Saturday, January 3, 2015


It is that time of year again…. time to make resolutions for becoming a better you, trying really hard for about two and a half weeks, and then letting life take over and those resolutions go by the wayside…. ugh:( Luckily, I find resolutions for the classroom much easier to keep than decreasing carbs (bread…. I love bread!!!! Want to know what I like with my bread? More BREAD!!!) so even though we are less than half way through the year, this is a great time to take stock and make some goals going forward.

So, how will I make 2015 the best year for my students? Simply, I will continue to ENGAGE! I will continue to get my kiddos out of their seats and help them interact with their learning. Im going to accomplish this in two ways:

1) Simulations and Labs: I’m going to add even more activities into my class to help students experience history. We will continue to act as detectives and solve history's mysteries as well as take part in labs that help reinforce key concepts and let the kiddos understand what daily life was like for people of the past! 

2) Extend their Learning: I have so many kiddos that are begging to be challenged! Technology can truly help me do this. For the rest of the year I need to enrich their learning by continuing to implement my Google Classroom extension assignments, have them play more with video using websites like Zaption and EduCanon, and utilize those amazing phones they have in their pockets for response systems and classroom videos (blog post coming soon on these amazing vocabulary videos we made with their own phones and editing apps of their choice!!!) As usual they taught me a thing or two!

So, comment up people! How are you going to make 2015 the best year ever for your students? I’d love to hear your ideas!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Social Studies Labs

So I gave myself a goal this year. I want to add as many hands on, experiential activities into my class as possible. So far, they have been an amazing success! I blogged about this activity last month.

This week my kiddos got to experience what it felt like to be a hominid. They looooooved it and beg for more labs!!!

Homo Erectus building their tower.
Neanderthal and Cro Magnon
Homo Habilis very proud of their horrible tower and their lack of fine motor skills.

Click her and check it out!



Saturday, October 11, 2014

What's Been Going On In the World?

I've had some people ask for me to post my monthly "What's Been Going On In The World" so here we go! Here is October's version for your bulletin board. Just click here!

If you happen to use them, let me know in the comments below!!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tech Tip: Zaption is Amazing!

Found an amazing new piece of tech!  I am not able to flip my class, but I have enough computers in my class to give assignments online with a long due date.  On the journey to find new edtech I found Zaption.

Zaption allows you to take videos from various platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, etc., ) and add questions them. 

I took a CNN Student News video from YouTube, on Ebola, and added it to my Zaption account.  I added open response and multiple choice questions.  I then added the link and direction to my Google Classroom account.

When students go to the link, they are asked for their name.  This is private and only linked to your account.  As soon as they start the assignment you start to gether this amazing data!  

My kiddos absolutely loved this and asked if it could be their constant bonus activity.  I'm going to try it in a couple of weeks with a recorded lecture and see how it works with a whole group.  

I am totally in love and I can't wait to discover more!!!

Speed Dating and Tallest Tower

Woo hoo!  Three day weekend!  My kiddos and I have had an amazing start to the year but I sure deserve this weekend!  I've been having some fabulous stuff going on in my class lately.

1) I'm still totally in love with Plickers!
Plickers is better than ever and just did some amazing upgrades to their website.  You can now make multiple choice questions and create the questions online to save for later.  I use these a lot in class and was trying to find a streamlined way for us to use them at the beginning of class.  Voila!!!  I had them paste them in the back of their interactive notebooks.
Now Plickers is even quicker and more useful than it was before!

2) I have a huge number of ELLs in my class and they are amazing.  We are noticing that they really don't like to speak academically.  I've decided that is one of my focuses this year and employed a trick from last year.  The kiddos did an awesome activity on the possibilities of what may have happened to the inhabitants of Roanoke.  In the end, the kiddos had to make a claim about what they thought happened.  Before I sent them to pen and paper I wanted them to be able to discuss their ideas and get feedback from others.  So I did the only thing that made sense....
I made them SPEED DATE!!!!!
I partnered up the kids and gave them questions that would help them solidify their claim.

They had to minutes to discuss it with their partner but their was one rule..... no writing.  After two minutes they had to switch partners and the speed dating wasn't done until they had worked with all four questions.  It was wonderful and I got the most amazing responses out of my kiddos.

3) I created an amazing History Lab for my little ones.  We were learning about the types of government and I decided to focus on just monarchy, dictatorship, democracy, and monarchy.  The students had the task of building the tallest freestanding tower with minimal supplies.  Each person, though, was given a task and role that mimicked a different type of government.  The kids experienced each government and played roles such as monarch, dictator, elected official, heir, and average person.  To add to the excitement of the building the tower, I played this music in the background (after being inspired by my Thursday night #sstlap Twitter group to add more music to my classroom.)

*** In the dictatorship station, the dictator could send students to the corner for no reason whatsoever.

If you are interested in this activity in its entirety, click here and check it out!

Lastly, I've been dipping my toes in Whole Brain Teaching and would love any feedback/suggestions middle school teachers have about implementing it in the classroom.

Have a great 3 day weekend!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Google Classroom.... The beginning of a love affair...sigh

Ugh..... My pile of grading is daunting....

Ha! I make myself giggle sometimes! Seriously, that is my pile of grading. Google Classroom is amazing and fabulous and I'm a school girl in love.
I told the kids that this year I wanted top go "paper light".  All assignments would be in paper form and online. Students could decide how they wanted to complete them. I also have the luxury of 5 old laptops, 2 beautiful macs, and one iPad in the classroom and a study hall time for kids to accomplish assignments.

The kids were hung ho! I spent a whole day doing a tech sign up for the entire middle school (Google Classroom, Engrade, Quizlet, etc.) and showing them how Google Classroom worked. I was fortunate enough to have one of our tech instructionalists from the district join us, because when it comes to tech, an extra set of amazing hands is always welcome.

 The kids fell in love and we have been off without a hitch. I post all my assignments (as well as posting them on Remind... My other love) on Google Classroom. Weekly, I assign a current events article with Common Core close reading questions to support my English Language Arts teachers. This assignment can be "turned in" through Google Drive and they looooove it.

 About 70% hand the assignment in digitally. Interestingly enough, they still prefer to have the reading in paper form but love to do their writing in digital form.

Once we got started, I decided to step up my game. This summer I took a two day conference with EdTech Teachers and... Well.... It was amazing!!! My workshop was all about learning how to use technology to help struggling learners. With my special ed beginnings and my new endeavor in a district with a huge number of students who speak English as a Second Language, I was captivated by the entire two days. Beth Holland, my teacher, wrote a guest blog post for Richard Byrnes about combining Google Drive and Newsela.

 I took some of the suggestions and combined with this blogpost and found liquid gold. The first time I did this I used Junior Scholastic.  Junior Scholastic now offers a lower lexiled article online for teachers.  I then used the summarize tool on the mac to make an even lower lexiled version.

The second week I used Newsela to organize three articles at three different Lexile scores.

 I spoke with my ELA teachers and organized my readings into three levels, created folders in Google Drive for those three levels, and shared them with the students based on their SRI and MCAs scores.

 For bonus, I put reading comprehension questions in the comments based upon the reading level of the article.

 For my lowest level group, I made an audio version of the article, using QuickTime on the computer(something I learned from those crafty EdTech Teachers) and put that in their Google Drive as well. 

Voila! Instant reading groups, leveld discussion, teacher feedback and read alouds to meet every IEP.
Have I reminded you how much I love Google?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently September

Hey all!  I hope your beginning of the school year is fabulous!  It's been awhile,  but I'm linking up with the fabulous Farley over at Oh Boy! Fourth Grade!  

Head on over to see what other educators are doing!