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Showing posts from 2014

Being Reminded by My Annoyance

Ahhh... the Christmas Winter Break. Staying up late followed by closing the shades so we can sleep in the next morning, relishing in the fact that 5 AM will come and go and we will never know. I'm not sure about you and your family, but my family and I love the laziness of the Christmas Holidays. It wasn't until I caught myself becoming increasingly annoyed (...and often) that I realized while we were basking in the unstructured, late-morning routines, my son was missing some very crucial parts of his- and sadly, none of us realized it.

K's two main areas of struggles, as far as sensory processing go, are Vestibular and Proprioception. Our Vestibular system allows us to accurately use our vision, prepare our posture, maintain balance, plan our actions, move, calm ourselves, and regulate our behavior. When his is out of whack and his body feels he isn't receiving enough input, we notice he is on the go more. Not really running around, just aimlessly wandering around (usu…

Marshmallow Challenge and What We Learned

I heard about The Marshmallow Challenge at Region 5 Edcamp last year and knew I wanted to do it! Honestly I got a little excited at the thought of shoving as many marshmallows in my mouth as I could while chanting "chubby bunny" like we used to at youth camp, but then I found out this was a different kind of Marshmallow Challenge. 

The Marshmallow Challenge was created by Tom Wujec as a team building exercise that allows the participants the opportunities in collaboration, innovation, and creativity. It was discovered, however, that students were much better at this activity for several reasons. Learn more about the official Marshmallow Challenge HERE or see Wujec's TED talk HERE

I used the Marshmallow Challenge as a team-building exercise the first week of school. It was a fun way to see how students worked within a group, but also what strengths and weaknesses they brought to the table that could be used during the school year. I was delightfully surprised by the amoun…

When a Connected Educator Unplugs

If you had asked me last year, I would have happily told you that I am a connected educator. I thrived on making new connections with fellow educators who I could bounce ideas off of; hear about new things that are working in education and things that aren’t. I searched for classes I could connect my fifth graders to, broadening our learning experience as a collective learning community. It was where I felt most comfortable as an educator. And when life handed me lemons (as life has a tendency to do)- it was no big deal. I’d make lemonade and blissfully move on while adding sugar and stirring. I had the year down pat and felt my students were learning so much.
But then seemingly overnight I found myself making connections and connecting less and less…. And oddly- it didn’t bother me. Once the new school year started, I not only connected less, I finally just unplugged.
Lights off. Game over.
“Why?” you may ask… (and I did! I asked myself that same question… A LOT). I really did…

2014 Life Lessons Learned this Summer

Ms. Angelou said it best; and for this summer- I am thankful for life. 
As my summer wraps up, I'm left to reflect on what I've learned- which is to being thankful for the moments we are given, each one of them. So these are my top 2014 Life Lessons learned this Summer:
Grow your zones of comfort; push your boundaries... Being scared to do something is ok... normal, even; but when that fear overpowers your will to step out of the boundaries you set for yourself, you begin to limit your own effectiveness, defeating your power of growth.
Celebrate the moments of life; even in death... The mom of one of our students unexpectedly died toward the beginning of the summer. My heart ached for this young man; losing his mom at such a young age. My son was also a classmate of his this school year, so we (my son and I) attended the funeral for his mother. It was a beautiful service, but also a reminder that the kids we serve are not only our kids from August through May. Our lives are forev…

Top 5 Magic Making Moments from ISTE 2014

Duplicating an amazing event is often impossible; so I attended this year's ISTE convention with high hopes, but was totally prepared to be somewhat disappointed. Last year's ISTE convention was phenomenal, and I felt like I'd discovered the secret wardrobe into a mystical world full of excitement, opportunity, and ideas... for all intents and purposes, it was my Narnia.

