Monday, May 25, 2015

Patriotic Program

5th Grade Patriotic Program from Sandy on Vimeo.

Tiny Tidbits of Happiness from the Past Week

  • I received another $1500 grant for technology in my classroom! (I almost have enough for a class set of Chromebooks now.) I've had several dreams about how this will change my teaching--and they're really good dreams! The best part is being able to personalize and differentiate learning a little more easily.
  • My students scored very well on the SAGE science test. Their average last year was 58% and so far my class has 74% which is well above the school/district/state average. I have three more kids that need to finish and they should score well. I'm expecting the average to be closer to 80%.
  • For the district math benchmark, my class average was 84% and so I'm tickled pink!
  • I've been able to get school licenses (grants) for several programs. This will really help us to track the data/progress of students. 
  • One of my principal friends and I went out to dinner this week to celebrate our birthdays. It was a blast getting together! She is doing some amazing things at her school and it's only her first year.
  • Our 5th grade patriotic program was last Friday (May 22) and the kids did a wonderful job of singing! Many people in the audience had tears in their eyes. I was really proud of my class for reciting the Gettysburg Address.
  • We ALMOST have testing out of the way and that's the best feeling of all! It really takes up too much precious class time. Here we are at the end of the year and I have no time to do all the things that I'd normally do. But our fieldtrip to Biz Town is this Thursday and I'm really looking forward to that!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Kissing" in 5th Grade Science

Any time that I can "mess with" or challenge my students' thinking in a fun way, I do. There is a science experiment called, "Pink Kisses". It's a fun experiment to show a chemical reaction. To start the day, I announced that we'd be learning to kiss in science.

The idea of kissing in 5th grade had mixed reactions. I was a little surprised by some boys that were completely delighted with the idea. (I do have really cute girls in my class!) I decided to video the kids sharing their thoughts about their first kiss.

 I gave the kids some mints to freshen their breath and offered them a little lip balm if they wanted to soften their lips. Then I had two volunteers face each other to demonstrate how to kiss. By now, hearts were beating pretty fast! The boy starts by politely saying, "May I kiss you?" The girl politely responds by saying, "Yes, let's kiss."

Once I know the class is more than a little nervous, I hand my volunteers a test tube and show them how to "kiss" in science for this experiment. There are audible sighs of relief!

A KISS= Use a pipette to transfer the clear liquid from your test tube to the other person's test tube. They use a pipette to transfer some of their clear liquid from their test tube to yours. The exchange is called a "kiss".

 Here are pictures of the kids mingling and "kissing" each other.

 After everyone has "kissed" two people. I informed the kids that one of them had a terrible cold and transferred their "bug" to the people that he/she kissed.  I use phenolphthalein, which is an acid/base indicator, to see who became infected from the cold. The liquid turns a bright pink to show the kids who became infected.

Preparation before the kids do this experiment: Fill the test tubes 3/4 full of water. Fill one test tube with sodium hydroxide with an equal amount so that it blends in with the test tubes filled with water.

This is a simple experiment and you can get the supplies easily from a science or drug store. For my class, it was just "one of Ms. King's tricks"!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Celebrating My 1 Year Anniversary on Twitter...Oh, The Changes in Me!

This week marks my 1-year anniversary on Twitter! During the summer of 2011, I set up an account. That was it. About a year later, I attended a conference where @adambellow was a keynote speaker. I was on cloud nine to meet him in person and to learn from him. My first and only tweet went to him to say, "Thank You". I was shocked that he responded! I wasn't sure how to respond via a tweet, and so I don't think I did. Adam and I have laughed about that since, and I consider him a real friend. My use of Twitter died until last May.

