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Boys are awesome (girls are too)


If you are a teacher, educator or parent, you know there is a big difference between boys and girls (beyond the obvious grass stains).  You know that boys deal with problems, handle stresses, deal with boredom, deal with friendships, deal with authority all differently.

I want to be up front about the fact that I enjoy teaching girls in my class – that’s obvious.  Most teachers will tell you that the girls in their class are fairly well behaved (elementary grades).  They sit still, do their work, and their handwriting is so nice!

I’ll contend that school is a place where a girl (for the most part – there’s always exceptions to the general rule) will do well.  The sit and be nice model works for the way a girl handles life (Brain Rules – Medina).

Boys don’t sit still as well.  They are wild and crazy.  They have too much energy.  They want to hit a problem with their actual head, rather than try and solve it with their mind.

But boys are awesome too.  They are fearless and boundless.  They don’t have the problems socially with cliques so early on like girls sometimes do.  And they are enthusiastic when they are interested.  So INTEREST THEM.

Do something to engage the boys in your class.  Do something messy.  You’ll both thank me for it (and you won’t have to wrangle Johnny into his seat for the thousandth time that day).

Artists in Everyone – Top 4 ideas

My top 4 (not 5?  Not 10?  No, I don’t need to be pingenholed by a specific round number.) Art activities.  Ready?

Art is dead.  Isn’t it?  It seems so sometimes in public schools that artistic endeavors tend to go the way of the dodo.  It’s hard to find time in the day to do art education when you don’t have a test forcing you to cover the material.

In our state, we have yearly art assessments we give, but they really aren’t graded.  Our scores aren’t printed and made public.  Parents don’t come to you and pound on your door, demanding why their child earned below average on their art assessment.  It just isn’t a priority in our leaving children behind age.

Of course, I may be biased because I have a theatre background, but I truly believe that keeping a foot in the artistic world helps you be a more rounded person, and the research shows that artistic activities help you access more of your brain function.  Kids who have an opportunity to have art experiences, do better in many subjects.

Of course, where do you get the time?  The answer is simple – you’ve got to do it during reading, or history, or math…slip it into the lesson without them even knowing it.  Sometimes they look at me with a puzzled expression – “wait a minute Mr. E….is this Art?”

Nope.  It’s math…with a dash of art thrown in for good measure.

So, how do you do it?  “What if I don’t know anything about art?” you say.  “What if I’m a terrible artist?”

Funny enough, most of the teachers out there are great artists, they just don’t think of themselves that way.  I’m terrible at putting together a nice collage or bulletin, but a lot of my peers put me to shame in that category.  I’m not any great shakes at classic drawing art anyway.  I’m more of a writing, photography, abstract paper mache kind of guy.  But we don’t need to be locked into “art” as “pictures”.  Art is just expression.

So, a few ways to incorporate art into the curriculum, for those teachers, homeschoolers, moms and dads and caregivers out there in this crazy old world of hours:  My top 5…

1) In history, check out a few classic scuptures.  Greek, Roman – probably nothing too revealing for the younger kids, but there’s some good stuff out there.  You could even do the acropolis or the pyramids – some example of classic art or architecture.  Get a pic from google, and give everyone a copy.  Obviously talk about the time period – who the egyptians were, where Greece is today, etc…

Then have them sketch their own example of the work.  Depending on age, they might take 5 minutes or an hour on it.  We did this with a local sculpture, and some did a slow, methodical job and some flew through.  It’s all good (See Kassy’s pic above)

2) Math Problem solving – For some reason my kids never want to draw a picture when they have a word problem.  For me, it always helps me to help them visualize the story problem.  So, sometimes I’ll make it a requirement – you HAVE to draw the story out.  Or maybe have to do it with magazine clippings, and make a story problem answer collage.

For example, if the question was – “Dan wants to buy a sandwich and soda for lunch.  He can get a roast beef or a turkey sandwich, and he can get lemonaid, sprite, or coke to drink.  What are all the ways he can have lunch?” – they’d have to actually draw all the turkey sandwiches with color, or cut out foods from a magazine (or find pics online for younger ones who need technology practice!)

