Monthly Archives: August 2008

Good blog response = good response


The other day my husband commented that with all the emphasis on web 2.0, at what point do the students learn to craft on paper and get to experience the physical nature of writing? Writing on the computer is not the same as writing on paper.

That’s true, but whether students write online or write on binder paper, they still need to learn how to craft their writing, and good writing instruction is still good writing instruction.

Therefore, having a student respond to a blog with “nice,” “good,” “great job,” is just as bad online as on someone’s paper. So how do teachers push the learning connections and stretch students to use their critical thinking skills to make a difference in each other’s thinking and learning, thereby expanding the universe and creating a classroom where teachers are mere facilitators and the students are teaching each other?

Students can create very thoughtful responses if they just get some modeling and some kind of framework from us. These comment starters are very old. I’m sure you have them in your files too, and they were created for critiquing someone’s writing, but it works just as well as a way to respond to a blogged topic or online writing piece too.

  • This made me think about…….
  • I wonder why…….
  • Your writing made me form an opinion about…….
  • This writing (post) is relevant because…….
  • Your writing made me think that we should…….
  • I wish I understood why…….
  • This is important because…….
  • Another thing to consider is…….
  • I want to know more about…..
  • I can relate to this…….
  • This makes me think of…….
  • I discovered…….
  • I don’t understand…….
  • I was reminded that…….

How do you teach students to respond? Leave a comment and let us learn too.

Kapua and Amy have their students respond on their blogs, so check out their blogs for some ways to push learning and thinking beyond the classroom. In this division we are even more blessed to have Kerry as our tech guide and speedy problem solver. So take advantage of using your blogs not only as a “teacherly” site where things like homework, daily agendas, and due dates are posted, but as a dynamic site where students can interact with you and each other, where students can learn from others even if they are not in the same period, and ultimately, students can get feedback and mentorship not only from our classroom teachers, but from the world of experts.


Graphic novel of the month

Coraline Coraline by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the graphic novel version of Coraline and there is a good balance of text and art to make it interesting without making it a poor excuse of a read. Basic story is that Coraline lives in a large house with her parents and other boarders. Her parents basically don’t have time for her so she explores and finds a secret door. The secret door leads her to her other mother and father and all creepiness ensues.

College is not too far away

Even if your child is in middle school, it’s not too early to start preparing for college. collegeboard.jpg College

is a great resource for parents and students who want to start getting information on college. They have newsletters geared for parents, and even though the parent newsletters start for parents of freshman and above, take a look at their resources, including college information, scholarships, and testing information.

What I find valuable as a parent is the SAT question of the day. You or your child will get an SAT question through your email. They alternate between math and verbal questions. Just press the option that you think is correct, and it will take you toĀ  the answer site. If you’re correct, it will tell you why and if you’re wrong, it will ask you to try again. It’s a good way to practice questions with your child (I tend to delete the math ones because I’m a former English teacher, and my son is already beyond my math abilities now that he’s in trig.) Still, it helps students familiarize themselves with the way the SAT questions are presented and what the logic is behind the answers.

They’re not clueless, they’re just young

Have you ever been in class and referred to something that to you is a “modern” reference and the students give you that glassy, blank look? It could be that they’re not paying attention, or it could be that they’re just too young to get it.

Take 9/11. It is as significant an event to our generation as the assassination of John F. Kennedy was to the former generation. We all know where we were and what we were doing on 9/11/01. But for our students, they were 4, 5 and 6 years old. When I visited New York last March with my 5th grader, I had to explain 9/11. It was a strange feeling to try and explain that as we’re standing at ground zero.

Our 8th graders were born in 1995 and our 6th graders were born in 1997. Some of us have been teaching longer than these kids have been alive, and some of us were actually in middle school when these kids were born. Our world changes so quickly that it is just a wonderful and dynamic time to be teaching! Kids make meaning by attaching their prior knowledge and experiences to the new information, so it’s always interesting to get a perspective of what they know. Next time when you get that “look,” don’t be discouraged. They’re just waiting to learn. šŸ˜‰

Some events to refresh your memory:

1995 (8th graders): O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial opens (1/24) not guilty (10/3); Timothy McVeigh blows up the Oklahoma City Federal Building (4/19); Academy Award for best picture goes to Forrest Gump; UK scientists clone the first sheep.

1996 (7th graders): “Mad cow” disease hits UK; FBI arrests Unabomber (4/3); World Series – NY Yankees defeat Atlanta Braves; HDTV unveiled; Tupac Shakur shot in a drive-by and dies six days later; approximately 45 million people are using the internet; Academy Award for best picture goes to Braveheart; scientist believe there’s life on Mars.

