Thursday, September 24, 2015

So What! Stories or Whatever!

So What! Stories or Whatever!  introduces Mr. Robert Jeffery, science teacher, to the world.

Our hero could have easily been forgotten or ignored in the humdrum of school days. However, Robert Jeffery had a different idea: he planned to make a difference.

Mr. Jeffery entered his first teaching assignment as a naïve, socially inept, young man searching to find a path to teaching excellence. In mid career, due to a twist of fate, the seasoned teacher discovered he had met his goal in so many ways. It is the path in between that first day and the inadvertent discovery that tells a most interesting tale.

This well-written story is presented in snapshots that portray Mr. Jeffery’s challenges, personal struggles, and many successes. The reader learns, in a most entertaining way, about the life of a teacher. Parents and students will no doubt enjoy seeing the classroom from a teacher’s point of view and teachers will relate to each and every word.

This teacher recommends So What! Stories or Whatever! It is a very good read.

About GJ Griffiths, Award Winning Author

GJ Griffiths grew up in the Midlands, in the UK. He went to a boy's grammar school in the nineteen fifties and sixties and later spent several years in photographic retail and distribution. After graduating as a mature student in Physics and Chemistry GJG became a Science and Technology teacher, for two decades, in various comprehensive schools. He has always enjoyed reading a wide range of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and has written poetry and stories, and occasionally scripts, for many years. Other hobbies include walking in the English and Welsh countryside, bird-watching and in recent years the delights of being a grandad have appeared in his schedule of pastimes.

Visit GJ Griffiths Writer    Author Interview by Moterwriter

Other Books by GJ Griffiths:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elaine Orr: Outstanding Cozy Mystery Author

Elaine Orr: Outstanding Cozy Mystery Author

Notes from Jacquie: I have been a reader of cozy mysteries for many years and am always looking for a new puzzle to unravel. After reading Ocean-Alley-Adventures,  I became a fan of both the series and the author. The boxed set, entitled Ocean-Alley-Adventures, is a trilogy which includes the first three books in the Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery series: Appraisal for Murder, Rekindling Motives, and When the Carney Comes to Town.

It was my intention to simply write a traditional review.  I soon realized to complete a serious review, I needed to discuss the very important element of writing style contained in the Jolie Gentil series.

Elaine Orr's writing follows the basic communication three c's: clear, concise, and complete. Her words are well-chosen as she builds each character and relates, when required,  the character to both the environment and other members of the cast.

She skillfully intertwines the past and present to place each story element in context.

New Jersey's fictional Ocean Alley is the stage on which multiple stories are played. Each book is a stand-alone containing a complete story. It is not necessary, to read each book in sequence because the  characters are gently re-introduced without boring redundancy.

Appraisal for Murder introduces the reader to Jolie Gentil, a somewhat fallible part time real estate appraiser. As she attempts to build a new life, after separating from her less-than-honest husband, she moves into  great-aunt Madge's Ocean Alley Bed and Breakfast. When making her very first appraisal, she finds the home owner dead in her own bed. The adventures begin as the reader unravels clues as this self-appointed sleuth searches for the murderer.

In Rekindling Motives, Jolie is appraising a historic house when she stumbles across a skeleton in an antique wardrobe. As Jolie along with friends Scoobie and Ramona gather clues in hopes of finding out who placed the skeleton in the wardrobe, a new murder occurs. They soon recognize a link between the two deaths and the search intensifies in an attempt to stave off additional deaths.

In When the Carny Comes to Town Jolie's life becomes very complex. Her friend Scoobie is attacked and seriously injured and his ex-con mother adds another level of danger to the mix. There are a murder and kidnapping that places fear in the hearts of all involved. Jolie helps unravel clues in an attempt to keep everyone safe from harm.

This series will capture the interest of teen age readers and adults alike. Students can easily story-board each plot, as a pre-writing activity, in preparation for writing their own cozy mystery.

I asked the author to share with us some helpful hints on mystery writing. Following are some excellent ideas. If any of our followers would like to ask additional questions, please add them in the comment box.

Elaine Orr discusses Mystery Writing

I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books, and my mother introduced me to mystery writers such as Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney by the time I was eleven or twelve. It was natural for me to write what I read. There are so many kinds of mysteries. 

