Monday, September 29, 2014

Celebrate Library Card Sign Up Month

Being an assistant principal, everyone thinks all you see are the students who are not doing what they are supposed to be doing in class.  This is what I thought before I started the job.

One idea I thought of to ensure that I still was able to work with students and to celebrate all the students who strive to be their best each day was to start doing reward projects with them.

September is Library Card Sign-up Month.  To celebrate, I had all teams of teachers submit two names of student who had show the 3R's (respect, readiness, and responsibility) each day.  Needed only chenille stems and pom poms made this project quite inexpensive.

It was extremely rewarding to work with 4 to 6 students at a time, snack on pretzels, talk about books, and all the things you get for free when you have a library card.

In Rhode Island, our library cards give students access to live tutors with every day from 2 pm to 10 pm for free.  Also they can access to learn a language on Mango and much more.  You can check it out at

Directions for Mouse Bookmark

International Literacy Day

We celebrated International Literacy Day by pledging 60 days for 60 seconds of literacy.  Each morning during our announcements, we are using the 60 seconds to create contests for the students.

For the first two weeks, I wrote blurbs about authors and students had to make a guess on who the author was.

For the third and fourth weeks, I read aloud from the beginning of books.  Students had to guess the book and author to win the raffle.

For the fifth and sixth weeks, I will read aloud 3 to 5 Book Tweets (Download them from free at my TPT site) each day.  On the first day, I will share my own.  If a student's tweet is chosen, they will get a prize.

For the seventh and eighth weeks, I will give a jumble of letters and the students will have to unscramble them to get the title.  Those who have the correct answer will get a chance at our daily raffle.

For the final month, the reading teachers for the school are coming up with even more ideas.  I will add to this post once they have shared the ideas with me.

You can download International Reading Association's entire activity kit with even more ideas.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Positive Office Referrrals

When I thought about taking this assistant principal job, I thought all about how to add more positive to our school.  The first thing I created was a simple positive referral.  Teachers fill these out about a student.  I give the student's homeroom teacher a pass to see me in the morning.  I share with them what the teacher said, give them a custom "I'm So Proud of You" pen, and a pencil pouch of supplies.

The best part is calling home and letting the parents know about the great things their child has done.  At first some parents are nervous to get a call from the assistant principal, but then they are proud and excited.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Morning Announcements

Each day's morning announcement has had a focus on a month long or daily celebration.  I've been using these web sites to find out all the holidays/special occasions:

Since our school is broken into two separate buildings on one campus, the other assistant principal and I make the morning announcements in Google Drive so we can play the same opening music and have the same announcements.  As long as the wi-fi and servers are working, it has gone very smoothly.

We've decided to add in the day's weather, staff/student shout-outs, and quotes of the day.  Staff is telling us that we have made these announcements personable.

In honor of Library Card Sign-up month, we had teams submit the names of two students who have exhibited the 3R's (respect, readiness, responsibility) since the start of school.  These twenty-eight students made a mouse bookmark out of pom-poms, chenille stems, wiggly eyes, and fast tack glue.

We had just as much fun getting to know the students as they did making them.  Some were quite impressed that they could even make it.

On September 8th we honored International Literacy Day by pledging to give 60 seconds of reading for 60 days.  We decided to do this during our morning announcements and turn it into a contest.  We are starting with giving a description about authors for students to guess.  Next we will read passages from popular books for students to guess.  Then we will have Book Tweets and ask students to submit their own.  If theirs is chosen, then they will win.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Student Expectations Assembly

Since we have twelve teams of teachers/students, I wanted to create an experience about why we go to school and what we expect for the year.  I decided to use Prezi instead of a PowerPoint.  I loved the theme of a road for the journey that is ahead of us.  I had a few videos in mind that I used as a teacher.  Also I read and saw pictures of what students around the world do to go to school.

We decided to present to both buildings together to again show that we are one school and have the same expectations of all students.

I created a presentation that had some talking by us, cooperative learning for the students with themed music while they worked, and short videos to watch.  I made 3 large R's that were hung on the cafeteria windows.  The R's represent respect, readiness, and responsibility.  For the cooperative learning part, students worked to answer the questions with the 3 R's on different colored notecards which were then taped to the large R's on the windows. Each table shared out one answer from their notecard.

View presentation here:  Prezi

We had numerous positive comments from the teachers and students clapped at many different parts.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Staff Weekly Memo Reinvented

The assistant principal last year started using Smore for our weekly staff memos.  I wanted to keep using it since I loved it.  You can share it via a link in email to all staff and print it out to post in the mailroom and all bulletin boards in the faculty rooms.

After reading one of Todd Whitaker's books, I decided to do two new things in the weekly memo.  I decided to add in a section where staff shares about themselves.  Whitaker spoke about giving the memo out on Friday to uplift the staff and so they can plan the week ahead.  I decided to call our memo, Friday Flash Forward.  It also includes a two week schedule, inspiring quotes and videos, along with other information the staff may need.

