Thursday, September 30, 2010

Social Bookmarking

It is amazing to witness all the new terminology that has surfaced just in the last ten years related to technology. If you would have asked me what social bookmarking was four years ago, I would have had no clue what you were talking about. Now, as I am beginning to use it, I am very excited about its possibilities.

To be honest, I started a delicious account at the end of last year and wasn’t really sure how to get it going and how to make it user friendly for me or anyone else. Therefore, it became one of those things that got put off to the side. However, now as I learn all of the capabilities it has, I am super excited about some of the things I can do with it. I am just starting the process of making one for my class. I think it will be such a great resource that the children can have access to both at home and at school. I am actually looking forward to including the children in the process of how to tag and organize the sites. Since they are using it, I want them to feel ownership in it as well, and also, I believe they will be able to navigate it better if I have them help me.

In terms of personal use, I am in the process of creating a delicious, but might try starting a diigo, which Katie at Creative Literacy mentioned. Right now I am using a delicious for the blogs, wiki’s, and other sites I like to visit and read. Since I am new to using a delicious, I am still adjusting to how I want to tag sites. However, I know this will work much better than just having bookmarks saved on my computer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Google Reader

I have known about Google Reader for a while, but through my pre-game activities for PLP, I was directed to start one of my own. I had originally heard about it through my brother-in-law who uses it for his daily reading and my sister who used it for planning her wedding. She just loved checking blogs and sites. I was intrigued by this but never really jumped on board. Well, I have to say I am very happy that PLP has pushed me in the direction of trying Google Reader. I think it will help me with the organization of my reading and allow me to focus in each day on what I am interested in reading.

I have to say that I am still trying to figure out how to keep it organized using the rss in my Google Reader and trying to weed through blogs, wiki’s, news, etc. that I am interested in reading. There are so many out there that I am still prioritizing what is helpful for me. I also have to say that I am thrilled that I finally understand what rss means. The video that I watched and the article that I read were most helpful, and I now feel like I can understand what others are talking about in reference to rss.

I am still working my way through rss in my Google Reader, but I know I will definitely continue to use it. I am enthusiastically looking forward to using it more and more and feeling greater confidence as I further learn.

PLP Reflection

This year I am fortunate to have the experience of being a part of Powerful Learning Practice with fellow teachers from my building, my principal, and teachers from across the country. I am very excited about this experience and am really looking forward to learning and growing as a person and as an educator. As part of getting ready for our very first meeting this coming Friday, I have been asked to reflect and think about what I hope to gain from the coming year.

I have always been one of those students who love being in class. I love learning and furthering my education, and then taking what I learn and applying it. I really believe that this experience with PLP will allow me to do great things with my kids with technology and with their learning. I am hoping this helps me with achieving what I always want for my kids, which is for them to be inspired and to have the desire to be life long learners.

I am particularly looking forward to learn how to use Google Reader. I know I spend more time than I need to going through my bookmarks and reading the regular sites I read. I am also looking forward to extending my PLN. I am always looking for new blogs and articles to read, and I think having a place to organize my information will be a good stepping-stone.

I would like to get better at using Twitter. I have had an account for about two years and have maybe used it ten times. I am a more avid user of Facebook but feel that Facebook is more a social network where I interact with my friends. I want to learn how to make Twitter another resource for me professionally.

I am also wondering how to use my delicious account more effectively. I want to find a better way to organize my websites and access them more effectively. I would also like to create a delicious account for my classroom where I can add sites for them and even figure out a way for my kids to add sites as well.

In addition, I am trying to decide which is better for my kids- a wiki or a blog. I still don’t have the answer. I have started by using a blog with my kids, which has been most successful. However, I am wondering if the wiki is better across curriculum where the blog at this time is just being used for writing. I will have to continue to explore this.

Overall, I am hoping through PLP that I will become a better learner and an even better educator. I know I will be overwhelmed at times, but I feel this experience will clarify and expand my knowledge in supporting my kids and their education.

