Category Archives: Uncategorized

Passion Projects!

Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 2.00.21 PM.pngIndependent study projects offer students a great deal of choice in their learning. The challenge however is when do I fit it all in? Since Passion Projects focus primarily on research and presentation standards (which fall under writing and speaking/listening standards), they are not part of the curriculum that I am responsible for. For this reason, I do not include these as part of the in class work we do.

Needless to say, they hold so much value and in the past students who have taken the initiative to do one have found them to be VERY rewarding! Check out our Green Room Virtual Museum to see! (note that some projects load VERY slowly!) Here are a few where video was used in sharing what was learned as it is a popular choice:

Please note that Passion Projects are intended to be done independently and at home. (If a student wishes to use Green Room resources or materials they will need to schedule a time during their recess to come in and work). Class time will not be devoted to these projects, however I will be virtually available for students to ask questions so access to their school Google accounts from home is a must.

To be eligible for a passion project as a 3rd grader, students must have earned at least a “Level 5” responding to text badge and must sign a contract. 4th graders are always welcome to do one on their own!





TBE…What it is and why I “push” for it

TBE stands for “text based evidence”. I continually challenge the children to think below the surface of a text and to support what they say with “proof”. It is important for us to be critical thinkers as we make judgements about anything in life. We take time to do “research”…whether it be at the grocery store when we select a certain product or decide which car we want to buy. Decisions like which political candidate or issue to support are often influenced by the facts we learn. Therefore learning to look for evidence to support what we think, say, and feel is a critical skill.

Going back to the idea of thinking “below the surface”, I work with the children on analyzing and evaluating when they read. In other words… we consider questions and ideas that do not necessarily have a ‘correct’ answer. On the surface questions or thinking means that we can easily figure something out because the “evidence” is right there; often there is one answer or response that fits. This is the type of thinking the children are used to…which means they are used to being “correct” or “right”. We work hard on shifting that thinking.

So when we go “below” the surface, we hunt for clues or evidence to support what we think. This is where TBE comes in. If I claim a character is determined or the theme of a text is bullying, I need to support those ideas with proof from what I read. Thus we spend time learning about how and when to “copy” or cite text. This is where being a “text talker” helps. We can use sentence starters like “according to the text…”, “the text explicitly states…”, or “I can infer from…”

Using TBE or citing evidence from a text differs from PARAPHRASING where a reader tells what is going on in his or her own words. Paraphrasing is important and useful, but learning the difference is important. This is why I stress the use of TBE because I want children to learn HOW and WHY we use the words of a writer to prove what we are trying to say.  Later they will learn how to cite text more formally but for now, I’m looking for the use of evidence and explaining how the evidence supports thinking fully! It is a BIG higher level thinking skill. One that takes practice and repetition to build and strengthen.

Homework…why and what to expect in the GREEN ROOM

Homework. A word that brings negative feelings; a practice that has been denounced heavily by teachers of young students and defended by teachers of older students. There is an abundance of research for AND against it. And I see the value in both sets of views.

However I come down on the side of ‘yes my students need homework from me’. Why? Well part of my role is preparing children for real life and while adults aren’t doing “homework”, they may have jobs that require some outside attention or have many things to juggle. Another realistic point: homework is a responsibility and we all have undesirable responsibilities…filing our taxes, paying bills, household chores…  So in this way, homework does help students start to build specific life skills: persistence, time management, organization, responsibility, NOT procrastinating, meeting deadlines (after all, we have deadlines on paying our bills and filing taxes)… I could go on and on.

Another reason why I am in support of homework is that it is an extension of classroom learning. I am not a “drill and practice” homework person, but rather view homework as an opportunity to provide students with key learning or skill development that we just cannot possibly squeeze into the precious hour of time we get each day. (And realistically when you factor in schedule disruptions and travel time, we don’t even get that…)

HOWEVER, I believe I have a very realistic view. I taught 2nd grade for 10 years and my students always had homework; 20 minutes a night. NO more. I believe 10 minutes per grade level is appropriate. Thus a realistic expectation for 3rd grade would be 30 minutes and for 4th 40 minutes. I get the importance of family time, extracurriculars and such which is why I am firm about these time limits and have even recommended to parents that they set a timer. I’ve been teaching 17 years and have never had a concern when we hold a child accountable for this time expectation.  As a teacher, I get to know my kids and know what I can realistically expect from each child too, so I am always willing to be flexible when needed and to help work out plans with families for student success.

