Happy Holidays!

Posted by Christine S on 10:20 AM


My New Ticker

Posted by Christine S on 10:26 PM


Technospud Projects

Posted by Christine S on 10:10 PM
     Okay, so it is not called Technospud Projects anymore. However, it is still pretty much the same thing. It is now called Projects by Jen and it is a fabulous site. A wonderful teacher name Jen has created this site with projects to allow teachers to collaborate across the country. If you have not had the chance to check it out, I highly recommend it. I have been doing these online projects of hers for several years and have to admit they are a blast. It is interesting looking at data across the country and comparing results.
    In September, my class did the Oreo Stacking project. You would not think that 3rd graders would enjoy stacking Oreos as much as they did. They had a blast! I assumed they would enjoy it to some extent but I never expected the responses I got. They wanted to continue stacking the Oreos as well as try different things to see if they could alter the results. They were thinking outside the box.
     This past week we participated in the Pumpkin Seed Counting Event. The kids had a wonderful time. They were very involved in taking guesses, digging in the pumpkins, and counting the seeds. I admit that I even had a great time watching them get excited about estimating and counting.
     We are also going to be taking part in the Holiday Card Exchange this year. I did that last year with my class and was amazed at the response. The kids went home explaining to their parents how to use Google Earth. I had no idea what Google Earth was until I participated in this project and I found it fascinating.
Like I said, if you have a moment, check this site out. She has so many wonderful activities that you can do with your class (and other classes across the country).


My "Brand New" Classroom

Posted by Christine S on 7:52 PM


      Well, school starts in less than two days!  Where did the summer go?  Here are some pictures of my new classroom.  Check it out!


What reading materials count?

Posted by Christine S on 11:30 PM
     This is something that I have been contemplating for some time. What reading materials count toward meeting the Million Word Campaign/25 Book Challenge? When I taught 2nd grade, as a grade level we agreed that 1 chapter from a chapter book equaled 1 small book. That small book counted as one of 40 books that were required for a single month. When I taught 4th and 5th grade, a chapter book equalled a chapter book.
     However, this is not the aspect of The Million Word Campaign/25 Book Challenge that I found myself wondering about. I have been wondering, how do you count all of the "other stuff" that is read on any given day? I, for example, have been REALLY slacking when it comes to reading an "actual grown-up" book in the past few years. I hate to admit that I have read 3 books a year. (Now bear with me, there is a point to this meandering that is about to follow.)
     I know, that's an atrocity especially considering when I was 12 years old and the ONLY gift I would WANT would be books. At age 10, my mom bought me about 25 of the Hardy Boys Series (the ones I was missing) for a birthday gift. During my tenure at Stanton, I won the Superintendent's Reading Program for the entire school 5 out of the 6 years I attended. I was a true book worm to say the least.
     So, some may wonder, what happened? Why do I no longer read as much? What changed a once "voracious reader" into such a "slacker"? To be honest, nothing happened. In reality, it would be inaccurate for someone to assume that I no longer read that much. Quite the contrary, I read (on average) 2 to 3 hours a day (once the 3 year old is asleep). So, what do I read?
      I read anything from blog posts, websites, newspaper articles, magazines, fiction on the net, wikis, etc... The list could go on and on. That brings me to my dilemma? How do we count what students read in this digital age? Granted, not all will have internet access but what about those that do. How do we count reading a blog post? How much does a MySpace count? What about a wiki? How about an email? How do we count these items in meeting the The Million Word Campaign/25 Book Challenge?
     When I taught self-contained SLD (4th-5th grade) 15 years ago, I was happy when my students read a comic book because it was a battle to say the least when it came time to have them read an actual book. The fact of the matter is, not every child is going to want to sit down and read a book per say. Even in recent years, I have taught students who just don't want to read a book. They will read an email, a blog, a newspaper article, fiction on line (fan-fiction as I have heard it called by some of my former 4th graders), MySpace, etc. How do we count these items towards meeting those standards?
     I have had some teachers say you should not count an email or newspaper article. To me, it should count in some sort of way. Isn't reading a newspaper online still reading? It requires the same comprehension skills that reading that same article in hard copy would require. Shouldn't a story that someone has written online count as reading as well? I had one teacher argue that a story online is not written by a published author? However, isn't it a published author since the story DOES APPEAR online for the world to see? It seems to me in this new digital age, these are the things we need to start considering when monitoring student progress in meeting the The Million Word Campaign/25 Book Challenge.


The Ultimate Gift

Posted by Christine S on 9:34 PM
      Like I have said before, I am a night-owl.   I stay up late surfing the net and doing work.  Occasionally, I will even have the opportunity to watch a movie.
     Before I was married, I was a movie fanatic.  One year, out of the 102 movies that came out in theaters, I saw 90 of them.   I can pretty much connect Kevin Bacon to just about any other actor.  Every Friday night I ventured to the movies as my own special treat for the week's work.  After I met Bob, I cut down on my movie watching time.  Then Abbie came along and I pretty much stopped seeing movies (until recent weeks when she is now willing to watch a Disney flick).   But, I digress.  Well, last night, I decided to rent a few movies that I had not seen.  One of those movies was called The Ultimate Gift.  I stumbled upon it searching the web the other night and it intrigued me.
     It is based on the book, The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall.  Jason Stevens, the main character, had lived a life of privilege.  He was a true trust fund kid.  Then his grandfather, Red Stevens,  died.  In Red's will, he stipulated that Jason must complete a series of tasks (that turn into a sort of a scavenger hunt) in order to earn his inheritance.  He did not even give Jason a clue as to what the inheritance would be.
     Initially, Jason was not going to complete the tasks.  However, for some reason, he changes his mind and decides to give it a go.  The results are a wonderful film that I can't say enough about.  I found myself laughing and crying as I watched.  It was really a great movie.  If you have 2 hours one day, I strongly suggest you check this one out.
     I loved the film so much that I am now reading the book that it was based upon.  I have been laxed in reading adult books in recent years but this one has inspired me to take the time to read a book for me.



