Friday, December 12, 2014

Amazing Resource on Food Supply Disparities

Foods and nutrition teachers, here is an excellent article to use when discussing hunger, the global food supply, food insecurity... anything along those lines.

7 photos that reveal what families eat in one week

This article contains seven different pictures from around the world, each with a family sitting behind an entire week's worth of the food that they eat. There is a short blurb below each photo describing the family's food situation. This is an excellent visual and text-light way to help students grasp the disparities in access to food around the world - fantastic attention-getter!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Anonymous" Teachers

I follow a LOT of teacher blogs, and a LOT of teachers on Twitter, and it's interesting to look at the differences between the ones that are "anonymous" and those that choose to reveal their identities.

Going all in is risky business, so props to those of you who take that full on. All it takes is for one parent/community member/school board member/whathaveyou to take issue with something you post, and it may very well be career-ending. Going "anonymous" gives you a little more freedom, especially when you need to share a less than sunshiney story about your classroom.

I keep placing "anonymous" in quotes because hopefully we all realize that there is no such thing on the web. Sure, I do all of the common sense things - don't give my full name (or use students' real names), edit my name and face out of pictures, edit students' faces out of pictures, so on and so forth. But, realistically, if someone really wanted to, they could find the real me.

And sometimes being the small world that it is people just stumble onto you. I've had people who have subbed for me find this blog ("I recognize those monkeys! And the stencils on that wall!"); I've had students say "Hey, I saw folder holders that looked exactly like these on Pinterest !" (though luckily they didn't follow the pin to my blog); it even turns out that my current boss's sister is a FACS teacher who reads this blog. And I know that this doesn't just happen to me - one of my favorite blog posts this year was when two bloggers I follow met serendipitously at JCrew - Sneaker Teacher and Roxanne from Books That Heal Kids.

We should all be careful, whether using legit names or not. At the same time, there are several posts and tweets (tweets especially) I read every week that are absolutely laugh out loud hilarious, but things you would NEVER say if your real name was attached to it. We all need people to be that brutally honest at times, because teaching is not all rainbows and kittens. It is hard. It is frustrating. It is overwhelming. And heartbreaking, and maddening, and infuriating. And the only people who get wanting to pull-your-hair-out-and-scream-and-cry-but-you're-too-exhausted-so-you'll-just-slink-away-and-find-an-alternative-to-the-copy-machine are others who have experienced the same thing. And the only people who get why you're so excited in August after what happened last year are others who have experienced the same thing. And the only people who get how much you still love that kid six and a half years later after he lifted a ball of yarn from your classroom and weaved it up and down the staircase blocking everyone and creating a total fire hazard are others who have experienced the same thing. And the only people who get how sad you still are five years later that that same kid didn't survive that car accident are others who have experienced the same thing.

So "anonymous" or not, do protect yourself, but do continue to share what's real - the good and sometimes also the bad. We all need to know that there are others out there who get it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ah, Young Love

Here's a discussion I overheard in the hallways of our local community college. To set the scene: Boy is trying to hit on girl who clearly isn't interested. Girl begins to lose patience.

Girl: How old are you?
Boy: Twenty. How old is you?
Girl (with attitude): Twenty four.
Boy: What dat mean?
Girl: A lot. Goodbye.

Poor guy was crushed, but I had to cheer for her to be smart enough to walk away.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Protect Your Handiwork

Here's another tip from the department of the obvious, yet took me a while to figure out that I actually needed to implement this procedure. I have these beautiful stand mixer covers I made for my kitchens, which were constantly getting mucky because the kids would just toss them wherever. I tried to get them in the habit of placing them on top of the microwave and out of harm's way, but to no avail - and somehow even those that followed through still managed to muck them up. So I started requiring that at the beginning of any lab involving the stand mixers, the covers had to go into a box by the ingredient table as soon as they were taken off of the mixers.

Problem solved. After the first lab with this new procedure, I never had to tell them again, someone would always remind the rest of the class to do it. Including me when I forgot to set a box out. Such a simple thing, but it works!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Milk Cartons, Time, and Space

Piggy-backing on earlier posts about organizing your ingredients table and making egg cartons more manageable, here's a tip for milk: save a couple smaller containers. Having representatives from several kitchens waiting around for the gallon jug not only uses up precious time, it's a spill waiting to happen. I divide the milk up into the smaller sizes so that more people can use them AND spills are much less likely.

Note: make sure the kids know you are reusing older containers, so they don't squawk about the old dates.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Great One Minute Video for Foods/Nutrition Classes!

