Sunday, June 23, 2013

Horse Stories and a Teacher Brain Break

Horses have always held a special place in my heart. I remember reading The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, Black Beauty and any other horse book I could get my hands on.

These are wonderful summer break books for kids and adults. 

First published in 1941, Walter Farley's best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black's first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old.
Young Alec Ramsay is shipwrecked on a desert island with a horse destined to play an important part in his life. 

photo of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, summer reading, books for kids, Teacher Park, Ruth S.

I wondered if this next book was written by the daughter of Walter Farley who wrote The Black Stallion but I couldn't find the connection. 

When 13-year-old Samantha returns home to her family's cattle ranch in Nevada, she's worried. She moved away two years ago to recover from a bad fall off her beloved mustang, Blackie, and she's still not sure she can get back in the saddle. Her new colt doesn't seem to like her, and the other ranchers treat her like the boss's spoiled daughter, and Blackie has been missing since that fateful day.
But that's just the beginning.

photo of Phantom Stallion, Farley, summer reading, horse books, Teacher Park, Ruth S.

Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white "map" on her shoulders was her mark of freedom.

Paul and Maureen Beebe had their hearts set on owning her. They were itching to buy and tame her, and worked hard to earn the money that she would cost. But the roundup men had tried to capture her and for two years she had escaped them....

photo of Horse  Books, Misty of Chincoteqgue, Marguerite Henry, Teacher Park, Ruth S.

Relax and enjoy!

This video is breathtaking! 
Poetry in Motion!

              The KFPS Royal Friesian Horse

These are the horses of the Knights of old .. Have your sound on... 

photo of Friesian horses, Teacher Park, Ruth S.


The first time I heard the phrase "brain breaks" I had a good idea what they were. After a bit of investigating, I concluded that brain breaks have been around for years. Do a Google search and you'll find all kinds of brain breaks. What's interesting is that brain breaks usually take place inside a school, and not outside. Note I said usually.  

In my opinion, recess was the first official brain break. Teachers can always sense when it's almost time for recess.  Joe keeps looking at the clock, Mary and Susan are fidgeting in their seats, Maria and Joshua are putting their books and materials away before class is over and Robert and Matthew are whispering to their friends about what they're going to do at recess. The focus on assignments has flown out the window at that point and all they can think about is running, playing, games, sports, playing on the playground equipment and who will be the first in line. Can we blame them? Of course not. 

Recess is a time to socialize and play in a "free zone". What I mean by free zone is that walking out the door to the outside, no matter what kind of environment it is, the kids feel a sense of "escape" from the day to day schedule and routine. It's like the line in Martin Luther King, Jr's speech "FREE AT LAST, WE'RE FREE AT LAST!   Isn't it the same for adults?

When things become too stressful or overwhelming, what do we do? Take a walk in a park? Read a good book? Horseback ride? Go to the gym? Work on something we enjoy doing? 

When I was in school, brain breaks had no specific name. When we finished our work we were told to "find something to do". 

Read a book
Draw a picture
Play a game (board game, card game)
Work on puzzles 
Write a creative story
Take a walk to the school library to get a new book
Help the teacher put up a new bulletin board
Clean out our desks
Organize our notebooks

If we were really lucky, Friday afternoons we could play Simon Says, Twenty Questions, board games,  
Heads Down, Thumbs UP  We had no idea what future "brain breaks" would be.

Today, with the evolution of technology, today's brain breaks often include dancing and singing videos. We now have the "Cha Cha Slide", 'The Gummy Bear Song", "The Hamster Dance", "The Chicken Dance", "The Shimmy Shimmy Shake" BUT WAIT! Do these sound familiar?

I'm glad kids have singing and dancing brain breaks!  See if you recognize any of these songs or dances. Chances are....YOU WILL! 

(I must admit. I danced to all of them after a stressful morning of chasing one of my dachshunds around the yard! He slipped his collar, picked up the scent of some kind of critter and raced to the back stream, leaped over it and was gone. I found him about 15 minutes later. He was down a rabbit hole. Just his tail was visible and puffs of dirt were flying everywhere as he dug furiously to find that "wascally wabbit".)

Fortunately for the WABBIT, I caught my little rascal! 

Have fun!!

                                                          THE SHIMMIE SHAKE

                                                        THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT







Monday, June 17, 2013

Michael Dooling Children's Author and Illustrator

Technology is amazing! Every day I find something or someone that I would have never known about if it wasn't for the Web. Last week, I discovered someone who makes history come alive. 

I had been looking for something and started following link after link after link. What it was that I was looking for? I forget!!  How many of us start looking for something and end up forgetting what we were looking for? 

 I remember one time when I was searching for a recipe for a sauce for grilled salmon. Two hours later and zillions of websites viewed, I never found the sauce, but I had found a great band called "The Piano Guys".  Instead of grilling salmon, I made a chef salad and turned on the Piano Guys' videos. 

