Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Can't Spell!

I Can't Spell!

Remember weekly spelling tests? Are you an adult who still says, "I can't spell!" Here's some lesson plans that will heighten students' awareness of spelling through environmental literacy and ensuing discussions.

Spellilng treasure hunt: Assign the students to gather examples of spelling errors they see in everyday life. It might be a "Quik Mart" convenience store or a misspelled billboard or marquee. It may be a word in a newspaper article. It might be on the back of a cereal box, or in an email from a friend. Give them a week to find as many examples as possible. Perhaps they might spend a class period looking at each other's work or their own and playing editor, looking for misspelled words. Students can often tell you which words they have misspelled but don't know how to correct them.

Next students share their findings. Talk about how language is fluid and why it's spelled the way it is. It is a combination of languages and is not spelled the way it sounds or phonetically as many students have learned. As a result, many students are convinced they are "bad" spellers.Teach them they CAN spell and that the word "can't" is a four letter word, one which is unacceptable to use in your classroom.

Discuss linguistics and why the English language is said to be the "most difficult" to learn to spell. It derives from a host of other European languages. The word "beautiful", for example, comes from the French word "beau" meaning handsome. Talk about the not only the etymology of words but discuss how irregular the language is in its rules and variations. More words break the rules we learn early in school than follow them-- such as "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking and the second is silent." Consider the word "bread' or the sentences "I will read that book today" vs. "I read that book yesterday." Refer to Constance Weaver's book on literacy Reading Process and Practice
as an excellent resource.

For that night's homework ask students to make a list of the words they have the most trouble spelling and another list of words that are not spelled the way they sound, words such as "knock." The following day have students gather in small groups, compile their lists and report back to the full group. Write the words on the board in bright colors for students to copy, save and study.

Additionally you may ask them to make a list of "new" words they use in everyday language such as in their texting with acronyms such as ROTFL meaning rolling on the floor laughing. Make a list of homonyms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Talk about how language shifts, changes and grows simultaneously with time. Ask them to think about when they use different language codes in varying circumstances-- with their parents, at a job interview, with their friends.

Teach mnemonic spelling aids to help them to remember commonly misspelled words such as arithmetic. "A rat in the house might eat the ice cream." Unusual sentence which makes it memorable. The first letter of each word n the sentence spells the word arithmetic. Or, the word 'stationery" meaning a letter that goes into an E-nvelope, so that they remember the word is spelled with an "e" not an "a" in the final syllable. The word "stationary" with an "a" is a homonym meaning "immovable." Ask if they know any other tricks to help remember hard words.

Add to their board list of compiled homework words the most commonly misspelled words such as the word "definitely." Explain the meaning of the core word "finite" and how the prefix and suffix create the final spelling. This leads to a discussion of roots and affixes.

As the teacher, if you are a good speller, have them try to stump you by asking you to spell words they consider difficult. Let them choose words from the dictionary. Make it a game which shows them you are a lifelong learner and someone who cannot spell every single word correctly either. Laugh with them and at yourself and meanwhile enhance your spelling skills and theirs.

Finally, have a spelling bee between two teams using the word compiled in the lists from the discussions.

Spelling isn't easy but it can be both interesting and fun. For more fun with spelling have students visit the following online sites: and

Billings students CAN spell and have fun learning how.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Daily Coyote, my second book review

Ok, so getting started and trying to keep pace with my new job at Please follow link at bottom of article as I am paid per view. OOO, never thought I'd be a pay-per-view item! Hot! *insert wicked laughter*

lemme know your thoughts but more importantly, paste and copy or click on this link into your browser..

Thanks much for your participation and support. I need a following here to earn much needed income.

I also enjoy the writing and will be doing 3 articles per week. Good practice and a new genre for me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Writing for a Reason

Well, wonders never cease. Got hired by to do book reviews and local commentary articles. Hope to work in some young people's writing in the future and suggestions for all age groups for books. May do, for example, one on elementary school age great books, followed by middleschool recommendations and then hs. May suggest books for boys, girls and both. I know some great adolescent lit and since it's back to school time thought it might draw good attention.

They will set up a website for my reviews and articles. I am paid according to number of views or hits. Not much but it gives me a reason to write every day, having a deadline of 3 article submissions per week. They take time and thought, of course. It's a new writing genre for me, so please feel free to be honest and critique. I want them to be engaging, not trite, and encourage people to read or not read the books I review. My other article commentaries I hope will be funny or informative or both..and of interest to a wide audience.

Here's a stab at my first book review..please tell me your thoughts as you please. Thanks much. And prepare to be Mr. and Mrs. Clicks a LOT so I can make a bit of dosh for all this work, which I enjoy but hey, spare change is nice too. More importantly the writing practice is good.

Ok, I'll be quiet now and let you read.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, is the buzz of literary blogs and online social networks, for good reason.

Set in Paris, the novel addresses timeless philosophical themes surrounding how we know what we know, or phenomenology and the meaning of life. At the center of the conflict is the question: “What matters most?” and the author crafts a satisfying denouement. A good storyteller would be high on the list of this reviewer. The novel is poignantly written, funny and complex. It's also a page turner, albeit at a reflective pace. It evokes thought long after the last page is read and the book quietly closed.

