An Amazing Pencil Sharpener!

IMG_1659We have a new colleague on our personalized learning team, and she introduced us to an amazing pencil sharpener.

Can you really get excited about a great pencil sharpener? Well, if you’re a teacher, the answer is a definitive “yes.”

My students call it the “old fashioned” pencil sharpener because it is not electric. That is part of the appeal for me–no high pitch grinding noise. Also, it will not eat your pencils. It grips the pencil and sharpens it to a sharp point, and no more. This is not a paid endorsement 🙂


Like coloring books, there is something therapeutic about sharpening a bunch of pencils all at once.

The brand is: CARL ANGEL-5 Pencil Sharpener. “The Original Quality.”

Summer Break!


Time for some rest and relaxation. I will only be posting occasionally over the summer. I hope you all have a wonderful summer.

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” –Helen Keller


The Six Syllable Types


These are six syllable types that make up the majority of words in English.

They are:

1. Closed Syllables
2. Open Syllables
3. Vowel-Consonant-e Syllable
4. Consonant-le Syllable
5. R-Controlled Syllables
6. Vowel Teams

What are the benefits in learning these six types?

English is a very complicated language, and teaching the syllabication principles will help your child/student chunk words down into more manageable parts. This, in turn, will help with overall reading skills and identify of spelling patterns.

This will also be especially beneficial for students who have a specific learning disability in reading. Research supports that teaching phonics is the most effective type of reading instruction for students with dyslexia.

In the upcoming weeks, I will tackle the different syllable types. Whether a refresher, or new material, I hope this series helps!

Happy Holidays!


Here is a picture of my sweet girl. This is my favorite fundraiser, pictures with Santa–proceeds help support an organization that rescues weimaranars.

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday break!

Spelling Rules and Phonics, Part III

gif_book121 Bonus Letters, the Fizzle, Floss, or Flossy Rule …all common names for this rule.

Another helpful spelling rule is:

If a one-syllable word ends in a short vowel and is immediately followed by the consonants f, l, s, or z, double the consonant.

Examples are:

  • fluff, puff, whiff, off, buff
  • bill, hill, hall, mull, fill, tall
  • mass, kiss, chess, less
  • jazz, buzz, fuzz

(The letter /a/ does not always have the expected short sound.)

Remember, these rules are very helpful for students with specific learning disabilities in making sense of spelling and reading.

IMG_0187I spent one summer in Salamanca, Spain, taking Spanish courses. My sweet mom sent me a care package, and one of the items was the book by Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!  

Inside, she wrote, “This is your last Dr. Seuss book, promise! Filled with lots of wisdom for you!” Of course, I have kept it all these years.

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And
you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll
decide where to go.

You’ll get mixed up,
of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with
many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great
tact and remember that
Life’s A Great Balancing Act.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and Âľ percent guaranteed.)


–Dr. Seuss

A Closer Look at Motivation, Part 2

gif_Education-037-bwMotivation is a vital component of school success. This week, let’s look at two different types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation as relates to student learning is learning for learning’s sake, where the student has a desire to learn and master academic tasks. When a student is intrinsically motivated there may be moments of frustration, such as when tackling a difficult problem, but the overall tone is positive and the student has a curiosity and interest in learning and mastering content.

Extrinsic motivation as relates to student learning is when a student learns as a means to an end. Extrinsic motivation is typically driven by external rewards or avoidance of punishment. Examples of rewards are: gold stars on your paper, money earned for good grades, ice cream parties, prizes, getting good grades to get into college. Examples of extrinsic motivators that are in the form of punishment are: being placed on restriction for certain grades, getting privileges taken away such as video games or television, missing recess at school, missing out on key activities, etc.

What do we know about students and intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation?

  • Typically, intrinsic motivation is the highest for younger students and the lowest for older students; studies looking at third to ninth graders showed intrinsic motivation to be the highest with the third graders and gradually declining as students got older. (One of the reasons why we love those sweet young eager learners!)
  • A couple downsides of extrinsic motivators are: when they are discontinued the behavior being motivated can disappear, and they may also teach that the behavior is not worthwhile in and of itself.
  • Students who have a genuine interest (an intrinsic motivator) in a subject maintain longer lasting motivation to do well and learn about a subject for the sake of learning versus students who are interested because the learning is made fun through a game or exciting lesson plan. (That does not mean it is okay to have boring lesson plans!)

Researchers point out that for most things we do, it is a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. For example, we typically pick a major in college that we like, but we also want the benefit of the degree; both motivate us.

Dr. Temple Grandin, who is a leading animal scientist on the spectrum, was wisely told by her high school teacher that she had to pass the subjects she was not interested in so she could go to college and learn about the things she was interested in—and this worked!

We will talk more about motivation in Part 3!

Neuroimaging and the Autistic Brain

gif_anatomy_02Thanks to neuroimaging, we are starting to learn more about how the autistic brain is similar and how it differs from the neuro-typical brain. Here are a few items I gleamed from Dr. Temple Grandin’s book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum.

  • There is evidence of accelerated brain growth spurts in some children on the spectrum that seems to affect brain development, and about 20% of people on the spectrum have enlarged brains (mainly males). Statistically, however, current brains scans show brains of neuro-typical and autistic people are for the most part similar when it comes to anatomical differences, and fall within a range of what is considered normal. The difficulty lies, in that most all brains vary from one to the next within certain limits. (Grandin’s brain does show many statistical differences.) Brain scans do show, that for some people on the spectrum, different areas of the brain are activated for certain tasks than neuro-typical brains.
  • Some scans show inter-connectivity differences in various parts of the brain in people on the spectrum. Over or under connectivity can affect various functions of the brain and how the brain regions communicate and work.
  • One commonality in scans is that people on the spectrum often react in an atypical way when viewing pictures of people versus objects. The brains of people on the spectrum show more activity when looking at inanimate objects rather than faces. The opposite is true of neuro-typical brains.

As we work with our students on the spectrum, whether in our mainstreamed class or as a special educator, let’s keep in mind that there are real brain-based learning differences to take into account. As Grandin writes in her book, “It’s in your mind? No. It’s in your brain.”