Friday, May 31, 2013

Off the Bookshelf - Susannah Cahalan's Brain on Fire

Rather than writing end of year reports like a good teacher should, I read this book last weekend:
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Every time I sat down I wanted to read more. It's just such a fascinating story...

Susannah describes herself as a healthy, well-adjusted New York Post reporter with a basically sunny outlook. She's in a happy relationship and she works hard to keep her career moving forward. One night, she has a type of seizure and from that point onward starts exhibiting some pretty unexplainable behaviours. When she watches tapes from her stay in the hospital during the time, she describes these as akin to the jerky movements of that crab-walking little girl from The Exorcist {only not quite so "possessed"}. She was not herself and had no sort of understanding of these behaviours as her own nor control over them.

After numerous visits with psychiatrists and specialists, several brain scans, and a month-long stay in the hospital, it turns out that her body was basically attacking her brain, the result of an illness called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. This is a largely new disorder in terms of diagnosis, as there's really no other way to describe it than she was going crazy; many doctors would call her symptoms schizophrenic, ordering up entirely incorrect prescriptions.

She calls the book a fiction because she doesn't have memory of this time in her life - she's built the story on interviews with friends and family, doctors' and specialists' notes, and videos from her hospital room. The paranoia and hallucinations she experienced are things she doesn't wholly remember. 

In the end I think the book speaks a lot of our vulnerability - we are made of cells that function on a totally non-conscious level, completely separate from our understanding of daily life. It's pretty terrifying to think how quickly this bright young woman changed and for no reason except that she was unlucky. The way she tells the story is so honest and made me value my health in a way I hadn't really considered before. I highly recommend this one; it is nothing short of remarkable.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wrapping It Up

This has felt like the longest.week.ever.
I've been sick, but I'm SUPER lucky because my class has been awesome.
Like, hands down, the most awesome ever for the last two or three weeks.
At times, even better than in September!
So that's been amazing.
Today was Lollipop Day in our Countdown to Summer, which was delicious.
And tomorrow is Thursday so I have extra reason to celebrate.
And as I've mentioned, we have a lot of students stop coming to school before the actual end of school.
Honestly, it's kind of great.

It definitely means we put a rush on assessment for the fourth quarter...
But we were able to finish our Birthday books this week and they all look great!
{Much cuter than the bland ditty pictured above...}
This unit has got to be my most favourite of all the things I've created.
The kids LOVED seeing "Social Studies" in our schedule because they knew we'd be learning about birthdays and working in the books.

Since tomorrow may be the last day I see some of my students, we're having our party/awards day!

This year, I asked my class to make awards for one another. 
Since we're Bucket Fillers, they also LOVED this project. 
It was super simple {except for the cutting - note to self for next year} and I'm really looking forward to their presentations tomorrow!

I also have all of my awards ready to go and am really Really looking forward to giving these out!
If you're looking for something simple to give out for your end of the year, I have a set for kindergarten through grade six, plus an editable version so you can add your own cute fonts for a personal message. 
- Amanda

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Ahhh, guys!
I just made a very cool new thing for this blog!
See that "Map" tab under the title?
It's a new page!
And it has this very awesome image, which I also made:
Now you can see everywhere I've been!
I'm pretty impressed with it :)

crafty + travel tales

Yesterday my husband called me "crafty."
So today I thought I'd share some of it with you:
glittery nail art

neon letters for my classroom theme next year

a watercolour kinda weekend

and many new blog headers

I took this photo in Sri Lanka, on our early morning way up to Horton Plains.
Horton Plains is a National Park and a protected site sort of in the center of the island.
I still think the light in this photo is just perfect.
It was lucky to get such a great shot, though, as I took it from a moving vehicle.
If you've ever been, you know the mountain roads leading up there are less than smooth!
Despite that, Jeff was able to sleep on our way back down...I was bouncing around so much in the jeep I could hardly get a photo to capture his crazy:
The man can sleep anywhere.
If only...

