Teaching/Tech...uh...Wednesday--Google Geo Teachers Institute 2011

After a ninety minute train ride, a four hour bus ride (courtesy of BoltBus...only $14 one way!), and a ten minute Circulator ride, I made it to the Google Geo Teachers Institute in Washington, D.C.  

It was so much fun.  

From top left in clockwise direction:  Capitol building, Washington Monument, Nat Geo bulding, Amy Chua (Tiger Mom!  Roar!) speaking at the National Book Festival, and the sign that greeted all of the participants on the first day of the institute.

The main reason I wanted to go was because a friend of mine had introduced me to Google Lit Trips a couple of years ago (post here) and I had heard that the founder, Jerome Burg, had presented at the last Google Geo conference.  I really loved that a fellow English teacher created such an effective and powerful resource using Google Earth.  The second I walked into the National Geographic building for the first day of the conference, I met Jerome Burg!  I got a chance to chat with him, as well as with other fantastic presenters the whole entire weekend.   It was very cool. 

Note:  If you want to check out everything I learned at the conference, you can look at Rebekka's Livebinder (really nice compilation of all the resources we used over the weekend).  You can also take a look at my notes for Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google SketchUp.  

Besides all of the wonderful tools we were learning about, the best part of the institute was meeting enthusiastic and amazingly creative educators and individuals who were really passionate about putting their best tech foot forward for their kids.  I loved it.  Everyone was so nice and knowledgeable.  It was great to sit at any random table and have a conversation that ranged from talk about cables for your multimedia projector to the state of the budget in a particular school district.  As a teacher, any kind of support is more than welcome, so this past weekend was a gift.  

At the end of the first day, we took a bus over to the Library of Congress. The staff of the Geography and Map Division were great about showing us some of their most interesting maps.  They were so quietly knowledgeable about all of the maps and globes in their division.  It was a rare opportunity to see how powerful maps could be to a nation's identity (see Waldseemuller Map).

Good times.

Once I got back home, I started playing around with Google Earth and created a path depicting the pilgrims' journey to the cathedral in The Canterbury Tales.  I just showed it to my kids yesterday and they were impressed (thank you, Mr. Google).  I've come to the conclusion that this school year, I'm going to have a "no fear" attitude and just try to integrate different tech tools whenever I see an opportunity for my students to go deeper into a text or get a visual of a difficult idea or concept.  My laptop, school multimedia projector, and extra long VGA cable are ready for this year!  


NY -> DC

So...I skipped a post yesterday, but I'm not feeling too bad about it, because I was on my way (by train, BoltBus, and Circulator Bus) to D.C. for the Google Geo Teachers Institute!  This is my first "long" solo trip away from my husband and kids, so I'm a bit nervous, but also well-rested.  I got eight blissful hours of sleep last night in my hostel room, ate a delicious chocolate cone (thank you, Koryodang Bakery!), and am now sitting in Starbucks, sipping my ever-ubiquitous iced soy chai latte.  

This conference should be amazing.  The founder of Google Lit Trips (post here) will be the very first speaker today.  I am so geeking out over this that I can't believe it.  I will have a pretty comprehensive post about my experience early next week, so stay tuned!  

I won't be able to check out the sights because the conference is from 8-6 today and tomorrow and I'm heading back to NY right after it ends on Saturday; however,  I am planning to have a relaxing dinner and shopping evening (Anthropologie, anyone?) later tonight.  It should be lovely.  


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--Easy File Conversion (Zamzar)

Let's say your school blocks YouTube videos, but you found this amazing clip of someone reenacting a scene from Twelve Angry Men that you just have to show your students.  You've looked on TeacherTube and other resources, but the video just isn't available anywhere else.  What do you do?


I found out about this great website from one of the teachers at my school.  I just went to Step 1, clicked on the URL link, entered the YouTube website, converted it into a wmv file, and had Zamzar email it to my school account.  So simple.  


In Appreciation

"These are your golden years," the balloon artist said to me after I left his little kiosk at the county fair.  I'm not really sure why he said that.  Maybe he saw something in my eyes before I turned to push the double stroller down the path.  Maybe he caught a glimpse of my exhaustion--a stark contrast to my thrilled twins who were squealing with delight as they played with their new Elmo and horse creations.  I trudged along, deep in thought, as DN skipped alongside me, making her inflated dinosaur roar at the top of its lungs.  

