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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Writing in today's connected world

Angela Maiers wrote a great article from the Switch and collection entitled "The Reason We Write".

As a writer and educator it is important to practice what we have learned over the years for precision, proper grammar, punctuation, etc. But this article goes further. We need to learn to write for the new mediums we to which we now access. There are different audiences. They are different lengths of time each member of said audience will read what you've written.

Angela has gives some great ideas for all of us who teach writing and language arts to start implementing as we continue those grammatical and language rules. We need to look at the medium where the words will be seen - no longer just paper or bound books. We also, need to continually involve our readers in making the reading relevant.

I for one, will continue to evolve as a writer and as an educator thanks to the continuance of the evolution of our tools and the sophistication of our readers.

Thanks, Angela for helping me to remember.


Today's Classroom. How should it look.

A great blog entry from George Couros on what we should find in every classroom. If only it could happen  quickly.  I will at a least start this check list in mine.

Twitter Chats....11 #hashtags for Educators

eSchool News author Laura Devaney listed 11 Amazing Twitter Chats for Educators on her blog. If you are not familiar with hashtags and Twitter chats, check out Twitter 101  for teachers to get started,  then check out the Twitter Chats listed by eSN....great information and a great way to participate in a professional learning network. I have some amazing educators who share so freely about our profession and their tips and strategies are practical and immediately useful.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teaching Observation and Patience

My wife discovered this article from the Harvard Magazine about the power in teaching observation skills and the patience it takes for one to learn to "see" all there is in a given object, iPad app or web page or in the case of this article a beautiful painting.   We need to teach these skills more and more. In this fast paced and instant world we should learn to look beyond the obvious as well as to see more than the developer or writer wishes us to see. Look deeply and learn to see more.

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did.  

“The Power of Patience” by Jennifer Roberts in Harvard Magazine, November/December 2013 (p. 40-41),

Yep! And forever shall it be... "The Best 1:1 Device is a Good Teacher"

In looking at technology in the classroom, especially looking at the future of 1:1 technology, this posting by Edutopia's Andrew Marcinek the Director of Technology & Co-founder, Boston, MA reminds us that the best 1:1 device is a good teacher.

 Hopefully this will forever be the defining factor in education - the human. The technology, while fast and reliable, should never replace the "relationship" that every student should have with their teacher. The long-lasting impact of the teacher, the caring smile, along with the firm commitment to the students learning needs, will last longer than any lithium battery or planned obsolescence of hardware (or the "cloud"). Check out Mr. Marcinek's post at

Teaching With iPad is my latest iPad find!

I discovered a new site "" that I really like. Steve, the author of the blog is an educator with over a decade of experience and the site contains items for the informed, has informational and links appropriate for the iPad newbie as well as those of us who tend to get into a rut. Check it out and follow him on Twitter.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

12 Educational and Productive Websites

12 Educational and Productive Websites  (for use in the classroom or at home)

1.             A classroom version of Pinterest®

2. A site of royalty free and non-copyrighted photos for use in presentations by teachers and students.

3.   A collection of lesson plans by grade level, by technology device which all follow the Common Core Standards.

4.         Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

5.       A personal favorite for attendance and behavior. The site produces great reporting as well as parental logins and views.

6.                  A method of sharing what is on the laptops in the classroom.

7.        A listing of the iPad and iPhone apps that are available for educators and parents arranged by subject and importance.

8.               TED is a great set of curated videos and the TEDed set are just for educators. Especially helpful if you need inspiration, professional improvement or development in a certain area as well as a great site for watching how others do things in their classrooms.

9.         This site is still free (with Login) and is a great cloud location to place notes from meetings, notes from research as well as to place pictures, graphs, etc. for use by the students as they conduct their research. Evernote® is available on your laptop, computer and iPad, iPhone and Android app for continuous access and updating.

10.     A math site by grade level.  Includes math games, logic puzzles and word problems.

11.     This site hosts multiplication table matching games along with a great collection of other math games including money, fractions, decimals and geometry games.  A great site for parents to help students at home.

12.                   IXL Math is a subscription based site, but it is free for a few times each day. This is a great site by grade level and offers several methods of solving math, math sentences, problem solving, etc. A great site for students to do at home.

iPad Apps (from the App Store)

Multipliation+                                 The Apps Gate Inc (Free)   This helps with learning multiplication tables.