The Ultimate Gift

Posted by Christine S on 1:06 AM


Things that make you Hmmm....... part 2

Posted by Christine S on 1:35 AM
      Okay, so it is late and I, being the night owl that I am, was surfing the web. To be more specific, I was surfing YouTube. I stumbled across the video I posted and found it very intriguing to say the least. The video is a trailer to a documentary created by Robert Comptom called Two Million Minutes.
      This documentary chronicles the journey of 6 students in high school as they prepare for college, hence, the title of Two Million Minutes. This documentary compared how two American high school students spent their time versus how two Indian students spent their time versus how two Chinese students spent their time. I would be curious to watch the entire video at this point.
     I have to admit, I wonder if we are leaving our students behind in the ever changing global market.   Are we, as a nation, not placing enough emphasis on education?  Let's face it, when budget crunch comes, what is the first thing cut?  EDUCATION!  Counties and states are facing millions of dollars in spending cuts which seems asinine when you consider we are falling further and further behind other countries when it comes to achievement.
     I watched ShiftHappens several months ago and it seemed to ring so true.  China's top students outnumber ALL of our students!  We, as a nation, are falling further and further behind.  
     Some argue that funding is not the answer.  Throwing money at a problem does not necessarily solve it.  Sometimes that only makes the problem worse.  Some say that our students are more well-rounded for the real world than other countries' children because they have placed TOO MUCH emphasis on education.   
     There are no quick and easy answers to this dilemma.  This video is just another one of those things that make you go hmmmmm.....


Things that make you Hmmm.......

Posted by Christine S on 1:33 AM


The Nerd Test

Posted by Christine S on 9:26 PM
I am nerdier than 80% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!


The Nerd Test

Posted by Christine S on 9:07 PM
NerdTests.com says I'm a Dorky High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

     I stumbled upon this test when visiting a fellow teacher's blog.  It turns out that the rumors were true.  I am a nerd.  What I don't get is that only 12% of the population scored lower than I did in the sci-fi/comic section.  I don't even own a comic book!  



Posted by Christine S on 8:20 PM
     Well, I just returned from a two week trip to the Windy City.  It was fabulous!  Most days were cool with highs in the mid 70's.  Towards the end of our trip, it did warm up to the 80's but it was still beautiful.  
     We took Abbie to so many different places this past visit.  We went on a boat tour of the Chicago River.  I learned quite a bit of new information.  For example, I did not know that the Chicago River was 18 inches lower than Lake Michigan.  I had no idea!  They are also in the process of building a new skyscraper that will be 150 stories high.  If you are interested, the penthouse can be purchased for a meager 46 million dollars.  

     We also ventured to Navy Pier for the very first time.  I had no idea they had a museum dedicated to stained glass.  It was raining the night we went so we were unable to enjoy their ferris wheel but we had loads of fun nonetheless.  

     We ventured to the 100th floor of the John Hancock building as well.  It offered a spectacular view of downtown Chicago.  The view was simply amazing.  

      Well, I will post some other places we have visited in a few days.  Have a great evening!


At the Beginning

Posted by Christine S on 7:20 PM

Gosh, it is hard to believe that it has almost been six years since I got married. I look back and it feels like it was yesterday. Yet, at the same time, I feel like I have known Bob a lifetime.
You may be wondering the purpose of the video above. Well, when you get married, there is the ever important "first dance." I am not much of a music connoisseur. Bob knows all about music. He listens to all sorts of music.
When I started dating him, I was flabbergasted by all of his CD's. I have seen collections but nothing that can even compete with his collection. You name it, he probably has the CD. If he doesn't have the CD, he's got it on his ITunes. He jokes that he has several days worth of music.
Anyway, back to the "first dance." Bob and I were at a loss when it came to figuring out our song. Our tastes are very different. I tend to listen to more pop and rock whereas Bob listens to country, instrumentals, and new age. We both like Enya and Lorenna McKennit with a few other odds and ends but that is all. I listen to Matchbox 20 and he listens to the Partridge Family.
That left us trying to figure out what song went with us. Well, I happened to mention the movie Anastasia one day. It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon toward the end of the school year. We were just hanging out chatting.
I recalled a song by Richard Marx that I loved. Bob, honestly, had no idea what song I was talking about. I couldn't put the song into words because it had been several years (4 to be exact) since the movie had been released. I remembered the tune but drew a blank to its title.
Bob, being the music junkie that he is, took me to a site (not napster) that allows you to look for tunes to download. So, I began searching. About 30 minutes later, I stumbled on "At the Beginning" by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis. I played it and felt a connection to it almost immediatley. Bob seemed to like it as well. He still was not ready to committ to it but he was ready to add it to our list.
Several days later, rather unexpectedly I might add, Bob agreed to "At the Beginning" as serving as "our song." The song seems to fit us. So, if you have a moment, check out the video above. It is a beautiful song. Later!


