A Rainbow In the Clouds


Today’s Blogging Challenge: Share a single snapshot of your day. It can be an image, video or any form of multimedia!

Over 20 years ago, I had the amazing experience to visit the Alex Haley farm in Tennessee AND hear Maya Angelou speak.  AH-MAH-ZING!

During our time with her she would break up her spoken word with a certain line….She’d sing “When it looked like the sun wasn’t gonna shine anymore…God put a rainbow in the clouds.” I LOVE that line!  It frequently pops up when I’m struggling with something…and that popped up for me today.

There’s no secret about my growing frustration with the state of standardized tests in my state.  Our children have taken 3 different tests in the past three years.  Today I read 15 minutes of directions…..FIFTEEN MINUTES!  And by the time I was done – I almost didn’t have a clue of the expectations, myself.  As I walked around the room providing encouragement to my kids (I taught them last year), I grew increasingly frustrated for them.  Why do we punish our children like this?  Why do we punish our teachers like this?  Why is it ok to wait until October to even determine what standardized test they will take….and not even fully develop it until months after that?  Why do we spend months saying, “You’ll need this for the test….you better focus or you won’t pass the test….the test, the test, the TEST! And then we get frustrated when they look at us in wonder when we tell them that there’s work after the test.  And for what?  Because when they grow up they’re going to be perpetual test takers?  Oh wait!  No, they will all become test writers!

After that morning….I was definitely feeling the clouds…and out of nowhere….a rainbow appeared!

Business Card

I’ve been talking to our Math/Science Coordinator about starting coding clubs for teachers and students.  Dr. De Ridder-Vignone is interested in starting some all girls coding clubs.  Rainbow!

Of course we still have to work out the details…but it makes me hopeful.  And we all could use a little “rainbow” right now.

Until the next time,


Finding My Tribe – Building Community {#FlipClass Flashblog}


I’ve never met a stranger.  In my younger years, I was the student that got moved multiple times, because I’d talk to WHOMEVER was beside me.  As I’ve grown older – that has never changed.  As many times as I’ve arrived at a new place and said, “I’m just going to sit here and listen….” it never works.  If I feel strongly about something – you’re going to hear about it.

Maybe that’s why in my 17 years of teaching, I’ve always been able to “find my tribe” – educators who have the same mindset as I do.  Educators who are passionate about teaching and learning and kids and having fun.  Because that’s the best part about teaching, IMO, the fun we have on an HOURLY basis.

I mean, who else is going to believe the crazy things that happen?  Who else is going to be the shoulder you cry on?  Who else is going to give you that amazing idea that you’ll use in your classroom tomorrow?

Closing ourselves off in our classrooms closes us off to learning new and creative strategies.  It hinders us from learning and growing; it starves relationships.

Now, because of the internet and being a connected educator means that your tribe can be next door or across the country!  How amazing is it that I’ve found so many another people who love teaching and children and learning as much as I do?  It still blows my mind when I send out a tweet – AND GET AN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE!  And I can’t help but think – if there is someone is every part of the world that loves teaching and children and learning as much as we do where I am; there’s NO WAY we can’t change the world!

Don’t you agree?

Until the next time,


A Lesson Worth Remembering {#EdSlowChat – June 14}

This week’s #EDSlowChat question of the week is:  “What is a personal profound/meaningful learning experience from this last school year? I would have to say that I have learned that a little “positiveness” goes a long way!  I guess I wouldn’t say that it’s newly acquired knowledge; but through gamification, Class Dojo, and Social Media, I was able to put a shine on my students’ hard work that made a huge transformation in my classroom.  

This year I decided to gamify my classroom.  Using Class Dojo (@classdojo) and materials created by Chris Aviles (@TechedUpTeacher), I found an awesome combination!  Creating a leaderboard and allowing students to check it regularly created quite the competitiveness in my classroom.  I used combination of grades and dojo points to make up the leaderboard, so it forced students to work hard in both academics and behavior expectations.

