Wednesday, August 30, 2006


An Introduction to Clickers

This morning we spent three hours administering the Think Link test. The rest of the day's schedule was unusual; we skipped two classes and the others met for about 30 minutes each, except for the classes that meet during lunch time. Not a great day for introducing important material...the kids were brain dead after three hours of testing, and so was I! However, it was the perfect day to introduce my clickers!

My students were fascinated.
"What is this?"
"Does it text-message?"
"Can these get on myspace?"
"It's not doing anything!"
"Is it a calculator?"

I explained that these were part of a Personal Response System that I am going to begin using in class on a regular basis. I bought them this year with my National Board money, and today was the first time I tried them out with a classroom full of students. If you are not familiar with this new technology, it is a lot like polling the audience on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I can ask my students short answer, multiple choice, or true-false questions. They enter their answer into the clicker, and it transmits to my computer. At the end of each question a chart appears showing how many answered correctly. This can be used to quickly assess student understanding at any time during a lesson or for quizzes and tests.

The hardest part for me is getting the class started. You must push several buttons on the clicker to "join the class." If this is not done correctly, there is much confusion! Seventh graders are not known for their ability to listen and follow directions, especially when holding an object covered with buttons waiting to be pushed! It took a good 15-20 minutes in each class to get almost everyone to the point that they were able to transmit answers. In one class I had time to have them turn them off and start all over again. Everything went a little smoother the second time they tried it.

Using technology in the classroom always involves making trade-offs with time. For me to be able to use this great tool that I spent about $2000 to buy, I am going to have to spend quite a bit of class time training the students how to use it. They were so excited by it that I think it will take a while for the new to wear off enough that they can concentrate on the math questions I am asking them to answer.

I asked very easy questions today just to practice using the clickers. In case you are interested, here is what I asked:
  1. 2 + 2 = ?
  2. 10.2 + 8.1 = ?
  3. True or False: Math is the best subject.
  4. Which is your favorite middle school?
a. Brookhaven
b. Oak Park
c. Cedar Ridge
d. None of the above

5. Who has the best football team?
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Tennessee
4. Florida
5. Other

The students became so excited when they saw the results! They thought it was hilarious that most people said number 3 was false! Several students entered wrong answers on purpose to see what would happen (I have noticed my son making mistakes on purpose when he plays video games. I believe that this is one way this generation learns.).

I can't wait to fully integrate this powerful tool into my teaching. I have read about studies that show this type of technology increases student engagement and attention. How can it not!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Thank you!

What a nice surprise to open my email and find a comment by Vicki Davis on my blog post about safety guidelines.

Great job! I have linked to you! wow! If Darren Kuropatwa is linking to you, that is something else! You're definitely cool cat teacher endorsed too! Great job!
She has written a post about me and linked to my website. When I checked the statcounter for my blog, the traffic had increased tremendously due to her recommendation! Wow! I love to read what she writes. My bloglines account is filled with posts of hers that I have saved to mull over later. She is writing a book, and I can't wait to read it.

In my initial excitement over Vicki's comment, I almost overlooked some other comments. And then I found where some more teachers have linked to that post recently! Thank you for all of the encouraging words. Please come back to see me again. Good luck with your blogging!


It's time to take a breath!

I haven't been blogging in a while. I need to get the negative post off the top of my site because I have had an increase in traffic which I will discuss in the next post. Just in case you are interested, here is why I haven't been blogging lately...

Every once-in-a-while a class comes through with a reputation for being really awful. I was in that class when I was in school. It really bothered me that a few people could cause an entire group to be labelled in such a negative manner, but it happened in the eighties and it is still happening today. My students this year are in another group like that. All last year we heard how terrible they were. I was hoping to find out that was an exaggeration. I must say that they are quite a challenge. To learn to manage them better, I have been busy reading my recent purchases from
I am also keeping Harry Wong's The First Days of School within reach at all times. I watched The Ron Clark Story on television the other night, and I was inspired. The other teachers on my team and I try to pray together every day for our students, but some days are just too crazy! There are so many great kids in my classes, and I am not going to let a handful of students keep everyone else from learning. I have never been pushed to be the best disciplinarian I can be, but I believe this is the year! I am going to keep a positive attitude!!!! (Yes, I am in the middle of some positive self-talk!)

