25 January 2015

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online January 12 - January 25

My bi-weekly Sunday Salon post is extra full this time of my favorite online readings. Let me know your favorites!


Technology & Innovation

Learn about next steps for Google Glass by reading Google Glass Leaving X Research Lab.

Impact International posted Top 5 Favourite TED Talks to get you thinking & they include Dan Pallotta who is coming to Kentucky in February. I first heard Dan on NPR several years ago, and was blown away about his take on how we should be raising money for charity. Makes so much sense. Listen to him & see him in person by attending Innovate: Educate in Louisville February 25th.

The Cruel Waste of America's Tech Talent is an op-ed in The New York Times that explains a sad situation of immigrant youth who have extreme talent yet are denied funding to attend college because their parents came to America illegally. Truly, a waste of talent to deny youth an opportunity to improve themselves and their situation because of decisions their parents made.

Two issues of importance to me (equity and technology) are captured in this news article titled Sheryl Sandburg Joins Global Women Leaders in Tech to Demand Gender Equality.

NASA Will Pay you $18,000 to Stay in Bed for 70 Straight Days caught my curiosity, not because I would ever do this but because it's interesting to read about how they explore what happens to the human body when muscles atrophy.

As I was preparing for teaching a class again at the University of Kentucky, this Youtube video caught my attention because it's just one more reminder for why we need to re-invent how we teach writing in our schools.

No More Worksheets--once again one of those topics all my readers know that gets me going. Seriously, we need more engaging learning opportunities for students in our schools. Most worksheets are low level thinking, wastes of paper, and busy work not suitable in our classrooms.


Business & Non-profit

Having worked in state government and local government (as a public school teacher) most of my professional career, I was surprised when I read this Harvard Business Review article about What Business Can Learn From Government with specific examples in the article coming from Louisville, Kentucky. More often than not, I've heard businesses complain about the ineffectiveness and inefficiency and nonsensical rules we often see in government.

Now that I work for a nonprofit, I have thrown myself full into exploring and learning more about the nonprofit world. Granted, I have previous experience as a board member on nonprofits, but now I'm seeing more from the other side as an employee. The Nonprofit Technology Network posted this article titled Engage, Inform, Recruit: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Recruit Donors and Volunteers. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge fan of social media for learning and networking purposes, so thinking about how it best serves organizations fascinates me.

A friend shared this Harvard Business Review article with me via Twitter. We Still Don't Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation by Ron Ashkenas.

I continue to be surprised by the number of people in the education, nonprofit and business worlds who question the use of social media to connect with students and other educators, or to advance a cause, establish a brand or connect with consumers, customers, or clients. Thankfully, there are people such as Marji Sherman who dedicate their work to showing us Why Social Media Deserves Respect

Hiking & Climbing

For a couple of weeks, I used social media and online news access to follow two hikers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, as they climbed El Captain's Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park. Their perseverance, diligence, determination, passion, and drive inspire me. One of the articles I read quoted the hikers as they reached the summit and explained how they hope to serve as an example to Open People's Minds.

And because my closest English teacher friends know how much I love the novel Moby Dick, here's another article about the climb. My favorite part about this article are the literary references to Melville and Hemingway.

A Backpacker Magazine article shared tips about how to train for a thru-hike from Appalachian Trail thru-hike record holder, Jennifer Pharr Davis. Last year, I read her memoir about setting the record.



Another New York Times article that caught my attention was an interview with Judith Butler about what's wrong with saying 'All Lives Matter'.

International humanitarian issues speak to me, and it's not uncommon for me to obsess over specific stories knowing full well for all the stories that recieve media attention there are many more that go unnoticed in our world. The story of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison continues to bother me because of the violence and inhumane acts of torture against a human being. This article explores Badawi's writing and ideas.

This Map showing 16 states with more people in prisons than in college housing was disturbing to me.

Melinda Gates Wants Women at the Top of the World Aid Agenda also provides input on this topic of gender equality.

The 2015 Annual Gates Letter also highlights equal access to education and technology for women and girls. Previously, I also have written for Cake and Whiskey Magazine and blogged about education for girls and women around the world.

