Sunday, October 26, 2014


That is SO not what I'm talking about.  Get your mind back in the classroom!

I just registered our third grade to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts for a field trip later this year.  Fingers crossed that our application gets accepted.  Why does it need accepting?  Because the DIA provides FREE (yes, completely free) field trips for those in the tri-county area.  Even better, they also provide FREE transportation.  How cool is that?!  I registered us for a guided tour that will focus on making thinking visible, with an emphasis on the IB Key Concepts.  I'm super excited and hopeful that not only will our application be accepted, but that the kids will have as great of a learning experience as I think they will!  Oh, and if you're not my neighbor, check out your local museums and see what they offer.

However, that trip is quite a ways off.

And as I really like field trips, I may get kind of impatient.

Thankfully, our district owns and operates a fully functioning Farm as well as an incredible Nature Center, both of which all grades K-8 visit multiple times a year.  Yes, this field trip has a cost, but it's worth it to experience hands on learning in multiple content areas at both locations throughout the year.  Our first visit to the Nature Center is coming up in December, where we'll get to play with rocks as we focus on geology.  We go back to the Nature Center in March for Maple Tapping and Pioneer Day.  We go to the Farm twice, too, I just don't remember when third grade goes (fourth grade goes in September and May.)

Aside from the district trips, though..... This year I have discovered the joys of virtual trippin' and I'm loving them!  I can't believe it's taken me this long to bring field trips to my classroom instead of the other way around!  Best of all, they are FREE!  So far my class has been to a Culture Concert in New York, we're going to the White House kitchen this week, as well as on a Polar Bear Excursion.  In November we'll be traveling through eco-systems looking for connections, and learning about marine animal conservation.  All without spending a penny.  All without leaving the classroom.

So, my friends, I know that not all districts have the funds for extra trips, and I know that sometimes we just can't get out for trips whether it's our choice or not.  Well, now you don't need to spend money and you don't need to leave the room.  All you need is an internet connection and a projector (and a computer of course) and your students can travel and learn and explore without walking out the door!

Happy trippin'!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


The past few weeks we've been focusing on the key concepts of change and perspective.  Key concepts are a big part of the IB PYP program, and this year, I've worked hard to weave them into everything we do instead of isolating them in our units of study.

Key Concept Tags - image found HERE
For example, though we're studying ways cultures from the past have influenced culture today (change and perspective!) we've also found examples of change in math as we look for differences in quantities and change numbers into different forms.  Read aloud always offers a great opportunity for perspective, as does class conversations in general.

However.  It's what we've been playing with in writing that was the most exciting connection to our key concepts, at least for me.  We've been working on parts of speech, subjects and predicates, and sentence types as a part building *excellent* sentences.

So.  For this task, the kids were given the prompt: "I opened my closet door and I was shocked when I saw........"  Everyone was given about five minutes to finish the sentence and start building a paragraph.  Once that time was up, pieces were read to the class, who was surprised to hear so many different ways to finish it!  Hello, perspective!  Welcome to writing!

From there, I collected all their papers, and redistributed them so that no one got their own.  They were then given three minutes to continue writing where the original author left off.  After three minutes, the papers were passed again, and the process was repeated until everyone had added to four different papers.  Then, papers were returned to their original author.

Talk about change!  As students re-read their original stories with everyone else's perspective plugged in, they were shocked to see how much the story changed from inception to completion!  Not only that, when we talked about how the original author started the story, and where they would have taken it.... the perspectives of their classmates was completely different than what the authors saw in their heads!  All in all, it was a fun activity for the Thinkers, and a great way to exemplify two key concepts in our everyday curriculum adventures!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


What a day!  I'm SO not a morning person, especially on the weekends.  After a week of non-stop "on" I need the weekend to unwind and recharge.

Connecting and chatting and oh yeah, getting gifts!
Not this weekend.

I was one of the, oh, say, around 1700+ educators around the country that were up and at 'em early for an all day workshop, also known as a teacher's playground, also known as EdCamp.  Seems like a huge number for one day, doesn't it?  That's cause there were 17 different EdCamps happening today.  Today.  Might have even been 18, I don't remember.

Bottom line is that once again, educators gave up a Saturday to spend time learning and sharing and connecting and growing in our profession.  Profession.  Like professionals.  But that's another post.

Lunch included?  Thanks for that bonus treat!
Anyway.  Today I was able to connect with new friends and reconnect with old.  I was able to share my expertise in some areas, and I learned a ton from others as they shared their knowledge.  What was really neat is that in the past, all the EdCamp sessions I've facilitated (I'm almost embarrassed to admit that today's EdCamp was my eighth...) were more I talk, people interrupt with welcome questions, and we go back and forth with me sharing, they questioning, and everyone learning.

