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Friday, November 21, 2014

6 Seconds to Be Thankful

Growing up we had a Thanksgiving tradition fostered by my mother. During the course of the day each person would take a slip of paper and write down what they were thankful for. The slips got folded and placed in a basket but the writer remained anonymous. Anyone attending dinner participated. At the end of the day we would each pick a slip, read it out loud to the group and then try and guess who wrote it. It was a wonderful way to gather and reflect.

Many of us ask our students to name things they are thankful for at this time of the year. I have always felt it was important to bring students back to the basics in this sometimes superficial world we live in...to remember the traditions and reasons for holidays. This year, consider helping students  create Vine videos (6 seconds each!) about what they are thankful for. I've linked the site here. Then, share them with families via email or any other means you have available to you.

I hope you so have so many things to be thankful for this year that you could never name them all.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thanksgiving is Almost Here

I have been busy speaking to wonderful groups of teachers all over the country these past few weeks and lost sight that Thanksgiving is indeed, almost here. One of the ideas I share with teachers in a SMART board session I do for SDE is the idea of taking students on virtual field trips. Plimoth Plantation has one that I've linked for you here.

I also have a great book to share. It's about 2 years old and takes an entirely different and slightly more contemporary look at Thanksgiving. The good news is that besides being a great story, it's informational text, a biography in fact, about the man behind the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The title is Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. It is a terrific story and this is the time to share it.

I hope you enjoy both with your students!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Books Are My Guilty Pleasure

In just under two weeks I'll be heading over to Nashua, NH to participate in SDE's Conference for PK/K teachers (check out the line-up here). I love speaking locally as it allows me to bring as much stuff as I can pack in my car. Usually, the "stuff" I choose is books. I'll be bringing great children's books with me to show how to grow students' academic vocabulary through read-alouds and I'm doing an entire session on non-fiction favorites. Then there are some books that I bring just because I love them and want to make sure every teacher I see knows about them.

For me, books are what I choose to buy over many other things. It's my mani-pedi, my new handbag, my had-to-have pair of shoes. I have been lucky enough to have access to books my entire life and I had adults in my life who loved books.

This afternoon, an email popped into my inbox and reminded me of a website/organization that is helping get books into the hands of little ones who wouldn't normally have access to them - as early as possible - to begin to grow that love for words and books. We Give Books is the operation and they do two great things: they have a free digital library that anyone can read from and they work with charities to get print books into the hands of under-privileged children. On October 21, they are having a Read for the Record event. Consider getting your class involved. All they have to do is read terrific children's literature like the Max and Ruby books from the site. It's free so hop to it!

If we teach kids to love books they can learn almost anything through that love.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Let's Connect

I am busy preparing for the fall season of conferences with SDE. First up for me is the Tennessee Conference for First Grade Teachers. (You can check out the line up of sessions here.) One of the sessions I am doing is Teaching with iPads where I show teachers a few of my favorite creation and skill-building apps to help them connect technology to the standards they are responsible for. Then I realized it was October 1st which means it's the first day of CEM. So...Happy Connected Educators Month! Whether you are hyper-connected or barely plugged in you can sign up here (it's free!) for great ideas, articles, websites, and more to make technology a part of your everyday instruction. It's a good way to start working through the jungle of information that's out there.

So if you're a TN educator, I'd love to see you. If you're not, I'll be in lots of other places too. Cruise the calendar to see when I'll be in your area and we can connect!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's All About Them

As we all get settled into this new school year and into our routines and responsibilities I think it is important to remember that the more engaging we can make our instruction, the more invested our students will be.  True involvement brings less behavior issues and more avid learners at the very least so we need to make a concerted effort to keep them in mind for if they are happy, we are happy. I know it might seem like I am preaching to the choir but we often do things in a way that works for us which isn't necessarily the same as planning things with our students in mind. So I put forth this challenge to you: plan with students engagement and opinions in mind. My friends at Edutopia have a great little read directly from students on the engagement part. I've linked it here. As far as the opinion part in concerned, well, that's easy: ask them. While they might not have too much say on the learning goals, we can certainly ask them how they'd like to learn, what kinds of topics interest them, what types of projects they would be excited to do, how we can make our classrooms more student-friendly places, and so on. Ask on a regular basis, teach them to answer respectfully, and implement any suggestion you possibly can. Here's to an engaging school year!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dot Day Approaches

