Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book review: Muscles Make Us Move

Title:  Muscles Make Us Move
Written by: Bill Kirk
Illustrated by:  Eugene Ruble
Soft cover: 31 pages
Ages:   8-13
Publisher:    Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
Print ISBN 13 978-1-:616331-134-4; 1616331348
eBook ISBN 13:  978-1-61633-135-1; 616331356

Published:     July 2011
Print Price:    $11.95
                                                                               eBook Price: $5.00
ATTENTION all teachers, parents and students!!

Author Bill Kirk has added another amazing rhyming non-fiction book to his The Sum of Our Parts Series in Guardian Angel Publishing’s Academic Wings,  Muscles Make Us Move!! Like his books about bones and the circulatory system, this book uses easy to memorize fun rhymes to name the major muscle groups and their job in our bodies.
Two names of leg muscles,
Just might make you laugh,
Gastrocnemius and soleus
Are found in the “calf.”

In addition, you will find a valuable teaching and learning aid on every page, a factoid. These are every teacher’s dream because they’re jam packed with vital information in a simple and interesting format.

Smooth muscle is also called INVOLUNTARY muscle because the brain tells those muscles what to do without your even knowing about it.
Eugene Ruble’s detailed and amusing illustrations add to the value of this book. The full body muscular drawings with over a hundred muscles displayed provide extension learning possibilities for students.
The glossary provides a quick and easy way to identify the muscles highlighted in the book. As a retired teacher, I would highly recommend Muscles Make Us Move for every classroom, school and personal library. I wish I had this book when I was studying anatomy and physiology in college. It’s simple enough for young students and interesting enough for adults to enjoy for years to come.

So remember…

And when brushing your teeth,

After eating dessert,

Buccinators in your cheeks

Make water go “squirt”.

Reviewer: Kathy Stemke

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Online Resources for Teachers and Education Professionals

Teachers, step through the door to new opportunities and technologies!

The online world has changed many facets of our lives and this is especially the case for teachers and the way we approach education. The Internet is, after all, a collection of data that's unparalleled in the whole of human history. Unfortunately, not every educator is aware of some of the excellent online resources that are available to them.

As the face of education changes, it's important that our education professionals are able to adapt to a changing society that is becoming more influenced by online approaches and techniques. At institutions like the University of Phoenix San Diego, professors are using the Internet as a tool to give students a more diverse experience. Here's a list of some of the best sites that have show to be highly effective:

Google Docs

This is a free program that has been highly effective in information distribution. Through this site you can share assignments with your class that may be accessed from anywhere. These “view only” files are accessible to everyone and improve how the students can access any information pertaining to classroom discussions and assignments. Students can go on Google Docs and make a quick copy of any file on the page. This has also allowed educators to share source material and information from anywhere in the world. Google Docs is a multi-user based system that gives students the ability to compartmentalize multiple classes and assignments in separate folders and has done away with the need for hard copies. This way you can share information and not risk misplacing notes or assignments.

iTunes U

The iTunes program is the most popular music database used by a majority of people to categorize and manage their music and video collection, but iTunes may be used for more than just music. iTunes U is a distribution system that's a iTunes add-on which allows anyone, including education professionals, to share lectures, lessons, audio books, lessons, and pretty much any media format you can think of with each other. This is a way that teachers can provide quality source material and teaching lessons with their students using the power of multimedia. Basically put, you can lean anything from anywhere at the touch of a button.

Online Education Database

Online Education Database is a resources that isn't widely known but has proven to be very useful. It's for both students and teachers and allows participants to take a class online at no cost. You can't get a degree through this site, but it's a great supplemental tool for individuals to expand their knowledge on specific areas of interest.

Not every college has the resources that meets the demands of the entire student body. In times like these, the OED can be access from anywhere in the world and provide users with a wealth of knowledge and source material that covers topics across many sectors and areas of interest. From the University of Phoenix to Cambridge, you can share knowledge at an unprecedented scale. It's not an education so much as a source for supplemental material that will provide extra material for classes or areas of interest.

These are a few of the excellent online resources already on the web, but many more exist to help educators provide a more comprehensive learning experience for every student. Tools like the ones listed above will likely become more common place as technology paves the way for the future and improves our ability to learn and achieve.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep Book Reviews

Through Ms. Stemke’s expert rhyme and consonant blends storytelling Zachary learns what family is all about and what it truly takes to be a good big brother.
Donna Mc Dine
Award Winning Author

This story is filled with consonant blends hidden in a delightful story for young children who are just beginning to read. This 20 page picture book shows children that having a younger sibling can be fun and not an inconvenience. The illustrations are bold and bright which will catch even the youngest child’s attention.

