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Friday, December 30, 2011

Thank You Notes with a Twist

While some people expect them, to others they're a welcome surprise! Either way, right after the holidays people love to receive them! Thank You notes!

However, most kids hate to write them!  I know it's a battle with my own two children.  Since they were very little they have been (reluctantly) writing them.  I think they don't enjoy it because "it takes too much time." Regardless, it's important to show appreciation for a gift received.

In school, my students have occasionally written thank you notes to their parents as a way to recognize all that is being done for them at home.  This year I will have them write a note for one of their Christmas or Hanukkah gifts.  Of course, an accompanying lesson will be  'How to Write' a thank you note. and "How to Address an Envelope.

To make it less painless I will give the students a choice when creating their notes. They may choose one of the following: 
  • Use blank construction paper to create their own.
  • Use a recycled holiday card (I remove the fronts of the Christmas cards sent to me and use them as part of the thank you card.)
  • Create your own Printable Card from "Got Free Cards". Choose from many covers and don't forget to add some stickers. 
  • Send an e-Card:  Choose from an array of different cards from Yahoo and email them to relatives and friends. (this is a fun, easy option but this site does not allow you to add your own words).

    It's never too early (and although the above video says to be punctual - I think it's never too late) to write a 'Thank You' as it will surely warm the hearts of the recipients knowing their gift was valued and treasured. (And as writing Thank You's is often a form of Art it will make the writer feel good about adding personal touches and sentiments as well).

    I must hurry now and get my own notes out!

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Check for Understanding-10 Reasons Why Kids Don't Do It!

    'reading response prompts minioffice right side' photo (c) 2009, Jimmie - license:
    According to the National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC), "Reading is an activity with a purpose."  Understanding the author's purpose for writing a selection helps the reader adjust his reading rate to focus on comprehension. To discuss  author's purpose for writing we use PIE (persuade, inform, entertain).  Understanding the purpose seems easy, but when it comes to understanding the main idea it's often a different story.

    Last year I polled my students to see exactly WHY they read WITHOUT summarizing, which we call, Checking for are the results (in no particular order)

    1.   To be the first one done 
    2.   Forget to do it
    3.   It's too much work
    4.   Takes too long
    5.   Don't feel like it
    6.   Don't think it's important
    7.   Just want to get the reading done
    8.   Story is boring
    9.   Don't like to read
    10. Just to get it done

    What to do about it?  Since I compiled that data I felt I needed to do something with it.   Ultimately, I needed to figure out a way that was sure to help my students understand the importance of reading for meaning,  right? So this past summer I did some reading. which led me to the discovery of the Daily5 and CAFE.

    This year I decided to try the Daily5 and CAFE are during our literacy block.  The Daily5 is the structure (Read to Self, Writing, Word Work, Listen to Reading & Read to Someone) that students follow during our literacy time, while CAFE is our focus (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Extend Vocabulary).  "Check for Understanding" is the first strategy (& most important in my opinion) that is introduced.  Students are taught to frequently 'Check for Understanding' by asking Who it's about, What's Happening & to predict what will happen next.  Through modeling & practice, more modeling and practice students learn how to 'check for understanding'. To ensure students make connections which will aid their comprehension, we start by activating Prior Knowledge. Pair these with reading books that are appropriate for the student and true meaning is sure to transpire.

    I decided to poll my students this year to see why they are not checking for understanding and the results are as follows:

    1.  Takes too long
    2.  Story is exciting I don't want to stop
    3.  Don't understand it
    4.  Can't find a connection
    5.  Takes away from my reading time

    It's rather interesting that there were only 5 reasons from this group. I wondered if it had something to do with the Daily5 and CAFE.  Is it just possible that more students are 'Checking for Understanding' on a regular basis?

    I noticed a difference in the types of answers given by both groups of students.  Do you see how the second group looks at reading differently than the first?   Would love to hear what you think - please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Edublog Awards 2011 - Nominee

    The 2011 Edublog Awards are now in progress!  What a surprise to find out I had been nominated for "Best Ed Tech/Resource Sharing Blog" by Denise Krebs.  Please read her nomination blog HERE!

    While I have no expectations of winning, I am thrilled, honored and humbled to be nominated alongside so many wonderful educators.  To be listed among the ranks of educators like Richard Byrne (Free Technology for Teachers), Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (Langwitches), Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator), and so many others whose blogs and resources I often use in my own posts takes my breath away.

    Why it was only just one year ago that I really began my blogging journey.  The post at that time was reflecting upon an experience my students had in the classroom.  In that post I shared one or two links for my readers.  From that time forward I have tried to include a host of resources that enhance the topic of my posts. 

    Should you feel compelled to VOTE for me (no email required), please visit the Edublog Awards Blog and select the category Best Ed Tech/Resource Blog and find Teaching is Elementary.  Please vote for my friend, Denise Krebs, for Best Teacher Blog, Dare to Care, while you are there as she is a wonderful teacher who inspires so many!

    Even if you don't vote, please visit the Edublog Award site anyway, as you are sure to find several new and interesting blogs to follow!  

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Comments Welcome!

    Made with DoodleBuddy
    It has become almost an addiction! Everyday I check my blog to see if anyone has left a new comment.  When someone leaves a comment it lets me know that people are interested in what I am writing, but more importantly, they are helping me grow and learn through their thoughts and ideas!

