Friday, December 19, 2014

Hour of Code

It has been awhile since I have blogged, but now starting to get back into the transition of things after embarking on a new position and purchasing a new home! Many first this year for the family to keep us busy.

Last week we participated with the Hour of Code, presented by I'm sure many of you know about the event by now, but for those that don' is a week long celebration to raise awareness about computer programming to students. To try and get them more involved and to hopefully gain some sort of interest in one area of programming.

My students have very much loved it in the past, and once again it was a favorite again this year. So much a favorite that we had to code not only one week, but two. Keeping in mind, I only see my students once a week for 50 minutes.

We began our coding session with a video. A very popular one from Code.or called, "What Most Schools Don't Teach." It is a great 5 minute video that really gives a lot of visuals on other areas of computer programming.

After watching the video, we began with a short Google Slide presentation to walk students through different types of coding and some of the vocabulary they would stumble across.

Because of our time being so little with the students and everyone having a different taste, my teaching partner and I came up with the idea of creating a coding menu. This would allow students to pick activities from different various levels and different types of coding. That way, they can participate with the Hour of Code doing something that would appeal to them. Click the image below for a FREE copy. Images are taken from, Tynker and Made With Code.

Menu created by K.McFarlin and M. Thorne
The students really loved the idea of spending two weeks on coding, which allowed them to experience more than one activity in the short time that we have them.

Top two favorite coding activities by students:
1. Flappy Bird (They loved being able to share their game on Edmodo with other students at our school)
2. Made with Code by Google (Both boys and girls loved the animation and design programming activities)

After winter break, we will be diving into Syntax coding. They are very excited for that!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A New Transition

For the last 4 years, I've had the great opportunity of teaching in a 1:1 Apple Distinguished District. After years of collaborating with others and leadership opportunities, it was a decision that I made to transition myself into a new role with a new district.

When I heard about my current district beginning their 1:1 journey, it was quickly something I took interest and investigated for how to become part of it.

After the interview process, I was offered the position as a technology teacher within the district for two elementary buildings. While I'd be using my 1:1 skills that I had gained previously, there were a couple of differences.

1. I'd become a specials teacher. (Yes, I now understand the hardships of trying to memorize over 600 names!)

2. I work in a lab with PC computers (Very different from my years of 1:1 iPads and Macbooks)

3. Skills - the students are still learning and I have to constantly remind myself of that. They don't have the experience that my previous students had.

With knowing those differences, I've used it as a way to learn more myself. It really helps me to think more about the lessons that I create. Not to mention, I'm working on patience with a new device and 600 new students. Of course, they love teaching me things about the PC that I have forgotten over the years being a Macbook user.

Overall, I love the change I have made and wouldn't change it one bit. I love being able to work with many students and faculty members, rather than being kept to one classroom. However, I couldn't be in the position I am today without the encouragement and opportunities given to me by my previous faculty, staff and students.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Living, Laughing and Learning!

Living, laughing and learning I believe is something that summarizes the last week that I haven't been able to blog for. It has been pretty chaotic, but well worth it and hoping I can catch up now. I don't want to give up on Michelle's Big Time Blogging Challenge from Big Time Literacy! So, start blogging and link up with us!

So I'll start from where I left off last and twist some of the topics from there!

7/16 - Favorite TV Shows or Movies
-Recently, one of my favorite TV shows has been "Halt and Catch Fire." If you haven't seen it, and you like computers and technology, I highly suggest watching it. It is a TV series based in the 80's around the design of the first portable computer. This show brings flashbacks to when my dad tried to surprise me with a laptop computer in the 90s. He got it on a deal, but I wanted nothing to do with it because it was so bulky, it even had a charging station as opposed to a power cable. Now, being the technology lover that I am, I regret not holding onto it just as an antique.
 7/17 - Favorite Classroom Management Tip
-One of my favorite classroom management tools is Class Dojo. For those that aren't familiar with the website, each student has an avatar that can be customized. Students can earn points for making positive decisions in the classroom or even have them taken away. It is even setup now where you can weight different rewards so the value of the point increases. I love this website because it is incredibly useful in a 1:1 room. My students can check their points from their own device when I don't have the whole class displayed on the screen. One of the best parts, I don't have to be stationed at my computer to award points, it can even be done from my iPad or iPhone. I also love the parent messaging feature that has been recently added since parents can join and view their student's stats.
7/18 - Teacher "Must Haves" that you purchase at the start of the year:
- Most teachers are out hitting the penny sales, which I admit I also do at the start of the year, but I think that is more to stock up for the items I know my students won't bring in. However, I think my must haves tend to be more along the DIY route. Every year, I try to make my classroom feel more like a relaxed home environment. So, sometimes my must haves are projects I have made at home for curtains, cushions or stools. Other times, my must haves are stocking up on items that fit my classroom color scheme like contact paper to makeover file cabinets and shelves or plastic table clothes to brighten up my bulletin boards. I spend so much time decorating my classroom because even I want to feel comfortable in there for as much time as I spend in it during the day.

7/19 - What holiday do you enjoy spending most with your students?
- I think over the years, I have become less focused on holiday celebrations. Some of the reason is because I have had students that just didn't celebrate, but the other part of the reason is because I've had students that just were interested in the typical classroom party. Rather, what I have found myself getting more excited about is the reenacting historical events to bring them to life. After having seen Dave Burgess, "Teach Like A Pirate," speak at our local ICE conference, this really started the fire under me. I've never laughed so hard in class compared to the times this previous year when we acted out the taxation from the Brits on the Colonies and when we learned about Henry Box Brown. We really had a lot of fun and I know the days were memorable for the kids.

7/20 - If money were no object, what experience would you give your students?
-If I had the chance, I think my experience would just be to continue to give my students local experiences they wouldn't otherwise have the chance to do. Since most of them only travel between our city and their home country, for the most part they haven't even been to downtown Chicago, until recently. Having moved up with my students from 4th to 5th, I was able to have two great experiences with them. Their first time on a trolley through downtown and a boat tour from the Chicago River onto Lake Michigan. The way their eyes beamed from being on the boat tour was priceless and a day I will never forget. There is so much out there for them to experience locally, so that is what I would continue to do.

