Resolutions for 2009

As I logged in this morning to check in on my PLN, I saw a question that Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach was posing. Before you had a computer or used it as much as you do now....what did you USED to do? This really got me thinking.

I'm constantly trying to find a balance in my work and personal life. I am passionate about both so it seems like just as soon as I get caught up I have gotten myself started into a new project or two....or twelve! So, what did I used to do before I worked on a computer?

#1 Needlepoint - I have a huge case of embroidery floss that has been waiting for a project. I started building my stock of colors when I was in 8th grade. The last project I did was several years ago. At this point, I plan on saving it for my 12 yr. old. She seems interested in learning.

#2 I used to clean regularly - Well, this is self explanatory. Now I find myself looking at a dirty floor or counter and saying, "Oh! I need to clean! Better do that today." When I used to just do it regularly.

#3 Board Games - When my older children were little we played Candyland, Uncle Wiggly, Trouble and Chutes & Ladders. When my friends came over I was always the one to drag out the Trivial Pursuit game. Now, I log in to Webkinz or visit Starfall with my kids way more often than we play board games. I haven't played Trivial Pursuit in many years.

# 4 Write letters on paper - I cannot remember the last time I wrote a letter through snail mail. Part of me thinks I never will again. The other part of me thinks of the shoebox of letters I have saved in my closet that were penned to me through the years from my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my father. All have since passed away and it is simply dear to me to see their handwriting with the words
... Dear Melanie,
Anytime I am feeling sad, I pull out one of these letters and read the sweet words written to me by these people. Their handwriting is unique and it makes me sad to think that I'm not sure my own children could pick my handwriting out in a group.

SO! Here's my New Year's Resolutions for 2009

#1 Write a handwritten letter to each of my four children at least once this year.
#2 Play board games with my children more often.
#3 Finish my last incomplete needlepoint project (my youngest daughter's Christmas stocking)
#4 Take better care of myself by losing weight and eating healthy.

I hope this post helps you ponder as I have, how your life has changed and where your year is going. Would love to hear your thoughts...


Reading to Your Child

With my oldest child turning 19 this month and my youngest two being 5, I've had many years of practice reading books aloud at home. No one showed me how and I wasn't teaching yet when I became a parent, but my own love of reading made me anxious to share it with my children. There's just something magical about pulling your sweet little one into your lap or tight up beside you to share in a story.

Every parent should do their best to make it a priority in their routine. As stated on the Reading is Fundamental website:
Research and practice show that one simple activity — reading aloud — is the
best way to prepare children for learning to read and to keep them reading
as they learn and grow. Reading aloud helps your children develop the
language skills that they will use in school and throughout their lives.

I never really thought about parents not knowing "how" to go about reading aloud to their child, until my friend dayle brought it up. I asked her to remind me about our conversation regarding this many months ago and here was what she said,

"My mother did not read to me as a child so I didn't really have a model for reading for reading to my own child. I had read to the children in my class and had learned to give a performance to keep them engaged, but I had never really applied that to reading to my infant son. I had tried to read to him a few times because all the books said I should but he seemed so uninterested. About that time I happen to see a video of a mother reading to her child, drawing him into the book with voices and questions and conversation. It was so warm and safe. I remember thinking - "oh, that's what it looks like." That single video made all the difference."

dayle's brainchild was to create a bank of videos that demonstrate examples of parents reading to their children. We began thinking about our large faculty and realised that we had teachers with kids of every pre-school and elementary age to possibly use...and that is where I came in. See, my big joke around work is that my job is, "to do whatever dayle tells me" because basically I do! I'm very lucky to share an office with someone with such brillant ideas so I gladly do what she asks. We don't call her "the Queen" for no reason.

So after months of scheduling, taping, editing, posting, etc...the project is finally complete. I didn't always get the lighting and locations I wanted because we had to catch the kids and parents when we could, but the content is what is important. For my techie friends...I edited the footage in Pinnacle and then uploaded to Google video. We wanted to keep each video under three minutes, since this is just a sampling.

View all of the videos on our school website under the page on the left labeled "Read with your Child". dayle has added suggested ideas also, since the videos are just examples of things you can do with your child. I hope you will be able to use them or refer them to someone who may use them. Special thanks to the teachers who allowed me into that personal "magical space" with their child: Haley Alvarado, Meredy Mackiewicz, Randi Timmons, Angela Phillips, Debbie Rossignol, Cheryl Dillard, Rick Pinchot, Julie Johnson, JJ Ossi and Tammi Sani. Below, I'm embedding the most recent taping I did of Meredy reading to her daughter. Happy reading!


