Ninja Selfies

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-6-31-33-pmLate last week we had CELDT testing for some students. This meant that I had several students who were NOT being tested. This meant that I really couldn’t start something new as too many students would be out. Okay, so what to do? Well, make Ninja Selfies of course!

Taking a page out of Tracy Walker‘s book, I had my students create Ninjas. My partner in crime, – in podcast crime – Nancy Minicozzi, created a tutorial on how we created our Ninjas as our logo for T.L.C. – Tech. Learn. Coffee podcast. It was a BIG hit.

It was not only fun, but they learned a trick or two. Check out their creations. I had 2 classes do this. And with their permission here are their Ninjas:

Beast Mode Writing

We have been reading Bud, Not Buddy (fantastic book; read it if you haven’t already) and writing in our Response Journals. The kids have been doing an ‘okay’ job, and I want to challenge them. So yesterday, I asked a few students if I could display their work to the class and we would talk about it. That’s when one student shouted out, “Put mine up.” I asked if I would be impressed (I tell them to impress me as a challenge). He assured me that his writing was ‘Beast Mode’.

This is when I diverted from my lesson. I asked what would a ‘Beast Mode Writing’ look like. What attributes would it have? And so the class generated a list of what they thought ‘Beast Mode Writing’ would be (or to the rest of us, a quality writing piece).

And this is what they said:


For a while now, I have struggled with Rubrics. On one hand, I like that the students know what is expected. On the other, I feel that some look at the least amount of work needed to pass and do just that. However, with this, it gives the students the highest standard, nothing else. This way, they will shoot for the best and nothing less. I like it! And it was student generated to boot! And yes, that includes the – Appropriate font (size and style). Okay, I had some influence on the ‘NO comic sans’ earlier this year.


Remember that Mult/Div math paper I was sooooo excited about the other day? Well, it was an EPIC fail. Monday morning I introduced the paper to the class. They freaked out. Okay, that’s normal. It was new and unexpected. We walked through each part together…slowly. Oh. So. Slowly. They could almost handle the paper until…division! Yup, that killed ’em. And here is where the fail occurred. I was so excited, I didn’t worry about the 2 numbers they would be dividing. BIG mistake!

failCreative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0 NY –

I don’t remember what the numbers were, but it was a HOT mess! They were over it, I was over it, and they were super confused – it didn’t divide evenly and decimals were needed. For 5th graders who forgot how to divide in most cases, it was too much. So last night I reflected. I needed to choose the numbers (not let the kids) at least for now.

Today I went into class and discussed how that was an EPIC failure. I got jazz hands. Yes, we celebrate failure in my class. I told them what I thought and how I think it could be fixed. Then I asked what they thought. They agreed, the numbers needed to be smaller. So we went through the paper in a slightly different manner. We chose the whole number first. THEN, we went to the tool box and created equations. From here, we were able to find a decimal (first number box) that we knew would divide evenly. We had to manipulate the number (multiply 1/10 or multiply by 1/100) to get our desired decimal, but it worked. And hey, they are getting extra practice with place value!

I am happy to report that things went much more smoothly today. They kids were still a little perplexed as to how to confidently divide, but that’s why we’re in school; to learn. They got to see me fail, which is always a bonus. And they saw how the reflection and iteration are a part of the failure process.

Multiplication & Division Basics

In the beginning of the school year, I created Place Value Basics. This was meant as a daily review to get students thinking quickly about some of the basics we learn. It was a big hit! My students went from doing it in 40 minutes (I know, but they needed the time) to around 8 minutes. Pretty good, right!?

Well, they had been bugging me to change it up. THIS is a good sign. So I came up with Multiplication and Division Basics. As some were still having a bit of trouble with Prime Factors, I kept in on this version.

Each year I teach this before Winter Break. Then after this, we head into fractions. Fractions take up all of the 2nd Trimester and by the time 3rd Trimester and the State Test roll around, students have forgotten how to multiply and (deep sigh here) divide. The problem is they have a shaky footing on these concepts before hitting fractions. I know, I’m the teacher… I should go with what they know and base lessons around them. Yes, in an ideal world that is happening. However, the pressure to do Benchmark Assessments and my district’s pacing (don’t get me started on that), and prepping them for the next grade are all too much for me – and them I suspect.

