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Thank You, Mrs. Toni Collins-Gosney

I was reading a post in the “Teachers” sub-Reddit last week where a college student asked if it was weird to reach out to a former teacher to tell them what a difference they made in the student’s life. I immediately encouraged the person to find a way to communicate this to the teacher because it has never, ever been weird for me to hear from former students. In fact, it’s the best gift I’ve received over the years.

In the past, I’ve written tributes to some of my own past teachers:

Today I want to publicly thank another high school teacher, my choir teacher, Mrs. Toni Collins-Gosney.

I still remember when I auditioned for choir, belting out “Keep on Singing,” by Helen Reddy. In retrospect, I can’t believe Miss Collins didn’t laugh out loud at my ridiculously earnest performance. Instead, she welcomed me into the choir, and nurtured me throughout the rest of my high school career.

In choir, I learned how to collaborate with a diverse group of students, to compete, and to never give up. There were so many times when we were in singing competitions and things looked hopeless, only to emerge victorious at the last minute. I had never been a “fighter” (perfect example — whenever playing tag, as soon as the person who was IT got close to me, I just stopped in my tracks, put my head down, and let them tag me) but Miss Collins taught me to make improvements and persevere.

She had high standards, but she was close with our group of young women (all-girls school) and never played favorites. One of my favorite memories is traveling with some of them to Mississippi to sing at her wedding.

With encouragement from her, I made the All State Choir. My family didn’t attend what turned out to be a life-changing experience for me, but Miss Collins did. She also often stayed with me, sitting in front of the school at midnight, long after every one else had been picked up, without ever making me feel guilty for my family’s tardiness.

As my senior year rolled around, Miss Collins suggested I go into music, but I never thought I could be as good as she was. I did decide to go into teaching, however, and won a few scholarships to good schools. One of them was in my hometown. Although it covered four years of tuition, room and board was not part of the package. Living at home had become an untenable situation, and Miss Collins offered for me to come live with her and her new husband. Although I didn’t end up taking her up on the offer, her generosity was never forgotten. When I later became a teacher, I often remembered the many times she went above and beyond for me, and tried to extend the same kindness to my students whenever I could.

I ultimately accepted a scholarship to another school, in San Antonio, where I still live. I lost touch with Mrs. Collins-Gosney over time, but when I finally decided to open a Facebook account, I searched for her. To my surprise, she was easy to find and we became friends after over 30 years.

I continued to keep music as an important part of my life, and I imagine that passion is one of several factors, including an inspiring music teacher of her own, that prompted my daughter to participate in her own school choirs from elementary school through high school.

Last year, my daughter began her college studies with the goal of becoming a music teacher, and I think she might just live up to the woman I held in high esteem for decades, both in kindness and skill.

So, I just want to thank you, Mrs. Collins-Gosney, during this Teacher Appreciation Week. You were such a wonderful example to me as a musician, adult, and teacher — and I worked hard to “Pay It Forward” throughout my own career as an educator. I am glad we found each other again so I could express my gratitude, and I hope that anyone who reads this makes an effort to thank a teacher who made a difference.

osprey with dry grass flying in blue sky above nest
3-12, Books, Science

Swoop and Soar

Two of my favorite picture book authors have teamed up again to produce another non-fiction masterpiece, Swoop and Soar. You may recall the fantastic book by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, Beauty and the Beak, which I reviewed back in 2016. That story related the uplifting journey of an eagle who was given a 3d printed prosthetic after her beak was shot off by poachers. Jane Veltkamp, the raptor biologist who led the team that engineered the new beak (and who has lifetime care of Beauty), returns in Swoop and Soar when a pair of osprey chicks are orphaned by a storm.

Cover photo credit: (c) Ann Kamzelski from Swoop and Soar, used by permission

Reading about the plight of the chicks and Veltkamp’s clever and science-based plan to find them new parents in the wild is fascinating and suspenseful. Once again, Rose and Veltkamp distinguish their book from other non-fiction by crafting a personal story around the scientific facts, and highlighting it with amazing photography on every page.

