Friday, December 12, 2014

Christie Community Coding

This week our students have gone through a variety of coding activities in their classrooms and in the learning commons. The ultimate highlight of the week has been watching student discovery.

One of my favorite events from the week was the videoconferencing with real life coding specialists.  The students got to see real people whose occupations center around their use of coding. We heard from people that create video games, websites, and library media pages. Students had time to ask questions and were exposed to a plethora of new vocabulary. Though I must admit, the one question ALL kids wanted to ask was if the people had worked on creating Minecraft. Unfortunately, we didn't have that hook up... maybe next year? These people all volunteered their time and the response was amazing! I heard a second grader commenting that the job sounded like " much fun. I want that job when I grow up!" One 4th grader said that coding sounds like her "dream job."

On Wednesday, we decided it would be a good idea to rotate EVERY class in the school through coding rotations in the Learning Commons and Math Lab. One was an unplugged Lego activity with a partner and the other was coding a holiday tree on the computer. Getting to every class in one day sounded like a great plan... in hindsight we probably should have spread this out over 2 days. We taught a total of 38 classes, 2 stations for each class. That ended up being 24 different,  15 minute lessons for each of us. We scheduled a 20 minute lunch break mid- day but otherwise didn't come up for air from 8:00-2:40.  The amazing thing was that each and every group that came in was fully engaged. We had zero behavior problems the entire day. Kids were not asking to leave to go to the bathroom and when told to switch or that time was up, the response was always a loud groan of disapproval. There were multiple times that I caught kids fully engaged & doing the potty dance. We had to instruct students to take a bathroom breaks to avoid an accidents. We may have been worn out, but the student engagement was priceless!

The students were given a tic-tac-toe board on Monday full of coding activities. Many students have already completed three activities and are currently working on a blackout. The kids are having so much fun coding that parents are asking for lists of websites and apps for them to use at home. Teachers were also provided with unplugged activities to share with their class. The students have played games that teach them about giving clear directions much like we give to a computer when we code.  Some classes have these activities displayed around their rooms. When asked, the students go into long explanations about the activities and what they learned.

Thursday was full of collaboration as we connected via videoconferencing with other schools around Plano! The students discussed their coding experiences from the week and asked further questions. The kids couldn't believe, "That's really a different class at a different school?!?!"

Here we are, at the end of the week... and at 1:30 today we have invited the entire community to join us at Christie Elementary for our Hour of Code event. We are hoping that we will use all of our available devices because of the large number of parents and community members that will be in a our school coding together. Our teachers will be tweeting about their students coding progress using #CubsCode.

We have already come a long way in bridging the gap between our current educational system and the rest of the world. Technology is here. We have now embraced it!

I cannot wait to see where we go with our students next semester and next year!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Coaching Training

Let me start by announcing that my project on DonorsChoose has been fully funded by State Farm! The order will be placed after the holidays and delivered to my kiddos by February.  I can't wait to see my kids wobble while we learn!

Today I am attending the second coaching session by Mark Welborn. Below are some of my take aways from the training. I am looking forward to the upcoming semester and next couple of years when we implement coaching startegies.

-Coaching is not a dictatorship role, it's a partnership role.

-Partnership is a process and a moment.

-Learning is a process, not a product. Leaning involves change. Learning is not something "done" to others.

-Pieces of the coaching model: coaching standards and process, training in coaching adults, targeted areas of emphisis, detailed strategy benchmarks


-Reflection is worth attention. Reflection is critical to improve practice.

-Praxis: "practice" to change practice you need the opportnity to go through the practice and get feedback.

-People learn best in the midst of doing.

-Reciprocity: Instructional coaches should expect to get as much as they give.

-You can't have a YES until Ts are comfortable enough to say NO.

-You may not see it because you aren't there when it is implemented, but you make a difference.

-Choice and Voice gets teacher buy-in. Praxis and Reflection gives Ts ownership.

-The best way to learn is by doing with a coach, not on paper. Proof in the picture:

-The key is transference. Checklists help accomplish this.

-We are not about other people's failure. We are about other people's success.

-SMART goals: Specific, Measureble, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-based

-Resources:  checklists, activities, resources

-ONLY speak about what the agreed upon goal was, do not address other issues observed unless it is in regards to students safety.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veterans Day

I spent a good portion of my day yesterday taking pictures of our students planting flags to honor Veterans Day. One of my students walked into my room while I was working on making a sign for kids to hold in their picture. Here is the conversation that followed...