Kathy Stemke has created songs, games, and worksheets to keep learning fun and to help with blends that children will be learning about in school. These activities reinforce the words that will make learning blends easier to do. The activities can be played over and over again.

Renee Hand
Award Winning Author

In amongst the story line, there are some great phonics skills! There are blends and digraphs throughout the whole book, and there is also a rhyming element.

Stephanie Brandt
Reading Specialist

With amazing and vivid full page illustrations and witty rhymes that lend themselves to teaching children consonant blends, this story will be a wonderful addition to every child's library, as well as the classroom.

Karen Cioffi
Author, Ghostwriter

Stemke’s experience as a teacher is exercised by the added lessons that  supply teachers with ready-made lessons.

Jessica Aday Kennedy

The story is about a little boy, Zachary who has just welcomed a new baby sister into the family. As he adjusts to his new sister we go on an adventure where he protects his little sister from all kinds of perils.

Glenda Cates
Mommies Point of View

With great and big bold colorful illustrations, Jack Foster was able to bring the book to life. I highly recommend the book to parents and for classroom reading.

Ella Johnson

Proving its commitment to entertaining and educating children, Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep is the perfect addition to GAP's Academic Wings line. Readers are treated to an engaging story that helps them deal with introducing a new sibling into the house, while getting a chance to improve their reading skills.
Cheryl Malandrinos
Children and Teen Book Connection
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fish theme games and songs!




· Make a couple of fishing poles by attaching 3 feet of string to a dowel and affixing a small magnet to the end of the string.

· Make fish shapes in different colors and sizes.  Attach a paper clip and put a number on each fish.

· Use large poster board to make a lake and spread the fish out.

· Also tape some numbered fish shapes to the floor. (floor fish)

Activity: Take turns going fishing.

· Ask them to catch the big fish, small fish, red fish, or blue fish. Count the number in each group.

· Blind fold them and let them fish. Identify the number on the fish.  Jump to the number on the floor fish.

· Fish for a certain number of fish. EX: Catch 5 fish. Jump five fish.

· Catch two fish. Add them together.  Use the fish on the floor to help them add the two fish together by jumping to the first number, then jumping the second number to find the total. 

· Or subtract them. With subtraction, jump forward for the big number, then jump backwards for the number to be subtracted.


Put your left fin in, put your left fin out,

Action: (Left elbow in, left elbow out)

put your left fin in and shake it all about

Actioin: (left elbow in and shake it)

Do the fishy pokey and turn yourself around

Action: (Turn in a circle}

That’s what its all about.

Action: (jump in place, clap clap)

Do the fishy pokey, do the fishy pokey,

Action: (Swim into the circle)

Do the fishy pokey,

Action: (Swim backwards out of the circle)

That’s what its all about.

Action: (jump in place, clap clap)

(Right fin)

Put your left gill in, put your left gill out,

Action: (left shoulder in, left shoulder out)


(right gill)

Put your tail fin in, put your tail fin out,

Action: (put your bottom in, bottom out)


Put your fish eye in, put your fish eye out,

Action: (put your head in, put your head out)


Put your fish belly in, put your fish belly out,

Action: (put your belly in, put your belly out)



Fishy swimming in a brook        

Daddy catches with a hook       

Mommy fries it in a pan

Children ate it then they ran.

Tune: I’m a Little Teapot

I’m a little fishy, watch me swim

Here is my tail, here is my fin

When I want to have fun with my friends

I wiggle my tail and jump right in!


Make letter squares of either 6, 8, 9, or 12 letters. Make sure there are vowels in each letter grouping. Each child must jump through as many fish words as he can with his set of letters. An observing student should check the spelling and write it down.  Set a time limit, count the words spelled correctly, and announce a winner. Change places with your partner. Fish words: fin, flipper, swim, dive, gill, school, scales, eye, tail, water, seafood, fillet, gut, seaweed, jump, mouth, eat, sand, mud, eggs, bite, catch, fluke, trout.


Tune: Frere Jacques

Big ones, small ones

Big ones, small ones

See them swim

On a whim.

Smoothly, smoothly, swimming

Never, never, drowning.

