. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: March 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Break

Well, I am on Spring Break right now, so I have no fun kid stories to share. I suppose I'll just have to talk about my own life for a while. (I won't be hurt if you want to stop reading here. It's bound to get zzzzzz(snort)zzz. Whaaa? Oh. Where was I?)

Since I have two glorious weeks off from work, what do you think I've been doing?

A fair amount of work, to be honest. I even met with my teaching partners at one of their homes and we worked the day away planning how we're going to get all the math we need taught done before the state test next month, and ate homemade Pho. Yum!

Oh, and I got them signed up on Twitter!

If you're not on Twitter, let me just say you're missing out. That joint is hopping with cool stuff! I get tweets daily, loaded with wonderful websites and techie ideas that I can't resist trying out while I sip my coffee in my pajamas with a cat on my lap until four in the afternoon.

For example, SpeakingImage.org is a find! You can import images, add text to image, create a wiki to go with it, and collaborate with others! I've already created three that I'm going to use with my unit on electrical circuits when I get back! This would be a great way for students to show their understanding of a given topic.

Now, back to me...

We are dog-sitting for my vacation. I did the math. That is 22 legs in our little home now, 20 of which are hairy. (We have a parrot and I have been busy. Don't judge.)

Our temporary house guest is Louie. He's a spunky and fun little guy who belongs to my mother. He also piddles for no apparent reason, so he's got a cloth diaper tied around his waist to cover his squirter. (Judge all you want. He has no shame about this.)

Some Louie Fun Facts:

His breed is an unknown mix of some sort of shaggy brown mutt mixed with a sea otter. He's perpetually scruffy and looks like Benji if he'd be cut off at the knees. No amount of brushing can tame his locks, and his coat snags everything on the ground and hangs on to it until he gets on my couch evidently.

He desperately wants to please, but has absolutely no impulse control, which makes for an interesting mix of trying to follow commands while not being able to control his body in any way. He's in a war with himself and the winner is yet to be determined.

His inability to control himself has led to our cats perching on our counter to watch the shenanigans with a fair amount of amusement every time we need to put his leash on. I think they think it's some sort of sport or something, but I wish they'd find a way to help out rather than just being lookie-loos.

He's very curious about our two cats, but they have the weight advantage (they are BIG cats) and he seems to know that so he keeps his distance.

Oddly enough, he does not recognize the weight advantage most other dogs have over him and tries to pick fights with all of our neighbors' dogs. Our neighbors are used to our friendly Siberian Husky and are decidedly put off by her tiny bodyguard.

He's not had a lot of experiences in life. We take our dog all over the place with us so she's very used to car rides, sitting under my chair on restaurant patios, and shopping at the dog friendly mall near us. Louie... not so much. Therefore, he makes a lot of squeaky, unsure, whiny sounds for the first 20 minutes of any new experience.

At all...

Due to his nervousness, he's unpredictable around strangers. Our dog, while she looks like a wolf, is very calm and has proven herself trustworthy around children and adults. Louie, while he looks cute and cuddly, will take your hand off with the quickness of a ninja if you try to pet him. Amazingly, A LOT of people try to pet him! Out of necessity, my husband and I have developed a game plan. One of us walks the dogs and the other jogs alongside like the secret service, making sure no one tries to touch him.

Despite all his quirkiness, I really love the little guy and so does my dog. They play constantly and sleep in a little pile of wet noses and tails in his little dog bed. Well, 1/3 of my dog fits in the dog bed so Louie uses her as his bed.

She is going to be devastated when Louie leaves. We humans are fun...

but we're no Louie.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Uprising

I have another student teacher. She is a hard-working and dedicated young lady who will be an asset to education when she enters the workforce.

The other day, she was asking me if I had ever had a student teacher that I did not pass.

I have, sadly, had a few who did not make the cut.

Well, she was dying to know why so I told her the following story:

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful and innovative teacher named Neda Ele. Neda taught in a quiet school in a small village in Far Far Away Land. The students were perfect, the classroom was neat, and all the teachers were happy, well-paid, and content with their lives.

One sunny morning, a student teacher came to work in Neda's room. Neda welcomed her with open arms and an open heart.