    • Add to the conversation by providing views and and opinions not already expressed OR validate ideas being shared.
    • Extend the conversations as people leave links to sites that will guide or lead to further enlightenment.  
    • Involve the reader and writer in conversations about topics of interest.  
    • Compliment the writer or the topic.  It's nice to give and receive compliments so feel free to leave one on a blog!
    Several people who follow have expressed a desire to leave a comment, but they have had some difficulty with the commenting section.  So I thought it might be a good idea to explain HOW to create a successful comment.  Hopefully, this will help.

    Directions for posting:

    1) Choose "Comment As" first. If you don't have a Google/Blogger account, you can choose Name/URL and type in your name, then place the web site that best describes you in the URL (i.e. If you do not have a URL you can leave that blank.  You can also choose "Anonymous" which will leave the comment but not your name.

    2) Feel free to "Preview" your comment to see what it will look like when posted. 

    3) Select "Post Comment" when you're ready. (Sometimes this might need to be done more than once.)

    4) NOTE:  Before posting a comment I will copy it, in the event there is a problem, that way I haven't lost my comment and can try to post it again.

    Created with Crayola Digi-Color
    5) Thank you Tracy Watanabe for these directions to post!

    I have also created this VIDEO Screencast which walks you through the process. (There is also a plug at the end to sign up for my blog via email!)    Click here: HOW TO CREATE A COMMENT

    Good luck and happy commenting!  Please feel free to leave a comment on this post to try it out!  If you do, please check back as I try to respond to all comments!

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Fire Drills - Safety is Free!

    Discovery Education's Clip Art Gallery created
    by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator.
    Went shopping today at a local mall with my daughter and her friend.  We were in the mall for about two hours when all of a sudden a loud, blaring alarm was ringing out!  I looked around and the shoppers and store workers were nonplussed.  Clearly, it was a fire alarm and no one seemed the least bit bothered by it as they continued to go about their business.        

    Since my daughter and her friend were in another part of the mall I texted them and told them to leave the mall immediately.  "Already leaving" was what I got in return. (Most likely because they had practiced what to do at school.) Outside the mall, as I waited for the girls, I noticed there were only a handful of shoppers who also left the building.

    In the distance sirens blared as fire engines were making their way into the parking lot.  Still hardly anyone had exited the mall.   I wondered WHY.  Did they think it was just a 'false alarm'? Was it inconvenient? Why would they put their family and themselves at risk?

    (Although the video below happened at a Walmart in Maryland it depicts a similar reaction to the event that happened today in our mall. Please note that people react is if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.)

    Keeping our students safe is of an utmost priority. At school we practice Fire Drills, Bus Evacuations and Lockdown drills several times throughout the year.  Children learn how to proceed calmly and act appropriately in these emergency situations.  The practices are taken very seriously by administration, students and staff.  We know that students feel safer when they are prepared.

    It is also a good idea for children and their families to practice fire drills at home.  Having an escape plan and meeting place are important and reassuring for children.  Below are some resources that may help.
    Created using DoodleBuddy

    RESOURCES:   How to Be Prepared (for teachers)  What to Do in a Fire (for kids & parents)  Fire Safety for Kids (for kids with coloring pages; activities)
    Scholastic: Sparky the Fire Dog Comic Book (children can make comic strip to help practice fire safety skills) Family Stuff (for kids & families - create a home fire escape plan; coloring pages) Fire Safety Resources (a list of sites for teachers, families & kids)

    Please take fire alarms seriously.  Although they may be a nuisance,  leaving the building may just save your life....After all....SAFETY IS FREE! 

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Teachable Moment-Apollo 7 Splashdown!

    Crew of Apollo 7 (NASA photo)
    Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham may not be household names, but they are names that are now known in our fourth grade classroom thanks to one 10 year old girl and her Grandpa.  These gentlemen were the crew of Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo space flight!  Our young fourth grader shared a piece of their incredible story, but shared it through the eyes and stories of her Grandpa who was fortunate enough to see the end of Apollo's mission.

    In honor of Veteran's Day our class wrote letters thanking a veteran in our family (or neighbor).  My student wrote to her grandfather (who happens to also live with her) and he wrote back.  Not only did he write back but he sent in his yearbook from the ship on which he was stationed, pictures of that vessel and some amazing photos of Apollo 7's splashdown from 1968!

    As this young lady shared the photos (via the class document camera) she spoke knowledgeably about each one of them. The photos were taken from the ship (where her Grandpa was assigned) the U.S.S. Essex on October 22, 1968 as they recovered the space capsule from the waters. She fielded questions from her classmates and answered them intelligently.  It was clear that she spent time listening and learning from her Grandfather. 

    Splashdown - Navy Frogs
    Of course this was not the planned lesson of the day, but the impact this had on the students was far greater than the scheduled instruction.  The class couldn't get enough information and wanted to learn more. They asked questions about the astronauts, the spacecraft, the aircraft carrier as well lots of other questions.  It became a social studies lesson on primary sources, a science lesson on space,  a math lesson on elapsed time, a language arts lesson (we wrote poems) and more! But, perhaps what made it most exciting for students, was knowing that their classmate's Grandpa was really "there"!  It made that instant connection with them.

