Saturday, June 07, 2014

Chess Club

During the winter months our incredibly brilliant P.E. teachers started an early morning intramural class. The kids showed up in droves.   The parents dropped them off at school a bit early and they ran down to the gym to join their friends and get a little exercise and have fun before school.  

So I got to thinkin'... during those times when the intramural class is not in session that I could start a Chess Club.  There are a few logistical components to sift out but all in all it seems like a completely doable project to dive into.

Why Chess?
There's plenty of research that clearly shows the benefits of teaching and playing chess. Here are a few bullet points.

  • problem solving skills
  • cognitive development
  • critical thinking
  • creative thinking 
  • self esteem
  • memory
  • organization

The benefits go on and on.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

People of Sparks

Here is the Google Doc I've created for Chapter 10 of Jeanne DePrau's People of Sparks.

Feel free to use it as you'd like.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Google Calendar for Lesson Planning

Google Calendar will be my plan book of choice for the 2013-14 school year.  Why not?

I live by the calendar.  It keeps my professional and personal life ultra organized.  I look at my calendar throughout my entire day.  I set reminders for myself so I'm never late (insert sarcasm here), share events with family members or friends, and even embed calendars in our class website.  It just makes sense to my brain to use Google Calendar for my lesson plans.

There are many options available within Calendars that I'm confident that no matter the situation I'm sure I'll find a solution.  You can:

  • insert links
  • move plans in case of snow days
  • multiple views - day,  4 day, week, month, and yes even yearly view
  • share
  • embed
  • color code

Actually, I will have a couple calendars this year for school.  One for the students and families that will be embedded into our class website and the other for my detailed lesson plans.

If you're interested in this idea check out the endless tutorials to get ya started.  Below is the video that helped me out.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Mrs. Pierson - Every Kid Needs A Champion

"Can we stand to have more relationships?
Will you like all your children?
Of course not and you know your toughest kids are never absent.
You won't like them all and the tough ones show up for a reason.
It's the connection.
It's the relationship.
And while you won't like them all the key is they can never ever know it.
So teachers become great actors and great actresses.  
And we come to work when we don't feel like it.
We listen to policy that doesn't make sense.
And we teach anyway.
We teach anyway because that's what we do.
Teaching and learning should bring joy.
How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risk who were not afraid to think and who had a champion?
Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them who understands the power of connection and insist they become the best that they can possibly be.
Is this job tough?
You betcha! Oh God you betcha but it is not impossible.
We can do this, we are educators, we were born to make a difference!"

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai had finally made it to the top of my "Books to Read" pile and I was immediately drawn into Ha's story.

Perhaps it was the author's succinct prose poetic style of writing that gave me a chance to create crisp images of Ha's story that drew me in.  Or perhaps it was my personal connection with the Vietnam War and reading this story from a little Vietnamese girl's perspective.  Because of these reasons I give this 5 out of 5 stars and would gladly recommend this book to my fifth grade students.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"Mother says,
People share 
when they know
they have escaped hunger.

Shouldn't people share
because there is hunger?"

"Whoever invented English
should have learned
to spell."  

"Oh, my daughter
at times you have to fight,
but preferably 
not with your fists."

If you get a chance get a hold of this book, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Steps Towards Organizing our Classroom Library

After reading "I know that book's here somewhere!"  How to Organize Your Classroom Library by Hollie Brooke I have taken a few more steps towards organizing all the books in my fifth grade classroom.

At this point I already have bins of books organized by genre however, Hollie suggests and I agree, that creating a database of all the books in a classroom will prove to be an incredibly useful tool for students when selecting books.  

So, the students and I are typing in the title, author and genre of each book in a Google Spreadsheet. I will print off 2 or 3 copies of this list and have it in the classroom for a reference for students to use.

Because it's Google, I will also be able to share this database in a variety of digital formats.  Once it's complete I will post a link on our classroom wiki and even be able to send the link to parents and students in an email.

I do have high hopes of creating hyperlinks of each book where kids can click the book title and quickly get a glimpse of what the cover looks like, read a summary of the book and even possible read reviews.

Another advantage is the ability to sort any of the columns alphabetically.  This will allow me to get a sense of the different genres and authors I already have and identify any gaps in our classroom library.

For instance, when I sort the genre column alphabetically I can quickly see that I have over 100 biographies but hardly any autobiographies.  So, now I have identified a gap and can begin fillin' it. 

The kids are actually pretty excited about helping create this database and are especially interested to see the number of books continue to grow.  We are currently at 350ish and only about half way through. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I am enjoying using the website Goodreads to keep track of all the books that I have been reading.  It's also been a great way to get book recommendations and to see what others have been reading.

Like most websites these days, there is a social component where you can "make friends" or share what you're reading on your facebook page.

There is also a "Group" section that I have yet to really delve into but when time permits, perhaps over the summer I will see what that's all about.

Another neat feature that I have started using is the ability to create book shelves.  So for instance, I have my fifth grade reading books separated from my own adult interest books.

The final point that I will mention is that Goodreads has developed a "goal setting" feature.  So, my goal, which is separate from the reading goal I made with my students in September, is to read 50 books this year.

What are you reading these days?