Last night the hubs treated me to a movie date ("Mockingjay!"), and one of the pre-film promos was this fantastic Weight Watchers commercial that would be perfect for Foods/Nutrition classes in so many ways! Where I would most likely use it would be at the beginning of the year, when we analyze the different reasons that we eat and the various influences on what we eat. However, it would be great to use when discussing snacking, emotional eating, eating habits, eating disorders... any number of things! Check it out here:

Note: if the embedded video doesn't work for you here, you can follow this link to view it on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Healing Hands

This particular post falls under the category of “Taking Care of You.” This time of year our hands tend to get really torn up: between the extra cooking and baking of the holidays, making homemade gifts, and constantly washing our hands to fight the inevitable attack of teenage germs (not to mention all the usual hands-on work of our jobs AND the cold weather), probably none of us are worthy of hand model status at the moment.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of lotions, tried wearing gloves whenever possible, tried getting someone else to do all of the work (kidding… maybe…), but none of these ever seemed to make any impact.

Until I tried Aquaphor:

Note: I am not getting any money from Eucerin, sad to say; I just really think this is a helpful product. This stuff WORKS. It is an ointment, not a lotion (think Vaseline), so it has a different feel and a different consistency than lotion. However, I’ve found it absorbs almost as quickly as lotion, is non-greasy, and works so much better. Not only does it heal hands, but it also acts as a kind of sealant. When I remember to use it about half an hour or so before doing a lot of baking, at the end of the process my hands are significantly less dry than when I don’t. A container is more expensive than regular lotion, but I've found that it lasts much longer, so the money spent evens itself out.

So, if you too are a hand abuser fighting dry and chapped skin, give it a try – I saw a dramatic difference within my first week of using it, and I’m confident it will also make a difference for you!

And Eucerin, some coupons would be really nice!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gah! Why We Need Home Ec, Part 3

That is NOT A DRY MEASURING CUP, Uncle Ben's!

You can't measure the importance of teaching them to cook? How about the importance of teaching them to measure? And shame on you Food Network Magazine for printing this!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cheesecake in a Jar

This is a quick and easy lab that the kids just love, the serving size is perfect for class, and you get to use Mason jars!

4 oz cream cheese
1/2 c powdered sugar
4 oz Cool Whip
Fresh fruit, sliced or canned pie filling
Graham cracker crumbs*
Melted butter*

With mixer, beat cream cheese with powdered sugar. The fold in whipped cream. Layer in dessert glasses with crust mixture and fruit. Chill overnight.

*Note: We've made graham cracker crust before, so I make them calculate the ratio of crumbs to butter and come up with the amount they'll need for the three or four people in their groups. Math, muahahahaaaa...

Aren't they adorable?


This lab can fit in to your curriculum in several places, and is one that doesn't take much time. The kids liked having their own individual dessert to eat, there were no leftovers (and thus no waste), and several have since used a variation of this for party treats!

The jars I picked up at WalMart, and to their disappointment the kids did not get to keep them. With my emphasis last year on experimenting with individual serving sizes for labs to reduce waste - and budget-stretching - I kept them for future single-serving projects.

Hint: keep the box flat that the jars come in to store them in your cabinets. You don't want to have to go pulling out 20 some jars every time you need them, as opposed to two flats!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dumb Choices When Teaching Sex Ed

Well, since I brought up the topic of sex ed yesterday and discussed one of my recipes for success, today I'll share one of my biggest fails. I'll start by saying as many times as I've been through these units, I've actually never had any trouble with immaturity, inappropriateness, etc - I think this is primarily because kids don't want other kids to think that they are immature. As such, these particular class sessions tend to be more civilized and mature than most.

I've always had the policy that you can ask me anything - after all, if they don't ask me, they're probably going to ask their friends who actually know even less than they do. You open yourself up to all sorts of crazy things, but I'm not the type to become flustered by anything they have to say or ask.

There are, however, times when on the inside I'm thinking "please oh please oh please don't let anyone have overheard that" and "why oh why oh why did I open this can of worms." This used to be complicated by the fact that for three of my years teaching I had constant adult traffic coming in and out of my room, because kid you not the office to the Business Manager, Director of Building and Grounds, and Director of Transportation was accessible only by walking through my classroom. Which meant a constant parade of administrators, bus drivers, accountants, school board members, parents, etc were strolling through the room at any time.

So here's my story. We are beginning to learn about conception (for a great ice breaker, see yesterday's post), so we begin by going over the basics of anatomy, both male and female. We get to the point where we learn that women are born with all of the eggs that they are ever going to have, but men are constantly producing sperm. No matter how I set this up, without fail a conversation ensues on what happens when that sperm begins to build up. It is unavoidable.

And this particular year, for no real reason that I can think of now, I decided on the fly to try to avoid the m-word, and simply stated "Sexual activity does not have to involve another person."