Writing & Creativity

29 Ways to Stay Creative by Vicki Davis is a short video reminding us of specific ways we can continue to express our creative side.

Over the past couple of years I've read this particular blog post multiple times. If You Teach or Write a 5-Paragraph Essay--Stop It! gets people fired up, and rightly so. Seriously, are we training kids to write formulas or are we teaching them to be writers in an ever changing world? Who in real-life writes 5-paragraph essays anyway?

Since I enjoy writing and have made it a goal to work on my writing more and more with greater intentionality this year,  I found this article about writing as therapy also intriguing and wonder about the use of writing for therapy in our schools as well. Why is writing in our schools often relegated to formulaic, 5 paragraph essays to practice for the state assessment? That's enough to make someone blue.

The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk had me thinking about the benefits of keeping kids active in our schools too. Often, kids are required to sit all day and only get active after or before school. You can read my take on keeping kids active here.

As an optimist I try to keep focused on the positive, and sometimes I, too, need a little reminder about how to Turn a Negative Conversation Around. You may have previously read my blog post about dealing with naysayers and the inspiration for that post came from the children's book The Grouchy Ladybug. 


Teachers as leaders

Now, we're talking...a topic of great passion for me is teachers as leaders, so I was thrilled to read this article about School Districts Turning to Teachers to Lead.

Friends and family know my commitment as a parent to be involved in my sons' schools and to be an advocate for my two boys at every turn. This article suggesting teachers keep in touch with parents was a great read. I long for closer relationships with my sons' teachers because I believe together we can provide what they need. Believe me, when I believe in what's happening, I'm the biggest advocate for my sons' teachers too because I understand my children aren't perfect.

A Country Where Teachers Have a Voice by Sarah Butrymowicz explores how teachers in the Netherlands have time and increased teacher autonomy--something we need more of here in America.

I ended my week writing an article on The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky's blog about why our organization supports teacher leaders.  This is something to which I remain steadfastly committed.

18 January 2015

Getting Teens Up & Moving: A Vocabulary Activity Involving Movement

In my first year of teaching an especially hyper-active sixteen year old student taught me the importance of promoting movement in my high school English classroom. Andre (not his real name) had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that included requirements for moving, standing, and generally expending energy. Andre and I developed non-verbal cues signaling to me his need to be out of his seat and moving about the classroom. Andre also taught me that he wasn't the only one who needed to be active because a 90 minute English class + a 90 minute science class + a 90 minute history class + a 90 minute elective often meant active teenagers spent more time in a day sitting than moving unless as teachers we designed lessons involving more movement.

Now, with my own very active son consistently complaining of how little he gets to move in his academic classes, I'm once again remembering Andre and reflecting on activities I used in an academic classroom to get my students moving. Here's one of my favorites.

Let's Move: A Vocabulary Activity

1) Identify 10-20 words (approximately one word or phrase for each two students) or phrases associated with the major concept or theme in a text you are preparing to read together and write each word on a different index card.
2) Provide students the title of the text and the list of words previously identified. 
3) Organize students in pairs or small groups and ask them to predict what the text they will read is about (based on the title and list of words). This gives provides a chance to activate students' prior knowledge.
4) Have each student in the group choose one of the index cards containing a word they want to explore in more depth. Instruct them write their own idea of the word's definition on the back of the card. Then have them consult a dictionary (on their phones or a paper dictionary) to verify the accuracy of their definition. (This is an important step because they will be sharing their words/definitions with others).
5) Have students stand up and move around the room to find a person with a word different from the one on their cards. When they find their first partner, students will discuss the word, definition, and thoughts about how they think the word will be used in the text they are preparing to read. After sharing words with the first partner, ask them to move again and find a second partner.
6) Have students find a second partner with a word different from their original word and different from the word of their first partner. With the second partner, share and discuss words, definitions, and possible uses for the word in the text they will read.
7) Have students find a third partner and repeat the routine.

Note:  I was a big promoter of timers and music in the classroom. Both were signals when it was time to move to the next station or connect with the next partner.

