Monday, October 6, 2014

Characteristics of a Good Teacher - 2014 Junior High

I asked JH Chorus kids to write down what the characteristics of a good teacher are:

I think a good teacher would be when you ask a question, she explains to you again when it does not make sense. She helps you work, but doesn't give you the answer.

I think a good teacher helps their student learn first, and then is a fun person

Fun, smart, gives you a little homework, funny, let's you play some games, teaches in fun ways, helps you, can do gymnastics, brings food/candy, tells funny stories, makes you laugh

A great teacher teaches us a lot of things, but doesn't make it boring. A funny teacher is a great teacher. A teacher that doesn't assign a lot of homework.

Humorous- funny at times Inspiring- good example. Sharing life experiences.

We learn lots of stuff but in fun ways. Cracks jokes in the middle of class. Doesn't give a lot of homework. Understands us. Doesn't make class boring.

I think a good teacher is someone who is fun and who teaches cool things to people and who gives candy to people who get stuff right.

I think a good teacher is a fun teacher and also a teacher who helps you learn things.

I think a good teacher should - actually give detentions instead of just threatening -take control -have fun - is serious - teacher instead of handing out fliers -talks to class -explains assignments -and jokes around

A teacher is nice and assigns little homework

Someone who doesn't favor anyone in class. Someone who can joke with us. Someone who is laid back but still stern.

To be hilarious and to not give us homework, but give us candy

I think a good teacher is someone who teaches and explains everything thoroughly and makes sure we all understand. They also are awesome if the can joke around with us.

Funny. Not a lot of homework. Teachers in a fun way. Plays games sometimes. Helps you. Has fun stories. Brings food/candy

I think a good teacher who is stern enough to yell at people, but will give them a warning first. I think a teacher who rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior will be liked by students.

I think a good teacher is someone who knows how to tell you something so that you understand it well. If a teacher is really funny it helps, but they have to also be getting the point across.

I think that a good teacher is one who doesn't let the students talk when it's time to learn but makes learning fun and having experiments. A person to tell jokes to and have fun, but can be serious.

A good teacher is a teacher that is happy and wants to help you and that is forgiving when you make a mistake.

A good teacher makes sure everyone is listening. They help students when they need it. They want us to learn.

Lets you talk but keeps it under control. Laughs at out jokes. Teachers in fun ways. Learning games. Not a lot of homework.

To be funny and cool and if a girl, good looking.

They let us do fun stuff. They like to joke around with us. Don't give us homework every night. Let's us do fun activities. Teaches interesting things.

A teacher I would listen to has to like football, gives candy and good info.

A teacher who is serious about work. Not strict and has a good sense of humor.

Let's you play fun games. Sit by whoever you want. Gives you candy. Fun to hang out with. Likes football.

A good teacher is one that is fun and teaches us.

I like teachers that are funny. Mr. *** is funny and he is one of the best teachers ever.

A teacher I learn from and that is fun. That lets us talk sometimes.

Friendly and makes things fun.

A good teacher is a teacher that plays games and no homework.

A good teacher is one that isn't mean and tells you good info that's not fake and they're fun.

Is fun to hang out with. You can learn from. Gives a lot of candy. Likes football. Music

Nice. Doesn't give detentions. Gives little homework. Good at explaining things. Plays games with the class once one a while. Gives you in class work time for homework.

Lets you be on your phone during class. Is fun. Gives candy. Gives little homework.

A good teacher is like Mr. *** Helps you and is fun, funny, scary (sometimes) but really awesome.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

North Tama Makes a Mark on the World

Last Wednesday, September 17, my school celebrated International Dot Day with a huge K-12 celebration. Here are some highlights:

Each student K-12 was given two dots. One was for them to decorate and one was for them to have someone who has made a positive mark on his/her life decorate. This was amazing and the dots were beautiful. We laid them out in the middle of the gym floor. Here's the collective dot display:
Here's a time-lapse video of placing the dots:

The K-12 celebration kicked off with a welcome from Superintendent, Mr. Robert Cue

I was surprised by a special gift for me which was presented by Principal, Paul Rea and Secretary, Suzanne Earley. A very special original piece of artwork from Peter H. Reynolds which Becky Conners helped coordinate with the school:

We followed that surprise gift with a viewing of "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds.

