Superintendent Dr. Kinlaw reads to FOES!

FullSizeRenderA huge Thank You to Dr. Pat Kinlaw, our Henrico County Superintendent, for coming to Fair Oaks Elementary this morning to help promote reading during our One School, One Book program! Dr. Kinlaw read Chapter 10 of our book, The World According to Humphrey. Enjoy! Thank you for taking time out of your day and sharing the joy of reading, Dr. Kinlaw!



Andy Jenks Reads to Fair Oaks!

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 3.19.03 PMA big shout out to Mr. Andy Jenks, our resident “Robo-Caller” on snow days, for coming to Fair Oaks Elementary this morning to help promote reading during our One School, One Book program! Mr. Jenks read Chapter 8 of our book, The World According to Humphrey.  Today was also Wacky Socks Wednesday, and Mr. Jenks even joined in by wearing his mismatched socks! (You can check them out at the end of the video!) Enjoy! Thanks for coming and sharing your read aloud talents, Mr. Jenks!

One Book to Rule them All!

51piiJ9QMXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_There are a few schools around the county doing the One School, One Book program with the book The World According to Humphrey. Basically the whole school reads a book for a period of time to help promote the joy of reading within the community. Each child is given their own copy of a book, so they can take it home and read the scheduled chapters together as a family and as a school.

Tuckahoe Elementary, our partner school, and Fair Oaks Elementary are participating in the program together. TES had their parents buy each of their students a book for the program.  The TES parents and PTA also purchased 370 books for every FOES student as well!! They also purchased prizes for our trivia questions that we will be doing on the morning announcements! THANK YOU SO MUCH! Also, a big shout out to Ellen Gonzalez, Resource Teacher at TES, for being so instrumental in making this all happen! Working with such great faculties, parents, and PTAs to help make this program a success for all our students is so refreshing and motivating!

To help bring our two schools together on this project, I have created a One School, One Book Google Site for both our schools to use. The website includes a welcome page with reading schedule, a podcast page with teachers reading chapters, a fun links page with a message from the author and research links about class pets, and a Join the Conversation page with a “chat room” for each grade level to collaborate about the chapters as they read them. Check out this short video that gives a quick preview of the website and shows how use the chat room.  The chat rooms will be an easy and fun way for our students to continue the conversation beyond the classroom and school walls! Please feel free to join in the conversation with our Tuckahoe and Fair Oaks students!

Even if your school isn’t participating in One School, One Book program, The World According to Humphrey makes for an awesome read aloud book with your class! The book is written from the perspective of Humphrey, the class pet, who is a hamster! Below are two great resources that we have shared with our teachers that can be used for lesson planning! Feel free to check them out and utilize them with your class!
15 Day Lesson Plan
Chapter by Chapter Ideas
More Lesson Ideas


My Principal is Following Me on Twitter??

sorry-marketers-you-re-doing-twitter-wrong-report-692a5ff817I am currently finishing up my Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Richmond. One of my last classes I am taking is School Technology. For those who really know me – hilarious, I know. That being said, My professor, Dr. Karen Richardson, has been nothing short of awesome.

One of our first assignments was to create a Twitter account (more than complete) and start building our own Personal Learning Network, or PLN which I love to expand and grow everyday! I missed the class when everyone set up their Twitter accounts because I was attending and presenting at the FETC Conference, but it was really fun participating in class over Twitter at the airport helping Dr. Richardson show the power of Twitter. One of my classmates, Sara Luckert, posted a funny article about 17 things you can do while actively monitoring a standardized test on our Google+ Community, and she also mentioned that she is now being followed by her boss on Twitter. Adding to that she said she wants to make sure she maintains a level of professionalism. This really got me thinking.  Other than my two years as an ITRT, I’ve never had a boss following me on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media platform. Do you think people would act differently through social media if they had their administrators following them? Out in the “real world” I have seen stories of people being fired for things they have posted.  Here is just one article on 17 people who were fired for ways they used Facebook. (Four of the 17 are teachers!)

The way I see it going down the road, I don’t see many of my near future bosses following me.  I don’t say this as a knock on whomever they be, but rather as these people, more than likely, being a generation of people who aren’t as connected on social media. I also say this hoping social-media4that I am wrong! I welcome them to follow me because I see it as a way to let myself shine in other ways than being observed in the building. My own county’s @HenricoSchools Twitter account is following me as well as my school’s @FairOaksElem account that I run. As intimidating as this could be, I really feel this is powerful knowing my own school system is interested in the following the information I am sharing. Knowing the power of it, it makes me want to lead the way and entice more of my teachers and instructional leaders to become involved in social media in professional ways. Many of my teachers follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and I follow them. I don’t think they are looking at it as me “watching” them, but rather as a way to build our relationship as coworkers. In doing so, I know I am taking the opportunity to show them how I can hold myself to high standards on these platforms in a personal and professional way.

