Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grammar Rules!

Now, that title could be taken one of two ways. Either you're reading it to mean the rules of grammar. Or, if you're a stickler like myself, you could be reading it like this: Grammar RULES!!! Woo-hoo! [I can almost see my brother rolling his eyes at me.]

Since discovering podcasts at a technology conference last year, I've been a regular listener of Grammar Girl, aka Mignon Fogarty. Her "Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" are quick snippets of grammar rules done in such a way that makes the rules easy to remember. No, really! You can find her podcasts, which I highly recommend, at her website or through the iTunes store.

Of course, if you're more of a visual learner do I have exciting news for you! Grammar Girl has written a book!! (I hope she doesn't get upset with me for using two exclamation points there, but I'm excited!) If you'd like to preview the first chapter, you can click on the book to the left. I'm sure after a few pages you'll be ready to preorder your copy which is due out July 8th. Just follow me over to to preorder.

I can't wait to hear the comments McBro will be making about this post!

Dance Globally

With tremendous thanks to Lisa Parisi, I have found how I will start my year off with my new seventh graders in August. Lisa shared this video with us on Twitter this morning, and I can't stop thinking about it. I've decided to show my students this video and ask them one question: "How will we connect with the world this year?" I don't expect them to go out and dance their way across the planet, but I do want connections made.

In this video you will see an American man named Matt Harding doing one simple thing: dancing. But what you will also see are real human connections being made in a universal language: dancing. You can watch the video here, but I recommend you go to YouTube and, before the video starts, click on "watch in high quality" right underneath the video (you can also choose to watch it full screen). It really makes a difference!

My favorite parts are the ones with kids (in Fiji and the Solomon Islands), the tribesmen in Papua New Guinea, and the dancers in India. That one is priceless!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thinking About Thinkfinity

I spent two days last week in a seminar learning all about the website Thinkfinity. Once I left the seminar all I could think was "I can't wait to share this!" With three new preps starting in the fall, I know I'll be spending a lot of time this summer exploring the website and all the lesson plans it has to offer. If you're in a similar situation, or if you're just looking to find some new lessons to add to your repertoire, please start here!

According to the website, Thinkfinity:
makes it easy for educators to enhance their classroom instruction with lesson plans, interactive activities and other online resources. also provides a wealth of educational and literacy resources for students, parents and after-school programs.

All of's 55,000 standards-based K-12 lesson plans, student materials, interactive tools and reference materials are reviewed by the nation's leading education organizations to ensure that content is accurate, up-to-date, unbiased and appropriate for students.
Before you read any further, I should also warn you that I've been playing with screencasts using Jing. That's been a lot of fun! So let me show you how to get started with Thinkfinity.

Once you're at the website, click on the link for "educator." This will take you to the "educator resources" page where you can choose to either do a search for what you're looking for (on the right side of the page), or check out the "content partners" (on the top left of the page). These are the organizations who have created and contributed the thousands of lesson plans that you'll find here.

Contributors include National Geographic, the Smithsonian, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the International Reading Association, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Aside from the fact that you will find wonderful lessons and activities here, what I love most is that each lesson comes with links to everything you need to conduct the lesson in your classroom: handouts, worksheets, website links where you can get more information or your students can do their research. No more spending hours upon hours looking for just the right resource to share with your students.

If you can't already tell, I'm very excited about using Thinkfinity and sharing it with my friends and coworkers. If you have any questions about this wonderful resource, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment or send me an email. Feel free to visit the list I've created on Diigo where I'll be saving all the lessons I'm finding on Thinkfinity that I'm anxious to try next year. You can find that list here:

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Delicious Tag Cloud

Following others in my Twitter network, I used Wordle to make a word cloud of my tags. It definitely shows me what topics I've been spending the most time researching. For those who've never seen a tag cloud, the largest words are the tags that you use the most, for instance "internet safety" for me.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Today's Eco-Tips

Did you know that if one million people turned off their office computers at night, we could eliminate up to 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year? That's like taking almost 8,000 SUVs off the road!

Here's one that drives me crazy...literally. Many people seem to think that they need to let their car engine warm up by letting it idle (I have a neighbor who will let his car idle for up to ten minutes!) Today's fuel-injected engines don't need that warm-up period. In fact, it can actually lead to excessive engine wear. According to Climate 411, following the 10-second rule (don't let your car idle for more than ten seconds) could save you gas and decrease the amount of pollution you put into our air.

For more eco-friendly tips, visit the Environmental Defense Fund website or one of my new favorites, We Can Solve It.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All About Reading

My second year of teaching has come and gone, and I've just noticed that I've been a bit lax in keeping up with my blog. Report cards are done, my students have left, I have no excuses now.

Before my future seventh graders left for their summer vacation, I gave them their summer reading assignment. It is very similar to the one I gave them last summer, but this year I decided to create a wiki with the assignment and reading list on it, and email the link to their parents. No excuses of "I lost the handout" this year!

I had never created a wiki before, but I'm feeling pretty proud of my creation. Not only does it have the summer reading assignment and the reading list, but it also has a page called Challenge the Teacher. The student who manages to read more than I do this summer will receive a gift card to Borders (conveniently located up the street from our school).

While explaining the wiki to my current sixth graders/future seventh graders, they asked if they could also challenge next year's sixth graders to a Read Off. I ran it by my boss and our fifth grade teacher and, well, Challenge On! The class that reads more (as a class) over the summer will receive Skittles from yours truly.

I'll do anything to get my students to read more!

Feel free to stop by my Notes From McTeach wiki and let me know what you think.