Tag Archives: Education

An Interactive Notebook Progress Report

My class has been working on their Interactive Notebooks, which we now refer to as “Interactive Journals.” “Journal” is the term we use school-wide for composition books. It is a habit and just easier. Same idea.

I am really happy with how it’s going. They are engaged and they are responsive. It’s cute how they remember definitions from last year and suggest we put them under the flaps (as if I didn’t already think of that!)

I have learned that I need to show some of my students the sample I have created – allowing them to touch and lift the flaps.

Others seem to enjoy figuring it out on their own and are pretty good at it. One of my struggling readers is by far the best at this and it is so nice to build his confidence by asking him to help others.

This week I am actually going to post the directions (included in the bundle I purchased) on the SMARTBoard. I think that will be very helpful to a few of them.

There are some things I need to refine and improve on:

  • Cutting is difficult for a few of my students and the pieces are really hacked by the time they are done. This morning I decided to trim some the handouts and larger pieces with the paper-cutter. Hopefully this will save some time and some paper. (I’ve also been making two extra copies for major cutting disasters.)
  • Coloring might need to be a homework thing or done in study hall – they are really into the coloring, but it is a little time-consuming. I am going to use my Joann’s coupons and try to buy some more Crayola Twistable Colored Pencils because my pencil sharpener is destroying my colored pencils.
  • I need to allot more class time for reviewing and using the foldables. Right now, I am not sure they know how to interact with the things we have made. Some are also lacking study skills. I need to do a better job referencing the foldables and encouraging them to use them during lessons.
  • On that note, I tried to incorporate more activities that would require some response to the foldables in my lesson plans this week. An extension, I guess you would call it.
  • I also want to print out some of their creations from the iPad and glue them in to help make a connection between the two activities.

I will post an update in a few weeks and let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, if you have any tips or ideas, be sure to share them 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!

Starting out Big ~ World Record Unit

You know how you get coupons online or via text and they burn a hole in your pocket?  A few weeks ago I had a 50% off for Joann‘s.  Our local Joann’s is small and lacking in everything. However, there is a larger store up north and my friend and I often make a stop there when we get together.

How excited I was to find this bulletin board display in the teacher aisle! Cool motivational posters based on Guinness World Records. Each poster has a brief blurb at the bottom about the record.  Having just finished up my iPad training, it all hit me super fast!


I wish I could show you these actually hanging up in my room, but we don’t get our keys for a few more weeks.

This will be a great kick-off to the year.  I have a huge bulletin board in the back of the room and these posters are definitely conversation starters.  I can introduce the iPads with some QR codes and simple writing prompts with Show Me or Explain Everything.

And….the best part?  It naturally leads right into our first novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. The whole story revolves around the “fattest boy in the world”, Zachary Beaver, and the effect he has on two young boys one summer.

While I am just starting to put a plan in place, I thought I would share some of the ideas I have come across.  As we know all too well, the first few weeks of school never go exactly like you think they will.

Writing and Language

  • Use these images for great journal prompts or story starters.
  • Adapt these lesson ideas created for ESL learners to meet the needs of your students. (Reading, grammar, speaking, and writing activities – I plan to use them all!)


For use with the iPads

  • Check out the Augmented Reality feature in the 2013 edition (I know my students will love this.)
  • This web quest isn’t quite updated to the current Guinness site but the activities are still good.

Teamwork and Cooperative Learning

  • This Goal-Makers, Record-Breakers lesson plan has students plan for their own sports related record-breaking ideas.  (I feel like there needs to be a disclaimer like “Don’t try this at home!”)
  • Maybe geared a little more towards STEM courses, this Strong Structures lesson plan would be another good cooperative activity.

Lastly, a short promo for the book:

Hanging Out at the “Cybrary”

Oh. My. Goodness!

I found the most amazing collection of links to everything a teacher needs. The Cybraryman Internet Catalogue has “Over 20,000 relevant links personally selected by an educator/author with over 30 years of experience.”

Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites has been divided into 4 sections (Parents, Students, Educators, and General Interest) and I honestly could look at only the links on his page the entire summer and still not get through everything.

This website feels a little Alice in Wonderland-ish…You open a page of links, click on a link…and you find MORE links. It’s like opening a series of doors and finding options behind every one of them.

I think you need to have a focus as you approach this website.  Otherwise, you will find yourself lost in a maze of good ideas and you’ll become overwhelmed.

After one night of exploring, I realize I am going to have set time limits on the computer for myself, because he is making this just too much fun!

I will try to post a little about the best of the best throughout the summer.

Let me know if you find anything great as well!

Apps with Friends: Social Studies

I have my own 1st Generation iPad and I take it to work and I use it daily for personal use, but I definitely have iPad envy.

I’m envious of the teachers and classrooms that have iPads. Before anyone tells me that I could have them if I wrote grants….I do plan on writing a grant in the spring in order to get my hands on a few for my Resource Room for the 2013-14 school year.

I have three friends who are currently using iPads on a regular basis in the their classrooms.

I am intrigued by the apps out there, and the possibilities, so I decided to start compiling lists so when I do get my iPads next year (power of positive thinking) I will be prepared. Plus I like to share these things with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian. Many times, I put the new apps on the home screen and they discover them and then teach me how to use them!

Today I am going to share the best Social Studies apps according to a very techie friend who is also a leader in BYOT in our district and an intervention specialist.