Social-Media3Like it or not, as educators, I think we have to hold ourselves to a little bit of a higher standards than others in public. We’ve all had those interactions with students out in public. As an elementary educator I feel like a rock star seeing kids freak out or get real nervous seeing me in public which is totally different in the way they way they act in the school building! Putting ourselves out there in public on sites like Twitter opens us up to a broader market. It is like being out in public but on a grander scale. I use my same Twitter account professionally and in my personal life, and I find myself censoring myself on certain topics. As educators, in my opinion, we’re always leading, teaching , and modeling. I’ve always viewed being on any social media as a perfect opportunity to model digital citizenship. As I noted before I want more of my colleagues to join social media platforms – not only to better themselves, but to help motivate and engage our students. Although I may not have my elementary students following me, I do have many former students in middle and high school who follow me, and I know the professionalism I hold to whomever sees my posts carries a lot of weight in the way people perceive me as an educator and education in general.

4D Periodic Table of Elements

IMG_5320Over the past 2 years, I have been obsessed with Augmented Reality in Education, and trying to find ways to engage students and make learning fun. I was able to present on Aurasma at the FETC Conference, and you can find my presentation here.

While at the conference, I found about about another Augmented Reality company called Daqri. Apparently, you can do many of the same things with Aurasma, but I have yet to dive into it.  That being said, they do have an app out that would be great for teaching students about the periodic table of elements. It is called Daqri Elements 4D. This website has tons of PDF lessons plans for elementary, middle, and high school students made by teachers that you can implement into your curriculum.  All you need to do is download the Elements 4D App and the Periodic Table of Elements Cubes. The cubes are inside the lesson plan PDFs, so just download the level you want.  Using the App, scan certain sides of the cubes, and you will get a 4D view of what the element looks like! Even better, when you put scanned cubes together that would make a molecule, it shows the actual molecule and name! I recorded a video using the app below. Check it out for visual, and then download the lesson plans and engage those students!

Multiplication Array City!

I love finding all kinds of fun ideas for my teachers out on the web. I live on Twitter getting rock star ideas from my PLN. I also venture out into other realms of Educational Blogs, Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, Google+, Facebook, and so much more. Although there are so many educators to follow world wide, sometimes we forget that there are outstanding educators right in our own backyards doing amazing and engaging activities with their students everyday!

Tori Filas, a third grade teacher at Three Chopt Elementary, is constantly doing a awesome activities with her students.  I had the pleasure of working with Mrs. Filas last year as an ITRT, and whether we were doing lessons together or not, I found myself gravitating into her class just to feel the energy and passion she brings everyday.

When I taught third grade, we would make a HUGE multiplication array chart in the hallway when we started our multiplication unit. The students had so much fun making it every year. Yesterday, Mrs. Filas posted a picture of a fun bulletin board idea: Array City! I thought this was brilliant. It takes the big array chart idea that I used to do, but adds a real world connection on arrays. Her students will never look at windows on houses and buildings in the same way any more. They will forever be connecting multiplication arrays out in the real world. Not only this, but she also got a sweet bulletin board made by students out of the project!  Check it out!


FETC 2015 – Make Connections and My Presentation!

IMG_5214This week has been a blast here in Orlando, FL attending the 2015 FETC Conference.  I have been to many local and state conferences, but this national conference, by far, is one of the most informative in the world of educational tech conferences.  Technically it is labeled a edtech conference, but just learning and growing as an educator as a whole is one of the best parts about this conference. I have really enjoyed reconnecting with so many people and Twitter-ers I follow and met last year.  Some of my favorites that I have run into are @TechMinock, @Techbradwaid, @cybraryman1, @web20classroom, @tomwhitby, @adambellow, @teachertate, @lesliefisher, @teach42, @kathyschrock, @shannonmmiller, @rushtonh and so much more. This list could literally be pages and pages long. Simply go to Twitter and search the #FETC hashtag to find them!

My favorite part of the week was being honored to present!  For my presentation, I showed many different Augmented Reality Apps and concluded with showing the fully customizable Aurasma App.  Aurasma, is fully customizable and not bound by the one note features the other apps seem to have.  Now, I’m not saying the other apps discussed are bad apps. That being said, many of them would require a little out of the box thinking to use them effectively in the classroom, and the use of the Aurasma App is only bound by your imagination.  Check out my presentation below!  Feel free to comment or email me and ask any questions you may have! If you aren’t in to looking through Prezi Presentations, you can at least download my Aurasma 101 Directions PDF that will walk you through how to use and make your own!  I have also included Tips, Tricks, and Ideas within the PDF on how you can use it in the classroom!  Enjoy!