1997 (6th graders): Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule (6/30); Heaven’s Gate cult members commit mass suicide in California (3/27); J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book published in UK, comes to America in 98.

Help Kids Read Your Textbook

I will be the first to say that secondary teachers that do not teach Language arts are NOT expected to be reading teachers. However, you ARE expert readers of your own subject area. So no, you are not expected to teach your students how to read, but it would be wonderful to give your students some insight into what a good reader in your subject area (YOU) does. Modeling your thinking using your textbook, or even talking out loud about your strategy for understanding your text is a great start.

If you want other ideas, I’m attaching a handout I used before. It lists some common elements of most textbooks and it lists some before and during activities that you can do with students to familiarize them with your particular book.

As always, if you want more information on something, let me know. šŸ˜‰


Do you know what your kids are doing on the computer?

screen.jpg Are you MySpace saavy?

Dateline NBC has created a great resource to help parents and teens be more aware of what they should watch out for when creating an online site like My Space or Facebook. The link is above and it shows a typical MySpace type of page and when you click over the highlighted areas, it explains why the information could be dangerous for your teens.

So is it better to just not allow students online? NO. In this new technology age, our kids really need to know how to use this new read-write web as a way to learn how to learn and share globally. They need to be computer and web smart. The point of this article is to know the dangers and help guide your teen.

There are sites for young people to make positive changes in this world while learning and networking. Making a positive footprint on the web will also help teens with their “googleability” factor, which colleges and employers now look at.

Taking IT Global ( is an online community that connects youth to find inspiration, access information, get involved, and take action in their local and global communities.

25 Day to Make a Difference is a blog by a girl named Laura who lost her grandfather to brain cancer. He was very influential in her life, and in December of 2007,Ā  she decidedĀ that the best way to remember her grandpa during the holiday seasonĀ would beĀ by living her life like he did, by making a difference and being a leader. She decided to honor her grandfatherā€™s memory by trying to make a difference every day for twenty five days. She wanted to be able to do little things, like kids her age typically do, instead of HUGE things that are sometimes hard for kids to do. She wrote a blog asking for ideas and the ideas poured in and she’s been writing about her adventures ever since. After the 25 days, she was so successful in helping others that she has continued to make a difference. When Laura’s finally old enough to go to college, she will have an excellent google reference of her work versus a teen that uses a site like FaceBook or MySpace to just post pics of her friends.

Parents, if you’re saying “read-write what?” and your main use of the computer is to email and type, call or email me. There may be enough parents out there to do an ohana workshop on Web 2.0. Remember, keep the lines of communication open. Allow your kids to be on the computer for set amounts of time, but guide them. They’ll need the experience.

5 Ways to Watch the Olympics

1. Watch it

nbc_olympics.jpg NBC Olympics is a site that rocks! The column on the left shows what is showing live, but for me, the best part are the human interest stories on this site. I remember wanting to be a sports newscaster when I was in high school because I wanted to write those human stories that showed the personal struggles and triumphs of these athletes.

2. Quick overview

google_gadget_olympic.jpg Google has an Olympics widget for your igoogle page. This widget, an electronic gadget, lets you check medal counts, and get up to the minute breaking news right on your Google homepage.

3. Read about it

The Google Olympic news page is a fast and clean way to keep informed about what’s going on at the Olympics. We can’t all be GWB and watch multiple events from VIP seats.

4. Find out what people are talking about in Twitter

For the latest buzz, do a twitter search for the word Olympics

olympicsjpg.jpg It’s a grassroots way to keep an eye on the Olympics that also includes many major news outlets.) And you don’t have to be part of twitter to follow it!

5. Instant Replays

For the latest instant replays, watch YouTube for the latest in the summer games. On the downside, the start page itself is NOT for young eyes as I turned up a bit of profanity there.

(I wish that more people understood that poor behavior really limits access to many valuable services. It is not just a decision that they make personally but it affects us all.)

Just subscribe to this channel into your youtube account and you can bypass the trash on the page.

How is this useful?

The Olympics is a small event for those people who are not sports fanatics like me, however, it is a great way to highlight cutting-edge technology and the changing face of the internet from the archaic read-only web to the read-write web 2.0. This new technology shrinks the world, flattens our world and allows us to be a part of history and join in the spirit of the games. Peace be the journey.

(Thanks to Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher, for her informative and tech forward blog)