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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Day after a Tragedy

As parents, we know how we want to discuss and meet the needs of our own children at home after a tragedy. However, we are not with our children every hour of every day and we need to prepare them for all they will encounter. As I considered this, I realized that families may have a lot of questions about how their child's teacher will handle such a tragic event in school. Here is my response to families and how I will care for their children this week.

Hello families,

I have spent the weekend wondering how our day will start Monday morning. As I do that, I realize that families may wonder how such a horrible topic may be handled in the classroom. I wanted to completely shield my own children (Annabel and Gus) from this topic, but I realize that this is unrealistic. So, I spent some time this morning preparing them for what they might hear at school. Now I need to think about your children and my role in their lives. 

My plan when a tragic event occurs and is highly publicized is to play off the feelings of my kids. If they enter the room discussing the topic, that means there is no chance of being able to shield them from something that is inappropriate for their age. Thus, ignoring the issue is not a healthy option. Also, if nothing is mentioned by the children themselves, that doesn't mean it is not on their minds. I will ask indirect, open-ended questions to find the children's level of exposure (what did you do this weekend, anything interesting happen, did you see anything on tv). I feel that my role is to find what the children need from me, wether it is to answer questions truthfully or just reassure them that they are safe at school. Intimate details of the events will not be discussed, as I don't think that will help. 

In short, I will be there tomorrow to shield your child from topics that are not appropriate for their developmental age (to the best of my ability), answer any questions I can with truth (within reason), but mostly reassure them that they are safe and protected at school by adults that care very much for them. 

If you have anything to add (such as feelings your child is having, how much they know about the events, advice for me, etc), PLEASE respond. The more information I have, the better I will be able to care for your children tomorrow. 

Thanks so much for reading, and I am looking forward to a wonderful week full of fun and learning with your children. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Share it Maybe Music Video

The kindergarten classes are in charge of introducing the topic of being kind to our school this month. Each month we have a character trait presentation. We chose to create a music video for being kind. The children were able to choose scenarios as well as help with the lyrics and recording. The product is a fun video that features the children being kind to others. Enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Exploring Matter: A Great Unit of Study in K!

We explored matter this week. We first learned the terminology of solid, liquid, and gas. We then had a blast experimenting with different forms of matter. Some matters react, some matters mix, some matters do not.

The excitement during the experiments is so high, that I wanted something we could use later to reflect and get into more in-depth discussions. I created a video of the experiments for the learners so they could reflect and review. Not to mention, get excited all over again when things 'explode'!

Head over to our class blog and check it out:

iPad App Organization in K-1

Our school has implemented a 1-to-1 iPad initiative this school year. My kindergarten learners have benefited from anytime, anyplace learning this school year as a result of this initiative. It is fabulous!

I wanted the iPad applications to be organized so that learners could navigate on their iPad during guided reading and guided math. As I try to give learners more ownership of their education, I want to provide them with the skills necessary to choose an application that meets their needs. This means I needed to organize the iPad applications.

I wanted apps organized by skill. If learners need to choose an application that helps them practice sounds, they need to be able to find the different application choices. With more than 100 apps on our iPads, not filing the apps isn't an option. Many of our learners are unable to read, thus using numbers to label the files seemed to be necessary. So, we numbered each folder as well as gave it a label.

This system has proved to be very effective. I place several skill apps within each folder and allow the learner to choose an application that meets their needs. We discuss apps being too easy or hard for their needs. We also conference to be sure they are making good app choices during practice times. They are taking control of their learning as well as finding apps that are fun and worthwhile.

Skill applications are a wonderful resource, however my favorite folder is '18 create'. The creation apps such as My Story, Animator, Show Me, and PuppetPals are great tools that allow for creativity and learner choice. I would keep those over any of the other skill apps any day!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Learner Portfolios

I am supportive of the use of learner portfolios in the classroom. I have seen some wonderful posts about various tools that can be utilized by the teacher. However, I am more interested in the learners taking control of their portfolio and having my role be as a guide in the tools that can be utilized to capture their learning. This year, I have been very happy with the use of My Story on our iPads.

