Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dynamic Teaching in the Block

The Dynamic Teaching in the Block Schedule Workshop focuses on the creation of a community of learning, based upon those skills that are absolutely necessary for students to transition into their future.  A future where the majority of jobs do not even exist yet, using technology that has yet to be invented and solving problems that have not yet been created.  The skills students must master for success in the next three decades are the Three C's of learning: Think Critically, Work Collaboratively and Communicate Effectively.  It is these three skills that educators should promote within their classroom whether the curriculum path they are on is English, History, Math, Science, Art or Technology.

The workshop will incorporate powerful teaching strategies to enhance the culture of learning, to enhance problem solving skills, increase student participation, develop creativity and increase collaborative abilities. Teachers will be immersed in a classroom experience that places the student at the center of the learning and allows the teacher to become the mentor of their learning success. Imbedded in the workshop is the idea that transforming teachers in to the "Guide on the Side" will have a more positive influence on student learning than does remaining the "Sage on the Stage".  

Dynamic Teaching in the Block Schedule will provide a model of an interactive and robust classroom where both students and teachers value learning as a process of exploration and discovery.

For more informaiton on this workshop contact Brian S. Miller at

HSPT Test Preparation Course

Miller Educational Services
High School Entrance Exam Preparation

Saturday January 7, 2011 and Saturday January 14, 2011
8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Course will be held at La Salle High School
3880 E. Sierra Madre Boulevard
Pasadena, Ca 91107

All Materials Included

Registration is Open

For more information please call Miller Educational Services
(626) 683-3747
Se Habla Espanol.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Quiz Part II

Growing up in the sixties and seventies, Christmas began right after Thanksgiving with the showing of "Santa and the Three Bears" and the "Santa Claus, Hollywood Lane Parade".  These two Thanksgiving Christmas traditions marked the the beginning of my needing to "be good" in preparation for Santa. The next few weeks leading up to Christmas would be marked by the Christmas Holiday shows by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, including "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", and "The Year Without a Santa Claus".   These shows helped to mark off the days leading up to Christmas when we would gather as a family and watch other holiday classics, such as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street".

These shows no longer have the magic for kids today that they once held for my sisters and I.  With the advent of DVD sets, cable repeats during the 25 Days, 30 Days, No I mean 40 Days of Christmas, TIVO, DVRs, You Tube, etc. etc. etc. Kids today can watch these shows anytime they want, 24/7/365.  But, sadly most of them do not.  Most of the students today, may have seen them once or twice, if at all.  Sure the animation is odd and unrefined. The stop-action techniques make the movements awkward. And the songs and jokes are corny.  But these Holiday classics will always bring fond memories of the anticipation of Christmas.  The feeling of putting differences aside to sit with my sisters and lose ourselves in the simplicity of the Holiday Message brought through these holiday gems. 

I must admit that my wife and I still enjoy watching each of these very special shows throughout the holiday season. 

So, in honor of the feelings of Christmas brought to life by these still special T.V. Classics, I further test my students in the Holiday Season with Christmas Quiz Part II.  The majority of these questions come from these shows with some general holiday knowledge at the end.  I am sure that many of you could come up with hundreds of more questions involving "Christmas in Connecticut", "Holiday Inn", "White Christmas" or "The Bishop's Wife".  A few years back, I did succumb to the pressure of my students and included a few questions from "A Christmas Story". I still question this, but it is on the quiz, and my students seem to appreciate it.    

Feel free to copy and paste for your classroom needs.  

The following questions refer to the holiday classics
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
1. Who is the miner who helps Rudolph?
2. What does Rudolph’s elf friend want to be?
3. What is the elf’s name?
4. What is the name of Rudolph’s female deer friend?
5. How does the miner survive when he falls off the cliff with the abominable snowman?

Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
6. What animal befriends Kris when he first sets out on his own?
7. What is the name of the town that banishes toys?
8. What is the name of the governing family of that town?
9. What toy does Kris give the mayor of the town?
10. What is Santa’s wife’s name?

It’s a Wonderful Life
11. What town does Harry Bailey live in?
12. What does George wish for everytime he enters the pharmacy? 
13. What does Harry promise to do for Mary after the dance? 
14. What is the name of Harry Bailey’s guardian Angel?
15. What happens when a bell rings?
16. What does Harry Bailey find in his pocket that lets him know he is alive again?  

Miracle on
34th Street
17. Where does Kris work?
18. What does Kris gets stuck in his beard?
19. The district attorney’s son wants a real genuine __________ for Christmas?
20. What department of the government proves Kris is Santa Claus?
21. What does Kris leaves behind in the house to let them know he was there?