I'm using Smore for our monthly parent newsletter to share it on the school's web page and printed copies are sent home.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Day Fun

For the first day, we wanted to welcome back all the staff for the entire school.  We had custom pins made for the teachers with the following saying:

We made survival kits for the 12 new teachers.

I made some welcome back pencils for other staff.  We made bags of chocolate treats just in case we needed more.  We made labeled water bottles with chips for the bus drivers and monitors.  We gave the custodians water and munchkins.

For the entire first day, we went to every classroom to greet the students and teachers. We, also, visited all other staff to welcome them back.

We did all this to be a united team and school.  We wanted to boost the staff and student morale.  

In a survey using Google Forms, 91% said it made a great start to the year.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Survival and EdCamp Professional Day

I wanted to build team spirit among the teams of teachers and found an idea to do a Survivor competition.  We scheduled two hours for this portion of the afternoon.  Upon arrival in the cafeteria, we had locally made cookies and coffee.

For the first part of the Survivor competition, the teams had to create a banner and chant that represented them.  Each team them presented to the entire group.  The competition was broken down into three categories: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

For Outwit, the teams had to list as items they could for the given topic in 60 seconds. We used countries, vegetables, cheese, and cars.  Next, they had to do a quiz about the school's mission and vision statements.  Finally, they had a quiz to create school goals based on our action plans.

For Outplay, teams had a Scrabble competition.  We paired up the teams and they were given eight minutes of game time.  How ever many points they got in the game, it was added to their overall score.  Using iPad minis, the teams were matched for a chess competition. They earned a point for each piece captured.  I was amazed at how many didn't know how to play chess!

For Outlast, teams had a relay competition around the square field.  A team member had to run a leg while carrying a big orange cone.  After we moved to the gym for a free throw competition.  Each team member was given two turns to add to the final score.

The winning team was given a huge box of supplies to divide among themselves.

For the second part of the afternoon, we held an EdCamp with a focus on using more technology with students.  We had four twenty-minute sessions.  Each session had four different options.  We had seven people present the technologies.  Here are the following technologies that were presented:

Snapshot (part of Edmodo)
Subtext (also a free app on Edmodo)
NoRedInk (also a free app on Edmodo)
QR Codes
Skype Classroom

Monday, August 25, 2014

Uplift Teachers' Spirit

On August 18th, I've embarked on a new journey as the assistant principal at the middle school I work at.  I spent many hours since the spring doing some soul searching about applying for this position.  I knew that the competition would be tough so I read and read and read book after book.  The key author that helped me was Todd Whitaker.  His books helped me to think about and come up with ideas that would help improve the school.  I began to have difficulty sleeping because so many ideas were popping into my brain.

The first thing I knew the school needed was an amazing welcome back for the teachers.  Working in an inner city school has many ups and downs.  As a teacher, you need as much inspiration and support you can get.

The first ideas was to spruce up the faculty rooms with much needed supplies.  I had approval from the principal to buy for each room: a comfy chair, set of dishes, set of silverware, and curtains.  The school is one campus but two separate buildings.  Each floor has a faculty room for a total of 6 rooms. The other assistant principal and I started by cleaning and organizing the rooms including the refrigerators.  Next we put in the dishes and silverware, set up the chair in a cozy corner with inspirational quotes from Scholastic Instructor magazine around it, curtains, dish rack and created a tree of thanks on the bulletin board.


It ended up taking us from 9 am to 7:30 pm on a Friday to finish all 6 rooms.  The teachers were definitely surprised. It's great to see all of it being put to use!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#TeachersWrite Day Six

I have only used Word to type up my story.  After reading today's blog by Kate Messner, I'm definitely going to look into this writing program, Scrivener. Just after looking at it for a few minutes, I feel it will help me with my writing and actually get writing more.

She also talked about how to go about writing a professional book.  I've looked in to writing an article for EL from ASCD.  I think an article is a good way to start then maybe move into a book using Stenhouse or Heineman.


Ben Candido- 8 key points of change in his life

1.  Ben begins career of a fisherman on dad's friend's boat (senior year in high school).
2.  He dates Lorraine (throughout high school) and proposes to her at their graduation.
3.  Just before his wedding, Ben changes to be a lobsterman for a little bit better money where he meets his boss, Cal.
4.  Six months after their wedding, Ben and Lorraine find out that she's pregnant.
5.  On the boat, Ben tells Cal about his worries of not having enough money for the baby. Cal offers him a special "pay day".
6.  Ben does a special "pay day" behind Cal's back.  Cal finds out and threatens him and his family.
7.  Ben sends pregnant Lorraine away and never contacts her again.
8.  After Cal's death, Ben attempts to contact his daughter (freshman year in college) because he believes it is now safe to do so.

