Showing posts from 2018

The Entanglement of Vines: The Density of Seclusion

It is nefarious and perverse. It can cause anxiety and loneliness. But, worst of all, its vicious depravity, its intentional dive bomb, can lead even the happiest of people, down a dangerous path. Seclusion. Isolation. Division. A confinement of identity. When we feel like we are quarantined and forced on a different trajectory, as those around us, we tend to lash out. Our instinct as humans is to belong. To feel apart of a community. To be accepted by our peers and colleagues. To embrace camaraderie and collaboration. When we feel betrayed or forgotten, we no longer behave like a member of the populace. We become citizens of our own, insulated, abstract, reality and this can cause us to act, in very scary ways.

Quietly or actively, calmly or violently, we react. It may be a disheartening thought nagging us, luring us away from stability. A voice of discomfort and doubt that may linger, a little too long. If we ignore it, it festers. If we attack it, often, a darkness creeps in, makin…

Seeing Past the Score: Looking Out for the Underdog: Snip It #27

There have been many underdog stories, over the last year or so: The Houston Astro's winning the World Series and the Eagles taking the Super Bowl victory, from the Patriot's. It happens all the time, this empowerment that pushes, a team or individual forward, sparking confidence, motivation and drive. The determination that overcomes even the strongest of talents. I see it every day in my classroom. When the soft spoken, understated students, become the leaders of the team, of their own volition. The moment something sinks in and solidifies, and students, who are struggling, get an A on a test. It is a beautiful thing to witness, as an educator and as a fan.

Underdog usually has a connotation, of a weakness or inferiority, in some way. To me though, an underdog has the chops, skills, and mindset, to conquer anyone or anything in their path. All they are lacking is opportunity. Somewhere along the way, they missed a chance, they were overlooked or forgotten. It only takes one …

Dichotomous What? Bernie Botts Every Flavor Beans: Snip It #26

Classification is always a fun unit for me and my students. They come into 7th grade already understanding the six kingdoms and we get to delve more deeply into the levels of taxonomy. We also get to investigate how dichotomous keys are used to classify organisms. Dichotomous keys can be tricky and daunting, depending on the difficulty level. So, I always start out with a straight-forward, tasty one. Well.... tasty or icky, to be precise.
We delve into our first classification lesson, by using Bernie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, from Harry Potter. Each table group gets ten different beans, some yummy, and some not so yummy. I sort them the night before, making sure to have similar colors and patterns, to throw them off. They have one of each, tasty and yucky, for most color patterns. The legend tricks them into thinking they have cherry or watermelon, when actually they have dirt or sausage. 
They won't know which flavor they actually have,  until after they go through the key …

The Zone of Saturation: Breaking Through the Comfort Zone: Snip It #25

A zone of saturation is the level at which water has filled under ground soil and sediment. A zone of demarcation being the border between two areas that are not inclusive, but rather need an area of separation. Residential versus industrial zones, no fly zones, and frigid versus temperate zones. All areas of division, some small in area while others expand over thousands of miles. However, anyway you look at it, they are given areas with certain characteristics that allow it a purpose or use. This territory can be designed to be temporary, fluid, or definitive. But, there always seems to be "the other side." The area viewed from a far, either with envy or dread. Much like a comfort zone, many stay safely behind the walls of the sector while others scale the walls and venture out into the unknown. Which one do you see in your classroom? All of them, right?

Students create this zone through habit, fear, or they can be raised by others through lack of conviction and hesitancy.…

Pots and Pans: Part Two: Snip It #24

Sustenance is a necessity. Cooking has been an honored tradition for a very long time from: A mother, nurturing her children, with a home cooked meal. To chefs concocting the most appetizing meals, for the kings and queens, of ancient times. The art of arranging, planning and preparing meals has become a skill set. Cultivating a palate for great food, either cooking it, or eating it, has become more and more popular, allowing for more visionaries, to step in the arena and show off their talents. The Food Network, The Chew and countless other entertainment venues, have begun to dominate the air waves. I know I watch them. Not necessarily to prepare French cuisine but to gain some strategies that will help me in the kitchen. 

