Technology Ideas

So much for the 3 posts a week. Now I should aim for 3 a year! However I am giving myself a break because I started this year behind the organizational eight ball at no fault of my own.
However, I am coming off the best Christmas vacation ever and I have renewed energy and enthusiasm! Woo Hoo!
Back to my tech theme. I have been thinking for almost a year about 1:1 technology. I was sold on iPads and even applied to be a model class in our county for the 1:1 movement. The plus side of not getting it (sad face) was that I had a chance to get angry and reevaluate what I really wanted and needed.

What I wanted was for students to be able to collaborate and create. So I thought about what I used when I collaborate and create (like right now) and I NEED a keyboard. So my focus has shifted to Chromebooks. I am pretty excited about this and I am waiting for Amazon to rejoin Donors Choose to submit a project.

If you need justification for looking at Chromebooks read these awesome posts. Andrew Marcinek’s article about why Chromebooks’s are more attractive to older students, really meshes with our school’s goal of improving student writing. Erin Klein’s enthusiasm in her post also won me over to the Chromebook side. CHROMEBOOKS! CHROMEBOOKS!

One last little side note is a recommendation for a website Class Tools where you can create your own QR code quizzes. You can also search and find quizzes others have made. I used this last year to review ecosystems with my class and then promptly forgot about it. I was looking for an activity to review adding fractions and found something great in less that 30 seconds using the search tool. There are lots of other game formats that you can use. I am pretty excited.

Well I will leave you with these brief thoughts. I hope I will be writing again soon!

Happy New Year!

Getting Started with Project Based Learning

I am pretty excited because this Friday is our first “wave” day. This means my team will have almost the whole day to plan. I am hoping that one thing to come out of this is some true project based learning.

I have danced around the edge of this for a while, but I think this is the year it will result in some meaningful engagement.

Here are five resources that have really helped me get started. If you are on this journey too, please share what you have found. PBL masters, any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated.

1. The Buck Institute for Education– Here is the be all end all website as far as I can see. You can search for projects and get advice. One stop shopping.

2. Project Based Learning vs. Projects- Here is a great checklist to drive your pbl.

3. A great article from John Larmer from the Buck institute about whether you should jump right in or start slow.

4. If you haven’t found Edutopia yet, go now! It is a great resource for everything. It has tons of articles, videos, and links.

5. Here is another place to check out quality projects. The West Virginia Department of Education has created this great source where you can search for projects by subject and grade level.

Hope these help someone. Any guidance is welcome.

Making Some Lemonade!

Hooo weeee! It has been a hum-dinger of a week. Just to fill you in a little, my learning cottage has no floor and we aren’t sure it will be a classroom at all. And open house is in one week. No stress, no worries. This just means I have plenty of time to plan or to make everyone a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade! How about a great list of picture books that I am using to start the year?

1. Courage by Bernard Waber

Something we all need on the first day. I read this at the recommendation of a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, and it is perfect for the first day.

2. We the Kids by David Catrow

This is a great way to combine creating classroom expectations as a community and addressing Constitution Day which always sneaks up on me in September. This year we are taking the 5th grade to DC so it will be even cooler to start the year thinking about government.

3. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Rebellion, refusal to work and 5th grade. Sounds perfect. Read this book. You will laugh out loud.

4. How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague

The title sums up why it is good for the beginning of the year but it is a great mentor text for descriptive writing and using great vocabulary. Extra points because it is funny.

5. Necks Out For Adventure by Timothy Basil Ering

Inspire kids to take risks this year. I need my class to do this as we embrace technology and Project Based Learning.

6. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Inspire kids to “make their mark.” International Dot Day is September 15th. There are lots of cool ideas on the website.

7. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Anyone who teaches 4th and up, can you say enemies, frenemies etc.? Read this to head off the monster.

8. Rain School by James Rumford

A Peace Corps book, so I am partial. Good for the beginning of the year because it is the story of students in Chad whose school washes away every rainy season and all that is there to meet them at the start of the year is their teacher. Seems appropriate in light of my current condition.

9. On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert EinsteinImage by Jennifer Berne

How a kid who thinks differently manages to change the world.

10. The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman

A teacher who gives gold stars when she makes kids cry. My kind of lady. No, I’m kidding, really.

Read it. It is hysterical. Perceptions vs. Reality.

Get Thee to the Twitter!

I don’t know where I heard the command “Get thee to theTwitter!” but makes me smile. It sounds so backward for something so, well, forward. However, if your teach or you are interested in education you should follow this command and get over there right now.

Twitter is an odd alternate universe that I don’t fully comprehend. This is evident when I look at my awkward and sad 7 total tweets and 10 followers. Who cares? Basically what I use it for is to eavesdrop on some great educators have powerful conversations about things that can truly impact the way I reach my students. I am hoping eventually to jump into the conversation. Right now I am that kid sitting on the side of the pool trying to figure out the rules of the game.