I absolutely would not be on Twitter without the support of my #edmodochat PLN. There are MANY people that helped me learn but I really owe a shout out to @wkrakower @usabbs @place_s @sandramc59 @ktbkr4 @EatonSarah85 @Mr_Bruder @MrsLMWoods @joannavrteaches @elissamalispina @TheOwl3 @KatieAnn_76 @HCPSTinyTech @plnaugle @VivieneTuckerman @sarahdateechur that really took me under their wing. I'm probably missing some people, and I apologize. Unlike a lot of people, I joined Twitter already having a strong PLN that helped me to feel welcome and valued. It made being in #edmodochat a highlight of every week and helped me to connect to other people. I'm always a person to jump in when I start something and jump in, I did! I think I jumped into about every educational chat on Twitter during June when school got out. I was fearless, had nothing to lose, and everything to gain! I didn't know what I was doing, but that didn't seem to matter. Everyone was kind, and I continued to connect with the most amazing people in education!

After about a month of learning some of the ins and outs of Twitter, my #edmodochat colleagues helped me to learn how to moderate #edmodochat. Billy Krakower and Bobby Brian Lewis were always there to support me and even took the time to send me a quick video tutorial or explanation on Edmodo. Even though the Edmodo Support Ambassadors took turns to moderate, it felt like there were 6-7 moderators for each chat because everyone helped welcome, RT, and interact with people. I learned a lot!

But this year has been much more than learning to tweet!

Being a connected educator via Twitter opened doors to opportunity! It opened my mind to ideas! It connected me to experts, authors, specialists, administrators, and teachers in every subject and grade level not only in the United States but around the world!

My class benefitted from my connectedness and participated in Dot Day, Global School Play Day, Genius Hour, Making, Global Read Aloud, Skyping, and a host of other special days and activities. The list doesn't include all of the tweaks and changes that I made to my instructional practices due to my conversations on Twitter, Voxer, and Google Hang-outs. 

Opportunities that came directly because of being connected on Twitter:
  • P is for Pirate:  I'm so grateful to Dave and Shelley Burgess @daveburgess @burgess_shelley for inviting me to participate in writing a little tweet for their book. I was a complete newbie, no one knew me, and they took a chance on me. I didn't really understand the scope of their project and there's a grammar mistake in my 140 characters (little embarrassing) but I'm extremely delighted that I was able to participate. But, my greatest delight is that I know and have connected with the other amazing educators in the book. It's a treasure for so many reasons!
  • BAM Radio #edchat:  Wow, what an opportunity to chat with Tom Whitby @tomwhitby and Nancy Blair @blairteach! Priceless!
  • Bammy Award Nominee:  The most surprising thing to me this year is that people who I've never met, look to me as a leader.  My feelings about this are a topic for another post. I know that I don't stand a chance to make the top five people to be considered for the award. But that doesn't matter! I feel like a winner already!!! I expect every person I nominated to be considered for the Bammy. The people that aren't connected via social media most likely have a lesser chance but they kept up with the "big dawgs" and I couldn't be prouder! Here are the people that I nominated: Paul Solarz @paulsolarz, Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur, Don Wettrick @DonWettrick, Kim Gibson @ogdengirl, Dr. Patrice Johnson, Stephanie Johnson (parent), Dr. Bruce Barker, Dr. Todd Whitaker @toddwhitaker, Bobby Brian Lewis @usabbs, Rik Rowe @WHSRowe, Bethany Hill @bethhill2829 Nira Dale @mrsdale_FCS *I wrote up the nomination for Beth but for some reason couldn't get my account to work that morning so her nomination was submitted from one of my teammates. :) I also voted/wrote about 60 other reviews. Whew! :) I am tickled pink that Bobby Brian Lewis thought enough of me to nominate me and that so many others took the time to add such kind words. It's truly humbling!  The caliber of people in each category is AMAZING. For Elementary Teacher of the Year, I think every teacher is their state's teacher of the year and they all have a LONG list of accomplishments and recognitions. I'm honored to be in their company especially because I don't have that long list of personal accomplishments and titles. Having the Bammy Award "stamp" is pretty cool! 
  • People! I have the most amazing group of people surrounding me! I cannot say this enough! I've connected with like-minded people that inspire, challenge, support, question, and stir my passion for teaching every day! If I'd only known, I would have connected via Twitter years ago! But maybe it wasn't my time. Maybe for me, I had to connect with the awesome educators on Edmodo first in order for me to appreciate Twitter. Regardless, I've grown!