At the Beginning

Posted by Christine S on 7:15 PM


Using Technology in the Classroom

Posted by Christine S on 11:25 AM

     This past year, I have found myself using technology in the classroom frequently.  I find myself evolving into a Web 2.0 teacher.  I am learning, networking, exploring, implementing, testing, retesting, creating, sharing and having fun.  I have found many useful websites out there to help with my instruction.  Take Quizlet for example.  Quizlet allows you to input vocabulary terms to study.  It creates flashcards, games, tests and so much more.  Best of all, it is free!

     I have also utilized PowerPoint so much more this year.  I taught my 2nd graders how to create PowerPoint presentations.  I broke the students into groups and assigned them tasks to research.  Each group was given a folder that contained some research I printed for them, books, and graphic organizers.  I provided graphic organizers to help them organize their information.  The students were then responsible for writing a report that could later be made into a PowerPoint display.

     As the students improved in their researching techniques and the use of organizers, I provided them with less and less information.  They are now at the point they can find their own information using the computer, books, library, and other sources.  They have even learned how to draw their own graphic organizers. 

     The students have also improved in their use of PowerPoint.  At the beginning of the year, I had to sit with them to create the slideshow.  Now, they are able to create the shows themselves with little assistance from me.

     We also took those PowerPoint slideshows a step further and began using Voicethread.  Voicethread allows the students to add their own voices to the slideshow. I then post the final product to their blog for their parents to see.  I honestly feel using Voicethread helped with my students’ fluency.  They now recognize when their reading does not sound fluent and will determine they need to re-record on their own.  They LOVE doing it and constantly beg me to let them make a show! 

      This leads to blogging.  I have actually had a blog for several years now.  It has been within the past two years that I have begun to use the blog in the classroom.  Initially, the blog served as a way I could keep parents informed.  I could post the newsletter, cool links, videos and so much more for the parents to see. 

     Then, my use of the blog evolved even more.  I began showing the students how to write a blog entry.  They begged for the chance to blog, especially my weaker writers.  They wanted to share their work with the world.  They wanted to tell everyone what we were doing in class (acting as reporters so to speak).  They loved seeing their names and their work on the World Wide Web. 

     Next year, I plan on implementing technology even more in the classroom.  I hope to be able to utilize making videos, sharing documents (GoogleDocs), and so much more. Isn’t’ technology grand! 


YouTube and its other uses!

Posted by Christine S on 10:05 AM

     Okay, I will admit that I am an occasional Youtube viewer.  Sometimes I am looking for a music video or a television show or even news report.  I started watching videos on Youtube several years ago and never once considered its uses in the classroom.

     Then, quite by chance, I stumbled on a School House Rock video last summer. I forget what I was looking for but I was surprised to find that.  I remember the catchy tunes on Saturday mornings that helped me to learn verbs, nouns and conjunctions.  Who doesn't recall that catchy phrase, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?”  I loved those as videos as a kid. Then it struck me, why not use them in the classroom?  So, this past fall, I began exploring the uses of Youtube, TeacherVision, and so on in the classroom.

     I discovered that the kids are so much more likely to remember what they have seen in the video rather than just hearing me tell them the information.  You can find SO MUCH good stuff on YouTube. Bill Nye, Science Theatre with Dr. Matt, School House Rock, and so much more. You just type in what you are looking for (ie. food web) and check out what pops up.

     I would just recommend viewing them at home first.  Once you have selected the video you want to use, add it to your favorites.  You will need to create an account which is easy to do.  Then, in the morning, go to the site (you must use the teacher port because the site is blocked on the student ports) and open the videos you wish to use.  I would recommend doing this in the morning to allow for load time.  Even though we have Comcast through the county, it is much slower than your home computer.  The county is working on fixing this problem but in the meantime, I have found loading the videos in the morning reduces wait time.

     I also add the videos to the class blog.  Youtube (as well as most of the other video sites) has the neat feature of embedding the videos into a website.  This is a wonderful feature.  I frequently embed a video that I think parents should see with their children.  You can also control what is shown on your website by not permitting related videos to be shown, having a border, and so on.  I just love the feature and my students' parents have responded well to it.

     I also discovered YouTube can serve more than just a place to watch videos.  I have gotten into making my own videos (using IMovie - yes, I am a MAC fan!) and uploading them onto Youtube.  I made the video below in about an hour and used it at a PTA program for intermission.

      Well, that is all for now.  Have fun surfing!




Posted by Christine S on 8:01 PM
Okay, I heard this speech online by Tim Robbins and must admit, I found it very interesting. He made some very good points. I am not going to say much else. Just take a moment to listen to it and formulate your own thoughts. That is what makes our nation great. You are allowed to formulate your own thoughts and express your own opinion.