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Turn and face the strange / Ch-ch-ch..
Yeah, you got it.
As you can see, I've decided to use this Saturday morning to make a few changes around here...
Basically Inspired in Second started morphing into more of an everything blog, not just an educational one.
And I like it so I thought I'd go with the flow!
Anyway I'd like to write more about our travels and life in general.
So I will!
Hope you'll travel with me :)
- Amanda

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sparking Student Motivation - Mini Munsch Awards

I completely forgot to post about this idea that totally saved a near end-of-year lesson meltdown.

We were studying Robert Munsch.
I love his stories, the kids love it's stories, he's great. 
The class listened, enraptured, as I read "They Share Everything."
They laughed. They cheered. They chorused the lines.
As soon as I closed the book, though, they were goners.
Even the ones I can always count on.
Hopeful, I explained the writing activity - an easy one.
Some groaned. Some whined. Some harrumphed
And then they groaned and whined and harrumphed altogether.
It was a collective mess.
No one wanted to write.
I explained the activity again, this time with a smile and what felt like a pathetic little "he he..."
I'm sure I heard crickets.
One or two half-heartedly picked up their pencils.
I knew I was losing them.
And then I thought I might lose my cool...
But in the last instant, I blurted, "You know, I have a special reward for the awesome writers today. The awesome writers today get to be my Mini Munsches!"
I hardly knew what I was saying...
Eyebrows raised. Shoulders straightened. Ears bent.
I told them I was going to use my time while they were writing to make some special awards.
So while I got busy, they lifted their pencils and they wrote.
Oh, they wrote! They wrote amazing things! 
It was some of the best writing I've seen all year from some.
Here's what my awesome writers took home: 
Crisis averted.
Check out Head Over Heels for Teaching for more motivational ideas:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Writing Process for Older Grades

Now that we've almost reached the end of the year, it's writing task time again.
With school still in for another month, I hear you asking...
Why the hurry?
That's because instead of counting down to the official last day like most other people in the world, the parents here have already started asking, "So, when can Jimmy stop coming to school?"
We probably won't see many kids past the last day in May.
So we've gotta get our writing done!

I decided to make a set of Writing Process posters with details on each step so students can be self-sufficient working through it.
I call it The Writing Process for Junior/Intermediate Grades.
These will be great, especially since I'm moving up to grade three next year.
{I'm so excited for the change!}
And I've finally made something that Jeff can use in his class, as he's moving down to grade six in our new school!
Plus, I got some super cute new clip art from Jessica Wieble that had to be put it to use straight away :)
JW Illustrations: Clipart, Graphic Design, Cute Clip Art
Click the pictures below to take you to my TpT and have a browse.
{There's a cursive font set and a regular manuscript set.}

Happy writing!
- Amanda

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Off the Bookshelf - Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake"

Man, that Atwood has some imagination. A genetically-engineered super plague... Pigoons, wolvogs, and rakunks... Hushed conspiracies to kill led by a scientific elite with a lot to protect...
Or is it really all that imaginative? 

It seemed to me, as I read, that many of these events she's described could at a point become reality. "Oryx and Crake" seems almost a comment on moral responsibility, especially as our ever-expanding technology becomes more and more powerful and we push further and further in our search for absolute understanding and control. (On the other hand, maybe it's not a comment on anything, maybe it's just another of Atwood's creative outlets!) This a bleakly dystopian world, and I found I wanted nothing more than to know how these things happened, how the world had changed so drastically, so catastrophically. 

The story is told through glimpses of the "past" (still the future in our own time) and the "present," a wasteland teeming with strange hybrid species created in labs, one that provides an utterly hopeless future. This is the world through which you travel, alongside Snowman, who was once Jimmy, back when the world was still the world:

"He wouldn't mind a shower - this place probably has a gravity-flow rainwater backup tank - but there's some form of guck in the tub. He takes a bar of soap, for later, and checks the cabinet for sunblock, without success. A BlyssPlus container, half full; a bottle of aspirin, which he snags. He thinks about adding a toothbrush, but he has an aversion to sticking a dead person't toothbrush into his mouth, so he takes only the toothpaste. For a Whiter Smile, he reads. Fine with him, he needs a whiter smile, though he can't at the moment think what for." {151}

Despite the grim and ominous underpinnings, this really is a fascinating story and I definitely recommend it, even you're not particularly science-fiction friendly.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kitchen Kerplunk

My husband makes delicious food.
Everything that comes out of his kitchen is delicious.
He makes perfect brownies from scratch.
He makes the moistest breaded chicken.
He makes apple-marinated steak that is full of flavour.
He makes the best garlicy mashed potatoes.