Changes in Me:
  • I have found like-minded people. I'm not so concerned about what others think about me. I can dream, try things out, fail, dress-up, act weird, and think out of the box without being so self-conscious.
  • I'm discovering the leadership abilities in me that others have seen in me my whole life. Titles and positions have less meaning to me. We are all learners.
  • My faith in teaching is restored. There was a time there where I'd hear the phrase, "There are so many great teachers out there!" but I didn't see it or believe it. This sounds egotistical, but not meant to be. I just didn't see innovation and high student engagement around me. There were exceptions of course, but for the most part I saw mediocre teaching and learning. Maybe it was because I rarely, if ever, had the chance to see in other classrooms. Twitter opens a whole new world of innovative, highly motivated, educators. It's refreshing! It's challenging me to "up my game".
  •  I'm gaining confidence in the tech world because I know that at any time I need help; I have it. I don't have to do things alone anymore. I have access to experts!
  • Everyone needs a mentor. I have found more than one. Not only do I have the most amazing PLN, but my mentors (especially in leadership) inspire me and teach me by sharing their experiences and expertise. I'm gaining confidence (not there yet) that I could take on leadership roles.  
  • I'm gaining confidence in being more transparent and being public. 
  • The bottom line is that I've gained confidence in myself this last year. This is a little strange to say because I've always been a pretty confident person especially when it comes to teaching. But the last five years or so, have brought so much change and uncertainty! I'm living in a constant state of not knowing if something will work. I think it's shaken my confidence. I'm proud to say that I've pushed on, moved forward, despite the fear and challenges! 
  • I've developed a real passion for technology! It's part of me now. I've driven and motivated to FIND A WAY to get devices into my classroom so that I can use tech at the point of instruction. I just want to teach! I don't want to be hunting down extra lab or iPad time. I've been patient while I've been learning. BUT, I'm ready now! I'm restless! It's time to move on! I have much more to learn! I'm willing! I need the tech support. 
 Congratulations to me! I jumped in and stuck with it! I can't go back now. Being connected on Twitter, Voxer, Edmodo, etc. is just part of who I am!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chemical Change Cafe'

Students walked into our classroom Monday morning to find that the room was transformed into the Chemical Change Cafe'. This is an activity from the book, Picture Perfect Science Lessons by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan.
Picture Perfect Science Lessons
I'm not positive that this lesson is in this edition of the book. I found an older edition from my public library and have used the lesson for quite some time.

The lab jackets were collected by a parent, and I've used them year after year for this activity and for when we study Matter. It adds to the atmosphere of being mad scientists! The science equipment is just for decoration. I usually have flasks of white flowers pretreated with phenolphthalein so that we can watch them turn pink after we eat.

It was a perfect day to do this activity because I had a university student that was in my room to observe. Her help was greatly appreciated.

The kids mix water and pancake mix, so the batter is "perfect" for them. Some of the boys especially enjoyed making the batter extremely thin so that their pancake would be huge. Our rule in science is that we never eat. Kids enjoyed "eating at their own risk"!

After the clean-up, I have the kids work in cooperative groups to discuss other foods that could be included on the Chemical Change Cafe' Menu. Some of the foods they discuss include toast, orange juice, scrambled eggs, strawberry smoothie, trail mix, buttermilk biscuits, orange-sicles, cottage cheese, fruit salad and toasted marshmallows. It's easy for me to walk around and listen to their reasoning for each choice that they make. I'm able to clear up any misconceptions about chemical changes in a way that they can easily comprehend.

Overall, it's a fun activity!

Spring Tea


 The Spring "Tea" is one of the few activities that I've done every year since I started teaching. It's a great PR builder and a chance for the kids to dress-up and practice their manners. Moms transform the classroom into a classy restaurant while I do another simple activity with the kids in another part of the school. Every year is a little different and the parents always surprise me with their creativity. 

A couple of days before the Spring Tea, I have my class practice the procedures. It gives me a chance to address any of the issues that are sure to arise like not wanting to touch each other. I keep the instructions light and talk about manners using humor. Kids complain outwardly a little bit, but I always find out from moms that there is a lot of primping the morning of the big day.