7/21 - How do you prefer to read books?
-While I do love my technology, my preference when reading is the good traditional paper book. I know the iPad and/or kindle can do great things for annotating, highlighting, brightness and size adjustments, but there is something about turning the paper pages that I still enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I still do my share of reading electronically, but I do prefer visiting the library or the excitement of waiting for a new book to come in the mail.

In the classroom though, I do really enjoy the availability of electronic books for my students. With our school library being smaller and students having read most of the books over the past few years, I like that they can still connect to the public library when sometimes their family can't take them there. The important thing is just to continue to read, no matter if it is paper to electronic viewing.

7/22 - Living, laughing and learning!
- I figured I would end my catch up on posts with the title of my, laughing and learning.

Living - This past week, as mentioned, has been extremely chaotic. One important thing I have learned this past year is to take care of myself. I have a very hard work ethic, I probably work too much. I've really tried this summer to relax, get the rest I need, take care of my health, and make good choices that will help my well-being.

Laughing - They always say that the best medicine is to laugh, and I did just that this past weekend. For the first time, we had a family reunion to travel to. Most of the time we only ever really saw one another was when we had weddings or funerals. As the generations get older, it is important to them to make sure we still keep the connections. So, every 2 years we will be traveling for family reunions. The last time I saw some of my cousins, I was around 18 years old.  It was great to introduce them to my husband and my daughter, but also to see my daughter interact with her cousins that she had never met previously. There are also many educators in my family, so the stories there are endless. Overall, it was a great time traveling to Michigan. Just wish I had the time to stop at more sites along the way.

Learning - This is something that we all do on a daily basis. Each day is a learning experience, no matter how your life is structured. Maybe it is a mistake you have made that needs to be corrected, a toddler you are trying to teach something to, or just even trying to educate yourself for preparation. As stress begins to add on before the next school year, I always like to remind myself that tomorrow is a new day. This is what keeps me strong and gets me through the tough times.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

21st Century Learners

The one great thing about this blogging challenge for July, is it is really guiding me to focus and think about what I want to accomplish next year.

Today's topic from the Big Time Blogging Challenge is about memorable students. Well, there are too many to share. So, I will turn to something that was memorable to them this year and reflect on that.


As a 5th grade teacher, one of the celebrations that my students get to experience is their 5th Grade Farewell. Following tradition, the students each stand in front of the 5th grade families and faculty sharing their memories of their learning journey so far in our district. It is definitely a test for their public speaking skills! I know I would have been nervous as a 5th grader!

Anyways, one topic that came up quite often from my students was that one of their favorite things was Passion Time. Some may also know of it as Genius Hour or 20% time.

While I still experiment to figure it out myself and how to best implement it, I always turn to great resources to guide me more. One educator, who I had the privilege of observing in his own classroom, was Paul Solarz. If you haven't visited his site, please do! I heard of him through a faculty member that I work with. He had setup an observation and kindly asked me to join him. I'm so glad I went! We were fortunate to gain a previous faculty member of Paul's at our school, Allison LaFalce, who is also very knowledgeable about the topic, so I spent many times picking her brain.

Besides visiting websites and blogs, this summer I've turned to some books. I found these books recommended on the Genius Hour website. Before actually purchasing them as resources for myself, I hit my local library to see what I could get my hands on. So far I've obtained...

1. Creating Innovators by: Tony Wagner
2. Drive by: Daniel H. Pink (Very recommended from poster sessions I saw at ISTE)
3. Invent to Learn by: Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager, Ph.D.
4. 21st Century Skills by: Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel

Now, I selected to read Creating Innovators first, however my trouble has been finding the time to actually read. Between house hunting, working virtual summer school (I know, you would think piece of cake) and my daughter's schedule, by the time I have a few quiet minutes, I pass out. From what I have read about Creating Innovators, I've really enjoyed. I'll keep you updated as I move forward, however I think any of the books above would be a great start for getting your kids to just have the drive and motivation in class to learn. If you have read one of the books above, or know of another I haven't grabbed yet, I'd love to know your thoughts!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Combo Blog Post

Well, I'm slacking again. My free time has been consumed with looking at houses online, so I've sadly pushed the blogging to the side in order to dive into paying attention to details. Good thing for technology and iPad apps, because it makes it easy to flip through. :)

I'm teaming up with Michelle from Big Time Literacy for her Big Time Blogging Challenge.


Sunday's Topic = Travel: recent excursions or future adventures. 

I've always had quite the travel bug in me since I turned 18 and was allowed to adventure out on my own. Having a husband from England, definitely has the bonus of being able to fly back and visit the family. I love Europe, if it wasn't so darn expensive, I would pack and move in a heartbeat. One of my favorites was being able to travel back to London during the time of the Olympics. It was amazing to be able to walk out of my in-laws house and walk down the road to see the bike race. It is something about the atmosphere of London in general, I just feel so relaxed and at home there.

Since we won't be traveling back to London this year, our traveling adventure is house hunting. As many of you know, finding a home on a teaching budget can be quite difficult. Our budget is low, to allow us to hopefully have that flexibility to travel back and visit Europe when we can. However today, we really begin to see the type of home we get for our price tag. House hunting is an exhausting adventure on its own. I know that when it is time the right one will fall into place.

Monday's Topic = favorite read aloud books or novels to teach with

One of the best literacy topics that I love teaching with picture books is figurative language. I just have so much fun with the read alouds and the products that can be produced after.

I really love all of the Tedd Arnold books. Parts, More Parts and Even More Parts. Those are great for visuals and just to give the kids a good laugh. Although, I think I find myself giggling more than them. hee hee

One of the books I really like for onomatopoeia is "The Great Fuzz Frenzy," by Janet Stevens. I bought this on a discount when I worked a book fair once. Every year it is hit or miss with the kids, but my group last year really enjoyed it.

Now, relating this back onto the technology side. There are many great apps or programs that you can complete after read alouds on figurative language. Comics are always one of my favorite activities to do. Programs like Comic Life have great templates that are easy to use and that can be done on a laptop or an iPad. Videos or audio recordings using iMovie or Garageband is great for onomatopoeia since it is based on sound. Having students show a visual and describe the sound that it produces. The ideas are quite endless and you would be impressed what the students may come up with on their own if you give them a little bit of freedom! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Catching up!

