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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Elementary School Reunion - Celebrating a Special School 40 Years Later

On a cold, rainy, Sunday evening about 40 former students of the Fisher Elementary School, Walpole, MA joined 7 former teachers to celebrate an incredible time in their lives at the first ever Fisher Elementary School Reunion.  These teachers and students all attended the elementary school between the years of 1971 - 1981.  In attendance were siblings, former camper/counselor, neighbors and friends.  While for some it may seem this was a trip down memory lane - for most it was a way to celebrate a special school, special educators and a special decade.

Paul Sowden, Pam Nobel, Ellie Muldoon, Tom Monaghan, Judy Donovan, Sue Kelly, Sue Gillam
It all started back in 2011 when Tom Monaghan, my former sixth grade teacher started a group on Facebook: "Students of Fisher School 1971-1981."  It didn't take long for former students and teachers to join.  (I think the group is up to 266 members and growing!).  Read about it here:  Social Media for Educators - Forty Years Later.

My Grade 3 Reading Teacher & Me
Conversations occur almost daily on the Facebook Group.  Recently, one of the conversations surrounded the idea of a "reunion".  Ron Spicer (Fisher class of '74) decided to do more than talk - he quickly organized the reunion (from his home in St. Louis).  He found a function room at a restaurant in the town.  He put out an all call for photos and memorabilia and created a slideshow.  He created a form to survey former school members and prepared name tags.  In two short weeks a "Fisher School Reunion" was born.

One of the many highlights of the evening included a game. One of our beloved teachers, Suzanne Hopkins Gillam, recreated her famous Quiz Show (which, back in the day it was rather revolutionary) based on Fisher trivia questions.  She even brought along her Quiz Show Buzzers!  Coins were given to teams who answered correctly! The team with the most coins received the coveted "Fisher School Trivia" Certificate.

My Trivia Team Captain (Sue Pollak-Kelly)
Throughout the evening some common themes emerged: "I'm here because I wanted to say Thank You!"   "I'm here because Fisher School set a strong foundation for me!"  "I'm here because I remember those days fondly".    Former students shared stories about their teachers and shared the difference these teachers made in their lives!  Former teachers shared the behind the scenes stories about that special time and how connected they felt to students and their families. (These were, after all,  the kind of teachers we invited to dinner, who played games with us at recess, who have attended our weddings - who were truly the Rockstars of that time!). 

I think Carol Reardon Hawk summed it up the evening best with her following post on FB:

"All I can say is if you ever have an opportunity to go back in it! Had an incredible night of reminiscing and laughs with elementary school classmates and teachers!! Couldn't miss the opportunity to get a photo with my 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade teachers" Carol Reardon Hawk - Fisher Class of '78

Of course we are all looking forward to the NEXT Fisher School Reunion!  I know with more planning time and word of mouth - it will be even better attended.

Thank you Ron Spicer and Tom Monaghan and thank you Facebook for keeping us connected!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Inclusive Schools Week

"Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world." This excerpt is from the book, Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, which our principal read to the class the other day as part of "Inclusive Schools Week".  The story is about a young school girl who misses several opportunities to befriend a classmate.  She finally makes a decision to be friendly to the other child only to find out that child moves away.  The end of the story is not what one would expect as the main character is left feeling she should have done things differently. 
Creating ripples by adding a kindness rock
The students (and I) were moved by this book.  So much so they were asking if there was a sequel. It gave us an opportunity to talk about friendship, inclusion and simple ways to make someone feel connected.   Next we discussed "Random Acts of Kindness".  Students brainstormed how to "Treat Others Like You Want to be Treated".  A few thoughts included: holding the door for someone, passing the ball to someone who usually doesn't get it; help find a missing item and Smile at someone.  

Knowing I must do something with these ideas,  I decided I needed to find a way for students to create "ripples" of their own.  I grabbed a container and filled it with water.  As I have a container of rocks in my classroom I grabbed those too.  And so, the Ten Days of School Random Acts of Kindness was born.  Each student who performs a RAK at school will drop a rock in the container at the end of the day.  We will celebrate the ripples that will surely ensue from these simple yet grand gestures.  
Creating Ripples of Kindness

We started on Friday and were able to collect 12 rocks in our container.  While hoping to fill that bucket before the holidays the long-term goal would be that these acts of kindness will continue way beyond our holidays and creep into our lives by habit!

Others:  What are some other RAK that could be added to our list for school?