Math-Multiplication table             This is another free ap  from Online Science classroom 
                                                            available at the AppStore for iPads and iPhones.

Prezi                                       A great presentation application which is similar to in functionality to power point, but has an easier user interface.

Slideshare                             (Free) another great presentation alternative to power point.

Thanks to my friends from the Middle Tennessee Education Technology Association – Instructional Technology Academy for sharing some of these ideas, apps and websites.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

"What! Only 1 iPad for my Classroom?"

Welcome MTETA ITA Conferees!

Below are the links to the session: "What! Only One iPad?"

Please follow along on Twitter: @MrDDon  or #MTETAITA

Here is the link for  "Only Have One iPad For Your Classroom?" a pdf supplemental resource and reference paper. There are hyperlinks within the supplemental materials which lead to referenced websites, blogs, and other documents or forms. 

Here is the a pdf version of the presentation

Here is the conference website.  

Thank you to or the opportunity to present to you and all who participated in today's conference. 

A shout out to the organizers from Sumner County Schools!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Here's are the apps on my iPAD (Vol 1:A-Z)

From time to time fellow educators, parents and other ask what apps I have on my iPad an why. So here's my volume 1 of A-Z listing the apps and how we use them:

A. ABC Alphabet Phonics - Preschool level.   I use this one for my students who are just learning the alphabet, alphabets sounds and letter recognition.

B. ABC Magic 6 & 7 -- I use these for Letter sounds, beginning, medial and ending; for matching upper and lower case; for blends; several of the learning skills of the alphabet for K and 1st grades.

C. ABC Reading Magic 2 - used for consonant blends, segmenting and reading. Free version and upgrade version available.

D. ABC Spelling Magic 2 - World blending, consonants and improving reading skills.

E. Alphabet Fun - This is a beginning alphabet app which allows Pre-K and K leveled students to recognize alphabet letters and

F. SeeTouchLearn from Brain Parade. The lessons and libraries from Brain Parade are great for my students who need extra help in labeling objects, identifying sight words, or recognizing actions and situations There are several libraries that are for purchase and you can even create your own. We use this app several times per day.

G. SlideShark - A great alternative to PowerPoint. It has a great interface to the projection system and can be used as a personal presentation for differentiation of lessons or enrichment of a lesson. Student creation is also a part of their enrichment.

H. Rocket Speller Plus - one of the class favorites. Five different levels for upper case and lower case words, phonics and all different types of categories. The students get to build a space ship and then at the end try to capture stars as they rocket soars through space. (Purchase edition)

I. Rocket Speller Lite - Free version of the one above. Not as many options, but great for the iPhone as well as the iPad.

J.  Geoboard. This app is a tool for exploring a variety of math topics for elementary and middle grades. Virtual rubber bands and a peg board allow the students to for line segments, polygons and make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, fractions and more.

K. Number pieces. We use this one to build place value and computation skills. There is a Number Pieces Basic for primary age students, but for today's Common Core math standards I found the premium version worth the cost. You can find more at

L. Fluidity - A free app which I use for students needing to learn how to touch and see a cause and effect pattern. As they move their finger on the screen, the movement will stimulate their interest and they will want to see what they can do to make the fluid move around the tablet.

M. Falling Stars - Another sensory app for students who need some stimulation and visualization as they play with how their fingers can make the stars fall onto the vines they have created and the sounds which occur as the stars fall and bounce through the vines/branches created by the students. This is not an app that you want to use without headphones.

N. Monster Chorus - This is just a fun app which the students can watch and react to various monsters singing in the chorus. Nursery rhymes and other songs are available and the students can record their voices singing along.

O. Monster Hunt from Alligator Apps - A monster matching game to help students improve memory and executive functions.

P. Count Money - Coin Matching Game for Kids from  - Used for the K-2 common core standards for learning money. Can be customized for students and supports multiple levels of difficulty. .99 from App store.

Q. Matrix Game 2 - Enhances visual perception skills using a matrix game for children 5+. Also helps with pattern recognition in math. There are seveal card combinations of shapes in horiztontal (rows) and vertical (columns) to help students to learn about arrays as well as matching the specifics of the items. We use this one weekly as part of our math center.

