Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pass the Parcel

March SOLC

G was invited to a four year old's birthday party in Belfast. (Our friend's sister's daughter - got that?) For the most part it could have been a birthday party anywhere we have lived - lots of kids, lots of activity, chicken nuggets and chips (fries), and cake. Even the music droning over the sound system made it hard to tell where we were - The Cranberries, The Cars, and some random 80s tunes. Besides little children speaking with adorable thick Irish accents the one activity that reminded me were weren't 'in Kansas anymore' was the game that was played - Pass The Parcel.

Have you ever heard of this game? I hadn't. It is similar to Hot Potato (which would have been so appropriate) except it is a wrapped present that is passed around. When the music stops the child holding the parcel unwraps the first layer to find a small toy or piece of candy. The music starts again and the package continues on its way. After many rounds the final child receives a small gift when they unwrap the last layer.

We were told the version we played today was unusual for two reasons. First there were about eight rounds before the final present. Even the mom who made the game kept thinking it was the last round. We were also told that usually there is a task the child has to do. They might have to say a nursery rhyme or do a handstand. Since this was a fourth birthday they thought that might make it either too hard, too confusing, or simply take too long.

I can see all kinds of adaptations I might make to Pass the Parcel for future gatherings. Most of all it will always be a glimpse into a common party game for children in Belfast and throughout the U.K.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Moments from our travel day

March SOLC

You know you have a daughter who doesn't watch TV when her response to the inflight safety video is, "that was really good!"

The grand pleasure I find in the freedom to walk while holding my husband's hand.

Boarding our second flight, getting the car seat strapped in, having G put her straps on, and settling in for our short hop from Paris to Dublin only to be told that she couldn't be in the car seat for take off or landing. If she was less then two and we had chosen purchase a seat for her she could sit in a car seat. (It gets better.) If she was three or older she could sit in a car seat, but the regulations stated that no one between the ages of 2 - 3 could be in a car seat. Fortunately there were some empty seats so during take off and landing she had to sit in the airplane seat with the just lap bet, (which she can undo herself). After two minutes she said she was 'all done' and wanted back in her car seat. The results was a crying girl trying to wait for the fasten seat belt sign to turn off.

Walking through the Dublin airport and seeing a pub with more then a dozen taps, the first four Guinness.

Ending the day having 'tea' with our dear friends. We have arrived and are looking forward to our time together - hanging out and exploring Northern Ireland.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane

I don't enjoy heading to the airport in the middle of the night, but that is when the flights are to head out of here. So, as the neighborhood sleeps through the night we will load up and head to the airport.

As many of you read these words we will be on our journey. Thankfully it is only about 14 hours of journey from here to Belfast, as opposed to the 24+ to Seattle.

It is still getting packed, to the airport, checked in, through all the checks, and onto the plane. Then we get an intermittent airport, change of planes, etc. If only the little one would sleep on planes.

Ah, well. Tomorrow I will be writing from Belfast.

'Til then!

March SOLC

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The germs stay home

March SOLC

One of the things we work on in my classroom, early in the year, is how to keep our germs to ourselves. This includes learning to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, using hand sanitizer when you forget, and staying home when you have a fever.

The fever part should be easy as our school policy states that students must stay home until they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medicine. You would think that would be simple to follow. Unfortunately the reality is that there are doctors who will give fever reducing medicine and then tell parents to send their child to school. Or the understanding of '24 hours' is unclear and if the child doesn't have a fever when they go to bed (even if they had a fever at 3 p.m.) results in the child being sent to school.

I agree that it is not always convenient. When my daughter has a fever one of us has to stay home with her. There are times when I know she is fine and it is frustrating to wait out the entire 24 hours, but that is the way it goes. It even means that sometimes we miss things that we really want to be there for.

Like the Science Fair.

In the past I have had students come to school sick on the day of the fair. I have then kept them in isolation until their judge is ready for them. They then are able to fully participate with their team for the judging round and then they go home. (The year a student had the chicken pox they did stay home.)

This year I had a student who was out with a high fever the day before the fair. They emailed me saying they would go to the doctor and get medicine and come to school the next day. They asked what time they were scheduled to be judged because they knew they would need to be in attendance for that 20 minutes. I then had a brilliant idea.

Checking my schedule to see who was slated to judge their team I was optimistic that it would work. The judge was willing to try something new. Why not have the student Skype for their judging round?

The student and I checked out connection the night before. In the morning I let the rest of their team know the plan. Since we have used Skype in the classroom they could envision how it would go. We set everything up in the gym for the opening of the fair. Just before the slated time the judge went in to see their complete setup. We then moved just the students and their tri-fold display up to my room and the third student joined in by Skype.