3) Color science – this is a simple and always fun lesson on light absorption.  Just get some paints together and experiment what the blends will come out as.  Have them make a hypothesis, then test it.  Remember, when you see purple paint, really what the paint is doing is absorbing all the other spectrums of light EXCEPT the blue and the red, which is bouncing back to your eye.  So if you mix red and blue, you’ll get purple.

4) Snowy day? (like today) – Make snow sculptures inside.  Then watch them melt to discuss forms of matter, molecular movement to make those forms of matter, what matter is…go crazy.  Hey…why didn’t the rocks on my snowman’s face melt when the snow did?

I’m sure I could think up 3 more, but that’s all for now. 🙂 Have a great day – go out and learn something!

Check out for a little more info.  See ya!


Kassy’s conductor pic – 4th grade

Double Duty
I love when you can kill two birds with one stone.
Sometimes when you’re teaching kids you lose yourself in the process. In fact, focusing on the objective at hand is extremely important. However, if you can combine objectives – if you can do two things at once – that’s even better.
100 years ago it was pretty good if you could just read and write. But as we learn more an more about our earth, there’s more and more we have to teach. I can’t imagine what the state standards are going to look like another 100 years from now!
But with all that to teach, there’s not enough time to do it one by one. You have to get creative.
Recently we did gingerbread houses with crackers and frosting. It was great, because we could talk about nutrition, and also about communities and construciton. We talked about squares, rectangles, triangles. We talked about weight and load bearing, and why roofs should be peaked.
And in the end, we had a snack. That’s killing two birds with one stone!
check out for more fun ideas to do with the students (or your own kids), and check out the instant plans section if you’ve got a sub day coming up.

Do we really not have enough time?

They say, with the academic learning requirements we have in each state, that we literally don’t have enough time to teach everything that we’re supposed to.  There just isn’t enough time.  And I agree with that – to a point.

The real crux of the problem is narrowing down the learning requirements to essentials, but still that isn’t enough.  Even if we narrow it down to essentials, we don’t want to control everything a teacher does, so all creativity goes out the window.

I propose a compromise.  As a teacher, I take the learning requirements, and pull out the stuff I know is super important, and make sure to teach those.  But in addition, I review the important stuff that EVERYONE should know, and I think all teachers should go over each year.  That way, if they get to see or hear it each year they have a better chance of retention.  And then it’s up to the teacher to fill in with fun facts and learning experiences along the way.

Would we have enough time for that?  Maybe not.  But it doesn’t hurt to try!

Childrens Book – Bubba’s Knees

Finished my first attempt at a childrens book. Go to and click the “self published books” link to the right. It’s a ppt. (that’s powerpoint for the layman). Check it out, let me know what you think. It’s a highbrow work of realistic fiction (insert sarcasm as needed).

Sports Authority The short kid is almost

Sports Authority
The short kid is almost always picked last for basketball. And really, I don’t blame them. If I can get it to the hoop at all, it’s a miracle. I fared a little better in High School, but I was never the superstar jock (I did date a cheerleader though – later to become my wife… 🙂
But I always went out for sports, even if I wasn’t making all the touchdowns or hitting home runs. Mostly because it was important to be a part of something. Maybe I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning to stick with something, to tough it out if it was hard, and to suck it up if I didn’t like what the coaches said. Really, I was learning to be a hard worker. In a lot of ways, organized sports closer mimics the work environment more than the classroom. Teachers are like parents. Coaches are more like bosses.
So it’s good to get the kids out there in something, even if they aren’t the next Ichiro. I, for one, am not really a fan of interrupting my day, after working 10 hrs., to go see a little league game. But, it’s important for the kids. So… as one of my coaches might’ve said – “Suck it up! Get out there, Edie!” You got it, coach.