Home life is busy as usual. My oldest is in the eighth grade and is playing football for the first time ever. He loves it, but he is at school every day until 5:30 or 6:00 and then there is homework to be done. My third grader has soccer practice 3 times a week, and she begins piano lessons and gymnastics next week. Soccer games begin soon...goodbye lazy Saturday mornings! My baby (who will be 3 on Sunday) has no extra-curricular activities, but he is still at that age where he needs lots of supervision and attention. My husband is begining his second year of active duty with the Army. He is able to come home on weekends now, but I am single mom during the week. I stay late after school trying to get things done so I don't have to bring them home, and then I stay up late after the kids go to bed trying to tie up loose ends and do the things I didn't have time to finish after school! We have found a routine that works for us, and most of the time things run rather smoothly (all things considered!).

Today was a great day! I had an appointment to have my hair cut immediately after school. I walked out the door at 3:15 with nothing but my planner and my purse. That's the first time this has happened in a long time! I finished in time to make it to the post office before it closed so I could mail a package that has been in the back of my car for weeks after it sat in the kitchen for weeks. (It is a baby gift for a baby born in June...I bought her an outfit for next summer because I know how I am about mailing things.) I still had time to run by Java Jaay's to get a skinny (lowfat, no sugar) Milky Way freeze (chocolate, caramel, and new favorite drink), pick up the kids from day care, go home and open my package from Amazon, and get to the football cookout on time with the dessert I had time to go by the grocery store to buy. And then, my daughter didn't have to miss soccer practice after all to go to the cookout because it rained enough this afternoon to water my yard and cancel soccer practice! It was still early enough to talk on the phone to my mother, my mother-in-law, and my husband when I got home; try to call two parents; and check my email/statcounter/bloglines to find that Vicki Davis linked to me and I now have several new comments on my blog. It just doesn't get much better than this in my little world! Now I am going to thank the nice people who commented today. I hope your day was just as good!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I just need to vent a little...

I normally stick to topics about teaching on this blog, but I need to vent just a little bit tonight. Actually this is related to teaching in a roundabout way....

I have three children, ages 13, 8, and 2. My husband is away on active duty with the Army, so I am halfway through my two-year stint as a single mom. It is not as bad as it could be because he is only a couple of hours away from us. We get to see him on a pretty regular basis, and he is not doing anything dangerous.

This week my two older children went away to church camp. The oldest left Saturday, and we took the middle one down Sunday afternoon. My husband went back to Birmingham Monday morning, and that left me with one other person in the house instead of four others! I must say I was looking forward to the peace and quiet. No arguing, no aggravating, no fussing over what music to listen to in the car or what television show to watch or whose turn it is to sit by mom or pick where we eat. Just me and the toddler...

I have to go back to work on Friday. Now I always need more workdays than they give us, so I really wanted to get in my classroom and get some things done. I had somewhat major surgery three weeks ago, and the doctor has cleared me for almost all activities. I ended up going to a workshop all last week, so I couldn't work in my classroom then. So here I have four whole days stretching before me...I can send my youngest child to day care (I have to pay for it all week because he has to go Friday); my oldest two are at camp, so I can work in peace and quiet; my husband is not here to find projects around the house for me to do. I have been looking forward to this week all summer! I can go to school, piddle to my heart's content, and be ready to start on time without stressing out! husband thinks this would be a perfect time to bring the little one and come stay in his apartment (remember - he is on active duty with the Army). We are not going to be able to see each other for the next three weeks, we can shop for furniture, he's going to cook dinner, the baby and I can swim while he is at work, we won't be trying to crowd five people into a two-bedroom apartment.

I check my calendar... I have to get a cavity filled. I can't postpone it because I cancelled once already when my oldest fell ice skating and I had to take him to the doctor to have his head glued together. I'll never have time to go once school starts, and my tooth hurts when I eat something sweet. I have a checkup with my allergy doctor on Thursday, and I don't need to miss it either. I reschedule for Tuesday, tell my husband I'll be there Tuesday afternoon, stay Wednesday, and leave first thing Thursday morning. That gives me Monday and Thursday to work in my classroom, and maybe an hour or so Tuesday. I still have two whole days to myself! This will work.