A Charlie Brown Christmas
22. What kind of tree does Lucy want?
23. What does Snoopy win an award for?
24. Who explains the story of Christmas?

A Christmas Story
25. What does Ralphie want for Christmas?
26. What ungodly prize does Mr. Parker win?
27. What happens to the kid who was ‘triple dog dared’?
28. What does the teacher write on Ralphie’s essay?
29. What is the name of the bully that Ralphie takes down?

Frosty the Snowman
30. What is the Magician’s name?
31. What are Frosty’s eyes made of?
32. Who is the little girl that travels with Frosty to the North Pole?
33. What what is the refridgerated box car that they travel in, loaded with?

From the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
34. Who stole Christmas ?
35. Who asks him for a drink of water?
36. What is his dogs name?
37. What mountain does he live on?
The following questions are just general Christmas knowledge.

38. What is all “I” want for Christmas?
39. What are the gifts of the  twelve days of Christmas?
40. How do you say “Merry Christmas” three languages?
41. What are three different names for Santa Claus?
42. What does Alvin want for Christmas?
43. When do Eastern Christians celebrate Christmas?
44. What is the journey of Mary and Joseph reenacted through?

May you have a restful and safe holiday season!

1.     Yukon Cornelius
2.     A dentist
3.     Hermie
4.     Clarise
5.     Because Bumbles bounce
6.     A penguin (In the North Pole?)
7.     Somber Town
8.     Burgermeister Meisterburger
9.     A Yo Yo
10.     Jessica
11.     Bedford Falls
12.     Lasso the moon
13.   A million dollars
14.     Clarence
15.     An angel gets their wings
16.     His daughter Zuzu’s flower petals
17.     Macy’s
18.     Bubble gum
19.     Football helmet
20.     Postal Service
21.     His cane
22.     A shiny pink aluminum tree
23.     Decorating his dog house
24.     Linus
25.     A Red Ryder BB gun
26.     A leg lamp
27.     He stuck his tongue to the basketball pole
28.     You’ll shoot your eye out
29.     Scut Farkus
30.     Professor Hinckle
31.     Coal
32.     Karen
33.   Christmas Cakes and Pies
34.   The Grinch
35.   Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two
36.   Max
37.   Mount Crumpet
38.     My two front teeth
39.     The Twelve Days of Christmas
a.        12 Drummers Drumming
b.       11 Pipers Piping
c.        10 Lords A Leaping
d.       9 Ladies Dancing
e.        8 Maids A Milking
f.         7 Swans A Swimming
g.       6 Geese A Laying
h.       5 Golden Rings
i.         4 Calling Birds
j.         3 French Hens
k.        2 Turtle Doves
l.         And a  Partridge in a Pear Tree
40.     Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, Joyeux Noel, God Jul, Feliz Navidad, etc…
41.     Sinterklaus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Babbo Natale, , Pere Noel, Kanakaloka etc…
42.     A Harmonica
43.     January 6th – The Day the Kings Arrive
44.   La Posada

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Quiz

To test student knowledge of Christmas Carols, a little vocabulary, and their frustration level,  I will give students the following Chrismas Carol Quiz sometime in the days leading up to the Christmas Holiday break.

The following are common Christmas Carols, decipher the titles.

1. Happiness granted upon the celestial sphere of life
2. Superior being grant comfort upon all of these happy refined males
3. Season of dormancy of awestruck terra firma.
4. Nocturnal quiet
5. Inverted cups emitting sound.
6. First person singular witnessed the maternal parent smooching Kris Kringle.
7. Within a barn so far
8. Cold personification made of crystallized aqua pura.
9. Trifold frigates I have seen
10. Ringing cups of precious element
11. Yonder approaches the saint of yuletide
12. Season of hibernation devoid of color
13. Approach all thee who believe
14. Ah miniscule village within the holy land
24 hour periods of yuletide

1. Joy to the World
2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
3. Winter Wonderland
4. Silent Night
5. Jingle Bells
6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
7. Away in a Manger
8. Frosty the Snowman
9. I Saw Three Ships
10. Silver Bells
11. Here Comes Santa Claus
12. White Christmas
13. O Come All Ye Faithful
14. O Little Town of Bethlehem
15. The 12 Days of Christmas 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Child Learns...

The following poem was part of yesterday's prayer, for the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas.
How very important it is for educators all over the world to provide a safe nurturing environment that encourages our students to maximize their potential while growing to appreciate and understand the value of their education.