Posted by Christine S on 5:46 PM
     I admit, I am a hardcore MAC fan. The Mac computer can do so much more with photos, graphics, video, and audio recordings. You can make a movie with the click of a button. I could spend hours on that topic but I'll save that for another day. :) Anyway, being the Mac fan that I am, I also tend to take A LOT of photos. My digital photo album on IPhoto contains over 20,000 images from just the past 5 years. This does not include all of the images I have still stored on DVDs and my laptop. That is A LOT of pictures.
     Well, I like to share pictures. Parents LOVE to see what their child is doing because they cannot be in the classroom with us each day. Grandparents love to see photos of the grandkids (or, in my case, grandchild) that live so far away. Friends love to see the places you have been. You know the drill. However, photos can take up a huge chunk of web-space. My virtual field trips page on my web page (which is nothing but photos of some of the places I have been) is over 10 gigs! That was less than 500 of my photos. That was the space needed for the photos, the webpages holding the photos, albums, details, etc. That ate up most of the space provided for by one of my web-hosting companies. Sure, you can compress the photos or adjust them so they don't take up as much space. However, you can lose the quality when you do that and I am just not willing to give that up.
     I wanted to be able to create videos with the photos and share them on my blog. Photobucket provided me with that option. Initially, I used the free membership options. However, as I played with it more, I decided to go ahead and try the membership. It was worth it. They give you 5 gigs of space. I already have over 1500 photos posted and have used only 2% of the space allocated. I have been able to create neat little videos that I can embed within my blogs. I have made slideshows and remixes. I have to admit that membership was worth it. You can organize your photos by albums which will allow you to upload hundreds of photos. I have enjoyed playing with it.
     Here is an example of one of the remixes I made. It took me fifteen minutes and was easy to do. It also posted easily on my blog. 

      I could have also created something on IMovie or IDVD as well but Photobucket provides the hosting. You can't beat that because these shows will take up a substantial portion of your webspace.


Downtown Chicago

Posted by Christine S on 6:02 PM


The Train to Chicago

Posted by Christine S on 5:47 PM


The University of Chicago Lab School

Posted by Christine S on 4:57 PM
     This past spring break, we were able to spend some time up north with my mother-in-law in Chicago. We were even given the opportunity to visit the University of Chicago's Lab School. This is the pre-K through 12 school that my husband attended and graduated from as a child. You see,Bob grew up in Chicago so he is one of those transplanted northerners.
     I, on the other hand, am one of those few oddities you find in Jacksonville, a native Floridian. I was born and raised in Jacksonville. I attended two schools, Resurrection Catholic School and Stanton College Prep (when it was 7-12). Then I attended UNF so I really have not ventured far from home.
     Anyway, we visited the Lab School and I was impressed to say the least. It was an amazing experience. The classrooms were large yet busy at the same time. Shoes, gloves, and mittens were sitting on old furnaces to dry out. That is something you do not see in Florida. The pre-K classes had cubbies for their students to store their book-bags, jackets, lunch boxes and other normal items you find in a school. There were lockers that lined the halls. On the lockers were pictures of the students sledding. The students actually were taught sledding. Like I said, this is not the stuff you see in Jacksonville.
      Well, we were also given a tour of the schools by a parent. It was very interesting to see how different things are done there. First of all, students are not graded until 8th grade. The teachers, however, are responsible for giving the parents detailed progress reports about their child. The school does not wish to start a sense of competition at a young age. The students, by first grade, are able to start walking themselves to the various resources such as music or physical education.
      Music, Art, Media and P.E. are integral parts of their program. This was refreshing to see since we live in a time of severe budget cuts and fiscal belt tightening to the point that these resources are often the FIRST to get the "proverbial ax." It was nice to see a school that did not cut these programs in budget crunch times but rather expanded them.
      The school has a very rich history. Being located on the University of Chicago, it is surrounded by interesting architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright designed several buildings nearby) and fascinating statues.  The 5th graders even created their own paper mache replicas of the gargoyles that can be found all over the campus.  The students replicas can be found lining the hall.
     The school also hosts an array of activities that promote learning outside the box so to speak.  I believe that it was the fifth graders that create posters of their favorite books.  These posters are sort of a campaign poster for their favorite book.  The school then "elects" their favorite book that year.   After a text is elected, that author is invited to come speak to the school about his/her work.  Most author's accept the invitation.  I just thought that was such a neat idea that I hope to share it at my school.
     Well, I must be going.  As Abbie would say, school work is calling to me.  Have a great afternoon!


This one's for Bob!

Posted by Christine S on 6:14 PM

Our daughter is 3 years old now. To occupy her while we drove when she was younger, we often sang to her. Bob, being the type of guy he is, did not know a whole lot of songs to sing. One day, he sang this commercial to Abbie. She now asks for it constantly. He recalls seeing it while he was growing up. I can honestly say, I never saw it until today. This one's for you Bob! Enjoy :)