By the time the vocabulary activity ends, students should have been exposed to four brand new words or phrases they will encounter when they read the selected text.  While some might say, "that's only four new words," I contend that it's better for students to learn and understand four new words well than to have a long list of words they memorize for a weekly vocabulary test and then forget. While reading the selected text, students can think about the different words they discussed with their partners and how the words appear in the text. They can also reflect on the conversation about the words to enhance their understanding of the text.

After reading, students can synthesize their understanding of the text as well as their learning of new words with the writing of a single summary sentence. While I never had access to individual devices and had to ask students to write on paper, I can imagine (from my GAFE Summit experience) the technology tools that would allow students to submit these summary sentences electronically.

This vocabulary activity is only one of many that I used to ensure students were active in my academic classroom, so maybe I'll share others in the coming weeks, but really, I'm curious about the activities you use to ensure students are active during the school day. Will you share your ideas below in the comments, please?

11 January 2015

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online January 1 January 11

December brought a break in my Sunday Salon series, but I'm back now to share a sampling of what I've read online the past couple of weeks. Since starting this curated bi-weekly post, numerous individuals have contacted me to share what they like best about what I've been reading, and they've also been sharing their own reading lists with me--making this an ideal learning/sharing opportunity.


Teachers Know Best: Teacher's Views on Professional Development from Impatient Optimists

13 Digital Strategies for Teacher Collaboration.

Hiking and Adventure

100 Years of the Christmas Truce. Longing for a New Narrative on the Public History Weekly site.

10 January 2015

My Favorite Quotes from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird

Somehow, I don't really know how, I never read Anne Lamott's brilliant book Bird by Bird until last
week. A couple of years ago a dear friend recommended the book, and I remember her saying she laughed and cried as she read it, so I added it to my "to-read" list but then didn't get around to it even though I read a book a week all of last year. My parents and my in-laws happen to know I love reading so they bought me books and gave me bookstore gift cards for Christmas. Bird by Bird was one of those books and thus became my first read for 2015.

I  laughed, cried, learned, and loved while reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Lamott's book left me thinking about myself as a writer, educator, parent, and person.

My favorite quotes when thinking about being...

A parent

"Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is a wonderfully fertile ground--you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it's going to get (29)."
Actually, this chapter about perfectionism speaks to many areas in my life, but I'm also find as I grow older it's easier for me to set aside a quest for perfection in everything. Writing and creating are messy and allowing myself, my children, my students to muck around in it is well worth forgoing the quest for tidiness.  When it comes to housework, well, anyone who knows me well knows I long ago I gave up on the idea of keeping our house perfectly clean and tidy (there are better things to do in life).

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm on my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird'"
I just love the story from which Lamott derives the title of her book Bird by Bird. The depiction of a father comforting a child and the wisdom and reality of chunking a big assignment into smaller pieces--relevant to all of us.


A writer

"For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really, shitty first drafts (22)."
From a chapter titled Shitty First Drafts, a quote reminding us that nobody is supposed to read our first drafts anyway, so it's really important to get all our thoughts recorded. I totally agree with Lamott and would never get anything written, ever, if I didn't let myself "pour it all out and romp all over the place."

"This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of--please forgive me--wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in our small boarded worlds (100)." 
Ah, wonder! I'm a big believer in the sense of wonder and if being a writer means I might helps someone else cultivate a sense of wonder, then I'm all about it. Especially, when I think about not only being a writer but being an educator.

"Still, I believe in lists and I believe in taking notes, and I believe in index cards for doing both (133)."
Practical tip, of course, and Lamott shares the use of index card. Personally, I keep a small journal and if I'm out and about, I typically use the notes app on my phone.

An educator

"On a bad day you also don't need a lot of advice. You just need a little empathy and affirmation (157)."
A good reminder in many aspects of life, but especially a good reminder for a teacher providing feedback on student writing.

"When we listened to our intuition when we were small and then told the grown-ups what we believed to be true, we were often corrected, ridiculed, or punished. God forbid you should have your own opinions or perspectives (154)."
Another good reminder as educators--we need to listen to students.

A person

Really, the whole book spoke to me as a person, so I selected several of my favorite quotes to share with you here.

