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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Helping Kids Cope with Connecticut Shooting all across the world are in mourning for those children and adults who were brutally shot on Friday, December 14th at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The horrific tragedy is incomprehensible for us as adults, but for school children around the globe who have seen or heard about it, the news may be frightening.  Children may have seen the reports on the news or heard about it through hushed tones as adults speak to one another while trying to make sense.  The thought that their beloved school might not be safe could cause fear, anxiety or confusion or other emotions.

How should teachers and parents help our children cope?  Students will most likely bring up the subject on Monday.  My 10 year olds will no doubt have questions or comments which they will not be afraid to voice.  I might ask the students what they know before discussing anything.  I will reassure them about the safeguards we have in place in our school.  Speaking to them openly but cautiously is suggested by the Sidran Institute.  Check out their suggestions and tips for helping to manage children's fears.  It might also be a good idea to minimize the media coverage at this time.   Children do not need daily reminders about the event.

Other resources that may help:
There is no right or wrong way to deal with such an event. However, the emotional well-being of our students and children is a priority.  Taking our cues from them by finding out what they know, want to know and need to know will help us proceed.  Often times kids just want reassurance and don't need details.  So finding out what they know will help drive the conversation, which may help us avoid sharing too much information.

On a a side note: my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy and I applaud the efforts of the teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School for their bravery and dedication.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Skype in the Classroom - Sometimes it IS about the Tool!

Being home sick is no longer an excuse to miss school!  Well, okay, it really is.  However, it doesn't mean you have to totally miss out with what is going on in your classroom.  With the right tool you can attend school even from home!

Student skyping from iPad while Ranger Skypes Class
Today, the fourth grade classes at our school participated in a skype call with Yellowstone National Park Ranger, Beth Taylor.  This pre-arranged call coincided with our study of another national park, Yosemite through the story, Letters Home from Yosemite, by Lisa Halvorsen.

For weeks the anticipation of speaking to a real park ranger had been building.  One of my students, a nature and animal lover, asked me almost daily if 'today was the day'.  Well, today was the day, and as it turned out the nature and animal lover was unable to attend school due to an illness.

Her genuine disappointment was evident through her mother's email as she shared her daughter's absence.  This program was something I knew this young lady would love.  So, I contacted her mom and suggested she procure a skype account so that we could skype her daughter at the same time we would be skyping with Ranger Taylor.  (We used two different skype accounts.)

As soon as my colleague received the call from the park ranger, I quickly skyped my student using an iPad.  She answered the call and was ready to go.  I placed the iPad near the laptop that was being used to communicate with the ranger.  Now as all the other students were watching the call projected on the screen at the front of the room, my absent student watched from inside her home. Talk about a front row seat!

Sometimes it is the tool!  Watching the excitement on my pupil's face when she first saw the Ranger was priceless.  (Watching the excitement on the 70+ others in the room was also priceless.)  Without Skype accessing this primary source would not have been available to her.   Just think of a child who is at home for one reason or another.  How could Skype be used to include that student in your daily lessons.  This really is one tool that can be used in so many ways to enhance learning! 

How have you used Skype to enhance the learning of your students?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Liebster Award - Times 2

Last year around this time I was nominated in one of the Edublog Award categories. Although I was a bit disappointed that I was not nominated this year, I was surprised and honored to find that two separate educators selected my blog for the Liebster Award!  The Liebster Award is given by other bloggers to a blogger who has less than 200 followers.  In this way, their blogs will be shared.  Thank you to Stacy at What's New in Room 202 and to Dana at Live Learn Teach for Life!

The rules for the Liebster are as follows:

1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. You must answer the questions that the nominator set for you. 
3. You must create 11 new questions for the people you nominate.
4. You must choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post. 
5. No tag backs to the blog that nominated you, but do leave a comment on their post with the URL of your Liebster post.