I thought of that man's words again today as I sat in Starbucks filling out my gradebook.  It's been a hectic two weeks, with names to memorize, plays to read, assignments to grade, and lessons to teach.  Now that time is precious, I take the opportunity to relish the giggles, the hugs, and the craziness at home.  Of course, there are times when I want to curl up in bed and sleep for eight hours (that would be SO sweet), but it's been a pretty decent transition.  

It might just be me, but I feel like my kids are growing up so quickly.  RT stops me when I sing her a lullaby, insisting that she's the only one who knows the right words.  DN is currently on a Food Network kick.  She asked me over dinner tonight which task on Cupcake Challenge was the hardest (1000 cupcakes in two hours, of course) and proceeded to share her theories on baking.  LT is proudly opening every single darn door in the entire house and going where he pleases. 

I don't want this Golden Age to end, but I guess I'll just have to appreciate every joyful moment right now.  Cupcake, please.  

I’ve told you a hundred tall stories,
I’ve sung you a thousand sweet songs,
I’ve wrote you a million ridiculous rhymes
(Though sometimes the grammar was wrong).
I’ve drawn you a zillion pictures,
So being as fair as can be,
After all that I’ve writtensungtolddrawn for you,
Won’t you writesingtelldraw one for me?
"WRITESINGTELLDRAW" by Shel Silverstein


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--Wikispaces

I really like using Wikispaces with my students, especially if we need to go over a large amount of material in a few days.  I thought it would be perfect for our study of The Oedipus Cycle.  My seniors had to read this trilogy over the summer, but we still needed to review them pretty thoroughly.  Three plays in six days...here we go:

I signed up for Wikispaces a few years ago and used them to great success with both my seniors and sophomores.  Anyone can sign up for an account. 

Of course, it's always nice to have educator accounts for the free upgrades.  

 Create your Wikispace.  You can specify whether you want the site to be private, protected, or public.  The settings are pretty easy to control and you can change them for each of your wikis at anytime.

Wikispaces.com is really user-friendly.  You can edit your Home page and then create new pages.  You can add images, videos, links, etc.  You can also embed various widgets.  

You can also click on the discussion tab and create questions for your students to answer.

For The Oedipus Cycle, I included everything we covered in class.  I embedded the Prezi on Greek playwrights and Greek theatre I created last week for easy access.  If you click on the Oedipus Rex link (see lower left below), the kids worked on groups on various motifs and themes that are found in that particular play.  They typed in their findings onto a Notepad document and then I cut and paste them onto the Oedipus Rex Wikispace page.  

For the Oedipus at Colonus page, I collected their responses to a sixteen question study guide and typed the questions and answers out.  

My students are currently working on their Antigone page.  I created linked pages where they will discuss the various conflicts found in the play.  Each of my two classes were divided up into six groups.  My second period class is going to analyze the first four conflicts on the bulleted list and my eighth period class is looking at the last four conflicts.  The four groups left over are each answering three discussion questions (click pic to see details).    

The four groups left over are each answering three discussion questions (click pic to see details).  I didn't post a screenshot of my questions because some of my kids created user IDs with their full names.  Tomorrow, they're going to finish up their assignments and then spend some time responding to the rest of the discussion questions.  Friday we will have our unit review and then they'll be ready for their exam on Monday.  

Wikispaces really helped my sophomores during our To Kill a Mockingbird unit.  They were responsible for creating pages for each major character...no more "What do you mean Scout's a girl?" moments!  The discussions were also really valuable.  The quieter students tend to be more comfortable sharing their thoughts online as opposed to speaking in front of a large group.  I've also had students create their own pages about books they enjoyed in my class.  

Before I forget, I did want to include one quick hint.  Leave your Wikispace public when you have your students join it.  They can edit the pages immediately instead of waiting for you to approve each request.  You still have to approve their membership, but now you don't have 25+ kids milling around waiting for everyone else to join.  Once all the kids are in, change the Wikispace Permissions setting to either "protected" or "private."  

Good luck!



I can't even describe how many emotions were swirling in my mind as I read hundreds and hundreds of comments:

NY Times Interactive Map:  Where Were You on September 11, 2001?

Today was a day for listening, weeping, and spending time with loved ones.  