 Well last week I wasn't looking for a sauce for salmon but once again got lost in space (Web space, that is) and I ended up on a web page that jumped out at me. Imagine an old fashion vehicle pulling a waving banner across the page that says "Michael Dooling Writes Books About People Who Changed the World". Not only a moving banner caught my eye, but it was Mr. Dooling's jacket and hat. It reminded me of the garb the staff at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts wear. I've always loved historical clothing. 

As I explored his website I became more and more intrigued. An author, artist, teacher and historian all wrapped up in one? Too good to be true?  Apparently not! He's visited over 900 schools around the country. He inspires kids to read and write? He's an artist and illustrates as he tells stories? 

I suddenly had one of those deja vu moments. A "back in time" flashback moment...

When I taught in an elementary school during the Ice Age, <wink> we had Stephen Kellogg come to school to talk with the kids. It's one of the most memorable author visits I can remember. As Mr. Kellogg spoke about his Rosy and Pinkerton books, he began sketching Rosy and Pinkerton and with quick strokes of a black marker, his characters came alive! The kids were so mesmerized, you could hear a pin drop (forgive the cliche but it's true!) When his presentation was over, he had an auction and gave away all the sketches he created. There must have been at least 20 of them. 

Long story short.. Take a look at Michael Dooling's website. Not only is he an author and teacher, but his art work is beautiful. Am I surprised? No.. Take a look...

"He is the illustrator of over sixty books-many on historic subjects. He has illustrated picture books, chapter books and many Middle Grade Novels. His clients over the past twenty years include Reader's Digest, The United States Post Office, Scholastic, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, HarperCollins, Philomel, Puffin Books, McElderry Books, Henry Holt, Holiday House, Beechtree, Atheneum, Disney and many others. Michael graduated in 1988 with a Master's Degree in Illustration from Syracuse University and is a member of the Society of Illustrators in New York."

But what I really like about Michael Dooling is his bio... It made me think of my childhood and what fun we had as kids, exploring, creating, and just being kids. School budgets have been cut drastically but keep in mind "where there's a will, there's a way". The "way" is to contact PTO's to see if they have raised money for author visits..

Have a wonderful summer!

I'll be here and on the Web getting lost as usual. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SCOOT and Thoughts about Games


Games have always been included in my classroom. When I first started teaching, I would look for games for my classroom at tag sales. I'd always come across a board game sitting to one side on a table, that had a box top cover that looked like it had been used for a hundred years. If I wasn't familiar with the game, I figured that it must be a good one if the box looked so "used". 

There was always a little price sticker with 50 cents written on it. How could I pass up such a good deal??

One time a lady gave me two games for 50 cents! She felt badly that the covers were slightly frayed.  I didn't feel badly because it meant that it was a vintage game that many had played.
What a deal! :)

Over the years, my board game collection at school has grown.  Friday is game day. If the kids are good for the first half of the last hour of school, they can play games until buses are called. They're always on their best behavior because they love playing games! 

When I was growing up board games were VERY popular. Monopoly, Parcheesi, CandyLand, Chinese Checkers, Scrabble and more. During the summer, we'd play late into the night. There was nothing better than having a few friends over on a warm summer evening to play games on the screened in porch, sipping lemonade and talking about "kid" stuff.

Things have changed. Board games are no longer popular and instead kids play games on their computers, iPads, and cell phones. There are no game pieces to touch or cards to flip over, instead fingers touch screens by sliding fingers or pressing arrows to continue. Lost is the feeling of playing the game "in person". Competition is between players that are invisible. No more 3-D playing pieces to hold. No more interpersonal interaction. I wonder about it. Are we anime figures, lost in technology space? Hmmmm....

I really like students to play educational games that get them out of their seats. Scoot is one that's always been a popular game in my classroom. Kids move from station to station and record their answers on answer cards. Having a certain amount of time to answer each question keeps them on their toes. They must record their answers in the time allotted and if they don't, they'll have to move to the next station minus an answer. 

Not only are these games great for the classroom, but they can also be played at birthday parties, at summer camp and family get togethers. 

These are my ELA Scoot games. Each game includes the following:

photo of Scoot Fun Nouns, games, Ruth S.
Cards with 30 questions
Answer sheet
Number cards that are placed at stations
Scoot Award stamps
Scoot Bulletin Board Topper
Recording Grid used to keep track of student
Visual display of recommended station movement
How to instructions

photo of Scoot Fun, games, PDF, Teacher Park, ELA
Photo of Scoot Fun! Subjects, Predicates, Ruth of Scoot Fun! Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs, Teachers PayTeachers.comphoto of Scoot Fun Verbs, game, Ruth S.