Elementary counselor, Teresa O'Meara, took the podium and introduced our first "Make Your Mark Award" recipient, Ellen Young. Ellen is a tireless supporter of our community and worthy recipient of this award. 

I was honored to present Ellen with a signed copy of "The Dot."

We then watched a short presentation that highlighted the ways North Tama has celebrated International Dot Day since it started at our school in 2009. We were blessed to have a very special video in the middle of our presentation from famous author, Deborah Underwood.

We concluded the event by inviting all 500 students to circle around our collective dot.

It was an awesome Dot Day. I'm honored to work in a school that supports and encourages creativity.

Students had the option of creating electronic dots, you can view them here

Other Dot Art from around the school:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

International Dot Day - Links to Share

International Dot Day started in a few classrooms in 2009 and has grown into a celebration celebrated around the world. I am constantly sharing links on Twitter and Facebook to encourage more classes to participate and decided to place links here as well.

Official Page and Signup: is where to send people first. There is a yearly signup and lots of resources and ideas to make your day (week, month, school year) successful. Please encourage people to check out the site and sign up!!

The amazing Celebridot Site:  The site was inspired by Sharon Creech who sent me a dot on Dot Day 2011. I was so inspired by her graciousness that I decided to start asking other celebrities to make their mark. So many awesome dots are now on the site by the best people out there. If you know an author/illustrator/actor/sports personality, please invite them to participate. The determining factor on 'celebrity' status is if kids would recognize his/her name or work.

I have curated a group of Dot Day celebrations through Pinterest: I also encourage you to search Pinterest for International Dot Day as I may have missed some, I did yesterday and my heart exploded. Beautiful stuff there! I also have a newer board for Dot Day Ideas here:

Matthew Winner and Shannon M. Miller have created a great Google Doc for help connecting with other schools on Dot Day. You can find the 2014 document here:

This year people have wondered if 7-12 students can participate in Dot Day! I am very proud to share this site from my school: Every kid in grades 7-12 (and the awesome teachers) created a dot on his/her tablet and we took a large picture in the gym and also created a Flickr online gallery of all the dots.

I also would encourage you to use and search the #DotDay hashtag on Twitter! The very best and most creative educators on the planet will be found there!

 North Tama Elementary Dot, 2013

North Tama Secondary Dot, 2013

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Teachers Should Be More Like Authors/Illustrators

I have been very lucky to make the online acquaintance of some amazing authors and illustrators. I hold a place to be able to be the proverbial fly on the wall as I watch them all interact and I've made some pretty good friendships as a result.

Although I'm sure you could fill my inbox with exceptions on both sides -- Here's why teachers should be more like authors/illustrators:

1- They support one another. There is no fierce competitiveness out in public, with the occassional exception when someone gets very famous for writing vampire garbage (my word). You can always find them sharing books by other authors and writing about how great the books are. I've been told it's a very isolating job, but many seem to have found a way to branch out and support others. It warms my heart to see how they celebrate each other.

2- They all are outwardly happy when someone wins and award or a starred review. Remember when teachers were upset because some random award honored teachers and there was huge backlash?

3- They are truly kind and friendly to each other. If someone posts about a sick family member (canine, feline, or human) they rush to post something kind. It never seems to fail. Plus, it seems genuine.

4- They support each other in a 'family' sort of way when things go wrong. If someone has stolen artwork or a reviewer has said something rude, the family will 'take care' of the perpetrator.

5- They are constantly honing their craft. There is no 'one and done' in their yellowed paper run through the copy machine and inflicted on another set of learners.

6- The kindness never ends. I don't know how many times I see them volunteering their talents to schools and asking nothing in return.

Sure, there are teachers like this......but I sure would like to see a lot more of it.

We should have one goal--teaching kids in the best way possible....we should all be on the same team.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Learning Journey

My very first keynote presentation was to an amazing group of gifted and talented educators at the "Developing Possibilities" conference held in Storm Lake, IA. I was honored that Shari Collins asked me to present my story and passion for creativity.