The kids always shine! They are very mannerly and have a good time. I've never once had someone not enjoy the activity.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

5 EPIC FAILS This Year...What I've Learned

Here's a screenshot of our class blog.  Here's a link. There are some beautiful pages, but most of it is blank. It's my

EPIC FAIL #1: Class Blog

Last summer I was inspired by everyone in my PLN to "tell my story", "break down the walls", "invite parents into the classroom via social media", "share everything" and "be transparent". I had good intentions! I liked the way that Weebly has drop down menus that lead to other pages. Even though it was new to me, and I had no idea how to make a website/blog using it, I did it anyway. I spent hours on it! I did have an old blog so I was able to copy/paste but it wasn't a seamless process for me. I'd heard how easy it was to use- just drag-n-drop. Easy, right! Well, apparently, not for me. A lot of parts were easy. But a lot of it wasn't so easy for me. That's when I got stuck! Because starting the year is a hectic time and last summer was even more hectic than the usual, I never did follow through with my intentions. My plan was to blog, have students take turns blogging each day, and to post pictures, videos and projects. I WANTED to do it all! I didn't take into account the fact that much of my time was going to be spent working on my own schooling. I didn't know that a whole new reading/language arts program was going to be dumped on me two days before school started. I didn't expect a lot of the things that happened.

EPIC FAIL #2: This Blog

I don't want to be negative, but my vision for this blog is definitely a fail. I am not a blogger....YET. I may get there some day. But, I haven't been consistent. I'm still fighting the feelings of having nothing to say or offer the world. I don't have a niche or theme to the blog. It's very plain in appearance. I don't consider myself as a writer...YET. I have the settings set to public, but I don't think of my blog as being public. So far, it's just a place to vent. If I'm truly honest, it helps to take away the guilt feelings when everyone talks about the importance of blogging and reflection. I KNOW it's important! I KNOW it helps. I'm inspired every day by the blogs of others. I tell myself that "this time I'll write consistently" even if it's really about nothing at all. Life gets in the way. I haven't made it a top priority. You make time for the things that are truly important to you.

EPIC FAIL #3: The Gamification of my Class

I love it when I gamify my class! I love everything about it! I love using games within the structure for kids to learn. I love giving badges, having leaderboards, and watching the motivation of my students skyrocket. It just didn't happen this year like I've done before. I used games- lots of online games for learning but that's different! I taught history lessons in particular using simulations. But, honestly, it was subpar. I didn't feel like I had the time to devote to the simulations. I've had my class set up to use Classcraft forever. It didn't happen. There's a tiny bit of hope that maybe I could try it (a highly modified shortened version) but the calendar is not being my friend. I didn't even award badges for simple things this year. It was an epic fail!

EPIC FAIL #4: Integrating Tech

This isn't a complete fail. I did integrate a lot of tech based on my abilities and access to devices. I wanted to accomplish so much MORE! I wanted to be at a point where I wouldn't have to think about it. Unfortunately, I do think about tech all the time. Mostly, it's about when and not what. I'm scheduling the computer lab and iPads for every possible minute that I can. It makes a schedule very choppy. I hate it! I envision a paperless classroom where kids are working on all kinds of differentiated and personalized projects. My attempts to FLIP weren't as successful as previous years. I even tried the "in class" flipped idea. I didn't get there this year. It's disappointing to say the least! 

EPIC FAIL #5: More Epic Fails Than I Care To List!

You'd Think I'd Learn By NOW!

It's always recommended that baby steps are better when you're trying new things. I've never been the type of person to do that! I jump in! I jump in and doggy paddle to save my life! It would be better in so many ways if I'd just start small and build from there. I KNOW this! Why don't I do this? Consequently, I'm at the end of the school year falling far below the expectations that I had for myself! I could beat myself up, but I'm proud of so many other accomplishments. 

