Wednesday, April 3, 2019


Wow! I can’t believe I have not posted anything this entire school year! I’m not sure what that means.

I have decided that I will be retiring at the end of this school year. Thirty-eight years of teaching! Why am I retiring?  I am expecting my first grand-baby this summer! So excited!
Will I miss the classroom? Absolutely! But I would not want to miss watching my granddaughter grow! I always told my boys (my husband keeps reminding me they are grown men, not boys) that when I had grandchildren, I would retire and keep my grand babies!

So it’s time to say “Goodbye”......for now!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Let Twitter Take You There

If you're like most teachers, the summer is not only a time for lying on a beach somewhere soaking up the rays, but it is also the perfect time to perfect your craft. There are so many wonderful conferences going on right now . . . International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Model Schools Conference (MSC), and Teachers College Reading Writing Project (TCRWP) just to name a few. I was fortunate to attend ISTE2014 when it was held in GA a few years ago but as much as I would have liked to attend this year, it was not in the budget! Who am I kidding? I don’t have a budget!

I still want to learn new things and be a part of the excitement. So what's a teacher to do? The next best thing is to experience these conferences virtually. I can be a part of the action through Twitter. Yes, Twitter!  Participants at the conferences are happy to share what they are leaning. 

How can I do that? Glad you asked. Just put the hashtag (#) in front of the conference name you want to visit and you will be connected to some awesome educators who are willing to share what they are experiencing. By visiting #MSC18, #ISTE18, or #TCRWP, you will be able to get a snapshot of some golden nuggets left by others. 

Check this out. There is even a dedicated hashtag for people who can not attend ISTE. Enter #NotatISTE18 and it's like you are there. Thanks to @heyMattFrat and @mbfxc I was even able to see the FlipGrid Poster sessions and view many of 
the inspiring Ignite Sessions at ISTE. Thanks!! 

I have to give a "shout out" to my sister, @keashr. She used Twitter to magically transport me to the TCRWP Summer Institute. She is relatively new to Twitter, so I had to convince her to tweet out some pics and words of wisdom from the presenters. I'm trying to get her Twitter game up!  

So even if you're lying on a beach somewhere (like I wish I was right now), you can still experience these wonderful conferences through Twitter. As Mavis Staples once sang, "Let me take you there". 


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sharing the Love on Digital Learning Day!

February 16 was Digital Learning Day! It just so happened to fall right after Valentine's Day. So we couldn't pass up this opportunity to share the love with other staff at our school. The students created Virtual Valentines.  We used DoInk Green Screen App to capture our video messages and of course, Seesaw to share them. Seesaw makes it so easy to create QR Codes to share your work with others.


We used Padlet to make connections and send Global Valentines.
Made with Padlet

We also made Heart Idioms and shared them with our friends far away using Flipgrid. This was the first time I used Flipgrid.  It was pretty easy and the kids had a ball. I got this idea after reading a tweet from @YollisClass.  If you are not connected on Twitter, you are definitely missing out. It is the BEST PD around. Take a look at some of our Heart Idioms.

Take some time to share the love!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Begin with the End in Mind

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
Hummm...That sounds great. In theory. But what if the end seems impossible to reach or even imagine? If you would have told me a little over a year ago that I would have ridden my bike 40 miles. In the rain.  Over the Verrazanno Bridge. I would have given you the side-eye and probably said sarcastically, "Ohh-Kay". 

Let me give you a little background. First, according to Wikipedia, "The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the New York City boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn." Let me say that again, double-decked suspension bridge! I don't even like to drive a CAR over a bridge, let alone ride a bike over one.

Second, when I started riding my bike I literally could not ride 1 mile. I couldn't even ride a half of a mile. The first time I rode I fell. Twice!  I vividly remember riding my bike as a kid.  All. Day. Long. Not anymore. I will admit it, I was scared!

"We Fall Down, But We Get Up"

So, what changed?  I had a great coach; who was also a friend. She showed me how to turn so I wouldn't fall.  She rode beside me, encouraging me along the way.  I remember her saying, "Do you see that bench? Can you make it to that next bench?"  Then it was "Can you make it to the sign? There is a bench after that sign where we can stop and rest". "There are some horses around the turn. Let's make it to the horses."  I never saw any horses! 