Therefore, your child will have homework expectations from me. I am more than willing to coordinate and if necessary make adaptations…that is why I promote open communication. At first your child may complain, especially if they have never been expected to extend their learning at home before, but they will develop some “stamina” soon enough!  I also urge parents to let their child be held responsible and accountable. These are GREAT years to start developing independence because I am supporting and caring. Yes if your child is late with homework I will express disappointment and work with him/her to plan for how to remember. NO I will not accept “mom forgot to put it in my backpack”.  It is too important for students to have permission to make mistakes and take ownership for them. We have a great saying in the GREEN ROOM… “Own it, and move on!”

What to expect:

  1. Comprehension Notebooks: This year I am adding something new right away, as in on the first day I meet with students for 4th and by the end of the first week with 3rd; the building of a comprehension notebook that will serve as a reference/resource for each child. Most of our time in class is extremely student centered. I do very, VERY little direct instruction, yet there are still concepts, literary terms, and vocabulary that I just have to teach so that students can then apply.  A few years ago, I had an extra hour a week with students (during Tiger Time) and we used that time for these lessons. Last year with changes, I lost that time and we struggled to build this resource.  The comprehension notebook meets gifted learning needs because it helps me COMPACT CURRICULUM…that is I do not need to repeat and reinforce these skills and concepts again and again. Typical learners need repetition; gifted learners do not. By teaching skills in quick mini-lessons we can devote in class time to higher level thinking and more engaging learning opportunities. (Video lessons available at: or Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 10.43.00 AM

Thus, for the first few weeks, your child will be expected to complete a series of lessons. I have recorded these lessons on videos. Your child will get a packet for each lesson and the video will explain what needs to be done. (Students are encouraged to pause or review parts to ensure they attend to directions carefully). Basically they will be coloring, cutting out and gluing in the parts in the packet to build their own resource in a comprehension notebook (see video about these notebooks). That’s it. Watch and follow the directions. There are 8 lessons right now for each grade level (I may add one or two more).  Students finish one, bring in their notebook to be checked and get the next lesson pack. Ideally I would love to see these lessons completed or almost completed before I start our class novels, which is the next type of homework to expect.  

See the intro to notebooks video here

2)  Book club/Novel study: While I wholeheartedly encourage and support independent reading choices, I do ask students to read a few novels together. This is so we can have a shared reading experience for discussions and application of literary analysis.  Weekly reading expectations are given (usually a chapter or so) and due by Friday of the assigned week.  On Fridays we have discussions and other comprehension activities. The reading of the novel and some level of preparation (usually a discussion guide is given) is to be done at home. We have so many other things we are reading and doing in class, so each child will get a copy of the current novel to borrow.  4th graders will be reading Ella Enchanted (will receive books on Sept. 16th), A Wrinkle in Time (read during the winter) and The Van Gogh Cafe (super short; read in the spring). 3rd graders will read Clementine (will receive books on Sept. 23rd) and A Turtle in Paradise (winter and spring).

3) Reading response letters: These are the most intense of my expectations yet are so powerful to challenging my gifted readers. I have seen EXCEPTIONAL growth from students with these assignments so I continue to require them.  First I promise that your child will be supported through these and this year I have started a series of lessons to guide students from one expectation to the next as they “level up”.  I give specific feedback each week to help your child grow as well.  More information about these letters will come, but you can check out the playlist of lessons prepared for 3rd graders or new 4th graders:

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Response letters will start in October, with the first one from 4th graders due on Friday Oct. 7th and the first one from 3rd graders due Friday Oct. 14th. Students will want to be sure all video lessons are completed by this time at the very latest.