Like in a kitchen, evolution has been taking place, in classrooms all around the globe. Idealistic and noble approaches are being shared on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, just to name a few. Each method, game plan and brainchild, finding a voice of its own. Findi…

Pots and Pans: Part One: Snip It #23

I love to cook, but I rarely have the chance to spend time in the kitchen. I venture into the cookery, a lot, but finding a good chunk of time, to really cook a good meal, is rare for me, during the school year. I only eat well, because my husband, a stay at home dad, is our chef. The first Saturday in months, that I had nothing to do, appeared last weekend. I was elated, I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I took my son to get his band uniform altered and I cooked. I actually spent a few hours in my scullery, tinkering with recipes and honing my rusty, culinary skills.

As I rummaged through my pots and pans, choosing a saute' pan over a sauce pan, a skillet over a stock pot- it dawned on me. There are a lot of different pots and pans. Seriously. There are all of the aforementioned, but then add in: Wok's, griddles and braiser's, baking pans and dutch ovens, roasting pans and pressure cookers. If that's not enough, the materials they are forged from, are j…

A Camouflage Adventure: Snip It #22

During our adaptation unit every year, students learn to identify between the different types of camouflage: discoloration, mimicry etc. A few years ago, I decided that having them watch a slide show, of animals hidden in their habitats, was not effective. I decided that getting students creative and mobile, by having them design a butterfly, with a type of camouflage and hiding it my classroom, might help them feel more connected to the terminology. The concept, these past four years, has been based on empowerment and competitiveness.

Competitiveness is in nature. Camouflage is a result of this. Being able to blend in, hide and survive, is inherent in the behavior, of most organisms. Especially prey. So I incorporated that into an easy, fun, engaging lesson. The butterfly hunt. Every student is given one butterfly and they have to camouflage it. Then they hide it in my classroom- as long as it is in plain sight, from the center of the room- high or low- it is good to go. They have 3…

My Sharp Edges and My Smooth Ones: Snip It #21

Iron out the rough edges. Smooth out our rough spots. Sand off the sharp edge. These are well used idioms. I heard all three of them, in television shows or movies, in the last week alone. This got me reflecting, as I tend to do. I often, think and analyze, more than I speak and write. I guess, this is one of my sharp edges -retreat. I have a place I go, quite frequently. An internal oasis. However, sometimes I get lost in the desert surrounding it, causing me to disappear for awhile.

January was a very hectic month for me. The weight of responsibility, forced my hand. I pondered and examined, leaned in to my frustration and exhaustion, and used it to push me through. This process, however, put my social side on hold. I pulled away from my blog and Twitter chats. It took all my energy to create and moderate, my own two chats. But, alas, January has ended and February has slithered in, almost unceremoniously.

The only reason, I know it is February, is that the 1st, is my husbands birt…

The Back Porch Light: Snip It #20

The front porch light can be welcoming, or protective. It tells passers by, especially on Halloween, to ring the bell. But, if the residents are not home and want to make sure their property is protected, they leave the bulb on. Like a facade it shields any absence. It is the literal spotlight, on a household.

The back porch light, however, is less for defensive purposes, than it is an intriguing invitation, to wander outside. As I sit here, half shaded by the darkness of a February nightfall, half illuminated by a blue-full moon- I watch my children gaze at the luminous, natural, lunar, spectacle. They chase each other around, stepping back and forth between the unobscured beauty, of the Texas sky and the power-driven ignition, of the back porch light.

This particular back porch brilliance, brought a family outside, in the crisp winter clime. This enticing spark, both provocative and magnetic: created a learning experience not only for two teenagers and a seven year old, but also fo…

Future City and Quiz Bowl: Snip It #19

The Future City competition, is a popular one. I have mentored teams in two states: Georgia and Texas. This is my 11th year being a mentor/coach. My teams have always received awards because they work very hard and generally get an award, for best city design or best transportation.It takes many months and hours to complete all of the different elements and to finally have a model, speech and presentation ready, for tournament day.