The SECOND that phrase was out of my mouth I knew EXACTLY what was going to happen.

Immediately after I said that, a boy asked "So what, like a pig or something?" And chaos erupted.

"EWWWW!" "Who would do that?!" "Whaaaaaat???!!!" and then the inevitable "Mrs. C, do people really do that?"

Great. This is exactly what I wanted to discuss today. So I come back with yes, there are some people, it's called such and such, and by the way it's illegal.

"Why is it illegal? You own the pig!" And then a kid who I swear has never in his life written a paragraph that made any sense came back with the admittedly clever turn of phrase "Yeah, how come you can make your pig into pork but you can't pork your pig?"

Inside my head: make it stop, make it stop, make it stop... And then a girl chimes in "Wait, can you get the pig pregnant?"

And now I'm thinking REALLY? And I make a statement about DNA compatibility, etc, and how no, humans cannot get pigs pregnant.

And then comes my next mistake, which is one of automaticity: any time you say something to the effect of "no, you can't get pregnant from..." "you have a lower risk of pregnancy when..." etc, you automatically follow it up with something to the effect of "but that does not protect you from diseases." It's a good practice to always remind them that pregnancy is not the only risk associated with sexual activity. And so I made that statement.


At that precise moment a school board member was about three steps inside the room. He stopped dead in his tracks, raised his hands, and with a horrified look on his face pulled a 180 and made his escape. He did not come back. Ever.

And I was left to answer the question about pig herpes. Which went something like this:

"I don't really know enough about pigs to know if they actually carry the herpes virus, but obviously the risk of some kind of infection increases with this kind of activity. Leave the pigs - and all other animals - alone. If the pressure is getting to you, find a private space, lock the door, and fly solo."

To which they all nodded their heads in agreement that yes, that did seem like the more logical way to go about things.

And a girl said to me "I bet you wish you had just said that to begin with."

Amen, sister.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Sex (Education) Trick

Risque title today, eh? So one of the joys of being a FACS teacher is the sex ed component that accompanies so many of your units, particularly in Child Development when you really can't skip over that whole "How are babies made" question.

One of the challenging things about handling this subject matter is that you've got kids all the way across the comfort spectrum: some will have no problem publicly asking the most graphic questions, some wish only to curl up under their desks and die. Most are somewhere in between.

Because of this, it's really crucial to work to establish an environment in which nobody is spending a full 52 minutes desperately pleading with God for a bear to walk into the classroom and eat them so that they can escape this discussion. So naturally you're not going to jump straight into "When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much...", but instead you're going to take some time to create that more comfortable climate first. Even with that, you're going to need some boosters here and there to keep things light and break the tension when necessary.

Here's one of my favorites.

For background, I use guided (sometimes called "skeleton") notes for my classes - they're already formatted and have most of what they need, but they have to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go. It's enough to keep them paying attention and on task, but not so much that they're focusing only on copying to the exclusion of listening (or that their hands cramp up and they begin crying carpal tunnel).

When we begin our discussion of conception, I make no assumptions. We start with the basics - the essentials of female and male reproductive anatomy. As such, it's obviously necessary to work with some diagrams (NOT pictures, diagrams). When I have the female anatomy on the board - and their note sheets - and we go over the different structures, I've never had any issues at all, they take it stride, almost ho hum. As soon as we flip to the male anatomy, that changes - you just can't project a penis onto the board (again, a diagram people!) without the room immediately becoming charged (and you can really see it in the less comfortable kids' faces - "ohmygodtheresapenisupthereitsapenisicantdothis WHERE IS THAT BEAR, GOD????"). Additionally, you have your less mature kids who are desperately, desperately trying not to giggle because they don't want anyone else to think they are immature. And of course everyone else is aware that things suddenly got weird and now everyone's a bit on edge.

So here's my built-in way to diffuse this inevitable event. For about seven or eight blanks in a row, they have to write in the same word over and over: sperm. By about the third of fourth one they begin to catch on, and by the sixth time they're writing "sperm" everyone is laughing out loud, the tension has disappeared, and "sperm" is now a meaningless word because they've looked at it so much and we can now move on.

Seriously, works like a charm, every time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Story Time, Part 3

My next story time idea was very specific, but had absolutely HILARIOUS results!

We read this book:

Synopsis - a brother and sister lament that no matter what story they share, their grandfather always remarks "Could Be Worse!" Grandpa, having overheard them, then tells them a fantastic tale of adventure and danger... to which they respond... well, I'm sure you can guess!

