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.

Finding Your Learning Style – FTW

This week in Social Studies I have students using a Hyperdoc to research information on the Great Plains Indians (the information is then recorded on a Google My Map). This is the 3rd installment in a 4 part study series. In the first 2, I told the students to only use the information provided. I intentionally incorporated videos  as a part of their resources knowing that this learning style suits some of my students better. However, this time, I left off any video resources and added the task of finding at least one of their own resources. They are to record information and the search query used.

Then this happened…


I know what you’re thinking, “Uh, huh. A student found a video and is taking notes. Um, wasn’t that the assignment?” And yes, yes it was. BUT…this is no ordinary student. This is the student that has declared (several times), “I hate reading! Don’t make me read. I’m not reading anything!” This is the student that will play around in order to NOT do work – I suspect much of it is too difficult for Student X. This is the same student that can’t sit still for more than 30 seconds. YET, after Student X stopped freaking out that I didn’t include a video and realized they could look one up, Student X then sat for 40 MINUTES watching the video and taking notes…away from the group…working the entire time.

THIS is what happens when we give students the Freedom to learn in a style that best suits them. Student X knew what style worked best for him/her. Student X researched and learned the necessary material in order to support the group project.

This was a HUGE win!

Standing Desk

Recently I submitted a project to Donors Choose for a Standing Desk with a swing bar. It’s not uncommon for any teacher to have fidgety students. I wanted to try one out and gauge its effectiveness to those students. I have heard about many teachers trying it with great success. This week my standing desk arrived.

I also had a matching stool ordered for the desk. This gives students the option to stand or sit. Either option gives the student/students the ability to use the foot swing bar. As I found out, the desk is large enough to have 2 students share it comfortably. Needless to say, the desk has been a big hit with many students testing it out.

This year I have a particularly wiggly student. The student is great, just has LOTS of energy. Wiggly ventured back to the new desk. One afternoon this past week, wiggly student declared that (s)he was going to use it all next week. (S)he has decided (s)he loves it. I silently agreed that the desk was perfect for her/him. At one point the wiggly student was working while (s)he had the swing bar going a mile a minute. The amazing part was that the rest of her/him was content and focused. After being with the student for less than a month, it was the most focused I had ever seen her/him.

I am officially a fan of these types of desks. Will the ‘newness’ wear off with my students? Possibly, but I’m sure that my wiggly student will find success with this desk for the rest of the year. In fact, I’m such a fan I’m going to submit another project for a second Standing Desk with Stool on Donors Choose. So if you are thinking of getting one of these, I say go for it!

Dear Parents: About Your Child’s ID Card

School has started up again or will be in the near future. This leads to many parents posting First Day Photos. We all love them, well, maybe not the older students, but they humor most parents with a small smile before grumbling. And then the new student i.d.’s arrive. Parents are proud of many of the milestones their children are achieving. I have seen photos of some of the i.d. cards. I am a bit shocked…


Dear Parents,

We all love seeing that new i.d. of your child’s. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you have raised a great child and they have reached high school, are in their Senior year, or are in Middle School, or whatever grade. However, I must ask, why are you posting a photo with ALL information of your child online? I know, it’s probably not something you have thought about.

Just think about this for a moment. When you post a photo of that brand new i.d. without blocking information you have just shown the world the following information:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • School name (possibly city where school is located)
  • Grade (which leads to age)
  • Teacher’s name (in some cases)
  • Picture of child
  • Possible i.d. number (or some variation)
  • QR Code or Bar Code (with who knows what information)

If you’re still not sure why this is a bad thing, think about a stranger calling you and asking your child’s full name, school, location of school, grade, their teacher’s name, a picture of your child (to send electronically), and any other additional information they may want. Would you give them this information? Probably not. Well, by posting the i.d.’s without blocking some of the information, you just gave (who knows how many) strangers that information. If it’s put on the Internet, it can be found.

So parents, we do want to see those great photos: first day, i.d.’s, special moments, but we want to keep everyone safe. So please, block important information.

Thank you.

Lead By Example

At our first staff meeting, my principal, Brad Smith (tweet at him, he’s terrified to tweet #truestory), encouraged each staff member to look into the Google Educator tests. He reminded us that we are, indeed, a GAfE district. He went on to state that anyone that passes the level 1 Educator Exam, would receive their test money back (out of his own pocket, and since we have no money in our budget I know it’s literally out of his pocket).

This is where he began to lead by example. He gave the staff the resources needed. Then today, he sent us a quick memo. At the bottom was his Educator Level 1 badge!

He is the type of leader we need. Someone who does what he challenges others to do. So, seriously, tweet at him!


Makeshift Keyboards

Recently I received a new student in my 5th-grade class. Great kid from India. He has some English, enough to tell me he wants a Punjabi Keyboard. So, we created a Punjabi keyboard for him. First, we selected the correct keyboard on his Chromebook. Then, he pointed out that the physical keyboard was still in English. So then we looked up a Punjabi Keyboard online and I printed it out. Using Google Translate, we affixed them on the correct keys. We used tape. We were in business! Things were going great. Score 1 for me.


This victory didn’t last long. He then came to me telling me that the paper was bugging his fingers and I needed to tape the tops too. I explained that the keys would then all stick down to the board. So then, I had another brilliant idea: Saran Wrap, poor man’s keyboard cover. Yet another score for me.


Yes! This worked. He was happy. Until…. He wanted it all off. Yup, it wasn’t working for him. He wanted to continue with the English Keyboard…

(Sigh) You win some, you lose some.

Today Was A Good Day

Yes, today was a good day. You know you’ve done something right when you tell the students that we are heading to the high school theater for a production and their reaction is, “What, we’re going to miss Math? I like math.” Yeah, that’s what they had to say. A few actually looked devastated to NOT have math.


Yes, they even said that Math is fun and that they love Math. What 5th graders says that?

Then later in the afternoon, during our regular break time, my students were so engrossed in their work, they missed their regular 2 pm break. What were they doing? Collecting information, doing research, writing notes, and creating videos about the Boston Tea Party. Yup, they were focused and engaged in HISTORY!

Now, this doesn’t happen often. Thus, me writing a blog post about my good day. We should celebrate the little things in life. Here’s to more days like today!