Monday, September 4, 2017


What a fun time we had this week in room 117!

To drive home the point of student centered learning as well as to show the value in honest discussion, I did a sticky note activity.  

Basically, each student was given seven sticky notes and an index card.   If you click on the image above, you can see more specific details/directions.   If you'd like the activity, comment and I'll try to get it to you.   I saw this online this summer and needed to tweak it for my particular population.

Anywhoo... students numbered each sticky note.   1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.   7.    There were then slides going up where students had to write a few words to fill in the "blank" on the slide.   Students then distributed the sticky notes and got into groups.   It was best to do evens and odds.   Students did manage to go to each "station" and they were to discuss their responses as well as the responses of the other sticky notes they saw.    We then gathered together as a whole group to discuss.

My room was buzzing with conversation and COLOR!

At the end of the activity, I asked students to give me an end of week reflection.   We had a great discussion about how sometimes you don't like a certain class because the class involves the skills you're weak in. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

This school year, our Super Intendent encouraged us to post #WhyITeach in our classrooms.   Our building administrators gave us the "bubble" to do so.

This is an initiative I was first introduced to via ECET2 and T2T.

First up... my reason for teaching:

I absolutely loved the discussion I had with my students regarding why they learn.   For the first week of school, I was impressed!  Discussion was deep!   I particularly enjoyed how we spoke of learning as a CHOICE.   I said they may "have to" go to school, but technically speaking, they do not have to learn.   They could put their head down all day and it may not end well, but learning is a choice.  Some learning happens naturally, but not all.   

One student made a point about wanting to have a job they enjoy.    They said they see their older cousin going to work and he absolutely hates what he does but he needs to make money.    This particular student wants to learn so that they have a job they benefit from on all levels, not just financially.   

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A journey indeed!

Twas the night before school starting and all through the house...

Okay, okay.   I kid.    This post... it's a bit emotional.    How many times this summer in our book chats did we talk about being real?    How many times did we talk about making connections?    About being our authentic selves.     So here it comes... you might need to grab the tissues.

There's something about our society that makes us stay bottled up and private.   And for a long while, I was.   But it's no secret to anyone who knows me that my babies are my world.    I went through some serious issues with infertility and somehow I ended up blessed with two incredibly healthy children.   If you were a science teacher and I told you what I was dealing with and then showed you my children, your jaw would drop.    Tonight, I find myself thinking about all sorts of things.   Mostly, this journey!

First and foremost, many times in life you can go back and think of a teacher.   
That one teacher who made a difference in your life.   Hopefully, a positive one.
I am blessed to be able to say that I've had a phenomenal academic upbringing.   
However, in the case of this post, my teacher was this guy you see.    That's Dr. Pellegrini.   He's my guy.   He's the dude who taught me what on earth was not happening with my body that should be.   There were some crazy long hallways to walk down to get to his office.   And now Elliot walks down a long hallway to kindergarten tomorrow.   
That's Elliot in the car seat.    And now look at him... this is last week when we were taking him to the kindergarten bus ride.   This is him saying, "You okay back there, Mommy?"   Um... Mommy needed a minute (or two).

See the cool thing about my relationship with my son is we talk.   About it all.   The big stuff.   The small stuff.   The silly stuff.   I don't sugar coat.   We don't use cute vocabulary.   We keep it real.   We've talked since DAY ONE.   Seriously... look at him.   He's literally minutes old and was cooing away.

And most of all, Elliot and I pray about stuff.   It's pretty awesome praying with your kid.   He's been praying since the day he was born.   Seriously.    Look:
As he got older, he wanted a brother or sister.   He wanted it bad but we never had the heart to tell him that he was it.    We didn't think it could happen.   Even my guy, Dr. P, was uncertain.    But low and behold, it happened unexpectedly.    My heavens how Elliot dreamt of what his brother or sister would be like.   He was very involved with my pregnancy.   He went to appointments, he learned all sorts of cool big brother stuff.   And most of all... we talked.   Here he is talking to me while resting on my very pregnant (about to explode) belly.

Elliot's faith amazes me.   I've always enjoyed our conversations.   As he gets older, it's been especially neat to reflect back on how far we all have come in our family.    I can't help but get emotional thinking about him going to kindergarten tomorrow.   I wonder if this is something all moms go through and is it intensified for teacher moms.  