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--The Fabulous Prezi

I got a really warm welcome from the staff at my high school today. It was great seeing everyone again, but it was still a long day filled with meetings and last minute details. It was funny because I felt a little like a tourist as I walked around the school and noticed all of the changes. Most of it felt familiar, but I still have a lot to get used to. I'm meeting my students tomorrow, so I really have to get my brain into gear.

I wanted to do something a little different on the first day. I'm still going to go over the course requirements for both of my preps and hand out questionnaires, but instead of a "Bueller, Bueller" moment with handouts, I'm going to use Prezis.

I learned about Prezis last year, but I finally buckled down earlier this week and made two of my own (one for my senior classes and one for my sophomore classes).  Technology can be really intimidating, especially since it can be so time-consuming, but I've decided to jump in with both feet and see what works for me.  Prezi is really great if you want to add a little oomph to an otherwise boring lecture or presentation.  It's much more fun than Powerpoint.

After you sign up with a school email address (for educators and administrators only), you can create your own Prezi.

Choose your template:

I chose "Understand a Topic" because it already came with frames and the format was perfect for my course description, rules about lateness, and grading policies:

You can see the menu on the upper left hand corner (it looks like a bunch of bubbles).  You can start writing your content right away.  When you move your mouse over each section, the text, frame, or image will appear to lift up.  This indicates which part of the text you can either write or manipulate.  This can get a little frustrating because if you're working on a really small detail, you can accidentally move the wrong element. After a little practice, it gets much easier.

You can click on the existing text and edit it or click anywhere on the template and create new text:

You can rotate the words or make your text bigger or smaller.  This is great because you can layer the text. For example, I wrote "Writing" and created tiny explanations of what I was looking for in their writing and tucked them into different parts of the word.  This allows you to focus on "Writing" and then zoom into the explanations...a very cool effect.  

If you want to add graphics to separate your points, you can click on "Frames" on the bubble menu and make frames for the different groups you want in your Prezi.

Once you're done with all of the elements of your Prezi, you need to create a path.  Make sure you have a good idea of the order of presentation.  It was easy for me to make my path because I just looked at my list of course requirements and followed that sequence of points.  Once you make a path, you can't delete any one section.  You have to erase the whole path, which can get really annoying.  

I took out my school email address and some identifying details, but wanted to post the final result (click on the right arrow to see each part of my Prezi):


Wish Me Luck!

Tomorrow's my first day back as a teacher after 2 1/2 years at home with my three kids!  

*deep breath*  

We'll see what the year brings.  =)


The Stylish Classroom/Office--Courtesy of Anthropologie

I was clicking through a NY Times slideshow about back to school accessories, when I saw a desk organizer by Anthropologie (8 of 9).  I had no idea that my favorite store sold office supplies!  Once I started looking at the "Room Decor" and "At the Desk" sections on the website, I was smitten.  

My top ten:

All photos in collage from Anthropologie.com

  1. Typeface Calendar, $21.95--Total typeface nerd, right over here.  
  2. Voice One Loudspeaker, $498--Way too expensive, but really lovely to look at.  Perfect for adding a little design element to my video presentations.
  3. Inch Marks Pencil Cup, $20--Whimsy in a cup
  4. Poet Journal, $32--For when inspiration hits
  5. Obliging Bird Clip, $18--Perfect for late passes (might have to empty it out every week though)
  6. Cover Story Postcards, $25--The vintage covers on the postcards are great for quick notes to colleagues.
  7. Flowering Twig Pencil, $5--Rustic and modern
  8. From the Desk of Notepad, $15--I really like how it adds "Metaphorically speaking" at the bottom of each note.
  9. Pinwheel Push Pins ,$15--They're so much prettier than the average push pin.
  10. Clothbound Penguin Classics, $20 each--I've always had a soft soft for beautiful books.


Enter September

Clockwise from upper left:  DN at today's butterfly release, LT at Storm King, RT making bubble soup, 
and DN's pre-Hurricane Irene list for my grocery run

Fall is right around the corner.  As I drove to a friend's tag sale this morning, I noticed the leaves were tinged with reds and oranges.  The sun is setting as I begin to type and I see the last few streaks of pink and baby blue in the sky.  DN's schoolbag is packed with everything on her school list and hanging on the doorknob, ready to be grabbed on the way out.  My classroom is almost completely set up (I got some brand spanking new literary terms and figurative language mini posters yesterday that are going to look fabulous on my bulletin boards) and the twins have already RSVP-ed for their fall playdates with my moms' group (thanks, CL!).  It's a pretty normal start to September.