    It is important sometimes to forgo the plans and capture the excitement and enthusiasm for learning that comes from those teachable moments.  What was your last 'teachable moment'?  Please share it in the comment section below!

    Learn more with Apollo 7 Resources:
    Encyclopedia Astronautica:  Scroll down to see a great timeline beginning in March 1965
    Astronomy Top 100: This site speaks about Apollo 7 being broadcast 'Live'
    NASA Video of Apollo 7
    Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum A brief summary of Apollo 7's mission.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Virtual Field Trips! A Great Alternative! Part 1

    Screen Shot of the Djuma Safari with Mark the guide
    This morning I went on a Safari at the Djuma Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand of South Africa!  Riding along in the back seat of the open jeep, feeling the bumps of the dirt road, I witnessed Water Buffalo and Hippos basking in the watering hole,  an impala hiding in the brush and a pair of female giraffes eating from the tops of trees.  The whole time I thought, "My students would LOVE to do this!"   Well, they actually can as the safari is broadcast LIVE (twice daily for 3 hours each) through WildEarthTV.    What a way to learn about the animals in Africa!  (AS of November 2011 the Live Safari is no longer available due to funding).

    Virtual field trips such as this safari, allow the students to experience different opportunities without having to actually BE there.  Students need not travel far or wide to be exposed to new adventures and gain new understanding of topics they might once have only read about.  It's engaging and fun for students to see things first hand and in 'REAL' time.  
    Check out ANIMAL CAMERAS
    Screen shot of Giraffe (Speech bubble added using Big Huge Labs)
    Extensive list of Live Animal Webcams broken into categories such as Aquariums, Horses, Bees, Penquins and more! Clicking on one of the categories will bring you to several options.

    Check out more livecam virtual animal sites:
    Africam:  Elephant Plains 
    Africam: Nkorho Pan

    Check out this website full of livecams:

    Trinity Mountain Outdoors: Links to all kinds of  Animal/Bird Cameras

    Screen Shot of Polar Bear Cam on
    Check out these this site for webcasts to learn more about polar bears:
    Polar Bear International Tundra Connections:   Sign up for live broadcasts during the polar bear migration.

    Learning by doing is best, but experiencing something "LIVE" is a great alternative.  Part 2 will explore other exciting options as virtual field trips!      

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    #Rockstar Meme Blog Award

    Wow!  Can you believe it?  Me? A #Rockstar? Well, at least my friends, Denise Krebs, blog author of Dare to Care and Sheri Edwards, blog author of What Else? - 1DR think so, as they have both awarded me with this #Rockstar Meme started by Miguel Guhlin.

    When one is awarded the meme, according to the originator Guhlin, they are supposed to Write a Post about how Blogging has Rocked your World then:
    1. respond to the meme and link back to this blog entry
    2. leave a comment on this blog entry and then ask 5 more people to participate
    3. Notify those 5 people by sending them a quick note (a tweet prob would work).
    So here goes....

    • I wouldn't have met so many wonderful individuals from around the globe.  I have met (virtually, through their blogs of course) people from all across the United States, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Australia and more! They have opened my eyes to worlds, cultures and ideas that I may never have had the chance to experience.
    •  I wouldn't have been as reflective in my teaching practice.  As a teacher we are always reflecting. But writing it down makes one even more accountable for their actions. I'll often reflect upon a lesson that was taught in class and write a blog discussing ways I could add/change resources or techniques that will make me a more effective teacher. 
    •  I wouldn't have explored resources and researched content with such ferocity.  Writing posts sends me on quests to find information, sift through what is helpful and fresh, and keeps me current with my teaching practices.  Always looking for new tools to share with my students and colleagues. Always looking to learn something new!
    Presenting Global Learners Blog @ MassCUE11
    • I wouldn't have dared to present at a conference or workshop out of my district! Just recently I created a presentation that will hopefully get people interested in Blogging and was allowed to present at the Massachusetts Computer Using Educator's Conference 2011! I feel so strongly that everyone has something to share & wanted people to realize that everyone can BLOG! 
    BLOGGING ALLOWS ME TO BE CREATIVE AND HAVE A VOICE! I love adding my photographs and touching them up with different programs.  I love trying to make my writing interesting to engage my readers.  I love thinking up ways to arrange my posts in ways to add to the content.  I love being able to share and hopefully make a difference!

    Blogging Has ROCKED my World!   Thank you Denise & Sheri for awarding me this Meme to once again take the time to reflect! (I should be adding you too, but then the meme would be a cirlce, right! You both have given me so much!)

    I am passing this #Rockstar Meme onto the following people:

    • Carol Ann Palmieri - My sister who has inspired me in so many ways with her wonderful talents - blogging among them: MA Homes Real Talk!
    • Laura Komos - A teacher who uses and shares ideas about the Daily5 & CAFE (which is a way to structure & teach reading) - Delightful Daily 5 Cafe
    • Laura Devlin - a fourth grade teacher who I met through Twitter & whose blog is just full of thought-provoking ideas and a passion for teaching: Teach Children Well 
    • Erica Shepherd - A fourth grade teacher with fabulous ideas and resources: Shepherd's Shining Stars
    • Heather Mathews - a teacher fairly new to blogging who reflects upon her teaching and is not afraid of change: Hot Pants Education
     Thanks to all those bloggers I follow in my Google Reader!  You have opened up a whole new world to me! BLOG ON!


