MSM 250: Well, it’s been a while . . .

Presented in collaboration with the Association for Middle Level Education.

Jokes You Can Use:

Why was the archaeologist depressed?

His career was in ruins.


What’s the most commonly misspelled blood group?



What do you call Santa’s helpers?

Subordinate clauses.


Why was the computer tired when it got home?

Because it had a hard drive.


What do you call dyslexic owls?


Eileen Award:

  • iTunes:  Busbyscience

  • Twitter: Joy Kirr, Paul Dunford, Don Wettrick, Kyle Mayer

  • Diigo:

  • Facebook: Christine Fleisher, Smoth John



Red Cross Baby Sitting Courses

Introductory Video –


Middle School Science Minute

by Dave Bydlowski (k12science or

Choice Eliminates Complacency


I was recently reading the March, 2013 issue of Science Scope, a magazine for middle school science teachers, published by the National Science Teachers Association.  An article that caught my attention was:

“Choice: The Dragon Slayer of Student Complacency.”  It was written by Douglas Llewellyn.


The article focuses in on the the skills that middle level teachers have that help them capture student interest.  The teacher skills are:

1.  Differentiate instruction to suit the needs of individual students.

2.  Provide intrinsic motivation for learning by offering choice.

3.  Engage students in the learning process.


You can find it online at:

From the Twitterverse:

* Joshua Pugh ‏@JPughMI  Must-read from an actual educator on why Michigan’s school ratings are so misguided and dangerous: … via @nancyflanagan
* Mike Hanlon ‏@HanlonMike

Treat bullies with compassion & ask the right questions. Treat targets with respect and give them a voice. #restore relationships #colchat

* John Spencer ‏@edrethink 1h

I think the biggest policy affecting my school is the sheer amount of testing we are required to do. #rechat

* Scott McLeod ‏@mcleod

The Silent Writing Collective | @dajbelshaw  cc @eolsonteacher

* Scott McLeod ‏@mcleod

MT @jcwastler Just asked 6 yr old about 1st wk of school: “Boring. Took learning tests all day, all week.” Way to kill excitement #satchat

* carl_gaines ‏@carl_gaines

I liked reading ‘A FREE MOOC: How To Teach Online’

* Jeffrey Bradbury ‏@TeacherCast

Learn how to create AWESOME and dynamic APPS with your students this year…  #eduvid #elearning @TeacherCast

* Tra Hall ‏@tra_hall

1000 Ideas to Build Positive Relationships with Your Class (Responses)  #txed

* Rosaura Gonzalez ‏@rgonzalezmuniz

Teachers: Preparing for Your Best Year Ever  via @edutopia #ACPSCoaches #ACPS

* Jeffrey Bradbury ‏@TeacherCast

Google Scripting + QR Codes = Awesomeness by @TJHouston  #edtech #blog #edstuff #tcdn @TeacherCast

* LearnPal ‏@LearnPal

Crowdsourcing Ideas for Better School Policies

* Erin Klein ‏@KleinErin

Top story via Kleinspiration 5 Math Apps for Middle School Students | MindShift …, see more

* Jeffrey Bradbury ‏@TeacherCast

Screencasting Tips Tricks and Apps for the Classroom  #eduvid #elearning @TeacherCast

* My ICT Cloud ‏@MyICTCloud

Teaching Art on Edmodo? Must have App Artists Insight – Frederic Edwin Church  #Edmodo #arted #artsed

* Monte Tatom ‏@drmmtatom

Project-based activities aligning to NETS-S and Common core [Grades 5-9]:  via #edwebchat ~ #fhuedu642 #fhuedu320

#mschat every Thursday at 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.



100+ Tips for New Teachers and Good Reminders for Veteran Teachers

In 2011 and 2012 I asked readers to share their best tips for new teachers. I compiled all of the tips that were submitted and put them into a Google Slides presentation. I’ve made the slide deck public for anyone who has a Google Account to edit. Please make a copy and add your own tips if you feel inclined to do so.

47+ Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom





– Learn new words while you browse the web and boost your vocabulary.


– Review the new words you collected, use smart quizzes to practice the new words you learned.


– Discover real content around the web that suits your interests and level. for teachers:

Do you spend a lot of time looking for the right texts for your language class? Do you feel your students are not challenged or interested enough by the reading comprehension activities you assign to them? to the rescue! is a great addition to your teacher’s toolbox. It’s an effective way to make sure your students learn, practice, and remember the vocabulary you assign to them, while they enjoy browsing the web.. No more boring texts and frustrated students! allows you to set the learning goals you desire, and offers your students the benefits of personalized adaptive learning at the same time.

