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Voices from the BAM Radio Community sharing their thoughts, insights and teaching strategies.

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Vocabulary retention is increased when words are used in context. In an English Language Arts classroom that often means using vocabulary words correctly in writing.  Writing assignments vary from sentences to creative writing prompts, to essays. Using physical movement during vocabulary instruction adds a mind-body connection increasing the likelihood of adding these words to one’s personal word bank. Not only does physical movement create a mind-body connection, it also may utilize the creative and innovation outlets the brain craves as these connections add a sense of novelty.  Furthermore, adding technology reinforces contextual learning as well as creativity. Combining physical activity with technology may be overload for some teachers, but there are some simple apps that can enhance the vocabulary tableau activities I have mentioned in previous posts.

Simple Videos: Built-In Cameras

One of the easiest ways to add video technology in the classroom is by using the built-in camera on a tablet or smartphone. For this activity, students work in groups of 3-4.  Each group receives a vocabulary word.  The task for the group is to create a 15-second video of a vocabulary tableau. Groups can either choose one formation that they freeze in for the entire length of the video, or they can create two formations in which the move from one frozen pose to the next. These videos are then uploaded to Google Drive with URLs shared with the teacher. The teacher organizes the URLs in a Google Sheet for students or groups to access.  Students can then view the videos to determine the vocabulary words each group was assigned. The activity can end here, or students can be asked to demonstrate the tableau “live” in class when words are encountered in the text.

Photos + Narration:  Shaddow Puppet EDU (http://get-puppet.co/)

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My daughter had not lost a tooth in what seemed like years. So when it came time to leave her a gift from the Tooth Fairy we weren’t quite sure what to leave. So we hid a five dollar bill under her pillow. We each thought that was a reasonable amount.

To backtrack, the night before, my son, who had yet to lose a tooth, was more excited than anyone. He couldn’t wait to see what the Tooth Fairy was would leave her. When they woke up, neither one of them could find anything. At first they were disappointed. Then I unraveled the blanket and a five dollar bill appeared. My son was excited. My daughter. Not so much.

Apparently one of her friends had recently gotten earrings and a shirt from the Tooth Fairy. So five dollars must have paled in comparison. I went downstairs to begin getting ready for the day. Part of me was felt that my daughter was spoiled for not being grateful for the five dollars. Another part of me was trying to put myself in her shoes.

It is not always easy for a parent to put themselves in their child's shoes. But I try.

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It seems these days, families live so far apart. I’m sure that’s the way it is for most of us. Keeping connected takes a lot more effort than it used to.  I don’t think it is just me and my loved ones.

Screen sharing is not the same as being together in real time, although it somewhat fills the gaps.

I feel like a slacker. Lately I’ve been losing things, including house keys and my wallet, twice. Moving much too fast. Not exactly self-care. I finished helping at the preschool until September and the preschool was the first graduation. We had seven of the littles graduating and what a fun, imaginative production for all the children.

It seems like I’ve been on a treadmill lately, such a busy time of year. I looked forward to going up to Beaverton to take a much needed family-filled break.

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This is a line often included in one of those self-reported stories that people feel compelled to share when they discover they are talking to an English teacher. It's not quite as popular as those standards "I Always Hated English Class in High School" or "I Hate To Read" or the super-popular "I Guess I'll Have To Watch My Grammar When I'm Around You." Just today, someone once again summed up her experience by citing what someone, years ago, told her. "You'll Never Be a Writer."

"You'll Never Be a Writer" is different story because, first, it has nothing to do with feelings you had when you were younger, which are perhaps something adult you might want to keep to yourself (nobody of my age need proudly share that classic tale "The Year I Memorized the Shape of Farrah Fawcett's Right Breast in a Red Swimsuit"), nor does the story "You'll Never Be a Writer" include a thinly veiled prediction/criticism of someone's poor social behavior

"You'll Never Be a Writer" is a sad story of crushed dreams and truncated aspirations. But it's also wrong. Sometimes it's just meant as conversational filler, so I would hate to be that guy and correct someone who's just trying to make pleasantries (on the other hand, I am an English teacher and it's possible that I take great joy in correcting others at inappropriate moments). But here's the basic drift of what I have to say about this.

Now, YNBAW is sometimes a pronouncement on economic realties. "Writing," folks say,  "is not a real with which you can support a single grown human, let alone a whole family of them." I always assumed that I would write when I grew up, and I always assumed that I would never make enough to support myself, which was fine because I wanted to teach. I didn't care that I would never make serious money (anyone who wants to prove me wrong by giving me a lucrative book deal or syndication gig is welcome to contact me here). "Writing's very nice and all, " many a student and parent have said to me, "but you can't really make a living at it, can you?"

Well, yes and no. Writing the Great American Novel is not terribly lucrative, and creating the next Highly Profitable Property doesn't necessarily require great writing chops (looking at you, Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown).

But if your goal is not to become a rich and famous fiction writer, other writing jobs exist. Virtually every specialized field in the world is primarily populated by people who know the field, but cannot communicate effectively about it. I have former students who became technical writers, nature writers, and sports writers. Being able to write is important to the writing life, but having a topic that you are knowledgeable and passionate about-- that's huge, too. When a student says, "Well, I'd really like to be a writer, but I really want to work in the widget industry, too," that student's solution is right in front of her.

"You'll Never Be a Writer" is wrong for other reasons as well, the most notable of which is that we are living in a text-based world. Thanks to the internet, we communicate more than ever via the written (typed) word. In both our work and personal worlds, it's now hugely important to be able to say just what you mean, and equally important to be able to read hat others write critically and carefully.

In the years ahead, you will write reports for your job. You will communicate with friends and family via text. You may very well court and couple with the use of text. If you enter politics, you will have to explain yourself through text. If you are an activist for a cause, some of your communication will be through text. Whatever it is you want to say, and whatever audience you want to say it to, you are likely to write it.

It may not bring fortune or fame. But it remains the best ways to communicate and store ideas and feelings across space and time. Much of human history has been spent searching for ways to record, transmit and store our various languages; digitizing it represents a new step forward in that process, meaning that the composing and arranging of that language has become even more important.

Regardless of what someone told you in some misguided attempt to crush your dreams or slap you upside the head with a cold, fishy slab or reality, they were wrong. Good or bad, inspired or flat, enthusiastic or grudging, because you are alive today, you are a writer. You will always be a  writer. Make the best of it you can, because you will always be a writer. Search for your voice and find your way, because like it or not-

You will always be a writer.

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(Image Source: YIES.com)

Ok, I know it's the end of the year and all you can think about is sleeping in, maybe getting your feet in the sand, and finally having a little time to relax and eat a meal without having to complete it in under 10 minutes as you grade stacks of papers or help a student in your classroom. As teachers this is one of the best feelings in the world. We hear that last bell ring and suddenly enter into a month or two of bliss and being able reset, refocus, and relax.

But before you get too comfortable, I want to make sure you don't accidentally go and waste your summer break. So here are 5 ways you can be sure to waste your summer break.


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