Posted by Christine S on 9:39 AM

     I know they say everyone has a soul mate.  I can honestly say, until about 6 1/2 years ago, I did not believe that was possible.  I thought it was an old wives' tale or a myth or fairy tale.  Soul mate, HOGWASH!  But then, along came Bob.
     Bob and I started as co-workers.  We would hang out together when the staff would venture out on Friday evenings.  I chatted with him in the hall.  He'd stop by my room to chat.  I'd stop at his office to chat.   I occasionally cat-sat his cats when he went out of town.  There really was no special reason that I did this.  I did it to help him out.  He seemed like a nice guy who needed a favor.  I never thought anything more of it.
     You see, I have ALWAYS been a rather independent minded person.  I set goals for myself and worked very hard to achieve them.  In high school, my priority was to do well so I could go to college.  I didn't date or go out that much.  I worked and I worked and I worked.  Then college came and my priority was earning my degree.  I worked and I worked and I worked.  After college, my priority was to focus on my career and again I worked and I worked and I worked.  Once my career was going, my priority was to own my own home and so on and so forth.  Finding a soul mate was not my priority.  I wanted to be able to depend on myself first and foremost before I depended on someone else.  
     Heck, I was SO INDEPENDENT that my own mother thought I would never get married.  She figured I would be single forever.  But that is the way I was.  I was a focused woman whose priorities did not include the whole myth of finding my soul mate.  But, then along came Bob.
     Well, as I said, Bob and I would venture out at work gatherings.  We would chat and have fun.   I was naive and never viewed these outings as dates.  I viewed them as friends hanging out and having a good time.  Then, one day, Bob asked me to dinner.  I said sure and offered to invite a few other co-workers.  "No, just you," was his response.  Initially I was like "Oh" and then it hit me like a sledgehammer, "OHHHHH".   Bob had asked me out for a date.
      This was a new experience for me.  Like I said, my focus had always been career oriented.  The only date I had been on was my prom.  I was not a social butterfly to speak.  As Bob has told me on several occasions, I am very hard to read and much more difficult to get to know.  I am an INTROVERT to the extreme.
     Well, I said sure and we went out on our first date (October 13th to be exact).   Several dates followed and I was having a great time.  Never before had I been treated so well.  Bob would open car doors, walk me to my door, treat me to dinner, bring me flowers, and basically spoil me.  I liked him but I wasn't sure if he was the "soul mate" everyone talks about finding.
     Christmas came and Bob invited me to a party.  In a very cute way, he asked me how I wanted to be introduced at the party.  He said I could be his cat-sitter, co-worker or girlfriend.  He preferred the third choice but said it was up to me.   GIRLFRIEND?!?!  I had never had that label before so I was speechless to say the least.   I approved of that label.
     Then Bob had to leave town for Christmas.  I still was unsure of how I felt since this was all so new to me.  It wasn't until he was gone that it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I MISSED HIM!  I thought of him every second he was gone.  Celebrating Christmas with my family was miserable because I missed BOB.  I called him several times while he was gone.  It was weird having these feelings.  
     When I picked him up from the airport, I was SO EXCITED TO SEE HIM that I ran up to him.  Seeing him made my day, week, month, or whatever term you wish to use.  Even as I write this, I still have those same feelings of joy.
     He proposed on February 20th (at a faculty meeting) and I, of course, said YES!  I have been complete ever since.  He knows me better than I know me.  We finish each other's thoughts.  We know what one another is going to say.  He makes me feel better simply by being there.  He listens without judging.  He is patient even when I lose my cool.  He calms me when my nerves are fried.  He knows my feelings and moods without my saying a single word.  He knows my deepest thoughts without even talking about it.  Bob is my other half.  He is truly my soul mate.  For that, I know I am truly blessed.


Earth Hour

Posted by Christine S on 10:45 PM

Visit http://www.EarthHour.org for more information. Turn off your lights on March 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm for one hour.


Blogging so to speak

Posted by Christine S on 4:22 PM
Well, I have spent the past few weeks trying to figure out a way for my students to blog without giving them my password. In order to blog, you must have an email address and a password. My students do not have an email address so I kept pondering.

I read on Once Upon a Teacher's blog that students could be given an email account on gmail. I tried this and it did indeed work. I managed to create an email account for each of my student's but I am not sure if 2nd graders can handle it yet. I am also not comfortable with gmail yet. It is not an account I access often so I haven't really played with it.

I could also have given each student an email address through my web hosting control panel on my website. I can create over 1000 email addreses if need be. The only problem, each student required an email for me to send the email inviting them to accept the email account. Sounds confusing doesn't it? It is. I really wanted to call and ask my web hosting provider to explain the purpose of my creating email accounts IF another email account is required in the first place. Why create a new email address if you already have one? Made absolutely no sense for my purposes.

Therefore I ended right back where I started. How do I allow my students to have their own blog when an email address is required? Well, I thought and I pondered and I thought some more. I know some may wonder, why is it important to have the students blogging? Well, blogging is writing and writing is what I am trying to get my students to do more freely. What better way to engage them than to allow them to publish their own writing for all to see.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand, getting my students to blog. Then, it hit me. I created another email account using my web host. Since I have other email addresses, I could "accept" the invitation. I "accepted" the invitation and then went to blogger.

I then created a new blog using that email address and a password that I could give to my students. Once the blog was created, I confirmed the email address for the blog and thus, a new blog was born. The students had the email address they needed to create a blog without actually having access to the email account itself.

I passed the information on to the parents with a brief newsletter and have since passed the blog on to the class. I did this Wednesday. It is now Friday afternoon and I have already had 4 students add a blog entry. They are short entries but it has them writing. Then, once more and more students use the blog, they will feel free to write more and more.

Obviously, parents will need to help them to log in but that is fine with me. The class was really excited about this opportunity. It was their way they could talk with one another and the world. Well, I must be going. I have to add some information to the class blog about things to do over spring break. Take care!

The Class Blog


The Hardy Men starring Tom Cruise?!?!

Posted by Christine S on 9:50 PM

     You know, there are some things Hollywood should really leave alone. You may be wondering what prompted this odd entry. I was surfing the net the other day and stumbled across an article that really bothered me. Let me preface that with a short history of myself.

     As a youngster, I spent many of my days reading. I devoured books like there was no tomorrow. My big Christmas gift consisted of MANY books. Books were the only thing I wanted. I didn't want toys or clothes or even money. I wanted books. Well, one Christmas I got more than I ever could have asked for.

      I used to read the Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon (or the Strathmeyer Syndicate as I later discovered but that is a whole different story). I frequently used my allowance to buy them whenever I could. I had about 25 of the books and really wanted the rest of the series. I couldn't earn the money fast enough to get the books. Santa must have thought I had been a good girl so he brought me the rest of the series (or so I thought until I discovered all of the OTHER Hardy boy Series that are out there).