R. Body Puzzle - from the Fliplog Kidbook Series. The various parts of the body are presented as puzzle pieces and in putting the puzzle together you are learning the body part (eyes, lips, nose, etc.) Great for our students who need the intervention for learning body parts and problem solving.

S. Little Finder from Alligator Apps helps students to find the requested object or animal from a field of cards presented on the screen starting from a few to several to see if they can identify the item requested.  We use it with the music on and two players to help in small group centers for finding items on the screen.

T. Flow Free is a great game of using colored dots and you have to connect the dots without crossing over the line created. My wife and I will play this one sometimes when waiting at a restaurant. The students must use logic and directional thinking as they move from level to level. This is a great enrichment game for when you get your work done.

U.  Families 2 - Teaching children about "families" of items. It's for 3 and up, but with students with diasbilities they may need the extra help in realzing what goes together at the beach or as a family of vegetables, or farm animals, etc.

V. Fun Rhyming from AbiTalk. Bubbles of rhyming sounds which you select, are floating from bottom to top and the students have to pick the ones that rhyme. The difficulty level is that some students hear the word and see it floating, but the rhyming word is not the next one - it may not be out of the "chute" until two words later. Thus the students need to have word recognition skills as well as executive functioning to hear, remember and see which words floating toward the ceiling rhyme together. It can be challenging, but is worth for those students needing interventions.

W. NonFiction Reading Comprehension (Free) - 1st Grade. The app has four stories for free and another 16 that available for in-app purchase. The stories are about 80-100 words and introduces new vocabulary and concepts. There is a set of exercises that measure the student's comprehension at the end. (Full version is $2.99)

X. Things That Go Together - This is another app I used for students with disabilities who need to develop understanding that dishes go with dishwasher, that hose goes with faucet, or brick wall goes with single brick.

Y. Ready To Print - contains several activities that get students ready for printing and writing Activities include touch of the screen, ordered touch, matching, paths, shapes, pinching, free draw and others. These activities are great for my students with autism who are learning to come into the print world for the first time.

Z. Word Bingo - A great app for learning and refreshing memory of high frequency words. The full version allows for words from pre-primer to third grade and will allow customization for the student in the form of an avatar. We use this app daily for the ELA center.

Okay - this was my first A-Z listing... there are more -- coming soon of the "Apps on my iPad: A-Z, Volume 2."


A Page from Saban's Playbook in our classrooms!


While watching the Alabama  v. LSU game last night I was listening to the game's play-by-call and color commentary being espoused. Then I heard this and was struck as to how there are correlations between Alabama's winning recipe and the bigger arena of success in Education. 

Nick Saban took the helm at the University of Alabama's football program in 2007 and they have had three national championships (2009, 2011 and 2012).  Prior to 2007, Alabama's last national championship was in 1992 under coach Gene Stallings. 

How did Nick Saban create a formula for producing championship teams? What was the recipe for success? Coach Saban calls it the "The Process".  
He helps players to "forget about the score and how the opposing team is playing. He tells his players to play the best they can, with as much effort they can and with a great attitude. Just let the score happen."  

What? Don't worry about the score on 
your ACT? What don't worry about the final exam you are about to take? Eliminate test anxiety and focus on learning all you can, the best you can and with a great attitude? Heavens what a way to play football or to learn in a classroom.

We know that when students feels they are safe and have control over their environment they will have a higher level of motivation and a lower level of anxiety. When the focus is on performing your best for every lesson then they can let go of the score for each lesson and concentrate on the summation or the end game. We aren't afraid to try again and again. We are focusing on the overall win.

As educators we need to help our students by reducing the focus on seeing what score they received on each assignment and rather focus on answering "Did you do your best?" "How's your attitude?" "How can I help you to achieve your best?" "Try again."  "Let it roll off and go for it again." 

I now have a better understanding of "Roll Tide" after watching and listening to last night's game. 

It's not "roll" over your opponent or "roll" up the score. No, it's let the mistakes, the frustrations, and the lack of control on the playing field "roll" off your back. Learn from those experiences and get back into the game to play with all your heart as intensively as possible and enjoying the process of success.

This is so true in business, life and in education that a positive attitude, self-control and intense efforts will lead to better outcomes. 

Also, don't stop with one win or one winning season. Complacency doesn't win National Championships. 

