Wednesday, November 1, 2017


I spent the day with Idaho Coaching Network teachers last Tuesday. Our coaches started the day by asking each of us to write a letter to our class. How brilliant is that? There simply will never be too many ways to celebrate our students.  Period.

I found myself making a connection to the G Journals that I use during the month of November and decided to begin each G Journal session with my own gratitude for my students. So each day I'm going to write and share with the class my gratitude for two different kiddos. Day one happened today.

It's really a small thing but kind of huge all at the same time. Celebrate!

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching

You might have heard that I wrote a book for teachers this last June called Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching. If I were good at promoting myself, I'd offer the following reasons why you should read this book:

1. Even though it's written from an early elementary perspective, it spans the K-12 grade levels. I happen to know of a group of high school teachers who are currently doing a book study with it.

2. Teachers are busy, and this book is easily digestible. There might be 50 chapters, but they're teeny tiny. The average chapter is around 300 words.  

3. When I read a professional book, I want three things. I want to be challenged, inspired, and validated. I think my book offers this. 

4. According to my cousin Laurie, it's a book for humans, not just for teachers. I've heard from many people outside of the educational world who have read my book with their own lens and have found it worth their time. 

You can buy Gatekeepers on Amazon, but you can also send me a message and I'll hook you up.

If you want to know more about Gatekeepers or have already read it and are connected to the Twitter World, join #IDedchat this Wednesday, November 1st at 8:00 MDT. We'll be chatting about it and would love your company.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Kitty Cat Growth Mindset

We made these cute black cats today. They weren't that difficult to make, but it did take a certain amount of growth mindset. We practiced both optimism and persistence. All in all, well worth our time.

Go here to find the directions from Art Projects for Kids. She's got great ideas to share! 

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Project Celebrate

From the books I've read, to the book club conversations I've had, to the time I've spent in the Boise State Writing Project and Idaho Coaching Network, I'm consistently reminded that it's time to celebrate. It's time to notice. It's time to encourage and thank. Celebration is pivotal to a healthy culture.

With permission and encouragement from my principal, I created this bulletin board for my school's workroom and invited my colleagues to join me in Project Celebrate. The challenge is to write a note to each staff member before the end of the trimester (and repeat that two more times during the remainder of the year). There's a basket of colorful and inviting paper and cards on the workroom countertop, and each staff member received a list of names just in case they want to check names off as they write. 

This is the kind of place I want to work at.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Parents as Teachers

I have twenty-four students so far this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if I gain a few more by May. This teacher to student ratio is not ideal. There's literally not enough of me to go around, which is why I cherish my parent volunteers and choose not to send them off to the teacher workroom to make copies, use the paper cutter, or do myriad other menial tasks. My parent volunteers work one on one with children. 

I understand, as well as any other teacher, the amount of prep work that's required to do this job, and it adds to the daily stress and strain. But the children in my care are my first priority. Their needs are more important than my long list of projects that need attention. I can manage to get those things done, but I honestly can't always manage the many needs represented in my room. 

So unless my children are at recess or a special, you won't find my parents in the workroom. You'll find them doing the most important thing that a parent at school can do. They'll be teaching.

What are your parents doing?

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brain Growers: Persistence

Have you read A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz? It's a brilliant growth mindset resource for elementary students. I'd highly recommend it.  

I've been sharing brain growers here on my blog for several weeks now. Last week we learned about persistence.

Day one: We read Almost by Richard Torrey. It helped us learn about and define persistence. We also told stories of persistence from our lives.

Day two: We read Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems. We looked for persistence in the story before practicing the brain grower with some extreme sour Warheads. If that doesn't take persistence, I don't know what will. (I learned this trick from a blogging friend.)

Day three: We read Flight School by Lita Judge and then used persistence to build houses of cards.

Day four: We can You Can Do It Bert by Ole K├Ânnecke. We also made a crown to celebrate moments of persistence.

