Tag Archives: ASK Programs

Connect with your local veterans

Today we had another full day of Lest We Forget Vietnam sessions. Students from Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey,  and Texas interviewed our panel.

Major Gary Lulenksi, MD; L/CPL Denny Kime; and Major Jim Taylor

I have shared lists of questions many times before when reporting on these VCs.

Today, instead, I want to appeal to you!

I urge you to make contact with your local veterans and bring them into your classrooms, either in person or via videoconference.

Our veterans appreciate the experience so much!

  • They say it helps them think positively about their experience.
  • Sharing their experience is so helpful.
  • They are so glad that students are interested in their stories.
  • The student thank you letters mean so much to them. Some of our Vietnam veterans were never thanked for their service until they participated in this program.
  • Having young people say “Thank you for your service” is so meaningful to them.
  • They say that they learn so much from the students.
  • They are glad for the opportunity to encourage students to welcome home and support current members of the service. They don’t want veterans of current wars to have the same cold welcome home that they experienced; so they are glad of an opportunity to educate and inspire students.
  • In the words of one veteran today: “You may think this is an imposition; asking us questions. But it’s not an imposition. This process helps us share our good memories.”

So I urge and encourage you! Connect with your local veterans organizations and bring this real-life learning to your classrooms!

Lest We Forget: Korean War

Today we had a great group of Korean War veterans to talk to our students locally and around the country. This is part of our Lest We Forget series that occurs in collaboration with our local Lest We Forget veterans organization.

Panel members participating today:

Red Sage, Jim O’Malley, Jim Brinkman, Jim Ball

Here is a sampling of the questions from today:

  • What did you do in your leisure time?
  • What techniques did you use in interrogation?
  • How did the terrain affect combat?
  • What impact did the Korean War have on American citizens?
  • How did you feel about the firing of General MacArthur?
  • Did you share a lot of experiences with soldiers from other UN countries?
  • What lesson should we learn from the Korean War?
  • Were you drafted or did you enlist?
  • How often did you hear from home?
  • How were both sides of prisoners of war treated?

Our high school Lest We Forget Vietnam session in May is full; but we still have room in the middle school version based on the book The Wall. May 17. Would love to have you join us!

Lest We Forget: World War II

Today we had several schools from MI, NJ, and TX interview our World War II veterans for our Lest We Forget program.

Today’s panel included Captain Jimmy Butt, Sgt Arden Pridgeon, Sgt Val Ripsco. In the first session we also had a new veteran, Captain Rex Welch, who was a paratrooper.

Students learned about rations, v-mail (victory mail), and perspectives from both the European and Pacific theaters of the war.

Here are some of the questions students asked today:

  • Do you think the the war was inevitable? or that the U.S. involvement was inevitable?
  • What new military techniques were developed during WWII?
  • Do you have any good memories from the war?
  • What did you think of the New Deal?
  • What was it like to live during the Depression?
  • What was your inspiration or motivation during the war?
  • Which front do you think was the most difficult?
  • Do you think it made a difference in your experience if you were drafted or volunteered?

By the way, we still have a few openings in the April Korean War Veteran interviews. ($50 each – scholarships available; high school; everyone is welcome).

We also have a similar program but using the ASK process on the picture book: The Wall, where middle school students interview our Vietnam veterans. We have room in that session too! We’d love to have you! $50 or request a scholarship. Everyone is welcome!

Registration for both programs is in CAPspace. Let me know if you need assistance.

Hope you can join us!!

21st Century Communication with TWICE

Cross-posted with the MACUL conference blog.

Here are the resources and links featured in my session at MACUL, 21st Century Communication with TWICE.

We connected to Eagle Lake Elementary in Edwardsburg, for a feature of Where in Michigan; the ASK programs, and Read Around the Planet.

Next we connected to Mars Elementary, in Berrien Springs, for a feature of the Holiday Hoopla Snowman Swap.

Finally, we reviewed the TWICE Discounts with Content Providers / Field Trips, and the CAPspace website.


Arnie Comer, TWICE ASK Coordinator, is kicking off the first session in the TWICE room (W2-66) at MACUL 2011: TWICE ASK Programs.

What is an ASK program?

