Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are we losing an important skill?

"What a dictionary this is.  You have to know how something is spelt before you can look it up to see how it's spelt."  Annie Sullivan from The Miracle Worker

I teach middle school students and understanding vocabulary, or lack thereof, is always an issue.  Inevitably when we read stories, novels, actually any text, there are numerous words the students must learn.  I am sure each student would love nothing more than to be able to type in the word on a computer on or some other similar site and have the definitions just pop up before their eyes.  At our school that is not possible, so we have to do things the "old-fashioned" way and use actual dictionaries. 

During the first quarter when students asked how to spell certain words, I was more than happy to tell them. During the second quarter, I stopped spelling words for the students.  Now each time they ask how to spell a word, I reply, "d-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-y".  It took awhile but most students now know to get a dictionary. I always volunteer to help them look a word up if they can't find it on their own.

Besides spelling words, of course, the students also have to know what words mean.  This also means that sometimes they have to look up lists of words in the dictionary. Though this is not one of the more exciting assignments, I used to see that it was always a "do-able" assignment.  The students found it rather easy to look up words and copy down their meanings. (Using the words correctly is yet another challenge).  Over the past couple of years, I have seen this change.  What was once an easy task for all students is now a quite arduous task for some.  

As I walked around the classroom today I observed "how" the students were looking up the words.  As I spoke to some of them individually, they finally admitted they had no idea what the words were for at the top of the page. They've been amazed at how I can find words so quickly, and I explained to them I use the Guide Words at the top.  Some had no idea what they represented and why they were there.  I swear I could see a light bulb go on when one of my students finally "got it" today.  

Students are so used to computers and technology today. For me, I love technology but I also love books.  I believe there is a time and place for on-line dictionaries, but still believe in looking up words the "old-fashioned" way too.   What do you think?  In this day and age, how important are dictionaries to you?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Who says you can't go back! Audra Kreger and St. Florian School for hosting a wonderful pancake breakfast to kick off Catholic Schools Week and inviting me to take part.
I saw some former classmates and others that brought back lots of memories...(especially the one about wearing those lovely blue and gold plaid school pants)!

Thanks to all who bought books and stopped by to chat!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Come join in the fun!

I will be part of two upcoming local events that I am excited to share with you!

(Click on picture to enlarge.)
St. Florian is my grade school alma mater and I am invited to help them kick off this year's 
Catholic Schools Week celebration!  
I will be there signing books from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 
Start this Sunday with an all you can eat pancake breakfast and see what great things St. Florian School has to offer. 
I would love for you to stop by and see me too! 

Ladies, on Saturday. February 2nd, the day before the big Super Bowl Game come on out and have some fun at the Ladies Afternoon Delight hosted by the Lansing Junior Woman's Club!  There will be many vendors there.  Some of them include: 

Tastefully Simple, Scentaffections, Massage Therapist, Swarovski Jewelry, Catch the Sun-stained glass items, Gold Canyon Candles, Maribella Jewelry, Mary Kay, Miche, Tastefully Simple, Pam Biesen Button Jewelry, Pampered Chef, Author Lisa Tortorello, Pemberton Candies, Lia Sophia jewelry, Tupperware, Maggie Mae jewelry, Avon, Scentsy, Premier Jewelry, Janes Herbs.

For more information, email

Hope to see you at these events!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reflecting on the FAILURE of Reflection Papers...

With the start of the new calendar year comes a rash of discipline issues...Who could have seen this coming?  Obviously, not those at the Board of Education that set forth their new CODE OF CONDUCT this school year.  For about four months now the Chicago Public Schools have been under the "new and improved" rules of how not to discipline students while teaching them nothing about self-control, self-respect, consequences of actions, and a general lack of respect for peers and authority.  Goodness knows the Board of Education wants to see less Detentions and Suspensions, so let's all put our blindfolds on and pretend all is well.

The scariest part of having to write a Reflection Paper after misbehaving is the distinct possibility of getting a paper cut.   

The same students have been disciplined over and over again all year and the line in the sand keeps moving.  "Next time" is the most common phrase uttered while discussing the consequences of a child's behavior.  The bullies keep bullying. Those who are getting picked on feel they are picked on twice. Once by the kid doing the actual browbeating and then again by a system that doesn't do anything to try and stop it.  The trouble-makers are getting bolder, and it's only January.

Just today there were three fights at school...all of this after a motivational speaker spoke to the students today about thinking before acting, making good choices, and consequences of actions.  Oh yeah, since the students know the system well and realize now there aren't many consequences to their actions...why even make the effort to change one's behavior.  I can't wait to see how things will look once Spring Fever hits!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What goes first?

While, I"m just getting back in the swing of things at the beginning of 2013, those of you with grade school children might want to take a look at a short video about The Order of Operations.  I created this after using the idea in my classroom.  I try to make things fun and simple, so the rules are easier to remember.