A final note… all homework for the GREEN ROOM is due on Fridays. I do this for consistency and because students do not bring planners to my room. With around 90 students coming and going each day, planners are just one more thing to be carried back and forth, often left behind; and I cannot possibly deliver them to classrooms when they are forgotten. Students will also not be writing anything in their planners from me, as I share students with 12 homerooms and cannot possibly go around to each room giving the assignments.  Students/parents of course are always welcome to add when something is due for me, but it is not required. What is required is being prepared on the Friday something is due (don’t worry I remind students repeatedly…and if they forget… well it is a learning opportunity in being responsible!)

I encourage you to keep me posted if you feel your child is having trouble finding a balance, particularly with other homework.  I also encourage you to expect some level of frustration as it is important that our children learn strategies to be persistent, flexible, and resilient. Finally, let your child “own” his/her responsibilities. I promise that “oops” moments will be met lovingly!


How I am spending my summer vacation…

Well I could describe my summer with adjectives, but they wouldn’t be ones you would expect.  Depressing, lonely, confined…  and then some contradictions… Inspired, empowered, creative… Why?

It all started out great… I got to teach 4 classes for Loveland teachers the week after school was out in our Summer Learning Series.  Mr. Weber and I spent time with our “best friends” and did a special 50’s themed dinner theater. I even had a day of fun outside pretending to be at the beach…



These were some good times…



Then…it came to an end. I had to have foot surgery to repair some damage to my foot. I didn’t do anything to it… it happened over time. Apparently I have thin, small tendons and high arches. Combine that with being on my feet for years in the classroom and well… I had a big surgery in June.  BIG. Result… two months of NO weight bearing on my right foot. No walking, no driving, no fun…IMG_2656Stuck at home most everyday (thus the sad adjectives) But hey… look at my beautiful GREEN cast!!

Still I am an optimist and I took advantage of the “alone time” and “sitting with my foot elevated time” to accomplish some great things! This summer I have already read 5 different professional books (Explore Like a PirateAmplify, Flip Your Writing Workshop, DIY Literacy, and Nonfiction Reading: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies). I am in the middle of 2 more (Argumentative Writing and A Mindset for Learning). I created a “podcast” and recorded 8 episodes already (seriously, you can find it on iTunes!) I set up and maintained a website for an online book study for teachers, co-authored an article for the National Association for Gifted Children, and have enjoyed learning myself as I “sketched to stretch” my thinking:

Of course I am reading for fun some too. Ella Enchanted will be the first book 4th graders will read together this year, so I’m getting ready for that. I have started Rump and am anxiously awaiting my copy of Pax to arrive in the mail (by Sara Pennypacker, the author of Clementine, a novel 3rd graders will read/last year’s students read). I’m also re-reading some old favorites and enjoying some great picture books as well. Naturally I always have some great audiobooks loaded up as I listen to one every night!  This summer’s favorites are Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories Series since the 5th one just came out two days ago! 4th graders, we are going to start off with some Fairy Tale explorations this year because I have been very inspired!

IMG_2805My favorite thing to do this summer however has been creating videos! I have discovered some new tools and I made an entire series of videos to help my new 3rd graders learn to respond to reading! Here’s the YouTube playlist: Learning how to write response to text letters/essays

I also created some other videos. One is on sketchnoting as a learning strategy that 3rd graders will be introduced to and 4th graders will be able to use regularly as they show what they know and have learned.

Now while I couldn’t get out and hang out with my friends much, I stayed connected virtually with digital conversations; Twitter, Facebook, Google+. The best was with a community of teachers from all over the country. We are sharing ideas and I am learning with and from them. I also made some videos for them (teachers teaching teachers…)

Still I have stayed connected to children… I always love to get emails from students and former students and I have gotten a few! Some of my soon-to-be 4th graders have been participating in an online book club. We are reading Wonder and Out of My Mind together. And I’m tutoring a few fantastic children… two soon to be 2nd graders, one soon to be 5th grader, one soon to be 6th grader and one soon to be 7th grader.

But I still have 5 more weeks to go… what else can I learn and do?! Look out 2016-2017 GREENIES… Mrs. Weber has been busy thinking, learning, and creating for you!