     A ring with a diamond speck burned a hole in Ben's jean pocket.  In his silver cap and gown, he stood in a single file line with the rest of his graduating class just outside the metal gym doors.  The ring had been in his pocket for over a week waiting for the right moment.  Right now it started to feel like the time, but Lorraine was at the back of the line while Ben was about sixty people in front of her.  Having the last name of Zapata always had Lorraine out of reach throughout all of high school.  Not in the same homeroom. Not near her every time a teacher sat them by alphabetical order on the first day of school.
     "Ben, what's with all the looking over your shoulder? Is my hair sticking out in a crazy way with this awful cap?" asked Liz trying to push her hair back under her cap without it falling off again.
     "Huh? What are you talking about?"
     "Why do you keep looking at me?"
     "I'm not looking at you."
     "Oh, I get it.  You're trying to find Lorraine.  You just can't live a few minutes without her. Can you?"
     "Whatever, Liz." Ben said as he left his spot in line and began walking towards the back.  All the others watched and began to whisper to each other wondering what he was doing.
     "Ben, Mr. Barbosa's going to have your head if your still out of line when we start to move!" said Jose as Ben passed him.
     As Ben neared Lorraine, the ring grew hotter and hotter.  He couldn't possibly keep this inside any longer.  The entire graduating class and their families knew how much he loved her, but he wanted everyone to know.
     "Ben, what are you doing? Get back in line," said Lorraine motioning with her hand towards the front of the line.  "You can get a kiss from me once you walk across the stage."  Lorraine smiled knowing that one kiss was never enough for him.
     Suddenly, Ben dropped to his knees.  He lifted one knee while taking his hand out of his pocket.  "Lorraine, will you be mine forever?" he asked while the entire line started to form into a semi-circle around them.  "You have been part of my heart for so long.  I can't imagine not seeing you every day.  With school ending, I feel like I won't see you as much, and my heart can't bear that.  Marry me, Lorraine."
     Unable to find words, Lorraine held out her hand while shaking her head yes.  Already standing, Ben put the ring on her ring and lifted her into the air.
    "Now can we get back to this little event called graduation?" said Mr. Barbosa who had popped his head out the gym door to let them all know it was time.
This is a very first draft with no revisions.  I'd love for some feedback in the comments section.

Monday, July 14, 2014

#TeachersWrite Day Five


I decided to do these sentences for each of the main characters.  It is really helping me flesh out who they are and what they are all about.  These are in draft form and can change once I learn more about the characters.

This is a story about a man who thought he was making good decisions, but it cost him his family.
But underneath that, it's a story about redemption and what it really means to be a family.

This is a story about a man who wants to provide for his family
But underneath that, it's about a man who really wants to give his unborn child a better life that he had been dealt.

This is a story about a man who needs to be loved.
But underneath that, it's about a man who really needs to learn what a good decision is.

This is a story about a man who is afraid of turning out just like his dad.
But underneath that, it's about a man who is really afraid of disappointing his wife and having his life not be successful.


This is a story about a woman who thought she married a man who was going to provide a better life than she had.
But underneath that, it's a story about keeping secrets for too long and ruining a relationship because of it.

This is a story about a woman who wants her daughter to go farther in life than she has.
But underneath that, it's about a woman who really wants to tell her daughter the truth about her father.

This is a story about a woman who needs the truth to be told.
But underneath that, it's about a woman who really needs to find her daughter's dad so that they can reunite and lift the burden of the secrets from her chest.

This is a story about a woman who is afraid of telling her daughter who her father is and what happened.
But underneath that, it's about a woman who is really afraid of losing her daughter once she finds out the truth.


This is a story about a girl who thought she had the perfect small town family.
But underneath that, it's a story about learning that some secrets are not bad.

This is a story about a girl who wants to get out of the small town and make something of herself in the big city.
But underneath that, it's about a girl who really wants to know her mother more deeply.

This is a story about a girl who needs to understand who she is.
But underneath that, it's about a girl who really needs to know where she came from.

This is a story about a girl who is afraid of disappointing her mother.
But underneath that, it's about a girl who is really afraid of finding out the hidden parts of her mother's past.

Friday, July 11, 2014

#TeachersWrite Day Four

Day Four Lesson/Prompt

     Lorraine scrubs the pan stuck with rice with extreme focus like she's an eye doctor doing cataract surgery. To this day, she still always burns rice into the bottom of the pan. Using her forearm to wipe the summer heat from her forehead, she glances out the small window that sits over the stainless steel sink. Squinting her eyes, she tries to make out what seems to be a shadow in the backyard, but it’s too dark. “Ben, when are you going to fix the flood light outside?”

     “What Lorraine?” Cal calls over the television blaring commercials.

     “The flood light! When will you finally fix it? It’s been months.” 

     “It’s on my honey do list!” Ben shouts.

     Lorraine sighs just as the sliding glass door shatters to pieces. A large rock lands on the tile floor. “BEN!” screams Lorraine as she ducks and runs out of the kitchen. 
     Ben races towards the kitchen and almost collides with Lorraine. Ben grabs her and puts her behind himself as the continue into the bathroom that sits just off the kitchen.

     “Ben, call the police, ” Lorraine forces out from deep within her shaking body.