My Biggest Accomplishment This Year

is putting myself "out there" more. This IS an area where I take baby steps. I know that I have a long road to travel. I don't know why others seem to be effortlessly so public. It seems like it's without much thought or hesitance. I envy their quick wit, ability to think on their feet, their professionalism, and presence. I wish I could have that kind of confidence! I still don't feel comfortable in front of cameras of any type. That's probably related to one of my self-esteem issues. Slowly, I'm finding my way. The "box" for me is a nesting box. I have layers and layers to break down. I've spent my whole life building walls as a form of protection from being hurt. It may take a while to break them back down. As it turns out, one of my biggest accomplishments this year has little to do with teaching. It's  all about connecting with a support team that's helping me to discover more about myself. I know. It's pretty pathetic that I'm as old as I am and talking about discovering more about myself. But, life is a journey and we all learn in different ways and times. 

I have to keep moving forward! Keep learning! Keep trying new things! I don't want to make excuses! I can accept failure, but I don't like it. The important part is to pick myself up and keep going. I'm not happy with the status quo. I have to keep going!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

And the Winner Is.....

For the last couple of weeks, I've had the pleasure of nominating colleagues/members of my PLN for the prestigious Bammy Award. I've currently nominated six highly deserving people and voted for many others. I hope that I can make time to nominate even more. I think there's still over a week to vote and nominate people.  There are so many educators who deserve a shout out for their work! 

It is extremely gratifying to surprise someone with the news that they have been nominated or are the recipient of an award that recognizes their unyielding dedication to educating kids. Since my first year of teaching, I've nominated many colleagues for various awards and find great satisfaction in doing so. Every time I do, I am humbled and grateful for the people in my life. They lift my spirits and challenge me to be a better person. I am the person I am today because of their influence.

Nominating people for the Bammy Awards started me thinking about the whole idea of teacher awards in general and the Bammy Awards specifically. To come clean, I'd never heard of the Bammy Awards until last summer when I started to use Twitter.  The night of the Bammy's last fall, I read the Tweets and was excited that so many of the people that I had connected with on Twitter were being recognized. I felt it was a great celebration of the positives of education.  When I heard that anyone could nominate a colleague for one of the awards, I got excited! The nomination process was pretty easy- just a paragraph or two. Some award nominations take a great deal of time and effort.

I'm sure that winning a Bammy Award is pretty spectacular, but I can tell you that the feeling you get after nominating someone is unmatched! There is no greater feeling than doing something nice for someone else. With the exception of my superintendent and a former administrative assistant, the people that I nominated, and those that I voted for, are members of my PLN. I've never met most of them and yet I still feel a personal bond. They are my friends in every sense of the word.

If anyone can nominate a fellow candidate, why are there not more nominations? Why aren't more people voting? I thought I was doing something wrong by nominating more than one person and voting for so many others, but found out I wasn't. I don't quite understand. I'm not naive though. I understand that for many awards, it involves politics, popularity, self-promotion, and the like. I simply choose to ignore that and focus on shining the spotlight on some great educators that I know, love, and highly respect.

I value every member of my PLN (which is another blog post). I know some people better than others. But, every person is important to me! I wish I could recognize the MANY people that have inspired me. It is a risk to single people out. But because some people don't fit into a specific Bammy Award category, I have to mention a couple.

Mark E. Weston Ph.D. @shiftparadigm  As a labor of love, Mark recognizes and connects educators together all over the Twitterverse. He posts inspiring images and thoughts that lift people's spirits. On a personal level, Mark is a mentor and role model to me. He is always finding the positive and helping me to connect with people from many backgrounds and specialties. Those are the little things. I'm in awe of his brilliant intellect.

Rusul Alrubail @RusulAlrubail One night I came home from school just sobbing (a blog post that maybe someday I'll publish) and sent out a single tweet to reach out to no one in particular. Rusul read through the words and lifted my spirits through direct messages. This interaction wasn't the first time. She inspires and gives a voice to those of us who once in awhile need to be heard and understood.

Congratulations to all of those who have been nominated for a Bammy Award or other recognition. You deserve it! I'm amazed at all you do! I'm truly honored to have so many of you for friends and members of my PLN. I learn from you every day.

I'm equally amazed at how many educators fall under the radar. There is no harder profession than teaching! There are too many teachers, administrators, and supporting staff members who never receive a shout out. They need to know that they matter! A simple gesture of kindness and recognition goes a long way!