"A child living with criticism learns to condemn
A child living with hostility learns to fight.
A child living with ridicule learns to be shy.
A child living with shame learns to feel guilty.

A child living with encouragement learns confidence.
A child living with praise learns to appreciate.
A child living with fairness learns justice.
A child living with security learns to have faith.
A child living with approval learns love of self.
A child living with acceptance and friendship
learns to find love in the world."

(Dorothy Law Holte
- adapted to inclusive language.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Socrates, Learning and Knowledge

The Socratic Legend

A young man approached Socrates and made the request, "I want to know everything you know."
Socrates responded by inviting the young man down to the river bank and said, "If this is your desire, kneel down at the river's edge. Gaze into the river and tell me what you see."
"I do not see anything," the young man said.
Bend near to the surface and take a closer look," replied Socrates.
As the man stared intently into the water, leaning as close to the surface as he could without falling in, Socrates grabbed the back of the young man's head and thrust it under the water. As the young man flailed and tried to escape Socrates kept a firm grip and held him under the surface of the water. As the man grew weaker and began to give up, Socrates pulled him from the water and laid him on the bank.
As the man gasped and coughed, he gathered himself and he yelled out, "What are you trying to do you crazy old man? Kill me!"
Socrates calmly asked, "As I held you under water, what did you want? what was most important to you?"
"I wanted to breathe. I wanted air!" he screamed at Socrates.
Socrates responded, "Don't ever make the mistake of believing that wisdom comes easily. When you want to fill your life with the knowledge you asked for as badly as you wanted the air to fill your lungs, then and only then should you come to me again."

Without, bringing the students to the brink of death, how can we instill in them a thirst for learning and knowledge?  How can we as educators get the students of today to understand that learning is a process? How do we get them to understand that everything comes with a price that must be paid? The price for knowledge is the experience of the process, putting in the time, developing understanding, asking questions and seeking solutions, while seeing the possible outcomes of the knowledge gained.

Too often our students misunderstand finding answers with learning. They have been led to believe that algorithmic problem solving is critical thinking.  And worst of all, have been brainwashed into believing that grades equal knowledge.

The process of learning must be returned to the forefront of education.  Students must be encouraged to understand that knowledge comes through time and effort.  But most importantly they must grow to appreciate the journey not the destination. To truly embrace learning as a skill to be utilized rather than simply a means of getting answers in order to receive a grade. 
The work however, does not fall solely on the students, but demands that teachers seek out new methods to encourage student learning, to evaluate students for the steps along the path rather than only the final product. We as educators must challenge ourselves to step away from the comfort of the algorithmic processes that are easy to evaluate and justify.  We too must embrace and value learning as the ultimate goal within our classroom.

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.
                                          -   Socrates  - 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Wonder of It All

Have you ever examined the human skeleton and truly tried to understand the engineering behind this amazing piece of machinary that we each depend upon?

This is a constant theme in my classroom. 
Science does not kill the magic, it only enhances it.

The example I use in my anatomy class is the structure of our forearms. 
How amazing is the design mechanism between the ulna and the radius?
How perfectly the crown like head of the radius fits neatly into the radial notch on the ulna
at the crux of the elbow.
Likewise, the ulnar notch on the radius fits snugly on the curved head of the ulna at the wrist.

Due to this marvelous piece of engineering genius we can rotate our wrists, unlike every other non-primate on earth.  How many simple actions do we accomplish each day beacause we can rotate our wrists, brushing our teeh and hair (hopefully with different brushes), flipping pancakes, tying our shoes, etc... etc...
Not to mention the amazing feats we can accomplish on the athletic field,
in art and music studios or on stage. 
Imagine going through an entire day without being able to rotate your wrist. What would our lives look like? This all but taken for granted piece of the amazing design of our human machine is only a minute example of the wonder of all of the universe. 

It is through the magic of science that the wonder and awe only becomes that much more amazing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And it all began with a teacher...

I have a calendar on my desk with a quote or saying about teaching and education for each day,

The following was the excerpt from November 21st.  This piece was given to me, my first year as an educator, by my mentor teacher. Unfortunately, in moving from school to school it somehow was misplaced.  When I read this again yesterday, it brought back a lot of the memories of those first few years of learning to become a teacher and the inspiration I recieved from so many educators, that I have worked with.