    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Halloween Activities for Kids

    Halloween is nigh upon us! The weather in the northeast finally feels like autumn! Ghouls, ghosts and witches are suddenly finding their place on front lawns and porches in our neighborhood.

    My students are abuzz over what costumes they are wearing and which parties they are attending.

    Here is a perfect time to capitalize on the children's excitement and provide them with some fun and engaging Halloween activities that are educational too!

    Halloween Math Activities:
    Spooky Sequences: Skip counting by 2's (by
    Spooky Sequences: Find the missing 3-digit number in the sequence.
    Spooky Sequences: Count backwards by 10!
    Spooky Sequences: Find the missing SQUARE Number!
    Ghost Blasters: Find the ghosts with EVEN numbers.
    Ghost Blasters: Find the ghosts that are MULTIPLES of ten

    Language Arts Activities:
    Creepy Crossword: Online Crossword Puzzle (for older children-no word bank)
    Spooky Night Mad Lib: Fill in the blanks to create a silly story.
    Halloween Joke Bookmarks:  Print and share these halloween joke bookmarks for kids.
    The Magic Pumpkin by HilaryWilliamson - This online story is about a boy and a magic pumpkin.
    FrightBytes Halloween: Halloween stories that you can change the ending. (Some pictures may be scary for young children).

    Coloring Pages:
    Crayola Halloween Coloring Pages: Print out and color on your own!
    The Halloween Pages: Choose a page to color online, print or share with a friend via email!

    Virtual Pumpkin Carving: Practice Symmetry
    Jack-O-Lantern Creator: Choose from different sets of eyes, noses, and mouths to make your own pumpkin.
    Virtual Pumpkin Carving: Try your hand at designing your own pumpkin - you can print this out by taking a screen shot.
    Pick A Pumpkin: Choose from 4 pumpkins and carve your own design at this Bloompetals site.

    Halloween Tips:
    Many sites remind parents about safety on Halloween night like this one, Fire Engineering which quotes the National Fire Protection Association.

    Scary Movie Tips: This video from Common Sense Media talks about effects scary movies have on young children, young teens and older teens. (The video is not appropriate for young children).

    Just for Fun:
    Your local Bass Pro Shops are offering Halloween activities during the weeks previous to Halloween 2011. Check it out HERE!

    DLTK'S Halloween Crafts Bat, Frankenstein, Ghost, Pumpkins and other fun crafts at this wonderful site!

    Halloween Songs on Youtube: Some fun and funny songs with sound effects too for kids! See below!

    Other Resources:  Cybraryman's Halloween Page

    Please feel free to add your favorite Halloween sites in the comment section! Happy Halloween!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Homework - Been there, Done that!

    Some teachers give a lot!  Some teachers give a little! Some parents expect a lot! Some parents expect a little!  Homework! It's one of those controversial topics which is constantly being discussed by educators, administrators and parents alike!

    Just this week I spoke with a parent about how she could help her child with the homework.  It then occured to me that perhaps I needed to rethink the type of homework being assigned.

    According to Cathy Vatterott, homework "shouldn't be about rote learning. The best kind deepens student understanding and builds essential skills."   Was I giving this type of homework?  My goal for the remainder of the year will be to make homework a more meaningful experience!

    Homework has been around for quite some time, but it seems that in the last decade there has been a greater push for students to continue the learning process at home.   The History of Homework mentions how the "launch of Sputnik changed education."  It also seems that homework was even to blame for acne, eye strain and other ailments.

    A recent article in the Education Leadership Publication states that homework should be purposeful, efficient, offer choices, completed without help and is enjoyable or interesting.  Homework should allow for the differences of each child.  By offering choices the student is able to take ownership of his/her learning.

    Teachers often feel obliged to give homework due to the policies of their district.  If it has to be given, it would be best if the homework is meaningful, reinforces concepts being studied in the classroom and engaging.  Check out: Homework Done Right by Janet Alleman, Rob Ley, Barbara Knighton, Ben Botwinski and Sarah Middlestead.  

    In all likelihood, homework isn't going to go away.  Parents and teachers can help motivate children by following these 8 tips provided by News for Parents

    For more information check out the Homework Debate resources provided by Cybraryman or the Flipbook below which has information provided by the Department of Education.

    How do you feel about homework?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

    Homework Help Resources:
    Common Sense Media:  Online Math & Science - Games, lessons, videos
    Discovery Education Student Resources: Homework help, Games & Interactives, Step by Step WebMath
    Homework Spot Topics broken into levels for Elementary, Middle & High Schoolers
    Scholastic's Homework Hub: Organize, Prepare, Practice and Research are some categories to help a student work on homework.

    Blog Posts regarding Homework:
    Before you Assign that Homework: by Jeff Delp

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? Remembering 9/11

    Growing up I remember aunts and uncles asking one another "Where were you when you JFK was shot?".  I was too young to remember that tragic moment in American history.   Unfortunately, I was not too young to remember "where I was during 9/11".

    Ten years ago on 9/11 I was in my classroom filled with 30 beautiful and innocent fourth graders.   Sara, an aide in my classroom, brought the news to me (in a hushed tone) that an airplane had struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.  Of course we thought it was an accident.  She then went to the office to see if she could learn more about what happened.  She came back shortly to say that another plane hit the South Tower.  We became aware that it was no accident.  Sara then became our eyes and ears to the world keeping us up-to-date on the events.  As the morning progressed and the news got worse, word had spread throughout the building and all the teachers learned of the news.