These brain growers are lifetime skills. I'm honored to teach them to some of our youngest learners.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Saturday Sayings: Heart and Soul

" me the colors of your eyes. You've got to hear the poem Noah just wrote. 'Sharks are like a man-eating beast with razor-sharp teeth that tear fish apart. Duh duh duh duuuuuh.' Don't you just love how he used words like 'man-eating beast' and 'razor-sharp teeth?' Oh, and the end. 'Duh duh duh duuuuuh.' It gives me chills! I'm sure you want to be just like Noah and make smart decisions about the words you choose in your poems, too. I know you can. Go for it!"

Regie is right. I do my best teaching when I celebrate students, and Noah's story is one of my favorite celebratory moments to tell. (And I wish you could hear me share it in person. Though it sounds flat on the page, it's actually special to hear what it sounded like to a first grader's ears.) As you can imagine, Noah was on cloud nine when I interrupted writing workshop to share his poem, and the rest of the students were motivated to pick up their pens and try out some of Noah's awesomeness. That kind of celebration can change a writer...forever.

"Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate." These are the words typed into the first few weeks of my lesson plans this year. As the Idaho Coaching Network has taught me, there is something special about consistent corporate celebrations, and my goal is to infiltrate my days with more of them.

I'm challenged to "make them all feel famous," as Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome suggest in Kids Deserve It! The mathematician who taught us a more efficient drawing strategy, the non-writer who demonstrated how to brilliantly think through the pictures in his story, the writer who showed us how much more powerful she is when she uses her new reading skills in her writing, the reluctant reader who told me he could read a book all by himself and then showcased his reading for the whole class. They were famous this last week. I can't help but believe the trajectory of their learning paths was positively affected without much effort on my part. All it took was celebration — my best teaching.

P.S. Have you heard of Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching? It's my new book. I'd love to share it with you. It's on Amazon.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mystery Doug

Both my PE teacher and instructional coach brought to my attention this year. My kids and I are loving it. Here's how it works.

  • Mystery Doug invites elementary students to submit their questions on his site.
  • Each week Mystery Doug answers one of those questions.
  • He emails his video on Monday. 
  • At the end of each video, he shares three new questions and asks his audience to vote on the one he should answer next.
  • His videos are short, kid-friendly, and engaging. 

We've watched two so far. A conversation with my instructional coach about science and writing inspired me to ask my students to hypothesize before watching the videos. Here are two examples from "How do they turn wood into paper?"

I can envision eventually asking my students to write about what they learned from the video afterwards. I think Mystery Doug has lots of potential though. It definitely encourages curiosity and lets kids know that it's smart to ask questions!

P.S. If you didn't know already, I published a book for teachers this summer. I'd love to share it with you. Check it out here.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Number Sense Videos

I recently stumbled across a brilliant math teacher leader who  you will want to hook up with. Her name is Christina Tondevold from Build Math Minds. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, and her website I really can't say enough great things about her.

She's sharing a lot about number sense right now and is offering a four-part free video series on the topic. Two of the videos are available now, which I've watched and LOVE. The other two will be available soon. The catch is that they won't be available forever. If you're going to watch them, and you should, you'll want to start watching soon.

So go here and get busy. 

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Brain Growers: Resilience

I'm back with another view of growth mindset in my classroom based on the book A Mindset for Learning. This week we learned about resilience. (We've already learned about optimism and flexibility. You can read about those here on my blog.)

Day 1
We watched this video. The kids loved it, and it was a great example of resilience. After the video, we learned the definition of resilience, and kids told stories of their own resilience.

Day 2
We read Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle. The kids were asked to find resilience in the book.

Day 3
We read The Most Magnificent Thing. Then the kids worked in partners and used dominoes to practice resilience. 

Day 4
We read Little Owl Lost. We also created a chart to house future resilient stories on post-its notes.

Day 5
We read What To Do With a Problem and created our resilient crown.

I think this stuff is sinking in. It's a process and there are ups and downs, but I'm feeling good about what I'm depositing into their lives.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Assessing & Doodling

Do you ever struggle to give a whole-class assessment? Behavior can be an issue. Here's what I do.

Sometimes I have an assessment, say math for example, that I need to give to the whole class but I have to give it step by step, problem by problem, in order to get the best results. Knowing full well that certain kids will answer a problem more quickly than others, I always give the kids a piece of paper to doodle on if they finish a problem early. This little trick saves me every time. Behavior issues are typically a non-issue. 