The past few years, we have competed locally in Houston. But it is a small event, with about 20 teams. This year I decided to go big and attend a busier and larger venue. This is our first year in Dallas, rather than Houston. This is awesome. But we all have to, drive 4-5 hours to get there. Tomorrow is our competition. They have all worked so hard since August: both in my club meetings and outside of school in their teams. I have been talking to them and answering their questions since August, so I am truly excited to see all the presentations and watch th…

Cloning? Nah, Community?: Snip It #18

I want to clone myself. This is the time of year, I would love a clone. A clone, to do half my work load, the boring half of course. But, if it were a clone, then would we share thoughts? It is an interesting idea, cloning. Of course if I could clone, it would take 48 years to look like me, think like me, be able to know what I know. So really, a clone would not help me. I need a helper. Actually, I need to ask for help, which is something, I rarely do, because I am a control freak. I know this about myself, I like to know things are being done right.

This weekend, I have had to ask for help, because I do not have a clone. I literally, can not be, in in two places at once. I will be in Dallas at the Future City competition on Saturday. My Quiz Bowl teams will be competing for our second spot at Nationals, in Houston. I have asked several parents to chaperone this event. I trust them, I have full confidence in my team and parents. But, it bugs me that I can't be there. I just have …

What Day is It? Snip It #17

This is a very quick snip it. Such a busy week. My mind is groggy and everything around me feels distant. I am literally, going from one place to another from 6:30am to 9:30pm. I absolutely love what I do, but this week is just crazy. The one thing that is keeping me awake and engaged, is that next week, will be much calmer. I see the end of the haze, just up ahead. I just need to turn on my low beams and keep going.

I set up my two chats tonight, Star Wars themed and that made me happy. I am watching the high school robotics teams, build and drive their robots, around the field. It is 8:30pm and I have an hour left of work tonight. After that, at least an hour or so, to watch TV and unwind. I can never just lie down and go to bed, after a full day. Deep breath in, strong blow of air out. It's Wednesday, right? In weeks like this, I lose my direction.

Time for me, Sunday. Time to keep my wheels spinning, now.

Tic-Tac-Tally: A New Review Strategy: Snip It #16

Tic-tac-toe, a game of chance? Not really. If you know to go, for the corners first, then ultimately you win the game, or at least stale mate. This uncomplicated, childhood past time, can also be used as a review game. It may seem simplistic, but actually, it is a great way for students to use a format they know and understand, but to bring another level to it. All you need is some paper, a writing utensil, and vocabulary words. I used giant butcher paper, but you could use standard computer paper too.

I wrote all of the 30 or so heredity and Genetics vocabulary, on the board. Each group of students (3-4) were given 9 words. Each word needs to go inside one of the 9 boxes, on a standard tic-tac-toe board. Then each group had to analyze and discuss how each were connected, and had to draw a line to connect them: horizontally, diagonally, or vertically. On the lines, they had to write, how they were connected. After they completed one game board, with 9 vocabulary words, they shared wit…

Nappucinno: Does This Really Work: Snip It #15

Have you ever heard of a nappucinno? I hadn't until I started reading "When" by Daniel H. Pink. The book is all about our chrono-biology. Are we morning birds like larks or night owls? Or, like me, are we in-betweeners, or third birds. We all have a cycle or Circadian Rhythm, our bodies adhere to. As the day progresses, we have peaks, where we are alert and focused. Troughs, where we are tired and sometimes, very distracted and unfocused and finally, rebounds where we get our second wind. Even without research, we know this. It makes sense, for me at least. Unfortunately, I am a third bird and my trough, is exactly at the last class, of the day. I can't just take a nap, in the middle of 8th period.

