Saturday, March 12, 2011

Windows to a Grandparent's Heart

Tonight we had supper with my sister and her family, Rita and her husband Andrew, her daughter Kelsey and her boyfriend Travis and her son’s daughter Ava.  Ava is 5 years old, two years younger than my granddaughter Hailey. 

I remember the first time I saw Ava.  She was a baby being carried in her Grandfather’s arms at Dan and my wedding.  She was so little.  And Andrew so smitten with that small bundle.

I have seen this tender look before in the eyes of another man.  I saw that soft sweet expression every time Dan was with Hailey.   Both of these men held these small beings in their large hands.  Smiling, as they hardly breathed.  You could see their hearts open and overflowing in the presence of their granddaughters.

One of my favorite pictures was taken the day Hailey was born.  Dan is holding her in his arms looking down on her tiny face.  The light shimmers and reflects in his eyes as he holds this wondrous gift.

Andrew once told me that he loved to just watch Ava sleep, marveling at her tiny fingers and toes.  I sat between my husband and Andrew tonight, I watched him gaze at his wife and granddaughter with affection and tenderness. 

As I contemplate these scenes, my eyes grow misty.  We are so lucky to know this kind of love.  I know these little girls are blessed with the love of family.  There is something quite wonderful about a grandchild.

Here’s to the love of grandparents. I often joke that when I married Dan I gained a daughter and a son, but best of all I got a granddaughter without having to raise her parents.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chronicling America - Using Digitized Historic Newspapers

Using the Chronicling America site has been great fun. I discovered that the Weather Service has already celebrated 150 years. I learned how maps were made in previous years. I also learned that in 1888 dogs had to be licensed in Miles City, MT, my hometown. While talking to a friend about this site I learned that she has an original copy of the Daily Yellowstone Journal that once belonged to her mother-in-law. I hope your research uncovers equally interesting finds.
You can read historic Montana newspapers by going to the Montana Memory Project and linking to the Chronicling America Project. The Chronicling America Newspaper Project is a joint partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress National Digital Newspaper Program. The Library of Congress site has digitized newspapers from every state.
One way to access Montana newspapers is to go to the Montana Memory Project. Once there, scroll to the bottom of the page. You can then choose which papers and dates you want to search.
There is also a link to the Chronicling America site.
This is a great place to jump in and explore. If you are like me this is also where you will start to get very frustrated. I would enter a search term and up would pop a number of newspapers. That was good. When I finished looking at the first one I tried to find the other potential newspapers. I couldn’t just click on the next one. That was bad.
I requested help from Martha at the MT Historical Society. She told me to open two windows in my browser and work back and forth. Great advise! Shortly after that she forwarded an email from the Library of Congress - they had just put their beta version online. Much easier to work with!
You can get your search results either as newspaper thumbnails or in list format. I used the list format and printed out the list. It made it easier for me to take notes and make comments about the newspapers as I searched. It gave me a thorough record of my searches.

List format

Thumbnail format

I also played with the browsing tool. Click on the browsing button. It brings up a calendar and a way to look at specific newspapers by date. You can search by state or individual paper. Under the column – browse issues is a calendar icon. You can click on the icon to fine tune your search by individual copies.

I would be interested in all comments after you peruse this site. Please let me know about problems you encounter. I would also like ideas for making this tutorial more meaningful. I enjoy reading all comments.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Have you never been to Seussville?

”Oh, the Things You Can Find, If You Don’t Stay Behind!” From On Beyond Zebra

So are You Going to Seussville? That imaginary village populated with colorful characters. That romp and play. Wouldn’t you go if you could?

Listen closely as I tell you all about my visit to the official site of Seussville. I experienced a wonderful adventure as I walked down the streets of Seussville.

Now please don’t ask why. But there are games, lesson plans, teacher and parent places. Did I mention it is fun. There is info on the esteemed author as well as his beloved characters.  My favorite animation is the Seuss clock that moves while the page is downloading.

Click here if you would like a ticket to the magical Seussville.

Here are some other Dr Seuss Links   Dr Seuss Memorial Sculpture NEA Read Across America

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Paper Monster is Lurking Behind that Stack of Books

You can always tell how stressed I am by looking at my desk.  Does it looks like an avalanche in the making, ready to bury the unsuspecting passerby?  Then you know I am a little stressed.  Though to be fair I may just be going through a creative streak. 

I know it is bad when my students offer to clean my desk off.  When I am working on a new unit, I can tune out all distractions. The papers multiply, the book stacks grow taller, until either I come up for breath or my principal threatens to take my laptop away.

