Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review

What Ever Happened to Critical Thinking in Education?

As we look around our American universities and the streets of many cities, we see that many people no longer care about critical thinking or examining any opposing opinions. In fact, you don't have to look any farther than social media to see that.  Yet schools used to teach logic and critical thinking. As recently as a few years ago, when I was still selling books online, my best seller was a small flip chart: Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking. Recently, its publisher, Edupress, sold its educational supply business to another supplier. Fortunately, it's still available for home, school, and business use.

Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review
Top Selling Critical Thinking Aid for Students, Educators, Writers, and Speakers
Collage of my scans edited on PicMonkey

When I Was Still Selling Teaching Resources Directly, This Flew Off My Shelves and I Shipped It All Over the Country.

Several years ago when I got my Edupress dealer catalog, it had a new item in it -- a small chart called Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking. I decided to try a few of them and listed it in my catalog. 

The results amazed me. It quickly became a best seller. Large school districts were ordering it in volume so they could give one to every teacher in the district. I discovered that education professors were giving workshops and recommending that everyone in the workshops buy this little chart. 


Why is this inexpensive little chart so valuable to educators?


This handy chart, which is easily held in one hand, started a stampede of educators to get it because it took the work of Benjamin Bloom and made it easy to understand and refer to. Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking was the work of Linda G. Barton, who based it on the original Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

This little spiral bound chart can be held in the hand while teaching a class or leading a discussion. It doesn’t take up much room on a teacher’s desk when he or she is planning a lesson or writing a test. As you can see in the photo to the left, it has a separate page for each level of thinking in the cognitive domain. If a teacher wants to make sure her test or discussion questions and lesson plans cover each level, all she has to do is flip from page to page.







This Mug Will Remind You or Someone Else to Think Critically 


Do you know someone who needs it? 



As you can see in the picture below, each page is easy to flip open. On the other side of the page you open is a definition of the level of knowledge that page covers — in this case, Comprehension. Under the definition is a list of keywords — verbs– that tell how one would demonstrate mastery of this level of knowledge: eg. classify, explain, outline, summarize, etc. Under the spiral are open-ended questions that students would need comprehension to be able to answer.  


This little chart is so useful it finds its way into the hands of workshop leaders, Bible discussion leaders, and even writers. Why writers? It helps them organize writing, and its questions can also act as writing prompts when writer's block attacks. The questions can encourage you to take your topic in a new direction. 


A New Flip Chart Appears

Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking was so popular that more flip charts were introduced. People loved the original Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking but had also been requesting an updated version. Before long, it was followed by Quick Flip Questions for the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. While it was still new, I sold more of these than of the original flip chart. But soon others discovered what I already knew -- this dirty little secret.

There is nothing new in this updated version. The words for the headings have been changed, but "Creating" has the same material as "Synthesis" had in the original version, and everything else that appears different is just in a different order. The levels of the cognitive domain of learning have been divided by the authors into these levels: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating.

Either of these handy resources helps one improve thinking skills at any age with the flip of a page. Either is an indispensable tool that helps teachers write lesson plans, master Bloom's Taxonomy, and develop higher levels of thinking. It will help students develop analytic skills. They will learn to ask their teachers the right questions and to see through some of the nonsense they will find in their social media feeds.


How to Use the Flip Charts at Home


Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review
You Can Even Use the Flip Charts at Home
Photo © B. Radisavljevic


There are many ways to use the flip charts in families. They can even help improve child/parent communication. There are both threatening and non-threatening ways to ask questions. If it's your words which put children in a defensive stance (not your tone of voice), this resource can help you frame your questions in a way that may not raise the same barriers to communication. (I would not hold the book in your hand for these encounters. Learn the most useful questions and keep them in your head.)

Homeschoolers will also find these charts valuable. I still like the original version best. Home educators should get a copy for each child of middle school age and older. When the parent assigns reading she can also have the children answer one or two Level IV-VI questions orally or in writing afterward. After the family watches a video, TV commercial, or show together, maybe one of these Level IV and VI Questions would be appropriate to discuss together at the end:


  1. How would you prove...? disprove? 
  2. What choice would you have made?
  3. How is _____ related to...?
  4. What motive is there?
Parents need to help children get into the habit of analyzing what the media puts in front of them instead of just accepting it at face value. 



Why Not Get one of these Handy Critical Thinking Tools Now?




Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review


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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Teach Your Child to Spell: A Review of The Natural Speller



What Do You Need to Teach Spelling?


If you are homeschooling your children, you don't need new graded workbooks every year. You need sensible teaching materials that help students at any level learn exactly what they need to know at their own pace.