Aurasma 101 – Directions, Tips, and Classroom Ideas!

SOL Analysis : Using Statewide Test Results to Guide Instruction

First, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoy my PLN that continually grows. There are some truly amazing educators blogging, tweeting, connecting, collaborating, and sharing their thoughts on education. Although there are many different messages being shared by all, it is enlightening to surround myself with as many people as I can that are striving to improve education.

vdoe-logoThat being said, I ran across this really great website from the VA Department of Education.

Over the past few years we have seen a dip in SOL scores across the state. Districts, Administrators, Principals, and Teachers are all trying to figure out the best way to prepare their students for these more rigorous tests. I was super excited to see the VDOE conduct their own statewide data analysis of student performance. The VDOE wanted to determine the specific content for which overall student performance was weak or inconsistent.

One of the most intriguing parts: These extensively long (20-50 slides each!) PowerPoint presentations do not have released or future SOL questions and it is not intended to mimic the SOL test. They are more intended to provide educators with further insights on certain concepts that were most challenging for students. I really liked that the VDOE released their analysis with insights on how to teach the concepts instead of simply pushing out released test questions. It really shows that they are trying to help educators to ultimately help their students be successful. Whether you’re an end-of-term testing proponent or not, it is the education world we live in at the moment, and the state providing its teachers with analysis to help them guide instruction is really refreshing to see.

PBIS for Faculty and Staff

ccAs educators we implement all different kinds of incentives for our students to help them stay focused and working hard in our classrooms. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports or PBIS is an approach to building positive supports to help motivate students to achieve success. Using successful PBIS supports can help our students thrive off positive behavior in the classroom, and help them to want to perform well in class for themselves and their teachers.

Taking this same approach, why not create the same type of PBIS system for teachers!  It is not just students who respond well to positive motivation.  We’re all human and crave positive reinforcement and validation for our hard work and effort we put in our professional lives.

Pocahontas Middle School principal, Kim Sigler, has implemented an extremely successful PBIS system with her staff for the past couple years.  Collaborating with Mrs. Sigler over the past couple weeks to help implement our own PBIS system at Fair Oaks for our faculty has been extremely rewarding.  Not only did Mrs. Sigler help us come up with some great ideas, she also suggested and shared a couple great books to help that I highly suggest: Looking Forward to Monday Morning and Looking Forward to MORE Monday Mornings.

Focusing on Standards One and Three of Virginia DOES’s Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers, our administrative team created and quick and easy walkthrough form that we use for our daily walkthroughs with our teachers. Teachers have the opportunity to earn six checks.  If they receive all six, they earn a Cardinal Coupon. When they accumulate a certain amount of Cardinal Coupons they can redeem them for incentives!

We’ve just finished our first week of walkthroughs with a huge amount of success! It has given me much more joy and purpose coming into classrooms observing the teacher practices in my school.  I’ve also enjoyed adding extra notes along with each walkthrough letting teachers know what I thought was successful and some thoughts on how to tweak and enhance the lesson. As you can see below, with as little as 5 Cardinal Coupons, teachers can start redeeming them for items as simple as a Coke, a Keurig K-Cup, or a sweet treat! It seems a little odd rewarding teachers for what they should be doing in the classroom, but as we all know, it works for our students, so why shouldn’t our teachers get to enjoy in the fun as well!

I have been challenged a little on this initiative from some educators who believe that that giving rewards and incentives is manipulation and that inferior work is the ultimate result.  I don’t totally disagree with these statements, but if used in correlation with simply good instructional leadership, the work won’t be inferior.  I wouldn’t use this form of PBIS with my faculty and staff as the end all and be all of how teachers should be completing their work, but rather a small piece of the puzzle to help put positive spin on achieving the goal at hand.


Relationships are the Revolution

I’m writing this post in response to another inspiring post from Ben Rimes and because of a quote I borrowed from Derek Muller‘s latest Educational Video: “This Will Revolutionize Education” While I do agree with many points that Derek makes, I don’t think technology is “the silver bullet.”  I do agree that if used correctly it can help steer students’ behaviors towards education, and I do think Derek was getting to the point of the teacher and student relationship.

Our relationships we build with our students will be “The Revolution.”  It’s not about the strategy, the shiny new technology, the best new research – It is all about the relationships we build with the students.  Everything we do has to focus on what is best for the students.  That is why we are here.  Our students need to be engaged and having fun in school.  Students will only fully achieve their potential when they want to do well. I made the following “Promises of Practice Ignite” for my Instructional Leadership Internship last week. Derek Muller‘s video definitely inspired parts of my Ignite, but without relationship building and students wanting to work for the teacher and themselves no technology will never revolutionize education.