After reading this, I gave them a template with two large rectangles, then asked them to create their own "Could Be Worse!" scenario. The results were hilarious (and revealed some truly demented minds!). I again scanned them to use for story time the next day; I divided their stories onto different slides, so that the class could guess what would happen next before seeing it (modeling prediction as a reading strategy, anyone?). Here they are:

Boy did the kids love this one! In fact, by request I showed their "Could Be Worse" stories again at the end of the school year a few months later.

While super fun and entertaining, there were of course many real lessons learned:
  • discussion of the moral of the story
  • using prediction as a reading strategy
  • making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections
  • discussions of how to utilize all of these when reading to little ones!
And of course, more memories made!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Story Time: Part 2

In Part 1 I mentioned that I would share activities that I incorporated into my Child Development class along with "Story Time" - here's the first!

On back-to-back days, I read the following books:

The first is exactly what you would think: an alphabet book of NASCAR terms. The second, well, it's obviously not a real children's book. Great opportunity to teach about both satire and using good judgement when choosing reading material for young children! Also, just plain hilarious for both teacher and students alike - definitely a memorable class moment!

Reading these in succession naturally leads to a discussion of why so many books for kids have an alphabet theme, wherein we review the importance of letter awareness and learning letter sounds. And then, I have them write their own mini-alphabet stories.

I gave them a blank template with four squares, and the following conditions:
  • Choose any four letters in a row of the alphabet
  • Choose a theme
  • Use words and pictures in each frame to create a mini-alphabet "book"
Here is a sampling of the results:

Several students chose a fruit/veggie/food theme.

A few chose to use names.

Animals were very popular.

And a couple of them really developed their themes.

After I collected them I created a slideshow from them, which became their "story" for the third day (note: before showing I of course went over guidelines for commenting on and responding to other students' stories - particularly the drawings and the spelling). For each we discussed what children could learn from these little stories, what age group each might be appropriate, and then we talked about how to help kids create their own short alphabet stories. 

And naturally the students LOVED having their stories projected on the board. Even for them I cropped the names out so that they could remain anonymous if they wished, but almost every single one was anxious to claim credit for their creation - pretty cute how much pride they took in something like this!

Very successful lesson, I would definitely do this one again. And if nothing else, you should definitely read "K is for Knifeball!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Child Development: Story Time, Part 1

One agenda I chose to really push in my Child Development class this year was early literacy and the importance of reading to your children beginning in the womb. One method I used to do this was dedicating the last 5-10 minutes of nearly every class to "Story Time" - that's right, I read a story aloud to my high schoolers nearly every day. While some of them complained that it was "babyish" and beneath them, the complainers were usually the first to be upset when we ran out of time for their story.

The first several story time sessions, and on occasion throughout the rest of the semester as a refresher, we went over the following Story Time Rules before the story:

It really bugs me when people ruin the ending of anything for anybody - why do people DO that??

I did not have them sit in a circle on the floor or anything like that - they simply remained at their desks during story time. To make sure that they could all see the pictures (I didn't want a riot on my hands, after all), I did one of the following: 1) checked out oversized books from the library, 2) scanned the pictures and displayed them via projector, 3) took photos of the pictures with my phone, uploaded the pictures, then displayed them via projector. In addition to listening to the stories, they also engaged in various activities related to the stories - I'll present a few of them in subsequent posts.

The experience was amazing. I was able to model how to make reading an interactive rather than a passive process for the child, thereby increasing learning. I was able to introduce them to a wide variety of the children's literature that is available out there. I was able to trick them into working on their own listening skills, their own prediction skills, their own metacognitive skills. I was able to get them to make connections between the course content we were learning in class, the characters in the stories, and their own childhoods.

And best of all, I was able to create an experience that they will carry with them - remember that class in high school where that crazy teacher read us stories every day?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kingsley's Got Your Back

For all of you who are feeling a little overwhelmed/anxious/stressed/unprepared/in need of a break from this end-of-the-break-period-of-time, here is a fabulous video in defense of teachers - I could not stop laughing! I did a little editing work to erase any profanity so it is good to go to share with colleagues, if you should so desire.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Things I Steal From Social Media

Stole this idea from someone on Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/somewhere. It was hanging the last four weeks of school. It once got up to three days.

That was the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Back to zero by second hour.

Do you want to build a snowman?....

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Favorite Dinosaur & Shared Absurdity

I make my students do A LOT of drawing. Not only that, I often require that the drawings include dinosaurs.

