encourage everyone to leave comments and share other sites that they like.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Baby Fritzy and the Varmint

Last year my granddaughter was given 2 guinea pigs.  Recently one died and so we were going to bring another one to her when we made the trip to Miles City.  Since I was getting my classroom ready for the start of the new year I gave my husband the task of finding a guinea pig.
He checked at one of the pet shops they wanted $35.00 and had the gender we were looking for.  Then he noticed that our local animal shelter had two guinea pigs. They had been brought in by different families.  We adopted one for $10.00 and proceeded to bring him home.
I took him out when we got home.  Sammi immediately went into staring mode.  Max and Lady were "Ho Hum" now what? Baby Fritzy immediately started licking her chops.  She came towards me and the guinea pig immediately started fearful chatting.  I responded with a firm "No".
Baby just looked at me with puzzlement and confusion.  She was sure she had misunderstood. Surely we meant for her to have the varmint for dinner.  Deciding she had misunderstood me she came back and tried to take a bite, she connected with my hand.  The fearful chirping was fast as the guinea pig seemed to be saying"Grandma what big teeth you have", as she looked into the open mouth of Baby.  I pushed Baby away with my foot and said "No".  
Baby Fritzy looked at me with incredulity.  She couldn't believe I was serious about denying her this tantalizing morsel.  Dan told Baby that she couldn't eat the "little fellow".  She could sniff it and give it a lick but couldn't eat it.  She gave him a disgusted look and came up to me sniffed the critter and gave him a gentle lick.  Then sat down on her haunches and licked her chops in anticipation.
I put the guinea pig into a crate.  Sammi and Baby Fritzy stared at the guinea pig for hours.  The next morning I loaded the crate in our vehicle and came back into the house.  Baby was sniffing furiously - searching for the missing varmint.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why Continue Teaching Kids How to Write A Friendly Letter?

In today's society we have text messages, email, cell phones, and a postal system that is losing money?  So why continue teaching students how to write a friendly letter?  Isn't it outdated?

I think that learning how to write letters is a skill that helps students process information.  We teach students how to write poetry and how to read it for deeper meaning. Yet probably most of us don't write poems in our daily adult life.  Yet we can appreciate the work done by others.  I think students should be exposed to many forms of writing.  It helps them develop many different skills that are important to their academic and social development.

As a librarian I am constantly trying to find ways to encourage students to take responsibility.  One of the problems I encounter is students forgetting to return their library books.    I know that the classroom teachers spend time teaching kids the parts of a letter.  I was sadly disappointed when I saw that many of my students were not able to apply that knowledge.  Last year I started having students write a letter to their parents/guardians when they had an overdue book.

After tweaking the project, my students gained letter writing practice and my books came back on a more regular basis.  This year I want to introduce letter writing through literature.  There are a number of picture books that make for a great lead in.

  • Dear Mrs LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
  • Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James
  • Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell
  • With Love, Little Red Hen by Alma Flor Ada 
  • The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg
  • A Lucky Dog: Owney, US Rail Mail Mascot by Dirk Wales

For my older students showing them the importance of letters as a window to historical events seems like a great connection.  The National Postal Museum has some great information and curriculum units. The Pony Express is featured in Moving the Mail West.  The United States Postal Service curriculum resource center, is another great site for exploring history through stamps. Take a look at their education kits.

What do you think, should we continue to teach letter writing in schools?    

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's About Connecting With People

Last night I read an email that tickled me all the way to my toes.  I received my very first blog award from Doreen at They say everyone has a story ... this is mine.  I am very humbled and so very excited.  Part of that award is to share 7 things you might not know about me.

1.  I started writing my first blog last summer Bridging Memories.  It is a combination of information for families and care givers who love and care for loved ones with dementia. In between facts, research and tips are pieces of the story of my Mother's battle with Alzheimer's.  I started my second blog last fall Libeary Corner.  The focus of it is education & technology.  I started my third blog as a place to write slices of my life and put lots of the funny puppy stories. I call it Windows 2 My Life.
2.  Dan and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary the 22nd of July.  Years ago we went together and eventually life brought us in a complete circle. He is the love of my life.
3.  I have a stepson Joe, a granddaughter Hailey, and a stepdaughter Peggy.
4.  I am a pet parent to 4 dogs and 1 duck. Max a boxer cross, Lady a chocolate lab, Sammi, a Great Dane Lab cross, and Baby a black lab puppy, Mr Duck a muskagee.
5.  I sometimes bead jewelry.
6.  I retired from the Montana National Guard after 24 years.
7.  I am doing some free lance writing.

I am passing this award on to the following 15 people who I feel are very versatile bloggers.  They in turn will share 7 things about themselves and pass the award on.  They are great reads and I encourage you to read them.  

1.  Ruth and Stacey - Two Writing Teachers   I love their writing ideas, and how they encourage and challenge me.
2.  Peggy - The Simple Woman - her beautiful writing and quiet inspiration
3.  Melinda from Coming Clean Confessions of an Imperfect Parent - for sharing ideas for improving my blog
4.  David of EFL Classroom 2.0 - for his encouragement and brilliance
5.  Ellen Pham's Blog - Her friendship and encouragement
6.  Teresa - Too Many Heartbeats - her courage and compassion
7.  Lisa - Lisa's Gluten-Free Advise - her willingness to share
8.  Kelly - iLearn Technology - her passion and knowledge - especially her friendliness
9.  Susan - Book Chook - I love her writing and colorful site - I appreciate her warm comments.
10. Patti - 37 days - her posts are thought provoking and make me think
11. Alex - A Moderate Life - excellent content, great information
12. Kaye - SandwichInk - good ideas for the Sandwich Generation
13. Java - Never Growing Old -her friendliness and blog hops
14. Eloise - Mommy2TwoGirls - I love her comments & her friendliness
15. Crayon Wrangler - Coloring Outside The Lines - her sense of fun - I love the idea of "crayon wrangler"

There are two other people who I would like to to give an award to, Melissa & Kelly for listening to me as I try and figure this out and for their friendship.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What is a Windowfarm?

