Monthly Archives: January 2014

#Kinderchat Challenge Wrapup


Day 30: Progress on Resolution

My resolution for this year is to work on getting a children’s picture book published. I have sent my manuscript to 5 publishers and a query letter to another. It can take 4-6 months to hear back, so with that timeline, I think I’m in a good place. I’m researching other publishers I can reach out to. Many big name publishers do not take “unsolicited” manuscripts, i.e. “If you’re non one we don’t want it”. Fingers crossed!

Day 31: Celebrate finishing the challenge

I missed a few days here and there, but I think I participated in most! This was a great way to get to know more of my #kinderchat PLN!





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The “Just Right” Double-Edged Sword


Initially, this post had the tone of a soap box rant, a sermon about reading levels.  I pushed the laptop away last night and didn’t hit publish.  I’m glad that I left this post a draft until now – because I really don’t want to sound preachy about this topic.  I want my message to come across as a sweet note found in the lunchbox of parents and teachers.


Would anyone ever tell Libby that she isn’t reading Pete the Cat correctly?  Or that Pete the Cat is too hard for her because she is only 3?  Of course not!  So let us keep this in mind when helping our students choose books at home, school, the library, and beyond.  Do I think knowing a child’s reading level is beneficial?  Of course!  Reading levels help teachers know what a student can read independently and can be used as a guide post for helping him/her grow as a reader.  At the same time, my students have free reign over the classroom library.  There are so many titles, I section it off for them at times, just to help with organization.  But – they can choose ANY book to read from the plethora.  I fight past the worry I may have for my struggling readers who could choose a book that contains text that is frustrating for them.  I watch them flip through pages, come to a conclusion, and either put the book back or settle in for the duration.  More often than not, the book is put back not because of difficulty, but because it does not interest them.  Studies have shown that readers who have an interest in what they are reading comprehend better – despite the level of the text.

And now I think I’m starting to get preachy… So I’ll end with this – Reading levels are a guide post for the “Just Right” book for your child.  “Just Right” meaning he or she can read it independently, not “Just Right” meaning the only books to read.  A level should not stifle, but scaffold.  Nurture your reader.  Give students voice and choice in their reading – and watch them grow. Watch them learn.  Watch them fall in love for the very first time…with books.

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Research about reading, interest, and comprehension:

Click to access Hidi-Int%26Rdng.pdf

Reading level resources for parents and teachers:

Click to access choosing_books.pdf

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#Kinderchat Challenge Smorgasbord

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I fell out of the loop regarding the #Kinderchat kinderblog challenge… I’ve been redirected and I’m back on the route!  Since I’m quite a few posts behind – I chose a mishmash of sorts to catch up!

Day 19: If you could live in any place in the world, WHERE would you live?

Well, I’m pretty content where I currently live.  The weather is more often beautiful than not, I’m within 20-30 minutes of various beaches, and close to my family.  However, if I could live ANYWHERE, I would live somewhere with warmer weather pretty much year round.  Yes – I would miss the changing of summer to fall – but to live in one of the places mentioned below, I will have probably won the lottery and I could afford to fly somewhere to watch the seasons.

Hawaii – Average low of 66?  I’ll take it


Seville, Cordoba, Andalusia, any place southern Spain – sangria, flamenco, and cathedrals

IMG_6834 9.37.00 PM

Miami or Key West, Florida – I’ll ignore the hurricanes for now


Day 20: Monday lists: 5 things you eat or drink every (or nearly every) day


Coffee! The cups vary from 1-3 a day
Some sort of chocolate
Nature Valley Protein granola bar (every school day for breakfast)
Some sort of dairy – usually yogurt or cheese

Day 25: Pet peeves: let them all out!


My number 1 all time pet peeve is incorrect spelling for the purpose of cutesy alliteration!  Take note:  Alliteration has to do with the sound, changing the actual letter is not necessary.  It especially burns my grits (like my southern idiom?) when the misspelling is part of something education oriented, i.e. a daycare or school marquee.  The image below is from the 19th circuit court of Illinois! PLEASE stop!

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I have a few other pet peeves – I’m a little OCD – most involve sounds and textures… But those are between me and my therapist! 🙂

Day 27: Monday lists: Your top 5 favorite children’s books

This one is a toughy… I LOVE LOVE LOVE children’s books.  I read more young adult lit than adult.  When I worked at Barnes and Noble and was dragged from the Children’s/Teens’ section to help out front, I was pretty much useless at recommendations.  Leave me with my people so I can have awesome conversations about Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Pete the Cat, Skippyjon Jones, et. al and I’m a happy camper!

