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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Classroom Book - a Novel Idea!

I was recently contacted by Alexandra at about sharing her ideas for a Classroom Book.  Being a publisher myself, I thought it sounded very interesting.  Her husband Mark submitted a guest post, so please continue reading to learn all about this neat idea!


One Way to Champion every Student in your Class – Make Them Authors and Artists

As a Language Arts teacher, one of the biggest problems I faced was how to get kids excited
about learning. Sometimes, you can feel like you’re jumping through hoops to make a lesson
interesting and still wonder if you’re getting through to your class at all.

We know that making a human connection is one of the best ways to inspire students to be
motivated and engaged in class, but how do you reach out to every child in a personalized way
when you have more than 20 or 30 students in a classroom?

One solution I came up with is the Classroom Book, a hardcover book featuring the writing and
artwork of every student in the class. It’s a fun and educational way to champion everyone’s
work in the class. By turning your students into published authors and artist, you’re telling each
student you believe in them and in their potential. You can make a book with almost any lesson
plan that that involves writing.

There’s plenty of other benefits to student publishing. It’s project-based learning, which means
the kids get more involved and take more ownership of their work. It’s also an arts-integrated
approach that gets your whole class engaged – not just the linear learners who are comfortable
with words, but also those who like to express themselves through art and pictures. Most
importantly, the students get a physical book with their name inside, which is a big inspiration
to continue writing and reading!

Mark Swenson is a former Language Arts teacher that started Picture It! Kids, a
company that turns students into published authors and artists through
classroom projects. He started this adventure with his wife Alexandra and
three children, the company’s young “artists-in-residence”: ages 10, 8 and 5.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Guest Post! Misconceptions about Tutoring

Howdy everyone,

Today I have a guest post from Sheldon at The Knowledge Roundtable.  Sheldon shares 5 misconceptions about tutoring.

5 Major Misconceptions about Tutoring

Tutoring is an oft-overlooked piece of the education puzzle. While just about everyone has memories about learning in school, a significantly smaller number of people actually have first-hand recollections about learning with a tutor. Because of this experience gap, people often make assumptions about what it is a tutor does and the different roles tutoring can play in a student’s learning.
As with most assumptions, there is a degree to which logic and oversimplification cloud reality. The fact of the matter is, great tutors can make huge impacts in students’ lives. However, when parents and educators give in to misconceptions about what tutoring actually is, students can wind up cut off from educational help and support that could make a significant difference in their growth.

Misconception 1: “Tutors are just for struggling students.”

Probably the biggest misconception about tutoring is that only students having difficulty in school can benefit. In actuality, tutors can make positive impacts in more areas than just remediation.
There are tutors that specialize in a wide variety of capacities beyond just closing learning gaps; some of these areas include:
  • ·        Foreign languages
  • ·        Standardized test prep
  • ·        Creative writing
  • ·        Entrepreneurship
  • ·        STEM skills (coding, circuitry, engineering, CAD, practical sciences)
  • ·        Fine Arts (Music, painting, sculpture, etc.)
For students that do not have access (or room in their course schedules) to explore these types of content, tutoring can be a viable avenue for enrichment.

Misconception 2: “If the teacher was doing his job, my kid wouldn’t need a tutor!”

As both a teacher and a tutor, this one stings a little. I have had this very conversation with a number of former clients. While I’ve always taken the high road and avoided the bait to speak negatively about those in my profession, I understand the frustration.
To be fair, some teachers are more effective in their craft than others are. Yet, many of the reasons students wind up seeking extra help are not exclusively due to the strengths or weaknesses of their teachers.
The reality is, classroom instruction and tutoring are very different learning scenarios. In the classroom, all of the students are vying for the personal attention of only one (or in some cases, a few) educators. Strong teachers find ways to differentiate and personalize the learning experience so that each student gets opportunities for tailored instruction and help, but there is only so much time to go around.
It can be tempting to blame the institution, but in the end, all students need different types of support to find academic success. If the allotted time in a school day isn’t enough for a student, there’s no real reason to hunt for someone or something to blame; put the energy into finding a solution.
For students who need additional attention, whether it be for support, skill-building, or additional challenge, parents must accept that time outside of class (and outside of a teacher’s control) is crucial.
In many cases, parents can step in and fulfill some of these needs. That said, there are limitations like conflicting schedules or content complexities that can turn parental support into a frustrating, counterproductive enterprise.
Enlisting the help of a qualified tutor can be the ticket for a student in need of extra, custom-made learning opportunities. Setting aside structured time outside of the school day can be the key to supporting students who need more chances to focus on learning.

Misconception 3: “Why should I hire a tutor if my child’s school has an after school homework club?”

