Monthly Archives: December 2013


When we return from break, the first few weeks will not be full weeks for us.  Monday thru Wednesday AIMSweb fluency testing will effect our meeting times (by that I mean kids will be in and out; cannot be helped, but there is no guarantee that everyone will get their full hour each day.)  Then the next week the children have Friday off for teacher in-service (I’ll be sharing the amazing things we are doing in our classroom with other teachers that day!) The following week, we are off Monday to observe MLK, jr. SO…hard to expect a full 5 days of work.

Needless to say, the children will still be encouraged to go for 100 points and still participate in stations.  However I will be helping support passion projects so Talk about Text will be shorter selections read and discussed in class (no pre-established schedule on the calendar.)

Here are some improvements, additions, or cool changes I have in store for us!

  • Newsstand and “Sound bites”
  • Dive In “ACE”
  • Ask 3 (discourse on images)
  • QR codes (devices welcomed)
  • Chromebooks for coding, composing, and creating
  • Dropbox access to digital clip art for Google Docs and Educreations app
  • Homework “improvements” and audio option


Thanks to iTunes gift cards I purchased digital subscriptions to Time for Kids and Muse magazines.  These can only be read on my devices though.  Add this to our growing collection of National Geographic and National Geographic Kids magazines and we have an abundance of quality non-fiction material available.  I am also finding great articles online and setting up QR codes for students to access easily. (Quick response…read that section for more info.) This will be something to relax and enjoy on the new green inflatable couch I have coming!  green room newsstand

Sound bites

Learning to summarize and identify main ideas is an important learning goal (and for many a WEP goal.)  Speaking skills are also important, so I will be guiding the children into summarizing non-fiction text they read into short “sound bites” using apps like iTalk, GarageBand, and SoundBytes.

Dive in “ACE”

Responding to what we read is a critical skill; and one that will be heavily “tested” and assessed for the rest of your child’s academic career.  While the artwork has been a blast (and will move to another platform), I will be modifying our daily dive in to a short reading passage and response question, similar to the exit tickets.  This way I can guide the students to being “ace” responders and make this skill a seamless habit for them.

Ask 3

Since I LOVE the deeper thinking the kids do when they examine images, I cannot let this go from our classroom.  I found an app over the summer that I’ve been dying to use called “Ask 3”.  This app allows us to all comment (in text or speech) on a topic.  I’ll be using it to get them talking about images.  Later they can create their own topics to share.  This too is an application that must be used on my devices (as they all link to one account).  Ask 3 app

QR codes

Quick response codes are fast, easy ways to direct a person to digital content.  Businesses are using them for advertising, coupons, etc.  They are easy to create and fun to use.  I’ve got a stack of them ready to use for vocabulary and newsstand.  The trick is that we need a digital device to scan the codes.  If your child has a device that they can get a scanner app on, they are welcome to bring it (I have devices, we just have to share.)  They will need your permission, as I cannot be responsible.  There are TONS of free QR code reader/scanner apps available.  My favorite is: QR scanner app I use because it picks up the code quickly and is free.


While I will still provide response activities, the Chromebooks are becoming more useful for our passion project research.  I also want students who have not had a chance to either start or finish to have access.  Then I plan to have the children start using Google Documents to compose and create their own text.

Dropbox access

I’ve spent a small fortune purchasing fantastic digital images from and got it all uploaded and organized into a dropbox account that the students can use in the classroom.  Since I have the licensing rights to the artwork, they will only be able to access from my devices at school.  This is a great way to learn to insert graphics and they will be able to do this with Google docs and the Educreations app.

Homework “improvements”

To review, the purpose of the weekly response homework is NOT to do a book report but to rather respond to what is read for personal enjoyment.  I’ve upgraded a list of response ideas for literary (fiction) texts and connected them to common core standards (used 4th grade standards; 3rd grade standards are similar).  All 4th graders will work with these new standards and 3rd graders ready to step up their level of work will as well.  I will be coaching the children into listing their choice by standard “number” so I can be clear on what the focus of their response is.  READ homework Response Letters revised

Voice homework option

I am offering an audio option for those who wish to take it for response letters.  Instead of writing a letter, you may address me in a verbal response.  I recommend using something like iTalk to record a short (no more than 5 minute) clip.  Then it can either be emailed or sent to me on a disc.  I am working on a scoring rubric for this option.  Students who use this option need to provide at least 1 written response a month (just to keep convention skills in check.)

Matching donations from Disney

We are extremely lucky to have all of the tools that we do in our classroom, but when we were working on our passion projects, it became evident that we do not have enough to go around.  The kids are great at sharing, but when I only see them for one hour and they’ve got an idea or are on a learning mission not having access to a device is frustrating for them.  So…while I am hoping we win a $1000 gift card, I set up a project for 2 iPad mini’s on Donors Choose.  The project posted much faster than I thought it would and with a surprise…

Any donations made in the first 7 days with the code “DISNEY” will be matched up to $100!  What a great way to get funding for the tools we need!  If you know anyone looking to give to a classroom, send them to our project: Minis for Multiple Minds  I was so proud of the kids coding over break that I made a $100 donation and Disney matched it, so we already are $200 closer to having more tools to go around!

Stay tuned for an update on some new things I’ve got in the works for us to do when we return from winter break…

Coding Hall of Fame!

computerCongrats to Jackson A., Sage, AJ, Evan O, Nicole P, Jeremy, Alex, Hanna, Cole K, Evan R, Lindsey, Ethan, Evan R for completing the Introduction to Computer Science series on!

Who will be next?

Friends and family completed: Brooke, Lisa, Suzi, Forrest, Wyatt, Alton, Tommy, and “Webster”


WE WON $1000 to DonorsChoose!

Happy Coding everyone!


Learn to code!

So I discovered while working on Passion Projects with the children. In order to model how to research something I was interested in I started showing them how I wanted to learn more about computer programming. offers an “Hour of Code” tutorials. After trying a few I was hooked.

Then I got an email from In partnership with, they are offering $1000 to the first 1000 teachers to have at least 15 students (1/2 need to be girls) to complete the Intro to Computer Science Course (20 hour series of tutorials and activities). While we could use the $ to get more iPads for our classroom, even if we don’t win, we still win with the knowledge we are gaining!

What better time to dive in than over winter break! I started myself and I am thrilled that several students have signed up! A few are already well into the course! I encourage everyone to check it out! Here is an example from what I’ve learned already:

Have fun learning!

Improved Passion Project Packets

As a learner myself who applies feedback to improve, I took time last night to revise the original passion project packet I gave the children.  Today I went over each part and here is an informative piece for parents about what the packet info can help with: bContext Passion Project

Students are NOT required to complete the pages in the packet.  (There are a few I will check…due dates and specifics to come…)  These are intended to be tools to use as needed or if needed.