This is horrible that time has completely strayed away and I haven't had the chance to blog the last 3 days. So, you are going to get the Thursday, Friday and Saturday blogging challenge all in one.

For those of you who aren't following, I'm linking up with Michelle, from Big Time Literacy for her Big Time Blogging Challenge. Each day there is a different topic, should you decide to follow along for the month of July. If not, you can blog about whatever applies to you.


For the purpose of the chaotic last few days, I'm going to stick to the blogging calendar.

Thursday's topic = Who are your teaching idols?
I don't think that there is a specific individual who I look up to. I think my idols in teaching could be a mix of various qualities. One quality, are those in my district who gave me the opportunity to experiment and showcase what I know, but to also help me in learning even more. I've been very lucky to attend various state, country and district PDs. We have a lot of talents in our district alone and I'm very grateful for that. If I want to learn more about a specific topic, there is always someone I can contact.

Another quality in an idol are those who I follow on Twitter that really push the limits to try new things and engage students even more. Sometimes teachers are afraid to try what they read about because they are restricted to a specific map. I feel that teachers learn, just like students. You have to be hands on and you have to almost experiment with your lessons. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, but that is why we reflect on the experience and we can grow as an individual. Some of those who I like to follow on Twitter for new ideas are Paul Hamilton, Brad Waid, Drew Minock, Paul Solarz, Scott Hagedorn and many more. Anyone who is willing to experiment with the intentions of what is best for the student population is an idol to me.

Friday's topic = How would your students describe you?

If you were to ask my students what they thought of me, I think most of them would say that I am too relaxed and patient. The one thing about the way I ran my classroom is that it is very relaxed. I don't yell, nor do I enjoy shouting going on. It always made me cry as a student when a teacher yelled at me, so why would I do it to them? My students and I spend so much time in our room, that I want it to be a comfortable learning environment. I try to make sure the space is as relaxing as possible, we even have a futon and benches to sit on. Pillows can be enjoyed on the floor and some plans for some butterfly chairs next year and stools.

I think my students would also describe me as techy. Around the school, the students very much know me for my experimentation with the technology and for running the school digital newsletter. It's no doubt, that when they show up on my class list for the next year that they know to expect a lot of technology integration into our daily use.

Saturday's topic = Share about your most important friendships.

Since this blog is about education, I would like to turn this topic onto the friendships at school. Having previously worked in a very high paced business environment before going into teaching, it was very competitive and you had to play the game well to maintain friendships and not get looked over in the office.  It's that same kind of even playing field that I brought with me into education. I think it is extremely important to get along with everyone in the building, even if you aren't always on the same page because you will learn something valuable from everyone.

The one thing that I always talk to others about our school building is the family environment that we have. Each wedding, baby shower, birthday, graduations, house purchase and so forth is always a celebration by all. We are so supportive and encouraging of one another and I know that is unique to other districts around. We are just colleagues, we are family and I feel the same way about many other members in our district that I have grown to know. When you respect one another for the educator that they are, it goes along way. Even with my administrators, I never felt that I was looked down on, there was always a common ground where I could easily approach them to discuss ideas I had without fear. I'm very thankful on a daily basis for the friendships that have blossomed at school. I look forward to summer PDs not just because I will learn something I am interested in, but because I know I will get to see individuals I have missed seeing over summer break.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Workout Wednesday

So I've participated in Monday Made It, Techy Tuesday, Five for Friday...what about Wednesday? So, I figured I would use Wednesdays to focus on my health and lifestyle.

Besides using my blog to help others integrate technology into their lessons, my other passion is educating others about my vegan lifestyle. While, some select this lifestyle to help fight for animal rights, I myself selected it by choice to live a healthier way. I was never a big meat eater growing up, just didn't like it. I know, some of you probably think I'm crazy.... When I was pregnant, I forced myself to eat chicken because others told me it was good for the baby. I really disliked it and I guarantee I won't be doing that again when we decide to have more kids.

I almost find being vegan as a fun challenge. This lifestyle has come a long way. I remember when I first started vegetarian, it was hard to even find a veggie burger in the store. Now there are great places, like Whole Foods, who have become my best friend. Even local grocers, like Jewel, have started carrying more options. Even on restaurant menus, more and more are starting to create vegan and gluten-free options. My husband and I enjoy cooking vegan and I love when I hear comments from others about how great the smell is from the kitchen...the meat eaters saying this I mind you. Once they find out it is vegan food, that stereotype response kicks right in..."no thanks."

So, where am I getting with this. I'm not on a soap box by any means. I will admit, when I am out shopping, one thing I do find myself selecting more of when it comes to clothing and accessories are vegan products. I even purchased vegan Toms once and I have to say, they are the most comfortable shoes I've ever had.

Well, being a runner and following many running companies on Twitter, I saw a tweet come multiple times about a company called GladSoles. My husband, who became a vegan before me, had investigated more about them and found that they are actually a vegan company that makes sandals. However, the nice thing about them, is that they cut the sandals to your actual foot size, because no two feet are the same.

They are a very simple design and you can customize them with a variety of lace colors. They have three different styles depending on the thickness of the foot pad that you want, but you can even run in them. Very similar to the barefoot shoes that they sell. I owned a pair of Newbalance like that once for shorter distances and loved them, I continue to ware them even though they look like they were plucked from the garbage. ha ha

The process for ordering is even easier. On the website, you can download their forms to trace your feet. They have tutorial videos on how to do everything. My husband and I traced each others feet to make it easier. We scanned the images, sent them in and that same day, on a holiday I mind you, they contacted us back immediately. We couldn't be more impressed with the customer service and were excited for them to ship on Monday! Well, we just received them in the mail today and you better believe it, I got them out to lace up right away!

Like everything else, there is a tutorial on their site for how to lace them, really easy to do if you follow the steps. If you start following them on Instagram, there are tons of other ideas on how to get creative with the lacing as well! I'm excited for them to mold to my feet and become the most comfortable sandals I've ever owned! Maybe even venture out in a run one day!

