Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Coupons for Children

My children and enjoyed doing this activity at holiday time last year. Some of my parents thanked me for it. Below is a link for creating Christmas Coupons. I prefer the black-and-white versions of the coupons as the coloring of them makes them more individual. Many children do not have money to buy a gift for their parents, so this collection of coupons is great to put into a parent's stocking. Click here for Christmas Coupons. Students could even design their own coupons, if templates are not preferred.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Animal Flash Cards

Last week we were learning about animal adaptations and habitats. I wanted to do something different this year. I had some animal flash cards that I has purchased earlier that had habitat, diet, location, etc. of animals. The flash cards had the same information that is in the textbooks, however, my students loved using the animal flash cards. Such a simple change made a difference in the enthusiasm level in the class. This made me look for other flash card activities. I found several HERE. I wouldn't use all of them--but I will use a couple of them in class. (I also did not buy the flashcards from this site as these cards were too juvenile for fourth-graders.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Way to Recycle Subscription Cards for Fourth Graders

I hate those subsciption cards that come with magazines. There are sometimes 2 or 3 of them in one issue and I always think, "What a waste of paper!" I was visiting a recycling site when I saw a way to recycle those cards: Let students practice their writing on them. The author was suggesting that this activity is for first-graders to practice writing their names and addresses. My fourth-grade students love practicing their cursive writing and I will certainly be recycling my subscription cards with them!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Searching For Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Am I dreaming? I am STILL enjoying my fourth-grade class. I was told to get some sleep before school started because I had 3 or 4 'strong personalities' in my class. Compared to last year, however, this class is a 'dream' so far.

However, for some reason, I am working harder this year--I can't seem to leave before 5 PM. That's 2 hours after school has let out. I also arrive at the school aroound 6:45, almost 2 hours before school starts. It's amazing: the administrative work, the paperwork, the grading, etc. Actually, I don't mind the morning's nice and quiet, and there are only 5 of us in the school at that time; so I can get a lot of work done. But instead of working harder, I need to find a way to work 'smarter'....

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Really Enjoying My New Fourth-Grade Class

I am really enjoying my new fourth-grade class. I am always amazed at the dynamics of a new class. It never ceases to amaze me how different 20 little students can be. I feel stronger this year...I find that I am more organized and, of course, that helps with classroom instruction.

I saw my last year's standardized test scores for my class. Tears came to my eyes. Tears of joy! I couldn't believe it. They said we could not do it, and here I was looking at Proficient and Advanced scores for almost my entire class! YES! I am SO proud of them! I am still floating on Cloud Nine. This tells me, that for the most part, I am doing the right thing, in spite of the old textbooks.

I found a really nice fourth-grade class web site. The teacher who governs the site is Mrs. Renz. (I am so jealous of her classroom. If I had a classroom like that, I would feel as if I had died and went to Heaven.) On the website there are several Teacher Resources. Just click on the 'Just For Teachers' button at the top of the page.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Teachers: Things To Do With Students On The First Day Back

Even though there are some advertisments in this video for Teachnology, the tips outlined are good and I was pleased to learn that I had accomplished all of the tips except for the color-coding idea. I could even add a few tips of my own that the video did not cover.

Monday, August 31, 2009

You Are So Lucky...

You are so stop working at 3 get the whole summer off. I try not to get too annoyed when I hear those remarks from non-teachers. Most of the time, I just nod and shake my head. However, what I really want to tell those who make those comments is that I spend most of my summer reading, researching, and preparing for my next school year. I also took part in some staff development sessions. If I had more time,I would have taken some continuing education classes. But those who make the comments are right about one thing. I am lucky...for I see each September as a rebirth...a renewal..a chance to stimulate the minds of twenty more students. :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WatchKnow--The Potential to be a Great Site

I recently became involved with WatchKnow, an educational video site that will help teachers and parents, and will help tutor children everywhere. I am glad that I became aware of this site and started to help the website's founders, because I learned that there are SO many education videos out there. I plan on using it with my fourth-grade class.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fantastic Math Site for Students!