Waterparks – a modern gift for parents O

Waterparks – a modern gift for parents
One of the things we like to do a few times each summer is take the kids to the waterpark. We don’t have money for something big, like Disneyland or even Silverwood – besides the travel time, it costs more for each kid to get in than it would to buy them a new winter coat! – – and its better than just taking them to the park or the movies. We do plenty of that too, but the waterpark is something special (and to them, it’s just as special as an amusement park – all they know is it’s a fun thing that’s new and different – the size difference doesn’t seem to register yet (thank goodness!)
So the waterpark is perfect – I come off looking like an awesome dad, and don’t have to spend much (it cost about 20 bucks for the whole family of six).
One thing that is great about the waterpark is the opportunity for the kids to stretch their boundaries. We started the day with the littlest one not wanting to dip his feet in, and ended the day with him begging me to take him out to the farthest spot of the wave pool. The 5 year old got to experience the slides for the first time, and spent the day jumping headfirst into waves (something he never would have done at the beginning of the summer).
So, the waterpark is a cheap and easy lesson in courage. Good times for all. And mom gets to relax and work on the tan. Win, win.

Bikin’ – If trains are a cool fun way t

Bikin’ – If trains are a cool fun way to get kids interested in science, I think they got nothin’ on bikes!
The great thing about bikes is that most kids can relate to them, understand them, have them….boys and girls all learn to travel faster than running with bikes first. It’s really their introduction to driving. You start crawling, then walking, then learn to ride with training wheels, then without, and then it’s drivers license time! Bicycles are the step in between crawling and driving yourself on a date for the first time. This is big stuff people!
Honestly though, bikes are an awesome introduction to mechanics and physics. Bring your bike in to school – or even better see how many parents will bring their kids bikes in for the day. Some kids even bike to school anyway! The wheels themselves are simple machines – the most important cave man invention ever! 🙂 But the gears are the real wonder. They enable you to turn the pedals once, and with the larger sprocket on the front (the pedal side), it causes that smaller sprocket (on the wheel) to turn more, and to turn faster, than you had to pedal. That’s why you can go faster than you can actually run (or move your feet around in a circle!) In the end, it’s a good intro to the idea of an engine – basically a car works the same way. You’re the engine in this scenario, and your gasoline makes the crankshaft turn, causing the wheels to move.
Weve done this at school, and also at home, and the bike ride was a great time, and all kids involved had fun and were ENGAGED in the lesson. Fun stuff. Keep on learnin’!

There’s nothing some boys like better t

There’s nothing some boys like better than trains. They seem larger than life. They’re like cars, but something special they don’t see all the time. They have this snake-like quality. And you can add to it – like a charm bracelet for a male mentality. Trains are great! And they’re windows into teaching quite a few things. Steam and coal are two ways trains powered their engines. Get the kids talking about energy and motion through trains. On the same vein, how about energy transferrance (a big MSP science topic) where the power of the steam is converted to kinetic energy that moves the train. Then there’s the history aspect of it. The history of the train is the history of our expansion west. Many towns (including mine) were direct results of train construction. Draw a train. Go see a train at a museum or local station. Play with a train set. Then let that fun translate to knowlege! (how do I do that? you ask? It’s as easy as talking and asking what they don’t understand. The more you converse (not lecture) the more they learn.)

Summer is here (thank you!) and I’ve ha

Summer is here (thank you!) and I’ve had a bit of time to rest and reflect. During the year it seems there is no time to stop and think about what we’re doing or where we’re going with it. The whole year steamrolls until we now are at a dead stop and looking back at the wreakage of my teaching. Of course, it wasn’t all bad, I just think I can do better. Why can’t I try and be the best? What occurs to me is that, more and more, we see that kids learn best by doing thinkgs that are practical and necessary. Kids learn by actually doing things, and those things should be useful to them. One of the advantages of working in a multi-age classroom (read, one room school house) is having to come up with activities that work for lots of kids that are active. This does not mean you have to throw away every workbook you use (really, there’s no other way to teach subject and predicate is there?), I’m merely proposing that you make sure and include (this is parents and teachers both I’m talking to now) SOMETHING relevant in their day each day. Your kids’ education starts yesterday!