Neda realized that much of student teaching is about learning classroom management skills. Without effective classroom management, no learning can occur. Neda worked hard to share all her knowledge, tricks, tips, and advice with her student teacher.

But to no avail. You see, her student teacher had children of her own and felt her own techniques were better.

She was wrong.

After weeks of practice, weeks of work, weeks of imploring the student teacher to remain positive with the students, weeks of reminders, and weeks of heavy drinking on Neda's part, the time arrived when the student teacher was supposed to lead the class on her own for five days.

Neda was reluctant to leave her students in the hands of such an ineffective, negative student teacher; however the student teacher's university supervisor implored Neda to give the woman a chance.

So Neda relented and entrusted her class to the student teacher.

She was wrong.

Within thirty minutes of leaving her classroom, Neda watched as her student teacher marched past the lounge window with little Ralphie's arm gripped tightly in her hand.

Neda wondered to herself, "If she's down here and I'm down here, who's up there with the kids?!?!"

Neda raced up to her classroom to find the school psychologist standing just outside her door, fists on her hips, observing the chaos inside. The psych had been walking by when she heard the roars from room 12, looked in and saw kids everywhere but no teacher. She demanded an explanation.

Neda did not have one.

Within a few minutes, the student teacher returned sans Ralphie, who had been left in the office for safe-keeping, and she explained what happened.

You see, the student teacher had spelled out PHYSICAL EDUCATION on the board, and every time she needed to correct student behavior, she erased a letter. Within twenty minutes, the class had lost all seventeen letters of PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

(Kinda the opposite of Positive Reinforcement...)

Well, her gun was empty now and Ralphie knew it so he took the opportunity to start The Uprising. He began chanting:

 "No PE, NO Work! No PE, No Work!"

Soon, the entire class joined in, fists pounding on their desks and voices raised in protest.

The student teacher went over to Ralphie's desk and demanded he stop chanting, but Ralphie hopped out of his seat and ran away.

So she chased him.

Ralphie ran around the room,

and she chased him around the room. 

He ran.

She chased.

(I feel I should insert here that she had a bit of a limp that became more pronounced as she ran around, making her look a bit like Igor as she lumbered after a nimble little kid. The other students thought this was hysterical.)

Finally, she somehow caught up with him, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him down to the Principal's office...

...leaving the remaining students in chaos and unattended.

The student teacher was told to go home. She would not be returning to Neda's room for reasons I think are clear...

...to everyone BUT the student teacher.

Neda went on to have a wonderful school year and she and her students lived happily ever after.

Oh, and the student teacher?

She had to repeat her semester of student teaching in another school, graduated from the teaching credential program (that Neda STILL won't take student teachers from anymore) and got hired in a private Christian school.

She called Neda not long after she was hired to say she had been suspended for teaching "inappropriate" math lessons to the students. Students were asked to create math problems that when solved on a calculator would make words.

Well, not only did some students create math problems that made inappropriate words...

...she hung them on the wall because, and I quote: "They ARE just words after all."

She was wrong.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Highs and Lows of Teaching

...all experienced in under 20 seconds.

Michael: I realized something today Mrs. Lee.

Me: What's that, Michael?

Michael: Even though all the writing is boring, it's important to show your work in math so you can get the answer right.

Me: Well! That is QUITE a realization Michael! I am proud of you for making such a grown-up decision about how you're going to do math.

Michael: Thanks, Mrs. Lee. ...Mrs. Lee?

Me: Yes, Michael?

Michael: I know I said I wanted extra  help with reading during lunch, buuut I'd rather go out and play.

Me:  Of course you would...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flattery will Get You Nowhere

In case the picture of me on The Bits isn't clear, I have fair skin.

VERY fair skin.

I believe Crayola calls my actual color "one notch above transparent."

Wearing clothes isn't due to modesty. It's to keep people from seeing my internal organs. (You thought YOUR stomach was unflattering...)

Since I live in a very sunny climate, my doctor said it's time I started doing more that just using sunscreen for protection and suggested I invest in a nice floppy hat.