I wish I had found this site before school ended. I would have loved my students to use it this summer. This math site has 800-plus videos of math instruction! Visit Khan Academy. This comprehensive site would be a good aid for homeschoolers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Days Left for My Students

I have written a short, personal 'thank you' note to each parent fot their help and support during the school year, for there are two days left for my students and I to be together--well, actually, a day and a half, as on Tuesday, the school day ends at noon. I am still giving pre-classwork and homework--am I crazy? I intend to keep them occupied until the last minute of the last hour of the last day. One of my favorite last day activities is having my outgoing students write a letter to my incoming students. I also left some items for them to tear down off the wall--for they LOVE doing that! Many of my students will not read this summer, but here is a good fourth-grade summer reading list here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Teacher Who is Not a Big Fan of Move-Up Day

Tomorrow, starting at 5:30 PM the lower school takes part in our annual Move-Up Day. In our school, the children do not go to their new teacher as some schools do; they just have a ceremony of sorts. Of course, as an educator, I am pleased that my students worked hard to be promoted to the fifth grade. However, I just can't get excited about move-up days. I am not a big fan of unnecessary ceremonies. When I went to school there were no 'move-up' days, consequently when I did graduate I felt a strong sense of accomplishment. It seems to me that when you have ceremonies like this, you devalue a real graduation event. That's just my thoughts...perhaps this year's ceremony will change my attitude towards them...but I doubt it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

If I Had the Funds to Start a School...

I did not realize that my teaching philosophy was grounded in social reconstructivism until I was in grad school. If I could, I would start a 'Green School'. Of course, the school would focus on basic academics, but I would hire the best 'green' engineers/teachers to educate students about sustaining a 'green' planet. I am so disheartened at the continued abuse of this planet. If it continues, we will need an army of people to fix the damage done over the last 50-100 years. I feel as if we are not doing enough to fix our mess...or we are doing it too slowly. After all, what is the point of putting so much effort into teaching students when it is very possible that the planet we live on will become unsuitable for human life? I was happy to find out that The New School offers an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. This summer I may take some free classes on 'green education' which I found at this link: at Suite 101.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Activities for the Last Day of School

My last day of school with students is June 23rd. I've purchased books as 'end-of-the-year' gifts for my students. Last September I created a Time Capsule of my student's handwriting, their likes and dislikes, etc. I can't wait to show it to them! Since they love to collect autographs by scrawling on each other's white shirts, I just created an 'Autograph Page' for them so that they can share their burgeoning cursive writing skills. Here are some more ideas for the last day of school. Check this out:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Looking Towards Tomorrow

It's not the end of the year, yet I find myself reflecting on this past year with my fourth-graders. (I really wanted a sixth-grade class, but no openings were available in my school.) However, I enjoyed the challenges that fourth-grade gave me. As an educator, I have heard so much about the fourth-grade 'slump' and I tried to read as much about as I could from books full of educational theories.

Each year for different reasons, the fourth-grade team at our school loses 1-2 members; some staying only a few months. However, I was truly blessed to be working on such a great team with a good team leader. This year, the gender make-up in my class was 15 girls and 5 boys. Until this time, I was clueless about the dynamics of having so many girls in my classroom. So much drama! I have seen my 'future' class, (3B becomes 4B) and the class make-up is just the opposite; 15 boys and 5 girls! To be honest, after this year, I am looking forward to having a class with mostly boys! There are many things that I would like to do differently. I intend to 'hit the ground running' in September.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Reviewing Landforms

I was reviewing landforms with my students and found these worksheets. Although it says for third grade, I would use it with my fourth-graders.
3rd Grade | Landforms Worksheet 3rd Grade | Landforms Worksheet Totally3rdGrade This worksheet is one of many resources available at and that are built upon the music of Teacher and the Rockbots, an educational rock band specially created for 3rd grade.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Longer School Year?

Every year, in the educational arena, there seems to be a new idea--or a new twist on an old idea, to enhance student learning. To that end, a longer school year has been suggested in the Philadelphia area. One area school has tried this and experienced little academic growth. I am not sure what the school used to measure this 'academic growth', but I believe it was the results of standardized test scores. But must EVERYTHING be measured by standardardized test scores? Yes, I realize that state tests are necessary to ensure accountability and to measure student achievement, but student learning can not and should not always be qualified in terms of standardized test scores.

