Tag Archives: classroom

I Gave Schoology a Chance

And I liked it!!


I realize this is somewhat cluttered….but this is how my brain works. If you want to know more about a specific use, just leave a comment.

When our district made a mandatory move from Edmodo to Schoology, I was frustrated.  I had spent a few years building my Edmodo library and was happy there. I didn’t want to move!

Feeling overwhelmed with all the other changes going on in our building, I decided that I was only going to do the bare minimum – post my homework – as we would be required to do during the 2nd semester.

Well, as you can see from above….I didn’t hold myself to that and Schoology has become an important part of my day…every day.

Mini-Epic Fails with Technology

In the classroom, I feel like I have been having a streak of bad luck.  Things are constantly going wrong.  Recently I think I even muttered the words, “I’m done using these iPads!” and “I hate technology!”

Neither of these statements is true, but for a teacher who relies on and incorporates technology into lessons on a daily basis, I have definitely been frustrated.

I am going to preface this by saying I do test the technology in various ways before each lesson to make sure everything is a go.

However, I have had several issues in the past weeks when it comes to technology.

First of all, my teacher workstation computer crashes constantly due to old age. I’m “due for a new computer NEXT year.” That’s great news and all, but we have over 100 days of school left. I can’t wait that long!! The tech department has already wiped my computer clean and I’ve started from scratch. It helped for about a week.

The two programs I use the most are unreliable. SMART Notebook crashes every single day.  I am constantly trying to recover the lost files. Chrome also has a tendency to crash at least twice a week.

My projector bulb is growing dimmer and dimmer by the day, but hasn’t blown yet. With a price tag of $300…I’m still waiting for it to die so they will replace it. Right now it is pointless to use my AppleTV because you can’t even see what’s projected on the board.

The next issue is a blessing and curse. (Isn’t all technology really?) The iPads are awesome  and I like to use them every single day, but there is always some catch. I have learned to run through my lessons every time I plan something new. However, there is always something I overlook or don’t realize. Especially if it requires the students to use their own accounts. Filters, privacy, logins….all issues I can’t always see coming.

Along those same lines, some of the apps are fussy too.  I was all excited to use Subtext a few weeks ago.  I really wanted to use the text-to-speech feature and have the kids tag their evidence to focus questions.  I set it up at home on my iPad and ran through it with Ian on a school-issued iPad.

Then I went to class….the students logged in with their student account to access the article and assignment.  And then they had to “Ask the teacher to upgrade to the Premium account to access the text-to-speech feature for students.”  Not once during my run-through did that important piece of information come up. Grrrrr……

My class has grown in size.  I had two new students enroll at the start of the nine weeks and now with 10 students and 6 iPads (plus my own), the almost one-to-one thing I had going is not possible.  This is a big adjustment for my original class.    As a class, we were definitely spoiled during the first nine weeks.

As someone who obviously loves technology and wants to incorporate it as much as possible in her teaching, I am not sure how to handle all of this aggravation. Is it worth it to plan lessons with technology? Am I relying on it too much?   Every day I feel like I am wasting my students time or not teaching the lesson effectively.  I sometimes think, “What if I was being observed?  How horrible would this look?” 

Like my dad (who just recently gave up his flip-phone) always says, “Technology is great…when it works.”

I don’t think my expectations are too high. I don’t think I am using “too much” technology. I don’t want to be limited or prevented from teaching like I want to teach.  I am not sure how to work around these issues. It’s almost become a running gag in my classroom, the kids noting my “epic fails.”  I try to laugh it off and act like it’s funny…how the computer is messing with me or how the SMART board is smarter than I am.  Inside, I’m not laughing.

What suggestions do you have?
How do you handle on-the-spot tech disasters?
Would my problems keep you from incorporating the technology?

Making Things Easier for a Sub

Well, I made it through the first nine weeks without missing a single day of school due to illness, injury, or catastrophe!

Today we had an in-service comp day and I had a TO DO list a mile long. Some things were pressing: Pick up prescriptions, finish progress reports, get groceries.

