You should do it, too. It makes ya feel all happy inside (Practical Magic and At the Water’s Edge).

This is my “between semesters” reading pile. Yes, I plan to actually READ Rececca this time, not simply keep her on my night-table for 9 weeks (she likes it here). This is the second time I checked out Driftless and The Other Wes Moore, so I hope to get to those. If not, I’m sure they enjoy visiting me, too.


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The “still between semesters” Book List

Students are back in school, but I’m still between semesters, so I thought I’d squeeze in a list of books. If you’re wondering how books are chosen for this list, you can read about it here.

The first book was described as “this is SUCH a good book!” by readers. It’s a coming-of-age story about life in a tough neighborhood. It’s also about friendship and family–it has all the good stuff. I read it as well and would recommend it. It’s probably for mature 12 year old readers and up, especially those who love basketball. Though anyone can read it, boys might especially enjoy it. The main character is a young man, and he has a girlfriend (who is a strong secondary character in the book). The young man talks “admiringly” about the girlfriend (but, he is also respectful and kind). Just so you know.

Boy 21 Boy 21

The next couple of books were enjoyed by many readers. The first two are graphic novels (always a hit with our reluctant readers). Many students read Nimona 2-3 times, so it must be good. I haven’t read it yet, but I will. I love graphic novels. The next was written by Brian Selznick, who brought us The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. The next two novels were brought to my attention in a search for historical fiction books with strong female characters. The last novel was added to our collection after the search for historical fiction, but none of the students have read it yet. I’m recommending it anyway because many reviewers I trust also recommended it. I paged through it, and it looks like a pretty quick read. Maybe I’ll tackle it this evening. I’ll let you know.

Nimona Nimona
The Marvels The Marvels
The Stolen One The Stolen One
The True Confessions of Cha... The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Fever 1793 Fever 1793


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End of Semester Book List

We’re in the final throes of Fall semester 2015, so how about a study-break book list? This list heavily favors girl readers, but boys might enjoy these suggestions as well (especially Mistwood). As well, it’s never a bad thing for boys to read a book with strong female characters, right? Variety, variety, variety.

The first book in this list is a Newberry Medal winner. I’ll be honest, Newberry books are not heavily favored in this group of students. I’m not sure why that is, and it’s an interesting question. I’ll explore it with readers and get back to you. In the meantime, here’s a good one:

Catherine, Called Birdy Catherine, Called Birdy

The next recommended book is part of a series, but I didn’t know about the series thing when I suggested it to readers. I want to focus on stories with a complete context and closure at the end. But alas, this one sneaked in. No surprise–students found the ending unsatisfying (but that’s generally how a book in a series ends). Readers said the story was “good” despite the ending:

 This book was described as “sad.” Before you decide not to recommend it to a small friend, remember that kid-sad is different than grownup-sad.

  • Me: did you like the book?
  • She: Yes! It was sooooooo good. But, it was sad.
  • Me: Tell me more about what made it sad
  • She: People were mean to other people. I don’t know anything else to say
  • Me: Why was it good?
  • She: It was about friendship

Now, get out there and eat/drink/be_merry!

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Check Me Out: SoftChalk

I used SoftChalk for a project in my Universal Design for Learning (UDL) class this summer, so I thought I’d take you for a little tour of it. First, note that you can get a 30-day free trial of the software, so if you don’t like it, the only thing wasted is your time. A student subscription is $150 a year, and an educator subscription is $495 a year. Kinda steep, I agree. It’s a great platform, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll get a year subscription.

It’s easy to build lessons using the UDL framework with SoftChalk. You can embed formative assessments as the lesson scrolls or goes from page to page. You can add activities, like flashcards, drag-and-drop matching activities, and all sorts of things, which are very easy to build using SoftChalk. There is also a text-to-voice add-on, which looks pretty interesting (but costs additional $$$). Your assessments can be graded and fed into Blackboard and other learning management systems as well, so it can be easy to see how everyone is doing.

The documentation and training materials are good, so you can get up and running right away. It’s worth a try if you have some time. I’m still deciding whether to get it for teaching 6401.