Several other activities students completed as part of "Inclusive Schools Week" celebrated everyone's uniqueness.  A banner was created and each student in the school added their Thumbprint as well as their name.  The banner acted as sort of a pledge for students to include all in their daily activities.  To show commonalities as well as differences students wrote "I AM" poems.  The poem described student's role (brother, son, cousin etc); their hobbies/interests and their personality traits (thoughtful, caring, friendly etc). Students shared and displayed these wonderful pieces of themselves. 

While these were just some of the activities our school shared during this 'highlighted' week, our plan is to continually promote acceptance of diversity. I leave you with this quote by Max De Pree, "We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion"


Inclusive Schools Week  - Information by the Inclusive Schools Network

Teaching Kids to Embrace Diversity - Ideas broken into age categories from 0 - 11

Cybraryman: Character and Ethics. This collection is filled with all kinds of resources for Character Education which includes Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

20 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids: A list of other ideas that go beyond the classroom. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Analyze Text using Keep it Or Junk it

Adding words to Keep it or Junk it List
While writing my post about the Scoot game last week, I stumbled upon a new activity shared by Mrs. White, a fifth grade teacher.  She learned and wrote about a strategy to help students answer focus questions and analyze text using words from the reading selection.  This inspired me to try this with my students.

The activity is called "Keep it or Junk it!"  Here is a great video of another fifth grade teacher showing how she uses it in the classroom.

A small reading group provided me with the perfect opportunity to try it out before forging ahead with the whole class.   Students finished reading and discussing a story called, "Ranches in the Southwest." After re-reading a certain section I gave them the focus question: "How do cattle ranches affect the environment?"

To start Keep it or Junk it, the students should be familiar with the text (having read the selection more than once.)  Using the focus as a guide, students were instructed to select words from the
Final Product
reading that will 'help' them answer THAT question.  Once students created their lists they worked with a partner to make one list of words using their own lists.  Then as a group, they shared their words and we started the "Keep it or Junk it" list.  Each word was shared and students had an opportunity to decided should we Keep the word, Junk it or put it in the "Cloud" to be discussed.  Making an argument why a word should be kept or junked further helps students think about the focus question.

When the list was finalized students got down to actually answering the question.  The great thing was that by the end of this activity (which spanned 2 small group times) they students had seen the focus question many times and discussed the words in relation to the question.  So in essence, they had been answering the question all along!

Listen in as our group works through this activity: (apologize in advance for the noise in background - still worth a listen).

This activity is something I plan to incorporate with the whole class as I really saw the benefits.  Each student was able to correctly articulate the effects of cattle ranches on the environment.  It is my hope that after modeling this enough times that students will transfer that and complete the activity without prompting.

Have you tried this type of activity?   What are some of your strategies for guiding students to analyze text? Please share in the comment section below!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Scoot Games in the Classroom

Scoot in the Classroom - A Favorite
SCOOT! The students in my class LOVE hearing that word (or variations like Scooch, Scurry, Skedaddle during the game.) They know "Scoot" means they will be doing an activity that involves moving around the classroom.

Here's how it works:  1. Place a task card at each student desk.  2. Students create a recording sheet or use a handout.  3. Students begin by answering the questions at their own desk.  4. When prompted by the word Scoot (or whatever you decide) students move to the desk that would be next in numerical order.  5. When you see that the task is completed - prompt the movement again and repeat until all cards are complete.

Over the last few years I used Scoot games sporadically.  However, this year I find myself incorporating it on a more regular basis. These activities, which are usually a quick 5 minutes, can be a lesson activator, review of a concept or used as formative assessment.

While first I started purchasing games like Rounding Scoot through TeachersPayTeachers, lately I have created my own 'simple' versions.  For instance - I take 20 math flashcards (addition/subtraction/multiplication/division or a mix of all) and place one on each student desk.  I will instruct students to write a number on the card or on their whiteboard and place the card next to the number. Then students quickly number their papers 1-20 and we're ready to "move on!"

I've also used it for Vocabulary.  I will place the vocabulary words we are learning in ELA (or other content areas) and place them on student desks.  Again - we number the cards and paper - then SCOOT!  I've used it for spelling (I leave out the vowels and students write the whole words including the vowels.  Fact and Opinion can easily be reviewed with a quick Scoot activity. Students can identify states by their shape - cut up a worksheet that you want students to complete - put a piece at each desk - the possibilities are endless.