RSS Reflection

RSS. Another buzz word (or letters?) in the Web 2.0 world. Although, I had heard it discussed many times and even have friends that are huge fans, I had no idea what an RSS was or how it was used. This week, we were asked to start our own RSS for our work with PLP. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a place to organize all the information you consume on the internet (blogs, wikis, news, etc). It provides up-to-date information, all in one place. It's purpose is to save us time from having to go to 10-15 different blogs to only visiting one space where all your personalized interests are organized. We were asked to use Google Reader as our RSS. I started my account yesterday and spent a great deal of time subscribing to my favorite blogs, websites and news feeds. I am hopeful that this will indeed save me time by only showing me blogs that have been recently up-dated or news that I specifically request rather than visiting each site individually.

My questions: How are you organizing your subscriptions on your RSS? How do you use twitter within your RSS? Does this really make you feel less overwhelmed?

I clearly have a great deal to learn about this new tool. I am excited for the possibilities. Who wouldn't want to save time in a world where there is never enough of it?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

PLP Journey

This year, I have the amazing opportunity to be part of Powerful Learning Practice with a small group of fellow teachers and my principal. It will be a year-long learning experience where we'll examine our beliefs and practices in this 21st century learning environment with fellow educators across the country. Our first official meeting with all the participants is this Friday. Before this meeting, we have been asked to reflect on our expectations of what we’d like to gain in our year-long journey with PLP or any questions we may have.

As always, when it comes to technology and learning, I feel very excited and enthused by all the possibilities both in my professional and personal life. I also find myself extremely overwhelmed. I never feel on-top of things (is it even possible?) in my digital life, overwhelmed by the pure volume of inspiring information out there, and lost as to how to contribute to this digital community myself and, in turn, provide my students with the support to consume and contribute as well.

I hope that being part of PLP, I will gain a better insight on how to organize my digital learning and more authentically have it be part of my students daily life inside our classroom. I find that I am a consumer of Web 2.0 resources but rarely contribute myself. I hope that I will be able to find a my voice and understanding of how I can give back. Steve Hargadon says it perfectly, "Because it is in the act of our becoming a creator that our relationship with content changes, and we become more engaged and more capable at the same time. In a world of overwhelming content, we must swim with the current or tide."

Most importantly, I look forward to finding out how this will impact my teaching, and, in turn, my students. I want to make sure I am preparing them to be part of this digital world. I look forward learning more about Web 2.0 tools (Google Reader, RSS, Delicious, etc.) and how it will impact our teaching/learning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How We Can Help Our World

Since Earth Day my kids and I have been having lots of conversations about how we can help our Earth. They had so many ideas and this video, that we created, was just a few of their ideas.

Each child drew a picture, took the picture with photo booth, uploaded it to animoto, and added text. (I did help with a bit of the spelling.)

I hope you enjoy the message my six and seven year olds wanted to share.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So, after reading Katie's blog post at creativeliteracy I was inspired to give Animoto a try. Like Katie I am now addicted and am just spinning with ideas about how I can use this with my first graders. I can't wait to show this to them when we get back from break.

I have attached my first try at making a video. It is of the loves of my life, my dogs:) I hope you enjoy.

Create your own video slideshow at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Big Nate

If your classroom is at all like mine- Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a big time favorite (especially for boys). The series has hooked even my most reluctant readers. The newest one, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Movie Diary, has taken the class by storm (but that's another post).

Unfortunately, aside from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, there are not many diary style/comic books out there for boys. I have spent a great deal of time looking for similar books so my boys will continue there enthusiasm for reading. I was lucky enough to come across Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce. Big Nate is a syndicated comic strip and now it's being turned into a tween series. It's format is alot like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and there's even a review quote from Jeff Kinney on the cover.

Book Summary:
Big Nate is in a class by himself! Nate knows he's meant for REALLY big things. But life doesn't always go your way just because you're awesome. Trouble always seems to find him, but Nate keeps his cool no matter what. He knows he's great. A fortune cookie told him so.