Most of it was those stupid, little things that would only take a minute or two but you put them off…and the list grows longer and longer. And when you do get to those items on the list, you realize you were silly for putting them off.

Trying our new call-off system was on the list. It’s all automated now and I kept thinking, I really need to try this before I get sick…..

I also needed to schedule a half day off in November for Ian’s next appointment with the endocrinologist.

So I did it. I used the new system. It was super easy. Now I can call off all the time! (Haha!)

Anyway, I did go in to work for a little while today to take care of a few things. As I was cleaning my desk area I got an idea.

I feel like I should add a disclaimer.  *In the event of a totally chaotic week, all materials can be found within a 5 foot radius of where they should be.

I feel like I should add a disclaimer. *If the previous day was a little crazy,  all materials can be found within a 5 foot radius of where the map indicates they should be.  But I swear, it’s all there!


We are finally wrapping up When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by the end of the day Tuesday.

Oh my goodness, does anyone else feel like novels can drag on forever?

This was actually the fastest I’ve gotten through a novel (5 weeks), but I am glad to be done and moving on.

I am also really excited for the activities I have planned for the next two weeks. Yesterday things just sort of fell in place as I was planning and I came up with not one, but TWO, weeks’ worth of plans with a variety of new activities. I love the idea of NEW ideas.

Things I have on tap that I am really anticipating:

In an effort to be current and real, we will be brainstorming, Instagram-style, on Schoology in an activity I am simply calling #zacharybeaver.  Ian and Dee loved practicing this activity the other day. (#guineapigs)

To differentiate and get kids engaged with the informational text unit, we will be trying out the .99¢ app called ReadNRespond.

To get everyone involved in discussion and control the conversation dominators, I am going to try a strategy called “Two Chips”. (I think it was originally  called “Three Chips,” but I only have 8 students in my class so I needed to adjust.)

To get a feel for my students’ use of Quizlet for studying, we will be using the quiz feature to assess vocabulary.

To push the writing (because, honestly, we don’t do enough) , I am going to try a book that I bought two weekends ago called “Writing Frames for the Interactive Whiteboard” by Scholastic. Based on the concept of modeling, I think this will help my students organize their thoughts and write structured, organized paragraphs for a variety of purposes.

To move away from Language worksheets (blech!), students will be using the Explain Everything app in groups to work on combining simple sentences.

To teach Theme and Author’s Purpose, I am going to use the lessons from my favorite Interactive Notebook collection.

To fulfill my SLO duties,  we will also be completing our pre-assessment for writing/language this week…not looking forward to that quite as much!

I know this is just a teaser post, so stop back soon to hear more about the things that interest you!

A Fast and Easy Way to Make Posters for Your Classroom

You know how kids commonly use the “My printer was out of ink” line?

I think it’s legit, because it seems like my printer is always out of ink! I am semi-cheap and never use color ink.  I also never get to the store to buy black ink until I’m desperate. (Like the kids need something printed).

In the middle of August I purchased this poster bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Over 65 posters for ELA and Reading!  (See link below)

Over 65 posters for ELA and Reading! (See link below)

I have become a regular customer at Lovin’ Lit. I purchased her interactive notebook unit for literature and also received the informational text unit. I absolutely love what I’ve used  in my classroom so far. (Future blog post alert!)

These posters are bright and colorful (which lead to this blog about printing).  We have a color printer at school but it’s not really for general use.

My solution was to email them to Staples and have them printed in color.

For 22 full color 8.5 x 11 in. posters on premium white paper, it cost me around $13.

I think I am going to have the PTG laminating lady laminate each set as I get to it in my lesson plans.

However, I stumbled upon a pretty neat idea that I may like better. I need to run to Joann’s later (for the third time this weekend) and try it out.  Stay tuned….


Eight days in and I am in love.

The iPads are amazing and my kids are amazing when they are using them.

I have my resource room the first two periods and it is a great way to start every day.

What exactly do I love?

They try harder.

They are more resourceful and better problem solvers.

They are more willing to participate, share, and discuss.

They are enjoying learning.