We have utilized My Story to create individual eBooks over the last year. The application uploads the learner's work and emails a link in which to view the book. This is great for sharing our eBooks with the world. The tools within the application are also very easy to use and the students can effortlessly navigate and create.

I noticed that we have the same need with learner portfolios. These are not my creation or documentation of my work, thus it should not be me behind the portfolio's creation. The learner can take pictures, record their voice over, draw, and type their learning. At the end of the year, they will email the link and have a portfolio at their access whenever they like. The families will also have access and the learner can share work that is truly their own.

One of the benefits of having learners control their portfolio is that they can add to it whenever they create something or learn something new. I do not need to open an application on my computer, as they are on the learners' iPads.

I love this application. Since we moved to a 1-to-1 iPad school, this is the perfect means for learners to document their learning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Know My Kids, the “Experts” Do Not

The topic of K-12 purchased curriculum and world-wide published books on classroom practices are always a hot-topic in public schools. The considerations of cost, time, expert reviews, and best practices are addressed and either grade-level or school-wide adoption of the resources are undertaken. Sometimes, this occurs with little evaluation; the grass is greener on the other side concept. "I have heard people say they like this, so I am jumping in whole-heartedly". All this means very little to me because of one, basic fact: I know my kids, the experts do not.

First, please remember that I am not condemning all resources made available through education companies or experienced teachers. There is value in years of experience and researched best practices. I use many tools that I have purchased because of the possible value in the basic ideas. However, I remember that these are just resources. I do not need to follow the curriculum or latest trend just as published. I am an expert when it comes to the needs of the children in room 113, while the writers of these tools are not.

The publishers, writers, and educators behind these products do not understand that one student is motivated by the topic of farming, but has zero interest in poetry. However, if I combine these two topics, I have a motivated student. They also do not understand that some of my students are bored by too much repetition. Although a schedule and routines in general are beneficial at times, the break in these routines to explore student interests rejuvenates the classroom. 

When I ask my students at the end of each day what they would like to do tomorrow, kids literally jump out of their seats and share fantastic ideas. How could this happen if I follow a scheduled curriculum? To follow a curriculum as published will not meet the needs of all of my students as it will leave little room for student choice and ownership.

One thing I understand about my students is they need to feel ownership in the classroom. I often hear teachers say that they wish their students would take ownership of their own learning. They wished students would take an interest in their reading and math scores, work independently at home and school to improve their scores, and communicate their day and progress with their parents. How can we expect students to take this ownership when the teacher takes complete ownership of the classroom schedule and activities? If the teacher follows a curriculum or practice to the last idea, how can students have room to take control of their learning?

I still have a lot of room for development of my role in the classroom. I look at myself as a guide and resource in the classroom while my students are their most important teacher. However, I still find myself slipping into the traditional teacher role: the center of the classroom. I look forward to more exploration of how I can support my students. I understand that this will include the research of best practices and curriculum. More importantly, this growth will occur from my ability to listen to the wants and needs of my students. Only then will I understand my students and be able to meet their needs.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Communication, Weebly, and Symbaloo

Busy, busy, busy! Teachers often take the summer months to further their education, read and research educational concepts, and assemble classroom resources. That is exactly what I have been doing and would like to share with others. After all, I appreciate all of the resources others have shared with me.

I have created a classroom curriculum page utilizing Weebly. There is page for each of the possible units the kiddos will cover over the school year. Each page includes links via Symbaloo, iPad suggested applications, and ideas as to what the children may choose to do when studying the unit.

First, I want to share a few key points about me and how the classroom I work in operates. There are some central beliefs, as I don't want my goals to be misinterpreted.

  • Students in the classroom are their first teacher, the teacher is actually a guide
  • Although I lay out a 'plan' of units, they are open to change as students' interests change
  • Nothing can replace solid, hands-on, real-world experiences 
  • Technology is a tool and not the only means to an effective education (although it is wonderful)
  • I plan on integrating project-based learning topics this year, although it is not included on the site (yet)
The goal for this site is to communicate with families various activities and curricular events we will be discussing in class. Although I update my blog and the students update theirs, a central location with information seemed useful.

Please check over the site and offer any suggestions. I will be adding PBL ideas as the year progresses, as well as more sites on Symbaloo and iPad applications. This is just a start; a work in progress.

