If you’re not familiar with #BookSnaps, go to Tara M Martin’s site. In short, students connect with a reading with thoughts, graphics, and images. This year, our district has been virtual (we will be going back the week of April 12, 2021) and this has given us the opportunity to explore different ways of delivering instruction.

NOTE: It has been so nice getting away from curriculum and helping teachers find what works for them and their students. Hello EduProtocols, MathReps, BookSnaps. I hope this trend of giving teachers autonomy continues.

Well, as a TOSA I am often invited into classes to help develop lessons and model some of the new pedagogy. Which I totally love! On Friday, I went to a 1st-grade class to do a #BookSnap. The kiddos did awesome! First, we read a book about ladybugs ūüźě . Then, using Nearpod the students annotated and connected with the reading. I chose a page to upload the image for them. I gave them a few prompts they could answer. And this was the result!

I want you to think about this. How often have we said or heard that 1st-graders can’t do (fill in the blank). They are too young. If anything, this past year proves that students of all ages can do whatever. We need to stop underestimating them. I’d also like to point out, that these students ARE NOT BEHIND. They have acquired different skills than they have in past years. In many ways they are AHEAD.


Finally, today I held my first real BreakoutEDU of the year. I say ‘real’ because I had run Mini Math Breakouts earlier this year. They were a success, but I just didn’t have enough kits to pull off a full class Breakout (I now know it can be done with one kit and tickets).

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-13-19-pmHoly Cow! It was a GREAT success. I mean, I knew it would be but it still blew my mind. A few weeks ago I sucked it up and purchased 4 more DIY kits. I had purchased one from the website a little over a year ago and was hesitant to buy more – I’m cheap! Anyhow, today I ran 5 simultaneous breakouts – Grammar Gurus.

The entire class was engaged. Each group had no more than 6 students. They all seemed to work well together. There were a few groups that I had to remind to communicate with one another, but honestly, they did great. In the end, no groups completed the task. A few came really close to opening the last lock.

The really fun part, for me, was watching the students work together, quietly, for 45 minutes. This is something they rarely do – especially lately. In the end, they begged to have more time. Even when I didn’t give them more time to finish the puzzles they asked if we could do it again, WHEN we could do it again, and suggested we do one every Thursday.

When was the last time your students failed a task and BEGGED to do it again, soon? Later screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-14-14-pmin the afternoon, I had another group of students in my classroom. They saw the locked boxes and asked what they were. I briefly explained what we did earlier and they asked when they were going to do one.

I’m so excited with the outcome that I will try to plan them more often. I already have one planned for Read Across America Day – Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. If you haven’t tried a Breakout, I highly suggest you do. You and your kids will love it.

Writing With Literacy Shed

I know I’ve written about this site in the past. I thought it deserves to be talked about again, especially with the beginning of the school year upon some of us. So…. If you STILL haven’t checked out The Literacy Shed, do it. Like right now!

Literacy Shed

What is it?

Simply put, it is an amazing – FREE – writing resource. It will work with any writing program you have going on in your classroom or district. The creator and curator, Rob Smith, explains:

“The aim is to provide high-quality resources that can be used in stand-alone literacy lessons, can form the¬†basis for a whole Literacy unit or can support literacy units that you already¬†have in place.”

Rob has most certainly provided those high-quality resources.

AND, many of the video resources are non-verbal making them perfect for the ELL students.

Why use it?

First of all, it has beautiful quality videos. In addition to the videos, the site has several lesson ideas for each video. This isn’t put together by some corporation or publisher. This was created by a teacher who freely shares his knowledge and ideas.

About the Sheds

There are ‘Sheds’ that are essentially themes. There are so many sheds, and more being added, there is no shortage of resources.¬†I love looking around the site and getting ideas. Word of warning; once you jump into this rabbit hole, it may be a while before you emerge. But it will be well worth it! Currently, I’m looking at the Rio Olympics Shed and getting REALLY excited about the possibilities for my classroom.

One Last Thought

I wish I were in the UK so that I might attend a training. Maybe someday there will be a training here….