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Classroom Leaderboard

I also used Class Dojo Messenger to send immediate pics to parents showing their child at work.  What I’ve always known is that if a parent believes that you care for their child and that you are a fair minded person – when it’s time to make a tough call; they’re much more receptive. I got so excited when a parent responded it immediately – mostly with a positive message for their child.  When I showed the kid the note….they would GRIIIIIN…..so hard! *I hope you could hear my southern dialect in that word. 🙂IMG_4129

Facebook and Instagram became a place to highlight great student work.  This year, I created the A Club.  Students who made an A on an assessment got to be in a group photo that I shared on Facebook and Instagram.  Once students saw themselves (or their peers!) on those social media site, it made them work that much harder to ensure they were in the next picture.


I also implemented an 85% AR Club.  Students who passed a minimum of 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction tests per month with an 85% average or better were treated to something every month.  My principal paid for subs, pizza, and ice cream for those students.  I didn’t initiate this incentive until February – and every month the number of awardees DOUBLED!

It’s funny how you can know something to be right….but just somehow not do it.  And although I’m transiting to a new position and will no longer be in the classroom, these are still things that I can do with the teachers that I’ll be working with.  Make it fun….make it competitive….make it positive!  

Until the next time,


Changing MY Mindset!


Today is Day 2 of the South Carolina Midlands Summit.  I had an amazing time presenting on yesterday – I always do.  But as I left yesterday, I thought….I might not come back.  Not because the conferences isn’t awesome….it TOTALLY IS.  But because I realized this morning that I had the wrong mindset.

Credit:  SC Midlands Summit http://goo.gl/RdWcwE

Credit: SC Midlands Summit

Before I talk about me, I definitely want to rave about this conference that is hosted yearly by the Richland 2 school district.  With over 135 presenters/sessions….almost anything in the tech world that you want to know about; will be shared here.  From Blendspace to Formative Assessments to using Boards through Discovery Education to using Google Maps to create an educational interactive Amazing Race…this conference is AMAZING!  It is well designed and since Richland 2 is a GAFE district it can answer questions to all things Google!

Here’s what was wrong with MY THINKING: Yesterday I approached the conference as a teacher concerned about myself.  I looked at sessions and dismissed them because I didn’t see how they would be beneficial to me as a teacher.  And then I realized……I’M NOT A TEACHER ANYMORE!  I’m going to be working with ALL teachers (not just ELA teachers or middle school teachers) and even administrators.  I’m going to need to increase my skill set so that I can better serve the teachers and administrators in our district.

So this morning, I got up and got ready to make that drive back to Columbia today.  I woke up with a different mindset – the mindset that I will need to have in order to transform thinking and learning in my district.

This new job….my dream job….is going to be a huge undertaking.  But I’m up for the challenge!

Until the next time,


Continuing to Grow…


Tonight’s #flipclass #flashblog focuses on reflecting on successes and failures for the year.  What will you change for next year? What worked this year, & what didn’t? How can you turn failure into learning?

With this being my first FULL year of #flipclass I’ve definitely experienced many successes and failures.  I feel a lot more confident with how I’ve decided to flip my class and really how to begin!  When I started flipping at the end of last year, it went so well!  By the time I got to that point, my students knew how crazy I was and I could trust them to work well in groups without my supervision.  It’s amazing how much sixth graders grow and mature in just a short few months.

When I started this school year, I wanted to start the way I ended last year and my kiddos just weren’t ready.  They were still learning me and I them – so I didn’t have a good handle on who would work well together.  I floundered…..my SS partner (who was also flipping) talked a lot about how to adjust to something that worked for our kids.  I was SO frustrated those first few weeks!  But I learned…..I modified…and I adjusted.