As educators we need to always be looking for ways of improving and teach those skills of reflection and correction to our students. We all have to learn the skills for continuous improvement. It was a part of the successful businesses I was a part of before I became an educator and now that I'm in education it should be even more important for me, the educator, to teach the students to be always looking for ways they can improve their process of learning and improving their study skills, their attitudes and thus their successes each day.

Let's take a page from Saban's playbook. Learn it well. Execute it on and off the field. Take time to reflect, improve, and keep the focus on doing our best with intensity each and every time we teach a lesson, model for our students, and continuously improve in all that we do.  

Roll Tide!

   Note: I'm not a graduate of Alabama, but I do know people who are. We all learn by what we see and what we hear. LSU is also a great school with a great team. This is not about football, it's about life. For some of my friends those (football & life) are inseparable. To them this post is dedicated.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Animated Math Learning from FreeTech4Teachers!

Math is so important in our world. We must not only teach the equation solving, but the understanding of why the equation is solved and the fact it can be resolved in more than just one way to reach the correct answer, but our students must learn to use the math concepts in more than just one setting and in real world settings.  Math Live does just that.

Free Technology for Teachers listed a great animated website on their site called: Math Live.  I've been using it with my students and not only is it entertaining and holds their attention, it is diversity correct.  Check out Math Live and also look at the other great ideas from Free Technology for Teachers!!


Saturday, September 14, 2013


I just discovered blog and found some great "stuff" as they name it for students on Autism spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders, plus just good plain old advice.  

Check them out! Some items are free and others are very reasonable.  Great job Snagglebox!

Seamless mathematics or math education background texture in vector format ready for tiling  Stock Photo - 14420444

Math Solutions has a great set of videos called "Explain It To Me" for the "big idea" of the eight practices in the Standards for Mathematical Practices posted ont he Math Solutions site.  Really helpful for me and my students.   Check them out!

Explain It To Me Videos from Math Solutions

During my normal, daily search of the internet for tools and tips I ran across this website and wanted to share this link for common core standards checklists. 

Here's information about what you will find on the site: "Our common core standards checklists are just what you need to help you keep track of the standards taught in your classroom. Use these to make sure you are addressing all that you need to teach throughout the course of the school year. Keep track of when you have introduced, retaught and assessed each indicator." 
These documents are by grade level and by subject,then broken down by domains and strands. They are great ways to keep track when they were taught, retaught, assessed, etc. 

I have been using these sing school started and have passed them along to my fellow teachers, but I realized I hadn't posted them for my web friends and colleagues. 

Great stuff!


Presentation Tips for All (Including Teachers)

Dale Carnegie had it right long ago -- we should remember to use his tips in our classrooms as well.  Check out the presentation tips and use these the next time you are teaching a lesson in your classroom, making a presentation to the administration, or to a community group.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The kids are back! Welcome "Scholars!"

While some parts of the country are still on Summer vacation, we are back in school and half-way through our first full week. 

Gosh how I missed my students and working with them. I knew I was longing to get back and see that spark of knowledge ignite into a full flame, but I didn't realize how much until at Open House I had such a rush talking with parents, getting knee hugs from returning students and meeting new students who weren't quite sure what Kindergarten was really all about. 

The wide-eyed look of awe as they walked past my room looking for their teacher was priceless. I have a picture of Mike Wazowski hanging next to my door with his hand raised high ready to be called upon to answer a question. Several wanted me to be their teacher because of Mike. They related to Mike. They want to be Mike.

The students in my room are called "Scholars" intentionally. That is what my dream is for each of them, to become "Scholars" in whatever they choose to do: be it a University, a trade school, a post high school career training -- whatever they can become they will need to be doing scholarly work. It is my desire to lead them, to inspire them, to coach them, and to move out of their way when necessary in order for them to keep the excitement and awe they felt on this first week of school for the rest of their life.

We are off to a great start and with passion, hard-work and the drive to excel they will each become "Mike" in their own way. We will all make it to see our dreams fulfilled and are hopes realized. We have written those hopes and dreams down. We review them daily, and don't let anyone or anything get it our way as we pursue our dreams and our achievements. 

Go Mike! 

"Knowledge must never be feared, 
wisdom must always be pursued, 
and excellence must be 
at the center of everything."

- Arthur Clawson, Founder, MU (Monster's University)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summertime is still learning time!

