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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


Flat Stanley is a wonderful way to connect students with people and places around the world. The project has been around for 20 years! Recently, my global teaching partners and I found a new twist for using Flat Stanley in a project! Classes in Australia, Lebanon, South Africa, Finland, and the Untied States wanted to complete a project that involved a Staley FROM each location being present AT each location... at the SAME TIME! If you have used the postal service to send items to schools in faraway places, you know how long that can take, expecially considering how many locations we were using.

Imagination is a powerful tool in young children, and our students had no problem using their vivid imaginations to devise a simpler way to allow our Flat Stanley characters to travel the globe. Here is a step by step explanation of how it worked:

In each classroom, each student created a Flat Stanley holding the flag of his or her country. Those would be the characters meeting the traveling Stanleys as they arrived.

Students voted on one Stanley to represent their class by traveling to the other locations.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


I will never forget the first time I asked first graders where Earth is. While some looked a bit puzzled by my question, others confidently pointed up. Up? Why of course, it is in outer space! Young children are expected to master map skills and to know where they live. If you have ever tried to teach little kids the names and layers of places in which they live, you will understand how very difficult that can be for both student and teacher! I have used songs, books, and the recent Me on the Map crafts and activities that are abundant on Pinterest! In spite of the fact that my students could create the visuals and sing the songs,most remained confused by the difference between city, county, state, country, and continent. At least by the end of the lessons they all pointed to the ground when asked where Earth is!

Now, I have an idea that I think may be just the answer to this difficult learning task for young children! The best part is the map skills can be incorporated into actions that will teach lessons far beyond the simple social studies standards of mapping. We spend so much time in school learning academic skills, that we often forget the importance of building social character skills in our children. Those skills are equally important or, perhaps, even more important in the education of the whole child. Our world is in great need of people who have developed empathy, responsibility, and a sense of caring. Would you rather guide your students to become excellent test-takers or excellent thinkers, problem solvers, and people? In teaching small children where they belong in the world, you can teach them that they and their actions can make a difference...

Begin with a song! Singer-songwriter, and my friend, John Farrell, has written a song that is perfect for this task. It's the Little Things puts into words and music the idea that when we work together, we can make this world a little better. Take the time to teach the song to your students. You can even add hand signs to make it more interesting! 

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Posted by on in Game-Based Learning


As my first grade students left for their holiday break, I told one of the children to have a wonderful vacation. He sadly looked at me and said, "I'm not going on vacation. I am just staying home." I explained to him that by vacation I meant not coming to school. His reaction made me think about how many students never get to travel and experience the joy of visiting popular vacation destinations. It seemed, however, that a solution to that problem was sitting in my classroom waiting to be unwrapped!

I had an Xbox 360 Kinect system in my classroom. We were using Kinect games for learning and I had recently been given a copy of Kinect Disneyland Adventure. I took it home for my grandchildren to play while visiting for Christmas, and it turned out to be an authentic trip to the Magic Kingdom. Players enter Main Street USA, collect autographs from Disney characters in an autograph book, and use a map to select the lands to visit in the park. Pirates of the Caribbean, It's A Small World, and all of the other favorite rides from the actual park are part of the game. It is as close as you can come to an actual visit without traveling there.


Using the game as a basis, I planned a unit for my students to "go on vacation" while learning and using a variety of standards based language arts, math, and geography skills! Working collaboratively in small groups, representing families, the students used the internet to research and develop a plan for taking a trip to Disneyland. In an authentic planning experience, the students learned to read informational text, evaluate information, and make informed decisions. They learned map skills, using online travel maps and maps of the park. Math and personal financial literacy skills grew as the kids learned to use calculators, to work with large numbers, and realized that vacations require long term goal setting and saving. There were plenty of opportunities to practice writing skills as well, as they created travel brochures, journals, and postcards for the trip. 

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Posted by on in What If?


While attending a literacy conference last week, I listened to a speaker address the problem of curiosity and wonder disappearing from children as they spend time in school. It was not a new thought, of course, but one I had not revisited for awhile. I realized that, having recently retired, my perspective has changed considerably! While wonder seems to disappear during childhood... I can tell you that it does come back!

One of the major changes retirement brought to my life was the sudden lack of need to multitask! Stress and pressure disappeared from my days and I now find myself with plenty of time to think about the things that interest me most! My senses are on overdrive as I spend more time outdoors and experience the changes that take place throughout the day, from the early morning frosty trees to the water dripping from the icicles and the sun as it reflects on the snow at sunset. As a teacher, I spent my days inside a building from sunrise to nearly sunset. My thoughts were driven by a need to meet curriculum demands and provide for the needs of my students. Balancing family, job, and other responsibilities directed my thoughts and actions in nearly every waking moment. 

Suddenly it seemed clear what happens to children. As preschoolers, children never need to multitask! They have no stress or pressure. They have plenty of time to think about the things that interest them most! Their senses are on overdrive as they spend more time outdoors and experience changes that take place throughout the day! Everything is new and interesting and captures their curiosity! Nearly every waking moment is spent in play and exploration as they explore the world around them.

School brings a change to that experience. The older children get, the more pressures are placed on them. Their lives are greatly controlled by school where they spend the greatest part of the day inside, being told what to think and what to do. Many children are even controlled beyond the school day as they are scheduled for sports, dance, and clubs! Evening brings homework for many. There is little time left for unstructured thought and feeling. Alarmingly, we are placing those pressures on children at a younger age than even before!

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Posted by on in Education Technology

IMG_1886.jpgWhat better way to learn the tools of historians than to take a trip to a local museum to see them firsthand! As my second graders learned about artifacts, documents, photographs, and oral histories from the museum director, Dan Davidson, they quickly realized they had a tool to share as well! Having experimented with the use of QR codes and using iPads for creating videos, they saw a way to add a new dimension to the exhibits at our local museum.


 They introduced the idea of capturing oral histories on video, uploading the videos to YouTube, then creating QR codes to be displayed in exhibits. The museum director of our local museum, Museum of Northwest Colorado, was unfamiliar with QR code technology at that time. As the kids explained how it worked, he was extremely supportive of the idea and provided a list of contacts. The class wanted to focus on local elders who had connections to exhibits they saw in the museum.

We began with a series of lessons about the history of our small community and comparisons of photos from the past and today. Using a list of names provided by the museum, we began contacting local elders to invite them to participate in our project. Once contacts were made, and visits scheduled, the class began a series of trips back to the museum to film. Using the exhibit as a backdrop, the students interviewed and filmed each elder telling his or her story. 

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