Monday, September 27, 2010

Guys Read - Getting Boys to Read

Guys Read

We all know that boys... ahem... young men are some of the hardest students when it comes to teaching reading.  That's where Guys Read comes in. 

Guys Read is a web site that helps connect boys with books.  Hmm... Let's try that again...  This time in an R. Lee Emery-in-Full-Metal-Jacket-drill-sergeant tone of voice...

Guys Read is a manly web site, made by a manly man, that teaches other manly young men about how awesome books are.  Biff!  Pow!  Bam!

There are no wimpy drop-down search-me menus here.  No-sir-ee-Bob!  There's a list here.  A manly list.  A manly list with manly topics like, "Action/Adventure," "Dragons," "How to Build Stuff," "War," and, my personal favorite, "At Least One Explosion."  Now who wouldn't want to jump into somethin' like THAT, huh?  THAT'S THE GOOD STUFF, SON!  NOW GO GETCHA' SOME!

So, maybe you're still not convinced that this is all this namby-pamby "encouragement" is all that necessary.  Click the "Guys and Reading" link for research supporting the need to GET MORE GUYS READING. DON'T YOU CLICK THAT BACK BUTTON, SON! CAN'CHA SEE I'M TEACHIN' YA' SOMETHIN' HERE!

While we're at it, why don't you STUDY LIKE A SCHOLAR, SCHOLAR"You're in the library with THE MAN YOUR GRADES COULD BE LIKE!"  (That awesome spoof ad for the Brigham Young University Library)

<We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.>

Math Homework Tips for Parents


This week's Lesson of the Week is on Math Homework Tips for Parents. (It changes weekly, so visit soon to download!)  Visit the District Web Site weekly to learn something new about what's happening in Galesburg Schools, and how you can help kids succeed!

Banned Books Week

Beware Book

Here's a great post from Free Technology for Teachers.  In it you'll find an interactive map showing book bans and challenges.  What's staggering is that the map shows data from the last 3 years (2007-2010) only!

The point, folks, is this: People are STILL trying to ban books and limit learning and creative expression, everywhere, almost every day. 

Is it right?  Is it wrong?  Does it depend on certain situations?  That's up to you and your students to decide...

Learn more about the American Library Association's Banned Books Week

Image by florian.b on Flickr, from

The Cost of NCLB Testing


A post from iLearnTechnology breaks down the costs of standardized testing into an easily-undersandable graphic format.

It's an election year, folks.  Have you registered to vote? (Knox County IL)

Resize Multiple Objects - SMART Board Tip


Here's a great tip on how to resize multiple objects equally using a SMART Board or SMART Notebook Software, from Teachers Love SMART Boards.

Here are the steps:

  • Click-and-Drag ("marquee select") to select all the objects you want to resize.  You can also hold down the CTRL key and click the objects from your desktop.

  • Click or touch any one of the drop-down menus next to the objects, select Grouping and choose Group.  They are all grouped together as a single object now.

  • Click or touch the resize handle (the circle in the lower-right-corner of the object) and resize as needed.


It's like magic!





Graphic from

Don't Let the Pigeon Surf the Web?


I love it!  Mo Willems had developed a wonderful web site, Pigeon Presents, with loads of fun games and activities based on characters from his books.  On Pigeon Presents and the author's web site, GoMo!, you and your primary-aged students can learn more about the characters, other books by the author, and even watch video interviews about the author's love of reading & writing.

You can learn more about how to use this author's books and web sites in your classroom, as well as share how you and others are integrating these into classrooms, by visiting iLearn Technology.

The Week In Rap

Week in Rap

The Week In Rap is a nice addition to any class that looks at current events on a regular basis.  Produced each week by Flocabulary, it is available widely via Vimeo.  You can also download the video (.WMV file) from their web site  to play it straight from your desktop through Windows Media Player.  Their web site also has a transcript of the lyrics (...word!), and you can sign up to have weekly reminders emailed to you when each new episode is available.

