Preventing Classroom Chaos (or How to Keep Kids Entertained & Happy)

The beginning of the school year can be a crazy time as students get use to their new teachers, classmates, schedules and in some cases, schools. As teachers, we have our hands full helping them adjust and teaching them what we’ll expect from them in our classrooms. It can be stressful and unexpected situations can pop up anytime. With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along some articles I’ve found that may be useful for parents and teachers alike.

First up, some articles on teaching kids relaxation techniques. As I’ve said already, the beginning of the school year and all its newness can be stressful. Familiarizing yourself and your students with these techniques can help everyone deal with the stress better.

  • This article from Psychology Today talks about teaching kids both deep breathing and visualization techniques: Teach Your Kids to De-Stress
  • This article from Fox News was originally published in Real Simple Family: Managing Your Child’s Stress. It not only covers techniques but why they work, how to teach them, and tips on when to try them.

Sometimes, things don’t go as expected during the day (shocking I know). Keep the kids entertained while you wait or when you finish up earlier than expected with some of these simple ways to wow.

  • This magic trick is quick to set up and uses just three props you most likely have access to during the school day. Kids love it and they love it even more when you let them keep the “magic” paper clips that result.
  • The execution of The Hotel card trick is simple but that doesn’t stop it from wowing kids just the same. When I tell the story I like to make it kid friendly and say the kings decide to go on vacation with their wives the queens and their kids (the jacks). They arrive at the hotel late and are so tired from traveling they go straight to their rooms, lock the doors (put the aces on the pile) and try to relax and watch TV. But, power goes off in the hotel and they all go down to the lobby to complain ( I say this while I pick up the piles). On the way back to their rooms in the dark they all get mixed up and confused (have the kids cut the deck while you say this) and in the morning when they wake up they find all the kings are in the same room, all the queens are in the same room,  and all the jacks are in the same room.
  • Finally, here’s a list of tips and tricks for making you a better story teller. Sometimes, the best way to hold students’ attentions is with a story but you don’t always have access to a book to share. Learning to tell engaging, entertaining tales on the fly could help  keep your students entertained and out of trouble during unplanned down times and waiting periods.

I hope you enjoyed these quick tips on keeping students relaxed, calm, entertained and, hopefully, out of trouble during the school day. Do you have any tips and tricks of your own that relax and/or entertain your students? I’d love it if you shared them.




Technology Tuesday-Schoology

First things first: Apologies for leaving you hanging yesterday. I had to run the dog to the vet (again-she had a procedure done and I’m going every other day to have her bandages changed) and had two other appointments of my own and the day just got away from me.

Now, let’s explore another interesting technology together shall we? I subscribe to the AASL’s tip of the day email (if you don’t already I highly recommend it) and yesterday’s tip was about cultivating back to school collaborations. One of the technologies briefly mentioned in the email was Schoology. Having never heard of Schoology before I instantly hopped online to look it up.

Verdict? Definitely worth sharing with all of you.

As you can see from the overview screenshot, Schoology offers  a few great features such as: managing your lessons, finding intriguing resources, interacting with your students, fellow teachers, and parents, posting assignments, posting tests or quizzes, and hosting discussions. Schoology even allows you to keep track of how students are doing with nifty charts and graphs.

Setting up a Schoology account and your Schoology profile takes mere minutes and afterwards they walk you through a quick introductory tour to get you started.

Now let’s use my account to show you how the introductory tour works. When you log into your account, there will be a link to click on to start the tour: 

The first leg of the tour shows you where/how to add courses to your account:

The second leg of the tour shows you how to add or join groups in Schoology:

Leg three points out where to go to for additional resources:

The fourth, fifth and, sixth legs of our tour explain the navigation options in the upper right hand side of the screen:

The seventh part of the tour explains your Schoology calendar:

The eighth leg explains the recent activity center a bit further and the final section of the tour shows you where to get further assistance with Schoology:

One of my favorite features I discovered while exploring Schoology is their App Center:

The App Center offers a few cool apps to use with students:

I was especially impressed to see that the Concept Bank and ScootPad Apps utilized the Common Core.