Random Things About Me:
  1. Have held only 3 jobs in my whole life! (A store clerk, an insurance assistant & teacher :))
  2. When I visit my folks we always enjoy a cup of hot tea!
  3. Before Thanksgiving I always dress up like a Pilgrim woman at school.
  4. Went skydiving twice (both on the same day)!
  5. My favorite car was my 1972 Chevy Monte Carlo!
  6. Love the smell of my sheets after they have been hanging on the clothes line.
  7. Will someday apply to be the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail!
  8. Pizza is my favorite food - especially Papa Gino's!
  9. Sunday nights I "Hang Out" with several other educators from around the US.
  10. I love musicals!
  11. My favorite thing in the world is spending time with my family!    
Questions from Stacy:
1.  Why did you start blogging? Was introduced to it in Grad School & found it interesting - then took the Edublogs 30 Day Challenge (glad I did too!)
2. How long have you been blogging? Since December 2010
3. What's your favorite post that you've written? No School - All Schools!
4. Any pets? 2 Cats - Striker & SeeSaw
5. Favorite vacation spots? Lake Winnipesauki & Cape Cod
6. Favorite TV show? Modern Family
7. Fears? Small Enclosed Places; Dentist chair
8. Celebrity you resemble most? Ingrid Bergman
9. Favorite quote?A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops. Henry B. Adams
10. Wine or beer? Beer
11. Thoughts on country music? I like it! 

Questions from Dana:
  1. National or International traveler? National
  2. main course or dessert? Main Course
  3. What is the best compliment you've gotten from a student or parent? I became a teacher because of you!
  4. What is your favorite technology to use in the classroom? I love using Skype with my students
  5. ocean or river? Both-but I spend more time on the river!
  6. Apple or PC? Apple all the way!
  7. What is your favorite first day of school activity? Find a Friend Who....
  8. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Carrot Cake
  9. If you could travel anywhere where would you go? Alaska
  10. Favorite quote? A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops. Henry B. Adams
  11. beach or mountains? Mountains
Questions to MY nominees:
  1. Favorite Book?
  2. What is your earliest memory?
  3. Favorite Sound?
  4. Book or eReader?
  5. Last movie you saw at the theater?
  6. If you weren't in education - what would you do?
  7. Can you speak another language? If so, which one?
  8. Favorite subject to teach?
  9. Sports team you like to watch?
  10. A favorite lesson to teach?
  11. Would you rather receive an email or letter in the mail?
Finally, my 11 nominees are:
  1. Mrs. White's Class
  2. Conversations Learning & Growing  
  3. The Connected Teacher
  4. Dare to Care
  5. Chalk & Slate
  6. Math is Elementary 
  7. The Sensibly Savy Teacher
  8. Wired for Technology
  9. wwwatanabe
  10. Sing to Learn
  11. Creation Castle

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Shared" Field Trip Using Edmodo!

While on Twitter one evening I mentioned to a fellow fourth grade teacher that my class was traveling to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA  to learn more about the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. 

She tweeted back:  “Jealous!” 

As she is located in Indiana it made me sad to think that she and her class would never, in all likelihood, get to experience this amazing ‘living’ museum, and that’s when my “Shared Field Trip” using Edmodo was born!  

As I’m a new Edmodo user I have been looking for ways to seamlessly incorporate it into my daily lessons.  Being able to connect and collaborate on projects with classrooms around the globe makes this a valuable real world tool.  Knowing that many of my Twitter PLN also use Edmodo made me think that this would be an effective way to share our trip.

How it worked:
·      Created an Edmodo Group and Tweeted the request to join” URL a day or two before the trip
·      Students/Classes joined the Plimoth Plantation Field Trip Group
·      Links to set prior knowledge were shared to the Group
·      Groups brainstormed and asked questions about Pilgrims/Wampanoags
·      2 iPads were utilized on the field trip to retrieve/respond to the groups’ inquiries
·      Further responses were made upon our return to our classroom.