    My heart was racing with fear as I thought of my own children who were in my home town at their schools in Kindergarten and Grade 1. When my students were in phys. ed. I called my sister and left an hysterical message on her answering machine. "Go get my kids and bring them to your house. I want them home with you," I sobbed into the phone as I just couldn't wrap my head around what was happening.  Not my finest moment for sure. 

    After I made the call and spoke with some of the other teachers.  I calmed myself down and tried to phone my sister again.  This time I spoke to her directly.  "I left a message on your answering machine - please DO NOT listen to it.  Hope you are okay and I'll see you this afternoon".  I had realized that my children would be okay with their teachers just as my students would be okay with me.  My children's teachers were not going to let anything happen to my kids just as I would be doing my best to protect my own students.

    Ten years later, we had a beautiful ceremony in front of our school.  Our principal spoke briefly about all people who lost their lives and about all the heroes who helped one another.  We had local police officers and firefighters as representatives of all those who protect and serve us on a daily basis.  Our flag was raised by students then lowered to half-staff.  We all said the Pledge of Allegiance together then sang: Your a Grand Old Flag; a student played a song on his guitar and we sang again.  My friend and colleague, Suzanne, spoke to the students. She shared how her 2nd grade class during the year of 9/ll wanted to do something that would help so they created "A Garden of Hope" in the town.  "We needed to create a place that brought peace, comfort, and hope to our community, so we could honor the victims and the heroes from that day." Each year Suzanne's class plants in the fall and spring.   She also read a beautiful poem she wrote to think back on that day.

    Although our students were not old enough to remember or maybe understand what happened on that beautiful, crisp, clear September day, they participated in a ceremony that shows respect and pride for our nation. 

     September 11th....Ten Years Later

    Ten years ago, on a bright sunny day
    America’s peace and security was taken away. 
    Attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
    Began some of the darkest days our country and our world would ever see.

    Sadly, so many lives were lost; yet, so many heroes were found 
    Because Americans are the strongest, bravest people around. 
    The police officers, firefighters, and strangers alike 
    Risked and gave their lives right after these horrific strikes.

    Out of the darkness that fell on that day
    Rose a new America...different in so many ways. 
    The world came together in comfort and peace 
    To help those who suffered greatly and were stricken with grief.

    Neighbors helped neighbors, and we all did our part 
    To keep the faith and try to make a new start. 
    Where we cared more about others and gave what we could 
    To make the world a better by doing some good.

    America’s pride came through loud and clear 
    With flags flying proudly on homes far and near. 
    Out of darkness, there comes light. 
    Out of fear, there comes the strength to fight.

    Out of the sadness, there comes hope each new day. 
    That America and the world will live in peace in some way.
    No matter how much time passes, this will be a day we remember
    Never forget...the 11th of September.

    Today and forever we honor the heroes and victims of 9/11...
    Respectfully written by Suzanne Galvin, third grade teacher, Boyden School

    RESOURCES:  An article that gives tips on speaking with kids about 9/11 More strategies for talking and listening to children about this topic and other news stories.
       Scholastic Young people share their experiences of 9/11
       Brain Pop Video:  Explores the topic of 9/11 - Children should watch this with an adult.

    "Where Were You When the World Stop Turning" was written by Alan Jackson and shared with me shortly after 9/11 by my colleague Michelle.  Each time I hear it I am reminded of that tragic day and I will never forget the bravery and sacrifice made by so many.


    Do you remember "Where YOU Were When the World Stopped Turning?"

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Book Bins and New Beginnings

    Book bins with each child's name and books to start the year.
    Who knew some plastic bins from the Dollar Store could bring such joy? Okay, they are colorful plastic bins.  But that's not why they brought such joy. 

    During the summer I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and The Daily5 and the Cafe Book by sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  These books became my inspiration and guides to how I will approach reading with my students this year.

    Following the authors' suggestions students will select their own reading books which will then be used to practice the skills and strategies being taught - true differentiation! 

    The Two Sisters suggested using Book bins for each student.  I hemmed and hawed about what to use and in the end (due to financial constraints) I chose some colorful, plastic bins from the Dollar Store. (I'm hoping they will hold up!)

    Since Tropical Storm Irene blew into town and gave the students in my district a delayed school opening, I thought I would capitalize on the moment to fill each book bin with several books. 

    Using my class list I selected books from my library that I thought might appeal to my new students.  Each box was then filled with books of different genres with the hope of tapping into some of their interests.  A bookmark was also added for extra measure!

    What happened next was something unexpected.  I started humming. (Okay, not that unexpected if you know me.)  With a spring in my step I started bounding from the bookshelf to the book bin.   My pulse quickened and my heart twittered. I felt light and hopeful.  I realized it was the feeling of pure JOY!

    When I had filled all 27 bins I stood back and admired my handiwork.  I began to wonder.  Would my students like the books? The bins?  Would they experience the joy in a similar way? Would they be excited when they could add books for themselves?  Would they enjoy reading this year?

    I think I will always remember the excitement and joy I felt at the thought of this new school year.  Not just a new year, with new students, but a new beginning with renewed commitment to helping students find the JOY in reading!