Some Scoot games can be more challenging like this Inference Game.  Naturally, the more difficult the skill the longer the activity.  So you need to decide the purpose of your scoot game. Whatever the purpose, Scoot is a learning activity that appeals to many!

Have a favorite SCOOT activity - please share it here!


Mrs. White's 5th grade Class: Using Scoot Game & QR Codes Lesson Plans:  Scoot for Money

Think Share Teach: Renaming Numbers (Free)

TeachersPayTeachers: Scoot Games  (Pay)

ProTeacher Community: Task Cards by Unseen (Membership is Free) This is a resource of over 100 Task Cards!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Connected Educators Sometimes Do This

October is Connected Educator's Month and I just arrived home after a great experience at the Edscape Conference held in New Milford, New Jersey.  On the long ride (4 hours) home, I had plenty of time to reflect upon the events of the day. One of the recurring themes was the topic of the "Connected Educator." The following is what occupied my thoughts.

A Connected Educator sometimes:
  • Goes out of their comfort zone - Met a gentleman at Edscape who happens to NOT be connected on Twitter.  In front of a crowd he mentioned this, but also how he wanted to learn more. We've all been in his shoes but might not have had the courage to speak it out loud.  Way to go Mark! (FYI- This little country bumpkin went out of her comfort zone and drove over the GW Bridge!)
    Jessie, Dan, Billy, Nancy, Dave #4thchat PLN
  • Opens up their home to those they know 'virtually' - My PLN pal, Billy Krakower and his wife not only invited me to stay at their home but they treated me to a wonderful dinner at their favorite restaurant.  While @wkrakower and I have worked on projects together for 2 years - this is the first time we met face-to-face. 
  • Travels great distances to learn and share - Ten different states and two countries were represented at Edscape.  Bob Dillon traveled from Missouri while Daisy Dyer Duerr came all the way from Arkansas.
  •  Takes time out of their weekend day to "virtually" present at conferences:  My #4thchat friends, Paula Naugle joined our presentation from Natchez Mississippi where she was attending the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race. and Jenn Regruth participated via Google+ Hangout from Cincinnati, Ohio where she was spending time with family. Both added valuable information to our presentation.  Thank you ladies!
  •  Connects their students - New Milford High School principal, Eric Sheninger, has literally connected his students with his 'Charger Stations' at his school.  Since students use their mobile learning devices in classrooms he found a way to keep them connected.  Of course, there are more in-depth ways that the teachers and principal at NMHS work at connecting their students. 
  •  Reminds one another that it is about the learning journey and not the tools - Keynote speaker, George Couros, in his engaging address: Create, Innovate and Voice, reminds his audience that "learning is creation and not consumption" so we must "connect to heart before changing minds". 
  •  Meets up with their virtual friends - Friends through Twitter sometimes "Tweet Up" and actually meet.  And when they do, it's like old home week!  Conversations don't skip a beat as those connections have created a bond beyond the state/country boundaries!  I not only got to meet for the first time some of those in my Global Collaborators Network but I got to PRESENT with them as well! What a treat to spend the day with Jessica Bamberger, Dan Curcio, Dave Craig and Bill Krakower
  •  Shares information Learned - While at Edscape I couldn't help but text my colleagues and friends about the wonderful happenings at the conference.  Perhaps my principal will be able to use information I learned from Will Diaz and Dana Sirotiak in their Parent Engagement session.
If you're thinking about becoming a more connected educator click on the links provided in this post to follow some pretty amazing individuals on twitter! 

(If you want to connect with me - you can use one of the links to the side!) 

Monday, September 30, 2013

We Still Pledge Allegiance Every Day

Each day the students at our school (like many other children across the country) recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each day.  Not quite sure my students fully understood words like: pledge, allegiance, republic, nation, indivisible, liberty, and justice, I decided I would review the meanings of those words.

To review the meanings I shared a "Reader's Theater" about the Pledge that I created several years ago.  After discussing the vocabulary the students seemed to have a new found appreciation of those words.  They respectfully and proudly recite the Pledge now with greater understanding.

This video by former comedian, Red Skelton, had the students sit up and take notice.  He mentioned two things that really got the kids to ask some questions.  After listening to it, can you guess what the kids were wondering?

At the end of the week our class presented the Reader's Theater about the Pledge of Allegiance at the school-wide assembly.  It was our hope that all the other students in the school would become more competent with the meaning behind The Pledge.