All in all, Schoology seems to have a lot to offer and could be a great addition to your educator toolbox. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Until tomorrow,


Homework Help….For Parents

On my way to the vet’s this morning I happened upon the John Tesh Intelligence for Your Life Radio show just as he was discussing how to help kids with their homework. John offered the following tips for parents (find the full transcript here):

  • First, talk to the teacher about a tutoring session for you. Teachers say that most parents are too embarrassed to admit they can’t do 7th grade math, or worse, 4th grade vocabulary words. Some teachers can provide CD tutorials, or give you access to websites for the curriculum they use in class. They might even point you to textbook websites, which have special sections designed to help parents help their kids.
  • Another homework tip: Plug math problems into Google. You’ll probably find a website that’ll give you the answer, and tell you how to get it.
  • You can also find instructions, practice problems, and refresher videos on websites like A Better Answer, TeacherTube, and
  • And you can buy used copies of most teacher’s edition textbooks on Amazon. Teacher’s editions provide the answers, and show you how to explain it to your child. And it’s not cheating, as long as you don’t just feed your kids the answers.

I thought John’s ideas were simple and effective but they get me thinking: wouldn’t these tips be even better as the basis for a library program? The first month of school the librarian could work with teachers to find out what they will be teaching and when this year (something we should be doing anyway), find out what textbooks they are using, ask what other resources they recommend and put together an information night for parents.

The information night could debrief parents on what their kids will be learning and when and show them what resources are available to help them help their kids. Before the information night the librarian could identify teachers willing to provide tutoring sessions and even arrange for them to be available at the event. The librarian could create a resources cheat sheet to hand out to parents that also lists teachers willing to tutor and their preferred contact information and/or create a parents’ resources section on the library webpage.

If the budget allows maybe the library could obtain teacher editions of the textbooks being used in classes and make them available for parents to check out. Perhaps if a teacher has several parents that request tutoring sessions the library could be used as a meeting space for those sessions? Maybe the event could even be held quarterly to keep parents up to date on what their children (and they) will be working on each marking period?

What do you think of the librarian running a homework help event and/or program? What other ways do you provide parents with assistance in understanding and helping their children’s schoolwork?

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you tomorrow.



Excerpt from John Tesh Intelligence for Your Life radio show from here:

Have You Meet Duolingo?

If not, allow me to introduce you.

I was recently made aware of Duolingo when a friend mentioned it on Facebook (thanks Shannon!). I was immediately intrigued. I’ve never been very good at picking up new languages despite how badly I wanted to be able to fluently converse in another language. After I watching the Duolingo video on their homepage I thought, maybe I can finally do this!

I choose Spanish as the language I wanted to learn but you can also learn French or German. There’s also an option to learn English for native Spanish speakers. After deciding what language you want to learn, you then take a test to gauge your current skill level. After that, you get your road map. Mine is shown below:

Each level consists of a series of lessons as well as a set of real examples from the web for you to translate. New levels wont unlock until you’ve mastered existing levels. If you think a level is too easy for you, the only way to skip it is to test out of it. Each level presents you with vocabulary terms and then presents and tests you on them (and previous words) in a variety of ways.

You will see and hear a sentence is Spanish (or whatever language you chose) and be asked to type it in English:

You will be presented with a new vocabulary word that you will be hear and see as a written word and a variety of images”

You will be asked to listen to and repeat a sentence in Spanish:

You will be asked to choose the correct noun, verb or article to complete a sentence in Spanish:

(Pssst…..See how in the screen shot above I only have three read hearts instead of four? When you make a mistake during a lesson you lose a heart. If you lose all four and make a fifth mistake in the same lesson, the lesson ends and you have to start all over. The more hearts you have left when you complete a lesson, the more points you tally up for that lesson unit).

You will see a sentence in English and be asked to translate it into Spanish:

You will be asked to listen to a sentence in Spanish and write it in Spanish:

And, you will be asked to read (and listen if you choose) to a sentence in Spanish and identify the correct English translation(s):

So far, I’m impressed. I already feel like I’m learning and retaining more than I did the entire year I took elementary Spanish in college. The mix of formats for learning really helps the information sink in-I just tried a lesson after over a week “off” from regular use and I was impressed with how much I remembered from the last time I worked with Duolingo. Even when I wasn’t sure and guessed, I was correct over 75% of the time.

