Welcome to my Blog! Hello, my name is MaryLouise and I am a Special Education Language Arts Teacher. I have utilized my lesson plans and other original teaching material to create picture books, workbooks, nonfiction and fiction articles and teacher's guides for educational resources.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Today's Topic: Graphic Memoirs and Cartoon Strips

  Written by Bart Davidoff
                       Illustrated by Maria Madonna Davidoff

   Maria Madonna Davidoff

Little Mado Comic Blog

Today's interview is with Maria Madonna Davidoff, graphic novelist, graphic designer, writer, cartoonist, painter, crafter and blogger who has a degree in Fine Arts  (Visual Communications) from the University of Phillipines.
MLAC: You have quite an unusual and very interesting background!
MMD: I was born in the Philippines but have lived in Switzerland, Singapore and the USA. I am now based in New Jersey. I come from a family of writers. My grandfather (Juan L. Arsciwals) was ahead of his time because he was profeminist. He wrote books about women...not in the way they were perceived at that time. My mother, Luzviminda Arsciwals, was a screenwriter for a popular TV Series, and a journalist for a Phillipine newspaper called Taliba. She wrote in Tagalog Language which is the National Language of the Phillipines. My brother, Jolan Angeles, is a playwright who won a major award for a screenplay entitled "Kastilyo ni Kardo". My father was an architect turned businessman. All of my life I've been working as an illustrator/graphic designer for several publishers and have been influenced in a visual sense. I got the visual from my dad and my interest in the literary from my mother.
MLAC: What was the onset of your career?
MMD: Right after I graduated  from the University of the Phillipines, my family and I moved to New York. So, my professional life started in America. My first illustration job was with Crane Publishing in New Jersey and my assignment was for a 4th grade reader in full color. I've done lots of graphic design work and illustrations for magazines, newspaper, graphic studios, catalogs, retail catalogs, publishing houses and textbooks.
MLAC: Describe your cartoon strip...Little Mado.
MMD: My cartoon character Little Mado (short for Madonna) attends a Private Catholic School for all girls run by American Nuns ( Maryknoll Sisters). The medium of instruction there is English. It's really like a fictional memoir because I want to use my imagination. I attended an all girl Catholic School from 1st grade through High School.  I want to use the environment, atmosphere and the interaction among classmates. I'm compiling all the cartoons into a sequential graphic novel. Little Mado's experiences take place within the school and outside of the school.
MLAC: Any other inspiration or influences for the Little Mado Cartoon?
MMD: Social media played a big part in this. I had a lot of friends that I found through Facebook. When I started to post some of the Little Mado Comic Strip, I got a lot of comments from my former classmates who inspired me to develop it further into a graphic novel. These classmates are from Switzerland, NY, Phillipines, Canada, Australia, etc. and have made comments about their own experiences also. So, I dedicated the graphic novel to my classmates (school girls) from Maryknoll.
MLAC: Can you tell us a bit about your latest projects?
MMD: The Little Mado Graphic Novel is just one aspect of my work. I am finishing the illustrations for a nonfiction book I've written about homes around the world called At Home Around The World. I was inspired by living in different countries around the world. This Pre K book depicts children of different cultures and what they do in their homes. Another project I am currently involved with ..."The Crafty Madonna Items". I have created International Plush Dolls, Postcards and Paintings and sell them on my website. I also exhibit Batik Paintings that I completed in Bali Indonesia and are displayed at the Yippie Museum in NYC.
MLAC: What type of materials do you use?
MMD: I use a combination of digital and conventional materials. I can work in wash and water color. I scan them and rework them digitally. It's easier to revise them. I start with a pencil sketch, then I scan them and rework them. I use a Wacom Tablet to draw directly on my computer.
 View Some of Maria Madonna's Latest Projects:
Maria Madonna's Comic Strip Little Mado is featured weekly at the online magazine OSM!
 (The online magazine for awesome global citizens):
Maria Madonna’s Online Craft store “Crafty Madonna”showcases her handmade Plush Dolls representing different countries, Postcards and her Original Small Canvas Paintings:

Maria Madonna originates from a family of writers starting with her maternal grandfather,
 Juan Lauro Arsciwals:

Maria Madonna’s website:

Maria Madonna’s Artist Blog:

 A New York Times features Maria Madonna together with other artists painting in Central Park, NYC:

An Award from the SCBWI first Art Showcase 2003 in NYC:

Maria Madonna’s Art exhibit appeared last summer at the Yippie Museum in Soho NYC:

Maria Madonna’s latest book published will be launched Spring 2013

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today's Topic: Memoir Writing

Today's interview is with Maria Okros, Memoir Writing Instructor at the Lawrence Branch of the Mercer County Library. Maria was born in Hungary into a literate family where "reading was religion". She is the eldest of 4 and always excelled in school. She remembers fondly how her mother would read the classics to the family.
MLAC: You have quite an interesting background!
MO: I studied to be a fashion designer, had 2 years of nursing school, became a professional beautician and therapeutic masseur. I'm a triathlete and fitness instructor and give health and physical fitness classes. I am also a Toastmaster with the Princeton and Successfully Speak Up Clubs and a Professional Writer.
MLAC: How did you find yourself in the role of Memoir Writing Instructor?
MO: I originally came into the group as a member and was voted into the position and became leader of the group.
MLAC: I've always wondered what exactly is a memoir and how do I write one?
MO: It's remembered events of different times and places in life which includes the tremendous to tragic, from birth to the present moment. Memoir writing is intensely personal. What people write about and how intimate is up to the person. There are no musts, have tos, or shoulds, but good writing is good writing. The single greatest thing about memoir writing is that it's about ourselves and getting our story out. You don't have to make up a story because you have lived it!
MLAC: Can you tell me about the Memoir Writing Class? I noticed that the class (after listening intently to each others pieces) gave opinions, reminisced about similar situations, etc. You also gave instruction about sentence structure, where more descriptions were needed and if more details were called for.
MO: It's a group setting where people inspire each other, learn from one another and energize each other. The group setting also sparks other peoples' memories. Writing for many people is a dream. They think here is my opportunity to be a writer! It's wonderful because people feel safe here. If people aren't comfortable, it wouldn't be an authentic experience. And writing styles differ from person to person. We all carry our own story. There's no competition in here...so just relax and tell your story!
MLAC: You asked the class a question: What is the greatest thing about Memoir Writing?
Class Response: Memoir Writing gives us the opportunity to hear beautiful stories and from people who have written them. We inspire each other. Allows us to get in touch with our entire life. We can better understand earlier things and where we went wrong.
MLAC: Is there a specific format to follow for Memoir Writing?
MO: You have a choice how to write it. It can be written chronologically or stages of life in any order depending on how you want to organize your experiences. Some people want to write about turning points. Every one doesn't want to start with childhood. There are people who focus more on growth of relationships, hobbies, their work or career. These are some of the ways in which Memoir Writing can be approached. Everything that we have experienced and how these are stitched together as in a progression of events. Like little stories stitched together like a film frame and made to flow like a movie. Story + Story + Story.
MLAC: Any closing thoughts about Memoir Writing?
MO: A lot of people get stuck because it requires too much honesty. They say “I don't know where to begin.” To get started...go to a place where you are comfortable and happy and write about it. Look for turning points and moments of insights. And write enough where you can trim down. Let your thoughts and feelings come out. Don't worry about capitalization, punctuation,etc. Don't worry about the mechanics. Find an austere time in life that really touched you. What made an impression? I guarantee that every one of us has books in us!
For more information about the Memoir Writing Class at the Mercer County Library (Lawrence Branch) go to www.mcl.org and click on Adult Programs.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Today's Topic: PiBoIdMo