Here they are (in the order she gave them to me) with a few of my own personal thoughts:

1. Google Earth
2. American Revolution Review Timeline App Includes objects, artifacts, and manuscripts from the period of the American Revolution.
3. Stack the States This is a favorite of Tweedle Ian’s. He learned his 50 states and capitals with this app last year. He still plays it for fun. It includes practice with location, flags, capitals, abbreviations, nicknames, landmarks, and cities.
4. Flow of History .99
5. Video Time Machine I wrote about this cool video app here.
6. World History Maps
7. Today in History Daily lists of events, births, deaths, and holidays going as far back as 300 A.D. Tapping on many events and people will lead you to external links.
8. MyCongress Connects you with websites, emails, and updates (including Facebook and Twitter) of political leaders.

View the actual documents, signatures (includes biographical information), notes, and read the text of these U.S. documents:

9. Constitution
10. Declaration

11. The Congressional Record
12. World War 2 Timeline (This one is $13.99, she got it on sale for $5.99).
14. Historypin (Pretty cool for the Washington, D.C. trip)
15. Google Googles (Also cool for the Washington, D.C. trip)
16.Timeline Eons This is probably my favorite on the list (after Stack the States!) One of the coolest peeks at history. Interactive multi-leveled timeline with pictures.
17. Heritage


19. Getty Images

What are some other must have apps for Social Studies? Leave a comment!

Quick Idea for Wordle

I’ve mentioned how I use Wordle to make word clouds for parts of speech and other brainstorming activities.

Here is another use I thought of last week during some downtime on conference night. I really wanted to get lesson plans done but after two nights of PT conferences and not feeling so great, this was the most productive I could be.

This is my first batch of posters. All of these terms are covered during our CNN News activity. I will create new ones each time we add a new term.

I was writing these terms on the board daily but this will be much faster. I can have Tweedle Dee pull the right terms out of the stack and hang them up each day depending on the skills we are covering. I put magnetic tape on the back for easy hanging.  I did just read a tip (linked below) how to insert phrases into Wordle. (Use the ~ between words.)

I decided to make a Wordle of my ‘What You’ll Find” page.

Easy Access to All My Handouts

You may or may not have noticed I created a page called “Easy Access.”  I decided to put all of my graphic organizers and handouts in one place, organized by subject/topic.

I will be updating it regularly, as I post new handouts and notes.

As always, please feel free to use these and let me know how they are working (or not working) for you.

Four Corners (Vegas Style)

Sometimes I hear kids say they’re “soooo bored” or “school is boring.” I often reply jokingly with, “I’m not here to entertain you. This isn’t Vegas. If you want to be entertained, go to Vegas.”

Side-note: That doesn’t mean I don’t try to razzle dazzle them on a regular basis. Believe me, I do. One time we were eating breakfast during first period and I was doing a lesson and a girl commented that they were getting “dinner and a show.”

Many teachers like to use the learning game/formative assessment “Four Corners” in which students move to a corner in the room to designate their answer.

This activity is particularly good for multiple choice. However, I have noticed that my kids move like a flock of sheep….following the person they think is right.

So I decided to try Four Corners with a twist… I hung my A, B, C, D signs up in the corners of my room.

Students were then asked to go to the corner of their choice.

“But what’s the question????? they all shouted.

I then revealed the first multiple choice question (only) on the SMART Board. I used the screen shade to hide the four choices.

I asked them to find the verb (still without choices).

I then revealed the four options.

Those students standing in the correct corner earned a point.

Now you might think that this does not require them to do much thinking. However, everyone has time to process and determine an answer and then, upon the reveal, you hear a chattering of “Yessssssss!!!” and “Aw man!!!” as they learn their fate.

This game keeps kids moving and keeps them engaged. It also eliminates embarrassment for the kid who is always wrong. The game appears to be left up to chance. It becomes a risk for everyone.


Anyone who knows me knows I am not a big risk-taker. That doesn’t keep me from loving this quote. As I get older, I do find myself creeping out towards the edge.

Teaching the Question Words

Every day my Resource Room students come into class and get started on their Daily Work.

Their Daily Work on Tuesday consists of a picture (both on the SMARTBoard and on a sheet of paper.) Their job is to come up with questions about the picture. They are supposed to write at least 3 questions using capitals and question marks. We then spend some time sharing our questions and discussing some possible answers. This activity is great for discussion, making observations, inferences, predictions, and generalizations.

I always write the question words on the board because they always ask me how to spell them. One of the problems, however, is that some of them cannot read the words and get confused. So I get questions like:

Where are there two police cars?” (Why)

How is the boy talking to?” (Who)

What is the train going?” (Where)

I wanted to make some posters to hang up in the room to save me the trouble of writing them each week. But the fact remains…they all can’t read the words. So, I decided some visual cues were in order.






As a side note, I try to avoid juvenile type decorations. I was once told by some 8th graders that middle school teachers should not use decorations with “faces.” However, I think they were referring to cartoon-like faces. I think these posters will meet a middle schooler’s criteria for “cool.”

Here are the PDF files for you to use in your classroom.

Who poster

When poster

What poster

Where poster

Why poster

How poster

A Day in History

Last year was the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.  At that time I was writing for a blog for the Ohio Education Association and I was asked to come up with some ideas for teachers to use in their classroom.

Here is my original post with a wide variety of activities and resources: More Than Just a History Lesson

I think today with BYOT students should have the opportunity to view footage, video tributes, and images. This can lead to great reflection and discussion. Having students compare media and text about this day will also fit nicely into the new Common Core as well.

While this year is not a “milestone” anniversary, I hope you will take at least a few minutes, if not devote an entire class period, to honor those who were lost on that tragic day.

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