The main points of my talk were:
 -Make connections, let them bring out your passion. For me, I learned about a program called "Stationery Studio" and fell in love with a company that designs amazing software and has a huge mission that showed me how passionate I was about creativity. Through that first connection, I was beyond blessed to be able to meet and fall in love with Peter H. Reynolds and software designer, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns
I was also fortunate to have a friend at school, Brent Thoren, who took one of the lessons I created for "Animation-Ish" and had kids do it as an assignment, even before the program was on the market, to test it out. Having people who support you along the way is so important, I was lucky to have one of the best.
-Share your ideas with the right people. I shared the small idea of having kids make dots in their classrooms with Peter H. Reynolds and it took off because he loved the idea and supported it. He had the brilliance of calling it International Dot Day, setting the bar fantastically high. 
-Find people who share your passion. The first explosion of Dot Day happened when Shannon M. Miller and John Schumacher shared with their schools and social networks.
The second major milestone happened when Newbery Medal winning author, Sharon Creech, kindly sent me a dot on Dot Day 2011. That one act of kindness launched the Celebridot site. One of the huge blessings in my life is to be connected with the very best authors and illustrators on the planet who were kind enough to make dots to inspire kids to be creative.
I shared examples of how creativity has impacted my school and my classroom. So many awesome connections have established because of my passion for creativity in the classroom. Watching kids create amazing things feeds the passion in me. 
International Dot Day has allowed me to meet and build enduring friendships with the very best educators all around the world. Search #DotDay on Twitter and find amazing educators with amazing creativity and heart.
I challenged the educators at my session to share a dot with me. I am so honored that some of these great people sent me a dot and shared what they are passionate about. Below are the dots they sent, I was so impressed with all of them!!

What are you passionate about and what are you doing every day to feed that passion?

Inisha Hoehamer

Terry Van Berkum

Marleta Smith

Shari Collins

Rebecka Allen

Vickie Hemmingson

Julie Gibson

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Photoshop Tricks-Splash Bravely

Recently, I was asked to present at a conference. Since I was talking about International Dot Day and reading "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds, I wanted to model the theme of the book and bravely make a splash. So, to that end, I painted the slide background and the backgrounds for the important quotes. I used watercolors for some and my iPad for others. I used a fun method to invert the words and the background and wanted to show it here in case others want to do it. 

Final Look:
Awesome author, Sharon Creech recently shared how to make Orbs from pictures on Photoshop, You can find the directions on her blog

 Other Examples:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Connecting Authors With Readers

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post with advice for readers interested in connecting with authors. After some recent discussions online, I want to revise and update.

If you are asking questions: Check the author's website to see what questions have already been answered. Encourage kids to be creative and ask thoughtful questions. I see this often from authors so I'm repeating it.

Don't expect an instant reply, authors can receive between 10-700 emails a day (not to mention social media tags) and are busy creating new books. Many of them really want to respond and I've seen some of the struggle for the "right" words to respond with, so you might need to be patient. 

Also, "one thing teachers should know is that when they send us a big package of letters it becomes impossible to personally reply to each kid. I totally get why teachers want to encourage kids to write letters, and there's no reason they'd realize how it feels on our end. But it seems worth spreading the word about. If a kid REALLY wants to connect with an author it's best done on a personal one-to-one basis. I feel terrible about the envelopes I have that contain a bundle of thank you letters, and I try to write an email back, saying how much I appreciated the notes, but for authors who work with a lot of classrooms, it can be rough." Laurel Snyder

Remember there are lots of fans and only one author. You might not always get a reply, I know there are authors who agonize over that fact. The majority WANT to interact, but time is precious.

Many authors have blogs, search those out. I think author blogs may be one of the most motivating and inspiring things available for young writers. 

Great authors like James Preller have blogs they use to respond to kids' letters: "I've been posting random fan mail letters & responses on my blog for the past 5 years:

If you are using USPS mail: enclose SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).

"Don't ask for help with your homework." was advice from S.E. Hinton, author of "The Outsiders" 
  Here is an example of that from the amazing Lisa Yee:

Letters as assignments: I've heard of teachers giving assignments to write/email an author. This seems like an ill-advised idea to me. Perhaps save those interactions for authors that the student really wants to know more about and have a greater connection with. On this subject, S.E. Hinton said, "It is very unfair to an author to make them responsible for a student's grade. That should between the student & the teacher." She is so right!