Schools aren’t blind to the fact that kids sometimes need some extra help and support beyond the classroom. It is unfair to assume that all students have homes where academic support is at the ready.
To address this need, many schools and community centers offer after-school “homework clubs” where kids can grab a snack, work on homework, and have access to helpful adults. The problem is, students in these environments have to contend with challenges and distractions that they would not face in a typical tutoring scenario:
·        High student-to-adult ratios
·        Access to socialization and technology
·        Staff may not have the academic background to help with certain, specialized content
·        Students must be able to self-monitor to ensure work gets done
·        Limited opportunities for students to recharge after a full school day
These programs can be quite helpful for students who have the focus and discipline to make the most of them. However, for others, the results may vary.

Misconception 4: “If I pay a tutor to help my child, her scores will automatically go up.”

The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” doesn’t really fit the mold of a service like tutoring. A high-priced tutor can sit with a student session after session, but if that student never picks up a pencil or does a lick of practice, there will be no growth.
Accountability matters. Tutors help guide pupils through skill-building and practice efforts, but students must do the work to produce the results.
When enlisting a tutor, students and parents must be committed to supporting the efforts both during and between sessions to ensure they are getting their money’s worth.

Misconception 5: “Certified teachers are better tutors than non-teachers.”

While this correlation seems to make logical sense, it isn’t always true. Certified teachers are typically more expensive tutors than their non-certified counterparts are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are automatically more effective.
When it comes to choosing a tutor, finding help that is experienced, reliable, and a good fit for your child’s needs matters more than a teaching license. It always pays to take the time to interview multiple candidates, call references, and even hold trial sessions before committing to a tutoring relationship.

Tutoring may not be the educational answer for every student, but it is an important option worth considering. The key is to evaluate it sincerely without simply giving in to the misconceptions.

Sheldon Soper is a ten year veteran of the teaching profession and currently serves as a junior high school teacher in southern New Jersey and as a writer for The Knowledge Roundtable, a free tutoring marketplace. His primary focus is building reading, writing, and research skills in his students. He holds two degrees from Rutgers University: a B.A. in History as well as a M.Ed. in Elementary Education. He holds teaching certifications in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Elementary Education. Thomas has also worked as a tutor for grades ranging from second through high school in a wide variety of subjects including reading, writing, calculus, chemistry, algebra, and test prep. His core educational beliefs stem from the notion that all students can be successful; it is the role of educators to help facilitate growth by differentiating and scaffolding student learning on a personal level.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Win some great Oriental Trading Company stuff!

Arts & Crafts

Recently I was contacted by Katie at Oriental Trading Company, and I was asked if I would like to receive a $75 gift certificate to use on items for my classroom this school year.  I told her I was no longer teaching, but that I would love to be able to give my readers a chance to get $75 worth of stuff from OTC!

So here's the deal.  If you're a teacher, and you're interested (and you are), you need to leave a comment about what you are most looking forward to in the coming school year.  Please be verbose!  Don't just write "The weekends" or "math."   I will be choosing the best one to win the prize!

Note you can leave your comment here on the blog, or you can leave it on the OTC thread on the Learn Me Good Facebook page.

UPDATE:  There is a possibility that I may be splitting the prize into three $25 pieces to have more winners.  If you want to weigh in on whether you like that idea or not, leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Andrew does movie quotes

Over the weekend, I finalized a little project I had been working on.  Last month some time, my son Andrew and I watched the Sesame Street characters reading famous movie quotes on YouTube.  This is a hilarious and fantastic video, and of course we watched it a million times. 

After watching it over and over, we had the idea to make our own video, using quotes that the Sesame Street gang didn't cover.  I was amazed at how well Andrew could remember lines and read them on camera.

Here is the finished product. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Girl with the Turkey Tattoo

Happy 4th of July weekend!  On this near-holiday day, I thought I'd share an excerpt from the upcoming Learn Me Goodest that deals with another holiday - Thanksgiving.
Enjoy!  And comment are always appreciated.


