4th Graders & Educators: US National Parks Want You!


“Junior Ranger” daveynin on Flickr

Do you have a 4th grader living in your house? Are you an educator? If not, are you friends with either?  Looks like this is the year to visit America’s National Parks!

For the 2015-2016 school year, all 4th graders in the US and their families can sign up for free admission to all of America’s National Parks, federal lands, and waters!  From the @everykidinapark Twitter page, they say Educators can participate too!  The White House’s “Every Kid in the Park” Initiative is being made possible by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation.  The main objective of the program is to introduce students to outdoor recreation.

Students, with their parents, simply need to sign up online to be added to the list of people interested in the “Every Kid in a Park” Initiative.  They will send out all the updates and information at the beginning of September.  Once more information becomes available September 1st, students (AND Educators!) will receive a voucher that grants entrance to the student and a carload of passengers to federal recreation areas for one year!  Let’s get out and explore more of our national parks and see what they have to offer!

Straight Outta… Henrico!

The release of the new movie, Straight Outta Compton, comes out Friday. The movie is about the group NWA emerging from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and their life struggles. In an interview with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube about the movie they talked about being proud of where they came from and naming the record Straight Outta Compton so everyone from the city can feel proud of where they come from too. My favorite at the end of the interview was the quote, “We’re all Straight Outta Somewhere.” To coincide with this, they have created a website called Straight Outta Somewhere. This website takes the logo from the movie, allows you to upload a picture, and change “Compton” to any location or text.

As simple as this is, this would be a great idea to really instill with students the importance of being proud of where they come from. Having them create their own Straight Outta Somewhere picture and pairing it with writing a story about where they are from would be such a fun and personal assignment that they can easily take ownership of.  This can be a quick and small way to build those relationships with your students to show them how much you care for where they come from too! Straight Outta Henrico!


This Is TeachingCenter

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 3.58.56 PMWatching shows, skits, sketches, and clips about education always catches my interest. The problem with most, however, is they are usually way off when it comes to real education. The overblown stereotypes about teachers and students is usually what takes it over the edge. Along comes Comedy Central’s, Key and Peele, with a smart and funny sketch about teaching. Basically Key and Peele take a page from “SportCenter” reporting on “today’s top stories in the exciting world of teaching.” They discuss highlights from teachers transferring schools, the 2015 Teacher Draft, running scores and highlights of SAT, ACT, & content areas, and ends a BMW commercial featuring a teacher as its spokesperson.

What really stood out for me, aside from the silliness of the salaries, commercials, and the draft, was Key and Peele’s constant reference to the importance of test scores. Those who are not in education who watch this sketch probably will not cringe as much as educators to the harsh realities that some schools face with low test scores and the time and energy it takes amazing teachers to help their students become successful.

Which leads me to my favorite part of this sketch – The Highlight of the Day. They highlight “Star History Teacher, Ashley Ferguson, who has been running up those test scores over at Vince Cortho High.” They do a play-by-play of a teacher asking her class a question and really understanding the students’ level of engagement in her class.

Again, there is a lot of over-the-top in this sketch, but this sketch, by far, already has become one of my favorites because of its nature of positivity and importance of great educators!

Check is out! What was your favorite part?

#TodaysMeet Testing Encouragement

TodaysMeetI’ve written a post about different ways to use TodayMeet in the classroom.  This is another fun way of using TodaysMeet as a means of having teachers, parents, and family members give words of encouragement to the students before they take their big state and district tests that are coming up.  Every morning before the students take their test, they will visit the website as a class to read the words of wisdom.

It is super easy!  Just go to TodayMeet.com, name your “chat room,” and pick how long you want the website to be open: 2, 8, or 12 hours, one day, one week, or one month.  After you have created the website, share it out with all your teacher colleagues, your students’ parents, or anyone else you think your students might enjoy hearing from to wish your class words of encouragement.  (Hint: You get to make up your name when posting, so famous people stopping by isn’t out of the question!  Ha!)

Here’s a screenshot of what it could look like:
Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 3.00.13 PM

Quick Mobile Device Lesson

Lots of smartphonesTonight in my School Technology Masters class, we discussed some quick and easy ways to use mobile devices or BYOD in the classroom. Our professor, Dr. Richardson, had us quickly come up with a lesson idea with specific content objectives or instructional strategies. We had 40 minutes to stroll around the beautiful University of Richmond campus and take pictures, take videos, or something with our mobile devices and spin it with a lesson idea. My group of Tom HolomanJohn Hein, and myself all work in an elementary setting, so we decided to go with a patterns lesson. We had a blast walking around, being goofy, and making videos about patternsSM Comic Life we found around the campus. I did a project like this years ago with simple machines when I was a classroom teacher. Students went around school and completed a simple machines scavenger hunt taking pictures and putting them into a Comic Life project.  Doing this project this evening made my upset that I did not do these type of assignments more often. These are lessons that students love doing, and they are so easy to put together.  All too often I feel teachers are freaked out about using technology in the classroom because they feel it has to be this crazy innovative and out the box lesson, but in actuality it simply just needs to engage the students in their learning.  Tom, John, and I took quick three quick videos of ourselves making patterns we found around campus.  I put the three videos together, and BOOM! we had a quick video project that could be shared with the class. John even added a little question at the end of his clip, and it reminded me of the Video Story Problems I used to do with my students. Check out the fun we had in the video below!

Get your students out of the confines of the four walls of the classroom and engage your students with some quick pictures and videos to enhance their learning!

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!