So for this year's ISTE, I had to be prepared. If you know me at all, it should come as no surprise that I bought a composition book (to appease my love affair with paper) and divided it into different sections. (Yes, I am well-aware there are many great apps and platforms for this... but the physical act of writing calms I go with it.) In my little ISTE Convention 2014 Book, I had a section with a quick sketched outline of the days I'd be there, along with any sessions I'd heard people talking about that sounded extremely interesting, as well as the BYOD sessions I'd pre-registered …

Top Ten Things I Learned from My iPadpalooza Experience

We often tell our students or our own children that everything will work out ok... "be brave"... "don't worry so much".... (and my all-time fav) "just do your ________"... Yep- see! you can fill in the blank because, as adults, we say it often. We can say these things with such certainty because, being the ever-wise and worldly beings that we are, we know that truthfully there is very little that can be so earthshaking that it alters the world as we know it. But what happens when the roles are reversed and we're the ones who are looking at what we feel is impossible? That's the situation I found myself in recently. My dear friend Daisy suggested that I submit a proposal to present at iPadpalooza this year. I honestly had no idea that speakers submitted proposals to present their material to share with others at various conferences. It was 11:00 at night when I ventured onto the site and submitted the proposal on a whim. And it was with crazy ex…

On the Fence About Reading Logs... but Why I Lean Toward "Like"

Over the last year I have read many books and blog posts concerning Reading Logs... most of which frown upon this practice; so I found myself torn as I decided to try them out amidst all the negative hype. The Reading Log I decided to try simply has the title of the book students are reading and a place for parents to initial. There are no columns for "start page" or "end page" or "how much time you read." I just basically wanted a "what are you reading?" page that was turned in once a week for me to check...but still... I almost felt as if I was doing something counterintuitive to the kind of reading teacher I wanted to be. And while no- I was NOT trying to be the Reading Police, and YES- I DO want to encourage a wide variety of reading, I felt implementing a read log could be multifaceted for several things I was needing:

Student accountability for what they were really reading: Even though we regularly share book titles with one another, discu…

What's Your One Word?

Each year at our Back-to-School Celebration for our campus we are always challenged and inspired to dream big for the upcoming school year. This year our principal at the time, Mrs. Dickerson, asked us to think of one word that we hoped to embody this school year. One word that meant something to us. One word that evoked emotion and "umph" for a better lack of word. 

I thought a great deal about my word. If you know me well, you know I tend to live in the future... always thinking ahead to what tomorrow will hold- even though everyone, even the Lord, tells me NOT to do this. That being said, the moment of today is often missed and while I enjoy the moment of NOW, I don't always embrace it as I should. Sometimes I am already thinking ahead to "if this...then that" scenarios and trying to trouble shoot. I guess I am a problem solver by nature. So my word for this year became "Enjoy."
To me, Enjoy meant to enjoy the moment. To live in the present, to embra…

Global Read Aloud- Full Circle Game Changer

Have you thought about what your game-changer has been this school year? 

Last summer I stumbled upon the ISTE convention not really knowing at all what I was in store for, but was hooked immediately. The people, the ideas, the sessions, the tweets, the blogs... this frenzied, super-charged mix of excitement and passion- all in the name of education. I listened to numerous speakers and leaders in our field talk about global collaboration- to think beyond the four walls of your school. I started to think about what this meant for me as a 5th grade teacher in a small Texas town and how I could bring this idea into my ELA classroom. Enter stage right- The Global Read Aloud

Several fellow ELA teachers I followed and learn from on Twitter mentioned #GRA so I decided to check it out. Totally unsure what it even entailed or if I would be able to really pull off this idea of connecting globally with other classes, I jumped off my side of the mountain (metaphorically speaking, of course... ha…

Fluency Finder- Great App (IOS) for Rdg Data

Since I'm always on the lookout for great apps to make my life a little less hectic as a reading teacher, I was excited when Fluency Finder was suggested by a Twitter friend. I was excited to try it out. With Fluency Finder, you're able to probe a large number of students in a smaller amount of time due to the fact that the app does most of the work for you. I found it to be very user friendly and easy to operate. The directions for using the app are short, simple, and to the point. I know many teachers are asked to monitor their entire classes' progress throughout the school year, and with this app, you would be able to with less worry that it will take multiple days to do, plus I liked the fact that the data is all in the same place and accessible anytime you need it. 