Fish, fish, fish,

Fish, fish, fish. 
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Friday, August 12, 2011


Grades K-2, 3-5
Brief Description
Put that pile of Beanie Babies to good use in your classroom as students create and write original biographies for a favorite stuffed animal.
  • recognize specific purposes/characteristics of biographies.
  • participate in telling and writing a fictionalized biography (whole-class activity).
  • include in their stories a sequence of events that makes sense.
  • include good supporting details in their stories/biographies.
  • apply the writing process to a character sketch or biography.
Materials Needed

  • Beanie Babies (or similar stuffed animals), ideally one per child. Students might be willing to bring in one of their own from home.
Before the Lesson
For this lesson, you will need a collection of Beanie Baby animals/characters (or other stuffed animals/characters can be substituted). One stuffed animal per student is ideal, but you might offer a smaller selection and allow more than one student to work on a bio story for the same character.
Choose one Beanie Baby to use in modeling how to write a "Beanie Baby Bio." Set the others aside for selection by students later in the lesson.

The Lesson
Choose one Beanie Baby to share with the class. Tell students that this Beanie Baby is a very famous one.
Engage students in brainstorming "information" about the Beanie Baby. Ask: If you were to read a story (biography) of this Beanie Baby's life, what kinds of information might be included? Students' responses might answer some of the following questions:
  • What is his name?
  • Where and when was she born?
  • How many siblings did he have?
  • What was her mother and/or father like?
  • What were his hobbies and other favorite things?
  • What kind of "person" was she? (What personality characteristics did she possess?)
  • What did he do to become famous?
Encourage students to think outside the box. The funnier the better! As students share ideas, list those ideas on the board, chart paper, or an overhead-projector transparency.

After the class has generated a bunch of ideas, take a look at the ideas. Group together some ideas and talk about how those elements might be developed into a story. Identify beginning, middle, and ending ideas/events that might be included in a story. Write a story together.

Once you have a draft of a Beanie Baby bio story, read aloud the story to the class. Ask students if they think you have all the details in the right order. Talk about where more detail might be needed. Discuss why it's important to have events ordered correctly and well developed.

Next, it's the students' turn.
  • Allow students time to brainstorm additional ideas for their own Beanie Baby stories/bios. They might do this as a class, in small groups, with a partner, or on their own.
  • You might provide a story web or a graphic organizer for students to use as they brainstorm new ideas.
  • After students have brainstormed a list of possible ideas, have them circle similar or best ideas. At this point students are "thinking" and starting to put together ideas that might form an interesting story.
  • After students have had a chance to share ideas, talk about what kinds of information make a good biography. What information should be included? What should be left out? Why do people like to read biographies? Why are details important in telling a biography?
  • Give students time to work out their story ideas and to share them orally with a partner.
  • Then give students time to write their Beanie Baby Biographies.
When students have finished writing their Beanie Baby Biographies, set aside time for them to introduce their Beanie Baby to the class by reading aloud their biographies.
Extension Activity
Students might create their biography as a "book." They will want to divide the story into chunks of information that go together on a page (or "spread" of two pages). What kind of cover illustration might be best for their book?
Evaluate the finished biographies. Do students have a beginning, middle, and end to their stories? Was good detail included?
Submitted By
Mary Pat Mahoney, Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine, Texas
Sara Dutcher
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fostering Creativity in Children

There is a serious creativity disconnect developing in today’s children. In the not-so-distance past, a plain old cardboard box could become a car that could take a child around the world as fast as light. Back then, “Hide and Seek” and “Cowboys and Indians” were standard games that could fill up an entire summer day. As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  

          Back then, creativity was pretty much all a kid had to entertain themselves. These days cardboard cars have been replaced by real battery-operated automobile miniatures; Facebook has replaced “Hide and Seek”; “Cowboys and Indians” has been deemed politically incorrect, whereas video games that encourage kids to sit alone in their rooms and score points for headshots are becoming normative. It is not really surprising that kids are becoming increasingly less creative though, especially in the face of the digital age. Today it seems that more and more academics, particularly those who have attended Ph.D. Programs, are arguing  that this fall in creativity is partly due to the fact a child is born with a certain creative caliber, and that this caliber is difficult—if not impossible—to foster effectively. Fortunately, there are many studies and experts that disagree with this perspective.