View of my backyard from left to right (starting in the upper left hand corner) the day Hurricane Irene hit

Meanwhile, a mere hour or two from my house, Hurricane Irene has decimated parts of Ulster County, the Catskills, and the Mohawk Valley in New York as well as Vermont.  Major flash floods (relatives of friends saw creeks that usually ran a few inches in depth transform into 6'+ angry rivers) took everyone by surprise.  An employee at a nearby farm market told me how the owner lost half of everything he owned and how a neighbor lost 1000 fruit trees.  He had asked the owner if they should put out a donation box next to the register, but the farmer was too proud to ask for handouts.  He was just thankful that they still had half.  Numerous families and individuals were trapped in their homes for days because flash floods and mudslides swept away bridges and destroyed roads.  Middleburgh High School, as well as many, many other schools, are scrambling to salvage whatever they can and clear out the buildings before black mold sets in.  

From Twitter:  @GlitterandGray I'd never wish having to comb through trees, dirt, water and muck to find your belongings stretched over two miles of destruction on anyone. 

Watershed Post has been a lifesaver for people suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in the Catskills.  For the first couple of days after the hurricane, people (as well as friends and family members of victims) added themselves (totally mindblowing) to a Google spreadsheet that listed people who were still stranded and in need of aid.  Now there is a spreadsheet that contains the names and contact info for donation centers both in the area and all the way down to NYC.  I have been riveted to their Twitter feed as they tweet and retweet the most uplifting and heartbreaking stories and videos from those who are experiencing this firsthand. 

Ways to help:
  • Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief
  • If you are in the Catskills area or know someone who is planning to go there as a volunteer, click here to see a list of what donation centers need.
  • Donate to The MARK Project, a local organization committed to rebuilding many of the communities that have been affected.
  • If you're in the NYC or Hudson Valley area, support local farmers by buying your fresh produce at farm markets and going apple picking.  Their livelihoods really do depend on your continued support.
  • Donate to Bags of Hope for the Children of Schoharie County.  Kayla is creating and handing out small bags of toys to kids who have lost everything.  
Thanks for your time!  


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--Google Lit Trips

When I first discovered Google Earth in 2005, I spent a lot of time making myself nauseated by zooming all over the place, clicking on random pictures, looking up my home address, and making the Earth spinning wildly with a sweep of my mouse.  I didn't really think of the educational implications.  Kind of like when my friends and I were at a dinner party in 2000 and heard of a cool search engine called Google that could find every mention of our names online. Who knew it would take over the world in less than a decade?  

A year later, a high school English teacher named Jerome Burg wanted to see if he could use Google Earth to help his students map characters' journeys.  This idea blossomed into Google Lit Trips.  

This phenomenal resource allows students to create lit trips for the books they are reading.  They span every grade level:  K-5 (fifteen books, including Make Way For Ducklings and Priscilla and the Hollyhocks), 6-8 (fourteen books, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Chasing Lincoln's Killer), 9-12 (twelve books including Candide and The Kite Runner), and Higher Ed (seven books, including Blood Meridian and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).  Please note that each Google Lit Trip is available in the upper right hand corner.  You will see a link says "Download" and then the title of the book and/or ".kmz file."  

I've used the Google Lit Trips for Macbeth and Night in my classes.  This first screenshot of Google Earth shows an aerial view our planet as  you look at Norway and Ireland.  You can see Dunsinane in the center.

Students can click on different areas and learn more about each location.  When you click on "Ireland," a pop up window appears that includes a mention of Ireland and lines from Act 1 that graphically explains how Macbeth killed the traitor, Macdonwald.  When you zoom in, you can also see pictures that people added of the landscape and nearby towns.  This creates an accurate idea of setting for the play.

Dunsinane is given the Google Sketch Up treatment.  Students created this 3-D version of the castle where Macbeth awaits his fate.  

If you click on Dunsinane, more information about the play and a photo of Dunsinane Hill appears.  