(c) Scalder Photography from Swoop and Soar, used by permission

Swoop and Soar is an excellent companion to Beauty and the Beak. Both books are perfect for teaching STEM, with compelling narratives and intriguing information about raptors, conservation, and careers in science.

You can learn more and see Rose’s other books (including Astronauts Zoom, which I’ve also reviewed) here. Veltkamp’s site is Birds of Prey Northwest. Swoop and Soar is available for pre-order for its September, 2022, publication date at Bookshop.org, Amazon, and B&N.

Mary Gertsema, (c) Jane Veltkamp from Swoop and Soar, used by permission
earth blue banner sign
3-12, Science, Videos

Box and Escalade

I know that it’s a bit too late for the actual Earth Day observance on April 22, 2022, but I just came across these short animations that are perfect for showing students, and thinking about the consequences of our actions on the world around us. They are both by a studio in Brazil, Birdo Studio.

Box is a little over a minute long, while Escalade is about 90 seconds. (I’m linking to the article about Escalade on the Kuriositas blog, as that is where I originally found it.) There is no dialogue in either video, so you don’t need to worry about translating.

Escalade reminds me of a simplistic version of The Butter Battle by Dr. Seuss, which I used to use with my 5th graders when we discussed systems thinking and escalation behavior. There are lots of applications where you could find use for the video, such as how consumerism and our quest to appear “bigger and better” to those around us is making our world less stable.

Box could be used for basically the same theme, but it has many more details and clever animation that may make you want to watch it more than once.

Caixa from Birdo Studio on Vimeo.

I’ll be adding this post to my Earth Day Wakelet, though of course we shouldn’t be thinking about the potential effects of our greed on the planet just one day a year. I’ll also add this to my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board, where you can find over 200 other videos that might be useful in class.

3-5, Books, K-5, Language Arts

Memoirs of a Tortoise

When I was asked to write curriculum for some picture books, I jumped at the chance. Without a young child at home any longer, I don’t spend as much time in that section of the bookstore very often — and I miss it. I was given a few books to begin the project and pulled one out randomly, settling in happily to immerse myself in the illustrations and simple prose of Memoirs of a Tortoise, by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.

By the end, there were tears in my eyes.

Memoirs of a Tortoise is a year in the life of Oliver, an 80 year old tortoise, who spends happy days with his human friend, Ike. Though Oliver is comparatively young in tortoise years, Ike is not. One day, Ike does not return to their garden, and Oliver must make a trek to visit his 137 year old mother 10 gardens away to find out why Oliver’s “pet” human couldn’t stay with him.

Though the book gently addresses the theme of loss, it is not sad. There a few humorous lines, and the story’s ending is a reminder of the fact that we may not be able to enjoy someone’s physical presence forever, but we can be grateful for the time we had them and hopeful that we will continue to encounter new friends along our journey.

I love a book that you can repeatedly re-read and discover new delights each time. Memoirs of a Tortoise is one of those books. I need to read the other three “memoirs” by this author/illustrator team, but it’s difficult to imagine they will have the same kind of impact on me as this beautiful story.

To order Memoirs of a Tortoise and learn more about the author, click here. (I did not recall until I looked at the site that Scillian also wrote a book I used frequently with my students, P is for Passport.) I also highly recommend reading Scillian’s bio, which shows him to be quite the Renaissance Man with a variety of interests and talents. Tim Bowers is equally fascinating, and you can learn more about him here.

map atlas south america
Games, K-12, Teaching Tools

Earth Day and Upcoming May Holidays

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, and I’ve added some new resources to my Earth Day Wakelet collection, including a link to some Lumio templates you may want to try. (Read my post on Lumio from last week if you’d like to learn more about this free tool.)

In addition, I’ve tried to get a jump on May, which has a dizzying number of observances and celebrations, from Eid Al Fitr to U.S. Memorial Day. Here is that Wakelet, and please let me know if you have a resource that I should add. You’ll find some of favorite Mother’s Day lessons in there as well as Teacher Appreciation and Star Wars Day (May the 4th).

With testing season here, you may want some brain breaks, so I just want to remind you that I have a Fun Stuff collection, Brainteasers and Puzzles, and Wordle Variations (to which I just added my new favorite, Hurdle)

To see my entire set of Wakelet collections, which are listed in alphabetical order, you can visit this page, and follow me for updates.