In the photo below I was 34 weeks pregnant (left) and here I am at age 35 and he's off to kindergarten.   The photo on the left has his name, written by his Daddy.   The photo on the right is him standing by his name... that he wrote.   Today he spent time at the beach with us.   All four of us.  It was so cool hearing him speak to his little sister about kindergarten, and how things are going to change a little bit.   So mature.   Slow down, my son, I'm not ready just yet...

Tomorrow is the day.    I'll be entering my classroom, year 13.    He'll be entering his classroom - kindergarten.  

I was able to watch Elliot enjoy the ocean today.     At the same time, I was able to formally introduce Nora to the ocean.   My husband was able to use one of his apps to design this photo:

Tonight, when we got home, he went to bed with "Ready Confetti" under his pillow.   His kindergarten teacher seems like a cool cat.    He's super excited and he finds it super cool that his teacher has a cat and the cat is named Nora.   I can't wait to talk to him about how his day went.   I can't wait to see the photos his Daddy will send me of him getting on the bus.  

Just like the ocean is filled with adventure and possibilities, so is Elliot's future.  
I am so excited to be on this journey with him.   Enjoy every minute, my sweet boy.   Listen to your teacher.   Ask questions when you are confused.   Demonstrate kindness always.   And above all else, know that I am forever in your corner cheering you on.   Walk confidently into your first ever classroom...   Pick up your pencil and know that you can do anything you set your mind to.   I love you! 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Energizer Bunny

Ah yes, the Energizer Bunny!

Do you remember the commercials?   As a new school year begins, and many teachers receive new students, it's important to take some time to have some meaningful discussion with your students.

Get to know them!   Go beyond the surveys and such.   Have a REAL CONVERSATION.   

I tend to have some students for more than one year, sometimes all four years of high school.   This year, about 85% of my students are new to me.   I haven't met them yet and I can't wait to do so!   My favorite question to ask my new students is this...

Seriously, ask this question!  
Do not be shocked when students say things like "June" or "After graduation"...
Go deeper! 
Embrace the conversation!
Make connections!

My students love to hear the things I am learning or have learned.   It can be something as simple as this,  "Did you know that if you walk into the Auto Zone and ask them to help you buy new windshield wipers, they will not only help you with your purchase but they will install them... for free!"  Or "Did you know you can download (insert name of video game here) from the app store and play it on your phone and your progress will be recorded so it's there when you turn on the actual gaming system when you get home?"    Sometimes the kids teach you!   Actually, a lot of times they do!   This past year, I learned SO MUCH about Elvis Presley from one of my kids.    I also learned that if you chug sprite after eating a banana, it won't end well.    Seriously... take the time this year to ask your students, "When do you stop learning?"   I can assure you that you will learn something new.   

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Music and Comprehension

Music... and Comprehension.... What!?!?

So here's the deal.   I'm a big fan of several things.   I love music.  Love it!   I've been around music my entire life and it helps me be me!    A problem I encounter though is students hitting a road block as they try to be themselves in classes and their need to concentrate while working independently.   We're living in different times.   Digital times.   A lot of my students, especially those with ADD/ADHD really do benefit from being able to listen to music while working.   I'm serious.   I see it on the daily.

This is a battle I do not fight in my classroom.   This is something I embrace.   We talk about appropriate uses of their devices, we talk about the social skills involved with listening to music in "public."   For example, having an ear bud in your ear while instruction is going on = no buenos.

A reading comprehension strategy I teach is QAR.   I love this strategy because it's universal.   Students use this strategy in all of their classes and even for the dreaded state assessments.   If you're not familiar with QAR (Question Answer Relationships) I'll be happy to enlighten you!   Comment/Tweet me and let me know your needs.   For now... I'm going to give you the Cliffs Notes version.

Basically, according to the research that backs up QAR - there are four types of questions.   Right There, Think and Search, Author and Me and On My Own.   Right There questions are crazy easy to answer.   These are questions where the answer is RIGHT THERE in your face, in the text.    Think and Search questions are questions where you need to think and search for the answer, the answer can be in several places in the text.    Author and Me questions are the toughest.   These questions are based on prior knowledge (sometimes a struggle) and making inferences.    The answer is implied a bit in the text, but not directly stated.   A lot of what you rely on to answer Author and Me questions is your prior knowledge and experiences.  On My Own questions are just as they sound.   You answer them completely on your own and you don't even need to read the text to do so.