     “Shhhh, I’ll take care of it. Just stay in here and be quiet,” Ben says as he closes over the bathroom door. 

     Ben sees the rock lying under the small, circular kitchen table.  He notices that it has a white paper attached to it under a rubber band. He looks out the gaping hole of the door into the backyard, but he can’t see a thing. He mutters frustration to himself about not fixing the floodlight earlier. He plucks the note from the rock. It is typed and says:

“Once you’re in, you can never leave. 
Next time, we won’t miss your wife’s head.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

#TeachersWrite Day Three

Day Three Prompt/Lesson

Main Characters of my work-in-progess story entitled The Letter:

Benjamin (Ben):  integrity to wife; pressure; love; wants what's best; hard worker; sincere; sorry; in over my head; bad decision; regret; will make it right; tough decisions; felt she was better off without me; wants to apologize; wants daughter part of his life; fishing is my life; don't know how to do anything else; quit school;

Lorraine:  in love; naive; disappointed; how could he have done this; trust issues; hates dishonesty; learns to be independent and strong; my high school sweetheart; small town girl; work in diner; okay with being home with kid(s); being Ben's wife is all I want and living my life with him;

Sarah:  independent; caring; sweet; helpful; loves parents deeply; trust; college bound; wants a better life than parents; looks at the good side of everyone and everything; feels blessed for all her parents have given her; appreciative; sticks up for herself especially with men; not a feminist but believes in girl power;

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#TeachersWrite Day Two

Day Two Lesson/Prompt

Having a family member move away especially when your a kid is very difficult.  I thought about how I felt when that happened to me and did my best to put the emotions I had into this scene even though it's with adults.

“You must go,” Benjamin whispers into his wife’s ear as they stand in front of the Peter Pan bus terminal in Providence.
As the dark clouds hovering above release its torrential rainfall, tears run down Lorraine’s face.  Press against Ben's chest, her entire body shakes with the fear of the unknown and the raw fall wind.  Her vocal cords refuse to work.  There are so many words she wants to say.  So many things they have yet to do.  She knows it isn't safe for her to stay.  Benjamin had gotten himself in over his head this time.  When he told her he was getting his own fishing boat because he didn’t want to work under any man, her instincts told her that it wasn’t the right decision.  And now because of it, she is standing here saying goodbye to her true love and the father of their soon-to-be child.
            “You must go, now,” Ben whispers again.  This time he pushes her body away from him and towards the waiting green bus. 
            All Lorraine can do is shake her head in agreement and walk towards the open door.  As she climbs the first step, Ben places her silver metal suitcase into the bottom storage area of the bus. 
            Lorraine spins her head over her shoulder.  "BEN!"
            Ben runs to her and hugs her at her waist while she leans down into him.  “It’s okay.  I’ll be okay.  You’ll be okay.   I’ll come for you when it’s safe.”
As they kiss, they lose all aspects of time and place until the bus driver speaks. “I’m sorry, but we need to leave.”

Lorraine lets go of Ben and climbs the rest of the stairs.  While standing in the rain, Ben’s eyes follow her through each window until she arrives at her seat.  Looking out of the window, she wipes away her tears and savors every aspect of his face and body for she knows she will never see him again.

Monday, July 7, 2014

#TeachersWrite Day One

Day One Lesson/Prompt

Galilee (Point Judith), Rhode Island Description Take 1 
(Excerpt from story I'm working on entitled The Letter)

From the steering wheel of Cal’s lobster boat, nautical dawn has allowed us to faintly see the stone wall entrance to Point Judith. Cal promises that going past the Coast Guard base right near the docks is easier than what we just did.  As we quietly glide past their hub, a wave of relief begins to rush through my veins as I realize that we are almost home free.  It may have been nerve wrecking at the moment the barrels dropped, but now it feels like I made it worse than it was.  A thousand dollars for this instead of three days at sea and not seeing my wife is a good deal to me. 
            Just past the little white shack of the Coast Guard base, Cal bears left towards the Great Salt Pond.  Before twilight is over, we have to quickly off load the barrels and store them in the grey shack.  From the start of the main wall where visitors wave to the passing boats, these shanties are one after another.  They go around the corner as far as the eye can see.  Many of them are grey from the weathering of the salt air.  We approach one that has a crack in one small pane in the window to the left of the door.  A burly man exits the door and goes on to the dock.  Cal approaches the dock as I grab the rope at the bow and toss it up to the burly man on the dock.  He wraps and ties it around the post while I run to the stern.  I grab the rope, jump up, and tie it up.  Cal cuts the engine and goes towards the hidden barrels.  The burly man puts the ramp down into the boat.  We go back in and begin to roll the barrels up the ramp and into the shack. 

            We continue on for fifteen minutes with no one speaking.  Everyone moves as if it is a dance that we have been doing for years.  Cal brings the last barrel into the shack as I put the ramp back on the dock and start up the engine.  Cal releases the ropes and hops in and takes his position at the helm.  We head over to Champlin’s restaurant to drop off the few pots of lobsters we collected.  The money they pay us is a drop in the bucket compared to the payday we already received.  I can see it bulging from Cal’s pocket of blue Dickies. 

