Thursday, March 31, 2016

What's a VHS: A Class Reward Turns into a Learning Experience

Sometimes students need a break from their daily routine and schedule, especially if the have earned one. Students have been truly showing they care about themselves, the school, and others through our PBIS program. They were part of a whole school initiative in which we earned enough care cards for a school reward! On Friday students will be able to choose their own lunch table anywhere in the cafeteria! They will also be joining the east side kids on the East Street playground for one GIANT recess. I reminded them that as amazing as this news is, they are 5th graders and still need to be role models on the playground and the lunchroom. I am hoping they can show the school they can sit where they want in the cafeteria, as next year at QMS they have this choice!

Students also earned a class reward and voted in February to cash in their care cards for a movie. Today we got to watch The Princess Diaries. I was asked if I was showing an “old” movie. My response was “older than you” as the movie in on VHS. A student asked me what VHS was. I had to hold in my chuckle as I remembered these children were born into the world of DVDs, Blue Ray, live stream, and downloading movies. VHS is a thing of the past. I showed them the tape. I think they were surprised we used to watch movies that came in a rectangle with film. Students should be exposed to inventions from the past to better understand how new things come to be. Maybe one of them will use innovative thinking and figure out the next big thing in movie viewing! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Math Mojo: Losing It, Finding It, Seeing Students Lose it and How to Help Them Get It Back!

I can remember the exact moment my attitude about math changed. It was 7th grade and my teacher, Mrs. Brown, gave a test on the first day of school. My mind was still in summer camp mode, dreaming of Lake Potanipo and my bunk of friends. It certainly was not on the paper sprawled in front of me. Not taking the test too seriously, I answered about half of it in the time allotted. Mrs. Brown saw what I did, and she made an assumption. She figured that I was not a good math student. I did not answer everything or do well on what I did. She never asked me to retake the test or any questions about my math thinking. She never knew I earned a medal in the 3rd grade Continental Math League for being one of the top students in the state for math skills. She made a decision to move me from math 2 to now what I know as an educator to be remedial math. That one decision affected my whole math career as a student. I was always behind my classmates, bored out of my mind. When I got to high school I had to advocate taking honors classes with other grades when none were available to me. I taught myself out of the book to learn more than what I needed to know. I always regretted the math decision my teacher made, and in the years in between becoming an educator and that fateful day in seventh grade I lost my passion for all things numbers.

Flash forward to the year 2016 where I love math and figuring things out with my students. I enjoy presenting them with math challenges and watching them learn to understand the process behind the concepts. I love how I can assess students against standards and not a grade made up of homework, quizzes, and test scores. I never wanted them to experience what I did. I wanted my students to gain an appreciation of mathematics concepts, marvel at the wonder of how math is everywhere, and apply concepts to new ideas like coding.  As I watch my own students grow up and go through their math world I begin to see their excitement for math turn into frustration over their grades. I understand the need for test grades given at the middle and high school level, but I feel what is really being assessed on most of these tests is an increased anxiety level, lack of following directions, and careless errors made because the student has 45 minutes to take a 20-40 question test with multiple steps and parts. I see students’ confidence shattered over things out of their control. Students who get 68% on tests and Ds and Cs on their report card begin to feel that they do not understand things, that they are struggling, or they will never learn the material. Learning theory 101 talks about mental readiness, but that door is being slammed shut.  I believe any educator can tell what their students know and understand in 5-10 problems, by an exit card, or just talking to them. We do assess students a lot, and I am beginning to wonder what for. What is this data used for? What do we do with it that effectively changes our teaching? Who does this really benefit?