This is for a few reasons:

  • By making the last question of a quiz/test a random dinosaur drawing, it helps them to relax a bit and maybe remember the answer to that question that was just beyond their recall.
  • By making the last question of a quiz/test a random dinosaur drawing, it forces them to slow down a bit rather than rushing through - and more likely to look back over their answers before considering themselves finished.
  • By making the last question/part of an assignment a random dinosaur drawing, it forces them to slow down a bit rather than rushing through - and more likely to look back over their work before considering themselves finished.
  • They enjoy it. Even the ones who complain about it are quick to point out in disappointed fashion when I don't include a required dinosaur drawing.
  • The shared experience of absurdity draws them closer together - there is actual research on the shared experience of absurdity, check it out people!
  • It makes the course more memorable (remember that child development teacher we had freshman year who always made us draw dinosaurs?).
  • And of course, my own personal amusement!
All this to introduce one of my favorite dinosaur drawings of the past school year:

I love when they draw me! How great is that?

It's also nice to know that clearly I strike terror into the hearts of all, even dinosaurs. Love the look on this dino's face.

And now that I've drawn you in (hopefully), here's a little TED talk on that shared experience of absurdity research - watch it! Trust me, it's worth it!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Folder Crates

Quick one today - several people have asked where I found the crates that I use for my folders (see here and here for info on the folders).

Originally I purchased them at Amazon, but at the time I was able to get 7 of them for less than $26; now they're over $10 each, eep!

However, if you go directly to the company that sells them, they are $5 each with free shipping right now, and I personally think they're definitely worth that.

I'll also mention that these particular crates apparently fit perfectly in the Thirty-One utility tote that is so popular amongst teachers these days, a great way to keep files organized in your super-cute bag! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click to view the organizing utility tote that's all the rage right now on the main website, or support a fellow teacher who "deals" bags on the side over at her blog, The Caffeinated Teacher (great teacher blog by the way, even if you're not interested in the bags!).

This pic is from late November - well, must have been November 22nd to be exact, given that I have a picture of President Kennedy displayed. You can see how the folders begin to show their wear toward the end of the semester (and there's always one that gets WAY more love than the others, as you can see from #9 here).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Thank You Notes

I think that the thank you note has completely fallen by the wayside, and it is a perfect metaphor for our ever-lowering standards of civility. In my small corner of the world, I am waging a war to bring thank you notes back.

PART I - ME (You gotta "be the change," you know!)
First of all, I ALWAYS have thank you notes available in my classroom. This way whenever a colleague or a student is deserving of appreciation, I have them on-hand and can deliver promptly (instead of repeatedly forgetting, not that I ever forget things... repeatedly...). Some of them are plain old generic notes that actually have "Thank You" printed on them, some are just super cute FACS-y cards like these:

Nice recipe cards also work well for thank you notes:

And then of course you've seen my personalized cards before.

Never underestimate the goodwill you can create simply by taking the time to write out a thank you to someone who has helped you out! And again, this applies to students as well!

I work a one-day unit on thank you cards into at least two preps each year, sometimes more. Here's a typical lesson outline for this:

Bell-Prompt: Describe a time when someone actually acknowledged something nice you did for them, and how it made you feel.

Intro: Discussion of the importance of saying thank you, the effect it can have on a relationship, what happens when you let an opportunity to show appreciation slip by, when are thank yous expected, etc, etc, wherever the conversation leads you.

View: One or two "Thank You Notes" segments from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I think the biggest hit from this year was this Thanksgiving segment.

Model: Appropriate format - heading, thank you, reason for thank you, closing, signature.

Practice: Have the kids write out one or two "funny" (but school appropriate!) thank you notes, and share with the class. (One of my favorites from this year: Thank you, Metabolism, for letting me totally pig out all the time and not gain any weight. I will miss you some day. Love, djfskjksld)

Action: Give kids actual thank you notes, and have them write a thank you note to the teacher/staff member of their choice. Stress appropriateness; also, specificity. If any concern at all, let them know you will be previewing them as part of your instructions. A lot of the kids kind of groan about this, but they can all think of at least one person who has done something nice for them. And, the teachers and staff LOVE receiving these! Goodwill fostered all around!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Back to School Shopping Finds & FOLDERS!

So by now you must have all seen something like this:

It is that time, my friends - put on your game faces! I've received many requests to purchase the documents that I use with my folders (see related post); I've been working on it, and now nearly all are available from my TPT store. All items are either $1 or free - not looking to use my profits to retire early, just a little pocket change to help hedge the costs of the folders!

And speaking of folders, be sure to buy your supply FOR THE YEAR NOW! This is the only time of year that the price is reasonable; it will skyrocket in mid- to late-September. 

The ones I used last year were three-pronged, two-pocket paper folders. They are currently available in a variety of colors at WalMart for 15 cents (soon to be 50 cents!). Again, buy for the year, not just the semester (and if you'll recall, I did need to replace all of them at the semester - totally worth the expense, though!).

