Monthly Archives: November 2012

Check It Out: Teach Me How To Do Math Video

(Video by mathtchrs on YouTube)

So I saw this video a while back and I am bummed my third graders will not be doing long division (though the thought of getting them to long division is scary!). It is a very cute video and I love how this woman’s class is so involved in it. I am totally enamored with the idea of incorporating music into my classroom.

Unfortunately I am personally musically challenged. So for the time being I have been leaving it to the greats and you can stop in many afternoons and hear children working quietly while James Taylor and The Beatles play. The beautiful part of this is all I have to say is “oh no! I can’t hear the music” and everybody quiets down and gets refocused.

How do you incorporate music into your classroom?

See you Saturday!


This Week’s Feature: Conversation Journals

So you may have noticed I took a little pre-Thanksgiving break but I’m back and I have a great feature to share today!

Kim Langhill was my mentor for my year of student teaching. She is inspiring, kind and masterful with classroom management. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to work with Kim for an entire school year. So in this feature Kim will be telling you a bit about how she teaches journaling in her first grade classroom and I can tell you that it works wonderfully. The kids always seemed to love it. So in her own words, her is Kim’s practice that is working…


Kim Langhill
First Grade
Worcester, Ma

Tell us about what is working in your classroom?
Journal writing with student generated topics, not using prompts

Why do you think this practice is working?

Students are writing to “tell me something” with their pencils. They are writing about what matters to them. They share their writing and know that it is valued by me and by the other students in our room.

How did you set this practice up in your classroom?

I started by changing what I call the writing journals. I began to refer to them as “Conversation Journals.” The kids and I talked about how when people have a conversation, they are talking to each other, telling each other things. The kids now know that they have the chance to tell me something in writing each day.
The kids gather on the carpet. I hold their conversation journals in my lap as if they are precious jewels. I usually start with a modeled write, focusing on the objective. In the beginning of the year, my modeled writing lessons focus on how to come up something to tell, something to write about. The focus moves to how to sound out words, how to find words using the word wall, our ABC songs book, and other tools we have in our classroom. Right now we are focusing on using capital letters and periods.
I find it important to give the kids “thinking time” before they begin writing. I will ask each child what he/she will tell me today. I have the students vocalize their sentences or the topic before handing out individual conversation journals. This way, the kids have a plan for writing and are focused when they go to the tables with their conversation journals.
I also incorporate time for the students to share their writing. This lets the kids know that what they have to tell me / what they write is important. If time allows, each child shares. Some days, students share writing with each other at tables. When time is at a minimum, kids share with a partner.

I am a big fan of the way Kim gives her students ownership of their writing.

Do you do journaling in your classroom? How do you organize it?

Check It Out: What Great Teachers Do Differently


So this week I wanted to share this a video from Todd Whitaker. I wish I could access (and share) his whole speech but I got his book a month or so ago and I really enjoyed reading it. So for this week’s Check It Out I bring you What Great Teachers Do Differently by Todd Whitaker:

This video is not made by me. I take no credit for it, it is the sole property Todd Whitaker and Eye On Education. If you are interested there is also a part 2 video.

I would love to hear what people think about this, so make sure to leave a comment. See you Saturday!


This Week’s Feature: Tricks for Working with Angry Kids

So this post is finding its way to you a little later today than usual because I have found my way down to Connecticut to visit my parents. It is so nice to spend a sunny, early winter day at the home I grew up in. It was also very lovely to spend some time with my dad reading through the piece he has put together for you today. When I first suggested the idea that he write something up for this space he said that he was unsure of how he would write something to fit into this space because he is not working in just one classroom with a set group of kids. However, I feel like the goal of this blog is to simply get ideas out there that work when you work with kids. So he was kind enough to write up the piece you are about to read.

Scott Cohn, has worked as a Psychologist in school settings for over 25 years and has been hugely helpful in providing insight to me as I have started my teaching career. So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy this weeks feature:


Scott Cohn

Clinical and School Psychologist



As a Clinical and School Psychologist, currently working in a middle school environment, I have frequently worked with boys who are considered acting out and angry. Working with angry boys can be a challenge; however, there are some tips and insights that I have found useful. They will likely not work for everyone, but just maybe, could help you. Where to begin?


