Sunday, December 8, 2013


Do you know someone that struggles with writing?  This is a struggle for many of us and our loved ones.  I work with students that have excellent insight, values and ideas for writing, but lack the mechanical and visual spatial skills to write and spell legibly.  

Why?  What can we do about it?  We are lucky to live in this day and age of technology. Technology and the internet give us  many opportunities to express our ideas.  Encourage yourself and your young writers to express their ideas.  There are so many ways to do it!

I have to share this success story.  I had a particular student that struggled with writing and hated it.  His letters were big and crowded. He actually said to me, "I can't, I can't write."  This statement broke my heart. He had a point.  His words were misspelled to the point that he couldn't read it back to me unless he read it immediately after he wrote it.  

He and I wrote for ten minutes everyday.  He wrote about whatever he wanted to write about and then we shared. I commented on the really good parts of his writing, because he already knew his weaknesses.   He grew in his writing and his attitude toward writing.  I started working with him last year as a 4th grader he was barely writing a 3-4 sentence paragraph.  This year he is writing 5 paragraph essays using a 4-square organizational tool and a word processor with a tool called co-writer (a text prediction software program).  He's crafting some wonderful pieces of writing.  

How is his pencil to paper writing?  Well, he still flunks every spelling test and his writing is crowded and hard to read.  He's still working on it, but it doesn't stop him from writing.  

Check out this short and sweet video explaining dysgraphia!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December Already?

It seems that the older I get, the more desperately I wish I could stop the world for a minute and add time to each day.  I feel this urgency to fill each day and then,  as each day ends, that need flows into the next day.
The saying, "Time flies when you're having fun" could be "Time flies when you're cleaning, decorating and baking" or "Time flies when you're talking with friends" or even "Time flies when you're reflecting while writing!"
Where was my appreciation for time when I was younger.  I was constantly wishing for the next event in my life.  I couldn't wait until I turned eight years old because the number seven was an odd number and I didn't like being seven anymore.  Wouldn't it be fun when I finally graduated from elementary school and finally went on to middle school and high school.  Impatient, for the day I got my driver's license, my first job or my first kiss.  I remember wondering if I was ever going to find a husband or have children.
Now, those four beautiful children are all grown and moved out with children of their own and I no longer wish for the next thing in my life to hurry and come along.  I want desperately to slow down and appreciate each minute.  What happened to November?  Is it December already?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Never Smile at a Monkey

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins 
Published in 2009  Lexile 920

I had a hard time choosing a nonfiction book by Steve Jenkins.  He's written over 30 children's books with colorful artwork and interesting facts about animals and their habits. He was born in North Carolina but now resides in Colorado.  Steve has won many awards for his books including the  Caldecott Award for the book "What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?"

There are differing opinions about the target audience for this book.   Some reviewers felt that this book was not suitable for younger children because it talks about death or being killed.  In my opinion, that's a good discussion point to have with children. The students in my 3rd through 5th grade classes were very engaged and animated in it as a read aloud.  The format is different telling the reader what they should never do and what may happen if they do, for instance,  to "never pet a platypus" and warning that if they do they may be stung by the animal's hind legs.  

Reasons to read Never Smile at a Monkey:

  • Interesting animal facts
  • Fantastic illustrations
  • Good jumping off point for doing research or nonfiction writing
  • Teaches a respect for animals

Here's the link to the author's blog which tells how he gets his ideas for his books and a short video showing how his collaborator and wife develops the illustrations made from cut paper.  Steve Jenkins

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day

I wanted to take some time today to think about Veterans Day.  It's very fitting to me, that Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day fall in the same month.  I am so grateful for those men and women that have fought for this country.  Thank you for all that you've done for this country and all of us.

I'm not going to forget to share our history and the gratitude I feel for our veterans with the young people in my life.  Here are a few things that I thought were important to share.