"May you fill your brain with grains of learning this Summer!"

Fill your bucket this Summer with grains of simple learning and don't let the Summer slump get to you or your child. 

I have prepared some game ideas which are both practical and fun on this link to help parents,   grandparents, child care providers and others with some ideas, videos and websites that will keep our children learning throughout the Summer.  Remember learning should be fun and should be done with someone!  

You can visit the page by clicking HERE!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Improve Listening using this simple method

Improve Listening!

When I first read this I thought it wouldn't work. 

But then I decided to try it. I was wrong. 

The students did exactly what Michael said. Following his simple method allowed my students (and it works on adults, too!) to learn to listen for the directions and instructions when they are provided. 

Please read his complete article titled: 

A Simple Way To Improve Listening


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leaving Trails and Markers

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

        Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the New Year has gotten past the first fifteen days I feel some days are blazing new paths. There was regression after the long winter break and it has nearly taken seven school days to get us back to the level we were before the break. It would have been frustrating had I not seen some parts of what had been learned laying along the student's "neuro path."

While there were weeds of television, over growth from video games, and clutter from lack of structure and routine, we were able to see the seeds or sprouts from lessons prior to the break. Once we saw that they were there it wasn't a matter of re-teaching, but promoting growth. Some needing more nourishing and tenderness than others, but the challenge was to help the student to see that they could remember. They did understand the concepts and ideas we had learned and discussed in September, October, November and December. They did know, they just needed to de-clutter all that had happened during the break and pull just a little harder from the brain. The excitement when they realized they hadn't really forgotten was worth all  of the effort.

We could have just done some re-teaching of the goals and objectives and considered it done. But having discovered that deep down they really did remember, they really did grasp the concepts and we just needed to help them pull the weeds and clean up the garden to get it back to full function generated that "success" emotion we all needed to have during this cold, wintry, time in January.

Now we are on track and we are leaving markers along the way in preparation for the upcoming two-week Spring Break. These markers are songs, limericks, or other ways of allowing the students to recall the lessons quickly and by just starting the marker.. they will finish it. I have even employed a picture of my basset hound, "Agent Gibbs" with a call-out giving a rhyme of the day about our lesson. (They have been quoting him at lunch, so I know it's working.)

I am encouraged as move from now to Spring Break that we will not have the same level of regression that from the cold dark winter. Spring shall break forth and we will leave a trail from which we can all recall that which we've learned along the way!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Communicating differently...Listen Carefully.

I will return to the classroom filled with my students on January 7th. Yes, I'm lucky to have such a long break. But the truth is I miss them. I miss each of them for different reasons. I miss their smiles, their excitement when they are engaged in learning, their frowns (and some screams) when their choice boards show that "work" is involved before they get their preferred activity. Yes, I miss all of that.

As I reflect on these things I also remember the comments in the halls from other teachers: "Oh, I couldn't do what you do all day long." or "How do you deal with the yelling and screaming?" I just look at them and I smile. Truth is, I don't hear the yelling or screaming or whining or any other of the protests as they are presented. I hear each of my students on the autism spectrum when they do "yell" to really be saying, "I'm overwhelmed, "I need you to help me" or "I don't know what to do, please help!"

My students don't articulate these words exactly, but they do communicate, they can tell me with their body language, their eyes, and the looks on their cherub faces. Their verbal abilities may manifest in what others would call "yelling" or "screaming". I call it communicating and when we as teachers learn their "language" we can engage their minds and they learn.

Yes, learning is sometimes messy and almost always loud in my classroom. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

Sometimes classroom management (or lack thereof) can stress teachers. Sometimes teachers get overwhelmed, tired and cranky, too. The website by Michael Lisin is a great resource for help when we need it. A recent posting of the "5 Ways to Be A Calmer, More Effective Teacher" can help us all with tips and techniques to remain focused and calm all day.


CEC Tools of the Week Site

The Council for Exceptional Children has a great additional website titled "Tools Of The Week.Org"  

It consists of several tools (pdf files) which any Exceptional Educator can use for lesson planning, idea generating, or reviewing for assessment on lessons already used.

The tool of the week can also be emailed to you if you subscribe (which I do) and will arrive in your in-box for your review. They are also easily saved in Google Docs, in case you don't have time to review them for your immediate usability.