Hear Details
  • swishing of minimum wake waves entering port
  • low hum of practically idling diesel engine
  • absence of seagulls noises 
  • rolling sound of blue plastic barrels on metal ramp
  • creaks in the old dock as barrels and people move along it

Smell Details
  • salt water
  • diesel gas
  • old fish gut smells wafting from nearby boats and boat deck
  • sweat mixed with salt on cotton clothes

Taste Details
  • salt water mist on lips
  • gas fumes from slight wind blowing them into face/mouth

Feel Details
  • steady movement of boat gliding through flat calm bay water
  • smooth plastic of barrel
  • pounding of heart in chest
  • salt water on skin 
  • stiffness of clothes due to the salt water

Galilee (Point Judith), Rhode Island Description Take 2 

        From the sea-misted metal steering wheel of Cal’s lobster boat, nautical dawn allows us to faintly see the white spray of seawater crashing against the stone wall entrance to Galilee. Cal promises that going past the little white shack of the Coast Guard base right near the docks is easier than what we just did.  As we quietly glide through the smooth bay water and past their hub, a wave of relief begins to rush through my veins as I realize that we are almost home free.  It may have been a nerve-racking experience at the moment the barrels dropped into the boat, but now it feels like I made it feel worse than it was.  A thousand dollars for a few early morning hours instead of living at sea for three days and not seeing my new bride is a better deal to me. 
         With the low hum of the engine, we pass the Coast Guard base.  Cal bears left towards the Great Salt Pond.   From the start of the main wall where visitors wave to the people on passing Block Island ferries, there are tiny one room shanties one after another.  They go around the corner as far as the eye can see.  Many of them are now grey-shingled siding from the weathering of the salt air.  We approach one that has a crack in one pane in the eight pane window to the left of its door.  A burly man exits the door and goes onto the dock.  The boat approaches the dock as I grab the rope at the bow and toss it up to the burly man.  He wraps it around the post while I run to the stern.  I grab the rope, toss it around the post and tie it up.  Cal cuts the diesel engine and goes towards the hidden barrels behind the lobster pots.  The burly man puts the metal ramp down into the boat.  We begin to roll the barrels up the ramp trying to keep the squeaks and scratching of the metal dock to a minimum.  One by one, we glide the barrels up the ramp and onto the dock that begins to creak and sway under all the weight.  
      We continue on for fifteen minutes with no one speaking.  Everyone moves as if it is a dance that we have been doing for years.  Cal brings the last barrel into the shack as I put the ramp back on the dock.  I start up the engine with its diesel smoke immediately wafting about me.  Cal releases the ropes and hops in to take his position at the helm.   
      The breeze of seagulls circling close to our heads begins to draw attention to us as we head over to Champlin’s restaurant to drop off the lobsters we harvested.  We pull up to their cement dock which is covered in so much seagull droppings that is seems to have been painted white.  I slide the orange plastic buckets onto the dock.  The worker, who came out at the sound of soft purring of our idling engine, grabs the buckets by their white handles and tosses the lobsters out onto the metal belt.  He inspects the sizes and moves them down the line to the scale.  "What a great early catch.  Guess you wanted to get in ahead of the others," he said as he continues inspecting bucket by bucket.  
      "It's always great to be ahead of the game," Cal replies.  He hands Cal our payment in cash.  The money they pay us is a drop in the bucket compared to the payday we already received.  I can see it bulging from Cal’s pocket of his blue Dickies. 

Why is this story worth telling?
I am writing this story to show the unending bond between parent and child and the forgiveness we all seek from past errors that were a learning experience yet effected others deeply.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


A Tweet in last week's feed has made me even more excited about this summer.  I was setting a goal for myself to get back to writing and finishing some of my stories.  For three summers, I attended a local writing conference with local authors.  It was an amazing experience which helped me learn more about what goes in to writing a story.  I also was part of a writer's group that broke apart once I stopped attending due having a child.

Now that a few years have passed and the constant desire to finish the stories I started and to get the new ones out from my brain, I've decided to write this summer.

Once I saw the tweet about #TeachersWrite, I knew this was the push that would help me with my goal.  It's free to join and has many authors giving advice and feedback.  It is in it's third year.  I wish I knew about it back then.

Jen, Teach Mentor Texts, blogged about its first day tomorrow and asks "Why are you writing this summer?"

My Reasons:
1.  3 incomplete manuscripts
2.  A love of reading
3.  A love of language
4.  A love of writing to create worlds that others love to be in
5.  A desire to learn more about writing and techniques from my first hand experience in order to share my learning with my students

Join me and all the others who have signed up at #TeachersWrite

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Funtastic End of the Year

Every year, I have students write letters to next year students and grade me on a report card.  I wanted this exciting year to end with a "WOW" so I started my search on TPT ( for anything that was free.  I found many great ideas.  The first one I used was The Final Countdown.  I used it as a brainstorm for the letter to their locker pal who is the student who gets their locker next year.  I will tape their letters in the lockers before the new students are assigned their lockers.  I had student make a summer bucket list bookmark of all the things they hoped to do in the next two months.