My top 5, some of my favorites and I believe best books ever written period, in really no particular order:

Charlotte’s Web:

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“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”
And that, my friends, is a hook (Not to mention the themes of love, loss, and friendship)

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon :

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“Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too”
A must read for any age, great gift for anyone

Pink and Say

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“I had never seen a man like him so close before. His skin was the color of polished mahogany. He was flyin’ Union colors like me. My age, maybe. His voice was soothin’ and his help was good.”
Great historical fiction read aloud to accompany a Civil War.  I can’t make it through a read without tears.

The Book Thief:

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“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”  Seen the movie?  Read the book.  Already read it?  I’ve heard the movie does the book justice.

The Harry Potter Series Books 1-7:

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I was late to the Harry Potter Bandwagon.  I tend to resist bandwagons, especially when books are involved.  However, after a required reading of the first book for a survey class, I fell in love.  Upon reading the entire series, 1 to 7, without interruption, I’m convinced the collective story is one of the best ever told.  Despite the critics who cite magic and evil, the themes ring true.  Love.  Friendship.  Loyalty.  Bravery.  All the best qualities we would want to instill in our children, the setting just happens to be a castle and the students just happen to be wizards.  There are way worse influences out there – check out the video games some of these critics would buy for their children, but would not purchase Harry Potter. <Insert step down from soap box here>


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Explain Yourself!


Today, we were on a shortened schedule due to bad weather approaching.  Living in Charleston, we barely see freezing temperatures, let alone ice, sleet, and/or snow.  Today was a perfect day for trying something new!  We already could feel the excitement of pending snow and many of our friends were absent today. We had many questions about why we were leaving early, which led to questions like “What is sleet?”.  Whatever we did yesterday and were going to continue today moved to the back burner.  We quickly went to our friends Annie and Moby (Brainpop Jr) to learn more.

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After learning about winter, temperature, and the water cycle, we discovered our questions still weren’t completely answered.  We discussed what other “friends” we had that could help us answer our questions.  We use Pebble Go Animals a lot in our class – which led to it being our next stop on the quest for answers.  We used Pebble Go Earth and Space to find our answers.

After all of our researching, we had about an hour before our lunch time. Earlier, I was in my friend’s class and she was using today as an opportunity to experiment with the app Explain Everything.

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Taking her lead, I also took advantage of having a smaller group.  Explain Everything is a wonderful app to demonstrate knowledge after a unit is over.  And if you have those two (or three or seven) that LOVE to talk about all that they know – this app is a life saver!  A student iPad was connected to the Smartboard so I could model using the app.  My mini lesson began by asking what is means to explain something and what types of things needed to be explained.  The students suggested tying shoes, riding a bike, playing a game, doing a flip, etc. I chose to explain making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  As a group, we talked through what is needed and the steps you take.  After talking it out with them, I recorded how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Today was just a practice, so it was not content specific.  Perhaps we could have explained what sleet is or how snow is made because of our earlier research, but I wanted them to feel more comfortable with the app first.  All 14 of my lovelies went off to their own spaces and started thinking.  Before beginning to record, they needed to practice talking through what they were going to explain with me or with my assistant.  They then found a quiet place to begin recording.

Here is a couple of their explanations:

Emma Explains Donuts


Marc Explains Backflips


Now – to tie this in with literacy – it is doubly beneficial.  Students can write a script out of what they want to say, being sure to include all important details.  Or, Explain Everything becomes like a “rough draft” to help them get their ideas out before writing.  I encourage you to use the app in both ways.  Many reluctant writers can talk their way through a story or text but struggle to write the words down.  Explain Everything costs 2.99 in the app store, but Educreations and ShowMe are similar apps that are free.

Happy Explaining!

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Literacy and CreAPPtivity


“Creativity is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
– Sir Ken Robinson

I whole-heartedly agree with Sir Ken Robinson’s statement.  Let’s kick it up a notch and not only treat creativity and literacy with the same status but also see them as going hand in hand.  Previously, I blogged about the different apps we use in our classroom.  This post is about the creation apps we just couldn’t live without.

With these apps, we build the much-needed bridge between creativity and literacy.  The beauty of it is, no matter how intimidating it may feel at first, creating with these apps is child’s play – literally.  I remember feeling anxious about our first project because of its multi-step nature.  I thought about students who had difficulty with multi-step directions, etc.  However, my students did what our smallest wonders often do – they amazed me.  With the iPad and its apps, students just get it.  They are born and raised in a technology driven world.  I was anxious because it was more new to me – not to them.  Are there still parameters with these projects?  Yes.  Goals and standards to meet? Yes.  Does that take away from my student ability to create? No.