I made my selection at the store, brought it to school, and have been diligent about wearing it if I'm going to be outside for any extended periods of time...

...because I have 103 little hat policemen who point at their heads every time I cross the threshold without it.

(They seem to take a fair amount of joy in telling ME what to do for a change.)

So, the other day, I didn't put it on because I was only going to be outside for a short time. Several kids tried to get me to go back and get it, but I assured them that this was a short trip into the sun for me. They each expressed their disappointment in my disregard for doctor's orders.

...or my disregard for their orders. One or the other...

When child number five million came up to me to ask where my hat was, I gave him my little answer and he replied:

"Well, I'm glad you're not wearing it. It makes you look SO OLD!"

Thanks, kid...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wordle This!

Well, well, well. Based on the comments and emails I've received, it looks like we are a bunch of people who enjoy clumping words together!

If that's the case and you fall into the Wordle Afficianado Club, you better sit down. I am about to




If Wordle satifies you like a hot date, then let me ask:

Have you tried...

wait for it...


If the answer is yes, I love you.

If you've not tried it, you will love me for showing it to you. It's Wordle on steroids.

Rather than your words taking on random shapes, you get to pick out the shape.

You get to PICK OUT THE SHAPE!!!!

Sweeter words have never been spoken to a pack of control-freaks like us. (Admit it. I'm not wrong with that assessment.)

Quando Quando Quando you want to form the lyrics to your favorite Engelbert Humperdinck song into the shape of the United Kingdom, Tagxedo can do that for you. (Hi, Ma!)

Interested in turning your wedding vows into the shape of a heart for your honey? Tagxedo's got your back.

Oh heck, looking to reshape your divorce decree into a heart as well? Make it happen at Tagxedo...

and then mail it to your ex with a box of half-eaten chocolates.

Again, I am selfishly loving all the advice and ideas coming in, however I think others might be finding them useful as well so...

Keep 'em coming!

Monday, March 21, 2011

History? Let's Dance!

Let's continue our stroll through all things free from the Cue Conference I attended.

Caveat #1: Elementary teachers... This is not something we can use, however I so thoroughly enjoyed it that I HAVE to share it with others.

Caveat #2: There won't be anymore caveats. I just wanted to use that word. It feels so international!

If you are a middle school or high school history/social studies teacher or know someone who is, this is the site for you.


If you are someone who enjoys the "Song Parodies of Historical Events Set to Hits from Yesterday and Today" genre and are finding it difficult to find songs for your iPod, I now have the answer to your prayers.

Presenting, The historyteacher's channel on YouTube!

Here's one of my favorites: information about "Black Death" sung to "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani.

"oohh, Fleas on rats. Fleas on rats."

Who WOULDN'T sing along to that!

They have many, many more videos. Fifty-two more to be exact, designed by history teachers to make learning history more fun.

I know. I know. Your school district blocks YouTube.

C'mon! We must work together to be more cunning than our oppressors.

Use SaveYouTube to download videos and use them in your classrooms. 

I LOVE the Cue Conference!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wordled Bits

I had fun yesterday! I was at the Cue Conference in Palm Springs, CA. It's a 3-day conference for teacher nerds just like me who like to use technology in our classrooms. I could only attend one day, but that was more than I could handle as it was.

The place was packed!

(Word must have gotten out somehow that I was going to be there. I'm going to have to talk to my people about that one.)

Thankfully, my throngs of fans graciously acted as if they didn't recognize me...

...at all.

...in any way.

...like I was a nobody.

...even AFTER I asked many of them if they thought I looked like that gifted blogger Edna Lee.

Every one of them spared me the embarrassment of being recognized in public by pretending to be confused by the question.

SooooOOOOOoooo, it was easier for me to focus on all the great information being shared by techie educators from all over.

Thank you fans. I understand [wink] and appreciate your thoughtfulness.

My teaching partners (aka my "security team") and I had several criteria that we used to select which sessions to attend, since there were hundreds to choose from.

1. What we learned had to be about things that are free, meaning cost no dough, to use.

2. We need to be able to implement them with minimal prep time.

3. Our session selections should give us ideas to make our teaching easier not more complicated.

And one that came up in several of the sessions we attended was Wordle. You can make word clouds from documents or web sites. This a Wordle I made in two seconds use the URL to The Bits!