The Jolie Gentil series is low on gore and the murder is off stage, so to speak, putting these in the cozy category, with an amateur sleuth. Whether a writer produces detective stories, CSI-type thrillers, or cozy mysteries, when the reader finds out who did the deed, it has to make sense. It doesn't work if the murderer was barely in the book or (in one I read recently) only referred to until they showed up at the end. It's also a challenge to plant clues without having so many that the reader guesses the who in whodunit by the middle of the book. I try to keep readers guessing by implying motives for several people. Candidly, I think I do character development better than plot twists, and I do love it when a reviewer says they were guessing until the end.

Thank You Elaine Orr!

Ground to a Halt  Eighth Jolie Gentil cozy mystery

Resources for learning more about cozy mysteries:   Writing a Cozy Mystery

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sharing Resources: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A Carla Butarac Mini Lesson

Follow this link to You Tube for an excellent idea for facilitating Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Notes from Jacquie: Classroom 2.0 is an excellent resource for teachers, parents, and homeschoolers.

If you are looking for a different point of view or information about teaching methods, you might want to check out this site.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Rise of Phone Reading: Link to WSJ

Notes from Jacquie: The Rise of Phone Reading by Jennifer Maloney offers authors and readers a view of current trends. The Rise of Phone Reading a Wall Street Journal Article.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Teaching Cursive The Easy Way

From Psychology Today
Notes from Jacquie
This approach to teaching cursive has been used successfully in elementary, secondary, and special education classes. a, e, i, o, and u are included in this post. Those interested in the entire alphabet may receive a free copy at  Jacquie's Lessons.

Cursive and Cognitive Development

It has been known for years that cursive is an excellent memory tool. Current research continues to support this belief. The following article regarding cursive being an important tool for cognitive development is one, among many: Psychology Today: Benefits of Cursive

Cursive in the Workforce

The critical need for students to have cursive in their knowledge toolbox became more than obvious to this author when I was working with Special Education Transition to the Workforce programs. Employer feedback was clear: students could not read notes when they were written in cursive. We did, of course, ask employers to print notes. The realization that we would not be available to support students after graduating from the program led to the addition of cursive to the curriculum. 

Whether working with one student or a class of 35, teaching cursive can be fun.


Draw two sets of solid, parallel lines about five feet long on the board
approximately 24 inches apart. Draw a dotted line midway between the
solid lines (approximately twelve (12) inches above the bottom lines).

Supply Students with lined writing paper. Handwriting paper templates available at Jacquie's Lessons

Note: Use this line formation for all letter and word demonstrations for as long
as required. When the students understand the concept of the dotted line
and can write correctly on their papers, the use of lined paper can be eliminated.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Process, Content & Feeling: A Powerful Mix

Process, Content, and Feeling: A Powerful Mix

Note from Jacquie: 

 This bare bones matrix was used as a tool for decision-making in my Curriculum and Methods class. We worked as a group to design classroom environments for each teacher enrolled in the class. It is a working document with no one correct solution and is intended to be used as a tool for thoughtful consideration.

There are a wealth of resources available to assist those who home school, teachers and tutors in decision-making. A few are listed below. There is a growing contemplation of resources listed on this blog. As always, your comments and ideas are very welcome.

Every lesson contains three components, each of which has influence on success: process, content, and feeling.

• Process Defines the Method of Teaching. 

Group instruction, often a favorite, is most often successful when students are learning the same standard. To require a student to sit through instruction of material he or she has mastered OR material that is far too difficult, not only defeats the purpose of instruction but causes students to lose interest. The opportunity to learn may be unintentionally eliminated with the selection of ta particular lesson process.

precision teaching, multi-sensory learning, scaffolding, and cooperative learning are examples of additional structures available. Each strategy can work with any curriculum. A list of process options to consider can be found at the end of this post. Other resources can be found listed on this blog.

• Content Defines What is Taught. 

It is important to sequence each lesson in such a way that students are exposed to both previously learned material and the new content simultaneously.   Each student should have his or her own entry point into the curriculum and move at his or her own pace in order to offer a  frustration free experience.

• Feeling is Perhaps the Most Important Component of each Lesson. 