"Anyone who wants to can be surprised by the beauty or pain of the natural world, of the human mind and heart, and can try to capture just that--the details, the nuance, what is (101)."

"But you have to believe in your position, or nothing will be driving your work. If you don't believe in what you are saying, there is no point in your saying it (106)."

"Tell the truth and write about freedom and fight for it, however you can, and you will be richly rewarded (109)."

"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed our soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored (237)."

01 January 2015

Book a Week 2014

Update: You can read a reflection of my 2014 journey here and you can see the complete list of books I read below OR you can check out this Google Sheet to see book titles, format & why/how I selected each book. (Thanks to my friend Cherry for inspiring me to create this sheet)
My book a week journey is just that--a journey--and not an obligation, so if I take a detour down a different path in a particular week--that's okay.  The overall goal will be to read 52 books in 2014.  When I see many of my Twitter PLN members reading a #bookaday, I always wonder how they have the time, but I suppose the answer is just the same as how I will have the time to read a #bookaweek.  I will prioritize reading in my life because I enjoy it, it's good for me, and it's good for my children to see me reading too.  I am also choosing this journey because I want to continue improving as a writer, and we all know better writing comes with intentionality and lots of reading.

My journey into reading a book a week started in late November/early December when I read Jumpha Lahiri's newest novel The Lowland in five days.  After that I decided to read a book a week for the remaining 4 weeks of 2013.  When I achieved that goal, I knew it was possible, so I decided to extend it with a goal of consistently reading a book a week in 2014.  52 weeks.  52 books.  And, it is about the journey, not an obligation, so I'm exploring all my favorite genres,  authors, themes and topics on this quest.  Since nonfiction is my favorite, but I treasure fiction as well, I have no established plan for what percentage I will read of each, I'll just read what I'm in the mood for in a given week.  I won't write reviews of the books, but I will share my reflections and reasons for choosing to read them in my blog posts.  Most of the time I read paper books because I tend to prefer them to my e-reader on the iPad, but I'm also trying to branch out with more e-reading as well, especially when I'm traveling.  A somewhat odd thing I noticed is that I can't read fiction on my e-reader.  I've tried and keep trying, but so far I've only been successful with nonfiction e-reading.

December 2013 (the month that convinced me this goal is possible)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I am MalalaThe Girl Who Stood Up for Education by Malala Yousafzai
Invent to Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez

January 2014
The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
46 Days:  Keeping Up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail by Brew Davis
Called AgainA Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

February 2014
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
Monkey Mind:  A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith
Hatching Twitter:  A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton
Formative Assessment:  Making It Happen in the Classroom by Margaret Heritge

March 2014
Thinking in NumbersOn Life, Love, Meaning, and Math by Daniel Tammet
Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) by Ruth Soukup
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

April 2014
Perryville Under Fire:  The Aftermath of Kentucky's Largest Civil War Battle by Stuart Sanders
A Sliver of Light:  Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd
Poetry Collections
Ultima Thule by Davis McCombs
We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen

May 2014
Become Your Own Great and Powerful:  A Woman's Guide to Living Your Real, Big Life Barbara Bellissimo
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Things a Little Bird Told Me:  Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer

June 2014
Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly
A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure
Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan
Trusting Teachers with School Success: What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots by Kim Ferris-Berg and Edward J. Dirkswager
The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

July 2014
My Salinger Year by Jonanna Rakoff
Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit (read aloud with my younger son)
The Interpreters by Ben Anderson and VICE News
Lord of the Flies by William Golding  (re-read because my son was reading for summer reading)

August 2014
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy
The Myth of the Garage by Dan Heath and Chip Heath
Crafting Digital Writing by Troy Hicks

September 2014
The Common Core: Teaching Students in Grades 6-12 to Meet the Standards by Maureen McLaughlin and Brenda Overturf 
Fish!: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen, and Kenneth H. Blanchard
Escape by Carolyn Jessop
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

October 2014
In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab
Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary Confinement with the Bard by Laura Bates
The International Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget by Susan Haskins
The Vacationers by Emma Straub