Try it! I bet it will work for you too.

P.S. This also typically prevents them from doodling on their assessment, which honestly, drives me crazy! :)

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Brain Growers: Flexibility

I'm enjoying incorporating growth mindset from A Mindset for Learning into the first several weeks of school. (Check out my post on optimism.) This week we've been learning about flexibility. It's a must-have brain grower for sure. 

Day 1:
We read Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. Our discussion led us into the definition of flexibility, as seen in the picture. We also shared life stories of flexibility.

Day 2:
We read Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells. I challenged the kids to find flexibility in the book. Then I paired the kids up and asked them to create paper playgrounds. I told them they'd have chances to use flexibility, and they did.

Day 3: We read Shh! We Have a Plan! by Chris Haughton with the expectation that they look for flexibility. 

Day 4: We watched Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg on youtube and created our crown to celebrate moments of flexibility.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Brain Growers: Optimism

Teaching our youngest learners that they can grow their brains is a must. I can hardly imagine a better resource than A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz.  

As suggested in the book, I'm teaching my first graders five brain growers. This last week we learned about optimism. I chose to introduce the idea with this video. "Kiddos, watch this video with me to find out how this girl grew her brain." (We only watched the first few minutes.)

After a discussion of what they noticed and learned, we were ready to define optimism. I used the definition and visual given in A Mindset for Learning. We then shared personal stories of optimism.

It was then the perfect time to create our Can poster, a project I've been doing for a few years now. Look here.

Throughout the week, we also read Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. "Kiddos, let's look for evidence of optimism in this book today."

We also took on the chain challenge. Check it out here. It certainly requires optimism.

Later in the week we used interactive writing to create an optimism crown that's great for celebrating those who are growing their brains. 

I'm looking forward to practicing flexibility next week. Let's grow some brains!

P.S. I published a book for teachers! Look here to check it out.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017


In an effort to welcome both students and parents, I created a photo booth of sorts this year. It was simple to make and hung with tape from my ceiling. It was a hit. I think the parents probably enjoyed it slightly more than the first graders, and that's okay with me. I'm not just inheriting 23 learners. I'm also inheriting 23 families.

I published a book for teachers this summer. I'd love to share it with you. Check it out here

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Freakish Handwriting Opinion

I'm a bit of an oddity when it comes to handwriting. It's typical to hear, "Did you type that?" "No," I reply. "That's my handwriting. I'm kind of a freak of nature." So as one can imagine, there's a place for handwriting in my classroom, and I happen to have some opinions about it (go figure) which is why this post exists.

I've argued with myself about whether to share my point of view for some time now. My issue is something so many teachers do, maybe even you. I hate for anyone to think I'm critically watching and judging and noting. I'm not. Honestly, maybe the point I'm about to make is one only I would consider, because remember, I'm a freak of handwriting nature. And truthfully, in the big scheme of things, my opinion here is really not all that earth shatteringly important, but I'm still going to share it. :)

So without further ado...

I don't believe in asking my students to write on paper with more than the single, bottom line unless I'm expecting them to use all the lines appropriately. Those extra lines serve a purpose. If not used appropriately, they're simply in the way and possibly even complicating the writing process, especially for our struggling writers. Expecting students to write with all lines but allowing them to ignore them, also provides students opportunities to form bad habits. What then happens when it really is time to use those lines correctly? I believe this could create some confusion for students as to purpose and teacher expectations. What are these lines really for? When do I pay attention to them and when don't I?  

Most of the time when my writers write, I'm much more interested in their ideas than how they use the lines on the paper, so I only provide them with the bottom line only. (See picture below.) Why muddy the waters? 

There is a time and place to know how to write with more than one line, and then and only then, will my kids see extra lines on their papers and be required to use them and use them correctly. (As you see below.) Otherwise, I'm a one-line teacher and my kids are one-line writers.

Agree or disagree, the question goes back to this: Why do we do what we do? Even the little things require intentionality. 

Thank you for letting me share my freakish handwriting opinions with you today. I hope they were worth your while.

P.S. If you're interested in my recently published book for teachers, look here for information about how to purchase it. I'd love to share it with you!

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