It was a little bit different then everyone else's experience. All the other teams had a judging round and a grading round. This team had us both together. All the other teams were in a room without parents. The one on Skype could have their mom listen in. All the other teams still had to wait and this team was breathing a huge sigh of relief.

As the students headed back to the gym with their tri-fold the judge said to me, "that was pretty cool". I agreed. It did go well.

And the germs stayed home.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It Is Finished

At least 'round one', our local science fair, is finished. There is a reason I plan this event for the day before Spring Break. Actually, there are a few reasons. One, it keeps the kids focused right up until break. Two, it keeps families from traveling early, which can be a big challenge here. Three, I only have to make it through a half day and then it is vacation.

Why do I do a science fair in the first place? I never had until I was presented with an opportunity, in 2007, to join the 5th grade team of educators starting the NESA Virtual Science Fair 5th (to distinguish it from the original program at the middle school level). NESA is our professional development organization: Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools.

I won't go into the virtual aspects too much right now. Basically it is an extension of what you think of when you hear 'science fair'. In addition to our local fair my students learn and use many technology skills including their own website, wiki, and having an 'e-mentor'. An e-mentor is a high school student at a different international school. This high school student helps my fifth graders think through their project, helps them avoid pitfalls, and is their first 'go to' person when they have a question.


So, the novelty of having the virtual side, coupled with being a part of something cool and new got me hooked. I must confess, those are not the real reasons I do it. The real value of our inquiry unit, culminating in a science fair, has very little to do with science.


It is true. The first day of the unit I ask my students why they think we have a science fair. They guess everything sciencey they can think of. "Nope", I tell them. It has nothing to do with the science. It is all about group work. We then go on to talk about their experiences working in groups. What makes a group successful? What can be frustrating about working in a group? How to problem solve challenges that may come up. I emphasize that group work is a part of life. You may not like everyone in your group, but you have to find a way to work with them. (I assign the groups, based on a variety of factors. They have zero choice in the matter.)

During this discussion we are also practicing our note taking skills. I am showing one style of note taking on the board. I have other adults in the room talk about their note taking styles and model a bit. They look at one another's notes and talk about what they see and don't see.

The next reason that I want my students involved in science fair has nothing to do with science either. My second reason is all about communication skills. During the course of this inquiry unit they will end up writing a research paper and orally presenting to judges. We talk about how scary both of these sound, from the outset. I ensure them that everything will be broken down into small, manageable steps. I also ensure them that they will have lots of practice before they are in front of their 'real' judge.

The next reason for the science fair? OK, that has to do with the science. If they come out with a solid understanding of the scientific method and a basic understanding of variables I count that as a success.

The kicker for all of these reasons is that my students experience their inquiry unit as solely student work. I let both the students and parents know that all the work will be student generated. Parents can drive them to someone's house or help acquire supplies, but that is it. I simply act as a guide. I walk them through the steps and try to keep them looking ahead. They have a manual to refer to when they forget the details. Included in the manual is a very important page - dates to remember. I break down the project into small steps and have due dates for each step.

Do they turn in work with errors? You betcha! Would it be 'better' work if I, or the parents, were more involved? Most definitely. What they wouldn't have is the absolute certainty that they can take on a huge, enormous, frightening project and succeed, by themselves.

Some of them may need these science skills later in life. They will all need the group work, communication skills, and knowledge that they are capable.



March SOLC


photo credit: <a href="">erin m</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good Kid + Bad Choice = ?

March SOLC

I can't publically write about everything much of anything that went on today, but my heart is heavy.

I can say that I have one student who showed amazing maturity in their decisions. They acted and spoke as one much older then their years. They could even articulate their feelings and reasons. Pretty impressive from someone so young and put in an uncomfortable situation. I was glad to sit with the mom as we beamed at how mature the student was acting. ("You should be very proud", I whispered to the mom.)

Unfortunately another student made some really bad choices. Fortunately we found out about them pretty quickly and I am certain they won't make the same mistakes again. It was a hard day. The biggest thing I wanted this parent to leave our meeting knowing was that the child is absolutely still a good kid. They made some bad choices, but everyone does. That does not change that they are a good kid. Hard to end the day wondering how many people involved really believe that. All I can say is, "I do!"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Inspired to Link - Palestine edition


Every so often I can't contain it any longer and I have to get on my soap box. This is one of those weeks. I am only sharing a few links - those that I find to be most worth passing along.

Yes, I've been inspired to link. You've been warned!

Map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Kairos Palestine Responds to Michael Oren

We'll start out with the longest and meatiest of the links. If you don't want too much substance, skip to the next one.