While the reactions to the learning environment may vary among students, it is important for the instructor to be aware of the feeling tone of the class. Adjusting the content, presentation, adding humor, or additional positive reinforcement goes a long way toward maintaining a warm, inviting environment.

• Feelings are attached to every learning event and have a direct impact on the assimilation and retention of information. For example, if a teacher yells or belittles students when teaching the digraph th, chances are the student will not remember the digraph th, but will remember the teacher. The student may be less receptive to further teaching of the digraph th and, depending on the degree of the negative impact, reading in general.

• When learning is fun and tension free, information is more easily assimilated. If a student demonstrates difficulty learning a concept, and the teacher is allowed to take the time to teach another way, the student no longer fears failure.
Excerpt from Rhoades to Reading Copyright information above

Thank you Cindy Kreeger for editing this article.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Spotlight on Justice: A Lesson in Ambiguity

Spotlight on Justice: A lesson in Ambiguity

The purpose of this lesson is to explore the ambiguity surrounding justice, and encourage each student to develop a broad personal understanding of the concept. 

Various perceptions  of justice abound, when these  differing perceptions meet conflict may occur.

The objectives of this lesson: 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Watch What You Say! You May be Teaching Thinking Skills


There are many ways to think: Well, let’s see, there is critical, creative, lateral, strategic, divergent, and…... There are thousands of papers and books written on the subject, and assessments, of every ilk, measuring how we think. Yet, parents, teachers and caregivers are most-often left without a clear direction on how best to bolster thinking in our young people. This post is based on excerpts from two publications I authored a number of years ago: The Nurturing Classroom and a chapter entitled Cognition and Cooperation: partners in Excellence which can be found in If Minds Matter a Forward to the Future

It is my hope that this post will help parents and teachers separate the wheat from the chaff and make the task of teaching thinking an everyday adventure.

For sure, we need a reference point, usually referred to as frame of reference, to assimilate new information. If we don’t have a reference point on which to connect the new information, It just sits there or disappears from the thinking field altogether.

For new information to become relevant we must be able to either link it to past experience or construct new meaning. Each time we are exposed to a new way to think about something, we add another strategy or path to our thinking abilities. If there is nothing in our past experience OR if we are unable to construct new meaning, we will not be able to make sense of the information.

As parents, teachers, and caregivers we can create an environment that promotes the development of more and more thinking paths. If we tell young people the why’s and elaborate on some of the how’s rather than just telling them what to do, we help them develop new paths of thinking.

FOR EXAMPLE: in the classroom
If we tell students one of the class standards is that only one person can speak at a time, they will understand the rule and not much more. This is particularly true for the child who comes from a family where two or more people often talk simultaneously. While we make no value judgment on what happens at home, we can offer other choices for students to consider. The teacher can explain: When two students speak at the same time, it is impossible to hear everything each student says. When only one person speaks at a time, everyone can hear the speaker and will know what each person is thinking. Seems obvious? Not to all students.

FOR EXAMPLE: in the home

Parenting Style #1
Assume that it is winter and Rob, an eight year old child, does not close the door completely upon entering the house. Rob may be told: Rob, close the door. To a young child this is just another command to obey or get into some kind of trouble. Parent #1’s preferred form of communication is direct commands.

Parenting Style #2
If the parent explains: Rob, close the door cold air is coming in, then Rob begins to make the mental connection- if the door is open cold air is getting in the house

Parenting Style #3
If the parent elaborates even further: Close the door, cold air is coming in. When this happens the house will get cold causing the heater to come on frequently. If this happens too often, the heating bill will be so high we will not have any money to take our vacation trip to Disneyland.
Rob is learning about cause and effect, which is a critical element in problem solving. Some might say this is common sense. Consider the fact that Rob may not have the opportunity to learn common sense if his life is filled with direct commands.

In each of these instances the stimulus is identical. The parent’s response is the critical factor in determining the child’s cognitive growth pattern. In other words, if a child is living in a command-only household, where the reasons behind a given action are never explained, he may be living in the context of Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy Level 1—Just the facts.

Obviously, it is not appropriate for parents to always give detailed responses. However, if elaboration persists over time a child’s memory bank will be filled with options. Frames of reference will abound. When presented with new information they will have a much better chance to make sense of what comes their way.