Student: What's that for?
Me: It's for Veterans Day.
Student: What's vegetarians day?
Me: This sign is not about choosing not to eat meat.
Student: Huh? Meat? What is veterinarians day?
Me: I guess that would be a day to honor animal doctors.  
Student: Wait, what? No, what are you making?
Me: A sign for Veterans Day.
Student: Let's just get started reading now.

This made me laugh... and of course I explained Veterans day when we were done. 

Here are some of the pics taken yesterday... too bad we can't show pics of kids faces, I got a few really cute ones!

Our leaders Mr. Steele & Ms. Kelly
Mrs. Roberts wearing her husbands jacket.          

Friday, November 7, 2014

My Family Molded Me...2 houses, 2 MINDSETS

Growing up, I had 2 houses.

I lived primarily with my mom, step-dad- Brent, and brother- Brett in an area of Kansas very comparable to Plano. My father resided in Texas with my step-mom- Paula, and brother- Blake.
Outwardly, the many apparent similarities in my 2 families struck people as coincidental...
-My parents both remarried a year a part.
-My mom and Paula had babies within 6 months of each other, both boys. (Can you imagine having 2 pregnant mothers at the same time? I actually LOVED waiting with anticipation to finally become a big sister.)
-The men in my life follow a B pattern... Brent, Brett, Bill, Blake.
-My brothers both struggled with learning difficulties in school.

The love and happiness within the walls of both families prove that divorce can sometimes be an incredible blessing. I had 4 loving parents, 2 houses, and endless examples of finding your true happiness.

Was is difficult at times? Sure.

How did my family make being a product of separation a blessing? They never got ugly. My brothers played together when my Texas family came to town. For my birthday we always went to dinner... all of us. My step-parents embraced me as their own and welcomed the comradery between families.

Inside my dwellings the differences were striking.

At Mom's house the expectations and conversations took on the traditional parent-child relationship. Boundaries were set out of love. Child pushes boundaries (hard to believe that I ever pushed boundaries, I know) and I was on a journey to become my own person. Phone conversations were listened to. My bedroom searched through. And questions...oh, the questions. Who, what, when, where, why?  ...The control of everything. It stemmed out of wanting the best. Pushing me to be successful with friendships, in school, and as a growing woman. There was a lot of love, laughter, and cuddles. Family dinners were mandatory and came with a preset question: What were 2 good things and one bad thing about your day? Then we discussed.

I remember back when I was having a teen angst argument with Mom. She was fed up and finally said, "You are just like your father." Without hesitation, I shot back, "Good!" End of argument.

I realized the sacrifices my father made to be present only after becoming an adult. Though separated by 500 miles, we talked on the phone nightly. If there was a performance or event, he was there. The distance that physically separated us made it possible to only focus on the important things. My father parented by modeling and teaching a growth mindset.  My father pushed me to analyze every aspect of who I was becoming. When I called to share results of a test or report card the conversation followed a distinct pattern...
I told him my grades. He asked how I felt about them. We would discuss the difficulty of the class. He would not praise me for an A that I didn't have to work for. He based his response on the level of effort put into a situation. It wasn't about doing great and passing, it was about working hard and trying my best. When I shared the news of my C in Social Studies he responded in the same way, "How do you feel about that?" The conversations about my C sometimes lead to me admitting I had not done my best or had missed assignments. Thus, earning the grade that merited disappointment in myself. His comments that followed would often say, "You can try harder next time." He did not critique me, he gave me the chance to critique myself.
Other times I would confess that I worked my butt off in a class and just barely passed with a C. At that point my father would tell me that I should be more proud of the C I worked hard to earn than the A that came easy. I never got straight A's, but I never felt that I was a success or failure based on what grade came home one the report card.

My dad understood that self worth comes from within. It is the self-talk and intrinsic motivation that makes someone successful. He understood that sometimes you fail, but are not a failure. He knew that sometimes you succeeded and learned nothing. There have been many times in my adult life that I have been in situations and replayed his voice in my head. Times where I have been praised for something that I felt could have done better. Times where I missed the mark but was able to fully understand that the level of effort given was worth feeling proud.