Kairos denounces Michael Oren’s recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal (9 March 2012). In this inaccurate and manipulative text, Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US, blames the plight of Palestinian Christians on oppression at the hands of Palestinian Muslims -- rather than at the hands of the illegal Israeli occupation itself, as is our reality.

Palestinians prepare to lose the solar panels that provide a lifeline by Phoebe Greenwood

This is a human interest story. It would be no matter where it took place. People who are cut off from all sources of electricity, except the expensive and stinky (oh, loud too) oil powered generators are given clean, green, silent solar panels, but now they can't keep them.

Imneizil's solar system was built in 2009 by the Spanish NGO Seba at a cost of €30,000 to the Spanish government. According to the Israeli authorities, it was built without a permit.

Somebody needs to tell Newt, so I will. No, they are not an invented people. Don't take my word for it…

I am a Palestinian Christian! from Christ at the Checkpoint on Vimeo.

UN human rights body to probe Israel's settlement activities in West Bank

Netanyahu added that out of 91 decisions made by the UN body to date, 39 dealt with Israel. "Only three of the decisions dealt with Syria".

Hmm, perhaps the large number of decisions focused on Israel should tell you something about the state of human rights within their borders. And, Netanyahu, please notice that the recent atrocities in Syria have been going on for just over a year, not over 60 years.

And finally, a tiny ray of hope…

US lawmakers release $88.6m in Palestinian aid

But, of course, there are strings attached. At least the funds are allowed to help with some basic human needs; health, water projects and food.

March SOLCAnd that's a Slice of Life, from my soap box.

Links photo credit: <a href="">...-Wink-...</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a

Prayers for Pregos


Prayers for Pregos is a chance for women in the Heartline Prenatal Program in Haiti to be supported by those of us all over the world.

“Prayer is no small thing. For each of these women we know that intersession is powerful and that God must work on their behalf. The odds are against pregnant women in Haiti. The vast majority of the pregnancies are considered "high risk".  As you likely know, the maternal death rate is very high in Haiti as is the infant mortality rate. Every healthy birth at our maternity center is a miracle given the obstacles the women must overcome.”

The combination of Mother’s Days, pregnant friends, friends who are struggling to get and/or remain pregnant, and remembering my own pregnancy reminds me of the fragility of life. Then add in a third world country where the odds are stacked against you before you even start. I feel very small in the midst of it all. I am so immensely thankful for the medical care I had and that everything turned out OK, when it so easily could have had a different ending. I don’t feel that there is much I can do. Not much, but a little. I can donate money to those that can help, but more importantly I can pray.

Praying is not a little thing, though it is not a hard thing. Will you join me?

Right now I am praying for Jeronie.

age 29
Due July 8th
6th pregnancy, has 3 living children, one child died at birth

Who will you pray for?

Friday, March 23, 2012


March SOLC

I am someone who wears a watch. During the day I like to know what time it is. (Once G goes to bed that is another story. I believe one thing that factors into feeling tired is the mental notion of how much sleep you have gotten. If you don't know how much sleep you have gotten then you take out that factor.)

Every school morning I make sure both my watch and the clock on the wall in my room match 'school time'. (Our clocks are independent and operate by battery - not like what any of you in the States have, I am sure.) When the 8 a.m. bell rings I check them both.

Last Saturday my watch was behind by a couple of minutes. I reset it without giving it too much thought, sometimes they tweak 'school time' over the weekend. In the afternoon I realized I was nearly five minutes late to pick my students up from their special. Why? My watch was wrong. Hmmm, I started paying attention. Sure enough, my watch was not keeping good time. Probably needed a new battery.

When you move to a new city there are many things you realize you need to figure out. Where the grocery store is. How to get to school. The location of the nearest pharmacy. Where you can find the best produce. Mobile phone service, propane for the stove, and a good household helper are all on my initial list of 'to do's. I eventually find a dry cleaner, a good falafel shop, and a taxi driver I can trust.


What I forget, every single time, is that I also need to know where to get a watch battery replaced. Realize that watch repair shops are always small and tucked away somewhere. They are not the kind of place you just happen to see. Most of the time I have to go looking, specifically, for one. Thankfully there are always people who have lived there longer and have had to have their watch battery replaced as well.

Yesterday we went to find the 'watch guy'. He was right where we were told he would be, in his hole in the wall shop (literally). Luckily watch batteries can usually be replaced without common language skills, but it can be interesting. (My indiglo hasn't worked for years because of the 'watch guy' in Amman 'fixing' it when he replaced my battery.)