While there is still controversy about saying "The Pledge" in schools, our students proudly recite it each day.
Which word in the Pledge do you think is the most important and why? 

Other Resources:

The Pledge of Allegiance 
I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin, Jr.
To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance by Richard J. Ellis (for adults)

What Does the Pledge of Allegiance Mean: Explained for kids from Homeschool Pool-Dive In
Pledge of Allegiance Song

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back Up Your Information!

'Backing Up My Music Collection' photo (c) 2006, Dennis Brekke - license:"Have you backed up your information to the cloud or your computer?" questioned the AT&T customer service representative.  This after my iPhone was dropped in the Charles River last week.  (Read about it here: It's All Fun & Games Until Somebody Loses an iPhone).  

Numerous times I've heard this same question being asked by my technology support specialist.  Being a self-professed techie herein lies my biggest weakness - I just haven't paid much attention to "Backing up my information.   Why?  I'm sure it has something to do with the  "It will never happen to me!" mentality.

Well, I'll say it loud and clear to anyone who wants to learn from my mistake: BACK UP YOUR INFORMATION - pictures, contacts, calendars, documents, etc.  Anything you have on your computer, iPhone or tablet - if it's important to you - BACK IT UP!!!  Don't learn the hard way like I did.  When I dropped my phone in the river - there went all my family photos, my contacts (I can't even remember my own kids' numbers) and my calendar. Everything!!

Upon receiving a new phone - I immediately signed up to be in the "cloud" so that my data will hopefully, be safe in the event I need it.  I'm considering backing up my information manually as well (as I often wonder about Cloud security).


What is Back Up? 

iOS:  How to Back Up & Restore

Android:  How to Back Up Your Android Smartphone to Your PC

Computer:  5 Ways to Back Up Your Computer

When was the last time you backed up your important information?? Or do you have a similar - "No Back Up" story like me?   (Hoping you don't!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Digital Netiquette - Not Just for Kids

Just finished reading this post by my sister who is in Real Estate: What Does Your Email Name Say About You?    In the post she receives an email from someone called, "SueMe".  While this may be cute to some, it says a boat load to others (especially in the business world).  Chip Camden states "Your professional email is like a handshake to clients".  What is "SueMe" really saying? As a professional,  I would be wary of this person's business.

This made me think about how this applies in Education as well.  How do we approach Digital "Netiquette" with our students and colleagues?

Many of my students have their own email accounts.  (Yes, even at the 4th grade level!).  I remember when my two teens first started emailing.  Back in the day we were choosing names that would NOT identify them as we were all afraid of the big, bad internet.  Their names were definitely "cute" and "kidsy" (read to the bottom to find out what they were!).   As my children got older, they kept those emails but created more professional ones for business and college (at the behest of their mother). 

Even when presenting professional development courses, I try to advise folks to choose Twitter handles that are professional and not just clever. (Sometimes to no avail).  As adults, we are THE role models for our students.  However,  many adults are new to social media, while some still afraid of the information put out in such venues.  These folks don't know it, but they are already thinking about being a 'good' digital citizen. Share the resources below with those first starting out - a little knowledge in this are may make them more comfortable.

A lot of our information is already in the internet world.  Let's be mindful of the information we are adding to that data by making good choices. Good choices when it comes to name selection as well as content.

*Added after original post:  Oops - just noticed my own faux pas as I was sending an email to the local bank:  My signature at the end of my email contains links for THIS blog, my Kayaker's blog & my Recipe Blog - how IS that for UNPROFESSIONAL....up there with SueME!!!!   Time to take my own advice

Some resources for newbies, kids and adults alike:

Digital Netiquette:  Prezi by @mrsdkrebs  Outlines the Do's and Don'ts

Digital Citizenship Wiki - Great information ranging from communication to access.

Digital Citizenship:Using Technology Appropriately:  Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

Internet Safety Project: How to Create a Safe Username 

7 Terrible Secrets Revealed by Your Email Address (& How You Can Fix Them)

Digital Citizenship Resources Compiled: by Cybraryman

As promised - usernames for my kiddos (didn't say I'd make it easy):
  child 1:  a tailed amphibian with soft, moist skin (starts with an "S")
  child 2:  another name for a teeter totter

What is the silliest email/username you've come across?... at


Friday, June 28, 2013

End of the Year Activity - Roller Coaster Unit

'Roller coaster' photo (c) 2004, Andréia Bohner - license:
Desperado, Nitro & Goliath are just a few of the roller coasters students learned about on the last 2 1/2 days of school.   This thematic unit (designed by a teacher, Lovin' Lit,  from Louisiana as a 7 hour plan for subs) included activities that related to all areas of the curriculum from reading non-fiction articles, recording and analyzing statistics, using map skills, to comparing and contrasting kinetic & potential energy.