Not much time left to sign up for PiBoIdMo....Picture Book Idea Month!  Created and Hosted by Tara Lazar, picture book author and blogger .... Writing For Kids (While Raising Them). It's a 30 Picture Book Ideas in 30 Days Challenge! ...And you can win prizes! Registration remains open until November 7th. Go to taralazar.com for inspirational blog posts and to sign up.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Today's Topic: Writing for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Today's interview is with Eileen Amato, who has a B.S. degree in Teacher of the Deaf, and a Masters in Teacher of the Handicapped. She is certified in the following areas: Wilson Reading Program, TOD Teacher of the Deaf, TOH Teacher of the Handicapped, Elementary School Teacher, and Preschool Handicapped. Eileen also has training to become a Reading Specialist.
MLAC: How did you get started writing materials for your students?
EA: I started out a long time ago as a Teacher of the Deaf. At that time there weren't many materials designed for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. All of the teachers I knew created their own materials to help reinforce and teach skills. This became one of the most exciting parts of my career.
MLAC: How do the materials for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing differ from materials for the Average Student?
EA: I would say a Teacher of the Deaf knows what is going to be problematic for a Deaf and Hard of Hearing student when she looks at regular materials. I had to teach from a regular reading series and I would know right away what would be difficult for my kids to understand. So I would write my own stories and draw pictures, etc. to help the students understand concepts and vocabulary, expressions and idioms. Example: "His nose was running." "She had a run in her stocking." "Time is running out." So I had to explain everything to the students and we were signing every word, literally, when I first started out. We used the Oral Method where the students read our lips. Then we moved to signed English...we signed everything even adding "ed" at the end of a word. Now American Sign Language conveys concepts. I have moved to working with students who have cochlear implants which is very popular now. The students have to learn to hear and I have to go back to the Oral Method. I have to teach expressions, idioms, past tense of verbs, making sure they have an "s" at the end of a similar verb. Expressions are so important for them. So, I am back to making materials again for the students that I teach orally.
MLAC: Describe some of the materials that you have created.
EA: Lots of times I write little stories about one of the subjects the students are covering in school, such as bullying. By reading the story, the child can understand who a bully is and I also use vocabulary that's used in class. Along with the story I made up questions, games and activities that the child could complete to reinforce the concept of bullying. I create activities such as fill in the blanks, games, completing paragraphs, choosing the best solution for different scenarios, etc. Another thing I do for Social Studies and Science classes is to write a nonfiction selection to help clarify what the teacher is presenting in class. An example of this would be if the students were studying lakes, I would write a nonfiction selection and have related activities to go along with this subject matter. Then I would write a fiction selection dealing with lakes and incorporating some of the facts that the class had learned about lakes. My materials always address current core curricular standards. I have also written poems that I use to teach vocabulary, idioms and rhyming and just for fun!
MLAC: What are you currently working on?
EA: Currently, my school district has supplied all Speech Therapists with iPads and since I work very closely with these therapists, I was inspired to design Apps for the Hearing Impaired Students. That's the new thing.
MLAC: Can you describe the new Apps?
EA: These Apps are used for classification which is very important for the hearing impaired. They might not know that a car/boat/plane are considered transportation. I can use this concept in combination to teach the concept of conjunctions. Pictures can be combined, matched and used to create sentences. The child can compose, read and self correct sentences.
For more information and to contact Eileen Amato go to suki@gmail.com.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Today's Topic: Screenwriting

