Wednesday, May 4, 2011

At Last

As a former Department of Defense Dependent Schools Teacher,
on the Navy base in Rota, Spain,  I’d like to say:
Way to go U.S. NAVY SEALS!  
I am amazed and inspired by your bravery! You’ve made us all so Proud.  So proud, I cried.
Now on with my mission, (certainly, not nearly as courageous):
With the end of the school year approaching quickly, I am posting a new worksheet for your kids.   A kind of, end of year post test.  This page contains all the words in the program and should help provide you with the evidence of your students’ success in the Reading Rocks Program.  For those of you who do our worksheets just for a fun activity that also is educational, today’s word is “will”.  As this worksheet is about to be included in our reprinted workbooks, please let me know if there is room for improvement.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bear Worksheet

Below is a PDF that you can print for the kids. The word is Bear and is number 46 in the program. Even if your children are not doing the Reading Rocks curriculum, I believe many 5 and 6 year olds will enjoy this Cut and Paste Worksheet. Remember to have the children look at ALL the pictures before gluing down any of the phrases, as some may be better matches than others.
Thanks and Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Box Just Got Much, MUCH Bigger

This incredibly insightful video of the struggle people with Autism have with the rest of us neuro-typical "communicators", is so ingeniously documented by A.M. Baggs.  This firsthand account of how we are mishandling this ever growing population is startling.   Ms. Baggs dedicates this work to many people, but what struck me most was the dedication to: "all other people who strongly view our interactions as purposeless. “ It is stunning revelation for me to realize that the box I thought I was thinking outside of was in fact truly confining. 
 It is imperative that when you watch this clip, that you stick with it to the end. Even I thought after a minute or two, I had seen enough, but wait, you must wait for it.

Kudos Ms. Baggs, Kudos!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Local Schools in Crisis

Teach our children not our teachers! A Shortfall of 97 Million dollars is an enormous figure for the Duval County Schools to absorb.
For our children to absorb.
Our children.
It is my belief that in a crisis where the school board is actually holding discussions on shortening the week to a four day school week or eliminating  extra-curricular activities, that spending 50 million dollars on “Instructional Staff Training” and “Instruction Related to Technology” is irresponsible and misguided. To give you an idea of how colossal  this figure is, the budget item “Food Services” is also Fifty Million Dollars.
If we have Master Teachers on payroll that have been so brilliantly successful in the classroom that they are now training teachers, then let’s put them in our failing schools and save both the students as well as the schools. If we are paying consultants to educate our teachers, then stop. If we have teachers who cannot be successful without further training, then fire them.
And as for “Training Related to Technology”, there isn’t a second grader out there that cannot navigate the internet, or even WORD for that matter.
Our teachers should already be "trained" when they are hired.
Just stop.
Stop educating our teachers, and get back to educating our children.
Doubt my figures? Download this years Budget Summary ( see page 12) here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Mind-Blowing Autism Symposium

The collective intellect of the distinguished lecturers at yesterday’s Annual Autism Symposium, hosted by Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital was absolutely staggering. Dr. Constantino the developer of the widely used Social Responsiveness Scale, and researcher Laura Schreibman PhD, both gave remarkable presentations on their ground breaking research in the field of Autism. But for today's blog, I will write of the extraordinary, Dr. Gupta and her brilliant work.
 Dr. Gupta’s presentation of the Genetics of Autism Spectrum Disorders was absolutely astonishing! This extremely complex subject was delivered in such a manner that even myself, a layman, walked away from there with the understanding that not only are genes the mechanism in the development of autism disorder in children but quite possibly the key to unraveling all its mysteries.   She spoke of the high number of CNV’s (irregularities) in the genes that help the neural synapses to run smoothly in children with autism. This effects how well the neuronal cells communicate and stick to one another, or in this case don’t communicate or stick to each other.   To quote the good doctor, “there is no one gene for autism, not even a few.  There are likely dozens, perhaps hundreds.” Her work at Yale will most likely change what we know about and how we treat Autism.
Because of the advancements in technology, the expedience in which genes can now be mapped has moved forward at lightning speed.  But vast quantities of genes need to be available to get an accurate picture. What we all can do to help things move even faster is encourage families that have a child with autism to register with the IAN Project, or if they have more than one affected child to register at AGRE.  Both of these programs collect valuable information about families and make it available to researchers. Yesterday, Dr. Constantino stated that in order to significantly move forward in research; the Ian Project and AGRE need to “grow by ten-fold”. Let's give these brilliant minds something to research!
We should consider ourselves the pioneers that need to blaze a trail, mapping the land as we go. My hope is that all pediatricians, clinicians, and teachers strongly encourage their clients to register and become a part of the invaluable research on this frontier.  Let's get on the wagon train! Go and Register! No Excuses. Be a part of history by being a part of the solution.
Collectively, we can conquer this!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dr. Seuss