I will admit that as a child this could be annoying at times... when I got the easy A and wanted the pat on the back... that I didn't earn. Looking back I now see the amazing gift given by my father.

I am 50-50 mixture in both look and personality of my mother and father. I am the product of living full time with one parent and having the traditional parent-child loving relationship. I am also the product of a family that was separated by distance but remained close. A family that gifted me with the lens of a growth mindset. Without the 500 mile separation, the relationship I held with my father would not have been possible It would have been clouded with the everyday inevitable happenings.

As a teacher, I strive to instill statements that follow my dad's lead to a growth mindset.

As a parent, I know that everyday parts of life will often overshadow my ability to stay as focused on modeling the internal conversation. I just hope that I can instill growth that fosters self confidence. Confidence that will not be measured by grades or other peoples' opinions but on self-reflection and internal motivation.

So, I have a question... How do you FEEL about what you are accomplishing? Are you able to self-analyze with a positive internal voice?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Padlet, Popplet, and Plickers... oh my!

Today I rearranged my schedule so that I could attend grade level planning meetings. Our instructional tech guru was on campus all day showing teachers fun things to do in their classrooms. We are so fortunate to be educators in a time of endless opportunity.

After attending the Plickers training I gave it a go with my 5th grade kiddos... This was the first time I have given them an assessment and they asked if they could answer more questions when we were done.

Upon conclusion of our Plickers cause and effect quiz one student said, "Man, technology these days!"

That makes me think back to my childhood my cassette tapes were replaced by brand new amazing CD's.

The joy of getting my bright purple pager in high school and thinking how techy I was wearing it- complete with the tiny chain attaching to my belt loop.

My first cell phone, amazing at the time, has become an artifact that these students ponder over.
The technology we are all amazed by right now will soon become the dusty pager. My brain cannot even begin to imagine what tools these kids will use 20 years from now.

In a Twitter chat the other day someone posed the question of how to get reluctant teachers on board with technology. My answer was something about technology being the thing that keeps teachers from becoming fossils. How can anyone NOT be on board to discover this technological realm? Hesitancy is unfathomable.

At one point in time technology was a thing that you could chose to use or ignore... like a computer lab in school. You could sign up for the class to practice typing at a certain speed and then play Oregon Trail hoping you don't die of dysentery... or you could simply never enter the "technology" area and go on pretending the "machines" didn't exist.

That mindset simply doesn't work anymore. Technology is all around. There is not a divide. You can not escape technological advances. Unless you are living in a cave, you need to hop on for the ride. Still reluctant? You won't be left behind...  you will be forever lost.

You will be a bike stuck in the tree. Technology will grow and change around you. You will remain stuck in your rut of ignorance. Advances will only continue.
Bicycle Eaten by a Tree.

In the words of my 5th grader... Man, technology these days...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Courage to make a Change

For the past 10 years I have been teaching 1st and 2nd grade. There has been a huge focus in school on grades 3-5. The intervention and most heavily weighted remediation all occurs in the upper grades. It makes perfect sense at first thought because the upper grades are the testing grades. If you have kids that are struggling in 3-5 you need to give them intense intervention to bridge their gaps. You want to ensure success for those kiddos not just for the scores of our school but to ensure the child's confidence and academic knowledge to lead them to the next grade.

What is the problem with this method? 

If a student struggles in kinder, the gap widens in 1st grade, and by 2nd grade you have basic foundational skills that have not need attained. Teachers often assume (for the purpose of teaching the grade level TEKS) that certain skills have been mastered in K-1. Reading instruction intensifies and the educational gaps widen considerably in 2nd and 3rd grade. Then comes testing time... all of a sudden that student is receiving heavy intervention in hopes to pass the STAAR test. 

Doesn't that sound a little bit miscued? Should the heavy intervention not happen as soon as the gap is identified in kinder and 1st grade? Placing your heavy intervention in the lower grades will aid in filling cracks in the educational foundation before they are widened to a point where the student is in a daily struggle. 

I believe the intervention needs to happen early before a student starts thinking, "I can't." Catch them young before they know that it is harder for them that others. Give them confidence and skills they need to work through problems. Bridge gaps. Plant the seed to a growth mindset.

Interventions in k-2 aren't working? Maybe we need to look at further testing or other factors for that student.