     Well, I was floored. I was in hog heaven so to speak over my new collection of books. I can't explain why I loved reading the Hardy Boys' books. Perhaps it was the adventure. Perhaps it was the mystery. Perhaps it was the excitement. Who knows? All I knew was that Nancy Drew books bored me to no end (which is odd considering I am a girl) and the Hardy Boys always left me on the edge of my seat.

     Then I discovered one Saturday afternoon that The Hardy Boys had alter egos in the form of Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson. (No, I did not watch the prime time version because I was not old enough at that time. I may be old but not that old yet.) I was thrilled! The show had the excitement, mystery, intrigue and adventure that I adored. I was happy.   

     Fast forward 30 years. I stumbled across an article that read Tom Cruise was in talks with Ben stiller to do a remake of the Hardy Boys except the characters would be aged and become The Hardy Men. Yikes! Tom Cruise as Frank Hardy is just plain stupid. Tom Cruise as Joe Hardy is asnine. Has Hollywood truly run out of ideas that they have resorted to remaking almost everything? Doesn't Tom Cruise have better things to do than to ruin a wonderful series? One can only hope this was a wild rumor and they truly aren't considering this idiotic notion of a remake. The Hardy Boys was a classic. Leave it alone.


Happy Easter!

Posted by Christine S on 12:29 PM


A walk on the beach

Posted by Christine S on 10:55 PM

Good evening! I just got home from a walk on the beach and a trip to a book store. Abbie had a blast at the beach. Here are just a few snapshots from our little adventure. Enjoy and have a nice evening!


American Idol

Posted by Christine S on 5:12 PM
     Well, I happened to be visiting Youtube and found Phil Stacey's latest video and decided I had to share it.  Perhaps it is pride over the fact he is from Jacksonville or it is the fact he seemed like a nice guy.  Family was a priority with him and that impressed me.  I had only watched Idol a few times in the past and had never really been impressed.  I had a hard time buying into the whole phenomenon.  
     However, when I heard that Jacksonville had made it into the "big leagues" so to speak with an actual "Idol Candidate," I decided to watch.   I admit that I liked his singing.  I especially enjoyed his rendition of "Blaze of Glory" from Bon Jovi.  That is not an easy song to tackle (rock ballads usually aren't ) and he did a great job with it.  I will be watching for Phil Stacey's album.  Take care and have a nice weekend.


Spring Break is coming!

Posted by Christine S on 12:02 AM

I made this widget at MyFlashFetish.com.


A Visitor

Posted by Christine S on 11:47 PM
For those of you that may not know this, my family loves animals. We all, Abbie included, have soft spots in our hearts for animals. Bob and I would love to rescue more cats if we had the room. Abbie has already started saying she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up so she can keep the animals healthy.
Well, Boo, our youngest cat, was rescued from our neighborhood. He actually came trotting up to us the day after Halloween last year and we kept him. He immediately took to Abbie. His family still roams the neighborhood. Well, we leave food out for this one relative of his that tends to hang around our house. She will not let us pet her but she does sit at our front door waiting to be feed.
Anyway, I noticed that there was a gray cat eating at the bowl. I told Bob and he went to check it out. I have to admit, I was not wearing my glasses and was looking from the second story window of my home. He laughed at me and responded "Dear, that is an opossum." I did not believe him until I grabbed my glasses and saw that, yes, indeed, we have an opossum. I snapped a few shots of our late night visitor. Check it out. Considering what the opossum is doing, the Ratatouille Photobucket Album seemed most appropriate. Night!


"TECHIE" overload!

Posted by Christine S on 12:15 PM
     I know I have admitted on more than one occasion that I am a techie by nature. I find myself craving the latest gadgets, surfing the net for the latest ideas, and consistently trying to find new ways to use technology in my classroom.
     Well, I must admit I have hit overload. My brain seems to be going a mile a minute nowadays and I can't keep up. For example, I saw this AWESOME teacher website the other day.  She has posted videos her students have made for variuos projects.  Then I stumbled across another website where the teacher has posted student projects. Then I came across ANOTHER website where the students take you on a virtual tour of their classroom.  That was just within ten minutes of surfing!?!?!?!
     I want to do all of those things but I find myself lacking the time. I, like every other person out there, am trying to cram 48 hours worth of work into a 24 hour time frame and that is just not possible. I guess I need to make a list of priorities when it comes to technology in the classroom. So, here goes my list.

1. More student work posted digitally! - I realize I need to make a point to publish more student work. Most sites I have seen select a theme for the year and then publish accordingly. I need to select a theme for next year and publish student work accordingly. I really like how my 4th grade class had the theme of "Take a Leap Into Learning" with frogs being the centerpiece. However, I am leaning towards a "Hollywood" theme. Thistlegirl Designs has some awesome graphics related to Hollywood. I just might have to go that route.

2. Keep the website up to date and simple! - My biggest problem is keeping the website up to date. It has gone through some major changes in the past two years. I have gone from ChristinesLessonPlans.Com to just plain MrsCowan.com.
     I must admit, I am happy with the how it has evolved. It seems to grow every single day. Just last year it was a jumbled mess. Now, it seems more organized. Like I said, I do like how the page has eveloved but I wish I could keep it up to date. I just need to post items that only need updating weekly rather than more often. 3 years olds tend to limit free time and I know my 3 year old keeps me busy. (That is an entirely different post and I wouldn't trade that darling 3 year old jewel for anything in the world.  She is the reason I keep striving to learn more and more just so I can keep up with her :) )

3. Start creating videos. - Sounds simple, right?  This is easier said than done.  Granted, a Mac computer makes it easier with IMovie.  You can click and drag, add music, add words, and so on. However, I want to get into the more complicated aspects such as blue screen use and more intricate editing.  Whether or not I accomplish this remains to be seen but I will give it a go.