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Hurricane Information for Kids

    As Hurricane Irene is making her way down the East Coast, many people are preparing for a serious storm.  While there are those excited by the prospect of high winds and torrential rain, others, like elementary students, may be nervous and confused about what to expect.  As always, providing information may alleviate their fears.

    NASA Science Files for Kids: An interactive site that describes Hurricane Structure, Formation and Movement. 

    Saffir-Simpson Scale: This NASA site explains the rating scale used for hurricanes.  Hurricanes are rated on a scale of 1-5.  A category 1 hurricane is less intense than a category 5.

    Hurricane Names: Learn how hurricanes are named and find a list of names that have been or will be used.   Is your name here?


    Discovery Channel Video:  This video explains how hurricanes form and describes some of the damage caused by them.

    Hurricane Minute: A series of video clips from the Weather Channel Kids that are each one minute in length.  The content is more suitable for older children.

    KidsKnowIt Network: This short video pairs animation with words to explain how hurricanes work. (Although there are ads on the side of the site this might work for younger students).

    Video Explaining How Hurricanes Work and How they Get their Name
             (Two commercials are embedded in this video)


    Family Education:  This site gives clear directions on how to prepare for a hurricane. This is more for parents to use with their children.

    Ready America: This site is also for use with your children.

    FEMA: A site that helps kids plan a 'disaster kit' and family 'disaster plan' and more.


    The Weather Channel Kids Look up the weather in your location using your zip code, play weather related games and more.  This site offers all kinds of different resources for kids and teachers.

    FEMA for Kids:  This site has information on hurricanes and other disasters.  It has pages to show how to prepare for emergencies, how to protect your home and pets and more.

    Weather Wiz for Kids Learn all about the wonderful world of weather through this site designed especially for kids (teacher & parent resources as well.)

    Kidstorm:  Provides links and information about storms. For kids, parents & teachers.

    Weather Coloring Books: This site has coloring books in PDF form to help kids understand severe weather.   (Should probably be used with parent as there is a lot of information.)     

    National Weather Service: Here you will find the National Hurricane Center with all kinds of information. 
    StormPulse:  Track Atlantic & Pacific Hurricanes, other storms and more.

    Hurricane Resources:  A collection of sites compiled by @Cybraryman1

    Putting the power in kids' hands by helping them learn about natural phenomena like hurricanes will hopefully ease their fears through understanding and at the same time create interest an interest in their world.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Citizenship Starts Early

    At the start of each new school year my students are introduced to a lesson in Citizenship.  This lesson will lay the groundwork as we work together to establish rules in our classroom. 

    made with Doodlebuddy
    Here are some definitions which help students understand this often-confusing term.  The highlighted definition will be the focus of instruction this year.

    "Citizenship" as defined by  
     noun:  1. the state of being vested with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen.
                2. the character of an individual viewed as a member by society; behavior in terms of the duties, obligations and functions of a citizen.

    Students will be introduced (via a Smartboard Notebook lesson) to the following 5 categories that help define citizenship; Respect, Fairness, Caring, Responsibility,  and Honesty (categories based on information provided by the Scott Foresman Social Studies, 'Regions' text.)

    While there are numerous resources available to teach character education/citizenship in our classrooms (see below),  my GOAL this year is to take that lesson further than the classroom and expand it to our community in an effort to show what a difference good citizenship makes.  In this instance, there is no better way to learn than by doing!  It has been my experience that children love to help and be a part of something bigger.  (See my post about The Generation Changing the World for an example.)

    I'm looking for your suggestions, ideas and resources about how to incorporate Respect, Fairness, Caring, Responsibility, and Honesty with my pupils in relation to the general public.  What do you think would be an activity that would be beneficial to both?  Please share via the Answer Garden at the bottom of this post or in the comment section!  Thank you!

    Good Character:  A great resource for guiding questions and activities on all of the above areas and more.  It is broken into categories such as K-3; 4-8; K-5 (offers some pages in Spanish).

    Respect Song via Youtube: (see below)

    The Six Pillars of Character:  A youtube video, mostly text and music, sharing ideas about Citizenship (geared for older children).

    Inspirational Quotes:  These quotes for Character Education by Leah Davies, M.Ed., can be used in a variety of ways.

    Children's Book List:  compiled by Lane Public Library for the Hamilton Schools,  and categorized by age: K-6; Middle School; High School then further broken into categories (respect; responsibility, etc.)

    Characters of Character Online Games: Play games with Warm-Hearted Walrus, Manners Monkey & other friends to learn about Character Education. Although the characters look young they have lots of big concepts to share. Read this review!

    Citizen Power: An interactive website that provides information about basic citizenship.  Although this is a UK site there are other features that are appropriate for children everywhere.

    I look forward to learning new ways and ideas on expanding Citizenship beyond the classroom walls.

    How can I involve my students to help in their community?... at

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Social Media for Educators/Forty Years Later

    There are all kinds of opinions out there about using Social Media with your students.  The Case for Social Media in Schools is one example by someone who has outlined very valid reasons to use sites like Facebook, Edmodo & Edublogs in the classroom.  Here is a post about the recent Missouri Facebook Law which "limits teacher-student interaction online".     

    My post really doesn't address the above thoughts except that it IS about teachers and students interacting online via Facebook!

