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 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 to celebrate my accomplishments. In the beginning, she was very encouraging. The more I rode, the better my endurance got.  I also notice 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 think I may have?

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.com.  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 for ever! 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 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!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ready, Set, Flip!

Here's an oldie, but a goodie. Click here to listen to the podcast with Jon Bergmann.

Friday, August 26, 2016


As of today we have officially been in school for 4 weeks! Four weeks mind you! And today was actually the first day that I have felt like we had it together, or maybe I should say "I" had it together.

We have been fine tuning some of our procedures since Day 1 and I really mean fine tuning. Like only 4 feet on the purple carpet at one time. That means only 2 people can be in their cubbies at the same time....all about crowd control. And stacking chairs and balls BEFORE specials rather than rushing afterward made a huge difference. My personal favorite was what to do while we are waiting for everyone to come to the carpet to share after Reading Workshop.  That proved to be the perfect time for kids to update their reading logs in their Reader's Notebooks; something that was never done consistently in the past. It's the little things!

It is soooo important to take time to teach procedures at the beginning of the year.  Someone (can't remember who) said "If you consequate, you must educate".  How can we hold kids accountable for things we have not taught them?

Like I said, today things fell into place. So much so that we physically came together in a huddle before they left to go to the buses and gave a loud "team on 3" with high 5s all around!  As I looked at the kids I saw lots of smiling faces. Kids really do want to do the right thing.  I think we will add that celebration to our dismissal every day!

What are some routines and celebrations you practice in your class?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lights, Camera, Action!

If someone would have told me that me that my third grade students would not only record a green screen movie using DoInk, but would then upload that video to iMovie to edit (add titles, credits, and background music) and finally post that movie on Seesaw for their parents and other classmates to enjoy I probably would not have believed it. Heck! I didn't know how to do all that myself!

My students used Do Ink to record public-service announcements about recycling. We were having problems with some of the videos.  I wasn't really sure how to use the app, let alone how to edit the final product, but I knew it could be done; my fifth graders had just done it just a couple of years ago. They were pros at it.  They did it all, recording and editing. They did it so well that I didn't pay attention to HOW they did it.  They seemed to figure it all out. Now as a third grade teacher I needed know "how" they did it. . . or did I?

That's when it hit me.  I flipped my class for content, surely there are videos on how to use DoInk and iMovie.  So I went on YouTube and searched "how to add titles and credits using iMovie". Then I thought "Hey! I can google how to use DoInk". So I did.  Next, I created a technology folder on Edmond and upload those videos to our Edmodo class page. I don't know why I hadn't done that before! I told one of my students who was particularly tech  Savvy, "I want you to go home, watch these videos and figure out how to add titles and credits to your Do Ink video using iMovie". And guess what. He did it! He posted the edited version of the video on Edmodo. It was awesome!

When he came back to school the next day, we had a little tutorial session and he showed other students in the class how to use iMovie to edit their videos. Now everyone is doing it, including me!  I learned the "hows" of recording and editing right along side my students!

My students were able to figure it out without my direct instruction!  I guess what I really wanted to say was you don't have to know how to do everything BEFORE you give that experience to your students. You just have to have the resources available and they will figure it out! Yes, even in third grade they will figure it out!

Here are two videos that were created with DoInk and then edited with iMovie.  Enjoy!

We learned how to make the recycling bin fly in from watching the tutorial video! Pretty cool, huh?

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 yo...