May 30, 2014

Enrich Your Learning Environment with Sign Language: Post #6

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Sign language is a natural and effective classroom management tool. I use it regularly when I visit schools and libraries, even when my workshop topic or author visit is not centered on sign language. Because sign language is visual, it gives students a reason to look at you and focus their attention on you. Students come to realize that important information rests in your hands, and if they want in on that important information, they need to keep their eyes on you!

I discussed how signing can help you distinguish when a child has a question, comment or answer in this recent post, but signing is also really helpful for transition and dismissal routines. Some examples of words or phrases you might regularly use in your learning environment that you can easily add a sign to include:

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"Show me you're ready by getting your backpack on."

"I'm still waiting for good listeners."

"It's your turn."

"We'll need to share."

"Mia's table can line up."

"Join the line if you have a blue shirt on."

"Everyone should be sitting down now."

Although signing is beneficial for typically developing children, it can be extra helpful for students who are easily distracted, and for students with special needs that inhibit their ability to formulate eye contact. I recall a participant at a recent story time event whose mother gently cajoled her into giving me eye contact when we were introduced. By the middle of the story time, this child was giving me regular eye contact (albeit in sneaked peeks). She could not resist looking at me from time to time to get the information she wanted/needed (e.g. the signs I was demonstrating for the group of children attending the story time). As the event came to a close, this child was able to look straight at me as I thanked her for coming and said/signed goodbye/friend.

Signing can also be helpful for students in your classrooms whose dominant culture does not engage in high levels of eye contact. Although these children may not routinely look adults in the eye at home, the adults they come into contact with at school (and eventually in the workplace) are going to want/need some eye contact. Signing in your classroom is a gentle, comfortable way to give these children an opportunity to practice looking adults in the eye (or at least at their nearby hands!).

I'd love to hear how you use sign language as a classroom management tool. Share your tips in the comment section below, or send me a direct message. Happy Signing!

May 7, 2014

Dawn's Quasi-Recipe for Double-Cheese Lasagne

Photo Credit: Parker Baldwin
Last Christmas Eve I served several pans of lasagne to the 25+ people around our table. Recently, my niece asked for the recipe so she could make it for her husband's birthday. He enjoyed it and gave a shout-out on Facebook. Now, several friends have asked for the recipe. So here is is . . . well, kind of.

Upon reflection, I realize that many of the meals I cook start with a base recipe from a cookbook and/or a canned sauce that I customize and enhance to my liking. Also, I tend to use measurements and ingredients as a guideline, not as a firm requirement . . . I eyeball a lot of things. This particular "recipe" incorporates the Kirkland marinara sauce from Costco, my fondness for cheese, and *some* elements of the lasagne recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, (truth be told, it bears little resemblance to Betty Crocker's guideline ; ) I do open that cookbook to page 54 every time I make lasagne, mainly to remind me,  in a general sense, how to make lasagne and how long and at what temp to bake it, and I ALWAYS add more cheese (about double) than what the recipe calls for!).

"Official" Ingredients:
9 uncooked lasagne noodles
2 cups (likely more!) of shredded mozzarella cheese (purchased pre-shredded in bulk from Costco)
1/4 cups (likely more!) of shredded Parmesan cheese for top layer 

1 package of lean ground turkey (from Costco--approx 1 1/2 pounds . . . I have less luck with "extra lean")
1 (2 lb) jar of marinara sauce (from Costco--you could substitute your own sauce recipe)
1 or 2 small cans of mushrooms (optional)

Cottage Cheese Layer:
2 cups of small curd cottage cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon of dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano leaves

I begin by browning the ground turkey, then I add the marinara sauce (I only drain the ground turkey  if the liquid looks particularly fatty). Sometimes I also add a can or two of mushrooms (drained). I let the sauce simmer while I work on the cottage cheese layer mixture.

I mix the cottage cheese with 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, the dried parsley flakes and the dried oregano leaves. (I do not add the salt that the official recipe calls for re: the marinara sauce and bonus cheese I add provide plenty of salt)

I cook the lasagne noodles as directed on the package.

Now comes the fun part: The layering of ingredients. I use a 13x9x2 pan (ungreased). I cover the bottom of the pan with three noodles, then a I spoon on about 1/3 of the sauce, then 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture and 1/2 of the grated mozzarella (but as I mentioned, I'm very generous with the mozzarella, and instead of measuring, I just sprinkle handfulls of cheese to make sure each layer has a nice covering of cheese). For layer two, I repeat the steps for layer one. For layer three, I include the noodles, the remaining meat sauce and then a layer of grated Parmesean cheese (again, I don't really measure, but instead put a nice coating of Parmesean cheese on top).  

I often pop the lasagne in the fridge overnight and then cook it the next day, or I put directly into a pre-heated (350 degree) oven for 45 minutes (uncovered) and then let stand for 15 minutes before cutting/serving. (IF I put into the fridge overnight, then I bring it out of fridge about an hour or so before cooking, and I cook it for closer to an hour).  

I serve it with a green salad, a nice loaf of bread, and a glass of red wine (unless I drank all of the wine while I was cooking). Cheers!