Today's post was on behalf of part of the Big Time Blogging Challenge #BTBC14. Check out Michelle's site at Big Time Literacy for more information!



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tune into Technology: Getting Techy with Reading

Today I have a duel linkup for you again! Just think, more blogs that you can be exposed to if you haven't found them already!

First up, we have Michelle from Big Time Literacy! She is running a month long blogging challenge so today we are on day #8!


I'm also linking up with Kristin, from iTeach 1:1 for their Tune into Technology Tuesday. This is a great way to share ideas about how you integrate technology into various content areas. Check out her site for the schedule!
Today's Tune into Technology topic is.......Reading!

This past year, my school/district started following the Reading Workshop instructional method by Lucy Calkins. My goal this year was to do the best I could to combine my passion of technology, with her units of study. So below, you will find some examples of how we used tech during our reading instruction, but feel free to visit the 1:1 Reading tab on my blog for even more ideas.

1) One of my big plunges this past year was getting my 5th graders to blog. I thought they may find more meaning in their responses if they had the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. One easy way I also tried to connect with today's techy learners was to incorporate hashtags. This really ignited the light bulb in their head, it was something they had seen and could relate to. So, they used their hashtag about something or a section in their book to be their inspiration for their blog.
As for blogging, my students used Blogger. It connected perfectly with their student Google account, so we jumped in, in hopes they could hold onto it and expand upon it for future grades.

2) Another challenge I faced this year was transitioning my 5th graders into the format of a group mini lesson on the floor. This was something I found they really struggled with to sit there, mostly because of their age. I saw a Tweet come out about a program called Nearpod, so I decided to investigate and give it a try. I began practicing with it in math, getting them used to the program before introducing it into reading, they really liked it! Mostly because it is a slide-show format that keeps them all on the same page, then they can answer confidently at their own table on the dry erase portion without the worry of their neighbor seeing what they wrote.

So, the time came to giving it a try in class, coincidentally it was also the same day I was being observed. ha ha I played with a few more options this time, giving my administrator an advanced warning. Using technology, you never know what may happen. The students brought their iPads to the mini lesson and we had a discussion about character point of view. Students annotated text from the book, watched videos from Disney films, and held discussions with one another about what they viewed. This got them really excited and engaged!

3) My third idea I want to share with you today is just giving your kids the option to have fun with the technology and reading. The reading workshop is about sharing and there are a ton of apps and websites on the devices that allow them to do that. I had students that loved to create advertisements for their books using iMovie or comic making programs, some preferred apps like Tellagami, iStopMotion or Puppet Pals

Monday Made It!

Today I'm using the Big Time Blogging Challenge from Big Time Literacy to also link up with Monday Made it from 4th Grade frolics!


Remember, the Big Time Literacy blogging challenge is for the month of July. Michelle is celebrating a year of blogging while also encouraging others to do the same. Please check her site out.

Fourth Grade Frolics
4th Grade Frolics is a blog that I am literally obsessed with and I have been for the last few years. I stumbled upon it when I was first hired to teach 4th grade 4 years ago and I haven't stopped stalking her site since! One of my favorite parts of her blog is the summer Monday Made It linky. It is a page I check every Monday to gather ideas for my class. From there, I create a list on my computer with links to all the ideas I like and those become some of my summer DIY projects!

This is my first time being able to link up with Monday Made It for this summer. I just have been so busy that I haven't had time to jump on the wagon yet. Then, even Monday night, I didn't start my Monday Made it until extremely late.

I've actually copied what is one of the new trends and started organizing my Pinterest Boards. With some new challenges coming my way next year, I figured it was time to start dividing what had been one large classroom idea board. Now, my Pinterest has blown up into 23 boards. ha ha

Event on my trip to ISTE, I heard many more and more people discussing how they are using Pinterest to gather ideas for education. With that, if I was going to start sharing my collections on my blog, I wanted to make sure that it was neat to look at....not only for my eyes, but for others.

So, I have followed the trend of making my own cover photos that match my blog logo for my pin boards. While it may be time consuming, it is so incredibly simple to do. After hours of organizing my pins, my cover photos became quite simple since I wasn't in the mood to spend much more time on it. ha ha You will see that Tara's and Kristin have much more creative looking cover photos. Maybe one day I'll go back to update mine.

I highly suggest staring by checking out 4th Grade Frolics, Monday Made It... see how Tara designed hers and maybe that will spark some inspiration.

Then, once you are ready to start, head over to Kristin's page at the Ladybug's Teacher Files. She has a great tutorial on how to do it HERE.

Mine is still a work in progress as I go back through and upload the photos, but here is an example of what mine are starting to look like.

Thanks for stopping by.....

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Getaways

Linking up again with Michelle, from Big Time Literacy for her July Big Time Blogging Challenge. Check it out if you haven't had the chance!


Today's topic for day #6 is... Summer vacation plans!

This year, we don't have a whole lot planned for family vacations. We had anticipated a flight back to London to visit my in-laws and friends, but that was put on hold as we are saving for a house.

I would definitely consider my surprise visit to ISTE as a summer getaway. The unexpected trip that was also an incredible learning experience is surely a getaway to me. Even if my brain was about to explode after an hour in there. ha ha

As for upcoming, the only other major trip we have set is to visit family up in Michigan. We have many family members who live near Brighton, MI, and they arranged for us to have a family reunion. Since many are spread out between Michigan, Alaska, Texas and Illinois, this gives us a chance to reconnect since most of my extended family I haven't seen for over 10 years.

While we are headed up that way, we also help to visit the Detroit area and spend a day there before traveling back. We are very close to the Canadian border, but I would much rather plan a trip back when we can spend an extended amount of time up north.