November 2014
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman
Eaten Alive on the John Muir Trail: Section H of the Pacific Crest Trail by CJ Hernley
Mrs. Hemingway: A Novel by Naomi Wood

December 2014
The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby
A Random Act: An Inspiring True Story of Fighting to Survive and Choosing to Forgive by Cindy Broaddus
Between a Rock and a White Blaze: Searching for Significance on the Appalachian Trail by Julie Urbanski
A Long Way from Nowhere: A Couple's Journey on the Continental Divide by Julie Urbanski and Matt Urbanski
Running Away: A Memoir by Robert Andrew Powell

31 December 2014

My Favorite Books from 2014 Book A Week

A few of the books I read in 2014
This morning I finished reading my 52nd book in 2014. What a terrific feeling to have accomplished my personal goal of reading a book a week consistently for the entire year.  I began this journey on January 1st of 2014 feeling confident yet slightly cautious. However, knowing I'm someone with determination once I set my mind to do something, I never really thought I wouldn't achieve what I set out to accomplish.  I believed I would do it all year long, and I did. As is typical with my favorite genre of books, many of the books I read were about individuals on journeys of some sort.

As predicted, I read more nonfiction than fiction, and somewhat surprisingly, I read only a handful of professional books. 37 works of nonfiction. 9 works of fiction. 1 collection of poems. 5 professional books for a total of 52 books read for pleasure, knowledge, inspiration and sheer enjoyment.

Here are my 14 favorite books from 2014 (in no particular order). Keep reading below for short descriptions on why each of these books made my top 14 list.

1. Wave: Life and Memories After the Tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala
2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
3. A Sliver of Light:  Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, & Sarah Shourd
4. Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind by Biz Stone
5. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
6. 46 Days: Keeping Up With Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail by Brew Davis
7.  Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary Confinement with the Bard by Laura Bates
8.  A Long Way From Nowhere: A Couple's Journey on the Continental Divide Trail by Julie Urbanski and Matt Urbanski
9.  In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate by Saima Wahab
10. Become Your Own Great and Powerful: A Woman's Guide to Living Your Real, Big Life by Barbara Bellissimo
11.  Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
12.  Thinking in NumbersOn Life, Love, Meaning, and Math by Daniel Tammet
13.  Hatching Twitter:  A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton
14.  Ultima Thule by Davis McCombs

General reasons these books made my top 14 list
**They made me laugh, cry, feel outrage, want to speak out, want to take action, and want to make changes in my life**

Two of my January 2014 reads made my top 14 list. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala was heart wrenching while also offering hope. The author was the only one in her family to survive the 2004 Tsunami. I read this book while traveling for work and could hardly wait to get home to be with my family because I know without a doubt how fortunate I am for their presence and love.  46 Days made my list because I enjoyed reading the daily journal of logistics and support as Brew Davis helped his wife set the record for the fastest AT thru-hike. Both hikers amaze and inspire me to get outdoors & get moving more.

Only one of my February reads made my top 14 list of books this year. Hatching Twitter was interesting and fascinating as well as it transported me to another world of high technology and business start-ups.  You can read more of my thoughts on the book here.

March proved another fantastic month for reading, and once again two of the books made my top 14 list. Recommended to me by a friend who knows how much I enjoy nonfiction, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, left me wordless and unable to articulate just how much I learned and experienced while reading about the lives of people half a world away from me in Mumbai. Also of note in March was Daniel Tammet's Thinking in Numbers which took me into a world of thoughts about how numbers connect to every aspect of our lives, including language and poetry.

When National Poetry Month rolled around in April, my list had to include at least one collection of poems. Though I love poetry, I don't take nearly enough time to read it daily (other than the poem a day which comes in my inbox). Ultima Thule by Davis McCombs provided the perfect segue into a field trip to Mammoth Cave I took with my son. With great anticipation, I also read A Sliver of Light in April. This story of three American hikers imprisoned in Iran kept me curious for years so reading their book provided more details of their experience and awakened me to other issues of solitary confinement and false imprisonment, issues that continue to keep me curious and wanting to take action.

