Code Word: Programming

December 11, 2014

I’m feeling a little sneaky using Hour of Code this week:  do my students know they are building logic skills?  Do they know they are in a competency-based learning environment?  Do they have the rush of adrenaline when they finally get it right at the end?  I’m sure I do.

Hour of Code is part of a week to promote computer science in schools.  The premise is to get students programming.  Why programming?  I’m going to stick with the logic of it.  IF…THEN from my BASIC days.  Or maybe that was FORTRAN.  I learned both in high school.  Do remember them?  No, not really.  In fact, there’s a third language we had a class for and I don’t remember.  COBALT?  C++?  Regardless, it was a hands-on class with immediate results:  if it worked, it worked.  If it didn’t, you figured it out.

This is a skill all of our students need:  figuring out why something doesn’t work.  Asking questions, trying again and again and again…not giving up, not surrendering to the idea that failure is a bad thing.  (It is, but only if you stop there.)

Here’s my Hour+ of Code product.  I love learning alongside my students.

My creation.  I worked for it!

My creation. I worked for it!



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#GRA14 is on!

October 7, 2014

I’m enthralled by the Global Read Aloud.  Tens of thousands of teachers, hundreds of thousands of students, all reading the same book at the same time.  All around the world, and then connecting about it.  This example of how technology expands the classroom should be extended to all sorts of content.  But there’s something about the reading aloud bit that takes this technological masterpiece and turns it into magic that’s not the same as a world-wide Skype session with a scientist.  And I think that is a good thing.

You can still join in!

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Working With Poetry

April 30, 2014

We are playing around with figurative language in our Middle School LA class.  Here’s all the more I can come up with for practicing an epistolary poem.  (I’m tired already, and it isn’t even summer yet!)


Radiant orb slips slowly in the West
Golden grace graces us all
No one sleeps
No one dreams but the dreams of

You slip slowly in the west, your golden grace covers
no one sleeps
no one dreams
but the dreams you plant in motion

Your drive to fill life fruitfully full
Tires me
Exhausts me
Consumes me
until I fall forward
with welcome weariness
to the void of unaware
blissful void of silence
(though not of dark, you thief)


There’s more to this, I’m sure.

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Creative Writing Club

April 10, 2013

When surveyed about possible after-school clubs, our students came back with ideas like a book club or writing club.  (Interesting that they ask for more school, don’t you think?)  Writing club?  I could do that.

Right now seven students and I sit in the computer lab, working on scripts for the now defunct “Script Frenzy” that the NaNoWriMo folks.  Some have page goals and ideas flowing while others are making muse posters to grace the walls of the lab.

Fun it is to hang out with students in this role.  I hope to start this up next year in the Fall so we can do NaNoWriMo together.  I will work with writing for a few years but then the mom in me thinks MathCounts might be the next thing to work with students on once my daughter gets to Middle School.  She (and hence, all my students) needs these things to compete in her future.

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Apple TV and Other Distractible Tech

March 20, 2013


A student just told me, you probably shouldn’t have hooked the Apple TV up. He and another student are dueling over the AirPlay feed. It is humorous to watch, and also quite necessary. Friday they will use the iPads and Haiku Deck for a presentation related to Around the World in 80 Days. It’s the first iPad presentation in our school and even if it isn’t is the most polished, it has been a good process to get to that point.

Many teachers seem to fear technology for this very reason; the students will just mess around and not work. Well, of course they will mess around but at some point, and it doesn’t take very long, they shift to using the technology for learning. If the tech stays locked away and comes out only occasion then it might as well stay locked away. Teachers need to allow for ‘play time’ as time well spent upfront when using new technology in the classroom.

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Happy Leap Day

March 1, 2012

What did we do yesterday?  We posted to as part of a world-wide blogging event.  Over 20,000 people visited the site, mostly school children and mostly from Great Britain.  At least 20 of my students posted with a variety of posts about life, school, basketball and lists of 29.

Most had fun.  Some did it because I ‘made’ them do it.  Most followed our iSafe rules about posting personal information on the internet.

Posting for a global audience thrilled me, and I hope it started the kids thinking, right…there is more to our world than what I see outside the classroom windows.

I posted four times….in the thousands of posts, here’s the one I can find.

What global writing project will we participate in in 2016?

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Hungry for “The Hunger Games”

January 30, 2012
Image from

Image from

Have you read The Hunger Games?  You should!

One assignment we do in our Middle School LA/Reading class is a book talk.  This boils down to an oral literary analysis of a book where the theme of the book drives the assignment.  You have to give the theme of the book and support that with a quote from the book, as well as tell about the plot elements that support the theme.  You can’t spoil the ending, though, or you have to redo the talk.  (We’re such meanies, my co-teacher and I.)

The Hunger Games trilogy is coming up often in these book talks.

I reread it this past Saturday with the question in mind, why is this a good book?   Why are my students and my peers enthralled with the story?

1. The idea of the Hunger Games isn’t too far fetched. This story is set in a dystopian future where the annual Hunger Games are televised to the country.  There are betting pools on who will win, contestants are sponsored, and the winners become a type of societal hero.

Super Bowl Sunday approaches, and over 100 million people will watch that football game live.  The winning team will be come superstars (for now) and much money will be won or lost in Vegas over any number of betting scenarios.  Companies have paid millions of dollars to sponsor the event through commercials.  Not too different from The Hunger Games, see?

2.   We are used to the reality television thing, and this story takes it to another level we hope society never attains. The reality show “Survivor” has run 24 seasons, and all of them have watched at one level or another at my house.  “Big Brother” and “The Amazing Race” also have good followings, never mind “Jersey Shore.”  We have no problem watching the train wrecks of other people’s lives.  In a world where life itself is troubled, why not watch the Hunger Games with your neighbors and hold your own child extra tight for the night.

3.  We (adult women) like Katniss. She’s a rebel.  Well, not really in The Hunger Games.  She only wants to survive and if that means she has to poach outside of the regulations, or twist the games into something that isn’t exactly part of the-powers-that-be’s plans, so be it.  She will do what it takes to make it home.  More than that, the only reason she is even in the games is  because of her own personal sacrifice for ones she loves.  Deep down inside, we too want to be like that.

4.  Young women like Katniss. She’s strong and smart, is amazing with a bow, she gets to live a fairy tale for a bit, and she is loved.  She is a far stronger character and role model then say, Bella, from that other popular YA series.  Oh, to have been such a individual at 16 years old!

5.  Suzanne Collins tricks us into reading on. She really does.  The end of each chapter is a cliffhanger, and I don’t know about you, but I have to keep reading.  There is a reason I tell my peers, make sure your children have food available that they can fix themselves since you’ll be reading and can’t be bothered to fix it for them.

6.  The literary experience is satisfying. Insert all the literary critique of a good writer here:  Collins does well with her character development, she uses the setting to support the plot and theme, and she connects with readers.  A four-star book for sure, seeing as I save five-stars for the likes of Tolkien and Poe.


There’s my two-cents.  What’s yours?

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Be Water

January 6, 2012

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” -Bruce Lee

(Thanks to one of my fabulous Middle Schoolers for sharing this with me!)

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Good Stuff.

October 18, 2011

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I just made a new Voki.

March 23, 2011

See it here!

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