     I think 3 goals should do it for now.  I want to be reasonable in my own expectations.  Most of my goals will probably be accomplished this summer since that is when I have more time to do things.  Of course, last summer was supposed to be the time for me to do more things but life happened.  That's okay though because I do the best that I can do.  Later :)



Posted by Christine S on 5:43 PM
     Good afternoon one and all! Well, 2nd grade at my school recently had a PTA program and somehow I volunteered (or was volunteered, I am still not sure) to create a video with facts about the Presidents. Being the techie (and perfectionist) that I am, I could not pass up this challenge. I spent a week wondering how to create a video with music, pictures and text. I could create a PowerPoint but it would not run on its own like a movie. Music can be embedded into a PowerPoint but it would not be the same as a video.
     I also thought that I could do a photbucket slideshow but I would not be able to embed the music. Well, I must admit I was stumped. I was racking my brains out trying to figure out how to make a video with pictures, music, and text. I knew that my mac at home had IDVD but I had never made a movie using that program. Then, by accident, I opened a program on the mac that I had not used before.
     That program was called IMovie. IMovie is program similar to Finalcut which is used for creating videos. I began playing with it to see what the program could do. I must admit I found the program to be very easy to use. I started my movie by uploading the pictures of the presidents. Then I uploaded a tune that could be played while the pictures are being shown. The product at this point was not bad. It looked like a music video. However, that did not meet my needs.
     The video needed text to go along with it. Through some testing and playing, I discovered how to add the text. The video seemed to meet my needs but I still had to get input from the other second grade teachers. I wanted to make sure what I visualized was what they visualized for the project as well. This lead to an all new problem. How do I show them the video on short notice (less than a days notice)?
      Thus, a new YouTuber was born. YouTube, for those you who may not know, is a website that allows you to post videos for free. I decided to post the video I created so the other teachers could view it easily (rather than clog their mailboxes with a huge file).  Here is the results of my very first "movie" endeavor.  


Dust off the noggin for this one

Posted by Christine S on 8:32 PM


One thing ...

Posted by Christine S on 10:41 PM



Posted by Christine S on 10:35 PM
     If you EVER have the opportunity to go to Epcot, please make a point to stop by and see Turtle Talk with Crush at The Seas.  Dude, it was SWEET to say the least!  Here is a short snippet.

Isn't he fabulous!  My 3 year old LOVED the show.  It amazes how much technology has changed just in the past year.  Blogs, twitter, gabcast, podcasts, slideshare, public favorites, youtube and such have taken the nation by storm.  Teachers still express disbelief at all the changes. A vision of students today  is so accurate.  Students are more tech savvy today than their teachers.  
     When I taught 4th grade last year, I was amazed at the number of students that were on-line.  I was also amazed at the number of students with MySpace accounts.  4th Graders on MySpace!  It is happening more and more everyday and teachers are the ones being left behind. There have been many jokes made in reference to No Child Left Behind and teachers being left behind.  It does seem to be true in some areas.  I think the area of technology is one of those areas.
      Teachers today have the daunting task of competing with the Wii, Playstation, and so much more in order to even perk a child's interest.  I have discovered that more so this year than in years past.  It takes more than a book to maintain the interest of a 2nd grader.  We are expected to be innovators with the resources of Fred Flinstone.   For example, the school I am at JUST got new computers in the classroom.  K-2 got 2 computers while 3-5 got 4 computers.  2 computers for 19 students.  4 computers for 25 students doesn't seem to compute either.  The laptop  I was issued is 4 years old (some are even older) and has issues of its own.
     It also does not help a teacher's cause when teachers rant about getting new computers when their "old" computer  which is 5 years old works just fine.  My question is "Works fine as what, a PAPERWIGHT?!?!?!"  That rant appeared in the Times Union the other day and I was dumfounded.   If you don't want to use your computer, put one of your students on it then.  They could teach us a thing or two.  
     I could go on for hours about this  but I won't.  I simply feel strongly about the subject of technology in the classroom.  Our students need to be given more opportunities to use it in the classroom.  Otherwise, they are truly being left behind in the global market.   You don't need top of the line either to allow them the opportunity to use it in the classroom.  I have done my best to rig my classroom to allow for maximum integration of technology.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be the teacher ranting about a new computer(if you by chance read this, give me a call and we'll see if you would like to trade computers).  I'd love to have access to a new computer because they have more capabilities.  But I don't so I make due with what I have and I honestly feel I am doing my part to prepare today's students for the global market.


Our Disney Day Adventure

Posted by Christine S on 9:38 PM
     I know, I know!  You feel like you have entered Bill Murray's Groundhog Day.  I know what you are thinking.  "Didn't she just talk about this last week?"  Yes, I did.  Well, we up and went to Disney again for the day on Saturday.  You have to love the Florida Seasonal Pass Holder Ticket.  In just a few visits, the passes will have paid for themselves.  
     Anyway, my sister called us Friday night and asked if we wanted to go to Epcot on Saturday.  Abbie said yes of course.  That child cannot resist the chance to go places.  She is like a sponge!  She just absorbs all of her experiences and remembers so much from them.  It amazes me when she recalls an event from a year (or more) ago.  But, I digress.  
    Well, we went to Epcot and had a wonderful time.  I captured some neat videos and photos that I would love to share with you.  Feel free to check them out!