It's almost here- Dot Day! The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, is one of my favorite books so I just wanted to send a reminder that Dot Day, a celebration of creativity, will be here in a few weeks. Check out this link to sign up (it's free) and to see what kinds of activities you and your students can do to celebrate this international extravaganza.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Current Events by the Hour

Thanks to my favorite blog, Free Technology for Teachers, I've learned about another cool resource. Thanks Richard!

Here's what they say on their site:

Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.

When you open 10x10, you will see a grid of the top 100 world images that hour, ranked in order of importance, reading left to right, top to bottom. Along the right edge of the screen are listed the corresponding top 100 words, one for each image.

Move your mouse around the images and you'll see which words match which images. Move your mouse up and down the word list, and the corresponding images will light up. Click any word or image to zoom in and see the news headlines behind the word. Click the headline links to read the original news stories. Click the zoomed image a second time to see the image full screen.

I love this as a vehicle for exploring current events together on your interactive white board or screen or for older students to use for research/information. Every class period might look a little different because the folks at Ten by Ten update it each hour. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

You Can Quote Me on That

I know. Nothing for two months and now two posts in 24 hours.  I finally have a few days to go through all of the goodies that have been lingering in my inbox because they piqued my interest somehow but that I could not give my full attention to. Hopefully, this will be to your benefit over the next few days.

Terra Tarango, who is the president of Staff Development for Educators, got a wonderful Mother's Day gift from her daughter - a handmade book full of personally selected (and maybe authored?) quotes. She posts one in her office window each day or week to inspire her colleagues. I love this as I have always been a quote person. I am the geek who has quote apps on her phone and tablet.

I was reading the most recent issue of Scholastic's Instructor magazine last night and came across free, full color, printable (either full page or card-size) quotes for each week of the school year. I have linked it here.  Post one each week and ask students to reflect on it. It's a great community-building activity and a critical thinking push all at once. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yup, It's Here

For some of you summer is already over and for others you can count the days left one one hand. No matter what boat your in, the new school year is here and that is reason for celebration and a chance to try something new, start fresh with a previous attempt at something, or just maintain your course towards a particular goal like integrating more technology or boosting the prominence of writing in your daily schedule. A link from the folks at the Teachers Gazette crossed my email today and I thought I'd share it with you. I've linked it here. It contains some thoughts from our old friend Harry & Rosemary Wong. If you've never read their works, consider it. If you have, this will be  nice refresher. Try to enjoy all of the possibilities that a new school year brings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Long Time, No Post

I know, I have been neglectful...I've been quite busy, visiting schools from Michigan to Texas to Florida and conducting all kinds of PD for teachers. This week I am off to SDE's Reading, Writing, Math, and More Conference in New Orleans. One of the sessions I'll be doing is about using technology to reach struggling learners. As I was putting the last minute touches on my presentation, I came across an really comprehensive resource produced by the Florida DOE that I just had to share. I think it will have value to any teacher, not just those with students who struggle so check it out. I've linked it here .

I'm off to Las Vegas for SDE's I Teach K!, I Teach 1st!, Power Up, and Differentiated Instruction Conferences. Maybe I'll see you there!

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm Not a Math-er But This is Great

Okay, so let's just say that math is not my strong suit. I can do sale math (this skirt is 25% off) and I can do recipe math (doubling or splitting), but that's about where it ends for me. This morning, however, I saw Richard Byrne's latest blog post (his blog is fabulous - check it out!) all about a math and photography project some third graders are doing in Canada. I love it and am going to share it with anyone who will listen including my Singapore Math friends at SDE (Staff Development for Educators) in hopes that they will share it with participants at the Singapore Math conference in Las Vegas in July. Read about it here - there's a calender of things you can do for the month of May. Happy clicking!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Appleseeds Blog - New From SDE!