While I'm fortunate enough that our classes are progress monitored by our Accelerated Reading Instructors, I do still work with small groups of students who are actively trying to improve their fluency.…

Are you Doing It? #reg5chat

You can do it on the couch. You can do it on your phone. You can do it in the car*. You can do it while you gaze at stars.
You can do it before bed. “You can do it! Yes!” I said. You can do it- this Thursday. 8-9 without delay. Region 5 to Zimbabwe.
Are you doing it?

*(passenger side only)

Making Appointments- a collaboration strategy

Autonomy and collaboration are two buzz words you hear often right now in the realms of education chatter. And for those days when collaboration means within our own classroom, it seems like this is the day autonomy needs to be focused on the most. I can take the same two students and match them up to work as partners, who would have normally joined up anyway- but there is something about the teacher doing the matching that often times sets things on a bad foot right away. I noticed this when school first started. I would watch the groups and partners gather in clusters when I simply said for them to partner up- versus watching their reactions when I actually called them out, putting them in very similar groupings. There is something to be said for students feeling like they have a say in who they work with. I guess we are no different as adults.

I saw a strategy at a workshop last year called "Making Appointments" that I envisioned as a complete train wreck, but one day last…

Mom of a Sped Student: Impossible vs. Reality

Soon it will be annual ARD time and since I teach 5th grade, for many students, it will be the first time anyone has ever asked the special needs students what they plan to do with their life upon graduation from High School. For many- having no initial idea as to why they are being called upon to a meeting of many teachers, other professionals, and their parents (as friendly and supportive as these faces may be)—I would think it could be a little intimidating. And yet… it is always my favorite part of an ARD. I love seeing the expression on their faces as they grapple with the fact that someone is asking them their plans of a future… to be prosperous… and full of possibility. It’s almost as if in that tiny moment of time- you see the student’s recognition that their life, their future-- is being validated; bursting with possibility.The part that comes next is the part I have always feared. Not as a teacher, but as a mom knowing that one day I would be asked the same question next- “W…

Idea: Using QR Codes with Report Cards

Earlier this year Angela Moses (@MoTechChef) showed me an Animoto video she made and sent to her parents for the six weeks showing various lessons and highlights for that six week period. I was impressed, to say the least. I thought it was an awesome way to keep parents involved in their child's learning and also provides an avenue for students to explain what they've learned to their parent. Not sure about you, but I often get the, "Mmmm... not much" or "I don't know" answers when I ask how my own kids' day was or what they learned that day in school. 
So Angela inspired me to utilize my student pictures taken during the six weeks and turn it into a video. The method of how I share this video with parents came as a solution to a problem with lost report card envelopes. Each year I spend time and effort  personalizing each report card envelope with the student's picture, information, clipart, etc. and often the envelopes tend to be lost rather qu…

Eye on the Prize: An Object Lesson in Action

After reading a friend and peer's blog post (read Brenda Jones' blog here) about inspiring her students to be passionate, it reminded me of an object lesson I did once when I worked with youth ministry that is very much relevant to the classroom. 

Using an extra large piece of construction paper, make a list of all of the things you must do in one day. (Don't forget to add "teach" to your ever-expanding list of duties and expectations!)

After you're done, roll up this piece of construction paper lengthwise (think wrapping paper)... and place a piece of tape to keep it rolled up nicely.

Next, in thinking about your job, school, duties, reasons you became an educator, etc. take a paper plate and write the one MOST important aspect of your job (hint: the KIDS!) onto this paper plate.

Finally, take the paper roll (the one with ALLL of the things you do and are responsible for) and balance it in the palm of one hand with the paper plate on top without dropping either.…