I find that having my students grading me throughout the year and at the end gives me amazing feedback on how to improve next year.  This year I used SurveyMonkey.  I've used this website for years and love it so I don't know why I never thought to use it for this before.  As students wrote their letters, I had students complete the survey using the computer area in my classroom.

On our second to the last day, I decided to do a Minute to Win It competition.  On YouTube, you can get all the blueprints from the show, but I decided to use the written ones from Tonya's Treats for Teachers.  If you use YouTube and you have a Mac, you can download the blueprints and put them all together as one video.  I plan to make this during the summer for next year.  I chose 7 out of 25 games from the written ones.  I was able to get all the supplies for under $30 for four classes.  

All year I've wanted to do a lip sync battle like Jimmy Fallon! I borrowed a microphone and stand from the chorus teacher.  I showed the clip of Jimmy Fallon and Paul Rudd competing. I had students write down their favorite one to two songs so that we had a playlist for the day.  I put the song titles on strips of paper for students to randomly pick out.  I made the playlist using Grooveshark and listened to the songs to double check that they were appropriate for school.

To really get the students pumped, the co-teacher and I battled each other.  We cheated by choosing our songs.  I did Bust a Move by Young MC.  When it came time to bust a move, I danced like Elaine from Seinfield.  The co-teacher did the snowman song from Frozen since she has all the songs memorized thanks to her three-year-old daughter's infatuation with the movie.

As students left at the final dismissal bell of the year, I gave them all one of these to make a "Kool" treat for themselves.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Animal Research Infographics

In order to make research exciting for students, they were able to choose the animal they wanted to learn more about.  Students choices were limited to the animal books in our library, but we have a huge amount of books.  

To make the research easier, I had students use a gathering grid.  To have more than enough room to write, each student was given a file folder.  On the front, I stapled the directions for the Piktochart part of the project.  The back was for words that students didn't know and needed to define.  With each class, we decided what the most important questions were to guide our research.  the grid on the inside has the guiding questions on the left, the sources used on the top, and inside each box students jotted down their notes.

I found Piktochart to be the most user-friendly and had the most options for the creation.  I made all the students accounts ahead of time.  I highly suggest you getting a gmail account if you don't have one especially if you work with students under 14.  With gmail, you can sign up and create emails that all go back to your main account without students having to have emails.  To make the accounts, you use your gmail account name and +(a number).  For example,  I made all the passwords the same.  Piktochart only asked for a username, email, and password.  I made the username the email account so that I could copy and paste to make the accounts faster.  In order to understand how the site works, I researched about vultures and made my own infographic.  I showed my example to students so that I could explain my thought process when I made it and what it should look like.

Students had to use a book, a specialized encyclopedia, and at least one web site.  Once they gathered their facts and pictures, students logged into Piktochart.  I had students choose the infographic tab and the make your own choice.  The most important parts students need to use on the web site were the text boxes, uploading pictures, changing background, graphics, and knowing how to add another block.

I was amazed at what the students created.  The second student (Jackals) was homebound due to a broken foot and through Edmodo and Piktochart, she was able to still participate in class and do the project.

Tree Kangaroos:


If you decide to do this project and need help or have questions, don't hesitate to ask for help in the comments.  The most important thing is to have fun while learning!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Commercials

For a second culmination project for our persuasive advertising unit, students had to create a book commercial of a favorite book.

While at the library, students chose their favorite books.  They created storyboards using only key details that would grab a viewer's attention.  They had to decide what pictures they wanted and where they would go.  Once the storyboard was done, students used the computers to access Animoto.

Animoto is an amazing web site to use to make simple videos.  As an educator, you can get their plus account for free which allows you to make videos over 30 seconds long.  Once you apply for the account, you will receive a code.  You can use the code for up to 50 accounts.  Since my students are not old enough to have Google accounts, I made Animoto accounts.  If you have a gmail account, you can use "fake" emails to make the accounts by using your email name then + and a number (

Having over 50 students, I have found that they have always done a great job in sharing the log-ins and not ruining each other's videos.

First students find pictures to use in their videos.  Then students must choose a theme and song to fit their book.  They upload the pictures and add the text.  After previewing the video, they can choose to produce it or fix it.

In the end, I had the students copy the link to their video and share it in Edmodo.  This allowed all the students in the class to view the videos right in Edmodo, give a reaction, and comment to each other.

This is one of my favorites that I'm especially proud of the ELL student who created.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Invention Madness

Years ago, I listened to an amazing speech at a local conference about advertising that always stuck with me.  Slowly I created and tweaked a persuasive unit on advertising.  Last year I read the book, Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom by Frank Baker.  Two of my favorite parts were the analysis of print ads and cereal boxes.  For homework, students had to bring in an empty cereal box.  Since I don't get many magazines at home nor do my students, I put out a mass email to all the staff asking for old magazines.  I spent days combing though finding appropriate ones and pulling them all out.  Now I have more of each than I can ever use.