          In an article for, Marvin Bartel, Ed.D. wrote, “while most 5-year old kids have a high level of confidence in their artistic capabilities, most of that confidence will be diminished within three to four years by the push to replace creativity with social conformity.” As an art teacher, Mr. Bartel noted a significant drop in the level of imaginative work produced by older children as compared to art projects produced by their younger counterparts, which to him appeared to be caused by a lack of challenge to their creativity skills. Whether due to laziness or a lack of interest in challenging their students, many teachers simply give their pupils free reign on assignments today. While this may inspire creativity in some, most have a tendency to revert back to their comfort-zone in order to ensure their success.

A better approach may be to set a child's boundaries somewhere outside the edges of their comfort-zone. For example, if a child displays a tendency to use only oils or clay for art projects, establish that they cannot use traditional art tools to apply the paint to their canvas or require that they create their next sculpture blindfolded. This way the child will be forced to try a new approach for an activity they are already comfortable with, which ideally will get their creative juices following and prevent them from being stuck in a rut. As Mr. Bartel explains, “So long as the difficulty level is reasonable, new learning happens.”

Patricia Dischler, an expert of teaching creativity in children, believes that while it is important to teach kids the "3 R's: reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic," by also instilling in the principles of the 3 C’s in a child: creativity, curiosity and courtesy, teachers can perpetuate a child's natural precociousness and love of learning. Parents can participate in the development of their child’s imagination as well as their reasoning and problem solving abilities by encouraging them to get off the computer and engage their friends in creative, real-world activities. According to Ms. Dischler, doing so will “teach children to overcome their fear of making mistakes, teach them the value of patience and combine right and left brain activity.” Ultimately, these activities serve to strengthen a child's ability to be creative and to use their imagination rather than resorting to a dependency on others to solve problems.

Likewise, you can foster creativity in your children simply by encouraging them to resist blind conformity. When they question the public zeitgeist or express disagreement with what is deemed by the majority to be socially acceptable, talk to your child. Show a genuine interest in hearing their perspective. Encourage them to explain their reasoning and to give a specific example of why they feel it is right to go against the flow.

With a young child, creativity is as natural as breathing. However, it can be difficult to find a similar expression of the imagination in older children and adults. Primarily, this is because these creative juices are suppressed almost as early as they begin to surge through their brains. As parents and teachers we encourage intellectual conformity with something as simple as the expectation for them to color within the lines in their coloring books.

According to Robert Sternberg and Wendy M. Williams at the Center for Development and Learning, “Creativity is as much a decision about and an attitude toward life as it is a matter of ability.” Encouraging children to explore novel and interesting ideas will help them develop problem solving skills and to make connections between things that otherwise fly over the heads of others. It is the ability to translate theory into practice and abstract ideas into practical accomplishments that will provide them the survival skills they will need when they leave the nest, and will give them a competitive edge in the job market.

Art and scholastic endeavors are not the only activities in which a child can develop their mind. While providing their own unique set of benefits, participation in both individual as well as group sports can also play a dramatic role in expanding and strengthening a child’s personal character. Statistics compiled by a 2007 online survey conducted by psychologist Dr. Jamil Qureshi for Henley Centre Headlight Vision, found that a child’s level of self-confidence, perseverance and passion could be directly linked to their level of participation in sports activities that honed those skills. More specifically, Dr. Qureshi noted definite correlations between sports and specific values gained through involvement:

1) Football promotes both teamwork and individual passion;

2) Athletics itself breeds a healthy balance of self confidence and humility;

3) Golf instills the virtue of integrity and honest decision making skills.

There was once a time when the imagination was pretty much all a kid had to entertain themselves. Now, in the era of the Internet and online social networking, kids rely on pre-packaged entertainment with limited or predetermined objectives. Today, through either apathy or pure laziness, the challenge of imagination and creativity has been replaced by mindless repetition and conformity.

Children have often been referred to as “the future.” Considering that they will be the ones assuming the role of tomorrow’s business and government leaders, by our lack of guidance that future may be in jeopardy. While children are born with an inherent curiosity that inspires creativity, just like a muscle in the body if it is not exercised regularly it will atrophy and grow weak. Therefore, perhaps it’s time for parents and teachers to recognize that what some would like to call social progress is actually taking our children backwards.

Jeremy Fordham is an engineer who enjoys and encourages discussion at the boundaries of many different disciplines. He is a proponent of renewable energy and distance learning, and contributes as a writer to resources promoting online education.

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