Ready to see some screenshots?

This is an example of a landing page for a lesson. This template is purple and white, but there are many color schemes available. As you can see, there is navigation on the right, and pages to click on along the top. For an online lesson, you would build it as a text-based lecture, then pop in formative assessments, exercises, and games as you go.

screen shot of landing page

Landing page for your lesson

Here is an example of a flashcard activity. It displays as a popup window on top of your lecture.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 9.19.06 AM

Here is a formative assessment in the form of an embedded quiz. It displays on the page itself. You can have it graded or not. You can send the grades to Blackboard.

Short Quiz

Multiple-choice quiz

Alternative to scoring, you can have your students print a certificate to PDF and email it to you.

Option to email certificate of completion to instructor

For grading purposes

Here is a summary table I added after a content-heavy lecture.

summary table

Summary table

After the student views the summary table, they can do a matching activity, which displays as a popup window.

matching activity

Matching activity

So, that’s what I was able to do in the time I allotted for this project (a full day—probably noon to 10 pm). If you already have your content, it’s not that difficult to enhance it using SoftChalk. I wanted to do more with it today, but alas, my 30-day trial ended today [sad face].

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How about another book list?

I bet you’re getting bored of summer. Right? You are, right?

Okay, maybe you’re not. Here are several good reads for lazy summer days and evenings.

Take advantage of summer, when you can read what you like!

Take advantage of summer, when you can read what you like!

Here are a couple of books recommended by 9/10 year old students:

The Call (The Magnificent 1... The Call (The Magnificent 12, #1)
The Egypt Game (Game, #1) The Egypt Game (Game, #1)

Students mentioned this one was a little sad, but in a good way:

The One and Only Ivan The One and Only Ivan

Here is one recommended by an 11 year old student:

The Cabinet of Earths (Maya... The Cabinet of Earths (Maya and Valko, #1)

And this one is sad, but cathartic and cleansing (it deals with the death of a parent). Recommended for ages 13/14 (maybe younger if a student would find it helpful). The illustrations are amazing:

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls

There is still plenty of summer left. Go read something not assigned by a teacher!

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Research References for Trauma and Stress in Developing Neural Systems

Aamodt, S., & Wang, S. (2012). Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to Colleg. New York: Bloomsbury.

Rossen, E., & Hull, R. (2013). Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students: A Guide for School-Based Professionals. New York, NY: Oxford Press.

Sapolsky, R. M. (1999). Glucocorticoids, stress, and their adverse neurological effect: Relevance to aging. Experimental Gerontology , 34, 721-732.

Schmidt, L., Fox, N. A., Goldberg, M. C., Smith, C. C., & Schulkin, J. (1999). Effects of acute prednisone administration on memory, attention, and emotion and healthy human adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology , 24, 461-483.

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iPhone Apps for Meditative Deep Breathing Exercises

Bonus post!

I love you, Friday. You are my favorite.

I love you, Friday. You are my favorite.

This is a list of apps recommended by a friend, who is a child psychologist. They are great for students who struggle with frustration management because many teens have their phone with them at all times. They can use these apps without anyone knowing because it looks like they are simply checking their phone.

  • BellyBio (learn to breathe in a calm, slow manner from the diaphragm)
  • SmilingMind (guided meditations designed with teens in mind)
  • Simple Being (guided information for basic meditation, variable times)
  • At Ease (guided meditation with breathing focused on helping with anxiety
  • Relax from Andrew Johnson (more like guided imagery/self-hypnosis—you’re getting sleeeeeeepy…very sleeeeeepy)
  • Relax Lite (includes some guided breathing exercises where you vary the length of the inhale and exhale, extending the exhale longer than the inhale. The slower, longer exhale is generally considered to help strengthen the function of the Parasympathetic nervous system, promoting the relaxation response)
  • Brainwave (based on the concept of binaural beats. You can select various patterns, background, and length of time)
  • BioBreathing (a simple visual and auditory guide for slow calm breathing)
  • GPS for the Soul (by Heartmath–they do good stuff with biofeedback based on heart rhythm. Highly recommended by a friend)
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