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When Bad Things Happen, Make Lemonade!

Two years ago today I had a stroke. It really didn't seem like much, and I didn't even go to the hospital right away.

I felt a tingling in my left arm while I was in the shower. At first I thought I might be having a heart attack, since one of the symptoms is tingling in the left arm. So naturally I did what any mother would do. I quietly got out of the shower and got dressed. My biggest fear was embarrassing my teenage daughter by being naked when the EMTs arrived. When I started walking around, I noticed my left leg was also tingling.

I really didn't want to go to the hospital, since it was Saturday of the holiday weekend. But finally, I realized that tingling wasn't going away, so I went.

It's a good thing I went. I was there for hours, drifting in and out of sleep. They gave me all the necessary tests, and sent me off in the wee hours. It wasn't until about a week later that I realized that tingling was pretty much on my entire left side... my scalp and my torso in addition to my arm and leg. It was the most intense in my arm and leg.

I went back to school a week later for the last 2 weeks of school marathon. Somehow I had to pack my room, yet I was so tired I couldn't see straight, and I'd lost control of much of my left side. Lifting heavy boxes wasn't an option, yet I got very little help packing my classroom. I do remember falling off my ladder hard, which is probably what messed up my alignment, but I didn't find that out for another year. I did something nasty to my shoulder which makes it pretty useless for anything more than 5 pounds.

It wasn't for a couple of months that I realized the full impact of the stroke. I went to occupational and  physical therapy to develop the muscles in my arm and hand that weren't working, and work to restore my balance. I had gone as far as they could bring me on the OT, but the insurance was withdrawn before I could "graduate" from the PT.

I think one of the toughest things is that I "look fine". That may sound silly, but I think if I were looking less than fine some of my colleagues might be a tad more compassionate.

Two years later:  I still struggle with fatigue. It's gotten better than it was when I first had the stroke, but I still have trouble making it through the day, and I'm useless on evenings and weekends. I still struggle with my left arm with things like opening water bottles, ATMs, and holding onto things. I still have trouble with balance. I'm OK if I'm on a flat surface and I can watch where I'm going. That's not always easy while teaching second graders. I still have trouble lifting things, too. Much of the tingling is gone, but it's still there, especially in my arm and leg. I try to give the illusion that I'm fine, because I just don't like to be pitied or treated like I'm less than whole. But the fact is, I'm far less than what I was before the stroke.

The bad news? After 2 years, I've probably progressed about as far as I can go. I've known all along that the further away from the stroke, the less chance of getting those skills back.

But, I've chosen to make lemonade out of this. Luckily, my daughter is off in college now, so I'm back to living alone. It sounds terribly lonely, but it's not at all. It's just less responsibility after school. I like that! I do minimal cooking and cleaning during the week, since I'm usually far too tired, especially as it gets near the weekend. 

So I had to take up a hobby that didn't need me to be up and walking around. (Or dancing... like my previous hobby of musical theatre!) So I took up blogging!

In a way, I feel like blogging has given me back my life! It gives me something to look forward to every day when I drag myself out of school. I try to finish all my work at school so I'll be free and can blog, pin, tweet, and post on my facebook page. I spend a lot of time at my laptop, reading about brain research, and making materials to help students learn. It's a good life!

Pay it Forward for Evan

The untimely loss of a young man makes me want to pay it forward.
Evan in Chicago.  My daughter in the foreground.
My community is in shock because of the sudden death of one of its gems.

Evan had just finished his freshman year in college and was on an archaeological dig in Scotland when he collapsed. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at the local hospital.

I am stunned by this event. Not only because it's a local kid, but because I knew the family. Evan's dad teaches Social Studies in my school district. Evan's mom is my acupuncturist.  (I had a stroke 2 years ago, and acupuncture has been an amazing help in my recovery.) Evan and his twin brother were friends with my daughter, and graduated from high school together last year. Evan and my daughter starred in the school's musical, Chicago, last spring.

My whole body aches for Evan's family. Having a daughter the same age, I just don't know how anyone can deal with the loss of a child.

I ache for his brother. The boys were twins and rarely left each others' sides until college.

All those high school classmates who just finished their freshman year of college are in shock. This was one of their finest: an honor student, active in many activities: debate club, theatre, president of the honor society, and an all around good kid. Everyone liked him. He even spoke at their graduation. What a horrible loss!

Here's a link to a newspaper article:

Evan's Dad, the Social Studies teacher at our local high school asked people to Find a way to "Pay Something Forward" in Evan's honor. I recently posted this end of the year Social Studies review Scoot game on Teachers Pay Teachers. I thought, in honor of Evan's memory, I would offer this item for free to teachers who will Pay it Forward in honor of a great young man.

Click THIS link to obtain the scoot game free, in honor of Evan. Of course, this means you will Pay it Forward in some way to honor Evan.

Thanks so much!

Yoga for Kids - Fun AND Beneficial!

Some of the teachers in my school have been doing Yoga with their students.

I think it's a great idea!