After we tackle QAR, students then take their love of music and create a music project.   Here's some pictures of the assignment:

The top two images are the planning sheet.   Students will use this to plan their presentation.   Some students really love technology and will make a Prezi or Powerpoint.   Other students will email me a link to the video and lyrics and will use index cards to help them present.   Their choice.

Students must get permission to present the song from me, and we need to have the clean version.   No naughty words.    Students then present the song to the class and tell us the title of the song, who sang it, why they chose it and what they feel the meaning of the song is.   As a class, we read the lyrics (handout) and then watch the video.    Student then asks one of each question to the class.   Now, if you're doing math... you will see that this project is worth 100 points.   However, the presentation aspect is only worth 35 points.   I do give students the option to not present.   They are aware there is a "hit" to their grade.   I've done this project a few times and I've only had one student not want to present (they still need to make the presentation).

I enjoy this assignment and my students do as well.   I look forward to "tweaking" it a bit and having students dive in.

It's my personal belief that you need to meet your students where they are.   It's incredibly important to me that I know my students.   I like knowing their likes, dislikes, passions, etc... and because it is important to me, what I teach then becomes more important to them.

Seriously... meet your kids where they are and build on it.    Below is an email from one of my students.   I didn't ask her to send it to me.   She just got to know me and what I like.    And I've been listening to the music she sent me the entire time I wrote this post.   Bam.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Genesis - Thats all (TV 1983)

During the day in the summer, if I'm home with the children, the TV is off. We're usually listening to music while playing.   Today, it is "Flashback Friday" on the local radio station and I had to laugh when I heard this song come on. 

Genesis.   It's not just the story of the beginning in the Bible!    I probably reflected way too much and I've probably gone way too far but I just found myself laughing while we danced to this song and I heard certain lines.

I've been thinking a lot about how excited I am for this school year.   While I have relatively the same caseload, a lot of the students in my actual class are coming to me for the first time.   I had to laugh when I heard "...always the same, it's just a shame, that's all...."  -- if you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I'm switching it up quite a bit this year!   From decor to policy to lessons etc... lots and lots of Shifts thanks to my awesome Shift This summer read.  

So, like a true nerd (fluent in sarcasm) I put commentary to the lyrics in parenthesis below.  

"That's All"

Just as I thought it was going alright
I find out I'm wrong, when I thought I was right.  (not wrong... just needed to spice it up!)
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all.  (classroom decor)
I could say day, and you'd say night.  (Common Core....)
Tell me it's black when I know that it's white
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all.    (classroom set up, policies, etc)

I could leave but I won't go.  (I love my job, no intention of leaving)
Though my heart might tell me so.   (Heart tells me to write more, thanks a lot, Joy!)
I can't feel a thing from my head down to my toes  (never read in a wooden chair...)
But why does it always seem to be
Me looking at you, you looking at me  (Amazon wish list)
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all

Turning me on, turning me off,     (Lights for late night reading...)
Making me feel like I want too much.   (Darn you, Amazon!)
Living with you's just putting me through it all of the time
Running around, staying out all night. 
Taking it all instead of taking one bite.   (Taking one bite at a time this year with the Shifts!)
Living with you's just putting me through it all of the time

I could leave but I won't go
It'd be easier I know
I can't feel a thing from my head down to my toes
But why does it always seem to be
Me looking at you, you looking at me
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all

Truth is I love you.  (Reading, teaching...)
More than I wanted to
There's no point in trying to pretend
There's been no-one who
Makes me feel like you do
Say we'll be together till the end   (Student loan debt, we're together for awhile...)

I could leave but I won't go
It'd be easier I know
I can't feel a thing from my head down to my toes
So why does it always seem to be
Me looking at you, you looking at me
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all

But I love you
More than I wanted to
There's no point in trying to pretend
There's been no-one who
Makes me feel like you do
Say we'll be together till the end

But just as I thought it was going alright
I find out I'm wrong when I thought I was right
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all
I could say day, you'd say night
Tell me it's black when I know that it's white
S'always the same, it's just a shame, that's all

That's all

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Does it really make a difference?

Is reading on a screen bad for comprehension?

Can students 'Go Deep' with digital reading?

The Effects of Digital Technology on reading.

I am presently reading "Disrupting Thinking" and really enjoying it!   In our Voxer chat, these links were shared to discuss the types of reading kids are doing today.

I'll let you read at your leisure and form your own opinions. 

The over arching theme that comes to mind for me is teaching students how to be engaged with their reading and their thinking.    I'd definitely recommend taking the time to read these articles.  It provides interesting perspectives!