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com
Games, Student Response, Teaching Tools, Universal Design for Learning

5 SMART Ways to Engage Your Students with Lumio

5 SMART Ways to Engage Your Students with Lumio

By Terri Eichholz

This post is sponsored by Lumio. All opinions are my own.

One lesson my students learned when presenting their Genius Hour projects was that getting their audience involved in some way improved their interest in what was being taught. The experience also helped the students to understand that planning for that interactivity takes more thought than just reading from bullet points on a slide, so many of them developed an appreciation for the efforts teachers make who go above and beyond a standard lecture. After all, the students were spending the equivalent of 6-12 hours preparing each of their presentations, and that time commitment isn’t very practical for full-time teachers.

What if teachers have help, though? This is an area where educational technology can be transformative, but piecing together products from different companies to pull together an engaging lesson is time-consuming, too – unless you make the choice to use Lumio. With Lumio, students can brainstorm, play games, use a collaborative whiteboard, practice lessons, and get assessed – all in one tool. And the best part is that you can deliver a Lumio lesson with as little or as much preparation as you would like.

A product from SMART Technologies that requires student devices without the necessity of an interactive display, Lumio is free for educators and amazingly easy to use. Its simplicity is almost deceptive when you begin to realize all of the ways you can use it. Like a few other ed tech products you may have seen or used, Lumio lessons consist of slides you present to students either as a teacher-led activity or student-paced. You can import slides from other software, such as PowerPoint, use your existing SMART Notebook files, or create something from scratch. If you choose to integrate Lumio with your Google Drive, you can directly import content from there. Even PDF’s can be directly added to the lesson. There is also a growing library of resources you can choose from, so you can duplicate or customize to your needs. This may sound familiar, but as you begin to customize a lesson, you will discover how Lumio separates itself from the pack. Here are some of the ways you can use it to engage your students.

1. Maybe your students enjoy playing online quizzes, but you’ve noticed that their enthusiasm begins to fizzle when you use the same format and platform every time. This is not an issue with Lumio. There are twelve Game-Based Activity templates to choose from, with multiple themes for each activity. Game Show and Monster Quiz are two popular ones that are sure to generate some smiles with their entertaining graphics, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to those. The Rank-Order tool has the potential to generate some insightful classroom discussions, and the Word Search activity can give the illusion of “just having fun” while secretly promoting some higher order thinking skills.

2. Another way to keep your students involved in their learning is that you can present slides as a digital handout (to be worked on individually), a group workspace (where Lumio will automatically create groups of students to collaborate), or a whole class activity. And you can change this “on the fly” as you present with two clicks. This flexibility gives you the power to get a sense for what might work best and make last-minute decisions.

Convert pages in your lesson while editing or presenting with Lumio

3. As we know from Universal Design for Learning, engaging a class of students with different abilities means accommodating for as many of those differences as you can within your lesson design. With Lumio, you can add audio to your slides so your students can hear instructions, or you can turn on the Immersive Reader tool for them.

Embed accommodations for different ability levels

4. Whether you are doing a Design Thinking project and want students to generate ideas, or just want to find out what they already know about a topic, you can use the “Shout it Out” Activity. A couple of neat tweaks that you can make to this are that you can quickly turn on/off names to show on the screen as students contribute and you can also determine the maximum number of responses from each student. 

Add a “Shout it Out” activity for brainstorming

5. You can’t keep your class engaged if the material is too repetitive or too complicated. Formative assessments with Lumio give you the information you need to pivot if necessary. At the beginning, middle, or end of your lesson, pop in the teacher-led Response tool to get real-time feedback without skipping a beat. 

Activate prior knowledge, find out what’s puzzling your students, or design an Exit Ticket with Lumio’s Response tool

As you can see, Lumio combines all of the best features of other digital learning tools in one package, as well as adding quite a few extras that you won’t find anywhere else. Combined with the fact that it’s free, super user-friendly, and offers lots of opportunities to motivate and engage students, can you think of any reason not to click on this link and sign up right now?