While I would personally prefer to curl up with my old Rolling Stones or Bob Seger albums, kids today might prefer something a little more up-to-date to help them learn in the classroom.  Sometimes that old adage, "If ya' can't beat 'em, join 'em" holds true.  Many thanks to for the link!

Ignore the Test - from Dangerously Irrelevant

Dangerously Irrelevant

Dr. Scott McLeod, who worked with Karl Fisch to create the Did You Know - Shift Happens videos, has posted a very thoughtful discussion of the importance of teaching thinking skills in this era of high-stakes testing.  It is an excellent read.

Scott Mcleod Prepares For Jobs That Don't Exist

Dangerously Irrelevant

Here's another great post from Dr. Scott McLeod, who worked with Karl Fisch to create the Did You Know - Shift Happens videos. In this post, he discusses the need to move away from grading and points, and the teacher-centered classroom.  These two areas, he suggests, are the first step towards helping kids understand and develop solutions to problems that do not yet exist.  Another excellent read.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free Images from ImageBase

ImageBaseImageBase is a collections of photographic-quality images available free to the public.  While the website states that users can access and distribute these images as if they were "public domain," it is still a good idea (and good Internet-iquette) to cite the provider of the images, David Niblack

Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers  and Larry Ferlazzo for the link!  Larry Ferlazzo also refers to an excellent post about teaching students to use and cite images appropriately, by Sue Waters of EduBlogs.  (Thanks for providing this blog, Sue!)

Role Model Activity for SMART Board

Role Models

  Here's a fun activitiy from Teachers Love SMART Boards that could be used in a variety of different ways to stimulate student interest, but be advised: It's a math trick (shhh... don't tell!)

Role Model Activity from Teachers Love SMART Boards

The activitiy guides students through a series of brief and fairly simple mathematical procedures that supposedly predicts their ideal role model.  However, no matter how they complete their calculations (assuming no errors, of course), the answer is always nine.  So, the teacher edits the list of possible role models to include herself/himself at position number nine, and the fun is sure to follow.  Of course, you could use the student's parents, the principal who provided you with the SMART Board, the Tech Dept. staffer who saved your electronic bacon last week, etc. - the choice is yours!

Which Founder Are You?



The National Constitution Center has created a 12-question personality quiz based on current knowledge of the Founding Fathers, at a site called Which Founder Are You?  Take the quiz and see which of the writers of the Constitution you are most like.  This might be an interesting way to generate interest in early American history or Civics/Government.  Appropriate for all ages.  Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers for the link!

Student Mindset List - Class of 2014

Mindset List

Each year, faculty members from Beloit (WI) College compile a list of characteristics of their entering class of Freshmen This list outlines some revealing, humorous, and sometimes disturbing trends among Freshmen, and helps their faculty understand just “where they’re coming from.” While this is aimed at college-aged kids (born in 1992 – last year’s high school seniors), high school faculty might also find some of the items both humorous and telling of the kids they work with daily.

Some examples from the list of 75 trends/characteristics:

  • Few in the class know how to write in cursive

  • Russians and Americans have always been living together in space

  • …they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides

  • Al Gore has always been animated

 Read the Class of 2014 Mindset List here.

Watch the authors discuss the Mindset List here.

  • If you need the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in to watch the video, it is available here

Space Science Resources


 Here's a great post from Free Technology for Teachers on "8 Good Resources for Space Science Lessons."  Resources include:

The only link I might add is the the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  The sites above, though, are much easier to navigate & use.
Keep your head in the clouds!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interviewing Skills: Story Corps

Story CorpsI first learned about Story Corps from Free Technology for Teachers, and then saw a similar post on the Proud Principal blog.

Story Corps is a non-profit organization that records & shares interviews with people from all walks of life.  Sometimes they are even aired on National Public Radio

They have a great how-to video that plays through their Vimeo channel.

If you have your students conduct interviews as part of a class project (or if you'd like to start), you might find this a useful addition to your personal "Teacher Toolkit."