While I think Duolingo is probably best for learners that already have some experience with the language and may not be best for total novices, I would still highly recommended it as a way to learn a new language. It’s free and the colorful graphics would appeal to kids making it perfect for schools. It could make an excellent supplement to a foreign language class and definitely deserves to be shared with the education community at large.

Enjoy cats and kittens and if you give it a try, let me know how you like it.



Power Searching with Google

As a school librarian in training, I harbor two dirty little secrets (as a regular person I harbor more than two dirty little secrets but those are staying my secrets :-)).

Dirty little secret one: I never return library  books on time. I mark the due dates down in my agenda/calendars and I even signed up for the email notifications but any book I check out still manages to make its way back to the library three to five days after it was suppose to be there.

Dirty little secret two is a bit more serious for someone who is going to be teaching others good research skills someday: I am a terrible searcher. I have never developed a real knack for coming up with useful search terms. The good news is I’ll be excellent at sympathizing with patrons and students who experience search frustration. The bad news is I’m pretty sure patrons and students are looking for their librarian to be the hero and help them find what they have been unable to on solo searches. Not for the librarian to smile knowingly and say things like, “I know, isn’t it the worst when you know what you want but just can’t seem to find it!”.

So, earlier this summer I was excited to hear that Google was going to offering free classes on “Power Searching with Google“.

The six classes each contained instructional, informative lesson(s) and activities for skill practice. Some of the early lessons were a little too basic (even for a stumbling searcher such as myself) but overall, I learned at least one new thing per class and found the whole experience a constructive and helpful use of my time.

While you can no longer sign up for the session, the classes are still available for viewing and using. Really, the only difference between what is available now and what I took this summer is that you no longer have the ability to earn a certificate announcing you are a Google Power Search Expert. (Don’t feel bad. I don’t have one either because you had to complete the classes and take the final exam by a certain date and I feel behind in my Power Searching Classes while focusing on a summer class assignment.)

So while I’m certainly not an expert searcher after taking the six classes I am a much better searcher than I started. I was so impressed with the simple yet effective lessons that I started thinking how useful they could be to help upper middle school and high school students learn to use Google (and other search engines) more effectively. As it turns out, Google was way ahead of me and my “genius” idea.

Google Search Education gives teachers lesson plans on a variety of search topics such as picking the right search terms, understanding search results, and verifying sources. The lessons are even broken down into beginner, intermediate and, advanced skill levels so you can tackle them with different grade levels and start the life skill of effective searching early with students. Even better, the Google provided lesson overviews and lesson maps already pinpoint the Common Core Standards addressed by the lessons.

Google also provides live tutorials and Search A Day Challenges that serve as a kind of virtual scavenger hunt for students to test their search skills. The Search Challenges are broken down by topic so you can even try to match up your search skill lessons with classroom related topics.

While Google isn’t the answer to every search need and often can’t be used for academic research needs, the fact remains that it is a regular part of students lives. To be the best, most efficient finders of information they can be, our students should know how to maximize this popular search engine. What’s more, some of the skills they learn in the Google Search Education lessons are universally useful when it comes to seeking information and conducting research. So, this semi-rehabilatated “bad” searcher highly recommends the Power Searching with Google lessons as well as Google Search Education, for you and your students.

What do you think? Have any of you used Google Search Education in the classroom? Do you have other favorite ways to teach students how to be efficient and effective searchers and researchers?

Thanks for stopping by,


I’m Baaaaacccckkkkk…………

Hola cats and kittens!

I know today is a holiday and I hope you are all enjoying your long weekend, but I just wanted to pop in to let you know the wait is over! Starting tomorrow, B&B will be posting new content again. I’m hoping to stick to a daily schedule or at least no less than a Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule.

Special announcement time is over. Please return to regularly scheduled Labor Day and I’ll see you all here tomorrow.





Greeting friends! The Spring semester was quite the semester (three classes, 100 hours of fieldwork, 120 hours of elementary student teaching, and completing an almost 100 page PMA plan for an actual library) and as you may have noticed, I decided to take a few weeks off from the blog. With two classes this summer as well as two state certification tests, the child health and safety exam and finger printing to take care it just seemed like something needed to take a stint on the back burner.I don’t want to give up the blog entirely because I enjoy how it forces me to think about and research issues in the library world but sometimes you need a little vacation you know?