Helpful Hints:
Screen Shot of Edmodo Page
·      Group code or “request to join” URL Code should be sent out well in advance (a week or more)
·      Questions should be made known before leaving for the trip
·      Upload Video & audio links from the trip
·      Decide ahead if it “shared field trip” will be in ‘real time’
·      Check for Wifi connections before arrival
·      Try to use more than one device

·      Motivating for students
·      Makes trip even more interactive
·      Gives students greater purpose
·      Many students/groups benefit from shared knowledge
·      Connecting and Collaborating Globally

Truly my students were more motivated knowing their counterparts in the Group wanted information.  It became important for them to inquire for the ‘group’ as they realized this was a way to help the students in the far away classes.   Each one of my students wanted to be able to respond and be a part of the learning.   I heard from the other teachers in the group that their students were just as excited to receive answers from us, thereby extending the learning for all.  

In May we will be going to the Museum of Fine Arts and I know Edmodo will be right there with us! 


Cybraryman: Thanksgiving Page


Monday, November 5, 2012

Mock Presidential Election

Every four years the students at our school are treated to a Mock Presidential Election.  This year the Fourth Graders were in charge of "manning the polls".  

 In preparation of the day, students created Obama/Romney posters that were to adorn the walls of the school or to be held by the campaigners during voting hours.   
Students at the "check in" table were given class lists and conducted the check in just like it would be done  an actual election. Instead of "Street Name", the poll worker asked "Teacher's Name", then Student Name.   The child's name was crossed off the voting list. 
Checking In

Next, voters were handed a ballot and then directed to the polling booths (desks with privacy screens).  
Voting in the Booth

After choosing their candidate, the voter proceeded to the "check out" station. 
Checking Out
The most exciting moment came when the ballots were entered into the antique ballot box, which was actually used for the town's Precinct 6 many, many years ago.  As each ballot was entered, poll workers cranked the handle.  As the ballot dropped into the box a  distinctive "ding" alerted all that the ballot was officially entered!  
Ballot being Counted!
At the end of the day, Poll workers tabulated the results.  A total of 458 students and staff participated in today's event.  

The final results announced at the end of the day:
264 votes for President Barak Obama and 
221 votes for Mitt Romney    
Our results were then added to the KidVote Result Google DocSchools from all 50 states are sending in their class/school results. We will review the information at the end of the week to compare our class/school with the rest of the United States. 

This 'election' experience has given the students a better understanding of events that take place at the this special time of the year.  Hoping that this experience will remain with them not only for the next four years but for many years to come!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Visit from German Exchange Students

An opportunity that couldn't be passed up presented itself this morning.  It seems that our local high school is hosting three exchange students from Germany who happened to be visiting our elementary school this morning.  They were good enough to come to our classroom and spend some time with us.

When they entered our classroom we were preparing for our Mystery Skype call. They sat right down with the to help and guide the students as they worked to guess the state.  (Kansas has now been added to our growing list of Mystery States!).

Towards the end of the day the three visiting students, Daniel, Maren & Esther, returned to Room 310.  They were given a list of color, number, food and sport words and asked to teach the students the German translation.  All of the students Americans and Germans enjoyed the experience.  It was an engaging and heartwarming activity.

The fourth graders were so interested and curious about what life is like in Germany.  The high school students in turn were patient and thoughtful with their answers. Esther shared with her group that today just happens to be German Reunification Day (which is like our Independence Day). She explained about the Berlin Wall and how it was removed. 

This type of learning doesn't happen everyday and so when an occasion such as this arises we need to capitalize on it.  All of these kids will remember this day for many years to come! So happy to be a part of this Global learning!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Teachable Moment - Ashrita Furman, Record Breaker

Grab your pogo stick and hop your way right into the Guinness Book of Records! That's what I think my students will be doing after our lesson on MAIN IDEA and supporting details. 

The worksheet being used to review the skill had information about a gentleman who climbed up and down Mt. Fuji on his pogo stick.  Imagine the stamina and strength it would take to accomplish this feat! As the students continued reading they became fascinated by Ashrita Furman, the man who holds over a hundred other records in the Guinness Book of Records.