We took pictures along the way celebrating my accomplishments. In the beginning, she was very encouraging. The more I rode, the better my endurance got.  I also noticed that she became a little more demanding: "Sheila, you can do this. We are only going to rest for 3 minutes. Let's go!" 

Celebrate Milestones
Why am I writing about riding a bike?  Because there are so many parallels between my learning to ride again and teaching. 

Everything is Better with Friends

If I had tried to do it on my own I think, no, I KNOW I would never have done it!  I needed someone to show me how. I needed someone to encourage me. I need someone to push me. More importantly,  I needed someone to BELIEVE that I could do it in the first place.

Me and Kahliah

I also needed someone who I had a relationship with, a connection, someone who knew me.  She was patient. She showed me how. She did it with me, right beside me. Kind of like guided practice. 

Checking Progress
She encouraged me. She monitored my progress and gave me specific feedback.  Not everything all at once, mind you.  Just enough to move me along. Not only did she monitor my progress, but she shared my results with me: "You're doing great! You just rode 3 miles! You are riding 9 miles per hour. (That's still my preferred speed, by the way. . . Growth Mindset!) 

In the end, I was able to do it. Independently. She gave me something that can never be taken away from me.  The knowledge that I can be successful at what I work hard at. 

I Did It!

And yes, I really rode 40 miles in New York with thousands of other bikers in the Five Boros Tour, In the rain.  When I crossed that finish line, I wanted to cry; I actually think I did?

Later that summer I rode 50 miles in Florida. I still haven't ridden a century . . . YET!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Today Was a Good Day!

I just introduced my class to Sway.  It is available in the App store. But I found out that to be able to add searchable photos, my students had to use  Sway is the perfect tool for my students to share what they are learning about explorers. It comes with a library of searchable Creative Commons photos that students can easily add to their project. No copyright infringement here!

What I like about Sway is that it is easy for students to use. Additionally, students focus on content before they start changing font, color, or adding a background to make their project pretty. Once they have their content, they can quickly customize their cards to find the perfect look for their presentation.

So let's go back to the content. Students used Georgia Studies Weekly, Brain Pop, and Discovery Streaming to research different explorers. Dinah Zike's 4-door Notebook Foldable helped them organize their notes. I started with Columbus and modeled how to take highlight and take notes. The organizer proved to be very helpful because each "door" on the organizer later become a separate "card" on Sway.                                                                                                                                                              
Students working Together
Foldable to organize Notes

As I was modeling how to complete the cards one student commented that it reminded her of  "Boxes and Bullets" that we had just learned during Writer's Workshop. Oh, Joy!  I decided to capitalize on that and quickly revised the cards to follow the Boxes and Bullets format.

Now it was time for the students to research a different explorer in their small groups.  So I divided the students into smaller groups and gave them their new foldable to begin their research.  Then I watched as students sat beside or near their partners, but did not really interact with their partners. I listened as I heard them talk about basketball and video games; everything but explorers. I did just tell them to "work together", didn't I?

That's when it hit me and I called them all back to the carpet for a Mid-Workshop Teaching Lesson (as Lucy Calkins calls it). But this lesson was not about Explorers nor how to make a Sway.  This lesson was about how to work together with a partner.  And to do this I needed a partner.  I picked 1 student to come sit beside me.  I took the lead and together we modeled how to use the materials together, how to talk about what either of us found, how to make sure we each had the notes we needed.  We talked to each other (about our explorer) and we showed each other where we found text evidence to support our thinking.

I think the most important part of the lesson came next. We had a discussion about what they saw or heard that let them know we were working cooperatively. Students shared their responses. They said things like: "You leaned closer when the other person was talking" and "You looked at the paper and listened when they were reading".  I wanted specifics. If they merely said "You were working together", I asked them for specifics. What did they see or hear us say that let them know we were working together?  I wanted specific examples.

Then I sent them off to work and the difference was phenomenal! See for yourself.

I only wished I had recorded their responses on a T-Chart. The beautiful thing about teaching is I'm sure I will have another opportunity. Soon.

Check out Liliana's final product.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Then There Were Two!