Speaking of word problems, a few days ago, I had the kids using their workbooks, and I saw this challenging question:
“A man and his 2 sons want to cross the river.  The man weighs 150 pounds and each of his sons weighs 75 pounds.  Their boat can hold no more than 150 pounds.  How can the man and both sons get to the other side of the river, using only the boat, without sinking it?”
I noticed most of my kids either skipped this question entirely or wrote something that merely proved they had not read the question.
“The 2 sons.”
“Long division.”
V, however, had given it some thought and written down a sensible answer. 
“The dad will have to lose weight.”
I can guarantee the dad is not going to lose any weight with Thanksgiving right around the corner. There will be much eating and drinking, and anybody who wants to cross a river in an inadequately prepared boat is on their own.
Going to classes over the summer allows us to get the whole week of Thanksgiving off, and I couldn't be happier. And apparently, I;m not alone in that joy.  I'm always amazed how even the kids who have trouble putting one and one together can tell you exactly how many days are left until Thanksgiving break. K has given me a countdown every morning since the beginning of November. Today he was practically bursting with excitement.
“What do you like so much about Thanksgiving break?” I asked him this morning. “Is it the turkey and dressing?”
“No, it's not having to go to SCHOOL!” he sighed dreamily.
I must have looked offended, because he quickly sobered up and added, “And it's the turkey, too.”
The other day, I made a holiday-inspired pun, and it was received with mixed reviews.  The kids had spent a couple of days completing a self-paced scavenger hunt of sorts around the room, and we were getting ready to switch back to homeroom.  I was standing near S and A’s table, and I asked them, “Was the scavenger hunt fun?”
S replied, “Yeah, but kind of stressing!”
I remarked, “Stressing?  Isn’t that a Thanksgiving meal?  Turkey and stressing?”
A, who is totally the most angsty 16-year-old in a 9-year-old’s body there ever was, rolled her eyes and muttered, “Why do you always have to say bad jokes?”
Hey, why does the sun rise in the east?  Why does a scorpion sting?  Why is the Statue of Liberty the mascot for all income tax return companies?  Why ask why?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Win a keyboard cover, learn to type!

I was recently contacted by Abhishek at, and he asked me if I would be interested in obtaining some free keyboard cover samples for my classroom.  I of course told him I was no longer teaching but that I would love to give some readers the opportunity to get some of the samples for THEIR classrooms!

He graciously agreed.

I think that typing is definitely a marketable skill in today's age, as it was when I was a teen.  I remember learning to type by playing text-based (no graphics) computer games, especially those from a company called INFOCOM.

Now, you might already have an answer, or you might need to use our friend Google.  But here's what you need to do to win and have a free keyboard cover sample mailed to you.  Leave an answer to the following question in the comments of this post, and your answer MUST BE UNIQUE.  In other words, if you had the greatest answer EVER, but someone already posted it -- find another answer! 

So here's the question:

What is the name of one of these test-based computer games produced by Infocom?

The first 5 commenters with valid answers will win, so please leave me a way to contact you as well.

Now here's a nice post from the Keybodo team.

Why typing is a necessary skill all students should learn
As we continue to move deeper into the digital age, technology – as well as its role in the classroom and students’ professional lives - continues to develop drastically. Currently, voice and other input technologies are not relevant enough to meet demands in school or the workplace. Therefore, the keyboard remains the primary option to input information. Students nowadays have to use the keyboard in order to write their essays, reports, and work on projects in groups. Over the course of a school year, students will have to save hours of typing time. Without the adequate typing skills, many students will risk falling behind in their classwork as they waste unnecessary time on their assignments. Some standardized tests used for state-wide quality control are administered through computers, and having students type for questions is not unheard of. As they gradually integrate into the work force, the students who do not acquire keyboarding skills will lose an edge over the other job candidates that do.
Keyboarding skills impact a person’s ability to communicate with others, even in social aspects. Typically, typing skills are mostly applied to word processing software for students. However, typing plays an important role in using database software, programming, email, and instant message communication. Academically, keyboarding skills are essential for students who are interested in higher levels of education in field. Also, social media, text messaging, and chatting online continue to increase rapidly. A student who is slow to develop on these typing skills may miss opportunities to be more social and possibly interact with industry people to build a network.
Why Typing Should be Taught at Schools
Keyboarding should be taught at schools since it is a skill that is not too time consuming or demanding if properly instructed by trained teachers. It is important for students to learn how to use the proper technique early on so they don’t have to break the bad habits later. The developers of the known keyboarding software, Ultimate Typing, assert that it will take less than 10 minutes of practice every day to see improvements in typing speed and accuracy in two weeks. Many reasons aforementioned come up for teaching typing sills but helping academic performance and securing employment opportunities would be the two most important.
One Drawback of Typing
The one thing that has been lost in the shift to a more technologically advanced classroom is handwriting. What may seem a basic task is a multisensory experience for students, which is why handwriting notes has been proven to help with long term information retention. Typing does not have the multisensory benefits because each key is identical: a flat, naked surface. Users cannot differentiate keys by touch the they can with handwritten letters.
A solution to help provide a multisensory experience for students
To help combat this problem while still advocating students remain in line with using computers, a tactile recognition keyboard cover has been developed by Keybodo. The tactile (touch) keyboard cover makes typing not only a visual learning experience, but also a tactile experience. So, students are able to “feel their words” and visually see what they are typing on the screen. Keybodo’s cover has been patented and initial tests have shown a dramatic reduction of typing errors. Students using the cover have said they could feel when they made a mistake. This instantaneous tactile feedback provides a strong option to correct typing behavior gradually and give students a better understanding of the words on the keyboard without each key feeling the same.
Keybodo’s Tactile Character Recognition Keyboard cover can be found at along with similar products by the startup ed-tech company.