I have seen a great success with my students and the Place Value Basics. I am hoping that they can have the same success with this. How long will it take us in the beginning? Ugh, I hope not the 40 minutes! It’ll take us a while the first week or so, but in time they will successfully complete it in 8 minutes or less! Again, I will start off doing this whole class.

Which One Doesn’t Belong

Last year I was introduced to a great website called Which One Doesn’t Belong by my friend, Nancy Minicozzi. The site is full of visuals in which students must decide which of the 4 images doesn’t belong.

Looking at the following, which would you say doesn’t belong?


Based on your perception you may have said the heart because it is the only one that is NOT a polygon. Or perhaps you thought the star for the lack of the red outline. Possibly you were drawn to the green arrow as it is comprised of two different shapes. Or maybe it was the last shape because it lacked a color on the inside. No matter what you thought, you were right.

This is a fantastic, low-risk activity for students to participate in. I have done it a few different ways. I have had students study the image and then move to different parts of the room. While gathered there, they talk about why they chose the image they did. Other times I have used tools like Padlet for them to record their thoughts. No matter what method I use, they enjoy the activity.

This year I have 1 non-English speaker. At first, he was reluctant to participate, but now he regularly raises his hand to explain why he chose the image he did. I also have students moving from table to table because they can see how the different images don’t belong.

In addition to the low-risk appeal, I am able to teach my students how to have conversations. We begin sentences with, “I agree with…. because…”, or “I disagree with… because…”, or even better, “In addition to what … said…” Quality language, thought process, and communication skills that are being utilized daily.

Student ‘Ransomes’

This year I have been giving out a few ‘Ransomes’ each week. I know what you’re thinking, no I did not hijack personal objects from students and offer to return them in exchange for payment of Kit Kat minis (my totes faves!) No, Ransomes are little notes I leave for students like this one:


I do usually put their name on them as well.

I didn’t think much of the habit. I just thought it was cute and a nice way to send a positive message to my students. It wasn’t until Parent-Teacher Conferences last week that I realized how much they mean to the students. Sometimes it’s easy for us to overlook how much a simple gesture means to a child. One of my parents told me that the Ransome I had given her son had made his day. He was so proud of that note, he put it in his room at home. It was something that made his day and the mom’s day, too.

What I Do

Go to Ransomizer and type your message in the box provided. When you’re ready, select the ‘Ransomize’ button. You can customize the font, colors, etc. I then take a screenshot of the Ransome Note and place that in a Google Doc to print. I print 5 per week.

Give it a try. Your kids will love it and it’s a great way to connect with your students.

Create A Link in Docs

Creating a hyperlink in a Google Doc is simple. One reason you would want to create a hyperlink is for cleanliness. Having a large URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator) is messy on a document. Instead, I link a word or phrase to a particular web address. For example, if I am talking about Order of Operations in 5th grade I would link the words ‘Order of Operations in 5th grade’ to a particular web address like so:

This is a great resource for Order of Operations in 5th grade.

That is much nicer to look at than

Now, let’s check out how to do this in Google Docs (this also works in Gmail and Slides):

  1. Find the resource you want to link in your document and copy the URL. To copy highlight the URL, go to Edit > Copy. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut (Mac) command + C or (PC) control + C
  2. Now that it’s copied to your clipboard (this is a virtual clipboard) navigate to your Google Doc. Find the word or phrase that will be connected with your site. Highlight the word or phrase. Now go to your menu bar and select Insert > Link
    link-2Or highlight the word or phrase then find the chain (or links) screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-7-39-33-pm in the toolbar.

    And there is always the keyboard shortcut. After highlighting the desired text, (PC) control + K or (Mac) command + K

  3. This will bring out a pop-out window which asks what you want the words to link to. Paste in the link. Go to Edit in the toolbar and select ‘Paste’.
    Keyboard shortcut – (PC) control + V, (Mac) command + V
  4. And there you have it! A hyperlink in your doc.