This is also a great resources for younger students.  Here's a screenshot from the Google Lit Trip for Make Way for Ducklings:

I've used Google Lit Trips and Google Earth on occasion in my classroom, but I'm very excited that I will be learning a lot more about these tools at the Google Geo Teacher Institute in a few weeks.  I'm looking forward to sharing about that experience in a future post.


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--Easy To Make Videos that Impress (Animoto for Education)

Note:  All screenshots are from the Animoto website.  Click each pic for larger image.  
Additional note:  This is a completely unsolicited review of a website that I love.

I like it when students choose to create video presentations in my class--as long as they're not poorly thought out, rushed, and sloppily executed.  My students have made some amazing videos in the past including a Lego-mation version of "The Pardoner's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales (complete with ketchup blood and cool special effects using dental floss) and a movie trailer for Antigone (filled with eerie sound effects and impressive costumes).  I also like to integrate visuals on occasion when I'm lecturing or summarizing plot points for whatever work of literature we're studying.  I was getting really tired of the old standby, Powerpoint, so I was thrilled this past summer when I learned about Animoto at a HVWP workshop.  Animoto takes videos and video-making to a totally different level...PLUS it's free for educators.  

From their website:
"In the works since 2005, Animoto was founded to help people better share their stories and express themselves through online media by innovating technologies in the field of video production.  It analyzes and combines user-selected images, video clips and music with the same sophisticated post-production skills and techniques that are used in television & film."

It is so easy and the results are professional and impressive.

Step 1:  Choose your video style.  You can select from seventeen different looks or pay an additional $39 to become a Pro member to have access to eight additional looks for your videos.  Different looks also have different transitions from frame to frame, so make sure you click on "Preview" to see how the photos and text are displayed in video form.  

Step 2:  Upload the pictures/short video clips/text that you want to include in your video.  You will also have to arrange them in order of presentation.  The one thing that's tricky about adding text is that you can only type in two lines per frame.  The title fits up to 22 characters and the subtitle fits up to 30 characters.  If you only have a few pictures or even no pictures of your own, that's totally fine.  You can use Animoto's image gallery to create an animated version of a poem or other piece of writing.  I whipped up a quick video for the first two stanzas of William Blake's The Tyger here using some nature and scene images provided by Animoto.  You can use the video to generate discussion about layers of meaning, use of imagery, author's intention, etc.  

Step 3:  Select a song from the library to use as a soundtrack for your video.  There is a decent variety of songs from thirteen different genres including electronica, indie pop, Top 40, and hip hop.  You can also upload your own MP3 file(s), but you do need permission from either the artist or label to use them in your video.

Step 4:  Choose the pacing of your video images and the length.  You can also finalize the look you want.  After you click on "Continue," all you have to do is type in the title and description.  

That's it!  The first time I tried to create a video, it took me about an hour or two.  I needed to present the minutes to my fellow HVWP participants after the first day of workshops, so I put this video together.  This is something you can definitely do with your own students if you want them to review what you've been working on in class for the past few days or weeks in a creative manner.  Enjoy and have fun with your Animotos!


This Used To Be My Playground

When I first heard that song from A League of Their Own, I realized that I actually kind of liked Madonna...well, at least her sappy side.  Can you believe the movie was released in 1992?  

For some reason, when I go home and spend time in my old childhood room, that song drifts into my mind.  It's also kind of neat/weird that my own kids are jumping on my old four poster bed (unfortunately, my Peanuts Belle canopy has been taken down) and asking me questions about old knickknacks I collected in my teens.  

  1. High school graduation tassel, teddy bear piggy bank, The Corrs CDs (I used to play "So Young" on repeat all the time in college), Precious Moments mini plate
  2. My figurine collection...included Pochacco, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Wade Tea figurines, and more Precious Moments dolls.
  3. Stickers from Botan Rice Candy boxes 
  4. Painting of roses I did in middle school...with a lot of help from my art teacher.  A lot.  As I've mentioned before, I am not a crafty or artistic person by nature.  
  5. Feather masks...I vaguely recall buying them through a catalog that my middle school art teacher had, but that sounds really strange.  
  6. Marble collection in a turtle shaped box...the tenant downstairs had a big water jug filled to the brim with marbles.  These are a few that she gave me as a gift.
  7. Old dresser drawers with faux gold trim.  It appealed to the princess in me, what can I say?
  8. Little Twin Stars jewelry box filled to the brim with self-made wire jewelry, '80s style neon plastic earrings and bracelets, and costume jewelry that my mom gave me.  There might even be a jelly bracelet or two in there.  