Ok. I was more like two hours, but that's only because I kept playing around with the fonts, layout and colors.

The larger words appear most often in the document used to create the Wordle. Smaller words appear less often.

As you can see, "pencils" are a big deal to me; "organization" not so much.

(No shock there.)

Applications for these little suckers, you ask?

Well, we thought you could use them for
  • Make Wordles using student essays to identify over-used words and encourage variety in word choice.
  • Brainstorm prior knowledge about content areas and focus on words that appear the smallest since those are the ones students know the least about.
  • Create Wordle of adjectives for an administrator or colleague (CAREFUL, now! Don't go getting yourself fired.)
  • Make a Wordle about your blog...
AND there are no restrictions on how you use your Wordle. Put 'em on t-shirts. Make a poster. Use 'em in the school paper.

Those were a few of our ideas, however I'm really more interested in your ideas. How can you see Wordle used in the classroom?

I really learned a lot at this conference. I'll try to share more of it in the coming weeks as I play around with all of it.

Happy Wordling!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Not WHAT you say,

but HOW you say it that matters.

As you may know, I teach science and math with English Language Arts integrated into my curriculum.

(I make it sound to effortless... like I'm not up at all hours of the night inventing the lessons that so seemlessly integrate LA into everything!)

Anyhoo, I really do try to make whatever I am teaching in science become topical throughout the day so I sometimes make up word problems in math that go along with our current science theme.

Right now, it's Matter and Energy in Ecosystems.

Well, we had a district math visit today, and three district Mucky-Mucks wandered into my room at about 9:00 am. I was working with the students on how to turn word problems into mathematical equations. Just as the Who's Who of my district plop their rumps against my back counter, I call on a student to share his math problem and the equation he wrote.

Me: Tommy. Share your work with us please.

Tommy: I wrote a science one! If you collected four orgasms from the desert in...

Me: Organisms

Tommy:  Right, Organisms. If you collected four orgasms from the...

Me: OrGANisms

Tommy: Right, orGANisms. If you collected four orGASms from...

Me: OrganISMS. Repeat after me. Or

Tommy: Or


Tommy: GAN

Me: isms

Tommy: isms

Me: Or-gan-isms

Tommy: Or-gan-isms

Me: Great! Try your problem again.

Tommy: If you collected four orgranstrisms from...

Me: Muuuuch better.

I can't WAIT to see the district's write-up on me!

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Oldie, but...

A goodie.

I was recounting this story to my student teacher today, and it reminded me that I haven't told it to YOU yet!

Many years ago, I had a very sweet, but VERY nervous fourth grade student named Kasey.

Kasey wanted to be a good student and worked very hard, however he never quite climbed out of the middle of the pack. If grades were based on effort alone, he certainly would have been at the top of the class.

Well, Kasey must have become disillusioned with never getting the grades he thought he should, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He cheated.

But found out he's not much good at that either.

You see, my students had two grammar review worksheets to complete each week and I left out the answer book so they could check their work.

(Of course I understand that students will use it for cheating. Quit rolling your eyes at me. They were review sheets, not the SATs.)

Those that chose to cheat at least got the benefit of seeing the right answers...

and were usually thrown under the bus by their peers anyway.

So anyhoo, Kasey copied answers to at least two questions directly out of the book.

I called him up to my desk, and as soon as he saw the paper in front of me he began to shake.

Me: Kasey, I know you copied these two answers right out of the book.

Kasey: No I didn't.

Me: Kasey, I know that you did. I am disappointed that you made that choice.

Kasey: No I didn't. I swear Ms. Lee.

Me: Kasey. Please, now is not the time to be dishonest. You made a bad choice, but we all make mistakes. Just own it, take your consequences, and let's move on.

Kasey: NO! I didn't copy! I swear! Please Ms. Lee!! You HAVE to believe me!

Me: Really, Kasey? Do you even know what "Answers may vary" means?

We called him "Answers May Vary" for the rest of the year...

 behind his back, of course.