20140117-113011.jpg     Cost: 1.99              20140117-112945.jpg Cost: Free or Gold Version: 0.99

  20140117-112952.jpg    Cost:  Free                20140117-113044.jpg Cost:  3.99

The backbone to many of our projects is a drawing app of some sort.  We love Drawing Pad, but have used Doodle Buddy, Hello Crayon, and ScribblePress  in the past.  We are able to draw using various utensils – crayons, markers, paint – and then save our drawing to our camera roll.  After saving, we can easily add our drawing to other creation apps.

20140117-113017.jpg Cost: 2.99     20140117-113023.jpg Cost: Free

  20140117-113030.jpg Cost: Free   20140117-113037.jpg Cost:  4.99

   photoCost: 4.99                                  20140117-113050.jpg  Cost: 4.99

Once we have our images saved to our camera roll, from a drawing app or the internet, we can upload them into one of the apps above.  Explain Everything, Show Me, and Educreations are screen casting apps.  These apps allow students to upload a picture or draw as they are recording.  These apps are great to use for those students who want to elaborate on what they have done or for all students to demonstrate knowledge.  Students are able to have voice and choice in what they choose to explain and which app to use.  Pic Collage and Book Creator are used most often in our class.  We use both apps across subject areas and topics.  The students enjoy using their own drawings combined with the stamps within the app in Pic Collage.  Book Creator gives students and teachers the ability to create books about anything, on any level using created pictures, images from the internet, text, and voice recordings.  Books can then be uploaded into iBooks and remain on student shelf to read independently.  iMovie is very new to us!  We just recently received the app on all student iPads.  Projects using this app are forth coming!  Check out my 4th grade teaching colleague and how she uses iMovie in her classroom.

Screen shots of projects we have created in Pic Collage:

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Book Creator:

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Pic Collage, then uploaded into Book Creator for a class book:


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#Kinderchat Challenge: Days 13-15

You gotta love a teacher work day!  I’m supposed to be finishing report cards – but I’m choosing to catch up on blogging instead.  Shhhhh!


Day 13:  Monday Lists – 5 Songs that make me sing/dance


1.  Livin on a Prayer – Bon Jovi (Sing, dance, everyone has to)
2. Stay – Rihanna (I belt it out as if I can carry a tune)
3. Toxic – Britney Spears (Always a Britney fan and I don’t care who knows it)
4. Senorita – Justin Timberlake (LOVE!)
5.  Fancy – Reba McEntire (Born and raised in the sticks – country girl at heart)

*I could add so many more!


Day 14:  A Goal for the Week


Well, the rest of my week involves being without my students because of work days.  So – my goal is to finish report cards and schedule conferences.


Day 15:  Wordless Wednesday – Picture outside your Window

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1st grade garden and 2 5th grade “learning cottages”

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#Kinderchat Challenge: Ketchup

I’m going to jump on Amy’s bandwagon and blame her puppy 🙂 for falling behind on this blog challenge.  But then I also have report cards to complete, district assessments to administer, running records to analyze…. It’s that time of year y’all!

Day 8:  Wordless Wednesday:  Photo of my favorite thing in my classroom


Day 9: My before school routine

I am pathetically great at getting ready in as little as 10 minutes.  Years ago, I worked at a school almost an hour from my house and I had to be there at 7:00.  That year, I learned the beauty of minimizing my morning routine.  I shower at night – that is the big key.  I shower, blow dry my hair, and straighten it or whatever I want to do.  Most of the time, all I have to do is brush it in the morning and I’m good to go.  So here it goes – the “I love my sleep, I stay late at school anyway, I don’t want to get up” morning routine…

1.  Hit the snooze at least twice.
2.  Grumble and drag myself up.
3.  Use bathroom, wash my face, brush my teeth
4.  Get dressed – sometimes I even think ahead the night before
5.  Feed the cats
6.  Grab my lunch
7.  Go!

Day 10: TGIF: If I won the lottery…

Winning the lottery is my boyfriend’s New Year’s Resolution!  He is trying but, sadly, we still haven’t won yet.  Since winning is a hot topic in our house, I have actually discussed what I would do if I won the lottery recently.

If I won the lottery, I would pay off EVERYTHING!  I would help my family with anything they would need.  Travel will become a constant part of my life.  There are so many places I want to visit!