I hope more people will consider taking the time to recognize a colleague. It doesn't have to be an official Bammy Award nomination. On the contrary! 

Earlier this week, a great educator Eoin Lenihan @eoinlenihan awarded me with his Blarney Award!

You can read about it here. I was shocked! Then, I was extremely humbled and delighted at the same time. Thanks Eoin! So in the spirit of the award and to pay it forward, I would like everyone to read the blog by Jonathon Wennstrom @jon_wennstrom He is a passionate eduleader blogging and changing the world! He is definitely "Lighting the Fire"!

Although this blog post wasn't intended for Teacher Appreciation Week, it's only fitting that I'm publishing it now. (The ideas have been swirling in my head for some time.) Thank you to every person that is part of my PLN!  You encourage and inspire me every day! I hope that anyone that reads this will know how much you matter to me. I hope you have a fabulous Teacher Appreciation Week! I hope we can all make time to find those that need to hear that they're appreciated. EVERYONE needs to hear, "And the winner is...."

Saturday, May 2, 2015

My Dream Is Starting To Come True!

Over this last holiday season, someone from my PLN mentioned that CenturyLink gave large grants to teachers for technology. I had heard of the grant before (even applied once) but had forgotten about it. When I went to their site, my heart sank a little to know that I only had a couple of days to write a fairly large grant proposal. I was motivated to at least try!

Last Monday, my principal came into my classroom with two visitors. They presented me with this $5,000 grant from CenturyLink!!! I was so excited about the prospects of having devices in my classroom! I could barely stop myself from dancing around the room! My kids were super excited too! I'm sure my principal and the representatives from CenturyLink had a smile on their face when they left my room and heard a huge outburst of cheering, whooping, and hollering! Kids were super excited to touch and pass around the check.

 Five thousand dollars doesn't go very far when purchasing devices. I know that I can't afford to buy them for every student. That's where the frustration sets in, and I struggle to stay positive. For the past five years, I have been trying to piecemeal ANY tech access for my classroom. Consequently, I now have eight iPodTouches that are outdated. I can no longer add updated apps. Although I've been extremely grateful for the grants over the years, purchasing one or two devices, a year helps but doesn't achieve the kind of classroom that I envision in my head.

Before I go any further, I know "it's not about the tech". Devices, etc. come second to pedagogy. But, I'm talking strictly about access.

I've heard a lot of discussion about Chromebooks instead of iPads in the classroom. I didn't know ANYTHING about Chromebooks but reached out to my PLN this week to learn. I certainly learned a lot! Currently, I'm moving in the direction of purchasing Chromebooks instead of the mini iPads.

I LOVE the iPad for all of the creative projects that kids can make and share. I use whiteboard apps all of the time. Although I've just scratched the surface of all that kids can do with an iPad, I've learned a lot about educational apps. What I haven't liked is the need to update constantly and having to use the Apple Configurator. It's pretty much a cuss word to me. I manage the iPads for the school. Although the process is much easier than a few years ago, updating and adding apps is a pain!

I'm learning that Chromebooks have a lot to offer. Plus, there would be no need to purchase a case or keyboard. They are also considerably cheaper!

The questions that I've had to ask myself are the following:

What do I want my students to be able to do? How will my use of Chromebooks change my teaching? How do I want my teaching to change? What technical support will I have?
For now (it may change), I want my students to become better writers. I want them to collaborate, to use the learning tools that my students and I enjoy using, to create, and to make a digital portfolio.  Most everything (so far) is available on a Chromebook. I'm not sure if there's a way for kids to use and share their learning like through a whiteboard app. That's something that I'll have to investigate.

I'm EXCITED! For the first time, in a long time, I see my dream almost becoming a reality! I'm extremely motivated to find an extra $2700 somewhere so that my whole class can have a device. In fact, Friday before I left to go home, I submitted another grant application. I want this!

All week, I've dreamed of how my teaching and student learning could change for the better. I have a lot to learn. I'm sure that everything will be clunky for awhile. But, I want to have the technology as common as a pencil. I can almost taste it! Stay tuned!