I read an article early in the summer about setting up lists on Twitter and this has helped me so much. I have a general list called Education, but I might go back through and make it more specific. This way when you have a minute you can read about Project Based Learning or tech in the classroom without having to filter through other tweets.
Or when you just want a laugh, I have a list called Funny where I follow Professor Snape among others.

Yes it is another time sucker, but I have read so many great articles that I would have never known about without it.
To get you started, here is the article that got me started. It is called A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter by Jeff Dunn from Edudemic.
Have fun getting started and share what you learn! I promise to start doing the same.

(If you love Harry Potter be sure to follow Snape @_Snape_ for a daily dose of perfect snarkiness.)

30 Goals

In my stumbling around looking for blogs I came across an inspiring collaborative tool called The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators.  Goal One is to “Define your Moment.” I have decided this is my moment to truly work and learn from others ,big and small people included.

We are going to have a new schedule this year that will allow a full day of planning every six days. Don’t ask me how this works, I haven’t actually seen it yet. But the prospect of having all that time is exciting and daunting. How to make all that time meaningful? Luckily, I work with two smart, inspiring ladies who are interested in trying new things and using new methods.

So what will make this planning time effective? I think it needs to be divided into 3 parts. The first part needs to be devoted to planning units and finding resources. The second part needs to be about looking at student progress and identifying who has not mastered what and why. The third part needs to be about developing ways to remediate and extend the learning in the classroom.

Can we do it? I think so. I am excited to get started!

Goal Two is Avoiding Burn Out.  Plan ahead so we can counter act the funk we know is coming, especially in the face of so much change.

I encourage you to go check out The 30 Goal Challenge.  Think about what your moment will be.

Choose Kind!


I have this kind friend and one of the wonderful things that she does is send me books in the mail. Instead of putting them up on a shelf, she finds an envelope, schleps to the post office and spirits them to me.  It is such a great feeling to see one of those little packages with the familiar handwriting waiting for me. I know that I have just been graced with hours of new journeys into imagination. What a gift. All of this because she chose to be kind.

One of those lovely gifts, Wonder by RJ Palacio, is going to be my first read aloud of the year. It is a book that reaches out and grabs your heart from the very first page. Honestly, I’m not sure I will be able to read it aloud without crying.

Now I am not going to spoil any of the plot for you because I want you read this book right now! But I do want to tell you that it’s message is to Choose Kind. What if my students and I could choose kind from day one? What a difference that would make. Think of all the little decisions you make everyday. What if you took just a second and asked yourself, “is it kind?”

Who knows how it would change the way the world looks, the way it FEELS?

So take my advice and go get this book. It will make you feel good. It will make you want to choose kind.

Here is a link to a blog post about how a 6th grade team made a whole unit from this wonderful book.

Celebrating the Wonder of Wonder by Sherry Gick.

A Renewed Commitment!

I started this blog because I knew change was coming. I had no idea how MUCH change was coming. Change is good. Right?

Well, because of said change I lost this poor little blog to other things. This summer, however, I have been so inspired by so many blogs, cool things on Twitter, words of wisdom from strangers. If I was getting so much out of reading the words of my peers, why wouldn’t my students enjoy doing the same thing?

Uh-oh. If I was going to ask them to do it, didn’t that mean I had to do it myself? SO in order to get out in front of them (at least for a little bit…smart little critters, 5th graders) I commit to 3 posts a week. And I might (EEEEEK) share them. Oh that part might be too much. We will see.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the blogs that have really got me going this summer. Follow them. You will be glad you did.

The Nerdy Book Club                      Read, Write, Reflect       The 21st Century Teacher  

Literate Lives                                   A Year of Reading           Kleinspiration    

A Fly on the Classroom Wall          Teacher Reboot Camp          The Colorful Principal

100 Scope Notes                             Charting By the Stars          Fresh Air Teaching

We are a Walking Classroom!


Thanks to a generous donor, Joan Gillings, we are now officially a walking classroom! We received our big box containing the Playaways and the ENORMOUS Teacher’s Guide this week and we have already walked 3 times!!

The children are beyond excited. The first question they ask in the morning is if we are walking. In fact I am posting a schedule this week, so they can STOP asking. Parents are very enthused and our principal and vice principal walked with us on Thursday.

Our first podcast on content was about Alliteration and Personification. We are reading and writing poems right now so that fit perfectly. What I really liked was that during the podcast they gave suggestions on how to extend, the kids were very excited about that so this week we are building our Alliteration City! Pictures to follow.

Here is a picture of our first walk. We were just a little excited.

first walk