Having done Yoga, I know it's not just a form of exercise. It's a great way to regroup, de-stress, and focus.  It's great exercise for building strength and flexibility.  Many say it's beneficial for memory, concentration, and self esteem!

Want to learn more?  Here's a list of benefits of Yoga.

Here's a website called Yoga 4 Classrooms (That's why my school is doing.)

I'm hardly an expert, but the teachers who are using Yoga most definitely see the benefits.  I first learned Yoga in 1977 and have always loved it.  I've tried a few poses and breathing with my students over the years, and they've always responded to it.  

These days, kids are under more stress than ever.  No Child Left Behind has put more pressure on the kids, and administrations all over the country are pushing for more and more.  These poor little ones are getting less recess and more testing.  I think it's time to bring more Yoga into the classroom! 

Here are a few more things I found at Amazon that I plan to explore:         

        What do you think of Yoga in the classroom?

Memorial Day: A Day To Remember

Memorial Day: A Day to Remember - Ideas, Resources, and 3 different freebies for honoring Memorial Day in the Primary Classroom
Memorial Day in America is a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Many people also enjoy the day with a long weekend, parades, cook outs, and the beginning of summer.

When I grew up, Patriotism was strong in this country. Most of our parents remembered World War II, and it was clear how lucky we are to be Americans. Our parents taught us the importance of being Americans. We learned all the words to all the patriotic songs, and sang them proudly. We knew how to care for our flag, and we knew we were lucky to be born Americans.

It seem that many Americans have forgotten the joys, privileges, and responsibilities of living in a free country. So many Americans are angry, and are blaming our government. Many Americans don't even know the words to The Star Spangled Banner, or even how to show respect for the American flag. I try to teach my own students to be proud of their country. I teach them what freedom means, and how they live in a land where they can choose what they want to be! I read Patriotic books and I cry.



Especially with this one.
patriotic book
Although I'd say we are definitely due for a long, relaxing weekend, you'll bet I'll be reading these books and showing videos like this one I found which explains Memorial Day to children, with pictures of American Memorials and just enough history for little ones to understand.

I'll also be singing Patriotic Songs with the children, as I do on most holidays. I found this great website that has lyrics and background music for most of the favorites, and it's all free!

I found some great ideas for celebrating patriotic holidays on the Scholastic Website. These ideas would work for any of the patriotic holidays, not just Memorial Day. 

Since my little ones sometimes struggle to remember the differences in many of the patriotic holidays, I made up these lists to help remember the importance of each occasion, as well as some ideas for celebrating each. Click the image or HERE for your freebie!

Planning on doing some patriotic writing this Memorial Day? You can download this writing paper freebie HERE!

Here's one more freebie that can be used for any patriotic holiday: Patriotic Brain Breaks!

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, have a steak, or a hot dog, or even a veggie burger, but don't forget to remember the reason for the holiday, and that FREEDOM ISN'T FREE!

10 Strategies for Surviving Until Summer

Ten Strategies for Surviving Until Summer: None of these ideas will cost you a thing, but they'll keep your students interested and engaged for the last few weeks or days!
We have 21 school days left.  I'm trying not to get stressed out about all the work I have to complete in 21 days.  I much prefer to spend the 21 days enjoying my days with my students.

But then again.... these kids are "cooked".  They've taken in as much information as they can, and they're starting to get real cranky.  These little angels who have worked hard all year are struggling!

I need to complete the next couple of weeks of our reading program, then the unit test, then the end of the year test!

Here's what I really want to happen the next couple of weeks:  I want to read all my very favorite books and leave the kids with a desire to read this summer!

I also want to finish the curriculum and all the tests, I want to make the end of the year memory books.  I want the children to have pleasant memories of their second grade year.

I want to be ready for my summer vacation!

But we do have to get through the next 21 days.  Somehow!

So, here are some things I plan to do:

  1. Play a lot of music-  I do like a variety... soft music for concentration, lively music to get them moving, rowdy music to burn off steam...
  2. Bring them out- Work in opportunities to bring the children outside wherever I can.
  3. Loving books- Celebrate books in every way possible!
  4. Make 'em laugh- Find plenty of opportunities for laughter.  Laughter is good, and healing as well!
  5. Fun- Work plenty of games and fun learning into the day.
  6. Move- Get them out of their seats whenever I can.  Get their blood moving to bring oxygen to their brains.
  7. Shake it up- Rearrange things... move desks, change the schedule, do something completely different
  8. Pair them up for projects- Being social increases learning and productivity.  Plus, it's fun!
  9. Have a contest- Get their pulses moving!
  10. Visuals- Find some good educational videos.
These are all things the brain needs for learning.  I try to do this stuff anyway.  I suspect they need it even more than usual this time of year.  It's a hard time of year for all of us, but it's even harder on the kids.  

We WILL make it!  
Summer vacation, here we come!

What are your ideas for the end of the year?

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Syllables... and Then Some: This post discusses the 6 syllable types and why these are important in learning to read. It includes a multi-syllable freebie!
Did you know there were 6 kinds of syllables?