I just put it in the hands of one of my Diary of a Wimpy Kid fanatic. Here's to hoping it'll hook him....

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Good Teacher is....

Yesterday my students and I started a brand new wiki/blog space. It is a page our district created for us that has both a wiki and blog component. We discussed the purpose for each component and let the kids explore. Each student blogged about the idea "A good teacher is...." in response to the first couple chapters in Bridge to Terabithia after meeting Mrs. Myers' (the teacher in the story).

Here are a couple of their responses:
A good teacher is....
-filled with peace.
-a listener.
-reminds their students of the classroom promises and expectations.
-helps people to be a nice teacher and person
-Happy because you don't your teacher to be grumpy and fun because you don't want to live a boring life on the weekdays.
-Another way to describe a good teacher is playful. She plays and laughs with kids.
-Respect is a teachers greatest value so they help scared kids that need help.
-I like Teachers that I can understand what the class is doing and that can understand me.

I love reading what they have to say and finding what is important to them. These were just a FEW of the many insightful thoughts they shared. I LOVED the "filled with peace" one. He told me that I was filled with peace. I hope so (however, there are times when I know this is not true...haha!). This activity left me inspired to meet their expectations as they all seem very reasonable to me!

Disclaimer: Of course, now that they know how to blog/wiki, the student will use these resources in a variety ways that make sense to them (podcasts, book reviews, writing workshop, videos, etc.). We started with a general topic so that we could introduce blogging.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 6

My favorite part of the day, hands-down, is read aloud. I value this piece of our learning so much- we have read aloud at least twice a day. During read alouds, we have conversations about the story we're hearing, the author's craft, new words, predictions, etc. I am hearing them process all the thinking that happens while reading. Talk about authentic assessment! It is also one of the most intimate times in our classroom. I love that Samantha Bennett refers to this time as "re-creating the emotional and intellectual pleasure of lap time reading as well as bringing your students into the grown up world of sitting around the dinner table for hours having fascinating conversations." The tone and atmosphere we create during a read aloud is gentle, yet purposeful, allowing kids to feel safe taking risks and sharing their ideas. I love that many of them will check out the same book from the school or local library and read along with me. Or check the same book out months later to revisit the story because they loved the experience so much. Read aloud allows us to hear other's thinking which helps us grow as learners. We observe strategies to improve for reading comprehension, accuracy and fluency. It is a time of inspiration for us as readers and writers. Independently, they will read with more expression or write in similar style as they stories they hear. Many of our read alouds end up being mentor texts for our writers. Worth mentioning- this is my first year with a Smartboard. One of my favorite features is the Smart Camera that can be used with it. I am able to take pictures and magnify illustrations and/or passages from read alouds with the camera and have them on the Smartboard. Then the kids can come up and write on, circle and/or engage with the story in a different way. Also, they just are better able to see the features (illustration/text) of the story. This was especially helpful when reading Hugo Cabret.

That Workshop Book: Reflection 5

Our district has adopted Progress Book. It is a transparent, on-line grade book that provides parents constant access to their child's progress at school. It is also meant to provide administrators easy access to the happenings in each classroom and a streamline, consistent recording system for teachers. Needless to say, there has been a GREAT deal of conversation about how to authentically and thoughtfully use this tool in the best interest of our students (particularly primary students).
While reading, That Workshop Book, I immediately thought of Progress Book when Samantha Bennett said, "Many brilliant, amazing teachers, when you ask them how they know what their students know and are able to do, would answer ......they know their students deeply and can tell you stories about them, their lives, their habits as students, their likes and dislikes. But when you ask them "HOW do you know?" they answer, I just see it all like that, you see". Samantha goes on to explain that this is wonderful but we need to be asking ourselves- How do I know all of my students are growing in their skills and understanding reading? How do I help students make "invisible" skills of reading "visible"? What can I do to help my students read better?
Progress book requires us to make these invisible skills visible. We are going to be held accountable by our administrators, parents and colleagues. But after reading and reflecting on this part of That Workshop Book, I was reminded of WHY I chose this amazing occupation and WHO I should keep in mind when using this new tool. It is all about the learners in my classroom. I want to make sure that I stay true to what I believe as an educator/learner, that really knowing your students means knowing their likes/dislikes, their habits and life stories. It also means knowing how to SHOW them their growth as learners. Progress Book is really requiring me to shift my ways of showing my students growth. It is so important that I don't let it change the avenues we use to accomplish this growth. I am hoping to find a way to make Progress Book work for my students and I- that instead of focusing on the scores/points/grades- we should focus on the journey of learning.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 4