Videos and pictures of roller coasters were used to engage students.  Sharing their war stories about being on a roller coaster helped them make connections.  Then following directions students slowly created a lap book using the information about the roller coasters.   They made bar graphs, learned about energy through this song.  The final activity was to build their own roller coaster using simple materials.  The designs were unique and many worked.  I believe if we had more time - ALL of them would have completed the challenge.

 As the temperatures remained high during the day, so did the level of engagement.  At the end of the activity, students were encouraged to visit our eBoard site to design their own roller coasters via these internet program:

Build A Coaster - by Discovery Kids

Design  Your Own Roller Coaster  - by Annenberg Learner (Part of the Amusement Park Physics)

Roller Coaster Games - by Roller Coaster Games Online (ads on this site)

It was a great way to end the school year. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Writing to Our Veterans

Each year my students have written a "Thank You" note to a veteran in honor of Veteran's Day.  Before writing I prepare a lesson to discuss the meaning of 'veteran' and 'service'.  (I use this interactive poster below to help the students build an understanding. Scroll your mouse over it -click if there is a red circle to go to a website or play the music & video. ) The letters thank these brave individuals for their service, sacrifice, bravery and courage. Very often my students get a response from their veteran.  Many of those who write back will explain about their time in the armed forces and the places they have been.  Many have stated how this is the "first thank you" they have received.  In this process the students end up learning more than just history and geography.


This year we have extended our writing by sending notes several times throughout the year to a local VA Hospital.  A local member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has been gracious enough to come in and speak with our fourth graders about how meaningful and important it is to recognize and thank our vets.  Mr. Frank tells the students how 'thrilled' the veterans are when they receive these cards and letters as many don't have family and therefore, don't receive mail.  He says that these notes are a highlight.

1st Infantry Division
I really didn't believe Mr. Frank until the other day when one of my students received a letter in the mail from one of the veterans in the hospital.  He mentioned in the note that he had undergone open heart surgery and was feeling particularly down.  He went on to say how the note my student sent "made his life!"  It gave him the strength to get better.  Also included in the note was a patch from the 1st Infantry Division which the gentleman had had since 1967!

We had to take our Thank You's even one step further.   I learned about this organization called, Honor Flight Network.  This non-profit organization flies World War II vets and terminally ill veterans to our nation's capital to see the memorials.  (My dad flew with them from Michigan to Washington, DC and had a most memorable trip!)  Recently, I learned there was an Honor Flight New England so I asked all the fourth grade students if they would be willing to write ONE more Thank You.  This time we researched the National World War II Memorial so we could weave in a fact or two with our thank you's.

The power of these notes is undeniable.  And not just for the veterans.  It truly gives my 10 year old students a chance to recognize the efforts of others while learning about our country's heroes.  Students are interested in what these folks did during their time in the service.  They really take such pride in their work because they know it is important work! It would please you to read these heartfelt letters of thanks and know that today's generation really does care!

More Resources:

Operation Gratitude:  Writing Letters & Sending Care Packages to Veterans

A Million Thanks - Year round campaign to show appreciation to Veterans, past, present & future.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Helping Kids Cope with Terrorism

View of Boston Skyline from Cambridge
Upon returning from a peaceful kayaking trip along the Charles River yesterday, I learned the news of the Boston Marathon bombings.  Of course I was glued to the coverage, which at the time, was a recounting of events:  "There were two explosions which resulted in horrific injuries." "Two dead, twenty injured" "People being treated in the Marathon Medical Tent." The television stayed on for hours and I fired up Twitter, as I tried to make sense of what happened. 

Being on Spring break my mind did not immediately go to that of my students...until this morning.  Several of the victims of this tragedy were children with an 8 year old boy losing his life! NOW, I'm thinking of my kiddos!  How do you explain this to them?  This is not a natural event that they can easily be 'reassured'.  This is something that robs children of their sense of security.