So, why is this not happening in every school? How hard could it be to switch intervention from 3-5 to k-2? The answer is VERY DIFFICULT. The first couple of years after this switch occurs you will most definitely see a drop in scores and until the current 2nd graders have reached 5th grade you will have kids in testing grades with existing foundational gaps not bridged in k-2 and not receiving the heavy intervention once given in 3-5. Can you imaging the questions from parents, the district, teachers, and the community during the transitional years of this switch? 

Making a change of this nature as a principal would take a TON of courage. Man-O-Steele... Mr. Ryan Steele seems to be just the person with the right amount of courage to implement this change. 

Now, patience as change is in progress....

I am very excited!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Diaper Dome

My 4th graders were very excited as they entered my room today and saw a glue gun and big bag full of diapers. The task was to build a structure out of only diapers and glue. Yesterday they decided on building a "Diaper Dome." I gave them paper and told them to work as a group to create a blue print and then they could begin to build. I sat back and watched. Very quickly I  busied myself recording some of their comments.

"We need to compress them together to create a firm foundation."

"I think we need support beams on the bottom. This must be done first."

"Stop...If we don’t have a strong foundation it won’t work."

"What is we made an arch in this section? Well, all a dome really is -just a bunch of arches."

"I think rolling the diaper will be its strongest state."

"Maybe we could put a long corridor in the middle?"

"Guys, a dome is the best example of compression and tension. Let's stick to that."

"We could use these for tension rings around it."

"We could do a geodesic dome. It could be a good info structure. We could actually make a dome inside a dome.

Student 1: What is the width?
Student 2: Width is how wide it is.
Student 1: I what is means, I am saying what should the width be on this structure?
Student 2: Oh, good question. The foundation should be a minimum of 2 diapers and a maximum of 7. Remember, not too much, not too little.

Half way through construction of the dome this happened:
Student 1: It's not working. I think we are going to fail.
Student 2: It's too late to change things now!
Student 3: There is no failing unless you don't try. It's not too late. What can we do to fix it?
Student 4: What about an Arch? Like the St. Louis Arch?
Student 2: That was my first idea! Look, we can do this....

...and just like that the plan changed and they all got right to work. 

The students redrew the arch on their blueprint and were able to successfully make an arch. They explained their design when complete and told me "The center beam was added just to support the structure."

Design Success!
Start to finish? 30 minutes. 

My favorite comment of the class: 
"I thought this was reading group? Are we even allowed to be doing this? It's so much fun!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happiness deflates like a balloon...

Don't let the title of this blog fool you... happiness has NOT deflated in my rainbow room today! Read on to uncover the mystery of the blog title.

Today has been a busy day in my room...

My 4th Grade book club met for the first time and read Iggy Peck Architect. After reading we discussed how Iggy's interest could have been fostered instead of stifled by his teachers. Then we focused on the quote, "Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower-in only an hour-with nothing but diapers and glue." The kids thought this was hilarious and got into a discussion about how difficult a diaper tower would be to implement. They were then given the task of drawing a blueprint for a tower made of diapers and glue. This assignment fostered a discussion on domes and the support that design brings to a structure. Luckily for that group I have a bag of leftover diapers in my garage.... I can't wait to see if they can really make a diaper tower tomorrow.

Today my 5th grade group identified and illustrated a simile from the book we have been reading. I am often amazed at the creativity that seeps from these students... if only given the chance. This was a quick draw response that took all of 5 minutes.

They were asked to illustrate this simile from the story:
  Happiness deflates like a balloon with the smallest tear. 

I am excited to hear the explanations of their interpretation of this simile tomorrow!

2nd grade is working on Touchphonics and short i CVC words. There was a moment during our time together that I was thankful for 2 things...
          1) 2nd grade innocence
          2) no one else could hear us
I asked my kiddos to spell KID. They built the word with letters and unfortunately one of my kiddos built them backwards. I then said, "touch each letter and say each sound" ... because that's the procedure and when you get in the habit of a procedure you just keep going, right? The theory being that when they touch the letters and say the sounds they will be able to blend into a word OR find the mistake and self correct. The student said each sound. Another student shot us a strange look and then said, "Um, I think that's backwards." My thought at the moment... abort mission, abort mission! Lesson learned, always read a word backwards and forwards before presenting for Touchphonics.