But back to what prompted the title of this post. I’ve recently fallen in deep, swooning like with Snack Tools and their Snack Websites, which I used to create my digital portfolio and resume for school. I love the look of that project so much it made me realize this little blog needs a bit of a facelift. I’m going to play around and see what I can come up with to give the blog a look and feel I truly love. Hopefully, it will be something everyone enjoys as well.

I hope to see you all here in a few weeks (I’m aiming to come back to blogging in early to mid August so I can get my blog legs under me again before school starts in the fall. I’m also hoping to come up with a more regular blog schedule then as well.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and I’ll see you soon.


The One Where I Try My Hand at Making an Advocacy Message

Alright lovelies, this week’s classroom challenge was to create an advocacy message for school libraries.

This is my attempt (click the link below the image to go to the full slideshow):

Advocacy Message

I’m not sure if it was exactly whatProf. Berger had in mind but I’m pleased with it (or at least, not so embarrassed by it I won’t put it out on my blog for the whole wide internet to see :-) ).

I think I could see it running on a library webpage or even on local access channel-that is, if I could figure out how to add music to the slideshare.

Looking forward to seeing what my creative, ingenious classmates come up with this week.

Cheers for now.

UPDATE: I found some free time and played around with iPhoto’s slideshow creator and Garage Band’s editing features to tweak this presentation and make it seem more believable as a commercial or something to play on a website. Follow the link to check it out on Vimeo and enjoy. 

Advocacy Message for School Libraries

Cyberbullying: Bullying for a Web 2.0 World


Honestly, this post has taken me a while to write because, like many of you, I’m just not sure what to say on the subject. Of course I think bullying in any form is wrong and of course I understand the long term harm it can cause the victim but what do we do about it?….

I think part of the problem is that the tools kids use for cyberbullying and the ways they use them to bully have only been around a sort time compared to the much longer history of bullying in general but they’ve been around long enough for kids to become adept at using them. The methods we as adults have created and championed for trying to combat bullying within kids haven’t evolved as quickly as the kids methods and now, we’re playing catch up.

I think in many ways, our best course of action is to educate ourselves so we can educate the kids. We need to know what we are looking for so we can be vigilant in guarding against it and we need to set firm, specific guidelines for acceptable behavior and punish students who go against those guidelines. And we need to work education about bullying not just into the code of conduct and the curriculum, but the punishments as well. If a student breaks the online conduct code and takes part in cyberbullying not only should we temporarily remove their online privileges, we should also require them to attend a workshop/seminar on cyberbullying to earn their privileges back. I think we can get the message across and make strides with this but it will take time, persistence, and education on a mass level. Think about smoking. 50 years ago it was acceptable and widespread-doctors did and recommended brands in advertisements. Now, through a long term campaign of education and facts, smoking is much more frowned upon in society. We still have people who participate, but there are less and the activity itself is less acceptable and even looked down on. Maybe with enough time and effort we can make bullying and cyberbullying the smoking of the future (of course, we’ll need to be prepared and on the lookout for the next wave of bullying methods so we can try to head them off at the pass…).


Podcasting in Education


This week our first topic is podcasting and how it can be used in education. A common and popular use of podcasts in education is for book reviews (either teacher or student created) but podcasts are so easy to create and access it seems like a shame to just stop there.

Below, is a link to a podcast I created about some of my ideas on how to push beyond the book review with podcasts in education:

Podcast on Podcasting in the Library

For those of you who couldn’t listen to the podcast, here is the summarized lists of ideas:

  • Create a monthly series of video and audio podcasts highlighting different technologies
  • Create a Story Time Podcast by recording yourself reading a portion of a book and post daily or weekly
  • Create on advertisement for a program or service the library is offering
  • Create a roundup of podcasts for different subject areas and link to them on the library website

So, what do you think? Would these ideas work, would people use them? What ideas do you have about branching out with podcasting in education?

Oh, and just for fun, here’s a little podcasting comic I found. Hopefully, this doesn’t remind you of the podcast you just heard :-).

For more information on what podcasting is and how it works, check out Educause Learning Initiatives 7 Things You Should Know About Podcasting.