I watched this video taken by a news reporter's wife who was in the Grand Stand at the finish line.  What struck home for me was listening to the frightened cries of the children in the background; of the adults in the confusion hollering to 'stay together'.  Tears rolling down my cheeks, I think of my 10 year old students who might possibly have been in the crowd watching the 117th Boston Marathon and being a part of this terrifying experience.
View from Lennox Hotel (circa 2009 License: cc-by-sa/3.0)

What solace could I have given my fourth graders had we been in school today?  What can be said or done to reassure children of their safety? offers the following advice for children regarding Terrorism:
  • Take a break from the TV (Adults - this might mean limiting your exposure until the kids are asleep)
  • Talk about your feelings - (Adults - asking if kids have any questions or concerns may help the process - reassuring their feelings are normal helps the kids make sense)
  • Help out & be with others - (Adults - involving students in making cards for others in the hospital or helping out neighbors, takes their mind of the tragedy while doing something good which may make them feel better.)
NYU Child Study Center: Advice from Robin F. Goodman, PhD. Talking to Kids About Terrorists offers information to parents: 
  • Don't dismiss your child's fears. Find positive ways to reassure
  • Take things one step at a time especially if you know someone involved in the tragedy.
  • Avoid making generalizations. Find out what your child knows or wants to know.
  • Fears don't go away after one discussion - it might be on going. 
United States Department of Veteran Affairs offers this information: Terrorist Attacks & Children: Information for Caregivers:
  • Create a safe environment. Stick to routines
  • Be honest about what happened. Provide true information.
  • Tell the child what the police; government agencies & others are doing to help.
  • Put the event in perspective to reassure that it is a rare occurrence. 
Parents:  Are you ready for the unexpected?  Do you have a plan in the event you and your family are caught in such a tragedy as this or in a natural disaster?  Take a look at this site from FEMA to learn facts; make a plan and build a kit to be prepared.  

Other Resources:
National Association of School Psychologist: A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

PBS Parents: Talking with Children About News

Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to Our Kids (arranged by age)

If you have other ideas to share that wold be helpful, please leave them in the comment section.  

My thoughts and prayers go out to those injured and affected by this tragedy.  A heartfelt thanks to those first responders; police, emt/paramedics, firefighters and BAA personnel who quickly sprung into action. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

DKG - Connecting Women Educators

Many years ago I would listen during lunch to my colleague and principal talk about attending a "DKG" meeting after school.  As they chatted I used to tease them by referring (lovingly) to their club as "The Old Ladies Club" (for which I would always be reprimanded).   That nickname stuck until about 10 years ago when they both decided to nominate ME as a member. (They probably figured that would stop the teasing!)

At the time of my induction, my friend, Peg, said that the Delta Kappa Gamma International Society would be a way that we would always stay connected even during retirement. She also said "there's something special and powerful about being in a room full of women educators." She was always promoting the efforts of women in society.

Fast forward...for eight years.  As a member I attended meetings sporadically, but never put much effort into being a 'true' member.  I didn't see what all the fuss was about.  I don't think I fully appreciated my friend's sentiment until recently.

Fast forward...two more years. During this time I have had the opportunity and honor to be more involved by becoming a Committee Member specifically working with Scholarships.   At a couple of the Chapter meetings I have offered to present topics involving Technology.  Being more involved has help me build some nice relationships.

Attending those Board and Chapter meetings has afforded me the circumstances to meet women educators from many different backgrounds. Some were teachers more than 50 years ago while some are currently teaching.  Some are administrators while others are music teachers.  Some have been members for 25 years while others have been members for two.  All of them making a difference in the lives of those they taught or continue to teach.  These women think of others when they create and distribute Literacy Bags to those less fortunate, make donations to the local Food Pantries and send gifts to the Shriners Hospital. Certainly a group of which to be proud.

Today, while racing after school to attend a Chapter Meeting at a nearby High School, I realized that the DKG has been connecting women long before Twitter started connecting educators.  I realized that there are people willing to collaborate and share their knowledge who are right in our own backyard.  I realized that there IS a special bond among these 'women educators'.  "There IS something special and powerful about being in a room full of women educators." 

Listen to the Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Key Women Educator's Song HERE.  Surely, you can see we belong to an organization like no other.

What organizations do you belong to where you feel inspired?

Above graphic created with Pinwords


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Genius Hour - For the Teacher!

"Quiet on the Set! We're ready to record! 3, 2 1 Action!" shouts the director.  The long wait was over...finally, the students were in front of the Green Screen, behind the camera and handling the teleprompter.