The idea of a power-nap sounds good to me. Especially if they should be 15-25 minutes long. That could be during planning. I can turn off my lights, and catch a quick snooze. Unfortunately, I tend to have things to do, during planning. But, I made it a goal today, to see i…

Confidence is One Thing....:Snip It #14

Confidence is temporary. It is both dependent on comfort level and task. We may be over-confidant, due to past experiences, or under-confident, because we have heard tales, of how hard something might be. It all comes down, to mind over matter. Belief over doubt. Personal determination and motivation over fear. I have heard the term, growth mindset, more than I can count. Rigor and grit, too. But, those words mean nothing to me. True confidence does not come from words of wisdom or even past experiences alone- it comes from a moment, a cascade of reasoning, that trumps doubt. It may be sudden, like an avalanche, with long term effects, buried under the weight of inaction (snow), or create a fresh surface, from which to tackle your goals. But, it can also make itself known, in a conservative, reserved timeline- slowly edging you toward your goal. Baby steps over one giant landslide.

We often compare ourselves to those we know, based on assumptions. For instance, that educator has it al…

Snip It #13 A Quick Post- Hindsight Can Be Brief

I began writing my Snip It #13 today, but it turned into a long one. A story just flowed out of me. I heard a simple joke and it turned into a piece. One of running across something, so cavernous and scary, we stop in our tracks. That even with friends around us, we hesitate to peer inside. This has happened to me a lot lately, albeit, without friends around me. Seeing a place, others dare, to traverse, and getting near the edge. Only to halt and stare. I am working on being the one to ascend, into the crevasse, rope around me.

My instinct is to toss down an anvil and wait to hear the thud. I need to know how far I have to go. Although, I often can't find an anvil, only a rock. The pebble may create a ripple on the pond, but in a deep, dark, cavern, it is basically useless. For me it is finding the right tool or strategy and then taking the leap toward growth. In hindsight, I guess, I could have just written this, but the story just flowed out. Sometimes it is hard to hold in the …

A Hole, an Anvil and a Galloping Goat: A Story of Faith

Several friends were walking in a field. They had just finished hiking and decided to take a stroll, in the quietness of nature. They were enjoying each others company, laughing and talking, about the latest political debacle. So deep in conversation, that they almost missed a giant hole in the ground. They stopped, looked down, into the darkness, and were mystified that there was such a cavernous chasm, out in this remote area. One of them wondered, how deep it actually was and decided to throw in a rock they found near by. They did not hear it, hit the bottom. They joked if there was solid ground below, or if it was so subterranean, that it went, to the center of the Earth. This is what highly educated adults converse about sometimes, reality and fantasy, each playing a role in the humanity of it all. Truth, sometimes needs a little comedy, to help the pill go down.

The group started a debate about far-reaching ideas, rooted philosophies and points-of-view. That even the most level-…

Unfurling Curiosity: Alchemy of Words: Snip It #12

It unfurls. The silent action, somehow picks up a sound, air meets texture. It unwinds, unrolls, expands. A simple gesture, the a flick of the wrist, and a pattern emerges, bounded in a sort of wizardry. A conjuring of concepts and meaning occurs. A flash of conclusion: reachable when perception and conception, merge. When the fabric of learning, stretches the imagination, causing a moment of unsettling, as what students, thought they knew, comes into question. The colors, once blended in a patchwork, brighten and distinguish themselves.

Now a distinct, template of prior knowledge, heightened with allurement and enchantment. An unheard incantation, drawing them in. They have known of such fascination before, they lean in to it, as if gazing into a crystal ball. The din rises, as their expectation magnifies. No longer are their chairs a seat, resting spots. They become a launching pad. Bodies slowly rise, looking around, for the gaze of another mesmerized soul. Inch by inch, they creep…

Receding or Reseeding: After An Unexpected Respite: Snip It #11

Coming back from an unexpected respite is always difficult. Today was no exception. Students felt pressure, the moment they entered the building. Most of their classes, piled on extra homework or over-lapped quizzes and tests, due to the end, of the grading period. Students were walking around in a haze. Actually, so were teachers, who were in a state of adaptating and tweaking lessons, to best complete their unit, in an expeditious time-frame.