Watching him yesterday I saw him do things I hadn't seen before. He actually used a battery meter to be sure the new battery was at full juice. I looked at my husband, raising my eyebrows. "That was nice", I commented softly. After the new battery was in he pulled out a device that magnified the ticking of my watch to see if it was keeping good time. Another appreciated bit of attention to detail. I ended up buying a phone card from the guy as well. I wanted to support this man who gave me back my time.


photo credit: <a href="">turtlemoon</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monthly Playdate

March SOLC

Last year G formed a special bond with one of the ladies who worked in daycare. Sometime in the spring Christina was moved to work in another classroom. They missed each other. "Aunt Christina" has three boys and none of them are little anymore. Christina had talked about G so much at home that her family was asking to meet her. As a result we setup an all day 'playdate'. (Since Christina knew G's routine and had spent many, many long days with her I knew they would both be comfortable with this.) The playdates have continued, about once a month, throughout the school months.

Today is one of those days. I am always a bit torn. I am thrilled that G gets the opportunity, which she loves. She gets very excited to see Aunt Christina, Tito Ramel, and 'the boys'. I know the day is good for both of us, but I miss her! It is different when we are at school. I am working and the day flies by.

On days like today I have some downtime and wonder what she is doing and how she is hanging in there. (She doesn't nap on these days, has access to junk food and movies, and other things that aren't part of her 'normal' life.) I know she has fun as she is always excited for the next playdate. I also know she comes home wiped out, sometime barely holding it together until she is in my arms.

I guess that is part of parenting, isn't it? Giving them opportunities, even when they aren't perfect situations, and then being there as a safe harbor as they process it all. At two-and-three-quarters that processing is a chance to snuggle in mommy's lap, suck her thumb, and perhaps be quick to tears for a bit.

From a very early age we have used the line, "Mommy always comes back". It probably started with the nursery at church. It has definitely been said many times as she is dropped off at daycare. Before last month's playdate I started asking her if she would come back. I wanted her to realize that sometime she is the one leaving and that I miss her, too. She looks at me, grins, and says 'yes'. I am glad I have planted that seed as I know there will be more days of her leaving as she gets older. For today it is simply a nine hour playdate.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day

March SOLC

No, I am not confused about the date. March 21st, in addition to being the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, is also Mother’s Day in most of the Arab world. So, what does that mean for me? You guessed correctly, I let my family celebrate twice!

We were back at school today after our two ‘Sand Days’. (See here and here for more.) Now it is the weekend and I am looking forward to a Wednesday night with my little one. Our ritual is to play a bit, have dinner, get ready for bed early, and watch a ‘movie’ (either an act of Swan Lake, Blue’s Clues, or Elmo’s World) while eating popcorn, snuggled on the couch.

Gotta go snuggle! It’s Mother’s Day, after all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More Virtual Days

March SOLC

I posted yesterday's slice, got everyone's lunches packed, went upstairs to take a shower, and then found out we were having a Virtual Day due to the weather. So, with grit in the air we stayed home.

In the evening the decision was made to call school again  due to continued poor air quality and sand storm. So, my job is to continue to have rigor, virtually.

How does it work? We do have a student management system, but it limits my styling (font, layout, etc.) so I stick with Google. I send my students an email with all of their tasks for the day outlining each task, embedding links, reminding them how to name Google Docs, etc. I also try to record a Read Aloud to keep the flow of our day similar to 'normal' and to add something, that hopefully, isn't drudgery. If I am simply doing audio I use Audacity and when I want to read a picture book I post it to YouTube and send the link.

Yesterday they had their 'bell work' which they shared with me on a Google Doc. I then sent them the answers and let them correct their own using a different color to show what was original and what was corrected. Then we read (just like at school). The one bonus was they had the opportunity to do some research for a writing project without me having to book the computer lab!

Currently, in math, we are reviewing for a unit test. I had them take a picture of the previous night's homework and send it to me. (I didn't actually have to read it, just see that they had done it, but I didn't tell them that.) Once I saw they had done the work I sent them the answers so they could correct their work. If they missed anything we chatted about it to make sure they were clear and understood their mistakes. They then had links to some further review problems. I am thankful this is all final review because otherwise I would have been dragging out the old white board I have hidden in storage and had to video tape a lesson to no one (and keep the two year old from interrupting).

Then it was time for Read Aloud. We have been reading A Wrinkle In Time, but I didn't have my copy at home. The day had been announced with very little time to put anything together plus my daughter was wanting my attention. The solution? I read a picture book to my little one and recorded a video with Windows Live Movie Maker at the same time. Once it had posted to YouTube I added the link to my email. I then posted some wondering questions about the book Benito's Dream Bottle by Naomi Shihab Nye with pictures by Yu Cha Pak.