To me, the real problem with student learning is the mediocrity that we are forced to accept. In many schools, teachers have to give passing grades and endure 'social' promotions. I am not of believer of giving a lot of 'A's, but students and parents expect it--even of shoddy or incomplete work. When I was a student, which was decades ago, getting an A was akin to seeking the Holy Grail...and when I received an A, I knew it was deserved.

Would a longer year help student learning? Would it reduce the acceptance of mediocrity. Here's another author's take on it:
Tweaking the American School Year
The American school year should be longer, with shorter days, and more vacations, because students could then acquire the sufficient amount of rest necessary for success.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Seven Things to Look for in an Online University

What to Look for in an Online College or University
Education is changing for elementary school-age students as well as for adults. Adults are looking for schools with more convenience and flexibility and online learning institutions are proliferating. There is so much more to consider when looking into an online college or university than touring a traditional college campus.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Students Love Google Earth

Google Earth is one of the most fascinating tools you can introduce to your students. Once you show them how to use it, they will discover many things on their own. This is not my video, but someone's tutorial on You Tube. There is also a Teacher Tube which has many educational videos for children.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Clean, Virtual World for Children

Poptropica is a clean, virtual world for children. Children can travel in this world and complete quests; to do so, they must don their 'thinking caps'. It's an advergaming site for Post Cereal. Click on the word 'Poptropica' in the first sentence and watch the video.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Your Teenage Daughter Reading?

What are teenage girls reading now? Find out at this site: Harper Teen. One can also browse the inside of books at this site BEFORE purchasing them.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

5 Myths About Home Schoolers Debunked
This article debunks 5 of the most common assumptions about the life of a home schooling family, from the perspective of a home schooling family.
The Automated Children’s Book Generator

Monday, February 16, 2009

More Informational Text for Children

“If we are going to prepare children for this world, we need to be serious about teaching them to read and write informational text. It may not be difficult to convince children of the need for this, as we draw their attention to the informational text that surrounds them in their world.”

(Duke, K., Bennett-Armistead, V. (2003), Reading and Writing Informational Text in the Primary Grades. New York, NY: Scholastic Incorporated)

When I began my career as a (na├»ve) educator, I started as a substitute, and I had the opportunity to watch many primary-grade teachers do read-alouds with their students. I recall that at least ninety-percent of the teachers I observed just read the book straight through, rarely pausing for discussion or reflection. I also recall that not one of the teachers at the school where I started my career, read informational text to their students, even though several did have a few informational texts in the classroom. “Nonfiction still tends to be scarce in classrooms” (2003, Routman, p. 70).

The journal article in the packet that Professor Irons gave us entitled “Why Include More Informational Text in Primary Classrooms” gives six reasons why we should.

1. Informational text is the key to success in later schooling.
“Expository texts are the primary reason by which students in grades K-3 acquire academic knowledge. Students' failure to comprehend these texts amasses an increasingly cumulative knowledge deficit as children progress through the grades” (Block, Rodgers & Johnson, 2004). Standardized state tests and SAT tests use informational text—students need to become familiar with this kind of text long before they take these tests. Much of the material we read in high school, college, and adult life is informational. I find myself reading appliance manuals, how-to books, and graduate-level textbooks. Going to school in the evenings and working two jobs, I find I have to 'force' myself to to make time to read a fictional book. All of the expository text I read, however, increases my understanding of the world around me, and this is precisely why we, as educators need to have our children read more expository text.

2. Informational text is ubiquitous in society.

The authors of the article remind us that ninety-six percent of the text on websites on the Internet is expository. Students of all ages spend a great deal of time on the Internet and we need to encourage them to read more informational text, so that they may become more familiar with the expository language that they find on websites. I like Tricia's idea of keeping 'closed-captioning' on her television so that her son sees the words as they are spoken. The 'crawls' at the bottom of the cable news screens also give more information to the viewer than the news anchors give. Tricia said that sometimes she turns the sound down, so that her son will have to read the words. This idea is excellent, especially on the channels that children frequently watch, such as the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, etc.

3. Informational text is preferred reading material for some children.
Our 83-year-old remedial reading instructor at my current school (who, obviously, has many years of teaching behind her!) asks her students to take a 'reading survey' to see what interests them. Then, she buys the books (with her own money) to make sure that she has something that her children will be interested in—and it's mostly expository text. She strives to improve their literacy with books that will pique their interest and curiosity, and I take many of my cues from her. “In truth, students often prefer non-fiction” (2003, Routman).

