Sunday, April 19, 2015

31 Days

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to 
understand the things that lie ahead.” 
~Yvonne Woon

Looking back on the school year with 31 school days still left may seem somewhat premature, but I've found that most school years seem to fly by quickly and this one is no exception. Reflection is an ongoing process, and while I've reflected on lessons and activities at the time, I believe reflecting back on the year as a whole is helpful before the school year comes to a close and one looks ahead at things to change and create for the next year.

Overall, I have had a great year! There are so many new things that my students were able to experience (thanks to my team, too) and for that I am grateful. I hope that my students were challenged, engaged, and stretched to try some new things because I know I was for sure!

My students were able to use their blogs as a space to use their "voice" to share their writing, projects, passions, and learning. They learned how to use many new technology tools to learn, create, and solve problems. They were also able to use technology to "see beyond" our classroom walls by collaborating with other classrooms around the country through shared experiences and by connecting with an author to create an awesome project. I was also excited this year to share some great literature with my students through read-alouds as well as give them choices and time to explore their own reading choices.

Personally, I was "renewed" by attending many EdCamps and educational conferences that allowed me to connect with others, question my thinking, and challenge myself to try new things. One of the things I am most proud of was the after school STEM club that I created in February. With helpful guidance and suggestions from Aaron Maurer, I completely stepped out of my comfort zone to plan and carry out activities using Brush Bots, Squishy Circuits, Makey Makey kits and more. The experience exceeded my expectations and it was incredible to listen to the students discuss their ideas and get excited about coming each time.

Was my school year perfect? Certainly not. It wouldn't be real if it wasn't. We all fail, learn, and try again. Sometimes daily. :) If time wasn't a factor, there certainly would have been more things on my "list" I would have liked to accomplish this year.

How will I take the excitement from this year into next year? Stretching myself to try new things is something I'm willing to take a risk for if the result is improved learning for myself and my students. I would like to create a way to better integrate social studies and science into other subjects and do more small groups in math. I would also like to try some cross-grade projects and expand the after-school club I started this year.

The great thing is that this year is not over .... yet. 

I still have 31 days to try a few new things.

I still have 31 days to help students learn.

I still have 31 days to make a difference.

Friday, April 10, 2015

What's New With You?

What's new with you this year?

At the Iowa 1:1 Conference (#i11i) this week, Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) posed this question during his session-

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?"

I hesitated at first.

Not because I couldn't remember doing anything new lately -- far from it.

I hesitated because I didn't know at first where to begin......

Since this time last year, there have been many "firsts" -- joining conversations on Twitter, attending EdCamps, starting a blog, creating an after-school STEM club, implementing new strategies and technologies in the classroom, and more.

But one thing that I think brought many conversations, smiles, and excitement to my classroom was the connections I was able to make between my students and other students outside our classroom walls.

Just as I have appreciated making new connections this year and learning from others with different situations and experiences, my students have appreciated these opportunities as well.

Here are a few examples of how my class has connected with other students to learn!
* Mystery Skype activities
* Google Hangout chats about books
* Global Read-Aloud activities and connections through Google docs, Padlet, Tackk, & more
* International Dot Day shared activities through Skype and artifact exchanges through the mail
* Student blog comment exchanges

All of the activities listed above are new experiences both for myself and my students this year. Not only did my students get experience in interacting with others in real-time (Skype, Google Hangout) but they also really enjoyed the fact they could create or write something -- share it -- and receive a reply in return.

I'm looking forward to the next opportunity for my students to connect & learn.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Side by side

Two trees growing

Branches intertwined

On separate journeys

Yet woven together

What are these trees?

Our students

Our colleagues

Our family members

Our friends

Our acquaintances 

All of the above

We are on a journey of growth. And at times, our paths are intertwined. Many times that leads to opportunities to lift each other up, to bear one another's burdens, to hold a hand, to challenge one another, to touch a heart, and to make a difference.

As you grow and your branches extend in a variety of directions, 
allow the wind to blow but not to break you,
allow other branches to cross your path and guide you,
allow yourself to keep reaching wider and higher,
and stand tall and strong against the obstacles that try to bend you.