Hopefully next week I will get back onto the technology blogging bandwagon. Recuperating from ISTE along with the holiday weekend took longer than expected to get back into the swing of things. I guess if anything, I can relate this family trip to social media. It allows us to stay together, even if there is a large distance between us. Instant feedback, even though handwritten letters are still a treat to receive. I've always loved using global connections in my classroom as much as I can, giving my students that learning experience of the other cultures around them. ePals is one of my favorite organizations for penpals, but Skype and Google Hangouts are great for a quick 30 minute learning experience if you can't devote a year to distance learning. :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

3 Cheers for the.....

Getting off topic so I don't bore you with my ISTE fanatics to jump onto the Big Time Blogging Challenge calendar and go with the topic for the day. If you haven't done so already, it isn't too late to link up and join with Big Time Literacy!


Today's topic... for which team/teams do you get out your pom poms for?

Having always been a south side gal, my heart belongs to the Chicago White Sox. However, I will admit that even though I am not a cubs fan, I do still enjoy the classic history of the field and the surrounding neighborhoods by Wrigley.

I grew up playing high school softball, and looking up to the MLB players of Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas. It was exciting for me to watch them play my high school position. My bachelorette party was even to a White Sox game. Now, having a child, my visitation to the field has decreased significantly. Although, I have to say that their family afternoon games on Sundays do hold plenty of activities for kids.

I look back and laugh now at how anti-Cubs I used to be. During my career before teaching, I used to work for an events company that held shows at Wrigley Field. I remember as I worked, my mission was to make sure my feet were stuck on the plastic covering and not touching the grass of the field itself. Now that I am older, that has definitely changed.

When I'm not cheering on baseball, I am married to an Englishman, so my weekends tend to revolve around premier league games. As you can image, the World Cup is a pretty big event in our house, even though the USA and England didn't make it to the finals.

So, what team/teams do you cheer for?

Friday, July 4, 2014

5 For Friday! Happy 4th!

So, doing two link-ups today. 1) Big Time Blogging Challenge and 2) Five For Friday with Doodle Bugs!


Continuing with my ISTE reflection, I thought today would be perfect for 5 people you should follow on Twitter. These are all individuals who I didn't start following until I attended ISTE. There are so many more, but these are just a select few. Please contact me or see my Twitter page if you are interested in more individuals that I follow. Most are ADE (Apple Distinguished Educators), but they have great tips regardless what device you use!

1) Luis Perez (@_luisfperez) - I was introduced to Luis through Shannon Soger (@shannonsoger), who is a colleague of mine. Luis is an ADE, but one of his passions happens to be accessibility features for the Mac and iPad. I had the opportunity to watch him at the ADE Playground and he blew my mind away with some of the features I wasn't even aware about. Please check out his site! He even has a book out now called Mobile Learning for All.

2) Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd) - I had the honor of seeing Todd present at an ignite session at ISTE. For those of you who aren't familiar with Ignites, these are individuals who are presenting ideas and possibly even programs, but they only have 5 minutes to do so and 20 images. The fun part, is the slides for their presentation aren't controlled by them, they are automatically timed, so the presenter can't pause, you just have to keep up. Todd touched on a topic that is very close to my heart and that is passion. He gave his students the task of completing a project at home... well they soon came back and blew him away with the math fair they created. It is a clear image of how students really drive their own education when motivated.

3) GripCase (@Gripcase) - There are so many cases that are out on the market for your mobile devices, but Gripcase has a great message and meaning. Brian, the owner, was introduced to me by Shannon Soger (@shannonsoger) and Sue Gorman (@sjgorman). Over a great conversation at dinner, I got to hear more about their company and the reason for designing their case. Brian originally developed the idea because of his son, who had just received an iPad. So, you know it is durable! They are light, have great handles for kids/adults to grasp, and they have a great BOGO promotion to help other schools. Did I mention, they do a great job of listening to customer feedback to help design the cases based on the needs of their of those needs being for it to fit in mobile carts!

4) Courtney Pepe (@ipadqueen2012) - an ADE and educator from New Jersey, Courtney was another individual I was lucky to see at the ISTE ignite session. She is very passionate about the integration of technology with education and loves her robotics! She had a great demonstration on the use of her Google Glass with Sphero. Students need to learn how to code!

5) Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock) - I feel ashamed to admit that I only started following her at ISTE. If you want a queen of technology, Kathy Schrock is surely that with over 38,000 individuals following her on Twitter. If you need some great tech resources, follow her and visit her website! There are too many amazing things about her to write a paragraph out here. ha ha

I hope you enjoyed my 5 for Friday. Again, there are a ton more I could add to my list. There are so many great people I am already following and new individuals I continue to seek out!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tech Tool Thursday!

Linking up again, with Michelle from Big Time Literacy, to work on completing the challenge for July. If you have happened to stumble across my blog, take some time to check her's out. The challenge is very easily laid out if you are new to blogged and need some prompts to start!


Day #3

Yesterday, I could have easily rambled about my ISTE experience, there is just so much that I want to share. However, I felt that my reflection is best done in separate posts. So, today's theme, we will call it, "Tech Tool Thursday!" Here are some of my favorite tools that I had learned about while attending ISTE. Some even came from just observing a quick walk-by of a poster session. Feel free to explore and learn yourself!

1. Scoodle Jam - A colleague of mine tweeted this app about about a week or two before I had left for ISTE. Since it was currently free, I figured I would download it, but hadn't had the chance to check it out. Well, for my luck, there was a BYOD workshop I was able to attend covering the aspects of this app. To state it briefly, thing of Scoodle Jam as a white board app, however it isn't just any white board app. It comes with preloaded graphic organizers, stickers, text options and themes that your students can get creative with. This can be used with project based learning and it even has some lessons already built in with manuals for teachers! One of the best features....students can connect with each other via their device and collaborate together! I can't mention enough, the GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS!

2. Evernote Clearly - A great little tool I learned from stopping by a Google Session. Imagine assigning your students an article or a project that requires research, only problem...the article is too difficult. Maybe it is a lower reader, an ELL student, an IEP student, or just someone that is too overwhelmed by research and doesn't know where to look. Well, Evernote Clearly will easily take out that distraction and reveal the main context clearly! It even offers some customizing options for the display of the text. Check it out!

3. Pantomine 3D - I have been a tad obsessed with Augmented Reality this past year. Really trying to learn as much as I can about how to use it in the classroom. While being lucky enough to attend a dinner for @Gripcase with @sjgorman, @shannonSoger, all amazing handles to follow on Twitter by the way, I was introduced to the developer, David. A true amazing man. I can't even put into words about how fascinating he truly is. Honestly, check the app out. It will blow your mind away!