Movie Premiere

I have been doing much reflecting, as most teachers do, upon this past school year. To say that there were many ups and downs would be an understatement. However, one of the best Рif not THE BEST Рthing I did this year was to have my students write, direct, act, and produce their own movie. With a full-fledged Red Carpet Event!

Thanks to Dominic and his efforts in A Tale Unfolds¬†my students were able to have an incredibly memorable 5th-grade experience. This was, by far, one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in my teaching career. And I can’t wait to do it again! Throughout the process, I had been writing about this (A Tale Unfolds: Part 1,¬†A Tale Unfolds & Writing,¬†¬†¬†Writing and the CAASPP) and aligning it to 5th-Grade CCSS ELA. And here are the results of their efforts:

Red Carpet Event:

Cast Interviews:


Once again, thank you, Dominic, for creating a high quality, rigorous program.

A Tale Unfolds: Part 1

a tale unfolds Next week I will start A Tale Unfolds with my class. It is an 11 week ELA/ELD/Writing unit where the end product is a movie that the class has written, performed, and taped. As this is a UK Standards aligned unit, I looked over the lessons for the upcoming week and was pleased that on Day 1 ten (5th grade) CCSS are covered. While the lessons are complete on their own, I will be able to enrich them with conversations and expectations.

Along with the lesson plans, there are Promethean Flipcharts and SmartBoard resources, a ‘book’ (2 levels), and in certain cases leveled resources (depending on the activity). The focus of the writing is on quality, not quantity.

Overall, I am excited to get the unit started. I think the students are really going to enjoy it.

Language Monsters

This is what my students are! Several of my students (and myself), have started using Duolingo to learn a new language. Currently I have 5 languages being acquired in my classroom: Spanish (most popular), French, Portuguese, Italian, and English.

duolingoIt all started several months ago with an ELL student. She was still having trouble acquiring English¬†after being here for a few years. One suggestion I received was to have her get on Duolingo. So, we set her up in her native language (Spanish). She took the placement test and began learning English. She loves doing it, and feels that it’s been helping her. In order to have her not feel different during our Silent Reading time, I agreed to brush up on my Spanish. As time has progressed, more and more students have asked to learn a language. Yes, I realize some were asking so they could ‘get out’ of reading during Silent Reading time (SSR). I said, “Yes!” Yup, I’m that teacher that is okay when a student says they hate reading. I know they just haven’t found the right books yet, or it’s hard for them and SSR is no fun. So, learning a new language can be fun – and yes they are reading too!

What really excites me, is that some of the students asking to learn Spanish come from Spanish speaking homes. Some of these students have ‘forgotten’ their first language, in varying degrees, want to speak with their grandparents, or just want to learn the language their family knows. I think it’s all very exciting!

Now my SSR has students reading books – inside or outside; real or digital – learning a new language, listening to a book on CD, or reading a story (and taking a quiz) on Raz-Kids.¬†Will all of them stick with learning a new language? No, and that’s okay. I love their willingness to try and learn new things.

Resourceful Students

Today I assigned an article for my 5th graders to read from Newsela. They were to read and annotate the text,using the comment feature, in Google Docs (the original assignment was given in Google Classroom). I allowed them to work in groups in order to discuss and collaborate – we’ll talk about that in a minute.

In the middle of the assignment, I hear an electronic voice say ‘Ecuador’ in the back of the classroom. I asked my students who was doing that, and what were they doing. A group of three girls raise their hands. They explained that they didn’t know how to say a word so they wanted to hear it. Upon further questioning, they explained they went into Google Translate, typed the word, and pressed the speaker button. They simply ‘translated’ it into English. Yup, English to English! Brilliant!



As these three girls continued working together, I listened in on their discussion. After reading the article, they had a few questions to answer. One of the girls tried to assign each one a question to answer – with the intent of copying the answers from each other. Now, they know this is NOT collaboration. As I continued to listen, one of the girls pointed out that that wasn’t right, and they all needed to do the questions together. And that’s exactly what they did, answered the questions together! Smart kiddos!