What are some things you still have from your childhood?  I keep most of my things at my parents' house, but I've brought a few treasures home with me.  The feather masks can stay in my old room though.


Fashion/Fun Fridays--Summer Shakespeare

Ever since I heard King Lear's voice boom out of my English teacher's cassette tape player (Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!  Rage!  Blow!) my senior year of high school, I have always enjoyed Shakespeare performances.  Listening or watching skilled actors take command of the language and infuse it with meaning is always a treat.  

If you love Shakespeare, views of the Hudson River, rose gardens, fountains, and picnicking with good friends on beautiful summer nights, make it a point to catch a performance or three at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival on the Boscobel estate in Garrison, NY.  

This year, I saw all three performances. 

Hamlet (Wall Street Journal review herewas a little slow going in the beginning, but I thought the second half was mesmerizing.  The actor who played Hamlet really dug into the anguish and madness that sustained the title character throughout the play.  I also thought that the actress who played Ophelia was incredibly talented.

Around the World in 80 Days, which was based on Mark Brown's adaptation of Jules Verne's novel, (NY Times review here) was absolutely hilarious.  I don't think I've ever laughed that hard at a play before.  The actors were perfectly cast and Jason O'Connell's comic antics were simply fantastic.  He plays seventeen different characters and plays them all so well.  

I just saw The Comedy of Errors (Times Herald-Record review here) this past week and had a blast.  I was a little distracted in the beginning because I got ten mosquito bites on my feet in the first five minutes of the show (I ended up wrapped my new HVSF t-shirt around my ankles...thanks, JF!), but as the play went on, I loved every moment of it.  I wasn't really familiar with the synopsis, but I thought that the director did a great job keeping the audience up to speed with all of the mistaken identities and plot twists.  I thought the circus theme was very clever and lent to the story with its eye-catching costumes and original portrayals of each character.  I was surprised at all the younger audience members there, but they seemed to have a great time.  It got me thinking about how I would love to bring my kids to future performances...DN in maybe two or three years and LT and RT when they can sit in one spot for more than ten minutes (probably in seven or eight years).  

There are only fifteen performances left, so if you have a free evening and you're in the NY area, be sure to pack your picnic basket with some fruit, pastries, and Prosecco, and head over to the festival (buy tickets here).  It is a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  Plus, you can buy Go-Go Pops at the concession tent.  You definitely can't beat that.  

Happy Friday!


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--Practice Makes Perfect

Last night while I was looking for a book to read, I came across an old typing manual I used back in high school.  Published in 1966, it emphasized the use of repetition to teach touch typing.  Flipping through the pages, I remembered the exercises that had me typing lines like"ddd ded ded dea dea ddd ded ded dea dea" and "clip flip chip ship skip drip grip quip" over and over again until my fingers moved to the right keys automatically.  Sure, it would have been fun if I played keyboarding games where I shot an alien down each time I typed a letter correctly, but I think plain old repetition really got the job done.

I don't teach keyboarding to my students, but I do use repetition when I want my kids to learn a large amount of vocabulary over an extended amount of time.  My students need to know hundreds of literary terms (comprehensive lists found here and here), so I usually give them a vocabulary packet at the end of the first week and I tell them that they will be quizzed on the first five words in the packet the following Wednesday.  They usually laugh, but then I tell them that the following week, they will be quizzed on five words that I will choose from the first ten words in the packet.  The next week, they will be quizzed on five words that I will choose from the first fifteen words and so on and so forth.  By the time the Wednesday before their big exam comes around, they will be quizzed on five words...but on any five words from the entire packet.  They constantly review the same words over and over again, adding to their vocabulary repetoire a little at a time.  I do incorporate more "fun" ways of learning different terms (I'll talk about a vocabulary twist I add to the Story Starters creative writing activity in a future post), but this weekly exercise is extraordinarily effective.  At the end of the year, I always ask my kids to review my course and give me some constructive criticism for next year's students.  They always say that the quizzes helped them tremendously, which is pretty high praise for what could easily be a really boring weekly routine. 


Belay On? On Belay!