For some of us, spelling came easily because we read a lot while growing up and were used to seeing words spelled properly all the time. We just knew, when proofreading, if a word looked wrong. This also worked for us on standardized multiple choice tests where we had to pick out the one word that was misspelled. If you are one of those people and are now faced with teaching a subject you almost absorbed yourself by osmosis, the book reviewed below is bound to help you plan your lessons.




If spelling was a tough subject for you, maybe you don't feel confident enough to teach your children. You may need a reference book that will bring you up to speed by helping you learn words that are especially hard for you -- the ones that never stuck after years of weekly spelling tests that simply confirmed you did not know them. One book that will help in each case above is Kathryn Stout's, The Natural Speller

Teach Your Child to Spell: A Review of The Natural Speller

About Kathryn Stout


I  first met Kathryn when we were both on the homeschool convention conference circuit. We were vendors, and during the dead times when the exhibit hall was almost empty, I walked around to try to discover new books to add to my inventory. I was impressed with Kathryn and the books she had written since they were perfect for those using a unit study approach, an approach I used when homeschooling my own children. She understood what in each subject was really important so that people could design a homeschool curriculum that did not leave out anything essential as they combined subjects in a unit study.  

Kathryn had taught in public schools for eight years before retiring to teach her own children. She already knew how many books were out there to help teachers, but she wanted to compile all that information into single subject resource to help other homeschooling parents get to the heart of their subjects. The Natural Speller is the go-to book for spelling. While many textbooks have some and gone, The Natural Speller is still popular after over twenty years. That's because it has everything people need to know about learning to spell in one handy book.

What's In The Natural Speller?


This is a comprehensive tool for the spelling teacher to use for any grade level. It has word lists for all grades through eighth, and they are arranged phonetically. It teaches the teacher how to teach spelling, and suggests activities to help students practice the words, use the words to help develop dictionary and grammar skills and build vocabulary. Writing activities to go with the spelling lists are included. After all, writing is where one uses spelling.

The Natural Speller also has a section devoted to special word lists: abbreviations, calendar and number words, colors, measurements, contractions, homophones, homographs, irregular verbs, foreign words, and Latin and Greek roots. Another section contains spelling rules. Lastly, there are hints on punctuation and capitalization; models for writing letters; and activities for using prefixes and suffixes. Just about anything related to spelling is in this book.

Another great feature of this book is that it assists the teacher in designing a completely individualized spelling program for each student without buying another book. Whether your child has learning disabilities and needs to go at a slower pace or whether your child is far above average in spelling, and only needs a reference when proofreading,  get the Natural Speller. It will be all you need. Older students will probably only need it for reference unless they haven't mastered the spelling words designated to be learned by grade nine.


Don't let your children grow up to be like this person below. If you're already this person, the book will help you, too.

For more reviews of books to help homeschool families and others who want to enrich their children's education, see Books to Remember: A World of Reading Choices.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Board Game to Encourage Your Better Self

A Board Game that Encourages Positive Action & Thought

Are you looking for a family game or party game to help inspire and encourage the better side of people?


There isn't anything that says we have to continue to feed into the overwhelming negativity that seems to be infecting our lives and our playtime

Many are consumed with violent video games and even board games that promote the not-so-nice side of people. Although game lovers will never stop playing violent and vulgar games (and yes, they can be fun too!), it's nice to know that, once in a while, we can actively switch things up to something that leans positive.

With Thanksgiving approaching, 'Better Me' is a game the whole family can play. It encourages us to expose the better side of ourselves to others.
"Better Me is a new approach to relationships and personal development. The game encourages it's players to take real action after the game has ended to better themselves in this life. It uses the basic principles of positive psychology to help strengthen relationships and to help tap into the better side of the human condition"
Better Me helps you to quickly get to know people as well. If you're hosting a party and need a game to encourage conversation, this game does it in a positive, constructive and forward thinking way. You'll get to see the inside of people very quickly just by their responses to a variety of life questions and scenarios. 

The fundamental play of the game involves Players completing their five areas of life; Heart, Mind, Body, Tangibles and People. You earn points by passing along a true compliment, sharing a story where you learned a positive lesson, and even committing to taking a positive step in your life when the game ends.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays - Have Fun, Be Happy

by Barbara Tremblay Cipak
Owner - Funkthishouse.com






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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Day Before 911: A Review

September 11, 2011 (911) Changed the Lives of All Americans


The Day Before 911 reflects on how 911 changed a DOD teacher overseas and the students he served and their families. It begins in 2011, ten years after the terrorists took out the World Trade Center. At that time Elliot was teaching in Germany. He hadn't expected to be back in the classroom. He had cleaned it out at the end of the previous year when he retired to become a writer. But life happened, and he returned to teaching after all. Although he had been teaching high school students in the previous year, he is now facing sixth graders because that's the grade that needed a teacher.