                                                      The Art and Craft of Screenwriting
Today's interview is with the accomplished writer, actor, producer and web designer,
 Mark Violi.
MLAC: How did you learn to be a screenwriter?
MV: I'm self taught. I've read many books and taken a little from each one. Being an actor helps me as a writer and being a writer helps me as an actor.
MLAC: What's your writing process? Do you start at the end and work back to the beginning?
MV: I have tried a lot of software that deals with story structure. They haven't worked for me. I develop my ideas by brainstorming....I write any ideas associated with the story such as dialog, characters, etc. and that evolves into an outline. This is a seven page outline, not like a school outline but a series of scenes or story beats that I will break out into three acts...Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. This ends up being about seven pages and from there I massage that outline which leads to story structure, plot and character development. A few pieces of dialog will find their way into the outline. Scene location is less important at this time. Once I have this completed outline, then I can start writing the screen play. I usually start at page one. Rarely do I write a scene out of sequence. Once I have the first draft completed, then the fun begins. I might have a story. The nuances, punch line and nailing character arcs are reserved for a second draft. I usually like the process of rewriting because that's when I know that I have something that's working. I'll follow a similar path for a stage play. There also has to be a sense of marketability...I put that as part of my process because it requires some direct thinking.
MLAC: What's your suggestion for learning the format of screenwriting?
MV: I've read my share of screen plays but I've learned more from watching screen plays. Being an observer of films helps me more than reading them...to write visually. I can get a better sense of visual writing. I will screen films that are in the same genre that I am writing...in the early stages of developing a script. Two books I recommend for everyone ... The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler and Save the Cat! (Series) The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. There are many other good books that I've learned a lot from, but if I had to pick, those would be the two. You can apply the concepts in Writer's Journey to any sort of story telling or writing.
MLAC: Any advice for screenwriters trying to get produced?
MV: My first piece of advice is to write something great. There's no substitute other than to write something great. And you need to think about marketability. There's a balance that has to be struck between creativity and originality, if you are going to have commercial success.
MLAC: What was your inspiration for writing Roebling:The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge?
...taken from Mark's website  (www.roeblingplay.com): "the new drama Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge is in development for a New York City professional production. Produced through special arrangement between the author Mark Violi and Theater To Go. Based on the true story of the Roebling Family who labored against all odds to conceive, design and finally build New York's World-Famous Brooklyn Bridge. This play has been endorsed by the Roebling Museum and played to great acclaim in two past non-equity productions."
MV: I was born in Trenton so I was always aware of the Roebling Family. One night I was watching the History Channel and they did a short piece on the Brooklyn Bridge and it was absolutely amazing. I had always wanted to be a writer and never had anything to write about. So this story really struck a chord with me. Someone should write to dramatize this... and I did it! The mechanization was already there...the plot, the characters were already there. It was a great thing for me to write first. I had to do a ton of research because I wanted it to be historically accurate and of course entertaining. The goal is to have a production in March 2013. We're in the middle of the Indie Go Go Campaign and accepting Tax Deductible Donations with some cool perks of artifacts from the Roebling Factory.
MLAC: Can you tell us about another project you worked on?
MV: Riding the Comet was the second thing that I wrote. It was produced in October 2011 at the Actors Net of Bucks County and was named a top 5 production of 2011 by the Princeton Packet. That idea came to me in a dream. I had a dream about two American soldiers during World War II who were in France and met two sisters. Something made me hang onto that and I built this story around two soldiers and two sisters. That also required a lot of historical research because I wanted it to be accurate.
MLAC: You have a Writer's Resource website...and you are the facilitator/instructor for the Screenwriters' Critique Group at Barnes and Noble in Hamilton, NJ. So that makes you a Pay It Forward kind of guy. Can you speak to that?
MV: One thing I love about writers is that they are so willing to help each other out. We seem to love hashing out story lines, working on characters and navigating through the business end. That's what we try to do with the writers group I facilitate. Writing can also be a very solitary exercise and we find great value in meeting once a month to talk about what we're working on, discuss specific issues with our work and read some pages. I also keep a Writing Resource Page on my www.markvioli.com that has many websites and online materials that I have found useful and puts them in one place to help writers out. I think it is very vital to your success to help out others with their work. So in these ways I get to help others and encourage my colleagues to do the same.
MLAC: To visit Mark's Blog and to find out about his experiences working as an actor in the new film Paranoia and many other projects go to www.markvioli.wordpress.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today's Topic: Sports Writing

Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Sports Writer?
Today's interview is with Sports Writer, Dave Lariviere, who holds a B.S. in Newspaper Journalism from Syracuse University with a Minor in History, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. He's worked as a Sports Writer and Editor for the Bergen Record, New Brunswick Home News and the Trentonian . He currently writes blog articles for SportsMoney.com.
MLAC: How can you compare sports writing to other types of writing?
DL: You still use the basic writing models of who, what, when, where, why and how. The pieces have a beginning, middle and an end. What changes is the knowledge and subject matter and terminology. That's the beauty of writing...you can write about a variety of topics but the actual skill doesn't change. You are looking for a catchy way for people to read a story; especially today when you have to immediately grab peoples' attention. It's like a refrain from a song...if it doesn't resonate in your mind,  people will not stay with it. The internet has changed the way people read articles.
MLAC: What are some of the tasks of a Sports Writer?
DL: Some Sports Writers only cover what is called a "beat". They would be the person that would say as their job would cover the NY Yankees. They would go to every game and cover what happens before the game, during the game, after the game, trades, injuries, controversies, etc. Their responsibility is to cover everything that happens to that team. A general Sports Writer would cover all types of sports...from High School level all the way up to the professionals.
MLAC: Can you tell us about some of your earlier experiences?
DL: I started at the high school level, covering every high school sport. I talked to athletes, coaches and went to the games. These are the young men and women in our town that we could be proud of.  I wrote about...what motivated them, how they got interested in the sport, what other activities they were involved in, etc. Most Sports Writers start at the local level; covering little league, Pop Warner in the community. In a way it humbles you because you come out of college and think you know everything and that you deserve to cover professional sports. You see kids at a grass roots level, the way sports should be played. And a big part of it is...you have to capture the passion of the athletes and of the moment. High school students are very passionate; maybe more so than professional athletes who have been interviewed millions of times.
MLAC: What inspired you to go into sports journalism? Any hopes of being a professional athlete?
DL: I have a tremendous passion for what I do. I really think that any kind of work that you do, you should have a tremendous passion for it. I've wanted to be a Sports Writer since I was 12 years old. It's something I wanted to do for a long time. Baseball was my favorite sport when I was growing up but I was a bad athlete. I realized this pretty early when I couldn't hit a curve ball and I could barely hit a fast ball. My parents wouldn't sign the permission slip for me to sign up for football. I had the skills but not the size.
Most Sports Writers probably wanted to be professional athletes. They kind of live vicariously through the athlete. There is that kind of respect...you realize that these guys are doing things that I could never do.
MLAC: Do you have a favorite assignment?
DL: I just did something recently that I was really proud of. For an assignment, I went to a school in Brooklyn, New York called the Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (MECPS) and it's basically an all African-American Charter School for grades 6th-12th. What they require for the 6th,7th and 8th grade, (with no options) is for these students to learn Chinese. I interviewed teachers, principals, and kids. It was amazing to me about how excited the kids were and how much they were learning. There was a high level of excitement and involvement for these inner city kids learning about the Chinese culture, dances, songs and language. When I interviewed the kids, I asked: Why be interested in learning Chinese? They thought it was really important and the teachers made it fun and fascinating for them. I felt really good about this story and got a lot of great feedback from the kids, teachers and staff members. They felt, because of the Chinese influence in the world this would be a major initiative in the school. To read more about the Confucious Classroom Program go to:
MLAC: What sort of challenges or obstacles have you faced? 
DL: A funny one early on...I was a terrible typist. I actually failed typing in high school because I couldn't learn the method where you put your hands on the keys and learn every letter. I used the hunt and peck method and still do to this day. That is a barrier and an obstacle that I still have to overcome. I was never a good typist and the other thing is, I was kind of shy in high school. Talking and interviewing people...you have to be outgoing to be a journalist. People are confiding things they sometimes don't want to reveal, may be painful, part of the past that they would like to leave in the past, and things they did wrong that they may not want to admit. I had to transform myself from an introvert to an extrovert. And it didn't happen overnight. It transpired over time and I got better at it with each interview. I gradually became more comfortable with people. It's akin to public speaking...you get over the initial fear the more you do it.
MLAC: Please share your thoughts on what makes a good sports writer/interviewer.
DL: You not only have to be comfortable with talking to people, but you have to get people to feel comfortable with talking with you. They have to feel able to talk to you about things they wouldn't normally reveal to others. A good interviewer has to be a good listener and remember that the interview is not about you. You have to listen to what they are saying and ask the next question. You go in with a set of 10 questions and then the interview goes in a different direction and something surprises you, then the whole interview would be about that new subject...a new direction. If they take you to a new direction where you didn't expect, then go there. And follow up with what is just said to explore more in depth. Be flexible and adaptable and able to relax.
MLAC: Any parting thoughts?
DL: I remember what it was like when I started out as a Sports Editor. I really like working with young people and teaching them about writing and getting started. Some people did that for me and I want to give back and help the next generation!
To read more articles written by Dave Lariviere go to:   www.forbes.com/sportsmoney