The basic steps to an ASK program are:

  • Read the book
  • Journal
  • Write good questions
  • Pick the best questions
  • Interview an author or specialist

Arnie’s session features Michigan author Janie Panagopoulos, who offers both ASK programs and writing programs:

Janie is interacting live with students at Eagle Lake Elementary, in Edwardsburg, MI, who participated in the TWICE ASK program Traders in Time in December, as well as the Polycom Special Event Writing Rules in January.

And that’s all I can write, because I’m off to teach a hands-on workshop! Sign up for a TWICE ASK session soon!

ASK Author with Eric Walters

The last three days we’ve been working with York Region District School Board in Ontario to share author Eric Walters between our schools. We’ve also shared it across Canada with other classes in Ontario and British Columbia as well. We split the author fee among all the schools participating. We’ve been collaborating like this for the last three years.

This program is a hybrid ASK program. Eric has a highly entertaining interactive presentation he does for schools – giving an overview of some of his books and the stories behind them. It also includes about 5-10 minutes background info on the book that is the focus on the session. The last 30 minutes of the session is that traditional Q&A session of an ASK program. We usually got 30-40 questions in each program, as Eric is very concise with his answers!

We had two days of sessions on the book Trapped in Ice, and then a new session today on the book Wounded.

In the Trapped in Ice sessions, students asked questions such as:

  • Why did you pick Helen to narrate the story?
  • Do you like your book or do you wish you could go back and touch it up?
  • Do you have advice for us when we’re writing our stories in class?
  • How did you choose and develop the characters in the book?
  • Have you ever disagreed with an editor?
  • Do you have any books with characters based on you?

Here are a sample of the questions from the Wounded session.

  • In each of your stories, at least one parent is missing. Why is that?
  • In the novel, Marcus’ feelings always seem so realistic. [Examples given]. How were you able to give such detailed feelings? Did you imagine how you’d feel? or did you do research?
  • In chapter 8 what made you think of not having the teacher react? Was that based on a personal experience? If you were the teacher, how would you react? People commonly don’t react to pain if they don’t know what to do. This book is being used to help teachers and spouses learn how to relate to those with post traumatic stress disorder.
  • In this book you didn’t describe how Marcus looked. I have a brother named Marcus, and I thought of my brother as I was reading. How did you think Marcus looked? I do that on purpose so that you’ll relate the character to someone you know.

Walters packs a lot of punchy advice and positive encouragement to students throughout the session. Teachers shared great comments afterwards:

We had a super video conference with Eric Walters.  He was very personable and gave great background information to the students.  I was very impressed along with the students.

Our students, and we teachers, enjoyed hearing about the writing process and the novel Trapped in Ice.  I think that Eric truly inspired a classroom of writers today.

TWICE ASK Author: Nothing But Trouble

Today TWICE is hosting a day of sessions with author Sue Stauffacher on her book Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson.

Althea Gibson was “the first African-American woman to be a competitor on the world tennis tour and the first to win a Grand Slam title in 1956. She is sometimes referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of tennis” for breaking the color barrier.” – Wikipedia.

This program is an excellent Black History month program because the students get to learn much about the history of the time, as well as the writing process. Sue has a great PowerPoint with historical photographs that show the history and what Althea’s life was like.

Did you know that in Sue’s book Donuthead, the character Sarah Kervick is based on Althea Gibson’s toughness?! Now you’ll have to go read that book again to compare!

Here’s a flavor of the conversations and discussion from these sessions.

  • How do you get inspiration for your books? Usually by accident!
  • We noticed that the colors in the book around Althea Gibson are much brighter in the beginning of the book than at the end of the book. Why is that? The artist was trying to use colors represent how Althea moved from chaotic energy to focus towards the end of the story.
  • Why do you think Althea was so angry and wild? The answer included explaining how great athletes often have a wild streak and the ones that are great are able to harness and focus that energy.
  • What does “nicking sweet potatoes” mean?
  • What is your favorite part of the writing process?
  • How do you overcome writer’s block? I like to do something that uses my hands but not my head. Then I let the question rest in my mind and sometimes the answer comes!
  • What are your favorite genres?
  • In talking about publishing and failed projects, Sue explained to the students that if you want to succeed, you need to expect to fail. It takes persistence and many tries to succeed.
  • On her upcoming TillieRide, she invited the students to write notes to her to tell her how they overcame something. She said I’m scared, but sometimes you just have to overcome your fear!