54 year old narrator Renee Michel is a Parisian concierge for a posh apartment complex. Renee is quintessential in her role as a doting, obedient servant while hiding a deeply literate, intellectual mind. Paloma is the12 year old daughter of wealthy and busy parents, typically filled with teen angst and mind dissatisfied. Life is pointless, she broods. She vows to find just one valid reason demonstrating life holds real purpose, or to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. Subsequently out of boredom, Paloma finds an unlikely friend in Michel. They share introspective natures, lives of voluntary solitude and isolation, a love of books and a disdain for the lack of authenticity in the outside world. The self described “old, ugly woman” and the adolescent girl begin communing over afternoon tea at Michel's kitchen table.

The juxtaposition of the disparate class and age related points of view weave a riveting and unusual story. Each character's daily experiences cleverly intertwine and display the universal nature of the "human condition." When Ozu, a prominent Japanese filmmaker and a favorite of Paloma's, moves into the building, the story's plot and themes become even more culturally diverse and intriguing.

The writing is exceptional though requires attentive reading and a fairly elevated working vocabulary. Barbery artfully intersperses references to classic film, music and philosophers including Husserl, Marx, Mozart, Kant and Slingblade. Through these references and enriched by the variation in life experiences and worldviews, the characters explore the meaning of life, or lack thereof. As different as the characters appear, (facade being a keyword) they nonetheless “connect” in significant ways.

This book often made me laugh out loud and cry quietly. Any novel that can evoke that intensity of emotion deserves high accolades. It is dark, poignant, humorous, clever, thought provoking and entertaining. Barbery's fans eagerly await the release of her second novel on August 25th. The Elegance of the Hedgehog belongs on the top of your current "must reads" and may be the literary jewel of this decade, seriously.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back at the Ranch

Some days are better than others. I figure they're all pretty good, no matter, as long as you're not in the hospital or some horrendous thing.

The Big Sky still fascinates me and watching the horses interact and just being in a different place to live for the first time in a long time. Wanderlust, I you don't know me too well, or at all.

Going to start just going out and seeing things I haven't seen. Cody, Wyoming. Collect river rocks down at the Yellowstone River. Read a book on some mountain or have a picnic down some empty path with a view.

It doesn't matter.

Life is out there...I'm gonna start living more of it again.

I cannot wrap my life around someone else's all the time. Even if that's what's requested. It's not in me. Part of the time, grand. All the time attached to the hip, no. Sorry.

Anyhoo, attitude is good and Gracie is eating and drinking.

Horses are the best companions of all, though they too can be obstinate.

Everybody needs to relax!

That includes YOU, and you, and you too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's just Life Afterall..

Upon my return from Michigan, my horse Gracie had to be taken to vet hospital for 4 days. High fever, high respiratory, refusal to eat, dry and muscousy shit,low white blood cell count.. you get the idea. She nearly died and isn't out of the woods yet. Got her home and she's eating grass but very little grain. Will eat carrots, a bit. Little water. Melancholy horse. Hanging head. Droopy. My baby.

Oh yeah, this post was supposed to be upbeat. She's eating something. That's the good news. Temp is back to normal. Had all other horses checked and they seem o.k.

I have just read an article about horse ulcers as per my neighbor who saw a program on it by happenstance last night. The symptoms match her behavior and the causes could be somewhat takes an 11 foot endoscope to detect but is fairly easy to cure but if not, can cause death. So, will talk to vet tomorrow and see what he thinks and if he has the equipment. He's a good, kind, thorough vet who ranches himself and loves his horses and lives and breathes his work. Nice guy with a calm and thoughtful demeanor. Easy to like him and trust his competency. But he was a bit baffled as to what happened to her and what may still be wrong so it's worth a go to discuss. The Internet is a useful tool at times and the source is reliable, scientific based. American Assoc. of Equine Practitioners.

Too much info.? It's just things one learns I'm spouting and I know, preaching to those who know.

Went to see a Trace Adkins concert last night at the Billings Fairgrounds. Rodeo is next week and bull riding. Trace represents much of what draws me to certain people and places. He played my favorite song "You're Gonna Miss This" about a kid leaving home, getting a first apartment, struggling but living their own life for the first time, and feeling that struggle, and the Dad says "yeah, you don't know it but you're gonna miss this." It's a lovely ballad with violin and piano accompaniment. Enjoyed that bit. But I haven't been to a concert in eons. LOUD. The thump was beating in my chest like it was my heartbeat. Weird feeling and no, thank you. And stand up the whole time as everyone in front of you is standing up. I like to sit and listen and then sometimes dance in one spot a bit. And they PUMP smoke, for effect, into the audience. Now, I smoke but this stuff makes me CHOKE. Are they nuts? Just cause it makes some star look more like he would in a smoky bar and add some sort of ambience? Puh!

Moan, moan..I got some water and dealt with it.

People watching in large crowds is always a good diversion.
There was one old grandma in a white knit cap..had to be in her late 80's. Retarded son with her drinking beer and tapping offbeat but thoroughly enjoying himself. Good for ole Mom...Nice thing to do. I think a smaller concert hall would be better for Mom, or grandmother and whomever she was. Someone else had a TINY baby in the front row. Baby's ears will definitely be affected and WHAT are the parents thinking?

So, back at the ranch...

I like to write. It helps. Tom is working on the tractor. I'm sure that helps him.