Many teachers tweet on the #TLAP Twitter chat about doing March Madness contests.  I was always disappointed that I couldn't find a way to incorporate it into one of my units. Finally, I found a way although it is May.

As one part of the culmination of this unit, students had to create their own inventions using two items that you can buy in the store today.  They had to draw what it would look like.  Using all the persuasive techniques they learned, they had to create a print ad along with a testimonial.

I made a cut off day to be in the competition in hopes that it would boost more students to hand it in early or on time.  I needed 64 inventions to fill the entire madness board but with 72 students I came up short.

I still moved on with the contest.  I put them in plastic sleeves so that each sleeve was the "game".  I liked that no one could see others names and not just vote for their friends although I know they told each other about theirs.

The first round was quite lengthly since students rotated around the room to read and analyze all the inventions.  Between each round, students had to wait two days since we were going to the library every other day to work on our next project that I'll be blogging about next.  They would ask me who won and tried to sneak peaks of the score card.

Each round the students found it more and more difficult.  Some of the ones who made it to the final rounds were great ideas.  I was really rooting for the Washa-Drya-Fold Machine that does all the laundry for you.  I also loved the fact that the name has a Rhode Island accent.  Students favorites were the Glamera (glasses that are also a camera), Conti-Color (contact lenses that change with your mood), Hoverstar (a hoverboard for you and two of your friends), and the Pillorder (a pillow that records and plays back your dreams).  Since we didn't have all the slots filled when we came to a "game" without a competitor I gave students a chance to vote for one that had already lost.

Many winning rounds came down to 2 to 3 votes different.  In the end, the Pillorder won by a landslide 44 to 18.  The winner won a $25 gift card to a store of their choice.

The Winner

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Snapshot App in Edmodo - Snapshot not Snapchat

Edmodo just released Snapshot for practice with the Common Core.  I immediately wanted to try it out.  It took only minutes to set up an assignment for the class.

I polled the students to see what they thought of it.  They thought it was easy to use, and they enjoyed it.

I thought it has just enough practice questions for the each standard.  There are more standards ready in math than in English.  To me it is a huge undertaking to have both subjects and all the grades.  Kudos to Edmodo for releasing it while they are still working on it so that we can check it out while we have students in class.

I was most interested in the data that I would receive.  You have your choice to view it by student or standard.  It is color coded to show meets, borderline or below.

I joined a Twitter chat they held about it to give my feedback.  I am hoping that they will make it so you can assign standards by students and not just the class group.  This is would be great so you can move students along at their pace just like the NoRedInk app.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Subtext and No Red Ink Apps in Edmodo

Finally I found some time to check out one of the latest apps in Edmodo - Subtext.  It is absolutely amazing! First is the fact that it is free.  Second you have access to many books in the public domain for free.  Third is that the platform is very similar to the new PARCC computer-based assessments.  Fourth you can import any news article online.

I do not have school funds to purchase 30 copies of Call of the Wild for my students to use.  Using this app, students have immediate access.  They are able to read it on the computer or their devices (using the internet to sign in to Edmodo).  Students are loving that they are using the computers and don't have a book to carry.

I love the platform.  It is not difficult for students to learn how to use it.  Students can highlight and comment on the text which you are able to see.  If a student doesn't know a word, they highlight it and click on the G icon for Google.  This pops up and gives an immediate Google search of that term. Teachers can pose open-ended, multiple-choice, or true/false questions.  You can create a poll.  The best thing I love is that you can set so that students don't see with others said until they submit their answers.

By putting the "Save to Subtext" button on your favorites bar, you can import any online article.  Even the photos import so it's not just text.

If you have school iPads with accounts for Google books, you can buy eBooks and use them right inside the app.

Last year in Scholastic's Instructor magazine, I learned about a brand-new web site called NoRedInk.  I fell in love with this site since it incorporated favorites of students into grammar practice to make not so boring. You can have certain students or groups of students work on a particular topic.  On the practice assessments students have multiple tries, and it gives an explanation of the grammar rules.

I loved that it is another free app in Edmodo so students don't need multiple log ins.

I am disappointed to learn that the new added topics are only available for purchase school-wide.  I hope in the future they have the app for purchase in Edmodo that has all the new and old topics.

If you want to or have tried these apps and have questions, feel free to ask me for help in the comments at the bottom.

Monday, April 14, 2014

SpongeBob on Trial for Murder?!?

Since 1999, kids have been loving SpongeBob SquarePants so what better way to open up a persuasive unit then to have him on trial for murdering Mr. Krabs.  Thanks to Arik Durfee and his lesson on TPT!  I raided the local party store for all things SpongeBob.  In order to create the feeling of being under the sea, I put up plastic blue tablecloths in the drop ceiling.  With help from the school librarian, it took about an hour to put six cloths.  Thankfully I used them for two previous days for being in out of space for our analysis of Louis L'Amour's persuasive essay, Final Frontier.