My friends at SDE (Staff Development for Educators) has a new blog that discusses educational trends and strategies for addressing them. This week, I was a guest blogger. I've linked it here so you can take a look at my post: Getting to the Core of Reading Comprehension. After you've read it, scroll down and check out the last couple of weeks from other experts in the field. Check Appleseeds each week for something new. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Promoting Science

It being Earth Day and all got me to thinking about science and education and how to get students interested in science and the rest of it's colleagues that make up STEM. Then, I came across an article that has been sitting in my inbox a while and I felt I should share it and it's premise. Here's a link to the article about a site from 3M and Discovery Education. The premise is simple: get kids interested by making it relevant. We've been spouting that for years and this site starts to make that easier. So, after your Earth Day celebrations are over, give it a look-see.

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's National Poetry Month So Do Something Poetic

You may or may not know that poetry has been in my blood since I was 7. That's when I wrote my first poem. I don't remember what is was about and it likely wasn't an award-winner, but it started me on a journey that goes on to this day. My mother has my first books of poems (of course she does, she's my mother). I wrote each one on lined notebook paper then glued each to colored construction paper and tied the whole thing together with thick yarn. I gave it to her for Mother's Day. It still sits proudly on the bookshelves in her living room with some other poetry books I wrote (and was lucky enough to find a publisher for in Crystal Springs Books ) 30 years later.

Writing poetry is what brought me into the world of professional writing. I first wrote for students who needed things they could read and then it went wild from there. My first published book of poems led me to write 3 more, to have the opportunity to speak to teachers all over the country, and likely, to writing this blog in a round-about way.

So, what I'm saying is this: evoke a love of poetry in students and you never know what will happen. This week the folks at Edutopia had a great post to get you started. I've linked it here. Check it out and have fun this month!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

If I Only Had a Brain

Well, okay, I do have one and I try and keep it challenged. We should be doing the same things for the brains of our students. It's Brain Awareness Week and the folks at eSchoolNews had an interesting (and brief, so take a minute to read it!) article with some facts about the brain. Within the article there are related links that might be of interest.

Earlier this week I was in Columbia, SC speaking at a PK/K conference put on by my friends at SDE and I was sharing a few brain tid bits that hit home for those eductors: when students use both hands to learn or practice a skill or concept, they are more likely to remember it (so pipe cleaners are better than paper and pencil for kids trying to remember letter forms) and ball tossing boosts thinking (write math facts, vocab words...on beach balls and toss those around, asking students to identify, read, complete, or answer the item their right thumb lands on). The latter tip came from Eric Jensen and his book Brain Compatible Strategies - worth a read.

Take care of your brain and your brain will take care of you.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Comparing George's Stories

President's Day is coming and a great activity to get your students doing some critical thinking is to compare a few books about a president. I am thinking of George Washington in particular. There are a few great and quite different books out there that chronicle his life, or some part of it: George Did It, Big George are two of my favorites, the latter being new in the last year or so. Choose a more traditional biography to add to the exercise, like those written by David Adler. See what your kids come up with - let them do the talking and see where it takes you.  Have fun!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Black History Heroes

Scholastic had a great article in the winter issue of their Instructor magazine about "first" in black America. I learned things I didn't know and I know students would too. They've included some terrific stories in the article and have a list of suggested book titles to go along with the topic. I've linked the article here so you can check it out.


Friday, January 31, 2014

The Holiday Season - Again?

Well, no, but the month of February brings quite a few things to celebrate: Black History, Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year,Valentine's Day, and President's Day to name a few. I've been looking for some great activities to pass along and, as usual, the folks at Scholastic have some goodies. Start here with some Groundhog Day ideas and check back in a couple of days for links, ideas, and book titles that might come in handy for some of the others. See you soon!