This time around one of the session I facilitated was a discussion session.  It was so much fun to facilitate!  The topic was homework, and those in the session included a current high school student all the way up to college professors and administrators.  It was a lively, interactive, engaging conversation among professionals, and I felt so refreshed when it was over!

Discussing homework.... great conversation!
I could keep talking for pages, but that could get a bit, well, eh.  Instead, I'm gonna give you the link to the session board.  It was great having it online, as you could quickly check from your devices at any time, without having to go back to the session board.  Even better, though, is that there are linked google docs for each session, so even if you weren't there, you can still check out all the sessions via the notes people have shared!

And of course, a HUGE thank you to all those who organized this awesome event at OU, and to all my fellow facilitators, as none of this would happen without all of the above!

Have fun reading, and if you happen to be at the next EdCamps in the area, introduce yourself!  I love meeting my colleagues across the globe!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Brought to You by the Letter S...

... and the Number 3

It's a lovely Sunday evening.  The sky was blue all day, and despite the rather cold temps, the sky was shining proudly.  Now I sit here and watch the sunset as I reflect on this past week.  I mean, I ask my students to reflect all. the. time.  I guess I should set the example, too?

Anyway.  This Sunday Summary is brought to you by the letter S, and the number 3.  S?  3?  Please tell me you've seen Sesame Street?!?

On to the summaries.....

First S = Support. I realized this week how lucky I am to be a part of a very supportive union.  All the political commercials on TV right now make me sick to my stomach.  I just can't handle the blatantly misleading information that permeates the screen these days.  Thanks to the support of the Michigan Education Association, along with my district union, the BHEA, I know where my votes will be going.  I leaned on my union for support in the past, and appreciate that I have them to lean into.  I'm grateful they sent a simple postcard with their recommendations as to who would be best for Michigan.  It's going to make a very stressful election day a whole lot easier!

Second S = Spontaneity.  Have you ever had one of those times where someone asks a "thought grenade" (thank you Nick Allen) during a lesson?  The best thought grenades this week were thanks to our Really Good Stuff calendar.  It has facts listed for each day of the month, along with any other useful, month-long factoids.  And currently on my board, is a math problem derived from one of the facts from this week.  Best part?  These spontaneous side-tracks often lead to mini-inquires into the topic of the moment!  For example, do you know how many times a hummingbird's heart beats in a minute?  In an hour?  In a week?  My Thinkers do!

Third S = Sleep.  I finally, FINALLY got two really good nights of sleep this week.  My best friend's husband exists happily on 5 hours a night.  So does another friend.  Not me.  I'm not that lucky.  I need a solid 8 each night.  Except, that never seems to happen during the beginning of the school year.  I guess we're no longer in the beginning of the school year?  Whatever it was, I function SO much better when I get enough sleep!  That, and I actually am able to stay awake long enough to get schoolwork done when I get home from school!

Until next time..... Here's one more S.......

Monday, October 6, 2014

BHS Foundation Fun!

Last year, I applied for a grant through the Bloomfield Hills Schools Foundation.  It was quite thrilling to be awarded the funds to purchase four Chromebooks and four MaKeyMaKeys.  Below you can see a quick five minute video of how they were incorporated into the classroom.

Tonight, the BHS Foundation hosted a Fair, held at the Bowers School Farm, so that the BHS Foundation board, and the community of donors could see where their funds went.  While I don't mind presenting, this time around?  I figured it would be better to call in the experts!

Eight of my Thinkers from last year came out for the evening, along with our Coding teacher (now a 9th grader) to share their experience with coding and the MaKey MaKey with the community.  They.  Were.  WONDERFUL!  I was so proud of them!

When you have the kids in your room for a whole year, you know how awesome they are there.  When you take the same kids and put them center stage in public..... things can go either way.  Not with these Thinkers.  They rose to the occasion, and did a fantastic job sharing the gift of our grant at the Fair.

It was a pretty cool feeling, watching these ten year olds present to their Superintendent, school board members, and Foundation board members.  They may be only ten but they are already pros!

This year, my class (yes, they helped!) is applying for another Bloomfield Hills Schools Foundation grant.  Only this time..... we're shooting for the moon!  I am hoping to be awarded the funds to purchase a 3-D printer for my classroom.  You can check out that video on the Bloomfield Hills Schools Foundation page (and please like it while you're there, that counts as a vote!)

I am SO grateful to the Foundation for the opportunity to apply for grants.  We all know that education funding is tight, and too much spending comes out of teacher's own pockets.  It's through organizations and foundations like this that we get the bits of help that can make more magic happen!

If you don't have Facebook, here's what we're hoping to get this year.
Please tell your friends to vote for it on the Bloomfield Hills Schools Foundation page!