Picture by Julia Makarova    

I was reading the blog from a Moderate Life and saw a blog list and one name was Window Farms.  I was intrigued and  went to check it out.  It was really cool.   People were using recycled Nestle's water bottles to grow plants in windows with hydroponics.

My first thought was looks like more skill than I have.  Then I saw they have kits available for those of us who are mechanically challenged.  As I read further you can join the group and get instructions and support for free.  They are part of the Creative Commons licensing agreement.  The community is very dedicated to encouraging people to grow their own food.

My second thought was - what a good classroom project.  Everything from reading using nonfiction to watching the life cycle.  Keeping a writers/nature journal, measuring plant growth, the list is endless.  The best part would be eating your own home grown salad.

On the website there are a number of videos that explain different aspects of their project.  Go check them out.  I'm thinking maybe there is a window farm in my future.  What about you?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

History Portal

A history portal for teachers - The Center for History and New Media.  This portal provides access to many primary sources.  One of the sections is Historical Thinking Matters - a website designed to teach students how to read and understand primary sources and how to develop historical narratives. One of the topics that is available is Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Lots of resources to examine from many points of view.  Very well designed.

Do History is another segment that uses primary sources to piece together lives of ordinary people.  Martha Ballard is the midwife they use as their example.

The Section on Research + Tools - shows individuals how to use different tools to study history.

This is a great portal with lots of information to investigate.

Friday, July 9, 2010

When Is Veteran's Day? Why Would Kids Want to Know?

Do you know when Veteran's Day Is?  What can you tell me about it?  True the troops are out protecting us.  But what does that really have to do with your life?  Many students roll their eyes when they are asked about World War II.  To many it is about as contemporary as dinosaurs.  So how can we make it meaningful?

First , it is about seeing Veteran's as real people who have stories to tell.  Humans are hard wired to think in a narrative format.  Many students today know someone in the service.  So how can we make the transition of what they know to what we want them to learn?  What does "Native Words, Native Warriors" have to do with history?  Why should teachers include studying about veterans if they aren't teaching "History"?

Studying about individuals and the complexity of culture hooks many students.  Instead of just reading a biography, work with oral histories, work with primary sources.  Hear the stories of real people who experienced what is now history. Using an inquiry approach develops higher level thinking and learning.

Native Words Native Warriors is an online program from the National Museum of American Indians .  It was
designed to enhance the Smithsonian's traveling exhibit by the same name.  The online version is geared for grades 6-12.  Complete with lesson plans, resources, links.  The focus is on how tribal veterans used their language as a weapon in World War I and World War II.

The lessons touch on the complexity of culture and provides background information for seeing Native tribes as unique and living cultures.  I believe it helps people see beyond the surface when they can gain understanding about other cultures and the difficulties they have overcome. It helps build empathy and community.

The Veteran's History Project is a project of the American Folklife Center of the library of. Congress.  This link has lesson plans for K-12. One of the interesting piece is the idea to "Take a Veteran to School".  Teaching students how to ask questions how to make a video or documentary all involves higher level thinking besides the content information.  It also makes connections between generations that is a valuable part of every community.  These projects need to start well in advance of Veteran's Day to reap the most rewards.

This site also has podcasts, primary sources, background information.  There are also forms and kits available, most free of charge.  They have also included a website and information about the featured book Forever a Soldier.  Forever a Soldier is the second book in the Veteran's History Project.  The book is a collection of 37 stories from service men and women.  The stories are from veteran's from World War I to Iraq.

Go for Broke National Education Center is an organization that tells the stories of Japanese American Veteran's during World War II.  This site houses an oral history archive, lesson plans.  It also contains historical information and research materials.  The site encourages teachers to include the American story about the segregated Japanese American military units of World War II. They also encourage teachers to incorporated information about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the civil liberty issues and injustices of that time.

"With the State of California’s adoption in 1998 of the History/Social Science Content Standard that requires students to learn about the “roles and sacrifices of individual American soldiers, as well as the unique contribution of the special fighting forces (e.g. the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers),” it is imperative that teachers be provided with the tools to incorporate this important aspect of history into curriculum.

By providing teachers with accessible curriculum resources to teach this American story, the Learning Center supports the promotion of ethnic tolerance, increases respect and support for the civil rights of all people, and demonstrates how prejudice and racial discrimination can undermine the foundations upon which this country was built. "  Go for Broke website.

The Tuskagee Airman were also important veterans, their story also needs to be told to our students.  These airman served with honor and bravery.  Today the Tuskagee Airman organization have a youth program to encourage young people to develop through aviation.

The Tuskagee Airman National Historic Site  is another resource for individuals.  The Tuskagee Airman Project is a resource from Reach and Teach.  The Black History Web also has some great resources. One resource that I find interesting is the Teach With Movies site (subscription).

These resources are just teasers.  With some more searching you will uncover a treasure trove of other sources.  I think these are great places to start.  I would enjoy hearing how you use these ideas in your class.  If you drop me a line I will link your project for other teachers.

Oh yeah November 11th is Veteran's Day.