I found on the first day that all of my students have some experience with iPads, iPods, or iPhones. This helped tremendously in terms of basics.

So far in eight days:

  • We have used QR codes and I-nigma to locate Guinness World Record articles online for reading and summarizing. During this lesson, they were asking questions as they read (“How does she find clothes that small? How tall is that compared to us?”) and searching eagerly for answers. And I probably don’t have to tell you how excited I was when students asked to read additional articles they saw in the side bars.
  • We have used Educreations to practice typing, taking photos, and recording our voices. This was a pretty basic activity but it helped them learn how to use the app in preparation for bigger and better things.
  • We have used Notes to type some responses to the morning Bell Ringer (in lieu of journal writing). It seems like students hate to edit and erase on their papers, but on the iPads, it was a whole different game. I found I can easily raise the bar with some of my higher students and ask them to elaborate and do some more difficult editing. I primarily focus on spelling and sentence writing basics with the others.
  • We have used Tools4Students to complete a few graphic organizers (Compare/Contrast, Vocabulary Word, and Problem/Solution). Again, I asked the 8th graders to do a little more. The girls did some extra vocabulary on their own and I showed them how to switch between apps to use the dictionary.
  • We used Grammaropolis in my study hall to review nouns. Talk about motivation to get all your work done!

This week we are starting our novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, and will be using Educreations quite a bit as we learn about the new characters.

I am really looking forward to getting the right cords to hook up my AppleTV so they can share their work with each other on the SMARTBoard.

I also need to find an analogy activity for study hall this week.

Another thing I want to figure out is a way to work on fluency and decoding. Something not too babyish for 7th graders. Ideas???

Oh, one more thing and probably the best part…..When I got my roster I had less students than I thought I would. I only have eight students right now and I have the six iPads from the grant and my own iPad. A few students have iPhones so we can be 1-to-1 most of the time depending on the activity. I was not expecting that and am so excited about the possibilities of 1-to-1!

Is anyone else just starting out with iPads this year? How’s it going? What do you love? What’s puzzling you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

A Letter to My Class (Written By My Son)

Yesterday was our building’s 7th and 8th grade orientation/schedule pick-up. While Dee did her 8th grade thing, Ian hung out in my room while I chatted with a few students and some new teachers.

When I came back to my room, Ian had this exact letter for my students up on the SMART Board.

I can’t even express my total delight when I read this:

Hello class of 13/14 today is the first day of your last year of middle school then you will continue on and make your way to high school then collage I have good news I have got 6 I pads for you guys to use during class for your last year I hope you like them if you are wondering whose dog on the screensaver of the smartboard it is mine my awesome son ian has been begging for a long time his name is blue he is a yorkie terrior he is only 3 month old how has your summer been? Type about it and then get some pics on safari then I will get them up on the smartboard for you to present to the class.

Tonight as I thought about the letter, I decided to use it AS IS and have my students edit it on the first day. There’s definitely room for improvement but not bad for a 5th grader who doesn’t know how to capitalize on the keyboard! I have done similar things before with them on Edmodo (read about it here) so I think it will be an effective and interactive kick-off to the year!

A Day in the PARCC

Oh my goodness….

You know how it is when you go to an in-service and by the end of the day your brain is fried?

Yeah, that’s me.

Today we had our first Language Arts Department meeting with our new assistant principal.  We learned so much and got so much information and I want to process it all right now.  

We spent the whole day talking about going full-blown, hard-core Common Core this year and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers).  I can’t even put what I learned into coherent terms right now because it was so much.  The PARCC website has so many examples and resources. (Highlights we looked at include: task prototypes, model content frameworks, and classroom resources.)

I have a bad habit of coming home from in-services and getting totally overwhelmed, frustrated, and flustered.

I almost feel like if I don’t look at my notes right now I will forget things.

I also feel like I can’t possibly comprehend everything at this hour and after I’ve been using my brain all day.

I know I need to sit on this information for a few days, take a dozen deep breaths, and come back to it later this week when I have some alone time.