I went to school yesterday. I didn't get a whole lot done. I straightened furniture, pulled things that I had put up so the floors could be waxed, and put myself in the right frame of mind for school. I stayed up late last night working on lesson plans. It was a good day...not stressful...I still had Thursday to accomplish a lot.

At 7:10 this morning, the telephone rings. It's the camp nurse. He has my daughter with him, and he thinks she has pink eye! He says he can take her to the emergency room to get medicine and she can stay at camp, or I can come get her. When I ask him what she wants to do, he puts her on the phone and she cries, "I want to come home!" Wait! This wasn't part of my plan! It's going to take an hour and a half to get there, so she is going to have to wait for me. I decide to keep my dental appointment, and I tell the nurse I will be there around lunch time.

I spend the morning being tortured by the dentist, then I head off to the middle of nowhere to get my daughter. I keep thinking of the time I was called by the school nurse because she thought this same child had chicken pox. It turned out to be flea bites, and she was able to go back to school. Maybe this will be a similar story! Nope! When I finally get there, she looks like she has been in a fight. Her eye is swollen, and it is red all the way up to her eyebrow and down to her cheek. She also managed to trip over a tree root this morning and skin her knee pretty badly. She definitely needs to go to her doctor and spend the night at home. A good bath wouldn't hurt, either. The camp director seems to think she might be able to come back, so I decide to leave her things there. If she doesn't come, we can get them when we pick up her brother on Saturday. Or the youth director from church can bring them home.

We head to the doctor with 15 minutes to spare. (By the way, I hate to drive!) It's the end of the day, so we have to wait a while at the doctor's office. Now, we have been using this pediatrician for twelve years. With three children, we see them a lot. I wasn't really worried about my daughter until I saw the doctor's reaction. She is normally very unflappable (I can't really find the word I want), but she seemed concerned, surprised, worried...She put my daughter on antibiotic eye drops three times a day and an oral antibiotic that has to be refrigerated. Doesn't sound like that will be easy to administer at camp. Then she says she can't go back to camp until at least Friday! Uh, oh! I knew my dream week was too good to be true!

She has been a little trooper. In spite of seeing the nurse four times in two days at camp, she is neither whining nor complaining. At one point on the drive home she says, "It may seem like I feel fine, but it really hurts." I tell her she is very brave (she is only 8, but she sounds like she is 30). I rethink my week. There is no way I am packing and then driving two more hours this evening, so I ask my husband if he wants to risk being around pink eye. Apparently love conquers germs, and he reminds me that it will be three weeks before we can see each other again, and he thought we would go furniture shopping. I guess I am still going to Birmingham.

I will still have Thursday to get my classroom ready, but now I will will have a contagious chatterbox with me who likes to make a mess and who doesn't like to help! I can't take her back to camp on Friday like the doctor suggested because it is a teacher workday. I guess we will go Saturday morning so she can see the awards ceremony and get her things.

This is my life! My mother gets frustrated with me because I don't like to make plans too far in advance. This is why! Something always comes up with my kids, and they rate pretty high on my list of priorities.

Thanks for listening. I feel better now. I didn't need advice...I just needed to vent a little.



I returned to school yesterday to begin preparing my classroom. While taking a break I sat down at the computer and tried to access the Blogger sign in page. It is now blocked. I can read blogs at school, but I cannot post to my own blog.

My principal has called the technology coordinator to ask about this, but I would be surprised if it is unblocked. So now I have a couple of quandaries. First of all, I am giving a workshop Tuesday on 21st Century Skills. The plan was to have everyone set up their own blogs. I was going to use Blogger because I like it. I have found it very easy to use. I am not as comfortable with the other blogging sites. Edublogs is not blocked, so I guess I will try it.

My second quandary is what to do about my other blog. I usually post to it either during my planning period or right after school. If I wait until I get home, it is 7 or 8 o'clock, and someone will usually make a comment about needing the homework. I have a site set up on Edublogs, but I don't like it. I guess I will have to use it.

I'm not really happy about this.

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