    Back in the beginning of July I received a Facebook invite from one of my 6th grade teachers...okay, well, one of my former sixth grade teachers.  He and another one of my former 6th grade teachers, decided to start a Facebook group for those who belonged to our little neighborhood school from the years between 1971 - 1981 (I'm sure I'm dating myself NOW!).

    Little by little the group started growing.  In just a short month over 180 now adult, former students (and teachers) of the Fisher School joined the group. Posting after postings are filled will all kinds of memories and memorabilia (photos, newspaper articles, pics of buttons and more).  One might think that this was just a group 'going down memory lane', but it is far more than that.  Here, on Facebook, is where a group of people (in their 40's & 50's) have found a way to let some very special educators know the important role they played in their lives.  

    This is a group of extraordinary teachers who have not forgotten their students, who have kept in contact with a few people, sporadically over the years.  They have been invited to weddings, attended the funerals of our classmates and even seen some of us at retirement dinners.   I guess the point here is: I  think the use of social media (in this case Facebook),  has provided an outlet for many more of us to thank those who made a difference in our lives. 


    Imagine...Tom Monaghan, Suzanne Gillam, Ellie Muldoon  and the other teachers in this group might never have known the impact they had in our lives were it not for the likes of Facebook!

    Henry Adams once said,  "A teacher affects eternity he can never tell, where his influence stops." I'm thinking in this case, by using social media the influence doesn't have to stop!


    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Slide into Summer Fun & Learning (Part 3 Math Games)

    It hasn't happened in so long that we were all caught off guard.  It must have happened because of the extreme heat we have been having.  Just when we were getting ready to sit down and watch our favorite shows - the lights went out!  No television or internet! What's a child to do? 

    What's a child to do?  Why, hone up on their math skills with some fun and easy games of course! Just like we did!  Playing board games or games on the computer will help keep math skills from sliding during the summer.  Here are some family favorites!

    Yahtzee.  My daughter, her girlfriend and I played this game of strategy and probability that involves addition.  It was especially fun as we played by candlelight with lots of chatting and laughter.  Meanwhile, the girls, who are teenagers were practicing their basic math operations.  (For those who like playing games online there is a Yahtzee Online Version. Just make sure to turn off chat feature.)

    Monopoly:  This classic board game is a sure hit with the family as they wait to see who has the most money at the end.  For older children it is a great review of counting money and you can even work on the skill of counting back change!  There is an online version by Hasbro for younger kids with a 'Lightning McQeen, Cars' theme and smaller values.  

    Tower Blaster Online Game
    Mancala, the ancient game with stones is a great way to practice counting and strategy.  For those who love online games try this online Mancala version or these other Math & Logic Games .   

    Racko: I LOVE this game as it reminds me of my childhood. However, I use it in my classroom during math centers.  The player to put their cards in order first, wins. Click on the Racko link above to learn the rules.  An online version of this game is called "Tower Blaster".

    For those computer lovers, here's a page full of fun math games is Johnnie's Math Fun.  There are all kinds of logic, puzzle and other type number games.  The logic games are even good for adults.

    Revisit the games of your own childhood and you will likely find many connections to mathematics. Playing them with your child will surely bring about fond memories for all of you! 

    Enjoy these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer while they last (and have some fun connecting with your kids while practicing math!).  Let me know what games you'll be playing in the comment section!

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Slide Into Summer Fun & Learning (Part 2)

    My neighbor is always teasing me this time of year.  "So, you're finally off for the summer! Rough job you have!"  We'll, summer has arrived, and while it's true that I am not going into my classroom everyday it doesn't mean I'm not working. To avoid the "summer slide," I look to keep my teaching skills current by working 'away' from the classroom.  

    For the past two summers, I was completing my Master's program through Simmons College. As I consider myself a lifelong learner,  I have decided this year to find other methods to help me become a better teacher.

    Here are some of the ways that I am working this summer:

    *Tweeting through Twitter:  I am continuing my professional development by participating in Twitter Chats.  A Twitter Chat is a group of people meeting at a specific time on Twitter for a specific purpose.  On Mondays, I am involved with a group of (mostly) 4th grade teachers for #4thchat. We have discussed such topics as: Writing Conferencing, Editing, Homework and much more.  On Tuesdays I participate in #5thchat and on Thursdays #6thchat.  By participating with these groups I have extended my professional development.
    My Tweetdeck showing #4thchat & #elemchat conversations.

    *Blogging: I continue to keep this blog updated.  I am currently working on a "Slide into Summer Series" as a guide for parents to help their child keep up their skills.  Writing a blog often involves some type of research which also allows me to keep up my skills as well.  Not only will I continue to write my blogs, but I will continue to read the many educational blogs to which I subscribe.  In this way I will learn from my peers.

    *Attending Conferences or "Unconferences": This year I have decided to be involved in some Unconferences. Read here to learn about such events and How to Prepare for it.  At the end of July I plan on attending an online Conference called: RSCON11.  Educators from all over the globe will be presenting to educators from all over the globe for free thereby, sharing their expertise with those trying to learn new skills.

    In August I plan on attending EdcampCT.  This unconference will take place in Connecticut in the United States.  Again, it is free, presented by educators for educators.  Anticipating that I will be learning a great deal over the next two months.