Underneath my High School yearbook photo next to the word Ambition: I wrote “to be the next Dr. Seuss”.  Even then I knew that you were magical: 
Happy Birthday Dear Man, Happy Birthday.
The more I study the art of children’s literature the more this man’s ingenuity becomes apparent. A decade before even Edward Dolch had made his famous list of High Frequency words; Dr. Seuss was writing and publishing books incorporating them. “The Cat in the Hat” uses just 236 words.  A man of great persistence.  His first children’s book, "To Think That It Happened on Mulberry Street" was rejected 27 times before being published by Vanguard Press.  
Seuss’ given name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.  Seuss was not only his middle name but his mother’s maiden name.  He used Seuss as a pen name during his college years when he was caught drinking gin with nine of his buddies at Dartmouth during Prohibition.  The college punished him, by refusing Theo Geisel articles for their college newspaper. So to circumvent this ban, Dr. Seuss was born! He also wrote books under: Theo LeSieg, which is his given name Geisel spelled backwards. Truly brilliant!
He married Helen Palmer, the author of my most favorite children’s book ever, “A Fish Out of Water.” Marvelously, enchanting!  A must for every teacher’s book shelf. Unfortunately, Helen committed suicide, after a long battle with cancer, and her grief over her husband’s long time affair with Audrey Stone. Kind of gives you a different picture of the dear man, doesn’t it? But my admiration will not be tainted, my love for his work, runs deep.  His stories filled my childhood with wonderful loving memories of my mother reading them to me.  And now, I read them to any child who will listen.
Happy Birthday Dear Seuss, Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


As promised, here are two worksheets on the word Dinosaur which your children can cut, paste and color.  As this is new sight word for them, the first worksheet is a simple puzzle that introduces the word “Dinosaur”. Have the children cut along the dotted lines and reassemble the picture appropriately.  They will need to glue their assembled puzzle down to a piece of construction paper.

The second sheet, when cut along the solid lines becomes a small book for the children to assemble and read.  The students may enjoy folding a strip of construction paper over their book for a cover, stapling it all together and then decorating it.  It is word #51 in the Reading Rocks series, so it assumes  the child does have a few sight words already mastered. Have them read their new Dinosaur book to everyone!

For teaching transference of your new word, when you read nightly to your child make a habit of pointing it out in the children’s literature. One of my favorite children’s books on this topic is Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Barton. It is an easy read and the illustrations are scrumptious. If you are a classroom teacher, this book comes in a “Big Book” format, which I highly recommend.  Now, on occasion ask your child to find and point to the word “Dinosaur” on a few of the pages. Don’t forget to reinforce correct responses with an ‘Awesome!’ or ‘Excellent, you found Dinosaur.’  It’s important to do this, in order for the child to understand that the word exists outside of an index card.
That’s it, Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I learned from Joey-