Benito's Dream Bottle

I added reminders to not go playing outside, which specialist teachers they should have work from, and to drink water - it helps the brain work. That was Virtual Day Sandy Style.

For Virtual Day Sandy Style Part Two I have asked them do their 'bell work' and read. Our writing activity for the day is to draft their Science Fair answers for the judges. They will do this individually, in their science notebooks. I will then have them Skype as a team and create one Google Doc with their team's answers. They can work collaboratively and ensure they all agree with the answers.

We will continue to review for the math unit test. I had planned for a great amount of differentiation this week as some students will nearly need to relearn the material while others do not even need to take the test as they 'aced' the chapter tests. I am working to recreate some differentiation for their virtual tasks, though I know it won't be as elaborate. The main thing I am working to achieve is a further level of application for those students who already grasp the concepts. They do not need to be doing 'busy work'.

I now have A Wrinkle In Time available at home so we can continue our adventure on Camazotz. (They have only arrived and are headed down into town.)

Our Explorers unit in Social Studies is nearing culmination. Today they will have a chance to think about what places are there left to still be explored. (Again, the added bonus of not having to book a computer lab for them to have resources readily available to explore their thoughts.) For this they can choose to put notes in their S.S. notebook, if it is at home. Otherwise they need to create a Google Doc as a place holder for their information.

Finally I will share this link with them, as a surprised bit of levity. You should check it out too.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sandy Day Recess

March SOLC

I should have known. A few days ago I read a slice about someone's Rainy Day Recess. I commented saying it is nice to not ever have such things. I remember the energy drainer of having kids cooped up all day, for days in a row. I don't miss them.

Yesterday we receive an email telling us that all students must stay inside for recess due to sand and wind. I knew I should have bitten my tongue when I read that post. Ah, well.


This is what 'sand storms' look like here. There is a layer of grit in the air, on the ground, on each car, and every other surface you can see. As we drove home yesterday I noticed those huddled against walls. I see them there most days. I have no idea if they have a home, but I would guess wherever 'home' is the protection from the grit is not impenetrable.

I am thankful for our home. I am thankful that we can come in and be sealed away from the elements - the sand, wind, and sun. I am thankful that the craziness of an inside recess is a rare exception. I am thankful for this adventure I get to live.

photo credit:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Inspired to Slice about COETAIL

This post is going multi-purpose.

square_3470183543_linkedIt is Sunday, so this is my "Inspired to Link" day. Right now all I am inspired to do is go to bed as it is way past my bed time. I could have you follow the link over to my course site, but for simplicity I will repost it here. (Does it still count as a link? I know I am stretching it.)

March SOLCSlice of Life? Right now I have thrilled to say I have completed my COETAIL Course 1. For a slice of my life, here is my final project…

I chose a unit that is yet to come this year. I suspect as I mull this over between now and May I will probably make some adjustments, but for the mean time this is what I know…

After Spring Break we launch into an American Revolution unit. I actually have to start with some Colonial Times background knowledge lessons in order for aspects of the American Revolution to make sense. This all culminates at the end of May with a Living Museum.

IMGP7404 IMG_0434

In order to prepare for the Living Museum students will research about a person for the American Revolution. (They are given a list of figures - anyone that they would be able to find enough information to do an acceptable job - and get to tell me their first, second, and third choices. No promises are made, but I try very hard to give each student someone they have selected.) Students use both print resources and online information to gather the needed materials. They practice their note taking skills, paraphrasing and summarizing as they go. The next step is to prepare a speech. This is written in Google Docs, which allows for comments from both myself and their peers during the writing process. Costumes are created and the speech is memorized in preparation for the actual Living Museum.

The presentation of their speeches happens in two different settings. Each student receives a note taking booklet as we have an in class session. This is where each speech is given while the rest of the students take notes I am filling out the rubric. Finally we move to a larger space and setup our actual 'museum' where the rest of the fifth graders and parents are invited to come and hear speeches as the historical figures come alive.

The other aspect of this project is a Prezi. This allows students to incorporate visual elements about their American Revolution figure. It serves as a preview or teaser before a figure 'comes to life' in the Living Museum. They are also available to share with a wider audience.

Those are my thoughts thus far.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

First thing in the morning

March SOLC

I do have an ideal start to my day. It is not the way things usually happen.  It is even less frequently since becoming a mom. My favorite way to start a morning is to wake up on my own. (No alarm, call to prayer, noise of someone else in the house, or being ‘paged’ through the monitor.)

I then spend a few minutes just reveling in the fact that I woke up unassisted. Realistically I probably have to get up and pee, but then I crawl back between the sheets. Now is the time when I hope to have time unfurled before me. I know exactly what I will do.