What about work?  I do not see myself quitting teaching just because I won the lottery.  I really love my job.  Perhaps I would take some time off – for travel, for family… But I do not think I would stop teaching altogether.

The main thing we want to do if we win the lottery – after paying off everything – is to open a bookstore.  This bookstore will have many books available to read.  Customers will not pay for the books – but will bring one from home and put it on the shelf, then choose a new book from the shelf.  Think library, but there wouldn’t be a check out system.  The book “store” would be a place for readers to love reading, relax, and share books with one another.

Day 11:  I get choked up every time I tell the story of _____


Two years ago, I was a fifth grade reading and writing teacher.  Instead of traditional guided reading groups each week, I used a literature circle approach.  During this year, one of my groups was reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham.  Christopher Paul Curtis is one of my favorite authors.  As a proud book worm, I tried my best to instill the love of reading in my students.  Often, this was difficult – many of my students were below grade level and reading was always a chore for them.  Reading made them uncomfortable and not successful.  Despite all these things, I thought I would give The Watsons a shot.  Throughout the time we were reading this book, the group of five was enthralled.  They connected with the characters and had genuine feelings and thoughtful questions.  When we finished, we sat in a circle and discussed the book.  An outsider never would have been able to tell this group of readers struggled.  They never would have know how much of a challenge and how big of an accomplishment it was for them to finish.  All any outsider would have seen/heard was the love of reading coming through their voices.  More than one student said that The Watsons was the first book they ever really connected with, ever understood, ever LOVED.

Day 12:  Favorite article of clothing

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Keeping in true teacher form, my favorite article of clothing is a cardigan.  I have more than anyone should, multiples of the same color.  I have long sleeve, short sleeve, three quarter sleeve.  Some of thick, some thin.  Some are short, others long.  I really and truly love a good cardigan!


And now – like Amy – I’m all caught up!

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#Kinderchat Challenge: Twofer


I’m officially a week behind… Gotta love report card time!

Day 6:  Monday Lists:  5 things in my bag

brown backpack

I try my very best to NOT bring work home with me.  But, at times, a little bit of work sneaks into my bag.

1.  iPad
2.  Notebook (I’m a list girl… and I LOVE my new planner I got for Christmas.  So, yes, even with my iPad and phone, I use a paper calendar as well)
3.  Chapstick (in my purse and my school bag – I’m an addict)
4.  Sticky notes
5.  Too many colored pens (I have a problem – a major one)


Day 7:  Before the end of the year, I want to ____ with my class.


Before the end of the year, I want to BLOG with my class.  I have been waiting to get started with KidBlog with my kids.  Long story short, I just haven’t gotten around to it.  I’d love to have them blogging before the end of the year.  I’m not gonna lie – I’m quite nervous about it.  Suggestions and encouragement welcome!

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#Kinderchat Challenge Day 5: When would you be?

Challenge: If you could live in any historical era, when would it be?

This was a no-brainier for me – the style, the excitement of being on the brink of change, and the seemingly innocent times of the late 1920’s-1950’s. Yes – this time period had its pitfalls – social injustices, war, financial crisis – all time periods do. But there is something about these years that intrigues me. I often wonder if I would have been brave enough to have been an agent of change back then. Would I stand up for women’s rights? For civil rights? Would I go to work in a factory a la Rosie the Riveter? Or grow a victory garden? My heart tells me yes – I certainly hope so.

By far, I love the way that people dressed! I blame Gatsby!








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#Kinderchat Challenge Day 4: When I Grow Up

nicu_baby_incubator         Child-Teaching-Stuffed-Animals




When I was a little girl, I LOVED school.  I would play teacher with friends – lining up our stuffed animals.  We would create work and grade papers. We even kept those grades in a book.  I was the child who took home extra work books, papers, and posters.  I have and always will be a book worm.

In high school, I developed a stronger interest in science.  Dissecting frogs and experimenting with DNA in AP Biology fascinated me.  My volunteer work at a children’s hospital led me to an interest in the NICU.  I was a biology/pre-med major for one.whole.semester.

Long story short, bad Chemistry 1101 experience and I was questioning my choice to become a doctor.  If I was feeling this discouraged after one class, how would I make it through med school?  I thought about what I wanted my future to be like – marriage, family, children… Would I have time for these things in my “dream” profession of being a doctor in the NICU?  I thought about my hopes as a little girl and what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I remembered the little girl playing school and I changed my major – just like that.

I have never regretted my decision – I am still quite a science nerd.  I work with children with special needs every day and every year, including those who have spent some time in the NICU.  My future title of Doctor will just come from a different type of degree.

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