The students started asking lots of great questions.  Why did he decide to break the records?  How many records did he break? Where is he from?  Why did climbing Mt. Fuji on a pogo stick bring inner peace? (the paragraph mentioned it brought Ashrita inner peace)  What is inner peace?  Is he still alive?

Not realizing the interest this would spark, we decided to take a few moments to research this unusual record-breaker.  His website, which you can reach it by clicking HERE, has all kind of fun and amazing information.  It also includes the video below:

Students each wrote a letter to Ashrita in their writing journal.  They asked their questions about his records while also telling him about the records they would like break.  One student wants to be the first to eat the most gummy bears in 5 minutes while another wants to pass a football non-stop and still another wants to write continuously in cursive. We have contacted Ashrita through his website and hope to hear back from him!

One never knows where the learning will take us.  The key is to take those teachable moments and follow where it leads!

Advice on "How to get started" by Ashrita Furman himself can be found on this page of his website: How to Get in the Guinness Book.

Please share in the comment section the record you would like to break!  

top photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Place Value Games in Math

"2 or 20?" asks the teacher? "Twenty, twenty...twenty," whispered the students on team B. Students in the class of a second grade teacher were totally engaged playing a math game (seen in the second part of the video below). As a way to get my students thinking about "Place Value", I decided to try this with my class at the beginning of school . So we played "101 and Out" with the whole class a couple of times. Getting the hang of it quickly, the students were able to play against a partner. Here is the video from Teaching Channel if you'd like to see how it works:

At first I thought the game might be too baby-ish for fourth graders. It was just right to start the year. Soon they will play a variation called "1001 and Out". Just changing the rules a bit to suit the higher place value needs.

"High Number Toss" was the next game we played to help students with reading, writing and comparing larger numbers (into the millions). (This is an EVERYDAY Mathematics game.) It is a bit more complicated as it requires students to correctly insert commas to help them identify the numbers.

The students loved this game because they wanted to see who could create the largest number. I loved this game because it afforded me the opportunity for formative assessment. This game also has a DECIMAL version.

Finally, Who doesn't love a good Jeopardy Game? I know my students have always loved playing (especially when I take out some teacher bells for them to 'ring' in). This online version from Super Teacher Tools is a great for "Place Value Review". You can play with up to 10 Teams (or just one). Click on the picture below to play the game.

Introducing a few new games at a time is a great way to keep students engaged and learning. Please feel free to share any place value games that work in your classroom!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Connected Educator - In Appreciation

I embarked on this journey
Early January of 2010
And I can't tell you what
A life changer it's been!

Educators were challenged
To start a blogging task
Was I ready for this? Could I commit?
Are some of the questions I asked.

Then I sent out a note
"What if I fail?" I really said it aloud
Then right away came a response
From a most amazing crowd!

"Try it for now...
There's no pressure you'll see"
That's how the Edubloggers
Thoroughly encouraged me!

I took their advice, their tips and suggestions
Then started to plan and started to write
Lo and behold Teaching is Elementary
Was born late that same night!

My very own blog
I was pleased and so thrilled.
Yet the thoughts remained
Did I have enough skill?

But as I continued
There was a new challenge to connect
With our novice fellow bloggers
Which left me feeling not sure what to expect.

But this is what happened
I tell you, it's true
My online friends and colleagues
Went to many from few!

Comments were left on his blog and hers
Good 'netiquette' had us respond
Conversations were started
In the process, a bond!

With many of those folks
I remain friendly to this day
We joined educators on Twitter
And we're here to stay!

We share our craft and our ideas
To make learning the best
Our students are the recipients
Of their teachers' quest

Being connected to one another
Means the world to us all
For expanding our knowledge
Surely flattens the classroom walls.

So if you think you might try it
Don't be afraid, just do
As you'll be surprised by the benefits
To your students and you!