There are a ton more that I could add...but I will give you three of them for Day #3! :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Big Time Blogging Challenge

Good evening everyone! I'm linking up with Big Time Literacy to join her/our district blogging challenge for July. After recently attending ISTE, still trying to process everything, I found myself constantly telling others that I wish I would take them time to be a more regular blogger. Then, I saw this challenge come through on our district email while I was in Atlanta. I knew I would be a day late starting, but had to dive in. Hopefully I can keep up!

For my first few posts of the blogging challenge, I really want to use this time to reflect on my first experience at ISTE. I was very lucky to have the opportunity, and boy, was the experience mind boggling. I learned so many things, met such great people, and also took a lot of time to reflect on my own teaching practice and how awesome the teachers in our district are. 

Having previously attended our local ICE conference in Illinois, I thought I was pretty prepared and ontop of things. I read many blogs before heading to ISTE, writing my schedule on paper and narrowing my "must see" sessions down. Well, after day one that schedule was tossed out the window. 

So today's topic....planning for ISTE and the advice I could give a newbe who hopes to attend in Philly next year.  Here are my top 10 tips on prepping!

1. Definitely review the sessions that will be offered at free conferences, jot them down and get an idea of what you want to see. 

2. Even though you have ideas, go into the conference with a clear slate. Accept that your plans may change and that is ok. 

3. Be prepared to meet lots of people! Have your twitter handle ready! I noticed many individuals were passing out business cards, but maybe even print a QR code that other attendees can scan with your contact info to save on paper cards. 

4. Bring clothes that are comfortable! It isn't a dressing conference by any means. As teachers, we stand on our feet all day, but my legs/knees were killing me after the first day. 

5. Have a comfortable tech bag. I didn't know what to expect and lugged my computer and iPad around on the first day in a shoulder bag. My shoulder was red by the end of the day and extremely sore....I didn't open my computer once! So, bring with you to the conference only what you need for that day. 

6. Have snacks! Many days I forgot to eat because I was so excited and trying to see as much as I could. This often left me in many long lines that  would take at least 30 minutes to get a coffee and a muffin from Starbucks.

7. Do download the ISTE App or any conference app that is available. Star your favorite sessions. This makes it easier to hop to sessions you had in mind if you switch or a room is full. 

8. Plan your hotels/transport in a good location. If you aren't close to home, get a hotel in a good central location. Some of the hotels even had shuttles, but otherwise you spend a fortune in cabs if you are on the outskirts. That can make it hard to share a cab with anyone at the evening events. However, I was introduced to Uber for the very first time! I had heard of it, but never tried it.

9.  Be prepared to be overwhelmed. Have a strategy down to collect notes. I found it easy to scan QR codes and then save them into a file each day in my QR reader. Some teachers wrote notes, others typed them on a device. So, have an organizational plan that fits you!

10. Don't pack too much! Only bring what you need and leave room for goodies. You will definitely find yourself shopping the ISTE swag stand, local city merch for souvenirs, or the goodies that get passed out in the exhibitors hallway. My goal was not to check luggage in, and I managed, but it was a tight fit. ha ha


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pixel Press Floors

One evening, before the end of our school year, I had been on a hunt to experiment more with augmented reality (AR) with my students. One of my favorite blogs to visit for that is, Two Guys and Some iPads. Brad and Drew are very well know for their 2 Guys Show, which you can watch at anytime from their archive on their blog, but also for their use of Augmented Reality.

So, while browsing their blog I came across their latest post that caught my eye on Pixel Press Floors. See the article HERE.

Now, I've tried to be the cool teacher and introduce video games into my classroom, what student doesn't love an excuse to play games? We participated in the Hour of Code, we also used Lunacraft for math review in our classroom, but Pixel Press Floors is truly unique. Students can actually draw their own game out, on a downloadable grid sheet, using the specific codes given in their Sketch Guide. From there, students can then take an image of their grid and it will turn into a virtual world that they have created. Students can test their game out and even edit it from within the app.

I highly encourage trying this, it was by far one of the favorite projects that I received feedback on.

How can you use it in your classroom? The ideas below are not all original ideas, just blog posts I have stumbled upon while researching.

- Math Review - area, perimeter (See Lakewood Digital Literacy blog for more ideas)
- Research & Survey - What makes an engaging video game? Graph results and explain.
- Compare and Contrast - analyze various games to provide peer feedback
- Creative writing - create a comic based on your designed game (Porchester Junior School

Of course, the project couldn't be complete without a little friendly competition game-off. My students wanted to finish the year with an elimination challenge, competing in teams against one another as we reflected the iPads onto my Mac.

Here is how I introduced the App to my students.
1. This was being used as an end of the year math center, so mid week as students were getting closer to starting, I went over the directions. How-to videos and the Sketch Guide were left for their curiosity in our math Blendspace course.
2. Students had an organizer to complete reviewing 3 or 4 games that were already created in the Pixel Press Floors Arcade. Students rated the game, and included pros and cons for ideas they would use. They also received a story map to incorporate their game into creative writing later on. We talked about how games have a storyline and a purpose like our books.
3. Once their organizer was uploaded to Schoology and approved, they were able to begin sketching their plan on the grid paper with the use of their guide.
4. Uploaded their game when finished and began receiving peer review.
5. Ideally if we didn't run out of time, I was going to use the idea from above for the students to create a comic based around their character and the story line they created.

I encourage you to check the app out while it is free. It is available on both the iPad and now the iPhone! Happy creating! Visit the App Store to check it out!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Aurasma in a Wax Museum

Before moving to a 5th grade classroom last year, the biography wax museum project has been a tradition over the years. As much work as it can be, the students always look forward to it!