The Symbaloo pages I have created are all linked within the Weebly site, however here is a direct link if you are interested. 

Thanks in advance for any assistance and enjoy the remaining days of Summer!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Creepy, Crawly, Insect Unit

I love working with my kiddos during our insect unit! Although many children have an initial fear of insects, it is amazing to see the changes in their responses after learning more about them.

I haven't posted much lately because of my graduate program, but fortunately, I am completing a program that allows me to create usable and beneficial units in my classroom. The insect unit below is a sample I created for a language arts and math/science lesson that is enhanced with technology. I have included my insect unit Symbaloo which has several links to games and resources.

Insect Lesson Plan (utilizing iPads, My Story app)

Math/Science Lesson Resources (reviews of simulation sites and insect links)

I have borrowed so many wonderful ideas over the last year, I hope someone can utilize these! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Video in the Classroom

I love opening a unit or making a point clearer by utilizing video in instruction. In most of our school's this can be difficult with tight filter restrictions. However, I have found four fabulous sites that are often unblocked and full of videos. If you have more, feel free to share!

NeoK12 has an expansive list of videos and resources.

Who could forget the good ol' standby. The number of videos has jumped dramatically over the last few years. 

This site also includes professional development videos. 

This is one of my new favorite sites. So much information, organized and ready. Note that YouTube videos are integrated and may be blocked. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Internet Safety in the Elementary Classroom: A Teacher's Guide

Many parents have chosen to filter their child's internet access at home. They may do this by utilizing the settings options on their computer or selecting specific tools that their child can use. They also provide supervision. Teachers are charged with providing the same safety. The only difference is that we provide supervision for up to 30 students at once. What can teachers do to maintain a safe, web 2.0 classroom as well as a technologically advanced setting?

Filtering Tools
Schools provide firewall and filter servers that will block a lot of inappropriate content. Each school should also have a policy or set of procedures that teachers can utilize to unblock certain items. Check with your school's administration and technology committee on the official policy of your building. Become familiar with which sites need to be blocked and those that can be opened for use in the classroom. You can also let the powers that be know about inappropriate content that has found its' way through your system.

Know Your Resources
There are a lot of resources and alternatives that can provide you with the same learning experiences but in a safe setting. For example, if your students are too young to utilize Facebook, join Edmodo or ScuttlePad. If YouTube is blocked, utilize SchoolTube or TeacherTube. Wordpress and Blogger are often not accessible, however Edublogs and KidBlog are usually open to students. If you can find a blocked resource, there is usually a safer version for student use. The same goes for web-surfing. There are numerous child-safe browsers available, including iPad applications.

Parents and teachers monitor children in un-safe situations everyday. My children are watched very closely on field trips to ensure safety. I would also provide supervision while children are on a virtual fieldtrip or exploring the internet. Children should be monitored while accessing resources online.

Resources for Teachers
•    Social Networking
  1. Edmodo
  2. ScuttlePad
•    Video
  1. SchoolTube
  2. TeacherTube
•    Blogging
  1. Edublog
  2. KidBlog
•    Web Browsers
  1. Kidoz
  2. MyKidsBrowser
  3. SurfBalance

  • Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Safe Surfing. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Education World: Social Networking Tips for Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Education World: The Internet Safety Debate. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Education World: Using Technology In The Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Need to Know: Internet Safety in the Classroom : Internet Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Privacy Playground. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Social Networking for Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Social Networking: TheirSpace | Edutopia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • TeachersFirst’s Internet Safety Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from
  • Webonauts Internet Academy | PBS KIDS GO! (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2012, from

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reading "Tricks" in Kindergarten-Primary

As a part of my EDTECH program at Boise State, I was to create a lesson that shows how to properly utilize PowerPoint. I immediately had some negative feelings. I have seen so many "bad" presentations over the years; I started feeling the same way towards the tool itself. I had to force myself to sit back and think of how I could successfully utilize this application.

I realized that PowerPoint (or Google Presentation) could be used successfully. It can be a good medium for collecting your lesson resources, such as images, video, data, and main points.