I pull the book from where I put it down the night before and dive back into whatever journey I left for sleep. I revel in this added bit of reading time that is not a planned part of my day, but always welcome. Ideally I read until I fall asleep again.

When I wake up from my nap I am happy to crawl out of bed and really get started with me day.

It happened this morning, even though I woke at 5 a.m. I tried to just roll over, but my mind had already started to wander down its path. Instead of being fed-up with my lost sleep I opted to not go downstairs and start working. Instead I grabbed my Kindle and followed Cal further into Peeps. I even got a nap, be it very briefly, in before it was time to get going with the day. What a great start to my week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Virtual Day

March SOLC

The Ides of March have come and gone. We are more then half way through March. How did that happen? It is a short weekend for us as yesterday was a Virtual Day / P.D. (in service). It is never fun to have a shortened weekend, but as the days fly by, heading to break, it will be OK.

What is a Virtual Day and what does it entail? If something were to happen so we could not actually attend school, we need a way to continue delivering instruction. The reasons could be anything from a rain day to a flu epidemic to regional tensions or evacuation. Having the ability in theory does not mean that everyone would remember how to access what they needed in reality. So, we practice. The other benefit of Virtual Days is that they allow for a longer summer as nearly a week is delivered 'virtually' throughout the year. (One per quarter.)

The instruction can be delivered via a 'flipped classroom' model, by extending the thinking with virtual activities, or through online collaboration. I tend to use a combination. When we had a week of Virtual Days last year due to rain I video taped my math lessons. (It feels very odd to teach to an empty room, writing on the wipe board, and leaving pause time for students to think.) I also recorded audio clips so we could continue our Read Aloud. I provide them the opportunity for quizzes via Google Forms. Google Docs is how I have my students turn in anything written and how they collaborate with one another. Yesterday, for the first time, I had them doing some screen sharing with Skype. (Can't wait to hear what they thought about that!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pinch Me. It Doesn't Seem Real.

March SOLC

I know Spring Break is coming up. I am very aware of how many days of school remain - days I am trying to keep my students focused. Plus, our 5th grade Science Fair is the day before break. (Yes, this is very intentionally planned this way. It helps keep our students from taking off several day early and gives them something to focus on besides vacation.) So, two more weeks.

Two weeks from right now I will be having dinner with our dear friends in Belfast! Pinch me. It just doesn't seem real. These are our closest friends from when I was in grad school and we lived in Vancouver, B.C. We haven't seen each other in four years. Their oldest was just a little one and we haven't met their youngest yet. G can't wait to meet them all.

Why am I writing about this as today's slice? I got to talk with Michelle this afternoon. Just hearing her voice brought a huge grin to my face. Listening to her excitement as she talked about all the things they are thinking about doing will us got me more excited. Quickly remembering British language patterns and slipping back into things like G going to bed at half seven and getting up in the morning between half six and seven. Planning out heavenly bites of chocolate at special places around town (and the boys' outings for beer) made all mouths water.

As I told her, the thing we are looking forward to the most is simply fellowship, time together. Less then two weeks! The conversation today helped, but it still doesn't seem real.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


March SOLC

I am ready for the weekend. TGIW! (We won’t talk about tomorrow being a Virtual Day / P.D. half day.) I have experienced some very amusing things this week. Let me share…

There is a monthly magazine called Destination Jeddah. This month, for the first time, it arrived in individual plastic wrappings. This alone is enough to drive me crazy. Then I looked at the cover.

CIMG1772          CIMG1773

Only in Saudi Arabia, where plastic is a bi-product of oil, could the “Go Green” edition be sheathed in an individual plastic pocket. LOL (and shake your head).


One of my students was absent on Monday (our ‘hump day’). When I saw him Tuesday morning I asked if he had been sick. “No, I needed a vacation” was his reply.

LOL – Must be nice!


And the one that makes me laugh the most…

There is a rumor going around that I will be the Middle School Assistant Principal next year.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Playing With a Mouse

March SOLC

I got a new toy tool for my birthday. (I had actually tried to buy it for my husband for his birthday, but hadn't been able to find it in stock.) It is pretty cool so I want to tell you about it.

How many times do you have something you wish you had digitized? It could be a magazine article, document, recipe card, old snapshot, business card, or something out of a book. It happens to me often. I wish I had it digitally so I could easily have access to it, where ever I am and/or can share it with others. Thanks to LG and the excuse of my birthday, now I can.


What is this great device? It is much smaller then a bread box. In fact it is a mouse! (No, it doesn't say 'squeak, squeak.) That's right. LG makes a mouse scanner. I kid you not!

