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Content vs. Relationship: Part 1

I'll admit it. I sometimes fall into the content trap. You know the one... that paralyzing feeling that there are not enough minutes in the day to possibly teach all of the content you've been tasked with teaching, much less teach it effectively. You begin to panic. You notice your energy level turns up a notch- and not the good kind of energy level, either. That erratic, no-one-ask-any-questions-or-we'll-never-finish kind of freaky nervous energy. My son calls this "the dark side." I can always tell when I'm dipping my toes in the dark side because my speech begins to speed up, and I realize I'm talking WAY more than my students are. There's no discussion among them. There are no questions from them. There is no processing of information... for there can't be; I'm speaking like an auctioneer on opening day. Sometimes the content we teach (or the amount of content we must teach) gets the better of us.
Don't get me wrong- content is immeasur…

Sunshine Blog

I've always enjoyed reading the Sunshine Blogs and have always associated them with "real bloggers" so I was quite excited to learn I was nominated! I began blogging this past summer after encouragement from my Twitter friend, Rafranz Davis; and while I am not always the most consistent, I do enjoy the process of blogging.... however, my favorite is to read others' blogs. I learn so much from so many talented educators through their blog, so hopefully I can give back the love and share a little about me!  Here is how it works: Acknowledge the nominating blogger.Share 11 random facts about yourself.Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)My Nominating Blogger My nominating blog…

Stay Calm and Stay & Play On

Some ideas begin small. Others are epic with huge obstacles known upfront. Still, others roll upon us from the unexpected. I would describe the idea of Stay & Play as a mixture of the above. 

I began hearing about Stay & Play, a local effort to build a playground for our school, last year when funding for Stage 1 was reached, but-- and I cringe when I say this-- it didn't hold the same meaning for me as it does today. At the time, I didn't have the same awareness of students with severe physical needs as I do today. This school year, my class participated in a collaborative online project called Global Read Aloud. (Many of you are tired of me blogging about it, but I honestly cannot say enough goodness about this project... and the book we read as part of it.) Our class, along with thousands, upon thousands across the globe, all read the same book and met online through several venues to collaborate for #GRA13. The thing that made this project THE best project I've …

GRA#13OOMM: A Melody-Inspired Day

It was messy. Our neighbors probably said it was loud. To an uninvited guest, it would have seemed chaotic. But for my students- it was pure bliss!

As most of you know, we have been participating in The Global Read Aloud Project. We have made some awesome connections with friends from all over the globe, as well as one another, and have had many great conversations surrounding Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper....but we wanted more.

Much can be said about a group of school children bonding over a character and her story. By reading the fictional story of Melody and her special needs, my students started to think about our own friends here at our own school who also deal with special needs on a daily basis, just as Melody and her family do. This set into motion a plan. Originally we discussed performing a play, but due to some limitations, we knew a play wouldn't work, so we gathered as a class to decide what we could do for them. This evolved into a student-created, student-delegat…

Tearing the Walls Down with Global Read Aloud

This summer when I stumbled upon the Global Read Aloud project, I wasn't sure how I would incorporate it into our daily routine, and I definitely wasn't sure how I would connect with others using tech since I never really had before. However, I knew I HAD to try it out. It sounded fun and exciting- two adjectives that I sometimes felt I was missing in my classroom lately. I knew if it piqued my curiosity and made me excited, it definitely would interest my kids. I registered and joined the wiki, and we were on our way!
Unsure what all this was about or what it would entail, I felt obligated to find another #GRA newbie and make a connection. I met Phillip Jones via email. He, too, was a Global Read Aloud newbie and just as unsure as I was as far as what we were supposed to do or what this would even look like with our kids. We both quickly learned it was okay to have more than one connection and more than one way to connect.  We are currently in our fifth week of the project, and…

Google Helps Students w/Reading Disabilities

As a Reading teacher, and also a mom who deals with reading struggles in my own kids, finding a way for my students and children to learn online content without someone having to continually assist with unknown words or becoming totally frustrated has been important.Working diligently to address and close the gaps in a student's reading deficits are always a top priority, but what happens when that child wants to learn more on a subject he is interested in?Or when she needs to do online research for an upcoming project in social studies?The fact is, when you have a reading disability, it affects not only your reading class, but your entire life.
This past summer, after downloading Google Drive, I discovered the app, "Read&Write forGoogle" in the Chrome Store. The tagline caught my eye, "...to help individuals struggling with reading and writing, those with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, or English Language Learners." I knew immediately I must try it…

Dot Day Celebrations 2013

Recently I posted about our Dot Day Celebrations and explained what The Dot is all about. You can read that post HERE if you miss it.