While working with a group in the 5th grade hallway today, I noticed many kids walking to pack up with strained muscles and stacks of books. It looked more like they were lifting weights than getting ready to go home. I am totally on board with AVID and the binders, but doesn't THIS look like a little bit too much? Maybe the kids should have backpacks with wheels to roll around? ...Maybe I'm just a weakling.

Thus concludes today's edition of Random Ransom Ramblings.... until next time. 

Monday, October 6, 2014


Today our school hosted it's first ever whole school read aloud day. We read A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.

After each read aloud, we went live with Camilla Cream to read tweets from the broadcast. I am excited to report that every child in our school heard the story of Camilla Cream today.

At the end of the school day we tried yet another first... we broadcast live on location from Mrs. Sanders classroom. They were the winners of the MOST TWEETS award. The students assisted Camilla in reading the top tweets from the day.

Hearing the kids comment on the stripes was quite funny. The best part of the day by far was when Camilla came face to face with a class of kindergartners that had LOTS of questions! Today at dismissal I heard kids from different grade levels discussing the story and the events that took place through the story. Isn't this exactly what we want as a school? Kids excited about learning and choosing to talk about their connections and experiences even after the 2:45 bell? I consider that a success!

I was so proud to see our school come together to integrate literacy and technology. There were numerous connections and higher level discussions that sparked from the story. Thank you to the awesome teachers at Christie for participating!

This will definitely NOT be the last #CubRAD!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Help my kids Wobble!

As an instructional Coach I find myself sitting with diverse groups of readers throughout each day. One common thing I hear repeatedly is about comfort.

When I read at home I like to curl up on the couch, lay in bed, or sit outside on a cushion. If you are not comfortable, you cannot concentrate. Ball chairs worked great in the classroom however I have found that kids are often getting into their book and rolling off. Sitting on the floor is NOT ideal and often times kids stand up and their foot has gone to sleep.

My goal is to create an environment where kids can read comfortably. I strive to bring bean bag chairs and WOBBLE chairs into my room as seating options for my students. I desire to create an "at home" feel in my classroom where kids can be comfortable to be who they are and exceed expectations in their learning journey.

Please spread the word and support my classroom!

The first thing I am looking for is to get Wobble chairs so my kids can rock and fidget at my table without actually rolling away!

My ideal room would have wobble chairs and ball chairs as options at the teacher table. The floor would have beanbag chairs and rug space available for comfortable lounging. It would be filled with little ones reading and learning together.

Can you imagine it? Utopia!

FALL into thoughts of the future

Today I borrowed some chairs for my kiddos to use just to change up the space in my classroom...
They looked pretty funny reading their books in these pods.

It's crazy to think that it's THESE kids who will grow up to take over corporations and become policy makers in 30 years.  Can you imagine if you walked into a board meeting and the CEO was presenting from this upside down position? ...Or perhaps the board members were all bouncing around on ball chairs interrupting each other with excitement. 

Take a minute to imagine a world filled with...

-floors made out of trampolines
-Lego walls
-launch pads to catapult you up to the next floor
-swirly slides to take you down to the first floor 
-projectors that turn the wall into a virtual gaming center
These ideas and many more are the things my book club decided they would like to have in their dream rooms.

They were so excited to begin reading their first book club selection...

When gave them their books and the room fell silent...something that never happens with this group! Then, this happened. 
Yes, he was actually reading in that position. 
Maybe he took "falling into a good book" a bit too literally?

My biggest victory today? When a struggling group of 4th grader readers came into my room and began arguing over who got to read first. Their willingness to take risks and read aloud in front of each other... amazing! This is the same group that often shuts down when asked to read in class and falls silent. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Inferences QR codes

Today my 5th graders worked on an inferencing activity. To bring in technology, I gave them my cell phone and had them scan QR codes to check their inferences. They LOVED this activity and asked if we could do more tomorrow.
 Fun activities = student buy in
Student buy in = excitement in learning
... and isn't that what this is all about?

A, B, C....LMNO, P

I made an interesting discovery while reading the Rainy Day Alphabet with a group yesterday. The students were on a roll identifying what letter came next and using picture clues to help them with word identification.... until they got to L.

I asked, "What comes next?"

Student, "P"

Me, "Are you sure?"

Student, "Yes, P!"

Me: "Let's sing the ABC's to check"

3 students sang in unison: "A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, LMNO, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z"

I asked them again, "What comes after L?"