Teachers are the reason why airplanes fly,
computers program, ballets are danced,
novels are written, cancers are researched,
lawsuits won, skyscrapers built, and
“art” decorates refrigerator doors.
Life’s biggest, boldest, brightest ideas
--- life’s honors, achievements and
accomplishments --- occur because
somewhere, sometime, someone touched
our lives --- and it all began with a

Thank you to all who have touched my life as an educator.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Predation and Survival of the Fittest

Whether you teach Biology and Darwinian Evolution, or Environmental Science and you need to explain Predation, or even an Economics course where you need to explain Survival of the Fittest, you need to utilize "The Battle of Kruger" video available on You Tube.

This real life battle of survival between Water Buffalo and Lions is a tremendous piece of real life Biology.
And, don't be surprised when the Crocodile gets in to the act.  I'll let the video, speak for itself.

Letter to the Teacher at Semester's End

As the first semester comes to a close, I ask the students to write me a letter as a checkpoint for themselves and for me.  The questions allow both of us to look back at their journey in my class, from where they started to where they are now and to what they hope for the next semester.

Letter to Mr. Miller

To reflect on this semester,  you will write a letter to me addressing ALL of the topics given below. Feel free to write on any additional themes that you may have a need to express.

Must be typed and turned in as a Word Document.
Think before you write, Consider, both what you say (the meaningfulness of your thoughts) and how you say it (grammar and mechanics). It does not need to be formal, but it should be interesting and coherent (logical and understandable).
Be honest and have fun with this: don’t make it a chore.

Due: December ??,

*      Describe your thoughts and feelings about (course) at the beginning of the year compared with today.
*      What did you hope to accomplish at the beginning of the semester? Were you able to do this to your satisfaction?
*      What were your favorite aspects of the class?
*      Describe something that was very difficult for you, and how you were able to persevere?
*      What did you learn about yourself through this class?
*      What are some of the important things you learned from this class other than (subject)?
*      Describe your favorite memory from this class.
*      What would help you to succeed in this class next semester?
*      What advice would you give to a student taking this class next year?

I find that this less formal style of course evaluation provides more information for me as design the next semester or the following year. I am able to better evaluate what was effective for the students and those moments that were truly memorable for them in their learning process.  

But, if you can't handle the truth, don't ask for it, because students have no problem with sharing their likes and their dislikes. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Using SMART Notebook Software and the SMART Recorder

One of the most amazing aspects of my using the SMART Board and SMART Notebook software in my classroom, is how far my classroom now extends.  The SMART Board has extended the reach of my classroom both for my students and for me. 

Utilizing the SMART Notebook software I can take my students on field trips without leaving my classroom. We have travelled to Mono Lake using Google earth to measure shoreline changes of the lake.  We have followed the path of the LA River from the Arroyo Seco and San Gabriel River watersheds to the ocean.  I have visited Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran's Day and New Orleans to see the effect of Katrina. Through the use of SMART recordings and You Tube, I have taught my students in their home when they are sick or when they are travelling with their family.

My classroom  has travelled all over the world by posting SMART recordings and FLIP cams to post You Tube videos that have been used by students throughout the country and around the world. I have taught students Dalton's Law in Virginia and medical students in Saudi Arabia the skeletal structures of the Ulna and Radius.

The expansion of my of my classroom is only limited to the breadth of my imagination and my willingness to share the lessons I wish to provide.  While there is a greater workload in the beginning, once the materials have been created they can be used again and again in the future.  Once posted on You Tube or my online classroom (Moodle)  they become available for my own students or anyone else around the world who can put them to use.

The technology is only limited to my willingness to embrace it.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Collaborative Learning Teams


"The strength of the team is each individual member.
The strength of each member is the team."
                                                                 - Phil Jackson

The development of a network of collaborative learning teams within you classroom can create an educational environment where the responsibility for learning lies upon both the students and teacher who comprise that leaning community.

Learners learn by teaching one another. When students teach one another they take ownership of the material by passing it along they actually make it part of themselves. 

The process of teaching one another is by its very nature acive learning.  Student engagement increases the opportunities to learn. 

The saying goes that "Two heads are better than one."  Sharing knowledge creates opportunities for more ideas, alternate approaches, increased possibilites and new perspectives.

Students who have difficulty in the larger classroom may find comfort in smaller groups. This provides avenues for increased communication and the unleashing of ideas that may never be shared in a larger group setting. 

Collaboration brings about an ease and comfort that encourages further attendance in the class as interdependence breeds both responsibility and commraderie. 

Although the goal is increased learning for all, the idea of positive competition among smaller groups may lead to greater problem solving success.

Collaboration encourages the development of leadership skills.

Students who work in groups learn to delegate tasks to maximize group success.

Collaboration increases the development of time mangement skills.    

"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."
                                                             - Henry Ford