You see this is the first laptop I have had for school.  It arrived the last of October and she told me she wouldn’t give it to me until I had my desk cleared off.  It took me a week to dig out from under the piles of paper.  I feel good that I managed to control the chaos until now.  Three months people could see that there was a desk. 

Right now the stacks are making me uncomfortable.  They are growing taller.  I can play hide and seek and no one would find me.  I keep telling myself I need to take baby steps combined with action, instead of just reading FlyLady’s blog  She teaches people how to move from chaos to order. I read her posts hoping to  bring order to my life and not just because she is funny.

I know the paper monster is lurking, hidden within the stacks.  Waiting for that unsuspecting soul to walk by triggering an avalanche.  Where to start? Hmm – I really don’t want to deal with the paper monster right now.  I think I’ll go and play with some new ideas for class next week. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Internet Use and Cyberspace: Opening Pandora’s Box

I was reading back posts from ilearntechnology her blog always has great information. I wanted to share some of the sites I found about internet safety to use with students. Some are completely free. Several of the sites are partially free. Many of these sites are from the United Kingdom.

1. Disney’s Surfswell Island

a. This site is from Australia. The format is designed for kids to learn by playing games. There are parent and teacher components. Another feature is the glossary.

2. Internet Safety

Is a commercial site that features some good resources and printables for parents to use with their children.

3. Safe Surfing With Dongle

This site covers cyber issues like email and internet safety. It is in a game format. There are recommended links as well as a “grown-up” section.

4. The Carnegie Cyber Academy

This site has a downloadable game called “Carnegie Cadets: The MySecureCyberspace Game

In this game students make learn how to stay safe on the web. There is also a teacher’s packet.

5. Think U Know Cyber Café

Game format – students help “Griff and his friends” stay safe while using email, chat areas and mobile devices. There is a teacher section.

6. Internet Safety with Professor Garfield

“The Virginia Department of Education teamed up with the Professor Garfield Foundation and the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia to provide guidance for students, teachers, and parents to help students protect themselves online.”

7. Illinois State Board of Education

Informative links about Cyberbullying

8. Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section

This site talks about cyberethics and cybercitizenship. It is a Department of Justice site.

9. Childnet International
This site is more adult centered. Features news, how to report abuse, teacher and parent components, and connected links.

Elementary teachers might want to check out for more resources.

10. Welcome to the Web

This site makes me think of a webquest – students read and answer questions. Very good teaching module. It even comes with a Challenge. Students must go through the other sections and save their secret codes to participate in the challenge.

Cybersafety is very important. As parents and teachers we often feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problems that have jumped out of this pandora’s box. In the story Pandora found hope in the bottom of the box.

Many people have designed wonderful sites to help us keep our students safe. We teach children how to cross streets safely. Now we need to teach them how to be safe in cyberspace.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Skitch In Time

 Skitch is a way to gather information from the screen.  It is very versatile tool.  After collecting the page image you can write notes on the page.

This page came from Projects by Jen  Then I found her section on Guess the Wordle.  In her post she gave some wonderful reasons to use wordle in the classroom.

The idea that resonated with me was showing key words.  The connection I made was in using it to take notes and to do research.  Using Skitch I was able to write on the page about my connections.  For students as they read articles they could take notes make connections.  The tool is easy to use.

Never Growing Old: Chicken Puffs Recipe!!

Never Growing Old: Chicken Puffs Recipe!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Google Search Stories Video Creator

Storytelling has been around probably as long as man.  In our digital world we are finding new ways to connect and tell our stories.  Google ran an ad during Super Bowl 2010, people loved it.  So Google developed a video creation tool for people to make their own 60 second Google Search Story.

You start by choosing a topic and developing 6 search terms.  After typing in the terms strand, there is a drop down box under “using”.  Here you choose: web search, images, map, news, blog search, product search, book.  Google will then focus on that specific type of information to search for.  After you have made your choices for search strands you choose the music. 


The Google Search Story video creator is a great tool for collecting searches and using them to tell a story with music.  I chose to tell the story of Sword Park Restoration Project in Billings, MT.  This is a community project supported by the Billings Chamber of Commerce, Bike Net and other community partners.  They have submitted this proposal and are trying to win the Pepsi Refresh Challenge.

To support this proposal you can vote daily at the Pepsi Refresh Challenge site. The winning entry will be decided based on popularity.  This is a great project that helps connect our youth with our colorful history.  You can sign up for daily reminders to vote by going to 

Join us in taking the Pepsi Refresh Challenge and vote for Sword Park for Kids.