Student: "P! LMNO, P." (LMNO is said as one letter very quickly)

I said, "I want you to listen now as I sing the ABC's slowly."

I proceeded to sing L, M, N, O, P putting spaces between each. One student's eyes lit up and she said, "I heard it!"

All 3 of the students had the same gap. They knew their letters and sounds but they could not order the letters of the alphabet and had not realized L, M, N, O, P were 5 different letters.

Today the students worked on ordering the alphabet... by time we were done they could correctly order and sing the ABC's. We did get a few funny looks while singing in the hallway!
You can be sure that when I go home tonight my daughter and I will sing the ABC song slowly... with an emphasis on L, M, N, O, P.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Government Conspiracy & Chaos @ the Zoo

My 5th graders came in yesterday genuinely concerned that...

"The government buys out major corporations that have recently found cures for things like cancer and then they keep the drugs and research from being used to treat illness and disease."
"That is ridiculous!"
"Why would they do such a thing that is so harmful to everyone in America?"

I allowed a few minutes for the students to express their concern and gave some them time to discuss and debate. I then asked, "How did you get on this topic of government conspiracy?"
No one knew.

I asked if they read an article or saw a news story that caused concern. No answer.

Then a student piped up and said, "Wait a minute. We are arguing over something that is possibly a non issue? Do we even know if this is really happening?" Again, silence. Student lets out a sigh, "guys this is not a good use of our time." Then, all eyes turned to me.

Book club begins.

The discussion centered around RULES. (the title of the book)
-How do you feel about rules?
-What is a rule you WISH students in our school would follow?
-What would happen to the world if there were not any rules?

That last question struck a cord with a couple of students. One student sat silently for a minute and then said, "Think of it like this: Rules are like animals in a cage. Picture the zoo. There is order in a zoo and every animal has its own habitat and food. When there are no rules it is as if the cages are lifted from the animals. This creates utter chaos among the animals. We are no different as people. Humans without rules or laws... I cannot even imagine the chaos that would follow."

Another student looked up sweetly and said, "Nice use of a simile! Rules ARE like animals in a cage."

Many of these students have been working together since kindergarten or 1st grade. I love how open and honest they are- they are not afraid to share their feelings. They have the ability to poke fun at each others quirks and not take personal offense.

When they were gluing their author study pages into their journals one student used the purple glue stick to write I am cool on his paper. Another student looked at him with a serious expression and in an even tone said, "That paper won't stick to your journal."

The student questioned, "Why not?"

Without missing a beat, he added..."Because lies don't stick."

Instead of being hurt or offended the student with the glue laughed and said, "Good one!"

Government Conspiracy,
Chaos at the zoo,
& Lies don't stick.

...all in a 30 minute session.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Expository Yoga?

Today my students worked hard to do the following tasks:
-identify the main idea and supporting details of an expository text
-identify text features and the author's purpose
-follow step by step directions to achieve Yoga poses in the courtyard.

The kids thought I was joking after we completed the first read and I told them they were now going to try each pose.

Each student became an expert on the pose they were assigned. Introducing:

Downward Dog Dude

Lady Lotus

Fancy Frog

Boat Buddies

Tree Trio

I wonder how they will react tomorrow when they are asked to come up with their own yoga pose and write directions for their peers?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Student Suggestions on Engaging Literature

The first time I met with my 5th grade book club I asked them to fill out a reading interest survey. I learned quite a bit about the thoughts of a 5th grade reader. These kids are all very smart and love to read for pleasure. The conversations around the table as they filled out their surveys were full of excitement.

My first interesting observation was about the book preferences of the 6 students...

The first (a boy) crossed out the word ROMANCE so that it was unrecognizable. 
The second (a girl) circled the word ROMANCE and wrote YES on the line. 
...Now this was typical and not at all surprising... UNTIL....

Another student chimed in saying this...
"The only books I ever pick to read are HORROR and MYSTERY stories."
The surprising part of this was it came from the smallest GIRL in the group. 

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Ms. Ransom: "I don't think Mr. Steele would approve of me choosing a HORROR story for book club!"

Student 1: "I am pretty sure it would be fine. They bleep out the bad words. Please?"

Student 2: "What? How would they bleep out bad words in a book? Like you are just reading along and then, BEEEEEEEEEP? I highly doubt that would work." 