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today's Topic: How Educators Use Picture Books In The Classroom

Writers and Illustrators...have you ever wondered how your picture books and stories are utilized in the classroom? Current elementary, middle and high school teachers are supplementing the curriculum with picture books to increase student engagement, enhance learning and solidify teaching objectives.
Today's interview is with Ms. Sue Dimoia, MA-CCC-SLP, who holds a B.S. in Education, Masters of Arts in Speech Pathology, and an Education Masters in English Education with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Specialization.
How have you used children's books (picture) in the classroom?
For classroom lessons, I usually pick a theme that addresses an objective that students need to learn. The autistic support classes were going to the zoo for a class trip. In order to help prepare them for it, we discussed some of the things you would see at the zoo. The social piece dealt with how you would wait in line, greet people and ask for things politely, and take turns so other people can have access to the exhibits. I used picture books to reinforce language, vocabulary, punctuation, expanding language, and voice issues.
Can you list picture books that you have used to target these objectives?
To reinforce counting and language skills I used Eric Carle's 1,2,3 to the Zoo A Counting Book.
I used Put Me In the Zoo by Robert Lopshire to teach social skills. We want to be accepted for who we are and to belong to a community. This is a comical children's book about an animal that wants a home and to belong. Another book that I have used in the classroom to teach social skills and what to expect at the zoo is called Let's Go to the Zoo.
Tell us more!
Here's another example of how I use children's books in the classroom. I was doing language support with 4th grade students who were completing a unit on the Rain Forest. I choose a specific book by Lynn Cherry called The Great Kapok Tree. This story has a message about deforestation and the importance of conservation. As we read the story, I targeted many different skills such as: listening comprehension, predicting outcomes, finding solutions to problems, reinforcing curriculum based vocabulary, targeting words with specific sounds, and for expanding descriptive language.
Please explain how you would present a picture book to your students.
I basically have to choose a story that is flexible enough to meet a multitude of students' needs.
I read slowly and with expression because many children have comprehension deficits, as well as auditory processing deficits and also attention issues. We talk about the author and the title and depending on the students' level, I ask them to make predictions. I do a book walk and we talk about the pictures and I ask for a response from all students to keep all students engaged in the lesson. For the higher level students, I ask wh questions (who, what, when, where, why) and critical thinking questions with descriptions and descriptive language.
What type of children's book is there a need for?
I would like to see more children's books that deal with explaining autism to typically developing kids. If I had books to explain some of the autistic behavior, it would serve as a springboard for discussion to set up some type of buddy or peer mentor system between regular education classes and special education classes. There seems to be books written like this especially for younger children, but I'd like to see more books written for upper elementary grades and older students. Also there needs to be more books dealing with explaining the death of a pet. I've recently lost my beloved dog and have been questioned by the students about this and sometimes I'm at a loss as to how to explain the loss of a pet. Students of all ages usually have pets and this could benefit them greatly. As a speech therapist, this would be a good way to use language on a personal level as in relating a personal experience. Students can share experiences with each other and realize they have things in common. This type of book would be especially beneficial for students with limited language and/or autistic spectrum disorders...it's a good way learn about how to show appropriate expressions and feelings of emotion.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Today's Topic: Free Resources for Writers and Illustrators

Consider your local library as a source for help in
completing your writing and/or illustrating projects!