If you'd like something a little sturdier, Target is selling the same folders with a coating (not the polypropylene ones, just coated) for 15 cents as well:

Think through how you're going to use, store, and distribute them, because a coating will make them a bit slicker.

I personally would not go with the actual polypropylene folders, for a couple of reasons. One, they are MUCH slicker, and since I fan them out for students to retrieve they would constantly get knocked on the floor (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read my folders post). Two, even though they are WAY more durable than the paper ones, my bet is several of them would still need to be replaced at the semester mark, due to losses, dog bites, teenager bites, etc. Buying two folders per student at 15 cents each is still cheaper than one poly folder at 50, let alone two polys at $1. But enough with the math!

While at Target, if you teach anything child- or reading-related, you may want to swing by the dollar section and pick up some of these kid-sized totes with images from the hungry, hungry caterpillar! 

Back at WalMart, I'm happy to share that they have the crates that I so adore in more colors:

I have used these for color-coding class binders (back when I used binders rather than folders): 

After moving to folders I began using them to organize class materials (again, through color-coding).

My final find was this canvas tote with a "Periodic Table of Text Messaging," in the accessories department at WalMart. In my communication unit in Adult Living I do a lot with the advantages and pitfalls of texting as a communication method, and this would make a fantastic prop!

Those are some of my finds - what great things have you been stumbling upon the past few weeks?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where to Find Me

Hello all!

Just a quick note to tell you that I'm having a little trouble renewing my domain registration. If you access this blog through and it suddenly stops working, I'll be back over at:

 Hopefully the issue is resolved soon, but just in case!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nutrition Word Sorts!

Here's one I've had sitting in my draft folder since August 25th! Sheesh!

Studying to be a Reading Specialist has a LOT of perks, not the least of which is a whole new bank of ideas for activities!

To introduce the beginning nutrition unit in my foods class, I created a "Word Sort" activity. First, I assigned groups by having them draw colored plastic Easter eggs (LOVE these things!). Since the regular classroom area only has individual desks, I wanted them to work on this task in the kitchens where they would have a large counter space. Also, getting everyone to stand up would get those kinesthetic associations firing. The color of the eggs they drew determined which kitchen they would work in.

Each group was given an envelope with 19 nutrition-related words. They were told they had to decide as a group how those words should be arranged. I told them that there was no right or wrong in this activity, they just had to be able to explain to me why they did what they did.

Then I walked around so that I could listen to them discussing how to organize the words, which gave me a TON of insight into not only their background knowledge on the topic, but also into each students' cognitive abilities and ways of reasoning (massively important in August, am I right?). Also gave me a great idea of what the working in groups dynamic would be like with this class.

Here they are in action:

Yeah, I know the disembodied arms and hands are a little creepy. When they were satisfied with their arrangements, I told them that I would visit each group and they would need to explain to me the choices they made. Again, I emphasized that there was no "right" or "wrong" in this scenario, we're just trying to figure out what might make sense based on what we already know. I gave them a little time to decide which group member was going to say what to me before I went over. Here's what they came up with in this class:

Pretty interesting results! They all had intelligent explanations for the majority of their choices, which revealed quite a bit to me about what they were bringing into the class with them.

When I had talked with each group, I had them rotate around to look at how other groups had chosen to organize the words. This led to some even deeper conversation, peppered by statements like "Oh, I see what they did there!" or "Why didn't we think of that?" or "I like what they did with these words over here, but ours was better with these words" etc.

I was really happy with this activity as a jumpstarter for learning about nutrition, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it as well. Everyone has some knowledge about at least a few of these words, so it was an activity that everyone could contribute to, rather than just one or two people dominating the conversation. Taking away "right" and "wrong" definitely took the pressure off of them to do it RIGHT, so they could take risks. The dialogue helped me to get a really nice picture of my students as learners as well as their social skills. And, the metacognitive task of having to explain their thinking to their group members and then to me got those brains fired up and ready to go!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Someone Understands...

You simply must check out this post over at Teenagers Are Ridiculous. Your very soul will feel validated by the mutual understanding.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bloom's Taxonomy of Apps!

Today's entry is just sharing an incredible resource.

This is amazing - Bloom's Taxonomy of apps!

If you check out this link, you'll get this image in an interactive PDF, with links to all of these apps!

And this link will tell you all about this awesome resource. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"New" Home Ec

Read a nice article about specific FACS courses being offered in a variety of states - check it out here!