Cow licked brown headed little boy, so obstinate that we would frequently have to collect him out of grandfather’s car in the morning for that long trek down the first grade wing to my kindergarten room.  So full of himself he often appeared to be busting out of his wrinkled shirt, and yet still wearing Velcro sneakers. Grandpa was a robust country boy, sporting his weathered blue jean overalls and tattered plaid shirts as if he just left feeding the chickens to drive Joey to school, now in his twilight years finds himself the guardian of his grandson.
Joey was a trip.
Missing one of his front teeth, prone to finding himself in time-out and often the first to give condolences to his peers who found themselves warming up the corner with him. He had a lot to say. Mostly “I don’t want to” or “I don’t like that”, and his favorite, “is my five minutes up yet?”
And yet, he was incredibly endearing.
But one day, Joey comes down the hallway strutting his stuff a whole three classrooms ahead of dear Grandpa. Yup, something was up, and apparently it was Joey.  He had a more than usual take-charge attitude which manifested itself in his new found macho-bowed-legged swagger.  I was in fer’ it. It was in the middle of circle time, that I noticed, Joey no longer had on his Velcro sneakers, but cowboy boots. Yup, Hoss had decided to join us in class today. But by recess, Hoss was replaced with the Rifleman, and the screaming and pleading children “Stop it Joey, I don’t want to play!” rang out among the swings and slides.
A warning was issued. “If you throw another child on the ground and “arrest them” I am taking your boots!” Well, you know, the Rifleman doesn’t take too kindly to threats.
But there was a new sheriff in town.  When arriving back in the room, I sat the child up on the table, and with one quick thrust both boots were immediatley removed.  And within the hour Joey had returned to me.
Amazing. I hear so many of my teachers complain about feeling disrespected by parents, principals and children.  Only five years old, and Joey already knew what some of us have chosen to forget in life. We can command Rifleman Respect when we live up to our attire. Other's perceptions of us will be formed by whether or not we are strutting our stuff in flip-flops or cowboy boots.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sight word: Girl

A friend of mine, who works in surgery at the local children's hospital, said he has an issue with my "science" behind the Duffy Theory of the rising numbers in Autism. The science??? I pointed him to Paragraph Three where I state: I have NO scientific proof to support this; (just like that other popular doctor).  It was just an idea. An observation.


But weren't all great things born from just an idea?  I stand behind my unscientific theory. I am going to keep talking about it until someone decides to run some statistics on it. Think about it. The Intelligence Gene. I'll even go as far to say it might even matter the particular kind of intelligence in which the parents excel may play a significant role in this.

Well, on to the real message today. This is a cut, paste and match review page for the word "girl."  It assumes that you have the Reading Rocks program already and your children have mastered the previous 23 words in the program. Tomorrow, I will post pages of the first word in Set Two! Dinosaur!!! You know those boys are going to just love it!  So please stop back and print out your pages.
Additionally, we are running a Sale for the rest of February. Look for Sweetheart Specials.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Workbook Page

No, there will be no ranting and raving about Dr. Wakefield this week, instead it is time to get back down to the business of moving our children forward. For those of you that have children that are emergent (beginner) readers, I am posting a simple worksheet in PDF format that you can print for your child.  This printout makes a little book for your child to read independently.   This book contains 8 different words. Please review the words before your child starts on the worksheet. They are: red, blue, yellow, green, is, the fish, dog.
Then have your child cut on the black lines and stack the new little pages in numerical order.  You can staple them on the left hand side to make a small book.  In the classroom, I usually cut a strip of construction paper that can be folded in half to make a sturdy cover for the book. The children enjoy writing or coloring a picture on the cover.  Now have them read it to everyone they know!
If you are a teacher and are using the Reading Rocks curriculum, this is a new worksheet that reinforces the word Dog, which is the eighth word in the program.  Please download it and add it to Binder One.  As promised, I will post new material to your existing program in the coming weeks.
Would anyone like this as a Blackline master? If so, let me know and I will design it and post it for you to download.
Keep up your most important work!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Duffy Theory