Geek Up

Even though I am now a Google Certified Teacher and a National Board Certified Teacher, I still have A LOT to learn. Sometimes I feel intimidated by how knowledgable other educators are, but it doesn't stop me from asking questions and learning! Keeping this in mind - I try to remember all levels of learners when I'm explaining something in formal training or deskside coaching.

One of my tasks as a Google Certified Teacher is to share what I learn from being a part of that group. I have some classes planned at my district training center that educators can register to take, but I wanted to provide some kind of regular, just in time learning for my faculty. For me, that means I can learn and tinker with something when it is a convenient time for me. Sometimes that is during the school day, but most of the time that is after my kids are all in bed.

So, as I explained in my December newsletter to the faculty, I'm going to be sending out an email with a link to a Google Site that will include "how-to", tips and tricks to use Google Tools. Twice a month I will mail out the link to the site which will include a new page each time. This site will be called - "Geek up with Google!" If you're interested in being a part of this mailing, I would be glad to include you. Just leave your name and email address in the comment section or email me directly at I'd be glad to help you geek up!


My Christmas Card

For the last several years, I've made my Christmas cards online and mailed them out to family members with a newsletter enclosed. Unfortunately, there are many family members that we never see and this is one of the few times that we connect.

This year I wanted to kick it up a notch and do something online as well. I thought that I could include a note or a label that would direct the reader to a link to access something newsletter-ish. My first plan was to put together a video and embed it in the new Google Docs template for a video newsletter, but trying to get my family all together in the same room or trying to find a variety of video clips in my stock became too much... Then I thought I might use the newsletter template and just do an online version of what I normally do, which didn't excite me at all.

After several days of procrastinating, I came up with the idea of using a voicethread. That way, I was able to add what photos I wanted to use from the year and then record each child when I had time. As an afterthought, I grabbed a flip video and filmed a few segments too. I thought the flip turned out a little grainy...but I still used it. I consider this all an experiment anyway. I know some people will never visit the link, but those that care enough will. Here it is, if you care to watch. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!


Applying for a job

The next time I'm explaining why we need to allow kids to create and collaborate online, I'm going to show this video. It was made by a teenager named Judson Collier, who is applying for a job. He was obviously given the knowledge, tools and time in his education to create and innovate. The most interesting thing to me was visiting his website and seeing how he looked up some other videos for inspiration. Self-directed learning is a skill that all students need to be prepared for. Everytime I want to know something I do the same thing, look up examples of how others did the same thing...

Would you hire Judson or someone with a great paper resume'? Which one better informs you about the person applying? Check out his video:

Stop-Motion App-uh-lu-cat-ion from Judson on Vimeo.


Wordle Meme - Documenting your Zeitgeist

I can always count on my friend, Silvia Tolisano, to push me to try something new. (We all need friends like this.) This learning comes in the form of a meme.

Wordle Meme:
1. Create a Wordle from our blog's RSS feed.
2. Blog it and describe your reaction. Any surprises?
3. Tag others to do the same.
4. Be sure to link back here and to where you were first tagged.
5. Create different Wordle clouds of your blog's RSS over a period of time. Do it once a month for the next year.

Save your Wordle screenshots in a special folder on your computer or even better create a set on Flickr to store your archived clouds. See what story your Wordle clouds tell as you compare them to each other. Start documenting your “Zeitgeist” (Spirit of the Times) as mentioned by Chris Betcher in his K-12 Online Conference presentation I like Delicious Things. An Intoduction to Tagging and Folksonomies
6. Share other uses (at least one) you have found for Wordle (for your students or personally) to your blog post

Here is the Wordle cloud for the RSS feed from Once Upon a Teacher on December 1, 2008.

My reactions? Well, honestly, I'm a little embarrassed that the word shopping is so big. But...on my behalf, I did just get back from New York. And, the word "know" looks like the biggest word! Well, that has to be because of things I want to know, not because I know it all!

I think Wordle would be an awesome tool for writing teachers to use with their students for them to evaluate their word choice in their writing. I can also see it being used as a tool for teachers to evaluate current events/news stories to look at key words being used in the media and if students thought those words should be the focus words.

I know I will use it from now on to avoid the word shopping...

I am tagging the follwing people to join in by contributing Wordle uses in the classroom and getting into the habit of “wordling” to document their “Zeitgeist”:

1. Cheryl Chascin
2. Jenny Nash
3. dayle timmons
4. Suzanne Shall
5. Susan Phillips
6. Lauren Skipper
7. Jen Zawis