Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

We have been in a snow drought. The last measurable snow for our area was March 5. We haven't seen more than a flake or two. The forecast is calling for areas around us to get 1-3 inches tonight and tomorrow. Students are anxiously awaiting the white stuff. We decided to help bring on the snow by making snowflakes.

We made so many snowflakes because we are sending some to Sandy Hook Elementary's new school in Monroe, Connecticut. The Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Organization has set up a campaign to bring a Winter Wonderland to the students when they return to school in January. They are also accepting donations to help the students and teachers of Sandy Hook. You can help the effort by sending your contributions or snowflakes to:

Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514. 
Phone: 203-281-6617

The heart is a favorite. Several are on their way to Connecticut.
E. mustache you if you like her snowflake.
 We used some patterns from  before venturing into our own designs.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mystery Skype

"What was that sound?" my students asked on Friday. The sound? The internet "phone" was ringing. My students were challenged to decypher some mysterious clues from the other end. The callers' clues were:
They became a state on April 30, 1812.
The state bird is the pelican.
They are located in the middle of the country.
They celebrate Mardi Gras.

I had students split into four groups. One group was using iPads and computers to search for answers to the clues. One group was using their social studies book's atlas. Another group used laminated desktop maps. The fourth group gave our group's clues. Our clues were:
Water is not in short supply.
We are located in the northern part of the country.
We are known for the large cherry festival in the northern part of our state.
We have a mix of flat land, rolling hills, and low mountains.
Our community is known for our three identical bridges that appeared in Ripley's believe it or not.
We are located near --° N, --° W.

They were able to guess our location as Michigan, and we correctly guessed they were from Louisiana. My students were excited to learn Mrs. Sheperd's classroom had sent us a postcard as part of our exchange. Actually it was her postcard and a post about Mystery Skype that helped us connect. My students are also going to Skype another room, just to exchange information, on Thursday. They cannot wait.

A student from Mrs. Sheperd's class reads her clue.

Picture "borrowed" from

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sparkle Box, RACK

The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas 

Have you seen this book? This is the story of Sam, a young boy looking forward to his gifts on Christmas. He begins to realize the true meaning of Christmas, as his family participate in many Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. He sees that it isn't the gifts under the tree with your name that matter. It is only as he helps collect blankets for homeless, give money to dig a well in Africa, and other RACK, that Christmas gains meaning.

Our principal read it at a staff meeting, the first since her return from sick leave. She issued a challenge to our staff, to fill our own Sparkle Box. I decided to use this with my students to introduce our RACK activities during this last week before break. I invited our principal to read the story this morning. It was a good way to start our week in light of Friday's tragedy in Connecticut. My students generated a nice list of things they want to do this week.

Our goal of really getting RACK rolling was cut short when we had a short circuit that ended with a power outage in our building and an evacuation to the high school next door. It was amazing that in spite of all the things that could have gone wrong today, they didn't. Within minutes students were pulled out of the cafeteria, coats were on, and we were on our way. We got students settled and waited for the high school to vacate the cafeteria. All students that missed lunch were fed within the hour. We put a movie on to keep students calm and focused. Our support staff came to collect students as parents arrived. We had a significant number leave. They finally allowed us back in the building so remaining students were able to see things were fine. Dismissal went smoothly.

As a school board meeting highlight tonight, our principal decided holiday songs by our third graders were in order. The rest of her presentation? A tribute to teachers.

As parents say goodbye to their children every morning, they do so with full trust that we will watch over them, guide them through their learning, and return them safe each night. Our job is not an easy one, as proven on Friday. The positive caring impact we have on the children in our classrooms will surely bring more good. It is with this thought, that I bid you good night.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Apology and Prezi

I am sorry I have been a bad blogger. The last two weeks have been very difficult. My father  had some major health concerns on top of a crazy schedule here at school. Our principal came back from sick leave, only to lose her again for a family crisis. I wasn't sure whether she would even be available for my evaluation, scheduled for first thing this morning. What was I thinking? I am not a morning person, so I start out s-l-o-w-l-y. I had a great figurative language lesson planned whether she was here or not. To do the lesson the way I wanted meant learning a new skill, Prezi.

Prezi is like PowerPoint on steroids. Prezi Desktop allows you to use your creativity to make a presentation. There is also a Mobile Prezi for viewing your Prezi on an iPad. Prezi has a free license for teachers and students. Many templates are available.  (Think of Prezi like a large sheet of paper, where you jot down your thoughts.) The program "follows" your path of thinking. It can zoom in and out to emphasize words or a picture. It searches Google for pictures for your presentation, or you can upload your own. Videos from  can be embedded. I  was able to insert a video into my lesson from YouTube (Yipee - finally unblocked!). I discussed the quality of things you can find on the internet with my students because I wasn't able to find the video I wanted without spelling errors.

It is a great tool. Learning to make it follow your thinking isn't always easy, and took me LOTS of tries. The end result was worth the effort.

Have you tried Prezi?

Sunday, December 2, 2012


It was almost sixty degrees yesterday and today. It certainly doesn't feel like December, but the calendar tells me it is indeed December. I am joining Farley's Currently Linky party.

With the mild weather, I wished I had time to put up outdoor decorations, but my time has been split between putting together collages for our Senior cross country runners, our banquet was today, and visiting my father in the hospital. Hopefully the weather lasts a couple of more days. I haven't really even started my shopping. I need time! 

I was glad to see Farley's RAK on this Currently. I had been thinking of doing RAK with my students since our principal issued us a challenge. We always adopt families at Christmas from a neighboring community. My students have been focused on doing things for our school and students this year. Money is an issue with so many struggling to pay for our upcoming outdoor education experience, so, RAK are perfect! We are going to brainstorm ideas, and have students record completed RAK (put in a special box). We will share these at our party on December 21. 

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