The Mercer County Lawrence Branch Library offers a variety of informative computer classes facilitated by MaryLou Byer, Library Associate and Computer Instructor and Robert Bee, Senior Librarian and Computer Trainer. I recently attended an open lab time class where I spoke to the above mentioned computer experts to obtain information and instruction about blogs.
What are some of the computer classes offered by the library?
The classes that we offer range from beginner to very advanced. We usually run between 25-30 per month. The Beginner and Intermediate classes are repeated every month, while the Advanced classes will rotate every few months. In the Beginner Level, the classes include Mouse Basics, PC Basics, Internet 1, Library Catalog and Open Lab Time. In the Intermediate Level, the classes include E-Mail 1 and 2, Excel 1 and 2, PC Essentials, Internet 2, and Word 1 and 2. The Advanced Level classes include Blogging, Digital Audio and Overdrive, Digital Photography 1 and 2, Dreamweaver 1 and 2, eLibraryNJ, Excel 3, Facebook, Family History, Internet 3, Legal Resources Online, NoveList, PC Advanced, PowerPoint 1 and 2, Publisher, Resume Makeover, Twitter, Web 2.0, and Word 3 and 4. Tutorials which are Internet-based lessons done at your own pace are available at practice sessions and through your own internet connection at www.mcl.org.

For a more complete list and description of classes offered at the Mercer County Lawrence Branch Library visit www.mcl.org.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today's Topic: Math Teacher Created Products

Tangible Teaching Tools
Today's interview is with Dr. Cathy Campbell who has a PhD. in Educational Psychology, 12 years of math teaching, curriculum planning and teaching for 1st-12th grade, college tutoring experience and 4 years system -centered leadership training.
How has your PhD. in Educational Psychology helped you teach math?My degree has helped me to pay attention to what's going on with my students...to see where they are getting off track both emotionally and academically and to help them find methods to get themselves back on track.
Can you explain your process for creating tangible math teaching materials?
It starts in the classroom, when I see that students are struggling with the usual way a topic is being taught. The first thing I do is look at the concept being taught and break it down into micro steps. Then I look at the students to see how many of the micro steps they already know. I then go into a space inside of me that I consider my creative space and I concentrate on the concept and what it is about the concept that the students need to understand. In this space I can create a method that helps my students develop the new pieces they need for themselves. So, I create materials and environments for the students to explore and discover the next steps in the math that they need to learn.
Why did you create the Disguise The Unknown product?
When I was first teaching equations about eight years ago, I wanted to demonstrate to my students why equations need to stay balanced. I also wanted to be able to represent an "unknown" on a balance scale. I saved up small M & M containers in which to hide the "unknown" amount and use on the balance scale. I quickly discovered that the M & M containers had a weight of their own and distorted the balance of the equation. After that, I was on a quest to find something in which to hide the "unknown". I searched on line and found small, black, plastic ziplock bags which were lightweight enough so as not to distort the equation. At that point I was ready to write down all of my ideas which had been formulating over the years for demonstrating and solving equations on the balance scale. When using this product, the students can visualize the algebraic equation rather than just solving through steps.
To learn more about Cathy and her Tangible Teaching Tools (which contain lesson plans)
go to www.zeroinginonmath.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Today's Topic: Reuse, Recycle and Reinvent

Chris and Jon under the young Kwanzan Cherry Tree.
Yesterday my doorbell rang and I was pleasantly surprised to find 3 young gentleman offering to cut my Kwanzan Cherry Tree for free! I was very skeptical at first, but they said they were from Sykesville Flower Farm and were interested in the branches. Why? They explained that the branches would be placed in a greenhouse with high humidity and forced to bloom. I was told that my beautiful double blossomed branches would be used for weddings, parties, and even TV commercials. Wow! I never thought that those overgrown branches could be used that way.
This caused me to reflect on all of my stacks of writing and artwork that I could be sifting through to revise and submit to alternate publishers.

Jake Durr, Robert Probeck and Dylan Butchin from the
Sykesville Flower Farm in Burlington, New Jersey. (609-723-6264)