Ground Zero, Public Domain  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/ground-zero-world-trade-center-63035/
Ground Zero, Image License CCO, Public Domain

As he enters the class, he sees he needs a way to build rapport with these new students. He decides to use the school’s coming commemoration of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 as an excuse tell them a story about a hero named Tony who loved baseball and stood a very good chance of being drafted into the big leagues. Then terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and brought down the Twin Towers, killing over 3,000 people,  Tony quit baseball and joined the Marines. He was blown up eleven times, but still kept going back to fight.
Elliot’s students found this hard to believe, but he explained that the qualities that made Tony good at baseball were the same qualities that made him a good Marine. He had learned teamwork in baseball and would have done anything for his teammates. Elliot told his students that Tony had “loved baseball and his teammates so much that he joined another team and put on a different uniform just so he could protect the way of life that he was giving up."
As Elliot was beginning his story, one of the girls raised her had to say that her birthday was (September 11.) It hit Elliot that she had never been able to celebrate her birthday on the actual day she was born. The terrorist attacks had happened on her very first birthday. After that, they always celebrated her birthday on September 10, the day before 9/11. It struck Elliot that since he’d taught high school before, this was the first history class he’d taught that had not remembered 9/11. 
Sources: All quotes used here are from The Day Before 9/11 by Tucker Elliot. I noticed after writing this that Amazon also featured some of these quotes readers, including me, had highlighted, on its Kindle edition page.

9/11 - The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition


See What Happened on that Horrible Day in American History


This documentary film was shot as a result of videographers being at the right place at the right time. They were there to record the training of a firefighter at a firehouse a short distance from the World Trade Center when the first tower was struck.




Child Abuse in the Military

One of he undercurrents in The Day Before 9/11 was child abuse in the military. Elliot blamed himself for the death of two sisters, Angel and her little sister Grace. Angel had many absences from school he should have investigated in person. He also didn't read an email Grace sent not long before her death that might have motivated him to intervene.
He was at a family gathering after burying his grandmother. He was to fly out the next day to speak at a conference. His mother had ordered take-out pizza and he was supposed to pick it up. While waiting to go, he was scanning his email and saw the header of an email sent a few hours earlier by Angel. By this time his nephew was screaming loudly for him to go get the pizza. He deleted the email, not realizing its importance, and had gone to pick up the pizza.

Screen Shot of Email Interface on my Computer

The deaths haunt Elliot through the rest of the book and he fights his guilt and his loss of faith because he believed God hadn't answered his prayers for his students. He knew his students were dealing with the issues these videos discuss. He especially saw the effect on the children of not only absent parents, but the fear of the children whenever a parent left to go to a new post.

These are some of the same issues faced by children Tucker Elliot taught.


The video above explains the unique problems children of military families face. 