I have two trains of thought on this article. The first one is that I like some of the ideas in it - a combination strength training/conditioning/nutrition class would be fabulous! I work the topic of physical activity into my foods lessons quite a bit, but we don't engage in any REAL physical activity as part of the class. It would be pretty great to sincerely combine them all. Something else that caught my attention was a free curriculum about the food system developed by Johns Hopkins University. I have not looked at it yet, but going over it is definitely on my to-do list. The food system is another one of those concepts I incorporate along the way but feel like I should be doing more with it - and when you say FREE that tends to get my attention!

Here's the second thought. It's beginning to annoy me to see so many articles about the "new home economics," how it's "not just for Suzy Homemaker" anymore and that the students do "more than just bake apple pies" (quotes from various articles over the past several years, sorry not documenting). Um, this is WHAT WE DO! It's not some brand-new, new-fangled, revolutionary idea that just popped up in a couple of schools over the past year. Seriously, what's with these "journalists" who can't do an iota of research about what's really going on in FACS classrooms and instead just write from a place of their own general impressions and stereotypes? I'm thrilled that these classes are in the news and that the ideas from them can be shared, I  just wish that the "news" world wouldn't perpetuate outdated schemas about "home ec."

Regardless, hope you enjoy the ideas and resources from the article!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


This post should have been published waaaaaay back in October but, well, it wasn't. So get into a Halloween frame of mind, because that was a perfect time to introduce this quickie and very well-received project: Zombie Felties!

This was not only a fun project in its own right - who wouldn't love making zombies???? - but was also terrific because the kids weren't afraid to take some risks and try new things; after all, who the heck can tell if you mess up a zombie

The book is available on Amazon for less than $12 and has all sorts of patterns ranging from easy to difficult; I highly recommend it. 

I won't be sharing any patterns here due to copyright issues and whatnot, but I will mention that if you search for "zombie felties patterns" you'll probably find a few online. 

So what are you waiting for? Go fill your classroom with zombies already!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Command Hooks & Blog Recommendation

Happy Summer!

Let me start with an apology to those who have emailed or commented over the past 2-3 weeks; this blog was pushed to the back burner as I transitioned out of the school year, so my responses have been delayed. I think I'm just about caught up now, and ready to begin posting some more ideas I used this past year!

Today is simply a commercial for one of my favorite things: Command Hooks! Great for hanging just about anything, and can be removed without damage to the walls. If you've read regularly for a while, you may have noticed how often they pop up in my writing. I love, love, love them! I highly recommend when you find a size and style you like, buy the big box, because you will continually be discovering uses for them. Here are just a few places you can find them in my classroom:

Unfortunately, 3M is not paying me to write this post, but if someone there would like to send me some free Command Hooks, just send me an email...

As for my blog recommendation, check out the new blog over at TX Home Ec Teacher. She's just getting started out in the blogging world and has posted a couple of great project ideas so far. We need more FACS blogs out there, so make sure you take a look and leave a comment!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

More Mixing Mayhem!

So if you'll remember all the way back to August, when I arrived to begin arranging my new classroom the stand mixers looked like this:

Ugh, I shudder just looking at it. So, tomorrow is the last day of school - for the kids, anyway - and the mixers currently look like this:

Ta-daaa! Now, was this really hard, getting the kids to keep the mixers clean all year long? No, no it was not, not at all. Not even a little bit. No clean, no cook. The end. They griped, they moaned, they whined... and they cleaned. Fight the good fight, people! Don't let bad things happen to good mixers!

And speaking of bad things happening to good mixers, make sure you pack 'em up right for the summer. Depending on your comfort level at your school, this may mean locking your mixers away in a hidden location to ensure their safety. Luckily, I feel pretty confident leaving mine on the countertops, and the covers will keep them from getting all dusty. I did, however, bag the bowls:

You'd hate to return to school to discover a little centipede family had made its home in your mixer bowls! This way they stay dust and critter free all summer, without having to take up extra space in your cabinets.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Watched Pot

From my treasure trove of obvious yet incredibly helpful/oft overlooked tips:

If your lab requires a large pot of boiling water, start the water for your students 15-20 minutes before class begins. Otherwise, they will spend half of the class period looking at the pot and waiting - that is, of course, assuming that they remember to start the water right away. It's not even necessary to fill the pots yourself; you could have the kids fill and cover them the day before during your lab prep.

Perhaps you are like I once was and you think to yourself "But I want for them to learn time management, how to fit together all the steps," blah, blah, blah. Screw it. Start the water, save yourselves the stress.

And while you're at it, preheat the ovens too. It's not like boiling water and preheating ovens are skills you have to continually review (yes, I know, you've got that one kitchen that still can't remember how to set up dish water, but you've just got to accept that and move on), and this will prevent a lot of stress and aggravation.

