Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mystery Skype

Are you somewhere in the world? Is your continent...

Does the previous line of questioning sound familiar? If not, you really need to try a mystery skype. I responded to a request for volunteers to team with a friend of fellow blogger, Charlotte. After many attempts, we were able to finalize a time and date to meet with her colleague Mrs. Debbie Dixon.

I had done a mystery skype before, but didn't use a firm set of guidelines. This time would be different. We had a greeter, questioners, responders, map readers, researchers, and a student that let the other school know it was their turn.  My students don't have access to Google Docs and don't have Gmail accounts. We decided to use Today's Meet to track questions. I had two students typing the questions they asked on laptops. The other students could see the question track on our iPads. Students used desktop maps, Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google.
Lists feed bottom to top
My students only knew the students were "somewhere in the world". Once they answered our call, the Skype was underway. My messenger was the only one that heard the teacher's "accent" and they were so involved they didn't hear the "y'all" comment at one point. Those two bits of information weren't needed. Fresh from a tornado drill, my kids asked if they were near Tornado Alley. Within 20 minutes we identified their state and city. We continued to search for the name of their school while they sought the name of our village.

It was such a fun, educational experience for both sets of students. We gathered some important question lines to ask our next visitors, and made new friends. We hope to meet up again with Mrs. Dixon's students.

My students are hooked on Skyping. Anyone interested in meeting with us? I have one other Mystery Skype planned for my other set of students.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

This wasn't funny!

My spring break was suppose to end at 7:30 yesterday morning.  Imagine my surprise when I pulled in the parking lot at 7:20 and saw no buses at the curb. Usually there are a few early ones. Instead I saw a hundred students standing outside the main doors. Huh? At 7:10 the power went out throughout most of our county. The power company could not give a restoration time. With having lost so much learning time already this year, they decided to take a gamble. We opened the doors and sent kids to classrooms. If parents were dropping off students they were encouraged to keep them. Breakfast was a cold pastry and milk for those that did not eat at home.

Arriving to my room was interesting. My room is dark most mornings with the tree and word wall blocking out the light. It was very dark. We used my cell phone flashlight to grab books to read in the hallway (which had an emergency light) and a spelling test paper. We couldn't do a normal pretest on Spelling City without electricity or internet. Within an hour, our gamble paid off and lights were back on. We could blog about our spring break and the crazy end to it on Kidblog.

The temperature yesterday was 70 degrees at 7:20 AM. By 3:30 it had dropped to 50 degrees. What started with rain around 8:00 PM turned into a ground covering of snow by early morning. 
Hyacinths and Daffodils covered in snow.

This is not the way I imagined my week beginning. I am glad tomorrow is "Happy" Hump Day. We are starting it with a song! Can't wait. Hope your day was warmer than mine.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


This year has been a strange one. First we get over seven feet of snow and have a ridiculous number of snow days. Now it is in the seventies with a warm breeze. Rain is coming later, with snow predicted for tomorrow night. This is Michigan!  At least I had a few pleasant days of weather for the end of my spring break. Unfortunately much of the break was spent recovering from a cold, that has taken a turn for the worse. I am really feeling under the weather.

I was somewhat productive. I got most of my closet  and bedroom cleaned out, and my classroom library inventoried. I have a list of missing books. I hope to track down the culprits tomorrow. If I cannot get them to follow my checkout rules, the library may have to close for checkouts, and only allow for in class reading. This will put a damper on my reading plans for most of  this last marking period, and really penalize my second reading class. They borrow more books than my homeroom students. Most are "legal" checkouts, with only one book going out at a time. The list of missing books isn't huge, but many of the missing books are part of a series.

If you have any ideas on how to handle my 2000+ classroom library circulation issues, I'd love to hear them.

My four day week will seem much longer with that long afternoon and evening of conferences on Thursday. Hope your week ahead is short.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday, April's Installment

For this installment of What Works Wednesday, I want to share a site I recently had a chance to use. I previously mentioned that we have conferences when we get back from break. We had to do things differently for this one. Usually we have time slots twenty minutes apart for nine hours of conferences. When we decided to add a student day (make-up) to that morning, shortening the amount of conferences slots we had to scramble. Grade levels could do twenty minute slots, or fifteen. My grade level chose to do fifteen minute slots. We could also invite a minimum of eighteen parents. Then we had to schedule our own conferences. After the last minute decision, our tech guy sent a link to Sign Up Genius

Sign Up Genius is just that, genius! I was able to register and set up my conference slots in the matter of minutes on Friday afternoon. I set the link to my parents through a newsletter, Remind 101 message, and a link on my web page. Within 15 minutes of dismissal, I had my first conference assigned. By the end of the weekend, over half had signed up. I got three conference slips I had to enter, and confer with colleagues. By Tuesday, all but three of my twenty-four students had conference slots. The last three (three I need to see) were finally scheduled. Twenty-four of twenty-four students scheduled. 

Parents loved they could get the slot they wanted. They just needed to fill in their name on the slot and give an email that will send a confirmation and a reminder. Easy peasy! 

It took the responsibility of coordinating conferences from the office and placed it in the hands of parents. It is their job to make sure times don't overlap. The one downfall I see is that the Special Ed. staff weren't able to use this, so they may have overlapping time slots. When we have to schedule our own conferences in the future, the Special Ed. teachers should schedule theirs, and then plug them into homeroom time slots. 
Partial schedule only

Sign up genius could be used in many ways. You could schedule snacks, parent volunteers, etc. I think it has merit as a useful, time saving site. I will let you know if this worked out as planned. I am on vacation this week. I will read blogs, but with this post scheduled in advance, I don't know if I will be blogging myself during the break. For those of you on break, enjoy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Wow! It is April 1st and finally appears that winter is moving on. It was sixty degrees yesterday and should be a carbon copy today. I am joining with Farley for April's Currently.

After chatty kids yesterday and today, the silence is welcomed! The kids are as anxious for warm weather as I am. The snow has finally melted and we can get outside to walk. 

The marking period has ended. We have conferences after we get back from break. I have to have my grades entered before I leave on Friday. I better get busy because I want to roll with the buses. I am needing a break from school. Camp and our Wax Museum have taken their toll on me. I am battling a losing battle with laryngitis along with a cold.

My day is 7:30 to about 3:10. Kids come down to rooms at 7:37. Class starts at 7:45. We dismiss to music at 2:52. We can leave ten minutes after the buses. We had to add ten days, the state forgives six by our contract. We were hoping they would give us more calamity days like Ohio just voted in, but no such luck. We added one day, by having students come half a day on our conference day on April 17. The rest will be added to the end of the year. I hope we can keep kids focused that long!

Don't forget to link up with Farley. 

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