Two Special Girls - Sami and Angel

Although this book will show you a lot about living as an expat civilian on a military base during wartime, you will learn much more about what it means to be a teacher and a human being. As Tucker Elliot looks at how his life and the life of his students changed after 9/11, he is filled with shame and guilt. Four girls entered his life -- Sami in Korea and the others, Angel, Grace, and the Birthday Girl, in Germany. Two of them died, and he believes if he'd followed his better instincts instead of withdrawing he might have saved those two who died.
The first special student was Sami. She walked into his life the year he was teaching in Korea. She loved soccer, and he was the athletic director. He used soccer to reach her and help her be strong in the face of change. When the school had to close for ten days after 9/11 for security reasons, Sami had missed Tucker. When she returned after the school reopened, her parents came with her. Sami hugged Tucker tightly and buried her face in his chest as she said she'd missed him. She introduced her parents. He was impressed with both. Her father was high on the chain of command, and Tucker could tell he was as good a father as he could be while gone so much. Tucker thinks:
I knew right then, my worst fear was going to come true.
Not letting the terrorists win means sometimes the good guys are going to die.
I thought, God no. Not this family.
When the classroom was empty, Tucker would go from desk to desk and pray for each student.
Marine looking at wall of Vietnam Memorial  Source: Wikipedia, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/
Marine looking at wall of Vietnam Memorial 
He himself came from a military family. His dad and uncle had fought in Vietnam. His uncle never came home. His grandmother said she had 'received a flag for a son.' Tucker had visited the Vietnam Memorial in the company of his dad, but he couldn't get his dad to talk about his war experiences. Then at the memorial, his dad's actions changed. As he walked along the wall he ran his fingers over several names and prayed. When he came to his brother's name, he fell to his knees, rolled himself into a fetal position and cried.
Tucker had been named after his uncle and felt the burden of needing to be heroic himself and live out the kind of life his uncle never had the chance to live. He saw it as a heavy burden and says he resented carrying that burden because he could never be as good as his uncle.
There is too much pain and wisdom in the book to share it all here. But I will try to share some of it.
He says:
Teaching isn’t rocket science. It’s about being engaged, listening, paying attention. Despite conventional wisdom, you don’t need to talk a lot to teach well. You do need to care, though. Not so much about what people think of you or whether or not they like you, but about the kids and doing what’s best for them.
Sami's family was transferred to another part of the world. She emailed Tucker, but he never opened her emails. When he got to Germany the next year, he met Angel.
It turns out Sami had been Angel's best friend, and was delighted to have Tucker as her teacher. By the time Tucker met Angel, her mother, whom he'd not yet met, was already suffering from depression. Tucker had visited Ground Zero by then, and he reflects, "So many lives had been lost on that day, but ... I'd come to understand that military children continued to be victimized by these attacks." They were constantly losing their parents to deployment, not knowing if they would ever see them again. He couldn't deal with seeing that pain. He had transferred to Germany so he could teach in a larger school and be more anonymous.
It didn't work, though. Angel found him and told him Sami was upset because he didn't answer her emails. Angel had brought a brand new mousepad. She put it down beside where Tucker's computer would go and wrote her name on it in big letters. When he asked what she was doing, she said, 'You forgot Sami. I don't want you to forget me, too.'
Tucker still hesitated to be involved outside of class hours and usually went home at the end of the school day. Compared to the way he had interacted with his students in Korea, in Germany he was almost aloof as he tried to maintain emotional distance.

Autumn and Winter, and Sami Again

Five months later Sami entered his life again. Angel missed three days of school just after Sami came back. He thought of checking on her, but Sami was draining his energy.
Autumn Leaves, © B. Radisavljevic
Autumn Leaves, © B. Radisavljevic
Tucker tells us autumn and the first part of winter seemed to move along with no visible problems, but then all hell broke loose. Sami's dad got called back to Qatar and Angel's dad was sent to Kuwait. Neither family was ever the same again, nor was Tucker. By this time he strongly suspected something was wrong in Angel's family, but Sami wouldn't betray Angel's confidence to tell him what she knew. Angel herself said she wasn't supposed to talk about "family stuff."
Sami kept nagging Tucker to go visit Angel's home to see why Angel was missing so much school. Instead of going, Tucker told Sami to send her mother over to check on Angel's family. When Angel's family was leaving for their new location, Tucker gave Angel his email address and encouraged her to get in touch with him if she needed help. He told her talk and email were two different things.
I got the feeling that Tucker had not opened his emails from Sami because he could see how dependent she was on their relationship and it drained him emotionally. It's obvious, though that he cared about her. He also cared about Angel. Angel finally did send him an email after she left, but he didn't see it until several hours later, and then circumstances discouraged him from opening it. I never could understand why he ignored the girls' emails. I wanted to yell at him to read the emails. His deleting an email from Angel (under pressure from his nephew) may have sealed her doom. (See introduction to video module above.)
It's tough to review memoirs sometimes. Novelists create the ending they want. One can't always control how one's own life or the lives of others will turn out. I don't want to spoil this narrative by telling you all of it. I have hinted at what changed Tucker Elliot. He carried the footprints of Sami, Angel and Grace in his heart. I believe they will always be there. Perhaps he will also discover who he really is and I hope he finds his peace with the God he seems to have lost faith in.
At the end of the book he is on his way to the place where his uncle died, wondering what he will think and feel when he arrives. He wonders if he will find God and forgiveness at the end of his journey. He wonders if he will be strong enough to be good. He ends he book with these words:
...pain is the harbinger of hope. You have to be alive to feel pain. If you are alive, then you have purpose. If you have purpose, then you have hope....God I want to tell Sami that....I want to tell Sami I'm sorry.


The Day Before 9/11


Don't miss this teacher's heartbreaking account of his emotional journey after September 11, 2001. We may have seen the photo of the jets hitting the Twin Towers in New York, but much of the damage done that day is not visible to outside observers. It damaged the spirits of many like Tucker and the families of the children he taught. It destroyed the lives of many who were not even in the United States that day. It just took more time.



See more of my  reviews of books for adults at Bookworm Buffet, the blog I started for that purpose. At Books to Remember, I review some of the best children's books and educational resources for teachers created before Common Core Standards existed. The books  I review there will supplement any honest curriculum and may not be politically correct, even if the companies that published  them now are.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

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