There are indeed 6 types of syllables.  Knowing the different kinds of syllables will help the children move as readers from reading basic single syllable words to multi-syllabic words like watermelon and helicopter.

Although children shouldn't be trying to decode multi syllabic words until they have mastered single syllable words with blends, digraphs, short vowels, long vowel patterns, r controlled vowels,  diphthongs and other vowel pairs, prefixes and suffixes.

In my second grade class, I'm still working on fluency with short vowels with several of my students, but my top readers are very much able to decode multi syllabic words, as well as spell them!

Here are the six kinds of syllables:
  1. Closed Syllable - These are short vowels followed by a consonant, such as  num in number, or vel in velvet
  2. Vowel Consonant e Syllable - This is your classic long vowel/ silent e pattern such as ade in parade or cide in decide.
  3. Open Syllable - These are long vowel syllables that end with the vowel such as ta in table and spi in spider.
  4. Consonant l e Syllable - These are at the ends of words like ble in table and tle in little.
  5. R- Controlled Syllable - These have an r controlled vowel such as gar in garden and der in under
  6. Vowel Digraph/ Diphthong "D" Syllable - These contain a diphthong or a vowel diagraph.  (Sometimes called "vowel teams") Examples are thou as in thousand and poi as in poison.
Why is it important to teach syllables?  When readers break words into syllables, the words become easier to decode.  Learning about syllables also help students remember spelling patterns.  Knowing how to decode syllables  will help children become more fluent readers, and studies show that fluency helps comprehension.  And that's our goal, isn't it?  

Many teachers teach syllables by having the children clap the beat of the syllables.  This works for most children.  A more tactile way is to teach the children to place their hand under their jaw as they say the words.  As the mouth will open for every vowel sound (and each syllable represents a vowel sound) the jaw will tap the hand for each syllable.  

Want to read more about syllables?

  • Six Syllable Types on Reading Rockets was co-written by my instructor of the LETRS training, so it's got to be quality information!  (And interesting, too!)
  • Vocabulary.co.il has a couple of syllable games and videos for the kids.

I've put together a freebie with a couple of lists that can be used for practicing with syllables.  There are a few options for using my syllables lists.  They could be used simply as lists for children to practice reading.  They could also be cut out and shuffled, for the kids to sort.  They could sort by syllable type, or simply how many syllables are in the words.  Click HERE for your freebie.

Enjoy your freebie and your 6 kinds of syllables!

12 Fascinating Blog Posts

Accelerated Degree ProgramsWell, this was a surprise!

I opened up my email the other day to find I had been nominated for a blog award.  I wasn't sure what to make if it, especially since the post Time for a Celebration is the one that got me the nomination.  I didn't think there was a whole lot of fascinating content to that post.  It was a giveaway.  If I were going to nominate myself as the "Most Fascinating Blog of 2012", I'd pick one of these posts:

I could name a few more that I think fit the title of Fascinating!
Accelerated Degree Programs
But I'm still honored, and I'll let my readers know how they can vote for me.  In the meantime:
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to me!  Apparently, someone finds me fascinating!

Learning Math Facts With Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!
Brain Research tells us that being physically involved with the learning process helps learning. It also suggests that use of color helps make connections. Teachers know that kids (and adults) tend to key into color, and children love to use manipulatives!
Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!
With Cuisenaire Rods (see picture) the white rod, the smallest, is one cubic centimeter.(This is the same size as a standard base ten block.) The longest rod is orange. When the children put the rods by length, they make a colorful "staircase". (See picture.)

The children can then assign values to each rod by color based upon the relationship of the other rods.
Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas! 
I like to start with sets of ten, since our number system is based on ten.  It's good for them to know those combinations of ten!

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!Since the orange rod has a value of 10, this
picture shows 9+1=10. It also shows 1+9=10.  
It also shows 10-1=9 as well as 10-9=1.

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!What fact family do these blocks show?  6+4=10, 4+6=10, 10-6=4, and 10-4=6.  

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!

This one shows 6+6=12 and 12-6=6.

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!The Cuisenaire Rods can also be used for multiple addends or even multiplication.  This could be 3+3+3+3=12 or 3x4=12.

When it comes to storage, the containers the rods come in are tricky for the kids to put away.  I put my Cuisenaire Rods into a container much easier for little hands.

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!
I made these center sheets for the students. (Click HERE or click the image for the freebie!) I prefer the children work with partners on activities like this since the conversations they have help the learning.  If you run these off back to back, you can make two sided, half size papers.

Learning Math Facts with Cuisenaire Rods and a Freebie - Cuisenaire Rods are fun for the kids and helpful for learning valuable math concepts. Here are some ideas!

For more sheets like this, click here:
I've also found a link for online Cuisenaire Rods!

I hope your students enjoy learning math facts with Cuisenaire Rods as much as mine do!

I also have a resource to develop Number Sense with Cuisenaire Rods that can be found HERE.

Both resources can be found as a bundled set HERE.
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