For our Dot Day Celebrations, we started with reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds and discussed its theme. Students were encouraged to think about what they are passionate about. Many had never considered this. Some even asked ME what the right answer was.... So we talked about what being passionate about something meant and what goals they had for themselves in life. Because we listed our goals for the school year the first week of school, I at least had SOMETHING to pull from in pushing students to think of themselves in the future tense. 

We used a page from the ColAR apps website that was created with FableVision to create our own original dots. Students were asked to use many colors and designs to create a dot that reflects their personal personality. What students DIDN'T realize, is once they were completed, I was able to show them the mind-blowin…

Making Your Mark- What Dot Day is All About

Despite great intentions and ahead of scheduled planning, our efforts to experience all things that are The Dot got off to what was most assuredly- a rocky start. For those of you unfamiliar with The Dot, it is a charming tale of a young girl, Vashti, who feels frustrated she is unable to draw during art class one day. With the simple solution of her teacher, "Make a mark and see where it takes you," Vashti quickly realizes she CAN create art- and quite well. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is a reminder that we all have talents and abilities- even when those talents and abilities seem hidden and dormant. 

The morning we were to read The Dot, I arrived to school with frenzied excitement. Over the course of the night, I had played out the lesson in my mind, along with all of the wisdom I would impart on my young learners. I was downright giddy when the bell rang and the first class began filing in. 

Then reality hit.

My VGA cord to connect the iPad to our projector was acting up so…

Character Gifting and Creativity

A recent assignment seemed to foster creativity and autonomy and surprisingly, was a big hit! Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli was our first read aloud of the year. We usually use this novel as a springboard for many other skills including introducing character development and story elements. Growing tired of the usual when reading this novel and toying with the idea to encourage students to "make their mark" and tap into their passions, I wanted something different. Thinking about an earlier discussion we had on passions and talents, I thought it would be neat if students could somehow tie their passions to a character from our book. Hence, the "Character Gifting" assignment was born.

It was simple:  

"If you had to give a pretend gift to one of the characters from Maniac Magee, what would you give and to whom? Choose one character from Maniac Magee. Think about that character’s personality and character traits.

Next, think about what you are passionate about. Vid…

The Same... Only... Different

I've read those articles in the magazines before where people realize they have unhealthy habits and suddenly one day "it's as if a light bulb goes off and change is a must." Whether it's eating better, adding exercise to their schedule, making more time for personal interests, whatever the case may be- one day they just wake up and things seem to click differently for them.

Then there's me.
I will never be one of those people. I know myself well enough to know that when things pile up and the to-do list seems every looming, I become like an Olympian swimmer. The kind with tunnel vision and goggles on; who only comes up for a gasp of air here and there. I start to lose sight of noble ideas and creative thoughts that once seemed so grand in my mind. Because I know these things to be true about myself, I knew that while my summer was without a doubt the best ever, and I would begin the school year feeling more confident and excited than ever thanks to meeting new…

My One Request

If I could make one request for my child's teacher it would be- know my child. Know my child as well as you know your own. Be familiar with his background; where we've been and where we've worked so hard to get to. When his file is dropped in your mailbox and his name appears on your roster, don't write him off as a student with special needs or see the task ahead of you as insurmountable. But instead be confident in his strengths, as well as your abilities as an outstanding teacher. Keep track of skills he has mastered- true tangible evidence of the progress he is making; I like to celebrate the milestones of mastered goals as well! When you see opportunities to let him know he is doing something good- tell him because when you're a kid with different abilities, it's easy to feel like you're left behind by your friends in certain skill areas...not that it's their fault. Know that little things that worry him may seem insignificant and petty to an adult…

Everyone Starts Out Somewhere

Ever wonder how you fit in to the large world which is education? Feel like a little fish swimming in a big pond?

You may notice the two pictures above look very similar. They remind me of the picture puzzles where you have two pictures and find as many mistakes on one as you can (my favorite part of my daughter's Highlight magazine each month)... but that is not what this is. This is my visual representation of my place... and yours... in the world of education; and in particular- technology in education... because in our day and age that is where education is. Not to say that great teaching doesn't happen without technology- it does, in many classes all over the world. But the reality is, technology is where we are as a society, and it is most definitely where are students are as a generation. I can't count the number of times I have heard, "Meet your students where they are." Well... this is it. 
With that said, it seems there is much to be learned these days ab…