So yes, I too was once a believer, that the MMR vaccine could have caused this incredible upsurge in Autism.  It’s an easy, jump.  “My kid was fine, then he had his MMR and after that he was not.”  But as time moved on, more and more research was published, I fell from grace.  In 2009, scientific proof was published, that children with Autism have a rare mutation in certain genes called CNV’s which are deletions or duplications of certain genes in DNA. The interesting thing about this is that all of us have deletions or duplications in the DNA of our genes; it’s just that in children with autism these CNV’s are all clustered along the communication pathways of the brain. 
Understandably people question... “So if it’s genetic, where has it been hiding for the past millennium?” Now, here is a question that opens many doors, and truly is the crux of the problem.  Where has it been hiding?  Have we recently overturned some rock, some catalyst to expose it?
I have my own idea. I have no proof. (But apparently, neither did Wakefield)  It’s just an idea.
I noticed that when I was teaching,  my classroom parents whose children were diagnosed with Autism were particularly bright.  Actually, for the most part, they were significantly more intelligent than the rest of my parents. Hardly a “Regular Joe” among them.  So here’s the Duffy Theory (at least for 2011), perhaps Autism is on the rise because our society today is so mobile, so techie  making the world flat. This makes it easy for two very highly intelligent people to find one another at MIT, at work or even at the State University, marry and have kids together. 
My own father is truly brilliant.  But 50 years ago, women did not fill technical positions, or even university classrooms like they do today.  Dear dad married the sweet pretty girl from the neighborhood (she was great, terrific even).  If that were today perhaps he would have married the sweet brilliant techie girl who helped him fix his printer, while he was cramming for his Calc III exam. We live in a different world.
A connected world.
I suggest that the gene was always there, but now, it is so easy for “liked brains” to find one another. 
Perhaps, this should be studied. The intelligence gene.
Perhaps, Dorothy was right. Maybe when we go looking for our own heart's desire, we shouldn’t look any further than our own back yard.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dr. Wakefield’s Freakonomics

Twelve kids. That’s where it all started, the ruckus we have today, with 12 kids. Hardly, a large sampling, hardly even a minuscule sampling, practically an invisible sampling when compared to the thousands and thousands of children we have today living with autism.  It gets worst for Dr. Wakefield.  Out of these 12, we have learned that five of the children were diagnosed with being developmentally delayed BEFORE their vaccinations.
Hmm, so now we are down to seven children to make the historical link that autism is caused by vaccinations.
Seven kids. 
Perhaps, he did as Mr. Deer has charged, and the doctor deliberately altered the facts and health histories of these children for financial gain, or perhaps it was just bad science. Many parents believe that this journalist, Brian Deer, is a hired to fuel this witch hunt.  That Wakefield has hurt the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies and now they have launched their campaign to discredit him.  Pitchforks and torches, included. These parents will never be swayed. They are convinced. They will stand behind Wakefield, at all costs.
But the price is steep.
The aftermath of his Wakefield's findings had sweeping repercussions. Children have died from not receiving their vaccinations from this scare. The elderly and the immune compromised have been put at risk because thousands of kids were not properly immunized. Money has been diverted from researching true causes for the reason that autism is on the rise, and is still rising. Or better yet…
Let’s focus our energy on the problem at hand, not Dr. Wakefield’s guilt or innocence.  But as we continue to dispute the cause, we should be equally concerned as to how to treat and educate children with autism. We need to research as many ways as possible to reach our children that are now on the Spectrum by any and all means.  Someday, and sooner than we think, these children will be adults that need to be assimilated into the workforce and independently living.
They need to be ready!
We need to be ready!
Let’s refocus the debate to how to help those children that are here now. And while we are at it, buy a copy of "Freakonomics" for Dr. Wakefield.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Final Winners

Wasn’t it glorious! The spectacular celebrating that Christmas and the New Year bring was exhilaratingly exhausting. Our house was constantly filled with friends, laughter and chocolate! You can see how posting took a back seat to the merriment, in some ways I feel I should apologize, however with the lure of chocolate; certainly you can see how I strayed.  None the less, I did read my emails and pleads for curriculum.  For the third week of our Give-A-Way I would like to award Richard at Rio Vista Elementary a bundle of workbooks for his classroom.  If you prefer a game Richard, just let me know. The last week of our give-a-way we have chosen Elizabeth Sabedra, at Greenfield Elementary for her choice of either a bundle of workbooks or a set of magnetic literacy games.
All winners from our Christmas Give-A-Way need to send an email and confirm their shipping address.
Also, our Bundle-Up sale does continue through the end of the week; please have your principals keep us in mind.  Ten years in the business and only one single return!

Look for us in 2011 to post new pages to your Set One Reading Rocks kit and preview pages to Set Two!
Happy New Year!