However…..because I am me, I just sat down and printed some of the things that interested me most.  I can’t help it. I will feel better when it is all neatly organized in a binder, ready for me to process this weekend.

But for now, my time is up.  The kids are ready to watch a little t.v. and have a snack.

Before I go,  I want to share one special thing that I found to be totally awesome-sauce (Shout out to Follower 100 who is probably sitting back reading this thinking how wonderful retirement is!)


Last night I spent 30 minutes getting my classroom set up.

Yep, just 30 minutes.

I always get excited about working in my room, but this year is different.

Not that I am not excited. It’s just that the next two weeks are super busy and we haven’t had the greatest weather at all this summer. So instead of spending the last sunny moments indoors, I decided to go on a cloudy, blah evening.

30 minutes. No kids, no co-workers, no distractions.

I set up my furniture exactly like last year.

I hooked up my computer and printer in record time.

I put the supplies on the shelf exactly like last year.


I hung up the curtain, moved the fans to their usual positions, and tore the paper off the bulletin boards to expose last year’s motivational display.


I am sure many of you do the same thing – keep things the same every year out of habit and ease.

I actually like change and try to mix things up from year to year.

But this year, I am finding comfort in the familiar.  20120816-140055.jpg

I will be teaching almost the same students as last year (minus 4 8th graders) and I am finding comfort in that as well.

I feel like changing too much on them will take away from our consistent routine and the connection we established. I want to start where we left off. I want them to fall into the place we were in May. They know my expectations. I know their personalities and skills. My room is a safe and comfortable place.


There will be a lot of changes in our building this year (new administration, new faces, a new schedule for me). I will not get to work with my favorite math teacher and I will not get to work with Dee’s grade level.

However, some change can be good and I am anticipating a great year.

I’m off to a good start…

I can breathe easy the next eight days and enjoy this time in a way I never have before.


This post was written in its entirety on the hill at the lake.

Two Words: Interactive. Notebooks.

So…I was hurrying through Walmart yesterday and ran into a friend from work. She had a cart FULL of school supplies….glue, markers, notebooks….I love school supplies, so I felt a little sparkle just looking at them. If I’d had more time, I would have backtracked and bought some of my own school supplies!

We caught up on the happenings of our summer and parted ways.

Two little words stuck in my head the rest of the day: “Interactive Notebooks”

By late last night I had pinned several sample pages and was basically convinced that this is the path I need to take this year.

(Remember, I am teaching the same students for the 2nd of 3 years in a row, so I need new material and strategies.)

Last night Ian texted me and asked me what I was doing, “Ummm, I am researching interactive notebooks online. I’m a nerd.”

“No you’re not, Mom.” (Thanks buddy, but yeah, I am.)

This morning I ran out and bought my .29 cent spiral notebooks (although I may consider some other options – not a big deal considering the price and that we can always use paper.)


First school supplies of the year!

I spent some more time today researching and looking at sample notebooks. I found a great set of foldables/graphic organizers (with activity descriptions and teacher instructions) on Teachers Pay Teachers (click here to go to her blog, I’m Lovin Lit) Usually, I would refuse to spend money on something I could make on my own.

However, for $12.00, I felt it was totally worth it. School starts in THREE weeks and my calendar is jam-packed. And the content looks really good. I hit the PayPal button.

If only I had some INK in my printer so I could print out some pages and start my notebook. (Isn’t it funny? Kids always say, “My printer was out of ink” and we think, “Yeah, likely story.” It IS a legitimate excuse!)

I am so excited to find ways to mesh the interactive notebooks and my iPads. My students sometimes have difficulty with neatness, creativity, and drawing in general, but I think we can paste in some of our iPad work and I can make some very real connections.

I love when I get this excited about something. This is what it’s all about for me.

I just sent a text to my friend who planted the seed…

“Interactive notebooks???? Really???? Why did you have to tell me???? Why??? I am obsessed!”

And she replied:

“Lol!!! You crack me up! But now that I think about it INB’s are totally your style!!! :)”

21 days until the first day of school…

What are YOU excited about?


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