Student 1: "Ms. Ransom could put sticky notes over the bad words."

Ms. Ransom: "That implies that I must first READ the horror story which in turn would give me nightmares and then I would be too tired to pull your book club."

Student 2: "I think we should stick to ROMANCE stories."

Student 3: (who had been listening silently) "THAT would be a HORROR story to me! Romance gives me nightmares."

Ms. Ransom: " blood, dying, and kissing are out."

Student 1: "Man, that takes out all of the good ones!"

The interest survey continued and one of the questions asked: What is the WORST  book you have ever read? This student's response...
Texas Treasures is the name of our current reading adoption!
When asked why he chose Texas Treasures he said, "The stories aren't engaging. They are totally boring! I would much rather read an interesting book any day!" Then he asked if he was in trouble for writing that on his paper. I had to explain that his thought about the adopted text need not be shared in class. Then I added that his opinions and feeling about the curriculum are valid. I assured him that I would not choose his Texas Treasures book as our book club selection. 

Next question: What do you want Ms. Ransom to know about you? 
Most responses read something like this... 
"I like sports."
"I love to read."
But this one was my favorite...

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except what I write on this paper."
Should I tell him that because I was his teacher in 1st grade...I already know him really well?

I was alarmed when I realized that not only am I expected to plan lessons for book club this year... these kids expect a lot out of our 30 minutes 3 times a week! Take this as an example:

Question: What are you hoping to learn from our book club?
How to parachute out of a plane. 
I'm not positive... but I think Plano ISD may have an issue with a field trip to go skydiving!

I am very excited to work with this group this year! My time with them sure will keep me on my toes. The coolest part is... the sky's the limit with these kiddos!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Integrating Technology & Literacy


As our school makes the leap into the STEM mindset we must not limit STEM activities to the learning commons or the IC block.  In order for students to grow into the jobs that await them upon college graduation, they need to be immersed in technology through each subject area... all day.

We assume that kids today know more about technology than we do. This is not always the case.

My 4th graders were having difficulty distinguishing the nonfiction text features. I handed them a list of the text features they needed to know and a digital camera. After a video rap-review we set off to the library and I had them go on a text feature hunt.

-ALL of the kids needed a tutorial on how to use the camera.
-Half of the students were unsure of how to HOLD the camera.
-ALL of the students needed help figuring out how to look back at their photos and delete accidental snaps.

As they searched through books, they engaged in conversations about labels and diagrams.

They discussed photographs vs. illustrations and caught the giggles when they realized that they were taking photographs of photographs. They learned about the text-features... and inadvertently they learned how to use a digital camera. Simple. Easy. Fun.

Today we put the T in sTem while doing a literacy activity. Imagine what creative and inventive things these students may do with their knowledge of the camera. As they returned to class the conversation went something like this...

"That was fun!"
"My mom won't let me touch her camera."
"I can't wait to finish tomorrow!"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kids be Stressin'

Today's Assignment: Write a paragraph about your first day of school.

Student Sample:

Should a student really be walking in on the first day already wondering how/if they will pass? Talk about pressure!

The silver lining? ...Each of the 5th grade paragraphs had one thing in common.... their teacher made them feel at ease. They each explained in different words that their teacher's smile and morning greeting made all of their nerves subside. Great job teachers! Kids shouldn't walk in on the first day afraid of failure... they should be concerned about how to find their locker and what time they go to lunch.

You never know how much of an impact a simple smile and hello can make. Keep smiling!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5th Graders are big 1st graders

Today was my first official day to pull 5th graders. If I am being honest the big kids used to scare me. Maybe it was the odor as you walked down that hallway after specials? 

Today I realized that 5th grade students are really just 1st graders in bigger bodies! I really enjoyed working with both my 4th and 5th grade groups today. I may even venture to say it was the best part of my day.

Below is a journal response from one of my 5th graders...  


Did I mention that this particular student is a one that struggles with reading?  It is absolutely amazing that through her struggle she can still recognize the JOY in a book. 

I am a happy teacher today. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Who will meet THIS teacher?

This year is full of change.  New job. New principal. New classroom.New team. New technology.

 The classroom teachers are frantically getting ready for meet the teacher... placing the student name tags on the desks and ironing out last minute planning details for the first week... I am met with an array of emotions.