4. Informational text often addresses children's interests and questions.
As a child, I liked to read and I liked to write—I still like to do both, but I find the time I have for them is increasingly diminishing. Because I enjoyed writing as a child, I found myself, at the ripe age of nine, being 'published' in the school newspaper. What did I write about? Since my Dad is a retired firefighter, I had a keen interest in fire safety, and I entitled my entry “Fire Prevention”. Did I know that I was writing expository text? No, I just wanted to write about this topic for my classmates. To this day, I still prefer to write expository text, and, as I look at my home library, I see that I have many more informational texts than narrative ones. Some of my technology students are interested in cars, tennis, wrestling, and sometimes I find them 'sneaking' to websites that have this information, so, I know that children have a thirst for non-fiction writing, as I did as a child.

5. Informational text builds knowledge of the natural and social world.
“Not only do students learn a vast amount about the world as they are learning to read, their test scores are exemplary” (2003, Routman, p. 70). Professor Irons said her friend believes she coined the term: The more you know, the more you grow. The book I am currently reading is called “Ghost Map” which is a non-fiction book about the deadly spread of influenza in Victorian London and and I have learned more about bacteria, germs, lifestyles, and obsolete medical practices than I thought were possible—and I doubt that I could have learned about them any other way, for the book is not just interesting, but entertaining. Both the natural and the social world made it possible for the flu to spread from person to person. And, although it's not fiction, entertaining informational text like this would help our children enjoy learning about the world around them. The reason why the “...For Dummies” books are so popular, is because people have a need for informational text and their readers want to know more about the world around them, and these books do it in an entertaining and 'non-threatening' way.

6. Informational text may help build vocabulary and other kinds of literacy knowledge.
I had to really think about this last reason for including more informational text in our classrooms. I had to ask myself why would informational text help build vocabulary more than a narrative work. Is it because the context clues are more intuitive in a narrative work? Or, is it because there are more unknown terms in expository text forcing the reader to look up definitions? (Again, this is another reason why the “...For Dummies” books are so popular--because they are written in easy-to-understand English, with difficult, unfamiliar terms singled out on the page with easy definitions.) Whatever the reason, I feel that after reading this article, perhaps, there should be more expository books in our classrooms than fictional ones. I understand that there is a place for both, but this article makes a strong case for the former. I always wince when I see some teachers 'punish' children by making them open a dictionary and write down definitions. As a child, I would have dreaded doing this. Why make learning vocabulary words a punishment, when a definition should be something that should enlighten a child?

This article opened my 'literacy eyes' to use expository text to improve student knowledge. As a technology teacher, I will use this knowledge in my lab; I have found many interactive online fiction books for my students, but I now realize it is my duty to search for online interactive informational text as well. If I am not improving literacy, I am denying them many opportunities to further their learning, and that means I am not doing my job and wasting their time and mine.


Block, C., Johnson, R., & Rodgers, L. (2004). Comprehension Process Instruction, Creating Reading Success in Grades 1-3. New York, NY: The Guilford Press
(the book I won in class!)

Duke, N. & Bennett-Armistead., S (2003). Reading and Writing Informational Text in the Primary Grades, New York, NY: Scholastic Incorporated

Routman, R. (2003). Reading Essentials, The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishers

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How to Teach Author's Purpose

Author's Purpose In Language Arts Lesson Plans
This looks at some creative plans I used to teach Author's Purpose this year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Realism and Education

Copyright 2007-2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Plato designed his dialogues to arm students for real world challenges and temptations. They demand from their readers what Socrates demanded from his students: active learning, self-examination, and an appreciation for the complexity and importance of wisdom," (Reid, 1998).

Two thousand five hundred years ago, Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates were teachers and philosophers. The common tool, the pencil, had not yet been invented (1564 A.D.). The person credited with inventing paper, circa 104 A.D., to use with the pencil, would be born 600 years later in Asia. It would be thirteen hundred years before the Gutenberg press (1440) would allow for the mass distribution of books. Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates did not have textbooks, pencils, or paper but so inspired Greek students that the legacy of these educators lives on today.