My biggest change for this year will be to start the way I adjusted to…..lol!  Also, I plan to put more thought into what projects the students will do throughout the year.  I’m really proud of the way that I decided to flip writing.  Writing is now ongoing instead of 3 weeks a quarter.  We have a reading and writing focus every week and video days are mostly on Mondays and Wednesdays. Writing Lessons include:  Perfect Planning, Developing Well Structured Paragraphs, Enhancing Content, and Putting on the Polish.  We just use a different prompt and type every month.  So every month, students have a finished writing piece.

I also want to incorporate more novels in my classroom. The students enjoyed the 4th quarter the most, because they loved our novel studies.  We read The Giver and they did a FABULOUS job!  They were so involved in the novel – they shared their love for it with everyone.


In failure, it forces me to be creative and think outside the box.  For struggling readers, English can be torture.  I want students to enjoy coming to my classroom even though it will be tough!  I’ll continue to revamp and adjust, because there’s always room to grow.  My kids deserve it!

Until the next time,




Just THINK….Doggone It!

Metacognition refers to awareness of one’s own knowledge—what one does and doesn’t know—and one’s ability to understand, control, and manipulate one’s cognitive processes (Meichenbaum, 1985).

Metacognition….I NEVER use that word with my kids.  But that doesn’t mean that the process is not encouraged.  In my classroom we talk about strengths and weaknesses, how I expect them to be responsible for their own learning, how I expect for them to be independent and critical readers and thinkers.

During class discussions students are encouraged to expound on their thinking.  When they turn and talk, you can hear words like “I think……because…..”. I think that is SO powerful!

We reflect often….what’s working….what’s not working.  What will help them become better….stronger.

But for me, they greatest joy is when we are able to have thoughtful  discussions about the text.  In the beginning – I pushed them.  And we fought….LITERALLY. Now, they push each other.  They discuss, debate, and develop their skills.  It hasn’t been an easy road, but it was well worth it.

I couldn’t be more prouder.

Until the next time,


The Struggle Is Real!


“The struggle is real.”  Lately that is the phrase that consumes me.  My principal is leaving.  Arguably the best principal I’ve ever met is leaving. Dealing with standardized testing and unmotivated kids.  My principal is leaving.  The overshadowing fear that next year I might just have to pack my things and move into a school that was designed 100 years ago for elementary kids.  Did I mention my principal is leaving?  I am definitely in a perpetual state of struggle.  And although I have faith that these things will work out – it still keeps me in a “tizzy” as my goddaughter says.  But, if we didn’t have to difficult with the difficulties in life, those “storm” – how would we appreciate it when the rainbow shows it’s beautiful self.  I know that this will pass and I’m thankful for the lesson I will learn as I’m going through it.

Today’s #flipclass #flashblog focuses on struggles in the classroom. So, I will pull my self out of this den of despair and share my thoughts on why, despite the fact that we despite it/them, struggles are a necessary part of life and therefore a necessary and integral part of my classroom.

I believe that children crave structure and discipline.  Despite their attempts the thwart and get over – they want to be in a safe and structured environment.  And despite their incessant whining – they appreciate being challenged.  The transition from elementary school to middle school is difficult.  No lie. But our kids grow up so much in these short few months.  I am so proud of so many of them.  They begin to take responsibility and ownership of their actions and their work.

On many of the creation projects they have, I don’t give a lot of direction.  I tell them to “figure it out” or say, “That’s a great question for Google!”  They do and they amaze, not only me, but themselves.

Sometimes I wonder how “the powers that be” decide upon what is appropriate grade level text.  Much of the text in our lit book is waaaaaay to hard for many of my students.  But they need the challenge, so I provide optional an audio version for them to use.

So they whine and complain….I laugh and ignore…..and support!  And when they succeed at something they thought they would NEVER be able to do – the grin on their faces makes my heart sing.  Because that’s what I live for…..their smiles.

Until the next time,


Off the Cuff

Today’s #flipclass #flashblog post:

What is your strangest/most-off-the-wall lesson ever? Where did the idea come from? How did it work?

I live off the cuff.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am THE procrastinator.  Which is probably why I created today’s video at 2 AM this morning.