    *Reading Books for Professional Development: After listening to some great educators on Twitter (especially @mrsd5107) speak about the Daily5 and Daily CAFE, I decided I would acquire the book to learn more.  The Daily CAFE, which was designed by Gail Boushey & Joan Mosher, is a way of "helping students understand and master strategies used by successful readers."

    Another book I have just recently purchased is "The Book Whisperer", by 6th grade teacher, Donalyn Miller.  It came highly recommended by many of my Twitter friends.  I am hoping that it will provide more strategies that will help "awaken the inner reader in every child" in my classroom!

    It is important for students and teachers, to continue their learning during the summer hiatus to avoid the 'summer slide'.  Of course, having fun and coffee is also allowed!

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Slide into Summer Fun & Learning (Part 1)

    Summer vacation is here and already I'm hearing, "Mom, I'm bored, what can I do?"  In my daughter's defense it has been raining since school let out a few days ago.  Of course I suggested she start her summer reading project but was met with a huge "UGG!!"

    As a teacher (and mom) I know it is important to keep those skills current and avoid the 'summer slide'

    Many school systems have required reading and even math packets for students to complete during the summer break.  I'm going out on a limb by saying that although we want to keep our students' skills honed I'm not sure REQUIRED reading and math packets will do the trick.  It has always been a struggle to get my own kids to complete their summer reading.  We would be vacationing on Cape Cod that last week in August and I'd be hounding them to read their book.  Now, tell me how that instills the love of reading or promotes the retention of skills?

    So what is the answer?  How can we get our children (or students) to keep learning during the summer?

    There are no sure-fire fixes. However, a few suggestions to help keep the kids engaged in summer reading include: finding audio books, participate in summer reading challenges or read with family members.

    Audio Books:  Find stories that can be plopped onto their iPods or MP3 players.  They can listen to a book while riding in the car or while falling asleep.  Pair the audio with the book and it's even better.  Some places offer the books for free! See a sampling below:

    87 Places for Free Audio Books OnLine - offers links to sites that legally offer free audio books.

    LibriVox - provides free books in the public domain   

    Learn Out Loud - highlights 50 of the top free audio books

    Summer Reading Challenges:  Many local libraries promote summer reading challenges.  While this is not effective for all children, some really enjoy a challenge.  Check out these two challenges:

    SCHOLASTIC SUMMER CHALLENGE - students log their summer reading minutes and enter a sweepstakes (free and no email is necessary).

    BARNES & NOBLEKids read 8 books, record them in a downloadable journal and receive a free book off a list from Barnes & Noble.

    PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge: A six week program to help kids discover the joys of reading.  Sign up for receive Emails with tips provided to guide you and your child.

    Read Along with your child:  It might be helpful if you read the same book as your child.  Take turns reading it aloud together.  Make it a family event!  You will model reading and most likely have conversations around the same book. You can even try some of these Pre-Reading Strategies with your child!

    I wish there were some "magic" that would help get children to LOVE to read!  Since there isn't, we sometimes have to find creative ways in which to share the joy of reading with our children.  Whether it is through a magazine, blog, graphic novel,  poetry or museum plaque, we need to engage our children and help motivate them to read!

    Please share your ideas on how to promote reading in the comment section!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Skype in the Classroom...For Real!

    "Are we skyping today?

    "Can we skype this afternoon?"

    These are the questions my eager 4th graders ask each day.  You see, they are getting quite comfortable using this web 2.0 tool.  

    Over the past several months we have connected with students in Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, a local meteorologist and even the classroom down the hallway.  

    If you look up the word "Skype" or "skyping" in the dictionary, you will not find it.  However, it has become one of those 'new' verbs that have been identified with the 21st century (like "google it" and "text me").  Skype has taken the pen pal idea and made it into 'instant pals!"

    Skype was founded in 2003, but has recently begun to make its way into our classrooms.  Using Skype one can video-conference with another user (for free). 

    This year Social Studies has come to life via Skype.  Kim Powell, a fourth grade teacher whom I met via Twitter,  asked if I was interested in doing a Mystery STATE Skype with her classroom.  Check out her Glog here!

    The students researched clues that would help identify our state to help the other students guess our location.  Students took turns sharing clues about bordering states, bodies of water, climate, geography, resources, famous people, animals and more. After that we started 'skyping' other classrooms of teachers I connected with through Twitter.  It was a hit!

    Along with using a Social Studies book the students were learning first hand about different states, schools and more.  It became the highlight of our days! 

    It has opened up doors and windows for my students that they would have been only able to 'read' about. 

    For days after our skype calls the kids would be abuzz about what they had learned from each mystery class.  Many students researched the Mystery State further (without being prompted!).  

    Skype in the Classroom is a site that allows teachers to connect.  You can collaborate or post project suggestions.  It's a great way to get started.  

    Fourth Grade teachers may sign up for Mystery Skype through our #4thchat Wiki.

    Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (Langwitches) created this Assessment tool to use with skype.  As she says in her blog, "A skype call is a learning call".  The forms which she has designed allows students to prepare for the call and then share what has been learned. 

    Check out this Family Feud between 2 classrooms using Skype!

    Skype Feud from Kelly Moore on Vimeo.

    Would love to Skype with other classrooms next year...math, science, ELA, the possibilities are endless.  Please contact me if you are interested!    I can't wait to start early!!!

    How have you used Skype in the classroom - Share below!