Archive for April 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week

April 30, 2013


Quote:  If the heavens were all parchment, and the trees of the forests all pens, and every human being were a scribe, it would be impossible to record all that I have learned from my teachers.          Johann Ben Zakkai

Teaching is a demanding, challenging, and time-consuming job, and those of us who love to teach still think it’s the best job around.  It’s hard to explain to those who don’t teach that one moment where you become aware that you have made a difference in one student’s life.  That moment washes out all the frustrations and exhaustion that teaching can create.  Those moments don’t always happen in your presence and sometimes a teacher never knows the difference he or she has made in a student’s life.

Teacher Appreciate Week, May 7-11, is just around the corner.  Take time to tell a teacher the difference she or he made in your life.  If that’s not possible, tell your family, friends, and colleagues about that teacher.  Let’s make Teacher Appreciation Week buzz with stories about teachers and all that we have learned from them.

Knowing how hard teachers work to engage their students in learning activities that are relevant, meaningful, and fun, we continue to create materials for teachers that are easy to implement.  Check out our Summer Reading and Writing Journal that sustains students’ reading and writing skills over the summer.  Great end-of-the-year gift for your students and their families.  Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a super book to read aloud to your students at the end of the year.  The Wonder Read-Aloud Guide will provide everything you need for the last project of the school year.


NEA Teacher Appreciation Day May 8, 2013

Save Our Schools:  Teacher Appreciation Week May 7-11, 2013

Education Week:  65 Ways to Recognize Teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week

Reading Rockets:  Ways to Celebrate Teachers

Huffington Post:  National Teacher Appreciate Day

Summer Reading and Writing Journal

Wonder Read-Aloud Guide


Critical Thinking and Freedom of Speech

April 11, 2013

Quote:  We who officially value freedom of speech above life itself seem to have nothing to talk about but the weather.  Barbara Ehrenreich


Bassem Youssef, a television comedian and heart surgeon, who airs a show modeled after The Daily Show in Egypt, was recently arrested for making fun of the government.  He’s back on the air, but may face trial. As I watched this segment on NBC Nightly News, April 6, I was struck by this man’s courage and conviction to freedom of speech, something often taken for granted.

Freedom of speech sometimes surfaces when speech is decisive or provocative that gets the attention of others.  In education, critical thinking skills are deemed important to teach to our students.  One might say that learning to think critically might lead to student speech that is decisive or provocative, even challenging the status quo or generally accepted beliefs.  Do we want students to challenge the status quo, generally accepted beliefs, even authority? Or, do we want students to match their responses to the answer key?

Teaching literature provides teachers with opportunities to facilitate critical thinking among their students, regardless of students’ ages.  When adults discuss literature, they don’t give each other multiple choice/short answer tests to determine if they read the book.  Adults discuss and argue over plot, characters, author’s style, themes, and connections. And, sometimes they just marvel at a well turned phrase or a description that takes one’s breath away.  That’s the gift teachers can give to students by asking critical questions and providing provocative prompts that give voice to students’ opinions, thoughts, and ideas about what they are reading.

It is what we are striving to do with our work with The Hunger Games, Wonder, and soon Son by Lois Lowry.  Our work employs a constructivist approach that is student-centered because we believe that students are really smart given the opportunity to engage in work that is relevant and meaningful.  Learning to think critically takes time and lots of practice, but the result just may be one way to ensure our freedom of speech endures.  And, once students engage in critical conversations, they like it, and don’t want to talk about the weather.

NBC Nightly News April 6, 2013

Surviving to Thriving LjL Teachers Pay Teachers Store


April is Poetry Month

April 3, 2013

Quote:  Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.  Robert Frostlogo71.jpg

Poems, like humor, provide a different way of looking at something familiar and seeing different possibilities.  Writing poems allows us to examine that familiar something from all different angles, sometimes putting it in perspective, sometimes putting it farther away, and sometimes letting us laugh at ourselves.  It’s not easy to share our writing with others—makes us vulnerable, open to possible criticism or perceived rebuffs, but writing, especially poetry, opens doors to connections we might not have known existed.

So, because it is Poetry Month, because I can’t ask someone to take a risk I am unwilling to take, and because we all have poems somewhere inside us, I will share two poems I wrote.  My hope is you will share your poems with someone and encourage the poets in all of us to emerge.

Saltine Crackers

Gummy paste
Platforms for soft butter crowned with cinnamon sugar,
Fractured into pieces, moistened by sips of colorless tea,
Disintegrated in cellophane slips emerging from deep, dark purse places,
Stacks of squares,
Tucked in snack size plastic bags and partnered with airplane barf bags.
Crumbled in tomato soup,
Drizzled with butter on a holiday casserole.
Salty, bland, comforting
Saltine Crackers

My Mother’s Jewelry

When I wear my mother’s ring,
The one with antique silverwork and sparkling diamonds,
Bequeathed to her from one who had no daughter,
That resounds with a saga of those who came before,
I detect my mother’s energy.

When I wear my mother’s bracelet,
The one that was fashioned out of sterling silver,
Marked by its creator, inlaid with ancient turquoise stones,
Set in a pattern that is unique and familiar,
I sense my mother’s verve.

When I wear my mother’s pendant,
The one my dad chose for her,
Encircled in a silver curve, a single diamond on a fragile chain,
Once lost and recovered,
I feel my mother’s quintessence.

When I wear my mother’s jewelry,
Rings and pendants, bracelets and necklaces,
Silver and gold, turquoise and diamond,
Each piece sustaining a lifetime of experiences,
I discern past and present, mother and daughter.

But I with no daughter wonder,
Who will wear my jewelry some day?

L. V. Neiman

And, if you need a little help unleashing your inner poet, check out our latest product on Teachers Pay Teachers:  poetry journalPoetry for the Classroom as well as the other resources listed below.

30 Ways to Celebrate Poetry Month

Poem in Your Pocket Day – April 18, 2013

The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet:  104 Unusual Ways to Write Poetry in the Classroom and the Community by Dave Moricedr a


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