I challenge educators to think about assessments and what is best for students. Try a collaborative project, inquiry based learning, or ask students to create something that applies their thinking on the topic. You might be surprised at what you get. I wish my seventh grade math teacher asked me that. I probably would have been moved to the advanced class instead! My math attitude would have improved, and I would have seen myself as a girl who can understand math and develop a love for numbers and how they work. I am glad I got my math mojo back!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

PARCC Busters

The agents worked so hard on this (and so did their teacher). We had a blast making it and hope you enjoy it. A state test can be tiresome, scary, cause anxiety, and it is not fun. But I hope you can see we are having fun prepping for it. We are doing some engaging activities. The test scorers do not know our agents. They do not know their: unique interests, brilliant ideas, or sense of humor. They do not know their passions or what makes them tick. The people who wrote the test do not know how our kids are creative, athletic, kind, empathetic, compassionate, and love to have a good time. They are kids. I hope this experience of making the video and prepping for the PARCC has been somewhat fun for them. Please share this with them if you can! I will be saving it to play at school for them this week to remind them of how far we have come, how much fun we have together, and how united we are. They truly are PARCC Busters!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Giving Back!

We have been reaching out to our community in a few ways. The Our Daily Bread project has been a wonderful partnership between our classroom and the local food pantry! I cannot thank our volunteers who visit the pantry monthly to help stock shelves and organize materials. What a great way to give back to the community! I also want to thank those of you who have been sending in cans and bottles. We have raised:

Thanks to Ms. Freedman for her recent $20 donation towards our total! 

Students also shared their support for CP Awareness month by making posters for Brookie! The agents received a message from Brookie’s family:

“OMGEEEEEEE..... What you are doing with your students, raising awareness..: just wow!!! Please tell all of them that we loved all the posters and sayings!!”

They are beyond thrilled at how happy their little girl was. They also encourage other parents in their CP network to check out the posters and bring smiles to other children with CP’s faces. Our agents should feel so great about the work they do for others! 

I hope they all enjoyed their special day of reading. Thanks to those of you who came to read to us today and gave back to our learners. We truly are a community! #Agentstrong

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ask Before You Post That Pic!

There is an important question I ask students every day! I am modeling a true understanding of digital citizenship and digital privacy. Before I take a picture I ask students if I can take the photo to share with their fans. I also give students the option of either being in the photo or just sharing their work with our global community. It is very the photo is shared on various social media sites. This gives students (and your friends) the choice and voice and control over where their digital footprint extends. I also want my young students to get into the habit of asking others to take photos and share them. This is their world, and it is vastly changing with the addition of new sharing apps they are exposed to. I strongly encourage parents to model this question with their own children, especially as they grow and begin to understand what a digital footprint is and how it affects them.Everyone needs to remember to THINK before they post!


If you are interested in reading more about this visit:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Celebrate #CPawareness Month!

March is National Cerebral Palsy month. During reading this week our students are discussing Stretching Ourselves, an expository nonfiction story about three children who have CP. Students have learned what causes CP and how their lives are affected by CP. We discussed how CP is caused from lack of oxygen to the brain that occurs during birth or within the first three years of the child’s life.   Students met Emily, Nic, and Tanner in our story. They all have varying forms of CP.  Students also saw Brookie, a friend from high school’s daughter, in action! We were able to talk about how we all were alike and different. Students also made lists of activities they could do with the four students they were introduced to this week. I encourage you to talk about CP with your agent. Visit for more info!

This week we will continue learning more about Brookie and the three children in our story. Students will create posters to be shared with Brookie so she knows we are thinking of her. On Thursday we will celebrate CP Awareness Day, and students are invited to wear green (National CP Awareness Day is Friday, but we have our reading extravaganza scheduled.). I look forward to sharing our posters with Brookie. To learn more about Brookie and her mom visit:

Their story is really inspiring. I also encourage you to follow Smiles for Brookie on Facebook if your agent wants to keep up with Brookie’s experiences as she grows. I have learned so much from these two powerful women! Students said today Brookie is like them in many ways. She has a great smile! She complains when things do not go her way. She runs away when her mom says no and she wants to do something. They all got a kick out of watching her scoot away when she wanted to stay outside and play. Thanks to Allison for sharing her experience so our students can have a real life example of what it is like to live with CP.