What I realized, as I myself, was formulating a game-plan, was that it all comes down to a defining moment- as a teacher are you going to approach this recovery time, as one of receding or reseeding? Will students be given different options, on which to make-up the information, or will they be given, specific, excessive, mundane, homework to get caught up? Of course there is middle ground, you could offer a few, productive, meaningful, handouts, but for me at least, I prefer not to. I want to get creative.

To me, receding, to move back from a p…

Do You Have a Teacher Tell? Would You Tell Us if You Did?: Snip It #10

Let me start off by saying, yes, I have a tell. What type of tell? There are two definitions of a tell: in Archeology a tell, is an artificial mound, of accumulated refuse, left behind by occupants, of a given area. In other words, the muck and sludge, that we have to traverse, to get to higher ground. In poker, a tell is a player's behavior or demeanor, generally quiet, that gives away clues, as to what they are clasping, in their hand. Are they gripping a four of a kind, a full house, or a losing hand? They are the myriad of circumstances, the cynosure of high and low, ensemble, and profile, of what has been presented to us. Ultimately, how we are going to arrange and swap our cards, to make the best, of what we have been dealt.

I have pondered this, the last few days. When students are observing me, as I present their lesson, share anecdotes, reveal the mystery, of the activity or lab- is my tell obvious? Is it consistent? Is it positive? How can I, as a teacher, emanate an opt…

Disentanglement: Unraveling The Mystery: Snip It #9

Two snow days in a row. Crazy. Houston is colder than Denver. When does that happen? Now, actually, causing, disentanglement of a lesson plan. Monday was spent getting a well-oiled machine, tuned and prepped, for a four day week. Now, it has become a two day week. Adaption and compaction. I see this as an opportunity to do what I do best, get creative. The same information has to be taught, but how can I stream-line the content and keep it engaging? Vocabulary has been taught, its the networking of concepts, that was in place for this week. I need to liberate the activities that many would shelve, due to this weather absence.

Emancipation of student-centered enterprises- I refuse to fall back on worksheets, because we have missed two days of school. Students need even more activeness and liveliness, after an unexpected vacancy. Harvey taught us this earlier this year.

I am planning my 'return' activity now. Our unit is Genetics and the topic, is how do genes play a role in her…

Fundamental 5: Strategies for Critical Writing and Purposeful Talk: Snip It #8

The Fundamental 5 is both: a book by Sean Cain and Mike Laird and also a formula to make sure that you are giving quality, focused instruction. It consists of 5 methods you can implement to keep your classroom purposeful and relevant.

The first strategy is framing the lesson: having clear objectives, visually and authentically, discussed with students. The second strategy is work in the power zone, teachers are among students, talking and interacting, rather than sitting at their desk. In the classroom using frequent, small group, purposeful talk, for example think-pair-share, is the third strategy. This is a great way to listen and make sure students are understanding the lesson, strategy 4, for teachers to recognize and reinforce material. Finally, there is a focus on writing critically: purposeful note-taking, summary paragraphs or ticket's out the door. Together, these 5 strategies can help a teacher, with time-management, lesson flow and ultimately, help improve student growt…

Grit to Gravel: Layers of Cementation: Snip It #7

Grit, to me at least, is that dusty, powdery stuff you inhale on a sandy beach or off-roading. You can feel it coat your teeth, it gets stuck in your mouth. Both irritating and choking. Never have I seen the word grit and thought challenging or vigorous learning, is taking place. Gravel, albeit, just larger pebbles to me represents, solid ground, a sturdiness you walk upon to reach your destination. That is why we see it, on so many paths and driveways. It holds the location tight, when water and mud, invade its cracks and crevices. In my lessons, it is both integral and purposeful, but it tends to stay, on the more visual side of things, observable like the myriad of colors, that gravel projects.

This last week, my GT students, rather than taking notes on the large list of Genetics vocabulary, were put into groups and given 4 words to investigate. Then they reported on these concepts, to the class. On Friday, they shared their words: with analogies, a scientific article on their '…