You are welcome to make comments and join the conversation.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Jo Marshall: Saving the Environment One Word at a Time

Note from Jacquie: 

Jo Marshall

A Powerful Tool for Teaching Environmental Awareness

Jo Marshall’s books offer parents and teachers a powerful tool for teaching environmental awareness, climate change, extinction, and so much more. Whether sitting by the fire listening to your child read or discussing Twig stories in class, you will find Jo Marshall’s series well worth your time.

You can be confident that each story, while a fantasy, is based in current scientific knowledge. The following endorsements by Dr. Edwards, manager of education at the British Colombia Wildlife Park, is one of many.

“The environmental messages contained in this highly entertaining series of stories are certainly important and are told  in a way that will engage children everywhere.  The educational value of these books cannot be underestimated especially at a time when we desperately need to create a culture that is committed to protecting our natural wonders.” 

The story line is brought to life by artist D.W. Murray 

D.W. Murray is an award-winning Disney and Universal Pictures artist whose screen credits include Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, and Curious George.  An award recipient of the prestigious New York Society of Illustrators Gallery, his talent is also recognized by the 2004 Gold Aurora Award.

Following is an overview of three Leaf adventures. Your comments and the addition of lesson resources are welcome. Join the conversation!

Leaf & the Rushing Waters

Learn more about Rushing Waters at Amazon

 Leaf  & the Rushing Waters  is about a young, boyish Twig named Leaf whose old tree home is inundated by a glacial outburst flood.  His family is trapped high in the Old Seeder’s knothole.  Leaf and his Twig friend Rustle set off to find a goliath beaver named Slapper, who can build a mighty dam to block the raging torrent.  What I love about Twig Stories is the opportunity to blend science fact into fantasy.  The idea that Slapper and his colony could build such an enormous and effective dam comes from an actual beaver dam in Alberta, Canada.  It is twice the length of Hoover Dam and can be seen from space! Largest Beaver Dam

Resources to Support Lesson Planning: 

Wikipedia: Beaver in the Sierra Nevada   

Nature Mapping: California Beavers 

Worth a Dam: Who are Beavers Helping Now?   

Wikipedia: Glacial Lake Outburst Flood

Amazon: Welcome to the World of Beavers      Amazon: The Beaver Its Life and Impact

Amazon: Flood Investigation of Glacial Outburst

Leaf & the Sky of Fire

Learn more about Sky of Fire at Amazon

In a dying forest infested with swarms of bark
beetles, frightened stick creatures called Twigs
hide in a cave. A young Twig named Leaf
attempts a foolhardy rescue, but instead leads
them all into greater danger. In their darkest 
hour a spirit bear stalks their steps and a terrifying firestorm explodes! Yet, there is one passage south, 
if only the Twigs discover it in time!

Resources to Support Lesson Planning:

Wikipedia: Bark Beetle     USDA Forest Service    

 Bark Beetle: Killing/Saving Forest  

Smokey the Bear    

National Geographic: Volcanic Thunderclouds     

Amazon: Fire in the Forest

Amazon: Fire in Sierra Nevada photographic...since 1849  

Amazon: Bark Beetles in North American Conifers

Leaf & the Long Ice

Learn more about Long Ice at Amazon

An impish, stick creature called Leaf lives in a 
giant, old tree beneath an ancient volcano and
its melting glacier. One day, Leaf’s young
brothers run away to play in the vanishing 
snow, but soon the Twig twins are lost in a maze
of endless ice tunnels. With the help of a 
grumpy hermit and feisty pika, Leaf searches 
the blue tubes. But it is the rare beasts of the Long 
Ice who will decide their fate! 

Resources to Support Lesson Planning:

WeatherWizkids: Volcanos     

National Geographic: Volcanos

Washington Trails Association: Ice Caves   

Wikipedia: Lava Tube

While Jo Marshall holds no special credentials in climate change research, biology, or botany, her manuscripts were validated and thoroughly reviewed by the conservation nonprofits’ founders and officers.  

She earned a BA in German Language and Literature from the University of Maryland, Europe in West Berlin.  Jo hopes you will recommend her Twig Stories novels to your students and children: Please visit her website: Jo Marshall Website and her  author Page