I will be honest, part of me feels freedom and relief. This summer was not full of team planning, binder prep, first week schedule, duty schedules, and team building. It was spent with my family. We traveled, we cuddled, we laughed, and we made memories.

Then there is the other part of me that stops to gaze into my old classroom and I am flooded with extreme emotions. This room, where I have taught for the last 6 years has been transformed into a superhero filled environment that I myself do not recognize. Classroom A in pod B120 no longer reads Ms. Ransom. It has been replaced by foreign signs and decor. Stepping into the room, a million memories hit me like a ton of bricks. Laughter, learning, funny mishaps... both personal and professional moments of the past 6 years.  When I first stepped into that room in August of 2008, I was starting over. The room offered new beginnings and an amazing journey that I could not foresee. The people have become my second family. Teachers have moved away, students have grown and left Christie...yet I have remained. In that room I got married, bought my first house, and became a mother. (yes, in that order) I think about the kids that have made me laugh and cry. Being a teacher in pod B120, classroom A, has been an amazing experience. One that has helped me grow both personally and as an educator. Stepping off of that blue carpet and back onto the cold white tile I am pulled back into the present reality. Tonight, meet the teacher. I wonder... will anyone be coming to meet ME?

I am now a Reading Specialist. I am going to be part of the 2nd grade team. (Which seems fitting since my first 3 years teaching were in 2nd grade.) I have been assigned to 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade. Some of the students will be new faces while a few others are students I have taught in the past. With the passing of each day my excitement over my new role grows. I will have the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from so many more teachers in our building. While I have mixed feelings over not having a class to call my own, I am realizing the possibilities present within the school as a whole.

"Who can say if I have changed for the better? ...But because I knew you... I have been changed for good." ~Wicked

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

the feeling you get when...

Have you ever experienced the heart-pounding, world-stops-spinning, mouth-goes-dry-feeling when you lose your cell phone? A tingling panic spreads to your finger tips. You want to yell at everyone around you, " me look! The world must stop spinning until I find my phone!"
Then you think, why are all of these people still smiling and talking?
Don't they realize I have lost everything?!?
Ok, deep breath...I will call myself.
Wait, I can't call because I don't have a phone! THINK, where could it be?
Maybe I should text my team to see if they have seen it! ...Oh, right, no phone.
Calm down. Breathe. Let's check the calendar to see what is happening next and then I will know how long I have left to find my phone. Where is my calendar, oh...on my phone.

At this point you feel like giving up on the world and you decide to sit down. You feel something. Now, reach into your pocket and BAM...there is your phone. In the ONE pocket you didn't check. I mean seriously? You never use your left front pocket! Deep breath...all is right with the world.

This may or may not be something that has happened to me on more than a few (dozen) occasions.

The Christie Staff sat in meetings today learning about how our school is advancing in technology. I was surrounded by some people, like me, that embrace all aspects of technology and love learning the latest trends. Also in the room were those "old souls" that find technology to be annoying or frightening. You could see the discomfort as they squirmed in their seats when asked to tweet their thoughts about our new learning commons.

This got me what point does the divide begin? Are there any aspects of "technology" that I myself do not embrace?

I came to the conclusion that while I would rather type notes than hand write them, and while I would rather text than call...when it comes to READING I prefer books in print to ebooks. I have a Nook that I enjoy. I read blogs and research online throughout every day. However, at night when I lay down in bed there is something about picking up a print copy, opening to the page that you have bookmarked, and getting lost in a new world. I find myself turning the pages quickly to see what happens next and every once in a while, closing the book slightly to see how much progress I have made.

When I read a book in print I get lost for a lot longer than I do when reading on the Nook. I find books in print harder to put down. I often look up at the clock to find my goal bed time has passed long ago. How many times have I fallen asleep reading and woken up later with my book on my chest, still dreaming of the story I fell asleep reading? It's a very different story when I fall asleep reading my Nook...that actually can be quite painful!

I guess what I am trying to say is that while I embrace technology...I find myself holding on to my paperback tattered copy of Charlotte's Web and hoping that someday when my daughter grows old enough to read that classic story...that she will come running with her finger marking the end of a chapter exclaiming, "Mama, look how much I read tonight!"

You know what I am talking about. That old book. The one that smells good. The one you can open up and before you finish the first page you are taken back to a childhood story that feels more like an actual memory of times gone by than a story.