I, on the other hand, do not make great food every time I cook.
Sometimes I get lucky...
Like when I make pumpkin ice box pie or lemon cookies.
But sometimes, it turns out like this:
This was supposed to be quesadillas.
Instead, it was a heap of cheese, tomatoes, sumac-spiced chicken, and tortilla.
It tasted fine; in my opinion, you can't go wrong with those ingredients.
But you can see it was lacking in the presentation department...
Suffice it to say we ordered pizza for dinner the next night.
Here's hoping your kitchen escapades are a little more successful than mine!
- Amanda

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Art Walk

Last year my super-husband, Jeff, organized a school-wide Art walk that was a big success. 
Basically every class made and displayed some artwork.
It was up to the teachers to come up with the project.
Everyone was so creative!
Parents took guided tours with our high school student-guides.
Everything looked so great up on the walls that they decided to do it again.
Here's some of the great work around the school this year!
Oil pastel with water colour - grade 2

Outline chalk flowers - grade 2
2D cities - grade 1
Tessellations - "School of fish" - grade 1
Van Gogh water colours - grade 2
Van Gogh pastels - grade 2
We also create a collaborative piece as a fundraiser for the school.
These get framed and are auctioned off to parents during our Spring Concert.
Kandinsky - grade 2
Self Portraits - SK
Balloons - grade 1
Cityscape - my favourite!
Hot air balloon - SK
I didn't get around to every hallway, so most of this is just from my primary end.
Pretty great stuff!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Curbing the Chaos

It's finally countdown time!
School ends June 12 for us, so it's still pretty much "forever" away.
I decided to go ahead and use the ABC-a-day countdown.
(A is Animal Day; B, Bubble Gum; C is Candy Day)
I'm hoping it will help with all the wiggles and giggles...
As there have been many.
And I fear my EA has had it up to here with some of the silliness.
Honestly, I'm just trying to keep my cool.
You know, give the kiddies some space.
Space that's really just a disguise for me to sort through my own reactions...
Space to harness in all of my own whine-y "Why in the world would you do that?"s.
That kind of space.

To get them excited about it, I made these little calendar cards to decorate our door...

Which my kids promptly destroyed by colouring with their "Come on, lady, it's May" attitude.
The word lackadaisical comes to mind.
But they're up, displayed, and they'll be a good reminder for parents.
So now, to keep them motivated and on track, my beloved clip chart comes in to play.
{Hahaha, I chuckle as I throw my head back and give a wistful wave of my hand. Oh, September, with all of your clips on Amazing!}

The deal is that each kid has to be on the green level or above if they are going to participate.
Because it's not September anymore...and maybe five kids make it Amazing by the end of these days.
Perhaps a little cruel, sure.
But at this point, I'm a bit tired of repeating myself.
And by "a bit" I mean "a ton."
I'm a ton tired of repeating myself.
So we'll see how it goes!
I know we won't get all the way to Z anyway, since kids will stop coming to school by the end of May.
Looking forward to a bit of extra fun each day at any rate :)

- Amanda

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Birthday Sale!

It was my birthday this week!
I don't know if it's the fact that I got older...
and am so rapidly leaving my 20s behind...
or that I'm lazy...
but Jeff and I definitely had Nutella Banana Quesadillas for dinner one night.

This after I found an empty jar of Nutella in the cupboard.
It's a running joke in our house that we need to make sure we live like adults.
But on occasion that dorm-life mentality still seeps through.
I also made Key Lime Frozen Yogurt Pops:
Key Lime Pie Frozen Yogurt Pops
Which I cannot wait to try - they are setting in the freezer as I type.
And because I had the sweetened condensed milk open for them, I also made my Rice Pudding.

One of my favourite desserts!
At any rate, to celebrate I have my TpT shop on sale now

Frame courtesy of Clipart Cuties.