In That Workshop Book, Samantha Bennett says that we need to "think about how you want your days with children to begin and end." When we think about what we want our students to experience each morning when they walk in our room and each afternoon before they leave- we need to ask ourselves- what matters most? For me- that is the feeling of community. Students really love to know their opinions and ideas are valued. Samantha Bennett suggestions that the best way to go about valuing our students ideas and opinions is to ask for them. So I did just that. I asked them how they would like to start our school days. Prior to this, our morning routine varied (as it still will on occasion) with free learning time, reading workshop, quick checks for math, and/or word study activities. After checking with my kids, they overwhelmingly chose free learning time. Their reasons: 1. Although it is focused learning, they get to choose what that learning is based on their mood that day. 2. It is relaxing/No pressure. 3. They can leisurely get started after greeting friends and catching up on the prior night/weekend's events. How could I argue with this reasoning. And as I mention- after asking myself the same question about how I wanted our days to begin- I said "with a sense of community." Does the student's reasons support my feelings as well?? I love it when that happens. Although, we still have the occasional quick check, we spend most our mornings reading, writing, on the laptops, playing math games, creating, thinking, learning based on individual interests.

This week, the kids and I are going to rethink how we want to end our days together. Sometimes the end of our days feel so rushed that I leave the classroom feeling uneasy. I would love to find a way to end our time together each day on a calm note as a classroom family. Perhaps a family meeting discussing the days events?? I look forward to chatting with the kids about it as they always have such smart ideas to share.


One of my students made this Claymation piece to help share his research on the Bobsled. So cool!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 3

Literary nonfiction, research and sharing that research are huge units of study for both reading and writing in our district (and the state of Ohio) during third grade. Reading nonfiction can be really tricky for many readers- especially young ones. Most times, you are reading nonfiction for purposes different from those when you read fiction (namely, research). Not only are the students asked to comprehend what they are reading but they are expected to share it in an organized, factual, way. It is pretty tricky for most of my students to find their voice and share their research in a literary nonfiction writing piece. What better way to help them find their voice and create quality piece of purposeful work than MENTOR TEXTS!!?? Samantha Bennett really focuses on using mentor text to help scaffold final projects in That Workshop Book (pg. 63). I have created a collection of literary nonfiction books in my classroom that the kids have used to scaffold their research projects on the Olympics. These books have a variety of themes, layouts and ideas for sharing information. "Students learn to write by studying the craft and process of other writers."
Here are some of the books in our literary nonfiction collection:
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre
Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
What is Science by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
This is Your Life Cycle by Heather Lynn Miller
One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre
On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time by Susan E. Goodman
Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre
Animal Dads by Sneed Collard
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston
Unbeatable Beaks by Stephen R. Swinburne
Flight by Robert Burleigh
Home At Last by April Pulley Sayre
Lives: Poems About Famous Americans selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

After sharing some of these stories as mentor text, the kids had lots of different, fun and personal ideas on how they might share their Olympic research. As Samantha says, "It provides a variety of entry points for their own writing" and sharing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Should I Read Next?