Twenty-five hundred years later, not only do we have paper, pencil, and billions of textbooks, but we also have overhead projectors, smart boards, computers, Palm Pilots, educational software and interactive web sites. Yet, even with this plethora of tools at our disposal, we, as educators, still have trouble reaching and motivating our students. We, as educators, still have trouble raising test scores. We, as educators, still have trouble trying to stop students from dropping out.

Home-schooling parents have considerably less tools at their disposal than the poorest school district has and yet their children score higher on standardized tests.

"Another obstacle that seems to be overcome in home schooling is the need to spend a great deal of money in order to have a good education. In Strengths of Their Own, Dr. Ray found the average cost per home school student is $546 while the average cost per public school student is $5,325. Yet the home school children in this study averaged in 85th percentile while the public school students averaged in the 50th percentile on nationally standardized achievement tests.

Similarly, the 1998 study by Dr. Rudner of 20,760 students, found that eighth grade students whose parents spend $199 or less on their home education score, on the average, in the 80th percentile. Eighth-grade students whose parents spend $400 to $599 on their home education also score on the average, in the 80th percentile! Once the parents spend over $600, the students do slightly better, scoring in the 83rd percentile" (Farris & Smith 2004).

So, if all we need are pencil, paper, and a couple of hundred dollars, where have we gone wrong in the education of our students? Dr. Robinson showed us a chart in class which showed that while the money being spent on students rose very year, student test scores remained basically the same. Money does not seem to be the panacea that we think it is. Also, I believe that following state standards and being accountable are only part of the problem that influences student achievement. I believe the answer lies in the media and the culture of our society. Our schools are plagued by student violence, sporadic attendance, unqualified teachers, etc. Student achievement can also be hindered by class size, inadequate materials, improper nourishment, poor or no parental involvement, child abuse, and peer influence...the list goes on and on.

"The development of standards alone cannot ensure the success of school reform. A concert of many voices must commit to an ideology which promotes success for learners by supporting teachers. It will be a difficult process as the system--by virtue of history, tradition, over-learned attitudes--is allergic to change" (Holbein, 1998).

Another issue that troubles me concerning standards and student achievement is that the standards and testing assume a 'one size fits all' approach to instruction. One visit into any of today's urban classrooms of inclusion and diversity and the visitor will realize that a one-size-fits-all education cannot possibly work.

"Issues of instruction and developmentally-appropriate practice pose a pedagogical dilemma. Differences among individual children do not lend themselves to the lock-step progression dictated by standards. Curriculum frameworks which assign discreet learning tasks to a particular level do not take into account the learning pace of the individuals or the integrated learning which crosses the boundaries of subject matter. Generating the standards and assessing performance by benchmarks and frameworks takes no account of individuality" (Holbein, 1998).

Cheryl reminded me in the last class session that the NCLB Act also forced many uncertified teachers to jumpstart their education and enter certification programs. But how prepared are we to enter the work force as educators? During my first day as an elementary school teacher in an urban public school, I was kicked, spat on, and punched. I went home exhausted, drained, and depressed. Later on that year, I was body-slammed into a wall because I gave a child detention. I was not prepared for the realities of an urban classroom. In my current school, four teachers have quit during the first 30 days of this school year--their dreams of educating tomorrow’s adults dashed by the harsh realities of today’s classrooms. Society and the NCLB are asking if we, as teachers, are doing enough in the classrooms, and I am asking those that authored the NCLB Act to consider the possibility that some universities are not adequately preparing educators to enter into those classrooms.

The NCLB Act is a start, but, in my humble opinion, the NCLB Band-aid is not wide enough to cover the troubles of student achievement.

Copyright, 2006-2009


Farris, M., et Smith, M (2004), Academic Statistics on Home Schooling, Retrieved September 16, 2006 from:

Holbein, M.F. (1998). Will Standards Improve Student Achievement? Education, 118(4), 559+. Retrieved September 19, 2006, from the Questia database,

Mellis, M., Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press, Retrieved September 16, 2006 from:

Reid, H. (2001) The Educational Value of Plato's Early Socratic Dialogues, Retrieved September 16, 2006 from: