Category Archives: Miscellaneous

CCSS at IRA 2012

IRA always has something to offer in the way of understanding the world of education.  This year more than any other, it concentrated on trying to make sense of — or as I kept hearing, “unpack”– the Common Core State Standards.  The implementation of the CCSS was on everyone’s mind.  The fact that IRA advertised over 50 sessions that were all about the standards spoke highly to that.  Also, getting into many of those sessions was almost impossible.  Sometimes there would be 300 hundred seats, all filled, half an hour before the session.  I think it says that while teachers know they need to use these standards to set practices, they just aren’t quite sure about them.  The other part of the standards is that I didn’t hear much about the final assessments.  No one quite knows what they will look like.

These were the questions that seemed foremost in the minds of those I spoke with.  Although no one has absolute answers, they are good food for thought.  Here they are:  How are the CCSS taking shape in your school?  Are you busy seeking new materials?  Are you re-evaluating what you have so you can see where some of what you already do will fit?  What are you doing to get your kids ready for assessments?  Do you have any idea how those will look in your state?

Books for Boys

This summer, my eight-year-old nephew Riley decided that he wanted to start reading the Harry Potter books. I thought he would probably do well with the first two or three, but that the fourth book and beyond might be a little difficult for him. He got off to a bit of a slow start and found the first book confusing, but then he got hooked and just kept going, reading the entire series in about three months. When he finished, he called me and said, “I’m kind of sorry I read them so fast, since there aren’t going to be any more, but I just couldn’t stop.”

Being a voracious reader runs in the family, and for Riley, it was like someone turned on a switch and suddenly he wanted to read as much as possible. He still spends time with his friends, plays video games, and builds Lego creations, but any spare minute he can read, that’s what he does. I told him the best advice I could give him was to always have the next book ready to read, and that I would try to help him find new books.

This has led me to a whole new world of books. I read a lot, but not really anything that appeals to an eight-year-old boy. So based on recommendations and what I had read online, I decided that the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan might be a good place to start. I found out what I could about the series and found out that it was based on Greek mythology. I knew Riley hadn’t studied Greek mythology at all so I figured that I would tell him a little about what I remembered when I gave him the first book in the series.

I gave him The Lightning Thief and told him the basics that I remembered about Greek mythology, and then I said something like, “So Zeus was pretty much the ruler of all the other gods. As I recall, his father swallowed him when he was born, and then he came back out, but I don’t remember how.”

That’s when I realized that Riley was giving me a look that said something like, “Aunt Sara has finally lost it,” and I realized I should probably do some more research. So I told him it probably didn’t matter to the story, and that I would read the book too and we could talk about anything he didn’t understand.

It turned out that he didn’t really need anything to be explained to him in order to read the book. It is a book full of adventure, and the Greek mythology is used in a clever way that adds to the story without really needing to be understood. He’s on the third book in the series now (and is very happy to be ahead of me, as I just finished the second).

I still feel like I have only scratched the surface of what books are out there for kids Riley’s age, so I thought I would ask if anyone out there had any recommendations. Are there any great series or individual books Riley and I should know about?

I’m a Dancin’ Machine…

I just returned from a wonderful vacation. My husband and I spent five fun-filled days in Las Vegas—at Dance Camp. I have written before that dancing makes me better at what I do. Being a student for an intense week of lessons improved on that.

When was the last time you spent real time as a student? Having to deal with teachers who you may or may not like with teaching methods that didn’t do anything to enhance your learning style? Who had no concept of learning styles? Did they know or care that you might be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic? And here I was dancing all day–one might have thought they’d make it easier for us. Not so.

The teachers just believed we were all kinesthetic learners who would pick up a tango routine in just a couple of hours. They were wrong about that. Some of us really needed the words written down to remember. So we (I) took notes. Those words then played in my head, and I was able to get the routine much better. Can teachers help adapt the learning?

Then there’s the practice. We practiced on our own with a group of friends. After much discussion as to what the order of the steps was, we all tried to dance the routine. What a sorry lot we were. My husband and I had one step totally incorrect in the practice. It wasn’t until the next morning when we went to class that we found that out. Then we had to relearn it correctly. Hmm, how many of our students do that, practicing something incorrectly with no one ever really checking?

This was Dance Camp, and it was lots of fun. I wanted to be there and knew I would have to work hard. So I was willing to accommodate the teachers. I knew they were pros and I could change things as needed or ask questions.

What about our students? Do they really want to be in class? Sure some do, but what about those that don’t? They also are young and don’t always know what they don’t know. They make mistakes and no one fixes them. School should be like Dance Camp. Hard work, learning new things, practicing, and a reward of something new learned and enjoyed. Let’s think about how we can make learning work best for our students.

5 Reasons Why I Don’t Write My Book

Do you have the world’s next best lesson plan?  You know who you are.  You’re the teacher who has led staff development using your own materials.  You’re the teacher whose students have soared because you have a unique way of presenting lessons.  You’re the teacher who everyone in your building says, “Why don’t you get that published?”

And have you tried to get published?  I don’t know about other publishers, but at TCR we look at everything that is sent in.  Our products come from the most creative teachers.  Sometimes teachers send us the most organized manuscripts.  Sometimes they send very specific ideas, but don’t have a clue of how to put it together to create a book.  They send in math, science, reading, writing, classroom management, and every other idea you can imagine.  It is one of the greatest joys to read through those submissions and find a gem.  Sometimes it’s a real diamond in the rough.  In either case, once the editing process is completed, we have a terrific “teacher created resource.”

So what’s stopping you from sending in your book proposal?  Here are some of the things I’ve heard through the years and my responses to them:

1. You have the idea but you’re not sure of the best way to present it.

That’s easy. Look at our submission guidelines. If you already have the book “done,” you can even send the whole thing.

2. There’s more than one of us involved in this project.

That’s fine.  We often work with writing partners.

3.  I have an idea but I don’t have time to write until the summer or spring break.

We work with teachers and know teachers are really busy people.  When we accept someone’s manuscript, we work around his or her schedule.

4. This book will need illustrating but I’m not an artist.

I’m not either, but we have some wonderfully talented illustrators.  We want your ideas, but we’ll take care of the art.

5. I’m afraid I’ll get a “no” for an answer.

In all honesty, that’s a possibility, but you’ll never know if you don’t try submitting something.

These are just a few reasons that I’ve heard through the year for not sending in book proposals.  I know there are more.  Let me know what they are, and I’ll address them. Maybe that will get you moving to send in a book proposal.  Then who knows, you may see your name in print.