I have created a lesson(s) on "Reading Tricks" to be utilized in the kindergarten or primary classroom. There are videos and games linked together for learning digraphs and other reading "tricks".

Feel free to utilize this file in your classroom. There are alternate links under most videos for the school without YouTube access. Gotta love SchoolTube!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

iPad Applications

Part of my technology integration program is researching instructional software tools. I chose to complete this project with the iPad in mind. If you are interested, feel to check it out. There are links to several resources on iPad applications within the presentation.

There are various types of instructional software. I noted applications for drill-and-practice, tutorials, simulations, games, and problem solving. Each lists 2-3 applications that fit these needs in the kindergarten classroom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

iPad in Kindergarten: Book Creator and My Story

I have been formulating many plans since our school purchased iPads. I have many ideas but the one that I am most excited about is Book Creator and My Story.

My kiddos master 34 quick words each year. We play several games and journal with these words each day. One idea I have that combines this effort with iPad use is Book Creator. The students will be creating year-long portfolio that can then be exported in ePub format. I am choosing Book Creator for this activity because of the picture import option.

Another application that I am looking forward to using is My Story.

For a cheap price, students can color, type, and record audio for their own books.

What I like most about this app is the simplicity. There is not a lot of button pushing for the five year-olds and directions are picture based.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Love Technology

Today, I am attending an iPad workshop. I hope to learn a lot. That is fitting, since the entire focus is about teachers and their role in the classroom. Our speaker, who is an employee of Apple, is discussing the changes in education in relation to technology. Minus the Apple focus, I am really enjoying the information.

In the classroom, I am trying to become a facilitator and not a dictator. I am trying to be a resource rather than the one and only source of on knowledge. I am also trying to show the students how I am a life-long learner and proud of it. Information is right at their fingertips all of the time. I love technology.

I hope for teachable moments. Whether it be explaining to my kids why I would be gone today (I will be learning) or answering a question by providing access to where they can find the answer, I become excited and feel a love of learning. I love technology.

I am posting during a presentation. I am relating what I am hearing to my field, life, and experiences. I will be able to provide an overall review of the presentation because of the connections I am making. I love technology.

I hope teachers are able to make learning relavant and meaningful for my children. My children could have an education full of excitement. They could leave school full of enthusiasm and curiosity. I love technology.

However, none of this could happen without teachers who are prepared to integrate technology in their classrooms. Teachers who are life-long learners that will spark student interest and create students of life. I love teachers.

Technology may be taking over our classrooms. I look at this as a positive side to an ever-changing face of education. However, teachers are needed to guide students in their learning and be one of their many resources.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

President's Day/Patriotism

I am working towards my Masters in Educational Technology at Boise State University. One of my first courses provided experiences in virtual field trips. I have created a virtual field trip that celebrates our country and fits well with president's day.

My virtual field trip of Washington D.C. includes information, videos, audio clips, and various links. I designed it with young children in mind. It can be completed as a whole group under guidance of the teacher for early childhood. Or, if you work with older student buddies, they could complete it together.

The home page provides directions and miscellanious resources.  

There is a page about the United States Capital.

The page on the White House links to a tour of the rooms.

The Washington Monument page provides basic information about its' damage and repairs. 

The page on the Lincoln Memorial includes audio and a picture slideshow.

I hope that others can find this page useful. It is wonderful to be a part of a professional program that encourages weekly creation of useful, technology, tools. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Word Family Freebie!

Thanks so much for a great 6 months in Blog land! I have downloaded numerous resources, followed several hundred Blogs and TpT stores, and gained countless ideas. I am so thankful.

In celebration for this and my first 100 followers, I would like to offer one of my TpT items for free. I hope teachers and students enjoy it.

Please post about the give away,  grab my button, or follow my TpT store. Also, leave a comment if you would like me to follow you. I am always looking for new Blogs to add to my Reader.

Here's to a wonderful 2012!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hop Over to the Clutter-Free Classroom!

Clutter-Free Classroom

What a great idea brewing; The Clutter-Free Classroom Project. Throughout the next year, teachers will be collaborating and sharing wonderful ideas on various organizational topics. As a self-proclaimed neat-freak, this is a great idea!

I look forward to some wonderful ideas from a great Blog:)