Last year a colleague and I wrote a grant for the "Green Screen Chroma Key Project"  The idea was to work with the kids to create a movie as a way to share something related to their learning.  Using a Green Screen background allows you to add whatever background you like in the editing process. It took quite a while just to order the "Green Screen," camera, and software.  When it finally arrived we were on our Winter break.   

The weeks passed and still I hadn't started the process with the students.  On Thursday of this week I decided to take the last hour of the day and have my own GENIUS HOUR.  I needed to take a chance, take a risk to figure out the whole "Green Screen" idea.  While students worked at their desks I began setting up for the video shoot.  It took more time than anticipated to set up the lights, lighting umbrella and camera.   After what seemed like an eternity, we were ready to begin.

The day before several students volunteered to write a brief script which they then quickly typed into the iPrompt Teleprompter app Waiting patiently and with anticipation the class watched as their volunteers started taking part in the process.  Camera people and teleprompter holders were selected and we were good to go.  After witnessing the process and first recording session  the remainder of students became interested in writing scripts.

A self-professed MAC girl, it wasn't easy getting used to the PC based Corel VideoStudio Pro X5.   After many failed attempts and spending a couple hours after school with a colleague we figured out the basics (which will be shared with the students at a later date).

When creating the student videos the day following the video-shoot, I asked each student to sit with me and choose their background pictures and music.  Text was added and then we uploaded the new video to Youtube. Unveiling the videos in class was worth the wait as the oohs & aahhs from the crowd affirmed this was going to be a project that would easily fit into many lessons.

Check out the first video and see for yourself the power of "The Green Screen Chroma Key Project!".

A True Genius Hour ends with Lessons Learned:
  • Check out all equipment right after purchase.  Do not wait - some items may be missing or broken (in this case - the lightbulb sockets).
  • Let the kids help - they are less fearful and more willing to take chances.  The students figured out some great features of the Teleprompter.
  • Lighting in a project such as this is important. You should use more than one!
  • Standing several feet in front of the screen works better than right against it.
  • Student Holding Teleprompter should be close to EYE level for actor.
  • Start with a small production (1 minute) which will be manageable & offer success.
  • Save Often!
  • Be patient.
  • Enjoy the process!
Sometimes we need to give ourselves the time needed to learn and try new things as well.  It shows our students that we are life long learners as well!

Have you given yourself a Genius Hour lately?  Please share! 

Photos edited using: 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Civil War Traveling Trunk Inspires Learning

Traveling Trunk from Civil War Trust
There's nothing quite like engaging students in a lesson by building suspense. When our secretary came into the classroom wheeling behind her a 3' by 2' by 2' heavy plastic trunk you could hear a pin drop.  Immediately the questions started flying.  "What's in there?" "Where did it come from?" "Who sent it?"   "Is a blanket inside?" "Is it an animal?" "Are you going to open it now?"

Honestly, I wasn't sure where it was from or what was in the trunk either!   Checking out the label showed it was from the Civil War Trust.  I then remembered signing up during the summertime to receive the "Traveling Trunk"!

Opening the trunk with the students was so much fun!  The kids all gathered around as I popped it open.  The item sitting right on top was a replica uniform jacket made of wool with a matching hat.  Other items included a woman's apron and bonnet, a Union belt buckle, a container of real cotton, hardtack, replica bullets, confederate money, united states money, flags, a rag doll, and many other interesting items.
Dressing in Period Clothing

The most exciting and talked about artifact was the soldier's haversack.  Inside this antique backpack were replicas of contents carried by soldiers.  These included a comb, a wooden toothbrush, a prayerbook, a deck of cards, a tin cup & a fork, knife, spoon combined utensil.  There was a sewing kit, canteen and bowl as well as some coffee and sugar/salt.

Tin Cup & Salt from the Haversack
The Traveling Trunk also supplied a spiral bound curriculum for elementary, middle school and high school levels.  Included in the curriculum are objectives, lesson plans & worksheets.  Accompanying Powerpoints can be accessed from the Civil War Trust  (download here).  The elementary program is comprehensive and geared more for upper elementary. There are 9 lessons which are meant to be taught in 40-50 minute increments.  My class was able to get to about 3 of the lessons while the trunk was in our possession.  Fortunately, we can access the rest of them through the Trust at the above link.  

Haversack Replica

Using the contents of this trunk, my students have a greater understanding of the Civil War.  Hoping to sign up again next year (this time I'll know to allot more time for lessons!).

Thank you to the Civil War Trust for providing this fantastic resource!

 Pictures edited at