Below is a sketch and an excerpt from a book that author Howard Temperley and I are working on. It’s a rhyming exposé of the presidents… Enjoy!

John Quincy Adams


Imagine that your father
Is president of the United States
And that he writes you a letter
In which he clearly states

That if you don’t follow in his footsteps
By becoming president too
It will, in his opinion,
Be verentirely due
To your lack of moral fibre,
And of application too.

(Had I received such a letter,
I have to admit,
It would have taken me aback
More than a bit.)

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Night After Rain

I recently came across a very weathered book of poems by Philip M. Raskin. Several pages were missing or otherwise destroyed, but I see a certain beauty in things that have survived. I felt this particular poem might have been interpreted differently; say, by the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Enjoy!


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The Name Game

Creative ClassroomEducators salaries are set to raise by 75% this year!

Sorry. That is likely untrue. I just wanted to get your attention. Though I do hope your pay is commiserate with your duties, I will ask your forgiveness and indulgence for just a few more sentences. Just stick with me.

Do you know the names of your students? I know the question is a bit odd. Of course you do, correct? The Britneys, the Ashleys, the Emilys… the Matthews, the Tylers, the Davids. I’ll bet you can’t even toss an eraser without hitting someone named Michael, eh? Then there are the last names. Smiths, Nguyens, Washingtons, etc.

So, if you could change the names of your students, would you? Should you, and why? Though I am a person that likes to take the long view of everything, the curriculum of your local school district may not look favorably upon you reassigning titles, not to mention the ire of parents that perused baby-name books for months in search of the perfect moniker. Yikes!

What I’m suggesting is that you change the names of your students for just one day. And doing so in a manner of what I term Stealth Teaching, or teaching without the kids necessarily knowing that they’re being taught. Sound tricky? Ohhhh, yes.

Find some name labels (the kind that stick to clothing if possible), or you can use mailing labels, or even some type of tape (now we’re getting frugal) and tag your kids. But instead of having the students write out their names, assign each a math equation, as in 3 x 6, or 40 – 7, or (depending upon the grade level) the square root of 49. Those students would then be (in order) 18, 33, and 7.

The idea is that–for the day at least–no one can be addressed unless by their “new” name. To be sure that it involves everyone, I must ask that you play along as well (I see you frowning, but do it). This activity presents a bit of a mnemonic device in that kids will soon begin to associate the answers with the faces behind the name tags. In this manner it also requires a distinct answer. Read on…

Should you feel compelled to add to the confusion (oh heck, why not?), you can assign an answer to each student (say, 12 or 365), at which point students would need to be addressed as potential questions, á la Jeopardy (what is 3 x 4, what is 10 + 2, or what is 400 – 35, how many days are there in a year?). Be prepared as this approach can have many solutions, but is a wonderfully creative approach. And you don’t need to stick with one the entire day. If it’s getting too easy, give everyone a new tag after lunch.

You can also choose a day when your charges are geographically named (the capitol of Nebraska, the Southernmost continent, etc.) and so on. The list of topics is nearly inexhaustible, and you can ask your students if there exists a theme that they would like to visit one day, though I would personally discourage “names of popular video games” or “shoe stores at the mall.” LOL!

Give it a try, and don’t forget to use your imagination. And if it were up to me, you’d get that 75% raise.

Teach. Learn. Enjoy!

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Heavy Lifters

When you speak of the muscle-bound champions of the animal kingdom, your first thoughts may head in the direction of the African elephant. But you would be incorrect. That particular pachyderm doesn’t hold a candle to the rhinoceros beetle when it comes to heavy lifting. The 6-ton African elephant can hoist around 1.5 tons (roughly 1/4 of its weight) while the 1 oz. beetle can lift over 53 pounds (about 850 times its own weight). Much of that ability comes from the fact that the insect has very little body mass, so very few of its muscles are used to support its own body weight. So, how much can you lift? Is it more like an elephant or a beetle?

Elephant and rhinoceros beetle

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How Air Pressure Works

Wind tends to move from high pressure areas (H) to low-pressure areas (L), kind of like two very energetic children on a teeter-totter–with balance being the main objective. Also, the closer a high and low are to each other, the faster the winds move. If you’d like to experience this phenomenon in the real world, here’s a simple experiment you can perform: Stand outside with the wind to your back (hold out your arms to get a better feel). You will be facing the area of lower pressure, even if it’s hundreds of miles away.

Air Pressure

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The Dew Point

The temperature at which water vapor in the air condenses, or turns to liquid, is called the dew point. There is no single dew point however. It depends on how much water vapor is in the air. If there is a lot of water in the air, the dew point is a high temperature. If the air is dry, the dew point is a low temperature. Once the dew point is reached up in the sky, it causes clouds, rain, snow, and other precipitation. If it happens near the ground, condensation causes dew, frost, or fog. Either way, it’s a wild and wet time when the dew point and temperature meet. For more information on the dew point, see the Rain and Snow issue of Kids Discover magazine.

Dew point, rain, snow

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I posted this a few months ago, but thought it might be worth mentioning again. This is one of several Punzles (Pun Puzzles) in my book WordPlay Cáfe. Here’s how it works:

Highlighted in RED in the story below the image (click for a larger version) are words that describe items within the image, but instead of being literal clues, they are phonetic puns. As an example, for the word apparent, think “a parent.” See how many words and images you can match. When you think you’ve solved it (or if you need some help), drop me a note and I will let you in on the surprise.


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Cold Weather Health Issues

Be careful out there! Cold weather can raise serious health issues, most of which are avoidable simply by preparing for the worst. Bundle up, think ahead, and eat lots of chicken soup! 🙂 For more information on the different conditions that changes in the weather can bring, check out the issue of Kids Discover magazine on Extreme Weather.


Cold weather is for doggy fashion how cute!

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The Language of Immigration

Immigration-termsWhen discussing the issue of immigration, it’s handy and correct to know and understand the different descriptors of the process. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right word. Click the image for a larger version, and be sure to check out the issue of Kids Discover magazine on Immigration.

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Levers for Kids: Let’s Move Something

Think of a long, strong stick (a lever). The stick is propped up on a small object (the fulcrum). Now imagine that you are holding one end of the stick and a heavy rock (the load) is on the other end. By pulling down (effort) on the stick, you will be able to lift the rock. In levers, the effort is applied at a different point from the load. And, the position of the fulcrum makes all the difference in the amount of effort (push or pull) that is needed to move a load. Ancient Greek scientist and engineer Archimedes once said “Give me a place to stand on, and with a lever I can move the whole world.” For more information on levers, see the Simple Machines issue of Kids Discover, now available on the iPad. (Click the image below for a larger version.)

levers, simple machines, physics

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