What is the wax museum project you ask? Well, just like the famous Madame Tussauds, students select a celebrity or historical figure that has meaning to them. They focus on the standards of nonfiction text features, while also researching to discover any unanswered questions. Following their approved figure selection, the students then receive a rubric to follow that outlines the project, expectations and check-in dates. After having a little over a month to complete this, one of the best parts is the big presentation! All three, fifth grade classrooms, invite the school to participate in this experience. The teachers turn into the museum curators and the students are dressed, silent, and standing like wax figures to mimic the individual they read about as our guests wonder around visit our exhibit.

While the tradition of the wax museum project has always been the informational poster, I remember being a 4th grade teacher and wishing I had the time to read all of the student posters as I walked through the rooms. Having had the students previously, it is always exciting to enjoy and be entertained by their hard work. After recently becoming intrigued with the Aurasma app this school year, the wax museum project was one instantly came to mind that I needed to connect this app with! With a mixture of Aurasma and Chatterpix, below you will find a brief description of how you can incorporate a task like this into your classroom!

1. Once you have your project idea in mind, have the students complete any necessary work in advance in preparation for the Aurasma and Chatterpix portion.

2. Find an image of the face you want to use (check for copyrights), preferably a front profile, and save it to your camera roll.

3. Open Chatterpix, upload your picture, and complete the process to save your Chatterpix as a video on your device.

4. Make sure you have Aurasma downloaded and that the portion of the project you want to connect the augmented reality video to is complete. (My students had their posters finished before we began the chatter pix and Aurasma portion)

5. In preparation for generating the Aurasma trigger pictures, I printed out the Aurasma logo onto labels in advance, this way students could place the label next to the picture on their poster that they were going to use. This made the process much easier for our visitors so they knew where to look since time was limited for visitation sessions.

6.  Setup your Aurasma account, if you don't currently have one. See my previous post HERE on how to set an account up and get started using Aurasma.

7. Follow the directions above to also create your Aura using a trigger picture (with the label) that will activate your video to play from Chatterpix.  I have students login and upload to one class account to make it easier for internal classroom purposes as well.

8. Once everything is connected, make sure your class or public visitors are informed of your channel name in advance. Then, test out your finished product and you are ready to go! Pay close attention to the tips given in the presentation from my previous post, it will help give reminders about lighting and on making sure to take clear trigger pictures. I even projected a reminder information page onto my Smartboard in case parents didn't catch our links on social media for instructions.

The great thing about this part of the project, is that the augmented reality really assisted our younger visitors! When they may not have been able to read, they were still able to learn while they visited our room and report back to their teacher with interesting facts!

Here are what some of the final Chatterpix videos look like once completed and attached to Aurasma. 

Steve Jobs image from NY Post, Marie Curie image from Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lunacraft in Math

Well, I'm embarrassed with my absence from blogging for the last month. Between testing and catching the flying germs in the classroom, I unfortunately haven't had time to write.

I remember being an educator that flipped out when I suddenly found my students downloading Minecraft on the computer. I didn't understand the game and I felt as if it was taking the students away from my instruction and digital tools. After almost four years, I finally decided to look into it. I needed something to excite my students and get them hooked in math.

After checking into costs on Minecraft for a 1:1 iPad classroom, unfortunately it was something we weren't able to play out. I began searching for Minecraft-like apps and came across Lunacraft, an app for mining and constructing but in SPACE!

I sought out advice from my students about the project and what app they would prefer, but they quickly jumped on Lunacraft! The hardest part was doing the self-paced lesson first, because they just wanted to start building.

The idea behind this project, was a review on area, perimeter and volume. Being in 5th grade, they should have this memorized by now, but reviewing that and customary unit conversions has been a hard task.

While students are creating their own space town in Lunacraft, they have to construct 3 various types of buildings. For each building, they need to calculate the perimeter, volume and area. Now the tricky part for the kids.... 1 block in Lunacraft is equal to 1M. Since we are using customary, they have to convert that 1M block to 3Ft. So overall, they are reviewing customary measurements of length, conversions and calculating perimeter, area and volume. Not to mention, the creativity that is coming through. One student is trying to replicate the United Center in space!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Let the Mystery Begin!

One thing I never had the chance to blog on yet, but I wanted to take the time to do was our first class Mystery Hangout session!

I had attempted completing a hangout with another grade at our school to connect with a previous faculty member of ours, but it became too chaotic with so many bodies in one room.

I received an email from another teacher in Nebraska, based on a group that I was signed up for with mystery sessions. I figured it would be a perfect time to connect, since my students would need something new to try and have fun during the week of state testing. They may think of this as a brain break, but it actually does require them to work and critically think. :)

I reviewed my notes from my previous attempt and began consulting one of our district iCoaches for another brain to discuss ideas with. We narrowed my classroom into 7 specific jobs.
1. Back Channel leaders - managers of our discussions on Today's Meet
2. Google Mappers -eliminating locations based on questions
3. Social Media - Taking pictures and video to post to instagram and twitter. I also had a student complete a guest blog review on our classroom blog.
4. Researchers - helping to research and narrow down facts on the mystery location
5. Greeters - Welcomed and asked/answered questions
6. Recorders - Took notes on the answers that were given to us for our yes/no questions
7. Runners - managing the tables to guide and relay information to other teams.

The students had fun and they are ready to give it a try again. They definitely learned how to be more prepared for our next session scheduled.

Things I recommend doing:
1. Make sure EVERYONE has a job, everyone did in my class, but I still had some that needed more
2. Eliminate groups that you see not working and change job titles (Example: Back Channel will now be local researchers for just state facts.)
3. Practice in advance, role play with the students so they begin to understand the format.
4. Remember, this is when students take the lead. Be their coach and have fun!

On a side note, one of the more exciting parts is that another teacher found our classroom blog somewhere in cyberspace. They contacted me on Twitter and we now have our 2nd session setup for when we return from spring break!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Literacy Leveler App Review

Every Tuesday, our district iCoaches send us helpful links that we can incorporate into our teaching as their "Tech Tuesday" email series.

Well, this week there happened to be an app listed that caught my eye. I'm very much a frequent follower to Apps Gone Free, but this one happened to not be listed on there, however, it was still discounted as FREE from the normal price of $4.99 in the App Store.

So, what is the app that I am leading up to? It is called, Literacy Leveler. Literacy Leveler is available for both the iPad and iPhone. If your school uses a reading leveling F&P system or by Lexile Number chart, this will be an app you won't want to miss!