Now, it isn't perfect. It has a cord and the resolution is not the same as a top of the line (really big and expensive) scanner, but for most of the things I want to scan it is going to do the trick. And it can go in my suitcase with ease.

Here are some examples I did very quickly. You click a side button, run the mouse over the item you want to scan (in any direction - it puts the image together like a puzzle), and click when you are finished. You can then use some editing tools and save as a JPEG, TIFF, PNG, BMP, XLS, DOC, PDF or share on Twitter or FaceBook. Plus there is an Optical Character Recognition feature that will translate text to editable documents - no more having to retype that old document you don't yet have digitally.

LG mouse

I scanned some poetry unit tips out of a book I have (and the cover of the book) to share with our Literacy Coach.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing cover     Tips for a Poetry Study pg 151 The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing

I scanned some of photos. (Most people are safe until this summer when I will have access to all of my photo albums.)

Scott and Kristi 78ishLittle brother and meK with Leighton and AshtonTaken more then eight years ago with my goddaughters. Good thing they don't read this blog (and I promised I wouldn't put the picture on FaceBook).

Next up will be some of my daughter's art work, the stack of things I have torn out of magazines, and the baby journal kept for G's first two years (the whole, in case of fire I don't want to lose that reason).

Happy to have my new scanner mouse. Now I just need some time to use it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Are You Reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
It is a chance for book lovers to share their reading accomplishments as well as what is on the proverbial nightstand. She even does a giveaway. Subsequently Jen and Kellee at
Teach Mentor Texts added an opportunity for those reading kidlit to join the fun. Since I read both I will post to both.
Check them out, join the conversations, and discover more great books.

Well, I think trying to post on this every week is too disheartening for me as I manage to only finish a book - two on a good week. I want to continue, but I am going to try once a month for a while.

Since I am here today this is what I finished this week.

So YesterdaySo Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

40th & 25th

March SOLC

What do those two numbers have in common? They are both being celebrated in Alaska right now. Intrigued? Mush Read on.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates the 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome, AK in an attempt to stop an epidemic. (The dog team relay was successful and arrived with the serum.) The trail has more historical significance then the serum run. Portions have been used by Native people for as long as there have been people in Alaska and in the late 1800s and early 1900s it was the primary land route for the gold rushes. Dog sledding was a sport, even back then. This is the 40th year of the Iditarod race as most people think of it.


I give my students the opportunity to become enthralled with the race each year and right now we are eagerly waiting to see who arrives in Nome first (which should be in the next day or so). We will follow the race until the red lantern is presented to the last team coming off the trail.

My intrigue with the race goes back to my Alaska days. In another life I used to lead tours through Alaska and the Yukon. I went on to train tour directors and spent some time living up north. During that time I was honored to meet and become friends with a family for whom the Iditarod is part of their legacy. Thanks to them I have even gotten to experience sled dogs up close (including a 50 mile jaunt one winter). I can't go through the first couple of weeks of March without following the race (much easier with things like GPS tracking, Twitter, and the internet) and missing that family.

So that is 40, what about 25? One of the things on my mom's bucket list was to see the Northern Lights. Since last week they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary I helped my step-dad prepare a trip to Chena Hot Springs for the occasion. They are on their way home right now and I am anxious to hear from them. Watching footage of the race there have been Lights dancing across the night sky - I just hope it was clear in Chena as well!



Iditarod photo credit: <a href="">Orloskaya</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>
Northern Lights photo credit: <a href="">Studiolit</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Inspired to Link


This week brings a very random smattering of things to ponder.

Google Chrome extensions Google Chrome
by Corina Mackay. (I use 4/5 of these.)


to tips for preventing eating disorders in children 
Rage Against the Minivan with a smile acronym S.M.I.L.E.

CIMG1574and finally pondering technology in
Is ‘gaming’ the new reading? on Pyburn's Ponderings


photo credit: <a href="">...-Wink-...</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Virtual Catch

March SOLC

Living on the other side of the planet from grandparents is nothing like it would have been even 20 years ago. With Skype video calls we have mini visits on a regular basis. We Skype with my in-laws on Sunday evenings (our time), which is before they head to church.

When G hears the computer 'ring' she comes running to see who is calling. Tonight she was excited to see Grandma and Grandpa and happy to tell them about what she had been doing since she got home and who she played with at school. The conversation continued as she ate her dinner - her eating and the adults trying to have a conversation.

Often, when we are talking, Grandpa will play peek-a-boo with her or hide-and-seek (going just off the screen and then popping back) to keep her engaged. She loves it. Now they have a new game that G created - virtual catch.

G decided she was going to throw a 'ball' to Grandpa and wanted him to catch it. Thus began their new game of virtual catch. Sometimes she would throw with two hands, sometimes with just her left or her right. There were times that she instructed Grandpa how many hands he should catch or throw with.