I recommend Audacity for a free recording program.  Instructions for downloading, installing, and using Audacity can be found on my website's "How Do I?" page.  If you need recording equipment (headphone/microphones, webcam, voice recorder, or FLIP cameras), send me an email and I'll help you set something up.

Our students want better work, not less work

Dangerously IrrelevantAn interesting post on Scott Mcleod's  blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, discusses the need for more relevant & engaging work for students.  He suggests that plagiarism, etc., is the sign of a disenfranchised student who is not lazy, but instead is calling out for more relevant and engaging school work do be done in the classroom and at home.

BTW: Scott Mcleod was one of the creative minds behind the "Did You Know/Shift Happens" viral videos.

Have an opinion?  Share it by commenting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mudd Math Fun Facts

Here's a fun site filled with interesting Math facts - Mudd Math Fun Facts.  The site is administered through the Math Department at Harvey Mudd College and is intended for into-level college Math courses.   From the web site:

"Each Math Fun Fact is a mat puzzle or short article that contains a cool mathematics idea.  You'll can <sic> learn about the mathematics of things like card shuffling to poker to computer vision to fractals to music, just to name a few."

However, it could be very appropriate for upper-level high school math classes as well!  A great use might be to show these as a "Fun Math Fact of the Day," etc., to help expose kids to college-bound math skills.  In fact, there's a link to a random Fun Fact in the upper left-hand corner of the page!  You can also search within subjects like Algebra, Calculus, Geometry, Probability, Topology, or Combinatorics. (I'm not sure what some of those are, but they sure sound "Math-y," don't they?)

Thanks to for this link!

Snappy Words - Free Visual Dictionary & Thesaurus


Snappy Words

Tired of the way kids tend to use the same, tired-old words and phrases in their daily writing assignments?  Snappy Words is a free online visual dictionary and thesaurus site which would be great for anyone who teaches any sort of vocabulary and has a SMART Board or projector hooked up in the classroom.  Just enter a word or phrase into the search box, and Snappy Words generates a web of definitions and related words & phrases.  Hover over any word or phrase included in the web to view its definition.  The "connectors" and "bubbles" that make up the visual web are different colors, which represent different relationships, parts of speech, etc.  (Some even include non-examples that oppose the definition!)  Users can click and drag (or touch and drag on a SMART Board) to rearrange the words in the web, or double-click (double-tap) to start a new search on one of the words in the web.  Using the scroll wheel on your mouse will zoom in and out on the web image.

This tool is very similar to Visual Thesaurus, which is an excellent and very powerful online dictionary and thesaurus mapping tool.  Visual Thesaurus requires a paid subscription or purchase of a CD version, however.  Snappy Words, which is free to use and requires no download or installation, is ad-supported.  It does quite a bit less than Visual Thesaurus, but might be a nice tool for vocabulary study at any grade level.  And by the way, did I mention that it's FREE?!!!  And kids could use it at home as a visually interesting tool to help spruce up their writing... for FREE?!!!!

Thanks go out to for this and so many other links!  Check them out!

Picturing America - Teach History Through Art

Picturing America


Those of you who have visited this blog before may have noticed my propensity toward History- and Geography-related sites.  What can this old middle school Social Studies teacher say? I try not to be biased, but sometimes the old dog comes out from under the porch to stretch his legs in the sun...

That being said, here's a wonderful site, from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association called Picturing America.  According to the web site, its intention is to bring "masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide."

The site contains an extensive gallery of high quality artwork reproduced in digital format, and has a link to an extensive database of lesson plans that are appropriate for a number of grade levels and subject areas.  On the Educators page you'll find links to an extensive Resource Book and a Power Point version of Images for Classroom use.

Many thanks to for this link.

Constitution Day is Friday, Sept. 17





Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day) is the nation-wide observance of the anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution, on September 17, 1787. 

This year’s observance is Friday, September 17, 2010. 

The commemoration was passed into law (Public Law 108-447) by Congress and became effective in 2005.  It states that:

“Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.” (from, Section 111, part (2)(b))

A number of free resources are available to help educators satisfy this mandate:

Read the latest post!

"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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