The app is so simple to use. Once opened, you can scan a book's barcode and up will pop the lexile number and level. As with any library, not all books are listed in there. But, my students and I have found that it is pretty successful, you can also use the option to try and search by title. I can't begin to tell you how much time this has saved when my students search for books independently at their level.

I highly recommend keeping an eye out for it!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Restaurant Design

Practicing area, perimeter and map skills can get quite tiresome with the traditional drill and practice on paper. One thing that I have challenged myself to do more in math this year is to really focus on applying math to real world situations. When doing so, I believe it makes the experience in my classroom much more valuable.

The original idea for this project came from a project that I saw posted by "Room 205" on There were bits and pieces of the original project that I used, but I did modify it to fit the needs of my students.

Students were presented with a hook, to get them excited about the project. I probably could have just stated they were going to design a restaurant and they would have been just as happy.

Directions were given to students and then to make the experience more valuable, we dug through the internet for vacant buildings in our local city. We selected a building with dimensions that we agreed upon and away the students went with the first phase of their project. I say "phase" because rather than making this one large project due on a certain date, it is much easier for my students to chunk the project and turn in for mini deadlines. This way they just have to piece it together in the final.

Here is a breakdown of the individual phases:
Phase 1 - survey the community and collect data on restaurant theme ideas, graph and analyze
Phase 2 - measure out a floor plan based on the dimensions, work with the art teacher to design a digital logo to go with the name of your restaurant
Phase 3 -  Make your floor plan digital and add in dimensions of various rooms
Phase 4 - Adding in table and furniture measurements
Phase 5 - Use Room Planner "Free" on the iPad to build the restaurant into a 3D model. Students can decorate the inside.
Phase 6 - students complete final presentations and design a menu that fits their theme

Each phase lasted approximately 1 week, as it was also built into the other activities that were taking place with our weekly iTunes U math rotations.

Overall, the students had a great time with this project and immediately asked if we could do another one identical to it. I love seeing my students excited to learn! Next year, I would love to move the level up this project up by connecting with professionals in the area to seek advice in designing or possibly even visit a vacant site.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Why yes, I am starting to use hashtags in my reading instruction!

The idea came to mind when a friend of mine, who is also a 5th grade educator, posted a story to his blog about making videos more interactive with a back channel. The one thing that stood out to me was the use/creation of hashtags after the students responded to videos to contribute to discussion. Check his sit out at Teachers Use Tech

After some thought on one of my commutes to school, I thought that idea would be perfect to use in my reading workshop. My students were having a hard time recording their thoughts on post-its, they just didn't see the meaning to it and it was hard for them to relate to.

So, last Monday, I decided to introduce the idea of using hashtags to record their thinking as they were reading. We practice with me modeling and then having discussions based on our read aloud, Tiger Rising. NOW, it is really starting to click for them! It really has helped our discussions on books and those who wouldn't normally participate, are starting to contribute. They are even bringing them up in conferencing discussion, just like I was hoping they would.

See the example below from one of my students. I'm really hoping this will be a huge help as we begin blogging.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Digital Catch-Up

A lot of things going on this week in our classroom, almost too much to absorb sometimes, but the great feedback from our parent followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook keep us motivated.

Let's rewind and take it back to earlier this week....

Monday was filled with a very inspiring institute day. I sat in on a great blog session from a colleague at our local Middle School, who inspired me to get my kids blogging again! Operation blogger is on the mends in 5T this week!

Besides attending, I also got to present myself. If you haven't checked out Aurasma, I highly encourage you to do so. It is a great way to turn what used to be the new and exciting idea of QR codes to the next level. My kids really love augmented reality and I encourage you to try it. View my slide show below that I used for our institute day. It will easily walk you through step-by-step.

Forwarding to the middle of this week, Nearpod has been an app that I have been experimenting with in the classroom. I've been implementing it during math to review our flipped assignments. So far, the feedback has been amazing from the students and they really enjoy using it. 
If you aren't familiar with it, Nearpod can be used on computers or on the iPad. It is a way to mirror presentations to multiple devices. The instructor can create the presentation in advance, similar to a google presentation, and then publish and share a live code with the students. Students can view the slides and answer live questions using different formats of activities. You can even pull a report to see how students answered for an assessment review. 

After the response I had in math, I contemplated using it in reading. I figured, what the hey, might as well give it a shot. So, on Wednesday, I experimented with using Nearpod to guide my minilesson for Reading Workshop. The idea was to give my students the text and visuals to follow along with me, since many of our population needs ESL strategies. However, let's be honest, those strategies are good for any students. 

Using the app, we analyzed a You-Tube video and did some shared reading from our current text. I encourage you to take a look at the website. Any feedback on how you use it in the classroom would be greatly appreciated! 
We also had a bit of fun experimenting more with our iPads during guided reading to focus on inferencing! 
1:1 Guided Reading photo BemxDoBCMAABaRC_zps8bde74d0.jpg Nearpod photo Bems4OVCAAEQzxU_zpsc9f67588.jpg

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Since I've gone vegan, and even more so now that I am a gluten free vegan, I've always been in search for a really good pizza recipe. I've heard of using cauliflower as a replacement for mashed potatoes, but never heard it used for making pizza crusts until a friend of mine sent me a picture of a pizza she made. Let me tell you, it look delicious and it was constantly on my mind all week.

So, I began searching for a vegan alternative to the cauliflower pizza crust on Pinterest and this was the recipe I decided to follow. Click Here for the recipe!

The process was fairly simple, but my only issue was getting the crust to be crispy without overcooking it. Regardless, I still could have ate the whole pizza!

While the crust was baking for 30 minutes, I started to cook my veggie choices in advance to soften them. My toppings included tomato paste, vegan mozzarella teese, broccoli, mushrooms, soy grilled chicken, tomato and spinach. Once the crust was done, the toppings were tossed on and then I allowed it to bake again for an additional 10 minutes.

I honestly can't wait to make this pizza again! It must have been good because my vegan husband, who isn't normally a pizza fan, demolished the last half of it tonight!