Have you heard the news? The NEW Student Stories is coming to Class Dojo on Sept.15th. I must admit when I first started tweeting about the release, it was all about trying to win a Chrome Book. Then I messed around and actually watched the video! And my mind started reeling! Literally...

You see, I've been trying to streamline the technology I use in my class forever! For obvious reasons parents can get overwhelmed when there is too much technology. Students can get overwhelmed. Let's be real...I can get overwhelmed.

I always tried to make sure each piece I used had a specific purpose: I used Remind for reminders, Edmodo to share content and make assignments, Class Dojo to communicate social and behavioral skills, and Seesaw to share academic progress with my students' families.  Each of these programs is great and I have used them all for several years!  But a little birdie (actually, it was our County's Technology Director) kept telling me that I needed to streamline the technology I used in my class...for parents.

I have a 1:1 iPad class and between the different apps and programs, it can be a bit much.  Especially at the beginning of the year. This year I decided to use OneNote Class Notebook exclusively to assign work and share content with my students.  I also made a conscious decision to use Class Dojo to message AND remind my parents. Yes! I stopped using Edmodo and Remind...Gasp!

Then there were two: Class Dojo and Seesaw! I started the year sending photos of the class on Class Story with messages throughout the day. Unlike Remind, Class Dojo allows me to message 1 parent, a group of parents, or the whole group. Low and behold this has been the first year I have had 100% of my parents join Class Dojo!

Did I forget to mention that Dojo sends a Friday report to parents? But that's not what prompted me to write this post. Hold on to your hat!

Now Class Dojo is changing their Student Stories. Students can share what they are learning in class with their parents.  See for yourself.

Now the big question I'm asking myself is will Class Dojo ever replace Seesaw in my class?  I'm not ready to go that far! Seesaw has proven to be an easy tool for my student's to use to share their work with families and I can easily see the work my students have produced throughout the year.

Right now I'm just happy that I've got it down to just two! I bet Cristin will be happy about that as well.

Side Note: Class Dojo requires a parent email before students can connect and post.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Global Learners

Are you a global learner?  Are your students? Technology can connect people who under normal circumstances would never cross paths.

This year I have had the privilege of introducing my students to students across the globe through Mystery Skype. What is Mystery Skype? Check out this post by Mr. Solarz for a great explanation.

When I look back, I think it all started a few years ago with The Global Read Aloud. I saw then how my students looked forward to using technology to connect with other students. This year (through Twitter and Mystery Skype) I was introduced to World Read Aloud Day by a wonderful teacher in Wisconsin, Jackie Trebiatowski.

Together our classes created a book using the app Book Creator. Students worked to photograph their school and interview staff members. Once each class had their portion of the book completed, I compiled the two books for our final book, A Tale of Two Schools. We each read the book to our class and then met via the Internet to learn more about our new friends. What were the most surprising things we learned about our new friends? Our class was surprised to find out they have recess unless it's below 0 degrees AND they have recess twice a day! They were surprised to find out we have a pet snake and our school has over 1,000 students!

If you have not tried Book Creator, I would highly recommend you try the free version. You can create 1 book with the free version, but you will need the paid version to combine books or create more than 1 book. Students can create their own books to share with others.

This year we created our Reading and Math Journals using Book Creator. At the end of Reading Workshop, my students add a reflection about what they have read independently. I originally gave them a template to get started, but now they are free to use any format they want as long as they include the date, title of the book, author, and their reflection.

We were working on figurative language.

I just recently learned about #BookSnaps on Twitter from Tara Martin. What an awesome way for students to document their reading comprehension!

For our math journal, I Airdrop the Global Math Task Twitter Challenge (GMTTC24) each week.

I also send them grade specific Global Math Tasks throughout the week for them to solve. After my students solve the challenges, I share their solutions on Twitter. This year our class had the privilege of contributing math problems for other students to solve. They got a kick out of seeing how other students solved their problems.

Students share both journals with me and their parents on Seesaw. Parents love seeing their child's work and students love the feedback they get from their parents and peers on Seesaw. Like it or not, we are all global learners. And as educators, we owe it to ourselves and our students to make those connections.

The world is waiting!


Wow! I can’t believe I have not posted anything this entire school year! I’m not sure what that means. I have decided that I will be retir...