This is how it works:

First, assign a list of vocabulary to your students (via your favorite communication channel: email, moodle, etc.). Each student can then upload the list to their learning zone. automatically generates an interactive flashcard for each word, and helps your students practice and remember the vocabulary with a smart notifications system. Finally, helps your students practice the new vocabulary they have learned in real context:’s personalized reading suggestions help each student ‘follow’ the new vocabulary they learned in real articles, articles that match their interests and level as they read and make progress.

The recommended articles will challenge each student just the right amount.: This way, they will not only remember and learn more about the vocabulary you asked them to review, but will also be encouraged to explore and learn new words independently.

Try today:

It’s free and easy to use! You can start now by adding to your Chrome browser here.

We are working on new features that will help you plan, support, and monitor your students’ learning more efficiently in the classroom and remotely. We would love your feedback and suggestions to help us plan the best possible system for language teachers anywhere! Join the discussion on our facebook, twitter, and our forum.



Today the Getty becomes an even more engaged digital citizen, one that shares its collections, research, and knowledge more openly than ever before. We’ve launched the Open Content Program to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible. –

The initial focus of the Open Content Program is to make available all images of public domain artworks in the Getty’s collections. Today we’ve taken a first step toward this goal by making roughly 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose.



Free (do whatever you want) hi-resolution photos.

10 new photos every 10 days.


Good for background images. Also useful for writing assignments.


PROJECT: Education here, there, everywhere.

Do you have teenage students? Do you have teenagers at home who could give us a hand?

I teach English to teenagers in Brazil and we’ve just started a unit which is about Education. In order to help them learn about how different school can be in other countries (or not), we’d love to have students from different countries participate in our VOICETHREAD.

These are some questions students can answer:

– What kind of secondary school do you go to? (private / state school)

– Do you like it?

– How many students are there in your class?

– How many hours a day do you stay at school?

– What kind of subjects do you like best?

– Can you choose what subjects to take?

– Do you have to wear a uniform?

– Can you describe the sitting arrangement in your classroom? ( in a U shape, in lines, in groups)

– And the classes? Does the teacher do most of the talking or do you work mostly in groups?

– Do students stay in the same room the whole school period or do they move to different rooms according to the subject?

– Is discipline very strict?

If you wish to join our project, you can record the whole class using your own voicethread account and have different students come to the webcam in order to answer the questions (an in-class activity) or you can set it for homework and students record themselves individually. To add a video-response and participate in our project, click COMMENT and record a video message, please.

Here’s the link to our VoiceThread.

40 maps that explain the world


Maps can be a remarkably powerful tool for understanding the world and how it works, but they show only what you ask them to. So when we saw a post sweeping the Web titled “40 maps they didn’t teach you in school,” one of which happens to be a WorldViews original, I thought we might be able to contribute our own collection. Some of these are pretty nerdy, but I think they’re no less fascinating and easily understandable. A majority are original to this blog (see our full maps coverage here), with others from a variety of sources. I’ve included a link for further reading on close to every one.


RIP, Elmore Leonard: The Beloved Author’s 10 Rules of Writing

  1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

  1. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

  1. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

  1. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” …

…he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

  1. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

  1. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

  1. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

  1. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

  1. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

  1. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

  1. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character — the one whose view best brings the scene to life — I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in Sweet Thursday was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1″ and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2″ as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

Sweet Thursday came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.


Web Spotlight:


Inspiring better teaching everywhere. Welcome to the first official Moodle MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Our first course for teachers runs for four weeks, starting 1st September 2013.

A teacher’s heart speaks on the first day of school


My youngest has moved up into sixth grade. My how time flies. When I talked with him on Thursday about his week his first response was:

“I’m so happy. I think all my teachers seem to like me ok.”


How come officials could predict new test score results?

The mystery and complexity that surrounds the setting of test cut-scores evoke feelings of awe and puzzlement. It is a method as stupefying as those used by the Amazing Kreskin to make predictions and read minds.  We, the audience, are to suspend our disbelief and accept the meaning attached to the number as if it were reality.

Yet, before the tests were even taken, John King, commissioner of education in New York State, was predicting the drop, while blaming “all of the adults” for so many kids not being prepared for high school and college.

New York State Education Department, with the help of Pearson, creates a test and then after it is taken and scored, decide what constitutes passing.   By showing those chosen to participate in the cut-score setting process other measures that they claim indicate college readiness (such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, SAT scores, Regents exams), they are able to get the outcome they want.

You can read the account of the cut score creation process from participant, Dr. Maria Baldassarre-Hopkins, of Nazareth College here: as well as blogger, Jersey Jazzman’s,hilarious interpretation here.