  1. Angry boys hate to be caught not knowing something. They don’t like their inadequacies exposed. So, when you help them out with information or teacher them something, it’s helpful to say: “Oh, but I bet you knew that already?” to which they will agree that they did.
  2. People either express sadness or anger first, under stress. Most angry boys lead with irritability but there is sadness underneath. It is helpful to remember this and figure out the precursor so that you can get at it. It is not ok to talk about it directly at first. These boys hate it when people tell them how they feel regardless of how obvious it may be. It is usually something very primitive, such as “Why didn’t they love me?” or some other form of abandonment (issues of trust).
  3. Sometimes it is helpful to hand someone the identity you want them to have as a type of replacement for theirs. Said another way, telling someone how thoughtful they are, even if they are not overtly acting that way yet. If they are perceptive or paranoid (on alert for deception) there will be a challenge around possible sarcasm. This is a great inroad to a conversation surrounding when the breakdown of thoughtfulness occurred and what the anger is about. Otherwise, if their boundaries are permeable, like when you take deep breathes around a baby to convince them to calm down or get them to fall asleep, there is a chance there will be an identity transfer and they will see themselves in a new light.
  4. There is a non-willful exchange that occurs between people much like what happens when visiting someone who is weak and/or infirmed. One goes in feeling energized and comes out drained. The other person feels better and invigorated often from the visit. Prepare for the exchange emotionally. Just like with a colicky baby, a parent puts out soothing vibes while the baby screams. At the end of the exchange, the baby is calm, or asleep, and the parent is jangled. Boy’s often use the emotional tone more like music to express themselves instead of their words. This does not invalidate their discomfort and need for understanding.
  5. There are times when someone is interacting with a child who will not talk. Instead of getting frustrated at these times it can be helpful instead, to imagine a baby in the room who is sleeping. This image often helps the adult to believe that there is something growthful and curative about the child’s silence, even if behavior outwardly appears to be passive aggressive or avoidant.
  6. When boy’s call other people hostile pat phrases, that sound rehearsed, they were often called these same remarks by someone in their past. It is possible to get around to asking when they first heard this remark and from whom.
  7. I often ask kids to tell me “When were you just a dumb little 3 year old when you were really 3years old? and 4 when you were really 4 years old? and when did that change? When did you become so aware of the adult world around you? When was the last time you felt like you were the same age as your classmates?” I often ask them to tell me about what they know surrounding household bills, rent payments and other adult stressors. They often know. I ask how old they feel now (how much older than their chronological age) and use a rule of thumb that is they feel 4 years older than their stated age, for example, they also act 4 years younger than their stated age when they tantrum and regress. The therapeutic task becomes one of collapsing the preciousness and getting them to allow you to help them become, act and live, their true age.
  8. As the Psychiatrist, Alice Miller addresses in her writings, people become living symptoms from their developmental path. One acts out, as a form of a living reenactment, of that which was unsolvable. If someone outside of themselves can solve their problem, they learn what they could have done living through their personal chaos.
  9. Mood irritability is a classic symptom of depression in children and adolescents. They experience difficulty sustaining joy and experience little “afterglow” if they do have a good time doing something. This is noticeable, for example, if you took a depressed child to an amusement park. They would appear during the day as having a great time, only to then say on the way to the parking lot that their day was, “okay” or fair. They frequently appear ungrateful and unappreciative of someone’s efforts and as result it is easy to find them unrewarding to do things for.


There is an old story about “potatoness.” The story suggests that a potato thrown in a wet damp dark shed will still throw a shoot that will attempt to grow towards the light. The light in a shed may be on the side where a board is missing. Regardless of its situation, it will try to reach its potential. Now as the story goes, if someone were to lift the shed off, it would very strange and illogical that the shoot is actually growing sideways. Four final points: Timing is everything and working with someone when they are younger is usually better. Have one peripheral support person, outside of the home can often be enough to assist in altering someone’s sense of identity. This can be a grandmother, neighbor, and teacher. Finally, 45 minutes a week of individual time may be twice as much time as someone is communicated with in a concentrated fashion in some homes.


Thank you all for checking in this week and I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. Maybe sunshine will find its way to you too.


Check It Out: Music to Learn

Hello again!

So I’m going to try something new! Let me know what you think and as always if you have anything to add please(!) leave a comment and share with us all. Yeah, yeah, but what is this new thing? Well, I am going to try to stop in at some point midweek to share interesting/exciting/cool/fun/etc things that are out there on the web relating to teaching and education.

Here is a little gem for you to enjoy:

Terri has told me this is just the beginning… So make sure to keep checking in with her. She rocks!


PS- Terri wanted me to make sure I gave credit to Sesame Street and Feist 🙂

This Week’s Feature: Teaching Photography


Happy weekend!

I am so excited to bring you this week’s feature! Stephen DiRado was my professor throughout my college years and has become a dear friend. He is also on a list of great educators who I have personally gotten to study under. One of the great people on my journey to becoming the teacher I am. I am going to stop myself here because I could really just go on gushing. But needless to say I am excited to share Stephen’s interview with you. So without further adieu here’s Stephen’s one thing that works:

Stephen DiRado, Professor of Practice, Studio Arts/Visual and Performing Arts


Clark University

There is very little difference between my philosophy and approach when making my art compared to the strategic instructions on how I mentor students. I believe it is all about the discovery, struggle and refinement which come about during the process that counts. The end result, with each undertaking is a plateau to stand on, evaluate, and help point towards the next level of challenges. This mode of operandi liberates any burden of specific expectations and makes the journey liberating and frightfully fun.

I have been teaching photography for about thirty- one years; everything from introductory to advanced classes. At the beginning of each semester, I announce to the students that they will be exposing a little bit of their soul, by taking risks in order to express wholeheartedly what they “see” as unique individuals. We labor less on learning about the camera’s technical functions: depth-of-field, shutter speeds and options to correct color. Instead, we spend the majority of our time concentrating on the consequences, of how the results of these choices to compose an image emotionally and psychologically affect the viewer. By enlightening the student’s awareness of the power of a well constructed photograph: organization of visual elements within the frame, we can sustain engaging classroom critiques with endless discussions. There is no theme that is right or wrong. The student has control over their choice of subjects.

During the course of a semester, the students unknowingly inspire me with their discoveries, humble me with their refinements and dazzle me with their radiant conquests.

The thing I remember most about being in Stephens classes was the sense of wonder he instills in his students. It is an inspirational quality that seems to come from a real passion for both the subject being taught and also the craft of teaching. So again… Thank you so much for sharing with us Stephen!

Readers, I’m so glad you found your way to this space.