Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mystery Doug

Both my PE teacher and instructional coach brought Mysterydoug.com 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 buildmathminds.com. 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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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday Sayings: The Face of Education

If there's a fear of returning merchandise, I have it. 

This week I reluctantly returned my car to a local bodyshop where it had been worked on earlier in the summer. There was a small, overlooked issue that if left as is had the potential to create a problem. 

I took a friend, an advocate who understands cars and was the one who noticed the issue in the first place, and meekly entered the bodyshop office. About 30 minutes later, I exited with an appointment to fix the issue and a fair amount of guilt and frustration. All it takes is a defensive and argumentative employee to remind me why returning merchandise is downright painful. 

My teacher inclinations have been highly sensitive since that experience. I want to help this employee learn, not pay. I wish he knew that he is the face of the bodyshop the minute a customer walks through the doors of the office. He has the power to affect the customer's opinion of the business for good or bad without hardly trying. That is a huge responsibility, and the bodyshop is counting on him to help convince people like me that I should come back for more and encourage my friends to do the same. Yet I'm not so sure I want to. 

Oh but how many times has something similar happened in our schools and classrooms? When patrons, parents, and students walk through the doors of my school, I am the face of education. I have the same power to affect customer opinion as does the employee who belittled my concerns. 

As I'm looking forward to a new year in the classroom, I feel responsible to keep the memory of this experience close to my heart and mind. I have a huge responsibility to represent my profession with excellence in all interactions with my "customers" but especially when they approach me with concerns. Whether they do so with meekness or agitation is immaterial. Regardless, I'm the face of education, and the way I react and treat them will shape their views of school, maybe forever. I'd better do all I can to convince them to come back for more. 

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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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

May and June

My lower back is not an advocate for the way I prefer to spend my summer. Around 5:00 a.m. it typically lets me know that spending the previous day reading on the couch was maybe not the best idea. I tend not to listen.

4 stars

2 stars

4 stars
This is a series. I enjoyed the first book but lost interest after reading the second.

5 stars
Have you read Everything, Everything? If not, do. Then read this one by the same author!

4 stars

2 stars

2 stars
This one has done really well, but I didn't love it.

3 stars

5 stars
Engaging and unexpected. Read it!

1 star

5 stars
Oh, how I loved Ove!

5 stars
Ralph Fletcher makes some very smart and easy-to-implement suggestions in this.

3 stars

5 stars
I've been thoroughly enjoying this series.

4 stars
This book is by the author of Girl on the Train!

3 stars
This series isn't necessarily exceptionally written, but the plot is very interesting.

4 stars

4 stars

3 stars

3 stars

3 stars
This book is part of a fun, light series.

4 stars

4 stars

My favorites:
  • The Sun is Also a Star
  • Echo
  • A Man Called Ove
  • Joy Write
  • Court of Wings and Ruin

Happy reading!

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