Exception: if you have block scheduling, I imagine you have time for the kids to do all this on their own. A couple of times a year I arrange for an "in-school" field trip where I have my Foods class for two consecutive class periods so we can actually cook a meal, eat, and clean all in one session - during these times, I don't start anything for them. But when you've got under 50 minutes for your labs, you've got find ways to save time and heartache.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Smoke" & Mirrors

I love Snoopy; if you've spent some time here, you already know that.

I hate mirrors in my classroom. Hate hate hate. High schoolers are waaaaay too preoccupied with their appearance for mirrors to be anything other than an opportunity for frequent disruption.

So when I moved back into my current classroom, there was a mirror on the wall toward the front of the class. Unacceptable. So, I covered it with a poster - a SNOOPY poster, nonetheless!

How great is that?

I hung the poster about a month ago (previously the A/V cart was blocking it), and have been enjoying it immensely. Especially the fact that it eliminated the mirror.

And then yesterday a group of students told me that there had been rumors circulating that I'm a regular pot smoker - because of the poster.

Seriously! Oh, kids...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Generic Brands & Foods Labs

You know the kids who loudly declare "Ugh, nasty!" every time they see a generic-brand-whatever on the ingredient table? Yeah, that's not annoying. I've found my life is easier to just disguise the packaging, rather than attempting a logical conversation about frugality.

Generic Parmesan, before:

Parmesan cheese, after:

No one knew the difference, muahahahaaa.... Along with removing the labels, don't forget to ALWAYS open the packages yourself.

For some items, it's best just to move the food to a completely different container: bowls, canisters, etc. For our fettucine lab this week, not only did I hide the generic pasta by eliminating the boxes, but I saved on both food cost and food waste by not giving each group a full container of pasta. Instead of 5 lb for 5 kitchens I purchased three, then divvied it up between them. There's still plenty for all group members to get a decent helping, and there were minimal leftovers - ideal. Over the course of the years I've become more and more successful at whittling down recipes to "just enough" for groups to eat in class. 

I'm not the only one whose kids tend to freak out over generics, right?

Monday, March 31, 2014


ARE YOU KIDDING ME, How I Met Your Mother????!!!!!!

Core vs "Elective" Courses: Misperception #3

Misperception #3: Testing doesn't affect you.


Now while testing certainly does not affect us the same way it does, let's say, English teachers, it most certainly does affect us.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Which classes are students taken out of for benchmark testing? (Hint: electives)
  • Which classes are students taken out of for make-up/extended time benchmark testing? (Hint: electives)
  • Which classes are students taken out of three to five days a week for RtI as a result of benchmark testing? (Hint: electives)
  • Which classes are students dropped into mid-semester due to changes in their schedules prompted by their benchmark test scores? (Hint: electives)
We sit in the same meetings as "core" teachers do going over lists of juniors, discussing their PSAE "potential" and brainstorming possible interventions to implement in every class.

We are required to implement the same PSAE-prep and intervention measures as all other teachers.

We get the same thinly-veiled, ominous threats from administration as all other teachers as we approach testing season.

We get the same foul attitudes and lack of motivation from students as all other teachers during testing season.

We get the same vilification in the press as all other teachers when test scores are released.

We experience the same sense of temporary relief as all other teachers in mid-May.

Come on people, it's 2014; no one is unaffected by testing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Write and Wipe Pockets

Another colorful addition to the kitchens: transparent pockets for lab plans!

These are "Write and Wipe Pockets" from Learning Resources; they came in a set of five and just happened to be the same colors as my kitchens! They can be written on with dry erase marker (included with the set) and then wiped clean - perfect for keeping track of recipe progress! Additionally, with the use of command hooks (yup, I love 'em!) they keep the papers off of the counters where they typically do not escape unscathed. Also available on Amazon, the set is a very reasonable $12-$14. The pockets themselves only come with the upper left-hand corner hole-punched; I simply added another punch to the upper right and slapped on a couple of reinforcement labels:
Less clutter on the counters, easier for group members to see and keep track of what they've accomplished, and of course adds a little extra class with the color coordination. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Take-Out Boxes of Fun

Whilst at Hobby Lobby a bit ago, I noticed a display of brightly colored take-out boxes; at that moment, I knew that I had to have them for group projects. I picked up five in colors that correspond to my classroom kitchens.

Notice that I have them set up in a copy paper box lid, one of my new favorite tools this year. Anyway, when I divide the class up into small groups for short activities, I usually do so by assigning them to a kitchen - gets them up and moving, and also gives them a nice big counter to work together on. So once I saw these I realized it would be really fun to stock them with "secret" supplies for their activity. I used them for the first time this week; here's what was in them:

Stay tuned, and I will tell you what they did with the Play-Doh in a future post!