A special thank you to:
  • Karen Janowski for putting the idea of blogging in my brain during a course at Simmons College
  • Cheryl Farley for inviting me to be a part of the Kick Start Your Blog Teacher Challenge
  • Sue Waters, Edublogger, and her partners who created the challenge. They created more than a challenge - it has become a wonderful family of people sharing and continuing conversations!
  • My #4thchat, #elemsci and Twitter PLN - so many wonderful people. I appreciate all your knowledge, kindness, openness and wisdom! You're the best!
My post: Bloggin' Kickin' Dreamin' explains further why I decided to try!

Hope you will too! Here is some advice to new bloggers from my PLN!

top photo credit: Jerrycharlotte via photo pin cc

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Schoolmares! Teachers are Nervous Too!

Last night I had my first "Schoolmare" of the season. Usually in late August before the start of school I begin having night mares about school, hence my term "schoolmare". Last night the dream was about going into my school to prepare my classroom. When I arrived in my room there was a mess everywhere. My desk was piled high with dust. After leaving my room I met my principal near his office. He shook hands with me and wouldn't let go until I sat down.

When I sat down he started telling me the 'new' rules, and how we couldn't possibly participate in the National Geographic Geography Bee because there could be no time spent on anything other than book learning. I of course flew out of the room upset and bumped into one of the bright, young, cheerful teachers with whom I work. She was wearing this cute little tie die sundress with a skinny yellow belt and was trying to console me.

I awoke with a start and realized three things:
1. The bright young teacher moved out of state last year & would NEVER wear tie die....
2. The principal in my dreams was older & our principal is quite YOUNG!
3. These SCHOOLMARES are starting earlier and earlier .

Usually my Schoolmares happen during the last week in August, but

I'm thinking they started earlier this year because we are getting a new principal. As exciting as this is I'm a teensy bit nervous. Much like I imagine the students might feel who are coming to me this year. So thinking along those lines I know I will do everything I can to make my new students feel comfortable. So too, I envision my new principal will do for his staff.

Just so you know....Teachers are nervous too! And not just because they are getting a new principal. Here are some reasons I get butterflies in my stomach when school starts:
  • I'm nervous the kids will be nervous.
  • I'm worried I haven't gotten everything ready - my room, student name pieces, work plans, etc.
  • I'm thinking about ALL the things that need to be accomplished (instead of breaking items into smaller more manageable chunks).
  • I'm hoping that the kids will like being in fourth grade, and that I'll be able to expose them to many wonderful learning experiences.
  • I'm trepidatious because I know families entrust their 'gold' to me, and I want to make sure they are treated respectfully and with kindness.
Often times the students come to school with mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement. They know that starting a new year brings different challenges. Usually after day one those feelings abate. These are some of the activities I will incorporate to help alleviate my students feel at ease.
  • Getting to know one another - we will be doing all kinds of activities to get to know one another. I take time on the first day of school playing a name game so students and teacher learn each others names. We will learn about little facts about each other through a scavenger hunt. There will be more "getting to know you" activities throughout the week.
  • Getting to know the classroom and school - Students will spend time doing a scavenger hunt around the room (and school)to become familiar with the layout. They will look for the class schedule, the pencil sharpener, their names in several places, the homework basket, the important paper file, the math manipulatives etc. Students will work together to create class rules and learn about Citizenship.
  • Read Aloud - I usually read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, but this year I may want to read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg which is about a teacher who is nervous and read Chrysanthemum on the second day. These will be used to introduce my Daily 5 reading mini-lessons. Yes, we start on the first day of school!
  • Modeling and Practicing Routines: Establishing routines through modeling and practice gives the students a sense of structure which makes them feel safe and sets the tone for the year. These will occur during the above activities as well as others during the day.
  • Start Learning Right Away: We will begin our lessons right away. The students will see that our class is a place of constant learning (which again sets the tone for the year).
My 'schoolmares' may not be over, but once I step foot in that classroom my attention and energy will be directed towards making my students feel comfortable which will re-direct my own anxious feelings. The first day of school is a new start for everyone!
First Day of School Resources:
Busy Bee Activity Page: This page contains activities and ideas for the first day and weeks of school.
I Love That Teaching Idea: Several activities to help with the start of school.
Lesson Plan Page: Back to school tips, lesson plans and resources (with grade levels)
AtoZTeacherStuff: A list of 33 sites that provide links to resources for the beginning of the school year.

top photo credit: bitzcelt via photo pin cc

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Blog Design!