Sue has a quirky sense of humor, and engages delightfully with the students. We hope you can participate in another session with Sue! There are still openings in the some TWICE ASK sessions with Sue in April if you want to join us!

TWICE ASK Author: Bessie Smith and the Night Riders

Today TWICE is hosting an awesome ASK program with Sue Stauffacher on her new book, Bessie Smith and the Night Riders.

Sue is a wonderfully funny author and students really enjoy her books.

Bessie Smith was the “Empress of Blues” and stood up to the KKK at a concert. This picture book tells that story, and during the session, students learn more about the historical setting and history of her story, while learning about the writing process as well. It’s an amazing program!

Here are some of the questions from today.

  • Bessie Smith is a blues singer. Are you a fan of the blues and who are your favorite blues singers?
  • In the book, Bessie is dressed up with fancy clothes. Did she really dress like that? Sue had great pictures to show when answering this question.
  • If you were a character in the book, would you be like the girl who stood behind Bessie or would you be like the boys who ran away?
  • Are the songs in the story real, and how did you choose them?
  • Are there other events in Bessie’s life that you considered writing a story about?
  • What was Bessie Smith’s favorite place to perform?
  • Do you think the KKK still exists today?
  • What gave you the courage to write your books?

Sue Stauffacher loves the ASK program because of the depth of questions and discussion with the students. She also helped students understand the revision process and how challenging it is, and how she moves through the process. It’s partly in your attitude – being willing to make something you like even better!

By the way, there are still openings in the some TWICE ASK sessions with Sue in April if you want to join us!

Lest We Forget Veterans Day

Today we had a several classes interview a panel of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Veterans. Students had prepared questions and expressions of gratitude for our veterans.

One highlight from today was World War II veteran Arden Pridgeon sharing his “vmail” and explaining to the students how the letters were sent on microfiche and then printed in the U.S. saving several thousand pounds in postage.

Mr. Arden Pridgeon reads a snippet of one of his letters home.

On the document camera, we showed the small vmail letter compared to the original.

For the veterans, the highlight is always the thanks from the other classes. This class made posters to share with the veterans, which they really really appreciated!

We have more sessions coming up the rest of the year. December 7 is next. Hope you can join us!


Monster Mayhem, Tornado Warnings, and More

Today was our first day of this year’s Monster Mayhem with Whirlidurb and Dallas. We had a busy, but learning-filled day! In addition to our monsters, we also had classes participating in the TWICE ASK programs on bullying with author Dana Lehman, and two connections with the Cleveland Zoo and the Lee Richardson Zoo. Here are some highlights and lessons:

Tornado Warnings

At about 9:15 when my first calls started coming up, the whole county was under a tornado warning. Originally it was till 10:00 am, but then extended to 10:45 am. Six of my videoconferences were affected.

I spent a goodly amount of time on the floor under a desk away from the window with my phone and laptop/Skype texting and messaging to rearrange, reschedule, and calm down involved educators. Four of the VCs we were able to reschedule for this afternoon.

Reflection question: What is the craziest thing you’ve done to make sure your videoconferences happened?

Monster Mayhem

Here are some of the monster pairs from today. Lots of great comparisons and discussions: what is the same? what is different? what could we have written better?

4th grade

5th Grade

1st Grade (I only caught pics for one pair of their monsters.)

TWICE ASK: Adventures at Walnut Grove & I Double Dare You

We also had several classes in the TWICE ASK program with author Dana Lehman, on two of her picture books: Adventures at Walnut Grove and I Double Dare You. Students asked questions about bullying and teasing, as well as the writing and publishing process. Great program!

The Cleveland Zoo

Another class connected to The Cleveland Zoo for their Boo! I’m a Bat program. Great session. Had two classes participate in last week’s program as well. Great visuals & costumes!

Desktop Videoconferencing

Finally, due to the tornado and a couple other problems, in one of my sessions, the teacher did the videoconference on her own! with a desktop videoconferencing solution that we are currently testing (and will remain unnamed). The software was installed on the teacher’s computer. Check out the video we received from them. Can’t tell the difference between this and a regular codec! Yay!

What a day! How did your VCs go today?