I do my best thinking in the shower….or right before the kids are gonna walk through the door; so I have a difficult time coming up with an answer.  I’ll talk about my most recent activity – Visual Vocabulary Videos.

We read The Gift of the Magi every year, because I love it so; but I know that the vocabulary is really difficult for them.  This year, I planned a week long unit using some of Erin’s (I’m Lovin’ Lit) materials.

I decided that I wanted to vocab activity to be more in depth, so I decided that students would create Visual Videos. HUGE hit!  I did a little research and found out that New York Times does a yearly competition and I let students use that as a resource.  Find them here.

Students had to act out the words and they LOVED it.  I showcased my favorite last week (Idiocy – you can find it here), so tonight I’ll share another groups.

I thought they did a pretty doggone good job for two day’s worth of work!


Until the next time,


Deeper Learning

Flash Blog Topic: What does deep learning look like in your classroom? How has it changed your/Ss role? How have Ss responded?

Deep Learning – It makes me think of Dead Poet’s Society (but without the dying).  People in cardigans passionately discussing what “it” all means.  Before I decided to flip my class we hardly got a chance to actually read and discuss ANYTHING because I was trying to make sure I COVERED everything!  Oh the stress!

Plus the issue of so many of the students getting stuck on the text – there wasn’t a lot of room for deep learning.  It wasn’t until I decided to make accommodations for those things did we get to where we needed to be.  Students now have the option to listen to every piece of text we are discussing in class.  Through my “audio/visual” text, they are able to rewind and reread until they feel comfortable.  Plus, it’s much less stressful sharing your thoughts and ideas in a group of 5 than a class of 25!  Most of our discussions are held during small group.

The part that I enjoy the most – that I think demonstrates deep learning is what students are able to create based on what they learned.  This is the part that I think has really changed the roles in my classroom.  Although I’m “in charge”, students have to opportunity of CHOICE which is often missing; mostly because I think teachers are sure what will happen if the loosen the reigns a little bit.  When students are given a choice, it allows their natural talents to shine through…it gives them confidence.


Initially my students whined and complained.  And I have to admit – it is really difficult in changing the mindset; look how long it took me!  In addition to the fact that they are expected to adapt to so many changed….they go from 3 teachers to 6 teachers, add lockers, and two of the meanest teachers on Earth (my math partner and I), middle school is daunting.  And on top of that I really want them to think? *gasp*  But when they see what they’re able to accomplish on their own – it changes them.  It makes them stronger; it makes them better.

One week, I told the kids, “I’m not gonna lie.  This text is HARD!  But we’ll get through it together.”  That night a student sent me this message.

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Made my freakin’ day! 🙂

Until the next time,


Late Work? What’s My Policy….

Yikes!  I can’t believe I last posted in August….

Shout out to #flipclass and Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) for the extra push with the #flashblog  idea.  I’ll be talking about accepting late work.

As a 6th grade teacher, this is our student’s first year in middle school and a HUGE adjustment for them.  For this reason, I will continue to accept late work up until the last week of the quarter.  The Social Studies, Math teacher, and I all do some form of blended learning, which has helped us considerably with keeping up with assignments.  Students that don’t do their assignment the night before are pulled in during lunch to complete assignments.

Since we use Edpuzzle and Edmodo, it does wonders for allowing us to keep track of missed assignments.  All I have to do is click on the assignment and it shows the progress.

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So before the day starts I already have my list ready of students that I will keep during lunch/recess.

What doesn’t work for me?  Extra credit!  Towards the end of the quarter I have students that will ask me for extra credit.  And they get the DUMMY LOOK.  Wait…so you want me to come up with an alternate assignment for you to do when you didn’t do the original?  That I have to grade? Uh uh…no way…no how….sorry.

Flipping my classroom has definitely assisted me in keeping track of what I’m missing. As long as I handle it immediately – it doesn’t become a burden or overwhelming.  Win/Win.  The kids get the assignment done and I know who needs remediation.  BOOM!

Until the next time,