As usual, I blocked the windows so no one could see what awaited them inside the room.  As students arrived, I popped only my head out the door with my mask on to welcome them to Bikini Bottom.  Students were given a slip of paper that had one of the characters on it which directed them to their seats.  



I projected the Krusty Krab onto the whiteboard since it was the crime scene. 

Using the Relax Melodies app on my computer, I had the underwater sound playing during the entire analysis of the crime scene, witness testimony, and the trial.  The pictures can't begin to tell you how it actually felt like you were under the water.  Teachers from all over the building came to the room to see and feel the experience.

The underwater sound and the excitement from the students made it the best #tlap experience to date!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Civil Rights Movement - Text vs Media

For my text vs media unit, we analyze a play (Monsters Are Due on Maple Street), a short story (All Summer in a Day), and a speech (I Have a Dream).  I opened the unit with the speech because I knew I could get a huge reaction from the students with my #tlap idea.  I set up the classroom as a restaurant with "whites only" and "negroes" sections.  The "whites only" had table cloths, flowers/vases, candles, salt/pepper shakers, enough dictionaries so that each person in the group had their owns, and brand new package of colored pencils.  The "negroes" section had plain desks, one dictionary for entire group, and used, unsharpened colored pencils.




I didn't want to break up the students based on their races so I made black and white entrance slips.  I blocked the windows so they couldn't see in until they received their slip and walked through the doorway.  I had a rap, Civil Rights Movement by Rhythm, Rhyme, Results playing as they entered.  I printed out the lyrics, and we listened to the entire song to help gain background knowledge of the time.  I also showed a video from YouTube by  I used to download the video so I didn't have to worry about the Internet not working.

I cut up the speech into six different excerpts - one for each group.  I taped them on to a larger piece of paper.  Students put their discussion around the piece of text.  Each student had a different color so that I could see who said what or defined an unknown word.  With the entire class, each group shared their learning with each group member sharing their comments.

After we watched the speech and had a class discussion about which version was more powerful and why.

As we studied and read All Summer in the Day I used the Relax Melodies app on my computer and clicked on every rain and thunderstorm button.  I cranked up the volume.  Luckily it wasn't a super bright day outside so it really felt like a thunderstorm was happening.

I plan to think more how I can #tlap the Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.

Throughout each piece of literature, we had conversations about the different types of bullying that were shown, and students produced an essay connecting bullying all the pieces using evidence from the texts.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

You did what?

After one of my weekly visits on Monday night to #tlap, I decided to do Dave Burgess's idea.  I asked fellow teachers if anyone had crutches and a foot or leg brace.

No, it was not for April Fool's Day.  It was a way to open up the writing portion of our personal narrative unit. As the storyteller, Len Cabral, has said the best and most memorable stories are "scar" stories.  The timing couldn't have been better since the day before ended up being a snow day which led me to come up with a perfect sledding accident.

I knew that students may see me walk into school so I had to be dressed and ready from home.  I had my husband drop me off at the front of my school.  I couldn't wait to see everyone's reactions including the staff.  The teachers who greet at the door every morning were in shock and wanted to know what happened.

The best reaction came from the principal.  Since we were hired as teachers in the same year, he was completely and utterly in shock since after 15 years I have never shown up to work like this.  I wish I had videoed or got a photo of his reaction.  I had to tell him it wasn't real since he was so concerned about me.

The students were so concerned about what happened to me.  Everyone wanted to know what happened.  I simply said, "I'll tell you during class."

I thought for sure that my movements around the classroom were giving away that my leg was not really hurt.  Never in my life have I needed crutches, so I wasn't sure exactly how I needed to behave with my leg.

No matter how many times I rehearsed the "sledding accident" story, I felt like it wasn't believable enough.  I had to spend time researching what kind of leg issue would need a leg brace to make it more "real".  Thankfully it's seventh graders, and for the most part, they still believe what people tell them.  I made my "sledding accident" a short and sweet but then moved on to real "scar" stories.

All day the students were extra kind and helpful.  They held the door for me, carried things, and did everything I needed them to do.  During the telling of the story for my last class, I stood in front of them and ripped off the leg brace and tossed the crutches aside.  Students mouths dropped.  Others yelled out, "I knew you were faking!"  I went to the two other classrooms where they rest of the students were.  I walked in and simply asked the teacher a fake question while the students stared at me in disbelief.  As I left I said, "Yes I was faking it."

By the end of the day, I couldn't wait to take that leg brace off.  I have never walked so slow around the school nor felt as helpless as I did that day.  The following day I had so much pain in my back and arms muscles for using them like I never had before that I began to wonder if it was worth it.  As I reflected on how quickly and how many ideas flowed out of the students' brains and onto their planning sheets, I knew it was worth all the "pain and suffering".

After putting this picture on Instagram even my family was concerned until they read my comment.