Busy, busy day, but had a blast going indoor rock climbing with DN. Thank you, Groupon! After the clinic, I thought I would get a chance to type up my blog post at my parents' place, but little did I know that my mom set up the kids' bedding in the room with the computer. The kids are having a sleepover with Grandma while I sit in the guest room and type a semi-coherent post on my Droid. At least I managed to throw a collage together of DN's newly acquired climbing skills. My own proud moment came when I reached the top during my climb, so I'm pretty happy. I did get a few nervous flutters in my stomach when I looked at DN and the instructor waving at me, but going back down is always a lot of fun. DN and I are definitely looking forward to two weeks of free access to The Cliffs. Hmmm...not bad for a Droid entry.


Sentence Fragments--NYC Edition

Unbelievable round trip drive without any traffic whatsoever
Sailboats anchored here and there in the Boat Basin
UP's old apartment building
Pulling into the parking garage (parking coupons rock!)
Thai food with my two best friends
Comedy improv debut (hilarious/disturbing birth scene...had to be there)
Easy conversation at The Tempest
Late night walk
Sweaty, stinky subway
Cool AC of apartment lobby
Up and out in fifteen minutes
Thoroughly savoring the early morning calm
Hating pigeons
Watching cabbies play backgammon
Glimpse of Times Square (not a big fan)
Grande Soy Chai Latte (please)
Easy drive to West Side Highway
Gorgeous view of Hudson River
Composing odes to NYC in my head


My Three Blessings

Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
Three of us abroad in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.

Where shall we adventure, to-day that we're afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon or off to Malabar?

Hi! but here's a squadron a-rowing on the sea--
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we'll escape them, they're as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.

Pirate Story by Robert Louis Stevenson (From A Child's Garden of Verses...thank you, SK!)

Little known facts about my kids:

  • DN loves dinosaurs and can recite a dinosaur for every letter of the alphabet forward, backwards, and in random order.  She is planning to be an artist/baker/paleontologist when she grows up.
  • LT named all of his toy horses "Goofy."  He named his bumblebee Pillow Pet, "Buh-Bye."  
  • RT is named after a real estate agent I saw on HGTV two weeks before I had the twins.  She will jump up and down and laugh maniacally if you offer her candy or a popsicle.  


Teaching/Tech Tuesdays--A Room of One's Own

You know how potential buyers on HGTV always say that they can picture themselves living in a house that they're checking out?  They imagine themselves cooking gourmet feasts in the huge kitchen with the island.  They envision the great parties that they're going to throw in the backyard next to the Olympic-size infinity pool.  They look at the guest bedrooms and mutter that they're too small or dimly lit.  Then the husband usually walks into the cellar/basement/attic, breaks into a big smile, and says, "Now, THIS is what I'M talking about!"  The wife then rolls her eyes, looks at the real estate agent, and shrugs, "I guess that room will be his man cave."

I don't know when man caves became standard (my husband claimed the bonus room for his very own), but I do know that when we walked through our house for the first time, I saw the spare bedroom downstairs and knew at once that it was going to be my study.  It was located in the back of the house, perfect for deep thoughts and intense grading marathons during the school year.  Soon after we bought the house, my husband painted it a lovely green color  and I decorated it with pictures of close friends, mementos from my travels, and russet and brick red accents.  I originally had a window seat surrounded by bookshelves, but my husband and I decided to move the windows to the other wall and filled up the windowless space with even more bookshelves.  

I love bookshelves.  As a lifelong bibliophile, I am reading anywhere between two to five books at a time.  As a teacher, ample shelf space is a godsend.  On the left side, I keep my books for work.  This includes books that I teach, study guides, literary criticisms, and related materials.  My DVDs, audiobooks, copier, and printer are located in the center section and my leisure books can be found on the right side.  You can barely see the four wicker baskets behind my watermark, but I fill those with art supplies, greeting cards, notes, printer paper, and miscellaneous items ranging from my husband's old guitar songbooks to my kids' stickers.  

Over the past two years, my oldest daughter's artwork took over my study, but today, I decided to reclaim it for my own.  My little ceramic vases reemerged from behind the paper boxes DN made during her origami phase.  The art supplies and art books went into her room and the extra scraps of paper filled two large trash bags.  There are still a few signs of DN's handiwork.  A paper tree branches its way up one side of my bookcase and her pteranodon pictures grace the wall next to my pictures of Senegal.

I'm starting to get there...wherever "there" may be.