For some time now I have been thinking about creating a new look for "Teaching is Elementary". Many of the teaching blogs I follow have cute designs and smashing colors. Still, I wasn't sure all those 'cutesy' designs were for me.

But one day I visited two of my favorite blogs, The Teaching Thief and Shepherd's Shining Stars, and noticed they each had a blog makeover. One has a cute little raccoon mascot and the other has stars! I noticed they both shared the same blog designer so I quickly decided to check her out at Designs by Christi and contacted her.

Old Design

New Design

Christi quickly answered my email and the process began. First, she sent me a questionnaire asking about color, font, theme and other preferences. Then she quickly assesses and sends some graphics for you to choose and then the backgrounds. Soon after, you approve the initial design and there is time for some final tweaking. Within a week I had a new design.

I just love everything from the little detectives on my banner to the cap on my signature! The colors are just right!

If you are looking for a blog makeover I strongly suggest contacting Christi - she is prompt, accommodating and talented (as you can see!).

Question for you: Can you guess why the Little Detectives are on Teaching is Elementary? Please leave me your thoughts in the comment section!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Citizen Scientist - It Could Be Your Student!

This tweet from @mbfxc the other day caught my attention for 3 reasons:
  • It was sent by my twitter friend
  • I know she and her son are spending the summer exploring
  • I just love Jerry Pallotta, author of the Icky Bug Book and More!

So I clicked on the link and it took me to The Explorers Site, which Marialice created with her son, to keep track of their adventures. The post with amazing photos and a video about lobstering with Jerry is great, and I couldn't help but think of the wonderful summer Marialice and her son were having by making 'exploring' together a priority. Memories that will last a lifetime!

Then shortly thereafter, this tweet came into my feed from @dandanscienc

The word "Project" caught my attention (as it often does!). So I clicked on the link and discovered a wonderful blog called SciStarter, which had 10 amazing summer activities in which to participate. They included counting moths in your area, observing jellyfish, volunteering in parks and observing cloud types. I thought for a moment and sent this link off to Marialice in the hopes that she and her son might find some other science-related activities to try.

Then I reread the blog and wondered about the term "Citizen Science". Although I hadn't heard the term before I had a fairly good idea that it had something to do with the 'regular Joe' contributing/participating in some science related task. Read more about it HERE at How Stuff Works.

Hmmm...could this be something that my students might like/love? Could there be some 'projects' here where my students could be involved? I'm thinking - YES!

The SciStarter site includes a scroll of "Projects of the Day". Today one of the features is titled: Killer Whale Tracker. Basically, participants will monitor Orca sounds and measure noise levels (using software that must be downloaded to your computer). The purpose of the project is to learn more about the migration patterns of these creatures.

This activity is labeled for kids. While some of the activities are not meant for kids a good teacher knows how to adapt lessons to their students. These ideas could be used as a starting or jumping off point.

If the Killer Whale Tracker doesn't interest you, the site includes a "Project Finder" which has a drop down menu with all kinds of activities that could be done at home, at night, on line, in the snow or rain, on a walk/run and more. Or you could choose a topic: food, education, birds, animals, geology and earth science and more.

Making our students part of the "Citizen Science" world will not only engage and motivate students, but it will have them thinking about ways they can relate to and help their world.

What do you think of this site? Do you see other ways you could use it with your students/children? Would love for you to share in the comment section below!

More Citizen Science Resources:

Scientific American - Explains the term Citizen Scientist

Citizen Science Central - A site to find or create projects

Filiment Games: Citizen Science - Play a game that "teaches scientific inquiry and limnology" There is a lot of dialogue but looks interesting.

5 Apps that Encourage Kids to be Citizen Scientists by Hack Education

Citizen Science Can Renew a Child's Love of Nature: Article in by Mike Mueller.