Four of my five reads in May made my top 14 list, all nonfiction, of course. Because I've been thinking a great deal this year about my career, my life, my family, Barbara Bellissimo's book Become Your Own Great and Powerful:  A Woman's Guide to Living Your Real, Big Life was inspirational. I have found when you start your career as a teacher, it's not easy to think about asking for what you want and need for yourself. You are taught to believe--you do it because it matters--so money, comfort, and stability shouldn't matter. This year is one when I've been denying that expectation as truth, and I've been thinking more than ever before about what I really want and need from my career and personal life.

Five Days at Memorial, Things a Little Bird Told Me and A House in the Sky also made my list. Each of these books left me thinking throughout the year for different reasons. When I visited New Orleans for a conference in October, I was taken back in memory to the fantastic journalistic piece by Sherri Fink. When the beheadings of other journalists in Syria this year were reported, I remembered with vivid detail Lindhout's story of her captivity.

Half way through the reading year June-September, I continued reading with a list of both nonfiction and fiction, though none of the books from those months made my top 14 list here.

By October, I was beginning to realize I really would make my goal of a book a week as long as I continued to stay consistent through the busy work conference and holiday seasons of October-December. Included in my top 14 list was In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate by Saima Wahab. In this memoir a young woman was sent to America to live with relatives at the age of 14 so she would be spared a childhood marriage. If you care about women's issues around the world, I would encourage you to read her story.

I ended my year by reading memoirs for all of December. Each story was interesting and inspirational as the authors shared their personal stories and journeys. However, the story of Julie and Matt Urbanski hiking the Continental Divide Trail was the only one of the five to make my top 14 list because I enjoyed the book as each spouse took turns writing chapters from their individual point of view. Since the book was about their hike and their relationship, it was inspiring to see how the couple worked individually and cooperatively to meet personal goals and solve problems.

Cheers to a great year of reading!

29 December 2014

10 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2014

Sitting on the balcony of our beach condo rental on this beautiful December day, I'm reflecting on my year as a reader and writer and planning several end of the year blog posts accordingly. My 10 most popular blog posts for the year aren't even necessarily my favorite posts, but they all hold a common theme of more engaged education experiences for students and teachers.

Even though this post has been up the least amount of time of all the posts listed here, it is by far the most popular amongst readers as it's had the most page views.

Number 2: Why I Support the Common Core

Unfortunately these excellent standards have become extremely politicized, and higher standards for students have turned into politician talking points. I'm no politician. Just a parent and educator who genuinely wants what's best for children and teens.  At a recent education conference, I heard Chuck Todd speak, and he assured us the political drama over these standards will increase in the coming election year.

Number 3:  Social Studies Includes History and Teaching

Another hot topic in America right now relates to how we teach social studies.

Number 4:  EQuIP Educators Evaluating Quality Instruction 

My work this year has led me to participate as a member of the peer review panel with Achieve, and the opportunities have continued as I've spoken at several national conferences, have guest blogged, and have met new people because of my work with The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky. 

For me this actually was one of my favorite posts to write, and it's also been popular amongst readers. I suppose because we see so many poor examples a of vocabulary instruction, we're all hoping for something more meaningful and engaging. 

Number 6:  A World Enough and Time

When my husband started teaching high school this year, we began this written conversation series and have blogged together a few times. This particular post includes a play on an Andrew Marvel poem.

Number 7:  Kentucky and Colorado Teachers Collaborate to Create Units of Study with Embedded  LDC Modules

Collaborating with others invigorates me because I believe many minds are better than one.

Number 8:  Why I Won't Make My Child Complete a Word Search Worksheet for Homework

Talk about feedback. Within a few hours this post garnered both positive and negative feedback on Facebook, so I provided an update a few months later.

Number 9:  Formative Assessment--A Process--Not a Thing

This post followed a NCTE Twitter chat about formative assessment and included a culmination of my thoughts on this topic from the past few years.

Number 10:  Students Plan to Change the World with Real-World Project Based Learning 

A highlight of last year for me was listening to students explain their project to me. I have no doubt they really will impact our world.

Finally finishing this post while enjoying the evening view.

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