Is There An App for That?

At lunch I would sometimes hear some of the younger teachers talking about "Apps" that they had downloaded.  Followed closely by an exclamation, "They have an App for that?"

I had gathered from the context that an App was some kind of link to great tools, a type of button.  At the time though I didn't have a fancy cell phone, I didn't have a Mac or an IPad or even an IPod.  So the conversations ebbed and flowed around me.  

Now rewind to October 1, 2010.  One of my favorite health food stores - Mary's Health Food called to let me know that my name had been drawn and I was now the proud owner of an IPAD. Yeah!!!  What a learning curve.  I love the devise and new worlds are opening up every day.

My library until November had one computer the one I used to check out books with.  It caused problems when kids wanted to search the electronic catalog for books as I was checking out books to other students.  Well that became a thing of the past when I realized here was a 2nd computer available.  You guessed it, my IPAD.  The kids were in awe their dinosaur of a librarian had an IPad. What could be more amazing than that?

I have found some wonderful sources for Apps.  Today I will focus on some educational Apps you might want to check out.  Apptivities blogs about educational apps that are available and how to use them in the classroom.  One idea that I learned about on their site was Social Learning with Digital Trading Cards using Bump and Comic Touch.  

Google is a great resource for educators.  Check out the Google Apps Education Training Center there are lots of ideas for using apps in the classroom.

I love Kelly Tenkely's blog ilearntechnology fabulous resource.  She also writes iPad Curriculum,  she reviews apps and how they can be of educational significance.  I just read about tales2go promo and I'm going to go register our school.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Small Town USA Database

e-Podunk is a fun database for looking at communities across the nation.  I found information about small communities in Montana.  They showed pictures when available.  The viewer was invited to share pictures if they had them.

This would be a great place for looking at local history.  They feature community attractions such as museums and other places of interest. Some even tell how the community got it’s name. 

I can see using it with many sites developed in partnership with State Historical Museums.
Montana Memory Project ( )
American Memory Project ( )
Montana Place Names Companion Website ( )
Montana Historical Society
Nation Wide Links for State Historical Societies has a great post featuring three historical maps mashup that would add to the historical element: History Pin; LookBackMap; SepiaTown

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What do you do with emergent language? | Kalinago English

What do you do with emergent language? | Kalinago English     This is a great post with ideas for working with vocabulary.  I always get excited when I find ideas I can adapt for my own classroom.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Social Justice and The Literature Connection

What makes us connect with a person? It might be something as ordinary as a shared birthday.  It might be a common experience.  The more we learn about a person the greater the chance of developing a connection.

I chose to introduce the topic of the Civil Rights Movement by giving my students a Pre-test.  I chose 11 vocabulary words from the book "The Bus Ride that Changed History: the story of Rosa Parks" by Pamela Duncan Edwards.  I then had them tell me what they thought the words meant and to write two paragraphs about either the Civil Rights Movement or Rosa Parks.  I then read the book to them.

My student's knowledge is very sketchy.  As I graded the papers my favorite answer for "boycott" was "some kind of bed" (boy + cot).  This unit of study should give them  an opportunity to expand their knowledge.

As part of my library class I am focusing on the reader/writer connections.  I am pairing fiction and nonfiction books with primary sources from several websites to encourage them to experiment with different kinds of writing.

Next week's lesson will be the e-learning adventure from the National Civil Rights Movement Museum "Before the Boycott: Riding the Bus". (See screen shot to the left.)

 I often share a picture book and ask my students to listen as a writer.  What techniques did the writer use?  What story structure did they incorporate or borrow from?  When I ask them to write I ask them to experiment with some of these strategies.

Before the Boycott is designed for middle school students to use individually.  I am using it with my fifth graders as a whole class activity.  Projecting it with an LCD projector and having the students use individual whiteboards to answer the questions.  The Museum used primary sources (photo's) to develop their e-adventure, they also include a teacher section.

There are two other books that I will use in class.  The first is "If a Bus Could Talk" by Faith Ringgold.  This book is a Reading Rainbow book.  It is a great tool to show how an author can take a real event and fictionalize it. The second book is "Rosa" by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier.  The illustrations are rich additions to the story.  I really enjoy using Visual Thinking Strategies with this book.

Visual Thinking Strategies use the following questions to help students explore artwork.