Our Disney Day Adventure

Posted by Christine S on 6:47 AM


To Mac or Not to Mac, that is the question!

Posted by Christine S on 3:56 PM
    Well, Duval County has begun refreshing some schools in the area of technology.  Sheffield, for example, has brand new PC’s.  Other schools are due for a refresh as well.  Some of those schools will be getting Mac’s.  The teachers at those schools will also be getting IBooks which is the Mac version of a laptop. 

     Can I admit I am so JEALOUS!  Before I met my husband, I was a hardcore PC person.  I had a HP laptop which went EVERYWHERE I went.  I had a HP at home which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Every new Windows, Office, etc. that came out, I had it.  I was a HARDCORE PC FANATIC! 

     Then I met Bob.  Bob had a PC but preferred a Mac.  I was not impressed.  When we got married, we purchased a brand new Dell.  It served as an “Our Computer” sort of thing.  It was a joining of the households if you will.  Well, we loved the Dell.  It met our needs with website design, email, internet surfing, word processing, and so on.  It was a good little computer.

     During our second year of marriage, Bob decided to surprise me with a new EMac.  His logic for the purchase was that Mac’s were known for their graphics and exceptional website designing capabilities and I had become heavily involved in designing my website.  On its third day in our home, I threatened to throw the EMac out of our second story window.  This panicked Bob since he had just purchased Adobe Suite (for the Mac) so I could make PDF documents.

     That EMac frustrated me to no end.  There were many days where I was willing to throw it out of the window upstairs. But, I persevered.  I eventually became very adept at using it.  Dare I say I even began to like it.  Well, our poor Dell eventually gave out and we needed to buy a new computer.  We are a two computer household.  I use the computer so much for school that poor Bob wasn’t able to use it that often which is why we need 2. 

     This was around the time when the new IMacs came out with the ability to run Windows (like a PC).  I could not believe it!  A Mac that could act like a PC!  It was the best of both worlds.  We ended up purchasing a new IMac with all of the bells and whistles.  I love it!  I never thought I would say that a Mac can do so much more than a PC but it can.  It can even run Windows better than a PC (Sorry Dell). 

     With a Mac, you can create QuickTime presentations with the click of a button.  You can make a DVD of photos that can play in a DVD player in moments.  Pod casting is as easy as 1, 2, 3.  WebPages are a matter of clicking and dragging.  What can I say?  I have been converted to a Mac fanatic. 


Technology and Reading: Who'd a THUNK it?

Posted by Christine S on 11:54 PM


Web 2.0

Posted by Christine S on 8:45 PM
     Okay, I admit it.  I am a beginning Web 2.0 teacher.  There, I have said it.  Now you may be wondering what a Web 2.0 teacher is.  Well, from what I can gather, it is a teacher that is using a wide range of new and innovative mediums to communicate and collaborate.  I discovered a video that begins to explain what Web 2.0 is.  Take a moment to check it out.

   I just recently began using a blog more faithfully these past few months.  I used a blog last year to inspire my 4th graders to write.  Since so many people I know have an on-line diary so to speak, I figured why not use it in the classroom.  We have to teach writing.  Why not allow the students to use technology to do it?  The students thoroughly enjoyed the task.  Even my "non-writers" so to speak were begging for a chance to be the blogger of the day.  The same can be said about my 2nd graders this year.  I have learned that blogs are a powerful tool.
     I began podcasting last year as well.  I do not have as many posted as I would like due to time constraints.  There are only 24 hours in a day and I need 30.  I am sure many can relate to that feeling.  However,  I, like so many others, simply do the best I can do.  
     Then there is Voicethread, Wikis, Google Doc and so much more.  One could spend WEEKS in front of the computer screen trying to keep up with the trends.  It is amazing how quickly the Internet has changed.  I remember creating my first web page over 12 years ago.  I was so proud of it.  It had a few cute graphics and a couple of links.  I look at my site now and I realize the one I had then is nothing in comparison.  
     Now I find myself at a sort of crossroads in my career.  I had previously been trying to earn my masters degree in Educational Leadership.  However, I find myself being pulled more and more into the area of technology.  I enjoy my time on the computer.  I am always trying something new that I discovered on-line.  I have found that my use of the computer has grown exponentially when it comes to the classroom.  There is not a day that goes by when I don't use the internet to demonstrate something for my students.  They seem to respond well to it.
     Well, I must be going.  I'm off to learn more about Twitter and play with the Voicethread.  Have a great weekend!

RockYou FXText


Happy New Year!

Posted by Christine S on 7:44 PM
     Well, Happy New Year to one and all! School is back in session so I have been unable to post like I had been. School keeps me very busy. Of course, so does a 3 year old. She keeps me on my toes to say the least. She is back in school as well and seems to be adjusting to the changes in our schedule. She had gotten spoiled these past few weeks with both Mom and Dad home. But, alas it could not last forever. That is okay because we enjoyed the time while it lasted.
     I broke down and subscribed to Voicethread this past week. There are so many uses for it. In the classroom, it could be used to have the students tell stories, share presentations, chronicle current events, and so much more!
     Well, on that note I must run. I hope everyone has a safe and happy new year!

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