Now- I know I shouldn't complain but after a long weekend- we have another snow day. Don't get me wrong- teachers love snow days. I just like mine dispersed throughout the winter- not all at one time. I am missing my kids, panicking about the amount of work we have before student led conferences AND I am getting some major cabin fever. However, all these snow days are providing some time for great reading. I tell you about some of the books I have been reading later. Also, I have been catching up on some of my favorite blogs while finding some new interesting blogs. Which brings me to the purpose of this post. While playing on the internet this morning I found a helpful website for book lovers (disclaimer: I have only played it briefly): What Should I Read Next? If you have read a book you really love and aren't sure what to read next- this website provides suggestions!! Let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 2

I would be willing to bet that if you asked most teachers what one of their biggest struggles with their jobs was, a vast majority would say- TIME!! There is never ENOUGH time for professional development, building meetings, teaching all subjects, conferences with students, allowing a study to end naturally, etc. We try to be so thoughtful about which aspects of our learning and our student's learning is most valuable and try to make sure those ideas take precedent (at least we shoot for a good balance). In return, I find that many ideas/beliefs fall through the cracks- not because they aren't important to my students and I- but rather- due to the fact- there is never ENOUGH time. After reading That Workshop Book- I realized that one of the ideas I have always believed in but seems to have lost its space in my classroom- was allowing my students (and myself) time to REFLECT. Samantha Bennett refers to this time as DEBRIEF. Lately, we have made sure to take the time to reflect on our learning and debrief, either as a whole class or individual/group conferences. The possibilities for the focus of this share/debrief time are "endless if you believe that student thinking matters most" (Bennett). The kids are beginning to rely on this time and, in turn, provides them with an additional PURPOSE for their learning. They know they will have the opportunity to check in and share their concerns and celebrations they have experienced with their learning. I have noticed an improvement in motivation and quality of work. I have also noticed, as the teacher, that I am more in-tune with their needs and strengths- it really helps to guide my instruction. As with my Reflection #1 post- another lesson in SLOWING DOWN and making time for what really counts!

Monday, January 25, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 1

I heard about That Workshop Book, by Samantha Bennett, last year from my friend and colleague, Katie (Creative Literacy). It is now a cornerstone in my teaching philosophy. I find myself constantly referring to it in order to re-focus my thinking on reading/writing workshop. When I found out that a local literacy group (Literacy Connection) was offering a course that concentrated on the book- I jumped at the opportunity. For this course, we need to reflect on and share our thinking/teaching from the book. This is my first shared reflection:

I am in the wonderful situation of looping with my students from second to third grade. Due to our long journey together, I often take for granted what they have learned and assume they remember/use what was taught last year. However, I had reason to pause on this thinking during our "Guess Who Will Win the Caldecott" study. I had placed the top 50 "most talked about" Caldecott contenders around the room, asking students to place post it notes throughout the book sharing their likes/dislikes, prediction, etc. On the back of Lion and Mouse (the WINNER), one of my students wrote: "This makes no sense." Oh my goodness- had my third graders forgot all that time we spent on how important pictures are when telling a story back in second grade? Bennett writes: "Workshop is a structure, a routine, a ritual, and a system that helps teachers answer the question 'How do I know?'" She then explains why "teaching as listening" is more important than the traditional "teaching as talking." I was not listening to my students on this topic prior to READing this post-it. I had kept "talking", teaching new mini-lessons, without taking the time to ask "how do I know" they remember/are using what was learned in the past. I listened when I saw that post-it note and heard that my students had forgotten the importance of illustrations/pictures. We spent the next couple days studying wordless (or limited word) picture books. They loved revisiting old favorites and the idea of the importance of illustrations. They noticed details in pictures that help them put stories into words. This is a perfect example of the graphic spiral in Samantha's book: it is a straight line with student understanding written on it, wrapped in a coil/spiral that has assessment, planning and instruction on it.

It was refreshing to be reminded that we need to stop and listen before moving forward. It is a great reminder to just SLOW DOWN!!