  1.   What do you see in this picture?
  2.   What else can you find?
  3.   What's going on in this picture?
  4.   What do you see that makes you say that?
Every time I use this technique I am amazed at the insight my students share.  I am really looking forward to seeing what connections my students make, as they explore the literature written about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exploring the World of Words

I have always been fascinated by dictionaries, though at times they are daunting.  There are times though when I have looked up a word only to be totally confused by the definition.  The definitions seem to be in a different language making me feel dumb because I still don’t get it.

As a teacher I believe that expanding a students vocabulary is important to my students success in school as well as life.  I am always looking for better ways to interest my students in vocabulary.  Imagine my delight as I read Joanne Troutner’s article “Infographics Defined” (Teacher/Librarian: the Journal for School Library Professionals, December 2010) and many great websites. 

My favorite is Weboword.  It illustrates one word a day with whimsical drawings.  It explains words visually. It makes learning vocabulary fun, its like reading the funny papers.   I have used the book Vocabulary Cartoons by Sam, Max, and Bryan Burchers in the past to teach some words.  Weboword  is based on a similar concept you can subscribe to have a daily word sent to you via email.   

Ideas for integrating it into the classroom:  

After showing students a number of samples letting them design their own illustrations/cartoon to depict the meaning.  This helps them anchor their own learning, providing a different way to connect and remember their vocabulary words.

In the article “Bring Back the Joy” by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson (Teacher/Librarian, Dec 2010) they talked about a Visual Dictionary by Merriam-Webster.   What a delightful concept – pictures to clarify the meaning.  I am sure many of my students will be captured by this way of looking up words. 

VocabAhead – uses video to develop word understanding.  There is a teacher’s section  that offers suggestions and support for using the site in the classroom.  They also encourage classes to make their own videos to share.

My own favorite is the Longman online dictionary.  This dictionary is also available in print format.  The Longman dictionary was developed for English learners and uses contemporary English.  My students like this dictionary.  The definitions are so much more understandable.

Exploring words should be an adventure that opens doors instead of a wall that keeps people out.  Here’s to exploring a brave new world.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Does Decadent Chicken Have to Do With Writing?

Over the holiday break I gave my intermediate students an assignment to interview a family member or friend about a favorite recipe.  I wanted them to have a great conversation and to write what they learned about the recipe, it’s history, and the cook.  I wanted them to see that there are many forms of writing.  I wanted them to make connections with part of their heritage. 

I reminded them that we all eat.  We can learn many things from talking to our family about favorite foods.  I also figured that maybe they would go on to collect other recipes and this one would get them started.

When they came back from break about half had the assignment done.  Recipes ranged from sugar cookies to hot dogs, Campbell’s tomato soup with extra tomatoes and milk.  Many shared their version of macaroni and cheese.  One of my students asked me, “Did you bring in a recipe?”

I told him I hadn’t but I would bring one in.  I thought he had showed me a link that I had missed in making the assignment.  I had one class that didn’t get the assignment before Christmas.  So I adjusted the lesson and started with my recipe.  I told them a little about Donna Rose, the lady who originally given me the recipe.   I read them the recipe. 

We talked about the title – Decadent Chicken Wrap.  We discussed what decadent meant.  I asked – “What do you want to know about this recipe or who gave it to me?”  We talked about the importance of checking to make sure they had written everything down correctly.  Why was proof reading important?

Several of the students asked me if they could have a copy.  My answer was sure.  I printed the recipe and made it available for anyone who wanted to copy it down.  Next week I will read them the story “Miss Opal’s Auction” by Susan Vizurraga.  It is the story of an elderly lady who is moving and has an auction.  Her young neighbor is watching the things being sold and remembering all the good times they shared.  Miss Opal buys back one of her cookbooks and gives it to the girl. 

As I think back over my life - It was more than just great food. It was the conversations and the relationships that were built when we made it, talked about it.  It was really about family and friends who broke bread together.

Donna Rose gave me this recipe in January 2003.  She was one of my Library Volunteers and a fantastic cook.

Decadent Chicken Wrap

4-6 chicken breasts – pounded flat
1 slice bacon for each chicken breast
1 slice ham for each chicken breast
1 slice Swiss cheese for each chicken breast

Sauce Ingredients
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1 can cream chicken soup
½ package dry onion soup mix

Step 1:  Pound chicken breasts flat.  Lay bacon under chicken, place ham and Swiss cheese on top.

Step 2:  Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Put in 9 X 13 cooking dish.

Step 3:  Mix sour cream and soup.  Pour over and cover up chicken roll ups.

Step 4:  Cook about an hour at 325.