Publishers as postal carriers:
"I also wanted to point out that if a child doesn't get a response from an author, it could be because of the ridiculous amount of time a publisher can take to forward the mail. I was heartbroken when I got a pack of letters from a class sent in care of one of my publishers and a note from the librarian saying "Please write back!" and I didn't get it till the following school year--I don't know how it took the publisher six months to put the letters into an envelope and mail them to me, but it's not an uncommon experience, I understand." Deborah Underwood

Request for books/drawings/charity:
If you're going to ask an author for a book to give away, please know that authors don't have an unending supply of books and they will actually have to go to a bookstore, buy the book, pay for it, and pay for shipping. Authors/Illustrators are some of the best people I have ever known, but, like anyone else, there are limits to their generosity. If you are going to make the request, you should find ways to make it easier for them to help you (like buy the book, provide postage, etc.)

School Visits:
*Just as you would never expect other professionals to provide their service for free, you should understand that you should expect to pay an author/illustrator to visit. You will also need to provide transportation.

*Make sure they give authors breaks so they can prepare for the next presentation. PLEASE adhere to the agreed-upon schedule--saying, "You won't mind just dropping in and doing a quick visit with the kindergarteners, will you?" puts the author in a very awkward position, especially if they'd planned on using the time to mentally prepare for the next assembly.

*Authors receive a number of inquiries for visits either through email or website. Typically the contact information is on the author's website. Once you have made contact and received a response, it would be respectful to write back to the author, even if you are not going to secure a visit with them. It appears some schools write to many authors at the same time to inquire, or decide not to use that author, and then don't extend the courtesy of responding to let them know another direction was chosen.

*Once the visit is set, make sure that the kids and the other teachers know who the author is before she visits.

Barbara O'Connor wrote this awesome post about successful school visits, check it out.

I would love to update this list and help with connecting readers and authors. If you have ideas, please let me know.

Here are authors and illustrators I have in my network. Click on their names to go to their website. I've learned so much about the writing process from them, maybe if you start following them and check out their blogs, you can pass that on to students. Follow them on Twitter and learn all about their latest projects and get sneak peeks of things to come:

Sharon Creech @ciaobellacreech Celebridot 2011, Celebridot 2012, Celebridot 2013

Ame Dyckman @amedyckman Celebridot

Peter H Reynolds @peterhreynolds Celebridot 2012, Celebridot 2013, The Dot Club

Kristin Tubb @ktubb Celebridot

Katherine Applegate @kaaauthor Celebridot

Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows Celebridot

Zachariah OHora @zachariahohora Celebridot

Tom Angleberger @Origami Yoda Celebridot

CeCe Bell @cecebellbooks

Michael Grant @thefayz

Augusta Scattergood @ARScattergood

Courtney Stevens @Quartland

Lisa Yee @LisaYee1 and @RealPeepy Celebridot

Stephen McCranie @stephenmccranie

Jarrett J. Krosoczka @studioJJK

Judy Blume @judyblume

Barney Saltzberg @BSaltzberg

Margo Sorenson @ipapaverison

Michele Robinson @MicheRobinson Celebridot

Chris Barton @bartography Celebridot

Lauren Castillo @studiocastillo Celebridot

Lynne Plourde @LynnPlourde Celebridot

Florence Minor @minorart Celebridot

Wendell Minor @wendellminor Celebridot

Bethanie Murguia @aquapup Celebridot

Deborah Underwood @underwoodwriter Celebridot

Eric Wight @Eric_Wight

S.E. Hinton @se4realhinton

Katie Davis @katiedavisburps Celebridot

Susan Verde @susanverde Celebridot

Erica S. Perl @ericaperl

Anita Silvey @anitasilvey

Beverly McClure @beverlymcclure

Donna Gephart ‏ @DGephartWrites

ElizabethRoseStanton ‏ @PenspaperStudio

Sage Blackwood ‏ @urwalder Celebridot

AJ Smith ‏ @AJSmithillustr Celebridot

Cynthia Leitich Smith ‏ @CynLeitichSmith

Drew Daywalt ‏ @DrewDaywalt Celebridot

Cynthia Lord ‏ @Cynthia_Lord Celebridot

Deborah Wiles ‏ @deborahwiles

Lisa Jahn-Clough ‏ @ljahnclough Celebridot

Holly Goldberg Sloan ‏ @HGoldbergSloan Celebridot

Jennifer Fosberry ‏ @jenfos Celebridot

Anne Belov ‏ @PandaChronicle Celebridot

Anika Denise ‏ @AnikaDenise

Jamie Michalak ‏ @Jamie_Michalak

Bonny Becker ‏ @bonnybecker33 Celebridot

Lori Degman ‏ @LoriDegman Celebridot

Deborah Freedman ‏ @DeborahFreedman Celebridot

Russ Cox ‏ @smilingotis Celebridot

Julie Falatko ‏ @JulieFalatko Celebridot

Stanley & Katrina ‏ @StanleyNKatrina

Kristi Valiant ‏ @KristiValiant Celebridot

KimberlyNewtonFusco ‏ @kimberlynewtonf Celebridot

Tina Kugler ‏ @tinatheatre

Nicole Walters ‏ @nicoleywalters Celebridot

Laurel Snyder ‏ @LaurelSnyder Celebridot

Samantha Berger ‏ @BergerBooks Celebridot

Kirby Larson ‏ Verified account @KirbyLarson Celebridot

Anna Raff ‏ @annaraffNYC Celebridot

Jesse Klausmeier ‏ @JesseKlausmeier

Matthew Cordell ‏ @cordellmatthew Celebridot

Anne Ursu ‏ @anneursu

Timothy Young ‏ @TimSYoung Celebridot

Melissa Guion ‏ @MelissaGuion Celebridot

Jessica E Young ‏ @happybluejess Celebridot

Ellen Potter @Ellenpotter

Adam Lehrhaupt ‏ @Lehrhaupt Celebridot

Erin Dealey ‏ @ErinDealey Celebridot

Aileen Stewart ‏ @AileenWStewart Celebridot

Chris Crutcher ‏ @ChrisCrutcher

Aaron Becker @storybreathing Celebridot

Lois Lowry @LoisLowryWriter Celebridot

Kathi Appelt @kappelt Celebridot

Louise Borden @LouiseBorden Celebridot

Jon Klassen @burstofbeaden Celebridot

John Lechner @johnlechner Celebridot

Barbara O'Connor @barbaraocconnor Celebridot

Rebecca Kai Dotlitch @Rebeccakai

Brian Lies @BrianLiesbooks

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Guidelines and Helpful Tips for Posting Online

My very wise Intro To Computers class of HS Juniors made this list of guidelines and tips for posting online. I'm so proud of this list and the students who came up with it! This grew out of the assignment I blogged earlier

Guidelines and Helpful Tips
Fall 2013 North Tama Intro To Computers

1. Be careful because anyone can see your tweets

2. Retweets reflect on you as much as tweets

3. Swear words make you look immature and reflect badly on you even if you don't usually swear

4. If you wouldn't say it out loud don't say it online

5. What you tweet now affects your future and you don’t even realize it

6. Be the bigger person

7. Don’t tweet when you're mad

8. Don't say anything you'll regret

9. Before you tweet something think about what your grandma or grandpa would say if they saw it

10. Be careful who follows you. Block people who are not particularly "nice"

11. Never agree to meet with someone in person that you don’t know

12. Don’t make yourself sound unsafe or dangerous

13. If you’re going to state your opinion, make sure you are able to justify what you say

14. Respect opinions that differ from yours

15. Do not bash others

16. Be positive. Use social media for good, positive things and events in your life.

17. No rude, offensive or inappropriate pictures

18. Please don't use it as your diary

19. Everyone can see what you favorite, use it wisely

20. Show the world the good in you

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Favorite Features in Stationery Studio

 I've been tweeting and Facebooking a lot lately about my love for Stationery Studio. I wanted to share some of my favorite features of the program

Full disclosure: I lead an educator program for FableVision Learning. I do not make any money from sales. I am writing this post because I love this software and think it should have more exposure. My school has a site license. I also love Peggy Healy Stearns who designed the program, that did not change my review of the program, I actually loved it before I met anyone at FableVision.