I've been researching mentor texts to share with my class this Veterans Day and came across this one.
If you're looking for something to read to your classroom or your children, this is a serious, touching and beautifully told story about the Vietnam Memorial written by Eve Bunting.  It's called "The Wall" and tells the story of a young boy that visits the wall with his father.  They're looking for his grandfather's name on the shiny black memorial.  The illustrations are done by Ronald Himler.  It was published in 2002 and I can't believe I haven't read it before!

Ideas for Lesson Plans for "The Wall"
Teacher Tube Video

Here are some lesson plans and videos to accompany the reading of this text.    
I also found and wanted to share this FREE offering from an informative, creative and well-organized website called the Clutter-Free Classroom.

I also want to thank those men and women with learning differences that have fought for and protected this land. They have done and accomplished much in spite of .... or maybe because of their unique learning differences

Some of our more prominent American military leaders had attention deficit disorder and/or learning disabilities, yet persevered to accomplish great things. General Westmoreland served as the U.S. Superintendent of West Point, the commander of the U.S. military advisors in South Vietnam, and the Army’s Chief of Staff. President John F. Kennedy served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, a U.S. Congressman, a U.S. Senator, and the 35th President of the United States.  (quote taken from
Enjoy, Remember and be Grateful!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nonfiction Connections and Boys

In my journey as a special education instructor, I've noticed that more and more young boys are being identified as having a learning disability.  I can't help but wonder why?  Why are our boys becoming an at risk population?  My hope is that the reintroduction and emphasis on nonfiction text will reengage those boys in reading.

Nonfiction texts are engaging, educational and fun.  Take notice of the men and boys in your life.  What type of reading are they interested in? In my observations, I think that boys and men are more engaged in nonfiction reading materials.

 Literacy standards of the new common core curriculum understands that reading nonfiction materials is important for our students.  The reasoning behind adding more nonfiction reading to the curriculum is that in our student's the workplace, in college and our daily living setting, most of the reading we do is nonfiction or expository reading.  Nonfiction reading is important and there are many excellent books out there.

One example is this  wonderful children's biography of Jaques Cousteau.  This book was written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  (April, 2008) I love to go snorkeling and the illustrations made me feel like I was actually under water.  So fun!  I grew up watching Jaques Cousteau's adventures on television.  Now, that may tell you a little bit about how old I am... Shhhh!
I enjoyed this book and the illustrations.  I learned a lot about the man and his dream.  This book is recommended for children in grades 1-3.  I loved this book that mixes the biography of a man with
science and the sea.  So many of the young people I know want to grow up to be marine biologists and are intrigued with the ocean and the animals that live there.  Therefore, I have put this book in  my repertoire of nonfiction text.  Enjoy!



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Let's Embrace our Differences and Wander

My daughters gave me this sign a few years ago for my birthday. I'm not quite sure what they were trying to tell me! However, I do know, that I love this little sign and have it sitting above my kitchen sink where I see it every day.  It reminds me that, as human beings, we sometimes loose our focus and wander off the most straight and direct route in life.  Life is sometimes a little messy.

This can also be true for us as students.  We learn and take in information.  We try to make meaning from that information for us personally.  As learners we don't always do that in the same manner or pay attention to the same information.  October has been ADHD month.  I've been thinking a lot about that acronym.  It gets thrown around the education arena very often.  What is it.... what does it mean to you, your loved ones, and the ones you teach?  I haven't come to any hard and fast conclusions.  As always, I know that there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution.   But, I did find some excellent ideas and thoughts on the subject that I wanted to share with everyone!  Check out this wonderful article on ADHD and a little bit more about wandering.   That's the scientific view, now here is wonderfully creative article from a teacher perspective.      Enjoy the rest of this beautiful fall season and allow yourself to wander, explore and enjoy all that's around you!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stress affects learning...

Do you or someone you know suffer from test anxiety?  Does your heart start to race and your thoughts aren't able to focus when presented with a high stakes test? Our students today are tested to the point that they are having stomach aches and trouble sleeping.  Check out this article that gives some insight and tips for avoiding stress.