For a two and a half year old this game went on for quite a while. They played for at least ten minutes and the round only ended because she got cut off due to impending bed time.

I think we have a found a new game that will be around for a while. I am excited that she may be showing aptitude for theatre sports. (And perhaps a gig as a mime?)

Anyone up for a game of virtual catch? I'll bring the ball.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Now it’s time for ‘so long’

March SOLC

The last entry for this notebook – goodness! Lasts are always a bit sad. This notebook has been a great companion. I remember when I found it last spring at Jarir Bookstore. I love the old world feel of the maps on the cover. The fact that they are focused on the Middle East is perfect. It is hard to get used to having to use it upside down, but upside down is preferred to backwards. (Arabic is read from right to left therefore the notebooks sold here are setup that way.)


This notebooks feels like my first really regular notebook. It is the journey in these pages that I committed to writing with my students. It is this notebook  that saw the commencement of my writing blog. I have had other notebooks I have written in (many, actually), but this one stands out as a writer’s notebook.

I wasn’t to pause here, a page before the end, to take time and sit with these words – to soak in these pages.


OK. This notebook has earned its place on the shelf next to me. Time to start a new one.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Global Collaboration


What do two classrooms, 41 students spread out by 6 time zones have in common? We are finding out. Ms. Kim's class in Seoul, Korea and my class in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia are getting to know one another via Skype.

How did this arrangement start? Both of us teachers have blogs. We read and commented on one another's posts. Jee Young asked if I would be up for our classes connected. Of course I was.

So, we started a Google Doc and each added our students' questions. Even though my classroom has a good mix of diverse backgrounds it was interesting to see my students' cultural stereo types come out as they were coming up with questions for Ms. Kim's class. The first odd question caught me off guard, but then I realized I simply had to ask how they would ask a similar question and the students quickly realized strange their question sounded. Yes, there are differences and yes, it is OK to ask about them, but think it through first was the lesson that day.

We found a time that would work for both classes (the start of my day and the end of hers) and we were on our way. Our students have now talked twice and gotten the opportunity to ask and answer all of the questions. In our last conversation we found out they like K pop music, which we know nothing about. My students like Arab music, which they have never heard. Right now we are coming up with two videos to share in order to give the other class a taste of the music in our part of the world.

Where will we go from here? Her students are doing an American Revolution unit ahead of us so we will look to them to help us with our background knowledge. My students are completing their NESA Virtual Science Fair and will be able to help Ms. Kim's students focus their work when they start their Science Fair.

Anything else? We are talking about a book club, perhaps something like "Reading Across the Miles" where students in each class can read the same book and share in a virtual forum. We'll see!

After reading about the 1,001 Tales Projects I am wondering if we should give some collaborative writing a go as well.

It is a small world we live in. I am thankful for opportunities to allow my students further connections with people whose lives might be different from their own.

photo credit: <a href="">cdsessums</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bucket List

As I launch into my fortieth year,here are the 40 things on my Bucket List,
in no particular order…
(Note, updated since originally posted)
Trans Siberian Railroad
Semester at Sea (again)
Bike trip in Holland
Family Disneyland Trip (1/15)
Bhutan Adventure
A year in NYC
Elementary Chaplain at an international school
Wind Star Cruise
Tanzania Trip (Kili, Safari, and Zanzibar) - modified to overnight safari somewhere in Africa
Teach 1:1
Try teaching M.S. (2012 - 2013)
My own set of Malmark Handbells (12/2016)
U2 in concert
complete a marathon 10/09
Another Breast Cancer 3-Day
Mom / Wife Excellante
Read all Newberys
Machu Pichu
Transit the Panama Canal
Do our Iran Trip (planned and tried in 2005, but no visa granted - though no visa denied either)
Play in an International Handbell Symposium (summer 2016)
Balloon Fiesta 10/09
Hike the Wonderland Trail majority summer 2000 – completed summer 2008
Ring in Distinctly Bronze 2/10
Pregnant 08 – 09
Deliver via natural childbirth (with the Daddy there would have been preferred)5/09
Breast feed 09 – 10
Drive the Dempster Highway 6/97
Ride on a dog sled (50 miles) 12/97
See the Iditarod in person
Semester at Sea 1995
Work at camp summers of 1991 – 1994
Tour Director in Alaska 1996 – 1999 seasons
Certified Ski Instructor 3/01
Visit all 50 States
Silent Retreat at a monastery 3/01
Ride a camel through the desert 12/06
own home 10/11
See the gorillas in Uganda
Ski in Europe
March SOLC