A Blast From the Past: The Rocket Book

Drop by the Library of Congress and explore its Center for the Book site. Why? The site hosts quite a bit of exciting and free books that are sure to please readers of all ages. Need proof? If so, flip through The Rocket Book (1912) by Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell. Delightful verse and humorous images propel eager readers through a madcap story that as fresh now as it was when it first appeared 102 years ago.

Image from The Rocket Book by American artist and author, Peter Newell (1862-1924). A naughty boy playing in a basement finds and ignites a rocket that blasts upward in an apartment building. In this image, a family meal is explosively upset as the rocket races ever upward.

The Steiners on the floor above
Of breakfast were partaking;
Crash! came the rocket, unannounced,
And set them all a-quaking!
It smote a catsup bottle, fair,
And bang! the thing exploded!
And now these people all declare
That catsup flask was loaded.

Related resources:



Reference Ratiocination: The Quote Investigator

Quote Investigator

Fearful of creating an oratorical oversight by accrediting words to the wrong writer? At a loss for words when friends, peers, acquaintances, or colleagues want to know who originally uttered a particular phrase? Feel as though famous lines have been erroneously attributed to an individual? A solution to such citational slip-ups would be a great relief to one’s mind.

Well, it turns out that we may all rest with lighter hearts. The Quote Investigator, a tireless tracker of initial utterances, stands ready to rid the world of misquotations whether innocent or iniquitous. The Quote Investigator (QI), also known as Dr. Garson O’Toole, meticulously explores the origins of great quotations. Seeking to substantiate storied statements with a reasoned train of thought, Dr. O’Toole’s blog is a captivating collection of assiduously analyzed allusions, a veritable Study in Citation that would undoubtedly please the Great Detective himself. QI even tweets! If your mind rebels at stagnation and craves for mental exaltation, make stopping by The Quote Investigator a habit. You will be most pleased, and you may quote me on that.

Choosing to Teach: NotesFromNina

Back in November 2013, as we were driving home to Statesboro after attending a conference in Atlanta, my very good friend Joe and I passed a few hours along I-75 (and later I-16) talking about the current state of learning in Georgia and the rest of the nation. We lamented about the U.S. educational system’s preoccupation with standardized tests and other stumbling blocks to engaging, worthwhile learning for students. As we sped along on our way, the two of us decided that in 2014 we would do what we could to help people–students, teachers, parents, anyone really–learn how to learn.

To bring our goal to fruition, Joe and I decided to think about learning and teaching with a beginner’s mind. Though both of us know and use a great deal of technology and digital resources, we decided to begin our quest with a thoughtful exploration of the qualities of sound, meaningful instruction. In my search for enlightening resources about designing meaningful learning I was fortunate to find Nina Smith‘s blog, NotesFromNina. In particular, I found Nina’s presentation, Meaningful Learning and Teaching (one of  How to Improve Learning presentations) to be fascinating and helpful. Lately, I have been reading and re-reading Pasi Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? so coming across Nina’s work just served to whet my appetite for another Finnish educator’s views. In fact, I am very excited about reading her own book, Choosing How to Teach.

Crawling Back

I’m trying to get back into the habit of blogging.

I know I can do it. I just have to keep at it.

In a way, this experience is somewhat humorous to me. I find it funny that I am having to make myself take what spare minutes I can scavenge out of the day and write. There was a point in my life when composing a few lines for a blog was easy. In fact, at one point (about seven years ago), I was something of a blogging maniac. Of course, back then, I was in a magical place, a Camelot of sorts, where all manner of magical content seemed to appear before me and I had time to write.

These days, I have so many commitments vying for my attention that I feel guilty about stepping away to blog. Even so, I am going to do it. I know that reflecting upon what I am discovering and learning matters. Writing like this is akin to coming back to exercise after an absence from physical activity. Initially, there’s little pleasure in the process but over time that will change.

In addition to blogging again, I am also using of Twitter. As I am reading and re-reading Classroom Instruction That Works : Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd Edition) by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and Howard Pitler, I am delving deeper into the research cited by the authors and tweeting what I find to be most enlightening. I am hoping that anyone who follows my tweets will benefit as well. Having to condense my thoughts down to 140 character summaries is maddening and, strangely enough, addictive.

Let Me Explain: Why I’m Enjoying Lee LeFever’s Excellent Book

The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFeverAt some point or another, we’ve all been expected to create an explanation to help family, friends, or co-workers understand our ideas. We share facts and our expert knowledge only to be left with clueless or apathetic expressions. What a frustrating experience–ugh! What if we could easily learn to plan, create, package, and deliver explanations that convince others that our ideas are worth caring about? There is a handy solution! People who are picking up Lee LeFever‘s book The Art of Explanation can explain while they have a reason to smile. Want to feel good about delivering powerful explanations? Get this book!

I’ve been poring over The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever and I thoroughly enjoy what I have read so far. The book is excellent! The content is a magnet for the reader’s attention. Mr. LeFever, Chief Explainer at Common Craft, consummately practices what he preaches. Beginning with the preface and continuing through the following pages, the author makes a compelling case for examining and honing our ability to craft powerful explanations. What makes LeFever’s work so engrossing is that he does a masterful job explaining what he suggests we do. In brief, the writer :

  • gets us to acknowledge that better explanations are vitally necessary and serve to improve the world and subsequently our quality of life
  • lets us know why crafting better explanations should matter to everyone
  • creates a number of believable (contextual) narratives that help us see explanations from a new perspective
  • links new ideas about and skills for explanations to situations/concepts we are familiar with
  • helps us discern where (in our explanations) we should focus on explaining why or how
  • summarizes what we have learned and moving us forward to the next steps we need to take

Moving through text, we learn how to differentiate words that are often–and erroneously–used interchangeably with the term explanation (e.g. description, definition, instruction, elaboration, report, and illustration). The author convincingly explains the importance of empathy in crafting and “packaging” effective explanations. LeFever makes the point that meaningful explanations help an intended audience clearly understand why they should care to know more about a given topic. He also helps us understand why we fail to properly explain our ideas and goes on to clarify how we can effectively plan our explanations.

I can’t wait to dive back into this book!

Related resources:

Want to know more about the fellow who is widely credited for inspiring the video explanation industry? Read Lee’s biography.

Intrigued? Buy the book!

Book Report

I am grateful that my wife is so understanding. Though I am an insatiable bibliophile, she tolerates my frequent book buying binges. Even so, during my latest lapse into literary licentiousness, I promised my spouse that I would do more than just purchase, voraciously read, and toss aside my acquisitions. I gave her my word that I would dutifully blog about each of my books. Here are the books that I hope will help me become a little wiser.

I’ll be posting my discoveries/insights here as I work my way through each book.